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It seems fitting to be writing this in the middle of the night, wide awake with jet lag. My first post was written on my bed in a hotel with my body not quite knowing what it should be doing. Now it doesn’t know where it is.

I’ve just woken up and staggered to the door of the room. I couldn’t work out where I was: where had that bookcase appeared from and how did the doorframe get there?  I wasn’t in the van, nor in John’s aunty’s house, nor in a hotel room. I wasn’t snuggled/contorted in BA traveller plus (No, we didn’t get an upgrade on the way home), feeling muzzy and dehydrated and wondering what film it was I watched before I dropped off to sleep. Men in Black 3. It was rubbish.

It wasn’t until halfway down the corridor that I knew I was home. The carpet underfoot and the intermittent glow of the burglar alarm helped locate me. Home.

We’ve been home twelve hours. I have managed to stay awake all day as advised but somehow still my body is in DC time, it’s a strange phenomenon.

The sense of dislocation is similar what I felt at the beginning of our trip. Then it wasn’t about the place: I knew I was in a new place. It was not knowing where things are, not having a system, unsure of the division of labour in the van.

After so many years of living together we have division of labour at home pretty much sussed along traditional lines. In the van at first we were all over the place and it took me some time to adjust. What irritated me were the things which niggled in the early years of our marriage, when both feel that ‘my way was the way.’ These past three weeks we have had to relearn how to move round each other and, in a small space, it’s been a challenge.

          

Every day along with the glorious sightseeing we had to do the routine stuff: washing, cooking, shopping, eating, disposing of rubbish. Just like home, only you’re moving on all the time. So everyday it’s different, the same stuff happens but differently.

Hotels are easy. Your shower is right there with thick clean towels. Food is readily available. You’ve rented the room so you can sprinkle your stuff around willy nilly. If you’re lucky someone comes in changes or at least tidies your bed.  Unnerving but nice. The whole time is one massive treat and you can revert to being children, someone else taking care of you.

Living cheek by jowl in the van for three and a half weeks was not exactly a treat. Initially those small essential routines were hard to maintain. We had to learn to respect each other again, to surrender our insistence on doing things ‘my way’ for the sake of peace between us, the common good. Negotiations were at times tense, often at 5.30pm when we needed to find our site and eat. My friend May-Belle defused tension in one key area. Navigation.

We learned to trust her implicitly. Sometimes her idea of the shortest way did seem perverse, but her mechanical calmness placed a cushion between our two tetchy egos! We even took her along with us when we left the van, along with the passports and credit card.

No, it was still camping, both fun and filth but yesterday, had you said “All’s well at home, the baby’s fine. Your parents are ok. Amy’s watering the greenhouse.” Had you offered me three more weeks I would have taken them.Three more weeks yes please

We’ve have seen twelve or more the NE states of America. It has been wonderful. I’d like to see more, Ohio perhaps. More of West Virginia definitely. Much more of Vermont and Maine. I would recommend it as an eye-opener, for the spectacular scenery and intense celebration of history.

        Sunrise on Abraham Lincoln            

But it has also been a shake up, an insight into how we function together and the patterns we’ve established. It’s good to see that we are open to change despite our advancing years. Now we’re back can we maintain that flexibility? We’ll see.

Some things don’t change though. Strictly’s back on Saturday nights. Winter’s on its way.

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Stuff by the side of the road


More rain, so I am indoors, himself is running in search of a moose. Road signs promise them. Our last campsite but one virtually guaranteed your money back if you didn’t see one, but we didn’t. There is a large chocolate one on display somewhere about 200 miles back. It’s going to be rainy all day and Sunday afternoons are often dull so I expect it’ll be busy today.

I have seen a dead deer though by the side of the road. It was such a large, dignified creature to be just lying there, eyes still open, very sad. I feel the same in the UK with badgers. They seem to die baring their teeth in a rictus of defiance, as if they had any chance against the great metal beasts that mow them down.

We’ve seen other creatures. A lot of roadkill. I am getting inured to it and we speculate:

Him: What was that do you think?

Her: It looked like a puppy.

It wasn’t a puppy. I think it was a woodchuck.

How big is a woodchuck?

I don’t know.

I think I saw a dead porcupine back there.

Really?

Yup.

Remember we are doing a lot of miles and because of May-Belle we don’t need to argue about navigation.

Other features of the landscape. Bossy signs. We love them.

Yard sales. Yes yes yes. I love looking at other people’s stuff. It’s a bit like blogging. Some people put their nice useful stuff out and price it up modestly – it’ll do someone else a turn. Some people are generous and give away their good stuff: I’ve seen chairs and books and vacuum flasks and all sorts of things I could find a home for even here. Blogs exist like this too. Like the guy who wrote an immense and very useful guide to Boston. Thank you my friend.

Other people just put it all out there: a used Brillo pad, some greying knickers, a deflated lilo – turn it over and you see why, every newspaper they’ve not read since 1970. They put up a sign – FREE STUFF – what they mean is take away my old junk for me for free. Blogs can be like that too.

When I reach my destination, Harpers Ferry I mean, not heaven, I intend to have a yard sale. Or maybe put up a sign for FREE STUFF.

I have a sweet little doormat which has been very useful in keeping sand and grit out.

I wouldn’t give it houseroom at home but it’s been worth every dollar here. Two Walmart chairs. Ditto. A half used jar of Nutella. Very useful feeding in low blood sugar moments. Some healthy yoghurts we don’t like. Two rolls of special camping loo roll. And shedloads of those self sealing plastic bags.

Rain

It’s happened. The test of a true camper. It has rained, and mostly in my bed. I sleep, as you know, on a 4′ mattress of vinyl and cover myself with the designated ‘comforter’ Cruise America have supplied. Nylon sleeping bag more like. Sometimes I sleep with my head on an outside wall, sometimes by the kitchen sink depending on the camber of the pitch. Sometimes my head’s near the KFC bucket if we haven’t put it away. Mostly we have, Mum. And I know that it’s not nice to keep switching ends, feet-head, head-feet, but it’s just my head and just my feet and I do wear sandals in the shower.

But a few nights, a few campsites ago we were warned that they were expecting a lot of rain. A lot. We weren’t allowed to use the pitch we’d booked and were brought right up close to the office. They wanted to get home, the camp officials. They wanted to check their life jackets and all those tins saved up for the end times and then hunker down in front of the crap telly.

We ate this.
Crap food but was yum

It had started raining as we arrived so a barbie was not on that night. So we had crap food: they had crap telly, and food.

In the middle of the night I felt the sheet by my head – it was a head on the outside wall night – and it was damp. “Oh no, I ‘ve spilled my bottle of water”, which I don’t drink too much of because otherwise I’ll have to get up and use the ghastly loo. It wasn’t the water. Rain was coming in apace. and flooding my sheet, creeping towards my innocent sleeping face.

I changed ends. I squidged over. I placed a towel to soak up the drips. I moved the stuff in the cupboard above me – wet weather gear mostly, untouched so far. I was awake for a long, long time. I did not make a fuss. I didn’t ask to come home early or to go to a hotel. Aren’t you proud? I am. I made a cup of tea and put sugar in and drank it. And then somehow got back off to sleep.

It was still raining when I awoke. I was ready to have a paddy if the showers were piddly or cold or filthy. I ran over with my happy face on, wearing my fetching Niagara falls outfit, carrying all my washing stuff, dry clothes, towel etc, all draped in blue plastic. (CUE picture but broad band is too rubbish to upload.)

They weren’t. I could have stayed in there all morning but there was a kerfuffle outside and, as I emerged, a family of Belgians, damp but cheerful, were just outside waiting for the rain to ease before dismantling their tent. Which happened to be on top of a Defender. Five of them sleeping in and on a Land Rover. Not only that but they had driven up from Argentina, taking 15 months to travel south to north and were due to fly home from Halifax next week.We have a Defender. It’s great but I wouldn’t want to spend one night let alone over 400 in it. and with four other people. Respect.

It makes my little whinges about RV leaks look a bit paltry. So I’ll shut up now.

PS. It’s raining again tonight.

Lucky to be here

Association Island turned out to be a very pleasant place to spend a long weekend. We were sorry to leave. True it was camping on a scale I had never imagined. So many massive vehicles pumping so many air-conditioning units. Boxes of ice cooling party packs of Pepsi. Cable tv. Indoor and outdoor kitchens. Gas barbies heaving with steaks. Dinky little golf carts ferrying grannies and their grandkids to play table tennis in the recreation room.  And just before the sun went down they lit great log fires and sat round them. It was stiflingly hot, but they lit them anyhow. We did too.  It was fun. I even heard someone strumming and trying out their voice.

We swam in Lake Ontario. We had camped 300m away from the shores of Lake Erie but to our disappointment found it had been fenced off: no one stopped us here. Had we wanted to, or been able, we could have swum to Canada. And seen the bottom the whole way, the water was so clear and smooth. We felt a little conspicuous. No one else was swimming despite the heat and the lake was warmer than the campsite’s pool.  I am not sure what they were doing. Maintaining all that equipment takes time I imagine, and I did see several men on the roofs of the vehicles with sealant in hand.

For such a busy place the camp was impeccable, but then not one of the campsites we’ve been to had a bar, nor have they sold alcohol at all. The sites are rulesy: there are long lists of detailed regulations which John and I enjoy scoffing at. But people obey the rules, consequently there was none of the loutish behaviour  that happens in the UK over a hot bank holiday. No telltale heaps of dented cans or broken glass. All the land-based entertainment was family centred and of the gentle horseshoe throwing or beanbag into holes cut in wooden boxes variety. Very modest and rather innocent. The only shouting I heard was a mother telling Hunter, (Hunter?) a ginger headed boy of around three determined to drown himself, to stop running by the pool.  The kids wore cycle helmets and life jackets. No one had a fire on the beach.

I read once that giving your teenage children a curfew, to be in by, say 11.30 pm,  is not as I thought that they be in by that hour exactly to minute on the dot, but that planting the notion of that hour in their hormone driven little heads, will pull them back from staying out till 2am. Maybe such a detailed list of regulations reins back the kind of behaviour we so often experience at home. Perhaps we should try it.

Or maybe these Americans are just nice, regular, regulated guys. Whatever, we were lucky to be there. 

Waiting it out on Association Island

It’s Labour day, sorry Labor Day, so we’re holed up here on an industrial campsite, and waiting to move on to Lake Placid from where we’ll travel over to Vermont.

Time for a review.

John is enjoying this hugely. He loves this machine, the vehicle: getting gas is an adventure, propane more so. Emptying its many tanks and hooking up. (Praise God for hook up.) He enjoys mastering its ins and out. He loves devouring the miles and the vastness of the landscape. There is no end to his wonder and joy at the novelty of things American.

Me, well, I don’t want to spell it out but think of Christmas.

******* and joy.

Actually I will spell it out. I’d like a bit more comfort. It’s ok but I am sleeping on a 4’ vinyl covered mattress and washing up in a square bowl in a round sink. Great metaphor. Enough said. The bathroom is adequate. It will do when you’re on the road or when you’re desperate. I have had one shower in it, after the wedding in an attempt to rinse away motion sickness and a hangover and it didn’t really help. What helped was lots of nice strong coffee and several slices of pound cake and not being inside a wobbly, mostly plastic truck.

So now  I use campground amenities and take my lenses out. To be fair the cubicles are clean-ish but it’s not home is it? And girls these days do a lot of grooming.

Also I am of average build but when I am squeezing my way round the door of the loo I wonder at people who are more ‘traditionally built’ as Mma Ramwotse has it. How do they manage? Perhaps they do something clever with baby wipes.

More reviewing. Five useful things on this trip.

  1. Meet my new best friend. Her name is May – Belle and she has saved our marriage. John and I have set up a convenient ménage a trois and it works well. Had she not been around I would have jumped off this bus long ago. (Thank you Mr and Mrs Read for your advice). She’s available whenever you need her and doesn’t pull a face when you ignore her instructions. She never sulks and seems quite happy to live in her drawer when John and I want alone time.
  2. Those marvellous re-sealable plastic bags: another nod to the Reads. I was a little sniffy about them to begin with. they seem so un-ecofriendly but they have saved my bacon in keeping bread fresh, marinating chicken and many other domestic uses which I shan’t bore you with.
  3. A huge KFC bucket. This RV does not have a bin. John and I foolishly ordered a KFC of immense proportions early on and we made a valiant effort to finish it but couldn’t. I did like the ‘biscuits’ – what we call call scones I reckon. Some of those lived inside a resealable bag for a few days and I ate most of them with Nutella. Yum. Long after the meal has become a distant and greasy memory the bucket lives on lined with the many plastic bags they hand out everywhere.
  4. Avon Skin So Soft with jojoba. I don’t know who told me about this. Mum maybe? But it’s brilliant. We have camped by rivers and lakes and no bites so far. It even smells ok. John can keep his Deet.
  5. My velcro sandals. They are supremely comfortable and have seen me down Ohiopyle rapids and through many a grubby shower.

Things I brought I didn’t need.

  1. Hair-straightners. What was I thinking of? My hairdryer works at about 30% capacity so I may as well run through the trees and not bother with styling. As you can tell from the photos my dear husband has uploaded to FB.
  2. Make–up. Likewise. Although I am using a tiny bottle of Miss Dior which Helen bought me. I love it. It smells of civilisation, not woodsmoke.
  3. A rather swish long dress. Why? It’s screwed up under my tshirts waiting for the promise of a hotel at the end of this trip.

I realise this sounds a tad bilious. I am writing it for those who are watching and wondering about making the investment in such a vehicle. Ours is a basic model. We have not been invited in to visit our superior neighbours. If I get inside a luxury model (the weather will have to break first) I’ll let you know how they do it. In some style I’ll bet.