During my more formative years, I spent a lot of time in British schools, meaning that while you guys were learning about the geography of this fine nation of ours, memorizing the fifty states and whatnot, I was learning about the Regency Crisis of 1788, and the governments of William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. This led to a lot of peculiar thinking about the layout of the US of A….
For instance, I had no idea that Maryland bordered Pennsylvania. When I learned about the Civil War, my most common thought was, “No wonder the Confederacy lost the war! They had to march from Maryland THOUSANDS of miles north to Pennsylvania,” which, at the time, I believed to be somewhere in mid-Canada.
So, up until Sunday, anything that didn’t have to do with America as 13 British Colonies didn’t really have to do with me. I referred to everything north of 168th Street as “Connecticut” and everything west of the Hudson as “Ohiowaoklahoma.” And when Andrea suggested that we visit her house in Aspen, which I believed to be somewhere on the other end of the Holland Tunnel but somewhere before Los Angeles (which, as we all know, is only 6 hours away), I thought it’d be a swell idea to hop into her Mercedes SUV and drive all the way.
But Andrea made me promise one thing. “Martin, Honey, you’re not allowed to look at a map till we make it to the second rest stop.” She kept saying things like “Trust me,” and “It’s a straight shot from Manhattan to Aspen.”
The trip got off to a bad start when Andrea had her car burgled on 32nd and 3rd, and we ended up delaying our trip by a day so some shady characters in the Bronx could fix her car. And so, on Sunday we finally hit the road, and when we got to that second rest stop, my jaw dropped. “Oh. My. God. We’re not going to make it there alive!!”
But alive we are, and the trip went off swimmingly, with little boredom (or sleep) had by anybody. I kept the trip rolling with a Prussian sense of efficiency, while Andrea insisted we run a “Super Size Me”-like experiment on our bodies, only eating McDonald’s or Subway for most of the voyage. This trip would fall under the category of what Andrea’s father would call “some crazy white people shit.” Also falling under the category of “some crazy white people shit” is bungee jumping, skydiving, dirt-bike racing, and cage diving with great white sharks, or any combinations thereof (skydiving into a shark cage, etc.).
But I’ve learned a great many thing about this nation of ours from the journey… In a Pizza Hut in Brownstown, Missouri, I finally understood why GW Bush won the election. Waitresses in certain central states will, quite shockingly, pat a person on the shoulder as a display of affection, and will call perfect strangers such things as “Darling” or “Hon.” Tornadoes are things that don’t just exist in movies (as we experienced in Kansas!).
I have now traveled through nine, count ’em, NINE, of our fair central states, including such exotic locales as Missouri and Kansas, and suggest that everybody do the same. And now, after four days of travel, I’m safe and sound in Aspen.
There is no television or internet here, and my cell phone died somewhere in Missouri. I am going to fish and hunt, to sit on pool decks and take hikes, to travel in hot air balloons and ride aging ponies, and to get through the massive stack of papers that have been on my desk for months. Tomorrow, I’m going down to the creek (there’s a creek!) and gets to fishin’ me some salmon.
Photos of me with caribou, elk, trees, grizzly bears (which, I hear, are as affectionate as porpoises once you get to know them!), winding streams, mountainsides, hillsides, etc., soon to follow!