It’s a long trip from Australia to almost anywhere. Despite that or maybe because of the isolation Australians travel a lot. Not just north to Asia and across the ditch to New Zealand but we head for Europe and America in droves. I’ve been to Europe twice, lived in Holland for a year and been to China twice amongst other trips. Of course, we always come back because nowhere beats home.
My recent trip to the USA was the second for me. Last time was in 2000, to San Francisco, Denver briefly, New Orleans and New York.
This time because the ultimate destination was Washington DC for the RWA conference, which meant crossing the whole continent, I was determined to see the Grand Canyon. And why not toss in Niagara Falls while we were at it?
So husband Colin and I left Canberra on a chilly, windy, grey, winter July 1st at 2-30 pm to fly to Sydney. Our international flight left at 8-30 pm and arrived in LA at 3-30pm July 1st. We were able to catch an earlier flight to Las Vegas than planned and arrived at our destination on July 1st at 8-30pm. Exactly when we left Sydney, except it was now 104 degrees.
Anyone who’s been to Vegas will know what it’s like and it was pretty much what we expected—full on insanity. The first thing you see when walking off the plane in to the terminal is a bank of poker machines and the next a gigantic poster for a gun shop selling automatic weapons. A sexy young lady suggests we “Come and try one.” We didn’t.
Instead, I wanted to find a library and see my books in real life on a shelf. I checked the phone book for the closest one to the Strip and we hailed a taxi.
“What do you want to go to the library for?” he asked.
Away from the lunacy of Vegas the Grand Canyon is awe inspiring. Everything we expected and more. Fabulous. If you get the opportunity, go.
Next stop Buffalo where we hired a car and drove up to the Falls. Another very impressive display of nature at work. We walked across the bridge and had lunch in Canada. Why not? At least we can see say we’ve been there. By this time Colin was under the influence of swine flu—maybe not the pig version but definitely a horrible lurgy of some sort.
The plan was drive across to friends in Gloucester via the beautiful Finger Lakes. Australia is almost the same size as the USA but the big difference is water. Those northern states have it in abundance, Australia doesn’t. Most of Australia is like Nevada, hot dry and empty. We drove for three days across New York State and went through lots of thriving little towns in lush green surroundings. At home, covering the same distance, even going up the east coast in the fertile strip, the towns are at least forty miles apart with nothing much in between. The population of Australia is close to 22 million. The USA is ten times that or more.
We navigated pretty well. Colin had no trouble staying on the right side of the road (flu ridden and all) and driving an automatic car made things even easier. We were surprised to learn that it’s quite difficult to get a manual car in America. Our main problem was working out which road number took us to where we wanted to go. If you don’t know the route number there’s no clue to where it’s heading. Hmmm. Here our road signs give the destinations, listed with distance. Eg If you’re heading to Melbourne from Canberra or some town along the way you follow the signs that head you to Melbourne and look out for the relevant name as you go. I doubt whether anyone knows many road numbers.
Our friend in Gloucester said when we commented on the road thing, “The rationale is if you don’t know which road you want you're not local so you shouldn’t be here.”
Accordingly we had fun getting out of Ithaca after a stop for lunch. Luckily we knew we wanted to head east and our car had a compass on the rearview mirror. What a lovely town Ithaca is. We sat in a park under huge shady trees and ate organic salad from a student co-operative type store complex. Colin, a jazz drummer, discovered a shop selling all sorts of ethnic percussion instruments and drums. Oddest of all, plastic didgeridoos made in China.
Part 2 continues on August 11th