24 Hours in Sin City and Chiang Mai

Between Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, two places that inspire hyperbole and conjure up visions of the West, lays another spot that looms large in American tales of the desert: Las Vegas.  I’d never been, but countless movies and TV shows told me what to expect – neon lights, seas of slots, endless shrimp cocktail, and Celine Dion. What I did not know was that one of America’s best Thai (actually, Northern Thai) restaurants would be tucked away in an Asian strip mall behind downtown Las Vegas, far from the lights of the Strip.  Continue reading “24 Hours in Sin City and Chiang Mai”


All this time,

the life you were

supposed to live

has been rising around you

like the walls of a house

designed with warm

harmonious lines.

As if you had actually

planned it that way.

As if you had

stacked up bricks

at random,

and built by mistake

a lucky star.

“Lucky” by Kirsten Dierking from Northern Oracle.

Channel Islands: Backcountry camping in the clouds

Three days is too short to spend in these islands, and in off season there were fewer ferries and kayak tours available, but we got lucky and had the chance to camp overnight at Del Norte on Santa Cruz Island and sea kayak for a day.  The kayak trip was fun and stormy, but it was the hike up to our backcountry site that took my breath away.  Literally and figuratively.

Continue reading “Channel Islands: Backcountry camping in the clouds”

Channel Islands: Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins (and some whales)

One amazing thing about Channel Islands National Park, is that despite the beauty abounding on the chain of four islands that make up the land mass of this park, the majority of the wildlife and preserve are underwater.  The Santa Barbara Sound (the channel between the seaside towns of Santa Barbara/Ventura and the islands) is teaming with marine life and the weird and wonderful kelp forests.   Continue reading “Channel Islands: Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins (and some whales)”

Pinnacles, CA: Starting out the Year of the Rooster with Condors

On the first day of the Year of the Chicken, we started our road trip with the last National Park to be added to the register, Pinnacles, which only became a National Park in 2013. It’s a two hour drive from our starting point in the Bay Area, and given it’s small size and quiet/new reputation, we hadn’t been expecting much. I’m learning it’s nice to be wrong. Continue reading “Pinnacles, CA: Starting out the Year of the Rooster with Condors”

The roadtrip before The Roadtrip

Before we even picked up the Grey Whale in Portland, S and I took a hunting/gathering road trip to pick up the pick-up, not to mention all the gear and supplies stashed in our family homes from the Midwest to the coast. Rather than rush as we originally planned, we decided to hit some parts of middle America that we’ll miss this year just because there are no National Parks present.

Sculpture garden in Kansas City

We followed the Mississippi downstream from Wisconsin, then crossed the plains of Kansas and climbed the Rockies via Denver, cut across Wyoming and Idaho and finally Oregon to Portland.  We saw that there is beauty everywhere – even without a National Park Service designation, even in the dead of winter during unforeseen blizzards, hail storms, and bitter cold snaps.  We also learned a lot. Continue reading “The roadtrip before The Roadtrip”

The adventure begins…

The adventure begins… as another adventure has ended.  After a decade in Asia and six intense, action-packed and stress-inducing years working on rule of law and human rights in one of the biggest, most polluted urban jungles in the world, S and I decided to leave our lives in China and take this seventh year as a sabbatical.

So in 2017, we’re trading in the Air-pocalypse of polluted Beijing for fresh air and blue skies. Instead of fighting traffic jams and a billion people, we’ll spend our days in the wilderness and hang with the deer and grizzlies. (Hopefully more deer than grizzlies.) Instead of staring at computer screens and iPhones, we’ll star-gaze and bird-watch. Instead of obsessing over politics and news, we are taking a much-needed break from newsfeeds, listservs and Facebook to spend more quality time with books and each other. Continue reading “The adventure begins…”