|The United States of America|
|(July 3rd, 2000 to August 1st, 2000)|
|click on colored words for pictures and/or hyperlinks|
|On Monday, July 3rd, 2000, with our beast of burden, a 1987 Subaru station wagon we affitionately called "The Sube", packed to full capacity, we set off, heading west, with the intention of traveling completely around the world, returning to Boston in approximately one year.
Our first stop was at Lisa's parentís house in Narragansett, Rhode Island. We spent most of the day packing our gear. Trying to get everything you are going to need for a year into one backpack can be very difficult, but we did it. Lisa's parents live close to a beautiful beach on the ocean called Bonnet Shores so later we went for a swim in the ocean.
When Lisa said goodbye to her parents it was a little emotional. It can be a difficult to say goodbye, especially when you are leaving for a year, but Lisa had already spent the last few months saying goodbye to family and friends, which made it a little easier. Her mom threw her a really fun farewell party and she got some interesting gifts, Iincluding a toilet seat cover -- that may come in handy, we've heard some interesting travel bathroom stories.
We decided to drive into New York City for the fourth of July. The Big Apple, the ulitmate city. The beginning and the end of the modern world. What sutiable place to build up speed. Hundreds of old tall ships had invaided the waterways. The Hudson River looked like a picture for the late 18th century. What it must have been like, when these monstrous beauties were the norm, going up and down the eastern seaboard, bringing people and trade goods that helped fuel the growth of the country. The tall ships, combined with it being the 4th and the millions of extra visitors to the city, created a real buzz or euphoria that you could just feel. The city was jazzed!
We found great parking spot (or so we thought -- details later) in front of Lisa's friend Darcy's apartment (on the Upper West Side), who was nice enough to let us stay the night. I guess it was foreshadowing of things to come (details later), but literally the first step Joel took into New York City, out of "The Sube" was into a pile of fresh dog shit. After sluffing that off, it was down to the South Street Seaport to try to get a closer look at the tall ships.
People, people, and more people!!! Millions of them everywhere!!! It was pretty nuts, but we managed to get close to a few tall ships that were very cool.
We decided to briefly escape the masses and have a quick dinner in Greenwich Village and then it was off to Lisa's friend Leslie's apartment (near the 59th Street Bridge). We had a few beers with Leslie and her boyfriend Jeff (they said they are going to come visit us when we are in Southeast Asia) and then it was off to Lisa's friend Janet's apartment on the river at 34th Street (or so we thought). Janet has a 27th floor apartment right on the river and the plan was to watch the fireworks at eye level, as the barges setting them off were right in front of her apartment. Unfortunately, millions of other people had the same idea. When we got there police had barricaded off the apartment. There were so many people inside that they were threatening to evacuate the building if any more people entered. So even though we were "on the list" to get in, we had to watch the fireworks from outside her building at ground level. It was still pretty cool, but it would have been nicer to watch it from Janet's balcony while sipping champagne, instead of being packed into a police corral surrounded by literally millions of people.
We couldn't get a cab on the way back to Darcy's. We tried as we walked for hours to no avail. Simply too many people and not enough cabs we guess. Finally we resorted to paying a young Asian boy $20.00 to peddle us in a petty cab. His co-worker outside the hotel where we found him said "he was crazy" for taking us as far as we wanted to go, but he said he was "up for it", so off we went. When we finally made it to Darcy's he was covered in sweat and we think he was regretting his decision to take us until we gave him a nice tip. It was kind of fun to be pedaled around New York City at 1:00 AM. But that's when the fun stopped for a while. When we woke up we discovered that "The Sube" had been broken into. Joel's backpack, with everything he was going to take around the world, was stolen, as was Lisa's $750.00 camera. Worse yet, they got the copies of all our personal information. Copies of our credit cards, checks, passports, birth certificates, etc. We had to cancel all our credit cards and checks and have new ones sent out. Needless to say our spirits were down. Only two days in and this happens. We did all this planning and worrying about getting stuff stolen and negative things happening overseas and then on the second day we are ripped off within the States. Ironic huh?
Well, chalk it up to a character builder and off we go. Next stop -- Atlantic City, were we will try to win some money to replace what was stolen. (Yeah, right.)
Well, after putting the robbery in New York City behind us as much as we could, it was off to Atlantic City. The plan was to fly in, check out the boardwalk, swim in the ocean and then win enough at the blackjack tables to cover the loss of the robbery, before making a quick exit. Yeah, right.
We made it into Atlantic City around noon on Wednesday, July 5th. We stopped at the Atlantic City Visitor Center on the way in and a very nice older lady gave us a coupon book for the city. The first coupon was redeemable for free parking at The Sands Casino. What a deal, free parking, sounds great. Yeah, right.
We parked in The Sands parking lot and headed for the boardwalk. It was a beautiful day and we had a nice swim in the ocean. After a great dinner at The Hard Rock Cafe, we enjoyed a romantic stroll on the boardwalk. Lisa posed for a picture under a huge globe that we thought was fitting for our around the world trip and our spirits were lifting from the low point of the robbery earlier in the day.
As we walked back to the car we gazed up to see an incredible sight. One of the casinos was shooting up a huge spotlight into the sky. Hundreds of seagulls were circling in the light creating a surreal view. The light, reflecting off their wings created the image of hundreds of stars dancing in the night sky. Things were looking up and we weren't even bothered by our $200 loss at the blackjack tables earlier in the day -- that is until we got back to the car.
Believe it or not, "The Sube" had been broken into again! Hit twice within 24 hours! This time, in a well-lit parking garage, right in front of the main elevator, with security cameras present. We couldn't believe it! We were shocked. What was happening to us?
We went down to security and filed a police report. They checked the security cameras, but unfortunately the one in the area of "The Sube" wasn't pointed in the right direction. What a bad day! The security officer at The Sands felt so bad for us, he offered us a complementary room, but we were so pissed at this point we just wanted to get the "h-e-double hockey sticks" out of there. So we picked up the pieces and began the drive across Pennsylvania, heading West. In the previous 24 hours we had been robbed (twice!), losing Joel's backpack with everything he was taking around the world inside -- his sleeping bag, all his clothes, his hiking boots, his sneakers, his water purifier, his walkman, his tapes, a nice leather bag, all his medication for the year (malaria pills, butt problem pills, etc.), his personal journal for the last 6 months and a computer printer he was planning on giving to his grandmother. Lisa lost two cameras (one worth $750), her sneakers, Tevas, 18 rolls of film and a year's supply of contact lenses. In addition to all this we also lost all of our original checks, Lisa's original immunization card and birth certificate and copies of our passports, credit cards, driver's licenses, and birth certificates.
Well, hopefully all the bad stuff is out of the way for this trip and some good karma is headed our way.
After getting hit for the second time in Atlantic City, we took out our frustrations by driving all night through Pennsylvania. (Well, actually Lisa slept most of the night and Joel drove.) We arrived just outside Canton Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, early on the morning of Thursday, July 6th.
After the robberies we decided to treat ourselves with a 5-hour nap in a Super 8 Motel and then it was off to "The Hall".
The Pro Football Hall of Fame might seem like an unusual stop on an around the world trip, but Joel had always wanted to see it since he was a kid. It was actually pretty cool. They go through the whole history of football, from its conception to the modern day. There is an awesome Game Day Theatre that actually rotates as you view current NFL footage taking you all the way through an entire season -- preseason practice to the Super Bowl. Maybe the neatest part was seeing the actually uniforms of star players. For example they have on display the actual uniform (from the shoes on up to the helmet) that Eric Dickerson wore when he broke O.J's single season rushing record.
Bottom line -- if you are a football fan, we highly recommend it. After visiting "The Hall" we climbed back in the "Sube" and drove straight through from Canton all the way to Joel's grandparentís house in Frontenac, Minneasota. We didn't make it into Frontenac until 4:00 AM on the morning of Friday, July 7th
We decided to stay in Minnesota until Thursday, July 13th. Friday, the 7th we mostly just hung out with Joel's sister Tara, his nephew Coby (Joel is Coby's godfather so "never go against the family"), his mom Josie and his grandma and grandpa, Wes and Ann in Frontenac (where Joel's grandparents live) and Red Wing (Joel's hometown). Joel and Coby got to spend a lot of time together (Coby was giving Joel tips on world travel.).
Saturday, the 8th we went up to Savage to play some golf and drink a few beers with some of Joel's friends. As usual, Brad (Spur) and Coconut (Karl) were in rare form. We drilled Gooch's (Mark's) head to relieve the pressure inside so he "could think better" and Deb and Nate were great hosts.
Sunday, the 9th was another lounging day with Joel's family and then Monday, the 10th we drove up to Bloomington, to an awesome REI store, to replace all the gear we had stolen.
Tuesday, the 11th was a lot of fun. Joel, Tara, Lisa and Coby went up to Valley Fair, a really neat amusement park in Shakopee. When you are going away for a year you have to spend some time with family and friends and it was a lot of fun.
We took off from Joel's grandparentís house on Thursday, July 13th. We drove all the way through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana directly to Glacier National Park. It took us 20 hours. We set up the "Sube" so one person could sleep in the back while the other person drove and we took shifts. We arrived at Glacier on Friday afternoon, the 14th. The long drive gave us a lot of time to reflect on what had happened so far and what lie ahead. We have to admit it; being robbed twice in one day was a bummer. It really got things off to a rocky start. It's like getting nailed by a killer storm (two killer storms!!) before you even make in out of port. It did get us down and it was affecting our attitude. We noticed it in our journal entries (both on the web site and our personal journals) and in the way we were relating to each other and to others around us. An attitude adjustment was in order. Let's focus on the positives here. Everything that was stolen is replaceable. We actually turned it into a positive. Joel got a better pack, better sleeping bag and better boots (although they still need to be broken in). Lisa replaced her camera and we needed to get more malaria pills anyway, so we did. We got new credit cards and new checks. So as long as no one uses our personal information to steal our identities, everything seems to be taken care of. (If you ever get your personal information stolen and you are worried about someone stealing your identity check out the identity theft division of the federal trade commission online.) The whole experience has definitely made us more careful. It was better to have something like this happen here then overseas -- we just had to deal with it and move on.
We have to remember how lucky we are. We are traveling around the world for Pete's sake. We have nothing to be bummed about. A year from now those robberies will be nothing more then a small blip on a radar screen filled with awesome sights and unbelievable experiences. Plus if you believe in karma, we definitely have some goods times ahead as hopefully all the bad stuff is out of the way. As to how we feel about the thieves, it's hard not to be pissed. But, the Dali Lama says we should be thankful for our enemies for they challenge us to work on our compassion and tolerance. Being ripped off definitely makes you think. When you steal something from someone else, no matter what it is, you make a huge impact on that person. I wouldn't want to be those thieves -- some bad karma is coming their way.
When we were buying our new gear at REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), we ended up talking to a guy working there about our travels and the last thing he said really stuck with us. He said "you are living a dream" and you know he's right -- we are and we just have to keep remembering that.
We made it to Glacier National Park on Friday the 14th. After driving all the way from Minnesota, 20 hours straight, we were hashed. We crashed at Many Glacier campground Friday night. We went to bed (which really means a sleeping bag in a tent) a 4:00 PM. Then Saturday we hiked up to Grinnell Glacier (6 hours round trip). Even Joel looked pretty small compared to Grinell Glacier. It was awesome. The vistas were amazing and it was so cool to be hiking through snow bridges in 90-degree weather. After building up a sweat it was nice to cool off under the waterfalls cascading down the mountainside.
Saturday night we stayed at Many Glacier campground again and then Sunday we headed into the backcountry towards Gunsight Lake. It was Lisa's first backcountry experience and she held up really well. Joel has had some backcountry experience (he hiked with his friend Ted in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon each summer for 5 years in a row -- one year hiking the whole Canyon rim to rim) but never in terrain like Glacier.
The first thing that grabs you is the fact that Glacier is bear country. There are warnings everywhere about Grizzlies and Black bears. It is a trip hiking and camping in terrain in which you are the prey -- instead of being the predator. Here the bears are king and we are just bystanders catching a view. We didn't see any bears but during our visit, but there was a scare at a backcountry camping area elsewhere in the park. A Grizzly showed up looking for food, trashed a tent and scared the heck out of some campers.
The beautiful terrain, the awesome vistas, the sights, smells and sounds of the backcountry -- it really gives you a chance to reflect on life and our place in the universe. The terrain even got more beautiful when we discovered Florence Falls.
It was a really tough hike to Gunsight Lake but once we made it, it was well worth. The lake was truly beautiful. But seeing all that beauty comes with a price. We relaxed next to the lake and took in the spectacular view. We did see some wildlife and had an interesting experience with a mountain goat. Lisa broke the rules and took a pee without digging a cat hole. Shortly after relieving herself we noticed this large white creature staring and sniffing us from across Gunsight Lake. Was it a bear? A mountain lion? No, it was a mountain goat and it was making a beeline for Lisa's pee spot! It charged up to "the seen of the crime" and proceeded to dig up and roll around in Lisa's pee. We were freaked. It turns out that mountain goats are nuts for salt and if you don't bury your pee in a cat hole (like the rangers told us to -- instructions that Lisa ignored), they will go berserk over it.
Later that evening guess who shows up at our backcountry campsite? It's our friend the mountain goat and what does he decided to do? He pees right in front of our tent! It's as if he was saying, "You pee on my territory and I will pee on yours." Strange stuff we tell you.
We made a few friends on the trail. Nate and Rich were really troopers and planned on being in the backcountry for 4 days.
Well after surviving our backcountry experience we drove through the rest of the park on the "Going to the Sun Road". The "Sube" struggled a little up and down those mountains, but after a little sputtering, smoking and sucking some oil -- we made it through. Next stop Seattle -- The Portal to the Pacific.
We left Glacier National Park on Monday, July 17th and headed West. We drove all day and after our backcountry experience we decided to treat ourselves to a night at a Best Western in Kalispell, Montana. The hotel had a jacuzzi, which we used to soak our aching muscles, strained from 18 hours of hiking in the previous 3 days.
After a good night sleep we got up and did laundry at a laundry mat, conveniently located next to the hotel. Then it was back in the "Sube" towards Seattle. Instead of driving all through the night we decided to stop at a KOA campground the night of the 18th, about an hour out of Seattle. Camping next to a major highway with little kids screaming and yelling at 6:00 AM was quite different from the backcountry -- but at least we got a good night sleep.
We arrived in Seattle on Wednesday the 19th and checked into a youth hostel right next to the water. The hostel was really nice. It reminded us of the dorms in college. There were a lot of really cool people there -- fellow travelers from all over the world. Thursday, the 20th, we drove up to Anacortes and took a ferry to San Juan Island, looking for "Orca". Joel took "the point" of the Hyak (our ferry) and it was full steam ahead. Once on the island, we rented mopeds and checked out the scene. After touring the island we had a few beers and crab cakes while we waited for the return ferry.
With the help of our new friend William, we spotted an "Orca" on the ferry ride home and the sunset was beautiful.
On Friday, the 21st, we spent most of the day working on the web site and doing email at a cyber cafe called SpeakEasy.
Our overall impression of Seattle is very positive. It is a really cool city with an awesome "vibe". You know a city is cool when the wall, at the restaurant we ate at, was totally devoted to the memory of Jimi Hendrix and the ballads in the background are vintage Black Sabbath.
We left Seattle the afternoon and started heading south towards Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
On Friday July 21st we drove as far south from Seattle as we could get and stayed in a Super 8 Motel about an hour outside of Portland that night.
On Saturday the 22nd we got into Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake actually fills a huge volcano caldera. Mount Mazama blew its top 7,700 years ago. The caldera filled up with water from snow and rain creating one of the most amazing sites you will ever see. We got an awesome view of it by hiking up to Watchman Point. The view of the lake from 8025 feet was amazing. After basking in the glow of a beautiful sunset on Watchman Point, we headed down and stayed at Mazama Campground that night. Sunday the 23rd we hiked down Cleetwood Trail and took a boat tour of the inside of a volcano. There are no outside sources for the water in the lake besides snow and rain, making it some of the purest and cleanest water on earth. It was so clear you could seriously see to depths of 30 to 40 feet and the color -- it was so blue!
We were so taken by the experience that we thought of starting a mutiny on the Rudy Wilson, our boat, so we could stay out longer, but it would have been tough to overpower our navigator, Mark and the ranger, Claire, so we thought better of it.
One of the coolest features of the deepest lake in the United States and the 7th deepest lake in the world is Wizard Island. Wizard Island is actually a volcano itself with the crater at its crest being about the size of a football field. Another cool feature was The Devil's Backbone, which is actually the remains of a vertical lava flow.
After the boat tour Joel did some cliff jumping with two new friends into the COLD!!! blue depths.
We reluctantly left the park that afternoon and jumped back in the "Sube" and continued heading south towards Lake Tahoe, California.
We got into the Lake Tahoe area on Monday, July 24th. We kicked things off by going for a swim at King's Beach on the north side of the lake. Then we headed into South Lake Tahoe to check out the casinos. We thought we would try to save a few greenbacks, so we spent that night at Sugar Pines Campground.
Tuesday, July 25th we spent half the day at Pope Beach and the other half at the casinos. Joel (Mr. High Roller -- ha, ha) got two nights comp at Harrah's Casino so we spent the next two nights there in a suite looking over Lake Tahoe.
Wednesday, the 26th we did more gambling, worked on the website and email at a cyber cafe, got the "Sube's" brakes looked at (the Rockies really tore them up) and went to the beach again. Thursday the 27th, after a quick swim at Lake Side Beach, we headed back west to Palo Alto, the home of Lisa's sister Zsuzsu (Susanne). We have less than a week until we leave the states and we are pumped! That's when things will get even more interesting.
We took off from Lake Tahoe on Thursday July 27th and headed west for Lisa's sister Zsuzsu's place in Palo Alto. It took us about four hours to get to Palo Alto. On the way we drove by giant windmills that were pretty cool. They looked like giant beings draped across the glowing hillsides -- very surreal.
Thursday night we just hung out with Zsuzsu and two of her roommates, Mike and Erin. Their place is really cool. They even have a tipi in the backyard.
Friday was "errand day". We got some cool business cards made for our trip and got photos for all the visas we are going to have to get along the way. Friday night we chilled at Zsuzsu's and watched The Sixth Sense on DVD.
Saturday Zsuzsu gave us a tour of San Francisco. We wanted to go on her motorcycle, but since there was three of us -- we had to take the car. We went to the Farmer's Market, saw Fisherman's Wharf (tourist hell! -- although the seals were cool), the Haight Ashbury area, the Sutro Bath Ruins, and drove through the Presidio, just to name a few things.
Then we drove to Walnut Creek and visited with Lisa's friend Kevin, his wife Pam and their son Jack. Kevin and Pam spent 10 days on their honeymoon in the Cook Islands, our next destination, so we "pumped" them for "inside information". They loved the Cooks and they got us really excited about going there.
Sunday we did laundry and packed for our departure from the states. Lisa went to visit her friend Kerry, her husband Dave, her daughter Gabby (3 years old) and her son Austin (1 year old) in Los Gatos. Monday was filled with more preparation for departure. We made the final decisions on what to bring and fit everything into our backpacks.
We decided to leave the "Sube", or what's left of it, with Zsuzsu. She is either going to turn it into a "art car" for Burning Man or donate it one of those charities that takes cars, fixes them up, and gives them to needy people. Whatever the fate of the "Sube" it has been good to us and it was hard to say goodbye. It got us across country -- it was a good ride.
We are filled with both excitement and a little anxiety. It's strange to think that we are leaving the states and probably won't be back for at least a year. We are going around the globe and won't be back until we come in from the other side. This is definitely a turning point. We are standing at the edge and instead of turning and walking away -- we have decided to jump.
We left for the Cook Islands on Tuesday, August 1st from the San Francisco airport.