Chicago -> Cincinnati
At the beach in Chicago, we looked at a map and realized two things. One, wow, we are finally close to home. And two, we had a couple different routes we could take back. I decided to text a friend I had randomly made six years ago on a high school trip to Spain that I knew had lived in Cincinnati and had briefly talked to about visiting when we were planning the trip. She had actually recently moved out of town, but was going to be back in town for the night. What were the chances?! Being that it had been six years since we had seen each other, we figured it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. And with that, our route back home was altered to add a quick stop in Cincy. We hauled out of Chicago in the early afternoon and drove until we hit Cincy, a 5 or 6 hour drive. We met at a cool brewery, Rhinegeist Brewery. I swear, we did more on this trip than drink beer, it just so happens that a lot of our stops included breweries… So anyway, after catching up and introducing friends, we tagged along with her group of friends to head out for the night thinking we'd just see a bit of the town and get back to the bus. Except heading out for the night ended up including driving into nearby Kentucky for a bar with incredible student deals (it pays to hang onto your college IDs folks) and then a ride to grandma’s house to sleep. A hilarious sequence of events led us to it, but it was a great night nonetheless. We woke up and enjoyed some eggs and bacon courtesy of Jackie’s gracious and amazing grandmother, snapped a great group photo (check our Facebook), said our goodbyes, and headed onward.
Next Stop: Syracuse!
We could taste it now. We were back in the same time zone, and a drive home was under 24 hours straight. But, of course life had other plans for us. The supposedly 8 hour drive from Cincy to a Syracuse Walmart ended up taking more like 12 or 24. I’m not really sure. I got in the zone and hunkered down behind the wheel jamming to tunes until about 4 or 5 am when we finally arrived to the luxurious Walmart parking lot that would be our final stop on the trip. Great places, those Walmarts. We were under 5 hours from home now and trying to make sure we didn’t leave any clues as to where we were, desperately hoping to surprise Dillon’s family for the family pig roast Saturday night. Jesse finished out the drive, bringing us home to Luke’s where we cleaned the bus, organized our stuff, and cleaned ourselves up to be presentable at a family outing. We had a bit of downtime as we waited for the party to get fully underway before crashing through the backyard to announce our presence. I’m not sure how surprised anyone was, but hey, it was worth a shot and I’m sure Dillon had fun driving the bus through his backyard. A great reunion ensued with even better food and dessert. It was a great way to cap off the trip with family, friends, food, beer, and a nice bonfire.
All in all, this was an absolutely incredible experience. Certainly, one we’ll be reminiscing about and telling tales of for the rest of our lives. I’m sure we all slept soundly that night now that a grueling 47 day journey had come to a close and we could relax knowing we needn’t get up and drive to a new city the next morning. Words will not really be able to describe this trip. At least not until we finally process all the memories that seem a lifetime ago. Memories like Jeff. Who is that guy? He only left us three weeks ago for Europe? No way. In all seriousness, thank you all for following along, helping us spread the word, donating to the DOCF on our behalf, and for giving us all the support and suggestions we could ever ask for. This was an incredible opportunity to have been able to take and we’ll be forever grateful. To the crew as I write this from my home in Maryland, life feels weird without spending every second of every day together. Part of me misses it. The other part of me is very much glad to be sleeping in a normal sized bed in an air-conditioned house, showering and eating regularly, going to the gym again, and having time to just sit and be (and look at trees as you all know I enjoy doing). Love you all.
PS: we'll be leaving the donation page up for awhile in hopes of coming closer to our $10,000 goal. We'll also be working to update and get a more accurate count of just how many miles we've driven. As of right now, our rough estimate is about 10,250 miles. Our maphub app became too cumbersome to accurately track our progress as we had to log individual segments of roads rather than following a route. Our apologies to anyone who thought we were stuck in Southern California. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing... Stay tuned for more pictures and videos and potentially another blog or two about what we're using the bus for / how we're passing it on. Thanks!!
GMB Crew signing off
Colorado Springs -> Aurora -> Chicago
We got up and headed to Aurora Colorado to meet up with a friend of Jesse’s at the UC Medical Campus. After catching up and grabbing food, we made our way to another random part of Aurora to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend. They had been at Hummingbird Ranch for a music festival and we didn’t think we’d be able to time it to meet up twice on the trip, but we did it! It was good to see them and crazy to believe it had only been 4 or 5 weeks since we were in Baltimore with them. And with that, we hopped on the road for what was going to be a long day of driving. It was Monday. We needed to be in Chicago by Tuesday night for Cubs tickets that we had been fortunate enough to get from an old friend of the Agawam Crew members (thanks again Devin, that was amazing). As we drove through the night, taking turns sleeping in shifts we all flashed back a little bit to that dreadful drive across Texas to make it to Vegas in time. This time though, no over heating issues to deal with. We did have a minor deer incident that you can ask Dillon for details if you’d like. We (Dillon and Luke) drove until about 5 am when we were past Des Moines, Iowa and only a few hours from Chicago. At about 9 am we hit the road again, finally making it to Chicago around 5 with time to safely (and freely) park the bus, grab a beer, and head into Wrigley. Easy to see why it’s always one of the top ranked parks in the country, that place was beautiful. We watched the Cubs take down the Padres and left the stadium with the Cubs’ chants ringing in our minds for hours to come. It’s funny, it was ridiculously catchy then but I can’t seem to remember it now…
Day two of Chicago was spent walking around the city and exploring. Dillon and I had been here the previous summer for a weekend to visit a friend of ours, but I had forgotten how much I loved the city. Its huge but doesn’t feel overwhelming. For me it’s kind of the perfect step between Boston and New York. Anyway, we got brunch at Wildberry (good food and service, worth the wait) and then walked through nearby Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and the Lurie Gardens followed by the marina right there. On our quest to reach Navy Pier, we took a nice detour onto Chicago’s Riverwalk and walked along enjoying the sights. Navy Pier is a great place to just hang out and look out onto Lake Michigan, so we did just that, relaxing until we headed to a Lou Malnati’s in River North for some classic Chicago deep dish. We were stuffed beyond belief after that dinner and headed back to the bus for another “movie night” and attempt to sleep to the sound of Chicago’s Red Line running all night. Thursday we decided to hit the beach. We headed to North Ave Beach and enjoyed some hot sun and cold lake water. Technically counts as a shower, right?
(surprise, Dillon didn't write this one either!)
Okay Dillon, stepping in as your relief here. A little late, but hey, anyone that knows me pretty much expects that, right?
Anyway, this will be our final round of retroactive blogs. To keep with the title trend, we’ll call this one “Playing Catch Up Again (Pt. 3).” The last week of this trip was pretty darn hectic, hence why blogging wasn’t on the forefront of our minds. Our pockets were light, our eyelids were heavy, and we were ready to be back. Not until we made a few more awesome stops, though…
Casper -> Denver -> Colorado Springs
Turns out Wyoming is about what you’d expect for a state in middle America. It’s beautiful, but the drive is mainly through the middle of nowhere. Not that I minded, of course. We headed out from Casper and pretty much just chugged along through Cheyenne until we got to Denver. Cheyenne actually had an awesome Visitor’s Center with free coffee, wifi, and exhibits on the history of the area. Jeff, you would’ve liked it as much as I did, architecturally cool building and site… Anyway, we got into Denver as a Rockies Game was finishing up, did a quick driving tour through Denver in search of parking, and finally settled into a parking lot (If you’ve been following our Instagram and stories, you know this turned out to be a mistake and we got a pretty decent parking ticket, but alas c’est la vie). So we parked, and then headed to Great Divide Brewing Co enjoyed some beers on their patio and headed out to bar and food hop the rest of the night. The next morning we drove to nearby Inspiration Point to recoup from the night before and hangout until we could meet up with a friend in Colorado Springs. That Denver sun was hot, so we soon got on the road after wishing our Father’s Happy Father’s Day. After sitting in a ton of traffic, we finally made it to a shower (for the first time in 11 days). In Colorado Springs, we had to see The Garden of the Gods. We’d seen our fair share of cool rocks on this trip, but this was still a worthwhile stop. We then took the bus on a little off road adventure to a waterfall. Turns out the GMB doesn’t do too bad on unmaintained dirt roads! After that, it was another brewery stop, this time Bristol Brewing Co in retrofitted Ivywild School. Definitely an interesting place to eat and try a local beer and would recommend it. From there it was to the main strip of Colorado Springs for some good Irish dinner. We all slept in the bus that night, despite having a couch/floor inside available – we’ve all more than accepted that the bus is our home now. We even say “okay let’s head home” not “let’s head to the bus” ...
PS. there you go Uncle Larry, I did one
Got up early to finish out the 2 or so hours left to Crater Lake. It was a steep, foggy drive that made for an interesting morning, but it paid off when we caught a glimpse of the deep blue lake as we approached the parking lot. Unfortunately, this would be the only view of the lake for Luke and myself. When we came out of the visitor center, the view of the lake had been swallowed up by a thick layer of fog. Jesse and Shane were lucky enough to take in the view for a few minuets beforehand, snapping a few pictures before it was too late. Since all the hiking trails were closed due to snow, we decided to try to wait out the fog for another lake view, driving over to Discovery Point (another outlook area). It was at this point that we realized that none of us had packed for the weather there. We knew it would be cold, but not THAT cold. We scrambled to put on the layers that we had while we waited on the bus. After cooking lunch, the fog still hadn't lifted, and we figured that there was little chance it would break, so we headed out a little disappointed. We were also shocked by the amount of snow in the park, driving past 10-15 ft. drifts on the way in and out that made the bus feel pretty small.
We still had some daylight left after leaving the park, so we stopped at Mill Creek to hike out to the waterfalls. It was a cool area, with views of multiple waterfalls from the trails, and boulders by the river that we climbed to get a better view of the rapids. After exploring for a couple hours, we drove out to a Walmart in Medford, where we parked for the night and made dinner. It was early still, so we decided to have a movie night (cute, I know). Ran into Walmart to rent a Redbox DVD, and struggled for 10 mins. or so to find a setup where everyone could see the laptop screen. Not ideal, but we made it work.
The following day was a big day, as we met a friend of ours, Karen, in Ashland, OR to film a news story about our trip. She works as a reporter there, and we had reached out a couple weeks earlier to see if the station was interested in running a story to help us spread the word. Lucky for us they loved the idea, so we spent a couple hours with Karen collecting footage of the bus and doing interviews. We also tried the water from the famous Ashland fountain, which has an....interesting...taste, to put it politely. She put together a great story that aired that night, and we were able to watch it the following day. After filming, we grabbed brunch at Morning Glory, a place she recommended, before hitting the road for Yellowstone.
We spent the past 2 days in Yellowstone, and it was something special. Again, we did in a couple days what could/should be done in a week, but at least we were able to cover a pretty solid amount of ground within the park. We spent the first night at a campground in West Yellowstone just outside the park, entering through the west entrance in the morning. We started with the southern portion, checking out the Grand Prismatic Spring and Geyser basins, including waiting patiently (or maybe a little impatiently) for Old Faithful to erupt. It was pretty amazing to see, a sight we shared with hundreds of other tourists. That was the big downfall of Yellowstone for us - how packed it was. After Old Faithful, we drove along the West Thumb and Yellowstone lakes, stopping to take pictures of the lakes with snow capped mountains in the distance. We drove through Fishing Village and onward to Hayden Valley, where we'd heard we might have a shot at seeing bears or wolves. Didn't see either of those, but saw plenty of bison and elk, which was pretty cool. At one point, we watched as a bunch of bison and their baby calfs decided to cross the road, causing a traffic jam as they walked right in between the cars. We also stopped to check out the mud volcano and surrounding hot springs. Hayden Valley itself was pretty beautiful, with miles and miles of rolling green hills. Kept on going through the valley to get to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which was much less grand than the actual Grand Canyon in terms of width and depth. But what it lacked in size it made up for in incredible colors and a powerful waterfall. We parked and walked to Artists Point for an iconic view that has inspired many famous photographs and paintings. We then hiked to the brink of both upper and lower falls before calling it a day and heading back towards the west entrance. All the campgrounds in and around the park were full, so we settled for a truck pull off on the side of the highway.
In the morning, we got a pretty early start, heading back into the park and making breakfast at a picnic area. Afterwards, we drove up to Mammoth Springs to see the hot springs. It was pretty wild, the rock had formed into colorful step-like pools, with the steaming water trickling down. From there, we started heading east towards Tower Fall, the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone at 132 ft. On the way, we saw some elk and bison, and what looked like a pronghorn. Jesse also supposedly spotted a black bear in the forest, but none of us can confirm that sighting. By this point, it was raining pretty hard, and that continued off and on throughout the rest of the day, which was a bummer. Once at the falls, we hopped out and took a walk to get a quick view. After seeing some of the waterfalls in Yosemite, we were slightly less impressed by the height, but it was still a sight to see. We then drove through Lamar Valley, another of the park's beautiful valleys that was supposed to be a great spot to see bears. Shane and I made it our mission to find one, parking near clearings in the forest and waiting to see if one might wander over. We did this a few times, but didn't have any luck. Saw plenty more bison though, some in large herds and some just chilling by themselves along the road. At one point, one walked right out in front of the bus and stopped, staring us down for a minute before crossing the rest of the way. By this time it was almost 5, so we kept going through the rest of the valley and left the park through the Northeast Entrance to begin the drive to Denver.
Not sure if the GPS knew what it was doing or not, but leaving the park it led us up into the mountains of Montana, which was quite the experience. We topped out over 11,000 ft. of elevation, driving up some of the windiest roads yet in rain and fog. The snow lining the roads made Crater Lake look like child's play, towering over the bus in massive drifts. We made our way slowly and carefully, reaching the top and starting the drive down. Soon after starting the descent, we saw another school bus at a pull off, a bright blue full-length with skis leaned against the outside. We pulled over and hopped out to go check it out. Turns out it was representing a local ski shop, and they let us pop in to take a look. After chatting with a few of the bus travelers for awhile, we let them take a look at our bus and exchanged cards and t shirts. Was an unexpected but cool experience, that we wouldn't have gotten had we not gone through the mountains. Once we made it the rest of the way down, we stopped for dinner and then hopped back on the road, driving until 3am to get to a Walmart outside Casper, Wyoming. Got up this morning to finish out the drive to Denver, currently a few hours away.
Only about a week left to make it back to the east coast, gonna be a lot of driving. It's the home stretch...
Been nagging the guys to write a blog for a few days now, but no luck, so I guess I'll write another one before we fall too far behind. Might be stuck with me the rest of the way...
A lot has happened in the past week or so, so I'm gonna try to stick to the highlights and get us caught up again.
As I mentioned at the end of the last blog, we had an interesting first day in Yosemite. Arrived at the park in the afternoon, planning to see a few waterfalls and maybe get a decent hike in before the end of the day. About 10 miles inside, we pulled off to let the bus cool down, and Luke noticed that the lug nuts on one of the wheels looked like they had loosened quite a bit. Worried that we might lose a tire if we kept going on the park's winding roads, we turned around and stopped at a gas station with a mechanic. Unfortunately he didn't have the equipment to help us, and neither did the truck sent by AAA a couple hours later. So, we drove slowly back out of the park to a town with a few auto repair shops. In the morning, we stopped at a few different places, but nobody was able/willing to take on the job. We were told that we actually might be fine, and that as long as the lugs are tight, it's alright for them to not be threaded all the way. Not exactly what we were looking for, but it saved us from what may have cost a small fortune. So we marked the lugs with a marker to make sure they didn't loosen further, and headed back into Yosemite.
At that point, we had basically lost a full day that would have been spent exploring and hiking. But we tried to pack in as much as possible, stopping briefly to take in the iconic view of the valley outside the tunnel on our way in. We then took a quick walk to the base of Lower Falls before taking the shuttle over to Vernal Falls. There we had a much more substantial hike that led to the top of the falls and left us exhausted and soaking wet from the spray. After resting for a bit, we walked around to Emerald Pool, and then hiked back down to the trailhead. We had wanted to check out Mirror Lake, but decided to skip it to try to make the drive to Glacier Point for sunset. We had our minds set, but the bus had other plans, overheating and forcing us to take it slow. We had to settle for a different view of the sunset, but kept on going to Glacier Point and had about 20 mins. of light left to take in the view. And it was one hell of a view...maybe my favorite of the trip so far. From the point, you could see almost the entire valley, Half Dome and other mountaintops, and the park's largest waterfalls. It was incredible, and we decided that we needed to see it in better light, so we slept in the parking lot that night (may or may not be frowned upon) and got up to watch the sunrise from the point, which was well worth the shortened night's sleep. After that, it was back on the road to San Fran, wishing we could've stayed longer - a feeling we've had in many of the places we've been.
I think I speak for the whole crew in saying San Fran was definitely a highlight in CA. We had learned our lesson with the bus in LA, so we decided to park outside the city and take BART (public trans.) in. Our first night, we met up with a friend from Northeastern, Ben, to make dinner and get some much-needed showers. We spent the following day with him too, exploring the Mission area and hiking up to Bernal Heights for a great view of the entire city. He was headed off on a weekend trip, so he took off in the afternoon and we continued on to the Ferry Building (SF's equivalent of Quincy Market in Boston). Then we hopped on an old school tram to Coit Tower, with great views of the bay and Alcatraz. Next was Fisherman's Wharf, where we walked around for awhile, saw the seals, and got some food. After dinner, we hit a couple bars before heading home (to the bus that is).
The next day, we got up and explored downtown before walking quite a ways out to Crissy Field, where we got our long-awaited view of the Golden Gate, walking through a garden district of sorts and along the beach. After admiring the bridge and watching some kite surfers for awhile, we headed to Dolores Park, a real cool park where people go to hangout and relax. That's what we did, grabbing drinks and snacks on the way and chilling out on the lawn for a couple hours. We had tickets to the Giants game that night, so our next stop was AT&T Park, where we got a bite to eat at Anchor Brewery before heading into the game. It was a cool stadium, with a great view of the bay from our seats in the upper deck. The Giants lost 4-0, but we enjoyed the game anyway as Sox fans (minus Shane). After the game, we met a few friends out and bar-hopped for awhile before calling it a night.
Throughout the day, we also did a social media takeover of the DOCF account, which was a fun way to help us reach some more people.
In the morning, we said see ya later to SF and started our drive to the Redwoods, again opting for a scenic coastal drive (Rt. 1) in place of the more direct route. Despite the winding roads, it was well worth it, with great views of the Pacific and plenty of beach pull offs. Had a pretty crazy coincidence when we happened to run into Shane's friend from the landscape architecture program on the side of the road. What are the chances? Ended up sleeping at a pull off, still a little ways from the Redwoods.
Spent the following day driving through most of the Redwood forest, admiring the great trees from inside the bus as we drove along the coast. Stopped towards the end of the day in Jedediah Smith State Park, where we took a ranger's suggestion to walk the trails off Walker Road, leading us through groves of massive redwoods, streams, and decaying fallen trees. Then we kept on going to Crescent City, a small town where we stopped to cook dinner and check out the lighthouse at Battery Point. It was a cool Cape Cod style lighthouse on a little peninsula jutting out from the beach. We walked out to the point - where it was crazy windy, almost lost my hat - and got a sweet view of the sunset (one of the many incredible sunsets we've seen). Got back on the road after the sun went down, putting in a few more hours of driving en route to Crater Lake. Made it to Grant's Pass, Oregon, where we decided to call it a night around midnight.
Made it to the West Coast! It's a weird feeling, time is both flying by and crawling all at the same time. On one hand, I can't believe that it's already been almost a month. At the same time though, it feels like months ago that we arrived at our first stop in Baltimore. I guess that's what happens when you pack so much in every day, between driving and sightseeing. Anyway, Jeff left off in San Diego with his last blog, so that's where I'll pick up. Things have been a little different since Jeff left. We miss his company of course, but also miss splitting things like food and fuel 5 ways. Seems like a small difference, but at this point in the trip it's starting to add up. Everybody's wallets are getting a little bit lighter, and we're wishing we didn't open them quite so often the first few weeks. Travel fatigue is definitely starting to set in a little bit too, with everyone just a little more irritable these days. Still enjoying every day though, and trying to soak in every city and national park as much as we can.
Our time in San Diego got off to a bit of a rocky start....we stopped at Ballast Point Brewery on our way into the city for a beer, and came outside to find our generator stolen off the deck of the bus. Someone had cut through the cable lock and straps that we had securing it and locking it in place. We filed a report with the police, but they weren't able to recover it. Fortunately, the generator wasn't absolutely necessary for our use of the bus, so we've been able to live without it (and without our AC). But the financial loss still hurts. Apart from that however, our time in San Diego was great. We met up with our friend Kathy, and she showed us around for a few days. We walked the boardwalk, hiked Torrey Pines, explored Little Italy, and bar-hopped in Pacific Beach. We also ate our weight in burritos, at least I did.
Leaving San Diego, we stopped for lunch with Shane's distant cousins in Mission Viejo, which was a pleasant surprise considering he didn't know they lived out there until about a week beforehand. We chatted with them for awhile on their back patio, and they showed us around their property. After some parting words of advice and well wishes, we took off for Newport Beach, where Angie (another friend of ours) lives. She showed us around the area, taking us to Sprinkles (a local cupcake/ice cream shop), Balboa Island, Fashion Island, and Tokyo Table for some great Asian food. We left for L.A. late that night, and slept in a Walmart outside the city.
In the morning, we said our goodbyes to Jeff, who had to head to LAX to catch his flight while we hiked Runyon Canyon Park, a good hike that would've been slightly better if the weather had cooperated. It was foggy, which took away from the views a bit, but we still enjoyed seeing the mansions lining the Hollywood hills. Later in the day at Griffith Observatory, the fog broke a bit, and we caught a decent glimpse of the Hollywood sign. We also confirmed what we had been told: that the bus wasn't exactly the ideal form of transportation in a city like L.A., where everything is a decent drive away and parking can be a nightmare. The traffic is no joke, and we learned that the hard way. That night, we went to a comedy show at the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd., which didn't disappoint and kept us laughing the whole time. In the morning, we drove out to Santa Monica, where we spent a much-needed day at the beach. It's a real nice area, and we got some food and drinks by the water before calling it a night. In the morning, we hit the road for Sequoia, opting for the scenic route along the coast, taking us through Malibu and Ventura. We enjoyed the views from this drive, and the fact that we avoided the heavy traffic of going back through the city.
Sequoia and King's Canyon
We arrived in the park in time for a quick hike to the General Grant tree, a massive Sequoia tree not far from our campsite in King's Canyon. We cooked dinner and spent the night by the fire, and it was nice to relax a bit after all the rushing we'd been doing on the trip. The following day, we climbed Moro Rock, taking in some breathtaking landscapes. We also hiked to Crescent Meadow and Tharp's Log, a cool fallen tree that had been turned into a temporary home by Hale Tharp in 1861. Next was Chimney Tree, a large Sequoia that had partially burned out now hollow and open to the sky. Last but not least was the General Sherman Tree, which is technically the largest tree (by volume) in the world. We could see why....it was pretty damn big. Our drive back to the campground was capped off with an amazing sunset (the best Shane has ever seen if you ask him). We repeated the previous night's activities, cooking tacos and hanging by the fire before going to sleep.
In the morning, we hit the road bright and early for Yosemite, where we are currently. Our first day here has been....interesting... but I'll save that for our next blog.
That's all for now,
As of the previous post, the Crew was just about to visit Antelope Canyon and navigate down to California...
I write this as I'm sitting by my gate at LAX, waiting to catch my flight back to Boston. It's a bittersweet farewell; I'll be missing the last few weeks of the bus trip to attend my little sister's high school graduation (CONGRATS CHAR! WOOHOO!!!) and to take a family vacation to Northern Europe. I'll be trading an undersized top bunk for comfy beds at quaint Bnb's, but also the near perfect weather of a late spring in California for the grey skies of Scandinavia. I do wish I could be on the bus for another 3-4 weeks with the Crew, but am excited and incredibly fortunate (thanks ma!) to be going on such an awesome family vacation. Before I board, I'll recap the recent adventures of the GMB Crew one last time.
Leaving the Grand Canyon, which lived up to its name, it was indeed quite grand, the crew made their way to a much smaller, unique canyon; Antelope. Located just outside Page, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, years of weathering and flood events have created an incredibly photogenic chasm. Some crew members enjoyed the trip more than others, but we all agreed afterwards that we had seen enough sand and rocks for a while. It was time to find some water.
Unfortunately, our campsites throughout the National Parks had been lacking in bathing facilities, and given all the incredible hikes we had been doing (Petroglyphs at The Valley of Fire, Angels Landing in Zion, Kaibob trail into the Grand Canyon) we were well overdue. The bus, at this point, smelled of sweat and feet, a pungent combination. Conveniently, for our noses' sakes, located not far from Antelope is the man-made Lake Powell, behind the Glen Canyon Dam along the nearby Colorado River. This, we thought, was a great opportunity to hop in and "shower" for the first time in days. The lake was an awesome relief from the desert, we even found a little 30ish foot cliff along the water that Dillon bravely jumped off of first. Overall a great day, made better by the fact that it was Dillon's 23rd Birthday. Great way to jump into your Jordan year, Dillon!
After our swim, we went into Page to do laundry for the first time on the trip (!!!) and get some good food for dinner while we let the bus air out, with the help of a few air fresheners. It was the cleanest I had felt on the entire trip! On our way back from dinner, we met a nice couple who asked us all about the bus and were kind enough to donate to the DOCF. Our sleeping destination that night: Sunset Crater, the location of a 1,000 year old cinder cone and the dried up lava flows from its ancient eruption. Sadly we missed sunset at this location and instead decided to get up in the early AM (not quite sunrise, but still early) to go for the quick 1 mile walk around the park. Walking around the old lava flows reminded us of the volatility that accompanies some of the country's most beautiful and iconic landmarks.
Our morning stroll left us all pretty hungry, so we drove into downtown Flagstaff for some delicious Mexican style brunch at MartAnne's. We thought downtown Flagstaff was an awesome little place after walking through on our way to brunch, so we decided to stay a bit longer. We browsed bookshops, a few of us bought some very strong coffee and others even got our hair cut! An enjoyable morning for sure, we all felt refreshed and ready to go after our quick visit.
Our next stop was Joshua Tree, a bit of a hike after our crisscrossing journey through Arizona and Nevada. We drove through the day and night, stopping only for fuel and at dusk to make some burgers in a McDonalds parking lot. When we pulled up to the gate of Joshua Tree, a sign informed us that all the campgrounds were full. We hadn't taken into account that it was Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully, a kind stranger we had talked to in Flagstaff informed us about BLM (Bureau of Land Management) parcels, open plots of state owned land that allowed free camping! We drove down a few dirt roads outside the park, nervous, unsure of whether or not the bus could take the continual bumps and divots. Eventually, in the black of night, we pulled up to what seemed like a secluded spot in the middle of the desert. We awoke the next morning to find that we weren't the only ones taking advantage of the free parking, there were at least a dozen other cars and campers all around us! It was a bizarre scene, us having thought we were extremely isolated only a few hours prior. You could almost say the difference was night and day...
After breakfast, we took the short ride to Joshua Tree where we would spend a good chunk of the day exploring the Dr. Suess like landscape and trying our best to unsuccessfully scramble up a few of the larger rock formations in the park. We admired the wide open landscapes for awhile, keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes as we hiked a few trails. Towards the end of the afternoon, we hit the road for San Diego, in hopes of getting there by dinner time.
We all wish Jeff could stay for the remainder of the trip, but we're sure he won't be missing us too much over the next couple weeks, being in Europe and all. We will miss his navigational skills and funny quotes, maybe not his aggressive hiking style...
But we wish him and his family the best on their vacation. Safe travels man!
And then there were four...
Been a little behind on blogs lately, it's been a busy week or so. Here's the accelerated version of what's happened during that time:
Very cool, eclectic city. Took in some jazz, had some awesome shrimp po boys at Dommelise's, then jambalaya and gumbo. Checked out the Garden District and French Quarter. Survived the mayhem that is Bourbon St. and hit the road towards TX. Made a pit stop in the Bayou on the way out for a boat tour, where we explored the swamp and saw wildlife like gators, wild boar, snakes, and various native birds, as well as many different aquatic plants.
Arrived in Houston late on a Wed. night and welcomed the opportunity to shower and sleep in AC at Jesse's friend Dylan's house (thanks kehd). Got lunch with him the following day before exploring downtown and walking along the water. Then we headed to midtown to Axelrad Brewery, a real cool place with outdoor seating, hammocks, and yard games. Later on, we played the part of fans for Dylan's kickball game, before grabbing some killer tacos at Torchy's and hitting midtown for the infamous turtle races, something none of us had ever seen. It was an odd but exciting event, and we all enjoyed ourselves.
Cruising through Texas:
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we only had about a day to make it from Houston to El Paso, which was no easy task. We would have loved to spend more time in the great state of Texas, but we needed to pick up our buddy Nick en route to Vegas; he only had a few days off from work as an army medic at Fort Bliss. We stopped in Austin for lunch at Juan in a Million, and to pick up a drone that we had ordered to an Amazon locker at UT Austin (a drone that we may or may not have lost after less than a week). Then, we began the 10 or so hour drive to El Paso, through the nice scenery of East and Central Texas, and the nothingness that is West Texas. This stretch really took a toll on the bus, and we needed to pull off the road a few times to let the engine cool down. We finally made it to Fort Bliss at about 2am, and decided to drive straight through to Vegas so that we'd be there for Saturday night (another short little 10 hr. drive).
C'mon, you guys know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...
But I will say it was great to see Nick for a couple days, and we all had a great time without getting into too much trouble.
Since Vegas, we've hit the Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. Today, we're headed to Antelope Canyon in AZ, before cutting back to Joshua Tree National Park en route to San Diego. We'll be sure to post plenty of pictures from all these parks, but the pictures really don't do it justice. The landscapes are beautiful, and we'd highly recommend coming out to see for yourself if you haven't already. We've been doing a lot of hiking too, leaving us exhausted but satisfied by the end of each day.
You hear the phrase "southern hospitality" a lot, and I guess I always assumed it was true to a certain extent. But I have to say, I've been genuinely surprised how friendly everyone has been to us so far. Just about every person we've met has been eager to hear our story, give advice and recommendations, or share stories of their own. The bus is a pretty good conversation starter, so we've ended up talking to a lot of strangers along the way, who have all been very supportive. It means a lot to us, so I wanted to share a few examples:h
First was a couple in Nashville, who came over to us in the parking lot where we were spending the night. They asked about the bus, and we told them our story, mentioning the fact that we were raising money for charity. They thought this was a great idea, and were very encouraging. They were actually on a road trip of their own, with their massive 11 month old dog named Winston. After chatting for awhile, they wished us well and headed for the exit. Before they got there, they turned the car around and looped all the way back around the parking lot to give us the $3 cash that they had in their car as a donation. We entered the donation in Winston's name.
Next was a guy that we met at a car garage in Memphis. We had realized that one of the brackets holding our back deck in place had come loose, and we needed to find someone to weld it back together. We were driving around looking for auto shops, most of which were closed for the day. We noticed a garage door open with some cars inside, so we decided to stop and ask. The guy wasn't able to help us since he didn't have a welder, but we still talked for awhile, sharing stories and checking out some of the cool cars and street bikes he had in the shop. Before we left, he recommended a couple shops that might be able to help us, and offered us straps and tools to help secure the deck in the meantime if we needed.
Third was a retired couple that sat next to us at the counter of a little neighborhood lunch spot in New Orleans. Called Domelise's, the place had been recommended by a few locals that we had met earlier for the "best shrimp po boys in the city", and it didn't disappoint. The couple joined us at the counter, and we got to talking about our travels. We swapped stories for awhile (they were well traveled and full of knowledge) and then they gave us advice for where to go, what to do, and what to avoid in New Orleans. They were residents, so we were getting the inside scoop. They also gave us tips to help prepare for the long drive ahead of us across Texas, and wished us safe travels. It was nothing more than good conversation and advice, but sometimes that's all it takes to make someone feel welcome while traveling.
These are just a few instances of great people we've met along the way, and we're hoping it's a trend that continues throughout the remainder of the trip. We've also had so many people helping share our story, so that we can reach as many people as possible, so thank you all for that.
On another note, people's generosity has been inspiring as well. We truly appreciate all the donations we've received, as we're currently approaching 35% of our $10,000 goal. Still a long way to go, but we're very grateful for our progress so far. With your help, I hope we'll be able to reach our goal!
This post has been a while coming, but let's go back in a time a week or two to recap what the bus has been up to since our last update!
The past few days have brought the GMB Crew out of the foggy mountains of Shenandoah National Park and through the Great Smoky Mountains, all while en route to Nashville, TN.
After having been informed that the Shenandoah was most definitely bear territory during our dinner at the Big Meadows Lodge, I had the great idea to wake up early the next morning and go for a quick solo run. You know, to see a bit more of the park and it's inhabitants up close. Out of courtesy to my still sleeping crew members, I decided to be extra quiet while leaving and not tell any of them where I was heading or when I expected to be back. Smart, right? For whatever reason, they didn't seem to think so! They said something along the lines of, "We thought you had been eaten by a bear," and, "you should really leave a note if you do this again." Fair points, lesson learned. Sadly, I had to inform them that I didn't even get to see a bear. Instead, I found a beautiful waterfall! After this morning's "debacle" was over, we took advantage of the showers at the campground before completing our journey along Skyline Drive. The weather never changed, it stayed foggy and rainy the whole way through. We're a little bitter that we didn't get to take full advantage of all the park's vistas, but driving through the fog and rain had an eerie beauty of its own.
Our next stop was in Huntersville, NC, just outside Charlotte, to visit Crew Member Shane's cousin Shawn and his family. It was super kind of them to host us for dinner and share their home with us, Shane's little cousin Liam even donated to the DOCF! We really appreciated your company and we hope you guys enjoyed seeing the bus!
Leaving Huntersville, we had a good bit of ground to cover before we would stop in the Great Smoky Mountains for the night. We managed to find some time to stop in Asheville along the way, making a quick stop at Wicked Weed brewery to get a beer and a sticker (for the growing collection along the bus' stairwell). The road from Asheville to the mountains became gradually more isolated as we did our first major nighttime driving stint. It got a little hairy driving through tunnels and tree canopies as we climbed up the pitch black, empty, winding mountain roads. Our fuel was running just about empty as we pulled into our campsite at 2am, but we made it! The next morning we got to use our reserve tanks for the first time and we took off on the long trip through the mountains over to Nashville.
After a few hours of driving we were pulling into downtown and bringing the bus down Broadway Street! We parked just across the river from the city center outside of the Tennessee Titan's stadium and made that our home base for the night. That first day we got some AWESOME bbq at Jack's and worked down the bars from Tootsies to Acme, waiting for our two friends from home, Paige and Ryan, to meet up for the rest of the weekend. Once they arrived, we filled up with dinner at BB Kings and worked our way back up Broadway in reverse. It was more of the same; good food, good music, and good times! After trying to sleep everyone on the bus that night, we made the prudent decision to split a hotel for the next night and give the bus a much deserved rest.
Our two days in Nashville were a ton of fun! We met a bunch of cool new people, all who were super friendly. We can't wait to come back and have a good ole' time dancing to some honky tonk and enjoying good company. You were a wicked good time Nashville, but now it's on to NOLA!
-Jeff and the GMB Crew