Wednesday, July 8, 2009

West to East

So on arrival back to San Diego, I found that the juveniles had got a plea bargain & pled guilty to chasing me with the baton & stealing my money (a much lesser charge than bashing Andrea's face & attacking the other guy). I needn't have arrived home a day earlier, rats. But it didn't matter too much as I had the next leg of the journey to prepare for. The next few days were pretty cruisy doing mundane stuff – haircut, posting maps, return of rental car (over 3000 miles in eighteen days), pack up bike, order a whole heap of bike stuff to meet me in Pennsylvania (things I'd been putting off replacing until I got to the cheaper shops of USA – shoes, Camelbak, chain, tyre, grips, small tools & so on; I think I saved about thirty to forty percent) - & also took the Turners out for a large authentic Mexican meal & spent a bit more time down at the Cass Bar.

The day before I left San Diego was the final pack & also a little thing called Independence Day. As my bike was packed up & the car was returned I didn't have too many means (except a long walk) to go & check out the crazy crowds down at the beach – but I didn't have the inclination to be swamped by people either. Beverley & Chris put on a BBQ for about ten people – great food & red, blue & white cup cakes & also root beer floats for a bit of tradition. From the deck, we could watch about ten different fireworks displays down towards San Diego & Ocean Beach. I've seen some pretty big & impressive fireworks before (Sydney, New Year's 2000 springs to mind); but I haven't seen so many displays in such a short period of time before. Lots of big explosions & also some pretty cool shapes made by the pyrotechnicians; the only drawback of being able to see so many displays at once was that the distance somewhat muted the bangs & one couldn't feel the wave reverberate through one's body. To bed relatively early (11.30) to get up again in five hours...

Beverley & her friend Bronwyn kindly got up & took me up to LAX, I tried to stay awake. Uneventful check-in, even though my bike was oversize; on the flight to Philly I enjoyed looking down at all the canyons & then peeking down to the cropping plains as we got further east – the plains, or what I could see of them, were greener than I could see (& obviously a lot greener than the environment I'd been used to over the previous four weeks). Approaching over Pennsylvania, I could begin to see a few more details – a nuke plant, a few quarries, a lot of golf courses & once again, generally a lot of trees & woods. Then down over the Delaware River to land more than half an hour early, bags straight off the carosuel & Jessica waiting right outside – smooth. Jessica & Doug (American friends I meet in Palmerston North in 2004 while they were on sabbatical) live in a small town thirty or so miles north of Philly – we had to pick up their two kids (2 & a bit years & 5 months) from Jessica's sister's place on the way home. Once off the freeways & driving down what the English would call B-roads in to small subdivisions I was impressed again by all the trees & lush green grass (apparently June provided a lot of unseasonal rain for the area). Clearly a lot more water available for growing things here than in California. The house that Jessica's sister & family live in, while also I would say is a typical American house – it was completely different from the Turners' in San Diego. For the climate I suppose – steeper roof, two storied, huge basement, large garage, lush lawn, Stars & Stripes flying, & strangely (to me) no fences or hedges between neighbouring houses (I would soon get used to seeing a lot of this) – hard to describe just how familiar (too any movies & TV programs) it seemed. After spaghetti & meatballs & letting the kids run around the soccer field chasing balls it was off to my home for the next few weeks.

Doylestown is a very quaint little town with a lot of old row houses & has a nice town feel to it (as opposed to a series of subdivisions with a strip mall plonked somewhere near by) & some nice skinny streets. D & J live not far from town in another very nice leafy area. Saw another fireworks display (postponed from last week) & in to bed after a long day of travelling (lost three hours along the way, but getting up at 4.30 I wasn't too fussed). Monday was a recovery day & a orientation around Doylestown – drive around, check out the college Doug is a professor at, meet a few people, assemble most of bike (still waiting on package to arrive with the chain) & plan a few things. I'm off to New York City on Friday for five nights – can't wait.

Tuesday (today) was up too early, despite the alarm not going off, & on the train in to central Philly (the express takes about seventy minutes). Today was to satisfy my history bent walking around the Independence National Park – lots of historic buildings to do with the drafting, signing & proclamation of the Declaration of Independence, rooms that housed Congress & the Senate once upon a time & being the Monty Python fanatic that I am – how could I not visit the Liberty Bell? Although, when visiting the bell, Sousa's tune was playing – so the whole place seemed a bit silly after that! A great day wandering around (a lot – sore feet again) looking at all sorts of all things & enjoying the parks & very pleasant weather. Some trivial, & some not so, differences from CA I've noticed so far – the traffic lights have yellow housings, there are far fewer SUVs & pickups and the predominant minority has changed from Latino to African-American, unfortunately there are nowhere near as many mountain bikes on cars going to trails (although there is still the group in the city devoted to fixies). Home in time for dinner & fantastic dessert Jessica was trying out the recipe for – a sherbert & frozen cream-cheese mixture – how to describe taste? There wasn't a whole lot left.

Except for the little mugging episode (which I escaped relatively unscathed), my time in California was fantastic - I did a lot of cool sightseeing things, but it was mostly made by all the various people I met. All the very generous mountain-bikers who took me places & showed me some great trails & scenery - but most of all the wonderful hospitality of the Turners in San Diego & getting to know them eighteen years after they left Papamoa & New Zealand. Thanks all.

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