Do Androids dream? L.A., Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle.

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September 9th 2006
Published: September 11th 2006
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From New Mexico to Seattle

I was in the bathroom of a hotel room in California. The TV was talking to itself in the other room. Unless I've started hearing things I would swear I heard...

"Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to get out of the car to shop. Walgreens have (X number) of drive through pharmacies..."

What a dream! The American shopping Utopia. Yes sir-ee. America is car country, for sure.

There is much to love about the USA. Also, as a Brit some of it is strangely familiar - I've watched far too many American sitcoms in my life. But sometimes the USA seems strange and alien. Drive through drug stores and ATMs seem very weird to me. But then, I don't like cars. I hate driving. I'm sure that must be Un-american. I didn't learn to drive until I was over 30 years old. I'll re-phrase that. I didn't sit behind a wheel of a car and turn the ignition until I was over 30. It was my first driving lesson. My girlfriend at the time bought the lessons and told me that I would learn to drive. I didn't have a say in it. You can tell who wore the trousers in that relationship.

Sometimes Americans ask "Why do they hate us". I can't believe that anyone who has met Americans could dislike them. They are so friendly.

There are many wonderful things about the United States of America that deserve praise - the Bill of Rights, the Freedom of Information Act... but none is more outstanding than the friendliness of the people.

When we moved to this little town in New Hampshire, people received us as if the one thing that had kept them from total happiness to this point was the absence of us in their lives. They brought us cakes and pies and bottles of wine. Not one of them said,"So you're the people who paid a fortune for the Smith place", which I believe is the traditional greeting in England.

Bill Bryson: I'm a stranger here myself. ISBN 0-7679-0382-X

At this point I must make special mention of Lon and Nancy Spero for all that they did for me, and for putting me up for a few days. I met Lon on the trip to the Antarctic. See my previous blog entry The Last Great Wilderness. Lon and I were roomies on the ship.


Another weird thing about America. An opinion poll in the New York Post found that one-third of Americans suspect federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East. seems that a lot of Americans don't trust their government.


I've been travelling up the West coast for the past few weeks. I arrived in Annaheim in the greater Los Angeles area on Weds 23rd August. I had booked myself a membership for the 64th World Science Fiction Convention a
Joshua Tree, ArizonaJoshua Tree, ArizonaJoshua Tree, Arizona

Not far from the Grand Canyon
few months ago. I enjoy Science Fiction, hence the title of this blog entry. Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep is a novel by the deceased author Philip K Dick. The novel was later used as the basis for the movie Blade runner. There are many lines in the film I like such as :

I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

(The death scene of the android Roy Batty).

I know, I have no idea what a C-beam is either and I've no idea where the Tannhauser gate is. So, some of the dialogue is gibberish, so what?

The World Science Fiction Convention is held every year in different cities. Last year was in Scotland and next year will be in Japan. Thousands of people attend. They don't all wear Star Trek uniforms! In fact it is primarily a celebration of SF literature.


On Sunday I left the convention. I drove to down town Los Angeles and Hollywood in a hire car. I didn't like Los Angeles or Hollywood. It is built for cars. The city sprawls too much, which is why I was forced to hire a car. Even so, it wasn't fun because the roads were so congested.


On the 29th of August I returned the hire car and took the Greyhound bus to Las Vegas. I stayed in the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. It only cost $US41 for the first night and $US39 for the second night. I booked the place in advance on the internet. The price of the hotels in Vegas drops very low mid-week. I assume they think that you are going to spend all your money in their Casino. Frankly, I wasn't the slightest bit tempted. The Hotel was massive. Too big, it felt very impersonel. They also make you walk through the Casino. The only way to the reception desk or your room is through the Casino. I spent nothing in any Casino.

Las Vegas is though an amazing place. It's a playground for adults. Everything is done on a huge scale as you can see from the photos. Hotels include whole shopping centres as well as Casinos. In one of the Hotels they have even built a replica of St Marks Square in Venice and a 'Venetian' Canal lined by shops and restaurants.

On the 30th I took a day tour from Vegas to the Western rim of the Grand Canyon which passes by the Hoover Dam. The Western rim of the Grand Canyon is owned by the Hualapi nation. The Hualapi are a native american people. The own slightly less than half the Grand Canyon. For more info visit


My next stop was San Francisco. I arrived on the Friday. I visited various museums including the modern art museum and the de Young museum. I also explored the city on foot. It is possible to get around most of San Francisco on foot. It also has a very good public transport system. It makes the city very liveable. I liked San Francisco, it also was full of places that were very photogenic.

On Sunday Lon picked me up from my hotel. Lon is the guy with whom I shared a cabin on the Antarctic trip in January. He showed me around places I hadn't already visited. He grew up in San Francisco. One of the highlights of the Sunday drive was the visit to the sea lions on Fishermans Wharf. I spent a couple of days with Lon and his wife Nancy.

Lon also took me into Sacramento on Labour Day. The city was staging a Gold Rush Days festival over the Labour Day holiday weekend in the old town. Within the old town is a very good Railway Museum. I liked both San Francisco and Sacramento. The appeared to be very liveable cities.


I said goodbye to Lon on Tuesday 5th of August. He drove me to the Greyhound Station early in the morning. Lon and Nancy are very well travelled. Lon has visited 101 countries.

It was a long journey to Portland through some stunning scenery. The Greyhound bus driver thought he was a tour guide. He pointed out mountains, lakes and other attractions along the route. I stayed the night in Portland. The area around Portland is very green. 96%!o(MISSING)f the State of Oregon is wilderness. That is a big difference between the States and Britain. There is very little real wilderness in the UK but the States has vast areas of undeveloped wilderness and the States is very, very big. Green politics is very big in Portland and the state of Oregon. Public transport within the city centre is free.

The next day I continued onto Seattle. Seattle is also a nice city, although it is only 150 years old. Famously Seattle is the home of Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks.

I am now in Vancouver, Canada. I am on my way to Alaska.

Additional photos below
Photos: 66, Displayed: 27


World Science Fiction Convention #64World Science Fiction Convention #64
World Science Fiction Convention #64

The Star Trex reception, in honour of 40 years since the first pilot.
World Science Fiction Convention #64World Science Fiction Convention #64
World Science Fiction Convention #64

One of the actors from the first Star Trex. If you don't know who this is, where have you been?
Downtown, L.A.Downtown, L.A.
Downtown, L.A.

The car is the one I hired for driving around L.A.
An Indian dances.  An Indian dances.
An Indian dances.

Visit to the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon. This area is owned by Native Americans

12th September 2006

Underground Tour
Hi Stuart, Did you get the chance to do the Underground Tour in Seattle? Like you when I visited back in 1996 I liked the City. Vancouver is good as well, check out Gas Town and keep out of the Peeler Bars!
12th September 2006

You were in my town!
I've been following your blog since Africa, and I was tickled pink at the idea of you being in Sacramento. I was actually in San Francisco when you were here. That railroad museum is fascinating! I was in awe of the fact that the Irish immigrants laid 1 mile of track to (if memory serves me right) every 11 miles laid by the Chinese! Too bad you didn't get to the Gold Country to learn of all the Welsh and Cornish miners. -A.T.
13th September 2006

NW Passage
Yes, I did the underground tour. Vancouver was good, I am now in Victoria. I will be getting a ferry up the coast - the NW passsage.
14th September 2006

Hi Armchair Traveler
Yes, Armchair Traveler the Railway Museum was good. Unfortunately I rather rushed up the West Coast - so I missed a number of things it would have been good to see. Maybe I'll be back that way one day in the future. Who knows?
19th September 2006

Howdy Hi!
Stuart, I'm the Irish girl you met on the Boeing tour day. Funny, I see myself coming down the steps in your 'Comet, Museum of Flight, Seattle' photo! So I eventually left Seattle and headed north to Vancouver, etc. Returned to LA and spent the end of my travels in Santa Monica which is nice (I had previously spent time in LA and Hollywood and hated it). Just back to Ireland now. Going to be really hard to settle down after all this travelling. Hope to head back out and see the rest of the Americas as soon as I can. Will be following your blog. Best of luck with the travel!
23rd September 2006

Historical Revisionism
Hay Stuart Sue reckons you are re-writing history there! As far as she remembers it was you who wanted to learn to drive. So if you are in San Fransisco what about the Russian Steps? Tales of the City.
24th September 2006

I don't think so!
Not how I remember it. Sue certainly bought the driving lessons. I had no desire to learn to drive and would never have paid for the lessons, (and not just becuase I'm tight with money!) It was a very generous gift - 30 hours of driving lessons amounts to a lot of money. But, the fact remains that Sue bought the lessons because she wanted me to learn. It was a surprise gift. What was I supposed to do? Tell her to demand her money back from the driving school? Refuse to try to learn? So, obviously I went along with what she wanted. I still though felt coerced and manipulated even though she didn't stand over me with a stick forcing me to learn. So, its no historical revisionism. Its just that I know what I thought and felt when Sue sprang the surprise gift of driving lessons. Steps in San Francisco - there are so many of them!

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