Sunday, 9 May 2010


After saying my polite goodbyes to Broken Bow…
“Awfully windy”
“Take care now”
…it was time to head south. The sun was shining but it was still too cold to take the roof off the car.
Needed cash first so went to find an ATM. Three polite ladies in the Nebraska Bank pointed me in the direction of the drive-in bank next door.
I was on foot. So walking into the drive “thru” I inserted my card and the machine took me through the transaction in a soft spoken woman’s voice. With a Scottish accent.

The anal retentive in me was chafing. There was somewhere I needed to be. To the conspiracy theorist, this was tantamount to Aliens in Roswell and Crop circles near Barnstaple.
I just liked the idea of all three American Adventure maps being overlaid one on top of the other and all eyes pointing to….Iola Kansas.
First trip I stayed at the Crossroads Motel. Second trip I just rode on through. This time I am typing this from exactly the same room I stayed in back in 2007. Had anything changed?
I am getting ahead of myself. Let us start from this morning.
Left Broken Bow about 8, chilly wind but a glorious day. This was going to be a day spent at the wheel. I am never really bored driving for eight hours at a stretch. There is stuff to see and the radio as company. I spend a lot of time shouting song titles and lyrics into the voice memo of my phone so I can dig the tunes out and play them for you when I get back.
As I have said before, if you are in the country, Country radio works. It doesn’t in New York. An all-country format wouldn’t exactly be a massive success in Peterborough, for instance.

By 11 I was a mite peckish. I had missed breakfast and, having decided to limit myself to two meals per day in an attempt to ward off a heart attack, brunch beckoned.
I turned into a truck stop at York, Nebraska
If you have never experienced the “Iron Skillet” chain of restaurants, get real hungry and go.
They are aimed at truck drivers. As I ate at the counter, a selection of grizzled drivers discussed routes, bad bosses and tough routes as well as mechanical tips which I had no idea about.
The food is all served on metal plates and comes in metal pans. It is also large and can in fact be far, far larger.
This is the chain which boasts the “Wide Load” challenge.
72oz steak meal. Eat it all and you get your photo on the wall of fame. Fail and your picture is on the wall of shame.
I went for the comparative kiddie’s portion of corned-beef hash. Two eggs and unsweetened iced tea.
There were considerably more photos on the wall of shame than there were on the wall of fame.

At least seven people were depicted, sitting in front of a mountain of meat. Think of it. Four and a half pounds of steak and then there were the other bits with it too.
As you would imagine, these people were large. Juddering great bears of men (no women incidentally), with names like “Big Mike”.
It explains itself really. You get the picture. There were T shirts on sale crowing:
“I beat the Wide Load 72 oz challenge. What’s for dessert?”
My advice to you would be if you were thinking of taking up this offer….
Don’t fill up on the bread.

I had been keeping pace with the railroad all day and decided it would be fun to record the sound of a train. After all, what says “America” more than a train whistle?
Near Cairo, (not the one in Illinois from American Adventure 1) Nebraska, I turned into a service road ahead of a train and near a crossing. The law states apparently the trains have to sound the horn when they approach a level crossing. Many small towns are along the route with the cheapest housing fronting onto the tracks. That is a double whammy. Being dirt poor and also being deafened at the same time. That is kicking someone when they are down.
Just as I finished recording a pick-up truck pulled up. The vehicle was marked “BNSF”, standing for “Burlington Northern and Santa Fe”. It was an engineering vehicle for the train company.

“Y’aaaal right?”
“Er, yes fine thank you very much, I have been recording your train, it is marvellous we don’t have anything like this back in England. You must be awfully proud of them. They’re jolly long and noisy aren’t they? The hooter makes such an evocative sound don’t you think? It sort of encapsulates the sense of size and also the struggle to push west, as well as the derring do that made this country what it is today…er, as I am sure you would agree?”

He regarded me for a moment. Was he thinking?
“Idiot guy from someplace else”
“Potential threat to Homeland Security”
“Jus’ checking you was OK”
With that he was gone.
You can hear that train by looking for it on Audi boo (get it here )

I drove on. The weather grew warmer. I took the roof down. I applied my factor 30. Thick cream along with not shaving means I had that Kenny Rogers “Silver fox” look. Not sure what the Dark Lady is going to make of it by the time we meet up in Orlando in a couple of weeks.
As the weather got warmer I also realised that I was heading into Bible belt territory.
I started to see the Pro-Life billboards as well as the odd one that the Creationists had paid for.
A huge placard depicting the sequence of human evolution - you know, that from ape to now thing - had a line through it and a slogan thundered: “In the beginning God created...”
Suddenly the terrain became slightly more familiar and I found myself in Eureka, a town that boasts of being hit by tornados. In fact its high school football team is called the Tornadoes. The man with the perfect teeth where I bought the beer (America Adventure 1) was cleaning the window of his liquor store. A few miles further and I was once again in Iola, Kansas.
It is amazing to me that as a tiny speck I can get into a car and drive thousands of miles and arrive at the same place on three separate occasions.
Headed for the Crossroads Motel. It had been a rather down at heel establishment in 2007. I drove past a year later and it looked like some money had been spent. I opened the slightly dented metal door to my room and to my delight/horror discovered not a penny had been spent inside!


  1. Perfect description of most truckers days. Drive Eat Drive Eat Drink Sleep. Repeat ad nauseum. Were you to TRY and eat the half a cow steak then Blubber Watch would REALLY be out the window. Will it be Santa Lester by the time you get back Darklord or will you take pictures before you shave, IF the Dark Lady demands it?

  2. Alex, love your audioboo of the train. Americans take them for granted and most often hate them as they tend to be long and make us late for work in the mornings (it seems they always cross streets at the most inopportune times of the day, like rush hour traffic!)