The International Writers Magazine: USA Travel
Dog Days by Andrew Thompson
Tales From an American Road Trip
ISBN: 978-1- 908824 - 44-8
Sam North review
Greyhound Corp lawyers will be frying Andrew Thompson’s ass any day now. Truth be told, anyone even thinking about taking a trip around American on a Discovery Pass should read this and hire a car immediately. Having once taken a Greyhound to Northern Canada where the tyres froze to the road and the toilet was out of order the whole way – I can vouch for the veracity of this 45 State nightmare made by Andrew and his then girlfriend Lucy. (Another tip – no relationship can ever survive prolonged exposure to the Dog and the people who ride in them).
Witty, sharply observant and often cruel – especially about the obese people in America (are there any others?) there are some very truthful comments to liven up the text. He notes the specially trained indifferent staff at Greyhound and not forgetting the Mustang Men, the tattoo covered, wife beater t-shirts –low life’s, who either aspire to own a Mustang or just smell like the horse they are named after. Thompson ain’t polite and isn’t going to pull punches. Basically he comes to the conclusion that almost everywhere in American East is problematic (except Graceland) and not really worth the trouble. Given that you are seeing it from the point of view of a Greyhound Bus half the time – I can understand the problem. He's not too fond of all the bus driver rules either.
Things improved when they started renting a vehicle. It’s possible that Niagara is best seen from the Canadian side and Grand Canyon was the ‘closest thing to awesome that I’ve witness’ and the people in Arizona were friendly, even if ordering a drink in Eddie McStiff’s in Utah was less so. But you feel that Thompson was definitely overawed by the West, as indeed he should be as he followed the Crazy Horse highway and passed through towns well on their way to becoming ghosts. From Deadwood to Mount Rushmore things get easier. Taking in the 320 Guest Ranch at Big Sky in Montana is almost icing on the cake. Real cowboy experiences. And Lucy fell in love with Montana – even getting her own fishing licence.
There are many beautiful places in the USA, pretty sure there are even some nice people and great places to eat, but Andrew and Lucy didn’t find them as often as they would liked. He exposes the myth of American 'Service' and he's not too cracked up about the beer or food, which is mainly burgers and greasy fries to be washed down with some 'light' beer. Dog Days reminds me of seeing Midnight Cowboy when I was young – which I know single-handedly put me off my first USA Road trip by at least two years, luckily Thompson is full of praise where it is due and downright honest when it isn’t – as only an Australian can be.
Fun, accessible, often gloriously downbeat, I highly recommend Dog Days - take it along with you when you next contemplate Highway 66
© Sam North April 2014
author of 'Diamonds - The Rush of '72'