In Cuenca and Back on a Bike

Cuenca is such a great city! Tons of beautiful churches and green parks. Last night, after C and I arrived in town after a four hour bus ride from Guayaquil, we explored the cobblestone streets of Cuena and admired its old colonial building, remnants of Spanish colonizations in the mid-1500’s. We had a late afternoon snack of hummus (yay!) and then a light dinner at Raymipampa. I’ve been craving salads and luckily they had a great lettuce, bean, and avocado option for me! The hotel we’re staying at – Macondo – is on the outskirts of the center of town, which is fine with me because it’s quiet at night. The hotel reminds me a lot of the place we stayed at in San Jose (Aranjuez) because it’s an old converted house centered around an open courtyard.

In the morning we ate breakfast with some other travelers and had a leisurely start to the day. The plan was to walk around Cuenca some more, but other than that our agenda was open. We found our way to a giant indoor food market with vendors selling everything from fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, cooked legumes and almost anything else you can think of, including fresh carrot and apple juice! Except for a juice and some bananas, we didn’t buy anything, but vowed to return later to stock up on a few mangos and avocados.

Our next destination was the Museo del Banco Central. Now, I’m not a museum person, but we spent about an hour walking through the exhibits showcasing the history and archaeology of indigenous populations. By that time I had had enough of museums for a week, so we continued on our way. We stopped in at a local travel agency and inquired about bikes to rent. We were in luck because they had two brand new bikes for only $8 for half a day. C and I said we would return after lunch and take them for a spin. For lunch I was eager to try a restaurant called Nectar, which is %100 vegan. The inside was really cute with wooden tables and nice decor. The menu was a set lunch, so we sat down and waited to be served. We had broccoli soup topped with popcorn (per the Ecuadorian way), fresh tree tomato juice (also an Ecuadorian special), a mix of potatoes in some sort of gravy, cabbage, beets, and a small salad. For dessert, it was some sort of sweet barley (I think) pudding. It was good, but not exceptional.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel to change into biking gear, and then returned to the tour office. Our speedily devised route was to bike up to the Mirador de Turi, a lookout point about 4km outside of town and then continue on 8km to a small town called Baños (not the one we visited on Arie’s bike trip) where there are several thermal hot springs. The bike up to the top of the lookout was somewhat challenging (we’re at 8,000 feet here), but felt great after being at sea level for a week and a half. I’ve wondered several times these last few weeks about how frequent and rapid elevation changes affects your body and mind…

After snapping a few photos of Cuenca from above, we coasted back down the hill and pedaled on to Baños. According to our guide book, the best place for a soak is at Hosteria Durán, so that’s where we went. We payed the fee and brought our bikes inside the gate where we were could see the large thermal pool occupied by several bathers and a small building up on a hill that housed the steam room. We opted for the steam room first, which felt great, and then headed down to the swimming pool filled with warm volcanic waters. It felt fantastic! We soaked for awhile before returning to the steam room and then settling down into wicker chairs for a cup of tea (me) and coffee (C).

It started to drizzle a bit, but nothing too depressing and as we bundled up and rolled out of the parking lot, we could barely tell that it was raining. Luckily, the ride back into town was mostly downhill because I felt pretty rubbery from all that warm water. We sort of zig-zagged back into the city without a direct route, but we did find a nice gravel path that ran alongside the River Tomebamba that splits Cuenca in two. The light was fading as we brought the bikes back to the tour office and since it’s a 10 minute walk back to the hotel, we opted to stay downtown for dinner despite the mud on our faces and clothes.

Tomorrow, depending on the weather, we’re hoping to do some hiking in Cajas National Park, dubbed “one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Ecuador” by our Rough Guides guide book. Can’t wait!


Quito – The City of Eternal Spring

When you think of spring, what do you think of? Well, in Vermont it would be fresh, crisp air, vibrant green foliage, and frequent rain. And that’s what we have encountered in our first 24 hours of landing in the Capital of Ecuador. Quito, at 9,350 feet, is suitably dubbed the City of Eternal Spring. It’s cool, virescent, and looks like it could start raining any minute. We landed at the Quito airport at around 2pm yesterday after a painless two-hour flight south from San Jose. A taxi was waiting for us (send by previous arrangement from our hotel) and we were whisked away into the heart of the city. The hotel we are staying at – La Casa Sol – is located in the new part of town, which is also, apparently, where the liveliest backpacker scene is. Thankfully, though, we’re off of the main drag, so it’s quiet(er) and less crowded.

La Casa Sol is awesome (I hope my hotel choices continue to impress). The walls are brightly painted in oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks and textured so they look authentically hand-crafted. The wall-hangings are traditionally South American and each room has a distinct “homey” quality. C and I are staying up in the “Loft” which is on the third level and has it’s own balcony that looks over the inner courtyard and neighboring vicinity. It’s so cute I could even see myself living there (maybe not in Quito, but definitely in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps).

After settling in and relishing our new environs, we set out to explore the neighborhood. We didn’t get far because we were both starving, so we landed at a table at the Magic Bean. And I don’t think we could have picked a better spot. Fresh juices, towering smoothies, plenty of vegetarian choices for me and giant portions for C. It was great. I ordered a beet-carrot-apply juice and an avocado boat with falafel. I really wish I had gotten a picture of it because it was such a good idea. Half an avocado – mashed up and returned to its shell – was topped with small balls of falafel and served with pita bread, lettuce, and tomato on the side. C got a massive Hawaiian sandwich with chicken, cheese, and pineapple and a mound of potatoes. I don’t eat meat and it even look good. I have a feeling we’ll be going back today…

It was getting dark by the time we finished our meal and had started to drizzle, so we slowly made our way back to La Casa Sol. Back at the hotel, we discovered that our flight from Quito to Guayaquil was on April 9th rather than March 9th, so I spent a stressful two hours on Skype trying to get the dates switched. I did, finally, but it wasn’t the relaxing evening in front of the fire that I had envisioned. Hopefully that will be tonight, after exploring the city some more and searching for bike shorts for our upcoming adventure.

San Jose

Well, I’m on a plane again. This time, however, I’m not only headed to a new country, but also a new continent! I’ve never been to Ecuador before and this will be the first time I step foot in South America, too. Very exciting. But before I land in Quito and delve into our Ecuadorian adventure, I have to catch up on our last few days in San Jose.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we spent two nights at Hotel Aranjuez. We both really liked the hotel, which was a renovated old house with a network of corridors and open patios, and the buffet breakfast was delicious. We had a full day in San Jose yesterday, so after taking advantage of the free high-speed WiFi in the morning, we went out to explore the town for a bit. We didn’t have much on our agenda in terms of destinations, but we did have a map that highlighted several points of interest in the area like parks, historic buildings, restaurants, etc… After about half an hour of walking, though, I tripped on the sidewalk and broke my only pair of sandals (that had already been chewed through by an incorrigible Butters and repaired with duct tape). Our casual walk quickly turned into a quest to find new shoes. Luckily we came across a street that literally had shoe stores lining both sides and I found a “ridiculously comfortable” (their words, not mine) pair of Reef sandals.

Ironically, we also passed by the Hemingway Inn. Eight or nine years ago my family took a vacation to Costa Rica and we stayed at the Hemingway Inn for several nights while in San Jose. It was funny that C and I just happened to stumble across it while aimlessly walking about. It brought back memories of my brother drinking his first Pina Colada and me leaving the table because I was so embarrassed for him (sorry Will :))

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at a market and picked up some fresh fruit, cheese (for C), and bread for lunch. Then we challenged each other to find our way back to Hotel Aranjuez sans a map. We could consult one another, but couldn’t look at our map. Thanks to a good sense of direction on both sides, we made it back in no time and spent the rest of the afternoon snoozing, enjoying WiFi on demand, and playing a game of Scrabble.

For dinner, we dined at the same place as the night before. Tin Jo – a beautifully adorned Thai, Indian, and Japanese restaurant – was pretty much everything I could ask for. They had a separate vegetarian menu complete with curries, sushi, salads, and sauteed greens from all over Asia. The previous night I ordered a vegetable Thai green curry with coconut milk that was served with brown rice, which was delicious, and last night C and I shared a vegetarian Pad Thai and sauteed bok choy with hearts of palm and shiitake mushrooms. Yum! We also tried the vegetarian spring rolls and pakoras as appetizers. Good thing we’re spending the next week and a half biking and hiking through Ecuador!

Stay tuned for more posts from South America…

Peach Palm Goodness

One thing that I love about traveling to exotic (and not so exotic) places all over the world, is the discovery of new and exciting, not to mention delicious, foods. I consider myself a pretty strict vegan when I’m home and can cook for myself, but when I’m on the road, I like to keep my options a bit more open for the sake of not stressing about what my next meal will be, but also so I can enjoy the local culture and traditions in the form of authentic cuisine. Some of my favorite food-related memories of my travels have been:

– Fresh coconuts in Thailand (obviously)
– Finding a little vegetarian cafe in the midst of numerous meat-heavy cafes in Gdansk, Poland
– Eating the best tom-kha (green papaya) salad at a vegetarian restaurant in Bangkok
– Having the most delicious coconut ice cream (not vegan) I’ve ever tasted from a small family-owned ice cream shop called La Fuente in La Paz, Baja
– Guiltily enjoying a marzipan delicacy and hot latte at the world-famous Niederegger Cafe in Lubeck, Germany
– Watching the women at my rural home-stay in Kenya make fresh chapatis over an open fire. They were the best chapatis I’ve every had

– Eating a bowl of noodles with my fellow classmates at a small noodle shop in China after spending the day walking around a shopping. By the time   we sat down, we were starving and the noodles tasted absolutely fantastic

– Browsing the open markets of Luang Prabang in Laos and uneasily eyeing things like fried bats, baskets full of freshly caught fish, entire honey combs straight from the tree, various assortments of dried sea-life, and more…

The list could go on and on, but the main point I’m trying to make is that a big part of traveling is enjoying the local cuisine and trying new foods that you never seen or heard about. I can’t say that I would go as far as eating meat, but I wouldn’t be (and haven’t been) above tasting meals and dishes prepared with dairy and eggs, despite the fact that I much prefer to eat a vegan diet. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans.

So when I saw a new item on the salad bar a few weeks ago, I was eager to try it. What I saw was a bright orange, walnut-sized vegetable. Or fruit. I couldn’t tell. After confirming with the head steward that I could eat it (it’s vegan), I asked what it was. In English, the fruit is called peach palm and in Spanish it’s known as pejibaye. It kind of looks like half of a pitted apricot, but much brighter orange. Tasting it, the texture reminded me of a very dense egg yolk (or what I remember the texture of an egg yolk to be) and the flavor reminded me of… I’m not sure. Slightly sweet and mild, kind of nutty, and really good! The peach palm fruit grows in clusters on (surprise, surprise), a palm tree, which is also well known for producing heart of palm, another delicious local delicacy. To harvest the fruit, they cut down the ripe clusters from the palm and then boil the fruit in salty water for 1-3 hours. Then they remove the peel and either eat them like that, or process them in cans or jars.

Wanting to know more, I did a little bit of internet research to see if I could find any nutritional value on peach palms. I did, and here’s what I found. Per 100 grams, palm fruit has 164 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, is high in vitamin A as well as vitamin C, and contains a whole lot of fiber. Like most fruits vegetables (if not all), it’s very good for you and tasty! I only hope I can find it when I get back to the states…

Coconut Crazy

I was at the beach the other day, at a place called Caletas just outside of Corcovado National Park, when one of our naturalists walked by with an unopened coconut. I pretty much grabbed him as he passed and asked where he had gotten it. Fresh coconuts are one of my favorite things on earth and now whenever come across one, I’m transported back to Yoga Thailand where we would line up at the juice bar after our morning Ashtanga practice and order a fresh, chilled coconut. Coconut water (what sloshes around into the inner cavity before the coconut is broken open) is extremely high in electrolytes (basically salts that are essential for controlling fluid balance within the body). So after a hard workout and a yoga mat drenched in sweat, a fresh coconut filled with nutritious coconut water was heavenly. But back to Caletas. Miguil, the naturalist, offered me the fresh coconut juice for which I was very grateful. He had one of the Ticos (Costa Rican’s) chop off the top with a machete and then he drained the fresh juice into my empty cup. Yum! After the coconut was drained, he broke open the shell and cut out hunks of coconut flesh for everybody to try. Once again, I reiterate, fresh coconut is one of my favorite things on earth. But it gets a bad rap. There is so much fear in our society about fat, and coconuts are laden with it, particularly the “bad” kind – saturated fat. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily the natural saturated fat (or any unprocessed fat for that matter – think avocados, nuts, etc…) that are the problem. The problem comes from when we process that fat and make it into things like hydrogenated oils and trans fats. That’s when our bodies rebel and treat the unnatural substances as artificially dense forms of energy. The processed fats are what pack on the pounds.

I thought I would do a little research in our small library on board (and some Internet browsing), to see what else fresh coconuts provide for our bodies and health. There has definitely been a coconut health craze in the works for the past few months, and even though I’m always a little skeptical about new health crazes, I think coconuts deserve more (positive) attention than they get.

There are two ways to enjoy a fresh coconut. One is a young, or Thai, coconut that isn’t all the way ripe and the other is a fully mature coconut, or the one that has a brown, hairy outer shell. Young coconuts have a more jelly-like flesh and more water in the center while mature coconuts have a firmer flesh and the water is slightly less sweet. Coconuts are also rich in lauric acid, which is known for being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and boosts the immune system. They are high in fiber and surprisingly high in iron, which I wouldn’t have guessed, as well as phosphorus and zinc. If you think about it, like all other nuts and seeds, coconuts have all the nutrients and minerals needed to create an entire new tree or plant. So how can that powerful concoction not be beneficial to your body?

Aside from fresh coconut, the healthy nut can also be consumed when dried (desiccated), as coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut oil, and coconut butter, which is a combination of both oil and meat (my favorite).

Just don’t sit under a coconut tree 🙂

Final Days on the Baltic Sea

So it’s been nagging on the back of my mind to finish writing about my Baltic trip and I finally have the time (and motivation) to sit down and do it. I also spent a week in Indiana after flying back from Copenhagen, so I’ll write a few words on that as well. Be prepared, it might be a long post!

I left off with our brief sojourns into Latvia and Lithuania, both beautiful countries on the Baltic Sea. Our next stop after Lithuania was Gdansk, Poland, also called Danzig in German. First established in the early 1200’s, Gdansk was, for most of history, an independent free state. Today, Poland is the newest member of the European Union (2004) and the port city of Gdansk is one of the greatest examples of reconstruction in Europe, as it was restored from the piles of rubble that remained after WWII. After meeting with Lech Walesa in Stockholm, it was interesting to step foot into Poland and see how he, among many others, helped to create a democratic state after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We spent the morning on a walking tour through the Old Town of Gdansk, stopping by St. Mary’s Church and Neptune’s Fountain, both located along Dluga Street where many merchant houses were reconstructed like jigsaw puzzles from the destruction. Today the street is lined with aesthetically charming apartments that are finely decorated and colorfully painted. Gdansk is a very pretty town, but after joining numerous walking tours and countless churches in 6 or so countries already, I was ready to see the city on my own terms. I broke off from the group and meandered down a narrow street along a canal, browsing the shop windows (I have never seen so much amber jewelry in my life) and looking at the boats tied up to the canal walls. Near the end of the street I found a nice cafe with outdoor seating (with blankets to cover your legs) and ordered a latte. I sat, content, for an hour or so watching people pass by and enjoying the sunshine.

When my latte was gone (one of the best coffees I’ve ever had – perhaps it was just the setting?) I continued to explore the old city. I came across a young woman sitting on a bench with her guitar, singing in Polish in a voice that was utterly captivating. If she had had a CD I would have bought it in a second. I took a seat on the bench opposite from her and listened to her sing and strum her guitar. There was another man sitting next to her with a fistful of goldenrod he was halfheartedly trying to sell to passerby’s and a can of beer in his pocket that he discretely sipped. I loved watching the interaction between the two – she politely trying to ignore him and he offering her a yellow flower in between songs. It got even better when another older gentleman sat down between them and started eating his lunch. These kinds of experiences are what traveling is all about. Rather than checking places off on a list or buying souvenirs that say you’ve been to a city or town, it’s better to create memories that you’ll remember ten years from now.

I hadn’t returned to the ship for lunch, so I was getting kind of hungry and slightly worried that I wouldn’t find anything vegetarian in a country known for kielbasa, pierogies (often stuffed with meat), and kaszanka (blood sausages). To my amazement, though, I came across a (tiny) restaurant with big letters spelling VEGETARIAN across the awning. Yay! I ordered a layered crepe pie with spinach and fresh carrot juice. It was delish.

At the appointed time, we met back at the historic Green Gate that once served as the formal residence for Polish monarchs, but now marks the entryway onto Dluga Street and Long Market. We had the choice to return to the ship by bus or to take a Zodiac cruise back through the Gdansk shipyard. As always, I chose the Zodiac ride. Along the way, we passed enormous cargo ships and tugboats – some lifted out of the water for maintenance and others waiting their turn for service. The Gdansk shipyard was once a bustling place that provided jobs to over 20,000 people, but due to hard times and it has been severely diminished and now employes only 2,200 workers.

Back on board we said goodbye to Poland as the National Geographic Explorer sailed away from Gdansk heading east toward tomorrow’s destination – Lubeck, Germany.

Our last full day on the ship! Or off the ship, more precisely. We had the entire day to explore the beautiful town of Lubeck, Germany. Just as the sun was rising over the horizon we reached the port of Travemunde at the mouth of the River Trave. There we picked up a local pilot who navigated the Explorer through the last 20 miles of the winding river. Lubeck was once the capital and former Queen City of the Hanseatic League – “an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (ca 13th–17th centuries).” Lubeck was founded in the 12th century and prospered until the 16th century as the major trading city for northern Europe. It has remained a center of maritime commerce to this day, particularly with the Nordic countries. Despite damage suffered during WWII, the basic structure of the old city, consisting mainly of 15th and 16th century patrician residences, public monuments, churches, and salt storehouses, remains unaltered. The inner city of Lubeck is one of the finest examples of medieval Gothic architecture in Northern Europe, and as such, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

We began our tour of the city with a canal boat cruise through the waterways surrounding the town. From the water we could see the tall spires of multiple churches throughout the city and a green parkway that rings the perimeter. It’s a very picturesque town. Then we had time to explore the city by foot. I opted out of the walking tour and instead set off to find what interested me. That turned out to be chocolate and tea shop and a marzipan cafe with ungodly amounts of incredible looking desserts. I don’t think I had ever tried marzipan, but since this one cafe sold the worldwide famous Niederegger marzipan and sweets, I had to try it. And now I have a new found appreciation for everything marzipan. For the remainder of the afternoon, I wandered along the cobblestone streets and found a nice park bench to sit on that looked out over a clear pond. Then all too soon it was time to return to the ship for our final leg to Copenhagen, Denmark.

That evening we had a Captain’s farewell dinner and a slideshow that featured everyone’s best photos throughout the voyage. It was a great way to end the trip and remember what we had seen way back in St. Petersburg, which seemed ages ago!

We docked in Copenhagen early the next morning and disembarked around 8:30 for a canal boat tour of the city. Our fist stop was at the famous opera house, situated right on the shores of the harbor. Costing well over $500 million US dollars (all provided by one gentleman who was the co-founder of the container ship and supply vessel operator company, Maersk), it is quite the piece of architecture. Too bad we couldn’t stay to see a performance!

After the canal tour, which took us right through the heart of Copenhagen, we continued by foot through the beautiful city to the Museum of Natural History where we wandered through the exhibits and had lunch. Then it was time to part ways! I was flying out early the next morning and wasn’t sure where I was going to spend the night, so Louisa, another single traveler, offered to share her room at the Hilton next to the airport! I took her offer and after collecting our bags, we set off in a taxi to the hotel.

From there it was a long, but uneventful, journey back to the US of A. I flew from Copenhagen to Paris to JFK (a fiasco of an airport) to Atlanta to Indiana. Needless to say, by the time I arrived in Indianapolis (at 12:15 am), I was ready to be done traveling! I’ll save my adventures in Indiana for another post – hopefully soon. But as a conclusion I’ll just say that my trip to the Baltic was a great insight into a part of the world that I have not yet had a chance to explore. I would love to return to explore some other areas of the nine countries that I stepped foot in and learn a bit more about the history of each place. All in all in was an amazing trip and it was great to get to see life on the NG Explorer!

The Longest Day Ever, and then some

As an experienced traveler, I have come to expect long travel days, mindless hours spent in airports, and unavoidable delays. But trying to get back home to Burlington, Vermont from Jackson Hole was one long misadventure. Here is what I experienced:

Saturday, August 27 

4:30 am Woke up to bring my brother to the Jackson Hole airport so he could fly to San Francisco for his next medical rotation

5:45 am Dropped the car off at my brother’s friend’s house and walked 15 minutes, with my luggage, to a gas station to meet the shuttle that would transfer me down to Salt Lake City, Utah for my flight. Due to Hurricane Irene, my original flight that stopped in JFK got cancelled, so now I would be flying out of SLC at 1:00 am. The next morning.

6:30 am We began our 5 hour drive down to Salt Lake City. I tried to stay away and watch the landscape as it passed by, but my eyes just wanted to stay closed so I gave up and listened to Adele with my head cushioned against the side window.

11:30 am We arrived at the Salt Lake City airport where I checked my bag and prepared myself for a 13 hour wait. I ended up catching a bus into the city where I found an outdoor mall (see last post) with Barnes and Noble and a Starbucks. I treated myself to a nice dinner at a sushi bar called the Happy Sumo. I had the vegetarian combo and some steamed vegetables. For those of you who don’t know me, I could eat (veggie) sushi every day and never get sick of it!

Sunday, August 28

12:55 am I headed back to the airport around 8 pm and spent the next few hours lying on the floor of the terminal with a coat sleeve over my eyes. At last it was time to board the plane to Atlanta and as soon as the plane took off, I took my contacts out, closed my eyes, and fell asleep

6:30 am I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. I only had an hour layover, so I hurried to my next gate

7:25 am My plane departed Atlanta for Detroit

9:20 am I arrived in Detroit, Michigan. This is where it gets good. I get off the plane and look at the monitors to see what gate my flight to Burlington, Vermont will be. Instead of a gate number, it says cancelled. Great, I thought. So I went and stood in line with a number of other people trying to get places that Hurricane Irene ungraciously grazed. After 45 minutes of standing in line, the counter attendant informed me that the next flight available out of Detroit to Burlington would be Wednesday! No way, I thought, but what other options did I have? The woman in front of me mentioned that people were renting cars and driving to wherever they needed to go. A quick Google maps search told me that from Detroit to Burlington would be 13 hours driving time.

11:00ish am I made some phone calls to the car rental agencies and took the free shuttle to the Avis lot. I was prepared to jump in the car and drive the 600+ miles. I called my folks, though, and my dad convinced me to get a hotel for the night and see if I could stand by for a flight to Burlington the next morning. I gave in to reason and returned to the airport.

12:30 pm There was another flight to Burlington at 2:45, so I hung around to see if that one a) was actually going to happen and b) I could get a seat on it. An hour before it was scheduled to take off, just when I thought it might actually happen, they cancelled it. We were all directed, once again, to the customer service desk, where, once again, they informed us that we wouldn’t be able to get a flight to Burlington until Wednesday!

1:30 pm – 4:00 pm 
Not wanting to wait in Detroit for three days, I started asking around to see if anyone wanted to drive with me to Burlington. I recruited three other people. One was a woman (Charlene) who needed to be in Littleton, New Hampshire for a business meeting. Another was a woman (Natalie) from Montreal trying to get back east after a Usana conference in Salt Lake City. And the third was a soldier (James) trying to get back to school in Northfield, Vermont. All seemed like nice and reliable characters who just wanted to get to where they were going. We shook hands, stated our names, and exited the airport (after waiting almost 2 hours to receive our bags – mine never came). We also picked up a fifth person (Stephanie) who was stranded at the baggage claim and had no way to get home. While the other waited for their bags, Charlene and I went to the Avis car rental lot and picked up a shiny new Dodge Ram SUV. Charlene had her boss rent the car on her company’s account and paid for gas on the company’s card, so all we had to was chip in for insurance! It took an additional 45 minutes to fill out the paperwork and then when we were ready to leave, the car battery was dead. Another few minutes of scrambling and were fitted with a new car and on our way

4:30 pm A wrong turn sent us traveling north, but we quickly found our way again with Charlene’s Garmin GPS (supplemented with my iPhone). Since only Charlene and I could drive (only we had the insurance), I got to sit up front the whole way. We passed through Michigan and into Ohio. Then it was Pennsylvania and eventually New York. We stopped for food and gas several times, but pretty much we just kept trucking east.

8:30 pm & on Charlene and I took turns behind the wheel while the other tried to find updates on the storm and flooding conditions in Vermont. Everything that we found online and heard over the news told us it was bad. Really bad. Southern Vermont was getting evacuated and roads were closing left and right. Not what I want to hear after traveling since 4:30 the previous morning. We decided, though, that we would continue on as far as we could get and if we had to stop and get a hotel, we would. But not until we had to. I wanted to get home!

I think we were lucky. The only trouble we came across was somewhere near Albany, New York where we had to take a detour (thank God for the GPS!) and then on Route 22A in Vermont where we had to drive through a giant puddle. That was it. I think we skirted north and west enough to avoid any of the real flooding damage.

Monday, August 29

5:45 am We rolled into the Burlington airport, where we all agreed we would disband. I called my dad to come pick me up, Stephanie called her mom. Natalie waited at the airport for her brother to come in on his plane from Detroit (we were all slightly bitter towards him) and Charlene and James continued on for another 2 hours or so towards Montpelier and Littleton, New Hampshire.

All in all it was a good road trip. I met some interesting and very nice people and I got to see a part of the country that I’d never traveled through before. Would I do it again? Definitely not (unless I had to), but it wasn’t a horrible experience either. When I have long layovers or my travel plans become disrupted, I kind of get into this zone where time doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever happens will happen, and eventually, at some point, it will end and the next adventure will begin.