You know, I'm very fortunate to have travelled as widely as I have within the US. Ten years ago, I wondered if I would ever get the chance to fulfil this lifelong ambition. Now I've made the trip at least a dozen times, maybe more. Most people from my side of the Atlantic will visit the main US holiday destinations, and little else. But I've seen many other places, a little further off the tourist map, and I've often had friendly guides or travelling companions, which makes a huge difference.
On this trip, it has been confirmed to me how much I love New York. I've lost count of how many times I've visited, but every time I come back, it's like I've never been away. I've seen changes since my first visit in 2007 - Times Square has become pretty unpleasant, for example - but it's still "that Oz to which we all aspire", as Adam Gopnik put it. Even when I'm worn out from travelling, even if I've only got an hour or two to lift my head, New York gets me every time.
I've been to Seattle twice over the last few years, and I absolutely adore that city, not least because of the Pike Brewing Company and their fine selection of beers. And Emerald City Guitars, where they let me play a 1960 LP Junior, and they have a 59 'burst in a display case. And also because it's just a cool place to hang out.
On this trip, I have been most clearly reminded how cool Scottsdale is. I've had one full dawn to dusk day here, and it's been glorious. The Hotel Valley Ho is wonderful, for a start, and they serve the best chicken noodle soup I've ever tasted. And the Old Town is wonderful with all its funky boutiques and eateries and generally laid back vibe. Just a lovely place to spend a day. Oh, and you can take a cab twenty minutes up the road and shoot guns to your heart's content.
Yep, Scottsdale is, I think, one of my top 5 cities in America. I'm sitting on my balcony now, enjoying a mild desert evening and a locally brewed IPA. I miss my wife and children, of course, but I really can't complain too much.
I am truly blessed and grateful. I have a life now that I never could have imagined ten years ago, not least in thanks to Jo Atkinson, but also due to Juliet Grames, Paul Oliver, Bronwen Hruska, and many others.
Being a professional writer is awesome.