Well we have almost finished our cross country trip. I have discovered two countries and multiple hidden agendas of my own for doing it. I have had plenty of time to think over things that needed to be thought about deeply, I have read multiple books (audio books) and learned some Chinese through Pimsleur. I have realized that spending two weeks in a car might not be the best idea for a 6 week vacation but I am glad I did it.
When I got to Prince Edward Island I knew I didn’t have much time there. I went around to the few places I knew about and met some family I haven’t known very well. My parents moved west when I was 2 years old and I never really got to know my dad’s family. I was there for three days. I went to the beach, saw the very red sand, swam in the Atlantic Ocean, and had the best lunch beside a lighthouse. However, 3 days after my arrival I had to turn back because I need to get back to BC with a couple of days before my flight to China on August 19th.
I thought about how to go back to British Columbia and decided that while i would like to see my daughter again, it might be faster to go through the United States. It would be more interesting to see new things and I could use the time to challenge my stereotypes of Americans. I don’t know if you know this (well…you do if you are Canadian) but Canadians are taught a brand of anti-Americanism throughout their life. I’m not sure if it’s a reaction of fear of being lumped in with them and not being distinctive, or maybe it’s because their culture is so big and ours is so small that we are afraid it will totally take over. (Elephant and mouse syndrome). Our radio and TV corporation have to monitor what we are shown on TV and it has to be a certain percentage of Canadian programming, for example. Netflix is different in Canada because it has to show a certain percentage of Canadian shows before it’s allowed to market to us.
I don’t think there is any doubt in any Canadian’s mind that we have a unique culture and character and it bugs most of us that the world doesn’t really see a difference. We have stories in our culture about how sewing a Canadian flag onto your backpack will garner better treatment in some countries. Or how some Americans do it because they know this too. What I’ve found so far is that most people overseas just see us as North Americans. The same. Arrgghh! So I digress…we have a culture of anti-Americanism in Canada and after meeting intelligent, successful and nice Americans while overseas, I started questioning that attitude. I also started wondering about it’s validity when I was in China teaching Canadian history and realized that the history textbooks make Americans sound crazy, makes the French sound incompetent, and the British sound like they are above reproach. Hmmm.
You may be wondering what Canadians think of Americans. Most Canadians think that Americans are arrogant, ignorant and violent. I was cautioned numerous times how dangerous it would be to tent camp in the USA on my trip. As if it were safer in Canada somehow. There are jokes in our all Canadian programming about ignorant Americans who don’t even know where Canada IS let alone that it is as diverse a country as theirs. Americans who feature on Canadian TV shows are usually arrogant and/or ignorant and when I’ve challenged this in conversation I am told ‘But they ARE ignorant. Well…most of them”. So unfortunate.
However, to be honest, I WAS afraid of going to the USA for a whole week. I did somewhere deep inside believe USA citizens were ignorant and arrogant. I know logically this is wrong but after being brainwashed for years it’s hard to over ride. Part of my trip was to really challenge those ideas and it worked.We started our trip in PEI, drove through New Brunswick and entered the USA in the state of Maine. I drove through New Hampshire and Vermont, then drove through New York State for a day. I was sad to be so close to NYC and not be able to go! Pennsylvania was next (briefly) then Indiana and Ohio. We stopped in Cleveland for a break because we were tired and met a nice man on the boardwalk who was fishing. It was beautiful there.
After this we went through Illinois (where I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get by Chicago) and stopped next in Wisconsin. I loved Wisconsin and they really do have the best cheese.
I made the mistake of trying to go to Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin. Well…late at night we found out that that particular place is one of the most expensive that I’ve ever seen. One of the rooms was $2000/night! A campsite was $65/night for a TENT. Crazy. So we kept driving and went to another town in Wisconsin.
The next day we drove through Minnesota and ended up in Fargo, North Dakota. We loved the scenery in North Dakota, particularly the badlands. It’s the same as the badlands in Alberta with the sage brush, the feeling of desert and the signs warning against rattlesnakes and scorpions.
Then we went through what is probably my favourite state: Montana. I love the cowboys and the rolling hills and the diversity of the land. In the east they have flatlands and ranch lands and in the west they have mountains.
After my two nights in Montana (and spending the night at a fantastic hotel called “C’mon Inn”)
After that last hotel we drove for an entire 13 hours to make it back to BC.
At the beginning of this post I was in Montana and now I am in BC after going through a type of jet lag that can only be caused by 8 days of straight driving. Soon we will be leaving for China and will have more posts to write.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!