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?

It’s all coming to an end..

Wow. I can’t believe we’re here, just under 3 months of that crazy Robla running across America. What can I say about it, well, a lot really but I won’t go on too much.
So, we established pretty early on that I absolutely cacked my pants when first driving Jenny; that she’s a big butted girl in need of constant attention (similar to me really) and I guess I’ve come to terms with the whole ‘wrong’ side of the road driving but I’ll be honest with you, I’m looking forward to getting back to tiny Britain, with my cute car and short distances and being able to ‘walk’ to a shop. I’m looking forward to having some good old beans on toast with a solid cup of tea and a bakewell tart for its companion (cake should always accompany tea in my opinion). I have mostly adored the views and drives along the open roads but the more busier places and venturing in the dark has not had me all too thrilled about a second ‘leg’ (anyone keen to join us for the next one? Must like driving.) I did it though and even though I was petrified  (like, tears and everything) I wasn’t going to give up. I have learned and grown as people say. All challenges makes us a slightly newer person and I have definitely gained new skills (just come find me for any portable toilet questions). I have learned a little more about that Robert and I’m sure he has seen another side to my character, mainly the one that constantly asks him if he’s finished with what ever item he has ‘left’ out for longer than I’m happy with. It has been a truly interesting few months and not many people have ever done what we have together.

Making our way through the variety of scenes and challenges along the way, dumped us at the very end of Santa Monica pier, with friends and film crew, jammed amongst lots of tourists. A classic sandy beach with the ‘Baywatch’life guard stations to your left and right; a rough voiced gentleman singing the blues along with the squawking gulls. I had to try to catch Rob on the camcorder as he made his way down the pier to reach the end, capturing his turn around as to re-create Forrest Gump but it was all just too busy with people and the news crew, and I suppose really, I wanted to see him finish, after all, I’d been there every running step of the way.
I have driven, cooked, cleaned, waited, shouted, cried, waited, cleaned, driven, waited, not showered for days, filled petrol and food shopped on my own many times, waited, talked to myself, written blogs, cleaned, cooked, tweeted, instagrammed, driven, sent a million emails, cleaned, driven and cared. I have to be honest and say that I’m rather tired of it and I’m happy to be going home. I’m happy to not have to constantly worry about if Jenny’s going to fit into our next meeting spot or if we’ll find somewhere safe to pull up for the night. I’m tired of sitting and driving alone. I have been lacking in blogs recently as I have had so much company and I have been too engrossed in enjoying the respite to sit and write and it really has been fantastic to have our friends join us like they have; it made me realise how much time I had spent alone and by my own admission, I rather prefer it sometimes but of course, only when it suits me. So for me, this not being my ‘dream’, I’m really  glad for the break and yes, it is just a break because although it isn’t my dream or my challenge, I can’t give up. Seeing Rob’s face on that final day, surrounded by friends and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, beaming with well deserved pride, I knew he would want to turn around and carry on. Just after he had finished, all stood around, chatting excitedly about it I looked down to his discarded ‘Forrest Gump’ Nike Cortex trainers and noticed a white feather, perfectly snuggled next to them. I asked Rob if he had done it on purpose to which he, as equally surprised by the scene, replied no. If you’re familiar with the film then you’ll understand the connection and it was that, that made us realise we should carry on.Watching his story on the local news later that evening (in a British style pub no less) and the crowd roaring with excitement, chanting ‘Robbie, Robbie, Robbie’ and having their photos taken with him, I knew he would feel he had to turn around and carry on. 

Those who know Rob well, know that he will definitely carry on and I know that he could do so without me if I didn’t return. It would be more difficult but he would find some ingenious way but I couldn’t see him do it alone. I realised that along the way, with plenty of giggles, some shouting and tears, tons of shared moments,  and stinking together, we actually make a really good team Rob and I. Team Gump.

Seeing no-one, is the best view

​I felt oddly sad leaving Texas. It took us just over 4 weeks to cross it and I remember at the time of crossing the state line from Louisiana that I would think back on this very day and wonder where it all went, or at least I hoped I would and that I certainly wouldn’t be back home in the UK having given up. It’s like anything you ever look back on, you remember bits of it but you forget most until someone else mentions it. I started off uneasy about Texas, I won’t lie. I’m not what you would call a natural to the way of life here but I found people to be lovely and kind and the things I worried about didn’t affect me as much.  I had grown in confidence with my driving and greedily enjoyed the changing landscape along with he volume of peanut butter flavoured things. One of our last stops led us to a cafe in the middle of pretty much nowhere. The owner claimed to have something crazy like 120 acres of land and she liked it that way, as she told us ‘you can choose your neighbours’. I liked the idea of that, lots of land and away from people unless you chose otherwise.  It had a very homely feel along with lots of trinkets and shiny things that caught my eye.I didn’t buy anything this time though, having little space and genuinely little need for most items that were being sold there. It was just a shame that the exquisite pair of red cowboy boots were too small (dang) but we had our lunch for free and I took a piece of peanut butter cake that was that big, it had Jenny leaning to one side when I placed it in our fridge. With much gratitude from my mouth and belly, we said our goodbyes to those lovely folk. Texas is a big state but I didn’t grow tired of it like we’d be warned we would. So yeah, I feel sad about saying goodbye but thankfully, we stepped (wheeled) straight into New Mexico.

I didn’t know what to expect, except perhaps, just very similar to what we had left, having entered this new state almost halfway across it already. The volume of running that Rob’s been managing each day, we learned that we would likely cross New Mexico within four days to be In Arizona. Not having any expectations and with how my mood had taken me the last few days, it has been the most pleasant and rewarding surprise. After much deliberation over which route to take, we decided on Highway 9, which runs very close to the Mexican border. Therefore, Border patrol are in very heavy presence here and just as you do, whenever the police are around, you feel unnecessarily guilty. The road though, was amazingly quiet and open; it made my travel along it very enjoyable and relaxed, having no-one behind me, hovering like an angry wasp, desperate to pass.  Our final stop on the first night had us sat on a  raised tarmac area facing Mexico, with huge mountains all around us. Rob had spoken with one of the Border Patrol guys about us just parking up overnight; both of us a little worried about the suspicious look of an RV so close to the border. He was more than happy for us to and even insisted that we get hold of any of them should we have any concerns. A good few more patrols took those guys way beyond where we parked, to keep a closer eye on the border all night. I know this beacause once we had settled in our spot for the night, a brilliant thunderstorm started and to my delight, after dinner, Rob suggested we turn off the lights to watch it in complete darkness. I didn’t need asking twice and I had many failed attempts  at trying to catch a lightening strike on my phone camera. I also watched Border patrol cars doing their job along the border, multiple times.  We seemed to have entered a period of strong winds and thunderstorms as we entered New Mexico and I actually really like it. The temperature’s  dropped a little and I mostly wear my jogging bottoms and hoodie in the mornings which is a nice break from the constant heat, it’s still not cold but enough for me to feel all snuggled inside, with my cup of tea, staring out across the flat plains edged by the moutains; looking like a thick pile rug that’s bunched up at the edges. The wind, rushing busily across the landscape with that sound of a bleak winter and emptiness. I know that may sound perhaps a bit miserable but it’s beautiful. You suddenly have a moment where you realise just how wonderful this world is and how peaceful being alone can be. The scenery is a little like what you would find in Scotland and with the weather, it perhaps has made me feel like I’m home. Whatever it is, I don’t care but it has certainly made me contented. Just this morning I sat with my tea, gazing over a field backed by a mountain.
As I previously mentioned, my mood has totally suited my environment. I have been, I guess a little melancholic, not in a really sad way but in a way that my introverted self goes into. I’m very aware and fine with it. Melancholy is a normal and quite powerful emotion that we’re susceptible of and should embrace it, after all, there are no rainbows without the sun and rain. If possible, whenever I feel this way, I try to hide away from people; everyone if I can, by either walking some remote part of he country or being alone in a quiet place where I will listen to certain genres of music and maybe write some poetry, not for anyone to read but as a form of sharing my feelings. I strangely enjoy it but mostly because I don’t feel that way for long or very often and so I guess it’s just another way of being a bit self centred and nurturing yourself. It’s the mood I have mostly been in through New Mexico and it couldn’t be more perfect. For this perfect set up, I have chosen a guy called Ludovico Einaudi, a composer I discovered whilst watching the “This is England” series to listen to. His music is stunning and very provocative to emotions. I particularly like Waterways and Experience; give it a listen, you may like it and if not, there’s never any harm in checking it out; just be somewhere peaceful if you do though.
I have now had a decent chance to feel how life on the road feels, how we all dream it should be, with that perfect scenery of openess and emptiness of humans. It’s been hugely therapeutic and I feel it may be my go-to option in future, when I feel the need to escape for a little while. Get Ash (the VW Campervan) revved up and head off to some nearby Welsh or Yorkshire mountains, drink tea and reflect on life a little. Breath in the peace and beauty of Mother nature to refuel, yes, I would strongly recommend this to anyone, It’s soul food.

Slowly heading to the state border line that will take us into Arizona, eases me out of my self reflective mood into looking forward to our visitor for two weeks, joining us on our odd version of a road trip, Richard Beer. A long time friend of Rob’s and one I have stolen since our many visits to Glastonbury music festival. We have both been as excited as children on school holidays at the prospect of Beer joining us. It gives another angle to the trip; gives Rob someone else to (constantly) talk to and run with and I can enjoy the breaks in between his running with conversation about what you would do in a zombie apocalypse or discuss what time we should  attempt ‘Baggy Mondays’ at Glastonbury next year. It’s just great having friends around and the offer is there for the taking should you fancy it? 

So a very pleasant move through New Mexico with a mixture of my emotions making it so. I recommend it here and I think I’d like to visit here again for sure but with the knowledge of a move onto different scenery. It’s the changes in surroundings and company that have kept this interesting. One day I’ll be dreamily looking out at mountains and another will find me feeling tiny, walking through stacks of american lorries, lined up at a truck stop or I’ll  be sat in a bar in a cowboy town drinking a Golden Ale with friends. I have always found myself wanting to come back to visit a place again and I think, that is always the best way to leave.


So, if you’ve  been following my blogs, then you’ll be only too aware that this is generally how my day plays out, with the odd bit of photography, reading, writing and intelligent conversation with Bubba added in there.

It’s not all work, work, work though. I am, at this very moment, sitting on the steps of a sports shop, waiting on the returning members of a running club that Rob has joined, for their evening run, before we head for dinner and a few bevvies at a local bar. I’m looking at the stunning mountains that El Paso runs through, with the sun slowly setting and giving me an oil painting view, of the orange and pink clouds, looking as though they’re about to lay over the mountains like a fluffy duvet. So beautiful. So peaceful. Moments like these I love but I am not a complete hermit (just in case I’m making it look that way?) Having decided it was best if we stayed at a hotel for a couple of nights as a break and to have time to check out El Paso, we headed into town last night, to hunt down some ghoulish action -what with it being Halloween – craft beer and dinner. We stumbled across a bar known for its fine selection of craft beer and having vegetarian options (winner) and so we ended up being sat there all night; chatting to an American guy about all sorts of stuff, slowly getting a little tipsy. I do also love those moments; finding a good pub/ bar to sit in, with good beer and interesting conversation. I am missing social interactions with my friends very much and it’s so nice for us both to let our hair down (or at least wash it, then let it down) and meet people. Of course, we don’t really ever have a day off from running (= me driving) Rob doesn’t want to have any days off whilst we are doing this. I think he’ll feel like he’s not really doing it properly so, there is no break from buckling-up and hunting out parking spots. I have though, at least, had a break from cooking.

Cooking is not my thing, unless we’re talking baking cakes or biscuits then I’m not interested. I hate cooking; I hate having to work all day, to then get home and firstly decide what to eat, then stand cooking it, bored, only to scoff it down in 5 minutes and be left with the washing up. A recent trip to Ikea and spotting a dishwasher, led Rob to marvel on how we haven’t seemed to need one since we moved to Liverpool. I politely pointed out, that that is probably because I’m mostly doing it *raised eyebrow stare*. So, cooking ain’t my thing but sadly, I have to do it, with as much fake enthusiasm as I can muster but I ain’t fooling no-one. So far, Rob owes me a lot of dinners and being the main driver for a while, when we get back home. I have also stated that we need an actual holiday, where I dont drive or cook, or do anything other than the daily, required bodily functions and maybe shower, maybe…. Until then, I shall glady (not gladly) continue to cook. Our meals can be quite interesting but would most definitely add a few more lines on Gordon Ramsey forehead. I try to cook in a way to conserve our fuel, both petrol (for the generator, obviously) and propane, using frozen and tinned options. Add in, that I’m a vegetarian and Rob’s intolerance to cheese and we certainly make my job harder. A day’s routine goes a little like this-  After Rob’s morning run, I’ll make him some porridge and will add honey and slice a banana through it, nothing too tricky there (skills eh). Lunch time is always two ham sandwiches (just the one cheese for me) but I’ll use avocado as a butter replacement (that’s how the Aussies do it Gordon) and I will make sure there is plenty of green leaves and tomato to keep it healthy. To try and keep his salt levels up, I try to force him to eat a packet of crisps (whilst I get my daily fix of Cheetos) and he usually has a fizzy, sugary drink. Dinner time is usually around 6:30, once Rob’s intestines have gotten used to staying still and realise they may actually want some food. I have thankfully found a section in most supermarkets that offer good meat alternatives, like spare ribs, sausages, meatballs and chicken pieces to name a few. Rob is a total legend (yeah yeah, we know right?), the day I decided to give up meat again ( having been a veggie in my youth) I told Rob I would also avoid the big fast food chains as much as possible. He responded with great enthusiasm and although I never expect anybody to become vegetarian (although I would secretly love it) Rob told me that he would quite happily eat vegetarian every time that a good option was available to him and he has stuck with it. This in turn, has proven so, with most of the meals I cook. I have bought real meat ( shudder) as I know he both needs and wants that little extra nutrition (around an extra 3000 calories) We have both enjoyed soya mince spaghetti bolognaise, meatballs and spaghetti, burritos with salad or vegetables, sausages and fried potatoes, bacon (just Rob) with beans and mash, tofu chicken curry, fake chorizo (which claimed you wouldn’t tell the difference yet you actually really could) and Spanish rice with vegetables. Now and then,  I get a little inspired and attempt to make some thing a little more challenging  (not beef wellington though Gordon, I don’t get that inspired ). On our approach to El Paso, our supplies were starting to run a little thin so I made Rob ( I opened the tin and put it in the microwave ) some chicken noodle soup and I suggested that maybe we could add some ham to it to beef (pork) it up; Rob had the excellent idea of adding the previous evening’s leftovers, of mashed potato and beans to this concoction with the addition of some chunky bread pieces. I stared at him and his meal, wondering what a sport’s nutritionist would make of our attempts ( oh, and Gordon) but it was actually quite rewarding, getting through our supplies. He seems pretty happy with what I dish up and I’m managing to avoid anything that takes too long and therefore avoid my lack of concentration, which in turn, prevents me likely starting a fire and then bye bye Jenny.
I like it once the last meal is cooked for the day. It means the driving is done and the constant feeling of waiting has finished. I particularly like it when we have pulled in to a side road and we’re on our own. I feel relaxed and we enjoy a beer whilst watching yet another beautiful sunset; the sun dropping into bed as if to say, all done for today now. having no TV or Internet sometimes means we actually rest and talk or do some writing and reading.  I have started to look forward to bed, at the now insane time of 9pm; having the constant 6/6:30 am starts and the very dark surroundings, settles you into a comfortable tired zone by 10 pm, so I’ll make myself a cuppa and wind down.  I am normally such a night owl and often, under normal conditions, I will go to bed around midnight. My optimal time to get up in the morning would normally be around 8. However, the need to earn money for things like, food and shelter often requires me to have a job where I have to get up earlier but I’m really not a fan. I really need to work for myself, writing novels or making cute shoes, between the hours of 9-4, would be perfect. 

It’s completely strange for both of us to have this sleep pattern that we’ve developed. We go to bed and wake up together; not because we’re being cute but because it’s necessary. You have zero chance of sleeping if anyone else is up and about, you’re in such close proximity, you can hear the other thinking. If either of us gets up to pee in the night, you wake to find yourself rocking from side to side, listening to the passing of urine and then the subtle  sounds of the water pump and toilet flush,  just as if it was next to your head because it practically is. We’re long past the shyness of the toilet issue but having it in surround sound with additional motion sense is a little more than I would like. Thankfully, the bed is comfy and pretty big as Rob invariably likes to invade my side of the bed along with my pillows and blankets. We’ve decided to have our own blankets so as one of us can’t blame the other for stealing the majority of it (Rob is actually terrible for this but he’d never admit it). We have good pillow and blanket ratio and sleep mostly very well until Rob’s alarm clock goes off. A little part of me has an inner battle between screaming and crying. I know it’s dramatic but it’s only brief and then I’m all smiles and encouragement about how the day is going to be. Most likely, very similar to the previous one but maybe I’ll do something a bit different for dinner tonight?

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.