Well, this summer adventure concludes this six year chapter of our lives. We left Puerto Vallarta with mixed feelings of excitement, sadness, and anticipation. After visiting Guadalajara one last time we were on the road to Canada. We went up to Mazatlan for a night and we were glad we didnt waste a weekend there while living in PV. It was nice enough but the beaches, mountains and town of PV are definitely more beautiful.
The next day we headed up to Topolobampo where we would catch the night ferry across to La Paz on the Baja California Peninsula. So what do some people do to shower while on the road? Well, one lady decided she would strip down to her birthday suit at the side of the road and fully lather up beside one of the water wells provided for automobile emergencies. She was just scrubbing away right there on the side of the road. Rob and I both did a double take, but the guys in the truck behind us decided to go back for a second look and turned around right there on the highway. Crazy!
While we were waiting for the ferry to take float we decided to check out a beach near by. We had a nice dinner on a small sandy beach and then went to watch the sunset. There were lots of people out on their four wheelers tearing around the beach and sand dunes. As we walked along the beach we saw a crowd of people encircled around what looked like a woman who had fallen off the back of a four wheeler. We were out of town so it seemed like a long time but finally the police and cruz roja (red cross) arrived on the scene. After all of that action on the beach, it was time to head back to the ferry. On the way back we saw four or five cars stopped by the side of the road. We pulled over to get in on the next bit of action. Flying out of a cave on the other side of the road there were millions and millions of bats in a continuous stream of black. We watched them for about 10 minutes. It was like National Geographic. Amazing!
We liked La Paz, but we didnt get to stay very long, just long enough to get a little lost. We found our way out and headed to Loreto. After arriving early afternoon we went to a dive shop to arrange diving for the next day. The strangest thing happened while we were in the dive shop. A police officer riding a bicycle (very uncommon in Mexico) came in and asked if the car outside was ours. He then asked us to please turn it around as it was parked facing the wrong direction on the road. Now let me tell you why this was shocking. We have been living in Mexico for 3 years and there are probably more cars parked on the wrong side of the road than on the correct side. Not to mention that we have ourselves in several towns and cities all across the country committed this infraction and never heard a word about it. The owners of the hotel we stayed in told us that there are so many police officers in town and it is such a sleepy town that they have nothing else to do but to enforce the law.
After getting that all sorted out we found the cute little hotel owned by this nice American couple. It was literally 50 meters from the dive shop. We headed out to the dive site where the sea lions always hang out. Hoping to see and swim with them we went out with anticipation. We were lucky enough to swim with a couple of these curious animals, playfully and gracefully swimming near by. Some other highlights were that we saw sting rays and a couple of large fish. The downfall of diving in Mexico is sometimes the water is a little frigid. I must say it was really difficult getting into the water for a second dive but we managed. Afterwards we warmed up on a white sand, clear water beach called Isla Coronado.
Staying at our hotel were two men (regulars) who had been out for their first day of a ten day fishing trip. They had caught some dorado and invited us to go for dinner at the restaurant down the street. They cooked it up three different ways and we enjoyed the fish with rice, beans, and veggies. It was probably the best fish we had ever eaten in our lives. So fresh and yummy!
The next day we were on the road again to head north in the hot desert on our way to a coastal town, Gerrero Negro, that is always cool all year round. The scenery was super rugged and dry, but it had a simple beauty to it. I enjoyed trying to take photos of the cacti as we zoomed by in Chuggy. We had two long days of driving to get us a couple of hours from the boarder. We arrived at the boarder to the US and due to the lack of signs on the Mexican side we go stuck in the exit line without getting the sticker taken off our vehicle. We had to go across the boarder and come back to Mexico. The strangest thing was, the signs we needed about an hour earlier were now in sight. It was very easy to find the place, get the sticker removed and then we were back to the line of traffic to cross the boarder again. Finally two hours later we made it to the customs officer and think he was a bit suspicious of our heavy loaded vehicle so we went to further inspection. Thankfully Chuggy always smells funny. The inspector couldnt stand the smell of our car and happily send us on our way. He! He! Way to go Chuggy!
We spent two nights with a couple we met three years ago in Nicaragua on our Costa Rica to Mexico trip. Stacy and Kris live near Newport Beach in a townhouse style residence area that is perfectly groomed. In fact the entire area is perfectly groomed. It was so great to spend some time with this amazing couple. We enjoyed some delicious must eats, frozen yogurt, In and Out Burger and some very special Sprinkles cupcakes. We were lucky and very happy to get out for a four hour hike one day in some near-by hills. Kris even took a business call during the hike and made it back to work just in time to wrap up the day. We are looking forward to when Stacy and Kris can come up our way so we can return the hospitality favor. It was lots of fun, thanks guys!
Then we were on the road again to Los Vegas. It was around dinner time when we arrived and Chuggy didnt like all of the stopping and starting, so we decided on the more expensive Flamingo Hotel (one of the originals on the strip) for our two night stay. I was hungry and a bit cranky so it made for an unpleasant arrival in Vegas. We decided to hit the hay early, sleep in a little the next morning then get a full day in the next day. We tried an all you can eat buffet for brunch at Harahs Hotel just down a bit from ours. Then we headed to the Bellagio Hotel to watch the fountain show to music. We wandered the strip until it was time to go to the show, Le Reve at the Wynn Hotel. The seats we chose were in the splash zone of the theatre, the front row. The theatre was a complete circle surrounding this huge pool of water. There wasnt a bad seat in the house. When the show started there was a huge AHHH! expression on our faces that never left during the entire performance. It truly was a Vegas experience. If anyone ever goes to Vegas and wants to be entertained seriously consider this show. It was spectacular!
After the show we caught the bus to Fremont St, down town Vegas. If you have never been there before, this part of town has a huge screen over the strip that plays videos and music every hour. We walked up and down taking photos, people watching and just taking it all in. We got a bit to eat at a pub and headed back on a very busy/slow bus to see the night time fountain show that we saw earlier in the day. The bus trip was a bit too slow and we ended up gambling a little before calling it a day. Overall we really enjoyed our Vegas time.
The next day we were off to The Grand Canyon, where we had booked a two night stay in the campground on the south rim. When we arrived at the site and started to set up camp, the clouds were getting darker and darker. Fortunately we were able to get the tent up in time, it was just a struggle getting a shelter built over the chained down picnic table as the rain poured down. Finally we succeeded after many a try and made our yummy sandwiches. There was no time to see the Canyon, but we did map out our plan of attack for the next day. We woke up and sleepily found our way to the edge of the Canyon. There are several lookouts all along the ridge and this being the July 4th weekend we were expecting crowds, this lookout was no exception. It was amazing though how you could just walk about 100-200m from the fenced off lookout and be alone. We discovered this at several points throughout the day.
After breakfast, we went to a visitors centre where there was a tiny female ranger to give us information about how the Grand Canyon was formed. It was time to take a little hike down the Canyon to see it from a different perspective. There are several warnings everywhere advising people to have sufficient water and food for these hikes because people have been known to die due to dehydration and altitude. Dont worry we had lots of water and snacks for our little two hour hike.
Funny story! There was this couple who were resting at the view point at the end of the hike. They casually pulled out their trail mix to have a little bite to eat, when suddenly out of nowhere came SUPER FAT ONE EYED SQUIRREL! I swear this was the fattest squirrel I had ever seen and boy was he fast. He literally attacked this woman so she would drop her goods. There are signs all over the park saying how important it is to not feed wildlife. This squirrel didnt need any handouts; he knew how to get what he wanted.
We were truly amazed at how beautiful the Canyon was from every viewpoint. We had a wonderful picnic lunch over looking the Canyon. At this point we were a little exhausted and wanted to rest up for a sunset view at the other end of the ridge. We were actually searching all day for where we thought the sunset would be the best. The bus system at the Grand Canyon was terrific. We could go anywhere and it was all free all the time. We did see spectacular colours radiating off of the cliffs of the canyon at sunset. We even had a view of the Colorado River. It was a jam packed day and after being on some jam packed buses we were ready for Chuggy once again.
Our next big destination was Knoxville, Tennessee, but as you can imagine the Grand Canyon to Knoxville is quite a trek. Was Chuggy up for the drive? We did three long 14 hour days of driving to finally arrive at Kimberly and Toms house. After crossing parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, we were ready for a little rest and a home cooked meal. By the way, New Mexico was our favorite State in terms of scenery.
We had a lovely stay with Tom and Kimberly. We slept in late! In a very comfortable bed. It was wonderful to play dominos, walk around their cute community and eat ice cream from the shop they used to own. Tom and Kimberlys house is like an art gallery full of beautiful and unique pieces. We met Tom and Kimberly in Costa Rica. It had been three years since we rolled out of their driveway, Chuggy full to the max, on our way to Mexico.
Our second day with them, we went for a hike in the Smoky Mountains. We made it to a shelter to eat an amazing turkey sandwich lunch thanks to Kimberlys super picnic packing job. We got to the lookout view point when the threatening clouds that had been following us all the way decided to open the flood gates. It was a huge downpour. We did manage to get a few shots of the beautiful scenery before the rain. Then we had a three hour hike back to the car. We all enjoyed nice hot showers when arriving back at the house. It was great to spend a couple of days with some friends and to rest up for the next couple of days driving. Thanks Tom and Kimberly for your hospitality. We hope we can return the favor one day.
We had one day of driving to get to Columbus, Ohio. Robs cousins, Matthew and Katie live there with their two boys. We unfortunately didnt have as much time to spend with them as our time was running out for this trip. When we arrived, Rob had an instant buddy, Luke. He enjoyed showing us around his house and yard, but I think playing with Rob was even better. Matthew and Katie prepared a delicious dinner for us, with some home brew. We were inspired by their veggie garden in hopes that one day we too could create such a masterpiece. Thanks so much Matthew and Katie for letting us crash at your place. We wish it could have been at least for one more night.
We left Columbus the next day heading for the US/Canada boarder. We reached Detroit and ended up crossing without a hitch. Since we have been out of the country we did have to go and check in, but other than that we were home at last. Well, almost! That evening we ate dinner with Leslie (a friend from Oman) and Kris in London. It was nice to finally meet Kris and to catch up with Les. Blake was kind enough to lend us his bed that night. It was so wonderful to catch up with him and congratulate him on his new squeeze! I must admit being closer to family is going to be a nice change.
On Sunday, July 12 (my daddys birthday), Chuggy rolled into the driveway on Reditt Court. My mom and Dad were able to join Rob, Judy and I for dinner. It is very weird to be back. But we are both looking forward to our NEW adventure right here in Ontario.
Thanks everyone for reading our updates and checking out the photos. It really has been a great adventure!