Sometimes this is good, really good. 

This is more like it. This is what I wanted. It’s funny, this part of West Texas is full of powerful machinery, taking the largest source of energy this world uses and transporting it in big, strong lorries, but it’s sapped all my energy. People warned us how stark and barren it can be but I looked forward to that. The dusty earth and patches of squat trees mingled with long grass. Odd shaped insects and irregular rock formations. Being a little bit introverted and loving nature, this totally suits me. I didn’t realise though, how depressing I would find the desire for oil. The destruction and negative feeling that hovers, like the dust, around it. With only moving forward each day by around 30 miles, I started to feel forever surrounded by the big boys. The trucks and lorries and derricks and space station-like structures that serve purposes I have no idea even exist. The dust constantly being swirled behind the back end of turning vehicles. Any stop I found seemed to be an exit or entry point for the big bullies and I felt totally vulnerable and oddly frustrated. How can you relax when 20 or so vehicles followed by clouds of dust pass you ever minute. It’s an area full of busy workmen and a serious lack of calm. I never felt in any danger but I hated it. 

So today, I find myself driving  a slightly quieter road with more spaces for Jenny to rest and with the beautiful rock formations known as the Guadalupe mountains. Yeah, this is more like it. I have time to think as I drive or when I sit off, waiting on Rob, my thoughts travel in many directions.  One thing I remember as a child was my Dad saying he wished he could fly and today, as I stared out across that flat old sea bed towards the Guadalupe’s,  I got it. How beautifully peaceful, just flying over that scenery of mountain touching blue sky. A lone cloud wondering aimlessly and that soothing sound of a gentle, cool breeze; the sun, just letting itself be known but not being pushy. That moment where you fill your lungs and breath out a contented sigh. Bliss. 
We decided to take some time together away from running and driving and headed off track to an area known for a cave hosting a large bat colony. Now, if you ever get the chance to see anything like this, then I highly recommend it. We were sitting in an ampitheatre with around 100 so other people, that faced the front of a cave. At one point, I noticed a squirrel, scurrying for food across the top of the cave and I wondered if he may think we were all there to see him perform. The guide asked us to turn off all electrical items and to try to remain silent. Well, I don’t know what kind of spell it was that those little beasts cast but I was silenced. The moment you see, maybe a few hundred or so, swirling anticlockwise from the cave into the pink, dusky sky, you’re spellbound. The only sound you could here was the flapping of thousands of tiny bat wings. They moved so fast, trying to catch their tea; thousands upon thousands of them, all swirling upwards and heading off south. Nature throws me so often; It’s just so amazing. We treated ourselves the following day also, by Rob just running 20 miles (just?) So that we could park up in the Guadeloupe mountains and have a small hike up through some of it. Rob asked me at one stage if I was happy, knowing full well that I was in my element, surrounded by beautiful nature, walking and being able to take some lovely photos and no body else around. We finished the day by taking a short stroll and checking out the sprinkled stars across the ink black sky. Bliss.

I’ve realised that I do really enjoy the RV lifestyle, the hiding off road and peacefulness or finding a nice rv campground surrounded by beautiful scenery . I do get tired of driving; it would be nive to just be a passenger now and then (if only Bubba could drive) but it is mostly fine.You learn to live with very little and respect what you have. We’ve had to be very water and food savvy and it’s taught me how important recycling is. I have such severe guilt throwing plastic into the waste! For a country like America, the access to recycling is terrible…C’mon America, I hear that some people in Europe make lots of money from it? The age I am now, I long stopped worrying about how I looked and accepted I was good enough but I have realised how little I actually need to be happy (excpet I do need all my clothes and shoes)Rob and I discussed just the other day how little we miss all of our material objects (except for those really cute, tan ankle boots that go with everything) and we have a lot. I’ve not missed TV with those dreadful soaps or the talent(less) shows and apart from having communication from folks back home, I’ve not been fussed about the lack of Internet. Since being here, I’ve read three books, started to write my own and now I want to take up a writing and a photography course when I get home.We obviously can’t do this forever. We’re not getting a wage and are currently dipping into our savings so this lifestyle has a lifespan. It can’t always be star gazing and peachy sunrise but I can cling onto every good day that happens whilst we’re here.

It’s important that we share everything with you about this trip. To be honest and share the good and the bad. I offered for people to ‘ friend-request ‘ me on Facebook so that they could, perhaps see a different side to the Run Robla Run story and that offer still applies. I wanted to write these blogs to offer my version of events and they are different to Rob’s style; my initial hope was that my friends would enjoy it but I have been overwhelmed by comments from people I don’t know. Thanks doesn’t often feel enough but I truly mean it.
So, we head off to El Paso and the state border line into New Mexico, I’m sure the scenery won’t much change but what sort of days will we have? I’ll be sure to let you know.

Sometimes this is hard, really hard.

I have my moments, where I just really don’t want to do this any more.

 I’ll not give up on it, if there’s anything useful that I was taught as a child, is to never give up. So I always have this nagging that swirls my mind, when things don’t go as I hoped and I may throw a tantrum and want to give up, and it may take me a while to get there but I mostly do; ever more prouder from the struggle and why not I suppose.

I know we all feel that pinch of frustration and disappointment when our expectations aren’t met or something goes wrong at the most clement of moments; it just seems so unfair. This is when I will either swear, shout or cry, followed by some industrial strength sulking but again, the way I was brought up, just doesn’t allow me to wallow in that little pit of pity for too long. I was often told that life is unfair and we don’t always get what we want (as Mick Jagger once mentioned). However, that given time, things do change; that the miserable moment will pass. I always go through a few stages when I sulk; firstly, I’ll be angry and will keep discussing with myself, the why’s and what fors. I will then take on different perspectives and question the way that things went and why I’ve had such bad luck and finally, I realise how lucky I am to be alive and healthy; to know I’ll always have clean water, food and a roof over my head and that should I become ill, I will be taken  care of immediately, with out financial worry, thanks to the glory of the NHS ( please don’t become privatised) and that therefore my worries are minor compared to other poor souls. This then makes me feel a little guilty and ultimately, a little worse before I then move – on and get into productive mode. It’s how I roll and I doubt, at 37 years of age, that’s going to change much.
So, just the other day, another day of getting up at 6:30 am (or, stupid o’clock), knowing that today, we would finish a little earlier to enjoy the delights of electricity and a washing machine (oh how my desires have changed). We had planned a stop in Iraan, at an RV park to allow for us to re-charge everything and get a washing machine to do the job, that we really can’t do that well with just our hands. We were looking good for the day and meant that we would likely be finished by around 3:30…what a dream. After our lunch stop, I decided to head straight for the RV park (excited squeal). It was approximately 7 miles away; a good 10 minutes drive for me and a little over an hrs run (with a little post lunch walking) for Rob. Rob set off and after tidying up after him (of course), I was set to go. I caught up with him around about  a mile on and he was frantically waving his arm. So with some concern I pulled over, into a patch of tall grass. I wound down my window and very quickly observed an animal in his hands, a bird of some description. He informed me that it was injured and asked me to look for any veterinary clinics in Iraan. Now, I wasn’t in the best of spots to be getting down with Google so, we decided to pop the little critter into a large box and meet further along the road, at a picnic spot, to decide the little invalid’s fate. This last bit of running was movie scene perfection. Imagine looking up to a steep old road, cut into the rocky hill. The sun grinning his hottest at you as you start this challenge. Foot forward after foot, breath inhaled and exhaled in furious oxygen and CO2 exchange; sweat marching forth across your body to defend from the heat. When you reach the peak, the sight your brain receives from your eyes forces you to gasp. What a sight it is. I made sure I recorded Rob running part way down that hill because it was a sight to behold. He caught up with me at the picnic stop, where I had managed to discover that road runners like to eat lots of mini meat snacks but that there was no vet clinic in Iraan. I really didn’t think we could cater for him until we managed to find a place that would rehabilitate him and my thoughts were that his chances, although maybe slim, were better back, close to where Rob had found him. I’m not a fan of animals dying in any form of stress but nature has its way and human interference isn’t always for the better. After making a phone call to a vet clinic 90 miles away for some advice on an animal we know nothing about, we were given that exact advice, along with the information that they are extremely terratorial. Back he was to go with hopefully some very minor injuries and a little shock,hopefully only slightly increased by running along with Rob for a few foot. It was this turning around that changed my mood from hero to sobbing zero. The sudden panic of wanting to get the little guy back, meant I totally forgot about my squash that I’d prepared myself. It managed to handle me going most of the way but with the turn around it slipped off the edge and spread across the floor. Rob, holding on to the road runner could do nothing but shout to me about it, this raised my panic levels and forced me to pull into the same area of long grass. Over the confusion and chaos, we both heard a popping sound followed by hissing, where I had perfectly lined up over a plank of wood with giant screws poking out. Rob shouting that it’s the tyre, still with the road runner in  clasped hands, drink spreading further. I quickly moved forward and then buried my face into my palms, crying, in a complete fluster. Rob told me to head back to the picnic spot and that he would meet me after he had found a suitable location for our very confused companion (who knows what was going through his little mind).He tried to calm me down and get things sorted, so I drove steadily back to the picnic stop; jumped out and looked at the flat tyre, utterly frustrated.  We had only just paid out for three new tyres, just a few days before at a cost of $440. After my sulk went trough its stages, I became productive and managed to find a tyre shop in Iraan. I gave them a call and they could sort the tyre out for me – no problems. Great. No. Unbeknown to me, it was out of hours so we already had a charge before the tyre was even dealt with; they also didn’t have a new tyre but instead a partly worn one. We opted to use our spare and have the partly worn one to replace the spare. It took a little while for this all to happen and the guy seemed really nice. Unfortunately, our spare tyre turned out to not be that great and he suggested we change it again soon, when we can. Great. NO. We bought a partly worn tyre and had a tyre replaced that I need to change again at the cost of $175. I hate to complain about out of hours fees, having worked in an emergency department at a veterinary clinic but that stung, bad.  We were both pretty gloomy and it was 6:30 by the time we pulled up to the campsite; 7pm by the time I’d finished dinner; 8:30 by the time I’d finished sitting off at the local launderette; 9pm by the time I’d filled the water tank, washed up and had a shower. I was so tired and so sick of it.

This run is Rob’s dream, not mine but obviously being in a relationship means you do things for each other. I couldn’t have gone many more days of him going on about wanting to run across America before I stabbed him with a rolled up map of America, so of course I would join him, I had my apprehension before leaving but I was also excited about it. I mean, what an amazing thing to be doing and being part of a process to raise money and awareness for WWF and Peace Direct. It still isn’t my dream though, so sometimes I just really don’t want to do it anymore. We’re funding this whole trip ourselves; this is our savings, our house deposit money and I know that’s our decision and I know we’re doing something that will be far more valuable in memories than any house can give you but, spending £550 on tyres alone, within the first stages when we’ve already spent 1000’s hits pretty hard. There always seems to be something to think or worry about; like buying food, water, getting petrol, getting propane, smelling propane, smelling sulphur, buying a new battery,  emptying  the tanks, working out where I can park, making breakfast, lunch and dinner, finding a laundromat calling up an RV park and clock watching for the move into the next stop.You can never truly relax and it’s exhausting. I haven’t had a lay in for weeks, each day is so similar that I honestly forget what day it is sometimes and I’m sick of cleaning that damn protein shaker!
This is obviously how tough it is for me at times and Rob finds it hard too. The running itself seems to be the easiest part but his commitment to the charities and associated companies goes beyond normal. He writes many blogs for different things, replies to multiple emails and tries to maintain the social media to daily doses of fun, even when he’s clearly so tired. He always wants to make sure everyone else is catered for. He still remains very cheery about it all so the odd day of his bad moods can be totally forgiven.

So it’s not all fun and games. In fact, it is often pretty hard and tedious but like I said, I was brought up to keep going and never give up because the tough times will pass and at the end of it, I’ll have had so many wonderful moments to share as amazing memories with Rob and I’ll be all the more prouder for it, and why not.

One month down, how many more to go?

It’s been just over a month since we started this “journey”. What have I learned, well, just a few things. Most things I knew already.

We’ve met some wonderful people along the way. Whether it’s been dinner and footy tickets given to us; lifts offered and drinks bought; been allowed to boondock (sneaky camping) on private property, or even just having a good chat to the locals, who are all so impressed by what Rob is doing and sympathetic towards my part. It’s very uplifting to hear such enthusiasm, especially as I openly admit there have been times that I’ve got fed up hearing about it. The remarkable nature of this just doesn’t really sink in at all, not until someone you tell gives a face of such surprise. I knew people would be friendly and it’s one of the things I looked forward to. I think I have been mostly surprised though by some unhelpful people. A bus driver in New Orleans just stared at us blankly whilst we asked about putting our luggage (a lot of luggage) in the storage compartment and she just replied no, that it was for bikes only and that we had to take it all on the bus. Trying to explain we had done it before as it was quite a lot of luggage, she remained stony faced and stuck to her only word of the day, No. And, so followed us attempting to climb onto a bus with two big bags and 3 rucksacks. I also encountered a security guard who was obviously in a similarly delightful mood. I was perched on a table outside a deli that was within a bus depot, just finishing off my lunch that we had purchased and mainly eaten inside. Rob at this point headed to the bank to try and organise an account so I sat there, eating my crisps and this guy comes over and ask what I’m doing. I replied that I was eating my lunch which seemed to annoy him. He then asked me why was I in the building? To which I replied that I was having lunch. He then asked me my purpose for being there and looked at all my bags, guess what,… I’m eating lunch? I wasn’t cheeky or rude though. For some reason, I wasn’t allowed to sit at that exact spot so I made my way back into the deli, where he just helpfully watched me carry all of the bags back. Some shop attendants have given very blunt and rude responses when I’ve enquired about stuff. I’m not sure if it’s my accent but then, when I work with the public, I never approach people in that manner. Perhaps I’m being too delicate. I know that I’ve met more than my fair share of grumpy people back home for sure but then, we’re not known for that famous ‘Southern charm’. Thankfully, the rest of the lovely folk we’ve met have been more than welcoming and made up for it.
We’re now halfway across Texas. The scene changing with each new day’s sunrise. A new day, just a little bit different to the day before. Today I watched a little bird, perch on the wing mirror, looking in quizzically and attempting to fly into the window before giving up, with obvious frustration. I listened to Jenny grumble at 60mph, uphill and then both of us sigh with relief at the top, with a view of mottled hills and dusty ranches. Even further back, leaving behind the days of lush green trees full of shade; white sand stretching into the Gulf with bats and dragonflies swirling above our heads and the beads of Mardi Gras, dangling from tree branches and lampposts. We’re heading now towards mountains and tall cactus, with more flat, dusty earth, watching the vulture’s shadows fly across the road as I drive. How will we feel after two weeks of that, until El Paso, I wonder? I hope we have enough food and water! I hope I don’t get cabin fever and stab Rob with a cactus and leave him for those ever watching vultures. 

Each day is very similar in its structure. We get up at 6:30, Rob will eat some cereal bars and drink a protein shake. I will lay in bed, to get that vital extra 20 min’s or so and then rise with a little disappointment that I’m not actually on holiday, so I can’t lay in. I jokingly tell Rob to stop doing the run, whilst sleepily getting dressed. He laughs but stays very determined, if a little reluctant at that time of the morning. The next stop is discussed and he heads off. Mostly now it is before sunrise and pretty dark and I worry a little. He’s a smart guy but judging the volume of roadkill, some drivers aren’t. I’ll put the kettle on (a pan) and go about sorting my breakfast. Once that’s been eaten, I’ll wash and then tidy the RV. Rob is a very messy person, who likes to leave items out and doors and drawers open. I have discussed, fully that just for this journey I’m willing to clear it away. I have reminded him to not get used to this for when we return home. We stop for lunch, I wash up and head on and we eventually end the day somewhere about 30 miles on from the night before. I’ll make dinner for us, trying to be a little imaginative but feeling the challenge with the temperamental stove and cooking in the already very hot heat. Washing dishes up (again) and getting showered; tidying up (again). If it’s been a good day for the running, we find ourselves with a few hours to spare, or we can look at the clock and notice that we have only an hr before bed to squeeze lots of jobs into. Within this structure, the day does often bring something different; maybe something to smile about or something to cry over. I have learned to love living on the road. Each stop, giving us new things to see and changing our evening’s entertainment. We may go watch a local high school footy game and then another evening may leave us alone, in a lay by on a minor road with just the local wildlife for company, listening to some music or reading. 

Driving on the smaller roads is far more enjoyable, although it has its challenges. There are lots of ranches in this part, so although you think there may be a road you can turn into to avoid the busier one, it is often gated, with some fancy wrought iron work, stating whose ranch it is. With all that land and hardly any body about, I often wonder what strange things go on, away from the public eye. Using the satellite option on Google maps allows you to peer down onto their property, full of buildings and little dirt tracks that are impossible to see from the main road. I still manage to find somewhere just big enough for Jenny to not obstruct the road, although, the force that passing lorries make have my nerves jittering as Jenny rocks side to side and I try to hurry Rob along during his break so that I can move onto the next (just as likely the same) spot. Some people stop by to check that we haven’t broken down which is really kind. Thankfully someone did just that when I truly believed that half the RV had fallen off the back after a really loud noise, that sounded like something breaking off. We had decided to head up to San Angelo for both the Liverpool and Manc’ game and to stay in an RV park. Jenny needed emptying and topping up and we knew we had a long way to go without another opportunity. Heading out of Eldorado (yes, that was the name of that terrible tv drama set in Spain) on the highway for about 6 miles, there was this almighty noise from behind us, followed by flapping sounds. After my split second of WTF!!!! I pulled onto the hard shoulder. Turning around I was relieved to see that Jenny hadn’t lost her back end (which houses my undercrackers) and all seemed to be fine. Stepping out and terrified to look, I noticed a lot of tyre tread, back up the road. You often see this tread on the side of the road from lorries and that’s exactly what had happened. I ran up the road to pull the debris out of other driver’s way and Rob called the break-down service. Whilst waiting for those guys to call us back, a lorry pulled in and this gentleman popped out to check on us. After discovering our issue (and that we were two very clueless Brits) he advised we head onto San Angelo, to Discount Tire. He explained that this happens alot to lorry drivers and said if we let the bad tyre down and rely on its neighbour, we should make it there fine. I’m always dubious about this sort of thing but Rob told me it would be fine so, that’s what we did. I carried on at 45mph, limping into the tyre store with utter relief. Here, we were advised we needed 2 more tyres also, at a total cost of $440. Wow, Jenny wanted new shoes – don’t we all ladies?We left her in their capable hands and seeked out the local sports bar, to catch the game and have a few beers, purely for medicinal purposes of course. Thankfully, it ended so well as it could have been so much worse and we met another lovely American.
Let’s see what this next few days brings us. I am thinking of some new meals to rustle up and I’ve just started reading a new book. We’re struggling through 34’c currently but we are expecting that to drop to a very pleasant 24’c. We have El Paso to head to for Halloween which means a fancy dress outfit to think of and Jenny’s got new shoes, so bring it on.

I’m never really alone

Sat in the RV, watching the busy world zip by, wondering: “Where are they going? Why so busy?” I sit here with the sound of the clock, second, turning after second, waiting, to head out there into that mad rush to be somewhere else. The next meeting point, roughly around 6 miles along, is waiting for me to sit off, alone again…
I’m pretty introverted. When you first meet me you may think I don’t like you (my best mate thought I didn’t like her and that I was a bitch). As I have gotten older I try harder and hope that most people don’t feel that way. I either click with someone straight away or it’s a real slow burner. I promise that I don’t mean it. I think this is why Rob and I manage our relationship; he being massively extrovert and me happily hiding in the shadows but still being able to meet people and make lovely new friends through him. I’m not a dreamer or an achiever; I’m not in the slightest bit competitive so although I’m making myself sound rather dull (wow, I really am aren’t I?) I am mostly very happy. I have reasonably low expectations and I have no real set plans ahead. I’m just completely happy, bumbling along. Future planning sometimes terrifies me, I like deciding at the time what I want to do and how long for. I believe this to also play a part in why Rob and I get along so well. He is hugely competitive and loves nothing more than to make achievements and set goals (hence this run). I admire him for it but I don’t envy it. He has mentioned that should we ever have children (can you imagine) that he hopes they would have his drive and competitiveness (hah!). I’m not so sure but I get what he’s saying. My returning comment was I hope that they would have my good looks and humour 😉 but I would actually love them to be very much like Rob (could you imagine ).

So far, a lot of people have asked me if I get bored and I do but not often. Being introverted means I actually revel in those opportunities where I don’t have to mingle with the general public. I can write, read, clean, cook, shop (for food and not shoes or dresses unfortunately) take photos, watch wildlife and listen to my music. I have perhaps just enough of that time until Rob arrives or has arranged for us to meet up with some fellow runners for me to be ok with it. So at this stage it’s working out fine. However, I really am looking forward to a 2 week visit from our mate Beer (his surname, honestly). We have a fairly long stretch now from Austin to El Paso (approximately three weeks) and that shall really test my boredom levels. Having an end point with something to look forward to, like a friend joining us, has really changed the dynamics. Rob’s old school friend joined us for 2 days recently and it’s perfect respite. It’s  a difficult thing to ask of people; to take time off work and spend their holiday in an RV with us two. Most of Rob’s friends won’t know me and visa versa, so naturally it may not appeal but it’s one of the things that would always be appreciated.

Failing the ability to do that though hasn’t stopped many of our friends and a few strangers from getting in touch both publicly and privately, giving us fantastic support. I have had personal messages from Rob’s friends asking how I am and offering help should I need it. A lot of our mutual friends have been messaging, sharing our posts, tweeting and re-tweeting (The Tweetles as Rob calls them), calling UK based media on our behalf and spreading the word onto their friends about the website and Facebook page. My dad (best human being ever) pretty much messages me every single day to encourage both of us (thanks Dad. Lub you, YNWA.) We get phone calls from our good mate Geoff (from Melbourne) and from Colin (Rob’s step dad, YNWA either) with words of encouragement and just some very much needed silliness to bring us back down or up, to normal.

I was once a hater for social media and partly still hate some aspects of it. I came to love Facebook though when I moved to Australia because it gave me very close and constant access to those that I love and missed terribly back home. It allowed me to see how everyone was doing and If you can ignore the ‘fakeness’ of it and try to avoid getting  dragged into debates (!) I think it’s a great platform to keep in touch. It’s been an excellent way to spread the word for the run. I started Rob’s Instagram page last year and joined Twitter myself; which takes me back to the good old days of 30 letters a txt. I also tried Snapchat (I promptly left because I don’t understand it and some young lads were trying to contact me and I got scared)! I have embraced social media and I actually don’t mind it, in order to get as much coverage as we can because what Rob is attempting deserves that. Just as any body who voices constructive opinions, tries to make positive changes or attempts their own challenges to make something better does. So good on ya Facebook and the likes. We can just ignore the rubbish that goes along with it. It also helps keep me from getting bored, spying on you all (in a good way of course) and chatting to old friends and new ones, so thank you…. 

Where would we be without you all. Well, let’s be honest, I’d probably still be sat here, watching the cars full of busy people, rush by, whilst Rob runs up another hill, sweating, avoiding roadkill and angry road users, but it would be a very different journey, a much more difficult one. What better way to feel ok about crying over your smashed phone screen (that was me) or your creaky tendon (that was Rob, obviously) than the encouragement of strangers and comforting words of friends. You can not beat it and you will never realise how powerful it was when you did it, so thanks to you for your support, every single one of you. We owe you a drink when we next see you xxx

The good, the bad and the stinky.

It’s been 3 weeks since we got Jenny Jamboree.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my fear of driving a 30ft long RV on the opposite side of the road that I’m used to before (maybe once or twice). I’m used to her now though; I will reverse and hop over into different lanes and will not throw a wobbly (well, not a big one) when Rob wants me to head into the busier, smaller city roads and carparks. Jenny is the same length as two cars, so I have to check in advance where I shall next meet Rob, so as I can actually park her big butt. This also causes a little panic attack when I need to be in the farthest right lane within about 50 yards and try to judge how close the car traveling up to her right is. The locals are not all the friendly drivers as the signs make them out to be when you’re trying to move over. I often have to carry on and try to loop back on myself, all without Sat Nav’s help because she’s clearly on her tea break at that exact point.

I haven’t listened to much music whilst driving along the highway, mainly because I’m listening to her ladyship: Sat Nav and because my journey is usually no longer than 10 minutes. If I do, there is quite often some religious stuff. Don’t hate on me but I’m an atheist so it all means nothing to me but it’s a big deal to a lot of people. It has most certainly been very interesting listening to a good ‘ol tune with the lyrics about Jesus and God. One could argue that it’s better than some other (no names mentioned) song writers.I do have a Roy Orbison CD (courtesy of the previous owners) which is fine by me and a scratched up 90’s mix CD. Needless to say, I have a long way to go surviving on those little treasures, so I shall be investing in some way of delivering my own, selected tunes. No Tay Tay!

We’re slowly getting used to the RV lifestyle. Having had Shirley (A 1983 Toyota Hiace Campervan) and having Ash (The very cheeky 1977, bay VW Campervan) we are fairly used to living outdoors in some form of comfort and style. Jenny, is a fish from a totally different kettle though. Let me let you in on some RV speak: The black water tank is where your ones and twos go. The grey water tank is old dishwater or shower water and the white water tank is your fresh water. There’s a set of golden rules to follow when emptying these tanks (which Rob wouldn’t know because he hasn’t done it yet. Still!) Firstly, you must open your black water tank valve to allow the weeks build up of your stinkies to leave, forever (bye stinkies) via the pipe you attach to a sewer. Then you close that valve and open the grey water tank valve and use the slightly less stinky water to’flush’ the pipe. It doesn’t sound particularly clean but it seems to work. You also need to ‘prep’ the black tank with some sort of odour eating liquid by pouring it down the toilet once the tank is empty.With the generator, you must remember to turn off the air conditioning, prior to turning off the generator, to avoid damaging the thermostat and you must turn the air conditioning off if you want to use the microwave, as to not overwork the generator and activate its power breaker (leading you to believing it’s broken, when it’s not). You also need to turn on the water pump if you want to flush the toilet and have running taps but you mustn’t leave it on for too long when not in use. Then there’s the fridge freezer that runs off the auxiliary battery but if that’s running low,it can automatically switch to using the LPG but you must keep an eye on a ‘check’ light that can come on if there’s a problem. Then, with the LPG, you must have plenty of ventilation when using it or it will set off the gas warning alarm (my Dad could use one of them). Phew! That’s a lot to take in and remember and that’s not all of it. We’re picking it up reasonably quickly and getting used to the RV lifestyle. Thanks to RV Geek on the Youtube. I could certainly see myself bombing around Europe in a good few years time.

She’s a fairly greedy old girl and refuelling her is quite different to filling up the little Polo and Peugeot back home. 40 gallons later and I wished I’d had a book with me! I think she has a problem as she guzzles it down and gets through it pretty quickly (she needs to attend a petroholics anonymous group or something).
We’ve become very savvy with our water use too which has been interesting, given Rob’s level of sweating and our desire to have regular showers. The average shower will use about 17 gallons, If you times that by 2 then that’s pretty much half the tank gone in one day.So, it’s very quick shower (important bits only) or use the showers at the truck stops and campsites. We have several water containers that we fill each time for drinking water (someone seems to be drinking a lot of it!) and I buy a bag of ice now and again and keep it stored in a cool box, to help with those refreshing drinks on all these hot and sticky days.

She tries to have a laugh with us too. Turning up to a campsite in the dark is never the best idea. Add to that, the fact you need to fill your fresh water tank by torch light under mozzie attack before settling for the evening .We were bumbling around attaching the fresh water hose to the tap and trying to locate the fresh water tank connection.  We discovered it was perfectly located underneath the awning mechanism. Oh Brilliant! We got showed once how to unravel the very technical awning and unfortunately, a little frog jumping out held far too much of our attention than what Gary was explaining to us, so we had pretty much forgotten how. We were stood, scratching our heads and gnat bites, getting very frustrated at how on earth someone thought it a good idea to put the water supply port behind a metal pole. There was so much profanity and tutting, and I’m sure I heard some from Jenny. Eventually we managed it and filled up but then we had to put the awning back…you have a brief moment where you’re deciding if you actually need the awning and could you just rip it off?

She also farts (all women fart boys, it’s perfectly natural) and produces some interesting noises at times. Her flatulence though, is rather more an error on our part I believe and means we need to get her tanks flushed and cleaned sooner rather than later (bring on the bleach).

I’m at the stage where she’s my little home now and it bugs me when things aren’t where they should be (ROB!) or if she’s starting to get a little dirty (ROB) or if Rob’s there (introverted moments only). I have a little dustpan and brush; I have a little blanket for the sofa, to protect it from sweat; I have boxes and places for things to be and go. I have to be on top of the washing and as soon as I pass a ‘Washateria’ I get it on and done (people still use the dryers in 32’c!) I have formed my little OCD habits which means I’m feeling settled. She’s our protection from the sun; provider of cold drinks; comfort for our weary legs and she’s cute as a button. I feel responsible for her and I know now that I’ll miss her if and when we hand her over to someone new (maybe we just keep her?)

It’s a strange existence, espescially how we are doing it and I do find myself, alone and gazing upon rubbish and rusted metal strewn across some wasteland, wondering, what the hell am I doing? What on earth are we actually doing? We just run and drive along a road from 7am to 7pm, not knowing what we will see. Maybe just more road, maybe some interesting folk, maybe a grand lake or some breath taking scenery or maybe a discarded vibrator (thankfully, Rob left well alone…or so he says)? We stop for the night, at an RV park or a Truck stop, hoping either isn’t too close to the train line. I’ll whack the Microwave on (not before turning off the air con though) and pop a 3 minute culinary delight inside whilst rustling up some kind of salad. Or if I’m feeling adventurous, I may turn the stove on and play around with making a spaghetti bolognaise. After which I’ll get the washing up done (with minimal water use of course). Then we sit at the dining table and eat our dinner with a beer and chat or watch a bit of telly. We both end up very tired by 10 and ready to head for bed in our tiny bedroom (with en-suite if you open the toilet door out). We set the alarm for 6:30 am for the following morning,  to do it all again.
It is a very strange but curiously wonderful thing we’re doing and if you can, you should come and join us for a bit of it. Don’t mind Jenny’s flatulence and just don’t be too messy 😉

I knew you were trouble when you walked in.

Yes yes yes, I know these are the lyrics from the one, Taylor Swift and no (for those of you who don’t know of my bitter dislike) I am not a fan. Let’s not get started on why (I only have so many hours left in this day). This song  was on the radio and this line got me thinking; It fits pretty well with how I feel about Rob (go you Tay Tay, we’ve connected). Let me explain.

I met Rob many years ago whilst he was doing his PhD and he was working at the practice I worked at. We got on pretty well due to Rob’s ability to be totally engaging and talk to anybody about anything (I often like to watch the changes in people’s expressions when he first chats to them). This led to us discussing music, football, festivals, films and we obviously shared a curiosity about them animals (or’tha’naahtthties’ as we now greet every animal we ever see) our humour is of a very similar nature too (although I’m far funnier, of course).

We gradually became good mates. We went to tons of gigs, some music festivals, watched plenty of Liverpool games (thanks to my eldest brother’s obsession with LFC I grew to love the game) and of course, we worked together. 

I soon realised this Scouser was definitely a scally. A very cheeky chap indeed but it was impossible to not enjoy being around him. I made many a beautiful friend as a result of knowing him and met the best dog in the world. She once left a little present for me in the form of a very dry and small poo.

About 6 years ago (in the most unromantic way possible) we started  seeing each other. The transition from friends to partners was tricky but we got there.

A year later, Rob had an opportunity to move and work in Australia, I then also got offered a job and we naturally went with it. It was mind blowing. I fell in love with Melbourne and its beautiful, multicultural and relaxed feel. Not to mention the abundance of variety in food, bars, beers… It reminded me of the UK in lots of ways and helped me to feel less homesick. Sadly, it was time to head back home but of course, not before making some of the best friends we’ll ever have, knowing that if we shall return, they’ll be there, waiting for us at the airport (trying to send us back).
Rob was desperate to do this run and we were clearly at a stage where we could pull it off. We could get home, get our heads down into some work and see how we felt about not being in Melbourne (where I most definitely left a little piece of my heart, most likely with a little koala on the GOR). See how we felt about being home and what we needed to do about this Forrest Gump run thing, etc etc.

We moved into Rob’s house in Liverpool. I love Liverpool. If you’ve never been you really should go visit (maybe come visit us when we’re back). It’s always difficult to describe places, with giving enough credit. There are obviously bad and good no matter where you go. I truly believe, from the amount of places I have lived now, that it’s more about who you have around you. It’s horses for courses sure but without my family, best friends and good people, I don’t care too much for the sights and scenes or the weather. Just as well because Liverpool is a very windy and rainy place. Not daily and I got myself a good tan by sitting in the garden with the chickens but it’s not the greatest. That isn’t exclusive to Liverpool of course but what is exclusive to Liverpool is chatter. Chatter and laughter. Scousers are know for being super chatty, gregarious, passionate and friendly. It’s very true. If you have a GSOH you’ll do well there. I love the place and all the people that I met in those brief months are now my friends. We had good jobs and managed to knuckle down with organising the run.

Fast forward to September and I find myself emptying MY hand luggage and cramming MY stuff into my already large check-in bag so that Lord Pope, could use it for his stuff (and, breathe). This is a common occurrence and I really should just bring two (maybe 3) of everything I ever have, to account for “Rob Tax” (We had a blazing row once over a phone charger, I kid you not). We bicker, daily, and usually about my expectations being too high (like, wanting the cupboard doors closed, instead of left open or him putting my charger back when he’ borrowed it…) but it’s what we do and it’s mostly forgotten after 5 mins. So, where was I? Oh yes, the airport. I was at Heathrow airport, checking in our bags and the running buggy, with my favourite person, The Robla; heading to Mobile, AL about to embark on his ultimate dream, running Forrest Gump’s exact (as close as you unofficially can) route. I find myself driving a 30 ft RV in pitch black for 6hrs after having only test driven it a few hrs before;I find myself, on my knees, attaching a pipe to the ‘black’ tank (the secret code for the poo and pee tank in an RV) and emptying our, well, our stinks down into a sewer (Rob hasn’t felt obliged in this task yet!); I find myself with his feet in my face, with him instructing me that I have to check his feet daily (erm? I don’t remember that being part of the deal?) *heaves into hand*.

So, you see, I knew he was trouble when he walked in. He’s moved me to Australia, Liverpool (I’ve virtually handled his faeces) and now we’re doing this crazy stint across America, but what most excellent trouble to get into eh? I don’t think he’ll ever believe that he has made me a better person in many ways and given me some truly magnificent opportunities and for that kind of trouble, I’m immensely grateful.

It can all just get a bit too much sometimes.

Travelling, no, trundling down a gravel road, through the Atchafalaya national wildlife refuge;The sun still high and bright; The leaves of the trees shivering in a gentle breeze and the air conditioning rattling its cool air onto our pink, clammy faces.

At the end of this gravelled road is an open space, protected by its surrounding cohabitees in the form of trees and wildlife. There’s a wide stream that runs down to the left with, just can’t catch sight of them in time, jumping fish, catching their dinner for the evening; The trees, draping their branches into the still water. We park up and really relax. The day’s run has purposefully been pushed in order for us to enjoy the stay here. Washing done, water tank full, showers had and dinner started, all to the sounds of a cricket’s choir. 

Then….the generator packs in. The microwave only runs on the generator as does the air conditioning and electrical appliances requiring more than 12v. That’s our dinner for the evening out of the window, along with my enthusiasm for the rest of the trip (I know,very dramatic)

It really saddened me. It was an evening unplanned but completely needed after the truck stops and stinky motel rooms. We could still function but now with the burden of having to fix it the following day. Can we get it fixed and will it be a fast fix? Where on earth could we go to get it fixed and would I be stranded whilst it’s getting done. It just goes to show, that we’ll always be on our toes (so to speak) when it comes to this trip. 

Sometimes Rob wakes in a bad mood because he’s not managed to sleep well and of course worries about his ability to master the day’s challenge. Or he meets me in an anxious mood because he’s just too hot, thirsty or tired. Recently he has had to battle on with giant, ruptured blisters. I can’t walk in my fancy Irregular choice shoes for more than 5 minutes, let alone the 40 miles he’s pushing through! 

Sometimes I wake in a bad mood and just want a day off from getting up early, every day and driving or the Sat Nav sends me on some extra little jolly down some narrow dirt road surrounded by trailers, with curtains twitching along with my nerves. Sometimes (really not often) we’re greeted by not very happy or helpful people,feeling a little let down and frustrated.

When it’s not running smoothly it just isn’t a game I’m keen on playing. Then you realise that amongst all those occasions, you have the wins too. It’s so early into the trip and yet we’ve done exceptionally well. 

I’ve overcome my fear of driving Jenny on the “right” side of the road. I’ve driven from Texas to Louisiana and heading back West again.I’ve already met some lovely, helpful people. 

Rob’s ‘run’ from Mobile, Alabama to Stark, a little town just shy of the Texas border and still mostly maintains his very usual self both in demeanour and fitness. He’s run on non existant hard shoulders facing on coming traffic; In crippling heat and sometimes, in pitch black.  He’s engaged with people and helped me meet all these lovely, helpful people.

Nearly everyone we meet and talk to about the run are always amazed and offer great support. I often have to pull up on the side of the road and a few occasions, this has led to the local Sheriff’s checking on us (why do we get nervous when we’ve done nothing wrong?). They have all been overwhelmingly approachable and seem impressed by what Rob is planning, if not a little baffled (maybe it’s the accent)

Sometimes it all does get just a bit too much but to shamelessly use one of my favourite quotes, ‘what a wonderful thought it is, that some of the best days of our lives, haven’t happened yet’. Life in itself keeps us on our toes but equally can treat us to some magnificent moments; Once that generator went off, I could hear nature’s nightlife, with its darkness, song and romancing. 

P.s, Making a phone call the following morning resulted in an easy fix, with the help from an RV tech’ at Coach-net. What a wonderfully good decision to get their roadside cover. We also found Raccoon footprints on our doorstep; Really cute and funny to think they were checking us out whilst we slept.