Monday 1st September. Orange County, California, USA
The return to Hollywood was a bit emotional for me. There was the natural excitement of returning to a place that was for a short time my home, a place where I'd had one of the most magical and memorable times of my life. There was the sense of achievement in reaching this milestone after two months of hitchhiking around Alaska, Canada and the western states. Then there were the old memories that were stirred up. It was at this hostel that I met Sara, who went on to be my girlfriend and faithful travel partner for two years. I walked past room 38, where Sara and I first met. I remember I'd disturbed her *almost knocked her over* when I barged into the room. She'd been behind the door applying makeup, and chastised me for throwing the door open without knocking. I said I don't make a habit of knocking before entering my own room, and ridiculed her for wearing makeup in a backpackers hostel anyway. "The Queen of England isn't coming you know" I told her. She was furious. A few days later, I asked Sara out for dinner, and it was love from then on!
It was difficult to believe that my memories weren't just a dream, seeing how much the old place had changed. Eleven years ago, it was a bustling place with hundreds of backpackers sitting around drinking beer, smoking pot, frolicking in the pool, playing guitar and telling stories. I looked up the hill to the small bungalows that line either side of the driveway. It was in 1994, in one of these bungalows that Sara and I broke up, on a return visit to the US, two years after we had got together. I headed down Cahuenga Boulevard in the hot sun and wandered around Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, marvelling at how life changes. Nothing stays the same.
- - - - - - - - - 1992 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2003 - - - - - - - - -
My next host Chris lives in Orange County, and had offered to come and pick me up from Hollywood. It was after midday and he'd said about one o'clock so I headed back to the hostel. When he arrived and we headed east along the freeway, it was a relief to put the Bungalows behind me.
Chris and his wife Monica have hosted several guests from Globalfreeloaders and Chris made good use of the club when he toured Europe. They live in suburban Orange County, just on the border of LA county, with their two kids Raven and Chance. Chris has a chrome plating business and works nights as a truck driver. Monica is a medical assistant at a nearby clinic. Chris is currently busy getting his 'crotch rocket' motorbike back together after an accident. I helped him work on the motor. Well, I don't know much about mechanics, but I helped him by drinking his beer while he worked. Also my skinny little fingers came in handy when he dropped a bolt in a hard to reach place in the engine.
Monica and the kids were off to the movies in the evening, so Chris and I walked to a local Mexican bar. Chris warned me that it was a pretty rough place and told of stabbings and shootings over the years, but I think he was just trying to freak me out. It didn't work. What did freak me out was the deafening Mariachi music that screeched from the poor quality sound system in the bar. We were the only two white guys in the bar, and after a couple of Budweisers, we returned to the house and watched a repeat episode of X Files.
This morning, I spent a few hours catching up on my journal updates. Then I forgot to save my work before turning off the computer. Then I spent a few more hours rewriting it. I helped Monica clean up their overgrown little courtyard and straightened up the crooked fence. Chris tinkered away on his bike, and was happy with the progress he made. At least it actually looks like a motorbike now. We packed the pickup truck with food and beer and firewood, and headed off to Huntington Beach at about four o'clock. It was going to be a one o'clock departure but with the heat, I'm glad we didn't get away any earlier. We were joined by Chris' brother and his family and Takashi, a previous Globalfreeloader guest of Chris and Monica's.
Huntington Beach is long and wide *but not as beautiful as Australian beaches* and has dozens of concrete firepits scattered along the sand. Today is Labour Day holiday, so it was quite a popular spot, but we found a vacant pit and settled in around it. Hot dogs were toasted over the fire, stories were told, beer was consumed, and a good time was had by all until the beach closed at ten o'clock. What a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening. Monica said that Chris always drinks a lot when they have a guest, and in between guests he practices a lot! Monica is back to work in the morning, Raven is back to school after the summer break, and Chris has to work tomorrow evening. Me, I'm off to Vegas tomorrow. I've promised the family a breakfast of my world famous pancakes, so I'd better get some sleep.
As I contemplate moving on tomorrow, I wanted to ask for your help. Most of you know that I left Australia two months ago with no money. That's what makes this such a challenge for me; to travel around the world with no money. Of course, I have a credit card for emergency use, but how am I supposed to make payments on it if I have no money?
So far, the money I've received from online and personal donations, and rewards from challenges, has pretty much covered my normal day to day expenses. I rarely pay for transportation or accommodation, so all I really need is money for snacks and drinks while I'm on the road. However, there have been some 'one-off' expenses that I've had to book up on my visa card. These include the rental car that I drove from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle, and other miscellaneous expenses such as postage, internet access, and telephone calls, as well as over two hundred US dollars in ferry fare through Alaska. I've just received my visa card statement, and these expenses have added up to around five hundred dollars.
As I look at the route ahead of me, through Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee, I have doubts about the feasibility of hitchhiking. The distances are great, the weather is hot, and in much of that area there is a whole lot of nothing between one town and the next. If I wasn't on a time frame I wouldn't mind, but the clock is ticking. In five weeks time, I want to be in the New England area, because by October 8th I have to be out of the States. That means that I'll mostly be able to stay with each host for one night, and will have very little time to stay and work. Every time I'm delayed by unreliable hitchhiking, it puts me one day behind schedule for every host from then on. Inevitably, that'll mean I have to miss out on visiting some places.
I'd like to travel the next leg of my journey by driveaway car. If you don't know what that is, check out www.driveaway.com At any point in time, there are dozens of driveaway cars available, to any number of destinations close to where I'm going. It would be far more practical than hitchhiking, and it'd be fun to travel under my own steam for a change. Only trouble is, even though the driveaway itself is free, I still have to pay for gas. So what I'm asking is this:
If you're enjoying the stories and photos on this website and you want to keep the project running, why not consider throwing a few bucks my way? If you buy a book, you have to pay for it. If you watch a movie, you know it costs money. Well this website is free and always will be, but the project can only continue if the people who enjoy it, support it. If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you'll see a Pay Pal button. If you click on that, all sorts of great things can happen.