Kategorie-Archiv: Road Trip

San Diego, closing in

out of fuel

On our way out of Arizona, we basically wanted to get to San Diego as quickly as possible. Quite understandably as there was the whole Pacific Coast Highway waiting for us and here where we were, well, there was beautiful sights in Arizona, but we had a crazy as festival to get to.

But more car stories first: We went to pass through Flagstaff to camp close the nearby James Canyon at some site JamesAndPaula scouted. I underestimated the distance and we ran out of gas about 5 miles before getting there. While waiting about a couple of hours for the two to catch up and bring canisters of fuel, we became sure fairly quick, that we would be sleeping in a bed that night.
A bit odd was that no one stopped in the two hours to offer help or even ask if we were ok. Maybe it was because we were pumping loud music while having a dance or Morgane did not look inviting enough, who knows.

So, on our way back into Flagstaff to fill her up and find a motel, just when we crossed a railway crossing, the exhaust came off again. Lucky as always, the next building across was a motel and two doors down from there was a muffler shop. The exhaust got welded the next morning, but I learned that the front wheel alignment was pretty bad and was eating the tyres. That bad that the radial was coming out of the rubber on the inside. The guy from the shop gave them a few miles, if even. Consequently we had the tyres changed a few doors down from there as well and then we were ready to catch up with JamesAndPaula.

AZ forestColo(u)rs like in OZ

It was not long before the Californian border, that we did catch up with them for a break at a small town coffee shop. Passing the town of Hope (only 87 citizens?) we were following JamesAndPaulas lead to camp somewhere close to a side arm of the Colorado River in the wilderness of California. After more than an hour of dirt road adventure in the dark and a few turning arounds, we supposedly arrived where we wanted to go initially. Trying to put up our tents in the heat, we failed to peg anything in the hard ground. And with the massive heat that the dessert would still radiate although the sun had been down for hours, we left it at that.

The T-Bird cafe

In fact, it was so hot I couldn’t get to sleep until late, only to wake up two hours later to find Morgane still awake and a pretty bad sounding thunderstorm approaching. We decided after some debating that we would take the tent down, because we did not have any pegs in the hard hard concrete ground. JamesAndPaula joined and after a couple of hours drive we ended up at the all saving WalMart parking lot in El Centro close to the Mexican border, where JamesAndPaula would go back to sleep.
However, Morgane and I couldn’t, so we would go and endeavour the superstore. It was quiet, which was understandable at 4:45am. After trying camping chairs for a good half hour, deciding which ones were to be ours, bikes were next. I dared Morgane to take a ride around the shop, but when it was my turn I got told off, so we left.

hanging out at WalMart

Despite ourselves not contributing much to finding places to stay overnight, it was safe to say Morgane and I got a bit fed up by JamesAndPaulas choice of camping locations, although the whole did not spare a certain comical aspect.
The patterns on the road to disaster were usually similar and very well observable from driving behind them: A fight about who reads the map right, followed by a missed exit or turn, some more arguing, arriving somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and then some more arguing – this time with us – that it was actually not to bad, because it was free. Having said all that, Morgane and I had a petty good time at WalMart, that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Tyre did not abide to my will

And then there were the tyres and their alignment. Passing close to the Mexican border – that close that we could see the border fortification – I realised that the used tyres acquired in Flagstaff were just as worn out as the ones were, that they replaced. It was just outside of Tecate, about 35 miles to San Diego, where we felt the car behave differently, especially in turns. Even JamesAndPaula could see us wobble and so we stopped to have a break and assess the situation. In an atypical display of stubbornness, I decided that we would make it to San Diego and change the tyres there, after getting the alignment attended to. Fifteen miles later – just outside of Jamul, an old indian village – you can guess (and see on the picture) the situation I got us into. On top of that, I could not loosen the last nut, regardless how much force combined with WD40 I would apply. One road side assistance later we were on our way to San Diego to meet the mechanics for alignment and some new front tyres.

Hans-Günther 2 – 0 Stanley (this time around, anyhow…)

leaving ArizonaFirst CactusPaula
JamesLook mum...Sundown
Hopewaiting for triple a

On the road to Gallup

oldest building in Santa Fe

Time to leave Albuquerque behind and go for some serious country-side visits such as to Santa Fa, a small but well renown town that goes by the name of Stanley and off to Gallup to dive deeper into rural activities.

unattended photo garden, based on donationsowner claims she runs

On our way to Gallup, we took a detour to the east to pay Santa Fa a visit, passing through a town that claimed to have preserved the wild west spirit, whose name I forgot. Quite nice, but more touristy than we wanted it to be. But, we found inspiration for some decorations for Burning Man, so that was a plus.

flowers for the domeold house

From Santa Fe itself, I was not expecting much and was not surprised. However, we had a nice spot in a national park where we camped the night before and with James and I chopping some firewood out of massive logs to some nice beats of my mate Gareth in Melbourne, we had a pretty delighted evening.

Stanley Church

More important than camping at some national park near Santa Fe, was that on our way back we would go through Stanley, New Mexico, a town know to all mankind. Familiar buildings can easily identified on the pictures. But most grateful were the citizens of Stanley, knowing that the reason for their worshipness was coming back to town. Needless to say people were over-joyous and started a parade. That our Convoy stopping here probably temporarily tripled the citizen-count, was no matter.

We joined route 66 in Gallup and decided to stay for the night. With it being Saturday, we decided to go out, so we found the only venue in Gallup that actually offered DJ music, dancing and a bar. City Lights was not much more than a motel bar with some small DJ setup. Nevertheless, Morgane was delighted, because she claimed it reminded her so much of anything she was going out to on her island La Réunion. Despite the distance (La Réunion lies on the east coast of Africa, just a bit south-west of Mauritius), she reckoned the dress-ups, the music and even the dance moves were all similar to her going outs when she was 17. So if you would like to get a feel of Tropical island shenanigans and are close to Gallup, there you go.

66

Leaving Gallup for a breakfast in the lovely scenery of the Red Rock State Park, it was where I though my eyes would deceive me. There I was, standing in New Mexico, looking at a VW bus T3 with German numberplates from my hometown Bonn, around which two elderly ladies were enjoying their camping morning.
I learned from them, that they were 72 and 75 and imported the T3 via Mexico a few years ago. Importing it that way gave them ten years of travel time with the bus, without having to go through administrative hoops in the US. The two would travel for eight to ten month a year and then put the bus in storage to return a few month later; they were into their third year. They have always been nomadic families, being married to two ex-diplomats. While they are touring, their husbands are doing a similar thing somewhere else. I was quite impressed by their determination to pull this off.

Besuch aus Bonn

They also provided me with some information about the area and hinted that there was a native American rodeo about to start. Never having seen a rodeo, off we went. We were just in time for the mutton riders – young cowboy under 8 riding sheep – pretty weird sight.
Wild Mustangs and bull riding was on the program too, as well as calf roping and all that other stuff, cowboys apparently do. It was all pretty unglamorous, but it felt like this was what the people in the area would do on the week-end. Families of any size and ethnicity would join and watch, while having bad hot dogs and sugared soda. We certainly loved it and preferred it to some Buffalo Hillbilly Bling Bling tourist show. After, we decided it is time to head for Flagstaff.

Mustang

We just left Gallup via the interstate, when suddenly the sound of metal grinding on the tarmac from below the car was breaking our rodeo-high. We pulled over and our guess that the exhaust came off had been correct.
There we were, on the really small emergency lane of the Interstate with one of the highest speed limits in the US, trucks blazing past. After jacking up the car in 35 degrees heat, I was baffled to see that the exhaust pipes actually had been clamped together, instead of welded, and that the clamp came off. However, this was a good thing for now, as it allowed fixing it on the sport by simply reclamping the pipes together. Half an hour later we finally were on our way to Flagstaff.

Ha-Gü broken

In Flagstaff we would pause for a night to get the exhaust welded, before encountering more issues with bad weather while camping in the wild hot desert of California and Hans-Günther being moody again.

On the road to Albuquerque

gandalf

Onwards we went from Texas to New Mexico, destination Albuquerque. Via various stops including Roswell, the caves in Carlsbad, one of the worlds oldest Drive-Ins in Lamesa, Lincoln the home town of Billy the Kid and a small German community, I was enjoying convoying with three friends, now that JamesAndPaula had joined in.
We tried to stay off the interstates, which was not only much more relaxing to drive, but also gave way to encounter places that are easily missed.

Luckenbach

Our first stop was in Luckenbach, a bit more than a hundred kilometers from Austin, where a small community that claims to be German holds a festival every Saturday.
Usually the town is empty and is just populated for the festival, as everyone seems to live in Fredericksburg.
However, there is still a town sign and plaque explaining the history and a quasi operational post-office, although it now mainly functions as a souvenir shop. I also managed to find an elderly lady that was able to hold a conversation in German, while she was serving me beer and Bratwurst.

dscf7628apost office
german folk musicyep

Quite astonishing, since all the rest of the town has diverted from anything German so much, that it rather seemed as someones vague idea of it than anything else; that is including the beer and the Bratwurst I had.
But we enjoyed the country music, the shops for cowboy hats and all the tex-mex food trucks for a while. It gave us a unfalsified insight into rural Texan culture and what people enjoy on the weekends.
After some more driving and learning that Morgane can actually nap with the top down at 55mph, we camped at a nice spot near Brady.

55mph no worriesbrady camping

Lamesa, a small town in the middle of nowhere, was where we managed to find the next spot to camp (after some more driving, of course). We must have tickled the curiosity of the Lamesians that went out for a camping week-end with their trailer (the whole 5 miles to the local ground), as we were invited to their local Drive-In-Theatre, one of the oldest still running.
We also got to taste their patented Sandwich(!), called the Chihuahua. Or I was, since it has some sort of meat in it and them veggo’s were pretty much leaving it to me eating it. In return, I was leaving it to them to explain what vegetarian means.
They were earning interesting looks and quite a few “Ohh okaaay…”‘s, while the staff tried to figure out how to make that sandwich vegetarian; I think the guys had a roll with lettuce and sauce in the end.

Texas Drive-InLamesa

However, everyone was very nice and we couldn’t manage to pay a thing, no matter how hard we tried. Maybe also because people were curious about this weird group of people from four different countries ending up in their local adobe. Quite a few laughs, interesting questions (“Are Aboriginals entitled to education in Australia?”) and a movie later, I went to bed with a fascinated smile on my face.

Carlsbaddscf7773z

Next destination Roswell, with a short stop-overs at the Carlsbad Caverns, which were about half-way to Albuquerque. We’ve done all the good tourist things at those two places, as some photos will prove. The caves itself where quite fascinating and definitely worth a visit. However, sound travels quite far and easy, so don’t go if you’re in the middle of processing a Chihuahua or similar.

view from Carlsbad

The most unusual thing we discovered in Roswell was that it was terribly difficult to get any dinner in this town on a Monday night.
Next day, UFO museum to fuel our thirst for conspiracy theories, of course.
In fact, I found it very worthwhile to read the numerous Arthur Davids from persons involved and the related finding and disappearance of metal and rocks presumably connected to the ‘incident’. Then there is whole bunch of ra-ra-ra before another interesting part in that museum, which is about depiction in historic cultures, such as the Mayans, etc.

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Lincoln was tiny and made up for passers through to stop and indulge in the touristy nostalgic flair the city has. Billy the Kid is only mentioned rarely around town, but then again it was enough to lure us there (or better James’ English tourist self).
In the end, we were grateful for this and the short break with the first descent coffee in ages, as the time in this little place doesn’t run at all.

wanted: touristcoffee break

A bit further down the road we encountered quite a thunderstorm and I was glad Ha-Gü passed the test. Thanks to Morgane’s artistic photo phase, we also got about ten nice pictures taken (out of the two-hundred or so attempts).
We arrived quite late in Albuquerque, but that couldn’t stop James from reveling on about what Breaking Bad sites we would have to visit, pretty much as soon as possible, before we were dismissed to bed.

just oneroad to Albuquerque

Ilha Grande, Paraty

ilha grande shore

Ilha Grande is one of those island paradises, that everyone always keeps talking about: no cars allowed and beautiful beaches everywhere.
Well, although it’s only town is rather touristy, the rest of the island is sheer beauty. So, I joined Kavita and Uli on their road trip towards São Paulo, stopping at Ilha Grande and Paraty, before I had to make my way back up to Rio de Janeiro again, to spend my last days of seven weeks Brazil there.
After all the World Cup madness that was exactly the decompression that I was looking for.

The drive down the coast from Rio de Janeiro was already very nice. And so different from driving up north and north-west. The roads are so much nicer and so are the houses along the road; even the poor seem to be richer down here. We also passed Brazil’s only nuclear reactor and although there are plans to build a second one, about 80% of Brazil’s energy is produced by hydroelectric plants. Wanna talk about carbon footprint in ‘first world’ nations?

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Once settled in we had to fight ourselves through the various tourist tour companies only to realise that all of them are pretty much doing the same and also grant the same ‘special discount’ – just for us of course. No surprise, but confident that we had as shit a deal as anyone else we book a tour around the whole island, stopping at various spots except the most famous beach, Lopes Mendes, which is a separate half-day tour. Fine with us, but.

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The tour featured jumping of high cliffs into beautiful bays, being lazy on white beaches, losing my sunnies again on one of them and bumpy speed boat rides that were a test for everyone’s vertebral column. So much fun, however towards the end it felt like it was one or two stops too many; sensor overload completed. Unplanned random encounter was seeing a whale. So good!

jumpin off here
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Serendipity struck at dinner. When we were about to leave and Kavita and I went to pay, the table next to us held up Uli, asking him if he wanted to see a picture of the most famous person in Manaus. After answering yes, he was shown a picture where someone takes a 15 person selfie with me (after the Germany win against Brazil). Uli couldn’t say much, but call me over and I was pretty baffled as well, to see that guy. I remember him using a steady-cam-harness for his videos and pictures. We exchanged emails and maybe I will get some footage. But given how my skill of acquiring footage has been so far, I am not holding my breath.

Paraty next. A well preserved colonial town famous for it’s historic center with it’s cobblestone car-free streets, that get flooded every high tide. It was also my last night with Uli, before he continues to São Paulo and I make my way back towards Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say we drew all the options available until the early morning, exercising all what Paraty had to give. That included torrential rain, a Mexican festival, which actually got better as the amplifiers failed, super cheap Caipirinhas that tasted like petrol, a lesbian bar, Uli thinking he could actually beat me in 10-pin and crossing broken bridges in early morning hours.

I was really grateful that I could meet him again after three years, so we parted with a smile the next day. As a good-bye gift he gave me his flag, that has been in Maracana for the final to make for mine being stolen out of my dorm room while I was asleep. I felt a bit ashamed that I had nothing to give back to him, but a lousy Polaroid the day before.

Hopped on the bus to Rio de Janeiro, mainly to do a bit more exploring and catching up with people I met along the way.

Olinda

Olinda was good for a bit of rest before driving to Salvador, which is about 850km, projected time of 12h30 no breaks, so the plan was to have an overnight stay along the way in Maceió. Especially considering, that so far we pretty much took about 25% longer than what ogle-maps thinks is possible on Brazilian dirt roads.
Apparently Olinda is Brazil’s capital of Carnival. Not that you could tell by inspecting the historic center. It is very residential, but also kept nice and despite it’s reputation, it doesn’t come across as made up for tourists.
All the newish buildings are kept in Recife, which is in sight distance from one of the hills in Olinda. I am buying Olindas charme.

Olinda, Recife in the background

Apart from one half day of exploring Olinda, we pretty much chilled out for a bit, due to torrential rain and that we needed some rest for the long drive.
It was the weather however, that made us decide that we would drive the whole distance in one go, without an overnight stop in Maceió or whatnot. That way we would win an extra day in Salvador and also we would have all the shit weather during the drive, which is a bit exhausting, but much better than having it somewhere where we are staying.

We arrived pretty much exactly after 13h including about 90minutes of breaks, which means we did beat the projected time by an hour. Giving our record so far, I was quite proud if that. However, after I drove the whole way – Carl and someone who we gave a ride were out for a bit longer the night before, so they slept about half the drive – I just collapsed to bed.

In Salvador there were a few things waiting for us: The quarter finals including me going to Netherlands – Costa Rica, a free off the beaten track walking tour organised by the local couchsurfing community and nightlife ^^.

Road Trip Fortaleza to Olinda

Finally we are on our road trip. We were excited for the newly gained freedom having a var, however it was a bit of an ordeal to get the rental sorted. Just so much: it is better to rent directly with the company, than going through an agency that uses partners.
First destination, Canoa Quebrada, about 170km from Fortaleza.

Everything is much more made up and kept nice than Jeri, which makes it lack some charm for me. It is very touristy, so there is not much to say about the city. However, the red sand is a nice change and you can go and carve your name into the walls of dried sand.

Main Street Canoa QuebradaCarl showing off
Our carving efforts

Next stop Maracajau (400km), another fishing village, but all we could do from Canoa Quebrada, leaving after mid-day. That was also due to ogle-maps idea of routing us via dirt roads. There were bitumen roads, but they were full of pot-holes, so driving on these and the dirt roads at night was equally fun and demanding a lot of concentration.

Maracajau itself was quite uneventful, apart from watching the Brazil Chile game (penalty shoot-out) with the locals. One guy tried to offer me his neighbors daughter, but I thankfully declined. After I had to decline two more times, stating that I am here to watch the game, not to hook up with the (admittedly pretty ordinary) offspring of his mate, he must have gotten pissed off. At least I give him this benefit of the doubt, when he was offering me his other mates 10 year old son ten minutes later. Strange little village, hey.

Breakfast was hereFishing village

Since so far, our mission to surf Brazil was sabotaged by smallish whitewash waves throughout, we decided to go to Pipa (150km); it is supposed to be one of the most famous surf beaches in Brazil.

Natal

On the way we stopped in Natal to check it out. In a pretty big mall, it became apparent that Brazilians have a different ideal of beauty and are being influenced that way too: Female mannequins have big boobs and / or a six pack. Not that that would resemble the view on the streets too much, despite all the raving about Brazilian women.
Oh, and then there was a cleaner, who’s work attire was skates and protectors; brilliant idea!

Big Rack City BitchAbs what elseStrike a pose

Off to Pipa, via more dirt and pothole roads, where we stayed just for the night. All the fun seemed to have happened the day before we arrived, which was a Saturday, so we decided to lay fairly low and try to get a surf in in the morning, before we leave about midday. Unsurprisingly, luck wasn’t on our side, with winds strong but onshore only. So we had a body surf and both got smashed quite a bit. Carl’s shoulder took a beating while I came out fairly unharmed. It is a lovely little surf town, which is definitely worth a longer stay than we could afford.

Pipa Praia do AmorPraia do Centro

Next destination: Olinda, about 250km south. It is the capital of Carnival in Brazil. and famous for that and it’s historic center.