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Saturday, 5 October 2013

New friends,new places and unforgettable memories.

                           Well I'm back from my holiday's and what a holiday. Actually it's funny, as in weird saying holiday as my last one was when I was around 14 or 15 and that was only a school trip to London. This time around I ventured a little bit further afield and chose The US of A as my destination.

I'm going to try and write not so much that I bore you all, however enough to tell you about the fantastic time I had.

I took the 4th of September off work, this was my get everything sorted day, packing my new hard case and trying to get it under 23 kilo's was errrr interesting. I had already done a dry run a few days earlier and discovered that  the new size medium case I had purchased wasn't quite big enough after I bust the zipper... Oops! So I had to go out and buy a larger case.

On the morning of the 5th my dad took me to Newcastle airport. My flight was quite early and we got there in good time. I said goodbye to Mr Hinks and my dad came with me into the airport. I headed for check in. Everything went according to plan, which is quite unusual for me lol. And so I said bye to Ern and I set off up the escalator to departures.

I found my way around Newcastle airport reasonably well,finding where I would board my plane without incident and just waited to be notified when it was time to board. Boy I was nervous, though not as much as I expected. I mean this was a huge thing for me full of firsts. I've never been abroad,I've never flown (well apart from a quick jaunt in a helicopter doing some ariel military type manoeuvres) and I've never been away from home for quite so long.

My plane arrived I got on,stowed my bag in the overhead compartment,strapped in and prepared for my first flight, which was to be Amsterdam and Schiphol airport. The take off was scary yet exhilarating and after the initial buzz I soon settled in feeling comfortable and excited about my  adventure. It was a very pleasant flight over and the landing was nice and smooth, a slight bump as the plane set down on the runway. Hey there's nothing to this flying stuff I thought.

Newcastle Airport and me messing with my phone




 I had to then get through airport security at Schiphol...Oooh this should be fun. Bloody hell the security guy bombarded me with questions. It felt like being on University Challenge. How much did I pay for my Flight,where did I book my flight,who did I book my flight with,where do I live,how did I pay for my flight and so on. I managed to get past him and headed through the X-ray machine and yes my leg set off the alarm. The next guy was a lot more friendly and was really interested in my prosthetic asking how it worked and why I had the tendon receivers in place as he patted me down.

After visiting the front desk and preparing to get ready to wait to be boarded I heard my name being called.so I returned to the front desk where upon a lady attendant asked would I mind swapping seats with a young couple as they would like to sit together. "Hey no problem" I said. The couple thanked me and soon after we boarded our plane. This plane was a bigger Delta Airlines one. I think it was an Airbus. I found I was sitting next to a really interesting guy called Jeff. We shared a very enjoyable conversation. Chatting about where we had been,where we were going, what we were up to and just generally passing the time,after all the flight to Seattle was over 10 hours. I discovered Jeff was a strength and conditioning coach/skills coach and had been working in Sweden. He was a very interesting guy and as we left the plane he handed me his business card...which reminds me I must drop him a line, just to say thank you for the pleasure of his company.

So some 10 odd hours later I land in Seattle's Tacoma International Airport. WoW this is a bit bigger than Newcastle. I managed to find my way to the carousel and pick up my case. I then  got slightly lost and had to ask a member of the airport staff just how to get out of the airport. I was directed to a kind of shuttle train, a bit like a tube train and told to get off at the first stop. So I followed her instructions and soon after found myself to where my friend Brian was waiting for me.

Brian is the guy who sponsors me on his unique sporting prosthetic, The Bartlett Tendon Knee. I was so excited to be able to get to hang with him and spend some quality time riding and visiting parts of where he lives in Seattle. Brian gave me a hand with my gear and we headed for his car and set off to his house.

Upon reaching Brian's house I was introduced to his 2 dogs Bear and his new younger dog Scout. What lovely friendly dogs. We went inside and I was reacquainted with Laurie Brian's partner,she's a great lady.

I can't possibly go into all the details of my stay with Brian as then you really would be reading a small novel so I'm just going to tell you about the basics.

Firstly we visited Jak's Bar and Grill and I was introduced to a real American Steak, WoW it was Soooooo!!! Good. I was also introduced to Makers a brand of bourbon,back at Brian's house. It tasted great especially as we were drinking it whilst in Brian's hot tub.

Thumbs up to a fantastic Steak
The next day we visited Fabtech, this is Brian's distributor of his Bartlett Tendon.Fabtech is a next generation prosthetic and orthotic fabrication services company. There I got to meet Scott Wimberley who is Fabtech's Lean Implementation Officer and manages operations at Fabtech Systems LLC and I also got to meet Brian's prosthetist Dave Hughes. We all shared a very enjoyable conversation over lunch. Hey a big thank you to Dave for picking up the tab.

Scott showed me some of the new ideas coming from Fabtech, all very interesting stuff and Brian asked if it was ok to show me around the building. I met some of the employees and they were all so warm and friendly, especially Tito.

Tito & Brian (Took whilst visiting Fabtech)
Next day we drove to the ferry port and caught a ferry over to Widbey Island. Once across Brian showed me a secret trail in some woods and we rode alongside Bear and Scout for a good few hours. I was really in my element. It's hard to believe I was riding with this guy who I had admired for so long after seeing him on Youtube way back in 2007. And yet there I was. I was so proud when at a stop to give the dogs some water Brian actually commented on how proud he was of me and how he was very impressed with my technical abilities and riding skills,saying just how much I had improved...WoW.

I didn't get any shots of us riding in the woods, mainly because we were having so much fun. Bear and Scout were awesome and very well behaved. Bear is  very well trained having been out on the trails alongside Brian for years. Scout however was pretty new to this whole situation, he was a little nervous at first of the bikes, but soon got in the swing of things as he is a really intelligent  little dog.


Bear, the old wise timer and Scout the young new guy on the trail...
Almost time to head off guys
Scout


Bear
A pretty flower
Back home to Brian's after catching the ferry back and for tonight's meal it was traditional Mexican's. OMG the food was good and I couldn't believe just how much the waiter brought out. Both Brian and I couldn't finish it all. I also tried one of the restaurants special Margarita's and it almost blew my head off lol.

Fantastic Mexican Grub
This Margarita was Awesome


















The following day it was a trip to see the Seattle Mariners play against Tampa Bay Ray's. This was a great experience my first baseball game. I tried hot roasted peanuts which tasted sooo good and corn dogs and even had 2 or 3 bottles of larger. I hate larger, however I was on holiday and just going with the flow and living in the moment taking it all in. The Mariners got beat, bummer. I still had a great time though. That night it was cheese burgers I believe from a local burger joint which Brian says is famous. Oprha Winfrey gets her burgers there lol. Again they tasted so good, food in the States sure is better than most of the bland UK stuff.

Safeco Field...Seattle Mariner's Home Ground
Ooh Spot Moose
My first Corn Dog
The food in the US is amazing, even the roast Peanuts were awesome




And so to the next day. Brian suggested we have a ride around down town Seattle on his road bikes. I was up for that, even though I haven't rode a racer since I was a teenager and I had an accident with a bus lol. Off we went, aiming to find a T-Mobile store in town as my phone bill using 02 was getting ridiculous. I owe something like £150 this month. Top tip if your travelling wait until you get to the country before you buy a Sim Card to use within that country. We found a store at the top of a rather long climb up a hill. I called in and purchased a new US sim card for around $90 which would cover me for a month. We then had a cracking ride around Seattle, probably doing around 30 miles or so. Got to visit the famous Pikes market where the fish mongers throw the fish to one another when someone buys one.

This was my final night so we went back to Jak's and shared a 40oz steak which was spectacular. We also had a few house special bourbons and returned to Brian's for a soak in the hot tub and a few more drinks, well why not I was on holiday.

The following morning it was time to get up around 4:20am so that I could be at the airport in good time to get checked in. I said my fair wells to Bear and Scout, unfortunately Laurie had had to fly back to Hawaii due to her mom being sick very early in my stay. And so it was to my next stage of my journey.

Brian was a fantastic host and I know he was real disappointed that we didn't get to do everything he had planned. That said I couldn't have asked for more and really enjoyed my stay. It was a real pleasure just being able to spend sometime together and growing closer as friends.

So if you get to read this Brian a HUGE thank you for taking the time out to hang with me. Friendship works both ways and I'm there for you dude, no matter what.

Ok then on to Salt Lake City to hook up with my friend Mark. A friend I had never met in person. Nope I know Mark through Facebook and from Fat Biking, something we both share a passion for.

Again at the airport Beep,Beep,Beep, yes the alarm sounds, yet another frisking and I'm checked for anything suspicious lol. Then it's a little bit of a wait to board and the flight to SLC.

I'm kind of getting used to flying though still can't believe the size of the airports they are huge compared to little old Newcastle. The flight is again pretty smooth and I manage to see some absolutely beautiful terrain as we fly over Idaho and approach Utah. 

Over Idaho I think
Getting off the plane in SLC is much easier and I seem to find my way to the baggage collection real quick. As I come down the escalator Mark is there,camera in hand and calling "Yo dude, dude" a term I am going to become familiar with on my stay. It's as if we have known each other years and give one another a man hug and a friendly pat on the back. I can tell immediately I'm going to like Mark.

We collect my case and head off to Mark's Jeep. On the way over to his parents we stop in at a few bike shops. Mark wanted to make sure I had a nice bike for my stay In Ogden and that we could go out and ride. The second of the two shops we visit is The Bike Shoppe,which is owned by a very friendly guy named Matt Howard.  Matt allowed me the use of his own personal Trek Stache, which is a hard tail 29'er with sweet slack geometery, something I am soon to find out will come in useful.


        The Bike Shoppe and Matt Howard rock!  

Here we are at THE BIKE SHOPPE with it's owner Matt Howard, who very kindly loaned me his own personal bike for my stay in Utah. What a Star.


Then it's off to meet Mark's parents. We arrive at their house and I have to say the area is absolutely beautiful. The back drops of the mountains and huge plots of land with simply amazing houses. Mark's mom meets us at her front door and she is lovely. I try hard to make a good impression and talk in my politest accent. I mean come on if I go full blown Geordie people are like Huh!

Mark's mom, Sandy invites us in doors and it's like wow. I'm from like a small back street and our house is well lived in shall we say. Mark's mom and dads house is like a show house, something that you would buy over here in the UK if you won rather big on the lottery. The house itself was designed by Mark's dad,Cliff.

Just then Cliff comes in from out back, he had been in the garden, when I say garden I mean like a good few acres. Cliff informed me you have to have at least 3 acres to be able to build a house on  land. Cliff shook my hand and just like Mark I could tell I was going to get along well with him.

We share a few drinks on the huge porch out side and take in the beautiful surroundings. Sandy and Cliff ask about my travels and where I'm from, what I do and a whole range of interesting questions. The Peterson family is awesome and I feel right at home.

Mark explains he has to work on two of the days I'm visiting, this is fine with me gives me a chance to explore. It's then Mark's dad Cliff says he doesn't mind coming over and taking me out the next day. Mark knew I fancied visiting the Hill Aircraft museum so asked if I wanted to do that. It worked out well as both Cliff and Sandy hadn't been there, so the next days plans were sorted.

So we said our fair wells and Mark and I headed over to his house. Mark showed me to my room and said just relax and treat the house like home. That evening we spent a relaxing night in just chatting watching a spot of TV, oh and trying to sort my dam mobile phone out. I also got to meet one of Mark's neighbours and good friends Jamin. Jamin is 6 feet 11 inches and a real nice guy, very easy to get along with.

The View out Mark's front window. I took it to show wor Kayleigh, as I texted her back home
  The following morning Cliff and Sandy came by and we headed off to the Aircraft Museum. It was a real treat. There is so much to take in. Hill Aircraft museum is awesome ( you will be hearing that word a lot). To be honest the place is so big and full of stuff we didn't get all the way around. We had planned to return, unfortunately we didn't get around to it. That's more down to time and there being so much to see in Utah. We spent a good few hours there then went to grab a bite to eat at a place called Chilli's.  The meal was delicious, thanks Cliff and Sandy.

I'm not a plane spotter so haven't a clue what type of plane this is other than a Jet lol
I saw these scooters and immediately thought of my Cousin Guy, who is into all the MOD memorabilia and stuff


A Rather Large Plane Outside, it was a beautiful day.
A Bi-Plane
These type of scooters are where the Vespa and Lamberetta's came from. I watched an interesting program on TV just a week or so before I saw these explaining the origins of the Italian scooter back in the 40's
VII Rocket

Grrrrrrrrr!!!

An Errrrr Engine maybe
 
Tail Gun
Tail Gun



























A Big Bomb
Check out all those guns
One of the Presidents Flew In this, it's got the official seal on the side.
The Awesom Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" I read the sign below lol
The Sign
Probably my favourite photo of the day, my adopted parents looking out of a window at the museum :)
When Mark came home from work we were invited to go out for a ride by his good buddy's Lance and Preston. Lane and Preston came over later that afternoon and we headed over to the Bird Song Trail. this was to be my first time demonstrating the BTK to mark and the guys. I didn't want to disappoint. So we unloaded the bikes and set off from the car park. I rode every section of the trail, only falling off once on the way up as I ran over some dry weeds on a incline up a tricky bit of rough trail. Instead of pushing my bike up I walked back down the trail and got back on my bike and rode all the way back up. I think the lads were impressed with my riding skills and this made me very happy. The ride back down was pretty technical, lots of switchbacks and obviously you can go quicker coming down hill. On one section Mark let go and was going quite quick on a trail he knew quite well. I tried to keep up and was doing ok until I grabbed for my rear brake in a spot and forgot the brakes are reversed in the US. So in fact I had grabbed at my front brake this caused me to come off the trail and head straight into the bushes at the side of the trail. Lance was bad laughing as he was behind me. It wasn't until later the next day I found out there could potentially be rattle snakes in that area when chatting to someone about my mishap lol Overall I did well and it was awesome to hear the guys chatting about my mad skills lol...


(From right to Left) Preston Roylance, Mark Peterson & LancereDarley
Me with my Buddy's




 




























































Cliff and Sandy came in the morning and we headed out to the Browning Museum. Here I was to see the collection of old cars the Browning family had an also the many guns that had been designed by John M Browning and his company. Again it was a very interesting visit. One of the curators even allowed us closer inspection of some of the cars and was telling us about the history of the various vehicles, brilliant. We then went for a short walk looking for somewhere to eat. I think we called in to a place called Roosters and yet again simply delicious food, oh and a gorgeous milk shake.

1911 Lincoln
An Old Car

My  Favourite car in the Museum a V16
V16 WOW
Intricate design work (hard get a good pic as the guns are in glass cases)
 


Very Decorative Pistol

Add caption

Beautiful craftsmenship

The Machine Gun Browning is most Famous for
US Army Pistol
That evening Mark took me for a ride on a trail, a place called Drop off Canyon. I was doing ok until we came to a very tight right handed up hill switch back. I had to stop grabbed for a small tree and positioned myself to push off to get up the hill. Well I lost balance and ended up falling down the trail scuffing all my back and ending up with a sore left shoulder. Never mind I would heal. I was more concerned at not damaging Matt's bike. I did a good job and held the bike out straight so it didn't actually take a hit lol. On the way back we popped into visit one of Mark's friends Gregg and it was then we discovered Mark had a flat, his first in like 18 months. So we tried riding back home quick, but it went down again so quick. In the end Mark had to call in at his friends Natalies and change tubes in her back yard by torch light lol.

As the sun was coming down,Mark and I posed for a quick photo opportunity
I like to add my own touch to images (works well when stuff is fuzzy n out of focus lol)
Says it all really...
Mark was off work this morning and was having a lie in. I decided to get up and walk the trail we had gone up the previous day. It was a lovely day to start with, however absolutely chucked it down on my return to Mark's, so I got a good soaking. It didn't matter though as it was still really warm. I walked around 5 miles and wow was I sore. My cycling socket isn't made for walking. Still I had a lovely morning. In the afternoon we visited a Mall and I was able to do a spot of shopping, grabbing a few small gifts and on the evening we headed over to Natalie's to spend a bit time visiting her and getting to meet some of her friends.

I managed to find my way back to the trail we had rode the previous day. WoW it was more difficult than I thought as I walked up it.
Views of the mountains. I think it was Ben Lomond over that way.
It was a beautiful day, even when it started pouring down on the way back down the trail as it was warm.
Heading up the trail
Following the South Trail
Mark Lives down there somewhere
As the skies turned dark and it began to rain I turned to look back down the trail...
 
Mark and I had a look around the Farmers Market in town. I wanted a gift for my daughter Kayleigh, couldn't find anything I thought she would like. Just as well as I thought I had lost my wallet lol. It was back at Mark's place Phewww!

These horses are painted by individual artists and displayed in the Street Cool huh



 


I really liked this one it was for Hill Air Force Museum


Mark n his Jeep
 Something both Mark and I had been looking forward to soon came round and that was our trip to Logan Utah and meeting up with Lee Kinder. Lee is a friend of Mark's and a Facebook friend of mine. Just like Mark I met Lee through my love of cycling and my getting into Fat Bikes.As with all my friends both Lee and Mark have been ever so supportive in all the stuff I've gone through what with my Non Hodgkin's,being an amputee and of course all the good stuff too, hey it's not all bad lol.

Lee, what an awesome Dude.
  We drove just over an hour and I had my first US MacDonald's. As we came over a bridge in Logan with the car park on the left there was Lee waiting for us. It was a really special moment for me and of course my two new friends.It was weird, but a good weird as although we hadn't actually met or known each other all that long we greeted each other like we had know one another for years.These guys are awesome. And so we set off riding and climbing through some of the most beautiful trails and arras's I have seen. I could write and write about this one day, it's a day which I will never forget and I'm very proud of my achievement in riding to around 5200 feet elevation. You have to remember I'm from around 800 feet, my lungs were burning and I was real scared as the drops were huge to my right hand side. the trail was only about one and a half to two feet wide in area's with a severe penalty for failure.

 As we rode up  part of this tricky trail I took a moment to think how far I had come. Going back to when  I first lost my leg and being in my small garden trying to figure out even how to get on a bike never mind ride it. Falling off on my amputated side whilst standing and then of course thinking just how proud my mam would be of me for not giving in. For having the determination to push and explore and try new things. That goes for my dad too who has been my best friend. All those thoughts in a few seconds and then back in the moment.Beautiful!

Bartlett Tendon
When we finally got back to the car park and Mark's Jeep, Mark asked me if I would do him the honour of placing a UK Fat Bike's sticker on his Moonie. He had gotten the sticker from Salty another friend and fellow Fat biker from my neck of the woods back in the North East of the UK. So whilst I peeled back the stickers backing and prepared to pop it on Mark's bike, Lee took some photo's for posterity.

What an amazing day, both Mark and Lee agreed. The term "bro's for life" isn't one we really use in the UK, however I can definitely see where it applies on days like these with friends like these. I felt and indeed do feel so lucky. In all I have achieved and in all those people I can call friends and who have helped me on my journey.





Wow the time was going quick. Kind of lost all track of time. I became good friends with Jamin and went to watch the Mayweather fight at one of his friends houses. Mark was real tired,explaining he wasn't used to hosting someone and I understood, he was trying ever so hard just to make things perfect for my stay. So Mark decided to have an early night. I met some really nice people at Jamin's friends house and they where just so friendly.

To the final day with Mark before I had to leave early in the morning. I was feeling particularly nervous, this was because so far I had ridden on a bike I wasn't used to on terrain that was quite a bit different to my own at home. I'm used to doing quite a lot of riding on short down hill trails, muddy forest or woodland and having to climb my way out via a lot of roadwork. Snow Basin is situated within mountains, with huge ascents reached by ski lifts, then massive descents via switch backed trails which traverse the mountain.

At Snow Basin we hooked up with Preston and another friend of Mark's called Gary Thueson and his wife and daughter Trish and Shannon. Unfortunately Trish had forgotten her helmet so Gary loaned her his and he just stayed at the base of Snow Basin. So it was the 5 of us that caught the ski lift up to approx 8000feet, then descended down the mountain. The trails were gnarly, strewn with sharp rock and tricky switchbacks. I have always had a problem with right hand turning, not sure if it's confidence, my knee or what, however in order to ride these trails I had to man up and just do it. I think what made things worse was I was on a loaner bike and didn't want to wreck it. The first run I managed to get one flat and that was in a bike running a tubeless system. When we reached the bottom of the mountain my arms were aching,especially my hands and wrists, wow what a buzz.
Snow Basin (The Winter Olympics took place here in 2002)

WoW I'm not good with heights and this felt high
Fantastic scenery Soooo Beautiful
Mark's New Moonie. He won it in a prize give away
Mark and Shannon where chatting whilst Preston and Trish tried to sort a flat tyre on Preston's bike. Me i just started taking pics lol
Some random trail, checkout the view
I think this is the Middle Bowl trail #7 if I'm correct and it's thata way
The guys had a quick discussion and decided to head back up, saying now that they had seen me ride they thought I could handle just about anything and would I like to have a go at the Porcupine trail. I didn't want to come across as a pussy so just nodded and said "yeah sure". Omg what had I let myself in for. These guys are used to riding big mountains, little old me, well I have Durham Road lol.

And so off we went back up the ski lift...I mean come on even that was epic for me I'm afraid of heights. All I could think of was that movie Frozen, then Preston said "oh that movie was actually filmed here" lol At the top we descended once more the first bit wasn't too bad, however it soon got quicker and more technical, with lots of right and left switch backs,some of them real tight. I was doing ok, then on one real tight right I washed out. I was pleased I landed on my right hand side, kind of gives my left a day off. No real damage just winded a bit. Back on my bike in no time,descended some more then I felt my back end go and dam another puncture in the tube Preston had given me. So Preston gave me yet another tube and we all laughed hope we don't get any more. Guess we shouldn't have tempted fate a few more hundred feet down and poor Preston got a flat. We were all out of tubes Preston had given me his spare. So he set about repairing his tube with a patch. It seemed to take ages as the tube was keep loosing pressure. We then discovered it had 2 puncture holes. That fixed we were on our way back down,wow it was fun but very tiring it takes so much concentration when your going at speed over such rocky technical areas.... Finally got to the bottom and felt really proud of my two runs, especially when all the guys said the were amazed at how I rode using my Bartlett Tendon. As we were chatting Mark's tyre gradually deflated and so that was 5 punctures on 2 runs lol.

The gang after our runs down the mountain
Mark and I set off from Snow Basin heading to somewhere real special. That was back to his parents house. Sandy was making us a home cooked meal, Lasagne which I will tell you all now, was the best meal of my whole trip out in the States. We even had fresh and I mean out of their own back garden fresh corn on the cob.

Leaving that day was more difficult than I ever thought. I know I haven't know the Peterson's long but they hold a special place in my heart. This is because of the kindness they have shown me. Mark's mom and dad have wonderful souls and this in turn has been passed on to Mark. A special moment for me was when Sandy was asking about my parent's and I told her that we had lost my mam to cancer. This is when she said "well I would like to adopt you and be your mom" How awesome is that and you know what I would and indeed I am proud to be an honorary Peterson. 

So glad to have met you, So sad to have to leave you. Thanks for your kindness :) x
The following morning I had to leave and prepare myself for the next stage of my journey. Before going to the airport we dropped Matt's bike off at The Bike Shoppe. I was real nervous about this as I had scuffed Matt's bikes frame whilst out riding.I think my BTK had caught the crossbar on one of the occasions I had fallen off. You know what there was no need to worry Matt was fantastic and said "don't worry about it, stuff happens it's a mountain bike". I can't recommend these guys enough if you happen to be in Utah, well worth the visit and they carry some awesome stock of bikes and accessories, oh and also have a great workshop, whitha brilliant team of staff.

 
Me with THE BIKE SHOPPE Gang

  Mark then  gave me a lift through to the airport in Salt Lake City and we said our good byes. It's tough saying bye, especially when you never really know if your going to see someone again. Facebook and networking is all fine and well, but to be with your friends and share there laughter instead of a typed lol or help them through troubled times, well it just isn't the same. I suppose at least now I definitely know what I would do if I won the lottery, so clearer idea there lol...you see there goes the LOL.

I hope Mark and his parents get to read my blog and I would like to just say a real special Thank you to the Petersons. That comes from my dad too for, looking out for me. You are my kind of people I feel very lucky in-deed to have shared a part of your lives, even if it was for a short period.


More  airports, more security more feeling around hehe...
The flight out from SLC was Errrrr scary, the plane shook and rattled and bounced and did everything but crash. I think it was something to do with being near the mountains and the turbulence. I was pleased to get in the air and just try and get relaxed. Just got relaxed when we had to make a stop at Phoenix, before flying on to Fort Worth. Omg!!! was it just this plane or the driver or what the landing was even scarier than the take off. Again rattling and  bouncing, it was one of those moments if I had been religious I would have been crossing myself lol. Apparently Phoenix is always a bit like that,again because of the surrounding terrain. A quick stop then off we set again, this time a little better.

Landed in DFW and it was a bit of a nightmare, my luggage didn't show up. No need to panic I had my wallet, passport and most important my Bartlett Tendon in a carry on bag. Who cares about a few clothes huh I usually go naked anyhoo lol.

It took me a while to locate where I needed to be to meet my friend Shannon. She was waiting in her truck,however I was on the wrong level I think. Shannon texted me and just said wait where you are and then she came around and picked me up. Shannon is another of my Faceboo friends who I have known since Oh around 2007 when I formed my group Facebook Amputees. I've gotten to know lots of people through that group, however haven't met all of them, well it is world wide after all and now has approaching 600 members. Guess it leaves my travelling plans wide open for the future haha!
Shannon is also an above knee amputee following a serious vehicle accident.

A quick meet and greet in Shannon's car and we headed off to where we would be staying and that was her friends house. As we a approached the area I could see all these huge posh houses and again thought of our small man cave at home which is now the equivalent of a small shed compared to these houses out here. Shannon's friends Linda and Jay's house is beautiful, man I could get used to this lol. As we got out the car and went in doors we were greeted by Jay and then Linda came to the door. It's true what they say about Texan Southern hospitality they were so friendly. I was introduced to Linda and Jay's youngest son Brandon, he is a smashing lad  and we chatted away. Brandon even understood my accent I think. Linda is so funny she said I reminded her of Desmond from lost, well I suppose I am quite near the Scottish borders so to her sound similar. The word "brother" or "Brotha" she found particularly funny. During my sat yI tried to teach everyone some Geordie, though I think they got lost off. I was introduced to the majority of the family pets including some cats and dogs. however didn't get to see the Racoons, but did see Wendy the red squirrel Linda had rescued,he was so cute. Brandon headed out and got some burgers just to hit the spot the first evening and I tried some real Southern iced tea.

In the morning Shannon and I headed over to Grapevine Mall. This period of my trip was the relaxing kick back period before heading out to my final stop in NYC before flying home. So I wanted to get a little shopping done for my kids, who had asked for some Ray Bans (Kayleigh) and some Oakley's for Kyle. I managed to get fixed up straight away and even got myself a couple of pairs of Oakley's, one for just hanging in and another pair for whilst riding my bike.

Whilst returning a pair of sunglasses to a shop called Zumiez, both Shannon and I got chatting to the store manager. Anthony was a real friendly guy and it was lovely talking to him. I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd get a picture with Anthony.

Anthony was a really Cool Guy, very friendly and super helpful. Cheers Anthony
When we got back to Linda and Jay's later that evening we all decided to go hang out around the pool. Shannon and Linda were straight in. I sat at the edge for a while just relaxing as the night was so warm. It's a totally different kind of heat out there. Eventually as Jay joined us we were all in the pool and I even swam a few lengths, something I haven't done since before I lost my leg. i think the last time I swam was when I was still in my late teens. Swimming wasn't as hard as I thought actually. I was able to balance and didn't tip over or go around in circles as I suspected I would.

The next day we all visited Texas not far from where JFK got shot. I actually saw the building and the grassy knoll.

We spent a good bit time in the new area of the city at Klyde Warren park. It was really hot around 105 degrees. On the drive back we decided to call in for food and have a "real TexMex" I choose chicken and beef enchiladas with brown rice and beans, mmmmm lovely.

Klyde Warren Park is an Urban Park in the City of Dallas

A Strange mirrored Canopy in the Park.










A few birds where hanging around in and around the Park




 
 
 As we drove out of Dallas we called into a a store this is where I tried on a cowboy hat, some say I looked rather cool and should have bought the hat lol.


Reach for the sky
I also got a good look at the Book Depositary, where Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have shot JFK. In my opinion looking at the building in relation to the Grassy Knoll there is no way in hell Oswald could have killed the President.

Count from the very bottom window up to the 6th window that's where Lee Harvey shot from allegedly
 
The Grassy Knoll. The picket fence is no longer there. If you imagine the Book Depositary is back and to the right of this image and across the road a little ways. JFK was in his motorcade and past the building, which means  he was shot in the back of the head from the rear right side.
 And so with the final day approaching Shannon took me to Dallas Fort Worth and to go and see the people she sees to have her prosthetics made. We arrived at Bakers O an P and received a very warm welcome. Shannon introduced me to Scott Clark one of the prosthetists at Baker and I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with him, what a nice guy and very well informed. Scott gave me some good info on how to possibly get hold of getting funding for a running blade. Hey Thanks Scott your a star.

From Bakers we had a quick look around DFW, then headed back to a bike shop I wanted to visit before I had to leave in the morning. We got to the bike shop named Mad Duck Cyclery with about half an hour before it was due to close.

Clarence of Mad Duck was a very likeable fellow

   I wanted to go there as I had heard they did Yeti bikes and my friend Carl had asked me to see if I could get him anything to do with Yeti's. On entering the shop we were greeted by this big friendly golden retriever who I was to find out was named Teddy. I then approached the counter and spoke to the store owner a very nice guy named Clarence. I explained to Clarence why I was at his store and what I was after and he immediately apologised saying he didn't have any real merchandise other than some Yeti bikes. Well I couldn't afford one of those for Carl and even if I could my suitcase wouldn't hold it lol. It was then Clarence said hold on and proceeded to look through a big bag of various stickers. He then produced quite a number of various Yeti stickers and I went to get my wallet out to pay for them and he said "oh it's ok" and gave them to me for free. Clarence then said hold on a minute and popped behind his counter and produced a Yeti t-shirt saying it was old promo stock and I could have it...wow how kind. We went on to get a few photo's taken with Clarence and his shop.

Clarence, Teddy and myself

 I really liked his store as it wasn't clinical like stores here in the UK. It was used and had character I like that. Clarence then showed both Shannon and I around, letting us have a look at the wall to the back of the shop and some rather interesting historical shirts he had collected. Clarence is a very interesting man and has done a lot cycling wise, yet remains very laid back and doesn't blow his own trumpet as it were. 

Shannon quite liked this Yeti
A Yeti 575 Prototype one of only 3 in exsistance I believe
Cool paint job on the 575
A Yeti SB 66
Some Rather Cool Shirts on Clearance's Wall
Me playing around with Snapseed on my phone
 I could quite happily spend hours in his company listening to his story of what he has done. Unfortunately at the time I visited Clarence didn't have an Mad Duck Jerseys in stock, waiting for a new line. I will be in touch however and would be proud to wear one of his logo's.  

A big thank you to Clarence at  http://www.madducksports.com/

I got all my stuff packed ready for early the next morning and just as I was about to close my bedroom door for the night Linda's big Maine-Coon cat came into my bedroom. this cat is very cool and I like him a lot. I always thought Tom cats weren't people persons. However this big guy had made friends with me from the start. He would lie on the sofa next to me when watching tv and on my last night came for a cuddle then actually lay at the bottom of my bed all night until I got up in the morning then he was gone.

I'd said my goodbye's to Linda,Jay and Brandon the previous night, they are an awesome family. I also got to meet their daughter Amber and her husband Mica,so easy to get on with. Like I say a real nice close family, it's good to see. I know I'm going to miss everyone. I gave Jay and Linda my Facebook details and we are now friends and long may it continue. Good luck in everything you do,you guys you really are good people.

Brandon and Linda
The Riney's are an awesome family
LoL
 Off to the airport we go, Shannon drops me off at DFW a quick photo opportunity inside Shannon's car as it's raining outside. That's been the theme actually the great British weather following me around lol. We give one another a hug and I get my stuff and head up the escalator. Ready for the final leg and NYC ALL ALONE on this one.

Thanks Shannon I'm sure you will read my blog, hope you have managed to get this far and it's been entertaining. I couldn't possibly fit everything in and I don't write the best stories. Just wanted to say thank you. It was a real pleasure meeting you and your friends and the best of luck with your kayaking. Hang in there x

Ok more frisking and checking out this strange bag I've brought along, with rubber tendons and an awesome knee with built in shock lol.

I board my plane to New York's JFK. Take off and landing fine. We actually stop off for a connection in Charlotte. The lady next to me is friendly yet quiet. So I either read or watch a movie. As we take of from Charlotte the lady who was in the middle seat has left so it's empty. There is another lady in the end seat and we strike up a conversation. I find out her name is Laura and she entertains me all the way to JFK. Laura even offers to help me navigate around JFK as we are going in the same direction so far of the journey. We have a long walk through JFK, the airport is huge, to me it appears bigger than the whole UK. To be fair it's not that big, but consider this it is a third of the size of Manhattan or New York or something. Put it this way it's BIG. Laura and I grab the Airtrain, we have to get off at different places so I say goodbye. Laura has given me her name and I have now added her as a friend on Facebook. She is a lovely lady, so friendly and helpful. Hey Laura if you get to read this I wish you and your husband the best of luck with your move thanks for looking out for me x

Ok so found my way to Federal Circle. I call the Hampton Inn and they tell me where to stand in order to catch the shuttle. A quick scan around and "Oh I see it". I get on the shuttle and before you know it I'm at the hotel and checked in. Bags dropped off I'm in room 212 on the 2nd floor. The room is nice, it's clean, quite big and has everything I need apart from food. Ok time to checkout Google. Ahh I see there is a chicken joint called Popeye's around 0.8 miles away. So I head downstairs and Google my way to Popeye's. I order 5 pieces of chicken, some biscuit thingy and some Cajun fries with a coke and head back. The meal was delicious I'm stuffed and set my alarm before hitting  the sack.

I'm up way before my alarm at around 7am. A nice relaxing shower and I slowly get ready watching a spot of  TV. The shuttle is duw around 10am to go to Federal Circle. I have figured out I can get the Airtrain to Jamica or Penn station and from there guess I'll just wing it. I've quit worrying at this point. Hey if I get lost I'll just ask someone right. Strangely enough I manage without any problems,well apart from getting through the turn style at the subway, there is a knack to using that metro card. I find I'm only 3 to 4 blocks from the Empire State Building. I have already purchased my ticket at home for the viewing platform. I keep walking thinking I'm sure that's the Empire state I can see, but not sure it looks smaller than I imagined. Eventually get there and head on in. I ask one of the attendants is it possible to walk to the top of the building and he says unfortunately not. Apparently they only do it once a year and it's a race. Oh I didn't want to race just thought it would be a cool achievement. Never mind I get the elevator up. That thing is quick, up before I know it. Then a little walk and another elevator up until your shown outside and can have a look around. 

The Entrance to the Empire State Building. it's a beautiful building, lots of marble and gold coloured fittings
What's the Empire State without King Kong Right!
The Empire State sure does get a lot of tourists
 Errr this is kind of high. I grab a good few shots and have a look right around...cool. 

 
On a clear day I think you can see around 90 miles


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Then I pay the Empire Store a visit and head back down on to the street. My next destination is the World Trade Centre and the 9/11 memorial. Dear me Google maps is sending me all over. I think I'm heading more or less in the right direction, but it kept changing. The navigation guy has spat his dummy out and refuses to say "hey dude your going the wrong way". I keep walking at this point I've walked miles I'm sore,tired and time is ticking away. I then check my phones battery, Omg it's about dead and what do you know starts beeping saying "Im flat, I'm flat" So I turn off Google and switch to another app I have called NavFree, this directs me in a fashion to the Trade Centre. I can see the new Freedom Tower. I grab myself a ice cream as I remembered Salty my friends Ice Cream page on Facebook and thought it was an apt back drop. I then ask the directions to the 9/11 memorial from a traffic lady. She points me to a store and says I can get a free pass there.

 
Mmmmmmmm!

Upon entering the store I get a sense that the 9/11 thing is commercialised, this is a little disappointing. Yes it's free to visit the memorial, however you can give a donation and there is a shed load of commemorative stuff for sale. I get my ticket and place a donation in the box.

The New Freedom Tower, quite a sight

Again SnapSeeded
 I have to walk a further 4 or 5 blocks to get to the memorial site. I follow the crowd. Once there we are all frisked I'm used to it. It's then another shortish walk outside and eventually you are presented with the park. Signs direct you to the North and South pools. The new Freedom Tower towers above like a beacon of New York's resolve. I'm still not getting a sense of profound loss, the park appears full of life and very noisy. My mission here is to get a photograph of a coin that my friend Adrian gave me depicting the Lone Soldier. It is his way of commemorating the loss of countless lives. I try my best to get the best shot I can. I'm struggling with my new camera, but hey that's another story. Shots taken. I then proceed to have a wander round I'm still not feeling it, is there something wrong with me.

As I come to leave the park and look back I feel and immense sense of sadness and it's then I realise I've been looking at the thing the whole wrong way. It's good that the area is noisy and full of life. All those people who lost their lives wouldn't want it to be like some sombre and mournful place. The American people have took a stand and rebuilt. The people of New York have come together even stronger and will never forget their brothers and sisters. This is no ordinary park, this is a place of strength and a tribute to all those souls.

The Freedom Tower as seen from the 9/11 Memorial Park
I Paid tribute to the  unfortunate people who lost their lives on 9/11 on behalf of my friend Ade. And then also in my own way as I left the park, deep in thought.Add caption
I'm not sure which Pool this was, North or South.
People and a pigeon paying their respects
A single white rose
Undying Patrionism
I walk from the memorial deep in thought and then find myself in even more thought, as in oh crap where the hell do I go now. Time has passed so quick and I know I can't possibly see everywhere I wanted. I have no sat nav and my in built gps is known for being well crap. I can't even find my way from the Royal Victoria to the Freeman without taking the wrong route. Ok time to ask someone. I call into a shop, buy a litre and a half of water and ask the young Mexican girl "hey do you know how to get back to JFK". She looks at me strange and says "huh"...aww crap posh voice,posh voice so I ask her again and she tries her best to tell me. it's then that this gorgeous girl comes along and asks where do I want to go and directs me to where I can catch the E metro. I head off out the store and down the side walk (see 3 weeks and I'm getting the lingo) I find the subway and struggle to get the metro card to work again. That's when this very kind guy comes up and asks where I'm going and shows me the technique to swiping the card. He directs me to the train and actually gets on himself, so I follow him and take a seat opposite. I didn't get his name but he was very friendly and we share a fantastic conversation about anything and everything until his stop which is 7 before mine. I can now connect with the Airtrain and back to Federal Circle, where the Hampton shuttle can take me back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel I'm wrecked, 9 hours on my feet I must have walked 20 odd miles, well it felt like it. I was soooo sore, walking in a makeshift limb was tough. The experience was well worth it though. A gorgeous hot shower and a cup of tea and I'm out like a light. I'm already packed so just have to wait until tomorrow and at 6pm I'm off home.

The morning arrives and I catch a shuttle back to JFK I had intended doing a spot of shopping in the airport mall. I didn't realise however I couldn't get to the mall as it's past the security desk and so I couldn't get there until I checked in. Ahh well shuttle back to the hotel. I then had another bit snooze,watched some TV and then checked out at 1:30 pm. The next shuttle was 3:00pm and I sat in the hotel guest area chatting to various people who were off on their holidays. The shuttle came and I got on and went to JFK, finding departures and waiting for my flight and you guessed it more patting and frisking and beeping and questions lol. Once on the plane I got moved from one seat to another, finding myself sitting next to a very nice couple from Utah. Again more lovely conversation and a nice relaxing ride to Amsterdam and Schiphol...

As I got to Schiphol I knew I was late, we had been an extra 45 minutes on the ground at JFK waiting to take off.  Plus I didn't know what gate I was at for my flight home. I eventually figured it out and had to walk as quick as possible to the gate. I had missed my flight so got booked on the next available flight home which was at 10:05am.

On this flight I was sitting next to a very nice guy called Roberto. Roberto is from Italy and working over in Sunderland, the trip back home flew by quite literally as we chatted. And I now find I have yet another Facebook friend. It's so interesting chatting to people from other parts of the world.

And so this adventure ends I'm back home safe and sound. Had a most awesome time, loved every second of it. Bit gutted about one thing and no it's not how much money I spent or the fact I didn't pull some gorgeous American babe of which there were many. It's my new camera and it's images. My friend Ade is trying his best to rescue some of them, however me with my OCD tendencies wanted them perfect and they simply aren't. I'm determined if I have the patience of course to get better with this dam camera...Well I need to for my next trip don't I LoL

Thanks to everyone I've met and everyone that made this journey in my life so special I love you all :)


4 comments:

  1. Hi Glen, Sandy and I have really enjoyed your blogs about your trip to the states. While you were with us I never saw you taking any notes so I'm really impressed with your fantastic memory for names, places and things you saw.

    I'll be in touch soon.
    Cliff

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    1. Sorry about the Anonymous, I'm social network illiterate so I chose the only thing I recognized.

      Cliff

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    2. Hey there Cliff, thank you for your kind words. Yes my blog took me a while to write and get in order. I was trying to recall all the main details. I did so much and met so many in such a short space of time and it was all fantastic, all thanks to people like yourself Sandy and Mark...

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  2. God Job..I’m a new reader and have been very impressed with your recent posts

    ReplyDelete