Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And They Lived ______ Ever After...

26,964 miles later, we returned to Los Angeles bathed in sweat that only the Arizona Desert can provoke. Following the same sentimental route of our very first journey with Günther, we've completed the homestretch from Phoenix to LA for hopefully the last time, ever. The life we once knew has evolved into something undeterminable at the moment, a haphazard space of dusty boxes, a generous handful of people we love throughout the city, the ebb and flow of question marks, a loyal van we call home. Our trip for the last year has been an enormous, beautiful, difficult, dynamic undertaking. Our post-trip musings have produced some things we'd like to review for a moment:

Days on the road: 342
Total U.S. states: 35
Total countries: 10
Northermost point: Fairbanks, Alaska
Easternmost: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Southernmost: Panama City, Panama
Stolen property: 1 bike (Vancouver)
Mechanical holdups: 1 axle, 1/2 engine, 1 tire, 1 wheel bearing, 1 brake hose, 1 coolant pipe, 1 radiator fan
Photos taken: 5,813
Friends & family visited: 73
Animals hit: 0
Tickets we talked our way out of: 4
Cops paid off: 1 ($20 to the only cop with an actual radar gun)

Things We've Learned
1) If you want to find out if you really, truly, love somebody, travel with them for a year in a van.
2) The U.S. is the most beautiful country I have seen on the planet.
3) Bats and bears don't actually care that much about killing you.
4) Forget focusing on the destination and experience the journey.
5) Despite warnings, propane burners can be used for personal heating.
6) Fruit picked in the wild tastes 10 times better.
7) Though the South may have lost the war, they won with the deep fryer.
8) Baby goats sometimes look like puppies, but my real dream is to one day snuggle a manatee.
9) Guatemalan women are tougher than the men and burros combined.
10) Flushing toilet paper is a privilege you take for granted as an American.

1) Surfing with friends in clean, warm, uncrowded surf is the most fun thing to do on earth.
2) When encapsulated in an air-tight van, women produce just as much gas as men.
3) Just because a vendor is 8 years old, doesn't mean you have more haggling experience than them.
4) All the people with the worst stories about Central America have never actually been themselves.
5) While capitalism may be the best system for creating wealth for the masses, Central American capitalism is the best system for creating wealth for 5 people.
6) There is no bottom to the dark pit known as Korean thriftiness.
7) A man is not complete until he has repaired his own vehicle. With duct tape.
8) The beauty and enjoyment of a destination is intrinsically linked with the difficulty of reaching it.
9) The Alaskan man is first judged by the quality of his beard, then his character, and finally by his moose pepperoni.
10) A shot of tequila a day keeps the parasites away.

The next step? Ask us a bit later. For now we just want to see our families, pick up the pieces, and figure it all out. Think of it as more of an ellipses...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Limping Home

Upon hitting the northernmost regions of Mexico, our sentimental Günther has protested in the most inconvenient of ways. It seems he's grown quite attached to life south of the border, preferring to bask in the constant sunshine of carefree retiree livin'. We've had to drag him kicking and sputtering through the intense heat of the Sonora desert, relying on the ingenuity of Mexican Mechanics.

In case your experience with Mexican Mechanics is limited, allow me to enlighten you. They are the most rapid, straightforward, and creative repairmen around. Who needs the Capitalistic society of "parts" and "factory settings" when all you really need is a length of recycled hose, some spliced wires, a toggle switch, and a few second-hand clamps? Appointments, estimates, waiting? Try same-day service, 20 bucks, and jerry-rigging galore. It may not be the Volkswagen Dealership Standard, but it certainly beats tooling around Navajoa when all you really want is return to the sweet soil of Home.

Speaking of which, we are a mere day away from the Nogales Arizona border. Strange, yet true. Our main focus right now is marathonning it back to Los Angeles, until we hear the sweet comforting rattle of our tailpipe echoing in the driveway on Fairfax. What comes next is up in the air, as the fine Mexican dust settles and we take time to look at the result of our lives after nearly a year straight on the road.

- Rach