Loving Misery at Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

This is THE SPOT to take a picture of Smith Rock State Park. There is a bench here and a ton of hikers vying for a spot to snap a photo. I am sure you can see why this the spot- PRETTY!

Last week, Kristen and I were in Oregon, playing shows and exploring some great outdoors. We played a show in Bend, OR on a Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend. What a great little town, with tons of unique shops, restaurants and parks around. The day after the show we drove a half hour north of Bend to the town of Terrebonne where Smith Rock State Park is located. This is a gem of a park.  Look at it!  We did a loop hike through the park that was about 5 miles long and took us around 3 hours to hike with lots of stops and picture breaks.

Kristen on the bridge over the Crooked River.
The old timer shot! I actually got out my Lumix camera for this hike instead of using just my iPhone like I generally do day-to-day.
The old timer shot worked out! I actually got out my Lumix Panasonic camera for this hike instead of using just my iPhone like I generally do day-to-day. What do you know, it takes better pictures 🙂

We took the Misery Ridge loop trail through the park. You can pick up a handy dandy park map at the pay station which shows all the trails in the park. It costs $5 for a day pass to the park which is so worth it. Bargain price for a whole car full of hikers or picnickers or rock climbers. This park is known for rock clicking, which makes sense when you see all the amazing rock walls in the park. The Misery Ridge loop is anything but miserable. It is a 3.7 mile loop but we added on another mile section to the loop along the Crooked River. There are some steeps climbs and stairs involved in this hike but it’s moderate difficulty overall.

A crazy rock formation. Can you see the little climber right where the color of the rock changes? Rock climbing is too intense for me!
Acting really strong when I got up to Misery Ridge. It was a steep hike but not to0 long to the summit. I was proud of myself for not being overtaken by a group of 50 kids tramping up like a caterpillar behind us.
Kristen winding along the Crooked River. There were lots of ducklings in the water!


Your obligatory sexy shot of Lady Van taking us to amazing places for fun adventures!
Your obligatory sexy shot of Lady Van taking us to amazing places for fun adventures!

Thanks for the good times Smith Rock!  We are already looking forward to our return to Oregon!



Thoughts on Bolivia Part 1: It´s Kind of Annoying Here

After traveling in Bolivia for 6 weeks, Kristen and I have experienced a wide range of emotions and accompanying thoughts, that we are still trying to process. It’s a complex country. Due to our obvious status as strangers in a strange land here, we can´t help but question and wonder about the cultural differences we see in Bolivia. Are things ¨better¨in the USA? Hard to say, but we are used to some things back home that we really don´t want to give up. Here is a list of some things that really annoy us about Bolivia, sorry in advance for the complaining.  There will be an entire post soon on everything we love about Bolivia to balance this out 🙂

# 1. The Food is Less Than Delcious, and Often Dangerous:
One of the best things to do as a tourist is try out the local cuisine. What is the best thing to eat around here? Well, in Bolivia it turns out to be potatoes, and that´s about it. Keep your fingers crossed for some hot sauce to put on those potatoes because the flavor profile is pretty bland. To be fair, there often is hot sauce, but why not just make the food taste like something in the first place instead of making me search for salt and pepper?

I´m not particularly fond of taking photos of food that I don´t like, but I did find this one of Kristen with some gelatin. Bolivians seem to love gelatin as it is sold everywhere, all the time.
I´m not particularly fond of taking photos of food that I don´t like, but I did find this one of Kristen with some gelatin. Bolivians seem to love gelatin as it is sold everywhere, all the time. I´m like, no thanks even if it´s topped with magnificent swirls of white stuff that may or may not be whipped cream….

After giving up on traditional Bolivian food, either because it tastes like not much or you have been poisoned one too many times, maybe you want to try the Bolivian take on ethnic food. Well, that would extend to trying the local pizza or Chinese food, which is not something I would actually advise you to do. It´s utterly boring and kinda gross. The pizza has thin and soft crust, sauce will be more of hint than a full idea, and the cheese will be pale and slightly sour. Maybe your pizza will be graced with one or two slices of deli ham or canned mushrooms.

If you decide for Chinese food it will be overcooked rice, barely seasoned, with a smattering of vegetables and some pork shavings or chewy chicken. If you opt for noodles instead, rest assured they will be spaghetti noodles. Always spaghetti noodles around here. Most Bolivians seem to enjoy fried chicken with their Chinese food. I say you are better off just going to one of the million fried chicken places where they specialize in chicken dinners. Watch out for Friday or Saturday nights though, because the fried chicken place will be insanity. Someone told me a sausage dish called modongo is the national dish, but I think they might have unofficially changed it to fried chicken through popular vote.

I did find this solar oven cooking potatoes to be kind of amazing. It was just boiling away full of purple potatoes!

So you tried some Bolivian food, maybe even found something delicious (next post I’ll fill you in on all that I find scrumptious but elusive in Bolivia), unfortunately the next step is that you’re going to be sick. Food safety in Bolivia is not a thing, so any meat you ate was most certainly not refrigerated at a constant temperature or handled with any rules of hygiene. If you went for a salad, there is a good chance the dirt was washed off the leaves with unfiltered tap water and then not dried. There is a large surface area on lettuce, lots of water, lots of microbs, lots of stomach issues. Bring some antibiotics to Bolivia and hope they work. Also, if you are into Pepto Bismal, bring that too because they do not sell it here.

A wheelbarrow full of some kind of puffed up corn stuff. It tastes like corn. I prefer this to the same stuff dyed magnificient hues of unnatural pinks and greens, but it’s still not my fav snack.

Let´s not even talk about the coffee in the Bolivia. Why in a country where they grow coffee, does everyone drink instant Nescafe? It´s just frustrating. And they don´t seem to want to give you milk when you order a coffee. If you try getting it on the side it has to be all steamed up for some reason, and cost you extra. Just give me a splash of cold milk! I have no idea how to say that in Spanish, but it wouldn´t matter if I did. No one would get it.

#2. Garbage, Garbage, Literbugs
Bolivians throw their garbage on the ground. I’m not saying its every single Bolivian who doesn’t notice littering, but I have seen people of every social class and type throwing their garbage on the ground. The garbage is EVERYWHERE. It will probably always be there too, because who is going to come pick it up if there is always more? Sure, some parks and city streets have uniformed people sweeping up the garbage and putting in the bins (which are actually pretty plentiful in most cities). Then there is the vast countryside of garbage. It´s all along the highways and falling down the cliffs behind people’s houses. Do they not see it? Do they not care?

This is not an exaggeration! It is not uncommon to see this level of trash on the roadside. It’s not everywhere but it’s around and it’s definitely disturbing to see livestock grazing in it. Usually it´s packs of dogs.
This is a more normal level of trash, which is plenty.
This is a more normal level of trash, which is plenty. I could not get used to it.

One taxi van we got into had a sign in it that said: ¨Please help keep the van clean and throw your trash out the window.¨ I´m not kidding. If I was suddenly Bolivian, I think this would be my cause, yelling at people that I will take their trash when I see them about to throw it out the window of a moving vehicle.

#3. Getting from A to B is Usually an Uncomfortable Mystery
Yay! It’s time to hit the road! So, you go to the bus station to buy a ticket. First off, don’t try and plan too far ahead. One day in advance could be fine, but same day is often best. The schedule may change overnight or better yet, the bus might not make it. It can be a ¨wait and see¨ if the bus survived it’s last journey before committing to another trip. How confidence inspiring!

One time we decided to get a private minivan since it was the same price as the bus. The minivan could go at breakneck speeds down terrifying dirt roads, which saved us time, but might have shaved days off my life from the terror.

Anyway, the bus station is confusing enough that you end up going in advance anyway. You have to go to each company counter to see if they have a bus to your destination. Hopefully, they have a handwritten sign with times but often those times are wrong anyway, so you may end up going to each bus company counter and asking if they are going to a certain city, at what time, and with what kind of bus. So just go for a good wander, looking a bit lost and perplexed. To add to the fun there will be people yelling destinations at you in a kind of creepy, sing song, persistent manner.

Likely, there is more than one company going to your destination so you will have to randomly pick one of these people shouting at you to go talk to. Then when you get to the counter there will be no one there to sell the tickets. Maybe they are in the bathroom, or at lunch, or who knows where. Hopefully, they will come back soon but there is no way of knowing.

Another good way to pick can be looking at the buses outside before entering the terminal to see which one you might dare to board if you had to choose. Of course, that company probably has some crappy buses too, but maybe not? maybe this bus with the tread on the tires indicates that this company has acceptable buses? You can also try asking if the bus has a bathroom or fully reclining seats but you will not be told the truth (see #5).  As far as I have experienced, or heard from any other travelers, there are no buses in Bolivia with (open) bathrooms or fully reclining seats.

Ok, whatever, you crossed your fingers and bought a ticket. Now, it´s time to board the bus. Somehow you need to get your bag underneath. Maybe you need to leave it at the company counter inside, maybe you need to find a young boy who will load it for you, maybe you just need to wait and see. When you do get your bag underneath, it´s unlikely you will be given a ticket or any other proof that you ever had a bag. The door to the luggage compartment will probably remain open and unattended so maybe you should wait to jump on the bus until the last minute, just to make sure your bag comes along for the ride. Or you could just press your face against the window from inside the bus, scanning for anyone walking away with your bag.

Did you pay the bus terminal use fee? What´s that you ask? There will be a small fee for the privilege of using the terminal. Good luck figuring out where to pay this fee. Sometimes there is a booth in the bus station and sometimes you will pay it on the bus. Hopefully, you also paid to use the bathroom in the terminal because otherwise you have a very long wait till you can pee again (see #6). But yay! you´re on your way! Suddenly, the bus will stop right outside the bus station and many more people will get onto the bus. Hmmm, is this to avoid the bus terminal use fee? Or maybe they just couldn´t get to the terminal on time?

Now that you have located your seat, which will inevitably have something crusted onto it, you can enjoy the ride. The road will be twisty and involved going up and up and then down and down. Winding, winding, winding. The bus driver will drive on both sides of the road indiscriminately and pass when there is definitely not a passing lane. Pray that you got a seat by a window, because you will want to open it. There will be lots of smells on the bus, but one of the dominant ones will be coca leaves, and it´s kind of any overwhelming smell. There will also be lots of food smells and human odors.

Three different people will probably be playing music really loud on their phones so you can hear a great mishmash of pan pipes. Winding winding winding. The bus will randomly stop to pick up or drop off people in the middle of nowhere. You will wonder when and if the bus is ever going to stop for a bathroom break, but the answer is never, unless you ask to pee on the side of the road. This is allowed, but everyone will see you pee. No Bolivian woman will ever ask the bus to stop for a pee. It will always be a gringa. There are many tolls and security checkpoints and women will appear at your window, ready to toss you a bag of roasted chicken and corn, or a soda, or candy, or whatever you need. Be prepared with exact change because no one in Bolivia has any change.

You can also take minibuses around the countryside on routes that large buses don´t cover. The process for them is largely the same, except that you will need to find where they stop (somewhere incomprehensible), barter for the price (or just accept whatever because you will probably be laughed at for trying), know where you need to jump out in the countryside (the driver will conveniently forget you are even in the taxi), and you will have far less leg room. Most of these little VW buses would have two rows of seats in the US, but the Bolivians manage to cram 4 rows in and won´t take off until all the rows are full. Gringa legs will not fit, especially if you are under 5 foot 2 inches.

The likelihood of having a window that opens will go down dramatically from a tour bus and you might suffocate. You will roast alive while the Bolivians around you snuggle down into leather jackets and wool hats, inexplicably cold in the 80 degree heat of the coca leaf reeking van. More and more people will be crammed into the bus, in places you didn´t imagine would be a seat. Children will be strewn on top of everyone. Anyway, it´s nice that there is public transportation since most everyone doesn´t have a car. Don´t expect to hitchhike. You can hail basically anyone for a ride but they will charge the same as a minivan for picking you up.

Catching a ride in the back of a truck. Same price as a taxi van but more legroom.
Catching a ride in the back of a truck. Same price as a taxi van but more legroom and much better air quality, even when it starts to rain.


#4. It´s Hard to Breathe and Getting Harder
Even as I sit here in an internet cafe, I’ve resorted to covering my mouth and nose with my scarf because the air pollution from traffic is that bad. I read a rumor on the internet that the public buses are decommissioned local transport from China that had to be sold because they don’t meet Chinese emission standards. I believe it. All the buses and trucks in Bolivia are belching clouds of gray or black gas. I’m not very knowledgable about emissions from vehicles but I’m pretty sure all colors of smoke coming from them are bad. To back up this urban legend, buses do have characters on the side from some Asian language that I’m not smart enough to identify (probably because my brain cells have been killed off by the pollution).

Add to all this pollution some extreme altitudes. La Paz lies at 12,000 feet above sea level and Potosi is considered one of the highest cities in the world at 13,500 feet. There isn´t much oyygen up here in the first place so good luck walking up and down the cities streets. When you do pause to inhale deeply, take a good look around first to avoid choking down a big lungful of bus smog. It can’t really be avoided in La Paz, but Sunday when most things are closed can be a good day for taking in the architecture.

This is the view literally right outside of the internet spot. The traffic is only buses going by on the street and all of them are emitting these kinds of smoke clouds out the back. YUMMY! Hack!

#5. The Telling You What You Want to Hear Game
Another cultural quirk we want to complain about is the Bolivian custom of telling you what you want to hear. Often, this turns out to be a blatant lie. But hey, they were just trying to be nice! So, if you ask for directions, you will always recieve directions, whether that person has any idea where you are going or not. The solution here is to ask everyone you see for directions. Maybe it´s the law of averages, but you will eventually get there. I know this isn´t just a fun game they play with gringos because even Bolivians ask everyone for directions. I was once walking to a waterfall with a Bolivian in an unknown town. She literally asked every person we came across where the waterfalls were. You just keep asking.

Sometimes these lies seem spiteful though. Like, if you ask if there is hot water in the showers at a hotel. They ALWAYS say yes, but there probably is only hot water every once in a while and they won´t tell you that. There might not be hot water at all. The same is often true for wifi. Maybe they have wifi sometimes, but not all the time and it is never going to be a fast connection. As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as fast internet in Bolivia. Interestly, the lady at this internet cafe told us the connection was slow before we sat down. Confused, I asked her if there was somewhere in town with a fast connection?  No, she said.

Waiting outside of the hostel in Tarabuco. The person working there was at his other job, so we passed the time on the street. This hostel advertised an internet cafe, but it had neither internet nor a cafe. It didn´t even have a kitchen so it was a tough place for a meal. We settled for buns and a tub of margarine. Yum!
Waiting outside of the hostel in Tarabuco. The person working there was at his other job, so we passed the time on the street. This hostel advertised an internet cafe, but it had neither internet nor a cafe. It didn´t even have a kitchen so it was a tough place for a meal. We settled for buns and a tub of margarine. Yum!

One of my favorite lies is 2 for 1 drink special. They must do these specials for gringos, which is nice, but the price is not actually 2 drinks for the price of one. Usually it is just a small discount off getting two. For example if a mojito is Bs 22, you can get two for Bs 30 or something like that. Do they not know what 2 for 1 means in English? I would say the translation for 2×1 from Spanish into English is simply Happy Hour. On a tangent, there are lots of these in Peru as well for tourists except they may even offer 4 for 1, which turns out to be four small drinks in cups half the size of 2×1. Ok….

Oh, and like I mentioned before, they will often tell you there is a bathroom on the overnight buses. This is marginally true, because often there is a bathroom physically on the bus. The door to said bathroom will be locked though, thus rendering the bathroom unavailable to you. I´m pretty sure they know what you mean when you ask if there is a bathroom on the bus, so I count this another fun lie.

#6 Bathrooms, Try and Hold It
Speaking of bathrooms, Bolivian ones are hard to get down with if you are used to running water. Often, when you are done using the bathroom, you must exit the stall, put your hand into a barrel of questionable water, fill a bucket up, and then dump that water in the toilet to flush it. Outside of one of the libraries we volunteered at, the water barrels were marked with hazardous waste stickers. Ok, it´s great to reduce, reuse, recycle, but I draw the line at hazardous waste barrels. I´m not putting my hand in there, especially if I can see insect larvae hatching in the waiting water. One of the schools we went to didn´t even offer water for flushing, so I´m not sure if those toilets ever got flushed…I wonder if a composting toilet or a latrine wouldn´t be better?

Forget about toilet paper, toilet seats, stall doors, sinks with running water, soap, paper towels or washing your hands. Bring you own toilet paper every time you enter the bathroom and hand sanitizer for when you leave. Always travel with your own towel and do not expect hot water in the showers, or shower curtains. Expect that everything you bring into the shower will get wet. If you´re in a hostel, expect a line because the person to bathroom ratio will be high. Peeing in the street in broad daylight seems to be reserved for the very young or the very old. For everyone else, you have to at least try to take cover, but it´s pretty much a free for all if you cannot find a bathroom. That being said, I´m glad they do have bathrooms at all.

Ok, enough complaining. This post took me forever to write and doesn´t have that great of photos because I didn´t want to spend all my time taking horrible photos of Bolivia since I really like it. Some challenges do exist though 🙂 Next post I will write about what I did love about Bolivia.

A Wine Weekend in Bolivia

Proudly Bolivian. This dog is definitely giving off that vibe.


Bolivia may not have a coastline, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for geological diversity, stunning landscapes, or fun places to go swimming.  Last week we took a jaunt to Villa Abecia in southern Bolivia for a new library inauguration with Biblioworks and tacked on a tourist weekend in Tarija.  Both towns are in Bolivian wine country, so we did our best to taste the local vintages! This is high altitude wine country, with some award winning wines that allegedly have higher antioxidant levels than wines grown at lower altitudes.  Drink up!

We started out the trip with a six hour ride south. There were seven of us from Biblioworks going so we rented a minivan taxi just for us.  The road, like most in Bolivia was extremely windy and involved unpaved “shortcuts”. Our driver, like most in Bolivia, drove like a maniac who felt no need to stay on either side of the road, obey any speed limit signs, or pull over when our ten year old passenger got carsick and vomited into a plastic bag…numerous times. Thank goodness for headphones and podcasts!

The first thing we did when we arrived in Villa Abecia is hit up this bodega to taste the wines. We ended up buying a bottle of sweet port, bringing it back to our bed and breakfast and drinking the whole thing. Don’t worry, there were four of us so it wasn’t too much! Yummy port from Don Tomás that is available for sale in Sucre, if you don’t make it to this tiny town. The B&B we stayed at was right behind this building and is called Cepas de Mi Abuelo. I definitely recommend it. It’s a beautiful place with vineyards and lots of cute pets, including a friendly horse named Sargente..
Here is a view of Villa Abecia from the balcony of the municipal building. Its really a beautiful little town.
Here I am in a giant wine barrel in the town square. We had to blow up tons of balloons for the library inauguration to give out to all of the children who came. Guess how long they lasted? Pop!
Kristen brought the guitar to lend some musical ambiance to the festivities. Then this guy with an accordion turned up to MC the event and a jam session ensued. He also played a men guitar 🙂 In front is the dog from our hotel who we named Sigue and saved much meat from our meat heavy lunch. Our new best friend, but he needs a bath!
The inauguration of the new library in Villa Abecia. Everyone was pumped!

Biblioworks is a non-profit organization based in Sucre, Bolivia and Asheville, NC, USA. They help fund, set up, and train librarians for small rural communities. Some of their libraries are in schools and some, like this one in Villa Abecia, are run by the municipality. The town chooses the librarian and runs the library with Biblioworks as their adviser. Eventually, the libraries are meant to become self-sustaining without the aid of Biblioworks.

The library inauguration involved much speech giving and some poetry recitals by the children. Bolivian poetry recitals involve many choreographed movements it turns out.
We found some waterfalls to swim in with the local children. It was a hot day and luckily there was water in these potholes as it is the dry season still.  Not the cleanest water but so refreshing.


The crew from Biblioworks: Megan, the volunteer coordinator, Maritza the director, and Kristen the guitar teacher.


After Villa Abecia we took a cab south to the city of Tarija. Lonely Planet guidebook calls the town “laid back”, and I’d have to say that I agree. Unfortunately, we got there after dark with no hotel reservation, so after our cab driver dumped us unceremoniously on the side of the road no where near downtown, we did our best to find a room for the night. Since we are cheap, I mean, on a tight budget, we ended up at not the nicest place in town, the Gran Hotel Londres. It seemed like it had lot of potential since the lobby looked like this:

Jesus crucified in a skirt and an alter to San Roque? Sweet!
I mean, doesn’t this place look like it might be in a Wes Anderson movie? Just a little bit?


Well, we ended up packing up and finding a new hotel in the morning, mostly because the mattresses where like tiny gym mats that couldnt’ have been more uncomfortable. Oh, and there were buzzing mosquitos around all of our ears all night. Somehow I escaped without any bites but Kristen was covered. Rough night, not worth the $7 a night even with the cool decor. Check out Hotel Miraflores instead. Same price but slightly better mattresses and less bugs.

After getting set up with our new hotel, we booked a wine tasting tour for the afternoon. We went with Viva Tours, which was priced the same as all the others but came recommended. For some reason they told us to show up at 1:30, I guess so we could wait on the deserted street corner for half an hour, but otherwise the tour was fine. They say you will swing by a cool canyon for a scenic overlook/photo opp but this was no the case on our tour.

Our first stop was Campos de Solana, which is one of the most widely available wines in Bolivia. We are fans 🙂 They started up in 2000 but already have won many awards and have some $3 table wines that are perfect everyday wines. And yes, we usually have wine everyday since the beer is so atrocious.
Kristen and Megan waiting for our winery tour.
Inside the Campos de Solana winery, perhaps the cleanest place we have been in Bolivia, and it smelled good too!
Kristen, me, and Megan, ready to drink some wine. Unfortunately, their idea of a wine tasting at this winery is to make your whole tour group come to a consensus on one type of wine to share, and then you open a half bottle together. Someone needs to tell them about pouring lots of little shots of wine and then pushing the hard sell. I mean, no one even suggested we buy some wine… which is really too bad. Maybe we didn’t look thirsty?
Next we hit up Casa Real to see how singani is distilled. Singani is made of grapes kind of like cognac or pisco, but is distinctly Bolivian. The tasting here consisted of cocktails at the end. Ok, yum, but could we just try singani straight? The Casa Real black is delicious and apparently they export it to the USA!
Next we hit up Casa Real to see how singani is distilled. Singani is made of grapes kind of like cognac or pisco, but is distinctly Bolivian. The tasting here consisted of cocktails at the end. Ok, yum, but could we just try singani straight? The Casa Real black is delicious and apparently they export it to the USA! The traditional drink is singani and ginger ale, called a chuflay. The distillry equipment here is from France and really cool looking but no photos please!


Our last stop was at Casa Vieja, which is a small winery in a 400 hundre year old house. This place was nuts, mostly because it was over run by Bolivian teenagers who were in town for a soccer tournament
Our last stop was at Casa Vieja, which is a small winery in a 400 hundre year old house. This place was nuts, mostly because it was over run by Bolivian teenagers who were in town for a soccer tournament. The tasting here was pretty crazy. About 40 teenagers and us in a circle, 9 glasses of wine poured and then passed around the circle in rapid succession. So all 40 of us drank out of the same cup and tried a bunch of different wines all within about 3 minutes while the winery owner told us to hurry up. Kristen was horrified and wouldn’t participate which wasn’t much of a loss because the wine was pretty much terrible!
We decided to hit the town in Tarija because it was Halloween. We meant some very friendly Bolivians at a fun bar called La Bifuracda. This guy Alejandro got us passed some tight security at a nightclub called The Blue Parrot. Fun times dancing on Halloween.
We decided to hit the town in Tarija because it was Halloween. We met some very friendly Bolivians at a fun bar called La Bifuracda. This guy Alejandro got us passed some tight security at a nightclub called The Blue Parrot. Fun times dancing!

The next morning was a little slow due to Halloween shenanigans. We hit up our favorite breakfast spot, Gatto Pardo for the third time since they had real coffee. Then we tried to see some more waterfalls in the nearby village of Coimata. We took a bus headed to Tomatitos then caught a trufi from the bridge there. At the bridge were many ladies selling congrejos, which are tiny freshwater crabs. We tried one but hangover belly wasn’t having more than that.

The van ride from the bridge was very entertaining, with many local woman getting on and off with bottles of strange substances and bags of brown liquids and terrible smells.  a teenage girl wanted to question us about our origins, hair and eye colors and what languages we could speak. Finally, we reached the waterfalls, and although it was too chilly to swim, but had a nice time hanging out.


Well, that was our trip to Tarija more or less. We took an overnight bus back to Sucre that night. I think we went with the bus line Expresso or something like that, with reclining seats for 140 Bolivianos. The driver was a mad man, blasting tunes all night long, passing other buses on curves, and causing the woman behind us to panic. At one point she tried to get us to yell at him since she already had. I declined, knowing it was pointless. Luckily, we survived and made it back to Sucre in about 10 freezing, terrifying hours. The bus left us near, but not at, the bus terminal? and we went back to Casa de Javiers for a long nap.

Volunteering in Yamparaez, Bolivia

Kristen and I have been in Bolivia for a couple of weeks now. Part of the reason that we came to Bolivia is to volunteer with an organization called Biblioworks. Biblioworks is a nonprofit organization founded by a Peace Corp volunteer who started a library in the rural town of Morado K’asa.  The demand for more such libraries was high so Biblioworks has helped open 12 small, rural libraries to benefit the people of the Bolivian countryside. While we are in Bolivia we will go to three or four of these libraries near Sucre and try to promote literacy through music. The first library we visited was in the town of Yamparaez. We spent five days in this pueblo reading to the children, writing and playing songs together, and being cultural ambassadors for the USA. It was quite first week!

Bienvenidos a Yamparaez! It is very common to write messages in stones on the dry, rocky hillsides around here. Yamparaez has about 1000 residents and lies around 20km outside of Sucre. Each day was an adventure getting there and back. We even managed one lift in the back of a pickup, which was great until it started to rain…
The streets of Yamparaez generally look like this, although sometimes there are more dogs. Not much going on!
Here’s Kristen in the library leading the kids in song. I read a book to them and then we have some prompts to help us all write songs using ideas from the book. We also have some small percussion for the children to play. They LOVE music, Kristen could just play songs for them and they would be content. The point is to try and get them reading more, though, so we do our best to get them interested in the library. Here we’ve asked them to describe their neighborhood to us, which mostly lead to a long list of animals one can find in Yamparaez.
A rare moment of concentration before all hell breaks lose! It would be difficult for Kristen and I to control 30 eight years who spoke English- but we are doing our best.  Perhaps the teacher might have accompanied this music class…
After reading and singing a lot of the children wanted to take a shot at playing guitar.
I have no idea if any of these kids can understand my accent but luckily they were reading along.
If we had extra time we would do some drawings of our songs.
This is the main plaza in Yamparaez where Kristen and I hung out in between workshops. A couple of years ago they found a giant fossil here, which they thought might be a dinosaur egg but turned out to be the shell of this giant armadillo-like mammal called a gliptodon. Egg or shell, they were still pumped enough to make this statue.
Hanging out in Yamparaez! I’m learning lots of new chords on the guitar during our down time.
Here is the exterior of the library. I’m not sure what the downstairs room is for, but the library takes up the upper floor. The library closes for siesta so we waited outside for the return of the elusive librarian.

So there are some deets from our first week of volunteering with Biblioworks. Our Spanish is getting better, even though much is still very confusing about Bolivia to us 😃 Next week we will be taking the workshop to the pueblo of Pampa Aceituno. Should be fun!

CatvsOwl Heads to Peru!

No, we didn´t drive the Lady Van to Peru.  We aren´t sure she would have enjoyed the ride, and the way things have been going, she probably would have been stolen by now.  Rut roo, everyone has a different experience traveling abroad, but ours happened to begin with a stolen bag so confidence is low that we would have been able to hang onto a whole automobile…. Regardless of our vanless and bagless status we are trying to keep our chins up and enjoy our travels outside of the states.  Here are some highlights thus far in Peru:

P1070455Ceviche in Lima. Ceviche is s delicious raw fish dish made with lime juice, red onions, chiles and amazingness.  We got ours with mixed seafood, which seemed like the right thing to do since we were literally on the coast with fishing boats in view  We went to the place on the tourist map provided by the hostel and it didn´t disappoint. It´s in the Barracas neighborhood and I think it´s called El Muelle. This sampler plate set us back about $20 and included some yummy paella and fried fish.



 Sea Lions and birds on Islas Ballestas. We took a boat ride out to these islands from the little town of Paracas, which is about 4 hours south of Lima. This was the bus ride when Kristens stuff was stolen so be more attentive than us when taking the Soyuz bus. OMG- such an awesome wildlife experience in Paracas though. Wish the binoculars hadn´t been stolen but you still get so up close with the seas lions, it´s a bit worrisome.




Bike riding through Paracas National Reserve. We rented bikes for the afternoon after we saw the sea lions and biked through some amazing coastal desert.  Unfortunately, we hadn´t replaced our stolen sunscreen so we got a bit burnt. Sorry about the skin in the next couple of photos, we did get sunscreen since.




Sandboarding in Huacachina. I´m not really sure what I thought sandboarding or dunebuggying would be like, but I soon found that it is terrifying. Crazy people drive tons of gringos over the dunes at high speeds and then provide wooden boards to slide down the dunes face first. I´m proud of myself for doing it, but I think I´ll pass on doing it again. 🙂




Eating cuy in Cusco. Cusco is a great city, but we mostly did shopping there to replace Kristen´s stolen things. They have great North Face knockoffs for next to nothing! On Saturdays there is a pirate market we wish we could have been around for, because apparently that is where a lot of the stolen gringo gear shows up.  We ate guinea pig though, had lots of pisco sours, and managed to somehow see the same Peruvian cover band at two different bars.  They called it destiny but I´m not so sure…




The death cab to Machu Picchu. We decided not to take the overpriced train to Machu Picchu so that involved taking a speeding rocket of a minivan down a dirt road with no guardrails and steep dropoffs into ravines and rivers. I was glad I´d already been scared to death on the dune buggy because this turned out to be a breeze.  The drive to Aguas Calientes, and the 3 hours walk along the train tracks after the road ended, was one of my favorite parts of our trip so far!P1070688



Machu Picchu. We decided to hike up the mountain to Machu Picchu instead of taking the overpriced tourist bus (are you seeing a Machu Picchu overpriced theme here?) Anyway, the hike was mostly stairs and then when we got up there we hiked to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain which was even higher than we already climbed.  And we´re not talking switchbacks here, the Inca liked stairs. Tons of stairs. Neverending stairs.  But what a view at the top!



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hanging in Ollantaytambo. There are ruins all around this old Inca town, so we skipped the expensive entrance ones and went to free ones instead.  It is a great little town, although the Peruvians love to take advantage of gringos as much in Ollantaytambo as they do in Machu Picchu.  Watch out for the burritos and head straight for Blue Magic Restaurant for alpaca.


Thanks for sending us good vibes, we could use some.  We had some bad luck in Ollantaytambo because some dorm mates took Kristen´s phone  in the night on accident and we are still trying to figure out a handoff to get it back.  In the meantime we are off to the Amazon- never a dull moment! Love from Peru to you!

The Never Ending Tour Draws to an End…For Now

The Never Ending Tour 2014-2015

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After 14 months on the road, around 200 something shows (maybe 238?, we aren’t the best at math around here), 47 states (with shows in 45 states), 40,000 miles put on the Lady Van (2 sets of tires), and countless new Kristen Ford fans made, The Never Ending Tour is drawing to a close…for now. We still have 7 more shows left this summer and then it will be off on our next adventure, but more on that later.  In September we are going to South America for 3 months, to Peru, Bolivia and Chile. You can learn more about that trip and even help fund a great nonprofit with us if you are interested. Perhaps I will even make a map of that trip before we leave!

I just spent all of my technology patience for today making these few screenshots of some custom Google maps I created.  Now, I want to share them with you…before WordPress crashes again and I lose this post all over again 🙂 People are always asking where we have been this year- so here are some pins on a map.  We have been all of these places! I wish it could be interactive  or I could have connected the route with a crazy squiggly line, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be a button for that, so it’s not happening today.  I do welcome advice on how to do that though, or if someone else just wants to do that for me, I think it would be awesome to have.

Tour During 2014

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Date Venue Location
5/24/2014 Middle East Cambridge, MA
6/15/2014 Pride Jamaica Plain, MA
6/15/2014 The Burren Somerville, MA
6/16/2014 The Fire Philadelphia, PA
6/17/2014 Bloomfield Bridge Pittsburgh, PA
6/19/2014 Buzzbin Canton, OH
6/24/2014 The Bridge Columbia, MO
6/26/2014 National Women’s Music Festival Middleton, WI
6/29/2014 Mickey’s Tavern Open Mic Madison, WI
7/2/2014 Fox River House Appleton, WI
7/3/2014 Copper Rock Coffee Co. Appleton, WI
7/5/2014 BBC Upstairs Milwaukee, WI
7/6/2014 Bremen Cafe Milwaukee, WI
7/10/2014 331 Club Minneapolis, MN
7/11/2014 The Courtyard Decorah, IA
7/12/2014 Art Fair on the Square Madison, WI
7/13/2014 Uncommon Ground Chicago, IL
7/14/2014 Reggie’s Rooftop Chicago, IL
7/15/2014 Tweet Homo Latte Chicago, IL
7/16/2014 Redline Tap Chicago, IL
7/17/2014 The Hideaway Louisville, KY
7/18/2014 Wildside Winery Versailles, KY
7/19/2014 Bigg Blue Martini Lexington, KY
7/20/2014 Acoustic Coffeehouse Johnson City, TN
7/24/2014 Mad Frog Cincinnati, OH
7/25/2014 The Irving Indianapolis, IN
7/26/2014 Pride Fort Wayne, IN
7/27/2014 Union Coffee House Buchanan, MI
8/12/2014 Brass Rail II Peoria, IL
8/13/2014 Gabe’s Iowa City, IA
8/14/2014 Uptown Bill’s Iowa City, IA
8/15/2014 Ritual Cafe Des Moines, IA
8/15/2014 Mars Cafe Des Moines, IA
8/17/2014 Zodiac Colorado Springs, CO
8/20/2014 Black Nugget Carbondale, CO
8/23/2014 Paris on the Platte Denver, CO
8/24/2014 The Laughing Goat Boulder, CO
8/27/2014 House Show Denver, CO
8/29/2014 Coal Creek Coffee Laramie, WY
9/13/2014 Clear Creek Brewing Buffalo, WY
9/24/2014 Century Club Buffalo, WY
9/26/2014 Century Club Buffalo, WY
9/27/2014 Clear Creek Brewing Buffalo, WY
10/4/2014 First National Bar Pocatello, ID
10/5/2014 Caffe Ibis Logan, UT
10/5/2014 Green House Effect Open Mic Salt Lake City, UT
10/7/2014 Green Pig Pub Salt Lake City, UT
10/8/2014 Eddie McStiff’s Moab, UT
10/9/2014 Woody’s Moab, UT
10/16/2014 Spirit Room Jerome, AZ
10/17/2014 Arizona Stronghold Tasting Room Cottonwood, AZ
10/19/2014 The Trunk Space Phoenix, AZ
10/21/2014 Brickyard Pizza Open Mic Albuquerque, NM
10/22/2014 Winning Coffee Albuquerque, NM
10/23/2014 Duel Brewing Santa Fe, NM
10/26/2014 The 806 Lounge Amarillo, TX
10/29/2014 Fralo’s Pizza San Antonio, TX
11/1/2014 House Show Victoria, TX
11/2/2014 Firehouse Lounge Austin, TX
11/4/2014 Sahara Lounge Austin, TX
11/5/2014 Opening Bell Dallas, TX
11/6/2014 Kudzu’s Memphis, TN
11/7/2014 Maggie Meyer’s Huntsville, AL
11/8/2014 Humphrey’s Huntsville, AL
11/11/2014 The Basement Nashville, TN
11/12/2014 Writer’s Night Nashville, TN
11/13/2014 Four Pegs Open Mic Louisville, KY
11/14/2014 WIldside Winery Versailles, KY
11/15/2014 Bigg Blue Martini Lexington, KY
11/16/2014 Good Stuff Marshall, NC
11/18/2014 One Stop Deli Asheville, NC
11/19/2014 Acoustic Coffeehouse Johnson City, TN
11/20/2014 Tree House Lounge Washington, DC
11/21/2014 Fergie’s Pub Philadelphia, PA
12/2/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA
12/5/2014 The Village Providence, RI
12/6/2014 The Top Floor Worcester, MA
12/9/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA
12/12/2014 The Rendevous Turners Falls, MA
12/13/2014 IMA Goshen, MA
12/16/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA
12/20/2014 Blue Mermaid Portsmouth, NH
12/23/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA
12/27/2014 Siena Okemo Ludlow, VT
12/30/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA
12/31/2014 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA


Tour During 2015

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Date Venue Location
1/2/2015 Andy’s Old Port Pub Portland, ME
1/3/2015 Middle East Cambridge, MA
1/7/2015 The Outer Space New Haven, CT
1/12/2015 The Pour House Raleigh, NC
1/13/2015 The Village Coffee Fayetteville, NC
1/16/2015 Tir na nOg Daytona Beach, FL
1/17/2015 Debauchery Melbourne, FL
1/22/2015 The Living Room Boynton Beach, FL
1/23/2015 Speak! Friday Miami, FL
1/24/2015 Random Miami Miami, FL
1/25/2015 Mallory Square Dock Key West, FL
1/29/2014 Tre Amici @ The Bunker Tampa, FL
1/30/2015 Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse Tampa, FL
2/2/2015 Will’s Pub Orlando, FL
2/4/2015 Little Fish, Huge Pond Sanford, FL
2/5/2015 West End Trading Co. Sanford, FL
2/14/2015 One Stop Deli Valentine’s Asheville, NC
2/20/2015 The Crown Charlotte, NC
2/21/2015 Good Stuff Marshall, NC
2/26/2015 Bone Lick BBQ Atlanta, GA
2/27/2015 Sluggo’s Pensacola, FL
2/28/2015 The Grunge Pensacola, FL
3/2/2015 Celtic Irish Pub Pascagoula, MS
3/3/2015 Igor’s Checkpoint Charlie’s New Orleans, LA
3/5/2015 The Wild Salmon Lafayette, LA
3/12/2015 Super Happy Fun Land Houston, TX
3/13/2015 Fralos Pizza San Antonio, TX
3/15/2015 The Cove San Antonio, TX
3/19/2015 SXSW (all) Austin, TX
3/23/2015 The Garage Fort Stockton, TX
3/26/2015 The Quarry Bisbee, AZ
3/29/2015 Espresso Art Cafe Tucson, AZ
3/30/2015 The Trunk Space Phoenix, AZ
3/31/2015 Rogue Bar Phoenix, AZ
4/2/2015 Room 5 Lounge Los Angeles, CA
4/4/2015 Max Bloom’s Cafe Noir Fullerton, CA
4/6/2015 The Merrow San Diego, CA
4/9/2015 Legends Bar Las Vegas, NV
4/10/2015 Hops on Birch Flagstaff, AZ
4/12/2015 Phoenix Pride Phoenix, AZ
4/16/2015 Whyld Ass Vegan Flagstaff, AZ
4/17/2015 Black Hole Brewing Prescott, AZ
4/19/2015 Workshop/Houseshow Prescott, AZ
4/20/2015 Republic of Pie North Hollywood, CA
4/21/2015 Whiskey Richards Santa Barbara, CA
4/22/2015 State Social House West Hollywood, CA
4/23/2015 Barmel Carmel, CA
4/24/2015 El Rio San Francisco, CA
4/25/2015 Art Bar Santa Cruz, CA
4/26/2015 Last Stage West Atascadero, CA
4/27/2015 Bang the Drum Brewing San Luis Obispo, CA
4/28/2015 Beatnik Books Roseville, CA
5/1/2014 Studio on 4th Reno, NV
5/2/2015 Divided Sky Lake Tahoe, CA
5/5/2015 Mad River Brewing Blue Lake, CA
5/7/2015 Playwright Pub Ashland, OR
5/8/2015 Paddy Brannan’s Ashland, OR
5/9/2015 Krissy’s House Show Lebanon, OR
5/11/2015 The Triangle Salem, OR
5/12/2015 The Musicquarium Seattle, WA
5/14/2015 TIm’s Tavern Seattle, WA
5/15/2015 Poppe’s 360 Bellingham, WA
5/16/2015 Bob’s Java Jive Tacoma, WA
5/17/2015 TAB’s Bar and Grill Kenmore, WA
5/20/2015 Pig Bar Olympia, WA
5/21/2015 Trillium Cafe Hood River, OR
5/27/2015 Sky Club at Ankeny’s Well Portland, OR
5/29/2015 Slim’s Cocktail Bar Portland, OR
5/30/2015 Marcy’s Bar and Lounge Walla Walla, WA
6/1/2015 Checkerboard Bar Spokane, WA
6/5/2015 Venus Rising Espresso Butte, MT
6/6/2015 Wild Joe’s Coffeeshop Bozeman, MT
6/9/2015 The Murray Bar Livingston, MT
6/10/2015 Paradise Saloon Buffalo, WY
6/11/2015 Century Club Buffalo, WY
6/12/2015 Clear Creek Brewery Buffalo, WY
6/13/2015 Century Club Buffalo, WY
6/15/2015 Coal Creek Coffee Laramie, WY
6/16/2015 Little Bear Saloon Evergreen, CO
6/19/2015 Zodiac Venue Colorado Springs, CO
6/20/2015 Kinfolks Manitou Springs, CO
6/21/2015 Laughing Goat Boulder, CO
6/24/2015 Walnut Room Denver, CO
6/26/2015 House Show Paonia, CO
6/27/2015 Black Nugget Carbondale, CO
6/28/2015 Adobe Bar Taos, NM
6/30/2015 Eye on the Mountain Gallery Santa Fe, NM
7/1/2015 Mineshaft Tavern Madrid, NM
7/2/2015 IDK Sports Bar Amarillo, TX
7/3/2015 JJ’s Alley Oklahoma City, OK
7/4/2015 Red Brick Bar Norman, OK
7/8/2015 Canebrake Spa Wagoner, OK
7/10/2015 Cat House Lounge Eureka Springs, AR
7/11/2015 Springfield Brewing Co. Springfield, MO
7/11/2015 The Salvage Yard Joplin, MO
7/12/2015 Rose Music Hall Columbia, MO
7/14/2015 The Bridge Columbia, MO
7/15/2015 Acoustic Cafe St Joseph, MO
7/16/2015 House Show Sioux Falls, SD
7/17/2015 The Nickel Spot Sioux Falls, SD
7/18/2015 The Courtyard Decorah, IA
7/19/2015 Kathy’s Pub Rochester, MN
7/22/2015 331 Club Minneapolis, MN
7/23/2015 Pizza Plus Eau Claire, WI
7/24/2015 Fox River House Appleton, WI
7/25/2015 Fort Wayne Pride Fort Wayne, IN
7/25/2015 Silvie’s Lounge Chicago, IL
7/26/2015 Uncommon Ground- Clark Chicago, IL
7/27/2015 Uncommon Ground- Devon Chicago, IL
7/28/2015 Melody Inn Indianapolis, IN
7/29/2015 Bossy Grls Pinup Joint Columbus, OH
7/30/2015 Buzzbin Canton, OH
7/31/2015 Dublin Pub Dayton, OH
8/3/2015 Club Cafe Pittsburgh, PA
8/5/2015 Biddle’s Escape Pittsburgh, PA
8/6/2015 The Rusty Nail Ardmore, PA
8/7/2015 Muggs on Main Doylestown, PA
8/8/2015 Maxwell’s Hoboken, NJ
8/9/2015 Henrietta Hudson’s NYC, NY
8/13/2015 Aurora (Sweet Little Variety) Providence, RI
8/15/2015 The Village Providence, RI
8/16/2015 Club Passim Boston, MA
8/18/2015 Workshop Somerville, MA
8/19/2015 Rendezvous Turners Falls, MA
8/20/2015 Radio Bean Burlington, VT
8/21/2015 Top Floor Houseshow Worcester, MA
8/25/2015 The Beehive Boston, MA
8/26/2015 Flask Lounge Portland, ME
8/28/2015 Andy’s Old Port Pub Portland, ME
8/29/2015 Blue Mermaid Portsmouth, NH
8/30/2015 6B Lounge Boston, MA
9/6/2015 Hampshire County Fair Northampton, MA
9/9/2015 The Outer Space Hamden, CT
9/10/2015 Sally O’Brien’s Somerville, MA

So there you have the basics of where the Never Ending Tour went this past 14 months. Maybe someday I will put up more awesome pictures of the USA and get an even better map together, but for now I think this will do 🙂

Lady Van!  We made a 2016 calendar all of photos of Lady Van. It's a great reward on our fundraiser page if you want one of these bad boys!
Lady Van! What a champ! We made a totally amazing 2016 calendar all of photos of Lady Van. It’s available as a great reward on our fundraiser page if you want one of these priceless bad boys!

Olympic National Forest- This TOO is America!

Kristen and I are constantly amazed by the diversity of the USA.  This week we went to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.  Most of the land area of the peninsula is now the Olympic National Park or National Forest, protected from development and open to tourism. There are also many Indian Reservations on the peninsula.  The rest is made of small towns and such, but we didn’t make it to any of them besides Aberdeeen.  Aberdeen has the last Walmart we could sleep, is the boyhood home of Kurt Cobain, and has a sign upon entry that readings “Come As You Are”.  What’s not to like about that?

Here is the road driving into Olympic National Park. We had to drive about 30 minutes down this dirt road to reach our campground.  We entered the park at Quinault Lake, which is a beautiful little town.


Can someone say "Most amazing campground ever??"
Can someone say “Most amazing campground ever??”  Also, it was technically winter still so we didn’t have to pay.
We went on a hike along the East Fork of the Quinault River.  The trail crosses the park.
There are lots of fun slugs in the Olympic Forest. I’m pretty sure this is a banana slug.
The forest is really magical. I love how lots of saplings would sprout along the fallen trees, called nurse logs, soaking up all the nutrients of the dead tree. It makes you think about what is alive and what is dead.
About 2.5 miles down the path from the trailhead, there is this bridge over the Quinault. But no ponies in sight…
SO much moss! So many ferns! They are called epiphytes. The shades of green were just out of this world. Quinault Rainforest is one of only three temperate rainforests in the USA. All three are in the Olympic Forest of Washington.
This is what I look like hiking before it starts to pour.



Along the banks of the Quinault River. We stopped here for some snacks before the rain started. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance all day, but here it became very loud and close!







Kristen and Deirdre crossing Fire Creek on a fallen log. Lots of fallen log crossings out there!
I had to put my camera away when the sky opened up on us, but then the sun came back out, Glad we weren’t out backpacking because our shoes were soaked. Yay for raincoats!
Kristen with The World's Largest Spruce Tree!
Kristen with The World’s Largest Spruce Tree!  Who gets to go around measuring this stuff?
Now that’s a big tree, super hard to capture how big with this camera.
It was fun to watch the birds flit in and out of this tree. So many good spots for a nest!
I’m obsessed with ferns!
Bye bye Rainforest, it was magical!