January 13, 2003 GMT
Utah

In Mount Carmel Junction, UT the waitresses look at me with disgust. I only want some eggs love. What is it? Maybe it’s my nose. It is bleeding a lot now. It can’t take all this high-speed dust/heat/cold that I treat it to constantly. No way I’m putting down that visor though. I want to feel this air. And my hair is a bit wild. Mind you, the guy at the motel last night was the same: contempt bordering on hostility. It’s like they are only serving me because their dog is being held hostage. It is so untypical of the country. Usually people are hospitable in a thousand small ways. This whole town is built around a junction. That’s it. The place exists only to serve strangers--it’s a non-destination, non-return eatery. Why should they care? The women are 20, with children to worry about, and a lifetime to putting eggs in front of strangers to look forwards to. I wouldn’t smile either.

I underestimate distances again. I’m pushing that 85mph average again. It’s okay flying past the cars, but there is a nagging doubt in my mind. Isn’t there a reason why I shouldn’t do this? Maybe something to do with safety? I am slowing slightly toward a town when I see the flashing red lights in my mirror. For some reason I am not that worried, although I know 85 is seriously amiss.

Once he hears the accent Warren is understandingess itself. He gives me a concerned homily complete with slaps on the arm about the animals on the road that can do me harm. He’s an encyclopaedia of local fauna. As he drifts towards a breakdown by genus, species and sub-species his eye catches my name on my licence, “So you’re a doctor hey”?

“Yes. An academic one though, not a medical one”

“Still. It’s an achievement. There’re people out there who need you”; something that had never occurred to me, and I am not sure is true, but I nod like an eager puppy at feeding time, aware that this avuncular tone spells l.e.t.o.f.f. in a large gentle font. He spends five minutes in his black and white car processing the details. He’d clocked 77mph, so no jail time for me. Instead he gives me a slip that includes the delightful phrase “this is not a court summons, just a friendly contact from the Utah police about your driving”. Wonderful: a friendly contact from the state trooper. I don’t ask him what do you call a man with a rabbit on his head. Instead I tell him that I will be a good boy, and I mean it.

I drive all evening to reach Park City, arriving at half eleven. Mike collects me from the gas station. I must look a sorry sight, wet (did I mention a storm started as I drove along the valley), cold and slightly manic after the long day in the saddle. He is easy to be with, which deepens my impression of Utah to be a relaxed friendly state that bears no one a grudge. I forgive its Christianity for a while and take a rest day in his living room, reading bike mags and drinking tea.
“I’ve never seen it rain like this here before Simon”. In Quetta, Pakistan I brought rain for the first time in five years. In New South Wales I broke a two-year drought and in Goa the monsoon came two weeks early in time for my arrival. Believe me, it is no surprise. I should hire myself out to the UN. ‘Need some water buddy, like several hundred thousand tons? I’m yer man. Fresh and free. Call me anytime.’

Posted by at January 13, 2003 04:21 PM GMT
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