“But don’t worry,” she continued. “Most snakes don’t want to hurt you. If you’re out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes.” This, I decided, was the least-likely-to-be-followed advice I have ever been given.” – Bill Bryson – ‘In a Sunburned Country’
Next day we had another big breakfast but we did it very quietly as we drank lots of juice and shared out the paracetamol supplies on account of the very heavy hangovers.
It was a glorious day and we had a lot of it at our disposal because we weren’t due to fly home until much later so after partial recovery we checked out, packed the bags into the vehicle and headed off south into the desert. We were taking the road towards Tuscon, the Pearl Harbour Memorial Highway, but it was a long way so we had to abandon any thoughts of getting there and back in time for our flight.
Today Arizona was very different from the trip north to the Grand Canyon and we could see exactly why the State is a land of contrast. There was no snow down here and no mountains either just miles and miles of dusty desert with long straight roads and small towns along the way. Arizona is a good name for a place but there is some disagreement over the origin of the name, some believe the name is an abbreviation of the Spanish phrase arida zona, or ‘dry region’, but others argue that it comes from the Basque phrase aritz onak, or ‘good oaks’, The name Arizonac was initially applied to a silver mining camp, and later, when it had been shortened to Arizona to the entire territory. Both versions sound plausible I suppose but either must depend on whether you are in the north or the south of the State.
We stopped at a desert recreational area and took a walk amongst the Saguaro cactus which are sometimes called the ‘desert monarch’ on account of the fact that they can be fifty feet tall and up to two hundred years old. We walked among them a short way but became understandably nervous when we read a warning sign about rattle snakes and we remembered Mike’s gruesome stories of painful venomous deaths so we didn’t stay very long. I liked the snake tips on the sign, which advised:
- ‘If bitten by a rattlesnake do not open the wound and try to suck out the venom’ (I wouldn’t do that even for a Playboy centrefold!)
- ‘If bitten by a rattlesnake do not use a tourniquet because this will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost’ (good recommendation, you don’t want your leg falling off as well as well as going delirious!)
- And my favourite piece of completely unnecessary advice: ‘Avoid rattlesnakes altogether. If you see one don’t try to get closer to it or catch it!’
After a while we came across an out of town shopping mall with shops and restaurants and Dave and Allan wanted to do more souvenir shopping so we parked up and while they went off to the outlet stores for cheap denim jeans the rest of us found a little bar and had the first of the day. Shopping over, the others returned and Dave declared it to be lunch time so there was a final burger and fries before we returned north the way that we had come and went directly back to the airport for the flight back home.
It was the same arrangement with an internal flight to Dallas, a much shorter time to wait this time and then the big journey home to Heathrow. It was a night flight and we were all very tired after a busy three days and an awful lot of alcohol so most of the eight hours was spent sleeping and we weren’t nearly so boisterous on this leg of the journey. Back home we said goodbye and promised to report back to Percy on the potential of the vehicle and then we all went our separate ways home.
This had been a really good trip and on reflection I decided that refuse vehicle manufacture was actually rather interesting after all. We posted the report of our visit (missing out the over-indulgent drinking bits of course) and offered our availability for any similar official trips in the future.
This was a good move because the following year I was sent to La Rochelle in France to look at Semat refuse trucks and later in the same year I went to Milan to see the Brivio factory. It’s amazing how interesting refuse trucks can suddenly become when there is an all expenses overseas trip involved. Later the Company set up a centralised procurement unit that saved the best gigs for themselves and that was the end of the factory visits and the overseas travel but believe me I enjoyed it while it lasted.
Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the company never did buy a Heil sideloading refuse vehicle, they were absolutely useless for use in the UK, but I have to say that they were brilliant at hospitality. Jack Allen folded and went out of business just a short while afterwards, which was a shame and the Heil Engineering Plant in Phoenix that had opened in 1990 was closed down in August 2003 and production was switched to Fort Payne in Alabama.