Monday, May 22, 2017

Roadtrip part 1: California --> Texas

I'm something of a romantic. Not in a romance sort of way necessarily. Or in a Roman sort of way. More of like in a great-American-road-trip-elbow-out-the-window-open-road sort of way. And I don't feel corny in saying that. There are few (if any) places that I'd rather be than on the road heading to a national park or a new city.

About 4 years ago I went on a solo three month road-trip from California up to Nova Scotia and back, and (though it sounds dramatic) it was a complete turning point in my life. Unfortunately Janet couldn't join me that time around, but while we were abroad we started talking about how great it would be to come back, buy a car and then set out to see friends, family, and a bunch of national parks. So we did. We bought a car after a few of weeks back in Sacramento with my parents and then headed out for two months on the road.

First stop was down to Yucaipa to visit friends and family where Janet was born and raised. Spent some lovely time with the family, especially with the nieces and nephews.

I had never been to the Grand Canyon before and Janet had only been to the North Rim so that was our next destination. We first saw the South and then the North and also did the Bright Angel hike down into the the canyon.

South Rim

on the Bright Angel hike

Colorado River

Desert View Watchtower

View from Navajo Bridge, outside the Park, on the way to the North Rim

JJ from the North Rim

After the Grand Canyon we detoured up to St. George Utah to spend a nice couple of days with my grandparents:

And then back down into Arizona:

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

Petrified Forest National Park has one of the highest concentrations of petrified wood on the planet. These colorful logs are some 200 million years old.

Petrified Forest NP

Petrified Forest NP - I think the camera was on a weird setting for this one

Painted Desert - Petrified Desert NP

Even though we didn't take a ton of pictures there, New Mexico stood out to us both. The colors, the culture, the landscape, the food: it's all so unique and distinctive. We didn't spent nearly enough time here.

Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe

We are still talking about some of the New Mexican food that we had

The obligatory stop in Roswell NM - which was kind of what you would expect Roswell to be like.

White Sands NM

White Sands NM

Carlsbad Cavern entrance

Carlsbad Cavern NP

Guadalupe Mountain National Park was sadly closed due to fires, so that afternoon we made the drive southwest to get to Big Bend National Park just as the sun was setting.

Prada Marfa, TX, art installation - on our way to Big Bend

It's so hard to explain or convey the grandness of the landscape at Big Bend. Janet (the family photographer) did a hell of a job trying with these photos, but you should really just make the long trip down to the park sometime and explore the vast desolate beauty of the place firsthand.

Big Bend NP

more Big Bend NP

Left side is Mexico, US to the right

Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetery - Ghost towns are almost always disappointing

Come dawn or dusk in Texas all of the rabbits seem to get all crazed and run back and forth across the street. Sometimes dozens at a time. It was like a demented sped up video game. I was able to successfully dodge them for several days, until the early morning we left when I accidentally ran over and killed two of them. I had never before hit an animal and it was awful.

Next came Austin where we spent a nice few humid days eating, walking, relaxing and getting rained on. We also visited a pair of memorable art parks:

Sparky Park - Berthold Haas's Guadiesque electrical substation

Sparky Park

Outdoor graffiti gallery

Hope Outdoor Gallery

The desert is probably my favorite terrain (it certainly is at the moment). It's so otherworldly and bizarre and never ceases to surprise and amaze. So these brief few weeks exploring some of the Southwest has been the part of the trip I've thought about most since we got back, and the part I'm most eager to return to. Northern New Mexico and Southern Utah in particular are two areas I cannot wait to get back to to explore it's canyons, hoodoos, spires, etc. But that's enough for now. Next up for us came the deep south as we continued our way east to visit a friends on the east coast.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Okay, so I started writing this blog in May 2016, and now it's May 2017 and I just finished it. Better late than never ;)

Very sunny and hot! We went to a Mexico for a month and overall we did NOTHING, and it was loooovely. Yes, we feel slightly guilty about missing out on several sights but we don't regret our nothingness. You know how you go on a trip and you try to do all the things? And then you are exhausted and feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? That's how we were feeling. We've never been to this part of Mexico, so why not? Off we went.

First Stop: Cancun, Quintana Roo

If the Las Vegas Strip and the Caribbean Ocean had a baby, that baby would be Cancun. That's not really our scene at all, which is why we chose to stay 30 minutes away from the beaches, in a residential neighborhood where we literally were they only tourists in that part of they city. We rented a little apartment where we hid from the brutal sun, watched lots of soccer, and only ventured out to get food. It was such a good time! To be honest, we weren't ready to leave but our places was already booked up so we couldn't extend. At the end of our week long stay we finally managed to force ourselves out to a beach, which was insanely blue and beautiful.

Next: Valladolid, Yucatan

We read about Valladolid online, it looked cool and people seemed to enjoy it. We didn't think it was a great as those people but we still had a good time. Valladolid is a great base to visit some of the Mayan ruins, mainly Chichen Itza. I'm big into pyramids and ziggurats so I was pretty happy to be visiting.

Our big inspiration for visiting this part of Mexico was to visit Chichen Itza, so it was great to visit this historical site. It blows my mind that you used to be able to climb all over the ziggurats. Word to the wise: it is HOT and there is no shade. Huge structures like this always strike me with such think that it was built with minimal tools, what a feat!

Temple of Kukulkan AKA El Castillo

El Caracol AKA the Observatory

Ek Balam Cenote



Then: Progreso, Yucatan

Progreso is a little beach side city about 30 minutes from Merida city center. The colors of the city are stunning. There's not much going on in Progreso and that was a big part of the appeal for us. Plus, we stayed at a house that was across the main road where the beach begins. We spent a lot of time sitting out on the balcony, sometimes in hammocks, being cooled down by the ocean breeze. Sitting on that balcony was so peaceful and relaxing, definitely our favorite part about Progreso. So relaxing to alternate just going out for food and drinks and not be trying out to see everything. We definitely needed this time to recharge.

Last: Merida, Capital of the Yucatan

Merida is hot! We stayed in downtown, which was figuratively cool and literally hot. Shade is rare and awnings are non-existent. It cools down at night, which is when the streets are packed. We didn't do much here, still in hibernation mode, and ventured only to what was in a couple miles walking distance.

fantastic Joseph Kurhajec exhibit

Food in the Yucatan

My adorable-amazing mama is from Puebla, Mexico. So, the type of food I'm used to I suppose one would call Puebla Mexican food which I found to be a contrast to Yucatan food which has a considerable Mayan influence. In my family pinto beans (brown) reign supreme, in the Yucatan black beans are king. But what actually threw us off was how the beans were cooked, frijoles colados, which means strained beans. Pretty much, you get served a liquid bean soup as your side of beans. I was also surprised by the lack of spice in the food which contrasted with the plate of jabañero peppers on every table at every restaurant. P.S. I'm not a fan of these chiles, too strong of a flavor for my liking. We ate A LOT of cochinita pibil tacos. Yuuuum.

How Novel!

People rarely think I am Mexican, understandably so, not even in Mexico (or anywhere else I have traveled). Color me surprised when I saw people, lots of people, who look like me in Yucatan and Quintana Roo. We share the indigenous look, so here, lots of people actually thought I was Mexican! There was even that one clown (the dude was legit dressed like a clown) who congratulated me on snagging a white husband because I would be rich with all those dollars.

And after a month of recharging it was time to head back to California and start planning our road trip around the U.S. Travel gap year, to be continued...

So it's been a year

So it's been a year since we've done anything with this blog, and now that it's spring and the weather is lovely and I've begun to emerge from my cocoon of disillusionment about the world, my country, and the other realities, I am finally starting to feel like my semi-healthy self again. Coming back from our year off was a lot harder than we thought but now we're finally (for-the-most-part) readjusted to our life back in the bay area as fully employed individuals. And for the first time in a while I'm feeling motivated to go explore new places and things and to get out of my comfort zone by forcing myself to write on this goddamn blog again. So while I'm on this wave of motivation I'm going to try and go back to share some of our excursions over the last year to bring the blog up to date. And even though we're both tied down in 9-5 jobs, we hopefully can keep this blog from falling into total abandonment by occasionally sharing some explorations of the area, the state of California, and (hopefully every once in a while) beyond.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

cruzin' Hawaii

We decided to come back to the USA when we did because my extremely generous parents offered to take on a cruise to Hawaii with them. So three days after arriving back in the country we met up with them in San Francisco and boarded the ship. The sailaway out of San Francisco was, as you would imagine, amazing:

We were at sea for four days and spent our time sleeping, relaxing, doing trivia, going to a couple lectures on Hawaii, occasionally visiting the gym, and of course eating a ton. It felt great to gain back some of those pounds that I had lost over the last 7 months.

Our first stop in Hawaii was Maui. Unfortunately my dad was sick so it was just JJ, my mom and I that headed out to see Haleakala Volcano National Park. If you don't already know this about me then I am big into the national parks. It is something of a goal of mine to visit all of the 59 national parks and I was super excited to see the two that are in Hawaii. So the three of us headed up on the long but incredible drive up to the park, which took us from sea level all of the way up to the summit at 10,000 feet. The terrain changed from green lush topics, to plain meadows, to mountainous pine forests, and then finally to a barren dead lava landscape that look down into the clouds.

the Néné, looked for this bird the whole time, and finally found one chilling in the parking lot when we were leaving

mom and i

JJ in the clouds

The next day we arrived into the island of Hawaii, which meant it was time to head to Hawaii's second national park: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Thankfully my father was feeling better so we all headed out to see the volcanic magic. Inside the park are two still active volcanoes, so the landscape is otherworldly. The most famous activity in the park is the lava that flows out into the Pacific Ocean, creating the "newest land on earth". But driving through the heart of the park you get to see the usually sudden changes from rich rainforest into a dead black landscape that was "recently" covered in lava and then to new plants that have started to reclaim the dead earth.

That day we also made it out to see the 'Akaka Falls State Park. The park and it's waterfalls were of course beautiful, but the thing that stole the show for me was the three inch long Hawaiian freshwater goby fish. We didn't see this fish, but our minds were blow when we learned that it uses a sucker on its underbelly to climb up this 442 foot waterfall in order to spawn. A three inch fish climbing that waterfall! Insane!

Our next stop was Kona on the big island. It was here that I started to feel kind of off. I won't go into detail but it started with body aches and just regressed from there. Over the course of the next five days I had a rotation of ailments that kept me curled up in a ball in the cabin and later hotel room. I'm still not sure what it was, the first doctor said a sinusitis (which didn't make much sense) and the second said a viral infection and dehydration. The only thing that I was able to see during this time was when we cruised past the stunning and remote Na Pali Coast on Kaua'i.

Luckily I was able to recover enough in time to see some of Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and the crazy blue waters of the Oahu coast.

ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu

Father Damien Statue at the Hawaii State Capital

Pearl Harbor

Oahu coast

Oahu coast

Over the last eight months we have been to a decent amount of places where people throw out the "paradise" word. Of those places Hawaii seems to me to be the most apt. What a place! Thanks mom and dad!

more Hawaii pics at our flickr