After a lovely break back in the UK over Christmas catching up with family and friends, we returned to the US and the van.
First stop was at AA Rodriquez, a European car and van specialist in Atlanta (www.aarodriguezcorp.com), who managed to remove the diesel particulate filter and recode the engine so we would not have issues as we travelled through Central anad South America. We had been forewarned by other travellers that without this work, the van would go into shut-down mode as soon as we reached any altitude or experienced low grade diesel. In fact 3 days into the journey in Mexico, we came across a couple whose warning engine lights had already come on and they were barely out of the US, so some helpful and vital advice.
Atlanta was cold. A snow and ice storm was forecast for the first weekend, and being in the south, Atlanta is not really geared up for any amount of snow or ice, so we found a cosy AirBnB on Lake Acworth and spent the weekend keeping wam and enjoying some bracing walks around the lake and in the local state parks.
Once Andrew had fixed the van we set off, first for Birmingham, AL. We had an afternoon at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, extremely informative and thought provoking. I would highly recommend this to anyone passing.
From there we crossed the Mississippi (State and river) and continued onto Tennessee and Gracelands, Elvis' home in Memphis. Much more light hearted and again interesting, although the Platinum Tour was maybe a bit over the top.
Onwards from there, we stopped in Little Rock, AR and cycled along the Arkansas River to the William J Clinton Presidential Library. It was our first, and on this trip, only preseidential library and has inspired us to visit a few more, next time we are State-side.
From there we followed the road westwards, stopping in Oklahoma City to visit the very moving National Memorial that honours the victims, survivors, rescuers and all who were affected by the bombing in April 1995.
Carrying on to Amarillo, TX, we couldn't find sweet Marie, so dropped south towards the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, part of a 275 sq m field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. Somewhere we hadn't managed to get to last April - really pleased we managed to visit this time.
Our next stop was Tombstone, AZ, one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West and home of the OK Corral gunfight. We watched a re-enactment of the gunfight, had food in the local saloon and headed off to Boot Hill Cemetery, where a lot of outlaws and innocent people seem to have been buried.
We stopped in Tuscon, AZ to see the Mission San Xavier del Bac, before continuing through the Saguero National Park and on to Buckeye, AZ to meet up with Joe and Melinda, who we had met in Alaska and visited in Minnesota.
From there we continued to press west A quick detour through a very rainy Joshua Tree Natioanl Park and on to meet up with Renee and John in Riverside, CA, who we had also met in Wrangell, AK. Our last stop before heading towards San Diego, some last minute preparations and shopping before heading over the border. Eight States and some 2,500 miles later, we entered Mexico on Monday 23 January.