Karma

Money is a little tight at the end of the trip – as it should be, for if we were coming home flush with cash then something would be wrong with the universe.  There isn’t much to spend money on in Canada and we don’t need much really.  We are just not living in the style we had become accustomed to in Peru and there is so much we have missed while we were gone.  The urge to spend is strong and we have to fight it as we walk through massive, well-stocked Canadian grocery stores and gaze at the frozen food.  There is no frozen food in the rest of Americas but here, in Canada and the USA, people have made every conceivable kind of food for you and then frozen it in little dishes that you only need to microwave.  In Peru, you could buy microwaves on lay away, $4 usd a month forEVER.  Then there is the snack aisle.  And the bakery – not a drop of manjar anywhere, no figs, no crystallized fruit baked into manjar-iced bread.  Some things, like the salad dressing aisle, just plain overwhelm us and we have to turn around.  We want to buy every western thing we have not had and several of them, some kind of hoarding issue, can’t really explain it.

But we cannot afford to do that.  We have been living pretty basically for a long time, how hard can it be? The United Nations international standard for extreme poverty is living under $1.08 a day.  We have tried to live like this in Canada and have failed every single day, just including food.  $1.08 is really hard to live on. But it is interesting to try and really gives you a good perspective on cost of food.  Much harder here in North America.  It seems like you can only do this if you live only on the cheapest ramen – although you would think that we would have a better chance with 8 people pooling their money.

We are hoping to make it all the way to Whitehorse by Friday.  Friday is payday so then we can make it the rest of the way to Alaska.  We have a tight budget because we don’t know how much diesel will be in some of the more remote places and the van + camper gets about 10 miles to the gallon.  So every 10 miles costs us $5 or more.  We had some necessary (but expensive) repairs in Yakima and we lost two tires which we needed to replace so we were overbudget for our Friday arrival in Whitehorse.  It looked like we might be short by $60, depending on the price of gas.  We needed to get back in time to get the kids to 4H camp, the ONLY deadline we had to meet.

Two days ago, we camped at a snowmachine trail head and hiked up a trail.  There was a creek that flowed close to the path and and at one point, the kids were throwing rocks into it and trying to build a rock bridge across it (for some reason, this is a favorite DeCorso child stream activity, can’t explain that).  Max reached into the stream to better position a rock and found a wallet.  It was soaking wet and muddy and buried under leaves but it was complete and intact, with all the identification and cards and $65.  The kids were very excited about this and looked all through the wallet, noting the guy had a Safeway card and  later, when we drove by the Best Western in Grande Cache, Sylvia pointed out that the man must have stayed there, as there was a Best Western card in the wallet.  We took the wallet to the Mounties in Valemount, right before the border with Alberta.  The Mounty took down all of Max’s information, noting the location of the wallet and telling Max that if no one claimed the wallet in 90 days, the wallet would be mailed to Max.  When we left the station, there was some discussion about maybe the guy wouldn’t claim the wallet and then Max would get $65!  Mark and I pointed out that, while getting the wallet back would be cool, the guy getting his wallet back after so much time with everything in it was far cooler.

The next day, we were driving down the highway in Alberta in near Jasper National Park when we passed a Volkswagon Camper Van with Chilean license plates and a sign on the back that said Patagonia to Alaska – so of course, we had to stop.  Stopping is no small thing for us, as in this situation, we had to find a place to turn around.  The VW was indeed heading to Alaska from Chile and while we talked to the couple driving, it became clear they did not have and had never heard of the Mile Post.  Without even thinking about, Mark and I offered them our Mile Post at the same time.  Now our Mile Post has been there, done that in a big way.  It was missing it’s cover and the pullout map and looked like it had traveled to Patagonia, sailed across two seas and was now on its 6th trip up the Alaska Highway.  We were not offering them anything new or fancy but the Mile Post is kind of essential and as soon as we returned to the van, we both wondered if we would need the Mile Post now that we had given ours away.

The kids were all like you gave away our Mile Post?  What if we need it?  And we were all like come on, we have driven to Alaska 6 times.  To which the kids replied yeah, but not on the Bighorn Highway!  And we could only say that it was the right thing to do at the time, we both felt that, and we would be fine.  Playing it forward!  Something we had tried to do as much as possible on this trip.  This was accompanied by some eye rolling.

The next day, we spent the night in Grande Prairie and got a late start.  We didn’t leave until about 4pm and we were only headed to Fort Saint John, which is about 100 miles up the road.  We stopped to get gas and a man wished Mark Happy Father’s Day! as all 6 kids filed out of the van for a bathroom break.  Mark chatted with the man for awhile, which is not new.  Alaska plates always = questions and most people we meet seem to be chatty.  The man asked us where we were heading that night and Mark said FSJ.  We knew FSJ pretty well, as we had broken down here in 2011 on the return home of Big Trip I and had to wait a week for a starter to arrive.  We had a camping spot in mind — I mean, a parking overnight spot.  The man said he lived in FSJ so maybe he would see us there.

We left and headed on down the road.  We got a flat tire and Mark had to change it, which makes me nervous in spite of the mandatory South American Safety Triangle and flares.  We had to stop for another bathroom break at Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway. We arrived in FSJ and were just pulling into the camping spot when the man from the gas station showed up in his pick up truck.  ”Follow me!” he said.  ”I have the perfect place for you to camp.” He went on to sort of explain that he travels for his job and he had a reservation in Grande Prairie but decided to drive home and he still had the credit for his job so he used it at a hotel here in FSJ for us.  He had the keys, he already checked us in, there was plenty of space to park the camper, he told them we had 6 kids — we just needed to follow him.  So we did.  And here we are, in a fine hotel in FSJ with a stocked kitchen and two bedrooms and cable tv and wireless.  He must have been waiting for us for over an hour.  And that was that, no strings attached, just pure niceness, a sincerely nice thing to do.

That man made our night and we always remember it.

And that is my post on karma.  It came nicely illustrated and in a way even a kindergartner can understand.

 

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Lunch break in Jasper National Park

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The new camper

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On our way home!

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The United States of America!!

Before we left, I told the kids that when we returned they would literally want to kiss the ground in the wonderful USA.  They were skeptical then — but not any more.  We are back in the land of drinkable water, clean streets, traffic laws, and unending almost unimaginable choices – so many kinds of potato chips, soda, salad dressing, laundry detergent, shampoo (more than just 11 kinds of Head & Shoulders) and frozen food (which does not exist anywhere in South America).  The van got a few factory issued parts it was sorely missing, no matter how great the ingenuity and ability to create parts was in Ecuador and Peru.

Nowhere screams USA more than Las Vegas and a Rodeo.  So naturally that is where we went first.

 

At the Cosmopolitan looking at a gigantic chandelier of Swarvoski crystals you can enter and have a fancy drink inside

 

 

 

Bottomless sodas with ICE at Taco Bell!

 

The Sisters Rodeo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The New York Roller Coaster — Annabelle

While we were in Las Vegas, I really, really wanted to ride on the New York, New York Roller Coaster.  I wanted to ride it because it looked really awesome and fun.  The roller coaster went up 203 feet and then dropped you down 144 feet.  They said it took 15 minutes to ride it but mom told me that must include buckling in.  It had lots of turns and twists and loop de loops and downhills and it looks super cool because it is red and goes through all of the city of New York, it goes by the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.  Last time we went to Las Vegas, I wanted to ride this roller coaster but I was 6 inches too short.  When I looked the roller coaster up, it said you needed to be 54 inches to ride and I was sure I would be able to ride because my dad said I was 54 inches almost 55.  He measured me with a tape measure.  So the night came when I was going to ride the roller coaster and I was really excited!  We parked at Excalibur and walked over following the signs.  We got to the roller coaster line and the guy said kids had to take their shoes off tho get measured.  I took my shoes off and there were people in line yelling she’s tall enough! but the guy said NO you are not tall enough.  So I went over to dad and I was very sad.  I was only less than half an inch short.

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Catching up

Now that we are back in the wonderful United States of America and are reunited with a new camper, we have some time to post some photos from the Amazon.

As you may remember, at one point we were traveling between the river and a jungle lake on the back of a motorcycle with all 8 DeCorsos + our guide + pfds and gear.  Here is the photo (taken by Ryan) of that setup.

Driving through the Amazon – 10 people, 6 pfds and gear all being driven by our 12 year old driver

And then we drove down this road!  It had a lot of up and downhills but it was hard to take photos due to the fact that it was pretty bumpy.

And this was the road we headed down for a long, long drive.

We borrowed a dugout canoe and floated around the jungle lake.  They were actually dugout of one log.

Wooden dug out canoes

On the river, the kids had to wear the pfds.  It doesn’t look scary here but it was absolutely scary in many places.  No where to swim ashore, just marshy banks filled with poisonous snakes, fierce fish and caimans.

Floating on the river in the canoe

Unloading a container onto a river cargo ship one evening.

Amazon sunset

A typical jungle house – actually this is quite a nice one.  Much larger than most and with a lot of pigs!  Houses have no doors or window glass or screens.  This was hard for us to imagine, given the amount and size of bugs in the Amazon.  This one also had electricity with a generator, just one single bulb.  Most houses have no electricity and just candles after sundown.

A typical jungle house

Everywhere there were piles of cocoa beans drying in the sun.  Ryan picked one up and bit it and inside were cocoa nibs and they were delicious.

Cocoa beans – we bought 5 kilos.

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Le Blog Post – Dallas To Washington Edition

Unfortunately, even though we were all longing to be thrust back into the teeming culture and life style of the land of the free, we couldn’t, at first. Our hotel was in the middle of a field, which in turn was surrounded by complicated freeways.

We ate Domino’s pizza for dinner, which was absolutely delicious after five months of rice and pasta. The first couple of days we lounged around our American hotel room (we could drink the tap water! People spoke English!) and just relaxed. Soon, though, we had to figure out a way to get to Wal-Mart, since we needed food and such frivolous things like that.

It was all very complicated to get to said Wal-Mart, since we were surrounded by complex freeways that had no sidewalks and expensive taxis (such a shock, coming from Lima, Peru, where taxis were the cheapest way of transport). It would take several buses and a mile of walking there and back.

In the end, we were able to get a ride from with our hotel peeps for ten dollars there and ten dollars back.

The first thing we did upon arriving was wander, awe struck, around Wal-Mart and gaze at everything.

Once we got over all the American things, we walked to Taco Bell, which had been missed dearly whilst in South America.

We went shopping, I got SweeTarts, and it was a good day.

We decided that we would fly from Dallas to Las Vegas, stay at the hotel/casino Circus Circus for a couple of days while we waited for Ryan and Dad got the van through customs, bought a trailer, and drove to where we were.

Vegas was a sweltering one hundred degrees and higher every day. I preferred to stay in the cool, dim interior of the casino but mother dearest insisted on exploring Vegas. I saw no point in this, since we had been there before, but oh well.

Jack and I explored Circus Circus to an extent, being social and making many friends.

Father and Ryan reached Vegas at midnight and we had to trek from our hotel room to the lobby to meet them.

We were all joyously reunited and Dad and Ryan went to Sam’s Town (the RV park we had stayed out on Big Trip l) and we slept at our hotel.

The next day everyone else took the bags to the new trailer whilst Jack and I stayed behind at the hotel and were social.

After they came back we walked to the Venetian. There were giant creepy masked dudes walking around and these really freaky tree ladies that scared me.

We took the car to the RV park, where it still hot, so we went to the pool. Of course, people there flocked to me and more friendships were made.

The next day we went to the buffet at the casino/hotel there. I ate a lot of donuts and stuff. It was good.

Annabelle really, really wanted to ride the New York, New York so we headed there after the buffet. Unfortunately, she wasn’t tall enough and was very sad.

We walked to the Aria and the Cosmopolitan, which were both very fancy in different ways. The Aria was swanky, with marble benches and air conditioners on the floor so your feet wouldn’t get hot. The Cosmopolitan had giant crystal chandeliers that stretched twenty feet and down three floors. Very pretty.

It was midnight when we got back, and since we were going to get up early and leave, we all went to sleep.

The next morning we left Vegas and a while down the highway turned around and went a different route.

Once we were going the right way, all was well.

We camped in Carson City, in a Wal-Mart parking lot (ah, memories) and disconnected so we could drive around. Carson City was quaint and charming. It was a nice town.

The next night we camped next to a salt lake that turned out to be caustic.  Slightly disturbing, because the campground said we could swim in it. Hmm…

We arrived in Reno and Jack, Ryan and I toured the university. It was very nice, and if I didn’t want to go to Seattle I would consider going there.

Outside Nevada City, California, our friend Marian lived so we visited her. She lived in a little camp thing and we were able to stay at the top of a ridge there where the sunset was quite pretty.

The next morning Aunt Marian took us to a thrift store where I got some books and clothes and whatnot. Then we ate lunch, which was macaroni and cheese. There was a little pond with pink lotuses growing on it. Sylvia ventured into the water and picked one. Brave child.

We left around mid day and stayed somewhere of insignificant importance.

The next thing was Sisters, Oregon where we were seeing a rodeo.

It started at seven and it was nice. It felt kind of like a giant party.

I enjoyed the rodeo, though some of was sort of barbaric. There was bull riding and whatnot.

We stayed overnight at the rodeo and left early the next morning, making it into Washington.

We camped at a Wal-Mart parking lot and fully planned to leave today, but the car is having transmission problems so we’re staying another night.

-Jennah

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