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jorgesanchez San Antonio - A travel report by jorge
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San Antonio,  United States - flag United States -  Texas
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

On the road

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I must admit that before travelling to USA I felt indifference for this country that I judged humdrum. I wanted to cross it hastily to travel from Mexico to Colombia through the Darien gap. But after experiencing it for 1 year it became one of my dearest.


Breathtaking Grand Canyon of Colorado
Breathtaking Grand Canyon of Colorado
I landed in Los Angeles after a long flight from Papeete. I was almost broke, as usual; all the money that I had earned working in a T bone restaurant in Bondi Beach, near Sydney, had been spent in New Caledonia, New Zealand and in several French Polynesian Islands. My intention was to hitchhike that same day to San Diego, and then proceed to Tijuana leaving at once USA, without losing time. I was not yet a traveller; a true traveller loves all the countries that he visits. However, in the airplane, the lady next to my seat and her pretty daughter invited me to spend with them one week in their mansion in Arcadia, at 10 kilometres from Los Angeles. Furthermore, they would offer me one of their cars to move around. That was the first of a long chain of generous details from the Americans that abruptly made me change my mind: instead of transiting USA I would spend a whole year travelling as a hobo, tramping around most of its States and Canada, hitchhiking and using cargo trains, as Jack London and Jack Kerouac describe in their respective “The Road” and “On the Road”! That experience was fabulous! In that year I never paid a hotel. I slept many times in Salvation Armies and the kind (after singing the compulsory Joan Baez theme “Amazing Grace”) or in the homes of many Americans who picked me up on the road and even gave some pocket money. Sometimes I worked in San Francisco or Montreal, and also played chess for money in the tables of Washington Square, New York. The country is so miscellaneous and beautiful that you can live there for years and never knowing it well, for that reason I selected what I considered the three must: The Colorado Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park and Niagara Falls. In respect of towns, apart from those founded by the Spaniards, such as San Agustin (the oldest USA town) and Santa Fe (the oldest USA capital) and some Californian Spanish Missions that I did not miss, the cities depicted below were my favourite ones during my long vagabonding.

Favourite spots:
Magnificent Golden Gate of San Francisco
Magnificent Golden Gate of San Francisco
“If you're going to SAN FRANCISCO be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”. In Los Angeles I took a Greyhound bus until this unique city, probably the most beautiful in the world. I slept the first nights in the Embarcadero, because the Salvation Army was paying, but soon I found a job in a restaurant in Geary Boulevard and could afford to rent a room. I loved the openness of the people. They addressed to me to talk with familiarity in the streets or in the parks, and some brought me food for breakfast when they saw me sleeping in my bench in the Embarcadero. How many times I walked up and down the lovely zig zag street Lombard, or boarded a tramway at random around its 40 hills, or admired its perfect bay and the Golden Gate! I felt at home in San Francisco because is humane. Besides, it is a vanguard city; there is no new philosophic idea or religion that is not manifested first there and then to the rest of USA. One day I left with grief San Francisco to New Mexico and Las Vegas.

What's really great:
Lively Fremont Street in Las Vegas
Lively Fremont Street in Las Vegas
The driver that picked me up in Albuquerque, along the High Road number 40, was a man looking for a job in LAS VEGAS. I convinced him to stop first in Flagstaff and spend a couple of days admiring the Grand Canyon of Colorado. After that we drove to Las Vegas and stayed in the Salvation Army. All the street people knew the tricks to survive; there were casinos in Fremont Street where the food was free, in some we were invited to champagne, and in others they gave us tokens for free that afterwards we exchanged for cash. One evening I saw the Hell Angels with their striking motorcycles in an encampment in the desert, near our shelter. I felt closed to them and wanted to pay them a visit in the night, but the Reverend of the shelter prevented me from doing it because the shelter closed at 9 PM. Besides, Hell Angels rarely mix with the rest of the world. For them we are poor people without high ideals, and feel compassion for us. When I got tired of Las Vegas I hitchhiked to New York.

Sights:
The Statue of Liberty in New York
The Statue of Liberty in New York
NEW YORK. I loved this vibrating city! I read in a hotel something like this: “Who hates America hates the Humankind, because in America live all the races of the world”. And it is true. During the months that I lived there I saw demonstrations of all races: Kurds, Tibetans, the Spanish speaking countries celebrating the 12th October, etc. Until I earned enough money in Washington Square I lived with the homeless people in a shelter in the Bowery. Sometimes the Police came to request volunteers, “whites” and Spanish, as they call Mexicans, Guatemalans, etc. I became one of their best customers since I could choose both categories; there were days when I had three “services”. They gave us some money plus 2 Metro tokens and 1 sandwich. We had to stand behind a mirror together with a crime suspect. Then, somebody, who we never saw, looked at us and signalled the one suspected to be a criminal. When I got enough money I left to Washington D.C. But something would happen on the road.

Accommodations:
Mormon temple where I ate free peanuts buttered sandwiches
Mormon temple where I ate free peanuts buttered sandwiches
SALT LAKE CITY. I arrived to this town by mistake. I was hitchhiking when a truck suddenly slowed down about 200 metres ahead and drove back towards me. Then the driver told me: “Excuse me brother, I had not seen you!” I asked if he was heading to Washington and he said yes. He offered me to sleep in the back of the cabin, what I did. I was tired. I had been waiting a ride for hours and soon fell slept. When I woke up I read in the signs: Chicago, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City. Surprised I asked him where he was going, and said: “To Washington State, man!” I forgot to ask for Washington D.C.! OK, I would visit Salt Lake City instead. There were two shelters in that city, one Catholic, where the desserts were delicious, and another one protestant, where they served excellent meat. I visited both. All homeless people went daily to the Mormon Tabernacle because were offered free tea with sandwiches in exchange for listening propaganda about Joseph Smith. One day I crossed the border to Canada.

Nightlife:
Moraine Lake and The Valley of the Ten Peaks
Moraine Lake and The Valley of the Ten Peaks
In CANADA getting a ride means hundreds of kilometres. Some drivers tried to convert me to sects; others, wearing flowery shirts, asked me if I had a girlfriend, and I answered: “Yes, and I love her. She is waiting for me in Quebec”, because one time I said that I had none and rapidly came the second “attacking” question: “Oh! Why? Maybe you do not like women?” In Thunder Bay a driver invited me to his house in an island in the Lake Superior where his family lived, but I declined. I had heard about sinister cases of lost travellers and did not risk. Wawa was a dread place for hitchhikers. I waited for 2 days and nobody stopped. On one tree a previous hitchhiker had written: “No money, no food, only hope”. I learnt that a traveller, waiting for a ride in Wawa spent all his money in food, he finished up knowing a girl, got married to her and still today is living in Wawa. The third day a car took me to Toronto and thus I went to charming Montreal, and some months later I headed to Miami.

Hangouts:
Disneyworld castle, inspired in Segovia’s (Spain)
Disneyworld castle, inspired in Segovia’s (Spain)
In MIAMI I loved the overwhelming Spanish atmosphere. In some shops of “Little Havana” was written: “We also speak English”. I heard these funny phrases of “Spanglish”: “Que tal te fue la school today?”, “Tomatelo con take it easy!” or “Cuidado que no se caiga el baby por la window!” I visited the Spanish St Bernard’s Monastery that had been brought, stone after stone, numerated, from Segovia, in Spain. Sleeping in the beach of Miami Beach I made friendship with a beautiful Quebecoise traveller wearing some flowers in her hair, Francine, who was also hitchhiking around North America. We both felt such a harmony towards each other that decided to continue our vagabonding together. She worked in a Theatre of Montreal but one day she felt very strongly that something was lacking in her monotonous activities, her soul was slowly dying in life, and took a Sabbatical year to travel and live passionately, like a fool. After spending some romantic days in Key West we headed to New Orleans.

Restaurants:
We took this enchanting boat in the Mississippi River
We took this enchanting boat in the Mississippi River
NEW ORLEANS. The advantages of travelling with Francine were many: hitchhiking was much faster because a couple confers more confidence, in the Salvation Armies we always were offered a double room instead of dormitories, and nobody forced us to sing Amazing Grace anymore. For Francine travelling with me was also a plus, because when she hitchhiked alone many men harassed her. We both loved New Orleans, a fantastic city with a mixed architecture of French and Spanish styles. We walked many times around the French Quarter and its Bourbon and Basin streets, where they still preserve the old Spanish tiles in the walls since the times when Louisiana belonged first to France and then to Spain. We entered the pubs to listen the jazz of Dixieland, or made excursions by boat through the Mississippi River. We always received kindness and friendship everywhere; life was wonderful together and we always played and laughed for any insignificant reason. Our next destination was San Antonio.

Other recommendations:
With Francine in a San Antonio Spanish castle. Adios!
With Francine in a San Antonio Spanish castle. Adios!
SAN ANTONIO. After visiting El Alamo fortress, the five Franciscan Missions, and taking a lovely boat excursion along the River, we crossed the border with Mexico, in Laredo. We still travelled together for three months in amazing Mexico and Guatemala, trekking in the impressive Barranca del Cobre, renting rafts in lovely Xochimilco, and riding horses in the mountains of San Cristobal de las Casas. But the implacable law of the road played its part and we separated in Atitlan Lake forever. Francine could not cross with me the bellicose countries of Central America and the Darien jungle. Even going alone and speaking native Spanish I would escape death by miracle when two young soldiers pointed their pistols against my temple and were about to shoot me in San Miguel (El Salvador), taking me for a guerrillero. I continued my journey alone, but that unforgettable journey “on the road” in the big-hearted countries of USA and Canada taught me that if you love the world the world loves you.

Published on Sunday October 16th, 2005


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Fri, Mar 24 2006 - 07:43 PM rating by snoflake

It's few in this world that can take such a journey. Bravo!

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 04:15 PM rating by nedkelly

Outstanding.....simply, Outstanding.

Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 02:15 PM rating by vbx000

Wow... simply wow. I can't believe you did all of that! That takes guts, trust and courage. Wow. I'm kind of in shock. haha Great report. I'm glad my country was kind to you, I always wonder what visitors think of the US and I know that I don't appreciate it very much. I need to travel around when I get home, something I havne't really done too much. Great report! amazing... "amazing grace, how sweet the soul..." haha

Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 06:44 PM rating by magsalex

A great report. Informative, interesting and beautifully illustrated.

Wed, Oct 19 2005 - 08:13 PM rating by downundergal

Amazing!

Tue, Oct 18 2005 - 08:43 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya Jorge!
A wonderful report of your American journey and loved the Grand Canyon and The Ten Peaks pics.
Gloria

Mon, Oct 17 2005 - 03:19 PM rating by eirekay

Jorge,
Having lived near San Francisco all my life, I truly enjoyed your description of it as a place where everything and everyone is accepted!
Eire

Mon, Oct 17 2005 - 07:32 AM rating by davidx

Not many would dare to try the whole of hte USA in one report but you show it can be done.

Sun, Oct 16 2005 - 06:40 PM rating by rangutan

An amazing report that made me laugh quite a few times. Your reports would make a good base as notes for an autobiography!

Sun, Oct 16 2005 - 05:48 PM rating by bootlegga

An uncvonentional but still very interesting report!

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