07/05/2009, Sacramento CA
The great road trip begins and continues. Salt & Light remains in Seabrook (still!), while her crew continues on without her.
So where have we been? Well, it took about a week or so longer than expected to find the right car. We had forgotten just how much fun that process can be. Dealing with car salesmen for days on end sure does make one wonder just how the US auto industry survived as long as it did before crumbling. What a ridiculously archaic and frustrating process. Thanks to the Texas style hospitality during our car search of Ken and Kelly Hutchinson, Bill and Mary Hallmark, and Ron and Judy Preston, we finally stumbled across the right land vessel and were on our way from the Houston area. By the way, not enough can be said about the kindness of Texans and the pride they have in their state. I think we can all learn from them in this regard.
First stop Dallas and the new home of our old neighbors Craig and Wendy Boyer and their 3 girls. Their older two, Ethan's buddy Kate and her sister Maggie, were off at camp (bummer!), which left 3 year old Olivia to be spoiled by all of us. The kids had a blast on the trampoline and learning to ride a rip-stick while the adults had a great time just hanging out. The only tourist thing we did was to visit the Sixth Floor Museum. Located on the sixth floor of the old school book repository overlooking Dealy Plaza and the infamous grassy knoll, the museum was very well done and a great history lesson for us all. Right down to X's marking the spots on the road where JFK's limo was when each bullet struck.
From Dallas we were off to Las Cruces NM to see the Kraft's, our friends from West Seattle. Liam had a blast with his buddy Solomon and it didn't take long for the rubber bands to start flying in an intense rubber band war. Dave and Marissa are just finishing up having a home built with an amazing view of the Organ Mountains, which do indeed look steep and craggy enough to rip your Organ's right out. Probably not why they got their name but what the heck!
The road north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe beckoned and we pushed on after a few days of hangin' with the Kraft's. Drove a little of the old Route 66 and saw a lot of the classic architecture along its route through Albuquerque. Along the back side of the city runs a huge mountain that had real trees on it so we decided to take a scenic route through the mountains to Santa Fe. Real trees, meaning something resembling a Pine, Cedar or Fir had been non existent during our drive thus far. The terrain is very dramatic and pretty but in a harsh, you're sure to die of thirst should you stray, kind of way. It sure gave us a new appreciation for those who settled the area. The trees were not quite as big or prevalent as they looked from a distance but we did stumble onto the former ghost town of Madrid. It is now a funky artist's enclave and was made famous by the movie Wild Hogs. It is just as it appears in the movie.
North and West of Santa Fe and up in the mountains is of course Los Alamos and all of its labs. Even better is Bandelier National Park and its Indian cliff dwellings. We stumbled across one section that sees very little traffic and we were able to hike in, around and through the caves with no one else around. The difference between the ruins near the visitor center that were 'managed' was amazing. Having decided the scenery in the back roads was infinitely better than the interstates we decided to concentrate our efforts on the scenic route. Let's just say it paid off. High mountain plateaus and peaks that go on and on and...
We stopped along the way to Sedona to see the ice cave and volcano crater in Bandera. Not quite as hands on as we hoped but fun. The kids had fun picking bits of 'jewels' out of the sluiceway set up for 'real mining'. Further down the road and out in the desert is the Petrified Forest National Park. Calling it a forest is a bit of a misnomer as you are out in the middle of the desert. However the petrified trees are lying around everywhere. Thousands and thousands of bits and chunks strewn all across the 100 degree desert. Strange and eerie.
Pulling off in Flagstaff brought more trees. Real Ponderosa Pines that smell incredible in the hot sun. Or goal was Sedona and the venerable Hampton Inn where we were to meet up with the Gifford family. Jamie and Behan, along with their 3 kids Niall, Mairen, and Siobhan are buddies from Seattle who also chucked it all to go cruising down the Pacific coast and then on to the South Pacific. They have been in Mexico for a while and are spending the hurricane season road-tripping off to see family around the country. We discovered we were in the same region and of course had to hook up. Of course it makes perfect sense for two cruising families to meet up in the Arizona desert. We had spent time together back in Seattle planning our respective adventures and it was great to compare notes and experiences over a few dark & stormies. A bummer that they will be back cruising in a few months while we'll be working again, but that's the way it works!
Well that catches us up all the way through Sedona. As we are now in Sacramento we'll have to stop here and finish up the road trip with another post or two. Yes, and a bunch more photos!
06/19/2009, Gulf of Mexico
Yes this is long overdue. We've been stateside for almost 2 weeks and are swimming in the process of plugging back in. To say it is overrated would be a gross understatement. Thankfully everyone in Texas is so friendly that we're not sure if we're dreaming. So let's step into the way back machine and return to the long passage to the great state of Texas...
With apologies to Dr. Suess...
Oh the things you will do and places you will go, for it's a great big world out there, don't you know!
You know what else? It's true! We have been blessed beyond belief to go and see, to touch, taste and feel many places on this amazing journey.
We are now somewhere out in the Gulf of Mexico heading back to the states. As I look back on this past 20 some months of sailing 'round the Caribbean I am frankly in awe of how God has guided us and protected us. Sure we have tough passages that we wouldn't care to repeat anytime soon, but really very few. No harrowing events to make us fearful.
From our first night passage leaving North Carolina with Solange and Slow-Mocean (frost on the decks!), to the 'big' crossing of the Gulf Stream to reach the Bahamas. From our first multi-day passage to the Dominican Republic with Wandering Dolphin to braving the north coast of the DR and across the much feared Mona Passage with High Five (we motor across in a calm). Hopping our way down the Leeward and Windward Islands to reach Grenada for hurricane season. Transiting the outer islands of Venezuela to the ABC's with Independence, Alegria, and Fruko. Then taking on the tough coast of Columbia for 3 days, with no autopilot, to reach Cartegena for Christmas with Independence, Uliad, Coqueliocot (everyone should go to Cartegena - amazing place!). Leaving Cartegena (finally), for the San Blas Islands of Panama to catch up with Migo again. A long slog to reach the magical island of Providencia and on to the Bay Islands of Honduras (Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila), Guatemala, Belize and then through Mexico. I could go on and on about the experiences of each and every place, and perhaps I will at a later date. For now I just sit in wonder at it all.
And now we head home. We do so with glad hearts as well as sad hearts. Sad as we know this wondrous door the Lord opened for us to make this trip possible is closing. We trust He is opening a new door for us as we 'plug back in'. We have no idea what will be in store, but we know it will be filled with as much fun, love and adventure as this one. I'm also sure it will eventually involve shoes, socks and pants.
Salt & Light docked at: 29 33.29N 95 01.52W
05/27/2009, Cay Ambergris Belize
Swimming with sharks...
Yep, we've all heard the saying, and every now and then you get to. For real! Sure we've seen the occasional shark swim by in the distance, and once in the Bahamas a bunch of us were out hunting when a very large shark, either a Black Tip Reef or a Bull Shark, swam by and then decided to stick around. While all parties vacated the water toot-sweet (Liam got to the beach with Kevin from Solange), I had the pleasure of picking up Tofer and Andy (Wandering Dolphin & Saniti), off of a reef patch where they were standing knee deep, back to back with spears in hand while the shark gave them a couple of very close once-overs.
Then there are the times, such as here in Ambergris Cay, that you pay good money for the pleasure of doing something nutty, like swimming with sharks. With two kids along for the ride to boot. We, being myself, Liam and Michaela, chose to go diving for what may prove to be our last dive for a long time. The dive shop, shameless plug for Belize Diving Adventures, was great and Enes put together two fabulous dives. Huge fish, beautiful coral, everything you look for in a dive. The second dive was the crazy dive.
Nurse sharks abound on the Belize barrier reef and we chose to have Enes bring along a bait box to attract them. It worked, and before we knew it about 15 sharks ranging from 4' to 8' were swimming around us. Enes dropped the bait box on a sandy patch in about 50' of water and motioned for us to come closer. Sure, no problem, nice sharks! One even came close to curling up in Liam's lap but turned at the last minute much to Michaela's relief. Enes then took hold of one of the smaller ones, flipped it over and we all had a turn petting it and scratching its belly. A bit freaky to say the least!
When the bait box was empty Enes went to retrieve it. The larger sharks had other plans for the bait box and were trying to get to the last bit of odor. She would gently shove a couple out of the way but still couldn't quite get it back. Chivalry being fully alive in my book, I went to help 'move sharks'. Next thing I knew I was pushing those mean ol' sharks out of the way so the fair Enes could retrieve said bait box. Strange sensation to push a shark as big as me around!
OK, now for the disclaimer. Nurse sharks, while fully sharks, have no sharp teeth and a small mouth. They are a big sucker fish that could give you a very, very large and nasty permanent hickey if they chose to, but are mostly docile. This explains why tourists can swim with them and Rennie gave the okay for us to go!