We lingered in Boulder.
Eventually, all the leftovers were gone.
A family of three drives an old VW bus from San Francisco to the tip of South America.
We lingered in Boulder.
Eventually, all the leftovers were gone.
One of the bonuses to relocating to Winter Park is that we have great friends nearby in Boulder. Scott and Blakely invited us down for Thanksgiving and it was lots of fun. It was also very Boulder: a dairy, egg, gluten, nut and soy-free Thanksgiving. We weren’t really even sure what would be left when those things get removed from the traditional dinner. But, they did an awesome job and it was really tasty.
New friends were made, the kids went wild, fire was juggled, LPs and cards were played and wine was drunk. There was an interesting round of ‘what I’m thankful for’, particularly from the kids’ end. Good times – thanks guys!
We have so much to be thankful for. It’s nice to recognize it.
Not only did we get a full Thanksgiving meal, but we dined with a celebrity.
We had filmed 4 interviews at the VW show and didn’t really think much about them afterwards. The first was a very long interview in English (nailed it!) and there’s no telling where it will go. The second was in Spanish with a cute perky host and we managed to laugh our way through it. The final two were with more stoic interviewers who weren’t so forgiving with our struggles in Castellano. Hopefully, it was the second one that aired.
Anyway, after a trip to the grocery store, we went for a rare McD’s treat for Bode on Thanksgiving Day. We followed our normal routine: Bode runs to the playground, Angela orders, and I go find the baño to wash the grease and oil off my hands. We later noticed a huddle of kids on the playground and figured Bode was in the middle – it wouldn’t be the the first time. The blonde English-speaking kid occasionally gets some attention on the playground.
Bode came to the table and the huddle followed. “Every time I say something, they all go crazy!”
The huddle arrived and in perfect English, they all started asking questions. “Are you the world travelers? We all saw you on TV!” Yep, that’s us. We felt pretty special and Bode posed for photos.
Later, we had a bigger treat: a real Thanksgiving dinner. We met Moises at the VW show. He’s a former California surfer who moved down here and opened Calexico. Super nice guy and killer – killer – Mexican* food!
Moises also hosts a big fancy dinner for the local expats on Thanksgiving every year. A restaurant full of Americans and a huge family-style traditional spread (including awesome tamales!) was a nice treat. We met some more interesting folks and there was even a kid’s table for Bode. We all made new friends and stuffed ourselves appropriately.
* back in the U.S. a few misinformed folks asked us if we were tired of eating Mexican food. For the record, Mexican food is only available in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Finding it in any other country is uncommon. Finding good Mexican food anywhere else is extremely rare.
Our fifth and final Thanksgiving meal was at my mother’s house on Lake Conroe just north of Houston. Now nearly immune to tryptophan, we dove right into another great Thanksgiving meal and spent the afternoon catching up with everyone. Pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies capped off the final feast of the week.
From another room, we heard Bode explaining to someone that he visited Kitty Hawk– where the Jonas Brothers invented the first airplane. Not sure where he’s getting his facts.
Somehow the short drive up to Conroe led us through redneck country. Growing up near Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S.) and living in Austin for 10 years, we managed to avoid inheriting some of the Texas stereotypes. We both grew up in relatively small towns*, but this still seemed a little over the top. Or, maybe we’ve just forgotten.
When we moved to California, I recall people being surprised to learn that we were from Texas.
“Where’s your accent?”
“Do you have a horse?”
The only evidence being our occasional use of the greatest word ever: Y’all.
Anyway, it didn’t take long before we were off the interstate and saw horses frolicking, cow skulls on fence posts, washing machines for mailboxes, and met some characters with accents so strong we could barely understand them. One guy who liked the bus said “Nice wagon there, boy!” with such a Texas drawl that it literally took me 1 minute of re-playing it in my mind to interpret what he was saying.
A neighbor came over to check out the bus. He was driving some hot rod with a 502 engine and apparently no exhaust system – it was LOUD – and said something like “every neighborhood needs a rooster!” again with a serious drawl. He was textbook. Big 50′s greaser bouffant hair, loud shirt tucked-in around his enormous pot-belly. And, the belt buckle. A gleaming ornament to draw everyone’s attention to a world-class beer gut.
Maybe it’s our long absence from Texas that makes this seem so foreign. We come back to visit every year so that doesn’t explain it.
Maybe our recent “travel-eyes” perspective brings it into more focus. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling like anthropologists trying to understand the locals – and we haven’t even left our own country!
Travel is the enemy of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice.
The old VW bus brings out the curious strangers. Of all the explanations I can think of, that’s probably it.
Random folks wouldn’t walk up and talk to us and share a conversation if we were in a Toyota. I think there might also be a neo-redneck revival of sorts thanks to the the Jeff Foxworthy and NASCAR types. There seems to be a misplaced sense of pride associated with this now sought-after marketing demographic… but I digress.
Welcome to Texas, y’all!
*my old hometown of Alta Loma, TX (now incorporated into Santa Fe, TX) was literally featured on Hee Haw. You know, the part where they say the town and population and then yell HEE HAW! Johnny Lee of “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” fame was the guest. He grew up there too.
The next day it was off to Spring, TX to see Angela’s family and another great meal. Bode was really excited to see Grammy and Granddaddy, Aunt, Uncle and cousins. It wasn’t long after we got settled in that we got a call from a familiar voice – Franck and Iris. They were still in Houston, but were having some problems and leaking oil everywhere. Franck sounded pretty exasperated, so we invited them over for another round of Thanksgiving dinner and spent some time inspecting their engine.
Franck suspected it was coming from behind the pulley but it was wet everywhere. We cleaned it up and removed the pulley and had a good look around. We pulled out their distributor and it was wet underneath and the o-ring was pretty flat, so I gave them mine. We ran it for a bit and couldn’t find the leak anywhere. There’s not much we could do about a case leak, so I think we did what we could and we’re just going to hope for the best.
We got to share more travel stories over dinner and took it all in for future reference. Shipping the car up the Amazon. Being burglarized in Caracas and losing their passports, car documents… everything. But mostly, just finding really amazing and great people all along the way in every country.
The next day we sent Iris and Franck off to see a good friend of ours in Austin and we’re sure they will have a great time.
UPDATE: they made it to Austin with no oil leaks. The new distributor O-ring did the trick!
We’ve only been parked in Texas for a few days, but it hasn’t taken long for us to start dreaming about our next destinations and getting moving again.
We hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! We are still recovering from our food comas.
We made it through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on our way to the first of the family celebrations and our third Thanksgiving of the trip ( #1 Canadian Thanksgiving ; #2 Thanksgiving Misgivings). We have plenty to be thankful for.
Since we’ll be visiting family, sleeping late, and eating too much for the next few weeks, we’ll fill in the rest of trip through The South next week and will get caught up with the present right now – sort of a stream of consciousness thing.
We met Frank and Iris (www.amerikando.com) online a few weeks ago. They are driving from Argentina to New York in a 1982 VW bus. Yep, they still made the vans in Argentina in ’82.
They are 9 months into their trip and we found we’d be crossing paths in Texas, so Jason invited them to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. They learned a little about the American holiday – gluttony and college football.
If you are a bus person, the late-model Argentinian kombi is an interesting beast. It’s a bastardized bus, with a mix of parts from the previous year models. It’s a bay window, but doesn’t have the sliding side door – it’s the dual door from the splittie. It has the updated dash and big taillights from the older bay window models, but has a 1600DP engine. The front seats are a bench, so no walk-through. Good fun for VW geeks.
Jason’s dad and step-mom hosted 47 people for a delicious sit-down dinner with assigned seating and everything. There were three turkeys (roasted, fried and smoked) and the largest ham I’ve ever seen.
We ate and then ate some more. We watched football. We ate some more. There were lot’s of folks from out of town, so all beds, couches and air mattresses were put to good use.
Frank and Iris shared some travel tips and contacts for us in Central and South America, and I’m hoping we can reciprocate. We’ll be putting them in contact with our friends along their way.
If you want to meet some really nice people, practice your French or Spanish, or help out on a great VW adventure you can contact them through their blog. Tell them Jason, Angela, and Bode sent you…
Two extremes always meet.