11 April 2005

The wanderer returns

My preoccupation with the recent USA road trip is likely to reveal itself in the next few posts so bear with me while I get it out of my system. Look out for discussions and observations on the similarities and differences between our countries. There are a lot of photos to see if you are curious.

Undertaking a journey 4,220 miles from home spread across 4 states, 6 hotels and 2 time zones on unfamiliar roads was always likely to be a severe test! You know my virgo quest for perfection by now so imagine my irritation when things didn't go quite according to plan. Truth is I only missed perfection by a whisker but that's not good enough for me. It's a tough way to live life and most virgos will know what I mean.
I have already recounted the saga of the interstate-side hotel which set my early mood. Then I was reminded that Mrs Virgo doesn't know east from west so I drove with maps on my knee and one eye on the road. A recipe for missed exits, wrong turns and general tension. After a week of issuing verbal lashings to all other road-users (from the safety of my car of course) I gradually calmed down a little. By the way, does anyone know about all those Mexican migrant workers involved in construction and highway maintenance?
We all know about glitzy Orlando so you can guess we ate and shopped well there. Most days we took day trips (see earlier re Merritt Island) and the highlight for me was Kennedy Space Centre. It is a genuinely awe-inspiring place. The geography, the exhibits, the buildings and the aura of human achievement are all on a truly epic scale.
We drove from Orlando to Tallahassee and spent one night there before tracking Northwest. 'Alabama the Beautiful' lived up to its name. Green fields, brick red soil and gentle pine-clad hills. Beautiful ranches with black stallions and white rail fences sat in close proximity to wooded trailor parks littered with junk, ugly dogs and rusty cars. 'Rick' at the state line Information Centre was a REAL talker! Montgomery felt very relaxed compared to the tourist trails of Florida and the people were warm and genuinely friendly. A lady assistant in Radio Shack shook me warmly by the hand (I really thought she was going to hug me!)
Crossing the border into Tennessee brought hillier terrain and wall to wall fireworks advertisements! The geography reminded me of the Rhone-Alpes region of southern France on the Italian border. Chattanooga was a hot 78F and dusty with yellow tree pollen. The only place that trusts you to pump gas and not make a dash for it seems to be Wal-Mart. If you are paying cash everywhere else insists on pre-payment. Interesting as the stuff is cheaper than water and they would let you pump $80 worth in the UK without suspicion.
No answer from the boys when we rang home, out partying no doubt! I got Mike on his mobile eventually. Even 40c per minute for an International mobile call is great! That would be 45c per minute in the UK just for an inland mobile call. Here we go then, rip-off Britain time: Satellite TV $75 per month, Broadband $35 per month, gas $7 per gallon etc, etc, etc...
Nashville proved to be very well worth the 250 mile round day-trip, There is a nice mix of old and new architecture and we saw a good deal of urban regeneration underway. Of course I loved the live music bars on Broadway and visited some of those recommended by Superfly. Great performers all! A tall pretty woman came and sat beside me in 'Roberts.' She introduced herself as 'Misty' on vacation from Waco Texas. Between songs we had a very interesting conversation and she never guessed the woman to my right was my wife!


We drove on County roads from Chattanooga to Atlanta under intermittent rain. On our last evening we took a drive through the leafy suburbs of Lilburn and Duluth. Houses and roads were surprisingly reminiscent of English styles. I was very hungry indeed and sweet relief came when I found a 4th branch of my favourite 'Sweet Tomatoes' vegetarian restaurant right by the Gwinnett Place Mall. The American lifestyle does not pander much to vegetarians. In fact my picky eating habits have dispensed with another 5 pounds which I can ill afford to lose.
We spent our final morning at the small but pretty Atlanta Zoo. All too soon it was time to head for the airport and hand back the car. We checked in early to find the plane was way over-booked and we were offered $400 to stay another night at the expense of British Airways. Work commitments scuppered that opportunity! Maybe next time.
In honesty I bit off more than I could comfortably chew this time. Can you believe I had already trimmed the itinerary from 5 states to 4! 2501 miles in 13 days was too much. Next time I will be wiser and maybe even stay in one place long enough to smile!


doughgirl said...


I completely agree, US is no place for vegetarians, nope nope nope...Now that you are home, please try and put those pounds back on. I will give you a couple of mine if you like. Ive got about 10 to spare :)

I loved looking at the pictures and thinking that Ive seen them ffrom your point of view, but I truly cannot wait to read what you see in them. Your way of expressing things has such a unique and most calming effect..

P.S. Curiosity would've made me go to those gas stations:)

Perfect Virgo said...

Ship those pounds over Doughgirl! I plan to write some observations soon so watch this space. I feel a story coming on regarding the gas stations. You've seen the films, you know what happens to people who stop at them!

doughgirl said...

But Perfect

Its YOUR story, you can change the ending :)

Grace said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip PV but I feel exhausted just reading that! I agree that longer in one place seems more restful. I looked at the photos, theyre fantastic. I'm still fascinated by the guitar sculptures, my son wouls want one for his room!

Perfect Virgo said...

DG - I have several endings in mind, all of them rather macabre! Perhaps I should re-think the gas-station story!

Grace - Next time I would definitely put down roots, I am exhausted right now! The guitars were great fun. I would love to have brought one home but they were 10 feet tall.