Join, or die

From Hyde Park, we took the ‘roo all the way down the Hudson, through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

Our first stop (and last, for now at least, on the Revolutionary trail) was Philadelphia. This was our first Airbnb experience where we stayed in a private room in someone else’s house. When we were planning our trip, we thought the ‘Private Room’ option would be a great way to tap into some local knowledge, meet some interesting people and save some money. We thought we were confident and social enough that this would be a breeze. But, like many things we thought prior to starting this trip, this wasn’t necessarily the case. It turns out that our ‘people pleaser’ personality types, coupled with a host that had many rules (including requesting we place used toilet paper in the shared rubbish bin rather than down the toilet… urgh) led to a less than relaxing stay. That being said, we were in the South part of Philadelphia which was walking distance to the major historic sites, but edgy enough to remind us of our beloved Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

The revolutionary history dots had started to join together for me by the time we got to Philly, and so it was enlightening to walk the streets and understand how each piece fit in the 1776 puzzle. On our first afternoon we got our historical bearings, skipped the long lines for the Liberty Bell and visited Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. This was all very interesting until a pint-sized, pre-pubescent, pick-pocketer – possibly in cahoots with her ‘father’ – tried to get the better of me. Thankfully, she was neither skilled nor successful at her art.

Independence Hall
Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and a lesser known attempted pickpocketing.

We also visited the brand-spanking new Museum of the American Revolution. This is an amazing exercise in high quality curation, managing to tell an incredibly multi-faceted story in an engaging and informative way. The absolute highlight was George Washington’s tent. Yes: his actual tent… the one that he lived in and which served as military headquarters during the revolutionary war. My slight fascination with Benjamin Franklin turned into a minor obsession after visiting this museum, so Erik was dragged along the next morning to the Benjamin Franklin museum to learn more about this enigmatic revolutionary character, printmaker and inventor.

Benjamin FranklinMuseum
The ‘ghost’ of Benjamin Franklin’s house outside his museum.

I was enthralled by his famous ‘Join, or die’ print and the way its meaning altered over time. This is often thought to be the first piece of American Revolutionary propaganda, but actually wasn’t created as a response to this cause at all. It originated during the seven year war (also known as the French and Indian war), encouraging the colonies to unite together for the first time in history, and, ironically, under the British banner to boot. It was only later that it became a symbol of resistance against the British. I thought it was cool, anyway.

Join, or Die cartoon
Benjamin Franklin getting his cartoon on

Philly was also a food-filled experience. We lined up and tried authentic philly cheese steak; ate our way through local delicacies at Reading Terminal Market (the most delicious pretzel of the trip, a pot-roast roll, and an Amish apple dumpling); and stuffed ourselves with China Town dim-sum that rivalled Melbourne’s offerings.

Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market

On our second night there, we were lucky enough to score $6 tickets to see Wilco, Offa Rex (Olivia Chaney & Decemberists) and Conor Obert at a festival in Camden, New Jersey. We’re still not entirely sure why the tickets were so cheap, but there were some rumblings about ominous weather forecasts which seemed to have sent the festival into disaster mode. We caught the ferry across the Delaware, sat on the lawn in an amphitheatre and saw some great music. As Conor Oberst came to a close, it started lightly raining so we made an early escape.

As we Ubered back, two interesting things happened:

One: We learnt that we had just waited for an Uber on a deserted road in the most dangerous city in America… or perhaps 2nd most dangerous, our Uber driver wasn’t sure. I have since looked this up, and according to Neighbourhood Scout, Camden was most dangerous in 2015, 2nd in 2016 but has now slipped to 4th. So I guess that’s why we’re okay.

Two: Erik was mistaken for an Australian. This has happened before, but we had put it down to people hearing my accent first, and then mistaking his mid-western drawl. But in this situation I had said nothing more than ‘hi’ so it was clearly Erik’s steady stream of chatter that did it.

We left Philly with full heads, hearts and stomachs, ready for some down time with the Amish.

Spending time with FDR and the CIA

I had this moment laying in a New York City hotel room where my mind floated back to our vacant campsite in Hyde Park. I played out one scene where vandals dismantled our defenceless van. Then another where rangers, upon finding the campsite unattended for so long, assumed we had drowned in the Hudson and called out whatever underwater search and rescue team would incur the maximum amount of expense and scorn. I’m not sure where the anxiety came from but it felt entirely plausible. As our uber glided into the campsite, I was happy to find the Eagleroo just as we had left it. We had affixed three sides to the pop-up shelter so that, with the fourth covered by the van, it really was hard to tell whether it was habited or not. It was an overcast day and we decided to spend the rest of it around camp. Our relaxing day would have segued nicely into a restful night but for the tireless work of one insect who spent the entire night reminding us of the Dalai Lama’s insight: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

The Hudson River
The Hudson with reassuring lack of search and rescue team

We were moderately excited about two things in Hyde Park: the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and FDR’s presidential library, both of which exceeded our expectations. The culinary institute operates several restaurants where students get a little work experience and patrons get a gourmet experience at sub-gourmet prices. We decided on the American Bounty restaurant which used regional produce to create American cuisine. Not only was the food delicious but we were seated right next to the window looking into the kitchen. We got to watch desserts being blowtorched and entrees plated while we tucked in to our own fare. With all of that goodness to absorb, my favorite part of the experience was still that the stick figures on the pedestrian crossing signs wore little chef hats. I’m pretty cultured.

Pedestrian crossing sign with chef's hat
Chef man walking

The other opportunity to fill our heads with good stuff in Hyde Park came from the FDR presidential library. I had assumed that presidential libraries went back as far as presidents. Not so. FDR created the first presidential library and did so while he was still president. He even used part of it as his office while in Hyde Park. I’ve always found the Roosevelts fascinating and this visit increased that fascination by quite a bit. We expected to spend about an hour there. We dragged ourselves away after four. Did you know that FDR made beer legal again during prohibition? It took an act of congress to get our whiskey back but FDR ended the cruel and unusual punishment of a beer-less depression. I mean I already liked him for the New Deal and putting Woodie Guthrie on the payroll and being portrayed by Bill Murray but the beer thing really clinched it.

Other highlights from Hyde Park included a scrumptious slice of pecan pie from the Eveready Diner, taking Eagleroo to see Planet of the Apes at the drive-in, and finally getting a decent phone holder that doesn’t drop the phone under the pedals every time we hit a bump. Thanks for all of that, Hyde Park.

Beantown to the Big Apple.

Well the Eagleroo continues to chug along the east coast and we are starting to get accustomed to the rhythm of life on the road, which isn’t really rhythmic at all. I guess that’s why it takes some getting accustomed to.

Red Sox versus Blue Jays at Fenway park
…more like funway!

After catching a game at Fenway we left Boston and headed to Cape Cod for a three night stint camping at Nickerson State Park. We were ready to get some of the city grit off of our skin and accomplished that shortly after arrival with a dip in the tranquil pond next to the campsite. Our three days on the Cape (or ‘The Cod’ as Slinky took to calling it) were the exact antidote to the noise of the city that we were after. Our main venture out of the campsite involved two beach drive-bys in which full parking lots kept us from stopping and a swing through Provincetown where hordes of people and expensive parking had the same effect. Honestly, I was a little relieved and happy to get back to our little corner of the woods. We spent most of our non-working hours on the cape reading, swimming, cooking, playing guitar–all of those things I thought there would be an endless supply of on the trip. It was pretty blissful. I even had time to scrub my Birkenstocks with borax in a semi-successful attempt to remove the increasing funk. And Slinky dyed her hair at 10pm one night.

Slinky walking on the water at Nickerson State Park
Slinky walking on the water at Nickerson State Park

From the Cape we worked our way to Hyde Park, New York, stopping off briefly in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Stockbridge is famous (in my family, anyway) as the site of Alice’s Restaurant and the Arlo Guthrie’s arrest on charges of littering . . . and creating a nuisance. I was eager to eat at the restaurant and see the church from whence the litter came. I knew the restaurant was no longer called Alice’s Restaurant. What I didn’t know is that it isn’t open anymore. That seems to be recent and hopefully temporary. The church however is still there and is now the Guthrie Center. Arlo and a team of volunteers have kept it going as a ‘bring your own God’ church and music venue. They seemed happy to have us drop in and showed us around the place graciously. Sarah’s parents were here several years ago and Arlo happened to drop in while they were visiting. That didn’t happen to us, unfortunately. But I pulled away from the center slowly… just in case.

Eagleroo van at the Guthrie Center
The ‘roo goes to church

In Hyde Park we set up camp and immediately packed our bags to leave. Slinky had devised a cunning plan to set up camp just outside of town and then sneak off to Poughkeepsie and take the train to New York City. We figured the van would be more secure at a campsite looking occupied than in some parking lot in Jersey. So we caught an uber to the train station and a train to Grand Central then walked the remaining six blocks to our hotel.

New York was weird and wonderful as I think New York is supposed to be. Highlights included meeting an old friend for the first time and a chance dinner at a secret Mexican restaurant with friends from Dubai. Both of those could probably use a bit more explanation. So right before I moved to Australia for a job, my soon to be friend Alyssa moved to London for basically the same job. We met regularly via phone and Google hangouts. For three years, though we never met in person, she was one of the few people that understood both what I do for a living and how it feels to do that in another country. After many near misses, including being in LAX on different sides of the same day, we finally met up in New York. She recently moved back from London for a new job. It was cool to occupy the same physical space at last. And by physical space, I mostly mean bar.

Erik, Slinky, Alyssa on the roof
Friends in high places

The next day we spent the morning taking in some of the usual sites and indulging a growing bagel addiction. We’d just sat down in the shadow of the Flat Iron building when Slinky got a message from her friend James saying “Are you in New York? Fancy a drink?” Slinky and James go way back. They met as kids in the UK and they, along with both families, have remained close despite the distance ever since. I met James and most of his family at Slinky’s sister’s wedding a few months ago in Australia. James and his wife Fiona live in Dubai so we were a bit surprised they were in New York at the same time that we were. We met up for that drink, after which they invited us to join them for dinner. We arrived at an unassuming looking taco stand where Fiona told the well-dressed man standing by the unlabelled door who she was and after some secret knocking the door was opened, revealing a dark staircase. We were led down the stairs and through the kitchen Goodfellas-style to our seats. The decor was early hipster dungeon. The food was delicious and the shreds of conversation I picked up over the din were delightful. Our last night in New York couldn’t have been better spent.

James, Fiona, Slinky, Erik
Another day, more friends from the UK

On the train ride back up the Hudson the following day, I found myself wishing for just a bit more time in the big city. That has not been the case upon leaving other big cities. Generally we are ready to soak up some campfire smoke get our hermit on. But New York just has that charming magnetism. Though I know we are seeing some of these places for the last time, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case with the Big Apple. We shall meet again, New York.

Learning to live on the road.

So we’ve been on the road for a month now, and we won’t lie: it’s had its challenges.

When it rains, EVERYTHING gets muddy, and our camp takes twice as long to dismantle. Whenever I want something out of the van, Erik seems to be in the exact part I need access to. Campfire dinners can be gritty (particularly when your perfectly cooked pork loin rolls off the grill and into the fire). And campsite shower blocks – ugh.

Campfire Pork
Campfire pork, shortly before it rolled into the fire

But generally,  every frustration that we face has a flip side:

Rain means we’re staying in beautiful, lush locations.

The fact the Erik is here (even when he’s in my way) and we’re experiencing this trip of a lifetime together fills my heart with joy on a daily basis.

Campfire dinners are like having your own little smokehouse. Everything tastes amazing!

We’ve currently just reached a record low point with shower blocks, so I’m not sure I have anything good to say at this point in time… but they do mean we get stay in stunning outdoor locations and at least get (somewhat) clean.

The first few weeks (which Erik wrote about in his last post) have been heavy with spending time with friends and family. I have been a little overwhelmed by this as our time has been divided between working, sleeping and socialising with the people who have so graciously and generously put us up. As exhausting as this has been, I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve met wonderful people that help me better understand  Erik’s pre-Australia (and pre-me!) world (along with a few cheeky college stories to boot), and we’ve had local experiences we otherwise would have missed. Like seeing an 80s themed water ski show. Or being taken for a girl’s night away to a biker bar in the woods (which is not as dangerous as it sounds). Or learning how to dissuade deer flies from biting you whilst running through the woods in New Hampshire with the aid of tape, glue and a baseball hat. Or being taken to visit idyllic, quiet parts of Maine. The list of these small, private experiences goes on and on, and I think will end up being the heart of what we remember about this trip in years to come.

Deer Flies on Hat
How to catch a Deer Fly or two….

The logistics of living in a van have definitely been through a teething period. Setting up and taking down camp is time consuming, although we’re getting faster at it and learning what is achievable for one night stays as opposed to three night stays. Everything very much has a designated home, and these have altered as we learn what we access when. Some things (like USB fans and our premium pop up shelter) have been godsends. Others we daily curse their existence (our collapsable water storage container is the most ridiculously designed piece of crap and destined for a short life with us).

Then there are the physicalities of living in a van – particularly one you can’t stand up in. For the first two weeks my back was in constant pain from moving around hunched over. I have since learnt to move around in the van on my knees. We recently left the ‘roo set up in a camp site for a few days whilst we snuck off to New York. Oh, the delights of not only being able to stand up in your bedroom, but to not put your shoes on to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

For me,  driving on the other side of the road has been another challenge. I have done this before (in Sicily of all places, so driving in the states should be a breeze after experiencing the Italian roads), but never in a 17 foot long, 7 foot high, 20 year old beast like our Eagleroo. There have been several times when my nerves have been tested as we teeter along mountain roads or when google maps sends us on a 20 minute detour for the pleasure of a u-turn. Erik’s patience with my driving (and driving related melt-downs) seems to be never ending, for which I am grateful.

We also miss things about home. Our families, our friends, our fat little cat. Oh, and our kingdom for a night watching a movie on the couch! We have an iPad Pro, an unlimited data plan and Netflix in the ‘roo (which OMG do we suffer in Australia with our Netflix ‘lite’) but it’s not quite the same… particularly when we know a whole season of Masterchef has passed since we’ve left.


But, for the most part, it’s great. We wake up somewhere new (and very often beautiful) everyday, and have made made a comfy little home out of our 40 square feet on wheels… We’re here, we’re in the moment and we’re loving it.

Dispatches from the first couple of weeks

I’m happy to report that the first couple of weeks of the trip have gone more smoothly than that first couple of days, both automotively and spiritually. We have not found much time to actually document our exploits. Thankfully that’s due to catching up with friends and seeing stuff rather than coming to terms with our mechanical shortcomings. The Eagleroo has actually been running like a champ since we actually hit the road.

We left Dayton on June 28th and headed for Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Our tour was a bit of a blitzkrieg since we were on a schedule. I could spend days there… we spent about 90 minutes. Up close everybody’s stage clothes look so small and ridiculous. Except Jimi Hendrix’s. His are amazing from any distance. I was particularly taken with seeing Joey Ramone’s leather jacket and Paul Westerberg’s scrawled out lyrics to Bastards of Young.

From the Hall of Fame we scooted south to Malvern, Ohio and the Chippewa Lake Ski show. Four of the members of this impressive troupe belong to the Peshina family, friends of mine from college days. They glided across the water on anything that could be dragged behind a boat, jumping ramps and doing flips all to a thunderous soundtrack of 80’s classics. After the show, we headed back to their place to sit around the fire and fill in the blanks on the last ten years. Their talented kids serenaded us on guitar and ukulele and we couldn’t help but stay up too late.

Chippewa Lake Ski Show
The Chippewa Lake Ski Show

From Ohio we headed to New York state, where we would spend the next several days in the Finger Lakes region. On the way we stopped off for buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar. They claim to have invented buffalo wings and are certainly close perfecting them.  

Our Finger Lakes experience was rain soaked, thus providing the opportunity to test our camp set up and take down prowess. Some days are more prowess-filled than others. In between showers, we saw some pretty sweet waterfalls and visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.  


Finger Lakin’ good!

After our Finger Laking good time (I swear that’s Sarah’s joke), we spent several days in the foothills of the Adirondacks with our good friends Nikki and Konrad and their ridiculously cute son Charlie. Nikki grew up here in the storybookish hometown U.S.A. known as Glens Falls. We set up shop in the driveway of her extremely kind and accommodating parents. Our hosts treated us to a hike up Sleeping Beauty mountain, a 3rd of July party, fireworks, a 4th of July party and a gigantic boat full of sushi.

The Glens Falls crew atop Sleeping Beauty
The Glens Falls crew atop Sleeping Beauty

We were sad to leave but had more east coast splendour up ahead. First in Lake Placid, New York then in Burlington, Vermont, both of which provided beautiful mountain and lake views depending on where your head stopped spinning.

In New Hampshire we caught up with more friends, Mitch and Dylan, who have a wonderful house in Tamworth. Though there for less than 24 hours, they managed to take us on limit-pushing runs, a gorgeous hike, and provide a couple of delicious home-cooked meals. Though I’ve only met Mitch and Dylan a couple of times and Sarah had never met them, they are the kind of people whose warmth and generosity make them instant friends. We made tentative plans to catch up with the at the Grand Canyon as it looks like our paths may cross there as well.

New Ham-it-up-shire

Next it was off to Maine and another reunion with old friends. Lucy and Chris live outside of Portland, Maine on an idyllic property with blueberries, chickens and their two boys. They took us for lobster right on the shore and Lucy even showed us how to eat it (the green stuff is called the tamale and can be eaten or worn). We also had clams and oysters and even ate seaweed right off the rocks. We knew it was safe because a 4 year old told us it was. We capped the Maine visit with a trip to Lucy’s parents house, where they have spent the last 42 years living adjacent to some of the most picturesque coastline I’ve ever seen.

Next stop was Concord, Massachusetts where we saw the bridge where the Revolutionary war began. Sarah toured the Louisa May Alcott house while I explored Ralph Waldo Emerson’s. I took the 1.7 mile Emerson Thoreau Amble from Emerson’s house to Thoreau’s cabin and rejoined Sarah on the banks of Walden Pond. My transcendental batteries recharged, we headed to Boston where we are currently. Last night we had dinner with our friends Jim and Bridget and dropped off the van at their place. We are spending our Boston time on foot as a vehicle, especially one as big as Eagleroo, is more of a liability than an asset in a city like Boston. After dinner, Jim took us on a tour of his workplace. He designs custom kit cars. He’s one of those rare people who seems to be doing exactly what he should be professionally. The shop is amazing.   

We are truthfully a little exhausted from balancing this pace of travel with work but remain grateful to be on this journey. We’re taking a little time this morning to sit still in a coffee shop and try to remember all that’s happened over last two and a half weeks. Going forward we’ll try to share a little more frequently and in a little more depth. But for now, we’ve got Beantown to explore. 

Alternator blues.

An unfortunate start! #slinkyat6 @eagleroovan

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The Eagleroo is back in commission after a couple of days of being sidelined with a faulty (and yet brand new) alternator. As we drove the very first leg of our trip, the 130 miles from Indianapolis to Dayton, I noticed that the gauges were acting a little funky. Despite our full tank of gas, the fuel gauge hovered around an eighth of a tank. This made me nervous given the Roo’s recent fuel issues,  so we stopped to fill the tank in New Castle, Indiana. She took on a few gallons before the pump’s ‘shwoop-cachunk’ indicated that was all that was going in. As we steered back on to I-70 East, I noticed that the battery gauge mirrored the fuel gauge, hovering around an eighth of capacity. I wasn’t sure whether to hope that meant a faulty instrument cluster or a dying battery. Neither seemed ideal.

Our final preparations for the trip included installation of a second battery and a larger alternator. This will allow us to charge laptops and phones, run an electric cooler, and have other modern day electrified luxuries without sacrificing the ability to start the van–another luxury we’re feeling pretty attached to. To allow us to draw from the second battery (fittingly dubbed the leisure battery by second battery enthusiasts) without draining the battery that starts the van, the mechanic had installed a relay switch. He explained that when we stop for a few days, we want to push the button, thus disconnecting the batteries from one another. Then when we get going again, we flip the switch to reconnect the circuit so everything gets charged as we drive. We had both exchanged tentative nods as he relayed this information. Our eyes contained that glimmer of panic one displays when trying to force-feed information straight into long-term memory.

“Got it?”

“Got it!”

But as we drove along watching the gauges flag, I started to question whether we had it. Maybe the switch being flipped meant we were only charging the leisure battery while the time-to-make-the-van-go battery died of thirst. In desperation, I asked Slinky to push the button to see if that helped.

It did not help.

What it did do was to cause all of the gauges, speedometer included, to drop to zero. Wanting to evade the eighteen wheelers rapidly approaching in our lane, I flipped the right turn signal on. That’s when the van lost all power and went into coast mode. I tried to access the auxiliary power available to all human beings through simultaneous breath-holding and sphincter-tightening but, since that’s not an actual thing, that didn’t work either.

“The switch, the switch!”

She flipped the switch and the Roo woke up again like Chewbacca had hit the ceiling or Fonzie had pounded the dash. The speedometer climbed back up to fiftyish. The gas and battery gauges back to their dubious eighths.

We limped it the seventy remaining miles to Dayton with eyes glued to the battery gauge. Once we pulled into my parents driveway, I tried the key again. A little clicking, the bare minimum acknowledgement of my action, was all I got.

I’ll spare you the aftermath of phone calls and hand-wringing, both of which were plentiful. Suffice it to say that we now have a new, new alternator, a revised plan of attack for leg two of the trip and we even got to make the first leg of the trip (Indy-Dayton) again just to make sure we did it right.

Oh, and I got to reacquaint myself with my vocabulary of curse words. It remains a river that runs both deep and wide.

On the road again. #slinkyat6 @eagleroovan

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Our grand plan.

Road Trip USA

Our grand plan (or itinerary) started as us pipe dreaming about our trip. It included several bottles of wine, a whopping map of the US and hundreds of tiny 1cm x 1cm post-it note squares. We popped a post-it on EVERYTHING we wanted to see, and from that a reality (and possible route) was born.

From there, things got real. We had to provide a fully detailed itinerary along with my US visa application, and were lucky enough to stumble on the free, mostly user-friendly, road trip planning site Furkot. We mapped out possible dates and our most likely route – which looked like a lopsided infinity symbol across the country.

Our trip has taken many twists and turns along the way. Our original plan was three months in Indianapolis at the start, followed by an East coast loop, a three week break back in Indy, then a West coast loop. Then we found out Erik could only be out of Australia a certain amount of time if he wanted to apply for citizenship in the year after we returned so our trip got shortened…. then my sister got married in Australia half way through our planned Indy time… we were planning on crossing to Canada several times during our stay, until I was informed on arrival at LAX (despite differing advice received previously) that this was not OK, so Canada has now been crossed off and will likely be exchanged for a trip to London to get my visa renewed…  we had tickets to see Aretha Franklin at Chautauqua, then Aretha got sick and was replaced by Jay Leno who we have zero interest in seeing… the list goes on and things get chopped, changed and moved around. This is all okay: part of this adventure is learning to live life a little more flexibly, and not getting caught in the day to day.

We also want to be able to follow our gut instinct when we’re on the road and stop for a few extra days in one place if we are feeling the vibe, and move on faster if we’re not. Giving ourselves the room to be flexible has been a challenge. Not only because of our (my) inbuilt desire to plan, but also because some National Park camp sites require bookings about six months in advance, and, of course, people want to know when we’ll be landing on their door step.

But it is so exciting to be on the road after so much planning, planning, wine and more planning.

You can check out our up to date itineraries below, and follow along as they shift and change over the next six months.


Slinky Styles Adventure, Part 1


Slinky Styles Adventure Part 2

Maiden voyage of the Eagleroo.

So, we’ve spent the last month fitting, kitting and fulfilling our #vanlyfe dreams.

We start the trip in earnest this coming Saturday, but since we were lucky enough to be invited to the backyard music festival, ‘Rabscuttlooza’, in Rensselaer (Indiana) last weekend, we thought – given the ‘roo was 90% of the way there –  it was a good opportunity to give her a test run.

In preparation, we spent the whole of Friday evening spreading the entirety of our belongings over our friends’ living room (they may be unwilling to have us back after that little display!) before packing them into tubs and baskets. We packed our tubs and baskets into their van tub and basket holders. We made our bed. We turned on our electric esky (cooler).  We were ready.

We set off around midday and it was all smooth sailing until we stopped for gas. Erik was filling the van whilst I took a bathroom break. As I walked back toward the bowser (gas pump), I noticed liquid pouring out the bottom of the van as Erik was filling it. A short burst a drama ensued, as we quickly worked out that as we filled the van, a good percentage of the fuel was leaking out onto the asphalt below it. This was an alarming and depressing start, but after a quick Eagleroo inspection and conference in a McDonalds parking lot, we made a (quite frankly, rather ill-informed) decision to keep going and take it to a mechanic when we were back in Indianapolis. Fortunately, we managed to limp the rest of the way to Rabscuttlooza without further mishap.

Erik inspecting the van

We had a wonderfull afternoon, full of music, Mexican food, good company and a violent game called hammerschlagen (which you can read about here). Late in the evening, as we settled in to watch Donnie Darko (yep, Rabscuttlooza has a strong rabbit theme – it’s THAT Rabscuttle) the most intense storm I have ever witnessed rolled in. After a lightening strike put an end to watching Donnie D (and our friend’s entertainment system), it was time for bed. We were a little apprehensive about sleeping in our customised metal box during such a storm, but determined not to chicken out of our test run, so settled in to sleep to the sounds of pounding rain and thunder claps. However, this wasn’t what kept us awake during the night… and now we arrive to lesson one of road living:

  1. When stopping overnight, always park the van on flat surfaces.

We had managed to park the van so not only were our heads pointed down a hill, but we were also slanted to the side. So not only were we sleeping with a slight sense of vertigo, but Erik was also rolling into me all night and at one point I actually came off the mattress. It was a tough first night, but a solid lesson learnt. We’ve now downloaded a level app to our phones so we can make sure we are parked in a way that will ensure a decent nights sleep.

The van as Rabscuttlooza
The van at Rabscuttlooza… you can kind of see the precarious angle!

But, we made it! The ‘roo is currently back at the mechanic (we fortuitously had her booked in for a leisure battery fitting), so she will hopefully be back on the road on Saturday when we officially start our trip. Stay tuned.

And we keep ambling…

We’re still four months away from leaving together for the U.S. I have quit my job to start organizing freelance work. Sarah continues to run her business from here in Melbourne. Certain aspects of the trip are really starting to take shape. Our route seems to have remained unchanged for the past couple of months (the early version was tweaked, twisted and reversed for various reasons) and we are starting to talk about where we will be on specific dates.

I’ll be keeping up this blog as we go and will do my best to capture the moment. I’m excited to see my country through the eyes of my partner who grew up in Australia and the U.K. I’m curious about how the day to day vibe has changed since I left a few years ago. From the news, it seems like everybody is squaring off along political lines, preparing for either World War 3 or Civil War 2. I was certainly among those shocked and disheartened by the recent election and the fear-driven isolationism that won the day. But I have faith that there’s more kindness and common ground out there then it would seem. I plan on looking for it anyway.

Mostly I’m just eager to get going, to embark on this trip that we’ve been talking about for a while now, and to spend some quality time experiencing the unknown with the woman I love.

Amble On.

Trying out our new camera on one of our (more fun) trip planning nights

So with a plan in place, we set about doing all of the necessary things to get the trip started. There are, it turns out, a lot of those things. For one, I had to wait for my permanent residency in Australia to come through, ensuring I could come back after the trip. Then there was Sarah’s visa to visit the U.S. Both of these were comprised mainly of paperwork and waiting.

We mapped out our trip using an online tool called Furkot. I’m not quite sure what they were going for with the name but everything else about it is top-shelf and free.

To make sure that we kept up with the planning, we scheduled trip-planning nights every other Tuesday. Some of these nights were really fun as we envisioned our future selves criss-crossing the nation, seeing old friends and taking in the sights. Other nights were less fun as we talked about realities like how much things were going to cost. To that end, we set regular deposits to a holiday account and I found myself looking at the exchange rate every day, not a habit I was accustomed to. We knew we were going to have to work on this trip but we wanted to avoid having to rush to the next place to bury our heads in our laptops all day.

Sarah found a class taught by a couple who had spent over a year travelling the world and working. They called themselves digital nomads and were offering tips about getting and doing work on the road. It was an extremely helpful few hours, not just for the first-had experience but because it opened us up to this world of people who have taken crazy ideas and run with them. Our teachers had not only travelled and worked in Thailand, India, and Europe, they’d done it all with two small children in tow. Driving around in the first world in a van seemed downright tame by comparison. I left feeling way less cutting edge but way more informed.