Tuesday, 15 July 2008

I'm Baa-aack

Just arrived Saturday yesterday after 3 weeks in the States. Of course I’m going to bore you to death about it. Bill’s son, Simon, has already downloaded some amazing pictures from their first week – the week I spent in Oklahoma City – and I’m hoping to borrow some to illustrate their journey as well as tell you about mine.

As always, my body clock is confused. I'm just today getting past the sickening jet lag and slept through the whole night (bliss!) with some help of Valerian. The temperature contrast has also been a shock, though it is relatively warm here, which translates to pleasantly cool after the 100+ (I still think in Farenheit) in and around LasVegas, Arizona, southern Utah.

As prelude to the story, it is useful to know that this was a journey Bill has planned for several years – I kid you not – to mark his 60th year. It was originally to do with the Old Route 66, with which many Brits are fascinated, but also involved things like the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde and other amazing things he’d discovered on his previous trips with me to Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City to visit friends and family.

In 2001 he’d seen a 4th of July parade in Sandy, a suburb in the south of SLC. He loved it so much he wanted his family to experience an Independence Day celebration in small town America, so that set the general date for the trip, not his actual birthday which was in March.

Bill spent hours and hours over several months poring over all the Recreational Vehicle options before choosing the 31 foot RV that slept 8 (5 in comfort, the others not so comfortably) and included a full kitchen, toilet, shower and tons of storages space. I can only tell you that it cost $2,500 to rent for the 3 weeks because a gas station attendant in Cortez (CO) asked me that question and I retrieved the info for him.

In addition to the RV Bill thought 2 other, more mobile, vehicles would be necessary to accommodate the group. Everything from buying an old Camaro to renting a Corvette convertible or an old hippie VW van was considered over the months and months of planning, but in the end, 2 SUV-type cars were selected for their capacity and price.

The original idea was for Bill’s family to join him on this trip, but his youngest daughter, Sarah, was going to just be finishing up at University then and besides the timing there was the matter of money. On the other hand, a good friend from the running club was keen to join us. We’ve traveled a lot with Bob and knew that he was good company as well as an experienced lorry driver. Bob is almost compulsively organized and as such a good balance for Bill’s and my scatty approach. Jane, Bill’s sister, lives in Sydney, Australia with husband, Chris. They are both now retired and traveling the world anyhow, so of course they would join us. Then Helen, Bill’s eldest, went and got engaged. Martin already appeared to be a permanent fixture as of last Thanksgiving, so he was added to the list as well. For Rhiannon, Simon’s girlfriend, to going to dinner on Friday is a major commitment, so we wondered how to get her to decide whether she was going. Paying up front for the RV and car rental seemed to be the trick; in or out, decide by April. So, there were 9 of us: Bill, Shelley, Bob, Helen, Martin, Simon, Rhiannon, Jane & Chris.

Bill designed the route, studying distances and highways in detail for whether the RV could use them. He prefers small roads – in some places the very smallest dirt roads – but adjusted the route for the RV where necessary. Each vehicle had a copy of the detailed road instructions which everyone remarked how easy they were to follow. Bob had a holiday in Vegas in February and was able to recce part of the route to confirm Bill’s suspicions about suitability of one particular section near there. Some RV sites and motels were pre-booked where Bill found that they were quite busy. Others were booked en route. The pre-planning was one of his major preoccupations for a very long time. I suspect he will need to find a new hobby now to fill that time – or plan the next expedition for a major birthday perhaps?

In addition to the group who would actually do the tour, my family in Oklahoma were quite excited about the trip as well. When we were there for my Aunt Rita’s funeral, I discovered she had bought two Route 66 bags that I’m sure she intended to mark the occasion of our trip. Jack and Pat wrote to say how much they were looking forward to our arrival. A distant cousin in Perth wanted a copy of the itinerary as did other friends in OKC.

Much of the route planning involved singing of “Get your Kicks on Route 66”, a song I never heard of before coming to the UK, in spite of being a Stones’ fan. Apparently, much of the way Brits think about the US is linked to popular songs about place names. Also, Joshua Tree in California had significance for Simon (I'll have to remember to ask him why) and so this was included in the itinerary. Bob came over to the house a couple of times to review the driving plans, an excuse for food and drink as well (and quoting the lyrics, if not actually singing).

I noticed that the tour ended up including 9 people and covering 9 states: Nevada (NV), California (CA), Arizona (AZ), New Mexico (NM), Texas (TX), Oklahoma (OK), Kansas (KS), Colorado (CO) and Utah (UT). I’ve undertaken a small survey: What was your favourite state? I can tell you Oklahoma didn’t win the popularity contest, but more about that later…

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

Actually, "Get your kicks on Route 66" was not a Stone's song. It was written by Bobby Troupe back in the 1950's and was popular then. Glad you had a good trip and sorry we weren't there to share part of it. We are currently in Duluth, MN. Got here last Saturday and will leave on the 27th, heading for North Dakota.