Now we are up and running with our high speed internet we are back connected to the world. I had a great tiime catching up with friends and seeing lots of different "Americas" this summer.
New York was shining. It sparkled with energy. I felt like I was finally waking up from my midwest slumber. I always feel that that city is the gateway to the world. That things are happening. It was awesome.
Atlanta, Georgia, was hot and a shining new city (it got burned down in the civil war) but the disappointing thing was that the city is still very much segregated on racial lines - my friend stays in the white north of the city and I hardly saw any african americans the whole time (very sad for the hometown of Martin Luther King). I had a great time with my friend. She showed me every nook and cranny of her neighbourhood. The huge houses in the rich part boggled the mind!!!
Indianapolis (Carmel really), Indiana was as scary as usual: every house looks the same and I swear the stepford wives club actually exists there. Time I found goes very very slowly there - maybe it is twilight zone - I am also convinced that there are little elves that come out in the middle of the night to cut every blade of grass to perfect exacting specified length.
Houston, Texas, was hot!! Not sit out hot - sit indoors because it is unbearable hot. The humidity there is unbelievable - you could slice it up and serve it with ice cream, the air is so thick. It is one of Americas big sprawling cities. I didn't have much time to see much but we went to a great place for BBQ which had a lot of character.
The Trip from Houston to Nashville was a hoot - Kristen, her sister Sara, and me in a rickety old van towing Kristen's car. It took us WAY too long but we had plenty of daft songs to sing on the way. We drove through lots of little Texan towns and some "dry" counties (ie no alcohol allowed!!). It is amazing when you see cliches unfolding before your eyes - the old man sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair.
We rolled into Nashville, Tennessee, at 4 am. We were exhausted. The next day we explored a bit after breakfast at Ihop - Ihop is an American institution - it stands for International house of Pancakes. It is a diner type chain restaurant which specializes in breakfast - lots of food and not much of it is good for you :) Nashville has a small town feel to it. We avoided the tourist strip downtown and explored a nice grungy neighborhood with an excellent coffee shop and used bookstore. There was evidence everywhere of cowboy hats and boots!!!
Miami. Florida. Our first impression was this is nuts we are moving here!! Palm trees abound. There is lots of brightly colored buildings and down town is a jungle of high rises with more being built. After a saga with apartment hunting we finally found our place in south beach with the reasoning that if we are going to live in a crazy place we may as well live in the craziest part of it for the full experience.
Salt Lake City. Utah. Wow, amazing mountains!!! The city nestles at the base of a mountain ridge of some of the most stunning mountains I have seen. The city however is weird. It is a mix of outdoor snow types, hippies and conservative straight laced mormons. We visited the mormon temple - scary in itself. The mormons believe the weirdest stuff - that a guy in upstate new york in 1832 had a sign from god to find 'golden tablets' in a hill on his farm, and that the ancient eqyptian writing on them could only be translated by this same man, Josh Smith; they beleive that prophets from biblical times came to America and had a civilisation here that died out and that Josh Smith and the subsequent 15 prophets after him are talking from God. I went with the attitude that I was open to anything and sort of wanted to see if they would/could try to convert me. I came away feeling more convinced of the craziness of their beliefs. I think the mormons are very like a cult - a cult of people who are very 'nice' and smile all the time - oh and don't drink alcohol, coffee, soda or condone homosexuality or equality for women.
Steamboat Springs. Colorado. The journey through the mountains to colorado was beautiful and we saw some odd things on the way - like prairie dogs eating road kill fearless of being knocked down by a car and a big giant plastic pink dinosaur on the side of the road. Steamboat is a typical colorado town with lots of wealthy people and outdoor types who have no money. The mountains are beautiful but to be honest they looked just like all the other colorado mountains I've seen. The Rodeo at night however was brilliant. It's amazing to see the cowboys at work and their skill. I wouldn't get on one of those bucking broncos or bulls for the world - definitely scary. The funny part was when they got all the kids between 6 and 12 to go down into the ring and then let a calf out into the ring with a ribbon tied to its tale. The first kid to catch the ribbon from the calf got a prize. You should have seen the petrified expression on the calf's face when it was faced with a crowd of kids running after it. They did the same thing with the under 6 year olds and a sheep - I think the sheep got the better deal. There was also a six year old who did barrel running - that is when they ride around three barrels in the stadium at a full gallop. The six year old was amazing on a big horse going full pelt.
Moab. Utah. The drive down from Steamboat to the dessert was astounding. The landscape slowly split and moved into being a wonderment of canyons and red red stone. It felt like going back in time. The rock formations were like the ruins of ancient castles. The heat was unbelievable. I actually felt like my brain was cooking. We were glad that the little hairdryer on wheels that Darren's work had hired us at least had air conditioning. Moab is a small town in the dessert with a big wide main street. The main industry there is definitely tourism. There are lots of shops to spend money on nothing. It is a bizarre place because it almost feels like it is incomplete due to the dry rock surrounding the place. I think if you lived there you would dream about trees and grass lawns. In the morning we went to Arches National Park. It was breathtaking. The rock formations were so varied and wonderful it was difficult to believe (I'm afraid that Mum's geology explanations of Arthur's Seat are going to fall a bit flat after this). This is a place unlike any other and somewhere everyone should see once if they can. Only do yourself a favour and don't go in the summer unless you wish to experience your brain frying - it got up to 115 degrees farenheit!!!
Now sitting in South Beach I am amazed by how many different Americas there are in this country. I feel very lucky to have seen so many of them. This country can never be pinned down. As soon as you think America is one thing something pops up to contradict it. There is lots of go get em enthusiasm in parts of America but there is also extreme conservative pessimism too. There is so much to explore in this one country that it is no wonder that so few leave to explore the rest of the world. I've had a rich and eye opening summer. I feel lucky to have had such opportunity.