The United States of America is a curious country. Just like any child in Europe, I grew up with the States in front of my eyes: the television, the movies, the radio, magazines... it all seemed to take me over the Atlantic.
I myself am astonished that it took me 29 years to tread the American soil. On the one hand, I felt I should have done it sooner. Still, I would not have been prepared before then. It was the right time.
A road trip through the American Southwest has some essential elements: ever-changing weather conditions, a lot of roadside dining and nights spent in cheap but cinematic motels. It seemed like all of this was familiar to us, but we only got to understand its true essence when we got there. We crossed paths with a lot of people. Many admired what we were doing, maybe because they had already done it before. We met a couple in their sixties at a bar in San Francisco that rode every year to the Grand Canyon. We listened to their long story with curiosity and admiration.
Ansel Adams's Yosemite offered us clouds and mystery. The ideal weather for a place that does not deserve boring skies. From there we drove almost non-stop to Las Vegas, through Death Valley. It was like having crossed a different planet. What a country!
Zion brought us rain. Lots of rain. The washes were loaded. Cascades were born every other minute. Fall color was still there, though. Protecting my camera from the rain suddenly became not important.
It’s easy to drive in the US. The roads are wide and straight for several miles and the landscape changes dramatically every half hour. The radio plays country music. The songs are about whiskey, cowboys and difficult loves. We understood why.
A flash flood closed the canyons around Page, Arizona. Bad luck for us. We continued to Monument Valley. More rain. The Navajo gods did not seem satisfied. We passed through this sacred land with respect. We felt humble. Coyotes patrol the plain, Bill Callahan sings on the radio. I should have been here 100 years ago.
We headed south to the Grand Canyon and understood the story of the couple from the bar. We heard a park ranger talking about the formation of this place. Unfathomable depth and complexity. We had tacos for lunch and rested our eyes at a cozy lodge. We crossed paths with solo travelers and big families. Everyone should come here once before they die.
The Sonoran desert is the home of the world's largest community of Saguaros, centennial cacti with their own identity. We drove along the endless road while families of Saguaros wished us a good trip. They seemed to wave and ask us to stay. We wanted it to be true.
I'm sure I'll be back in the States someday. In a few months or in several years. I'll return, that’s for sure. The road does not forget anyone. I'm sure she will remember me.