Just a quick tidy up of some of the mundane, but maybe interesting, aspects of our time in the USA.
Anna struggles with me carrying a kettle and a stove to boil water. (Once a camper always a camper.) It came in useful. We ate out a lot but the food is very similar around the States and weariness set in or we couldn’t cope with two full meals a day. Anna has some food intolerances and some restaurant menus didn’t offer anything. In the room we made sandwiches or added hot water to stuff such as porridge. It worked well. Hotel breakfasts were entertaining as we watched Americans put eggs, bacon, melon/fruits and pastries on the same plate. Is it to avoid the need to revisit the buffet again or destroyed taste buds?
The distances between towns in the USA does mean that food tends toward being processed and I think, despite the supposed love of fishing, that I hear of in Country music, I could win a quiz, with a selection on Americans, asking what a tuna, salmon, trout, shrimp etc looked like before being filleted or frozen such is the rare sighting for most who live a long way from the coast.
Even I was knocked out by the convenience of Apple Play in the rented car. We switched on the phone in the car and the system wanted to pair. After this we were able to have in-car music, satellite navigation and could pick up either the BBC or Talksport. Listening live to Leeds United vs. Barnsley in the Carabao Cup driving through Wyoming was genuinely surreal. Some times you could receive live BBC football coverage but not the cricket. Somebody somewhere understands these exclusions?
We were here in 2016 and the exchange rate was a lot more favourable. Our trip coincided with the pound being at record lows against the dollar (£1 = $1.13) We found the USA expensive. However, even compensating for the dollar then prices appear to have risen dramatically. Salaries have risen as well but with these prices you need to earn a lot! Obviously we were often travelling in tourist areas and some prices were criminal. I bought six peaches in Colorado and the vendor is probably still telling his friends how much he charged…. and they paid!! Over and above Colorado then nothing was cheap. I used to have a shopping list when I came to the States but much of what I desired was cheaper back in Blighty. Beware.
It seems there is a shortage of workers all over the western world. In the USA trucks that passed us advised us of ‘hiring’. At any retailer, food or clothing, interviews could be done on the spot for new recruits and on occasion the service was slow because of ‘staff shortages’. The reason is that Covid took a large number of people out of the workforce and the shortage is evident. The UK has this plus Brexit. I imagine all the EU workers who went home no longer needed to come back to the UK because geographically closer countries like Germany, Poland etc had to fill their Covid departed.
So much of our commentary in the media is about diversity and equality. You would expect America with its wider diversity to be more self evident. Not a piece of it. We saw few African Americans on our road trip around Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. In Salt Lake City we saw a few Latinos and Indians (South Asians). If there was any ethnic group in profusion it was folk who lived or originated in the Far East, especially in the National Parks. I think most of these were tourists from out of State or country. You can see how different ethnic groups easily maintain their separation as they never mingle outside of the large cities in the USA.
The message in Europe about reducing packaging and waste has been received. Not here really. Parking up leaving the engine running, with the windows open but the A/C on is one of my favourite crimes. In Walmart you still walk out with a lot of plastic carrier bags, in Europe having a bag to carry away your purchases is your problem. Buy sliced cheese and you get each slice separated by pieces of paper. Plastic cutlery at hotel breakfasts and disposable plates, bowls and cups made of polystyrene should be banned. Wake up! Don’t waste stuff we don’t really need. None of this is a good reason to process crude oil or chop down a tree.
However for all my curmudgeonly xenophobic comments I love the USA. Being in these States where ‘woke’ never gets the time of day I was very comfortable, whether I am a dinosaur or not. I adore the space: wide roads, big rooms, enormous skies and landscapes that you can’t fully absorb due to their size. Surprisingly the Americans are very disciplined. If the sign says drive at 25mph, they do. If the road sign says ‘Stop’ even though there is no traffic, they stop. They don’t jump queues, they let you go first if you both meet at the same point and avoidance of aggravation is paramount. Through the centre of Cheyenne, the State capitol of Wyoming, the speed limit is 20mph. Often I was ready to cross swords but eventually I got the message and chilled (a little!)
In Britain parking is a pain. You never can. You have to drive some distance from where you want to be, pay a lot of money to do so and then, often, have to sandwich your car into a tight spot. In the States, we passed through, there were no challenges. To accumulate steps we voluntarily parked a distance from the intended destination but there was always easy parking wherever. Bliss. In parts of Yellowstone we came across poor road surfaces. That was an exception. Most roads were smooth and well maintained. Heaven help the US visitor who drives in Britain!
Passing through Manchester and London Heathrow Airport the old, battered and dirty nature of the facilities is there for all to see. In any public building here if you visit the toilet/washrooms the quality of the facilities and the cleanliness is superb and puts us to shame.
Some of the Americans we met were quick to decry the depth of their history compared to Europe. True, we have castles, monarchy and it’s older but there is lots to see here. Native Americans, the War of Independence, a Civil War, the opening up of the West, Civil Rights, Vietnam and the importance on all our lives of the USA during the 20th Century. That’s before we get to the art culture of Hollywood, Elvis and Tamla Motown. Chill, there’s a lot to see and learn. I am engrossed by it all.
Lastly, as much I admire and feel attached to my Antipodean friends I am not Australian. I can think of three separate occasions, on this and other trips, when an American has ‘guessed’ my nationality and plumped for Crocodile Dundee. Stop it, it’s not funny any more.
2 thoughts on “My Letters From America – Holiday Notes”
Really enjoyed reading your blog Tony sounds like you and Anna have had a great time.See you soon.😀
Tony Ives, a 21st Century Alistair Cooke. All very interesting with a humour that can only be British. Couldn’t agree more with you about the importance of American history.