Eastern USA Vs. Western USA
“All pick-up truck drivers aren’t jerks but all jerks drive pick-up trucks” said Jim, a fellow cyclist who has not only almost cycled across the USA but has also walked across half of it. Words of wisdom right there and very evident in these eastern states where drivers seem a lot more impatient and aggressive. As if 30 extra seconds to slow down as you pass by us or let us navigate a tricky intersection is really going to change your day. Thanks for swearing at us too, I’m sure you feel better saying those complicated four letter words out loud.
Well there’s one reason why I don’t like the east but I’m not sure if it sways my opinion of the whole coast beyond the Mississippi River. I think I’ll have to come to a decision on which I prefer as although they are in the same country, they are drastically different places. Now, I’m just going to go ahead and do it, I’m going to rule out the ‘middle bit’ from the running. They don’t even know where they are in those states, I felt like I spent an awfully long time in the ‘mid-west’ having never really reached the ‘middle’ or the ‘mid-east’. We cycled from the ‘mid-west’ to the ‘east’ just like that. No explanation. Yes yes, the bread basket of the USA lies in the middle but so does a hell of a lot of nothing and not very happy people. Ironically the food isn’t even good there. I spent a lot of time cycling through Kansas, battling through the head and cross winds, trying to like it, even with the smell of cow manure always lingering, but I couldn’t – I wouldn’t live there. Sorry guys, not even the sign (pictured) on Pawnee Rock in Kansas proudly saying: “one of the grandest sights ever beheld” could convince me.
So we’ve ruled out the windy, smelly, inedible middle of the country. Thank god for that. Just so we’re reading from the same book I’m classing the ‘west’ as anything western than and including New Mexico and the ‘east’ as anything eastern than and including Ohio. Latinos versus the Amish. Dry versus wet. Hot versus hot. Riding through Vermont today could not be more different than riding through the desert in California. We were literally drenched today and it wasn’t even raining that much. The humidity was so high that our wing mirrors and sunglasses were fogged up beyond use and we were profusely dripping with sweat. For a good 15 miles or so over a mountain pass we were riding in the clouds with rushing rivers running beside the road. In California and Arizona we were regularly pouring water over ourselves to keep from turning into a crisp and lower our body temperature. Water was scarce there and ice was more precious to us than gold.
Cycling is much more enjoyable in the east due to the vegetation which therefore prevents Kansas-esk winds driving into you all day. There is more life! Today the roads were lined with beautiful wild flowers, a world away from the cactuses and prickly plants in the west. It’s hard to ignore the beauty of Arizona though. The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen and the ride through Sedona, AZ is to the day, my favourite of the 40 or so we’ve done. Niagara Falls doesn’t really compare to the Canyon, it’s pretty cool, yeah but, nope, you can’t beat the big GC.
So back to these pick-up drivers. Gone are the days where we waved frantically (I mean incredibly coolly) at passing freight trains, who would honk their horn for the world to hear and wave back at us. The drivers in the ‘west’ could spare 30 seconds for us to pass them and the trucks on the interstate going through the desert would move over lanes and slow down to ensure that their draft wouldn’t blow us too far across the road. In the east, drivers really couldn’t give a sh*t. I’ve dished out at least 10 sarcastic thumbs up in the past few days as truck drivers have shouted at us to “get off the f*cking road”. Thanks Mr pick-up truck driver, but I’ve just cycled 3,000 miles to get here, passing thousands of other drivers who thus far haven’t had a problem with us, but thanks for your kind thoughts, I’ll take you into consideration when trying to decide the fate of your geographical location in this blog post. Sorry if this comes across as bitter, but having two near death experiences today makes me wish that I was back in the ‘west’.
Just joking! That would be devastating to be transported back there with only 100 miles to go now. Can’t wait to reach the Atlantic Ocean. FINALLY.
So the verdict? The west has the Pacific Ocean, long flat desert roads and good margaritas. The east has luscious vegetation, twisty and hilly narrow roads and the best Long Island ice teas. Well it’s a shame neither do particularly good gin and tonics…
It’s neck and neck. I’ll decide in Boston. All I know is that the middle isn’t winning. Too bad Kansas.