May 14, 2010 GMT
MRI Scanner

San Simeon, CA. 23.4.10

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"Oooh! You don't want to leave today dearie! Terribly high winds on the way!" warns the landlady as I pack up in Flagstaff.
"Pshaw!" I think. "I've ridden through Patagonia don'cha know. No man's put me down yet!"


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Thirty miles down the road I'm nearly crying with terror. My adrenal glands have gone haywire, and there's nothing you can do to relieve adrenaline at 60mph except scream. It seems far worse than Patagonia: either I've forgotten how bad that was or I'm more sensitive now, having, in the final analysis, been blown into a ditch in Argentina. I pull off the highway at Seligman, the first exit, and attempt to calm down.

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I try not to show the lady who runs the 66 Motel how trembly and weepy I am as I check in (she's about 86 and rides a chopper). Andy Bell's advice rings in my ears. "Above all, remember you're British."


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By chance, I'm just in time to catch the second half of the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League game, in which our boys pull back a draw from the jaws of ignominy. Splendid work, made all the splendider by the subsequent arrival of Pau and Carme on a rented Harley (they're not spelling mistakes - they're from Barcelona). And they don't know the score! Inevitably, we drink beer, and, less inevitably, end up applauding a Norwegian bloke as he plays some kind of Scandi-didgeridoo. A Scanderidoo. Amazing.
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Arizona - while good in many, many ways - has a relatively high proportion of Mouthy Racist Idiots. One of them attempts to strike up a chat at the gas station in Seligman, using a sort of pun/metaphor based on the name of my bike - an Africa Twin - and the notion of Barack Obama's "brother". I can't - or won't - recall the exact details, but even if he hadn't been a fucking moron, the "joke" alone would have warranted the flat-eyed stare I offered him in response.
(The State of Arizona has just passed a law making it illegal to be Mexican or something - fact.)
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Thanks David Wood - random fella on an F800 - for the pic
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I'm not expecting a whole lot of sympathy for this next bit, but here goes anyway. You know when you go on holiday for two weeks, and the second week goes by much more quickly than the first? Well, I'm finding that if you go on holiday for 20 months, the last four months zip by at a quite horrifying lick.
Secondly, the last day or two of a two-weeker are generally infused with a spiralling sense of dread about going back to work. A 20 month holiday has that as well, but it seems to begin in the penultimate country of the holiday; in this case, America. These feelings are heightened, for me, by two quite important factors:
1) If you start counting from when I went to Africa, I've actually been on holiday for six years.
2) What in holy, boiling Hell am I actually going to do when I get back?????


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I know what I'd do if I had the cash - carry on north from Vancouver, go to Alaska, turn left at the end and ride home through Asia. And then go directly to Africa again etc etc. As it is, I'm - honestly - wondering whether stacking shelves in Tesco can be quite as bad as it's made out to be. Luckily, thousands of years ago, someone invented beer, so you don't have to worry about this stuff all the time.


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Navajo dude
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So - Lake Havasu City next. Nobody would ever go there (although sunset over the lake is lovely) had some nut-cake not decided to buy London Bridge in the early 1970's, ship it to Arizona brick by brick, and rebuild it in LHC.
(There's a theory that he thought he was getting Tower Bridge. I so want it to be true. Let's pretend it is.)
It does actually look superb, apart from the concrete "English Village" on the east side.


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LHC also boasts the Firehouse, and - quite simply - it's yet another brilliant American bar, where everyone will talk to you, the lager's far cheaper than you think, and - when the time is right - there's sufficient Rush and AC/DC on the jukie for you and your new pals to go FLIPPING MENTAL until it's time to go home. Excellent!


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Presently we must draw a mental curtain across this amusing tableau of Londonesque fakery, but not before we examine what happened in my motel room when The Earthquake hit.
Boiling it down to its humiliating essence, what I've learnt is this:
Do not be in the nip - ever - in an earthquake zone.
So - I'm nude, in my room, everything's fine, and I'm going to have a shower. THEN THE FUCKING BUILDING STARTS MOVING. What in the name of writhing Satan? I'm almost literally shitting myself. (Perhaps it's a good thing, laundry-wise, that I'm not wearing my trousers.) What in Christ do I do? Is it about to get worse? Do I have time to locate a pair of underjocks, or should I run outside, nude, shrieking and bewildered?


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It's raw, primal panic of a variety I haven't tasted since - oooh - two days ago (the "breezy" road out of Flagstaff). Being naked, terrified and 44 is something perhaps everyone should experience. Or - better - shouldn't. Then , without warning, the ceiling collapses! Not really. It just stops. Five minutes later, it's all fine and I decide to go for a stroll. Perhaps the Firehouse is open...


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There's more wind-related terror on the ride from Lake Havasu to Vegas, but this time I suck it up like a Rocky V Hoover. Presently Her Maj and I make it to Circus Circus, the (in theory) shittest, and (in reality) best value hotel on the Strip. I pay $17 a night for a four-star room - if you've been to CC before, it's just been renovated. Unbebloodylievable.


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Downstairs, and ten bucks in the video poker machine built into the bar allows you "free" beer all night (if you play the machine slowly and carefully). It's certainly possible to debauch on the cheap in Vegas. The tricky part is keeping an eye on your animal urges. One extra $20 bill in the machine and you've blown it. One room-service portion of Buffalo wings at 4.00am and you've blown it. Luckily, Circus Circus has a 7-Eleven not eight minutes walk away, so you can stock up on bananas and tuna sandwiches at your leisure. Ignore the "No Pedestrian Traffic" signs; they're only there to force you back into the casino, should you attempt to leave the building. Resistance is useful.


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And then there's T. For the avoidance of doubt, T. looks like the middle sister of Beyonce and Alicia Keys - i.e. OMFFFG. I can't begin to tell you how difficult it is to stick to your atheist principles (ha!) under this kind of pressure; T. is a Christian. Also she has a boyfriend. But she looks like a Beyonce/Keys mash-up!!!!


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It's Vegas, so I tell her - truthfully - that I literally love her, and consequently need to marry her immediately.
She protests a bit, throwing the Jesus/atheism/boyfriend/motorcycle bum thing(s) back in my face. But - praise be to liquor - there's some kissing anyway, right there in the casino. Not enough for my liking, but significantly more than nothing at all.

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It has to be mentioned that her "friends" (they weren't her friends, they just turned up) were a) a nutter woman, and b) a Canadian Baptist preacher. After a lengthy discussion regarding the immorality of atheism, the Canadian Baptist Sunday-School-Teaching preacher ended up in his room with TWO prostitutes. I went home alone, to pine in my room over T.
Moral - I am stupid, and Canadian Baptist Sunday-School teachers are a little bit more disgusting than they make out they are.


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Sign in a casino. Subtext: Even if you don't
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 04:43 AM GMT
May 28, 2010 GMT
It Didn't Happen In Monterey

24.4.10 Monterey, CA

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At last! Microwave Cheese-On-Toast. *literally dies*
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Before we go any further, I'd like you to look at this photograph of a food product I saw in a supermarket in Arizona, and reflect upon the fact that civilization is wheezing its last.

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Stupid things to say to very attractive women who look about 28 and want to "bum" a cigarette off me, #1 of - oh - many:
Very Attractive Woman Outside "The Britannia" (a pub in Monterey): Excuse me - can I bum a cig off you?
Me: Sure! Er - mine are on the bar in there. (I'm smoking outside). Just grab one!
VAW: - I'm not old enough to go in there!
Me (here comes the stupid part - brace y'self against the wainscoting): Really? Reaaaally? You're joking!
VAW: Um, no. I'm 20.
Me (mumbling shamefully) Hmmaggghh... I'll get it...wait here... cough...
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Overheard: Classic High-Functioning Alcoholic Conversation In The Liquor Store (where else?), Monterey:

HFA: Good evening. I'm interested in purchasing - let's see - a half pint of vodka. What d'you carry?
Liquor Store Owner: Well, we have Smirnoff Red at $8.99...
HFA: I see.
LSO: ...Or Romanoff, $8.29...
HFA: Mmm-hmm.
LSO: ...Then Ukraina at $7.69...
HFA: Splendid. Any others?
LSO: ...Also Tajik at $7.29 and Potatski at $5.89.
HFA: I see! Thank you. *counts out coins on counter* I believe I'll plump for the Potatski - and why not make it a pint, since we're here! Thank you so much.
LSO: Thank you sir. See you tomorrow. *sigh*
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 03:22 AM GMT
Dork Of The Town

30.4.10 Mariposa, CA


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I'm sitting at the bar in the 49er Club, owned and run by the enigmatic, shades-indoors-in-a-good-way (i.e. "I did stupendous amounts of acid 40 years ago and I actually HAVE to wear them") Randy, when a fellow who might almost be Stephen King's ugly brother (same glasses and too-small features, more warts) sits down and orders - are you ready for this - a pint of Budweiser with a tomato juice in it.

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I look at Randy quickly - this is the kind of thing I suspect he may refuse to serve on the grounds that it's pathetic and embarrassing. He hesitates for a yoctosecond - and goes to pour the squalid linctus. I can't not challenge it.
"Sorry old fruit - no offence - but straight to the nub, eh? That is the single most disgusting preparation I've ever seen, or indeed heard of. Pray explain yourself!"
He waffles on for some little while in an otiose attempt to justify or post-rationalize his disgraceful order, finishes it, and leaves.

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"The only thing worse than ordering a Budweiser and tomato juice," I remark to Randy, "is only having one and then going home."
"Yup. There's a dork born every minute" observes Randy.

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I'm forced to wait a few days in Mariposa for the weather to clear in Yosemite, so there's no realistic option but to return to the 49er a couple of nights later. This time I run into Gary, Dave and Stephanie from TV's England (Southampton I think), and cheeky, irony-soused banter with a side-plate of wry, sarcastic irreverence is the order of the day. After an hour, a young fellow in what one can only assume is a joke cowboy hat approaches us.

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"Yew all frum England?" he posits, though it's meant as a question.
"Indeed! Which country are you from, friend?" we respond.
"America!" comes the proud, if unsurprising disclosure.
We sort of knew that - we're in America, you've got an American accent, and you're wearing an unforgivable American hat... Never mind! His chum (quite badly sub-par on any internationally accepted educational scale, as far as I can make out) brings up the Revolutionary War, and it is eventually revealed that neither are huge fans of Obama - information less shocking, if that's even possible, than the fact that Hat-Boy is an American.
The Hatster is a "veteran" - of Iraq, I ask? Well, he wanted to go to Iraq, but sadly he was posted to Oregon; ah well; but also somehow ended up in the Oregon Coast Guard. Instead of Iraq.


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America is big 'n' busy; so much so that there are two or three things I meant to do that I've not had time for.
1) Visit Hunter S. Thompson's home town with sufficient automatic weapons, lysergic acid, dynamite, Wild Turkey, medical-grade cocaine, hunting knives, premium-strength beer, red meat, contraband cigarettes, prostitutes, hand-grenades, counterfeit $20 bills, psilocybin fungus, fake passports and hollow-point ammunition to start - and finish - World War III.
2) Visit Graceland - as in Elvis - stuff a deep-fried squirrel up my arse and shit it onto the porch in a hail of bloody, bone-studded faeces; then black up and hang myself from a tree in the front garden as a protest against Southern racism.
3) Visit Neverland - as in Michael Jackson - take an horrific crap on the doorstep and nail an anatomically correct doll with the face of Cindy Brady to an 8-foot rhinestone-studded cross on the lawn.


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2.5.10 Tracy, CA

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Two-and-a-quarter dollar pints of icy Bud; unlimited Rush on the jukie (live Xanadu now, anything I fancy to follow, cos it's an inkerneck jukebox and nobody's putting anything else on) and the promise of a box of Melancholy Fried Chicken on the way back to the motel. YOU HAVE GOT TO LUV THE MERRICKA.
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 03:26 AM GMT
A Burst Of Dirty Thunder

4.5.10 San Francisco, CA

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Yosemite, one last time. Amazoid.
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The Most Ridiculous Rumour Involving Mis-Casting I've Ever Heard, #1:
Someone on the internet says that, before Matt Smith was cast as The Doctor, one of the contenders was Catherine Zeta-Jones. I would LITERALLY have killed myself (by Aralditing my teeth to Her Majesty's exhaust pipe) if this had happened.
*insert segue here incorporating CZ-J, Michael Douglas, the movie "Falling Down", the concept of "falling down" due to having a dodgy hip caused by old age, the TV show "The Streets Of San Francisco" - which MD was in - and the fact that that's where I am. San Francisco, I mean.*


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The ride into SF through Oakland and across the Bay Bridge (from which you can see the Golden Gate Bridge) is a glittering highlight of the USA. The weather is blue and perfect and I'm bellowing with joy as we hit the Bay Bridge's peak at a legally-sanctioned and entirely appropriate 50mph. My motorcycling trousers fell to shreds yesterday so it's split-crotch jeans (bought in Chile) and Pacific breezes up the knackers a-plenty.


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SF is so groovy that I may apply to become a homosexual and come and live here. But before I get all excited about Frisco, there are some places I seem to have missed. Fr'example, Beatty, Nevada; Gateway to Death Valley.


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In short, Death Valley is amazement (and not too deathy in April), and Beatty, bless it, is not really much of anything at all. I use it as an opportunity to stock up on cheap smokes before hitting California, where they're bound to be twice the price. (Later I discover they're actually cheaper there.)


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It rains a bit in Death Valley before I arrive - and the desert blooms!


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Out the other end, and that bastarding wind picks up again. I'm gusted off the highway into Palmdale. The Motel 6 receptionist tells me there are "no bars in Palmdale"; it's "more of a family-friendly town". My family and yours would seem to be fundamentally at odds, I inform her.


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From here it's a short hop to Hollywood - hooray! etc. The Budget Inn on Sunset sits squarely atop the list of America's Filthiest Motels, but it's just close enough to the Rainbow for me to walk there and see if Lemmy's in. He's not, so I have a pile of drinks in his honour anyway, leading to a late-night impulse purchase of Motorhead tickets for Brixton in November.


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BTW: You can't use the aircon in room 209 of the Budget Inn - all it does is blow pigeon-shit dust into the room.

I like Hollywood for a couple of days, but you wouldn't want to live there unless you were already famous, since everyone that isn't is trying to be, which, when you boil it down, means that no-one is remotely interested in anyone else including you. Must be time to get outta town. Well, hello Santa Barbara!

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Her Maj and I roll in on a Sunday afternoon, and something compels me to trot straight down to the Tiburon Bar on State Street at 4.30pm. Call it booze-lust if you want. I'm so glad I did. It's dark, welcoming, peppered with friendly locals; I end up staying for upwards of an aeon. Fantastic spot, lovely folks - I wish I could remember their names.
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There's a huge billboard of Katy Perry looking very very attractive outside The Chieftain in San Francisco. So pretty and nice that it makes me want to boil her soil. Sorry - I've just made that expression up, and now it seems probable that I shouldn't have.

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North of Santa Barbara we're onto the Pacific Coast Highway. Wow! It is absolutely outstanding. Glee-laden motorcycling is eventuated. A thousand bikes (95% Harleys) thunder by on the other side of the road. At one of many, many viewpoints, I meet Mark, and his friend Other Mark.

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Mark has a black 1994 CB1000 - exactly what I had before Her Maj. Bloody great bike, for which he paid $2000 - exactly what I paid in the UK for mine (give or take a few quid for exchange rate fluctuations).


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UK General Election tomorrow. It seems unlikely that David Cameron's going to achieve a clear majority, and just possible that El Gordo will end up forming a coalition with the Lib Dems. Facially, Cameron resembles a bar of cheap soap moulded into a death-mask of the Pilsbury Dough-Boy. His party is crammed full of embarrassing toffs, posh twerps, braying haw-haws, nanny's boys, bedwetting, spank-hungry, dull-eyed uglies, autoerotic-accident-victims-in-waiting, gum-diseased homophobes, dribbling, in-bred monstrosities, bankers, air-brushed hatemongers and vile, stale-smelling, syphilitic abominations from right across the spectrum of the massively rich.

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El Gordo, on the other hand, is an extremely unpopular, accident-prone, arguably unelected PM, dangling at the pizzle-end of a 13 year, 3 term Labour administration. Nick Cleggover seems OK - except the last time anyone with the word "Liberal" attached to their name was in power was about 100 years ago, and we're quite firmly ensconced in Crap Street at the moment, economy-wise. Vince Cable seems nice.

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If Cameron can't win a clear majority under these circumstances, it's tricky to imagine any under which the Tories could ever get in again. If I was a betting man, I'd have a quid (after El Gordo's gut-storming speech on May 3rd) on a Lib-Lab coalition. If Cameron gets in... oh, I guess it's back to "well, I didn't vote for him".


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Obviously, this will all be irrelevant by the time anyone reads it, but - hey ho! - it's the election, and this is what I thunk. S'all.
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*Note from the future - well done me. Finger on the pulse etc.*
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What Ray Ratto doesn't know about baseball isn't worth knowing. What Ray Ratto does know about baseball isn't worth knowing either. Baseball players are fat. Ray Ratto is even fatter. What Ray Ratto knows about Dunkin' Donuts is only worth knowing if you're a baseball player, you fat bastard. (Full disclosure - I am insanely fat after nearly six months of burritos, pizzas and buffalo wings. I look like a pig on stilts.)
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10.31pm. A feisty person calls me an "Irish bum" for not giving them either of their top two choices of free gift:
1) A cigarette (mine are inside, on the bar)
2) A dollar (no).
A miracle of self-control allows me simply to smile and nod, rather than respond with "rather an Irish bum than a raddled, homeless tranny!" (I have nothing against trannies, raddled, homeless or otherwise, but this one was just plain rude. Irish! I ask you!)
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High Def telly! Now, truly, we inhabit The Future. One might struggle ever to leave the house again. HD football - every blade of grass, every droplet of huffed-out nose-water. HD nature documentaries - every briny droplet arcing from an orca's tailfin, every wrinkle on the surface of every gnu shit.
Where it all falls down, of course, is HD fatty-porn. There are folds that were never - in Christ's name - meant to be illuminated; patches of hair that were banished, aeons ago, into invisible chasms by Yahweh himself; blobs, lumps and wetnesses that cry out across the yawning emptiness of the universe for concealment. Still - BRILLIANT, isn't it?
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I nip out of The Chieftain for a well-earned cig. A gentleman in shades and a hooded shell-suit walks towards me - backwards, mind - at 0.01 mph. As he passes, I offer a cheery "How you doing mate?"
Continuing his reverse toddle, he looks me up and down, then lifts the lid of a wheely-bin, gestures at me with ALL TEN fingers, and burbles something in Spanish. "Nice one!" I respond, deflecting his inarguably insulting if wholly abstruse volley of - who knows what?
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At this point, E stops me in my pen-centred tracks. I note curly hair, a saucy smile and bosoms.
"What're you writing?" she asks. I KNEW there must be a lady somewhere who found a bloke writing in a book intriguing! I KNEW IT.
She asks for a read, and within seconds looks up from the scribble with a cautious expression.
"What's a Code 55?" Poor, innocent child.
"I can't tell you. Your husband, or perhaps boyfriend, might not like it", I reply.
"Haven't got one" she says. FUCKING BINGO.


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We set to work, drinks-wise. When The Chieftain shuts, we're somehow transported to her office where we steal duck pate, salty crackers, half a gallon of OJ and a litre of Bombay Sapphire. Back to mine - somehow - and it's two tickets for the trolley bus to Lewd Street, stopping at Nudity Square, Boob Alley and Nob Hill. Sorry - but the last one's a real place in San Francisco.


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A new front tyre (Avon Distanzia! Nice...) and an oil and filter change at Golden Gate Cycles, and we're off up the coast (me and Her Maj, that is). Riding across the Golden Gate Bridge is ridiculously good. I start humming the theme tune to "Taxi", although obviously that was set in NYC and the title sequence was a film-loop of Brooklyn Bridge. I think. Great tune though. Doo doo do-do-do, do-do-do-do-do-doo do-do etc.


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North of SF, the Pacific Coast Highway (the "1") is maybe the best motorbikin' road ever. Rollercoaster hairpins, deep green (red)woods, foaming waves, rock-scuttered sea and roadsides quilted with flowers, for - so far - 150 miles.


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The hotels are three times normal price, so I pull inland at Russian River looking for something cheaper, and end up at Monte Rio, and the Nicest Place In The World. I plan on one night, and stay four. The Rio Villa Resort - God almighty it's good. Hey Ron - Thanks! Hey everyone else - go there now! It's not a budget motel, but it's worth every cent.


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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 04:26 AM GMT
 


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