Thursday, 19 July 2012

Driving Through 'Merica

My upcoming Europe-Asia tour has been much hyped and has been the central focus for my 11 month sabbatical. However, my sabbatical already started back on July 1 and, two weeks later, I consider my recently completed journey within my home continent to be the start of my adventure.

My friend Jackson and I just drove back from Calgary to Toronto through the United States and, despite being forced to brave long hours of monotonous freeway driving, relentless heat and humidity, and back-wrenching car sleeping, had a pretty awesome time. We drove through parts of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.
Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota
Here is a quick list of my notables regarding our southern neighbour (caution: highly biased):
Cheap food - everything on the McD's menu is one to two dollars cheaper including $1.39 McChickens (I don't consider this real food, more manufactured stomach filler)
Cheap gas - we filled up for around $3.40/Gal or $0.90/L, except in Detroit where we somehow filled up for $1.33/L
Overweight people - consequence of the above
Credit cards - no insert chip payment
Road signs - too many, too many words, all in English
Road tolls - one thing they do right
Speed limits - up to 75 mph or 120 km/h on the interstates
Beautiful landscapes - we drove through rolling pastures home to happy grazing cows through much of Montana (rather contrary to America's reputation for factory farms)
Propaganda advocating God and condemning abortion
Liquor sold at gas stations
Detroit - a real ghetto. Also, liquor stores everywhere, not a single coffee shop
Surprise fact? Kinder Surprise is illegal. Guns are not; and
Gun shops
Abandoned house

I also had two fun interactions during my trip as well. As I was leaving a McDonald's one kid from a group of three said hi to me. I said "hey, I'm Canadian, eh?" and one of them asked me "is weed legal there?" The conversation ended soon after but I had a good laugh. Damned kids these days.

And pulling up to a red light there was a man sitting with a sign which wrote "homeless and hungry." I offered him 50 cents change. He refused. I asked "why?" and he just told me that he was hungry. I offered him a granola bar. He just shook his head. Before I could ask why, the light turned green. We drove away bewildered.

All in all, our drive through America was a good time and made for a good story. And knowing me, you can expect a moral to this story...

As pleasing to the ears as is the sound of someone travelling across the world, one cannot underestimate the experiences available close to home. I honestly can't wait to get back to North America so I can check out Utah, Yellowstone, the Oregon coast, Portland, North Saskatchewan and Yukon.

And, of course, I can't forget about my adopted hometown of Calgary and my adopted backyard of the Rocky Mountains. Just before driving off, two days of Stampeding in Calgary reminded me of its underrated and progressive culture, and five straight days playing in the Rockies reminded me of its matchless beauty and endless hiking opportunities to last the rest of my life.

Lake O'Hara, most beautiful spot in the Rockies

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