Tag Archives: adventure

Canoeing and Wild Camping

To celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this year Rob and I left the kids with the grandparents and embarked on a canoe expedition course to learn the necessary skills to head off on our own adventures. In that week we fell in love with canoeing and on our return invested in two canoes and the various paraphernalia required such as life jackets, dry bags and so on. The kids have been desperate to get out on the water with us but I’m in the final stages of dissertation writing for my MSc and with weather and tide considerations a couple of weeks passed before we had a chance. That chance came last weekend and we went for it, full bore!

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We set off just before high tide going up stream with the flow which made for easy initial paddling. Although as we rounded a corner the wind caught us and with only my 8 year old in the front of mine we were much lighter than I had anticipated and we kept getting turned. Even with the camping kit there wasn’t a lot of weight in the canoe and it was very much in the middle (kit) and back (me)… first lesson learned in terms of kit positioning.

drifting paddling

Eventually after spinning in the water for a while and even walking along a stretch of shore until we were past the bend in the river that was catching the wind, we were back on route and arrived at our camping spot.

tide going out drying sicks high tide

Traffic on the river was busy around high tide and we didn’t want to draw too much attention so we didn’t set up the tarp until much later but we set about collecting and processing firewood. We lit the fire with a flint and steel using tinder we found around us and the kids played in the water before the tide went too far out. Rob strung them up a simple rope swing which proved fun for hours (and also caused irritating “my turn” arguments!!)

processing wood

Boys processing wood for a fire

rope swing water fun summer fun whittling

Dinner was a basic chicken curry and here I learned another lesson… when taking curry powder in a pot seal the pot in bag or decent container… the curry powder spilt in one of the dry sacks and covered EVERYTHING! I salvaged enough for dinner and sucked up the lesson. We had taken about 10 litres of water with us but actually on such a hot day and with cooking dinner and washing up this was only just enough. On our course we had learned about finding water on an expedition, filtering and sterilising but the river we were on is largely salt water so that wasn’t an option. There was a stream feeding into the river nearby that we could have got water from had we been desperate and next time we’ll take a suitable filtration system in case we need it.

cooking dinner

Cooking dinner on the fire

curry

Curry with a view

After dinner and some bird watching we set up the tarp and as the sun set we got the kids to bed and us shortly after… we had to be up at 5am to catch the outgoing tide back home or we would be stranded until mid-afternoon!

bird watching setting up tarp camp sleepign babies

The early start was brilliant, we had the camp packed down and ready to set off in half an hour and we made sure that we left no trace that we had been there… an important principle we are pressing hard on the children!

early morning

Up and ready to set off at 5.30am

The trip back was effortless on a mirror still river drifting with the tide. Of course at 5.30am we were the only human life on the river but it was teeming with bird life and the beauty of a canoe is that you can silently drift along without disturbing them.

morning shot misty morning one of me still waters

We were back at the car by 7am and heading home for a big old breakfast and a nap.

heading home for breakfast

heading home for some breakfast

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day!

sunrise

Since our amazing trip to America I’ve had very little time for more adventure and travel. Instead I published two books, expanded the Charity I run including opening an office on our farm and taking on a full time employee and I’ve embarked on an MSc in Clinical Research at Plymouth University… So I’ve been a bit too busy to blog!

But this year, to stretch myself further I’m going to try to get back into it. We’ve got loads of adventures planned and booked, from staying in a shepherds hut on Bodmin Moor this spring to a Safari in South Africa in October!

I’m also hoping to get my camera back out as it’s not had a lot of use since our big trip and I miss it! I didn’t actually decide this until after this weekend though so this post is rather lacking decent pictures, sorry.

Bushcraft is a major passion of mine and this year has various bushcraft adventures in store including attending the Bushcraft Show in May and a week-long canoeing and bushcraft course in July for Rob and My 10 year wedding anniversary.

We kicked off our bushcraft fun this weekend with an Encounter Cornwall Kayak trip from Golant to Lerryn where we scouted out some ideal spots for a bit of wild camping later in the year. The kids loved it and Alfie and Patrick are both pretty good with a paddle. It was pretty cold so Orla was wrapped up in a blanket.

When we got home we cooked a rabbit stew on a fire that Alfie and I lit with a flint and steel. I’ll post the recipe soon. We slept out under a tarp in the garden that night and although it was cold it was also good fun. We have a tree that seems to be a key spot for owls to declare their territory and I was woken up about 6 times alternately by barn owls and tawny owls declaring their presence a matter of feet from our camp.

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Alf and I sleeping under a tarp in January

The next day we had a go at making a little stove from an aluminium drinks can which we had seen on a friends blog, Chasing Wilderness. It worked brilliantly and Alfie is planning to make a little video for his own blog on how to make one yourself. Check his blog out at www.bushcraftalfie.co.uk

can-stove

A little stove made from a drinks can… Alfie is going to blog about how we made this

Once we’d tried it we headed out into some local woods to cook lunch. If I’m honest it’s more suited to cooking for 1-2 people rather than a family of five but we managed it and cooked pasta in the woods while the boys whittled. Then we had a little fire to warm water for tea as the mini stove wasn’t likely to cope with another 5 cup brew. Alfie is intending to blog about all sorts of bushcraft stuff like how to clear up a fire to leave no trace, so I’ll leave that for him to cover.

Finally we spent the evening on Sunday watching Survival Lilly videos on You Tube and planning were we could build our own “bug out camp”.

I can’t promise that I’m going to be great at keeping this blog up to date in any regular kind of way… I’m mid-way through my MSc and am as busy as ever but I really enjoy blogging about our adventures and it’s a great way of storing memories for the kids so I’ll do my best, feel free to follow and I expect that will inspire me to provide more!

Happy Tuesday folks!

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2015 – Bushcraft and Bird Watching Adventures

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Well, it’s been some months since we returned to the UK and in that time I’ve worked harder than I thought possible, publishing my book, putting in funding bids, attending awards dos and holding conferences, oh and doing the odd TV and radio appearance too… There hasn’t been much time left over for adventure and fun. But now it’s a new year that is set to change.

Me on This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby talking about hyperemesis gravidarum

Me on This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby talking about hyperemesis gravidarum

This year, instead of the massive, all consuming adventure of travelling the USA, Team Dean is going to have a series of mini adventures closer to home and fitting around school and work so as to balance the load a bit better. Last year was a year of extremes, the first half on the road, juggling work and adventure, writing and blogging from tents and motels. The second half of the year was so utterly consumed with work that there was no time left for adventures, let alone writing and blogging about them! How I wish I could type in my sleep, or simply not have to sleep at all…

So what new adventures in 2015? Well, we want to focus on bird watching this year and have already started with a day at Slimbridge Wetland Centre on Sunday. Now I’m going to be honest… Bird watching with three small kids isn’t quite what it was in the pre-parenthood days, where we could settle into a hide and wait patiently for the birding experiences to come to us. The days when we had the time to accurately identify birds we were unsure of in our books and then listen and learn their sounds too. Oh how I enjoyed those days…

A Bewick Swan at Slimbridge. The bill markings on Bewick's are all individual so birds are identifiable as individuals!

A Bewick’s Swan at Slimbridge. The bill markings on Bewick’s are all individual so birds are identifiable as individuals!

A black headed gull (their heads aren't black in winter though!)

A black headed gull (their heads aren’t black in winter though!)

The boys (Rob included) go through a whole "don't say boo to a goose" thing, every time we see a goose... it never seems to get boring!

The boys (Rob included) go through a whole “don’t say boo to a goose” thing, every time we see a goose… it never seems to get boring!

Bird watching with three kids in tow is more a matter of taking it in turns to either briefly attempt to spot and identify something interesting or attend to the varying needs of the younger two… who want to take their shoes off the moment they’re in a (freezing cold) hide, then want snack, then want to climb the wooden walls and play post box with the little viewing slits and need picking up when they trip and then have snot pouring from their nose, then one needs a wee and the other needs a poo… you get the gist.

It was hard to get this bank vole in focus as he moved so quick, the light was low and I couldn't use the tripod where we were standing

It was hard to get this bank vole in focus as he moved so quick, the light was low and I couldn’t use the tripod where we were standing

On the plus side all three kids were impressively quiet in the hides, much to our amazement and admiration. For those who know our kids, “quiet” is not a word that would generally be associated with them (or us for that matter). But in and around the bird hides they really did do well!

I focused on photography for the day and despite it being a cloudy, dull day I was pleased with some of the shots I got. Alfie did exceptionally well and was interested and engaged all day which was rewarding.

This water rail was cool to see but again I couldn't get a shot in focus as it was too crowded to use the tripod needed for the low light.

This water rail was cool to see but again I couldn’t get a shot in focus as it was too crowded to use the tripod needed for the low light.

Another area we plan to focus on this year, like last year, is our bushcraft skills. Alfie’s fire lighting is excellent now and he’s really good with the axe he got for Christmas, chopping most of our kindling for us and lighting the fires most evenings.

I’ve booked myself on a carving master class with Ray Mears, which I’m mega excited about and hope that I can then relay techniques to Alfie, who is also getting pretty good with his knife. I’m hoping to do a family bushcraft course with Alfie in the summer and I’d really like to learn tracking skills which we can practice in woods close to home.

The tricky part is going to be finding a balance between work and play. I’m so passionate about the work I do helping women with hyperemesis that it can be hard to switch off and say no… I’m always so aware that there is always more I can do and stopping is hard when you haven’t finished. But I’ll never be “finished” and accepting that will help with stopping from time to time, it’ll be there to start again on Monday.

Boys at Golitha Falls

Boys at Golitha Falls

So I’m going to balance it… I’ll work hard in the week while the kids are at school and come the weekends it’s bushcraft and birdwatching time. And in the holidays we’re booking things to do. At Easter we’re going to travel the Wild Atlantic Way along Ireland’s west coast in a camper van. Before that we need to book something for the Feb half term… suggestions welcome. And then we’re heading into Summer where our outdoor kitchen can house us for periods of times and we can live off our own land away from the house…

2015… it’s going to be a great year!

mushrooms

Bewick's Swan

Bewick’s Swan

I asked Alf if he could guess why a tufted duck was called a tufted duck... "Because they are really tough?" he asked!

I asked Alf if he could guess why a tufted duck was called a tufted duck… “Because they are really tough?” he asked!

Pigeons are pretty up close

Pigeons are pretty up close

Goliatha falls... I plan also to try to improve my photography this year.

Goliatha falls… I plan also to try to improve my photography this year.

Perfect Yellowstone

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After our disappointment at Yosemite we had lowered our expectations for Yellowstone, the mightiest and most famous of all the National Parks in America. It was probably wise as we had previously had very high hopes for this “Serengeti” of the Northern Hemisphere, having watched numerous spectacular nature and geology programs about the place. It was, however, unnecessary. Yellowstone did not disappoint. Far from it, our expectations, pre-Yosemite were easily surpassed and we were utterly blown away but the most incredible landscape, fascinating features, wonderful wildlife and fantastic people.

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Rob and Alfie using the scopes

One aspect of Yellowstone no-one can prepare you for is the smell! Boy O Boy does that place stink of rotten eggs and burnt matches. But that’s as wonderfully weird and interesting as all the other geological features of this super-volcano. I can’t capture the smell in photographs for you I’m afraid (although we did consider trying to bottle some for a particular Derby-dwelling, smelly bottomed friend back home). So you’ll have to settle instead for photographs of boiling mud pots, vast water squirting geysers and bottomless hot pools of magical colours.

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Stinky boiling mud pots

Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone

Old Faithful Geyser erupting

Morning Glory pool at Yellowstone National Park

Morning Glory pool – it has to be seen to be believed!

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

The wildlife in Yellowstone is unsurpassed anywhere else in North America. We had a list of “would like to see” animals and very few were creatures we actually expected to see. Well we were just ticking them off almost hourly for the first couple of days! On expanding our list to things we never thought we would get a chance to view, Yellowstone continued to perform, tick tick tick! Now, don’t think you can just rock on up and see grizzlies, wolves and mountain goats. You need to actually look for them and be in the right place at the right time… ie. The Lamar Valley at 5am. Indeed we Deans did rise at 5am (hardcore right?), bundled the sleeping children into the car with blankets and set off to see the wolves. And it paid off, we saw two separate black wolves and a big grey fellow. You also need to stay up at dusk to see more of your bucket list species but it’s the mornings that really pay off. From coyotes and badgers to birds of prey and yellow-bellied marmots, they all rise with the sun to be seen by the hard core nature watchers.

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Loading the kids in the car at 5am, Orla was surprisingly cheerful!

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A little note on rising early for parents – If you are planning to drive a long way from your base camp for the entire day then remember to take clothes and shoes for your children to wear once the sun is up… My children may have seen the spectacular geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park but they did it in their pyjama’s and with utterly inappropriate foot wear which I ended up carrying for most of the way.

Sunrise at Yellowstone

Getting up early means spectacular misty sunrises

Sunset at Yellowstone

And staying up late means even more incredible fiery sunsets!

There are parts of Yellowstone which are particularly busy, around old faithful and anywhere a bear is hanging out near a road, thereby creating a “bear jam” as the hoards swarm to get photos. But, if you take a few of the tracks off the main roads, boy does it pay off. There is a 6 mile track between Mammoth village and Tower, where our campsite was, which was particularly quiet in the evenings and provided incredible encounters, such as a coyote hanging out with a badger right there in front of us. We also found secluded yet accessible fishing spots with no one else around and (with bear spray on Rob’s belt) we caught 6 brook trout which we ate for dinner back at the camp ground.

Fishing at Joffee Lake, Yellowstone National Park

Alfie fishing at peaceful Joffee Lake

Brook trout caught at Yellowstone

And the Brook Trout he and Rob caught which we had for dinner, yum!

The camp ground at tower was ideal for us, most of the park was easily accessible, particularly Lamar Valley where a lot of wildlife is easily spotable. All the campsites here have great fire pits and nice flat places to pitch the tent. Shady from the trees but with enough sunlight to warm up the air, we warmed water on the fire to bath the kids a couple of mornings and we all slept snuggly. Although getting out for a wee in the night in grizzly territory is a whole different experience.

bathing the baby in Yellowstone National Park

The best thing for us about the campsite was the people we met in the pitches near by. A slight disappointment for this trip for myself and Rob has been the lack of new people we have met along the way. We had imagined meeting all sorts of interesting and diverse people at campsites and in the National Parks. Admittedly we’ve met some lovely people at our wwoof placements and friends we’ve stayed with whom we already knew a little but at the campsites people have very much kept themselves to themselves. Until Yellowstone that it. The first night we arrived the children were invited to a s’mores campfire party which they loved and the next few nights we happened to find ourselves next to one of the most interesting and fun couples we could have hoped for. Bruce and Pat – wolf educators, film makers and authors, also brilliant with kids. Having lived with a wolf for 16 years they had fascinating stories and interesting takes on current hot topics. I shall tell you more about Bruce and Pat after we stay with them at the end of June at their Montana home but on returning to our tent after a late night wildlife watching we discovered our tent decorated with fairy-lights, lighting the way for our sleeping babies safely to their beds. Kind gestures make the best memories.

Camping at Yellowstone

Coming home to find the fairies had been

Everyone we met in Yellowstone were fantastic and interesting and helpful except for one nutty lady who wouldn’t shut up, convinced that there were both Bison and Buffalo there, two separate species, hard to tell apart… “you’ll have to ask an American Indian to know the difference”. Oh and “the brown coloured black bears are actually brown bears”… Right Oh! Apart from her (there’s always one!) people shared tips, stories and experiences as soon as there was a clear interest and everyone was helpful and kind to the children. We went to see the ranger, Jim, who we had met a month ago in Canyonlands National Park and got more fantastic tips about where to see our tick list species, and the harder things to spot… though a live skunk still eludes us.

So here is our list of what we saw in Yellowstone (there are plenty more things we’ve seen elsewhere in the States but that list will come at the end of the trip). It’s not totally exhaustive and there are plenty more birds which we didn’t positively identify but this is the vast majority:

Mammals and reptiles

Grizzly Bears

Wolves

Black Bears

Big horn sheep

Mountain goats

Elk

Moose

Bison

Unita ground squirrel

Beaver

Badger

White tail deer

Mule deer

Red fox

Yellow-bellied marmot

Coyote

Bull snake

Chipmunk

Jack rabbit

Common muskrat

Pronghorn

 

Birds and waterfowl

Osprey

Mountain bluebird

Red tailed hawk

Swainson’s hawk

Scaup

Trumpeter swan

American kestrel

Western tanager

Yellow rumped warbler

Northern flicker

Stellers jay

Brown headed cow bird

Brewer’s blackbird

Common loon

Sandhill crane

Common Merganser

Blue winged teal

Western meadow lark

Cliff swallow

Violet-green swallow

Tree swallow

American white pelican

Buffle head

Golden eye

Raven

Magpie

Killdeer

Rough grouse

Williamson’s sapsucker

Red-winged blackbird

Red breasted nuthatch

Canada goose

Great blue heron

It’s almost impossible for me to explain the magic of Yellowstone in a blog post and my amateur photographs really don’t do it justice. If you have even a vague interest in wildlife or geology then you must put this place on your bucket list. Save up, do it on a budget in a tent, get up at 4.30 or 5am to make the most of it and just do it. You’ll never forget the massive bear tracks in the mud crossing your path or the experience of seeing wolves eating a bull elk carcass. The incredible fire like sunsets will burn in your memories along with the vast sky with ever changing clouds casting shadows on the most incredible and diverse landscape. The revolting yet fascinating smells will linger in your nose to remind you of the volcanic activity bubbling away below you as you live and breath forever touched by perfect Yellowstone.

Black bear at Yellowstone

Black bear

Bison at Yellowstone

Bison

bison with calf at Yellowstone

Muma bison feeding her baby

Beaver at Yellowstone

Beaver munching some branches

Bull elk at Yellowstone

A regal bull elk from a distance

Trumpeter swan at Yellowstone

Trumpter swan

Coyote at Yellowstone

Camouflaged coyote

Yellow-bellied marmot at Yellowstone

Yellow bellied marmot with a snowy backdrop

Bear tracks at Yellowstone

Fresh bear tracks in the mud by the board walk around the hot springs and geysers

Hot spring at Yellowstone

One of the magical hot springs bubbling and boiling away

Boiling mud pots at Yellowstone

Vast and stinky, boiling mud pots

A small geyser at Yellowstone

A small geyser erupting and spluttering over us

Beaver at Yellowstone

And finally, here is the beaver from Joffee Lake again

South Dakota and the Big Face Place

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From Washington DC we made good progress albeit a little dull bar stunning sunsets and a handful of deer sightings, the highlight being the high speed glimpse of a new born fawn with it’s mother licking it as it learned to stand.

Once in South Dakota however things got a little more interesting. First of all psychedelic signs for “Kids Love Wall Drug” and other blander Wall Drug slogans started to appear along the roads. Our interest pricked we googled Wall Drug and were dully enlightened to a truly brilliant story of success in the face of adversity.

Click here for the full story, but in brief, Mr Ted Hustead, a young pharmacist, and his wife Dorothy, the true hero in the story, bought the run down Wall Drug Store in 1931. The town of Wall at the time was in the arse end of nowhere and all the 200 odd inhabitants were stone broke. It was however enroute to what would be Mount Rushmore, or as Alfie renamed it, “The Big Face Place”, and towards the end of the miserably hot journey across the Great Plains for it’s visitors.

After nearly five years of struggling by in their quite store with a room fashioned from a blanket across the back Dorothy Hustead had an idea. One of the simplest and best marketing ideas this world has ever seen and it remains a valuable lesson to us all… Lets put up some billbords on the main road offering free ice water for thirsty travellers. By the time Ted got back from erecting the first signs the customers were already rolling in for their ice water and buying other goods at the same time! And now the business, still family owned and run is one of the USA’s biggest roadside attractions and turns over $10 million per year.

Obviously we planned to stop and see the spectacle and despite low exceptions for the world centre of tack-ville, which it turned out not to be, we were in fact pleasantly surprised by decent souvenirs, a well presented history of the area and the business and of course plenty of free ice water.

On our way to Wall, having survived an impressive thunder storm with fork lightening crashing down to earth in the fields all around us, we then virtually stumbled upon the Badlands National Park. Not realising there was access from the route we were on we were pleased to detour from the boring interstate and took the scenic route through this incredible landscape which seems to come out of nowhere.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park on a rather grey day

After our exploration of Wall Drug we pressed on to Mount Rushmore but arrived to discover the entire place in a thick fog that meant we had no chance at all of seeing the Big Face Place. So we stopped over night in a hotel and went in the morning, which was beautifully warm with clear blue skies. Wow… if you haven’t been to Mount Rushmore then do… it is impressive! To think of the work that when into carving the faces of the Nations forefathers into the jagged mountain cliffs is staggering. In fact just the conception of the idea itself is staggering let alone the execution of it. And it is beautiful. The message and honour instilled within the sculptures too are humbling and awe inspiring.

Mount Rushmore

The Big Face Place

And then we headed on through the pretty Black Hills of Dakota singing Calamity Jane songs and on the look our for mountain goats, which sadly eluded us.

Next stop… Yellowstone.

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Driving in America

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Tell people from the UK that you’re driving across America and you’ll hear lots of accepted facts about how the roads are so big and wide, the speed limits are ridiculously slow and there are coppers on ever corner ready to ticket your speed.

That’s certainly what we thought before we got here. But now, having travelled over 15,000 miles from New York to California, back to Washington DC and now enroute to Montana I though it was time to share our view of America’s roads.

First of all, it’s not true that the roads are all huge and wide. Around the cities there are places that the interstates (equivalent to our motorways) get up to four, five or even six lanes, briefly to manage the extra traffic. This happens in England too, although rarely above five lanes. The vast majority of the interstates we have travelled have been a mere two lanes with occasional stretches of three. The lanes are no wider than ours either. Although many roads are wonderfully straight allowing vast views and enticing mirages.

Luckily it’s also not true that the speed limits are super slow, topping 55mph max… In some states there are silly restrictions on double lane roads limiting to 55 or 60mph but most states allow 65, 70, 75 and even 80mph! Many single lane roads are 65 which is above our UK equivalent. They use speed limits to manage traffic around junctions which works very effectively and we’ve rarely been caught in bottle necks and back ups around the slip roads.

In fact, the lack of traffic on the roads has to be the best thing about traversing this huge continent by road. Set the cruise control and enjoy the ride, it’s rare you need to break unless you’re coming off for a loo break! And speaking of loo breaks, the rest stops, although few and far between are ideal for quick stops and picnic lunches to keep costs down. Literally like extended lay-bys they have toilets, vending machines and shady picnic tables. Occasionally they even have play areas. Unlike our vast and complicated service stations which seem to suck the money from your wallet as you enter the slip road to it and take forever to get back on the road from, these simple rest stops are genuinely convenient. It’s just a shame there aren’t more of them!

A belief about America that is semi-true is that they don’t really have roundabouts. But they do have a few, often at the entrance to a small town. And because there are so few of them the Americans don’t know how to use them, which can be amusing to witness… Yesterday we were thanked for not pulling out on someone’s right of way. Conversely though, we still, after four months of driving, seriously struggle with the archaic and bizarre stop signs, particularly on cross roads where all four directions stop and to know whose right of way it is you needed to mentally note the order that everyone arrived at the junction. If you both, three or even all four arrive at the same time then there is a convoluted and frankly dangerous hand signalling conversation while you all try to give each other right of way and then all go at once. To confuse matters more there are rarely lines marking the place to stop or indicating rights of way and so on… If your view of the stop sign is obscured or missed for any reason then you just have to hope no one else arrived at the junction a split second before you did!

On the other hand, a truly great feature is the ability to turn right on a red light as long as it’s clear, with the incredible number of traffic lights in use this is a handy way to keep the flow going.

The downside to the higher speed limits is that even the massive trucks and people pulling lorry sized trailers also travel at high speed, and very close behind you which can be unnerving to say the least. The roads are also full of blown out tires which you need to swerve around on a regular basis. We’re not sure why this is but we think because they can use their tires until they’re totally bald, combined with the high truck speeds and in some states, particularly New York and Pennsylvania, almighty pot holes everywhere. The hard shoulders are littered almost continuously with the strips of rubber which no one seems to collect or move, even from the middle of the carriage ways.

Lanes aren’t used as they are in the UK and undertaking is totally acceptable and standard (although I doubt it’s legal). Rob and I are debating if this is good or bad… I think it’s bad as it’s dangerous but Rob likes that he can undertake people who sit in outside lanes. People tend not to flash to give way or let you know you can pull out so when we do from sheer habit people seem either very grateful or utterly confused.

Speaking of what’s legal, in many states you have to wear a seatbelt in the car yet you don’t have to wear a helmet on a motorbike… Seeing people on bikes without helmets and with handguns on their hips is somewhat unnerving to us Brits!

Despite the hazards and strange stop signs, for the most part driving in America is pretty pleasant. We’ve seen plenty of state police pulling people over but as long as you don’t go crazy on the speed you’ll be okay. The signage takes a bit of getting use to and we still struggle a bit, particularly where the same stretch of road has loads of different numbers and even names.

The views are the best bit, and coming off the interstate doesn’t always add a whole lot of time so can be well worth it for getting to see birds and mammals, impressive landscapes and massive skies. To us, even the regular whiffs of road killed skunks is kind of fun.

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The next step…

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I sat in the hairdressers in Washington DC sipping prosecco and being beautified before a charity event at the National Harbour for the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation. I’m writing the speech I’ll be making at it regarding the international collaboration between their charity and our UK equivalent. I’ll be discussing the progress of our work and the bright future for the sufferers of the condition we support around the world.

And I know I have to go home…

The world will still be here in a few years for further exploration but the movement I’m a part of is on the brink. It’s teetering on the edge of success. The world for women with a little known condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is about to change. And I have to be there, in the UK. I need to keep the momentum up and not let go of the hard work we have put in so far for the last three years.

In September the book I’ve co-written will be published. I want to promote it. In September also there is an ceremony for an award I’ve been short listed for. I want to attend it. In October there’ll be a conference for our volunteers. I want to present it. Early next year new national guidelines are coming out for the conditions treatment. I want to lead a media campaign about it.

Juggling the commitments I have to the HG world whilst on the road has been hard, but I’m not willing to let go of them. I love them too much.

Admittedly, coming away was partly to do with getting some distance and having a break. Balancing the work and play divide, not being able to work 24/7 and be on call night and day. But who was I kidding eh? I love all that! Plus since coming away there have been more exciting developments, new trustees, completion of the book, award nominations, which this time last year I never even dreamed of!

Being here with Ann Marie from the HER Foundation has confirmed for me that I need to go back, I need to push forward, take that step over the edge and set the Hyperemesis Improvement Movement into free fall.

But rest assured, it’s far from the end of our adventures. We are now on the road to Yellowstone and then Montana and Canada. We have yet to see grizzlies and wolves…

And as we soared the Friday nights heights of Washington’s Capital Wheel at the National Harbour, watching one of the most incredible sunsets we’ve witness, we felt excited for the next step. Our return to the UK will see a lot of changes in our lives, we have plans for lakes and woodlands and campsites, for hot tubs and porches and campervans and adventures around Europe and beyond. Plans for tracking courses and canoe expeditions and wildlife experiences with the kids. The next step is in sight and the adventure continues, but a little closer to the place we still, lovingly, call home.

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