Drifting Part Two

Area we got stuck

Before we get started, here’s some rules about canal boat conduct:

  • Always pass other boats on the right.
  • Always pass other boats at walking pace.
  • Do not intentionally ram other boats at top speed.

And while we’re at it, here are a few facts about the boats themselves:

  • They are long and narrow. Kind of ram-shaped.
  • They are bastard impossible to steer. Impossible!
  • They have absolutely NO BRAKES. NONE.
  • They hate you.
  • They want you to die screaming.

Putting all that together, you might gain an insight into the first few minutes and hours of our boat stewardship.

A more accurate accounting might go something like this:

*See a boat approaching in the opposite direction*

Canal view 5

They’re coming right for us! No, wait… We’re coming right for them!

Tony: They’re on the right! How can we pass them?

Roo: Tony, that’s the left. They’re on the left.

Tony: Then why are we steering towards them?

Roo: I dunno? Your Dad’s driving…

Tony: Dad! DAD! We need to go RIGHT!

Ian: *Smiles and waves*

Tony: SHIT! He can’t hear me!

Roo: He’s 19 metres away, and standing on top of a massive diesel engine. Of course he can’t hear you!

Tony: I’ve got to warn him! *Edges his way along tiny wooden ledge fastened to outside of boat* Dad! Go RIGHT!

Ian: I’m trying! Look! *Gestures at rudder, which he’s pushed so far over he’s almost hanging off the boat*

Tony: Shit! But we’re still going to—


Cue swearing…

Skipper in the distance

CAN YOU HEAR ME? No, of course you can’t!

Basically, what you need to know (should you be planning a canal-boating holiday) is this: you need to decide what direction to steer the boat in, in advance. Like, WAY in advance. Before you leave home, ideally.

The slowness of the boat, the pull of the current, and the fact that you’re fighting an entire canal full of water with a rudder the size of a tennis racquet, all combine to make the boat rather slow to respond. I tell you what though – it doesn’t seem slow when you’re heading straight for another boat, and the blissfully unaware holidaymakers sipping champagne on the back of it. Poor bastards never knew what hit ‘em…

Well, they did. Because they could still see us for the next fifteen minutes, as we made our agonisingly slow escape around the next bend.

Narrow Corner

Shit! Stuck AGAIN!

And while we’re on the subject of bends… What in the holy hell is the need to have so many of the buggers? It was like navigating a children’s’ drawing of a wiggly wiggly worm. The corners were so steep, it seemed impossible to get around them without getting stuck. It was like… trying to pilot a nineteen-metre-long turd around a series of increasingly-tighter u-bends.

I’m sorry. That was a shit analogy.

View canal 2

Another beautiful curve…

The first hour of our ‘relaxing’ boat journey was spent with Roo standing at the front of the Henley trying to holler directions back to Ian at the tiller, while Tony crabbed his way along the 10 centimetre-deep side ledges to convey the messages.

Roo on front

Roo took her job very seriously!

Tony on side

As did Tony…

Typically, by the time an obstacle had been spotted, it was already too late to try and avoid it, as the boat took an ice age to respond to the helm. The words, “Shit!’ and ‘Oops!’ and ‘Sorry!’ got rather a lot of usage.

And then came the bridges.

Lots, and lots of bridges.

canal view 2

Look! A beautiful bridge!

bridge 2

Jeez, that’s a bit narrow…

Bridge 1

Holy fu-

They were barely wider than the boat – by which I mean, it could get through without lubricant. But only just. And every one of them was on a tight bend, meaning any attempt at lining us up correctly resulted in us getting wedged in the curve. Threading the needle, we called it – only, the guy doing the threading couldn’t actually see the needle. And he was trying to thread it with ten tonnes of wood and steel that only obeyed his directions if they felt like it.

Tight squeeze through tunnel

Breathe in everyone!

By the time Ian surrendered the helm, he was exhausted – and Tony, taking over, looked terrified!

The hire company had told us we’d be able to make it to the nearest pub on the first evening. And we did! Thank God, because we were all in need of a drink. We’d bounced off boats, banks and bridges, but we seemed to be getting better at steering.

Now all we had to figure out was how to stop.

Because we’d arrived at the pub! Other boats lined the bank, making the canal even narrower. Bashing into these boats would be even worse than hitting ones sailing – because we’d be spending the night tied up next to them…

Canal view 4

You know you’re at the pub, because the canal gets even narrower…

So, here’s how we accomplished it:

Step 1 – Ian experiments with turning the tiller to bring the bow (front) close enough to the towpath so Tony can jump out.

Step 2 – Roo throws the bow rope to Tony who then hauls on it with all his might. Possibly because the boat weighs ten tonnes, this achieves precisely nothing.

Step 3 – Ian experiments with reverse to try and slow the boat down and pulling on the tiller to bring the stern (back) close to the towpath instead. This succeeds in stopping the boat, but causes the stern to drift all the way across the canal.

Step 4 – Roo waits until the bow is close enough so she can jump onto the towpath and then runs along it, as Carmel throws her the stern rope.

Step 5 – Other boaters on the towpath witness our complete cluelessness, and form teams to haul the boat into the bank, hand over hand.

Step 6 – The help evaporates back to the pub, leaving us staring blankly at the hooks and stakes which are to be used for securing the boat to the bank…

Tying boat

Solving a knotty problem.

But it was all good. After a bit of work with a sledgehammer and some truly creative knot-work, it was time to relax. Tony collapsed into a chair with a sigh of relief. “Mother of God, that’s hard work!” he exclaimed. There was a chorus of agreement all round. “I’m too old for this shit!” he added. Ian and Carmel exchanged long-suffering looks and went to make the tea.

Beautiful scenery and Tony

STILL TO COME… Abandon Ship???

Drifting – Part One


Four adults on a relaxing, 4-night canal boat cruise. What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, when three of the adults are Slaters, things are bound to get interesting…

It’s always been a dream of ours to try living aboard a narrow boat, and drift along the English countryside on the canals, occasionally winding a lock up or down. It all sounds so relaxing…


This sums up what I had in mind…

So when Tony’s parents, Ian and Carmel, had some time off while we were in the UK, we decided to go for it. We booked an out-of-season, midweek, 4-night cruise with Anglo-Welsh Canal Boats, as it was the cheapest possible option: £750 between all of us.

None of us had ever been on a narrow boat before so we turned up at the wharf in Middle of Nowhere, Wales, with no idea what to expect. We were quite surprised to see eight boats tied up together under one bridge. They really did look narrow…


Here’s trouble…

To get onto our little boat, the ‘Henley,’ we had to climb over and across the boat closer to the towpath… and we had to do that A LOT, as we started unpacking the cars and loading the boat. To be honest it was quite embarrassing the number of trips we made… the other boat was ready to be off long before we’d loaded everything, but with us being tied to them, it was hard luck, really.

Getting our stuff distributed around the Henley was pretty tricky, because the peculiar thing about narrow boats is this: they’re narrow. The Henley was an amazing 19 metres long – but only 2.2 metres wide! You had to climb across the first boat and take the short step to the ladder from Henley’s stern, descend 7 steps, squeeze around the first double bed, wait for the person coming towards you to duck into the toilet so you could carry on squeezing down past the second double bed, to where the front of the boat opened out into a small kitchen and sitting area. This living room was wide enough for two easy chairs, leaving just enough space to walk between them and get through the front door onto the bow.

Inside of boat

NARROW! And full of all our crap, which doesn’t help.

Once we had locked up the cars we received our official Boat Handling Instruction. Now, I don’t know if you’ve met the Slaters, but when they’re nervous they have a habit of making jokes to lighten the mood… so our course on how to prime and start the engine, use the tiller and keep the batteries charging was full of quips about how we were totally grown up enough to handle this, it couldn’t be that different to a car, and HELL NO, we would never sink the Henley… honest!

Our instructor had the option of taking a $1000 safety deposit off us, but must have been convinced we were mature enough to be careful. It might have helped that Tony mentioned having been a professional sailor before. And that he neglected to mention he’d ‘worked’ on precisely one yacht – and it sank.

The dude from the boat office promised to accompany us across our first obstacle to be sure we had the hang of things… and we were glad about that. Because our first obstacle was the longest, oldest and highest aqueduct in the world! The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – no, don’t bother trying to pronounce it, because it’s impossible – is basically a giant tin bathtub that’s 307 meters long, standing on a series of massive stone arches that stretch 38 meters down into valley below.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

“I bet I can hang off it!” Tony boasted. After a few seconds of stunned silence, this was met with a three-throated chorus of, “NO!”

We cast off our ropes and finally freed the other boat from the yard (sorry guys!). Ian took the helm and set us off on a slow cruise towards the start of the aqueduct. Amazingly, there were no other boats queuing to go over it.

Quick! Faster!


Because the boat’s top speed was 4 miles an hour. We crawled towards the aqueduct at the same speed ice-caps recede, praying no-one would reach it from the other side first. The aqueduct is exactly as wide as a narrow boat, so it’s one-way, single-file. If a boat gets to it before you do, you’ve got to wait for it to cross the full span. If six boats reach the far end while the first is still crossing, and they follow it, you have to wait for every one of the buggers.

Across the Aqueduct

Fantastic views over Llangollen Valley

Ian and Carmel were at the stern (back) controlling the Henley, while Tony and I were miles away at the bow (front), taking pictures and videos of our extreme height above the valley. It felt like we were floating in mid-air. Hang on – we WERE floating in mid-air! Literally. No guardrails or barriers separated us from the drop – one step is all it would take for a quarter of a mile free-fall. Not a great place to be drunk! Halfway across the aqueduct, the yard bloke decided we knew enough. He hopped off onto the narrow towpath and strolled casually back towards the yard… We were on our own!

We felt like professionals as we chugged slowly along the aqueduct, smiling and waving at the tourists walking along the towpath. But then we reached the other side and all hell broke loose…

Tony Sticks Out

Tune in next weekend for Part 2 – Will we survive?

House Goals!

It’s strange, but the more we travel the more we actually aspire to own our own home! Maybe we are sick of packing everything we own up into boxes in my poor Dad’s spare room, or maybe we’ve just been to so many amazing properties. We are constantly collecting cool ideas for our future.

Dover Castle Inner

If only we could live in a castle forever… :)

And lets be honest, Dover castle is the pinnacle of permanent safe home ownership! The castle has stood for 800 years and counting! And the medieval earthworks began as an iron age hill fort before 1000 ad! We spent 6 hours exploring Dover castle and we’ve decided September is the perfect time of year because the weather is still warm and cloudy/sunny yet the crowds won’t bowl you over the turrets.

On the site of the castle on top of the tallest mound is an ancient Medieval Saxon church from 1000 AD which has been rebuilt in the 17th century, and believe it or not an actual Roman Lighthouse! It was built in AD 43 when the Romans invaded England and is one of the best surviving Roman Lighthouses in Europe.

The Saxon Church and Roman Lighthouse

The Saxon Church(100AD) and Roman Lighthouse(45AD)

We did the Dynamo tunnel tour, and as the film Dunkirk came out recently it was great timing to hear the real story of how the British forces managed to evacuate so many soldiers. Dover Castle is the largest castle in England and was totally unbombed by the German forces because Hitler put an embargo on damage as he wanted to own it for himself!  The castle had to prove itself in a war situation in 1216 when a few hundred men defended it from Prince Louis of France after King John reneged on Magna Carta.

In the late 18th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, Dover Castle’s defenses were upgraded again. More gun positions and platforms were added, and the roof of the keep was replaced with bricks so that heavy artillery could be used from the top of the keep. If you go into the Gallery inside the Great Tower (the Keep), you can stand above the King’s throne, but you can see how the roof was rebuilt in a curved brick design which does cover the top part of the gallery windows.

A series of tunnels were constructed as a garrison for troops during the Napoleonic Wars. About 2000 used the underground barracks, you can explore some in the Hospital and Dynamo tunnel tours, but most of them are closed off.

During World War II, the tunnels were used as air-raid shelters and then as a secret command center and military hospital. There are over three miles of tunnels, and many parts of the underground system have not yet been fully explored. WE would totally have offered to do some exploring on English Heritages behalf… don’t think they trusted Tony not to go into any dangerous areas! 🙂

Tony doing the Superman at a deserted Dover Castle

Tony doing the Superman at a deserted Dover Castle, September is not too crowded we highly recomend it!

To read more about the history of Dover castle please follow this link to the English Heritage page http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dover-castle/history-and-stories/history/

We definitely needed more than 4 hours to explore the castle complex fully, we took 6 hours because we stopped to explore lots of the gate houses and walked along the walls a lot. While wandering around the The Constables Gate area we discovered that you can rent rooms from English Heritage and stay in the castle walls overnight… wish we had known this earlier because although our self catering apartment in Dover was a great location for walking to town we would FAR rather have slept in a castle!

The Constables Gate

Looking inwards towards the Constables Gate, Check out the vines/trees growing up the walls!

As the entry fee for Dover Castle is around £20, we decided to join English Heritage for £40 each a year in the hope that this will make us visit more castles and historical buildings in our time in the UK. We really enjoyed ourselves and have had a great time in Dover, and we have aspirations to build our future home around a courtyard design.

This blog will feel quite different to Tony’s style of blogging, however I had to take over because he is down to the final edit of book 6 (Which will be called “Don’t you know who I am?”) We just have to finish the front cover and format it, so fingers crossed you can all be reading his prequel in a fortnights time!

Next week we will be living aboard a canal boat in Wales so check back on the blog to see what happens there (Hopefully we don’t sink into the depths of a welsh aqueduct!)


The Great Tower

This is the Great Tower as they call the Central Keep here in Dover, it was built by Henry the Second in the 1180s.


Roo walking towards castle

Lead me to safety!

Tony on the walls

Not a bad defensive wall to protect against zombie appocolypse…

The stained glass

The stained glass in the chapel inside the Great Tower.

Tony and Roo in front of castle

Can we please live here? 🙂

The Great Tower

The Great Tower (The Central Keep)


Having a sneaky drink from a wine barrel… 🙂

Standing on the battlements

Standing on the battlements , that’s the ancient Roman Lighthouse and Saxon Church behind us! (And France even further in the distance.)

Royal Bedchamber

Inside the Royal bedchamber….Dont wake the King!!

The Royal Potty

The Royal Potty…

Down the Medieval Tunnels

Down the Medieval Tunnels, these were built in the 1200s!

Roo sitting on the wall

Roo sitting on the wall.

Modern weapons

The big guns from the 1939 defences!

Abandoned Mess Hall

This entire huge building was the Officers Mess Hall but is abandoned and sitting derelict because it would cost so much money for the English Heritage Trust to renovate it to safe use standards.

Looking back towards the castle

Looking back towards the castle from the carparking area.

Medieval Saxon Church

Medieval Saxon Church built in the 1200s. You can clearly see the Roman Lighthouse on the left, this was built in 45AD!

Graffiti on the walls of the Great Tower.

Graffiti on the walls of the Great Tower.

Gorgeous Day

We had such a gorgeous day to explore Dover Castle!

The Port of Dover

Looking from the Signal Bunker towards to Port of Dover, you can see the white cliffs at the left side.

The Throne Room

Its good to be King… 🙂 Tony sitting on the throne in the Great Tower!

the view from the roof

The view from the roof of the Great Tower looking towards the Church and Roman Lighthouse, and beyond towards the shores of France!

Postcards From The Edge

A picture tells a thousand words, right? Well, let’s hope so. Because I’ve run out of words! I’ve been talking so much these last few weeks that I am literally losing the ability to expel new words from inside of me.

So what I’ve decided to do is dazzle you all with the photos we’ve been taking – ones that have missed the cut so far, and not made it onto Facebook or the blog. Partially this is because I don’t post photos as often as I should, and partially it’s because I take pictures of really weird sh*t that amuses me, and somehow it doesn’t seem nearly as funny five days later when I find the photos…

It’s a context thing. That’s my excuse.

So in celebration of that, I will attempt to give you a brief context for each picture. You may even gain some insight into the inner workings of my mind… in which case, BEWARE! It’s not a particularly wholesome environment in there…


I’d like to begin with a salute to the sheer amount of paperwork I brought with me on this trip. Having struggled to get into the US a few times before (see ‘Don’t Need The Whole Dog!’, for example) I needed to make SURE they couldn’t refuse us. So I bribed the boss at work in Perth for a letter saying we’d be coming back, I printed out bank statements, offers of accommodation from 200+ people, our schedule, our flights, our train tickets, the receipt for the car we were buying… even a screen grab of my Spider book at the top of the charts, in case they had any doubts about what I was up to here.
And you know what? The bastards didn’t look at a single page of the stuff. So I’m including this picture to illustrate the anguish I felt when I had to abandon all this in a nameless motel room, on the grounds that it was making my rucksack over a kilo heavier. DAMN IT!!! (The many hours all this took to create is part of the reason why the rest of this trip is so badly organised…)

Shower slimed

And this is what I mean by taking photos of weird sh*t. This is actually the results of a slight accident I had whilst taking one of my first showers in the USA. I slipped (I’m known to do that) – and I liberally decorated the walls in shampoo in the process. This amused me, of course, because I have the mind of a twelve-year-old boy. (It’s in a box in the car). What amused me even more is that I refused to clean it off, and left it for the cleaners to find the next day. I like to think I was giving them a laugh, too. Or spreading the love, as I call it 😉

What Road?

Next we have a road sign we passed on the way to Las Vegas. I know it’s the middle of the desert, but come on! Someone was taking the piss when he named this road. I can just see him putting it forward to his very bored superiors, and them cracking up over the thought of people trying to pronounce it…

Large Mantis

Next up is this rather large preying mantis sculpture, which we discovered on the far end of Fremont Street in Vegas. It’s over 40 feet long, articulated, and it blows fire from its antennae. Well, of course it does! This is, after all, Las Vegas. But the weirdest thing was being told by the giant mantis, in a Star Trek-style computer voice, to “Take lots of selfies, and upload them to Instagram,”. Whilst blasting massive gouts of fire from its deely boppers to reinforce the point. If you’ve never been commanded to take selfies by a 40-foot tall fire-breathing mantis, then clearly you’ve never been to Vegas…

Down Sign

Next we have a rather self-explanatory shot from my Amusing Signage folder. Does it surprise anyone that I have an amusing signage folder? Really? Anyway, this one had me in stitches – quite possibly because I was very drunk at the time – but I’d LOVE to know who decided that the direction ‘down’ was so confusing to customers that it needed pictorial explanation. Roo had to physically restrain me to prevent me adding, “No shit??” in biro. My poor stupid head is already abuzz with potential Facebook memes for this one… anyone else want to have a crack?

Bowl of Baby Heads

Here we have a photo I call ‘Bowl of Baby Heads’ – for reasons far too complicated to explain. Suffice to say, I found this selection of decapitated dolls’ heads for sale in possibly the best Antiques Store I’ve ever been in, in Astoria, Oregon. In terms of Halloween decorations, this is right up there with those severed limbs you can get for hanging out of your car boot – but personally, I’d just like to have this sitting around on the coffee table, as a conversation piece. Or stopper. Imagine showing in guests… I’ve never wanted a house-warming party so much in my life! Or a house, come to think of it.

Alas Poor Yorik

“Alas, poor Yorik!” What can I say? The frustrated actor in me just couldn’t help it.

Not Dairy

Next we have something far more scary than a bowl of baby heads! It’s the ‘milk’ they provided at a hotel buffet, for putting into my coffee. I damn near did it, too, before realising that it was ‘Not a Dairy product.’ But… WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS IT, THEN? A closer inspection reveals it to be a concoction of soybean oil, corn syrup, three kinds of acids, four kinds of salt, and ‘Artificial Colors’ for good measure. So, much healthier than that awful cow’s milk crap people have been drinking for decades! Honestly, why do we even need dairy in our diet, when we can so easily replace it with man-made chemicals? Perhaps all those non-dairy folks have got the right idea after all. I mean, compared to the shocking and well-known side effects of drinking milk, what possible harm can come of replacing it with this?

Anyway. Because this blog has mostly been me moaning about or laughing at the general stupidity of this world, here’s a bit of relief from all that, in the form of one of Roo’s photos. Because they say you should always end on something cute. Well, assuming something cute will still let you, if you’re so close to the end…

Anyway! Enough of such nonsense. Here’s a racoon. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments in the box that’s named after ’em  😛

Love from Tony.


Leaving Las Vegas

Right, where were we?

Next stop was on our grand USA adventure was Death Valley Junction. We checked into the only motel anywhere near there, finding it delightfully knackered and ‘quaint’. The ladies who ran the place were very friendly, but as we were leaving the next day they were reporting a guest to the police. An older man, staying in one room with a young girl – when the cleaners went in, they found her long hair had all been cut off and left in the sink… Definitely something strange going on there!

Death Valley Motel 1

We spent that evening exploring some awesomely creepy abandoned buildings over the road. This was an activity Roo called ‘testing the low-light capabilities of my new phone’ and I called ‘breaking into shit’. We’ve since agreed to call it ‘Urban Exploring’ – and to do lots more of it 😉 

Death Valley Buildings

In Death Valley we had a slight mishap. Roo wanted to get a closer look at Twenty Mule Canyon, so veered off the road onto what she thought was a lay-by. In fact it turned out to be a one-way 4×4 track, which we ended up following for 20 minutes, along a crazily twisting, narrow rocky track. Eventually we came to a steep slope down, covered in sand and gravel, bristling with hairpin bends between rough outcrops of rock…

“Uh… No friggin’ WAY!” we said in unison, and Roo managed to turn the car around and head back – praying the whole while that nothing would come the other way. As we made it back to the road, we noticed a VERY SMALL warning sign, suggesting this might not have been the best track to follow…

Warning Sign

By the time we arrived at Badwater Basin, the lowest (and hottest) spot in the continental US, the sun had already set. Which was probably for the best, as it was still 118 degrees F (48 degrees C) – at 8pm!

We walked out onto the salt flats, and I had to find out whether or not it really WAS salt.

Licking Salt

It was!

And it was rough, too – I even cut my tongue 🙁

Still – one hell of a beautiful, desolate place. Roo couldn’t help herself!

Badwater Basin Sunset

See? Told ya so 😉

Our next reader visit was Dave in Simi Valley, just north of Hollywood. Dave and his daughter (and her boyfriend) took us on an epic hike into the hills, looking for a hidden cave full of graffiti artwork, where sometimes there are giant ropes nets to hang out in.

Simi Cave

The ropes were gone, but due to a slight wardrobe malfunction, I did enough hanging out for all of us… particularly for Dave, who was walking directly behind me. He now sees my flabby white bum-cheek every time he closes his eyes…

Split Shorts

By the sight of mine ass, thou shalt remember me…

Sorry Dave!

The next exciting event in our lives was the arrival of our car – which we still haven’t decided on a name for! All suggestions gratefully accepted 😉

The car, a bright red Nissan Versa, cost us a staggering $10,000!!!

And no, before you ask – I don’t have ten thousand dollars. Not even close. So I bought this car entirely on a credit card, and am very much hoping that when we sell it, I’ll be able to pay the card off. Otherwise it’ll be beans on toast for dinner when we get back to Perth. For at least a decade…

Beepi Car

As we travel around the US, I’m planning on doing talks about my books, about writing, about self-publishing, and about traveling in general, to writer’s groups, university classes, in pubs… anywhere they don’t shut me up quick enough!

My first try was at Anacapa Brewing Company in Ventura, organised by Lily, one of my first readers. It was a rip-roaring success, with a sell-out crowd of almost ten people…

It was the perfect opportunity for me to practise my patter without the stress of a large audience. I promised to talk until people started throwing fish – luckily, they weren’t serving fish that night, so I managed to get through my entire act.

First talk

My notes guided me through, and were written several minutes before the talk on a piece of cardboard that Roo tore off a box. People sometimes ask how it’s possible to be so unbelievably crap at organising things, and now I can cheerfully point to Roo and say, “Well, that’s HER job…”

Speech notes

Yes – that’s the box from a Star Wars windscreen cover my speech is written on…

We had a pleasant stay in Ventura, running on the beach with Lily’s dogs. Evidently there’d been some kind of party there the night before – ever feel like you’ve just missed out on something truly weird?

Beach Chair

And there are these cool little tunnels under the highway. I REALLY wanted to come back an explore some of them with a head torch, but apparently the homeless people who live in them can be a bit rude to visitors…

Creepy Tunnel

And on that note, I’ll end yet another update! I’m struggling to find much time for blog writing, what with all the homeless people’s tunnels I’m invading (amongst other activities) – but I promise to get the next one up soon 😉


Catch you in a few days!


USA Trip Update no. 2!

Hiya folks!

It’s time for another USA Trip Update!

First up, I’ll admit I’m playing catch-up here. This trip has been so much more awesome, and so much more demanding, than I could have imagined. I’ve been hiding from Facebook lately, as even without posting anything I find myself drowning in over 200 notifications per day. I know what you’re saying! Somewhere there is a tiny violin playing just for me…

In all seriousness though, the mountain of emails and messages I put off daily is keeping me from my real job – which is putting off writing blog posts! So in an abrupt turnaround, I’ve taken a day off to do all of the above.

(Incidentally, Roo is also taking this day off. Only she gets to spend hers sunbathing by the pool!).

To make you all feel better, I will be drinking THIS intriguing concoction:

Cheap Booze

So don’t feel TOO sorry for me. And apologies in advance if this blog gets a bit weird by the end…

Anyway, to get you all up to speed with our adventures so far, here is a potted pictorial history of our USA trip to date:

Before we left, we had one absolutely vital task to complete – yes, you’ve guessed it! Like any seasoned traveller, I made damn sure my wife was completely rainbowed-up. This particular dye job took 5 hours to accomplish, and has received on average three to five compliments per day from random strangers. This is working wonders on Roo’s natural shyness…

Roo Hair Dye

Our first stop was in downtown LA. Actually our first stop was in the airport, where the cash machine refused to spit out the money it said it had given us… What IS IT with me and cash machines, anyway?

Downtown was a trip. Homeless dudes pushing shopping trolleys down the middle of the road, street bands drumming up a storm, homemade art markets on the sidewalk, and more people walking around at 11pm than I’d see in Perth on Saturday at lunchtime! We also got to visit an AMAZING book shop, called (ironically) the Last Bookstore. As the publishing industry falls to its knees, this could never have been more appropriate. But the shop itself was incredible, with sculptures made of books (like a tunnel, windows, and the counter itself) – and displays like the ‘Horror Vault’ and the shelves themselves, which were arranged into a labyrinth! 

Last Bookstore

Our first visits with readers Eliza and Sue saw us sneaking under the Santa Monica pier… (no-one obeys those warning signs, right?)

Under Santa Monica Pier

…and exploring the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sadly we weren’t there when someone built a tiny wall around Donald Trump’s star, but we did find this conveniently empty one…

Tonys Star

I knew we’d be a bit stressed at the prospect of the tour stretching out in front of us, so I squeezed in a couple of days off over our 5th wedding anniversary. Naturally, we chose to spend them in VEGAS, baby, YEAH!

Our hotel/casino overlooked the famous Freemont Street Experience – well, actually our room overlooked an alley full of skip bins and what looked suspiciously like the Thunder Dome from Mad Max…

Alley View

The dome turned out to be a multi-million-dollar canopy which projects sound and light shows all night – I even had a go at zip-lining underneath it all, as a birthday pressie from Roo’s family (thanks guys!)

Fremont Canopy

This is what the canopy looks like! I sailed under it in the ‘Superman’ position, which was (according to Roo) “bastard impossible to catch a photo of!”

We spent three days in Vegas, and we didn’t gamble a dime. The inside of the casinos, though awash with lights and abuzz with a bewildering array of people and machines, still seemed kind of sad. Almost no-one in them looked happy – some wired with adrenaline and booze, some driven, some suspicious… I understand the mechanism of addiction by which gambling works, but I couldn’t figure out what made them all want to do it in the first place. It certainly wasn’t glamorous, despite the fact that all the croupiers were sexy chicks in their bras and panties… It probably says something about our budget that we ended up in the only hotel staffed entirely by strippers.

Casino Girls

We explored the famous Las Vegas Strip quite thoroughly. It hadn’t occurred to us just how far it was between the big casinos, and we ended up walking for five hours straight. We still only saw half of it, so had to come back the following night to check out the crazy castle and the fake Statue of Liberty…

Vegas Landmarks

And I’ll leave it there for now! My biggest fear (apart from going bald) is boring you nice folks with too much waffle. So next time I promise there’ll be thrills and spills… well, I’ve been drinking a lot of milkshakes, so there’s bound to be at least one of the two  🙂 

Until next time!


USA Trip Route

Hi folks!

It can’t have escaped your attention that Roo and I have, in fact, made it as far as America.

Us In VegasOh yes! We are here, in the big US of A, doin’ what we do best!

Which mostly involves screwing up relatively simple things, like using cash machines at the airport. Seriously – don’t get me started on this one…

So when it comes to complex things, like the buying, registering and insuring of motor vehicles… suffice to say, we were meant to be in it now. First they couldn’t process my credit card, and then they could, and then they couldn’t deliver in time, and then they could, and then they couldn’t again… to say nothing of the trouble we’ve had getting our phone to work over here.

But you don’t care about that! What you want to know is, where are we now, and where are we going? And those questions are easily answered by this short video  🙂 

For those of you who can’t be arsed watching us fanny around with maps the size of bed sheets, here’s the skinny:

We’ve started out in mid July, in southern California. Here’s how we progress from here…

Up to San Francisco by the end of this month, then on up to Portland, Oregon by August 5th. We press on up to Seattle for a week, leaving there around the 14th. We cross back down diagonally through Idaho around the 20th, arriving in Colorado around the 25th.

A brief stop in New Mexico is next, followed by a long drive across Texas, stopping in San Antonio and Houston. We make it to New Orleans by September 10th, and hope to make Florida by 16th.

We’ve got a sneaky little holiday scheduled in Miami around the 25th, after which we’ll be heading back up the East Coast through Georgia and South Carolina by the end of September.

October follows a steady progression north, through NC, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. A day or two off to explore New York, then we’ll be back on the road through Connecticut, Massachusetts (which I have finally learned to spell!) – and finishing our trip in New Hampshire around the end of the month.

Then all we have to do is figure out how we’re getting home…

Oh, and well the car, of course. A car which, at this point, we haven’t even got, yet…


Me with US map

No, I’m NOT naked behind there. Or am I…?

Roo also wants me to mention that I now have a shiny now official MEDIA PAGE on my website. We’re trying to drum up media attention as we go, so any interested interviewers or other parties can be directed to this page: http://tonyjamesslater.com/home/media/ – from where they can download the awesome Press Kit that took me three days to create.

This is the definite downside to being your own boss…

Roo thinks the page lacks a little professionalism, on account of the octopus, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Oh, and before I go, I’d just like to say a quick, yet heartfelt THANK-YOU!!! To all of you, for following my travels, and for opening your homes to Roo and myself. It means the world to us (or at very least, the continental US) – and this trip simply wouldn’t be possible without you.

Roo and I will be blogging as we go, as will as trying to keep Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updated. If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because IT IS!!! So hopefully you’ll understand if we fall behind here and there.

For anyone who fancies staying in touch on these various platforms, here’s the skinny:




Please do get in touch however you want, let us know when we’re coming into your area, and if anyone hears of a newspaper that might like to interview us, a radio station that is getting desperate on even a late night TV channel that no-one watches – please send them our way!

That’s all for now! Catch you folks soon…  🙂

Tony (and Roo too)

USA Take Two!

Hi folks!

So, some of you may have noticed that I have a new book out!

Shave My Spider Cover

I know, I know. FINALLY! Yes, well, after taking me almost a year to write, ‘Shave My Spider!’ turned out to be a monster at over 180,000 words. That doesn’t seem to have deterred people though, and at the moment, over a month after its release, ‘Spider’ is still hanging in there at no.1 in all its Amazon categories.

Bestseller Screen Shot

Look! Proof! Because no-one believes me when I say this stuff!

Now, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the book ends with my death Roo’s brilliant idea that we should go to America, visit some of our readers, and explore as much of the place as possible.

Aha! The eagle-eyed amongst you may recognise this proposal as the genesis of my now-infamous Secret Plan™ which I blogged about HERE.

And a damn fine plan it was! Alas, real life intervened in the most horrible way possible, and we ended up not making that trip. On the upside, we did get to spent five months playing with my two tiny nieces, Hazel and Holly!

Holly Hazel Combo

Hazel, ready for her digger lesson, and Holly wondering why she’s been christened Baby Spice…

And now, almost exactly a year after we originally planned to invade America, we’re almost ready to try again.

So – once more, this is my rallying cry! If any of you American types fancy hosting Roo and myself for a pair of nights, feeding us a bit, and listening to me waffle on about the adventures too boring to make it into the books – here’s what to do:

  • PLEASE DO send me an email! Last time it got SO complicated, with people replying on blog comments, Facebook posts, private messages and emails to 3 different addresses, that a strange, mucus-like substance started dripping from my ears… That’s almost never a good thing, so emails, please, to: Tony@TonyJamesSlater.com
  • PLEASE DON’T offer us a place to stay if you just want to eat us and wear our skin. You know who you are! Unfortunately I don’t, so this is bound to happen at least once…
  • This is where the plan gets so sneaky you could put a wig on it and let it run for president: I’d like to spread the word about my books in each place I visit. That way I might actually sell a few, and we’ll be able to afford to eat when we get back to Australia! So please let me know if there’s a local paper or radio station that might be interested in doing an interview, or a local library, book club or college that might let me do a talk. Eventually I’ll have to ask you to get in touch with them, because if I do it they call it ‘advertising’, and try to charge me for it… But for now I’m just keen to know what the options are  🙂
  • Also, let me know if there’s anything cool, unique or interesting we’ll be able to do/see/fall off/accidentally damage near you. Ideally not expensive attractions, as Roo and I tend to travel on a pretty minuscule budget. Likewise, fine dining is out I’m afraid – well, unless you’re willing to pick up the tab!
  • AND THAT’S IT! Once I have a big list of people and places, I’ll whittle it down by… ah… trial by combat? A day-long rock-paper-scissors marathon? Honestly, I dunno. I’ll figure something out. Last time it took me three weeks to do it – which coincidentally is exactly how long we have before our flight to LA…

I do still have a list of folks who offered to let us stay the last time I asked. You’ll all be getting an email from me to check that you haven’t come to your senses! Feel free to reply with creative excuses. I won’t mind – after all, you hadn’t read about our Asia trip when you made those offers…

Oh, and you might want to check your insurance will cover this visit.

Nah, I’m only kidding!

It definitely won’t.


I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,


Book Five Progress Update

Welcome back blog readers, and apologies for the incredibly long wait between posts! Sometimes real life gets in the way of travel and blogging and stuff, so we will ease back into it with a short one  🙂

Tony has been furiously working on his fifth book for the last few months – in fact, he started this book at the same time as the fourth one, but soon realized that six months in Asia AND a wedding were simply too much for one book to handle! (To be honest, it’s still a bit too long at just over 150,000 words – but we did have some pretty crazy adventures in those six months!)

Some of you may have seen the sneaky-leaks about the title of book five, but in case you haven’t, here it is:

Shave My Spider

Yes, I know this is a weird title for a book, but let’s be honest – most of the content is a little crazy too. My advice: expect the unexpected!

Orangutang Toy

Here is a little teaser of something that will be on the front cover…Anyone have any ideas what it could possibly be?  🙂 

Tony is a perfectionist, so unfortunately his books can take a lot longer to be completed. For example, he has been known to stare at a sentence for hours on end, and change just one little word… only to change it back hours later! (Yes, this is frustrating… so I am withholding wine and bacon in these situations 🙂 )

However, I feel like it pays off sometimes – like in this brilliant turn of phrase he uses while we are in China:

China Book Text

Six months of travel has been hard to fit into one book, but Tony has selected the weirdest and most amusing adventures to include. Now, to whet your appetite, I will share some photos of our time in Asia – and leave you with the promise that the book will be available by the 15th of May 2016!

(It better be, or I will be having stern words with Mr Slater 😆 )

Tony at Preah Vihear Temple

Tony holding up the walls of Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia.

We have also started up a professional Instragram account at @AdventureWithoutEnd and we have a personal one each @TonyJamesSlater and @Kristaroo85 which we will update regularly with photos of our adventures.


Vicky holding Golden Eagle

My sister Vicky holding a stunning Mongolian Golden Eagle!


Roo on the Great Wall of China

One of the highlights of our travels in China was our 3 hour hike along the Great Wall of China….which truly is GREAT! 😛

Mongolian Horse and Cart.

We caught a lift with this lovely Mongolian horseman to the local bus stop.

Tony with Mongolian Horse

Tony with his rather small Mongolian Horse – Lets just say these saddles are NOT built for tall westerners or long distance riding…

Tony climbing Hua Shan Stairs

This was the highlight of Tonys trip to China – Climbing the infamous Hua Shan Stairs!


Handsome young Orangutan at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Borneo.

Red Panda

We had to wait ages for this little Red Panda to come out at the Chengdu Panda Base in China.

Also, recently Tony received his 800th review on Amazon.com, which is absolutely amazing, and humbling, and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your support.

Until next time!


x x xx  😉

The Twizy Experience

Roo has always had an obsession with small things. Sometimes I think that’s why she married me gets so excited about hamsters. Ahem.

In China, we spotted THIS:

Chinese Bubble Bike

And Roo was besotted. She talked about the weird bubble-bike-thingumy for days, eventually mapping out a grand adventure all around Australia in one – or possibly in two, seeing as how they weren’t big on luggage space. Or big period. She ranted on to anyone who would listen about converting the bikes to solar energy, getting sponsorship from a big solar company, and doing the whole expedition for some charity or other.

Anyway, we were stymied in our efforts to import a pair of bubble bikes because neither of us speak Chinese… and, well, to be honest, importing vehicles did seem a bit grown up for us.

And then Roo saw the Twizy.

Twizy at ASDA

It was parked outside our local supermarket, and I couldn’t drag her past it. The owner came out with his shopping, saw us staring, and said, “Oi! You lookin’ at my Twizy?”

To which a variety of responses occurred, but fearing bloodshed was imminent, I simply said, “Ah, yes.”

“Well come on then!” he beamed. And before long we were sitting inside, as he explained some of the more peculiar features, like clip-in windows and the immensely long power cable that is fitted with a regular UK-style 3-pin domestic plug. “Charge it anywhere!” he explained, which was good as the thing could only go about 40 miles before it ground to a halt. “But perfect for about-town driving!” he enthused.

So, not ideal for a month-long sojourn across the Aussie outback then, I realised – although town driving would surely come with its own challenges. Particularly in England, where kids tend to throw bricks at things they don’t like.

But then we picked up a free magazine – in the same supermarket where we’d first spotted the Twizy – and inside was an article about an exciting scheme only 3 hours south of us; the New Forest Twizy Hire experience!

Row of Twizys

To say Roo was excited… well, let’s just say she had to be restrained for her own safety.

And so, with our time left in England rapidly diminishing, and a whole host of things still to do – like packing, visiting friends, writing books – we instead opted to ignore all that crap in favour of navigating our way to the New Forest, in search of a mini-adventure. I haven’t seen Roo so excited since we got married… no, scratch that – since her hamsters arrived, a year before the wedding.

roo in twizy

From here on, I’ll let the video do the talking. We’re trying to do more filming of stuff as we travel around, and the result will inevitably be more of this kind of rubbish – Video Blogs, as all the cool kids are calling them. Or, “Why do I sound like such a goon?” as Roo calls them. Personally, I can’t stop looking at the size of my nose. Good God, if the camera adds 5lbs, that’s where all mine went!

Oh, a few things I should mention: we’d planned on camping the night after hiring the Twizy. Suffice to say, we didn’t.

The company doing the hiring had recently gone bust, and all the Twizy’s had been bought up by the boss of a VW camper hire place – you English types can get hold of them on: 01590 624066.

And in case it isn’t obvious from the video, we had an absolute blast!  🙂

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