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OE USA: A New Zealander's Travels in the US (Part III)
I managed to get in touch with family that had been living in Philadelphia as academics. They had decided that life on the Pacific Coast was far nicer and had got out of their apartment, got in the RV and headed West. We agreed to meet up in Monterey at the aquarium where I was taken around all the pools and taken to lunch where we had a beautiful meal well complimented by Napa Valley wine. We then drove around the gorgeous Monterey-Carmel coast via the Seventeen Mile Drive and saw the millionaires’ town where the houses have no numbers and Clint Eastwood is mayor. This was surely one of the least Leftist places on the Left coast which is why I chuckled when I got out of the car and saw a Kerry-Edwards ’04 bumper sticker. We returned to Monterey and walked along Cannery Row – having afternoon tea back at the aquarium and catching a bite at Starbucks, much to my hosts’ discomfort.
On the way back from SOLOC4 Jeff had asked whether Phil wanted to go to Lake Tahoe where his parents have a house. Phil was too busy – in fact, all his weekends were spoken for while I was there. I had been told the debit card and internet access papers from the bank would take two weeks to turn up and that I could stick around until I had what I needed. Not wanting to spend all the time I was tied to Santa Clara in Santa Clara, I asked Jeff he wanted to go to Lake Tahoe. He was keen – and so were Joe and JJ – so that Friday the four of us headed off to Tahoe. We arrived around midnight, with JJ and I having slept during much of the trip in the back seat.
Jeff and I got up early the next day, went shopping, played ping pong and climbed a snow capped volcanic peak behind the house. The climb would have been hard enough had it not been at altitude – I struggled and panted my way up in shorts and a t-shirt, Jeff strolled up in jeans and a jersey. Damn soccer players and their damn fitness. The view of the lake and the surrounding ski fields was spectacular and well worth the climb. Someone had even taken a sofa and two chairs up there the previous summer from which to admire the view but the previous winter’s snow had destroyed them. I enjoyed the run down, coming the closest I ever have to skiing as I ran and slid down the snow.
Back at the house I cooked Bacon & Chegg (cheese melted on fried egg) sandwiches for breakfast which were popular. We went down to the beach to take the dog for a walk and ended up skipping stones across the lake. Of course, with all four of us being engineers, this turned into a discussion of the mechanics of skipping stones – the need for spin to create rotational inertia to keep the stone flat, the need for a flat trajectory to reduce the drag upon impact and the need for an early first bounce to prevent the axis of stone rotation vertical (and thus a flat stone edge on impact).
We went and picked up some food then JJ cooked the most exquisite meal – bacon wrapped prawns, chicken legs in a tasty barbeque sauce, greens I could not get enough of and other exquisite tidbits. I identified about four items that were actually the best I had ever had. I was so taken by the food I barely pause to drink the wine we had until after I had finished my meal. If we get JJ and Jennifer Iannolo at the same SOLOC we should definitely have a bake-off competition.
That night we watched Office Space, a movie that everyone who had seen it recommended highly to me. It is the story of a guy who axes his boring job and neurotic girlfriend to life on the edge and it is hilarious – especially the character Lumberg, his boss and most especially in the dream where Lumberg gives Jennifer Anniston one while still holding his coffee.
The next day I woke up and went for an eight mile run to make up for the fat and carbs I would have consumed the night before. The rain set in as I turned around and I could barely feel my fingers when I got back to the house to shower and start packing. The drive home was long and wet but nevertheless scenic.
Back in Santa Clara, I called the bank to check on the progress with my internet access and debit card. The trainee teller had arranged for these to be sent to New Zealand and the ordering process had to be started again. Gutted that my tour would be delayed and that I would have to ask more of my hosts, I told them the news. They just laughed and said they were happy to have me stick round. "Welcoming" doesn’t half describe it.
Their generosity was fresh in my mind when I spoke to my mother for the first time a few days later.
“Darling, I do hope you’re being careful. You’ve got to watch the Americans, they are all crazy.”
“Mum, I’ve found them to be the most generous people I’ve met anywhere.”
“They all carry guns and they’ve got homeless people.”
“Mum, few of them carry guns and we have homeless people in Auckland too – bums who have pissed all their dole money against a wall.”
I was shocked at how much people could be influenced by the America-hating American media.
Fancy meeting up with me as I tour the US?
I am in the East Atlanta area on June 13 and will be heading to Savannah, then Florida, then Atlanta.
Give me a call on +1-408-506-0784 or email bates - at - deletethisbit.orcon.net.nz
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