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Coming Home

December 6, 2013

Between August 14th and October 11th, we drove over 10,000 miles through 19 states and 2 Canadian provinces, stopping in various places to visit friends and family, and take in some national parks as well.

It was epic.

Here are some highlights:  

We stopped off at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, to see the 9th deepest lake in the world, as well as the strange little islands in the middle of the lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.

crater lake panoramacrater lake panorama 2crater lake panorama 3

phantom ship

Phantom Ship

crater lake pinnacles

crater lake tree

We boondock camped just outside the entrance, among a grove of redwoods, sleeping in the back of our Prius. Michael found a nifty video that details how to get the most car-camping space in the back of a Prius, and all 6’6” of him was able to sprawl out when we set it up. Lovely!

crater lake boondocking


We visited friends Fumi and Zac — who, you might remember, joined up with us for one week of camper-vanning in new Zealand — at their new home in Portland, Oregon.

  fumi and pencil 

We drove to Yellowstone National Park and spent two nights camping and exploring the park, seeing huge wild animals such as buffalo, elk, pronghorns, and bighorn sheep:

buffalo closeup

buffalo herd


pronghorn family

Drinking in majestic vistas that just made our hearts soar:

tetons mist

yellowstone vista

And marveling at the geothermal wonders of Old Faithful, and the rainbow pool called Grand Prismatic Spring:

old faithful

 grand prismatic spring

We spent one night in Grand Teton National Park as well. The craggy tops of the Tetons make you feel so small!

tetons morning 

tetons elk

grand tetons

oxbow bend

We spent one week in Iowa with Michael’s mom, his sister and her family. Michael’s mom’s place is always a nice location to recharge.


On our way across the Midwest, we spent more than one night camped for free in Walmart parking lots.


We drove to Kingston, Ontario, to visit Michael’s second cousin Elizabeth and her husband Ted. They are always perfect hosts and we love going to spend time with them. We waterskied at a lake near their house. It was only the second time I’d been on waterskis, and unfortunately didn’t get to standing up this time, but the last time we’d visited them and waterskied, I made it up for one turn around the lake! Here’s a photo from that first time, back in summer of 2011. Michael is a talented waterskier and can even go on just one ski.


I was going so fast, the photo’s all blurred! 

We spent a week in Montreal, with my parents and getting to see friends. Montreal is a really great place to visit in the summer.

l'homme qui plantait des arbres

The Mosaicultures exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

mother ocean

We stayed in New York City for 2 weeks, splitting our time among a few different friends’ places, as well as with Michael’s brother. It felt so good to reconnect with our old hometown. We even got a couple of days of surfing in at Rockaway Beach, our homebreak.


usual suspect


From New York, we drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, to stay with my brother and his family for a few days. There’s always lots going on in their house, with my brother and his wife, four kids, four chickens and two dogs. We watched the kids in their tae kwon do classes (all four of them, as well as their mom, are very involved in it!), went on hikes during the day while they were at school, and played lots of Nintendo Wii with them. 

We stopped by Great Smoky Mountains National Park after Raleigh. It’s the most-visited National Park in the U.S., and very pretty, but it was hard for me to be as impressed as I had been at Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

smokeys vista 2

smokeys vista 1

smokeys drive

smokeys camping 

clingmans dome



After the Great Smokys, we drove through Bloomington, Indiana and visited Michael’s grad school friend Gretchen, and her husband Tom. Bloomington is a cute, progressive-feeling university town. 

We then drove back to Iowa to get all of our stuff out of Michael’s mom’s house and send it to Santa Cruz, California, where we were going to make our new home. We had 21 boxes of clothing, books, housewares and oddments. While we were traveling, for some reason, we kept thinking that we had downsized all of our belongings to just 8 boxes. We had a lot more stuff than we remembered!

Michael did some research and calculated that the cheapest and easiest way to move would be to ship all of our stuff to California using USPS. Six of our boxes were books and CDs, so we could ship them via super cheap Media Mail, and the rest we sent via the slowest ground shipping possible. We still had about a week of driving, so the later the boxes arrived, the better. We addressed the boxes to General Delivery, which delivers them to the post office of your specification and holds them for pickup. The last time I’d picked up mail delivered General Delivery was when I used Poste Restante (the term for General Delivery in Europe) as the address where my friends could send me letters when I backpacked across Europe in 1996. Amazingly, the General Delivery system still works!

After Iowa, we traveled the slow route to California via Utah. We spent two nights camping in Utah, and it was gorgeous.


red rock mack

utah viewfinder


utah panorama

Unfortunately, the federal government shutdown precluded our plans of visiting Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks, but we were able to drive through Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks, since the highway goes right through them.


bighorn utah

We camped at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, and took an early morning hike to look at the petrified wood.

escalante sunset

petrified wood

Then, we drove to Kodachrome Basin State Park and hiked a little. We saw the strange and famous red rock spire formations, and hiked through a cool slot canyon.

slot canyon 1

slot canyon 2

The park campsites were full due to the shutdown of the national parks nearby, so we boondock camped just a couple of miles outside of the park entrance. The sunset view was priceless – and free for us!


We finally got back to San Francisco on October 11th. We spent a couple of weeks staying with Michael’s sister, Elisabeth, and her family, while we looked for a place to rent in Santa Cruz.


There were a few days of fun waves at Ocean Beach,


and we also had a great session one day at Pleasure Point when were down in Santa Cruz looking at apartments.


We found a cottage to rent for November 1st, and officially moved to Santa Cruz on that date. Stay tuned for the next post introducing you to our beloved new hometown.

It feels great to be home.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ted Uncle T Lang permalink
    December 6, 2013 11:17 pm

    Wonderfull as usual. I feaL I TRAVELLED 10,000 MILES, 16000 kM, and I’m not tired a bit.
    A great travel log. Thanks.
    I was glad to see Elizabeth even with that Halloween image. Your Mom looked great as usual.
    It nice that you two dropped in to see us and you know a bed is always here for you.
    We look forward to your next report.
    Uncle T

  2. December 9, 2013 7:59 pm

    Thanks for taking us all along on your wonderful adventure! Great pics, descriptions, etc. Look forward to hearing about your Santa Cruz chapter!

    Sonia (friend of Michael’s mom)

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