Holiday in the USA 1983


I needed a break from, among other things, organising country holidays for London inner city socially maladjusted kids. My sister was a nurse in Atlanta, and that offered the excuse for a month overseas. I didn’t keep a diary, as I would do three years later, but these are a couple of anecdotes I can embellish well over a Bintang beer or two. Just ask me about …

San Francisco, meeting a roustabout with some amazing weed and, after being let off by two gentle police persons who caught us, sitting high and up high in Golden Gate Park eating ice cream while hundreds of citizens rushed to the beach so that could see a tsunami roll in. It turned out to be just a six inches high ripple, but. hey, we thought they were loony lemmings.

The bus ride through giant redwood trees which I couldn’t hug but only gaze at because we drove straight through to Eureka in Oregon. It was a dismal strip, the two lanes of the highway separated by tow identical strips of fast food franchises. Beside the bus stop I found a local bar  which was something special. The few locals there were worried that I was a narc: they wanted to share out the next week’s smoke, but I assured them that I wasn’t. Such was the conviviality that I didn’t shout ‘eureka’ as my bus arrived to take me back to SF. I left smiling clutching a four pack of Budweiser they’d thoughtfully given me as a going back present.

The following has recently been found scrawled in the back of a notebook.

Elko, Nevada
Thursday 14th May 1983 6am.
On a Greyhound bus en route from San Francisco to Salt Lake City

It’s cold here, 3oC. Snow visible on the near visible but distant Ruby Mountains. A dying town, gas stations and motels decaying. Flashing neon signposts the 24 hour casino and coffee shop which could have been the start of something big.

The bus driver, shortly to retire after 28 years on the road, looks forward to fishing. the big ones have gone away because “they have done something to the lake.

Greyhound buses, too, are going, routes are shrinking. Airlines have taken over the business. First the railroads, now the roads. After the airways, what? Still, my week’s pass for $99 for unlimited travel is sure. To get to Salt Lake, I checked the airlines: full and expensive. I tried hitching: 30 miles in four hours. Cars take precedence over passengers.

But on this bus – 1620, a brand new one! – a conversation starts and warms us.

Candy bars.
Milky Way is Mars which is Topic. Sneakers is Milky Way, but Twix is Twix.

Mormon meets Mammon
Salt Lake City is squeaky clean. The only men not wearing ties are in the bus station.

Searching for the Yankee Dollar
I asked for change for a $20 dollar note. The cashier told me that she knew I was English. How? Because I asked for ‘notes’ and not ‘bills’. When I explained that in the English English language a bill is a statement of monies owed as in, for example, a grocery bill, and that I didn’t owe her anything, we laughed.

They still have coins in America, although a 5 cent coin (a nickel) is twice the size of a 10 cent (dime) coin. No wonder credit cards are popular when cash is confusing.

The State of Education
A two part programme on KRTV (Oregon).
Reporter: Ed Teachout.

The State of Utah does not have a law against speeding. Fast drivers can, however, be fined for wasting energy.

Radio ad, Twin Falls, Idaho
Watch for your new colourful social security checks. Coming soon!

Sitting on Greyhound Bus 1049 gunning down Highway 5 from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, though I’m first going to Klamath Falls – nice name.

A Klamath Falls motel

Reading The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan. a humane, witty and friendly Californian who sadly died alone last year.

I read: “Vida put a record on the phonograph. It was the Beatles album Rubber Soul.
I listen walkmanised to 96FM K-ZEL and as I read they play the Beatles’ Nowhere Man.

To the drivers of every plane and train, bus and truck, motorised bicycle and tricycle, boat and car, camel and elephant.

We didn’t crash. Thank you.


About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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