The last few months

Its been two and half months since we left Suzie in Costa Rica.  Two and half months that have flown by, yet the seven months we spent in Central America seem a distant memory.  It is incredible how quickly experiences and moments fade, but the lessons we learned on the road continue to stick with us.  When we decided to return for the summer, we knew it was likely that we would be working in different areas of the country.  After spending seven months in a space the size of an average U.S. bathroom, we have spent the last two and half months over 2,000 miles apart.  Ken is in Alaska captaining a whale watching boat for Juneau Tours and Whale Watching, and I am in Montana working at a local hospital in the beautiful Flathead Valley.  After two more months of lining our pockets with cash, we’ll return to Costa Rica and hit the road south again.  Here are a few pictures of what we’ve both been up to the last few months.

From Costa Rica heat to Montana snow!

From Costa Rica heat to Montana snow!

Just a bit of muddy mountain biking

Just a bit of muddy mountain biking

Montana guard cattle/cattle guard?

Montana guard cattle/cattle guard?

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Breaching orca, Juneau AK

Breaching orca, Juneau AK

 

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Breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, AK

Breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, AK

 

Captain Ken on the right doing what he does

Captain Ken on the right doing what he does

As much as we are enjoying our time back home, we cannot wait to get back to Suzie and discover what South America has in store for us!

 

 

 

An Unfortunate Series of Events

The night that Suzie sprang a leak was a very unfortunate night.  We were sleeping soundly on the beach at Barra de Nexpa after a day of driving the windy highway 200 on the Michoacan coast.

Barra de Nexpa.

It had been cloudy all day, a fact that we reveled in, it was a break from the unrelenting heat and humidity of the previous few days.  The night before in St. Patricio-Melaque we had even enjoyed a thunder and lightening storm before going to bed.  In Barra de Nexpa, gusts of wind began shaking Suzie, flashes of lightening lit up the windows.  We snuggled a bit closer and closed our eyes until ‘drip, drip,’ Ken was rudely awoken by several splashes of water to the face.  Suzie’s roof was leaking!  Unfortunately it was one in the morning and pouring, and there was absolutely nothing we could do until the morning.  A pot was placed under the leak and we fell back asleep to the ‘plink, plink’ of the water.  In the morning, we expected to wake up to blue skies and heat, after all this is Mexico, it doesn’t rain here, right?

Michoacan coast, reminiscent of the Oregon coast

Wrong.  It was still pouring.  Instead of lazing on the beach for another day in the sun, surf, and sand we packed up and headed towards the colonial city of Morelia in the mountains of Mexico hoping to escape the rain.  However, as we proceeded north, it continued to rain.  Sometimes a sprinkle, sometimes a downpour.  We tried to push the worry out of our minds and enjoy the scenery, which was incredible, imagine soaring mountains strewn with yellow, blue, red and pink flowers, but it was difficult to do so considering the extensive water damage the roof had sustained the prior winter (read our post about repairs here).  Trying to keep our spirits up I read about the beautiful catherdral in the historic centro of Morelia that according to Lonely Planet was lit up by fireworks and spotlights every Saturday, and it was Dia de los Muertos weekend, even better!  ‘This is going to be incredible,’ we thought to ourselves.  Arriving in Morelia around 4:00 we found Hostel Allende relatively easily and it even had a covered parking garage nearby, because yes, it was still pouring.  Again, unfortunately, due to poor prior planning on my part, the hostel was completely booked.  So were the next four or five hostels/hotels we managed to stumble upon as we circled the city center for two hours.  Morelia is a beautiful city, but its streets are very narrow, cobblestoned, filled with throngs of people, and were flooded due to the storm.  Ken did a magnificent job navigating the hazards.

Morelia Cathedral fireworks. Stolen from the web, because we did not make it there that night.

Luckily we had a few contingency plans.  A WalMart had been spotted on the way into town and every WalMart we had encountered in Mexico had large canopies over its parking lot.  Perfect!  A free place to sleep and shelter for Suzie.  Unfortunately, this WalMart was the first one without canopies.  Fortunately, they did have wine, a soon to be necessary salve for the disappointments we had experienced throughout the day.  Our second contingency plan was an Auto Hotel.  For those of you not in the know, an Auto Hotel in Mexico is not a hotel for your automobile although each room does have its own private parking garage.  An Auto Hotel is code for a hotel of ill repute, without the girls, or so we thought.  We had read and heard from previous travelers that if you were absolutely out of options these were the place to go.  Sure you had to pay by the hour, but the hotels were remarkably clean and as mentioned before secure, covered parking was available.  For some reason though, the lady would not let us enter.  I tried over and over again, “Cuentos cuesta para todo noche, para doce horas?” I’m sure something got lost in translation as she rattled off a string of words and numbers that I could not sort out with my limited Spanish.  We deduced that this Auto Hotel must come with a girl in each room, and instead of taking advantage of us poor clueless gringos, this kind lady was actually doing us a favor and saving us from a potentially extremely awkward situation.   Defeated we got back on the road.  Things were getting grim.  We couldn’t pop the top unless we were under shelter and our bed and clothes were most likely getting soaked with the continuing rain, not to mention the newly reconstructed roof could be slowly becoming saturated with water again, and we were violating our one and only rule by driving at night.  Eventually we found a Quality Inn, broke our budget, and lived it up with two double beds, unlimited hot water, internet, and television!  The next morning we found a WalMart with a covered garage, because it was still raining, and Ken examined and recaulked the roof.

You gotta do what you gotta do

Hostel Allende had plenty of room for us the next day and we donned our raincoats, missing our xtratuffs, and explored Morelia despite the rain.

Dia de los Muertos decorations, a bit soggy, but pretty nonetheless

We ate a lot of delicious tacos el pastor and met a fellow traveler, Mike an Irishman living in Australia who has been traveling since January and covered the majority of the US and Canada.  He is planning on shipping his BMW bike from Panama to Chile and driving north. We hope to run into him on the road!

I love tacos!

Smoke filling the place from the open kitchen.

Morelia is truly a special city.  At night the streets fill with people stopping and chatting at cafes and bars.  Guitar and mariachi music spills from open doorways.  Couples kiss in plazas, on benches, under street lights, everywhere.  Even though there was no light show, the cathedral was still breathtaking.  We thoroughly enjoyed it despite the travails of the prior day.

We are now in Guanajuato, another incredible Mexican city.  Here the streets are even narrower then Morelia.  There are more people crowding the streets, sitting in plazas, sunning on the steps of the theater, and chatting it up in cafes.  If there wasn’t a continuous flow of Spanish all around us, we might think we were in any city Europe.  We are camped above the city center in a great little campground, and true to form have been serenaded at night by a cacophony of barking dogs.  Guanajuato is an amazing city and we are thoroughly enjoying exploring as many corners and winding alleyways as we can.  Luckily it hasn’t rained for the past few days and an inspection of Suzie has revealed less water damage then we feared.  Just another adventure to add to the growing list.

Guanajuato

Bomba de Vegetal

A fireball explodes sky-high, 20 even 30 feet.  Huddled around the fire, hoods up against the downpour, the crowd raises their beers skyward, cheers erupting from their throats.  Welcome to a uniquely Alaskan party, the veggie bomb party.  Yes mother, it does involve a degree of danger, and yes there is generally moderate amounts of alcohol involved.  But before you stress out too much,  there have been no documented injuries or deaths during the history of veggie bomb parties.

What exactly is a veggie bomb one may wonder.  Legitimate question.  The veggie bomb was conceptualized a few years ago by Ryan Fisher and Brendan Ryan of Exit Glacier Guides as a way to dispose of their excess veggie oil with a bit of flair.  Amongst other thrilling activities that Exit Glacier Guides offers, such as ice climbing and hiking on a glacier, they also offer a veggie oil powered shuttle bus that runs from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park.  After veggie oil gathered from restaurants and purifying and filtering it, there is generally a few gallons left that are unfit to run through the shuttle.  These few gallons are designated for veggie bombs.  On a veggie bomb party night, a large bonfire is stoked, as hot as possible.  When the bonfire has reached maximum temperature, a metal pail full of veggie oil is lowered into the center.  Once the veggie oil has started boiling (our estimation that it has reached 800 F), the designated igniter quickly dumps a pail of water, attached to long pouring stick for safety reasons, into the boiling veggie oil and creates a fireball.

Fire in the hole!

We were lucky enough to have a bon voyage/veggie bomb party this past Saturday at our house.  Things went as normal veggie bomb parties do despite the special Seward, Alaska addition of pouring rain.  People came, beer was consumed, veggie oil was exploded.  Until that moment that usually occurs at every party where guys are congregated and alcohol and fire are involved, someone (probably Ken) suggested making the veggie bombs that much bigger and better, why not throw canned vegetables in the mix.  And that was when the mother of all veggie bombs was born.

The mother of all veggie bombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, no one was harmed in the exploding of this veggie bomb.  All in all, a highly successful bon voyage/veggie bomb party.  We are definitely going to miss all of our friends in Seward.  Thank you for sending us off in style.

In the Beginnings

What would possess someone to think that purging their lives of a majority of possessions, packing said possessions in a storage unit, leaving friends, family and dogs behind and spend a year driving 30,000 miles in the small cab of a Ford Ranger with another someone who is also insane enough to think all of the above is a most excellent idea?  Well, we turned 30 this year and 30 kind of goes with 30,000 miles and we already live in Alaska so why not drive as far south as we can go?  Sounds like a good idea to me!

That was the gist of the conversation we had almost 7 months ago.  In that moment, possibly aided by unknown quantities of beer, whiskey, and/or wine, we decided to embark on that journey and drive the Pan American Highway all the way from Seward, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.

After months and countless hours spent on the internet researching the various facets of an in depth road trip, here we are almost a month away from our scheduled departure date of September 1st.  One month away from starting the trip of a life time, a journey that will take us places we’ve never dreamed of being, and change us in ways we never thought possible.  One month away from a journey with the only limitations being the ones we place on ourselves.

“When I let go of what I am, I can become what I might be.” Lao Tzu