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Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

After a few days of readjusting to life back in the US, we met Amy’s mom in New York. The three of us were first time visitors, and, man, there sure is a lot to see and do in the Big Apple! After spending two weeks in the city, we were able to put together a pretty good list of our favorite sights and activities. Just so happens that after we made the list, we realized that most of these are either free or pretty economic ways of keeping yourself busy in New York; which is a good thing after 15 months traveling the world.

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon, and walking the bridge on a clear day from Brooklyn to Manhattan is awe-inspiring. It offers amazing views of Lower Manhattan, the Manhattan Bridge, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Walking has been one of our favorite activities while traveling, and crossing the bridge on foot was no exception.

Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan Bridge

Grand Central Terminal
Another free site, this transit center is one of the oldest in the country and has been a landmark in New York City for the last 100 years, but Grand Central is so much more than just a place where journeys end and begin. It is home to amazing architecture, art exhibits, shops and one of the coolest classic oyster bars we have ever visited. We are not huge oyster lovers, but with over 30 different types on the menu, you can’t really go wrong.

Amy & Mom at Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Chinatown

Out of all of the countries that we visited during our RTW trip, China was one of our favorites. The food, the smells, the language, the people – all were so foreign and intriguing. Going to NYC’s Chinatown felt quite a bit like stepping back into the real deal. If you are looking for a taste of China, but can’t make the flight across the Pacific, look no further than this little slice of heaven in Downtown Manhattan.

Chinatown, NYC

Corner of Mott and Canal, Chinatown NYC

Highline Park

One of the coolest things about visiting large cities is learning about how they have morphed over the years. Highline Park is just one of New York’s many revitalization projects. The elevated rail system that now makes up the park was built as a solution to the rapidly growing number of rail accidents in the 1930s. Towards the end of the century, the rail line was abandoned, in disrepair and on the verge of being demolished before community members came together to develop the idea of turning the Highline into a park. The park now runs for one mile through the Chelsea neighborhood.

The Highline NYC

Old Tracks at Highline Park

The Subway

NYC’s subway is one of the oldest systems in the world with 34 different lines and almost 500 stations. As public transportation enthusiasts, riding around the boroughs of NYC was like a dream. We know it seems kind of dorky, getting stoked about a subway system, but it really is an amazing public service. Although some of the stations are a bit run down, and it isn’t the cleanest transit system we have come across during our travels, it is probably the most impressive when you consider its age, the cost of a ride, and the extensive routes which it offers. Our tip: if you are going to be in NYC for more than 4 days, buy a 7-day pass. For just $30, it will take you everywhere you want to go for a fraction of what taxis will cost you.

Lorimer Subway Station, NYC

5 Train NYC

R line NYC

Staten Island Ferry

Want great views of NYC from the water? Forget the tour boats; take the free ferry from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan to Staten Island! The trip takes you along-side the Statue of Liberty and offers great views of the Downtown skyline, bridges, and Ellis Island. The Staten Island Ferry is definitely a MUST for any first time visitor to New York.

Statue of Liberty from Staten Island Ferry

Downtown view from Staten Island Ferry

Historic neighborhoods

While the NYC subway system is a sight to see in and of itself, to fully appreciate the city you have to do some serious walking as well. As one of the oldest cities in the US, New York has some wonderful historic neighborhoods which feature classic American architecture and were once home to the country’s founding fathers. Brooklyn Heights and Riverside Park were two of our favorites.

Historic Portland Avenue, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Heights

Easter Parade

Our visit to NYC happened to coincide with the annual Easter Parade, one of the only times when 5th Avenue is completely closed to traffic. We spent the morning wandering down the street checking out the creative hats and costumes people created to celebrate this 140 year old tradition.

NYC Easter Parade 2013

Hat at NYC Easter Parade 2013

Dogs at Easter Parade NYC

Brooklyn Museum

Sure, there are the big museums like MoMA, the Met, the Guggenheim, but we most enjoyed the lesser known Brooklyn Museum. The exhibits are diverse, the crowds less overwhelming and the price (simply a donation in the amount of your choosing) makes it accessible for everyone.

Brooklyn Museum

Mike at Brooklyn Museum

Central Park

Last but certainly not least, Central Park. What an amazing place to have at the heart of a city. We developed an appreciation of its vast size by walking the park from end to end one afternoon, which took us three hours!

Central Park

Amy and Michele at Central Park

View of Central Park from the Mandarin Oriental

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We’re Back!

We are back from our writing hiatus and back in the USA where the Chamborres Expedition began 15 months ago. Following its usual form, time has condensed itself and the long weeks away from home now seem like just the blink of an eye. As our plane landed in Florida, Amy voiced her feeling that it seemed as though our travels never happened. The human brain has an amazingly odd way of perceiving time. So what does it feel like returning to our home country after traveling for so long?

January 15, 2012 - On our way to Spain (photo on left)March 19, 2013 - Back in the USA (photo on right)

January 15, 2012 – On our way to Spain (photo on left)
March 19, 2013 – Back in the USA (photo on right)

Since our first stop back in the States is New York, an international destination and a new city to us, it honestly feels like we are still exploring the world. In addition to that sensation, we are excited to catch up with our family and friends. We had butterflies of anticipation the night before leaving Panama. Mike’s dad, step-mom and siblings met us in Fort Lauderdale for our layover which was the perfect way to feel welcomed back home. We have been staying with friends in NYC, another way to have a “soft” introduction back to life here and yet continue to ride out the adventure. However, there are a few things that have caught our eye so far.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

Our first observation was that despite many people’s image of the US, our country is not so “vanilla” after all. Standing in the line for US citizens & residents at the Customs and Immigration check, we were pleasantly reminded about the diversity of our country. The mix of people in line was as eclectic and varied as any international youth hostel that we stayed in, and it was even more diverse than the line for foreigners. The last few days in NYC have only further amplified this notion with the many different languages we have heard spoken on the streets. We may take a second trip “around-the-world” later this week by visiting each of the countless ethnic communities that make-up this enormous city.

We needed a few more lines here for the "countries you've visited" questions

We needed a few more lines here for the “countries you’ve visited” questions

The next thing we noticed is that Americans are loud. Perhaps it’s that we’re back in an English-speaking country which means we can again understand most conversations happening around us, therefore making it seems loud. And we are in NYC where people may in fact be more boisterous than the West coasters we grew-up with. Regardless, it’s something that caught our eye (and ears) almost instantly.

We’ve also become aware that people are glued to their “smart” devices. Americans, more than any other culture we have witnessed, are unequivocally addicted to technology (Japan comes in close second). People are constantly on computers in coffee shops, staring at cell phones on the subway, clicking photos with iPads, headphones glued to their ears. Is this constant connectivity a bad thing? We’re not sure, but it is something that has really stuck out to us during the past few days. When we tell people that we don’t have a cell phone where they can reach us, they look at us in astonishment. Some people comment on how liberating it must be, and others get a touch of fear in their eye as they imagine life without their phone.

It is glorious to be back in a country where we can get our hands on any cheese, any wine and any international food that our hearts desire. We have been seeking out our favorite dishes from our trip, have had wine and cheese nights, and enjoyed delicious American-made microbrews. For food and beverage lovers, the US has to be one of the best places to achieve a varied palate via international fare.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

Although we’re back, in a way it still feels like we’re on the road. It is exciting to see friends and family, and challenging to begin processing the past 15 months. There is a lot of uncertainty in our future and endless possibilities. We want to remain conscious of our journey and continue to incorporate positive changes into our lives that we learned on the road. If there is just one thing that we have brought back from our travels, it’s the idea that you don’t have to separate your “life” from your “adventures” by taking a vacation. Life is an adventure; a different expedition for each of us, but all ending in the same place.

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Don’t fret! By final chapter, we don’t mean final post. But the end of our expedition is near. As you read this, we are en route from South to North America via ship through the Caribbean Sea headed towards Panama. We are a bit afraid to tell you what type of ship for fear that you may think us “martini explorers,” so we’ll save that story that for another day (hint: it rhymes with snooze). After we land in Panama, we will have 10 days to explore, which used to sound like a long vacation in one country and now seems like nothing at all. When we board our flight out of Panama City, we will be bound for the US of A. Home. Well, almost home. First, we will be stopping in New York (our long overdue, first ever visit to NYC!) and then will be on a flight to Denver at the beginning of April.

It feels surreal to have our flight home booked. It goes without saying that we are incredibly excited to see our family and friends, but at the same time, we are anxious and nervous about transitioning from a life of nomads abroad to ________ (meaning we don’t exactly know what the future holds for us). We figure that if we just keep following the same goals that we set for ourselves when we set off on this around-the-world adventure (living in the moment and stepping out of our comfort zone), we’ll be just fine.

As for these last few months in South America, they were as spectacular as any other part of our journey, but were quite unique in that our friends and family played a major role in this portion of our story. We had visitors come from the States to travel with us; we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in years; we stayed with family to celebrate the holidays; and we met up with various parents, siblings, and cousins of friends from back home. Our Shout Outs page is dedicated to some of the special people that helped make our trip all that it has been, and our time in South America certainly would not have been the same without all of the amazingly generous people we know in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia.

While our travels abroad are nearly at an end (for now), there are still countless stories to tell and pictures to share. We have decided to take a blogging hiatus during our last few weeks of our trip to maximize every moment. After all, even travel writers need a vacation sometimes. For the next two weeks you won’t be receiving any new posts from us, but with 92 posts there is plenty of old material for you to re-read! We are not sure what will become of our blog in future months and years, but rest assured that The Chamborres Expedition will live on beyond our return home.

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A friend recently asked us, “What’s your perception on America after being away?”  Truth be told, we don’t spend a whole lot of time pondering this type of question. Maybe we should, but for the most part we are simply trying to enjoy the world and soak up every moment. Nonetheless, her question was a good one and did get us thinking about America. In honor of the 4th of July, we wrote this post to share some of our reflections about our home country after being away for the past half year. This is by no means a full summary of everything that’s going on in our heads, but is simply some food for thought. To all Americans at home and abroad, happy Independence Day!

Close your eyes and picture “an American.”  We’ll wait………..What does he or she look like?

The words “melting pot” are regularly used to describe the United States. Since the founding of our country, people from all over the world have made their way to the U.S. in search of their dreams. If there is one question that we have been asked more than any other during our trip it is, “Where are you from?” Surprisingly, many people look at Mike and say, “You don’t look American. Where are you really from?” As one man in Turkey put it, “Americans look like her” (as he pointed to Amy).  At first we didn’t know how to respond, but now whenever a conversation arises about what Americans are supposed to look like, we respond by saying that in our eyes, they too look like an American.

Early on in our trip we noticed that despite what you hear on the news, most people do not harbor anti-American sentiment. On rare occasion, some people that we’ve met have expressed frustration about our country’s foreign policies, but for the most part Americans are still well-liked, and the U.S.A. ranks high as a country that people would like to visit.  This positive attitude towards Americans is different than what we expected to encounter. A common joke we heard before leaving was, “If you get into trouble, just tell them you’re Canadian.” At the six month mark of our trip, we are happy to report that we haven’t claimed to be anything but American. Traveling has emphasized to us the importance of separating individuals from politics, and the value in engaging in dialogue with foreigners.  Like it or not, every traveler is an ambassador for their country.

More and more, we have come to realize that Americans do not travel internationally as much as our world neighbors. For that reason, we are often received with surprise and curiosity by locals and other travelers. “Why don’t other Americans take long trips?” people often ask. Travel is so engrained in the lifestyle of people in other developed countries, but not so much in the United States. For instance, many Australians and Kiwis travel during their gap year between high school and university. Europeans take summer holiday for months at a time. We have been pondering this trend, and it seems that Americans don’t travel abroad as frequently because they simply do not have the time. What do you think prevents Americans from traveling abroad?

Due to the fact that we generally stay in hostels, we are constantly engaging in conversation with other travelers. As we mentioned previously, many people view Americans in a positive light and want to visit the U.S., however, a lot of would-be tourists are not able to get permission. This trip has made us realize how difficult our country makes it for foreigners to visit. Tourist visas, work visas and green cards are incredibly difficult to get. Not to mention, the system for acquiring access to the United States is not created with equality in mind; the level of difficulty has a great deal to do with one’s country of origin. We think that allowing more people to visit and work in our country would be a great way to share our culture with the world.

Some of our perceptions of America have changed during our RTW trip, others have not, and our views will further evolve as we continue to make our way around the world. On this 4th of July, we are particularly cognizant of how grateful we are to have been born in the U.S.A. We don’t know when we will be returning stateside, but we will always be happy to know that it is our home.

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Goodbye USA, Hello World

We made it to Barcelona (as locals call it: Bar”th”elona)!  The journey to get here wasn’t without a few bumps along the way though…

We spent our last few days in the US relaxing and spending time with family in Florida.  Delicious food, great company, warm weather.  What better farewell from the States could you ask for?

Ft. Lauderdale Beach

But, three days before our flight was scheduled to depart, things got a little hectic.  The airline, Air Europa, called to inform us that they were no longer providing service from Miami to Spain.  That route simply did not exist anymore. They even sent us a very helpful automated email letting us know that the alternative flight available to us had left the week prior.  Great, thanks for giving us such advanced notice! Not.

After five hours on the phone with these people and some not so pleasant verbal exchanges, our flight was rescheduled on a different airline.  In hindsight, the challenge with the airline served as a good reminder that things don’t always go as planned.

The flight itself was not so pleasant however.  The eight hours from Miami to Madrid were pure turbulence.  Picture this: Amy’s nails digging into Mike’s arm, guy across aisle cold sweating and puking into the provided barf bag, and zero communication by the pilot as to why this was happening and when it was going to stop.  On a positive note, the food was pretty decent by airline standards and there was plenty of vino tinto to go around.

After the second leg from Madrid to Barcelona landed, we hoped on a train straight to our hostel. We have stayed in many hostels in our lives and this is without a doubt the largest one we’ve ever seen.  It is literally a high-rise of bunk rooms – 14 floors with eight rooms on each.  We are staying in a room off eight and so far so good.

Urbany Hostel, Barcelona

After not sleeping all night on our bumpy flight, we were pretty exhausted.  A quick siesta turned into a four hour nap, but gave us enough energy to explore a bit and get our first taste of the Spanish tapas dining experience.  We had some great chorizo, croquetas and tortilla.   Today we are headed out to tour La Sagrada Familia and whatever else we stumble upon.  As always, let us know if you have any suggestions of must-sees in Barcelona.

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Lightening the Load

Just two backpacks; that’s all we’re taking with us.  The truth is that we’re taking a lot more than that.  You can actually fit quite a bit into a 40 liter sack.  For the first leg of our trip in Portland, we brought extra luggage along because we knew we would be staying with family and taking part in holiday festivities.  Until loading up our backpacks for Florida two nights ago, we couldn’t honestly say what we would be bringing with us on our RTW trip.  But the deed is done and we have shed our excess belongings!  Below are pictures and descriptions of what came with us to Florida and what we will be carrying oversees.

Amy’s Gear

3 T-shirts, 1 blouse, 2 tank-tops, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair zip-off pants, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 1 pair flip flops, 2 dresses, 1 sarong, 1 skirt, 1 pair shorts, 1 fleece, 1 raincoat, 1 hat, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: scarf, swim suit, undergarments and Gregory Jade 38 backpack.

Mike’s Gear

1 T-shirt, 1 short-sleeve collard shirt, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 micro fleece, 1 zip-up vest, 2 pairs zip-off pants, 1 swim suit, 1 raincoat, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 2 scarfs, 2 hats, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: 1 T-shirt, 1 pair pants, undergarments and REI Pinnacle 40 backpack.

Miscellaneous Shared Gear

starting at top left, moving clockwise

“The Junk Drawer” – Q-Tips, 2 collapsible water bottles, EmergenC, deck of cards, Yahtzee, First Aid Kit, plastic bags, Kleenex, sewing kit, watch, ear plugs, compass, head lamp, string, mini salt & pepper shaker, converters, immunization records, notepad, wet wipes, drain stopper, sharpie, duct tape, head phones, flashlight, extra batteries, zip ties.

“The Towel Rack” – 2 quick-dry towels

“The Bathroom Cabinet” – shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, body & face lotion, sunscreen.

“The Pharmacy” – various prescription and over the counter medications, including anti-biotics, malaria pills, anti-inflammatories, and many more.

“The Liquids” (carefully separated thanks to TWA) – Aquamira water purification drops, DEET, medications, saline solution, neosporin, etc.

Not pictured:

“The Library” – we are starting with 2 guide books and 3 novels, which we plan on switching out with newbies as we make our way around the world. Have suggestions on good reads? Let us know!

“The Safety Deposit Box” – passports, yellow cards, wallets, insurance cards, credit cards, cash, family photos.

Electronics

Acer Aspire One netbook, charger & waterproof case, Nikon 3100 SLR camera, charger, extra battery & shoulder bag, Fujifilm digital camera, charger & case, 1 flash drive, 3 memory cards, GorillaPod, portable speakers. Not pictured: iTouch and iPod.

Storage Cubes & Day Packs

1 REI backpack, 1 Sea To Summit packable daypack, 1 money belt, 1 purse, 3 EagleCreek storage cubes.

It feels liberating to have nothing but each other and the packs on our backs.  Surely the items described above will not be the same items that make it back home with us at the end of the trip. It will be interesting to see what we aquire, replace and discard along the way.

We arrived in Florida yesterday to spend a week with family.  It is nice to be in 70 degree weather in January!  Our flight to Spain leaves this Monday and we will be in Barcelona on the 17th.  Looking forward to reporting from our first international stop!

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What Day Is It?

With the first few weeks of our expedition behind us and a brand new year ahead, we are beginning to feel more comfortable in our roles as travelers and adventurers. At first it was a bit difficult to let go of jobs and routines, but with each passing day it is becoming easier to stop thinking in terms of the past and future. We are now truly able to focus on living in the present.  It is a great feeling to wake up every morning and see each day not as a Monday or a Saturday, a workday or a weekend, but as simply another day of life filled with endless possibilities.

This last Thursday was one such day.  After a cup of morning coffee, we met up with Amy’s cousin Vanessa and headed across the Columbia River into Washington.  Pearson Field was our destination.  The game plan for the day was to hop into a single prop Cesna Skyhawk II and make a couple of short trips to nearby airports.  Vanessa was going to Pilot the plane from the right seat while Amy & I took turns flying from the left.  Unfortunately a faulty comm. unit and poor weather caused us to scrap that plan, but we still ended up with an amazing aerial tour of downtown Portland.   Under “normal” circumstances it would have been easy to feel let down by the change of plans, but with our completely open schedule we didn’t feel as though any time had been lost.  We had a great time flying around and seeing the city from a whole new perspective.  Thanks Vanessa!  We’ll fly with you anytime.

Our Skyhawk II

Mike in the back

Co-Pilot Amy

Cathedral Park, St. Johns, Portland

After returning from our flight we went for a nice little walk in the rain.  No need to worry about poor weather on our “day off”  because we don’t have days off; we just have days.  Walking in a light Pacific Northwest rain was actually quite enjoyable.  While all the world seemed to be trapped inside, we were out just enjoying each others company.

Sold Out Game at the Rose Garden

Our day ended with yet another treat. BLAZER’S GAME (vs. the Denver Nuggets).  Having lived in Denver my whole life, I will say that there is no other sports city like Denver out there.  Denver has it all, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, MLL, etc.  You name a pro sport, Denver’s got it!  Portland on the other hand is dedicated to ITS TEAM (ok there are now 2 pro teams with the Timbers recent move to MLS).  Blazers fans are as committed as they come.

Game day for the team means game day for the city. There are few sporting events I have been to with the same energy and excitement as a Portland Trailblazers home game.   It was only game 3 of the season and the Rose

NeNe

Garden felt like a playoff game 7.  The game was great. An even match the whole way through.  In the end Portland prevailed and the city went to bed happy.
What a Thursday!

For tonight, NYE, headed to a local comedy club called Helium.  We’ll fill you in the the show next time.  But until then, have a fun & safe New Year’s Eve.  Wishing everyone a prosperous and joyful 2012.

-Mike

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The Journey Begins

We are officially on our way.  While we don’t have any funny hostel stories to share, and have not eaten any exotic bugs yet, here is a taste of our lives during the past few weeks.  The trip has begun!  We are out of Denver and are even on our second stop already.  We had our camera shipped to Portland so we can begin to share some pictures with you all.  Here’s what we’ve been up to since leaving Colorado.

Stop #1: Gig Harbor, WA (well, we actually flew into PDX the night before, but drove up I-5N first thing)

Homes along the harbor

Memorial to fishermen lost at sea

Stop #2: Portland, OR

We’ve been here for 4 days so far and have over 2 weeks to go.  Being the holidays, we’ve spent a good amount of time cooking, eating and celebrating with family and friends.  No, we’re not sick of being jobless yet. And yes, we’re still enjoying being full-time travelers and bloggers.

St. Johns Bridge

Our signature dish – goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped with prosciutto

Baking 1 of 5 cookie recipes for Christmas Eve

Root veggie salad for Christmas dinner

Next up, more time in the lovely pacific NW. Also, finalizing China travel plans; it’s still months away, but the visa process is a bit involved. Looking forward to ringing in the new year as 2012 marks a year of adventure!

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Last Week in Denver

It’s our last week in Denver. We’re done with work. We’re moving out of our apartment. And we’re enjoying lots of going-away parties.  With all the excitement and anticipation of leaving, we’re beginning to realize how much we’re going to miss this place. People often ask us if we’ll be returning to Colorado after our RTW trip, and the honest answer is we don’t know. A major goal of our trip is to live in the moment, which means making as few future plans as possible.

That being said, Colorado is an awesome place! For those who have never been, get here! For those who live here, appreciate it!  As we get all reminiscent and sappy about our years here, we wanted to share some of our favorites for locals and tourists alike…

While we still have a lot of the world to experience, Colorado has to be one of the coolest places out there.

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Willingly resigning from a job that you love to go on a trip around the world for a year doesn’t sound that bad, but when it actually comes down to it, its not so easy, and definitely not fun.

Informing our employers about our pending trip was something we knew we would have to do eventually, but time flies, and November was here before we knew it.  Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk in order to reach for a goal.  Traveling is ours, so we said adios stability! Shit just got real.

Both of our companies were surprised but supportive.  We will be sad to leave, and we think the feeling is mutual.  A lot of people at work have asked about our travels (we hope you’re following the blog!) and have made some great suggestions too.  It’s nice to leave a company on good terms, knowing it’s a place where you would happily return to work.

After the dreaded resignation talks were had…dun dun dun…bubbles!

Champaign Celebration

Celebrating taking a major step towards realizing one of our dreams!

Resigning was a bit of a relief, to be able share our excitement with everyone, but also a reality check, to realize how much more planning and preparation we need to accomplish before we leave.  Did we mention that Mike had shoulder surgery 2 months ago?

We did check another big item off of our to do list recently, selling Mike’s car.  Craigslist once again proved its greatness; car sold to the first person who made contact.  Score.  $$ in the bank.

The next few weeks will include a roller coaster of emotions, finalizing details, hiring our replacements, packing and moving, and yes, more immunizations.  Mark your calendar for December 16th going away party at our place.

And likely more bubbles.

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