Posts Tagged 'Merced'

P-town and D-boyz

And so I arrive in Portland. But first, what’s happened since San Francisco?

Well, I was left with two unallocated days, which simply wouldn’t do. I couldn’t really stretch to another two nights at the pricey accommodation in The City By The Bay, so I shuffled off on a Greyhound bus to Merced, the so-called ‘Gateway to Yosemite’. Arriving fairly late in the day, with the sun set and the warm night air stirring the empty streets, I finally made it to the hostel at about eleven. En route, someone asked me if he could borrow my phone. My spider-sense tingled and I replied that the battery was flat. He then asked me for some change, which I didn’t have. Then he produced another phone from his jeans and asked me if I wanted to buy that one. I’m not sure if he didn’t think I’d make the connection, or what, but he wasn’t exactly the brightest of buttons.

Merced was a strange little place though. It clearly had a firm sense of its own little history, and I ate at a surprisingly good organic restaurant called Bishop’s, but at the same time it’s small and barren, without much in the way of things to see or do aside from the astonishingly comprehensive town museum, set up in the old court house and free of charge. I didn’t go to Yosemite in the end, as I had to make the call between seeing the park or seeing an ice hockey game. Whilst this may seem a no-brainer, the park was currently on fire because a controlled burn had decided it was going to be uncontrollable, which mitigated my enthusiasm somewhat. I was also so run down by the gauntlet of California, with my shapeshifting itinerary being the mother of last-minute necessity, that landing my feet on friendly ground for more than a day seemed like a very attractive prospect. And anyway, I’m seeing Yellowstone. So I wandered around Merced for half a day and jumped on the bus back north.


The bus was overnight, and I braced myself for the usual mishaps – but actually, it was okay. At 2:00am I was transferred to a nearly-empty bus whilst we stopped over, due to some practical problem solving by the two drivers. So the rest of my journey was in relative comfort, shared with about six people who seemed as tired as I was. I arrived in Salem, which I didn’t really see much of, at seven in the morning and Bionic Monkey was there to pick me up. We drove the forty-odd minutes back to his place, through misty, pine-speckled countryside, and I lasted until the early afternoon before my ability to stay conscious ran out. Waking some hours later, we headed into the city to see the game.

Ice hockey, I have decided (after seeing some other sports on tv), is the best American sport. It plays a little bit like football – proper football – in some ways, or at least this game between Portland and Seattle did. The scores weren’t astronomical, with Seattle winning 4-2, although the last goal was scored because the keeper had been taken off in a last-minute offensive push, and there’s a fluidity and long-term flow to the game that’s pretty appealing. Portland were the aggressor, putting shot after shot on target, and were rewarded with the first goal. However, their defense had seen so little of the puck that when Seattle lashed back (from a penalty, after one of the notorious fights broke out), they simply weren’t alert enough and it sailed in unopposed. Seattle grabbed a second in similar fashion, from midfield, and then a third. Portland fought back hard and managed to slot a consolation prize into the back of the net, but it was too little too late. Still, it was good fun to watch. There’s no ‘plays’, there’s no tedious stoppages all the time, the rules don’t suffer from the American football’s problem of basically making almost everything but a few options illegal, and like I said, it’s a long-term game. It’s split into three periods instead of two halves, but you’re still seeing a good twenty minutes of relatively uninterrupted action. Oh, and no ad breaks!

Another thing: we (Bionic is married, to a demon cook no less) were with some others, one of whom seemed to be a magnet for projectiles. Twice the puck chipped up from the ice to whistle into the somewhat diminutive crowd, and both times it landed within five feet of us. The first time, the kids in the row behind us got it, and though I may be a despicable, almost Lovecraftian monster in many other ways, I wasn’t about to headbutt a small girl for it. The second time, however, it landed practically at my feet, so now I have a pretty great memento:


Ignore the red, I’m still working off the burn. The guy with the ponytail is the bullet magnet, so if you’re ever in a war, y’know… find him.

We went into town again today, but this post is getting pretty long so I’ll write on that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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