We had a memorable weekend near Denver staying with friends of my sister. Neil, Tessa and their son Jason didn’t know us from Bonnie and Clyde but they could not have been kinder. It was only after we sat down for dinner that we discovered that they hadn’t spoken face to face to my sister in 20 years.
Neil and Tessa not only provided us our first bed since Tuesday (oh the sheer bliss of it), brilliant company, lifts, food and use of their washing machine but they were a fountain of brilliant advice for our road trip. On the Sunday night, after a day in the Rocky Mountains, we found ourselves in Boulder (where Mork & Mindy was set and it’s reportedly the happiest place in America).
We sipped scrumptious margaritas and they helped plot our route. The next day it was raining. Monday morning on a bus with rain lashing against the windows, isn’t this what we were trying to get away from?
“I hope it’s not that one,” says Wifey pointing at a garish yellow car at the front of the car hire place. The man behind the counter had a little name badge that said he was the manager. On discovering we were English he announced that Top Gear was his favourite programme, “Have you seen it?” Yeah and the last one we saw was the repeat of the drive across the US that finished with Clarkson saying “Don’t go to America.” “You have booked an economy car, which is that yellow compact on the lot there, considering your route, may I suggest an upgrade?” – “Are you saying that car won’t make it?” I doubt that little yellow bastard had been moved in five years it was just there to frighten idiots into upgrades. We couldn’t afford an upgrade. He offered us a much better deal on an upgrade. Unaware that we had been haggling we agreed and suddenly felt like children in a sweet shop.
What to choose? A Ford Mustang convertible for only $10 a day more. Motherf****r! I was born to drive that car. 9.6 miles to the gallon and it was raining like hell outside. We took a Ford Taurus that promised 27 miles to the gallon and had a proper roof. I sat in the driver seat or more accurately I climbed into the cockpit of this bloody monster unable to adjust the seat never mind work out what all the flashing lights did. I got out and wandered round it getting soaking wet as Wifey peered out at me, the tip of her nose barely visible above the dash board. It was going to be like trying to drive the Starship Enterprise down the f***ing street, blindfold. An attendant showed us how to move the seats up and forward which only slightly lessoned the feeling of bewilderment and terror. What the bloody hell have we done, I can’t drive this? If I was only going to be able to drive half a mile before being involved in a fatal accident I could have at least gone out in a f***ing Mustang.
Somehow we made it to the nearest Wal-Mart. We bought the cheapest tent ($24), the cheapest sleeping bags ($10 each), beef jerky, processed meat and some carrots to frighten off crack-heads. We had been on the freeway for about half an hour when I said, “This car is f***ing brilliant!” It purred like a big cat, was more comfortable than Elton John’s sofa, the cruise control was a dream and it had a digital radio. In two hours we were in Cheyenne. We had stopped at a Days Inn in Nashville but this one wanted $139 for one night. The scuzzy place down the road, that looked like the sort of place you hide up if a Terminator or the FBI are chasing you, only wanted $46.
The girl at the liquor store over the road had said my accent made me sound “so elegant” – I looked at the spoils of the day. A motel, with rubber sheets (the reasons for which were all too horrible to consider), processed food, bread buns, cheap wine and a 40 oz bottle of beer. “We are now officially white trash.” Right Song at the Right Moment “Ruby Soho” by Rancid on Lithium Radio (Rancid on the radio in the afternoon – what a f***in’ country.) Tuesday 21st A cop breakfast of coffee and old donuts – high on the hog I tells you, real high, that’s where we’re living at. That cliché about the horizon going on forever here? It just does. Wyoming. 100 miles later, Wyoming. We can’t still be in Wyoming. Wyoming. Wyoming. Nebraska at last. Nebraska looks like Wyoming. Two gas stops later we were in Whiteclay, a Sioux town within a reservation with 89% unemployment. A dismal place and a shame on the USA. As is the massacre sight at Wounded Knee where the US cavalry murdered starving women and children in the snow, only about 120 years ago.
The Ranger at the information centre was Sioux, he was a US Marine for four years, and he felt the destruction of his people was inevitable. Was there a point where something could have been done differently? “Yes,” he said with a smile, “you could have stayed over there”. I presume he didn’t mean me personally. Hell of a thing if he did. Right Song at the Right Moment. “The Adventure” – Angels and Airwaves. Alt Nation on Sirius Digital Radio in the car. Possibly the greatest radio station in the world. At least this week it is.