Leaving Las Vegas

The flashing lights and semi naked girls, the one arm bandits and poker tables, the high rollers and the low lifes. Vegas was no real surprise to me, much to Rob’s disappointment I think. He asked me at one point what I thought of the place, well, that was actually a tricky one to answer because I don’t think we really  did Vegas. 

I gambled a total of $5 and came away with 45c. I had a few beers but didn’t get drunk and went to bed early, but not ‘Vegas early’, as some Irish fellas (‘course they were Irish) were doing, when we were up at 7am to drop Jenny off to the garage. So, it’s an unfair response to say “meh” about it. I know if I had been there with time on my hands and money to burn, I would have absolutely loved it, it’s bonkers. As America was built around the car, Vegas was built around money and how it can take it away from you, with a sparkly glint in its eye. You walk (surprisingly lots) through New York (New York), Paris, Italy, Greece and Egypt. All of them fantastic replicas of the real thing but still with a casino, slap bang at the centre of them all. Having tried my luck on a fruit machine, for which I had no understanding of what-so-ever, I came away with 4c (winner) and a little pleased that I had partaken in a little gambling (check out this crazy chick). We did a lot of walking; a lot of up and down escalators to cross roads and get to yet another casino. We walked to the TV station for Rob’s interview with the local news and we walked to the famous Las Vegas sign which was of course, surrounded by about a billion other people. Through all this walking you see lots of people. People on their hols having a lovely time; people “working” the street and people selling “stuff” and lots of people without homes. It was cold still, and the thought of laying outside and trying to sleep warm and safely in that weather made me sad and so grateful for the luck and life I have, after all, it’s sheer luck that we get born into the world, where we are. The luck didn’t extend to winning a million off of a dollar though!

Whenever I have thought of Vegas, I feel transported back to the 80’s, full of cash, cash, cash and buxom women with giant…perms. Glitz and glam with the edge of danger but it actually was nothing like that. It felt, just very corporate and as with all corporates, it’s about making money by providing  just enough. We took advantage of the $23 all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, leaving us all a little full bellied and sleepy with a touch of food drunkenness. I must admit, I very much over indulged with 5 courses and a napkin full of cakes and cookies to boot. It was great but still with the slight tone of cheapness and tack. I guess that’s what Vegas is really, tacky but good tacky; like Blackpool but with fewer 12 year old smokers and bald workmen pinching your bum; like the arcades back home, except with men dishing out four $100 notes per game, instead of me gambling 20p in the 2p machine (that always looks like it’s about to drop about 20p’s worth) and very attractive ladies, dressed in feather boas, just covering their baps, walking around, instead of some greasy haired fella with a stained t-shirt that says ‘kiss me quick’. It’s just bigger and better but with a little bit of grime that I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed, if I was getting in at 7:30am, instead of getting up. One of the best things we did, was go to the Mirage to see the Beatle’s Love by Cirque du Soleil.Now, I was speechless, apart from singing along to every song. The performance, colour, energy and sound just mingled into a giant ball of greatness. If you like the Beatles, then you must go see this show, if you’re lucky enough to get the chance. My particular favourite was ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Something’. They made me want to get my lycra out (I know ) and get swinging on some giant swing, being all floaty and elegant  (I can picture it now!) 

I’m on my own now, well, with the exception of Robla obviously. Olivia left us on Friday to return back to the UK – very sad. It’s quite nice having a little bit of time on my own, back. Perhaps in some ways, it makes me a little happier being a bit busier, I’m sure that will wear off soon though. I don’t think we’ll have any one visit us before I leave now so I guess this is it until March, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes of course. I’m happy for now though. I look out of my driver window, with the wind squeezing in through the gap, where it’s not quite closed and stare at the familiar, brown mountains of Arizona, with some sun, finally warming me up. Relaxed from escaping my rising anxiety of driving out of Vegas and through the tourist trap of the Hoover Dam (which was amazing too by the way), thinking about how I should probably start making Rob’s sandwiches for his lunch but just not quite ready to move yet.

It’s cold, I’m cold.

I must admit, I have struggled for a few days here. My mood has sometimes been as icy as some of the overnights we’ve had and I can’t blame much but myself. However, those who really know Rob, know that I have a mini challenge some days just dealing with him. After finding his wallet in the drawer that he had already looked in and discovering that he couldn’t remember the PIN for his card, for us to withdraw some much needed funds, I gave in and shouted at him that he’ll probably die doing this on his own because he won’t have anyone sorting out his s***!!! I come to realise that occasionally, I am not in the best of moods.

It started so well, and even though I had the heavy lack of enthusiasm, we seemed to settle in quick with the routine we had left just before Xmas. We were heading into quieter country and I felt that familiar feeling of comfort and relaxation whilst gazing out of Jenny’s windows or taking photos of alien looking plants and constant beautiful scenery. It almost feels like each stop is in competition with the last, to be the best stop of the trip. It really is stunning scenery that cannot have justice made by any camera. You often have to just not even try and actually just absorb the sight that nature has set out for you at that very moment and just wish those that matter to you could have been there to see it too. Some of the most mind blowing scenes have nearly always contained moutains, with those extra tall ones getting a dusting of snow on their tips. This has also meant that some of our off-road overnight stops have been really cold. We were aware of this before we left. Instead of buying cute outfits and shoes when I was at home, I was eyeing up gloves, thermals and fleece lined snow boots (whoot whoo). Still, cold is something this heat loving girl, is no friend of and it’s been a little uncomfortable. Getting into bed early seems to be the most effective way of staying warm (with my thermal jim jams on) We have stayed in RV parks more often this time, so that we can use the hook-up electric and get the heating on at tropical levels. I don’t get people that say they would rather be too cold than too hot? You’re just weird and I don’t trust you. I can not see how anyone thinks it’s more comfortable shivering uncontrollably than sweating a bit??? Weird and untrustworthy. Any way, it is cold from time to time but we’re coping (just) and it makes for a very different experience compared to back in Louisiana, where I was struggling to blink without sweating. The rain has been quite a pain though. It’s dropped buckets here and although it’s good for the usually very dry land, it’s not that great for some crazy fella that wants to run 35 miles or for the support crew that want to see rolls of mountains and blue sky; instead, it’s more a case of peering through thousands of rain drops, scattered across the screen and using your imagination as to what scene the bumbling cloud is keeping from you.

Weather aside, it was going quite well of course, until one of our tyres went flat. This oddly coincided with the appearance of a Roadrunner (once again) who had very quickly come to check out Jenny (did he burst our tyre?) He was very cute and pretty confident too but the distraction didn’t last long and we decided that we should perhaps stop gawping at the nosey bird and maybe sort out the tyre. I’ve been here before, twice in fact and I was most definitely pretty pissed about this, not so exciting, 3rd time. This led me to believe that we could maybe limp to a near by tyre shop and get a new one but experience doesn’t always pay off and we ended up on the side of the road, needing two new tyres. Four hours later and nearly $500 poorer, my mood had lifted slightly but only because we were moving on. Rob had pulled some pretty impressive milage on his solo mission that led us to an RV site and of course, heating (hoorah!) 

Everything has been so up and down here through Death Valley, both moods and environment alike. Jenny’s (expensive) little tyres, climbing foot by foot to near 5000ft elevations with only minor grumbles, followed by a hasty retreat, as thick, cotton wool balls of snow started to fall. With sadness of not being able to stay and enjoy it and concerns of attempting the icy descent down in the rather heavy lady, hoping that Rob will be ok. Relief follows concern and then disappointment follows as you reach a point to rest at and are held captive by a downpour of heavy rain, or cruising along an open road to below sea level and feeling very vulnerable, whilst being surrounded by mountains, staring down at this tiny speck of a human being. Then finally, you get the opportunity to relax and enjoy the rest of your day, until the weather drops to around 6’c and you sit inside Jenny’s four (grossly uninsulated) walls, thinking to yourself, is it too early to put my jim jams on and head for bed

Here we go again…

Going home for Christmas, or going home due to visa restrictions and it very conveniently being around the holiday season, had been perfect. I managed to catch up with most of my best mates and spent quality time with my folks, which mainly consisted of eating lots of unhealthy but extremely tasty food and talking about my dog, Monty Monster of much monsterness. My Mum and Dad now have (stolen) my dog after they kindly looked after him when I moved to Australia for a few years. I could have him back but the truth is that his life is so much better with them and his partner in crime Alfie, (their lurcher) so I gladly but guiltily leave him there. 

Whilst I was back, I drank tea non stop, ate fish (no fish) and chips about 3 times, beans on toast 1 billion times and a full veggie English breakfast more times than I care to share with you. I enjoyed being surrounded by my fellow compatriots and simply loved being understood the first time I ask for something. Home really is where my heart is and I can’t deny how reluctant I was at heading back out to America. No offence intended of course, it’s just a case of what makes me feel happy. So, sat at Heathrow Airport departure lounge under the fluorescent lighting; trying to avoid that odd desire to buy unwanted items (I always want to buy a book or perfume at airports) and having just spoken with my Mum about a potential long weekend in the Cotswolds sometime when I’m back, I felt a strong feeling of sadness. I just didn’t feel the desire to go back to driving Jenny and having to “adult”, alone. Now, I’m fully capable of doing things on my own that need to be done and would go as far as to say that I’m an independent women (get out of my head Beyonce) but I don’t like having to do it, particularly the boring stuff like food shopping (YAWN) or getting petrol (a slightly less yawn as it can contain excellent opportunities for people watching). Basically, I like sharing the load and don’t we all I suppose. I learned from the previous run that although I am a slight introvert and I got used to driving this big ol’ girl, I still got fed up and a bit lonely; I realised that all the time we had someone else with us, it felt easier; I realised that maybe I can’t do all of this alone for the full run and that does sadden me but it’s simply the truth. I battle with wanting to be truly supportive but I also know that it’s a big ask and that Rob wouldn’t want me to do it under duress. Given how much we have also spent of our own money, it’s becoming very clear that we’ll not be able to afford both of us being here for another year. So this leg of the run will see me leaving before the end and returning home to work and maybe head back out at a later stage. I know that I’m going to feel horrendously guilty but I do believe that Rob will genuinely enjoy the challenge of going solo for a little while. 

At least our return started smoothly. Jenny was well when we picked her up, with just a minor brake light fuse to change (thanks Liv) and we were heading out of the crazy of LA. The familiar routine has nestled comfortably back in and I hadn’t forgotten how to drive on the right side of the road or attempted to change gears on an automatic. We have our best friend Olivia with us for a bit and the company is so valuable. It’s someone else to share the daily tasks with and have company for any hiking opportunities that may occur through the beautiful Californian scenery. It was also very valuable when the driver’s electric window decided it was done with “windowing” and slid very abruptly into hiding inside the door. With me sighing and thinking “here we go again”, we knuckled down and used our skills to fix the problem using some wood we found and the teeny tiny mini saw, on our $15 multi tool, until we could get to Vegas and find a mechanic. That’s not what people normally go to Vegas for is it? But hey, what happens in Vegas right? 

I do sit here now though, completely relaxed, and with great company, gazing out across the flat plains of the desert full with sprouting Joshua trees, edged by snowcapped mountains and think, hhmmmm, I wonder if I can make that flight home a little bit later?