fam visit

When I met up with my family for the first time in almost eight months, I’d kind of prepared myself for a dramatic airport reunion. You know, the kind that you see at the beginning of Love Actually, when everyone is crying and happy and hugging each other. Unfortunately, my dad didn’t know what terminal I was going to arrive at when I met him and the rest of my family in San Francisco and I had to wait around at the arrivals gate whilst he was downstairs in the baggage collection area, trying to find me. (There was still a lot of hugging and happiness, so it’s not all bad.)

I was mostly just amazed at how normal it was to be with them all again after so long – there was the original “I can’t believe it’s been eight months!” of course, but within a day or so it just felt like a normal family holiday, which for us means a certain amount of bickering and things not turning out quite as we’d planned them.

Our plan was to drive from San Francisco back down to Albuquerque in just over a week, which we managed to achieve. It wasn’t all so straightforward though: we initially drove down the coast to Monterey and the Big Sur, only finding out when we got there that a collapsed bridge meant that the majority of the Big Sur coastline was closed. That’s ok, we thought, we weren’t going to go much further anyway. Why don’t we head inland and see the Sequoia trees and Kings Canyon on our way to Death Valley? A great plan, only when we got there Kings Canyon was also closed to the public. Yay.

Luckily none of us had got our hearts set on either of these places, and the rest of the trip went pretty much according to plan! Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (cloudy, unfortunately) and Monument Valley (also no sun), all in the space of a few days. My sister and my dad, both of whom had never been to America before, somehow managed to visit five states in under a week – pretty impressive!

One of my favourite memories of the trip was visiting Monument Valley, in Utah. Massive red rock sandstone buttes in the middle of what was basically a desert – an amazing view, although when we went it was so cloudy and dark that the red colour we knew was there had been muted to a dull brown. We were unlucky. Dad and I, however, decided that we weren’t going to take that as our only viewing of Monument Valley, and woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning to drive 45 minutes in the wrong direction to be able to see the red rocks in the sunlight. As you can see from the photo at the end of this post, it was well worth going back.

As much as it was sad to say goodbye to my family again, it wasn’t too difficult this time knowing that we only have a couple of months until I’m home again. We had a great send-off at Cheesecake Factory (the one thing my sister was most excited about), and now it’s less than two months until I get to see them again!


R.I.P. Cockroach

The other week, we got the sad news that we’d lost the Cockroach – to an engine leak.

When Study Abroad was still only a dream, my biggest goal to get out of the year was to hire a car and travel everywhere with the people I was with. I thought I might have to seriously convince people to share a car with me, and I was ready to do so – had thought up arguments for and against and was ready to go. However, I wasn’t prepared for how necessary it is to own a car in Albuquerque.

Luckily, I was talking to one of my friends on one of the first days in ABQ and she mentioned that she was planning on buying a car from a friend who was living nearby – and less than a week later, we and two others were the proud owners of the car we decided to name Cockroach. I’m still slightly unsure as to how the name came about, but it definitely stuck.

As well as ferrying us to and from Walmart, the Cock was indispensable in our road trips. Cheap petrol compared to the UK was a bonus. Our most ambitious trip was a Thanksgiving long weekend in Austin – over twelve hours in the car each way. Getting there was as good as it could be, considering the distance and that we managed to split it in half, staying somewhere overnight. Things started to go wrong on the way back from Austin… less than an hour in, my friend noticed that the engine heat was increasing pretty dramatically – to the point that we were driving around 30 mph with the windows down trying to keep the car as cool as possible. (The photo above was taken around this point.) Amazingly, we made it to a mechanic, who told us that our radiator had a leak, and that we needed to buy “at least 5-6 gallons of coolant” to get us through the rest of the journey home. A little worrying.

We decided to start off by buying two to get us through the first bit, and buy more when we needed to. We only ended up getting through one. Our journey home was a little more stressful than the way there, but in what is now quite a funny memory – we’d stop every couple of hours and everyone would have a job to do: G would fill up the petrol, Charlie would pour the coolant, and I would tell him when to stop.

The Cockroach survived for another day. (after we bought him a new radiator)

Unfortunately, it was not to last. Four months later, when our friend was driving to the airport in Denver, the Cockroach decided that enough was enough and refused to bring her home again. It’s very sad – and mostly, to be honest, because I never got to say a final farewell to it – but as the saying goes: life goes on. I guess this cockroach didn’t live forever.