Since writing and publishing my most recent post about my first time with Trek America, they have very sadly announced that they will no longer be running any future trips. I could probably write a whole other post about how genuinely sad this makes me. However, in the interest of preserving the memory of my beloved Trek, I’m just here to finish off the tale of my first solo trip with them instead. So… hop in the van and buckle up, it’s the last leg of the tour! Check out my previous post here.
The next morning was Christmas Eve, so again, we were all buzzing with excitement. I was embarrassed about facing “C” again, following my drunken antics, but he was just as lovely as the rest of the group had been. Typically though, it was my turn to ride shotgun and play DJ, so we had a good chat and I made it clear how mortified I was, and that I’d never been in that state before! He gave me a little bit of stick about being a lightweight but then kindly took us all back to the Vegas sign, as I’d missed it. Then everyone moved on and the next topic of conversation was… Presents!
We decided to do secret Santa so all picked a name out of a hat, set a budget and headed to Walmart to choose our gifts. I remember buying a sock monkey for my recipient, one of the Korean girls, and it ended up becoming a bit of a mascot on the last day!
We tried to keep the gifts as secret as possible, read to wrap up at our final destination – Death Valley. It wasn’t a particularly long drive , so we all enjoyed the second to last ride in the van and chatter excitedly amongst ourselves.
When we arrived, we set up camp in a quiet little area in Furnace Creek – again, this would have been much busier in summer so it was a nice time of year to go!
Then it was time to explore before our last dinner as a camp… I was definitely starting to feel really sad about having to come home by this point and really didn’t want the trip to be over!
We headed to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. We all took lots of photos and enjoyed the last full day together. There’s a hilarious photo of the group “playing dead” at the Death Valley National park sign but as with any group photos, I feel like I can’t include them as I’m not in contact with everyone in them.
I will however include this photo of the back of our heads, me with my Santa hat on, looking out at the view. I made this the last photo in my photo album for this trip because it just ends it all so nicely!
You’d think that the last night at camp would be quite raucous but to be honest, the group wasn’t quite like that… and I think my Vegas antics made up for it anyway. It was a sedate last night round the camp fire.
I had to keep going off to the toilet to give my tattoo a clean. Which was interesting as the night got darker… there were no lights at all so I had to keep wandering over to the (very basic) toilet, which also had no light, to give the fresh wound a little clean and moisturise. I’d been told by another tattoo artist before the guy in Vegas, to clean it with water and put on fresh cream every hour on the day after a new tattoo. That was the only aftercare advice I had to go by, because in Vegas I barely got a grunt from the guy once it was done!
It didn’t help that in Death Valley, there’s sand everywhere. So in a bid to keep it clean for that last night, “C” suggested bandaging it up. I’d been previously told not to do that but also didn’t want sand getting all over it, seeing as a healing tattoo is itchy enough as it is. It ended up healing to look fine but there’s definite lumps under the skin but I’m just thankful it didn’t get really gross and infected!
“C” took me in to the van to help bandage up my leg. We were alone. Remember when I said no more guy drama at the start of the trip? …I hadn’t found him attractive in the beginning, but when he then confessed that he was interested in me and was disappointed that he hadn’t had an opportunity to spend time alone with me in Vegas… I suddenly found myself mentally planning to run away and spend my life touring the US with him, which of course was never going to happen!
Our moment of just us two was soon interrupted as one of the others had come to see where we’d got to. We went back to camp, my leg all wrapped up, and all chatted around the camp fire until yet again, it was too cold to stay out.
“C” sat with me all evening and asked me to go back to his hotel room after the trip ended, also promising to show me more of LA before I went home.
The next morning was Christmas Day! It didn’t feel unusual to me at all not to be home. I was too wrapped up in the little bubble of Trek life. “C” cooked us pancakes and bacon and then we all exchanged secret Santa gifts.
As it turned out, mine was from “C”. He got me a tattoo magazine that I kept for years after.
Once camp was packed up for the last time, we were LA bound for a tour around the city before getting dropped back off at the gateway hotel.
LA was not what I expected at all. In fact, I was quite disappointed! Bearing in mind it was Christmas Day… the place was heaving. You could hardly see the stars on the walk of fame, we sat in traffic for most of the time and what’s more, the Hollywood sign is TINY, and you can’t get anywhere near it. It’s nothing like the movies, which is funny because for all the other American cities I have visited, I always explain that it’s exactly like the movies. It was an experience nonetheless and I’d probably still go back in order to not have to rush about, as I think that was the main reason it ended up a disappointment.
Back at the gateway hotel, saying goodbye to the rest of the group was gut wrenching. I felt like I’d made lifelong friends. As I said, sadly were not all in contact anymore but in fairness it’s now been 8 years and life happens like that when you don’t get to see each other often. Nonetheless, saying goodbye was very sad!
“S” came with me to my room for a while, as she had time to kill before her flight home that night. I ordered room service and chilled out with her until she was due to leave. I always forget that tax isn’t included in American prices so imagine how mortified I was when I told them to keep the change upon delivering my room service (spaghetti and meatballs if you’re interested) …for them to turn round and say, no you haven’t paid enough. It was the most expensive spaghetti I have ever had and I ended up using all of my remaining cash to pay for it, but hey ho!
After “S” left, I went to find “C”. One of others was there and we all chilled out for a while. I hadn’t had much chance to talk to her one on one and was surprised to discover that she was a lesbian and had only just come out to all her friends and family. It suddenly made sense because she had also spent a lot of time with “c” and I’d been very slightly jealous.
She went to catch her flight and once again “C” and I were alone. We started drinking so that I could prove I wasn’t always a complete lightweight. We chatted all night about travelling and he showed me photos from previous trips he’d been on until I became infatuated. We talked about music and traded our favourite songs. I stayed the night and he promised to take me to one of his favourite spots for breakfast the next day.
I woke up on a Boxing Day sure that he’d go back on his word but we spent the morning together, got breakfast and went for a walk along Venice Beach. LA was much quieter and if the previous day had been more like that, then I would have perhaps not written LA off completely!
I naively thought at the time that it might go somewhere with “C” but of course that wasn’t the case. When it was time for me to get to the airport, we said a very quick goodbye and off I went.
There was a problem once I was on the plane, I can’t remember what, but takeoff was delayed for quite some time. The guy next to me on this leg of the journey was an American off to London for the first time, full of excitement. I felt really sad at that point and was not in the mood for his small talk. However, he did offer for me to tag on to his WiFi from his phone. I used it to find “C” on Facebook. We were delayed for so long that I started to convince myself we’d have to get off the plane and rebook the flight. I can see now that I’m looking back, just how silly that was. I messaged “C” in the hopes that if I had to get off the plane I could go back and see him. I didn’t hear back and the plane took off.
The flight was uneventful and I tried to sleep for most of it to avoid the over enthusiastic American guy next to me. He was far too keen to befriend me and I had done enough befriending strangers to last me a lifetime… which isn’t actually the case, seeing as I have since gone in to make many travelling pals!
When we landed, my mum was waiting for me with a huge balloon. I burst in to tears as soon as I saw her, in absolute shock at what I had achieved. I’d left her at near enough the same spot, less than two weeks before, a nervous wreck and almost didn’t even get on the plane. Now here I was… trip completed.
I told her all about it in the journey home and immediately ordered the latest brochure from Trek. I booked my second trip not long after and have never looked back!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and much as I have enjoyed reliving the memories. Even though Trek America is to be no more, I still have lots of memories to share of my second trip. If you’d like to read some more of my travelling antics then let me know in the comments! Spoiler alert; after the age of 21, I suddenly became a lot more adventurous!