Tag Archives: Skyhorse

Random thoughts/ month 11

4 Apr

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Sorry this post is so belated. I was heading to NY when this should have been up and got sidetracked. Half this month was full of gorgeous green scenery and natural water formations. The other half was spent dealing with a set of truck issues that I’ve avoiding documenting (until now) and been dreading to acknowledge. This month we:

+ left the beach and traveled through the jungle state of Chiapas. We spent 13 days traveling there and could have easily spent 13 more. The region was just so incredibly lush and rich with culture and beauty.

+ visited an orphanage. Hogar Infantil boasts free parking for RVers, which draws a bunch of travelers to the grounds in Ocozocoautla. They school and house not only orphans but also Chiapan kids who live in rural areas and wouldn’t receive schooling otherwise. There is a farm, animals and gardens on the property. We walked the dogs around one day and the boys from one house swarmed us! Everyone wanted to either throw a stick for Olivia or hold Shae’s leash and treat her like a doll. The kids were beyond sweet, calling us Tia and Tio, and I seriously wanted to take them with us. They operate on donations. If you’d like to donate, visit: www.hogarinfantil.org

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+ threw up for this first time on this trip, a major milestone for me, as I get motion sick a lot. But this wasn’t motion sickness. I caught the plague in San Cristobal de las Casas and I have no idea what caused it. Felt nauseous one moment and was hanging out the back door the next. And I couldn’t stop. It was awful.

+ drove Mex 199 between San Cristobal and Palenque. We’ve heard rumors of roadblocks and “tolls” along this stretch and to proceed with caution. Some travelers we know avoided this road because of the warnings. But we decided to go for it. We locked everything up, carried a small amount of money and didn’t so much come across a single person on this entire road. Hani was disappointed.

+ skipped the Yucatan and Belize. We debated about where we were going after Palenque, Mexico for a while and opted against going to the touristy Yucatan and pricey Belize. We heard that boondocking isn’t easy in the Yucatan and we weren’t crazy about seeing a hundred more ruins. As for Belize, I would have loved to learn to dive (Hani is already certified) but that would have forced us to commit to one week in a hotel on an island where the diving is best. $2,000+ for one week just isn’t in the cards right now.

+ said goodbye to Mexico and crossed into Guatemala on March 12.
Last tacos in Mexico: delish! Probably the best we had during our time in Mexico.

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That was an interesting border experience. As I wrote before, leaving Mexico was a snap. The building was new, everything was clearly marked and stamp–we were on our way. Entering Guatemala…welllll, let’s just say we learned what not to do at the border: DON’T call the fees “shit” even if you think they are. DON’T start a shoving match with locals. And DON’T move cones away from the front of your vehicle and start your engine after the “officials” tell you to stay. I’m surprised we were let into the country. In our defense, no one wore uniforms so it was hard to tell the officials from the official idiots sitting around asking for “border fees,” the “bank” didn’t have cash and I had to exchange pesos for quetzales from a tuktuk driver, and was sent a ways to make copies. The buildings, if you can even call them that, consisted of a two trailers, what looked like a old food truck and a palapa. No flag, no “customs is here” sign. Nada. Because, I mean really, no one crosses at El Ciebo. It’s not even on our maps.

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+ are in love with Guatemala. It’s very much like Chiapas, Mexico–green and mountainous with great traditional food and clothing. The women are dressed to the 9s in traditional skirts and lacy or woven tops, cinched at the waist. They carry bundles of food or wood on their heads. And some do this barefoot. Bad. Ass. The people are incredibly friendly too. Everyone wishes you a good day with a smile. And every view is breathtaking, even as you are driving the crappiest road ever.
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And the country-wide ice cream brand…
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I mean, come on! These people know me!

+ explored Tikal, the impressive jungle ruins in northern Guatemala. We’ve seen our share of ruins at this point but the experience here was so different from the ones in Mexico. We parked outside Tikal (no dogs are allowed in the park) and moto-ed the 17ish miles at 5:30 am. Yes, you read that correctly. 5:30 AM! First time we’ve used the alarm this entire trip! Everyone said the park gets insanely hot once the sun is up so it’s best to go early. So we did. Turns out, it was a very overcast chilly day and even rained a bit (which was nice!) so it didn’t really matter what time we arrived. Go figure. But the park was pretty amazing. The ruins are tucked into the jungle even more so than at Palenque and you can climb up the majority of them. The views were spectacular from above watching the jungle below awake. We heard and saw a ton of shrieking howler monkeys. The rain kept most tourists away which made the park was pretty peaceful.

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view from the bottom

view from the bottom

view from the top

view from the top

 

+ headed to Rio Dulce and enjoyed a cool marine town. Hani marveled at all the sailboats while I lounged around and had a gigantic piña colada. We parked on a open lot with our back doors open to the river. From 2 to 6 daily, the wind picked up and rushed through Skyhorse. Best air conditioning yet!

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+ took a very expensive, but gorgeous, boat ride to see the very poor town of Livingston, where the Rio Dulce meets the Atlantic Ocean. We passed communities tucked into the mangroves that reminded me of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Lily pads, thermal waters, a cave and then Livingston, a town divided. Less than half the inhabitants are Guatemalans. They run the boats, the restaurants and majority of hostels and hotels. The majority on the island are Garifuna, descendants of African slaves and Carib Indians, brought to the area in times of slavery and since remained. They have their own culture, language, separate community and delicious cuisine. We met one of the Garifuna community heads while we were walking around and he gave us a tour of the area. It was eye opening to see how poor the people are (their school blew away a few years ago in a hurricane and have no money nor government assistance to rebuild) yet how happy and giving they can be. We had a scrumptious meal of tapado (seafood/banana soup with a coconuty broth), coconut bread and coconut black beans and rice. A-ma-zing!

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+ went to a hot waterfall and gorgeous canyon on Lago de Izabal. Hot water flowed off cliffs into cool limestone pools. Standing under the falls felt like a shower. Fab. At the canyon, we took a kayak until the rocks prevented a further ride then walked/swam even more down the river. Looking up was unbelievable.

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Then things got shitty…

+ took what looked on the map to be a short road from the waterfalls/canyon to Semuc Champey. Only this road–all 46 miles of it–is uphill, one lane with massive potholes and rocks and just horrible all around. It was by FAR the worst road we’ve been on to date. We drove literally 10 miles every hour. And at 6:00, we found a small clearing off the road and parked for the night with 30 miles left to our destination of Semuc Champey.

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

+ busted the transmission hose. The next morning we were up and ready to go and Hani noticed we were dripping a red oil, transmission oil. I guess the hose had been rubbing against some part under there and sprung a leak. And of course it’s a special kind of hose, the ONE kind that we don’t have as spare. Hani appoxyed the hole. Wait a few hours. Then a different appoxy. Wait a few more hours. No go. Now it’s 4:00 and we’re literally in the middle of nowhere and can’t leave. But hang on–there’s a construction site right up the road! I walked with Olivia, the scaredy-beagle, as security to the site looking for a mechanic. After a few moments, two guys came to our rescue. This pair swiftly cut off the bad part of the hose and said they’d return the next day with a way to reconnect everything. AN HOUR LATER, they were back, having welded some connection together to secure the existing good parts of the hose! They put everything back together and we were up and running. They even recommended a place in the nearest city (4 hours away) where we could buy a new hose. And then they didn’t want anything in exchange for all their assistance!! I was blown away! I mean, we are completely at their mercy with no way to get moving, they fix us using their manpower and machines and don’t want money–crazy! We stuffed some bills in their hands and they even came back the next morning to make sure we were all set.

+ continued on to Semuc Champey, a series of natural limestone aqua pools high in the mountains surrounded by lush jungle. To get to the park, you drive 6 horrifyingly disastrous miles from the town of Lanquin and then across a rickety bridge that has concrete barriers on either side and low (for us) hanging cables, all of which greatly reduced our turning radius onto the bridge. We just couldn’t get on the bridge. But kept trying. And I’m the world’s worst navigator. I started the nightmare by making Hani crash the passenger front bumper into one of the concrete barriers which cracked right next to the headlight and broke the hood latch in half. As if that wasn’t enough, I had him back up into the cables that tore off one solar panel completely and shattered another. I was a wreck. Hani was livid. The locals watching were silent. Needless to say, we didn’t attempt to cross the bridge again.

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+ fixed the truck. We spent the entire next day on the roof of Skyhorse parked next to the offending bridge reattaching the solar panel that had come completely off and taped up the panel that had shattered (thanks Kuypers). During this time, we were accosted by locals, yelling up to us on the roof, to buy chocolates and beer. The next morning we fiberglassed the front bumper inside and out and finally went into Semuc Champey while it dried. After all we had gone through the past few days, we barely enjoyed ourselves and kept saying that even though the pools were cool, we had seen more spectacular ones and the horrific travel/damage coming to this stupid site wasn’t worth it.

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the uncrossable bridge

the uncrossable bridge

+ replaced the transmission hose and did some random maintenance on the truck in Coban. We got new front break pads and a new fuel primer for the fuel filter over the course of 2 days.

+ bought 2 new (used) tires. The road from hell tore up our tires and 10s are hard to come by. Luckily, we got them for a good price because no one uses them.

+ parted ways for a long weekend. Hani dropped me at the airport in Guatemala City as I flew to NY for a friend’s bachelorette party and he continued on to Lago Atitlan. He claims he missed me, but after the heinous preceding week and a half, I think he was needing a break from my stupidity. It was weird being apart. After all, we’ve been attached at the hip for the past 11 months. As I was  having culture shock being in an insanely huge city, Hani hung out at a spot on the lake in Panajachel.

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13 hours

9 Dec

13 full hours. That’s how long it took to get Skyhorse out of the mud. That plus 2 friends, 3 cops, 7 locals, a front loader, a Dodge Dakota, a garbage truck and a semi wrecker. Oh and $533.

After being in the Sea of Cortez in Bahia Concepcion for a while, we wanted to quickly visit the Pacific Coast one last time before heading to the big cities in southern Baja (La Paz, Los Cabos). There are a few small fishing towns on the Pacific side off the stretch of highway between Loreto and La Paz, one of them being Puerto Lopez Mateos. There’s practically no information about this small village in any of our books but we decided to go anyway.

Caravanning with Toby and Chloe, we arrived in the town around 1pm and started looking for a beach to camp at. We had boondocking suggestions, but one was a nonexistent beach and the other was a rundown old parking lot. Feeling adventurous and craving a sunny beach day (it wasn’t sunny by the way), we followed a road we shouldn’t have in search of a beach to camp. There was no beach. Neither Skyhorse nor Moby (Carpe Viam vehicle) had any problem going out to this secluded muddy area but coming back was when shit hit the fan.

We were following Moby and saw them get stuck in the mud so Hani maneuvered Skyhorse down a different set of muddy tracks. Next thing we knew, we lost traction and slide off the path and sunk in muck.

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That was around 2pm. The four of us spent an hour pointlessly attempting to free both vehicles. There was nothing around to give us traction as we slipped and slided in the mud. Not a soul was in sight either. Hani ended up dropping the motorcycle and, armed with a Spanish dictionary and photos of the truck and our location, we headed to town to the police station. They were BEYOND helpful and got a front loader (co-driven by a 10 year old) out to Skyhorse and Moby right away.

Moby was freed pretty fast.

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Skyhorse was a totally different story. Not only were we so wedged in, we landed in the softest part of the muck.
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The front loader kept getting stuck and had to be pulled out while completely tearing up what was left of the dry road. Before we knew it, we were all ankle deep in muddy water, completely filthy and freezing. With every teeny tiny step forward in freeing Skyhorse, we were set back ten fold by some dumb move on the part of all these cops and locals trying to run the show.

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By nightfall, the garbage truck arrived (after approval from the town hefe) only to get immediately stuck in the mud.

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I think at this point, the local guys realized they needed reinforcements. Since it was Saturday well after 5, there was no one else in town that could help. The other front loader’s driver had left for the night and taken the keys with him. Somewhere. It was either wait for him to return on Monday or drive to neighboring towns with a local guy Felipe until we found someone to help us.

At 9pm, Toby and I rode with Felipe down narrow dirt backroads in the blackness to 2 neighboring towns hoping the town bosses/front loader owners would have pity on us and come to our rescue. One guy made up some lame excuses and the other few weren’t home. We ended up driving an hour to Cuidad Constitucion, a bustling city. Felipe’s uncle, Rafael was our hero that night. He promised to meet us with his giant semi wrecker in Lopez Mateo. Toby, Felipe, and I picked up dinner (at 11pm) and made our way back, with a detour thanks to the lovely cops of Cuidad Insurgencia. We were thisclose to having our driver Felipe thrown in jail. Apparently it’s ok in Lopez Mateo to drive around with busted taillights and no license but not so much elsewhere. That would have just been the icing.

Surprisingly, we beat the wrecker back to the scene and waited another 30 minutes. As soon as the wrecker arrived and hit the soft mud, it got stuck. Now we had to wait for the front loader to come back and get the wrecker out. No joke. At 1:30am, the freed wrecker was finally hooking up its winches to Skyhorse.

Thus began the painfully slow process of pulling Skyhorse out of the mud. It took until 3am but it happened! And amazingly with no damage. The joy of our freedom was swiftly crushed when everyone and their mother started asking for money. We ended up paying $500 for the tow and $33 to Felipe for gas. Toby took care of the front loader and gave some more to Felipe because that guy was seriously the man. He drove us all over the place and he really didn’t have to. I think we all now need to name our first born Felipe.

The next morning (well, afternoon), we cleaned off the layers of caked on mud and plant-life as best as we could and returned to the scene of the incident. This area is completely impassible. I am shocked the police didn’t fine us for tearing apart their land. Thank god it wasn’t a preserve or anything but it was left pretty horrible shape.

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So that was our Saturday. How was yours??

Laying low

31 Jul

After the incident with the motorcycle, we continued west to Prince George, BC, the last major city we would come across for a while. This was around the time when the royal baby was born. There was a frenzy of talk on the radio that since the royal baby was named George, tourism in Prince George would surely be up. I’m not exactly sure why anyone would purposely vacation in Prince George.

The town was one big American box store after another, incidentally just what we needed to refuel and stock up. We ended up shamelessly parking in a Walmart/Home Depot/Canadian Tire parking lot for 2 days, shopping, blogging and taking overall inventory of the truck.

The day we were going to drive off, Hani got the brilliant idea to clean the transfer case (used to shift into 4-wheel drive) and noticed it was leaking. We had to call around to figure out how to diagnosis and fix the problem. And then, since we didn’t understand the proper type of oil to refill it with, we ended up driving to Hani’s home away from home, Napa (I swear we visit one in every city). Turns out, the Canadian Tire we were parked in front of for 2 days carried the proper oil, we just didn’t know it. Duh.

An early-morning-all-day drive ended up being a pretty short one. We got a late start with all this transfer case business. Our next planned destination was Stewart, BC/ Hyder, Alaska. The towns of 1,000 and 100 respectively are cute lil towns that everyone said not to miss. So we took the more rural drive along highways 16 and 37. As we continued northwest about to start looking for a spot to park for the night, our high temperature alarm went off and under the hood was smoking. We were forced to pull to the side of the road to fix the problem. Our coolant hose busted completely in half. And of course, we didn’t realize that was the problem until AFTER Hani refilled the coolant with all that we had. Fluorescent green all over the street. Luckily, because he’s just as much of a pack rat as I am, we had the proper sized hose to replace the bad one. Which we did. On the side of the road. We ended up parking in some guy’s backyard that night not wanting to drive after all that had happened. Thank you sir!

I guess we have bad luck sometimes. Or maybe its just part of the adventure. Whatever the case, the next morning, Hani went to check the hose he had fixed the night before. He refilled our coolant with water because that’s all we had. And as fate would have it, a clamp broke off the power steering line. Red goo all over the place. Obviously, we had 100 other clamps and fixed it but we weren’t having any more incidents! Over the next 3 towns we went to, we hit up every auto parts store and stocked up on hoses and coolant and fluid and belts and god know what else and spent like $200+ on extra, potential emergency parts. We finally made it to Stewart, BC after blowing our $100-a-day budget by spending almost $500 on extra parts and fuel (got a discount because Hani was chatting with a local) and having a fitful night fighting mosquitos that came through some mysterious crack in the truck. We needed to sit and lay low. Stewart and Hyder were just the places.

We’ve spent the past few days bouncing back and forth across the border in these 2 towns. I use the term “border” very loosely here. When you cross here, there is no one on the US side. Not even a building set up. You just drive right in. But they stop you at the Canadian side, no clue why. There’s really nowhere to go.

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Hyder is known as the “friendliest ghost town.” There are like 3 stores here. And a post office in a trailer. After you pass the town, there’s a national forest where you can see salmon swimming in Salmon River (and if you are patient enough, you’ll see bear feasting on them—we weren’t) and Salmon Glacier. And then the road ends and you have to turn back around and go through BC Canada to get to the rest of Alaska. The glaciers here are amazing and you are literally surrounded by mountains and glaciers once you drive about 20 miles outside of Hyder. It’s gorgeous!

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Stewart has a bit more going on with some grocery stores, restaurants and an awesome park and boardwalk preserve.

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And yeah, that’s about it. If we aren’t looking at glaciers and acting as appetizers for mosquitos, we are cleaning and reorganizing and just sitting back but heading out tomorrow. There’s only so much “nothing” I can take before I lose it. We have a long rural 1,000 mile drive ahead through BC and the Yukon before we get to Dawson City, or wherever we cross into Alaska. And we will have whatever part we could possibly need, should another incident come our way.

a sign of better things to come?

double rainbow! a sign of better things to come?

Time

18 Jun

Time is at the center for communal life.  It is the one tool that coordinates the lives of numerous people.  Our needs and desires can’t be met whenever we wish.  We have to balance our goals with the availability of others, who we need to achieve those goals.  So we have calendars and clocks as our language.  Time is the format of our existences.

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I am walking Olivia down a dirt road on the ridge of several mountains on the outskirts of Silverton, Colorado.  Silverton is a former mining town in the valley of mountains.  I have never seen a village like this before.  It’s now a tourist attraction because of a steam train that comes here and mine tours.

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The two streets were lined with gift shops that were once saloons and brothels.  One side was the respectable street and the other had the brothels.  But there were underground tunnels that would take from a respectable saloon to a whorehouse.  This way you could keep your public image in tact while indulging yourself.  Isn’t that where we meet our desires, in the dark secret places?  I am pretty sure it was more interesting back then.  We have been in this area for a few hours yet we have seen a few other cars.  I am allowing Olivia to walk wherever she wishes.  She is mighty happy and is in her own world.  The walk takes me through our journey in my mind.  I begin to think of how long we have been on the road.  I know its been six weeks because Sarah told me earlier.  Has it experientially felt like six weeks to me?  I try to compare how I calculated time when I was working and stationary.  I thought well back then I calculated experiences between times.  For example, I knew when I had a commitment at work such a court appearance or a deposition then I would think when will that finish and when will I be meeting up with friends.  That’s not to say that I do not enjoy my profession.  For me, I experienced time as things I needed to do versus things I wanted to do.

Now, I don’t work on time and dates.  We decide what to do and we do it.  It happens instantly without too much if any future planning.  I am no longer accessing the present time and waiting a future time.  Time unfolds in a continuum without breaks.  We still have need and want activities but they now blend together.  A solidified life is more enjoyable.  When I compartmentalized time it felt like a battle between dislikes and likes.  During that period I would try to create more likes to drown out the dislikes.  I still have like and dislikes but the time battle is not in play.

Before I return to society I hope I will continue to approach time the same way, have a wiser mindset, or devote my time to the things that give me joy.

I woke up to a rancher knocking on our door.  Where we camped for the night was in front of his entrance and he had a trailer full of horses waiting to get on his land.  He was not upset at all and rather friendly.   This reminds me of a place we parked in the hills of Santa Fe.  The following morning, this guy with a ponytail driving a Mini comes towards me gesturing for me to come to him.  He says “Cool rig, this is my land you can stay here but don’t leave any trash.”  I told him it was a nice property.  He retorted, “Go sell some weed and buy it.”  I didn’t know if that was his opinion on how I existed or he thought selling weed is good business.

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We get on the road to find the mountain pass, which we were driving on, covered with cyclists.  This road was narrow, full of switchbacks, steep declines and ascents.  I have to drive the truck in second gear to control our speed on the descents.  If not the brakes will overheat and give out.  It’s nerves racking to say the least since I’m figuring out all this as I drive.  Of course I’m worried about the transmissions burning up or the coolant system springing another leak while having to concern myself with cyclists and rushed drivers.

Living out of a truck has its own set of problems.  A couple of days ago we take the truck off-road on windy mountains dirt rock roads.  We neglect to carefully read the map at the start of the trail and we get lost for a few hours going ten miles an hour.  We had stellar views all to our selves.  Things seem to carry greater value when they are exclusive.  Two elks ran in front of Skyhorse.  They were three times the size of deer.  Later on we saw big old boy buck.  He was magnificent and twice the size of the other elks.  Chipmunks were scurrying all along the path.  A few deer popped out to look at us.

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Once we exit the Rio Grande forest roads right outside of Del Norte, CO I smell something burning.  Well I smelled it before and was too negligent to do anything.  I stop and lift the hood.  The turbo was smoking because some oil seeped out.  We park for the night while I read the truck service manual trying to figure out if there was a problem.  Next morning we start up fine.  But I can’t get the truck over 45mph and my rpms are limited.  I stop at a mechanic, the only one I see.  Its Saturday, no one is open, and this mechanic doesn’t work on diesels and he’s just in the shop doing a personal project.  He tells me the seepage is fine but he doesn’t know what’s wrong and to come back Monday when the diesel mechanic is in.  He thinks it may the turbo so I think to drive to Napa and try to source the part.  At Napa they can’t find a turbo in their computer.  Eventually they find one and its $1200 and I’ll see it on Tuesday.  Now we are looking at staying four to five days in this nothing town and losing $1500 (with it installed).  I stay at Napa trying to talk to many people to get their opinions while using their Internet signal to find a better priced turbo.  After a few hours I talk to this guy who seemed to have experience with motors.  He told me how to test the turbo.  I do the inspection and its fine.  I go back to him and he follows me to the truck.  He checks it himself and confirms they turbo is fine.  He believes I’m not getting enough fuel and that’s why we are sluggish.  He tells me to replace the six week old fuel filter.  He was spot on.  I wished he had stayed to watch the truck back on the road so I could thank him profusely.

People and places

7 Jun

I started this trip excited about all the new places we would visit. I neglected to realize that what makes these places so amazing are the people in them. Skyhorse brings out the “cool” in people. When they aren’t staring at us mouth to the floor, they are giving us peace signs and “right ons.” Everyone wants to know what that thing is and what we are doing and as a result, are very hospitable.

We arrived in San Antonio pretty tired and after driving through the downtown area, we really just wanted to park for the night. Finding nothing, we drove past the city center into a newer artist-type neighborhood. We parked at first big lot we saw with the intention of just walking the dogs and sitting for a bit. Turns out the parking lot belonged to Say Si, an after school arts program for middle and high schoolers. The kids had already gone for the day but some of the staff came outside when they saw us. They were so welcoming! They allowed us to stay in their lot, gave us tips on the city and inspired us to set up and use our GoPro camera.

The next day after some exploring, we went back to Say Si. The kids, who were in class, came outside and were so eager to tour Skyhorse and hear about our travels. It was cool to show them art in a form they weren’t used to and encourage them to continue their goals. They were all shocked that at 30something, you can quit your job because you’ve saved up enough money to travel. The kids reminded us that simply sharing our experiences (and showing off Skyhorse) can inspire.

While in San Antonio, we visited the Alamo (minus the basement. boo.), walked downtown, took a night boat tour of the Riverwalk, and saw the missions.

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As we were enjoying one of the last missions,the sky gave out and the monsoon began. Of course, we planned to travel that day but didn’t make it very far. We originally planned on being in Austin that night. Instead, the rain forced us to a small community, Gruene which is a part of New Braunfels, halfway between San Antonio and Austin. We ate and walked around in the rain and the friendly locals kept telling us to check out Gruene Hall for live music.

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Even though the town is small, it boasts this local dance hall that gave many country music stars their start. We stayed the night and got our first taste of honky tonk by way of Max Stalling. And yes, I got Hani to dance, as we were tripped and stepped on by all the professional dancers on the floor.

We spent the next few days in Austin, stuffing ourselves at food trucks, walking South Congress and finally checking out Zilker Park. Our last night there, we went to east Austin where we had been on our last trip to the city. As we parked Skyhorse, we heard yelling from above. People across the street were up on the roof of a house calling down to us. There were enamored with Skyhorse. So we walked across the street, right through the house and up on the roof to join them. Turns out we had invaded a birthday party and the party-goers were more than excited to have us stay. It was so nice to spend time with people living in a city we want to move to and get their perspectives of Austin. And had we not parked Skyhorse there, we would have missed out on this opportunity to climb the roof of a house and meet theses people!

From Austin, we headed west across Texas to Johnson City, home of LBJ. We visited his boyhood home with a hilariously awful tour guide as our leader (seriously, do they memorize a script and that’s all?!). Without much of a plan of exactly where to stop next, we would ask someone for a recommendation and that would lead us to our next stop. And of course, once people saw Skyhorse and heard we were traveling, everyone was eager to give their suggestions on where to go next. The ladies at Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall were so excited to have us for a tasting, and even snapped pictures of Skyhorse of their website.

We crossed into New Mexico towards the south. The towns there are REALLY small. Like two traffic lights small. It was getting late so we pulled off the main road in Hope to park for the night. We were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but dry farmland as far as the eye could see. It was a gorgeous sunset and a nice breezy night.

The next morning as we were getting ready to leave, Mr. Crockett, the owner of the land we parked on (oops) said we could stay longer if we wanted to, and invited us to help ourselves to water to fill up our tanks and to camp inside the bounds of his property. It was such a nice gesture, how could we refuse? We drove around what seemed like a hundred acres getting completely disoriented before parking on a hill overlooking miles and miles of dessert nothingness.

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We used that time to do a little maintenance on Skyhorse and add our Instagram/twitter handle on the sides (@spotskyhorse if you are interested).

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Every place we went in New Mexico–from Socorro (more on that from Hani) to Santa Fe to Taos–we encountered the most genuine people wanting to guide us and advise us wherever we went. We even got a few “spottings” on our Instagram and Facebook feed.

The stage for Taos was set on our drive to the city. Not only was it completely beautiful, there were great spots to park for the night. One night we stayed at a deserted rest area overlooking the Rio Grande.

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The next night we stayed at the Rio Grande Gorge rest stop. Sounds lame but the view was breathtaking, with trails on one side and the bridge and gorge on the other.

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Taos reminded us of a small, dry, mountainous Key West. The people are artsy, really laid back and friendly, as were the Native Americans at Taos Pueblo. We toured the Earthships but were disappointed to learn that you don’t get to actually see a real Earthship, you only see the making of it. An Earthship is an house made of recycled materials–automobile tires packed with mud, cans, and glass bottles. They are build in the ground and with solar panels so you never have to pay to heat or cool the home. They also have gardens inside that help circulate the air and all water gets reused a few times.

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It’s a pretty neat concept and no two Earthships look the same. After going through the paid “tour,” we did our own tour, driving through the neighborhood of Earthships. We saw one couple ogling over Skyhorse as we were ogling over their house. So naturally, we asked to tour their Earthship and then gave them a tour of Skyhorse in return. Where does that happen?!

Random thoughts/ month 1

29 May

We left Key West one month ago but it really feels like a lifetime ago. Each day feels like 5 Saturdays. It’s awesome.

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This month I:

+ am totally impressed with what amazing travelers the pups are. They are adjusting to life on the road, love exploring and are game driving around for as long as necessary. Olivia is off Dramamine and hasn’t puked once!

+ got sunburnt twice. I just can’t seem to recognize I’m frying until its too late.

+ can’t get over how many Capital One banks (didn’t even know they exist), DQs, and Dollar General/ Family Dollar are in rural America. To the point that we started a punch-buggy Dollar/Family Dollar game. My left arm is kinda sore. It’s rare to find a BOA, Starbucks or Target. Toto, we’re not in suburban Miami anymore.

+ forgot what a clutz I am. Apparently, Hani had no clue. Not sure who he’s been living with the past 6plus years. I ruined one shirt. I smacked the top of my head twice. I missed a step on the ladder and have a huge knot on my knee. And I’ve banged up my legs getting in and out of the truck more times then I can count.

+ will scream if I hear Bruno Mars again. I can’t reach the radio fast enough once I hear those opening piano notes. Sorry Betsy.

+ have been underestimating people. I guess growing up in Miami where everyone ignores each other, you learn to not confront strangers. But everyone we’ve meet north of south Florida has been incredibly welcoming and sincere. We’ve been constantly greeted with a smile and thumbs up everywhere we go. We’ve met some fabulous people so far and I know that will continue. Skyhorse brings out the best in people we meet.

+ drove Skyhorse! On my first time behind the wheel, I drove over 100 miles and over a state line all at a steady 45mph. #speeddeamon

+ resolve to check the weather before beginning a day of driving. No joke, EVER long day of driving has been in the rain.

+ traveled through 5 states and just entered the 6th. Bring on month 2!!

Tabasco country

16 May

Before leaving Grand Isle, we asked our new friends where our next stop should be. The answer was a resounding Avery Island. So there we went. (Now, we really don’t have a set plan and are just asking around where to go next so if you have a suggestion, let us know!)

The drive wasn’t long at all and finally our first in 100% sunshine. I really had no idea what was on this island except they produce Tabasco there, as everyone told us to take the tour. We had no internet and our phone service stinks (thanks Sprint) so we couldn’t even look up what there was to do on the island. We arrived around 6 to find out that the small island is private homes and the only areas that are open to the public are the Tabasco tour area and Jungle Gardens, a preserve, both of which were closed. Since the area was really beautiful and they opened early in the morning, we decided to just camp right outside the gate and then tour first thing in the morning.

We parked in a parking lot for boat trailers, across the street from a lake. There were people fishing all hours of the day and night and, of course, also admiring Skyhorse.

As we were settling in for the night, a man knocked on our door. The man, Dick Parsons, recognized Skyhorse from the article in the Citizen in December! Turns out, he’s an avid reader of the Citizen and lives seasonally in Big Pine and on Avery Island. His wife’s great grandfather is a McIlhenny, part of the Tabasco family that started it all.  Because of this, he and his wife have exclusive rights to live on Avery Island along with the rest of her family, all of whom are descendants of the McIlhennys. The following day, we toured Jungle Garden (saw turtles and alligators) and the Tabasco factory, where we sampled some delicious spicy snacks–every flavor of Tabasco sauce, Tabasco coke (so yummy), and condiments spiked with Tabasco. The raspberry-Tabasco soft serve was a-ma-zing! Too bad we don’t have a freezer or I would have bought it all. As part of the tour, we also got mini Tabasco bottles in a variety of flavors. Check out the bottle in your pantry. The label has the family name and says “Avery Island.” The little things you overlook while making your bloody mary 🙂 Here’s a bit more about Avery Island: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avery_Island,_Louisiana

Later, Dick drove us around Avery Island, giving us the insider private tour. It was amazing to learn the island’s history and that all his family lived in that one place! The family has been exclusively living on the island for almost 200 years and have a big reunion every 5 years. We learned that the island is very green, has active oil and salt mines, an Egret refuge, and pepper plants. It really was a hidden piece of paradise and we are so grateful to Dick for showing us the marvels of Avery Island. He invited us into his gorgeous house to meet his friendly dogs and gave us a bottle of reserve Tabasco. The hospitality continued when Dick, his wife Brina and her nephew Tuck invited us to dinner in the neighboring town, New Iberia. There, Dick mentioned that I looked familiar and he may have been on a jury panel of mine a few years ago. And as I sat there  racking my brain to no end, I DID remember him as a potential juror, talking about how he was a retired pilot for Delta. Really, what a small world!

I’m so glad we stayed around an extra day to spend time with Dick and Brina. And I still can’t believe this crazy coincidence! I hope we run into many more of these situations along our travels!

Having some technical issues with embedding pictures into the blog but all pictures thus far are in snapfish albums. The links are under the “Photos” tab.

I heart NOLA

9 May

After we left Miami, it seemed like we were playing beat the clock. I wanted to be in New Orleans to see Fleetwood Mac at Jazz Fest on May 4. But once we got to Hani’s parents’ house, we started running into problems.

The drive from Miami to Ormond Beach was long and a bit shaky. Hani couldn’t diagnose the problem and needless to say, I had no clue. So we spent the first full day in Ormond going from one mechanic to the next to the next to the next. Eventually, it was suggested that a good start to fixing the problem was to get our tires trued (rounded) or buy new ones.

Thus was my birthday.

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Fun. We spent all day (and $1,000) at this truck repair shop. All. day. But we now have brand new front tires so I can’t complain too much. Since the day was already shot, we drove over an hour in traffic to the Apple store to get Hani a new iPhone after his inexplicably died. We got back to the house around 9 that night to a nice dinner and birthday cake. And with the intention of spending my  birthday with belated festivities in New Orleans.

With the shaking problem (mostly) resolved, we planned on leaving that next morning. Then re-orangization got the best of us and it took for.ev.er. to re-pack and get ourselves together to leave. And we realized our water tanks had green gunk growing in them. My uncle was right. Never start a project involving water in the evening.

We were so anxious to leave Ormond, we didn’t care that the next morning we were hitting the road in a semi-monsoon, with windshield wipers that were not quite up to par. It rained basically non-stop the 2 days it took us to leave Florida. We drove along the coastal roads, which were really pretty, and would have been even prettier if they weren’t being viewed from behind rain soaked windows.

Despite all these set backs, we made it to Jazz Fest! Neither of us thought that was going to happen. And we went Saturday and Sunday just because we could and because we were so happy to be here!

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Even forging through the mud to reach the stage.

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Now its time to slooooow down. We have spent almost a week in New Orleans hanging out with friends and doing minor adjustments on the truck while parked on their residential street (the looks we get are priceless). We now have working wipers, organized storage, and a new set of headlights! We plan on going with them and some of their friends to the beach this weekend in Grand Isle, LA and then continuing on to Texas.

On the road…FINALLY!!

27 Apr

My sister said it best in her recent facebook post: “Never thought this day would actually come. What started as an ambulance 2+ years ago has finally embarked on its year-long journey through north and central America.”

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We finally left Key West on Thursday April 25.  It was completely anticlimactic. Hani left for the mechanic early in the morning and I stayed back and walked aimlessly around a depressingly empty apartment. I followed up a few hours later with all the animals in tow, after I couldn’t bear to sit (on the floor) there anymore. We waited at the mechanic for a few more hours for them to fix (the last?) thing, AND THEN we were finally off. By that point, my tears had dried (I’m such a sap) and we were both antsy to get moving. But not without a few stops on our way out of the Keys for yet one more last goodbye.

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Here we are with our good friend Demetrios, who will hopefully be meeting us in Mexico.

We arrived in Miami and now the fun begins! We unloaded too many boxes from our former life into my parents’ house and I surrendered my car keys. Even though we have left, it doesn’t feel like we are on the road. Maybe it’s because I haven’t ridden in Skyhorse yet. Maybe it’s because we have been staying in my parents lovely air conditioned house.

Tomorrow we leave for Daytona to visit Hani’s parents for a few days. Then we head to New Orleans. Reality will probably sink in once we are out of Florida.

The Waiting Game

23 Apr

Today is Tuesday (feels like Saturday) and we are STILL in Key West. Almost a week of unemployment. A few months ago, I thought what was going to keep us here longer would be trying to sell our stuff (namely, Hani’s car) and not wanting to say goodbye to our friends and this awesome city. You only realize how much nonsense you have accumulated once you want/need to get rid of it. And you only realize how much you love a city once your departure is impending. Now, with the car sold last week along with practically everything else we owned and having said goodbye to the same friends over and over again for a week and a half, we are ready to leave. “We” meaning myself and Hani. And I guess the dogs too if they could talk. I never figured the thing preventing us from leaving town would be the camper. Duh.

Everything in Key West moves at a glacial pace. And the mechanics here do not disappoint. But the thingamabopper on the truck needs to be replaced and the dodado needs to be special ordered. And who knows when it will arrive. Whatever.

So with everything all packed up and day 5 (3??) of sleeping on the air mattress, we are making the most of the situation by spending as much as time as possible with friends. Each day and night has been filled with great food and drink, laughs, stories and fabulous people we will miss dearly. Our going away party Friday was a blast, with Hani arriving in Skyhorse 45 minutes late because the mechanic was still working on one.more.thing. Their entrance was epic. My parents even came down from Miami for the occasion. And every night that has followed has been the “last” dinner with friends, with no one really saying goodbye because we knew the next night would have one more “last” dinner. For real this time.

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We spent last night watching our last sunset from Mallory Square and seeing our favorite act, the Catman.

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Then off to a delicious dinner and more love and hugs and kinda goodbyes.

And the waiting continues…