As we are using this blog as a diary, we want to be able to write a bit about how we are feeling at certain times and places, so please don’t feel offended by anything said its just so we can remember a bit about what we were thinking in the future.
Driving through the northern states I have definitely got the feeling that it would be great to buy your ranch and set up in it. Although we are here in summer you can somehow tell that there are the four distinct seasons and it’s very tempting to stop in one of the beautiful spots we have found and see them all unfold.
The trip and the day to day activities of driving, eating, seeing sights etc has all been so easy. It’s all so well directed and set up and everyone is so polite and helpful that it has been so great almost though to the point of being bland (it makes sense to me anyway). However the wondrous nature of everything we have seen has been absolutely fantastic!!
The U.S. Is far more diverse than I imagined and there are a huge array of activities available to do.
Having taxes and tipping added on to all the items that you buy takes a while to get used to. And although we are used to tipping there are occasions now in Australia where we certainly don’t. Having said that the service here has been second to none. I reckon we have had water, drinks arrived and have begun eating in the time it takes a surely 17 year old waitress in mooloolaba to get us a coffee!
While we have had fun in the big cities, it’s the smaller places which have been really special to visit. Some of them feel like you have travelled back in time when you arrive.
The medium sized towns/cities have often been the most disappointing and really could often be just described as functional.
There is certainly not a McDonalds on every corner. There are I will agree a huge amount of fast food shops but there are loads of different chains, some nationwide, and some only statewide and while they all offer a similar fare there is always something unique about them. Coupled with these are always a huge amount of independent fast food joints and diners and I will admit we have enjoyed both varieties.
I won’t repeat on how great all the national parks are, the photos speak for themselves. But again what’s remarkable is the ease of seeing them, at every entrance there is a visitors centre where when you walk in a ranger will smile and help you with any questions that you have, give you a load of maps and lists of things to do then off you go! Driving of course. To be fair you can see most of the sights from your car, and there are always places to stop and park and take photos, and boardwalks out to the “must see” sights. All easy (too easy?). Even the hiking is well marked and the trails so far have been really easy to follow. Again it’s easy but to be fair that’s great.
One of my big surprises has been the different beers on offer. When I was here last there were certainly a lot of micro breweries around and different beers were available. But it seems to have gone American super sized (surprise surprise) and everywhere we go there are beer menus including local brews as well as state brews as well as some imported from either abroad or some other state. Even the supermarkets and gas stations have great selection.
The food has also been great, I have enjoyed one the best steaks I have ever had as well as enjoying a vast array of different meals from quality homemade burgers to Chinese to clam chowder and a whole bunch in between.
Stopping at some roadside fruit and veg shops has enabled us to enjoy some wonderful peaches, plums, nectarines and especially the tomatoes. They are all huge and judging by the signs are organically produced, how I don’t know. We have also learnt that the Heirloom varieties are the best as they are not cross bred and are the most natural.
A couple of the more shocking things I have noticed…
First the poverty, in the bigger cities it is quite alarming the numbers of homeless begging on the streets.
Second the guns. There are as many gun shops as walmarts in fact in the smaller towns there are more gun shops. When we were hiking in bear areas it wasn’t uncommon to see someone with a gun in their belts, and although the threat of bears is there I cannot believe that that is why all these people had a weapon in the first place. I don’t want to rant politically about this, but we have read a statistic in the lonely planet that 32 people are murdered everyday in the U.S. from gunshots!!
But there is no way that the experience of America has been dominated by these facts they are just a small part of my observations and on the whole so far so very very good.