Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, the finish line was now well within our reach. Fatigue was clearly starting to set in as we were finding it harder and harder by the hour to make any sense. Now, where once we would amble on our journey, the pedal was now a lot closer to the floor, our own beds less than 48 hours away.
After stopping to see some massive Redwoods in Big Sur National Park and to briefly visit John Steinbeck's old house in the Salinas Valley, we found a hotel out beside San Francisco airport. Here we went about the final farce of sneaking Seb into the hotel. He really has become a dab hand at this now, sometimes even making it into the hotel room - and on one accession, even the bathroom - before Barney and I had made it up in the lift. We're not sure how he manages it, he refuses to share the secret. All I do know is, i can't trust where he's lurking and I never feel truly alone now.
Once in our beds, all settled down for the night, we realised we'd forgotten one of our biggest daily rituals - dinner. We tried to stay calm, justifying it by telling stories of how, on more than one occasion over the last month, we'd managed to fit in more than a couple in one day. Barney snored lightly, obviously content with the kilo of sugary sweets he'd had in the car, but as Seb and I's stomachs groaned and rumbled, we reached for the pizza menu and the phone.
"I'll have 3 pizza slices", Barney declared from his semi-conscious state before rolling over and falling back asleep.
We perused the menu and decided upon the pizza with the meat with extra meat as well as garlic bread (with extra cheese) and chicken wings (with extra sauce). When it arrived, we demolished that pizza like I've never seen a pizza demolished before, and we once again fell asleep with our stomachs packed and a beer in hand.
The following day was a big one for us. Not only was it our last full day in the USA but we had to hand back our beloved Chrissie to the rental garage. Over the 25 days we'd had her, we'd done over 6100 miles - an average of over 240 miles a day. She'd been our only real home for the last month and had been the only permanent fixture to our road trip. She also still seemed to be the home to half of Destin Beach, so Barney and I drove her for a vacuum and car-wash as Seb stayed in the hotel foyer to post the previous blog (and eat all-you-can-eat pancakes).
Sometimes when you hear so many amazing things about a place it can really blunt your own first impressions of it, but not San Francisco. It immediately had us hooked and as we drove over the bridge, the view of the city's skyline with Alcatraz lurking just offshore, was incredible.
After an emotional goodbye to Chrissie shortly after, we dumped our cases at a new hotel in the centre of town and went out exploring. We tried to get Alcatraz tickets but were told we'd have to come back at 7am the next morning for some day tickets.
Now, for the first time in a while, we had a day with absolutely nothing planned. We knew we wanted a steak that night as a final blow-out, so after some beers on the waterfront, we decided a perfect prelude to the meal would be some wine-tasting.
An hour later, after gulping some of Napa Valley's finest, hunger finally took the better of us (again) and we hailed a cab to the restaurant. As we sat in silence, Barney unfortunately chose that moment to do one of the loudest farts he'd done all holiday. Immediately, the cab driver turned the Light Jazz off the radio.
"Who the fuck did that?" he grunted.
We all looked at the floor, my shoulders already shaking with laughter.
"You think you come in here, make it smell like shit. That disrespectful, man"
What followed was a 5-minute lecture on respect and how he felt treated like shit. Unfortunately Barney's repeated response of "I'm sorry - It just fell out" didn't seem to make any difference.
I'm just thankful the driver never had to spend an hour in Chrissie.
The morning after, we dragged ourselves out of bed and made our way to the pier. The short boat journey across to the island was challenging to say the least, but once we were there, it was an amazing tour around one of the world's most infamous prisons. After lurking in the cells of Block D, thankful that this was our only experience behind bars whilst stateside, we headed back to the mainland with the list of things on our to-do list rapidly diminishing - the only one still remaining: get to the airport.
After swinging by the hotel and a short hour in Duty Free we sat trying to make sense of the trip in our heads over a glass of wine at the airport. Where had the time gone? New York City seemed like so long ago and now so far away. Graceland, the National Parks and our Labor Day Weekend in Florida seemed like years ago even though the sights and smells were still fresh within us. The holiday from a distance looked like a blur but the more we reminisced and looked closely, we found every day was still there as vividly as ever.
If you're still reading this blog then I imagine that you've humoured us by reading from the beginning, so thank you. Thanks for giving us a space to write our escapades and adventures down - it will be invaluable to us in years to come. I should also say a massive personal thank you to the Philpott relatives in California who kindly adopted me and one of their own in LA. The trip was always about meeting people and seeing what real America is like and you really did help me to experience that.
I suppose I should also thank the two Philpotts themselves. There are only a few people who I could bare to drive 6000 miles with and still be on talking terms with at the end and I guess you're two of them - thanks for making it so fun.
I did try calling Seb this morning actually but there was no answer. It must have been a network thing. I'm sure. Anyway, if you're reading this Seb, call me...