I have been lucky over the last few years in that I have been able to visit some amazing places. The trouble with having the travel bug is that you’re never satisfied and I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. This year I feel like I haven’t been anywhere but I did go away, twice!
Some of my favourite trips have been roadtrips, which weren’t planned as such. We had a start and end date with everything in between open for interpretation. I’ve been on three trips like that, to the USA, mainland Europe and the Scottish Highlands. All of them were massively life changing experiences and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one was the best. I love being able to think back and recall memories I have from the places I have been.
Here’s a few photos from various trips with background stories that you wouldn’t know unless I told you.
This is actually a selfie. It was 5am and Nelly and I had camped just down the road after taking advice from some old British Grand Canyon tour guide. He told us a good place to camp and said; ‘You’ll see signs warning you about mountain lions, but just ignore them’. We were so paranoid neither of us could sleep so we got up stupidly early, packed up and headed to the southern rim. Nelly needed a piss and while he was gone I thought it would be cool to get a photo of myself. I propped my camera on a rock and this is the resulting picture.
This photo is from the first morning of our USA roadtrip. We’d had the hire car for less than 24 hours and it was filthy. The reason is what had happened the night before. It was our first night and we were looking for somewhere to camp. We’d heard that the Yanks love camping and there were campsites everywhere. We were heading to the Sequoia National Park so we were pretty high in the Californian hills and it was getting dark. We decided to start looking for somewhere to camp and followed signs for a campground that pointed off the main road. The road got narrower and narrower until it turned into a dirt track. We followed it for about half hour until we got to a house. It didn’t look like a campground, especially when 3 massive dogs ran at the car barking and jumping up at the windows. The lights in the house suddenly came on but we didn’t hang around to find out if it was a campsite or not. It only took me ten minutes to get back down that track and that is why the car had so much dust on it so early in the trip. One of the sketchiest times on that trip for sure. I honestly thought we were going to get shot!
This is Scotland. Beautiful I’m sure you’ll agree. Even more beautiful when you know this is where we camped for the night. It was getting late and we needed to find a campsite to plug the van into to recharge our camera batteries and refill the water tanks. We got to Ullapool and the staff at the local chippy directed us to this campsite with an amazing view. You could step out of the van, take two steps and you were on the beach. The sea was as smooth as glass that evening too.
Another selfie from America. This time we were at the Wind Wolves Preserve in Southern California. We weren’t allowed alcohol on the campsite so we had to walk up into the hills to drink our beers. We found a nice little waterfall so we stopped, showered and enjoyed the beer. Nelly went to bed early and there wasn’t much for me to do by myself so I sat reading all the literature we had picked up from a tourist information point and planning where we could go the next day. The sunset that night was amazing and I’m so glad I stayed up to see it. Another one of those little private moments I talked about in my post on Sunday. While I was sitting there I found out why it was called the Wind Wolves Preserve. I could hear wolves howling across the grassy plain opposite from where we were camping. It was such an eerie sound, something that will stay with me forever.
Next up is this gem from Italy. We were camping in the Voodoo Bangbus in the carpark to a nightclub in Brixen, Northern Italy. Every night the locals would come to our van for pre-drinks before hitting Club Maxx. This photo shows a group of girls (and Phil) queuing up for shots of Stroh. It’s a shame I didn’t get a photo of their faces after doing the shot. Many a good memory was made in that carpark, including meeting a 21 year old millionaire, checking out his Lamborghini and tricking him into buying me a kebab.
This photo was taking looking East from Skye onto mainland Scotland. It was 5 or 6 in the morning and Tim had just stayed up all night to take a time-lapse of the stars in the night sky. He decided that he may as well go the whole way and stay up to get a time-lapse of the sunrise too. We all woke up early to join him and witness the sickness that is a sunrise in the highlands. We tried to wake Mike up so he wouldn’t miss it but he just rolled over in bed and told us ‘I’ve seen the sun before!’. You can see the time-lapse Tim took that morning at the beginning of the Highland Roadtrip video.
This is the only evidence I have from a night out on the 4th July in Vegas. We had deliberately got to Vegas on the 3rd so that we could experience what we thought was going to be an amazing night. We started off in a place called ‘The Pub’ which was a suedo English pub. It was actually crap but the bar staff were nice and told us about a club that was on the roof of one of the hotels. We proceeded to stumble across the motorway towards the massive skyscraper because we refused to pay for a taxi. Apparently the view from the lift that went up the outside of the building was amazing. Unfortunately I spent the entire time facing the doors of the lift and failed to even realise it was totally made of glass. The view from the dancefloor was pretty intense though. When we got back to our own hotel we had an icecube fight down the corridors and then took this selfie in the mirror before crashing out. A good experience all round.
Back to Europe, a lorry park in Czech Republic to be precise. We spent a lot of time in lorry parks on our trip to the world unicycling championships, luckily not all of them involved looking under the bonnet of our trooper of an LDV minibus. I’d wired up a leisure battery, split charging system and an invertor so that we could power lights, mobile phone chargers and charge our camera batteries while on the road and one day the whole lot stopped working suddenly. We pulled over to check the fuse to find that the whole fuse holder had turned into a big ball of molten plastic. That’ll be the problem then. Fortunately it happened towards the end of the trip so it wasn’t a major issue. It meant we didn’t manage to get any footage from Prague though. Against everyone’s expectations, that was the only thing that went wrong with the van during the entire 3 weeks and 3000 miles. Coincidentally it was also the only thing I touched on the van beforehand. Hmm…
This is another one from Vegas. There’s not much of a story behind this one except that a few weeks after we got home there was a story in the news about one of the lion keepers at The MGM being eaten. I still don’t know it was this guy, but if you go into the cage and tickle the lions behind the ears as if they were your pets then you’re just asking for it really. Don’t fuck with wild animals.
Mike said this was the scariest thing he did on the Scotland trip. When you see the video of him riding the barrier rail on Kylesku bridge you’ll question his sanity too. I can understand his sentiment though. This was taken at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye and that strip of rock is actually part of an underwater arch that protrudes out of the water. The water runs straight off of the mountains and is crystal clear and bitterly ice cold. We saw two lads jump in and when they got out less than a minute later their bodies were bright red!
This looks idyllic, eh? It was until we got told to move on by the police or we’d get a fine of €150 each. The trouble was that this was just outside Amsterdam and we’d just spent the evening sampling the fruit of the local coffee shops and drinking beer in the back of the van. I wasn’t sure if it was a trick and they were going to pull us over just down the road and do us for drink-driving too. Luckily they told us where there was a proper campsite and left us to it. Those crazy Dutch!
I’ll finish off with this one. This is Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt in the Scottish highlands. We’d just spent the afternoon constructing and riding a grind rail in the presence of the castle and once we’d finished, Jas and I sat on the ruins and watched this stunning sunset. Again, this is a moment I’ll always cherish and it just goes to show that you don’t need to travel thousands of miles to experience something special. There are places like this wherever you go, you just need to look hard enough.