Sitting here in my very British living room in my even more British semi detached house, it's sometimes hard to remember there is a big world out there with many different sounds, smells and sights to be experienced and explored.
Photos and videos (amateur and professional) can certainly initiate an interest in some new travel destination but my favourite source of such visual information has to come from movies. As a result, strange to say, my most frequently accessed travel site has to be IMDB which would probably amaze it's creators.
For anyone not familiar with this wonderful site, you enter any movie title in the search box and up comes the movie with every possible bit of information you'd ever want to know about it from who starred in it, to who fixed the sandwiches on set. So why do I use it as a travel site ?
Well down the left hand side are even more options you can pick, like what awards the movie has won, what goofs people have found when watching it and the one that makes it a travel site for me..........the filming locations used in the movie.
As I've said before, I started visiting America in the summer of 1989 and went only to Florida that year. For 3 weeks I toured the state and never left it. It was great and although visiting the KSC was the highlight for a space nut like me, I came away having had enough of theme parks and bumping into Brits on holiday to last me a lifetime. I knew then that I wanted to visit every state and see what was on offer as there had to be much more than what was in Florida.
The following year (1990) I watched a movie that made such an impression on me that it dictated where I would visit in 1991. The movie, Dances With Wolves, starred Kevin Costner but the real stars were the stunning landscapes of South Dakota and Wyoming (thank you IMDB). I had to go there. I had to see buffalo.
So on June 8th 1991 I flew into Chicago and immediately headed west in search of these hairy beasts. I really didn't expect to see any in Illinois and so I wasn't disappointed when none appeared. But armed with my deep understanding of buffalo, based solely on Dances With Wolves, I pointed my rental car towards the Badlands of South Dakota and kept my eyes open.
I got slightly sidetracked by visits to Mount Rushmore and the lesser known, but just as awesome, Crazy Horse Monument. These are worthy sights for any tourist but I was on a quest. I had the cd soundtrack of the movie all ready and dammit I wanted buffalo. After leaving the crowds behind, I found myself in a vast open prairie landscape where I could easily visualise Kevin Costner riding in full military uniform across to visit with the inquisitive Indians.
I decided the moment was near and slid the cd into the player.
As the strains of some of the most beautiful soundtrack music ever written enveloped me, I could hardly believe it when I saw a solitary buffalo up ahead right at the side of the road. I slowed down and as I came up alongside it to get a photo, it moved off at a canter but continued to run alongside the car, almost at touching distance. We came to a sharp bend in the road and as I drove around it, the view opened up before me and like that scene in Jurassic Park when Sam Neil first sees the living breathing dinosaurs, I suddenly saw a huge herd of buffalo a few hundred yards away surrounding a small expanse of water.
It was a moment that will live with me forever. In the vastness of the area, I felt like I was the last person on earth. I hadn't seen another car in over an hour in either direction and so here I was, alone with 'my' buffalo. The scenery, the music, the buffalo. Sitting in my Leeds living room less than a week earlier, I could never have imagined this.
Costner is hardly the most popular actor in the world but most people would have to admit that Dances With Wolves was a great movie on several levels. Maybe it was self indulgent. Maybe it was too long. Maybe his acting left a lot to be desired. But as a magnificent sweeping portrayal of a time in American history that has gone forever, it has few critics. And as for the stunning and emotive soundtrack written by John Barry, rarely has music combined so well with the vision on the screen to make for an overall experience that lives long in the memory.
Yesterday I tuned my cable tv box to Classic FM TV as it is a good channel to have in the background when reading or surfing late at night. Suddenly I heard the familiar opening notes to the Dances With Wolves soundtrack but with a sort of meaty beaty back track not on the CD. I loved it. The images were from the movie of course and I wished I'd had a chance to record it. I was immediately taken back to my very special time that summer in 1991 when another of my travel dreams came true. I didn't want the music to end but all too soon it did. I needed to hear it again and again.
Then I remembered YouTube and how just about anything is on there somewhere. I did a quick search and found the version I'd just heard on Classic FM and I was in heaven....or at least that part of heaven in South Dakota when for a short time you can feel totally alone on this mad planet. Where time seems to stand still and you are but an insignificant speck on the landscape. Where that landscape is almost limitless and only ends where it meets the sky. A sky so blue, it makes your emotions soar and your soul ache.
If you have seen this movie, take another listen to this music. If you have never seen it, I envy you this first listen. I want you to be there. I want you to be where I was that summer 16 years ago. I simply ask you to first imagine the scene before clicking on the link at the end and when you do, please close your eyes the first time as watching the video clip can be distracting.
You are in this car. There isn't another human being around for a hundred miles. You have dreamed of being in this very location for over a year. You turn off the engine, slowly step out of the car and let the sound of silence envelope you. A few yards away a solitary majestic buffalo has returned to eating the grass, safe in the knowledge that you pose no threat to it. Your eyes sweep across the vast empty landscape and suddenly stop on a herd of buffalo grazing near a waterhole not far away from you. As the tranquility takes you to a different level, the music starts......gently adding to the beauty of the experience.
You are now where I was. Enjoy it with me again.