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To Costa Rica

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Safford, United States

We went hunting for fire agates yesterday. We found quite a few agates, and a few neat "bubbly" fire agates. Kevin wants to go back to get more - he's hoping to dig up some bigger ones. It was so hot out in the sun! But it was fun.

The clouds were acting very strangely. There was a fluffy cloud near the mountains on the horizon that was giving birth to these puff balls - they looked like big amniotic sacs- it was so bazaar!

Beautiful skies on the way home.

We had an awesome thunder shower the night of the 8th - I have never heard thunder rumbling so continuously - and so much lightning! Kevin got some shots out of our window..

permalink written by  heddwyn on September 10, 2009 from Safford, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Rocks, Thunderstorm and Agates

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Last day of August

Winkelman, United States

Whew! The last day of August is here and my oh my has it been hot at WindSpirit! Our extended stay here has many explanations not the least of which would be Don's kindness and generosity. The land here is filled with good vibrations but unfortunately not ones that attract rain. If anyone were counting they would notice that the past eight storms that were heading towards the Dripping Springs valley missed it entirely! Decent sunsets and a couple misty moments but that's it. This is the driest this location has been in fifty years, so say the locals. That arid heat has sent the critters scurrying for darker/damper places to rest - including our hut. I guess you could say we were fortunate that no one has been stung until now. Regular searches for scorpions will be in order after I relaxed in the vicinity of this bark scorpion. The pain was quite intense but rather short lived compared to the yellow wasp sting noted earlier. Here is the second scorpion found indoors using a black-light.

Finding this one was an exciting process but a blatant reminder of where we are. Earlier this week a rattlesnake and I startled each other on a rarely used path. Again, this area is not without its dangers. The hurricane season (hopefully) is winding down in the Pacific, that will allow us a more pleasant drive along the beaches to the South. Not that we are leaving any time soon. We really don't know when it will happen, only that it will happen in time.

Sylvia and I have been relaxing in the pool, cleaning/maintaining the pool, reading and doing yoga along with various community support tasks... and Ben? well, he's mastered Japanese, mostly done with some variation of Spanish and I'm sure English will be implemented soon! He's got consonants, vowels and even multiple syllables. I'm certain that they will become easier to organize with practice. He can say hut, hat and hot on purpose, that's a start anyway! He continues to tan and his hair is leaning towards blonde now, the sun really bleaches everything here! He has also learned about giving hugs and kisses, and giving "five" to Chewie, one of the neighbors who raises peacocks. He learns new "skills" all the time - the latest he enjoys is carrying things under his chin.

We have taken advantage of the few cloudy days we get by going on hikes. We went up and saw some indian ruins one day, and up to an abandoned mine on another (in hopes of finding some gem stones - found a few crystal formations, but nothing spectacular).

permalink written by  heddwyn on August 31, 2009 from Winkelman, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Arizona, Windspirit and Scorpion

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Winkelman, United States

Still at Windspirit. Now it's down to only us, Don, and Lee! Juanita will be back in a few days, I guess, but it sure is lonely! We said goodbye to our friends Shura and Blue yesterday. It might be just us and Lee for the weekend if Don goes to his Woodstock reunion!

We've been enjoying our stay. Kevin has even mentioned staying another month. I'm a little anxious to get moving on our adventure south of the border, but it would be nice to avoid hurricane season. I really wish some more people would show up here!

We have explored the hiking trails behind the community. We've been up to "Coyote Peak" a couple times - amazing views from there! Blue led us on a hike on some nearby land a few days ago, but we didn't get to our intended destination (daylight was running out too quickly). It was still nice - we stopped in a nice area and Blue played his Didgeridoo and Kevin played the doumbek (those 2 instruments sound really good together, turns out). Ben seemed to really enjoy the hike. I always considered deserts to be hot, dry, boring, and inhospitable - in other words, I didn't like them! - but this place is really growing on me. It is hot. And dry.. and sort of inhospitable (out in the wild), but I can see the beauty in it too. Especially here in the community where there are lots of fruit trees, shade, and swamp coolers :)

Benjamin got attacked by ants this evening :( His poor little legs were covered in them. Kevin tried to wash them off with water, but they bit him all over, on his feet especially. That's another reason to go - the critters and the cactus's aren't very baby friendly here.

We ordered a new charger for the camera, so we have been enjoying being able to take pictures again! Unfortunately we did not get any of our sexy french friend David before he left. But we have got some more of the community and our other friends, Shura and Blue, before they left.

Oh yeah - the Suburban was fixed and is running great - hooray!

We had some clouds and a little rain for a few days, but now it's back to abundant sunshine and heat. Thank goodness for the pool!

You should be able to click on any of these pictures to view them larger

permalink written by  heddwyn on August 14, 2009 from Winkelman, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Arizona and Windspirit

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From Mono Campground to Windspirit

Winkelman, United States

We decided to camp for a while so we head up into the Los Padres mountains behind Santa Barbara. We tried Lake Catchuma, but the campground was rather packed, and we learned that touching the water is not allowed, even though people are allowed to drive their boats on it (no fun!). So we left and found the ranger station. He helped us pick a place to go. Kevin liked the idea of hot springs, so we made our way to Mono Campground.

What a drive over the mountain tops! It was scary, and thankfully Ben slept through almost all of it, but the view on both sides was amazing. The drive ended up taking over 2 hours even though we probably only went 20 or so miles. We tried to find the spring, but decided to save it for the next day so we could set up camp before it got dark. We were so far out! The campground was a short walk from the truck so it was a lot of trips back and forth.

Very weird night - very loud crickets, strange sounding birds, and... screaming? Kev and I both experienced some heart pounding that night, but Ben slept pretty good. We hiked to the hot spring the next morning, but it didn't turn out to be very interesting. The day was hot and dry, as was the environment. Not being much of a desert person, I wasn't thrilled about staying another night. We explored the area around our campground a little, and found a dam built in the 30's. Kevin climbed up and over it and got a little spooked by the hollow tunnel throuh the inside, but didn't get any pictures (doh!).

When Ben finally settled down for a nap, I convinced Kevin to pack up and go. We headed into Santa Barbara, while Ben slept through the rough drive again. Finding the campgrounds all full and facing quite a bit of indecision (along with disappointment over the hydrogen cell having overheated and being out of service), we eventually decided to head to Arizona to visit a community I had found on the internet. Windspirt community was hot, dry, and didn't have a lot going on during this summer (accoring to Don via phone conversations with Kevin). Hot and dry did not sound appealing at all, but we didn't have other plans either. We drove to Banning and stopped at a hotel to get some sleep.

We drove 2-3 hours to Pheonix, did some shopping, and found a hotel next to a water park. We had planned on going to the waterpark to have some fun, but Ben was having tummy issues (probably thanks to the smoked mozerella pasta salad I ate the night before), so when he traded his discomfort for an early nap, we headed to Windspirit.

We were warmly welcomed by Don Clark and Deena, and given a tour. It's a really neat place! We are planning on staying about a month. We might consider staying longer but for worrying about Ben turning over a rock to find a scorpion, or falling into cactus thorns. Not a very baby-friendly environment. Very hot, and dry, it's true.. but the community has lots of trees and shady trails, swamp coolers for the buildings, and even an above ground pool which Kevin and I cleaned and filled up for all to enjoy. It is leaking however, so we need to patch a few holes. We had a choice between an old bus converted into a home, and a small "dome"/hexegonal house. We chose the little dome. It's really cozy and cute. All 3 of us barely fit on the mattress together, but it's working out fine. There are red cardinals that live here, which is quite a treat! I was always enchanted by the pictures of them in books, and they are so beatiful in person! It's really relaxed around here - not a lot of work to do in the summer heat (some days are 105+), so we pass the time however we can between meals, enjoying the quiet and laid back nature of the place. Kevin is enjoying having some like-minded people to talk to, and helps out at night digging ditches for the water lines Don is putting in. We have only seen one scorpion so far- I shook it out of the shower curtain in the bath house. It was a bark scorpion, of which the venom can be dangerous to children, so I've been being extra careful keeping an eye on Ben. Today (July 29) we are trying one of the solar ovens. We prepared some potatoes and veggies, and around 5 or 6 it should be a nice steamy caserole. They have composing toilets in place, an outdoor shower which Kevin and I really enjoy, a well, and lots of fruit trees and gardens; we are still not sure what grey water systems they have in place if any (not sure why we haven't asked). The people here are very nice (Don, Lee, Blue & Shura, Juanita, and David), and we are enjoying their company. The other day we witnessed a horny toad snacking on some ants. He was not shy at all - I had never witness a creature like him before, it was neat! Ben eventually got really close and he scurried away, but for the most part he didn't seem to mind our presence at all.

The Suburban unfortunately is having some issues. Kevin thinks it is the fuel pump and has headed into town today with Don and Lee following to leave it with a Mechanic. Hoping for the best! Not sure what happens next - planning is difficult at this point. We are in a sort of limbo. But we are making the best of it.

Our camera's battery charger is missing - not good! We won't be able to take pictures until we either find it or get a replacement.

permalink written by  heddwyn on July 29, 2009 from Winkelman, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Camping, Windspirit, DesertCommunity and Hydrogen

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Finally in Simi

Simi Valley, United States

Leaving San Luis Abisbo (and the drunk "surfer dude" whose presence graced our morning), we stopped at the beach to let Ben play for a while before the long drive towards Simi.

Ben decided to take an extra long nap, so we were able to complete the drive. First stop at Grandma's, then we went to see Kirsten, Ryan, Kari, Rebecca and Jolene's new house. It was a wonderful visit and ended up being a bit longer than expected (a little over 2 weeks).

Ben and Jolene spent hours together each day learning about sharing, and hugging, and enjoying lots of time in the pool. Ben enjoyed Jolene's toys (especially the mop), a second birthday celebration, his first 4th of July fireworks, lots of good food and meals, and all the time spent with family and new people. We saw Vince Turner, Jannel Pearson, Cheryl and Meagan Low, let's not forget Kevin's old friend Jason, his wife Hannah, and their new baby Jordan. And eventually the time came to say goodbye. We may see them again before heading south - we'll see. We greatly appreciate our long comfortable stay at the house (and really miss that pool!). Thank you all so much, we love you and miss you!

We worked out the cost of repairing the Tahoe and compared it to buying a replacement vehicle and found that to be the better option. Of course, once we had decided upon a vehicle it needed to be repaired to meet our standards for the trip. Each stage of the process took some time.

Rather than repair the Tahoe, we decided to replace it with a Suburban. Ended up costing more than we planned, but it has worked out well nonetheless. We have 3+ weeks to wait for the title, however, so we have some time to kill!

permalink written by  heddwyn on July 3, 2009 from Simi Valley, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Family, Tahoe, Simi and Suburban

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San Fran

San Francisco, United States

Awakened at the Economy Inn by Benjamin's early AM routine [wake, grumble, nurse, sleep, wake, grumble, nurse, laugh, giggle, hunt for daddy]. First stop is the "Cow Hollow Playground" that I noticed on the map I pulled from the hotel's 'Pad O' Maps'. We walk the two blocks to find a wonderful playground packed into the size of a house lot (about 0.1 acre). There are a lot of flowers growing around the fence and plenty to do but no people. It was eight-thirty. We get some exercise and realize we're hungry. Off to "hunt the wild noodle" as I've coined looking for stores that have decent food. Ben and I strike out into the city [Lombard Street] and have no luck for four blocks. We ask a local "Are you a local?" she says "I only speak Russian", undaunted we say "food, where is food?" she suddenly finds she does know some English "Chestnut Street, you can find anything on Chestnut Street." One block North, very nice! We retrieve some breakfast rolls and fruit before returning to feed Momma, she's busy online and probably very hungry by now and wondering where we are!

After breakfast we drag Momma to see the playground. Now it's packed and the kids are having fun. Ben gets involved right away climbing and being climbed.

Sometime later we head for downtown and the Mexican Consulate. We fish out an hour's worth of change (four dollars in nickles) for the parking meeter then head to the office of the Consulate. There are homeless people under the bridge on the way there. The buildings are so high you can fall over trying to see the tops. We wait in line and discuss buying glasses online with friendly folks. After twenty minutes we reach the information counter and ask for Visas. We are sent through the metal detector and I drop off my pocket knife, then upstairs to the secretary who explains that we don't need a Visa at all. Our U.S. Passports are good for six months - more than six months visiting? then yes, we would need a Visa (and a reason). What about our camera and laptop? Shouldn't we declare those? "Yes, at the border." Grrrrr.

Frustrated for the misinformation we'd received online and from friends and other travelers, we leave the building and wonder why we came to San Francisco at all. I realized that I'd been walking around with my collection of wheat pennies (including a silver dime circa 1920) and felt the urge to hand it over to the homeless man. Did that. Maybe that was why we came. Seems a waste to rush through Yosemite to give a homeless man a dime but there you have it.

Onward South towards Simi Valley. On our way to the 1 we were travelling on HWY 17 when the car in front of us lurches and stops so suddenly I'm looking at their undercarriage. THEN their brake lights come on and they swerve to the right. I'm thinking they hit someone or something and am braking hard but there isn't enough room, I can't go left, there's a mini van there, CRASH.

The Green Machine strikes the brown Explorer and we all roll to the shoulder (only a white stripe) and make sure no-one's hurt. Then we pull up off the highway and get paperwork done by the CHP. The couple was from Italy. She was driving and "put the car in second gear to climb the hill" oh my goodness. They were on their honeymoon as well! It was good that no one was hurt and both vehicles were drivable. Ben slept through the accident and woke up when we pulled off the road. Didn't phase him one bit.

On to the coast where we played in a park for a while and headed South along the cliffs. We decided it would be best if we got to Grandma Moss' as soon as we could to lighten our load and get some repairs. Drat, I got the cheap insurance, hurray I even had some! [expires 7/12]

We roll into San Luis Obispo and get some sleep. Whew, what a day!

permalink written by  heddwyn on July 2, 2009 from San Francisco, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Park, City, Sf, Tahoe and Wreck

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Drive Thru Yosemite

Yosemite National Park, California, United States

The night was cold, but thanks to the extra sleeping bag we bought, we stayed warm. We packed up camp and headed up into Yosemite. Wow - it was so beautiful! I really wanted to stay and experience more of it. We got out in the "High Sierra" and let Ben climb around on some of The Boulders sticking out of the ground. He decided to take a nap when we returned to the truck, so we drove through the rest. I did get out to take pictures at "Olmsted Point". Wow, what a view! The "High Sierra" was my favorite part, though the "Valley" was supposed to be quite beautiful as well and we did not get to see it. Hopefully we will get to return some day.

The brakes were over heating (we were going thousands of Miles down hill pretty quickly) so we stopped outside of Yosemite to let them cool, and decided to explore the area. We found a nice peaceful spot on the river and relaxed and played there for an hour and a half. It was a lot of fun! The river was beautiful - a lot of colorful rocks made up the river bed. I was trying to find the prettiest ones for Ben to play with. I took him out into the water and let him touch the water - he really liked that. We all got a lot wetter than we planned, but it sure felt good!

We stopped in Oakland and played in the park with Ben for a couple hours. He needed some time out of the car.Then we made our way to San Fransisco (Ben thankfully took another nap), but Kevin was nervous when we got there because the GPS was still not working. But he turned it on to look at the maps and it surprisingly got a signal! It helped us find our way, though it lost the signal a couple times and then we got lost for a bit.. but we eventually found a hotel, ordered some thai, and got some rest. Looking forward to getting out of this crazy city!

permalink written by  heddwyn on July 1, 2009 from Yosemite National Park, California, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Park, Water, River, Yosemite, SanFransisco and Brakes

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Reno, United States

Today we woke in Reno, Nevada at a Motel 6. A hot shower and quiet room was exactly what we needed. Sylvia was pleased to find that "we're still making money" as she went online and caught up with the business end of things. Ben and I were exploring the stairs of the hotel and re-organizing the Tahoe. The GPS unit is giving us guff and I struggled with that for a bit. I noted that we'd used about a pint of water so far in the HHO cell and that my adjustments to the vacuum relief valves were right on and now were operating perfectly. I don't know if I would be so excited about the HHO unit if it were difficult to make or to maintain. People (including myself) have better things to do than worry about their cars all the time.

As I was checking out of the hotel I asked about "those drive-through wedding chapels you hear about" - yes, the clerk says - here, go to Silver Bells chapel and tell them we sent you. Silver Bells? I just put Ben's silver bells from Christmas back into his toybox, hmmm. We go to investigate and find Richard and Sharon (BOTH our mother's names and Sylvia's step-father's name is Richard as well) and that Sharon (who is deaf) would be marrying us. So far so good, then Ruth comes to drive us in the limo to get our license (Ben has two great grandma Ruths) our first limo ride (all three of us). Afterward, Ben falls asleep and we smile our way through a simple ceremony that brought a tear to my eye. Photos of the Heddwyn's and we're off again!

A good drive South to Lake Topaz where we say hello to a few seagulls and play by the water. The weather was perfect! After an hour of stretching we get back into the Tahoe and sing our way to SR 120 and, just before we get into Yosemite, we stop for the night at a campground where we pick out a site nestled in a copse of trees. I have to admit I was a little put-off by the Bear Boxes - one at each camp site to hold your food. Should a bear decide to come down for food it would supposedly be deterred by the box. I put our food into it but I had to ponder... if I were a bear, the box would irritate me so bad I would have to wake someone up so they could open it for me. Then I may notice that their car is a box too...

anyway... sleep tight...

permalink written by  heddwyn on June 30, 2009 from Reno, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Lake, Camping, Reno, Married and Bears

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Nice stop in Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta, United States

We broke camp and headed out about 9 am this morning. I felt like Mexican food for breakfast, but upon arriving in Klamath Falls all the restaurants were opening at 11. So we stopped at Wal-Mart to get an extra sleeping bag and a battery operated pump for the air mattress. The Mexican food at El Mariachi was delicious - there was a lot of it too, and we couldn't finish it. It didn't measure up to the Mexican restaurant we enjoyed back home, but still good. Ben was having fun throwing things on the floor while we ate.

We made our way to Shasta (surprisingly quick), and spent a couple hours there. Ben needed some time to stretch his legs. We enjoyed wandering the trails in the park, taking pictures and helping Ben cross the bridges. We were reminded of how delicious and refreshing the Spring water is at Shasta.

The GPS lost the Satellite connection on Washburn in Klamath Falls and we still have not regained connection - not sure what is going on, but we had to call Kevin's mom to figure out how to get to Reno, to learn we had already passed the correct highway/exit 40 Miles previous. Oh well - we headed down to take an alternate route. Sure would be nice if the GPS were working! Ben was having a hard time with his ears popping and being in the car so long today. We will make sure to give him more time out of the car from now on. We looked for campsites and eventually decided to drive all the way to Reno and get a hotel. Getting married tomorrow!

permalink written by  heddwyn on June 29, 2009 from Mount Shasta, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Park, Shasta, Spring and Bridges

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Day in the High Desert

La Pine, United States

We left Bend this morning and stopped in La Pine to see Heaven, Makalah, and Aden. Their grandmother did not tell them we were coming, so they were so surprised when they saw us driving up! It was great. They were very happy to see us. We spent a few hours at a lake with them. Benjamin played in the water a little bit (he was so cute in his little swim trunks!) and Kevin swam for a while with Aden, diving for rocks and playing on a floating log. Makalah wasn't allowed to swim because she had a cold, so she stayed on shore hanging out with me and taking some pictures with the camera. Heaven found a baby toad, which was neat (I had never seen a frog like it). The lake was beautiful - looked like very clean water, and not too cold. Wendy (grandmother) says there are over 150 of them in the area, some only accessible by hike. We said our goodbyes, and headed out. While trying to find our way out of the BLM lands, the GPS kept telling us to turn this way and that when there were no roads to turn on - very confusing, but we managed. There were mountains of lava rock which was neat. I got out to take a picture and there were a ton of these moths swarming around. We got Subway and found a campground at Williamson River (aka Mosquito Haven!) Mosquitos were eating us up, but we had already paid for the site when we learned of them (lesson learned). We set up camp and walked to the river - only to be swarmed by 100 X as many mosquitos. Kevin carried some wood back to the site to start a fire (we heard that mosquitos don't like smoke). We were still getting bitten, but it seemed to help some. The night was cold and the ground was hard, but we managed to get some rest anyway. It was Benjamin's first night camping and he did great - he really enjoyed it despite the bugs.

permalink written by  heddwyn on June 28, 2009 from La Pine, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Lake, Kids, Swimming and Lava

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