Beer and posing in Las Vagas

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(Joe on the first morning, embracing the surrounding enviroment/culture).

We arrived in our giant glass pyramidical home and decided to dump our cases in our swanky ass room, shower and ‘hit the casino’. Yeah, we had no idea how to gamble. Laurence won $40 on a slot machine on his first go, bought a $38 round of drinks for us both, then proceded to lose $70 on the same machine in about 3 minutes. I approached the blackjack table, realized there was a $50 buy in, laughed nervously and left. We decided to spend our money on lots of booze instead of trying to line up flashing cherry symbols next to old age pensioners with sunburnt, leathery skin and lapels that protruded dangerously from their plum coloured blazers.

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We had been in contact with my dad about his friend Dale who lived in Las Vagas hoping to meet up with him and learn a bit about ‘The Strip’. Once Laurence and I had organised to meet Dale via email, I asked my dad for a brief physical description of him so that we would be able to recognize him… My father’s response was something like this: “White hair, probably a moustache, 5ft 10″ oh yh and he’s black.”

I had simultaneously asked Dale to send a quick snapshot of his face for the same reason. Dale replied with this:

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…So either Dale ISN’T BLACK AT ALL… or we accidentally emailed an opportunistic sex offender who’s real name is definitely not Dale. Probably Keith or something.

With the latter being the clear likelihood given our luck with strangers so fat on this trip, we decided to meet him at the Paris Las Vagas hotel for a few drinks and a tour of the Las Vagas strip. It turns out it WAS Dale and he is NOT black but he Does have a lot of great knowledge when it comes to different casinos and gave us a great tour.

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The following day we met back up with Dale for some of Bubba Gump’s shrimp. 

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The two Bristol fellas who we met back in Nawlins had arrived and messaged us to come meet them as they were also staying in the glass pyramid monstrosity A.K.A The Luxor. So that evening we met them in their suit equipped with a jacuzzi and balcony. They told us all about their luck with the ladies this jacuzzi had brought them. Turns out they had brought back two 45 year old women the previous night. Score.

We decided to all go out together that night to check out the club in the Luxor which was bound to be atrociously seedy and vastly underwhelming.. and  expensive if you had a penis, but free if you didn’t have one (and I don’t think the ol’ swing and tuck job would have worked on this one chaps).

It was a pretty funny night. hilariously shit music, over-priced drinks, and girls surrounded by salivating hunks in the ‘vip’ section trying to entice other hunks to drop the cash to pass the velvet rope to buy them drinks all night. We met some Belgian called Linsel Vandergbrstraghmbersdlnawjefgjbwqehhh who was staying in the same hotel with her palz so we spend most of the night falling around the club with them taking hundreds of unnecessary photos and buying overpriced drinks. We lost our friends then probly fell asleep in the elevator a few times missing our floor on 3 occasions, then found our floor and made our way to our room. No doubt the other Bristolian fellas had weighed their chances of finding another middle aged woman in the club in need of a dip in a jacuzzi pretty highly as they had remained in the club.

One of the main things we took from our experience in Las Vagas is the overwhelming sense that this is the full potential of America’s capitalist, indulgent culture. The fact that there are no windows in the casino to see what time of day it is, or that every establishment is a maze to ensure you spend the most time possible gambling and drinking, really enforced the first impression I had of the city: Las Vagas is the city that will take advantage of your vice, no matter what it is, and bleed from you every cent it can while giving you jazz hands and flashing lights to reassure you that it was all worth while and to come again soon.

We packed out bags with thick heads the following day while watching Judge Judy ->

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We discovered daytime American television that morning. It was dreadful. Mainly because of the lawyer ‘commercials’ that would make even Saul from Breaking Bad cringe with embarrassment. “IF YOU DON’T SEE THIS FACE… YOU’RE IN THE WRONG PLACE”. “I WAS IN A WRECK… WRITE ME A CHECK!”.

This was our cue to gtfo. So we split for California.

 

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Stretch to Sin City

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We woke up feeling as though we were on set for a totally brill John Wayne movie, mainly bcos laurence had a hanky tied round his neck the whole time we were there and wouldn’t stop shouting “ride ’em, cowboy”. It didn’t matter how fabulous he looked however, as we decided that it was time to push on to the flamboyant land of lights, dollar signs, deals, gambling and debauchery: Las Vagas. Our journey there was long and we had to cross through the remaining miles of Utah (without catching the plague), then Arizona and finally through Nevada to Las Vagas (without catching clamydia).

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One thing you might find about driving across the United States is you’re usually accompanied by a freight train of some description, which is a very ‘American’ feeling to have- crossing the continent together. Headed, most likely to different destinations, but for those few miles you’re on the same route parallel with each other. As we both travelled across the wide expanses of desert headed west together, we couldn’t help but feel similar to the settlers that underwent the same ritual hundreds of years ago. Cept we were playin’ Notorious B.I.G in our sweg mobile with 4 wheel drive n they were probly singin some rubbish tune in their horse n cart. Losers.

It was soon getting dark and as we moved into Nevada we began driving along an awesome stretch of byway.

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At around 10pm we finally arrived at Las Vagas, and we were staying in the giant glass pyramid. With a sphinx infront of it. and a light shining out of the top of it. There was also a guy on the Sphinx’s chest too which was pretty rad.

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YH. THTS RIGHT.

Following the FBI and onto Utah (and the bubonic plague)

After waking from our chilly snooze in the mountains we figured we should probably push on before shit got too Brokeback. Our next destination to set up camp was the deserts of Utah, a state which we had been warned about ‘You British better watch out in Utah… you can still catch the Bubonic plague there… and we all know how that shit fucked you guys up a couple hundred years ago’. So after letting our TENT THAW OUT FROM BEING FROZEN (yup, that’s a thing) we decided to head on our way.

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We decided to stop for lunch in the historic town of Durango, CO before hitting up Utah. The 3 things we learnt here are:

– They got great burgers (what else is new)

– Laurence always gets short changed there

– It’s mad easy to get weed

Upon penetrating the boarder to the state of Utah the landscape changed pretty dramatically to deserts and awkwardly posing English boys.

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After this picture was taken we decided to head off. Forgetting Laurence’s £100 Fred Perry Jacket was on top of the roof, we set off only for us to see it blowing away in the wind in our rear view mirror. so naturally we had to administer a few 80’s hand-break turns in slow motion and a short car chase montage to reunite Laurence with his stupid jacked.

After being stuck behind an FBI car for like wayyyyy too long it wasn’t long before we were getting into John Ford territory. Red stone structures and desolate desert plains.

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What we were really looking forward to to was driving down the road from the film ‘Forrest Gump’, specifically the part where he famously stopped running. We reached this spot ‘Monument Valley Road’ in the early evening and it was very impressive (almost as impressive as Laurence’s ability to avoid driving at all throughout the duration of the trip).

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(lol… ^ )

It was not far passed this monument that we were to set up camp. So after a short drive we arrived at our digs for the night. Here we met Robert who, although we were most definitely in Navajo territory (which means no booze at all), still offered us some moonshine. so we made a new friend.

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(Above is the view from our tent…)

Coldorado

The next morning around 0730 we awoke to this.

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Our next drive was through Oklahoma and into the mountains of Colorado. We passed from the dry Texan plains to the massive flat expanses of Oklahoma and Southern Colorado farm lands where, for as far as the eye can see, there was nothing but crops, long extensions of simple barbed wire fences and telegraph polls dividing and connecting the country.

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Around here the nearest gas station was 60 miles away.

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Eventually the landscape turn to pine and strings of small quaint Colorado towns taking us higher and higher towards the mountains.

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We finally reached a log cabin hotel on the edge of the Rio Grande National Park. Once checked in, we went for a short hike. Then cooked up some dayumm good steaks.

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The following two days were meant to be spent in the Grand Canyon National Park camping but due to the totally un-brill government shut down this wouldn’t be possible. After a short drive down highway 160 which winds through the Rio Grande National Park, we agreed this was too amazing to leave just yet. We went to get food and beer then drove back down and found a dirt road that went into the National Park that was still open.

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Driving up it for a few miles we were in the middle of pine trees, rivers and mountains. We set up camp off the beaten track next to some trees and a River, cracked open the bourbon we bought in Kentucky along with some beers and got vveerryy drunk…

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The next morning Laurence told me that during the night he woke to hear a black bear, only to realise after panicking for a minute that it was only me snoring.

We both awoke at 6am to -2*C and shifted to the car, turned the engine on with full heat AC and heated seats. Web we looked at our tent later it still had ice all over it…

I Left My Tooth In Palo Duro

We were very sad to be leaving Austin after only a couple nights of being there. Being only a day or two away from ending our trip, whilst writing this post, we can say with some confidence that the only mistake we made whilst planning our trip was not giving ourselves enough time there. The Auzzies stayed for five more days after us and we both agreed that we should have stuck with them, even if they are bloody Australian. But with reservations made in Colorado and Palo Duro Canyon to visit as a stop off en route, we pressed on through Texas.
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We drove through many small Texan towns and stopped in Abilene for some Mexican food. Whilst having a look around we saw a gun store. So we went in.

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We asked the owner what firearms the average Texan has in their home. He said “Usually people have at least one rifle. And a shotgun. Maybe a fully automatic machine gun. And a couple of handguns… Maybe a knife.”

……

………….

Then we ate some Mexican food. Which was nice.

Realising we didn’t have a lot of time we pushed on to Palo Duro state park and on our was drove along side our first freight train which sounds like a weird thing to say.. But it’s pretty bbrriillll.

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Unlike the national parks, Palo Duro state park wasn’t affected by the government shut down. It’s the second biggest canyon in America and we just got there in time or sun down which was: TOTALLY BRILL.

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The steep winding dirt roads that lead to the campsite were slow and had a sheer drop on one side so by the time we actually parked up and started putting up our tent it was pitch black. Using our car headlamps we managed it pretty quick but were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Once in the tent however we had a nice cooler box with meat left over from the Salt Lick House, some snacks and two 40oz Colt 45s each. No zig zags though unfortunately…

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It was on one of these trusty three dollar 40oz bottles that I chipped off a bit of my tooth that landed somewhere in the tent and was brushed outside onto the desert floor the next morning. So, for the rest of time, there will be a piece of me in Texas. Which is quite brill.

Everything Is Bigger In Texas.

We were a little burry eyed the morning of our departure from New Orleans. Six nights of lots of drinking, food and music and drinking had taken it’s toll and it was time for us to leave, for our own safety if not for anything else. Just before we left Kenny asked us if we had a good time. When we said we did he told us that not long ago a kid came through New Orleans like a whirlwind, doing everything he could in his short stay there, a few days later he was burnt out and was leaving to return home. On his way out the door Kenny asked him if he had a good time to which he smiled and replied yes. Kenny said that he asked him if he had learnt anything during his short but eventful stay, the kid replied: ‘Don’t drink drinks with violent names. Hand Grenades, Tornados, Slammers, Whirlpools, Fireballs… Leave them alone!” After six nights of New Orleans, we couldn’t agree more. Kenny said “Make sure you two come home again soon. Home being New Orleans…” And with that we left New Orleans behind us as we set off west to Austin Texas.

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After a good nine hour drive through swamps and small East Texas towns we arrived in Austin. Too tired to do anything and still hanging from the previous night we hit the hay. The following morning however we messages the Aussies Josh and Jarrod who were staying in the same Austin hostel as us and we went to Barton Springs lake to have a swim. That evening however, we we went to experience the very reason people say ‘Everything is bigger in Texas’. The Salt Lick House just south of Austin is another spot featured on Man Vs Food for its immense BBQ pit.

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This was and still is, one of, if not THE best meal I’ve ever had. Choosing the buffet option the four of us went through three huge plates of sausages, ribs, brisket and burnt ends with sides of Texas beans, slaw and bread.

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That was worth the trip alone. We could barely fit in the car on the way back to the hostel.

Nawwwwlins: Louis Armstrong (Not The Moon Guy) And The Will Smith Who Wasn’t Getting ‘Jiggy With It’

With only a couple of days left in Nawlins we hit up Louis Armstrong Park, the place where African slaves congregated from the 17 and 1800s and is quite literally where jazz music was born.

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We then went to Preservation Hall to listen to some traditional New Orleans jazz excellently performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Group.

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The evening was made extra special when the father of a family who we got talking to whilst queuing up outside found the trumpet players name ‘Will Smith’ somewhat humerus. The trumpet player, maybe being in his late 50s, early 60s was a talented player but slow moving. At the end of one slow number where the trumpet player (who had been singing) fragilely sat down, the slightly drunken dad of the family quietly pipes up ‘Mmwell he’s not getting jiggy with it.’ To which his sober wife whispers ‘For God’s sake shut up!’

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Naaaaawlins: Throwing Alligators, Seafood and Trombones

We went to ‘Mothers’ restaurant for a classic New Orleans food staple; the Po Boy.

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Featured on Man Vs Food, Mothers boasts a good sandwich. So we ordered an oyster and a shrimp Po Boy

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and sat next to a picture of Adam Richman’s face. You know, the food fanatic who’s held nearly every job in the restaurant industry…

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Later, whilst enjoying a cold beverage in our hostel, we became friends with an older guy named Kenny who is part of the India House Hostel in some way.

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A proper sound bloke, and a Louisiana boy through and through, he told us all about the history of New Orleans and recommended we take a tour of the swamps. So we did. Whilst booking it however, a middle aged Texan called ‘Bill’ got talking to us and asked if he could tag along, we didn’t mind so we agreed. It wasn’t till about 5 minutes later he turned out to be one of the most boring people we’ve ever met. Even with ADHD and a sugar addiction (always carrying one or two milkshakes with him at all times) he was still boring. Upon arrival the three of us were taken on a big airboat by a huge Cajun guy who navigated through alligator infested bayous and open swamp lands. At one point, with a giant splash, he got into the water and swam nose to nose with an alligator. Then he picked it up and threw it. He threw an alligator across the water without being eaten by it afterwards. Like. It. Wasn’t. No. Thang. (All the while boring Bill was telling anyone who’d listen about some moss that was currently growing on his jet ski back home).

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One night after some totally brill deep fried shrimp and catfish at a joint called Deanie’s, we walked out to the distant sounds of a proper New Orleans jazz brass band procession. Even though we were so damn full of food, we ran to find it and caught up on Bourbon St to have a bloody good dance.

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Naaawlins: College Party And An Attempted Murderer

We arrived in New Orleans late at night after an… interesting but still totally brill drive down the Mississippi River. We arrived at our hostel the ‘India House’ close to the French Quarter area.

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It was a great hostel and we quickly made friends with some Aussies who said the ‘C’ word a lot. Apparently being called the ‘C’ word means you’re their mate. Being called ‘mate’ however, is a good indication that they don’t like you.

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The following night we all found ourselves at a local college party. The party was so far, the most stereotypically American thing we had experienced. Free, terrible, ‘lite’ beer, beer pong and lots of under 21s. Our cover stories of why we were there (considering we were British) changed so often I think we actually told the same people two or three different things. I’m fairly sure we were Eastern European for a while. After being there for a few hours they actually ran out of beer. Upon discovering this gruesome reality, and throwing any previous international cover to the wind, Laurence pipes up in his best drunken American accent and shouts “What?! They ran out of beer?! …GOD COLLEGE SUCKS!” To which a jock nearby joins in “YYEAAAHH!”
We then all managed to blag our way into the college club, got drunk and danced to Spice Girls.

The famous street for tourism in the French Quarter is Bourbon St. It is the very embodiment of all manor of debaucheries. Hookers, strip clubs and heavy heavy heavy heavy drinking. New Orleans is quite different from the rest of the United States. For one, you can drink on the street. So 24 hours a day, and I mean 24 hours a day, there is a lumbering crowd of hazy eyed tourists and crazy locals staggering around with giant cocktails. One such cocktail is called the New Orleans Hand Grenade. It’s bloody strong. Two or three of these and you’re on your arse.

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So the following day Laurence and I got a few.

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We got talking to a guy in a Hand Grenade bar on Bourbon St later that day. He had already had 4 or 5 and he was absolutely smashed. It was 12pm and he said he’d been drinking since 8am and considering what city we were in we didn’t doubt him a single bit. He was drunk and generous, so bought us Hand Grenades each and asked us if we’d ever had a Statue of Liberty shot to which we admitted to never having heard of it. So, producing a ten dollar bill, he bought three shots of 100-and-something proof alcohol, told us to dip our fingers in the shot and point to the sky. He then lit our fingers on fire and instructed us to drink fast before blowing out our flaming hands. After a few more drinks and shots we could barely understand a word he was saying due to his heavily slurring. But then he got onto the subject of his recent release out if prison, and with a slight grin on his face he tells us he was recently released from prison for trying to murder someone. It doesn’t really matter how many hand grenades you’ve had, when a dude tells you he tried to kill someone whilst sporting a little smile you sober up pretty quickly. Before he told us this we got a picture with him. We think it’s probably best we don’t put it up, but ask either if us to show you it. It’s one creepy ass face once you know what he got banged up for. So we all left, he fell over and went to popeyes fried chicken and we scarpered hoping not to bump into him again and completely confused as to why so much random weird shit happens to us.

The Great River Road: On Our Way To Nawlins

In the wee hours of the morning we left Memphis, Tennessee for our long drive down the Mississippi River through two states; Mississippi and Louisiana which would take us to our next destination, a city known to be quite different from the rest of the United States, New Orleans. Once we were fuelled up on waffles and bacon we hit the byways to get a sense of small town life in the Southern United States.
The remaining miles through Tennessee were massive expanses of farm land with no houses in sight

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Mississippi turned greener and we began driving next to lakes and smaller rivers. The small towns we drove through looked very shut off to the rest of the country, with there pretty much being a church for every home…

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Our intent was to avoid interstate highways and to drive on the more scenic routes. This was taken to the extreme in Louisiana as for miles and miles we were travelling on a dusty road past old dilapidated wooden houses sporting front porches with rocking chairs and hanging dead animals. Beautifully strange as it was We could almost hear the squealing pigs in the distance… Almost.

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Getting hungry at this point we took to the highway briefly to find a food stop and searching on our Sat Nav we saw “KFC 10 miles”. So we followed the instructions to exit the highway and started driving through an industrial town that time forgot. It seemed like we’d gone back to the 1980’s and were in a mixture of Deliverance and Twin Peaks… Thinking we just have to get in, get our food and get out, we carried on with a few miles to go. The roads were getting more and more unkempt and increasingly isolated from civilisation. We were sure that if there was a KFC at the end of this route, it wouldn’t be one to spend any longer in than we had to. With half a mile to go things got a little ‘off road’. Looking at each other not knowing what to expect, we took the penultimate turning to end up on the edge of a tiny little community of about 2 dozen wooden houses. We would have turned around and left ASAP but there was a one way system for some pointless reason considering just how small and quiet this place was, so, still following directions from our clearly delusional Sat Nav we had to drive into it and came to a dumb struck stop at our destination. The ‘KFC’ was nothing more than what looked like the oldest house in the community. Nearly falling down and clearly deserted, we were fairly certain we wouldn’t be able to get a Zinger Box Meal here.
As we pulled off, an elderly gentleman entering his house across the dirt track road slowly smiled and gave us a gentle wave.

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