Archive for the 'United States Road Trip' Category

Texas Chili & Beer says Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Tonight we cooked our Christmas present for my dad & brothers – Texas chili complemented by Shiner Bock beer (also from Texas, of course!). We brought all our ingredients over to James & John’s house and then realized they didn’t have a pot big enough to make all the chili. No worries though, we improvised by browning the meat on the stove then dumping it into their giant crock pot, combining everything else in the crock pot, and letting it stew for an hour or so. We used all the hot peppers included with the chili mix, plus some extra peppers I found in J&J’s kitchen. The result was, of course, very spicy and delicious! Dad is losing his edge though, the chili was a bit too hot for him to handle. He didn’t even finish half his bowl.

After dinner we went to Blockbuster and rented Rikki Tikki Tavi for old times sake. For anyone who doesn’t know this story: Rikki Tikki Tavi was our youngest brother John’s absolute favorite movie as a kid. It’s a cartoon movie about a mongoose in India that kills snakes.  I’d be willing to bet that this movie was John’s #1 pick for 10 years running. James and I liked Rikki the first few times we saw it, but after approx 20 viewings it got a little old. Thus, we were reduced to speeding into the movie store ahead of little brother John so we could find & hide Rikki Tikki Tavi from him. Then we’d say to him “Oh, too bad John, someone must have gotten here first and rented it! darn!” We all enjoyed the re-watch, and John even admitted that he wouldn’t want to watch it every weekend now that he’s 21.

Tomorrow we’ll leave Minneapolis in the morning, stop for the night in Dayton, Ohio (halfway point) and then continue on to Wilmington, North Carolina for Christmas.

Minneapolis, MN

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Jamie and I are now in Minneapolis, MN at my dad’s place. We arrived in Minneapolis yesterday night and will stay for two days before beginning our final roadtrip leg – the grueling two day journey from Minneapolis to Wilmington, NC.

Tonight we’re going to have dinner with my friends Alison & Kristan (Kristan lives in Seattle but just happens to be in Minneapolis tonight – yay!). Tomorrow night, as our gift to my dad & brothers, we will cook an exciting Texas meal complete with authentic beer imported from Texas.

We just finished spending a few days with Jamie’s family in Fargo, ND. We spent most of our time after 3 weeks on the road enjoying a real house with TV, food, and fun people to hang out with. Jamie spent much of his time binging on cookies and Starburst, I drank a lot of coffee, ate a lot of cereal, and did the crossword puzzle every day. Other highlights included: making some updates to our website, seeing our long lost kitty Robo, and last but certainly not least – a hilarious basketball game with the Welle family at the YMCA!

Only nine more days until we leave for New Zealand. We did some final shopping in Fargo including the purchase of pepper spray for those pesky stray dogs. When we get to Wilmington we’ll do the final pannier pack and clean our bikes so we pass the entry exam in New Zealand. Surprisingly, the bikes are insanely dirty and even a little bit rusty from spending the past 3 weeks on the back of the car. We haven’t really even been in bad weather yet!

Money, Money, Money, … Moonaay!

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Cue the Apprentice theme song, I updated the Finances page with the details from our United States road trip. Check them out.

United States Road Trip Pictures

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

We uploaded some pictures from our US Road Trip. You can access them through the Gallery. We are using some scripts called ImageGal for our picture gallery and the navigation is a bit akward. Let us know what you think of it.

Day Four, Big Bend

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

The final day in our two day test bike tour! We made oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, as usual. Here’s what Jamie looks like when we eat breakfast. Also, I am really starting to think I want to bring my french press coffee pot along on the international part of the trip – I’m not sure I could live without coffee in the morning!

The ride for today was pretty short – approx 20 miles, but with an elevation gain of 1900 ft. Our biggest climb to date! The first 10 miles were fairly easy with rolling hills & pleasant weather. We stopped for a snack at mile 10 because I was already starving. After that we began to climb slowly and steadily (as low as 4 miles/hr) for the next eight miles. It was very tiring, especially for me, but I never even had to dip into my granny gear which is very exciting! It started to get hot, and because we were going so slowly flies started buzzing around our faces. I started to get crabby at the very end of the ride. In this picture I am saying “You better not be taking a picture of me. Wait, are you taking a video?! If you are I am going to kill you. Stop it!!”

Texas, Part II

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

After leaving Marfa we drove south to Chinati Hot Springs, which we found out about from a few people in Marfa. The Hot Springs is a small quasi-resort in the very corner of Texas, built around a naturally occurring hot spring right on the Mexico border. To get there we drove through some small towns that almost seemed deserted, then drove over seven miles of super rough dirt road through the middle of nowhere. We saw a group of cows hanging out on the road munching the dry spiny bushes & then later saw a family of javelinas milling about in the ditch. Our first official sighting of our friends the javelinas! They just moseyed off the road when we drove by…they apparently were not in a bloodthirsty mood & did not try to charge our car. How unexciting!

The hot springs was really neat – it was a group of little cabins, a community kitchen, and camping spaces along with a a big outdoor hot tub (filled with the spring water of course) and a bunch of smaller private tubs you could use to take a bath. We took a dip in the hot spring water then went for a hike on the trails around the hot springs. The trail we followed went straight into Mexico but we’re not sure whether or not we actually crossed the border. If you were a Mexican wanting to cross the border that would be a super easy place to do it, in case anyone out there is interested!

Day One, Big Bend:
After Chinati Hot Springs we drove into Big Bend National Park. It was freezing there! It was about 35 degrees our first day there and I was not at all happy about it. We set up our tent in the freezing cold, I whined & complained, then we decided it was much too cold to go for a hike – even Jamie agreed about this. So instead we went for a scenic drive with the car’s heater on full blast. During our scenic drive we spotted another family of javelinas trotting along together down the side of the road. We were about to find out that javelinas would be our #1 most sited animals in Big Bend! We stopped at an exhibit, read the little poster, and then decided to sit in the car listening to a CD & waiting for the sun to set. I picked Elliot Smith for our CD & Jamie asked me if I wanted to kill myself (it is a depressing CD I guess). We both laughed because – don’t worry, I did not actually want to kill myself – but I was definitely not in a very good mood. The sun never really set, it was much too cloudy and icky out. It just got dark.

It was only 6pm, not early enough to go to bed, so we decided to treat ourselves to a drink in the park’s restaurant. We went in & sat in the wonderful warmth of the restaurant. It wasn’t quite warm enough, though, so I kept both of my jackets on. I’m sure I looked like a crazy scraggly lady that weighed 300 pounds, but whatever. We got beers & a plate of Texas Toothpicks – little strips of deep fried onion & jalepenos. Yum! We heard the guy next to us order a steak ‘VERY rare’. Jamie now dreams of ordering a steak like this. He also secretly admires the way my dad claims he wants to order a steak – “Just wipe its ass and put it on my plate.” Eeeew.

Day Two, Big Bend:
It was a little bit warmer this day, so we decided to do a bunch of hikes. We saw dry stream beds, a little spring/oasis in the middle of the desert, and old ranch house. We also saw lots of deer & cute little roadrunners throughout the park. We did four hikes throughout the day, made yummy bean tacos over our cookstove, and went to bed. We were very happy this day because we finally finished under our daily budget – only $10 for the whole day (for our camp site)!

Day Three, Big Bend:
The first day of our bike tour! We packed up our panniers, loaded our bikes, and dropped the car off at the Ranger station for the night. We planned to bike the 21 miles from Panther Junction ranger station down to Rio Grande village where we would camp for the night then pack up the next day and head back. This was our first day on our fully loaded bikes – food, tents, everything! The first day we descended 1900 ft so the riding was super easy. The weather was finally decent, sunny & mild, but we did have to ride in an annoying headwind for the first eight miles or so. We were pedaling on a slight downhill so the headwind wasn’t too difficult but I was really annoyed because the wind from a headwind plus just your regular riding speed is so much louder than I’d expected. We could not hear each other talk unless we rode right next to each other and yelled, and we most definitely could not hear cars approaching. Luckily not many people were driving on the road, and the wind died down after we reached lower elevations.

Before we got to our campsite we road a four mile detour to Boquillas overlook – just a little point looking over the Rio Grande river into Mexico. I was surprised to see that there were a group of Mexican guys & a horse on the other side of the river watching us tourists. They’d waded across and set up a few little crafts that they were selling & collecting money for in a plastic jug. They were watching from across the river (about 300 ft away) but the payment for the crafts was basically on the honor system. We didn’t buy anything but instead sat on a rock nearby and ate our snack of oranges & baby carrots. One of the guys on the other side of the river decided to wade across and gather up the money he’d made so far – we figured rangers probably stop by occasionally and confiscate the money & crafts, so he was being careful to keep as much as possible. He waded across the bright green river wearing his red shirt and singing a song in Spanish. The river only came up to his waist in the middle. He took his money, said hi to us, then went back to the Mexican side. It was actually a really beautiful scene, but sad too.

We backtracked across our 4 mile detour and headed to our campsite. We pulled up on our bikes, picked out a site, and started to set up the tent. The campsite host came over to visit us right away…she had some very important information for us. This campground was in javelina territory and those little warthog clans ruled the roost in this area of the park! There were all sorts of guidelines we had to follow to avoid a nasty run in with the javelinas including things like:

  • When you set up your tent you had to either leave all the doors open so the javelinas could roam in & out sniffing your possessions, or you had to collapse the tent poles so the javelinas would just walk right over your tent. Leaving a tent set up with the doors closed was an invitation for the javelinas to slash right through the walls to find out if you’d left them any tasty morsels, like toothpaste or a granola bar, inside.
  • When cooking dinner you usually need two people to finish the task. One to do the cooking, the other to shoo away the javelinas!
  • All food & toiletries must be kept in the metal cabinet provided on your site. Nothing could be left outside of this cabinet at anytime as the javelinas are constantly on the lookout for things to snatch and run away with.
  • At night the javelinas might come snuffling around your tent but then won’t try to get in because they’ll know you’re in there. If you wake up and smell something like a cross between a sewer & a skunk, you’ll know the javelinas are hanging around outside your tent. If you want then to leave you should turn on your flashlights and talk loudly.

We actually saw a family of javelinas just 100 ft away from our site; they were happily rooting around in the grass. I thought all this was hilarious, Jamie was a bit more nervous. We set up the tent, left the doors open, and walked to the park store to buy two cans of Shiner Bock beer to celebrate our first day of bicycling. On our way back to the site some guy joked that it looked like we were going to have a big party tonight with our two cans of beer! We made our dinner, sat around drinking our beers, and did not have any run ins with the javelinas. We were both nervous all night that we’d wake up with a stinky javelina snuffling around our head through the thin tent wall but nothing happened.

I’m out of internet time at the library, I’ll try to come back and write more about our 2nd day of bike touring tomorrow!


Friday, December 8th, 2006

We’ve finally made it to Texas, the last stop on our US roadtrip! We’re currently in Austin at the public library and I only have 10 minutes left to write a post.

Texas started off with a stop in Marfa. We were expecting a small boring little Texas town, but it turns out that Marfa, population only 2000, is somehow in on the artist scene. There are a few famous galleries in the city along with a super nice bookstore and a few cute restaurants. We visited a winery in Marfa where we tried six different Texas wines. The road to the winery was under construction so we were the only visitors on a Friday night, which means we got lots of information on the winery, industry, etc – very fun. The family also had two cute little Boston Terriers, so I was in heaven. After the winery we drove a few miles out of town to try to view the mysterious Marfa lights. I’ll provide a link later when I have more time, but the Marfa lights are basically little lights that appear on the horizon and dance around. No one knows what causes them. We hung out in our car for 20 minutes then gave up and went to bed – no lights for us!

After Marfa we drove South to Big Bend National Park where we spent 4 days. We managed to squeeze in a quick 2 day bike tour through the park…more on that later, I’m out of time!

White Sand and Snow…

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

We escaped the snow in Seattle, but it caught up with us in New Mexico!

Sarah and I are in Carlsbad, NM today. We were hoping to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park today, but it is closed for the day because it SNOWED here last night! Yesterday, we drove through White Sands National Monument and commented that the white gypsum sand looked just like snow. Little did we know we would be seeing the real stuff later on! The weather turned bad right as we were driving into Carlsbad. The winds were so strong going through the desert, that it looked like our car was being attacked by tumbleweeds. All the crevices on our car and bikes are now filled with the seeds and stalks of various desert plants. After sampling some authentic New Mexican food in Carlsbad, we made it to Brantley Lake State Park and set up our tent for the night. We could barely get our tent up and staked down in the horrific winds, but we finally did and except for the fact that the winds made it sound like the tent was going to be ripped apart, we made it through the night safe and sound. We were actually pretty cozy in our mummy bags, so we were surprised to see snow all over the ground when we woke up! We decided to pack up our tent and were greeted by a temperature of 22 degrees with a windchill of 9. We definitely weren’t planning on experiencing weather like this on our southern road trip! We packed up the tent as quickly as we could. Sarah was leaping around like a startled feline the whole time and said it was “so cold that her stomach hurt.” We hopped back in the car and drove back to Carlsbad, listening to the local weathermen discuss how to drive on snow and telling everyone to stay safe and warm at home. I guess that means stay in the car for us, since that is where we live now. It feels like a snow day in Minnesota here since the schools, government offices, and the parks are all closed, but we decided to stick it out for one more day here so we can see the park tomorrow. After that, we are going to head for Big Bend National Park on the Texas/Mexico border where we may do our first bike tour. Then Austin, TX is the last stop on our road trip and after that we will be spending some time with our families before we leave for New Zealand.

Here is our current plan.

December 11-12: Drive to Fargo, ND
December 13- 17: Fargo, ND
December 18-20: Minneapolis, MN
December 21-22: Drive to Wilmington, NC
December 23 – 27: Wilmington, NC
December 28: Fly to New Zealand!

California & Arizona

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Hello from Yuma Arizona! We left our campsite in Quartzsite at 6:30am this morning and came here in search of an internet cafe to check email, update the site, etc. I have a few things from the past week to write about that Jamie didn’t mention:

  • We’ve realized that because it is winter & we are in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun sets right around 5:10pm every night. We thought that Southern California & Arizona would stay lighter longer than Seattle but they really don’t. This means we have to find & set up a campsite before 5pm which is a pain. We are then left with a lot of time hanging out at a campsite picnic bench in the pitch dark after we’ve set up camp. Boring! Here’s a picture of me learning how to use our stove in the dark. We are so happy we brought headlamps – they make everything much easier in the dark.stove in dark
  • Last night’s campsite – the one in the gravel RV parking lot in Quartzsite – was kind of creepy. Even better, as we were setting up camp Jamie suddenly remembered stories his friend Chris Kopperud had told him in junior high about packs of Javelinas that roam the ditches of Arizona. Javelinas are small little warthogs that travel in packs and are really mean. I don’t think we were in any danger but it was hilarious to see the look on Jamie’s face when the possibility of a gory Javelina attack occured to him. Here’s me working on our Budweiser & Sun Chips dinner.SunChips
  • Joshua Tree was beautiful and our campsite was only $5 per night! This made me very happy after the other $25 sites we found in California. It was pretty hot there; we ate a delicious watermelon for lunch. watermelon
  • The day after Thanksgiving we went to a country bar called Pappy and Harriet’s near Joshua Tree. It had really good live country music – Jenny even got to dance with an old local guy. We spotted a couple we named the Rockabilly couple. They had obviously driven to the bar from LA and were dressed to the nines in their tight Wranglers, sleeveless T’s, and cowboy hats. They looked like they were wearing costumes…but we saw them the next morning at a breakfast place and they were all dressed up at 9am! Do they go to work like that too? I am really sorry we didn’t get a picture of them.

55+ Only

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Sarah and I have entered Arizona, land of the RV and senior citizen. We had a great time in Joshua Tree with Jenny and Brandon. We camped at Jumbo Rocks and were lucky to get a site there as the park was very busy over Thanksgiving weekend. The lovely campers who used the site before us let their dog poop all over the site, so we cleaned it up for them. Poop was a common theme in the park – we think a lot of campers had too much beer and turkey on Thanksgiving because afterwards all the toilets in the park had poop all over the seats. Very nice indeed. Sarah and I both really liked Joshua Tree. We went cycling through the park and did some hiking and bouldering with Jenny and Brandon. Last night we camped at the Desert Gardens RV Park right off I-10 outside Quartzsite, AZ. The park was restricted to those 55 or older like most of the RV parks around here, but we snuck in and no one bothered us. We set up our tent in a gravel parking lot, did our laundry, and tried to mingle with the locals but all the snowbirds were asleep. So, we walked over to the truck stop and got two 24oz cans of Budweiser served in two paper sacks which we drank with some SunChips for dinner. We left before the 9am exercise classes started. Today we are heading to Tucson, AZ and the beautiful national parks of the Southwest. Sorry, no laptop yet, so you will have to wait for our pictures.