Should I really have quit my whole life for this??

Waking up on the morning of the third night in the Jeep, we had been quite lucky with our parking spots so far. Aside from a few people who arrived in the car park in their vans in the early hours of the morning we were undisturbed.  After having camped in lots of England, France, Scotland and now the US, I firmly believe that these people exist worldwide. They seem to turn up in your quiet camping spot, in the middle of the night and park rather close to you in the deserted car park. They then sit there for at least half an hour, engine idling doing absolutely nothing while you lie there wide awake watching through the side of the pop top and  wondering if your part of a hostage exchange, large scale drug ring or just a popular dogging spot. Then, without explanation they drive off and you can try and sleep again. While nothing ever happens, it’s not a restful experience.

To add to our less than perfect sleep was the mosquitoes, we had the car doors open for less than a few minutes while we rearranged our bed which was time for at least ten mosquitoes to find the car. We then spent the rest of the evening trying to systematically kill them, but still ended up missing a few and getting bitten. We had now spent a bit of time down on Long Island and decided that as the van was in the docks it was time to head in that direction. Firstly we stopped off to have a look at Fort Tilden, just down the road, which was a former missile launch site until 1995.

We had a good wander around looking at the various ruined structures and finding our way down into on off the old abandoned battery which was quite eerie.

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Climbing to the top of this bridge we got some good views back towards New York. Here you can see one of the toll bridges we refused to use that connect Long Island to the mainland.

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There was also a couple up here and the lady who was very keen to help us with ‘our selfie game’.

We also finally managed to fly Steve here at the beach for the first time which was pretty cool. Check out our Youtube channel for the footage.

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We went underground into on of this disused batteries and had a look around.

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After this we headed back to the car and decided to drive towards Newark port to see what was happening with our van, as no one wanted to reply to our emails. After driving through the city for an hour or so we arrived at the port. The guy in the booth said that all we needed to collect the van was a ‘final bill’, so we excitedly phoned Michael the customs broker to see if we could get this confirmed. He was a bit confused as he said he’d spoken to customs half an hour ago and there was still a ‘hold notification’ on our van, standard procedure apparently. The bloke then actually looked up what we had asked him and confirmed that no, it wasn’t ready. He then gave us the same, “Well the port gives you 10 days free storage” line that we had already been told. This doesn’t really clarify anything, so we drive off again in the Jeep, looking forward to another night in back of it. We feel as we have done enough of New York, so we start to head out of the city and south, the route we had planned to take Ruby.

We headed towards Bass River State Park, just north of Atlantic City and parked up. It was a lovely place and very quiet as we were out of season.

The beach was covered in these huge birds, not entirely sure what they are.

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We walked along Joe’s Trail by the lake shore and then headed back in the setting sun.

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A view back to the beach we are camped up at.

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The end of Joe’s Trail where the main river leaves this lake.

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As we walked down to the beach to watch the sun set… I managed to drop my camera in the sand, just before I went to take a photo of the sunset.

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Having already killed one camera with sand, I was glad that it was off at the time and made sure to brush all the sand off before turning it on. Unfortunately, it made a horrific grinding noise and then lense jammed itself solid. Apparently, I can’t have nice things. To add to this I was very sticky, it was about 30 degrees even after the sun had set, and I had to sleep in the bloody SUV again. I was also quite ill at this point to add to the experience.

As we left the beach to return to the car, an electrical storm was starting in the clouds to the right of the lake. We sat in the car watching some of the latest Peaky Blinders while first the lightning, and then the rain descended on us. It was quite an impressive storm which I was unable to capture… but it always makes we wonder in these situations where the best place to be is. We are parked in a woods, so it’s quite likely for a tree to get hit, but then it’s probably not going to hit the car because it’ll hit the tree first? But the car’s metal so it’s a better conductor, but the wheels are rubber so we’ll be fine. But then it’s raining so it doesn’t matter if the wheels are rubber. Should we move out from under this particularly overhanging tree as I can’t tell if it’s a barrier or a target…?

All fun thoughts for the evening, and even though the storm blew over, I got very little sleep. It was also horrifically muggy in the car and we kept resorting to running the air conditioning in the middle of the night, to try and bring the temperature back down.

Now it’s morning, and 5 days since I had more than about an hours sleep in a row. We headed for Atlantic City. I am basically a zombie on painkillers with no clean underwear, so we get our things washed at a laundrette and then park up and walk down the famous Atlantic City boardwalk in search of brunch.

Unfortunately, at this point all I am interested in is sleep, so I don’t really appreciate anything and after getting some food we leave with the promise that I can sleep on the back seats on the drive to a camera repair shop in Philadephia. Sleeping on the actual back seats is much better than sleeping on them folded down and soon enough we arrive and give my camera to a shop for repair. They say the earliest they can fix it by is probably Tuesday and we then sit in the car park and try to decide what is next in our completely unplanned plan.

It’s not just me that is sick of the back of the car and we decided to ‘treat’ ourselves to a last minute air B&B in Philly. The host is very quick to respond and is a friendly guy. An hour after booking, we’re sitting on his sofa while he sorts out our room. Now even though this is a room for the night, it’s £28 for a reason. If I still had a sense of smell, it would have apparently registered a lot of smoke and a lot of cat piss. Nevertheless, it’s a bed for the night. Our car rental is due to expire the next day, so sitting there we decided we have no choice but to extend it, as we doubt customs work at the weekend. Lee phones the company which offer us a very reasonable price, and we resign ourselves to at least another two nights in the car.

Waking up Friday morning we are discussing what we are going to do for the day, Lee wants to have his Rocky tour of Philly and I want to lie in bed all day. Steve from the freight company emails us and asks how we are getting on, as the van has cleared. He then prods Carlos (useless customs broker) into checking the progress of our van and soon it turns out, SHE HAS BEEN RELEASED!!

So we chuck all our stuff in the car and leave, that night we would finally be in Ruby!!

Arriving at the port, we had managed to time it just as they are on lunch. This means we have to sit and wait for 40 minutes to speak to someone about our van. Eventually though, the paperwork is sorted and we are being escorted to collect her. The battery is totally flat, but she starts off the leisure batteries and we are away! I’m driving Ruby as Lee has to drive the hire car, we are both going to drive over to the car hire place, put everything in the van and then sort it later once we have given the car back.

We both head off in the perpetual rush hour of New York and although it’s only supposed to be just under an hour to the car rental, we manage to lose each other in the traffic. It’s not easy trying to keep close through that kind of traffic. That means we have to make our own way there. It’s easier for Lee, as the SUV has integrated sat nav and it’s already programmed. Then there’s me; feeling like complete shit, haven’t driven a car for a while and the last time was in England, trying to program my phone while being cut up by a succession of yellow cabs and then trying to balance it on the seat next to me where it continually slides into the bin. The van is very low on fuel and as always when driving her for the first time in a while, I’m staring at all the gauges waiting for one to do something bad. For every 5 minutes that I drive, the time on the sat nav remains on the same 40min journey time, my phone however is slowly running out of battery and my charger is in the car. It’s safe to say when I eventually get there, I’m pretty happy to stop driving.

Lee arrives shortly after having refuelled the car and we stuff everything into Ruby. We hand back the Jeep and then we decide to grab some food while we decide what to do. We decide that it’s best to just park up and then sort the van in the morning as it’s going to take a while to unpack and resort everything, it’d also be better if it wasn’t raining when we did it. We try a parking spot nearby, but we don’t like it. We put in some fancy BP ultimate fuel as I’m trying to slowly get out engine used to lower fuel octane levels here, and then we decided to head for our old faithful parking spot by the abandoned house.

In the morning we will sort everything out, and we can start our trip properly!

 

 

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