DATELINE : July 1st, 2018.
East of Godthab, Greenland, 33000ft above sea level
If God had meant us to fly, she would have come up with a better way to do it than this. Strapped into hurtling winged death-tubes, at altitudes, temperatures and speeds that would strip the frozen meat from our bones as efficiently as the contents of a KFC Bargain Bucket flung into a wind tunnel.
This is not a place for any half-sentient being to be. The noise is a dull, head-swelling drone, with enough of a high-frequency whistle in it to park all your fillings at attention. The air turns your mouth into a gummy salt lick, and your eyes into hot marbles.
Worst of all, the only beer on offer is Heineken or fucking Amstel Light.
Where’s the goddamn teleportation device, the bi-location gate, the personal Jetpack? We’re sneaking up on the third decade of the 21st century, furfuxache. Shouldn’t there be suspended animation or a timed-dose sleeping pill, at least?
Yeah, I don’t fly well. Whoever the numbskull was who said that it is better to travel than arrive needs a boot upside the head. I’m cramped, wired, twitchy and twingeing. Nerve endings raw, tendons like banjo strings.
But this is the sacrifice. Adventure, irritating and inconvenient as it is, requires that you do need to actually go somewhere, even though Ray Bradbury faithfully promised in his short stories that you could do it from the comfort of your living room. Although apparently Saint Ray of the Burning Books has been outed as a honking great racist now, so who the fuck knows what to think.
Adventure, then. As in an actual trip between two actual continents at 500 miles an hour, in a pressurized doom-rocket with badly cropped versions of recent box-office flops running on a tiny screen six inches from your nose.
The quality of the entertainment on board is so poor that I have been forced to the most desperate of measures.
Writing about the journey.
Here’s the hustle. We’re undertaking a revised edition of the Great American Road Trip—a loop round Colorado that will give us all the flavour of the state with a significant reduction in the amount of time spent in cars, staring unblinking at the unending road lancing away to an unchanging horizon. Keep that Vanishing Point crapola for Antonioni. Me, I’m all about getting there, cracking a bottle and hitting the hot tub.
It doesn’t mean we won’t be spending time on the black-top. This is Colorado in four base-camps. Denver, the Mile High City, over the patriotic lunacy of Independence Day. Palisades, within reach of The Rocky Mountains and the Colorado National Monument, the backdrop to a thousand horse operas. The lakes and vistas of Grand Junction. Finally Pagosa Springs in the south, within spitting distance of New Mexico, homelands of the Ute tribe.
This game has been in play for a very long time. Eighteen months and change from the initial idea to the booking of the flights and the long slow process of getting five people to agree on venues, apartments and days out.
Will it be worth it? For me, no hesitation, the answer is hecks yes. We get to be cowboys. We get to be aeronauts of a more civilized age. We get to celebrate the sixteenth birthday of a beloved one while crazy Yanks set the sky on fire.
And we get to see America, for the first time in over a decade. How much has it changed now there’s a power-crazed orangutan in the White House? I know you can never compare the image of a place, especially through the ever-skewed bias of news networks and the inter-web infoblurt, to what’s on the ground. I’m interested in the differences.
Jeez, yeah, I know this is a holiday. I’m not about to turn it into an epic screed on The American Soul Witnessed And Dissected By Some Uppity Limey. But, come on, you have to keep your eyes open. Also, this is Colofuckinrado, home state of the good Doctor Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson. You don’t set foot on this ground without feeling a certain vibration. If you’re smart, you’ll let it rattle your bones for a while.
All of which is based on a hopeful assumption that I survive the next six hours in a screaming hell-projectile where the temperature on the other side of my window is a balmy -40 degrees centigrade, enough to turn you into a meatsicle before you can say ‘hey, it’s a bit parky out he…’
Adventures ahead, then. Just get me off this goddamn plane.