Los Angeles, California
Catherine: Next up was LA. I'd been warned that I might not like it because it's a massive, dirty, sprawling hole, but I actually quite enjoyed it.
Martina: We stayed in Hollywood, where on the first night we headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame (after having a Maccy D's, of course), where we did very typical touristy things, like getting our picture taken with our bare feet squished into Marilyn Monroe’s miniscule imprints.
Catherine: I spent a little too long hanging around the Harry Potter hands and feet and must have looked a little creepy, trying to pretend me and Ron were holding hands…
Martina: After amusing ourselves for a good few hours, we then went to a Thai restaurant, which at the time was a real treat, but which later completely disabled me in the form of food poisoning. However, Catherine proved to be a little angel, whisking off to the pharmacy once daylight hours had arrived for much needed tablets, so it was thankfully a flash in the pan interlude of poorliness.
Catherine: So having stuffed Martina full of Imodium, we caught the bus to the beach. (On the bus a nutcase woman who was sat behind me was screaming obscenities and we decided to get off. Martina thought she might have a knife.)
Martina: Genuinely. At any moment I expected a blood-reverberating baritone rumble of terror to emit from Catherine, but thankfully we both escaped unharmed.
Catherine: Anyway, Santa Monica beach was brill, and we hired bikes and felt like I was in The OC. Plus, all the Baywatch lifeguards and musclemen on the beach were hilarious.
Martina: Definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far, I feel compelled to say. We had an Italian meal later in Hollywood, which was....distinctly average. The next day was the big one: Disneyland!!
Despite realising on the bus there that I had only actually seen three Disney films, I managed to get very, very giddy indeed about our day of fun. As Catherine has never seen in me in a roller-coaster environment, (nor, I must confess, have I myself - my rollercoaster days prior the Disneyland have been limited to Ripon's “Light Water Valley”, where I only recall practically pooing myself on a ride called The Ladybird), she tested the waters by starting me out on a beginner's ride. However, as I’m a big girl with ounces of courage, I did it with gusto and had lots of fun.
Catherine: We spent a large proportion of the day waving at anybody and anything that might wave back. And Martina got told off by a spotty American jock who was running the Robinson Crusoe canoe ride for not rowing and filming on camcorder instead. He pointed out to her that Steven Spielberg she is not.
Martina: The real boo-boo of the day fell to Catherine however, who managed to ruin a little collective of kiddies' day by hogging the picture of us (and the four children who had the misfortune to be sat on the flume with us) on Splash Mountain.
Catherine: I got far too excited on the way down where the picture was taken and stuck my arms up in the air with glee. It's just a big picture of me in a log flume - you can't see anything or anybody else.
Martina: Obliterated, we were. Indeed, this picture proved to be so galling to the children that I genuinely overheard one of them say to the others as they forlornly viewed the picture, “why did SHE have to be sat at the front?”.
Afterwards, we went to a sports bar, where we supported the Toronto Blue Jays while they played LA Angels away. To embarrass Catherine, I put on her Blue Jays cap to further extend this Toronto love. This was perhaps not the best idea considering that they were playing LAA of Anaheim, and we were happened to be sat in an Anaheim bar - thus the reason for Catherine’s squirminess. They take their sports VERY seriously over here.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Catherine: We very very nearly missed our bus to Las Vegas but due to some solid paced running by myself and (more importantly) a late running bus, we made it in time. I did have to sit next to a pongy toilet though.
Martina: Yes, the flimsy partition between the loo and the bus seats didn’t quite far stretch enough for our precious English lungs to be sealed off from the whiffy American dumpster, thus a vent of air sourced directly from the loo beat upon my naked shoulders for the duration of the trip. We had a lot of fun over not much, spending a chunk of time debating what we would eat of each other if the bus happened to break down in the middle of the desert. Catherine chose my cheeks for appetisers and thigh for lunch, I opted for Catherine's thumb for starter and bum for the main.
This conversation led me to say perhaps a little too loudly on the packed bus: “you'd never eat a woman's parts.” I think this once again embarrassed my travel companion. Further, a large portion of the journey was spent in shock that the bus driver heartlessly left two men behind at a service station (in the middle of nowhere, I hasten to add) because they were 'late' back from a break (by about two minutes). Their laptops, bags and luggage all with us.
Catherine: Heartless, chain-smoking bus driver aside, we arrived in Vegas without having to devour each other. We took a while to recover from the desert heat but set out in the evening to Fremont Street – the old downtown of Vegas, the more downmarket end you might say.
Martina: Like an expensive man’s Blackpool – good enough for us anyway.
Catherine: There we experienced “the largest big screen in the world”, which I never thought would be a claim to fame, but it was next to the “largest pint glass in the world,” so everything is big here. On this big screen we watched a 10 minute propaganda film about how bloomin’ great America is. I felt dirty and brainwashed.
Martina: As we're not gambling types (and err, didn't really have pots of cash to play around with), we largely 'gambled' around this cheaper 'Fremont Street Experience' part of Vegas, which is away from the hot shots on the strip. We won bits and bobs here and there (big prizes including $20 for me on a 25cent poker game, $14 for Catherine on roulette and $28 for me on roulette). Both of us won more than we staked, so that was jubbers.
Catherine: In order to avoid throwing all our money away we hid ourselves in the cinema, twice, as Vegas is just a big den of vice that wants your # money, money, money #. Despite Tarty not being a massive film fan, I think I converted her to the Bourne series, and we also chuckled our way through Superbad.
Martina: A major player in our Vegas experience, however, had to be the food.
Catherine: Of course. How could food not feature prominently in any leg of our trip?
Martina: We ate a substantial amount of “all you can eat” buffets- thus the reason we're having to order extra airplane seats for the way back. If we weren't merrily chomping away on the array of delights that bedazzled us on the buffets, we were gorging on McDonalds (I believe we had three in a three day period).
Catherine: I’d go back to Vegas for the buffets alone. Yum yum!
San Francisco, California
Catherine: So we bussed back into California and up to the cooler climes of San Francisco. (Gerald had told us the ins and outs of America’s climate, and he was keen to stress that San Francisco was in a special cool zone. I can’t remember why, as it was a terribly dull geography lesson. Zzzzzz…)
Martina: Spent the first day getting to grips which what would become one of our favourite cities of our trip. After leaving our quite pleasant hostel in an “up and coming” area of San Fran (The Mission), we headed straight for the one place our tourist guide recommended us NOT to go to – Fisherman’s Wharf.
Catherine: Yeah, bit of a tourist hive.
Martina: Apparently the locals are embarrassed by it, but as they did the most wonderful little salmon baps, could we have cared less? No.
Catherine: After leaving Fisherman’s Wharf, we continued our lovely stroll around the city and ended up in the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. We had been pointed in the direction by our chum Paddy of City Lights bookshop. This shop has a rich and famous literary history from the Beat era, and was one of the loveliest book shops I’ve been in. They’re happy for you to browse and sit and read. A very pleasant hour or so was spent in there.
I then wanted to go on one of the famous San Francisco trolleys up the hills, and was teased by Martina for wanting to collect modes of transport like a geek. I blame my train-spotting father for this curious edge to my personality. But we didn’t go on it as it was pricey and full of tourists. We carried on walking like the pauper hardcore travellers we are.
In the evening we attempted to go see Gogol Bordello, but failed as it had sold out. Instead we had drinkies in a bar with pictures of naked women on the walls.
Martina: We headed to Alcatraz on the second day, where we got to play around in the cells and meet an actual Alcatraz inmate, who was sat in the giftshop behind a large desk waiting to sign copies of his book. (He didn't say much - not that this was his fault as nobody at first was going up to him. I felt sorry for him until he grunted at a little girl.) Later on we did some roleplay while interacting with some lovely little crabs we spotted on the rocks of the Bay…
Catherine: …Erm, this made more sense at the time than it does on paper…
Martina: …and then headed to the Castro District, where our tastebuds were royally treated to some absolutely wonderful pizza.
Catherine: The following morning we carbed ourselves up at a Mexican greasy spoon for a glorious day of cycling. We started at Fisherman’s Wharf and cycled all along the bay and across the windy and iconic Golden Gate Bridge. A really brilliant day and just reinforced San Fran’s loveliness in my mind.
Martina: Oh aye, San Fran is a beaut. My eyes just mist over thinking about it.
Catherine: As we were having such a super time in SF, we’d been a little on the slack side in our organising. Firstly, we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay in Seattle with 24 hours to go. Oh and it was a major American holiday – Labor Day. So we had to plump for a pricey hotel. I then tried to redeem this by booking the cheapest hostel I could find in Vancouver.
Secondly, we hadn’t checked where to get our bus to the train station from. So we hoped it was by the ferry port, had another frantic dash and a few sphincter clenching moments, but made the bus, just.
words and pictures: Catherine Bolsover and Martina Booth