Sunday 26th June
If I thought shipping out of Newcastle was going to mean my avoiding the summer silly-season, where you think intensely about football even when there is no football to think about, I was wrong. I guessed as much from early on when Barry in New York was all over every transfer rumour and had the links to prove it. I tried then not to be distracted by speculation and confounded by thoughts of squad strength and I failed. I have been doing the same, on and off, ever since. It seems my brain has become conditioned over the decades to default to Newcastle United whenever it gets done with meandering around the edges of reality.
The Ford Taurus twisted out of Deadwood’s mountain roads and onto the interstate at Spearfish with the cruise control and the I-pod doing half my work for me. Wifey, with a map on her lap, was doing the other half – so the mind was free to wander…………..
Is filling the squad up with young Frenchmen going to make us Arsenal in disguise or are we merely walking an already well trodden path? After all we have had a number of young Frenchmen in our colours in recent years; Ginola, Goma, Domi, N’Zogbia and so on and so on and so off. They start well, we take them to our hearts, we try to ignore the “misquotes” in L’Equipe and they end up being as hard to control as a gang of hungry kittens in a trout farm. They slump into a pouting great strop and we part company, with Newcastle United considerably out of pocket and us fans that shade more jaded.
In deliberately moving out so many of the players who got Newcastle promoted and then kept us up, are we also dispensing with that underrated role in any dressing room; that of the arse-kicker? It is all too easy to imagine that, with our hierarchy dismantled, Cabaye, Ba and Marveaux will be “misquoted” when talking of dressing room cliques and be climbing up the curtains by Christmas.
Wifey and I got to The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, a remarkable natural feature that seems to have burst unnaturally out of the ground. A crazed hippy in South Dakota had promised us a strange spiritual experience on approaching it. We did a full circle of the thing, which is mile and a half and I tried waving my arms at it to see if that would help us win The League Cup.
I have tried invoking primeval powers in the past with such a lowly goal in mind; when buying an Inca cross in Peru, a beaded wristband in Namibia and a black stone from the witchcraft museum in Cornwall. All in the pathetic hope that a peculiar god would reward a respectful traveller with a modest gift. I expect the same result, after all Wyoming has rocked the sporting world in the same way Peru, Namibia and Boscastle has done, namely not at all. Their Gods seemingly have little interest in their local teams so I can’t blame them when Newcastle United are knocked out by someone bollocks in the 4th Round of a cup no one cares about.
A massive thunderstorm burst over The Little Big Horn battle site as we arrived. Lightning cracked, thunder rumbled and rain came down as hard as arrows on a surrounded Cavalry General. 135 years to the day later. A Crow guide showed us round the cemetery (that’s from the tribe as opposed to the murder) pointing out graves with an interesting story behind them. Like the soldier who killed himself when it turned out his recently deceased wife was a man.
Right Song at the Right Moment: was easily “Going Out West” by Tom Waits (used in “Fight Club”- all bristling with attitude AND we were going West at the time) until just as we pulled into The Little Big Horn, when the I-pod spat up “Keep On Keeping On” by The Redskins
Monday 27th June
A motel in Billings then on towards the North East gate at Yellowstone. Not the most accessible entrance, with a steep winding occasionally precarious road over the mountains but the views were breathtaking. Frozen lakes, waterfalls, dozens of retired CEOs riding Harley Davidsons away from their well-spent youths – with the promise of a night in a campsite in earshot of wild wolves.
Our favouring the North East of anything ended in disaster (as usual) – 13 miles in the road had been washed away and we were directed back out and towards the East Entrance. 136 miles of beautiful winding road on which it was impossible to sustain anything above 45 mph.
Again I zoned out;……… our midfield has lacked pace since Kieron Dyer left. We have had a team of grizzled warriors who have done us proud but that will only take you so far and Pardew has said from the start he wants quick attacking football. I know every manager says that, but my dumb optimism is kicking in, and there is surely money still to be spent. And we have hopefully got Ben Arfa, Gosling and Vuckic coming in like new players.
Right Song at the Right Moment: “Exit” – Killing Joke angry tribal drums and aggressive chopping guitar as we finally enter Cody – the birth place of Buffalo Bill where every single bloody thing is named after the man.
I wake in the tent wondering why there is never any speculation regarding the departure of Shola Ameobi? We are back in Yellowstone, snowy peaks, vast lakes, tremendous hazelnut coffee and a fearful herd of tourists, thankfully mostly travelling the opposite direction to us.
Old Faithful goes off the second we arrive – which is awful considerate of it. Pushing on, a bison has wandered into the road and the queue entering the East Gate all want a picture of it. You, I and the Indians call them buffalo – they are bison (old joke alert! – the difference being you can’t wash your hands in a buffalo – I thank you) – we got bored of counting the cars when the number surpassed 700……and why wouldn’t Stoke or Blackburn want a player who has scored so many Premiership goals? And how uninspiring is our strike-force exactly? If Lovenkrands and Shola were our 3rd and 4th choice strikers few of us would complain, if they are 1st and 2nd dumping Ranger and Best seems daft – so does that mean we are getting two new strikers?
Right Song at the Right Moment: “Stay in the Car” – Girls Against Boys. 6 am and several tons of bison is standing by the road looking at us.
Clear of the awesome Yellowstone National Park we were uninspired by Idaho Falls and Blackfoot. Despite their cool names they were little more than retail parks with the hotels and conference centres attached. This is what out of town retail does to places, the towns themselves wither. We stayed in Pocatello and the downtown area looked like Gateshead High Street. But it did have a cool liquor store and an Italian restaurant.
The next day we landed up in Salt Lake City and as Wifey negotiated the rate for a motel I flicked the car radio onto BBC Radio 1 for Newsbeat (yes it can do that , how mental? With a time delay so you get English daytime radio despite the seven hour time difference. You travel halfway round the world and here are Scott Mills and Fearne bloody Cotton in my car) sunderland have signed Connor Wickham for £8.1 million and I can’t work out why I am so annoyed. I didn’t really expect many answers from this trip but I hoped a lot of the questions would stop.
Right Song at the Right Moment: “Leeches” – Gallows as we rumbled through Salt Lake City: “burning all your churches down”: in this place that would be some job, the phone book has eight and a half pages of em.