An Enormous Problem

Fiercely protective and easily spooked, a winning combination in a 12,000 pound animal

Fiercely protective and easily spooked, a winning combination in a 12,000 pound animal

The engine let out a deep roar before the tell-all high-pitched whine. Our mismatched tires spun, we felt the truck and our hearts swivel and sink.  We were stuck and 200 massive elephant heads twitched in our direction.  Surrounded by the herd, Logan gathered wood in the brush and shoveled sand at super-human speed. The elephants were agitated and never let their gaze wander from the spectacle we had created.

It has been said that modern man originated in Africa.  And when a 12,000 pound elephant stares you down snorting and kicking up dust, the instinctual fear that pulses throughout your body feels like the most certain evidence of such a claim.

Our second attempt at escape was a flop, the engine squealed and sputtered, defeated.  They made it clear, we had overstayed our welcome. Our latest vehicular eruption caused the nearest group of 15 elephants to charge. Exhaling expletives, we watched them gain speed and then unexpectedly turn, crossing the road just ahead of us. For a moment we believed we were safe. Until they rounded on us, in what appeared to be a well-practiced and exceedingly graceful surprise maneuver, they turned at the last moment and stopped to face us head on.

Motivated

Motivated

Previously, the safety of our Toyota Hilux felt certain, but now I knew I was trapped in a tin can of terror. Everyone had warned us to be careful. I pictured our friends and loved ones shaking their heads sadly at our double funeral, what a way to go, trampled by elephants. And later, whispered in confidence, “I heard they were drinking.” I voiced these and other mortal concerns to my ever calm and stalwart husband. He whispered, “Relax.”

Seemingly disgusted at our thumping hearts and immobile response, the leader raised his trunk and took a few menacing steps forward. He trumpeted, the threat echoed across the plains. We sat staring at each other for a few moments before the group retreated back to the herd. They had certainly made their point.

Seconds later we were digging with hands and shovels, still surrounded. Finally, swaying and bumping backwards, before gracelessly spinning the truck around, we were free and leaving certain death in the rear view.  And wouldn’t you know it? We only got stuck twice more before reaching camp where we found the real test of our courage was just beginning.

Don’t Get Cross

Hippos in hiding

While I pondered the best angle to capture this moment on film, Logan silently studied the water crossing ahead. He cut the engine and announced  his decision, I would wade in to test the depth of this black-bottomed African lagoon. He was so perfectly nonchalant about the suggestion that I immediately jumped out of the truck and began rolling up my pants, a natural trooper. It took approximately two steps into the murky water to realize the absurdity into which I had willingly walked.

The sand went from fine tan silt to an all-encompassing black nothingness. As my toes sank noiselessly into the muck, my mind worked furiously to invent and embellish every terrifying lagoon monster known to man. Standing there in the sweltering heat wondering if they could smell the tantalizing aroma of my human flesh, I spat out the accusation in question form: “Tell me again, how did I get nominated for this job?!”

I had to immediately check my anger when he looked at me aghast, as if the answer was pathetically obvious. “Because, I’m wearing carhartts and you’re wearing zip off pants.” I’ll admit to the surface logic of this statement and sure, the lagoon was on the small side, probably containing no fearsome creatures, maybe just a croc or two. The point is, we’re all here today to tell the story because it only took me a few seconds to stomp back to the truck muttering about African gators.  And just a few minutes more for Logan to find a simple route around this mess. Ta-da! The magic of marriage.

The First Gasp

My husband is a man not easily impressed. For fun he climbs rugged peaks and walls of solid rock relying mainly on the strength of his fingertips to avoid the long drop of an early demise. He smokes cigars and drinks whiskey in a way that might lead some to believe they were all the fuel he needed. He once proclaimed, “I can fix anything.” And he can. Whether struggling with a busted suspension on the Bolivian altiplano or maneuvering us out of the fine silt sands of the Botswana wilderness, the strange situations we get ourselves into never seem to faze him.

Interrupting lunch

Which is why I hope I never forget the one and only gasp, a sound of pure astonishment, he has ever evoked in my presence. Did we get a flat? Are we out of gas? Are we on the brink of catatsrophe? As I whipped my head around to see what could cause such an uncommon exclamation, there before us stood the most beautifully enormous creature I’d ever laid eyes on. Leaning gingerly over our truck and snacking on a tree, we sat motionless as the giraffe studied us with a mild curiosity. The silence after the gasp, the contemplative crunching of leaves above our heads, said more than any words either of us could procure.

The Dark Continent

For Logan and me, the future has always felt certain: a life of ranching in rural Nebraska, eventually. It’s the now that has been in constant flux for the past few years. We can’t seem to contain the scope of our dreams and since our bags are always packed anyway, we’ve decided to keep moving. After our season in Aspen we felt the urge to stretch out a bit further than previously planned.

Come Monday we’ll be on our way to Africa. In a rented 4×4 Toyota Hilux with a rooftop tent we’ll self-safari Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa over six weeks. We have a few other domestic jaunts mapped out this summer but until then, take a look and fire away with tips and suggestions.

What Would Ryan Gosling Do?

Help me!

“There is absolutely no reason — and no excuse — for the cruel, unnecessary practice of dehorning to continue.” Ryan Gosling

We came across this cow while checking the herd for pregnancies.  The horn you see here was embedded nearly one inch into the skull of this mother-to-be. Removing the horns of cattle is a popular subject these days thanks to a recent celeberty PR stunt. Perhaps we should we be faxing in a dehorning permit to the Screen Actors Guild.

Here in cattle country, issues like this come up every day.  We cannot afford to follow the whims of high-school-dropouts turned child actors. How about we let the professionals, the ranching men and women of America, who live and work in this environment each day, decide what’s best for their animals?

Well, that’s what we did and 563 red is thankful for it.

Crazy Love

He doesn't even take the stairs like a normal person

He doesn’t even take the stairs like a normal person

Having recently celebrated two years of marriage, I was feeling nostalgic. I flipped through an old journal and found this gem:

February 22nd, 2011, 5PM

Woke up at 4:14AM today to climb the biggest volcano in Guatemala. Realized at 4:35AM that my hiking shoes were missing, lost or stolen along the way. By 6:15AM, clad in running shoes and accompanied by nine Germans and two police officers, we began our ascent of the 13,000′ summit. I can say without a doubt, my previous suspicions of Logan’s insanity have been confirmed. And also, mountaineering is probably not my thing. Having admitted these facts I must also admit this climb has helped me see why Logan likes this type of challenge.

At various points along the way I could be almost sure I would be defeated by my own mind, repeatedly telling me I could not go a single step further. It’s a special kind of thrill when your body wins a contest against your mind. When the whole ordeal is finished you find a new awareness in yourself, you feel the blood coursing through your entire body from head to toe, you feel alive.

At the end I said a silent ‘thank you’ to my heart for not giving out, a ‘better luck next time’ to my brain with it’s endless supply of negativity, and a big out loud ‘I love you’ to Logan for carrying the 10 pounds of water we didn’t drink.

Seeing, Believing

Visualization: An idea I once thought so absurd I found it impossible to practice in a positive way. My mother was insistent; think positive, be positive. But there was something amiss in my teenage brain. Combined with the typical angst and my belief that my mother was consistently, tragically wrong in all things, I would envision a two and a half minute long program containing only the most horrifying falls in figure skating.

Still got it

Recently I made a vow to never fall off a chair lift. Ever. Again. I sympathize with the poor souls clinging to the chair, their widening eyes and dilating pupils the very definition of terror mixed with anticipated shame. Parents are some of the worst riders, their anxiety unfolds triplicate in their children. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched a parent anticipate the fall and then painfully drag their tiny offspring beneath the chair despite my shouted pleas to release them. These incidents only confirm my long standing theory that producing a child  results in the release of a small part of your sanity.

Today I return a little piece of mind to my mother. You were right (it’s finally in writing). I haven’t fallen off the chair lift since the day I decided to stop thinking I might. Is this what Michelle Kwan was up to all those years ago? Damn. A little late, by about 12 years, but thanks Mom, I finally get it.

Baja

A permanent romance

A permanent romance

We sailed through the Mexican border without a single peso. No worries, no real planning, just the two of us, the road, and Mexico, reunited.

Baja was our first.  The frontier of our wild adventure. What luck to be so near to paradise, a land feared by many, revered by few.

San Francisco, CA

Sweet Home San Francisco

We dug our toes in the sand at Ocean Beach. We had coffee. We ate Burmese food. We parallel parked on a steep hill (still got it). We drove the Twin Peaks. We walked two miles just to ogle.

All the great spectacles of this city remain intact, but the best parts have fled. Our friends made this place magic and just like they inspired us to do, they took big risks and sought adventure elsewhere.  No we didn’t leave our hearts in San Francisco, we found them there. The City set fire to our passions and enabled us to leave with little more than a suitcase full of dreams.

It would be easy to return but difficult to stay. And that’s what we love about it.

Petaluma, CA

PanAmNotes & ADVoDNA together at last

On a sunny Sunday afternoon we sat down to lunch with Dave and Ann, a traveling duo we had never met. Conversation with fellow overlanders flows so effortlessly, meeting them felt more like catching up with old friends than a first encounter between strangers.

As we pulled away from their four acre farm outside of Petaluma we left with the sort of recharge you can only achieve from conversing with people who are in the midst of chasing their wild dreams.