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On the road again Canada and the US Dec 2011-Feb 2012 - Observations, musings and random thoughts jotted down mostly during loooong train and bus trips.


USA | Wednesday, 25 January 2012 | Views [925]

We stopped in Barstow,midway between LA and Las Vegas...a bus stop consisting of an untidy jumble of fastfood joints - McDonald's, Panda Express, Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits – all leading to dozens of restrooms  and souvenir stalls of the "I've been to Barstow" cap/t-shirt Betty Boop bags variety. Fridge magnets anyone?

Having spent the past few weeks on the West Coast - from Vancouver to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Santa Monica - I had forgotten how grimy America can be.

The stopped bus took on a musty air and I couldn't wait for the filthy vent to start spurting air again.

 My fellow passengers kept to themselves - each holding their own purpose and intent close: the large latino girl wearing pyjama pants who gorged on burger, fries and ice-cream sundae at the bus stop and then curled up on her seat to sleep; the black man answering his cellphone "I'll call you when I'm situated - we're about 2 or 3 hours out of Vegas and I don't know what I'll find there"; the two heavily made-up french-speaking women who appeared ready to step straight onto a Vegas stage; and the old cowboy with the checked mountain shirt and grizzly white beard, his boots flapping loose and his possessions rolled into a blanket.

We took off again, the rolling tumbleweed hills looking like a moonscape of loose cement, grey and infertile, past signs advertising "Peggy Sue's 50s Diner", "Ghost Town Road" and "Mad Greek Best Gyros". A truck bearing the slogan "The Joy of Eating" passed to reveal a row of evenly-spaced signs proclaiming the Ten Commandments, though the Seven Deadly Sins may have been more timely on the road to Vegas.

We were still in California, but we were in another world from the coastline of Santa Monica and all the beautiful people with coffee cups glued to their hands striding to their daily yoga session. Here was all dust, bare hills, fast-food and truck stops, abandoned mobile homes and arid dreams. The fences partitioning the sad paddocks seemed pointless because there were neither livestock nor crops, nor hope of any. A lone horse, saddled, leant forlornly against a power pole and a goods train rattled past, delivering succour to the insatiable West.

Looking back, the hills seemed more interesting, more alive - not the first time I felt that on this journey through North America, that the past was more than the present.

I'm looking at millions of dollars’ worth of litter ("$1,000 fine for littering") alongside the road and wondering at how we just don't care…

The hills take on a more greenish hue, more mouldy than ferrous. They seem to be closing in on the road as if to squeeze us out of this pocket of the world.

 There are Exit signs every few hundred meters but no discernible reason for them.

"Win before you sin in 45 miles".

Afternoon shadows stripe the low hills, adding character to their worn faces. The early settlers must have wondered if there was any point in continuing west from here, with no water, no animals or fertile land in sight. The January sky is pale, the air still, though there is nothing for any breeze to move anyway - the spindly Joshua trees starting to appear are rigid

Donkeys feeding on the saltbush - the first animals I've seen.

The hills are pleating with anticipation as we get nearer to Las Vegas, the driver riding the brakes on the descent into the vast caldera; "Trust Jesus" we are reminded by a bright yellow sign tacked to a pole.

 A large solar power installation appears on the left. We seem to be in a  giant diorama. The late afternoon sun throws the layered hills into relief.

"Welcome to Nevada"..."Gun Store - try one - shoot a real machine gun!"...

Rows of powerlines now seem to be competing with the highway to see which can get to Sin City first -the sky is striated with jet trails - even the saltbush is growing in lines parallel to the bitumin - all roads, apparently, lead to Vegas.

The poor cousin of casinos, on the outskirts of town: "Dealers' Blackjack $1"...

Another goods train heading for LA - this one 60 cars long.

The hue of the sky and hills has softened to blues and pinks and pale gold - possibly a last respite before the assault of the neon noise ahead - or perhaps this too is artificially-lit by some supernatural technician.

Dormitory suburbs for a town where prostitution is illegal.

A fibreglass palm tree ushers us into Vegas proper.

(c)FMPDH 2012

Tags: greyhound to las vegas. usa

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