Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Random Travel Update 21

Last Location: Southern California
Arrival Date: March 20, 2008
Departure Date: March 30, 2008

Current location: Farmington, UT
Arrival Date: March 30, 2008
Departure Date: April 30, 2008

Next stops: (Tentative)
Tucson, AZ (May 1-5)
Amarillo, TX (May 5-6)
Devils Den State Park, AR (May 6-8)
Memphis, TN (May 8-10)
Red River Gorge, KY (May 10-11)
Gatlinburg, TN (May 11-13)
(Great Smokey Mountains)
Hickory, NC (May 13-14)
Charleston, SC (May 14-16)
Key Biscayne, FL (May 16-18)
Mobile, AL (May 19-20)
New Orleans, LA (May 21-23)
Houston, TX (May 23-24)
San Antonio, TX (May 24-25)
Big Bend, TX (May 25-27)
Tucson, AZ (May 28-30)

Thanks to those of you who recently sent me your contact info! Do let me know that you get this email. If you are interested in receiving past updates, let me know and I will send you a link. I haven't gone anywhere since I last wrote so I suppose I ought to call this a pre-travel update. Jon and I leave tomorrow morning for Tucson, then head across country by Prius, stopping in every southern state along the way. I will try to hit an internet café every few days and send updates along the way, but it is hard to say how much down time we will have or how much wi-fi we will encounter. In the meantime, it would be nice if some of you would send me updates of your own. Last week one of my good friends from college wrote and it was refreshing to hear her story for a change.

It was nice to be "settled down" for a few weeks. I have been pursuing my ski bum dream and intermittently planning future adventures. In my spare time, I have been working for the Salt Lake City School District as a substitute teacher. I don't think it had occurred to me that I am now officially an adult until the day that I went to use the bathroom between classes and encountered an "ADULTS ONLY" sign on the door to the faculty restroom. I had to pause for a moment to consider whether I was at the right door.

Teaching has been great. I must give my mom credit for suggesting the idea. On lucky days—like yesterday, I get to teach high school, which means reading a book or writing a letter while students study. On other days, I teach elementary or middle schoolers, which is still great but requires some patience and a significant amount of actual instruction time. I have decided that AP Literature is my favorite subject to teach. I will l try to get a job teaching this in South Korea.

Now I must return to packing. In the next month, Jon and I will pass through over a third of the United States: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oregon. I have attached a link to our tentative path. Let us know if we can visit you along the way.



Thursday, April 3, 2008

Random Travel Update 20

Last Location: Las Vegas, NV to Joshua Tree, CA to Los Angeles, CA
Arrival Date: March 20, 2008
Departure Date: March 30, 2008

Current location: Salt Lake City, UT
Arrival Date: March 30, 2008
Departure Date: May 1, 2008 (tentative)

Next stop: Tucson, AZ (tentative)

The last update was update 19, not 18, so I have updated this one to 20 accordingly. This update is late. We have been on the road again, this time with Jon’s siblings.

Jon’s sister, Alex, is a junior in high school and was exited to go on a wild and crazy spring break this year parent-free. So with planning help from Jon and funding from mom and dad, we came up with a 10-day itinerary to sunny southern California that I think most college students would envy.

It was Jon (24), Nathan (21), Alex (17) and me cooped up in Jon’s mom’s Volvo station wagon that was just barely large enough to fit the four of us plus: Alex’s two huge duffle bags full of clothes and hair supplies; Nate’s bag of unfolded clothes and an additional garbage bag full of cowboy boots; a cooler full of bottled water; enough fruit snacks to feed a mid-sized African village; a Cosco-sized container of Pace salsa; three bags of chips; a folding chair; and Jon’s idea of what is needed to camp and climb out in the desert for two nights. There was barely room for the laptop, purse and backpack-worth of clothes I had brought along.

Our first stop was in Las Vegas, which was good because I wasn’t ready to spend another 9-hour day in the car just yet after so recently having returned from Texas. All of the Cirque du Soliel shows were sold out that weekend so we had to wait for an hour and a half in the standby line to get four seats together to see Ka. Luckily, we were the first in line and were able to get great seats. The show was good, about a village in war doing crazy kung-fu stunts in the air to combat evil forces, but we suspect that they missed a few tricks. Corteo, which we saw in DC with my parents a year back, is still our favorite. I liked Love a lot too, which is a tribute to the Beatles and has great music that takes me back to the two decades immediately preceding my birth.

We departed Las Vegas the next morning only after stopping by Ronald’s Donuts for what should be world-famous vegan donuts. We stopped there again on the way back so that Jon’s parent’s, Kathy and Paul, could experience the amazing-ness. Next stop was Joshua Tree, a National Park a few hours east of Los Angeles. As it’s name implies, Joshua Tree is covered by Joshua Trees, a very cool plant that looks like a cactus trying to look like a tree. There will be pictures.

We spent the rest of the weekend rock climbing and sleeping under the stars. It turns out that Jon’s siblings are natural climbers, which probably explains why Jon is so good. His sister climbed 27 meters up a rock face without injuring her beautifully manicured newly filled nails! I think that is comparable to running a race or chasing down super villains in high heels.

We left for our hotel in Redondo Beach, just south of LA, on Easter Sunday. We were hoping the holiday would dissuade the Californians from clogging the highways, but we had no such luck. It took us about four hours to travel 140 miles, though it may have helped if we had taken the right exit instead of heading 25 miles towards San Diego before turning around. Jon insists that we saved time in traffic by doing this. I remain un-convinced.

We spent our first day (and in general some part of every day) sipping Jamba Juice and laying on the beach. Everyone but Jon came home with a tan. Jon has a great system for avoiding UV exposure. He applies a thick layer of SPF 30 and then keeps his shirt on for as long as possible. This allows him to nearly replicate the level of whiteness that his Norwegian ancestors would have historically maintained.

On Tuesday we woke up at 6am to get to Disneyland in time to get tickets without having to wait in line. This meant getting there an hour before the park opened. It also meant getting Jamba Juice before the sun came up. I was very cold sipping mine at 6:30am, but my Matcha Mantra with peaches, mangos, soymilk and ice still beats a Soy Latte in terms of health and sustained energy. Matcha is one of my favorite things ever invented by man. I learned about it originally while taking a History of Tea class at Kino in junior high. Now Jamba Juice uses it in a few of it’s drinks, but it is otherwise pretty hard to come buy short of ordering it from Asia. I wikied it as I do most things:

We had a magical 15-hour day from 7am to 10pm and never had to stand in line for more than 30 minutes thanks to a schedule that Jon had printed off from the internet recommending a strategy for reducing line time. Though, I think it may have been my last trip to Disneyland. The rides are much smaller than I remember them being when I was last there in 1996. The best part of the day was the fireworks. Apparently, they have a magnificent firework show every night at 9:30pm. It’s funny, because I always remember leaving the park before dark when my parents said it was closing. I can’t blame them though. I don’t think I would ever take my children to Disneyland. Many of the parents at the park looked like they were on the brink of a panic attack.

On other days we went to Manhattan Beach, Laguna Beach, Santa Monica (we go here a lot because of the good veg food), Hollywood, and Venice Beach. On Friday night I met up with my friend Thrace who I haven’t seen since elementary school. It was great catching up and I think we have a surprising amount in common still. It would be nice if she would visit Utah. Thrace, confirm that you get this email.

We went to Venice beach on Saturday, which was my favorite day because we met up with Tristan and Jackie (we stayed with them in December if you recall) and also Nancy (who we met campaigning for Obama in Texas.) We had a blast riding beach cruisers down the coast, haggling with the street vendors and watching Jon show off on the oversized monkey bars at Muscle Beach.

Our drive home was well timed. A front of cold and precipitation entered both Utah and California on Sunday, which made for miserable beach weather and perfect ski conditions. We stopped in Las Vegas again on the way to eat at Veggie Delight, which was good and cheap (Alex and Nate went vegan for the week!) and also to pick up more donuts. Really, go to Ronald’s Donuts if you are ever within an 8-hour drive of Las Vegas. It is worth it and the owners are so nice that they were leaving the parking lot when we pulled in and they re-opened the store so we could load up on a dozen (aka 15) donuts and apple fritters for the road. We managed to only eat ten on the way home, which I think showed considerable restraint.

On Monday Jon and I rejoiced the fact that we neither have to go to school nor work and instead spent half the day making calls and running errands that surprisingly still exist in absence of work. Then Jon took me up a treacherous road to a secret pristine forest where we strapped on snowshoes and made first tracks in the fresh powder.

Yesterday we met up with some fellow ski-bum travelers to hit the powder at Brighton. I took my snowboard out for the first time since Steamboat and had a great time talking about past and future travels while realizing that I still can’t really carve black diamonds on my board. Luckily, in turns out that I still have a month to practice since Snowbird has committed to remaining open until after we leave for Florida in May (travel update to follow.) We are getting a great deal on end of the season passes which will allow us to ski for about $15-20 per day compared to the usual $80 lift ticket price.

After a great day on the slopes, Jon took me to an Asian Market in search of Jasmine Tisane and Matcha (no luck) but we did find all the ingredients necessary to make vegan sushi, including fake eel! We made it for dinner and it rocked. If our political careers never materialize, we may consider going into the business of vegan sushi. The Asian Market also carries the cough syrup that cured me of my cold in record time when I was in Beijing. I am making a mental note to get it the next time I am sick.

I am done traveling for a few weeks and hope to get the best of spring skiing through April. Jon however, is leaving for Nevada tomorrow to rock climb with some friends who are flying in from the east coast. The 5-hour drive there and back doesn’t phase him. He’ll be happy to be in his GTI.

Next month, we’ll be driving through the South, and sampling good old vegan soul food. In the meantime, check out my photos at Check out Jon’s at We will both strive to have new albums up by tomorrow.