Pizza in Phoenix

Its probably not most peoples idea of normal to arrange to meet someone for a pizza that requires a drive of nearly 300miles but it was worth it for Bryony to catch up with her friend. The drive was about 4.5 hours long despite the various pit stops. Arriving 15 minutes early ironically we got lost on foot in the carpark trying to find Barros so were almost late. A quick call was all it took to soon be consuming delicious pizza & catching up with all the news.

The winking warning light was still bothering me despite our detour to a garage near Boulder City, the purchase of a manual tyre gauge & reporting the problem to the Van company. So we were really grateful to Jess who arranged for her husband to take a looks as he works for an auto parts company & had a number of testing gadgets that he could use to check the system out.

KOA campsites are great in as much as they are usually pretty consistent in what they offer but I like to change it up a bit & stay at some of the state park or recreational government sites. Whilst these sites are a little more basic they are usually in places of outstanding natural beauty & way cheaper than an RV park. Whilst only a half hour drive it was a little hairy trying to navigate in the dark as the headlights were shockingly dim but we made it & were rewarded the next day with a beautiful view over Lake Pleasant. The large outdoor recreational area lies on the county border lines of Maricopia & Yavapai, northwest of Pheonix, Arizona. It is about 1700 feet above sea level and covers 7,500 acres with a depth that ranges from 70 – 170 foot. Small boats were evident & while I was taking photos a mass of hot air balloons could be seen & the cactus were really fascinating shapes & varieties.

Camp Verde provided a great place to stop for coffee & I treated myself to a bag of ‘Cowboy Coffee’ in a great cafe we found. The lady in the tourist information office was really lovely & we found a garage where the mechanics checked our tyres for free. Just showing there really are still some kind people in the world as although the light was still on I had now concluded there was little to be done about it in just about every way possible.

Travelling towards Grants, New Mexico we realised we had skipped from PacificTime to Mountain time & hence why the previous day our journey seemed to be taking longer with every mile we drove forward. To be staying in the same time zone was definitely a blessing as we faced the longest drive of the trip at nearly 400 miles which was going to take at least 6.5 hours not counting stops. 

It was hoped that we would be able to incorporate the scenic drive via the Petrified Forest near Holbrook but having to had made so many unscheduled pit stops the previous few days this was sadly no longer an option. Still we did manage to catch a small section the Joshua Tree National Forest & that sort of compensated as the landscape was really unlike any other forest we had ever seen.

Grants KOA was a great place to break the journey overnight before heading towards Albuquerque then consulting google maps to ask the all important question ‘is this the way to Amarillo?’  There are not many occasions to screen shot the sat nav instructions but when it tells you drive on the Interstate 40 East for 348 miles before making a right turn this was definitely one. I normally try to avoid this type of road as inevitably whilst undoubtably quicker they are infinitely more boring to drive. However from this a great new driving game was invented. Think of variation of ‘eye spy’ in which every time a particular advert or nominated thing was spotted the passenger had to insert a suitably cheesy song into the days playlist. To qualify the song ideally had to have a place or state name that we were likely to visit or have a suitable country & western vibe although not sure the algorithms of my Spotify account have completely recovered from some of the gems we found. 

Arriving at Fort Amarillo, Texas minus another hour as we had left mountain time for central time we were glad to take a rest & do some laundry before heading across country to Dallas.

Flying High in Freemantle

Not sure what kind of nutcase plans a post pandemic road trip amidst a fuel crisis & general world chaos but when you get the travel itch all i can say in my defence is that it needed scratching. 

When it came to transport it was definitely a ‘Goldilocks’ decision as I determined we needed a van that was neither too big nor too small but one that was ‘just right’. Copious googling turned up the Kuga Hi-top from Travellers Autobarn that seemed at least on paper to meet all the requirements. The only snag was that all their depots were located on the West Coast & we wanted to catch up with people one of whom lived on the West Coast. 

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that route planning for me is actually part of the journey so it was that I set about mapping out the shape of the ‘trip of two halves’ as the first section would be with my daughter & the return with my husband. It would be quite a circular journey with a van pick up / drop off in Las Vegas.

On the evening we checked in to the Hotel Excalibur (think Disney like castle with a magical lift system that seemed to deliver you to different places each time) the most we managed was a quick walk to the Hello Kitty Cafe & the M&M shop before sinking into a comatose state. 

M&M ‘pick n mix’

Next day we arrived at the depot to pick up the van which was a much longer and slower process than previously experienced but eventually Morrison was ours to drive away. The delay stemmed from the fact the van was undergoing ‘routine service’ which included the fitting of a complete set of new tyres. Sams Town is now possibly my favourite KOA site I’ve been there so many times it feels like a second home & its so undeniably convenient for wagon provisioning with a supermarket across the road. 

As neither of us had been to the ‘old downtown’ we headed for the Freemantle area to compare it to the more modern ‘Vegas strip’. On a whim we decided to go on the zip wire that whizzes yo over the heads of the hordes of people that are busy visiting the shops & bars below it. The Fremantle Experience at 40mph was for me a little on the tame side compared to Velocity II in Wales but it still was fun & afterwards we rounded the evening off with a beer in a local bar.

Next morning with the fridge full of white claw & salad plus a tyre warning light winking at us we set off the next day for Phoenix.

Bikes, beer & backpack brawling

This is a little late in publishing as I forgot to do it in the run up getting ready for my USA trip so my apologies.

Whilst chatting over lunch it was revealed some friends had developed the itch to go to a music festival & in the process to see it scratched hubby & I were invited along.

It was blues festival & required camping so this was quite a proposition as hubby not so keen on the prospect of either if truth be told. Still the weather was warm & with the promise of copious amounts of beer to numb the pain of sleeping on the floor plans were set in motion.

Home for the weekend

So it was we found ourselves heading to Upton on Severn to join our friends for a weekend of festival fun. By the time the coffees had been collected the tent was up & we all sat chatting & working out what to do.

Turns out that my lightweight little festival tent is a good fit for the top box of the motorbike & as we only had the weekend free this seemed like the ideal form of transport. The exceptionally hot weather led to me wondering what to wear as the thick armoured suit I normally don would be akin to riding in a personalised sauna. So it was I found myself scouring the internet for what turns out to be the most expensive pair of jeans I have ever purchased. This is because they are made with some clever fabric that outwardly look like a pair of skinny jeans whilst affording a high level of skid protection to skin should you be unfortunate enough to come off. As a former nurse I can still recall a biker brought into the operating theatre, the shredded leather clothing literally having saved his skin from the same fate. My helmet is pretty cool too as it has a built in tinted visor & the comms system enables me to listen to my favourite music as we blast along.

Wandering into the town to catch a few sets dotted around the various venues seemed like a plan & we spent a really lovely evening sat drinking in both beer & the music.

We were doing ‘camping lite’ so without a stove between us we set off in search of breakfast the following day & found a tiny place that served the most amazing bacon butties & mugs of tea. Fully repleated we pitched ourselves in a shady place to listen to the bands we had earmarked as worth a listen.

As festivals go for it was a bit of a change as for one I am normally working as a steward for part of it & the conditions considerably rougher. Neat rows of camper vans & fully functioning ablutions instead of the higgledy- piggledy mess of criss crossed guy ropes & dodgy toilets.

The other slightly weird thing was instead of the normal crush of people at the main stage they were all sat around in their deck chairs. Still we opted for a spot under the nearby trees where we could enjoy the music but still chat.

Like other festivals there were some tents supplying food & whilst not vegan I have found this to be the infinitely better option as its less greasy & usually contains vegetables.

Unlike other festivals the local historic flight did a fly by which considering the age of the aircraft was quite impressive.

Prior to the festival I was aware of blues music but if you had asked me to name a blues band I would have struggled & I certainly was unfamiliar with any of the artists mentioned in the programme. Still the musicians were really talented people & it was fascinating to listen to the various groups. I am no music historian yet it was evident how this style of music underpins so many other genres. Strangely as someone who loves rock & punk I have found playing the blues style pieces given to me by my guitar teacher the easiest and most enjoyable to play.

Now given the somewhat genteel feel of the festival & one of the bands were playing in the local church the chance of being close up & personal to a fight seemed somewhat remote. The closest I have been to a fight at a festival was in the crowd at Transmt but to be fair it was in Glasgow ! So was totally unprepared for the fracas that broke out when a bloke lifted what was his backpack from the floor near to us. A middle aged woman launched herself at him, grabbing the backpack & yelling to give her bag back. Fact is often stranger than fiction as what were the chances they had identical rucksacks & hence the confusion. Unlike the Glasgow fight in which the security appeared like ninjas to quell this relied on a lot of pointing & eventually embarrassed looks to resolve. So for the righteous judgey folk this was an example of those old enough to know betters turn to take a leaf out of the younger festival goers books about behaving in a crowd after clearly imbibing more than was good for you.

Getting older but not giving up fight against agism in its many forms

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