it’s quite big isn’t it? the United States that is. I mean I new this, but it’s a matter of perspective, maps don’t really convey the size and distance in a way that you can properly appreciate (who really looks at the scale). The map I have of the States has all of the main roads of the USA on two pages – and individual states on separate pages, and now when I think about it I have also have a map of the UK, that is on the same scale as the individual states…..which should have given me a clue.
But, you live and learn. So I barrelled down out of Canada and into Wisconsin, full of beans and raring to go. Tomorrow I’d be half way to Oregon! After all it was only 6 inches on the map. My god I’ve never seen so many trees, I will never, ever worry again about de-forestation. Wisconsin alone will keep the earth in oxygen for eternity. In fact I’m surprised there isn’t a surfeit there and the whole state doesn’t spontaneously combust. I’d opted to stay off the interstates too as I wanted to “see” places rather than just drive on by them. I saw, trees, oh and bushes, and trees, and road kill (though what on earth killed it I’ve no idea – from the lack of other traffic on the road that ‘coon must have been desperately unlucky or very, very stupid), and trees, and not a single soul, unless they were behind the trees – on the more detailed map, there were place names which I presumed were towns, but somebody had obviously decided to name gas stations.
With the air conditioning off, I breathed in the rich, clean air, lightly fragranced with pine…which was slightly alarming too, in it’s way, as my lungs are used to London air, thick stuff that your lungs can get a grip on. So I found myself comfort, chain-smoking.
The landmark, named gas stations passed with alarming irregularity, I had the same sensation that you get when you wake up after a sleep on a long haul flight and see that the cartoon aircraft on the screen has only moved 3 inches. It seemed so unfair, Wisconsin was huge and only 6 people lived there.
So suddenly that I nearly missed it, I passed a sign that said “Welcome to Minnesota”. Huzzah!! Not that I have anything against Wisconsin you understand but I was beginning to worry that I had mistakenly managed to pull on to a huge circular road.
And nothing changed. The sign may as well have said “Welcome to Wisconsin part II”.
After 12 hours solid driving I took a 50 mile detour to get to a town that was definitely a “town” and not just another gas station (it had a little red blob attached to the name”. And sure enough, there was a lot more there, there was a church, a shop, and several houses…and a sign at the far end promised a lodge in another 15 miles.
It turned out to be a huntin’ n fishin’ kind of place down a dirt track off the main road. I’m not sure what the problem was, but the chap who (eventually arrived in reception after much bell ringing and helloooing) couldn’t seem to see me properly. He kept squinting at me as if I were made of smoke, nodding his head and shifting from side to side. It took approximately an hour to complete the business of getting me a shack half a mile from the main reception.
I’d been stupid enough not to shop, except for a pack of beer I’d bought at one of the gas stations so I spent the evening, on the step of my shack sipping beer and looking at the stars. It was wonderful, when it went dark, it really went "dark" in a way that it never does in the town, and the only thing that obstructed a wonderful view of the early evening constellations was, you guessed it, the trees. Unfortunaltely I found out in the morning that even if I missed out on supper I had unwittingly providing the evening meal for hundreds of local midges. Bliss.
Now there’s a thing I don’t fully understand. Various broadcasters had been warning me all day long, via the glory of local radio, that drinking and driving was a very naughty thing to do, and if I was caught, then I would be hung by the testicles from one of any number of trees by the road as a warning to other potential offenders. But the only place that I’d seen beer on sale was in the gas station….”fill her up and I’ll take a six pack of Bud please, of course I won’t drink it as I’m going along, I don’t have time to consider anything other than how fucking entertaining these trees are, there all different sizes you see”.
Just before I went to bed I looked at the map again, which by now had become a thoroughly depressing affair. By my calculations I would reach North Dakota some time in the fall, but I was quite looking forward to it, I thought I’d read somewhere that it wasn’t big on trees.