I thought Id document some of my travel experiences to the USA. Hopefully you will all get a laugh out of it. 🙂
Ok.. here we go, so strap yourselves in!!. So my first trip to the States was back in 2012. Started in LA and ending in MN after a month of travel. Seems easy enough. Everything was pre-booked and paid for soooo.. what could go wrong? All I had to do was follow the yellow brick road / itinerary that the travel agent sent me . I cant tell you how eager I was to do this trip!
Now the flight from my home town at the time in South Hedland West Aust to LA was in the 20-26hr mark via Sydney, plus jet lag and about as excited as a Amateur photographer in a camera store with a million buck gift card really made for a uncomfortable fidgety flight.
The flight itself was a mix of pleasure and terror. Pleasure of in flight movies, food, chilling and anticipation of what I would see and what I could get up to when I landed.
I didn’t even mind the young babies crying, its all part of the trip. On the other hand…
Terror as the 3 teenage kids in front decided that they wanted to fight and be morons. I really had a moment that I wanted to knock a couple of heads together, but I’m sure someone wouldn’t like that…. I reclined my isle seat back once the kids did their seats so my nose wasn’t pressed up against the TV screen. Bit hard to see a movie with your condensation on it fogging it all up. Three cheers for “cattle class” (Economy)!!!
Only for the woman behind to complain to the stewardess that I was encroaching in on her space and had to raise it again. I’m 6 ft. 1 and about 220-230 pounds, I’m sure lots of other people are taller and bigger than me have the same issue about their knees touching the seat in front and space in general… it’s a tad cramped in the “poverty seats down the back”, next time I will have to join the elite and go business lol. The rest of the time I was mortally wounded by the food trolley smashing into my elbow like the Titanic into a ice-burg. But at least I knew when chow time was up . I didn’t even have any issues with arm rest etiquette . (Google Jim, Jefferies for a funny comedy show about this… has lots of swearing)
Landed in LA and after getting the 3rd degree from customs that I wasn’t there to meet a new wife (I told my wife this and her only comment was “Hell no! You are not leaving me with all the kids” lol) or stay any longer than I planned…somehow managed to get to the car hire and missed out on the chance of a cavity search from my new found annoyed friend doing his job at Customs. His luck might of changed if only he brought me a meal lol… just kidding.. (Please don’t get me wrong… I think they do a great job and needed for airport and security etc.)
Handed over all my documents, licenses, blood sample, second born child… etc. and the dude at the car hire place and he asks “Where are you heading?” I mentioned my trip.. giggling like a giddy school girl…, “heading to Grand Canyon etc, Utah and all the way up through South Dakota to Minnesota to see a photography friend”. The dude stops what he is doing and says… “I cant hire the car to you, you’ll take it off road?” Ergh.. you what now???. The only way I can give you a car is to upgrade to a SUV… what I had booked before was a little hatch about the size of a Honda Civic. So I had to shell over another 1000 odd bucks before they would give me a car. Or I could come back in a couple of days after I decide to change my mind… (The trip to Grand Canyon was only ever going to be done via chopper…)
I really needed to get a move on and still groggy from the flight I metaphorically dropped my strides and took one for “Team Geoff”. ( I mentioned this to the travel agent later and she made some inquiries… apparently the refusal never happened and it was my request to upgrade lol, yeah right..)
Jumped in the car and drove off, dodged falling into the Monterey canyon (aka pot hole) in the bitumen by the drive way and on the way out ended up on the correct side of the road lol. Miracles do happen! Hell… I even got into the correct side of the car! LA… your road repair system lacks a bit.
Now, amongst my lost travels (lets call them… “unplanned adventures” ) I found a Target store, pulled over and went hunting for a gps and a sim card for my ipad. Found one of each, got back to the car, plugged it in and it went straight to requiring software update and sim card wouldn’t work in ipad (unlocked ipad). By this time I had already driven off. Couldn’t even use either to get back to the store. So… no phone… (because Im a clown that thought… There’s a phone over there for sale…, I wont need one as I have my ipad…) no way of figuring out where I was supposed to be and getting rather frustrated by the minute at my stupidity, as I hadn’t planned on any other options. (Now I have plan upon plan upon plan).
So after driving around for about 7- 8 hours around other tourists, LA motorists and, nearly getting side swiped by a garbage truck, I finally found my hotel. Literally… fell over it in West Hollywood.
Even asked a dude walking his dog where this street was.. “Sorry, I don’t know!” Drive to the end of the street like maybe 20 yards and there it is lol.
Before I get any further, lets get the stereotype right. I’m a Caucasian male, cropped hair, no tats, no ear rings. I might have been unshaven, but definitely no beard. I dont look like a gangster, thief , pimp or hooker, my pants sit on my hips and certainly not rocking any gang colors But West Hollywood dude seemed shit scared when I approached him.
Find a parking bay and head up to the front desk. Speak with the nice lady at the front counter who kindly informs me that she did not have a booking. Now… Im thinking… wt..? Is someone having a lend of me?
The dude behind me stands there patiently after the hotel works out that they had booked me under another name, then upgrades me. Must say, Australia has absolutely nothing on US for customer service in hotels etc.
I get the “ you are a peasant look” just ordering a 7 buck coffee in Aus. You know.. that crappy look they give down the line of their nose??The voice in my head pops up with a really posh accent of “How dare you interrupt me whilst I stand here and breath the filthy air you have just pushed towards me whilst begging for 1/2 a coffee bean in septic water and sour goat piss for milk.”
The dude in this case is another Aussie. Go figure. Fly all this way to another country and basically the first person I have a reasonable conversation was with an Aussie named Simon. ANNNND he understands my accent Double boom and an added fist pump!
Simon politely informs me that he is having a function up on the top floor. All expenses paid for and needed a few extra people. I thought Schweet!! Besides.. Simon said I had to go lol. Things are turning around!. Ill be there with bells on.. nothing else.. just bells . I Wonder what Simon does?
I throw on my best threads, foot falcons (thongs/ flip flops) and mosey on up. Turns out Simon.. was the publicist or similar job type for…. Wait for it “Playboy” lol. I nearly died! Teenage bucket list checked off in one night!
The event was a bit of a get together for a couple that had won a guided tour around Heffs mansion from selling the most amount of condoms during some sort of promotion between stores.
Met some really nice people, an Aussie rock band that is doing well in LA and some models (fully clothed). No photo opportunities though lol. Spent a good 10 minutes explaining to a young lady how we Aussies have trained all our Kangaroos to deliver mail to reduce the carbon foot print?!?…. (sorry…. But no…. we haven’t achieved that, she started with something silly in conversation so I upped it for a laugh). It ended with her nearly slapping my face for saying that roo meat is sold in restaurants.
Woke up the next morning being shaken out of my bed from an Earth Quake lol. But I was that tired I figured that someone would come get me if I needed to get out of Dodge fast.
Had an awesome night and after that.. started off an amazing trip with a few other unplanned adventures and one more small hiccup between Las Vegas and Denver, but all in all. Awesome!
Just missed out on a Aussie footy player falling from a balcony at the Flamingo Hotel. I had been there moments before I had left as all the excitement was else where… Probably a good thing eh?
I didn’t think I got that far but some crappy phone pics says otherwise. hehe.
So on my way to what I though was towards Denver being my next stop (that’s what the documents said), I then realized that I was supposed to stop off at Zion and had to double back. It was pouring down, rock slides and all sorts of things. It took f**king hours and I was wrecked by the time I got there at 1am. All the time talking to my wife on my Aussie phone trying to get directions and help keep me awake so I didn’t fall asleep. I paid for that conversation later with a 2.5 grand phone bill…..
What really got me was the signage… Road works… next 200 miles…. Here I am thinking Jesus Christ…… 40 km/h or equivalent (because that’s what it is here) for 200 miles? That’s gonna take years. Hell no…. signage for 70-80 mph still up and I’m rocketing past workers like I’m doing warp factor 10!
I didn’t dare speed. 10km/h in Aus will give you the gift of a speeding ticket. Last thing I wanted to do was get on the wrong side of Police.
Its funny….. a govt official, teacher or someone in authority get in trouble, its all over the news. Teacher or Cop… issued ticket for illegal parking/ speeding/ assault. Never get the Brickie or panel beater getting a mention in the news. But I get that some occupations are held to a higher standard and so they should be and I’m ok with that.
I spent a few days in Zion, First day I was walking up to Emerald Pool. I think I over estimated my abilities lol. I had my camera bag on my back and brought a back pack and threw my gigapan on my front. Slightly unfit I started on my trek. I get half way up to take a breather and a elderly couple sail by me as though Im going backwards with a oxy tank in a trolley attached to them. Im looking around to see if I’ve just been “Punked”… argh.. nope… lol
Made an accidental turn off towards Moab, glad I did and probably the last thing of interest that happened…. I dropped a filter holder over some falls out by Hastings MN .. with filters.. jumped the fence and climbed down, nearly plummeted to my death lol. Managed to get the holder back, but the rest was gone.
Step forward to my last trip in 2015. I think I was a bit wiser this time , I started at Karratha West Aus to SF via Abu Dhabi which if you haven’t used this option allows for customs to do all their stuff before you land. Good idea to be honest. This flight is about 25-30 hours. The flight back was pushing 36 hours with stop over and already had delays.
I land in Abu Dhabi, and have about a hour in connection time, so I grab my carry on and follow the crowds to the next plane terminal. Get through all ok and find my seat on the plane. This time, the plane was half full and increasing and I fell asleep straight away.
Next minute… I have security and flight staff standing over me, ordering me to get off the flight and head back to customs. I pretty much “s…t” myself thinking what on earth have I done.. or haven’t done now? I stand up and they strip the seat down? … Im like ok? Maybe its part of protocol? Don’t panic yet?!
I grab my carry on and escorted back to US customs under guard. Meet a nice dude there who asks me what is in my bags. I explain its camera equipment and a small Laptop that didn’t make the trip and died (I found out afterwards when I landed)… The US Customs agent asks if he can have a look. “Yeah sure, knock yourself out”. (His demeanor changed when I explained that Im a Police Officer on holidays, he relaxed heaps.) Id left a couple of extra cable ties in the pelican case as they chopped my last padlock up on the first trip lol. Last time, my bags were destroyed when I collected them and held together with wrap. He didn’t even bother with my carry on luggage and having a look at that
Literally 5 minutes later. He’s done, thanks me, shakes my hand and I’m running back to the plane. Running… yeah right… puffing like a asthmatic in a sand storm is more like it.
The kicker… I sit back down in my seat, by this time there is a elderly gentleman is seated in the isle row with a seat between. He’s wearing a full grey balaclava, like full face covering except mouth (rolled up) and nose and full attire that one would expect for Abu Dhabarians. He was wearing it when he boarded and had only lifted it above his lips. Id assume it’s a cultural thing or a burns victim? Not as though it was cold or anything. Im not really fussed by this sort of thing.. what ever floats your boat I say!
One thing I have learnt in nearly 20 years of law enforcement. It takes all kinds to make the world spin and never have anything against anyone … well except… bullies and wankers.
He asks me if everything is ok and takes off the balaclava. I said, yeah… Customs just wanted to ask me about some robotic equipment I had for my cameras in my luggage (easiest way to explain a Gigapan to someone that may not know what it is). He cuts me short, calls for the stewardess and demands that he be moved away from me! There I am… thinking, wow! Yep that’s me.. third world assassin right here!…. Anyway…. It ended in 3 seats to myself and could completely lay down, curled up, but I could lay on my side! And when I wasn’t asleep. I could look out the window and shoot an Aurora or 3.
Landed this time without issues and sat there watching a young couple go through the same process of car hire that I did the first time. It must be like… Hey… newbies….. come in spinner!! for these hire places. Got my car and headed to my first hotel at Pier 2620. Seriously, SF is far better flying in than LA and cheaper for Aus ticket. Really liked SF.
Next day… walked into Walgreens to grab some cold and “man” flu tablets as I figured I would end up with something from the flight (took about a week to catch up with me).
A dude starts fighting with security, manages to shrug him off and makes a bee line for me… Im thinking… what are my rights as a tourist? Can I detain? Wouldn’t have been hard …watching this dude flounder around on the floor like a new born elephant on national geographic. I watched the security guard and he didn’t appear to be in a overly desperate need to catch this character and had a bag that he had taken off him, so figured I should just behave myself and step aside. Walk out of there and onto the main strip by the Pier and low and behold, SF finest are cordoning off the area with the bomb squad robot reversing off a trailer. Im thinking WOW, this place is insane! Not to mention the dude on the side walk busking for cannabis lol.
And the rest of the trip you have an idea about already. SF- Yosemite- Vegas- Arizona -Utah- Idaho- Montana- Oregon and back to SF over 2 month period.
I did come close to having a head on in Arizona but hey, they made it back onto the right side after over taking the truck.
From there, 6000 miles and not one major issue. Had a ball of a trip. Seriously I would do the exact same locations again without hesitation. Again, met some amazing people throughout the time I travelled including the marvelous people at Heaven and Earth.
The meeting people is actually part of the highlight of the trip. Sure I come away with some cool photos, but make some friends as well.
Over 2 years later and I am still processing those photos.
Cant wait to head back again.