Wednesday 1st January
It’s Badgers game day on New Years Day. I’m woken up at midnight by fireworks and a huge cheer of Happy New Year at a nearby house party. I’m immediately back to sleep and not even Ricky coming in during the night wakes me up. My alarm goes off at 6 and after eating my Vietnamese baguette from last night I get showered and changed into my game day bibs. It will be the last time this season I will be wearing the white and red striped overalls. I can’t thank my good mate Tristin enough for donating me them and hopefully I can bump into the good man at some stage during the day. Ricky and I were supposed to take a local bus up to Pasadena but he’s insistent on an Uber and it turns out to be a good decision as we have been offered spots for the parade. Jodi who took me to the Packers-Chargers game last month has a mate who camped overnight with her family to secure a front row position for the parade, a location difficult to arrive at by public transport. Our Uber takes us half a mile short due to parade day road closures. We arrive at the intersection provided by Jodi who is only a few minutes behind us and are then taken to her mate’s position which is so good! Hilde is half Cuban and half American Jewish and along with husband David and twin children Victoria and Sam spent the night sleeping on the street. Great effort! Over the next couple of hours the crowd slowly builds with the time before the first float arriving spent catching up with Jodi and getting to know the Garcia family, as well as reading the Rose Bowl parade magazine purchased by Jodi. Located nearby are some Badgers fans including a woman called Cynthia and her family. They find my story so fascinating that she gets me to explain it whilst I’m being filmed. The first float eventually arrives at around 9:40 followed by another 86 uniquely created floats. Each is spectacularly designed and as each one is passing I am doing the W sign with my thumbs and shouting On Wisconsin. Some of the people on the floats mimic me, as does Hilde’s son Sam. As the Oregon Ducks marching band are passing through I wave my Wisconsin flag like a crazy idiot. Jodi takes a good photo of one of the members of the band doing an O sign behind me. Now when the Wisconsin marching band are staring to appear, I’m told by a member of parade that as they are moving slowly I can go up and have a photo taken with them. I have a great shot taken of me standing in front of the float with Bucky on it followed by a second photo with some Badgers cheerleaders. The whole parade takes just over two hours but such is the quality and aura of the each float that I don’t notice the time at all. For the final float there is a band playing to signify the end of the parade. What another great experience. Once the parade is over Ricky and I say goodbye to the Garcia family, thanking them immensely for such an awesome life experience. The stadium is a few miles away with Jodi kindly giving us a lift to as close as she can get us before road closures. After dropping us off we don’t have to walk too far with the first task being to meet a guy who Ricky has found online with a spare ticket. Ricky purchased a single ticket but as there are two of us we need a second one. After a while of searching we eventually find him giving us plenty of time to enter the huge stadium. And huge it is with a capacity of around 90,000. Ricky’s seat is way up at the back whereas mine is in a lower section on the other side of the stadium. So we decide to try and sit next to each other, hoping for a spare seat nearby. However due to the nature of this game there are no spare seats thus Ricky chooses to sit in the aisle and I’m sitting on the end of the section next to two elderly ladies also supporting the Badgers. One of them is from Madison and recognises me from the media. The other lives in San Diego but is a Badgers fan due to her friend. Most of the fans located around us are wearing red with a few supporting the Ducks, including a couple from Oregon. By the time the national anthem starts the stadium is more or less full with the final attendance announced later at just over 90,000. A nice surprise occurs when Tristin arrives to say hi, wish me happy new year and of course to have a photo taken with me and my Wisconsin flag. The Ducks start the game well, driving 75 yards from the field for a touchdown. But a 95 yard touchdown kick return from Aaron Cruikshank not only sets the game alight but is also for me one of the best plays I have seen all season. An interception by Jack Sanborn leads to a field goal resulting in the Badgers leading the Ducks 10-7 going into the second quarter. However the Badgers begin to make mistakes starting with a fumble by Jonathan Taylor. Luckily no points are conceded but the Badgers are not so lucky from Jack Coan’s first interception resulting in Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert strolling into the endzone for his second rushing touchdown. But the Badgers finish the first half strong with a Quintez Cephus touchdown to lead the Ducks 17-14. Now at half time I’m thinking that the Badgers can win this game as long as they can iron out their mistakes. However the inability to do this combined with a couple of questionable referee calls results in an agonising single point defeat, which in the process breaks the Badgers five win streak in bowl games. Punter Anthony Lotti mishandles a snap leading to a Ducks touchdown followed by the Badgers giving up a 10 point turnaround and a 6 point lead through yet another turnover. Five minutes into the final quarter Herbert scores his third rushing touchdown of the game to give the Ducks a single point lead. Turnovers, penalties and a dodgy pass interference on a Badgers offensive drive in the final minutes all combine against the Badgers. Yet both Ricky and I have had a good day and are proud of this team. And I made it to every single game this year! We stay for some photos and as we are walking around the stadium I bump into my mate Pedar Culver II and his father. It’s good to see Peter again and of course we take a photo together. He’s been a good supporter of mine plus for the Packers-Broncos game back in September he kindly sold me a ticket for only $50 which I donated to my good mate Eric. Peter then donated this money at the VFW tent showing what a true legend that he is. After some photos the Wisconsin marching band perform 5th quarter. As it’s the final time this season, it becomes a bit emotional for me when I do varsity, which fittingly is the band’s final song. I’m really gonna miss the whole game day experience at Camp Randall but these memories will last a long time, including the friendships that have been made along this incredible journey. Ricky and I line up for the shuttles taking attendees back to Pasadena but after a while decide to skip the line and walk to a bus stop taking us back to Alhambra. It’s around a half an hour walk with Ricky stopping for a bite to eat at a food truck. We arrive at the bus stop in plenty of time, providing us with an opportunity to update our social media as reception (signal) was really bad in the stadium plus there was no stadium wifi. The 260 bus service takes around half an hour from Pasadena to Alhambra. Once we’re there I’m back at the same Vietnamese restaurant as last night, ordering another delicious spicy pho soup and baguettes to take away. I didn’t get time to eat anything decent so I have a baguette with my noodle soup, carrying out the other two for tomorrow’s long journey. On the walk back to the Airbnb we stop at Popeyes fast food restaurant as Ricky didn’t eat anything at the Vietnamese restaurant. I have already eaten a ton of food but still find enough space to treat myself to a chocolate fudge brownie. Over food Ricky tells me more about himself. He’s from a small town in Minnesota called Duluth, just off Lake Superior and decided to join the air force due to the opportunity provided to travel, receive a more or less free university education plus serve his country. Upon arrival at the house both of us are straight to bed. It’s been a long day plus both of us will be up even earlier tomorrow morning to head to LAX for our onward travels. I’m off to Miami for a wedding whereas Ricky will be off back home to Duluth.
Thursday 2nd January 4000 KM 2400 M
We’re up early to catch an Uber to LAX. As it’s pre rush hour the traffic isn’t that bad at all thus arriving in plenty of time. I’m flying America whereas Ricky is with United so we say goodbye to each other after being dropped off. The first flight I’m catching is to Dallas with a short layover before heading onto West Palm Beach airport in Florida. It’s a nice 787-9 Dreamliner to take me to Dallas Fort Worth airport but the plane is delayed. I’m told by an agent at the arrival gate that I’m likely to miss my connection nevertheless I still take a brisk walk to the departure gate. To my surprise the plane hasn’t departed with the agent telling me to hurriedly make my way onto the plane. I ask her if my bag will be on the plane and I’m provided with an assurance that it will be. Whereas the first flight was spent sleeping the second consists of watching a movie called Denmark, a comedy about a down and out Welshman who decides to visit Denmark in an attempt to get arrested so that he can end up in their luxury prison system. Lo and behold when I do land into West Palm Beach airport and head to the American Airlines baggage customer service office, I’m told by the agent that my bag is still in Dallas with it (hopefully) on the next flight into town. I don’t have anything planned tonight so I take a shuttle bus to West Palm Beach train and bus station from where I catch a southbound local bus to Delroy Beach. It takes just over an hour to make the 32 km (20 miles) journey with the time spent working on my website. Then it’s a half an hour walk to my mate Amanda’s townhouse. As she is getting married tomorrow I will have the whole place to myself plus her husband to be’s pick up truck as transport for the next couple of days. Now to get into the complex you need a clicker but I don’t have to wait too long for a car to arrive so I can quickly make my way to her place. The key is underneath a miniature tree trunk just outside the front door. A bed is made for me in the spare room with the pick up truck keys on a study desk. By this time the flight should be arriving soon so I go onto a flight tracking application on my iPhone which tells me that the last America inbound flight from Dallas will be arriving shortly. Although the agent told me that she would call me when the bag arrives I choose to drive the pick up truck to the airport anyway as it’s getting late. The ride takes around half an hour in an old school manual transmission pick up truck. Interstate 95 is a crazy highway on which the speed limit is 65 mph (104 kmh) but with most vehicles driving at around 90 (144)! Even at 70 mph I’m getting overtaken by most vehicles including large trucks. It’s a scary road indeed requiring full concentration at all times. As I’m approaching the airport I receive a phone call that my bag was on the latest incoming Dallas flight. Hallelujah. This is pretty important to me as the bag contains my outfit for tomorrow’s wedding down in Miami. I don’t have to wait too long for pick up my case at baggage claim. On the way back to the townhouse I stop for take out at a nearby restaurant. It takes a while to get to sleep as a result of the three hour time zone change.
Friday 3rd January
I sleep in until around half 9 with my first task today being a brunch date with a mate who I met in Ecuador a few months ago. Olivier lives down in Fort Lauderdale, a half an hour drive from Delroy Beach. His eldest son is on school holidays so accompanies us to Mom’s Kitchen, a nice old school diner with a hearty breakfast. Afterwards he takes me on a short tour around the local area, including a lovely beachside drive. I comment to Olivier how different this is from Wisconsin. It feels like I’m in another country! Once back at Olivier’s house I’m kindly donated a bottle of water to go and then I’m back to Delroy Beach to get showered and changed for the wedding. I have been told be at the wedding venue at 4:45 so I leave early enough to give myself a spare hour just in case of heavy traffic. I arrive at Curtiss Mansion in plenty of time with lots of Miami memories coming back as I’m driving into the city. It was at the Ultra Music Festival (UMF) back in 2015 when I first met Amanda. She was bartending just off a stage the whole weekend, during which we struck up an immediate and lasting friendship. Amanda is of American Italian background whereas her husband to be (Mauritz) is originally from South Africa. Since I first met Amanda I have only been able to visit her once with Mauritz working away as a chef on cruise ships so it will be good to finally meet the main man. Just before the ceremony I get to see Amanda and what a stunning bride she is. The ceremony is short yet sweet with both having written their own wedding vows. After the ceremony there are appetisers and drinks, over which I get to mingle with wedding guests, some of whom have traveled all the way from South Africa, a country which I have visited twice and where I currently have a lot of friends visiting. The England cricket team are currently touring the country in a test series against South Africa. Now at the start of season I thought I would be in Cape Town for the New Years game starting today but I’m not due to the Packers having such a good season. Maybe I will get to the last game in Johannesburg at the end of the month but I prefer it if I don’t! I talk cricket and rugby to the South African guests, many of whom are happy with their current sporting success having recently won the last Rugby World Cup in Japan and the first test match in Pretoria. I’m seated on table 13 on which I get to make some new friends, many of them having worked with Amanda. Food is served buffet style with it being of a decent quality too. Speeches are funny and as always emotional but there are some technical difficulties with the microphone. As a former wedding DJ I know how both frustrating and embarrassing that such a situation can be. The DJ is good with respect to track selection but could be better with some of the mixes not really beat matching. However at least he does play Down Under on request! I do some dancing and as it starts getting late I’m starting to feel tired from a busy week of travels over which I have traveled around 4,000 miles (6,400 km), the equivalent of a one way flight from Chicago to London! Many of the guests will be heading onto a nightclub in downtown Miami for a really big night. Maybe I would have joined had it not been for my traveling and sickness. As I’m leaving I thank Amanda and Mauritz for not only an invitation to the wedding but allowing me to stay in their townhouse and use their pick up truck. On the way back to Delroy Beach I take extra precaution as some of these local motorists are crazy and could be under the influence of something that impairs their ability to drive safely. I stop at a service station near the townhouse to fill the truck up with petrol (gas). Once back at the townhouse it doesn’t take me long to fall asleep.
Saturday 4th January
I have a nice lie in until 9 before getting ready to leave Amanda and Mauritz’s townhouse. I’m taking a Megabus from Fort Lauderdale at lunchtime so have plenty of time to get there. First I take a local bus to Delroy train station followed by a local train to Sheridan Street station. Coach services leave just outside the station and I have around a hour and a half spare. Nearby is a Denny’s diner, which provides a good opportunity to have a hearty and cheap brunch. My mate Justin messages me with a 20 per cent discount code too. The coach arrives at the scheduled time with the journey as per usual spent napping, listening to music and working on my website. In Orlando the Megabus station is in the “hood” but luckily my good mate Aaron is picking me up. I first met Aaron at a now defunct music festival near Atlanta, Georgia called TomorrowWorld back in 2015. We became really good mates and since then we have met a few times with a personal highlight for both of us being an awesome road trip from Miami to Los Angeles via Las Vegas followed by Coachella in April 2016. Aaron drives me to his father and stepmother’s home in the suburbs, also my accommodation for this evening. Peter moved to America from Iran in the late 70s and it’s great to finally meet him. Naheed is also of Iranian background with the Persian food cooked by her being of a really good quality. Aaron and I watch the Texans vs Bills game, which ends up being a really good finish as Houston win in overtime courtesy of a field goal. After the game we both get ready to head out, taking an Uber to downtown Orlando. Our first stop is an Irish bar to watch the Patriots vs Titans game, which we continue to watch in the other bars we visit. The Titans pull off a major upset to send the Patriots out of the playoffs with their second home defeat in a row plus potentially Tom Brady’s last appearance. We end up in a rooftop place called Aero for a couple of hours before taking an Uber back to the house.
Sunday 5th January 225 KM 140 M
Neither Arron nor I have much planned today, apart from traveling from Orlando to Jacksonville. The morning is spent relaxing and working on my website. For brunch we have leftovers from last night and then watch the Saints vs Vikings game. If the Saints win then they will be heading to Lambeau next Sunday night but if the Vikings can pull off an upset then it will be the winner of the Eagles vs Seahawks game later. As it turns out Minnesota win in New Orleans in overtime with Kirk Cousins throwing for a touchdown to seal the victory. After the game we have a late lunch of some more really good Persian food and once Aaron and I have eaten we say goodbye to Peter and Naheed, with myself personally thanking them for their generous hospitality. On the way to Jacksonville we stop to take photos at Daytona Beach, famous for its speedway yet also infamous for its hedonistic spring break parties. The journey takes just over two hours and during the journey we watch some of the Seahawks vs Eagles game. Both teams in the NFC wildcard playoffs win away from home, thus the Seahawks will be coming to Lambeau as the highest remaining seed. My good mate Eric has kindly donated me a ticket in the first row of section 112. We went to the first regular season game at Soldier Field in the very first NFL game of the season ans hopefully next Sunday isn’t the last game of the season! I stayed with Aaron in Jacksonville for a couple of days during my 2018 spring holiday trip to America. On the Sunday night he took me to a Mexican restaurant where I got food poisoning. The next morning I had to make the long and difficult drive to Pensacola, stopping every so often to vomit. For dinner tonight we have Aaron’s girlfriend Brennan joining us. They take me to an Italian restaurant called Crispey’s, with the pizza that Aaron and I share being really good. Fingers crossed that I’m not sick tomorrow for the rest of the week! Back at Aaron’s apartment we watch an episode of Corporate, a show that Aaron got me into last time I was in town. Brennan has never seen the show nevertheless it doesn’t take long for her to enjoy, just like I did. Everyone is feeling tired so we all head to bed. I’m on the couch again but it’s comfortable and after such a big weekend it doesn’t take long to get to sleep.
Monday 6th January 1600 KM 1000 M
I’m up around 9 and by the time I’m showered and changed Brennan has left the apartment. Aaron takes me to Waffle House for my very first experience of this well known American chain restaurant. It turns out to be a good decision particularly as our server kindly upgrades me from toast to waffle for free. Plus the waffle is good. Afterwards I’m kindly dropped off by Aaron at Jacksonville airport. It’s a good thing I have arrived in plenty of time as the queue (line) for security is really long. The timing turns out to be perfect as when I get to the departure gate my flight is starting to board. My Delta flight to Boston takes just over two hours with the time spent listening to music and working on my website. After picking up my bag I take a shuttle bus to the airport subway station from where I ride a train to Kenmore, the closest station to my hotel. It’s only a 3 minute walk to Hotel Buckminster. I got a good deal for a deluxe room with a kitchen, lounge area and full bathroom. For dinner I get carry out from a nearby Thai restaurant, assuming that I will have cutlery in the kitchen to eat my food. But once I’m back in my room, I open the kitchen drawers to find no cutlery whatsoever. Not even a glass for drinking water! So I head to reception to both complain and ask for some cutlery, which is kindly provided by a staff member. I’m told to write about the absence of cutlery into my review. Eventually I get to eat my green curry, which is pretty good. For tonight’s entertainment I watch a complete three hour episode of WWE Raw. Yes it’s not real and yes I’m a fully grown man with no children, nevertheless I still enjoy the storylines and drama. I was hoping to go and see a live show of either Raw or SmackDown at some stage during my travels but due to scheduling it wasn’t meant to be. Once the show is over I’m off to bed as I have an early start tomorrow.
Tuesday 7th January
I’m up early to catch up with my good mate Tim in Lexington. First I hop onto a green line train from Kenmore station to Park Street, changing for a red line service to Alewire station. Then I catch the 76 bus service to Lexington centre. I eventually arrive into our meeting point inside Panera Bread at around half past eight. As soon as I have ordered a cream cheese bagel and peppermint tea Tim arrives with his sister Natalie. Tim and I worked together for 7 years back in Perth and with Tim moving schools it will be the end of a close working relationship. Hopefully we can remain good mates out of work. The decision to visit Boston was mainly to catch up with Tim whilst also fitting in a visit to another new state in America. Tomorrow I’m heading to Rhode Island. Over breakfast Natalie advises me to visit Newbury with its amazing mansions. I haven’t booked anywhere to stay yet so Newbury sounds like a good option. After eating Natalie drives us to locations where American independence from Britain began. On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere took a midnight ride to warn the colonists about a British attack, tipping off revolutionary leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock to prevent their arrest. From Lexington, Revere attempted to ride to nearby Concord but was arrested. Yet he already had managed to alert the colonial militia to an impeding British attack resulting in the Battle of Lexington and Concord which in turn sparked the revolutionary war. Most of the monuments are expectedly Anti-British with only a small memorial dedicated to the British soldiers that died during the local battles. Once Tim and I have completed our historical tour the three of us pop into a local coffee house for a nice warm drink. Afterwards Natalie drives us to her lovely huge family house in suburban Lexington. She is married to Damon, also Australian and along with their three children they migrated to Boston nearly 8 years ago. Damon kindly drops off Tim and I in downtown Boston. Lunch is taken in a food court before we start the Freedom Trail, a self guided three mile walking tour of locations fundamental to American history. We pass through Boston Common, Old City Hall, the site of the Boston Massacre, a memorial dedicated to the Irish famine migrants with the Bunker Monument in Charlestown being our final stop. The 294 step climb is most certainly a test of our fitness with Tim faring better than me. Located nearby is an Irish pub which we decide to pop into with bartender Sue a really interesting character. After a couple of drinks we move onto the Warren Tavern for food and drinks. The food is really good plus we get to meet some really nice patrons. Pam and Kendall are friends sitting net to me at the bar with Charles sitting next to them. They ask Tim and I lots of questions about the Australian bushfires. Personally it’s been very touching to receive so many sympathetic comments both in person and on social media regarding an extremely tragic disaster to both humans, animals and the natural environment of Australia. Once we have eaten and finished our drinks we take an Uber to Fenway stadium, near where my hotel is located. We watch the Bruins-Predators game in a couple of places before Tim and I decide to call it a night, wishing him all the best with the rest of his stay plus for the upcoming academic year at his new school. Tim takes an Uber back to Lexington whereas I walk a couple of minutes back to my room. I watch the rest of the hockey game with Boston recording an easy 6-2 victory. After the game it’s lights out and I’m off to sleep.
Wednesday 8th January 100 KM 60 M
Today I’m heading to Rhode Island, which will be my 29th state that I have visited in America. I have a nice lie in then check out after getting both myself and my luggage organised. From Kenmore I take the train back to the Airport station with the shuttle bus dropping me off at the rental car centre. I have booked with Thrifty an economy car for the next 24 hours. In the parking lot I have a number of cars to choose from and I decide upon a Chevrolet Sonic. Although it’s an economy vehicle it’s the Turbo model so has a bit of a kick to it. I take the express toll tunnel out of the airport and onto interstate 93 followed by state highway 24, which will take me down to Rhode Island. I took Natalie’s advice from yesterday by booking a hotel in Newport as I will be taking a tour of one of the mansion’s plus there are some good drives with nice seafront views. I haven’t eaten anything today so after checking into the Courtyard Marriott Hotel I pop into a local Mexican restaurant in Newport for a breakfast burrito. The mansion I have decided to visit by taking a scenic driving route after eating is called The Elms. My timing is good as a short while after my arrival I’m taken on a group guided tour. We have a good guide for an hour in which we visit a fascinating mansion house, built during the Gilded Age at the turn of the twentieth century. Each room is uniquely designed plus immaculately furnished. Mr Berwind was the original owner and as he built his fortune in the coal mining industry he was able to import some of the best paintings and furniture from all over the world. After the tour I take a drive of the local area. I would have liked to have hiked a couple of short trails but the weather has taken a turn for a worse so I head back to my hotel. Mike McCarthy has recently been appointed the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and flicking through to the sport channels on the TV I get to see his first press conference, alongside billionaire owner Jerry Jones. I wish coach McCarthy all the best in his new job, except of course for when the Packers play the Cowboys. The rest of the afternoon is spent working on my website before heading out for dinner at a nice Irish pub. Back at the hotel I watch AEW Wrestling followed by the end of the classic film The Fugitive. Once the film is over I’m off to sleep.