Some 38 days and six weeks have past since I was last on the shores of the Republic. My time, for now, has come to an end in the USA – with the final whistle being blown in Las Vegas and as they say “What goes on tour, stays on Kill’s Corner“.
Since we last spoke, Purds and I were cavorting in the Rocky Mountains under the care of the Hughes family. What has transpired since then has been more Bizarre than the Otara Millionaires Club.
Despite two visits to the car doctor, our dearest Laqueefa could not seem to flick off her engine light and we feared that this old gal may need emergency heart surgery. We managed to convince ourselves that it was altitude related and simply could not
afford fathom spending $1000 on a new carburetor*. So onward we marched, negotiating our way through the mountains of Colorado and into the magnificent red rock outcrops of Utah en route to Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.
We briefly considered stopping off at the Arches National Park in Utah, but unfortunately father time was not on our side.
Eventually we got to Page Arizona where we were to peer into the Grand Canyon at Horseshoe Bend where once again we were to meet the Colorado River (we crossed it six times from New Orleans to Austin and a further four crossings from Aspen to Horseshoe).
My original take of Arizona in Tucson was not great, but the northern parts of the state are incredible and Horseshoe bend was something truly special. It was also as scary as walking around Hillbrow at midnight courtesy of 300 metre drop off a sheer cliff of rock.
Wednesday morning saw us head for Zion National Park which has some incredible hikes with great views. However, we were bogged out big time by the weather as despite being in a desert, we got smacked by just about every kind of rain Forrest Gump so famously described.
Nonetheless, we were too blessed to be stressed as we strapped on the takkies and some brightly coloured ponchos, negotiating our way through the mud. As a result of the weather, we were unable to do the hikes through the river beds and narrow canyons, which were unavailable due to flash flood potentials. The Angels Landing hike was also ruled out which was both a blessing and a curse as my great sense of self preservation may have offset any breathtaking views I may have seen.
The rain also wreaked havoc with the camera lenses and thus put our ‘Gram game at serious risk. However, we made the most of what we could in the circumstances and got a fair bit done, seeing some pretty awesome scenery in the canyon.
Form Zion, we headed for Vegas, the place where rich men cry and poor men die.
Movies like the Hangover have famed this party town where the bars and casinos stay open 24/7. To say it like a Yank, ‘It literally never stops’. Vegas truly is crazy and takes in over 40 million tourists each year. That is almost the equivalent of the South African population who watched the Boks win the 1995 World Cup according to Francois Pienaar.
We did all the touristy things, cruising the strip and having the usual bender, but to be honest it was not my cup of tea. Vegas is a strange place. After driving through a land of dust, snakes and rocks for hours, you suddenly bump into a series of high rise buildings and flashing lights that would send one on a prolific epileptic fit. It is a most bizarre oasis that exists purely as a cesspit for one to rid themselves of their money, health and dignity. Yet somehow, the Yanks are fascinated if not obsessed with Vegas as it seems like a legal/ethical place to lose one’s sh*t.
If you like sniffing trylines and spending your hard earned money on woman and cards, then Vegas is the place for you. I found it all a bit much, which probably wasn’t helped by the fact that it came at the end of a six week long extravaganza when the bank account was about as barren the dams in Aliwal North last year. It’s great to have experienced Vegas and to have ticked it off the list, but it seems more like a place for wealthy married/soon to be married folks looking to break the seventh Commandment on Moses’ tablet.
After Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night on the lash, we tied the dogs up and sent them to bed early on Saturday as I had a 07h00 flight to catch out to Atlanta the following morning.
The last day was terrible. I had that boarding school feeling all over again. Memories of sitting in the boarding houses of Lions and Upper on a Sunday afternoon with those bloody Cathedral bells clanging in your head came flooding back. My stomach turned like an Eden Gardens Day 5 pitch and a lump clung to my Adam’s Apple with the power of Thor.
It dawned on me that the trip was well over. The bromance between myself and Purds’ would come to an end as the separation anxiety would no doubt soon follow. Like that little eight year old walking down the Fairlawn drive away at St Andrew’s Prep in 1998, I sulked out of the car at 05h00 and headed into the airport.
Six weeks, 5000 miles (approximately 8000 km), many chirps, conversations, lectures, sights, sounds, experiences and memories later, the Deep South 2016 Road Trip has come to an end.
To my tour guide and trusted travel companion, Charles Anthony Purdon, I thank you from the bottom of my heart sir. Never did I think I would befriend that cheeky little blonde haired scrum half in the year below me from across the ditch. Apart from being a friend and mentor, Charlie has proved an inspiration too. Like so many of the South Africans I have met in the States, he has come over here on his Pieter Dirk, rolled up his sleeves and chased that American Dream. That dream could well end up in a USA Eagles cap one day and let me be the first to say “I told you so” when he does get there. Purds’ thanks for motivating me to come on a trip that I believe has opened up the eyes and the mind of a small town Cookhouse boy for the better.
Then to all the others that have played a major role in getting me on this trip. Mom, Dad and Bruce for pushing me to get on the plane and roll the dice with resigning from my job. As tough a decision as job security is, I can safely say that I now feel more liberated than Mr Walters in 22 Jump Street.
Then there are a list of others who have been mentioned in the various posts thus far, but need mentioning again. The Mills’, Hobsons’, Hughes’, Keith Engelbrecht, Brett Taylor, Reuben Spilkin, Dallen Stanford, Chopper Jutronich, Nico du Plessis, Pieter de Haas – all South African expats – all have contributed to this trip in someway or another. Their generosity did not go unnoticed and despite South Africa’s insignificance in the greater scheme of things, we are a lekker bunch of okes who look after each other.
Too my many new American friends, thank you for understanding my accent, accepting my sarcastic sense of humour and at least pretending to like me for a bit. I will look to stay in touch with ya’ll on these Apps the new age kids use such as Facebook and Instagram.
Considering my full reign of funemployment that is about to start, I will have plenty of time to post reflections and takes on the various things I have seen in the States. Plenty of it will be centred around sports, with rugby being high on the agenda. Despite the many difficulties that face the game in a country so vast, I can sense something special starting to bubble in a land where forwarded passes are the norm.
For now, I am patiently sitting through a six hour layover in Atlanta before I board a 16 hour flight back to the Republic. USA, you have not seen the last of William Warwick Austin, like another famous immigrant, I’ll be back. In the interim, someone give Puff Daddy a call and get him to tell the world I’m coming home.
*I can confirm that Laqueefa has made it back safely to San Diego.
Part 0 – California here we come
Part 1 – Cookhouse, Cathcart, California
Part 2 – Dust, Snakes and the Wild West
Part 3 – The Excess of Texas
Part 4 – An Austin in Austin
Part 5 – Shoot first, ask questions later
Part 6 – No rest for the wicked
Part 7 – Getting high in Colorado