So that’s the USA well and truly covered: 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) from LA to New York and a lot more besides. I’ve dipped a toe in the pacific and made it all the way across to the Jersey Shore (the water there didn’t look too clean).
Along the way I’ve seen whales, wolves and walruses (the human kind) and a lot of things besides. I’ve met all kinds of wonderful, friendly people — obtuse officials and Jesus freaks excepted.
Some of the conversations I’ve had while on the road have made me realise that although the Brits and the Yanks share the same language, sometimes it seems as if we’re from a different planet. The USA still leaves me confused but for all that I still love the place, and here are a few reasons why…
- The price of gas — outside of California it’s as cheap as chips, which helps when you’re riding as far as I did
- The generous, warm, hospitable people right across the nation
- The way ALL bikers still wave and greet each other, even across 10 lanes of Interstate highway!
- The support and recognition for the armed forces, and its veterans
- The ‘bottomless’ cup of coffee — sometimes you need more than one cupful to warm up after a long stint in a cold State
- The small towns, the empty roads (most drivers stick to the boring Interstates) and the slow pace of life that can easily be found, if you know where to look
- The Pacific Coast Highway — it’s everything I hoped it would be, especially after missing my chance to ride the Great Ocean Road all those months ago in Australia
- The misty-eyed admiration for the lonesome traveller — I lost count of the number of people who told me that they share the same dream of a round-the-world journey (but without the marathons!)
But of course there were many things I also struggled with in America, perhaps because of cultural differences, my lack of desire to ‘make it rich’ and my increasing distrust of those in so-called authority. Being fleeced for nearly $600 upon arrival probably didn’t help but you live and learn. Here are some of the things I struggled to understand — or agree with — about the USA.
- Heavy police presence everywhere — they seemed to appear out of nowhere, and were usually aggressive and overbearing in their manner. While my brother was with me we got stopped three times in less than a week (perhaps it’s my brother?)
- Having to show ID, even though it’s blindingly obvious that I’m over 21!
- Ambulance-chasing, employer-chasing, anything-chasing sue-hungry, no-win, no-fee lawyers’ fat, greedy heads grinning at me from numerous billboards
- Numerous other advertising boards placed right in the middle of what would have otherwise been scenic, beauty spots. “Go figure”, as the Americans say
- People who told me to “have a nice day”, but clearly didn’t mean it
- The negative effect of globalisation, where Americans now drive the same cars as everyone else — I really miss looking and hearing those gas-guzzling, oversized V8 monsters, although at least the pick-up trucks still look as if they’re on steroids
- The excess, the greed and the gluttony, where very large people choose the largest portions of the wrong food, just because it’s cheap and plentiful. It can be painful to watch if you’re sitting near the buffet
- The lack of knowledge about international news. I guess you have to blame the media, which just doesn’t seem to bother to cover it, focussing instead on local or national news, and currently obsessed with Meghan Markle bagging herself a prince…
In crossing the USA I was looking for answers but the experience has left me with even more questions than before. If you can see past the sheer capitalism and the relentless drive for everything bigger (or smaller), better and faster, it’s a remarkable place that offers curious travellers unlimited opportunities for adventure. I’ve been hosted by many wonderful, caring, educated, interesting people who truly appreciate the ideas and dreams/motivation behind my travels — and have shared brief but important parts of their worlds with me.
I’d love to go back one day and ride through some of the other States that I couldn’t pass through this time, but whether they’ll let me in after the Iranian ‘episode’ is still open to debate.