Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Carsten and I spent Thursday and Friday exploring Wash U and St. Louis. Friday we had dinner with my dear friend Becca who is finishing up an engineering degree at Wash U.

Friday Carsten and I started our day by sneaking into Wash U’s gym in order to lift. After our delinquent behavior, we participated in all of Wash U’s official visitor activities. We toured the campus, went to information sessions, went to business and engineering specific information sessions and ate in the dining facilities. By the end of the day we were exhausted by listening to official-speak, but we also left with a very positive view towards Wash U. Carsten hinted that Wash U had moved to the top of his list.

Despite being tired and wanting to make it home to South Bend, Carsten and I decided to stop by the city museum. We had heard from multiple people that it was a must see. We planned to only stop by briefly, but as soon as we got inside, we knew that we would be there for quite some time. This place is Carsten’s personal paradise. It is housed in an old shoe company and is basically a giant jungle gym for children and adults alike made from predominantly found items. Every corner of the museum is fun but also beautiful. We squeezed through tiled passage ways, slid down hollowed out logs, climbed up metal towers. We were at the museum until 9pm and then decided it was time to hit the interstate.

I didn’t expect to drive all the way home, but once I was on the road the reality that I was headed home hit me all at once. I drove the seven hours home, just breaking once for gas and caffeine, while Carsten slept beside me. At 4am we reached South Bend. We crawled into our beds, each one decorated by a kind welcome home note. Our trip was over.



Amarillo, TX

After a third meal with Jan and Dave, we hit the road. We spent the whole day driving and arrived at a KOA in Amarillo, TX around 10pm. After filling out the late night registration, we jumped into our car to drive to our campsite, but the car wouldn’t budge. It down right refused to shift into drive. Carsten, Nalani and I each took a turn in the driver’s seat, hoping that one of us would have the magic touch. No such luck. Our campsite was just around the corner, so we pushed it to the campsite. Too tired to bother with the tents, we pulled out our sleeping bags and fell asleep almost immediately. Tomorrow we would deal with the dead car.

I woke up early and jumped into my car first thing, hoping that it would miraculously work. It was probably just tired last night, right? Unfortunately, it still refused to shift into drive. I relented and called AAA.

We once again spent an afternoon in a Toyota dealership over-caffeinating on free coffee and eating free food. Blogging, playing scotland yard and perusing the newer priuses that might function better than mine kept us reasonably entertained most of the day.

Around 5pm it became clear that our car was not going to be fixed that day. The next day was Sunday, so the dealership would be closed. Looked like we would be here until at least Monday. We got a ride for the three of us and our bikes to a nearby motel.

The next morning we all decided that Nalani should take the Greyhound home. She had Birdsell business that she was eager to take care of, whereas Carsten and I had nothing in particular that we needed to do in South Bend. We were sad to split up though. The three of us were now accustomed to all being together.

In the end we were stuck in Amarillo for five days. Carsten and I had a surprisingly nice time. We found a pleasant routine. We would wake up and eat our motel’s breakfast of scrambled eggs and salsa. Then we would spend a few hours doing computer work, before biking to the gym for some weightlifting or to the park to play frisbee. We also biked to the Toyota dealership daily to gently remind them of our existence. In the evenings we watched TV.

Our time in Amarillo gave Carsten and I both time to prepare to return to Indiana. Our lives are both more in transition than Nalani’s. We spent a lot of time discussing what we each want to do next year and for the rest of our lives. We served as each other’s life and career coaches.

On Wednesday, the Toyota dealership finally contacted us that we could pick up our car. The bad news was that they still had no idea what was wrong with it. But they had once again “cleared the codes” and test driven it. Everything appeared to be functioning for now. This dealership, however, unlike the one in Yuma didn’t charge us anything for looking at our car, which we appreciated.

We hit the road and drove late into the night until we hit St. Louis where we would spend the next two days college visiting at Wash U. Carsten only has a few more weeks to make his college decision.

Flagstaff, AZ

This morning the check engine light came on in my car again. We decided to ignore. We wanted to spend a nice day in Flagstaff with friends without worrying about the car.

We arrived at the Carlile house to a beautiful brunch of fresh berries, homemade jelly, maple syrup and towering stacks of french toast. Jan and Dave were incredibly warm hosts. We spent hours bantering over our food, eagerly exchanging stories about our trip and their recent adventures.

I then spent the afternoon with my dear friend Claire. She took me up to the Lowell Observatory, from which we had a view of all of Flagstaff. In the evening she had a meeting, so we parted ways and Carsten, Nalani and I met back up with Jan and Dave for another incredible home-cooked meal. After dinner my dear friend Lucy joined us for several hours of lively conversation.

We have had many incredible experiences on this trip, but the warmth from Jan and Dave will stand out to me as one of the highlights of this trip. It has made me excited to return home to the embrace of our South Bend community.


We made it out of San Diego early this morning. For the first time in two months we are eastbound. Our destination for tonight was supposed to be Flagstaff. We had planned to stay at the home of Jan and Dave tonight, the parents of my dear friend Grayson.

Around 11am somewhere in the desert between El Centro, CA and Yuma, AZ, my car lost its ability to drive. Slowly our speed dropped when we were at about 25mph, all the lights on my dash went out. Nalani gracefully pulled the prius over to the side of the interstate.

We all took a deep breath, and then calmly jumped to action. I called AAA. They informed me that we had seven free miles of towing and after that each additional mile would cost $10. The nearest AAA approved mechanic was 70 miles away.I decided to search for a mechanic nearer to our current location. Holtville was the nearest town with repair shops. I gave each one a call, but none of them worked on priuses, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given that we are in truck country.

El Centro has a toyota dealership 30 miles back the way we had come and Yuma has a dealership 30 miles east of our current location. We opted for Yuma. We were about to call AAA to send a tow truck, but Carsten suggested that we try the car again and see if it might be able to drive us to Yuma. Hesitantly Nalani turned the car back on. Everything seemed normal. She waited until there was an incredibly large space in the stream of traffic and pulled back into the right lane with the emergency blinkers on. The car certainly wasn’t being its old self – it wouldn’t go above 40 or 45 mph, but it was driving. About halfway to Yuma, the car lost momentum again, but luckily we were right at the entrance to a rest stop. Nalani simply pulled in and we let the car rest for another twenty minutes. After that, my prius pulled through and brought us the rest of the way to the dealership.

We spent the next six hours waiting around the dealership. We watched some tv on my computer; we went for a walk around Yuma’s scenic strip mall area in 90 degree heat; and we bickered and over-caffeinated on the dealership’s free coffee.

Eventually we were told that the dealership could not find anything wrong with my car. They had reset the computer codes, basically telling my car that it was fine despite my car being pretty sure it was not in fact fine.

We drove on a few hours to a campground somewhere between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Jan and Dave offered that they would make us brunch the next morning when we arrived in Flagstaff.

When things are looking down Carsten opts for selfies.

Day of Celebration – San Diego, CA

Today is our day of celebration. Tomorrow we will start our drive home to South Bend. Our first order of business was to get ice cream to celebrate finishing our very last map panel. We opted for a shop called the Baked Bear, a few miles down the coast from our campground. We enjoyed biking along the trail along the ocean. Nalani and I commented that men in San Diego seemed to be particularly good looking. Carsten chimed in that all the girls were babes. Nalani and I made fun of Carsten for the rest of the day for using the term “babes.”

The bike ride to the Baked Bear was well worth it. It was the best ice cream place I’ve been to in a long while. The ice cream shop specializes in ice cream sandwiches. You can chose an ice cream flavor, and then a fresh baked cookie for both the top and the bottom of your sandwich. I had cookie dough ice cream, with a brownie on the bottom and a peanut butter cookie on top. You can then have the sandwich heated up in what looks like a panini press. It was absolutely delicious.

The only downside of the experience is that Sophie, Grayson and I were planning on starting an ice cream sandwich shop specializing in fresh baked cookies. We thought the idea was incredibly original, little did we know that San Diego alone already has two shops specializing in made to order ice cream sandwiches with homemade cookies. South Bend still could use a good ice cream parlor though, so maybe if I convince Sophie and Grayson to move here, our business dreams can still come to fruition.

We spent most of the afternoon on the beach. We built an enormous sand city, Carsten and Nalani built two life-sized sand sculptors, and Carsten went for a run while Nalani went for a walk, while I napped.

In the late afternoon we returned to our campground to partake in the campground’s ping pong tournament. Carsten got third place. I didn’t place, but was glad to represent my sex in an otherwise all male tournament.

We cooked ourselves a quiet dinner and went to bed early. We want to beat rush hour tomorrow morning.

Day 42 – Live Oak Springs, CA to San Diego, CA (84 mi)

Today is our last day of biking and we all feel a bit nostalgic. We aren’t exactly sad the trip is ending because it is time and we are excited for our return home to friends and family, but we also feel aware that a beautiful chapter of our lives is coming to a close.

Today we had a long day of biking, but it was also mainly downhill. We started high in the coastal range and descended all the way to the pacific. We all wanted to finish at the ocean together, so Nalani parked the car near the beach and took her bike on a trolley to meet up with Carsten and me sixteen miles from our destination. The last sixteen miles were predominantly along bike paths, which made for a nice end.

We didn’t make it to the pacific until almost 5pm. We spent a while on the beach riding through the sand and taking victory photos and exclaiming at the success of our trip. In the past two months Carsten has biked approximately 2000 miles. Nalani has biked 1130 miles and I have biked 1000 miles. We all feel incredibly proud and grateful.

We didn’t spend too long at the beach however because we were all famished. We ate at a gourmet burger joint for our celebratory dinner. Our burgers were delicious, but still didn’t rival the burgers at Octave, my favorite Indiana burger joint and probably my favorite restaurant (not counting the Purple Porch of course).

Tonight and tomorrow night we are staying at Campland on the bay. It is a campground our family stayed at years ago on a family trip to San Diego. The campground has everything, including a coffee shop and daily ping pong tournaments.


Day 41 – Ocotillo, CA to Live Oak Springs, CA (31 mi, 4,288ft elevation gain)

Today we are climbing out of the desert into the coastal range. Carsten and Nalani’s ride today included 8 straight miles of ascent on the shoulder of I-8. I’m very content with being the car person today.

The options for where to stay tonight were fairly limited, but our map indicated that there was one campground in Live Oak Springs. Last night I looked the campground up online to make sure that it was reasonably priced and had decent reviews, both seemed fine, so Carsten, Nalani and I planned to meet there some time in the afternoon. I drove first thing to the campground, hoping it would have internet, so I could spend some time blogging and looking for jobs.

When I arrived, the campground host was working at the counter at the small camp store. He was very friendly and chatty. He asked me all about our trip as I paid for our spot with my card. Since I had looked up the price the night before I didn’t bother to reconfirm it with him, so I was shocked when he handed me a receipt to sign that was triple the price I was expecting. The price was more than any hotel room we had stayed at on our trip. I looked up in shock and asked him if that was right and cited the price I had seen online the night before. He clarified that that was a per person price and we were three people. I stood their unsure of what to do. On one hand he had already run my card and we didn’t have another place to stay, but on the other hand it was preposterous to pay this much for a campground. The host had no intention of refunding any of my money, but he clearly felt a little bit bad. He started to explain that he had just bought the place and that he was doing a lot of work to restore the oak trees, which apparently were struggling severely because of the drought. He than offered to give us free firewood and twenty dollars of store credit in the camp store. I finally said thank you and decided to stay. I didn’t have the energy to figure out alternative lodging for the night and the man was very kind and the campground was beautiful.

Carsten and Nalani arrived in the afternoon. They had ridden nearer to the border fence than on any other day. In one wash, they saw a series of crosses dressed in migrant clothing as a memorial to the struggles of those crossing the border. Carsten and Nalani briefly got off their bikes to look more closely at the wall, which is a fairly imposing structure in the middle of the desert.

Carsten enjoyed noticing what he termed the “road archeology.” They rode on some back roads which had dates directly inscribed into the road surface. There roads dated back to 1929 and 1931. The most astounding part was that in many places the original road was in much better shape than any more recently paved sections.

We all went swimming in the very chilly hot tub. The pool was so cold we couldn’t even set foot in it. After dinner we made a roaring fire and then went to bed early in order to be well rested for our last day of biking!