Quick Update 3 of 3 – January 2019 in Baja, California

We’ve been on the road for 3 months now and have not updated the blog in a long time. So this is part 3 of a quick recap of our travels in January 2019.

Right after the New Year, we headed towards the border crossing at Calexico/Mexicali. Note: If you want to get your TIP (temporary import permit) for a vehicle, you need to go to the Banjercito office at the crossing 7 miles east of town. Lesson learned the hard way (after a couple more back-and-forth trips). We got our permit after a confusing morning and were on our way.

First stop. San Felipe.

San Felipe. Just about every Mexican town has one of these signs. But it was our first sighting.
San Felipe. Just about every town in Baja has one of these signs. But it was our first sighting.
Kids hanging in the palapa.
Kids hanging in the palapa.
Exploring the beach.
Exploring the beach.

After a few days in San Felipe, getting adjusted to the Baja lifestyle we decided to take the bumpy road south. Storms in recent years had made the eastern road (Highway 5) of northern Baja very rough in certain patches. It was too bad. There would be a nice stretch of newly paved road for 5 miles and then the bridge is washed out and you need to take a 2 mile detour of very rough road. Rinse and repeat 10 or more times. Then there’s the 20+ mile stretch of dirt road before it connects to Highway 1. So we took our time and explored before eventually getting to Guerrero Negro in Baja California Sur.

Puertocitos Hot Springs
Puertocitos Hot Springs
Washed out roads.
Washed out roads.
Campo Beluga
Campo Beluga

We found some good food and whales around Guerrero Negro and continued heading south, passing through desert and oasis towns like Mulege and Loreto. We also found some good beaches near Conception Bay (a lot of which are occupied by snow birds from the US and Canada).

Our first good taco place happened to be out of this truck.
Our first good taco place happened to be out of this truck. Tacos El Muelle in Guerrero Negro.
Fish tacos. Yum.
Fish tacos. Yum.
Whale bones near Laguna San Ignacio
Whale bones near Laguna San Ignacio
Fresh squeezed orange juice in Mulege.
Fresh squeezed orange juice in Mulege.
Playa Requeson
Playa Requeson
Tree lined streets in Loreto. You're not supposed to drive on the street, Oh well.
Tree lined streets in Loreto. You’re not supposed to drive on this street. Oh well.
Whale shark statue.
Whale shark statue.

We finally made it to southern Baja to see La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and some places in between. Unfortunately we seemed cursed to have winter follow us where ever we go. All the locals have never remembered it being this cold before. Truth be told, the weather has been quite comfortable with highs in the 70s (rarely 80s) and nights in the 50s and 60s. But for southern Baja, that is cold. Good thing I packed the kids’ wetsuits.

Cute Mexican girls helping get our van out of the sand.
These cute Mexican girls helping get our van out of the sand.
Baby sea turtles. So cute.
Baby sea turtles. So cute.
Medano beach in Cabo San Lucas.
Medano beach in Cabo San Lucas.
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Quick Update 2 of 3 – December 2018 in California

We’ve been on the road for 3 months now and have not updated the blog in a long time. So this is part 2 of a quick recap of our travels in December 2018.

We had a few days of snow near Tahoe and that was more than enough winter for us. So we sped quickly to our old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay area. We spent time with an old colleague, old friends, cousins, and just being a tourist for a bit. And of course, eating – including lunch at Google and our favorite hole-in-the-wall Thai place.

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The kids really like my old college friend. Go figure.
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At the SF Googleplex selfie wall.
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Seals at Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf
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Cousin E
volunteer clean up at ocean beach
Ocean beach volunteer clean up
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Hanging out at Mavericks Beach. No big breaks today.
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Our go to restaurant when we lived in Oakland. Take It Easy Thai. Order the roasted duck drunken noodles. Delish!

Then we make our way south down the coast. Hitting some sights including the redwoods, tide pools, beaches, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Hearst Castle, elephant seals before stopping in the cities of Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego.

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Camping at Half Moon Bay State Park
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Beautiful sunsets. Watch for the green flash.
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Natural bridge at Pescadero State Beach
tide pooling in Santa Cruz
Tide pooling in Santa Cruz
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Huge coast redwoods in Henry Cowell State Park
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Monterey Bay Aquarium’s big ocean tank is pretty spectacular. Even these former boat kids were duly impressed.
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More fish tank action.
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Big Sur Coast
bobcat on the trail
Bobcat on the trail
beach at Andrew Molera SP
The beach at Andrew Molera State Park
playing in the brackish water
Playing in the water
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McWay Falls. Too bad you can’t get any closer than this.

 

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The elephant seals were off limits when we visited at Ano Nuevo. But free to see at San Simeon.
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Hearst Castle, what are those guys doing?
what a view from the top
Spectacular views from the castle.
Pool at Hearst
Beautiful Roman Pool
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More cousins. This time, add gourmet ice cream.
inside the clock tower
Inside the Santa Barbara clock tower. Tig and O just loved all the mechanical action going on inside.
grandpa's birthday
Celebrating grandpa’s birthday.
swanky downtown rooftop bar
Serena and I have a date night down town and hang out at the swankiest rooftop bar around.
quality time with the grandparents
Spending some quality time with the grandparents.
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More cousins. I promise that’s the last cousin picture in a while.
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Roller coaster fun in Santa Monica.
old friends
Hanging with some friends in San Diego.
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Quick Update 1 of 3 – November 2018

We’ve been on the road for 3 months now and have not updated the blog in a long time. So this is a quick recap of our travels in November 2018.

We left the comforts of our home in Maine in early November, before the onset of winter and headed west. After meeting up with our good friends Victor and Rebecca for lunch in Portland, we headed to New Hampshire to meet fellow ex-cruisers.

Hanging with friends
Hanging with friends
High tech green house in Vermont
High tech green house in Vermont

After some fishing, a tour of the greenhouse, and kids’ sleepover, we quickly headed to the Midwest to visit some cousins that we haven’t seen in almost a decade. Of course, the kids got along great.

cousins hanging out at trampoline park
Cousins hanging out at trampoline park

A quick drive through Missouri to see an old high school friend.

Sea lions at the zoo
Sea lions at the zoo

And then we were on our way to the fabulous national parks in Utah (thankfully before the government shutdown). We visited Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. See if you can tell which picture belongs to which park?

Thanksgiving meal in the van
Thanksgiving meal in the van

Skyline Arch

Devil's Garden

White Rim

Near Gooseneck PointQueens Garden HoodoosInspiration PointWalter's WigglesOn the way to Angels Landing View from Angels Landing

Then to Nevada to visit more cousins (whom we have also not seen in about a decade – it’s isolating in Maine). And what’s with the snow? We have a knack for bringing winter wherever we go.

Snowball fight

And old friends with new baby.

More snow fun

From Nevada, we continue west …

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Happy Birthday, Harry Potter

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It’s Harry Potter’s birthday! We’ve been cooking up some fun projects since reading the first book in the series (Sorcerer’s Stone) last month. A big thank you for my cousin Tiffany for sending us her collection. I’ve been waiting to introduce my kids to J.K. Rowling’s writings for years. And it was worth it. She managed to win the kids over with the magical world she’s created!

Here are some of the stuff we worked on in more detail.

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Hogwarts acceptance letters and tickets to Platform 9 3/4, delivered by owl post, of course.

I found these printable Hogwart’s acceptance letters through the mighty internet. The ticket for Platform 9 3/4 was found here. When the kids went to bed, I popped their addressed envelopes, complete with red wax seal, into the mailbox. The next morning I told them I saw an owl messing about with our mailbox and they hurried over to check it out. After receiving their acceptance letters, which were a hit, we kept going down the rabbit hole.

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The Ollivander’s wand boxes came from this tutorial. I helped the kids with the measuring and cutting. They painted the boxes and applied the labels. Inside the boxes are their very own wands.

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For the wands themselves, I found a simple tutorial that uses a dowel, hot glue gun and paint. But first we went to Pottermore and got the kids sorted into their respective houses. Then they discovered their wands. After the wand “chose” the kid, Tig secured a dowel and cut it down to proper size. The kids whittled shaped the wands using a pocket knife, applied the hot glue gun patterns and painted it themselves.

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O’s wand is an alder wand with a dragon heart string core.

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V’s wand is a beech wand with a unicorn hair core. The white dots on her wand are glow-in-the dark paint. She also put some around the base of the clear marble, which makes it glow at night.

Next up are their very own tiny felt messenger owls.

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We found these free felt owl patterns and instructions from Downeast Thunder Farm that were just amazing. The kids worked on their respective owls over the weeks, adding detailing and embroidery.

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O chose the white-faced scops owl.

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V chose the tiny elf owl.

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Here are their completed owls, with wire “feet” to perch on their fingers. We researched a little about their specific owls. The northern scops owl, by the way, is known as the “transformer” owl. It was a lot of fun seeing this little guy in action on YouTube.

Lastly, we made Honeyduke’s chocolate frogs, a couple of boxes, and a few wizard cards.

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The boxes came from this template, and the cards from here.  If I had to do it over again, I’d use these ones from Instructables. The kiddos complained that they couldn’t read the back of the cards, the printing isn’t super clear. We made 16 chocolate frogs in total, using these instructions. I had a few hiccups making them, since I never ever make chocolates. Still, they turned out pretty well.

More importantly, today we get to eat them…possibly while watching the first Harry Potter movie.

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Children of a non-quilter

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There is a saying, Blessed are the children of quilters, for they shall inherit the quilts. Well, my children won’t have have to deal with that problem, haha. I’ve blessed them with exactly one quilt each.

You see, I’ve made zero quilts before, so these are my first newbie experiments.

V’s quilt is made from the Alphabet Flower Fairies panel, surrounded by a yellow floral border and beyond that, batik fabric from Bali. I started piecing it together shortly after our Bali trip. The alphabet panel itself is one piece, with hand quilted stitches in between. It was completed in time for her birthday last year.

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O’s quilt is made from a batik jelly roll bought in Indonesia. He was rather indignant that his sister got the first quilt and made sure to let me know that I needed to work on his, pronto!

He helped me pick out the fabric and arrange each of the six rainbow blocks. I used a sheet for the white border and back, with a yellow bias tape binding. I completed his quilt this spring, shortly after the road trip.

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And the response?

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Well, I think they love them. Every night, they arrange their quilts on top of their blankets before going to sleep. I hope they feel blessed.

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Road trip, closing out

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We haven’t seen Steve in since 2012, I think (?)  He appears in quite a few posts during our early sailing days. Since then, he’s gotten himself a lovely partner and a super cute kid.

I loved seeing his home, which is under major renovations — hooray, someone just as nutty as we are! We had such a great time catching up over dinner. There even was a short five minute discussion of homeschooling after which Steve, in his typical Type 3 fashion, said to his partner, “I got the download on homeschooling, honey. I’m all over it. You can call me Professor.”

Bye Steve and family, I hope it won’t be six years before we see you guys again.

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We stopped off in Portland, Maine for some yummy dim sum treats. There, we also got to meet Forgeover (aka sv Convivia) and their buddy boat, sv Eva for the first time. Tucker and Victoria have been–and still are–super nice to us since the beginning. They Skyped with us back in the day before we even bought a boat.  Soon both crews will take off on another adventure on Eva. Wishing them fair winds.

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And now we’re home, settling back in. The kids have plenty of patches they want me to sew onto their backpacks. And lots of good memories to hold.

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Also known as “The Cousins Trip”

I grew up with many (many) cousins. We played, fought, got in trouble and argued with each other over the years.  I have fond memories of family gatherings, sleepovers and trips together. Having a large extended family, with all the stuff that comes with it, was a helpful buffer against my suburban white middle/high school existence.  I had people who sort of got me, even if we didn’t always get along.

Within one generation, thanks to family planning and birth control, my kids don’t have any first cousin’s now. So in a way, this trip might be called the “cousin’s trip” since we tried to visit as many cousins on both sides as we could. Both V and O have not spent any significant amount of time with these awesome human beings, so we were excited to have some quality family time.

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We visited my cousin Derek in New Orleans. We hung out, rode the trolley and ate alligator and crawdad hot dogs at a joint called Dat Dog.

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My cousin Mike is in the Army JAG corp, so we got to pepper him with all sorts of questions about military life. He showed my curious kids his uniform and gave us a tour of his army base in Virginia.

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Of course we got to visit Tig’s cousins Julie and Bobby in Texas, as well as his Uncle George and Aunt Shirley. We haven’t seen them in years, so it was a mini-reunion.

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We visited Tig’s cousin Julie and her family in NJ. The kids had fun playing with their second cousins. We had a very raucous game of Monopoly. O enjoyed riding in their toy sports car.

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We also got to see the grandparents and had a fun time at Benihana (I’ve never been, so it was entertaining).

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And I’ll end it here at “onion volcano.”

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Tennesee to the mid-Atlantic states

We had to stop off at Nick and Stacy’s again in Tennessee before hitting the east coast. Usually we see them once a year when they come up to their family cabin in Western Maine each summer. But it’s nice to connect more than once a year. Stacy is the one who created our logo and the talented designer behind Bluebird Creative. Later this year, they will begin their Airstream journey. I have to thank them for giving us a welcoming place to park, lending us tools for some of our small van projects, feeding us, and providing all around good company.

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In the picture above everyone is wearing Anna’s Bandanas.

Next stop, North Carolina to visit sv Piper, who we last saw in the Bahamas. We got to see Tripp and Lisa’s gut reno (commiserate with them) and admire their handiwork. Luckily, the kids got a “snow day” from school, so we got to go on a hike together.

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Notice that there’s no snow in the picture above? We were also confused, but apparently there were icy roads up in the higher elevations.

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I had to snap a picture of this amazing rockclimbing wall for my honey-do list. We so enjoyed catching up with them. Like any good ex-cruiser/adventure junkie, Tig was kindling Tripp’s interest in Sprinter vans, giving van tours and letting him drive it once. Maybe we’ll see them on the road someday?

I should call this stretch of the road trip “visiting cruising friends”. After all, they’re the best kind, right? So when we reached Virginia, we had to visit sv Fairchild, our buddy boat during the last cruise. The kids had a blast reconnecting.

Sometimes it looked like this:

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And sometimes it looked like this (notice the mahi-mahi pillow? Squee!):

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I think Tig also enjoyed seeing his spear-fishing buddy and Coconut Challenge teammates. I know I did.

During this time we also got to visit Jamestown Settlement during it’s Military Through the Ages weekend. Some of it dovetailed nicely with the Story of the World Volume 2: Middle Ages audiobook we were listening to on the road. Other parts of the reenactment were from the revolutionary war to modern times.

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We also went to see Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. After listening to Hamilton The Musical non-stop (get it?) during this trip, it was nice to bring the Revolutionary War to a close.

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It was already springtime in Virginia. We wouldn’t see this weather for another two months in Maine.

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And of course, no trip through the mid-Atlantic states would be complete without a stop at Cindy’s boat. That’s where the kids play Legos and the mamas get to  chat.

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Carlsbad Caverns, NM to Hot Springs National Park, AR

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Making our way back east, we hit Carlsbad Caverns, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip in my mind. I felt like a hobbit who wandered into the dwarven caves of Tolkien’s imagination. We hiked down through the bat cave the first day, winding through 1.25 miles of stalactites, stalagmites, under soda straws and past curtains. The second day, we took a guided tour of the Kings Palace, the Queens Chamber and the Papoose room. My favorite part was when the ranger put out all the lights and we were blanketed in total darkness.

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After Carlsbad, we headed for Dallas, TX area where Tig’s cousin and her family hosted us for a few days. Tig’s uncle took us to the Stockades to enjoy some cowboy fun. The highlight for O was a ride in cousin Bobby’s self-driving Tesla. The extended family gathered for some delicious fried chicken and we managed to take a picture with all of us.

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After Texas, we decided to try our luck at Crater of Diamonds in Arkansas. When V was a toddler, I would find her wandering around the playground, looking down most of the time. When I asked her what she was doing, she showed me the rhinestones she picked out from the wood chips, rhinestones that fell off of kids clothing. “Do you think they’re real diamonds?” she would ask hopefully. Sadly, I had to break it to her that they weren’t. Still, she held onto the dream that someday she would find a diamond. So when we were planning our roadtrip, Crater of Diamonds was on our must-visit list. Here she could dig her heart out.

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I was secretly hoping the kids would find a one large enough to fund their college education, but we struck out. They found some jasper and quartz, but no diamonds.

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Next stop, Hot Springs National Park, where we toured the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and got some wild water.

After that we were headed for the East Coast.

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Arizona

When we were enduring high temperatures in the 50s along the coast of Texas, weather in the desert of Arizona was hovering in the 80s. By the time we got there, daytime temps were in the 50s & 60s and night time lows in the 30s. Just our luck.

As we are running out of time in winter, Arizona was our furthest destination from home. We splurged for a hotel with outdoor heated pool using credit card points. During this time, we mostly just hung out swimming and watching the winter Olympics. But we also managed to meet up with new friends and check out a Renaissance Faire.

New friends and yummy food
Come on. How can anyone resist mermaids.
O & his bullwhip hero, Adam Winrich

Next we headed back to the wilderness and to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Now that’s a big cactus.
Gratuitous van sunset picture. #vanlife
Having fun making cactus shadows

And then back east towards Tucson & Saguaro National Park. Tucson seemed like an interesting city I would have liked to explore more (like the Pima Air & Space museum & the Tanque Verde swap meet).

Too funny not to take a picture

Oh well. Some other time. Eastward and onward.

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