Sunday, June 22, 2014

Driving across the USA

original text by Dave Gorman, executive summary by darmansjah

International car-rental companies operating coast to coast include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and National. A sample price for a budget car for four weeks, starting in San Diego and finishing in New York, is US$ 1,478. Expect to pay around US$ 2.25 per gallon of petrol.

I intended to drive from LA to NYC but in the end started near San Diego and ended in Savannah, Georgia. The route wasn’t as simple as that sounds – it went through 17 states and at least eight of them (Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri) wouldn’t be touched if you drew a straight line from San Diego to Savannah.

The last time I’d gone to America, I’d been on tour with a one-man show for four months. I mainly saw airports, theatres and radio studios. It wasn’t a happy travel experience. My promoters pu me up in a series  of chain hotels that we were all so alike that I’d wake up not knowing which city I was in. I felt like I’d been to the states but that I hadn’t actually experienced it. So I decided to go back and really explore. I bought a second-hand car in San Diego, a 1970 Ford Torino Station wagon. It was a real piece of Americana that somehow heightened the experience. When you’re driving through the Nevada desert in a car that seems to belong there, life feels great.

America is so diverse. Driving across it, the landscape changes so radically there’s no way of encapsulating it. On day one I travelled from a modern metropolis, San Diego, to a desert town that plays the backdrop for TV westerns. Out of that desert springs the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states-beautiful, snow-capped Mount Whitney. A few days later I was sleeping in a tree house in a dense Oregon forest. In Idaho, I stayed in the belly of a Beagle – a b&b called Dog Bark Park, literally buit in the image of a giant beagle. It was beautiful and very strange. When I tell people about it they always seem surprised. Then I show them a photo and they say,’ Oh my God! It really looks like a beagle!’, which always leaves me wondering what they were imagining before they saw the picture.

I’ve done a lot of travelling but most of the time it’s about getting somewhere. This was different. I was doing this for myself: I wanted to solve my own dysfunctional relationship with America.

I can’t think about the last day without shedding a tear. As the wheels finally rolled up to the coast and knew the journey was complete, the sense of achievement I felt was overwhelming. It makes me thingle still.

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