The Lammergeier

Lammergeiers are long-winged vultures known for their habit of dropping bones on to rocks to smash them open and get at the marrow.

I'll drop some bones here from time to time.

Day 9

A sad day, we had to get up early to give the RV back after a frantic clean up session that left it coated in so much Clorox that it smelled like a swimming pool. Over the month, Matthew had clocked up some 7500 miles, no mean feat and I’ll be laying off having him drive me anywhere for a while.

The RV centre was a revelation. We had seen large RVs out on the road but there were some in the sales centre that were beyond belief. The one in the photo above has a fold out deck at the back and a log effect gas fire in a full sized kitchen. Insane!

I would definitely go RVing again. The freedom to just potter about on your own terms appeals to me. I like being able to do my own cooking, I eat out enough after all. Despite spending a lot of time in hotels, I do find some aspects of them irritating (turn down service for example. I’m an adult, I can get into bed my bloody self and I’m not going to chow down on a chocolate wafer when I’ve just brushed my teeth am I?) while the level of social interaction required by B&Bs is beyond me. I like to be left alone. A lot. The other thing about an RV is the ease with which one can take a satisfying nap en route. Try that in a car.

All in all, I’m an RV fan. However, as they are firmly in the ‘if it floats, f$$ks or flies, rent it’ category, the bedecked behemoth won’t be appearing on my driveway anytime soon. A more sedate pace would be good next time though and I fancy a tour of the Pacific Northwest or the coast of Norway would be rather enjoyable in an RV.

We had a pile of band merch left to get back to the UK and so we left the RV centre behind and made for a Fedex office nearby. This was right next to a restaurant, Fez bar, and with piles of luggage to tote around, wasting our time in there seemed as good an idea as any.

The restaurant was buzzing and it very slowly dawned on me as we looked around the patio that a) my solid record of wandering into predominantly gay establishments in strange cities remains very much intact, it’s like a homing instinct or something, probably honed by years of cavorting on the dance floor at CC Blooms and b) if Matthew was gay, he’d make out like a bandit judging by the eye he was getting, even with a scruffy beard from weeks of touring. Most galling, I actually have to put effort into attempting to look attractive, he just shows up.

The atmosphere was raucous and the patrons decked out in Pride beads. A good time had clearly been had by all the previous evening and our own slightly dull heads from an end of trip celebratory gin indulgence were obviously shared. We opted for Bloody Mary’s but Mimosas were the go to for most of the brunch punters. The brave souls next to us even hit up some straight tequila shots. That would be beyond me.

We passed the afternoon away, sipping Bloody Mary’s and making lists of things to do before moving and afterward. With the sun beginning to dip, we got in a taxi and headed for the airport, our American adventure over.

Day 8

The last full day in the RV saw us finally attempt some serious sightseeing.

The sat nav breezily announced that a straight burn from Albuquerque to Phoenix would have us there by four. We were to torment her with a significant deviation and a long pause in the desert.

Stopping off at the Petrified Forest National Park was supposed to be easy, an hour tootling around the 28 mile stretch of highway that is the park road. That was the theory, the practice was a landscape so majestic that I simply gave up on the iPhone photography and gawped at it while Matthew busied himself with the SLR. We left the park at four pm, some three hours after entering. I could spend another three hours there tomorrow. And the next day. I’d have to score a horse though, while tourists are kept to a designated route, if you rock up with Shergar in tow, you get free rein to trot through the park and camp. Better than taking pictures from a viewpoint with 5 other people.

We then took a scenic route to Phoenix. Once you have seen the Painted Desert, scenic really has to be worth getting out of bed for and our route through the Apache lands of the White Mountains certainly was. A vast and beautiful canyon opened up in front of us as we wended our way West. Hairpins reminiscent of the alps challenged the RV as it gamely thundered on towards its 7500th mile under our rental (the maximum miles package being a woosy 5000). Wind whistled caves scarred the shattered and eroded mountain tops we weaved through, while the sparkling river responsible for the landscape occasionally glimmered down below.

We got into Mesa about 830 having scored some gin to toast our last night in the RV along with a dinner of Walmart’s finest mesquite chicken. If I wasn’t in love with the West before, I’m quite head over heels now. If only it wasn’t so bloody hot.

Day 7

The day started early. With 650 miles to get under our belts, this was to be an interstate day, I-40 right across Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and on into New Mexico.

Such a feat requires a well lined stomach and so we made a trip to Waffle House. It was surprisingly good, with my ham and eggs fresh cooked to order along with an onion laced hash brown. Matthew went the whole hog and had a maple syrup soaked waffle with bacon. The coffee was bad but then coffee often is unless you are on the coasts. Replete, we thundered on our way.

We knew the scenery would be nothing to write home about but little can prepare you for the bleak scrubby expanse of the Panhandle, seemingly endless on all sides. Some light entertainment was called for and Radio Alan, an app that inserts clips from Alan Partridge radio shows between iTunes songs did the job nicely. A dust storm was brewing and we were constantly buffeted by a gritty wind, Matthew tensely grappling with the steering wheel and we saw a few trailers come a cropper.

The landscape was mainly empty of settlement apart from the occasional iron gate promising a far flung ranch down a dirt track. The few dwellings we did see were neat and well ordered, it clearly takes martial qualities to grapple with living in this landscape. The wind and grit probably make short work of sloppy shacks and mobile homes.

As you cross the Panhandle and slowly climb up into New Mexico, the scenery changes. Bluffs start to appear on the horizon and if the scenery is similar in its vast emptiness, the reddening soil and scrubby trees lend the sun soaked vista a certain beauty that the Panhandle lacks. The light changes as well, intense blue sky with a translucent quality. The air becomes colder and fresher than the mugginess of Texas, Albuquerque is a mile high and it was quite cold when we finally pulled in to the RV park at 8.30 pm, 650 miles to the good.

Today is a more sedate pace and some sight seeing as we make our final run to Phoenix and fly homewards after that. I think I’m about done with Alan bloody Partridge after yesterday but I will miss the RV.

Day 6

We started the day in Mississippi with traditional fried chicken and biscuit breakfast at Connie’s in Tupelo. Upon hearing our accents, the owner chucked in a few deep fried, iced, blueberry muffins too. I think my digestive system is going to up and quit on me if I keep subjecting it to novel forms of fast food.

Almost eight hours later, we ended up in Checotah, Arkansas. Matthew’s predilection for avoiding the interstate took us through some of the sorriest towns I have ever seen outside the townships in South Africa well over a decade ago. If rural Alabama is poor, Arkansas is just about destitute. Many homes are the prefabricated type that you occasionally see being transported on trucks, casually plonked on cinder blocks.

Many are, or were, mobile homes, often under a car port type roof for extra cover. Peeling wooden shacks and dilapidated clapboard houses abound. Ruined, tumbledown houses are common, slowly succumbing to the creeper that gradually takes them back to nature. Machinery and old trucks strew the landscape in front of crumbling failed businesses, auto shops, welders and restaurants.

And yet, occasionally, a leafy gated community of McMansions, turrets and gables resplendent, is dotted in the middle of this. The zoning seems to allow shacks and mansion to rub shoulders within the space of a quarter mile. Democratic perhaps, but weird.

The landscape is mainly flat and sparse, scrub punctuated by the sort of ponds generously and romantically described as bayou, more accurately as swamp.

As we got toward Checotah, there was a little more roll in the landscape and the farms looked more prosperous. The number of brick houses increased. But however attractive the countryside, the occasional towns scattered across the plains are virtually indistinguishable strip mall lined fast food havens. Signs for pawn, check cashing and gold bought and sold abound.

I have a lot to be grateful for in life and I’m adding not being born in back country Arkansas to the list.

I always describe myself as liking the finer things in life. Of course, everyone has their own definition of what the finer things are. My list largely consists of shoes, food and good booze with the occasional Roland Mouret frock thrown in for luck.

As you can see above, RV life is conducive to some of this but after nearly a week of no make up and sweatpants, I’m hankering after a makeover. Still, there’s little point getting the Gucci on to sit in a field in Tupelo, Mississippi, though local boy Elvis liked a sequin or two.

We got to this leafy sedate RV park after a charming drive through the top of Georgia, skirting Tennessee and then driving through Alabama to Mississippi. Four states in one day. It was interesting to watch the landscape change. Georgia and Tennessee, undeniably pretty and verdant gradually give way to flat scrubby plains in Alabama. The houses get scruffier and smaller and the joke about ‘you might be a redneck if you own one home that is mobile and four cars that aren’t’ seems less a witty observation and more a fact of life.

Intersections are uniformly peppered with Arby’s, Waffle House, Tacobell and Subway. Low shedlike malls house improbable single trick business models, Vaping With Vanessa being a favourite.

In a coals to Newcastle victory considering how far South we are, tanning parlours appear a significant industry, along with nail bars. Where are all these lithesome brown ladies with perfect nails going? Possibly to dance on the bar at one of the sad breeze block built ‘Gentleman’s Clubs’ along the highway. Note to blokes, if you are in one of these places, it is highly unlikely that you are, in fact, a gentleman.

The pathos of this bleak low rent landscape had to be alleviated somehow and the application of craft gin, lobster tails and local IPA did the job nicely.

Now we start the day from Elvis’ birthplace with a trip to acquire a fried chicken sandwich in his honour. And I may put something sequined on. Standards must be kept somehow.

Day 4

After making good time yesterday over the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway, we stayed in Asheville at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains which we will be tackling today.

We’ve done all the going South we are going to do, now it’s a straight burn West to Arizona.

I say straight burn but of course Matthew has never liked highways at the best of times and certainly not on this trip. So not much interstate.

Leaving the RV park yesterday, we saw a very disconsolate Emo kid perched on the steps of the shop staring dolefully at a phone with no signal. It took me back to rural summers in France, hating every minute of being stuck in the country instead of tramping around Paris smoking fags and eyeing up skateboarders as was my wont.  Matters didn’t improve much in my twenties when the opportunity to let my liver rest from youthful depredations was at least appreciated but a regular shin up a tree to try and exchange flirty text messages with my latest swain was a regular necessity to preserve my equilibrium.  So I felt for that kid, I really did.  I hope he meets an equally hacked off goth girl at an RV park somewhere and they can exchange black lipstick.

The Blue Ridge mountains were stunning and a satisfying day was topped off when we arrived at the RV park with an hour of daylight to go. Just enough time for me to forage some wood and light a very good fire before knocking up some rib eyes and salad.  Eat your heart out Bear Grylls.

This morning, an early start and off to Alabama and on to Mississippi.

Day 4

After making good time yesterday over the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway, we stayed in Asheville at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains which we will be tackling today.

We’ve done all the going South we are going to do, now it’s a straight burn West to Arizona.

I say straight burn but of course Matthew has never liked highways at the best of times and certainly not on this trip. So not much interstate.

Leaving the RV park yesterday, we saw a very disconsolate Emo kid perched on the steps of the shop staring dolefully at a phone with no signal. It took me back to rural summers in France, hating every minute of being stuck in the country instead of tramping around Paris smoking fags and eyeing up skateboarders as was my wont. Matters didn’t improve much in my twenties when the opportunity to let my liver rest from youthful depredations was at least appreciated but a regular shin up a tree to try and exchange flirty text messages with my latest swain was a regular necessity to preserve my equilibrium. So I felt for that kid, I really did. I hope he meets an equally hacked off goth girl at an RV park somewhere and they can exchange black lipstick.

The Blue Ridge mountains were stunning and a satisfying day was topped off when we arrived at the RV park with an hour of daylight to go. Just enough time for me to forage some wood and light a very good fire before knocking up some rib eyes and salad. Eat your heart out Bear Grylls.

This morning, an early start and off to Alabama and on to Mississippi.

Day 3

After a lengthy burn south yesterday we are outside Charlottesville about to head up into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Yesterday’s driving got pretty hairy at points with severe cross winds and icy rain making driving a 30 foot long and 12 foot high RV challenging.  Throughout  Maryland was an experience to say the least and I honestly thought we were going to pitch over at one point.

Once we got into Virginia, things calmed down somewhat and we made it to the RV park at around 930pm, made dinner and set about a bottle of Crozes Hermitage with the sort of enthusiasm reserved for those who have contemplated vehicular death that day.

There is remarkably little ‘camping’ to be done in an RV. I may as well have been in my kitchen at home for all the effort it took to drum up supper. Miso broth and mahi mahi since you aren’t asking.  Likewise, the RV has heating so despite the rather parky weather, we were pretty cosy. I could get used to this.

Today started with bacon and eggs and a little wander down to a beaver pond to drink a cup of coffee in the morning sun.

Now we are heading south to Boone, NC where there is a very pretty RV park in the hills and the promise of a fire and toasted marshmallows. Probably some more Crozes Hermitage, sipped rather than gulped this time.

Day 3

After a lengthy burn south yesterday we are outside Charlottesville about to head up into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Yesterday’s driving got pretty hairy at points with severe cross winds and icy rain making driving a 30 foot long and 12 foot high RV challenging. Throughout Maryland was an experience to say the least and I honestly thought we were going to pitch over at one point.

Once we got into Virginia, things calmed down somewhat and we made it to the RV park at around 930pm, made dinner and set about a bottle of Crozes Hermitage with the sort of enthusiasm reserved for those who have contemplated vehicular death that day.

There is remarkably little ‘camping’ to be done in an RV. I may as well have been in my kitchen at home for all the effort it took to drum up supper. Miso broth and mahi mahi since you aren’t asking. Likewise, the RV has heating so despite the rather parky weather, we were pretty cosy. I could get used to this.

Today started with bacon and eggs and a little wander down to a beaver pond to drink a cup of coffee in the morning sun.

Now we are heading south to Boone, NC where there is a very pretty RV park in the hills and the promise of a fire and toasted marshmallows. Probably some more Crozes Hermitage, sipped rather than gulped this time.