Sunday, January 14, 2018

RVentures in Colombia: The Golden Treasure of Friends

The ancient legend of El Dorado promised great riches to those who found the precious gold of the native Muisca people of Colombia. Over the years many explorers have unsuccessfully searched for the golden treasures. But as RVentures brought us to this legendary land of Colombia, South America, we found a more precious treasure ... the golden treasure of dear friends.

Doug and Luis first met many years ago as roommates at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Luis traveled far from his home in Medellin, Colombia to study mechanical engineering at "Tech" while also learning the English language. He quickly mastered English's challenging grammar rules as well as the humor that is needed when learning to speak a foreign language.

Through the years they have remained friends and have been able to get together a few times when Luis' business travels brought him to the United States. It was during one of those visits to Orlando two years ago that Luis invited us to visit his home in Colombia. The promise of an international trip was incentive enough for me to start learning Spanish with the the help of Duolingo, a popular language app. 

In the beginning of January, we tried out our new language skills during a two week trip to the cities of Bogota and Medellin, Colombia. While we still have a long ways to go before we will be proficient in Spanish, we did find our "El Dorado"... our golden treasure ... in the kindness of our Colombian friends, Luis and Piedad.

It is not possible to write about all that we saw and did in one blog entry, so I will share stories and photos of our Colombian adventure ... the sites, food and culture ... in future writings. For now, I want to share some of those moments during our trip when we knew that we had found the ...

The Golden Treasure of Friendship!

Arriving on New Year's Eve, we were welcomed into their home and treated to a delicious meal that introduced us to "typical" Colombian food and wine.

We were also introduced to the Monigote (rag doll), the New Year's Eve tradition of letting go of all the bad things of the past year in order to welcome the new year.

The Monigote, along with all the negatives of the old year, went up in smoke as we welcomed in 2018. Since we had gotten up at 3 am that morning to catch our plane, our "midnight" was celebrated a little early.

During the following days of our visit, we continued to discover many Golden Treasures that our New Year and New Friends would bring!

The golden treasure of a "welcome to Colombia" gift ... a colorful mochila (traditional Colombian handbag) from Piedad. It would prove very useful during our following days filled with travels and sightseeing.

The golden treasure of a "you need to replace your duct tape wallet" with a colorful Colombian leather wallet from Luis.

The golden treasure of a "we know the best traditional Colombian restaurants and will interpret the menus for you". More on the delicious world of arepas, guanabana juice, obleas con arequipe, and other Colombian favorites in a future post. 

The golden treasure of a "breakfast with a smile" every morning from our talented cocinera (cook), Piedad and mesero (waiter), Luis.

The golden treasure of a silver ring "skillfully crafted with love" by artisan extraordinaire Piedad.

Jewelry making, gardening and painting ... her talents are endless!

The golden treasure of a "girlfriend pampering session" complete with manicure, 

... and a sweet twist on the heavenly Colombian coffee.

The golden treasure of our "tour guide extraordinaires" who showed us the ease of using the Medellin metro system to explore museums and parks.

The golden treasure of the "Guanabana con leche creator" who brought Doug to life one morning with a blender full of his new favorite fruit juice.

The golden treasure of including us in their "family celebrations",

... and a dinner with "dad".

The golden treasure of having friends who welcomed us into their "Hogar Dulce Hogar (Home Sweet Home)",

... put their special touch of "love" into every cup of cappucino,

... and brightened our world with their friendship!

We did not find our golden treasure in the Laguna de Guatavita,

... but in the smiles, kindness, and generosity of our Colombian hosts, very patient Spanish tutors, and golden friends, Luis and Piedad!

Until next time ... Share the golden treasure of friendship ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Our Second RVenturous Year On The Road

Technically, our second 12 months on the road ended in October. As life goes, time slipped away ... so as we prepare to welcome the New Year, I have decided that it is a good time to "recap" our second RVenturous year on the road.

Our Second Year on the Road:
The "Numbers"

Doug developed a spreadsheet this past year, so we have been able to keep track of our travel miles and fuel. The Wildebeest still likes her diesel diet, but we are happy that the MPG average is improving after a few visits to the RV service "spa".

Since October 2016, the Wildebeest has traveled 7085 miles. For those of you who are curious or just want to feel better the next time you fill up your car ...

Average price of diesel/gallon ... $2.60

Average miles per gallon ... 7
Total cost of diesel for the 15 months ... $2843

Since Oct 2016, we have lived in 53 different "homes" ... each with a unique and beautiful "yard" such as our view of Picacho Peak, Arizona (above) and Grand Lagoon at St Andrew's State Park in Florida (below).

Nine of these "homes" could be considered a "one night stand" as we boondocked overnight in the parking lots of Walmarts, casinos, Sierra Trading Post, and RV repair shops. While these stays are considered "free", the nights spent at the repair shops in Utah and Michigan were not quite a "bargain".  

Our second year on the road brought us into 21 states of which 13 were new stops for the Wildebeest. 

We are happy to add Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana to RVenture location map that can be accessed here

During our second year journey, we were able to visit and photograph seven State Capitol Buildings including:

Denver, Colorado
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Phoenix, Arizona
Cheyenne, Wyoming

In September, when we made a car road trip to Virginia for a family wedding, we were able to visit the State Capitol buildings of:

Richmond, Virginia
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

and the National Capitol Building in Washington DC

We were able to increase our construction skills and meet a lot of great people as we volunteered on five more Habitat for Humanity builds.

We enjoyed working and getting to know the communities of:

Kearney, Nebraska
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Baraboo, Wisconsin
Marquette, Michigan
Mandeville, Louisiana

As any RV owner knows, the number of RV repairs/improvements can be endless. In January, Doug took out our RV washer/dryer and repurposed the cabinet for more storage. In May, while I worked in Rochester, Doug busied himself with repairing the heater, tracking down the cause of a leaky window, 

... and successfully reinstalling the awning above our door. When I saw how much the professional mechanics charge per hour, I have decided that I definitely need to keep him around!

We visited 13 National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, and Lakeshores including:

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Bandelier National Monument
White Sands National Monument
Organ Mountains National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Saguaro National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Zion National Park
Bryce National Park
Gettysburg National Military Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Gulf Island National Seashore.

We bought the "America the Beautiful" pass last January for $80 and happy to say that we definitely got our money's worth!

Our favorite National Park so far: the beautiful Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Mammoth Cave National Park was the only park that was disappointing for us. The only way to "see" the caves is to pay at least $15 each (some tours cost even more) to be packed in a small portion of the caves with about 100 other people. It was slow going through small narrow passages with not much opportunity to really see and learn about this unique cave system.

Our Second Year on the Road:
The "Favorites"

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama was our favorite "home" this past year. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the campground provides roomy full hookup sites with easy access to bike trails, beach fronts, volleyball and pickleball courts, and ...

... wonderful natural encounters with blue herons, monarch butterflies and with "Lefty" the resident alligator.

During this second year on the road, Doug continued his search of local craft breweries. His favorite: Accomplice Beer Company in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Their "self serve" tap room allowed him to try small amounts of a number of beers.

Since he also started collecting coasters from the breweries that we visit, it is always a win-win situation when I can visit a national park that just happens to have a craft brewery with their own coaster nearby.

Our favorite restaurant this year was MishMash in San Diego, California. Located next door to Iron Fist Brewery, they hand delivered their unique and delicious sandwiches as we enjoyed the SoCal sunshine on the patio.

Our favorite natural area this year had to be the southern California desert in the midst of their super bloom this past spring. 

We enjoyed the hiker's paradise that included beautiful blooming cacti in the warm sunshine,

... and the cool refuge of the desert oasis.

We continue to appreciate the welcoming embrace of our faith community wherever we may be. The beautiful southwestern art, lively congregation, and delicious Mexican lunch at St Genevieve made it a welcoming "home" while we were working with Habitat for Humanity in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

But as the saying goes, "there is no place like home", and we always look forward to joining in the praise when our travels bring us back to Rochester.

We discovered some primo biking paths around the San Diego harbor,

... but still rate the bike paths around Minneapolis and St Paul as our favorite.

We were able to visit a favorite tourist attraction three times when we were near Pensacola, Florida. The National Naval Aviation Museum tours gave me (the history buff) wonderful stories of so many heroes. Being able to watch the Blue Angels air shows close up kept us coming back!

Our Second Year on the Road:
The Everyday Surprises ... Better Known as Blessings

While we love our travels, our favorite times are when we can drop in and stay a while ... with family and friends! 

Whether we are relaxing around the campfire at Lake Carlos,

... or shopping/sightseeing with one of our favorite camping buddies,

... or visiting friends who continue to grow more precious each time we see them,

... or seeing young campers develop into beautiful teenagers while volunteering at Camp Ihduhapi,

... or spending Mother's day with these two special young men,

... or gathering with family at the college baseball world series,

... or boondocking in their backyard and hanging out on the front porch with Doug's family,

... or capturing the precious smile of one of our newest hometown friends,

...we are grateful for the blessing of another RVenturous year together!

So, what's in store for 2018?

RVentures goes "international" tomorrow as we fly to Bogota, Colombia for a two week visit with Doug's college friend!

Until next time ... appreciate the blessings of your special travel companions ... and enjoy the adventures in the New Year!