As we say a fond farewell to the United States I’ve been getting all philosophical and thinking how on earth I can sum up this country full of pleasant surprises and unpleasant shocks, and our brief time here.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t, so over to my faithful companion Steinbeck, and his brilliant passage from ‘East of Eden’ (again) – as spoken by the wonderful Lee:
‘All colours and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It’s a breed – selected out by accident. And so we’re overbrave and overfearful – we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic – and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or language of our culture?’
This doesn’t do justice to the consistent generosity we’ve received from the people we’ve met, however, I think it’s a pretty interesting attempt at describing the contradictions and complications of this vast country. It’s probably true that only Americans can understand America, but then again that’s probably true of most cultures. America has a lot of critics, I wonder how many of them have visited the place, let alone tried cycle touring here. I reckon giving that a whirl might alter their opinion a little bit.