Finding a way in

We’ve been here a week and done nearly a thousand miles. Seen mountains, forests, roaring gorges, foaming rapids and finally Niagara. The weather’s been kind with warm days and cool nights. It is just as everyone told me it would be. The sights are breathtaking, stunning, the dreaded word ‘awesome’ – the adjectives have been used already.

Bill Bryson wrote of a road trip he did with his family to show them his native land. After a week or so they became immune to the glory of it all, he began commenting, “Natural beauty on your left..” I am not immune to it, but like Mr Bryson and many English I like my pleasures small.

I have seen a chipmunk – sweet, but tiny, I thought from the Alvin cartoon they’d be bigger. Also a groundhog on the side of the road, I was driving the RV for the first (and only time) and nearly drove off the Skyline Driveway. And at last after many signs promising deer leaping across the road one actually did, and I saw it join its family on the other side.

Another modest joy. We were at a shopping outlet and eating a hefty pizza when I saw an Amish man stroll by. He looked just like the one in Witness who comes walking over the hill to woo the girl after Harrison Ford leaves town: straw hat, plain clothes, pudding basin haircut, the lot. It unsettled my notion of how Amish carry on to see him at the mall, but I suppose we all like a bargain.

Niagara was awesome. We did all the tourist things: Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist and ate a desiccated hot dog, but my most striking memory will be of a Muslim family with their prayer mats and picnic at sundown.

And of course I love it that people seem to have swallowed a courtesy pill but they do remind me of the tired airhostess Barbie at the end of Toy Story. It’s the woman who returned my 75c when I topped up her dryer at the campsite by mistake who showed real consideration.  I nearly fried her laundry and left mine soaking wet. One question though. Why in this glorious climate tumble dry at all?

I suppose I need a way in to the immensity of it all. I find the hugeness unsettling. I realize just how small and domestic my world is. Time and again I think of those pioneers who came and decided to ‘tame’ the land. Oh my word, the sheer guts and hubris of it. Perhaps they were desperate, after all there was no going back. All that land-clearing and bridge-building and not knowing how friendly or hostile the many elements of the land would be. Now that was literally breath-taking.

In all their endeavours, in the struggle to make a way into this continent how they must have ached for a friend, a dog even. And, if they were domestically minded, somewhere to hang their washing.

New blog

Oops! I almost wrote new blob, that’s the problem with typing while lying in bed with jet lag. That is this nasty not quite sleepy but not quite awake queasy feeling, yes? I now know what you’ve all been talking about. Grim. But the good thing is I do have the bed all to myself and it’s a queen size. John has his own about six feet away from me. He’s reading about the sewerage system on the beast of a truck we’re about to pick up. We are on day one, (or is it two or even three, anyhow we left home on Tuesday evening and now it’s Thursday), of our American adventure. We are celebrating 30 years of married life by attending a family wedding and doing what I think is a ‘road trip’.At present we are in Germantown which is NE of Washington. We have four hours to wait until we can pick up our RV and be on our way to  West Virginia. It’s 31 degrees outside, our hotel is situated on a busy intersection, there’s not much to see except parking lots, so we have gone back to bed.

I don’t follow many blogs but I enjoy The Practical Free Spirit’s (Amy Sundberg’s) posts. They are thoughtful, well structured and witty. She wrote recently about travel and how unsettling it is and how we learn as much about ourselves as we do about the new places we visit. Being unsettled is neither good nor bad, but you do find out what you’re made of when it happens. This is part of the experiment we are embarked on. Yesterday I learned how to be pampered. I liked it. It was unsettling I suppose, most of my travelling has been functional, getting from A-B without too much discomfort but yesterday’s experience took travel to another level.

Despite my advanced years I am not well-travelled. I don’t come out well on that Facebook app where you colour in all the places you’ve been. Both my children and my parents have been to more continents than me, and if we include nieces and nephews I reckon my extended family has just about covered the globe. Until yesterday I hadn’t done a flight longer than two hours but yesterday I flew business class from Heathrow to Washington Dulles. It was glorious. As a Trans-Atlantic virgin it quite made my day. I was shown to a little pod type cocoon with all sorts of sliding trays and roomy lockers, a quilt and pillow, a tilting screen to watch. I spent the first two hours playing with all the buttons and not quite mastering the reclining position of my seat. I watched one woman come in, assume a horizontal position, put her ear plugs in and eye mask on and sleep motionless for the next six hour.It obviously wasn’t her first time but I was so excited I could hardly sit still.

She missed the champagne and the Sancerre which went well with the fish pie: also the choice of many types of strong liquor (which I didn’t have). I hasten to add that I didn’t over indulge and, indeed emptied many bottles of fizzy water. And all served by your very own Jeeves. After lunch they turned the lights down and I got the idea I was supposed to stop fiddling now and sleep. It was like putting your head on the desk at school or that quiet moment at the end of a yoga class when we’re all afraid of dropping off, drooling or snoring. Just lovely. Then two hours later we were woken up, gently, gently by the lights coming on and then some dudey little prawn sandwiches and scones with real clotted cream appeared. I hadn’t really done anything since lunchtime except slide up and down in my seat and re arrange my locker, but I ate them anyway. I hate waste.

Since then our experiences have, shall I say, been mixed. But we’ve weathered it. Like those 30 years really.