Thursday, 3 July 2008


A day of aimless meandering through some pretty countryside with plenty of woods although try as I might I couldn't manage to get the brain and map suitable meshed to enable me to drive along the shores of Lake Erie. Instead I just took wild swings off the freeway in order to leave the ribbon of concrete. Not an unpleasant day but just one that was unremarkable. In many ways I think I’ve been spoiled on my previous trip by the spectacular scenery of Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite etc. Perhaps my expectations are too high.

Not that I'm having a lousy time - far from it. It’s quite a nice feeling bowling along in the sunshine with a more or less completely empty head. I left Michigan and entered Ohio. As with last year, by the time I was in the East of the country the toll roads started. The Ohio Turnpike came first and for $3 this took me all the way into Pennsylvania. About a mile after leaving the Ohio turnpike the same road became the Pennsylvania turnpike and I had to fork out again.

Due to my circuitous route down some back roads, dotted with some rather grim ramshackle housing and abandoned vehicles and by the look of it people too, I ended up in Hubbard.
This is back in Ohio. I booked into a motel at a truck stop and sought out the nearest bar. Well in fact the only bar – ‘Erin's’. This was a small place with a clientele that resembled that bar in ‘Star Wars’. There were a few tables but the only people inside were a gaggle of drivers all sitting on stools around a smallish U-shaped bar area. Oh and one brightly painted woman. Not sure what she was doing there....welI actually I think I did. She would appear and disappear from time to time, although she never got as far as me.

This saloon configuration (yes, it had batwing doors!) makes talking easier. It’s a bit like the bar in "Cheers" meaning you can yell at the people over on the other side. A drunk was wandering around shouting drunken guy stuff to all and sundry and a huge man with a ZZ Top beard and hair was making a thumbing motion with his hand in the drunk’s direction. He caught my eye and yelled across the bar: "Goddam remote won't work! Trying to turn him down". "Perhaps your battery is flat," I roared back at him. Well, actually it sounded rather feeble and piping above the hubbub.

I don't know why it is - and it's just an observation rather than one of those ‘funny foreigners’ things that so many people do, but Americans are boisterous and often loud. I think it must be the result of years of being outside and having to shout across long distances. That and to make themselves heard above the elements. Being here and seeing people in their natural habitat doesn't make me think – ‘they are sooo noisy I wish they would quieten down’, it actually makes me think, ‘why are we Brits so buttoned up and reserved?’ Perhaps it’s because of our distinct natures. They are open and positive and we are closed and negative. These are obviously generalisations of course. Also as much as I like travelling, it is always good to get home to the UK again.

However there are a number of pressing issues that need addressing. I must get some laundry done. I’ve come to the end of my clothes again. Many motels have their own launderette but the luck of the draw at the moment is that I’ve managed to book into the ones that don't. Although they may boast other facilities which are welcome such as swimming pools and gyms.

Then there’s the next problem. After last year’s trip where the food and my gluttony managed to pack on the pounds - which I didn't really lose, yet more is being packed on, so when I get back I will have to go on a very public diet in an attempt to get down to something manageable and be able to do up the top button of my jeans.

It is insidious. Everywhere you look there are food outlets. I stopped for a late breakfast and shovelled more burger and Swiss cheese related stuff down me. Still, for the first time EVER in all the weeks that I’ve spent here in the US, the waitress said "have a nice day" as I left.

At the current rate of expansion I think by the time I get to New York they are going to have to cut the car off me as it’s getting harder to get in and out.

As I left Erin's that night having consumed nearly a bucket of monkey nuts they had helpfully left in front of me, I found myself in another burger bar availing myself of the "2 for one" offer.

Maybe that’s why Americans are so loud? They have to shout above the noise of their thighs rubbing together

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