Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Home Is Where You Park It...

...And we're parking it in Seattle! Ryan has accepted a new job and we have officially moved into our new apartment! Ryan was recruited out of the blue for what amounted to be his dream job and we had loved Seattle when we were here earlier in the trip, so we decided to call it quits early and settle down here.

This will likely be the last blog post for a little while. We will still hit the road looking for adventure, but our honeymoon road trip is over.

From where I left off in the last post, we headed straight to Seattle, but not before seeing a scorpion and a javalina before leaving our beloved McDowell Regional Park. Ryan found the scorpion hiding under one of the bins we use to carry some RV equipment and I saw the javalina while I was out running errands. The javalina sprinted across the road, those tiny little legs carrying that rolly-polly body, and leapt into a bush in someone's front yard. It was quite the sight to behold!

We overnighted in Palm Springs and it felt exactly how you would imagine a formerly fancy California town to feel. It was hot but beautiful. On our way out of town we saw a HUGE wind farm, including experimental turbines. It was pretty cool!

Making our way through the greater Los Angeles area was, as we expected, stressful, but not as bad as our previous time driving through. We passed the cutest older couple in a 1950s-ish car towing an all metal teardrop trailer. If Ryan grows a fancy moustache and wears a cowboy hat, it would be us in 35 years. We exchanged smiles, waves, and thumbs up and it made me so happy.

One of the things we noted about the greater LA area was the smog. It was visible and thick. Once inside the smog, it was almost palpable. It made you want to get checked for lung cancer as soon as you cleared it.

North of LA is California's fertile middle. Well, it's fertile when it has enough water, anyway. It's so fun seeing this kind of agriculture - the kind that is intended for human consumption instead of for feeding cattle that we see in the Midwest. We spent two days driving north through this agricultural land and we saw grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarines, grapes, olives, and all sorts of nut trees including pistachios.

The flip side of all that agriculture is, of course, the drought. There were signs along the roadway all over the place making political statements about how the state had promised water and not delivered. We heard stories on the radio about all sorts of people whose wells are dry. It must be a terrible situation to be in, but is not at all surprising. California is a desert. As soon as you cross the border from Arizona there are suddenly palm trees and green grasses everywhere; it's just not natural. There are fountains all over the place and the canals aren't covered. Between shifting weather patterns bringing less and less rain and people flocking to the state for the fame and sunshine, there is a real problem there and I think people have yet to understand the gravity of the situation.

After three days of driving north through California, we finally made it to Oregon, overnighting in Eugene. The following day we had a super fun lunch with my sister and her daughter and then kept on trucking, making it to our temporary home just east of Seattle later that evening. We spent about a week living in campground in Fall City, near Snoqualmie where a lot of Twin Peaks was filmed. We saw several spots from the show and found some spooky old trains, too! We spent several grueling days touring the city and seeing apartment after apartment and house after house, trying to find a place to live. The first couple days were discouraging, but then we had one really good day and found our first home in Seattle. A couple days later we signed the lease and moved in! And by 'moved in' I mean we moved the few items of clothing and cooking supplies that were in the camper.

After a tearful goodbye, we put the camper in temporary storage, making the official leap back into regular society. Assimilation has been strange, but we've also had a lot of fun exploring our new city and neighborhood. The things we had in storage in Chicago likely won't be here for another week or so, but we're making do. We've been living on less for the past six months, so this is no problem. The only thing we needed were two chairs and an air mattress because we had no furniture and we had tried sleeping on the floor, but it was not at all comfortable. I've got to say, it sure is nice having a warm shower to call my own, access to our own washer and dryer whenever we want, and a kitchen large enough to cook whatever I want.

We've mostly been spending our time picking up odds and ends for our new apartment and exploring. This past weekend we went to our neighborhood's incredible farmers market and were blown away by the selection of local goods. We even procured fresh grape tomatoes and they were delicious. We visited with a friend who was in town for a show with her band. Yesterday we enjoyed one of the hundreds of hikes within an hours drive from our home. The Boulder Garden Loop in North Bend is a short-ish hike, but a beautiful introduction into the area.

Today we went to the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project (EMP). It wasn't the Field Museum in Chicago (which I miss dearly!), but the PSC was a lot of fun if not geared more toward children. The EMP is fantastic and has some really cool popular culture memorabilia and great opportunities to immerse yourself in music.

Thank you so much for sharing in our adventures! We sure have had a lot of fun and made some incredible memories. This isn't necessarily goodbye, but rather see you later. We'll see you on the flip side!

Team Blankenboube

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Grand Canyon State

We're still in Arizona! We've stepped down our travel pace and have been biding our time in Arizona, taking in some sunshine, enjoying the desert, and planning our next moves.

The last post left off in Flagstaff, where we spent several days. We really enjoyed the area and felt like locals by the time we left.

We spent a day in Sedona, exploring the city and the surrounding vortexes. The drive south from Flagstaff to Sedona winds through a beautiful canyon. It was way too hot and sunny for hiking the day we were there, so we viewed the Bell Rock from the parking lot. The idea with the vortexes is that they are special rock formations from which the Earth's energy seeps. The evidence given are the twisted juniper trees nearby. While nearly every juniper we have seen on this trip has been twisted, there is a certain tingling you can feel, but perhaps that is psychosomatic.

After a hot and sweaty morning, we drove back north through the canyon, stopping at Slide Rock State Park. Amazing! We highly recommend it if you're in the area. It's a river that carved through the canyon, creating a natural rock slide. The water is brisk, but it is so refreshing on a hot and sunny day. We had a great time sliding and watching other people slide. Neither of us brought our cameras, so the picture below is leveraged from the internet. I have no idea who that kid is, but doesn't he look like he's having fun?

The next day was one of our favorite days of the trip. We started just northeast of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We had learned that the entire area is a volcanic field and it's so neat. Scientists aren't positive what's going on in the area but they think either the area is slowly moving over a hot spot or that the tectonic plate is slowly stretching. Either way, it makes for fascinating geology. We walked through pumice fields and climbed some cinder cones. The landscape is unreal!

The Wupatki National Monument is just north of Sunset Crater, so we headed there next. It's a beautiful drive and we had fun exploring the ancient pueblos. We saw a geologic feature called a blowhole that is basically nature's air conditioning. It's a small hole in the ground attached to a huge underground network of caverns that "breathe," forcing cool air out. It's incredible! If I was an ancient person, I would have built my home near that, too.

Acting on a tip from the Ranger at Sunset Crater we continued on to some Forest Service land west of Wupatki. After miles on an unimproved road, we finally found SP Crater (Shit Pot, because there is a huge lava field that leaked out of the base of the crater, causing a local man to compare its appearance to a terrible pit toilet disaster). We drove the car as close as we comfortably could and then climbed straight up the side. It was probably some of the hardest hiking we've done, but it was absolutely worth it. The views from the rim of the crater were spectacular. There was even a rainbow from a distant rain storm.

The climb down was so fun! Because it was so steep, we just had to kind of jump down the hill. I felt like I was a character in a video game with super jumping abilities.

The following day was relaxing and I managed to give myself lactic acidosis. Between the vigorous exercise the night before, the high elevation, and drinking two kombucha in as many days, it was just too much lactic acid. I had no idea kombucha could cause it, but after feeling panicky and dopey at the same time, plus all my muscles ached and I was nauseous, I did some internet research and self diagnosed. Be careful with your kombucha people!

It was a rainy day in Flagstaff for Ryan's birthday, but we made the best of it. We had the most delicious Thai food for brunch at Red Curry and then happened upon a street festival downtown. When the rain hit, we made our way to the Lowell Observatory, the place where Pluto was discovered! We checked out the museum and then took one of the tours and learned so much. We went home and watched the new Godzilla movie and then went out for Mexican food, complete with a salsa bar. It was a great day!

The next day was another work day. I'm actually working on a book, a book we wish we had before we started this trip. I'm hoping to assemble all the information about traveling full time and entering the RV world that would have been helpful up front. I've made some good headway, but still have a lot to go.

It was starting to cool off in Flagstaff, so we decided to descend 6,000 feet into Phoenix. It was our first time below 4,000 feet in several weeks and brought us to our current location at McDowell Mountain Regional Park just northeast of Phoenix. We are in love with this park and have been so lucky to practically have the place to ourselves.

We have been spending our time doing some life maintenance and hiking the park. I also spent a day driving to Flagstaff and back to retrieve a shade tent we had forgotten at our previous campsite. We won't be making that mistake again!

This is a different type of desert than the red dirt and pine forests of Flagstaff and holds a different set of flora and fauna, including the iconic saguaro cacti. It is also a significant change in demigraphics. Whereas Flagstaff is a hip college town, we now find ourselves the youngest people by decades everywhere we go. What's funny is that we overhear conversations from the retirees about their trips to Mesa Verde and Moab, and we can relate so well to their experiences. We're thinking about just cutting to the chase and retiring here now ;)

The most exciting thing about our new campground is all of the wildlife we have been up close and personal with. Our favorites are the coyotes. We hear them howling right outside our campsite and we even saw two walk right past our site! We've also seen jack rabbits, bunnies, a great horned owl, a buck, lizards, a tarantula, a snake carcass, desert tortoises, and all sorts of birds.

I was on a hike by myself and got stung in the bum through my skirt by a honey bee. I was searching for coyote dens and found a beehive instead. Because I've only been stung twice in my life and the second time I had a weird systemic reaction, I climbed to the mountain bike trail nearby until I was sure I wasn't going to keel over from an allergic reaction.

I also found what I thought was gold! For a fleeting moment I thought we were going to be filthy rich, but after further investigation I concluded it was only pyrite. Bummer. It was pretty, though.

The Ranger here at the park has been wonderful. Twice I have gone in and asked her a million questions about the wildlife in the area. She patiently answered all my questions, showed me all the animals they have at the Visitors Center, and humored me.

We are going to be heading west and north from here along the Pacific coast. We were going to leave today, but hurricane Simon was predicted to slam the area with rain, so we decided to wait it out one more day. It will be neat to see the desert in the rain! We'll see you on the flip side!

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