Postcard - Way out West
February 2001©Nigel Spiers
First stop Vancouver - It's cold but clear and very beautiful. I'm sitting
at the window in my hotel room trying to do some work on my PC. But I'm
distracted by the skiers coming down the mountains above the city with
flares in their hands.
Then on to Los Angeles airport. It's so bright outside but a welcome walk
as I stroll past 30 or 40 airlines I've never heard of. Let's see now
American - no, North West, United, US Air - no, America South West - no.
Aahh yes here we are at Terminal 3 and America West Airlines. At the gate
a valley girl asks the hostie "Like am I meant to be like on this plane
already..... like?" Every parent of teenage children in the queue shudders
and averts their eyes.
En route to Phoenix Arizona and jeez I'm getting sick of these bloody
flights - "By the time I get to Phoenix........" However as we descend
towards Barry Goldwater Terminal I look out the window to pure magic - a
scene straight out of a John Wayne movie. Desert to the horizon, under
clear blue skies with the occasional rocky ridge, all bathed in late
afternoon sunshine and every colour you can imagine. Good Lord! - a man
could forget his own name out here.
This is my first time out west. Yes I'm here all right - there's definitely less baseball hats and more Stetsons being worn in the terminal and tomorrow I'm going to get me a pair of snake skin boots and a big hat to prove it. Another 3 hour wait at Phoenix airport so I haul up to a bar just in time to overhear the barmaid telling a bunch of guys "I've just got the cutest little bitch Pit Bull
Terrier.....of course it's got one eye missing" The guys at the bar nod in
general agreement and she asks me "So what can I git ya big fella?" While
I'm deciding I notice a sign on the bar saying "Reserved Parking - Cowboys
We are now down to 9 passengers on a Beechcraft 1900 headed for Flagstaff
and as the co-pilot fires the engines the pilot pops his head out of the
cockpit and asks "You all know what do do if we get in the shit - right?"
Everybody nods glumly. I gratefully get out of the plane in Flagstaff and
jump straight into two feet of snow. The taxi driver cheerfully tells me
we are at 7,000 feet - the highest town of over 50,000 people in North
America. Jesus! I'm feeling a bit dizzy - I thought only mountaineers
with oxygen masks did this.
That night the waiter at my hotel asks "So what can I get for you tonight sir?" Looking at the menu I reply "I'll have a dish of Jalapeno with a side of jalapeno Salad to follow please"
"Good Choice" says the waiter "and can I get you some Jalapeno bread to go
with that sir?"
Later... "Can I get you something else sir?" I can only do
fish imitations because my mouth is so numb that it feels like I've got
some else's tongue stuck in it. Meanwhile two blue-rinsers sit down at the
next table with their unwilling husbands. The old girls rip Flagstaff
society to pieces behind their hands while their husbands crane their
necks like a couple of lost Giraffes. You can tell the men wish they were
in the shed with their friend Wanda the blow-up doll.
Friday evening and my hosts are driving me from Williams back to my hotel
in Flagstaff. "So what are you guys up to this weekend?" I ask.
"I'm shootin' pig" says the taciturn driver. "Oooooh you luck so and so" says
one of the gals in the back. "I've just got me a new over and under I'm
dying to try on some Elk" says the other And for a while I listen as the
conversation in the car revolves around ways of stopping Elk crashing
through your windscreen at night and the relative benefits of shotguns vs
a 38 for stopping a charging Ridgeback. "So what are you doing Nigel?"
(pronounced Naaargelle) "Errr... I think I'll have a sleep-in and then
take a plane to New Zealand" That answer stopped the conversation dead and we drove the rest of the way in silence as the gals in the back ruminated
on where this New Zealand place might be.
Saturday morning and time for a walk after a week of offices, taxis and
planes. The hotel concierge tells me that downtown Flagstaff is right at
the highway, left at the lights and under the rail bridge - about 15
minutes walk. I gingerly step around drifts of snow and ice to the highway
and look up at the street sign - ROUTE 66. You just can't help it. Your
arms start to swing, you do a couple of soft shoe shuffles and after a
ragged start you are in full voice: "Get your kicks on Route 66.... Down
to St Louis......" As I turn the corner a monstrous shop looms emblazoned
with Barnes Noble - Book Sellers. And I thought "Ask Barnes Noble" was
just an error message you get on your browser every time you do a Yahoo or
Altavista search. This store's the size of an average hotel with a car
park out front that would be the envy of most supermarkets. Inside there's
books and magazine stretching to the horizon, a cafe and washrooms. This
is paradise on a cold winter's day and I happily spend the 3 hours
there until I say goodbye to the West.
I just hope it won't be too long until I'm back.
Oh and by the way - "Don't forget Wynona".
Postcards from Abroad