Friday, 20 June 2008

Sunday 6 June 2004, New York - Pennsylvania - New York

5:45am, Gershwin Hotel, New York

Despite the somewhat unfamiliar surroundings, I quickly check out of the Gershwin and head for the subway. Well, that's the plan anyway. I like to think I've got a good sense of direction generally, but I don't really know where I'm going, and two ladies endeavour to help me as I scan the system map. But despite being native New Yorkers, they don't really know where I'm supposed to be going either. Someone tells me to get the New Jersey train - that can't be right? Eventually I tire of their misleading directions and ask a policeman who helpfully directs me back to street level. The familiar sight of a yellow cab hoves into view - sod it, I'll pay $11 to get to the Hotel Belle Claire if I have to. It gets me there on time - and it must be the distant Scottish ancestry which keeps my hawkish eye fixed on the meter as we progress through deserted early morning New York.

Meeting the fellow Trekkers (this being the plural for the group of travellers on the Trek America 'Transcontinental North' trip), I notice we're a surprisingly British bunch of people. The only non-English person is Astrid, an Australian who I consider an honourary Brit for the trip. So our full contingent are made up of me, Dave from South Wales (who I met last night), Pete (who's from Dover originally, and used to do a politics show on Invicta FM back in Kent), Martin (the oldest of the group at 34), John and Jo (a couple), Sara and Sarah (also a couple, and from South Wales). The two couples have just finished the Transcontinental South trip, which started in Los Angeles and ended up in New York, so they're already on chummy terms with Cori Tucker, our zany tour leader.

* * *

Ronald Regan died yesterday at the age of 95, and with it a whole epoch of American politics. I guess no-one's seen or heard much of him in recent years, as he had suffered the debilitating Alzheimer's Disease. There are flags at half mast everywhere, and tributes appearing in all the newspapers. Presidents Bush Snr and Jnr have both been quite visible, as have Reagan's European contemporaries Gorbachev and Baroness Thatcher. Apparently, Thatcher recorded her tribute two years ago - she won't speak at Reagan's funeral in person as some brave Chelsea doctors have banned her from doing any more public speaking. But America seems to be carrying on as normal in the wake of this loss.


10:30pm - Niagara Falls - USA and Canada

We are now in Niagara Falls, which to quote every visitor to this place, is 'awesome'. After arriving at the Four Mile Creek campsite I manage to capture a gorgeous sunset with my new digital camera. After dinner, we go back in the van to see the Falls fully floodlit. The Falls are divided into two parts - American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The latter is the most famous part and tends to be the picture postcard depiction. It is absolutely amazing, and I had no idea it was so close to Canada. The city of Niagara Falls is lit up on the other side of the border. We visit Hard Rock Cafe and get our passports stamped by the amicable Canadian immigration controls people. Coming back across the bridge to the US their counterparts are abrupt and unfriendly. In the space of just an hour, I notice a small cultural difference between the US and Canada.

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