and now it (finally) begins

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it’s my last night in the US for a long, long time. well, as long as all goes well at the border. (wish us luck!)  i’ve never left the country for as long of a stint as i’m attempting this next year. and, honestly, i can’t really sum up my feelings about that in a concise manner.  i’m at the point where things have to be taken a day at a time.  so, as far as i am feeling about tomorrow… i’m really excited.  i’ve been waiting a very long time for tomorrow to get here. and, i am pretty sure i won’t sleep as soundly as normal in anticipation for our international travel to begin.

we’ve clocked 1800+ miles so far. and our first weekend on the road, which found us in new orleans, feels like a long time ago.  i can only imagine what a few more weeks are going to do to our perspective on our experiences. i’m not too sad to say goodbye to texas.  don’t get me wrong, we’ve met wonderful people here. and, there are some very pretty things about the state. but, it doesn’t feel like home, actually kind of foreign. and, if that’s the case, i’d rather be somewhere outside of the US.

so, the blog could change drastically in the coming weeks. who knows, i might lose my handle on the english language a bit. (not that my handle on it has been that great in the 1st place!) and, i’m sure there will be more stories to tell. so, i’ll work hard to get them all down. but until then, here are the last few images i’ll leave you with from the US…

bob’s last US haircut.  we sent the electric clippers home in our box of excess.  so, who knows what his latin american haircuts will look like! you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

the parking just keeps getting better. this is our hotel at the border.

this pretty much sums up texas. so, i’ll leave it at that…

see you in mexico!

 

the border approaches

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the network of generous riders continues to grow for us.  larry and louise (our gracious hosts in san antonio) sent us down to see their BMW mechanic, motohank.  and, in the last 24 hours he has proven to be our greatest resource yet.  first thing about hank is that if you own a BMW bike and live anywhere in the general vicinity, you apparently take your bike to him.  he seems to be a wizard at fixing up bikes (so if you’re in need of his services and reading this, visit him here: motohank.com). he also seems to have a huge passion for travel and has been to the tip of south america on his bike, as well as taken many trips through central america. and, lucky us, he’s heading out for a short solo trip into central america on saturday. not only that, but he’s willing to let us tag along for his first day and get us well into mexico.  he’s going a lot faster than us, so one day will get us exactly where we want to be once we’re on our own.

we spent the entire day with hank and even got put up in his house for the night. so we had hours of time to pick his brain and asked about a million questions about his experience of latin america and his knowledge of motorcycle travel.  he’s pretty much a bottomless pit of information where those two things are concerned.  he showed us a lot of his pictures from the trip he took down to south america and got us pretty excited about the things we’ll see and experience along the way.

us hanging out in hank’s shop for the afternoon. he showed us a great documentary of the history of the chiapas conflict and some beautiful photos from his travels.

we got premium parking in hank’s front lawn for the night.

after talking with hank about his reasoning for travel south of the border and thinking about what i’m looking for on this trip, i’m beginning to think that i won’t be changing as much as i’ll be solidifying the person i’ve been trying to become for the last few years.  instead of chasing the american dream, i’m chasing new cultural experiences and trying to learn how to live a simpler way. i feel like more and more i see my generation grappling with this same idea and trying to find their own definition of success.  hank definitely helped us see a long term lifestyle that helps facilitate continual travel.  and, it has been a really refreshing and reflective moment as we prepare to embark on this trip. i’ll keep you updated, as these thoughts and feelings will surely shift and become more defined along the way.

here’s pete, the valentine baby, gasing up his bike on the morning of his birthday! oh, happy belated valentine’s day to all my loved ones.  besos for all of you!

we are spending our last few days in the US taking care of some much needed business. pete is getting his bike ready to go with new tires and a new shock. we did that in san antonio thanks to Juan and his crew at Buckethead’s Pit Stop.  they really got us set up well. we are mailing a huge pile of unnecessary items (see the table above) back home, while shipping is still (relatively) cheap. we took an inventory of things we had duplicates of, things we haven’t used yet, and things we feel that we can totally live without.  and, as the pile grew, i got excited about re-packing the bike on friday and having an easier, lighter load. when pete goes through his stuff, he’ll most likely come out with a pile similar to ours.

so, now we sit at the border for a few days, do a few more chores, make those last few phone calls while we still have cell phones and try to relax before things get back into hectic travel mode again. we’re studying our flash cards and trying to prepare mentally for our impending spanish immersion.  i’m excited to finally be somewhere long enough to get a much fuller grasp on the language and to dive back into the beauty and deep cultural history of mexico!

 

 

a rejuvenating break in san antonio

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well, we made it to san antonio in one piece.  it was a cold few hours on the highway, but once we arrived at our destination we realized that we had made the right decision. we are still staying with the couple that we found through the adventure rider forum that we all use.  (way to go matt for working that one out!) they are so generous and excited to have motorcyclists in their home.  we’ve gotten great ride stories, some good gear and travel advice, and connection to their riding network, which is so extensive that they know lots of people who have gone south of the border. one in particular is of special interest to us. he apparently takes tours of riders through mexico, guatemala, and el salvador on a regular basis.  and, it just so happens that he’s taking some folks down on saturday.  so, we’re heading down to his town (about two hours from here) tomorrow and taking him out to lunch to pick his brain about mexico travel and what his agenda looks like. we’re pretty excited to get to talk with someone getting ready to do the same trip.  so, i’ll definitely give an update after that meeting. i have a feeling it will be an itinerary-solidifying kind of lunch.

staying with our gracious hosts has really been a morale boost, which we all needed after camping in the cold and grappling with the task of crossing the border.  being here has reiterated what we had thought about the adventure riding community all along.  it’s a network that acts as a family and they will go to great lengths to help each other out.  it’s really amazing to meet such generous people who have taken us in, shown us their city, and made us feel like family in a matter of hours.

to mr. and mrs. whip: we are SO very grateful for your hospitality and you will always be welcome wherever we land! we can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to help prepare us for this journey.

here they are at the infamous alamo in downtown san antonio.

and here’s our crew.  well fed by our hosts and happy to be toured around such a historic city all day.

bob took the bike out this afternoon to get new tires and a new shock put on. the boys were able to do some maintenance in the barn where our hosts park their bikes.  oil is changed and our bike is ready for the road ahead!

one of the many beautiful catholic churches in downtown san antonio.  this one had a lot of german influence, so things were written in both german and english.

a crazy old tree near the alamo.  i really had to fight the urge to climb it because it just seemed like such a perfect climbing tree.  but, it’s a very important piece of the alamo history, so i figured it wasn’t a good idea. :)

the river walk in downtown.  we walked all over the area today.  it was good exercise and fun to be a tourist for a day.  san antonio has some cool history and we had a great tour guide (mrs. whip) who was super knowledgeable about everything downtown, when and why it was built and fun facts about the timeline of the city.

we’re heading out from here tomorrow to seek out this motorcycle mechanic who is heading south of the border this weekend.  whatever advice we get then, i’ll be sure to share as we finalize our plans for the next few days.  so, it’s goodbye to san antonio tomorrow and on to new sights and new information on down the road.

today texas is cold

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as everyday brings a brand new adventure on this trip, today’s has been focused on the weather.  we woke up at our campsite in about 40 degrees, slowly packed up the bikes and headed out for san antonio.  but, it was so cold we thought we’d head toward coffee and wifi first.  it was a good thing, too, because 10 minutes after we got started it began sleeting on us.  fun times!

so, we got off the highway pretty quickly and found a starbucks (i never thought i’d be happy that they are so readily available until i started this trip).  we are currently warming up and trying to get a grasp on the weather for the rest of the day.  it’s supposed to get back up to the 70s in the next few days, though, so it’s just a crazy texas cold snap this weekend.

it got down below 30 last night at our campsite, and i can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment to have made it through our first super cold night camping.  i have not always been excited about cold weather camping.  bob, on the other hand, is a huge fan.  so, i think he’s rubbed off on me.  anyway, it was a great idea to camp last night, even though it was freezing because we met some great folks at the park where we stayed.  the current park hosts stopped by for a visit after running into matt up at the bath house, and they were super excited about our trip.  they were incredibly friendly and encouraging.  and, they told us about a couple who was camping there on their way back home to the south of mexico.  we went out in search of these guys this morning, and sure enough they are heading to oaxaca, which they’ve called home for quite awhile now.  they’re originally from the US, and had great advice on roads to take, cities to stop in and at what point south we would actually be able to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

we were pretty excited to get first hand, current info on what it’s like to be a ‘tourist’ passing through mexico right now.  it’s really reassuring.  and we’re expecting that it’s only going to get more common as we head closer to the border.  we’re still going to try and make it to san antonio tonight, where we’ll be staying with a couple who rides, and offered to take us in.  we are hopeful that they will have more info and stories for us.  as much as the nervous energy is creeping out about what we’re about to do, the excitement is pretty prevalent as well.  i’ll make sure to give a few more updates before we leave the US.  i’m sure our confidence and anticipation will take many different turns in the next few days… here we go!

bob and ‘pete’ getting the bikes ready to go at the day’s inn. it’s a long process, but we are getting more efficient every day.

finally found a spot on the gas tank for our little magnet that juliana gave us.  now, we’ll have a constant reminder of our friends back home.

i was on bike-watch duty while bob and matt shopped for camping food at the grocery store in the background. i’m learning quickly how to make parking lots work as places to catch a quick siesta, stretch out my sore muscles from long rides, and find the sunniest spots in which to soak up the warmth.

well, my turn on the computer is up, so that’s all for now.  more on how the last few days in the US are going soon…

the small things

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we’ve now been in austin for over 24 hours, and i have to say it has already become the small things that count.  i got a hot shower last night and dried of with an actual bath towel and we didn’t have to pack up and move on today.  those two things alone have made the stop-over worth it.  but, the list could go on.

if you know the three of us, you’re probably thinking we are taking full advantage of austin’s notorious music scene. but, it’s 10:30 on a friday night and i just spent all the money i budgeted for tonight on pizza and beer and came back to the hotel to do random things on the computer. welcome to life on the road!

another high point of the day was our excursion to the laundromat to do laundry.  we now have a full assortment of clean clothes for camping and tooling around san antonio in for the next few days.  you can see how excited i am about clean clothes…

after the laundromat we had one last lunch with my dad before he headed out to finish he own little new-to-retirement-adventure and then hulled up in the hotel room to check some more things off the list before we head out tomorrow.  here’s what happens when the three of us take over a hotel room with all of our gear (and i expect it’s only going to get worse as we go).

we are definitely still in planning mode, as our first real feat comes with crossing the mexican border. we all seem be in agreement that that’s when the trip really starts.  i think the next few days are going to be full of last minute checking and double checking that we’ve prepared as much as possible to leave the comforts of the US for the foreseeable future.  tomorrow we’ll camp again between austin and san antonio.  we won’t be roughing it too much, though, since the site has wi-fi and showers. that’s something we should not be getting used to at all! but, it’s nice while it lasts. maybe there will even be a blog post from the woods… but we’ll have to see how tomorrow goes.  that’s my new take on planning, and it seems to be working out for me so far.

 

 

texas is big

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oh my, it’s been a long time since i’ve posted.  this might end up being the pace once we cross the border.  so i guess it’s better to get used to days without internet now.  we were sad to leave new orleans and the magic that it seems to exude.  but, the rest of louisiana proved to be interesting and beautiful as well.  we drove through lots of swampy areas and flooded fields (where we think they might be growing rice?) our camp site outside of new iberia was pretty swanky, with heated bathrooms and showers, and i was only slightly afraid of an alligator joining us around the campfire.

this picture bob took captures it pretty well.

below is bob wearing the ‘cape of shame’. this is something that started when he hiked the AT, and the basic idea is that if you do something worthy enough, you have to wear it for the day.  somehow this item made it into the precious few things we took.  but, it serves as entertainment, so i’m ok with having it along.  bob earned the cape that morning because we had everything loaded and locked on the bike (which is about a 30+ minute process) when he realized he didn’t have his riding gloves and couldn’t find them in his jacket.  so, we took 30 more minutes unlocking and going through each piece of our luggage to no avail.  when he did a second check of his jacket the gloves were in the back pocket.  luckily, we weren’t on a schedule that morning and his willingness to wear the cape made it more comical than frustrating.

after one night in louisiana we headed south to pass along the gulf coast before heading into texas.  it was a scenic route, but not in the traditional coastal sense.  there were oil rigs all along the horizon, a few miles out into the ocean.  and the mosquitos made stopping for longer than a few minutes pretty miserable.  so, we were actually pretty happy to head inland once we reached texas.  on our way we took a fun 10 minute ferry ride to cross a river close to the border.  bob got a picture of me relaxing on the back of the bike while we were taxied across.

once we entered texas we were bombarded by oil refineries, car mechanics, and prisons.  we weren’t sure if this was a good introduction to the state.  but, after camping and riding through the small towns and countryside for two days, we’ve seen some of the more beautiful representations.  i’ve seen some of the prettiest cattle i might ever see and they graze on large farms with fancy gates.  we’ve also seen lots of horses (some miniature) and donkeys.  surprisingly, there have been quite a few donkeys, mostly mixed in with the other farm animals but they still seem strange.

bob being reflective for a moment at the tiny lake by our campsite last night

my dad loves to build fires and he did a stellar job of this one.

texas feels a bit foreign to me.  or maybe i’m just finally starting to feel far from home.  it’s been wonderful to see new sights everyday and i’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg where that sentiment is concerned.   along with the excitement for adventure, though, i’m pretty sure i will constantly be followed by a slight feeling of loss of the familiar: family, friends, kentucky.  but, i think it’s the complex mixture of emotion that will ultimately make this trip one that will teach me something new about myself.

and speaking of the familiar from home…

matt arrived!  he met up with us well past dark last night after a few grueling days of riding solo, trying to catch up.  it was so good to see him! we are much more into trip planning mode now that matt has arrived and our little group is complete.  we’re going to hull up in austin for a few nights to take care of a few things, and then it’s off to san antonio then the border!  more from austin soon…

the last hurrah

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we stopped in jackson, mississippi to visit our friends tory and richard on the way to new orleans.  it was really great to see their space and their city for a few days.  it was also great timing for getting off the bike for a day and resting up a bit.  we’re still trying to get back in riding shape, since we weren’t riding as often this winter.  and one day off really makes a world of difference. we got some mississippi barbeque, met some of the friends, but mostly just took it easy and caught up.

on friday morning we got a rainy start to new orleans, but were happy to find ourselves very dry after an hour on the interstate in pouring rain.  the second half of the drive was pretty fun and scenic.  we drove over about 20 miles of swampland on a suspension bridge.  there were little communities of houses in the swamp, with only motor boats as transportation.  looked like an interesting existence.

we are now winding down our stay in new orleans, where we rented an apartment in the marigny neighborhood.  it’s been a weekend jam-packed with experiences.  so it’s hard to sum it up in a paragraph.  but, it’s been so great to see family and friends one last time before we leave the country.  and it’s been an awesome setting to do that.  we really got more of a feel of new orleans this trip by staying in a residential neighborhood and walking all over the area.  the krewe du vieux parade was amazing once again.  and the entire neighborhood came out to celebrate it.  it’s a worthy cause if you’re ever in need of an excuse to visit new orleans.

we’re off again tomorrow to camp our way through louisiana and texas and then meet up with our trip mate around austin.  i’m pretty excited to get back to the lifestyle we were starting to adopt: early bedtime, early mornings, camping diet (which is the total opposite of the last few days).  the bike actually feels more like home than anything right now, and we’ve had it parked for two whole days!  so, i might not be able to post again until we are close to the mexico border.  but, i’ll make sure to update on our last week in the us before we are officially expatriots.  we have a last final to-do list for san antonio with a few bike maintenance items and final errands, so we’ll have some more down time at the end of the week.  until then, a few of the winning photos from the last few days (out of the hundreds taken)…

a little qt with tory and rich in their living room in jackson. we like to play music when we’re together.

our friend, no show, getting a feel for the bike.  we decided to go ahead and practice parking it indoors because we’re gonna be doing a lot of that for safety soon.  and there was plenty of space for it right inside our rental.

my brother cooking up a delicious cajun dinner for the whole crew before the parade on saturday night.

tory and no show watching the festivities from our doorway.  the parade began right up the street from our house, so we really picked a perfect spot.

getting geared up to go out on saturday night with my sister and my dad.

peanut!  it was so good to finally meet you.  hope you made it home safe and sound.

john, having way too much fun with technology.  it was so fun to experience new orleans with him!

bob working on his interviewing skills.  the verdict is still out as to whether they’ve improved over the weekend…

krewe du vieux.  too much fun.

 

day one

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we have made it to portland, tennessee in one piece! (i didn’t know where that was until today, either)  i wasn’t sure how i would feel tonight after such  a crazy few days.  But, i am mostly just excited about having finally started on our way and relieved to have not forgotten anything super important.  we have already reorganized our panniers, after having packed so frantically this morning, and are excited to see we have more space than we started the day with.

as far as the riding went, it could be summed up in one word: windy.  it’s our least favorite element to contend with on the bike, but it wasn’t too bad given that we had 40 degree weather and sunshine most of the day.  it does wear you out, though, so we’re pretty tired tonight.  but, we hope to get a good night’s sleep before heading into the Natchez Trace to camp for two nights.  it was fun to drive through a part of kentucky we hadn’t explored yet, and we found the folks around glasgow to be shockingly friendly.  we stopped to warm up there a get some coffee and had some great conversation with the locals.  apparently we draw some attention with our get-up.

so, i’m excited to see what the next few days will hold.  after camping for a few nights we’ll head to our dear friends in jackson, ms for a visit.  so, i’ll update with more from days two and three then.

here are a few shots from our louisville departure this morning.  it was so nice to get to see some of our closest friends one last time before heading out!

bob worked hard to make sure everything was in order on the bike.

i got a little time in with two of my favorite people.

all loaded up and (finally) ready to go!

the whole crew of well wishers (we’ll miss you guys!)

getting suited up for the cold is a process

and after years of planning, we’re off!  i can’t wait to see what is ahead for us.

 

our final days in louisville

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i fully intended to write something about the last few days in Louisville.  But, time got so consumed by last minute errands and meet-ups with friends and family that it just never happened.  It’s probably better to see the reflection of those few days, than it would have been to read about them as they were chaotically happening. Saying goodbye to so many great people was not easy and there were lots of emotions that came with the task. But, it was wonderful to get to spend time with folks that we love so much.  This is doesn’t fully capture everything we did in the final few days, but it’s a peek at the moments when things weren’t too hectic to remember to get out the camera…

bob took his dad to the airport on the back of the bike. we had fun helping him gear up.

our friends juliana and ryan came over with lunch on our final day and helped with last minute packing.  they get a huge THANK YOU for all their help.

they are starting to ride now, too, so i gave juliana my first helmet to get around town in when the weather warms up.

and, we celebrated my mom’s birthday on Saturday night with David and Erin, which was a great way to end an insane week of preparations.

 

five days and counting

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This past weekend we hit some major benchmarks in preparation for this journey.  We officially have the weather forecast for our scheduled departure date (40 degrees and partly sunny, woohoo! way better than it could be at this point in a kentucky winter).  Bob finished his last ‘oficial’ day of work on Friday, which marked the beginning of a weekend full of goodbyes.  We had a fantastic time with his coworkers (not really a fitting description of them, as we consider them more like family) on Friday night.  Those folks can really throw a party!  But, it was bitter sweet because we’ve made such profound relationships with folks at NC3 and it was hard for me to say goodbye.  They definitely get credit for opening our minds up to new ideas and helping us see where our lives were heading this past year.  Thanks to all of them for welcoming me in so readily.

If that wasn’t enough, we had a good-bye party on Saturday night with most of our family and friends.  Our moms get all the credit for pulling that one off.  It was wonderful and overwhelming to get to see so many people one last time that have been dear to us. I wasn’t quite prepared for how exhausting it would be to say goodbye so many times in one night.  But, I will definitely look back on that party with fond memories of how many great people we’ve shared experiences with in Louisville.

As our last week in Louisville begins, the check list is in an extremely detailed state.  We were super productive today, though.  So, hopefully that’ll set the precedent for the rest of the week.  We got a bunch of errands done (banking stuff, international driver’s licenses made, documents copied, etc), and then met with a native from Guatemala to discuss our route and get all the last minute advice we could about where to go and how to best avoid the most dangerous areas of the country.  It was incredibly helpful and relieving to get first hand info after hearing so much about that area of Central America.  More goodbyes to come this last week, but at this point, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (the 2 year tunnel to be exact!) and are getting super excited to get on the road! Five days and counting…

We even had a little time to get a Louisville memento while the weather was warm on Sunday:

 

 

 

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