June 10, 2007

Full Circle

Statue of Liberty from QM2NEW YORK, USA - Even though it was barely 5am, the promenade deck of the Queen Mary 2 was crowded with people. A couple helicopters and more than a few coast guard boats escorted us past the Statue of Liberty and into our berth on the Brooklyn side of the East River as the skyline continued to form in in the pre-dawn mist.

It was during this spectacle that I realized with a sudden start that I'd finished; I'd completed the circumnavigation. For it was more than 20 months ago that Brian and were on the Staten Island Ferry in that very spot. Here is the photographic proof. That's it. I started traveling West and, today, arrived from the East. Around the world.

As people spilled out of the Ferry Terminal and into black limousines and yellow taxi cabs an old friend, Matt, met me this morning at the Ferry Terminal. He was the only person to arrive by bicycle. I was delighted, though it was a long walk back to his apartment in Brooklyn.

For the moment I'm sitting here in Matt's Brooklyn apartment digesting both the feast of pancakes in my belly and the last two years. I suppose that at some point today I'll make my way over to the Greyhound terminal for one last overnight bus ride. I expect that I'll be in Toronto tomorrow morning.

**The photo I've used in this post is one I took of the Statue of Liberty this morning. It's a terrible photo but for me was a great moment so I've used it anyway. It looks better if you squint.

October 24, 2005

Pacific Beach - San Diego

Day 19

Sunset on the PacificThis the kinda place that can reel you in for good. It's a place that makes you forget about all the wars and hurricanes ripping the world apart. Somewhere to lose yourself for months, or years, if you let it.

Pacific Beach, San Diego.

Before the Greyhound unceremoniously dumped us downtown, I admittedly had no real knowledge of what San Diego was all about other than that it bordered Mexico and looks sunny and warm on the map.

Due to the ordeal/adventure of crossing the country via Greyhound we didn't have a chance read anything about this place and were forced to task Brian's mother with booking us accommodation 'somewhere fun and near the beach'. The Banana Bungalow turned out to be the perfect spot for us to base ourselves. In the four days that we've been here, we've managed to fully immerse ourselves in the sleep-all-day, party-all-night beach culture that this place oozes. As far as hostels go, I'd rate the fun factor off the scale. It's not a place for light sleepers or anybody looking for a quiet time. These people never stop.

But alas, we have a long way to go and the urge to move is creeping up on us. The luggage arrived today (only 4 days late) and it's clear to us that our migration to a warmer climate is only partially complete. It's remained overcast and a little too cool for our tastes since we arrived. There's a good possibility that we'll make a run for the border tomorrow sometime. Of course our plans, as always are subject to change at a moments notice.

October 21, 2005

Greyhound Bus Crash in Missouri

Day 16

Front Tire
Sorry for the long delay between posts. Greyhound bus terminals have yet to catch on to the 21st century. Most of them sell cassette tapes, but none that I saw had even a hint of internet access.

We arrived in San Diego (not Mexico) last night too late for me to update this site, but not too late to dip into the booze and meet some people at our new home for the next couple days; the Banana Bungalow on Pacific Beach.

The bus ride wasn't nearly as boring as can be expected. I could probably write a novel about the trip (if I could write a novel) but I'm going to stick to the dramatic events; the most dramatic, of course being the real, bonafide bus crash we were involved in.Broken Rims - Rear Tire

We were about 30 or 40 minutes out of Springfield, MO on interstate 40 , speeding toward the West Coast and Mexico, I'm pretty sure everybody was asleep, including the driver. One minute I was curled up dreaming of sunshine and lollipops, the next I was contemplating my chances of surviving a head on collision with a rock cut at 70 mph (115 km). We were driving at full speed in a ditch. The situation was scary to say the least, but turned into horror as we all realized that the driver was making no attempt to slow down. We continued at speed for what may have been an entire mile within inches of an 8 foot high rock cut running along the side of the highway, before somebody from the rear of the bus made it to the front, busted through the gate 'protecting' the driver and steered the bus back into the road.Front Bumper

It wasn't until this point that the driver seemlingly woke up and began to take action. The bus started to slow and he screamed something about blowing a tire and began applying the break. Of course before the ordeal actually resolved we crossed the road into the centre median and nearly rolled over on the slope. A good friend of mine, Turbo, would have described the bus as a 'silver screaming death machine.'

People were screaming, babies were crying, as you can see, every tire on the right side was busted up bad, and overhead luggage was everywhere. Greyhound marketed the event as as flat tire/breakdown and gave us a free lunch at the Terminal in Tulsa OK, to compensate for the 12 hour delay and having to spend the night. They didn't even call the police. I however, did.

We waited on the side of the road, people were complaining of back pain, the bus driver was clearly in shock. Nobody was coming to save us. After two hours I called the cops and the calvary arrived. After the first cruiser got to the scene, he called for back-up. Ambulances, fire-trucks and even news cameras arrived on the scene.

In the end it didn't really amount to much, the tires were changed the cops shifts were about to end and we were mere miles from the state line. The 12 or so of us who still hadn't been evacuated boardedWaiting.... the same busted up bus and drove to Tulsa. We had no choice, there were no other buses coming, we were surround by Missouri wilderness.

It delayed us more than 12 hours and would have put us crossing the border to Mexico in the wee hours; something we weren't prepared to do. So, in the style we're quickly becoming used to we switched plans on the fly, unfortunately our luggage didn't get the message. I'm not sure where it is. Maybe the Mexican border, maybe LA, maybe deep in the bowels of the San Diego bus station.

October 17, 2005

Mexico Bound

Day 12

The ticket agent at the Port Authority Greyhound stations' initial concern morphed into a sort of excitement as he contemplated making a similar trip one day.

"One way to Mexicali, Mexico please." The simplicity in that sentence doesn't do much justice to the scope and consequence of what a one-way bus ticket across America actually involves. It took a moment for it to sink in; For him to realize exactly what a trip like this meant.

I like to try to quantify these types of things. I delight in the numbers. 4,800 km (3000 miles). At least 10 different states. 70 hours riding coach as we bump and bounce over the vast American landscape.

I think about the gleaming towers in New York and the Atlantic Ocean then I think about the forests and towns and deserts and 24-hour gas stations to the west, and eventually, somewhere out there, I can imagine the Pacific Ocean at the end of this great lump of land. Maybe we're crazy, maybe I've been reading too much Kerouac. But today we test our freedom. We've faked left but turned West on a quest for a cheaper, warmer, and slightly more exotic experience.

New York has been grand, we've played it well and yesterday even got a couple offers to sail down the East Coast. But the thought of waiting even two weeks is simply too painful for my tired old wallet. In the words of Hunter S Thompson we need to 'Keep Moving.' This change of scenery will be just what we need.

The idea is that once we cross the border to Mexicali, we'll get on a Mexican bus for another 10 hours or so to eventually arrive on the Pacific Coast to soak up some sun and maybe even eat at taco or two.

Neither of us has any real delusions about the physical and mental hardship we're about to submit ourselves to. We'll be taken to the brink. If we make it through this, we can endure any form of public transportation. Wish us luck. We leave at 10:15pm EST tonight.

October 16, 2005

Living Cheap in NYC

Living Cheap in NYC

Nobody said it was supposed to be easy

Day 11

As the city continues to bleed money from us, we've decided to take our fate into our own hands. No longer will we be at to mercy of a fickle ship captain who seemingly has been stringing us along. For all we know he's setting sail today with his first-string crew. (My phone calls to him have started to go unanswered).

It's time to take proactive steps toward getting that little red arrow moving. We broke down and finally registered at a service called Crewbay, it was $40 CDN for one month, which represents a small defeat for us, but already looks promising. Restlessness has started to take hold we'll need to make a move sooner rather than later. For now we'll turn it up a notch and see if we can't get something going.

October 14, 2005

And on the 9th day it rained more, and Ryan lamented

Day 9

The rain won't stop, it's dominating the local news. This streak, in my estimation, has the potential to rival The Great Flood; Only 31 one more days, and 31 more nights to go. If the television news is to be believed, New Jersey and Parts of Long Island are already starting to sink; and so are my spirits. It's not all bad though.

I'm always surprised at how quickly my fortunes can change. Two days ago I was in a very different spot that I am now. I was alone and wandering the city, wet from the rain for my 3rd day running. Brian had emailed me to say that he was going to be even further delayed. Roberto, the 52-year old Surgeon, who was our only real lead out of here, had called to say he'd found 'other crew' for his trip to Bermuda, and the city was peeling money from my wallet at a terrifying pace. All of this is compounded by the fact that the HI New York Hostel which used to be an old, womens hospital, felt well... like a hospital.

I could have survived all of this in good spirits, as I'm generally a happy person and able to deal with a little adversity from time to time. But the rain. I can handle a day or two of rain, no sweat. But 7 days non-stop. It had a profound effect on my psyche. But that was then, this is now.

It's a new day and while the sun isn't yet shining and we don't have a definate ride out of the city, the tide has begun to shift. The rain is forcasted to end by Sunday. Brian has arrived. Roberto, the sailor, called me because some of his crew ended up being no shows. He expressed over the phone that he would want to leave as quickly as possible once this weather clears. (i.e. Sunday or Monday). We've also moved out of the HI Hostel and into a closer, hopefully more personable one, called Jazz on the Park. Yes, things are looking up. Today is a new day.

In other news, it looks like Jon's Skee-Ball score of 540 last weekend at ACE bar has caused a stir in the Skee-Ball Comunity.

October 11, 2005

Bryant Park - Midtown Manhattan

Day 6

Surfing at Bryant ParkBryant Park; Come for the free Wi-Fi, stay for the urban oasis. As long as it's not raining, which is hardly ever, I'm planning to spend some time here each day, on their free wireless internet network updating this site and generally getting my daily fix.

Google has recently put in a bid to provide free wi-fi to the entire city of San Francisco, and I'd been reading that they'd been experimenting with wi-fi in New York City. I'm guessing Bryant Park is their Area 51. Though it doesn't seem to me to be much of a secret as they've got their name on every brochure and sign posted in the park. In any case, if it's free, I'll take it.

Yesterday I mentioned that I was planning to do a little walking on my own to see the city. When I said a 'little' I'd envisioned a few hours at the most. What I didn't imagine was that I'd walk from 103rd street all the way down to Battery Park, then back up to Times Square (42nd st.) I'm certainly no expert in NYC geography but I'm pretty sure this works out to over 200 city blocks.

Uh oh. Here comes the rain. The trouble with free outdoor wi-fi is that computers don't work well in the rain. I have to go. I apologize if this entry is full of typos and gramatical errors... let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

Day 5

As my family celebrates Thanksgiving in Canada, I'll be spending Columbus Day here in New York City moving into Hostelling International's hostel in Manhattan's Upper West Side. This will be the first time since arriving in the city that I'll be in a hostel and have booked 2 nights only, as I'm not entirely confident that living in what is supposedly the world's largest hostel will be my cup of tea.

Until now I've been staying with friends in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), playing the part of a local New Yorker and haven't yet explored the city with my tourist hat on. I expect this to change today now that Jon and Matt are headed back to Toronto and I'm moving into a hostel that'll likely be filled with other foreigners.

Brian has yet to arrive (the latest word is Tuesday), which means I'll have some time on my own to see some of those NYC must-see sites most travel guides rave about. I've got my walking shoes on, an unlimited Subway pass and some free time. Let's see what I can find.

October 08, 2005

Times Square in The Rain

Times Square

Brooklyn

Day 3

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

-Inscibed on the Statue of Liberty

Manhatten and her 5 buroughs can assault your senses. The night rain deepens the darkness and really gives you a sense of Delillo's American magic and dread. The city is crammed into an impossibly small island, that acts as a giant magnet; drawing everything irreversibly to her. This, of course isn't a new phenomen. She's been at it for some time now; seducing the worlds huddled masses for more than 200 years.

Lady Liberty.

New York, New York.

Last night was a blur of small Brooklyn bars capped with a 3 a.m. breakfast of bacon and eggs. Leonard Cohen woke us up. It somehow seems appropriate on this sad, rainy New York day. We need to get out of this apartment and get downtown....

October 07, 2005

Oshawa - New Jersey

Day 2

2 countries in two days; At this rate, if I travel for a year we will have visited 365 countries. We're in New Jersey visiting Jon's family at the moment and should be heading into Brooklyn later this evening.

Apparently there is some drama with the NYC Subways, CNN knows a lot more than I do: New York spends day on alert after false alarm.

Also, I just found out that The Sudbury Star has a front page story about our trip. I haven't seen it for myself but, if the rumors are true than it could mean a boost to our readership. A quick search online indicates that they have an average daily readership of 19,000. These are exciting times for me.