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The Jaunts of Jon-Jon
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Chic in Chicago 
By Jon S Jones (Jon-Jon) 21.06.16

As we approached Chicago along the skyway you could see majestic skyscrapers lining the lakeshore giving the unmistakeable impression of a major American City. Having only visited New York, I wondered if every American City would just seem mediocre in comparison, you know like at least make an effort. In New York I had heard whisperings that some people prefer Chicago to The Big Apple, at the time it had me puzzled. Chicago has a big city feel but here’s the thing - you can move.


There was room, room to walk on the sidewalks, room in the bars, room in the restaurants. It was not a ghost town, far from it, Chicago is just more chilled. It was pleasant, you could stroll, you could visit, you could stop and take in your surroundings, it felt like you could bring a picnic despite it being a huge city. It wasn’t that humid either due to being on a Great Lake. When I was in New York I sweated so much that I felt personally responsible every time a thunderstorm erupted.



I got off the bus with more bones cracking than a 16 year old kid in his first year of Parkour and hailed a cab. I like to leave a big tip when I first arrive in a new city/country, share my excitement at visiting somewhere new I suppose. As we pulled up to my destination my fare was about five bucks I gave him ten dollars and said keep the change. Well he wasn’t just over the moon, he was over Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto as well. ‘Are you sure this the right hotel sir I can pop in and check if you like? Need a hand with your luggage sir? Are your shoes dirty? Have you left a light on back in England I will fly over there and turn it off for you if you like?’



What he failed to realize was that I knew it was a good tip (it should have been one dollar), but I was in a good mood, I had also memorized the quickest route and map beforehand so I knew that he had not taken any ‘longcuts’ as it were. 



One of the first things on my list to do was to get a pizza, I am of course referring to a Chicago Deep Pan Pizza so after a five hour kip to recover from the bus journey. I went to one of the famous pizza parlour’s and requested a table for one – ‘a table for one?’ the hostess replied as if I had just asked whether they served kitten and baby seal pie. ‘Uh, no it’ll be an hour and a half wait.’  



Travelling abroad you tend to notice the subtle nuances in things like certain things taste slightly different for example Orange Fanta actually tastes like orange. Packaging, plugs, pylons and roads are all slightly different but why do toilet doors have a gap the size of the Grand Canyon?



I approached a cubicle, innocently pulling on the door but it was locked, as I gazed upward I was greeted by the sight of a man in labour as it were. The look on the poor man’s face as he realized his most private of activities was now on full public display was nothing short of traumatizing. Is this just bad carpentry or does somebody somewhere think watching people wiping their own backsides is something that people want when they enter a public convenience.

  
Now we can all assume they have done this to deter people from using drugs in the toilet. Deterrents are good but not when I have to be put on public display for an immensely personal show that would make late night Amsterdam blush!



The Winding Road to the Windy City
By Jon S Jones (Jon-Jon) 16.05.16

I eagerly boarded a coach for my journey from Toronto to Chicago. As a tall person and someone who has joint problems I was looking forward to this, after all in Canada and the US companies specialize in coach travel across alarmingly long distances. I was expectant of comfortable seats, with enough legroom to do the Can-Can should the urge strike you and a whole host of other luxurious amenities. I sat down and immediately gave myself two black eyes as my kneecaps forced my eyeballs through the back of my skull.


Stepping on the coach was like quantum leaping back to 1983 with an outdated and shoddy interior. There were plugs on the seat in front of you at face height, so if there is a crash you have the privilege of snogging 240 volts (ok 120 stateside but 240 sounds better) but worse than that with one well aimed sneeze you could blow up the entire bus.



I sat in Detroit waiting for the coach to depart as it was delayed, hardcore rave/techno music started blaring out of the speakers. Please understand that this was seven in the morning, we had been driving all night having left Toronto in the small hours with me only gaining about an hour’s sleep and even that was in three twenty minute snatches. Why did they decide to do this, was it some perverse pleasure at your being able to do nothing about it? Was there going to be some sort of bribe involving an extraordinarily large tip or was the driver so sleepy that he needed to play a variety of car alarms to keep him awake. Either way this audio irritant was the last thing I needed after a night of no sleep rattling down the road in The Mystery Machine (The mystery being who would want to ride 13 hours in a vehicle this crap!)



One of the things that is good about taking the bus is the random places you see and even stop at. You get to visit some of small town America and Canada as well as big cities. Detroit was not top of my list of travelling destinations but I was still glad I went. It looked just like you expect, it appeared to be run down, slightly impoverished yet fascinating at the same time. Although I suspect this was enhanced by the fact that at every turn I expected Robocop to come walking around the corner.



The importance of these visits is that you explore places you would not ordinarily go, unless you had friends or family living there. The next place I explored was a huge truck stop. When I was a kid my father was a truck driver when so I have always had a little fascination by them. We were told we could all get off but would have to be back on the bus by a set time. Well all this was terribly exciting, it was just like being on a school trip. I started wondering who was going to be first to get caught smoking in the toilets. The truck stop served greasy hot food, had a large convenience store for your convenience as well as conveniences for your natural convenience – so all in all, quite convenient.



After gawking at the huge row of trucks lined up side by side like a scene from Smokey and the Bandit 2 and with chin’s messier than most garbage chutes we boarded the bus again, I departed* with the feeling that I had seen some of the real America –a truck stop.



Finally with a back harder than that of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle we arrived in Chicago – what did I think of the windy city? Well that’s another story.


*The bus left I didn’t die.
###


Trip to Toronto
By Jon S Jones (Jon-Jon) 10.05.16

The first thing I noticed was the amount of condo’s, there were condo’s everywhere, the city might as well be called For-a-condo!
As we drove down lakeshore the true magnificence of the city was revealed. Lake Ontario hugged the shoreline of shiny skyscrapers all of which were outdone by the CN tower. This filled me with a fervid excitement as the tower is where I was headed. We found parking in the Rogers Centre and emerged into a city centre engulfed by Blue Jay signs. I was surprised they actually added a pleasant vibrancy to the area. The buildings also seemed to have a nicer variety than most cities.

The entrance was under construction, which was fine with me as long as they weren’t repairing a huge crack running up the entire tower. We came upon a sign warning us we would have to go through a metal detector before entering. ‘Standard fare’ I thought until I saw the sign stating what we should/should not remove from our being. I was astounded to read on the sign please remove knives from your pocket before going through. Remove Knives! Who’s carrying a knife around with them sightseeing in a city centre? What next - please also remove any pocket held surface to air missiles as they tend to interfere with the electrics!

There are two viewing platforms in the CN Tower, the main one or for an extra 12 bucks you can gain entrance to the SkyPod which is a small viewing platform even higher up. (The cashier was alarmed when she saw me approaching with a herd of particularly large stags. We had a vicious verbal altercation as I pointed out the sign said 12 Bucks and that is what I had brought. After making peace over a barbecue she had the cheek to offer me eight legs of Venison for $150, I declined explaining that is too dear!)

The lift going up really impressed me the doors were glass so you gaze out on your way up. It is true that the little things make a difference, I was mesmerized like a dog out of a car window. (That strip running up the side of the tower are windows in case you were wondering.)

The first and lower viewing platform was pretty much as you would expect, but the thing that scored uber amounts of bonus points was the view, not the city per se but Toronto Island. 

It is a small island literally just off the shore, but it has an airport on it. You look down to see a runway in the middle of the aqua blue water with planes taking off and landing. It was like having your own model airport. Remember when you were young and you visited a trainset, with model tunnels, stations, towns, mountains and working lights? Well it was just like that, I found myself doing the dog out of the car window thing again, I could have sat there all day watching them, although that would have been a bit weird as there were no chairs.

There was a glass floor you could walk on essentially leaving nothing but superheated sand between you and instant death. I walked up to it as cocky as you like, but they had some kind of safety device that stopped you from treading onto the glass. It was a bit strange as plenty of other people were milling about on it
looking like someone on a frozen pond in an episode of You’ve Been Framed or Funniest Home Videos. I looked around to see what this device was and realized to my horror and amazement that this device was in fact my brain. Had I just grown feathered wings, a beak and giblets? I was no chicken!!! With all might I forced my foot on to it and ventured out onto the glass walking as if I had lead filled shoes. Forcing myself to look down I noticed that I was directly above the aquarium, well if I do fall through at least I get free entry!

The SkyPod is the Egg Shaped Pod
After forcing myself to walk around the glass until I had conquered my fear I ventured up to the Sky Pod. This involved climbing in to what could best be described as a dingy freight elevator but as I was informed it is the highest viewing platform in the western hemisphere it made it worthwhile in my opinion, another little tick on the list. The sky pod is essentially a smaller version of the floor below except for two things, the windows were tilted outwards which made a huge difference (especially for photographs) and I discovered that by pushing and pulling the safety railing I could very slightly move the whole tower. At least in my mind I am sure I could, someone said it was the elevator, whatever it was definitely brown trousers time.

You do get a sense of being high up as the Sky Pod is small, but the viewing platform was so much better than below as well as being tilted at an angle they were was also no tint on the windows. This made all the difference and the views of the airport …

###

The Day Before
By Jon S Jones (Jon-Jon) 01.05.16
 
Unusually for me I decided to stay in a hotel at Heathrow airport before my departure. Entering the room I knew I was onto a winner, the TV was big, situated on a swivel arm so you could put it in various amusing positions that serve absolutely no point whatsoever. Despite being a single room the bed was just shy of a double, there was also a Kettle and a nice desk with a shiny mirror to endlessly adore myself in.

Why is it after teasing you with such comforts they start to reveal the nasty little surprises and I am not referring to the obligatory restaurant that asks for £48,000000 for a bowl of pasta. Airports are expensive we all know that, but airport hotels are so expensive they invent their own currency, ‘So two bits of toast and a cup of coffee, that’ll be £249.99 but we only accept £250 notes!’

After deciding to give the ridiculously expensive offer a miss I trundled off to a local take away and wolfed down a meal that tasted like it was scraped straight off the runway. (I wonder if road kill tastes different depending on what it was run over by, if so Jumbo flattened hedgehog is probably gourmet.)

My mood was undeterred though as I headed back to my room to chill out and watch a film, so I turned on the tv and flicked through channels 1 ... 2 ... 3... 28 ... 43 ... 1 ... 2 ... ‘Hang on a minute where are the other channels, you can’t take the bloomin’ freeview tv channels away.’ I yelled in complete umbrage. It’s
outrageous, any channel where there was even the slightest chance of a film had been taken away from you, they even took away ITV4! I sat there scratching my head and looking all forlorn like a small child who has just dropped his ice cream in a pile of dog poo and to add insult to injury it now looks like he had a flake and nuts!

‘That’s ok I have my laptop.’ I thought to myself eagerly connecting to the internet. I was greeted by at least ten different options from super slow to insanely fast for a myriad of prices, there were more choices than the take away I was at earlier. I selected the free option which is essentially provide your own and listened with resignation as my laptop coughed the word ‘loser’ at me. After discovering that any website with an advert on would take longer to load than my flight to Australia I reverted back to the TV having decided that I was too tired to read.
 
That is when I had an epiphany – Upon discovering that you can rent movies from the hotel via the TV I realised that the channels that have potential to show films are missing so you will rent one of theirs. That is the dirtiest low down trick I have ever witnessed. I mean the absolute gall to take away freeview who do they think they are? Heathrow airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and we are supposed to believe that they are so hard up that they have to resort to exhortative tactics. It was like something out of the movie Saw. 

'You wanna play a game?'
'The TV in front you only has seven channels, you have 90 seconds to find a film that anybody in the entire universe would want to watch, if you fail you will be forced to sell your house in order to rent one.'

Ok I have had my rant, overall it was great idea to get to the airport the night before, have time to relax and think about my impending journey (foregoing my previous points of course). Next time I fly out of Heathrow I will definitely book a hotel, but take my own dvd collection, router, server, oh and a collection of roadkill!

###

 40 Years Forward


My first blog, my first post, my first sentence, my first joke! After 40 years I have decided to go travelling to Canada, America and Australia. Describing myself as a backpacker would be cheating since I will be staying with friends and family but, fun, frolics and observations await, of that I am sure.


Taking a bus across America conjures up thoughts of a man the size of a fork lift truck falling asleep on my shoulder, snoring like the inside of a tornado, whilst the pack of half eaten digestive biscuits lodged in his great big beard gradually descend to my shoulder, accompanied by copious amounts of drool. Finally I look round to discover that my entire left side is covered in porridge!


Join me as I confirm the truth of such ridiculous statements and cross the globe on my first time out of the country for more than three weeks whilst taking in the lifestyle, sights and culture of all three countries.