Why does it always happen to me???
Anne describes a recent visit to America to visit her son
Heathrow airport, I must be OK here. But, first, my biggest filling fell out, then automatic check-in wanted to charge me £30 to fly my bag, and as I am made of a few metal bits and pieces, I had to be frisked. A good flight to Dallas, but nearly not let into USA as I had not filled in an 'on line' visa form! Next time I will be fined and refused admission! Martin, my son met me and took me for a sushi, a meal of raw fish, being Texas, the pieces were rather large to swallow whole, but a glass or two of saki helped.
We went to the zoo, only to be told that as the weather was cold, the animals would probably all be hiding inside, and the mono-rail was closed, but if we really wanted to enter (we had already paid a large parking fee) it would be half price. We enjoyed the walk amid trees and birds, saw a few ducks and an albino crocodile, and were told by a guide that kookaburras come from Africa! Ate my first 'corn dog'. Later we went, with Martin's girlfriend, to see "A Christmas Carol" and tried not to laugh when the American actors attempted Cockney accents! When back in his flat I found he had saved all his socks, which needed darning, for his Mum!
After a blueberry bagel, off to see Dallas. I took a free ride in a restored tram to the aquarium, where the free flying birds were tamish, I fed blueberries to a toucan and saw tree kangaroos for the first time (how did they get up there?) Tanks of coral with the appropriate fish were really spectacular. At the 7th floor museum I saw the very spot from which J.F.Kennedy was shot! (in 1963), but was a little disappointed that there was no plaque on the road. A very sad event for a city to be famous for. Next the replica of a copy of the hut of the first settler (1841) in Dallas, the 'John Neely Bryan Log Cabin' had the founders plaza all to itself, and looked a little lost as it was only 10ft x 20ft, wooden, with a brick chimney.
Next morning I visited the art gallery and was nearly thrown out when I idly touched a heap of old hosepipes draped over a beam, but I did discover they were foam rubber, and I expect are a priceless exhibit.
The plane to Vegas was an hour late leaving, as the hostesses had to deal with a medical emergency on the previous flight. I made a mental note not to try not to die in USA as the paperwork is horrendous. Now I am travelling with Martin, so upgraded to the front of the plane, ate with a real knife and fork with water in a glass. (All this because he flies a lot) But the journey was still long and I had to be frisked again. Landed and put my watch on 2 hours and set off on the long drive to the Grand Canyon. One hour later we crossed the Hoover Dam, in darkness, and had to put my watch back an hour.
Why did the hotel give us a goody bag for the road? Soon found out! The road was climbing to 8,000ft. 'sat nav' said "in 22 miles turn left" but snow had fallen in the night and the trucks could not get a grip. Gridlock! So we turned off this road as soon as we could and ended up on 'route 66', which had disappeared from maps in 1984, and now invisible under several inches of snow. 'Sat nav' did not like this!
Arrived at Grand Canyon, 2ft of snow, helicopter grounded (we had booked a flight) mules in stables (we had booked a ride) and the temperature down to zero degrees f, so we walked, not to near the edge, and admired the view. Snow on the ledges made it look like Hunstanton cliffs, but just a little higher! A big open fire in the hotel; and I enjoyed tomato bread with fresh sea bass (I knew we were near the sea) We asked for keys to our rooms BUT told the bedroom heating was broken, and did we mind? Yes we did, so were switched to the annex, and the thermometer dropped to minus 10 degrees f. To cross the road to get breakfast I wore hat, coat, gloves and scarf, then enjoyed 'biscuits with sausage gravy' (scones, with thick peppercorn white sauce to spread on them). Kept me warm for a 26 mile 'bob-sleigh' ride, well that was what it seemed like (Martin enjoyed this driving) to a watch tower. (Constructed in 1932, as replica of a prehistoric Indian tower) I of course climbed to the top. The views were as good as the picture post cards, but with snow.
The helicopter had been wrapped up all night and we were able, after a safety talk on how to use the life jackets, which we had to wear,( It would be a clever pilot to crash into the river) to take an hours flight. WOW. Again as good as the photos.
Then a drive to Sedona, where lots of cowboy films have been made, I did not see any Indians hiding behind rocks! But now the sun was shining and the tall rock formations glowed red and white. Tea was rattlesnake (tasteless) with cacti strips, followed by carrot and pineapple cake with fudge ice-cream. Next day still in Sedona, we had to travel 10 miles to find breakfast! It was early morning, 9am! Coffee and pizza. It was hot enough for no coats, and wished I had packed a T shirt. We walked all morning and saw bluebirds, humming birds and a flicker. An intriguing cactus had a 15ft tall flower stalk; I could not reach to get a seed. This place must be a tourist attraction, but no one else was there, they were all looking at a very modern, out of place, chapel, built in this beautiful country side. In the evening we saw a Disney film 'The Princess and the frog', with an Afro/Caribbean heroine and a pretty white girl as baddy.
Time waits for no one, so drove over the Hoover Dam, in daylight. Very tall, and when the roadwork is finished it will be visible from a new bridge (trucks no longer needing a detour). Why a map of the heavens, with all the signs of the zodiac and two tall winged figures had been incorporated puzzled me. It was completed in 1936 by 16,000 men, of whom at least 96 died of CO2 poisoning in the tunnels. Boulder City was built to accommodate them.
Then Vegas! 'Sat nav' did not have a good day here either. It took me 2 hours to lose $20.00, but I had to have a go. (Martin won $300!) Then to Caesar's Palace where the false sky was always blue, the sun rose and set on the hour, and we sat amidst Roman fountains drinking Italian wine, then looked at few very of the very expensive shops. We walked the strip, the Volcano was broken, a Fairy Tale Castle had a near naked girl dancing on the poker tables. The Venitian, as well as an acre of slot machines, a floor of shops, another false ceiling (of blue sky and clouds, you could see the joins) had a canal with electronically powered gondolas; the gondoliers all had powerful voices to sing appropriate songs, even if some were ginger haired youths. I ate 3 lamb chops, after explaining I did not need 8, and a child's portion was adequate. No veg. just some macaroni cheese, bread rolls resembling sausages and mustard seed butter. Overall impression; a very large Blackpool! But pleased I have seen it.
Next day a ride on the mono-rail and a visit to a very 'hands on' Natural History Museum. Press the appropriate button and the bird/animal is lit and you hear correct sounds. Then a flight back to Dallas, noticing a fifty year old woman had to show photo I.D. to get a glass of wine. We shared a pizza and drank coffee.
Sights of Dallas again...Free tram and a mile walk to the Heritage Centre (everyone else uses a car so no bus services).Here many old houses, shops etc. had been moved by transporters to make a 150 year old village. And some people were paid to pretend to live there. Taken out for an evening meal, crab claws, cheesy mashed potato and 3 pieces of asparagus (first veg. for a week, not counting carrot cake) and some delicious malty brown bread. Then to see Dallas Mavericks play New Orleans at basket ball. No away fans, so peaceful. But so noisy with the set chants, cheer leaders, a cannon firing T shirts to the crowd, a blimp dropping tickets from above and people leaping up to get them, hot dogs, pizzas, chips and coke were everywhere. Flashing lights circled all the time, we waved white card board to put the opposition off when taking free throws at the net. So many' time-outs' (for TV advertising) that the 50 min game took 3 hours.
Flight home delayed, so I had the time to teach a lad how to make paper trees, ladders etc. before sitting next to biggest man on the plane, he fitted in when we lifted the arm rest, and it was 'cosy.' Shame my earphones and light did not work, and we had to circle Heathrow for an hour waiting for scattering of snow to melt. 22 1/2 hours door to door. But despite the many occasional hitches I had a really good time.