Grand Canyon

Last day of July and the drive from Dallas to Amarillo went well. The first 100 miles was a little worrying as I kept smelling petrol which has occurred previously. Eventually I pulled into a service station and lifted the bonnet (I don’t want a repeat of the Volvo’s fate). Instead of the trickle that has happened before it was running out quite freely. I switched off the engine and removed the carburettor bowl, where the leak appeared to be. The gasket looked OK but I wasn’t totally convinced and so I checked my stores for a spare. Unfortunately it was not one of the items I had but I did have some ‘instant gasket’ which I used. I also refitted the old gasket and since that I have had no further problem. The remainder of the journey was really straightforward.

As today’s drive is fairly short I started rather lackadaisically but Bridget was very ready to go. She accelerated smoothly and easily as I tried to detect any of her previous problems but we seemed to have, at last, cleared them. The air was cool and the sun bright when we left Amarillo but the temperature soon climbed as the miles slipped by.

With only about 60 miles to go I passed a white 4×4 at the side of the road and noticed the logo on its side KRQE News 13. I watched it in the rear view mirror as it pulled out into the traffic lane and accelerated quickly. As it drew level I realised it was just keeping pace with me so I looked over and sure enough the window was wound down and the driver was gesticulating. We pulled over onto the hard shoulder and the other driver jumped out and came back to Bridget and me to introduce himself, Ian Schwartz. He wanted to know “Are you really driving around the World?” So I told him about the adventure and we met up again in the late afternoon to record an interview. It all helps to spread the word.

Unfortunately after our encounter on the highway, when I restarted Bridget the misfiring started again and she is losing petrol from one of her carburettors again. It may be temperature related so I will see how things are in the morning.

I removed and refitted the carburettor float chamber first thing and Bridget has been as good as gold all day. The drive to Flagstaff was only just over 300 miles but it was very hot again so I kept our speed down to around 55mph. Several people along the way have said they saw our television interview which is nice to know.

The countryside is now taking on a new look with desert and mountains appearing. The desert here is different from those in Australia, Peru and Pakistan. It is populated with lots of small trees or bushes, I am not sure which although I think some are Tumbleweed, but they give the landscape a speckled appearance. The hills that we first came across are in New Mexico and are bright red sandstone, similar in colour to the outback sand in North Queensland, Australia.

As we passed the city of Gallup the colour changed to yellow. The shapes of these hills are typical of what I have seen as a youngster in western films with steep cliffs and plateau tops. I was half expecting to see Tonto anytime. Approaching Flagstaff the first real mountains came into view, more ragged than those in the Himalayas or southern Andes.

Bridget celebrated her own special achievement today as we crossed the State line from New Mexico into Arizona, her odometer completed its first 100,000 miles and this evening displays 000161.

We left Flagstaff early in the morning and headed to the Grand Canyon’s southern rim. This is the part most commonly visited although I am hoping to see the northern rim also. The morning was bright and soon became very hot. Bridget was running well again although we still have a problem at the higher revs.

It was only 90 miles to the canyon and what a spectacle it is. I had been prepared to be disappointed after all the other natural wonders that I have seen, but the Grand Canyon is spectacular whatever else you have witnessed. It is not just its vastness although that is impressive, but the size and shapes of all the hillocks, or whatever the correct name is, in the canyon. I am told you get a quite different perspective from the other rim and so I look forward to that later in the week.

From the canyon we drove on to Page, a small town some 90 miles further north. A kind gentleman that owns a radio station there has organised some R & R for me.

So what are my initial observations on the USA. It’s funny how some of the things we observe are the most insignificant items. Clearly the significant items are geography, flora and fauna and culture, and these are unique in each part of the world. So it is extraordinary that two things I repeatedly have noticed are the large number, and length of the trains; and the whispering trucks.

Firstly the trains, for those that do not know, are anything up to a mile or more in length with 2, 3 or 4 engines pulling and/or pushing the wagons. The whispering trucks is a reference to many of the large trucks, or rigs as they are known here, that make very little noise but just hiss slightly as they pass, even at speeds of 70 mph. They are a terrific improvement over those in Central America that make an unholy din caused largely by poor maintenance.

As I say the significant things are those given to us by nature and after Australia, South and Central America I have noticed that there are considerably fewer birds and their colouring tends to be largely browns and black. The scenery I have already described so that leaves the people. Those I have met so far are just what I had expected from my previous visit to the States. They are outgoing, friendly, confident but also somewhat insular. Many have little understanding of what life outside of the US is like although they are more inquisitive than I previously found them.

After a fairly slow start, they are now aware of Bridget and the journey we are attempting and suddenly lots of offers to help have been received. It just remains to see if they will join in with some donations for UNICEF. It occurred to me that if everyone that viewed the CNN IReport news item about us gave one dollar we would have reached our target by now. It’s very easy to donate just click the UNICEF logo in the side column and you the page will take you through the process, but have your credit card ready. Every dollar helps!

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