Travel & Writing: The Adventure Outlined
In a little over two weeks, I board my British Airways flight and head west to begin a two-week solo adventure in the United States of America and Canada. Armed with those essential tools of the modern travel writer – notebook, pen, smartphone and camera – I will be using this precious fortnight primarily for story research and literary inspiration.
Whilst generally regarded as essential for photographers, I think it’s equally true that there comes a time for any writer (certainly for one who takes their craft seriously) to place themselves in unfamiliar and testing environments. The challenge of removing myself from my comfort zone (in a very real sense) can only add value to my bank of experience, honing my authorly skill set, and making me (hopefully) a better writer.
I’ve long wanted to test myself this way, and by virtue of a recent milestone birthday, and an amazingly supportive wife (who, fortunately for me, happens to be a talented photographer so understands the need to scratch this creative itch), I’m now taking this opportunity.
Presented here is only an abbreviated highlights reel of where I’ll be visiting and what I want to showcase. It’s difficult to venture into detail when so much that lies before me is unknown. But it is certainly my intention to take advantage of down-time in hotel rooms and airport lounges to post regular updates of my gambols, expeditions and assorted perambulations both on this site and across Social Media.
Of course, such an adventure requires no small amount of planning and preparation and I am forever indebted to Alison for her unwavering support and enthusiasm in making this trip happen. Whilst across the pond, I will be ably chaperoned by friends of long standing and excellent repute; friends to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for agreeing to share their world with me. You’ll meet these fine examples of humankind as my trip unfolds.
Though travelling very much alone this trip (notwithstanding the company mentioned above), I will have one trusted friend from home with me…this 1889 edition of Appleton’s General Guide to the United States and Canada. British readers may be familiar with this comprehensive volume – it was featured prominently in Michael Portillo’s television series Great American Railroad Journeys. Packed with fascinating information (as well as city maps for the adventurous 19th century traveller), I’m especially excited to be able to try and retrace some of the original features of the towns and cities I will be visiting.
My across the pond adventure begins in one of the most iconic cities in the world – San Francisco. Associated with such American literary legends as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Madeline Gleason – Mark Twain – it’s the perfect place to launch my transatlantic odyssey. But of all the wonders this city has to offer a wide-eyed Englishman, there is one that quite literally stands head and shoulders above all others. Alongside the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building nothing can surely be more representative or iconic of the United States than the Golden Gate bridge. My impatience to see it – to travel across it – is palpable and only increases as I edge ever-closer to departure day.
Sadly, my time in and around the Bay Area will be all-too-short, but I’m sure the memories I’ll have will sustain me until my next adventure here.
My itinerary for these first three days is relentless as there’s so much I want to see of Northern California; the wine country, the mighty redwoods, picturesque towns and coastal resorts…and of course, The Pacific Ocean.
Since infant boyhood, the Pacific has cast its spell over me; my desire to stand on its shore and have the surf surround me will be a lifetime’s ambition finally realised.
Leaving the mighty redwoods of California behind and heading north, my next adventure takes place in the great state of Oregon. Portland offers a number of attractions but for me, the mighty Columbia River and a glimpse of Mt. Hood (and possibly Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens too if the weather’s on my side) will top any man-made marvel. My time here is brief so making every minute count will be vital.
Leaving the Pacific Northwest, my next port of call sees me cheerfully sequestered in The Biggest Little City in the World – Reno, Nevada. Here, I get to meet up with friends whom I missed when they were in London during the summer. Our plans to visit Lake Tahoe, Virginia City and Reno itself, of course, promise that I’m going to have an amazing few days in – and around – this neon jewel in the Northern Nevadan crown.
Departing from Reno, my itinerary takes me south east to The Lone Star State – Dallas to be more precise. Sadly, though my time here can best be measured in hours rather than days, I’m still incredibly excited to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition by finally setting foot on Texas soil.
The final leg of this particular transatlantic journey is pretty special and takes me beyond the border of the United States to Canada, and the Province of Quebec. This will be my first time in Canada and to say I’m looking forward to it is something of an understatement. Taking in the sights, sounds and flavours of Montreal and Saint-Sauveur, as well as Mont-Tremblant and the Laurentides, this will be the perfect end to what I hope will be a life-affirming and uniquely memorable experience…