We were blessed and cursed by the presence of Roland, a man who came second in the Austrian cocktail championships, a genial sort, who took charge of our drinking. We paid into a kitty and he mixed bottle after bottle into a very large tub. The cocktails became larger and more varied as the journey progressed, verging on the bizarre by the time we reached New Mexico. At this stage they were merely exciting, and did the job.
We washed down Niagara and the worlds largest crucifixion in wax with grog in the coach, and, according to my diary stayed up until 4 am.
The next day I felt terrible.
We drove through Ontario, across the border and into Detroit. Detroit looked how I felt, and it was there we dropped off ‘Detroit Bob’ a friend of the driver who’d bummed a lift overnight.
As the journey progressed I realised I’d been granted my wish, experiencing the sheer scale of America. On the map we’d travelled less than a finger nail, but that’s not how it felt. The country outside was largely pasture and forest, unremittingly green and incredibly boring, and you knew that this ‘green’ went on and on, and however fast you travelled the greenness would always be there before us. Complacent, and just there.
Eventually we made camp.
It was a forest clearing half filled with camper-vans and strategically based benches and tables.
Men, some women, sauntered out and regarded us with interest. It was a different America, slower and more measured.
He was white haired and burly and wore a green plaid shirt, but I forget his name, and the face remains blurred. We drank Coors from the can beneath a heavily starred sky and talked of Vietnam. The fact that I can remember nothing else about him is just unimportant. What remains deep within me is the memory of his quiet pride in America, and a 'wisdom' the old know how to put on.
The night ended with fireworks, and Maria, a girl from Madrid, held my hand, though I can’t remember why. Nor can I remember why Roland served us all rum and strong coffee before going to bed. Maybe he couldn’t sleep and wanted some company.
Anyway, who could sleep? Tomorrow was Chicago!