US Tour 2003
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Geography and timing define the course of our lives far
more than most of us realise. Where we are born and where we are positioned
at precise moments determine much of our life's experiences and often,
most significantly ,how we are likely to die. Last night Larry and I had
argued over what time to set off for our journey to The Grand Canyon,
he had wanted to set off at 6.30 to miss the rush hour traffic and I had
said that because I'm up writing this that I would get hardly any sleep,
which would mean I'd feel too tired throughout the day, we hissed and
growled at each other a bit then compromised to leave around 8 am. This
turned out to be 8.30 in reality but still we were on our way and luckily
the rush hour was over. We'd listened to the traffic reports and heard
that there had been two serious crashes near to routes we were going to
take but went on any way. About 10 minutes in to our journey I heard Larry
say "oh my God look at that" I looked up and saw a Jeep type
car rolling along along side ways, its nose to the central barrier, bits
of car flying off. The car came to a stand still the right way up, and
even though we were still passing at about 40 mph I could see the front
wind screen was smashed, the air bag was out and the driver seemed to
motion an action of coming around and not believing what had happened.
Then we were gone. "Shit" I said to Larry, "I wish I'd
had my camera ready".
This was the second crash I'd witnessed while driving on
US roads, the other had been a surreal moment on the road outside of Nashville.
A car in front of us had spun out of control, at first it looked as if
it was taking a turn off of the motorway, then it suddenly swished across
to the other side of the road, again nosing to the central reservation.
In that instance the vehicle didn't hit anything, and maneuvered itself
back on to the carriage way and went on obviously a bit shaken.
I don't know if you have that superstitious thing about
things happening in threes, but I do, so after seeing two crashes I was
a bit worried about whether I'd be in the third one. Because Larry has
a courtesy car at the moment I'm not insured to drive so he's doing all
the driving. On the whole Larry's OK at driving, it's just when he tends
to look away from the road the car tends to move in to a different lane
without him realising until he looks back at the road. Normally this wouldn't
be such a problem but we're taking a scenic route, so whenever I hear
Larry say "Oh my, this view is so fucking beautiful" I would
quickly say "Just keep your eyes on the road Larry!". At some
point on the journey Larry had told me that he'd once been stopped by
a police officer after he'd done a very tiring cycling event and the officer
had warned him that he'd been swerving around. I said to Larry that he
should have said "Oh that's OK officer, that's how I always drive".
Larry wasn't amused.
The journey to the Grand Canyon takes us up through the
desert to the mountains across some plains through an area of red rocks
and then some more mountains and then to the Canyon it self. As we drive
along Larry starts telling me how fantastic the scenery is here compared
to the UK, so slightly antagonised I inform him of where in the UK it's
possible to see similar landscapes.
For instance this looks just like Richmond Park.
This could be anywhere but I just like the sky
This could be somewhere in Northern England, Scotland or Wales.
Could be Scotland
And so could this
Haha and this too!!!!
OK ..... Brighton Rock's red isn't it?...... Alright I give up on this
Notice the three rocks above, do they look like three heads. The two on
the left are talking to each other while the one on the right seems to
be annoyed or unhappy. The rocks on the left look like they have their
hands up in front of their faces and are whispering. Can you see it?
While on the subject of myths, I had what I call a mythological food experience
today. This is when you eat something and it tastes fantastic. So fantastic
that no matter how often you try to repeat the experience afterwards it
never touches you in the same way. Well today we stopped off at a Mexican
fast food place and I had a dessert, which consisted of a sponge cake
doused in cream and syrup and I almost did the scene from "When Harry
Met Sally" where Meg Ryan pretends to have an orgasm in a restaurant.
With every mouthful I'd say, "Oh this is gorgeous" and so on,
Larry would cough slightly and look at those around us politely smiling.
A man sitting next to us who had only one arm hid his stump just to let
everyone know we weren't together and to top it off I stood up in front
of all the other people eating and took a photograph of the poster for
the dessert (not allowed to say pudding over here, it means something
quite different). Every time I see the poster I feel a slight tinge of
sorrow, knowing we'll probably never meet again.........................
adios sabroso amigo!
Back to the myths. The thing about the rocks looking like
heads is , that as far as I know I just made it up. Just like the face
we can see in the moon it's almost impossible not to imbue things with
meaning related to ourselves. The
Red Native American tribes had
different explanations as to how the grand Canyon had come about. One
tribe believed that one of their mythological figures had cast a fire
ball across the landscape, while another tribe, the Hopi, believed that
one of their mythological figures had opened a jar which he wasn't supposed
to, and as he did 3 forks of lightening struck the Earth one of which
created the grand Canyon. The truth though, as far as our culture is concerned,
is possibly more impressive.
Two continental plates struck each other, and rather than
there being a crunching up effect one slid above the other and was pushed
up around 7000 feet. The part that ended up on top had originally been
at the bottom of the ocean. Imagine how upsetting that must have been
for the fish, still it was probably better than the fate awaiting those
on the bit crushed underneath, although they did have a few hundred million
years to get out of the way.
The next major contribution to creating the Canyon was
to have a steep river running through it, the Colorado. The forces generated
by steep rivers can be immense, able to move rocks and boulders over time.
So first you have a mass of land whose geological structure is mainly
horizontal and then you have a powerful river running through it. These
factors combined with an arid landscape that was easily eroded because
it couldn't sustain vegetation that will slow down erosion and over time
you get a Grand Canyon. Now wasn't that worth knowing about? For me the
thought of a mass of land being pushed hundreds of miles across and 7000
or more feet high is just as magical as the myths.
It's hard to get a sense of the scale of the Canyon until you use the
zoom on my super sexy digital camera.
The zoomed in part is of the green bit just above the circle.
Because I've seen postcards, TV and films showing the
Grand Canyon I think my sense of awe was stifled. Apart from feeling a
bit queasy when looking down I felt that standing at the top and looking
in to the Canyon was just one step from looking at it on the TV and to
get any real sense of it one would have to hike in to it, a seven mile
trip one way, so no chance for me.
Larry looking cool
Me looking cooler
A romantic couple making me feel envious
An innocent looking me and no more annoying happy couple. I know it looks
like I've superimposed a picture of me in front of one of the Grand Canyon,
but honest I was there.
Thanks to our early start I spent 3 hours this afternoon sleeping. Mr.
"I like to get up at the crack of dawn" (Larry), fell asleep
too. This evening I must have had the worst canteen food I've had for
years and that's saying something because I was bought up on hospital
food. I won't mention the Maswick Centre's canteen, just in case you want
to try it out. The rooms were quite good though.
We watched the sun go down alongside lot's of happy romantic couples.
How bloody nice for them. Yes I admit it, I was envious, and I admit it
I'm sad and lonely............... Are you happy now?
Once the sun went down I'd hoped there'd be some out door parties or
social events but no, so it was back to the hotel room where we delighted
in the countryside pursuit of ........watching TV. I wanted to watch American
Pie 2 but Larry wanted to
listen to then fall asleep during watch
a program about misspending in the Pentagon.
The news ran a feature on a young man whose car had spilled over the
central reservation and hit an on coming truck, killing both drivers.
The father of the boy was on TV saying that his son's first word had been
"car". For me there was something very disturbing about getting
a vox-pop of a newly deceased persons parent. Larry wondered why all the
attention had been just on the young man rather than the totally innocent
truck driver, who was probably driving along merrily minding his own business.
Does a TV crash count in my things coming in threes superstition?
You know that dream of living happily in the country is it true or a
myth? Answers on a postcard of the Grand Canyon please.