Our plane landed at Chicago. It was lunchtime and it was hot; we disembarked, slowly cleared customs, eventually found our luggage, collected the car, picked up the dog and then started to drive. We'd intended to follow Route 66, but we were tired and running late so headed for the I55. After an hour or so of M25-at-its-worst type traffic, we stopped at a Wendy's to buy some salt with a meal attached. Interesting place! The server immediately and confidently identified me as a Frenchman. The single cubicle in the gents' restroom was occupied by two men having an intense and angry whispered conversation. Meanwhile, in the car park, a number of briskly discreet transactions were taking place that, I'm sure, had nothing to do with the management of that esteemed establishment. It suddenly occurred to us that our big, bright, shiny, new, expensive hire car loaded with a dozen suitcases was beginning to attract interest so, without much reluctance, we left.
And kept driving.
Eventually, at ten in the evening, we realised that, including the flight, we'd been travelling for twenty-two hours straight, so we stopped at a motel in Springfield, IL, that was trying very, very hard to look respectable. The evening heat was oppressive; oddly, the chirruping cicadas did little to lighten the mood. Outside the main entrance, a heavily tattooed trucker watched her young son dig for worms with his bare hands, the better to assist them in catching fish for next day's lunch, while she conducted a very loud phone conversation explaining why she wasn't allowed to go back to Texas.
Despite appearances, the guy at the counter was a really nice chap, which made up somewhat for the fact that when we entered our room a number of large bugs scurried off the faux-Formica-Melamine-style surfaces into various crevices on the vinyl-substitute-Lino-effect flooring. We didn't care; we slept and, on waking up, found we hadn't been bitten so, all in all, we were happy. After a hurried - and horrid - breakfast at a nearby burger emporium, we began the preparations for another two-hundred mile drive to our new home...
...which welcomed us with a few days of utterly gorgeous sunshine, although with the mercury nudging 100°F, we were grateful that the humidity for which Missouri summers are renowned had yet to set in. The wildlife kept us alternately fascinated and horrified; magical fireflies danced to the cicadas' chorus while the body of a long-dead red cardinal bird shuddered and twitched as it erupted with maggots and centipedes like a vision from one of the more pestilential pits of hell. There's a little copse - perhaps half an acre - that adjoins our back garden. It's dark in there, thick and tangled with trees and bushes, but it's heaving with life. I'm sure I could spend an instructive hour or two exploring it with a flashlight, a magnifying glass and perhaps some body armour. Of course, I'm kidding about the body armour - I'd also want a flamethrower and a full bio-hazard suit. Untamed nature can be very intimidating. A new friend mentioned how only that morning he'd ventured into his garage and a King Snake dropped from a shelf near the ceiling and slithered away to a dark corner near the door. Outwardly I smiled but inwardly I was aghast, even more so when he described it as 'a good thing'. (Apparently, the King Snakes eat the Copperhead snakes whose bite can be unpleasantly toxic to humans). By now, my smile had become something of a rictus and, almost appropriately, the sky darkened and a storm scudded in, searing flashes of lightning accompanied by crashing thunder and syncopated hail. Thankfully, despite media warnings, the tornado sirens remained silent. I'm fascinated by tornadoes, but preparing to face the reality suddenly made me realise I'd much rather watch one from a distance than be an active participant.
A week to the day after arriving, the first consignment of all our worldly goods was delivered. This was merely those boxes that had been air-freighted: clothes, linen, towels etc. The thought that the rest of our stuff - especially my precious recording studio - was still bobbing about on a container ship in the mid-Atlantic made me sad and slightly anxious. No point in dwelling on it though; my back-up data drives travelled with me as hand luggage so I knew my recordings were safe and as, generally, all I need for composition purposes is manuscript and a pencil, I didn't really have anything to worry about.
Well, then. We had arrived, safe and sound in our new country, nearly ready to start our new lives. We were just waiting for our boat to come in.