Our Last Week in Florida

It’s bittersweet as we prepare to get on the road again; what we planned as a 2 month layover in Florida to visit with my extended family has morphed into a glorious 4 months, but it’s time to set our sites West and prepare for the homeward journey.

We’ve had some really wonderful times with my family, and for the first time in almost 20 years, I’ve had the chance for leisurely get-togethers and deep time, rather than the usual frantic week or two ‘see everyone’ visits. We’ve been blessed to be 5 minutes from Mom’s house, so have spent many mornings and post-work afternoons walking with Mom, or spending time at her house visiting. With brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and aunts and uncles all in-state, it’s felt like one long, lovely family visit. And we even got a chance to spend a brief time with my best friend Pete, who visited his dad from Korea, and we were able to meet up.

After one last visit to the east coast with Mom and Aunt Barb this weekend to visit my sister Cindy, we’ll hit the road westward. We hope to meet up with our dear friend Gary on the Gulf coast, 2 weeks in New Orleans, then on to Texas to visit cousin Jake. After than, we’ll see where the wind (or the weather!) blows us.

We’ve obviously been having too much fun to update the blog, but here are some highlights in images from our last couple of months:

At the end of the road: Key West

Welcome to Florida!

 

Santa-Barb delivering presents

Santa-Barb delivering presents

Barb 'passes the hat' to Dan... Hello Santa Baby!!!

Barb ‘passes the hat’ to Dan… Hello Santa Baby!!!

Mom must have been good...her stocking overfloweth...

Mom must have been good…her stocking overfloweth…

Jesse and Don tussle for the mat

Jesse and Don tussle for the mat

New Year's Day at the beach with Shobi and Amiet

New Year’s Day at the beach with Shobi and Amiet

Jesse LOVES Shobi!!!

Jesse LOVES Shobi!!!

Visiting with Dave, Sinder and Sabrina in Orlando

Visiting with Dave, Sinder and Sabrina in Orlando (by Rollins College)

The 'Other Highway 1'... On the way to the end of the road, Key West

The ‘Other Highway 1’… On the way to the end of the road, Key West

We made it to the end of the road.... time to head home. Decision is made.

We made it to the end of the road…. and we make the decision that it’s time to head home.

Pete and Kimbo. Hard to believe he's been my BFF for almost 30 years!

Pete and Kimbo. Hard to believe he’s been my BFF for almost 30 years!

Love these guys! Pete, Kimbo and Dan hanging out on Sanibel Island

Love these guys! Pete, Kimbo and Dan hanging out on Sanibel Island

Sunset at the end of the road, and home to the world's greatest key lime pie

Sunset at the end of the road, and home to the world’s greatest key lime pie

A quick trip to Mexico to photograph Jillian and Monte's wedding

A quick trip to Mexico to photograph Jillian and Monte’s wedding

 

A quick trip to Mexico for Jillian and Monte's wedding

A quick trip to Mexico for Jillian and Monte’s wedding

A quick trip to Mexico for Jillian and Monte's wedding

A quick trip to Mexico for Jillian and Monte’s wedding

Next trip to Orlando... Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure with Amiet and Sabrina

Next trip to Orlando… Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure with Amiet and Sabrina

Butterbeer in Diagon Alley. Perhaps not the best 9:00 am dietary choice...

Butterbeer in Diagon Alley. Perhaps not the best 9:00 am dietary choice…

More fun at Universal

More fun at Universal

One of my favorite places to hike (Oscar Scherer SP), and my first decent photo of an eagle

One of my favorite places to hike (Oscar Scherer SP), and my first decent photo of an eagle

Hiking at Oscar Scherer SP; I'll miss this place

Hiking at Oscar Scherer SP; I’ll miss this place

Happy New Year from the Bermenders!

As 2014 comes to a close, it feels right to take a reflective moment to think about all of our friends and family, many of whom we’ve missed seeing this year while on the road – know that we think of you often. We hope that this holiday season finds you well, and that it’s been a good year for your and yours.

2014 was our year of the nomad lifestyle (we’ve borrowed the phrase ‘technomads’ to describe our adventure). Kimberley started travel early, with a wonderful 80th birthday excursion to Guatemala with her Mom. She had a fabulous time, and has probably left a few locals confused with her mangled Spanish – but it was enough language to do lots of negotiating during many shopping trips. The people they met during the trip were wonderfully hospitable and generous with their beautiful country – this set the tone for the months to come.

Once back in CA, it was just a few weeks of packing up the house, and we set off on our ‘year-long’ (more on that later) work-camping trip across the States. You can check out our route , or follow the details of the adventures in the Technomads blog.

Quick summary: we’ve really loved our travels, have met many great people, and are awed every day by the beauty of this country. It’s been a lot of work, as we’ve been on the move almost every week until we hit Florida, but we feel like we had a good balance of experiencing different places without being too rushed. Jesse’s turned into quite a traveler, and has loved hiking the many trail miles that we’ve covered – we’ve even got to do bits of the Continental Divide, Mah Dah Hay, and Appalachian (well, 3 miles of that one 😉 ) trails. We’ve visited a total of 24 states so far – half of this great country’s mainland.

Happily, both of our bosses have felt like it was a successful experiment, and we’ve had no issues on the work front, huzzah! We wrapped up last year with the plan that Dan would be leaving his work at the Defense Language Institute, but they decided to allow him to work from the road, and it seems like all are happy with the situation.

Dan is returning to California for the first time since heading on the journey, to ring in the New Year with his Mom and family, and to spend some time at DLI doing some in-person work. Kay continues to enjoy her work for Symantec, and couldn’t imagine a better software gig. After taking a semester off from her MFA program in photography, she returned in the fall. Next semester marks the mid-point of her program, and she’ll begin her thesis work. Very scary and exciting!

We are currently spending three months in Florida, just five minutes from Kay’s Mom’s house, 2 miles from an awesome state park with lots of hiking, about 2 miles from paddleboarding the Intercoastal waterway, about 3 miles from a rad dog beach at the ocean… all in all a pretty good gig while we recharge the batteries to make the trek back across the States.

As mentioned, the year-long adventure is definitely expanding. We’ll be gone at least until the summer, and may end up settling elsewhere in California for a while. We’ll see where the wind blows us. For now, the plan is for Kay to head to Mexico in early Feb for friends’ wedding, and then we’ll hit the road again.

For those of you that we didn’t get a chance to see this year, please know that our thoughts are often with you and we’ll hope to see you soon. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and happy 2015!

Happy Holidays,
Dan and Kimberley (and Jesse-dawg)

Happy New Year from the Bermenders!

Happy New Year from the Bermenders!

Virginia

Driving across the boroughs of New York in an RV with truck in tow, cross-town thanks to the ‘no commercial vehicles on parkways’ rule which somehow manages to include RVs, is definitely not for the faint of heart. Lucky for us, with Dan at the wheel and Jesse helpfully navigating while I took photos and exclaimed over random points of possible interest, we made it out of the big city and to our next stop at Elk Neck SP, MD.

Goodbye New York!

Goodbye New York!

Beautiful lighthouse, reminding me of Santa Cruz and our wedding day, though not-so-romantically named ‘Turkey Neck” – who looked out over the vastness of Chesapeake Bay, the historic landscape, and thought, yep, there’s a name for a lighthouse, sure does look like a turkey neck to me.” Between the turkey neck and overpopulation of Maryland’s state bird, the stinkbug, I really didn’t feel like we gave this park a fair shake. But if you’ve ever had to do hand-to-hand combat with two stinkbugs in a shower, you may forgive my lukewarm review.

Turkey Neck Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay, MD

Turkey Neck Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay, MD

We packed up and headed to Virginia to meet up with our friend Joe (Dan’s good friend since elementary school, and co-adventurer in DC, Santa Cruz and Hawaii) for the grand tour of Charlottesville and area. Hello, US history! We stayed in a little campsite on the James River, near Scottsville, where a levee was created to deal with regular flooding of the river – up to 40 feet some years! That levee was also the local dog-walking hangout, and I met lots of local folk, two and four-legged, who gave me the run-down on the area, pointed me to the local farmer’s market and to a day spa where I got my first massage in months – heavenly. The oldest church I saw was built in 1745 and the newest was 1850. We spent lots of evenings dining out with Joe, met up with and old California friend, Melanie, did a bit of wine tasting (who knew that Charlottesville has so many good vineyards?), and toured Monticello and the Madison estate (where we had a partial tour by Joe’s dad, who is a docent there) as well as a visit into the mountains to the Walton museum (my idea ;). We crammed a lot of sightseeing into a week, and managed to get a good bit of work done, as well. One of the joys of our travel is meeting old friends in new places, and Joe is a master tour guide.

Joe, Dan & Mr. and Mrs. Lynch Joe, Dan & Mr. and Mrs. Lynch[/caption]

Madison House, VA

Madison House, VA

[caption id="attachment_809" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Walking the Levee Walking the Levee

We continued to chase the fall foliage as we headed to Claytor Lake, VA, where we spent some lovely hiking time, but with weather in the mid-fifties and overcast, I wasn’t too interested in getting out paddling and taking advantage of the lake. As I hiked through the forest, I started two new photo projects – I’ve been waiting a while for inspiration to hit, so am excited to get my mind and eye focused. We then spent the weekend at Grayson Highlands SP, well in the Blue Ridge mountains (is it the highest peak in VA?). We were expecting a huge colorful array of foliage, but instead found bare trees – it turns out that cold and wind make for early winter. Despite the lack of vibrant color, we had a great time doing some challenging hikes, including getting on the Appalachian trail (OK, only for a couple of miles, but they were tough miles!), and following a creek to its source, skirting several waterfalls.
Today, I get on a plane in Charlotte, NC for a brief work visit back to CA. While the plane heads west, my thoughts are in the East.

I love this forest!

I love this forest!

Jesse leads the way onto the Appalachian Trail

Jesse leads the way onto the Appalachian Trail

Chasing waterfalls

Chasing waterfalls

On the Road Again

The rain is falling softly on the camper roof, and we are tucked in quiet and reflexive after our day traveling through the Adirondacks as the leaves begin to turn color and we get the hint of cold weather to come, south to the Catskill mountains where we’re back to warm temps and humidity. Reflexive because we are back to just us three after almost two lovely months of spending time with family and friends. While Dan has been keeping up the blog, I feel like I have lots of catching up to do.

It’s been a really special few weeks as we’ve got to spend extensive time with my family. It’s been so nice to have hours and days to relax and enjoy company, rather than the usual frantic pace of a quick visit which is what I’ve done for many years. Hard to believe I’ve been gone for almost twenty years! We started the trip  at Mom’s house and visiting with Barb and Don, got in a quick camp trip with my best friend Pete and his son Lewis who were in from Korea, family reunions large and small, then while I went to spend time in CA with friends there, Dan got more time with cousin Andy, Melissa and the kids in Ithica (what great photos he got! And he had a blast hiking and spending time with the Ithica crew). When I got back to the east coast, we hightailed it out of Syracuse and moved into cousin Kate’s River House near Massena, where we’ve spent over two delightful weeks. It is a magical place, right on the St Lawrence with a small town nearby, hiking and dog-walking trails, and a private beach where we were steps away from glassy paddleboarding adventures. And with that as a home base, we had lots of time to have family visit us, hike the Adirondacks with Uncle Buck and Aunt Rose, share dinners, and over the past couple of days, enjoy cousin Kate’s company as well. It was definitely with mixed feelings that we said goodbye and headed out on the road today. It takes the sting out of things though, when I know that I’ll be seeing family again in just a couple of months when we reach Florida. Here’s to the next reunion!

Sunset at the River House

Sunset at the River House

Just doesn't get old... River House sunset

Just doesn’t get old… River House sunset

Ships pass by all the time - and that's Canada across the river

Ship! Ships pass by all the time – and that’s Canada across the river

Mom supervises the paddleboarding

Mom supervises the paddleboarding

Jesse's getting the hang of the paddleboard - finally!

Jesse’s getting the hang of the paddleboard – finally!

The Point - my great discovery and wonderful dog-walking trail

The Point – my great discovery and wonderful dog-walking trail

The Point - Jesse likes it too!

The Point – Jesse likes it too!

At  the summit of Mt Regis, Adirondack Mountains

At the summit of Mt Regis, Adirondack Mountains

Signing out of the register at Mt Regis

Signing out of the register at Mt Regis

Stone Vally Hike

Stone Vally Hike with Rose, Buck and Kate

My office view - that lanai rocks

My office view – that lanai rocks

Fall day driving through the Adirondack mountains

Rainy Fall day as we say goodbye to  the Adirondack mountains




 

Ooooh, A Map!

Well it took two of us (read, mostly Dan), but we got the custom Google map integrated into the blog, so now there’s a page at the top menu (under the Beastie photo) Map of Our Journey so we can track where we’ve been. And it’s here, below, for your viewing pleasure as well 🙂 While we were busy being such tech wizards, we figured we’d set Dan up with his own account, so we’re posting under our own names now.

From Prairie Lake to Prairie Lake

It was funny to drive from Prairie Lake, MN, be in the car all day, and end up still at Prairie Lake (WI, though). We spent a week at a private campground right on the lake at Prairie Lake Minnesota, and I had grand visions of paddleboarding every day, renting a peddle boat, sunsets over the water. Instead, I got a wicked head cold and when I wasn’t sneezing and weepy-eyed, then there were electrical storms. As the midwest and prairies got hammered, we got off pretty easy, but there were a lot of inches of rain that came down last week. I was glad to get to the laundry on Friday and get the mud and damp out of all of our gear.

Prairie Lake - It reminds me of the lake where I spent my childhood summers

Prairie Lake – It reminds me of the lake where I spent my childhood summers

But it wasn’t all rain and sniffles. We found an amazing paved bike/hike trail, the Mesabi Trail, which runs for about 70 miles (130 miles once complete). Dan got our bike’s flat tire fixed in Grand Rapids, MN, and were were off hiking and biking. And of course Jesse got to spend lots of time in the water, even if I was land-lubbered. I did manage to spend lots of time sitting on the dock, looking out over the lake in the morning and evenings, and reminiscing about my childhood spent at our family cottage on a lake not unlike this.

Jesse meets a cousin on the Mesabi trail

Jesse meets a cousin on the Mesabi trail

From there, we headed to Prairie Lake WI, where we had a fun overnight in a county park, again right on the lake. I’ve never seen so much algae in a lake – nope, no paddleboarding for me! That water was ggggreeeeeeen. We did have a nice bonfire on Saturday night, followed by the usual downpour, and then woke up to sunny skies and a beautiful morning. I took advantage of a short driving day to lollygag around camp most of the morning.



Dan and Jesse enjoy the bonfire

Dan and Jesse enjoy the bonfire

That's the greenest lake water I've ever seen

That’s the greenest lake water I’ve ever seen

We crossed the MN/WI border in Duluth, birthplace and early stomping grounds of Bob Dylan. We didn’t see him (or his statue, which is in the works via a kickstarter project), but played lots of Bob over the weekend in his honor. We did catch our first glimpses of Lake Superior. Wish we had time to make the loop around the lake, but will have to save that for another trip.

We’re now set up at Lake Wissota, WI. Dan says it’s his favorite spot so far on the trip. It’s pretty awesome, and I FINALLY GOT PADDLEBOARDING today, huzzah! There are great trails all around, some following along the lake, others through forest and prairie, as well as excellent biking, swimming, a boat/paddleboard launch, and lots of little inlets for paddling in calm water. Looks like a good week ahead! And then we do a big push over July 4th weekend, as we cross WI, IL and IN in one weekend.

Jesse exploring around the shore

Jesse exploring around the shore of Lake Wissota

View from this week's office

View from this week’s office

Travels from North Dakota to Minnesota

Not far outside of Minot,ND, we came across a monument that stated that we were in the geographical center of North America, east to west and north to south. I posted this on Facebook as a status, and funny enough, cousin KC commented that he’d been to the gas station across the street, and my aunt Rose then posted that she’d eaten in the restaurant next door. Who knew that Rugby, ND, population 2,800, was such a hotspot! We felt like we’d hit a milestone, though, and as soon as we left, it felt like the east coast – going to 100% humidity and 80 degrees the next day.

At the Center of North America

At the Center of North America (Canadian Flag Hidden Behind Post}

We spent a week at Turtle River State Park, ND; to be honest, my first take was not impressed: flooded campgrounds, poison ivy everywhere, starting right outside our camper door, ticks, and mosquitos with a vengeful streak. I thought we’d descended into the second ring of hell. Well it was all that, but I quickly changed my tune as I sat in the lounge chair in the evening, listening to the wind rustling through the aspen grove right at our campsite. Is there a more beautiful sound? The sun created shifting, dappled pattern through layer of forest, giving an incredible depth to the view. The prairie grass rippled in waves, not so unlike my beloved Pacific, as I watched the wind dance across the giant expanses of grass. That flooding – well, after a couple of days of torrential rain, I learned the power that water has to change the course of an environment in quick flash. I stood humbled and corrected, and learned my lesson – I can wallow in the surface inconvenience, or appreciate the incredible beauty that is Turtle River SP. Thanks life for the little lesson 😉

Camping at Turtle River State Park, ND

Camping at Turtle River State Park, ND

Our campsite floods (and that lush foliage... it's poison ivy)

Our campsite floods (and that lush foliage… it’s poison ivy)

Now HERE'S a campground under water

Now HERE’S a campground under water

The flattened grass shows the path of the river as it flooded and receded

The flattened grass shows the path of the river as it flooded and receded. It must have been about 10 feet difference overnight!

Playing in the sunshine

Playing in the sunshine

We’ve set up camp just a few miles from Grand Rapids, MN, at Prairie Lake. I’m looking forward to a week of paddleboards, recovery from a head cold that’s had me weepy and dull for the past 5 days (thank goodness for Dan coming to the rescue and picking up so much slack, as I wallowed in my Kleenex box!), and after 9 loads of laundry, a clean and mud-free camper interior. Here’s to a week at the lake!

Prairie Lake, MN

Prairie Lake, MN

Family Time in Minot, North Dakota

From Medora, we then stayed outside of Bismarck at Cross Ranch State Park, right along the banks of the Missouri River. My big ideas about paddleboarding the Missouri were quickly dashed as I realized how huge the river and powerful the current. The sites were lovely though, and we had a space that was bigger than most back yards, backing onto the river. Beautiful hiking trails surrounded us, and I heard that the following weekend the park hosted a big bluegrass music festival… something to remember for next trip!

Along the Banks of the Missouri

Along the Banks of the Missouri

Dan enjoys a little quiet time after a long day's drive

Dan enjoys a little quiet time after a long day’s drive

We spent two lovely weeks in Minot, ND, staying with Uncle Dennis, Aunt Sunny, Cousin Elena and our fabulous cousin/niece, Phoebe, and the dog-cousins. Jesse was happy to have other fur-friends around, and ecstatic to be able to lounge on carpets and couches, and have a little girl to throw the ball. We all enjoyed being able to expand a bit in a house, and it was so wonderful to spend time with the family. We were torn between having such a good time and imposing ourselves for such a long time.

Dan went on a tour of Minot AFB, where both Elena and Dennis work, we went hiking through a beautiful reserve area (a brief hike in prairie-land, that was followed by the removal of about 40 ticks between all of us… poor Phoebe got it the worst, being so close to the ground, but Dan was a close second. We learned that the beautiful grasses blowing in the wind have some hidden hitch-hikers. I don’t remember reading about this in my ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books…).

14035432212796

14035432105194 14035432098133 14035432127678 14035432119647 14035432242851

Here's what 10 pm looks like in North Dakota. I've had to swallow my pride and go to bed while it's still light.

Here’s what 10 pm looks like in North Dakota. I’ve had to swallow my pride and go to bed while it’s still light.

It was also nice to be inside during some of the most incredible electrical and hail storms I’ve seen. We’ve been hammered with storms across the plains, missed a few big ones by a matter of miles, but these were by far the most dramatic. It was like a hose in the sky was turned on full blast, followed by pelting hailstones. And the vibrations from the thunder would come up from my feet, they were so intense. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for smooth weather after this!

 

14035432237059

We left on Father’s Day and Iliana/Sunny’s birthday, to continue our trek across North Dakota and the prairies, with a clean camper, lots of laundry done and the bug spray at the ready. It was sad to say goodbye to family, but it was time to continue the adventure!

Beautiful North And South Dakota

14019152844914

View from Maah Daah Hey trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

Just a quick update with many photos. Although we got some serious weather one night while out here in North Dakota, it’s been smooth sailing for the last couple of weeks. – Dan

14019152811624

Yet another view from Maah Daah Hey trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

14019152794031

Yet another view from Maah Daah Hey trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

14019152792780

Yet another view from Maah Daah Hey trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

14019152819556

Bowman North Dakota.

14019152842813

Keystone South Dakota.

14019152837641

Abandoned mine in Keystone South Dakota.

14019152804172

They have space for Obama on the left 🙂 Just joking around.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

14019152809113

Our campground in Keystone South Dakota.

14019152825528

Kimberley working in Custer State Park South Dakota with loyal doggie at her beck and call

From Fort Robinson, NE, to Custer SP, SD

We had some great adventures during our week in Fort Robinson. The hiking in the area was fabulous, as we went from grasslands to the top of Buttes overlooking the vistas. We ended up encountering a gang of grumpy locals as we made our way to the trailhead at Mexican Canyon.

Unruly locals guarding the road to the trailhead

Unruly locals guarding the road to the trailhead

Buttes from below - we stood at the eventually and looked out over huge vistas

Buttes from below – we stood at the top eventually and looked out over huge vistas

Fort Robinson is an intriguing place. As I came into this area I was mixed with awe for the beautiful landscapes and sadness for the history of this area. It is here at this fort that Crazy Horse, the great Lakota warrior and leader, was assassinated in cold blood. It is here that some of the great native American tribes were decimated. It is here that the buffalo were massacred in order to starve out that first nation. It is a rich history, but a bloody history.

Sod house

Sod house

When we left Fort Robinson to go to Custer State Park ND, we passed the turnoff of Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee. Although close, I decided not to visit. One more white tourist gawking at the area re-imagining both the Massacre and the Wounded Knee Incident just seemed wrong. Instead, I thought of those peoples working to keep their culture alive and teach their children about the history that surrounds them. I wish them strength and perseverance in their efforts.

We spent a week at Custer SP, ND, where we hiked, adventured and met wonderful people. We had a couple of run-ins with the open-range buffallo herd, population approx 1300 – we  met three of them.

It's a buffallo blockade!

It’s a buffallo blockade!

These two were cruising down the road and then decided we WOULD NOT pass as we headed to a trailhead. And we didn’t … There are lotsa other hiking trails around here with friendlier locals! What is it with us and trailhead blockades????

I am constantly awed by the vastness and beauty of the lands we travel. It seems like I say to Dan every week “This is the most awesome view yet,” and then we get to the next place. Well, Custer was no exception. The Black Hills National Forest fills me with wonder, yet again, for the majesty of nature.

Another pretty landscape to admire

Another pretty landscape to admire

We left Custer SP after meeting some really nice people, and I had a chance to do a photo session with a very fun and talented bullwhip-toting, harley-riding fella (photos to come), to head over to Mount Rushmore just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

I had some pretty big assumptions about my attitude to experiencing Mount Rushmore in person. After all, it was hacked into the stone of a sacred Native American mountain, in the center of a sacred region. I was holding a grudge, I’ve got to admit. Instead, I found I was filled with awe for the sheer vision of one man, Gutzom Borglum. The celebration of the ideologies of the four presidents and his desire to present to the world the magnitude of their aspirations, physically realized, was pretty awe-inspiring. I was also impressed with the variety of visitors to the monument – I counted over twenty state license plates in the parking lot, from one coast to the other. Old people, kids, veterans in wheelchairs; all of these people from all over the country had come to this place to learn and pay respect to the founding principles upon which this country was built. I left my cynicism in the parking lot.

Today, we continue on our journey and head into North Dakota. I can see grasslands from one horizon to the next. The expanse of the view is making me dizzy! We head up to Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a week. And after that, we go to see Uncle Dennis, Aunt Illiana, Cousin Elena and little cousin Phoebe in Minot. We are sure looking forward to seeing family after four months on the road!