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Map our trip…
Oct 11th, 2009 by Kate

A bunch of people have suggested that we post a map on our blog tracking where we’ve been.  We are trying, but in the mean time, for anyone who cares – and  for Troop 190 who I know is out there following us -  here’s where (and how) we’ve traveled so far…

From:

Phoenix, AZ USA                                            by plane to

Dallas, TX USA                                               by plane to

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA                                by car to

Stuart, FL USA                                                by boat to

West End, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas       by car to

Freeport, Bahamas                                           by boat and plane to

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA                                by plane to

Phoenix, AZ USA                                            by plane to

Calgary, Alberta, Canada                                 by car to

Canmore, Alberta, Canada                               by car to

Bamff, Alberta, Canada                                    by car to                                              

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada                          by car to

Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada   by car to

Kamloops, BC, Canada                                   by car to

Jasper, Alberta, Canada                                   by car to

Calgary, Alberta, Canada                                 by plane to

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada   by boat to

Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada           by car to

Sooke, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada by car to

Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island, BC, Can        by car to

Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC Canada            by car to

Parksville, Vancouver Island, BC Canada         by car to

Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Canada            by boat to

Seattle, WA, USA                                            by plane to

Los Angeles, CA, USA                                    by plane to

Narita, Japan                                                    by train to

Nagoya, Japan                                                 by train to

Takayama, Japan                                              by train and bus to

Lake Kawaguchico, Japan                                by train to

Yokohama, Japan                                             by train to

Tokyo, Japan                                                   by train to

Hiroshima, Japan                                              by train and boat to

Miyajima, Island                                               by train to

Kyoto, Japan                                                    by train to

Osaka, Japan                                                   by boat to

Shanghai, China                                                by train to

Suzhou, China                                                  by train to

Beijing, China   …

 Tonight (October 11th), we leave for Xi’an, China on the overnight train, so you can add that too!

Signs we like…
Sep 28th, 2009 by Kate
Um, we were kind of thinking we'd stop if children were on the highway instead of just slowing down... (Canada)

Um, we were kind of thinking we'd stop if children were on the highway instead of just slowing down... (Canada)

Sadly, Jeff and I seem to be unable to catch this train very often... (Japan)

Sadly, Jeff and I seem to be unable to catch this train very often... (Japan)

Banker's hours in the Canadian Rockies

Banker's hours in the Canadian Rockies

Way way up in the mountains in the middle of no where it seems that we need to watch out for falling eletrified mushrooms?  (Japan)

Way way up in the mountains in the middle of no where it seems that we need to watch out for falling eletrified mushrooms? (Japan)

Jeff on Canada Ending and Japan Starting
Sep 6th, 2009 by Jeff

Hello All,

I am finally getting a little time to sit and blog – train from Narita to Nagoya – as both Phoebe and Kate do the ralphing thing when reading or writing while in motion and Tessa has the Kindle. So I get to catch up on my writing.

The last of the Canadian adventures went great. Anne and Kellea were superb hosts in Parksville. Kate already blogged about the sandcastles we saw but didn’t go into the swim in the river. Anne and Kellea took us to an ideal spot to jump in and swim in some of Canada’s clear running waters (clear because it had probably just melted off some glacier – also meaning it was pretty chilly). Tessa, Phoebe and our hosts decided to do a little swimming. Phoebe braved here way into the water a complete trooper, while Tessa figured she might as well get completely wet after falling in most of the way while fording the river. I just wanted to be safe in this swimming adventure, so I decided to act as life guard for the group and stayed on shore and supervise the swim ;-) !

I also really enjoyed getting back together with Kyle and Robyn for another assault on Mount Wells which, as Kate noted, was a big success.

(Continuation of post started in train from Nagoya)

Japan has definitely been interesting, fun and exciting. After a few days in Narita (see Kate’s blog entry), we have made our way to Nagoya and now Takayama. In Narita we decided to challenge ourselves a little and split up in teams to conquer the city. Kate and Tessa went to the Noritake China Museum and Phoebe and I ventured off to the zoo. How does the saying go, “getting there is half the fun”. We all started out together on the train but then broke off in different directions on the subway. Phoebe and I struggled a little finding the correct station, but with a little help from the kind people of Nagoya we found the right line, and were able to purchase tickets at the kiosk. That was harder than I thought it would be. I found the button that said English and got the directions, it basically read as follows on one simple screen:

1. Get fare from chart
2. Insert Money
3. Get ticket

I figured out the fare on the chart and could insert the money, but had no idea which button to push to get the ticket, whether I had to insert the money before or after I selected the route (or if I had to select a route at all).  Once again Karma sent along a Japanese helper to assist the ignorant and befuddled American. With a quick lesson, we were on our way with the proper tickets.

We spent a couple of fun hours at the zoo and added quite a few creatures to the critter count (I will let Phoebe add to the list). I think my favorites were the various asian bears (Japanese brown, Japanese black, Malaysian Sun and the Sloth bear) all quite impressive and the up close look at the zoo made me glad we saw our Canadian bear from the car.

We are now in Takayama at a great hostel (J-Hoppers) and have a cool traditional Japanese room with futons for sleeping. We also did a little touring of the town. I have discovered that they have a microbrewery here and a couple of sake breweries that offer tastings (I think I’m going to try that out when the girls go to do the traditional Japanese bath thing)!

Sayanora for now,

Jeff

Canada wrap-up
Aug 31st, 2009 by Kate
Phoebe the "rock" star!

Phoebe the "rock" star!

 

Tessa with most important rock climbing gear - leg warmers...

Tessa with most important rock climbing gear - leg warmers...

 Not to be outdone by Jeff, Tess and Phoebe went rock climbing a few days ago.  They scrambled up the rock face like it was nobody’s business.  Rock climbing out on a real mountain is a far distant cousin of climbing in a gym, and for some reason makes the “mother of the little mountain goats” a bit more nervous.  Alas, they were in safe hands and had a blast. 

 And since we needed yet another jolt of adrenaline, last night we went with our couchsurfing hosts Kyle and Robin to a game called Manhunt.  For those of you who live in Phoenix – I am SO setting up a game like this when I get back so watch for details next year.  Basically, it is a giant game of tag with people you don’t really know in some kind of urban setting.  IT IS SO MUCH FUN!

 The organizers post the met-up date/time/location on a group they’ve made in Facebook, and tons of people just show up.  Last night the game was held on the campus of a school plus all the neighborhood surrounding the school and there were about 40 people.  Sometimes it’s in a park, sometimes a forest preserve, but most often in urban areas including downtown Victoria.  Everyone checks in at the appointed time, gets a yellow armband to wear, finds out what the boundaries are, and then everyone rock/paper/scissors to determine who is it.  As you get tagged, you become “it” too, so by the end of the game most people are “it” and are hunting for those that aren’t.  Mind you, you can’t tell who has been tagged and who hasn’t.  For me, it was mostly running, hiding, and laughing – but as beginners luck would have it – I won the first game! 

We all had a total blast and it was a great way get some exercise and to meet a bunch of really cool people in BC.  If you Manhunters are reading this – thanks for an awesome time and for letting us crash your game!

So we’ve moved on from Canada now – passports and all (oh that is a non-online story) and we’ll be in the US for a few days before leaving the comforts of North America.  We had an absolute blast in Canada – it is  a beautiful place with lots of great things to do, but I think the biggest impression that was left with me was how wonderful the Canadian people are.  Thanks in large part to couchsurfing.org, we have great new friends that I am sure we will stay in contact with forever – and we fully expect you all to come and visit us in AZ during one of your winters!  Shout outs to Nathan & Mel in Calgary, Jodi & Nick in Canmore, Chad in Revelstoke, Andrea, Liesje & kiddos in Vancouver, Kyle & Robin on blackberry hill in Sooke, Diane & Nick in Duncan, Anne & Kellea in Parkville and Kyle & Robin (again!).

Some travel highlights we recommend:

  • Fiasco Gelatto in Calgary
  • Bamff Hot Springs Hotel (we’re going to come back here and stay someday when we’re rich, and/or for Phoebe’s wedding)
  • Revelstoke – we liked the whole town (and they have a great local brewery too)
  • The Hemlock Forest in Glacier National Park
  • Gort’s Gouda in Salmon Arms
  • The Columbia Icefields (the drive between Jasper & Bamff is amazing!)
  • The Granville Island Market in Vancouver (kicks Pike Peak’s market butt!)
  • Stanley Park in Vancouver (rent bikes and cruise the outer loop for the best view of the city and waterways)
  • The BC ferry between Vancouver & Vancouver Island
  • The Dutch Bakery on Fort St. in Victoria
  • Sombrio Beach between Sooke & Port Renfrew
  • The farmer’s market in Duncan (find the people selling the venison sausages)
  • The Parksville annual Sandcastle Contest (Jack Gape – we’re going to build a monster castle next year buddy – I have tips from the pros!)
  • Butchart Gardens in Victoria (that’s Butt-chart to Tessa)
Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Sambrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Sambrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Tessa, Phoebe and couchsurfing host kid Kellea on tree roots at Cathedral Grove

Tessa, Phoebe and couchsurfing host kid Kellea on tree roots at Cathedral Grove

Girls on fallen giant red cedar tree in Cathedral Grove

Girls on fallen giant red cedar tree in Cathedral Grove

Vancouver Island and my expanding interests
Aug 22nd, 2009 by Jeff

Another week in and things are running a little more smoothly. We have been able to set up accommodations with family and couch surfers for the rest of the month. This has taken some of the pressure off the immediate “find a place to stay” scramble we were doing early on. However, Kate and I have been discussing the ease of internet accessibility in Canada, and that it may not last as we move further west in Asia (although it might – since we are planning on staying with couchsurfers who rely on the internet?). I guess well find out soon enough. However it turns out, Kate and I are feeling a little more pressure to get set plans in place for Japan, China, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

I have particularly enjoyed our time in Vancouver Island. Rock climbing with our host Kyle was an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me. I had always wanted to try climbing out in the wilderness on a real mountain (I had done the rock gym once or twice) and it definitely brought a new “edge” to the sport. Although I was strapped in and safe, I still had a very real fear of slipping and falling down the mountain. Also, I was much higher than I had ever been in a gym. On both climbs that I did, I opted to not push too hard and risk any injury (but it would be cool to try again and summit the section of mountain I was climbing). However, overall I was very happy with my performance and would definitely like to pursue this more (Jeff and Chloe – we should get together and do this in AZ when Tess and I get back in town).

Today we spent the day in Duncan. This is about 50 miles north of Victoria. The town has a quaint little city center and we went to the farmers markets (some things just won’t change with Kate – I am sure farmer’s markets will be on the “things to do” wherever we are). The market was very nice and I did get an awesome smoked venison sausage. (I also had some great smoked elk earlier in the week in Victoria). After the market we went on tour of the totem poles in the town. The local indigenous people have had totems in the culture for hundreds of years. It was very interesting to see the different forms and be told the reasons for totems: as a family ‘coat of arms’, as a method of story telling, as a memorial or burial tribute, in addition to a decoration for the homes. Seeing all this great art made me wonder what I’d use in a design for a Wells family totem? I think an eagle would need to be there somewhere, with Pappy as a pilot for American Airlines and my degree in Aerospace Engineering. The other stuff is still under consideration. I may sketch something out on this grand tour of ours.

We also spent some time today at a Raptor Sanctuary. I’ve always enjoyed seeing these birds of prey in the wild and this was a very up close look at them. The center does daily flying (off tether) demonstrations and we were in very close proximity to the birds; only a few feet away. One of the owls in the show was hand reared and allowed the trainer to manipulate his head and body to show us up close all the interesting things that make these birds so special. It was quite informative and educational (schooling points for Kate and I – woohoo). Falconry has always been something I have had an interest in and this experience definitely piqued my curiosity – this is another thing I will need to learn more about.

As far as the Network Administrator stuff goes – things seemed to have ironed out for the most part (knock on wood) no more major computer glitches (although the wireless seems to be a little finicky – my latest research seems to indicate it is just the nature of the Eee 1000HE network adaptor). I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Cheers,

Jeff

Looking back on Vancouver
Aug 22nd, 2009 by Kate
 
Nuk nuks off of Stanley Park overlooking North Vancouver
Nuk nuks off of Stanley Park overlooking North Vancouver
Wells Totem

Wells Totem

It was a bit of a shock arriving in Vancouver after our time in the Rockies.  Instead of mountains there were high rise buildings, and instead of watching out for bears we had to watch out for homeless people and city buses…

 That is not to say we didn’t enjoy Vancouver – there are so many things to do and see!  My first priority was to head over to the Grandville Island Market, I read about it in Travel & Leisure magazine a few years ago and saved the article (it sounded THAT good!).  I have to say that it did in fact live up to my expectations – amazing fruits and veggies from farms all over BC, seafood right off the boat, cheeses, meats and the baked goods – AHHH!  They even have an entire space that just makes stocks – but not just your chicken and beef varieties – three different kinds of fish stock, veal, venison… I was in soup-making heaven (if I was only traveling with a large soup pot!).  We spent our entire day’s budget buying little bits of this and that, our favorites were the smoked salmon and the smoked elk, the beef pot pie, the vanilla rooibos tea, local berries of every variety, cinnamon bread and a banana cream tarte with blueberries (however, not as good as Auntie Tasch’s!). 

 I think I’ve already mentioned the amazing sushi in Vancouver on Twitter.  OMG YUM!  And CHEAP – it is so cheap!  We heard from reliable sources that the cheap sushi places get their fish from the same fish market the expensive place do – and I believe it because the fish was awesome.  Seriously, Japan is going to have a hard time beating the sushi in Vancouver.

 We spent two of our four days in Vancouver bicycling around Stanley Park, a huge park to the west of Vancouver’s downtown.  On the first day we explored the interior of the park and enjoyed some beautiful old-growth stands of massive trees and giant ferns, pretty lakes, picturesque meadows, and some giant totem poles.  We had such a great time that we decided to go back the next day and cycle around the entire perimeter of the park, which follows the water the entire way.  It was eight miles roundtrip, and afforded us skyline views of North Vancouver, the port, the inlet to the ocean, and the downtown and Granville Island skylines.  I’m sure others have their opinions, but I definitely think that bike ride is the best way to see Vancouver.

Tess the magician's assistant at Granville Island

Tess the magician's assistant at Granville Island

Phoebe taking Chinese Tea Lesson

Phoebe taking Chinese Tea Lesson

 

Nacho Vancouver

Canadian Critter count!
Aug 16th, 2009 by Phoebe
A cute little ground squirrel (we thought it was a giant chipmunk, but its not!)

A cute little ground squirrel (we thought it was a giant chipmunk, but its not!)

Big Horn Sheep (you can tell its a boy by its horns and other things)
Big Horn Sheep (you can tell its a boy by its horns and other things)
Pippy the house sheep that thinks its a dog and let us dress it up!
Pippy the house sheep that thinks its a dog and let us dress it up!

The Rocky Mountains in Canada have lots of animals that we don’t have in Arizona, and a few that we do have.  We drove around a lot so we had lots of time to look for animals.  We really wanted to see a bear and a moose, but we never saw the moose.  Here is a list of the animals we did see:

  • 1 BLACK bear (not huge but still cool!)
  • 7 Big horn sheep
  • 1 Elk
  • 2 deer
  • 1 Pika (a tiny little rodent only found it here)
  • Pelicans (really giant pelicans in Calgary – they weree along a river where there were salmon we think)
  • Sea gulls (also in Calgary – strange)
  • 1 wild turkey
  • Hawks (a lot of them)
  • Cows (many, many, many cows….)
  • Regular sheep and one “house sheep” named Pippy (see picture)
  • alpacas (they are SO cute and I want one and my mom said we can see if Phoenix allows us to have them when we get back!)
  • chick`a` munks (as I call them) or chippy munkos (what Tessa calls them)
  • black squirrels
  • Horses
  • Thaylee (pretty fluffyhouse cat at couchsurfer’s)

 And that is all for now!

My new position and the required mental shift
Aug 16th, 2009 by Jeff

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd I’m off !  (work, home chores, and the standard 9-5 thing)., and the Round the World (RTW) adventure has begun.

So to begin my blogging let me say that I really feel blessed to be doing this at all.  I really have a great life.  I have a beautiful, intelligent, and extremely well organized (and driven) wife; I have two great kids  (ditto the adjectives from my wife above – excluding the well organized part (their working on it))that are willing to go along with this adventure without any real fuss; Kate and I were working at and are now on Sabbatical from two great companies that were willing to let us take time for this odyssey; our families and friends have all stepped up to do what they can in support of this trip; and countless other things have just fallen into place.  Overall we couldn’t have asked for a better start.

As to more specifics on these first two weeks things have gone pretty smoothly.  However, I now find myself in the advanced network administrator position, which has become a little frustrating.   Our new netbook had a ‘serious error” shutdown at our first stop in Calgary and I ended up installing new BIOS and drivers, once I got connected to the internet.  I also decided to get an additional backup to our computer I could carry with us in case of a complete computer meltdown.  With the couchsurfing, hotels, and alternate living plans, along with our plane, train, and car rental as we go – it is pretty important that we can get internet connections.  I still have not resolved the issues completely, as we have problems with some wireless connections for no good reason I can determine.  The sucky thing is I hate to spend all my time researching computer issues when there is so much to see and do.

The above discussion leads to a new topic, balance in our travels.  By balance in our travels I mean, how do Kate and I balance travel, sightseeing and exploring our new surroundings with the kids and  life maintenance.  Although it seems we are on one giant vacation, we really aren’t (in the pure sense of the word).  We still need to manage grocery shopping (we are trying to cook in as much as possible), doing laundry (do to our limited clothing), getting in schooling for the kids, and planning our next stop (securing lodging and travel plans), and paying the bills.  In a normal vacation this is all set and done ahead of time or unnecessary.  Kate and I are taking a lot of time trying to get this stuff all organized and although it is required, it is hard to get out of the “we are on vacation” mindset, because everything like this we’ve ever done in the past has been a vacation.   I know we have only been at this two weeks, so I hope this part gets a little easier.

With regards to the adventure itself, so far it has been great.  We seen some spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies, stayed with great couchsurfing hosts, and spotted a few exciting  animals (I refer you to the critter count).  We just arrived in Vancouver two nights ago and the city is a nice really cool.  We’ve explored a great market yesterday and plan on checking out Stanley Park (on bikes) today.

Thanks all for following along with us and keep the comments coming.

 Cheers,

Jeff

ECHO Echo echo…
Aug 13th, 2009 by Tessa

My mom had herself set on going to the hot springs- but when we arrived we found that they had taken the water from the hot springs and just put it in a pool. Annoyed, we decided to go on the gondola. The gondola would bring us to the top of the mountain, and once there, we decided to WALK down. This looked like a rather short route but we couldn’t see the masses of switch backs on the way down. So we headed off down the trail…..

We used Phoebe as our anti-wildlife noise maker and let her talk the whole way down so that we wouldn’t have to confront a bear or cougar. People shouted at us from the gondola:

“HI LITTLE PEOPLE!”

“HEY!” we shouted back.

“FART!” The boy shouted at us. The word fart echoed around the mountain as the 8 year old boy disappeared into the trees.

This started Phoebes want to echo everything we said. We also decided to name all of the chipmunks we saw (which actually turned out to be ground squirrels…..).

“This one is Chippy Munkoo because Chippy Munkoo sounds Japanese like,” I said pointing to one that had just ran in front of us.

LIKE LIKE Like like like like,” Phoebe echoed.

“-and I’ll name the next one Chip-a Munk-ee” I finished.

EE EE Ee ee ee ee” Phoebe echoed the last syllable.

“Keep your eye out for wildlife girls!” My dad said to us.

GIRLS GIRLS Girls girls girls girls” Phoebe echoed.

“What was that?” I said.

THAT THAT That that that that.”

“ I don’t see anything” My mom said.

THING THING Thing thing thing thing.”

“It kind of looks like an ostrich-” I said

“Ya, a Canadian Ostrich,” My mom said.

OST-RICH, RICH, Rich, rich, rich, rich.”

“Phoebe, would you stop that?” My mom asked.

SURE, SURE, Sure, sure, sure, sure.”

Phoebe stopped and let us pass her, but we could still hear her echoing us from a couple yards away.

The walk was longer than we’d thought. Everyone was complaining about something- for Phoebe it was her ankles, for my mom, her thighs, for my dad it was his knees and for me it was my stomach (I was REALLY hungry).

When we finally made it down we almost collapsed from exhaustion.

Ahhh, the Canadian Rockies in the summer…
Aug 12th, 2009 by Kate

 

The Banff Hot Springs Hotel vista

The Banff Hot Springs Hotel vista

Banff Gondola ride

Banff Gondola ride

Sulpher Mountain hike - Banff

Sulpher Mountain hike - Banff

Top of Sulpher Mountain

Top of Sulpher Mountain

Really, you just have to see this place to believe it – it is so gorgeous.  Really really gorgeous.  REALLY.

 

We flew into Calgary last week to cold and rainy weather.  What a shock after the sunny humid days of the Bahamas and the dry intense heat of AZ.  It was about 50°F with constant light rain – and we looked like total fools with our 3 layers on.  We couchsurfed at a beautiful house in south Calgary – our host, Nathan, was actually out of town for the week, and in true couchsurfing fashion, he checked out our profile and decided we were worthy enough to actually let us stay at his house without him even being there!  The highlight of our Calgary stay was actually an adorable little gelato shop called “Fiasco” on 10th Ave and Kenzington.  The owner and staff were great fun, and their flavors were unlike any we had ever tried… my recommendation… Avocado Lime, Phoebe’s favorite… Salted Carmel (ala Auntie Tasch), Tessa’s fav… Honey Pear, and Jeff’s was the Chai Tea gelato… YUM!

 

From Calgary we headed an hour east through pretty rolling hills full of cow pastures and the Olympic ski jumps from the Calgary Olympics.  Have you ever seen those ski jumps in person?  They look scary enough when you see them on TV, but in person (or should I say speeding by them on the highway) they look TOTALLY INSANE!  Tess even thought they looked scary!

 

On to Canmore and Banff, and couchsurfing with Jody & Nic.  Canmore & Banff are sort of the gateway to the Rockies.  We all commented on how the landscape went from little rolling hills to GIANT mountains in such a short distance.  And the Rockies are actually rocky – I guess I’d never really thought about why they call them the Rockies – but the tops of all of them are bald and rocky (duh Kate).  The pine forests are impossibly thick, and it is hard to imagine being the first people that thought settling in this area would be a good idea.

 

We enjoyed our time in Banff (although its pretty touristy) – spending time checking out the Banff Hot Spring Hotel (Phoebe has decided she would like to get married there – we’ll start saving up for that as soon as we pay this trip off) and riding the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain (and hiking down the entire 5.8kms – Tess will blog about that adventure).  We were disappointed to see that the hot springs had been turned into a big boring swimming pool and think that we should call our hot tub back home a “hot spring” and charge $8 a person so sit in it.

 

The next day we headed over to the infamous Lake Louise, and then over to Yoho National Park to visit the third largest waterfall in Canada, Tawkaka Falls.  We turned off the main highway to take the mountain road up to the falls, and no sooner had Jeff said “now girls, keep your eyes peeled, this is the kind of road that we’re likely to see animals on” then a big black bear lumbered onto the road in front of us.  IT WAS SO CUTE!  It is such a bummer that bears are so terribly dangerous because they are totally adorable and I could have one in our backyard next to the chickens.  I was so excited that I didn’t get the camera out fast enough to catch it – but we are very happy to add it to our critter count.

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