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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.

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.

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. 

New blog

Oops! I almost wrote new blob, that’s the problem with typing while lying in bed with jet lag. That is this nasty not quite sleepy but not quite awake queasy feeling, yes? I now know what you’ve all been talking about. Grim. But the good thing is I do have the bed all to myself and it’s a queen size. John has his own about six feet away from me. He’s reading about the sewerage system on the beast of a truck we’re about to pick up. We are on day one, (or is it two or even three, anyhow we left home on Tuesday evening and now it’s Thursday), of our American adventure. We are celebrating 30 years of married life by attending a family wedding and doing what I think is a ‘road trip’.At present we are in Germantown which is NE of Washington. We have four hours to wait until we can pick up our RV and be on our way to  West Virginia. It’s 31 degrees outside, our hotel is situated on a busy intersection, there’s not much to see except parking lots, so we have gone back to bed.

I don’t follow many blogs but I enjoy The Practical Free Spirit’s (Amy Sundberg’s) posts. They are thoughtful, well structured and witty. She wrote recently about travel and how unsettling it is and how we learn as much about ourselves as we do about the new places we visit. Being unsettled is neither good nor bad, but you do find out what you’re made of when it happens. This is part of the experiment we are embarked on. Yesterday I learned how to be pampered. I liked it. It was unsettling I suppose, most of my travelling has been functional, getting from A-B without too much discomfort but yesterday’s experience took travel to another level.

Despite my advanced years I am not well-travelled. I don’t come out well on that Facebook app where you colour in all the places you’ve been. Both my children and my parents have been to more continents than me, and if we include nieces and nephews I reckon my extended family has just about covered the globe. Until yesterday I hadn’t done a flight longer than two hours but yesterday I flew business class from Heathrow to Washington Dulles. It was glorious. As a Trans-Atlantic virgin it quite made my day. I was shown to a little pod type cocoon with all sorts of sliding trays and roomy lockers, a quilt and pillow, a tilting screen to watch. I spent the first two hours playing with all the buttons and not quite mastering the reclining position of my seat. I watched one woman come in, assume a horizontal position, put her ear plugs in and eye mask on and sleep motionless for the next six hour.It obviously wasn’t her first time but I was so excited I could hardly sit still.

She missed the champagne and the Sancerre which went well with the fish pie: also the choice of many types of strong liquor (which I didn’t have). I hasten to add that I didn’t over indulge and, indeed emptied many bottles of fizzy water. And all served by your very own Jeeves. After lunch they turned the lights down and I got the idea I was supposed to stop fiddling now and sleep. It was like putting your head on the desk at school or that quiet moment at the end of a yoga class when we’re all afraid of dropping off, drooling or snoring. Just lovely. Then two hours later we were woken up, gently, gently by the lights coming on and then some dudey little prawn sandwiches and scones with real clotted cream appeared. I hadn’t really done anything since lunchtime except slide up and down in my seat and re arrange my locker, but I ate them anyway. I hate waste.

Since then our experiences have, shall I say, been mixed. But we’ve weathered it. Like those 30 years really.