Saturday, July 19, 2008



In the midst of another surge in gasoline prices (we paid up to $4.79 a gallon in California!), what on earth would make us want tow this U-Haul trailer all the way across the country and back?

Well, besides the opportunity to visit with friends and family, there was all that stuff we left in a storage shed in California about three-and-a-half years ago, before we moved to Guatemala. Over the last few years, the monthly storage fee just about doubled, so we figured it was time to put an end to that situation.

The ultimate destination: our storage shed up by the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mission accomplished! The stuff all fit with plenty of space to spare.

Meanwhile, we had Rowan and Kina for over 5000 miles of highway (around $1600 in gas!). And how do you suppose they did? Well, Kina's never a problem - just about the best travel dog you could imagine. As for Rowan, he got hooked on DVDs: Elmo, Barney, Word-World, etc.

He also got hooked on snacks - all day long! He mostly ate healthy food, but in the photo above, he'd managed to reach one of Daddy's snacks.

And, inevitably he would nap. Sometimes with his hand down his pants.

He generally enjoyed eating in the dozens of restaurants we patronized, and as usual, he would often try to befriend the waitresses and other customers with his cute-as-can-be antics.

And, whenever he got the chance, he explored. Perhaps we could all benefit from taking more time to explore?

For the first week, we drove the I-10 corridor from New Orleans to Los Angeles, visiting friends and family in Texas and Arizona and doing a little camping in the desert. We stopped for visits in:

New Orleans
Los Angeles

The second week, we drove up the central California coast and spent 4 days in our former home, the San Francisco Bay Area. We stopped to visit in:

Santa Barbara
Pismo Beach
San Jose
Bonny Doon
San Francisco
Walnut Creek

Finally, after loading our stuff out of the storage shed, we spent the third week in Road Warrior mode, driving long days and pushing the farthest limits of toddler carseat-tolerance. After spending the first 16 nights of the trip in our friends' and family's guest rooms or the tent, we spent the final 4 nights in Motel 6's along the I-40 corridor.

We've put together a photo-log of the trip, including some of the beautiful places we visited, as well as friends and family and, of course, lots of pictures of Rowan. Click here to start at the beginning of the trip.

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Friday, July 18, 2008


Tracy, California

After a lovely homemade breakfast at Eric and Jubilee's house, we drove an hour out into the San Joaquin Valley to get to our storage shed in Tracy.

As it turned out, getting the shed open was the hard part. Only months after we'd stowed our stuff there prior to heading down to Central America, we got a phone call from the management saying our shed had been broken into. Sure enough, the few electronic items we'd stored were stolen. Worse than that, the managment responded by putting 2 new locks on the door, neither of which we could find the key to!

The end result of all this was that the new manager had to cut the locks off with a special tool and it took almost an hour to get them off. Fortunately, once the locks were off, we were able to load everything from the shed to the trailer in only about 20 minutes.

"Ready to roll!!"

The Road Home

Anxious now to be home again, we took the most direct route from the Bay Area back to Tupelo. This mostly consisted of the I-40 corridor from Barstow to Memphis, places where we don't really know anybody.

After spending the first 16 nights of the trip in "guest rooms" or the tent, we spent the final 4 nights in Motel 6's, where we enjoyed swimming pools and wireless Internet, but occasionally had to hide out in the bathroom or under the covers until Rowan fell asleep!

We stopped in northeast Arizona for a brief scenic detour through Petrified Forest National park.

These petrified logs are more like giant crystals now, after spending hundreds of millions of years under an ancient ocean. The trees died some 225 million years ago. It really boggles the mind to think about such a long time!

Getting caught taking even the smallest sliver of petrified wood brings a fine of $325, so we had to keep an eye on our little rock-hound to make sure he didn't stuff any in his pockets!

We figure Rowan will really love this place if we bring him back in about 7 or 8 years. For now he was more than content being in charge of Kina's leash!

The high desert landscapes are almost otherworldly in this region.

As we passed these awesome multi-colored layered rock formations, we made our way into...

...the badlands of the Painted Desert.

Actually this was as close as we got to the really dramatic landscapes; the previous photo is from the Painted Desert page on Wikipedia, since Rowan had just fallen asleep in the carseat and we didn't want to wake him up to go exploring. Besides, we had too much driving to do to dally around, so soon enough we were back on I-40 heading east.

As we rolled into New Mexico, the roadside scenery ranged from impressive... sublime... downright cheesy.

In the western highlands of Gallup, New Mexico, the downtown buildings are adorned with modern murals celebrating Native American culture.

Here in Gallup we enjoyed an excellent lunch before heading east toward Texas and Oklahoma.

Once we left New Mexico, the rugged desert lanscape quickly changed to endless flat plains of north Texas, with very little to see except occasional fences and cattle. (No trees for miles!) And just as dramatic as the change in geography was the cultural shift as we entered the Bible Belt, with this giant 19-story roadside cross to greet us. Located in Groom, Texas (just east of Amarillo), it supposedly claims to be the largest cross in the western hemisphere. (It's not.)

Also in Groom were this blown-out roadsign and leaning water tower, giving the appearance of a sort of modern-day ghost town. At least it broke up the endless monotony of flat, wide-open pasture plains.

At this point of the trip, we pretty much stopped taking photos, except for at one of the Arkansas rest areas we stopped at on our final day of driving.

At 6pm on Friday, July 18, we pulled into our driveway in Tupelo - 21 days after we'd left the morning of June 28. After over 5000 miles of highway (around $1600 in gas!) and a treasure trove of travel memories, we began the arduous process of unloading and unpacking the 30+ boxes of our long-lost stuff.

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Monday, July 14, 2008


Harry's Party

For our last day in the Bay Area, we attended one of those quintessential Bay Area events - a backyard party in Oakland featuring a concert by festival favorites Surprise Me Mr. Davis and local jam-rock veterans Spindrift.

The host with the most was Harry (also known as the man with the plan). He and his partner January have an awesome place in the most unlikely location in the central Oakland foothills.

The guest house in their backyard has an awesome deck that makes a great "stage" for live music. In the photo above, Spindrift was playing in the early afternoon around 1:30.

There were so many sweet spots around their backyard to chill, get down to the music, etc.

Rob says, "One of the best parts of the day was catching up with John Hoey, and reminiscing over the crazy times we had in those heady days right after I moved to the Bay Area."

These days John is a performing poet, and he sits in with several Bay Area bands on a fairly consistent basis, spreading his message.

Invariably, we ran into all kinds of friends from the old days, including:

Robert Levy, owner of the 12 Galaxies music venue/club, where we saw many great concerts. Robert hosted our going-away party at 12 Galaxies three years ago.

Brian, always a good friend who put us up when we were in San Francisco after our wedding in 2005, and who's married to our other good friend from way back...


Big thanks to Freda for styling Rob out with a new hat!

And Noah! (far right, green t-shirt) What a surprise this was, since Noah and Elizabeth live up in Portland, Oregon these days.

The reason for the gathering of so many from so far? The deeply satisfying new band Surprise Me Mr. Davis, which combines long-time cult-jazz-jamband favorites The Slip with vocalist supreme Nathan Moore. The result was some wonderfully soulful music with deep, jazz-influenced jams.

Surprise Me Mr. Davis had the whole backyard party fully engaged and in the groove from the time they hit the stage around 5:30.

We couldn't have ended up at a more quintessential family-friendly Bay Experience as this if we'd tried. What a beautiful spot and awesome party!

Even Rowan had a good time. Every time one of the bands finished a song, the resulting applause would have Rowan cheering like a diehard fan, clapping like crazy and yelling "Whoooo!! Yay!", turning heads, etc. (For some reason we could never seem to get a photo of this, despite several attempts - so here he is picking a "mushroom".)

Just when the party was really getting going, we had to leave and head out over the Oakland Hills for a dinner date.

Walnut Creek

Out in the suburbia of the far East Bay is Walnut Creek, where we spent our final night in the Bay Area with our good friends Eric and Jubilee.

We had an awesome visit with Eric and Jubilee, and we were styled out with home-cooked dinner and breakfast.

Also in Walnut Creek is our friend Oliver and his family. Again, we forgot to snap a photo, so it's yet another blast-from-the-past photo of Oliver (with Sulana) at our San Francisco wedding party. Oliver and his wife Lori, son Alex (5) and daughter Mia (13 months) joined us for dinner at Jubilee and Eric's house. (Thanks to Jubilee for cooking!) We all had a great time, and it was awesome seeing little Alex speak both English (with Lori) and German (with Oliver) fluently.

After a nourishing stay with Eric and Jubilee, it was finally time to go empty the storage shed and head home.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


As we made our way across the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, our primary concern was, "Where in the heck are we going to find parking with this U-Haul trailer hooked up to the back?" Lack of parking is one of the leading causes of stress and rage in this tightly packed city.

Fortunately, we quickly found a parking garage at UCSF just a couple of blocks from where we were scheduled to meet up with friends for a little picnic in Golden Gate Park.

Here we got to kick back and catch up with Taro and Lyn, Cory and Jenny, Jeff and Jenn, and Jubilee. Carley also got to catch up with her Peace Corps friend Emmanuelle and her partner Roseanne but she forgot to snap a photo before they took off. It was so awesome to be back here with so many friends at once, just like the good old days!

Rowan and Kina enjoyed running around in the grass...

...and we enjoyed some good picnic food - berries, hummus, goat cheese, etc. Everyone commented on how long it had been since such a great get-together, as people's lives have gone in various different directions since we saw them last.

And yes, despite the fact that it was the middle of summer, it was chilly enough to wear pullovers and light jackets during the afternoon. As Mark Twain supposedly once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." (Actually Twain likely never said that, it's just an urban legend, and no one really knows who came up with this saying...but it's certainly understandable!)

Rowan's not quite ready for hooping yet - but playing with Taro is just as fun!

This area of Golden Gate Park is known as Hippie Hill, and every weekend you can guarantee that there will be drummers out here pounding out the never-ending rhythms all afternoon.

Of course, Rowan is already a little hippie!

As the afternoon wound down, we said our goodbyes and made our way across town to...

...Allan's house! Big thanks to Allan (center) and Bernadette (right) for putting us up for the night!

Also big thanks to Allan and Bernadette for hosting an evening get together so that we could catch up with more of our friends that we hadn't seen yet! Despite the lack of good photos from this gathering, we had an awesome time hanging out with Greg and Ellen, Tyler and Beth, Taro and Lyn, Jubilee, Chappy, Lexy and Larry! It was so nice to feel all the Bay Area love. Again, the prevailing attitude seemed to be, "We should do this more often!"

All too quickly, this gathering too came to an end, as people headed out for various Saturday night activities. However, the evening wasn't done...a little later, Rob's long-time buddy Chris Zanardi stopped by with his girlfriend Megan. It was great hearing about all the recent success Chris has had with his band Five Eyed Hand, including several prominent slots at High Sierra Music Festival where they were brought back for an encore by an adoring audience!

Five Eyed Hand is an improvisational band that plays mostly psychedelic rock with talented and tasteful musicianship and a strong foundation in jazz, and Chris is the guitarist and a principal songwriter. In the photo above, renowned virtuoso guitarist Fareed Haque sat in with Five Eyed Hand and took great interest in Chris's playing. How great would it have been to attend this show!

Also in Five Eyed Hand is Mikey Henderson on mandolin and fiddle, whom we visited with Laurel and Quinn a few days earlier in San Jose.

Since we didn't get to see Five Eyed Hand play while we were in town, these last 2 photos are without permission from yet another website.

And since we didn't remember to take any photos during Chris and Megan's visit, here is another "blast from the past" photo of Chris and Megan from our San Francisco Wedding Party in October 2005.

Thanks again, Allan!

After leaving Allan's on Sunday morning, we met up with Carley's always-delightful college friend Brettany for breakfast. It was great catching up with her just as she was packing up to move down to Los Angeles to start her Master's in urban planning at USC - just in time!

So this was to be our final day in the Bay Area before we took care of the storage shed and headed home. Where better to spend Sunday afternoon but back in Oakland?

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