So then. I’m back and it’s a fortnight since the trip ended.
It took over a week for me to stop waking up in the early hours of the morning, not knowing where I was and thinking I needed to get up and hit the road.
The Big Trip wasn’t so much mind-blowing as mind-expanding. They say travel broadens the mind and mine’s been broadened to breaking point. I was awe-struck by the wide open plains of Middle America; Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and California. I could quite happily have stayed forever in Venice Beach: my sort of place and my sort of people. That’s the same sort of thing I was thinking when I was first in the States, back in 1979.
I encountered nothing but positivity and friendliness from Americans – in contrast perhaps with their perception in the rest of the world – and yes, having an RP accent is apparently a very attractive trait…
America, despite bringing us coffee shops chains, doesn’t really do decent coffee as far as I could see. It was plentiful with free top-ups, but not what I would call decent coffee! It does like super-sized portions though.
I’ve never been so photographed or videoed either: no doubt this was simply down to us being a bunch of 11 Harley Davidsons leaving rest and fuel stops at the same time.
I found members of the public wearing holstered handguns disconcerting when we were in Arizona at an ice-cream parlour: when I am out and about, it’s “keys, phone, wallet … good to go” rather than “keys, wallet, phone, .44 … good to go”. Does carrying a weapon clipped to your shorts mean better customer service at the cafÃ©?
I had many hours in the saddle with my music and my companions for company but ample time to simply think and reflect on life in general and my own in particular and what is important to me. I thought about friends and enemies. I thought about forgiveness and thankfulness. I thought about families past and present. I thought.
I liked riding past signs for “Spunkey Creek” in Oklahoma, billboards saying simply “JESUS”, villages and small towns with more churches than houses and churches with massive car parks deep in the bible belt.
I loved riding through landscapes where you couldn’t tell where the land stopped and the sky started. I loved the big skies. I loved riding alongside massive freight trains blasting their horns to acknowledge us. I loved cowboy country – on a steel horse I ride – and those wide open spaces.
I made friends, good friends I look forward to seeing again. Different languages but a common bond.
As expected, I encountered decay and disuse. Route 66 was built for a purpose and when something ‘better’ came along, it was phased out and forgotten and the communities that had been built up along the way were allowed to decay and close down. My photos from the trip tell only part of the story. But the memories will last forever.
I didn’t go looking for America … but it found me anyway.