USA, Feb 2010
April 01, 2010 GMT
Biloxi Blues

8.3.10 Santa Fe, New Mexico

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"Fat Tire" is, I hope you'll agree, a fabulous name for a foamy amber whistle-wetter. I suppose it's called that because it makes you a) fat and b) tired. Well done, anyway, to Santa Fe's Cowgirl Bar for selling it. Well done, also, to Santa Fe's Wal-Mart for selling Wranglers for 9 GBP. My existing jeans, were, frankly, out of control. The USA doesn't do laundry; you have to go to a stupid thing called a Laundromat and wash your clothes yourself. It's like East Germany in 1974. It's amazing how long you can make four pairs of undercrackers last under these crypto-Marxist conditions, but all good things must come to an end; today I admitted defeat and bought socks, 'crackers and jeans, and I feel reborn.
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What a long, strange trip it's been. I haven't written a word in this book for a month, almost entirely because every time I go to a bar in the USA (which is the only time I can write anything that isn't "got up, took a crap, rode 200 miles, saw something amazing, oiled my chain with RustAway 2000 - brilliant lube!") someone ruins my concentration by being all "Where you from? Watcha doin'? Argentina? Wow!" It's excellent.


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I enter this fine land at Brownsville, Texas: an utterly awful and comprehensively depressing shitfarm. Entry into the US, customs-wise, is easy here and I'd recommend it as a crossing-point. Just don't hang about. (Brownsville customs guy on reading my numberplate; "GB - what's that, Sweden?" Let's be nice and say he thought it stood for Gothenburg).


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Approaching New Orleans, I decide to check hotel prices in advance. I'm amazed to find out that I'm going to arrive bang in the middle of Mardi Gras - great! - and that the hotels are opening the bidding at $200. That's just not feasible, even for a night, so I carry on eastwards to Mississippi and the grave of Bill Hicks.
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Thanks to the superbly monomaniacal Weather Channel, I'm missing snow and ice by just miles, and I arrive at Magnolia Cemetery, Leakesville, Mississippi in cold blue sunshine. A lovely old dear in the flower shop next door phones Bill's aunt to check where the grave is. It's simple, subtle and sad.
Bill Hicks was 32.


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I bugger off back west to New Orleans for some lager therapy, now Mardi Gras is over.
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Holy Jesus and all the merry saints of Hell! N'Awlins redefines mental. Walk down Bourbon St at 9am on a wet Monday morning in February and you'll pass more than one bar full of shouting-drunk degenerates watching a razor-tight bar band and sucking down Shrimp Po'Boys for "breakfast". And this is after Mardi Gras, after the month-long party that followed the N.O. Saints winning the SuperBowl (an American washing-up contest). There's something disconcerting about the concept of the 24-hour bar, the bar that never closes. You go there, drink beer, shuffle home, sleep - and then walk past it the next day feeling like you've missed out on something by going home. Which you have.
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"What hurricane?" seems to be the motto 'round these parts. N.O. slides easily into my Top Five Cities In The Americas list. (Buenos Aires, Cuzco, La Paz, N.O., Cuenca. And NYC. Top Six. And Antigua. *punches self in eye*)


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Bars with Black Sabbath on the jukebox are far thinner on the ground, globally speaking, than they ought to be. Subdivide that category into bars that are open FOR EVER as opposed to those that close and you're left with just one, as far as I can tell. Obviously I can't remember what it's called, but it's in N.O. somewhere. Maybe these people can help.
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Down these parts, every other building is a Baptist church. I have no idea which particular flavour of nutbaghood characterises Baptist dogma, but I can tell you that the actual buildings are ugly like baboon scrot.


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FFS! It's "makes ONE weak..." oh never mind...
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Biloxi's a surprise. I don't know why it should be - I've only heard of it because of Biloxi Blues, but in real life it's several miles of white sand and pretty wooden colonial houses. So nice that I roar away from the cig-break bus-stop forgetting that my backpack is balanced on a pannier.
"I say! How comfortable I feel!" I think, before, some two miles later, realising why. ARSE-HEAD. I execute a gloriously illegal and hair-thinningly dangerous u-turn, and try to remember which of the 40 intervening bus-stops I left it in. 1.95 miles later I spot my bag. Fanx, The Universe...


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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 01:55 AM GMT
April 12, 2010 GMT
High Plains Snifter

16.3.10 Farmington, New Mexico


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The beer in the Three Rivers brew-pub in Farmington is astonishing, and consequently I find myself astonished up to the eyeballs. The music, however, is weird; either lame and sometimes explicitly racist 90's country, or gargle-metal. No real surprises in that combination, except there's a sort of midpoint-band that gets played (and is received well) at some point. It's country pickin', but with hell-talk and guttural vocals. I don't know what it is, I don't know what to call it and I never need to hear it again, but I like it.
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Northern New Mexico (where the Rockies appear) is so goddamn beautiful you've just gotta laugh. Especially when there's a "bit" of snow on the ground. It's mighty cold, but with literally all my clothes on, 100 miles isn't a problem. It's the fingertips that start whimpering for mercy first. But the sun's out, and the sky is as blue as it gets between here and Bolivia.


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I'm warned by a friendly well-wisher at a gas-station in Los Alamos (birthplace of the A-bomb, explosion geeks) that the Zia Indian Reservation has very low speed limits, that they're rigidly enforced, and that the justice, if you're caught, is tribal. What on Earth might that entail?
I see no justice-enforcers as I pass through the reservation, but everyone's driving very very slowly, so I guess there's something in the bleak-faced warning.
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If you should find yourself in Farmington - and why not? It's a perfectly pleasant small town with a good diner and a decent motel, happily positioned a two-minute walk from the Three Rivers pub - I recommend the Chaco Nut Brown Ale. All of the 10-ish microbrews on the menu are delicious-sounding (and at least six of them are delicious in reality) but the Chaco is a sweet, ice-cold session-brew at a liver-friendly 4.1% ABV. You might want to go for the Double Barrel Amber, but at 8% I'm giving the bastard a swerve.


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Some other places of interest between here and Mississippi include Waco, TX, and Roswell, NM. There is, predictably in hindsight, no family-fun theme park in Waco devoted to the David Koresh "incident" (not even a patch of burnt grass), but there is the Ice House, where I spend a hugely entertaining evening with Shooter Dan (named for the booze, not the guns). I'm sat at the bar maybe five minutes before Daniel (a Baptist who brings the whole tired old God thing up several times between our meeting and our getting thoroughly wang-dangadingdonged on drinks) says hello. Great bar, good company, darts, pool and beach-ball boosies on both sides of the bar.

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Roswell has a large, funny and unconvincing Alien/UFO Museum and an apparent paucity of bars. Like every other town though, it's full of Harley riders who all wave and chatty pedestrians who want to know what the hell it is I'm riding. Africa Twins are somewhat scarce in the US, having only been sold here (I think) for one year.
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Three Rivers microbrew update:
NM Colona is a very guzzlable 4.5%; a nicely under-gassed lager. Suck 'em down with gay abandon. Ju know what? If missing out on Roswell means you've got time to visit the Three Rivers in Farmington, do it. The ales are outshtanding *barp*.
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If you're in any way unable to hold your booze in a civilized fashion - let's posit the idea, for example, that you're young and new to the drinks, or that you've lost several jobs and/or wives due to your behaviour after a schooner or two of sweet sherry - I implore you to stay away from New Mexico. Opening times are liberal, but drunkenness laws are not. Speaking as a person who likes a snifter but never gets punchy, I'm beginning to see the logic. At the end of the evening, the only people left in the Three Rivers are the ones who are a) blootered b) still capable of respecting the personal space of their fellows. It's a little bit like what Jesus had in mind for the Garden of Eden, but with more stringent ID checks and lager.
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That reminds me of The Good Thing About Texas - you can smoke in the pub. And the food's great.
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Before I forget; the grooviest thing that's ever happened to me in my life is being overtaken by 60 convoy-riding Louisiana 1%-ers, and being saluted by literally all of them. I'd been in the US of States a week, and it was so cool I nearly cried. They were called the Black Somethings (inevitably) - possibly Rats.
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 12:39 AM GMT
Utah Be Ah Goonah

21/3/10 Moab, Utah

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The northern end of New Mexico is pretty. Colorado is stunning. Utah is something else entirely. It's a lesson in not thinking "the last place was amazing - next one's boundabe crap".
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Southern Colorado had perfect snowy peaks; and Utah has these and mind-gouging canyons, with rock formations that make a ghoulish fright-wit out of every Young Earth Creationist on the Very Old Planet. Even at this beginners-only end of Grand Canyon Country, you'd have to be a tit-eyed spazmo, a frog-brained hump, a beef-headed, bin-sniffing, wart-covered flab-licker not to get it. I did have a list of pertinent questions for believers in Noah's Flood (etc) to ask themselves, but I've whittled it down to one: Why don't you stab yourself?


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Mistakes it's possible to make about Utah, often generalized to the entire USA:
1. The beer is unmitigated cat-tinkle.
2. It's horribly expensive - like, $7 a pint.
3. It's near-impossible to get a drink in Utah anyway, because the nutjob Mormons (one rung down the nut-ladder from Scientologists) control everything.
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Let's, shall'n't we, deal with these objections one-by-one?


1. Utah beer, if brewed in the state itself, has to be 3.2% alcohol by weight, not volume. I have no idea what the necessary algorithm is to convert ABW to the more usual ABV, but after "a few" ABW 3.2-ers, you won't care. Anyway, you're in Utah - what choice do you have?


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2. No it's not. I cried myself to sleep every night for months when I heard that a bottle of beer in an American pub was $7. It's not. It's - on average, after six south-western states - about $4 a pint. In Durango, CO, I was paying $2 a pint for superb microbrew booze. Also, in 2 months in the US, I haven't been to a bar in the US that wasn't overflowing with exciting local brews. (Well, maybe once in N'Awlins - but it was, like, $1.50.)


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3. First day in Utah, I come across yet another microbrew pub - Eddie McStiff's, in Moab. Yes - bad name, for both the pub (crass) and the town (worryingly Old Testament), but who cares? Good booze, comfy bar-stools and smiley service. I may even become a Mormon and move here. Wait - no I won't. It's stupid.


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Dreadful beer - but look at the size of the can!*
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Miller High Life is the "Champagne of Beers" in the same way that pig urine is the Blue Nun of farmyard urines.
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If you happen to be on a motorcycle - and I do happen - entry to US National Parks appears to be priced at $5. At any of the three I've been to so far (Mesa Verde, CO; Canyonlands and Arches, UT) they'll be the five most awesome dollars you've ever spent. Flipping extraordinary stuff awaits your yearning peepers. That $5 ticket lasts a week as well. A Denny's "Egg Lover" breakfast, with coffee and tip, comes to $12. The eggs are lush, but the bacon's like a mouthful of autumn leaves. I suggest you skip it and spend the cash on a couple of park visits. (You can eat lizards and prairie dogs, prolly.)


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Well worth it on your birthday though - because it's free

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Flagstaff, Arizona. 25.3.10


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After a chat with Ian from Scotland at Monument Valley, who pulls up behind me to question me closely and amusingly about my GB plates, I make it to Flagstaff on my birthday. It's not far off being my death day as well - I had no idea Flagstaff was several miles up in the air (because I didn't check), so, when I arrive 2 hours after dark I'm - I think - in the early stages of hypothermia. Uncontrollable shivering in the Econolodge reception area, inability to write my name on the check-in form and a sensation of being noticeably more stupid than usual are the main symptoms. I decide to stay in and do the birthday thing tomorrow - if Saint Gertrude (patron saint of the dead) is gracious enough to grant me a tomorrow. Check-in guy says "Don't worry - I'll inform your next of kin if you die", which cheers me up.


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Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff is like a mother's hug after an Xmas Eve ride down the A3, appropriately. Their R&R stout (6.4%) is literally unbelievable - the best beer I've tasted outside Belgium. I love Guinness, but this makes it taste like Kestrel Lite. It's like chocolate dissolved in sherry. BOOOIP! It's like being punched in the nads by Jesus.
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*Disclaimer: 24oz in the US is 1.5 US pints. 1.5 US pints = 1.248 Imperial pints. So anyway, a 24 US oz can is still nearly 1.25 proper UK pints. And it (trans: they) was (trans: were) only $1.50 (ah, each). Conclusively, though, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE CAN! I look forward to the day I can convincingly order "a 40 and a blunt", now I know what a "24" looks like.

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 01:45 AM GMT
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.
---
*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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---


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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
June 09, 2010 GMT
A Distant Overture

24.5.10 Seattle, WA.

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What in tarnation...?
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Her Maj and I roll into Frazier-town at 5pm on Sunday. She's as frantically enthusiastic about everything as the day she was born; I've got damp knickers, and not in a good way. My new motorcyclin' loons are nowhere near as waterproof as the accompanying literature would have you believe.

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My cheeky little netbook thing (stupid Windows, unfortunately, chosen for price and the inevitability of it getting broken or nicked) allows us to set up a randomly-positioned roadside office downtown. Thieving wireless from the Swedish Health Centre across the road provides the means to locate, book and GPS-erize a reasonably-priced motel. (Days Inn! Hoorah! Usually a good call among the top five or six chains. Motel 6 - cheap but infinitely depressing; Knights Inn - cheap and either horrible or good, depending on when it was refurbished; Econolodge - nice but poky and overpriced; Travelodge - always good, sometimes expensive; and Rodeway - as average as it gets, but usually good value.

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Seattle is a serious microbrew town, so why not take my hand and join me for a stroll down to the Duck Island bar for a cold 'un or three?


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Wailua Wheat: Clearly a lady's beer. Alright, but a bit lacking in PUNCH or indeed BITE, and with an effeminate logo.


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Slane's Irish Red: NOM NOM NOM. Like a sort of pale-ish ale, with a porter-y toast finish (excuse me - I'm so not a beer critic. I like PBR fer Gawd's sake.)
Mudshark Porter: OOH YEAH! As above, but more so. More stouty, more toasty.


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(Meanwhile, the last ever episode of "Lost" is on TV in the bar, and there's a sign on the door saying "Come in, sit down, shut up". Fair enough - I've never seen an episode of "Lost" - imagine the hilarity when I ask the bar lady to give me a 30-second rundown of the last six mystifying years as the titles roll. "RUBBISH!" I yell at 10 minute intervals. "ACCORDING TO THE INTERTUBES IT WAS ALL A DREAM!" I shout with an increasing sense of entitlement as the drama peaks in parallel with my inebriation. Except - quite clearly - I don't.)


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Iron Horse Brewery's Rodeo Pale Ale: - more hops than Kermit on a pogo-stick in a sack-race with Douglas Bader. YUM.
Steamerglide Stout: I was told by the bar lady that it was "thin". Thin stout! Nobody wants that.
Upright 6 Rye Saison: not quite as exciting as it either looks or sounds. I call it "Lost - The Finale".
The Dissident: a "sour ale" from the Deschutes brewery. OMFG. It's not cider, but it tastes like the best cider you ever had, with a triple shot of vitamin C. Not sure I could do a whole pint.


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(I've thought of a new joke which I will now bandy around the "Lost"-rapt congregation [at least an hour into the show]. "Hey everyone! I've *air-quotes* LOST *close air-quotes* interest! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Another great joke that doesn't seem to fly around here is going "HUH?" really loud at each ad-break. Ah well!)


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Finally, and before I get punched, Russian River Brewery's Pliny The Elder: stiff, bollocks-out beer; tangy, no-nonsense ale. Fuck-off booze for men and women who couldn't give a fart about you or your glass of apathetically post-nouveau weevil puke. It's a slap in the ear with a turgid farmer's penis. OWCH.


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Me, writing this, closing time
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 06:20 PM GMT
 
 

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