Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Driving East

After nearly a year of preparation and the whole gamut of goodbyes, we piled about 1500lbs. of personal possessions and our four selves into our christmas-colored truck on a snowy February morning in Olympia, WA and began our adventure East. We drove first to Boise, ID and stayed with Alan's sister for two nights, and met Kelsey's cousin for breakfast on our way out of town. We drove south through Utah and eventually the snowfall became so heavy that even after dark it was easier to see with the headlights off than with them on! We were tired and delayed several hours, but after a 12+ hour drive we finally arrived at our motel just outside of Zion National Park.

Zion was a stunningly beautiful place,
snow dusted red-rock canyons scattered with cacti, naked trees and juniper. We spent a full day hiking around the more accessible sections of the park, doing a little bit of bouldering and scrambling where the rock was exposed and just enjoying the vistas. The sun came out in the afternoon and we got glimpses of blue skies before the sun went down.

Las Vegas is a few beautiful hours drive from Zion but it truly is a world away. Fran’s parents graciously hosted, fed, and entertained us for two days. We explored a sustainable living education center, similar to the Seattle Science Center, ate great food, and gambled a little (Kelsey was the big winner $8!).

After losing the skis off the top of the truck in the middle of a Las Vegas intersection we were headed southeast for the Saguaro National Forest. Twelve hours of varied desert landscapes: Saguaro Cacti, Joshua Trees, and dust. We caught a spectacular desert sunset in Tucson and then began looking for a place to spend the night. The intention to camp ended after a few failed attempts at finding a spot close enough to the highway and we crashed in a good ol’ Motel 6.
We left the motel outside of Tucson ready for a long drive and made good enough time that we were about an hour ahead of schedule when we got to El Paso, TX. About 30 minutes east of El Paso there is a US Border Patrol checkpoint, and we were lucky enough to be selected for a search. We sat in the office while a man we referred to as "Vin Diesel" started unloading our life possessions from the back of the truck but got less than 1/3 of the way into the bed before giving up to re-pack. They had set aside a package of brewer's corn sugar that probably looked suspiciously like cocaine, but in the end we left with all of our belongings and no further hassle.

After 14 hours on the road we got into San Antonio and met Fran's old friend Alanna from middle school. We chatted with her and her mother for awhile and they kindly housed us for our two nights in SA. The next day we went and saw Fran's old house on the army base and then went downtown. We had some drinks on the riverwalk (you can walk and drink as long as you stay on the riverwalk!) and saw the site of the Alamo with Alanna and her boyfriend before dinner. That evening we chatted with Alanna and her folks for several hours - their hospitality was amazing and we had a great time in San Antonio!

The next morning we drove to Austin and met Jacob's friends from UW, Joe and Emma, who are in Austin for school. We had a delicious lunch with them at a taco truck and then explored some of the artsy parts of the downtown area. In the evening we were joined by Kelsey's friends Meg and Steve to celebrate Meg's birthday. We had Avocado margaritas and delicious mexican food before crashing for the night.
Leaving Austin was daunting, nearly black rain clouds and the promise of 10 hours of driving between us and The Big Easy. Pounding rain became monotonous until we learned at a rural Louisiana gas station that we had been driving, and were going to continue driving, through a tornado storm system. We made it through and pulled into Phyllus’s (a relative of our good friends the Monthie family). We had unintentionally arrived in New Orleans for Carnival, the days leading up to Mardi Gras. After a restful night sleep we wandered through sleepy New Orleans neighborhoods into downtown, passing middle aged men smoking hangover cigars and groups of young 20’s drinking from red cups. Mardi Gras is massive crowds, parades, serious drinking, music, beads, evangelical Christian sign holders and more. We joined the fun northwest style,grabbing a micro brewed 6-pack to
wander the streets. We spent the day meandering about the French Quarter, eating good food, drinking beer, listening to
music, and simply watching the madness.

The next morning left us with a question: drive 8 hours and camp in the Smokey Mountains or make the 14 hour trek to our new home? The decision was easy and by sunset we were cresting the rolling Appalachian hills. After almost a year of theoretical planning, and 12 days of discussion, the final hours of the drive felt heavy with expectation. Despite all of our "plans" the approach was filled with similar questions of what the next 8 months would bring us. Throwing any worries to the side we sang our way into our new driveway and embraced Meredith Skelton (the woman who is making this all possible) who was waiting with hot food, wine, and optimistic excitement.



  1. Sounds like a great trip. Didn't know you stayed with Emma in Texas. We met her from Iceland adventure photo-friending on FB.

    Sunny and 42 in Seattle today. Yippee.

  2. I am extremely jealous, but so happy for you all! Please please please keep us updated. Pics and such! More of the farm. Write me a letter!

    No worries, I will continue to hold down here like a true G. For ya'll, if nothing else.

    I send you all the most positive of good vibes. Stay strong, work strong, and build strength.

  3. Love you Al! So excited for your adventures and proud of you!
    Biggest Sis

  4. You are in good hands with Meredith. You will not meet a better person. Best of luck to you all. I'm looking forward to the colorful stories.

  5. Can't wait to hear more!
    Ange Movius