American road trip coming to an end

Leaving the giants of Redwood behind we worked our way north along the beautiful coast and made it all the way to Washington and to its pride – the giant of Mt Rainier. This is a year round snow-capped mountain with its 28 glaciers. We only stopped at the base not doing any kind of trekking but was still lucky to catch a glimpse of the grand top in sun light, before it started to rain. This is one of the most revisited national parks just because most people never see the actual mountain due to it’s raining 300 days a year.

After having an excellent weather during the entire trip with only two days of heavy rain we arrived back to a constantly raining Seattle, finalizing our big loop in America. We again stayed with our good friend Aparna and her lovely children to the great joy of our kids. We spent a week just to take it slow, rest from all driving and also did our final major shopping to make sure we reached and exceeded our allowed weight for the flight back home. The only sightseeing we did this time in Seattle was a quite disgusting bubble gum wall and the excellent Flight Museum. We were also invited to the presidents’ Air Force One, but none of its users – Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy – could show us around since they both had passed away. Obama was all busy in the new Air Force One.

We have really enjoyed this adventure together. The four of us feel very privileged to have been able to be together for three months, our third parental leave with our two kids. This unique timing won’t come back and we have been able to see and experience so much in the vast continent of America, which we still only have scratch the surface of. Lina cried when we had to return our second home – our giant red “mini” van – which carried us safely a distance of some 12 000 km or 7 300 miles. We enjoyed the ever-changing nature, especially the red, rocky, sunny, warm and dry deserts in Utah, which served as a perfect play ground for the kids running around climbing boulders and finding hide outs, an astounding scenery, tranquillity, quietness and a beautiful calm and simple life contrasting to the “normal” western way of living, filled with overwhelming impressions, choices and stress.

We have now safely returned to Sweden with “just” four overweight bags, four heavy carry ons, two car seats and two strollers. We were very lucky to have parents picking us up at the train station, with a warm welcome dinner in our own home, which they had kept in excellent condition while gone. We are jet lagged but will have a good week before work, to sort out our impressions and slowly adapt to the old way of living. We are also very much looking forward to see more of our friends and family and the upcoming Christmas season.

Thank you all friend and family “over there” making our stay and company pleasant, and also thank you all people sharing our experiences reading this blog and watching some of all thousands of pictures.

Love from Emil, Hanna, Emma and Lina – over and out!

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Spider migration and hippies

After Grand Canyon our plan was to meet up with some Swedish friends in San Diego. But unfortunately the last man standing Emma of our family, also got the super cold. We didn’t want any other to get sick so we made a few days detour into the desert.

We really enjoyed Joshua Tree park, with it’s giant Yucca palms big as trees, many kind of cactus and giant piles of massive boulders creating caves and hideouts for the kids to play in. The rangers also warned us for the migration period which was going on in the park. No it was not the desert turtles who spend 95 % of their time underground just coming out in spring to feed and mate, it was the big hairy Tarantula spiders, who according to the ranger was harmless and cuddly. We only saw one running across the road and neither of us got hurt. We also passed through the Anza Borrego park where they had let an artist run amok making all kind of fantasy creatures out of scrap metals.

Despite friends and medias discouraging statement about going to Tijuana in Mexico we decided to try our luck for a day trip. We left our van behind and walked across the border being so welcome we didn’t even have to show our passports, with a kind of strange feeling how safe this really was. We took a cab to the most touristy part of town Avenida Revolucion. This street was fairly clean and felt quite safe, we just did some shopping and had some lunch. We also went for a haircut and the hairdresser was so excited over our blond hairs. Both here in Mexico as well as in the US we got stopped everyday by people telling the proud parents how beautiful and cute kids we have and how blond they are. We then walked to the border crossing and was struck by the extreme poverty in parts of the Mexican society. This border crossing is the busiest crossing in the world with a good 40 million people passing every year. We were not as welcome back to the US so we had to wait in the long line for a good half an hour and here they actually wanted to see the passports.

Even if we were not able to see our friends in San Diego more than two hours before they left themselves for vacation, they were so kind to let us borrow their apartment for a few days. We really enjoyed the luxury of not just living in one room the four of us, to have a proper kitchen and staying and relaxing at the same place for three nights, gaining strength from weeks of sickness. San Diego was just a lovely city and we spent most time in La Jolla a very nice part of the city. The weather was unfortunately quite foggy but the temperature was still not too bad and we spent time on the lovely beach walks. We have had been longing to go for a swim but with no sun this was not tempting enough.

We then continued up to the vast city of Los Angeles. Via AirBnB we rented a room in a house at Santa Monica with a hippie yoga couple. To our luck they were out of town so we got their entire house on our own. It was really nice to get into a local home again with kitchen and many rooms. The hippies also had turned their home into a really cozy place. In LA we visited Hollywood walking the Walk of Fame, Beverly Hill and watched the spectacular housing for the rich, enjoyed our neighborhood in Santa Monica with its beach, pier with a small Tivoli where went on the famous ferris wheel and also the Farmer’s market where we understood the hippie community was hooked on organic vegan wholegrain raw food. Despite the not great weather and not too warm water, Hanna and Emil finally decided it’s now or never and jumped into the surf while the kids was cheering on the beach. Emil also had the pleasure meeting up with an old friend he met in Australia 13 years ago, being a great guide for a night out in LA.

Leaving the megacity of LA behind we did a very long but nice drive up along the coast on the meandering legendary Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1, clinging to the hillside towering the surf. We did a short detour to the tiny Danish village of Solvang. It was a very charming and very Scandinavian village with more Danish bakeries and half-timbered frame housing (Swedish: korsvirkeshus) then you would ever see back home. It felt a bit like home. After a long drive we now settle for the night in Santa Cruz.20131029-230501.jpg20131029-230706.jpg20131029-230730.jpg20131029-230748.jpg20131029-230920.jpg20131029-231121.jpg









Las Vegas and Grand Canyon

After spending six days tent camp with night temperatures around freezing we really enjoyed the warm climate with almost 30 C and the comfort of staying at casino hotels. We started off in Bullhead city where Emil have some very distant relatives. It was good to see them since he saw them last time 15 years ago and also nice to get into an American home.

We then continued to Las Vegas the metropol of world gambling. Las Vegas is certainly a different city, where the fantasies of a very few come true to be able to build massive casino complexes most of them with their own theme. It’s not really their own, this fake city is imitating others with replicas of famous buildings and places around the world like New York (New York New York casino), the Eiffel tower (Paris), a giant pyramid with a sphinx (Luxor), medieval castles (Excalibur), roman palaces (Caesar’s palace) or just luxurious buildings as the Mirage, Mandalay Bay or MGM Grand. It’s both impressive how they can afford all this luxury and at the same time very sad to know it’s literally all built upon lost money and many broken dreams. The city also host the very opposites – at the same time we never have seen such an extreme wealth where every other car is a limousine and helicopters flying everywhere, we also encountered the extreme poverty and sad lives of beggars, homeless and the streets littered with people handing out catalogs with pictures of girls offering their services within 20 minutes.

This said we still enjoyed the city very much. We enjoyed the casino hotel comfort staying five days at Circus Circus (hosting a constant ongoing circus and the world largest indoor amusement park), we enjoyed those activities along with the outdoor pool. We also enjoyed walking the strip, visiting most of the major casinos spectating their different themes, enjoyed their very cheap all you can eat buffets, enjoyed some free shows outside the casinos such as a real sized pirate ship battle (Treasure Island) and then we grown ups took turns doing the city in the evenings on our own also visiting one standup show each. One thing we didn’t do was gamble, instead we went to a brand outlet spending a big pile of money receiving an even bigger pile of nice clothing.

The last day in Vegas we got a special deal staying at one of the nicer casinos the Golden Nugget. They had the world largest golden nugget weighing 26 kg. The also had a three story outdoor pool with a water slide going through an aquarium filled with sharks and other fish. This casino was placed at Fremont street an exciting arcade filled with street artists and on the hour shows in the ceiling used as a giant screen.

Emma fell in love with Las Vegas at first sight. She just loved all the lights, flashing, music and sound everywhere. Emma wanted us to move here. This is a city which never sleep, it’s just keep on screaming. Las Vegas was a shock for all senses and a dramatic contrast, coming from the peaceful tranquil desert – we certainly preferred the latter.

Since the government closed down and with it the national parks, we had to skip many of the parks on our itinerary and postpone Grand Canyon. To our rescue the state if Arizona paid up the money to open Grand Canyon early since they lost too much tourist money. When it opened we fled Las Vegas and back tracked in our car tracks towards Grand Canyon. We made a brief but impressive stop at the Hoover Dam where we actually drove on top of the 222 m high dam wall. The whole family also enjoyed a 2 minutes helicopter ride for just $29 a person, you actually cover quite a distance in that time. The kids just loved it.

We then finally arrived to Grand Canyon after all our struggles. Grand Canyon is really an impressive site but it’s also hard to take in due to it’s massiveness. It’s 500 km long, about 2 km wide and 1.6 km deep – a giant whole as we describe it to the kids. Far down below the Colorado river is passing by, carving its way downwards a sheet of paper thin every year and has done so the last six million years forming the canyon exposing layer after layer of rocks down to 2 billion years old crust – half of earth’s existence. Since we did not have the possibility with the kids and especially not the energy to trek down into the canyon we just enjoyed the grandeur from the south rim.

After all being a bunch of happy campers the first month of the trip we then started to get quite a sick pitiful bunch of people. Lina the poor thing has suffered by far the most with both blisters in her mouth and a really bad cold with sore throat, fever and runny nose. The grown ups have instead suffered from both food poisoning and this bad cold, while Emma just keep on feeling well keeping the mood up for all of us with her intelligent thoughts. The illnesses has muted our impressions lately and we have been taking it slow, but we are now all finally slowly recovering.




















US government close down and Korean invasion

Leaving Yellowstone, Wyoming put on a great colorful show displaying all non evergreen trees from yellow, orange to red. We also left the snow and cold behind. The scenery changed to a more arid and barren landscape, slowly transforming to a more desert like setting. We were welcomed to Utah with a very pleasant warm weather and the girls were happy to get rid of the fleeces again. The girls also just love the desert with all features from sand, rocks, boulders, hoodoos to canyons forming the greatest of natural playgrounds, where they can run, hide, climb and explore peculiar formations and caves.

We started off in the Vatican for the Mormons – Salt Lake City. Even this city has hosted an Olympic but we gave that a miss and will also spare you the details. The city was settled by the Mormons and everything is centered around their temple square. The Mormons certainly run the show in town and most of Utah as well. It was impressive to walk around in their massive constructions of all sorts. We also enjoyed an excellent organ concert until we had to leave for our restless kids – the Mormons compete with Austria having the largest organ with some 11600 pipes, impressive. The Mormons had volunteers everywhere, were extremely helpful and non intrusive, but we also felt monitored in a spooky way. According to Forbes magazine the city also host the headquarter of one of America’s largest corporations – once again the Mormon Church.

Just when we intended to see a few more National Parks such as Arches NP and Canyon Lands NP, we learned that the US budget negotiations had stranded which meant that the government and all government run businesses would close down. This unfortunately also meant that all National Parks closed down, which left us in a big vacuum. We then further learned that there are plenty of State Parks around which also have an extraordinary scenery to show. We have now visited the State Parks of Goblin, Dead Horse Point and Gooseneck, and the native American run Monument Valley. They all have their unique features to show. Many of these have hosted classic movies, such as John Wayne western. We were also told how to sneak into Canyon Lands NP on a dirt road and got a nice overlook but did not dare to enter into the canyon when the road turned into a steep serpentine downhill dirt road littered with old car wrecks.

The last few days we’ve had a bit of a cold wave, with wind and rain, and some frost at night. With a good tent and sleeping bags we’ve done well and the kids never seem to get cold in the tent, but they resist putting on enough clothes during in the mornings when it’s freezing cold. To improve Lina’s sleeping we have now completely got rid of her pacifier, which has worked out far better than expected. She’s now more than willing to give her pacifiers away. We asked if she wants to give them to Santa Claus but she insist to give them to her grand father, the person she certainly misses the most from back home.

We’ve found some unique wild camps setting up our tent all alone in the desolate remote tranquil desert, with 2500 years old native American petroglyphs on the massive walls towering behind. When the cicadas stop their sound at dusk there is absolutely no sound to hear, just a complete silence, nothing we’ve experienced before. The night sky not littered with any background light, is completely dark just spotted by the immense numbers of stars which can be seen along with all easy to spot satellites passing by. The central disk of the Milky Way also show every night as a milky stripe over the sky. Yes we are certainly enjoying the beauty of nature with all our senses.

Yesterday we had found one of these places and just put the kids to sleep in the tent when a huge truck rocked up with the Korean invasion. Six Koreans of all ages, shapes and sexes, all in their individual neon colored down jackets jumped out bloating the dark and the silence with keeping their truck on with their head lights in our direction. They invaded the whole cliff side with all their different gear setting up their tents meters from ours not taking much care for others. They kept their voices down but on the other hand they kept on snoring and coughing throughout the night. Life is not always perfect but it was certainly interesting to observe them in action. Lina certainly woke them all up by screaming for half an hour at 5.30, so maybe they learned not to make camp too close to others at least for their own sake.

Emma is also busy making very nice drawing for us, about what we have seen. I include one of some Indians we met.


















Canadian dinosaurs dead as a rock to Yellowstone’s live an kicking wild life

In Canada the whole family was very excited about our visit to the Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum. Alberta’s soil seem to host one of the greatest collections of fossils in the world making also this museum into one of the best dinosaurs museums. The variety was huge, you name your favorite fierce extinct dinosaur and they can provide the petrified baby dinosaur still in the egg to the gigantic skeletons. They not only had dinosaurs but also Mammoth, Saber toothed tiger and other more “recent” extinct cousins.

We then ended our Canadian visit with a very relaxed few days in Lethbridge. Here Emil knew a good friend Aaron (from an exchange in Australia) with family where we could stay. We enjoyed staying put for a few days after very long drives through the vast planes of Canada. Aaron worked at the national park Writing On Stone. It was a treat having our private guide through the closed off and most sacred places to the Black feet with ancient First Nation’s (native’s) carvings and petroglyphs. The landscape here was also breathtaking, and Emma loved running around through the hoodoos (sand formations).

Going south with summer temperatures of 25 – 30 C, we crossed the border to USA again. We left the vast agricultural planes behind and encountered the Rocky Mountains again. Once again we approached the wild West with it’s beautiful nature, high pointy mountains covered with evergreen and found nice places to set up camp. The temperatures dropped and it felt more like winter.

We had to miss out on Glacier National Park which closed for the year the day before we arrived and continued to Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the grand mother of all world’s national parks. It’s not only the first preserve in the world of it’s kind reinstated in 1872. It also holds one of the most diverse variety from wild life to volcanic activity and of course has the most extreme of everything. The earth’s crust is no thinner at any other place, here is more geysers and volcanic activity than the rest of the world combined, the world highest geyser shooting up some 100 m even if it does so only every 8 years or so, but then they of course have the most famous geyser Old Faithful with 50 m which goes off on a schedule every 90 minutes.

We found a very nice cabin which the girls called home and enjoyed exploring the enormous (100 x 100 km) Yellowstone for almost five days. Midway it began to snow transforming the scenery and the temperatures during the day clung to 0 C. We have brought quite good four season gear but we realized that proper gloves was one thing we missed and even if we bought some for the girls they were a bit cold. Except for all geysers, hot pools, mud pools and other volcanic activity we enjoyed the scenery and beautiful nature from an arid and barren landscape to a lush evergreen forest spotted with fiery yellow patches of fall colored deciduous trees. In this setting we were very lucky to spot much of the generous wild life from the shy wolf, bear, coyote, bald eagle to the masses of bison, elk and deer.

We now escaped Yellowstone heading south through Grand Teton National Park. Further south and at lower altitudes we will tomorrow leave winter behind and be back with summer.