Saturday, February 2:
We're off on our next adventure! This time we are heading north. Far north. Almost to the arctic circle! We're going to Iceland! We're hoping to see the Aurora Borealis and catch some stunning scenery on the way. Our flight leaves Boston at 8pm. This gives us all day to pack. Which is great because we didn't really prepare as early as we normally do. We decided to check a bag this time so that we could bring microspikes for icy terrain. We have read mixed reviews about whether they are allowed in carry-on and we didn't really want them to be confiscated. We gathered all of our clothes and utilized compression sacks also so that we could fit everything in the checked bag. We both carried on a small day pack as well that contains a change of clothes, a book, and chargers/camera gear. After we were fully packed, we brought Loki to his friends' house down the street for his week long stay-cation. Though he loves staying with his pals, it is always the saddest part of our trip when we have to leave him!
Shortly after we dropped Loki off, our friends Shaun and Jenny came to pick us up. They were kind enough to agree to take us to the airport. For a dinner fee. We took them to Tacos Lupita in Lynn, MA because they have the best tacos around. But they still don't compare to the tacos we got in Guatemala. That's what Mandy thinks. I'd say they are a damn close aproximation. After we finished our tasty meal we made our way to Logan Airport. Rob and I weren't really sure what the airport security lines would be like even though the government had been turned back on. We were dropped off at the airport shortly after 5pm, checked a bag and were through security by 5:25pm. Then it was time to sit and wait. Our flight started boarding at Gate E11 promptly at 7:20pm and we took off as scheduled at 8pm.
We started the flight off with a movie. I watched Crazy Rich Asians and Rob watched Sideways. After the movies concluded, we both decided that we should try to get some sleep because we weren't sure how long it would be until we had another chance to do so. Sadly the seats were very uncomfortable and neither of us were able to get much shut eye. Sleep never comes when you're trying to force it.
Sunday, February 3: The flight arrived at Keflavik Airport at 5:30am about 30 minutes earlier than anticipated. We deplaned in a parking lot and boarded shuttles that tooks us to the terminal. Sadly, it wasn't until we had boarded the shuttle that I realized I forgot my inflatable neck pillow on the plane. Iceland: 1. Mandy: 0. We made our way through the airport and found a duty free shop. We've read that everything is extremely expensive in Iceland, so if you want any goods you should get them at the duty-free shop. This includes alcohol. We picked out a bottle of pinot grigio and a small bottle of rum that we could enjoy in the evening together. Rob also picked out a candy bar as he was hungry. It was called Kaffi. We got to the registers and were about to pull out a credit card when the cashier asked for our boarding passes. I said "Okay, but we're arriving. Does that matter?" Apparently the duty-free shop we were in was only for departures. We had to exit to the departure area and then buy the goods we wished to have. It was slightly frustrating as we had spent the time to pick out our products and then wait in the line to pay for them. But that's fine. We continued through the exit area, picked up our checked baggage, and then did the whole shopping thing again. At least we already knew what we wanted! This time we were allowed to pay for our items and take them with us. Sadly, Rob wasn't able to find the candy bar again. After we exited the duty-free shop we made our way to the bus terminal where we had reserved a trip to Blue Lagoon that also continued to Reykjavik. The bus we needed to take would start loading at 720am.
We hopped on the bus once it finally arrived. It was on time, but there were several, and we weren't sure which was the right one. The ride was short and uneventful. Once we got to Blue Lagoon, we stowed our gear in a locker, showered, and donned our swim trunks. We got into the water and released the stress of travel. What a fantastic way to wrap up an overnight flight! The water was warm and it didn't smell of sulphur like we anticipated. We found a swim-up bar and ordered a hard cider and a wine. The cider was way better than I expected! After we finished our drinks and disposed of the containers in the trash, we found some awesome reclining lounge chairs in a small quiet room and caught a quick nap. The nap was punctuated with the occasional infant scream, but it was better than none! Somewhat rested, but most definitely relaxed, we swapped back to our street clothes and caught a bus to Reyjavik.
In Reyjavik, we only had to walk like 47 miles with a thousand pounds of luggage to pick up this glorious machine. What a beaut! A like-new, one-owner, low miles, mint condish Dacia Duster diesel 6-speed with AWD! We tossed all our gear in and basked in the delicious scent of diesel that someone else probably spilled in the hatch. Refreshing!
We burnt rubber (not really, at all) all the way to Saffran for some lunch because, whatever time and day it was, we were hungry! We had no idea what it was because Mandy can't read the online menu in Icelandic. Hoping they'd have an English hard copy in real life, we stepped in. Surprise, Indian cuisine! I ordered Piri piri chicken. I got chicken satay. The piri piri was amazing. I also got an Icelandic white ale called Einstock Olgerd (or something?). It was better than I expected, usually foreign beers are disappointing.
We continued driving in totally blase weather with really lame visibility. It was spitting snow a little bit. Once we were out of the capitol area, the roads were essentially solid ice. There was snow on top, and maybe some holes here and there, but there were no painted lines visible, and certainly no real length of exposed pavement. It was a little sketchy, but once we got a feel for the car it was fine. The tires performed fantastic! We made our way to Flúðir ("flew-theer") where we'd be staying for the night in a tiny cottage. We stopped along the way to get some groceries to make breakfast and one dinner. Once we got settled in the cottage and brought our stuff in, we showered off the minerals from Blue Lagoon. Then, we went out in search of dinner. Although we weren't super hungry, we figured if we ate at the right times, it might help force us into the local time zone.
We went to Mika Restaurant, a local family-owned establishment we found. We weren't sure what to expect, but their website had an option to reserve a table, so we did. We walked in to exactly zero other patrons. So glad we made that reservation! We got seated and ordered a salad for Rob, and a pizza to share. All of it was delicious. We got a coffee and a tea afterwards (to help stay awake until the normal hours instead of crashing at about 6pm), which were served with a pair of chocolates made at the restaurant. They were the highlight of the meal, for sure, and we bought a couple small boxes of them to go. We cashed out and went back to our home for the night. We got into our swimsuits and went out to the hot tub to relax a bit before bed.
Only...there was no water.
We've been busy making some minor final tweaks to our trailer. Most of them are things we originally planned for, but had to just tie up some loose ends. A keen eye in previous posts might have noticed some of the updates. We felt like we should give some attention to those updates for those who might want to know. We've included it with a trip report, in case the trailer updates aren't interesting.
We spent a while discussing what to do with the exterior of the trailer. There were so many options to consider. We could leave it as-is, since we'd used marine grade plywood commonly used in boat building. We were not worried about the plywood delaminating or getting wet. But we'd noticed that it had a tendency to really attract dirt, and it was difficult to clean. We really liked the look of the wood; it's a really pretty grain. We considered using various clear wood finishes to help keep it clean while also adding another layer of protection. We considered various paints. We circled back round to leaving it alone. Eventually, we reached a decision.
We set to work removing everything loose from the exterior the trailer. What wasn't easily removed was masked off. Then, we sanded the entire exterior. Then we applied 2 coats of polyurethane to the wood faces. Then, we sanded the polyurethane. Then we applied 3 coats of Monstaliner, a truck bedliner coating, in a color called Desert Sand. Finally, we reassembled all of it.
During the disassembly/reassembly process, we opted to entirely remake the taillight panel from scratch. We weren't in love with the original one, and it was rather flimsy due to the nature of its design. It worked, just not very well. We made a replacement out of steel that incorporates a gasket to help seal against water intrusion. We also added a license plate light, which should have been included initially.
We noted during a previous outing that the interior lighting situation was desperately lacking. During the assembly process, we had run wires for interior lights on both sides of the ceiling. We just hadn't got around to actually installing them because they weren't an immediate need. We could get by without them. Well, this became a priority, so we finally took care of that. It was pretty simple. One of those things that should have been done much earlier, but wasn't for no good reason. The improvement well worth the minimum of effort.
While we're talking about lighting, let's go back outside. We have been hoping the completion of the trailer would allow us to do more shoulder season camping, and perhaps even winter camping someday. As you know, late fall, winter, and early spring all mean it's dark around dinnertime. Rather than fumbling with a lantern or headlamp, we addressed the lack of kitchen lighting with something more user-friendly. This was another thing we'd considered in the initial assembly, and run wires for. Installing the light was just a simple matter of making a couple holes to secure it in place and pass the wires through the exterior wall, then make the electrical connections just inside the wall.
At the same time, we installed a 12VDC outlet next to the light. This can be used for anything, but the plan is to use it for an LED rope light. Someday. When we get one. Some friends use them and it's a really nice ambient light for around camp, without being too harsh on the eyes after dark.
The last minor upgrade was the incorporation of an entry step. The difference is night and day. It makes getting in and out of the trailer so much easier. We should have installed this on day one.
Friday after work, we scrambled to pack the last few items before hitting the road. We dropped Loki off at his friends' house, and set sail in the dark. We made it to Hooksett, NH, where we fueled up, got some snacks, and waited for our friends Brendan and Hannah to meet us. They arrived not long after, and we continued on our way. The roads were wet and the temperature was low, so we took our time and exercised caution where there may be ice. Eventually, and not a moment too early, we turned onto Forest Service Road 30 in Pittsfield, VT. If you've been paying attention, this might sound familiar. One of our first trips away from home with our trailer was to this same area. The decision to return was manifold, but familiarity knowing we'd arrive in the dark and snow was a strong factor. The town had just received about 10 inches of fresh snow, and more was forecast to fall. It didn't seem wise to try to explore uncharted territory in these conditions, hauling trailers, in the snow.
It was no surprise to find that the road was not plowed, although at least one vehicle had ventured ahead of us. We were also not shocked when all of the campsites were vacant. We chose one that allowed easy entry. Or so we thought. It wasn't long before we got stuck and had to have Brendan give us a little tug to unstick ourselves. I borrowed his shovel to give myself a better shot at getting up a very small hill (about 2 feet tall, max) that was fighting and winning. Eventually, we got the trailer into a spot we liked, shut down the truck, and cracked open a celebratory dinner beer. It was late, we were tired, and far too lazy to cook. We laughed as Brendan's dog, Jackson, ran around absolutely LOVING the snow. Shortly thereafter, we went to bed.
When we woke up, it was really hard to pull back the covers and get out of bed. We were so toasty. Eventually, we had to get up. I set to work heating up some cold-brewed coffee for Mandy. I passed it through the window to her while she was still working on getting up. Then I set to making a breakfast scramble with pepper, onion, eggs, and sausage. And cheese! I forgot it until the last minute. Doesn't matter, it was warm, and it was so tasty. And warm! We wiped the dishes clean enough and put everything away.
We talked with Brendan and Hannah about the plan for the day. What would we do? Ultimately the four of us came up with a plan we all liked. First, we detached the trailers and piled into our respective vehicles. We continued further up the road we were on, because we were curious where it'd go. Some maps show it end at various places, and a trail map at the beginning shows it connect to a whole network of trails. We cruised along slowly, carefully, in the snow. The road continues ever upward, though it is not particularly steep. Eventually, about 4 miles past the camp site, the road terminates with a locked gate. Beyond that point, only hiking and snowmobiling is allowed. Satisfied, we returned to our campsite.
Here, we hitched up the trailers again, and towed them back in the direction of the main road. We had seen a different campsite that we wanted to try to get into now that there was daylight. The new campsite was much further from the road with a long "driveway". It was also right on the river. And, bonus! we found the fire ring! We flattened down the snow by driving back and forth in a couple clearings, making easier access for the trailers. We dropped the trailers on the flattened spots and got them reasonably leveled, then we made our way back down to the Pittsfield General Store.
We utilized the restrooms in the general store, then we noticed the fresh homemade banana bread, and had to get a few slices. It was amazing! We also got hot coffees and looked at some maps of the area for a while to sort out the rest of our plan for the day. Once we were warmed up, we went back out and hopped in our vehicles.
We made our way southeast towards Woodstock. We'd heard good things about Worthy Kitchen, and we wanted to find out for ourselves. The ride was only about a half hour through lovely, snow-capped, tiny towns. The day was clearing up and the sun was peeking out here and there, and the temperature was fairly mild as compared to the previous night.
We got seated in Worthy Kitchen and hopped in line to order food and drinks. I ordered a sausage sandwich and Mandy got a fried chicken sandwich. We ordered a round of drinks, too. We returned to our table with our drinks and waited for our food to be ready. The beers were tasty but I forget what we had. Me too! The sausage sandwich was okay. The flavor was great, it was just really messy and difficult to eat. The chixwich sandwich was delicious! I highly recommend it.
After we were finishing up at Worthy Kitchen, we realized we were not too far from Singleton's. We'd found one of the best sandwiches ever at a Singleton's the last time we were in Vermont. It wasn't the same location, but we figured they'd be able to make the same sandwich. So we went. Unfortunately, they didn't have the same menu at the deli. I told them what I was looking for, from memory. The guy working at the deli boasted that their bacon was even better than the other location's. Toot toot. I was skeptical, but okay. I got the sandwich and opened it up as soon as we got outside. I could maybe agree that their bacon was better, though it's hard to be sure. But the sandwich was a disappointment. There was very little bacon, where it's suppose to be the primary ingredient. There was also caramelized onions which weren't supposed to be there. It wasn't a bad sandwich, but it couldn't hold a candle to #14 at original Singleton's in Proctorsville. Oh well, now I know. We headed back towards camp.
We arrived back at camp and none of us were hungry. We got a small fire going in the fire pit, and setup our chairs around it. It helped to take the edge off the cold. We realized the snow was fantastic for making snowballs, so we built a snowman. (Rob did all the work.) He came out great, the best snowman any of us had made in years! We also tested a theory that building a wall around the back side of the fire pit would help to reflect heat back towards us. We built a 2 foot tall wall halfway around the fire pit. It definitely helped! As we worked our way through the firewood that we had, the hunger came back. It was not enough to overcome the cold, though. So, when the fire burnt down to coals and went out, we all went to bed.
When we woke up Sunday morning, I set to work making another breakfast scramble. This time we had pre-cooked potato from last night's fire to add! The cold weather definitely warrants eating more hot food, so the potato was a welcome addition. We ate quickly, and put the dirty dishes in the sink to be taken care of at home. After we cleaned up, we got in the truck and turned the heat on to stay warm while we waited for Brendan and Hannah to wake up and for the day to get warmer. We found a copy of S.W.A.T. on DVD, and put that in the in-dash stereo and watched it on an admittedly tiny screen. It was entertaining regardless. And it wasn't long before our friends were up and moving about. They opted not to cook breakfast on account of the cold. Everyone was in agreement to just hit the road, so we hitched up the trailers and set out.
As we got back to the main road by the general store, we parted ways. Brendan and Hannah were headed to the original Singleton's, which would have added about an hour to our long ride home. I struggled to decide, but ultimately opted to get home earlier. We should have gone with them. Oh well. It was nice to be home early afternoon and spend some time with Loki after we picked him up from his friends' house.
As with any trip, this one began in the days leading up to the actual departure. On Wednesday, we did most of our packing and final preparations. We wrapped up fairly leisurely on Thursday morning, moving food and drinks into the fridge in our trailer, packing clothes into its “dresser” compartment, and getting Loki and his gear loaded up. He didn't really help us out much with packing. We pulled out of the driveway around 9:30am. A rather late start for us. A nice break from the hustle. We navigated to our friend Brendan’s house in Ayer, MA, and arrived about 10:30 or so. He was just wrapping up some unexpected repairs including drilling out a hood lock and jump starting his Jeep. You know, a relaxing end to a 24-hour work shift. Loki ran around with Brendan’s pup Jackson for a little bit and we chatted with Brendan and his girlfriend Hannah before we all got back into our respective vehicles and rode out.
We were headed towards Reading, Vermont, but we opted to take the scenic route. We took a whole bunch of twisty, hilly minor highways. Honestly, I was just playing follow the leader, and not truly paying attention to the route. So I’m not sure how we got there, exactly. We stopped at Singletons in Proctorsville, VT, at Brendan’s recommendation. We had to pick up some local craft beers obviously, and a couple food items including a box of rice pilaf to go with dinner one night, as well as sandwiches for lunch, as it was about that time. I ordered on Mandy’s behalf, as she was outside entertaining Loki. I got her a #2, which contained buffalo chicken. Her go-to. I must admit that this was not my favorite sandwich. It had sour cream and salsa in with the buffalo chicken which was a little strange. I got myself a #14, which had turkey, bacon (NOT TURKEY BACON! EW), mustard, and cheese and was absolutely phenomenal. I very highly recommend this sandwich every time you’re in the area. Mandy stored the rice pilaf in the lower door pocket. This is a weird detail to point out, but it will become clear why later. *shrug*
With our bellies full and finally fully provisioned, we pushed on through the final leg to our destination for the day; Reading, VT. Specifically, Pete’s house. Pete hosted the annual Vermont Overland Rally this weekend. Actually, it’s the event formerly known as the Vermont Overland Rally. It is now called the Vermont Overland Birdwatching Safari. The premise is the same; 3 nights of camping at the event organizer's expansive, remote private property, and 3-4 days of exploring rural Vermont and off-roading through various trails in the area. We checked in at the garage and got our vehicle sticker. We followed Brendan and Hannah into the yard to locate a good spot to setup our trailers for the weekend. We went through the lower clearing in the yard, which was nearly full around the perimeter. We crossed a small bridge over the river and entered the woods. We passed a smaller clearing to our right, which was pretty full, and we went down a sharp drop, then back up a little ledge. Here, the woods became more tricky to navigate with a trailer, but we managed. We crept along slowly, and the trailer handled the rough terrain perfectly. Eventually, we had explored most of this area of the property, to find there were no good spots to setup. We headed back towards the river. After we went back down the ledge, we noticed a clearing we had completely missed before. It was totally vacant, except for one Jeep, but there was tons of room for us. We pulled in and began figuring out the best place to drop the trailers, while also leaving room for one more vehicle which was on the way. As we were setting up shop, the Jeep that was parked in this space left and the driver said he wasn’t returning to that space so we were free to take it. That was a game changer, so we reoriented the trailers and dropped them all the way in the back of the clearing.
Not five minutes after we got situated, Bob walked up. He’d just checked in with his family and was getting the lay of the land. We chatted for a few, then he left to fetch his vehicle and his wife, Jess, and two boys Claude and Ben. They set up next to us, forming a sort of horseshoe around the back of the clearing. Bob and Brendan had both been to this event in years past, but we were new. We cracked open a beer and setup chairs and the fire pit. After getting settled in and relaxing a little bit, just taking in the atmosphere and all the amazing vehicles around the place, we decided it would be a good idea to setup the awning because the weather report was calling for rain overnight. Though the weather was fair for the time being, it’s always easier to take care of these things ahead of time.
We went for a stroll around the property with Bob as our guide. We explored the opposite side of the road, territory we had not been yet, except when we were checking in at the house. Behind the house, the land slopes pretty steeply up. Lots more vehicles were setup atop this hill, however. So we did a big loop around, checking out all sorts of cool overlanding rigs. Bob pointed out all the people and trucks he knew, which was essentially all of them. It’s awesome to have a guide who is a core member of the event. We chatted with several people on our way back towards our campsite, and we met so many puppies. Loki had so many pals around!
When we got back from our walk, we decided we should make dinner. We pulled out the grill drawer and I set to work cooking bratwurst we got at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen in Peabody, MA. We toasted some buns for them, too. With or without another beer, these bratwurst are fantastic. We’ll definitely be getting more meats from Karl’s. As is tradition, the group coalesced around the fire for a round of drinks, jokes and stories as the daylight faded. Eventually, we flipped on the red night lights on the trailer, and called it a night. Sometime during the night, it began to rain as predicted. We’d had the foresight to move the awning over the trailer door, so we could stay dry while we were trying to get in and out of bed, which was great. I had to pee in the middle of the night, and the awning and night lights made it not suck at all.
Friday morning, we woke up, but Loki didn’t (yet). We slept much like babies do not. We let Loki continue to sleep, and relaxed to the patter of rain on the roof. Once he came back to life, we all got up to find we were the last to rouse for the day, around 8:30. That was weird! The rain had stopped, which was great. We got some coffee in us, and set to work heating up some breakfast sandwiches Mandy had made ahead of time. This made cleanup a breeze. We huddled as a group and pored over maps to determine a plan for the day. Eventually, we decided on some trails to hit which would take us to Woodstock Farmers’ Market for lunch. We would figure out the second half of the day after lunch.
We aired down the truck’s tires to make them a bit softer for off-road comfort and to give extra traction on boulders. We tuned our radios to a quiet channel so we could communicate across our three vehicles. We got the trail maps pulled up on the tablet so we could see where we were going, even though we’d be playing follow the leader again. We set out onto the road for just a short ride until we turned off into the woods. The trails were pretty mild, so the pace was decent. Not extremely slow, but by no means quick, either. Just enough rain had fallen to make a fun amount of mud without completely washing out everything. We were able to cruise along in 2WD high range for a while. Eventually, we shifted into low range for comfort as the terrain started to get a bit rougher. We caught up to a few other rigs on the trail just before we reached a trail junction. They continued on straight where we took a sharp left turn. It was basically a U-turn, and we had to make it a 3-point turn as the trail was so narrow. Shortly after the U-turn, Bob spotted a small waterfall off the trail, so we all hopped out to go check it out up close. Loki put on his cape (aka hi-vis vest), and he and Jackson ran around to blow off some steam.
After a short break here we continued on following where Bob led us. We knew we were headed straight for the legendary crack, though we really didn’t know what that meant. The road leading up to the so-called crack was filled with plenty of potholes and large rocks. It was getting progressively worse! The road was very bumpy and uneven and made the truck feel like it was going to tip over in a few spots. There came a point where I decided to get out and walk along the trail with Loki so we could avoid the bumpy ride. I also intended to take pictures of the truck while watching from the sidelines as Rob entered The Crack. There was a trail along the ridge of the big muddy ravine where we could watch safely from above. Unfortunately, Loki was so concerned with being more than 3 feet away from Rob and I was too consumed with making sure he didn’t pull me into The Crack that I was unable to get any photos. The Taco made it through the obstacles with only a little more mud than at the start. After we made sure that everyone made it through the big obstacle safely, the rest of the way into Woodstock was smooth sailing. We made good time into Woodstock for lunch.
We stopped at the Woodstock farmers market to grab some sandwiches for lunch. It was quite busy here. I ran in to pick up the necessary items including coffee and fresh veggies. I ordered Rob a Cuban sandwich and I got a sandwich with turkey, cheddar, apple slices, and honey mustard on grilled wheat bread. They were both delicious! During our lunch stop I went to grab my phone only to discover I had no idea where it was. I had used it at some point on our ride when we had service to send a message. But I hadn’t seen it since then. We mentioned this to the group before we got too far into planning the rest of the day’s travels. We weren’t demanding to return the way we came, but after we scoured the truck and came up empty, the group all agreed we should go back to where we got out at the waterfalls to have a look. We couldn’t drive back up The Crack because that would probably be impossible, but also because it’s a one-way trail. We found a different trail that runs approximately parallel, and cuts back in in a spot which would allow us to get to where we needed to be.
In his usual fashion, Bob left us in the literal dust on the trail. We crept along in familiar territory, noting that the trail seemed longer than it had just a few hours before. Eventually, we heard Bob come on the radio with both types of news. He’d found Mandy’s phone, face down in a puddle of mud and someone had probably driven over it as the case was cracked. We caught up to him to retrieve the phone, and Mandy threw it into the bag of rice pilaf that we had stashed in the door pocket, hopeful. We continued along the trail, this time diverting before we were forced into the one-way crack trail. We found our way to pavement and cruised back to Pete’s house to relax early and get dinner and drinks going. We got back to camp around 6ish.
Tonight, I made chicken thighs and broccoli for dinner. Loki got kibble. Again. It’s his favorite! We cracked open a drink each. Rob had picked me up Strawberry Fields from Stow Cider company. It was pretty tasty and refreshing although the strawberry flavor was quite light. Rob had some stupid beer that he can’t even remember the name of. Loki drank water and went to bed early. Right after dinner around 7pm. He curled up into a tiny fluffy ball of puppy and passed out. The rest of us enjoyed the rest of the night around the campfire making s’mores and chatting the chill away. Eventually, we all tapped out and left Bob to his own devices.
We woke up Saturday morning late again. We weren’t the last ones though. Bob was miraculously awake even though he’d been up until about 4am. Brendan and Hannah arose shortly after us. Everyone worked though their own breakfast routines. We had home fries, bacon and eggs and lots of coffee. We had another morning huddle to devise a plan for the day. After we cleaned up from breakfast, we added some air back into the tires because the day’s plan called for a fair bit of highway driving. Harder tires get better fuel economy, generally speaking.
So we cruised over to Silo Distillery in Windsor, VT. We chatted with the owner a little bit about their offerings, and she offered small samples of a bunch of liquors. We each loved the maple whiskey. Actually, everyone did. It’s really fantastic. I liked it and I don't even drink whiskey! I spotted a 4-pack of hard ciders in a small refrigerator wearing the Silo brand, so I asked what that was about. We learned that they only very recently began making hard ciders, and that 4-pack was the last of their second canning session. Obviously we bought it. Bob took two bottles of the maple whiskey.
We hopped back into our vehicles and pounded pavement for a while up to Danville, Vermont. Here, we got off the highway and looked for lunch. The first stop wasn’t actually the first stop. We pulled into a scenic overlook to take a couple pictures.
Then we continued to Marty’s 1st Stop at the Irving station. So the first stop was the second stop. There was a deli here so we fueled up and got sandwiches for lunch. I stayed outside to pump gas and keep Loki company. He got out to stretch his legs a bit and wander around the parking lot. Apparently the inside was kind of a disaster. Mandy can tell the story; she was there. The building was very crowded inside and I think we got there just in time. A school bus arrived just after we placed our order and things got chaotic. The staff seemed overwhelmed but we eventually got our order. We got two sandwiches, one with spicy cheese, jerk chicken, and raspberry jam. This one was really excellent. Sorry Brendan (he tried to order this as well but I got the last one). The other was a roast beef sub that was pretty good but a distant second to the spicy-sweet first one. As we ate, we made our way to Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend. Here we tried one Earl and one Susan. Susan is an American IPA and Earl is a coffee oatmeal stout. We shared them, although the Susan was mostly mine; Mandy doesn't like IPAs. They were both quite good. After, Jess shared her Flora with us, which is a sour beer. This was probably our favorite of the three we tried. The woodwork inside the brewery is really awesome and the yard is full of dogs. The views are awesome, too! After Brendan stocked up on fresh beer to bring home, we set out.
From Hill Farmstead, we drove just a short ride down the road before turning into a narrow passage between two trees on the side of the road. It looked like we were headed straight into the woods! The trail was pretty straight, and fairly mild, except for a bumpy section in the middle, and it was only about a half mile long. We parked at the shore of Long Pond in a tiny cul de sac, if you could even call it that. We walked along the shore on some tiny trails and let the dogs splash around in the pond. Jackson is still learning how to swim, but he did really well. We did a poor job of birding on this “birdwatching safari”. We didn’t see any! After spending some time on the beach, we figured we should start heading back to camp. Once we got on the road, we made a snap decision to split up. Bob and Co. would take the highway back to get to camp fast. Brendan said he was going to try to catch trails most of the way back. We opted to follow Brendan.
It quickly became an adventure. We referred to our maps and got ourselves into navigation mode. We were in unfamiliar territory. The day before, I think all the trails were familiar at least to our lead vehicle. Today, we were on our own. We found the first trail with ease. But not long after we got on it, we reached a junction. We pondered the right action to take, and decided to take the road more travelled. That was a mistake, as it would turn out to be someone’s driveway. We turned around as soon as we realized our error, and got back on the right path. Once we drove a short distance, we were able to confirm with GPS that we were indeed on the right trail once again. We continued to a downed tree across the trail. Someone had cut it in half with a chainsaw and just left it there. We were able to pull one half of it enough that we could navigate over them with the vehicles, and continue on. The trail was pretty mild and lasted about 5-10 minutes. We then reached pavement again and we followed this to our next trail. This trail was mostly up hill and also fairly mild. We got to what seemed to be the end of the trail as we could see pavement but again there was a tree down in our path. This time it was too large to drive over. We opted to not move it from it’s spot and backed down the trail until we had enough space to turn around and leave the way we came. We decided at this point in time to hit the highway back towards our base camp. We weren’t sure how many more obstacles we would encounter and we were still about 2 hours from camp on paved roads. Once we got closer to Reading we decided to try out a few more trails. All of which were mild to moderate and obstacle free. It was quickly approaching late evening and we decided to get back to camp as Loki and I were getting quite hangry. We arrived back to camp at 803pm.
Rob cooked dinner tonight while I got Loki fed and settled into bed. We had steaks, green beans, and mushrooms tonight and it was so delicious. We shared some conversation and smores around the campfire after dinner again. After our fire died down, we decided to visit an adjacent campsite. The party site. We made sure Loki was comfy and went next door following Bob’s lead as he seemed to know everyone. Brendan jokingly called Bob the mayor of the Safari. I hung around until I finished my beer I had in progress and then decided to go back to camp to warm up and fall asleep.
I stuck around after Mandy went to sleep for an hour or so. I got to chat with the event organizer, Pete, for a little bit which was great. Bob introduced us, and I had the opportunity to thank him for putting the whole thing together and let him know we’d had a great time staying at his property. He said he was very glad to hear we’d enjoyed our first time at the event and he was super friendly. Shortly thereafter, a crowd began to form around the tallest guy in the site. A woman I’d just met, Amy, was talking rather loudly. After a moment, I realized she was the hype man, getting everyone ready to witness a spectacle. Amy hopped on someone else’s shoulders and held out an empty beer can over her head. The tall man, Vaughn (I’m not sure if that’s the right spelling) kicked the can out of her hand. It was impressive; everyone cheered. Then the crowd dispersed, as suddenly as it formed, and everyone resumed their conversations. Bob brought out one of the bottles of maple whiskey he’d got at Silo Distillery and passed it around. So, unfortunately, I lost track of a lot of the other names of people I’d talked to. But the common theme was that everyone was super friendly, welcoming, and just really stoked to be out there. Eventually, at some point, I don’t really know when exactly, I did the Irish goodbye. I had to crash for the night. It was late, that much I do know, and I was exhausted. I headed towards the red lights and found my way home. I made sure to make a bunch of noise to wake up Mandy (thanks…), then I passed out immediately.
I woke up Sunday against my will. I had to sit while Mandy did basically everything. It was a rough start, to be sure. Eventually, once I got some coffee, Tylenol and delicious home fries, bacon and eggs in me, I started to feel like a human again. At least I wasn’t alone; Bob and Brendan were struggling, too. After breakfast, we began packing up all our stuff. It seemed like everyone was leaving all at the same time; there was almost a line to get out of Pete’s yard. We weren’t in a hurry at all, but we skipped washing the dishes, and instead just filled the sink with all the dirty ones. We figured it’d just be easier to do them once we got home.
Bob, Jess, Ben, and Claude finished packing first, and they left as soon as they were ready. We said our goodbyes and wished them safe travels. We finished packing all our gear fairly quickly, and Brendan and Hannah finished up not long after us. We did a sweep of the whole clearing for any trash that might have been left behind, and tossed the trash bag on the tailgate to haul to the dumpster on our way out. The dumpster was completely full so we just found space in the truck bed for the trash bag and carried it home. We said goodbye to Brendan and Hannah and immediately took a wrong turn onto the road. Great start. We set our GPS to navigate us home, but then remembered that we wanted to return to Singletons for another #14 sandwich. As soon as we found a good spot to, we did a U-turn, and navigated back to the general store.
We arrived and parked along the edge of the parking lot with the trailer, trying to stay as far out of the way as possible. There was so much traffic in the parking lot, I ended up moving the truck and trailer further away from the commotion while Mandy went inside to order the sandwich for me. After I parked again, I noticed that it looked like some of the stuff in our kitchen had shifted and was pushing one of the doors open. I was approached by an older couple as I was setting the kitchen area back in order. They were very curious about the trailer, and they had numerous questions. They were stunned to find that we’d built it from scratch, and suddenly had even more questions. They were very enthusiastic, and it was a pleasure to chat with them about it. They were quite impressed. They suggested we build another one to sell. I had to tell them no, that we’re more interested in getting out and using it now that it’s done, rather than spending all our free time in the garage building another one. As fun as it was to create a tiny home from nothing, it is far more satisfying to finally use it.
Mandy returned with the sandwich and it was just as good as the one I’d had Thursday. Truthfully, I wasn’t even hungry, but it was so worth it. I ate it off the tailgate, and told her about the inquisitive couple, before we got back in the truck to head home. Just as we were getting situated in the truck, Loki barfed in the back. So we got out and cleaned that up and made sure he was okay. Then we got back in and finally set off. The ride home was pretty uneventful. We took a more direct route home than we’d taken on Thursday on our way to the event. We got back home around 2pm.
We woke up and cooked our own breakfast of bacon and eggs and cold-brewed coffee. After we showered and got ready, we set back out to relax at the beach some more. Same as yesterday, we walked through the intense heat to get there. We were not getting used to it. We met a very friendly lady out in the water who seemed to chat with just about anyone who was there. We watched a boat full of young ladies who we surmised were celebrating a bachelorette party just off shore. After a couple hours of sun and sand and hanging out in the water, we donned our clothes and went to catch a city bus toward South Beach again.
We decided a better plan this day was to head to the closest bus stop, which was just outside the park entrance. We rode down to the 60s-streets and hopped off. There were a bunch of restaurants nearby, so we only wandered for 5 or 10 minutes before we picked one that looked appealing. We went into Masa Taqueria and ordered a plate of tacos and a drink each. The drinks were cool and refreshing, and the tacos were really good! I got pulled pork with pineapple. Mandy got tacos carnitas.
With our bellies full, we crossed a few blocks to Oriana Tattoo to see if they could take a couple walk-ins. They squeezed us in! Mandy got a tiny paper airplane and I got a palm tree. We are very pleased with the work we got done. And the shop was very clean!
After tattoos, we hobbled to Las Vegas 6 because the sign said they had Cuban cuisine. Mandy got empanadas and I got another Cuban sandwich. It wasn’t quite as good as the one I got the day before, but it wasn’t bad. We also shared some sangria, which was good. After we settled our bill, we continued back north towards our place for the night, although we knew we wouldn’t walk the whole way. The weather was much more tolerable in the evening, so it was a good time for a stroll. We walked along the area between the beach and the boardwalk, and we were surprised to find a lot of large parties ongoing. It seemed like most of them were graduation parties, or maybe just large family gatherings. It looked like a really cool spot to have a get-together. We discussed how that would totally not be allowed near home.
We continued until we were so sick of walking that we had to find a bus. As we exited the park area, we cut through a feral cat sanctuary area, which was interesting. It looks like the cats are watered and fed, but fenced off so they have a place they can hang out unimpeded by humans. The fence of course is coarse enough that the cats can pass freely through it. It took way too long for the bus to finally come pick us up. We were relieved when it finally came. We just needed to get back to our space and plop on a comfy seat and relax. When we hopped off the bus, we had just a short 5 minute walk up the road to our place. We were pleased to pass by a live concert of classic rock covers. When we got up to our room, we stepped onto the balcony with a couple adult beverages and we had an unobstructed view of the stage, and the music was clear to hear. It was a lovely night for a show, so we relaxed in the chairs on the balcony until we were ready to sleep.
Sunny Isles: Day 4
We woke up slowly and made breakfast. This was our last morning in the sunshine state so we got our things all packed up and did a sweep of the apartment. Everything was in order so we hailed an uber and got a ride to the airport. The flight home was uneventful and we arrived in the late afternoon. We quickly found our vehicle in the parking lot and headed home to pick up Loki and unpack after another enjoyable vacation.
We took our time in the morning and woke up slowly. After showers we decided that we should start the day with coffee, obviously. We looked up coffee shops in the area and found one near the grocery store. We started walking and were immediately feeling the intense heat of the day. It was about a ten minute walk until we stepped into the Art Cafe. We each ordered a breakfast sandwich and a chocolate croissant. Rob got an iced coffee and I ordered an iced mocha. Everything was delicious and left us satisfied. We stopped at Winn-Dixie on our way back to the apartment and picked up bacon, eggs, coffee, and trail mix for the next couple of days. We planned to cook breakfast the remainder of the vacation but buy lunch and dinner while we were out exploring. The walk back to the apartment was quick in the hot sun. The air conditioning was a welcome reprieve as we dropped off the groceries before setting back out.
Before we left again, we put on plenty of sunscreen and packed towels and a few other items. We opted to walk to the beach, because it was pretty close. We were about halfway when we began to regret that decision. We felt like we were melting into the pavement it was so hot! We were used to the constant breeze in Aruba, which was non-existent in Sunny Isles. So although the temperature was approximately the same, we just couldn't stay cool.
Finally at the beach at Haulover Park, we found a spot to set down our belongings and all of our clothes, and went straight into the water. Though the water was warm, it was bliss. We paddled around and just generally enjoyed the relaxation of floating around with nothing at all to do all day. After a while, we decided to take back to the sand, and work on getting rid of some tan lines. We lasted a whole 15 minutes, at best, before we had to get back in the water. The heat was just so intense! The tide had gone out a bit since our arrival, and we saw a few other people far out from the shore, clearly standing. So we made our way out to the "Swim Area" marker, just because. We could walk most of the way there, about 100ft from the shoreline. We loved the beautiful sandy bottom and the crystal clear-blue waters here.
After getting out and back in the water another round, we finally decided to check out some more of the area. We made our way to the showers to wash off the salt and sand, and put our clothes back on. Then we walked down the sidewalk through the park, southbound. We stole into the shade whenever we could find it. Eventually, we made it to a large parking lot that had a bus stop, and we agreed it would be much better to take a ride. Our pace was quite slow on foot. Plus, the bus had air conditioning. Bonus! We got on just in time, because it started to rain pretty heavy once the bus started rolling towards South Beach. So lucky.
We rode the bus down to about the 20-streets by the time it stopped raining. We hopped off and checked out what was nearby to satisfy our newly-developed hunger. At 16th Street, we found the Liquor Lounge, which had seats outside, but under a roof, which was exactly what we were in the mood for. In case more rains came, we'd be covered, but we got to people-watch. We ordered a round of drinks and a pizza to split. I got a mojito. My favorite! There was a two-for-one on Long Island Iced Tea, so I got one, then another. They hit the spot, and then some. The pizza was better than we'd hoped for, so that was a nice surprise, too!
After lunch, we wandered around a bit, just looking at all the sights and fancy cars. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces became mundane, there were so many of them around. Eventually, we hailed a ride through Uber to take us to the mainland for our next meal. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us before we began this leg of the journey, there was construction on the bridge. This caused a huge amount of traffic. So we were averaging about a city block per 10 minutes or so. Our driver spoke only very limited English, so I tried my best to communicate with him in Spanish, but I'm a little rusty. So we couldn't say much. But he was very friendly, and he tried his best. Eventually, we broke through to the other side of the bridg. From there, it was smooth sailing into the heart of Little Havana.
He dropped us off and we said our thanks. We walked around a couple blocks trying to find a good spot to grab a seat for some food. We found El Pub Restaurant and grabbed a table under the awning on the sidewalk. A few minutes later, we noticed some extremely dark clouds rolling in fast. The skies opened up again and dumped so much rain. It was a really impressive storm, and it brought a very welcome cooling effect. We watched from the shelter of the restaurant while we sipped sangria and patiently waited our much anticipated Cubano sandwiches. This was the main event of the trip, in a way. When we saw that return flights from Aruba to Boston had a layover in Miami, we decided to do an extended layover so we could get Cubans.
The Cubano sandwiches were tasty but not quite as delicious as we anticipated. They were pretty good, but didn't blow my head off. The ingredients were great but the bread that was used could have been better. We enjoyed our meal while watching the intense rain storm. We were happy that we chose one of the tables further undercover as we had contemplated sitting right next to the sidewalk. Once we were finished eating we waited for a break in the rain storm to continue walking down Calle Ocho and explore more of Little Havana. We stumbled upon La Colada that specializes in Cuban coffees. I ordered a capablanca. I ordered a tres leches. Our coffees each came with little cookie. I highly recommend checking out this coffee shop if you are in the area. Everything was so delicious and the owners were very friendly and chatty.
After our coffees we began walking again towards the heart of Miami. We didn't really have a destination in mind but were just planning to see where our feet took us. It was still drizzling outside but eventually the rain started to pick up a bit. At this point we decided to call it a day and get an Uber to take us home. We relaxed for a bit on our balcony until the coffee buzz wore off and we drifted off to sleep.
Today is a travel day. But it’s a pretty relaxed one, so very low stress. We woke up and made breakfast. Mandy made it, not we. Credit where it’s due. We packed up all our stuff pretty slowly, and went over to the grocery store on foot. We wanted to pick up a couple things for snacks at the airport and on the plane. We’d been told to arrive to the airport 3 hours early because we would go through customs twice. This was a little unorthodox, but it’s because U.S. Customs and Border Protection has an office in the airport on Aruba. So you “leave” Aruba and “enter” the United States all inside the same building, before you fly across the Gulf of Mexico. The line was not long at all, and we moved through much quicker than the 3 hours we planned for. So we had plenty of time to chill in the airport before takeoff. We saw some of our party in the airport, and a few of them were even on our flight. We said our “his” and “byes”, and eventually made our way through the gate onto the airplane.
Once we got situated on the craft, we heard the occasional baby noise, and didn’t think much of it. Once we were up in the air and climbing, the noises became more frequent. They were emanating from the seat immediately behind us. At cruising altitude, we listened to nearly incessant screaming for the entire remainder of the flight to Fort Lauderdale. I’m pretty sure this is the least enjoyable flight I’ve ever been on. Someone probably told the parents at some point that having children would be ‘fun”. They were pretty nonchalant about the whole situation. Not that there was anything to be done about it, but they expressed no discomfort whatsoever. In fact, they chuckled at the thought of how many people around them were probably annoyed at their hellspawn’s antics. When the plane finally landed, we couldn’t run up the jetway fast enough. We booked it all the way outside the airport, ecstatic to be in the stifling heat, sweating almost immediately. What a relief!
We caught an Uber to our new temporary home in Sunny Isles, Florida. The ride was nothing noteworthy, and we arrived to our place around 6pm. We checked in and turned the air conditioning down. Or is it up? We never know. What do you call it when you make the setpoint colder? We dumped our bags and hit the street on foot. We found a restaurant online yesterday that we were excited to check out. It was right across the street, so it was pretty easy to get to, although Google Maps was trying to take us some roundabout way. We found a footbridge over the highway that Google apparently doesn’t know about, and that saved us about half of the distance.
We got to Chayhana Oasis in about 10 minutes, walking. We opted to sit outside on the sidewalk, since the weather was perfect. We chatted with our super friendly waitress about different types of Georgian wines they had, and she picked us out a bottle of sweet red that we could not read. But we could taste it! And it was quite good. We ordered some Uzbeki bread and one pumpkin samsa and one beef samsa. They’re sort of like empanadas, but not quite. We’d never had them before, but they were fantastic. The beef was so tender that we had to have more of it. So we ordered a beef kebab. And we figured we should have one with chicken too, just because. They were served with pickled onion and a sweet sauce. We also ordered a plate of pilaf which is cooked with lamb. When the food came, we feasted. It was the best meal we’d had on the trip yet! The chicken kebab uses thigh meat, so it’s naturally tender. The beef was even better than what was in the samsa! And the pilaf was awesome, too! We even enjoyed the pickled onion! We probably ate a tad too much, but we couldn’t help it. We people-watched a bit, and wondered if we were perhaps a bit early. As we were cashing out to leave, around 9pm, there were still people arriving to dinner. We walked a bit of the food off, but not nearly enough. We relaxed in our place for a little while before we crashed.
Today we woke up with no alarms. I’d had the foresight to cold brew some coffee yesterday, so I poured it through the drip machine and we had iced coffee. Then, I made us bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We ate and cleaned up, and got ourselves ready to head out. Our camera strap had broken the previous day so we set out to find a new one. We biked downtown and stopped along the way at The Coffee Table. There’s always room for more coffee. I got a regular iced coffee and I got a vanilla latte. They were both really good. We sat a while in the café, just relaxing with not much to do. Eventually, we cashed out and continued downtown towards the cruise ports. There was a ship docked today. We’re always in awe at the sheer size of those behemoths.
We wandered through the outdoor shopping mall until we found a couple electronics stores. We found three different strap options. The first one neither of us really liked and we already have it back at home, so we passed. The second one was just like the one we broke, and we prefer this style. But it was way too expensive at $70. Also the piece that we broke is still stuck in the camera, so we would need to remove that first but we don’t have pliers. Thanks TSA. The third one was only $10 but we weren’t convinced that it would be sturdy enough for our camera. So we decided to purchase nothing and just carry the camera by hand or in our bag. We also decided we should head back to our room and apply more sunblock. It was just in time too. The downtown area was quickly becoming overrun with cruisers.
Once back at the AirBnB we slathered on sunscreen, packed a small bag and hopped on the bikes and pedaled over to the beach. We met with our people and hung out in the water for a while.
Since all of the cool kids seemed to be doing it, I opted to go for a ride with 5 other people on a tube thing, towed behind a boat around the beach area. It was more like a couch than a tube. It was pretty fun, but easy to stay on, so I dragged my feet in the water for kicks. We hit a wave, and my leg plunged a lot deeper into the water. The sudden increase in drag sucked me off the tube and I had to get picked up. I got hassled a little bit. When I did it again, everyone else was annoyed, so I behaved after that. After, we all hung out in the water a while longer until we were feeling inclined towards dinner.
We showered off the salt and redressed ourselves. We regrouped at the hotel shortly thereafter, and shared a cab toward California Lighthouse. We’d heard there were good sunset photo opportunities here, as it’s situated on the western point of the island. Unfortunately, even though we had arrived before sunset, the sun had already disappeared behind some distant clouds, so what we got wasn’t as good as we had hoped. Oh well, we had dinner reservations at Faro Blanco anyway, so it wasn’t a total waste! We were seated outside and we enjoyed the lovely live music. I ordered tortellinis with chicken in a wine sauce. The name was wicked Italian, I forget what it was actually called. I got the fusilli. The pasta wasn’t quite up to the new standards we set when we went to Italy, but it was good, and the rest was great. After dinner, we caught a cab back home, and we pretty much crashed immediately. We were exhausted, probably from being in the sun all day.
This time, our alarm worked! Not that it mattered as much, since we had plenty of time this day. We were able to get up and get showered and dressed at a much more leisurely pace than yesterday. Once we were ready to go, we headed back to the hotel to meet with a fairly large party of about 25 people. It mostly consisted of friends of James and Braden and their parents and siblings. Once we were all grouped together, which was no small feat, we were shuttled in three trips to a marina a few miles up the coast. The group was then herded onto a replica pirate ship, and we set sail on the open sea!
We were to be on board for about 4 hours (I had a thought we might have a similar fate as Gilligan, but then I remembered that he set off for a 3 hour tour), making a few stops to swim, snorkel, and eat lunch. The friendly captain introduced the crew and explained the rules as we cruised out from the dock. The bar was opened shortly, and music began playing. The fun was immediate and shared by all. After cruising for about a half hour, the captain parked in some fairly shallow waters. Many of the guests donned flippers, snorkels, and goggles to explore the area around the water. We got in the water straight away and swam around. The water was excellent and there were tons of beautiful fish, though the winds and current were fairly strong. It took a bit of effort to stay near the boat. After a time, our captain Tito honked a great big horn, signaling everyone to climb back on board so he could take us somewhere else.
The next stop was at the Atilla shipwreck. Tito explained the history that caused the ship to end up on the sea floor. He explained the best method of viewing the wreckage which was to swim up-current away from the ship we were on, and then to let the current drag us back as we looked over the ship. Mandy stayed onboard, while I donned all the necessary gear and hopped into the water. I began viewing the shipwreck almost immediately, but I did as Tito suggested and swam away from his ship until the wreckage disappeared into the murky depths. It seemed that most of the other snorkelers did not heed this advice, and I felt rather isolated so far from the boat. Looking down into the ocean gave me a mild feeling of thalassophobia, so I kicked a little harder for a couple minutes to get a little closer to the ship. The wreckage was closer to the surface here anyways, and thus easier to view. Some people were swimming through parts of the shipwreck, so I took a deep breath and plunged downward. As I approached the historic steel, I felt the immense pressure in my ears and was barely able to touch the tip of it before I had to swim back up. It was not extremely painful, but I did not want to risk injury and I have no real training on how to dive properly. I gained a deep respect, and maybe a mild jealousy for those who were able to swim through the old ship. I did not want to push my luck. I continued to look over the ship from the surface, and thought about what it might have been like, back when it could still float. I eventually made my way back to the boat and rejoined our group to relay what I saw down there.
Soon, we were back underway toward our third and final stop. Here, we were moored in much shallower waters, probably about 15-20 feet deep. One of the crew setup a rope swing off the bow of the ship, and soon a line formed for those who wanted to enter the water in a more fun way. I waited patiently until I was told it was fine to enter the water. I just jumped off the side of the boat from atop the ladder to climb back on. I got to be the first one in the water, and watched as people began swinging in from the front of the ship. After grabbing some pictures from the water, and realizing how difficult it was proving to be to both tread water and snap pictures, I climbed back on and joined the line for the rope swing. My first attempt was probably the closest I got to completing a backflip off the rope. I had a blast trying time and again, though! Even when I landed flat on my back, which stung like heck. While Rob was off playing in the water I jumped in myself for a short swim and then spent the remainder of the time on board enjoying the open bar and capturing all of the rope swing jumps on photograph.
It seemed we’d be parked here a while, so I grabbed some flippers again and a snorkel, and I cruised around viewing the aquatic life. I heard reports that there was a lot more to see closer to shore, so I headed over there. There was a tiny alleyway between some boulders and the coast, so I paddled through there. It was a little unnerving how the tide was tossing me around; I thought I might get smashed into one of the jagged rock on either side of me. The fish didn’t seem too worried about it, though, so I surmised I would be fine. After I saw all there was to see, I headed back towards the boat. Along the way, I tried my best to pick up some trash I saw on the ocean floor. Unfortunately, I was only able to collect three hair ties. I grabbed what looked like a goggles strap, but it slipped out of my hand as I was resurfacing, and then it disappeared. I saw an empty beer can, but when I dove to grab it, I breathed at the wrong time. I resurfaced to try again, and then it was gone. Oh well, I did my best.
When I got back on board, lunch was served. There was grilled chicken, grouper, rice, and veggies. It was all tasty, and although it was a light meal, it was just what we needed. We did a little bit more swimming before the TOOT TOOT to get back onboard. Tito skillfully navigated us back to port, where we disembarked and thanked our whole crew. We caught a shuttle back to the hotel with everyone, then we went back to our own place just down the street. We unloaded and unwound a bit, until we were ready to head back out again.
This time, we just went a couple blocks to the grocery store. We picked up some dinner items, including a bottle of wine, and some stuff for breakfast tomorrow morning, and some snacks. In the grocery store, we had found some stroopwaffles, which we wanted, but we only wanted one each and the smallest package contained ten. We figured we could share the remainder with James and Braden and their friends. So we hopped on the bikes provided by our host, and we pedaled the few minutes to their hotel. We didn’t really have a good system of communicating, so we just parked the bikes at one end, and started walking towards the other end of the resort. We had almost reached the far end when we found everyone near one of the pools. We distributed stroopwaffles to anyone who wanted one, and we got our one each. There was one left, so I had two. Then we said, “See ya later!” and rode back to our place.
We got back and assessed the kitchen, then began preparing dinner. We sliced and spiced some brussels sprouts, and got the necessary utensils out. We put the wine on ice and brought everything out onto the shared patio area, next to the pool. Mandy set to work manning the grill, and I read the newspaper and sipped some white wine. It was super relaxing and the dinner came out amazing. After we cleaned up, we brought the remainder of the wine with us as we slipped into the pool. Our host, Rik, joined us for a few minutes. He was super friendly, and just wanted to check in with us and make sure we were content and had no issues. We informed him that everything was perfect, and we had no complaints. He left us, and we worked our way through the rest of the bottle of wine. When we were feeling a little water-logged, we went to our room to rinse off and head to bed.
We had each set our alarms for 3am. At 4am I woke with a start. I told Mandy we had to get up immediately. Our bus was to leave in a half hour, and was about a ten minute drive from our house. We scrambled through final preparations while we tried to understand how we got into this situation and how we should get back on schedule. Once our brains reached about half-power, we reasoned the best plan was to skip the bus and drive straight to the airport. It would be more expensive, but we didn't want to to forfeit the whole trip.
We hit the road and worked on some coffee. Eventually, we were fully-functional. Traffic was light, though somewhat heavier than expected. We passed our missed bus on our way. We parked and caught a bus to our terminal. The security line stretched most of the way around the lobby, across the front of the building in the way of the ticket counters. Yikes! We joined the end of the line and waited patiently. Fortunately, the line moved rather quickly, and we got through security with no issues. We left shoes on this time. We made our long way to our gate which was at one extreme of the terminal. Mandy was curious where all the people were that we'd be sharing our flight with. Good question! We double-checked the screen which showed us we were at the wrong gate. The correct one was at the opposite extreme of the terminal. We hustled, and we made it.
The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful. We boarded the plane for our direct flight to Aruba, and we sat patiently for four and a half hours until we landed. We got out of the airport and immediately found our ride waiting for us. Kelly was appointed by our host, Rik, in his absence, to pick us up and bring us to our temporary new home in Oranjestad. Kelly was super informative and very friendly. She showed us all the things we might need or want to do during our stay.
We dropped our bags and decompressed for a few minutes. Then, we set out towards Santos cafe. We met some people along the way who opted to join us for coffees. Once there, we ordered a round of iced coffees that were all delicious, and much needed to boost our energy levels.
After we were recharged a bit, we made our way to the beach. Along our way, we stopped at a bar. At the bar, we met several more people. After a round of drinks, we made it out onto the white sandy shore, and finally into the warm turquoise water. It was fantastic! We allowed ourselves to relax completely and drift with the motion of the tide.
When we were good and ready, we got out of the water. We showered and changed and made our way to Gaucho's steakhouse for dinner. Apparently there is a law in Aruba that taxis can't have more than 5 patrons riding with them at a time. But our driver was gracious enough to allow us all to go with him. We arrived at the restaurant and were promptly seated. I got a surf and turf with fried plantains, sautéed broccoli and rice. Mandy got petit tenderloin steak with sautéed broccoli, French fries, and onions. We both got sangrias. Everything was delicious. We had so much that there was no room for dessert for us, but James and Braden found room and continued to eat as the dining room was serenaded by a man with an acoustic guitar playing some classics. After dinner, we decided it would be a good idea to walk back rather than take a cab. It saved us a few bucks and helped to digest the massive amount of delicious food we’d all just consumed.
Along the way, we heard what sounded like a huge marching band practicing. We could tell they were nearby, but we couldn’t see them. The echoes of their drumming followed us all the way to the hotel, where we picked up some of our belongings before heading to our AirBnB just down the road. The band were still banging their drums, and the sounds increased as we got closer to home. As we approached our street, we saw the band in a vacant parking lot. There were fewer than ten members, which surprised us, just because it sounded like so much noise. They were pretty good, though, and we enjoyed the music as we walked. It seemed like they were packing up, which was perfect, because we were exhausted from a long day of travel, and we were hoping they wouldn’t keep us awake. When we got to our spot, we crashed very shortly after setting our alarm clock for 7:30am.
We had a free weekend and decided to go camping in Vermont! We recruited our friends, Jenny and Shaun, and their three pups to join us. Since it was last minute we figured we wouldn't find many open sites at campgrounds. We prefer more isolated camping anyway. We investigated primitive camping in Vermont and stumbled upon a list of several forest roads that have "campsites" ...basically an open space with a fire pit. Perfect. We chose Forest Road 35 in Pittsfield, Vermont because it sounded secluded and was near a brook which would be great for the dogs. And us.
We set out early Saturday morning and met our friends at the rest stop in Salem. It was a fairly uneventful ride. We utilized CBs along the way to coordinate bathroom breaks and gas stops. We got into Pittsfield, VT shortly after noon and turned onto Lower Michigan Rd. It started out as a regular dirt road with a few houses here and there and then became narrower and more like a trail. A road less traveled, if you will. We took this to be a good indicator that there probably wouldn't be a lot of other people on the road. The trailer did great even with the muddy potholes and ruts in the road. We eventually came upon a bridge. Unfortunately, there was a gate blocking it. At this point we decided we might as well make lunch because it was after 1pm and we were all quite hungry. We pulled the grill out of the trailer and the few things we needed to grill up some cheddar brats. Meanwhile, the dogs roamed free, swimming in the brook and frolicking in the grass and mud.
After our tummies were satisfied, we decided to head back out towards town. Over lunch, we had reiewed the map and found our error; we wanted to be on Upper Michigan Road, not Lower. We took Crossover Rd. to cross the brook and reach Upper Michigan Road. We saw a sign that said Forest Road 35 that confirmed we were on the right path this time. It wasn't long until we saw Green Mountain National Forest signs and began to see campsites. We were really hoping to get a site right next to the brook. Unfortunately the one that we had read about was occupied. We kept driving to see what else was open. We did see another site next to the water but there was a lady squatting next the the firepit. Literally squatting. No vehicle or tent was there. Just the lady, squatting. Shaun asked her if she was camping on that site and she responded that she was. We found it to be somewhat strange. But we moved on. After a good stretch of driving we found another site right next the water with open spots on each side of the road. Rob and I parked the trailer at the site while Shaun and Jenny continued on to scope out other open spaces. They continued until we lost radio contact. When they came back they reiterated that this was the best of the open sites so we set up camp. Rather, Shaun and Jenny set up camp. Rob and I just had to stabilize the trailer. It was so nice to park and not have to build the tent or make the bed. Instead we cracked open a beer and played with the pups.
After we were all settled, the ladies cruised back down the road a short distance to get some firewood from a neighbor who was selling it from the end of their driveway. Shaun and I stayed with the pups and parked our butts in our chairs on opposite sides of the trail. We sipped our beers and threw a frisbee at each other. When we'd miss, which was frequent, one of the dogs would fetch the frisbee for us, which was super convenient. We hardly had to move at all!
Jenny and I drove back towards town and gathered two bundles of firewood. When we went by the campsite that the lady had been squatting at we noted that the site was empty. On the way back in to camp however, there was a Subaru at the site and the squatting lady was now squatting in a different spot behind her (presumed) car at an adjacent site. So strange.
We got back to camp and found the men sitting and chatting while all the dogs were just laying around. It seemed like everyone was in full relaxation mode. I soon got to working cooking chicken and steak for tacos while Jenny got all of the fixings ready. Our kitchen setup worked wonderfully. And the tacos were delicious!
After we washed dishes and put everything away, Shaun set to work building us a fire. It's kind of his thing. If you recall from our previous overlanding adventures with Shaun, he built a fire every night. We let him have at it, and we always appreciate his efforts. This evening's fire was especially tough to ignite because the wood was all somewhat damp. He powered through, and soon enough we had a small, crackling pit of flame.
It seemed like a really long dusk for some reason, but eventually it started to get dark outside. We flicked on the rock lights on our trailer to help provide some ambient lighting away from the fire and to help us see our way around the site. Jenny busted out the 'mallows and grahams and chocolate before we'd had a chance to digest our delicious tacos. None of us were hungry but we ate smores anyways. We shared our beers and hard ciders, and argued over the pronunciation of "gose".
It began to drizzle, so we migrated temporarily to the awning, to stay dry. The rain let up shortly thereafter, and we all moved back to the fire. When it happened again, it didn't give up so quickly. We got cozy under the awning. Eventually, we were all feeling the effects of a long day, and were looking forward to a good night's sleep. We ensured everything was tucked into a place to stay dry that needed to be. Then, we brushed our teeth and snuggled up with Loki.
In the morning, we woke up not a moment before we were absolutely ready to. We checked the battery meter, which said our battery still had about 12.5V. We considered that it was disconnected from the truck around 2pm, and didn't really receive any direct sunlight after that, but the fridge ran all night, and the lights were on for a few hours. We're pretty content with the system performance; there was still plenty of life left in the battery as the sun was coming up.
Jenny cooked us up some awesome breakfast sandwiches, and we all had a round of cold-brewed coffees. We cleaned up the kitchen in short order, and then we spent the rest of the morning mostly standing around feeling awkward because we didn't have much to pack. We heckled Shaun and Jenny while they were dismantling their tent. And we played with the dogs, obvously. It was wonderful and relaxing and we loved it, but couldn't help feeling a bit odd, as it was so different than the normal packing-after-camping-in-the-rain that we're used to.
Once we were all packed and hitched up, and all our trash collected, we made our way back into downtown Pittsfield. If you want to call it that. We checked out the general stores, and got some beers and ciders that sounded good. We tossed them into the fridge to try out after we got home. Then we headed back the way we came.
As we approached route 93 on 89 near Concord, NH, Jenny radioed that we should divert from the highway to avoid southbound Sunday traffic. Good call Jenny! We took the scenic route through Bedford and got back onto the highway in Manchester. We caught about a mile of traffic, before things started moving freely again, which was not bad at all. The rest of our ride home was uneventful. We arrived home midafternoon with an exhausted puppy. He could barely get his butt up the 3 steps into the house while we unpacked the truck and tucked the trailer into the garage.
This trip was a fantastic first for our trailer, and was exactly what we were looking for. We found some minor things to work on on our trailer, but overall we couldn't be happier with its turnout. We love it.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.