I am struggling to find a good analogy for what has happened to my flute. If you use something a lot, you do not notice that it is not performing as well as it could. Decay is slow and goes unremarked.

I have just picked up my flute from the amazing Daniel Deitch.

He has given her a whole body makeover and although she is ~198 years old, she now performs as if she were new. Hats off to the makers, Willis and Goodlad back in the 1820s, such quality, and to Daniel, such craft.

No words

I have only to breathe gently over the sound hole and she jumps into life. Each note is now in tune and even the dreaded low E roll booms out.

A car after a service, a replacement knee, new glasses, shirts with the right collar size, reading Chapman’s Homer?

I struggle. What I am trying to express is something that slowly descends into bad performance, but the descent being unnoticed because of familiarity, suddenly performing at its maximum potential. Such joy! Take up thy bed and walk.

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Not me, but our washing machine. She gave up the ghost on Friday. We have experience with what to do in such crises.

We borrow Topher’s truck again and zoom off to the Marina to pick up the replacement that we tracked down on Craigslist. 

KP, the nice lady who sells us the washer, offers us a brand new gas cooker for free but we don’t really need it. Anyone want a cooker?

New washer acclimatizing in my room prior to installation.
Current state of my room.

We then load the old washer into the truck and take her to the home for old washing machines in the Mission.

James having truck fun.
Doctor Double Rinse wheels her away to her new home.
We have Huevos Rancheros and pulled pork Torta in Mexican place in the Mission. A celebration breakfast.

I take the truck back to Topher, who is off to South Africa, then walk down Clayton, along Haight, down Masonic, across the Panhandle, back to the house. It is a beautiful morning, a beautiful walk through a beautiful part of the city. There is nothing better than loading and unloading washing machines into the bed of a pick up truck on a beautiful morning in San Francisco.

Houses on Clayton.
View down the Panhandle, just outside the house.

A couple of days before, Seika, one of my first colleagues at OIST, shows up.

Seika is wonderful.
Frankie Gavin also shows up.

Frankie “good at playing the fiddle” Gavin
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Cameron, Arizona

As you know, I have been on a 6 week tour including many of the South Western States of the U.S. Throughout I was impressed by the helpfulness, openness and, well, nobility of those whom I encountered. This was particularly true of Government Employees; Park Rangers, Police and Immigration Officers. This all changed in Cameron, Arizona.

As I trundled into this tiny desert town, I noticed the road had changed into a 2 lane. I also noticed a car parked on the hard shoulder with a man leaning against it holding a license plate. There was also an unmarked black saloon with a flashing light on the roof. There were no other vehicles in the vicinity. We were alone in the desert.

A few years ago but you get the idea.

I slowed down to see if the guy needed help but there was clearly no emergency and I trundled on.

3 minutes later there is a siren and a firework display of lights behind me; I am being pulled over. The unmarked black car I had seen is a police car.

Officer C. Carter, badge number 10426, explains to me, after several attempts, as I really do not understand what he is talking about, that I have broken a regulation that if there is an emergency on a road involving, Police, Ambulance, Fire Service then motorists must move over into the outside lane. This is a regulation that no one I have talked to since the incident has ever heard of. He takes my license, insurance, registration back to the unmarked car. He returns some minutes later to inform me that he is serving me a traffic ticket, my second ticket in almost 50 years of driving. A few days later I learn I have to pay a $326 fine.

This incident upset me. Officer C Carter, badge number 10426, had set up a trap for unsuspecting motorists to lure them into breaking the law. His actions were premised on deceit and trickery. I would imagine that they had the sanction of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. There was absolutely no emergency in fact there was probably no-one within a mile of us.

Two of the core values of the Flagstaff Police Department, according to their website, are:

  • We value integrity-we recognize integrity as the basis for mutual respect and trust. 
  • We value service-by providing exemplary service we enhance our credibility and establish trust with the community.

Do not go anywhere near Cameron, Arizona. Stay far away from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. They are completely lacking in integrity and appear to strive to destroy trust.

My offence was, according to the ticket, “Yield-Emergency Vehicle-lane Change Not Adjacent” Do you understand that?

Boo!! This is not the America I love.


The Flagstaff Police Department have pointed out that Officer C Carter does not work for them but for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Therefore references to the Flagstaff Police Department are incorrect.

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This is for you, Baby

I get to the Kezar Bar at 6:15 to watch Scotland play Italy, followed by Ireland versus England.

It is one of the best parties! The place is packed with Irish having the best time, gulping down Guinness and gobbling Full Irish Breakfasts. It is 7:30 in the morning. They are hilarious!

The anticipation of an Irish victory over the Saxon strangers is very high. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really go that way as the English essentially smash them. It gets quiet apart from, “Red card, Ref !!” each time an England player tackles an Irishman.

Oh dear, England 32, Ireland 10.

I am walking/stumbling home on Haight at 10:00 ish in my dirty travel clothes, stinking of Guinness. There is an old black lady leaning against the wall of Amoeba Records, who is having trouble getting a cigarette out of the pack. I think she has Parkinson’s. She finally succeeds, but drops the cigarette on the sidewalk. I pick it up and hand it to her.

“No, baby, you keep that one and wait, here is another.”

I thank her and shuffle off. She calls me back. “This is for you, baby.” handing me a small roll of dollar bills.

Red eyed, filthy clothes, homemade sandals, stinking of booze at 10:00 in the morning; she had every right to think I was homeless.

She was adorable. So Haight St, San Francisco solidarity.

Get a job.

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Country Roads,Take Me Home.

So, I cross over into the USA at Agua Prieta. It is a great place to cross with hardly any waiting. The immigration folks politely ask me to pull over into an inspection area where 3 officers, all women, go through the truck. They are very courteous and businesslike.

After 10 minutes they come back, looking serious, “Sir, we have found contraband in your vehicle.”

Can I make a run for it?

No need to worry as with big grins, they display a potato and a grapefruit. “Sir, I am afraid you will have to leave these items with us.”

I stop for breakfast in Bisbee Arizona.

USA! Won’t someone get me a cheeseburger?

I then take the smallest roads I can to San Francisco.

Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone Arizona.

Tombstone, Globe, Pine, Flagstaff, Page, Cedar City, Caliente, Tonopah, Bishop, Sacramento, San Francisco. Absolutely amazing drive, apart from one incident in Cameron, Arizona, about which more in future post.

The South West is huge and the trusty Tacoma trundled through deserts, snow, forests, lots and lots of old, semi-deserted towns. We only did about 30 miles on Freeway before we hit 80 in Sacramento.

Utah, an hour later.
No gas for 170 miles
Like this for a 150 miles.

I finally approach the Bay Area just as it starts to pour with rain and gets dark. My eyesight is still not terrific and being surrounded by thousands of cars, going 65mph on 6 lane highways was almost as bad as going down the mountain road into Ulrique. I am a country boy now.

We made it! Well done truck! She did not falter once in 5400 miles. I read the BBC web site to find that the UK is facing its coldest night for a decade at – 12C. Ha! We were camping out in – 29C at Horseshoe Bends! Didn’t really realize just how cold it was at the time. Crazy!

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Cheap Hotels

You may think that the biggest disincentive to camping wild in Mexico is the bloodshot-eyed bandito, crazed on loco weed, who loves to dismember Gringos. Actually it is not that, it is the superabundance of cheap hotels.

I would like to add that everyone I have met in Mexico has been charming, helpful and welcoming. I hope Mexico can lose its dangerous brand.

What do I want from a hotel room? It must be clean. The sheets must be clean. There has to be a hot shower. There has to be Wifi. It does not have to look good because I hope to be asleep most of the time I am in it.

I have over the years been in lots of expensive hotels. They are not worth it. You are asleep.

350 pesos
Expensive – 500 pesos but with beautiful gardens.
Federico and Señora Federico in their hotel courtyard. They feed me supper and breakfast and refuse payment.
I think they were making improvements
Not the jolliest, but filled all the criteria mentioned above.

I set off for my last drive in Mexico. I hope to cross the border in early afternoon. The day starts well with a beautiful drive through the amazing Northern Sierras.

Physics of this anyone?

Then suddenly the tarmac road stops. This is a complete surprise. Within 2 kms there are six junctions with no signs. I spend the next 6 hours battering my way up a very poor dirt road. Once again I have no idea if I am on the right road, other than my iPhone compass telling me I am headed vaguely North. I actually knew that from looking at the sun but thanks anyway Apple.

Well done truck.

It is a very exhausting drive with river crossings, steep grades, terrible drops into canyons. I rarely make it to 3rd gear in 6 hours and a lot of the really bad stuff is done in low ratios. The truck is amazing.

It starts to get dark and I realize I will have to camp out somewhere amongst the bloodshot-eyed banditos. Next thing I know I hit tarmac, then I am in Agua Prieta! What is this I see before me? Yay! A cheap hotel.

3oo pesos!

It is fitting that my last drive in Mexico should be very seriously off-road and that my last night should be spent in a very cheap hotel.

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Mexico is the best place to get lost, or perhaps the adjective should be the easiest. There are very few road signs, indeed sometimes at very important junctions, they are non existent. I am gently heading North back to the States. A kind man gave me a map of Mexico, which has done wonders for my wellness.

The last leg. Follow the yellow brick road. Click on image to get full detail.

I leave from Rosario de Tezopaco headed for Monteczuma. Looks straightforward on the map but it is not. It is wild mountain country that is devoid of traffic. This is great as you can trundle along at low speed enjoying the views.

More miles and miles of Mexico

Suddenly, you come to a T junction with no sign post. The map is useless and there is no phone signal, ergo no Google Maps, you turn right. A few kms on you come to another T Junction, you turn left. After an hour or so of this you have absolutely no idea of where you are or if you are vaguely headed in the right direction .

I stop the truck and wait. 10 minutes later another truck comes by which I flag down.

“Hola. Donde es Sahuaripa?” He points in both directions.

Anyway, I finally get there but cannot get out, as there are no signs to next destination, Monteczuma. I drive round and round the washed out town on dirt roads. I stop and ask a policeman.

I am not sure that this was the best decision as he gets on his radio and in a couple of minutes, two other police turn up in a big truck. How will I stand up to torture? They turn out to be the best guys and want to escort me out of town.

Pablo on left and Antonio on right.

Off we go with me following Police truck through a total maze of back streets.

The High Road to Monteczuma
The policeman with the black balaclava over his head, gives me the thumbs up.

Thank you Policia Municipal of Sahuaripa, I will vote for you.

I have not spoken about the actual drive so careworn was I as to where the hell I was. Mexico is huge! On the smaller roads there is no traffic at all, you are lucky to see another vehicle every 20 mins. You will see many more people on horses. The scenery is very big.

Stopping in the middle of the road is not a problem. You could have a picnic

I make it to Monteczuma and eat tacos!

Tacos de tripas!
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