Dec12

Southwest Tour 2012

Posted by admin on 12/12/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Galleries, Utah

Click any image to enlarge or begin slideshow

During the spring we spent another few months in the southwest.  I say "another" because between Shannon and I, I've lost track of how many times we've been through the southwest.  The fact is, one could spend a lifetime exploring southern Utah, Arizona and the surrounding areas.  There's just so much to see and do.  This trip was a bit of a whirlwind because we were meeting Chuck and Nikki before they headed to Uganda, and we were eager to show them some good spots.  We didn't take a lot of pictures (we're still backlogged about 15,000 photos from our LAST southwest trip that still need to be edited so I wasn't eager to add to the pile).  That said, here are some quick shots of the trip:

We made camp just outside Zion Canyon - a beatiful stop with a great view!

The desert flowers were beautiful!
We stopped at a cool rock shop that had countless cool natural wonders, it was hard to peel away to get into the canyon!
Driving through Zion - a beautiful place!
In Escalante we went to this restaurant that made a claim about having the biggest pancakes.  Nikki wanted to see for herself.  In the end, the pancake won.
We headed out to Peekaboo Canyon for some cool slot trekking after making a quick stop at The Devils Rockgarden (at least I think that's what it's called - it seems like half the monuments in Utah have the word Devil or Hell in them... I wonder if it has to do with the Mormons...)
Yellow Rock is an amazing place.  A short hike from the road puts you on an incredible land formation.  Definitely worth checking out, this was my 3rd or 4th time here.
Some shots from the road...
We made another camp in the Valley of the Gods, just north of Monument Valley.  I quickly got to work making a ridiculously elaborate fireplace.
With the sun going down in a beautiful place, what better way to spend the evening than with some whisky, my brother and Super Mario Bros. - that's right Super Mario Bros. in the middle of the desert, what of it?
Nice sunsets here
The pets certainly enjoy the van life more than urban life, that's for sure!
Some views from Mulee Point, looking south at Monument Valley.  This was a cool place to start experimenting with timelapses.
Our Westy in the wild and the pets diggin' the view
Monument Valley pano
We stopped at Newspaper Rock, then made camp to the south in the hills above Canyonlands National Park.
Van life is pretty good indeed.
...at least until you start spraying coolant out of a cracked coolant junction in the middle of the desert.  Luckily Trevor in Fort Bragg had pointed this piece out to me months before and warned of it's impending cracking so I had spent our last 40 bucks in Santa Cruz at the Van Cafe buying a replacement.  Certainly glad I did, and glad for all of Todd's help getting me comfortable maintaining this thing.  It ended up being a quick fix instead of a thousand dollar tow job from the middle of nowhere.
We got some cool weather near Moab, although having lightning striking all around us can be a litle scary.
Well, we were in Moab so we had to at least get a little mountain biking in.  After numerous spills in the orange/red dirt, we started to look like Oompa Loompas
Nothing a dip in the Colorado River wouldn't fix.  Sam got his dip too.
Well, there you have it.  I've left quite a bit out, like our awesome trip to Colorado and Mesa Verde, but hopefully I'll get to that soon.
Nov02

Cambria

Posted by admin on 11/02/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Cambria

Heading south from Big Sur, the wilderness comes to an end. Rogue camping becomes infeasible, and this is particularly inconvenient when you're sick as hell just looking for some place to sleep. Coming into Cambria, Shannon was exhausted and in desperate need of rest, I wasn't far behind. We were both getting pretty discouraged as we desperately looked at Google Maps in search of someplace we could pull off where nobody would bother us. Having found what looked like a good possibility, we headed just north of town and east on a side road off highway 1. Things were looking promising when we came to a gate. That's the problem with Google Maps; what looks like a road into the wilderness often turns out to be gated. As the afternoon was wearing on, and our our concurrent illnesses were dragging us into despair, we began backing up from the gate we had been thwarted by, wondering what to do next. Just as we were turning around, a large Suburban pulled up next to us. The driver rolled down her window and asked us what we were doing, and if we were trying to find a place to camp. "Yes" we answered, a little confused as to what this person wanted. "Well, you can come stay up on our ranch if you'd like - we've got a nice camp spot right on the creek." Our hearts lifted immediately and Shannon and I looked at each other with huge grins on our face. Hot damn! We eagerly accepted the offer and followed her up the road a few miles, where she got out, unlocked a cable across a dirt road leaving the pavement, let us through and escorted us to a beatiful place right on the creek, just as she had said. "There's a wood pile there if you want to have a fire, and come on over to the house if you want to take some showers or have dinner with us!" she said. "Oh, and I'm cleaning out the guest room so if you want to sleeep inside just come knockin' - our farmhouse is just down the road on the left, a big red place, can't miss it!" Of all the times we could have used some spontaneous generosity, this was certainly a welcome gift.

As it turned out, we spent several days parked there under a great sycamore tree, along the creek, recuperating. After a couple days just resting and getting our strength back, we met up with Lindy and her husband Jon (pronounced Yon) and she took us on a quad ride around their property. They owned a huge ranch (somthing like 10,000 acres) in the Cambria hills, just to the south of Hearst Castle. We drove around for a couple hours, over beautiful rolling hills of green, amonst cows and horses and ranch dogs. The views were amazing and we had a wonderful time seeing the world they had worked so hard to create around them. We came back and took Lindy up on the offer of hot showers - a very nice treat indeed! We ate dinner with them that evening and enjoyed some good conversation in their beatiful home. A wonderful time was had by all. They told us that whenever they see people looking for a place to camp (apparently a somewhat common occurence) they offer the use of their camping spot by the creek. In terms of kindness and generosity, Lindy and Jon had it coming out their pores. These were two of the kindest people I've ever met and I'll never forget their hospitality. To bring us from the nightmare of being sick on the road with nowhere to rest, to a beautiful sanctuary of peace, quiet, and hospitality was an amazing gift. This would be the last time we were in wilderness for a while, as our next leg of the journey would take us to Victorville - a brown and grey city in the high desert just east of L.A. For the time being however, we soaked up the wonderful experience with Lindy and Jon and look forward to revisiting them sometime in the future.

Mar01

Big Sur

Posted by admin on 03/01/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Galleries, Galleries, Big Sur

We ended up staying in the Big Sur area for a couple weeks, hanging out high in the hills above the ocean. We left Los Gatos just as a nasty stomach bug was taking hold, first in Shannon, then in me. As miserable as being sick was, at least we were in the wilderness, the calm. We spent many days just laying out in the sun, reading, doing yoga, watching the clouds come in below us and the sun dip below them. It was a wonderful, rejuvinating time and it was a spiritual recharge to be back out in the wilderness. We avoid campgrounds as much as possible and Big Sur was no different - I'm glad we were able to find some nice sites away from traffic and people. Just the sounds of the birds and the wind. Here's some shots from our stay:

Feb24

Learning to Recieve

Posted by admin on 02/24/12  ~  Posted in: Los Gatos

To try and sum up the last two weeks in anything short of 10 or 20 pages is going to be a challenge to say the least.  We’ve had an unbelievably wonderful time with our dear friends Becky and Kevin and have been spoiled beyond our wildest dreams.  Now, we’re back out in the wilderness of Big Sur just trying to let it all sink in, while at the same time trying to determine what’s next.

After fleeing San Francisco we drove down to Santa Cruz to meet our friend Zac and spend a few days on the coast.  Then we migrated inland to Los Gatos, the home of the Fernandez clan.  Now let me digress here and tell you what I knew about the Fernandez’s before coming to their house.  Every summer my family meets up with several other families for a camping trip that has been going on since the year I was born.  It is from this camping trip, the Cod Toss as it’s called, that I came to know Becky and Kevin and their two sons Zach and Eli.  They had always been the life of the party at the camping trips, lots of laughter and accordion playing, joke telling and fun stories.  These were folks you were guaranteed to have a good time with.  That said though, they always struck me as a bit wild, certainly more wild than the relatively tame life I had grown up with in sleepy Bellingham.  Nonetheless, their wildness always had a captivating effect on me… because it wasn’t just wildness, it was passion.  Over the years, I came to know the four of them, and now five including Zach’s new baby boy Joshua, but only on a superficial level; three days of camping once a year really doesn’t begin to draw a complete picture of a family, let alone one with as much depth as the Fernandez’s.  So all this to say, I didn’t really know what to expect when we called them up and basically invited ourselves over for an evening of fun and unorthodox reunion around their dinner table.  What followed were two of the best weeks of my life.

We showed up toward the end of the work day and the boys were closing up shop; they run a woodworking business, the likes of which I couldn’t have even imagined until really getting to see behind the scenes.  We had a wonderful dinner and drank too much of Kevin’s unbelievably delicious wine.  We stayed up late talking, getting to know each other better, having a great time.  Finally, we all said goodnight and hit our respective pillows.  The next day we ended up hanging out, touring the wood shop, chatting with everyone throughout the day during breaks, which seemed to start and stop with no rhyme or reason, and learning more about the lives of these master woodworkers.  We learned that Kevin was planning to have a wine bottling party on the upcoming Saturday, during which, three barrels of his homemade wine would be transferred to bottles, labeled, and put into cases for storage.  Shan and I decided we couldn’t miss such a festivity and decided to head back to the coast for a few days, then come back for the bottling.  Becky also invited us to provide the labels for this year’s wine selection; a 2009 cabernet, and 2010 cab and zins.  We were excited to be able to contribute and immediately got to work determining which images to use for their exquisite wine.

So, after two days on the coast, we came back to Los Gatos, got to work printing labels, and prepared to help with the upcoming festivities.  It was at about this time when Shannon and I realized that we had something to offer which we believed The Mad Woodchuck (their business name) could really benefit from.  It struck us that all of the work we had seen of theirs was truly remarkable; beautiful cabinets and hand carved furniture, intricate mantles and doors, and Kevin has even begun creating his new line of handmade guitars – beautiful pieces of work to say the least.  It was clear that these were no ordinary woodworkers – they were creating masterpieces each and every day in the woodshop below their house.  And yet, their website just wasn’t doing their craft justice.  So Shannon and I decided that we wanted to build them a new website, one that really showcased the beauty and mastery of their craft.  They loved the idea and we all decided that we’d stay in their driveway while we worked on the new site each day using their internet connection.  Thus began an amazing and magical time for all of us.  Each day we would get up, work on their website, take time to really get to know each other and then, at the end of the day, settle in for amazing meal after amazing meal.  Becky and Kevin insisted that we include ourselves at their dinner table night after night, while they cooked culinary wonders I can’t even name.  Lobster and crab, prawn paella, rib eye steak – the list goes on and on.  It was like eating at a gourmet restaurant with the best of friends night after night – and always served with a new and delicious variety of Kevin’s wine.

The bottling party was a fantastic day of fun, laughter, purple stains, and lots, and lots of wine drinking.  We met heaps of great folk and had a wonderful time bottling some 85 cases of wine, all the while stuffing ourselves with all sorts of delicious eats brought by everyone in attendance.  We met a woman named Maria who wanted to take us back up to San Francisco so we could see it “the right way”.  By the end of the day, we were all purple, exhausted, and pleasantly tipsy.

A few days later, Maria came by to pick up Shannon and I for a walking tour of San Francisco.  I’m not going to describe the wonders of this day in too much detail as there’s just too much to tell, but suffice to say, Maria took us on a tour of San Fran that we simply wouldn’t have gotten from anyone else.  Kevin had even insisted on sending us along to the city with his friend General Grant, which we were thankful for as we paid our fare to the top of Coit Tower, grabbed a drink at the Vesuvio, and bought coffee at a little brew house in North Beach.  All in all, the day was magic, and we watched the sun set on the city from the top of a hill overlooking west San Fran.  We had a magnificent time and didn’t get back to Los Gatos until long after dark.  Maria was the best tour guide we could have asked for!

It was about this time when we realized the van was becoming increasingly difficult to start and the gas mileage had dropped to below 10mpg.  This was not good, something was obviously seriously wrong.  Kevin insisted on paying for diagnostics at the local mechanic who narrowed down the problem for us.  After this, I did some further investigation and decided to drive up to Van Café for a new o2 sensor.  I’ll write another post about this trip, but long story short, the folks at Van Café were amazing and the van is now running great.  And after months of trying to find the perfect name, Becky suggested Tortuga, the Spanish word for tortoise, perfectly befitting our slow, green, ambling home.

On Sunday we all decided we needed a day off and Becky and Kevin had just the answer: a country drive in the mountains in Becky’s convertible BMW 325ci.  Up through the hills we drove, winding along country roads.  The weather was perfect, the music was cranked, the girls’ hair was flying in the wind in the back seat.  This was a good way to unwind.  We stopped at the famous San Gregorio Store and perused their bumper stickers and buttons, while listening to live music and singing – a great stop for sure.  The day finished with a cruise down highway 1 while the sun set – then back for another epic feast and good conversation.

Finally after many long hours of photography, coding and discussions of which picture should go where, The Mad Woodchuck website was complete.  With the van running properly and friends to meet in the south, our time was coming to a close in Los Gatos.  What I’ve left out of this post could fill a book; our nights spent at Eli and Zach’s houses, our last night’s drum session, the trip to the San Jose flea market with Kevin, the countless hours of great discussion...  When we arrived in Los Gatos we came to see old friends – when we left, we were leaving family.

One thing that Becky told us while we were there was that we needed to learn to receive; we’d been giving and giving so much to so many for so long, we were completely exhausted.  We weren’t as familiar with receiving, and perhaps not as gracious about it as we could have been.  Well I can tell you this, if we ever needed practice receiving, we got a PhD in it while with the Fernandez family.  They took us out to dinner, fed us amazing feasts, gave us money to go to San Francisco, paid our mechanic bill, kept our wine glasses more full than we could keep up with, drove us around, and even insisted on paying us a substantial sum of money for a website we had all agreed would be a gift.  They even sent us on the road with a case of wine and stashed “road money” in a hiding place for Shannon to find after our departure.  As we were warming up the van they were scrubbing our windshield!  In short, I have been absolutely overwhelmed with the generosity of this family.  I have received and received and received like never before.  The love we got from Becky, Kevin, Eli and Zach was absolutely wonderful.  Looking back, these last two weeks have been two of the best weeks of my life.  The warmth we felt while with the Fernandez family was unparalleled and I know neither Shannon nor I will ever forget our time there.  There are times in one’s life that stay with one forever – this has most certainly been one of those times.

So here we are, in the hills of Big Sur, resting, relishing, thinking and rethinking.  About what has come, and what’s next.  The sun has been hot on our skin, the mountain breeze a relaxing cool riposte.  The waves crash far below and the only sounds are those of the crickets, flies, birds, and wind in the grass.  We’ll probably be headed for the mess of Los Angeles soon and this peace will be behind us for a while.  Our time with Becky and Kevin though, has been etched into our memories forever, and we’ll miss them dearly until our next rendezvous.  Like I said, we came to see old friends, we left our family.

Feb20

Back to San Francisco

Posted by admin on 02/20/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, San Francisco, Galleries  ~  Send feedback »

Well, as you might have read, our first trip to San Francisco was not super pleasant. Not wanting to let us have left San Fran with a bad taste in our mouths, our new friend Maria offered to take us back to the city and give us a proper tour. As it turned out, we had an awesome time. Maria took us to Coit Tower, North Beach, Chinatown, and a few other great spots. It was sure a treat to have a chauffered guide around the city. Here are some pics from the experience:

Through the windows of Coit Tower -

Some shots around Chinatown -
Some other shots around town-
...and this amazing staircase -

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