Mark has visited the US before, but limited his stays to New York and California and didn't really see the country. The whole of Britain will fit in an area the size of the Great Lakes, and for them to drive through hours of empty country on roads with a bend only every 50 miles was hard to get used to. So were the food portions. A good country-style breakfast here in the States is apparently a bit more than most Brits eat in a day, which gives a new perspective to the United States being one of the largest countries in the world. Males being the way we are, and three of the four Yank gents in attendance not having seen the good side of 220 pounds or a 32-inch waist since high school, we felt obliged to further embellish our meals a bit for Will's benefit. A week's worth of monster breakfasts, greasy hamburgers, and country fried steak with sausage gravy sent him home a good bit heavier, and probably in need of angioplasty.
The first night, we stayed in Grand Junction, Colorado, where Mopars Unlimited of Colorado hosted a small get-together for us at the local Pizza Hut. The following morning we headed out of town for a tromp through a junkyard, and the Brits enjoyed the experience as much as we did. Ted did some serious shopping, loading the trailer with rust-free sheetmetal, while I scored a pristine hood and cable-remote mirrors for my '61 Plymouth station wagon. This was the only junkyard we hit, but it would have been easy to spend the week yard hopping our way across the west. Maybe next year.
Day 2: Cisco, Utah:Though in the movie Kowalski met his end in Cisco, California, the former uranium boom town is actually located in Utah. Or more precisely, what's left of Cisco is in Utah. No longer listed on any many maps, Cisco is little more than a road bordered by train tracks on one side and falling-down buildings constructed of railroad ties and a smattering of clapboard houses on the other. Inhabited by fewer than ten people who watch through their blinds but won't answer the door when you knock, Cisco can best be described as a wasteland. The one man we met who would talk to us spends his days smelting aluminum out of scrap he hauls in off the plains, firing it in a natural-gas-fed furnace and pouring it into 15 pound ingots he sells for thirty-five cents a pound.
The sandy rock terrain is too harsh even for scrub brush to take hold, and what plant life does manage to root is obliterated by the frequent wind storms that blow through the area. Dotting the landscape are dozens of storm cellars dug in man-made mounds or under building foundations. Many of them are filled with decaying, crystallized TNT, which is less stable than nitroglycerin, and often explodes simply because some poor mouse walked across the wooden box it's stored in.
"We keep it in the cellars so if it explodes it blows up and not out. That way nothing gets damaged," the aluminum man tells us. Looking around, we fail to see what difference it could possibly make, but we nod anyway and agree that it makes good sense. Between blowing up (instead of out), the mysterious silhouettes in the windows and inhaling the uranium dust we're sure is still on the wind out here, all of us but Ted decide Cisco is just below the seventh circle of Hell on our list of places to visit. After the aluminum man gave Ted a couple of old metal signs that may have been glimpsed in the movie, Ted has vowed a return trip to look for the ultimate piece of memorabilia: the Camaro they slammed into the 'dozers back in '70. Reasoning they wouldn't have hauled its remains far before depositing them in the desert, he's sure the wreckage is somewhere out there, though Aluminum Man doesn't know where it could be.
Remember the movie? The old man had his snakes, but Ted has the Camaro.