North-side Gaucho – Houston

Hermes, International, Panamerican, Travel with a Pet
Houston stop over
Cheers! Thanks to the Sliger’s for their hospitality

We did reach Houston safely and as expected. Without a speed bump or two what would this be?  TOO EASY and not us!  I mean to be honest, in the preceding months our must do logistics came together so easily and quickly that the train was on the track and rolling before we were ready or willing to do anything about it – and, besides who are we but a couple to just ride the ride… That being said, the puzzle pieces laid out in a jumbled picture, we would be naive not to expect a few hitches, snags, stumbles, hiccups, or whatever word comes to mind, along the way – Practice gloves off cause we’re on the road and this shit is real.

Uptown Houston, TX
Uptown view from Sliger’s


We’re lucky enough to have our old friend Anthony, who was wooed back stateside from Oz by his new bride Rachel, living in Houston and they graciously invited us to stay with them and ‘save some pesos’ before we took flight. It was a perfect opportunity to spend an evening getting acquainted with Rachel, Val and Moe (the cats) before the work week started and our countdown continued. We were also pleasantly surprised that Scott and Kim along with their son Cooper, whom we enjoyed spending time with at the February wedding, had recently moved back from Australia and were there to help with the send off as well.

An amazing launching pad and thankful we were able to help ease those kitties into this dog eat dog world – or wait, do kitties really rule?!?!?!?  It was a good canine feline introduction where one really observes the bitch V pussy showdown.  Both with their strengths and weaknesses – why don’t you want to play ball?!?  The best part about it is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.  Almost like that silly skiing vs. snowboarding feud.

With so much unknown we’re not quite sure what we are or aren’t ready for but there were a few must dos that need immediate attention. Shipping the truck was priority and has been the most evasive logistic to date.  Preparing the truck for the container required removing all articles out the cab, off the top and ensuring it was secured inside the bed of the truck.  That includes everything inside as well as the cargo rack with all its pieces. The silver lining being that with everything stacked and the monstrous spare tire front and center it may deter any sort of customs search on either side of the border.  Officials have full right to confiscate anything they deem as prohibited and customs regulations are subject to change at any time.  We can confirm this as things tend to change on a whim depending on what day it is or who we talk to.  Again, shipping has been the most elusive, complicated and costly logistic.

Our shipping agent has been courteous, responsive and fairly informative but as a middleman simply coordinating logistics like the wizard behind the curtain fear of the flying monkeys set in when we pulled up to the dodgy receiving location.  Chad walked out of the office and firmly said “I hope this isn’t the right place, they know nothing about us dropping the off truck.” An immediate call to our agent who reassuringly said to give him 15 minutes he’d have it straightened out and apologized for the lack of information.  Just like he said, 15 minutes later out they walked with a camera and what looked like a scrap piece of paper with a bunch of incorrect information scribbled out and they asked us to write the contact information of our shipping agent. SKETCHY!  They began to take pictures, note the condition of the truck and somewhat inventory the contents  – I looked straight at the guy and said ‘Don’t lose our truck’!

So, that was it.  The truck was gone and all we can do is hope it shows up in Buenos Aires with all it’s contents as we expect.

Buenos Viajes

International, Panamerican, South America, Travel with a Pet

Houston Bound
And we’re off

Here we go, this is it, ready or not… That last hug and the final good-byes make it feel a little more real than surreal; we pulled away and both sighed over the gravity of this adventure that has finally come to fruition.  The first leg of our trip involves the final prep logistics of getting the truck shipped and the three of us to South America.  Keeping the dog in mind we decided to drive to Houston and ship the truck from there as it was the most direct flight option to Buenos Aires via United.

We barely crossed the Texas border and had to hide the road snacks, in particular the spicy pecans or should I say,“crack nuts” since they were already just about gone.  Hoping to get as far as possible and just sleep when we were tired we didn’t really have a destination in mind for the night but hoped we could make it to at least Wichita Falls, TX to put us in Houston earlier rather than later.  It was dusk when we stopped for gas and decided to switch drivers.  The truck started with a slight chug but nothing to slow us Month in Buenos Airesdown; although the dash lights didn’t come on and a slight concern came into the air.  One of those things that neither of us wanted to make a big deal but didn’t want to let go either.  We decided to pull over and try turning the car off and restarting – when in doubt reboot, does that work for automobiles too?  Well, the truck was completely dead, nothing more than that lifeless click, click click.  That’s when the dread takes over; here we are on the outskirts of some random west Texas town dead on the side of the road with no explanation.  The truck was running just fine until it just didn’t start.  All I could say is, “at least we’re still in the US”.  Concerned of an electrical issue we reluctantly decided it was probably necessary to pull everything out of the back and take a look at some of the wiring. Needing some ventilation and air in the cab I tried to roll down the windows and all the gauges chirped and chimed as expected so why not give it one more try.  It turned over just like it was supposed to, as if there was nothing wrong.  Was this a bad dream? Or just a quick test of confidence before we go.  After a deep breath and as we were about to pull away Chad remembered that he dimmed the dash lights the previous night and we realized there was nothing wrong there; so with the truck started, the dash lights back up to normal we were ready to get back on our way.
A few miles down the road, I was convinced I was smelling something burn.  Sure my nerves were a little rattled but something was not right, I was sure it smelled like something was going to catch on fire.  So once again we pulled over at the next little town, population 350, and popped the hood next to the railroad tracks.  We did a full once over – and under – to see any sign of anything overheating, everything seemed fine.  So with that and a few moments to address what we’re embarking on and remind ourselves that things are bound to go wrong, it’s about how you solve the issues that counts…off we go again.

Texas TrainsJust before getting on I40 we needed a pit stop and a little stretch of the legs; all back in and ready, and once again just the sound of the lifeless clicks, ugh!  Now dread has turned into panic; what was going on, what was wrong?  Are we even going to make it to Houston let alone South America?  Is this that omen crushing the Pan-American road trip dream?  Alright, deep breath where do we start?  What did we rule out, what can we rule out?  What did we do last time just before it started?  And with a slight touch to the battery cut off switch a light went off, or on to be literal. That was it.  Something was wrong with the cut off switch and the battery wasn’t charging.  Feeling slightly relieved to at least know the source of the issue and knowing we could get the truck started again we decided to truck on.

Lucia Break
Break time for all

Reaching Amarillo, we needed a break and dinner was a good excuse.  The clock was ticking to get the truck to the receiving dock for shipping on Monday and time was of the essence to get any issues identified and fixed.  Thinking through the wiring scheme and considering what the issue could be we removed the battery power cut-off to find the connection had become loose and began melting the casing.  There was a problem, there was the problem and there was a smell… At least feeling relieved that we identified the issue and could now sort through the solutions we rewired a temporary connection to ensure the battery would charge and after dinner headed off, again.  It didn’t take too long before we realized we weren’t going to make it all the way to Wichita Falls and decided we needed a place to sleep.

Being our first official ‘night on the road’ of course we were going to sleep in the truck, and for lack of a more clever description (I am borrowing the term) “Pirate Camping” was on deck.  So we found a nice Best Western parking lot and picked a spot.  It must have been the first week back to school for the small college across the street because it was crowded and there were a handful of rowdy parents loitering around their trucks/cars drinking beer and reminiscing about trips they’ve taken with their kids.  Some things never get old, lol.  Being subtle we walked the dog and crawled in, to which we all slept until we were rudely awaken by a train blaring it’s whistle at what seemed like full speed not much more than 20 feet away. A few minutes later we heard someone rustling around in the car next to us and we decided it was past time to get back on the road.  Pirate Camping success story #1, although we didn’t help ourselves to the “complimentary breakfast” we did laugh about it and joked that we do grow out of some things.

Face full of Donut
Face full of donut





Central America, Costa Rica 2014, International

After an amazing 24hrs at the Tabacon Hot Springs we jumped in our tiny rental car and took off down the windy, pot hole filled roads to Tamarindo, a beach town on the North West Coast. We arrived at the JW Marriott late evening in time for dinner and Aero Carsome wine before crashing for the night. We spent the next few days enjoying the ocean views from the hotel beach and pool, reading and enjoying some waterside cocktails. Katie was connected with a colleague from DISH and reached out to convey a few stateside hellos and potentially meet for a drink. She heard back from him and we decided to go into Tamarindo to the Volcano Bar to meet Jim and his wife Jill for a drink and watch the sunset. Jim introduced us to Luis who was a local surf instructor, on the spot we decided to meet Luis the following day for lessons.

After a relaxing morning and our Cafe con Leche by the pool relaxing we ventured into town to meet Luis.  In high spirits and very friendly, Luis got us very excited to head out to the water. After a few short instructions on the beach it was time to hit the water and both Katie and I got up on the first try!

We spent the last day at Playa Avellana, just a short walk down from the hotel but we were cautioned to only attempt during low tide. Lola’s, the only place on the beach for food and drink is named after a 200kg pig. Yes, a pig. We wished we had come to this beach earlier in the week, it certainly would have been the default place to spend our days.   A quiet sandy beach with good surf, good refreshments and a few good people. Lola’s had excellent ceviche and the marg’s were delicious. As the sun set, we realized the tough reality of our last night in Costa Rica and headed back to the hotel. It was an amazing week of adventure, reflection and well needed relaxation.

Tabacon – Arenal Volcano

Central America, Costa Rica 2014, International

Sunday morning came quickly, a little too quickly as we could have spent a few more days exploring the park and Manuel Antonio.  We got up and out early to drive back to San Jose and head for La Fortuna in the northern part of the country. This time we flew Nature Air, a two prop plane with enough seats for about 12. It was an easy flight that took us into a tiny private airport where we called for a taxi into town to collect our rental car. The views of the volcano were spectacular and were even better once we were on our way to Tabacon Hot Springs.

Tabacon is one of the better resorts we have stayed in; from the welcoming staff, attention to detail, food and of course the hot spring itself was spectacular. Upon check in we realized that 24 hours was not long enough, this place deserves a little time to relax and indulge.  We spent the afternoon and all the next morning lounging around the hot springs, feeling the drizzle of the rain through the cloud forest, listening to the many birds and basking while in amazement of the volcano and all it’s surroundings.


Manuel Antonio

Central America, Costa Rica 2014, International

Monkeys, Sloths, toucans, zip lines oh my!  Manuel Antonio is a fun filled destination emerging from the jungle and jutting into the pacific coast.  It’s no wonder it’s a big tourist destination with the national park full of incredible hiking, beautiful white sand beaches and friendly people.  Manuel Antonio

Day 1: Making up for lost time and no bags we headed across the street to Cafe Milagro for a little Costa Rican cofee and breakfast and fell in love with this quiant little cafe.   After relaxing into our surroundings we decided it wasn’t worth worrying about our bags and it was a good excuse to get a new swimsuit and support the locals.  We wandered down the street and stumbled on a little surf shop called Beso Loco. Natalie, an expat from Ontario, was an awesome help.  She had as much fun as we did pulling out all different combinations of suits, trunks and t-shirts.  It became a bit of a fashion show and with so many great options it was difficult to make a decision. Admittedly, it was as much fun for Chad as it was for Katie because everything looked great. We finally made some choices and got out of there and were off to the beach.

Day 2: And off we go with a packed agenda of Zip Lining and wildlife scoping through the National Park. We booked our Canopy Tour through El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tours and were out the door by 7am for coffee and to meet the bus. There were 14 Tree Platforms, 3 Towers, 6 Hanging Bridges, 1 Double Belay Rappel and the adventure included the longest zip line in Costa Rica coming it at 4300 feet!

After an exhillerating morning we made a quick turn and headed straight to the Park for a quick tour and a little relaxing on the beach. We got our tickets, met a tour guide – to which Katie haggled him down in price – and off we were scouting for wildlife. On our 1.5 hour hike through the park we saw several 3 toed & 2 toed Sloths, bats, snakes, frogs, monkeys and many birds thanks to our guide.  Although we aren’t ‘tour’ people the guide was totally worth it, he had a great eye and pointed out things that we wouldn’t have spied on our own; not to mention he had a few good jokes along the way.

The Park closes pretty early so we made our way to El Avion for an amazing sunset.  We ran into a couple of guys we’d met on the Zip Line tour and cheersed to a great day and incredible sunset. A successful, non stop day was deserving of a cocktail and relaxation.


Stand-by fun

Central America, Costa Rica 2014, International

The thing about standby is you have to hope for the best while always evaluating what the back up options are, quick on your feet.  Especially these days with airline travel is tough and not as fun as it used to be.  The thing to remember is go with the flow and move on from the disappointment; I mean, you’re on adventure so make the best of it.

We made it to Atlanta without a hitch but missed the San Jose flight by 3 seats; so we were there for the night.  The morning flight to San Jose looked a little tight and in speaking with the ticket agent we decided to change course slightly and list for the flight to Liberia with an in country connection via Sansa Airlines.  We didn’t want to risk missing the San Jose flight since the evening option was already oversold and we didn’t need another repeat of Asia 🙂

A key piece to flying standby is to always carry on your luggage – if you want it with you at your destination.  We packed our (uber) nice backpacks, headed off to the airport and after a slight distraction getting checked in we proceeded to check bags without thinking.  What a rookie move, ugh.

Strategizing Delta
Katie Strategizing Delta

First thing the next morning we were back at it and at the gate; we were back and forth between the two flights leaving within 15 minutes of eachother and debated about transfering back to the San Jose flight.  Once it was confirmed there were in fact seats on both we wanted to keep course and stick with an SJO arrival.  Struggling to connect to the WiFi we were about 90 seconds short of confirming the change, so Liberia it was.  We pressed on and just glad to know seats were available.  We finally arrived, waltzed through customes and proceeded to the Sansa Air counter to get checked in – all looked a go.

With a couple hours on our hands we went to find some lunch, which turned out to be one of our most expensive meals of the entire trip.  Chicken tenders, fajatia lettuce wraps and a single glass of white wine ran us $82, yikes!  I guess the airport tax is substantial when it’s the only option.  What it did do, was get us familiar with the currency conversion.

It had been advised that any air travel we book, we should plan on morning flights as the weather in the afternoon can make for a sporty ride.  With little option on this one we just watched the clouds roll in and hoped for the best.  The 8 passengers headed out and vied for position to choose a seat upfront, not that the back was that far from the front but every little bit helps.  On take off, we were amazed at the jade hills and vast rivers as we ascented to through the clouds.  It didn’t take long for that little plane to be engulfed and before we knew it the windows were being pounded by rain and lightning was flashing all around us.  This was one of the most intense storms either of us had ever flown through and we were glad it was only about 45 minutes.

Upon arriving in San Jose we wandered over to the main terminal looking for international arrivals so we could find the Delta counter and collect our bags.  It was ‘downtime’ between flights and there wasn’t a Delt agent to be found.  Someone finally showed us the back office and said they should be back within a few hours.  We settled in to the coffee bar that had WiFi, slow is better than nothing.  After repeated attempts at the office trying to find someone to assist we discovered our bags had been taken off the San Jose flight and put on our Liberia flight meaning our bags were sitting in Liberia waiting to be claimed.  I will skip the frustration and mutliple conversations around how this could happen and what it would cost to have our bags delivered. So we just had to suck it up, move on and consider it an excuse to do some shopping in Manuel Antonio to get us through the next couple of days.

After two full days of traveling and aware that we would be driving at night we rented a car and were finally on our way to Manuel Antonio, about a two hour drive South West of San Jose. After a few hours of tight roads and not knowing exactly where our VRBO was we made it to the condo and had to talk our way past the gate attendant who seemed like he wasn’t expecting us.  Relieved to finally be there, we settled in to the condo, cracked a bottle a wine were thankful to have arrived.

Overdue Trip to Costa Rica !

Central America, Costa Rica 2014, International

Well this is way overdue, referring to an international trip and one we have been pushing off for no good reason – except for a few little things like moving, new jobs and buying our first house.  After everything life has thrown our way the last few years we decided it was time to pull the trigger and embrace our need for adventure and journey.  Although it’s been on the list, neither of us have been to Central America, so in the spirit of keeping with the new we decided to venture to Costa Rica.

In serious need of some good ol’ R&R and re-connection, we started out planning a beach vacation to sit and soak up the sun.   But as we tend to go, it evolved into an exciting adventure with zip lines, beaches, volcanos, hot springs and surfing.

Incase the trip wasn’t adventure enough, there’s something about adding the adrenaline and hope of flying standby.  Oh Delta, how we love thee (and at times curse/hate thee).

Trans. Destination Accommodations Activity
Wednesday 11/19/2014 DEN SJO Hotel??? Dinner with Dee??
Thursday 11/20/2014 Drive Manuel Antonio VRBO 506032
Friday 11/21/2014 Manuel Antonio VRBO 506032 Canopy Tour
Saturday 11/22/2014 Manuel Antonio VRBO 506032
Sunday 11/23/2014 Fly – SJO La Fortuna Tabacon Hot Springs Drive to SJO/Springs/hike
Monday 11/24/2014 Drive Tamarindo JW Marriott springs/drive/leave by 1pm
Tuesday 11/25/2014 JW Marriott Beach
Wednesday 11/26/2014 JW Marriott Beach
Thursday 11/27/2014 JW Marriott Scuba Dive
Friday 11/28/2014 JW Marriott Beach
Saturday 11/29/2014 LIR DEN Home Dive to LIR/Fly Home

Thailand 2011

Asia, International, Thailand 2011

Koh Lipe is an amazing little island in the middle of the Andaman Sea.  After three days at Castaway Resort we moved to the northwest side of the island and finished our days at Mountain Resort. After our last leisurely breakfast our transfer awaited, a motor bike with sidecar.  We bombed through the walking street and up to our next home, pretty funny. On our way over we passed a soldier holding a M16, which we noted as a bit out of place on this pleasant little island.  But then as we drove a little further we passed more and more military personnel until we came upon a group of 20-30 all holding submachine guns. We later found out that the Prince of Thailand was making a visit to his vacation home, evident by war ships and military helicopters.

Mountain Resort had amazing views; although beautiful, the food was not much to write home about so we made our way back to our favorite little place, Sunrise Cafe, several times – the papaya salad, french fries and chocolate shakes were worth the walk back for. We spent our last few days enjoying and relaxing by the water, swimming, exploring the tiny island and eating delicious food. On Wednesday afternoon we walked over to Sunset Beach to check out the sunset and found Boom Boom Bar.  There were a few clouds that the sun just slid behind so we ended up enjoying fresh mango drinks and people watching. The Boom Boom Bar is certainly one to recommend as the people were friendly and the reggae music made a perfect mix for a true island experience.

Our final afternoon, we decided to stay on the beach and take some pictures of the sunset. This sunset turned out to be one the the most amazing views of the trip. As we admired the scene the Thai woman snapping away next to us realized we had the same camera and we began to exchange pointers, we had both just bought them within the last few weeks. With a sunset like that it was hard to take a bad photo but fun to share it with some of the people we met.

We had an amazing time in Thailand and will take many memories with us, however our curiousity for the asian culture and urge to explore throughout APAC grew.

Two weeks later and it’s hard to bring this to a close, reality hit hard after such a wonderful trip.  Thankfully the way home was smooth, but it was long.  We packed up and caught a longtail to the mainland fairy and that was that.  A 2 hour ferry to the mainland, 2 hour bus ride inland to the airport,  and a 2 hour flight to Bangkok just to start the journey home.  We arrived to find our friends Britt and Stefano were on the same flight to Tokyo, it was nice to catch up and trade stories.  There wasn’t much time in Narita, so we weren’t able to catch a sushi snack before heading over to check the cleared list.  All non-revs were clear so we got our tickets and swallowed the disappointment that we were so far in back, I mean row 73 seemed like it had to be the back of the bus.  Once we actually realized we were on a 747, the double-decker, and on the second floor of business class we were elated.  We certainly experienced the highs and lows of non-rev travel and will probably do it again!




Castaway Divers

Asia, International, Thailand 2011

26 December


We made our way to the dive shop about 0900 to get our gear and set up our tanks.  Everyone boarded the long tail boat and we were off for our first of two dives.  As we entered the marine park we were stopped by the authorities and asked to pay a 200 THB entrance fee.  This was not planned, they are supposed to collect payment from the resort later that afternoon.  There was some arguing and ultimately told they would enter our boat and escort us out of the park if we didn’t pay, so off to the next island to pay our dues.  The ironic part of all this is that there were six fishing vessels surrounding us that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  It seems the fishing boats have set a heafty standard to bribe the authorities and in turn the divers are the ones being hassled.

After quite a lengthy delay we finally made it to Koh Yang and geared up.  I got a little nervous when they confirmed a rear roll entry, our first one.  So with that being that, we sat on the side with our backs to the water and rolled off on the count of three.  Underwater somersault with all the gear was actually easier than I expected.  And down we went.  The first dive was filled with many varieties of fish and corral, unfortunately the color of the corral was dulled by the new moon tides bringing in the plankton and reducing the visability down to 3-9 meters. After breaking on an island for lunch and a little relaxation we left for the backside of Lipe where we went for our second dive. Upon arrival it was the same routine, gear up and roll in backwards. Within minutes we were down 15-18 meters and viewing some amazing purple and orange corral that although dulled from the poor visibility seemed vibrate. On this dive we saw a sea horse and a few huge lion fish along with several huge schools of fish that seems to ignore us and swim right through us. What an amazing feeling….we were clearly in ”their” world.

The rest of the evening was spent sipping cocktails and talking about the days dives. Tomorrow we have to transfer to our next location on the island for our final three days. Next up Mountain Resort for some beach time.

Island Hopping

Asia, International, Thailand 2011

24 December, Christmas Eve

We made our flight arrangements into Phuket before realizing the distance to Koh Lipe and that Hat Yai is the closer airport; although the 6.5 hour ferry ride took a whole day of beach time we were actually glad to have the opportunity to do a little island hopping.  We made our way through the Andaman Sea passing fishing farm houses, admiring the thick treed islands with jutting rock walls and now understand why these islands have been the set of several movies.  We sat on top of the boat and saw the most amazing flying fish that skipped across the water while bald eagles flew overhead.  The sea breeze kept us cool but the sun was hot and we were really glad when we finally pulled into the bay.  We were picked up by the longtail boat and brought into shore.  After making our way down the walking street, through the path of trees and past some local homes we found Castaway.  Our little bungalow right on the beach and the lovely restaurant and bar area was a welcoming place to settle into.

We spent Christmas lounging on the amazing white sand beach looking out to water that seemed as if the color had been photoshopped.  We had a nice Christmas dinner at Sunrise Cafe, a mellow little place right on the beach just down from our resort.  On our way to dinner we stopped into the dive shop and made our reservation to dive.  Feeling much better about diving after our refresher course we were glad to get on the books.