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.

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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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.


It’s January as I write this. The trip itself starts in late June but there are quite a few steps along the way. In fact, there have been quite a few steps already so I’ll start with a little background.

One night about a year ago, my partner Sarah and I were having a drink after dinner and talking about how much we like cooking together. Then we started talking about how much we like travelling and that took the obvious next step to ‘we should buy a food truck and drive around the U.S. for a year selling Australian food.’ Then  ‘we should call it Eagleroo and the logo should be an eagle bursting forth from the pouch of a kangaroo. And I may need to get a tattoo of the logo on my chest’. It may not have been our first drink of the evening but it still sounded like a good idea the next day, and the next week, so we started planning.

Reality set in in semi-manageable waves: we didn’t know anything about running a food truck business so we bought a book and listened to some podcasts about it, it sounded like a lot of work but we both knew how to work hard, we wouldn’t make much money but if we broke even we’d be fine. Then came the less manageable waves like you need a different permit to operate in every location and it could take weeks for each one. As the waves gave way to ocean, we rethought our approach. Since travelling together was the real goal and we are lucky enough to have jobs that we can do remotely , we decided to keep the roadtrip part and give the food truck part the boot. And while I don’t even know anybody that has a food truck, I happen to have a van. It’s a 1997 Ford E150 that has taken a few bands to quite a few gigs. For some reason when I moved to Australia a few years ago, I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. This must be why.

The van at my cabin, circa 2015