Charlottamiles South and North – New Book Announcement

 


Hi Everyone!
Welcome to all of you who are new to our blog!
Ned and Kat (and Charlotte!) are happy to announce the publication of our second book, Charlottamiles South and North, Nevada to Argentina to Alaska – A Circuitous Sojourn in a VW Syncro. As most of you know, in December 2013, we took off in Charlotte, our 4×4 VW Vanagon, and spent fourteen months driving to the southern tip of South America. Then in 2016, we racked up another two months on the road, making it to the top of the continent, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. This book is a compilation of our entire blog (which we posted along the way) and has been formatted into an enormous eBook! It is 2,187 pages and has 2,300 color photos. It is so large that our publisher said we could only offer it through Amazon Kindle or Apple iBooks. Apologies to those of you who still love paper books, but we really are thrilled to offer the blog in a much easier to read format. There are so many large posts that it has been difficult to navigate the blog site! We had a lot of fun reliving the adventures as we went through the publishing process, and for any of you who would like to do the same, just click here for Kindle and here for iBooks.
Both of us feel strongly blessed to be in a position to travel and would love to share our adventures with as many people as are interested in riding along. Please help us “pay it forward” by sharing and writing online reviews.

Below is the published book description:

Follow Ned, Kat and Charlotte (an intrepid 1987 Volkswagen 4×4 Vanagon) as they wander the Americas, turning the 10,000 crow-fly miles from Ushuaia, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska into 40,000 circuitous ones. With no route planning, no internet research and a penchant for bush camping and remote, dirt tracks, Ned and Kat’s experiences and unexpected encounters while living on the road will leave you breathless. With 2,300 fascinating photos and plenty of exciting, unpredictable and electrifying stories, you will find yourself along for the ride of a lifetime.
“At 6am, December 21st, right on schedule, Ned and I looked at each other in the pre-dawn dark of the bus, gulped a couple of times and said goodbye to all the comforts of home. The future was now an immense unknown. I felt this crazy fluctuation of feelings bouncing around somewhere between the anticipation of elated excitement and the apprehension of sheer terror. But how incredibly fortunate we were; the road ahead was not so much a black hole as a blank canvas.” Excerpt from Charlottamiles South and North
From the vivid color and vibrancy of Mexico, to the jungles of Central America and the soaring elevations of the Andes, Ned and Kat delve into a rich diversity of people, culture and food with honesty, humor and insight.
“Following Charlotte and her human counterparts, Ned and Kat Bacon, through the Americas is to live a vicarious adventure. Their plan was to “have no plan at all;” simply travel south until they reached land’s-end. During this multi-year trek the trio navigates, in a zigzag kind of way, a gauntlet of third-world challenges with the prowess of a kayaker through Class-V rapids. They seek out the roads less traveled, immerse themselves in foreign cultures, and savor the aroma of street food cuisine. I am inspired by those who step away from the norm, take adventure into their own hands, and let the trip take them in the direction that the wind blows.” Chris Collard, Editor-in-Chief, Overland Journal

While we are shamelessly promoting our books…don’t forget our first one, Saving Charlotte, Fumbling Across America with a Reluctant VW Bus, the story of how we found Charlotte in Hartford, CT and brought her home. This book is more widely available at booksellers like Amazon in both paper and eBook formats and is shorter, but a lot of fun. Below is the published description:

“We drove away in an unlicensed car that we did not legally own, complete with a bashed in front end, a badly cracked windshield, and a headlight propped in with duct tape, a tree branch and a piece of foam found lying on the ground. It was not an encouraging way to start our 3,000 mile journey!”
Ever dream of buying a one-way airline ticket to purchase a sight-unseen, salvage titled automobile and drive it across the country? Join Kat and Ned as they “rescue” Charlotte, an unlicensed, reluctant, but endearing VW Syncro bus who drags her wheels at first, but eventually really gets rolling. Kat and Ned had a vision of building up a Syncro into a cool, capable overland adventure vehicle, dreaming of the advantages of “bus living.” But would the dream turn into a nightmare?
The adventures and mis-adventures are hilarious, turning a four day drive from Connecticut to Nevada into a two week escapade of mysterious mechanical issues, cop-dodging, heat waves, torrential thunderstorms, missing credit cards, and Mississippi mud baths.
Can’t get out of Hartford…Can’t get out of Buffalo…Can’t get out of Elkhart…you can’t imagine what can go wrong on a trip like this! Charlotte balks, spits, sputters and lurches but never stalls, while Kat and Ned persevere, finding that, in spite of her VW idiosyncrasies, Charlotte has a truly endearing soul. They also find that their dream of “bus living” has become an addictive reality.
“Only in a VW Bus would somebody attempt something like this…and get away with it! What a great story! A must-read not only for the VW Bus crowd—but for the wanna- be’s too!”
S. Lucas Valdes – GoWesty Campers

Happy trails for now! Stay tuned for more adventures!
Ned and Kat

Ned and Kat’s Perfect Wedding – Charlotte’s a Bridesmaid!

April 24, 2015, Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii

“So, Em, ummm… your Dad and I were kind of thinking of getting married while we’re here…what do you think?”

Silence. Then Emily, Ned’s 26 year old daughter, wisely said, “You guys don’t really love Hawaii that much, right? And besides, you’ve been together for ten years, and I already think of you as married. Don’t have your wedding here on my account. Go somewhere more fun for you!” She was right. We were only in Hawaii now to celebrate Ned’s niece’s wedding. Ned and I are desert rats after all. Hawaii would never have been our first choice. Had being at our wedding been more important to Emily we would have happily done the deed just to have her with us, but it wasn’t.

So no Hawaiian wedding. After ten years and thousands of miles traveled together, Ned and I had finally decided to tie the knot. But where? How? In the entire fourteen months of driving to the tip of South America in Charlotte, not one place materialized as a fun/unique/romantic place to get hitched, not even our favorite foreign country, Mexico. What could we do, where could we go that would be special in a “Ned and Kat” kind of way?

In the meantime, I had asked Ned to take me out to the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada to camp at the hot springs in Charlotte for my 55th birthday, which was on May 7th. So far, we had two couples joining us, Leonard and KC and Segis and Kathy, and I couldn’t have been more excited. That’s where I belong, where I’m the happiest, the Nevada Desert.

Suddenly, while sitting on the front porch of our lovely rented house there in Hanalei, with the sultry air caressing my skin, the exotic smell of flowers tickling my nose, the surf providing a soothing backdrop (none of which I was appreciating nearly enough), my mind turned to the Black Rock Desert, and I knew.

“Yogi!” I said excitedly. “Let’s ask Leonard to get ordained so he can marry us out on the Black Rock! Wouldn’t that be perfect?” Ned’s eyes lit up. I could see his wheels spinning. And then he said slowly, still thinking, “Yeaaahhh, Boo Boo, that could work!”

I immediately called my friend, KC (Leonard’s wife), who became instantly and infectiously elated with the idea. I asked her to speak with Leonard and to text me right back. Ten minutes later the text came…Leonard not only agreed, but was also very enthusiastic. Wow, what a dream. I had visions of wearing my new dress (having bought the blue flowy, flowery concoction for the wedding we would be attending here on Kauai) right on the “playa” of the Black Rock Desert. White playa (picture an immense, dry alkali lake), blue sky, me in my gypsy dress of gorgeous blues and hints of white. Barefoot. Yes, how perfect would that be?

Arriving back home on April 30th, we confirmed our date for the weekend of May 15-17, and began asking other friends to join us. Between the short notice and the rough camping venue, we had no other takers. Then it occurred to Ned that he had his best Porsche buddy, Leonard and his best VW Vanagon buddy, Segis (owner of GoWesty), but he did not have a jeeping buddy. That’s when we thought of Jim and Tona. But how could we ask them to drive up all the way from Southern California and then out to the Nevada desert for a 3 day event? Well, not only were they totally excited, but they even cancelled other previously arranged plans so they could join us. This was going to be fun. None of the three couples had ever met before, but we knew that all six people were exceptional and that it would be perfect.

With only a week and a half to prepare, the only plans we made were for food to bring for the camping trip/wedding party. We didn’t even plan which day to get married, trusting that it would happen when the mood struck us. Would it be Friday, when we first arrived, or Saturday after we’d had time to settle in? We later joked that we put more time and energy into planning jeep events than we put into our own wedding, but I guess that’s just who we are. The only thing we decided for sure was that we would have a Mexican taco and tequila feast for the wedding party and steaks for which ever turned out to be the other night.

Then two things happened that put a little damper on my exuberance. First, watching the weather, we could see that it had been raining out in the Gerlach area and that more weather was heading in. That meant not only wet camping, but also that driving on the (usually) dry lake was impossible. No blue skies and white playa to go with that frilly dress. To make matters worse, if we could not cross the playa from Gerlach to the hot springs, it would require an additional three hour 4-wheel-drive go around to get there. We prepared everyone for the worse while also informing them that the three hour detour would pretty much guarantee that we would have the hot springs to ourselves. With Burning Man having taken over the Black Rock Desert for one week a year, the hot springs were no longer a secret. And the go around was a beautiful wheeling trip through the desert. The bad weather just might turn into a blessing in disguise.

The second thing that had me momentarily sobered was that in sharing our upcoming nuptial plans with all of the friends and family that could not be there, it occurred to me how fortunate we are to have such close relationships with so many amazing people. In all of my life, I have been of the odd opinion that any wedding of mine needed to be very private between just the two of us. Even in my twenties when I married the first time, I did not want the 30-people-wedding I eventually agreed to. But here I was in my fifties now, finally understanding the importance of community, and I felt a little sad, a little selfish. I also know how Ned and I are, and having a wedding that would be special to us in our own private way was essential. I let the revelation bathe me in gratitude for having such a rich life, full of fantastic people and inspiring experiences and focused on the upcoming wedding weekend. I knew it would be perfect.

Thursday, May 14, 2015, JT Basque Restaurant Bar, Minden, Nevada “Here’s to the bride and groom!” Six glasses clinked merrily as strangers became friends and our “rehearsal dinner” began. We were a lively group, sitting and standing around the JT Bar, drinking our Picons (a traditional Basque cocktail), and chatting excitedly. Our entire wedding party had arrived safely; Segis and Kathy from Los Osos, CA, Jim and Tona from Huntington Beach, CA and Leonard and KC from across the valley. Everyone was hitting it off, and the mood was wonderful. Then it got better. First, our amazing friend, Renee, floated gracefully through the front door, carrying, of all things, a traditional bride’s bouquet (perfectly designed to go with my wedding dress) and a matching boutonniere for Ned. Who on earth would ever have thought of including a traditional bouquet in a non-traditional camping wedding? Renee, of course! And I was delighted. And then my brother, David, from Roseville, called. “Is it too late to come on the trip?” “Are you kidding? That is fantastic! Meet us in Fernley at 11:00am tomorrow!” Our Basque dinner was delicious, plentiful and full of laughter and high spirits. The weather was looking really bad, but somehow I still knew our wedding would continue to be perfect.

Thursday, May 14, 2015, JT Basque Restaurant Bar, Minden, Nevada
“Here’s to the bride and groom!” Six glasses clinked merrily as strangers became friends and our “rehearsal dinner” began. We were a lively group, sitting and standing around the JT Bar, drinking our Picons (a traditional Basque cocktail), and chatting excitedly. Our entire wedding party had arrived safely; Segis and Kathy from Los Osos, CA, Jim and Tona from Huntington Beach, CA and Leonard and KC from across the valley. Everyone was hitting it off, and the mood was wonderful. Then it got better.
First, our amazing friend, Renee, floated gracefully through the front door, carrying, of all things, a traditional bride’s bouquet (perfectly designed to go with my wedding dress) and a matching boutonniere for Ned. Who on earth would ever have thought of including a traditional bouquet in a non-traditional camping wedding? Renee, of course! And I was delighted. And then my brother, David, from Roseville, called. “Is it too late to come on the trip?”
“Are you kidding? That is fantastic! Meet us in Fernley at 11:00am tomorrow!”
Our Basque dinner was delicious, plentiful and full of laughter and high spirits. The weather was looking really bad, but somehow I still knew our wedding would continue to be perfect.

Friday, May 15, 2015, Pilot Gas Station, Fernley, Nevada The drenching rain fell steadily as we pulled into the gas station and spotted David pumping fuel into his 4WD Ford truck. I jumped out of Charlotte and happily greeted him with a big hug. We made the rounds of introductions there in the parking lot with our hoods pulled up against the wind and wet. Everyone fueled up, and we headed north toward Gerlach. We were all excited about lunch at the (in)famous Bruno’s Country Club, renowned for their homemade raviolis (and a great bar). Gerlach is (normally) a dusty little town (population around 200) on the edge of the vast, 40x60 mile dry alkali lake called The Black Rock. In recent years, Gerlach has become recognized as the gateway to the annual Burning Man festival, held in the middle of the playa (dry lake). But to local Northern Nevadans, it has always been famous for Bruno’s Country Club, bar, restaurant, gas station and motel. Ned’s Dad, Ted, even bused 100 of his friends in to celebrate his own 70th birthday party back in 1997. The destination had been a surprise. The guests were told one thing only - to pack an overnight bag. From the stories I have been told, it seems Ted’s party was a huge success. Bruno’s bar is rustic and fun, and that’s where we headed first, having driven the hour and a half from Fernley in continuous rain. Gerlach was not dusty when we arrived, it was a muddy mess! The street sign entering the hamlet proclaimed: “Gerlach, The Center of the Known Universe.” We all ran into the bar where we were plied with plenty of Bloody Marys and Tequila Marys. The rain had not drenched our moods one bit. This was turning out to be an intrepid little troop of friends. The bartender, waitress and local bar flies were all friendly, helpful and enthusiastic about our impending nuptials, even gifting me a bunch of lovely roses (left over from Mother’s Day). They were, however, not encouraging with regards to the go around road to the hot springs, shaking their heads gravely and telling us how muddy it would be out there. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure they found the whole thing amusing, and we were happy to provide their afternoon entertainment. There was even some alcohol induced talk about having our wedding right there in the bar at Bruno’s. When asked if anyone had ever gotten married here, the bartender, Celia, said, “Not that I know of. Let’s do it!” Instead, we opted to enjoy massive plates of gigantic homemade raviolis.

Friday, May 15, 2015, Pilot Gas Station, Fernley, Nevada
The drenching rain fell steadily as we pulled into the gas station and spotted David pumping fuel into his 4WD Ford truck. I jumped out of Charlotte and happily greeted him with a big hug. We made the rounds of introductions there in the parking lot with our hoods pulled up against the wind and wet. Everyone fueled up, and we headed north toward Gerlach. We were all excited about lunch at the (in)famous Bruno’s Country Club, renowned for their homemade raviolis (and a great bar).
Gerlach is (normally) a dusty little town (population around 200) on the edge of the vast, 40×60 mile dry alkali lake called The Black Rock. In recent years, Gerlach has become recognized as the gateway to the annual Burning Man festival, held in the middle of the playa (dry lake). But to local Northern Nevadans, it has always been famous for Bruno’s Country Club, bar, restaurant, gas station and motel. Ned’s Dad, Ted, even bused 100 of his friends in to celebrate his own 70th birthday party back in 1997. The destination had been a surprise. The guests were told one thing only – to pack an overnight bag. From the stories I have been told, it seems Ted’s party was a huge success. Bruno’s bar is rustic and fun, and that’s where we headed first, having driven the hour and a half from Fernley in continuous rain.
Gerlach was not dusty when we arrived, it was a muddy mess! The street sign entering the hamlet proclaimed: “Gerlach, The Center of the Known Universe.” We all ran into the bar where we were plied with plenty of Bloody Marys and Tequila Marys. The rain had not drenched our moods one bit. This was turning out to be an intrepid little troop of friends.
The bartender, waitress and local bar flies were all friendly, helpful and enthusiastic about our impending nuptials, even gifting me a bunch of lovely roses (left over from Mother’s Day). They were, however, not encouraging with regards to the go around road to the hot springs, shaking their heads gravely and telling us how muddy it would be out there. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure they found the whole thing amusing, and we were happy to provide their afternoon entertainment. There was even some alcohol induced talk about having our wedding right there in the bar at Bruno’s. When asked if anyone had ever gotten married here, the bartender, Celia, said, “Not that I know of. Let’s do it!” Instead, we opted to enjoy massive plates of gigantic homemade raviolis.

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Somewhere along the way a decision was made to stay the night right there in Bruno’s Motel. While Segis and Kathy and Ned and I both have water tight Vanagons in which to escape the weather, everyone else was either tenting it or staying in the backs of pickups. Having secured dry beds for everyone, we set off on a wheeling excursion in the steady rain, spending the afternoon exploring possible alternative hot springs and enjoying gorgeous scenery and the intoxicating smell of rain soaked sage brush. We had also heard from the man at Bruno’s gas station that there was a guy with a 5th wheel stuck out there somewhere, so there was even a possible rescue to undertake! Everyone drove well on the muddy roads; David in his 4WD Ford, Leonard and KC in their Chevy ¾ ton 4WD truck, Jim and Tona in their Jeep JK, and Segis and Kathy and Ned and I in our 4WD VW Syncro Vanagons. We did eventually find the guy who had unwisely chosen to pull his 5th wheel into a mud bog. Both truck and trailer were buried to the axles. The man was in the process of unhitching when we arrived on the scene, so Ned and Charlotte were able to winch his truck free. There was no hope for the trailer, and it turned out he had a wife and kids in there (none of whom emerged). We offered to take them all back to town, but the man declined. We shrugged and giggled and left them all to their happy camping, the trailer tilting crazily in the boggy mess.

Somewhere along the way a decision was made to stay the night right there in Bruno’s Motel. While Segis and Kathy and Ned and I both have water tight Vanagons in which to escape the weather, everyone else was either tenting it or staying in the backs of pickups. Having secured dry beds for everyone, we set off on a wheeling excursion in the steady rain, spending the afternoon exploring possible alternative hot springs and enjoying gorgeous scenery and the intoxicating smell of rain soaked sage brush. We had also heard from the man at Bruno’s gas station that there was a guy with a 5th wheel stuck out there somewhere, so there was even a possible rescue to undertake!
Everyone drove well on the muddy roads; David in his 4WD Ford, Leonard and KC in their Chevy ¾ ton 4WD truck, Jim and Tona in their Jeep JK, and Segis and Kathy and Ned and I in our 4WD VW Syncro Vanagons.
We did eventually find the guy who had unwisely chosen to pull his 5th wheel into a mud bog. Both truck and trailer were buried to the axles. The man was in the process of unhitching when we arrived on the scene, so Ned and Charlotte were able to winch his truck free. There was no hope for the trailer, and it turned out he had a wife and kids in there (none of whom emerged). We offered to take them all back to town, but the man declined. We shrugged and giggled and left them all to their happy camping, the trailer tilting crazily in the boggy mess.

The rain paused briefly as the sun was setting over the playa, and the view was breathtaking. We stopped to bask in the beauty, and Kathy pulled out the clam shells we had found and used in Baja, Mexico for “shell shots!” Ned produced a giant bottle of tequila, filled the shells and passed them out…another toast of well wishes in a spectacular setting with great friends. Coincidentally, Kathy had brought 9 shells, the exact number in our group. Perfect again.

The rain paused briefly as the sun was setting over the playa, and the view was breathtaking. We stopped to bask in the beauty, and Kathy pulled out the clam shells we had found and used in Baja, Mexico for “shell shots!” Ned produced a giant bottle of tequila, filled the shells and passed them out…another toast of well wishes in a spectacular setting with great friends. Coincidentally, Kathy had brought 9 shells, the exact number in our group. Perfect again.

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Back at the motel, having deemed the roads passable enough to make our bid for the hot springs tomorrow, we literally circled the Van-agons! The two motel rooms that we rented sat in an L-shape around a dirt parking area, so we positioned the two Vanagons in an opposite L. With the awnings up on the Syncros and virtual “walls” on four sides, we had a perfect little courtyard, sheltered from wind and rain. We were all delighted by the arrangement, and started preparing our yummy steak dinner. Suddenly, all four of us girls gasped in horror…as the boys started digging a fire pit! “Yikes! We are so going to get in trouble, you guys!” But we laughed anyway as they pulled firewood off the roofs of the Vanagons, doused it with gasoline and torched it. Whomp!! Flames leapt into the night air, mere inches away from our awnings and glaringly obvious to any and all authority figures in the vicinity. But none came. Our steaks were expertly cooked by Leonard and David on the fire pit coals, and we had yet another fabulously fun pre-wedding party. Everyone agreed it was perfect. Feeling a bit tired, I opted to turn in early and crawled into our cozy bed in Charlotte. That’s when they hit me. The butterflies. “Oh my God, I’m getting married! This is serious!” Gulp. “I can’t believe I’m nervous. Ok, just go to sleep!” Ned came to bed later, giggling and tickling me back awake. We sighed contentedly, warm and dry, listening to the rain patter on Charlotte’s tin roof. There was nowhere we’d rather be. This was the man I was marrying. Perfect.

Back at the motel, having deemed the roads passable enough to make our bid for the hot springs tomorrow, we literally circled the Van-agons! The two motel rooms that we rented sat in an L-shape around a dirt parking area, so we positioned the two Vanagons in an opposite L. With the awnings up on the Syncros and virtual “walls” on four sides, we had a perfect little courtyard, sheltered from wind and rain. We were all delighted by the arrangement, and started preparing our yummy steak dinner. Suddenly, all four of us girls gasped in horror…as the boys started digging a fire pit! “Yikes! We are so going to get in trouble, you guys!” But we laughed anyway as they pulled firewood off the roofs of the Vanagons, doused it with gasoline and torched it. Whomp!! Flames leapt into the night air, mere inches away from our awnings and glaringly obvious to any and all authority figures in the vicinity. But none came. Our steaks were expertly cooked by Leonard and David on the fire pit coals, and we had yet another fabulously fun pre-wedding party. Everyone agreed it was perfect.
Feeling a bit tired, I opted to turn in early and crawled into our cozy bed in Charlotte. That’s when they hit me. The butterflies. “Oh my God, I’m getting married! This is serious!” Gulp. “I can’t believe I’m nervous. Ok, just go to sleep!”
Ned came to bed later, giggling and tickling me back awake. We sighed contentedly, warm and dry, listening to the rain patter on Charlotte’s tin roof. There was nowhere we’d rather be. This was the man I was marrying. Perfect.

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At some point during the outrageous evening, my brother, David, picked up a gun shaped bottle of tequila, and decided that this should be a shotgun wedding!

At some point during the outrageous evening, my brother, David, picked up a gun shaped bottle of tequila, and decided that this should be a shotgun wedding!

Saturday, May 16 2015, Bruno’s Country Club, Gerlach, NV – On the edge of the Black Rock Desert I yawned and stretched languorously as the warm sun touched my face.  Wait…sun??  It had stopped raining. There were even patches of blue in the desert sky.  I turned happily to Ned and said, “Yogi, this is going to be an amazing day, but I do have two requests.”  I chuckled at his very alarmed, very male facial expression and continued, “Nothing too demanding…uh, it’s just that I really want to make every attempt possible to get to the Hot Springs, and…I want us to be sober for our actual ceremony!”  Ned answered in the only way possible for him…an eye roll, but laughed with me anyway as we jumped into our clothes and greeted our awakening wedding party. With a unanimous decision to skip the camp cooking in favor of Bruno’s café, we scampered in to be plied with copious amounts of coffee and huge plates of eggs and potatoes.  The wait staff and locals sent us off with well wishes and best-of-lucks getting to the hot springs. We had around ten miles of pavement to drive before reaching the turn off to our “go around,” but eight miles into it, Segis pulled over to the side of the road.  His Vanagon was running on only three cylinders.   He opened the rear hatch and all of the guys excitedly huddled around to take a look.

Saturday, May 16 2015, Bruno’s Country Club, Gerlach, NV – On the edge of the Black Rock Desert
I yawned and stretched languorously as the warm sun touched my face. Wait…sun?? It had stopped raining. There were even patches of blue in the desert sky. I turned happily to Ned and said, “Yogi, this is going to be an amazing day, but I do have two requests.” I chuckled at his very alarmed, very male facial expression and continued, “Nothing too demanding…uh, it’s just that I really want to make every attempt possible to get to the Hot Springs, and…I want us to be sober for our actual ceremony!” Ned answered in the only way possible for him…an eye roll, but laughed with me anyway as we jumped into our clothes and greeted our awakening wedding party.
With a unanimous decision to skip the camp cooking in favor of Bruno’s café, we scampered in to be plied with copious amounts of coffee and huge plates of eggs and potatoes. The wait staff and locals sent us off with well wishes and best-of-lucks getting to the hot springs.
We had around ten miles of pavement to drive before reaching the turn off to our “go around,” but eight miles into it, Segis pulled over to the side of the road. His Vanagon was running on only three cylinders. He opened the rear hatch and all of the guys excitedly huddled around to take a look.

We happened to have stopped at the main access point onto the Back Rock playa, the one used by the Burning Man folks to drive into the annually temporary Black Rock City.  But today it was lonely and beautifully peaceful.  Kathy, KC, Tona and I walked down to the edge of the lake to explore.  Normally, the playa surface is dry alkali and fabulous for driving or enjoying on foot.  We have seen it wet and slippery, but never with actual standing water.  That was a lot of rain.  We girls all took pictures and sighed in unison in the blissful silence.  Then I looked around.  The surface here was dry and gravely.  There were still a few patches of blue sky.  It wasn’t raining.  The Black Rock Desert provided a perfect backdrop…we should get married here!!  I shared the inspiration with my friends, and they wholeheartedly agreed.

We happened to have stopped at the main access point onto the Back Rock playa, the one used by the Burning Man folks to drive into the annually temporary Black Rock City. But today it was lonely and beautifully peaceful. Kathy, KC, Tona and I walked down to the edge of the lake to explore. Normally, the playa surface is dry alkali and fabulous for driving or enjoying on foot. We have seen it wet and slippery, but never with actual standing water. That was a lot of rain. We girls all took pictures and sighed in unison in the blissful silence. Then I looked around. The surface here was dry and gravely. There were still a few patches of blue sky. It wasn’t raining. The Black Rock Desert provided a perfect backdrop…we should get married here!! I shared the inspiration with my friends, and they wholeheartedly agreed.

In the meantime, Segis had driven back to Gerlach in search of a spark plug wire leaving Ned, Leonard, David and Jim hanging out by the side of the road.   Unbeknownst to me, Ned then walked off into the sagebrush, looked out over the gorgeous dry lake vista, saw the sun peek through the clouds, noticed the dry ground and had the exact same thought as me…we should get married here!!  Ned was divulging his idea to the guys at the same time I was sharing with the girls.   A moment later, we ladies ran back up to the roadside where boys met girls in an excited jumble of perfectly concurring ideas.  Our wedding was on!  I jumped into my dressing room (Charlotte) to change into my beautiful dress.  There was nothing much to be done for my rained on, camped in hair, but it didn’t seem to matter.  I was excited and nervous.  My entire body buzzed with anticipation, and butterflies danced enthusiastically in my belly.

In the meantime, Segis had driven back to Gerlach in search of a spark plug wire leaving Ned, Leonard, David and Jim hanging out by the side of the road. Unbeknownst to me, Ned then walked off into the sagebrush, looked out over the gorgeous dry lake vista, saw the sun peek through the clouds, noticed the dry ground and had the exact same thought as me…we should get married here!! Ned was divulging his idea to the guys at the same time I was sharing with the girls.
A moment later, we ladies ran back up to the roadside where boys met girls in an excited jumble of perfectly concurring ideas. Our wedding was on! I jumped into my dressing room (Charlotte) to change into my beautiful dress. There was nothing much to be done for my rained on, camped in hair, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was excited and nervous. My entire body buzzed with anticipation, and butterflies danced enthusiastically in my belly.

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Segis returned, and we joked and laughed and gathered around Charlotte.  There, on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, in the Center of the Known Universe, with a cold wind beginning to pick up, a broken down Vanagon, KC as my maid of honor, Kathy, Tona (and Charlotte) as bridesmaids, desert flowers in my hair (that Kathy had found) and a formal bouquet in my hands, we had the funnest, funniest, most informal, most romantic, most perfect wedding. Ned had picked a blue shirt to match my dress and was the most handsome man in The Known Universe, in my opinion.  Jim, Segis and my brother, David, provided warm, caring support, and Reverend Leonard carried out his duties with love and humor.  Ned and I declared vows that reached into the deepest part of our connection to each other, and I could have sworn it was all a dream.  It was too good, too perfect to be real.   I kept asking if I could kiss Ned yet, because I needed to, and finally I could.  We had to go back and exchange rings, having forgotten to do so, but we were finally declared husband and wife to the happy sound of Champaign corks popping and wild cheering from our extraordinary wedding party. In a moment of sheer providence, we were able to connect (way out here) to my mother via Facetime.   Mom was waging war against lung cancer, so we were all thrilled to have her join in our celebration.

Segis returned, and we joked and laughed and gathered around Charlotte. There, on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, in the Center of the Known Universe, with a cold wind beginning to pick up, a broken down Vanagon, KC as my maid of honor, Kathy, Tona (and Charlotte) as bridesmaids, desert flowers in my hair (that Kathy had found) and a formal bouquet in my hands, we had the funnest, funniest, most informal, most romantic, most perfect wedding.
Ned had picked a blue shirt to match my dress and was the most handsome man in The Known Universe, in my opinion. Jim, Segis and my brother, David, provided warm, caring support, and Reverend Leonard carried out his duties with love and humor. Ned and I declared vows that reached into the deepest part of our connection to each other, and I could have sworn it was all a dream. It was too good, too perfect to be real.
I kept asking if I could kiss Ned yet, because I needed to, and finally I could. We had to go back and exchange rings, having forgotten to do so, but we were finally declared husband and wife to the happy sound of Champaign corks popping and wild cheering from our extraordinary wedding party.
In a moment of sheer providence, we were able to connect (way out here) to my mother via Facetime. Mom was waging war against lung cancer, so we were all thrilled to have her join in our celebration.

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Ned carrying me over the threshold!

Ned carrying me over the threshold!

Now it was time to make our bid for the hot springs, the perfect place to have our Mexican Wedding Feast!  I climbed into the back of Charlotte to change into real clothes while bouncing down the road.  I did my time honored yoga-esque move to slide into the front seat, and Ned, in a rare, but precious, romantic moment, played our favorite Loreena McKennitt song and called me “Wifey.”    The go around was muddy and challenging, but we made progress.  Somewhere along the line, at one of several beer stops, “Just Married” was inscribed in the mud on Charlotte’s back window, and we forged on.  Just three more miles…oh, how I want to get the hot springs.  More mud, more difficult 4-wheeling.  Just two more miles…we can make it, almost there!  Just one more mile...there it is!  Three hours later, against all odds (and the advice of the locals), we made it.

Now it was time to make our bid for the hot springs, the perfect place to have our Mexican Wedding Feast! I climbed into the back of Charlotte to change into real clothes while bouncing down the road. I did my time honored yoga-esque move to slide into the front seat, and Ned, in a rare, but precious, romantic moment, played our favorite Loreena McKennitt song and called me “Wifey.”
The go around was muddy and challenging, but we made progress. Somewhere along the line, at one of several beer stops, “Just Married” was inscribed in the mud on Charlotte’s back window, and we forged on. Just three more miles…oh, how I want to get the hot springs. More mud, more difficult 4-wheeling. Just two more miles…we can make it, almost there! Just one more mile…there it is! Three hours later, against all odds (and the advice of the locals), we made it.

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Even some of Nevada’s wild horses showed up to mark this auspicious day!

Even some of Nevada’s wild horses showed up to mark this auspicious day!

The hot springs sit at the base of the famous “Black Rock” itself…almost there!

The hot springs sit at the base of the famous “Black Rock” itself…almost there!

We made it!

We made it!

As predicted, the Hot springs were deserted.  Who else was crazy enough to be wheeling in this mud and rain?  We made camp and jumped into the fabulously hot water.  Having partaken of the joys of these hot springs many times, we knew that the water on top was crystal clear, but that the bottom was mucky alkali mud and silt.  We came prepared with plastic lawn chairs for all so that we could sit without offending our delicate sensibilities.

As predicted, the Hot springs were deserted. Who else was crazy enough to be wheeling in this mud and rain? We made camp and jumped into the fabulously hot water. Having partaken of the joys of these hot springs many times, we knew that the water on top was crystal clear, but that the bottom was mucky alkali mud and silt. We came prepared with plastic lawn chairs for all so that we could sit without offending our delicate sensibilities.

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Our Mexican party was incredible.  Everyone contributed.  We had fresh made corn tortillas, pork, chicken, carne asada, beans, chips, guacamole, taco fixings, Margaritas, tequila shots, beer, and of course, Mexican music playing from Segis’s Serius XM  radio.  Ned and I even had colorful Mexican hats to wear…you know the fancy, flashy ones usually found in Mexican parades or hanging on the walls of Mexican restaurants?  Segis and Kathy had coerced the sombreros from the owner of their favorite taqueria in Los Osos and presented them to us as perfectly appropriate wedding gifts.

Our Mexican party was incredible. Everyone contributed. We had fresh made corn tortillas, pork, chicken, carne asada, beans, chips, guacamole, taco fixings, Margaritas, tequila shots, beer, and of course, Mexican music playing from Segis’s Serius XM radio. Ned and I even had colorful Mexican hats to wear…you know the fancy, flashy ones usually found in Mexican parades or hanging on the walls of Mexican restaurants? Segis and Kathy had coerced the sombreros from the owner of their favorite taqueria in Los Osos and presented them to us as perfectly appropriate wedding gifts.

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Because my parents were not at my wedding, I felt a need to have a part of them with me, so I brought two special items.  First was a coffee mug that used to be a favorite of my Dad’s.  Second was one of my mother’s favorite recipes.  With a pretty blue foil pinwheel (a picture of Ned and I glued to the center) as decoration, Mom’s famous banana bread, covered in whipped cream became our wedding cake.

Because my parents were not at my wedding, I felt a need to have a part of them with me, so I brought two special items. First was a coffee mug that used to be a favorite of my Dad’s. Second was one of my mother’s favorite recipes. With a pretty blue foil pinwheel (a picture of Ned and I glued to the center) as decoration, Mom’s famous banana bread, covered in whipped cream became our wedding cake.

We did all of the traditional things in the most untraditional way. Ned and I smooshed cake in each others’ faces and danced around a roaring campfire to our favorite Blackmore’s Night song, “Loreley.”  The rain held off for the entire day, and the temperature was amazingly mild.  I still felt like I was dreaming.  It was the perfect wedding reception.

We did all of the traditional things in the most untraditional way. Ned and I smooshed cake in each others’ faces and danced around a roaring campfire to our favorite Blackmore’s Night song, “Loreley.” The rain held off for the entire day, and the temperature was amazingly mild. I still felt like I was dreaming. It was the perfect wedding reception.

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When we had set out on Friday, we had no idea exactly when (or even where) we would have our wedding.  It was bantered around that had we chosen Bruno’s Bar in the pouring rain, we would have a nifty 05-15-15 as our wedding date, and I thought that was cool enough to fudge the date on our wedding papers even if we did it the next day.  Ah, but it is so very human to never know how we will feel about something until we are actually there.  By the time I had a ring on my finger, a belly full of tacos and whipped cream on my nose, today’s date was so indelibly precious to me, I would never change it.  Jim and Tona, with amazing prescience, had had a beautiful blanket specially embroidered and presented it to us at the party.  It reads:   Ned and Kat To Our Favorite Newlyweds! Married May 16, 2015 From: Jim and Tona Perfect.

When we had set out on Friday, we had no idea exactly when (or even where) we would have our wedding. It was bantered around that had we chosen Bruno’s Bar in the pouring rain, we would have a nifty 05-15-15 as our wedding date, and I thought that was cool enough to fudge the date on our wedding papers even if we did it the next day. Ah, but it is so very human to never know how we will feel about something until we are actually there. By the time I had a ring on my finger, a belly full of tacos and whipped cream on my nose, today’s date was so indelibly precious to me, I would never change it. Jim and Tona, with amazing prescience, had had a beautiful blanket specially embroidered and presented it to us at the party. It reads:
Ned and Kat
To Our Favorite Newlyweds!
Married May 16, 2015
From: Jim and Tona
Perfect.

Another romantic gesture of Ned’s:  Our Champagne corks glued to Charlotte’s dashboard… I Do, I Do, 5/16/15.

Another romantic gesture of Ned’s: Our Champagne corks glued to Charlotte’s dashboard…
I Do, I Do, 5/16/15.

Charlotte Comes Home -The Final Leg, April, 2015, Long Beach to Gardnerville

Better late than never! I meant to write this blog shortly after we returned home way back in Febuary, but… life just kinda got in the way… and marriage! (See next blog by Kat) Anyway, as a refresher, you might remember this shot from our last blog post showing Charlotte being loaded into a YELLOW container in Valparaiso, Chile, bound for Long Beach, CA USA. Note the RED container placed right next to the yellow one.

Better late than never! I meant to write this blog shortly after we returned home way back in Febuary, but… life just kinda got in the way… and marriage! (See next blog by Kat)
Anyway, as a refresher, you might remember this shot from our last blog post showing Charlotte being loaded into a YELLOW container in Valparaiso, Chile, bound for Long Beach, CA USA. Note the RED container placed right next to the yellow one.

Charlotte all tied down in the yellow container. The entire loading process took over an hour as I had to crawl around under her to reach the tie downs, disconnect her battery and drain her gas tank dry. (Shipping rules)

Charlotte all tied down in the yellow container. The entire loading process took over an hour as I had to crawl around under her to reach the tie downs, disconnect her battery and drain her gas tank dry. (Shipping rules)

We sealed the door and watched our mobile home get hauled off by this huge “Stacker”. We were told Charlotte’s boat trip would take about a month, but the strike situation going on in Long Beach might delay our picking her up for as much as an additional month! We flew home for the final time from South America on February 19th and began the wait. A couple of weeks later the receiving company in Long Beach contacted me to confirm all of our papers were in order. This is when we discovered that the container number we had did not match the container number they had! Our number from the yellow container was bound for Oakland, CA. Their number was for the red container and said Charlotte was in it bound for Long Beach! Twilight Zone! We even looked back at our pictures to make sure we weren’t loosing it. Yup, we had put her in a YELLOW container and the RED container was sitting right next to it, the new container number clearly emblazed on its side! A quick call to poor Sebastian resulted in him driving once again all the way to the port to find out what happened. The Valparaiso athorities gave him a picture of Charlotte loaded in the RED container just before the door was closed and sealed and it was loaded on the ship. They NEVER admitted to having switched her, and we guess they never planned to tell us. Clearly someone screwed up the paperwork and those sneakly port workers moved her as this was deamed easier than redoing all the bloody papers - easier despite her flat tires, no gas, no battery and my trusted tie down labor. We had no idea what shape our poor Charlotte would be in when we finally got to open that red container.

We sealed the door and watched our mobile home get hauled off by this huge “Stacker”. We were told Charlotte’s boat trip would take about a month, but the strike situation going on in Long Beach might delay our picking her up for as much as an additional month!
We flew home for the final time from South America on February 19th and began the wait. A couple of weeks later the receiving company in Long Beach contacted me to confirm all of our papers were in order. This is when we discovered that the container number we had did not match the container number they had! Our number from the yellow container was bound for Oakland, CA. Their number was for the red container and said Charlotte was in it bound for Long Beach! Twilight Zone! We even looked back at our pictures to make sure we weren’t loosing it. Yup, we had put her in a YELLOW container and the RED container was sitting right next to it, the new container number clearly emblazed on its side!
A quick call to poor Sebastian resulted in him driving once again all the way to the port to find out what happened. The Valparaiso athorities gave him a picture of Charlotte loaded in the RED container just before the door was closed and sealed and it was loaded on the ship. They NEVER admitted to having switched her, and we guess they never planned to tell us. Clearly someone screwed up the paperwork and those sneakly port workers moved her as this was deamed easier than redoing all the bloody papers – easier despite her flat tires, no gas, no battery and my trusted tie down labor. We had no idea what shape our poor Charlotte would be in when we finally got to open that red container.

The big wait was finally over on April 7th when we were united with the red container in a warehouse in Long Beach, CA.

The big wait was finally over on April 7th when we were united with the red container in a warehouse in Long Beach, CA.

Cutting the seal which I never put on in the first place! What would we find inside?

Cutting the seal which I never put on in the first place! What would we find inside?

Whew! A happy Ned and Kat breathe a collective sigh of relief after realizing our trusty travel partner was none the worse for wear after her ordeal. The gas fumes were staggering when we opened the door. They must have put some gas in her to move her around.

Whew! A happy Ned and Kat breathe a collective sigh of relief after realizing our trusty travel partner was none the worse for wear after her ordeal. The gas fumes were staggering when we opened the door. They must have put some gas in her to move her around.

She fired right up and placed her tires on US ground for the first time in 16 months.

She fired right up and placed her tires on US ground for the first time in 16 months.

Vaca Muerta was dutifully re-installed from his hiding place. The old cow head had made the whole trip despite almost meeting its demise at its first border crossing into Belize. Strangely, we had no visits from U.S. Customs inspectors of any sort!?! They had no suspicions of a smelly VW bus that had just spent 14 months in South America. Go Figure?

Vaca Muerta was dutifully re-installed from his hiding place. The old cow head had made the whole trip despite almost meeting its demise at its first border crossing into Belize. Strangely, we had no visits from U.S. Customs inspectors of any sort!?! They had no suspicions of a smelly VW bus that had just spent 14 months in South America. Go Figure?

Gas was added…

Gas was added…

Air was added…

Air was added…

Many thanks go to my sister, Kate, who lives in L.A. She picked us up at LAX and hung with us at the port until we were sure Charlotte was ready for the last leg of the journey, a return to the starting point – our driveway in Nevada.

Many thanks go to my sister, Kate, who lives in L.A. She picked us up at LAX and hung with us at the port until we were sure Charlotte was ready for the last leg of the journey, a return to the starting point – our driveway in Nevada.

First stop naturally was an auto parts store, this time for gear oil, all of which had leaked out onto the container floor during the boat trip. The transmission had leaked badly the entire trip, necessitating refills every 500 miles or so. By this point I had developed a relatively clean way to fill it without groveling in the dirt too much.

First stop naturally was an auto parts store, this time for gear oil, all of which had leaked out onto the container floor during the boat trip. The transmission had leaked badly the entire trip, necessitating refills every 500 miles or so. By this point I had developed a relatively clean way to fill it without groveling in the dirt too much.

We got out of L.A. quickly and headed north up the PCH to visit my Mom in Santa Barbara.

We got out of L.A. quickly and headed north up the PCH to visit my Mom in Santa Barbara.

Shortly after we stopped for tacos (container on dash) at a roadside taco truck, it started pouring rain. The last of the South American dirt and dust was washed away in this deluge – at least on the outside.

Shortly after we stopped for tacos (container on dash) at a roadside taco truck, it started pouring rain. The last of the South American dirt and dust was washed away in this deluge – at least on the outside.

After an overnight stay with my Mom we hit US395 for home. We were soon back to our routine of stopping every 50 miles to add water. The crack in Charlotte’s engine case, the final result of our trip-long battles with the vibrating alternator, was getting worse and we wondered if we’d cook her in these last few hundred miles.

After an overnight stay with my Mom we hit US395 for home. We were soon back to our routine of stopping every 50 miles to add water. The crack in Charlotte’s engine case, the final result of our trip-long battles with the vibrating alternator, was getting worse and we wondered if we’d cook her in these last few hundred miles.

Even after 30,000 miles of the Americas, US395 and the Eastern Sierras remain a breathtaking drive.

Even after 30,000 miles of the Americas, US395 and the Eastern Sierras remain a breathtaking drive.

One last restaurant photo! We stopped for dinner at our favorite BBQ in Bishop, CA.

One last restaurant photo! We stopped for dinner at our favorite BBQ in Bishop, CA.

After dark somewhere near Mammoth, I stopped for a water fill and noticed we didn’t have any tail lights. Ah Charlotte, one more trick in your bag. Driving a Vanagon makes one resourceful if not crazy. I asked Kat if we had any red cloth and she produced pink bikini bottoms from somewhere. I wrapped them around our manual backup light, hit the switch and viola, a pink tail light! Ironically we were passed by no less than two cops in those last 100 miles. Guess they approved.

After dark somewhere near Mammoth, I stopped for a water fill and noticed we didn’t have any tail lights. Ah Charlotte, one more trick in your bag. Driving a Vanagon makes one resourceful if not crazy. I asked Kat if we had any red cloth and she produced pink bikini bottoms from somewhere. I wrapped them around our manual backup light, hit the switch and viola, a pink tail light! Ironically we were passed by no less than two cops in those last 100 miles. Guess they approved.

Around 10 pm we rolled into our driveway. The trip was now complete and all three of us were home safe and sound.

Around 10 pm we rolled into our driveway. The trip was now complete and all three of us were home safe and sound.

153,620 was the final count.

153,620 was the final count.

The final repair in the daylight.

The final repair in the daylight.

You never know when bikinis will come in handy!

You never know when bikinis will come in handy!

When we left our driveway in December 2013 I wrote the mileage at the time on the overhead consul with a Sharpie. The final touch was to write the current reading. How bizarre the entire trip fell just 22 miles shy of being exactly 30,000 miles! Stay tuned! Next up: Charlotte goes from World Traveler to Bridesmaid!!

When we left our driveway in December 2013 I wrote the mileage at the time on the overhead consul with a Sharpie. The final touch was to write the current reading. How bizarre the entire trip fell just 22 miles shy of being exactly 30,000 miles!
Stay tuned!
Next up: Charlotte goes from World Traveler to Bridesmaid!!

Special Update from Home – I’m Alive! October 15, 2014

 

Special Update
Minden, Nevada
October 15, 2014*

*(This post is a copy of an email alert that was sent in October)

Hi everyone, I’m alive!

Thank you all for your warm wishes, thoughts and prayers.  I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from us, but I really wanted to report when I was 100% well.  Unfortunately, it has been a rough road back to recovery.  My doctors and support staff have all been amazing, but we haven’t gotten me back to fighting condition. There are still lingering symptoms and complications (which will hopefully be sorted out in the next couple of weeks), but I am a lot better.  I have been able to get out for a few walks, a few errands, a few dinners out and, sadly, lots of doctor visits.    Although I love our adventure and am looking forward to getting back on the road in December, I am unbelievably happy to be home while going through all of this.  I have a lot of perspective to share on comfort zones in the blog I am currently working on (teaser photo of the incredible Atacama desert above).    Thanks again for your many thoughtful emails, and keep your eyes out for the new blog in the next few days!

Hugs and best wishes to all of you, Kat

 

 

Testing…

Image

—Last minute preparations… Hopefully we won’t look like this most of the trip. If Charlotte behaves in her usual manner, this could be our daily workout; lifting weights and doing sit-ups (but without the clean shop and sub-zero clothing). We’re hoping our “ it’s just part of the adventure” attitude will hold up!

—Last minute preparations… Hopefully we won’t look like this most of the trip. If Charlotte behaves in her usual manner, this could be our daily workout; lifting weights and doing sit-ups (but without the clean shop and sub-zero clothing). We’re hoping our “ it’s just part of the adventure” attitude will hold up!


Hello All,

Testing, testing, 1,2,3… This is our first test email. It is a copy of our latest blog found on our website charlottamiles.com. If you’ve received this you are one of over 700 friends on our list who are set up to receive our semi-daily (?) or semi-weekly (?) emails from the road as we fumble our way to the tip of South America.

For those of you who don’t have a clue what this is all about and are ready to hit the spam button, Ned and Kat are departing in “Charlotte,” our 1987 VW Syncro 4×4 camper van on Dec. 21st to drive around the world! We plan to head south out of our driveway in Minden, Nevada, and follow our noses to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina. We kinda figure this leg will take a year, more or less. After the Americas all three of us will get on a boat and head west to Australia,… or maybe east to Europe. This whole adventure is very loose, with no time frame or planned route. We may hate it after six months or may still be at it after six years. From time to time Kat and I will fly home to deal with “stuff,” so we might bump into some of you during these returns. We hope so, as one of the hard things about taking off like this is missing friends and family. To that end, our website and these emailed blogs from it, are our way of sharing our adventures through words and pictures with all of you.

Cheers!
Ned

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to our blog! For our first post, we decided to drive up into the Pinenut Mountains (in our backyard) to cook dinner and goof off with a little photo shoot. We are busy making preparations for our December departure, but it’s always fun to take Charlotte out camping and wheeling!

Welcome to our blog!  For our first post, we decided to drive up into the Pinenut Mountains (in our backyard) to cook dinner and goof off with a little photo shoot.  We are busy making preparations for our December departure, but it's always fun to take Charlotte out camping and wheeling!

At home in the Pine Nut Mountains