A Travellerspoint blog

Hot Time Summer in the City

Melting in NYC

sunny 37 °C

You know on the news sometimes you see how North America or Britain is in the midst of a heat wave and we laugh and think, suck it up, drink a Gatorade and stop dying of heat stoke you big, dumb babies?

Well, I'm here to tell you they have a point.

Obviously journeying through North America over the summer months I expected some sun. A few heat waves followed me around the country especially in the south in the more desert climes, but what hurt most was the humid and sticky soaring temps of a New York City heatwave. Now summer in the city usually means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage (Regina 2:1) but in this case it meant sweaty, sweaty, sweaty.

New York City on a hot, summer’s day is not ideal and quite frankly after enduring a week of it, I was ready to keel over and die myself. As the temperature soared so too did the scents of the city. The smell of hot garbage juice lingered in the air, hot, sticky air rose from the sewer systems and the subway, sweat dripped down your face and the scum of the city stuck to your sticky skin giving you a grim, scum layer.

It was summer in New York.

The mercury loitered around 36 c for the whole week. Our little apartment’s air conditioner worked over time providing us with some slightly cooler air. It was the kind of suffocating humidity my southern Australian self dislikes with great intensity. It makes my hair frizzy, my skin slimy and makes me question my eating habits and life choices because I assume people with a more skeletal frame generate less heat.

We would walk out to explore the great sights and sounds of the Big Apple each morning feeling fresh and healthy then start sweating by the corner.

Powering along the concrete footpaths trying to beat the heat, the sun reflecting up through the soles of your feet and filtering up to your ears. By the subway station we were a hot mess, hair frizzing by the second, shirt starting to stick to your wet fat rolls, and sweat running down your back.

The subway platform was even hotter, with even less air than the street and once you stopped walking the heat caught up and the sweat started more profusely, rolling down your scalp and tickling your hair. A train would zip passed and you would throw yourself over the dreaded yellow line to catch its gush of wind which came accompanied with metro fumes and gunk attaching itself on your sticky skin. Finally when you thought you might just end up in a wicked-witch-of-the-west style puddle on the ground the train would arrive and sweet, sweet air-conditioned relief. It froze your skin into shock and it was amazing. You watch the map with dread as you near your destination. Maybe a storm has come over and it’s snowing out?
With one last breath of cool, communal train air you exit and again the heat of the underground smacks you in the face as you move quickly for an exit. You fall onto the Manhattan streets air, air, air, sweet ai-ew, gross, gross, it’s hot air, and what the hell is that smell.

At street level the sun reflects off the concrete and sends the scent of dry urine against the shop door front wafting into the air.

It's summer in New York City.
And essentially you are in a concrete oven being basted in other people's juices.

One day we decided we need to use this weather to our advantage, no more sightseeing, no more hideous, sweaty photos with iconic landmarks, we were going to do this weather the Australian way, hit the pool and use this temperate Northern Hemisphere UV levels to our advantage and work on our tan.
We could have found the nearest public fountain or water feature which is a very popular thing to do in these parts but as we didn't want to catch some water-born chlamydia from an inner city park fountain we hit Google for “swimming pools near me”.
Our nearest pool was three blocks away. Perfect.

Off we trotted with our towel and flip flops. We didn't even bother with the formalities of wearing clothing on the streets. Out the door and along the hot Brooklyn pavement, the sun beating down on our heads we moved with swift speed. The distance was hazy with heat and oasis-type desire of a cool, resting place ahead. The three blocks seemed so far. I'm so hot, even the standard NYC puddle of mystery liquid pooling in the gutter suddenly looks refreshing.

I had memorised the map. We are walking fast to beat the sun and perhaps trick our body in to holding out for water. We cross over the avenue the opposite way than we usually go, where it turns out hipster Brooklyn turns to Brooklyn. We are heading towards a landscape of blocks of flats, passed some abandoned buildings and some garages servicing stolen cars.

We have the focus of athletes, step over rusty metal, around mystery mush, passed crowds of creepy men, one step, two step. We arrive at the gate, the glimmering blue shimmering delightfulness is visible between the cracks.

We are giddy with gleeful anticipation.

The girl manning the gate stops us in our tracks.

“You got yo lock”

“Eh” we say, wondering why this person is blocking our path.

“Lock”

“Eh”

“Lock”

“Eh”

I think she sensed this was our first time to this fine establishment and also may be suffering some level of heat stroke.

“For your locker?” she said.

“Oh, a lock, no”

Deeeeeeenied.

It turns out a padlock is a condition of entry into the public pool so you can lock your possessions away.
No lock no entry was akin to the worst news you could ever receive at that point in time. Whether it was the sheer horror on our faces or the tears in our eyes, she sensed our desperation and sent us in the direction of a 99c store a block or two over. Shaking off this minor set back, with one last burst of energy we headed back into the harsh summer heat. Off we trotted, kicking up dirt with our flip flops on the somehow practically broken away pavements of the local streets. The dirt and grime was sticking to the backs of our legs as we walked through the ghetto.

We found the 99c store where we brought a $2.19 lock.
Don’t get me started on this country and their pricing system.

Success, we hightailed it passed some loiterers, in front of a car full of people pumping tunes with tinted windows, doing mainies I assume and back to the pool.

Obviously once we neared the entrance we were informed it was momentarily full. We waited patiently, trying not to make it evident we were willing to push a small family out of the way if necessary.
Entry granted.
We found a suitable unbroken in to locker and locked up our belongings. Nothing is allowed in the pool area except your towel and your hot self. No phones, no books, no music not only is it so you don’t encourage paedophiles and perverts, stay too long in a free community pool with a limited capacity on a hot day but mostly I gather so you don’t get your belongings stolen while you are splashing about.

We took our bath towels and laid them out on the hot concrete. They were too short and we had to elevate our feet so they didn't burn on the concrete.
We planked over the ground covered in towel.

Without a moments hesitation I hit that cool, fresh, highly chlorinated water.

I splashed about. Cooled off and returned to my sister who was sun baking.

“Were you the only white person in the entire pool?”

I look back over to take it in with more distance

“Yes, yes I was”.

There wasn't an ironic moustache or any black rimmed glasses to be seen. We had left hipster Brooklyn for sure.
I didn't care if our worldly possessions were thieved from our locker with it's 99c lock. We had cooled off. We splashed about in Brooklyn’s finest neighbourhood pool, enjoying the joyful coolness and thought, New York, what are you on about, this heat is amazing.
We could stay forever, this is ama-

Then we got kicked out, session over. Everybody out.

We didn't care, ain't nothing gonna break my stride. We practically ran back to the apartment before we could fully dry to spend the rest of the day in front of the AC in our wet bathers in the hope of catching a chill. The next day we braved the heat of Manhattan again. Only one pool day is permitted when you have a strict sightseeing itinerary.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 19:07 Archived in USA Tagged summer usa nyc new_york_city heat the_tipsy_gipsy usa2013 Comments (0)

How I Got Misled by a Girl Guide and Nearly Died

Greased Lightning

storm

“All right folks we gotta go”, the grumpy most unparkrangeresque Park Ranger ever quips after cutting herself off from telling bat facts in between tales of untimely park related death and tragedy.

There was lightning rolling in and nothing causes more craziness and fear in these parts than lightning. Ranger Debbie Downer had told us that in the event of lightening any bat fun would be cancelled. Obviously she had a depressing tale to attach to the warning, “someone died” she said matter-of-factly, “not long ago, in the car park, struck by lightning, dead”.

As she shouted into the microphone about bats needing silence, a fork of lightning smacked into the mountain top 50 metres in front of us with an almighty crack, making the air crackle.

The bat exodus from Carlsbad Caverns was officially called off. Everybody started filing out without another word and hurried across the car park to their cars before they became one of Ranger Negative Ninny death tales.

This wasn't our first brush with lightning related disappointment. Camp ground pools close whenever a sheet of lightning flashes 100 miles away and this has really hurt more than once and with a heatwave of weather and rain storms following us across country, it also wasn't going to be the last time.

It was in Washington DC that the lightning storm and I got more acquainted.

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with storms and for the most part they don’t bother me, sometimes I worry I might drown if it rains too much and fork lightning is strangely beautiful but entirely terrifying but you know I can get through the night. Usually.

This particular night was a whole other story.

Camping isn't my favourite way to get shut eye, for many reasons to do with comfort, but also due to the fact that I hate getting up early and tend to stay up late. This kind of routine is entirely impractical in a tent and it’s very dull sitting in the dark outside at 11pm on Facebook with every insect in Texas keeping you company.

On this night, everyone was asleep and my sister and I headed to the bathroom at midnight as usual to get ready for bed. There is a storm brewing and some lightning overhead.

We finish up and are met at the entrance by an over excited woman in her early thirties standing there with a young girl of about 12. A van pulls up out front and she shouts out, it appears they are doing some kind of rescue mission.
We mill about a second as the lightning appears right above our heads and I'm wearing socks and flip flops and don’t fancy an overly brisk walk trying to grip on to them.

“You guys campin?” the lady asks.

We tell her we are. She doesn't approve.

“In tents?”

She shakes her head.

“You shouldn't be camping out there tonight. There is a severe weather warning. Go get your stuff, your sleeping inside”.

It was less, go get your coat you've pulled and more, you will die out there, get your sleeping bag and get the hell inside.

They were a Girl Guide troop from Savannah, Georgia. They had decided they were risking life and limb out there and were moving camp to the TV room.

They offered to drive us over to get our stuff.

“No, it’s fine, there is like 13 of us”, we said.

Go wake everyone up and bring them inside. There is enough room for all of you. You will be perfectly safe in there, we are four Girl Guides and two Girl Guide leaders. She delivered that line like she meant, you will be perfectly safe in there, we have a rifles and German Shepard’s guarding the door.

She was like a cartoon character. A little overweight, in her thirties perhaps and had been a Girl Guide for some time, perhaps risen through the ranks as others left once they found out about TV and people. She was relishing the opportunity to put some training in to action. Her co-leader was a chain smoking, older lady with the black lung by the sounds of her.

No, it’s fine we said. Everyone is asleep.

“Go wake them up, it’s not safe for you to be out there”

She wasn't joking. She truly believed our lives were endangered.

Right, so by now we are starting to think we are going to die too. She was very convincing. We are stuck in the doorway with these people, not risking walking away at this point in case she spear tackled us to the ground for our own safety.

“Is it your policy not to camp when there is a storm,” I ask

“prrrr, it’s the national weather channels policy,” she says with a ‘bitch please’ tone like she was making a call re: the entire safety of the US during an alien invasion movie.

“Everyone else in this park is safe, the RV's have tyres. Rubber. You have aluminium poles. You have no protection, you may as well be sleeping outside. If lightning strikes the park everyone else if safe, you’re not”.

How many times do we need to be told in our trip that we could die?

“Where are you camping?” she asks. Oddly enough the answer was ‘just over there, on a small mound under some trees and some massive power lines’.

She did not approve.

“Go wake everyone up,” she said again.

We were not going to do that.

“Do you have a guide or a leader”

Yes we answer, we were starting to buy into her hysteria. We could start burning witches at any moment.

“Um, she’s in the van”

“Well she will be fine, tyres. The rest of you are in trouble”

Again, she wanted us to go wake up our guide and tell her to move everyone inside.

The young girl guide looks entirely inconvenienced to have been moved to inside where they must sleep on the floor. She looks up at us like, ‘I know, just shut up and get your Hello Kitty sleeping bag and shut her up’.
We go in to the TV room to appease them.
Guide number one mills about making sure the windows are latched and everyone is safe. She looks over to check that we are still inside as we sit on some chairs nearby with Girl Guides sleeping at our feet.

Guide number two disappears to the doorway for a cigarette between coughing fits. She pokes her head back around and informs us that there is a bench in the laundry we can sleep on and take turns.
This has turned into some kind of emergency relief shelter. Our beds and our blankets are 100 metres away and these people want us to sleep on a bench like there is some kind of cyclone abrewing.

We appreciate their concern and sit around for a little while waiting for our opportunity to leave safely, because they have a point here, there is some hella lightning going on outside. I grab Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman off the bookshelf, assuming somewhere in there it probably says, “sleep in your dumb tent you big baby, it’s just a little rain”.

My gen Y sister can’t get the campground wifi on her phone so is ready to risk it and run.

As the girls are told to shut up and go to sleep on the carpet in their sleeping bags, we move out to the veranda to make our well timed escape to our tents and our sleeping buddies, who are at this point are obviously blissfully unaware they are going to all die through the night.

We chat to old guide number two on her continual cigarette break by the exit. She coughs up a lung and tells us about the deadly lightning and that she doesn't know what to tell us, we could go back to our tent but you know, we could die out there.
She starts counting the lightning and rumbles.

“1 2, 3 see that’s only 3 miles away”
“….that one was more like 6 miles away so it’s hard to know”, she coughs her lung out, sips her soda,
“2 miles away, that one was close”

Who trains these people?

We are wide awake at this point and pull up some chairs next to her and watch the lightning overhead. It feels close, consistent and lights up the whole sky each time. Forks zigzag across the sky and assumedly strike people dead at 15 minute intervals like some kind of Voldemort curse. Sirens are heard every now and then, out collecting the many fried corpses we can only assume.
We are starting to fear for our lives.

I am starting to think we will sit there all night and tomorrow when civilisation has ended, we are going to have to join the Girl Guides and move to Savannah. And I have too much junk in my trunk to pull off tailored Girl Guide shorts.

By this stage its 1am, we are sitting on some plastic chairs outside with a chain smoking Girl Guide leader and a frog who is also trying to escape the weather.

She calls it a day, wishes us well in our decision and hopes we had a nice life as it will be ending shortly. She heads inside I assume to sleep hanging from the rafters as she was skinny, sickly pale and had a black lung. Or, maybe her deathly pallor was merely the result of her diet of soda, coffee and cigarettes at 1am.

A campground man came by to refill his soda at 1:30am and we asked him if we should go back to our tent.
He said ‘yes, you will be perfectly fine’. He’s seen groups camp in much worse and that the storm is quite a way off. We can sleep inside if we wanted to but it’s really not necessary.

We were like, “b-b-but the girl guides…”

He said they were idiots,

“They call that camping, swimmin’ pools and sleeping inside,” he tuts. It turns out they always panic and sleep inside.

Eventually some sense kicks in and we decide that we can’t sit there all night in our pyjamas holding our toothbrushes, watching a frog stare suspiciously at a broom. We had to live our lives and decided to make a run for it back to our death trap of a tent.

All it took was some logic from someone drinking a 44oz Coca Cola at 1:30am.

We ran, or I shuffled in my flip flops and socks through the rain, cursing loudly, along the open bit of road under the massive power conductors, under the trees, back up our hill to our electricity conducting tent which by this stage was sitting in a pool of electricity conducting water.

Not expecting to see daylight again we lay awake in the tent the rest of the night until we fell asleep from exhaustion around 4am. The lightning kept cracking overhead and lighting up the tent. You could see it with your eyes shut. The rain fell steadily and a few cracks of lightening felt like they were overhead.
We spent much of the night with our heads out the door of the tent watching. If I was going to be struck by lightning and die, which was a high probability at this time and mindset, I was going to enjoy the damn view.

We considered going back inside more than once because we had got ourselves into a dither, well the Girl Guides had worked us into a dither and we were so tired from a 12 hour driving day that we needed some sleep, and fear and lightning were waking us up at regular intervals. We slept with our heads basically on the same pillow. With our runners on in case we need to make a quick getaway.

We yelled out to our fellow campers a few times as we were not the only ones awake, the only one fearing for their lives, but not the only ones awake. Others were sleeping peacefully but boy were they going to be in for a rude shock when they die from a power line crashing down on our heads which again, seemed incredibly likely at this time.

Someone was on the internet and yelled out to us that Baltimore had just been issued a severe weather warning with a high chance of flash flooding.

Great. We were going to drown as well.

Water started pooling next to my bed and my leg was in it most of the night.

Eventually the storm passed over and once it felt at a decent distance we fell asleep and awoke to a new day. Albeit wet, with a little bit of wind destruction both the tent and us were still standing by the dawn of the next day.

We felt so stupid and so tired. The Girl Guides had got the better of us, two people not scared of anything really, spent most of the night trying to lie low and hide under sleeping bags waiting to be struck by lightning.

Over by the bathrooms the next morning, Girl Guide number two was out the front smoking a cigarette and drinking from an oversized cup and straw. Breakfast soda and a ciggie I presume.

“Hi” she said in an I-am-truly-surprised-to-see-you-alive tone.

“Hey Australia”, the cartoonish one yelled from the toilet when she heard us in the bathroom. We ran out before she could see if it was us and that we had survived.

We were informed the next day that tents don’t conduct electricity and we were perfectly safe.

We had been fear mongered by four girl scouts and two Girl Scout leaders which, come to think of it with some clarity the next day may have just been two lesbians and four kidnapped pre-teens...

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 19:49 Archived in USA Tagged travel usa weather lightning storms the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (1)

Gold Beads, Strong Booze, Can’t Lose

New Orleans - Tacky Over Priced Souvenir Stores

The Crescent City aint for the faint hearted. You know that any place with an open container policy and daiquiris in oversized, novelty shaped containers is going to provide a unique experience.

After a stroll through the beautiful streets of the French Quarter, turning the corner onto Bourbon street on a Saturday evening is an over whelming experience for many. Suddenly the cute houses and wrought iron work balconies are replaced by neon signs, alcohol, ridiculous people in costumes, a hell of a lot of ass and a hell-tonne of crazy.

I was excited to be back in this amazing city, everything looked familiar; the charming houses, the green tree-lined streets and of course the rollicking, boozy, trashy awesomeness of Bourbon Street.

Obviously first we admire the unique melting pot of African, French and Spanish influences on the cities architecture, food and culture. After discussing how this merging of cultures with Americana creates an entirely unique city within America, it was time to hit the bar and become victims of a night out in NOLA.

Dozens of different frozen beverages are the drink of choice, all brightly coloured and containing mystery alcohol properties and being served in long plastic cups, or fish bowls or plastic champagne bottles. For those who will struggle carrying around a 22oz drink many designs come with a neck strap to make life on the dance floor a little easier. The Hurricane is a local speciality; a cherry fruit punch flavour with a hell of a lot of rum is all that is really distinguishable. The other drink of note has been made more famous by the rapper Ludacris so you know you are in for a treat. The Grenade is served in a tall, fluoro green cylinder with a grenade shape with a face at the bottom. There is also a small plastic grenade-shaped choking hazard inside the glass.

The only recognisable flavours in a grenade are pineapple juice and a hint of regret.

For only $8 they pull out a pre-mixed container from under the counter, top it up with a bit of lemonade and hand it over. Like 15ml of soda diluting whatever potion is inside.

As we all know, nothing good can ever come from a novelty-shaped container but certainly not from one that is pre-mixed awaiting it's consumption.

And nothing good came of it, or the subsequent one. Apart from a rollicking good time of course. The result is similar to when Homer Simpson goes out to whet his whistle and by the next frame is dancing around a maypole.

My god do I love this city and the people in it. As you walk down Bourbon Street there are men dressed as women, women barely dressed at all, buskers, dancers, dogs wearing sunglasses. It’s nuts. And it is amazing. Bourbon Street doesn't discriminate by age, class, race, gender or size. It’s a place of incredible equality, one and all united by grenades and awesome music. Middle aged white couples stumble out of bars linking arms, with a daiquiri and a neck full of mardi gras beads right next to some sassy girls in hot pants. Hip hop dance crews showcase their moves and talented musicians stand on corners, often guys in basketball shorts and oversized tees playing funky jazz tunes on trumpets. Young boys with soda cans under their feet tap dancing for tips.

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You push through the crowds of drunk people loitering on Bourbon St, and people go clubbing and are doing mystery jello shots here at 3pm so there is a significant amount of intoxication. They give out mardi gras beads all year round. People throw beads from balconies to drunken women who flash their breasts. It’s tradition (They are also on the ground so you can keep the girls under cover and still get some bling).

It is a riot of a place, everyone is having a blast, except the obligatory church group that places itself in the middle of the street holding up signs, quoting the bible though a loud speaker and handing out flyers. This isn't the place to convert sinners.

After a few drinks it was time to hit the dance floor to showcase our talents, or lack thereof. We headed inside to groove to an 8-piece funk band. You can not only take your big ass drink inside the venue but your big ass as well, because aint nobody gonna give a shit, this is no place to be self- conscious about your looks or your body shape. Big booties reign supreme in these parts so you best shake what yo mumma gave you.

So the sheer craziness, the booze, the music and food is just the start, then there is the dancing. Oh the dancing. There is nothing like being the only white people in the building . Everyone else is an awesome dancer with incredible rhythm. Big booties aplenty working the building’s support poles. I try to imitate the moves – subtle and sassy, a well-timed shuffle, a rhythmic drop of the shoulder or hip shake. I am of course a moron.

As the beat kicks in they drop it real low, make their butt wobble and I'm so envious by the sheer coolness of it all.

I’ve heard more hip hop/rap music in the past three weeks than I have in my whole life. At one bar the host starts rapping over the DJ and shaking her ass. She is taking requests, we make one and as it starts she yells “white girls love this song”.

We do, we really do.

By this stage I’d had two nights of dancing and studying dance moves. I was trying to be ghetto, grooving up the front to some hip hop tunez, mostly dropping it like it was hot and what not.

Then a woman, of mum age, taps me on the shoulder and says,

“You are really cute” and then smiles and leaves with her husband.

“Ah mi scuzi gurrrrl," I think to myself.

I assume by ‘cute’ she meant ‘dope’ coz I was crumpin’ and grindin’, poppin’ and lockin’ from the window to the wall and nailing it. She must have been new to the hip hop scene.

Two nights of crazy fun, I should be a better dancer because I stole a lot of moves while in town but I still dance like a white girl. The infamous Grenades made navigating the crooked maze-like streets of New Orleans almost as fun as the night out. I have happy memories of standing on street corners with our four faces an inch from the map and deciding to walk north anyway. Of course, admiring the unique beauty of the city as we continued strolling along old, uneven streets with a novelty daiquiri container in hand.

Another victim of New Orleans.

But, it’s just not a visit to New Orleans if you don’t wake up being choked by several strings of mardi gras beads, sore legs from dropping it like it’s hot and a fluoro green grenade face staring at you from the bed side able.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 14:30 Archived in USA Tagged usa new_orleans grenade lousiana bourbon_street the_tipsy_gipsy nola Comments (2)

3-2-1 Blast Off!

Houston Texas Baby!

“Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here” was the original message from the Apollo 13 spacecraft to NASA mission control in Houston, Texas. The more punchy Hollywood interpretation, “Houston, we have a problem” was more succinct, dramatic and oddly enough, is now the saying immortalised in history. It’s all very “Play it again, Sam”.

I was never a space kid, although I did do a pretty amazing project on the solar system in grade 3 and drew comets with faces, but my knowledge of space ends there. I was never really interested in how things work; magic was an entirely legit answer in my mind. So when the opportunity to visit NASA Space Center arose while in Houston I took the opportunity to see what all this space malarkey was about. Also it was super hot and it was air-conditioned inside.

Children and science nerds were running amok with excitement, impressed by authentic shuttles and a massive ball pit respectively. Everything looked like you would expect it too, like a movie set. With more of a creative, imagination based mind than a scientific, logical one. With no idea how science works and as a fan of a conspiracy theory, I decided I would look at everything with my magnifying glass just to make sure this whole moon landing thing wasn't just some large-scale piece of visual trickery.

The home of the famous quote was directed to mission control right there in Houston. We sat in the VIP seating area that overlooked the control room, where the Queen and the President and friends would have hung out when visiting.

The famous room is filled with desks with an Atari, buttons and a telephone. It is exactly how you would draw a control room – TV screens and buttons that appear to have zero capabilities in anything scientific. The only computer that was used was a mainframe that had 5mb of memory and data storage. The same memory used storing just 10 digital camera photos.

“Ooo” they all say with amazement.

I'm not so sure. So basically what we are saying here is that we had the ability to put a man on the moon using less technology than an average iphone/peanut.

Smells a bit fishy to me.

If you ask me, all that mission control was doing here, was playing a few rounds of Brick from a floppy disk and watching 10 different TV channels at once.

But doing it sporting uniforms and stern looks while the international press photographed it.

In the corner of the room stood an American flag that had been on the moon and back. It was sticking straight out like a cartoon drawing. Like a cupcake flag topper on the fourth of July.

He explained that there is no wind on the moon which is why it is propped open. An audience space enthusiast then asked why in every snap of the “moon landing” the flag had creases like it was moving?
They say it wasn't ironed before it was taken out. Young space enthusiast calls bullshit.

Is it perhaps possible that it wasn't in fact a man walking on the moon, but rather a super macro close up shot of a cupcake, lumpy grey frosting and a cake topper?

They have thankfully upgraded mission control; I assume changed the TV screens to computers and are rolling out Windows 97. It probably doesn't have a telephone any more, maybe they just facetime any high ranking military personnel and the President.

As those fulfilling a childhood dream milled about it was back on the cart and over to Rocket Park. There were big rockets out the front, I’d hate to know how many toilet rolls went into making these cylinders. They were tall and rockety, a coat of white poster paint and USA stencilled on the side.
To be fair I don’t understand engines and science, but they don’t look like they can do anything, they are heavy, tall and empty things.
Inside was Saturn 5 - a massive rocket broken into sections to fit in the carrier and to see inside. Inside was nothing, a bit of tin foil in parts and some metal. It had been into space more than once but for some reason it was unscathed.

Stories of the Apollo missions lined the walls. I couldn't find the mission Tom Hanks was in. His picture wasn't on any of them.
Of particular interest to me was the mission patches. The patches started with a cartoon world and rocket stitched together and the astronaut names but nowadays are a fully realised stitched bald eagle sitting atop a rocket with embroidered details.

It was pretty incredible what they achieved with a general goal of sticking it to the Russians.

Inside the main centre was scattered space remnants, rockets, pods, shuttles and suits but mostly ratbag children running and screaming on an Angry Birds sponsored playground. Because nothing says space like Angry Birds.

With space exploration come space enthusiasts. As we queued to take the trolley to mission control, the people at NASA Houston had put together a Gangham Style parody video which was looped in the screens above. It was, I assume Korean, employee/space enthusiast redoing the video to the popular hit song on the grounds of NASA but changing words here and there, “wooop woop woop woop wop, Space Johnson Style” They were having a good time for all of us.

The highlight for me at all these kinds of places is not the centre, the attraction or the gift shop, it’s the compulsory photo spot. At most big attractions in the US they take your photo against a green screen. It is part great novelty photo, which for the low price of $35 you can remember your time at the Houston Space Centre with a photo of your family awkwardly photoshopped into space. Cute right?

While you put that fun snap in a safe place in your luggage and never think of it again until you find it weeks later soggy with leaked shampoo, NASA and every other tourist trap in the USA has your face details on permanent record.
See it’s not so much about creating happy memories as it is about recording every person that enters their facility without having to enforce ID checks and scare people.
Apparently the price of printing 1000’s of photos every day outweighs the cost of protecting our liberty from evildoers. I look forward to the day when one of these hideous, badly timed photos gets used after an incident.

…”the alleged perpetrator is of Middle Eastern descent, is wearing a baggy white jumpsuit and appears to have the ability to hover above the earth as if gravity free. Approach with caution, terrorism and dark magic could be intertwining”

But standing back and watching people file in for their snap is worth the admission fee anywhere. Awkward solo snaps where the person stands bolt upright and stares down he barrel of a camera like a serial killer. These would be amazing once photo shopped into a fun space scene.

These people are probably tagged in a system somewhere. Visitor 12003 - visited space centre alone. Appears dead inside. Terrorist or nerd?’

Then there are fun family photos where everyone makes a mock up Christmas card, big teeth everyone… cheese.
Of course where there is a cameras there are ‘models’. The ones who pose in front of the green screen like it’s Annie Lieberwitz and not some pimply teenager with a Nikon. They get caught up in the flash and forget that it’s less Vogue, more you-are-about-to-be-superimposed -into-space.

All of this fun for photo they will never buy, and if they do buy they need some serious mental attention.

We ran about, learning, seeing history, enjoying science/the gift shop. It was a unique opportunity to see something many people would love to see.

Did we walk on the moon? Or did we put a tiny figure on a cupcake? Or was Neil Armstrong just trying to go and see Mission control and got photoshopped into a space suit during the compulsory tour queue?

I don’t know.

Having seen the scientific evidence and the technology used, magic seems like a more legit answer as always.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 13:34 Archived in USA Tagged usa nasa houston texas space rockets the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

I Believe

New Mexican Unidentified Flying Objects

As some of my previous adventures can attest, there is nothing I love more than a super kitschy tourist stop and I found it in spades in the middle of New Mexico.

In Roswell the theme is aliens and they take it and run amok. The town had a close encounter with the supernatural back in 1947 and the mystery and alien conspiracy still occupies daily life in this small rural town. The freak flag flies high in Roswell, and its bright green with two oval shaped glow in the dark eyes. Perhaps they are embracing a theme, perhaps there is substantial belief in the other, either way any small town overrun by alien paraphernalia is a town worth visiting in my opinion.

The fascination all started when a farmer heard something crash to earth on his ranch on a quiet summer’s eve in the middle of nowhere.

“Oh my stars, what y’all think that was,” he would have said. I’d imagine he was wearing overalls and a large cowboy hat.
Curiosity got the better of him and he took off across the paddocks to see what all the fuss was about. He found a foreign vehicle crashed in his field, unusually designed and built of unidentifiable materials. Four passengers, all non-human lay dead inside.

Dah dah dahhhhhhhh

Interest in the 'world out there' was already attracting attention during the post-war years and word soon spread about the Roswell landing. Before long the police were on the scene and then the Feds. Government officials came and took away the evidence including the strange bodies . They told the public, and the people of Roswell, that this farmer and was sadly mistaken, his tales of UFOs and mystery bendable metal was the words of a crazy man and he had found nothing but a simple weather balloon. Official photos were released of a stern looking official holding remnants of a balloon/everyday aluminium foil, to prove it to the public and put everyone’s minds at ease.

So Roswell was a bit embarrassed and people thought the farmer was nuts. Soon the people started to sense some bullshit and the conspiracy theory began to build. The various people who stumbled across the crash before the government agencies and had taken souvenirs from the crash all had it stolen in various incidents of theft.

Something smelt fishy to the people of Roswell, and as time went on they collected testimony from various people related to the incident and all signs pointed to a mass cover-up. Suddenly the world was aflutter with tales of military threats, foreign bodies being seen in ambulances, nurses being privy to autopsies on non-human species as well as the local undertaker being asked to provide four child-size caskets and some information on embalming and formaldehyde.

Conspiiiiiiiiracy.

Weather balloon, smether balloon.
So the story we are running with in Roswell is that on this lonely July night in 1947, shit went down. We had a close encounter and the government hid it from us.

Still to this day no one has received any answers and fuel is continually added to the fire each year. Roswell hosts annual UFO festivals and congregations of believers.

The “UFO Museum and ‘Research’ Centre” sits in the middle of town and is a highlight. The entire nuttery of the Roswell conspiracy has been compiled on a school project circa 1996 using photocopies, type and coloured card.

There is little doubt in the research, there is no “allegedly” or “supposedly” to be seen in these parts. The museum is a mix of testimony and conspiracy along with general extra-terrestrial information with a good slice of crazy – a few dioramas including a human-sized alien display with a flying saucer that spins, flashes and plummets the aliens into dense smog from a smoke machine at 15 minutes intervals.

The ‘research centre’ aspect is not as clear.

The fun doesn't stop there, the main street is lined with alien shaped lamp posts, every shop seems to sell novelty t-shirts and souvenirs. Even the Mexican restaurant gets in on the fun with a painting of a green alien dressed as a matador on the shop front. Green two-toed footprints pepper the footpath in one section.

Roswell is your brush with extra-terrestrial life. Whether it happened or not is not important (though I don’t think denying it out loud is probably wise).
The town doesn't take itself too seriously with a town-wide cashing in on the mystery. It’s a town for the freaks, geeks and the curious, though don’t take it all too lightly, there are several thousand UFO enthusiasts visiting annually and a collection of conspiracy theorists and extra-terrestrial expert authors doing regular book signings.

All the ‘evidence’ seems pretty convincing. If there is one thing in life to trust, it's type written documents with white-outed sections pasted on cardboard. Perhaps this really was a huge government cover up…

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 09:06 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip usa aliens new_mexico roswell ufo the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

Take a Hike

Hiking in Yosemite National Park

rain

As you may already know from my previous adventures, I am not an athlete. I don’t particularly like going outside either. So it seemed a natural progression that I would book a camping trip across America.

First stop was the great geographic wonder of Yosemite National Park in California’s northeast.

As the ancient saying goes, YOLO, so off we trotted on THE hike of hikes through Yosemite.

Up and down along a dirt trail. Taking in the sights and sounds and being at one with nature. Up a mountain and down the mountain. Rinse and repeat. Stepping along a never ending path. A cheery man twice my age would pass by at regular intervals, wearing hiking boots and a cheery smile,
“Hi there he would say,” gesturing with his walking poles, “Are we having fun?” they would shout as they disappeared down the track with a jolly stride.

“hahaha, yep,” we would lie.

These are what one might call 'hiking enthusiasts', they live for this shit. Walking. Looking at boulders.

In the shadow of half dome, we kept on keeping on. More uphill trekking, we were above the cloud layer on a misty wet day. The view as we got higher instead of getting more spectacular got denser with fog. We looked out into whiteness with a mountainish outline silhouetted. We had clearly been walking to long, we'd literally reached the clouds.

Finally we came out at the top of Nevada falls a Yosemite icon.

At this point we had done 6 out of the scheduled 8 or so miles and we felt great and yes, before you sarcastically ask, I did feel like I deserved a medal.

The top of the falls was cold and wet – did I mention that all this so far had taken place in annoying cold, summer, mountain drizzle. Not enough to make the trail muddy but enough to gradually seep through every layer of clothing.

The falls were as expected (water pooling then moving rapidly towards an edge), lots of boulders and an amazing albeit cloudy view of the entire Yosemite National Park. We had no idea where we had started and looked out across the valley to several mountain points that we may have come from and then down to where we were now headed; salvation, rest, the valley floor, the bottom of the trail.
We were equal height with the epic half dome, looking out over the valley, tracking the water from behind us over the cliff and down through two waterfalls and into the valley below.

Feeling a little cocky we shoved down our packed lunch, excited that we were over half way and although suitably knackered, doing well, and assuming we could be at the bottom and perhaps having a celebratory (well-earned) hot dog very soon, we trotted off towards our second trail which would take us to Yosemite Valley.

We lost half our group at this point when they went off ahead and took the wrong turn and almost embarked on an extra 4 miles.

This is when it all fell apart and my blossoming hiking career came to a screeching halt.

The Mist Trail was to take us from the top of Nevada Falls to the bottom along the water course. A practically vertical drop from the top. This trail was less trail and more a slap-dash path down and along stones primitively arranged in a step-like fashion. We were basically climbing down the edge of this waterfall.

These two miles it seems was going to prove harder than expected. It was going to be literally down a mountain face to the valley floor. It was a slow, steep and quite frankly, horrendous two miles of downhill rock climbing. No hiking boots. Drizzle and wet rocks. No handrails. This Mist Trail i assume is so-called because you walk along the waters path and the mist from the waterfall hits you in the face and drenches the death path even further. Sometimes the stones resembled steps, other times it was like exploring rock pools, just making your own path, whichever looked the safest.

Footage of me toppling down 50 metres and hitting every jagged rock on the way down was playing in a loop in my head the whole climb down.

With every step my knees took every bit of weight, and they were already tired from 6 mile hike.

Oh the hatred that was brewing.

So this death trap continued until we reached the bottom of Nevada Falls, we were still over half way up the mountain. There was another waterfall hiding below with an equally hair raising descent. At least this one had modestly formed stone staircase that allowed you to take a full step and not tiptoe across varying stones.

Plod. Plod.

These two miles felt like 500.

The hate was all consuming.

It took so much concentration to not die, and to will my legs to take another step and hold me upright.

Stupid babbling creek and dumb rocks.

Eventually the steep steps teetered out and at last a flat (ish) path lay ahead the rest of the way. I got to the bottom of the falls! I had made it alive and physically unscathed.
Mentally I was teetering on the edge.
My legs were involuntarily shaking and I hadn't admired the landscape at all because I was busy concentrating on not meeting my bloody, and perhaps watery demise.

I felt a sense of achievement but to be honest, a somewhat horrifying sense of regret at deciding to be a good tourist/nature enthusiast and embark on a hike.

A hike!
Do I even know me?

Looking back on it with 2-day old sore legs, with calf muscles that feel so contracted they might explode, I guess it was a good experience, I now know on this trip, there is no hike I can’t do*.

I can now say I hiked Yosemite National Park, I stared Half Dome square in the face, was rained on, muddy and exhausted mentally and physically and quite frankly I am a god damn American hero for putting up with that shit.

Super nice trees and boulders though.
Where are the hotdogs?

  • Gross overstatement of truth

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 17:15 Archived in USA Tagged hiking national_parks usa yosemite the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

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