Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Currently: June

Currently living/working in: The Superfeet Supervan!!! Only 6 stops left on our NZ speaking tour and 4 weeks!! 

Current mood: I’m a little overwhelmed these days. Road life is blissfully chaotic and though we stay on top of most of it, being disconnected and on the go poses challenges. Road life is equally carefree, so while we have tour responsibilities, we seem to put everything else on the back burner. I’m getting to the point where my mind is starting to think about all the other life responsibilities waiting for us in the curtain ... hence, insomnia.

Currently excited about: Seeing my 2 college roomies! We’ve already visited so many friends and family through the country, and there are still so many more to see. But I think I am most excited about seeing my gals whom I haven’t seen in a few years. (My family will probably be mad I didn't say them, but that goes without saying?)

Currently not excited about: The end of our tour. Another epic road trip in the books!!! But I don’t want it to end … 

Currently proud of: There are lots of irons in the fire from this tour!!!! Can’t reveal anything yet, but we are excited about the old relationships we’ve sharpened and the new ones we’ve established. 

Currently worried about: We are going to visit our storage unit in Virginia in a few weeks. It is still full of stuff we probably don’t need, but we never seem to have enough time to go through and purge. The clutter gives me great anxiety. On the other hand, my husband has a little bit of a pack rat in him. It is an ongoing joke between us, yet I am not laughing.  

Currently thankful for: Amazing hospitality across the country. This tour wouldn’t really be possible without our friends and family opening their homes! Not to mention, our friends have a lot of great advice and wisdom for us to absorb!

Currently regretting: I’ve really been trying to practice taking better pictures with my fancy camera, but I wish I tried out some night photography shots, especially with the van. There’s still time, so maybe me admitting this online will hold me accountable … 

Currently amazed by: The irons in the fire ... exciting prospects ahead! 

Current confession: I do not love Google Maps. It gets us from point A to point B, but I feel like there are some things the app could do better to cause less frustration. I actually almost wish we didn’t have that convenience and would just rely on paper maps again. 

Current guilty pleasure: Eating out! Our tour budget has 3 parts: lodging, food and gas. We hardly ever eat out during the other 9 months of the year, but boy are we making up for it now. 

Currently reading: We’ve had some longer stretches of driving requiring less navigation, so we finally got back into audiobooks. We finished Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.” We love Amy Poehler, but her book actually made us like her less. As for “The Alchemist,” it is not our typical genre—it’s kind of almost fantasy world—but we really liked it. 

Currently watching on Netflix: We downloaded episodes of “House of Cards - Season 3” from Netflix to watch here and there. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Middle America Tour Recap

Just in case you are wondering, it is NOT recommended to drive eastbound and jump 2 time zones in 2 days. I spent most of my last week jet lagged without ever stepping foot on a plane.

This is because we drove nearly 2500 miles across the United States in a week for our NZ Speaking Tour. We were in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 14 and 13 states later, we ended up in Glenora, New York on June 23.

Though it's been a whirlwind and we wake not knowing where we are, it's still been awesome as usual! We had 7 events in 6 different states.

The best part about all this travel has been visiting friends!! "Visiting" is a euphemism for using their bathroom, showering, giving our dishes a full wash in a big sink, doing laundry, using their WiFi ...

We also checked out Gregory's headquarters in Salt Lake City. It's always wonderful when we can connect with our marketing reps in person.

BTW, Vegas was also fun. And if by fun, I mean expensive. We did treat ourselves to the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show. It was recommended by friends and we had no idea what to expect. It was fantastic!!!!!
We are actually entering a "breather" period. We have 5 events up and down the East Coast, but they are spread across the next 15 days! We will be doing more visiting than presenting and it will feel weird to spend more than a few days in one place.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Exploring Nevada: Great Basin National Park

Once again, we realized we could take a "short" side trip, "not too far out of our way" on our drive from Vegas to Salt Lake City. So we visited Great Basin National Park in Eastern Nevada!
Great Basin is now our 7th national park of this summer's road trip. We certainly did not see all we wanted to see. Typically, we like to explore parks to the fullest—hike every trail, see every view—and we didn't get to do this with Great Basin since we were there less than 24 hours. But, this is a park we not only need to return to, but want to!

Great Basin has a mix of attractions above ground and below ground.

The underground world is Lehman Caves, a single cavern with a few rooms to explore. We took the 90-minute Grand Palace tour that gets you as far into the cave as you can go.

J & I seem to be cave junkies. If there is a cave, we must explore it. We've only been in 9 or so caves, which isn't really a lot considering there are 170+ commercial caves throughout the U.S. But they all seem to mesmerize us.

Typically, it's the same old thing--stalagmites, stalagtites, popcorn, draperies and a few other formations. But we learned a few new cave vocabulary words in Lehman. One is a shield, which is rare and unexplained in caves. It's almost like a flattened, circular plate. I found it to be particularly fascinating.

Besides cave exploring, there are high mountains to climb, alpine lakes to view and bristlecone pine trees (the oldest living trees!!) to marvel. We stayed overnight at the Wheeler Peak Campground, up at 9,886 feet and only did the 2.7-mile Alpine Lakes Trail. Justin really wanted to climb to the top of Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet), but in the interest of time, we couldn't (do you sense my disappointment?).

 The view from bed was not bad! 

We're not at all disappointed that we need to return to Great Basin NP! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

California Tour Recap

Are you tired of hearing about California??? This is it ... the last post with a quick recap of our New Zealand Speaking Tour stops, I promise.

When we were planning our tour—which has been primarily West Coast-based—we debated how many stops to do in California. Do you guys realize how big of a state it is?? It has 29 REIs and countless other mom and pop stores, so the possibilities were actually endless.

We opted to schedule 7 stops across 2 weeks, with several adventures (including 4 national parks!) padding the events. Of the 4,000 miles we've driven so far, nearly 2000 miles ended up traversing California. It may be an expensive state (for us) and crowded, but it sure is pretty!
Our 7 events went well, but a few attendances were lower than expected. Turns out, our presentations coincided with the airing of the NBA finals, which in fact included a California team! A little tough to compete with that ...

But as with anything, it's quality, not quantity. Our audiences are truly the best!!
 I need to get better at this selfie-audience shot ... My big head is covering lots of people!

Again, it's always nice to see familiar faces of friends we probably wouldn't see otherwise and California was a lot of that. But one of the coolest things was having fellow Te Araroa hikers come out for events!! One guy hiked the year after us, and though we never met him, we communicated via social media often. Another guy was someone we met on the South Island, overlapping one night and staying in touch ever since. The last guy was more familiar. It's Kevin! The guy with whom we shared 50ish days on the South Island! It was great to reunite our hiking team again (though we all looked a little cleaner and better groomed).
For a hot minute, Kevin almost joined us for our backpacking trip on the Channel Islands! Would have been great to go backpacking together again, but we settled for hanging in parking lots for several hours catching up ...  

We are far from California now, making our way East. This tour is going way too fast!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Exploring California: Pinnacles and Channel Islands National Parks

As I said in my last post, we hit 2 national parks in northern California and 2 in southern California.

A visit to Pinnacles National Park was last minute when we noticed that it was "not too far out of our way" on our drive from San Jose to Fresno in between events. We cut it a little close on time to take showers before our Fresno presentation, but that's our modus operandi!
Pinnacles was first established as a national monument in 1908, but upgraded to a national park in 2013, marking it as the 59th and newest.
There are 2 entrances for Pinnacles (East and West) and while trails connect the 2 entrances, no road does. We chose the East entrance and opted for a 6-mile out-and-back hike to Balconies Cave. The talus cave route is short, fairly open and doesn't require a guide, but you do need a headlight.

With its large rock spires, crags and canyons, Pinnacles is a nesting area for the California condor, one of the largest birds in North America (weighing 20 lbs with a wingspan of 9.5 feet). I thought I may have spotted a condor in the distance perched on a treetop, but I'll never know for sure.
Then for the weekend, we had planned to be in southern California for a very special park we've been wanting to visit for YEARS! Channel Islands National Park is one of the off-the-beaten track parks. It may be accessible given its location not too far from LA (and 25 miles from the nearest coastal town of Ventura), but it is harder to get to because it requires booking a boat as well as a camping permit in advance (which sells out months in advance). Trips to the Channel Islands are also weather-dependent with the ferry service. I've heard about people being stranded on the islands for days!!

There are 5 islands that comprise the park and you can camp on all 5. We chose the largest—Santa Cruz Island. And although we watched the fog roll in and out often, we had perfect weather.

Santa Cruz is about 96 square miles and has two docking piers--Prisoners and Scorpion. The boat dropped us off at Prisoners Cove, where we hiked 4 miles in to a campsite (a gorgeous spot, I might add). There is no water at the backcountry site, so we had to pack it all in, making our packs unusually heavy for an overnight trip.

The next day, we hiked another 10 miles to Scorpion Cove to pick up the boat back to mainland California. One thing that struck me was the sweet smells of the wildflowers and grasslands, including fennel and sage.

We added a 1.5-mile bonus hike around Cavern Point before leaving, and it was a definite highpoint.

One specialty of Santa Cruz Island are the native plants and animals that you can find nowhere else in the world, including the island fox—the smallest in the world. They are less than 13 inches in height, 22-27 inches long and weight less than 4 lbs!!! Unfortunately, they are very conniving and comfortable with human contact.
On the return boat ride, we were treated to several pods of dolphins swimming around the boat!

We'd definitely like to return to explore the sea caves, pristine beaches, steep cliffs, rugged mountains and lonely canyons on the other Channel Islands. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Exploring California: Redwoods and Lassen Volcanic National Parks

California has SO many national parks, and even though we've been to many, we have not visited all of them. For this summer's road trip, we made a point to hit Redwoods, Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacle AND Channel Islands National Parks (in that order, but spread across 2 weeks). I'll spare you the overload and break this into 2 posts: Northern and Southern CA National Parks.

Redwoods NP is on the northern coast of California and is known for forests full of the world's tallest living tree: the redwood.

Redwoods can reach nearly 380 feet, standing taller than the Statue of Liberty (305 feet). Their bases are 22 feet in diameter, bigger than some bedrooms and living rooms! They can live up to 2000 years, so it's no longer they grow to be so massive.

We drove through the whole park, even the permit-only road (Tall Trees), stopping to do about 10 miles in hikes. Trillium Falls and Stout Grove were our favorite hikes.

We came for the plant life, but were treated to some wonderful wildlife sightings. Where else can you say you spotted a whale, a black bear cub and a Great Horned Owl in the same day? 
Justin is the best spotter in the world, even without binoculars!

From Redwoods, we made our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was a little early in the season for exploring Lassen when we visited the last week of May. The road was still covered in snow, so you could only get 10 miles in or so from the North entrance (and the same from the South entrance). 
There are tons of hydrothermal sites with bubbling mud pots and steaming fumaroles, but it was all inaccessible to us. Instead, we hiked among the lava rocks, exploring Manzanita Lake and Chaos Crag, totally about 6 miles. With the little we saw of the park, we already know we want to return!

Stay tuned for our account of Southern CA National Parks!