Friday November 1st - 1600 KM 1000 M
I have a nice lie in and find Harry heading to work when I’m about to leave for the gym downstairs. I won’t see him again so I thank him immensely for letting me stay in his nice apartment. I have another tough workout then get ready and pop back to CJ’s eatery for a hearty brunch. I have a couple of hours to spare before I need to travel to the airport so my final sightseeing activities are a visit to the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Not only does the Space Needle offer great views of Seattle and it’s surrounding areas but also contains a glass ceiling which you can walk over whilst looking down at the ground. It’s a bit of an eerie feeling as there is still that slight doubt in your mind that something could go wrong! Once back downstairs I walk over to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which is based on the work of Dale Chihuly, who studied glassworks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The various exhibitions are really impressive, with my favourite being the canoes filled with various glass objects. I walk back to Harry’s apartment to collect my luggage and hand the keys to concierge. It’s a short walk to to the Westlake Center from where I catch the light train to the airport. I check in with plenty of time and have something to eat but by the the time I arrive at the boarding gate I have missed my boarding sequence with Southwest Airlines. Luckily I manage to find a new spot and secure a window seat in the last row of the plane. The first flight takes an hour and twenty minutes to Sacramento but my next leg to Los Angeles is delayed. I finally arrive into LAX around half nine and waiting for me in the pick up zone are my good mates Ethan and Megan. I first met them at a music festival in Atlanta Georgia five years ago then a few days later I caught up with Megan and her friend Jess outside Lambeau before my first ever game, after which I decided to move to Green Bay for an entire season to follow the Packers. At the music festival Megan was carrying a totem pole flying both the Wisconsin state and Packers flags. I went up to her and said I’m a massive Packers fan and would be traveling for my first ever home game a few days later. She replied that she would be too and I was introduced to Ethan and the rest of her Wisconsin festival crew. We hung out for a few hours and swapped contact details and the rest is history. Originally from Wisconsin Megan and Ethan met whilst studying in Oshkosh and due to Ethan’s work relocated to California a couple of years ago. Whilst they were based in Wausau I visited and stayed with them a couple of times and a combination of our love of music festivals and the Packers and Badgers brought us and kept us together. It’s been ages since since I both saw them together so I’m really looking forward to spending this weekend with them. Their small but cosy apartment is not a long drive from LAX and I get to catch up with their two lovely cats too. We head to a bar for some food and drinks, spending the night talking about my travels since I left Western Australia last December. It’s not too late when we get back and the Rugby World Cup Final between England and South Africa is starting soon but I’m so tired that I find myself falling asleep so switch off my phone and head to sleep.
Saturday 2nd November
I’m up around 8 and Ethan and Megan are soon up and about too, cooking me a nice breakfast and we have a relaxing morning watching college football. The plan for today is to attend the Packers Everywhere Pep Rally at a bar in downtown LA, which starts at 4 but due to the huge number of Packers fans in California and attending the game from out of town we take an Uber there around noon. Upon arrival at Tom’s Watch Bar there is a line for a table so we have a walk around and stop in a place called “The Yard” for a drink. Once back at Tom’s Watch Bar we manage to secure a table in what is now a venue packed full of Packers fans proudly wearing green and gold. We order some nachos to share with our drinks. It’s nice to have a table but it’s far from the stage where the interviews will take place. Not far from our table is where freebies are being handed out. You have to register online and your given a barcode which the Packers Everywhere team scan and then you’re handed certain prizes. The most notable item won by myself is a pair of sunglasses, which I donate to Megan as my good mate Sandy gave me a Packers pair of sunglasses at the first pre season game of the season. But Ethan ends up winning a signed Davante Adams playing jersey! During the rally there are quite a few chants of Go Pack Go and I get to catch up with my mate Colleen from tailgate lot 1 is in town too for the game along with her daughter who resides in Minneapolis and Jed brother and sister in law whom reside in San Diego. A number of games are played by attendees and Packers CEO Mike Murphy is on the microphone for a chat along with a couple of ex players. Around 7 we take an Uber back to the apartment. We relax for a couple of hours then I order a takeaway pizza for the all of us. It’s a quiet night as tomorrow is going to be a long day in the sun and heat.
Sunday 3rd November
It’s Packers game day and yet another Sconnie with a kind soul has donated generously. Jodi is originally from Manitowoc and has been residing in Los Angeles for around 30 years. When my story was first published a couple of months ago she reached out to me on Instagram and told me to contact her nearer the date of the Packers-Chargers game as she might have a spare ticket for me. I messaged Jodi a few days ago and luckily the ticket is still spare, which has kindly been offered to me. She also generously picks me up from the apartment and on the way to the stadium Jodi asks if I had any other ticket offers for today’s game. I reply that I didn’t and how I’m really grateful for a ticket worth a few hundred dollars, which is around several hundred Australian dollars. The Chargers are currently playing in a small soccer ground whilst a new state of the art stadium is being constructed for both the Charges and the Rams. Combined with the huge number of Packers fans on the west coast of America this has resulted in a classic high school Economics textbook example of a demand and supply mismatch: high demand and low supply pushing up prices to levels similar to those of the NFL opener at Soldier Field a couple of months ago. Luckily for me my good mate Eric reached out to me with a ticket for Packers-Bears and today my good fortune continues with Jodi. We leave the car at a shopping complex parking lot then catch a Lyft to Dignity Health Sports Park. I’m meeting up with an old high school mate from back in the day in England, Richard “Dickie” Cockshott. He married an American woman and now lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife and three stepchildren. Dickie is a good guy and we go back a long way from my previous life in England, and in his typical nice guy fashion he has invited me and my fellow Packer friends to his tailgate. A woman called Tracy and her dad, whom are originally from Wisconsin, join us for some tailgating fun. Tracy reached out to me on Twitter and it’s nice to meet her and her father Paul. My “Toll Lambulance” mates Wendy and Roxanne choose to travel to a road game every year and this season it’s Los Angeles for today’s game. They too turn up at our tailgate and in true Packerssuperfanjaz style I have brought together a random group of people whom all love the green and gold - except for Dickie and his Chargers friends. My Packers community continues to grow with Coleen, her daughter, brother and sister in law turning up too to our tailgate. I think it’s becoming a bit too much for Dickie and all the other Chargers fans so I say goodbye to everyone and Jodi and I go and network with some other tailgates. There are so many Packers tailgates to choose from and I walk towards a large group based near a Packers decorated ute (pick up truck). I tell them my story and Marcos is the senior and leader of the group and is coming to Green Bay in December for a game so I invite him to tailgate lot 1 for a Shotski. Our group photo is pretty big and looks great. Jodi and I continue to walk around the parking lot and I introduce myself to a family and their friends. They generously offer us food and drinks and as Jodi and I are walking into the stadium she is impressed by my ability to make new mates - as commented by Rich Ryman of the Green Bay Press Gazette I tell her the only Packers mates I don’t have are the ones that I haven’t yet met. The seats purchased by Jodi are in a really good location but being a small soccer stadium there aren’t many bad ones going around. It ends up being the worst performance of the season for the Packers, with the offense being held to just 60 yards for the first three quarters. Yesterday I wore my number 25 Melvin Gordon Badgers jersey and today he plays a really good day for the Chargers offense with 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Overall the NFC North had a bad day ending up 0-4 so the Packers didn’t lose ground in the race to the divisional title. Hopefully the Packers can win next weekend back at Lambeau against the Panthers with the Vikings losing in Dallas to create a bit of a lead for us in our division. Just before half time I nip to the restroom and I meet a guy who recognises me from my story. His name is Ryan Packer and he changed his surname to his wife’s surname – it coincidentally just happened to be Packer! Ryan is really excited to have met me and is really supportive of my journey. At the end of the game I say goodbye to Jodi and thank her again for donating me her spare ticket. I take a bus with some Packers fans to a local bar for a post game drink and then take a Lyft back to the apartment. Megan has made a nice soup for dinner and we all have an early night as Ethan and Megan have work tomorrow and I’m flying out to Phoenix.
Monday 4th November 600 KM 360 M
II get dropped off at LAX just past 8 with the traffic slowly getting heavy as we approach the departures drop off zone. I thank Ethan and Megan for hosting me again and hopefully we will see each other over the Christmas break when they are back home in Wisconsin. For breakfast I order a bagel with cream cheese and work on my website whilst waiting to board my flight. Due to a big weekend I sleep for most of the short flight and upon arrival I take the light rail to downtown Phoenix. I can’t believe how hot it is - with the temperate a good 27 degrees Celsius or 80 Fahrenheit higher than in Green Bay! I’m feeling hungry so pop into a Greek style diner for a delicious lunch. I’ve not made any plans today so decide to take the long route to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment, continuing on the light rail to the end of the line and a subsequent bus transfer to the north western suburb of Cave Creek. It’s a nice relaxing journey through Phoenix that ends up being nearly two hours. My Couchsurfing host isn’t at home but her new flatmate is there to let me in. Jon lives partially in Hawaii and the rest of the time in Phoenix, working as an interior designer. He and Whitney became friends from Couchsurfing and he moved into her spare room a short while ago. The apartment complex that they live in is nice and modern with a gym, pool, hot tub and barbecue region. I’m feeling a bit tired so decide to spend some time in the hot tub which is so relaxing for my jaded body. Whitney is back home just after 6 and for dinner we agree on Mexican food. There is a chain of Mexican restaurants called Chronic Tacos so Jon and I head there in his Lotus convertible to pick up our carry out. My burrito ends up being one of the best I have ever had. We are unable to stream the Monday night game on the lounge TV so we watch a New Zealand film on Netflix called “The Breaker Uppers”, a comedy based on two women whose role is to break up couples but the friendship is put to the test when one of them has a relationship with a guy that they separated from his crazy girlfriend. I show Whitney my online story and she thinks it’s pretty funny and crazy and I get to learn more about her too. Originally from Indiana, she served in the military for five and a half years and upon leaving decided to move to Phoenix for a change and is currently studying Science. I’m sleeping on the couch in the lounge and we all head to bed just past 10.
Tuesday 5th November
It’s nice to have a lie in today after a busy last few mornings. Jon cooks me this amazing breakfast consisting of a poached egged omelette served with home made salsa. The both of us don’t have many plans today so we spend the morning sunbathing and chatting by the pool. I go in for a short swim then nip into the hot tub for some relaxation. It’s getting close to lunchtime so I get showered and ready as I’m meeting up with a friend from my travels around South America. Courtney and I first met on a walking tour in São Paulo at the start of the year and then we caught up a few weeks later in Lagoa Beach Florianópolis, visited the Iguaçu Falls and later in January in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. I don’t have a car so she is meeting me for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant a few minutes walk from the apartment complex. It’s good to see her again and we both agree that it’s a bit strange to be meeting each other in her hometown and also how January doesn’t seem that far long ago. The food we order is delicious and huge and probably enough for four people. I walk back to the apartment to give Jon some leftover lunch and then Courtney drives me to a Packers bar not too far away. Casey Jones Grill was started by owner Dave, originally from Milwaukee, over 27 years ago. We have a nice chat and I show him my story. According to Dave they get around 300 people for a game. Courtney and I have a quick drink before she drops me back off at the apartment. I have a nap and when I wake up Whitney is back home from college and for dinner we decide on Mexican again at Chronic Tacos. However tonight’s experience is not as good as yesterday’s. Jon and I arrive at collection time but we still have to wait awhile for our order and once back it’s incorrect. But we still have pumpkin pie from last night which when served with ice cream is so good-but not as good as the one I received on my birthday in Columbus after the Badgers loss to the Buckeyes. For tonight’s film we watch “A Star Is Born” starring Lady GaGa and Bradly Cooper. I have not previously seen the film and I enjoy it, especially the singing. Not long after the film we all say goodnight to each other.
Wednesday 6th November 550 KM 340 M
I’m off to Alburqueue this morning so I quickly get showered and ready after I’m up and then say goodbye to both Whitney and Jon before getting a Lyft to the airport. My Lyft driver Maya has an interesting story. She tells me of a new American football league that will run during spring for ex NFL players cut from playing rosters and college players from lower divisional schools that didn’t make the draft. According to Maya there will be less stoppages and referee interventions so delivering a quicker ball game. It will be interesting to see how this competition will evolve over the coming couple of years. It’s a short, bumpy flight to Alburqueue with the Southwest crew not able to serve drinks due to the air turbulence but personally I have been on a lot more rougher plane journeys. I take a bus to downtown airport and my first point of call is the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum Of New Mexico. The main exhibition isn’t big but I still enjoy learning more about an important subject for which I have to teach and moreover have a strong passion to teach. I find an authentic gas shower head from a concentration camp pretty harrowing and reminds me of the time when I visited Dachau concentration camp just outside Munich, Germany many years ago. I have a brief chat with one of the volunteers and when I tell him that I’m a high school teacher of History I’m provided with an educational DVD about American hate groups. For lunch I take the bus to an Indian and Nepalese restaurant which has a good buffet meal. They even have kheer (rice pudding) and mango custard, although I only have a couple of spoonfuls of each as they contain lots of sugar. I’m back on a bus to Old Town Alburqueue where I plan to drop into the Alburqueue Museum. Luckily for me it’s free entrance today and I spend a couple of hours walking around learning more about the history and culture of both the city and state of New Mexico. I particularly enjoy learning about how the original Route 66 between Los and Angeles ran through the city. My Couchsurfing host is picking me up so I nip into a coffee shop for a cup of tea before he arrives. Chaitanya is originally from Hyderabad, India and is an architect currently practising for a firm in the city. He chose Alburqueue because he studied at The University of New Mexico so decided to stay in city which he had grown fond of. We drive back to his house and watch the Netflix film “El Camino”, mainly filmed in the city and based on the Breaking Bad series. Tomorrow morning I’m doing an RV tour of the show plus it’s spin off, Better Call Saul, so it’s a good warm up. I enjoy the movie but I have always found that a film based on a successful and award winning series is usually difficult to replicate in a couple of hours. After the film Chaitanya and I have dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. Apparently the Mexican food in the state of New Mexico is amazing and the burrito that I order is definitely up there. Not only is the food good but it’s also cheap. Chaitanya is currently studying for some architectural exams so he leaves me in the lounge to watch Netflix whilst he goes upstairs to study. I’m feeling tired after a long day so I don’t watch much TV before heading to sleep on the couch.
Thursday 7th November
I’m up around half 8 and take the bus into Old Town Alburqueue. I’m so excited for today as this morning I’m going on an RV tour around the city for the award winning TV series Breaking Bad and it’s spin off Better Call Saul. I love these shows and the main reason for my trip to Alburqueue was to be on this tour. I first have breakfast at a diner recommended by Chaitanya. The food is amazing and instead of toast or bagel my omelette is served with a delicious Mexican pastry. It’s a short walk over to the meeting place for the tour and once on the RV I’m seated right at front where Jesse Pinkman was also the main passenger! Our tour guide is called Frank and he’s full of personality and character. His impersonation of Jesse is pretty good and every so often we shout with him “yo bitch”. Also Frank quizzes us on the show and I end up winning the first prize, a Jesse Pinkman drivers license and a box of Better Call Saul matches. I’m loving every moment as we pass through various locations such as the homes of Chuck McGill and Jesse, the car wash, the meth lab, the park where Badger was busted, Owl City Cafe, the Dog House and the motel where Wendy applied her “trade”. The two favourite locations for me are Los Pollos Hermanos and the Walter White House. Los Pollos Hermanos is actually set at a Mexican franchise restaurant called Twisters. During filming they closed down the restaurant and brought in all the decor and food, as in the show Los Pollos Hermanos sold fast food chicken. In the first season or so the restaurant was still open to members of the public but as the show became popular they had to close it down and bring in actors to play members of the public. At the main entrance there is a huge sign with the world famous Los Pollos Hermanos slogan and logo where I take my photo, along with the photo booth in which two gangster brothers wait for the owner Gus. I put on my serious acting face in an attempt to replicate the scene. The Walter White family house was only used for filming outside as the inside was based in a studio. It is owned by a woman who has fenced off the front with a clearly visible sign marked “please take photos from the outside do not disturb us” and “private property”. Our group is told by Frank that the lady owner has been offered substantial amounts of money for her home but she has so far refused to sell up. Most of us are particularly amused when we we hear that people still come and throw pizzas onto the roof to replicate a moment of anger and madness from Walter White, when his wife Skylar refuses to accept pizza shortly after they have separated. Overall I would have paid double the price of the tour and it most certainly ranks as one of my favourite tours ever. We are dropped back in the Old Town and I thank Frank for his efforts. I walk over to the Natural History and Science Museum Of México for the afternoon’s activity but I spend the first hour or so having a cup of tea and working on my website. This leaves me a couple of hours to explore the museum and I enjoy learning more about dinosaurs, the planet Earth and human brain. Afterwards I take a bus back to the area where I’m staying stopping by at a local bar for some food. The walk back to Chaitanya’s house is only twenty minutes but upon arrival no one is at home and I have to wait around an hour and a half for him to come back home from work. But at least it’s not too overly cold and I get to watch the Raiders-Chargers Thursday night game on my phone. I really enjoy watching Alex Ingold score his first NFL touchdown. Alex played for both the Bay Port High School Pirates and Badgers and so I will follow his career in professional football, hoping he is successful, except for when he plays against the Packers. Maybe one day he can come back home and end up playing in the green and gold at Lambeau! Once Chaitanya is back we watch the end of the game on the TV in the lounge and it ends up being a Raiders win. Chaitanya is off to study and as I will probably be sleeping when he leaves the house for work in the morning I both thank him and wish him all the best for the future. Despite a long day I’m not feeling too tired so I put some laundry on and watch the classic comedy show “The Nanny” before heading to bed.
Friday 8th November 2000 KM 1250 M
Today is going to be a travel day so I don’t have much planned. By the time I have had breakfast and got ready its not long before I have to catch a bus to downtown Alburqueque. From there I will he catching another bus to the airport. I have around half an hour waiting time so nip into a Mexican restaurant to get a burrito for take out. At the boarding gate I meet a guy wearing a Packers fan and his wife. Sam and Monica studied at UW-Madison and we are on the same route from Alburqueue to a Chicago and then Chicago to Madison. Moreover turns out we are on the same row on the second leg of the journey. During the first flight I mainly do reading and it’s not too bad of a layover upon arrival at O Hare airport. The second flight duration is only half an hour and as soon as I leave the airport the cold hits me. I take a Lyft to my mate Tristin’s house and my car is covered in snow so I quickly dump my belongings in his spare room and begin the cold process of clearing the snow off my car and scraping the ice off both the front and rear windscreens. By the time I’m done my hands and feet are freezing! I’m feeling hungry so I head to a bar for a Friday fish fry. It’s ok but not in the same league as the Redwood Inn back in Green Bay. I meet up with Jason and Mel who I first met on a plane from Milwaukee to Tampa for the first Badgers game at USF Bulls. I’m feeling tired so have a quiet night before retiring back at Tristin’s house.