Updated: Jun 19, 2020
The American Roadtrip gives rise to an interesting experience in that everything seems vaguely familiar because you’ve been to the movies. The dust, the trucks, the farms, the forests – all considerably different from that of the UK, yet not completely alien. When it comes to naming their places and products however, they are capable of introducing you to a whole new, hysterically funny, world of wonder. We didn't have the privilege of driving from Bumpass to Bugtussle, but there was still plenty to entertain when it was time to get gas on our journey - fancy a buttermuffin (snigger)? How about some Quicklube (snort)? Or perhaps you fancy a visit to Glory Hole after you’ve left Muffler Palace (roaring with laughter at this point!)
The supermarket experience was just as amusing with its appetizingly named Fanny Granola and Easy Cheesy Puffs (blurgh)!
Back on the road and into the boat
Lake Tahoe brought us some brilliant boat action. By this stage the kids felt free and easy on the water (my youngest particularly so having attempted to escape down the river outside Yosemite with a single paddle and a packet of crisps when we weren’t looking and giving me a momentary heart attack). Our freshwater frolics finished with a beer on the beach and a refusal by our youngest to return home. The advantage of travelling in a country where large predatory creatures roam wild means that this sort of silliness can be cut short with a threat of “Fine, I’ll just leave you here to be eaten by bears” or “ Shh, I think that’s a mountain lion.”
38 degree pizza
It’s worth mentioning at this point how the stress of covering large distances in 38 degree heat combined with stress of being a parent of two tired, hungry, out-of-routine children, can sometimes drive you to do ridiculous things. In this instance, as we headed back towards the coast we found ourselves needing to stop and have tea. In Colusa we found a small campground in the shade with sprinklers. Immediately, the kids stripped - streaking into the spray to cool down.
“Let’s have pizza for dinner shall we?” I say.
“Sure”, replies the husband and he dutifully returns the vehicle to cook tea while my three year old sits misting my face with the hand-held fan we had purchased for such an eventuality as this.
Fifteen minutes later, said husband appears from within the RV, pretty much as wet as the girls and asking me why I thought it was a good idea to run the oven inside a van that, despite the air conditioning, is pretty sweltering already. Eating hot pizza wasn’t really that pleasant either!
We camped at Middle Creek, uneasy at the amount of burn damage in the countryside surrounding us but then grateful for the cool, clear air that night-time gifted us. The stars were bright and the frog orchestra sang us to sleep that evening (only to be woken by the logging lorries early the next day.
The next legs included river swimming at Standish Hickey...
...campfire cooking, elks on a prairie and the biggest trees we’ve ever seen along The Avenue of the Giants (another natural wonder I would most definitely term ‘majestical’ (Thank you 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'!)
Time for another footnote and this time it’s about toilets. Have you ever had that dream where you desperately need the loo but can’t find one? If your dream is particularly unkind to you then you’ll eventually reach the rest-room but there will be a distinct lack of doors. The American lavatory experience is uncomfortably similar to the aforementioned nightmare – there are doors but they have massive gaps above, below and around. You are practically waving at everyone in the queue while you wee. Thank goodness the van had its own toilet. It greatly amused my husband on those rare occasions I braved the state facilities and he informed me that the reason for their ridiculous design is so that people can escape should they become trapped inside. I mean, please, you could fit three human beings under my door America - it’s just not necessary.
We celebrated our arrival in Oregon by researching how many people had recently been eaten by mountain lions. Disturbingly, only a year before a lone lady hiker had been attacked in the very park in which we were camped and wasn’t found until two days after the event. Needless to say, we kept the kids close as we hiked down to the sweeping beaches to hunt for paw prints.
The next few days included some pretty crabby antics (both creature and mood related), the spotting of seals, sea lions and grey whales and the singularly most terrifying experience of my life. This doesn’t fall into the category of wildlife encounter but is entitled ‘Dune buggying with husband’. Picture great piles of sand several stories high and the blinding light of sun obscuring the rifts and ridges that will surely roll us (the terms used are witches’ eyes and razorbacks I later learned). Add into that mix a go-kart with 1500 cc engine and a husband who loves a bit of off-road action at the best of times. I screamed, I shouted, I even hit his arm several times. It didn’t make an ounce of difference. Eventually, with one child asleep and the other still screaming gleefully in the back, I kicked him out the driver’s seat and took over. At least behind the wheel I was in control…oh, and I beat his top speed with 63 mph across the flat…
We followed this with nature trails spotting slimy salamanders, whale-watching a juvenile grey called Ninja on a Zodiac with marine biologist Carrie, scouting about shipwrecks and shouting at banana slugs (a ranger called Shanna had showed us their one ear!) We rambled through mossy forests in Washington, visited the Tree of Life , learned about snags (dead trees), conks (bracket fungus), ephemites (moss), nurse logs, fern fighting, paid quick homage to Twilight in Forks and finished the day with a swim in the hot springs at Sol Duc.
This roadtrip was indeed delivering!
Come back next week to find out where we went from there!