Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome Home!

We had quite the family reunion when we reached South Carolina.  
The grand-mamas were eagerly awaiting our arrival.
Grana and Lala, doing what they do best.
 We also saw many, many more cousins.
Elizabeth and her family
Adalaya's 1st cousins in South Carolina
They wanted to come live in the van with us!
Rosanne threw us a "Welcome Home" party.
We showed folks our route on the map...

and showed off the patch blanket.
 We saw more family when we finally made it to North Carolina.
Adalaya with more 1st cousins, Collin and Peyton
The Tipps'
 We made one more stop before heading back home.  For my 36th birthday, I wanted to spend a few days in Hot Springs.
 We invited our wonderful friends from Celo, Jason and Stephanie, to join us.  It was a great way to transition back to real life.
Now we're home, and although I was ready to keep traveling, George and Adalaya are very happy to be home.  It was an amazing trip, and we've made memories that we will cherish forever!

In total we visited:
4 Countries
21 National Parks
Many National Monuments, Seashores, Historic Sites, and State Parks
183 Laundromats
and Countless Cousins

With Love,  3 Brasingtons & A Van

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homeward Bound!

Part I : Natural Wonders

          Well, we've made record travel time (for us) over the last couple of weeks. Last summer, at the beginning of this trip, we spent nearly 3 months traveling from South Carolina to the Pacific coast of Washington, and now it has taken us a mere 2 weeks to travel from Baja, California back to the South Carolina coast. The reason for the speed is threefold: there's been cold, wet weather blasting through the entire south (which always keeps us on the move); there are the dreaded business taxes to take care of; and (most importantly) we have a date with our daughter in SC.
          After leaving Baja, and essentially coming back into America after 3 1/2 months in the Spanish speaking world, we headed east into Arizona and were greeted by the increasingly present signs of modern America: neon lights and big-box stores. We dodged these obstacles as best we could, and stumbled upon a collection of signs and evidence from an earlier time.
Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site...
where the rocks are littered with drawings.
Here's a nice collection of Native American arrowheads and spearpoints.
The eroding ruins of Casa Grande National Historic Site.

          We found ourselves in Dateland, AZ which consists of date plantations and one gas station/convenient store which also has a gift store devoted to dates. Our dinner that night consisted of nothing but dates: about a dozen different varieties that were available to sample, plus coconut covered dates, nut covered dates, and (for dessert) chocolate covered dates.
Dateland - A Great "Pit-Stop"
We enjoyed exploring the strange landscape of Saguaro National Park.
This one had a lot of personality!
We also explored the curious formations in Carlsbad Caverns.
This one was of the female persuasion.
While this one was distinctly male.

Part II : People

          We've been traveling without Adalaya for several weeks now, and our journey has definitely taken on a different pace and flavor. We've been driving longer hours, cooking less, and partying more.  In addition to seeing the amazing scenery, we've been visiting some wonderful friends and family.

We spent a weekend in the "metropoasis" of Phoenix visiting my long-time friend, Katie.

Poor George!

She and her boyfriend took us out to several of their favorite places to eat and drink, including their local bar, Dos Amigos. George got a little (or maybe a lot) looped one night, and had his first experience of the not-so-fun after-effects of excess alcohol. Check that one off the life-list!  

With that experience behind him, George was primed for more partying as we continued our journey east.

Next we visited our friends, Pace and Laura, in Austin, Texas.  
 We biked downtown to check out 6th Street (Austin's Bourbon Street) 
to get a little dinner.
Our first Korean BBQ Tacos - Yum!!
 The mayhem of 6th Street was good preparation for our next stop: 
New Orleans during Mardi Gras - debauchery on a grand scale!
Bourbon Street was full of bead throwing maniacs.
Some locals
Who's that hemp-head?
This was my favorite of the official parades.
With cousins Eliza and Benh before the unofficial parade.
The secret parade got pretty wild!
 Next we stopped in Athens, GA where we saw our friend, Robert Tate.
Talkin' trash and eating tasty tacos.

Part III : The Last Day

 Just a few hours from our final destination, we blew a tire!  It was our first and only flat tire during the whole trip.
Our first flat tire on our last day.
We crossed the bridge over the South Carolina inland waterway at sunset. It felt like a miracle to be back on the east coast, exactly where we had started from 10 months earlier!
It feels wonderful to be a family again!
3 Brasingtons - Together Again!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baja, More Than Just Whales

(Warning: this post is long and rambling with no focused direction; kind of like our road-trip.)

Although our whale adventure was the reason we came to Baja, we have thoroughly enjoyed many other aspects of this part of Mexico. We've spent a total of 2 weeks exploring this peninsula, and it's been so nice to use the Spanish that we learned in Costa Rica. Everyone here has been very friendly, and we've made several new friends.

Even though everyone said to avoid border-towns such as Tijuana, we crossed the border there on I-5 and (besides a little construction traffic) made it to Ensenada safely and quickly for our first night in Mexico. Here's George watching our first sunset in Mexico.

We met a nice couple, Don and Kim, who have been traveling in their rig all over the world. Among other adventures, they have driven to the tip of South America and written a book about it. They gave us lots of tips about Baja, and inspired me to do more traveling in Central and South America. They also used to own a laundromat in Arizona, and even though they sent their computer boards to our major competitor, we still had a great time talking to them.

They also recommended that we hit the Ensenada Fish Market, which we did the next morning.

We decided to get breakfast at a nearby taco stand, and there were many to choose from. This one had a beautiful display of hot sauces, and we were sold.

You know you're in Mexico when you're having fish tacos with a selection of 4 different hot sauces at 9 in the morning! Yum!

Besides whale-watching, we had several other adventures while visiting Heather and Michael in Loreto, Baja Sur. We would stop at beautiful beaches like these to have lunch when we were on the water.

Here's George snorkeling in the cold, clear water that's so rich with life. There was so much krill in the water, that I felt like I was swimming through a cloud of tiny shrimp. No wonder the whales love it here.

Loreto is also the home of the first Catholic Mission on the Baja peninsula. It marks the beginning of the historic El Camino Real, the path of Catholic expansion and missions which extended into California as far north as San Francisco in the 1700's.

Throughout our travels in California, we kept crossing the El Camino Real and had visited the Mission of Santa Barbara, so it was interesting to come to the beginning of this historical route of religious conquest.

"The Head and Mother of the Missions" was built in Loreto in 1697, and still stands strong as the center of this beautiful Mexican town.

Heather and Michael took us up into the mountains to the small isolated village of San Javier, where the 2nd mission in Baja was built.

San Javier is located along an oasis, and there are fields and fruit trees growing around the mission.

There is a magical, twisted, old olive tree which grows behind the mission. It was planted here originally when the missionaries first came to this area, over 300 years ago. Gaelan loved playing in it's limbs!

We took a beautiful hike which followed the oasis and meandered through an old orchard of citrus trees and grape vines. Here's a perfectly ripe bergamot orange.

This is a species of fig tree that is endemic to Baja. These trees cling to the rocks with their entangled roots.

Here's a few other photos from that hike.

We visited another oasis-mission town on our journey back north. We camped beside this beautiful oasis in San Ignacio for one night and enjoyed the water-birds during the day and the frogs at night. An oasis is such a gem in the middle of the desert.

Here is the San Ignacio Mission. The missions get more ornate as the missionaries moved north.

Baja has a salt factory around Guerro Negro, and we drove through the saltworks on the way to the lagoon where we watched the gray whales. Here's a few of the "salt fields".

We came upon this tarantula nearby, as well.

Our adventures continued as we headed north. We cut across the width of the peninsula via a very long and rough sand road.

We passed by "Coco's Corner", home of Coco who was unfortunately in the hospital when we passed by. It is a favorite stop for the Baja 1000 racers. We signed the guest book and were offered our choice of either Coca-cola or a can of beer. George got a beer, which seems to be the best seller, judging by the decor of hundreds of beer cans which surround this place and make up the "Coco's Corner" sign.

Our next destination was Gonzaga Bay, on the Sea of Cortez in Northern Baja.

Two weeks earlier, a woman named Jane had flagged us down at a stop-light in California to compliment us on our van. It turns out that she and her husband, Sam, were heading to their house in Baja on the Gonzaga Bay the next day, and she invited us to come stay a night with them.

We took her up on her sweet offer, and had a great time exploring their unique "campo" on the beach. Most of the "beach shacks" were old trailers with new additions. Except for the desert and the sea, this place reminded me of home!

This village is many hours away from a paved road, and most of the folks here have dune buggies. Sam and Jane used to drive down here in their early 1970's VW van, back in the day when it was a LONG 12 hour drive from the nearest paved road to the north. They are still Volkswagen enthusiasts, and Sam took George for a ride in his VW Thing through the dunes and on the beach. Now George is hooked and wants to trade in the van for a Thing!

The next day we continued our bumpy ride heading north through "back Baja".

At the northern edge of the Sea of Cortez, where the once wide delta of the Colorado River meets the Gulf of California, we came upon this extremely barren landscape.

I can only imagine that this was once a fertile river delta which was teeming with life. Now it's the most lifeless landscape I've ever seen, except for this monkey.

As we continued northward beyond the nearly dry river bed of the Colorado, the landscape changed dramatically. The Colorado was an actual river once again, and we had entered the verdant "sponge" of the Colorado.

What a difference water can make!