Final Wrap-up Blog Entry for Two Year Experience of a Lifetime

April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2018

30,240 miles or 48,666 kms later

Jan. 15 –  Mar. 31, 2018 Entry

We had a number of blog followers comment that we left them ‘high and dry’ in Santiago, and they wanted to know how the tale ended. Once we decided to end our driving trip for the reasons we stated  in our previous blog entry:

We drove madly across Chile and through the Cristo Redenter Túnel into Argentina to reach the port of Zarate on the Atlantic outside of Buenos Aires on Jan. 19th since there was a ship leaving from Argentina to Jacksonville FL the following Monday. (Cheaper to ship on the Atlantic side with more options than anything on the Pacific side.)

We did spend an extra day in Mendoza Arg. which is beautiful and the city has gorgeous tree-lined wide streets and is surrounded by vineyards.

After checking our truck into the Zarate Port on Friday the 19th, we spent a week exploring Buenos Aires. Very European atmosphere and architecture but a tad warm for us.

Then we flew up to the Iguazú Falls on the Arg. side where it was steaming. But oh my god, the Falls were incredible. Definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip. It’s not that they’re so tall but they stretch about a mile long.

💫Bucket list check off.

Back to Buenos Aires for the weekend and then flew down to the Arg. Patagonia area in El Calafete, after buying new cold weather gear since this trip, although originally planned before we left CA, our gear had been shipped in the truck because we hadn’t planned on going when we called an early end to the trip.

We took a 15 hour round trip bus tour that left Arg. and entered Chile to go to the Torres del Paine Natl. Park  The epitome of Patagonia. (And then reversed back through the border to El Calafete.) Turned out to be another highlight of trip.

💫Bucket list check off.

Visited Moreno Glacier from El Calafete – incredible.

All this time Dave is having to cope with the pain from his cracked rib.

Flew back to Buenos Aires for the weekend. Then flew into Miami FL on Monday Feb. 5th. Stayed in Miami Beach area and one day we did a self-guided walking tour of the Art Deco District in South Beach. But we only got through half of the stops because we were oohing and aahing over the architecture.

The next day we took a driving tour with our Uber driver we met the day before of the major Miami neighborhoods. Just the highlights since wanted to get familiar with Miami.

Then on Friday Feb. 9th, we flew to Cuba (Take that Trump.) and stayed in Old Havana at an AirBnB in an apartment below the owner’s (Royber) flat called a ‘casa particulares.’

We stayed and explored Old Havana and the immediate neighborhoods for a week.

I knew there were many old “Yank Tanks” there but I didn’t expect every third car to be over 50 years old. And the architecture of the old historic buildings, while bring decrepit and badly in need of repair, was gorgeous.

Royber hooked us up with a neighbor who came in every morning and made us breakfast. And then later in the week we turned to her to make our late lunch meals as well. Good cook with typical Cuban food.

Royber also hooked us up with another friend who collected us one evening in a 1948 Chevrolet convertible and took us for a spin on the Malecón.  Really great.

💫Bucket List check off.

Another day Dave had made arrangements before we arrived for a day-long photo guided tour with Alfonso. He took us to places we wouldn’t have seen including an avant-guarde dance rehearsal and my personal favorite (not!) boxing club where young men were training. Not that I didn’t mind watching  sweaty young male hardbodies, I just felt strange watching while Dave was photographing.

Dance rehearsal in the auditorium of a Jewish synagogue.

💫Havana Cuba – Bucket List check off.

After our week was up, we flew back into Ft. Lauderdale and picked up a rental, stayed in another AirBnB (where another guest gave us the flu – but more on that later) for two nights while we went to visit the historic Bonnet House. Great family home of two wealthy artists who built the house in the 30’s. Quirky with lots of art pieces – theirs as well as collected items.

On Sunday Feb. 19th we drove across the Everglades on Alligator Alley to Punta Gorda just north of Ft. Myers to see friends Carl and Cynthia who retired from the Bay Area and resettled in FL in a gorgeous retirement community complex right on the Gulf of Mexico.

Then we checked into an old-time FL motel originally for three nights so we could explore Sanibel Island but first Dave, and then I, came down with the flu. (Even though we had gotten our flu shots in S. America earlier – but I guess the flu vaccine this year hasn’t stopped the spread of another strain.)

The Motel was super good about keeping us in rooms even though they were completely booked even if we did have to change rooms three times.

The third day I took Dave to a walk-in clinic to get him some medicine and a Tamiflu prescription for me since my symptoms were just starting. (But good thing because my symptoms weren’t as severe as Dave’s and I was able to drive and get supplies for our unexpected stay for six days.)

Although Dave was still feeling bad, we decided to drive down to Key Largo on our way to Key West for a few days. I drove across the southern part of the Everglades while he slept. The entire drive from Ft Myers down the west coast through Naples is nothing but relatively new housing gated communities and the related strip malls. Indistinguishable. Bland, boring with no redeeming architectural value. Saw a bit of hurricane damage around Naples.

Checked into a hotel resort in Key Largo on Sat. Feb. 24th. Dave was not feeling better and then lost his voice from all the coughing. The only good news was that his rib was mostly healed and the coughing didn’t re-injure the rib.

I felt good enough I went out on a boat trip to see some manatees. Then the boat went out into the mangroves where I, two mother/daughter teams and the guide kayaked our way through the mangroves.

The following day I signed up for a snorkeling trip out to reefs on the Oceanside while Dave recuperated in the room. Just sad he didn’t get to enjoy the gorgeous weather and sun and water.

We drove down through the Keys on Feb. 26th spotting Hurricane Irma’s path through the Middle Keys to Key West where we visited Ernest Hemingway’s and the six-toed cats’ home. We also did an interesting tour through President Truman’s winter home and took the tourist trolley train ride around the old town of Key West. Key West is an interesting town historically, architecturally and culturally. We had great weather while sightseeing.

After checking out of Key West on Thurs. Mar. 1st, we headed back to the Florida mainland and took several days driving up the east coast with a stop in Port St. Lucie and the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville. The Center is Disneyland for adults with many exhibits and tours even for the non-space enthusiasts like me. But expensive even with the Senior discount at $46/per person.

We arrived at our long-time friend Ronnie’s home in Jacksonville on the 6th to await the truck’s arrival on the ship the Baltimore Highway. We had a good long visit while she graciously put us up during the ship’s uncertain arrival date.

On Mon. Mar. 12, after the by now expected hassles with the shipping company, Customs and Port Terminal officials, we retrieved our truck/camper (which arrived intact and in good shape), turned in our car rental at the Jacksonville Intl. Airport and we started our drive across the US. Our first stop was in Tallahassee FL for the night.

We arrived at another long-time friend Shirley’s home in Decatur AL on the 13th. During our few days visit with her, we toured both the Decatur and Huntsville historic home districts with houses dating back to before the Civil War. We also toured Huntsville Redbrook Space & Rocket museum which was also interesting if not also expensive like the Space Center.

We left Decatur on Mar. 16th and drove to Memphis TN with a stop at Helen Keller’s birthplace museum in West Tuscumbia AL.

On the 17th, we, of course, had to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home, which was smaller and not as weird as our expectations.

On the 18th we visited the Rock & Soul Museum which was very interesting and we spent hours viewing the exhibits and listening to the music selections. A stroll down to the Mississippi River showed the flooding and how swollen overflowing it was.

We left Memphis on Mar. 19th and drove across the flooded Delta into AR for a lunch at my Aunt Audrey & Cousin Debbie’s home outside Bee Branch AR where we also got to see Aunt Betty.

After a night’s stay in Conway AR, we left on Mar. 20 and drove straight through to my Sister Nancy and brother-in-law’s home in Wichita KS.

After almost a week visiting my siblings, we left Wichita on Mar. 26th and met a long-time friend Gay and her new husband Roger in Pratt KS for lunch before driving on through western KS and the OK Panhandle before stopping the night in Dalhart TX. This area is suffering a historic drought and now the prairie wildfires have hit with the Spring high winds.

On Mar. 27th we drove through snow flurries on our way up to Taos NM where we visited the historical church photographer the Ansel Adams and artist Georgia O’Keefe made famous. It was gorgeous in the Taos Basin surrounded by snow-capped mountains. And we visited the historical home of Kit Carson in his years as an Indian agent.

My version of the San Francisco de Asis church which Ansel Adams photographed in 1929.

After a few days, we left Taos NM on the 29th and drove straight through to Flagstaff AZ for a overnight stay. The next morning on the 30th we visited the Walnut Canyon Ruins Natl. Monument outside Flagstaff before meeting another long-time friend Leslie for lunch who drove up from Phoenix.

Walnut Canyon

After lunch we headed west on Highway 40 and   overnighted after crossing into CA in Needles.

Saturday the 31st saw a long drive across the Mojave Desert, crossing the Tehachapi Pass and up Highway 5 to pull into Pacifica around 5pm.

Home sweet home. The view from the Pacifica Pier.

Exactly two years from leaving on our two year expedition on April 1, 2016. This journey was something we had looked forward to for many years while suffering through horrific tax seasons. It wasn’t like anything we had really expected, but exceeded our expectations in so many ways.

But we are glad to be back home and are in the process of re-setting up our home which our tenant vacated at noon on the 31st. The timing of it all was perfect.

After we settle in, we’ll start planning our next travel journey. There are many places still on our Travel Wish List but we’ll approach the travel in different ways.

Below is a Highlights Recap of Year Two of our travels (Year One highlights already appeared earlier in our blog.)

  • 2nd-year highlights in chronological order –
  1. Tried to decipher how Darwin figured out evolution from analyzing 13 different species of finches’ beaks in the Galapagos.
  2. Spied the closest mountain to the sun since on the equator bulge – Chimborazo Mt. Ecuador. 6268 meters – 20,564′.
  3. Watched a sea lion go after a puffer fish, fish expand and get away while snorkeling at León Dormida in the Galapagos.
  4. Crossed over the Andes ridge back many times with 15,000’+ elevations with the highest one at 15,960′.
  5. Visited the biggest gold museum in the world in Bogotá, Colombia with over 55,000 gold pieces and 6,000 on display at any one time.
  6. Enjoyed the climate in Quito, Ecuador – second highest capital in the world at 2,850 meters or 9,350′.
  7. Shopped in the largest indigenous peoples’ market in Otavalo, Ecuador that had everything from cows, guinea pigs, 50 different types of fruits and vegetables to embroidered table clothes and woven ponchos.
  8. Celebrated Inti Raymí Midsummer Solistice at Lago Cuicocha, Ecuador.
  9. Traveled by train to Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) from Aluasí, Ecuador.
  10. Pondered the oddity of which US companies we see everywhere: Sherwin Williams paint stores, Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Zumba, fidget spinners.
  11. Marveled at the rice paddies in the Peruvian deserts.
  12. Viewed the 3rd longest free-fall Waterfall in the world – Gocta Waterfall Ecuador.
  13. Trekked in Peru’s spectacular Cordillera Blanca.
  14. Stunned by the Nazca & Palpa Lines from our four-seater prop plane air flight in Peru.
  15. Marveled at the unique Chilean coastal towns in Atacama region: Iquique, Antofagasta and La Serena after leaving hundreds of miles in one of the driest desert in the world – the Atacama.
  16. Enjoyed the Pisco & wine tasting in Central Chile.
  17. Startled by a huge sun halo over Santiago Chile in midday.
  18. Spied Cerro Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.
  19. Sweltered but amazed by the walk along the lengthy Iguazú Falls at the Argentinian and Brazilian borders.
  20. Goggled at Torres del Paine mountain range in southern Chile.
  21. Bused over the vast Patagonia Steppes on the way to the Moreno Glacier.
  22. Relived glory days with our 1948 Chevrolet convertible ride on Havana Cuba’s Malecón.
  23. Shocked by the size of the Kennedy Space Center’s Titusville FL extensive, informative and interesting exhibits, rockets and launch pads.
  24. Listened our way through the Rock and Soul Museum in Memphis TN.
  25. Enthralled by Spring time flowering trees in northern AL and AR.

Editor’s Note: We hoped that you enjoyed reading about our little excursion to the lands south of the border. We certainly enjoyed sharing our stories and photos with our readers.

You can see all of the trip photos (many not published on this blog) here.  Click on the “Galleries” menu. And I will be posting new work here. (It’s a bit threadbare at the moment but that will change in the next few days.)

The site does not provide a way to auto-notify you that new photos have been added. So you’ll have to bookmark the site and check back periodically.  Or you could send me an email address, and I will notify you when new content becomes available.

All good things eventually come to an end. And so, in the words of the inimitable Porky Pig,

Th-thth-that’s all folks!