A long time ago, shortly after the USA increased security, I declared that I would never visit the country. I didn’t like the idea that they treat me as a criminal-to-be. I didn’t like the idea that I had to apply for my Visa ahead of time. I didn’t like the idea of the queues people were forced to endure. Everything I heard, well, I didn’t like. I’m very glad that I changed my mind!

Arriving in LAX…

…is a nightmare. I stood in a queue for two hours waiting to be seen by the immigration agent. Every person that went up was interrogated at length and the number of Chinese tourists needing a translator was extraordinary. I’m glad I’d learnt patience on my trip as there was no way you were going anywhere fast here!

Eventually I got to the desk to find that people would jump in front of me from other queues – there was no organisation and everyone was starting to get argumentative and aggressive. People behind started to shout at me for not getting in first. The officials were harassed and clearly annoyed at the Chinese contingent. It was not a nice place to be at all. Still, I tensed my legs, stared intently and prepared to beat the others in the queue.

It wasn’t much better when I got there – the guy would ask me a question and then stare into the distance at the unfolding events around us before asking me the same question again.

“Why are you travelling alone?”

“How can you afford to do this?”

“Why are you travelling alone?”

“How can you afford to do this?”

“Why have you visited so many countries before the United States?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Why are you travelling alone?”

“How can you afford to do this?”…

I swear, I could have strangled him but maintained my cool and kept smiling – eventually I got past him to the customs desk and had to answer all the same questions again. It took around 30minutes but I was through! I was in the United States!

The hire car and driving for the first time in six months

Originally the plan was to stay in the United States for two weeks and as such I’d hired a Dodge Charger from Dollar. Upsettingly when I got there, there was no Chargers available as the full size cars are dished out on a first-come-first-served basis. The option was a Ford Crown Victoria or a Chevrolet Impala – neither of these are a Dodge Charger so I decided to wait.

After about twenty minutes I started to get dispondent and decided upon a Ford Crown Victoria in white – if I can’t drive a Dodge I might as well look like a Police car. Just as I was putting my gear into the boot, a beautiful Red Dodge Charger poked its nose out of the garage and pulled into the parking lot – that baby was mine! Jumping in, adjust the seat off I went. After five months of not driving I was a little nervous especially as it was on the wrong side of the road and an automatic! Still, I rocketed out of the lot to make sure no-one else pinched my Dodge!

I had my directions – out onto Interstate 405 and then North to Wiltshire Boulevard, but the first problem arose – where is I-405 and how do you get there from the lot? After a series of lefts and rights I found something that resembled the Interstate and joined it heading North to Sloan and Jason’s place. I took a few more wrong turns but eventually fathomed it all out and parked the car outside their house.

I had arrived. I was in the USA.