Friday, December 27, 2013

4550 Kilometers

Written by Karen.
Our little guy, our little rental car Hyundai i20, sat dripping puddles of water in the self-serve car wash bay in the Tiergarten leafy neighborhood of Berlin.  The i20's gunmetal gray four doors and trunk were wide open as I carefully navigated the round air hose vacuum nozzle around the the inside of the car, picking up the last bits of the lint and detritus that had accumulated over the past three weeks.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Romans in Arles, France

Written by Karen.
We roll into Arles, France one afternoon after being ricocheted like a pinball throughout Provence for most of the afternoon.  Provence, like other areas in France, has traffic circles installed at every junction to keep the traffic continuously flowing. This can be a good thing if you happen to know exactly where you are going. In these cases, you can arrive at a planned destination in relatively short order.  However, traffic circles can also be an exercise in flexibility and map-reading frustration if you - like us - are not exactly sure of your current location.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

French Fast Food

Written by Karen.
We were greeted warmly as we walked into the small Saint-Remy bakery.  You could not help to deeply breathe in the warm, yeasty air that swirled around us as we walked into the bakery and towards the sandwich making section. Our steps slowed as we realized that our idea of picking up a quick and freshly-made sandwich for a picnic somewhere in the hills of Luberon later this afternoon now seemed utterly insufficient.  Our stomachs were growling and our mouths began watering as our eyes surveyed the multi-levels of freshly-baked breads, pastries, croissants, baguettes and other artistic visions of baking goodness. I calculated that I wanted one of each.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

*Provincia Nostra

Written by Karen.
The Provence that I have long visualized in my imagination is full of shadows, intense colors and light.  It is full of long and colorful sight lines that pan slowly over the dancing sunflowers, waving lavender fields and geometrically orderly grape vines. It lingers on the clear warm light that is said to have drawn artists to Provence for years in an attempt to capture the landscapes and colors that emanate from that light. It showcases bountiful ripe fruits and vegetables that are extraordinarily well prepared. It is about hot afternoons languishing in shady gardens slowly eating local cheese, baguettes, charcuterie, olives and drinking Provençal rosé wine. It is slowly exploring the uneven cobble-stoned streets of tiny villages. It is full of scents, tastes, sounds and simple beauty that combine to totally captivate the senses.  In short, in my hopeful imaginative mind, the idea of Provence is a way of life - a celebration of life - sweet, slow, simple and extraordinary. I couldn't wait to experience Provence for myself.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It’s Better than Nice

Written by Karen.
We have crossed the border from Italy into France as we continue to drive our little guy, i20, along the coastline, turning and twisting inland then turning and twisting back again towards the Mediterranean Sea. Interestingly enough, we noticed the border change even before we saw the signs.  France is much more built up along the hills than Italy is.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Exploring the Nooks and Crannies of Genoa, Italy

Written by Karen.
Genoa is the largest port city in Italy, and is widely thought to have been the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  But, Genoa is much more than simply being the possible, passive birthplace of a notable sea explorer. It is a massive and personable city in its own right with an impressive and long history all its own. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Unexpected Sunset

Written by Karen.
It had been steamy, hot and overcast all day.  The heavy, moist and voluptuous overhead gray skies occasionally drizzled down spits of water that briefly cooled the air above our heads and then evaporated quickly back up into the sky to come down again an hour later. We spent the muggy day moving slowly, trying to stay cool and reflecting on and appreciating the passage of time. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Deciding Where You've Been

Written by Adam
It sure is interesting to discover what comes up in conversation when you are simply chatting with a waiter.  It was just after he brought us the bread and butter while we were dining in Nice, France.   Upon learning that we were visiting from California, the starstruck waiter regaled in telling us about his desire to some day visit Hollywood.  He then proceeded to recount many old movies starring such classic Hollywood starlets as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.  Of course, most might consider these actresses to be photogenic symbols of the Hollywood of imagination, fantasy, and a place that to a European represented much more about America than it probably does today.  We were actually in Hollywood just this year, but I did not have the heart to tell the waiter that the only star we saw there was a guy in a Spiderman suit standing on the corner posing for pictures with the tourists.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Meet Our Little Guy - Hyundai i20

Written by Karen.
As the days pass, we are really warming up to our little guy, the Hyundai i20.  After a bit of an antagonistic start to our relationship, Adam and I have reached an understanding of sorts with the little guy.  Bottom line?  We've accepted our mechanical limitations and re-adjusted our expectations.  We'll stay off the super fast highways and autobahns as much as possible.  Our little guy just can't hang with those fire-breathing monsters - much to my chagrin - we get blown off the endlessly smooth black asphalt each and every time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Italian Art of Parking - Part Three

Written by Karen.

This is the final segment of a three-part story.

We began walking down the street in a dazed jumble of thoughts and reactions. Adam asked rhetorically, "Can you believe it? He just ripped it into pieces!" All I could muster was, "Unbelievable!"  Adam continued unabated, "And then he crumbled everything up and threw it in the gutter!  Who does that?! "Unbelievable," I offered my contribution to the conversation.  "Unbelievable!" I could see our unpaid simple administrative, no-big-deal 28.50 euro parking ticket multiplying over time as quickly as a happy pair of rabbits.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Case You Missed It....Sunset Over Lake Como

The Italian Art of Parking - Part Two

Written by Karen.
For the next five days, we made a daily evening trek over to our hidden parking place to make sure that our little guy was still there.  We breathed a sigh of relief when he was and there were no parking tickets plastered to the window.  Maybe white and yellow parking areas were just like white parking areas?  In any case, it looked like we were home free.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Checking Out La Dolce Vida - Back Roads Style

Written by Karen.
Now that we're off the high-speed highways, our little guy, Hyundai i20, is starting to grow on us.  Sometimes you have to go down an unknown road for awhile before you can actually decide if you are going in the right direction.  

The Italian Art of Parking - Part One

Written by Karen.

This is the first segment in a three-part story.

"It might be a little 'forbotti', but I have never had any problems. EVER!", Isabella said with extra emphasis.  I looked over at Adam, who was also trying to process the broken and rapid-fire mixture of English and Italian.  What does forbotti mean? We raised our eyebrows at each other and shrugged.  Isabella impatiently grabbed my arm and said, "Andiamo!"  Let's go!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cinque Terre, Italy

Written by Karen.
Along the rugged western Italian coast lie tiny fishing villages that hang on the rock outcroppings like barnacles in the sea. The most well-known villages in this area are called Cinque Terre, or the Five Lands.  These historically old villages still plant and harvest vegetable gardens, herbs, olive trees and grapes on the old, rocky terraces carved into the cliffs to supplement their bounty from the sea. And although old, these villages are beautiful in both their natural surroundings and with their ancient traditions.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Driving Slowly Up the Italian Coast

Written by Karen.
We drove into La Spezia, Italy during the magical evening twilight hours and promptly decided to try and find a place to spend the night. La Spezia, a port town, was exactly like the images that I harbored in my imagination and hoped for in reality: families and couples quietly strolling down the paved pedestrian strand alongside the Mediterranean Sea; tiny shops offering gelato and espresso for sale; and, people sitting on benches under the gently swaying palm trees surrounded by gardens of scented flowers looking out on the endless horizon - talking, thinking, dreaming - as the soft orange sun slowly begins its descent into the intensely colored turquoise sea water.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Tapping of the Keg

Written by Karen.
There was a feeling of jovial festivity that permeated the early morning air.  Even without our cup of coffee, we could sense the upcoming occasion, the anticipation, the expectation of good times ahead.  Today was the day - the opening day - of the annual celebration held in Munich, Germany: Oktoberfest.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crash Course on the German Autobahn: Pass or Fail

Written by Karen.
"Okay, here we go," I said, mostly to myself.  We had just picked up our little rental car from Tegel Airport in Berlin, and suddenly, without much time to figure out who should drive the first leg of our road trip, there was the blue sign for the Autobahn.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Start Your Engines!

Start your engines everybody!  We're driving south starting in Berlin, Germany.  We will cross through Austria and head towards the western coast of Italy.  After meandering north up the Italian coastline, we will drive through the Provence region of France. Our first European road trip will end back in Berlin.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Black Gold

Written by Karen.
The Smith Mine. Montana.  We quickly put the two pieces of the puzzle together as we saw the small memorial sign up ahead and pulled over.  There wasn’t much room alongside the two-laned highway, but we found a little patch of gravely-dirt and stopped.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Heart Mountain

Written by Karen.
"But, I'm an American citizen....how could this happen?"  We had just walked into the interpretive center of Heart Mountain, just outside of Cody, Wyoming.  The recorded voices and life-sized pictures of men, women and children of Japanese ancestry greeted us at the front door, and the sharp gut kicks that resulted as we wandered throughout the interactive exhibits came hard and often.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Picking Up The Pen Again

Parker, Colorado
Written by Karen.
Dear Readers:

It wasn’t supposed to be this long.  This period of time when I laid down my pen...errrr... shut off my computer for awhile.  But, somehow the days turned into weeks and finally into a month, and now here we are - in the beginning of September.  Phoof!  There just went August!  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Promises Made. Promises Broken.

Written by Karen.
It seems inevitable that the ability to negotiate peace between two distinct cultures now occupying the same space would fail.  There was never really an equal playing field.  And, as we saw while walking through the very well done reconstructed national historic site of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, the confluence of quickly changing - and nearly simultaneous - historical events of the Civil War and the overland emigration irrevocably changed the western landscape of the now United States.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leaving Marks

Written by Karen.
The white-hot sun is blazingly relentless and the white sandstone that surrounds me reflects the dry and intense heat.  We have pulled off to the side of the road outside of Guernsey, Wyoming to see and learn a bit more about the history behind the journey of heading west on the Oregon Trail during the 1800's.  I am standing at the bottom of carved out wagon wheel tracks that in some places are up to my shoulders.   

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

HEADLINE: Pulled Over in Lusk, Wyoming by Officer Toby Keith.

Written by Karen.
We criss-crossed across the small town of Lusk, Wyoming several times as we met people who could help us with our current mechanical predicament. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Uh Oh. Part Deux

The sunrise as we left Colorado
Written by Karen
While we were staying outside of Denver, we noticed our temperature gauge on our VW Vanagon was getting a little squirrelly. So, knowing that we couldn't be really overheating a mere two minutes after turning the ignition key, we took Chinook in for a little mechanical TLC.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A True Beauty

Written by Karen.
From a distance, the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel looks like the shiny aluminum ribs of a metal animal that has languished in the high desert sun long picked bare by scavengers, or the evenly-spaced metal ribs of a large and unfinished boat.  In any case, the architecture of this chapel is unusual and dominates the sprawling and manicured Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ride to the Top of Pikes Peak

An example of the cog wheel and gears
Written by Karen.
Every year there is an automobile and motorcycle race held near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The race to the top of Pikes Peak is called "Race of the Clouds" and includes 156 turns - mostly without guard rails - and has an average 7% grade as it winds back and forth up to the 10,114 foot summit.  The current record set in 2012 for the 12.42 mile race up the mountain is 9 minutes and 46 seconds.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meet The Wandering Poet: Abigail Mott

Written by Karen.
It was a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon. Adam and I were walking around the 16th Street pedestrian mall in downtown Denver. There were lots of people out partaking in a game of chess or playing the public pianos, eating outside, or just hanging out and simply enjoying the warm afternoon.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Written by Karen.
Although you don't need to enter into a building to find a place for quiet contemplation, tiny churches seem to always have a special intimacy and a natural coziness that is appealing to me.  It's like unwrapping the tin foil from a piece of chocolate. It's pretty outside, but what is inside is even better!  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Silence in the Flaming Gorge

View as we drive to Ashley National Forest
Written by Karen.
We drove into Red Canyon in the Ashley National Forest, Utah and parked our camper van in the almost empty parking lot in front of the Visitor Center.  There was just one other car in the lot, and they were backing out of their parking space.   We waved and then it was only us. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

In Case You Missed It...

Here's the sun setting gently over the Rocky Mountains last night.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jumbled Bones

A life-sized Stegosaurus takes up the
equivalent of three parking spaces in
front of the Dinosaur National
Monument Visitor Center. 
Written by Karen.
The topography is starting to change as we drive through Utah.  There are still sage green tufts that line the road and grow as far as the eye can see, but the sandy tans of the ground and mountains have changed into warm reddish hues.  I consider changing my mind as to whether our next house should have a palette of sage green and tans or the complimentary combination of sage green and rust. Or perhaps include them all into a natural earthy palette of sage green, tans and rust? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

An Uh-Oh Moment

Written by Karen.
It was bound to happen eventually.  After several weeks of driving slowly off the beaten track, stopping in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere to take a picture, and being without cell phone or internet coverage, it happened in a retail store parking lot in Provo, Utah.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's That?

Written by Karen.
As we drive down Highway 50, Adam and I have a bird's-eye view of our surroundings - a rolling observation car.  Chinook rides high, and we enjoy 360 degrees of windows all around the mid-section of our VW Vanagon. Our sight lines as passengers are as endless as the vistas we roll past.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Exploring the Underground World

Written by Karen.
A bit off Highway 50 in Nevada and close to the border of Utah, we drove into the Great Basin National Park to explore the underground world of the Lehman Caves.  

It's a bit funny - in that unusual sense of the word - as I can be a bit claustrophobic if I think about being in dark and closed-in places, and you would think that descending down hundreds of feet into the darkness would freak me out, but that was surprisingly not the case.   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Following the Pony Express

Written by Karen.
Highway 50 in Nevada often follows the route that the Pony Express took while in existence for only 18 months starting in 1860.  Called "The Pony", the privately-owned Pony Express carried information and mail over 2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in ten days.  Despite the high cost - up to $5.00 per ounce carried - the Pony Express was never a money making enterprise.  It was put out of business with the invention of the telegraph in 1861.  A telegram could traverse the same distance in 10 seconds.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Point A to Point B: 5 Miles

Written by Adam
Still traveling along Highway 50 in Nevada - aka “The Loneliest Road in America” - we eventually reached the biggest metropolis in the immediate area: Ely, Nevada.  Just like in Las Vegas, there were a couple of gas stations, a McDonald’s, a saloon or two, and the omipresent miniaturized Nevada casinos.  Sure, there were other business enterprises...but this blog entry just covers the biggest business enterprises operating in Nevada.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Camping in the Quiet

Written by Karen.
We are completely alone.  Way off the beaten track with no electricity, running water or cell phone coverage.  We had been looking for a campground to set up before it got dark.  And cold.  Temperatures here in the high Nevada desert will drop to the low 40's once the sun sets.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On the Road Again - VW Vanagon Style

Written by Karen.
After a flurry of last-minute activities and fond goodbyes, we began our road trip under cloudy skies and rain showers and headed east along Highway 50 into Nevada. Dubbed the "Loneliest Road in America" by Life Magazine in their July 1986 issue, the label - instead of being a deterrent for us driving a yet untested 1984 VW Vanagon - piqued our interest and curiosity. Life Magazine wrote, "We don't recommend it.  We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills." We are up for the challenge!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Road Trip!

Chinook after being sprung from
long-term storage
Written by Karen.
It's funny how a planned three-week stopover in the Bay Area to take care of a variety of mundane life tasks has rather inexplicably turned into an extended eight-week stay.  One thing after another - both planned and unplanned - has stalled our journey somewhat.  On the plus side, we've had a great time being able to spend some time with friends and family and seeing how much - or how little - things have changed over the past months since we left from SFO to fly to Bogota, Colombia on October 30, 2012. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Los perros de la América del Sur

Written by Adam
Like most big cities around the world, a new cottage industry has emerged: professional dog walking.  It was certainly no different in Buenos Aires, at least in the neighborhoods where we were visiting.  These entrepreneurs somehow found a way to lead their tethered friends like a bouquet of barking balloons all around numerous territories like Recoleta, Palermo, and Belgrano.  The dogs seemed genuinely enthusiastic; anything to get out of their stuffy apartments shared with their owners and sniff around a bit, I suppose.  

Sunday, March 31, 2013

La Boca Neighborhood, Buenos Aires

Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires
Written by Karen.
The La Boca neighborhood is one of the oldest - and most colorful - neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. It is also the neighborhood where we stumbled across the warehouse-turned-bar and met the husband and wife team of Nicole Nau and Luis Pereyra and their tango and folklore dance group.  (Tango in Buenos Aires Post) It was our first peek at the tango, with its artistic workings and beautiful interplay of heat, passion and sitting on-the-edge of your seat music.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Muddy Mishap in the Park

Written by Karen.
On Sunday, we walked in a huge loop around the city that included a very large park complex consisting of open grassy spaces, trees, lakes, tennis courts, a horse racing track, zoo and a golf course in the Palermo and Belgrano districts of Buenos Aires.  Initially, we were looking to buy a golf cap as a souvenir at one of the five municipal golf courses in Buenos Aires, but being that it was a Sunday, the golf course and golf shop were very much closed. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A City Within A City - Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Written by Karen.
Recoleta Cemetery
I like to wander around cemeteries.  Not because I’m ghoulish or have a secret death wish, but because it’s an insight into the way life was.  It’s a bit like walking through history. Whether the architecture of the final farewell is grand and elaborate or simply expressed on a weathered piece of wood - it’s not so much about the money, or the lack of money, that I find so interesting - but the heartfelt regard that in a few words defines a life lived.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

California, U.S.A.

Written by Karen.
Well, we've made another giant leap....we are back in the Bay Area, California!  I know we've been dark for a few weeks, but we are still here!  Despite my very best intentions, sometimes - for a variety of reasons - it is just not possible to blog while on the road.  

So, why are we back in California?  We have been compiling a list of "housekeeping" tasks of varying importance over the past 4-1/2 months while we have been exploring South America, and finally decided that it was easier to address these tasks in person than to try from afar.  Even though we downsized significantly before we left, there are a few outstanding issues left to address.  So, we'll be here for a few weeks while we take care of business, and before we head off into the great unknown to continue our travels.  

During our brief interlude back here in the Bay Area, we'll update our blog and fill in some of the blanks and "flashback" to other adventures and observations that we had while in South America. 

And then.....well - we're still working on where we are going next!  Thanks for coming along!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tango in Buenos Aires

Written by Karen.
It's a steamy day.  The sun is brilliant against the blue sky absent of any cloud cover.  I am dripping with sweat.  It is hot.  Just plain hot.  We are walking around a couple of new neighborhoods today, La Boca and Barracas.  These areas are somewhat removed from the hubbub that is downtown Buenos Aires.  Our primary goal this day, like most days - besides exploring new neighborhoods - is to find a great local restaurant, preferably one with a good local wine list.   Gotta eat, right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We Have To Stop Meating Like This...

La Rambla, Montevideo, Uruguay
Written by Karen.
Sometimes you know that you're going to have a great meal in advance. You look forward to the get-together with a certain sense of anticipation.  You might wonder what topics of conversation will be discussed or which bottles of wine will be opened.  After being seated, you are allowed plenty of time to salivate over the possible menu choices.  

But there are other times - every once in awhile - when a memorable meal sneaks up on you without you even realizing it and you suddenly look up and say, "Wow!" 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eating in Peru

Zorritos, Peru
Written by Karen.
Peruvian food is seriously good.  Not only does it have spice, subtlety, depth and interest, but it has a history which invokes passion, a necessary component of creating good food.  Litha, a cooking aficionado and student of the culinary arts - and probably a chef extraordinaire someday - said to us one day when we were discussing the different Peruvian foods that we had tried, 'I love cooking Peruvian food because it is our history on the plate.'  It's an interesting and compelling thought.  The different types of potatoes, corn, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs tell a story of the past and the present.  The marriage of those various components make for some pretty tasty things to eat.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Machu Picchu, Peru

Written by Karen.
We went to bed early the night before our trip to Machu Picchu.  I checked - and double checked - the alarm clock as we needed to be up, ready to go, and at the bus station before 6:00 am. We already knew where the bus stop was located in the small mountain town of Aguas Calientes and had already purchased our bus tickets to the top of the mountain and back down again earlier that afternoon.  Our small daypack was packed; filled with nuts, dried fruit and bottled water.  We had read that food and water was scarce and very expensive at the top. The weather was seemingly cooperating.  We were ready to go.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Road Trip - Andean Mountains

Written by Karen.
I confess that before we took this journey I didn't know much about the specifics of Incan history.  As we have delved deeper and deeper into South America, my fascination with the historical specifics has grown significantly.  It is aided by the close proximity of living, seeing, breathing, touching and walking through historical sites and the majestic and awesome angular beauty of the Andes.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Views of Cusco - On to Machu Picchu

Written by Karen.
Cusco, Peru is 11,200 feet above sea level; some 11,000 feet higher than where we were just a few days ago in Peru’s capital city, Lima.  Cusco is another UNESCO World Heritage site - full of Spanish Colonial architecture and restored churches in the historic city center - built upon the the ruins of the former Incan empire capital city of Qusqu.