All across the United States over the past three and a half months I'v been warned of various things to be cautious about, ranging from people to places and wildlife. As my journey has progressed I began to wonder how much of these warnings were exaggerated Chinese whispers or simply myths.
Before I came to the States for this journey some friends back home had me believe that I was entering some sort of militarised zone, such was the proliferation of firearms ownership in the US. This was not a safe country to be travelling in I was told, to such an extent that maybe I would be better having a stroll down Main Street, Baghdad. The reality could not be further from the truth, and I think those that fear America in such a way just don't understand it and maybe watch a few too many movies and accept as fact too many conspiracy theories. In my opinion these people are way more scary and dangerous. It has been the highlight of my trip over the last three and a half months meeting the people of America and being part of their lives. Without exception they have been so friendly and helpful, volunteering to help almost before being asked.
As the miles were eaten up pedalling west I began to receive warnings about passing through Indian reservations in Montana. We would sit and plan our route to be able to pass through certain "dodgy" towns in a day, and would sigh with relief when we had done so. But actually there was never a problem. The towns and places we passed through do have very high unemployment, sometimes as much as 90%, but I think the danger we faced was again exaggerated. It's possible that in the past that one or two incidents have been reported and the facts grew arms and legs. Before long these places were advised as no-go zones. I'm sure that they are not without their problems but I can't help feeling sympathy for the good people who live there who must be weary of all the bad publicity. We visited a traditional Indian Pow Wow on one occasion and were welcomed warmly.
Back in Boston I purchased a very expensive can of bear spray, powerful enough to stop a grizzly bear in it's tracks apparently. For the first few weeks I made sure it was close at hand, ever alert for a pissed-off bear hungry for the taste of human flesh. For weeks and weeks and weeks I saw nothing, heard nothing. Not even the snap of a twig. So many people had told me stories of battles with marauding bears and yet once again I was experiencing the opposite. Then on the 25 August a 600lb black bear entered my campsite and proceeded to demolish a large dumpster just 30m from my tent.
OK, so maybe some stories aren't all myth.