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The West Coast — May 5, 2003 - May 19, 2003

When we returned to Las Vegas from our travels in mid-May, we found our car in great shape (thanks to Dana's cousins Stu and Jurate!). It was our state of mind which could have used some roadside assistance. We expected a little bit of culture shock, but the strip malls and lights of Las Vegas were jarring after some of the poorer places we'd been.

Our car had been packed to the gills when we drove it out West, and it felt like Christmas morning rediscovering all that we'd left behind: extra underwear! jeans! running shoes! hairdryer! makeup! We were like giddy kids raiding a candy store... until the sugar shock set in and we felt sick to our stomachs. We realized how little we really need to get by in life, and promptly started trying to rid ourselves of all the excess weight.

As we finished our loop around the country, we fought the constant urge to hightail it home to sleep in our own bed and to change our underwear without having to check to see if we'd already worn the next pair inside-out, outside-in, and upside down. It wasn't easy to go on. And to be honest, at times our heart wasn't entirely into the traveling we did over the next month. But we're happy we stuck it out. We continued to see beautiful places and connect with family and friends, new and old.

Los Angeles

We crashed in the Chino Hills for a couple days with Dana's high school pal, Jenny Cheng and her fiancé, LA Fireman Pete Ramirez. We were welcomed with open arms, a tour of Pete's Firehouse, and a ceremonial package of baloney — our first in 34,000 miles. We finally felt like backpackers!

Pacific Coast Highway

We drove up the coast from Los Angeles to Seattle, and were entranced by the scenery of the Pacific Coast Highway. The California coast seemed to distill all the best elements of every coastal country we had been in the past 8 months — New Zealand mountains dropping into the sea, Ireland's rolling green hills, and Italy's hair-raising and narrow cliffside S-turns.

A real highlight was the national park system along the highway — beautiful and affordable campsites in the sand dunes and forests all the way up the coast. And being mid-May, we often had campsites to ourselves.

Santa Cruz

We stopped in for an afternoon in Santa Cruz with Will's cousins, the Wards. We were given a proper tour of the Surfing Museum (a small but informative shack just steps from the breaking waves and barking seals), UC Santa Cruz, and the best burritos around. If we ever move to the Left Coast, Santa Cruz could be the place for us.

San Francisco

We crashed out on the floor for a couple nights in Haight-Ashbury with Will's college crew mate, Caleb Mulvena. We kicked around the vintage and leather shops of the Haight, gawked with thousands on the waterfront at a remarkable orchestrated Fireworks display, and breathed easily in the smoke-free bars around town. San Francisco is indeed a very livable city. But not being city folk anymore, we headed for the back woods.

Humboldt County

Will's cousin, Jamie Bellermann, lives in a one-room cabin on a mountain-top in Humboldt County. Mixing his time between organic gardening and professional massage, Jamie seems to have a good lifestyle worked out. And he has a terrifying rope swing at the local swimming hole! We had a wonderful, peaceful reunion with Jamie in the Northern California woods.


Generally during the course of the trip, if we felt our enthusiasm waning and our eyes casting homewards, we would immediately make an unbreakable commitment in some far off place to force us to keep going. When we returned to the U.S., we immediately called Seattle to make a date. Luckily our dear friend Taiya was one step ahead of us: she had scored us tickets for the opening of "The Matrix: Reloaded," which we just couldn't miss. It seemed like a good idea at the time... Though the movie was disappointing, Taiya and her friends were all the entertainment we needed. Taiya, who runs a movie review website, orchestrated some great pre- and post-movie events, which included twenty of her friends and fans dressed in skin-tight leather. Unfortunately, we'd forgotten to pack ours.

We spent a few days kicking around Seattle with Taiya and her fiancé Bruce. Taiya gave us a tour of her workplace, the seriously funky Experience Music Project, popularly known as Microsoft Zillionaire Paul Allen's Jimi Hendrix Museum. It's a lot more than a fancy building to hold Allen's Jimi Hendrix guitars. The museum has some great music exhibits, a hands-on music studio, and a Dance Fever disco floor where you can practice your hustle (the Rousmanieres favorite exhibit).

Before we left Seattle, we caught up with our dear friend Stacey Jones, Will's coworker/cohort from the Atlanta Olympics. And with our last major mission accomplished, we headed east.

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