Lots of helpful snow clearing trucks take to the road as soon as the little white mischievous chilly things start to fall. Meanwhile, I’m driving around looking for a pre-owned home and car. I wonder what I’ll find.
scribbles tagged ‘USA’
- Andrews sisters
- Amelia Earhart
- Billy Graham
- Bob Dylan
- Bobby McFerrin
- Charles Schultz
- Coen brothers
- Garrison Kiellor
- Hüsker Dü
- John Paul Getty
- Robert M Pirsig
- Scott f fitzgerald
More than enough to be researching….
This blog post is bought to you courtesy of ‘procrastination’ and the letter T
- UK post now redirected to my new USA work office for 12 mos. Cost $31 per Mos. I’ll write to individual companies to change my registered address, once I’ve got a new home….
- Trying desperately to focus on which documents I should carry with me and which can go into storage. Paper documents are heavy, this is a difficult task that is increasing my addiction to tea and inclination to blog
- Last laundry load running. I’m even getting emotional about leaving my Miele.
Received an unbirthday present on my birthday. Mind imploding concept. There was carrot cake and singing to celebrate.
Being over anxious about finding the right place, I turned up 90minutes before my appointment ladened with half a redwood tree of supporting evidence, credit card, and my passport.
I had to line up, in separate lines to:
- Announce my arrival – be ticked on a checklist
- Go through security clearance
- Pick-up a (queuing) number from reception
- Hand-over key pieces of historical documentation for the interviewer to review
- Pay for the application processing
- Be interviewed
Standing in line, sitting in line with a number, is an integral part of the USA visa getting process. There are many ways that new technology could be used to streamline the whole process. Streamlining the process would remove the Kafkaesque quality. Perhaps being Kafkaesque is fundamentally important to government procedures.
The young, blonde, Brit who interviewed me was being observed by a senior member of staff who smiled when I got excited and when I behaved like a normal person… forgetting things, being uncertain.
Interviewer: tell me about your Diplomatic Visa, your A2
Wendy: Gosh, I’d completely forgotten about that, way back in 1999 I worked for the UK MOD on secret things, I signed the official secrets act and they got me a diplomatic Visa. Well done you for finding that out!
The USA are going to give me another Visa, despite my having to declare that I’d repeatedly lost my passport several times while living in the USA. It seems they can tolerate my human scattiness in return for my fabulous expert knowledge…. mainly knowledge of human scattiness….
I’ve been driven around different desirable areas in Minneapolis (thanks Peggy Pearl!) and will get some home choosing advice from a professional realtor. For now, these are the things influencing my likely choice of Wendy House in Minneapolis.
Warehouse conversion in downtown Minneapolis as a home because:
- Meeting neighbours. Making friends, in lifts, in corridors, in the shared facilities – garden, gym, swimming pool, garage, other social spaces
- Managing structural maintenance. Apartments have management companies. I won’t need to find, interview service providers and make arrangement to let them have secure access then check their work and follow-up if there are any problems.
- Size appropriateness: Not too big, not too small, not too many bathrooms to clean, no huge basement or loft to fill with stuff that I don’t need or use. Under the bed is enough space for unused stuff….
- No snow shovelling to get my car out. A warehouse apartment must come with some form of covered, maintained garage.
- In home Sampo care. Some apartments provide a service for caring for your pet while you’re away
- Walking places. The sidewalks downtown will allow me to walk to places (temperature permitting) like a range of restaurants, shops and galleries
- Bus services nearby. The Minneapolis bus services were pretty good, the city centre provides a central hub enabling me to get all over the place easily, not just use the ‘local’ route that goes through the village.
- More people like me. Single, no children living with them and elderly.
Arts and Craft’s house in a village style location in suburbia as a home because:
- Commute time and traffic. My work place is in a suburb with some very nice villages within easy distance with relatively light traffic (compared to Berkshire or Seattle)
- Can’t hear neighbours. I love living in a detached home, though I’ve had a lucky history in town homes (terraced housing)
- Garden for Sampo. Sampo has always been an indoor cat, but she does enjoy a wander in the current Wendy House garden and watching the other cats and birds play there
- Property space for the price. I can get more square footage for my dollar. Feels like more of an ‘investment’.
- Gardening. The relaxing pleasure of planning, planting, caring for, and watching my own garden grow
Have I missed anything that you think it’s important to consider? How would you rate the value of things. Not hearing the neighbours is a fairly weighty requirement…
Bar staff: (raises eyebrows, furrows brows looking perplexed)
Wendy: It’s in the USA
Bar staff: Wow! I’d love to move out of Reading
Bus driver: where do you want to go?
He explained that for $1.75 I could travel anywhere in the city for 2.5hrs. Brilliant. I can get on and off any bus I want to. Luxury. I wanted to spend a day travelling on the busses but instead focussed on the more socially acceptable activity of going to a local art gallery.
The bus driver reminded me when I got to the stop I needed to get off at. He was very helpful. We met again on my return trip and he remembered me, greeting me with a warm smile hello. The bus drivers that I met were all very helpful and friendly. Very impressive.
I was able to explore some artsy stuff on a Sunday during my recent Minneapolis visit. The Walker Art Centre was a real pleasure. I found myself enjoying the building almost as much as the exhibits. First, they had a brushed-suede alcove for watching film exhibits.
Next, for visitors suffering from Museum fatigue they’d provided plenty of comfortable seating with views of the local scenery rather than the thought provoking exhibits. I watched children sledding down the hillside. Apart from myself the seats were…
Each corner that I walked around provided a new and interesting view of the architecture. There appeared to me more docents in the museum than visitors. I felt guilty looking at, and photographing, the building. There will be another post on the fabulous exhibits, to compensate for my guilt. The corridors were….
Normally I have to wait, twist, and stretch to find a view of a building without people messing up the view. Not in the Walker Art Centre on a Sunday in March. It’s a place where you can be alone.
Maybe even lonely.
Minneapolis airport had a surprise for me at gate G4. Tables with IPads, even outside the bars, everywhere people using their own or the airport’s computers. I slid up to a nearby bar and found the menu.
Kid’s under 12? I can eat them? Cool. I found myself a large glass of red wine and paid using the swipe-card slot on the bar. The bar staff talked to me about the system. She liked it, the customers liked it, I liked it. Sounds like an all around win.
I’ll go straight to the gate next time I’m at Minneapolis airport. No need to unpack my surface, no need to find a power socket or go through connecting to the airport WiFi. Just use the local iPad which even supplies flight information for the anxious passenger. That wasn’t me, I’m not the anxious passenger. I’m the one who’s snoozing after a large glass of wine….
Some good reading for my long flight home from Minneapolis, courtesy of the talented Peggy Pearl who gave me an exciting tour of the snow-bound city.
I’m now full and cultured.
The cars develop their own icicles while they’re waiting for the owners to return. These icicles took about 2hrs to form on a warm day. Things happen fast and frostily here in Minneapolis.
Day 7: October 27th
The sky reflected in the bonnet. Cruising at 20mph. Not a car, or person, in sight. Look at the quality of that road, beautifully surfaced. This is a drivers paradise.
Day 7: October 27th
The beauty of the flat Texan grasslands was awe Inspiring. A mystical beauty. I stopped the car and stood in the wind watching the clouds gently roll around the huge canvas above. The peace in such a place is invigorating. To be able to walk and live with these skies must make it easier to feel close to a god. It’s the sort of place I close my eyes and think of when I’m seeking peace and sleep after a crowded day in a busy world. Slow down, smell the grass, feel the breeze, see the clouds. I had some unexpectedly wonderful times alone on the road. This photograph captures one of them.
A temporary break in the flood production system. No rain this morning.
Laundry to be washed and dried. No modern tumble-drier accessories. My laundry its catching some rare sun rays in the Wendy House wind-swept garden.
Extra ballast had been added to the ‘airer’ to prevent it attempting a take-off garden tour. Bricks.
The ships that carried lumber from Seattle to San Francisco, to build the beautiful houses there, carried stone back to Seattle as ballast to weight the ships appropriately on the return journey. The stone was used to build many of the Historic buildings in the Pioneer square area of Seattle. Awesome.
The RSPCA has warned that cats are likely to take-off in these strong winds. Despite her own substantial personal ballast, Sampo’s a cautious cat.
Sampo’s not risking any unplanned flights.
Day 7: October 27th
My worry levels were slowly, but surely, rising. Maybe I should get back on the Interstate, the nearby I40? No, I’m here for Route 66 and I’m going to drive it with, or without my Satnav’s road recognition.
Day 7: October 27th
This is a Texas town in the panhandle. I’d seen a couple of ghost towns so this is positively thriving with its new fangled grain store technology and a couple of big cars. But no motel. No café. I was beginning to learn that Texas towns marked on the map could be ghost towns, a couple of shacks with no facilities for travellers, no cafés, no gas stations, no corner stores. Seems like a shack would qualify for a name on the map.
Day 7: October 27th
The Office to this motel was open, doors to rooms were open, guests’ SUVs showed the place had life. I was still suffering from Texas chainsaw film hangover and I was hungry but Rosie wasn’t around to fill me up for the night. Plenty more nearby towns on the map. I’ll try their facilities. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for a long night and would soon regret not taking hospitality from this motel…
Day 7: October 27th
On my drive through the Texas panhandle, I hadn’t booked a place to stay in advance. As dusk began to fall I started pulling into the forecourt of roadside motels. This sign attracted me. As I drove closer it was difficult to tell if this place was open or not. I drove a long slow loop around it and left without getting out. I shouldn’t have watched the “Texas chainsaw massacre” it’s skewed my perception of run down, isolated places in Texas
Day 6: October 26th
2) Laid-back wildlife, a flock of Canadian geese wander around a suburban road (I’d lost the route again)
The drive through Oklahoma was mainly overcast, threatening rain. The weather reminded me lf British summertime, comfortably familiar.
Day 7: October 27th
Friendly Americans on the street, and the owners of places I stayed, spontaneously enthused ‘nice ride’. They meant my hire-car, a soft-top Chevy Camaro.
The ride is all show and no punch; a fairly average drive. I did like the impression it had on the public, I imagined it was like driving a Ford Capri in the UK in the 1970’s. I felt like a big kid driving it. I loved it.
My first choice for a car had been a classic 1968 Ford Mustang. How much?!!!!! The price for that, or a classic Cadillac, had been in a different galaxy from my budget. The Camaro rocked it, more than fine.
I took 100s of photographs on my Route 66 tour by balancing my camera on the top of the steering wheel without looking at the viewfinder. Point and click.
The sense of ‘space’ and ‘freedom’ with so few obstructions like traffic jams, traffic lights, people crossing the road was striking compared to the crowded mainland island of Britain. One photograph from each State might help you see this and the variation in the atmosphere created by the varied climate, vegetation and landscape
Day 6: October 26th
Much of route 66 has been replaced by a newer road Often the newer road is directly next to the old road. The original road is left to nature, gradually becoming impassable. I quite fancied trying this old road out, but I would need a car with higher clearance than my sporty little Camero to really do it justice.
Learning for next time: Hire a white pick-up truck that’s suitable for ‘off roading’ and carrying stuff picked up in antique stores
The small town of Sayre has many of the qualities of the small towns on the route:
- A small railway station used by local businesses to transport their products across the USA. Often the equipment is antique, working but gradually decaying
- An impressive and well maintained courthouse. Some places had old and new courthouses. The law has a prominent place here in city buildings
- A very wide main street where cars can park bonnet pointing at the curb on both sides of the street still leaving room for about 4 lanes. The majority of ‘cars’ parked on the street are pick-up trucks (mostly white)
- A secure looking brick-built ‘National Bank’ at the corner of a main downtown street
- At least one antique store and often several thrift stores. Guns are available in the antique store. This one in Sayre appeared to have an unusual variation on a gun decorating the sidewalk
- A local newspaper, often called ‘The County Record’
Leaving Oklahoma city, driving west, I start seeing signs of cowboys (large trucks for transporting horses) and Indians (gift stores). These Indians were Cherokees.
The lack of tourists during October is painfully obvious in empty car parks and stores. I’m often the only potential customer and I failed to buy anything in any gift stores. I’m a pathetic gift shopper. I was tempted by many colourful cowboy boots and moccasins, the head-dresses, jewellery and pottery bowls didn’t capture my attention.
Using a pedestrian crossing in the USA is a complicated process that requires the pedestrian to be English literate. I suspect I’ve been doing something wrong because I’m prone to not reading instructions until after something has gone wrong….
I stopped looking for an all day breakfast. All the food places close at 2pm, reminiscent of Britain in the 1980s. Instead of a late lunch I browsed the local antiques mall and walked up to the drive-in ATM (UK = cash machine).
USA small town antiques malls are fascinating glimpses of everyday life in days gone by.
Learnings for next time:
- Eat lunch before 2pm
- Hire a car with a big boot to carry purchases of strange thing’s found in antiques malls
- Buy an extra suitcase while travelling to carry all the antique mall purchases
Within a 5 mile stretch of road
While on one of many unintentional detours off route 66
I encountered 3 roundabouts.
That’s all the roundabouts that I saw on my journey, all together.
Day 5: October 25th
Blue skies with no airplane trails. this was the way across most of the trip. The silence and ‘size’ of the skies were awe inspiring and made me remember how noisy, grey, crowded and obscured the skies are in England. Take a deep breath. It feels good.
I guess everyone is indoors cleaning their guns and stuffing things
It was in Kansas that I realised that I’d seen more cyclists on the route than Motorcyclists. This trend continued for the whole of the route, with the one exception of the village of Oatman in Arizona. These cyclists often appeared to be going somewhere, rather than ‘just’ exercising, with backpacks or paniers. Route 66 is often cyclist-friendly because of the lack of cars, large patched shoulders, and directness of route between towns.
Day 5: October 25th
During the journey I lost Route 66 on multiple occasions. Illinois and Missouri provided well placed, easy to read and understand signs. Things started going wrong in Kansas where I would get to a road junction that had no sign for route 66 so I’d choose to keep going in my current direction.
This proved to be a poor strategy. In this photo you see the view a couple of miles after a junction. I could be on an unsurfaced part of route 66 or I could be off track. Your guess is as good as mine. I was using a hire-car provided Satnav (GPS) who was later named ‘Francine’. Francine only wanted me to use Interstates to get between towns, even nearby towns. I tended to program a route through towns and then ignore her until I got lost. I was also using a set of essential maps which numbered the interstate exits where route 66 crossed the interstate. I used these junctions to rediscover the route.
Different States label the route on different ways. Kansas was my first, not last, experience of poor signage.
In Illinois I learned that the route often forked, taking different roads during different time periods. Often I’d have to choose between different roads based on when they were officially route 66.
Learning for next time: find an App or SatNav service which has been designed to enable traveller to follow the many route options for route 66