Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We're Alive!

Hello friends and family, we apologize for falling off the face of the earth for so long, but van life has been quite hectic!

Last we spoke, we had dipped our toes into Utah for a rodeo — shortly thereafter we plunged into Salt Lake City, where we met up with an old friend of Tressa's for an exhausting but worthwhile uphill hike with an insane elevation gain that ended with a swim in an exhilaratingly icy lake.

We did some CouchSurfing, first with a charming and goofy Pennsylvania native that had an array of fascinating stories and had acquired an incredible lady dog named Kudra while hiking alone in New Mexico, and who we dubbed Pizza Eric after he fed us some of his delicious homemade specialty dish.

Later, we "stayed" with a witty Mormon hipster that failed to warn us that he, in fact, lived with his entire Mormon family, and that we had to pretend to be old friends from his mission in California; one of the least comfortable CouchSurfing experiences to date. We checked out the big intimidating temple, experienced the Utah beer struggle, drove past the Great Salt Lake, but decided it smelled icky and passed by to instead enjoy a gorgeous sunset in the Bonneville Salt Flats.

On our way to Reno before Burning Man, we stopped in a little Nevada town called Elko to rest, but discovered that there were CouchSurfing hosts in town, which is town we came to spend a wildly unexpected and wondrous night with Heidi and some of her cohorts, before getting to relax in an air conditioned apartment with their three kitties, Comet, Steak Knife, and Toulouse, scampered about. We soon met her house and soul mate, Kailie, and instantly become fast friends with the dynamic duo. We ended up spending three days in tiny, unassuming Elko, thrifting and crafting, making tasty meals, lounging and laughing with these incredible humans, ultimately making plans to camp with Heidi at Burning Man before we took off to meet Kelsey's dad, Colin, in Reno.

We stayed with Colin at the Circus Circus in Reno, dragging him along with us to do some last minute Burning Man shopping, and catching up before heading to one of the most classically American pastimes: a baseball game! The $1 hot dogs enhanced the whole experience. The next day we took a day trip to historic Virginia City, where we strolled past old saloons and visited the Fourth Ward Schoolhouse and met an endearing and well-traveled older lady that shared her vast knowledge with us passionately.

Evan came to Reno to meet us before the Burn, and Colin left the next day, so the three of us caravanned to Sparks, where we stayed with an inviting polyamorous couple that opens their home each year to the multitude of Burners stopping through the area. We met a whole gaggle of interesting folks also getting together last minute goggles and bike lights, and shared a meal of Twin Palms veggies that Evan brought out to us.

To write in detail about our three collective burns would require so much more than we can put here. If you've been to Burning Man, you know that the experience is a multi-layered explosion of self-exploration, fun, fire, and friendship almost too big and varied to put into words. Already this year was crazy, because we once we got into line, we were struck by a lightning storm, complete with a downpour of rain and hail that caused the gates to close and prevented vehicles from moving for something like 12 hours. However within slightly over 24 hours, we made it inside, set up camp, and had a magical week filled with donut holes, puns, wind and dust and magic, coincidence and gifts, bloody marys, and heckling, and we all emerged exhausted and satisfied and dirty, and all caught colds immediately after our return to the default world.

Our trip took an unusual twist after Burning Man, when we decided to return to our Sparks CouchSurfing hosts to take hot showers and do some laundry, as well as share a barbeque dinner and some stories with our hosts and some other dusty souls. Afterwards, in another unusual turn of events, we backtracked again and returned to our new feline-loving friends in Elko, where we both agreed we felt strangely at home, making use of their kitchen casually, giving Kailie a ride to work and bugging Heidi for scones at the coffee shop where she works. We had such a wonderful time with our Elko tribe, we felt as if we could stay forever, but, of course, adventure called, so we embarked on yet another travel déjà vu and returned to Pizza Eric and Kudra, who we added to our two-car caravan.

The four (well, five if you count our four-legged friend) of us headed to drizzly Uinta hot springs for some glorious egg-fart scented lounging, and then to Goblin Valley, where we camped. In the morning, Eric, who happens to be a bonafide outdoorsman, took us canyoneering for the first time — essentially hiking, scrambling, and occasionally sloshing, wading and stemming (propping ourselves with our legs and our buns and shuffling over wet crevices) through Ding and Dang canyons, passing Kudra over the steeper drops, much to her dismay. It was quite the adventure.

The next day Eric left, taking Kudra and our cold with him, and we headed to awe-inspiring Arches National Park, where we did a bit of exploring and watched a dramatic sunset and a nearly-full moonrise.

We left Utah yesterday, headed for Colorado to see the Four Corners Monument. We simultaneously celebrated three months of travel and Evan's last day sharing our journey with us by treating ourselves to margaritas, incredible Mexican food, and a shabby motel room. Today, we said our goodbyes, and as Evan turned and headed west for California, we are continuing east to visit a good friend in Boulder, Colorado.

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