Thursday, February 28, 2008

What to do after you've soared with Condors (Pelicans)

How do you top paragliding across the placid beaches of Ecuador? Well, really, you don't...but we did tick a couple more items of Megan's "Ecuador To-Do List" while she was here.

#1) Visit the equator. Good, now, where exactly is it? This looks impressive, must be the middle of the world:

There's an E, and an impressively think line, AND, what's that? A sign saying 0 lat/long???

Well, we made it, there's only one thing left to do:

Except, it's not the equator, not even close. The world famous Mitad Del Mundo is 240 metes off, but what the hell, it sure looks good!

#2) Visit Otavalo, the world's most impressive Andean arts bazaar.

Okay, but here's the thing. While it may be fun for tourists to haggle, as they've been told to do, over 25 cents, what I wonder, is, where are the people who make this stuff...and what's their cut? Because, come on, how come every single stall sells the exact same thing, no variations, no ingenuity, replica after replica. My theory? Because someone is getting paid less than the busboy at the Golden Corral Buffet to mass produce these crafts in a warehouse somewhere.

But, you gotta admit, those sure are some nice finger puppets.....

#3) Ramble around in the Andes. Easy enough, Megan and I just zipped up the Teliferi-Q, a ski lift mounted on the side of an active volcano, and there we were. Can't fake nature, well, except for the access to it:)

Cotapaxi was looking particularly nice across the valley....

And #4) Soak in a volcanic hot spring while gazing at the snowy Andes. Volcanic hot springs at Papallacata, check.

Views of snowy Andean peaks? Not a chance in the rainy season, but, damn those baths were good....

Finally, I just have to ask, does our new roommate Dave look like a tourist in this picture? Go ahead, he can take it....:)

Thanks for coming down Megan, it was great to see you!!!!!!!! Now, who's next? Jessica?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Homecoming Email

(A Copy of the email I sent to everyone I could think of from my address book, I'm sure I left some people out, cause I'm forgetful like on if you didn't get it, and check back for any changes)

Hey Friends and Family,

Erin and I will be traveling your way the last two weeks of March, and wanted to let you know in case we can catch a bite, a climb,a surf, a ski????, or maybe just a well deserved micro-brew (lager is all you get down here, as many of you know!). Coming back to NC and SC is always like a homecoming for us, and that's because of all you! I know all our lives are super complicated and busy (esp. for you crazy childbearers!), and I know it's hard to see every ex-caroliner when they come rolling into town; but here's the schedule in case we have the luck to catch up....

Oh, and we obviously gave up our phones when we moved to Ecuador....and I wasn't smart enough to print our phonebooks out, so, please, if you can send us your phone number, that'll make catching the climb or beer, or both, that much easier!

(Colorado Friends, I copied you on this mainly so you can convince Niccolai to fly you out for some BBQ, climbing, and moonshine...DO IT)

Arrive Saturday, March 15 in Miami
Evening of March 15 to Morning of March 17 in Jacksonville
Leave to Charlotte Morning March 17
afternoon/evening of March 17

Leave for Boone morning of March 18
Stay in Boone March 18 to Morning of March 22 (hopefully with a trip to A-ville)
Leave for Greenville, SC morning of March 22 (stop in A-ville?????)
Stay in Greenville afternoon of March 22 to afternoon of March 25 (last chance for an A-ville Trip if we haven't made it yet)
Leave for Atlanta afternoon of March 25
Evening of March 25 in Atlanta
Leave for St. Augustine morning of March 26
Arrive in St. Augustine late afternoon of March 26
Evening of March 26 to Evening of March 28 in St. Augustine
March 28 Suwanee Bluegrass SpringFest Concert in Lake City Florida (come to the concert!!, Acoustic Syndicate, Donna The Buffalo, Guy Clark, Peter Rowan, Larry Keel, Hot Buttered Rum, Railroad Earth, David Grisman, Steep Canyon Rangers, etc. etc. etc.!)
Leave for Miami morning of March 29
Depart for Quito March 29 @ 5:30

That's it for now. If we make any changes to this schedule, I'll probably just update it on the blog instead of flooding your inboxes again. Sorry we aren't hitting Asheville itself specifically, but it may still happen, and I'm sure we'll visit while we are in Boone or Greenville. Also, I'm sure we will throw a party in Boone or Greenville, and I'll let you all know if and when that might happen! Hope everyone is doing well, can't wait to come home and catch up!

Tim, Rookie, Bones.

Monday, February 25, 2008

With Friends Like This, Who Needs...

To ski Arapahoe Basin's new terrain

To climb the 1st Flatiron in an hour

To see the new babies grow

To sink into a Grand Marnier and a hot spring after a winter day of ice in Ouray

To watch the desert swallow the sun from atop a sandstone tower

...because when your friends send you a care package all the way from Colorado, with a brand spankin' new Sexy Mutha Trucka PBR hat, it's like you're almost there.

Thanks to the Love Household, tonight that name seems particularly fitting.

Blogger Play

Isn´t that the truth? Public service ads sure have come a long way from the days of Nancy Reagan haven´t they!

I got this picture off of Blogger Play, which is a hillarious addition to your desktop, it runs through all the photos currently being uploaded to blogs...interested in seeing more of a photo? Just click on it and go to the blog.

Apparently the folks at Blogger just have it running on a projector in their office all day long.

Friday, February 22, 2008


So far there are 12 reported deaths resulting from the insatiable rains here in Ecuador. The President has declared a state of emergency in five provinces. Thousands have lost their homes, and this is the worst flooding Ecuador has seen in recent history. Our thoughts are with the many families who have suffered.

Though we´ve had lots of rain in Quito, we have been relatively spared compared to the communities along the coast.

Photo from the El Comercio newspaper.

Video of the flooding is available at CNN.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maker's Mark, My Sister, and a Man Named Greg

(Note, I've added links in this story...the highlighted blue words. Clicking on these might be especially useful for those travelers visiting Canoa.)

It isn't what is sounds like. I just liked the alliteration of the title, and, well, what's not to like in the picture? Entonces (so), my sister, Megan, was down here visiting us last month from Washington D.C., and there is a bit of a story to go along with the bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon she brought down with her.

As I've mentioned before, Ecuador has a great selection of consumer items from most parts of the world. But when it comes to making a list of items that are missing, somehow, things like Guiness, Sierra Nevada, Maker's Mark Bourbon and the such get elevated much higher than lunchables and squeeze cheese. God, look what happened to Erin and I when our friend Brett's brother came down with a sixer of Sierra Nevada....we had one sip each...

Or, look at the bliss dripping from our eyes as we discover a brand new microbrewery in Quito with my sister...

So, suffice it to say, lots of us are willing to negotiate heavily when it comes to obtaining items which are simply impossible to obtain here in Ecuador. Which brings us to our friend Greg in the beach town of Canoa. We first met Greg back in Christmas with Andrew Clinkingbeard. Greg the "le-rougue-neck" Gilliam is a good-ole Kentucky boy with a passion for three things, his gorgeous family, Maker's Mark, and Paragliding. Coincidently, Megan's mantra for Ecuador was "All I wanna' do is fly like a condor." I put eight and five together, and quickly called Greg.

I think the conversation went something like this:

Me "Hey Greg, my sister is coming down and want's to fly"

Greg "Yeah man, we cun prolly do that"

Me "Yeah, I thought so, listen she's going to bring down some Mak-"

Greg "Maker's Mark!" "Shit man, why didn't you say, what does she need? Can I send a car to pick her up? Do you need a place to stay? we'll fly as much as she wants to. How soon can she get here? What time? Don't worry about a thing, I'll take care of it all....."

So, it was settled, Megan was on her way to bond with the condors. And, actually, Greg is such a top notch individual, he would have said the same things whether I mentioned the Maker's or not...

Arriving in Canoa is a bit of a chore, and so we chose to simplify and expedite things by skipping the 9 hour bus portion of the trip in favor of a thirty minute flight. Problem was, our (Aerogal) plane was delayed in Columbia for the entire day....typical South American travel whining. We weren't the only ones complaining though, and by the afternoon we were in route, with free beers, free lunch, and free Grand Marnier in hand. For travelers reading this blog, I've since learned Icaro is the ONLY way to fly in Ecuador.

We managed to find our baggage carrier and fight off the throngs of crowds around the massive Manta, Ecuador airport terminal....

...and by the next day Megan was off soaring with the Condors (actually, I think she was with Pelicans, but who's counting?) Megan had my camera in the air, and I had hers on the ground, I'll post the pics from her camera later. The first picture is of where she took off from....

I was proud of my sister as I watched her up in the air; she didn't think twice about it, and in paragliding you pretty much just jump off a cliff! I think I was more nervous watching her than she was doing it. Landing back on the beach near Canoa, Megan, Erin and I proceded to engulf ourselves in the beach life of Canoa: sunsets, cold beers on the beach, fresh fruit juice (watermellon (sandia) and blackberry (mora)), shrimp, shrimp, spicy shrimp!, beach bars with Perception kayaks!?! and of course, eggs benedict at the Coco Loco.

Oh, and did I mention it was Carnival?...........

Yeah, that's another story, but suffice it to say that Greg discovered that you can throw a water-balloon into the car of and onto the lap of a cop during carnival and NOT get in trouble over it.

We had many more adventures with my sister, which I'll need to write about in another posting soon. The lesson for today though: bring Maker's Mark and you'll go far :)

Now playing: Flogging Molly - Black Friday Rule (live)
via FoxyTunes

Monday, February 11, 2008

We upped our footprint

I didn´t really think we would do it. I was really enjoying the good feelings and enviro-karmic rewards of not owning a car, not contributing to CO2 emissions, utilizing public transportation, leaving a tiny carbon footprint....all that hippy B.S. that we probably ought to start paying attention too.

But it just isn´t practical for us, I´m going stir-crazy in this city, I need to get out. For a climber, a car is a necessity. We´ll still ride the bus to school, use the big busses for long trips, we don´t heat or cool our house, 90% of our food is produced locally, and let´s not forget, we´re still not a two car family! But for the weekends, to get to remote areas around Quito, we simply had to buy the Landcruiser. Now, how come I still feel guilty?

The car? 1986 FJ70, never available in the states. By the 80´s we were demanding more refined vehicles. It has an inline 6 cylinder engine, and in four low, if I close my eyes, I can imagine I´m actually driving my Dad´s tractor. It´s beefy, no coil springs, just leaf springs for suspension. No carpet, vinyl all the way. There´s a video on youtube of one of these suckers pulling a stuck hummer out of the sand somewhere in the middle east! It was expensive, not much cheaper than what I sold my 2000 Tacoma for, but as long as nothing huge goes wrong with it, we should be able to sell if for about the same price as we bought it for. This is what I call, an investment in my sanity. Stock market sucks right now anyways, right?

Oh, and I found the youtube video...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Better News

In a much less intimidating news article than the scary volcano below, my father-in-law, friend, and mechanic of more years than I care to count made the local Boone paper. Many of you know Steve Byerly, and like me, have known him for a long long time (I knew Steve for five years before I even met, and later married his wonderful daughter!). In his classic modest nature, Steve didn´t even mention this article last night when we are on the phone with him...those who know him wouldn´t be surprised.


(Toon-gu-ra-hu), the locally infamous throat of fire has really started looking pissed off lately.

This volcano has been off an on for the past 10 years, but over the last month activity has increased so much that villages are being evacuated, and there are even unconfirmed reports of associated deaths. Quito is not in any danger, nor, supposedly is the popular resort town of Banos...though it lies directly below the volcano. I can´t figure out how Banos wouldn´t be threatened, but the town has yet to be officially evacuated. We´re certainly not planning a trip there any time soon, though the two National Geographic photographers who live above us immediately set out to snap some shots of the spectacle. There are reports of up to 4,000 people being evacuated, though many villagers do not want to leave because of the potential for thieves to come in and rob their unprotected legitimate a threat as the volcano! Another little reported fact is the effect the falling ash will have on glacial retreat. The glaciers, source of water for so many, are looking thinner than my hair as it is. Now, with a layer of dark ash covering places like Chimborazo, the heat will be absorbed at an even faster pace...a scary proposition.

For now, we just have to hope that the evacuations go well, and that the local population finds a way to resettle....scientists warn that this may just be the beginning.

For more pictures, check the bbc at: