scribbles tagged ‘USA’

con dense sation

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

MinneapolisIt takes a few minutes, or more, for a street parked car to warm up when it’s so cold outside that the Mississippi is frozen-over.

On days like these I leave 15 minutes earlier for work. I scrape the ice or snow from the front, side and rear windows. Some cars come with heated wing mirrors, steering wheels and seats.  Not the VW Bug I’ve been given as a rental car.

This evening I drove into a mall parking garage. As I drove into the warm, underground parking my windscreen fogged. Out of habit I turned the in-car warm air blowers to the windscreen. The fogging appeared to increase. In a random effort to clear my view I turned on the windscreen wipers. Voilà! The condensation was on the outside of the cold car windows, not the inside.

A local told me that I should open the windows before I park outside at night to let-out all the damp warm air from within. To make sure the insides of the windows don’t ice-up as well as the outside.

Oh. I’m learning….


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inspection

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

The USA home buying process is radically different from the UK process. Here are some of the features that actually change the way people behave:

  • An offer is made with a goodwill payment of 1%. This acts to reduce the likelihood of people making multiple offers…
  • If an offer is accepted by the seller it’s a legally binding contract for the seller, the buyer can still pull out at several check-points but the seller cannot continue to market the property. This acts to prevent gazumping.
  • The buyer employs a professional to conduct an inspection. Professional? This person is not a qualified surveyor, no qualifications required. The fellow who conducted my inspection was like a caring dad who checked every window, every piece of equipment. He lit the oven, made ice, turned on the washing machine, checked all the lights and electric circuits, the boiler etc He gave me advice on how to look after the property and questions I should ask the Home Owners Association (HOA). He recommended that I attend a HOA meeting. He made observations about the other tenants. He was awesome. A buyer can pull out of the agreement after an inspection.
  • Immediately prior to the money exchanging there is a ‘walk through’ of the property in the estate that it will be handed over. The money is not exchanged if the purchaser is unhappy with the walk through. My ‘Inspector’ explained that a resident may have a big leaving party that leaves broken windows and toilets etc. The final walk through makes sure that they pay for any damage between agreement and departure. Nice.

Meanwhile my inspection raised lots of minor functional questions, like

  • How does the intercom work – there’s no in apartment equipment – is there a cell phone app for that?
  • Are those sockets for internet connections or phones?
  • Can I put more powerful bulbs in that light fitting?

It feels good to shift to asking trivial functional questions, clearly the big stuff is working well. The apartment is 4 miles from work and has ample bike storage in the basement. I could get fit in the summer. The route to work is through prettily housed suburbs.

As the inspector checked the apartment I pondered the view, watching the tail’ lights of city traffic. I felt at home. It felt right despite being so very different from my little hidden garden cottage in Reading. We all change as does the world around us. Time for a high rise garment with  scary balcony…..


3 bits of fabulous banter »

jingle jingle

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 | tags: , ,  |

In the dark, driving slowly,  I search for the car park entrance to the supermarket.

There is a roadside Christmas tree sales spot. Someone has camped on the abundant sidewalk and placed their neatly cut trees in the snow. Music is playing, they have bright lights pointing at the trees. It reminds me of TV programmes, films, I’ve seen. The Christmas trees shopping experience in below zero USA climates is just like that in the films.

A portly black man, reminiscent of father Christmas, dressed in ‘Salvation Army’ red rings a handbell at the store entrance. I pull out some dollars and push them into his collection jar. His voice is cheerful, hearty,  as he talks of his day job and, this, night time volunteer work. I thank him and listen. I admire his dedication. It’s below zero and he’s collecting money to help those people who’ve been excluded by society. He likes my hat and warns me against the problems of drink.

How did he know?


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Apart meant

Monday, December 8th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

I’ve successfully sold the Wendy house in Reading Town. There were bumps in the process. The four month process  from putting the place on the market (July 22d) through to completing on the sale (Nov 28th) was efficient by UK standards. The buyers were first time purchasers in the UK. A French couple. Their lack of familiarity with the local process meant that it took longer than the 3 months it took me to originally buy the place. I left them champagne, a gifted plant, a folder of historical documents and a book describing the history of the area. The garden looked a bedraggled, neglected mess and removing my furniture revealed some dampness that neither I nor they expected.

Potential new Wendyhome in MNThe market in Minneapolis has Ground to a halt between Thanksgiving and the Super bowl in mid February. I’ve been tracking properties and prices online since April 2014. I feel confident that I know the type of properties and the places. I’ve now driven to, through, and walked around the areas I’m considering. I’ve had an offer accepted on an apartment that is very good value for money and checks most of my requirements. The requirements it fits are:

  • 2 bedrooms with walls that go right to the ceiling and windows
  • Double-aspect windows, it’s a corner apartment with SW & NW facing windows
  • Walk g distance from good restaurants and downtown facilities
  • Walking distance from a bus stop that takes me directly to work (in case I can’t drive)
  • Indoor, heated garage space
  • Washer, dryer inside the apartment (not communal resource)
  • View that includes greenery and things worth watching (6th floor, with lower buildings adjacent and no plans to replace them in a way that blocks the view, can see a dog-park without using binoculars)
  • Has at least one wall that will fit my 6ft Welsh dresser

I’ve been researching the building developer and condominium management company. This apartment block was built in 2008 and is managed by a huge company that manages condominiums all over North America. The developer is prolific and their conversions, including this one, have won design awards. I’m comfortable with the developer.

Yelp reviews of the condominium management company are not good, they mention things like phone calls being ignored, maintenance work being difficult to schedule and generally tardy. Apparently getting the cash is the one thing they’re reportedly good at. I’m hoping that the reports are disproportionate and that when the company works well, no one bothers to review it on yelp.

 

 

 


4 bits of fabulous banter »

No coat hangers

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Most of the time it’s below freezing. Today’s been an exception, I’ve walked out with my coat undone, no hat, no gloves and my scarf hanging limp in the sunshine. Yet the restaurants don’t offer to take your coat when you arrive.

Cloakrooms are definitely not ‘de rigour’. They exist. If you ask, you are offered a coat hanging solution, but this offer is not naturally forthcoming. Odd, given the weather and dress of the locals.

I’ve been in Minneapolis for a week, eaten out once per day. My oversized WW2 style flight jacket is heavy, when placed on the back of a restaurant chair, the chair surrenders. It falls backwards to the floor. I’ve now sent the jacket to the dry cleaners because it’s hugged way too many local restaurant floors.


1 wonderful musing »

snow clearing trucks

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Snow on the roads

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.


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Famous residents of Minneapolis

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | tags: , ,  |

The Wikipedia lists have many names that I don’t recognise, their fame never reached me and it omits some key people that interest me. Here are the one’s that I’ve both heard lf and they interest me:

  • Andrews sisters
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Billy Graham
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bobby McFerrin
  • Charles Schultz
  • Coen brothers
  • Garrison Kiellor
  • Hiawatha
  • Hüsker Dü
  • John Paul Getty
  • Minnehaha
  • Prince
  • Robert M Pirsig
  • Scott f fitzgerald

More than enough to be researching….


1 wonderful musing »

last weekend

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 | tags: , ,  |

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.

 

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

USA Embassy Non Immigrant Visa lines

Monday, September 8th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , , , ,  |

USA Embassy Grovenor Square, LondonI completed my DS-160 online and scheduled an appointment at the London USA Embassy

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:

  1. Announce my arrival – be ticked on a checklist
  2. Go through security clearance
  3. Pick-up a (queuing) number from reception
  4. Hand-over key pieces of historical documentation for the interviewer to review
  5. Pay for the application processing
  6. 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….

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

Moving decisions

Monday, April 28th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Minneapolis city skyline at dawn 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:

  1. Meeting neighbours.  Making friends, in lifts, in corridors, in the shared facilities – garden, gym, swimming pool, garage, other social spaces
  2. 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.
  3. 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….
  4. No snow shovelling to get my car out. A warehouse apartment must come with some form of covered, maintained garage.
  5. In home Sampo care. Some apartments provide a service for caring for your pet while you’re away
  6. Walking places. The sidewalks downtown will allow me to walk to places (temperature permitting) like a range of restaurants, shops and galleries
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  1. 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)
  2. Can’t hear neighbours. I love living in a detached home, though I’ve had a lucky history in town homes (terraced housing)
  3. 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
  4. Property space for the price. I can get more square footage for my dollar. Feels like more of an ‘investment’.
  5. 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…


3 bits of fabulous banter »

perspective

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Truch clearing snowBar staff: where are you moving to?

Wendy: Minneapolis

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


2 bits of fabulous banter »

transfer

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Bus ticketwendy: I’m a stranger in your town, how do I use your bus

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.

 


1 wonderful musing »

far from the madding crowd

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 | tags: , , , , ,  |

video exhibit engagement boothsI 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.

Empty.

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…

Public spaceEmpty.

DSCN2700Each 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….

Empty.

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.

Definitely

Empty.


3 bits of fabulous banter »

at the gate

Saturday, March 15th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , , , ,  |

iPads in airport by the gateInternational flights invariably mean a couple of hours at the airport. It doesn’t take long to tire of airports, expensive shopping, expensive food, controlled air, controlled people.

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.

iPad iPad in airport bar, swipe paymentKid’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.

iPad in airport bar - menuI’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….


4 bits of fabulous banter »

meeting bloggers

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Present! - 2 booksSome 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.

We took in a classic Diner, a funky bar, some creative driving, the Matisse exhibition and the Minnesotta Institute for the Arts.

I’m now full and cultured.
Icicles growing on carsThe 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.


1 wonderful musing »

reflections

Monday, February 24th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

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.

route 66, Texas grasslands


1 wonderful musing »

mystically beautiful flatlands

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

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.

grassland in Texas


3 bits of fabulous banter »

Laundry ship set to sail

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,  |

Laundry ShipAnother stormy weekend chez Wendy House.

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.

Sampo stretchSampo is staying in.

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.

 


7 bits of fabulous banter »

county road k – somewhere over there…

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

route 66 isnt actually a road in this part of Texas - according to GarminI’m still on the road, but my Satnav doesn’t think so. Where am I going, will I find a place to stay, and eat, before sundown?

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.


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no inn at the grain store

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

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.

grai. store in Texas


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Roses’ cafe – closed tonight

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

typical cafe and motel - that are still openThe 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…


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not the Bagdad cafe

Friday, January 31st, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

typical cafe motel - unclear if it's still open...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


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midgets, geese, guns and cycles

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Day 6: October 26th

mgmidgetDSCN1002 (2) 1) Classic cars, an MG midget rattles around in the SUV sized road lanes.

2) Laid-back wildlife, a flock of Canadian geese wander around a suburban road (I’d lost the route again)

DSCN1014 (2)3) My guns bigger than yours, a big black SUV demonstrates the owners gun-toting capabilities with a big gun box.

Sapulpa (12)4) Cycling families, bicycles on board the carry-all car

The drive through Oklahoma was mainly overcast, threatening rain. The weather reminded me lf British summertime, comfortably familiar.

 


2 bits of fabulous banter »

nice ride

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

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.

Texas (10)


1 wonderful musing »

state lapse photography

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

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

Route 66 by state

Route 66 by State

 


1 wonderful musing »

ghost road

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 6: October 26th

Route 66 Oklahoma, rinning next to the new road

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


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Sayre

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Sayre, by the train stationDay 6: October 26th

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’ 

Sayre bankSayre, outside an antiques mall
Sayre record - local newaperIt reminds me of the old western films – a bank, the law, the train, guns, and newspapers.


2 bits of fabulous banter »

cowboys and indians

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

DSCN1027Day 6: October 26th

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.

DSCN1020 (2) Other local industries appear to include some sort of mining, is this ‘fracking’? It certainly looked like some form of gas or oil drilling.


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don’t start

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Road Crossing InstructionsUsing 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….


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Sapulpa Oklahoma closes around 2pm

Friday, December 13th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Sapulpa (4)Day 5: October 25th

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

Sapulpa (6)


2 bits of fabulous banter »