RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #3: Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro

 

Greetings, amigos. We made it from Bahia de Los Angeles to Guerrero Negro, back on track on the main route. We stopped at Guerrero Negro for one thing: whale watching. In the winter, gray whales migrate from Alaska to Guerrero Negro  to have their baby whales. According to our books, it’s an amazing experience and you sometimes get to see the whales up close and possibly even touch them in a non-Seaworld scenario. We all know Seaworld sucks. Thank you, Blackfish.

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Sea lion sighting while whale watching. No extra charge. Nature’s bounty.

Seeing the whales is really the only reason to go to Guerrero Negro. It’s not a tourist town. It’s a company town. The company is an open-air salt mine. One of the biggest in the world. Not kidding. It’s actually kind of fascinating, but I’ll spare you the details. Anyway, we spent the night at an RV Park that’s basically just a parking lot with a restaurant. It’s also the place from which the whale tours depart, which was great, because you just hop on the tour bus at 8 and they drop you back-off at 12:00. Check-out time is at 1 so we were able to leave the pups in the RV for the tour and not have to worry about Wembley attacking a whale and disrupting an ecosystem.

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This is the restaurant at the place where we stayed. It was actually fabulous. It was exactly how I imagine a nice steak house dinner in Mexico would be in 1974. We got a seafood platter, otherwise I would have ordered a Brandy Alexander.

 

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This is the guy who sat in front of me in the boat. This was my view for a lot of the trip. Also, that’s the tour company we used. Fantastic.

The tour company drives you out to the preserve and then they load you into these little boats with a captain. Our captain was Juan and we had a total of six people in our boat, including us and Juan. There are two tours per day and there are never more than six boats allowed on the bay at a time. Once we were all life-jacketed, we motored out into the bay and…bam. Whales. Very, very cool. The whales were feeling good and playing with the boats and, yes, we all got to touch them. The whole operation was stellar. Everyone was super-professional and knowledgeable. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. And as soon as you’re done, do everyone a favor and get out of Guerrero Negro. We have some video, but there is little to no chance we’ll be able to upload it right now. Here are the whales:

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It is much easier to photograph whales playing with other boats. I imagine Jennifer and I feature prominently in that family’s photos. Sweet.

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Up close and personal.

 

Disclosure: We wrote this weeks ago. We just haven’t had enough service to post it. Posts may be appearing wily-nilly, as wifi access permits.

Next stop: Mulege.

Baja Post #2: Ensenada to Bahia de Los Angeles via Puertecitos

Buenos Dias! Everything is still OK. Dogs, people, and van. After Ensenada, we decided to check out the hot springs in Puertecitos. The thing is, there’s one main highway that runs North/South down the whole Baja Peninsula and our plan is to drive the whole thing. But to get to Puertecitos you have to take a little detour over to the west coast. No big deal. There’s a road from Puertecitos that heads south and eventually picks up the North/South highway, saving a ton of time. The problem is that road is unfinished. The passability of that road is the topic of much discussion among RVers. We talked to a bunch of people and decided that it was not worth risking a broken axle. But since we heard good things about Puertecitos we decided it would be worth it to drive four hours there and four hours back to Ensenada even though it was out of our way. Plus, I was dying to get my first look at the Sea of Cortez.

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Because driving at night here is highly not recommended, we spent the night in San Felipe along the way.  I’m sorry if your mom’s from there and you have warm and happy childhood memories of the place, but San Felipe is now firmly in my top ten of worst towns ever. It’s unbelievably weird in an ominous way. Lots of abandoned RV parks, roaming dogs, terrible tacos, and retired Canadians who should dream bigger. None of these things are unusual in Baja, but for some reason in San Felipe it all adds up to no bueno. If you’ve ever seen that movie Quick Change with Bill Murray and Geena Davis where they rob a bank and spend the rest of the movie just trying to get out of NYC, you may remember the scene where the old lady with a cart is wailing “ Flores! Flores para los muertos!” over and over again. In San Felipe I kept thinking I was going to run into that lady at any minute. We moved on pretty quickly.

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Look how quickly we were moving.

 

It turns out Puertecitos is a scruffy little village with a  campground that has a handful of palapas (which are like little shaded beach huts) right on the water. It was completely deserted when we got there, but we found a young guy named Luis who took our camping fee and explained to us that the gate to the village is locked at 10 pm and no one can go in or out after that. Obviously. Where would you go? He also led us to the springs…which were fantastic. Basically, there are these hot springs that fill little rock pools with steaming hot water. Then, when the tide comes in, the cold water floods into the pools and cools them down. So you end up with a patchwork of pools ranging from scalding hot to mildly warm, depending on how close to the waterline you go. Fabulous.

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Bustling downtown Puertecitos.

After soaking in the springs for a while, we settled into the empty campground in our almost totally unpopulated town. Locked. In. We got a little spooked in the middle of the night when we were awakened by crazy howling noises that we did not investigate. Eventually we had a discussion about zombies and went back to sleep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Trick photos at our Puertecitos palapa…before lockdown.

The next morning we met these two young dudes who were bicycling down the baja. Uh-huh. Yup. Michael and Ben. We got to chatting and it turns out they’d heard the next bay down the road, Bahia Gonzaga, was really amazing. It was just a little bit down the road and it was before the notorious unfinished road. It seemed a shame to miss out on that so we pressed onward, agreeing to meet up with our new biking friends if possible. Which we did. And it was great. The landscape and the drive were amazing. Like otherworldly amazing. Bahia Gonzaga itself was pretty cool. We spent two nights there. We had a beach bbq with our new friends and a very cool couple from Utah. After extensive discussion we realized if we were to push onwards there were really only 24 miles of the unfinished road. And it would be insanity to backtrack almost 6 hours in the wrong direction. And if we combined forces with Michael and Ben we would have four sets of eyes on the road and two bikes on which to go looking for help if need be. Sold. We stuck their bikes in the back of the Travato and took off.

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Michael and Ben. At the Bahia Gonzaga BBQ.

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Road to Bahia Gonzaga

 

That 24 miles wasn’t so much a road as a path through a totally stunning desert landscape. In my head, despite the warnings, I was imagining a road that was in really bad shape. You know, big potholes, broken pavement. That’s not what this is. Think about it: an unfinished road is a normal road that completely stops at some point and then is just an idea. That’s what this was. There was a nice road and then there were big barricades and then, off to the side, were the tracks of the total idiots who came before us, following an idea into the desert. If you’re imagining some kind of raucous, devil-may-care, beer commercial adventure, you are sadly mistaken. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, ass-clenching tedium. It took us three hours to make it through that section. That means we averaged 8 miles an hour, which seems extremely generous. We’re so happy to have had Ben and Michael with us. They hopped out at several points to scope the “road” ahead because, in addition to the gnarly terrain, there are all of these off-shoot paths and nothing is labeled. All hail the Travato. Totally unscathed. You can do anything if you do it slow enough.

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Along the unfinished road.

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Michael, Frances, and Wembley. Ass clenching.

 

We kept our new Mexi-family together all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles, another beautiful beach community on the Sea of Cortez. Which is where we are now. Resting and taking care of some essentials. Like getting the propane tank filled and getting some laundry done. Our new buddies took off on their bikes today. Hopefully we’ll see them further along the route. Next stop: Guerrero Negro for some whale watching. Thanks for tuning in.

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Good times.

 

Sidenotes: we’ve been through numerous military checkpoints and still haven’t shown any paperwork. If we end up missing, maybe follow up with Michael and Ben. Last names unknown. Also Michael-we have your alligator!

 

RV Roadtrip to Baja. Post #1: San Diego to Ensenada.

Hola! We’re fine. Just wanted to get that out of the way in case anyone was worried. We’re actually way better than fine. We’re having a blast.

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This is us. Having a blast….at an rv park in Mexico.

Yes, it is true that we didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. Both the books we bought about traveling into Baja with an RV and two dogs clearly stated that we would sail straight through the border as long as we had the necessary paperwork. So we spent some time in San Diego getting all of that paperwork in order. I know, I can hardly believe it either.  When we got to the border crossing in Tijuana our whole plan kind of devolved. There were 6 million people and 217 lanes of traffic, all conveniently labeled in Spanish, which makes a lot of sense because it’s Mexico. Whatever lane we ended up in was staffed by a really nice and extremely intimidating woman in a black tactical vest. She opened the back of our van, took a look, spoke some rapid-fire spanish at us and strenuously pointed us to another checkpoint area. This was a little disturbing because approximately 95% of the other cars passing through the border didn’t even really slow down.

It turns out we’d been selected for some kind of high-tech scanning. We finally grasped that passengers and pets were not allowed to stay in the car, so under the scrutiny of another friendly border patrol officer, Jennifer tried to exit the van gracefully while both our dogs went completely ape-shit. There was barking. There was snapping. Wembley took a head-dive out the door. Jennifer was not looking happy dragging those two morons off to wherever they were being sent. I definitely would not have let either of them into my country. We don’t have any pictures of this because when I tried to pull out the camera Jennifer had a meltdown. She thought the Mexican authorities would think we were spies. We’re not.

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Here’s a picture of a fish market in Ensenada instead.

I had to stay in the van. By myself. And then I just kept smiling and nodding until I figured out I was supposed to drive the van onto this special ramp with like 6 other suspicious vehicles. Then I had to get out of the van and go wait behind a concrete bunker with the other drivers while all of our vehicles were subjected to what looked like the World’s Biggest MRI. Then there was a really loud siren. And then we were all allowed back into our duly irradiated rides and ushered to another little parking lot area where I saw Jennifer and the pups sitting and chatting with some lady in some kind of tent building. So I figured we’d have to wait for the results of the scan, maybe do an interview, and get our paperwork checked. Not so much. Basically, the guy in the parking lot just let me pick up my passengers and take off. No ID’s checked, no passports stamped. Not a glance at our International  Pet Health Certificates, Mexican auto insurance, or our pre-paid tourist visas. Nada. And the next thing we knew we were cruising through Tijuana on the highway and it definitely felt like we missed a checkpoint or did something very wrong. So we were in a bit of a panic, trying to figure out if we needed to hunt down some sort of immigration office. Ultimately we just kept driving. Shocking, I know. 

(Turns out we didn’t do anything wrong. This is standard operating procedure. Because Mexico is a nice country and they want us to come visit).

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Over the border!

 
Our first stop was supposed to be at a campground in Baja’s wine country. We had no idea Mexico even had a wine country until a few days ago when we met some lady in a state park in Arizona. She’s from Belarus and she told us all about it.  Anyway, it’s called Valle de Guadalupe. We looked it up, found a campground that looked promising and headed over. It’s only about an hour and a half from the border so we thought it would be a good place to spend the night and collect ourselves. The drive was beautiful and amazing, skirting the pacific ocean at first and then climbing up into the mountains. We made a few wrong turns but finally made it down a winding dirt road through acres and acres of grapevines to our destination, at which point I turned into what I thought was the driveway and promptly sank the front tires deep into a mud puddle. First day. Out in the sticks. Super-heavy RV stuck in the mud. See? Not auspicious.

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Only puddle in ten acres and we found it.

Lucky for us, the campground owner, Cesar, hooked us up to his pick up truck and pulled us out. Hero. This is where our luck turned back around. The campground, called Glamping Ruta de Arte y VIno,  is basically 10 acres of open land dotted with restored vintage Airstream trailers that they rent out, plus a little communal area with showers and a bar and a  little kitchen. Sometimes they show movies. Winter is their low-season so there was hardly anyone else there. It was amazing. Cesar told us all the great places to go. We ended up staying 3 nights. Villa de Guadalupe is basically like Napa-South. Tons and tons of wineries, beautiful scenery, some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. There are lots of little hole-in-the-wall places, but also a ton of more upscale eateries some of which are attached to the vineyards. The recognition of the strong wine game attracted the attention of some amazing chefs. Everything is kind of campestre, which I think means country-style. Everything local. Lots of grilling over wood and eating outside. Suckling pig. Smoky beef cheek tacos. Handmade tortillas and shredded lamb. Fresh cheese. Oh, and the ocean is only about 30 minutes away. You know what? You should look it up!

We did a few great wine tastings. Turns out the reason you don’t hear a lot about Mexican wine is that like 95% of it goes to restaurants in Mexico city. You’re only allowed to bring back 1L per person, so the best way to enjoy Mexican wine is to drink it in Mexico. Which is what we’re going to do. The van is stocked.

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Wine country.

 

After 3 nights in the Valle we headed down to Ensenada, which is probably the biggest city we’ll see for a while. We’re in shockingly pleasant RV park called Ramona Beach right on the Ocean. We took the local bus into town today where we had some top notch ceviche tostadas from a semi-famous street cart called Guerrerense, changed some money, and bought some toilet paper.

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Plaza de Patria in Ensenada

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Where we stayed. Kicking it like retired Canadians.

 

 

 

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Mariscos tostadas on the Street!

We were planning on having some fish tacos and trying a Margarita at the bar where they were invented, but apparently Monday is the day that everything in Ensenada is closed. Oh well. Maybe on the way back. Now we’ll either head south or possibly detour to the east to check out San Felipe and some hot springs we heard about. Stay tuned.  

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$4.98 Walmart chairs looking good!

We’re Making a Run For the Border

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s hope that 2018 really fucking delivers. We just finished up our winter round of Indianapolis work weeks and East Coast holiday visits. It was like 17 degrees below zero when we made it back to Indianapolis just in time for another NYE in nobody’s favorite hotel.

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This is what negative 17 degrees looks like.

Life in a campervan is a huge hassle in cold weather so we decided to blow this pop stand (America) for a while. Did you know you can drive to Mexico from Indianapolis? You can. So that’s what we’re doing.  It’s going to be amazing. I know because I bought a book about it.

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Actually, I bought two. We left Indy about 8 days ago and now we’re in San Diego, CA. We should be crossing the border in a couple of hours to start our not-very-well-researched tour of the Baja Peninsula before heading back. We’ve got about a month for this trip. We have to be back in Indy by the end of February and we have a date with the World’s Greatest Siblings in Memphis just before that. We’re going to be better about posting and taking pictures on this trip.* Adios.

 

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Somewhere along the way. Possibly New Mexico.

*empty promise alert

Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

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It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.

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Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.

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That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.

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Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.

 

 

Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.

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Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.

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This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.

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That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.

 

Street Spice!

Ok, we did exactly what we swore we weren’t going to do. We went a long time without posting. We went a lot of places and we did a lot of things. Should we relive them all here? Should I spend all day trying to remember everything we did? I’m thinking no. I’m thinking I’m just going to do a synopsis slash hit list. So here it is.

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Aquatic as ever.

Synopsis: Since our last post we basically did a 33-day 5,000 mile shakedown trip in our new Winnebago Travato,which we now refer to as Street Spice (sort of a nod to the horrible name we inherited when we bought our now non-existent island house, Sweet Spice). Anyway, we took Street Spice from Indianapolis up through the Finger Lake region of New York and through the Adirondacks into Maine. We spent about 5 days in Acadia National Park, which I highly recommend. (I also recommend eating as much lobster as possible, which we did.)  We actually had reservations in Acadia so we kind of sped through New York to get there but we’re looking forward to going back eventually.

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Also we went to Niagara Falls.

After Acadia we had to haul ass to DC to catch the always fabulous All Things Go Fall Classic. That’s a music festival. You should go because it’s always fabulous. This year it was three days instead of one and we only made it in time for the last day, by which point we were so fried from traveling and just like, coping or whatever, that we ended up leaving before the headliner. And it was STILL FABULOUS. Also we got to spend a few hours with several of our favorite people, so that’s a plus. We got out of DC as fast as possible because we were just generally kind of freaking out about having the RV in the city, but everything worked out great. Sidenote: We are much more comfortable with the RV now and take it pretty much everywhere.

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Soooooo many leaves.

After DC we headed over to Shenandoah National Park (which we’ve visited many times) and hopped on and off of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way down to Asheville, NC. Basically this whole trip was a foliage-fest. Jennifer loves fall foliage. I’m not that into it because changing leaves means weather and I think we can all agree that weather just plain sucks. Nevertheless, we have lots of pics of Wembley and Frances and leaves.

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The Biltmore. Be sure not to miss the “bachelor wing.”

While we were in Asheville we finally made it to the Biltmore Estate which we’ve been meaning to do for years. We love a good house tour. The Biltmore is this gigantic, enormous estate that one of the Vanderbilts built. It’s beautiful and amazing. Frederic Law Olmsted, the guy who designed central park, designed the grounds. Yeah, it’s like that. The thing is, it wasn’t really that interesting. It was kind of too tasteful and classy and there wasn’t much of a story (except that it seems like this Vanderbilt guy was pretty gay, although it was never mentioned and he did eventually get married and we’re totally just guessing . But, you know, it was tasteful). I’ll take circus-mogul John Ringling’s house in Florida over the Biltmore any day of the week. Onwards.

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Hiking like it’s 1992. We are extremely wardrobe-challenged when temps dip below 75.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was kind of a bust because they have a pretty tough dog policy. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds but not on the trails. This turned out not to be a problem because there’s tons of National Forest around the park which is, in many ways, better to camp in anyway. Usually it’s cheap and/or free, the sites are less developed and way less crowded. We did tons of camping and hiking and figuring out the complex intricacies of life in the Travato. (It’s not that hard, mostly because we don’t really have much stuff.) We did buy some camp chairs which are pretty ugly but have upped our recreation game considerably. And a Soda Stream! We finally bought one of those soda stream machines and it is completely life changing. Endless seltzer. Endless boxed wine spritzers. In chairs. We’re getting good at this.

 

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Rocking the self-timer.

On our way back to Indiana we stopped in Oak Ridge, TN. Maybe you know about Oak Ridge? We had no idea. Basically, it was a completely secret town that was part of the Manhattan Project- you know, the development of the nuclear program? Yeah, it turns out there were thousands and thousands of people living in a SECRET CITY in Tennessee during WWII working on making the atomic bomb. We got there late so we didn’t get the full tour but it was still mind-blowing. We’re definitely going back.

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In lieu of a driver’s license, Jennifer got an official Oak Ridge ID.

As an added bonus while driving towards Oak Ridge we ended up on a crazy, twisty road full of hot rods, motorcycles and photographers. Apparently it’s some famous achievement to “drive the dragon.”

 

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Professional photo, guys. We slayed the dragon. Let us know if you’d like a print. Or a t-shirt. They’re available.

After that it was straight back to Indy for a week of motel-living and a paycheck. Yes, we were back in the same extended stay hotel we’ve posted about previously. No, nothing at all interesting happened in that week (although the Hallmark Channel is doing it’s holiday movie marathon, in case you’re interested. Like me.).

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One of the benefits of being a frequent guest at a quality hotel is that the staff sometimes attaches little notes when your new shoes are delivered. Thanks, Renee!

Finally, we headed down to Florida (where we are now) to register the van and get some government ID. On our way down here we camped at a state park in Kentucky. On Halloween. When we pulled in it was after dark  and almost completely deserted.  So we took a spin around all the sites to find the best one and then we went to the after-hours registration station, filled in our info and parked at our deserted campsite. Five minutes later headlights show up out of nowhere. Right behind us. Suddenly Kentucky didn’t feel like the World’s Friendliest Place. But it turns out the couple in the car were the campground hosts. Apparently, we were looking very suspicious pulling in late at night in a black van. They thought maybe we were a meth lab. You know, like the two other meth labs they busted at that campground the week before.  Not even kidding. All in all it was a pretty good shakedown cruise. No major malfunctions. Lots of good times.

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Kentucky. I think.

*Progress Update on Sweet Spice: We had several text exchanges and static-y conversations with multiple insurance adjusters who have confirmed that “you’re house is gone” and “seems like it was a nice place, probably.” Then we got a letter from FEMA denying our request to build a bridge. We had no idea that was even an option. Stay tuned.

 

 

Eating Our Feelings: Lobster Quest 2017

This is our first update from the road. We’re learning that wifi is spotty out here in America and we’re staked out in the Starbuck’s alcove of what may be the last remaining Barnes and Noble. Who knew? I thought they were long gone, but if you need to relive the You’ve Got Mail era head over here to…somewhere in Virginia.

Anyway, we’re going to have to keep this update fairly brief. Our travels in the Travato so far have been great. We’re still a little shell shocked from the whole hurricane displacement issue, but our motto has turned out to be: keep moving. In that vein we have spent the last 2.5 weeks camping through the Finger Lakes and Adirondack park in upstate New York (all of it lovely and kind of a blur), hitting up Niagara Falls, and spending about 5 days in Acadia National Park in Maine. I don’t have time to share all the details of these spectacular destinations right now but, trust me, they are spectacular.

In Maine we decided that our second motto should be: distract yourself with treats. So we completely dedicated ourselves to Lobster Quest 2017: Pursuit of the Perfect Lobster Roll. This happened because we knew we wanted an amazing lobster roll while in Maine (obviously) and we found a list of great places for lobster rolls. Then we selflessly dedicated ourselves to trying as many as possible and coming up with a way to rate them. Ultimately, we ended up trying lobster rolls from 5 different establishments on the list. That’s a lot of lobster in 5 days.

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The Maine: Mayo and Chives

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The Connecticut: Hot Butter

First, let it be said, we did not have a bad lobster roll during this challenge. We have to be nit-picky in order to rank them. They were all delicious, but when you take in the overall setting/ambiance as well as the overall quality of the roll (amount of lobster, lobster taste, roll/meat ratio, etc.) there were some clear winners. Here are our results, good to great, of Maine’s best lobster rolls (according to us).

#5 Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor. This was kind of a weird one.  All of the other places we tried were legit lobster pounds or seafood stands. This place is like an eclectic cafe in the touristy town right next to Acadia National park. It’s right in town, so it’s really just a lobster roll of convenience. We took ours to go on our way out of the park. Were it not on our list, we would never have stopped. They have a whole burrito section on their menu. However, the lobster roll was still above average with a nicely buttered roll and a good amount of lobster meat. Not really memorable, though.

#4 Muscongus Bay Lobster in Round Pond. This is a lobster shack in a quaint setting on the water in an out of the way town in Maine. Jennifer picked up the lobster rolls and she said the place had kind of a bohemian feel. Whatever. Their deal is they make their own buns. And they recommended the whole wheat, so that’s what we got. Terrible idea. Lobster rolls do not belong on whole wheat buns no matter how good they are. Period. The lobster can’t compete with that kind of culinary pressure. Also, they had some kind of tarragon mayo going on (risky move), but we couldn’t really taste it. Basically, this place is ranked #4 instead of #5 just because it’s in a way cooler spot than Side Street Cafe and you feel like you’re getting more of a “Maine” experience.

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Bite Of Maine Food Truck/Trailer

#3 Bite of Maine in Cape Elizabeth. This is actually a food truck near the big city of Portland. We hit it on our way out of the state. We were expecting it to be kind of a weird urban lobster experience, but it wasn’t. The truck/trailer is parked in this ridiculously beautiful city park on the water with a crazy lighthouse in the background. You pick up your roll and take it to whatever picnic table you want. The deal here is they have different styles of lobster rolls. They have some with wasabi, some with curry, some with cole slaw. In the interest of keeping the competition pure we only tried the classics, which are the Maine (mayo and chive) and the Connecticut (hot butter). The Connecticut won hands down. It was a very, very solid lobster roll. Buttery and delicious and with good lobster flavor. The Maine just tasted like mayo, pretty much. There was a lot of it. I’d still be up for trying some of their more creative rolls next time.

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Lobster Glow

#2 Five Islands Lobster Co in Georgetown. This was our first stop. It’s in a totally out of the way, completely quaint little village right on the water. You order your roll from the shack and take it out to the wood deck to chow down with a gorgeous view of all of these beautiful little islands (probably five).  You can practically hear the theme song of Murder She Wrote in the air. It feels like you think Maine should feel. The lobster roll was very good. A little bland, but good and full of meat. What it lacked in flavor was more than made up for by the setting. Yeah, you should go.

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Uh-huh.

 

#1 Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. This was the best lobster roll we had on this trip. No question. Great roll, perfect ratio of meat to bun, amazing lobster flavor. Plus, it’s a legit lobster pound right on the water about 30 minutes from Acadia. They have a screened in porch you can eat on over the water, but we ate in the Travato because we had a great view and we also have a screen door. Total happiness. They also do lobster dinners…you pick out your lobster at the counter and they throw it in the steamer out back. It was dinner time when we were there so we branched out and got some corn on the cob, too. Also excellent. Also, they have great t-shirts. I should know. I got one. Perfect blend of cotton and poly, very 1987.

 

 

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View of Thurstons from our screened porch/van. Does your car not have a screen door???

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Chowing down in the van.

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Thurston’s. Yeah, there’s lettuce. It works.

In the spirit of absolute fucking transparency, I’d like to mention another lobster hot spot that has stellar rolls that we didn’t get a chance to stop at on this trip: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset ME. It was our first great lobster roll experience and if the lines outside the door are any indication, they’re still turning out a very fine product. Probably you should stop there if you can.

And finally, because how can we have even one post without a mention of St. John, I’d like to give a shout out to the super delicious lobster rolls once served at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay. Sadly, the Tourist Trap closed down even before Irma, but those were great lobster rolls in a truly beautiful spot. Hope you had a chance to try them while they were still around.

So that’s it. That’s our lobster list. It’s time to use the Barnes and Noble bathroom for the 103rd time and get back in the Travato. Stay tuned.

Oh, we’re headed to the Asheville, NC/ Great Smoky Mountains area right now, so if anyone has any tips, please let us know!

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On The Road. Again.

Well, ok, we’ve made some progress. Basically what happened was-we kind of lost our minds. Faced with months and probably years of couch surfing and extended stay hotels while we try to rebuild our house in STJ we both sank, simultaneously, into a deep, dark depression in Indianapolis. I’m not going to go on about that because you can probably figure out that the whole situation sucks (for everyone touched by Irma, not just us. And yeah, we know we’re lucky).

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Jennifer and Wembley packing all of our remaining clothes in hotel.

Anyway, we were seriously thinking about changing the name of this interweb journal from detached and amused to down-trodden and disgusted. But, you know, wordpress is more of a pain in the ass to edit than you would think. So we decided that if the title is detached and amused then that’s what we have to be. AND if we already have the about us page set up to chronicle our journeys in a Winnebago, then we needed a fucking Winnebago. So we got one.

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Introducing the Travato. This is a HUGE upgrade from Coachese (for whom we found a lovely and fantastic new owner). This guy is brand new. All the bells and whistles. Very extended warranty. The best Winnebago has to offer in a campervan (and much, much nicer than many of the places we’ve lived). Anyway, we checked out of the exended stay hotel and directly into the Travato a few days ago. Yes, you’re right, we can’t afford this. Thanks for reminding us.

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Frances in the Travato. Yeah. We fancy now. She knows it.

 

Let’s stay positive, shall we? This guy is super stealthy. He doesn’t really look like an RV. He’s 21 feet long and pretty much fits in regular parking spots. And even if people know its an RV, it’s so fucking nice that no one minds having it parked in their driveway. I know this is true because we already camped in our friends’ driveway in a very swanky neighborhood in Cincinnati. Thank you Adeoyes. We really, really love you guys.

 

Right now we are somewhere in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Yesterday, we went to Niagara Falls (first time for all of us and very impressive). Later this week we’ll be in Acadia National Park in Maine. And at the end of the month we’ll be back in Indy because Jennifer has work dates scheduled. And that’s how it will go, hopefully. Instead of spending the next year or more in a semi-soul-crushing Days Inn while we battle insurance companies and scheme about how to get our life back, we’ll ping pong around the country in our 100% operable rv, visiting friends and family (yes, this means you) and World Famous Attractions between work weeks (while also still battling and scheming to get our island life back).

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Niagara Falls. Taken by storm.

 

Hey, let’s not forget that this was our plan all along. We always wanted to spend part of our time doing this. I know this because I’ve actually read this blog. We just forgot for a minute because it almost always sucks a little when you’re forced into something. Even if it was one of your dreams.

Sweet Spice Down. Irma Update.

Well, it’s official. Sweet Spice, our island paradise home is gone. We’re still stateside and so we haven’t seen the damage in person, but the words that have been used to describe it are “destroyed”, “totally destroyed”, “missing”, and “not much left.”

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Weirdly, one of our neighbors found our high-quality sign in the rubble. It outilved the house.

We’re fine. We’re in Indianapolis where Jennifer is finishing up a week of work. We were supposed to head back home in a few days, but that can’t happen now. Not just because we don’t have a house or any possessions left, but also because the whole island is just devastated. I mean, really devastated. The pictures we’ve seen and the few messages we’ve gotten from friends, neighbors, and the coconut telegraph have been totally heartbreaking. As far as we can tell, it’s just a complete disaster zone. Here’s a picture I stole from an interweb page about our neighborhood.21761666_10209811717829745_5002246930315855434_n

The media coverage of the Virgin Islands was super sparse, especially in the first few days  after the storm but there are some reports coming out now. Like this article in the Washington Post about how the people in our neighborhood, Coral Bay, are coping. Read it. It’s totally amazing. And speaking of things that are amazing, almost everyone we can think of has been accounted for. If you see the pictures, you’ll know how crazy that it is.

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Before

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After

And then maybe if you’re feeling generous you could make a donation so that the people in STJ can buy chainsaws and diapers and tarps and mosquito repellent, and hopefully maybe some beer because my neighbors have been huddling under mattresses in a Category 5 hurricane, dodging power lines and dead donkeys, cutting each other out of barricaded houses, and just generally surviving for 8 days already and I think they deserve some beer. This is St. John we’re talking about after all. Withdrawal is a real consideration.

As far as our plans go, we really don’t have any yet. I think we’re a little shell shocked. We just sold our Winnebago, by the way. That was actually one of our goals when we planned this trip. Things were going so swimmingly with all the improvements at Sweet Spice we decided to just focus on the house. Good timing. Go us.

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Coachese in happier times.  So long, Coachese!

I don’t know much about blogging, but I’m pretty sure I read that it’s really important to pick a specific subject and stick with it.  That’s going to be fairly fucking tough since this blog is supposed to be about our travels in our Winnebago and our life in our house in St. John…and we don’t have either of those things anymore. So, unless you’re super stoked to read about whatever it is that we end up doing from here on out, feel free to un-follow us or de-subscribe or whatever. Who could blame you?

Our post-Tuesday reality will most likely involve driving down to Florida to stay with family while we figure out what’s next. Ultimately, we’ll rebuild and live in STJ. We know this. We just have to figure out how. I mean, we’d like nothing better than to go home on Tuesday. Because clearly what St. John needs right now is two more homeless, middle-aged ladies. And their dogs.  Probably not. So for the immediate future we’re completely open to suggestions. Seriously. Ideas currently being batted around include: another RV (that actually works), a tent on our property, a container house. We’re spinning. Who has ideas?

 

Hurricane Irma: We’re OK. We’re Off Island.

Thanks to everyone who has called and texted and emailed to check on us. We are not on STJ right now. We’ve been in the States for the past couple of weeks working (and selling Coachese). We feel very lucky to be here while our friends and neighbors in Coral Bay are hunkered down riding Irma out. I can’t even imagine how scary that would be. We have no idea what’s going on at our house. It was completely boarded up before the storm (thanks, Paul). We are scheduled to head back around the 19th, but that may change.  We don’t really have any information about what’s going on in St. John right now. Pretty sure communication will be very limited for some time. Thanks again for all the crossed fingers! Keep the good thoughts going for everyone in the VI.