This article was written 15 years ago in 2005 when I was just 20, so I ask you not to judge the writing too harshly! The text is as it was originally published.

Betty and Rusty's smells of the old-style USA. From the beat up caravans to the long, thin and sharp cacti, the whole thing is genuine John Wayne (without the Hollywood factor). Betty married Rusty a long while back, and she was a third of his age and most certainly not his first wife when it happened. They have an interesting collection of stories and a very forward attitude to talking about 'personal things' considering they are surrounded by 20-something year olds and are both (well) over 50 (Rusty is nearer 80).

We arrived and were quickly assigned to horses for a late evening horse trek through the desert. I have never had any desire to ride horses, however if there had been any opportunity in my life where I would have wanted to have started it was here. And so I was acquainted with Mitsy. I don't know what you can say about a horse, but Mitsy was a good horse and tended to life to walk of her (?) own accord. Apart from this tendency to wander, I enjoyed the ride a great deal and will definitely try it again sometime in the future.

Half way through the ride we stopped for a bathe in a nearby lake. Extremely warm it was very refreshing but also bearable and after our short break, dried off and headed back to the camp where Betty, Rusty and nephew Joel sang cowboy songs while we scoffed down a shoulder of beef, cowboy style.

Rusty certainly had some funny stories and funny opinions. We were all enlightened to hear how he defended himself in one court by explaining that he had stolen a rope and the horse had been attached to it. The laughter and commotion that this had caused meant the judge had to adjourn the hearing an it was never recommenced. Also his views that he could get a new doll in the blink of an eye if he wanted, his games of body-shots with previous trek groups and his one liners on how the grand canyon was formed (Betty dropped a nickel) or how he'd had running water all his life - 'she just had to run and get it'.

We drank the night away until we ran out of alcohol, except for Kristie and James who polished off a bottle of vodka between themselves and clearly had much to show for it. I had the honour of sleeping next to them and the conversation was more than interesting. Pete managed to scare the crap out of the two drunkards with his cow skull/wild donkey routine, and all in all we had a fantastic night finding out about each other. James and my drinking game compendium certainly was appreciated and led to many a revelation.

The next morning a number of us went off in search of the showers (at a local campsite) and James received the final instalment of his haircut which had been started in the pitch black of the night before. After all this was done we set off on the final leg of the tour - the road to LA. A number of hours later (in the evening) we arrived in Beverley Hills, CA. All the major 'drives' had to be experienced and so Joe took us on a roadtrip including Rodeo Drive, Bel Air, the walk of fame, the Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theatre and finally the Hollywood hills/sign. This was the end of the tour officially. We drove to our hotel and then went our own ways. James and I stayed in the end hotel (the Haceyenda) along with Joe, John and Laura, so we met up for a bot to eat at a nearby cafe with Ellie and Kerry for a final time before properly parting.

The next morning James and I decided to see what available routes were obtainable using free hotel shuttle connections, but after reaching the airport (LAX baby) decided we had been outwitted. Instead we went to the Air Canada desk and asked if we could have our flights brought a day forward as LA really was rapidly losing all sense of appeal. They obliged, and at no extra cost we arranged for our Toronto flight to be moved, much to our pleasure. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and got in touch with Pete and Kristie who were still in the area and whom had hired a car. The text we received was to pack our beach stuff and met them outside the hotel at 2.30pm, which we did and took the long cruise to Santa Monica. Considering LA is one city it is absolutely sprawling, and it took a good 45 minutes to cross to the coast (in very easy traffic).

Santa Monica is not a beach with highly sung praises (apart from by Sheryl Crow) as Venice is the preferred tourist destination, but us pasty white Brits love nothing more than a bit of cold water and sand to indulge our wildest passions of being somewhere vaguely tepid and polluted with just a pair of swim shorts on. So while the Aussies moaned about the lack of good waves and the coolness of the sea, James and I indulged in the lukewarm millpond. A couple of hours forward and we decided it was probably advisable to inform my Canadian relatives of the change of flight plans, so dried off, took a short walk up and down the beach, went to the Apple store, browsed the farmers market, then phoned to to tell them of the 24hr change in plan. See you in 12 hours type of thing.

Pete dropped us off back at the hotel and we said our goodbyes. We really hope to meet with out Australian friends again in the next few months, and so we said farewell and left them to go off to discover the delights of Disneyland. The next morning required a breakfast then speedy departure to the airport where we finally caught our flight to Toronto. Disappointingly I didn't strike up a conversation with the woman sitting net to me, that is until she offered me a SpongeBob Squarepants carrot, when I discovered that although on the first day of her new job, she was in fact the personal assistant to the Vice President of Promotions at Disney and there to promote their three new films at the Toronto film festival - ShopGirl (Steve Martin, Clare Danes), Flightplan (Jodie Foster) and The Greatest Game In The World (which neither of us had any idea about what it was about, except she had to read up on it as she was meant to be selling it to the critics). Too late to ask for a ticket.

At the airport we were greeted by my Auntie Kiki and Uncle Garry. We were whisked back to the house where we soon bedded down for the night. Next morning we got up and went for a swim. Today was to be our 'chillax' day and so we strolled down to the local mall for a Timmy's and to get our photos burnt onto CD. On arriving back a couple of hours later we met up with my cousin Matthew, wife Krissy and newest addition to the family Joel, age nearly two years. Unfortunately Joel was a little shy (apparently something which only started in the past couple of weeks) but at least it gave me my first chance to see my cousin-once-removed. After more swimming, Alex and Matthew took us to the Kings Arms (authentic British pub, cough cough) for some food and a drink. It was here I rediscovered Keith's, which is a drink we haven't had in over two years, but still remains a favourite of mine. A large portion of food later and we headed back to Lakeshore.

Another morning and this time we had a day in Toronto. Auntie Kiki dropped us at the GO station and we caught the slow moving train into Union Station. We had planned to meet with Alex for lunch, but despite out contact attempts this never happened, and instead James and I grabbed Subway for lunch then headed to the cinema for some post-dinner entertainment.

Despite some initial confusion (James had forgot to adjust his watch and we turned up to watch the 40 Year Old Virgin three hours ahead of schedule) we swapped our tickets and got to see Batman Begins on the IMAX screen. For me the best movies on IMAX are the action ones, and despite not being a comic fan in the slightest, this really was a good film and best watched this way. Little did we know that 24hrs after the end of that one we would be back in another IMAX thatre watching another film, this time Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Back home we had a pork roast (rudely interrupting my dosage of Season 3, the OC) before showing off our vast photo collection and heading to bed. And that finally brings me up-to-date, or at least, up to today.

Today was another late-ish rise and was spent down at Woodbine, the famous racetrack about 40 minutes from Oakville. The last time I was there was probably 6 or 7 years ago, but I remember it clearly as it is the first and last racetrack I have ever been too, let alone the first or last I Have ever made a bet at. I came away about fifteen bucks down, but Uncle Garry made a killing on the slots, taking 700 at his best, and walking away with 500 bucks at the end. I was amused by our attempt to order food at the track when Uncle Garry asked for 'three meals' to be presented with a bill for about five bucks. All was soon revealed when the oriental cashier presented us with three cartons of milk and we had to explain that 'meal' and 'milk' are not the same thing, and although we appreciated the calcium, we'd rather have three hamburgers and fries.

We arrived home in time to meet Sue, Alex's new girlfriend, and then headed out to catch the second film of the holiday. After this entertainment we called at a house to meet up for a sly beer with some of Alex's friends (Stacey, Dutch, Chad - not present, Laura (?)) before going to Shoeless Joe's to pick up a evening meal and the rules of NFL/CFL. All in all a good night, and a couple more Canadian beers sampled.

Wow. That took a while. Hopefully next entry I won't have to catch up on so much - considering that these last three instalments have only just scratched the surface of what went on in the USA this summer... Will speak soon.

This post was first published on Sat Sep 10 2005

Andy Higgs
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My name is Andy Higgs and I am a business founder, design leader, occassional surfer and travel enthusiast based in the UK.

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