Kings of the Wild World Tour: The United States of America

John Tyrrell is one half of nouveau breaksmiths Kings of the Wild Frontier. In November 1999 he set out on a world tour and this is his neo-Kerouac on the road diary, a kind of continuation of the Kings' "Trans Am" ep which journeyed across the U.S.A from East to West appropriating local musical styles as it went.

Below are the emissives he and travelling companion Jo have been beaming back to base.

Saturday, October 7th, 2000

After our disastrous attempt at boogie boarding on Waikiki beach in Hawaii surfin' was infact the last thing on our minds when we hit Californ-i-a, but we were ready with a Beach Boys tape to begin our road trip. However our initial excitement was somewhat dampened after spending 3 hours in the airport on the phone trying to organise a cheap rental car, (there's so many factors to take into consideration; Insurance, Colision Damage Waivers, Vehicle Liscence fees, Mileage limitations, on top of the basic rental price) and by the time we picked up an old red road horse from Lucky Rentals it was getting late in the day. Still, keeping to our plan we then headed to the nearest K-Mart to pick up some camping gear. It wasn't until we noticed that we were the only white faces in the supermarket that we realised we were in the heart of the hood, Inglewood. The supermarket was in chaos. It looked like a bomb had hit it. There was nothing on the shelves, everything was 'randomly displayed' on the floor, nothing was priced properly, the shop assistants kept shouting at customers for playing with products (some kids were bouncing basketballs to test them out) and we ended up stuck at the cash desk holding up a really long queue whilst a stroppy cashier took three quarters of an hour just to get a price check on some of our camping gear. This place oozed attitude. I trod in a dirty nappy that had been dropped in the car park as we hurried to the car trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Then we were faced with the nightmare of the freeway. John coped admirably I have to say, but at this point it was really late, we were both exhuasted from our first day in L.A and it seemed to take forever before we finally found a motel in Santa Monica. This was a colourful but not altogether pleasant introduction to the 'City Of Angels'.

Next morning things looked a little better. We enjoyed a quick stroll along Venice beach, we watched the roller bladers and the posers workin' out, I took a photo of an LAPD cop parked in front of a burger joint...It was all going fine until we got lumbered with a parking ticket. Apparently there was some obsure rule about parking in that particular space, it was specifically a no- parking zone on Tuesdays between 11 am and 1pm, for people driving red rental cars, who come from England and whose names start with a J. Goddammit... (Jo)

In dark moods we headed for the Hollywood Hills looking for a good photo opp to lighten our loads. Griffith Observatory gave us a big old spiel on the stars (in the sky) and a good view of the Hollywood sign, but we still longed for a bit of glamour. We didn't find it down on Hollywood Boulevard. What a dump - full of freaks. The walk of fame is stuffed with names of people you've never heard of, but the hand prints and signatures at Mann's Chinese Theatre were quite good. I headed straight for Steven Seagal's monstrous paws - I'll never be half the man he is. Jo marvelled at the tiny twinkle toes of Marilyn Monroes footprints. Reluctantly we headed to the Hollywood Hostel for the night (I hate hostels) and spent two hours queuing for some toast in the morning. Determined that there must be something better in LA than all of this we finally rolled up to Beverly Hills for a look over the fence into the nice neighbours back yard. Beautiful big houses with unrestricted views of the smog-laden downtown. Mmm nice. Let's get the hell out of here. (John)

We drove all the way down Sunset Boulevard to get out of town and started heading up the coast. Malibu is full of snobs - you couldn't even see the sea as you drove along this coastal strip, the huge beachfront houses seemed to be joined together deliberately to block the view, and even where there is supposed to be public access you find that the beach has been fenced off by the rich pigs. This is where Brad and Jennifer got hitched. Huh! (Jo)

Didn't get far up the coast, but that was OK. Our first camping since V99 was in a little town just before Santa Barbara called Carpentaria. We rolled up at sunset just in time to see a fat Amtrak train honk and clang its way past through the palm trees, all bathed in the light of the failing sun. Beautiful. We strolled along the beach after dark making the lights of the off-shore oil rigs into the shapes of animals. Sounds crap, but after LA it was lovely. I cranked up our new camp stove for the first time, which was very exciting. I've never even lit one of those before. Sleeping on the floor of the tent was a bit of a bitch, but nothing we couldn't solve with an airbed the next day. Aaah. And the whole of the wild west before us... (John)

Santa Barbara had a really good vibe, lots of stylish bars and restaurants, lovely spanish architecture, bells in the steeples of churches, groovy art galleries and great second hand shops. And lots of beautiful sunshine. A California Dream. Shame we weren't stopping...(Jo)

Bombed up the coast as far as San Simeon - I wanted to have a peak at WR Hearst's castle the next day, but when we got there it was pea soup. In the morning the grey fog blanket hadn't lifted so we settled for a couple of postcards. Jo fell in love with the pics of the rich man's swimming pools. Lessons on how to live. We finally left the fog behind around Big Sur so we missed a lot of that classic Californian coastal scenery, but Santa Cruz made up for it a bit with a great beachfront funfair featuring a classic wooden roller coaster and a carousel with a hot dog munching fat kid on board. Jo reckons some of The Sting and The Lost Boys was filmed there. (John)

We were pleased to find that the fog didn't follow us to San Francisco. The sun was shining as we drove into town and by sunset we were sat at Fisherman's Wharf eating Clam Chowder out of bread bun bowls and watching seals frolic in the water just in front of Alcatraz. The street entertainment was quite unique down there, not the usual jugglers and mime artists. One guy was making the tourists laugh or have heart attacks by pretending to be a bush - he kept jumping out from behind a couple of branches at the side of the road and made alot of people jump out of their skins. Another inventive geezer was making a mint by pushing his dog around in a supermarket trolley. The dog was wearing Elvis style sun glasses. Well wouldn't you pay for a photo of that!? (Jo)

Crossed the Golden Gate and camped up north of town. Next day we had a closer look at the bridge - it's nice an all that, but I don't reckon the Humber's bad either. Let's hear it for Hull. Had a ball down Haight Street, despite the guide book demanding that everyone "just get over it" re the 60's revolution blah blah. We found it full of great clothes, records, nice bars and a crowd of hip young things. Amoeba records has to be the biggest record shop I've ever seen. I was so overwhelmed I was completely unable to buy anything. (John)

Unheard of from the man who cannot leave a 7" of 'Skippy The Bush Kangaroo' in the shop. Before we left San Fran we had to do the obligatory drive down Russian Hill, the crookedest street in the world (apparently). John enjoyed driving up and down all the ridiculously steep streets of San Francisco, but soon he was hankering for some space again, so we headed eastwards out of the city. We ended up in a weird camp ground which was like an American version of Butlins - our introduction to the trailer park. (Jo)

After our night watching Disney's black version of Cinderella starring Whitney & Brandy, and the kids skateboarding in the glare of the vending machines, we hightailed it over to Yosemite National Park - the most popular natural beauty spot in the whole of the US of A. The place was massive and stuffed with big trees, rocks, waterfalls yada yada. We camped up for 2 nights high in the hills surrounded by pine trees, big rocks, and chipmunks - aaaaahh SOOOOO cute (blergh). Did our campfire thing full steam - chili, toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate... needed all the warmth we could get - it was bloody freezing when the sun went down. After our first commune with nature we headed straight to Nevada for a drive across the wide open desert to Utah. You'd hit the brow of a rise, then see an endless straight road disappearing into the heat haze flanked on either side by rugged hills and desert plains. Great stuff. (John)

As we drove into Salt Lake City, Utah, the scenery changed to include vast white salt flats. We stopped to have a look at the lake, but didn't fancy trying to float in the salt water, it stank. The city itself was strange, full of sombre looking, suit wearing, bible wielding Mormons walking around very slowly and purposefully, trying to look earnest and pious. We left before they pounced on us and tried to convert us. Then as we tried to cross the border into Idaho, potential disaster struck. The car battery exploded. No one was hurt, and luckily some friendly helpful locals came to the rescue with a lift to a nearby garage. We got a replacement battery fitted and miraculously we were on our way again within the hour. Praise the Lord!

Cutting across Idaho we then started heading up into cowboy country - Wyoming. We were hoping to catch a rodeo somewhere along the way, but it was off season for buckarooing. Still, we bought ourselves some straw cowboy hats anyway and headed on up to Yellowstone Park in search of Yogi bear. By this time we'd got wise to the National Parks system and bought ourselves a yearly pass to save us some money down the line. Yellowstone seemed even bigger than Yosemite... (Jo)

Yogi & booboo kept their heads down, but there were plenty of other critters to keep us smiling. Yellowstone has a lot going on - geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud (a la New Zealand - seen it all before yada yada), lakes, waterfalls, canyons, creeks, pine forests.... But the best bit is the beast spotting exploits of all the tourists - ourselves included. The first time you see a buffalo up close is fearsome, and the elk with all their 'bugling' (sort of a girly sounding strangled moo) are a spectacle, but the crown goes straight to the grizzly bear. We were heading out of the park on our second day when we met some folk at the side of the road who'd just seen one but it had gone. We headed off, but Jo wanted to go back - on a hunch of female intuition or something I suppose. I reluctantly span the car round, and whadya know - the big fella was back not 30 feet from the side of the road foraging for ants and the forest. We watched the mighty beast for nearly an hour during which time he paid no mind whatsoever to the gathered throng of rubberneckers. The array of camera gear on display wouldn't have been out of place at Paris fashion week.

After Yellowstone we blazed a hot trail across Wyoming to Devil's Tower where we spent the night camped in the shadow of the great rock immortalized in "Close Encounters.." as the spot where they hook up with the ETs. Great place. When we got there it was like a Disney cartoon - we saw chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, owls, deer and prairie dogs within the space of 10 minutes. The prairie dogs are really weird. There was a whole field full of the overgrown hamsters all looking at us and doing their weird yelpy thing. (John)

Passing through Sturgis (a big biker haunt)we then stopped to check out Mount Rushmore. It's a pretty impressive bit of sculpting, but the atmosphere there was a bit too serious and overwhelmingly patriotic. So instead of taking the usual tourist photos of the presidents heads, we took photos of each other sticking our fingers up their noses. Next day we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. The Sioux Indians are working on a mountain sculpture to pay homage to one of their nation's heroes, but it's a long process hacking into the mountain side. At the moment they've just about finished carving the Indian's head, they're still working on the white horse underneath him, but from a distance you can see basic the silhouette of the Chief over the tree tops, pointing out over Indian lands. It'll look really cool when it's finished. Although this may not be in our lifetime. (Jo)

The road out of Rushmore was great - Iron Mountain road - a real prime example of twisty turniness with tunnels, bridges and all sorts. Roared through Custer state park, then bombed it down to Cheyenne the next day. Arrived in a downpour and put our feet up in the Ranger Motel for a bit of R&R after a long while camping out. Mmmm... clean sheets & cable (and a few uninvited flies unfortunately). Bought a few cheap records (yeehah!) before wasting no time getting to the Rocky Mountains down in alpine Colorado. By this time we were pretty much all done with mountains and pine trees so we didn't do a whole lot there. I did chuck a snowball off a mountain though. (John)

Stopped in Denver to take a look at this funky looking mural I'd seen an article on in the paper and when we eventually found it underneath a flyover the artist himself was busy working on extending it. It was such a cool mural, depicting the different kinds of people who have made colorado their home; Cowboys, Indians, Mexicans all wearing 70's style aviator shades which reflected different aspects of the Colorado Countryside. I hope the photos come out OK, it was a wicked piece of work. (Jo)

If you can't take the heat, get back to the Cook Islands, or go to USA part two.

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