We left Austin feeling like we had done it right and headed west. West Texas is a whole lot of… well nothing, aside from one nice little town we just carried on highway 10 until we were out of it. At which point we reached El Paso Texas. El Paso is an interesting city because it literally sits on the border with Mexico. It must be very strange to look across a river each day and see a completely different country. I know people do it in Europe but this is a closed border. Apparently it used to be quite casual crossing the border and then 15 years ago or so everything changed and all these people who used to go back and forth for work or family were suddenly cut off and either had to wait in massive lines each day to cross or had to find new work on their own side, I imagine most of the collateral damage was in Mexico. We didn’t linger in El Paso, to be honest while lovely enough it’s not a particularly safe or culturally rich city. We hit Planet Fitness for our workout and shower and headed north on a fruitless search for a lost Atari landfill.
The Atari landfill is some sort of super nerd legend that Jonathan knew about (I don’t even remember Atari), apparently they made millions of copies of an ET game to go with the release of the movie and it was one of the biggest gaming fails in history and essentially brought about the collapse and end of Atari. They threw all of these unsold games into a landfill in central New Mexico. Why? How? Where? No idea, nor did we ever find out. Even though there was a massive hoopla about it in their teeny tiny desert town less than one year ago no one seemed to be able to point us in the right direction of the landfill, we eventually had to give up. We also managed to stop at White Sands National Monument which is very random and very alien area in the center of the desert where white sands from a millennia ago is piled up in dunes for miles, Gogi particularly enjoyed himself here. To continue our “Tour of the Strange” we detoured up to The Very Large Array, yes that is the real name. The Very Large Array is a group of 27 or 32… I can’t remember the exact number, satellites that were built in the late 70s that can be transformed and rearranged to create one very large satellite, the largest in the world in fact. It was cooler than it sounds I promise. You might know it from the film Contact or a Bon Jovi video perhaps? Great photos, if my camera hadn’t died, merde.
We cut through Albuquerque to catch Walter White’s house and another shower at Planet Fitness (a great deal at 20 dollars a months get both of us access to any Planet Fitness in the nation), then disappointed with the lack of charm we left to get to Flagstaff to meet my sister and go the Grand Canyon.
I guess the most important thing we got to this week was the fact that we went a whole week without plugging in or paying for any campground, sure we slept in 2 car parks but the rest were legitimate free sites. We parked in beautiful places for free and twice we even had a grill provided. We managed to dump our tanks after a week and while they were full they weren’t overflowing and we had enough water. Planet Fitness is a big help because showering costs us a lot of water and fills our grey tank quickly. But at least we know it can be done without problems (though not at 8,000 feet as our generator wouldn’t catch, but that was the only time we tried to use it). We’ll get solar panels eventually but at least we know it’s not urgent. We’ve once again had a slight change of plans, the Southwest is far larger than a girl from Ohio and a guy from England could imagine, distances are massive and we’re going too fast to try to keep up so we’ve pushed back our dates in New Orleans to give us a bit more time before we have to be there, so we’ve added on Vegas (where I write this) and a bit of Colorado, lucky us.
This is going to be a bit of a selfish blog, as to be honest, we’ve both acted like normal people in the last couple of weeks, by both having very separate (& full) days.
So, I have always wanted to go to the SxSW festival in Austin (a mixture of Interactive, film, music, gaming, and anything else they can fit into that genre), which has its claim to fame as being where Twitter was first launched onto the world. Since those heady 2007 days, much has changed, and it is now a pretty massive event with the likes of Snoop Dog as a ‘keynote’ speaker. As the platinum passes are some $3,000, it worked out that if I volunteered for a certain amount, I could get one for free – count me in. Ticks lots of things off, i) gets me access to everything, ii) allows me to hang around with some interesting & different people & listen to interesting stuff, and iii) gets me out of bed in a morning.
I did a few days at the EDU (education. Yawn) part, and then a few days at the interactive element. Unfortunately, the room I was ‘monitoring’ (scanning people’s passes basically) wasn’t particularly busy, and wasn’t particularly interesting in terms of talks, so that was a bit of a bust – and naturally with a bunch of student volunteers, being managed by yet more student volunteers, it wasn’t the most efficiently run of places either. But, still managed to see some good stuff, and a lot of great documentaries & music once my shifts had finished. And, managed to bump into a few friends/colleagues from the UK and Australia. As an added bonus, a Hairventures theme (back to the heady 2011 days of the Mongol Rally) was ‘home’ by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and we managed to get front stage passes to see them – so, all in all a great couple of weeks!
After a day of tidying up, packing things away, and generally getting Milton ready for boondocking days, it’s time to hit the road again. We’re planning to be in New Orleans for the jazz festival at the beginning of May, so we have a month or so, to head a little West and back. Arizona and the like. Time to get that Atlas out, and that Shell fuel card….
We pulled into Austin two weeks ago now and decided that reading about us being stationary is probably not as exciting as reading about us doing things so we’ll break these up into two two week blogs. These two weeks have been spent with me actually working (wahoo, some money coming IN rather than going OUT) and Jonathan working on Milton. Milton looks great, we’ve added wooden floors, new curtains & blinds, as well as finally covering up some of that particularly heinous RV fabric (why oh why do they all look the same?!). He’s very much a home now, he hasn’t moved very much in the last two week, and there has been one hell of a learning curve on being stationary - but he doesn’t feel too overcrowded and he looks nice. It’s taken a long time to get figure out how to connect to city water and how to get the sewer so we don’t spill any on us, but we’re there now. We’ve settled in nicely and everything is great other than the fact that Gogi is TERRIFIED of the stove and panics any time we cook. It’s…. obnoxious to say the least.
Austin is great. We’re a bit further outside of the city than we’d like but the city itself is very cool. Lots of food trucks, unique eats and “alternative culture”. It’s exactly what we were looking for. I was thinking yesterday about the difference of our lives in each of the three cities we’ve lived together in, and how the character of a city (and our income) affects our outings. Shanghai, oh Shanghai how I miss your hedonism and your pink monopoly money. Shanghai, was eat, drink, dance, pass out, order food delivered to your door… and repeat (throw in a bit of work every now and then, but nothing serious enough to worry about). We did spend our time taking long bike rides to curiosities we’d read about, but it was mostly the partying. London was museums, art, culture and trying to soak in as much as I could as fast as I could. I’d say we did a pretty good job in our time there. We were busy most nights of the week, and I wouldn’t say there was anything major we missed. Austin is about music and quirk. We’ve gone the last two Thursdays to see these old guys play Irish drinking music in a dive bar. I cannot say this enough, I LOVE them, seriously it’s fun and light hearted and they’re really, really good. South by Southwest (SxSW/South by) starts next week so the music (with a bit of free drink and food) will only continue. I like it here a lot but the weather has been rubbish, and to be honest I’ve been working quite a lot so perhaps we’re missing some big bits?
Work. I am not like Jonathan, I simply cannot fathom the idea of not working for three years, I would go INSANE. I was going a bit insane before we got here, I love working, perhaps it’s because I love what I do and I’ve been lucky enough to get a place at Easy Tiger on 6th (the heart of SxSW), the bakery is amazing. They provide the bread for most of the city’s quality cafes and restaurants. The quality and the care that goes into it is fantastic and I’m learning loads. I like going to work each day and I always leave feeling like I’ve learned something, and I’ve done some good work. It’s been really informative to see how a high volume bakery works, it operates 24 hours a day and the labour is split up perfectly so they never need more than 5 people at a time. I was just lucky enough to get in because they needed extra hands for SxSW when, not only their business will more than double, but so will all the people they wholesale for. The next two weeks are going to be insane at work; I’m very much looking forward to it!
We’ve been looking at our ever changing map and plan for the next year, and we’ve decided to head to New Orleans for a month, rather than head further along the east coast first. It just makes more sense, and I’ve already found a place to work, so we’ll have three weeks after we leave here to see a bit more of Texas and perhaps the Southwest before charging up the East Coast.