Our Journey Through the Western US or How I Tried to Kill My Mother

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After Tom made the MotherShip mechanically beautiful, we set off on our trial adventure… aka the US portion of our journey. I call it the ‘trial adventure’ because we wanted to be close to modern conveniences and Suburu shops should something go wrong. Luckily, we only had one minor incident (a failed thermostat) during our US journey.

We were happy to explore the Western US from California, Montana, Wyoming- Yellow Stone & the Grand Tetons, Colorado, Arizona, and a weekend on the beach in Mexico. We fit in tons of family, hiking, hot springs, and strolls down memory lane. Tom’s sister, Jill, got married in beautiful Big Sky, Montana. The wedding was gorgeous and the food was great. A fox even joined in the festivities. On our hurried drive to make it to the rehearsal dinner in time, something happened that we never thought possible… we were pulled over for speeding… in the MotherShip. Now most people dread being pulled over, but you have to remember Tom and I couldn’t get pulled over in that vehicle for speeding even if we wanted to. We couldn’t, that is, until we put the Subaru conversion engine into her. The cop who pulled us over first asked why we were going so fast, then asked how we were going so fast. (We weren’t breaking the speed of sound or anything just strolling along at a mere 74 MPH, about 9 MPH over the limit). The cop, who we were certain learned his moves from Reno 911, was so impressed that we were able to accelerate to a speed above 50 in the van let us off the hook. As he walked away Tom and I smiled and gave each other a high five, in part because we didn’t get a ticket, but mainly because we were proud of the MotherShip’s perseverance and ability.

From the wedding we ventured through Yellow Stone and the Grand Tetons. After being in Yellow Stone for 20 minutes we found a boiling river that fell into the Gardner River. Never mind the warning of thermophiles invading your brain and killing you within two weeks, we had to sit under the boiling waterfalls and soak in their beauty. Just for all you worrisome types, three weeks have passed and Tom and I are still alive, so put your worries at ease. The geysers of Yellow Stone were amazing, but we saw far more wildlife in the Grand Tetons. The overall beauty of both places were breathtaking. After an awesome day hiking the Tetons, being visited by deer and other animals, and me nearly losing my voice along the path to announce to bears that we were coming so they wouldn’t have us for a midday snack, Tom and I thought that maybe we could settle down and move to Jackson when all was said and done. We happily held onto this dream until we actually passed through Jackson… the most expensive cowboy town you could ever imagine. Need I say more?

Next on the agenda was visiting my brother in his new home- Boulder, CO. He and his girlfriend have a beautiful home walking distance to nearly everything. We happily visited friends who had moved to the Denver area and explored the wonders of Boulder and the surrounding areas. While visiting family and friends is wonderful and great, the true treasure of our CO visit was our ability to find our smiles at the Carousel of Happiness. The Carousel was handmade by a Vietnam vet who apparently only wanted happiness in his life when he returned from war. I can guarantee you that the carousel animals come to life at night… just look at them.

We had a lot of fun in Boulder visiting with family and friends and were sad to depart. We did pick up a souvenir there, however,… my mother! Tom was so excited. As the mother-in-law suite wasn’t quite finished, Tom slept outside while my mother and I got the comfort of the van… what a guy!

We went for an awesome mountain bike ride in Moab, although my mother claimed we were just trying to kill her. Last time we hung out we took her zip-lining and the time before that it was sea kayaking and so on and so on. She seems to think hanging out with Tommy and I will be her demise.

To make it up to my mother, we decided to drive through Keams Canyon on the Hopi reservation since she and I used to live there when I was a kid. We visited the old house and surprised my old nanny. We hadn’t seen her in over 24 years. It was a wonderful little trip down memory lane. After Keams Canyon, we dropped my mother off in Tucson and raced to the beach house in Mexico. My father and step mom, Edie, met up with us there and we had a wonderful weekend relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Dad made his famous salads and Edie made her awesome potato and egg breakfast…mmm. Needless to say, I put on a little weight on this trip (not from salad and eggs, but from all the delicious meals and my over-indulging).

After our trial adventure, we headed back to Wrightwood for a couple of weeks to make our final improvements on the van. Tommy will write up more on the mechanical aspects of the van preparation. However, if you want to see it anytime soon feel free to harass him on the comment section below. We wouldn’t have been able to go when we did without the help of family and  friends. Thanks to Mike for the hardwood floors and to Aaron for the steel bumper. Thanks to Tio Jose Louis Fong for the canvas pop-top, Fred for helping us make our cabinets, and to so many others whose guidance and assistance has been beyond helpful. And now the journey begins…

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

And We’re Off… Well Almost

In three days’ time, we need to have the house packed and the MotherShip ready for departure. While the excitement is nearly unbearable, the anxiety of trying to get it all finished is looming over our heads. Tom has been tirelessly working on the Vdub, replacing its engine, rewiring it, putting in a water filtration system and many other things that I don’t have a clue about because I don’t speak car. I did, however, work on the intake manifold… took me a while to get that name right as I was referring to it as the uptake manifest for a good month and half before anyone corrected me… rude.

While Tom has been working on the MotherShip, my responsibilities have been more of the domestic variety- packing up the house and sewing curtains, etc. for the van. The feminist in me threw a fit- gendered work, how dare anyone suggest that! Then Tom softly pointed out that while he would be happy to sew curtains and pack the house he fears that I wouldn’t know how to put a Subaru conversion engine into the MotherShip or know how to do other mechanical type things. I silently cursed my parents for always taking our vehicle to the mechanic whenever something was wrong instead of teaching me how to repair it (not that they would know how to fix the car themselves, but you always have to blame your parents for something, right?).

In an effort to restore my pride, I told Tom that I agreed and that he should do the mechanical work. I nonchalantly stated that this should be so because as my being Captain of the Mothership, he will be my Number One.* Tom’s face looked confused as if he were trying to process a million different things. Tom finally spoke, “first of all, what are you talking about? And secondly, you think YOU are Captain of the Mothership?” “It’s from Star Trek, Next Generation”, I replied. “Piccard never actually did much of the driving of the ship and when Piccard wanted something or something went wrong he would simply turn to Number One and say make it so Number One. It’s kind of the way we are. I am Captain and you are Number One.” While Tom failed to comment on that statement I took his lack of a response as an affirmation of my brilliance. I imagined him thinking, why yes, Brooke, you are the Captain and I will proudly serve as your Number One. Now I just have to figure out how to say it in Spanish…

Besides reenacting scenes from what I envision would be on Little House on the Prairie** while my mom and I packed up the house and Tom’s mom and I worked on curtains, I tried to get all things wedding related in order. My mom and I went to pick up my dress yesterday. She hasn’t seen it before so I tried it on at the store for her. She started crying. At first I thought she was crying because she thought I looked beautiful in the dress and all those other thoughts that mothers have about their daughters when they see them in a wedding dress for the first time. Then I looked over my shoulder and saw her crying while staring at the other group of people in the fitting room drinking wine. She wasn’t crying about my dress. She was crying because no one offered her wine. Bad parenting you think? No, I completely understood. When I realized what she was actually crying about, I nearly shed a tear, too.

Having my dress all figured out, I tried to get Tommy to settle on something he wants to wear. The wedding isn’t until February, but I wanted to get everything in order before we take off. Bringing it up in front of his mother and my mother probably wasn’t the best idea. They say you revert back to your childhood ways when you are around family. Mix that with a few beers and you get the following response to a simple request that he needs to buy a suit, “A suit! I don’t wear suits. They are icky! Tommy no want to wear suit.” Actually, I think he reverted back way before his childhood, to a previous life in a more barbaric time when you speak about yourself in third person and leave important words out of sentences making  it grammatically incorrect. After a good scolding from his mother, he begrudgingly agreed, although still pouting.

Tom is finishing up his work on the dairy. He is a bit sad to stop working on the family business, but excited about the unknown adventures that await us. The dairy work will come in very handy along the way, you know, for all those times we need to stop and milk cows. The mechanical experience working on cars, trucks, and tractors, may come in handy too should the MotherShip need some TLC.

We leave for Montana next week, then down to Colorado, Arizona, Mexico and beyond! We will try to update this blog frequently. Tommy will write a blog soon about the mechanical aspects of the trip preparation. Please comment and/or email. Hearing from friends, family, and people curious about the trip would be delightful.

Much love.

* The “number one” joke was taken from the hilarious people at my office. However, as a secret Star Trek Next Generation fan, I modified it and added it to my own life.

** I have never seen Little House on the Prairie. I just imagine cleaning and sewing would be on a lot of the episodes.

Categories: Feminism, Mechanics, Travel, Wedding | 5 Comments

Two Dogs, a Van, a Wedding, and a Latin American Adventure

I write the first entry of this blog while living in Istanbul, Turkey. I am spending time here working and learning the language. Many think it’s a little odd learning Turkish just months before we embark on our Latin American journey. Maybe they’re right… I should back up a bit and provide some foresight into this adventure.

Three years ago while living in Portland, Oregon, my then boyfriend, (now fiance) Tom, suggested we save up money, jump into his VW Vannagon, and drive to the tip of South America. It sounded incredible, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was so excited about his idea and he was thrilled I was willing to tag along. We talked about it for some time, but then reality sunk in… I was in grad school and while he was making good money, he wasn’t making enough money to save a sufficient amount to support us for a year while traveling the Americas. We promised each other we wouldn’t take this idea off the table completely, we would just brainstorm ways to make it come true.

Since then, I landed a job with a great nonprofit organization and obtained my masters in International Conflict Resolution. Tommy got offered a great job in Southern CA, and after talking with my boss, she agreed to let me work remotely so Tom and I wouldn’t have to pass up this opportunity. We were so excited… our Latin American adventure was back in action. We would live frugally and put money into savings and turn our dream into a reality. In January of 2011, Tom and I, and our dog Melika headed south and moved to Wrightwood, CA with the goal of embarking on our journey on August 1, 2012.
In the past year we also temporarily inherited my brother’s dog, Hydro.

In November of 2011, Tommy proposed. And I said yes…of course! We hadn’t had much time to discuss what we wanted for a wedding, etc. because my sister’s wedding was only three weeks after the proposal. Her wedding was in Kenya. We had an amazing time exploring Kenya and Tanzania. Everyone’s return flight went through Istanbul, Turkey where I had to say goodbye to my family and Tom as I was staying to conduct outreach and education for my work. Tommy and I had spent far too much time on Skype trying to decide where we should have our wedding. Finally, it was decided we would get married in Costa Rica.

Initially we both had our reservations about a destination wedding, but concluded that Costa Rica is a place we both love and that it would be really special to have our family and friends come and celebrate with us half way through our adventure. We take off for the trip in September, 2012 and our wedding will be in February, 2013.

Tommy has been working hard modifying the Vanagon…a.k.a. the Mother Ship, to be mechanically sound and redesigning the interior and attachment storage space so we can bring our toys… surf boards, mountain bikes, etc. He has asked me to pick out some nice fabric while in Turkey so that we can make curtains for the Vanagon… I think he forgot that I am probably the least crafty person he knows and I don’t know how to sew. Oh well. There is still a lot of work to be done to the Mother Ship, but I am confident that we will get it done.

Thank you for reading our first post. We will keep you updated on our planning, our travels, our wedding, and all of our adventures.

Categories: Travel, Wedding | 3 Comments

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