The web pages of Stephen Penney

Trip to USA, September / October 2002

Day 1. Wednesday 25th September 2002
Was in rather a panic to get packed and ready after I got in from work. Travelled down to Gatwick with Kit and Rhyan. Kit couldn't stop looking at her engagement ring, which she'd only picked up that morning. We stayed in a B&B run by a scary grumpy woman. Couple of pints in nearest pub (the six bells). Met up with Gail, Karen and Alison. Rhyan told them I was going to be best man at his wedding. Alison selflessly agreed that Penny should be the chief bridesmaid. Made two mistakes - 1. Only bringing one razor. 2. Losing it.

Day 2. Thusday 26th September 2002
Flight to Atlanta, GA. Decided not to watch inflight movie of "Spiderman". Got into Atlanta at 2pm, which was really 7pm. Confusion begins. Everyone astounded by automatic towel dispensers in Atlanta airport. Picked up our hire car - a Dodge Caravan, and get it filled up with "gas". Rhyan drives us to the "travel lodge". Due to confusion caused by a language barrier amoung other things, we end up with a room with two beds between the six of us. After a debate about how this is going to work, Alison and myself go downstairs to book another room. We get one with a bed larger than the other two put together, and so decide not to let the others see it.
We headed out to find the church so we can join the local bellringers for their practice. Although it was raining it was unnaturally hot, and I annoyed the others by constantly commenting on this. We find the tower, and are welcomed with a few friendly "yawl"'s by the friendly locals. Everyone in the tower is given name badges to wear, to avoid any confusion. I was very tempted to write "Stephen" on mine to cause more confusion.
Before long, Martin turned up, who had got a flight a couple of hours after we did. The practice was very much like a typical one in the UK, is there is such a thing (as a typical practice, not the uk). The ringing ranged from rounds and call changed up to Camridge Major, all of which seemed a lot harder at 2am, which was the time we were on.
They drove us to the pub afterwards, and a few pints of Newcastle Brown (hey, when in rome) and red hook were consumed, along with a plentiful amount of food.

Day 3. Friday 27th September 2002
Drove to Athens, stopping off for a mexican lunch on the way. Found hotel, bags inn room, but no bar. Asked for a taxi into downtown athens, no taxis. Drove into downtown athens, found church, no people in athen ecept in funeral home. due to the complete lack of bars, we drove back to the hotel and went to the nearby grillbar. Whilst waiting to be seated, we noticed a sign informing us thatt brandishing a weapon on the premises carriedd a maxium sentence of 11 months and 29 days. This seemed rather unfair if for exampe you started your jail term on the firsrt of march, as you'd have toserve the whole year, plus the first of march again; whereas if you started on the first of September, you'd be out again on the 30th August.
We struggled through huge plates of food and a couple bottles of beer, and were just about to leave when Martin showed up with Penny and her sister. We found mark back of the hotel, who informed us that our inability to find a bar might have had something to do with the fact that it was a dry county, and it was illegal to sell anything stronger than beer or wine. We drank another couples of beers in our room before bed.

The Dodge Caravan.

The Hampton Inn. We stayed there.
Day 4. Saturday 28th September 2002
The next morning marked a specular end to the rain, which meant shorts weather. This was lucky because the no-jeans dress code at the pre-wedding brunch meant shorts or embaresment. For me at least.
Gail, Alison and Karen all woke up early, and had been to the gym before Kit Rhyan and myself had woken up. We followed people that knew where they were going to the largest house in the world, although it still meant turning around in someone's frankly huge front garden. We all had bloody marys and Bux Fizz as we chatted to Marks family, as well as Molly's family, friends, neighbours, and just about everyone else she knew. We ate lunch by the pool, and Penny took photographs of the large variety of butterflys. Rhyan was taught by the chap serving drinks to pronounce the word "water". Apparently it's not War-Tor, but WarDer, attemped to be pronounced as one syllabal.
After a suitable amount of being patronised, we left the party and drove to a nearby park for a sit down / sunburn, before returning to the hotel to get changed for the wedding, and for me to lose the key for the umpteenth time. The wedding service was very short but very nice. The reception was at a golf club, with a great band playing Jazz style music. We didn't think much of the photographer, who just seem to take thousands of random shots, but Penny fancied him.
When we got back to the hotel we had another bottle of bud, and put up with Alison talking in an annoying accent for the rest of the evening.

Rhyan, Kit, Alison, Karen, Debbie, Penny and Gail

The happy couple.

'Isn't this just cheese?' - Mark.

Day 5. Sunday 29th September 2002
After Brunch at the hotel, we travelled back to Atlanta, and took Tom with us. We ate in the Hard Rock Caf� (not Hooters unfortunately, which was next door). We had a couple of drinks in a revolving bar at the top of a huge building, and came up with lots of stupid ideas about how we could use the revolving section to lower ourselves to the ground.
Afterwards we went to a microbrewery. Found out Tom was due to start work for the same company as me.

Day 6. Monday 30th September 2002
Flew to San Francisco after a great breakfast at the airport - I had my first omlette in over ten years! The taxi driver who took us to Atlanta airport turned off the tv we were all watching for no good reason. We met a bloke who'd never been any further west than Denver. Karen got searched at the airport.
There was an awful film showing on the flight to San Francisco, which I didn't watch. We had a horrible dessert which no one like. I made a face out of mine. We almost landed in the water when we arrived, but the land and runway appeared just in time.
After checking into our hotel we had lunch in a 50s style diner and walked to Lombard Street, and then on to Fisherman's Wharf, where a damning and unprovked attack on my clothes commenced. We drank some Sierra Nevada in a dark bar.
We got one of the famous cable cars back to our hotel, and had a huge meal in the "Daily Grill". None of us could finish our meals, or even make a reasonable attempt, so we discussed ways of hiding food, one of which involved stuffing mashed potato into our ears.


Day 7. Tuesday 1st October 2002
Alison and I were up long before everyone else so went and had a look around a shopping centre. We had a coffee back at the hotel and went to a breakfast place for some pancakes. The manager seemed rather over keen to make sure we were looked after, and on finding out that I lived near London started talking about how he used to do something to do with Boxing in Leicester Square. I was worried when he put his fists up that he was challenging me to a fight, but then some of his friends walked in who were obviously in the mafia.
We had a look around the SFMOMA, and managed to get Rhyan suitably bored. We walked though the Yerba Buena Park to the Civic Center, where we waited ages for a bus to take us to the Golden Gate bridge.
We got the bus back and went to the Gold dust lounge for a pint. The waitress asked us all for ID, and explained herself: "You all look really young! But you're not!!"
We went for dinner in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco, to a restaurant with excellent pizzas and a micro brewery. I asked people what they're favourite part of the holiday so far was, and we were all surprised to hear Alison say the bellringing!
We tried to go to the revolving bar at the top of the hotel where they filmed Towering Inferno, but it was shut, so we went back to The Gold Dust lounge. There were some middle aged men playing requests, one of them looked like Papa Smurf.

Day 8. Wednesday 2nd October 2002
We went back to the diner for breakfast & got tickets for the Theatre. Went to the Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Gardens. We paid too much money to get into the Planetarium, but managed to faff around in confusion and so missed the start of it, and couldn't get in.
We had a slice of pizza before going to the theatre to see Tom Stoppard's Night & Day, and had dinner in Max's.

Day 9. Thursday 3rd October 2002
We had breakfast in hotel and went to Alcatraz in the morning then had milkshakes in Lori's Diner. Went to Gap to buy me some new clothes. Met Jon called Jon who liked Graham Norton, and convinced me not to buy a certain jumper. In the evening we went back to the revolving bar, and then went for a Chinese, which due to the quality of the food and the waiter's method of dealing with unwanted nasal fluids wan't the most pleasant meal of the week.

Day 10. Friday 4th October 2002
We had a tour of the Napa Valley & Sonoma and did some wine tasting.
We had a meal in Grans Caf� in the evening, with a very patronising waiter who demanded a huge tip. We all went to the Gold Dust lounge again for a couple of pints.

Day 11. Saturday 5th - Sunday 6th October 2002
We travelled home via Cincinatti. We saw Mark's parents on the flight from Cincinatti to Gatwick.