The Kansas City pavlova

Kansas City has reinvigorated my roadtrip. I was lonely, tired of my own company and bored. I had never planned on coming to Kansas City, but desperate for company, I took Hiker Buddy Brian up on the offer of his couch so I could have some good conversation and resocialise myself.

It was such a great decision to make as cruising around in Hiker Buddy Brian’s Mustang convertible, riding mechanical bulls, sharing meals, making new friends and having great conversations was exactly what I needed at this halfway point on my way east.

Whilst it is nice (and essential for me) to have time on your own to reflect and whatever, too much can drive you crazy. The alone time has made me appreciate my friendships so much more because without friends, my life would be interminably lonely. And I’m too much of an extrovert to cope well with long periods of solitude. I don’t think I quite thought through this solo roadtrip very well and certainly didn’t think I’d be doing it all on my own. I thought it would be easy to meet people going the same direction as me, although it turns out that if the people I met weren’t nutty, they were going west. I’ve discovered that travelling in America you need to throw out the travel manual you use in other countries or continents. It just doesn’t work the same way.

So I showed my new friends my appreciation for their company and the fun times they showed me by baking a pavlova, the first one in six weeks.

A bit of Route 66

My map told me to take a small detour off the I40 freeway to follow the scenic Route 66.

It wasn’t overly scenic. Not in the way I have come to expect from scenic routes in America.

So instead I added additional time and miles to my trip to the Grand Canyon. Whilst Route 66 is the iconic American road trip, I don’t think I’d want to do it solo. I think the strange, zig-zagging path I’m taking is far more interesting.

Just shut up and drive

Monument Valley through the windscreen
Monument Valley through the windscreen

You know when you make a plan to do something, stop somewhere, and all of a sudden you find yourself in a vortex of white line fever (or here in the US it is yellow line fever).

I had one of those days. I wanted to stop off at a couple of places along the way to Monument Valley, but that didn’t happen because I was just too comfortable driving and sitting in the car.

More windscreen shots
The view from Esmeralda

I had also planned to camp at Monument Valley, but after a look-see, decided to press on to Moab. I didn’t stop to see anything else along the way and had to content myself with taking photos through the windscreen. I was in a drive frame of mind and crunched 350 miles.

Dreaming of a Volvo

Getting ready for the roadtrip
Esmeralda and I before setting off on the roadtrip. First stop Las Vegas.

When I was 22, it was my dream to be a full-time mum with four kids and a Volvo station wagon.

I really don’t know how I decided I specifically wanted a Volvo station wagon, but this whole dream evaporated after I came back from a year of travels at age 25. I no longer wanted to have kids, I no longer had a desire to get married, and the Volvo, that just didn’t fit the picture of my new dream to travel the world.

So it is rather interesting that I am now the owner of a green Volvo named Esmeralda. Not a station wagon, or even a family sized car, but still a safe Swedish import.

Maybe this tells me that despite our dreams changing following different experiences or paths, there is still an undercurrent at work on those old dreams. Peeps of the past perhaps.

From today, Esmeralda and I are embarking on a grand US roadtrip. We’re going to have a great time together following no set plan, just seeing where the road and the people we meet take us.

Snow in Sequoia

Making a snowman
J preparing the base for a snowman - but then the light turned green so we had to abandon him

When friends Ricardo, Astra and Jolena invited J and I camping for the weekend, I had no idea how cold it would be.

They did say to pack warmly because we were going to the mountains, but my April weather radar is way out of whack. I am still thinking Mildura weather, lovely days in the 20’s, with cool nights, but still easy camping weather. I guess because April brings with it Easter and that is one the busiest time of year for campers in Mildura along the Murray River. In my wildest dreams I would never have believed that I would be seeing snow fall on my tent, but it is the Rockies after all.

Sequoia trees
A stand of sequoia trees

Upon entering Sequoia National Park in California (about 4 hours drive from Los Angeles) we were told by the ranger that the campsite we wanted to go to was for snow camping only and we’d have to camp in the carpark. So we opted for a lower campsite at Buckeye Flat instead. I certainly wasn’t prepared for snow camping and I’m sure my $30 tent I’d picked up at Walmart on the way would agree with me.

Snowed in
Not sure how you get inside

The campsite at Buckeye Flat was beautiful and we were met by the roar of the rapids on the river below. Being late in the afternoon, we made a fire and set up the tent for J and I as Ricardo, Astra and Jolena were sleeping in their van. As we were sitting around toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, it started snowing. Snowflakes fluttered by the fire and whilst this could be pretty, it was just pretty scary. J and I hooked up the tarp we’d also bought at Walmart as an extra barrier to the snow. After a little bit of patchy snow, it stopped, but I’m glad we used the tarp.

Icicles
Icy scenery

The next day we drove up to the sequoia trees. As we climbed higher there were signs about chains for tyres, and we passed snow drifts on the verges. While we were pulled up at a traffic light due to roadworks up ahead, we got out and started having a snowball fight. It was lots of fun and we encouraged those in the car behind us to also get out and have some snowplay.

White maze
The snow maze

Driving higher, I had my face pressed against the window at the magical snow scenery. It was just like a Christmas card, with the pine forest dusted in white frosting. The only thing steering away from this image were the big, rough, red trunks of the sequoias interspersed throughout. I was overwhelmed and lost for words.

Getting out to admire the 2,200 year old General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world when measured by mass, I romped about in the snow, eating mouthfuls of fresh snow, making snowballs and crunching in the winter wonderland.

I have never seen so much snow in my life. There was six feet of snow, higher than the car, so it felt like we were driving around in a white walled maze. Buildings had only their roofs showing, and even then they were covered in a blanket of white. In some places, big icicles jagged across porches. It was all so foreign feeling, yet wondrous and I looked upon the whole scene with amazed, innocent eyes.

Magical snow scene
Magical snow scene that blew my mind

I don’t think snow will ever cease to amaze me. Unless of course I live somewhere where I have to shovel my driveway every day in winter.

On the 5 freeway

Our little road trip to Sequoia National Park is fascinating in itself.

We’re taking the 5 freeway north from LA and we’ve driven through the snow where little derelict shacks are made beautiful with white frosting dusted on top.

We stopped at a massive service station where you could watch people come and go all day.

In seemingly the middle of nowhere is an IKEA distribution centre. Then the landscape turns to farming with vines, crops and stonefruit with the odd oil well pumping.

It is such a mixed bag, but right now, about 15 miles out of Bakersfield there are gum trees lining the freeway and it gives me the comforting feeling of home.