A place of great extremes (day 318)

Okay, so Mt Everest is the world’s highest mountain, Antarctica is the world’s driest place, and Verkhoyansk is the coldest inhabited spot on earth. But America has a few things of note as well.

No, I don’t mean the world’s biggest mental hospital (did anyone else ever hear that terrible joke about the Texan who came to visit New Zealand?).

And no, I am not referring to the world’s most powerful economy either, although that does not mean that is isn’t so.

I am talking about cars. And about McDonald’s. Note the apostrophe.

I mean, why just have a car when you can have a truck? And why have a normal size truck when you can have a monster-size truck? And why have normal wheels on your monster-size truck when you could jack the whole thing up about six feet and cruise around town staring down at bald spots and sun roofs from about 10 feet above everyone else? With the possible exception of bus drivers.

Add in a monster sound system, two extra wheels at the back, and paint the whole shooting-match black, and there you have it.

And where can you go in your monster truck? Well, just about anywhere you want to. No fear of hitting pedestrians or cyclists. You can just drive right over them, without touching a hair on their heads.

One place you might really want to go is McDonald’s, of course. You don’t have time to cook with all that cruising around.

And no one could call the marketers for that particular family restaurant stupid. Because McDonald’s caters for the monster truck crowd.

If you thought large drinks were big in New Zealand, try on the US ones. If you thought that you could chow your way through a super-size fries with the best of them, wrap your tonsils around the US version. It is just a pity that they don’t stay hotter (or colder, depending on the item) any longer over here than they do at home.

I also saw the world’s biggest mountain (the tallest is Everest, but Mauna Kea – or is is Mauna Loa is the biggest apparently), and the world’s most active volcano today. I even saw real flowing lava, up close. I threw rocks at it and watched to see if they would melt (inconclusive, i could not tell). Other people stuck sticks into the lava and watched them burn (very conclusive – lava is hot).

There are lots of different types of lava actually. The forms it takes are beyond my ability to describe. So I took lots of photos.

The scariest is not the flowing stuff (although the red glow underneath the rock before it liquifies is pretty threatening, and the gentle crackling noise that it makes as it burns rocks(yes, lava makes a noise) is really intimidating).

The scariest is the stuff that forms as a thin crust over the top of holes. So that when you walk over it, it cracks and crumbles and your foot falls in. Not such a big deal if the hole is only small. Rather scarier if the hole is big enough to swallow you up. Particularly if there is no one around to help you out.

I didn’t fall in. I survived quite unscathed, despite my total failure to navigate appropriately. But it is uncertainty that drives fear after all.

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