|Toys R Us
|Saguaro close up
We arrived in Mesa Arizona. It's fair to say it is very different from New England. It could be another country and for a long time it was; it didn't surprise me to learn that, aside from Alaska and Hawaii, it was the last state to join the union. The landscape has the terrible beauty of the desert. It's all about the colour and the frank boldness of those amazing saguaro cacti, the sudden red jut of rock from the flat surrounds and the scrabbly greenery. It's not dissimilar to parts of Australia. While Massachusetts towns seem an inevitable part of the landscape - all picturesque red gold leaves and simple spired churches, here there is no escaping that the town has been plonked down in the middle of the desert. Clean efficient roads and highways lined with large chain stores and golf courses end abruptly and you find yourself in the desert. A few minutes out of town we were picnicking on the banks of the Salt River, looking at the aptly, if unimaginatively, named Red Mountain and surrounded by enormous cacti. To survive here requires all the technological advancements America is famous for. Power from the Hoover dam, water from the Colorado River and presumably produce from all over the country, flown into one of the country's busiest airports. There is a sense that one is merely keeping nature at bay here. Like any extreme place, deserts may tolerate the presence of humans, but it always feels temporary.
We are having a lot of fun. In some ways it feels more 'American' to us, or at least a version of America with which we are familiar. Bottomless fries and soda with our meals, served in cavernous barns with sports on various screens and posters all over the walls; big box stores lining multi- lanes highways; blessings on the food before meals and hand towels cross-stitched with turkeys; Fox News on TV in our hotel breakfast room - 'coming up after the break find out why Obamacare may unfairly favour trade unions'; friendly polite people at every turn - 'have you found everything you were looking for today?' ask the shop assistants, 'you have a great day now'. It may be required sales patter but it's delivered with a convincing sincerity that is rather charming. Storms are lashing the Northeast and whilst I kind of regret not experiencing them, it's pretty nice being warm here in the desert.