Published: March 25th 2009March 25th 2009
Our first glimpses of Texas from the air were very different from the last glimpses we had of Peru. Tumbling mountains and colourful beaches have been replaced by a dusty green and golden landscape that stretches, completely flat, in every direction. I have never visited a place before where, no matter how far into distance you look, there isn't a hill in sight. Everything here is large and wide, from the sky and landscape, to the roads, the cars and (I'm sorry to say it) the Americans themselves. Nobody walks here, we stepped off the plane and were greeted by a line of waiting (and, again, rather wide) wheelchairs, for anyone who felt they couldn't quite make it the two minute walk to baggage collection. Everyone seems to step out of their homes and straight into their giant trucks, to go three seconds down the road to a drive-thru McDonalds, or a drive-thru Pizza Hut, or even - yes, I'm afraid so - a drive-thru Starbucks, where they order giant portions of food. But, in this state at least, laziness is nothing compared to patriotism; everywhere you look, you see the sacred American or Texan flag flying in the wind. People's
hats and t-shirts are decorated with Texan maps, or they announce the Texan university the wearer attends, or the Texan sports team the wearer supports or plays for. Everything here is so very stereotypically Texan: men wearing cowboy hats, with their guns in their leather holsters, shops containing rows upon rows of cowboy boots, some even studded with diamonds, steakhouses on practically every corner, etc etc. You could never doubt where you are!
We have been staying in Dallas now for two nights, generally enjoying our luxury hotel. After the rock hard mattresses of China, the fold-out futons of Japan, the camping on the Inca Trail and the horrors we faced in the Amazon, getting into bed here is like falling into Heaven; I never want to leave. Yesterday was spent seeking out all of the items we are going to need: a tent, a sat-nav, a road atlas, crockery, cutlery, and, of course, blueberry pop tarts (when in Rome...) Last night we enjoyed our first genuine tex-mex restaurant; the food was beautiful, but it took a little time trying to get some vegetarian dishes. And today we drove into central Dallas, to Dealey Plaza, where JFK was shot.
A white cross on the road marks the place where it happened, and a block away sits the JFK memorial monument. The atmosphere was very quiet and respectful while we viewed the tall white monument, which apparently was designed as a cenotaph, an open tomb, to symbolise the freedom of Kennedy's spirit. The architect, Philip Johnson, described it as "A place of quiet refuge, an enclosed place of thought and contemplation separated from the city around, but near the sky and earth". The melancholy and serenity of the place was broken a little though when we were approached by a conspiracy theorist, who was determined to convince us that the government had covered up something about the assassination. Apparently they swapped JFK's brain in the autopsy, and the guy had photographs to prove it. Lovely.
Tomorrow we leave Dallas and do the 8 hour drive, up into Oklahoma and back across into Texas, to Amarillo (where "sweet Maria" probably doesn't wait for us...) The car is full of petrol, I have the map, Mark has his compulsory cowboy hat, and so we begin our 'all-American' roadtrip.
There are more photos below