The launch

Some photos from the launch, courtesy of Zakir Rasheed and Will Jackson, whose names you may remember from the first book…

bookstrots

 

what a cake the cutting  stand signingreading2crowdinside coversigningold book

 

You can pick up a copy of both books via our Amazon page here.

Advertisements

The end of the road

You know that feeling when it’s 8am on a Monday morning, and you’ve been away from home for over eight months, and you’re wearing more items of clothing than you ever have in your life but you’re still cold because it is -17°C, and you’re wondering when it’s going to be over, and a man pulls over and tells you that he’s driving to Alaska and that you can come along? Oh right, maybe not. Let us tell you: IT IS AMAZING.

That feeling looks something like this:

YESSSSSSS.

YESSSSSSS. Alaska numberplate, Alaska bound.

The man in question was called Chuck (or “Chuck the absolute legend”) and was driving back home from a job down in North Dakota (USA), a mere 3000-mile roadtrip. With more than 1500 miles left to go, Chuck’s thoughts upon seeing us were,
“Why are they hitchhiking at this time of year?” (a valid question), and secondly,
“I wonder if they have driving licenses?”
Steve, ever-ready to be behind the wheel, happily agreed to be co-driver, and away we went on our 36-hour final leg.

Driver 391: Chuck Pinkerton, we thank you.

Driver 391: Chuck Pinkerton, we salute you.

Our poor little brains couldn’t quite compute the glorious truth that, suddenly, we were on our final hitch and were heading to Alaska. We were really and truly actually going to make it, and not only that, but we were travelling through some of the most utterly enchanting scenery we have ever seen.

IMG_9051

 

IMG_9059

 

IMG_9138

 

IMG_9160

 

IMG_9150

 

We made our final border crossing at 5am on Tuesday morning: the temperature outside was around -30°C and Chuck’s car heater had stopped working, so it was a little chilly. By this point, however, we didn’t care a jot. ALASKA!

IMG_9180

 

Chuck invited us to accompany him to his home near a town called Homer, giving us a whole day’s worth of Alaskan landscapes to enjoy. En route, Chuck informed us that Homer is the westerly-most point that one can drive to in Alaska, and thus is known as “the end of the road”. Well, what could be more perfect than that?

IMG_9212

 

IMG_9219

 

IMG_9245

 

IMG_9273

 

So, friends, the adventure is over, and what an adventure it has been. Don’t worry, there’s still time to sponsor us, and there will be a book to come sometime in the future. For now, though, it’s back to Blighty for a nice cup of tea.

DAY 1.

DAY 1.

IMG_9278

DAY 253.

FINAL TOTAL: Number of lifts: 392
Week Thirty-Six distance travelled: 1513 miles/ 2435 km
FINAL TOTAL: Distance travelled from Ushuaia to Alaska: 26,160 miles / 42,100 km

IMG_9348

 

If you would like to get in touch with us – maybe book us in as part of our lecture tour (!) – please email joey.dj@hotmail.co.uk or steve.dew-jones@hotmail.co.uk.

Cold toes on the Alaska Highway

With so long on the road now, you’d think that we might have exhausted most of the ups and downs of the hitchhiking adventure. Not so. This week, we’ve managed to: smash our longest-distance-travelled-in-one-week record (previously set in Brazil in July); make storming progress north out of Vancouver; fit in a 900 km round trip after deciding that our original route wasn’t the best one (more on that later); get stuck in a snow drift and have to be pulled out by a farmer (seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up); and experience the kindness of strangers time and again as various people have put us up and helped us out. Long sentence? Long week.

Monday began to the rhythm of Jo’s thumping heart, as we once again braced ourselves for conflict with laws apparently prohibiting hitchhiking. With three patrol cars passing us in 15 minutes without a hint of interest, however, it seemed they weren’t too bothered by our endeavours, and soon we were sailing out of our final big city. We had decided that our target for the day was Whistler, a famous mountain just over 100 km away; instead we leapt forward nearly 800 km to Prince George, the “Northern Capital of British Columbia”. One of our drivers told us that travelling north would take us on a fast-track through the seasons, and so it was – from autumn one morning to winter the next.

Adding a layer as we head away from Vancover.

Monday: Adding a layer as we waited for a ride just north of Whistler.

Snow on the ground and -7 in the air.

Tuesday: Snow on the ground and -7 in the air.

When chatting to our drivers, we often ask for advice on the road ahead – what it’s going to be like, which route to take and so on. On Tuesday morning, we had two choices – head west on the 16 or north on the 97, both of which eventually join up. We’d been told that Route 16 was slightly shorter and more scenic, so that seemed to be the thing to do. More good progress was made, including our first truck ride since Mexico with Gary, and we were  greeted by an exciting sight when he dropped us off on Wednesday morning at the foot of Highway 37. Next stop Alaska, we thought.

Alaska: on the map.

Alaska: on the map. (Sadly. aiming for Hyder Alaska would have felt like cheating as it isn’t in the main part of Alaska, otherwise we’d be on a flight home by now.)

However, we soon got a sense that we weren’t in the right place. Even though each of the few truckers we spoke to were heading to Alaska (one ride away!!), they weren’t able to take us because of poor road conditions and our not being insured; all car drivers that passed told us they were going only very short distances and suggested we were better off where we were. And then there were the various warnings we received about our safety on a road infamous for a spate of disappearing female hitchhikers. To locals the 16 is The Highway of Tears. When trucker Rosco offered us a ride all the way back to Prince George, we heaved a collective sigh and accepted.

At least the pretty scenery could cheer us up a bit.

At least the pretty scenery cheered us up a bit.

No time for sulking; Thursday morning came, we found the 97 and turned our back on our two-day detour. In so doing, we met colourful character Anthony, 24, with whom we spent most of the day, covering another several hundred kilometres. On our arrival into Dawson Creek, Mile ‘0’ on the Alaska Highway, Anthony decided to take us off-roading to demonstrate his 4×4 capabilities. Thank you to Farmer Joe for demonstrating his capabilities for extracting us.

4x4 x 2 = the formula for getting unstuck from this particular snowdrift.

4×4 x 2 = the formula for getting unstuck from this particular snowdrift.

On Friday, our pattern of long-distance days was dented slightly when by lunchtime we had travelled just 100 km and there remained until sun-down – which, to be fair, is fairly early these days, but time enough to lose all feeling in our feet. The day took another turn for the worse when we discovered the nearby inn had no rooms available, but then neighbours Colleen and John took us in, ran us a hot bubble bath and regaled us with stories of hunting wild animals.

Colleen, John and moose.

Colleen, John and Mr. Moose.

Finally, as if this week hadn’t given us enough already, a fantastically unlikely series of events led to the lovely Leona and Steve taking us from that very same inn all the way up to their house in Fort Nelson, putting us up for the rest of the weekend and furnishing us with snow boots to keep our toes all snuggly until we get on that flight. 1300 kilometres to go!

Steve and Leona - what wonderful company to finish the week with.

Steve and Leona – what wonderful company to finish the week with.

Total number of lifts: 390
Week Thirty-Five distance travelled: 1666 miles/ 2681 km
Total distance travelled: 24,647 miles / 39,665 km

Enlarge the map to see the extent of our detour!

Enlarge the map to see the extent of our detour!

Family matters

It’s been a quiet week on the hitching front with just two days on the road, but we still found time to break our record for numbers of rides in one day (11), affording us ample opportunity to observe Washington State’s stance on hitchhiking.

IMG_8494

We stood beside such signs at nine freeway entrances on our journey from Seattle to Vancouver on Wednesday (12 Nov), a lowlight for law-abiding Jo.

Fortunately, our long day ended with our first taste of Canadian hospitality, as 11th driver Dennis took us home to stay with his wife Marcy and daughter Sam.

They said "eh?" a lot and "aboot" instead of "about". It was perfect.

They said “eh?” a lot and “aboot” instead of “about”. It was perfect.

The rest of the week was devoted to family, as for the first time in the entire trip we happened to have relatives to visit… in several locations.

IMG_8492

In Seattle we saw Jo’s brother Nick, his wife Nat and two kids, Ellie (three) and Amber (one).

IMG_8555

On Vancouver Island, we stayed with Steve’s second cousin Malcolm, his wife Lori and daughters Taylor (20) and Morgan (18)…

IMG_8579

…Second cousin Susan took us for a walk up Mount Doug…

IMG_8575

…Great Uncle Ted and wife Meg bought us clam chowder beside the Inner Harbour…

IMG_8605

…Then paid for us to fly back to the mainland by helicopter!

Jo's cousin Chris and girlfriend Robyn have looked after us in Vancouver.

And here in Vancouver we have been looked after by Jo’s not-seen-in-15-years cousin Chris and his girlfriend Robyn.

… Finally, somewhat earlier than anticipated, we were reacquainted with another old friend we hadn’t seen in far too long…

IMG_8561


Total number of lifts: 376
Week Thirty-Four distance travelled: 334 miles/ 537 km
Total distance travelled: 22,981 miles / 36,984 km

IMG_8700

Tall trees and fall leaves

Sometimes at the end of a week – taking into account the myriad of little or large highs and lows, the eclectic spectrum of people we’ve met and the variety of landscapes we’ve seen – it’s difficult to remember all the details. Then we look back through our photos and smile at the memories, the experiences, and the pleasure of another week’s achievements.

For example, how long ago it feels that we were extracting ourselves from the clutches of San Francisco, which may not be a particularly big city when it comes to population size but certainly seemed sizeable enough when it came to finding a good hitching spot. Around eight miles later, we made it to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, a very special landmark to stroll over.

IMG_8027


And then we were off, journeying into wine country and through towns preparing themselves for Tuesday’s (4 Nov.) mid-term elections. The calls were various: Tim Meinken for City Council! Yes on R! No on 98! We weren’t always sure what the letters and numbers meant, but we were sorry that we couldn’t help these ladies by voting “No on P!” (which turned out to be about ‘fluoridation’, which we were none too sure about either).

IMG_8055 

Onwards, ever onwards, and into redwood country. WOW. There are not many words adequate to describe the sense of awe and wonder when surrounded by such ancient and giant trees as the redwoods. We were very lucky to have several drivers take us off the highway so that we could explore the forests at a more appropriate pace, and we craned our necks as far as possible to take in their lofty grandeur.

Spot the human.

Spot the human.

The time was drawing near when we would have to bid farewell to the Californian coastline and start heading inland, but before we did that there was still time to see bewitching fog rolling over the ocean, a herd of elks having some down time in a car park and an interesting collection of artefacts in a Native Indian museum. Thank you to David for making all of that possible.

IMG_8210

Sporting a beard that Steve can but dream of… And a music catalogue to boot. You can check out this Alabama rocker’s tunes at http://www.davidshaneduke.com

There were several route options available as we continued north, and our inland direction was prompted by an invitation we had to uphold: visiting Jim and Suzanne, American friends who live in the town of Redmond in Oregon. En route, we accepted what turned out to be one of the more bizarre suggestions of recent times: to visit hot springs, primarily frequented by naked people. (You’ll forgive us for withholding the photos).

Our day off with Jim and Suzanne was a wonderful time of enjoying yet more of the natural beauty America has to offer. Redmond is located in an area known as ‘high desert’ – just think of your typical idea of a Western film and you’ll get the idea. Our hike around local beauty spot Smith Rock afforded views of daredevil rock climbers, the Nike owner’s luxury pad and a rock called “Monkey Face”.

IMG_8283


Finally for this week, we have come to Oregon’s main city called Portland. Renowned for its liberal and arty feel, we have made an effort to sample the plethora of tasty coffee, beers and food on offer, guided by our friend-of-a-friend host, Josh. We have also been wooed by the delightful colours of autumn all around – it’s a lovely time me of year to be passing through.

It seems like an unwritten rule that a man can't be a resident in Portland without an excellent beard.

It seems like an unwritten rule that a man can’t be a resident in Portland without an excellent beard. Hats off, Josh.

IMG_8329

Total number of lifts: 361
Week Thirty-Three distance travelled: 857 miles/ 1379 km
Total distance travelled: 22,647 miles / 36,446 km

IMG_8335

Flirting with the law in a country not built for hitch-hiking

To most Americans, our struggles while hitch-hiking this week will not come as a surprise, but perhaps the manner of our struggles will.

You see, we have had no problem finding willing American drivers. Quite the contrary. Our problems have been a result only of infrastructure and legality.

There just aren’t any good hitch-hiking spots here in the USA. Freeways are fast, highly populated and multi-laned, and gas stations are off the main road. The best alternative we have found is freeway entrances, but these come in all shapes and sizes, and can be very popular or hardly used.

IMG_7810

At one such spot this week, on the edge of the tiny town of San Miguel, we waited for three hours and were assured by two separate passersby that we had zero chance of being picked up in the next two weeks and had better walk on the freeway.

The concept was in no way attractive and most certainly illegal, but we felt we had little alternative.

IMG_7851

An hour later, we were picked up on the hard shoulder by this crazy lady:

IMG_7854

Thanks Caitlin.

Caitlin left us at a busy freeway entrance on the outskirts of San Jose, just 50 miles short of San Francisco. We were feeling much happier.

But then something strange happened… A policeman approached on his bike, dismounted, flicked on the flashing lights and reached for his baton.

“You’re breaking the law,” he informed us gleefully, as he swaggered towards us.

“Oh, are we? I thought it was OK on freeway entrances,” Steve replied.

“Look, we can argue about this all day, but the law’s the law,” he said.

The man’s odious and officious nature was hard to stomach, but we held our tongues and called it a day.

The next day, we found a different freeway entrance and successfully avoided another telling off, but as we approach the beginning of a new week, it is rather discomforting to think that our efforts are almost certain to involve a bit more law breaking. It has never been our intention to break the rules, but here in the USA, it seems our very mission is against the Constitution.

…A few of this week’s highlights:

IMG_7735

Hitting Hollywood Boulevard.

Watching the crazies at Venice Beach.

Watching the crazies at Venice Beach.

IMG_7761

America’s somewhat counter-intuitive signage.

It took us some time to work out that this wasn't pointing out a nearby Chinese school.

It took us some time to realise that this sign wasn’t advertising a nearby Chinese school.

IMG_7762

Discovering that here in California, $40 and a bout of anxiety, or just about any bodily ailment, is sufficient for a cannabis license.

Halloween in San Francisco with our generous host, Vijay.

Halloween in San Francisco with our generous host, Vijay.

And seeing the sights of the City by the Bay.

And seeing the sights of the City by the Bay.

Total number of lifts: 342
Week Thirty-Two distance travelled: 508 miles/ 817 km
Total distance travelled: 21,790 miles / 35,067 km

IMG_8021

 

Hey America!

So, most people south of the USA border think we’ve been in America since Argentina, but the problem with the English language is we just don’t have another term for people from the States. In Spanish, South Americans call them “Estados-Unidenses” (USA-ers) or “Norte Americanos”, although for Mexicans (also technically North American), that last one doesn’t work so well. But for us English folk, we’ve only really got “Americans”.

Anyhow, we arrived in the land of the USA-ers on Wednesday (22 Oct), after two days and almost 1,000 kilometres more of Sonora desert. Unfortunately, our camera broke during this stretch, but Jo’s given her artist’s take of the scenery below…

sun


Here in the States, we’ve been very well treated. Tonight will be our fifth night here and for the fifth night in a row, we will be staying with an American who a week ago we didn’t know existed.

First there was Budiee. (We’d bought a new camera by then).

IMG_7580


We met him in a San Diego bar, where we had been invited by our first drivers in the States, Victor, Mikey, Tiffany and Pennie, who know Budiee from the large Mexican-American community in Calexico, the border town we crossed into from Mexicali.

IMG_0169


Budiee looked after us for three nights, as we became acquainted with Ron Burgundy’s homeland. For one of us, this was a particular highlight…

IMG_7582

The film “Anchorman” had already prepared us for much of what we could expect to find in San Diego. We thoroughly recommend it.

Next up, we stayed with Jen and Paul, our third of three drivers yesterday (26 Oct), as we journeyed towards L.A. They had kindly offered to pay for us to stay in a nice hotel for the night, but Jen lost her credit card, so the sofa it was. We were still very grateful.

IMG_7686


Somewhere during our time with Jen and Paul, solar panel salesman Adam came by. Unfortunately for him, Jen wasn’t in a position to be purchasing solar paneling, but Adam was invited for a glass of wine and it was here he invited us to stay with him the next night.

IMG_7687


And then, for a bonus Sunday hitch, we were lucky enough to meet Mike and Mirella from Romania, who generously brought us to Adam’s door.

IMG_7693


So here we are, in Costa Mesa, just south of L.A. And to top it all off, Adam’s friend Jack plans to take us to the Big Smoke tomorrow (27 Oct). All in all, it’s been a fairly special start to our time here in the land of the USA-ers.

Total number of lifts: 332
Week Thirty-One distance travelled: 1,337 km
Total distance travelled: 34,251 km

The good ol’ Americans measure distance in miles, so it’s time to make the switch back…

Week Thirty-One distance travelled: 830 miles
Total distance travelled: 21,282 miles

IMG_7694

The home straight

OK, so we may not even be in the States yet, but after a 22-hour, 1,000-km truck ride yesterday (17 Oct) took us to within spitting distance of the border, it’s certainly starting to feel like we’re on the final stretch.

And given that we’ve averaged more than 1,000km a week for the last 30 weeks, the 6,000km seperating us from Alaska doesn’t sound like very much.

One thousand kilometres per week might sound like quite a lot (it’s roughly the length of Britain, so I guess that it is), but when you’re on the road and in countries rather larger than our own, the distance can pass without a great deal of effort.

Take this week for example. Like the vast majority of our weeks on the road, despite certainly wishing to make progress, we never felt rushed.

IMG_7214

…We witnessed Mexico’s strange infatuation with Santa Muerte (Saint Death) first hand, in Edgar’s truck…

IMG_7229

…Found time to wander the pretty streets of Queretaro…

IMG_7354

…Spent a few nights enjoying Guanajuato’s annual Cervantino festival. We watched, and mainly understood, two plays (Oedipus Rex and Much Ado About Nothing) in Spanish…

IMG_7347

…Popped along to the city’s mummy museum. Terrifying…

IMG_7386

…Drank tequila in Guadalajara, state capital of Jalisco, where the drink was born…

IMG_7409

…Had a few rides perched in precarious positions, including this one – sharing the back of Hector’s pick-up truck with a large petrol tank…

IMG_7416

…Passed in and out of the infamous state of Sinaloa, known for its drug traffickers…

IMG_7491

…Watched the sun rise over the Sonoran Desert as we helped camionero Cordelio not to fall asleep. Somehow he managed to drive throughout the night…

All in all, quite a week. Special thanks to camionero Cordelio. What a hero!

IMG_7436

Total number of lifts: 321
Week Thirty distance travelled: 1,826 km
Total distance travelled: 32,914 km

IMG_7523