Tag Archives: month

Back To Mile 0

23 Mar

After leaving Daytona, we arrived in Miami and welcomed to this:

our crap!

our crap!

and this:

family!

family!

My parents threw us an awesome welcome home party the day after we got to Miami, just enough time to dig through our bags of “new” 2-year-old clothes and find something hole and stain free to wear. (Seriously don’t remember keeping so much stuff!) It was FAN-TASTIC to see our friends and family after being away for so long.

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we finally met our godson Ethan

we finally met our godson Ethan

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the sweetest gift!

the sweetest gift!

We spent the next few days readjusting (more on that later), taking the dogs for a vet check up, getting an oil change on our car and other random welcome-to-reality tasks (like getting new batteries for all 5 of my watches that died during our 2 year absence).

Then, on March 5, 2015, back to Key West, where it all began. We decided to drive Skyhorse because, well, why wouldn’t you take an impractically large vehicle a tiny island during Spring Break. No, it just seemed fitting to return with Skyhorse.

The water looked bluer. The sky clearer. I had forgotten how amazingly captivating the drive down the Keys is.

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look at that big smile!!

look at that big smile!!

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The normally 3 hour drive took us 5 hours, as we stopped to visit friends all along the way down. And after 680 days–1.5 months shy of 2 years–we returned to Key West for a long weekend visit.

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Our 5 days in Key West were filled with surprising this one for her 25th 29th 31st birthday

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this adorable face’s 1st birthday

happy 1st birthday Ava!!

meeting the newest generation of Key West Conchs, going out on the boat (a million thanks Lori and Kevin!!), wandering our old neighborhood, drinking at our favorite watering holes, and reconnecting with old friends. 

baby whisperer?

baby whisperer?

give me back my bow!

give me back my bow!

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fighting over who is going to wash the dishes. some things never change...

fighting over who is going to wash the dishes. some things never change…

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the Robertson Resort

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We even camped a night at the office. 

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The conversations picked up right where we had left off and though circumstances had changed (new addresses, new jobs…) all the people were the same. Those that we had laughed with for years before we left on our adventure were still standing there with open arms welcoming Hani and I back. The only measure of the passage of time was all the new little ones that have sprung up in the last 2 years.

The city and its unique character will always hold such a special place in our hearts. I know our visits to Key West will always continue. But for now, the wind is pulling us in a different direction.

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Random thoughts/ month 22

3 Mar
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Rockin and rollin and truckin across the southern United States to finally arrive in FLORIDA (to cold weather). This month we:
+ especially love our Tennessee, Georgia and northern Florida friends. Thank you Faiqa, Scott, Wesley and Lamar, Cheeks and Lynne, and the Gardis for letting us stay warm indoors and/or use your electrical outlet for our heater. When the temps dipped in the 20s, you all saved us from a slow frigid death. Your generosity can only be repaid by taking Skyhorse off our hands. Now, who wants her??  
+ are still selling our beautiful home Skyhorse! Let us know if you are interested.
 
+ toured Tennessee. Man, that state is couuuun-try! Guns, camo and fried everything. And super flipping cold.
+ Memphis-ed. We visited with Hani’s friend Faiqa and her family, spending quality time drinking tea and talking shit about her brother. Kidding (but only about the tea part, Zia).
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+ nerded out in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The famed Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot is site to one of the best museums we’ve visited. Packed with videos, sound bites, replicas and news stories, this museum is a must see if you are anywhere in the vicinity of Memphis. Eat a big meal before you go so you are not forced to leave at hour 4 from hunger pains.
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+ sang our way around Graceland. Super pricey but well worth the tour around The King’s gorgeously decorated property, planes and cars, hosted by none other than John Stamos.
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the coolest bar

the coolest bar

even the king loved poodles

even the king loved poodles

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And now the cars and plane…
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+ checked out Sun Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash and others recorded. Pretty cool but mostly pretty boring. Graceland was better. Sorry Peter!
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+ got sick, then better, then sick again. I don’t think this winter weather is good for our health. I hear the beach calling…
+ had an “I escaped Key West” reunion in Nashville. Miss these faces! We had such an amazing time meeting our friend Scott’s new wife Mandi and meeting Wesley and Lamar’s darling kids. Thanks baby Bub for letting us sleep in your room while you were away!

Huck wants to come in and play

+ shot our first rifle at a gun range in Nashville. Our Key West friend Scott relocated back to Nashville and after generously letting us crash in his spare house and showing us the cool parts of town, he introduced us to a typical Nashville afternoon activity…at the gun range. While I sucked and missed every skeet sent into the air, Hani did a pretty good job and hit 3 skeet! It was a hilarious experience and so fitting for our time in the south.
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lots of ammo

lots of ammo

+ adored Chattanooga. The city is blossoming with cute neighborhoods, restaurants and outdoor activities. While I died, Hani fielded questions from lots of people who spied our ‘for sale’ signs. Chuck was one of those people, taking instant adoration for Skyhorse, so much so that he invited us to dinner with his family. It was very reminiscent of our early days on the road where we’d just click with random people we met. Just the reminder I needed that even though we are at the end of our trip, we are not completely useless unemployed blobs.
+ wandered around Rock City, an area several miles up over Chattanooga. We followed a series of paths through rock formations and gardens to the highest point, where you can see 7 states in the distance. 

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+ played in Atlanta with my high school bud Matt, his wife Lynne and their two little girls. The girls were OBSESSED with Skyhorse, climbing all over the inside and jumping around the plane. They were definitely the most excited kids to see the truck. One of them almost drove Skyhorse as they accidentally (on purpose?!) shifted it in reverse. Guess you can’t leave a 5 year old alone in a vehicle.
+ met up with Estee and her fiancé Yoni in Atlanta. It was our first time all together and we had a blast doing what us Mayas do best: eating and drinking. After all, Estee and Yoni are on a strict Mediterranean diet. Until we meet again sissy and baby bro!
+ arrived in Apalachicola just as Hani’s sickness reached its peak so all I got for Valentine’s Day was his cough and a camp coozie. While Hani hibernated in bed for a few days, I got to work at our Key West friends Matt and Lisa’s year old bar, Bowery Station. I helped bartend slowly and meticulously twice (first time working in almost 2 years!!) and Hani made an appearance to wash glasses our last night in town. Waking up close to noon, listening to live music, pouring frosty brews and closing shop at 8 is work I could get used to!

+ met John and Mandi, soon-to-be overlanders, for a fun afternoon in Apalach. We gave them some travel tips, brunched and walked St George Island beach. Hopefully some of our advice will be helpful as they hit the road in a few months. So jealous of you guys and wish it was us starting our trip!!
+ played on our first beach in a long time. Too bad it was so cold out.
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+ landed in Daytona Beach for a long awaited visit with Hani’s parents. We haven’t seen them since we left their house at the beginning of the trip. For a week, we spent time with the Demetrious fam, eating all our favorite foods (stuffed grape leaves!) and reliving Hani’s “best of” Daytona spots. We even got to spend quality time with a few of Hani’s friends while in town.

+ had a fantastic girls reunion in West Palm Beach. A few of my sorority sisters met up for a much needed afternoon of giggles and food. It’s times like these that makes it SO GOOD to be back!

Random thoughts/ month 21

2 Feb

We’ve been met with lots of changes this past month, between the new year and our return to this US. This month we:

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+ rang in 2015 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We threw a party at our apartment (3rd gathering in 5 weeks. Can you tell I miss entertaining?!), cooked a giant lasagna and partied until it was 20-15 with Home on the Highway, Neli’s Big Adventure, Kelly, Anthony and some new friends. We watched a spectacular fireworks display in the Jardin, popped some bubbly on our roof then roamed town for a while. I still can’t believe we missed an entire calendar year of life in the US but am thrilled to report that we didn’t work a single day in 2014. Oh things will be different in 2015! New city, new jobs, new beginnings. Bring it!

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+ celebrated Three Kings Day. We watched the small parade as it rode by our apartment, complete with a band, horses, and a king in blackface, tossing cookies to spectators (of course I got one). The parade ended in the Jardin where eager children and their parents were questioned about their (good?) behavior that year, given gifts, beverages and a slice of the most massive cake.

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Because of the holiday, our favorite taco stand wasn’t open but we were able to squeeze in one last round of churros!

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+ left San Miguel on January 7. It was bittersweet, as we were very ready to leave the city (there are only so many coffee shops to bum in) but not Mexico. All great things do come to an end though.

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+ spent our last days in Mexico searching for a doctor. I stepped on a cactus as we were leaving San Miguel. Yes, a cactus. How very Mexican of me. And I was wearing flip flops because what other footwear exists for a Floridian. Just one little stab near my heel was all I got. It didn’t hurt that much at first but slowly swelled. By the next morning, the pain was intense and I couldn’t walk. We ended up going to a pharmacy doctor for $2, got some meds and began round one of antibiotics. Now, 3 weeks later, my heel is STILL infected, I walk with a limp, I’ve had to wear flip flops despite the cold weather because any shoe puts too much pressure on the area, and I’m taking another round of antibiotics. Who would have thought that one tiny prick (ha) would cause so much agony!

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+ had a nasty welcome back to the states. On the two occasions I flew home last year, I was greeted back in the states with a joyful “welcome home.” Stupidly, I thought we’d receive the same warm welcome coming back in Skyhorse. Leaving Mexico was easy and painless…once we actually found the exit. Please explain to me what’s the point of brand new buildings if they aren’t marked or manned by people telling you where to go? Once we got to the US side, they couldn’t decide whether we were a car or cargo. Border agents unnecessarily flexed their egos to the point that I was told to stand and wait in the cold rain with the dogs while Hani drove Skyhorse to be x-rayed. Mind you, I couldn’t walk because of my cactus foot so I’m literally hopping everywhere and NO ONE offered to help me. At least on the Mexican side they offered me a wheelchair! Our own countrymen just yelled at us and were dumbfounded about how we re-enter the US. Let’s just say the entire ordeal ended in Hani making not one but two formal complaints. Welcome home to us!

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+ were immediately assaulted by real highways, advertisements, chain restaurants and country music. Blech! And as an ode to our long driving days leaving Mexico, we spent our first night back in the US parked at a Love’s, the American Pemex.

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+ miss topes. NOT!! Every gas station accepts our credit card, we don’t have to search for branches in the road to indicate a problem up ahead, the highways are paved, properly signed, and don’t have craters in it. It’s the little things that we missed the most.

+ forgot how amazing radio in English, NPR, paper maps, and real fully stocked grocery stores are.

+ spent a relaxing night in San Antonio visiting friends we met while in Jaco, Costa Rica. Since we last saw Nadia and Brett, they relocated from Ft Lauderdale to San Antonio and offered us the warmth of their home for the night. We had a great time hanging around, drinking REAL BEER, playing tea party with their kids and eating a delicious meal. Thank you again Nadia and Brett!

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+ toured Austin for a week and a half. It felt familiar–like home. Maybe it’s because we now have a few pieces of Key West in Austin. We crashed at our friend Rhonda’s place in an effort to escape the freezing weather and the dogs snuggled with her pup, Mari.

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Since Rhonda is still relatively new to Austin, we all explored the city, jammed to live music, watched some two-steppin, and ate and drank like lil piggies. We also visited other Key West escapees Jedd and Christina for a few meals. It really was comforting to see some good friends after being away for so long.

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+ went road tripping with Rhonda. One afternoon, after fixing her flat tire, we drove through hill country to Deep Eddy’s vodka distillery then to BBQ at the Salt Lick, where we made the unfortunate decision to get all-you-can-eat. Let’s just say day drinking and pounds of BBQ are not an ideal combination. The leftovers were heavenly though.

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+ bought several pounds of jerky. It’s all gone now.

+ left BBQ and jerky land to enter po’ boy and oyster country: New Orleans. We stayed with my youngest cousin Rinat who recently moved here and also dined with the gang we met in Grand Isle when we first started the trip. Again, we ate our way through the city gorging on all the staples (beignets three times, fried oysters, po’boys, king cake), topping off our food extravaganza with dinner at our favorite, Jacques-Imo’s! Seriously, I need a giant salad right about now.

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Random thoughts/ month 20 San Miguel de Allende

26 Dec

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This big 2-0!! This entire month was spent in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of our favorite cities. This month we:

+ arrived in San Miguel November 24. We were welcomed back into the Aurora neighborhood, parking on the street in the same spot as last year nestled between the elementary school and soccer field. The residents recognized us and were super helpful in sending us around to their cousin’s sister’s neighbor as we tried to find a place to rent for the holidays.

+ rented an apartment!! Since we love this city and didn’t want to spend the holidays hopping aimlessly from one city to another in search of friends, we decided to rent an apartment through the new year. That and Neli’s are here too and it’s great to have friends to play with. We found a sweet apartment right in the center of town, everything included (plus laundry) for $100 a week! A friend of a friend of a friend connected us with Susan who lives on the outskirts of town with a massive property for Skyhorse to chill out on. It’s nice (weird?) to have so much space again, a “real” home, wifi on demand, cable, and a rooftop deck with spectacular views of the city. It’s complete city living in this area with standstill traffic, nonstop church bells, cool cafés next door, an Argentinean restaurant underneath the apartments, the main Jardin a block away, and butcher shops and the local market close at hand.

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+ spent Thanksgiving cooking with Victoria and Jason and their dogs, Neli and Maya. We had our hearts set on turkey, boxed stuffing (for Victoria), and canned cranberry sauce (for Jason). The turkeys were plentiful but frozen solid and no boxed stuffing was to be found so we settled for a feast of 2 chickens, mashed potatoes 2 ways (Sarah vs Jason), sautéed spinach and mushrooms, Jason’s gross canned cranberry gel, and the tastiest pumpkin pie compliments to the best bakery in town, Petit Four.

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The rowdy night ended like this:

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+ built a puppy pee area on the roof. We are in the heart of downtown which means very few green spaces. And the ones that exist are either fenced, elevated, or surrounding monuments and churches. We kept getting scolded by locals when the dogs walked on the above listed grass areas, even after showing them we have bags to pick up. Hello!? Where do they think the stray dogs go?!? So Hani ordered 10 pieces of sod and 4 bags of dirt to fill the 2 wooden boxes he had a carpenter build. Needless to say the 7 pieces of unused sod and bag of dirt are still up on the roof one month later. And the “lawn” is brown. But the dogs still use it and it’s far easier to walk up a flight of stairs at night than brave the 4 blocks in the cold and hope no one in front of the church sees you.

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+ wandered around the colonial streets and market sampling some awesome eats. We get our daily liter of oj for $1.40, sometimes fresh churros along side. The market has been a fabulous find serving up brothy soups and stacked high sandwiches. Even the street carts here are plentiful–sliced fruits and veggies (a liter container is under a dollar), ice cream (even though it’s cold out!), tamales and alote in the mornings and tacos at night. The cafés have such delicious coffee and sweet treats. Happy hours are everywhere on rooftop terraces. And the restaurants serve amazing international cuisines. This town is dangerous!!

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+ froze! Our first week in San Miguel was SO COLD we had to buy a heater and layered on every article of clothing. I don’t know how we are going to survive the winter when we get back to the states!

+ but still love this cool colonial city.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ec3/44879571/files/2014/12/img_3068.jpg+ met some great new friends, fellow travelers Krista and Paul and their dog Rufus. Rufus became part of the family as we watched him one weekend when Krista and Paul went into Mexico City. Olivia was in heaven, finally having a big dog to play with.

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+ celebrated out second wedding anniversary on December 1. No flat tire like last year but still an adventurous one as we explored more of the city and learned that most places are closed on Mondays. Also, I’ve decided that all future anniversaries need to be spent in Mexico to continue the tradition of the past 2 years.

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+ went to La Gruta hot springs, right outside San Miguel, with Krista and Paul. At first we were disappointed, seeing only one semi warm pool and an empty one. Then we discovered the grotto, a long enclosed hallway half underwater that opened up into a dome shapes room where the hot springs flowed. We stayed until we got pruney and successfully avoided a super creepy man talking to himself.

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+ saw two movies–one in the big multiplex and one in a quaint cafe. It’s been a year since we last saw a movie in a theater and these two did not disappoint! The fresh popped carmel corn didn’t hurt either.

+ karaoked!!

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+participated in a Posada on Christmas Eve. We started in the Jardin watching the ex-pats sing carols while the locals passed strange looks, then walked from one church to another in procession singing Spanish carols. Well, we didn’t sing, but it was fun all the same.

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+ Christmased with Victoria, Jason, their dogs and Victoria’s parents Lorna and David at our apartment. Lorna cooked a beautiful turkey, some delicious sides and ended the gorge-fest with another amazing cake from Petit Four. Happy holidays everyone!!!

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Random thoughts/ month 19

28 Nov

This month we:

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+ celebrated the Day of the Dead in Antigua on November 1. Instead of mourning the dead, locals celebrate their lives, taking to the cemetery. Families visit their loved ones’ graves cleaning them, adding a fresh coat of white paint, decorating with flowers and sometimes planting. Mariachi bands and ice cream carts wander the rows of the departed. The entrance to the cemeteries are filled with food venders, some cities even have carnival rides.

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+ went to the Sumpango kite festival on the same day. Tons of locals and foreigns flock up steep dirt paths to a grass field in this small village. Vendors selling small kites, food and crafts are set up around the perimeter and gigantic circle kites made of colored tissue paper are on display. We were disappointed to learn they don’t actually fly these massive kites, but it was pretty amazing waking around in the mud looking at the intricate work.

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+ scrubbed the inside of Skyhorse from top to bottom, washing everything possible. Don’t ask.

+ dined, yes dined, at the fanciest McDonalds I’ve ever laid eyes on. As you have probably gathered, we only eat McDs after a trying day. Our Antigua meal was no exception. After a frustrating morning at the doctor with few concrete answers, we followed our noses to the discreet golden arches and into the most luxurious courtyard. We ate with a clear view of the volcano in front of us.

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+ were funded! Thanks to you all, our kickstarter campaign was 200% funded. We cannot thank you–our friends, family and dedicated reader–enough for making this possible!

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+ experienced our second and third earthquakes. The second one was much more mild than the first but still confused Hani. As Skyhorse began to rock, Hani yelled out, calling to someone he thought was pushing the truck. By the third, we were pros and just looked at each other and our unaffected dogs as the truck wobbled a bit.

+ spent time with our friends from home, Caroline and Mike. They were in Antigua for a wedding so we got to hang with them and their dental crew for a few days, even getting to crash a pre-wedding dinner.

+ ended our time in Antigua after staying a whopping 44 days. It is by far the longest we’ve stayed camped in the same spot in the same city. Seriously love that city and can’t wait to come back someday.

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+ spent a total of $64 to stay at the Antigua tourist police for those 44 days. You are allowed to camp for free for 5 days but beyond that, the officers ask for things to spruce up the property. Over the course of our time there, we bought them a rake, tree paint, brushes, buckets, 2 soccer balls, lightbulbs and a few breads, chips and sodas. Well worth the money and we enjoyed chatting with the officers and helping them with their English.

+ had yet another frustrating border experience at Tecun Uman, Guatemala/ Cuidad Hidalgo, Mexico. Allegedly the entrance on the Mexican side is only for “light vehicles” (whatever that means). It took twenty minutes for them to decide to lift up a low hanging cable to let us enter, then too much yaking about how we couldn’t cross into Mexico here because we were too big. Mind you, we were parked right under the bus parking sign. So obviously large vehicles pass through there. Then they said we also couldn’t enter because we had two vehicles, that the motorcycle would have to be driven through separately. What?!? Eventually we were allowed to enter only if they could search us from top to bottom. Go right ahead. I drew the line when they asked us to help them remove our stuff from the truck for inspection. The head dick pulled everything out from the truck cab, even searching under the hood and in our air filter. I jokingly asked him if he was going to change our oil too. The other two lackies did a lame search of the cabin and all the closets. TWO HOURS LATER, as it’s getting dark, we realized we couldn’t even get the vehicle permit paperwork here. At every other border, you get your passport stamped and vehicle permit in the same area. But at this border, the permitting office was miles away in a different city. So the next day, unsure if the office would even open because it was a Sunday, we drove the 1.5 hours to get the permit. The bank guy was nice and efficient in giving us our permits but then the same agency morons from the day before didn’t think the paperwork we were JUST ISSUED from the bank were valid. So another hour and a half of waiting for them to be informed of their own laws. Thankfully this was our last border!! Yippppie!!!!!

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+ were welcomed back to Mexico by two back to back stays at Pemexs, the gas station.

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+ came back to Playa Zipolite with Felipa ready and waiting. The beach was much hotter, the breeze was nonexistent but the water was cool and the food delicious. After 3 days, we said a tearful goodbye to the ocean and Hani’s favorite beach. No more beach days in the foreseeable future as we drive further and further north.

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+ arrived at Overlander Oasis in Santa Maria del Tule. We spent a few nights at the OO on our drive north so it felt like a small homecoming this time around. Calvin greeted us with open arms and we met some other travelers heading south. We are some tasty meals and it reminded me how much I love Mexican food and missed the culture.

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+ didn’t eat enough tlyudas or drink any mezcal but we did witness a tent occupied Oaxaca. More on that later.

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+ had some very long driving days. We drove the steep mountainous road between Zipolite and the OO (outside of Oaxaca) in one day, 9 hours in total. A few days later, we left the OO and spent 2 long days on the road arriving in San Miguel de Allende.

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+ have rented a cool apartment in San Miguel de Allende until January 7. Anyone want to visit? We are in the heart of downtown, surrounded by the best street tacos, wonderful restaurants and cafés, towering churches, and best of all, our friends Victoria, Jason and their dogs Neli and Maya from Neli’s Big Adventure.

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Random thoughts/ 1.5

31 Oct

One year and six months. Really. Ruminations on that milestone later but on to this month. We’ve had our ups and downs, sweat and froze, beached and mountained and north we still go! This month we:

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+ went back to Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. As we headed down to the lake late and on the wrong road, I searched for Miguel, the caretaker of the property we stayed when we were there 5 months earlier. By some miracle, I spotted him on the road and arranged for us to park at the house tomorrow, as he had already left for the day. We spent 6 semi-glorious days at our old spot on the lake, which had substantially more mosquitoes now and was way hotter. But we swam, practiced the ukulele, and Olivia found her twin.

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+ successfully avoided the Managua market by finding “new” used tires on our way out of the lake. Our tires are an odd size and it’s been difficult to find replacements south of the border. Thankfully though, as one was flat and bald (the last original tire we left Key West with), we found something! They may be retreads from 1996 but they’re rocking and rolling. We WILL made it home on these same tires!

+ flew through northern Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador to land in Antigua, Guatemala over the course of two days of nonstop driving. That’s SIX frustrating borders in two days. I was so beat.

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+ have settled into life at the tourist police in Antigua. We will be parked here until the beginning of November, nestled between the remains of an old hospital. We spend our days exploring the cobblestone colonial town, it’s many coffee shops and my favorite local market.

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+ tucked our swim gear away and broken out our jeans and jackets. I cannot even begin to tell describe how amazing it is not to be sweaty first thing in the morning.

+ celebrated Hani’s 36th birthday on October 12. Now we have all celebrated 2 birthdays on the road. We wandered around Antigua with the dogs, had a scrumptious dinner and then cake with all the other travelers in the tourist police lot.

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IMG_2789.JPG+ experienced our first earthquake! It was 10:00 at night and Hani was outside walking the dogs. From inside the truck, I felt Skyhorse move from side to side. Not just a sway but full on rocking back and forth. I thought Hani was pushing the truck so I yelled at him to stop messing around. He laughed that he wasn’t doing anything so I assumed he actually was. After a few more back and forths, we realized the dogs were a little freaked out. The thought that we just had an earthquake didn’t really dawn on me despite the fact that we are parked between ruins from a previous quake. It took asking two other travelers and a google search to convince me that it really was an earthquake. 7.4 all the way from El Salvador felt here!

+ launched a kickstarter campaign. We are writing a book about our travels and raising money through kickstarter to self publish it. We’ve made amazing progress but there is still time for YOU to contribute! By contributing to our kickstarter campaign, you can get a copy of our book, choose a topic for us to write about or be included in our book, depending on your donation. Click on the link, watch our video, read our book excerpt, check out the rewards on the right side of the page and donate! The more money we raise, the better our book will be! Thank you all for your support.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2094800206/adventures-in-skyhorse

+ explored an amazing farm overlooking Antigua. The owner is in the process of opening a farm-to-table restaurant and invites guests to check out the property. We spent a few hours one afternoon rambling about the farm and orchid garden and watching the storm roll in.

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+ realized we cannot stay in one place for a month and live in the truck. Being the cheapskate that I am, I thought with the cooler weather, we would be fine to stay in the truck and not rent a place. I now know that for our sanity, if we aren’t actually moving, we need more space than Skyhorse offers. How many of you have been waiting for me to say that?!?

+ were visited by the Mayas! My parents last visited us on the road when we were in San Diego, almost a year ago, right before we crossed into Mexico. This time, my parents came to Antigua for a 5 day visit. They brought us a bunch of goodies we were missing from home including our favorite: my dad’s homemade pumpkin pie (and seeds!). We had such a lovely time showing them the city, eating, walking, laughing, shopping, eating and more and more walking. I think they now need a vacation from their vacation.

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+ rode the chicken bus with my parents to Pastores. It was all of our first time on these tricked out, polluting, crazy-fast beasts. I was hesitant about taking my parents on the bus but Hani insisted that it was part of the Guatemalan experience. I think he was secretly hoping my mom would have a melt down but they loved it, even danced along with the blasting music.

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+ ate our way through Antigua. The food here really is unbelievable. You can find any type of meal you could possibly want. We’ve eaten Guatemalan (duh), Mexican, Middle Eastern, French, Italian gelato and pastries, real deli sandwiches, BBQ, crepes, and the best coffee. Coffee in Antigua is far superior to any other country we have been. It’s practically an art here.

+ toured the Finca Filadelfia coffee plantation with my parents. Aside from seeing the coffee process, the highlights were the drunk man stumbling toward our tour group with a big piece of wood and my mom yelling a story at us at top volume not realizing the group was right there listening. The coffee was fabulous.

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+ bid fairwell to my parents and are continuing to venture into new parts of Antigua as Mochimo’s day, Day of the Dead and Halloween roll through town.

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Random thoughts/ month 17

30 Sep

To the end and now back! This month we:

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+ explored the Panamanian beaches of Las Lajas, Albino Grande, Santa Catalina and surf haven Playa Venao. In Las Lajas, we had stretches of sand and surf and palapas to ourselves…until some jackass parked THISCLOSE to Skyhorse, blasted their horrible music and walked away. Fab. In Santa Catalina, beach front parking was limited and it was too hot not to park on the water so we parked here (next to the public garbage cans)

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with a view of this:

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And some local kids fell in love with our dogs (and our chairs)

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+ kayaked in Santa Catalina out to an uninhabited wild jungle island and down an estuary rumored to be home to crocodiles.

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+ found hoards of hermit crabs and this guy wearing a toothpaste cap. Fashion at its finest.

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+ bought lobster and conch from fishermen as they were pulling their boats up to the town. $10 for 2 massive conch and 4 lobster, which became a raw conch app and a heavenly garlic-butter lobster pasta dinner.

+ visited the small mountain town of El Valle.

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We relaxed in the hot springs with mud masks twice, saw multiple sloths booking it down trees in a rainstorm, visited the zoo/rescue center, and bought a ton of local produce at the market. The zoo was something else. It’s set in a botanical garden with immense mountains as the backdrop. The diverse range of animals in the zoo was pretty awesome– monkeys, parrots, golden frogs, and sheep with all different pitched voices (see our Facebook page for a hilarious video).

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+ ate the most delicious meal at Casa de Lourdes. If you find yourself in El Valle, you must go! People drive the four hours round trip from Panama City just to eat there. The restaurant is inside a mansion decorated like a home. We dined on the patio overlooking the pool and gardens. I had the most spectacular salmon (it’s so hard to find in Central America and I’ve been missing it) and Hani had a perfect bacon wrapped fat steak. Martinis and dessert… Ahhhh!

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+ really enjoyed Panama City. It’s one of the only major cities that was clean and easy to navigate, probably because we relied on taxis. We parked with all the other travelers on the street outside the Balboa Yacht Club and took $3 taxies around the city. Our first night in town, we connected with Hani’s friend Corina who gave us a driving tour of the major neighborhoods. We then walked around Casco Viejo, a cool cobblestone neighborhood with lots of restaurants and bars. Even on a Sunday night, the city was all lit up and lively. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced real nightlife.

IMG_2633.JPG+ watched a massive cargo ship cross the Miraflores locks and enter the Panama Canal. From the beginning of our trip, I was most looking forward to visiting the Canal and seeing the locks in play. Panama City is situated on the Pacific Ocean, so huge tankers anchor at the entrance of the canal, waiting for their turn to go through. The ships are guided into the locks by “mules,” tiny trains on tracks that have cables running out to the ship. Once inside the lock, the gates are closed and water fills from underneath, lifting the ship up to the level of the next lock. The same thing happens in the second lock until the ship is at the same level as Canal. It doesn’t sound as impressive at it actually is but watching the ships pass truly was amazing, especially because all this technology has been unchanged and still efficient for the past 100 years.

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+ toured Panama Viejo ruins. You can climb up all the ruins, which are right on the water, for spectacular views of the new city. The contrast between the old demolished city and new gleaming high rises was my favorite.

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+ met up with my godmother and her husband in Panama City for a wonderful dinner. It was so nice to see family and catch up with them for a few hours. It’s funny, they live in south Florida and we finally get together miles and miles away from home in a city where both of us are vacationing.

+ had the leaf springs recurved and a reinforced shelf made for the battery bank at a mechanic outside of Panama City. The leaf springs were pretty much straight and needed curving for a more comfortable ride. And the bottom of the battery bank shelf was basically falling out. So a fix on both fronts was necessary.

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+ celebrated our mechanic Fernando’s 35th birthday with him. His shop was behind his house so we parked in his driveway. At sunset, with half the job complete, a tire off and the truck on jacks, he announces that it’s his birthday and the party is at his house. Awkward. Guess we are invited. No but the family was super nice and dragged us out of the truck to join in the festivities. They kept pouring drinks, pushing overflowing plates of delicious food and included us in conversations, speaking slowly which became more and more difficult as everyone drank more. We walked the few steps back to the truck later that night with full bellies and a few new friends.

+ took the dogs to the vet. Shae was sick, of course on a Sunday, when everything is closed. We hung out in David where we found a vet with good online reviews. We camped in their driveway and both dogs were seen first thing Monday morning. Shae had a parasite, probably from something she sniffed or licked off the street. Nothing a bunch of medicines wouldn’t fix and was back to her old self several days later. We brought Olivia in to the vet to have a growth near her eye removed. As the vet did the blood test to make sure she was fine for the surgery, he found that her platelets were very low. After another test, he determined that she had a worm. Ultimately, Olivia was fine to proceed with the surgery, was a cone head for a few days, and had to take a round of deworming meds.

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+ spent a total of 29 out of a possible 30 days in Panama.

+ arrived back in Costa Rica with 10 days left on our vehicle permit and ended up using 7 of them. But instead of heading toward the Nicaragua border, we back tracked around the Golfo Dulce across from the Osa peninsula, hugging the Panamanian border. We found the cool surfing village of Playa Pavones and parked our happy butts on a sweet spot at a point on the water.

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+ continued down that peninsula instead of going north and hit the official end of Costa Rican road at Punta Banca.

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We saw monkeys playing in the trees. The water was clear blue. The breeze was scrumptious. And we “borrowed” a wifi signal from the only thing out there, a small eco lodge. That night, I walked up and down the beach with a team out to rescue turtles. Apparently robbing turtles nests is a big problem in that area because the money is good and there is no police presence. There are a group of locals who rescue and a group who rob and each team paces up and down the beach all night hoping to be the first to lay claim to a turtle coming on land. Though we didn’t see any turtles coming to nest, it was a great experience and felt awesome showing the turtle robbing locals that the good guys are growing.

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+ have been waking up at 6…and going to bed at 8. We are so lame.

+ bottle fed a 3 month old sloth. Other overlanding friends have been raving about Finca Canas Castillo, a working farm right at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border that has cabinas and allows travelers to camp on their property. We spent our last night in Costa Rica there, admiring the jungley grounds, listening to howler monkeys and praying the baby sloth they rescued would wake up. It had fallen out of its tree and now the owners were caring for it to eventually release it back into the wild. In the mean time, this ridiculous creature sleeps and feeds on goat milk. She (they think it’s a she) is super light, feels like a muppet and kept falling asleep as I fed her. Hani barely touched her. He was afraid she was going to claw his face off. Seriously.

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+ crossed back into Nicaragua on September 22.

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And even thought we have done this particular border before and knew where we needed to go and what we needed to do, it was STILL unnecessarily long and annoying, sending us running around in circles.

+ beelined for San Juan del Sur. This town was a food Mecca for us so we had our list of “must hit” restaurants, pretty much the same places we ate at 4 months ago when we were there. All checked off, in case you were wondering, with a .40 chocolate covered frozen banana daily.

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+spent much of our 4 days in San Juan del Sur doing this
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and this

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and this

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+ celebrated Hani’s birthday early by buying a ukulele. Nica Tiki Ukulele in San Juan sells gorgeous handmade wooden ukes. Hani picked out a rosewood uke, his new pride and joy. We also bought a local handmade bag for our Hani’s new buddy. Now the only thing left is to learn to play it!

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