36 South Western USA
OUTH-WESTERN USA Jun. - Aug. 2007
“Do not get too friendly with Mexican/US border officials,” was the advice given. However, at Laredo, while we were lining up (with some Mexican families camped on the floor), the officials started calling greetings to us; about friends and family in South Africa and holidays there. The sniffer dog checked Dipli thoroughly for drugs.
Road signs led us to the visitors’ information centre, which had landscaped gardens and clean rest rooms and loads of brochures and wireless internet as well. Roads were smooth. Huge supermarkets were filled with delectable fare. The contrast did not make us too nostalgic for Latin America because all signs in the Southwest USA were in Spanish and English and Mexican food outlets were abundant. J preferred a typical Texan steak done pit barbecue style.
In San Antonio Leoné lost her job (of 9 years) when Jan bought the new woman in his life. A GPS navigator with a sultry voice. (Now there were two talking above the engine noise.) Consolation prize for Leoné was a good deal with a cell phone.
The extraordinary Dallas aquarium incorporates birds, plants and other fauna among the aquatic exhibits. The day we visited the spot in Dallas where JFK was murdered, we heard that our neighbour in SA had been shot when he was defending his family. We felt safe away from home.
After Austin’s remarkable history museum, Fort Worth’s art gallery and Japanese Garden, a cattle drive and a wagon-collection from 1900, plus four IMAX movies, we needed some time-off. In western Big Texas we found this green meadow with spring flowers, to camp on. “Chill out” we did, but “pick up” we also did! Something that made us itch. We never saw them. Many days later subsequent to researching in libraries; after vacuuming, scrubbing, spraying and nearly poisoning ourselves we were rid of the tiny chiggers.
Carlsbad Caverns is a wonderland cave of stalagmites and stalactites.
We spent many hours at the Museum of Space History in Alamogordo and at Socorro’s National Atomic Museum, where there was an extensive exhibit of the beneficial uses of nuclear energy. We detoured to the awesome Very Large Array Radio Telescope. 27 huge antenna dishes in a y-shape together, form a very large eyeball peeking into the outer edges of the universe.
After a relaxing farm camp out with friends, on their new land we moved on to Santa Fe for the 4th of July fireworks. (We sat a little too close and had to dodge bits of smouldering crackers). In Taos, while Jan replaced the thermostat on Dipli, Leone enjoyed the adobe architecture, art galleries and American Indian crafts, like Navajo weaving, beading and turquoise-and-silver jewellery. “Bottomless unsweet ice tea” was served with spicy fare prepared from green chillies grown in the area. Strings of dry red chillies adorn the eateries.
We saw how pistachio nuts grow in the hot dry climate of NM; evolving from clusters of small oval rosy-cheeked fruits.
At the first Rest Area in Colorado, a couple came to chat. He pulled out his grill and invited us for barbecued elk steaks in their caravan. Later on in Denver they took us to a street art festival and showed us the attractive downtown area, including a public building made of titanium!!We used free internet at various gorgeous libraries. The excellent Museum of Nature and Science warranted an entire day.
Suspicious vehicle in the parking lot (twice).
Camp grounds/RV parks are abundant but they are unattractive. We found it convenient to stay overnight in the parking lot of a large store like Wal-Mart. Once while we were checking out a level spot to park, a police car rolled up. Someone had reported ”a suspicious vehicle in the parking area”, since Dipli looks like nothing the average American has ever seen.
Boulder is the most attractive town. It lies below the Rockies and has bicycle paths through riverside parks and a long pedestrian mall.
In the US almost any industry can be visited. Boulder has the large fascinating Celestial Seasonings Tea Processing factory where teas from all over the world are blended and most attractively packaged.
Dipli was a little slow and fatigued but we did get to enjoy the Rocky Mountain National Park. Aspen is the ski resort for the rich and famous. There Leone paid homage at the John Denver memorial where massive boulders are engraved with words of his songs. We traced a secret spot in a National Forest where there is a hot pool in the middle of a mountain stream. A blissful scenic immersion of travel-weary bones ensued!
In tiny Fruita we came upon a local rodeo. There was affable rivalry with calf roping, bull-riding, kids riding sheep and girls on horse back racing around barrels.
This was the state for scenery-gawking. It was hot but we walked and we drove through all the gorgeous red and white rock formations. Gleaming white domes and arches, vermilion cliffs, red and golden canyons are found in parks like Canyon Lands National Park, Arches NP, Monument Valley (the red buttes and spires we know from cowboy movies), Capital Reef, Bryce, Zion, Grand Staircase, and Deadhorse point. In the middle of the 40ºC day Dipli had to get a new diesel “lift” pump.
In Las Vegas we tried to see the architecture of each glittering casino:
Egypt, Venice, Paris and N.Y. were replicated. The interiors had ornamental fountains, marble statues, mosaic floors, and large fish tanks. There was one adorned with a ceiling of 2000 hand-blown flowers above and 5000 fresh cut roses below.
Grand Canyon was as magnificent as we remembered from 36 years ago. This time we did not hike all the way down to the Colorado River.
August in Prescott (elevation 1700 m) was bearable and we could clean Dipli and pack for South Africa, in a National Forest campground. We also tracked down some tyres (Cross or bias ply are hard to get in the US). One day when we came out of a Library, where we had done email, there was a police car next to Dipli. They had to respond because somebody had reported ”a suspicious vehicle in the parking area”! When Jan asked the cop to go and look at the other side of our motor home, where the route map is, he first called for back up! Our friends in Phoenix saved us from the 46ºC heat by hosting us in their air-conditioned home until we could fly to SA. They had not been able to sell their lovely home in two years. They also took us to the Airport, after Dipli had been put in storage in Apache Junction. His home for the next 8 months.
This journey up to August 2007:
Time on the road (excluding home visits): 4 years, 11 months
Kilometres driven: 206 000 Countries visited: 87
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