Europe, North America · 16 Days · 53 Moments · May 2017

Vegas to Vega!...and the rest


31 May 2017

Last night it rained. It didn't even rain, it poured. I forgot how awesome it was to sleep in a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere when it pours with rain. It's so peaceful and relaxing just listening to it. Eventually I fell asleep and my alarm went off far too soon for our 7:45am breakfast call. Today was the first day of maintenance. We knew it was going to be tough, but I don't think any of us were quite prepared for how tough. We raked leaves all day. Literally all day. From 8.30am until 5pm. The good news is we got half of camp done today!! The bad news is we have to do the other half tomorrow 😫 Everything hurts, my hand is swollen from holding the rake, my legs ache, my arms feel like they're going to fall off. Pre camp is hard! But I wouldn't change it for anything. It is surprisingly enjoyable because of the people, it's a great way to get to know people and have fun with them. A long shower, a thunderstorm and a trip to Walmart later, it's time for bed.

30 May 2017

We did it!! After 10 days, 21 states, 4038 miles, a few mishaps and a ton of memories, we made it to Vega!! 💚💚 we are home for the summer!! This morning we got up, packed up, picked up Dan, ran some errands (including getting coffee for Pyatt) and made the final drive (well, we say final, we then had to drive back to the rental place to drop the car off and drive back again). It feels so good to be back! We were put to work on the Welcome Crew straight away to settle people in and answer their questions etc and began the epic task of unpacking all of our crap. Between us, we have accumulated a lot! Remind me to pack nothing next year! We went on a tour of camp for Dan and even got to be photographed with the camp entrance sign being put up for the start of the season. So legit. After an indoor cookout (it rains in Maine) and some socialising we greeted the final groups and headed to bed ready to start maintenance in the morning. It's so good to be home!

28 May 2017

We eventually found our way back to the highway and ended up going past the same sign I had seen the first time around advertising the rest stop. It was for exit 24 not 23. I had come off one exit too early. Oh, and the rest stop had a Dunkin. Obviously. 😒 To be fair, today's drive was remarkably easy. We were fully prepared for it to drag and to be miserable and boring and slow because we were on the home stretch and to be plagued with traffic. But in reality, it went really quickly, we encountered virtually no traffic whatsoever and we were in high spirits the entire way. Before we knew it, we were crossing the bridge into Maine!! Hallelujah! We got to Steph and Dustin's just after 8pm and celebrated with some doggy cuddles, BBQ chicken and our favourite ice cream from Fielders Choice. Because what else would you do in Maine?! We're so relieved to be here and looking forward to spending Memorial Day with friends tomorrow before the final little journey to vega on Tuesday 😊
After 29 miles of pure discomfort, we pulled off with me praying there would be a service plaza or rest stop at the next exit. 😰 We were in luck! There was a rest stop at the next exit! Thank goodness because I thought my bladder was going to explode and Christine was finding my driving wee dance very entertaining. So I pulled off and kept my eyes peeled for the glorious sight of a highway bathroom. I saw no such sight. In fact, all I saw were hotels and closed stores (it is Sunday after all...). This was not happening!! Just as I was about to give up and start looking for a dignity covering bush, I found an Irish pub!! You know in movies when the hero finds exactly what they've been looking for and that weird halo music plays?? Yep, that totally happened in my head. So we parked and ran inside past a very bewildered hostess. Thank you, O'Learys, I owe you!
We reluctantly said our goodbyes, excited that we will be seeing her again in 2 weeks and got back on the road. We then promptly got lost trying to drive out of Connecticut. Clearly this day was going well. After several toll booths, state lines and a couple of hours on the road, I had to pee. Badly. We had decided to stop at the next rest stop that had a Dunkin so we could get our coffee fix at the same time. So obviously, whenever you need to find a Dunkin, there isn't one in sight for miles. We drove past four rest stops, none of them had a Dunkin. This is the freaking north east! The home of Dunkin! Where's my coffee at?! After passing the 4th Dunkin lacking rest stop, and realising the next one wasn't for another 36 miles, I realised we may have made a mistake. Especially when I noticed we were pulling off the turnpike before the 36 miles were up. The situation was becoming critical.
Finally we are in Maine!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 An early start this morning meant we were on the road by 9 (hey, it's early for us ok?) much to the dismay of Ali and Sammy! After filling up with petrol and stocking up on supplies (somehow we have managed to get through 32 bottles of water in the last week!) we tried to get in the wrong sides of the car. Clearly we have had enough of foreign driving by this point! 🙈 Still giggling, we got in the right sides and headed on our way, joking about how lost we got the last time we drove out of Philly. We then promptly got lost trying to drive out of Philly. 🙈😂 After a 10 mile detour and some help from the sat nav, we got on the right track and set up plans for a lunch time rendezvous in Connecticut. A very hungover Alba came to meet us in Stamford and provided some much needed relief from the long drive. We ate, drank, laughed and shopped until we realised it was 2:30 and we still had another 6 hours of driving ahead of us. Oops.

27 May 2017

We managed to drag the girls away eventually and came home for a bbq, complete with a visit from the cousins and the grandparents. We even taught the kids to play beer pong (with water, not beer! We aren't totally irresponsible 😂) which quickly turned into an impromptu water fight... Having a day off from driving was so relaxing and totally needed. We feel (almost) rested and relaxed and ready for the last stretch to Maine in the morning. Alarms are set for 6:45am, drive time is estimated at around 9 hours. Oy. It will be such a relief to get there. Wish us luck as we approach the finish line!
This morning we were woken up by a sneaky 11 year old peering into our room to see if we were awake yet. Good morning Sammy! I guess we're up. We didn't move far, just down to the couch where we played referee between the girls as they fought and bickered for most of the morning. Were we that bad with our sisters at their age?! And all over a blanket! Children... Just when we thought they were going to actually start tearing each other apart, it was time for breakfast and then to get ready for the day. Swimsuits on, spare clothes packed, sunscreen covered, we spent the afternoon at Philmont Country Club. The girls were desperate to go swimming and didn't even let a little thing like broken pool heaters stop them! The water was a brisk 62 degrees!! In they jumped...and then clambered back out amidst screams of 'I'm numb!' And 'it's so cold!' 😂😂 We took the opportunity to nap while they continued playing and pretending to be Spanish to the other kids. Standard.

26 May 2017

Tonight we are on babysitting duty while Sally goes on a well deserved night out with friends. After all, what good is it having camp counsellors come to visit if you can't leave them to babysit your kids?! Sammy refused to go to bed until she was virtually unconscious on a beanbag and practically needed carrying up the stairs. I'm pretty sure she was out before her head even touched the pillow. Ali stayed up with us to watch Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (great movie by the way...) and then tried to use every excuse under the sun to avoid going to bed when it finished 😂 I'm pretty sure she is still awake trying to think of reasons to come into our room and talk to us! The biggest surprise of all though?! It's warm in Philly!! A sunny 24 degrees! Honestly, we had forgotten what the sun felt like. Turns out that burning ball of light in the sky is pretty good. If it could just stay out for the rest of the summer that would be great. Oh, and my sunburn has started to peel
Thankfully, traffic was good to us coming into Philly (for once) and we got to our home for the next to days easily. Obviously it's another Vega homestay! This time with the Katzen's who we stay with every year, yet the girls never know we are coming. Now I'm not saying we condone lying to children...but seeing how excited they get when we show up out of the blue makes the little white lies worth it! They were so excited when we got there, lots of screaming and hugging and running around was done by all of us. I feel bad for Sally, it's a bit like she has gained an extra two large children for the weekend!! After an intense game of tag in the garden and a tour of the new house (which is gorgeous!) we headed out for our favourite Philly dinner, Jules pizza! I've been craving pizza for days so I was super happy. And then I ate so much my stomach hurt. Less happy.
After a surprisingly warm and comfortable night in Dayton, we packed up the car and hit the road for our penultimate journey. We knew the drive to Philly was going to be long but we were excited at the prospect of spending two days in one place! One whole day without having to drive sounds like heaven to us right now. Knowing we are so close to the end of our trip meant that the struggle was real today. We were more tired than we have been on the road so far, traffic made us more irritable and we were exceptionally restless. So we took it in turns to nap while the other one drove. It took us 8 and a half hours to get to Philly!! 😴😴 we probably could have got here quicker but they have this new speeding system in America now where they monitor your speed from aeroplanes (I know, right?!) and since you never know where the planes are, we were too afraid to go even one mile over the speed limit! We also saw more police cars on today's drive than the whole trip so far combined...

25 May 2017

This morning we treated ourselves to a lie in until 11:30am. It was bliss. We feel kinda bad for Kaitlin, not only did she give up her bed for us and slept on the sofa, but she had work at 8am after our late night of gossip. Sorry Kaitlin!! Thankfully, today was just a short 5 hour hop to our campsite in Dayton, Ohio - the last campsite of the trip, woo!! So after dragging ourselves out of bed, we got on the road. Those 5 hours quickly turned into 7 as traffic in Indiana was horrendous so we stopped at Taco Bell for lunch. Nom. Eventually, we crossed into Ohio, lucky number 13, and headed to the campsite. Christine was not impressed with the fact it was in the middle of nowhere, which to be fair, it was. When we checked in however, we were pleasantly surprised! It was much nicer than the Mount Rushmore campsite! Our cabin even had air conditioning, a heater, a fridge and a tv! So we settled ourselves in for a chilled night of NCIS, Subway and sleep ready to head to Philly!

24 May 2017

Traffic heading into Chicago was the worst we had seen so far. Turns out there was a Cubs game on right as we were driving through so I got to play a great game of 'let's not hit the drunken baseball fan' the whole way around the stadium. As Kaitlin was at work until 9pm, we went to hang out with her at the gym she works in. Perks of having a friend that works on the front desk of a gym spa? Free hydro-massage!! It was exactly what we needed after sitting in the car all the way from Vegas. 20 minutes of lying on a bed being pummelled by a powerful water jet worked wonders! Thanks Kaitlin! With renewed energy, and apparently a huge appetite, we set off in search of dinner at a place called Portillos. It was a mix of American and Italian food and the whole restaurant had a super chilled, laid back vibe. The food was amazing!! Can I eat there every day?! Back at Kaitlin's, we spent hours catching up on everything. And I mean hours. Until 3:30am. Oops. 😴😴
Back on the road we had no choice but to get the drive to Chicago underway! Today's route is only 7 hours, a breeze compared to the last 2 days! It's a sad time when 7 hours of driving is considered short and easy!! We crossed into Wisconsin sooner than we expected so we were totally unprepared to get a picture of the state line. Luckily we have already been to Wisconsin before so we have one! Wisconsin marked the 10th state of the trip and also marked the point where insanity may have started to set in. It's probably a good thing that we are seeing Kaitlin tonight, it will be nice to have someone different to talk to (no offence Christine!) and to do something different. The closer we got to Chicago, we realised that we were definitely heading towards civilisation again. Illinois was the first place we saw tolls on the trip so far and after paying 3 in quick succession, the novelty wore off!
We ended up spending an hour driving around looking for a different Dunkin before finally finding one! I could have cried when we finally walked in and ordered. The woman behind the counter firstly questioned our order of caramel iced coffees with cream and sugar. Dunkin woman: 'Are you sure you want the sugar? Because the caramel is already sweet?' Us: 😐😐😐'yes'. Dunkin woman: 'really? That's a lot of sugar!' Us: 😐😐😐😐😐😐😐😐 'we know'. I could feel her judgement from behind the counter. She then asked where in Australia we were from and got very confused when she learned that only one of us was Australian. When she found out I was from England she proceeded to tell me she has family in England and maybe I know them. Why do Americans always think the British know each other?! It's not that small!! Just give me my damn coffee!! At last, our coffees were ready and we went to hide in the car to eat our breakfast to avoid any further judgement. Goodbye Dunkin Woman.
It turns out going to the second largest mall in America (King of Prussia in Pennsylvania is apparently the biggest now) with virtually no money is pretty depressing. Whoever decided to put rollercoasters in the middle of a shopping mall however is a genius. We didn't go on them but they were fun to watch. Maybe next time? Definitely a good idea for parents who just want to get rid of their kids for the afternoon while they shop! After about an hour of aimlessly walking around, we decided our minimal funds would be better spent getting our first Dunkin Donuts of the trip (well, Christine got one in LA without me, the traitor). So we plugged it into the sat nav and headed off, fuelled with the caffeinated sugary goodness that is Dunkin. Frankly, I'm amazed we made it a whole week without! Normally I'm inhaling it within minutes of getting off the plane! So imagine our utter disappointment when the Dunkin we were going to didn't exist! The sat nav was wrong! 😭😭
Last night we discovered a Denny's next to the hotel so we treated ourselves to a late night snack. No matter how many times I come to the States I forget how large the portion sizes are. And every time I order nachos I get asked if I want the full or the half portion. And every time I say full. And every time I regret it when they come out of the kitchen. And every time I eat less than half the plate and then have to explain that there is nothing wrong with the food and I'm actually just an idiot. With bellies full of real food for the first time in days, we fell into bed and were asleep within seconds. We even treated ourselves to a lie in this morning, knowing that today was going to be the hardest drive of the whole trip. After checking out and packing the car, we went to Mall of America. Just to say we did, and to get some steps in before another long driving day.

23 May 2017

After what felt like actual days on the road, we finally crossed the state line into Minnesota! Woohoo! And then, because what else do you do when you're on a roadtrip and want to increase your state count, we dipped south into Iowa and back again. Just to say we did. We were rewarded for our dedication to driving with a beautiful rainbow (yay) and a deer that chose to stop in the middle of the highway in front of our car (not so yay). Don't worry, we made sure to avoid Bambi and watched as he scarpered off back into the woods. Maybe he wanted to visit Iowa too?! The closer we got to Minneapolis, the more signs there were of civilisation - something we both welcomed after hours of driving in the middle of nowhere with barely any other traffic. Just after 9pm we made it! Checked into our hotel, which is a delight after two nights on campsites (we have never been more grateful for indoor plumbing) and enjoying that we are officially halfway!! 2000 miles done, 2000 to go!
South Dakota is really pretty but doesn't offer a lot in terms of driving entertainment. It's mostly flat and green and straight roads. So we had to make our own entertainment doing what we do best: car karaoke! At one point, we tried to stop for a comfort break in a small petrol station off the highway in a place that is too small to even be called a village. If we were ever going to find ourselves in a horror movie, this was it. As we pulled off the road, two men in full camo gear and their very large dog came around the side of the building and stared at us like we shouldn't be there. So we decided we shouldn't be there. Doors locked, car back in drive, a u-turn Vin Diesel would be proud of and we were back on the highway in seconds. No horror movie for us today!! No thank you. I know it sounds like we were stereotyping, and we probably were, but the men and the dog just screamed Deliverance episode 2. And sometimes you just have to trust your gut.
It was cool to see, the detail on the sculptures is incredible, especially on such a large scale. It was just really bizarre. There is no other way to describe it. People (including us) come from all over the world to stare at giant heads on the side of a mountain. I'm glad we went, it is another thing to cross off the bucket list and I am impressed at how talented those that worked on it are. It's just a bit odd. After taking the obligatory tourist photos and discussing what could have possessed someone to decide to carve faces into a mountain, we set off back down the mountain and on our way. Or at least we thought we were on our way. Turns out we had turned the wrong way out of the memorial and the sat nav chose to take us all the way to the bottom of the mountain before making us turn around, climb back to the top and drive back down the other side...
Dragging ourselves out of our sleeping bags this morning was harder than anticipated. 7am came and went, as did 7:30, and 7:45 until eventually 8am arrived and we had to bite the bullet and get out of our cosy beds and face the chilly morning. By 9am the car was packed and we were ready to go. One of the entertaining things about arriving so late last night was that we didn't get a chance to check in, so we had to check in before we could check out which was an interesting process. Our plan for the day was to visit Mount Rushmore before embarking on our second long driving day. In hindsight, two 10 hour driving days back to back was less than clever. We knew today was going to be the hardest day of the drive so we figured the quicker we got on the road, the better. Neither of us really knew what to expect from Mount Rushmore. We knew it was essentially faces carved into a rock, but it was quite literally just giant faces staring at you from a rock...

22 May 2017

Once we got into the cabin however, it was clear we had been spoiled by the campsite in Yellowstone. Yellowstone had been large, spacious and even had a little space heater! South Dakota was small and cramped, smelt kind of funky and the front door didn't even fill the frame properly, let alone having a space heater!! This was going to be a long, cold night. We trekked to the shower block, that left a lot to be desired, to rinse the travel yuckiness away and then layered up in an attempt to get cosy. It didn't work. While our Walmart sleeping bags and blankets are great, they weren't quite a match for a night in the black hills. I'm just glad we didn't decide to camp in a tent!!
Seriously, it was so snowy. We rounded a bend and came across a totally frozen lake with a huge snow bank and had to stop and get out to play for a bit. Christine hasn't had winter since 2007 and neither of us ever see snow so it would be rude not to, right?! The second we stepped out the car, the sky opened and it started snowing! Actually snowing, giant fluffy snowflakes. In May. WHAT?! We were definitely not dressed appropriately for the weather but it didn't matter as we indulged our inner child for 20 minutes or so. When the snow stopped, we hit the road again, only to be caught in a mini-blizzard. The weather in Wyoming is so weird. One minute it was blue skies and sunny (albeit a little chilly) and the next it was heavy snow. By the time we made it to our campsite in South Dakota we had driven through virtually every weather system imaginable!! After a classy dinner in McDonald's, we finally made it to our campsite at 11pm ready for a good nights sleep.
At last, once we had lost all feeling in our hands and feet, Old Faithful launched a stream of scalding water into the air! Just in time for the wind to change direction and blow the steam towards us so we couldn't see much...thanks Mother Nature. Nevertheless, it was a really cool thing to witness and another thing to cross off our bucket lists. After a quick bathroom break and trip to the gift shop, we headed back to the car to start our longest drive of the trip so far, Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Ok fine, we also stopped at one of the giant snow piles in the car park to take some pictures before we left. But how often do you get to see snow in Summer?! The drive was estimated at around 9 hours and it was already like 1pm so we agreed to make no more stops until we got out of the park and needed to get petrol. Well, that kind of didn't happen once we came across a part of the park that looked like Narnia...
One big thing we had been planning for this trip was to see Old Faithful erupt so we made it our last stop in Yellowstone. Old Faithful may be super regular, but she definitely likes to go on her own time. In our eagerness to get a good spot and not miss it, we forgot to get our jackets out the car. It was FREEZING. As we shivered on a stone bench watching a steaming hole in the ground, we mentally yelled at ourselves for being so dumb. Yet we weren't prepared to run back and get them, just in case we missed the eruption! We had no idea how long ago she had last blown so we didn't know how long we had to wait for the next one so we sucked it up and shivered. An hour. We had to wait an hour in the cold while Old Faithful did her thing. She kept teasing us too, shooting little spurts of water into the air to make us think she was gonna blow and then going back to sleep. It's true what they say, a watched geyser never boils!
Dave told us that if we followed the wooden path to the end and looked out over the stream and into the field behind that we would see a bear! At first we thought he was kidding but he wasn't so we raced to the end and there they were! A mama grizzly bear with her 2 cubs!! 🐻 They were just hanging out, searching for food and completely oblivious that we were there. Obviously this was the one time I didn't take my phone out of the car! Doh! We got a couple of good pictures on our cameras though, although I definitely could have done with a longer lens. The bears were so cute, we could have spent all day watching them! Unfortunately, we did have a schedule to keep which we were already an hour behind on (thanks bison!) so we had to tear ourselves away and go to Old Faithful. Seeing the bears up close in the wild like that though has definitely been a highlight of the trip. I don't think anything will beat that feeling!
Turns out, sleeping in the shed wasn't too bad. Waking up was worse. 'We'll be out the door by 7' we said...at 7:20 we were still hitting the snooze button. When we finally packed the car back up and headed back into the park, we got stuck in a traffic jam. For an hour. Turns out the bison wanted to cross the road again, this time during peak time. Fantastic. We eventually got past the bison and went on our way. As we had done most of the stuff we wanted to see in the northern part of the park yesterday, we chose to go south today and see Old Faithful on our way out of the park. Along the way, we stopped at loads of cool little geysers and overlooks etc. Yellowstone really is a stunning place. One place we stopped at was called Black Sand Basin and it had lots of colourful hot springs and a big geyser that kept us entertained for a bit. As we were about to leave, a nice man (we don't know his name so I will call him Dave) came over and started talking to us.
Turns out it wasn't bison, it was a bear!! 🐻 an actual, real life bear!! I was so excited. I pulled over up the road and we ran back to try and get a picture. The bear was just mooching around in a field, seemingly oblivious to his rapidly growing audience. He was pretty far away so I only managed to get one photo on my camera that looks more like a furry dot than a bear but I don't even care. The fact that I saw a bear in real life is more than I ever expected on this trip so photo or no photo, my summer has been made and it's only day 5! After staring at the bear, and risking hypothermia as the temperature sank with the sun, for as long as we could, we reluctantly headed back to our cabin. In all the excitement we realised we forgot to have dinner. By this point it was 10pm and everywhere was shut so we made do with snacks from the car. Nothing says nutrition like cheetos and crackers! The only downer on the day? It's currently 0 degrees outside and we are sleeping in a shed.

21 May 2017

We decided to head towards the Mammoth Hot Springs to the north of the park, stopping off at a lot of other springs and geysers along the way for pretty photo ops. We may have stopped too often because it took us about 3 hours to finally get there, and when we did, we were a little disappointed! They looked nothing like what we expected, potentially because the water had all dried out so we were just looking at some steamy white rocks that smelt like rotten eggs. It is also entirely possible that we completely missed the really cool part we were looking for. We are very talented that way. Oh well. We saw lots of very pretty views and cool things along the way, and hundreds of bison. So we headed back towards the campsite feeling pretty good about ourselves and excited for tomorrow's plan. About half way back to the campsite we saw another line of traffic on the road where people had stopped to let the bison cross, although this time they were out of their cars with their cameras.
The fox even started calling to his friends in the mountain behind us, and they called back! It was very cool. Soon the time came for us to move on. Or at least try to as best we could with a stuck car. Cue an awkward conversation with the man in the car behind us who had to back up a long way so we could reverse onto a smoother bit of road. He definitely didn't hide his laughter very well!! Finally free, we continued on, feeling every ounce the intrepid explorers we like to think we are. It wasn't long before we saw another lot of stopped cars, except this time they were stopped in the road. There were bison everywhere!! They apparently do as they please and were quite happy to walk in front of cars and pose for photos. They even had babies with them who were completely adorable! Worth stopping traffic for. Or so we thought. We quickly learned there are loads of bison and after the first lot, stopping for herds every few miles suddenly wasn't as fun!
Yellowstone National Park is SO pretty. Even with snow lurking around. Only a few minutes into the park we saw an elk (Christine remains adamant it was a horse but I swear it was an elk!) and we even saw a second bald eagle on the way in!! But after Christine getting frustrated with my inability to get a picture of it, we decided it was better if we pulled over and I took over the driving and she took over the photography. Much less stress for both of us that way. After a little while we saw a large crowd of people pulled over at the side of the road and taking pictures of something. Of course I wanted to see what the fuss was about so I pulled over too. But I failed to notice the large dip at the edge of the road onto the shoulder, so we pulled over with a large thud and then realised we would not be able to get out again. Oops. Nevertheless, we got out the car to have a look. Turns out there was a white fox tanning in the grass! A very rare sight!!
After a couple of hours the rain finally cleared up and we found somewhere that was open for us to buy snacks so we were much happier. We crossed 3 more states off our list today: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming taking our total so far to 6. The closer we got to Yellowstone, the better the weather got - although seeing snow on the ground in what is supposed to be summer is totally bizarre! On the drive we were lucky enough to see a bald eagle flying around! I was so excited to see one in the wild but trying to get a picture of a moving bird from a moving car was more than impossible!! Those things are quick! We finally found our campsite, checked in and promptly bundled ourselves up in extra layers for our adventure into the park. Right as we went to leave, Christine asked me where the cabin key was. Somehow in the space of 5 minutes I had managed to lose it with no recollection of where it might be. We pulled out all our bags etc looking for it before I found it. In my pocket. 😐
This morning started with an insight into the Mormon way of life. Yep. We went to church! Not really sure what to expect we donned our Sunday best and went on our way. Neither of us have spent a lot of time in church but the Mormon service wasn't a lot different from the Christian services we have been to and the Mormon community is extremely friendly and welcoming. Everyone knows everyone and helps each other out, it was really nice to see. After church ended we decided to hit the road to get to Yellowstone as early as possible. Big thanks to the Harris family for hosting us!! We decided that our first port of call would be to get some lunch. However, we forgot that in Utah, everything is closed on Sundays. Everything. 🙈 Everything that is, except the clouds. They opened right on top of us and poured ice cold rain alllll over the road, making for a very wet and miserable start to the journey. Fingers crossed this isn't an omen of things to come!!
After one stop for petrol and 7 long hours in the car, we finally made it to South Jordan, Utah, to stay with a fellow Vega staff member, Sandy! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 It felt so good to get out of the car and stretch our legs, even if I was walking like and elderly person that had had an accident as everything below my waist had seized up from driving in the same position for so long 👵🏻 The evening was filled with good food, great company and a super chilled atmosphere. One night on the trip we will get to bed at a reasonable time! But alas, today is not that day. Tomorrow we are heading further north to Yellowstone National Park. Please consider this fair warning that you may not hear from us again as we will have either have been eaten by bears or frozen to death as it is due to be -5 and snowing. Pray for us.
Utah is far!!! The drive was really pretty, lots of mountains and pretty coloured rocks and we even saw some snow! But driving on literally the same road for 400 miles can take its toll. Even our infamous car karaoke sessions weren't enough to stop us from getting a little brain dead. The very worst of it though, came when we looked at the clock (which we had diligently changed after crossing into Utah to accommodate the time difference between Utah and Arizona/Nevada) and the time the Sat Nav told us we would arrive and did a little happy dance that we only had an hour left of our drive! Wooooo! Yeah. That was short lived. Turns out that while the car clock had been adjusted to account for the time difference, the Sat Nav did not so, unless we could cover 127 miles in 58 minutes, we actually had 2 hours left. Not one. Whyyyyy?!
Yeah...we made it maybe 2 minutes down the road, missed the turning we needed, made an excessively large U-turn and then stopped at Walmart for a break. Hardcore travellers such as ourselves need a constant supply of nutrition. Aka cheetos, m&ms and cheese. We took this opportunity to stock up on all the essentials we needed for our roadtrip. Sleeping bags, pillows, snacks etc. Well. $140 later, my credit card reminded me that was a horrible idea. We finally made it to Hoover Dam and took some classic tourist photos with the state lines. Obviously. I don't think the other tourists were quite as impressed with our Dam related puns as we were but dam it, we are dam funny 😂 We even decided to walk to Arizona and back, just for fun, before heading back to the car (but not before I had to conquer my fear of long drop toilets 😷😭) and getting on our way to our third and final state of the day - Utah!!
He offered us a very generous discount but an extra $250 on top of everything we already had to pay for? No thanks, we will stick to our basic Hyundai E-something. After dragging our bags up to the parking garage we found our noble steed for the week. It's red. We have had notoriously bad luck with red cars in the past so fingers crossed this will all go smoothly. Or not. It took us about 30 seconds after finding the red car to realise we didn't have a key. What kind of rental place doesn't give you a key?! We stressed about it for a couple of minutes, trying to decide who was gonna have to go all the way back before we realised the car was unlocked and the key was on the central console. Road trip 1 - 0 Laura & Christine. After a quick (just kidding) game of luggage Tetris, a parking attendant who didn't understand our foreign licences and a quick reminder of which side of the road we use in America, we were on our way. Next stop: Hoover Dam.
When the alarms went off at half past dark (except it wasn't dark, it seems to be eternally light in Vegas) we both responded with a groan and some less than happy expressions. Knowing we had an early start meant we both spent the night plagued by lack of sleep and short bursts of dreams that we were late/forgot to book the car/missed check out etc. So at 6:30am it's safe to say we were seriously grumpy. Not the best way to start the big Vegas To Vega adventure! However, we shook it off as the travel pros we are and dragged our 38395928593kg worth of luggage down to our conveniently booked Uber that took us to the rental place. The guy behind the desk made no attempt to hide the fact he thought we were completely insane when we told him we were driving to Maine. He even choked on his coffee a little bit. To his credit, he did try to muster up a smile and a feeble 'it will be fun!' Before trying to talk is into upgrading to an SUV for the drive.

20 May 2017

When the show ended (an hour after it was supposed to - she really is a chatterbox!) we stopped by the Bellagio to take in the fountain display before heading back to the hotel to start the worst part of any trip: repacking. I swear this is a little goblin in my luggage that likes to multiply my belongings for fun. There is no way I brought this much stuff with me, right?! (I'm choosing to ignore the fact we went shopping and bought more stuff...) my suitcase is completely full and weighs about 5 times more than it did when I left England. How is this even possible?? I've never been more grateful we are not flying anywhere because there is no way they would let my bags on the plane. They weigh more than me. Instead, we have set our alarms for the middle of the night (aka 6am) and will be picking up a hire car to start our 4000 mile road trip. Pray for us. The last time we took a road trip we put the wrong petrol in the car, broke down and had to be towed to safety. Don't laugh 🙈🙈
After her nap, grumpy woke up in a much better mood and returned to her usual self ready for our last night in Vegas. I will be honest, tonight's evening activity was not one I had been looking forward to. Christine had booked tickets to see Celine Dion live at Caeser's Palace. Now maybe it's my youth catching up on me, but I don't know many Celine songs. Why on earth would I want to go and see her live?! But, being the awesome friend I am, I stuck on a smile and off we went (via the casino for some slot machine fun, it would be rude not to). At this point, I must eat my words. The concert was incredible. Celine was totally nuts and absolutely brilliant. The show had all the effects of a huge arena concert, while maintaining the vibe and personality of a small, intimate gig. She spent half the show just talking to the audience and telling jokes - she's actually very funny! The whole show was amazing and her voice is incredible. Sorry Celine, I should never have doubted you...
Day 3 started with rolling out of bed at a much more socially acceptable time and staking out a spot by the pool. Even though I put sunscreen on twice and we were only out for an hour and a half, I still burned. Damn my Snow White skin! I now resemble a very patchy pink and white marshmallow 😫 We decided this afternoon to play tourist and headed down to the Welcome To Las Vegas sign to take some cheesy pictures. Obviously. There is a guy who has set up a business taking pictures for people and there was a huge line so we decided that was unnecessary and stood to one side and took our own. Ain't nobody got time for that. By the time we headed back to The Strip, Little Miss Grumpy Gills (aka Christine), had had a bit too much sun and needed a nap so back to the hotel we went. Along the way, we learnt that we must look like awesome dancers because people kept trying to give us their hip hop CDs so we could 'get your twerk on'. While I'm sure we have mad twerking skills, no thanks.

19 May 2017

We just made it in time! We got to the check in desk at 10:20, signed in and headed up the stairs to be fitted for our harnesses. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to have our phones with us on the ride so we had no pictures of it but I did it I swear! I have the tacky wristband to prove it and everything! The whole way up was a combination of nerves, excitement, reminding Christine that I hate her, and right before we set off, several expletives (sorry, mum). Before we knew it we were soaring over Fremont Street, 77 feet in the air at 30mph with people staring at us from below. It was actually awesome!! You know, once you get over the initial fear of death. We got to the end and got unhooked by a nice man who called us sweetie. Legs shaking and high on adrenaline we went down to look at the hideous photos the photographer took of us. We didn't buy them. Nobody needs to see that many chins in a harness. We rewarded ourselves with late night shakes and fries. Here's to day 3!
We decided to drop our stuff off at the hotel before going ziplining, mostly so people wouldn't judge us for our excessive spending. We were booked on the zip line at 10:20pm so figured leaving the hotel at 9pm would give us loads of time to get there. At some point we will learn that our plans never quite work out. If you have ever been to Vegas, you will know that in order to cross the street you have to go up some escalators (or stairs if you're weird like that) and across a bridge over the road and back down the other side. Well for some unknown reason, they had decided to block off a bunch of the bridges. Every route we tried to take to get across the street was blocked off. After half an hour of walking around in circles and still only being at the entrance to our hotel, we decided to just walk straight and cross that bridge when we came to it (get it?!) 😂 Finally we got on a bus around 10pm and headed to Fremont Street for our ziplining adventure. Did I mention I hate heights
Finally, we got on the right bus and made our way down to the outlets for a spot of retail therapy, all the while repeating our mantra 'I will not spend unnecessary money today'. By the time we got there, it was 4:30. A little late for lunch, and breakfast time had long gone. So we decided on an early dinner (mostly because apparently it gets really cold and windy in Vegas around 4pm and we wanted to be inside) so we went in search of the holy grail aka Chipotle. After getting our fill of Mexican goodness, the wind had died down so we ventured out to find the only thing we needed to buy: trainers. We were only allowed to buy trainers. They were a necessity. We weren't going to spend money on anything but trainers. Oops... 4 tank tops, a tshirt, 2 pairs of shorts, a playsuit and 3 pairs of trainers later, we left listening to the soft sobbing of our credit cards the whole way home.
After dragging ourselves out of bed at around 2pm, we realised our plan to hang out by the pool all morning had been thwarted. Mostly, because there was no morning left and all the pool chairs had been taken. But never fear, we always have a back up plan. When in doubt, go shopping! So we packed up our stuff and headed out of the hotel. And by 'headed out', I mean got totally lost inside the casino, took the long route round, ended up in the hotel next door, and just when we almost made it out onto The Strip, realised we had forgotten an important piece of paperwork for the evening's ziplinig adventure and had to go back and start again. Take 2: we made it out onto The Strip and headed in the direction of the bus stop. Turns out the bus stop is far! And when we got there, we realised it was the wrong bus stop and we had to cross the street and walk basically the entire distance we had just walked again to get to the right one 🙈 at least we burned off last night's cheese fries!

18 May 2017

After not dying during landing, and successfully navigating my way to baggage claim (ok fine, contact lens guy helped me a lot) we were reunited. Apologies to anyone who was at Baggage Claim in Vegas around 3:30pm yesterday and heard that ungodly shrieking noise. That may have been us. 9 months is too long! Also apologies to anyone on our hotel shuttle who had to listen to us try and exchange 9 months of gossip in one go. Got the the hotel (cue Funtown song to eternally be stuck in my head), checked in and headed straight for the shower to wash off the stink of 12 hours on a plane. While making the most of our time in Vegas seemed like the smart thing to do, in hindsight, booking concert tickets for the first night after already having been up for nearly 24 hours was dumb. So dumb. However, we sucked it up and went and partied with Britney before crashing into bed around midnight, promising to see more of Vegas in the morning. Update: it's 2pm and we are still in bed. Oops.
I could have won an olympic medal for speed walking at that point because obviously my gate was the furthest one away from security...😒 I made it with time to spare and even bonded with the Australian guy next to me over wearing contact lenses on flights. Got on the flight to find I had booked myself an exit row. Yay me! Sat next to an off duty pilot and contact lens guy and settled in for the short flight to Vegas. Turns out flying out Phoenix in a small plane is way worse than flying in on a big one. I think Mr Off-Duty Pilot was worried I was going to open the exit door and jump out the way I was gripping on to the arm rest. Luckily it was a short flight and I couldn't wait to land in Vegas and not have to fly again for ages. Nothing could be worse than this turbulence. Wrong. Wrong. So very wrong. Landing in Vegas is HORRIBLE. The worst turbulence ever. I thought I was going to die. Christine even said she had an aborted landing on her way in 😭😭 NOT OK!!
After getting laughed at by the check in girls and told I had a cute accent by one of the nice airport helpers that steered me in the right direction, I was finally bag-free and on my way to security. Obviously, I went to the wrong one. America is weird and has different security point for different gates. Whyyyyy? Cue me running to the other end of the airport! Finally got to security at 1:15. Flight takes off in 45 mins. Ahhhh. Perfect time for security to have a giant line and for them to want to search my backpack. Apparently my bag of English chocolate in the bottom looked suspicious so the guy had to open it and check all the bars. I had 200 freddos in there. I offered him one and then realised he probably thought I was bribing him. Oops. After a conversation about doctor who while we waited for the machine to confirm I wasn't smuggling drugs in the shape of chocolate frogs, I was free.

17 May 2017

Is there any better feeling than realising there is an empty seat next to you on a long haul flight?! Apparently yes! Having the whole row to yourself, and nobody in the row behind you, or across the aisle from you. Winning! Flying to Phoenix was pretty easy, the movies were good and the food sucked. The landing was more like a rollercoaster though. Not ok. When I got to Phoenix, I mentally cursed myself out for giving myself such a short layover time. Less than 2 hours to get off one plane and into the air on the other. Awesome. Immigration was actually the smoothest it's ever been, the guy asked precisely 3 questions and sent me on my way to collect my bags, which I totally let go past me because I forgot what my new bag looked like. Then, after clearing customs, I was supposed to drop my bags off at a drop off place before going back through security. Yep. Missed that. Dragged my bags allll the way with me to the departure terminal before I realised and had to go back. Idiot.
At this point, Northern Girl let out an exasperated sigh and said that their Uber driver had just cancelled their lift and they needed to book another one. Why they weren't just going to get on the Hoppa bus like the rest of us I don't know. Scottish Girl saw that Northern Boy was momentarily distracted, seized the opportunity and bolted out the front door to wait for the bus outside. Northern Girl was still moaning about Uber when the bus turned up and Scottish Girl and I got on and watched as Northern couple proceeded to have a very animated argument over whose idea it was to get Uber instead of the bus. Yet they still didn't decide to buy a bus ticket, and the Hoppa left without them. I hope they make it to camp. Airports at 6am are a bit of a dream. No people! Smooth sailing straight through check-in, baggage drop and security. I even managed to get myself a comfy seat in Pret, complete with coffee and breakfast. Who says travelling is stressful?!
I mentally named them Northern Boy, Northern Girl and Scottish Girl and quickly established that Northern Boy asks a lot of questions and Scottish Girl was trying to be a good sport and keep her eye-rolling in check. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it was too early for chit-chat. Northern Girl sat in the corner on her phone while Northern Boy interrogated Scottish Girl about her summer ahead. Scottish Girl explained how she was going to be a lifeguard at a Summer Camp in Maine (woo! Maine!) but had no lifeguarding experience and was going to be trained when she got there. Oy. That wouldn't happen at Vega, I'm just saying! She then went on to say that she was probably going to have to save some kids from drowning because apparently 'it's not common for American kids to learn to swim'....um, WHAT?! 😂
Oh well! I jumped into bed, armed with a hot chocolate from the fancy coffee machine you can only get in the Super-rooms (see? Super fancy) and settled in for a night of anxiety-ridden, excitement-induced almost sleep with the calming sounds of Olivia Benson's yelling on SVU to send me off as I mentally checked for my passport for the 28492742nd time. 5:15am - alarm goes off. I hit snooze. 5:20am - alarm goes off. I hit snooze. 5:25am - alarm goes off. I hit snooze. 5:30am - alarm goes off. Fine. I'll get up. Bleary-eyed and less than bushy tailed, I dragged my impractical amounts of luggage to the lobby at 5:45am to wait for the shuttle to the airport. Downstairs, my campy-sense was tingling. First-year camp counsellors at 12oclock, complete with over-stuffed backpacks and Camp America tshirts. Nope. Too early for that. So I take a seat on the opposite side of the lobby to avoid having to make small talk and instead entertain myself with listening to their conversations...

16 May 2017

So this year's adventure got underway with an emotional goodbye, followed by a long drive with the parentals (where the car refused to play my music so we had to listen to the football the entire way 🙈) to quite possibly the sketchiest Travelodge in the history of ever. After waiting 17 years for the lift to take us up to reception, I checked in to be told that I was going to be upgraded for free to a new Super-room! (Aka, slightly less crap travelodge room with a new colour scheme). Winning! Upon exploring my new luxury accommodation, I found a random box on the wall that made a great Laura-sized hidey hole. I also learned that apparently in London Travelodges, guests are required to shampoo and bathe over the sink and wash their hands in the new power shower the receptionist bragged about. Or at least that's what the labels on the soap dispensers told me. All I seemed to get out of it though was an average shower pressure and a very wet bathroom.