We were away from North America long enough to forget:
1. Conversations in English about anything with anyone. We are so used to smiling, shrugging, apologizing and uttering single phrases of badly pronounced Spanish that having a conversation both sides understand is a delightful luxury.
2. Toilet paper. It took us several days to realize we don’t have to take our own paper to the loo.
3. Pumping gas. Unlike down south, you pump your own gas (except in Oregon which is full service only). For a Canadian, buying gas in the USA can be frustrating. At many of the gas stations you cannot pay at the pump, because you need to input an American zip code before the pump will work. You may be able to buy gas if you go into the cashier, guesstimate what your gas will cost, and pay for it in advance.
4. Not being surrounded by people. From south of the Mexican border all the way to Patagonia, there are buildings, market stalls, houses, people, cows, sheep, dogs, ruins, wind farms, mines, construction materials and vehicles. North of the border you can drive for long periods without seeing people. But it appears there is no true wilderness anywhere. We have searched for but never found anywhere that hasn’t been altered by people.
5. Falling asleep at the wheel. There are no speed-bumps in North America! No potholes! No passing on blind curves. Speed limits are enforced. There is nobody standing in the middle of the road trying to sell you something. Driving is so relaxing north of the Mexican border that our chronic apprehension has turned to chronic euphoria.
6. Buying anything we want. The hard part is not buying everything we want. We are finally able to get lithium batteries for the tracking device, and real Kraft Dinner, and a pineapple corer and sandals that fit. On the other hand, the pineapple we can buy isn’t as good, the bananas are disappointing, and the chicken is tasteless.
7. High speed Internet. Boy are we spoiled in North America. In Central and South America, many of the hotels and campsites that say they have WiFi actually do have a WiFi network, but it is balky, aggravating and slow. Downloads and uploads are a challenge; sending an e-mail takes much time and patience. If the WiFi works, it is usually only accessible in a common area. The nice thing is you get to meet your fellow travelers, all clustered around the router.
8.The weather is cold. Our sweaters came out when the temperature plummeted to 74 degrees F. And then it snowed in Denver. We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming because of road conditions and narrowly missed being in a 70 car pile-up.
Who would have thought that the most dangerous part of our trip would be in Wyoming?
We saw some amazing sights in the States. One of these was the Earthship community outside Taos, New Mexico. The houses there are built from recycled materials and are designed to be almost totally self-sufficient. They use innovative methods to recycle and re-use water and to conserve heat.
Because it was April, many of the campsites were closed or just opening. That’s how we got to stay at the Wagonhammer RV park on the Salmon River in Idaho, all by ourselves. Heaven.
Although only a small a section of the park was open, we stopped at Yellowstone.
We walked around blubbering mud holes, stuck the camera into a steaming fissure and inadvertently took a time altered video of Old Faithful erupting.
The park was just opening up and many of the animals hadn’t seen people for months.
Back in the States meant back to work, if you can call it work to stop to talk to aircraft owners and visit hangars to inspect aircraft and floats. We zigzagged from airport to airport.