Highlights from our trip to Cuba in January 2017
You came into our life during a time of transition. You gave hope, energy and caffeine on those summer Saturday mornings when we were building our future home. Your stainless carafe was sturdy and unbreakable as we bounced down washboard roads from Vermont to Utah. Your speedy brewing got us moving out of those Wal-Mart parking lots in a timely fashion. Your sleek design and simple functionality were things of envy among the climbers in Mexico. Your five-cup capacity ensured a fresh second pot on those cold rainy mornings when we just couldn’t get out of the van. You waited patiently in the holler while we swapped hemispheres. Your timer functioned flawlessly as you sputtered to life at 5:30 AM, signaling another morning of work in the California wine cellar. And you continued to brew, right up to the end, in our new Oregon home.
Goodbye old friend, your efforts were not in vein.
When I was a kid I used to love a trip to the dump. It was a real treat to hop in the cab of the pick-up with my dad or granddad and haul off a load of junk. Our ‘local’ dump was out there in the middle of nowhere. A place you only go to get rid of stuff, legally. On many of those trips I’d wander off from the task at hand, dumping our junk, to pick through other people’s junk. And from time to time other people’s junk would become my junk. It usually wasn’t much really, but as a kid it was nothing short of awesome.
Over the past few months Jill and I have been hauling a lot of junk out of the holler to the dump. Truckloads of junk. And while it was really just a trash transfer station instead of a real life landfill, it still brought back found memories of going to the dump. In all our trips I didn’t come home with a single thing. Until last week.
I backed the truck up to the un-loading dock right next to the red Dodge Ram brimming over with junk. Jill and I quickly went to work on our own load. A voice rose out of the pile of junk next to us.
“What size tires you got there?!” asked the old guy next to us. He wanted to give us some of his junk.
We quickly defused the situation, they were too big, and went on emptying our junk. There was a queue forming so we quickly finished and hopped in the truck. Jill and I looked at each other and wondered aloud about the bikes in the back of the old fellows Dodge.
Before I knew it I was headed home with two rusty bikes that had seen better days. Maybe they were some rare old brand. Maybe I could part them out. Maybe they just needed to go back to the dump.
A few hours and some WD-40 later two bike had become one. A swapped wheel, the least rusty stem and a ‘better’ set of handle bars later I had merged two into one. A steep frame, single speed with coaster brake. Awesome.
I can add a new skill set to my CV, artist. My mother in-law wanted a barn quilt, I had time on my hands…why not? We picked out the pattern and I went to work.
Barn quilts have been popping up all over Kentucky over the past few years. They are a great way to decorate a barn, display a classic family quilt pattern or give the horses something to look at. I like to think of it as rural public art.
We bottomed out in California. Soon after harvest Jill and I found ourselves at the lowest point we’ve ever been since starting our travels back in the fall of 2008, Death Valley. At 282 feet below sea level Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point North America. For a couple who like to climb up high and look around it wasn’t exactly tops on our list of places to visit.
As it turns out, a place with death in the name is quite an attraction, well worth a look. From 11,000 foot peaks, sand dunes and canyons the park has plenty to see and do. While not as spectacular a desert setting as Southern Utah or Red Rocks Canyon in Nevada, the park is special in its own right. A place of extremes, from elevation to temperature, Death Valley National Park is another shining example of Mother Nature’s sense irony.
During our stay we soaked in the dramatic landscape, experienced the rare occurrence of rain (of course we did) and hit the lowest point in our travels. You see, every journey is filled with highs and lows. We just prefer to measure ours in the physical sense.
Ahh the things you stumble across on the road. More highlights of our South Island travels.
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We headed out of Wanaka through the long river valley. It was 51 km to the end of the road, our destination Mt Aspiring National Park. We bounced along the narrow unsealed road, fording streams, dodging sheep and weaving our way along the braided plain of the mighty Matukituk. Stunning mountains rose out of the broad river valley as we rounded the last bend Mt Aspiring, the second highest mountain in all of New Zealand, rose up to greet us.
Once at the car park we hopped the stile and walked toward an awesome suspension bridge. We were on pretty good track, kiwi speak for trails, and made good time into the mountains aiming for the terminus of the Rob Roy Glacier. Building good trails is tough work. I used to build trails in the little patch of woods behind my house when I was growing up. Jill and I built trails to climbing areas back home in the Red River Gorge. Shovel, mc cloud, pry bar and old fashioned sweat labor where the tools of the trade. But things are different in New Zealand.
A collapsible cone in a national park seemed a bit out of place, we were a few kilometers from the trailhead. Several switchbacks later we came to the construction zone. The mountain stream roaring with glacier melt and our labored breathing from the uphill walk masked the noise of the small diesel powered digger. Mechanized vehicles in the backcountry of a national park? Strange. The two man crew were working with a small selection of hand tools, chainsaw and a tracked digger. They paused as we passed and asked us to watch ourselves on the way back down. I jokingly asked if they drove that thing in, “Helicopter.” was the response. Only in New Zealand.
Once out of the construction, we made quick time to Rob Roy. The chilly late afternoon air was a not so subtle reminder of the alpine environment we were entering. We broke through the bush line to see the glacier hanging high above. Meltwater cascaded hundreds of meters down shear rock faces. Kea noisily circled overhead. Chunks of ice crashed down into the valley echoing off the surrounding peaks. It was a clamorous environment, one with a natural earthmover at work.