December 26, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Maybe it was an error, but it was booked and paid for online, one way car hire from California to New York for under $300. We were picking up from and dropping off at out of the way shops so maybe this has something to do with the cheap price but it was a bargain we couldn't pass, especially as the next best deal was well over a thousand dollars. When we walked into the car rental shop we fully expected to be told that an error had occurred and that we would need to pay substantially more. But this didn't happen, they of course tried to upgrade us to a larger model car but we resisted. We drove out of the parking lot before anyone could stop us feeling like we'd pulled off the heist of the century.
We only had one commitment on this trip, to give a presentation in Dallas for a friend who'd been following us from the start. John had been excited about us giving a talk to the local biker community and offered his house as the venue. Due to Stu's accident in Mexico, the presentation had been rescheduled twice and briefly cancelled but we assured John that it wasn't going to be too much and that we really wanted to share our story.
We were up bright and early the morning we left San Diego in our little blue hire car. We were on the road by 9:30 after walking the dogs, having breakfast, doing our final pack and saying another teary goodbye to Kim. Believe it or not that was amazing for us. We were simply going to split the drive into two halves, San Diego to Dallas then Dallas to New York with no stopping on either leg, they were logistical moves and nothing more to ensure we made it to New York for Christmas.
The first leg would be around 24 hours of constant driving. We were well rested and ready for the challenge, nothing we hadn't done before in Australia where we'd driven more or less to every corner of the continent, often in big blocks changing driver every few hours. We did really well with this plan, but at around 3:30am we were both shattered, and rather then put ourselves and other drivers at risk we decided to pull over and try and sleep for an hour or so.
It was freezing cold and we couldn't remain parked long without the heating. But after a short nap we were both feeling a lot better and happy to get back on the road, just in time for sunrise. Coming into Texas we were stopped by the local police who kindly educated us on some of the road rules in Texas, namely that when passing a parked police car with its lights flashing you had to either change lane to leave a lane width between you and the police car or slow to 20mph below the speed limit. We had done neither. The police officer was clearly very pissed off, but seeing our Australian Drivers Licence, UK Passports and California plated hire car it was all going to be too much work and so he went for the "telling off" option, treating us like school children.
We arrived in Dallas in the late afternoon, our presentation wasn't until the next day but with everything that had happened leading up to this point we had hardly prepared. We'd offered to present our story a number of times but so far this was the first time someone had taken a real interest and pulled together a crowd. We weren't too worried about giving a presentation, we'd had plenty of experience with public speaking in our previous jobs and this time we actually had interesting things to say. So in the morning we were up early compiling our best photos and video footage ready for the afternoon.
The presentation drew about 25 people which was great considering the rescheduling and cancellations, especially less than a week before Christmas. John had advertised the talk at the local BMW shop (where we had originally purchased our motorbikes) and through personal invitation. It was a good size crowd for our first talk and everyone in attendance was really engaged with lots of questions coming throughout and after the talk.
We spent another day with John and Holly before departing. Much shorter than we would have liked but Christmas was nearing and we'd promised to spend it with Janell's New York cousin. John and Holly got us started into the Christmas spirit by taking us to a Christmas light show at The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. But time had come for another goodbye. John said to let him know when we were heading to South Africa and they would look into a trip since he had a number of friends there, we assured him that we most certainly would and hoped we could see them again on the road somewhere.
Stage two of our cross country trip was also intended to be done in one hit, but after last time it was looking unlikely. We changed the passenger seat a little to make it more comfortable for the non-driver in the hope that it would lead to a better sleeping situation during the off time. It must have worked because we were able to power through the night and even though it was a longer leg it was done in much the same time. One of the striking aspects of driving through some towns in this part of the country, and possibly other parts of the country where we simply didn't listen to radio, was what we would consider racist speech being broadcast over the airways. It must be said that to an outsider it was pretty shocking but apparently some citizens defend this under the right for free speech.
We arrived in New York around mid afternoon to a very warm welcome from Leah and Jim and their two boys Caleb and Eli. Leah had gone all out as it seems she always does with Christmas and we were totally absorbed into the family with our own stockings hung over the fireplace and compulsory Christmas pyjamas. We were also included in an annual Christmas party they went to with close friends.
This was our second Christmas on the road and very much different to the first. The year before we'd been by ourselves in a hotel in Brazil. It had been hot and we had a lovely swimming pool so it reminded us of a typical Australian Christmas. The hotel was family run and the owners had been very kind, inviting us to join their BBQ lunch next to the pool. Not being able to speak portugese made it difficult for us to integrate into their party. This year, however, we were legitimate members of the family and certainly treated that way. When there is irish ancestry in the family you find a loving family in all corners of the world, at least that has been our experience.
A friend from Sydney had contacted us weeks earlier and told us that he was going to be in New York for Christmas and wanted to meet up if possible. We were over the moon at an opportunity to meet up with someone from home. James found time in his holiday schedule to see us on Boxing Day. We offered to travel to the city to meet up but James insisted it would be easier if he drove to us. He arrived bearing gifts, he had collected our winter jackets from Sydney and gave up valuable luggage space to bring them over for us. He got an extra big hug before entering Leah's house. Unfortunately James could only pop in for a few hours, but the time was well spent with a few laughs over a game of cards, beers and a cheeseboard.
Leah promised snow and we kept waiting, but all we received was a few snowflakes late one night but otherwise nothing more. All in all it was a really lovely Christmas experience and the perfect way to end our journey around the America's.
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