THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
California steaming
Four hundred miles of real nothing on the way to nothing real

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die


Heading towards the Sierra Nevada
Chester, CA. Where are the Rows?
Lake Almanor
I have seen signs like this in many places. Americans respect their armed forces.
Having lunched in Chester, Speranza waits while I lunch in Susanville
The eponymous woman
Tomorrow's weather. Time to move on!
Well actually I didn't. I had planned to do so, with my camera of course, so that I could use that title. It's a reference as most of you will surely have recognised to Johnny Cash's classic "Folsom Prison Blues." When I got to Reno, however, I felt fresh and alert so I decided to shoot through instead and press on towards my next "big" destination - the Grand Canyon.

I had a great run on California State Highway 36 towards Nevada. I passed through Chester, CA. In fact I stopped to refuel there. The nice Indian lady in the gas station had no trace of an American accent. She sounded, as have other Indians I have met here, just like Indians in Britain. This briefly made me feel at home. Until, that is, she showed no interest in my banter about coming from the original Chester. She either didn't know there was one, or didn't care.

California's Chester is - to be polite - an unassuming town. On the other hand it stands on a spectacularly beautiful lake. It also has an "Air attack base". The last time the original Chester was in possession of such impressive-sounding capabilities was when it was the base of the XXth Legion. Actually the "attack" in question is on wildfires so the base is not air force, but park service. Still, it sounds good. And I had plenty of time to look at it as there were extensive roadworks on the approaches to town. Speranza was so low on gas at that stage I feared she might use it idling as we waited.

I stopped for lunch in Susanville, CA. One of my sisters is a Susan, so this amused me. There was a delightful Italian (ish) cafe on Main Street, where I was able to enjoy my first real espresso outside a major US city. This was such a delight that I ordered a second, which led to looks of concern for my health. I also had quite a good salad, having tired of the relentless carbs of the chain restaurants and their effect on my waistline.

I was personally greeted by the City Administrator and a councilman who came over to welcome me (or, in truth, Speranza) to town, saying there had never been a Ferrari there before. They also told me the town used to have a "Susans Day", in honour of the founder's daughter for whom it was named. There is a Janesville nearby, which led me to wonder if the founder had two daughters and set up a town for each. I didn't think to ask the Susanville dignitaries that and Wikipedia offers no help.

I bought a postcard and sought out the Post Office to stamp and mail it. On the way back I spotted an old-fashioned barber shop and thought I should take the chance to tidy myself up a bit. A lady reader messaged me recently on Facebook to say I was looking scruffy in the blog photos and I can take a hint as well as the next blogger.

The barber was fast asleep in his chair and woke reluctantly. Despite my best attempts at conversation (I know his marital status, how many children and grandchildren he has, where he's from and where he's going to retire, but he showed no reciprocal interest) he was probably back asleep again within 15 minutes. I have never had my hair cut so quickly. Checking the mirror in my hotel room tonight, I wonder if he ever actually woke up at all! Still, it was an (inexpensive) experience and Kevin in London can sort it out next month. I can hear him tutting already.

From the sleep-disordered barber of Susanville, I proceeded directly to Nevada, where his two daughters and one son live, as do his ex-wife (from whom he fled to California) and ten grandchildren. He plans to retire there one day, no doubt to recover from his life's exertions with a good long doze.

As the road ahead leads to more remote places than I have ventured so far, I queried the satnav for upcoming accomodation after passing Reno. There was a cluster of hotels 40-something miles ahead and another 80-something, so I decided to stop at the first place, Fallon, NV. That is where I shall lay my head tonight in the Holiday Inn Express.

I learned from yesterday's over-exposure to heat and drove the whole day in air-conditioned comfort. In consequence I arrived here feeling a lot chirpier than I did at my hotel last night. I suspect the roof will stay up now until the extreme heat of the desert regions is behind me. That should give my sunburned nose chance to recover too.