Stop… in the name of Ontario…

It’s not unusual in Ontario to see a cross intersection with four-way stop signs. 

That’s right.

Everyone has to stop, look at each other, smile, and say, “After you…” before proceeding on their way.

The first car to arrive gets to drive off first. In the rare event that you arrive in a dead heat, the driver to the left gets to go first.  This makes me wonder, though… if the drivers are across the intersection from one another, are they not technically on each other’s left?  I can just picture an “Ontario Stand Off”.

Driver A: “After you…”

Driver B: “No, after you…”

Driver A: “No, really, after you…” and so on. 

In theory, this could continue for some time, given how nice and polite Canadians generally are. 
On reflection, I can see why this has not been attempted in Australia. 

Larry.

I just met a great guy named Larry who runs a store called Clothes Encounters in Farmington, a suburb of Detroit. 

I’ve met lots of friendly people here, but Larry is just that bit nicer, funnier, and sweeter than most. We chatted, talked about politics and the state of the world, we joked and laughed, and then I walked out of the store feeling great. I think Larry is the sort of guy who has a gift for making the day better for everyone he meets. 

If you’re ever in Detroit, pop down to Clothes Encounters in Farmington and tell Larry I sent you. Maybe we can make his day great, too. 

New Mexico

New Mexico is beautiful.
It’s different to every other part of the USA that we have visited. There is a very strong Mexican and Native American influence on the culture and way of life.

The scenery is breathtaking. The colours of the desert soil and rocks change through the day.
The Sandia Mountains rise behind Albuquerque, creating a dramatic backdrop to the life of the people who love there. At sunset they turn a dramatic pinkish-red colour, for which they are named: “sandia” translates to “watermelon”.
We went up into the Sandias in the late afternoon and looked out over Albuquerque, the desert around it, and the volcanoes in the distance. We would have loved a chance to visit those lava fields, but our time was too limited.
As the city lights began to flick on and the dusk deepened, I could clearly see Route 66 passing right through town.

The people of New Mexico are very friendly and engaging. They love to stop and talk. They smile a lot. They love to be helpful and are very welcoming to visitors.

My first visit here has been very special. This place has touched me in quite a powerful and almost spiritual way, which I had not expected.
I am not sure whether I have fallen a little bit in love, or whether I’ve enjoyed a beautiful flirtation.
Either way, I am leaving with some delightful memories which I am sure will make me smile for many years to come.

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Houston #1

Houston is very business oriented.
When we went “downtown” we expected a lot more foot traffic, shopping and restaurants. We looked around but couldn’t find anything of the sort.
As we discovered, that’s because all the eateries and most of the shops are to be found in interconnected tunnels under the business precinct of the city. I had never seen that before.

Houston is quite a clean city.
Rail and bus networks keep the car traffic at quite a low volume. We invested in a Metro Q day pass which cost $3 and gave us access to any public transport around the city that we needed. There’s also a ‘GreenLink’ tourist bus that does a loop around the city for free. It’s a good way to get around and see what’s in town.
There are lots of trees and gardens that help the city to be less of a concrete jungle, even though it still has lots of high-rise and modern buildings.

We found everyone to be very friendly and helpful. Some of the locals in Starbucks were keen to chat and offer help and advice for getting around the city.
I had a great conversation with a guy named Keith, originally from San Francisco but now driving a taxi in Houston for eight months of the year. He was interested in Australia as well as in hearing our observations of the various parts of the US and Canada that we had visited. It’s people like him that really make a place more welcoming and memorable.

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