All posts by Anne Vos

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Texas

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 2.42.53 PMAfter New Orleans we drove west to Texas.  We spent a night outside Huston with Taylor’s good family friends the Schreibers and drove back into the city the next day to see a friend from college, John Eigege and his new baby girl.  Houston had all the traffic and ugliness I had expected, but we learned that it’s also a surprisingly young and diverse city.  Many international corporations are based there so it collects people from all around the globe. We learned that half the population is younger than 30. We would have spent more time exploring this city, but we were eager to meet up with our friends in Austin.

Austin surprised us in that it is an incredibly active town.  They have separate pedestrian and bicycle paths along the river and both were packed with people enjoying the outdoors the entire time we were there.  We stayed with Taylor’s dear college friends Gabe and Liz and their two boys.  It was a treat to get to know their family better.  They took us to the farmers market, on a hike in the hills, to eclectic shops, to a great french-korean restaurant, and to a fancy donut food truck. The buildings were a lot newer than in most cities which was a refreshing experience.

IMG_3288After Austin, we drove north to Stephenville to spend the night with Taylor’s aunt and uncle.  As soon as we arrived we were informed that we would not be sleeping in our van and we would not be going home hungry.  We were incredibly well fed and well taken care of by them.  The four of us stayed at the table talking and laughing until midnight and in the morning we were loaded up with treats for our journey.  We were very happy that we were able to spend the night with them.

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Our first mountain!

We had been warned that the drive across west Texas would be incredibly long and boring, but we enjoyed watching the landscape turn to desert.  Eventually there weren’t even any cows out on the range. It went from swamp to forest to desert. A wonderful progression to experience on the road.

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At the far edge of Texas we arrived at the second cave of our journey, Carlsbad Caverns.  We probably enjoyed these even more than Mammoth Caves because you could explore it without being a part of a guided tour.  Most of the cave is one huge room full of interesting formations that stretches seven football fields long. It was incredible to see all that space and variety underground.  While we marveled at it for quite awhile, eventually we went around looking for formations that looked naughty.  It was great fun.

IMG_3304Just past the caves we had a little scare.  We passed a sign saying there’d be no gas stations for the next 150 miles.  Taylor did the calculation and figured we had enough gas to get us there, but we hadn’t realized how much elevation change there would be. When the fuel light started blinking and we were still 30 miles out of El Paso we got pretty nervous, but thankfully we made it without incident.  We hope never to cut it that close again.

San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

Finally we arrived in Phoenix.  It felt wonderful to be at home again with Taylor’s parents. They were hosting a Calvin alumni gathering so we joined right in. Taylor’s aunt and uncle were there as well so we got to spend some time with them at the start of the week. While we did many fun things in Phoenix, the highlight was having conversations with Taylor’s parents about our future.

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New Orleans

Driving into NOLA we hit some heavy rain

Driving into NOLA we hit some heavy rain

Our first stop after leaving Florida was New Orleans.  Prior to our arrival, the only things I had known about the city had to do with Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras.  I quickly learned that New Orleans is a city with a soul.  During our three days there we parked in the beautiful garden district.  This area was relatively protected from the hurricane and was full of gracious old houses.  We hopped on our bikes and made our way downtown stopping at any shops that looked interesting.  We found a number of design shops that were fun to dream in. One particularly fun moment was when we were sitting in the grass looking out at the Mississippi river while two guys played the banjo behind us.

One of our favorite sculptures in the park

One of our favorite sculptures in the park

We spent our last day in the “City Park”. It is a large park just north of the city with an art museum and gardens everywhere.  We pretended to be sculpture art critiques in the afternoon then had a nice picnic nearby. The park was full of people all day. We enjoyed watching skaters, family reunions, and kids playing all around us over dinner at a picnic table.

Homemade Ramen

Homemade Ramen

Food was wonderful here. We ate a a po-boy sandwich shop and a homemade noodle shop. There certainly were many more places that we could have gone to but to keep costs down we made food in the van.

Throughout this trip, Taylor and I have been together almost 24/7. This has gone far better than I had expected.  In New Orleans however, it became a little much for me and I had to go out and take a bike ride by myself.  At this point we were parked at the zoo enjoying the free internet.  I biked around the zoo hoping to see some animals through the fence.  While I didn’t see any elephants, I did find a private horse barn and they welcomed me in to take a look around and pet the horses.  Being with the animals was calming.  While it’s a wonderful gift to have so much time together, it’s also important to take intentional time apart.

We loved the unique architecture everywhere, not just the french quarter.

We loved the unique architecture everywhere, not just the french quarter.

 

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North Captiva Island

Taylor and I are both happy to continuing our trek across the country. Previously we had stayed in Florida because we were waiting for my family to come down for spring break.  We had hoped to do some touring of other parts of the South while we waited, but the polar vortex kept us confined to below the frost line.

The ferry to North Captiva leaves from Pine Island.

The ferry to North Captiva leaves from Pine Island.

Waiting in Florida ended up being worth it. We were able to do a lot of work in coffee shops and enjoyed some beautiful places. And at the end we had a lovely time with my family on North Captiva Island over their spring break.

IMG_3191We took a ferry over and spent the whole week relaxing, playing games, and conversing with people we love.  We saw lots of fun wildlife on the island and in the ocean in the surrounding area.The island club that our rental was a part of gave us access to rental kayaks, tennis rackets, and bikes. We certainly took up use of those resources.

Check out this video for some of the highlights. Photos are here.

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Savannah

Historic Savannah, 1818

Savannah Georgia stole our hearts.  It had been on our list of places to visit for a long time because it is renowned in the city planning world.  Savannah is unique in that the city grid is interspersed with 22 public squares.  In the historic district, people are rarely more than two blocks away from an open space.  What we loved most was that people were out avidly using the public spaces.  In Grand Rapids people visit parks occasionally, but most people have big enough yards that they don’t need to go to a park everyday.  Historic Savannah is densely packed with apartments and combined with the gorgeous weather, it seems to push people outside where they can relax and interact with neighbors.  Taylor and I ate it up!

One of my favorite parts about the squares is that the cars are forced to drive around them, while bikers and walkers can pass right through.This naturally keeps drivers’ speeds down while rewarding bikers and walkers with a shorter distance to travel.  Brilliant and beautiful.

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Our parking spot

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Working hard

Taylor and I found a parking spot on a neighborhood side street just  a 5 minute bike ride away from the downtown action.  Savannah is a small town (much smaller than the Grand Rapids metro), but the Savannah College for Art and Design keeps the city hip. We found some delightful coffee shops where we could camp out and get work done.  Prior to Savannah, Taylor and I had still been in vacation mode, but in Savannah we buckled down and got to work.  I started completing my tutorials on HTML and CSS and Taylor started playing around with AutoCAD.  It felt good to fall into a routine in what felt like a real city rather than a vacation-land.

After just three days in Savannah, cold weather rolled through and we were forced to head back south to the warmth of Florida.  While we were sad to leave, we were able to get our TV fixed in Jacksonville. So we are now enjoying the Olympics in the back of our van.

Check out all the photos here.