Span Blog

A sojourn across America’s awesome sights
By S. Viswanath
| Category: Travel

"How long do you plan to stay” asked the Visa Officer? “About six months,” I said. “Will you get that much leave,” he retorted. “At least two months then,” I replied. My heart pulsating whether I had made the cut. He quipped: “You have got Visa”, retaining my passport.


One big hurdle crossed, I mulled over steeling myself for that 18-plus hour flight to the Land of Liberty. Goaded by my brother in Sacramento: “It may be last sabbatical I get to be with you,” I booked that proverbial flight with much trepidation.


A passage of rite that would reinforce my perspective of a nation, which, since childhood, was like James Hilton’s Shangri-La in Lost Horizon, fed by fascinating accounts by Voice of America, Span and literature.


From India of chaos and cacophony, dust, din and delirium, it seemed I had reached the Elysian heights of Eden, where calm and quietude, order and discipline, verdant vales, daunting deserts, mighty mountains, historic districts, multifarious museums, winsome waterfalls, natural and man-made marvels, transported me to nirvana.


The shimmering engineering marvel – Golden Gate Bridge - muse of Vikram Seth’s eponymous verse novel, Twin Peaks View Point providing panoramic visage of San Francisco City, Fisherman’s Wharf, school of sea lions at Pier 39, ensemble street performers, cable cars cruising by, seemed surreal as jet lag and rigours of tiresome travel notwithstanding, my adventurous odyssey with America began.


With my niece playing perfect host and her hubby ferrying us on 17-Mile Drive to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with its redwood grove, falls and trails, one rejoiced in the scenic surroundings.


An intrepid hiker, niece’s hubby ensured my every sinew and tendon of resilience was tested at various trails, before  frolicking in freezing cold water of Pebbly Beach, delighting in Pfeiffer Falls.


The Folsom Historic District, Old Sacramento, among other scintillating San Francisco and California sights transporting me to the idyllic Wordsworthian world, I thirsted for more.


That these were appetisers for sumptuous buffet in weeks to come, I realised when my brother took the wheels and we hit the highway, reminded of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road: Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, the long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.


A whirlwind Discover America trip where highways and exits, sylvan landscapes, serenading azure skyline, symphonic sounds of tyres trundling on track, deers fleeting by, flanked forested foliage, became constant companions, adding to the allure and adventure of awe-inspiring attractions at every port of call.


The 45 days I spent hurtling across savouring America’s multi-dimensional tourist attractions, I lived the American Dream, made memorable thanks to a brother becoming chauffer-guide and his college-going son, navigator.


As we snaked uphill vertigo climb to Yosemite Valley, which photographer Ansel Adam described as “glitter of green and golden wonder, vast edifice of stone and space,” to soak in its natural marvels – Bridal Veil, Vernal waterfalls, granite domes, peaks, meadows, trails, rivulets, glacier and inspiration points, John Muir’s words: It is the grandest of all special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter, resonated in me.


Thereafter, Lake Tahoe, Redwood Park, Yellowstone National Park, Historic Walk in Muir Woods, Meteor Crater, Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Mojave Desert, Las Vegas, Red Canyon, shopping strips, casinos squared off with  scintillating performance by KA at Cirque Du Soleil, were elixir.


The strolls in downtown New York, visit to Niagara, showery ride in Maid of Mist to American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, Statue of Liberty, Twin Tower memorial, Grand Central station, treat full toppings of a tantalising tour.


Washington DC with its Smithsonian museums, national zoo, various memorials, Pentagon, US Capitol, Library of Congress, Newseum, were aperitif providing ethereal experience of a wonderland of education which words fail to provide fulsome praise. Oh! America, Mon amour.


My rollicking, roller-coaster romance with America over, truly blessed, I emplaned, pledging to book another passage back, crooning Eurhythmics eponymous Sweet dreams are made of this, Who am I to disagree?  I travel (led) the world and the seven seas as reality sunk in that it was diurnal grind, once home.