The Pelican Inn

Added: 1-11-2007

let us give it up for the small hamlet of Muir Beach in Marin County north of San Francisco. why? for there we were last night able to eat bangers and mash and drink bitter in a perfectly recreated English country pub, something we were really not expecting at the beginning of a long day.

to get there we had to get over ourselves after breakfast, put aside differing ideas of how to proceed with the final stages of the walk (disclosure: Dave and I spent most of the previous 36 hours in a mood with each other due to tiredness, lack of communication and utter despair at the fact that the walk never seems to end) and instead concentrate on getting to the Golden Gate bridge without getting lost in the Presidio. on the way we overcame obstacles such as Our Video Camera Breaking, Only Trail Bars for Lunch, and There is Fog Everywhere, Where Is This San Francisco? we came good, after going close to breaking, and by the end of the day we were some 14 miles closer to our goal.

we also got to meet and receive great help from Ken and Marcia Powers, the dons of long distance walking – they met us halfway along the Golden Gate and were kind enough to take us to a local deli where we could get a much better set of provisions than the ones we set off with. they also let us slackpack for nearly 10 miles – a gesture greatly appreciated by all of us, seeing as we are now thoroughly bored of carrying our rucksacks anywhere.

all of this action took place against a backdrop of mist and fog, as apparently we have wandered into a week of San Fran weather where this is par for the course (I suspect it is par for the course most of the time, and that the Indian Summer we experienced last week was something of a one-off). the city itself, what I’ve seen of it so far at least, is quite a place, all undulating hills covered in apartment buildings and parks and, er, homeless people/freaks (OK, I’m likely being a bit unkind on the latter, it is Halloween after all). there’s a definite vibe to the place, it feels like somewhere I’m going to enjoy being, and I can’t wait to actually start to experience the city when I’m not a) knackered beyond belief from walking over 4000 miles and b) not wearing hiking clothes and running shoes.

until that moment though, we are walking, moving swiftly towards our goal of Never Doing This Again. we crossed the Golden Gate at lunchtime yesterday and by mid-afternoon we comfortably up on top of some hiking trails to the north-west of San Francisco, looking down on the expensive homes near the shores below. you better have some money if you want to live out here – but if you can make it, it seems like one hell of a place to pass one’s time. by six pm we were coming downhill to look for a campsite for the evening, something that might have been a task if it wasn’t for the fact that literally the second we emerged out of some bushes onto a tarmac road this fella called Tomasz drove up, asked for our story and then informed us there was an English pub not two miles away.

say no more. in the back of Tomaz’s car we went and off we drove to a place he had been frequenting on Tuesday nights for 18 years as part of a group of runners who like a pint after charging up hills in the dark. the Pelican Inn was a superb place, a labour of love for its original owner and builder, a dude who copied an English design exactly and even imported English wood for the task. we quaffed beer, chatted politics with George and Leah, walking with Tomasz and Hans, and everything with a Ed and his son – both of whom had been to Burning Man earlier in the summer.

all was good. we camped up the road from the pub, had a fire, listened to some tunes and Dave and David slept out in the mild temperatures on some picnic tables (when pressed this morning, both reported that sleeping on picnic tables is not the way to go). this morning we were up and at ’em in fog at 8am, and soon we traipsing up to 1800 feet where we were supposed to get lovely sea views. fog put paid to that however, although the walk itself was really pleasant and quiet and ohmygodweonlyhaveonedayofwalkingleftanndthatmeanseverything

I can’t describe much more – these journal entries go on way too much as it is. let me just say that we have one day left. ONE DAY. 17 miles. a piffle. a pittance. a stroll. if yesterday was spent being annoyed with walking today has been a slow dawning realisation that we don’t have to do this any more. we can use public transport! we can use bikes! there are cars, and trucks, and environmentally harmful things that do not involve the use of legs! we are able to use all of these! life is sweet!

but before we renounce all things pedestrian, there are 17 miles to go. a day off tomorrow (I am writing this back in San Francisco, after Dave’s parents picked us up off the trail earlier. I am currently in a laundromat called ‘Get The Funk Out’) and then back to the trail to camp and drink champagne in the evening. after that there is just Friday – 17 miles to Limatour Beach (er, I think that’s it) and a touchdown time of 4pmish. See you there.

PS: News from Get The Funk Out where we have spent the last 30 minutes waiting for our washing to do. it seems David M put our washing in one washer but then added money and detergent to another. someone else’s clothes have now been washed twice, and ours are untouched by anything. here’s to another 30 mins in the laundromat…

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So close, so close....

Added: 30-10-2007

San Francisco – foggy. Tuesday morning at Mel’s Diner on our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the final stage of the walk. we spent yesterday walking through Oakland in the morning (foggy) and then crossed over into downtown San Francisco via the ferry around lunchtime (foggy). it was quite a ride and quite a moment – while our walk ends at Point Reyes some 40 miles north of the city, we’ve been telling people for a long time that we’re heading for San Francisco. and now we’re here.

it feels good, but man is this walk going on. it just never ends. in fact, getting this last section out of the way is proving more difficult than crossing Utah. for a start we have all the logistics of the weekend party to organise, and then there’s the fact that we’re in a great city and there’s loads to do. this seems to be understandably leading us into areas of walk confusion, trying to work out how to finish the walk and hit the city at the same time. at the moment we’re not doing very well, and our plans are looser than loose. today we’re going to try to get over the Golden Gate and up some miles towards Point Reyes, camp out and then do some more miles tomorrow. legendary long distance walkers Ken and Marcia Powers are our guests on the trail today and rumour has it they walk fast – it’ll be interesting to see if we can keep up or keep getting distracted by the fact that the areas we are passing through, including the John Muir woods feat. those giant redwoods (nb. we drove out there on Sunday and got an eyefull of them then – amazing. hello to Adrian and Amy and Xanthi (sp?) we met there – not everyday you meet two interesting English girls and a documentary film maker with a Salvador Dali moustache in a wood), are really quite spectacular.

the plan is for us to come back into town tomorrow afternoon for Halloween, then take Thursday off and finish the walk on Friday. all of this depends on lifts and it’s all getting rather confusing, especially as I think we’re going to split up on Thursday evening as Dave and I pursue seperate goals near the end of the walk. it’s tiring, trying to work out how we’re going to do everything. can’t wait for this all to finish to be honest, we’re all sick of the little logistics and testy as we try to satisfy what we each want from the end of the walk.

saying that, we’re gonna head through some amazing country on the way to the finish. we were driving around up the coast on Sunday, up Highway 1, and it’s pretty fantastic up there. to see the Pacific for the first time in my life was fantastic, especially as the weather was amazing, and it really won’t be a hardship to head out there again. whether we can get back into the city again for Halloween, however, is another matter…

anyway, all for now. we will still be finishing, together one hopes, on Friday afternoon after 4pm, hopefully around sunset. the weather looks promising, and there’s on 47 miles to go…

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Wine and men in pirate outfits

Added: 28-10-2007

man, what a birthday…like Sideways meets the cast of Rent or something…

let me set the scene. now we are 5: Dave’s old friend Mick and his wife Alison arrived on Friday afternoon with another of Dave’s mates, Rodders, in tow. feels good to have a crew of Europeans forming, even if Rodders was so completely jetlagged he almost fell asleep into his pizza at Friday night’s Berkeley restaurant that we hit up with the Malouin and our Berkeley host, Simon.

Berkeley seems extremely nice but it was no place for a birthday party, not when wine country is just an hour or so away. yesterday we therefore started about 11am with a bundle into Mick’s people carrier and were soon in slave to the English-voiced GPS woman who told us what to do and when to do it. around lunchtime we hit the Sonoma Valley and all was well – good countryside, nice weather and a winery every two minutes drive.

having never been on a prolonged wine tasting tour before there was plenty to learn. extensive use of phrases such as “It’s quite nice” and “Very nice” must be made, along with references to ‘Tannins’, ‘Oak-y finishes’ and ‘Wooshes of hollyhock’ in a homage to one of the only wine tasters I know, the tremendously jolly Jilly Goulden. we visited five wineries (Mazzoccoo, Lytton Springs, Quivra, Dry Creek and the Van Rutten Family Winery) all in the Russian River area and drank a wide variety of wines that, at points, all seemed to run into each other in a gigantic taste confusion. saying that, there were some tremendous wines in there, and we ended up with a car full of bottles and a feeling that more Saturday afternoons should be spent driving around gorgeous countryside drinking wine and pretending we know what we’re talking about.

about halfway through the day we noticed the existence of a large group of pirates at one of the wineries. at first I thought it was a theme wedding but then later on I remembered: it’s Halloween weekend. as anyone who has seen Dave’s pics from last year will remember, Americans take their Halloween extremely seriously, and it seemed that Pirates of the Caribbean was a big draw for our area yesterday. what was our area, I hear you ask? well, after some very well-intentioned advice from a nice lady at one of the wineries we have headed to the town of Guerneville for the evening where we were told we could get accomodation, food and a good night out.

all of this was true. a fine birthday meal at the Village Inn was had, and then we repaired back into town for a few drinks. Rodders read from the Lonely Planet guide and declared that we were actually staying in California’s original gay resort (Guerneville is a place where people from San Francisco and the surrounding area might come for the weekend to relax etc.). suddenly gay pirates were everywhere and there was not a bar in town without large numbers of blokes with moustaches in fancy dress. park rangers, policemen, a fella dressed as a bust of Julius Cesar who came with his own plinth, red indian chief – you get the picture. our hiking clothes were really not extravagant enough for the scene. nevertheless, in the interests of a good night out, we did manage to hang out and view the fancy dress contest, almost get knocked over by the giant bear dancing in a pair of Uncle Bubba dungarees and then indulge in a discussion of whether or not blackface is acceptable in a Halloween costume (er, I think the conclusion is that it’s got to be done tastefully).

so yes, quite a night out. I don’t quite think this journal entry has really done it justice but I had to get something online before we head off to see giant redwood trees. everyone else is still asleep but I seem to be unable to sleep in these days – not a bad thing when the weather is so fantastic and our hotel lobby is really quite a fine place to hang out (fireplace, soothing classical music, pumpkins everywhere). tomorrow we resume the last stage of the walk, down through Oakland to the Bay ferry, and then across San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge. oh, and taking in the post office so I can finally pick up some civilian clothes and stop wearing these ridiculous hiking outfits…

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To the Bay...

Added: 27-10-2007

ah, another journal entry through tired eyes…hadn’t made it to a computer for a few days now and plenty has occurred – crazy street people, ridiculous ups and downs over the hills of Berkeley, arrival of Europeans to increase crew size, the sacking of Martin Jol

so where to begin? it’ll be a long one…last time I wrote from Antioch, home of a barber’s shop packed with toys and deerheads, and also of a comedy marathon we went on in our cheap motel room. we got up and at ’em quite lazily the next morning (Wednesday) but the day was clear and blue and warm again so all was good. we trekked urban-style for most of the day, moving through the Hispanic-influenced communities of Antioch (it’s ‘real’ California now, a lot more signage in Spanish, the beginnings of an ethnically diverse population mix that has been lacking throughout our entire trip) and West Pittsburg. man, did the freaks come out…urban areas’ll do that for you and we spent our day being pleasantly accosted by groups of interested drunks, men pushing trolleys/pulling dogs and the extremely strange bloke who looked to be a refuge from the more further out parts of George Clinton’s imagination – he was rocking a fine street look that included a boxing helmet, kneepads over jeans, some sort of bullet-proof vest, a rucksack and a large padlocked chain around his waist.

we also got lost in a housing estate for an hour and a half after our plan to walk a little way along a freeway was foiled. it was more interesting than it sounds – California is expanding massively, houses are going up all over the place and Arnie on television adverts exhorting people to move here. this estate was a high-end place with houses in the 300,000-400,000 dollar range and a doubtless almost insatiable thirst for water. water is the thing here people, as it was in Nevada and Utah too, and it’s not too far fetched to say that the future of the west depends on how water demand is handled out here. the housing estate that we got lost on was full of empty houses just waiting to start consuming water, all semi-identical looking despite their efforts to be unique. a- semi- interesting place to get lost (huge armies of Mexican construction workers) but I’m not sure about an interesting place to live…

Wednesday night we were picked up by Melissa, the daughter of Len who we met in Kansas (thus continuing a great feature of the trip – the handed-on hospitality) and whisked away to the town of Lafayette for a decent pizza and a night out at the Round Up Saloon, home of appalling Karaoke and a bloke who unashamedly drank my beer when I wasn’t looking. Melissa was a great host and we will speak more of her next week for she has, unwittingly or not, become one of our key go-to people for San Francisco.

after being dropped back on the trail on Thursday morning we contrived to do a bit of walking from Concord to Pleasant hill and then get lost again, this time in a n extremely posh cemetary (as a big fan of Six Feet Under, set in California, everything around here is reminding me of the show). that was weird.

the afternoon was excellent though, walking through Briones Regional Park and enjoying a big hill climb to a superb view back over the way we had came and Mount Diablo, followed by a descent into a watershed area near a couple of reservoirs. great views and a good feeling to be nearing the coast. that evening we were kinda rescued by a nice fella called Chris who was a ranger supervisor for the local water authority (water, again!) and he, after taking us to a local Berkeley park where he played ultimate frisbee while we pulled a variety of muscles kicking a football around, took us back to his house to crash on the floor. all sorts of interesting chats about football and home schooling. top bloke.

so yesterday morning we finally made it over the last set of hills and into Berkeley. from about 300 feet up to about 1800, and then down the same distance. it’s extremely hazy viewise so I can’t really say I’ve seen the Pacific yet – but it’s out there (along with San Francisco apparently, also currently obscured by haze). the downhill into Berkeley was a killer but we made it, and hopefully it’s all relatively flat from here on in. just a walk across Oakland, one across San Francisco and then a 40 mile jaunt up the coast to Point Reyes and it’s all done. unbelievable really…

anyway, this has gone on long enough. more tomorrow. this weekend we are ‘off’ – it’s my birthday today and we’re hitting wine country and then going to see some redwoods tomorrow. also hoping to discover if Ewoks really live in those forests…

Shouts: huge thanks to Melissa for all her tourguiding and calmunderpressureinthefaceofkaraoke-ness, Chris for the much needed place to crash, and now Andrea and Simon and Porter and Rose who are putting us up here in Berkeley. nice people these Californians, nothing like the Nevadans said…

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Antioch, CA

Added: 24-10-2007

whoo, California is hot. hot where we are and, well, much hotter a little to the south where all those wildfires are tearing up everything in their path. all the news reports show terrifying pictures of fires on hillsides and down canyons, and we’re all pretty glad to be up the northern end of the state with nothing else to contend with except temperatures of 80-85 degrees and a little sunburn (for new boy The Malouin – I think Dave and I are now immune to all forms of sunburn after living outside for nearly six months). now is not a good time to own a beachfront mansion…

which is why we insist on staying in only the cheapest motels. Malouin came out of the shower here (in Antioch, at the Holiday Lodge Inn or something) with a look of pure disgust on his face earlier on, and declared that the shower was the rankest he’d been in for ages. Dave and I were surprised – the shower seemed quite spacious and the mould was in fancy patterns instead of just being a bulky mishap in the corner. Malouin really needs to experience such delights as the Parsons Hotel in Clarksburg, West Virginia (a place last year that seemed to double as a mental institution, Oneflewoverthecuckoo’snest-alikes wandering the corridors, communal bathrooms to make a man shudder) before he makes these claims. this place is a palace compared to some places we’ve been..

so last time I left you with a lame journal entry. I was too tired to write anything good…since then we’ve clearly done more walking, a little dancing and even a little racing (Dave versus David in a tired stagger was well worthing watching, from a non-jogging position). we’ve gone west, obviously, and have experienced the full traffic-roaring delights of the 12 that runs west out of Lodi towards the 160 and the Sacramento River. the whole experience has actually been gorgeous, traffic bits aside, because the weather has been amazing and there have been loads of little waterways to experience as we’ve trekked along the levees. we’re in an area known as Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and it’s sure a great way to end our countryside section of the trip. there’s eagrets, cranes and herons, and marinas dotted along our route that offer the delights that we crave – cheap food, gatorade and beer. there are houseboats, speedboats and state camping grounds that come complete with stoned kids who were really wonderful but slightly lacking in, well, ability to understand sentences in a way that didn’t reference weed (Them: “How can you afford all of this?” Us: “We saved up, and the pound is really strong right now versus the dollar.” Them: “Pound of weed? You got a pound of weed? It’s strong?”). all in all, this area has been a real find and it was a pleasure today to ignore the traffic on the bridge over the San Joaquin River and just ascend into the clear blue sky knowing that below was a deep blue river and behind me were the wonderful golden fields, eagrets and stoned kids.

so yes, all is well. we’re in Antioch and we’ve gone chores crazy. Dave and I are sporting new haircuts which, while they make us look a bit more presentable, have had mixed results. my plan to walk into a flamboyant hairdresser’s in San Francisco and demand that he make me hot didn’t quite work out, in that I got really annoyed at having my newly grown hair shooting out in ridiculuous directions and decided to get a trim in the nearest place I could find. the barbers, Slick’s, was fantastic, an orgy of kitch toys and, bizarrely enough, stuffed deers’ heads, but I bottled it on the hot request when it was apparent from the way that the barber dude looked at my hair that he was not going to be able to make me anything other than lukewarm due to the fact that a) I had hardly any hair to do anything with and b) I had severe structural faults in my overall hair blueprint. the fella went around my head pointing out cowlicks like they were woodworm or dry rot, and in the end I felt like I had made the right decision to have an effective buzz cut for the past 11 years due to the fact that if it were a building, my hair would have been condemned long ago.

still, I got to meet Slick himself. his hair was fantastic.

so right now I’m in the motel room on my own catching up on loads of correspondence and trying to organise the San Francisco shindig. to all who have sent Malouin messages of encouragement, keep ’em coming – he needs them. he’s doing very well, but it’s hurting him, and today he actually took his hiking boots off and walked the last 6 miles into Antioch in his Crocs. he’s now sent his boots home and is currently off out at the mall trying to find some cheap trail runners. Dave is also out, hitting the library to work his emails and discover where he’s sent his new camera to. overall though, we’re in fine fettle, boredom with long distance walking aside, and we can almost smell the sea from here. it’s incredible to think that we have under 100 miles to go, really amazing…this last section is becomming something of a procession in some ways, the distances (for Dave and I at least) are easy and it’s just ridiculous to think that we are nearly here…unbelievable….

anyway, this has gone on long enough. from here it’s gonna be urban (Mount Diablo aside) and sadly lacking in eagrets. on the other hand, I suspect that we might just run into some more stoned kids…

PS: Check The Illustrated Book of Malouin for new boy David’s pics, some good stuff on there…

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The worst journal entry of the whole thing

Added: 22-10-2007

good morning from a motel room in Flag City, CA. seems to be a nice day outside, Dave and David are just about awake and we’ll be back on the road in, well, probably an hour or so seeing as we are quite a slow beast in the mornings…

yesterday was another fantastic day weather-wise, and we proceeded south and then west with barely a problem (Dave and David missed a clearly signposted turn to Lodi due to an intense conversation, but in the end this had little effect on our efforts). scenery was orchards and vineyards again, blue skies and golden dried out fields. the locals have been telling us that the dry colour of the fields can change in an instant in the spring, and that the the whole countrside turns emerald green in the rain. California – very nice.

as we’re trekking through wine country it seemed rather rude not to drop in on a winery yesterday and get tasting. as far as I can work out (from our one attempt) this involves being poured many extremely small glasses of wine and then attempting to knowingly review them in front of each other and the resident wine expert. there was much talk of oak-y textures, resonant tannins and even ‘excruciatingly long finishes’. we will be experts in no time…

after the wine tasting we managed to make it to this motel in time for David’s baseball game which his team eventually ended up walking (Cleveland, you rolled over!) through in order to reach the World Series final. this gives us some sport to focus on for the next week or so…..

man, this is a dull journal entry. it’s 7.51am here and I’m really not very inspired. I’ll have to try and check back in later and see if I can remember if anything actually interesting happened to us yesterday. at the moment things are just extremely pleasant, like we are proceeding towards San Francisco in a kinda trance almost, just rolling out some miles each day, chatting, marvelling at the scenery and generally feeling rather pleased with ourselves.

all for now, hopefully something more interesting later on.

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Introducing the Book of Malouin

Added: 21-10-2007

and so the Malouin has spoken – if you haven’t read it yet, check our latest addition to the blog, the Book of Malouin, here.

so, what to tell? I think David has covered quite a fair bit and we don’t really need to go further into it here. all that really needs to be said is that yesterday we hiked a good 16 miles today from Pardee Reservoir to the extremely small town of Clements. so far, absolutely wonderful. basically, we are loving California – the weather is fantastic, the scenery has been rolling in an almost English style (we’ve been walking down through the foothills of the Sierra) and the overwhelming colours have been gold (fields), brownpurple (vineyards) and green (the trees that dot the landscape, like the credits sequence in Six Feet Under).

the people have also been amazing, quite unlike the descriptions we were given by their Nevadan neighbours. a case in point being the doctor who checked my latest x-ray results, Lincoln, and his wife Suzie, who were our hosts on Friday night. everyone at the hospital where I took my tests was fantasticly kind and interested in the walk, and when Lincoln called me with the x-ray results on Friday morning (all clear on the lung front, waiting for the bloods) he asked me if we wanted to come over for dinner and some decent political chat.

to cut a long story short (horse whispering, trespassing, extremely steep hills, rubbish dumps at great height, chance meetings with people walking their dogs, great views of reservoirs) we were treated to a fantastic meal at Linc and Suzie’s great house near the small town of Mountain Ranch. laundry was included, as was a great dinner talk about the state of the nation (Hilary versus Rudy? young people and their political apathy, my description of the sticker at Ham’s Station that showed Barak Obama on one side and Hilary on the other (nb. Hilary has top-dog name recognition over here now, no one even mentions the ‘Clinton’) with the charming tagline ‘Bros before Hoes’). it was a great evening – huge thanks to Linc, Suzie, Kevin and Joyce for the good company and the contacts further down the line.

anyway, I’m now writing this on Sunday morning in a diner across the road from the bar we hit last night, The Old Corner Saloon (thanks to all the nice people we met in there inc. Dave the owner, Eric the pool player, and the lady who went and fetched us some chocolate). we got into Clements about 5ish yesterday with David manfully making his first 16 mile day. having a third person with us is kinda throwing our whole acheivement into perspective – a quite painful one from David’s point of view. I hadn’t really stopped to consider how physically fit Dave and I are and now I realise how much of a ‘zone’ we have entered seeing as David is really going through a walking baptism of fire (hip brusing from the rucksack belt, blisters, sore soles of the feet, general pain everywhere, a sense that he’s gotten himself involved in something very, very wrong). we’re not sure how it’s going to pan out (he has a get-out clause involving a friend in Berkeley coming to pick him up) but I hope he can make it as it’s really great to have an extra person along for this final stage, complete with fresh conversation, video and picture-taking enthusiasm and a whole new angle on the places we are seeing and the people we are meeting. Go Malouin.

best wind this up now – our breakfasts are coming. Dave and I are on an eggs record at present as I believe this next breakfast will see us consuming the 18th and 19th eggs in the past 9 nine days. mmmm, eggs. we’re ready for breakfast as last night we slept behind the bar and were rudely awoken this morning by some sort of giant sawmill noise at 5.30am. David coulnd’t take it and packed up while Dave and I slept on until some roosters finally did for us and we headed to the cafe. we’ve got quite a day ahead and we’ll need our food – the mission is to head west at least 17 miles until we find a bar that will show us the final game of the Boston-Cleveland playoff series (Europeans, it’s the end of the baseball season, the time when the finalists in the ‘World Series’ are decided. David is a Boston fan and they’ve come back from 3-1 down in a series of 7 to force a decider. the excitement is, er, exciting).

wow, I used a lot of brackets this morning.

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Jackson, Elev 1200ft

Added: 19-10-2007

day two of David Malouin’s trek. oooh, but he is sore. as I write this now in the Amador County Library, David sits opposite me gently weeping. well, he would if this library wasn’t one of the most silent we’ve been in on the whole trip, great silence enforcement from the staff…

after an evening’s carousing at Gallagher’s bar in Pioneer and a very comfortable night’s sleep at the motel there, this morning saw us marching about 5 miles down the road to Pine Grove for some breakfast. now that David is with us we’re toning down the mileage somewhat, aiming for around 15 miles a day as we make our way west. breakfast was hearty, and I indulged myself in a sausage ommelette smothered in gravy (the American version, not the British) while the other two also went ommelette crazy. our meat consumption has really been off the scale recently so Dave in particular has been eyeing anything with vegetables in it avidly – we’re certainly hoping that California is going to be keener on fresh produce than the other places we’ve passed through (nb. I should point out that we still eat practically anything that is put in our path, though).

after breakfast we went another 8 miles west, and about another 1500 feet down – we are now at around 1200ft above sea level, the lowest Dave and I have been for months. it should also be mentioned at this point that we are the furthest west we have ever been in our lives – it feels good, especially as the weather seems to be getting a bit better and we can almost feel the coast approaching.

our destination, (and current location) Jackson, is one of the largest places on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada that the 88 winds through, and the 4500 people in the town seem to have a pretty nice place. there’s a proper town centre, and it seems to be a kind of antique-y place, with lots of little shops dotted in amongst the bars and coffee shops on Main Street. further exploration is needed, so I think we’ll stop the night here and check things out.

right now, however, we need food. David M and I have just spent two hours up at the Sutter Amador Hospital where the extremely nice staff took my blood and x-rayed my chest. very nice people up there – they even agreed to waive the fees and therefore it’s all more money for the Association of International Cancer Research. many thanks to all at the hospital!

finally, expect journal entries from David Malouin himself in the next few days, and new pictures from Dave will go up soon in the Gallery. we also have communications again, so if anyone wants to call us they can ring David’s mobile on 301 370 4863, or they can text my phone on 00 1 45 26 39 03 68 (if dialling from within the US) or 00 45 26 39 03 68 (if dialling from anywhere else in the world, I think). hope to hear from some people, we have more San Francisco news and will send out an email very soon…

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Of Hams Station and other crazy things

Added: 18-10-2007

depression hits Walking the States. we’ve walked all day to get to the Internet and lo – we discover England lost to Russia 2-1 in the football. the full darkness of this result will likely be lost on our American readers but let me say this: the atmosphere is quite muffled around here.

apart from the fact that we’ve been on a pub crawl all day, that is. when we left you last we were awaiting the arrival of our friend David from DC and today he arrived – and it was his birthday. delivered by the amazing Gary and Tracy Pinder in an amazing single hitch from Lake Tahoe, David has walked the amazing total of nine miles with us and is now aching in places he never knew existed. excellent.

he’s come at the right time – the weather has cleared up. we left Kirkwood ski resort on Tuesday morning after a night of fairly racous partying (Dave rocked a mournful hangover – many thanks to all our hosts and espcially Jim from Mississippi) and began a descent from 8000 feet to about 6000 (a decent that seemed to include a substantial amount of uphill for some reason). the walk was marvellous, quiet roads through pine forests with occasional fantastic views of the surrounding mountains off to each side. after about two hours, however, it began to get cold and then it began to snow really heavily. visibility became minimal, people kept stopping to offer me lifts I could not take and, when I made it down to about 6500 feet, the snow turned to rain. a nightmare of an afternoon after that point, as the snow was dealable with but the rain turned everything to Soaked.

hope was at hand, I thought, in the form of Ham’s Station, the first place to get anything since Kirkwood, some 25 miles back. basically a shack in the middle of nowhere serving food, beer and snacks, Ham’s Station will unquestionably go down as A Notable Place on the entire trip. why? because almost as soon as I walked in the owner (the only soul in the building) started swearing and cussing at me about how he wanted to go home and how M*******ckers kept coming in when he was going to shut the electricity down and…well, so on and so on. I meekly sat at the bar. about five minutes after I arrived three locals did come in to grab a few drinks and…things got worse. they tried to get the dude, Tom, to let us stay in one of his cabins (the weather outside was really, really bad, visibility down to near zero and Dave arrived 30 mins after me totally soaked, bringing the total of customers at the bar to 5) but all this created was a stream of “I’m not going to babysit any M*******ckers!” and “F*ck this!”

a complex situation then. over time, however, the swearing dude (Tom) slowly revealed himself to be a bit more of a sweetheart that his manner suggested. eventually we were shown outside to one of his half-abandoned cabins and he agreed to let us stay there (no electricity, but a matress at least) for the night out of the rain. when we went back into the bar in the morning he cooked us a massive breakfast and even gave us an extra egg each and loads of extra potatos. he really was a bluff old son of a bitch, but by the time we left he was almost one of our heroes. just be careful if you go in when he wants to go home…

sooooo…David arrived at 1ish, and we were in a bar by 2pm. it’s fantastic to have him with us, he brings a whole load of brand new conversation as well as a far-too-heavy bag (we’ve just made him throw out half of his possessions in an effort to lighten his load). I think it’s going to be hard for him, adjusting to what we are doing, but in the second bar we hit today, in Buckford I think it was, he showed he is a natural adapter to our type of game and was chatting with the locals about cross-country walking in no time.

right now we’re in Pioneer, searching for the Sarah Silverman show on the TV and getting ready to hit Gallaghers, the only bar/restaurant in the village. tomorrow we’re going to Jackson to send loads of David’s stuff back in the post and get my last medical tests. California seems like it’s going to be good to us, and for that we are grateful…

PS: Teddy and Chalys – yes! great to have you in San Fran, mail us so we can get your email and let you know the plans…ah, just checked the email and there you are! more soon…

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First post from California

Added: 16-10-2007

and so we meet the snowboarders. and the snow. Dave and I are now firmly in California, crossing over the state line about 3pm yesterday. from bright sunshine we have progressed moved west and up into leaden grey skies, pregnant with snow (excuse flowery description). yesterday afternoon was full of amazing weather and a great feeling of having made it to the final stage (a note on how WTS approaches each new leg of our journey – we rarely (save for Utah) look at anything other than maps of the state we’re in, meaning that we have only looked at the map of California in the last few days. people, there is sea on one side of it! it’s odd!). we covered the grand total of 15 miles and eventually camped right by the side of the road near the Woodfords store. we had made it to California.

celebrations were extra large bowls of Ramen Noodles and a can of Budweiser. and an early night (a new record: in tents reading by 7.00pm). WTS is now at optimum party speed.

this morning we moved uphill. breakfast was 6 miles in a the rather nice (n’posh) resort of Sorensens, where we got an amazing breakfast by a fire. after that it was 15 miles further uphill to the next resort of Kirkwood, taking in Carson’s Pass on the way. Carson’s Pass is the highest point we have to make in the Sierras and we were pleased to find we didn’t have to walk the whole way on the road – we located a small footpath that took us up the last 700ft through snow and seclusion. all was good, and much video was shot on the way.

we made it to Kirkwood Inn at about 3.30pm – a really nice building from 1864 which really is one of the oldest places we’ve been in on the entire trip. wooden beams, stories of ‘Snowshoe’ Thompson, and a rather fine burger (oh America, you are a wonderful country but I have now eaten far too many of your burgers. are there any vegetables anywhere?). when we had eaten our full and were getting ready to go we got chatting to the locals and the staff – lovely people. lovely people with a message too – at least a foot of snow was on the way and if we wanted to survive the night we would likely need to be indoors.

confusion for Dave and I. the Kirkwood resort is right posh, and well out of our price range. thankfully for us the lovely barmaid came to our help and roped in the chef to let us stay at the staff quarters in the resort and a local fella to drive us the two miles off our route to our home for the night.

and here we are. ‘The Animal House’. Dave and I walked through the door and into an an early-evening orgy of beers, baseball, off-duty resort staff and martinis in the proper glasses. as I’m sure you can understand, we are happy about this situation. our hosts (the chef, Jim, and his mates Jackie, Keith, Abby, Sarah and Simon – snow fiends who work their stay here at the resort in all manner of ways) have basically taken the introduction of two Englishmen into their midst completely in their stride and now we sit contented. albeit in need of laundry, badly.

so, yes, we expect to wake up in a winter wonderland tomorrow morning, and then walk at least 10 miles in it before we get low enough to enjoy better weather. so happy at this point to be wearing tennis shoes. our destination for tomorrow is Ham’s Station but before that there are Martinis to drink. more soon come…

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Final post from Nevada

Added: 14-10-2007

Sunday morning in the town of Minden, NV. today we cross over into the final state – California. lots of California songs are being sung (California Soul being the number 1 tune, Marlena Shaw produced by Charles Stepney, magic) and a general feeling of being on the verge of the end has come over both of us.

as I write we sit eating breakfast in a casino in Minden, a strange town in that it looks like it has sprung up virtually overnight on either side of the 395 – with its new buildings and stone-clad gas stations it’s kinda reminding me of Surrey. we’re not sure if we like.

our route from here has us taking the (Crazy) 88 over the mountains, and let me tell you that these are some pretty big bad boys for us to cross. we’re under 5000 feet right now, and we’ll have to get up to about 8600 before a long, slow descent into California and it’s promised land of gold, film stars, vineyards and, er, technology parks. not sure when we’re gonna get Internet access again, perhaps next Wednesday in Jackson unless anything comes up beforehand (our trek over the mountains doesn’t seem to go to many identifiable places until we make it to Ham’s Station on Tuesday evening), so between now and then it’s just going to be a question of going up, camping somewhere incredibly cold, coming down, and then finding a bar to celebrate the imminent arrival (and birthday) of our friend David who will be joining us next week to add new conversation to our lives. we’re also keen to catch England versus Russia in the football and England versus whoever in the Rugby. not sure if we’ll get to see those games out here though…

all for now. big shout outs to Jon Rudolf and the imminent arrival in San Francisco of his special Walking The States wheat beer, all those who are coming to join us in San Fran, Deb for her (extremely ancient) birthday next week, that Estonian defender for apparently scoring an own goal from outside the area, and the fella in the Minden gas station with an ‘I love Jesus’ cap who was extremely nice to us. no shouts out to the columnists on Fox News this morning advocating attacking Iran. columnists, this will not help.

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Carson City nonsense

Added: 13-10-2007

aha. so here we are in Carson City, Nevada’s state capital. it’s been an interesting few days out here, some good miles made and a different look to the country as we approach the Sierra Nevadas (still stark hills but it’s getting more populated). we left Fallon on Tuesday afternoon after a boatload of shenanigans involving difficult-to-find ATMs, lost packages of boots (Dave can’t remember which post office he sent his hiking boots – he’s now lost in a Kafka-esque mystery of tracking numbers and mysterious ZIP codes) and high quality home cooking at the Apple Tree restaurant. we made only 9 miles on Tuesday afternoon, out of Fallon the 50 towards the turn for Carson City.

all was kind of good at that point, we camped up and ate packet pasta once more. problems really ensued about 4am Wednesday morning when the wind got up to gale force and blew all the stakes out of our tents leaving us as the only weights holding them down. everything was covered in sand: it was like being back at Burning Man. the real shame was that it was one of the only warm nights we’ve had recently – all was toasty in my tent and it was an major annoyance to have to get up and pack up in a sandstorm.

on the road at 6.25am therefore, we were troubled by a headwind all the way into Silver Spring. a right pain in the ass – really made my old shin injury flare up and I spent a very uncomfortable afternoon inching along towards the town of Stagecoach. thankfully the weather had died down a bit by the end of the day and we learned to respect the Nevadans’ adage of ifyoudon’tliketheweatherwaitfiveminutesandsomethingelsewillcomealong. I’m sure I’ve heard this one somewhere else but, anyway, this time it was true.

Stagecoach was where I met a woman on a horse followed by two dogs on the highway – she immediately introduced herself as Kelly and offered us a place to stay for the night. some Miller High Lifes, a chicken dinner and a shower later all was good in the world of Walking the States. Kelly was a first-class host, her dogs were extremely cool (really funky dappled Australian Heelers, quality cattle dogs apparently) and we even got laundry done. for the record, Kelly is single, used to live in Denial, Nevada (3 buildings, 2 of them bars), and is a great cook. keep an eye out gentlemen…

Thursday we walked into Carson City. this walking really is getting a bit tiresome now – it just never seems to end. 26 miles of the 50, sun out once more and me staying clear of Dave: his trainers were on the verge of a blowout due to a worn-out airpocket. no one likes to see a 3mph blow out, and he coulda gone all over the road. thankfully we made it to Carson, past the usual industrial units and gas stations, but also signs for the one thing in Nevada we’d heard about but not yet seen – Cat Houses. Nevada is one of only two states in the entire US where prostitution is legal, and if you are in seach of a lady of the night (or afternoon, or morning, for that matter) then a Cat House (Bunny Ranch, Kitty Kat House) is the place to find one. sadly our busy walking schedule precluded actual on-location research at one of these establishments, but, frankly, the fact that they all appeared to be located in industrial units just off Route 50 did little to pique our interest. we made our excuses and walked on…

into Carson then. the state capital, located practically on the western border of the state. Nevada has been a funny place to walk through, it’s like the moon sometimes and the rest of America seems very far away. the people have been just as friendly as in the rest of the country but there is a real sense that they want to be left alone to do their thing here – the politics of DC seem a world away (the thousands of miles might as well be tens of thousands – we were told yesterday that it’s often difficult to get interested in politics in a state where by the time you get to vote in a Presidential Election the whole thing is generally done and dusted with anyway due to the small population and time difference from the east coast). add in the far flung state capital, and the gigantic amounts of nothingness in the middle of the state and you’re looking at a place where you have to be able to deal (and revel in) isolation if you are want to get by. we’ve enjoyed it, but are ready to move on…

…to California. we are almost in the final state. due to our particular method of crossing the US  – we don’t really research the areas we are going to ahead of time – we only looked at a map of California for the first time last week. looks like a nice place though – we should cross over into it Sunday morning. since we arrived in Carson City we’ve been trying to get prepared and we’ve been helped in this by the wonderful Jo and Sean, a couple who saw us walk past their local bar last night and literally grabbed us, bought us drinks and then let us stay at their house. quite superb. today Sean has driven us all over town in search of a new pair of shoes for Dave and a new book for me, and has put up with me being in the post office for nearly 30 minutes trying to find out how the post people managed to lose a pair of my shoes that were only sent from 50 miles away, and Dave almost losing his money, wallet and passport. again.

so right now we’re in their apartment writing emails and dealing with the kitten that keeps trying to sit on our laptop while we type. tomorrow morning we’ll move on, sadly going to the south of Lake Tahoe due to the fact that my heavier-duty trail runners have now been lost to the mess that is the US postal system. with only running shoes to my name until next Tuesday, and the arrival of our friend David ‘The Malouin’ Malouin, I am unwilling to go over the Sierra Nevadas on trails. call me a wuss, but there you are.

quite a long journal entry then. not sure when we’ll check in next so I thought I’d better write some longer nonsense. we’re both doing well and looking forward to California, although our hair is getting worringly long – mine especially seeing as it’s now longer than I’ve had it in over 10 years. my plan is to get to San Francisco and get it cut by a professional flamboyant hairdresser. then I shall look hot. well, that’s the plan…Dave’s hair grows too – it’s still fairly business-like up front but there are increasing noises from a party at the back…

all for now. we shall be off to the mountains then, and intense cold at over 8000 feet. lord we shall be grateful for the down jackets…

Stuart                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Things I have done since Saturday

Added: 9-10-2007

Had two dreams: Shelling Peas with Dick Cheney (I blame Chuck of Imagenode for this one) and Bart Simpson Is My Child. the true weirdness of these dreams cannot be explained here.

Eaten a 1/3 pound beef burger for lunch, followed by a 10oz piece of prime rib for dinner, followed by a large fried breakfast the next morning. Dave followed up with a beef sandwich for lunch yesterday, and then promptly fell asleep.

Watched Spurs go 2-1 up against Liverpool and then throw it away at the death. Bad Spurs.

Walked 49 miles to leave the last of the lonliest highway in America section behind.

Saw people riding dirt bikes up Sand Mountain.

Tried to use the ‘Lonliest Phone in America‘ only to discover it didn’t take coins.

Hated my sleeping bag for having no loft left.

Hated my thermarest for making me blow it up three times a night.

Seen the tips of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance about 60-odd miles to the west and thought “That will be cold.”

Watched two men get arrested in a gas station parking lot.

Haggled over motel prices at an Econolodge with a woman who had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Managed a $15 discount.

Ate great Italian food at Armandos in Fallon.

Wandered Fallon’s Maine Street and was strangely impressed with how normal it was i.e. there were stores and open places there.

Witnessed Jay and Silent Bob-type behaviour outside a liquor store in Fallon including the legendary exchange: “Dude, you gotta call her!” “But she don’t like me!” “Dude, you gotta call her!”

Watched a superb Curb Your Enthusiasm episode with John McEnroe, a limo, a book on freaks and Heather Mills-McCartney

Watched open-mouthed as last night’s new programmes all talked about how the US is about to attack Iran, and watched some mad rightwinger (we think he was on CNN – so much for liberal bias there) practically demand we attack Iran – now! now! now!

Slept extremely well despite impending Iran attack.

Finished Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and now need a new book.

Believed it is time for breakfast…

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From Middlegate Station

Added: 7-10-2007

fantastic morning here. it’s 7.47am and I’m sitting at Middlegate Station, a kind of outpost/saloon/gas station/motel place on Route 50 in, yes, the middle of nowhere. at the bar sit two cowboys (one of whom appears to have left his boots outside on the porch where some stray dogs are circling it) watching a Clint Eastwood western on a TV in the corner. the whole place is a tangle of old wagon wheels, pictures of cowboys, guitars and empty glass bottles on windowsills. the smell of fresh coffee is everywhere, and the ceiling is covered in what must be easily over a thousand dollar bills (the signed-dollar-bill-on-the-ceiling thing is a big deal in saloons over here).

Dave is yet to get up from his bed in the bunkhouse where we slept last night (felt very western, to sleep in the bunkhouse – lord knows how many people had slept/died out there before us). it froze again last night apparently, but we were warm enough thanks to these pretty amazing new jackets we’ve been given by Taiga. much needed I tell you – my sleeping bag has given up trying to keep decent levels of warmth and I need all the help from other layers (silk bag, all of my clothes).

we got here yesterday after one of the shortest days we’d had in a long time – 14 miles. we walked from a small motel at Cold Springs where we managed to score a luxury room with a kitchen (much need as our gas supplies have run out and we are unable to cook anything until we reach Fallon tomorrow night) and kick back with episodes of Survivorman (bloke gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere and has to survive for a week on nuts and berries etc., then has to find his way out. it’s entertaining alright, because the dude actually gets loads of things wrong – which makes for much better viewing than that Bear Grylls fella (more of whom shall be discussed in the Walking The States book. we have your number Bear…)) and Last Man Standing (a kind of ultimate fighting programme with people from the developing world type and some westerners thrown in for contrast. not so PC probably, but with some good wrestling and funky tribesman haircuts (nb. I just discovered this is a BBC programme. er, well done the Beeb for that)). we also got to watch Larry King interview Kid Rock on CNN – CNN is truly awful some times over here, it’s like any concentration on serious news has gone out the window (“Next, we get a tour of Kid Rock’s stripper pole-equipped home!”).

so today we press on, 25 miles in the direction of Fallon and then tomorrow another 25 will see us into the final stage of the walk before the Sierra Nevada mountains. we’re ready to leave the isolation behind and get meeting some people again, and things are taking shape nicely for that. no hot food though, got to get that gas…

we’ve booked our place to stay in San Francisco now, so for anyone interested in joining us (nb. no room at our inn, but plenty of room for people in our San Francisco party crew) then get in touch with us and we’ll send more information on activities. so far the plan is to hit the finish line at sunset on the Friday, then repair to the Upper Market area (where our house is) for drinks and a meal. more information soon come..

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On Great Basins and stuff

Added: 4-10-2007

seems to me like I haven’t been a very good tour guide recently, choosing instead to concentrate on how many miles we’ve been walking, what injuries we’ve had, how cold it’s got etc. well, let me try to remedy things by mentioning a little bit about where we are…since we crossed over into Nevada (and also when we were in Utah as well) we’ve been walking west across a region known as The Great Basin – a 200,000 square mile arid area which is notable for having no outlet whatsoever to the sea. any water in the basin – rivers, streams etc. – stays in the basin, in between the mountain ranges and the valleys that I have been banging on about in previous journal entries.

it’s extremely dry out here, mostly (i.e. when we’re not waking up in tents covered in snow), and water is a prized commodity – no more so than when a big bully is trying to steal it off of you. the big deal out here at the moment is that Las Vegas – Nevada’s giant cash cow and scenes of such amazing cultural marvels such as Venice! The Hotel, and, er, some dilapidated Trump building – is trying to gain the rights to pump water from White Pine County (we came through there) outside of the Great Basin to make sure that Mammon is never thirsty. as you can imagine, this doesn’t make the environmental future of the Basin look good, and the locals, judging by the rapt attention some of them gave to the TV news in a bar we were in the other day, are pretty pissed.

anyway, more news as we get it. moving on from today’s local history lesson, I can tell you that we have made it Austin – a small town of about 200 people on Route 50. it’s a great little place, not much more than one street really, but boasting three motels and a hotel, and three or four saloons (not sure how many yet, you can be sure we’ll check). time has passed quickly since we were in Eureka – one afternoon of 15 miles, followed by yet another freezing night, a day of 31 miles which pushed Dave’s knee to the limit, and a 25-miler today that brought us back to warmth. I’m currently in the library, a nice one-room old school establishment that sits on Main Street, and Dave is in the cafe chowing down. the good news of the day is that our packages of winter weather gear, including our lusted-after Taiga down jackets (Hello, Taiga!) were waiting for us at the Post Office, along with some new poles and pegs for my tent (since Burning Man I have been raising a wonky tent every evening, and praying that the wind doesn’t blow it down. many thanks to the good folks at Henry Shires’ Tarptents for replacement poles). we’re therefore gonna be ready for the next stage – 49 miles to a small bar at Cold Springs, then another 14 to, er, another small bar at Middlegate, and hopefully we now won’t freeze to death on the way.

all for now. the San Francisco crew builds nicely – thanks to those who have been in touch so far. anyone else? go on, you know it makes sense. oh – and to anyone that sent me an email in the last two days: my email programme sucks and deleted all new messages save those from the one and only Dan Stewart and me mother. please resend if you can find five minutes…

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2.5 days. 78 miles.

Added: 1-10-2007

OK, first our major problem: it has become extremely cold. extremely cold. I cannot stress how cold it has been camping at nights, when we are in sleeping bags shivering at 8pm wondering how long it will be before we fall into the deep and welcolming arms of hypothermia. on Saturday morning we actually woke up to find the tents and surrounding area covered in snow, proper snow, and on Saturday night we were told it was down to 21 degrees farenheit near to where we were camped (-6C) and man was it uncomfortable. Dave swears he was uncomfortable too but I beg to differ – all I heard through my sleepless night was the sound of him contentedly snoring.

anyway, coldness aside (I wish it was) we are making tremendous strides. new WTS records have been set – we left Ely on Friday lunchtime and marched the 78 miles to Eureka 2.5 days later. we are mean walking machines, and are at the top of our game. not that there is anything else to do out here mind, it’s just tarmac and valleys and mountains that now have snow on top. it’s beautiful alright, but extremely isolated and, at times, extremely windy – we’re either being blown into the road or off of it into the bushes.

incidents…well, not much to be honest. we’ve seen roadkill, and have been periodically stopped by interested motorists who are understandably slack-jawed at our walking stupidity. the kindest of these people give us trail bars and fruit, while others simply wave and drive by. it is important to anticipate the wave out here on these lonely roads – failure to reciprocate the wave could lead to a karmic imbalance, or at least embarassment on behalf of the motorised waver. in other developments, there were a high incidence of handlebar moustaches driving past us yesterday, perhaps a consequence of hunting season hereabouts.

best thing that happened was meeting a good fella called Jack who stopped me while I was picking up a water drop (it is a strange sight, no doubt, to see a bloke emerging out of bushes in the middle of nowhere, carrying two gallon water jugs). Dave and I had a good all-things-America conversation with Jack, from the ‘menace’ of Islam through to the quality of Fox News versus the rest of the liberal media (nb. nobody in the entire country seems happy with the media), through to Christian fundamentalism and creationism versus evolution. all of this in just 15 minutes. Jack was great and it was a shame we couldn’t spend a bit more time with him – especially as he sprung it on us just as we left that he was a Baptist minister (all this after letting Dave and I rant for some time on the evils of fundamentalism in all its forms), and would we like to go to church with him?

so here we are now in Eureka, a fine little town about 70 odd miles from the next town in any direction . it’s got about 4 saloons (in its heyday, it used to have 100), gambling in all its forms, an opera house and an absolutely great steak restaurant that served us well last night. we were happy to make it here yesterday, what with the cold and all that, and we’ll be sad to leave it in a minute because it consigns us to another two nights of camping before we get to Austin. still, we’re eating up the miles and at this rate we’ll either be physically destroyed in ten days or comfortably regarding the Sierra Nevadas (or uncomfortably – it’ll be even colder up there).

all for now. Dave has new pictures up in the Gallery. check them out…

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