The Road to 123°W

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 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