Having proposed three times, James was not ready to give up just like that. He started devising an alternative plan, initially keeping it to himself, but once he had the scheme together he shared it with Penny. She wasn’t sure at first, but with time, patience and tenacity, James eventually managed to convince her, and they commenced their clandestine organisation.
James had always wanted to do a road trip. He was a sucker for road movies, and had wanted to explore the US for years, after visiting New York and loving it. He was a Londoner, so big cities didn’t faze him, but he also loved the great outdoors, and he planned a route to combine the two, 3 weeks travelling east to west across the southern states with two nights in Vegas half way through. They kept the whole thing secret from everybody until the very last minute. Partly because they were not completely set on doing the wedding Vegas style. They were not sure about having no family there at all. They had also been surprised by how Anna had taken the news that they had cancelled the original plans. Initially she had been very upset – partly because she and Penny had argued and Penny had told her the harsh truth, that she had been the main cause of the cancellation. Naturally this was very upsetting for Anna. But James told me some time later that it almost seemed like this had been a bit of a wake up call for Anna. She was changing, starting to become a bit more like her former self, regaining control of her diabetes with a new pump, engaging in social activities in a way she hadn’t for years, and trying to persuade Penny to let her have another go with the wedding. James had taken quite a hard line with this. He spoke to me several times, filled with doubt over whether he was right to continue asserting the US plan so strongly. His memories of the first aborted attempt at marriage were recent and painful. It had been really shit, and for a while they had not wanted to think about marriage at all, and this really seemed like the wrong thing to be experiencing – in the last fortnight of planning he was expecting anxiety levels to be raised, but this had been 8 months in advance.
So eventually they took the plunge. They booked the famous little white chapel (though resisted the temptation to be married by Elvis) and finalised their travel plans. Hired an RV from a company in Orlando and arranged to drop it 3 weeks later in LA. James told his parents, who were very excited for them, and understood completely their motivations for ditching the family thing. Penny did not tell Anna until they were actually on route, pretending that she had only just been surprised by James herself. ‘You lucky bugger’ was Anna’s response.
Everything was on.
The next few chapters will be taken directly from James’ travel journal.