We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the boys Daniel and Tom who offered to have us back at their place in New Port Beach and when we arrived we couldn’t believe the little set-up Daniel had created for us in the garage. He had pumped up an air bed and made it up with sheets and pillows, there was a couch and a table all toped off by fairy lights on the ceiling. It would be our home and base for the coming weeks with Daniel and Tom as well as ttheir wo other flatmates Josh and Christina. Did I mention that the complex had a pool, a hot tub and tennis courts; these people were living the dream and we were pretty happy to be there with them!
By the following Tuesday (or day nine) Will had managed to sell the Dodge! Some crazy guy from Chile wanted it and because he was Chilean he could buy it legally and everything. Will told him about all the problems it had but he was more interested in hearing about our trip in it. The guy spoke of his dreams of driving down to Chile himself and now he had apparently found the perfect vehicle. The guy was super nice and after a long hot day going to the embassy to transfer the ownership he even took Will to a little real deal Chilean restaurant and brought us a big box of genuine Empanadas! But best of all the guy was happy for us to keep the Dodge until we flew out in eight days time. Winning! What we didn’t tell the buyer was that we were actually going to drive it 780km to Flagstaff, Arizona for Overland Expo that weekend...
It was a long hot seven hour drive to Flagstaff Arizona where the nicest place to be was inside the air-conditioned Dodge. When we did finally arrive at Overland Expo we were blown away by how many decked out vehicles there were and thought to ourselves, are these all overlanders or just extremely expensive weekend toys? After checking in and collecting our free traveller passes we went looking for a place to camp. Immediately we met kiwi couple Ben and Emma of Flightless-Kiwis who had been in touch with us before they left NZ and were just starting out on their own Pan-American adventure. We chatted for a bit then planned to meet up again later. The camping field was filling up rapidly as hundreds (if not thousands) of vehicles rolled in and began setting up their campsites. We parked up and went in search of our other friends, it was an epic reunion when we found them all parked in the featured vehicle section! We had not made the featured vehicle cut but Brenton from Ruined Adventures and Luis from Lost Word Expeditions quickly convinced us we had to be there with the rest of the gang. So after sneaking the Dodge past the orange road cones, we settled into the featured vehicle section. It was filled with other real deal overlanders and really it was where we were meant to be.
Our long drive back to LA was going well until once again one of our worn tyres gave up the fight. It was excruciatingly hot outside and we were lucky to just make it off the interstate and come to a stop in the shade of an underpass. Without our jack (which had gotten crushed in Alaska) we would have to rely on the kindness of others to help us out. That or walk under the burning sun to the nearest mechanic or gas station. We attempted to flag down a few vehicles but had no luck; twenty minutes later a Desperate Housewives type family towing a boat pulled over to offer a hand. The guy got their jack out and sort of tried to help but his cleavage bearing wife was stressing out about being late to pick up a new puppy so they left and said they would call AA and stop to help again on their return. After the family drove off an old guy it a beat up truck pulled up and asked what the problem was. Turned out he lived not far away and he went off to go grab his sons jack. He returned a few minutes later with a big mechanics jack and before long we were back in action it was our 13th flat of the trip. Please let there be no more!
On the 20th of May or day sixteen Will and I left Scout at the house and went to Universal Studios. We had planned to go last week but I wanted to wait until the Jurassic Park ride re-opened. It was a whirlwind day of fun at the theme park where we made it our mission to see every show and go on every ride as efficiently as we could and hardly waited in any lines. We both thought the Transformers ride was out of this world, it was so good it was hard to tell the difference between what was on the 3D screen and what was real as we were shot through different sections. The Water World stunt show was just as good as I remembered it being fifteen years ago and little had changed in the Studio Tour but we still really enjoyed it. By 3pm we were ready to leave, it was after all Scouts last day with us until back in New Zealand.
That afternoon the Chilean guy came with his son to pick up our Dodge. $1,200 dollars and a few photos later and our home for a year and a half was gone for good. It all felt very surreal. For our final evening of the trip we went out with the boys and their friends for epic 60 cent chicken wings and $10 cocktails it was loads of fun and we couldn’t have had a better last night in LA. Cheers Guys!
We checked in and with relief the combined total of our bags came in at only a few hundred grams under our total limit. One lady made me weigh my carry on which was, quote “substantially over the limit”. She told me to take some stuff out which I pretended to do and then in the rush I stuffed it all back in and moved on. We then watched our bags get x-rayed and then opened and searched. They had quite a time pulling all our bits and pieces out to get to the bottom of one bag only to discover the snow chains and in another they were undeterred by five layers of plastic bags to discover it was maple syrup in the bottle we had carefully wrapped. We watched to make sure they put everything back in and then went to find our gate. The flight was already boarding and before we knew it we were onboard the Air New Zealand 777 homeward bound! Only then did it start to sink in the trip was done, finished, over. In thirteen hours time we would be home, back to the real world but also back with our families. I morned the loss of our simple freedom but we had many things to look forward to back home. We were excited to say the least.
A feeling of euphoria swept over us as we walked through the arrival gates and we had the Go Pro rolling as we set eyes on both of our families for the first time in one and a half years. We both gave everyone a big tight hug and Mum and I blinked back a few tears but finally we were home!
Rochelle & Will