I'm back safely in Australia now, negotiating the final jet-lag and reintegration to regular life that comes after trips (boo for that). So, for the final blog in my USA research trip series, I thought I'd do a whimsical and quick list of outtakes (embarrassing moments, gaffes, and hairy situations mostly exempted from the other blogs) and superlatives. Here goes.
Most embarrassing moment
The walk from the hire car drop-off to the airport terminal in Nashville is a fair way. It involves lifts, and road crossings. I passed a lot of people on that walk. Of course, when I dropped off the hire car, the last thing I did was to reorganise my bags (read: frantically opening compartments, stuffing in junk that had spread through the car, and hauling out stuff I wanted in my carry-on), in preparation for check-in. It was only when I got to a seat inside the terminal and looked down that I realised I'd left a zip open on my bag. On a pocket that faced down. The pocket where I'd put my underwear. So, of course, all the contents were merrily showing themselves. I'm surprised there wasn't a marked trail of underpants along my route. So, note to self: check all bag pockets are closed, unless you want all of Nashville International Airport to know you have leopard print underpants and a purple G-string.
Most expensive mistake
Taking Uber from Manhattan to JFK airport. It's close to USD100, and it took over 1.5 hours. Pile up on the freeway, which seems a regular occurrence. While actually on the Uber ride, I learned about the AirTrain, which costs $7.75 ($5 for the airport, and $2.75 for the subway connection), and would have taken an hour. That one hurt, especially as it was a very near thing me making the flight at all. Note to self: always investigate mass transit.
Catching the car hire company overcharging me USD200. When you drop a car off at a different location to the one you hired at, they charge you a one-way fee, which is pretty hefty (USD500, and that was a cheap one). That's enough hurt on its own. But the company tried to charge USD700, and were really (politely) insistent until I pulled out all the paperwork. Note: always bring paperwork with all charges highlighted!
Most unexpected awesomeness
Being given a fresh first edition copy of Michael Crichton's next (probably last) book Dragon Teeth, while in the New York office of my US publisher. Note to self: always indulge in fangirl moments. Sometimes good things come!
As runner-up, the historical site park by the Arkansas River in Fort Smith. Really lovely in the twilight. Note to self: always go to the places that are not accessible on Google street view. They are invariably completely different than imagined.
For a few seconds I thought I had turned down a freeway off-ramp (somewhere in Texas). I saw a sign that said "wrong way go back", and a big truck coming towards me. It actually wasn't. I was on the right road, and the off-ramp (with oncoming truck) was actually alongside. The "Wrong Way Go Back" sign was a tad too rotated towards me. Did a great job of scaring me half to death though. I don't know what the note to self is here ... trust self more, maybe.
Times Square. Not really a square. Bright, garish, loud and congested. Lots of hustlers. Note: not worth it.
Best food moment
Tie between The Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis (best ribs) and Prince Street Pizza in New York City, which was a random find one night. I had one slice. I should have had two. It was crispy but chewy, tomato-y and cheesy and yum. Will go again next time I'm there.
The enormous fishing/hunting store inside the Memphis Pyramid, complete with floating boats on a lake, a cabin-style hotel, and towering ceilings. Incongruous but weirdly amazing.
That's it! I'm still processing everything I learned and absorbed during the 3200 km drive and the last leg in New York. It was quite the Odyssey. Next month I will begin editing the book all this informs and hopefully by then it will all make a bit more sense.