From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA
Well, there’s pride in every American heart
And it’s time we stand and say
That I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA
– Lee Greenwood
Saturday 8 June
America, you’re one of a kind. I love visiting. I’m looking forward to getting back to Australia, but I’ll miss the wonderful people I’m fortunate enough to get to call friends over here. Looking back, reflecting on the last twenty-two days, I think this has been the best trip I’ve made, nudged to the top thanks to the amazing weekend in Indianapolis for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 mile race.
Our final day started, for me, with only about 4 hours sleep, the alarm going off at 3:30am. Happy to report that I feel significantly better than I have in days, so that’s something. We were out the door of our fantastic Airbnb rental – good review coming for the owners – by 4:30am and at Midway Airport, Chicago’s other, less-busy airport an hour after that.
We flew Southwest Airlines to Los Angeles, arriving just before 10:00am pacific time, after five hours in the air, and arrived to cloudy skies and cooler weather. After picking up our bags and the hire car, we went to In N’ Out for an early lunch and whilst we were inside, the sun came out, and there was the typical June Southern California weather we were counting on.
With the sun out, we drove out to Santa Monica, and explored the iconic and very busy pier that juts out into the sparking Pacific Ocean. Some things that happened there: we took a lot of photos, saw a California sea lion in the water and I got crapped on by a pigeon. Yes, I know that’s supposed to be good luck, but it didn’t feel like it at the time.
After the pier, we walked up along the shared bicycle/walking/running pathway that links Santa Monica with the other famous Los Angeles area beach, Venice. We stopped at a beachside café and had a cold drink before walking back to the car.
Next stop, downtown Studio City, near Hollywood. That’s where we met up with one of my oldest friends, Nate Morton. He and I connected via MySpace, way back in the formative days of social media, and have remained friends ever since. Lately, it’s become a nice tradition that we meet on the last day of my trip and have lunch. It’s always good food – Nate’s never led us astray on that front – and guaranteed laughs, because he’s a born storyteller. And was in fine form this afternoon as we ate great Mexican and tried to solve as many of the world’s problems as we could in two hours.
Unfortunately, saying goodbye to Nate meant the trip was pretty much over, and as I write this last entry shortly before getting on the plane home to Sydney, I’m exhausted. Feels like the three weeks have finally caught up with me, and I’m hoping that I’ll get some good sleep on the plane going home. I’m looking forward to getting back on Australian soil because I think we have the greatest country on earth – warts and all – but I’ll miss all my friends. America is a great place to visit, especially if you’re an Australian.
I’m grateful for everyone who went out of their way to hang out with us wherever we went. I really appreciate you taking the time, and can’t wait to see you again. Hopefully, in a year’s time or just a little over that.
Until then… Thanks for reading.