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.