Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Adventures in America - including that speeding ticket

by Anna Jones Buttimore

Five years ago, I spent three weeks travelling round America. By popular demand, this is a segment from the journal I kept of that time.

Gwenllian (7), Angharad (2) and I left Manchester on 29th March 2003 for the 8½ hour flight to Chicago. The novelty of “big aeroplane” kept Angharad happy for the first hour, then there was food to eat, goodies from the airline, TV in the seat and a baby two rows in front to entertain. Unfortunately the flight arrived ten minutes late, and with all the extra security checks and Chicago being such a big airport we missed our connection to Phoenix Sky Harbor (what a fabulous name for an airport). But we managed to get onto the next flight and finally arrived in Phoenix, tired and a bit ragged at the edges.

We were met by Kerry Blair who was as sweet and fun and clever as I’d expected her to be after three years corresponding by email. Kerry is a fellow Covenant author although somewhat more prolific (not to mention talented) than I am. After putting down my three suitcases and greeting her, the first thing I did was to offend her by insisting that I needed a trolley. I later learned that what I called a trolley, she called a cart, and she was under the impression that she'd driven all the way to the airport to collect me - and I was very late - only to have me insist on using public transport.

We spent what was left of that night in Mesa at the home of Kerry’s brother Greg and his wife Chris. Their home was my first experience of American houses and I was stunned by the large plot, open interior, high ceiling and newness of it all. Heck, they even had a formal lounge and a family room! During my three week holiday I saw a good many American homes and discovered that theirs was actually pretty typical. British builders generally squeeze as many tiny homes as possible onto whatever land they can find (on our crowded island, land is at a premium) and it amazed me just what architects can come up with when given a decent amount of space. One of the (many) things I enjoyed doing in America was admiring the houses.

The next day we visited Phoenix Zoo. The Zoo features prominently in Kerry’s first novel, which is my favourite book, so I was keen to see it and ride on the zoo train just like the hero and heroine in her story. We saw many exotic animals, including several only found in Arizona, but that ride on the train stands out in my memory for the many other unusual things we saw. Whilst our fellow passengers were exclaiming over tigers, monkeys and elephants, I found myself pointing out pretzel stands, drinking fountains, cacti and various other novelties I had never seen before.

The following day we drove to Las Vegas in Kerry’s mother’s Cadillac. It was the biggest car I’d ever seen, and made me realise why the roads in the US are so wide – they have to be to fit the cars on them! I took a turn at driving it and within a few minutes had been pulled over by a traffic cop for doing 85.

I was terrified. Kerry had warned me that it was both a large fine, and a long detour to pay it. And the cop had a gun - something else I had never seen before. So I meekly handed over my bilingual European Union driving licence, and the cop wandered off to study it. When he came back, it was to the passenger side of the car. Kerry explained apologetically that I was visiting from Wales.

The cop carefully explained to Kerry that he was letting me off with a warning and would she please convey this information to me and ask me not to do it again.. Kerry commented when he was safely out of earshot that she suspected he didn’t realise I spoke English. Or it might have been that he didn’t want to write out the paperwork for my address, which at the time was "Lluesty, Tanygrisiau, Criccieth, Gwynedd, Cymru."

Ah, such good times! I'm off on holiday again on Saturday, this time back to Wales, where I will be staying in a house called Hafod, which is next door to my old house, Lluesty. They also have traffic cops in Wales, but they don't carry guns, they drive Minis, and the fine is only £60 and you get two weeks to pay it. But then, neither do they have pretzels, drinking fountains or cacti. Or Taco Bell. Or all-you-can-eat buffets and free refills, or people who say "Have a nice day", or... well, you get the picture.


Cheri J. Crane said...

It's so good to know that other people have interesting adventures while traveling. ;) Great post, Anna.

Stephanie Black said...

I think driving fountains are a wonderful invention. When we went to London, it took me a while to figure out that I needed to carry bottled water with me while touring, because there were no drinking fountains. In America, every museum or theatre will certainly have a drinking fountain. And when we lived in Ireland it short-circuited my brain that the church had no drinking fountain. Isn't that mandatory in church plans? :)

Melanie Goldmund said...

Kerry's great, isn't she?

Nowadays, Anna, if you showed an American cop your Welsh address, he'd probably ask if you were from Torchwood! *lol*

Yeah, drinking fountains! We need one in our church, too!

Gale Sears said...

Anna...so funny! I chuckle every time I think of the look that must have stamped itself onto that policeman's face. When we visited Wales I had a dicken's of a time trying to get my tongue around the wonderful Welsh words.