Our honeymoon diary

My wife Jo and I spent the most amazing - and most exhausting - seven weeks traversing North America for our delayed honeymoon, one year after getting wed. Below is the diary that I kept, mainly so as to keep my mum informed of our well-being.

Here's a list of all the places we spent at least one night in (the hyperlinks will jump you down to the day we arrived there): Reykjavik, Iceland • Hamilton, Ontario• Toronto • back to HamiltonCobourg • back to TorontoVancouver, British Columbia • Seattle, Washington • Portland, Oregon • Scotts MillsCharlestonEureka, California • San FransiscoPaso RoblesLos AngelesSan DiegoLas Vegas, Nevada • Grand Junction, Colorado • Lincoln, Nebraska • Portage, Indiana • Clearfield, Pennsylvania • New York, New York

DAY 1: Friday 8th July

On the plane, I watch the Lego Movie, and Jo reads the New Internationalist - she digesting truths about the evils of capitalism and the downfall of our environment, me digesting a feature-length advert aimed at kids from a multinational producer of plastic.
The Icelandic landscape is, as expected, awe-inspiring.  In pictures, and in the realms of the imagination, it tends to be snow-covered, but the summer landscape reveals an incredible covering of broken rocky outcrops and moss.
We have a little trouble checking into our AirBnB - our host's sister is supposed to have left the key "by the bins", but all we find by the bins is a lot of old rubbish.  We phone our host (Anna), who gives us more precise instructions about exactly which bit of rubbish to look inside.  The sister then turns up as we're rooting around, doesn't introduce herself (we still don't know her name) and tells us sorry about all the undone washing up which she's going to do straight away.  By the time we go to bed five hours later, it still isn't done.
The flat is nice enough - a multitude of Kurt Cobain posters on the walls, slogans from the feminist art movement on postcards dotted around, and some very impressive carved panel doors.  The bed leaves a little to be desired - too narrow for two people, with an even narrower duvet, and disastrously ill-equipped with pillows.
We go out for a Thai meal, and get an early night's sleep.

DAY 2: Saturday 9th July

Our street - Grettisgata - has the feel of small-town suburban sprawl.  No houses are above three storeys, hardly ever a car goes past, and people smile at you in the street.  Our first proper walk into town reveals that, far from living in suburbia, we're just one minute's walk from the main shopping street.  Reykjavik is a gorgeous bundle of colourful corrugated iron cottages, with humorous ornaments peering out from many a window.
We go shopping at the local supermarket, and Jo cooks up a nice lunch of tofu and rice (a man called Oskar - we presume the nameless sister's boyfriend - did the washing up in the morning).  Then we go to the National Museum, which is great - very well laid-out and very thorough.  We spend our afternoon napping back at the flat, and wake up to find a very nice German couple living here as well, who we hadn't been told to expect. 
We take a stroll down by the water under the bright late-evening sun, and get another early night's sleep.

DAY 3: Sunday 10th July

We've booked on to the free walking tour with CityWalk, which we'd highly recommend.  Our guide Martin is chirpy and humorous, and is happy to share the good and the bad about his beloved home.  One recommendation he has is the weekend flea market, so that's where we head next.  I buy a scratched CD, and Jo buys a notebook.

We have a lengthy afternoon nap, knowing that we're not going to get much sleep tonight.  Because...we've booked a (very expensive) late-evening visit to the Blue Lagoon.  And, yes, it's pretty crazily hyped, but it is a magical experience after all. 
The weirdest experience of our three days in Iceland is the ten minute walk from the coach stop back to our apartment.  It is half past midnight, and it is as bright as an overcast British Autumn day.  And the birds are singing.

DAY 4: Monday 11th July

We fly to Canada.  We watch two movies about unlikely leaps into the unknown: Interstellar and Eddie the Eagle.  At Toronto airport, we hire a car for a week - for our first week here, we will be very free.  We drive to the house of Jo's cousin Andy, his wife Orla, and their children Fionn (age 3) and Aedhan (1), in Hamilton, a rather lovely grid city on the south west corner of Lake Ontario.  The house is absolutely incredible - an 1890s mansion which they've put a lot of work into since moving in just a year or so ago.  Our bed is considerably wider than the Iceland fare, and considerably hotter.  There is something of a heatwave going down in Ontario at the moment. No need to spend money on geothermal lagoons.
Orla cooks us up some ribs, and we think about taking a stroll round the block but collapse from exhaustion instead.

DAY 5: Tuesday 12th July

We go waterfall hunting.  Hamilton lies at the base of an escarpment - which I've learnt is a cliff face caused by two adjacent flat land masses of differing elevation.  And escarpments tend to be pretty good places for finding waterfalls.  But we have a bit of trouble finding any, thanks to the heatwave.  The first one we try to find has dried up completely, and the second is but a trickle (but searching for them takes us on a very nice hour-long hike along the escarpment ridge).  We meet a woman who tells us about a nearby waterfall that she knows is still flowing reasonably well, because she was there yesterday, and we are determined to see at least one proper waterfall before the end of the day.  So off we drive to the township of Waterdown (the name bodes well), where we luncheon at a very nice vegan restaurant called Bliss, before heading off on our search.  And this time, we are not disappointed.  Right next to a sign indicating that on this spot "J & J were married" in 2013, we find Grindstone Falls - a beautiful little waterfall that - shock horror - still has water.  We follow a path along the river, and then up through a wood, and back to the car about an hour later.
It is Andy's birthday, and we order curry from their favourite take-away.  Apparently they must have someone new working in the kitchen, because everything we order is a lot spicier than normal.

DAY 6: Wednesday 13th July

We drive east from Hamilton, to a landmark known as the Devil's Punchbowl.  This is supposed to be a large impressive waterfall.  Instead, it is a large impressive...punchbowl.  Again, the water has completely dried up.  But there is an amazing view over the whole city from here.  And then we continue east, and it is time for the mother of all waterfalls, and surely this one must still be running.
I don't know why, but I have the romantic notion that Niagara Falls will be a remote natural beauty spot surrounded by forest, which we will reach by dirt track and have to do the last bit of the journey by foot.  Ha.  That's not how they do things in North America.  No, here they plonk a city with twenty-storey five-star hotels and casinos right by it.  We park up - expensively - and stand with the several thousand other tourists staring and the - admittedly really quite spectacular - natural wonder.  We resist any of the tourist trap attractions, like the boat ride into the base of the falls, the walk behind the falls, the 3D cinematic experience, the view from the tower, the hoodie or mug or baseball cap, and instead take a walk hand-in-hand, take a load of photographs, check out the statue of Tesla, and head off to our next stop, refreshed by the mist hanging in the air, and satisfied that we've been there done that.

Our next stop is Niagara-on-the-Lake, a lovely little (touristy) town twenty minutes' drive away, with old (well, seventy-odd years old) architecture, lots of candy stores, and - a find we are delighted to have made - a really lovely apothecary museum, where, amongst other things, we learn the word "Kickapoo".
The drive back to Hamilton takes us through a winery district.  In the evening, we go to the launch party for Hamilton Fringe Festival, which we've been invited to because I'm reviewing shows for FringeReview.co.uk later this week.  All 20-odd shows appearing at the festival get a 2-ish minute slot in which to encourage us to come and see their show, either by performing an extract from it or just talking to us about it.  Some local celebrities (apparently) also get up and do little skits of various sorts.  And the best thing about the evening, by far, is the compère.  The whole thing is very entertaining, and obviously very varied, but also very very long - about three hours long, all told, with no break.

DAY 7: Thursday 14th July

We take it very easy.  We do a food shop at Fortino's, and come home to make lunch.  And then we see the first three shows I'm reviewing for the Fringe.  They are, in order, Devil In The Details, 4.48 Psychosis, and Like A Fly In Amber.  (The hyperlinks will open my review of that show in a new window, in case you're interested in knowing what I thought of them; 4.48 Psychosis was definitely the best of the three.)

DAY 8: Friday 15th July

We drive south from Hamilton to the beach at Port Dover on Lake Erie.  Ironically the day we've chosen to swim in the sea is the coldest and windiest day in the country so far.  We've borrowed a little beach tent, and spend most of the time holding it down from blowing away.  But we do both have a little turn in the water, and manage to make an old couple chuckle by speaking in our loud English accents.
Once back in Hamilton, we prepare to set out for the Fringe Festival again, this time with Andy and Orla in tow: they've hired a babysitter for Fionn and Aedhan.  The first show is called perpetual sunshine machine (no capitals), and it's not the best thing ever, by a long way. There's a lot of shouting, some so-so science communication, and some rather dubious treatment of the delicate subject of mental illness.  It's particularly unfortunate that this is the one we've dragged our hosts out to see.  The website I review for has a policy of not publishing any reviews rated lower than 'Recommended', so I won't be writing a review.
We go for a nice Mexican meal, then a drink in a pretty cool bar called The Brain, and then it's time for show number two: El Diablo of the Cards, which is much better (again, the link will take you to my review).

DAY 9: Saturday 16th July

Sailing-on-Jo's-uncle-and-aunt-Mark-and-Ann's-sailboat Day.  They are very keen sailors.  They have taken three days to sail from Cobourg to Hamilton harbour, and have used their English accents to charm their way to the best harbour spot for the night (they've lived in Canada for over thirty years, and have presumably been using this tactic for that entire time).  We drive through central Hamilton to get to the harbour at eleven, meet their adorable sausage dogs Uluu and Zali (Uluu is Urdu for owl, we learn), motor out into the bay with scant delay, and hoist the sails shortly thereafter.  I have a little go at steering the boat, and manage not to collide with too many cargo liners.  Every half an hour or so, when we're approaching an obstacle, Mark calls out an instruction ("Keel!" or "heel!" or "round!" or "switch!" or something), Ann comes running, they do a very complicated and ultra-speedy multiple-rope-winding-system, the boat magically turns 180º, and back we go the other way.  It's beautiful out here.
We drive back to Andy and Orla's house for just the briefest of collapses, and to meet up with Jo's cousin Lara (the daughter of Mark's twin brother John) and her daughter Louise (age 1-and-a-half-ish, having a tantrummy afternoon) who have flown in from Maine USA for the weekend.  All eight of us (four Hares, two Lyeths, two Hinton-Eagles) then drive in two car-loads back to the boat, where all twelve of us (+ the two older Hares and the two dogs) have a splendid dinner.  The boat remains moored, because its maximum legal (human) capacity at sail is seven.

DAY 10: Sunday 17th July

The day of an amazing family reunion.  The seven human adults, three human children and two non-human dogs from yesterday's boat experience converge upon Charlton Avenue, to be joined by Jo's cousin (Andy's sister) Jenny (a canon reverend, currently in the running to become bishop) and her husband Tim (whose sardonic humour can be summed up with the following exchange: when little Fionn (3) bangs his knee, he asks for a plaster.  "Do you feel better now?" asks Tim.  Fionn: "Yeah."  Tim: "Was it the plaster that made you better?" "Yeah."  "Fionn, do you know the word 'placebo'?")
And then we are joined by one more surprise guest.  Jo's elusive cousin Richard turns up, unfortunately without the new girlfriend everyone has been very keen to meet.  And the fifteen of us have a lovely garden buffet.
In the evening, when those not staying the night have dispersed, Jo, Lara and I watch Deadpool on an absolutely gigantic screen in the sunroom (Jo largely from behind a pillow).  Good film.  Very meta.

DAY 11: Monday 18th July

We pack up our goods and chattels (whatever a chattel is) and set off on the final journey in our hire car, along the north-west coast of Lake Ontario to Toronto.  Toronto is amazing to drive through.  Even more impressive at night, apparently, an experience we now probably won't get.  We shall be spending the next four nights at the hospitality of Sam (an old friend of Jo's from Brighton, who, for those of you into your obscure indie film, plays the baddie in Brighton Wok), Katina (his Muskokan wife), Amelie (6, and possessing of the gift of the gab) and Sonny (3).  We drop off our bags, have a quick cuppa, then drive off to drop the car at the airport.  Figuring out how the transport back into town works is a little frustrating (funny how quickly you become reliant on the ease of having a car), but we eventually make it.  We spend the next few hours wandering around central Toronto - first Kensington, which is the North Laine/Camden of Canada, then the seafront.  And then we have our first experience of Tim Horton's (the Costa of Canada) - so bad that it's good.
By the time we get back to Kat and Sam's house in East York (so-called because Toronto used to be called York), the kids have gone to sleep.  We are on the living room sofa bed.  There is a danger we may get woken up at 1am when Sam gets in from work, and there is also the danger we may get woken up in the morning by GOTG youngsters...

DAY 12: Tuesday 19th July

It transpires, to our relish, that our new young housemates are very good sleepers, and do not as expected jump on our heads at first light - in fact, Sonny does not emerge until gone 10am.  A morning of Lego is followed by an afternoon of swimming.  Public pools in Canada are, as a rule, free.  And, at this time of year, very busy with kids on summer camp.  We travel there by subway with Kat, Amelie and Sonny, have a quick dip, and leave them to it while we set off on an epic walk home.  It should take two hours, but we take about five.  Admittedly, we do stop repeatedly along the way, first at a Greek restaurant in a nice square with a fountain and musical trees, then at Value Village (best second hand shop ever) and John's Thrift Store (and all I got was this lousy T-shirt), then we sit for a long time in a church garden and have a snack.  Approaching our abode, we pass some neighbours having a chat.
"Heyyy man, how's it goin'?"
"Prrrdy tired, man."
"Yaah, I hear ya!"
Man 2 (the tired man) picks up a plaything and walks towards a house from which there emanates the angry scream of a small child.  The mother shouts "Shuuuuuuuuddduuuuup!"  A little slice of suburban Toronto life.

DAY 13: Wednesday 20th July

The Day of Walking.  Ontario Science Centre, of which we've heard rave reviews, and which Jo remembers from her childhood, lies about an hour's walk from Kat and Sam's house, along the beautiful Don Valley (a creek and nature reserve that carves Toronto in two), so off we set at about half ten.  An hour and a quarter later, we are desperately trying to find the expected turning out of the valley towards the Science Centre, and after close examination of our various maps, we realise to our horror (or my horror, being the one whose fault it is; Jo is very calm about the whole thing) that we took a wrong turn half an hour ago and have been walking completely the wrong way since then.  We briefly discuss getting a taxi, but resolve to persevere, and after stopping to refuel on a Turkish lunch on the way, we eventually arrive at the Centre a couple of hours later than intended.  It is great, and we spend about three hours walking round it, until they close for the day and throw us out.  Even then, we've explored perhaps two thirds of the centre.
Our next appointment is to meet Kat, Sam, Amelie and Sonny for Sam's cousin's birthday picnic in a park near Pape.  The sensible option would be to get there by criss-crossing the city on public transport, the lazy option would be to get a taxi.  The crazy option would be to walk.  We walk.  It takes us two hours.  We collapse in the park.  I'm plied with Pimm's, Jo with gluten.  There is space for Jo in the car home, and this time I do take public transport.  We reconvene at a pretty amazing ice cream store near theirs, and when we eventually get home, the adults stay up for a good old natter late into the night.

DAY 14: Thursday 21st July

After a leisurely morning, the six of us set off by subway to the harbour, and board a ferry to Toronto Island.   This is a really wonderful and peaceful crescent-shaped natural bay, very close to the city, with a few little residential homes but mainly just preserved as a recreational park.  We stop at occasional playgrounds (Jo goes down a spiral slide off a pirate ship), and then eat the picnic we've brought, which is probably where Kat gets bitten by a red ant which causes her foot to have swelled up good and proper by the evening.  Amelie asks me to help gather sticks to make a teepee.  There's a big pile of them, clearly gathered by some groundsman for disposal, and I suggest to Amelie that maybe we shouldn't move these particular sticks.  "Jaahn," she tells me and rolls her eyes, "it's owwkeyy."  I'm put in my place.
And then Jo and I are introduced to the sport of frisbee golf.  You know, like golf, but with frisbees.  They even have different frisbees for long-range driving and putting, although we didn't quite get that advanced.  There were players wandering the course who were clearly taking the whole thing very seriously indeed.  As was I, by the end of our two holes. 
After a few more playgrounds, pirate ships, and brass tortoises, we cattle-herd ourselves back on to the ferry, and back to the mainland, and thence back to the house.  Somehow, it has become 11pm.  We pull out our sofa bed for the final time.

DAY 15: Friday 22nd July

We bid farewell to the Byford-Winters, and catch a fun double-decker train most of the way back to Hamilton (we bus the final stretch from Aldershot).  I am booked in to review three more shows at Hamilton Fringe today.  However, it doesn't quite work out as we expect.  Instead, we end up seeing six shows.  These include the best and worst of all eleven we've seen at the Fringe (both these accolades are debatable - Jo's favourite of all the shows was 4.48 Psychosis on the first day, mine is The Bathtub Girls; and...actually, since I'm not allowed to write a review of the really bad one we saw, I'll review it here:
An experiment into what happens if dancer and musician aren't in the same room.  Musician improvises squeally electric guitar live over Skype.  Dancer carries laptop around stage for a bit and gyrates against wall.  It could be funny, if the dancer had any sense of humour.  In her second dance, she has (badly) edited together the first few seconds of lots of famous songs, and wafts her arms about to them in a variety of ways.  And then Skype-guitarist comes in and takes a bow at the curtain call - he was next door all along!)
The other four shows, in the order we see them, are Awoken, The Stronger, Chiaroscuro and (Parentheses).
By midnight, suffering from a serious case of theatre-head, we arrive back at Andy and Orla's house, for one more night in the house where our Canada visit started.  Feels almost like a homecoming.

DAY 16: Saturday 23rd July

A walk round the block with Orla and Aedhan.  Some time spent on a desktop computer connected to a gigantic flatscreen TV to design the poster for the upcoming Curie performance in Ditchling.  A lift to Aldershot.  A double-decker train to Toronto.  A single-decker train to Cobourg.  A car journey to Mark and Ann's house (they of the sailing boat and sausage dog experience in week 1).  They have two other couples round for a barbecue, and have very kindly left enough for us to more than fill ourselves up with.  To bed in the basement.

DAY 17: Sunday 24th July

Jo's uncle and aunt drive us through Brighton (yes Brighton) to an almost-island called Presqu'Ile.  This is the furthest East I will set foot in Canada this year.  We are taken on a 45-minute circular boardwalk walk through wonderful marshland, and have several rare birds and invasive plant species pointed out to us.  There's a woodland area where the trees grow up then down then up again.
When we get home, we watch a lovely home video recording of Jo's entire extended family from when she was ten, playing basketball and air hockey and crazy golf and swimming and getting buried in sand. 
Dinner - more scrumptious barbecued meat - and bed in the basement.  And thus ends the first completely cost-free day of our honeymoon.

DAY 18: Monday 25th July

Ann takes us for a drive to Port Hope, a town they'd considered moving to until they discovered that the houses were so cheap because it was home to a decommissioned but not entirely cleaned up nuclear power plant.  Then we take a stroll through Cobourg town centre, and see where their sailboat is stored (Jo tells me it's actually called "anchored" or "harboured").  Cobourg has a very nice beach, but there are intermittent rainshowers, so it's not very popular today.
They then very kindly drive us the full two-hour journey back into Toronto and to the house of Jo's cousin Jenny (the cannon reverend and possibly-soon-to-be-bishop), her husband Tim, their daughters Emma (nearly 15), Kate (13) and Charlie (11), and their Siamese cats Cleo and Ptolemy (who are having a bit of a tiff today because Ptolemy smells of vet (he's been overeating and puking a lot, and the vet has apparently diagnosed him as suffering from "the character flaw 'greedy'")).
When we get there, only the three girls are in.  They give us a tour, and Emma tells us all about her health food fad while her sisters roll their eyes and do crazy-in-the-head gestures behind her back.  When Jenny gets back from a hard day's reverend cannoning, she pops us in the car and drives us back for a tour round her church of work, which has recently had a major renovation and is really quite cool.  She tells us proudly that her filmed interview to become bishop has considerably more YouTube views than any other candidate.
Dinner in another garden, and bed in another basement.  And thus ends the second (and in all probability the last) completely cost-free day of our honeymoon.

DAY 19: Tuesday 26th July

It is our paper wedding anniversary.  While the parents go to work, we are entrusted to the three daughters, who help us navigate the Toronto public transport system (well, Emma does the navigating; she has a tendency to turn corners very suddenly without warning us, and we have to stay very alert so as not to lose her; her sisters natter away and are more oblivious even than us) to the Distillery District, an area of town that we've long since been told is a must-see.  It is a hundred-+-year-old alcohol distillery, saved from the demolishers and left to stand empty for many years, and recently turned into an artsy shopping-and-café quarter.  The girls leave us after a lolly, and we visit a fab art gallery (we're generally doing quite badly at seeing art museums but this makes up for it) and countless hip gift shops.  We then announce ourselves to the restaurant where we have a reservation, a Mexican called El Catrin (coincidentally, not only is our waitress at El Catrin called Katrina, but we were also recommended it by Katarina last week).  The food is as lovely as expected. A perfect anniversary spent in a beautiful place.

DAY 20: Wednesday 27th July

Time to leave Toronto for the nth and final time, and fly to Vancouver via Calgary.  Tim very kindly and unexpectedly offers to drive us to the airport at 5:30am.  On the first flight we watch the new live-action Jungle Book film, which is a little disappointing.  On the second we're not sitting next to each other (boohoo); I watch an Attenborough documentary about dinosaurs, and Jo watches an animation about aliens thinking that cars are sentient beings and humans are their pests.
We get to Vancouver and catch the SkyTrain (i.e. overground tube train), which is really cool because it's driverless so you can sit at the front and feel like you're the driver (and here we get our first hint that kids in Vancouver are generally really badly behaved and their parents don't seem to mind).  Then we get the SeaBus (i.e. ferry) to Lonsdale Quay, where we're met by Jo's (and indeed my) friend Amanda, who she knows from her TEFL course way back when we were first going out.  We bung all our heavy bags in Amanda's car, then she goes back to work and we hang out and eat pizza until our AirBnB is ready to receive us.  At the allotted hour, we take bus 246 (we are going to be seeing a LOT of bus 246 over the next six days) to 28th & Westview and check into our room. 
Which is lovely (and, it turns out having had a proper look at our budget, a little outside our price range, but it certainly feels like a sacrifice worth the risk of running out of cash in four and a half weeks' time). We have our own private entrance, a bath, two hobs, a fridge, a very comfy bed (the first thing we do is sleep for two hours), and even a view of Grouse Mountain.
After our snooze, Amanda and her fiancé Joel pick us up and drive us to Lynn Valley, where we set off on an hour-long circular walk, over a magical suspension bridge (we wait to begin crossing until the three youngsters who think it's fun to jump up and down on it have moved on), past gorges and clifftops (and people jumping off clifftops into gorges) and twisted tree stumps and lots and lots of old man's beard (which is the best type of moss I've ever met). 
Then they take us for burger at a chain where they first met - she was a waitress, and he was either there on a date (Amanda's story) or for a business meeting (Joel's story), and the rest is (a long and convoluted) history.
It's been a long and convoluted day.  Good job the bed is quality.

DAY 21: Thursday 28th July

In the morning I set off to find the local shop for some breakfast and lunch supplies.  And then we organise our day.
Jo has been warned, by her aunt last week, not to walk so much in her current condition, since it's giving her swollen ankles, but we can't resist.  We have a meeting time with Amanda - 4:45 - and a meeting place - Ambleside Park.  It's a one-and-a-half hour walk, mainly alongside a river that runs through a long narrow park.  We give ourselves three and a half hours, and I research the locations of all the thrift stores (charity shops) along the way (there are three).
It's a wonderful walk, and we stop and rest every time Jo's feet complain.  We make it to two of the thrift stores, of which the second is the better (I buy three CDs, a copy of Moby Dick and some hamburger pants, and Jo buys a handbag and two skirts), and make it as far as Park Royal shopping centre, half an hour from our goal, before giving up and letting Amanda know to pick us from here instead.
Amanda has Richard with her, an Englishman both Jo and I have met previously.  The four of us drive to the bottom of Grouse Mountain, where we catch the "gondola" up to the top.  It's a cool ride in itself, but it's the stuff at the top that makes it worth the dollar.  We see a lumberjack show (two men enacting a heavily scripted wood chopping contest), the grizzly bear enclosure, the birds of prey show (obviously Jo's favourite is the bald eagle), and a film on a big screen about the discovery that birds are directly related to dinosaurs.
Amanda has been coercing us into hiring a car and driving up to Whistler, but we've told her we can't afford it, so instead she drives us half-way there so we can see the scenery, then drives us up to Cypress Hill to see the sunset, in the company of a young deer who comes very close.  It is on our way up this hill that Jo feels the first kick from her tummy.

DAY 22: Friday 29th July

A ten-day-long free outdoor festival opens today in Ambleside Park - the park we were supposed to meet Amanda in yesterday but didn't manage to walk far enough.  This time, we get the bus, at least as far as the shopping centre we did get to, so we can feel we've walked the whole distance over two days.  And a lovely walk it is too, along a sea wall and past a beach.  We café at Savary [sic] Island Pie Company, then hit the festival.  There are loads of stalls, selling extortionate but relatively interesting homemade arty artefacts, and there are various stages with music.  We watch three bands: The Piano Men, who will apparently play any cover they get requested (and are okay I suppose - their best moment is a Bruno Mars cover); some insipid salsa jazz type wetness; and the British Columbia World Music Collective, who are a proper concept band - there are 13 musicians, all from different places round the world but now living locally, and playing songs they've each written in their native styles.  Bus home, Jo cooks us up a lovely meal on our AirBnB hobs, then we go to bed with a documentary about Blackadder.

DAY 23: Saturday 30th July

Of our five days in Vancouver, this is the one day we have earmarked to explore the city centre.  So we each get a day pass, get the ferry back over from Lonsdale Quay, and do some Serious Wandering About.  Notable ports of call include the Science World (we enter the building but not the exhibition), a gluten free café called Smak (Swedish for 'taste' - the staff are not Swedish though), the famous Steam Clock, some pretty decent thrift stores (Jo buys a pair of light walking shoes and I buy a CD), Jericho Beach (I have a swim, Jo doesn't), and a rather rammed Sushi bar.  It's gay pride in town today, but somehow we manage to completely miss the parade.  We do however encounter the aftermath on our way to the big event of the evening: an international fireworks competition, which this evening is being competed by the United States, represented by the Disney Corporation.  We watch from English Bay Beach, or just off the beach, because, as a policewoman announces repeatedly and earshakingly over the loudspeaker, the beach is full.  The fireworks are...fine.  Not the best I've ever seen.  Ends with a bang, though. 
Getting home through the crowds by bus is a little annoying but we do eventually get home.

DAY 24: Sunday 31st July

One of the absolute-must-do's in Vancouver is to visit Vancouver Island.  We don't.  Today we experience the poor-man's version: we visit Bowen Island.  It's a spectacular 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay (which itself is a one-hour three-bus journey from our house).  All the islands off Vancouver are very tall (I think mountainous is the actual word), and this is the reason why, when we get there, our idea of hiring bikes is not an option.  There are just too many hills.  Instead we take a gentle walk through luscious ancient forest to Lake Killarney.  We see beaver dams, actual beavers, a waterfall called Bridal Veil, new plucky trees growing out of older treestumps and out of the sides of long-dead trees, and lots more old man's beard.  We miss the ferry home by seconds, and have to wait another hour, but you couldn't wish for a nicer spot.
In the evening, in preparation for our upcoming visit to Portland, we watch some Portlandia.  It's really funny, and makes us decide to spend one more day in Portland than we'd envisaged.
We're half-way through our honeymoon.

DAY 25: Monday 1st August

Today is the day of the reason we have come to Vancouver.
We spend the morning packing for tomorrow's journey, have lunch, then get good old bus 246 but in the opposite direction to normal, which takes us over Lion's Gate Bridge (holder of Most Impressive Bridge So Far Award) through Stanley Park, which is the park we want to be in, but there are no stops in it, so at the far end we turn back on ourselves and take the 45-min walk back through the park, past the Lost Lagoon (found it!), past a very popular and be-queued public pool, past some super coastline where we spot a certain someone whose special day it is having some special photos taken, and eventually get to the Tea House, where we change into our (relative) finery. 
The people gather - the only person we know is Richard, so we chat to him - then we take our seats in the makeshift outdoor pews and wait for Amanda and Joel to make their entrance.
The ceremony is so sweet.  There's a running theme of friendship.  The celebrant is really nice, and the live jazz duo are gently perfect. 
Over champagne, people are chattier, and we mingle.  I meet Amanda's sister, who trained as an actor at East 15 school in London (Amanda thinks she needs some encouragement from me that it's possible to make a living from acting, but her career seems to be going considerably better than mine).
We are seated at the table called Cypress - the name of the hill where Jo's tummy first kicked.  It's the table of couples.  There's one-armed Tyler and his girlfriend who works in HR for Coca-Cola; there's Ivan from Serbia and his wife from Poland, who are FULL of advice both about how to bring up children and about how not to take anyone's advice on bringing up children; there are Richard the psychologist and his supply teacher fiancée Rachel who very kindly drive us home at the end of the night; and the couple from Victoria whose names we can't remember.  The food's deeelish.  The wine flows.  The speeches are many, and good.  The first dance is very sweet. 

DAY 26: Tuesday 2nd August

Time to cross an international border.
We pack up our belongings and lug it to the bus, then on to the ferry, then on to the tube, then on to the Greyhound.  This is my first ever experience of the Greyhound network, and Jo has warned me to expect something...special.  We meet one interesting talkative character on the approach to the border, who's a science teacher and avid cyclist.
The border crossing takes a while, and our apples are confiscated because they're from New Zealand, but we get through safely.  We stop in various small towns, and a drunk comes and sits next to the cyclist.  The cyclist, so chatty five minutes earlier, goes silent and buries himself in his book as the drunk tries to engage him in conversation.  The drunk then proceeds to talk very loudly to several people on his phone about his friend who has assaulted two police officers and wants to try to flee to Alaska.
Seattle is edgy.  We have two buses to take to get to our accommodation, and we see a good few arguments and many many people talking to themselves in the half-hour it takes.
We arrive at East Columbia Street, and knock and ring several times with no reply.  Then we notice there's a side entrance, and try there with better luck.  We meet our host Andrew and his flatmate.  The room is nice but simple.  Andrew says that for food we should walk north for 15 minutes to Madison and there'll be loads of restaurants. There aren't. A little further east along Madison we find one nice Mexican. Food is cheaper here than in Canada.
After we've gone to bed, Jo goes to the loo. She comes back looking like she's seen a ghost. "There's a chair in the living room with a sheet over it and...it looks like someone might be sitting under the sheet..."
I have a peek.  Yes, it does look like legs, but I reject it as a trick of the eye.

DAY 27: Wednesday 3rd August

It was legs!!! Real human legs!!! Turns out that the room we'd booked was actually Andrew's bedroom, and he turfs himself out to sleep on the armchair whenever anyone books.  And his two housemates and their partners seem to be all right with this arrangement.
Our only full day in Seattle.  Pike Place Market is the must-see, so we see that first, though we probably hardly scratch the surface of this sprawling seething stretch of stalls.   We sausage at Uli's, which is rather yummy, then head along the harbour for the free outdoor sculpture park, which has a few cool things but is not a speck on the one in Yorkshire. 
We then spend some time in the shop and café of by far the most bizarre building, architecturally, of our entire trip, the EMP Museum.  I'm happy sitting in the café tapping away at some work, Jo thinks about going in to see exhibits about Nirvana and sci-fi but decides against it.  From there we walk back to Andrew's, which is a fair old walk through Seattle's streets, grabbing a rather disappointing meal from an entirely gluten free restaurant on the way.

DAY 28: Thursday 4th August

It's free-entrance day at the Seattle Art Museum.  Jo sends me off on my own so she can have a lazy morning in.  It's pretty cool.  I take lots of panorama pics so I can make her feel like she visited it too.
Then we gather up all our belongings once again and head back to the Greyhound station for our second such experience.  We encounter fewer crazies this time.  Four and a half hours later, as we pull into Portland Greyhound station, the driver tells us to beware - do not linger near the bus because this is a dodgy area, and whatever you do don't go behind it, because - in so many words - you might tread in someone's doo-doo.
We catch the yellow line tram northbound to Killingsworth (yup), and walk five minutes from there - the last walk we are going to have to do with all our bags until we get to JFK in three weeks' time (for reasons that will become clear in your next instalment) - to number 1234 (that's a very satisfying number to type) North Sumner Street, which is the house of our new lovely hosts Mia and Nate.  They are the first AirBnB hosts we've actually chatted to properly and got to know.   He's a fine artist (abstract minimalist stuff), she works in a furniture shop and wants to get into paper-making, and they're both musicians. 
We take an evening stroll down Mississippi Street, which is mega-hip-and-trendy, and have a burger from some burger place and a very special ice cream sundae from Ruby Jewel.  Immediate impressions are that we like this place a lot.  A lot more than Seattle, certainly.

DAY 29: Friday 5th August

We get daily transport passes - the public transport in Portland is both cheaper and more intuitive than in either Seattle or Vancouver - and head downtown.  Our first job is to secure a car hire from Sunday for the remainder of our trip.  We go to four different places, and only two will accept our UK debit card and let us drop off in a different location.  Of those two, one is ridiculously extortionate, and the other only slightly extortionate, so that is our only option.  We then visit a few thrift stores; our second job of the day is to buy me a very cheap guitar.  We find one for only $13 (£9-ish post-Brexit, £6.50-ish pre), but it has only two strings, so replacing them is a job for tomorrow.  We eat a late lunch at a nice outdoor market, go to a few cool vintage shops and a Safeway, and make our way home.  Jo cooks us up some macaroni cheese and we get a relatively early night.

DAY 30: Saturday 6th August

Another set of daily transport passes, and today's first job is buying guitar strings.  We go to Trade Up Music, which is in another nice part of town we're glad we had the excuse to visit, then go back to Mississippi Street for street Mexican, then into town to visit a shop we've had a lot of recommendations for: Powell's Books on Burnside.  It's a vast warehouse on three floors, with the special quirk that they shelve new and second hand copies of the same book right next to each other.  We buy two books each, and get a chunk of work done in the café.  We sit in a park and bake for a bit, visit another supermarket, then head home to string guitars and eat dinner.
In the evening, I feel restless, and like I haven't quite made adequate use of my daily pass, so I leave Jo to chill and set off to see what's at the very end of the yellow line.  On the map it looks like a nice trot from the final stop across to a leafy boaty island, but it's actually a bit of a spaghetti junction past people sleeping rough across to a parking lot and some dilapidated casinos, so I turn on my heels after a quick glance and head home to bed.

DAY 31: Sunday 7th August

It's cheap-entrance day at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry - $2 instead of $15 - so off we tootle for a look around.  It's pretty good, and very interactive, but not quite as impressive as Toronto's.  And then we go back to our car hire place, Avis, where our jaws hit the floor twice.  Firstly, when we get there, their tiny reception area is absolutely heaving, and we have to wait in line for almost an hour and a half.  Secondly, when we finally get served, we realise the price we were quoted the other day didn't include insurance, which adds...well, I'm not even going to say how much, but A LOT of money to what was already A LOT of money.  But we're committed.  We get the car.  We drive back to number 1234 to get our bags, then we head south.
First stop on our most epickest of drives (after the briefest and uninspiringest of stop-offs in Mollala for supplies) is Crooked Finger Farm in Scotts Mills, where we've rented an Airstream for two nights' glamping. Our host Kristie is a delight - has lived in Ireland for five years, and she is now a - her phrase - "gentleman farmer". She shows us round our abode, warns us that it's rather fragile in places, gives us tips on what to do in the area, and then leaves us be for the entirety of our stay.
Jo cooks while I strum my new guitar, then we watch the lovely film Once, and conk out.

DAY 32: Monday 8th August

Kirstie has given us directions for a circular walk round her farm. We don't take them in properly, and get hopelessly lost.  Our own little special route takes us past a derelict graveyard from the 1860s, through some stunning woodland, through expansive Christmas tree plantations, straight through somebody else's farm (which makes us a little nervous that we'll be shouted at but we make it unnoticed), past a cute church and an even cuter churchyard, past a farm with a sign saying "Prayer is the best way to meet your maker, but the quickest way is to TRESPASS", and then, after a few hours' walking and only ten minutes from home, it starts raining quite hard.
We have lunch and an afternoon nap, and then we drive into the wilderness of Silver Falls State Park until the road becomes bumpy, then we turn back.  We spend the evening curled up with two films, both six-and-a-half-ish out of ten and both very well suited to our rugged backwater environs: Get Low and True Grit.

DAY 33: Tuesday 9th August

We say goodbye to Kristie and her extremely wolfy dog Sima, and off we tootle once again.  We have three days to get to San Fransisco, and we're going to go the scenic route.  We stop in Silverton to soak up our first internet connectivity since Sunday morning over a latte and a bun (looks like it might have a few half-interesting shops, but we don't explore properly), then in Philomath to try to buy a map (and fail; bit of a dusty nothing-place, except that we pop our heads into a nice myrtlewood store - something there are a lot of in these parts), then we drive our first of many truly stunning stretches, through the Siuslaw National Forest, with a brief stop for a picnic by a kind of a creeky thing where some people are having a splash.  And then a little further down the road, we hit Pacific Ocean, and the famous Route 101, by Waldport, and turn south.
We stop off in Yachats, where we pop into Mari's bookshop (of "gently used" books), which I mention only because the lady behind the counter starts talking about Porthcawl - a small fishing village in Wales that we happen to have performed Einstein in (one of those weird moments of "Wow you're from Britain? Do you know so-and-so?" "Er...yes actually").  We also pop down to the beach, which is rife with driftwood.
We've booked a motel in Coos Bay.  Or at least we think we have.  Coos Bay is so small that we haven't prepared a map, assuming we'll find it just by driving down the one street.  We won't make that mistake again.  Turns out our motel lied about being in Coos Bay - it's actually in Charleston, an even smaller settlement a good twenty minutes drive away.  Or forty minutes, if you then get hopelessly lost like we do.
But we eventually find it.  It's called Captain John's, and it actually ain't all bad, particularly since we chose it for its utter cheapness (not just its name).  The cheapness is completely cancelled out, though, by the very expensive restaurant that is the only option in town.  But at least it's yummy, and we have a nice view of the bay.
We have been advised, by the motel lady, to go and see the sunset from Cape Arago.  A detail she omitted was that we'd see - and most significantly hear - sea lions.  And what a sound.  Got to be experienced.
On our way home, we also stop at Sunset Bay.  We walk across the beach, until we realise that by doing so we are murdering hundreds of newborn shrimp.  I clamber up some rocks and get quite excited about geological formations, and Jo nods thoughtfully.

DAY 34: Wednesday 10th August

Southbound on the 101.  We drive through - but don't stop in - a very pretty old-fashioned town called Bandon, and then make our first stop of the day at Battle Rock, which was the site of a vicious battle between settlers and natives a few hundred years ago.  The plaque explaining it leans impressively on the side of the natives, but the memorials are for the settlers.  The coastline is stunning, and there are cool caves through the eponymous rock.
At Gold Beach, we take the only direct recommendation from Buff and Hugh's diary of their time driving the opposite way along this coast - we eat at Indian Creek Café.  And it's really nice!  Thanks for the tip!  Jo spots a very pretty bird, blue with a really cute tuft.  Then it opens its beak, and the most godawful velociraptor squeal comes out.  A bluebird, the waitress tells us.
The last stretch of Oregon coast before we hit the California border is amazing.  Much like the rest.
Our first port of call in California is another recommendation from the Captain John's lady.  She's said we really must see the redwoods at Stout Grove, but to make sure we take route 199, because our car won't handle the shorter route.  The 199 is a gorgeous route in itself - we say "wow" about once  per hundred metres.  We turn right and cross two bridges, where we're held in roadworks for twenty minutes, then we start winding through the forest towards our goal.  Which is great, and has a really nice short circular walk.  Mahoosive trees, including one in particular which is by far the biggest I've ever seen.  There is a beach on a river, where we take the wrong path and head completely the wrong way for a bit. 
The road having not seemed too bad, I decide to risk driving the way we'd been advised against back to the 101, and it's a bit bumpy and narrow but not too bad, and we take it very slowly.
Our motel is in Eureka.  The name is inspiring, but the city is not.  Flat, low and gridular.  We eat at the Marie Callender, which is fine I guess.  But our motel is dreadful.  The Lamplighter Inn - avoid - again very cheap, and this time deservedly so.  We have to keep the windows closed because the parking lot smells so bad, even though it's too hot in the room, which keeps us awake even if the buzzing from the fridge hadn't.   

DAY 35:  Thursday 11th August

Onwards southbound.  We pull over at Chapman's Gem and Mineral Shop, which we're very impressed by - it's a huge warehouse full of all kinds of interesting bits of stone, and also has a 'museum' room with massive dinosaur bones and all sorts (but unfortunately no information on what species of dinosaur anything comes from).
First planned port of call for the day: the Valley of the Giants, which is a winding scenic route that runs parallel to the 101 for several miles, through a rather special stretch of redwood forest.  There are metal boxes as you drive in with tourist information leaflets, which I read out loud as Jo drives through.  This is the forest where the legend of Bigfoot originates, and there's a great deal of history to the preservation of the forests from logging.  We stop for a picnic at the visitor's centre, about 2/3rds of the way down, and take a short hike through the forest from here.  There are good plaques telling us pretty much everything there is to know about redwood trees, including information about burls which contradicts what we learnt about them at the Ontario Science Centre.
Our other planned stop, before reaching San Francisco, is Bollinas, which Kristy has told us is a really nice unspoilt, untouristy, unroadsigned sea-port town.  Since we're running short on time, we decide to approach it from the south, meaning we get a glimpse of San Francisco in the distance a good hour before we enter it.  Well, we sort of glimpse it, but it seems to be covered in a thick fog.  "Wow," I say, "look how foggy it is over there!"  "Yes, didn't you know?  It's always foggy in San Francisco."  "Really?"  "Yes."
We turn right, and head up Highway 1, along the coast.  It's very windy (as in it winds, not there's wind, though there is), and it's clear that it'll take us longer than expected to get to Bollinas.  Since we're on a schedule to check in in the big city, we give up, and pull over at a point with an exceptional view.  We sit on a rock to eat the desserts we've been saving for the beach.  Jo drops her phone down between two rocks, and for a moment we both think it's lost forever, but then she spots it and manages to retrieve it.
We enter the heavy fog as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and can just about spot some skyscrapers in the distance.  And there to our left is the famous Alcatraz.  Route 101 goes right through the centre of San Francisco, and we follow it.
We arrive at our accommodation, which is on Madrid Street, in the Excelsior district.  We are booked in for three nights.  It is an interesting Airbnb... This extract from the review we subsequently write of it for the website will suffice to sum it up:
"The room is great, really cozy, with a comfy bed, kettle, microwave, crockery, cutlery, dimmable lighting...almost everything you could need.  Except a bathroom.  To get to the bathroom, you have to go outdoors, step over a cat or two, go past the hen house, down an uneven path, through a bolted gate (occasionally guarded by raccoons), into the house (where you will get an enthusiastic welcome from four dogs every time - their smallest, Lilly, is a particular delight), then zigzag through a couple of doorways... For the animal-lover with a strong night-time bladder, this is a wonderful property."

DAY 36: Friday 12th August

Today is our first of two full days in San Francisco.  Having been unable to get on the Internet the night before (a technical problem that gets resolved in the morning), we've been unable to plan our day, so our first port of call is to find a tourist information centre, and get some information.  We get off the bus at the City Hall, thinking this might be a good place to start.  It isn't - our simple request for "some visitor information, like maps and so on" is misunderstood by about five different people, and it feels a bit like we're in 12 Tasks of Asterix.  Nice building, with about three weddings going on, shame it's a little frustrating.  Eventually, though, we find out that the central Visitor Information place is a half-hour walk away, and off we set.
On the way, we spot a museum with free entry - the Cultural and Art Museum - which is something of a find.  The vast majority of its very diverse art is by one artist, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, and we're now big fans.
We sit in a café with Internet connection, and find another free museum of interest - the Museum of Performance & Design - but when we get there it's locked and no-one answers the bell, even though the sign on the door indicates that it should be open.  Next we do get to the Visitor Centre, which yields not much info we didn't know already, then we visit Union Square to find Jo some new socks, and then hit Chinatown for food.  And pick a so-so Japanese restaurant.  We leave Jo's new socks there, so I have to run back and get them.
We continue walking north until we spot a tower to our right that Jo recognises from her last visit here, 16 years ago.  We hike up the hill to its base, but the queue to get in is longer than the tower is tall so we don't bother.  Instead we walk down the 377 steps on the other side, sit in a nice park for a bit and watch a divebombing hummingbird, then walk along North Beach (which isn't a beach at all) to the famous (i.e. tacky and touristy) Pier 39.  Then we get the bus home and treat ourselves to a microwave dinner back in our garden shed.

DAY 37: Saturday 13th August

San Fran day two.  Yesterday we did eastside, today westside.  But first, three thrift stores in Mission, where we find about five CDs for the next leg of our journey.  Then we head to Castro, where we've been recommended a 24-hour diner called Orphan Andy's.  I ask if they have any gluten free options, and get a funny look.  "Our menu hasn't changed since 1977," we're told.  So I splash out and get the steak.  Jo has the "Big 2" (breakfast with two of everything).  One of our best dining experiences yet.
We pop into a yard sale, where we buy a further 3 CDs, then we hit the parks.  The first is Corona Heights, a hill which has what looks from the bottom a bit like a ruinous castle, but of course they don't exist here - it's just a squarish rock.  But it has an amazing panoramic view of the whole city, well worth the climb.
Next park is Buena Vista, where, ironically, the views aren't as good because this hill is covered in trees.  Very nice trees.  And lots of winding labyrinthine paths.
We walk through Haight Ashbury, where Jo buys a watch.  The watch-seller is the first stranger to comment on Jo's pregnancy ("This watch is good because when you have your baby you will need to feed every hour!").
Next park is the biggie: Golden Gate Park.  We sit on Hippie Hill for a while, where Jo has a 20-minute sleep and I write a good chunk of my new show.  Then we walk through the remainder of the park, where we see, among other things, the AIDS memorial garden and a few nice waterfalls.  We intend to walk all the way to the beach, but run out of energy and do the last bit by bus.  It's too late to sit and sunbathe though, so two more buses take us home to another microwave meal.

DAY 38: Sunday 14th August

We've given ourselves two days to drive to Los Angeles.  Our first attempted stop is in Monterey - attempted because the parking meter we choose is faulty and steals our money, so we say sod this place and drive on.  We take a brief stop at a service station, then head down the coast towards Big Sur.  We're seeing a lot of signs outside homes saying "Thank you firefighters - we love you!" and similar. 
We stop at a beach called Monastery Beach to munch our picnic and get mildly harassed by cute seagull babies, then drive further south, where the coastline begins to get really beautiful.  Another half hour down the road, we get turned around by a police blockade; there are forest fires further down Big Sur.  Ah, that'll be what all the love for firefighters is about.  The diversion takes us all the way back to the service station, 40 minutes back.  From there, the recommended diversion is even further back the way we came, but I think I spot a way through on the map past Carmel Valley (we still don't have an actual map, nor do we have Internet connection, but my iPad sometimes shows me a blurry view if I ask nicely).  It turns out to be an absolutely gorgeous drive, which we suspect no tourist ever sees, since it bypasses both the famous Big Sur route and the main 101 route.  So a stroke of luck in what could have been an altogether rather frustrating early afternoon.
Our bed for the night is at Motel 6 in Paso Robles, and it's our worst bedroom so far, by far - the toilet is blocked, and the bed has one of those plastic anti-bed-wetting undersheets. 
We eat at a reasonable little burger place round the corner, where we catch Mr Bolt winning the men's 100m final.

DAY 39: Monday 15th August

We have no particular stops planned between Paso Robles and Los Angeles, but we've told our Airbnb host for the night we'll be there at 6.  Not a wise time of day to approach LA, it turns out.
We stop off at San Luis Obispo and go to the visitor info centre to get advice about a nice walk nearby.  They point us to a trail starting near the main road, but it's clear when we get there that there's going to be no shade, and it's a very hot day, so we change our minds and just head further down the road.  Instead we just pick an exit off the 101 pretty much at random, where we make a marvellous find.  After a few quiet winding roads, we come across a gorgeous - and very popular - little beach resort called Avila.  I pop in the sea, we sit and eat our picnic, then we get back on the road.
We stop briefly in Santa Barbara to buy a coffee and swap drivers, and that's where the traffic jam starts.  For the next two hours or so, we crawl painfully towards LA on the 101, then down the 405 past LAX airport.  Our abode is in Hawthorne.  Apparently used to be a bit of a ghetto area, not so bad nowadays, still not very exciting in itself.
Our host is a fairly highly-strung Indian lady.  We know from the reviews that it's not going to be the cleanest of apartments, but it's really not too bad, and we have our own private bathroom and generous use of the kitchen.
After a quick pasta meal we drive off to find Hollywood.  The drive up the freeway through downtown LA is pretty cool.  We don't really know what we're looking for, but we spot a turn-off to Hollywood Boulevard, and that seems a pretty good bet, so we take it.
Hollywood is exactly what we could have imagined: lots of neon, lots of souvenir shops selling tacky Oscars, and lots of desperate wannabe performers.  Jo gets accosted by two such, who thrust CDs/DVDs in her hand and then chat non-stop about their influences and their impending record deal until she gives them a couple of dollars.  We walk the walk of fame (the stars on the pavement with the names of actors inside), and are just generally a bit peculiarised by the whole experience.
We take a detour home along Sunset Boulevard, through Beverly Hills and Bel Air.  Massive driveways, too dark to see the houses.

DAY 40: Tuesday 16th August

A major selling point of this particular Airbnb is its jacuzzi, which we test this morning, and it works.
Our research has shown that there are two free museums right next door to each other, our side of town, so that's our plan for the afternoon.  The first is the science museum - the third we've visited.  And it compares very well.  It has real actual space ships that have really actually been to the moon and back, and it generally has an environmental focus (including a whole room about environmental songwriting).  We eat in the science museum café, then head across the park to the African American Museum, which we like very much.  Most of the rooms are art, and one very well-curated room is history. 
Then it's beach time.  We drive down to Santa Monica, which has literally the biggest (longest and deepest) beach I've ever seen in my life (Jo's seen it all before).  On the walk down Jo finds a Wetzel Pretzel, which makes her very happy.
After a few hours of soaking up some vitamin D, we drive the entire length of the Santa Monica Boulevard.  Which takes a lot longer than we were expecting - about an hour and twenty minutes.  Again, we've picked totally the wrong time of day to traverse LA.
At the far end of the Boulevard lies a theatre called the Lyric Hyperion, where a friend of mine, Phil Burgers (better known under his stage name Dr Brown), is artistic director.  We hang out with him for a few hours, sneak a peak at the experiential yoga event that's in progress from the tech box, and eat dinner.  Jo has provided many many friends and relatives for us to meet up with during this trip.  Phil is my first.  Jo now believes me when I say I have friends.

DAY 41: Wednesday 17th August

Today we drive to San Diego.  We take the coastal route - highway 1 - round Rancho Palos Verdes (lovely) to San Pedro, which is where Phil grew up.  He has recommended us a café called Walker's, "not because it's good, but because it's old".  They seem quite surprised to see us, and even more surprised to hear about my gluten intolerance, but we find a solution.  They have a local radio station on, and we hear them talk about a new big fire in south California, thousands of homes evacuated.  We ask the waitress where it is, and whether it'll affect us going to San Diego.  "Oh no," she says, "you won't get through - the whole 15 is closed."  We tell her we were thinking of taking the coastal route.  She says we might be all right then.
Turns out she had her geography completely wrong, and we are absolutely fine.  It's just a little slow because we've chosen the scenic route (which is only scenic in as much as we glimpse the sea occasionally - this is a stretch to skip next time).
Phil's boss yesterday told us that if we're lucky, this time of year is good for swimming with leopard sharks at La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya).  Obviously Jo, having a phobia of sharks, is really excited by the idea.  We park up at La Jolla Cove, and are immediately met by a peculiar smell and an even peculiarer sound.  And it ain't a shark.  We head for the beach, and are delighted by the sight of loads of gorgeous sea lions, sharing the craggy rocks with humans without compunction.
We go for dinner at a sushi place in La Jolla, then head to Huggins Road in north San Diego, where we find the abode of Jo's old friend Miranda, who she hasn't seen for 11 years (and who's six months pregnant), and her husband Brian.  Their house is amazing - they've recently done a major renovation so everything is brand spanking new, and it's huge.  And we're here for three nights.

DAY 42: Thursday 18th August

Day 1 of two days exploring San Diego - a nice harbourside city characterised by a heavy military presence and the constant overhead thunder of warplanes.  For a first glance, we head to the Cabrillo National Monument - a hilltop peninsula with a spectacular view of the whole city (Cabrillo was the first European ever to set foot in California, and he apparently did so on this peninsula, although apparently his navigational record-keeping wasn't great, so we can't be sure).  We join a guided tour of the park, which includes an "old" lighthouse and a whale look-out point (no whales this time of year).  On the way back to the mainland, we stop briefly at the eerie Rosecrans Military Cemetery.
Next stop San Diego Old Town, which is a really sweet area of wooden bungalow shacks.  We eat Mexican at a place that's doing a very good lunchtime deal, but when we get the bill we realise we've eaten four meals, not just the two we'd ordered, so it turns out to be quite expensive after all.  This causes a bit of consternation with the waiter, and we settle on a compromise (we pay for three).
We walk up the street, and a certain shop catches my eye.  It turns out to be the African Museum, with only the front room being a shop, and the proprietor is one of the most enthusiastic, colourful characters we've met in our almost six weeks so far.  He takes us on a tour of all his artefacts - Egyptian mummies, a signed photo of the first African American in space, the ballot paper of the election Nelson Mandela won, his pet gopher snake (we get a lengthy lecture on spotting the difference between a gopher and a rattle snake), his microchipped parrot who has a vocabulary of 26 full sentences (but just keeps saying "bye bye"), and much else besides.  He has enlisted our help in securing him a golliwog - he says he will pay any price.
We had intended to go to the beach, but we are short on time and traffic is horrendous.  Instead we take a brief walk round downtown San Diego then go back to the house.
In the evening, Miranda and Brian take us out for a meal at their favourite Persian restaurant.  (Did I mention they're Persian?  They're Persian.)

DAY 43: Friday 19th August

Second and final day in San Diego.  Also the final day of our holiday on which we have the opportunity to go to the beach.  So we're greedy, and go to two.
Before that, though, we visit Miranda and Brian's place of work and get the grand tour.  He runs a T-shirt printing and embroidery business, with lots of massive machines and shelves of paint.
The first beach is Coronado, which is a peninsula linked to downtown by a bizarre L-shaped bridge.  The beach is very popular, the water choppy.  I make Jo a pregnancy seat out of the sand.  The wind blows the sand into our faces quite a lot.
The second beach is called Whispering Sands (we were aiming for a beach we'd been recommended called Windandsea, and thought this was it, but turns out we got the wrong one).  It's much quieter, and a lot rockier, not so good for swimming, but that's exactly what we're after.  We eat a picnic and have a paddle.
On the way back to Miranda and Brian's house, we stop off in La Jolla for a coffee, and do a supermarket shop.  We have the house to ourselves that evening; Jo cooks up a nice pasta meal and we vegetate in front of the Olympics.  Probably our laziest, indulgentest day so far.  We have rather an epic journey ahead, so we're storing up the chill.

DAY 44: Saturday 20th August

In the morning we drive back to LA, which is a lot quicker this time since we stick to the main roads.  Our goal is a house in Beverly Hills which Jo last visited fifteen years ago: it is the house of Miranda's mother, and the occasion is Miranda's baby shower.  I'd never even heard of baby showers before this holiday, but apparently they're a thing.  It's a lovely occasion, mainly populated by the expectant parents' vast extended family, and at least four people Jo knew from before.  There's yummy food aflowing, kids to pull faces at, and a really quite impressive Spanish easy listening band.
We leave before dessert, cos we've got a long way to drive.  We head north out of LA (we're briefly on Mulholland Drive; wow there are some amazing houses round here - some of them on stilts!), east along the 134, then north-east along the 15 (this is where the forest fires were the other day, and we've checked to make sure the roads are open), and over the state border into Nevada, where the scenery starts getting pretty impressive (but it's nothing compared to what we'll see tomorrow).  As we get out of the car for our caffeine break, we are struck by an extraordinary wall of heat.  The air is very different when you get a little way inland.
We get a bit panicky about running out of petrol, but find some just outside our destination city for the evening...
Las Vegas.
Our hotel for the night is at the Wild Wild West Casino.  Sounds themed in some way, isn't.  Just a smoky Butlinsy hall full of fruit machines.  (That's not where we're sleeping - we have a proper hotel room.)
We eat at an awful burger joint, then make an attempt at either driving up the famous Vegas Strip or parking nearby and walking it, but fail to do both on account of bad traffic and worse road markings.  So we drive back to the hotel a little disappointed, but Jo gives me her blessing to go and walk the Strip alone while she has a bath and rests her belly.
I walk for about an hour and a half, until past midnight.  I go into several casinos, but do not gamble a penny.  I pass thousands of people, but do not speak to a soul.  I see dripping opulence and desperate poverty.  I see the most ridiculous architecture, straight from a cartoon from hell.  The whole experience, to be frank, is just ghastly.  But I feel it is a very important experience to have had.

DAY 45: Sunday 21st August

Tonight is the first night we haven't pre-booked accommodation for.  We've decided just to make as much ground across the country as we can manage. 
We set off at 8:30, drive along the Strip so Jo gets at least a glimpse of it (turns out I didn't see even a quarter of it last night), and then rejoin the 15.  This takes us briefly through the top left corner of Arizona - pretty cool landscape (but just you wait!), and then over another state border into Utah.  We stop briefly in St George, then we bravely leave the main road a few more miles on and head into the Zion National Park.  We do hum and ha briefly (well, I do) when we discover it costs $30 to drive through it, but even though our visit is brief, it is well worth it, and it would have been lovely to spend all day.  The sandrock formations are truly spectacular, and the mind boggles at the ancient land shifts that have created them.  Also breathtaking is the engineering that has gone into constructing the single road that winds over - and in some cases through - it.
Further up the road, we have the option of turning right and driving to Bryce Canyon, which we've heard is amazing, but, partly because it's just started raining, and partly because we're worried we'll be charged another $30 fee, we reluctantly decide to continue north on the 89.  But it's very beautiful in itself.  We stop to share a weird salad and soggy chips at Hoover's Grille, Marysvale, just before we hit the 70, which takes us east.
More gorgeous rugged landscape accompanies our journey for the entire rest of the day.  We stop briefly at (and climb half-way up) Ghost Rock, and power on until what we think is 9pm, but turns out to be 10pm because we've crossed a time line without realising.
We get as far as Grand Junction in Colorado.  We've had a big conversation in the car about how we're not going to accept the first place we get to, and we have the energy to compare prices of at least three motels.  But since the first place - West Gate Inn - drops his price by $10 as soon as we say we'll shop around and be back, and since he's such a nice doddery old man (and has proud knowledge of lots of British English words like "lorry"), we shrug our shoulders and accept.  Perfectly reasonable independent establishment, and we even get breakfast.

DAY 46: Monday 22nd August

We had no idea we were sleeping somewhere so beautiful.  We open the motel room door to be greeted by the most extraordinary cliff face stretching as far as the eye can see.
We breakfast (not like kings, but it is our first provided breakfast in paid accommodation), then drive.  And drive, and drive.  And drive.  We have decided to buy ourselves an extra day in New York by making it all the way to my friends in Lincoln today.
We see a vast variety of landscapes.  It starts off with the same tabletop mountains as yesterday, then the mountains gradually round off to look a bit more like the Cairngorms in Scotland, then gradually greenery and off-season ski-slopes are added so it looks more like Switzerland, and then it all flattens out and becomes agricultural.  This isn't like a British agricultural landscape, though, with hedgerows every few hundred metres - these farms are absolutely ginormous.  And some of them are very smelly indeed.
Our lunch stop is at El Jacal - a pretty good Mexican restaurant in Fort Morgan.
We're staying at the house of my best friend Josh from college's wife Skye's brother Brendan and his wife Kristie.  We have a bit of trouble finding the house - it's on Peach Street, but Google has directed us to West Peach Street, which is a slightly scary mobile home community.  We eventually ask at a gas station, and the kind man lends us his phone to look up the actual address.  We're greeted by Brendan, Kristie, Pepper and Bucky (two humans, two dogs - Bucky is the biggest dog I've ever met), and stand chatting in the kitchen over a glass of wine (me) / water (Jo) until they say "you must be so tired!"  Weeeellll, we say...and then look at the time... Without realising, we've crossed another time zone, and lost another hour.  Ah, we say, yes, perhaps we'd better be getting to bed.
Today we have driven 725 miles - roughly the distance, as the crow flies, from Land's End to the Shetlands, and presumably the biggest day of driving of our lives.

DAY 47: Tuesday 23rd August

Josh and Skye's 16-year-old daughter (who was 1 when I was last here in Lincoln, for Josh and Skye's wedding), is here for six months (Josh and Skye and the rest of their extensive brood now live in Australia).  We didn't see her last night because she's chemically regulating her sleep patterns to be up in time for high school, but I get up at 7 so as to see her before she leaves.  We chat cross-country running (which she has to do daily) and just a smidgeon of politics (she's "learnt the hard way not to discuss politics with friends").
After breakfast, Brendan takes us on a tour of the Nebraska State Capitol - otherwise known as "the Penis in the Plains" - a municipal tower apparently designed by a philosopher.  It's more impressive inside than out, and the summit affords a very nice view over the flat surrounding city.
Then off we drive, with no accommodation booked and again just seeing how far we can manage.  Our first brief stop for coffee is in Eagle (had to stop there really, didn't we?). 
Again we see shifting landscapes unfold below us, though not quite as dramatically as yesterday: the flat plains of Nebraska graduate towards rolling hills as we pass through Iowa and Illinois (where our one notable stop-off of the day involves us having a go on some swings and other playground apparatus at a rest area near Wyanet).  And then, as it gets dark, soon after we pass by Chicago (but do not enter for fear of getting horribly snarled up in traffic), we enter the third state of the day to begin with the letter I - Indiana, where we pretty soon pull off the 80 near Portage, where there are about four motels to choose from.  And it's pretty obvious just looking at them which one we'll plump for - the one called Dollar Inn, and which looks like it's falling apart.  This is by far our cheapest (paid) night's sleep, and we even have some interesting (if fuzzy) TV channels to entertain us.  We order a Chinese for delivery, and zonk in front of 60's surf music videos.

DAY 48: Wednesday 24th August

Another day of pretty solid driving.  We take a wrong turn almost straight away, and end up over the state border into Michigan (the 12th state we've entered so far ***SPOILER ALERT of 16 in total***).  We traverse the rest of Indiana without much incident, then the entirety of Ohio, where we leave the highway and stop for lunch at Daly's Pub, a proper locals' bar in Sandusky.  Sandusky is a sleepy harbour town on the coast of Lake Erie - a lake we swam in exactly 40 days ago, but on the Canadian side (though I spelt it wrong in my previous bulletin).  Apparently Charles Dickens spent a night in Sandusky, and wrote of it in his American Notes.  Our food is very good, actually - the best grilled chicken I've had yet.
To the east of Ohio lies Pennsylvania, which really is a thing of beauty after a string of fairly samey states since half-way through Colorado.  Pennsylvania has lush forests and meandering rivers.  Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself - most of this we'll see tomorrow.  It's getting dark, and we need somewhere to sleep.
We try in Du Bois, but all three motel/hotels we go into are mega-expensive, so we swap drivers and carry on for another half-hour.  We eventually find a bed for the night in Clearfield.  Again we ask in three or four places, and then pick the cheapest, which happened to be the first, and a strange place it is too - they seem to be undergoing a temporary identity crisis due to a change of franchise.  The bed and room are fine.  We bring in all our belongings from the car, to repack for the final few days of our holiday, and depress ourselves thoroughly by watching presidential election coverage on TV.

DAY 49: Thursday 25th August

We set off early.  Early for us.  Twenty past eight.  Turns out not to have been quite early enough.
The drive goes well to begin with.  A quick bit of thinking allows us to skip a section of stationary traffic by taking a badly-signposted diversion route (that's one thing about the States - the signposting is really bad!  I suppose they expect everyone to have SatNavs, or at the very least 3G).  We enter New Jersey, where we stop for refreshments at a Dunkin' Donuts in Totawa, and otherwise drive through that state without particular incident.
New York City looms on the horizon, and it is as we approach the George Washington Bridge that things begin to get really horribly snarled up.  We need to have the car back with Avis at the airport by about quarter past two.  The journey from here should take twenty minutes, allowing for bad traffic, which should give us an hour to spare.  One hour later, we have advanced a couple of miles, and are getting very worried.  We've also been charged for two toll bridges, which is a little annoying.  At two o'clock, we are still crawling along.  But then at last we reach the roadworks and things move relatively freely.  We still haven't filled up with petrol, but we head into the car return zone with seconds to spare.  We ask if they mind us going and getting petrol and coming back even though we'll officially be late, and a kind man says you shouldn't really but okay then.  So off we go, fill up, come back (late now), and a completely different man doesn't raise an eyebrow and just takes the car off our hands.  As we turn our backs, it's driven away by a stranger.  After eighteen days with it, it feels odd to not be allowed a proper goodbye.
My clever plan is to leave the luggage that we'll be checking in here at the airport for two days, and we've packed accordingly.  I already know which terminals have luggage facilities, and I've read that it's $6 per bag per day.  So I leave Jo at Avis, tell her I'll be half an hour or so and head for the Skytrain into the airport proper with the two bags.  At terminal 4 I'm told it can't be done without my flight itinerary, or at least my flight number, which I don't have (it's online and there's no wifi at the airport), so off I go to terminal 7 to ask IcelandAir for the flight number, then to terminal 8 (the Skytrain is a one-way loop) where they look at my bags, and at my flight details, and say okay that'll be one hundred and eight dollars please.  What?!  Turns out my bags classify as "large", and I'd be paying for three days (actually 2 days and 2ish hours but it's charged per 24 hour period).  No thank you, I say, and return to Jo, over an hour later, apolopathetogetic.  We are going to have to carry ALL our stuff into New York.  This still includes the guitar I bought in Portland (which I've strummed pretty much daily, by the way - definitely got value out of that purchase).
We have forgotten (all right, I have forgotten) to look up a map of where exactly the address of our AirBnb is located.  We get the Skytrain to Howard Beach, where some kind NYPD cops look up Sutton Street on their phones and say it looks like Lorimer is the closest subway station.  This means getting the A-train (now I know what that song about getting the A-train is about!) and changing to the L-train.  There is a bit too much lugging luggage up and down stairs for strict comfort, but we remain valiant.  At Lorimer we get a green taxi cab (I thought they were supposed to be yellow here!), and the driver has no idea where he's going (I thought they were supposed to be really knowledgeable here!).
Eventually we get to the door, where the key is exactly where we've been told it will be, and the door opens exactly as we've been told it would, and the flat has everything that has been promised (but strangely no duvet cover).  Our two nights' stay here in New York are very kindly being paid for by Jo's cousin Lara,  since she "would probably have fed us lobster at least twice anyway" if we'd managed to make it up to Maine to visit her.
After a few hours' absolute poop-out following the most difficult day so far, we head to Nina's Pizzeria just round the corner.  Several very strange things happen here.  Firstly, the menu has no pizza on it.  I ask about this, and get a funny look and an "Oh okay I'll bring you that menu as well then."  Secondly, Jo's meal comes out a good fifteen or twenty minutes before mine.  Thirdly, when I ask if we can have a refill of our water, he returns to refill just my glass, not Jo's, which is also empty.  And fourthly, on the bill we are charged for hidden extras.
All round, not the most normal day we've ever had.

DAY 50: Friday 26th August

Our only full day in New York.  And our energy has dwindled somewhat.
First stop: the Metropolitan Museum.  This has a pay-what-you-want policy.  We did our finances last night and figured out that (discounting the car hires) we've actually underspent on our daily allowance, so we figure we can at least afford the suggested rate for students.  The museum is great, with loads of variety - the only disappointment being that the musical instruments room is closed for refurbishment.  We go on two quarter tours.  First we go on the modern art tour, but the tour guide is slow and stuttery and glides around like some kind of spectre, so we duck out at a convenient juncture and join the start of the overlapping 'museum highlights' tour.  This is much better, and we learn a fair bit before Jo's ankles start to ache and we decide to quit the museum and go sit in Central Park.
The park is very different from what I was expecting, and Jo confirms that she harboured the same false image of a very open, flat space with straight lines of trees.  Instead, the park is very nicely landscaped, with plenty of interesting nooks and crannies.  We spend between 10 and 45 minutes in four different spots winding southwards from the museum, including a stop for a luuuuvly ice-cream from the Boat House.  It is a very hot day.
The Museum of Modern Art has free entry every Friday evening from 4, but the website advises not arriving before 6.  We arrive at 5:45, and immediately see why.  The queue stretches a good three hundred metres around the block.  So we sit in Isadora's Café for some chai and fruit salad for an hour (the waitress tells us she's on an eleven hour shift, and is in an understandably funny mood), then try again.  This time we get straight in.
We like MoMA very much.  There are two temporary exhibitions we particularly warm to - some videos showing European refugees mapping their journeys, and a Dada exhibition.  The sixties floor is also great.  The two (temporary) contemporary art rooms are less inspiring.
We like New York.  The people and the traffic are more aggressive than in any other city, but there's a good buzz.  There's a rawness here, a realness. 


DAY 51: Saturday 27th August

In the morning, we pack.  At 10am, we get the subway into town.  A black girl of about twenty wearing an American football top becomes the first person to offer Jo a seat on public transport.  We surface at City Hall, walk down Broadway (without seeing a single theatre), and turn right along Liberty, into a square where we buy an extortionate iced latte.  After one more block, we have arrived at our one and only planned port of call in town today: the September 11th memorial.  I think they've done something absolutely beautiful.  I remember thinking, 15 years ago when it first happened, that they'll probably just build a bigger tower as an up-yours.  They've done the exact opposite.  I doff my hat.  And choke up a little bit.
One thing gets me riled, though.  The number of people taking inane grinning selfies as though they're at Niagara Falls or something.  Grrrrr.
We walk south, assuming that from the tip of Manhattan we'll see the Statue of Liberty, and we were right!  I thought we'd see her back, but we see her from the side.  She's very small from here.
We buy lunch from one of those bit-like-ice-cream-vans-but-with-hot-food that there are lots of here (the one Jo buys from is apparently "the original since 1916", but it doesn't look that old, and nor does the chap who works it).  There are nasty flies here in New York that bite and draw blood.  Yesterday in the park I was the victim.  Here by the harbour Jo is their blood of choice.
We think about quitting there and heading back to the flat, but then Jo spots the National Museum of the American Indian - always free - so we decide that would be a fitting final activity.  We do about half of it, and it's all right, I guess, perhaps lacking a certain warmth.  It's all a bit distant, a bit trapped behind glass, perhaps even a bit condescending.  Perhaps the other floor would have helped complete the picture.
We take a final walk through streets including the Wall one, then get the subway back to Sutton Street.  We have been playing "spot the eagle" today, and Jo wins by 16-5.
We shower, pack, and leave with plenty of time to spare.  I leave my guitar behind, as a gift for our AirBnb host who we have never met.  (But who does play guitar, and does want it.). We hail a cab, and ask if he'll take us to the nearest A-train stop, so we don't have to change train this time.  He says he's on his way to the airport anyway, and will take us there for a fraction of the normal cost.  We are at the airport four hours before our flight home.  We find seats from which we can watch the sun setting over the distant New York skyline to the west, before our journey east, to new adventures.