I've been curious about the tour you took across our continent. How did you plan all the stops and how execute getting from place to place?As most of you know, I first had the idea for my travel across North America when I was in India, but that subject has been covered very well in previous posts. It was on Friday 8th January 2010 that I booked my tickets to fly into Toronto, then out four months later from San Francisco, and I have to say that I was very nervous indeed. Nevertheless, by that point I was committed to my travels, even when a month before I left I fell in love and started a long-term relationship.
I flew out on 7th May as the election results were coming in and arrived in Toronto later that day to rain and thunder, mirroring the storm back at home. I stayed with my cousin who was to be married later that month, and I wanted after the weekend to meet some of my family in southwestern Ontario, stopping on the way to meet Rob Paterson of Kung-Fu Action Theatre on the way. I got in touch and was invited to stay for a few days in return for a performance as Sherlock Holmes in an audiodrama. From London, ON to Sarnia with my aunt and uncle, and they gave me a tremendous gift of ViaRail vouchers, for train trips across Canada.
I also wanted to see the other side of my family, whom I hadn't seen in ages, so was able to hop up to Woodstock before heading home, all the while frantically thinking of where I wanted to go. Someone at the Ontario Science Centre recommended Science North and Dynamic Earth in Sudbury, ON so I decided to take a trip up there (by bus) after the wedding - I was very glad I did because I got to see the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory as well whilst I was there. From there I fancied Ottawa, though lots of people had said there was nothing to see so I shortened my stay - although I shouldn't have done so because I missed out on a lot!
I couchsurfed in Sudbury, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec (the latter two being significant places on the map) and I had wanted to visit Halifax, NS for a while, so I jumped on the (22-hour) train to get there. I'd not spoken much to Jack Ward of the Sonic Society before I met him, but he welcomed me into the family so warmly that I was very sorry to leave come the middle of June. I travelled back to Montréal before heading into America, and I'd arranged to stay with a very great friend in DC, although I hadn't banked on her upstairs neighbour wrecking M's flat with a leaking pipe the week before I arrived.
I'd timed my visit exactly to coincide with the 90-day visa waiver, and spent 3 weeks in the hotel (as paid for by the neighbour's insurance) enjoying the good life and planning my trip across the States. Here I knew more audiodrama people, and plotted a route that met as many as possible, though without the joy of Amtrak vouchers. Thus most of my travel, especially through New England, was by bus. I wanted to see Boston again, and was privileged to see the 4th July celebrations there too. From there I travelled to rural Maine and met Tom Beal, spending a lovely time there before heading down to New York.
In the Big Apple I stayed as a guest of Christof Laputka, then of a friend from university. Elaine Barrett then wanted me to visit Cleveland, and so I bussed over to Ohio en route to Chicago where I couchsurfed again. A couple of days' stay with a lovely foodie gay couple later, and I was on the train to Austin, TX, to meet yet another wonderful couple with whom I'd only spoken online. Mindy and Drake, who got married this year, were great hosts and had mentioned that if I was passing, I should drop by. There I also met MJ, a long-time friend who lives outside Austin, as well as many others.
Next stop: Dallas, and I had been wondering how to make my next appointment - a trip to the sticks for a Star Party. I'd been invited there by someone who'd heard about my travels and wanted me to visit and give a talk. I was weighing up my travel options, by my hosts Kris and Kat were more than happy to drive me there and Kat and I ended up doing a great double-act pointing out constellations and telling the stories behind them.
I'd partitioned my travels through America to be: 3 weeks DC and sourroundings, 3 weeks New England and Midwest, 3 weeks Texas, 3 weeks California. Here I flew, that being the cheapest and quickest route over the desert, and I arrived in LA (via El Paso, thus stamping my passport with Mountain Time) to find the streets rammed for President Obama's visit. This was my last couchsurf for the summer, as well as finally meeting the amazingly wonderful Laura Post. I took the rail replacement bus service to San Francisco, where I ended my travels before flying back to Blighty.
I'm not a fan of 'and then... and then... and then...' blogposts, but sometimes they are necessary. Most of my travels were planned out (and paid for) in Toronto and DC, based on people speaking up that they'd like to host me - I'd wanted to visit Chicago, Halifax NS, Texas and LA and so I factored them into my travels as well. I spent nothing on accommodation, through a mix of couchsurfing and good friends, but most of my budget (try as I might to reduce it) was spent on travel, but such is life.
I hope that this post has proved enlightening!