Honestly, the best part of being an MK is the trip home. Woah, that sounds negative and stuff. I don’t mean leaving the third-world hellish existence your parents thought would be nice to try for 4 years. No, that part is hard. ‘Cause if you were lucky you made friends and things. But the journey home is great. Sometimes you might get given bad parents who take you the long way round via Argentina, but most of the time the voyage home is via the Land of the Free and the Home of the Old: Florida. Over the many year this blog has been running, I know I’ve teased Americans a lot. Sorry. It may be because their healthcare system is worse than Nicaragua’s, and anytime someone wants to make it better they get called a socialist. Anyway, when you’re a 14 year-old kid, the US of A is the greatest destination in the world. The tales of lore and wonder just go on and on. They practically give you Nikes as you enter the country and there’s a McDonald’s on every block and every girl is hot and wants you to be her boyfriend. I’m sure as many Mexican, Honduran, Dutch, Spanish, English and Canadian people can attest, it doesn’t always live up to the hype. And it doesn’t help that your Dad is just about the cheapest traveller in the world. Travelling with my Dad is one step up from actually being baggage. You don’t understand: at one point on the trip he wouldn’t let me eat Cheerio’s for breakfast and I got stuck with Cornflakes instead, even though both were included in breakfast and totally free, but the Cornflakes looked cheaper. I’m sure he would have just stuffed us in suitcases and shipped us back home via FedEx if he was sure he could iron the creases out of our faces once we arrived.
Our plan was to travel through Florida and Alabama by car, spend some time with friends, and then head home to Oz. The flight up to Miami from Bolivia was fun because my friend’s dad was flying the plane and we got to sit in the cockpit at various times, like takeoff, landing and during the potential emergency bailout over the ocean. We managed to arrive in Miami in the morning and immediately noticed the scorching, heart attack-inducing, sweltering heat. I mean, like, seriously, Miami is like the hottest place on earth. At least in the Sahara it’s a dry heat, and the camels don’t carry guns, and your mum doesn’t order you to lock the car doors at all times, and the people are naturally that colour, and when you DO find water, there’s less chance someone will rob you and leave you for dead next to the machine. I was sweating profusely and all I was doing was sitting down. Inside. The airport restaurant’s bar fridge. Dad ran off to the rental car place (a pleasant surprise since I had assumed we’d either Greyhound it or bum rides across the continent) and Mum got stuck with us kids lest any of us disappear and have any potential fun that might have been lurking somewhere. The baggage guy at the airport cheerfully assisted Mum in hauling all 53 of our 30-pound bags across the terminal and timidly replied “whatever you like ma’am” when she asked him how much she should pay. I’m sure that $1 bill took a big chunk of out his impending back surgery fee. I’m not sure how much it would cost to fix the sudden eye twitch.
Dad finally returned with our rental van about 3 days later and we were off to see America. At least, see 500 miles of interstate. Although we did glimpse a white tailed deer once, before some hunter got to it. Dad was never a big fan of ‘sightseeing’ or ‘toilet stops’ so I remember nothing of the journey, save for the onset of severe depression across the backseat as we drove past DisneyWorld. I mean, seriously, you PLAN not to go, surely you could PLAN to take a different road or at least put us out of our misery and put our FedEx boxes back in the trunk. To shut us up Dad mercifully stopped at a roadhouse and let us get some American candy. In some kind of bizarre Mythbusters™ moment my sister discovered that yes, you can actually chew an entire 6-foot roll of gum and promptly spat all 72 inches of masticated gooeyness onto the carpet in the back of the van. It looked like Barney the Dinosaur had puked back there. I stuck with Beef Jerky since I was planning on buffing up at the time and only ate meat products. We arrived in Alabama the following day after spending the night in that motel from Psycho and were treated to more southern American summer heat, which I imagine is somewhat like summer heat on the actual surface of the sun but with more lawyers and bigger cokes. Once inside however, the air-con kicked in and I was ready to live the American dream. I could have sat there all summer long, drinking coke by the gallon and watching wrestling on cable all day.
The definite highlight for me was the Alabama Space & Rocket Museum, whose main attraction was, obviously, the hordes of wild chicks in attendance. Or it could have all the massive nerd toys. It sure wasn’t their website, which was designed by some old lady with Microsoft Paint and no Corneas. But the ASRM (I call it that ’cause we’re friends) did have an real-life SR-71 Blackbird sitting there just decaying. The fastest jet ever made! And the highest flight ever… hang on… we lost all the girls in the boring bits. Anyways, we have a photo of it with me in front. I even touched it, which I’m sure is illegal. I should get some kind of Airforce medal or something. And we got to go on some ride designed to illustrate how spew flies all over the place when you spin people around, which apparently happens a lot in space.
That’s about all I remember about the trip, although the guy at the rental car return got that same eye twitch when he saw the gum in the carpet. Maybe there was something in the air…
*Yeah, I know, StarTrek references are pretty sad, especially after professing my StarWars man-love earlier.