The posts for the next six weeks in this section is a reflection on and to share with you my experiences of my trip to the USA last year.
A year ago I went to the United States to visit my girlfriend, her family, and just to enjoy a great six-week holiday. Actually, today exactly a year ago I arrived in the USA…one day late. First tip of traveling, make sure you check the date and time of your flight, and then check it again. On the day before the flight check it again, and on the morning of that day, check it again! In doing so you won’t be all relaxed at 10am in the morning for your 4pm departure…and then print your itinerary to realise your departure is within 20 minutes and you’re an hour and a half from the airport.
I have to say the Skype call to my girlfriend, Devin, was also interesting. It kinda went like this,
Johan: Hi love, you are gonna kill me!
Devin: Um, why?
Johan: My flight left 5 minutes ago. (Awkward smile)
Devin: What?! (Eye stretched wide)
Johan: But I did get another flight tomorrow morning, last seat on the plane, Phew!
Devin: I should get a blow-up hammer and hit you on the head when you get here.
Johan: I’m going to get a real hammer and hit myself on the head.
I’m just very glad that I was able to get a flight for the next day, and that I had the money to pay for it. You see, this little mistake didn’t just cost me a day, it cost me quite a bit of money because I had to book a new flight to the States, and two more flights to get to Minnesota. In all this was probably a $2,000 mistake. Eeek! SO CHECK YOUR FLIGHT DETAILS!!!
The flights themselves went well and smoothly, it was just very long with multiple stopovers. I flew from Brisbane – Sydney – Los Angeles – Denver – Fargo, about 24 hours of travel in total.
The flight from Sydney to Los Angeles was a good one (friendly service, friendly but respectful people next to me, and a front row seat with about 3 feet of legroom.) However, a 13 hour flight still feels long no matter what. After 7 hours when my bum started to get numb we weren’t even past Hawaii yet. So you can imagine the joy and relief when we finally got to Los Angeles. My expectations of sunny California weren’t quite realised. It was overcast and dreary (guess that’s how many people feel when arriving in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, were it rains a lot). A few clouds really aren’t much to affect the experience, not when compared to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – because it is officially IMO the worst thing about the States. No offense, but it is a crap airport…extremely long queues (more so than Sydney which is also terrible), extremely confusing, the walk from the International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal with big luggage (if you don’t want to wait for a shuttle bus), and can anyone please tell me where to find a freaking bathroom in the Domestic section before check-in!!!?? Seriously, after my long flight I smelled…um…questionable, and wanted to at least change into a new shirt, but I seriously couldn’t find a bathroom to change in. So I do apologize to the other passengers on the two remaining flights who sat next to me…I really did try.
Denver International Airport in comparison was a treat. So simple, so easy, and so quick. The dry dusty smell of the air made me realise I wasn’t close to home anymore. It has a different very distinct smell, a good smell. I have since encountered the same smell on a few occasions in Australia for brief seconds and it really makes me long to be back there.
It was funny how the planes got significantly smaller after every stopover. I was now on a small 20-ish seater plane on my way to Fargo, North Dakota.
At the airport in Fargo, ND, I was greeted by an extremely smily face. Devin has come to pick me up. At that stage we had been dating for 8 months and most of them were long distance. We hadn’t seen each other in person for 3 months. So needless to say, a happy reunion. This was also when I first met another person I would come to love, Buggy-Boo (later known by a few more names). Okay fine, so it isn’t a person it’s Devin’s car – but a good relationship would form none the less.
Paying for parking at the airport was my first introduction to American cheapness (the good kind). It was only something like $1.30, unheard of in Australia (which in Brisbane usually starts at $6 and can easily go over $20 in a few hours). Devin then took me for a little trip through Fargo and quickly introduced me to some more Americanisms over lunch, in others words…Pizza, for cheap. And Aussies take note, this is a large pizza (Though much larger can be found).
And to anyone wondering…no we didn’t eat it all by ourselves – I think Devin’s younger sister, Cassidy, might have finished it. After lunch, a relaxing time in the park (before the evil squirrels started staring at us), we headed for an hours drive to Twin Valley, Minnesota, where Devin and her family lives. This is when I got to meet the lovely Berglund family in person for the first time.
So this is how I got to the USA and only just the start of great, interesting, and funny adventures.
Most of the first week we spend close to Devin’s family home in western Minnesota, and Fargo, ND. I also got to drive Devin’s bug, and the mini for the first time…it was quite an interesting experience at first, not because of the cars, but because of the side of the car and road I was on (USA is opposite to Australia). I first few time I wanted to check in my centre rear view mirror I found myself staring out the window at the clouds. It didn’t take too long to get used to though, and everything went smoothly, except when getting to an intersection – fine when there were other cars to follow, but not when we were alone or worse the front of the queue. It would often involve, “Devin, where should I go? Just point.” Devin sounded scared and was maybe freaking out in her head, but I must have done okay and gotten the hang of it quickly because I drove most of the time while there.
On our first trip into Fargo I was introduced to Olive Garden. Hmmm…bread sticks…salad…yummy…
Sorry, I dozed off for a bit there. But for anyone going for a visit to the States, you have to go there! Actually since we are on the topic of food, I can just tell you…Americans make really good food! I’m not talking about Macdonalds, Sonic, Dairy Queen (very good ice cream though) or Burger King – they are fine too, but I’m talking about restaurants like Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s, Hard Rock Cafe, ect., and pretty much ever non-chain restaurant as well. Most of them are very affordable as well – which was great since we
We also did other fun stuff like going for a drive with the Rhino four-wheel buggy, and as can be seen on the photo above I had an especially pleasant time when Devin was driving, hehe. I did get her back though. I totally scared the life out of her by suddenly screaming like a possessed raped ape – and I caught it all on camera. I still laugh uncontrollably every time I watch it, wish I could load it on here.
With the bicycles hooked on the car, we headed to Itasca State Park on one of the days. This is a lovely park to visit and also where the Mississippi River originates as a little stream before becoming the mighty river as it flows down to the Gulf of Mexico.
We took the bikes for here to douglas lodge along the interesting winding (and often hilly) walk-/bikeways. This ride also has many bits captured on video, including Devin turning infront of me and because I held a camera in one hand I only had one hand to pull the FRONT brake (luckily at slow speeds). It was a 6mile (10km) ride to Douglas Lodge where we got dinner. Hmmm…Ribs…chips…milkshake…
Oh, sorry again.
But seriously, this was the first place where the milkshake was so big and thick that I couldn’t finish it…and I love milkshakes! Well, maybe I didn’t love the milkshake and food all that much on the bike ride back to the car. After the first slight uphill about 300 metres back we were panting already. But fortunately there were more downhills on the way back which meant speedy descends with the camera in one hand…
One night we went walking around and shopping in Fargo. At a Norwegian store there Devin bought me a “What part of Uff-da don’t you understand” shirt which you are sure to see in many photos to come (I really like that shirt – even though Devin did a very good job trying to ruin it by colouring it pink in the wash. Her mum did manage to save it though – thank you).
We also went to Forever 21 which is where the picture below was taken. The guy behind Devin in the photo is now known as Straight-hair boy, for obviously reasons. I think Devin was jealous and kept staring at him (or his hair at least), either way, I felt it my duty to tell her to stop staring at him – though I did it loud enough for him to hear and then I ducked behind a clothes rack. He turned around (knowing it was him I was referring to because we were the only three people in the shop) looking at and awkward and embarrassed Devin, hehe. (I think the pink colouring of my shirt, socks, and underwear was an act of revenge).
Towards the end of the first week we got ready to go to the cities (Minneapolis-St Paul) with Devin’s family. Check back soon to see the fun and craziness that unfolded there.