It’s a strange thought to think that I covered more mileage in the few relatively stationary months I spent in the US than I did in my nearly constant wanderings of Europe the sixth moths before. That of course was made possible by my fossil fuel friendly switch from bikes and legs to planes and cars. While I could have biked from New York to California, I had returned to the US to spend time traveling with close friends who don’t find biking a thousand miles through the desert their idea of a good time. Come to think of it, eight hours of scorching heat to go between two gas stations isn’t really my idea of a good time either.
Aside from showing post-Ironman lack of motivation, this also highlights the enormous change in scale experienced when moving from Europe to America. To put things in perspective, the distance between my parent’s home in upstate New York and my sister’s house in Phoenix, Arizona is very nearly the same as the distance between Lisbon and St. Petersburg. That distance I covered with a plane, but even my weekend road trip of Phoenix-Las Vegas-Los Angeles-Phoenix, covered nearly the same distance as my bike trip from London to Madrid.
Aside from distance, however, those two trips had about as much in common as Mother Teresa and Mick Jagger. Unlike the steadily populated French countryside, the southwestern US offers vast stretches of barren wilderness. Las Vegas rises like a great, neon mirage out of a seemingly endless desert wasteland and even the vast urban sprawl of Los Angeles is signaled by little more than a road sign before the traffic congestion begins.
The cities themselves differ as well. Las Vegas is a theme park for adults complete with its own miniature Venice and tiny Eiffel Tower, almost as if the cast and crew of Jersey shore had been tasked with building a European city. Los Angeles is far more complex, but equally different. Whereas European cities are generally small and compact, LA is vast and sprawling. The average daily LA commute takes longer than a trip between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Finally Phoenix, a city larger than Milan or Munich, has grown up on a scorching desert plain without even a good source of water.
My next trip covered even more distance, but I think I’ve rambled on long enough for one day, so until that story comes along I’ll leave you all with neon lights dancing in your heads…