Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

What Really is Great About America

This entry is written in response to a comment on my last blog entry by the writer of My Retiring Life. It seems that more than half of American voters are not surprisingly down in the dumps about their country after a campaign based on making America great again won, creating incredulity around the world as well as a plentiful supply of ready material for comedians and news reporters.

The USA is of course internationally accepted as the World's number one superpower, so why on Earth would anyone seek Presidential Office on the basis of making it great again? Isn't that creating an emormous wound through self deprecation, especially if one cares to analyse what promises were made to fulfil the slogan? 

However, I do not wish to get embroiled in politics here and certainly am not qualified to comment on US' social and economic issues. Instead I want to tell you about the top ten positives in addition to air quality, that make an Englishman sit up and notice in America:

1. The friendliness and willingness to  converse and, a little like the UK, the further you get away from the capital city, the friendlier people are. Except the distances are so enormous that when you compare the welcomes you receive in Texas, you have to think Tyneside and Scotland multiplied by thousand of miles. Yes Texas is certainly a country in itself (a little insular perhaps, as we found when asked if we get American films in England) but you can get off a bus feeling you have made a life-long friend with the driver and, although not recommended for all kinds of reasons, even want to take your waitress home with you.

2. It's casual.  I never once felt I was being judged on a lack of dress-sense or occasion. Common sense prevails and comfort is the number one priority.

3. It has white sand beaches in abundance, long enough to put Northumberland to shame, equally deserted and a whole lot warmer.

4. In tourist areas as wells as at transport hubs and gas stations there are toilet restroom facilities, impeccably clean and all without charge. No "out of order" or "closed due to council cuts" signs.

5. Okay I  may just be talking California here but it doesn't only have organic produce, it has organic supermarkets and I mean big ones with choice, ready meals and toiletries cosmetic and bathing products.

6. There are clean, convenient public transport systems in the cities and best of all they are  good value (only $3-$5 for a day pass), underused and uncrowded (I am not referring to rush hour in New York).

7. Linking to the metropolitan bus services we found easily accessible park and rides to leave your car for free in both San Diego and San Antonio and how clever is this, they occupy otherwise unused wasteland under flyovers and elveated sections of freeway. Indeed on-street car parking was readily available in the small towns that we visited and there was no lack of chargeable car parks in the bigger cities, although for convenience we preferred to use the bus routes.

8. History abounds. Never believe anyone who tells you America has no history. Yes the whiteman may not have got there until the 15th Century but there were native American tribes all over the place before then and I've never been anywhere that is so good at preserving its old wooden churches, houses and other buildings. They even have National Historical Parks: San Diego Old Town and the LB Johnson Ranch were two of our stops and of course the Freedom Trail in Boston.

9. It's an enormous country and the wilderness is fantastic. National and State Parks are plentiful and offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the past in another way, getting back to real nature. In our case a long walk at Enchanted Rock in the soaring Texan heat and a visit to Hamilton Pool certainly brought us closer to understanding the hardship of frontier life. Otherwise a drive outside of urban areas will reveal roadkill of a somewhat unusal type for the closeted Brit: armadillo, racoon, snake, deer and possum.

10. Finally and despite its love for paper cups and plates, plastic cutlery, fries and burgers, there were fantastic eating places everywhere we went. In fact the only disappointment was ordering marrow in Austin when, expecting a dish of green vegetable, it was actually a meaty bone!

Post script. I am adding an Eleven: art. Art galleries, live music and sculpture abound. Annoyingly so when you are browsing a high street for a baker's or grocery store and all you can spot are coffee shops and galleries, but what a recognition of the part art and music play  in elevating human life.


  1. Caree, thank you once again for helping me to feel good about my country. It is taking a conserted effort to think of the positives these days. Everything that you shared has bouyed my spirits. On the morning following the election, a friend in Germany wrote to emphasize that America is not Trump. We need to keep hearing these things.

    Next month, I will join 10's of thousands of women marching on Washington to make our voices and concerns heard. We are a body who knows that patriotism does not mean blind acceptance and allegiance. It will be a long 4 years, but we are willing to persist. That is another thing about the America I love.

    On a different note, as soon as I saw your photo of the stone for sharpening weapons, I knew right where you were. I have hiked to that spot many times, though not on our visit this week as it was just too cold.

    Thank you again Caree!

    1. So here we are in retirement feeling as political as in our twenties and agitating- you over Trump, me over Brexit. Let's keep marching and waving the placards (metaphorically as well as literally).

    2. And keep on marching, we will!