If you ask any sailor where one of the wildest place in the world is then some where in the conversation PNG will pop up. Ninety-nine percent of the world does not even have a clue where this wild, remote part of the world is. PNG’s southern tip is located a few hundred miles north of the northern tip of Australia and some geologists claim that this 1000 mile long island actually broke of the continent and drifted north a few million years ago.
It is hard to believe this 1000 mile long country with hundreds of smaller islands is home to over 600 languages but it also has some of the most beautiful rainforest left on the face of the earth. Sadly the tree’s will not likely last another 10 years at the rate they are cutting them down. But the fact is that if you buy anything made of teak or mahogany then most likely the wood it is made of came form here. These magnificent trees are located, cut down and flown by helicopter to gathering areas when a road to drag them out can not be made and then loaded on barges and sold for penny’s on the dollar. The locals are left with empty promises and a pocket full of cash in which one generation will quickly spend.
The land is also rich with natural resources but has been stripped bare of many of these in the last 50 years. With little or no regulations to follow large companies came in a took over mineral rich areas by force and started mining with reckless abandonment. In their wake they left land and villages decimated for the sake of making the almighty dollar. Mining towns like the one on Lihir Island are very similar to any gold rush town. Men come from miles around for the chance to work at one of these huge strip mines. Prices for goods in the market are triple what they should be like a simple box of breakfast cereal costing $12.
There is a good movie out called the Coconut Revolution that shows what happens when these companies go too far and ultimately start civil wars. This was the case when a mine was destroying thousands of acres of forest and several rivers with mining and the chemicals they use to leach out copper from the ore. The local people finally had enough of their land being destroyed while being under paid and exploited. They gathered forces took over the mine burning and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth equipment and running off the management basically with bows and arrows.
Our second stop in PNG landed us on Hermit Island which is a beautiful 10 mile across atoll with several islands surrounded by miles of reef. Sadly this reef has been exploited with dynamite fishing and very little coral or fish are left. The tiny village must get many yachts visiting each year because they now what they like to trade for. We went ashore with our usual bag full of goods and gave away toys and tee shirts which in turn provided with lots of fresh items from the gardens. Mainly pineapple and oranges! These are the sweetest and juiciest pineapples I have ever ate and thankfully we had heaps! The next day the “Trading Ladies” came out to the boat with hand made items to trade for sheets and towels. For one set of sheets and 4 bath towels I traded for a beautiful purse made from hundreds of tiny shells(not for me) and some other amazing hand made items that went into the souvenir pile. After the trading was over I cut up a watermelon from the refrigerator and we indulged in a rare favorite fruit for these people on the back of Downtime.
Sunday is a day of rest on these religious islands. Richie had tried to organized a soccer game with the locals but even this was too mush for a lazy Sunday afternoon and nobody showed up. Looking for things to do we took the camera drone ashore and took some arial shots of the village.
If you want to get every kids (young and old) attention take a remote controlled helicopter to shore! You should have seen the faces of these kids when this buzzing little helicopter took off and started circling overhead! I would fly just out of reach over their heads and let them feel the down draft of the propellers and they would giggle and laugh!
Next the ladies that I gave matching orange tee shirts to the day before came up and asked if they could sing me a song in appreciation for the gifts. They sang a beautiful song about God keeping us safe on the ocean and it was quite special.
I will remember these kind and generous people forever and want to thank them for showing me their island.
Continuing east we had planed to stop and clear into PNG at Manus Island which was the next island on our way until we heard the stories of what kind of town Lorengau was. Apparently Manus is home to one of Australia’s largest prisons and also the place where they deport refuges that come to their country illegally. Basically a darn good place to have your boat robbed! Instead of stopping we sailed by and caught two nice Yellowfin Tuna and a Mahi Mahi a prize that would most likely have caused a small riot if we had brought that quality of fish ashore. It was strange to go by an island with this big of a population and not have seen at least one boat out fishing?
Our next target to clear in was Kavieng, New Ireland another 350 miles (2 days) to the south east. The winds were fickle but finally picked up after several hours of motoring and when they filled we made miles effortlessly. I was frustrated that each time I looked our ETA when it kept telling me we would arrive just after sunset, which never a safe thing in any new port. We would either have to wait out side the port or slow the boat down. Slowing down a boat that is already going 7 mph is right up there with drilling holes in the bottom for most sailors so our option was find another place to clear in down the road. As luck would have it I looked in my cruising guide and found that we could clear into Lihir Island with simply continuing on through the night and covering another 120 miles of effortless sailing. We arrived mid morning and started the process of clearing in and out at the same time? Like any slow paced island we wound up waiting a few hours for the customs agent to arrive. We were finally assisted by a nice woman officer who collected our paperwork but had to go all the way back to town because she forgot her immigration stamp.
Sailing another 80 miles southeast we arrived at Feni Island where we encountered some of the most primitive people I have ever met. They were very friendly and welcomed us into their village where we met their chief. We traded many items and one of the big hits as always was a new soccer ball that we gave to the village. This was another like many places where even simple medical supplies are non existent and where several kids had runny noses and severe pink eye. Thanks to Dr. Steve who was on the boat a while back I had some medicine to give to these poor people and hopefully cure a few children from blindness.
It is said that alcohol is a big no-no to give to the local people here and we saw the effects of this first hand . We were walking back from the village tour with me out in the lead when a blind drunk local came out of the bush and charged at me wielding a 3 foot machete yelling “Why you come PNG?” over and over. Needles to say I turned and ran while the local guides we had with us subdued this individual and sent him on his way.
The next day we set sail with the Captain happy to have all his limbs and head still attached and sailed 45 miles SE to Green island. This was home to some of the more remote villages I had ever seen. The curious islanders paddled out in numbers to see one of only a handful of visiting yachts that stop each year.
One mother in particular came out several times paddling with two small children a half mile each way in a small leaky canoe determined to trade for clothes and anything else toe wear or eat for her family of six. She was most generous and brought flowers and vegetables from her garden and in turn we gave her whatever we could find on the boat that she needed for her children and also a bag of flour,rice and sugar. She told me that her family and several others moved to one of the outer small islands on this atoll to get away from the main island and the roaming pigs that the chief owned that kept digging up their gardens.
Life here on these islands is mere survival. Most people live day to day and own only the tattered clothes on their back and little else. All their food comes from the sea and the land. The community system keeps them alive in tough times since they share everything.
If I went back to this part of the world I would bring a ton of rice, and literally and another ton of kids clothes. For the mothers I would bring basic medical kits, clothes, soap, and seeds for the gardens. The men need fishing gear, spear guns and diving masks. Simple rechargeable solar lights would be a answer to prayer since there is no other source of light when the sun goes down other than fire.
The next stop on the way east is the Solomon Islands, so stay tuned!
The year 2015 started with Downtime in a remote anchorage in Sorong, Indonesia in the NE part of Indonesia with me flat on my back with some rouge flu virus trying to kill me. I was alone on the boat anchored a half mile from shore and in between a crew change with a soaring fever, unable to move far before the debilitating effects of this unknown virus would make my head spin and force me to get horizontal again. This as close to death as I ever felt I had ever been. I was lying in a pool of sweat actually trying to remember if I had ever felt so bad and what if anything could I do about it? Getting to shore seemed out of the question because I knew if I left the boat unattended I would surely be robed and come home to an empty shell. Next was the doubtful possibility that there was even a doctor ashore that could do anything for my situation.
Finally after the third day of sleep and 1st day of self administered antibiotics my fever broke and I turned the corner onto the road of recovery. Thank God because who knows how long it would have taken someone to find me if I did take a turn for the worse.
After a week of being horizontal I was back on my feet but nursing a hacking chest cold and somewhat ready to greet the new crew that were due to arrive on the 8th and 9th.
Richie (Grasshopper) from New Zealand arrived ready for an adventure with surfboard in tow hopping to find a wave to ride along the way Richie’s sailing adventure started with a provisioning run with me to town that morning.
The fish market was located on the main wharf and the first and last thing we walked through going into the city. The catch varied from day to day except for on No Fish Monday because everyone took Sunday off. The prices were cheap and the fish fresh and we loaded up on a nice chunk of Marlin, fresh Prawns and squid that were each just a few dollars US a pound.
With the freezer full of fish we headed to the supermarket.
I bet you are thinking: “Ohh, the fish market is where the fresh catch is displayed on beds of crushed ice in a refrigerated glass cases right? “ Wrong! This market is a simple roof covering concrete poured in place tables next to the bay with vendors displaying their catch in grungy ice chests that most likely have never had a scrub with bleach and soap or laying on the rough concrete tables. Thankfully they do have ice to keep the fish cool that is available in huge 100 pound blocks.
You would think there would at least be a water faucet to wash it all down after a long hot day of selling fish, but no they simply place the suction end of a pump in the ocean and spray it all down with water that I would not dare swim in! Needless to say I only bought fish that were whole and cold to the touch or fresh out of the coolers.
When you leave the fish market and walk towards town you pass by large screens that are on frames built a few feet over the ground used to dry sardines. Underneath these screens is an uneven dirt floor with pools of water from the daily rains and the ground is literally moving with thousands of maggots. One good whiff of this and you are ready to gag so you take a big breath before you get there and walk as quickly by as possible.
I have to say that just simply walking in these third world countries is dangerous. There are no building codes and simple things like step hight’s and sidewalks without huge holes to trip you is something we rarely even think about back in the states. Here sidewalks can have holes that you not only trip on but could fall completely into and stepping off a simple curb the height can vary fro m from one inch to a 2 foot drop. After my first face plant back in Fiji I have learned to pay attention and watch where I was stepping.
After a mile walk through town we arrived at the supermarket where things were just a little cleaner than at the fish market, but not by much finding dust covering every thing in the store . We shopped quickly and soon most items on the list were checked off. An hour later we had filled three carts full of various food items and two more full of toys to be given away down the road. The four foot long tape from the register at the checkout lane at looked like I had just landed on Park Place with four hotels on it playing Monopoly showing something like $1.2 million Rupia!.
The conversion rate here is $1200 Indonesian Rupia to $1 USA and subsequently you find yourself with money that has lots of extra zeros printed on it. The conversion rate is so bad that when you ask the question who wants to me a millionaire most people just shrug their shoulders and laugh. I had a few million in my pocket but when the 4 foot register tape finally got done printing and I saw the number it made my heart flutter just a little. I pulled my wad of Monopoly (Indonesian Rupia) money out and began counting in nice big piles of 100,000 Rupia ($80 US). A few minutes later I dispensed all but $10000 Rupia of what I had in my pocket. I told Richie at this point, now there is a good shopping lesson go in and spend all your money in your pocket but don’t go over! We had just enough left for a few ice creams on the way back to the boat.
The heavy items like beer and fuel were delivered to the boat and by the end of the day we had the boat fueled and with enough food aboard for the next four weeks.
Daniela from Germany (Wind Woman) arrived the next morning toting her kite gear and all we had left to do was simply clear out and set sail. Well this sounds easy doesn’t it?
We found out in Indonesia clearing out is like getting on a bad carnival ride and watching a monkey Fu%ing! a football at the same time! Our first stop immigration found us waiting an hour for the agent to show up for work, late (island time). then it was off to customs to fill out more forms. finally to the port captains office where I was informed it was disrespectful not to ware pants. It took no fewer than 4 cab rides back and forth across town and one trip back to the boat to put pants and shoes of all things on the increasingly grumpy Captain.
It is hard to imagine any body living in a country within 10 degrees of the equator even owning pants when the lowest temperature are in the mid 80’s. By noon the temperature on land reach the century mark most days and today was no exception! It was HOT damn HOT!
Four hours and a sorry excuse for a lunch ashore later we walked back into the Port Captains office, this time Downtime’s Captain was wearing pants forcing a smile while the crew waited quietly outside in the heat. We had just spent the last 2 hours clearing out of Customs and Immigration and had about enough of the run around. When I walked back into the Port Captains office to find the only other guys on the island with pants on sitting in front of the cranked up air conditioning smiling at my pants, patiently waiting to do my paperwork.
It must be a status thing wearing pants in the tropics to show others you work in an air conditioned office?
We set sail at 4 pm with calm seas and set our course due east, a course we would maintain for the next 2000 miles.
At first I felt something was very wrong because the wind was not in my face and that I was actually going with the current. This was a big change from all the miles I had done in the Philippines where the wind and current seemed to always be going the wrong direction. After a few hours of motoring we raised the main sail and set the jib as the predicted winds filled in.
There is only a few months out of the year that you can safely sail east in the south pacific and it occurs in January right after end of cyclone season when the winds are still blowing out of the north west. As long as you miss the last cyclone you can cover the eastward miles sailing downwind before the easterly trades set back in late march. The plan is all good until that surprise cyclone pops up as you will see later.
Our first stop in PNG was Ninigo Island 750 miles and 4 days later. When I said the winds filled they really filled and they blew 30 plus knots on the aft quarter for three days strait. With the big 1700 square foot head sail up Downtime was flying downwind, sometimes surfing down waves at over 13 knots! We covered 630 miles in 3 days which by the way is an all-time distance/time record on Downtime. We were being pushed east by winds feeding a small tropical depression (cyclone) southeast of us.
When the wind is blowing this hard and the boat is going this fast it is a sailors dream or nightmare if things go wrong. With that kind of force continually being applied to the boat by the huge sail you just hope there is not a weak link and the boat stays together and continues doing what it was designed for.
Anything over 8 knots is too fast to fish but just before arriving at Ninigo the winds let up enough to furl the Headsail and slow down and wet a few lines. We sailed along the Western reef and it did not take long to get our first strike. We landed a nice Giant Travail just before the pass into the atoll and but lost two others who swam away with $20 baits in their mouths.
In the morning the winds were down to 15-20 knots and there just so happen to be a perfect place to kite surf on the end of the island. Wind Woman the other kite surfer aboard and I got out our gear for my first session of the year PNG style! The locals lined the beach with wonder in their eyes having never seen such a crazy thing as people skimming over the water being pulled by huge kites ever in their lives.
These islands surrounding the atoll are like many of the islands we had visited in Micronesia, small low-lying islands surrounding a lagoon. The islands are covered in coconut trees and are rarely more that a few hundred yards wide or a few miles long and less than 50 feet above sea level. The lagoons are usually turquoise blue water with white sand bottoms and shallow enough to anchor in(less than 100 feet).
As soon as we had set the anchor the locals began arriving sailing their outrigger sailing canoes out and we traded the fish we caught for some fresh banana’s and paw paw (Papaya). One guy who paddled up even offered to take Richie lobster fishing the next morning and they came back smiling with 5 nice lobsters!
On these remote island the locals come out and ask for all kinds of things from clothes to batteries and whatever else they think you might have to give away. I usually have lots of spare everything to give but having left from Indonesia left my trading stores were limited. Had I known the big need for children’s clothes I would have bought hundreds of kids shorts and tee’s in the Philippines where you can buy bundles of second hand clothes for pennies a pound. the other thing they need is any kind of soap and hygiene products from tooth brushes to hand lotion. Deodorant and soap would be a good idea but how would you start caring this many supplies…..
These outer island have very little contact with the mainland and have very limited medical supplies and runny noses and pink eye are a big problem. Even a small cut can turn into a big problem in days without proper care here and most people just wrap whatever cloth there is available around it to keep the pesky flies at bay.
We give away as much as we can but know at the next island it will start all over again and there is only so much one person can do.
It has been my experience with this crazy sport of kite surfing that I can either have the perfect place to kite or just enough wind to sail out on the ocean, but rarely both. Well, here I was again with the perfect place to kite but not enough wind ….So up went the sails and we continued motor sailing east in light following winds.
Our next stop will be in Hermit Island so stay tuned,
I returned to Downtime after another hectic summer of traveling in the states in mid October.I had left the boat for a second time in the safety of Ocean View Marina, a small marina just south of Davao City located on the small island of Samal.This marina has the capacity for about 100 boats and is surrounded by a concrete wall that keeps all but the feistiest northern storms out except for when waves get big enough to actually go over the 8 foot wall. The 60 mile long bay is surrounded by 3000 foot mountains and the area is protected from the many typhoons that the rest of the islands in the northern Philippines encounter several times a year.
The crew ready to work!
There were just a few things on the repair list before we set sail and one was to haul Downtime and have fresh antifouling paint applied to the bottom.It had already been over 2 years since the last time I had done this way back in New Zealand. The old paint had lost it’s ability to fight of growth and now the bottom was covered with thousands of barnacles that seem to thrive in marinas.
Hauling Downtime is a delicate process and having the right equipment in the form of a proper cradle that fits under her bridge deck is a must.Needless to say this had to be manufactured custom to fit Downtime and took days of welding 12 inch I-beams to a marine railway at the right height and distance apart to perfectly fit under the boat and serve as a temporary support while the bottom was painted.
The 200 ton railway will do the job.
Listening for creaking sounds…All good.
Having a guy like Tjartan the marina manager in charge with years of experience made the whole process look easy.
I simply pulled Downtime up to the railway and and within minutes we were being slowly pulled out of the water by a massive winch up the railway.
Once out of the water the work began.In other parts of the world a pressure washer would have blown the barnacles to king dome come, but here labor is so inexpensive that all things are just done by hand.It took six guys two days to get the bottom ready for the fresh paint. It took a just few hours to scrape of the barnacles but much more time to sand off the cement they excrete to attach themselves with.
With the guys busy working on the boat we headed to the market to buy the first of many loads of provisions.There is no one stop shop to buy it all and we spent days looking through 4 different markets for all the things on our list.On our big shopping day we hired a cab for the afternoon and had him drop hundreds of pounds of shoppingright next to the boat.
The next thing on the list was to fill the fuel tanks.A simple task in most parts of the world but here there are very few fuel docks and most fuel is carried to the boats in 5 gallon jerry cans.I was as close as Iwas ever going to be to a fuel station and the process of hauling 250 gallons of diesel painfully began by shuttling fuel hauling just 35 gallons a trip.Even getting this small amount the fuel station ran out 3 times in the next few days but I finally managed to get the boat filled.
With the fuel tanks full and the bottom paint applied we took sunday off and rented a motorcycle to cross the island and relax. We took the long way to the south end of the island chasing signs that should have taken us to a small dairy farm just a few miles away. We never did find the dairy but must have rode 20 miles across a 10 mile long island. In the end the we found this beautiful resort where you can sleep in a tree house 20 feet up in the air! The resort was quiet and had just two other guests at this small resort and it was nice to relax after a busy week.
Fresh bottom paint and many new countries to explore!
The last job to do before we launched was to simply apply a fresh coat of wax to the topsides.I had the crew ready to apply a coat of wax, a job they obviously never done before from the looks of it. They all looked up at the boat 10 feet up in the air and thought I was crazy thinking they could reach that far up. It took several minutes to explain we needed scaffolding and to get them to carrying barrels and blocks to support beams to stand on.It was painful to watch the slow process but the last wax was being buffed off an hour before we launched the boat.
Back at the marina we wrapped up the last few trips to the market stocking up on produce and the last things we would be able to find in the civilized world.By Wednesday the forecast looked promising and we set sail for Sangihe just over 200 miles to the south.In this part of the world I do not know why I even bother with weather forecasts since most times it would just be easier to put the wind strait on the nose and start the engines and we would be going the right direction 90% of the time anyways.
At least I remembered about the 3 knot current that I fought going north last season a current that hat runs along the east coast of Mindanao and I set course for Cape St. Augustine.This is where the free ride south would begin after motoring 60 miles down the bay with little or no wind.
Once in the southernly current the boat speed picked up the predicted 3 knots and we actually found a breeze to sail with.With full sail we were cruising along at 10 knots over the ground in a 20 knot breeze.The only downside was that the wind was blowingstrait back over the current and causing the waves to standup and knock us around. Then later just a few hours after the sun went down nasty squalls began , pouring down rain every few hours and the boat speed would fly up over 14 knots with 25 knots of wind in the sails. Needless to say the motion inside Downtime was very uncomfortable but we were making miles and it made no sense to further shorten sail.
The low pressure system passed and in the past 20 hours the wind clocked 160 degrees and what started as a starboard tack finished off the trip on the port side. Then just 40 miles out the wind turned strait out of the south back on the nose and it was time to finally put the sails away and burn a few more gallons of diesel to make port before dark.
We entered the harbor and were welcomed by our friends Paul and Lisa on Lorelei.Friends we last saw in the Marina in the Philippines and would be sailing this season with.
The harbor in Sangihe is open to the west and had temporary moorings placed for a rally that was just here a few weeks before.Mooring scares me and always makes me wonder what is actually attached to the ocean floor?From the looks of the rope they scrounged together it would not take much of a storm to break them and it took us 3 tries to find one with a proper attachment to tie off to.We spent a few restless nights on the mooring tossing and turning before I got fed up worrying we would break off during the night and finally went across the bay and dropped the anchor in much calmer conditions.
This is my first time visiting Indonesia and my first impression was how friendly the people are.There is a continual greeting of smiles and a “Hey Mister, how are you?” as you walk down the road in a place were very few Americans have traveled before.Life here in the small town revolves around the local markets where a limited variety of fresh fish and produce can be found.There is no shortage of tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes and fish. But delicacieslike pineapple, watermelon or other fruits can be hard to find, not to mention anything green to make a salad with?
The happy fresh chicken lady
Any one know what kind of fish this is?.
We had planed to stay just a few days and be on our way but then we got news of a paragliding festival coming to town that would offer rides off the 3000 foot mountain the following weekend. 150 flyers were arriving on Thursday for a exciting weekend of paragliding and we patiently waited for Saturday to arrive so we could experience the rush of flying though the air on a paraglider
Ready, set, RAIN!
The launch pad built for the festival
The weekend finally arrived and the ramp was built to launch the kites and then the rains began. Only one lucky jumper made the decent by kite while the others totally frustrated re-packed their gear for a long 20 hour trip back to Jakarta by ferry.
With the rains came the west winds which churned the anchorage into an uncomfortable slosh.It was even uncomfortable on Downtime but the mono hulls had masts pitching 60 degrees making all but impossible to live aboard.
This was our motivation to leave and we set sail on Monday for Mahengetang.
Mahengetang is a small island just 30 miles further south that is known for a dive site with an active volcano spewing bubbles from the ocean floor.We anchored of the east of the island and did 3 dives on this 400 yard long mound of rumbling rock.We never saw the bubbles but we sure heard the rumbles of the volcano under us!
Lettuce coral with volcano rumbling
On shore was a small village of a boat building community.They were in the process of building what looked to be a 60 foot ship trimming one board at a time with a small chainsaw.at the rate they were going it looked like it would take about a year to complete the project with 3 guys actively working.
The village chief
A slow process
This was obviously not their first build
30 miles further south is Siau and yet another island with an active volcano.This 6000 foot grumbling monster spews smoke continuously and last erupted in Aug 2013. At night you can see the orange glow lighting up the smoke clouds spewing off the top. The anchorage here is right next to town under the volcano and the kids on shore are waving “Hello Mister” every time they see you.Unlike the last anchorage the Catholic churches here out number the mosques and on Sunday I had front row seats to the amazing choir singing familiar hymns.
Thumbs up from police chief! Dominic, our guide to his left.
Continuous plume of smoke !
One day I had a bunch of kids swim out on the original swimming noodle (bamboo) to say hello. I let them on the boat gave them an oreo and some juice and then they all pointed to SD and wanted a ride back in the dink. I loaded 8 screaming kids in and roared off to shore with a boat load of laughter!
Come on guys he said we can come aboard!
Just throw the bamboo on the deck!
The Indonesian government realizes the value of tourism and provided us with a english speaking guide who showed us all the places we could inject money into the local economy.He brought us to the capitol building to meet the governor and took us to the best places to eat which in this economy only cost $5 US per meal.
We did 4 dives with the local shop that when we purchased two dives he gave us two free with our own gear and showed us our first of many species in Indonesia including a frog fish!Macro diving is new to me and focusing on tiny critters is like a long game of wheres Waldo.Paul and Lisa did a great job finding tons of critters and took these amazing pictures and were nice enough to share them with me.
white Frog fish
Yellow Frog fish
It was a sad day when Deb finally got the results from a mole she had removed in Davao.She would need further tests and have to fly back to France to get this procedure done and endure the 30 hour plane ride to get there. To make the trip even longer the day she was set to travel the high speed ferry to Bitung broke down and she found herselfon the slow boat that would triple the time of the trip and arrive at 5 am for a 6 am flight! She made it by 15 minutes !!
One of the few boats left without a motor
Heading back out on fish run
Our anchorage during earthquake!
Continuing South the next stop was another volcanic island of Roeang.We anchored on the east shore next to a fairly recent eruption (within the last 20 years).The diving in front of this lava flow had some of the best coral we had seen and had a slow tidal current that let us drift dive between the two dinghies.
We will never forget this dive site the beauty and the quake!
On our third dive we were 20 minute in and 80 feet down when what sounded like a large ship rumble started and progressively got louder.I kept looking up wondering why a ship would be this close to land and saw nothing?Then the roaring pulse got even louder and we had to cover our ears to protect our eardrums.At this point we concluded it was not a ship but an earthquake and saw huge boulders bouncing on the ocean floor below us.Several huge 4 foot around sponge corals that we had just swam past began tumbling down the wall towards us almost landing on Paul!I was swimming next to a vertical rock wall and quickly backed away when debris started tumbling down.Paul shot to the surface and thought the volcano was erupting but to our relief he signaled that it was not. The water clouded quickly from huge amount of debris that tumbled down the wall and our next concern was the possibility of a tsunami since it was obviously a large quake.Thankfully this did not occur at our location because we would have had no chance getting to the boats in time.
Cool pic Paul!
only with a camera can you see the true beauty
How many colors you see?
The quake we later found out registered 7.3 on the scale and was centered just over 100 miles north of us. Through the rest of the dive we heard small tremors but nothing like the roar of the original quake.
While we were having fun diving this boat pulled up and 8 guys hopped out and began making small rocks out of big rocks with sledge hammers. The guys who did not get the hammer duty were filling sacks with the black sand. It took them a just few hours to load the boat and while the captain hauled the first load of sand and gravel to the main island the crew stayed prepared another load. I joked with Paul that we are lucky we got here early because the island will be gone in a few years!
Breaking rocks into gravel and filling sacks with black sand
Hauling aggregate back to the main island?
I did not want to look like a lazy sailor while they were busy bust rocks so I got out the grinder and polished the dive tanks.
Freshly polished dive tanks!!
Another quick hop of 36 miles put us at the Southern tip of Bangka in a calm bay in front of “The Pain In The Ass Resort” The bay was over a mile across but the only place to anchor as a few hundred feet off shore on the east side close to the “Pain in the ass” resort since the rest of the bay had a choppy swell or was to deep to anchor in. We dropped the hook and were settled in and a small boat came out “The pain in the ass crew” and asked us to move because “Big Ship” coming in tomorrow. We tried the other side but when the wind picked up we found ourself 20 feet off the windward side of a shallow reef, not a place to get a good nights sleep! We moved back over to the resort side and were greeted agin by PITA crew but this time we negotiated and said if the ship arrives and we are in the way we will pick up anchor and leave and this seemed to be a agreeable solution. The next morning we woke to a boat moored between us slightly larger that Downtime and safely 100’s of feet away.
While Paul was filling dive tanks Lisa and I went to the island test flew the DCMI Drone to make sure it survived the many flights on the boat.The drone flew perfectly and we found out the pilot (Me) still has a depth perception issue when I unsuccessfully tried to fly around a coconut tree 80 feet away!
Downtime and Lorelei in the bay
Watch out for the trees!
After a few more dives and a wake board session we headed south to Bitung and the Lembeh straits where more diving awaits!
Paul Driving SD (super dink)
We will be staying in Bitung and diving the many dive sites for the next few weeks and you can follow up on Lorelei’s blog for some amazing pictures of what we find diving together.
Out here still enjoying the dream!Peace, Capt. Pedro
There are a few times when I have I traveled in the past that I buy plane tickets that do not seem to make any sense and this trip to Hawaii was one of those times.I had originally planned to stay on only two islands, Oahu and Maui on this trip, but like everything else in my crazy life that changed.
The Mexico thing pushed my Hawaii thing a week and then Deborah wanted to see Maui and Lanai and finally Kauai.So my flight from Mexico took me first to Denver where I had left two big bags full of boat parts to spend a night and then to Oahu.Next I spent one night in a crappy little motel close to the Oahu airport with what looked to me like 200 other travelers were doing the same thing due to the fact that I arrived after the last flight to Maui left.Then there was one last quick hop and I got on a morning flight to meet Deb in Maui.
We arrived at the same time and set off for our first frustration of the day, the rental car company.We had 250 pounds of luggage and wrestled them to the shuttle stop it was then that we first noticed that it is damn hot in Hawaii this time of year!The line at the rental car company was ridiculous and out the door and I did not see any reason standing in line for an hour at Budget when there was nobody waiting next door at Hertz.15 minutes later I pulled into Budget in a Hertz car and loaded up the bags into the first of the 5 rentals cars we would have during the next two weeks.Sometimes when I mess up it all works out and this was one of them since I actually did not have the car booked at Budget until the following day and our hotel was just minutes away and we made our switch into a Budget rental car number 2 the next morning.The best way I found to rent a car is to get on Price Line and name my own price.I can usually get a car for about $25/day.When you rent with a major credit card you will find you already have insurance as one of the card features, or simply tell your carrier to give you a rider before you leave home and save yourself $12-15/day.
Our travel plans were simple, to stay in a place a few days and then make a new plan.Nowadays with tools like Booking.com and Expedia you can find some great last minute deals on rooms and can be flexible on where you stay on the island.The first hotel we found was a place close to it all in a newly refurbished older hotel for around $100.
Maui is shaped like two 25 mile across islands joined together by a strip of land and is one of the few places they still grow sugar cane in the islands, both have dormant volcanoes rising 10,000 feet up in the centers. The North West shore is where most all the big resorts are and the southern part of the island is way less populated.The two big tourist draws are the famous “road to Hana” and Haleakala Volcano.On our second day we drove up to Haleakala, a beautiful hour long drive that takes you to the craters edge and right up through the clouds.The 7 mile hiking trail down into the crater takes a few hours and is well worth the effort.The trail steadily winds down to the bottom and I kept thinking while easily going downhill that the trip going back was not going to be very much fun at all.After 5 miles I stopped but Deb wanted to go the last two miles and all the way to the bottom to get shots of one of the many small craters that lined the caldera floor while I found a place to relax and read my kindle.It took all the water we were carrying to get us out after hiking the 5 miles back up hill. We were huffing and puffing and were both amazed as we were passed up by a 60 year old woman who told us as she sped by that she had just ran the Maui marathon the day before.
The next day we headed south to Hana and we enjoyed the drive taking lots of pictures along the way.We had stopped that morning at Whole Foods and brought a tasty picnic for along the way. The drive takes about 6 hours to make the loop around the south end of the island and there are several waterfalls and black sand beaches that must be seen along the way.The seven pools are located on the south tip of the island is a place that looked a little too busy for this sailor, but if you want to swim under a waterfall you should stop and take swim.
Heading back up the west shore the climate changes drastically and it becomes arid.The majorityof the rain falls on the eastern shores of these islands as the clouds are lifted by the winds going over the mountains they drop their moisture.The west sides rarely gets rain and reminded me of pictures of the African savannah.
After a long day of driving we headed to the small town of Paia to pick up a surfboard Deb had her eye on and then grab a bite to eat.When we got out of the car and went to grab the backpacks they were nowhere to be found.Someone had lifted both our backpacks somewhere along the way!We had the car locked or the backpacks with us all except one short time when we stopped and took a picture of one waterfall, I noticed a car pull in next to us at that turnout but did not notice them even get out of the car.They must do this daily and wait till the unsuspecting tourist turns there back and then grab what they can.You think you are safe being in Hawaii, but I have heard many stories of thefts just like these in places where a fresh set of easy targets drive through every day.
Getting robed is a sickening feeling and the stuff we carry around is sometimes very difficult to replace.The item on top of that list in my bag was my passport that small book that has absolutely no value to anyone else in the world.At least I had my credit cards in my pocket and the rest of the stuff like cash was just painful to lose.
The first thing you need to replace a USA passport is a birth certificate.Luckily I had several copies of this document the only problem was they were several thousand miles away in either direction. One copy was on the boat in the Philippines and the other copy in my office in Kansas.Fed ex to the rescue!The second is to get to a US Post Office and get a passport application form.Next we chose to hire a agency to expedite the process and hired Fast port Passport to move the process along since our flight to Davao was leaving in just 10 days. We obtained the services and documents were on the way but it would be a few days before fed ex could get the birth certificate to where we were so we set off for two days to visit Lanai.
Lanai is a small island off the North West shore of Maui that until about 10 years ago was known as the pineapple island, it is now the one of largest private owned islands in Hawaii.We had planned to catch the 3:30 ferry which Deb thought left at 4:30 and we wound up on the 5:30 boat. Glad I am not the only one who has these issues with time and dates.The upside was that happy hour starts at 3 in Hawaii but the downside was that we would arrive after dark.
The plan for what it was was to get to Lanai and then take a bus to the only small town on the island and find a place to stay. The first and only bus I saw was going to the Four Seasons and the passengers he was waiting for must have missed the ferry.New plan Deb, I just talked to the bus driver and he called up and there was a room available at the Lodge at Koele.When I say room, it was actually a suite and one of the nicest rooms I have ever stayed.The Four Seasons experience is not soon forgotten, the bill will make sure of that! This location was amazingly beautiful, set up in the hills and landscaped to make you feel you were in one of the world’s great parks.The rain fell through the night and the morning sun burned of the mist of the 150 foot pine trees as we sat on the balcony overlooking the entrance.The central dining hall was in what felt like a huge family room with 30 foot tall stone fireplaces at either end. Towards the center there were couches surrounding the fire place and a grand piano softly playing and where we had desert after our delicious meal.Our breakfast was served a the same table and the morning light let us admire the beauty of our new backyard and its big pond with wild turkeys nibbling away at the grass around it.
In the afternoon we rented one of the last jeeps available on the small island and set off for a tour of this small island.The one and only blacktop road headed just 6 more miles east and down to the beach before branching in either direction along the coast in dusty two track.Some of the spots in the road were deep talcum powder and the dust went flying others had big mud puddles that tempted us to get this freshly washed jeep muddy.The mesquite trees provided cover for the deer and other wildlife that have been introduced here.Deer season is open year around and you can get permission bag 3 a day since the population has exploded to 17,000 or so.The other game is wild turkeys, rock quail and doves that also have no predators to keep their numbers in check.You can literally catch quail and dove with a butterfly net here since they have no fear of man.
Lanai Garden of the gods
The only building left on the east shore
Our cool jeep for the dy
Where is Downtime?
In the morning we followed a dusty red clay dirt road and drove north from the hotel through the old pineapple plantations.On the north end of the island was a volcanic area named “Garden of the Gods” with places that looked like you were driving across the moon and then the road got really rocky and headed down to the beach.The jeep had decent off road tires but they were no match for the soft sand this beach had miles of.Within 15 minutes we were buried to the axles and stuck but by simply letting the tire pressure down to increase the tire footprint the jeep crawled out. With the tires aired down and twice as wide as before the jeep floated on the sand and we easily drove the few miles of coastline to the nearest shade tree and had a picnic.
We saw only 3 other people the whole day and felt like we had this slice of paradise all to ourselves for last two days.We checked out of our room the following day and had lunch in town but had to rush to catch the 4 pm ferry after making yet another wrong turn? We stopped for directions and were told of the “shortcut” make the first right turn, go past the solar farm and then left cross one road and then turn right. Darn jeep needs a compass for a sailor to tell where he is going I say!
We spent the next night at a 100 year old hotel right on the wharf in Lahaina which has the biggest banyan tree growing next door in the park we had ever seen.Kathryn at the front desk of the Best Western is an amazingly efficient person and got us checked in within minutes, we loved the retro style hotel.When you are in Hawaii and think you absolutely need stuff like jewelry, pearls or a souvenir to take home you in luck here in Lahaina and can fill that itch with at least 50 jewelry stores and 100 other shops to browse.It was our inside joke from then on and we would say “need jewelry”?Nope, thanks but I been to Lahaina!
We had my passport documents shipped to Kauai which would be our next island and had a flight booked for 4 that afternoon.I had left the two big bags in Oahu with a baggage service to baby sit so we just had our new backpacks and new huge surfboard bag to tote around.I dropped of the car and Deb spent the next hour checking into the 30 minute Hawaiian flight that would supposedly take us to Kauai.I met her at security and we proceeded to the gate that said Kona on it.Kona! That is not on Kauai it is on the big island!Damn did it again. For the next 30 minutes I tied up the only available Hawaiian agent getting this all sorted.Needless to say our luggage and two paid empty seats were on that way to Kona and two not so cheap seats had us on the flight to Kauai.But the bright side is that the surfboard and other bags will have been to all the major islands in Hawaii by the end of this trip, lucky them!
The race was on to see which birth certificate would show up first, the one from the Philippines had a two day head start but many more miles to go but the tracking number showed the one from the US took the lead and would be there the next morning.We had several l copies to make so in the morning went to the Sheraton business center at the resort next door and were making copies when who of all people walks in?The Fed ex Man!I asked if by chance had the envelope for me on his truck and he took me through the lower corridors of the hotel to the delivery dock and found my package and saved us both some time.I was finally feeling like I was going to get this new passport as we drove to the post office located in a small western town on Kauai.The lady that helped us went out of her way getting us an appointment to fill out and notarize the forms at the post office but frowned when we told her that we would send them fed Ex to New York.She kept telling me I had to take them to Honolulu, but I just said no thanks and I appreciated the help anyways.From there we rushed back to the airport to the Fed ex terminal and posted the package just to find out it would leave the island in 23 hours since the one and only plane of the day had just left. We were really cutting it close, but did all we could do so it was time to relax.
Our finding hotels on the internet had been working well so far and we logged on to Booking.com to find our next home for the night.We chose a lower end place with great reviews located on the east shore of Kauai for just under $100.It was not hard to see that we set our sights a little low right when we walked in but after staying at the posh Pour Seasons we thought how bad can it be right? Well, the first room we saw was located right next to the laundry and had zero view of anything but a wall outside,I went and told reception this was definitely not going to work and got a ”better” room on the 3rd floor.Again we thought how bad can it be right?The room was older than me and amazingly had zero ventilation at least the room on the first floor had a ceiling fan. The twin beds were shoved in the corner and I thought who-who were kids again! Next I walked into the bathroom which had enough mirrors to make feel like I was at the carnival and I actually had a hard time finding the door out!We toughed it out and tried it for the night, butby morning Deb had her bed dragged out onto the balcony and was literally sleeping outside and I woke in a pool of sweat saying pack the bags Deb I can’t do this $E%^T!
Back on the computer we found the Aston and for $20 more and for just over $100 you can stay in one of the nicest place we found in the islands!(Not Counting Four Seasons but that was not $100 either)Everything about the place was first rate from the staff to the location. The room had just been updated and had a nice king size bed and best of all AC!There were several local places to eat within walking distance and even a nice beach to relax on.
The surf report showed promise of a north swell and Deb was ready to try her new board out. We drove up to Hanalei Bay but arrived there to find the waves were huge and much bigger than she had rode before, but that did not stop her from getting out there and giving it a shot on some of the smaller sets.After surfing we headed to the small town and sat down for lunch just before the skies opened up and it began to poor down rain.We had an amazing view of the steep mountains that hug this coast and magically began seeing new waterfalls appear before our eyes from all the rain. In the end there were no less than seven waterfalls rushing down the steep mountain face.When we returned to our hotel we heard on the radio that the only bridge on the highway out that small town was threatening to be closed from the water leaver rising in the river. Later we found this little town lies just below one of the wettest spots in the world with over 700 inches of rain recorded last year.
We were on the road early the next morning to beat the afternoon showers for our visit to Waimea Canyon which is located on the west side (other side) of the island.This promised to be worth the drive and it was at the end the highway winds right up into the clouds to the top of the volcano.Just before the top you find yourself driving right next to a one of the biggest canyons in the islands that is over 4000 feet deep at points.The contrast in colors is amazing with the deep greens of the vegetation next to the bright red volcanic earth. The canyon is a beautiful place to explore where thousands of years of erosion have created another small wonder of the world.Hiking down into the canyon is a must but flip flops would not be my shoe of choice next time and hiking with the backpack with those things we were afraid could get stolen added a few more pounds, considering who really needs to take a laptop on a hike?Deb carried the roasted duck in her backpack that we bought at a Chinese market that morning and we had a nice picnic at the waterfall at the end of the trail.
the water fall we hiked to in Waimea
Our hike ended none too soon and by the time we returned to the car the afternoon showers began. We continued north around the island and found ourselves on the longest beach in all the Hawaiian Islands.
We had been trying to book a helicopter tour the whole week and from we could tell the morning flight was the best since the rains started every day after lunch it seemed. We tried to get on a flight with no doors to get the best pictures but the Hughes 500 (the one they flew on Magnum P.I.) has a strict weight limit and we were 10 pounds over and that required us to buy 3 seats for something like $800!We passed on that and found our next best option was to get on a plane which turned out to be an amazing flight.Not only did the weather cooperate it felt like the sunshine was actually following us and we were able to see the very top of the volcano which was the wettest marsh lands on earth. You know you have had a great flight when the pilot keeps saying “I have not seen that in a while”.The crew at Wings Over Kauai showed us the best Kauai had to offer and were fun to fly with.
Reminds me of my old flying days.
High wetlands with no clouds today!
This was our last day in Kauai and from there we caught a flight to Oahu on Friday to go pick up my passport.Having triple checked our tickets that morning for time, date and destination we felt fairly confident we would see Oahu that afternoon.
It was our lucky day at the Hertz rental car place too, they did not have our class of car in stock so it was pick a car any car and have a nice day. We drove out in one of the biggest cars they had and Deb thought we looked like the perfect soccer parents.
Cliff the bag babysitter met us at the airport with the two bags full of parts and we loaded the back of the Ford Flex with 5 suitcases and a surfboard with no problem.My trusty 8 years old Motorola Android GPS led us strait to the Fed Ex office and soon I was holding a small blue “golden ticket” that would allow me back into the Philippines.
We then drove east over the mountains to our last hotel surprise in the afternoon rains.This Hotel was one of the places you find on the internet and wonder what angle they actually took the picture from when you arrive?The room was located on the bottom of the steepest driveway I been down in a while and had just a faint resemblance to what I had seen when I booked it. This was a higher end room price wise but the location had much to be desired being located down a busy residential road without any view to speak of.
The surf report showed flat conditions during this transition time of the year and famous breaks like Pipeline could be wake boarded over since they were so flat. We did a small island tour and found our Hawaii adventure was suddenly over and packed our bags for the long flight to Manila.
Of all the places I had been in Hawaii in the last years I find Kauai to be my new favorite.The “Garden Isle” has much to offer and has a little slower pace than some of the bigger islands. My next favorite would be the big island which I went to last year with its many miles of road to explore.You can find all varieties of activities and sorts of adventures here or put your feet up at the nicest resorts in the world. We stayed in all price ranges of rooms and all I can say is “You get what you pay for” with the exception of the Aston which was exceptional for the price.You can do Hawaii on as little or much as you want to spend and the best of all you’re speaking English, never that far away from the mainland and your phone still works!
Our Adventure continues in the Philippines so stay tuned,
After another wild summer in the states I am finally back home aboard Downtime.
The summer of 2014 was just slightly less hectic that the previous and like last year I found myself traveling countless miles across the states.
I left the boat safely secured in Ocean View Marina again this year, a small marina which is located on Samal Island just a few miles south of the city of Davao on Mindanao Island, Philippines.
I booked my flight home with high hopes of sitting on the top deck of a 747, something I have had on my bucket list for quite some time. My first flight like many flights these days departed Davao for Manila slightly late and sadly just late enough for me to miss my connection in manila and consequently being able to sit in seat 16J on the top deck of that big east bound 747.
East coast Japan
United made up for it by getting me a 1st class seat on a ANA flight with the fully flat reclining seats and very good food and fine looking flight attendants.
We touched down in San Francisco on our second approach 12 long hours later after one of the few go abound flights (missed landings) I had ever been on. From here it was just one last short flight south to San Diego where I was picked up by my younger son Parker and his wife Briana. A few hours later we were at Parkers house back in the small town of San Jacinto where I spent my teenage years. No big surprise that the word for the next day was “Jetlag”.
I was nice to spend a few days with my Daughter Cass and Parker back in the small town I had not lived in since I was their age. Later in the week we headed down to Glamis Sand Dunes a place only the insane go to in the summer time because the heat is up in the triple digits by 10 am. We unloaded the Wildcat and 4 wheelers at daybreak for a quick ride before going a few more miles to the Colorado River in Palo Verde for some wakeboarding fun.
The endless sand dunes in Glamis go on for miles in every direction and we were having a blast racing across them. It was strange to be out there and have no other traffic but the rising temperatures were the reason for that.
We went on one last ride and 15 minutes after Parker told me that I was the only one he felt confident to let drive his $20K side by side Arctic Cat Wildcat because I was one of the few people he knew with enough money to fix it, not necessarily for the fact that I was such a great driver then I crashed.
The hole we rolled into moments before just behind us!
Funny, I had just asked Bri how my driving was and she gave me the thumbs up and said I was much crazier driver than Parker. Suddenly the Wildcat flew over a ridge and into a hole, Parker found Briana and me hanging upside down by the seat belts after making a wrong turn. Thankfully nothing was hurt but my pride and a few very expensive parts on the Wildcat. The next problem was to get this damaged machine out of the dunes with a blown rear CV joint and a folded up front A-Arm.
Yep the lower arm was strait 15 minutes ago.
C-V joint blew up?
Stranded here for a few hours…
Parker and Bri went to find help on the 4 wheeler and left me with the wildcat and a small bottle of water. After an hour of baking in the sun I was thinking that was not such a good idea as the temperatures crept closer to the century mark and shade was nowhere to be found. Thankfully we had a GPS and he was able find me out in a place where all the dunes look the same.
Luckily the found some other heat loving dune riders out there who ironically they were off duty firemen from san Diego and with a job like theirs they did not mind the heat. One guy had a lifted F-250 diesel with huge sand tires and he simply drove out there as if floating over the sand and towed us back in.
At this point jumping in the river sounded pretty good and after being stranded in the desert for hours and then getting lost for a frustrating 45 minutes on our way to Tony’s. After stopping and asking for directions we finally found our way to my friend Tony’s camp in Cibola. Funny how we have been become so dependent on cell phones and GPS that we no longer even have a map in the car and find ourselves totally lost when they do not work? Cibola is a small community of desert lovers on the lower Colorado River and a place where you rarely get cell phone reception.
The weekend at the river was fun and relaxing but I all to quickly found my first week in the states had already flown by and found myself sitting on yet another plane, this time heading to Kansas on Tuesday morning.
I hopped into a rental car in OKC because my experience in the past flying Great Lakes Airlines into Liberal had just a 50% chance of getting me there. I drove north in Toyota Hybrid getting 37 MPG in some of the coolest weather I had ever experienced in all my 20 years of living in the Midwest. I rolled into Liberal 3 hours later in 70 degree drizzling weather. The previous years of drought were finally over and the crops were looking good from the recent rains.
It had somehow already been a year since I had been to the dairies’ but it did not feel like it at all much time had passed. The small town of Liberal still looked the same and the Wednesday night golf had a few new faces playing but it just did not feel the same. Thankfully the milk business was recovering and having a good year with feed prices finally getting back to normal with the promise of continues showers to finish off the crops.
View of my office and farm at the main dairy via my drone
I spent what seemed like a very long week in Kansas but unlike Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz I did not find myself saying “there is no place like home”. With the house that I raised the kids in long sold and gone and all three of my kids living in different states this left only the cows binging me back, but after 20 years of dealing with cows the appeal has long since faded.
With my first and only week of work under my belt I hopped a plane to New Orleans to go fishing with my good friend Jeff at J-Bar Lodge in Buras, LA. The Mississippi delta is one of my most favorite places on earth and fishing with Jeff a guy who can find Redfish most any day of the week makes it just that much more enjoyable.
I had the pleasure of riding in his brand new 25 foot center console Blue Wave with a big 300 HP Yamaha on the back. This equipment is a far cry from back in the day when we took out the 19 footer with the 100 HP Evenrude. We put over 200 miles on the boat that week finding fish and telling the old fish stories were still bringing on the laughs. Jokingly I would be casting of the front of the boat while fishing was slow, and say Jeff, when fishing is slow it was all about presentation, presentation, presentation… (which was mostly all crap) but then wham I would get a strike and we would start laughing all over again.
At one point we were crossing a huge bay and saw a few fish feeding on shrimp we slowed the boat and the next three casts landed three 10 pound Red’s, awesome presentation I would say!
3 in a row!
It is always a good time staying at the J-Bar Lodge and listening to Lyn, (Jeff’s Dad) tell stories of cattle ranching in west Texas but the week of fishing was already over and my next destination would take me north to Springfield and visiting my brother Todd and his family at his lake house on Table Rock Lake.
I checked my ticket before heading to the airport something I have learned to do after showing up on the wrong day once, amazed I found had done it again! Somehow Tuesday and Thursday got mixed up but for a mere $650 I could change the flight! I passed on that and hopped in a rental car and toured Louisiana and Mississippi for the next 5 hours and drove to Springfield for under $150.
Luckily I was well rested by the time I got to the lake because standing in my little brothers shadow can be exhausting! We spent two days at the lake wakeboarding and enjoying his amazing lake house before hopping in a plane flying north back to Nebraska.
Nap time going home from the lake
My oldest son had been living with Todd for that past few months going through some life changing growing pains. He is learning the dairy business after discovering life in sunny So. California is not always that sunny. Todd puts the people he trains to work for him through a tough training program that teaches all aspects of the business and it all starts on the bottom with walking many miles bringing the cows to the barn. It was good to spend time with Pete Jr. and talk about his new goals in life. I was proud to hear that by December he would be manager of one of these 4500 cow milk making machines.
Todd had a little project for his handy man brother and we spent the next afternoon bonding and building a chicken coop for his wife Mandy, a project I think he was waiting for me to show up for to help finish. It was fun but I told him that those are some lucky chickens because it was the last coop I would ever build!
Tuesday we walked the east of his two dairies outside of Columbus and put a few quick paced miles walking around with rubber boots on. (More work) Wednesday we hopped back on his plane and flew to Wisconsin to his other farm that his Son TJ manages. I had enough of rubber boots and cow $@$ and I chose to spent the next two days visiting with my Dad.
We hopped back in the plane and flew home Thursday and finished off the chicken coop, repacked our bag’s, had a nice dinner with the family and flew out the next morning to Las Vegas where he would drive his race car in the Vegas to Reno off road race, a grueling 500 mile off road parts smasher. The end result was Racecar 0, Rocks 1. Apparently hitting rocks at 100 mph knock brake calipers clean off a race car!
After an exciting weekend of racing I drove the rental car we had picked up in Vegas 350 miles back to California back to my son Parker’s town. Parker was all packed and I was ready to help move him and a trailer full of stuff all the way back to Wisconsin 2300 miles to the east! Parker would start his own training at Todd’s dairy in Wisconsin working with his cousin TJ.
Ready for the big trip!
The credit card had a workout buying fuel with 8 miles to the gallon but I would not have missed spending the week with Parker for the world. We took a few detours stopping in Kansas, and then back to Nebraska. The next stop was Inwood, Iowa to see my sister and her family and then a quick 60 miles out of the way to see an old friend and neighbor in Ames. After 4 days on the road we finally arrived in Clinton Wisconsin after driving through a 12 hour long rainstorm.
Two more days with Dad and I was west bound heading back to Kansas in a plane I just found out I owned part of! The cow business must be good!
The ride back to Kansas was much faster!
I don’t know how many miles I traveled during those few months but it was way too many and I found myself looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. One more week long stop through Kansas and I would be on my way back to the boat, indirectly of course…
Everyone asks at some point how it is possible for me to do all this traveling and still have the cows. Well there is just one way this would ever be possible and that is Brian Hemann. Brian and I have been partners in the dairies for the last 14 years and I think he enjoys the big business part of it all as much as I do sailing.
The Mexico surprise has popped up the last few years and this year’s destination was Puerto Vallarta. If you remember last year it was the Baja 1000 that my brother asked me to come along and race with him. Puerto is a place where my new friend Deborah who will be sailing with me this season had lived a few years ago. She thought since she was heading west from France she should stop and see her old friends and dogs on her way to the boat. She asked if I would like to come and I thought “why not”? One more plane ticket change was not going to hurt at this point. I wound up changing that flight 3 times by the time I got back….
Being my first time in Puerto Vallarta other than a quick drive through to a Club Med many years ago, I was ready for some Mexican style adventure and relaxation. We got online for a rental car and found the unbelievable rate of $5 a day! I knew this was bogus and when it was all said and done it turned into $25 a day for decent car after insurance and other fee’s. We used Alamo and upon returning the car they tried to stick us with a damage claim for a scratch that was on the underside of the bumper! They had taken pictures of almost every angle of the car before we left so I asked to see the one of the bottom of the bumper. I played this game before and insisted on talking to the manager and sorting this out now. Lucky for us they missed taking that angle and I walked out the door saying “I will Remember the Alamo”!!
We had found a few places to stay on RBO and the first was a guest house right on the beach that had tree house feel to it, being built in the jungle on the side of a hill surrounded by trees and overlooking the ocean. The main house was just below and had 3 bedrooms and was located right on the beach.
We had some great pictures of Mexico that all got stole in the back packs in Hawaii so that is a bummer but here is a few we did find.
Huge waves that were generated by typhoon that wiped out Cabo!
The next place we stayed was up the road in San Pancho, was our favorite of the 4 places we stayed. This condo was part of a three unit complex with the main house on the top level and two other units down the hill towards the beach. We stayed in the middle unit which had a nice outdoor kitchen, a huge air conditioned king size master suite and a semi-outdoor bathroom that had a giant 60 foot tree growing out the middle of it. It felt like you were showering in the jungle with wood rails set in one wall instead of windows that gave you a view of the ocean. Each unit had its own pool and on the first night we experience a powerful thunderstorm and watched it poor rain while the sky lit up with lightning. 500 yards down the beach was the small fishing/surf town of San Pancho and there were two nice restaurants where you ordered your margarita and meal with your toes in the sand. On our walk back to the condo we saw a green turtle crawling out of the ocean to lay her eggs. There was a group of people that were waiting until the turtle was done and then move in to dig up the eggs and place them to a fenced off sanctuary so they would be protected.
View from our favorite villa at San Pancho
The last place we stayed was a 2 room condo in town. The location was good if there is such a thing in town? (no Beach out the back door) but it was much nicer than staying in some resort. After 4 days of city life we went back up the coast to a small resort closer to Deb’s surf break and dogs in a small town of Bucerias.
After a relaxing two weeks in Mexico and we were ready for the last stop, a stop we hoped would be as relaxing as Mexico in Hawaii but that will have to be for another story.
Sunset at our first villa
Next post will bring us to Hawaii were the adventure continues!
The Philippine Sea and the crossing to Davao We set off for the 600 mile crossing to Davao Philippines during the last week of June with a weather forecast of light 5 to 15 knot winds out of the S-SW and just a few scattered showers along our route.
We cleared out of Palau with customs and made our way south toward the lower islands of Palau for the last time this season and entered German Channel which is one of only a few opening in the reef on the west side of Palau. This is a really narrow ½ mile long 100 foot wide shallow channel that had been dredged to a mere depth of 6 feet at low tide many years ago. We found ourselves racing the clock to get through the channel before low tide. Our tide charts showing we still had a few hours to go but somehow the water in the channel showed us something very different.
The channel looked REALLY shallow as we slowly nosed our way into the tiny pass and it also looked much, much narrower while driving Downtime through than when I drove SD through several weeks before! At this point there was no turning back or turning at all for that matter since we only had what looked like a few feet clearance on each side! Our only option was to motor strait forward and I pushed the throttles all the way forward to full speed since I have always said: “When in Doubt, Gas it”!
We bumped 5 times on the way out but luckily just on soft sand mounds and there was no damage to the boat, just shinny new bottoms on the keels. We cleared the pass and set the sails, double reefing the main and letting the whole jib fly for what would be the last time.
We set the sails on a close reach with the wind at a 60 degree angle off the nose making 7-8 knots sailing on calm seas for the first 6 hours and it all looked just like the weather forecast said it would, light S-SW winds.It wasn’t until the first squall showed up at around 8 pm that things started to turn for the worse. A squall came roaring though while Daria was on watch with winds near 40 knots that tore our 10 year old jib to sheds! WOW! I had not seen a squall like that in a long time!
The weather we had experienced for the last few months just 60 miles away in Palau had a lot of rain but never produced strong winds like what we just experienced. It took us quite some time to get the torn sail furled on the pitching bow of Downtime and then to reduce sail on the main and put the third reef in, but after several hours of hard work we were underway again slowly motor sailing toward our destination.
Hind site we should have just turned around at this point but I thought being the optimist that conditions would improve. I was WRONG!
The strong squalls kept coming, hitting us every few hours with 25-35 knots of wind accompanied by driving torrential rains and brilliant lighting shows. Lightning is another thing we had not experience in almost two years but here it was roaring with deafening booms that were way to close for comfort! We had planned for a four day crossing but it was apparent after the second day it would take at least five days to sail these 600 miles, which would turn out to be our slowest passages ever!
When the jib sail blew out it took with it two antennas that were mounted on the spreaders both of which operated our AIS system a tool that identifies ship traffic and reports our position to ships within a 25 mile radius. That damage along with our radar being down left us pretty much blind in the storms. Needless to say it was quite nerve racking when the squalls came through and took visibility down to zero!
The calm tranquil sea’s that we had experienced when we left Palau were long gone and now had grown to 12 foot sharp nasty waves coming from what seemed all directions. It always seemed that just when I would go out to take a look around for traffic that the craziest of waves would jump on the boat and soak me! At other times I just stood in the cockpit getting soaked by the latest squall which would produce fiercer rain showers than I had ever seen.
This same nasty weather went on for days but finally the sun came out for a brief period on the 4th day and gave us the feeling the worst was over with. Wrong again! That night it blew with a vengeance and ripped the main sail at the 3rd reef point which forced us to put in the last and final 4th reef.
What is a reef you ask? Well, it is a slab of sail that you roll up on the bottom of the main sail to reduce sail area. During these squalls the wind would clock all the way around us (mini Tornadoes!) and when the wind was directly on the nose our boat speed would drop to snails pace of 1 or 2 knots with both engines running at ¾ throttle! The driving rain would fall in sheets and we could not even see the end of our own boat let alone any traffic.
During one storm in particular the rain almost filled a 5 gallon bucket we had tied to the rail for a rain gauge in just a few hours! I spent a restless night napping in the salon an was shocked the next morning when I saw the main sail had ripped again at the 4th reef point and was finished till it could get to a loft and be repaired.
At this point it was up to the motors to bring us home. The next concern was how much fuel we actually had aboard and would it be enough? I went forward to check the tanks and was disheartened once again to see fuel on the locker floor that must have seeped out of a tank that must have cracked in the rough seas.
Quickly I found the damaged tank and transferred the fuel to one of the other two tanks before we lost too much fuel. Fuel would be tight and we still has 240 miles to go at this point. If we ran both engines at 75% we would burn the remaining 120 gallons of fuel in 24 hours! At 7 knots we would only cover 170 miles and would be 70 miles short of our destination!
The solution was to slow down ad run one engine at 5 knots and hope we had enough fuel to make port.
Then the next disaster struck! That evening Daria informed me there was no water coming out of the faucet from the sink! I checked the water tanks and somehow 200 gallons of fresh water had disappeared? This was not a good feeling…I looked everywhere and finally found the leak from a failed gasket on the port water heater, and luckily I had a spare gasket and had it fixed within an hour and started the water maker which thankfully started right up.
There are very few things that that get me queasy on the boat but working in tight spaces is one of them and I was glad the job was finished with the repair and the tanks were filling with fresh water.
Finally on day 5 we were just 100 miles out but traveling at a mere5 knots it would still take over 20 hours of motoring to get to port. At this point we had the tattered sails stowed and the engines on for almost 4 days and I was getting concerned with how much fuel we actually had left. I transferred all the remaining fuel to the main tank and calculated we would have only 20 gallons of the 300 we had started with when we made port.
Luckily the winds died that last day and the seas calmed and we could maintain 5 knots with just 1 engine. A few times we has some strong winds on the nose and had to run both engines but were lucky enough for at least one day of light winds.
The list of broken parts did not end though, during this last day one more critical part decided to break, our trusty autopilot that had been working flawlessly the last 35000 miles gave out. Looks like we will be hand steering the rest of the way Daria….
Exhausted we cleared the bay just before dark but still had the last 50 miles of motoring to get to Davao which is located in north end of a huge bay in the southern Philippines. We were tired and motored a few hours until we were in calm water and then shut of the engine and let the boat just drift while we got a few hours of much needed rest. After a few hours of sleep we motored the last few miles in the morning in calm waters that the mountain range around the bay provides.
What a difference a few miles makes when you are protected by the mountains, the rains had stopped and the seas were calm. Looking back we should have acquired much better weather forecasts but strangely enough nothing we had downloaded showed the class 1 typhoon we had just experienced?
Our next adventure will bring us back to the States for the first time in nearly three years.
We left Tahoe and headed west, at least that was out intention. In reality the road initially headed south along the lakefront and then went up and along the ridge of some of the narrowest and winding roads I have driven the Rambler on.
At one point we had to back up and make a two point turn to get around one really tight corner. The road continued another 20 miles south with more twists and turns. One plus from taking the long way out was that the view of the lake was amazing!
Finally after way to many twisted miles we were back on the highway and in the groove of burning diesel and putting the miles behind us. Our next destination was Napa Valley and then on to San Francisco. We had been driving for most of the day in the rain and he sun was setting. When we just want to put miles behind us this is about the time we start looking for a Wal-Mart to pullover and spend the night. Wal-Mart is great about letting RV’s camp in their parking lot at most locations and it saves the hassle of finding a campground and secondly because you always need something from Wall-Mart right?
It was still raining, so we went to cinema and when Daria checked in on Facebook via Foursquare after the movie she told me that an old grade school friend of mine Jennifer had seen her on there and had sent here a message that she lives just 10 minutes away!
What an amazing coincidence! To top it off that it was Jennifer’s birthday and she wanted to know if we had time to get together with her and her husband Gary for dinner. Well that was a silly question!
When things as amazing as old school friend show up by surprise and have a special occasion to celebrate to boot, of course we have time!
A few hours later we were sitting across from each other for the first time in over 25 years celebrating her birthday with her husband and reminiscing old times. Isn’t technology amazing?
After many miles of open road the conditions began to get tighter and busier when we pulled into the small town of Napa Valley. Then things got really crazy when we followed the visitor center signs all the way into downtown and ultimately wound up on a dead end road! Great here we are 65 feet long with lots of traffic at lunch time rush hour with no place to turn around. It did not matter where I moved I was being honked at from blocking one driveway or another, Finally one good Samaritan stopped and got out of his car and stopped traffic while I backed up and made the turn back to freedom. In the meanwhile Daria was in the tourist center taking her sweet time getting all the information we needed to have a great week in Napa. I simply pulled up in front of the information center double parked with my flashers on waiting patiently dodging F-bombs and fingers but while they gave me one finger I just returned two, the peace sign and smiled!. One guy thought he was actually smart enough to tell me that I could not double park there? Well apparently he was wrong because I indeed had the parking brake on and was in neutral and obviously parked. Sorry, but when you are un-towable, 25 tons and 65 feet long you can park where ever you want!
Our next mission was to actually find a place to park where we could legally leave the bus for a few days and not worry about it. We headed to the old side of town and found a furniture store with a big empty parking lot and just by chance the owner was driving by when I flagged him down and asked if it would be a problem to park there a few days. We chatted a while and swapped stories and he was very nice and let us park there for free and latter even brought us a friendship loaf of bread. He was one of the few people I had ever met from the Middle East and was one of the nicest people I had met in Napa!
After we parked we unloaded the bike and went back downtown and had lunch in Daria’s favorite Japanese chain, Morimoto… I was happy to, they had an awesome beer selection there!
Daria had made reservations at Hotel Yountville and we packed a few bags and hopped on the BMW and rode up the valley 30 miles to the Hotel. It was nice to be out of the bus and have room to take a bath and relax is what Daria was thinking but me as the lifelong camper was having a hard time shelling out $500 a night when there was a perfectly good bed back home in the Rambler. But we do what we have to do in life I guess….. The hotel turned out to be amazing and located right in the middle of the best wineries Napa Valley has to offer in Yountville.
Daria did first pick, it was beautiful vineyard Artesa, but wine was just ok.
Next turn was mine. I decided just drive bike to first place, which I’ll like. Bad idea. It turned to be some fancy swanky place that told us that a tasting would be $30 for one wine! (The name of the wine was Opus One, they’ve got just one wine*) Well this cowboy has rarely even spent $30 on a whole bottle and a taste for $30 was just redonkulous! So back on the bike we went heading north to greener pastures and more reasonable wine!The bike was the perfect way to get around and we had amazing weather to ride in. We visited 7 or 8 really nice places including the Castle and one of my favorite Robert Mondovi Winery and then Daria’s favorite Mum and took a tour on how they make sparkling wine. You could spend a week here and not see all the wineries but after three quick days we did our best to at least see the valley and enjoy what it had to offer. Napa is like an adult Disneyland with lots of excellent restaurants and places to see.
Thankfully our hotel gave us 20 vouchers for free tasting and also 20 half price offers. So actually the price of the hotel was not so bad, you just had to drink a lot of wine!
We continued our trip west to San Francisco but instead of taking the bus into the city we decided to just repack our bags and take the bike.
We took the long way to the city and went north through Petaluma and through the rolling country side that had the remains of the small dairy farms that looked to be struggling through another drought. It was so hot, dry and dusty with pastures brown and struggling to survive. The temperature dropped quickly as we approached the coast from the mid 90’s to the low 70’s within minutes as we turned onto Hwy 1. We continued north rode into a small sea side village and stopped at a small fish market for lunch. We enjoyed fresh fish and oysters and washed them down with a few tasty micro brews.
After lunch we turned back around and the road
wound its way south along the coast and the weather and views were fantastic. A small farmers market lured us in to buy fresh fruits to snack on along the way. Finally after a few hours of scenic road the city appeared on the horizon and we crossed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Golden Gate Bridge. While driving across it is hard to imagine that man could build something this huge. The view of the city from the bridge in itself is amazing and then you have these massive 300 foot towers supporting giant cables that hold the whole bridge up! Simply breathtaking!
We found our room downtown after a near death experience of sliding sideways with both tires locked up through and intersection because I missed a red light. City driving in SF is like driving in LA traffic with pedestrians and bicycles! Rattled from the city driving we checked into our room and hit the streets in search of a place to eat and relax on foot!
Just a short walk from our hotel was Hakkasan Restaurant and we had an great time there enjoying food and drinks I had never even seen before!
Later we found out to our surprise the Americas Cup sail boat race was in town! What a treat here we are sailors and by chance hit town the day the races start!
In the morning we had a quick breakfast at famous SF market…. and
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And we were off to buy tickets and watch the first of the series of races that would take place in the next several weeks. We found a crowded place on the finish line to see the race and were able to see just what these boats were capable of. It is hard to imagine a sail boat hitting 50 mph but here they were rising up on their hydrofoils and screaming across the water!
Sailing has come a long way from the first cup races and now it is piles of money and technology rather than skill that decides the winners. These machines are single purpose engineering marvels and designed to sail in winds 15-20 knots anything more would topple them in no time. The USA lost the first few challenges but replaced a faulty electronic gyro that controlled the boats pitch while on the foils and wound up winning the last several races by a big margin.
Later this afternoon we took a tour bus and saw all sightseeings, it was a lot of fun!
Back in the RV we took the 101 south with Hearst Castle as our next destination. On our way we stopped for lunch in Monterey Marina and did quick mototour around.
The castle is on Hwy 1 and about half way there we saw a small grey line on the map that would take us across to the coast and back on Hwy 1, a kind of short cut! Two hours later we were wondering how it was possible to make a 40 mile long road this crooked and narrow as we slowly progressed through the mountains that run along the coast of California! The road curved through beautiful valleys filled with oak trees and we saw at least 20 deer on our way across the mountain range.
The so called shortcut would have been a blast on the bike but in the RV it was torture! There were a few turns that I had doubts we were even going to make, scraping things I hoped were not important on the underside of the bus as we struggled around them all the time hoping the road would not get any worse! Finally just after dark we made it to the top of the pass and found a place to pull over and give my tense nerves a break and went to bed. In the morning we woke to a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean covered in a blanket of clouds 3000 feet below us. Another tedious hour driving down the twisted road and we were finally on Hwy 1 and just an hour away from the castle.
On the coast just before San Simon there was an Elephant Seal refuge with hundreds of these stinky monsters noisily sunning on the beach. These are BIG seals weighing upwards of 900 pounds and 10 feet long each one eating who knows how many pounds of fish each day to maintain their layer of blubber. With no natural predators left after we wiped out their main concern the Great White sharks years ago the population is exploding and causing economic grief for the local fishing fleets.
This believe it or not was my third time to Hearst Castle and would be the first time I would finally take the tour. The times before I arrived when tours were sold out or times were just not convenient. You need to buy tickets well in advance in the summer or be patient and flexible. With tickets in hand you wait at the bus station for a narrated trip 2000 feet ride up the hill to the Castle. I will not go into detail about the castle but will just say that this is one of those places where money and dreams came together and created an amazing collection of ideas and architecture. The castle was never actually completed or even lived in for that matter; rather it was more of a party gathering place for the rich and famous movie stars of the 40’s and 50’s.
Back in the bus we had the wedding of my oldest son to get to in So. Cal. and motored that direction. With a few extra days to burn we called up some old friends and family in the central valley and announced we would be in town.
We arrived in Visalia and parked the bus in the driveway of my cousin Jake and Terry’s house on their farm and used it as a base camp to meet friends and family for the next few days. Jake gave me a tour around his dairy and farm and I have to say that I never in my life seen corn grow as tall as it does there, over 12 feet with ears 6 feet off the ground!
Jake is into adventure dirt bike riding and has a couple of Husaburg 690’s in the garage. These dirt bikes are amazing machines with 80 something horsepower and made to go FAST! We took them for a ride one day down a wash that Jake had been down hundreds of times and I held on for dear life going as fast as possible along the brand new trail. There was no way I was falling off holding on that tight but even good riders get caught by surprise and an hour later I was shaking dirt out of my helmet and shirt! This was my test ride, so Jake could see if this sailor was up to the 3 day 500 mile ride he had planned in Vegas next month. I made the cut and will tell that story later.
It was great to have dinner with so many friends and family and to spend time with all of them after way too many years had passed.
A few hundred more miles south put us in So. Cal the day before my oldest son got married. I hoped my tux would fit as we got dressed for the occasion and the weekend went off without any problems.
One last stop in California put us back in my old hometown where we parked the bus in my lifelong friends Tony and Gina’s back yard. The reunions continued with another bar-b-q and more old friends taking their time to come say hello. I lightened the load in the trailer going home and left the Polaris Ranger to live the rest of his life with Tony behind the wheel, enjoy it guys!
Sunday morning Daria hitched a ride to LAX for a trip home to Russia with the honey moon couple who were off to Hawaii.
It had been a busy few months and I took my time driving the 1200 miles back to Kansas to put this amazing machine, “The Rambler” back in the storage shed where she will wait who knows how long for the next land adventure sometime in the future?
Looking back at all the friends we make in life and the roads that bring us back together, we all go our own way in life but keep that special place in our hearts for the special few we call friends. Great to see all of you again and I promise it will not be 20 years until next time we meet!
The adventure continues in our next story, we head east to see yet more friends!
Here is another part of our trip in USA.
Luckily we did preparation ahead!
It had been 6 months since we had been anchored in Pompeii, Micronesia buying tickets for this event and now the day had finally arrived to see what Burning Man was really all about.
I had heard of this event many years ago and vaguely new what it was all about… Fire, art, self expression are just a few of the words that simply describe it but like they say, pictures are worth a thousand words so I will let Daria’s photos explain it all further.
What we did know for sure was that the event was a week long and located in Flat Rock City on a dry lake bed about 60 miles NE of Reno, Nevada. The idea for the event was conceived over 20 years ago and back then only 10 or 15 thousand people attended. It has since grown to over 60 thousand, people show up in all varieties of vehicles burdened and bulging with everything they need to live in the desert for the next week from all over the world.
Traffic was backed up 20 miles on the narrow two lane road that wound its way across the desert towards the dry lake bed where the event would be held. The road turned off into the desert and onto the dry lake bed that was organized with thousands of orange traffic cones separating traffic into a dozen or so lanes. Hundreds of vehicles were patiently waiting there turn to present their $750 ticket and proceed into the well organized camping area.
The lake bed was transformed into a self-contained city for the week and street signs and maps were provided to find your way around. The town was laid out in a big radial with the outbound streets from the center named like time on a watch which made finding your way home easier, you just had to remember what time you are parked on. We were parked on the end of 6:30 and found our way home pretty easily most of the ”time“…. We also had a book, 200 pages, with all events, where and when you can find it…
Once parked which was wherever space was available, we unloaded out our bicycles which would be the only form of transportation allowed for the week to have a look around. Thousands of people were already here and the party had begun.
One of the first things we noticed was that there was a that there was no dress code. And when I say no dress code I say it in the most liberal form. It went any where from totally naked to people being pulled around on leashes by their masters to elaborate costumes. We kept our clothes on a went for the crazy hat look. And one night we were the pirates! Agrrrr…
The main theme of the event is that you are to share what you have with everyone and money is of no use for the week.
Camp sites we rode by would each have a different theme and most had snacks and beverages set up for whoever wanted them. In return you traded something you had either with swag or at a later time with an event you brought to the party. The veterans really got into it and we attended some amazing events like one camp that fed sushi to hundreds of hungry campers off of the naked bodies of volunteers. In the morning there would be bacon hanging on clothes lines and plates of just about anything you wanted to eat somewhere in this crazy town.
The main and biggest attractions were located north of the center of town a place called the Playa. In the very center was the main meeting area, a place where coffee was served 24-7 and couches and shade to lounge around on were plentiful. Just off center was the main structure of Burning Man. The structure is built a little different every year but with the same small stick figure of the Burning Man on top. This structure is made of 1000’s of board feet of wood and three stories tall. On the last day the whole creation would go up in flames like many other of the pieces of art this week.
Located further out on the Playa was the temple. The temple was built with interlocking high strength laminates and had a stairway you could climb up and look around on two floors and to exit you went down a big slide from the second story. It was amazing to see this life size puzzle that was held together with engineering instead of nails, bolts or screws. It was a place that was very spiritual and would also be burned like a big sacrifice at the end of the week. Every surface in the temple within reach was written on or had notes and pictures placed on them. These notes and pictures were respectfully placed to remember loved ones who had been lost that year.
There were other works of art placed randomly around the Plays and most had some relation to fire. We put lots of miles on the bikes that week but do not feel we experienced but half of the events that went on at all hours of the day. The nights came alive and the Playa would be the meeting place for many fire breathing creations. Rolling works of art would slowly roll across the Playa and belch huge fire balls into the sky. You could tell some people live the rest of the year for this one week since some creations must have took thousands of hours to build. And a lot of $$$.
It was another big piece of wood art called “Station Peace”, built by Russian people.
The younger crowd would party into the wee hours of the morning to blaring music dancing the night away. Most of these people would sleep the following day away nursing hangovers getting ready for when the sun went down and be ready to do it all over again. The day people like myself did not mind because if everyone was awake at the same time the place would have been way too crowded.
The mornings were cool and crisp even in the desert due to the 5000 foot elevation. It would warm up during the day to the mid 80’s and most afternoons the wind would blow creating massive dust clouds on the Playa. The busiest roads on the ancient dry alkaloid lake bed would turn to fine powder after having been loosened by hundreds of bike tires and feet. The efforts of the water trucks only created mud that would actually make your bike tires actually grow bigger as you rode through it but it did help keep the dust down. One afternoon we were out and were riding 50 feet apart across the Playa and a wind storm came up and we lost each other in the cloud it generated. Visibility was cut down to a few feet and you had to just wait it out because you had no idea which direction you were going.
Thankfully we had an RV and were part of the minority that had enough water to shower each day. After riding around for a few hours our clothes, legs and feet would be white and caked with the fine dust. Most campers had limited water or shower facilities and the “leave no trace” rule would not let you even dispose of shower water on the lakebed.
We spent 5 days taking it all in and the thought of a 60 mile traffic jam was something I did not want to experience so we loaded up the bikes and left a day early. By this time there was a fine coating of dust on everything and getting to a place with a hose to wash it all off sounded really good to us both.
Looking back, if I was to do it all over again, I would skip the first two days and leave after the crowd just to see the big burns. But that is for a later time I guess, one Burning Man is more than enough for most people in a lifetime. And Daria wants do it again with bunch of friends, can be a lot of fun too.
We continued our journey back west on the road to Lake Tahoe another place I had never been. This decision came from a friendly encounter 10 years back when I was sailing in St. Martin and met this couple Mike and Donna at the Little Bit Inn. One of those encounters when you meet someone and immediately hit it off and stay friends for life. I remember them saying all those years ago, “If you are ever in Tahoe give us a call” Well, we were in Tahoe and I called. Mike and Donna had a cabin 20 minutes from where Daria and I parked the RV and we wound up having dinner and spending the night at their cabin in Fallen Leaf lake.
What a wild week it had been of meeting new and old friends!
In our next adventure we continue driving west to the wine country of Napa Valley and throw all California.
For those of you just joining the blog this is part 2 of a 5 part series. We are taking 4 month sabbatical from sailing on Downtime and traveling around the USA.
With the reunion behind us we headed east after Daria and my niece Lindsay spent the morning shopping at the Costa Mesa mall just in time it seemed for the traffic to get nice and busy. Agonizingly were slowed back down to sailing speed by the traffic as we left LA at a crawl. We were heading east back through Las Vegas this time on our way to Utah.
We were not in any big hurry and spent the night in Vegas and in the morning headed east out of town for one more trip down memory lane. Way back in 1985 I had run a farm located 45 minutes east of town and we pulled in to see the mere skeleton that remained. A few of the main buildings were still standing like the 70 year old adobe two bedroom house that I had lived in for a short time and the partly demolished milking parlors now had rusting roofs on them the same buildings where we had milked countless cows back in the day. Sadly a cow had not been milked here in years and I new in my heart never would be again.
I had moved here to Hidden Valley when I was 20 over half a lifetime ago. I spent three long years out in the harsh climate making my first stand in life. This was a special place with many memories and a place where my first two children were born and my life as an adult began. Out of curiosity I wondered how many people from my past here were still around and I got on the phone to try and contact Jose the manager and friend I worked with so many years ago. I finally got in contact with him through his brother and we were able to have lunch together later that day, something we had not done in over 25 years. We found ourselves both drawn back to a earlier time remembering the many adventures we had running this 3000 cow dairy in the desert so many years ago, back in the day when our kids were still learning to walk. Our kids were now grown and the same age as when we had met so many years ago.
Time is a strange commodity, back in my younger days I never seemed to have enough of it or was always in to big a hurry to see the simple things in life like the Valley of Fire State Park located 30 miles out of Vegas. I must have driven past 100 times back then way too busy in life to take the few hours to see this wonder of nature. Now time seems to be plentiful and those little sideline trips beckon me. Daria and I hopped on the bike the following morning on a warm summer day and were at the park entrance 30 minutes later and spent the next few hours being enchanted by the many colors of the natural sandstone creations inside the park. We rode down through valley with naturally carved sculptures on either side on this beautiful day with perfect weather to enjoy. We were even lucky enough to see a herd of bighorn sheep, an animal I had rarely seen in the wild, ironically just past the yellow and black sheep crossing sign next to the road.
Leaving the park we took the long way home and rode next to what remains of Lake Meade. The lake is down over 80 feet since I last lived here in the 80’s. The lake is having serious demands put on it from the ever growing city of Las Vegas and all parts west for that mater. You can now drive a jeep to the many places we used to fish and the marina we used to launch the boat at has the concrete ramp ending hundreds of feet from the water.
Back in the bus we continued east to St. George, Utah and we plugged “Visitor Center” into the GPS and it took us strait to the biggest Mormon church in town right in front of a small sign that did say visitor center but this just happened to be the church’s not exactly the one we were looking for.
I have to tell you driving around in circles in a bus that gets 5 miles to the gallon is not even close to my favorite thing to do in life. Get us back to the freeway please Daria….
Finally back on the freeway we took what maps we had and continued down the road to our next state park. Sand Hollow State Park surrounds a small lake and we spend hours driving the trails through the dunes in the Polaris Ranger. Daria is funny she is brave enough to sail countless miles across open oceans, through storms and rough seas but put her in a off road vehicle and she thinks she is going to die. My wild driving most likely did not help all the time going as fast as I could all the while screaming Ranger Danger!
This park also has the most beautiful and cheap RV park, where we stayed during all our trip!
The next park was just 35 miles down the road and we decided to leave the motor home parked and take the bike. Thank goodness we made that decision because Zion National Parks roads were packed and we would never have found a place to park the bus with the trailer behind it, or seen as much as we did from the back of the bike.
Zion is another must see in life. The towering spires of stone reach to the sky the place has a magical feeling to it. The guided tour trams take you on a narrated trip up the canyon along the river to see the sites. Later we took the bike out to the east entrance through a really cool 2 mile long tunnel that was dug through solid rock back at the turn of the century.
At this point we had a general idea of where we were going but also had a few extra days to just see what we would find so off the road we went. With a dozen tires rolling chances are something sooner or later will go wrong. With just over 2000 trouble free miles behind us our good fortune changed. A truck behind us was flashing his lights indicating he wanted to tell us something. We pulled over and this really nice guy pulled along side us and informed us that one of our trailer tires was wobbling and not looking so good. He said he would lead the way for us to a good tire shop who helped him out a few weeks ago, and we slowly followed him into the next town. We thanked him for taking the time to help us out and backed up to the service door at the tire station.
The tire had a big bubble on the side but that was just the start of our problems as we found our after they removed the tire from the trailer and revealed further damage of a broken leaf spring. It was quite comical that the spring broke right in the middle of the “Made In (BIG CRACK)China” that was proudly painted on the spring! Why do they do this?? Put their country name on all this crappy stuff we buy?
Right away I was thinking there goes those few extra days waiting for a new spring while sitting in some small town in Utah. I asked the service manager where he thought I could find a new spring thinking I would unload the bike and ride to wherever it would be down the road. He told me to check at the auto parts store right next door under 100 feet away. As I carried the two pieces of the broken spring that way I was thinking that it would be highly unlikely they would have the right part in stock. I showed the parts manager the spring and he directed me to the last shelf on the left which was stacked knee deep in the very part I needed. Amazed I bought two (one for a spare) and was out the door 15 minutes later spending less that $100.
The tire guys had the new tire mounted and installed the new spring and in under an hour we were happily rolling down the road again thinking how fortunate we were that this man had taken the time to help us out. It was definitely about being in the right place in the right time for that one. Thanks to everyone in that small town that made our day so much better.
A few hours down the road we saw a sign for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State park and took a left turn to see what fun we could have there. Mid summer is the off season for these kind of places usually way to hot to be out riding the dunes and camping this time of year. We had temperatures in the mid 80’s and found ourselves being the only crazy sand fools in the dunes. The dunes and trails go on for miles and miles and with no one else around I was hoping we would not break down or get stuck.
We loaded up and left later in the afternoon after a fun morning in the dunes and got a few miles down the road before I noticed in the rear view mirror that we were rolling down the road with the rear trailer ramp down like in an old episode of Knight Rider. The trailer seemed to be having a bad week and now sported a few new scratches where the rubber pads used to be.
Since we already had seen the south rim of the Grand Canyon we figured why not go see the north rim as well? We parked in a small campground in Jacob’s Lake and rode the bike 50 miles to the canyon twice during the next few days stopping at every viewpoint along the way. The bike it turned out gave us such maneuverability on this trip and the opportunity to see so many places we would have not driven to if we would have had taken only the bus, no to mention that it gets 10 times the fuel mileage. On the way into the park we saw lots of grazing deer and buffalo and just hoped neither would cross front of us on the road later that evening in on our way home.
Standing on the edge of this magnificent canyon leaves you speechless. The Indians that somehow lived here in centuries past had a hard life and the Spanish explorer Montezuma all but gave up his exploration when this giant obstacle stopped him in his tracks. There just did not seem to be a way around something as big or deep as this canyon. The canyon at this point is over a mile deep and up to 12 miles across The sheer sandstone walls drop strait down the first few hundred feet before gradually sloping with their houses sized boulder and ruble strewn slopes that make their way to the edge of light chocolate colored river that roars and gouges its way through the canyon. Amazingly the temperatures can be in the mid 80’s up on the rim and soar 30 or more degrees and into the 100’s on the valley floor.
We continued southeast towards Page, Arizona where we would see Antelope Canyon but there was a slight glitch caused by the recent flash floods damaging the most direct rout there. As it turned out we would have to take a 200 mile detour to get there which in our case converts into another 40 gallons of diesel and 4 hours on the road but it was well worth it.
Antelope Canyon is a phenomenon where millions of years of water and wind erosion have slowly carved out tunnels and chambers in the narrow sandstone tunnels that you can walk through and see some of the most amazing natural sculptures in the world. There are some really interesting formations that can be seen walking through this canyon. These were pointed out by the skilled Indian guide who showed us the likes of eagles, famous faces and other animals if you just let your imagination run wild. He told us just weeks before we would have been walking 6 feet higher in the canyon but the recent flashflood had washed out at least 6 feet of sand from the floor. He pointed this fact out while showing us logs that had been stuck in crevices 20 feet above our heads from previous storms. This was definitely no place to be during a storm!
Back on the road we continued south east to the south corner of western Colorado where Mesa Verde Nation Park home of the largest archeological preserve in the Unites is located. This location is famous for the cliff dwellings where Anasazi (Puebloan) Indians started living at in 600 AD and continued to do so through the 1300’s. The site has some of the best preserved cliff dwelling in the world and over 4000 archeological sites and 600 dwellings. The tours were very informative and it was fascinating to walk through and see the 1400 years old structures! There were steep trails that lead down to the structures and most had ladders that we had to climb out on. Daria and ladders are not friends since she is scared of heights and it took a little coaching to get her to climb. The park has many miles of road and we found ourselves again on the back of the bike riding from one end of the park to the other. On the way to the eastern side we were even lucky enough to see a bear and her cub, Daria’s first bear in the wild playing in the shade of a tree right next to the road.
This is as far east as we would be for a while and we headed back west to Utah where we would stop at a place I had been wanting all my life to see, Moab, Utah. Moab is a four wheelers dream with hundreds of miles of off road trails to discover. We had the perfect vehicle along with us for that and put many exciting miles on the Polaris Ranger during the next few days. It was the off season here also and we saw very few people out on the trails. On one adventure we often found ourselves way too far away from home and then the worst thing possible happened, we got a flat tire with no spare tire aboard!! I had a bottle of fix a flat and a air compressor aboard but the damage to this tire was located in the sidewall and that was not going to be much help with the damage to this tire. To make maters worse we were a little disorientated (LOST)! We would drive about 15 minutes and then stop and put in more air and drive some more until the tire would be flat again. After 5 or 6 stops we were finally back on the trail home and pulled into camp just as the sun set. Moab is a huge place and on the next trip a spare tire, sat phone and a few friends will be along.
With Moab checked off my bucket list we headed just a few miles up the road to Arches National Park a place God must have made on Saturday after all the hard stuff was done with. This is another place where the millions of years of wind a erosion have created breathtaking sculptures out of sandstone. As the name of the park implies there are also arches made of stone some over 100 feet across others not so big but all amazing to see. Other parts of the park have what to looks like giant sand castles with different colors of sand making mounds and crazy shapes in the landscape. One of my favorites was a huge boulder that is resting on a small spire hundreds of feet in the air. It is there defying gravity for now but one day that baby is coming down and what a crash that will be! At the far end of the park Daria went for a hike that I decided to thankfully sat out on. Over 2 hours later she came wandering back tired and out of water after the 7.5 miles. She had hiked to see some of the most famous of arches on Devils Garden Trail. The geology of southern Utah is mostly red sandstone and it is fascinating to see how many forms and shapes nature can presents it in.
Our off road adventures were over until we could find a new tire for the Ranger and we headed north towards Salt Lake City. We found a nice campground to park at and spent the afternoon at the cinema and rode back home on the bike in the rain. The next day we were back on the bike for a short trip through the local mountains for a very scenic trip down a very narrow and windy roads thankful again we were not driving the bus!
Heading north to Wyoming our next stop we camped at was just out side of Jackson Hole and we rode the bike through.
Teton National Park a place where you can literally say “I have never seen so many huge rocks stacked so tall” The ancient jagged grey granite mountains rise up 7000 feet off the valley floor to almost 14.000 feet with peaks that are permanently covered in snow and glaciers. We rode the bike through the park and then took a boat trip across one of the crystal clear lakes to the base of one of the mountains. From there we took a short hike to one of the many waterfalls. We could have spent several days here but had reservations at a camp ground at the west entrance of Yellowstone, one of the highlights we would be visiting next just a few hundred miles up the road.
Yellowstone was one of the few places I had actually been to before. The last time I was here with my kids and drove through quickly in just a day and seen only a fraction of what it has to offer. Back then I would point to a Elk or Buffalo and the kids would say, “whatever” That was definitely not the case with Daria who was fascinated with every detail.
This trip we would take it much slower and spend three days to see ever corner of it. And every corner we did riding over 400 miles during the next several days from our base camp just outside the west entrance. One day when we were as far as we could have been from home we got caught in the middle of a torrential rain storm and had to find shelter and wring the water out of our socks while it passed. It was a long cold ride home that day. On another day we saw many or the guessers including Old Faithful which is still faithful by the way. The entire park is pure beauty from the many colorful mineral pools to the breathtaking mountain lakes that discharge massive amounts of water down huge waterfalls and down through picturesque canyons. At any traffic jam there is sure to be wildlife that countless tourists are stopped at and taking pictures. We saw many animals in the park including a majestic bald eagle sitting in a tree over the river and the not so calm rutting, rather aggressive buffalo that came charging across the highway in front of us. The next traffic jam presented a young elk which looked more like 70 percent legs and 30 percent elk.
Old Faithful erupts regularly and thousands of people gather around to see the show. Other small geysers bubble and gurgle but this most famous one spews steaming hot water almost 100 feet in the air. There are hundreds of geothermal attractions in the park and the smell of sulfur lingers in the air. Some make you feel like you are walking on the moon with the crusty alkaloid soil steaming all around you. Others have gurgling mud pits steaming like some mad scientists latest concoction. There are steaming pools of the bluest turquoise waters you have ever seen that are gradually changing to deeper shades of blue as they go deeper down into the earth. Along the edge of many of these pools are an orange bacteria that thrives in this steamy environment and somehow build intricate patterns across the bottom of the shallows of these ponds.
The bear and moose continued to elude us and we never did get a glimpse of either one of these creatures that should have been plentiful in the park this time of year. But we sure did see a lot of beautiful nature and after 3 days felt like we had actually seen all the park had to offer.
Our trip from here would head west to Flat Rock City, Nevada where we had tickets for another monumental event, Burning Man!
Peace! Pete and Daria
After nearly three years of living on Downtime a sabbatical was in order for both Downtime and her crew.
We spent five frustrating days sailing from Palau to Holiday Ocean View Marina located on Samal island just south of Davao City a place where we would be leaving Downtime safely tied to a dock in the small marina for the next several months. You would think that in a country as huge as the Philippines with over 7000 islands they would have hundreds of marinas to choose from but this is not the case. There are very few if any marinas that Daria and I found safe enough to leave our floating home in the entire country.
Samal Island is located on the southeastern end of Mindanao inside a 60 mile deep bay just south of the city of Davao and is rarely hit with tropical typhoons. Now your probably thinking Aren’t the southern Philippines dangerous? And the answer is yes but mainly on the far southwest side where there are actually Pirates but thankfully this is some 350 miles from where we would be leaving the boat.
We spent the following week getting the boat ready for storage. We turned off the refrigerators and freezer for the first time in 3 years and gave away any food that would go bad while we were away. This made our helpers Donald and Carolyn very happy and they took home with them a few weeks worth of groceries. This couple became invaluable in the following months taking care of Downtime and keeping her clean and safe.
The list of things to be repaired while we were away was made and the boat yard had already shipped our torn sails, cracked fuel tanks and rusty anchor chain in to be sewn, welded and re-galvanized and by the end of the week our bags were packed and our next adventure by air and land was ready to begin.
We had quite the trip planned, our first stop on the flight east from Manila was Hawaii and we spent a few days breaking up the long flights in Honolulu with a beautiful view of Waikiki Beach and Marina from the Modern Hotel.
I thought Daria found a heck of a deal when I signed the paperwork foolishly thinking that three nights cost $300 at this 5 star newly renovated palace with amazing sea view. I had been on the boat way too long… It was a $300 room all right but that was per night…
We spent the next few days walking around the high fashioned shopping centers and along the famous beaches.
Our list of fine restaurants we would be visiting started on the ground floor of the Modern where there is Morimoto, a Japanese restaurant and we indulged in an amazing food and ice cold Japanese Kirin beers. The last few years had taken us to some very remote places in this world and fine dining was rarely and option and we found ourselves craving all kinds of favorite foods that we had done without for so long.
One day we rented a convertible and drove around the small island stopping at Pearl Harbor to pay our respects to those that lost their lives on the Arizona and other ships that December 7th so many years ago on that memorable day Japan “Woke the sleeping giant”. Next we walked the decks of the Mighty Missouri war ship and stood on the spot where the peace treaty was signed with that same country so many bloody years later.
Our next flight landed us in Las Vegas, a city Daria had been dreaming of going to for years. She had found another great deal at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel a five star paradise and we laid our heads to sleep in the most amazing hotel room I had even seen. The remote control operated the windows, light and AC along with the interactive TV that could make dreams come true with the click of a button if you so desired. There is just something about even the sheets in a place like this… Daria was amazed while she was having a bath watching TV which appeared in bathroom mirror…
Our next fine dinner found us sitting at a place way too fancy for this cowboy…Twist by Pierre Gagnaire’s was on the 23rd floor of the Oriental and had a stunning view of Vegas but also had prices that could literally feed a family of four in the Philippines for a month! I did my best to suck it up because I know Daria loves this kind of thing and I tried to get through it with a smile on my face. The bill came and I did not even want to know the damages and Daria took care of it. She is always good at those things, never once paying a bill that has an error on it. She had an issue with this one though and the next morning took it strait to the management and somehow got the whole meal taken off our tab?
After our so-so dinner we walked across the street to the Aria hotel to see the first of two shows that we would experience this week. The new Cirque de Soleil show Zarkana kept us amazed for the next few hours. The quality of the performers is really something to see. There are balancing acts, juggling and some things you would not imagine humanly possible, a real must see in life! After the show we walked the strip to see the fountain show at the Bellagio one of the biggest fountains in the world where hundreds of jets spew thousands of gallons of water hundreds of feet in the air all choreographed to music and lights. Amazing!
During the next few days we must had walked 10 miles up and down the strip and through the malls. I found myself lacking a few things after living on a boat for so long, a few of those things being pants and shoes. I really did not use either for the past few years, but now found myself not being let into restaurants like the Hakkasan in the MGM without. Here in the states I would at the least need shoes to put on my flip flop blistered feet that had done all the miles of walking the last few days.
The final show Le Reve, which we saw, was at the Winn Casino a show that in itself was said to have cost a hundred million to produce! Picture a huge swimming pool surrounded by thousands of seats with over 100 performers and sets that come up out of the depths and divers falling from the sky disappearing and reappearing before your eyes into hidden passages below the surface. It was another mesmerizing few hours and well worth our time to see a show of this quality.
Three days in Vegas were more than enough to get our land legs back and our next flight landed us back in Liberal, Kansas my home town we had left just under three years ago. Time really does fly and sitting back at my desk in the office I recalled all the places I had travels since the last time I was here. That same chair I had spent years sitting in dreaming of this great sailing adventure was still sitting there timeless, as it always has been.
A small town like Liberal never really changes much and most things and people did not change at all. The really good friends I left behind were like family, you pick up where you left off like the years had not passed at all. The same old crowd remained at men’s night golf and the same old crowd was at Billy’s the local watering hole. Thankfully my favorite restaurant was still open and had the same chef at Amigo Chavez…a few wild cards like a new restaurant Bisteca had opened a few other shut down…basically the same old same old town.
It was nice to spend time with my two sons that we had not seen since Christmas a year and a half before in New Zealand. A lot had changed in their lives and Parker was married and Pete Jr. engaged and amazingly both my sons would wind up being married in the same year to two very nice girls.A few months before we flew home I had Parker get the old Holiday Ramble motor home out of the shop and serviced. After completing a lengthy list of maintenance items this 10 year land yacht was ready for her next trip around the western united states.
I wanted show my fiancé my country, so we only spent 10 days in Kansas before we were off again finally heading west for a change, motoring down highway 40 at 70 miles an hour 10 times faster than our cruising speed On Downtime! Suddenly sitting behind this wheel 1000 miles does not seem that far! Our first of many stops along the way was the south rim of the grand canyon where we both took our first ever helicopter ride. The canyon itself is breathtaking and seeing the grooves that had been cut through the sandstone during the last millions of years makes our time here on earth feel like a mere moment.
Back in the bus we continued west toward Blyth Ca. to meet up with some old friends from high school from the small town of San Jacinto, Ca. where I spent my teenage years. We camped out on the Colorado River for a few days, a place where I have fond memories of slicing up boat wakes from my younger days.
My life long friends Tony and Gina have a place in Palo Verde just west of Blyth where we camped at had a great time. The days when the river was too low to boat on we took off in the Polaris Ranger and ATV’s to explored the Arizona badlands spotting wild donkeys and coyote out amongst the played out silver mines. That weekend my daughter Cassandra and her boyfriend Anthony also drove out and made the week even more special. These special times with old friends always seem to fly by and all to soon the long weekend was over and it was back on the road west towards San Diego for a family reunion on my Moms side of the family.
We still had a few days before the reunion we spent them seeing the sites in San Diego first taking in the Zoo and then visiting Old Town both places I had never even been before. Strange? I had lived 80 miles away and yet never seen them….The zoo was great and we saw the lions, tigers and bears Oh My!! Old Town took us back to a tame when San Diego was brand new in the 1800’s and we found a photo shop that dressed up to look the part and had some shots taken of what we would have looked like back in the day. We had a great Mexican lunch of fish taco’s and Dos XX beer. After a day of walking around the zoo and Old Town we went to a place I remember as serving great sea food, The Fish Market. Well something had gone terribly wrong with this place since I last ate here, I think is was sold to the highest bidder and now was a tourist trap. Daria had her fish cooked three times only to have the Alaskan halibut come back extremely overcooked each time!
The last day in town we headed north to La Jolla and cruised the coast on the back of our motorcycle we took along with us in a trailer behind the bus. We were both thinking aw, sunny southern California is going to be nice and warm. Well not really, the temperatures never get to warm next to the coast here due to the 60 something degree water in the ocean that flows south from Alaska keeping the temperatures moderate and in the mid 70’s along the coast. Daria loved La Jolla and we found a nice little restaurant to have a quick lunch at.
Just two days before the reunion we found a small state park on the Ortega Highway just up the coast to leave the bus parked and took off for a blast from the past adventure and rode the motorcycle down to Chino, the small dairy town I spent my childhood in over 40 years ago. The dairy and house I remember growing up in as a kid is still there along with the neighbors that we surprised that afternoon when we knocked on their door. We spent the next few hours catching up with these old family friends before moving on and showing Daria much of the rest of the Valley I grew up in. Of the hundreds of dairies this valley was so well known for only a handful are left and the next big construction wave is on the way and soon they too will only be memories.
Next we headed for a big city adventure to Hollywood, again on the back of the motorcycle. Daria wanted to see Universal Studios, so we decided to do it right and signed up for the VIP tour which turned into an amazing day. The VIP pass puts you in a small group with your own personal tour guide and most importantly strait to the front of the line for every attraction and ride in the park. The VIP pass also includes an amazing lunch and access to parts of the studio that the regular pass does not. Basically you pay double and see double and get free lunch and parking! It was a lot of fun!
We spent the night in the Sheraton Beverly Hills whoohoo!! The next morning we went “tourist” and did the home of the stars tour through Brentwood and Bell Air, disappointingly a tour that we heard all to often “Behind that 40 foot hedgerow is so and so’s house” Then the tour took us downtown right in front of the Chinese Mann Theater and we walked down Hollywood Blvd. amongst all the stars placed in the sidewalk. Later in the tour I could feel Daria getting her shopping bug on when we drove down Rodeo Drive but thankfully the bus did not stop there! Back on the bike we went up Mull Holland drive and up to the overlook where you can see the big Hollywood sign on the hill and a good overlook of LA just below Ron Howard’s new home.
Two days in the big city were more than enough for this sailor and we headed back to the bus through some of the craziest traffic and doing the wildest motorcycle driving I had ever done. I know you most likely have seen the guys riding bike’s between the lanes when traffic is backed up? This is called cutting traffic and I was doing it for the first time. Riding between the cars when you literally have inches on each side of the handlebars at times. Thinking all the time I hope no body opens a door or swerves my way as you fly by them with inches to spare. Most drivers see you coming and give you a little extra room but others are texting or on the phone and do not see a thing. One of these types swerved a little the wrong way and BANG my handle bar takes out his mirror! Oh well we kept on moving thankful we were still on two wheels!
Up the coast a few miles is the small town of San Clemente where the reunion would be based at where we had a spot reserved in another state park next to some of the family members while others who chose not to camp stayed a few miles away in town. It was nice to see so many people show up and take the time to come to the event and too see my relatives some of which I had not seen in way too many years.
My two brothers and sister even made it out with their entire families. I have not seen most of them in over two years since my mothers funeral and was amazed in how much their kids had grown, a serious drawback of the sailing lifestyle being so far away from family.
My cousin Lisa and her husband Mark did a great job organizing the week. The big event planned for the week was going to see The Pageant of The Masters in Laguna Beach. This was another amazing experience where famous painting are recreated in life size with living actors posing inside the framed picture. We had twenty of my family members at the show sharing binoculars like a bunch of school kids.
We enjoyed few more restaurants like the Wind and Sea in Oceanside and Duke’s in Huntington beach where we had a great meal with my younger brother and his family, and other nights had a relaxing time at the camp ground cooking steaks and telling stories around the grill.
Daria, even though she is from Russia, was freezing all the time, so we bought her a nice pair of pink Uggs, which she did not take off even on the beach. She was really shocked how cold can be in California during the summer…
We had a great time in California catching up with so many friends and family but like everything in life you wait months for it seems to be over in a flash and you are left with many more priceless memories.
We continue the adventure heading back east toward the many national parks on the western half of this beautiful country to see all the sites they have to offer in our next story.
Until then, Peace!! And remember to get out there and live your dreams!
Pete and Daria