In 1991 my parents took my sister and I for a month long tour of the Western States, I was too young at the time to really remember that much but tried recreating it here to see if any memories were jogged. I didn’t really re-remember anything but I discovered something else entirely…
Old vs New
Twenty years ago I sat in the back of a white Pontiac station-wagon and toured around the Western states. I don’t really have that many memories of the time and those I do I’m never convinced are mine – I’ve heard so many stories and have seen the pictures so many times is the thing I’m remembering a story, a picture or something I actually witnessed? I was quite excited therefore to include the United States into my itinerary and originally planned to tour 3000 miles in two weeks. In the end I did 6200 miles in six weeks and had a wonderful time doing so.
My re-creation route pretty much followed the same path as my parents drove all those years ago with the notable exception that I added in Utah. There are plenty of other differences and places I did or didn’t go but the routes are pretty much the same. I’d therefore love to sit back and tell you about the differences, how I stayed at the same hotels and saw the same old guy working the door…. I can’t. I now realise I remember precisely two things of that first trip – buying some baseball gear from a shop on Pier 39 and taking a picture in Sedona. I managed to re-find the shop on Pier 39 but Sedona proved to be disappointing and nothing like what I expected.
It’s fair to say that I was viewing the United States through completely fresh eyes and I loved it.
On my round the world trip so far I’ve seen some pretty impressive sights. I’ve seen never-ending salt flats of Bolivia, beautiful sandy beaches in Bocas Del Toro, private islands in Utila, unique water pools in Summuc Champey, more animals that you can believe in the Galapagos, huge Mayan ruins in Tikal and Copan, Volcano’s, mountains of inappropriate proportions in Ecuador… I’ve been more places and seen things many people only dream of and yet I was still blown away by what unfolded before me in the United States.
The plains are vast and stretch for miles in every direction but the Slot Canyons squeeze you tight. The mountains tower high above your head next to canyons which disappear deep into the ground. The skies are blue and the ground is red, grey, white and yellow. The towns leave you jostled and harassed but the countryside makes you feel lonely. It’s a country of extremes and I loved it.
I’m glad I had a car as there are many places slightly off the beaten track I went and experienced many things not on the traditional tourist trail and I don’t for one second regret spending the obscene amount of money I was forced to, even if it does mean I need to curtail my trip.
I discovered something completely unexpected…
The American stereotype is that everyone is un-informed, fat, ignorant, lazy and arrogant. Not so. I saw many highly attractive people, talked to many intelligent and capable beings, many that put my fitness level to shame… I even managed to find a few who were subdued and humble. Sure there are people who fit the stereotype, but then doesn’t every country have people who aren’t the best ambassadors? Remember the hooligans who thought that looting was a form of protest in the UK before you start pointing fingers at other nations!
But the fact a stereotype is false isn’t the unexpected thing, it was the hospitality and the friendliness that shocked me.
I never for one second expected to be driving a V8 Mustang through the streets of Los Angeles or have my own tour guide in Phoenix. I didn’t expect hotel owners to ring around on my behalf to find a hotel within my budget. I had people lend me there shoes in Las Vegas when I didn’t have smart ones to wear. I had shop staff help me no end. People in the United States can be amazing.
Final thought as I boarded the plane?
America smashed all expectations and then kept going. As destinations go, it was my 2nd best (first place will always be Utila) and there wasn’t really anywhere I didn’t like – even San Francisco which wasn’t to my taste enthralled me. The people are amazing and I’ve made many friends I hope to see again (both travellers and locals).
Maybe the arrogance many American’s show is justified. The bits of the United States of America I visited is worth been arrogant over.