The ELP Roadtrip - Joey's Story

Photos By Ross Procter, Erik Iversen, & George Ellis

Day One - May 11th
Calgary, AB

At a little after 2 in the afternoon, my doorbell rings. I open the door, and there's this seedy-looking fellow in a long coat, grey hat, smoking a cigarette. Actually that's not true - it was just George Ellis, wearing nothing more intimidating than a Gary Numan Exile concert t-shirt (from the European tour of course). He's grinning like the cat that ate the canary, no doubt because he's just so happy about being in Canada. Or not.

George has been in North America for about a week and a half. He's flown to San Francisco from his native Munich (that's Germany, for those of you in Rio Linda) and rented a car there. He's spent the intervening time cruising around the western US, exploring Nevada, Utah, Montana, and various other points. He's even brought some of Nevada with him, in the form of dust and grit in the fuel-door of the car. :-)

And now he's arrived in Calgary. The plan is to pick up myself and my friend, the non-Numanoid Ross Procter, and to hit the road doing some sightseeing and (of course) to see Gary play live.

Ross arrives shortly after, introductions are made, and then George and I head up to the airport to visit the good people at Dollar Rent-A-Car to have me added as a second driver on the car rental agreement - we've got a LOT of driving ahead of us and it makes sense to be able to split the driving chores.

After we get back, we hang around a while, listening to tunes, shooting some pool on my basement table, then heading down to the Mission Bridge Brewing Company for a few brewskis. George seems satisfied with the quality of the beer but doesn't offer any superlatives - given the fact that his country makes the best beer in the world, I guess he was just bein' diplomatic. :-) From there we detour up to the Crowfoot Plaza movie theatre and catch "Deep Impact", a terrible, terrible film - don't waste your money.

We got home, we hit the sack, and we're up bright and early for Day Two.

Day Two - May 12th
Calgary, AB
Lake Louise, AB
Spokane, WA

We cram the car full of stuff and rearrange everything so that there's room for the three of us. George is like me: his stuff expands to fill all available space, and we had to shuffle some of it. We stop off at a 7-11 on the edge of town to stock up on essentials (ie: junk food and gas) plus some ice for the cooler, which I inadvertently broke when I failed to realize that 30 pounds of water, ice, and sundry foods and beverages cannot be lifted by simply gripping the sides of the flimsy styrofoam container it's in. This was fixed by a fast application of glue, which later melted the styrofoam. Yep, off to a good start.

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Photos By Walter Procter

Three Intrepid Explorers

Ross With Essential Supplies

An hour and a half later we're at the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The hotel itself is impressive, but our main purpose for being here is to hike up the mountain to the teahouse, about 6 kilometers up. Along the way we discover that I'm not in the best of shape, no doubt from smoking too much. We also discover that Ross is in even worse shape, which is less easy to understand cuz he doesn't smoke. Sits on his ass a lot though. :-) Along the way, we (literally) bump into a group of German tourists, who George tells us later are from a part of Germany that everyone else in Germany makes fun of. In fact, we were to run into a NUMBER of people from this same region throughout our trip.

I've promised George that the view from the teahouse of Lake Louise itself is spectacular, but oddly enough we never do see this view. The climb itself was fun, and though we can't see Lake Louise, we've got a lot of stunning natural beauty around us - enough to burn up at least a half a roll of film in the camera. We stop at the teahouse for a smoke-break, then head down. I found out after I returned that there's another teahouse further up the trail and it is from there that the view of the Lake is so breathtaking. It'd been a while since I'd been up there and thus had forgotten. OH WELL!

We get back in the car, George has a quick bowl of cereal, and now we're on the road again for what turns out to be one of the longest continuous legs of driving on our trip - straight south through the Rockies down into Idaho. We stop off in Invermere for a quick bite at Subway, with Ross and I choosing sandwiches that George would later regret - indeed, the windows on later days were rolled down often.

As we approached the Idaho border, George gets concerned. It seems that when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport, he was given a green card to tuck into his passport. This card kept falling out, so he had put it into the glovebox so that he wouldn't lose it. Well, this glovebox earned the nickname "The Black Hole" because this was the first of several things that disappeared from it. We spent an anxious 15 minutes on the side of the road just before the border crossing, turning the car upside down trying to find this document. No dice. So, caps in hand, we drive up to the border crossing.

Imagine yourself as the border guard. A brand-new car with California plates drives up to your gate, from the Canadian side. Some German guy is driving and his papers are not in order, and he's got two Canadian passengers, one of which admits to having a criminal record (and for the record, that's me - a minor fine for "Mischief" I got several years ago when young and foolish). Are you gonna just wave 'em through? I think not.

About 45 minutes later they finally let us go, but you can tell by the looks on their faces that they wished they'd found SOME valid reason to keep us there. We stop off in Bonner's Ferry for some gas, smokes (American smokes are WAY better than our crappy Canadian ones), and cash from the ATM. I have a bad moment as I discover my TD Bank Visa is not being honoured - turns out that they were having some temporary network problems and the card worked fine later, but at the time I'm worried. I get some cash out of my Royal Bank Visa but this one has a much lower limit, which is why I'm worried.

By the time we reach Couer D'Alene, we're in darkness and it's raining, making for some rather entertaining driving conditions. We decide to press on to Spokane so that we'll be that much closer to Mount St. Helens, our first stop the next day. I make a pitstop at a roadside turnout which has public toilets, and run into something I'd not seen before: a public toilet with no inside door. Can't figure that one, but it makes me rather nervous - I'd sure hate to be sittin' on the can when someone walked by.

We cross the border and immediately discover that the Washington state road budget is higher than that in Idaho - we had resigned ourselves to American roads being like corduroy, but things immediately smoothed out on the Washington side of the I-90. Alas, this was not to last - generally speaking, most of the American roads we travelled on throughout our journey were extremely rough, even those in outwardly-good repair. We pull into the Motel 6 in Spokane, sign in, and get some much-needed sleep - it's been a long day.

Day Three - May 13th
Spokane, WA
Mount St. Helens, WA
Tacoma, WA

When planning our trip, we basically decided that we had certain points we had to hit, and certain others that we could hit or not hit, deciding as we went just what we'd do. Spokane was chosen for our resting stop mainly because Ross and I have been watching Spokane local TV stations since we were kids: we get them on our local cable TV feed. After checking out of the motel, we head downtown for probably the worst breakfast either of us have ever experienced. (Mental Note: stay away from Spokane-area Burger Kings - the food is pretty much inedible.) We then head over to Riverfront Park, site of Expo '74. We walk around for an hour and see some *REALLY* impressive waterfalls, and of course visit Canada Island - as you know, I'm a flag-waving kinda guy who loves his country and seeing a Canadian flag here kinda gave me a lump in my throat.

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Photos By Ross Procter

Approaching Riverfront Park

George & Joey At Riverfront Park

Waterfalls At Riverfront Park

Back on the road, I discover that my piece-of-junk Cantel Digital PCS phone actually works fairly well in Washington - AT&T knows their stuff. I make a quick call back to Canada, assuring my mother that we haven't yet been raped, mugged, or killed. The drive to the general area of Mount St. Helens is fairly uneventful, although we made sure to stop off and get a photo of George standing in front of a roadsign indicating that "George" is only 1 mile ahead. Once we get near Mount St. Helens, we wind up on some very entertaining narrow roads - why the hell can't they put these major tourist sites in convenient locations? :-) The drive up is amazing - we're driving through some towering forests that, only 17 years ago, were completely destroyed. Careful observation reveals too many deciduous trees and too many tall trunks with no branches. Another 50 years from now and even these will be gone.

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Photos By Ross Procter

Approaching Mount St. Helens

Approaching Mount St. Helens

Approaching Mount St. Helens

As we approach the top, we encounter a road crew that is apparently repairing a bridge. We're advised to go no further, as the road ahead is closed due to snow removal. Oh, great - thanks, lady. Sure woulda been nice if we'd learned this DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FUCKING MOUNTAIN!!! Oh well, it's been fun anyways, so off to Tacoma we go, with George more determined than ever to FINALLY get a glimpse of this accursed mountain (this is the second time he's been thwarted).

Because our time at Mount St. Helens has been cut short, we arrive in the Tacoma area rather earlier than we'd planned, but hell - we're tired, may as well grab a bite to eat and spend an evening watching the free HBO the Motel 6 provides. We head across the I-5 to Burger King, and this time they manage to provide a meal that actually tastes nothing like masking tape. I pit for some more of those weird green American bills from the ATM, and we head back to the Motel for some TV. After about half an hour of this, I get bored, and suggest to Ross that we go "scout out the land" in preparation for our next day's activity. This requires some explanation.

The reason we're here is that we want to see the Boeing tour. Ross is an aviation nut and I've got an interest in it too. We've been told that this tour takes place at Renton Field. Unbeknownst to us, we've been greatly misinformed. Anyways, George is tired so we tell him that we'll just go take half an hour to check out exactly where the place is (easier to do this now than during rush-hour traffic the next morning) and investigate things like parking, ticket availability, etc.

Sure enough, we find Renton Field. Yes, they build airplanes there, namely 737's and 757's. But no, there's no tour. The security guard thinks that we'd have better luck up at the Boeing plant in Everett. So off to Everett we go, and get *ROYALLY* lost. (Mental Note: write letter to Washington state road authority, request BETTER FUCKING ROAD SIGNS THAT DON'T SEND YOU OFF IN THE WRONG FUCKING DIRECTION!) Eventually we find it, and hey: it's right off the I-5, easy to find from our motel. So we jump back on the I-5 and head back, and quickly find out that our meanderings have brought us more than 60 miles away. By the time we get back, our half-hour trip has turned into 3.5 hours and George is wondering if we're dead. Worse: I'd left my cellphone in the motel and it had rung several times. He thought it might be us trying to call him but he didn't know how to answer it. (Mental Note: write letter to cellphone makers, ask them why the hell the ANSWER button is labelled SEND on nearly every fucking cellphone!) But, we're safe and sound, so let's get some sleep.

Day Four - May 14th
Tacoma, WA
Everett, WA
Vancouver, BC

We wake up late but still manage to check out and be at Everett by 8:15am. We're worried because we've been told to expect long lines, but there's not many people there waiting for the 8:30am opening of the doors. Indeed, it's not yet tourist season and there are lots of unused tickets this day (which are free of charge). We spend half an hour in the tourist lobby checking out the exhibits, then we're bundled into the theatre where we watch a 20-minute company propaganda film extolling the virtues of Boeing, its founders, and its wonderfully versatile aircraft. For reasons unknown, they didn't mention anything about any wiring problems on 737's. Oh well.

Next, we're bused across the road to an immense work area. This is where the aircraft are painted, tested, and made ready for delivery, and if I remember correctly they bolt on the engines here too. Rather a cool sight, actually - all these brand new aircraft just itching to take to the skies. I noticed one 767 that was painted in Aeroflot colours - glad to see they're buying REAL aircraft these days instead of that Tupolev shit.

Then they bus us back to the main assembly plant, which we're told is the world's largest building by volume. And it is indeed impressive - I don't recommend this tour for agorophobics. The tour takes place on a raised platform at the approximate centre of the plant - from here, you can walk around and see everything that's going on. We've been warned not to bring along purses, cameras, and the like - not for security purposes, but because of FOD. FOD is Foreign Object Damage, and costs the airline industry about $4 billion a year. They're worried about us dropping our cameras onto a wing or something. One smart-ass in the tour group pretends to "hock a loogy" onto one of the planes, and earns a stern lecture on how "we take these things seriously around here, son."

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Inside The Assembly Plant

Outside The Assembly Plant

Admission Ticket

And then it's over. A cool tour, to be sure, but rather anticlimactic really because you're seeing everything from so far away. We jump back in the car, get on the I-5 northbound, and aim for Vancouver. It's at this point I realize I've lost my portable CD player. It's either back in the room at the Motel 6 (yet both George and I seperately searched the room prior to departure to make sure we DIDN'T leave anything behind), or else I left the damned thing on the roof of the car somewhere - I've done this stupid thing before. We search the car and it fails to turn up. In fact, we never did find the thing. I still haven't decided if losing the CD torques me more, or losing the Tragically Hip CD ("Fully Completely") that was inside it.

We stop briefly at the border town of Blaine to get some cheap gas (BC prices are astronomical), then cruise into Vancouver and head straight for the Hostel, which is where we're staying for the night. There we meet with my friend Mike Sugimoto, who's going to join us for tonight's concert and, it turns out, spend the night at the Hostel as well. Bizarrely, while inside checking in, he gets TICKETED for parking illegally in the Hostel's parking lot. Can't figure that one out.

We leave our car there (after paying for our own parking of course) and jump into Mike's vehicle, and he gives us the $5 tour of Vancouver. Apparently, the city planners here have never heard of the concept of a "left-turn lane" and traffic just crawls along. George wants to go for dinner in Chinatown, so we locate (after a long search) a suitable restaurant, then spend another ten minutes finding some parking. During our search, we cruise through some of the seediest neighborhoods Vancouver has to offer - on one street, we spot two prostitutes. The first looks dazed and confused, the other looks like she's high on speed - her eyeballs are practically leaping out of her head.

We park, we go into the restaurant, we eat. Greasy. Very very greasy. George is plainly disappointed. I didn't mind the food, I was just pissed that there was no smoking section. After I finish I step outside for a quick smoke, my last cigarette. Two different guys begged me for that smoke, one even before I had the damned thing lit. I was also asked if I wanted to score some pot, and another guy asked me if I knew where he could score some. The first guy was still nearby so I just pointed in his direction - thinking back on it, I should have demanded a percentage of the deal.

And now it's time to head over to the Rose And Thorne, the designated pre-concert meeting place. The place is PACKED, but within 30 seconds I'm spotted by some Numanoids cuz I'm wearing my Calgary Flames jersey that says "Gary Numan 96" on the back - it rather stands out in a crowd. We eventually find a table and all sit down, chatting up a storm about how the tour's going, the positive press Gary's getting, etc. Many of these people have never had the opportunity to see Gary play live, which makes me feel somewhat like "the old hand". And because of the Numan site I author, and the affiliated Tour Page that I set up for this tour, I find myself in the position of resident celebrity, constantly shaking hands with people who're thanking me profusely for the work I've done, which is kinda embarrasing. :-)

The excitement builds and builds, until finally it's time to head over to the venue, which is just a few blocks away. Mike and I stop off at the car and change into more appropriate concert-going attire (Mike goes for an all-black motif that looks really good WITHOUT looking goth). We arrive at the doors and there's a few people lined up already. Lemme tell ya: you ain't seen ugly until you've seen a goth cross-dresser. Zowie. The line builds up behind us, and several people move up and down the line asking if anyone has an extra ticket. I had one, and moved it within seconds of arriving. Lots of nervous chit-chat in the line - there's a feeling of disbelief in the air, we simply can't believe that we're standing in line to see Gary Numan. Here. In Vancouver. Unbelievable. And then the doors open.

George, Mike, and several Numanoids from the Rose And Thorne (I'm sorry I don't remember a lot of the names, but there was one guy named Ben who stuck with us the whole evening) rush to the front of the stage and stake out our positions. I'm then dispatched for the first round of drinks, while Ross and Mike opt for a table seat near the back, next to the Numan merchandise sales table. After distributing drinks, I decide to make the rounds, and again am stopped every few feet by Numanoids who recognize me from my web site. By now I'm more into the spirit of things and try to imagine how Gary feels when he's stopped everywhere he goes by admiring fans. I admit I'm no Gary Numan, but the exercise is a useful one - I've never been one to accept such gushing praise very well, call it a flaw in my makeup, but I was rapidly becoming an expert. One highlight was running into John Watson (yes that's really his name), a fellow Numanoid from Calgary who I'd met a couple years earlier. As documented elsewhere on my website, the circumstances of my meeting him was somewhat unusual: I was driving his parents in my taxi and they recognized a rather-obscure Numan song playing on my stereo. Anyways, we'd lost touch for a while and now here he is, complete with his new wife (who had given birth to his first child only weeks earlier). And, it turns out he lives within a few blocks of where I now live! (Mental Note: keep in better touch with your friends, Joey!)

As I wander around, I begin to have a few misgivings about this show. Mainly, I'm not terribly impressed by the venue. The Starfish Room is built like a long rectangle, and the stage is in one corner. This translates into terrible sight-lines and god-awful acoustics. It's hot and smoky and loud and doesn't really seem like a great concert venue. Alas, my premonitions were entirely too correct.

The lights dim, and Switchblade Symphony takes to the stage. They launch into their set and we immediately discover that the sound in this place is just terrible. The sound mixer, a house employee, deserves to be shot. Vocals were almost non-existant (from any vantage point in the room), and the bass seemed to have only two settings: "off" and "earthquake".

I wasn't expecting much from Switchblade. I'd heard one song of theirs before, which I rather liked, but every review I'd seen of the earlier concerts seemed to indicate that they were anywhere from "not very good" to "absolute crap". I have one thing to say to these reviewers: you're every bit as bad as the wankers who go to the UK shows and won't even LISTEN to the support bands, writing them off without giving them a chance. I and everyone I spoke to not only liked Switchblade Symphony but in fact liked them quite a bit - in fact, as soon as I get my credit card balances down a bit I plan to buy both of their albums (although I've been warned their second album is not nearly as good as their first). They're a little bit static on stage, but the music was very good and the ten-song set was well put together - very enjoyable. The singer also made a point of thanking Gary Numan personally for the opportunity to tour with him: a classy touch.

Fifteen minutes after Switchblade exits the stage, the lights dim. The crowd roars. NIN's "Closer" plays over the loudspeakers. The stage door opens, and there, standing silhouetted in the light, is.... THE MAN. Gary Numan is in the house.

The place goes nuts. Gary and the band leap onto the stage, pick up their instruments, and launch into the newly-reworked "Friends". The crowd, at least those of us up near the front, are going wild, pumping our fists in the air and singing along as loudly as we can, which is necessary because for most of the first song, the idiot sound guy has left Gary's microphone switched completely off.

As the show goes on, it becomes apparent that the die-hard Numan fans are all up front on the floor, but there's a lot of people towards the back that are just sorta standing around and soaking it up but not really gettin' too excited about things. Gary smiles when he looks in our direction but overall looks like he's a little disappointed with the response. Indeed, when I spoke to several band members later, they confirmed that Vancouver's crowd was somewhat lifeless compared to previous crowds on this tour.

But that's not stopping us from having a fantastic time. The 100 minutes seem like an eternity, yet alas it ends far too soon, with Gary finishing up, appropriately enough, with "Me! I Disconnect From You" - which I like to think of as his way of slagging off the sound guy. :-)

Gary's performance is amazing. He's jumpin' up and down like he's a heavy metal rocker, yet still in evidence are the trademark sneers, pouts, and other facial expressions. There's an energy level here that he's never shown us before, and he's looking younger and happier than ever.

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Photos By Erik Iversen

Vancouver Show

Vancouver Show

Vancouver Show

The show ends and the staff seems intent on getting us all the hell out of the place. We ask if it's possible to meet Gary backstage and are brusquely told that Gary is "long gone". This turns out to be a bald-faced lie (fucking prick!) as Gary is indeed still backstage. We all leave, and someone runs by telling us breathlessly that the tour bus is around the back of the building. So, Mike runs back to his vehicle, drives it back to the venue, and we grab all of our "autographables" and a pen. We head back to the bus, stand around for a while chatting, and then one by one out come the members of the band. All of them remembered me from the Premier Tour (except Steve Harris of course, who wasn't with the band then). I told both Gary Layton and Ade Orange (seperately) about how Richard Beasley had bought me a beer in Birmingham, and they both said exactly the same thing: "you're lucky, he's never bought *ME* a beer!" :-)

I must pause here and say something: many reviews of these shows have appeared and most mention the fact that the band members are approachable and talkative. But I don't think they get quite enough credit: these guys are tired and would like nothing better than to just get on the damned bus and relax a bit. But they don't. They stand around talking with all of us, giving freely of their time. More to the point: it's like we're all one, big, happy family. Ade Orange is like the "older brother", having been with Gary since 1984. They're all interesting guys, fun to talk with, and are comfortable with the fact that once Gary makes his appearance, all eyes are on him. My hat is off to them: they make us feel like we're more than fans, like we're their FRIENDS. And in many ways we are, but much of the credit for this lies with them. They are truly classy individuals and Gary has made a wise decision in choosing to tour with these people.

Gemma pops by and seems rather embarrassed that people (including myself) actually want her autograph. Which is kinda understandable when you think about it: Gemma Webb was a fan long before she ever became "Mrs. Gary Numan" and a celebrity in her own right. She's more used to the role of being the girl with the tour programme and the pen anxiously asking Gary for an autograph, and now SHE is the one being asked for that autograph. I know that would be a tough thing for ME to get my head around. :-) But like everyone involved with Gary, she just EXUDES class and charm. She's literally one of us and that hasn't changed because she's married the star. :-) Indeed, most everyone I spoke to couldn't get over how wonderful she was.

George, Mike, Ross and I have sorta held back, letting everyone else get their autographs first - we're looking for autographs and quite a few photos, so it's best to wait. When our turn comes, I ask Gary to autograph my tour programme (now already autographed by Gemma and everyone in the band, although Gary "Big G" Layton escaped my clutches) as well as my copy of Gary's autobiography ("Praying To The Aliens"). In front of all present, Gary then thanks me for my work on the Tour Page, calling it "great work" - and THAT just floors me. I literally don't know what to say - I mumble something about "hey it was nothing" or some nonsense. Ross, the non-Numanoid, gets his ticket stub autographed, and we get photos of everyone posing with Gary (these will appear soon).

Ross later mentioned that he was quite impressed with Numan in this respect. Although he admits he's not a Numan fan and merely came along "to see what all the fuss was about" (he's been tolerating my obsession with Numan for well over a decade), he gained a whole new respect for the man. Here's a rock star who takes the time to make sure EVERY fan gets the autographs and the photos they want. Not just here, not just this time, but at EVERY SINGLE SHOW. Compare this to so many other rock stars who brush past their fans on the way out to the tour bus. Gary thanks everyone personally for coming, and you walk away from him feeling that he really means it. Of course, we die-hard fans know that he really *DOES* mean it. I guess my point here is that Gary is trying to not only satisfy his old fans with this tour but also win as many new ones as he can, and he's succeeding brilliantly - I'm here to report that he personally won over a man who has resisted my own attempts to "convert" him for nearly 15 years. Not through any great effort of will, but simply by being Gary Numan.

Finally, Gary and the band board the bus, and we all head off to the Hostel. It becomes immediately apparent that earplugs are necessary, as we're in a dorm room with about 20 other guys. I'm so tired, and I sleep so heavily, that earplugs are not necessary - I sleep like a log. Ross manages to do likewise, while George resorts to earplugs. Mike, as tired as he is from having only four hours sleep the night before, can't take it, and wanders off to the Vancouver General Hospital. Don't panic, he's not ill - he's a paramedic kinda guy, off to hang out with his friends. :-)

Day Five - May 15th
Vancouver, BC
Seattle, WA

My voice is hoarse, almost raw, from all the screaming, shouting, and singing from the night before. This always happens to me at concerts and hockey games and any other time I scream a lot - which is why I try not to scream too much.

Our departure from the Hostel in Vancouver is delayed for about a half an hour while we search frantically for my lost keys. OK, well, so I was the only one frantic about it. We finally find 'em, sitting in the phone booth I'd used when I first woke up (bleary-eyed as usual). We make a fast pitstop for some cash at the ATM, then head for Seattle. Border guard does nothing more than lift an eyebrow at our weird explanation for what in hell we're doin' crossing the border, and lets us on our merry way (since, this time, George's papers ARE in order!).

We check in at another Motel 6, this one much closer to Seattle on the Pacific Coast Highway (I think that's what it's called), very close to SeaTac Airport, which is where Ross will fly home from tomorrow. We're just between the nice part of town and the shady part of town. Indeed, a short distance north on this road brings us to a strip-club that advertises "hundreds of gorgeous girls and three ugly ones" - we decline to partake.

We're kinda worn out so we decide to just lounge around until showtime. I'm dispatched for food, and Ross is pushing for Jack In The Box. This of course brings back to mind Dennis Miller's joke: "Dan Quayle's head is emptier than a Jack In The Box in downtown Seattle" - 'cept the one I went to wasn't in downtown Seattle. But it wasn't bad, if a little bland - certainly a darned site tastier than the breaky we'd had at the Spokane Burger King.

And sooner than ya know it, it's time to head downtown to the Back Door Ultra Lounge. First, we locate the venue itself, which is fairly straightforward because by luck, our motel is on the exact road we need to take to the venue. There's a pay parking lot directly across the street - we invest the $8 USD required and start hiking towards the Ultra. The directions are a little vague here, and we wind up in a blind alley, and all around us are the craziest street people I've ever encountered. We beat a hasty retreat and actually find the place we're looking for. It's a cozy little place that, unfortunately, is playing Frank Sinatra music *WAY* too loud. OK, I get it, the guy just died and everyone's pretty broken up about it. But the volume level was almost as high as at the Starfish Room the night before: can we tone it down a little?

At the Ultra we meet up with several Numanoids including Mark Mihok (the organizer of the pre-concert meeting), NuRuss, Mitchell Gore, Coleen Brooks, Gregor Torrence, and several others. Someone (Mark?) has managed to score free pizza from the manager, and we nibble on that for a while. George, who insists he's only going to have ONE beer (after having five the night before), winds up having... well, more than one. :-) I stick with one, as the five (plus half of one of George's) I had the night before are still making their effects known.

Then we head down to the venue. And what an AMAZING line-up of people. A bit more of a cross-section of people this time, with the goths lining up side by side with the investment bankers. I manage to sell the extra ticket I've got without hardly trying - in fact, the gal who bought it refused to take her change. Looks like I can add "ticket scalper" to my long list of misdemeanours, if unwillingly.

When they finally open the doors, the line moves very slowly. *EVERYBODY* is being carded, even people who are obviously in their 40's. Ross has no trouble with his Alberta driver's licence, nor I with my Canadian passport, but the guy looked long and hard at George's German driver's licence - the photo is an old one and he looks much younger, and has more hair.

Finally we get inside and realize quickly that the management has badly oversold the joint. There's hardly anywhere to stand. Nontheless, we mingle a bit and run into John Marques Carramao (of "The Joy Circuit"), who insists on hugging me. Eek! :-) We also bump into Kathryn Silures, who missed out the previous night's show in Vancouver. At first she doesn't recognize me, then suddenly does and says "You've got a moustache! Don't do that!" Hey, Kathryn, my mother ain't crazy about it either. :-)

We meet several other Numanoids, but I'm bad with names and I've forgotten a bunch of 'em. The place is crowding up in a hurry - George remains up front with John and Kathryn, while Ross and I beat a hasty retreat towards the back of the venue, where we can stand without being crushed. Soon, the first of two opening acts comes on. They're called "Texture" and seem to consist of a DJ, two guys playing bongo drums, and a sitar-playing vocalist. The first song is... interesting. The second song is... just like the first song. The third song is... just like the first song. Getting the picture here? Ross and I say "bite me" and head outside to the pool hall next door, where we shoot five games of pool. Ross, who usually can beat me, loses four of the five games, three by scratching on the eight-ball... he's obviously not in the best of shape. Indeed, the night in Vancouver has taken his toll: he's got a bad back to begin with and seems to be coming down with something.

We check back into the Fenix to catch some of Switchblade. I still like 'em, just not enough to stand at the very back of the balcony craning my neck to catch a glimpse. So after hearing my two or three fave songs, it's back out to the pool hall - Ross must be feeling better because he takes three of four games.

We get back inside just in time for the lights to dim and Gary and the band step on the stage. The roar from the crowd is deafening - this is a small venue and it's packed to the rafters. Gary launches into "Friends" and it is immediately apparent that everything that went wrong with the Vancouver show is *NOT* going to go wrong here. The sound is EXCELLENT, Gary's vocals are strong and steady, and the crowd is going absolutely bonkers. I tell ya, it really sent a shiver up my spine.

I'll gloss over describing the rest of the show except to point out the differences between this one and the Vancouver gig. Gary seemed VERY taken aback by the enthusiastic response, yet also very pleased. The crowd sang along to all the old hits, and you could see a few were also singing to the new stuff (myself included, even though by now my voice had almost completely given out). There was much arm-pumping (a la the UK concerts), most of which happened at the correct moments of the songs. There was just this... ENERGY in the crowd that was sorely lacking in Vancouver. Gary rocked the house down, he seemed even more energized than in Vancouver, and must have been thoroughly exhausted by the end of the set (which ended with "We Are Glass", which was omitted in Vancouver).

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Photos By George Ellis

Outside the Fenix - Ads For Numan/Switchblade Show

Switchblade Symphony
"Help! I'm trapped inside this dress!!"

Switchblade Symphony
Doesn't she look like Courtney Love?

Switchblade Symphony
Crash! Boom! Bang!

Switchblade Symphony
"But I didn't inhale!"

Switchblade Symphony
"I'm bored, when can we go home?"

Switchblade Symphony
All kidding aside, they kicked ass!

Gary Numan at his finest!

Gary demonstrates just what "Everyday I Die" is all about.

Gary Numan

Ade Orange demonstrates just what cool really is!

Ade Orange - even cooler!

Was this the Ade Orange Show?

David Brooks - also cool!

Steve Harris
"Where's the bathroom?"

Steve Harris
"Please! Hold your applause!"

David Brooks
"Now what do I do with this thing again?"

Gary Numan
"Hey you! Yeah I'm talkin' to YOU!"

Steve Harris
"Geez, enough photos already!"

Richard Beasley
Hidin' behind his drums

Gary Numan

David Brooks
Not just a guitar show!

Gary Numan

Gary Numan & Ade Orange

Ade Orange & David Brooks

Gary Numan & Ade Orange

Ade Orange & David Brooks

Gary Numan & Ade Orange

Gary, Ade, & David

The best shot we managed of Richard Beasley

See what I mean?

The show's over and we head outside. Ross isn't feeling well so we decide we'll just hang out for a half hour or so, then head back to the motel... George and I are also quite tired. We meet up with a horde of crazed Numanoids, most of which have never had the chance to see Numan play live before. I hope Gary realizes just how deeply he's touched these people: for them, it's a defining moment in their lives, The Day I Saw Gary. But there are a few more of those moments still to come, as we're now awaiting Gary and the band to emerge.

Soon, out come Ade, Richard, and Steve. It seems Gary's still inside changing, and David is getting a tattoo put on his chest. We decide to wait a little longer (at the insistence of John and others). Ross says ok, but he's beat and needs some sleep, so he heads over to the car for a nap. We joke that when David finally comes out, someone should walk up to him and pretend to stumble and smack him on his new tattoo, but then pull up at the last minute. Everyone agrees this would be a fine joke, but the joke was on us (and David). Gemma pops out soon afterwards and mingles, then David comes out. Gemma walks over to David and (I didn't see this happen) does EXACTLY what we joked we'd do, only it wasn't a joke - SMACK, right in the tatto. I ask David how he feels, he says "up until now, just fine." We all laugh.

LOTS of photo-taking going on now. A bunch of us pose with Gary while John tries to take a photo of us with a 3-D camera but he can't figure out how to get it to flash. While we're waiting, I remark that I once had a 4-D camera but that I lost it tomorrow. This gets a good laugh out of Gary, which was rather kind of him as it was a very bad joke. :-)

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Photos By George Ellis

Hangin' around after the show

Various Numanoids including John Marques Carramao, Joey Lindstrom, Kathryn Silures, Izzy Gambliel, Larry Snider, Robert Trousdale, Cara Plata, and Greg Samson

Tina (of Switchblade) with Gemma. I lit that smoke for Tina - grin! Richard Beasley and David Brooks also appear.

Cara Plata, Gary Numan, Robert Trousdale

Gemma dumps Gary, proclaims her love for Joey Lindstrom.

Kathryn Silures is heartbroken - she had designs on Gemma herself.

Gemma dumps Joey, proclaims her love for George Ellis.

George dumps Gemma, proclaims his love for Steve Harris. A weeping Gemma is consoled by David Brooks.

John Marques Carramao, Steve Harris, & Joey Lindstrom. How DOES David Brooks keep sneaking into so many photos?

Kathryn Silures & Larry Snider

John Marques Carramao, Coleen Brooks, & Mitchell Gore

Izzy Gambliel & Joey Lindstrom (the one with the BAD moustache)

Ross Procter, who pooped out early.

Ross Procter
"No, really, I had a *GREAT* time!"

It's getting late and VERY cold now but the mingling is still in full swing. George and I zip back to the car for some extra clothing against the cold, and snap a couple of photos of the snoozing Ross. We return to the mingle scene, which then continues for another hour or so - it's about 4:30am before everyone finally breaks up and heads for their cars and/or homes. Another glorious night on the Exile Tour, and one more yet to go.

Day Six - May 16th
Seattle, WA
Mount St. Helens, WA
Salem, OR
Yreka, CA

We wake up very late, almost check-out time. Bummer, because we wanted to check out the Flight Museum before putting Ross on the plane back to Calgary - he has to go back early cuz he's gotta work. We pack our stuff into the car, and notice that someone has tucked a note under our windshield wiper. It says "Numanoids Unite!" - obviously some of our fellow fans were staying at the same Motel 6. :-)

We drop Ross off at SeaTac and hit the I-5. We're gonna make another assault on Mount St. Helens, then drive as far as we can towards San Francisco before grabbing some snooze. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour. The closer we got to the mountain, the worse it got. We arrive at the Visitors' Center and purchase the obligatory tourist stuff, namely cards and posters, then listen briefly to a *VERY* bad lecture on how the wildlife returned so quickly to the blast area. We hit the road and go as far up the road (coming from the west this time) as we can. At the end of the road are a series of trails, but the weather is awful: foggy and wet snow. George takes a short hike for some photos, but we discover later that they don't turn out very good. Reluctantly, we reverse course and head back for the I-5.

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Photos By George Ellis

Mount St. Helens

The destruction left behind

More destruction

Now the plan is to put miles behind us. We change drivers regularly, and make it as far as Salem, Oregon before finally deciding "it's chowtime". We stop in a nice little restaurant called "Gepetto's". George orders some spaghetti, while I have the pizza I've been CRAVING since I left Calgary. Seriously, I think we need to do some research into pepperoni addiction - I need HELP! While eating, I watch the last period of the Edmonton Oilers - Dallas Stars game which is playing on ESPN in the restaurant. Alas, the Oilers last-ditch comeback falls one goal short, and they are eliminated from the NHL playoffs. The other two Canadian teams in the playoffs had been eliminated earlier, so it looks like an all-American Final Four.

<RANT>Damned Americans Are Stealing Our Game!!!</RANT>

Back on the highway, our goal is to at least make California. And we do, although it takes us until midnight to do it. As we cross the border, we see a sign that welcomes us to "Sunny California". We look around - it's snowing and dark... yeah, thanks for that greeting... :-)

A little further down the road is Yreka, California, and it's here that we decide to crash. That's "crash" as in "sleep", not as in "wreck the car". We check into the ubiquitous Motel 6 and get the first decent sleep we've had on the tour.

Day Seven - May 17th
Yreka, CA
San Francisco, CA

We've slept well and we're up late, but we've still got about seven hours to make San Francisco and it should only take us five. And indeed it does, and we finally get to see some of that nice weather the sign promised us back at the border. Indeed, it was a lovely, lovely day.

As we cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, I remark that this is the bridge that collapsed during the '89 earthquake. George looks grim and steps on the gas a little. We emerge into downtown San Francisco and immediately get badly lost, as the map we have only shows the very northern-most part of the city. Finally we figure things out and make our way over to Geary Blvd. We drive west and find Japantown and the Peace Pagoda, site of the pre-concert meeting organized by Riana Pfefferkorn and Lisa Yimm. There's still some time before the meeting, though, so we take a quick spin up to the Presidio and have a look around. The place is jammed with tourists. We find a parking lot overlooking the ocean and just park for a while, enjoying the scenery while George enjoys an illicit beer in the car.

We then head back towards downtown so that we can check into the Hostel there. Big mistake. George chose this one because it's right on Geary, about 8 blocks from the meeting, and so we were opting for convenience. Lemme give ya a bit of advice: there are two Hostels in the San Francisco area. Stay the hell away from this one. It's expensive ($20/night) and is an absolute shithole. The rooms were filthy, the pillows and beds were stained with God knows what, and I really wouldn't trust the locks on the doors. It's also in a very seedy part of town, certainly not an area you'd want to be walking around late at night.

But we check in anyways (problem is: you gotta check in before you find out just how bad it is inside). We're kicking ourselves afterwards, cuz we could have gone to the other Hostel (on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge) or taken John Marques Carramao up on his offer of staying at his place in Walnut Creek. But time is running short and we drive over to the meeting place, park the car in the parkade, and walk over.

And there's nobody there. We're about 15 minutes late but GEEZ, where'd everybody go? Finally we do some exploring and eventually wander inside the mall. And inside we meet up with Derek Langsford and a few other Numanoids. Meeting Derek was a definite high-point - Derek has been keeping the channels of communication between the Numan camp and his fans on the internet for the last seven or eight years, and his work inspired me to set up my website.

While chatting with him, Riana Pfefferkorn walks by... and walks right past us, out the door. I'm a little miffed. :-) She comes right back, though, and finally recognizes George (who she's met before) and myself (she's seen pictures). She's just as lovely and charming in real life as she seems from her web page.

Riana has asked for some space for a short rebuttal here. And since I'm an amazingly gracious guy, I naturally said "sure, g'head!"

"For the record, I was actually out looking to see if any new arrivals, George and Joey for example, had come to the Pagoda and found, as the aforementioned duo had done, that everybody was gone. Maybe I'm a ditz, but I'm a considerate ditz! Derek and some other people had wandered outside, turning down the chance of eats at Mifune, and thus when I saw him and the group on my way outside, I merely waved and kept on. Only after finding no one outside and returning did I recognize George, with whom I had become acquainted a few weeks previously, and then our gracious webbmeister standing VERY INCONSPICUOUSLY at the back of the group. Yeah, sure I'll notice ya if you're hiding back there, Joey! Sheesh...

(Though that still doesn't excuse my not noticing a six-foot-tall German whom I know on sight)"

After the appropriate high-fives and other greeting-like noises, she invites us over to Mifune's, a restaurant in the mall where everyone's having a bite to eat. George and I ate in the car earlier and decide to pass on the food. Riana introduces me to everybody as the Tour Page guy and I get a rather embarrassing ovation - I can imagine the other customers in the restaurant are wondering just what the hell is going on. :-) Interesting note: if you go to Mifune's and can't handle chopsticks, BRING YOUR OWN FORK. They'll charge you $2.50 to provide one.

And now Riana wants some more space... not so much a rebuttal as a mea culpa:

"For the record, it was I who had to pay up for the use of a fork at that gaijinophobic restaurant. The story ends happily, however, with my memory-laden return to Japantown six weeks later, when I went to a sushi restaurant near Mifune (both are situated in a mall of sorts, there's tons of places to eat) and, breaking my vow from the before-show party, learned of my own volition how to use chopsticks. Note that sushi is easier to eat with chopsticks than are noodles. I am no longer a proud redneck, but a chopstick neophyte scarfing down freshwater eel with the best of them. Bugger all."

After food, we head over to the Fillmore. Lisa has arranged to hold some places open for us in line, and we quickly discover that the staff here are on the ball (unlike in Seattle). First, WHILE WE ARE WAITING FOR THE VENUE TO OPEN, a staff member walks down the line and checks our ID - those who can prove they're 21 get a stamp on their hand, which is necessary later for buying drinks inside. Then they open the will-call window, and I hurry over and pick up the ticket that they'd refused to mail to me. The bastards at Bass Tickets charged me $17.50 for the ticket and a $7 service charge - compared to these guys, Ticketmaster are a bunch of philanthropists.

John Marques Carramao joins us, and introduces me to a STAGGERING number of personal friends, many of whom are also Numanoids. We also meet up again with Kathryn Silures and Larry Snider, the former of which is attending her 12th show on the tour. Riana has managed to convince her mother, Jan, and friends Serge Thibodeau and Dan Szkoropad to attend as well. Serge is pretty cool, but Dan seems distracted.

The doors open, we file in, and because of our great position in the line, we quickly secure up-front positions by the stage. This is great in terms of view, but not so good in terms of sound quality (the vocals get drowned out if you stand here) or photo opportunities, but the hell with it: we're here to see Gary and we wanna be close enough to touch him!

Switchblade comes on. They're based in San Francisco and this is their "home crowd". They get an enthusiastic response from the 1000+ patrons in attendance, but I dunno - it seemed like they got a better response back in Seattle with only half the crowd. The stage is much larger this time around and they've got room to move, but Tina basically moved between two spots on the stage - one in front of a large speaker, the other directly in front of me... any closer and I would no longer need to imagine what was under that dress.

Gary comes onstage to a thunderous ovation - bigger than Seattle, possibly bigger than any venue on the tour so far. Sure enough, the vocals aren't great from this position but they're still better than Vancouver, and the overall sound was excellent. Unlike Switchblade, Gary and the band made good use of the increased stage area - Gary and Steve were all over the place. The biggest cheers came, of course, at the beginnings of the old favourites like "Cars", "Down In The Park", "Are 'Friends' Electric?", "Films", and even "Noise, Noise". But what really surprised me, pleasantly so, was this: not only was the crowd around me singing along to the old stuff, but ALSO TO THE NEW STUFF!!! I couldn't believe it! There's Gary playing "Prophecy" and the crowd around me is singing "Worship the dead, the damned and misled..." Blew my mind, and what an EXCELLENT development. Gary's picking up new fans with Exile, a lot of new fans.

Unfortunately, what could have been the best concert on the tour was marred by what Riana and I refer to as "The Numanazis". This was a group of white-shirted pretty boys and girls from (we found out later) San Diego. During the fourth song, they started VIOLENTLY pushing and shoving their way to the front of the stage, elbowing people out of their way and knocking several down. Dan and I put up a valiant struggle and managed to keep them from getting any more of their members through to our position: we were trying to protect Riana's mother Jan, who stands about 4'11" and was having her own troubles with one of the Numanazis who'd successfully gained a position at the front of the stage. This asshole was literally elbowing her in the head. Not accidentally, but on purpose. And he was smiling about it. Jerkoff...

If anyone has any photos of these people, I'd dearly love it if you'd send them along to me. I'll display those photos prominently on my website and tell the world just what assholes they are.

During the encores, the Numanazis make a rush for the stage, and Gary Layton earns his pay for the week. I'll tell ya, for a big guy, he moves like greased lightning. One Numanazi is barely onto the stage before being literally picked up by Gary and tossed into the crowd like a sack of potatoes - luckily he lands (mostly) on his own friends. Big G is kept busy with several other of these turds, and one girl manages to slip through and hug Gary before being taken offstage and, presumably, out the door. Ade Orange later admitted that he wound up screwing up the song because he got distracted by all the fussing about - thank you, assholes, for ruining our evening.

The show ends and we head outside. Very, very, very slowly - it seems they're handing out (poorly-made) posters at the door. LEMME OUTTA HERE!! I'm dying for a cigarette and I'm trapped in a concert hall in a fascist state that won't let people smoke indoors!

We get outside and I inhale a couple of cigarettes while slowly calming down from the ordeal. Riana's mother is fine - turns out she left her teethmarks in the Numanazi that was hassling her. As the stress wears off, spirits get a little higher, and we realize that we managed, after all, to have a good time.

The usual handshaking, gossiping, and mingling continues for an hour or so. Ade is particularly talkative this night - in fact, with no slight intended towards any of the other band members, Ade's my fave. He's genuinely interesting to talk to (on a WIDE variety of topics), he's been with Gary for 14 years off and on, and he's got a solo career happening as well. He's pure class, is our Ade, and I wish him all the best with his band, called Dig.

We discuss the Numanazi situation with Gary "Big G" Layton. He agrees that they're assholes, although Riana tells me that the following night in LA, he later describes them as "not all that bad". We suggest that it would be rather poetic if the Numanazis were to be denied access to any autographs. Big G smiles and says nothing. I've no idea whether he ever intended to take me up on that suggestion, because they all disappeared before Gary came out.

Lots more picture-taking and autographs followed. One highlight of the night was when the attending Numan Network people all posed for a photo with Gary, which you can see here. It's "The Numan Network: Western Division", and includes Riana Pfefferkorn (of "Scary Numan"), myself, John Marques Carramao (of "The Joy Circuit"), and Derek Langsford (of "The Gary Numan Digest"), all posing with Gary - a wonderful moment.

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Photos By George Ellis

Gary Numan & Ade Orange

Gary Numan
"Ahhhh, that hits the spot!"

Gemma Webb & David Brooks

George Ellis & David Brooks

The Numan Network Western Division

David Brooks shows off the tattoo he got in Seattle

George Ellis pinching Gary's bum

Things wrap up, and those of us still remaining head over to the local Denny's. The waiter immediately recognizes us as Numanoids - apparently an earlier wave of black-wearing goths had made their appearance. Lots of chatting until nearly 4am... at which point we realize there's nobody left, just George, myself, Larry, and Kathryn. Larry offers us a ride back to the Hostel, which was nice as it saved us the cab fare - no way in HELL were we gonna walk those streets.

Arriving at the Hostel at 4am was probably for the best, as by this time the room is in darkness and there's another guy sleeping in one of the beds, so we daren't turn the lights on. So we can't see just how filthy the room is. We put clean sheets on the beds, crawl in, and go to sleep. Somehow.

Day Eight - May 18th
San Francisco, CA
Vallejo, CA

I awaken at 11:50am. We're 50 minutes overdue for checkout. I quickly wake George and we rush to the checkout desk, worrying that we're gonna be charged another night in this hellhole. Nope, no worries mate - the only risk you run in checking out late is that they might NOT sell you a bed the next night. So, we decide to hike it back to the car, which is still in the parkade by Japantown. We musta looked a site: uncombed and unkempt. Then again, we're in San Francisco... not many folk so much as batted an eyelash.

Back in Japantown, we step into the Sumitomo Bank. I visit the ATM and pull out the last of my cash, while George tries to exchange a 100 Mark note for that funny American money. I report success, George reports failure. Seems ya gotta go to a downtown bank in order to exchange foreign currency. Bizarre.

We toss our stuff in the car, then decide to walk across the street and have lunch at... yep, you guessed it, Burger King. This time around the food is actually quite good. Afterwards I step across the street to a quaint little store to buy a carton of smokes: the Japanese fella who owns the place quickly sells me on the merits of these inexpensive "Natural Blend" cigs. I agree and start counting out money... but he's not done, he's STILL telling me how great these cigs are. Buddy, you've made the sale... lighten up a bit!

We jump into the car with NO firm plans about how to spend the day. We've missed the morning TV appearance by Gary on a local TV morning show, so we've about exhausted our Numan possibilities. We head back over to the Presidio and park the car in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. We walk across the bridge a little more than halfway and stop for some photo-ops, then walk back and down to this quaint little secluded beach just west of the bridge.

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Photos By George Ellis

Joey on the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco

The nudist beach

We discover after we've been down there for five minutes or so, shooting photos, that we're actually on what appears to be a gay men's nudist beach. But hey, we're in San Francisco. Different strokes for different folks - no pun intended. Nobody pays us any notice, and so we pay none to them. Although there was this one guy who kept parading himself back and forth in front of us. Sorry, pal, nobody's buyin' anything today. :-)

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Photos By George Ellis

Joey on the Golden Gate Bridge

George on the Golden Gate Bridge (we have NO imagination)

George tries to outrun a wave

He doesn't make it...

Time to waste the rest of the film...

Last shot. Finally.

We head back towards downtown San Francisco. Like good little tourists, we drive down Lombard Street several times - "the crookedest street in the world" according to the postcard I bought later. Definitely tourists: during one jaunt down Lombard, I phoned my mother on my cellphone and said "hey, guess where I am right now?" :-) Best part: my voice is so hoarse, she literally didn't believe me when I told her who I was! She thought it was a friend of hers pulling a joke on her! :-)

We also drove towards Fisherman's Wharf, but the place was jammed with tourists. We decide not to bother, but I get distracted and make my first driving error of the day - one of many. :-) I miss a "do not enter" sign and am about to drive the wrong way up a one-way street. Just as George says "Joey, you can't go that way", a motorcycle cop waiting at the red light gives me a quick toot on his horn. I execute an emergency left turn... in fact, I was quite proud of how quickly and expertly I extricated myself from that rather embarassing situation.

That is, until George points out that I've just made an illegal left turn. :-) I look in the rear view mirror: the cop hasn't moved, but he's staring after me. I give him a quick wave and he turns away. PHEW!

We cross over the Golden Gate Bridge and visit Sausalito. Man, sure wish I could afford to live here! Not that I would, I just wish I could afford to. Houses clinging to the hillside, many on stilts. George notes with some pride that roughly 60% of the cars we see parked here are of German make. :-) We then head over into the preserve in the hills southwest of Sausalito, where the OTHER Hostel is located. We get lost but eventually find it, and it's LOVELY. Almost idyllic, actually. And only $8 a night!!! We decide, however, that dorming it is not what we want to do. Actually I'm the one who's convinced that a Motel 6 is what we want, George is kinda sitting on the fence. We compromise, George books himself a bed for the following night (after I've departed for Calgary), and we leave. We head back to San Francisco and make a quick pitstop at American Express to get that 100 Mark note exchanged. And now it's off to Chinatown for supper.

George has been waiting for this the entire trip. Vancouver's Chinatown has let him down, but he promises me that this will be much better. And he's right. After I make the inevitable mistake in ordering, we settle down to a GLORIOUS meal. Man, I don't ever want to move away from Calgary, but if I had to live in San Francisco, I'd make sure I lived close to Chinatown. The food was outstanding and unbelievably cheap. George tells me that you simply can't go wrong in Chinatown - no matter where you go to eat, it's gonna be great. I believe him.

It's gettin' late, and it's time to get some sleep. George isn't feeling well: whatever bug bit Ross is now doing a number on George. I found out later that Riana also fell ill at about the same time. So we head north to Vallejo, which is about the cheapest location around to find a Motel 6 (God help you if you try to get a room in San Francisco, George once paid $80 for a crappy room in a fleabag motel a few years ago, and had to haggle the guy DOWN to that price). We check in, and by now George is really not feeling well - headache, body aches, a bit of a fever. At this point George comes to the conclusion that the Motel 6 was a MUCH better idea than the Hostel - this place has a bathtub and he goes for a one-hour soak that leaves him feeling a bit better.

Some idiots in the next room are yelling and screaming up a storm, but we're too timid to go over and say anything - hell, this is the Excited States, they've probably got guns or something. The phone rings. It's the girl at the front desk calling. Apparently the manager is in the room right below us and would like it if we'd stop all the racket. We explain that it's not coming from us, but from the next room. She apologizes and hangs up. I return to watching David Letterman.

Fifteen minutes later. The phone rings. This time it's the manager. "C'mon, guys, I don't wanna have to call the police, knock off the racket." Buddy, IT AIN'T US! George is nearly passed out and the only noise coming from this room is David Letterman playing "Stop Calling Me Chief" on the telly. He buys my story and hangs up.

Day Nine - May 19th
Vallejo, CA
San Francisco, CA
Vancouver, BC
Calgary, AB

We wake up at 11:40am - twenty minutes to go until checkout. I grab a fast shower while George frantically packs up his stuff. Five minutes to twelve and we're still not ready to go. George takes the room-key and runs down to the front desk and checks us out - we're hoping they don't discover we haven't actually left, don't wanna get charged another night. George comes back to the room just as the phone rings. Uh oh.

I answer the phone. No, we're not being chewed out for not having left. It's another employee bitching us out about all the racket we're making - our next-door neighbors are up to their usual caterwauling again. After yet another explanation, we're left alone. We gather up the last of our crap and lock the door.

We find a car-wash in Vallejo and vacuum out the car. Man, men can be *SUCH* slobs, and despite his frequent criticisms of me, Ross is one of the worst. There is an AMAZING amount of... stuff... in the back seat. About half an hour later we've finally cleaned everything out, packed everything into appropriate bags, and sucked out all the dirt and dust. As we're about to pull out, a passerby calls out - apparently we're about to drive away with my cellphone still on the roof of the car. See what I mean?

And off to San Francisco Airport we go. Parking is a major bitch - doncha just love the fact that the 20 minutes you spend looking for a FUCKING PARKING SPOT are charged against you, because the clock starts when you ENTER THE FUCKING PARKADE?!? But we get it parked, then get royally lost inside the airport before finally finding the Canadian Airlines check-in counter. George is with me cuz I still owe him $36 USD. :-) We locate an ATM, and while I'm getting the cash, he's using my cellphone to talk to his friend Uwe, who finally returned his call. I'm holding the $36 in my hand and taking a dollar away every few seconds, but George is oblivious. :-) Man, those cellular roaming rates are EXHORBITANT!

And now it's time to say goodbye. We have a last cigarette together and then he leaves, but not before I tell him just what a great guy he is. I've kinda rushed my way through this little story and kinda glossed over the small stuff, because the small stuff isn't really all that interesting to you. But for those of us sharing a cramped car for a week, the small stuff is EVERYTHING. George and I got along famously - as I told him just before he left, it was almost like we were old, old friends who'd only just found each other. :-) George extended an invitation: the next time Gary tours Germany, I'm to come stay with him. He's got friends all over Germany so we'll have free places to sleep. :-)

George and Ross also made positive impressions on each other. Ross told me later that we'd lucked out - George coulda been some weird psycho and the trip could have been a week of pure hell, but he was the exact opposite, he made it PLEASANT. And George had lots of people in San Francisco laughing by recounting some of the funny stuff Ross had said during the trip - Ross has this remarkable dry wit and a real gift of comedic timing, and SHOULD be a professional comedian.

So we say our goodbyes, and I get on the plane. An uneventful ride into Vancouver, where I have to change planes for Calgary - with a 3 hour layover. I only mention it cuz something interesting happened while I was waiting.

I'm sittin' on a park bench on the departures level, chatting with a lady who had flown up from San Francisco on the same flight, when this old Checker Marathon taxi pulls up. Haven't seen one of those in years, I remark. Then the lady notices the cab has Ohio licence plates, and the logo on the door reads "Columbus Cab Co." We're a *LONG* way from Ohio. And then I spot the phone number on the back of the cab: 555-0176.

AHA! I look around, and sure enough - there in the distance, I spot movie cameras. And they're being moved into position exactly where we're sitting, and shortly afterwards we're politely asked if we could move our smelly cigarette smoking hobby somewhere else. I head into the terminal and walk smack into the middle of a scene they're shooting inside the terminal. The director yells "Cut!" and fixes me with an icy glare. Hey, buddy, nobody told *ME* you were shooting a movie in here! I move aside and watch them shoot the scene four more times until they're happy with it. I find out later that this will be a made-for-TV movie called "The Net" - dunno if it's related to the Sandra Bullock movie.

Y'know what really gores my ox, now that I think about it? They shoot all these movies and TV shows in Canada, yet they're never *SET* in Canada. The Canadian location is always filling in for some American locale. ARGH! Yet another reason why we feel so insecure up here! :-) "The X-Files" has been filmed in and around Vancouver since the beginning, yet NEVER ONCE did Mulder and Scully ever go to Vancouver. They're always in Alexandria, or Vermont, or California, but never British Columbia. A couple of times they went to the Yukon and Alberta - ironically enough, on those occasions, they actually went on location to the Yukon and Alberta. :-)

Yep, I think that apart from "Cool Runnings", we've pretty much been shut out. Always standing in for an American city, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. "Viper". "Silver Streak". "Superman 3". "Unforgiven". All shot in and around Calgary. But you'd never know it. :-)

OK, enough ranting. All these thoughts are goin' through my head as I get on the plane, and I realize that the reason I'm ranting to myself like this is that I'm homesick. Well, perfect time to realize I'm homesick, when I'm only an hour away!

The plane is a brand-new Boeing 767-300. An hour later, it's almost so much junk. The hardest landing I've ever experienced - the lady sitting next to me is an experienced traveller and she tells me it's the worst one she's ever been in. But as they say in the aviation biz, "any landing you walk away from is a good landing."

And the final bit of forgetfulness strikes. I head through the airport, walk up to the taxi queue, and signal the first Associated Cab (which I work for) in line that he's hired. I get to the car.... and realize I never bothered to claim my baggage. I think it's time to check into a retirement home: I'm going senile!

I finally get home (baggage in tow). My cats greet me enthusiastically, and I realize just how much I missed those little critters. This trip's been fun, but next time I hope Gary plays here in Alberta. I'm tired and worn out and VERY happy - it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I met a lot of GREAT people, had some GREAT times, and witnessed what I believe to be some of Gary Numan's finest performances of his career. All in all, not much to complain about.

Still, it sure feels good to be home.