Tokyo colour

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Hotel-bound. Crocked.

 

I’m not feeling too sharp today, so I’m contenting myself with a feet-up (literally) day off, some editing and watching South Africa and Australia battle it out in Perth, via Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball coverage.

 

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I’ve been shooting lots of Tokyo-ites in black and white since arriving, but this morning, with time on my hands, started experimenting with colour too – some serious colour hacking.

 

I don’t think they’re meant to be taken too seriously. Or are they?

 

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Any thoughts? Use the comments section at the bottom of the page please.

 

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Route 66 – 3 – been there, done that

Journey's end; Santa Monica Pier

Journey’s end; Santa Monica Pier

 

Wednesday – Albuquerque NM
Thursday – Albuquerque NM to Flagstaff AZ
Friday – Flagstaff AZ
Saturday – Flagstaff AZ to Page AZ
Sunday – Page AZ
Monday – Page AZ
Tuesday – Page AZ to Tusayan AZ (Grand Canyon)
Wednesday – Tusayan AZ (Grand Canyon)
Thursday – Tusayan AZ (Grand Canyon) to Kingman AZ
Friday – Kingman AZ to Santa Monica CA

 

It’s done and I have a curious sense of modern-day achievement. We arrived in Los Angeles mid-afternoon Friday and now have a couple of days to chill before the next leg of our trip.

 

We’ve done the obligatory walk (no cars permitted) along the surprisingly grubby pier at Santa Monica to photograph the official end-of-the-road signage. That’s more than 3000 miles or 5000km if you’re metricated. The extra mileage over the published distance between Chicago and Santa Monica was our five days in Page and the Grand Canyon National Park.

 

After that, we drove back south, picking up 66 just outside Flagstaff and re-started our journey west.

 

I’m now ahead of myself. Let me re-wind a bit.

 

Abandoned, Newkirk NM

Abandoned, Newkirk NM

 

Abandoned, Newkirk NM

Abandoned, Newkirk NM

 

Maybelle's Diner, Algodones

Maybelle’s Diner, Algodones

 

Unexpected Ford Anglia, Gallup

Unexpected Ford Anglia, Gallup

 

It had been a pleasant few days, save the haul from Albuquerque to Flagstaff which turned out be much longer than we’d anticipated; 07:15 to 16:00 in the car. Nonetheless, it’s been as interesting as the mounting number of miles (kilometres) building-up behind us.

 

We’re both loving every revolution of the Nissan’s tyres, but have still to come to terms with the book/satnav/maps navigation this trip requires. I doubt we could have prepared much better, but there are still many Route 66 options that escape us – finding the way onto these long-abandoned tarmacadamed strips is easy. Getting back into civilisation at the end of the detour isn’t.

 

‘nuff said?

 

Wilkerson's, Newkirk NM

Wilkerson’s, Newkirk NM

 

Near Algodones

Near Algodones

 

Whiting Bros, Acoma

Whiting Bros, Acoma

 

Amtrak, Flagstaff AZ

Amtrak, Flagstaff AZ

 

Albuquerque isn’t a great cultural centre, despite boasting a Holocaust museum, silently protesting against genocide and bullying. We gorged ourselves on BBQ (twice) and moved on, leaving the city’s semi-faux art deco in our rearview mirror without too much sadness.

 

En route, the now standard fare of Interstate-caused desolation and abandonment continued, with lots to see and little to comment on. A few towns live on, fighting to survive, the rest gave up long ago, the deserted diners, motels and homes testament to a bygone era.

 

Flagstaff. Tourist haven during the spring/summer/autumn as holidaymakers and Route 66-ers flock the hotels and streets. Busy too in the winter as the ski set arrive. It’s funky and we’ve enjoyed our 36 hours here, eating pizza and steaks and drinking seriously good craft ales. Tomorrow, we leave 66 for a few days to visit Page and the Grand Canyon.

 

Lone drinkers, Flagstaff AZ

Lone drinkers, Flagstaff AZ

 

Addicted to Route 66, Williams AZ

Addicted to Route 66, Williams AZ

 

No trespassing, Crookton AZ

No trespassing, Crookton AZ

 

Order entrance - Sno Cap, Seligman AZ

Order entrance – Sno Cap, Seligman AZ

 

Road thoughts

 

Road kill is everywhere on 66, mainly racoons and other small furry creatures and occasional large black carrion crows. Yesterday, a driver in front of me mowed down what was clearly a family cat that had (foolishly) ventured onto the road. I know that it can be fatal to swerve to avoid an animal, but seeing something like that is a really bad way to start your day…

 

I’m just sayin’ but after just a few days, I’m tending to the opinion that American drivers are not very good at dipping their headlights for oncoming traffic.

 

Altitude. A hassle. Despite living in Jozi (Johannesburg) a mile high city for three decades, the altitude in Santa Fé, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon region has been a problem, with shortage of breath the least of our concerns.

 

Road food – to quote Peter Drucker, this was a blinding flash the obvious. There we were looking forward to BBQ, fajitas and breakfast burritos in Triple-D style food joints. What neither of us had really thought through was that this is the food everyone eats, everywhere. Worth mentioning in this regard is Delgadillo’s Snow Cap in Seligman, Arizona.

 

In addition to a startlingly good cheeseburger, the Snow Cap delivers a display of low humour and camp that that is probably unequalled anywhere. Even the toilets rest rooms are a joke. Plus, there’s a goodly selection of dead and rusting cars around the property to grab the attention of the travelling photographer.

 

If one small town can keep their small section of Route 66 alive, how come so many others can’t?

 

Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff AZ

Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff AZ

 

Park anywhere, Ash Fork AZ

Park anywhere, Ash Fork AZ

 

Giant trains all along the route

Giant trains all along the route

 

Sno Cap, Seligman AZ

Sno Cap, Seligman AZ

 

As the line runs along Route 66 almost end-to-end, you’ll soon discover that America’s freight trains are startlingly long, especially when the rail crossing barriers come down and you have to wait while a kilometre long train of double-high stacked containers eases past. My guess is that on each one, there is a total mass upwards of 15,000 tonnes of freight on the move, let alone the 3 or 4 or 5 huge diesel locomotives hauling this serpentine monster along. It’s quite a spectacle and every train clearly saves a small mountain of cash over road transportation.

 

And, as if that wasn’t enough and your hotel is close to the railway – most are – you’ll know very quickly that these east-west and west-east behemoths run around the clock, horns blaring a warning at every crossing and often with just a few minutes between trains in either direction. Light sleepers are warned.

 

Joke(?) toilets, Seligman AZ

Joke(?) toilets, Seligman AZ

 

Dead car - Seligman AZ

Dead car – Seligman AZ

 

Sheriff's line

Sheriff’s line

 

Yet another dead car, Hackberry AZ

Yet another dead car, Hackberry AZ

 

Our W-E trip across Canada a couple of years ago and this E-W journey has convinced me that there is no perfect type of car to hire for these distances. The Toyota Yaris we left Chicago in and the Nissan Versa we arrived in LA driving are ideal; comfortable, fuel efficient and reasonably well appointed. Most cars now seem to have at least one USB port, to facilitate an iPhone, which in our case, also doubles as a satnav and a music player – all playing through the car’s audio system. A bigger car might have a boot big enough to have avoided a suitcase on the back seat, or softer suspension, but still not enough to justify the extra daily cost of hire.

 

If you’re arriving from overseas, buy a local SIM card for your phone. If you have an old phone (I use a several year old iPhone 4), even better. This will give you a local phone number – hotels and Web site wi-fi logins often confirm access via an SMS/text message – and data access for Apple’s Maps, or Google’s Maps navigation apps. I bought an AT&T card in Chicago which gave us phone, texts and unlimited data for a month for $60. Not exactly a bargain, but invaluable as it got us un-lost on many occasions.

 

Henry F shudders - Seligman AZ

Henry F shudders – Seligman AZ

 

Roadkill café - Seligman AZ

Roadkill café – Seligman AZ

 

Mercury, Hackberry AZ

Mercury, Hackberry AZ

 

Amboy school

Amboy school

 

The advertised wi-fi rarely works as advertised in any hotel, motel, or anywhere. So, if you’re planning a driving day-end orgy of e-mail, Web trawling and catching-up, don’t hold your breath. Most hotels make an effort and some succeed, others seem to think it’s OK for you to sit on your room’s veranda in the rain, or by the pool to get anywhere near a decent signal. The Marriott in Tusayan has a wi-fi that simply would not accept my MacBook Pro, despite a half hour long (toll free thankfully) call to their support team, somewhere in the mid-west. Admittedly, the whole region is bereft of services – even our AT&T SIM failed to connect – and when it does work, the whole of Tusayan’s wi-fi is iffy at best.

 

If you are thinking your Route 66 adventure will be a photographic overload, stop now. The photo ops are really few and far between. Leaving Chicago, there was quite a lot to see and shoot, but as the miles passed, the scenery changed and as the scrub of Texas gave way to New Mexico and Arizona’s semi-desert, the photo ops almost dried up completely.

 

Roy's, Amboy AZ

Roy’s, Amboy AZ

 

Sunrise, Marina del Rey CA

Sunrise, Marina del Rey CA

 

California morning

California morning

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

By then Route 66 had become about a journey through Middle America, much of which can’t be captured, rather experienced. We have had an extraordinarily good time, seen many, many things we’ve never seen before. We’ve spoken to all kinds of folk and met nothing but kindness, interest and politeness.

 

We’ve slept in a great number of hotel/motel beds and without fear of contradiction, can say that they have all been comfortable, clean and in rooms that are way up there by international standards. And, the James Dean themed room in our Kingman motel might not shake a stick at the Hilton Garden Inn we’re in Marina del Rey, but its wonderfully wacky pretensions more than made up for it.

 

Marina del Rey CA

Marina del Rey CA

 

Woody, Venice Beach

Woody, Venice Beach

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

Was the time we allocated for the drive enough? Yes. I really don’t think you could do justice as a road trip to try and cover that distance in less. On many occasions other obvious 66-ers have hurtled past us, their hats, t-shirts and decals clearly visible, only for us to briefly catch up with them at the next town, stop or view site. Getting out of the car, we’d then see them haring off to make the next town, stop or overnight. That’s no way to travel – if you don’t have enough time to do it properly, bucket list it until you do.

 

Could we have spent more time on the road? No doubt – in fact, I often found myself pondering whether a small Winnebago (yes they do exist) might not have been a better idea. Changing hotels and motels for a camp site would require a different planning methodology and going anywhere away from our parked “home” might have been problematic without a car, but yes, I’d certainly consider it.

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

 

"I'm telling you dude", Venice Beach

“I’m telling you dude”, Venice Beach

 

Tomorrow (Monday), we fly west, having chosen to head home via Japan. It’s an early start (05:00) to hopefully avoid LA’s traffic, return the hire car, check in and navigate the inevitable security checks by our 10:00 take off time.

 

Favourite shot; near McLean

Favourite shot; near McLean

 

Journey's end; Santa Monica Pier

Journey’s end; Santa Monica Pier

 

Albuquerque shadows

Albuquerque shadows

 

Would I do it again? Absolutely. With the knowledge I’ve gained on this trip, I wouldn’t change much except to be a little better prepared re communications and to try and resolve the navigational issues that plagued us all the way from Chicago to LA.

 

Mrs P? Not. Too stressful on the Interstates with giant trucks seemingly unaware and impervious to our tiny Nissan and of course, the issue of poor directions in so many places making navigation a university-level challenge the whole way.

 

Still, we never thought it would be easy – wouldn’t be worth doing if it was.

Route 66 – 2

Progress to date:

Thursday – Tulsa OK to Oklahoma City OK

Friday – Oklahoma City OK to Shamrock TX

Saturday – Shamrock TX to Tucumcari NM

Sunday – Tucumcari NM to Santa Fé NM

Monday – Santa Fé NM

Tuesday – Santa Fé NM

Wednesday – Santa Fé NM to Albuquerque NM

 

Motel morning, Shamrock

Motel morning, Shamrock

 

Colourful, Santa Fé

Colourful, Santa Fé

 

Junk, Shamrock

Junk, Shamrock

 

Morning shadow, Tucumcari

Morning shadow, Tucumcari

 

Autumn near Taos

Autumn near Taos

 

Workshop, Shamrock

Workshop, Shamrock

 

We had all manner of good intentions for our rest day in Tulsa and ended up achieving almost nothing. The weather was wet and the temperature down by a good 10C over the previous few days, so a warm hotel room and some essential catching up was called for.

 

On Thursday our Toyota Yaris decided that Xmas was near and started lighting up its dashboard with festive looking warning lights signifying low tyre pressure, cold temperatures and finally, a servicing warning. Rather than risk a complete meltdown, we decided to head straight to the car rental office near Oklahoma City’s airport and seek advice as to what to do next.

 

The answer was a car change, affected by the extremely helpful guys at Hertz. The Toyota being taken off to get some TLC and us leaving only minutes later in a sIightly roomier Nissan. It was quite late by then and we agreed to head for our nearby hotel, rather than fight the mounting rush hour traffic 20 miles into town for some sightseeing. Good move – we checked-in, relaxed for an hour or so, then headed for the grillhouse across the road, a couple of drinks, a fine rib supper and an early night. Worked for me.

 

Abandoned diner, Newkirk

Abandoned diner, Newkirk

 

Yukon Mills, Yukon

Yukon Mills, Yukon

 

Whatever, Chandler

Whatever, Chandler

 

Poster leftovers, Tulsa

Poster leftovers, Tulsa

 

Wilkerson's, Newkirk

Wilkerson’s, Newkirk

 

Yukon Mills, Yukon

Yukon Mills, Yukon

 

Friday’s run was marked by a series of navigational problems. What should have been an easy exit from Oklahoma City, became an hour long nightmare of wrong turns and mounting marital frustration. Finally, the satnav decided it knew where we were and got us back on track. Just as well, I had twinges of Groundhog Day starting to appear.

 

Then the EZ66 guide book decided that it was going to be BloodyMinded66 and later still, FuckYou66, such were the misleading directions it gave us. Of course, several areas of roadworks didn’t help, just like in the UK, where miles of motorway (Interstate here in the US) had been coned off, but absolutely no workers were in evidence and even less work was actually going on.

 

By Sunday, we were both feeling frustrated by the guide book’s willingness to lead us into the unknown. In response, Mrs P set about Googling a solution and soon found a series of satnav routes derived from EZ66, but which didn’t end up in gravel roads going nowhere, or farm roads leading across private property. Wish we’d done this before leaving home.

 

Desolate, San Jon

Desolate, San Jon

 

You can get there from here, El Reno

You can get there from here, El Reno

 

Parkersburg

Parkersburg

 

Wilkerson's, Newkirk

Wilkerson’s, Newkirk

 

The Blue Swallow Motel, Shamrock

The Blue Swallow Motel, Shamrock

 

Sculpture, Canyon Road, Santa Fé

Sculpture, Canyon Road, Santa Fé

 

Which brings us to Santa Fé, a favourite spot for the next couple of days R&R. I sense some fine food on the horizon…

 

And there was – fine food that is and all too soon our time in America’s arty pueblo was up and we were back on the road to Albuquerque. More of that next time.

 

Art Deco and old New Mexico, Santa Fé

Art Deco and old New Mexico, Santa Fé

 

Abandoned, Tucumcari

Abandoned, Tucumcari

 

Moonset, Shamrock

Moonset, Shamrock

 

Canyon Road, Santa Fé

Canyon Road, Santa Fé

 

66 ruminations

A few seconds of thought will probably provide a logical answer to this one. I’ve always found it weird how when driving in the US, a car/van/truck can be behind, filling my rear view mirror, often for a considerable distance, when the next glance in the mirror shows that it’s completely disappeared.

 

Yeah, I know it will have turned off, but it seems to happen so suddenly; one moment all you can see in the mirror are the chromed slats of a grille and the letters LIBRETE (ETERBIL in the mirror), the next moment, the road behind is completely empty. Even when I don’t recall passing any other roads, or turnings. Odd that.

 

While in Chicago, I made sure of the sunrise time and was on the streets well before 07:00, in good time to grab some early morning light. By the time we reached Cuba, that had inched closer to 07:15. In Oklahoma City, at 07:00 it was still pitch dark outside. Further west, Shamrock TX only sees the sun from 07:47 tomorrow (Saturday).

 

Sunrise in Santa Fé today (Monday) is 07:12 – we’re an hour later here as we’ve crossed into the Mountain Time Zone.

 

America’s road network is great and in the main well maintained. The byways of Route 66 unfortunately don’t enjoy the same level of maintenance and pot holes are everywhere. One I spotted this morning (while making yet another U turn) was so big that I did wonder whether it hadn’t been used to bury the car from the BBC’s drama serial One of us.

 

On the subject of road surfaces, many, many roads employ concrete slabs, with expansion joints between. Easy if you have an American car with soft springs and soggy shock absorbers, but a European (or Japanese) car generally has much stiffer suspension and so there is a lot of b-dum b-dum b-dum road noise and driving any distance can become a bit of a trial for driver and passenger alike.

 

Del's Restaurant, Shamrock

Del’s Restaurant, Shamrock

 

Trump support, Shamrock

Trump support, Shamrock

 

Autumn colour, New Mexico

Autumn colour, New Mexico

 

Wind turbines - Route 66

Wind turbines – Route 66

 

About photographing Route 66; Philippe sent me a blurt after the last post, saying that I should produce more colour images. Well, I’ve done that this time. They are images that I think work well in colour and there’s still some b&w threaded through them all.

 

Pascal suggested a run up to Hernandez, with a view to recreating Ansel Adams famous moonrise shot. Well, we went to scout the location en route from Santa Fé to Taos yesterday, but it doesn’t look quite like it did in Adams day. Idea binned – see below.

 

Not quite how Adams saw Hernandez

Not quite how Adams saw Hernandez

 

Once again, most images have been shot with the Fuji X-Pro2, a couple with the X-Pro1. Favourite lens? Still the 23mm f1.4, with the 90mm f2 and 16mm f1.4 coming into use where appropriate – the latter at the Taos Gorge over the Rio Grande.

 

Junk yard, Shamrock

Junk yard, Shamrock

 

Breakfast friends, Santa Fé

Breakfast friends, Santa Fé

 

Rio Grande - Taos Gorge

Rio Grande – Taos Gorge

 

Rio Grande near Hernandez

Rio Grande near Hernandez

 

Gone, Newkirk

Gone, Newkirk

 

Wilkerson's, Newkirk

Wilkerson’s, Newkirk

 

Tow truck, Shamrock

Tow truck, Shamrock

 

On Route 66

On Route 66

 

Window, McLean

Window, McLean

 

Scrapyard bonnet, Shamrock

Scrapyard bonnet, Shamrock

Route 66 – 1

Dick's, Joliet

Dick’s, Joliet

 

If it’s Wednesday, this must be Tulsa. A down day after around 700 miles (1150km) on Route 66. Not a huge distance for anyone living in South Africa, Australia, or the US and used to driving long distances, but quite a challenge on the single lane, less well maintained 66, where every few minutes there is something to stop, look at and photograph.

 

So much so that the 200-odd mile (appx. 350km) daily itinerary is proving to be quite a lot more taxing than I’d initially imagined. What I’d envisaged as a gentle 4+ hour daily drive is proving to be much more a six or seven hour journey, punctuated with sights, meal and coffee stops and the inevitable comfort breaks.

 

And, it’s been brilliant, we’ve loved every inch of it. Except getting lost in some pretty bad spots in St Louis. That wasn’t fun. To be fair, EZ66 does warn of how difficult it can be to negotiate the roads around the city, but we had no clue and are much wiser now.

 

Near Plano's Ghost Village

Near Plano’s Ghost Village

 

Abandoned

Abandoned

 

And, a few words from my navigator: We’re on our way along Route 66: yesterday Springfield, Illinois, today Cuba Missouri. Although it’s lovely and we’ve passed through dozens of pretty little villages, many are not much more than living museums. I’m all in favour of progress and I realise that the Interstate has given far more than it’s taken away, but it’s still sad to see these towns and villages marginalised, and relying only on memories (apparently).

 

You can relax as I won’t be detailing every nook and cranny along the way. Too many people have done it already, infinitely better than I ever could. I also don’t expect you to wade through a succession of we did this, then we did thats.

 

I will share some Route 66 observations though, those thoughts that pop up as the miles roll by.

 

Near Carthage

Near Carthage

 

Munger Moss motel, Lebanon

Munger Moss motel, Lebanon

 

River at Devil's Elbow

River at Devil’s Elbow

 

First up; don’t imagine you can arrive from outside the US and expect your driving experience and common sense will help you to make sense of the road numbering, signs and driving habits.

 

Next; make sure you have a good guide book (Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66 is fantastic) and a satnav and if possible a map as well. EZ66 is incredibly granular and has taken us to many spots we might otherwise have missed. It’s also taken us onto some odd stretches of tarmac, most a few hundred metres long, left to deteriorate after a new Interstate is in use, bypassing these tiny strips of tarmac.

 

You’ll also need the satnav when (to quote my fab navigator) the guide goes “off piste”, leading us into a strange dead end, or simply fails to provide guidance in the middle of nowhere. The excellent Route 66 signage is everywhere and helps enormously, but when the guide book goes temporarily AWOL, the certainty of heading in the right direction is a great confidence restorer.

 

Asses forming(?), Carthage

Asses forming(?), Carthage

 

Coffee bar, Carthage

Coffee bar, Carthage

 

Make sure you have something to listen to. American FM radio is pretty good if you can find a station that delivers music, or talk you enjoy. We do that, but prefer an iPhone which is already in the car for its satnav capabilities, loaded with good content. We’re both fans of BBC Radio 6 Radcliffe and Maconie show – a three hour double hander, with news, chat and a seriously good selection of music. I download these shows from the BBC – they’re ideal for this kind of travel. Bored with the BBC? There is also a large library of music on my phone which can be set up to random play, giving us hours and hours of additional aural content.

 

Electrical adaptors are your friend. We have two small adaptors (flat twin pins for the US to round two pin Euro-style), but with a computer, iPhones, an iPad, camera batteries and a Kindle to charge, we could really use a third, but have failed to find one yet. We’ll keep looking.

 

Derelict

Derelict

 

Cuba

Cuba

 

Trailer park, Cuba

Trailer park, Cuba

 

More insights(?) next time.

 

Photographically, I’ve used the X-Pro2 and new 23mm f1.4 almost exclusively. It’s a fantastic combination that fits my requirements perfectly.

 

NB! photographs are not shown in any specific order. The preference for black and white? To me, Route 66 just cries out for this treatment. Colour just doesn’t hack it.

 

And our progress?

 

Saturday – Chicago to Springfield IL

Sunday – Springfield to Cuba

Monday – Cuba to Springfield MO

Tuesday – Springfield MO to Tulsa

Wednesday – down day in Tulsa

 

Carterville

Carterville

 

Devil's Elbow

Devil’s Elbow

 

Sunrise near Cuba

Sunrise near Cuba

 

Sunrise near Cuba

Sunrise near Cuba

 

Luna Café Mitchell

Luna Café Mitchell

 

Greenway Motel, Mitchell

Greenway Motel, Mitchell

 

Shell service station, Mount Olive

Shell service station, Mount Olive

 

Lichfield's drive in

Lichfield’s drive in

 

Filling station, Odell

Filling station, Odell

 

Farmland

Farmland

Yes, we do plan to motor west

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The El (or L) - mankind's noisiest commuter railway The El (or L) – mankind’s noisiest commuter railway

 

Chicago

Last time we were here, it was almost winter time and not very warm. With the wind chill added in, cold enough to make me head straight for the nearest North Face emporium to buy some breeze-proofing. Fortunately, this time we’re better prepared, but the Windy City is just that and this time, quite temperate.

 

Morning sky after the rain Morning sky after the rain

 

Battered Bluesmobile in the morning sunlight Battered Bluesmobile in the morning sunlight

 

Closed Closed

 

Closed 2 Closed 2

 

Our Emirates 777—300ER touched down at O’Hare a few minutes early on Wednesday afternoon, after its 15 hour marathon from Dubai. On top of a nine hour flight from Cape Town and a two hour change of planes, it was predictable that our physical and mental reserves would be close to exhausted. A hang up with the usually achingly slow immigration and security process saw Mrs P hauled into a separate screening area to sit and wait (me with her) while someone delved into her personal information. After about half an hour, her passport was returned and we were told we could go – seems the fingerprint scanner hadn’t captured her prints properly – I wonder why they think it’s OK to be so faceless, officious and couldn’t just tell us what the problem was at the time.

 

But things were about to get worse for these weary travellers.

 

The Thrifty car rental documentation told me that I had to phone them to get a shuttle bus to collect us from terminal 5. That didn’t work – all I got was the “Press 1 for a headache, press 2 for irritation… and press nine for …rip someone’s head off.” Useless idiots.

 

A nearby airport guide eventually told us that the shuttle bus would arrive anyway, so we waited. And waited and eventually, for our sanity and to prevent us both from falling asleep at the bus stop, hailed a cab.

 

I suspect that the the cab driver couldn’t have found his arse without a mirror on a stick and definitely couldn’t find the Thrifty lot even with his satnav. Without increasingly frustrated yelling from me, he would probably still be myopically driving around the airport, meter running, trying to work out where the hell he was.

 

And yes, he still shouted at me when I didn’t give him a tip on top of the $15 the three minute taxi ride cost. Twat.

 

Thrifty didn’t seem to give a flying toss about the disappearance of their shuttle bus when I told them, but nonetheless did quite a swift job of the paperwork and with Mrs Garmin in full dominatrix mode, we set off for I90 and the South Loop.

 

I think some aeons ago when Ms. Garmin was new, I set a default a million menu layers deep and now un-findable, to avoid toll roads. So we drove the entire length of Milwaukee Avenue (12 miles, almost 20 kilometres) parallel to the I90, instead of said tolled Interstate. On the one hand, it was a blessing because at 2 m.p.h. and a zillion sets of traffic lights, I managed to avoid mowing anyone down, or swerving violently from lane to lane as my attention lapsed due to what was fast becoming life threatening exhaustion.

 

Of course, the downside was yet another hour of travelling.

 

Our hotel was where Ms. Garmin assured us it would be. A miracle as things often aren’t when she is in charge. Bags in our room, we fled for the bar, several shockingly expensive (e.g. Heineken@ $5 – R75) nerve-relaxing drinks and a tumble into bed not long after 20:00.

 

Awake at 02:00, I got up and read the South African and UK newspapers on line and then thought I might just manage an extra couple of hours back in bed. I did, but it was still just after 5 when the jet lag woke me up to tell me how tired I was.

 

Bah. Travel with the Pertons has always been spelled a d v e n t u r e.

 

At 07:00 I wandered across the now raining State Street (yes, that great street) to seemingly the only breakfast provider in the area. Coffee and BLTs in our room – nothing wrong with that. And there we sat, still half asleep staring at the rain, wondering whether we could be bothered to stir ourselves to get a bus into the city and do some of what we came here for.

 

Some time later, the über convenient 29 bus delivered us into the city, which was shrouded in low cloud and mist. Fortunately, the rain held off and we were able to wander the streets, stopping to buy a few essentials; a SIM card (for a phone-based satnav backup – essential if you think a Garmin is going to get you where you plan to go without freaking out at least once in every city), some toiletries, a couple of craft beers and a more than acceptable local diner-style lunch.

 

Friends at lunch Friends at lunch

 

In the mist, the city looms and its skyscrapers photograph well in the Fuji’s Acros black and white, delivering OOC JPGs of exceptional quality, requiring little additional editing. Tomorrow, we must prepare for our departure and find the Route 66 sign on East Adams Street – that’s where it all begins.

 

Misty car parks with apartments above Misty car parks with apartments above

 

Downtown looms in the mist Downtown looms in the mist

 

Our couple of days R&R passed easily enough, allowing the jet lag to subside. Now it’s time to hit the road. We are planning to motor west, after all.

 

Morning car park, Bronzeville Morning car park, Bronzeville

 

Not what you want to see tailgating you Not what you want to see tailgating you

 

Loading bay Loading bay

 

Eureka A Eureka A

 

Trompe l'oeil Trompe l’oeil

 

Downtown Downtown

 

Untitled, State Street Untitled, State Street