We said goodbye to London and our first home together to start something new...
16th September 2018
We were startled awake by the noise of a park ranger knocking on Derek’s window. It turns out our neighbours hadn’t been murderers but they also hadn’t stayed and had left a mess behind, making our situation look a whole lot worse. After being threatened with a fine, Alex sheepishly managed to get away with a warning while Eve hid inside the car. (The ranger’s junior partner seemed much more interested in Derek than on giving us a hard time anyway). We had a quick coffee and filled up our water tanks and then headed out of the park, picking up our national parks pass for $60 on the way out, something we should’ve bought a while back. We were headed to Arches National Park and had a long drive ahead of us, not helped by a closed road that google warned us was on the route. Perhaps it was something to do with the forest fires which we saw along the way - at times driving within a few hundred metres of visible flames! Because the suggested detour was so huge we decided to take a risk and ignore the road closure, which amazingly turned out to be a good decision and the journey wasn’t too bad, despite a fairly costly wrong turn at one point.
As we got close to Arches the scenery changed from hot (boring) open desert to spectacular red rock canyons, and we spent a while looking around for a good spot to camp. There were plenty of cheap sites just outside the park but the vast majority were completely open to the hot sun. We ended up about half hour’s drive from the park entrance but it was worth it, we had a beautiful spot next to the river, with a huge lush tree providing plenty of shade for us, our hammock and even Derek. Alex did his usual wood-chopping but it was completely pointless because even at night it was too hot to have a fire.
15th September 2018
Next day we drove to Salt Lake City. On the way in Alex found out that there was a college football game going on that evening and managed to buy us some tickets. We planned to stay in a parking lot north of the city so we parked there and got the tram into town. It was incredibly hot so we decided to find ourselves a nice shady spot for a boozy lunch. Both objectives achieved after a couple of hours eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas, we’d also planned our trip to Vegas (and drunkenly splashed out on a hotel). We then went for a trip to the local apple store to try and fix our broken hard drive. We quickly sobered up when we found out how much it was going to cost to recover our lovely drone videos. Stupid technology! By then there wasn’t long till the start of the Utes game so we skipped taking a look at the Mormon headquarters and headed over to the stadium. On the way, Alex was complimented on his tattoo by a girl who had almost the exact some one (except Alex’s was much nicer) and we got a rather drunken call from Joe, Chris and Lauren back home.
When we got to the stadium we were frustrated by the stupid no-bag rules and quickly realised that college football meant there wasn’t any beer on sale, but we did get free t-shirts and bought a snowcone. We made some friends with the Italian-Mormons next to us. The build up to the game, with marching bands, cheerleaders and even a fly-by of fighter jets, was probably better than the actual football on show (especially thanks to some dubious calls by the referees), but we both enjoyed cheering ‘we will protect this house’ and eating pop corn and Eve only started falling asleep late in the 4th quarter. We squeezed onto a packed tram back to our car park home but then quickly decided we didn’t much like it there and instead drove an hour out of town to a provincial park (lucky there wasn’t any beer at the game after all!). Once we got to the park it was around 1am so we didn’t bother going all the way up to the camping spot and pulled into a picnic area instead. There were other people there so we assumed it would be fine, but then Eve stayed up most of the night worrying that they would come over and murder us.
14th September 2018
Next morning we left enough stuff to claim our camping spot and drove to City Of Rocks national park to do some climbing. Alex had researched gentler climbs to ease Eve into it. However it was a busy spot and all the routes were taken. We tried to find others but it was tricky without a guide. Alex tried a route but the bolts were hard to see and even our new rope wasn’t quite long enough making things difficult. Eve tried another route without top roping it first and unfortunately froze up again. This one was a proper freeze and almost couldn’t climb down. Alex did another couple of routes before we headed back. Sadly climbing hadn’t been as good as we’d hoped but we loved this campsite. It was a clear night so after dinner we took cushions and blankets up on the roof and looked at the stars.
13th September 2018
Idaho was a crazy mix of scenery. Shortly after the riverside camping spot we drove through beautiful farmland, a huge gorge and past snow capped mountains. We took some time to take drone footage on the empty road that came out amazing. Afterwards the scenery turn bleak and boring and then into desert. The desert was our next stop and we pulled off the unpaved Idaho roads onto the bumpiest rockiest road so far. We found a great spot under and beautiful tree with bleached sheep bones in it and set up camp. Thanks to the new kitchen we had bolognese on the stove and we’re drinking wine in minuets.
12th September 2018
We were so excited to be back on the road. Derek was running like a dream and the kitchen and bathroom units made setting up and packing away camp super easy. Everything now has a place in the car and we’re feeling really comfortable and easy now. We’re also reflecting on how lucky we were to break down where we did, with some signal near by and a large town only an hour away, also thank god for the Internet and over night shipping. We’d only lost three days and we’d managed to use them effectively. We headed for another stop three hours south near a river. It felt a bit sketchy with one RV that looked permanent with lots of stuff outside including an old sofa. Eve had a usual freaked out night scared of murderers but we survived the night.
11th September 2018
We went straight into Eisinger to see if our part had arrived, and to get another free breakfast. It hadn’t so we went to Lowes to gets the last few bits we needed for our kitchen set up. We feel like we’re going a bit mad in the Kallispell retail park, we keep making shit jokes and absolutely cracking up. On the way back we saw a UPS van and got excited that our part might have arrived. We strolled in and bumped into our mechanic Jeremy and asked if it had, he’d already fitted it! We waited four days for a fix that took 20 minutes. We checked that the car was running smoothly, paid $350 and went round the dealership to thank, Steve, Jeremy and Brenda for letting us stay and helping get us back on the road. After a quick stop at Walmart for supplies we hit the road elated. We headed just an hour south, as it was quite late in the day, back to a spot we’d stayed at on our way north to Banff. The spot was taken but there was a National campground near by to we went there instead and popped a bottle in celebration and cooked our dinner using a new kitchen set up.
10th September 2018
Next day we woke to the employees of Eisinger Motors arriving for work. We got up and were invited inside for free coffee and bagels. Brenda the lady who researches car parts came through to tell us that she’d identified the serial number of the part we needed but the only one she could find was on amazon and would take two weeks to arrive. So we used the WiFi to carry on the search and see if there was one somewhere already in the US. Alex eventually managed to track one down in New York. He got them them to overnight it to Montana. We stayed for a bit to use the WiFi and got chatting a guy called Lin who had lost his home in the recession and ever since traveled the country with his wife in an RV spending the cooler months south and the hotter ones north and described how difficult it is being a nomad in the modern world as everything wants your address. He was a really happy and content guy. Afterwards we headed back to The Home Depot for the millionth time for the extra parts we needed. And then back to finish the kitchen. It took longer than we expected and it was getting dark before we decided to stop and go for dinner.
9th September 2018
The next morning staying true to our resolution of positivity we made a plan for the day. We decided we may as well make use of the time and the handy The Home Depot and make our kitchen set up. We’d also decided to make a shelf for the other side with a hose and shower head connected to the two water carriers on the roof for a bathroom. We called our families and spent the morning shopping for all the bits we needed. Then went back to our car park home and started work. We managed to make the shelf but in the process figured it we needed more bits for the shelf. We stopped work and headed to the same bar as the night before to watch the NFL.
8th September 2018
Early the next morning we got up feeling groggy and ate the free breakfast before getting an Uber to Eisinger Motors. No one seemed to have noticed the bright red foreign car parked outside. We explained what had happened to the confused looking service centre manager. He came outside to take a look. As one of the engineers was passing he took an interest and seemed to think the problem would be fixable. We left Derek in their capable hands. Luckily the Chevy dealership was in a sort of retail park on the outskirts of Kallispell, since Kallispell didn’t have any public transport we were able to walk to a few chain restaurants and shops. We went over to The Home Depot to reccy ideas for making a shelf. TJMaxx for a down jacket for Eve and then to get lunch and wait for news about the car. Steve Eisinger called with good news! They’d managed to botch together the part they needed and they were just about to fit it! Half and hour later he called again...they’d fitted the part and then gone to fit the new drive belt when other part of the engine had fallen off. We went in to see them and established we needed a new part. It was the end of the day so we’d have to wait until Monday until they could look for the part. However Steve told us we could sleep in the car in the parking lot out the back of the garage which actually didn’t have a bad view. We thanked them and went out for dinner, remaining positive.
7th September 2018
With a new resolution to both stay positive and be nicer to each other we headed back across the border into the US. The campground we’d looked up was along the edge of a huge man made reservoir. Unfortunately the coordinates took us to a random point along the main road that ran along side the lake (sometimes we forget to read the camp reviews). We continued on, pulling into the state run campgrounds, they were only $15 but uninspiring so we decided to keep driving until we got signal. Derek had started to make a weird noise so when we stopped we lifted the bonnet but our uneducated eyes couldn't see any problems. We checked freecampsite.net and found a site just five minutes down the road. As we pulled off the engine started squealing. We quickly turned off the engine and opened the bonnet again. This time the problem was obvious. The drive belt had frayed and one of the cogs was tilted forward.
We’d stopped on a steep hill so we rolled him down into a lovely spot that would have been our campsite for the night. After we’d looked through the Haynes manual, taken off some cogs and established that we weren’t going to be able to fix it ourselves we decided to walk up the road to where we’d had signal earlier. We’d managed to establish that we had road side recovery covered with our US insurance (thankfully!). After giving confusing instructions in GPS coordinates we went back to the car to wait for a tow.
3 hours later no one had come so we walked back up and called them. The guy in the tow said he’d be another hour and a half at least. So we made dinner and got into the car to wait. Eventually the tow arrived. We aren’t sure if it’d be able to get down the strap slope but T.J was a totally legend and backed his truck down no problems. He loaded Derek up and introduced us to his lovely dad who had come along to keep him company. The auto shop the insurers had told him to take us to was in a tiny town and looked like it was a private garage. We were trying to figure out what to do when the owner of the property came out. He was a huge shirtless tattooed man who helpfully told us that his shop was closed on the weekend and advised us to go to Eisinger Motors in Kallispell. T.J thanked him for not shooting us (!) and took us there. We left Derek in the parking lot and went to the nearest hotel with 24 hour reception. We checked into the Travel Lodge and went to sleep around 2am.
6th September 2018
In the morning we had a tiff about whether or not the shelf plan would work and had an unhappy drive through Alberta. The new campground was beautiful however and had a short walk down to a river. Unfortunately it was through a field of cows (Eve’s worst nightmare) but we made it. The river was amazing with deep pool and rocks to jump off. The was another group already there doing back flips. After they left Alex went up to the rapids that dropped into the waterfall and built up the courage to take the literal plunge. He came out of it with a bruised hip but convinced eve it was fun. After half an hour of working up to it Eve went down. Unfortunately Eve managed to hit a rock at the bottom with both knees and emerged without feeling in her legs. After managing to doggy paddle to the side sobbing, we established that there were no broken bones just two very dead legs. There's nothing like a near broken bone experience to move you past the past few difficult days.
5th September 2018
We spent the morning discussing how we might be able to make a shelf set up for the car. We’d decided that the cause of some of our stress and bickering was the constant unpacking and packing and trying the keep everything clean, especially having to bear proof the campsite before bed every night. After we’d done some planning we walked up to the see Johnson canyon. The sun was shining which cheered both of us up. We managed to lose the crowds and selfie takers by heading off the trail and found a way down to a waterfall. Another cold night bundled round the fire.
4th September 2018
We booked to do white water rafting at 2pm today. The rafting place was an hour and half away past lake Louise. We also needed to switch campsites. We headed over to lake Louise town and had breakfast and used the cafe Wi-fi until it was time to go for rafting. Rafting was great fun and the sun was shining the entire time making it warm despite the freezing waters. We were in an all-paddle group with two Americans and two Brits, also from London. Our guide was a Canadian guy. The water levels weren’t that high so the rapids weren’t too wild but we had fun. Afterwards we chatted to the British couple from London and asked them if they wanted to join us for a drink in Banff town. We drove to our new campsite at Johnson canyon and had a quick shower before heading back to Banff. It was really nice hanging out with other people for the evening and especially chatting about London.
3rd September 2018We got up and had fried breakfast and headed to a trailhead. The trail Alex had picked out had a 2000 foot ascent at the start with amazing view of the bright blue curving river below. We got snowed on at the top but overall were warm from the hike up, it was so beautiful. We finished it around 5 and went back to camp for more bolognese and bed.
2nd September 2018
Woke up knackered again. We’ve decided we need to take the top window covers off to let natural light in in the morning as currently it’s pitch black in our little cabin so we wake up feeling groggy. We stopped in a well fancy super market to stock up on food for the next few days before heading north into Kootenay National Park on our way to Banff. It cost around $70 for four nights in the National Parks. This is by far the most we’ve paid, but it does cover the whole area of the parks. Kootenay had lots of fire damage and there was a haze from the smoke. We tried the lake side campground but it was full so we headed across the road. This campground had no showers but very hot water in the sinks weirdly. We decided to drive into Banff town to look round and maybe buy Eve a down jacket. We struggled to find a parking space and tensions we’re running a little high so we walked around separately for a while. We met back up and went for a coffee before heading back to the campsite. It was very cold and looked like it was going to rain so we put up the tarpaulin. Eve had a nap and Alex went for a run to the lake then we cooked Bolognese.
1st September 2018
In the morning we realised we’d made a bit of a mistake by leaving one of the car windows open - so much for keeping the food smells inside the car and away from bears…(“it smells like garbage and fish in here…!” - Alex’s amazing impression of a hungry bear) We got packed up and drove until we came into some phone signal then stopped for Alex to ring home while I looked into the possibility of staying a night in Calgary. We thought it would be fun to have a night out in civilisation before embarking on our Rockies tour but the Airbnb’s all looked pricey so we decided to stop at a paid campsite for a night on our way to Banff to split up the journey and do some laundry. We ate out at the closest restaurant, half hour walk away. The food was awful and we were tired so headed back and went to bed.
31st August 2018
We powered up with a cooked breakfast then left the basics in our campsite and drove across the bridge to the other side of the lake where there was sport climbing along the cliffs. Alex had picked out some easier routes to get us started. The plan was to top rope them to get used to the grades and then try leading. Unfortunately the two easier climbs didn’t appear to be bolted any more, but we could walk round and up and set up top ropes. It was a good warm up but it meant that the first lead of the day as a 5.9 which is a grade harder than I would’ve liked. Alex bossed it and I did my best but struggled. Tired and hot we headed back for a wash in the cold stream next to our campsite and a beer. I cooked cod with soy stir fry veg and rice for dinner - extremely tasty but some fishy water seems to have leaked out of the fridge which might not be too good for the smell!
30th August 2018
Alex let me have a lie in as I’d had a bad night sleep with a migraine that kept me up for two hours. I nodded off with a coffee in my hand in the morning. We packed up slowly, Alex chopped up lots of firewood and heated some water for bucket washes. We drove to Kallispell where there was a climbing shop so we could buy a new rope, warm clothes and a guide book. I bought a hat, gloves and base layer, not taking any chances after the snow! I called my folks we got some good climbing area tips from the store owners and an offer of a place to stay when we were near Seattle from a customer. We stocked up on food and headed for camp 32, yet another clearing in the woods next to a stream. I cooked sweet potato falafel.
29th August 2018
It was freezing cold in the morning so we had a quick coffee and bowl of cereal (sat 100m from our camp in the nearest sunny spot) then drove around 4 hours to Seeley Lake where it was nice and hot. Unfortunately there was only 5 camping spots along the lakeside and all the best spots were taken. We managed to find one but we couldn’t drive the car down so we decided we’d park on the road and have a campfire in the spot. We swam in the lake, Alex tried to dive off a floating log with mixed results and then we sat all afternoon in the sun drinking beers . We reheated sausage casserole over another flint-started fire (getting good at that now!). Eve was a bit drunk and nearly fell in the fire twice. Time for bed.
28th August 2018
We got up in freezing cold and had a quick bucket wash, we didn’t have the gas or stove out so couldn’t heat up the water. The cold had taken us by surprise, neither of us had packed for cold and so we weren’t particularly happy campers. We drove to Gardiner for coffee, breakfast and phone-related faff before heading into the National Park. It was a nicer day today so the park was looking all the more beautiful and we were impressed by all the random little hot springs you could stop off and explore along the way. However, the park is absolutely massive and was packed full of tourists, meaning it felt a little like we spent the day queuing in our car to see natural wonders that would have been a lot more impressive had we hiked to them ourselves (and avoided so many crowds). We saw the Yellowstone canyon falls, the old faithful geyser and the prismatic lake and both agreed that we wouldn’t recommend old faithful, it was just too busy and over-hyped and you have to sit miles away from it. Slightly disappointed, particularly at our poor bear-spotting performance, we went and had a beer in town while we planned our next few camping spots. The one for this evening was another beautiful free spot in a clearing next to a small stream. Unfortunately it was still freezing cold and we still hadn’t managed to pick up any cold weather gear for Eve so we didn’t really appreciate it.
27th August 2018
Unfortunately the magic of the previous night had been spoilt by incredibly strong winds which rocked the car and forced us out of bed to run around recovering all our stuff before it blew off the cliff. After a bad night’s sleep we weren’t in the best of moods when we were forced to pack up in pouring rain (flashbacks to PEI!) We headed back down the cliff road and decided to warm up in a cafe before hitting the road. Alex overheard the owner talking about mountain roads getting snowed in soon but seeing as it was still August we assumed it would be fine and planned a scenic route into Yellowstone that headed North over Beartooth Pass. The roads through the foothills were beautiful for sure, reminding us of driving up to Moidart in Scotland, but as we climbed the weather got worse and worse. First sleeting, then snowing, then hailing, all in dense cloud - we could hardly see the road let alone any views across the mountains. We jumped out for a quick look at a small glacier and then quickly jumped back in - it was too cold for sightseeing in shorts! Thankfully Derek re-started without any complaints about the cold and we made it back down and into Yellowstone NP. The park was scenic but very busy and despite hours of playing ‘bear or boulder’ we didn’t see any wildlife apart from a few Bison being harassed by hundreds of amateur photographers. After a stop at the Mammoth hot springs with all the other tourists we headed out to a $5 campsite just outside the park. It was pretty basic and we were cold so we headed back into town for pizza before bed.
26th August 2018
We got up slowly, making sure we enjoyed the amazing camp spot we’d found and taking plenty of photos. At one point a family came past in ATVs and a tiny kid on his own on a dirt bike. Luckily they all missed us having showers in the woods after Alex hung our ’solar’ shower up in a tree (it wasn’t warm!). Eventually we packed up and hit the road again, headed towards Yellowstone. We stopped for gas in a tiny town where Derek immediately grabbed all the attention of the locals and the gas station owner told us all about the bears which sometimes come into the town at night (whilst standing in front of a bearskin hung on the wall and next to a pile of 2nd amendment badges). We pulled off the highway onto a gravel track which wasn’t that different to other campsites we’d found until the track got steeper...we drove so high and so close to the edge that it looked like Alex was flying a plane not driving a car but what we found at the top was totally worth it! We were on one side of a gorge with the highway running through it - the cars were like little dots and the town of Cody laid out below us like a map. As we sat by the campfire we could hear the distant sounds of the town rodeo, but it wasn’t enough to tempt us down!
25th August 2018
We were woken by the most overexcited dog who had been cooped up in a car for hours driving to the crag and his owner who had no idea how to calm him down. After a tricky day of climbing yesterday we decided to have one more crack at some less scary stuff and Eve aced her first ever lead outdoors. Happy to quit while we were ahead we packed up and drove for 5 hours to the next camping spot. When we arrived the forest road had loads of wide open spaces with huge RVs pulled up at the edges of the woods, most of which had dirt bikes and quads with them. It looked like we weren’t going to be able to find a good spot, but as usual we found a road that no one could get up with an RV and bagged ourselves a beautiful secluded clearing all to ourselves. We made a massive fire and Eve cooked a feast of kebabs and flat breads with grilled asparagus (and made a how-to video as she did it!). Alex took some drone footage before having too many beers, and we tried not to get too worried by the distant sounds of gunfire coming through the woods.
24th August 2018
Our next attempt at climbing wasn’t much more successful, it was really hard to find climbs at the right grades, Eve’s new shoes were too tight and Alex ended up hanging off the crag on a rope that wasn’t quite long enough to reach the floor. To top it off, on our last climb the rope got wedged in the rock when we tried to pull it down and Alex had to free climb back up about 15 metres to get it back. It was all a bit scary and frustrating and in the end we were glad to call it a day and have a beer in the campground/car park next to the crag.
23rd August 2018
Alex had researched climbing in the area and there was some in the same national forest we’d hiked in the day before. We needed some extra kit though. We paid for one more night in our campsite then drive to a nearby town to buy a few extra slings. We stopped for a burger then headed for the National Forest. The climbing was along the dam wall. However we didn’t have a book with details of the climbs and the bolts seemed to be really spread out. We stared at the rock for a while before a group of climbers with a guide book came along. We asked them for help and they showed us the climbs. The grades were much harder then we’d expected so Alex led one and then I top roped it before a storm came through and the rain stopped us.
22nd August 2018
After bad morning of faff we drove to the National Park and went for a 4 hour hike to relax. It was a beautiful day and the view from the top was amazing. Apparently this is the highest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps!
21st August 2018
We were aiming to get to Mount Rushmore but it was a long day driving. We drove through the badlands which were incredible mountainous structures made from eroded sandstone. Then on towards rapid city where we stopped for a burger. Then on to Mount Rushmore. It was slightly underwhelming, we almost missed it. We were both knackered and my phone signal was being a nightmare so we decided to stay a couple nights in a paid campsite to do laundry and plan our next route. The campsite looked pretty average just off the highway through a town called Custer. But the showers seemed to have endless hot water, the internet was super speedy and the laundry was cheap. It turned out that the area had much more going for it than we first thought. The owner told us about a hike in a national forest and we decided to do it the next day.
20th August 2018
We packed up but the guys truck was gone in the morning so we left a note thanking him for buying us dinner and headed further west across South Dakota. We had another weird stop pulling off the highway and driving past a couple farms before turning down a muddy track next to a lake. The free camping allows you to stay in some stunning places, it seems crazy that it’s totally legit that you can camp for free in these places. But there’s often signs warning about putting out your campfire and clearing your own rubbish. It was really hot and sunny when we arrived so we got changed and went for a run around the lake. Alex took some drone footage and then we sunbathed. I had the horrible sensation of feeling something cold wriggle under my tummy while I was lying on the ground, only to jump up and see a snake slither off!
19th August 2018
I woke up feeling a little worse for wear the next day. We drove into South Dakota stopping for a mini pizza and some tater tots from a garage (classy) to make me feel better. I wasn’t sure we had the right place when we took a left in a small town and stopped in the town park parking lot. But apparently it’s free to camp there. As we started to unpack the tarpaulin a guy got out of the truck next to us and started talking to me. He told me how his wife had just died and that he’s moved down here to Marion from Sioux Falls but couldn’t get an apartment so was living in his car. He invited us for a BBQ but I said I thought it was gonna rain so instead he said we should all go for 'Chishlick' in the local bar. After a nap we got up but couldn't find the guy so went to the only bar in the town, 'Bud's Tavern'. We sat up at the counter and very quickly got chatting to an old guy who asked where we were from. After a couple beers we’d chatted to half the bar and were bought drinks and given free food from the bar tender. Everyone wanted to know why we were in Marion and gave us advice on where to go and what routes to take. The guy from the campsite turned up later and insisted on paying for our meal. Altogether it was a weird and fun evening.
18th August 2018
Alex took some drone footage of our campsite and I had a quick wash in the stream. Then continued on through Iowa’s farmland to the next sight. It was called Clear Lake campground and was apparently free but it look so official. There were two playgrounds, two kitchen shelters and toilets blocks. Each pitch had a fire pit, BBQ stand and picnic bench. There were even paved spaces for RV parking with electricity hook ups...but it was completely empty. Maybe it’s because there isn’t a lot to see in West Iowa? We picked our favourite spot right by the lake and made ourselves at home. We did a TRX work out and Alex cooked an amazing curry for dinner. I drank a little too much red wine.
17th August 2018
We got up and enjoyed our last hot shower for a while before packing up the car and hitting the road. We drove through Iowa past farm after farm and corn field lined roads. We stopped to buy stuff for dinner and chatted to the guy outside who asked which safari we were doing in our Land Rover The campsite was one of the free ones in a small National Forest. We picked a spot next to a stream and parked up next to a huge tree! I made chicken cassoulet over the fire.
16th August 2018
We went out for breakfast, Eve had some weird cheesy thing that wasn’t very nice and got food envy. Then after unsuccessfully trying to find a place that would develop a camera film we got the train into the city. We went around the loop taking photos of the buildings as we went and got off at the millennium park. And walked through the park to the see the Aqua building. Then we headed along the river and stopping for a beer, then walked back and stopped for a bottle of rosé. Then we walked along 'fancy ferlon' aka 'magnificent mile' to Macy’s so we could buy some treats for ourselves from Aveda. Afterwards we bought iced tea then walked back to the millennium park for a sleep in the sun before dinner. We went for sushi near the comedy club then went to the show. When we arrived the girls on the door gleefully presented Alex with a Frisbee and said they’d been excited all evening to meet Mr. Frisby. The comedians were mixed. The crowd was small and the main act accused everyone of being a shit audience so it felt a bit awkward. But overall we'd love Chicago!
15th August 2018
We crossed back into the States at Detroit and then headed into Chicago, Google took us down a very strange route to our Airbnb in Chicago, down back alleys, but we did get to see the White Sox stadium. We packed everything from the roof inside the car and went inside. The flat was lovely and had a pool out the back. It had been another hot drive so, after figuring out how to get out the back we went down and had a dip in the pool. Afterwards we went out for tacos andmargaritas. 14th August 2018
We planned to stay one night at a free spot en route to Chicago. We drove through corn field lined highway then stopped on the edge of Lake Erie in what was effectively a layby with a porterloo. This turned out the be a nice private spot. Despite the passing traffic. We both did a TRX workout and had courgette pasta for dinner.
13th August 2018
We packed up and drove into Toronto. We couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3pm so we parked nearby and then went for brunch. Then headed for the ‘hipster’ area. We looked in all the over priced shops. Then we headed into town, we walked through graffiti alley then went to HSBC. Predictably our cards hadn’t arrived, so we went back to our Airbnb. We brought in a few clothes and toiletries and the fridge. We had a nap then I went for the first hot shower since Halifax. The water was freezing, it was freezing in the whole house. We tried to contact the host, but they said they couldn’t help. I sulked for about an hour. Then had a cold sink wash and got dressed. The neighbour told us we shouldn’t eave everything on our roof cos it might get stolen, so we moved everything into the car and out the covers on. Then went out for cocktails and chicken wings at a bar around the corner.
12th August 2018
We spent the morning apart as we needed a break from one another. We did life admin stuff and laundry. Then hung up what looked like everything we owned. Alex went to get some juice to go with the gin. We went to the pool to cool off then cooked sausage pasta.
11th August 2018
We headed for Niagara Falls and Canada (again) It was a loooong and very hot drive. We got pulled over by New York State Police almost as soon as we hit the highway they were very confused by our license plate and I was freaked out, but they turned out to be super friendly and sent us on our way. We got to Niagara and saw some of it out of the window, but after queuingfor almost an hour to get across the border and being interrogated because it turns out they didn’t stamp our passports when we arrived! AND seeing the crowds we decided not to stop and pay $25 parking to see the falls and headed on to Toronto. We’d decided to pay $60 CAD to stay in a campground just outside of Toronto as the Airbnbs were expensive. We needed to kill some timebefore picking up our Canadian HSBC cards. We also just wanted to chill as we hadn’t stayed more than a night in one place since PEI. we wanted to go to a bar but he closest one was over an hour walk! Or 50 min by bus. So, we got an Uber for 6 mins…go figure! It was a chain Irish bar, but we had nachos and chatted over a gin and tonic with the bar tender.
10th August 2018
We got up and went for a quick swim in the lake, then showered in my tarpaulin erected shower cubicle. The next spot was just into a national forest. We seemed to drive to the end of a main road take a right and drive on a dirt track for miles and miles. Derek loved it! The spot was insignificant, but we had a fire and heated up the left-over ribs with more sauce which wasdelish!
9th August 2018
Neither of us was bothered about exploring this area and I wanted to call my sister for her birthday so we packed up after a millennial's breakfast and drove the most beautiful roads so far to a lakeside spot. We’d stopped on the way to buy dinner and ended up buying a rack of ribs and then ears of corn from a roadside stall outside a farm - magical. The campsite was a bit crowded, with a few tents and several RV’s already in residence. We managed the squeeze the car in between the trees and set up camp. We got the kayak out and went out onto the lake. It was so beautiful, and I lay back and relaxed for what felt like the first time the whole trip. We kayaked to a small island and looked out over the lake. We headed back to our camp in heavy wind. After faffing around for a while, we went down to the tiny beach to light a fire and cook the ribs. It took a long time to get the fire hot enough to cook and by the time the ribs were ready it was pitch dark. They were delicious though! Then back to the car and bed.
8th August 2018
The next morning, we hiked up Mount Jefferson, then headed back and had a wash in the river, packed up and headed west. We stopped to get Wi-Fi and new locations for campsites for the next 3 nights before planning to arrive in Toronto. We also downloaded a section of google maps as we weren’t getting much signal at all. We arrived late in another wooded area, this time with 10 designated numbered campsites. All the good ones were unfortunately taken but we found one that worked. Got ourselves set up, had left over risotto then bed.
7th August 2018
We woke to a beautiful sunrise, made a cooked breakfast, and took a swim. We're so glad we decided to free camp! Then we packed up and Alex took his first drone footage of the trip. Afterwards we drove to the nearest town. We hadn’t had signal since entering the US so contacted T-Mobile using a café Wi-Fi. We also planned the next spot we were going to stay and headed off. Another 3-hour drive took us up into the White Mountains, along a beautiful road. This time we saw a few other tents in clearings along the side of the road. We drove all the way up before deciding on our favourite spot near the river. We got the site set up quickly in the rain. Now we feel like we’re getting more into the swing of it.
6th August 2018
The next morning we stocked up on water, called our parents,and set off. It was a long and very hot drive; the weather was humid. We pulledoff the main road and followed the coordinates from the free camping website alonga track. They each led to cabins. We asked a few of the residents if they knewof a free camping spot but they didn’t. We drove along each road but they alllooked like private land. All but one which lead to a small clearing. There was asee-saw and chains from a swing. A sign read “KQ-CQ-SM-PARK KMAQ". It was righton the water, a very beautiful spot if it was a campsite, but we had our doubts. Wedrove around some more but never found a more official spot. So, we decided to riskit. We took the Kayak out for the first time and paddled across the lake and took a swim. We made risotto and a campfire using only a flint.
5th August 2018
We packed up in torrential rain, got completely soaked, and the hell off the island. Stopping at a Walmart for more food we drove 4 hours to a campsite in New Brunswick that was in a field behind a high school. Luckily it was sunny and we hung out our wet clothes and tidied the car again. We feel like we were thrown in to the deep end, weather-wise, on PEI. This campsite and the last were fine but didn‘t have great views and no privacy at all and we felt like we weren’t seeing the best of North American this way. So after a bit of research we found a website called freecamping.net. We also decided to change our route and head into the States instead of across Canada. We planned a route that would take us back across the border as we needed to get to Toronto to collect our bank bards from HSBC. We found a free campsite 3 hours away and another one 3 hours from that that would take us across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York State.
4th august 2018
We woke to rain. After hastily putting up the tarpaulin we cooked a fired breakfast and organised everything we’d thrown in the car the day before. We waited for the rain to stop then walked to the cliffs, along to the beach, and back as the rain started again. With the left-over ingredients Eve made tartiflette on the fire. We planned to stop in a campsite half way to Quebec City the next day. It started raining heavily before bed and the wind picked up. We had a bad night’s sleep with the tarp crashing around us and had to get up in the night to pack it away.
3rd August 2018
Bright and early the next day we got the bus down to the port, hurried excitedly into the office to get our car only to be told there was some sort of admin fuck up which meant it hadn’t been released!! Ready to blow we left to get a coffee and wait for the New Jersey office to open. Then we, the shipping broker (finally earning her fee), and the shipping port receptionist called and emailed WW until finally we had the keys in our hands! Elated we went to IKEA to buy a few final storage solutions, then home top pack for the last time. We picked up some last-minute additions from Canadian tire, Walmart and the liquor store then we hit the road. We drove 3 hours to Prince Edward Island. Both tiered and hungry we ate steak and celebrated in our first campsite!
2nd August 2018
The next morning, we called CBSA at 8am. But the car wasn’t released yet. Resigned to vacating our Airbnb we decided to walk to MEC to return some pans we'd deicded were a rip off and buy climbing gear instead, then went to Canadian tire to buy a roof rack bag. We figured we could pack everything into the roof bag to more easily move it if we had to. Our host had kindly told us we could sit in the back garden until we knew if we could get the car that day. We called CBSA at 10, 11:30, 2pm. Just as we were about the book another Airbnb our host told us we could stay in her home as she was way for the weekend! At 3pm we called one more time and explained our situation desperately, playing the 'no place to stay' card. They seemed to take pity on us and rushed through the clearance of the car. We hurried over to the office to have our bill of lading approved. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the car until the next morning. But at least we had a place to stay and settled in for the night.
1st August 2018
We checked the shipping tracker when we woke up and saw that Derek had arrived! We knew it would be a few hours before he was released so we decided to go climbing at the bouldering centre down the road to kill time until we got the call. At around 3pm when we hadn’t heard anything we called Canada Border Services Agency who told us the car was still held for inspection and to call back in the morning. We started to panic as it was our last night in the Airbnb and all our new purchases meant we had so much stuff that it would be difficult to move. We walked into town to try and buy boxes or bags to pack our stuff. When we got home we messaged the host of our Airbnb to try and book another night, but it was already booked for the next night. Despondent we packed up our stuff ordered Chinese and went to bed.
31st July 2018
Armed with our files of admin we headed to the shipping office of Wallenius Welhalmsen, stopping for our first Tim Horton of the trip. Our first hurdle came when we needed to pay the shipping fees without a Canadian bank account. We managed to pay cash directly into their account at the bank and brought them the receipt. Afterwards we got the bus to customs office(under the shipping agent's instruction) where they told us we needn’t have bothered but did reassure us that we wouldn’t have any further fees to pay. Then we headed to Walmart to spend more money. Home to nap, and shower, then out for beers and tacos at 'The Local' that is now our local.
30th July 2018
We woke up early due to jet lag, so we got up and went for a run up to to The Halifax Explosion Memorial. Then we headed into town to MEC to buy our camping equipment. We basically cleared out the shop and came in way over budget at $1400 and we haven’t even got everything we need yet! Then we headed home to a very pass-agg email from our shipping broker who wanted to charge us $125 for doing nothing and then making us feel stupid. After Alex had called her and made a plan we repacked all our new purchases and Alex played kitchen with our new gear. Then we went for pizza and after watched Thelma and Louise to get excited for our road trip.
29th July 2018
We landed in Halifax after sneaking our five very heavy bags onto the plane without being charged any extra. At passport control we had to fill in a declaration form, although we said we were visitors we also said that we had unaccompanied goods-to-declare; our car. When the passport agent questioned us we thoroughly confused him with our situation, as we have everyone. He sent us through with a slip and told us to see an officer. We went into goods-to-declare (a first for both of us) with our many bags and had a great chat with the officer. He was friendly and gave us loads of information about collecting the car. We’d filled out our goods to follow list correctly, which was a relief, and he even explained how Alex could get temporary residency through ‘dual intent’ when we arrived in BC. Then he sent us on our way! We got to our Airbnb, showered and went to find a bar, 'The Local', then went for seafood dinner to belatedly celebrate Eve's birthday and our successful arrival in Canda!
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