Category Archives: USA


Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

8th and 9th December – Sithee America. Ta-ra!

BillboardAnd so farewell, America – you’ve been full of wonders and the warmest friends. Thank you Barb & Jamie, Valerie & Rob, and Janine & Barry for putting up with two gawping English people. You really are the bee’s knees. We drove through cold South Dakota still gawping – mostly at billboards – to Sioux Falls for our first short hop to Minneapolis-St. Paul’s.

PatchworkIn the air we were once again struck by the regularity of the snowy landscape below. The transatlantic flight was generally uncomfortable tedium, broken by delicious Delta meals – the beef and strawberry salad was superb – and the opportunity for me to watch ‘The Man From UNCLE’ and ‘Shaun The Sheep’, a superb double bill. Oh, and regular free gin in tiny Bombay Sapphire bottles helped enormously.

SchipholWe landed in Amsterdam at sic in the morning ‘the next day’, and watched dawn rise in Schiphol, where I had an entertaining chat with the airport on Twitter. One final flight over the Channel and we were back in Manchester, which was dressed in its habitual grey drizzle. Home again, jiggety-jig.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

7th December – Farm animals and abandoned buildings

Two red trucksDon’t worry, there’s only one more of these posts to go. Here you go, have my eternal thanks if you have stayed with me throughout. Oh go on then, you can have my admiration at your fortitude, too, to dunk in it. This day began with a lie-in and a lazy morning, and ended with a visit to McDonalds (IKR) for coffee with Janine’s lovely Mom.

GASAfter a good chat we split up – Mary and Janine went to some sort of ‘event’ in Chamberlain, while Barry and I drove out to the farm to feed the pheasants in the fields. On the way I had Barry stop so that I could photograph some of the abandoned buildings out in the flat countryside. One abandoned, rotting old house squatted at the end of a deeply-rutted, muddy track that was FUN to bounce the truck along.

One-eyed TurboAt the Farm we fed Tuxedo the cat, BJ & Turbo the horses (Turbo missing an eye – see right) and a couple of donkeys. As we drove around the cornfield, scattering old corn every few yards for the pheasants to find, Barry told me tales of Chamberlain characters. Bozo, the town drunk who collected old whisky bottles from the dump and drank the dregs, setting the dump on firs once a month. Also Fast Jack the barber, who would accept six bags of cans for a haircut. Cans of what? Dunno, I can’t remember. SMH



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

6th December – Snow by the Missouri

Missouri snowI awoke to the news that The Shakers had won away at Rochdale in the FA Cup. It was therefore with a light heart that I climbed aboard Barry’s grasshopper* together with a huge dog (Ranger) and a tiny one (Cha Cha) for a ride along the Missouri shore. Snow still covered the river margin, sparkling in the sun, criss-crossed by the tracks of deer and wild turkey.

SunsetLater we visited Al’s Oasis again for a little shopping and more photography of ‘unusual’ American products, followed by a drive up the ridge to the west of the river for a sweeping overlook of the Missouri where it bends at Bad Hand Creek, and a magnificent sunset.

House decorated for ChristmasAs the sky darkened we made a little tour of Oacoma and Chamberlain to look at bright Christmas lights and displays. Imbued by the Christmas spirit we spent much of the evening drinking beer and binge-watching Naked and Afraid.

*totally not a euphemism. The Grasshopper is an off-road vehicle thingy. There’s a photo in this post from last year’s American adventure.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

5th December – Naked and Afraid

Skulls ahoy!Off to a small craft fair in Oacoma, which turned out to be a lot like an English one save for the occasional jewelled animal skull for sale. There we ate Indian Tacos for lunch, and I bought a very pretty “Chamberlain” hip flask for use during chilly half-times at Gigg Lane.

Janine’s family visited for a splendid evening of fun and food, some of which – cheese scones and ginger biscuits – Mary and I made. TwinsThere was a ‘buffalo cheese dip’ that was the finest* buffalo cheese dip I have ever had. I had a lovely conversation with Janine’s Mom, and was ‘adopted’ by five-year-old twins Ella and Rayne, and had a lot of fun playing daft games with them. I learned to tell them apart that evening, but looking at the photos now I have NO idea.

Naked and Afraid and BlurryAfter the fun was over Janine, Mary and I watched Naked and Afraid – “One man, one woman, 21 days with no food, water, shelter, or clothes.” Also a film crew, severe editing, and extremely blurry genitals. Interesting programme, though, watching people challenged by nature and having the bejasus knocked out of them by tiny flies and such.




Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

4th December – Fish and Chips and Happy Birthday

I90 truckI just want to take a moment to thank Janine and Barry for looking after us so well in South Dakota. Bloody lovely people, so they are. This day we barrelled along the I90 to Mitchell, where we visited several malls but not the world-famous “Corn Palace The Biggest In The World Honestly”. I had a brilliant time photographing various products that looked strange to UK eyes. You can see these photos on my Pinterest board here.

Happy Birthday dear Mary...We had lunch at a restaurant whose name I’ve completely forgotten, but who made really good fried fish, served with crinkle-cut oven chips and coleslaw and again no mushy peas. J&B had not overlooked the fact that it was my beloved’s birthday, and presented here with a cupcake from which protruded a burning candle, while we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

3rd December – Chamberlain Hall of Fame

MorningThis was, I note, a Thursday, but of course by now I had completely lost track of which day was which. They were all just Wowamericaday by now. We were beginning to miss crusty pork pies and English chippy chips a little by now, though, despite the gourmet delights that we were actually eating.

Sunrise sandwichSteam rose from the Missouri in the distance as the sun heated it, though snow still lay around. We watched the steam as we ate Sunrise Sandwich for breakfast, and YUM. Egg, bacon and melted cheese in a muffin. Really rather splendid.

Hall of FameA small trip out to the Chamberlain Hall of Fame, which was quiet at this time of year. The place was well laid out, with fascinating exhibits. I was most taken by the Sioux exhibits, and the names of some of the native inductees. “Eagle Woman Who All Look At” and “Young Man Afraid Of His Horse” were my favourites. I’m feeling the urge to write another Western now. (get the first one here)

Mexican doughnutsSweet Mexican doughnuts at Taco John’s afterwards, which I have never before encountered, and which were LOVELY.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

2nd December – Snow

Missouri snowWe awoke to bright sunshine bouncing off white snow, and the wide Missouri in the distance. A cheerful, smile-making experience after the adventures of the day before, ploughing through a dark blizzard across America. All was calm, and the blue sky promised at least some warmth, and a recuperative day.

Over the bridgeWe spent some time photographing the brightness, following deer tracks in the virgin snow, and playing with the dogs, Ranger, Sam and little Cha Cha. We made short trips to Al’s Oasis, and over the bridge into Chamberlain, where we bought a pretty brooch for Mombat. The shopkeeper remembered us from last year, when we’d bought my mum a necklace there. Friendly people live in Chamberlain.

American TVWe rested goggling at American television – there was news of another mass shooting, but also bad soaps which (to my shame) I started to get into, a cookery show which involved contestants cooking dishes while riding and pulling a rickshaw, and the oddest ads. I was fascinated by the side-effects on ads for drugs. “May cause blindness and death”, “If erection lasts for more than four hours see a doctor” Blimey.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

1st December – From desert to snow storm

Bye San DiegoFrom my travel journal – “High over snow-topped mountains, flying to the Twin Cities. Delta cookies for breakfast. Rob, bless him, hauled himself out of bed at 4:30am to drive us to Lindbergh Field for our early flight. The roads were surprisingly busy for such a deathly hour. San Diegans get moving EARLY. The snow/wind combo in South Dakota may prevent Janine & Barry getting to Sioux Falls to pick us up when… IF we get there, so we may have to faff about finding a hotel. We’ll know in a few hours”

MinneapolisWe took off into a bright sunrise in San Diego, and landed in a cold, snow-coated Minneapolis. Once I’d connected with the free WiFi I received a text from Janine – “We have had around eleven inches of snow, and high winds are spreading it across the roads which are barely passable. There is a hotel right by FSD, but I may just have found a way to get you here tonight. I’ll message again when I know for sure.”

De-icingWe were relieved to find the flight to Sioux Falls unaffected by the weather, although there was a short delay to de-ice the plane. A wazzock had brought his wazzocky Swegway thing on the plane and was trying to cram it under his seat. Wazzock got told off by the flight attendant, heh heh.

Spot the GaryComing into Sioux Falls we could see that it had clearly had far more snow than MSP – it was lying thick around the airport, and still falling lightly, kicked up by a stiff breeze. Another text from Janine – “I’ve arranged for you to have a lift with a guy from Jess’s hunting lodge, who is collecting some hunters from Louisiana. He’s in a big, heavy 4×4 and is used to driving in these conditions. He’s called Gary: I’ve never met him, but I’m told you need to look for someone who looks like a hunter.” Oookaaaay.

Scary driveI found Gary easily, by virtue of his bright orange cap – for those who don’t know, hunters wear orange to avoid being mistaken for deer. We crammed into the back of a HUGE 4×4 full of hunters and hunting equipment. The two hour journey was terrifying at times, snow Janine'sblizzarding horizontally across completely snow-covered highway. However, the hunters were friendly (though one mistook my Yorkshire acccent for German, possibly misled by the German flag on my jacket) and the 4×4 warm, though we were squeezed in tight.

We met Janine and Barry at Vets service station and said goodbye to “the lads”. Finally we slid into Janine’s driveway, and I swear their house looked like fairyland, glowing green in the snowscape. And relax…




Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

30th November – Costco, yarn, and bacon chocolate

PalmsA lazy, quiet day, winding down and packing against our flight to South Dakota on the next day, although acutely aware that it was snowing heavily there. Would we even reach Minneapolis, let alone Sioux Falls after that? But I mustn’t get ahead of myself – that is a story for tomorrow’s post.

Late afternoon we visited Costco, that warehouse of delights where we could have bought a giant can of beans and a canoe, should we have wanted. We didn’t want. I frantically took photographs of palm trees in the parking lot when I realised that pretty soon we would no longer be surrounded by them.

YarnAfterwards to a yarn shop which surprised me by being fascinating, all texture and colour; and Chuao chocolate where all manner of unusual chocolate bars were on sale – potato chip, bacon etc. I could swear I took a photo of the weird flavours, but apparently not.

Northward, lastly, to Carlsbad for a Mexican meal at Las Olas (‘the waves’), where the food and the laughter were outstanding. CarlsbadA splendid last evening with wonderful people. We’d had a great time with V&R, notwithstanding R’s forensic playing of “Yellow Car”, and V “talking to her pants”. She does like her margarita, that girl.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

29th November – return to San Diego Zoo.

RattlesnakeYou won’t be surprised if you’ve read the title that this day we returned to the zoo to cover ALL OF THE THINGS that we missed the other day. I tell you, this zoo is HUMUNGOUS. You really do need two full days – hell, three – to see everything.

Hunning birdFor me the highlights were the humming birds. Beautiful points of bright colour flitting about with blurred wings. Not only in the aviary, but in the wild too. In the aviary, however, they were far easier to watch.

Fennec FoxOther highlights – the underwater view of hippos, a snow leopard pacing above my head, a Fennec Fox that followed me around the edge of its cage, peering intently at me. I can only imagine I looked like its keeper. These are memories that will not soon fade.

Belly porkIn the evening to a restaurant called Urban Solace in downtown San Diego, and the biggest of thanks to V & R for the meal. I had a chicken stew that was indeed “like the warmest hug”, just as the flat-capped waiter had promised. Mary had frou-frou fancy-pants belly pork. Online friend Declan and OH (shamefully I can’t recall her name right at this moment. I’ll edit it in when it occurs to me) joined us, and a merry time was had.

ShipAfterwards we meandered through the night streets gazing at businesses and lights – a microbrewery where you could watch the brewing from the bar above caught my eye – and, leaving the Declans, took a drive down to the waterfront to see the big ships moored there – tall ships, a submarine, and a HUGE FUCKOFF aircraft carrier. Also a bloody awful statue, my photograph of which failed to take, so you’ll have to look it up yourselves.


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