Whilst awaiting for Meg’s new passport to return we have settled down for a little while in San Luis Obispo. It is made a little ‘famous’ by the Madonna Inn – some gauche, and garish hotel. But, it is also the home of Cal Poly (university) so has a very young feel to it. For example, we believe there is some ruling that no chains are encouraged to open in the historic downtown area, meaning it is full of independent shops & restaurants which gives the place a lot more character that a lot of other US cities.
As Meg has been doing a little work, there’s only really the odd spare day in which to explore. One day we did visit the University to have a walk about. They have this ‘architecture graveyard’ where students’ projects are made into actual buildings (since the 70’s), which are then sort of left to fall into disrepair. It was really interesting to see the different styles that have evolved over the years, and I am actually very jealous that people managed to properly build stuff during their degrees - all I managed to do was write an imaginary business plan for a coffee shop. Not much of a legacy. Another cool thing that was there is the Serenity Swing - a swing, attached to a branch, about 3 miles up a hill. A proper struggle to get up there, and windy as hell once there, but definitely made for some great photos.
However, these last few weeks have been a little bit of a struggle in terms of having to be constantly on the move. As per the rulings (in what seems to be the majority of Californian cities), full time RVers are very much frowned upon. There are signs all over the city clarifying that, “NO overnight camping is allowed”. This means that each night, pretty much, we have to change our parking spot to either try to be a little out of the city, or to find some side street that we think we might be under the radar parked on. This is proving a bit of a kerfuffle. One night in particular there was a bang on the door (at midnight), for 2 local police officers to be quizzing us on what we were doing. Whilst we were in a place out of the city, and it was not illegal to stay there, they certainly weren’t encouraging us to use that spot again. Combine that with yet another knock the next night from someone telling us we were parked on private land, it means our nights are a little restless - we are a little on constant edge waiting for that next knock (& in the mornings, dreading having a ticket on our windscreen). But, as we now enter into the Christmas & holiday season, we are hoping people will have a little bit of the holiday spirit, and be a little lenient. Here’s hoping. We certainly can’t justify the $60 a night to park in an RV park.
On a positive note though, we were featured recently in Passion Passport. An article a day for 4 days about our travels and adventures. It was really enjoyable to write the pieces and to see our work ‘in print’. We hope it inspires some people to take that plunge and hit the road!
p.s. Oh, and Star Wars came out recently. So to be honest, I have been watching that a lot. Big fan. Big fan.
So, thanksgiving has rolled around again. This time last year we were living in London, and celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in true American style (minus the corn that Meg forgot in the microwave). That year had been quite a turning point in both of our lives. I had tried to get back into work (I lasted about 3 months before deciding it definitely wasn’t for me!), and Meg had completed her pastry course in France, and we were now living together in London for a few months. Before we embarked on our big ‘hairventure’ in the new year.
Looking back therefore at the last 12 months, it has been another epic year, and truly a great deal to be thankful for. We had begun our trip in January, and hit the road proper in February. In March we lived in Austin, TX - Meg working for an awesome bakery there (Easy Tiger) and I volunteered for the SxSW festival (an event I’d been meaning to go to for so many years). April & May we travelled across the US again, and ended up settling down a little in New Orleans for some more working & volunteering (& proceeding to fallen totally in love with the city during this time). June & July we hit the road again, before I spent the summer in Guatemala & Costa Rica, and Meg got some work done in Ohio. September & October we got back onto the road, and before we knew it November had arrived, and we had a marriage to tick off. After a lovely week with both of our families, and now officially Mr & Mrs, we can look back and genuinely think we have achieved more in these last 12 months, than many people would have conquered in 5 or even 10 years.
So, to that end, this week is purely just about being grateful. Nothing soppy, nothing romantic, nothing lovey-dovey, but just a straight up ‘Cheers world’…
With the family all back to their respective homes, and the wedding finished, it was finally time to relax and enjoy the being married bit. We didn’t spend a lot of time planning our wedding, in fact we spent about 6 weeks. I can’t imagine if I’d had 6 months or a year to plan, I feel like it would have been much harder. In the end it was perfect, for me it couldn’t have gone better. But we couldn’t go far afterwards as we had to wait for our wedding certificate (which had to be picked up in person) and wouldn’t be available for at least a week, so we just went back to the coast to putts about near the sea for a few days and relax.
And that’s literally what we did for the entire week. Woke up by the sea, did some admin, had some coffee, went to sleep by the sea. At the end of the week I shuttled into San Francisco and was able to score a copy of our wedding certificate, so we could carry on down the coast. We hit highway 1 and wound down the ocean side. Big Sur is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world - it’s long, slow work in Milton, but we enjoyed the drive immensely. What happens now? We’re not sure. Our funds are pretty depleted so it’s probably time to take a break and do some work (well, I’ll work. Jonathan will tinker in Milton), so we’ll continue down the coast until we find somewhere willing to hire me and then go from there.
All of the time with family, and the actually getting married bit, has given us some time to reflect on our choices in life - namely our living in a van (down by the river). We’ve both made a lot of unorthodox choices in life, travelled a lot and been away from home for a long time, but that doesn’t mean our families fully understand our living in 80 square feet. And they certainly look at us with faces full of doubt when we say we plan on adding a child into that 80 square feet (at some point) rather than stopping, buying a house, and raising a kid the “normal” way. But the thing is, the real kicker for us, is we go to bed in our tiny space happy. We wake up in our tiny space happy. And we drive about in our tiny space happy. I reckon Jonathan and I have spent more time together in the last year than most couples get to spend with each other in 5 years, and if we have a kid, how lucky will they be to have both parents 24/7 - is that not the dream? Will we eventually stop? I’m sure, at some point. In fact, I’m confident we’ll find somewhere that fits for us, whether that’s in Argentina, or Namibia, or Thailand or Scotland. I couldn’t guess, but I don’t think it matters, all that matters is that we’re happy with our choices, and so far we certainly are.
After the idea of getting married in Mexico in the new year, was less than convenient for family, plan B kicked into action, and our quiet, in-out San Francisco wedding got bumped up to plan A. This wasn’t a problem, as any wedding of ours was always going to be a small affair (short notice, tiny budget, minimal people & fuss).
We popped into San Francisco City Hall on the Tuesday, to sign the bit of paper that allowed us to get married. Whilst there, we did some planning around potential photo spots, and watched a couple of weddings wedding - proper conveyor belt stuff. We timed the whole ceremony to last 3 minutes! City Hall looked stunning, so we were very pleased with our choice – although, it appeared there was going to be a lot of Chinese tourists to potentially contend with on the actual day.
Our families starting arriving on the Wednesday & Thursday, and we’d hired a house for the week, so took full advantage of washing clothes, having a bed, and drinking champagne at every opportunity.
On the wedding morning (having slept the night before together in Milton. We thought stuff in, we were getting married on a Friday 13th, so there couldn’t be any more taboo/bad luck items worth worrying about), we all donned our respective dresses & suits, had a few quick photos, and bundled ourselves into taxis (Meg naturally looked gorgeous). We arrived at City Hall with plenty of time to spare (neither myself, nor Meg, wanted to leave anything to chance on this of all days), so @thenomadicpeople managed to get a lot of the wedding photos out the way early.
The ceremony itself was a little bit of a blur for both of us in all honesty. We had the sweetest old lady officiating (Clarice – she must have been in her 80’s) and she made it feel extremely personal & special, even if it did last all of about 2 minutes. We then took a cable car/tram to the Hardwater bar on the waterfront for some drinks & nibbles, before allowing others to retire. We headed off to Chinatown to take some more photos, as we wanted something Chinese – after all, that is where it all began for us both. We thought we’d try and wing it at the social security office whilst there, and get Meg’s name changed. But, they were having none of it. However, the sight of someone in their wedding dress, certainly gave a few smiles to the people waiting their turn in line.
The evening was spent at the delicious State Bird Provisions restaurant. Plus, we had the bonus appearance of Hans, an old friend from Shanghai, who happened to be in San Francisco that week for work. All in all, it capped off a lovely day very nicely.
I am not one for getting emotional (British stiff upper lip & all that), but everything worked out perfectly. It was great just having a small family gathering, with no airs & graces to worry about, or random long-lost family members to contend with. So a huge thanks for everyone making the effort, and their extreme warmth, generosity and love - who’d have thought it #hairventuresgetshitched
The thing about waiting for your wedding is you’re always just waiting for your wedding. Everything else is just killing time. Which is exactly how we felt this week. We had arrived on the west coast with a week to spare, and now we just weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. California is truly beautiful (though this bit of the world isn’t the stereotype of palm trees and bikinis, more like redwoods and big scarves). So we contented ourselves with a week of bouncing from beach to vineyard and back again. The problem we were finding is although we expected California to be the van life mecca, it is very much “we do not want you lousy hippies camping on our beaches, and living the good life. We paid far too much for this view”. Seriously, we were finding it hard to find a place to park overnight that didn’t make us a bit nervous.
Luckily we didn’t have to for long. We managed to get a house sit, and not just any house sit, but a house sit in the center of San Francisco - you could not get much better than that! We found that we could park Milton in Walnut Creek (a suburb) in a CVS parking lot for just $5 a night, and then take the train in. Which is exactly what we did. It’s quite a posh suburb so we didn’t feel too worried leaving him there for a long weekend. The house sit went great, they had a big boxer and little yorkie, both a bit more high maintenance than Gogi, but let’s be honest, what dog isn’t? But, the real advantage was getting to check out the city, work through the public transport, and get a preview of what the wedding week would be like. Yay! Wedding week.
Like I said. It’s all just a waiting game.
Week 41 – “Over seas from coast to coast. Find the place I love the most. Where the fields are green. To see you once again, my love” – Westlife, 2000
We have hit a bit of a milestone. 16,240 miles (or 26,135 km for the rest of us) and we have officially, kind of, driven from coast to coast….in a very round about way, and with a 2 month hiatus in between. But hey, as they say, ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’.
Having left the nature of Yellowstone & Grand Tetons behind us (at least we thought. We managed to gain a couple of mice hitchhikers), we headed back into civilisation and more of our comfort zone - the exciting world of washing clothes, sleeping in gym car parks, and wandering around small cities. On this occasion, it was the turn of Salt Lake City; which seemed to have a rather high proportion of homeless people (my main take out from the city). We did try to spend a few hours in Park City where the 2002 winter Olympics took place, but much like a lot of things it was ‘closed for the season’. I don’t really remember the games to be honest, although that might be the fact that Great Britain only ever seems to be competitive in curling (sweeping) or luge (throwing yourself headfirst down an iced water slide wearing a wetsuit). All I do remember was that it was the games that was done for corruption. Which seems weird for a city/state run predominantly by religious Mormons?
On our way out of the city, we stopped off at the Bonneville Salt flats. I was hoping it was going to be like that place in Bolivia – where everyone takes photos of small dinosaurs, cars, etc next to adults, and the whole perspective makes everything look the same size. Alas, it appears it was ‘water’ season, so the flats were covered in water & most of the road submerged. It was also just rather windy. I’m not sure how Anthony Hopkins rode his motorcycle on it…
We were heading to San Francisco to stop for a few weeks, but were lucky enough to pass through Nevada on Nevada Day, so I felt obliged to visit the capital (Carson City) for their annual parade. I loved it. Floats of random groups such as, civil war re-enactment, mayor hopefuls, high school bands, along with a ‘men hammering nails into granite’ & a ‘longest beard’ contests. Meg however, has apparently seen it many times before, so was quite keen to truck us out of there.
So, not a hugely exciting week all-in-all. But, we’ve made it to San Fran, so it’s going to be a week of exploring the outskirts (Napa Valley, etc) before the big day arrives. The BIG day…
This week was full of nature, nature and more nature. We are not really outdoorsy people, we’d like to be, but walking somewhere seems slow and tedious. And walking for fun? Well, that doesn’t seem fun at all - hiking is a foreign concept. However, most of the people with lifestyles similar to our own are big into the outdoorsy, the hike, the climb, the sit around campfires with guitars, and they wear flannel un-ironically, we would like to be more like them. This week we tried.
After leaving The Badlands, it was a quick trip to Mount Rushmore. It was very HHLE (high hopes low expectations) for me, as I’d heard many people were unimpressed. It was… fine. I don’t know, I guess you look at it for so many years, on so many things, that you’re rather desensitized to it. It was impressive to think about how and when they did it, but overall…meh. We stopped by the Crazy Horse memorial (as always, we’re never people to say no to a crazy), but we didn’t go in as we could see much of it from a parking lot (or google). It’s unbelievable how little progress they’ve made, over so much time, considering they have modern equipment. As per usual we located a free camp site instead, and cozied up for a cold night.
After passing through Deadwood we began the long schlep across Montana to get to Yellowstone. Who lives in these places? Why? What do they do? How do they make money? They haven’t even got cell service, ridiculous. We did stop at the site of Custard’s Last Stand (ed – Custer’s), which admittedly was quite cool, although why he bothered with Montana I don’t quite understand?
We made it to Yellowstone. The holy grail of National Parks to outdoorsy folk, and we came prepared with plans for three days - we were going to force ourselves to spend three days, it needed to be done. Yellowstone in October is quite a good deal, in that there weren’t very many people, the roads were clear, and only a small crowd of people stopped to gawk at each animal (as far I can tell it would be miserable in the summer). It is really good though, with lots of waterfalls and geysers, and we spotted, a wolf, a bear, some elk and even had a bison blocking our path on one of our hikes. We managed to do a hike a day, which to us felt good enough, nothing long, but we topped out at 5 miles to get to the Fairy Falls.
We enjoyed Yellowstone, and when you leave the park to the south it takes you directly to Grand Tetons National Park. We had planned to do a hike there was well, unfortunately the trail was closed for the winter. In truth we were not disappointed, we’re city folk, and were happy to have an excuse to make a straight line to Jackson where we finished out the week. I don’t think we’ll ever be the type of people who will go on multi day hikes, but I like to think we’ll be more…. willing to get out there next time.
After bidding adieu to Stef & Justin (after taking full advantage of their shower & washing machine, of course) we meandered our way into the city. We found a little residential side street, checked for any ‘don’t you dare try and park here you cheeky out-of-towners’ and quietly high fived our improved ability to surreptitiously boondock.
That evening I caught up with an old work colleague from Sydney. She picked Cindy’s bar looking over Millennium Park and the Bean (Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate), which was a perfect vantage point. She was on fine form, and it was great to catch-up on how people were doing. My time in Australia was long ago, but fond memories came flooding back.
The next day we did our first of a couple of free tours on foot. We had a great guide, and it was the perfect couple of hours to walk around, along the river, and hear a lot of the history of the ‘windy’ city (I am guessing people know it is not windy due to the wind, but because of all the hot air Chicago politicians used to spout to try to win the rights to hold a world fair in the olden days). We ticked off the Wrigley Building, Sears Tower, those famous car park towers (local known as the corn cobs) and the old Library (amazing domed roof of Tiffany glass). We stopped off at the Bean (extremely impressive) before heading back for a night out with a few ex-Shanghai people.
2015 has been immortalised in movie history (Back to the Future Part II) as the year that the Chicago Cubs finally managed to win the world series, after a drought of over 100 years. And they are the closest they have ever been, so we found a bar to watch the game, and watch them nudge ever closer to that illustrious goal (must remember to put in an ‘ed’ comment here when they lose!).
The next morning it was walk 2. This time through downtown and the ‘loop’. Again, a really good tour, and into some places we would never have even thought of to visit (e.g. the Sears is in fact a work of art with a Tiffany glass ceiling, and some great art deco interior). After this, we thought it would be rude not to head out to Wrigley Field and get a photo outside the field. A stadium in amongst houses basically, but the area around it was nicely gentrified (& it helped tick off our required 10,000 steps a day)
The next day we drove to Madison, WI and had a look around their capitol building (apparently taller than the Capitol Building in Washington DC – by about 2 inches – just to say it is taller). It’s a really small little city, but on the site of 4 lakes, and the University of Wisconsin, so actually a very cool place. That evening, we met up with @Advodna (a couple with 2 small kids living permanently in an airstream), to try and pick their brains about crossing the border and any tips, etc. A really great family, so we’re hoping to meet them, and other Central/South America ‘overlanders’ in December, to get more tips for when we cross the border.
After a night in Madison (yet another planet fitness. Did we mention how great that monthly subscription has been?!), we went to what is officially Hairventures’ most bonkers place ever – the House on the Rock in Spring Green. It is so hard to describe, so all I can say is watch this video and see for yourselves - youtube atlas obscura. A kind of indoor theme park, built alongside an ingenious house built into, and extending out of, a large rock on a hill. It also happens to be 5 minutes away from Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house & school. Apparently a coincidence, which I find highly unlikely in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Phew, sorry, I am going on. Give me time to get back into the swing of blogs, and we’ll get this condensed going forwards!
Saturday of this week, we had a long schlep to get to Sioux Falls. Not really much to say if I’m honest (it has some small falls & a bit of a stream), but it was en-route to Mount Rushmore and so we had to break up the journey some how, and get our final Planet Fitness fix for a while. Sunday was another long’ish driving day to get us to the Badlands National Park. I forced Meg to stop off at the 1880 Town. An attraction built next to a gas station, to try and encourage people to stop there. It was actually a very decent size, had genuinely ‘old & original’ buildings, and lots of Dances with Wolves memorabilia (filmed nearby). I got my cowboy on, and I made Meg dance in the Saloon, so I was happy. That afternoon we did a little hike & drive around the Badlands and found a great off road place to park up.
That night, I finally (read ‘officially’) asked Meg to make an honest man of me. It had been discussed, and planned, so not quite a surprise, but thankfully she said yes, so Hairventures gets ever more cemented into a long term commitment. I’d like to hope we’re both pretty happy about this…
We officially moved back into Milton a week ago but we were still kicking about Columbus tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to family, taking in a Buckeye game and making a little bit more money, which is always needed.
But now we’re on the road, our first stop was Detroit, we’d been talking about Detroit since we were back in London and the idea of doing this came to us, for whatever reason we were both very drawn to it, originally it was on our list of cities to live in, but we’ve moved up our timescale a bit for various reasons.
The media will lead to you believe various things about Detroit: that it’s abandoned, unrecoverable, dangerous, scary and ugly. Which some of those things may be true, it is surely ¾ abandoned, it’s a big scary, it’s may not be recoverable but it’s certainly not ugly. If there’s any one things I love in cities it’s stark contrasts. Shanghai is still my favourite with the old lane houses jutting through the high rises or New Orleans’ abject poverty next to opulence wealth or how you can suddenly stumble onto an amazing little green oasis in the middle of London, it’s what makes a city interesting. Detroit from the moment we stopped to park up (we stayed outside the city and drove in each day, there were no Planet Fitness’s downtown) there was a beautiful restored Victorian house sat between two empty overgrown lots and across from another Victorian looking like it would soon join the overgrown lots. Detroit set the tone straight off the bat.
We took our bikes out and explored the city, there’s lot to see the first day we did the east, closer the river and downtown the bits that are perhaps recovering or trying to. We ran the bases at old tiger’s stadium, gave Canada the finger across the rivers and explored the food and antique markets, but best of all we explored the street art, Detroit is absolutely full of it, it’s like paradise for an artist (or a homeless person), it’s beautiful and everywhere. The second day we headed for the “abandoned Detroit” further away from downtown and very clearly victims of the fall of Detroit, we cycled to old factories now abandoned, including the Packard factory which was once the biggest in the world and now has trees growing in it. We cycled through neighbourhoods full of empty lots where houses once stood, burned down remains from arson fires where house still lingered, houses where people just up and left and every now and then someone who stayed to see it through, who was taking care of their house and their lawn and pulling for the Detroit, I’m pulling for Detroit it takes a lot to get that far down and declare war on the world trying to say you can’t do it, Detroit vs. the world is a popular slogan.
After leaving Detroit we cut through the middle for the west coast, in the summer apparently it’s heaving with families on holiday and resortish, I can tell you in October it is not and it’s not terribly interesting. We saw some wooden shoes and stopped for some pie, Jonathan attempted to eat a lot of chilli dogs but mostly we just hustled over to Chicago where we spent the weekend with good friends and their little one. There is nothing better than a relaxing weekend with friends or family or friends who are family, lucky us.
Due to US visa restrictions, it was a bit of a forced exit from America for me. There seemed to be no hard or fast rules for how long I needed to exit before returning, but I thought a couple of months should be enough to keep the border authorities happy that I wasn’t working in the US.
So, I thought why not take advantage of this exodus to try and learn some Spanish for our planned cross in Central & South America before the end of the year. As such, having been to Antigua in Guatemala a few times previously, I knew that was a good place to learn – lots of language schools, foreigners, friendly, cheap and thankfully more little coffee shops than you can shake a bean at.
I did a few weeks of study, before a house sitting came up in Costa Rica. This seemed like a great opportunity to save some money (as cheap as Guatemala was, I was still eating out all the time, paying for language lessons, etc), so snapped at the chance. I was living in a remote place in Guanacaste region of Costa Rica (about a 5 hour bus ride from San Jose). There wasn’t a great deal to do there, and the nearest village was about 20 minutes down the mountain, so I was pretty house bound. But, there was internet, and I had enough movies to keep me going - as well as trying to improve my photoshop, final cut pro, and 3D computer modelling skills. There was a little bit of drama with one of the dogs dying on me, but overall, it was a pretty chilled experience.
Getting back into the US wasn’t so chilled.
I got stopped in Houston by the immigration officers, sent into the ‘naughty room’ and interrogated. I am being extremely dramatic here - the officer who asked me what I was doing, was extremely friendly, and didn’t really quiz me much. It was pretty obvious I was self funding, and not working, so they waved me through pretty quickly.
And that was my summer. My Spanish improved a little, but not to any extent I was hoping. Marks out of 10 for the whole experience. A very solid, middle of the road 5.5.
I haven’t lived or spent any considerable amount of time in Ohio since I moved to China when I was 23 in 2007 but life saw to it that I got to spend 4 months at home luxuriating in time spent with family. The plan was always for me to preform the much loathed task of nannying for a Russian family this summer, however there were no jobs to be found. I’m not sure why, if it was the drop of the Russian rouble (it’s value has fallen to less than half of what it was this time last year), restored patriotism (we’re going to holiday in Crimera, it’s OURS), or just bad luck, nonetheless I could not get job and thus moved in with my very accommodating brother, his wife and two little boys and took a serving job. The two experiences could not contrast more.
Being away from home becomes a very natural thing when you’ve been away for so long and don’t realize what you’re missing, leaving again after spending time with family and watching my nephews grow and learn and cuddle each day was much harder. I couldn’t have asked for a better summer, we picked tomatoes in the backyard, went to state and county fairs, explored Columbus, celebrated holidays in very American ways and generally just settled back in together. Ohio is fantastic in the summer, it’s hot as but it’s pretty and cheerful and people are always happy to be outside. Lots of fairs, festivals, apple picking and general good wholesome family fun was had reminding me how nice it is to have a home to go home to. Having Jonathan be away for 3 months is not something I enjoy but I was glad to have the time with my family and was very sad to hit the road again but the road was beckoning and we had to answer.
We’re hitting pause on our journey for a bit. Jonathan left for Guatemala to spend two months learning Spanish and I’ve stayed behind to make some money. But, this brings me to a little list of things we’ve found helpful during our first 5 months on the road (perhaps specific to America)
We only had a day or 2 in Philadelphia, so there was really only 1 thing to see & do. The Rocky steps. It’s impressive, that even though the film was released in 1976, there are still people selling t-shirts, and teenagers running up the steps and pumping their arms in the air at the end (well, the ‘size’ of certain tourists, meant there wasn’t too much running). The steps are actually at the Museum of Art, but I think that gets lost a little (i.e. even if you google maps Rocky Steps the museum comes up), and we didn’t bother going inside either – even though it has had a huge extension and is meant to be very impressive - we just didn’t have the time or inclination to shell out the $25 on a ticket. So, once Meg & Gogi had sauntered up the steps, we headed off to the State Penitentiary that had been recommended to us.
Interestingly, the prison was the template for multiple prisons around the world, as it used a wagon wheel type layout, with corridors with prisoners coming off a central point (so that the guards can see down each corridor from one central part). But more interestingly the prison was pretty much in the same state as it was finally closed in 1971. They had tidied up a few of the cells, but it was eerie seeing a lot of the building simply crumbling, with paint peeled, and broken cell doors, toilets, etc (you can see why they filmed 12 monkeys here). They even had a mocked up Al Capone’s room as it had been at the time, known as Park Avenue, because of its luxury – including a radio, book shelf, armchairs and carpet. People are still unsure why he got such special treatment when he was pretty much gangster number 1 at his time of incarceration there. That evening we hung around with Meg’s cousins, enjoying their hospitality and local knowledge (not that I’m sure Gogi enjoyed their dog’s friendship so much!), before heading off the next day for New York, via the ubiquitous Philly steak sandwich.
We were naturally hesitant about taking Milton into central Manhattan, so decided on finding a commuter station, to park up for a few days, and simply get a train in. Caroline, a friend of mine from Australia very kindly offered to let us stay at hers in the East Village, so that was a god send. I hadn’t been to NYC for about 10 years, so it was great to be back. Whilst we naturally ticked off all the tourist stuff, we actually much preferred being around Soho, Greenwich, Little Italy, with its constant goings on, its art, great little stores, etc. And Caroline took us on a great trip over the water to Brooklyn & Williamsburg which gave a good insight into the areas that are being renovated for those that can’t afford/can’t be bothered to live in Manhattan. One of the impressive sights for me, was the 9/11 museum. In previous trips I had actually been up the World Trade Center in 1999, and then saw ground zero in 2005, so to be back to see its current iteration was quite something. The museum was huge, and 2.5 hours in we still didn’t get a chance to see it all. And it was quite a chilling experience, having all the memories come back of that day, and the chaos that ensued. Very sombre, but well worth a visit (particularly as they offer free tickets on Tuesdays after 5pm).
On our way to Ohio, we stopped off at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house, pretty much one of the most famous houses in the US. It was pretty rammed full of tourists, but we managed to get ourselves onto a tour. It is an amazing looking house, and definitely a place I wouldn’t mind having (and would fill it with all of the Wharton Esherick items we saw in his house!). But, it does seem to have quite a few leaks, and with the cost going from a $30k budget to $115k final cost (in the 1930s), perhaps I might need to scale back my ambitions…
With spirits high from nearly a week solid of soft beds we were feeling pretty good, we soaked in a few more days with with Stef and her little guy and then it was time to hit the road again. It was northwardto the nation’s capital. I had stayed a month in DC last year when I was nannying but to be honest I hadn’t seen much (life is tricky when you’re getting paid a lot of money to look after a scary little kid). We continue to get more and more casual with Milton and where we park him. We pulled into a Planet Fitness parking lot near a train station and just parked up there for the duration. No one minded (until the 4th day when we were getting ready to leave and there was a lovely little note asking us to move, fair enough).
The weather left a little to be desired, alternating between extreme heat and downpours but we trudged on through. There’s a lot to see in DC, more than we could probably get around to in a few days, and honestly more than we could be bothered to see. But we managed to see a few museums and walk the mall as well as take in some documentaries from the AMA doc festival. The most unexpected success from DC was the NEWSeum, yes my friend a museum dedicated to the news, it was fabulous. We stopped by Wednesday and were delighted to find our tickets were good for two days so we came back Thursday for a few more hours. No one can say America doesn’t do museums, historical locations, random “interesting spots” well, we really do. This museum was top notch and organized perfectly. My favourite was the Pulitzer exhibition, they had every photo had had ever won the Pulitzer Prize, a lot of the them were hung and all of the were searchable with touchscreens including the stories behind them from the people who took them. They also had an extensive exhibit about how the Vietnam War changed news forever, it was all very very good.
After leaving DC we were heading towards Philadelphia to see some family and run the Rocky steps, but on the way we stopped at yet another Atlas Obscura location, Wharton Esherick’s House/Museum. A beautiful and interesting museum dedicated to his work, it gave Jonathan the desire to cut up more wood of course, so I told Jonathan he could buy something if he could find it, but on further inspection a stool along costs $6,500 so I rescinded the offer.
We’re finishing up our 5th full month on the road and that means Jonathan’s visa is nearly up so we’re winding down and figuring out what’s next, more to come.
This week we have been spoilt rotten. And I won’t lie, I could get quite used to it!
My parents came out to visit us in Asheville, and treated us to a night in a hotel. As much as we said we would allow ourselves a hotel stay a few times a month, there has invariably been extra expenses, that have meant we haven’t really been able to justify the unnecessary luxury. So, to have a room offered to us, we were not going to pass it up! Having a proper bathroom, with nice towels, and an air conditioned room really was a luxury…
Asheville itself was a nice little place to hang about for for a couple of days. We wandered around town for an afternoon, and the next day had a look round Biltmore Estate. It was the home of one of the Vanderbilt’s kids (read, ‘rich’) who seemed to spare no expense in building a huge castle/chateau’esque place in the forest. It was most impressive (even though, if I’m honest, so are half the stately homes in the UK), and it’s always interesting to see how the other half live. I’m definitely building a secret entrance to the man lounge, via the double snooker room, in my next house….
After we said our farewells to the family (via the a final ihop fill-up) we headed east to meet up with Meg’s friend Stef in the Outer Banks (home to Kitty Hawk – where the Wright Brothers first flew their plane). We stopped off for a night in Raleigh, North Carolina as it was meant to be quite a small city. Whilst we didn’t get to wander about too much (or felt that we were missing much by not wandering about), we did get to enjoy some really good music. The pig pen theatre company and You Won’t were truly a pleasure to listen & watch. Check them out in a town near you.
When we got to the Outer Banks, it was again, time to just relax for a few days. Enjoying the air conditioning, fast internet, a washing machine, etc, etc. One thing we did manage to finally do, was put on our decals for the outside of Milton. The vinyl has been sitting there taking up space for weeks, so we finally plucked up the courage to put them up. I think they look great – although bang goes the idea that we were going to be quite ‘stealth’ with our faces essentially stamped on the side & back of the vehicle. Well, I suppose we might as well just accept it and invest in that Dukes of Hazzard horn after all.
With car troubles sort of behind us we went on to the true Antebellum south. As a massive Gone with the Wind fan I was excited to be in Rhett country (who care’s about Scarlet?). We started in Savannah, where Scarlet’s posh mother was from, and it was very beautiful, there’s bit of a rivalry between it & Charleston as they’re so close and both clearly courting the same tourists. The Spanish moss of Savannah was very charming but the city itself was very small. We walked around it quickly, had some delicious pizza and accidentally took in a children’s performance of “Big Fish” (we left quickly when it was finished before anyone had a chance to question who the two random adults attending a children’s performance were).
From Savannah we headed to Charleston, Rhett Butler’s hometown and clearly the jewel of the south, it’s stunning and has more historical building than you can shake a stick at. Small yes but very charming. And as a bonus there was a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, my favourite ice cream in the world from Columbus Ohio. We spent a few days strolling around the city, cycling about, taking walking tours and generally enjoying ourselves. The biggest problem Charleston has is parking, especially RV parking. We found the Charleston Visitors Center has rv parking in their garage but that was a bit pricey for us for more than one night, then we realized there was some sort of fluke in the system, and the road all along the sea didn’t require a parking pass. Milton fit perfectly in the spot and we were happy to have the sea breeze at night and the sun to charge our solar panels during the day.
After finishing at Charleston we headed westward stopping in Madison, the town too beautiful for Sherman to burn, and misfiring at a fake Gone with the Wind “plantation”, but over all a very charming southern week.
Just to recap, last week we had our new solar panels installed, which seemed to be fine, but we were having a little trouble installing the inverter (the device that enables us to use our plugs, microwave, etc via our batteries rather than having to plug into a mains).
Late on a Friday, of a public holiday weekend, we believed we were fixed and ready to go (on top of some other ‘necessary work that would only take 1-1.5 hours’, but took nearer 8 – but that is another story, for another day). We just wanted to get out of the garage and as far as we believed, all issues had been resolved.
Oh, how we wished!
Nope. We parked up on the Friday evening, 2 hours outside of New Orleans, to see our battery charge plummet at the 5% a minute rate again. Grrrr. Time to just unplug everything & worry about the inverter at a later stage.
But, on to more interesting things, and this travelling around the US of ours.
We needed a beach. We needed to just relax for a few days (oh, cos life is so tough travelling around. A few days in a garage, and suddenly we’re all soooo stressed. How have we lost perspective on reality so quickly?!). Pensacola, Florida was our first stop. Not sure why it is so recognisable a name, but I had definitely heard of it. As it was a long weekend, it was pretty rammed, but for a couple of nights we managed to park up pretty much next to the beach, and get ourselves a holiday sunburn (always happens, yet a few days later, always mildly satisfying). We then followed the Gulf Coast and drove past some amazing little tourist towns – proper picture postcard in which both of us were like, ‘this is proper Truman Show type town’, and lo & behold, a google informs us that it was. It really was something out of the movies. Everyone all smiles, chatting, cycling, perfectly manicured parks & lawns, etc, etc. (a little freaky if I’m honest!)
We then holed up in Panama Beach for another couple of nights, generally just chilling (& yes, me constantly checking the State of Charge on our solar panels), before a final little jaunt to Savannah & Charleston – our next stops up the coast.
So, not a bad little week all in all. This is what we were meant to be doing, just slowing down and taking our time with things. Long may it last I say…
Week 18 – ‘So, what you’re saying is we came in because one thing didn’t work, and now it doesn’t, but something else is broken?’
This week has been trying, to say the least. We have loved our time in New Orleans but knowing we’re leaving soon has given us itchy feet and we were ready to leave, but just a quick stop to get some solar power installed, and then we can hit the road. A guy at work who was quite handy had agreed to help us out with installing the panels, and we were assured it was quite easy. Bonus. Save us some cash, huzzah… yeah, something like that.
But first, we finished out our time in NOLA fantastically, the Bayou Boogaloo was going on in our front yard which was nice (yet another free festival of food music and merriment). We also met up with some fellow travellers (www.tilthemoneyrunsout.com) and they filled our heads with ideas of how to make money on the road and where to go. And to be honest it was nice to spend time with someone other than just Jonathan. I adore him, but 24/7 for 4 months is a lot, plus we had run out of things to talk about so it was good to add some new people into the rotation!
I finished up work while our contact put on the panels. All was well, they were taking in energy, our battery levels were going up. Fantastic! But then he looked at the inverter, and wasn’t confident he could install it, so we decided rather than having someone who wasn’t sure they knew what they were doing have a go, we would try to find someone to do the last part. He had done the bulk of the work so we weren’t too upset. The first place we pulled into wasn’t confident so we tried another, they were good, they said they could do it no problem, it’ll be a mere two hours. Tops. 4 hours later we’re still sitting there…. 5 hours later they say it’s in, our battery was mysteriously at zero but we were sure they had just unplugged it for a bit no worries…. Drive on, sing ‘on the road again’, get excited to get moving!
In the morning we switched on our brand new inverter* (having stayed at an RV to recharge our batteries) to find our batteries draining at 5% a minute. A lot of time was spent on google, we had theories, we called the RV place, we called the guy who sold us the inverter, and just couldn’t get to the bottom of it?! Ladies and gentlemen, 3 long days spent at the mechanics, a relay switch, a transfer switch and all of our wits, including theirs, ends later and we are none the wiser but we couldn’t sit there anymore we just couldn’t.
It’s a bit better… sort of… Jonathan has become obsessive about checking it’s “state of charge” and googling possible solutions and for now we’re living with, and driving to figure out what our next move should be…
* for those who an inverter means nothing to, it basically allows us to run our wall plugs (so we can charge laptops, run fans, etc) as well as the, microwave, TV, fridge, etc without needing to plug into an outside plug. It ‘inverts’ the 12v coming from the battery, into 110v mains (although naturally it needs pretty big batteries to start powering all that stuff, but that’s for another lesson!)
Our time in New Orleans seems to be sadly drawing to a close, so this week it was time to tick off all those things on our NOLA wish list.
To begin with we watched an outdoor performance of the ‘roving village’. It’s a bit hard to explain, but essentially an arts/performance/social type charity built some temporary structures, in a bit of a steam punk style, and turned them into musical instruments. For example, there was a coat hanger on a wire that made some screeching noise, and some cow bells, that rang via a pulley system, etc. They are moving these installations around the city, but it was in City Park that we saw them. Meg was quite into it, and whilst musically it didn’t do it for me, I definitely appreciated the art side of it.
Next on the list, and not necessarily particularly cultural, was the 60 nugget challenge. Being Billy big balls, I had claimed that I could eat 100 McChicken Nuggets, as they are just so easy to eat. Meg said 60 seemed like a fair amount. As we were out & about looking for curtains, bath mats, and other such exciting items, we took a detour to put my money where my mouth was. I must admit, I was a little nervous, and half way through I hit the wall. I ploughed on for another 8.5 nuggets, but that really was all I could stomach (38.5 in total. Nothing to be particularly proud of!). I am blaming the fact we ordered them all at once, as they were very greasy. So, undeterred, this challenge will be back, and I shall succeed.
Then it was our Ghost tour. Even though the guide wasn’t your atypical Ghost tour tour guide (a large Goth lady is what springs to mind), the stories of murder & ghosts was actually really fascinating. Highly recommended (as is American Horror Story, which we downloaded as a lot of the series were filmed in New Orleans). After that, we found a tarot reader to read our fortunes. Having had a couple of readings/fortune tellers, etc in the past, I am always quite open to it, and am never too cynical. However, the moment this woman thought we were from Australia, I realised whatever came out of her mouth was clearly going to be nonsense (if she can’t get that basic fact, then she definitely can’t ‘read’ my future). It was a bit of a garbled nothing’ness, but hey, tarot card read in one of the Voodoo capitals of the world. Tick.
In keeping with our packed week, the next night we were back at the NOMA sculpture garden watching an Am Dram take on Robin Hood. It was good fun. They got a few of us to participate as ‘henchmen’, and it was really well done, with the cast surrounding us, and walking through us, etc.
Whilst Meg was at work I finally managed to get myself to the WWII museum. Trip Advisor’s #1 museum in New Orleans, #6 in the US, and #11 in the world. That’s a big reputation to live up to, and to be honest, they did. There was a great 4D film about the landing in Normandy, and then a fantastic exhibition about the ‘Road to Berlin’. Really, really well done. Modern, interactive, and just spot on. It was such a shame, as 3 hours later, the museum was closing, so I didn’t get a chance to visit a whole floor about the War in the Pacific.
Phew. And that was our week. Jam packed to say the least. But, I feel like we can leave New Orleans, having confidently seen a lot of it, and with very fond memories. And we still have another 3-4 days to go…I’m exhausted.
To say our experience in New Orleans has been different than our time in Austin would be a gross understatement. It could be the weather, it could be the fact that we’ve parked up in a good location, or it could (likely) be that New Orleans is just a vastly superior city. This city just keeps giving and giving, there seems to be always something on, and the people are relaxed, free and friendly. We watched a short film about New Orleans where one person said “New Orleaners have more rhythm in one finger than the rest of the country has in their whole body”, I’ve got to admit, I might believe her. There is a restlessness in the energy here and they always seem to have a reason celebrate, parade down the street or just dance. Yes, we are quite taken.
It was a busy week but it kicked off with Jazz Festival, the reason we had planned our trip here to begin with, Sir Elton John was playing. One of the earliest nights I remember with Jonathan, he spent fairly intoxicated singing loudly along with My Father’s Gun in the wee hours of the morning. Suffice to say he was excited to see him. It was crowded, very very very very crowded. Which is unfortunate - there was a lot to see but rather than risking being unable to see Elton, we decided to suck it up and plant our feet in front of the main stage. It was a good decision, he played for 2 hours straight and I’ve got to say he seemed to be enjoying himself, I really enjoyed him. He sounded fantastic and the crowd was LOVING it. The sprit of Jazz Festival and New Orleans carried on outside the festival grounds where ordinary citizens were selling jello shots and bottles of soda on the streets, people were dancing and pound after pound of crawfish were being steamed. Much merriment was had.
The only downside to New Orleans is it’s hot, really hot. Rather than sit about the next day, and knowing there was a free RV dump on the way, we chose to head to Biloxi for a day at the beach. A good choice. It was relaxing and cool, two things we needed. We played tourist later on in the week, taking the ferry across the river and doing a French Quarter tour. Additionally, we hugely recommend the Katrina exhibit. We’ve been trying to learn about it, but there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of conflicting information, but I think the exhibition does a wonderful job of showing what happened, how it happened, and how it affected the city - it’s heart wrenching but well worth your time. The city continues to be beautiful and delicious and we continue to look at houses and think hmmmmm…. That’s 5 times the size of Jonathan’s London flat and half the price. But of course there’s lots more of the world to see.
Meg briefly eulogised about New Orleans in her last post, but I am going to expand on why New Orleans is by far my favourite city so far.
We chanced on a pretty good parking spot for Milton for the month. Behind a local restaurant, next to their car park, and what we can only guess is a bit of a no man land’s area (i.e. we haven’t been bothered so far, and we are not outside anyone’s house, etc). We’ve even managed to park over a drain, and there is a tap/faucet/spigot (how can such a simple item have so many words for it?!) for us to *secretly* dump, and fill up, our tanks under the cover of darkness - when the restaurant is closed & no one is watching (although we have been a little more brazen when needs must and we’re desperate for a shower in this stinking heat).
So, this week we have just been getting to know NOLA a little better. I have started volunteering at the New Orleans Film Society (who run the Film Festival and various other events throughout the year), to give me something interesting to do with my days (and I could get quite used to working 4 days a week, 10am-2pm!), which even though I am doing the office intern jobs of a 14 year old, I don’t really mind. We’ve been on a lot of bike rides as well as filling our evenings as much as possible with what we can. This week we went to the ‘Wednesdays at the square’ where they put on live music, food, etc in one of the squares in the city, attended a couple of film screenings, and celebrated the start of Jazz Fest by going to some local bars, and ending up at some random person’s house eating crawfish out of a wooden boat – apparently all par for the course in the ‘Big Easy’.
I’m going to put it out there, but give me a (part time) job, a massive old colonial mansion down a tree lined street, with a bar on one corner and a café on the other, and I will be more than happy. Come on universe….
If you’ve never been Central Louisiana is terrifying, properly terrifying. I 100% understand why so many horror stories, movies and television shows are set here. I get why True Dectectives set their uber creepy crime drama here, and why Anne Rice (author of vampire thrillers) set all her stories here, it is a scary, scary place. It’s dark and damp, the trees hang thick with moss and (no exaggeration) at least every 5th house is abandoned. But not abandoned like the families packed up their stuff in a congenial manner to have a better life somewhere, but like ‘sh*t hit the fan’ and they had to leave - they left stuff, creepy toys and even cars. What is about toys that they suddenly become disturbing when left behind?
We opted to take the scenic route to New Orleans, the leisurely country route, we also wanted to see the place where Bonnie and Clyde were captured and absolutely shot to smithereens (there are pictures, Google it). The town had a small “museum” I use the term museum loosely as clearly it was run by some gold ol’ boy with an unhealthy obsession with Bonnie, a lot of facial piercings and just a few teeth (he was also wearing dungarees/overalls if that rounds out the picture for you). After that it was a country road to Alexandria, we thought we’d stop in a State Park to camp up for the night as it was free. I did not sleep. I was so worked up by the creepiness of it all and the surroundings, and then people in pick up trucks kept driving around (well three of them), even though we were deep in to the forest and had seen no one else for a while. I was sure they were going to come back in the middle of the night and string us up. Fortunately, there was a massive thunderstorm and they were unable to return and so we survived the night.
On yet another level of interesting and slightly disturbing, we found we were passing through on the day of the Louisiana State Penitentiary Rodeo (not the 4th word you were expecting was it?), apparently this has been going on for some time and the prisoners like it. Every weekend in October and one weekend in April the prisoners get to put on a rodeo as well as a market to sell their wares. The legality and the morality of this is questionable at best, as the last “competition” was 50 prisoners trying to take a poker chip off the bull’s head to win $1,000, but we went for it anyways. This is by no means a low security prison. 70% of the inmates are in for life, but it’s a way for them to see their family and friends, and I guess a healthy sense of pride in a job well done/a chair well made/a bull poorly ridden but ridden is a good thing for people who are in prison for life. It was a fun afternoon and the atmosphere was convivial. There were also monkeys riding sheepdogs herding goats, that was not a mistype, I saw it with my own eyes, so it was totally worth it.
New Orleans is amazing; it’s got character and cuisine and contrasts - my three favourite words for a city. I love the way it looks and feels and Jonathan is already angling to come back here one day, we’ll see. I’m just happy we’ve got a month to relax and really get into the city. We’ve managed to find a place to park up close to my work, and close to town so I think we’ll have a better time than in Austin (provided the weather holds out). We’ve got a check-list of 16 things to do while we’re here so that, at the very least, should keep us busy.
So, I took a couple of basic woodworking courses whilst I was in London last winter. Just the basic stuff, but enough for me to feel confident in drilling in a screw, and sawing off a bit of wood. As our bed had a rather un-nerving wobble to it when laid out, it was time to get to Lowes/Home Depot and start building that dream, slide bed I’d always pictured.
Meg found us a small town in Texas (called Borger, although maybe not so small, as it was the world’s biggest oil refinery town – or something like that), which had free RV parking and hook-ups, and had an ACE hardware nearby for all those items I had forgotten/broken. I’d given myself 5 days to do it.
Now, it should be apparent by now, that both myself & Meg are not the most ‘practical’ of people. I still have no sense of direction, and I’ve lost count on the number of things we have ‘lost’, ‘broken’, ‘dropped’, ‘misplaced’ or simply ‘forgotten’ (I am surprised sometimes that the dog is still with us). And unfortunately, this shows in my DIY skills. I don’t know for the life of me, why everything I build, amend or tweak, just goes to pot. And the bed was no exception. It was essentially 4 days of frustration – cutting, sanding, cutting some more, throwing that piece away because I’d cut too much, starting again, not knowing how to make something straight, and lots of padding & strange angles to make things work. However, we got there in the end, and even though the drawers need amending, so far the bed is holding firm. Touch wood people. Literally, touch wood.
As Meg has some work lined up in New Orleans, we now have only 4 or 5 days to get back to New Orleans, so onto the road we go. The first stop was Fort Worth & Dallas. Fort Worth had a nice little downtown, and ‘ye olde’ Stockyard area where we watched some people on horses walk some cows down the street. A little bit too touristy for our liking, but interesting nonetheless (although I did see one of the world’s best offices – leather couches, a wooden bar, and about 20 deer heads stuck to the walls – proper JR Ewing). Dallas was then just a flying visit the next day to see the JFK/6th storey museum - where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot JFK. A really good museum, very busy, and somewhat eerie (much like the Martin Luther King museum) showing the actual spot where he took the shots, and looking out the window to the x’s on the road marking where JFK was hit. Time to download some JFK conspiracy theories I think….
We had been going too fast, much too fast, we had promised ourselves that this trip we would do things properly, we weren’t in a hurry we have all the time in the world (though not really, maths tell us we’re already behind and we haven’t got enough time to do the whole country). But unfortunately we had put Milly the sloth in the cupboard and forgotten all of this. However we got it back on track this week. Lucky us to help slow down Colorado has what you might call very liberal laws so we took full advantage and did some free camping in beautiful surroundings whilst relaxing.
We started in Mesa Verde to see some ancient cave dwellings then headed on to Durango; which we will both admit is a wicked name. Durango is a small town that looks lost in time but is very modern in the fact that it has 5 microbreweries. Apparently microbreweries are literally rejuvenating the American economy and Durango is leading the way. We haven’t been out in the evening much, to be honest we weren’t even out late in Las Vegas (didn’t like it, don’t get it, moving on) but we decided to do a tour of the breweries and try a flight of each of their beers. Jonathan thought they all had too much flavour (seriously) but I enjoyed them all, the rest of the world is grossly misinformed about our beer it is not all flavourless. We stumbled back to Milton whom has resting on a beautiful street lines with cherry blossoms, transitioned to night mode and slept like logs.
The next day we gathered some supplies and headed into the mountains. We parked up in a free spot beside a mountain stream for a few days and sampled some of Colorado’s newest products. Kaegogi discovered the joys of mountain streams, seriously the pup drank the water and then ran and leaped about, I feel like we should bottle it and sell it as Puppy Power, the pet sports drink. He’s never leaped over anything and he jumped three logs like he was in a steeplechase.
After that we just carried on from mountain pass to mountain pass, we parked up one night and saw a man fly fishing in the river while the goats we was tending grazed nearby. It’s a different sort of life, and I don’t know who lives in these mountain pass towns or how they make any money whatsoever but it’s a question we seem to ask a lot all over the world so they must be doing something. One man in these mountains is building a castle. Literally, how or why no idea, we couldn’t get a clear answer. He’s apparently been working on it for 40 years (honestly it doesn’t show), high up in the mountains, grossly out of our way, we drove to have a look. It was… interesting, cool, a bit scary, gothic, wayward and clearly a work of the deranged but worth the drive. More… special people in the middle of nowhere should build special things...
Into Vegas we go. I hadn’t been there for about 20 years (old man), so I was keen to see how much had changed, and how much I remembered (previous memory was mostly of not being able to find an exit out of any of the casinos). We’d got a tip that we could park for free in Bally’s, just off the strip, so that’s where we hunkered up for the first night. As it’s Vegas there’s still so much to see and do, so the first night we just took advantage of the free G&Ts, and soaked it all up. However, the neon lights were much how I remembered it, but now with more neon, and a few more super casinos, all offering much the same, as long as you have cash to blow. The next day we therefore took in the old ‘strip’ (Freemont St) – they’d jazzed that up a bit, but it was the surrounding few blocks that had the feel of the original Vegas, with it’s cool little used clothes & furniture stores, street art, and the odd bit of 50’s neon.
A couple of days was fine to be honest. It was just all a bit too garish, chintzy, busy and expensive. Time to take in some nature, so it was off to Monument Valley.
First was Horseshoe bend. Google it, and it is that picture that is always on the covers of travel stuff & on TV. Very impressive. Monument Valley is exactly as the movies portray. This sweeping red’ish dessert, with huge rocks & outcroppings dotted all around. We gave Milton a bit of a challenge as there was only dirt tracks around some of the rocks, and only a couple of brakes sliding with no control…we’ll be fine on the single track mountain passes in Peru!
So far, Colorado, so good.
I feel that now it has been a few months, I should jot down a couple of US observations, whilst the UK is still vaguely fresh in the mind. Firstly, petrol station/gas prices. Not only are there like 3 or 4 literally across or opposite from each other at a junction, but they all have different prices. And I’m not talking the odd cent here or there. There wil be one with say $2.11, one across the road at $2.16, and then another one on another corner at $2.24. It makes absolutely zero sense to me. Why would anyone go to the most expensive one when they are next to each other. Surely Americans aren’t that lazy to wait for the lights to change, to go to the cheapest one? Somebody please explain this to me…
The next, is the attitude of just leaving things to rust. Outside (admittedly out of the cities predominantly), there will be one, two, three, four or five abandoned cars or trucks just rusting away. Or an RV, or a mobile home, or in actually some instances a whole home. They will just leave it, let it rust/collapse, whilst they have bought a new car, or built a new home next door to the one they are leaving abandoned to nature. Perhaps it’s just the space that is available, but just seems lazy to me – surely they could sell them, or pay someone to pick it up & get rid of it, or take a sledgehammer to an old house?
However, these are just minor observations, and overall I really do just love the US. Really I do…
Footnote: we’re not bust.