Thx Giving

Tomorrow morning we make our drive down to Dallas, Texas for Thanksgiving break. We’ll both be spending it with our families, me in Dallas and Ben’s flying out to Raleigh. Since we’ve been leaning more towards fast food & burrito joints, it’ll be a welcome change to get some home cooked meals. I’m also looking forward to stocking up on Christmas music and finding our sweaters for part 2 of the trip. Things resume on the 27th when Ben flies back into town so stay tuned!

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Road Trip Lives!

Contrary to the rumors, we didn’t get abducted in Roswell. We did get to see some interesting sights and talk to some interesting folk. I also had an Encounter of the 17th kind; that’s when you’re driving down the highway leaving Roswell and you see a spaceship looking thing, covered in a tarp, on the back of a flatbed semi-truck. Ben was asleep, but I saw it. Of course, no photos.

We’ve been in Denver for the past few days catching up with friends and family. Ben with his old buddy Dylan, and me with my Grandpa, Uncle & Aunt, and cousins. Until recently my relationship with the familial extremities has been mediated by my parents, so it’s nice to get out and say ‘Hi’ on my own accord. For those of you who can relate, I think you’ll find it feels good to shoot out an email, phone call, or visit to unsuspecting relatives.

Tomorrow we’re doing just that for Ben’s side of the family: his Aunt in Wichita Kansas. We’ll be there for two days and then drop straight down I-35 (a road I know all too well) to Dallas for our Thanksgiving break. Ha… Break from lifecation. Who woulda guessed!

Pictures since the last update after the jump.
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Esa Barranca es Muy Grande

Heading out to the Grand Canyon shortly! The four beautiful days spent in LA reaffirmed that this is where we want to live once we stop “living in a van down by the river”. We’ll be spending four days camping in the desert, so stocking up on tuna and water is a must. I don’t suspect any Internet out there, so this might be it until Friday when we head up to Colorado to visit my mom’s family. To keep you busy in the interim, here’s some of our LA photos:

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It’s Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas

A few weeks ago on a twisty dark street in the middle of nowhere, Ben and I decided to challenge ourselves to make the post-Thanksgiving portion of the road trip 100% Christmas themed. Part of this means that we’re on the hunt for two of the campiest Christmas sweaters money can buy. You know the ones: thick knit, reindeer, and snow flakes patterns. If you see one let us know. It also means that we listen to nothing but Christmas music in the van. I’m currently procuring the Christmas albums by Johnny Cash and the Beach Boys… oh, and the Star Wars album “Christmas in the Stars.” This is gonna be awesome.

(Between you and me, I think Ben’s gonna crack first.)

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Staying up Late in a Van

Normally when I can’t sleep it’s no problem to stay up & surf around Wikipedia or the BBC. Now, it’s a blessing.

We’re currently taking advantage of the cheapest way to live in LA: park your camper on the side of the street. It seems that we’re not the only ones either, there’s tons of RVs & vans all over the place, more than anywhere else. There’s also a lot of $1M houses and I suspect a correlation. But I digress.

Living in a van is a truly unique experience. For one, when people walk through a parking lot back to their car, they probably don’t expect anyone to be having dinner near by. Little do they know of the society of folks who are cooking pasta just a thin sheet of aluminum away!

Similarly, an oft overlooked necessity of life is… how can I put it gently… relieving ones self? Not having a toilet on hand dictates that you either consume & locate yourself strategically or get creative with containers. Let me say that crawling out of the van, groggy and hungover, at 7:00am in an otherwise peaceful & orderly neighborhood, looking for a bathroom, makes you question your life choices.

So, what I’m saying here, is that there’s a lot more to consider than not having a lot of closet space. Living in a van requires that you develop new abilities to transcended comfort and societal norms, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But it will help you realize what you need and what you can live without.

Lately we’ve had to question the “luxuries” of trying to: get online, go to the bathroom, get a shower, exercise, eat well (or at least decently), and get a good’s night sleep. Hopefully you’re not taking all these things for granted.


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LA Breakdown

Van-damageWhen you hear anything even slightly out of the ordinary come from the engine of a 20 year old van, it elicits a special kind of fear. I think it’s rooted in how little we know about the magical machine that gets us from Point A to Point B, and how badly we can get screwed out of our money by those that can fix it. We got reminded of all this yesterday on the drive from San Francisco when the engine started to lose power and make a wonderful grinding noise. We pulled over and popped the hood open just in time to catch the last of the radiator fluid bubble over on to the highway.

Luckily I’ve had the honor of overheating my Eclipse back in college, so I had some idea how to proceed. We let things cool down and topped off the radiator with our drinking water and made it in to LA without further incident. Unless of course dropping $300 on a radiator check & break job counts as an incident.

Due to the problems, we decided to skip out on San Diego and hang out in LA until Monday. The idea is that we’ll be scoping out potential future digs for when Ben sells his house (which, by the way, if you want to buy, you can do so here.)

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Laptop Doesn’t Travel Well

I knew my beautiful Sharp PC-M4000 laptop was a little fragile, but I thought if I cared for it there was a good chance that it would make it through the trip. I guess I stopped caring for it, because at some point a few pixels died and aluminum casing bent:

Dead pixels  bent body

The only consolation is that if I have to replace it and buy a new one I’ll finally get a MacBook Pro.

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We rolled in to downtown just in time for lunch. Ben remembered hearing that some place called “Chowder’s” on Pier 39 has the best, you guessed it, clam chowder in the world(?).  Two bread bowls (one apiece) down the hatch. Then Ben wanted to get a waffle cone, supposedly to fill a desire he’s had every time he’s been on the pier. Done. Then coffee.

As we strolled down the harbor area not wanting to pay $10-$20 for submarine or boat tours, we spotted Ghirardelli Square. One ice cream sundae for Ben, one brownie sundae for me. Probably about 1000 calories each. We now sit in a Starbucks (more coffee) digesting, and waiting to make our way over to In-&-Out Burger for dinner. Now this was a day well spent.

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Highway 1

Well, we survived the drive down Highway 1, but just barely. We decided to take Hwy 5 to save on time and then cut over to Hwy 1 taking this route near southern Oregon. Again, we learn a valuable lesson here. When Google Maps says that 35 miles of the roads we’re taking “may be seasonally closed,” it’s probably a good indicator that they’re not fit for a 20 year old RV. Luckily we were in good spirits, because it made the one lane roads, gravel paths, and mysterious tree with shoes hung all over it hilarious. The last one really made no sense at all, because there were no signs of anyone living anywhere around there, and they were kids shoes.

We Walmarted it that night in northern California. The second half of the drive was much more scenic, with the Redwood National Forest and Pacific Ocean constantly to the right. Again, tons of pictures after the jump. We got into Oakland late last night, found our beloved retail giant, and got a good night’s rest for today: our first day in San Francisco.

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A Microsoft Omelet

The ChallengeWe got a late start today. For some reason we were feeling under the weather. Fortunately, there’s no better cure for party-sickness than breakfast food, and there’s no better source for breakfast food than Beth’s Cafe. They serve a 12-egg omelet there. From one excess to another, I guess! Ben having the self-proclaimed “champion attitude” decided he was gonna tackle it. I’ve never seen so many calories in one place. I couldn’t even finish my 6-egg omelet, but Ben got through at least 90%. Hey, he’s a champion!

We have potentialAfter that we headed up to Redmond to check out the Microsoft campus. They have a visitor center with a bunch of exhibits / installations. Fittingly, about 1/4 of all the exhibits weren’t functioning. Either way it was fun to be in a geek-Mecca. One of their cooler installations let you make a video & email it to all your friends. Having no dignity, this is what I made.

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