(3 days in)
We’ve been here for an almost full 48 hours and I can tell you that it is the best thing I’ve ever done. I recently cycled 187 miles over 2 days for children with life-limiting conditions, and although I have to admit that is more meaningful (even with it’s groin strain, leg pain and intimate sports massages), this is by far the more fun option.
Our Story Begins…
With so many security checks. My bag is full of gadgets, two cameras, mobile phone, battery, tablet, kindle, two pairs of noise cancelling headphones. So when you try to look at that through an X-Ray machine, you need another pair of eyes. But at least Megan and the security attendant had a laugh about the fact that paper and filing cabinets where relics of the past. After this more than understandable due diligence, I was then randomly selected for additional security checks at the gate. Which meant that after the standard cocktail after check-in we made our way to the furthest gate possible (how is it always the furthest gate possible?) in terminal 2. Once there I sheepishly offered myself forward for whatever G4S wanted to do with me. Obviously this was just to re-check all of the items in the bag and swab my shoes and hands. This was done and I was allowed to board early for the inconvenience (Megan wasn’t allowed to join me in this so I mostly just sat in stony silence, nodding politely at the priority members of our fellow passenger list).
The worst of a bad bunch, I was resigned to the ‘J’ seat of row 41. This meant I sat between Megan on the aisle side (seat H, which my ticket actually read) and Jade India (a 15 year old who didn’t eat anything the entire flight and barely came out from under the provided blanket) on the window seat. The flight itself was uneventful; minimal turbulence, no drunken brawls and disappointingly nil first class upgrades. 3¾ films (Prometheus, X-Men Apocalypse, Blade Runner and Kong: Skull Island, for those interested), one vodka orange and a bourbon on the rocks later, we touched down in our sun drenched starting line: Los Angeles, California. Through Homeland Security with a thick New York “Welcome to the United States”, we made our way to our pit stop for the night, Motel 6.
“So you’re on the 8th floor, and then it’s just on your right” she said, through a customer weary smile.
“Thank you”, she replied, with a jetlagged and equally tired expression.
Together we made our way into the nearby elevator, dragging our joint colour-matching 35 kilo luggage in with us.
“Come on, Big-Man” he snapped, urging a small canine in behind him.”Just landed, huh?”
“Yes! So happy to finally be here!” she answered, mustering the last of her social skills.
“LA’s a big city. A wonderful city but really big.” A ding and the doors opened. “Enjoy your time here!” and he was gone.
5 floors later the doors opened once more. Dutifully we turned right and found our door, 813. A sharp snap of the keycard and a characteristic green light on the handle and we were in. Mottled white wallpaper, 80’s orange and brown upholstery and a faint scent of stale smoke, a smile flashed across her face.
“We made it” she sighed
“Finally” I added. “Sleep?” it was all I could bring to the conversation.
My New Toy
MANONE – The name of our mighty steed. We’ve yet to decide if this is ‘man-one’, or ‘mah-none’ or ‘mah-no-nay’ (if anyone can enlighten us that would be appreciated) but at least Nate, the Escape employee and poster boy for Vans (appropriately), told us that we could follow the artist on Instagram (@vyalone – look him up, his work is fantastic). Hopefully you’ve all seen pictures of our new four-wheeled bestie, but if not imagine a Ford Transit van, decked out with custom fitted campervan interior, modern day air-con, sat-nav and reversing camera (phew). Now add that it holds the middle ground between a decision of orange or blue. We were given this newer van at no extra cost as our journey is a huge 84 days long (10,000+ miles). We didn’t argue at all and in fact, practically kissed the man for his goodwill.
I’ll keep this next section brief to hopefully portray my stress of driving on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the vehicle, in the biggest vehicle I’ve driven, on the widest and busiest highways I’ve ever driven on:
It was fine.
We made one pit-stop on our way to our bed for the night: Walmart. I’d heard only great things about Walmart, mystical and magical things about being able to buy anything you could need and coming out with triple the amount of items in your trolley than you went in wanting to buy. And they were not wrong. After turning down the option of a kayak, plasma TV, fine jewellery and ridiculously large cartons of Sunny-D, we left $150 poorer but with enough stuff to sustain our next 4 days of camp ground living. 50 minutes more of tense highway driving, we made it to our reserved space in the low lying portion of Highway 33, Wheeler Gorge.
Today we made an excursion out to a near-by recreation area. This gave Meg a chance to give driving the van a whirl (all giggles and smiles, she loved it as much as we thought she would). We travelled about 30 miles and climbed 7500 feet above sea-level to find one of the greatest views I’ve ever laid eyes on (again, hopefully you’ve seen these photos but if not, believe me when I see I’m grateful my glasses prescription is up to scratch). We saw our first rattlesnake, thankfully from behind the glass of Manone. It was casually crossing the road, the same as chickens before it would have. We also found close to 30 lizards on our short hike from the lunch spot to ‘that point over there’, and even an eagle on the drive back, but sadly no bears or mountain lions (yes, these are apparently common place here).
Surrounded by families, tents and bonfires, we certainly stick out with our bi-polar colour scheme van and more than basic fold out table and chair set. But currently I find it impossible to think of anywhere I’d prefer to be. But to be fair, I’m not even trying.