Well, not really the first week, just the first week of this, my sixth visit to North America.
After fitting it with a new battery – expected after 9 months in storage – and new rear tyres – unexpected – she was roadworthy to make it to the first destination, Joplin Missouri. The Ford mechanic there gave her a clean bill of health.
I had visited Joplin before, at the invitation of a colleague on RoadTrip America. This was in 2009, before the tornado. I had been shown many of the attractions, as well as the retail district and surrounding country. In 2012 I toured the city again, some 12 months after the tornado. The sights were unbelievable. The resiliance was evident. Now I was taken on another tour to see just how the town is progressing. Not all is back to ‘normal’. There are still some signs of the destruction amongst the new buildings and businesses getting on with it.
The next destination was in north west Florida, taking me through Arkansas, Missisipi and Alabama. It was at the Arkansas Welcome Center in Bella Vista that I stopped to pick up a map. A very hot day. I parked (illegally) in the only shade I saw. Shortly after, a senior couple entered the Welcome Center. The gent asked me if that was the Australian flag in the back of my van. I assured him it was. Turns out he worked for Richard Pratt and Pratt Industries in the US, and had been to Melbourne (Oz) multiple times. Had even been to Raheen, the historic bishop’s mansion owned by the Pratt family.
It’s such a small world.
A little later, while I was still chatting with the lovely, helpful and generous lady on duty (she gave me a beautiful pictorial coffee table book on Arkansas), another gent walked in. Spencer was (more or less) a local, and spoke of the music jam each Thursday during summer, in which he takes part. He and his wife have invited me to come by to experience this event. Something I will definitely do on my next pass through northern Arkansas.