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Category Archives: America

Why don’t Aussie’s ever seem stressed?

By the time we got back to the hotel in Newark, everybody looked really miserable. We had a few last photos together and gave Graeme our combined tip to say thanks for the wonderful job he did as out guide. Dave and a few others left straight away to catch their flight from New York and a few others had booked a night at the gateway hotel where we had started and finished our tour. I had two days in New York and nowhere to sleep. I didn’t want to book because I knew I’d make friends whilst out there and wanted to see if I could get a room in the place where the person I was closest to was staying. Jemma and Neil had both booked a room in the hotel and had a few days in New York too so I was quite keen to stick with them. I can’t remember how much a room was in their hote, but I remember it was a Hilton and wasn’t cheap. All rooms in America seemed to be double, whether that’s to accommodate the ‘larger’ guests I don’t know. Jemma asked if I wanted to stay in her room for the night and we’d hook up with Neil to share a taxi into New York the next day. I snuck into Jemma’s room worried I’d get caught. Luckily, it all went smoothly and I had a bed to stop in for the night. I don’t know what I would have done if I did get caught. There wasn’t another hotel around and it cost something like $80 to get into New York, I didn’t fancy doing it on my own.

The room was lovely, I enjoyed a hot bath, must have stayed in there for about an hour just soaking up the lovely hot water, I’d missed a good bath. We got room service and had all sorts of chicken and chips, it was nice but a little other priced.

The next morning we met with Neil and continued to the hostel we’d booked in New York. Both Neil and I were in a male dorm while Jemma was on a different floor with the girls. We dumped our stuff and headed out the door.

K had given me a list of cosmetic stuff she wanted me to bring back for her, I only had 2 days in NY so wanted to get them out the way quickly and not have to worry about rushing around trying to find them. We took a long walk through Central Park. I have never been in such a magical park. I’d seen it from the rockafella building before and it looked quite small but it took us a long time to walk through half of it down to times square.

   

We also went to see the spot where the World Trade Centre use to be. This was horrible, the feeling of knowing that thousands of people died where i was standing haunted me. There was an eery silence around the place. We visited the 9-11 museum, we decided after visiting that it wasn’t a good idea to have gone. The pictures of people pinned to the wall who had died and the artifacts that had been recovered from the site was just as harrowing as standing next to the spot where it happened. We heard horrific tales from people who were there on the day and people who had lost loved ones, it truly was one of the saddest things I had been to. I felt like joining the army just to make a difference and help fight against the people who did it.

We  went on the ferry to Staten Island. This is a free ferry that brings you quite close to the statue of Liberty. Another thing to tick of my list. We didn’t actually spend much time on Staten Island itself, it started to rain and we wanted to go back and get ready for dinner. We ate at Planet Hollywood in Times Square, the food was lovely but the cocktails were even better. We stayed there a while before hitting an Irish bar for a few drinks.

 

We traveled everywhere using the subway, this was pretty straight forward to work out once we’d got the hang of the numbering system that they used for the streets above us.I was dreading having to catch the subway by myself to Pen station. From there I had to catch a train to Newark airport and catch my flight home on my own. Neil caught an earlier flight to Manchester and Jemma was staying in NY for a little longer by herself. I felt really bad leaving her, we were both upset that we had to leave. I spent my last few hours in NY eating pizza and lying on the bed chatting to her. We swapped books too. I loved this idea, when ever I missed her or felt sad, I could just pick up her book and start reading. It reminded me of her and it didn’t take me long to finish it. Luckily there were two other books in the series so I got and read them too!I hope she’s taking good care of my book!

I managed to het to my fav photography shop while I was in NY. Everytime I visit America I seem to get something new from there. This time was no exception, I came away with a very geeky looking photography bag. I had been eyeing it up for some time and fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.

So that’s the end of my trek to America. I was definitely glad I went now and although I got off to a rocky start, I can honestly say I had the best time of my life there and I haven’t been happy since I got back. I hope to go on another trek some day. It inspired me to do a few things back at home aswell. I enjoyed the camping aspect of it so much that I decided to become a scout leader. Hopefully I will have loads of good times learning new things and camping in the UK aswell too.

I speak to Jemma every now and again although its hard when were on the opposite sides of the world. I hope to go over and visit her in australia some time, nut gathering the money together when you own a house ans pay all the bills yourself is quite difficult. I think one day I’ll move out there, you never see a stressed Aussie!

DD

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Fingers, Frights and Falls

We moved on from Cedar Point to the finger lakes. (supposedly called this as they resemble fingers on a map) The camp we stayed at was ok, it was secluded and in wood lands, only problem was, we had to pitch our tents on a slight slope. This was very awkward when it cam to sleeping, A number of times in the night I woke to find myself at the entrance of my tent towards the bottom! I practically had to dig a trench at the top of the tent incase it rained, there is nothing worse than waking up in a wet tent with all your clothes and things soaked! Jemma Stayed in my tent that night too. It was nice to have her company over night, she wasn’t feeling very well and we were talking. We stayed up so late that we were too tired to move so just fell asleep next to each other.

Earlier that day we went to a nearby town, I wish I could remember the name of the town, It was really quaint and cosy. I think it was a college town or something, there were a lot of students around. We all went into a small coffee and ice cream shop and ordered ice creams. The owner must have died of shock when 14 random customers came through his doors at the same time! From there we went to a liquor store. It was our last night together as a group so we decided to go over bored with the drinks and make a real celebration out of it. Once the drinks had been accounted for, we stopped at one of the finger lakes for a swim.

At first it looked a little scary but others were doing it. There was actually a life guard on duty and a sectioned off part of the lake to swim in. The water was dark though and the lake was huge, I’ve never been a strong swimmer so the thought of going out of my depth worried me a lot. A fair distance out was a floating stage where the life guard sat, there was also a small diving board attached to it. I decided that I’d try and swim across to it, It looked quite far. I knew I could swim the distance easily but it worried me that it was a natural lake and it was bound to me extremely deep by the stage(raft, what ever the hell it was) I had visions of underwater monsters grabbing my feet and dragging me down, the water was a dark green kind of colour. I swam around with Kerry, Benadikt and Adam for a while until we had to leave the lake. There I was concentrating on staying a float and looking out for monsters when the life guard stands up, grabs a loud speaker thingy and yells telling everyone to get out of the water immediately and it’s not a drill! I panicked bug time, I had no idea what was going on and how much danger I was in. Visions of Jaws flashed before my eyes, it was just like that scene where everybody realises there’s a shark in the water and swims to shore as fast as they can. Once safely on dry land, the lifeguard explained that there was a massive electrical storm coming and the lake would be closed for the rest of the evening. So no need to scare the life out of us and cause me to almost drowned, but hey.

We all played with a frisbee untill Graeme came and picked us up. We were prepared for a big storm (and a wet tent) but no rain came, there was a few minutes of thunder and lightning and it was over.

That night was an emotional one, everybody knew that it was our last night camping together and that we’d all have to go our separate ways late the next day. I hated the thought of leaving America and all the new friends I had made behind. I would miss the life style too, I had had the most relaxing two weeks of my life and knowing me, I’d have thought it would have been the most stressful two weeks. I sat in my fold away chair staring into the open fire thinking about all the amazing things I had seen and done while on my trip, I thought about life at home, the pressures and stress that work and just being in the UK cause me.

Morning came to quickly, we had to get off early to get to Niagara falls. I packed my tent away for the last time, apart of me wanted to try and sneak it home, I’d become attached to the thing even though it was a pain in the arse! In fact, I wanted to kidnap everyone and their tents, bring them back to my house and have them live in my garden with a camp fire.

Niagara falls was a bit of a disappointment. For one, there is no single water fall called Nigra falls. It is a collective group of waterfalls. To me, this was like being told that Santa doesn’t exist. secondly, the falls weren’t as big as I thought they would be. Yes the amount of water flowing that them was pretty spectacular and the sound was deafening but I just thought they would be taller. Still, it’s good to be able to say I have seen them and gone on the Maid of the Mist boat that floats right into the thick of it, that was good fun. cheesy moment… Jemma and I reenacted the scene from Titanic with Jack and Rose at the front of the boat, it had to be done.

   

I didn’t realise that Niagara Falls is in the state of New York or that New York shared the Niagara Falls with Canada. It was pretty amazing to know that Canada was only across the river from us. I’ve always wanted to go there.

From Niagara we drove back to the hotel where it all started in Newark. This wasn’t the end though. I still had 2 nights to go. I’ll save that story for next time though.

DD

 

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Thrill seeking

Onto Ohio.

We set up our tents upon arrival as usual and had lunch, we wanted to get to the theme park as early as we could to give us the best chance of going on everything that we could. We knew it was going to be busy because of the celebrations. Stopping at a McDonald’s just outside of Cedar Point, we all decided that we’d grab something to eat and race back to the van and eat while on the go Neil and I were one of the 1st to order and ger our food so we decided to eat on the bench outside while everyone else was ordering, we took comfort in the fact that McDonald’s staff in America are just as slow and thick as the staff over here (sorry if I’ve offended anyone working in McDonald’s, but you’ve got to admit, you do work with some idiots, do you not?) wolfing down our double quarter pounder and fries before going to a world-class theme park was not our brightest move, but we had to eat.

Dick Head!

The highlight of our stay in Ohio was Cedar Point. Our timing was great, due to the July 4th celebrations, the park stayed open till 10 with a massive fireworks display at the end. I’m a bit of a thrill seeker when it comes to theme parks, the faster and taller the better. I split off from the group with Benadikt and Dephine as they too where thrill seekers who were excited to go on the biggest rides they could get on. I hadn’t spent a great deal of time with them over the trek so it was nice. It was also nice to have a break from Jemma, I knew that we only had a few days left and I had to somehow detach myself from her.

By the way, I never had my camera with me at Cedar Point for obvious reasons… so unfortunately I have to use web pictures to break up my long and boring text.

I had to choose this picture, the man looks so out of place in a theme park.

First ride we went on was Raptor, I enjoyed this ride, Kind of on a par with Air at Alton Towers. Being from the UK, I don’t get a lot of chance to experience big rides. I love Nemesis at Alton Towers, I believe it’s the best ride we have in this country. It’s definitely true in this case, that American’s do everything bigger and better. Raptor was classed as a small rollercoaster at Cedar Point. I won’t go through all the rides I went on, I did try to do all of them but there wasn’t enough time. We started at the biggest and worked our way down.

millenium Force deserves a mention. This was the tallest rollercoaster in the world when it opened in 2000 standing over 95m tall. apparently. you can see Canada from the top on a clear day! I enjoyed this ride, we had to que for nearly an hour to get on it but it was worth it, It’s nice to be able to go on a ride that lasts for more than 20 seconds.

Top Thrill Dragster… Where to start. The fastest and tallest ride in the park since it opened in 2003 and is currently the fastest in the world. It is 120m tall which puts it in the class of the stratocoasters (thanks Wikipedia) which includes one other ride from six flags (which just beat it to the record of the tallest ride in the world). I didn’t like this ride very much, It was too fast to enjoy. The acceleration at the beginning leaves you feeling light headed and unable to enjoy the ride. Before I knew it, I was at the top and on the way back down again. I’m glad I got to do it though.

Ok, I’m well aware that this post is becoming very boring. I’ll talk less about the rollercoasters facts and more about my experiences on them.

we continued around the park trying different rides, enjoying some of them and being bored with a few. Delphine persuaded me to go on the Power Towers – For the record, I hate that ride, It is the only kind of ride that scares the crap out of me. There are two rider ‘choices’. You can either go up really really fast and bob up and down a few times before being brought slowly to the ground, which was enjoyable or you could slowly make your way up the 73m to the top, where you are made to wait a few seconds until your nerves are torn to shreds, before being dropped back down to earth at an extremely fast pace that made me bite down on my jaw and make a sound tha I’ve never heard me make before! It’s not a good ride if you have anxiety problems I can tell you that.

We ques little over an hour for a ride called Maverick, we timed it well as the fireworks had just started to begin as we got on the ride. It is possibly the best ride I have been on. It’s not the fastest or tallest but it throws you about like mad. It’s suppose to simulate a ride on a wild horse and it really did feel like it, hats off to the designer. It was nice to look at the fireworks as we slowly ascended to the top of the ride, there was also a nice calming view over Lake Eire with fireworks reflecting far away in the dark waters. I recon this ride should be ridden at night all the time, It really added to the experience. oh and the bit where it stops in the middle and you think the ride has ended was a great idea. You’re in a tunnel too so you have no idea whats going on and then you suddenly bolt off again, brilliant!

Mean Streak – don’t go on this ride if your bones break easily. It’s an old wooden rollercoaster that is so uncomfortable to ride, you feel like you’ve bruised your bum by the time it stops. Needless to say, there was no que for this ride, so we went on it twice 🙂

The fireworks were great, In true American style, they out did any other fireworks display I’ve ever seen. They also had a huuuuge screen up which showed clips of everything American (A large amount of the clips were soldiers/jet planes/tanks etc etc) whilst some bloke sang a very over emotional version of the national anthem – It was a very patriarchal evening, to the point where I actually felt like an American for a few minutes and a proud one at that, before crashing back down to earth and realising that I came from England.

The highlight of the trip to Cedar Point for me was Magnum XL-200. This ride had Delphine and I in stitches. I can’t explain why but we had a massive laughing fit half way around. Again, I got the feeling this ride was much better in the dark than it would have been in daylight. It was situated at the end of the park, part of the ride actually left the park and went around some go karting track and a water park. As these had all closed down for the night (was coming up to 11 now) the majority of the ride was in the dark. It went through tunnels that looked like you’d hit your hands off the roof if you raised them, it had large drops and steep turns and it had a quick succession of bumps that made you feel like you were going over hills really fast in a car. It was such a good ride that Delphine and I ran around from the exit to the entrance of the ride twice to squeeze another few rides in before the park closed.

You’ll start to see a pattern emerging here, but I had an amazing time at Cedar Point, just as I had had on the majority of the places we visited on the Trek. I still often think about the good times I had over there and the people I was with, I don’t think it would be the same going back to those places without them. This saddens me because I know that were all never going to be together again let alone together again in america enjoying ourselves. but hey, I’d rather have had the time of my life and all the experiences then not to have had them. It was the best thing I’ve done in my life!

DD

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in America, camping, fun, getting away, road trips

 

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Wild Onions

On to Chicago, One of my favorite cities in the world. We spent 3 days here. One of wich was a ‘free day’ where we had nothing planned and could go our separate ways and explore the city.

Before I tell you all about my time in the windy City, I’m going to share with you some facts…

Chicago got its nickname The Windy City as it is a political haven. It has been home to many influential politicians including Mr Obama himself. It is thought that all the hot air from these politicians gave birth to its nickname. The actual name Chicago however, is derived from the Native American word Shikaakwa, which means Wild onion. This is because Chicago was a boggy swamp land. ships use to carry trade from East America to West America along lake Michigan. A ship apparently became stuck in the shallow waters of the swampy land and some bloke (I forgot the name sorry) bought the rights to it. He started dumping his rubbish there as it was no good for anything else. He then started a business in allowing others to dump their rubbish there too. This quickly grew into a land mass and people started building on it. The city became huge as its port had links to the trade in the East. A large part of Chicago burnt down in 1871 and was rebuilt rapidly, America’s first skyscraper was built during this time.

Right, tourist facts over. AS Chicago is pretty built up. (It has the 4th busiest airport in the world) OK sorry no more I promise. We had to stay in a hostel rather than out tents. This wasn’t too bad as the hostel had been newly refurbished and was brilliant. It felt good to have a mattress and duvet. I was in awe of Chicago’s overhead train network. I’d seen things like it before in films and Playstation games but was different seeing it in real life, I had a bit of a geeky moment staring at the trains and platforms in the sky. We were in Chicago at the same time the World Taste festival was kicking about. We decided to go and see what this food fair had to offer, I tasted a genuine chicago Hot dog – If you ever get the chance, you have to try one, it was amazingly good. The weather was so hot and humid, I don’t think I’d ever lost so much of my body liquids due to sweat in my life. I had to carry a packet of tissues around with me just to wipe my face with. The sweat was pouring down into my eyes and stinging them. I was also continuously drinking bottles of water. I must have filed it up a dozen times alone from water fountains. Kerry, Dave and I went to see the Chicago Bean – A huge Jelly Bean shapped metal object in the middle of one of Chicago’s Parks. From the right angle, you could see the whole of Chicago’s skyline and yourself, pretty good for picture-taking. That night we tried an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza, they definitely know how to cook a pizza pie in that city! My mouth was so happy and my stomach was more than welcoming to the 3 large slices I had before I couldn’t even look at another slice. Neil and I decided to go bar hunting while the others chose to stay in their comfy beds. We found a quaint little bar. just like the one’s you see it the movies when a guy has had an argument with his mrs and stormed off for a drink by himself to contemplate life. We got into a long conversation with a Canadian bloke while drinking Long Island Ice Teas. The barmaid clearly didn’t quite understand that they are classed as cocktails as she served us them in pint glasses, I wasn’t complaining – they were strong as hell!

The next day we did a lot of touristy things. We went up Willis tower – the largest building in the western hemisphere. Once you get past a certain height in a building, it all feels the same. The view was good though and the ‘elevators’ were so fast that it took a good 5 seconds for my stomach to catch up to me once we reached the top. We popped into Chicago Zoo, just because it was free, I still don’t understand how Chicago can afford to keep a zoo open and animals fed while the UK has trouble collecting rubbish once a week. It was a nice zoo too, saw a polar bear for the first time in real life and ate a snow cone too.

I was amazed by Chicago, It had tall buildings and photogenic skyline, It had a beach without salt water as it is on a ‘coast’ of the very large river Michigan, it had a pier with a fun fair on it! oh and it also has a rather cool overhead train network, have I mentioned that yet??

The next night we all went on a cycle tour of the City, this was really good fun. It had been a while since I had been on a bike and felt good to be cycling along with the wind in my face on the hot evening. this is also where I got most of my Chicago facts from, so you have the tour operator to thank for that. We cycled for about 6 miles, stopping every now and again while we were told about an interesting part of the city. It all added to the magic of the place. After the bike tour, we headed over to Navy pear to watch the fourth of July fireworks. We all sat around on the grass with our heads up to the sky. Jemma sat in between my legs with my arms wrapped around her and her head resting on my chest. I could have sat like that for hours, was so relaxing and comfortable.

Chicago is definitely a place I will have to go back to at some point. I could have spent two weeks there alone with all the things there is to do. But we were all packed up and moving out to Ohio, home of Cedar Point Amusement Park!!!

DD

 

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Honky Tonk

My next post will cover the Nashville  part of my trek.

Before I go into details, I have a confession to make. C is the only person I have told about Jemma and what happened in America. Both during and after my trip I was in conversation with C about my dilemma and my feelings for Jemma. She gave me good advice and told me to avoid having an affair,  if not for K then for myself. She explained that I was bound to think less of myself later on if i went a head and did it. on top of that, the guilt would tear me apart. I had already considered myself as having an affair though as the kiss we shared was passionate and I did have feelings for her. C, I’m sorry, I told you a lie, I was so ashamed that I had cheated that I physically couldn’t tell anyone, not even you (who I feel that I can talk to about anything) , I was too embarrassed and ashamed of my actions to tell anyone. I was worried that people would judge me and think of me as a bad person (which I guess I deserve). In reality, I am just as bad as others that have cheated and C was right, I do regret it and I do think less of myself, especially as I am so against Cheating and affairs.

This is how it happened…

After I had explained that nothing could happen between us, we carried on as if nothing had happened, we still got on really well together and spent a lot of time together, we still sat next to each other on our way to Nashville and looking back, we were flirting quite heavily and just getting to know each other. I didn’t have the pressure backing up inside me though as I had explained my situation and therefore felt I had put a stop to things from getting out of hand.

Putting the Jemma story aside for a minute, Nashville was great, possibly the hottest I had experienced since my trip began. We set up our tents (On flat freshly cut lawn for the first time) and had a lovely hot shower. unfortunately, the swimming pool on the camp site was closed due to high levels of toxin or something! Better safe than sorry I guess, a dip in the pool would have been heavenly at that point though. I played pool/connect four and ping-pong for a while with Benidikt, Teddy (Korean chap), Natalie and Neil. I was undefeated at connect four untill I was halted in my tracks by German efficiency! Later on, Jemma and I went for a walk to explore the camp site, we strolled around looking at all the big RV’s that had rolled up and set up camp. Some of them were ridiculously big! How simple life would be if I could just pack up everything and drive somewhere new when I felt things were becoming stressful. She put me on the spot by asking my what I liked about her and why I was attracted to her at first. I won’t repeat my answer, you’ll just have to guess.

We all decided to eat at The Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville as Nashville is very music orientated. It is considered the home of Country music and ‘honky tonk’, although this isn’t my kind of music, it was really exciting to be in the middle of a place that centres around music. American’s love their country music. We had to wait an hour for a table so we went to a local bar for a drink. As we had planned to go to the Jim Beam Whiskey distillery the next day, Dave decided we should try some Jim Beam, in the name of research of course. He bought a round of drinks for myself Graeme and Neil. This was my first taste of Bourbon / Whiskey and my first impressions can’t really be repeated here! Graeme then decided to get us all an aniseed flavoured Whiskey, we drank that and had some other kind of Whiskey I can’t even remember. Finally I got a round of Long Island Ice Teas which finished me off. We had live music in the form of a Country cowboy who was obviously a hit with the middle-aged women. To be fair, he wasn’t bad, he went around the tables talking to everyone in between his songs. I left that place completely out of this world, I loved everyone I was with, I loved life and it was still warm outside even thought it was about 8pm and the sun had long gone down.

We went to The Hardrock and I ordered the biggest America looking cheese burger I could find complete with Onion rings and all. It went down a treat. I felt like I had sobered up a little due to the food, this was good as I was slightly worried that I felt like that so early on in the night. We went to another bar and continued to chat to one another and dink whiskey Sours, at some point a few of us started dancing along to the country music. Before long we’d managed to get the majority of the place dancing. I would never have done this sober, so I have Whiskey to thank for me looking like a complete wally. Everyone was getting a little emotional now as you do when you have a drink, arms were flailing everywhere and people were expressing their love for each other. Jemma had her arms around me for the best part of an hour.

Things quickly went down hill, a group of 6 or so american lads came into the bar. One took a shine to Kerry who was completely gone, we all stayed close to her as we could see she wasn’t with it. This guy tried talking to er and to drag her away from the rest of us. A few of us told her to get some water as she’d had too much, I watched as she went to the bar with the guy’s eye’s locked onto her. He went over to her, put his arm around her and walked her towards the exit. Graeme saw this aswell and we both went out after them. We told him she wasn’t interested and to leave her alone, she was grateful. We went back into the bar and i spotted Jemma chatting to one of the other american lads. I watched and she grabbed him and started dancing. I was really confused, It shouldn’t have bothered me, we had no ties to each other and we weren’t in a relationship. I got a little upset and decided to call it a night.  I walked around Nashville alone, not really knowing where I was going and a little tipsy. I managed to find my way back to The Hardrock where we were to wait for the bus to bring us back to camp site, it was 1:05 in the morning and the bus wasn’t due till 1:30, I sat down and felt myself slipping away. I tried my hardest to stay awake, a few minutes later, Jemma magically appeared by my side, she had her arms around me and was crying. She explained that she wasn’t thinking right and was sorry for going off with the American lad, I tried to put on a face and pretend it didn’t bother me but she must have seen right through it. The rest is a blank, I don’t remember getting n the bus or getting off. The next thing I remember seeing was my tent. As I woke I had and realised I had no recollection of the last 20 minutes, I had a massive panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath and was aware that my breathing was getting heavier and heavier. this must have scared the life out of Jemma, se panicked big time. she held my hand and stroked my face untill things died down. She walked me into my tent and lay down with me. I apologised for my attack and thanked her for looking after me, she then kissed me. I am not proud of what happened next but it ended in her stopping the night in my tent and creeping out early in the morning before anybody was up to see. There, It’s all out. It’s a big relief to tell people this, even if I don’t know you (apart from you C, you reading this worries me)

P.s. I didn’t take my camera with me to Nashville so all photos are from other Monika’s facebook!!!

DD

 

God County

The next day we moved on to The smokey Mountains. This was one of our longest and most eventful road trip. Dave had been bitten by something the night before and was nursing a very swollen left hand. As it had been 24 hours and his hand had got worse rather than better, Graeme decided it was best to stop of at a hospital to get it checked out. American hospitals are far better than our own NHS, but i guess that’s to be expected as they’re private over there. He was seen to rather quickly and we only had to wait for a little over an hour.  We played with a football and frisbee most of the time whilst taking regular breaks for drinks, the weather had slowly got hotter and hotter each day of the trip. The smokey mountains KOA (Kamp of America camp site) was lovely, it was set it the woods with a beautiful river running by. The only fault we had were the religious nuts that were camping there also. We received noise complaints and were told no to drink outside of our tents, this got us all worked up as we weren’t the ones singing bible and religious songs over microphones all hours of the day. We were sheltered and keeping our selves to ourselves. WE got our own back by watching the lords squirrels and birds rip apart their food stock that they had left out on a table while going out for the day. We could have scared the animals away… but we thought God wouldn’t have appreciated it!

We didn’t let them get to us, besides we were only there for two days and had some amazing experiences ahead of us. That night, after dinner, Jemma and I thought we could smell a faint weird smell. We asked Graeme and he said it was a skunk in the distance somewhere. I had to see a skunk while in the states! I immediately grabbed my torch (as the sun was setting and little light was penetrating the canopy of trees as it was) and went a searching for the so-called skunk. Jemma decided to come with me. I’m sure that what happened next was no accident, we walked down by the river where it was a little darker, Jemma pretended to get scared and grabbed my hand. It was nice to feel someone else’s hand even though it did leave me very confused. We walked in silence hand in hand for a little while. Everyone had added each other on Facebook a few days ago as one of the camp sites had WI-FI. She must have known that I had a girlfriend, then again she must have known that my relationship with K wasn’t going well and that we had broken up a few times in the short time that we had been dating. I’m very against cheating, I’ve been cheated on before and know what it feels like when your totally in love with someone and you find out something like that. I didn’t want to be the bad guy, I didn’t want to be the cause of someone else feeling like that. I eventually let go of her hand after a while, we didn’t say anything, both probably guessing what the other was thinking. We carried on talking as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t make up my mind on how i felt about it, she was very attractive and was clearly interested in me, I got on really well with her and there was an instant pull between us, it was how it was ment to be between two people. No awkward moments, no arguments ( I know it was early  days) we just seemed to fit, I don’t know how i would have felt if things between me and K were going well but I reminded myself that there’s no point in going over what if’s.

All that night we talked and shared a few drinks with each other, I was the happiest I had been in a long time, I felt so at home, so stress free and wanted as well… PERFECT. I knew it shouldn’t last though, thoughts of going home at the end of the trip crept into my mind and I had to ban myself from thinking about it, I knew it I didn’t want to go home. Jemma grabbed my hand under the picnic table while everyone was sitting around. We both knew that we should keep this a secret, it felt exciting and childish to be acting and feeling like this, so refreshing, I didn’t over think anything I had no worries, just did what I wanted to do and was happy.

The next day Myself, Jemma, Kerry and Monika decided to go horse riding while everyone who didn’t want to do it went on a trek. This was definitely a good choice, riding through the woods and around a waterfall in the mountain – forest environment was amazing, I felt like a real cowboy, throughly enjoyed it. Rocky was a pleasure to ride, he was tall but very calm and well-trained to deal with nervous passengers. I felt comfortable enough to take a few pics…

   

Later that evening we went rubber ring rafting in the river. This too was great fun, you can’t imagine grabbing a rubber ring and jumping into your local river in the UK. They had a company that would lend you a rubber ring, drive you 4 miles up the river and pick you up once you’d floated down for $8. they’d do this as many times as you like. We decided to get a small rubber dinghy to carry our drinks cooler down stream with us. The women who drove us up the river told us that we’d get in trouble for drinking on the river, she wouldn’t let us go down on our rings with her company’s name on if we drank. Graeme decided to give up his ring, he explained to her that the alcohol was his responsibility alone and that he’d swim with it down river and the rest of us would not be associated with it at all, she agreed and let us go with the rings. The river was awesome. It was a baking hot day so dipping in every now and again felt good. We all grabbed a drink and lazily floated down the river chatting and splashing. We all had a little fun when the small rapids came, a few of the girls got some small scratched on their bums from not lifting it up out of the centre of the ring while going down the rapids but the majority of it was just fun. I didn’t think something as simple as that could be  so enjoyable.We got to the off loading point and dragged the all important bear boat and our rings out the water, got into a couple of vans and went for up-stream for another go. As we were getting out of the van, the women was clearly agitated and pissed off that we managed to succeed in drinking the anti-christ drink down her river (everyone seemed to be over religious in West Virginia). The boat and Graeme were the last to get into the water, just as he was about to, he got told to stop by a police man that had appeared out of nowhere, it became apparent that the women had called the police on us.  Everyone stopped to stare at him being questioned. The rest of us got evil looks and snide remarks from other religious nuts on the river as we waited to see what was happening. Graeme had to leave the river with the alcohol while we were allowed to float back down stream to our camp, we were all then banned from using the river for a week. Even though we didn’t have a drink the second time down, we had a good laugh messing around taking our time to get back.

I don’t have any photos of the river or the rings… Camera’s + water = bad.

That night Jemma kissed me. It seemed like a perfect end to a perfect day. I’ve always considered kissing to be cheating, it can be just as intimate as sex. I felt bad that I was technically cheating on K and very confused that i liked it and wanted more. I explained to Jemma that I had a girlfriend, she joked, “what happens on trek, stays on trek”. I only wish that I had broken up with K before I came. It didn’t help either that Jemma is from Australia, I knew it couldn’t go anywhere even if things did go further between us. I wasn’t about to move to Australia and she had spent a year in the UK and wasn’t allowed to work over here without becoming a citizen, and she wasn’t about to do that after meeting someone and only knowing them two weeks.

We chatted in my tent for a while, it was nice. It had been a while since I’d just sat and had a long conversation with someone. Natalie came and heard Jemma in my tent and instantly thought something was going on. We found this funny as it was perfectly innocent.

Things were about to get more complicated…

DD

 

Moving South West

I woke the next day in my tent, breakfast was ok. I had the typical American sugar filled cereal followed by some fruit and an orange juice to wash it all down. surprisingly though, the effects of last nights alcohol didn’t seem to have had an effect on me. Well not until later when I had a blinding headache, probably due to the searing heat and the fact I was already dehydrated before we even left to explore Washington by day light.

1st point of call was the Smithsonian. I have seen this museum on TV many times before, the closest we have to it in the UK is the Natural History Museum in London. I was surprised to find that the Smithsonian wasn’t just one museum but a collection of buildings not too far from the Capital building. The Smithsonian tops the NHM ten fold. I was awe-struck by everything inside, I became a very snap happy tourist! I could have spent the whole day in there but I could see that Kerry and Monika were getting bored so we decided to move on.

   

We moved on to the old post office building, Graeme told us that we could get a good view of DC from up there. We were told to avoid the monument as the ques to get up it are always far to long and you have to pay. We got our view and a brief history of DC. Apparently Washington DC is a very  poor state, this is due to most of it being commercial and office based. People commute into DC for work but don’t actually live there which means there it gets far less tax compared to a lot of other states. This can be seen in the city’s star attraction. It was built in honor of George Washington after he led the country to independence. You can clearly see a difference in the shade of marble used to construct the structure about half way up, the lack of funds available to finish the construction ment that it was left unfinished for over 30 years before being completed with a cheaper stone.

 

We had a long road trip the next day to get to Shenandoah National Park.

By this time we’d all got to know each other pretty well and were comfortably chatting away with each other and listening to each others ipod’s through the vans speakers. Graeme came up with the great idea of picking someones ipod, creating a playlist and passing it around the van asking everyone to add two songs that they like. We had great fun trying to guess at who chose what song.

Shenandoah National Park was amazing, the scenery was breath taking as we swept through the forest road up and down steep hills. We stopped for lunch over looking a huge drop. It was possibly one of the nicest picnics I’d ever had. I was fascinated by the specially designed bear bins and secretly worried at the same time that the smell would attract them.  We moved on to West Virginia. During the trip over there, Nikki, the most outgoing and out spoken girl of the group decided to take the Micky out of Jemma’s Australian accent. Everybody joined in for a while and we had a laugh (including Jemma herself). This was fine… FOR THE FIRST 2 HOURS, then it became a bit annoying and you could tell that it was getting to Jemma. We got to our cam site in just as it started to pur down. Setting up our tents in the rain was not fun, everybody lost spirit for a short while and got a little fed up, the rain was freezing cold. Luckily we had a canopy and quickly stuck it up covering as much of the picnic benches nad the food storage boxes / cooking equipment that we could. It was particularly bad for myself, Monika, Nikki and Adam as we had to cook dinner that night. We managed to chop vegetables and cook mince to produce one of the finest enchilada’s that i’d ever tasted (i’m a little biased though). Jemma went to bed early while the rest of ussat up talking and getting wet, we were already soaked so why not.

   

I felt pretty sad for Jemma, I hate people feeling left out like that, I know it’s not a competition so it’s not quite the same, but I saw her as the underdog and i wanted to back her all the way. I sat next to her on the van the next day, I managed to lift her spirits up which also made me feel good.

West Virginia was a beautiful place and I did some amazing things there. We had a choice between white water rafting or zip lining. I was all set to do the zip line course when Jemma asked what I was doing and told me that she wanted to do rafting but was scared. I was scared too, I’ve never been a strong swimmer and hate not being in control, especially when it’s my life I feel I have very little to no control over. Jemma pretty much begged me to go rafting with her and said that we cold look after each other whilst on the raft as we were both scared. Loving all the attention I was getting and the felling that I was needed liked, I decided to do it. We both agreed that neither one would back out unless the other did. I’m so so glad that I did it now, it was singly the scariest, adrenaline filled experience of my life and I loved every minute of it, I felt invincible! After every rapid, Jemma and I wold turn to each other and produce a little grin of acknowledgement.

That night was particularly fun. The majority of us stayed up and had a few more drinks. We heard loud music in the distance and decided to go and investigate, we had to take our torches because we couldn’t see more than 5ft in front of us without them. We found some kind of a party / gig going on across the road from the campsite. I’m reluctant to cal it a pub but they were serving bears and the majority of it was outside. We stayed and had a few more. It was here that I learnt how to play cornhole – probably the most random thing I experienced on the trip. you basically had to throw bean bags across an open lawn to a hole cut out of a box. There was some kind of scoring system but I’d had a little too much to drink to even know what I was doing, I was simply throwing bean bags towards Benidict and Monika while they were trying their hardest to throw them back at myself and Natalie. The amount of fun we had that night was unbelievable when you consider what we were doing.

Ohh later, I woke in the night to go to the toilet and came face to face with a racoon. We stared at each other for about 20 seconds, both of us too scared to make a move in case the other attacked. He decided to back up slowly and climb the nearest tree. I was both excited to see my first racoon and scared that he’d scratch my face off.

We moved on from West Virginia to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, but I’ll save that tale for another day.

DD