Category Archives: Roadtrip

A year later..

Wow ! We can finally say that we made it and so did our van! We are now back in Edmonton, Alberta where we started our journey 361 days ago! I guess it’s time for us to sit down with a glass of wine (or two!) and really take a moment to realize what this adventure did to us.

First, WE LOVE TRAVELLING!  I guess everyone would probably say the same but for us this trip was just what we needed to confirm our desire to continue a life full of new destinations. A life where work and stress would not take the biggest part but the smallest part. A life where you can live your dreams and share your adventures with people likely-minded.  A life full of randomness and less routine. A life where you can smile and breath and just be happy.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

I think we can say that we’ve always been happy but now we are happier! We now know that we need less than average to be happy. It’s a concept that can be difficult to understand and to adhere to in a society like ours. A society where we are always stimulated by stores and advertisements and where spending money and owing lots of things is encouraged. A society where more is never enough and where you have to frequently justify living a simple life. A society where we trash good food for no good reason. A society where we always need new, even if it’s not old yet. We all know that we need money to live  but it was a relief to realize that we could be as happy if not more with less money and things but with more quality time for ourselves.

Quality time also means all the people we spend time with. This last year wouldn’t have been the same without all the people we met here and there and with whom we connected.  People with whom we were able to have great conversations over a beer or a coffee. People to cook and share a meal with. People to cheer for you or to give you advices when you were climbing something hard for your level. People fixing something broken on your van for free or people to  just sit there and talk about simple living. People not judging you for what you wear and do. People we hadn’t seen in a long time, people we might never see again and people that we will never forget. People liking you for who you are. The people and the time spent with them, with you, made this trip richer in many ways and we are grateful for that.

Many people told us that we were lucky to be able to do that kind of travelling but they would never do it. Would never travel 30 000km in a 1978 campervan. Would never be able to spend days without showering or going to a restaurant. We do consider ourselves lucky, not for having had a year off, but for having realized that work & money weren’t the priority. What we did feel was that we were missing out on life and we wanted more for ourselves. We spent years working really hard and we just couldn’t continue down that road without giving it a shot. We couldn’t do any of the things that we’ve dreamed of or knock items off the bucket list. We couldn’t just spend the best years of our lives working to have more money. We couldn’t just wait to be 65 years old to start living. We couldn’t bare the idea of having regrets. Regrets for not having the guts to try it. Van living isn’t for everyone but it was really amazing for us. We tried to not bother too much about the comfort and the commodities we left behind. We just jumped both feet in and we loved every minute of it. It wasn’t easy everyday, we hit bumps and obstacles but always learned something from it. I think we are different in a way,in a way that we now know more about who we are and what we want in this life.

Even if we don’t want our life to rotate around money, this last year was kind of a financial exercise for us. Testing how far we could push simple living. How  many compromises and sacrifices we were willing to do. Budgeting has been a big part of this trip and a big challenge and we are glad we had the discipline to stick to it, to report and calculate all our expenses every day, for 361 days. Here it is now !!!

$ Final Budget $

( June 25 2014- June 20 2015)

Initial Budget: $15000
Revenues: $756.21
Real Budget: $15756.21
Transport: $6659.63
Food: $2897.13
Fun:$6422.73 (includes our trip to Thailand)
Grand total: $15 979.49  short $223.28

Even if we spent a little bit more money than initially planned ($223,28), we consider that we succeeded this experimentation.  If we exclude the money related to gas and transport, travel insurance, we spent less than $8500 between the two of us. We would have probably spent double of that without the weekly budget. We are definitely proud of what we accomplished and we will obviously continue budgeting and save money for our future (not that far) projects!

This is our last blog entry for now but it doesn’t represent the end of our adventure. To us, it only means we are starting a new chapter and we are very excited about what life has in store for us.

Thanks again for following us and see you around!

M & E

IMG_3089

 

Advertisements

Wrapping it up with the USA

We have been pretty busy lately so we haven’t had time to write a new entry.. We had a special event this week as we celebrated Conrad’s 28 birthday. We had a Karaoke/Margaritas party on the porch at the Heuco Tank village…the four of us and the dogs!! We had so much fun …didn’t know we were that good at singing!!! Kristine baked a delicious chocolate cake and she even bought icing and candles…pretty big deal if you ask me!

image_3

Birthday boy with his birthday hat 🙂

 

I(Elaine) used the shower bag for the first time this week. We could say that it was a half-success as the wind blew away the bed sheet hiding while showering. In the end, I did get the job done and we are pretty certain that the neighbor wasn’t home at that moment. I also got a nice gift from Josh, our new Aussie friend, he gave me a coupon for a free shower at the nearby Hacienda, a kind of B&B. I also got another free shower coupon by the manager of the campground and I gave it to Mathieu. I’m just so nice!!! We both enjoyed a short nice hot shower.

photo (3)

Now you can see Elaine’s leg, 1 minute later you could see everything 🙂

 

The campground quickly emptied itself out over the last few week, most people leaving for new adventures. We ended up been the only campers here at the exception of Conrad and Kristine. Some nights, we got lucky and got new arrivals. Pretty exciting, new people to chat with. That’s how we met those guys who did the PCT- Pacific Crest Trail a few months ago. They hiked for 5 months from Mexico to Cananda, total of 2,663 miles or 4,286 km!! Quite the adventure! I’m for sure putting that on my bucket list but I’m not sure if it will make Mathieu’s list.

Climbing wise, we tried to get as much climbing in as possible, trying to finish all the projects we had. The park has been pretty busy lately due to Spring Break and it has been a bit of a challenge to get in. We waited 5 hours in the van the other day to get into the park. We never made it in as we got discouraged around 3pm and just went back to the campground. In addition to the increase in park’s visitors, the weather wasn’t that great therefore it was a bit harder to get psyched. I finally sent one of my first projects in Hueco: Lobster Claw, an amazing V5. I have been working on it for a while and was starting to get more frustrated than motivated. I’m kind of proud of myself and of all of the things I accomplished here.

image_2

Playing monopoly on the Ipad while we were waiting for like ever

On Mathieu’s side, not much happened this last week. He didn’t have much time to work on Baby Face so it will still be a project for our next visit to Hueco Tanks. In the last few days, he started to work another problem called Choir Boys V7. He worked pretty hard on the opening moves but then he hurt his back and had to take a few extra rest days with some Ibuprophene(Glad to report that the back is feeling perfect now).

image_4(1)
Overall, we are very pleased with all the climbing we have done here. Our time in Heuco Tanks is now over and it’s kind of a bitter sweet feeling as we are sad to leave this amazing place but also excited to take on this last leg of our trip. We also said a temporary good bye to Conrad and Kristine and the dogs, as they are going to Joe’s Valley and we are heading to Houston and then back to Canada. We will see them again in two months on Tonsei Beach in Thailand!!!

image_9

 

People suggested that we stop by Carlsbad Caverns National Park on our way to Houston. We did and what an amazing place that was! You can either enter the caverns walking trough the Natural Entrance or by using an elevator that will bring you 800′ down. We used the Natural Entrance and walked throughout the caverns for over 2 miles(3.2km). We spent about 4 hours admiring all the rock formations and walking for narrows passages. Carlsbad Caverns is a world heritage protected site and deserves it very much. It’s really worth your time if you can make it there someday.

image_11 image_7(3)

We then kept on driving across Texas and finally made it to Houston! Texas is a big state! We spent a couple of days there with our friend Jean and his fiance. It was awesome to see him again and to spend time with them. We had awesome food and wine (People that know Jean will for sure agree!) and we even went to a french play!! There is a small french community here in Houston and it was great to be able to support a small french theater troop. We had a very good time and we will for sure come back….some day!

photo 3

After Houston, we hopped back into our van and kept on driving toward Nashville,Tennessee to meet one of my childhood friend, Manon. I haven’t seen her in like 15 years! We spent the evening at her place and had the chance to meet her husband and son, both awesome people!!! It was so nice to spend sometime with her again and talk about how silly we were at 8 years old!!!

photo 2

We are now back on the road, very slowly making our way to Quebec to visit family and friends before our departure to Thailand.

Quick facts:
-Matt got a seriously needed haircut
-Gone girl the movie is really really creepy
-The plant hasn’t been doing too hot.. Zero leaves eaten since December.
-We bought a bunch of Military Rations .. perfect for when you’re driving the distance!

image(1) image_7

image_2(1)

In memory of the good old army days.. Military rations!

We would like to inform you guys that we official spent all the 5000$ that we had budgeted for gas. We agreed to reallocate $1000 for the fuel/transport so our weekly budget is dropping quite a bit. So far we have driven around 24 000 km.

Our  budget for this week is now $165.11 for food & fun.

March 12- March 18  : Weekly & Totals since we left 38 weeks ago.

Fuel: $72.50 / $4807.60
Food: $52.54 / $2565.23
Fun: $15.00 / $4917.07

Total for the week without fuel: $67.54
Total with fuel: $140.34
Total spent since the beginning: $12290.07

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $3466.14

March 19- March 25  : Weekly & Totals since we left 39 weeks ago.

Fuel: $413.38 / $5220.98
Food: $69.53 / $2634.76
Fun: $57.83 / $4975.07

Total for the week without fuel: $127.36
Total with fuel: $540.74
Total spent since the beginning: $12830.81

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $2925.40

E & M

image

The sketchy dam traverse when it’s windy!

image_1

Take a picture of this picture.. you don’t see Conrad with a beer very often!

image_4

The girls of Hueco !

image_5

Yummy cake!

image_6

The karaoke crew minus E

image_1(1)

Keno is the shopkeeper’s dog.. super laid back

image_5(1)

Bella posing and Diva photo bombing it like a pro

image_7(1)

Killer cactus.. poked right through the sandals

photo 1

Jean with his fiance Kim (and the delicious tomatillo sauce!)

image_6(1) image_8 image_3(2) image_4(2) image_5(2) image(2) image_2(2) image_7(2) image_8(1) image(3) image_1(3) image_3(3) image_4(3) image_6(3)
image_8(2) image_9(1)
image_12 image_14 image_16

 

“Living it up” in Hueco Tanks state park

After leaving Joshua Tree we set off towards Arizona and made it to Tucson. The drive was boring in places, roads being straight and flat for dozens of miles at a time(You do the math.. miles are the new way to go!!). The one thing that really stood out though was the cartoon style cactus. You know the green ones with two arms pointing up? They do really exist! They’re huge and they’re super awesome. Based on the sheer amount we saw, these things are like the trees of the desert, super well adapted to their environment.

image

Alexi, our pal from Quebec we met in J-tree told us about free climbing & camping on Mount Lemmon(Not Lemon), just outside of Tucson. It did sound like a good idea so we knew we should try to hit it when we drove by as it is literally on the way to El Paso (where Hueco Tanks state park is). We left Joshua Tree without really planning the climbing part so once we arrived in Tucson, we had to get our hands on some internet to figure out the hows and the where. We took one of the first exit for Tucson and we managed to get some free internet from a Super 8 hotel. After deciding that we were best going to a local outdoor shop to get some beta for the climbing, we had to find a place to park for the night. Problem was that we had already driven past a truck stop a while back and we didn’t think there would be another one before long. We looked to see if Walmart stores were Overnight friendly but unfortunately they weren’t. So we decided we could probably just park behind the hotel as if we were guests and hopefully no one would bother us.

Thankfully, we went unnoticed for the night! Just before leaving the parking lot, I noticed a guy cleaning what appeared to be an outdoor pool attached to the hotel. I went closer to see if there wouldn’t be a hot tub by any chance and who knows, the gate might be unlocked.. well guess what? There was a hot tub AND the gate was unlocked. Elaine wasn’t so sure about it but because I hadn’t soaked in any kind of pool of water for over a month, I took the chance and went for it after putting my swim suit on. I turned on the jet, sat back and let it soak for a while.. that was simply awesome! Eventually Elaine came out and dipped in as well. That’s dirt bagging it to the max 🙂

We went to Summit Hut and spoke with Dave who was super helpful. He strongly suggested we go to Cochise Stronghold instead of Mount Lemmon. Day was getting late so Elaine found a super cool hike, ranked #1 around Tucson, called 7 falls(Seven falls Trail). It was a 4.1 miles hike each way with 200m elevation gain. At the end of the hike, you reach a gorgeous waterfall with numerous pools of very cold water. After hiking that far, there was no way I wasn’t going to go in for a dip. I kind of dove in and as Murphy’s law would have it, my glasses came off and ended up at the bottom of the pool. The problem wasn’t that the pool was too deep, the problem was that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go back in that freezing water 🙂 In the end, a lady was able to point them out from the edge of the pool which made the second dip as quick as possible.

image_6 image_5

The next day we went to Cochise Stronghold and spend a single day sport climbing. We ended up hanging out with some friendly locals which made the day that much more enjoyable. The climbing was slabby at times and I realized that the weeks spent in Joshua tree had actually improved my trust in friction between my shoes and the rock. The climbing is located in a national forest and disperse camping is usually allowed. We were able to spend the night in a little pullout and we had a nice Valentine’s dinner in the nature.

image(1)

Cochise Stronghold area

Our camping spot for the night in Cochise Stronghold

Our camping spot for the night in Cochise Stronghold

image_3(1)

Valentine's dinner

Valentine’s dinner

We then pushed through to El Paso. It’s a border town with Mexico which is separated by a river with a wall built next to it to prevent illegal immigration. We asked around and it sounds like going over the border to visit Juarez, El Paso’s counterpart, is everything but a good idea. We are currently staying at what was once called Pete’s, Hueco Tanks Climbing shop, which doubles up as a campground as well. It’s quite basic with a port-a-potty, fast internet most of the time, and some tables and chairs but the cost is pretty slick: $4/person for 3 nights. So we are paying $2.66/day to camp here but the distance to the park is minimal. We will just about recoup the cost of the camping by saving on fuel. We are less than 5 minutes away from the park. Coincidentally, the same people that we hung out with in Bishop are all here so it’s nice to hang out with friends we enjoyed spending time with back then.

image_6(1)

Our new home at Pete’s!

 

image_7

Gabi on Ghetto Simulator

The bouldering here is totally awesome. The rock as the name would suggest, is full of Huecos (round pockets/jugs in the rock) and a lot of the climbing is either overhanging or a straight out roof. “Knee bars” and heel hooks will come in handy I’m sure. There’s a bit of a process to enter the park everyday because they only allow 70 people at any time on the North mountain. Reservations are recommended but we didn’t bother. So far we were able to go in without it but it might get tricky during the week ends. I can see us spending most of the time we have left in the USA here as it is truly a unique place. The nights are very cold at the moment.. probably dropping to just above freezing. Days are warm-ish but the wind is notorious at this time of the year which cools them down quite a bit. We heard that it’s so windy at times that the wind will blow your crash pads away. We haven’t experienced that yet but it’s going to happen I’m sure.

image_7(1) image_8

Elaine’s fingertips are still very low on skin and she’s being careful with her climbing to not draw blood again. Hopefully with some TLC, she’ll be able to go full tilt sooner than later.

Our  budget for this week is now $200.66 CAD for food & fun.

Jan 12 –Feb 18 : Weekly & Totals since we left 34 weeks ago.

Fuel: $175.01 / $4572.61
Food: $57.58/ $2328.34
Fun: $64.77 / $4816.06

Total for the week without fuel: $122.35
Total with fuel: $297.36
Total spent since the beginning: $11717.01

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $4039.20

E & M

image_2 image(2)image_1(1) image_5(2) image_2(2) image_2(1) image_4 image_3

Joshua Tree will keep you humble!

We had a crazy realization today. After choosing not to go to Mexico on this trip, we never did the math. We only have 7 weeks left in the USA before we hit the 6 months mark, which is the maximum amount of time a Canadian is allowed in the USA under normal conditions. To be more precise, only me needs to leave by April 7 as Elaine got a new 6  months from her going to the funerals in Canada a few weeks back. I kind of see now why they were hesitant to let her back in the USA. They actually stamped her passport B-2 which means that now if she was to leave and re-enter the states again, she would more than likely not get a new entry date. That’s another thing we have come to realize on this trip, you have to stay on top of it when it comes to spending great amount of time in other countries. Getting banned from your winter escape country would suck big time if you messed it up.

image_1(3)

You wouldn’t want to loose access to this great temperature

 

We were going to spend Valentine’s day in J-Tree( a dinner/dance thing at Yucca Valley Community Center) but now that the clock is ticking, we’re going to hit the road as early as tomorrow. Next stop is Mt Lemmon, just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Sounds like free camping is readily available and that there’s all sort of climbing there: Sport & Trad Climbing and Bouldering. We have also done some math and at the least we will need to reallocate $300-$400 to the Gas budget (We originally budgeted $5000 CAD in gas). It shouldn’t be too bad as we are almost always below the budgeted weekly amount. Next on the list after that will be Hueco Tanks, just outside of El Paso, Texas.

image_5(3)

My valentine!! She’s the best!!!

 

Climbing wise we have touched a great amount of the bouldering around here. It was quite nice but very humbling as we were often struggling to make it up anything above V0(One of the easiest grade for bouldering). It’s not unusual to have a problem that’s 20 feet tall and not even get an R rating because the fall is clean. There’s also many crack and slab problems that aren’t necessarily within our comfort zone.

image_2(3)

The rock can be really sharp too, and it was Elaine’s demise. She got numerous flappers (it’s like getting a blister but having the skin on top of the blister rip right off immediately, it takes the whole top layer of skin off of your finger) and after trying to climb with bandaged up fingers, she got a massive flapper yesterday. She’s now out of commission for a few days if not more.

Me and Conrad did our first rope climb in J-Tree called Bat Crack. It’s a 5.5 with some chimney & crack moves. We got what we were expecting from a 5.5 route in here.. definitely harder than any other 5.5 we’ve done before. Still had a blast and we made it up alright. We even got some booty, recovering a #1 cam, a trad quick draw and two non locking carabiners. It wasn’t even stuck.. it was simply used to bail out. Pretty crazy what people are leaving behind.. especially when gear is so easily recoverable.

Just about to start climbing the Bat Crack!

Just about to start climbing the Bat Crack!

Me on the first pitch trying to learn how to chimney

Me on the first pitch trying to learn how to chimney

It’s sad that we found out about the following on our last day here but we were finally able to get some goodies from a dumpster. Nothing crazy but free produce is always nice. I also like that we’re getting very comfortable with our dumpster diving. Today there was a guy doing whatever in the loading bay of that store and we just drove past him and parked by the dumpster. He definitely looked but he didn’t come over to tell us to move on or anything.

It’s a small world.
While we were looking for an available campsite at the Hidden Valley campground in the park, some dude signaled us to stop and he offered us to share his site. As we were looking for a full site to split with Conrad & Kristine, we had to turn down his offer. On the other hand, it gave us just enough time to realize that we had actually climb with this very couple at a remote crag one day while we were in Quebec. We clearly remembered each other and that was super cool to run into them again. Even though we couldn’t get a site that one night, we got to hang out other times when we did. The climbing community is pretty small.. even more so the week-day (Monday-Friday) climbing community.

Our Quebec friends vans

Our Quebec friends vans

We have posted this on Facebook already but if you’ve missed it, here’s the video Conrad made about his/our time in Joshua Tree. It’s pretty funny and we had a good time acting in it. The youtube version doesn’t seem to be playable in the USA so if that’s the case, head over to Facebook to watch it. Their page is public and visible to all, even if you’re not on the book.

Feb 5- Feb 11 : Weekly & Totals since we left 33 weeks ago.

Our  budget for this week is now $196.53 CAD for food & fun.

Fuel: $114.30 / $4397.60
Food: $99.02/ $2270.76 (include $22.28 for propane)
Fun: $0 / $4751.29 (No fun!!)

Total for the week without fuel: $99.02
Total with fuel: $213.32
Total spent since the beginning: $11419.65

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $4336.56

E & M

 

image_1

Arrrrrrrrrrr .. working on my pirate face 🙂

image_7

“Summit picture” on top of intersection rock

image_5

Bat crack probably comes from this bat cave on the route.. full of bat poo!

image_5(1)

“Summit picture” from below

image_2(1)

Aren’t they cute? 🙂

image_1

The picture isn’t over exposed.. his legs are just that white 😉

image_4(2)

Scary V0 slab route.. Super aesthetic though!

image_5(2)

This may be the shortest problem in J-tree, sitting at 7 feet tall 🙂

image_2 image image_8 image_2(1) imag12e image_6 image_4 image(3) image_3(2) image_2(2)
image(2) image_4(3) image_3(3)

From one desert to another

Almost two weeks have gone by since we did our last post… We are kind of got busy I guess… Sorry! As you can imagine time and dates are very different for us now. Day of the week is irrelevant and we have to look at a calendar to know the date for sure.  Its really nice to be in some sort of 4th dimension where the clock isn’t ticking.

A few times in the last couple of weeks, we had to put the alarm on (6am) to get an early start. That was a bit of a pain! ELaine had a hard time and didn’t want to get up at all. We’ve been getting up with the sun for so long now, it’s hard to be “forced” to get up and get going so early.
It reminds us too much of the working life we left behind more than 6 months ago!!

image_2(2)

image_5(1)We did a couple of trad climbs multi-pitch in Red Rocks National Park. We gave a second shot to Tunnel Vision(5.7+), the one we tried and didn’t finish a week or so ago. That route is different compared to anything we’ve climbed before. For one, the 5th pitch is a dark tunnel about 20m long. We actually brought headlamps to climb that one. Additionally, there was a lot of cheminey climbing/moves on this route. Definitely added some tools/skills to the toolbox. Lots of run out too but that was fine. The biggest thing was making sure I wasn’t leading my way up a cheminey that would have been offroute. When you have to build your own anchors, it’s not always clear where pitches begin and end. I definitely didn’t want to have to down climb what I was just about to go up on.

Tunnel Vision 5.6

The Tunnel!

 

The second one was another Red Rocks classic called Cat in the Hat(5.6). This one was pretty mellow but still a very nice day on the rock. Kind of nice to have those routes all to yourself. On that route, I managed to free a .4 Black Diamond cam with a 2013 date on the tag. The steel is bent on it from pulling hard to get it out but in my book, it’s definitely fine to use. To make thing better, I didn’t have that size in my rack. Elaine’s patience was tested during that time because I probably hung on that rock face for well over 30 minutes and she was just sitting at the anchor waiting for me.

cat in the hat

Best pitch of Cat in the Hat.. also where I found the Cam.

 

On the bouldering side, Elaine sent her second V5! An unnamed route in Kraft boulders. She almost sent a V6 too! She just need to work on her explosiveness!! My fingers are still bothering me a bit so I haven’t been bouldering much.

Elaine crushing a V5 :)

Elaine crushing a V5 🙂

Forgot to tell you that while Elaine was gone, I managed to lock the keys inside the van. I’m clearly useless when she’s not around!! Thankfully, Conrad had a metal clothes hanger and with a little prying of the door and something hard to keep it slightly open, it was quite easy to get the door to unlock. There’s always AAA (same as CAA or AMA) that we could have called but doing it yourself is quicker and rewarding.

We found a second plant in the dumpster. This time around it’s a mint plant. It smells awesome and we for sure will make mojitos at some point. By the way, our basil plant is still alive but not doing too good. I cut a lot of leaves thinking it would give it a second wind but nothing changed. We are giving it a lot of love and hope that it will come back to life soon!!!

This is how you do it.. !

This is how you do it.. !

After 6 months of the sink’s tap leaking, Elaine finaly got really tired of it and forced us to fix it. We didn’t want to invest a lot of money into that repair. So we went to Lowes and bought some PVC pipe. We created a new “very functional” tap and the whole thing cost less than $5!! You sometime have to be very creative when you live on the cheap!

Our new faucet!

Our new faucet!

The street we found to park at night has been working out. Nothing like having a good place to sleep at, without the stress of being waken up in the middle of the night and being asked to move elsewhere. To make things better, there was a Lowes at least a 100m away that we could pick up free wifi from. Free food from the dumpster, free wifi, good place to sleep, Las Vegas was getting really comfortable!

Working out in the side street next to Walmart

Working out in the side street next to Walmart

We knew that our time in Vegas was about to end and so we treated ourselves to a free buffet. We used up all the casino points to pay for it. The food was once again pretty good minus the fact that they didn’t have seafood. Elaine found enough vegetarian options to fill up her belly. It was nice to eat food that we didn’t have to prepare and cook for once.

All good things must come to an end.

Famous Rte 66

Famous Rte 66

We hit the road and headed towards Joshua Tree national park. We drove on a part of the famous road, Rte 66. It was a 200km extra but it was on Elaine’s bucket list. Sounds like it’s the first highway of the USA or something like that. Elaine was very disappointed by the lack of scenery but now we can say that we’ve been there. On the other hand, it made for a different route than the one we had been on before that goes from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. One super cool thing we saw on the way down was those MASSIVE solar electricity plants. I would be curious to hear how much power these things can produce. It’s just south of the Hoover Dam, which we have once again managed to not go see. That’s after 5 visits to Las Vegas 🙂 Same goes for the Grand Canyon. Maybe next time!

image

Our plan was to drive to San Bernardino and make a stop at the FiveTen outlet. The store is only open Thursday and Friday. I needed new shoes and so did The McFarlanes. We all slept in the parking lot of the store. We were waiting at the door when they opened it. I got a new pair of climbing shoes($59USD, regular $149), more aggressive this time. Elaine wanted to buy some climbing shoes too and but hers are still decent so she couldn’t justify the expense. I have such a reasonable girlfriend!

The 5.10 outlet/wharehouse.. awesome place!

The 5.10 outlet/wharehouse.. awesome place!

After our shopping spree, we all drove to Joshua tree Village to spend the night.  While on the freeway, we almost lost our maxi air vent. Conrad and Kristine were driving behind us and were able to alert us. We pulled over and tried to do a quick fix but decided to just take it off. We fixed it the next day. It is a bit of a challenge to repair the roof without a ladder but once again, we are very creative!!!

image

Later that day, we entered the park to attack the famous monzogranite of Joshua Tree. Wow that rock can be sharp! After only a couple of hours, Elaine’s fingertips were bleeding pretty good. The rock here is very similar to Bishop Buttermilks. It will take us a little to get use to again. The landscape here is pretty unique and beautiful. Like Red Rocks this place is mostly sand and a lot of it! There is also an infinite amount of Joshua trees and Yucca plants!!
There is a few free camping spots in the area but they all are at least 15-20 minutes away from the park. We think free camping in the park will be a bit of an issue but we are pretty smart and ingenious by now!

image_6

V4 Ghetto Booty

 

V4 Swinging Richard - 3 stars(out of 5) in chocolate boulders .. good route!

V4 3 stars .. good route!

The weather has been warmish for the last couple of days but the wind kind of ruins it. Hopefully, we’ll get nicer weather soon! It’s raining today so we can catch up with the online world,do some errands( no free food here so far) and laundry. Otherwise, life is good and we haven’t kill each other yet!!!! Elaine is sometimes a little bit anxious about what will happen to us after the trip…then she  drink a glass of wine and forget all about it!!!

The budget for last week is a bit over the top due to our tickets to Thailand…but we are trying pretty hard to stay within our budget for the rest of our trip. So far, we didn’t have to reallocate any money to the transport section but we might have to… we will see.

In our last post, I said that we would be increasing our total trip budget by $650 (by the time we redeemed, we actually had $700 to use!) to include the free travel money from the travel credit card. In the end we decided to not add the dollars we had accumulated to the total budget for the same reason that we didn’t add money to the budget when we redeemed the casino points for the free buffet. We’ll justify it by calling that the perks of being a smart spender. Sort of a free lunch for once.

So the total for the flight, for two people, taxes in, minus the $700 from the credit card, to fly from Montreal to Krabi, Thailand: $1131!!!!! Cheap is good!!

Lots of pictures below the budget.. Cheers!

Our  budget for this week is now $183.17 CAD for food & fun.

Jan 15 – Jan 21 : Weekly & Totals since we left 30 weeks ago.

Fuel: $199.95 / $4057.19 (includes 2 months of vehicle insurance, 1 x oil change)
Food: $32.17/ $2063.84 (includes $29.77 for propane)
Fun: $1124.50 / $4662.71 (Thailand trip minus some gains at casino!)

Total for the week without fuel: $1156.67
Total with fuel: $1356.62
Total spent since the beginning: $10783.74

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $4972.47

E & M

IMG_3674

Pork Chop .. it`s the problem name.. come on. Super awesome V2-3

Attractive Brunette, V2 .. short and sweet!

Attractive Brunette, V2 .. short and sweet! .. in Chocolate Boulders

Joshua Tree national park

Joshua Tree

4 PIRATES

The Pirate Crew.. AAARRRRRRRR!

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree national park

Joshua tree national park

Joshua tree.. they grow in funny ways

stuck in between boulders

Help I’m stuck!!!

photo 1

Baking bread from dough.. Found a Pilsburry package you know where .. it worked!

image_3(1)

It`s either that or run it out 20 meters.. 🙂

image_2(1)

The entrance of “The tunnel” in Tunnel Vision. It`s about 15 feet tall.

image_6

Bella totally sleeping wherever she likes

photo 2

Girls trying to stay fit on the road while Conrad enjoys a cinnamon bun 🙂

image_3(2) image_1(2) image_4(1) image_7 image_5 image_4 image_2

 

The tunnel!

The latest from bishop.. life is awesome.

Time flies! We are just about halfway in our trip already. One thing you can rest assured of, it’s not getting old by any means.

Keeping busy on a rest day!

Keeping busy on a rest day!

The last month and a half or so we have spent in Bishop was awesome. We really fell in love with this place and we will be looking forward to coming back. The amount of climbing there is to be done here is phenomenal. We spent many days rope climbing in Owen’s river gorge and it was quite easy to only climb routes above 3 stars (it goes up to 5 stars). In fact, we spent many days climbing only 4 and 5 stars routes. It also goes without saying that having steady friends around is a big turn on. Many times during our trip we met people but we would never spend more than a few days with them. Being in the same spot for a while with other people doing the same is really enjoyable and adds a layer of “normality” to the van living abroad experience.

Our newly found plant of basil from the dumpster

Our newly found plant of basil from the dumpster

The town and the area is extremely van living friendly. Whether you want to park in town (the Vons parking lot allows overnight parking) or close to the spot you’re climbing at, finding somewhere to spend the night is always easy. If all else fails, there is the PV Pit Campground that charges only $2/night to camp. There are numerous water points throughout the town so refilling the water jugs is no problem. Propane is also readily available at many gas stations. Feeding yourself on the cheap is fairly doable too. There’s a bakery called Schat’s that sells day old bread and pastries for $0.35. The only way to beat that is to go dumpster diving for free bread.

Talking about dumpster diving, me and Conrad tried to get into a dumpster that was kept behind a locked gate. It’s easy enough to jump over the fence and go into it. Given that this was in a major grocery store, our hopes were pretty high and we were really hoping to score some good stuff. Unfortunately, we weren’t even behind that fence for 2 minutes before someone working there busted us. It was a little ackward as clearly they don’t want people to go in there but they just asked us to leave after we told them we were just trying to score some free food. Besides this one so-so experience, our regular dumpster has been yielding a lot of goodies.

  • Two more boxes of individually packaged yoghourt
  • 3 lbs of ground beef patties, raw 🙂
  • A Basil plant. We are now growing fresh herbs!
  • Many many tomatoes
  • 4 cantalope & 3 honeydews (we gave some away)
  • Two bags of small oranges
  • A bag of miniature bell peppers
  • Too much bread to eat between the two of us (will try to give some away)
  • 350 grams of ground coffee! Container was still air tight, the only problem was that the can was crushed a little.
    A perfect bag of mixed greens/lettuce. 2 lbs maybe? Definitely was super size
  • Big can of pinto bins with a small dent
  • Tiny can of tomato sauce
  • Straberries
  • Not from the garbage bin but we scored 2 Pumpkin loaf and 2 Date loafs at $0.35 from Schats

We still have to buy some stuff and sometimes we will buy something, only to find something very similar in the bin a few hours later. So we now try to go dumpster diving before we go grocery shopping. Hopefully we are done with finding cabbage as we must have eaten about 8 lbs of it over the last two weeks. Beggars can’t be choosers but a little change would be nice 🙂

ground beef pattiesNow if you read carefully, you saw that we scored some meat again. This time around I was brave enough to eat it. I have eaten 80% of it in the last few days and I’m still around to tell about it. As we eat vegetarian most of the time, it’s always nice to have some animal protein in you (Elaine would argue differently!) I knew the meat had only been in the bin for an hour or two so it was still “fresh”. I cooked it all right away and refrigerated it after it was cooked, hopefully giving it a few extra days of life.

The climbing is going well. Fingertip skin is always raw and we are often forced to take days off when it hurts too much to climb with them. And on the personal level, Elaine sent her first V5!! It’s a traverse called Son of Claudius Rufus.  It was her second day trying it and it finally went. Conrad was filming Kristine on it and he also filmed Elaine so we have footage of the climb. It’s pretty awesome!

At the Burger Barn

At the Burger Barn

We treated ourselves this week to restaurant hamburger and fries at a local joint. The value is quite good given everything is homemade, including the buns. Burgers are $4.50 each and you add $3 for yam fries. It’s also a BYOB place so we had a little cup of wine with our meals. If you are in bishop and fancy good food, I think we would recommend it. They’re called the Burger barn.

Another luxury this week… we had a Texas Hold’em poker night in the buttermilks(a climbing area where we also camp for the night). Buy-in was $5 and we were 6 players. I didn’t win but it made for a really fun night. It was almost as much fun to watch the interaction between boyfriend-girlfriend when the boyfriend would want to do a re-buy (it’s when you loose all your chips early and you invest(spend would the girlfriend say) another $5 to get another pile of chips) and somehow the arguments didn’t have the same weight for guys than for girls. We are all on a tight budget and $10 goes a long way!

Poker night at Brandon and Gabi!

Poker night at Brandon and Gabi!

Our new switch!

Our new switch!

I don’t know if you remember the possessed switch/water pump from the summer but the new switch we put in back then died as well. We think water leaked into it as it’s fairly close to the tap and the seal isn’t 100% water tight and therefore water slowly leaks into the switch and it kills it. Anyways, we were going to replace the switch with an identical set-up but then at the hardware store here, they wanted $5 for the small switch and only $1 for a regular household light switch. We mounted that one on the front of the cupboards and it’s working even better than what we had before. These switches are designed for 120 volts and we are using it on a 12 volts set-up but I can’t see it being a problem.

buttermilks plantingOn Saturday the Friends of the Inyo organized an event to plant some native plants & grass in the bouldering area. We figured it would be a nice way to give back to the community while being a cool activity to attend. About a dozen people showed up and we were provided with all the tools and a crash course on how to help protect erosion by planting some vegetation. They provided us with awesome coffee from Black Sheep Coffee Roasters and sugar cookies. It was fairly easy and by around noon we were already done. We were able to finish the day with some fun bouldering. Thanks to Jasna who organized the event and who also provided us with pictures to use on the blog.

image_12 image_10

As you might have guessed it, we are going to be leaving the area for our next stop sometime next week. The plan as it stands is to go to Red Rock, just outside of Las Vegas for a week or two. But then we love it so much here.. for all we know we might write next week’s blog from Bishop 😉

More pictures below the budget. Cheers!

Our  budget for this week is now $202.07 CAD for food & fun. 

Dec 4 – Dec 10 : Weekly & Totals since we left 24 weeks ago.

Fuel: $58.81 / $3593.16
Food: $46.84 / $1758.95
Fun: $38.06 / $3339.26

Total for the week without fuel: $84.90
Total with fuel: $143.71
Total spent since the beginning: $8691.37

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $7064.84

E & M

planting stuff

Getting the tutorial from the botanist on how to plant things

Watering plantation

Water boy in action

buttermilks view

The view from the buttermilks.. Also you can see where we camp.. It’s one of the white spot over there.

unicycling

Killing time while doing laundry

bouldering in happy boulders

That’s how pros do it.. Action shot!

happy boulders group picture

Conrad, Nic, Matt, Elaine, Kristine and the dogs Diva and Bella.

outdoor haircut

Elaine getting a haircut from Kristine 🙂

playing chess outdoors

I lost.. big time.

IMG_2948

Jedi Mind Trick .. Classic V4 highball in the Pollen Grains.. was super!

wolf dog

Lovis the wolf dog .. sometimes she’s more wolf than dog

posing for the camera

Kristine posing for the camera.. Such a star!

cold climbing

Climbing even when it’s cold!

image_3

New gloves?!

High plane drifter

My latest project.. High plane drifter V7 .. soo nice.

image_6(2)

Our friend Gabi .. Her and her bf have a blog .. click on photo to reach it. http://justgoclimb.com

IMG_2942 IMG_2813 image_3(1) image_1(1) image_11 image_4 image DSC_88032

Dirtbagging skills (… Dumpster diving!)

All layered up… it gets chilly at times!

We are still in Bishop and still loving it here! The weather is a little cooler now…nights are sometimes below freezing. Climbing in the shade is a bit cold and you for sure need a thick jacket but in the sun it’s pretty good. We have been bouldering quite a bit more lately, our  fingers skin is having it pretty rough so we took more rest days than usually. Elaine did her first ever V4 “Beer tumor Right” and is now working on a V5 with Kristine. After a few days, I finally sent “The Hulk” V6 and now working on a V7. It’s all very exciting!!!

Heavenly Path (V1 highball) in Happy boulders

Heavenly Path (V1 highball) in Happy boulders

Elaine working Solarium, a classic V4

Elaine working Solarium, a classic V4

We have added a new tool the our box of “how to dirtbag it”. As the title says it, we have tried and succeeded at dumpster diving. Don’t over think it, dumpster diving is what it is, looking for stuff that is still good to use or eat in a garbage bin. It may be frowned upon by society in general but for having talked about it with other climbers who are living on a small budget/in a van, dumpster diving is pretty amazing. It does feel awkward to do it in public and in broad daylight but it’s totally worth it and sort of feel like winning at the lottery 🙂

At first I didn’t think about it, but dumpster diving (aka Freeganism) helps reducing food waste. It doesn’t take much for a produce to get discarded,a little black spot or a bruise. We also witnessed grocery store staff filling up carts with almost expired/ day old bread, pastries and cold cuts and throwing it all in the dumpster ….it really makes you think about waste/environment and what you can do as an individual to reduce it. Over the last week, we have had good luck finding products that were just about past their “best by” date. Here is what we were able to salvage:

  • 2 x 2 Litres of Orange Juice
  • Much more bread than we were able to eat or give away
  • Over 5 lbs of tomatoes
  • 1  giant honeydew
  • 1 cantaloupe( Elaine couldn’t find anything wrong with it…it was delish!)
  • MANY dozens of eggs
  • yam potato
  • 5lbs of frozen chicken breast (cooked it all, have been eating it for two days.. all good!)
  • 4 packs of “Donettes
  • A full game of Pictionnary

I wish we could do more dumpster diving but most places either lock up their bins or use a compactor. In any case we are saving a bunch of money and it’s kind of fun to eat random things.

Otherwise life is still good. In anticipation of the Xmas holidays, we bought and installed some LED Christmas lights. They look awesome and provide a warm & low power light source. I only wish they would blink to make it awesomer 🙂

Christmas lights

As usual, more pictures below the budget with some captions

Our  budget for this week is now $190.92 CAD for food & fun

Nov 13 – Nov 19 : Weekly & Totals since we left 21 weeks ago.

Fuel: $79.10 / $3454.04
Food: $53.69 / $1623.59 (Includes $16.95 for propane)
Fun: $40.55 / $3213.98 (bought a 26oz of Bacardi Rum with a $2 off coupon.. cost $8 USD!)

Total for the week without fuel: $94.24
Total with fuel: $173.34
Total spent since the beginning: $8291.61

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $7464.60

E & M

bishop gravel road

Improving the road by digging out a boulder.. you don’t want to puncture your oil pan out in the sticks

best picture of me

My best picture .. 🙂

volanic tuff

Elaine being pretty in the hueco 🙂

van living

Killing time doing some Sudoku or something like that

Boxer dog

Bella, also known as Shit-Face McFarlane .. dogs just love eating poo

boxer dog

Diva, aka the Other Shit-face McFarlane

Flapper

First flapper of the trip 😦

image_1(1) image(1) image_6 image_5 image image_1 image_3 image_4 photo 5 photo 4(1) photo 2(1) image_3(2) image_2(2) image_1(2) image(2) photo 1(1) photo 2(2)