Missing My Puppy

Don’t get me wrong, being a teacher and getting a long break during the summer is great. Being a teacher in an international setting, it is a necessity of life. It is a time for us to recharge our batteries, and travel back to our home countries so we can see our families. I really enjoy this time off for these reasons, but it is not always as easy as it seems. There are a couple of drawbacks. We spend a couple of months every year living out of a suitcase, and leaving behind the lives we have built in those faraway places. Sometimes, there are others that we have left behind that we really start to miss as we continue on our long trips. It is about the time that we are supposed to be getting back to those lives that those people we left behind start to be thought about a lot. In my case, it is my puppy that I miss the most, and can’t wait to see again soon.

We got Zoey in late January of this year, and she is a little bit of a handful. She was a rescue dog who got picked up off the side of the road in Amman when she was tiny. We met her a few months later when they believed that she was about a year old. She was playful and knew how to use that to her advantage. We instantly fell in love with her, and a week later, she was living in our home. Even though she looked like a full grown dog, what we did not know at the time was she had a lot of puppy still in her. She still had a lot of energy that took some time to work out of her, and when we had to go to work, she would have separation anxiety. It caused some moments that made living with her difficult, but that is what it means to have to train a puppy to come to an agreement where we can all be happy with each other.

Zoey had a bunch of stinker moments as well. She knows that she shouldn’t be on the bed, but every morning when she believes that it is time to get up, she will hop on the bed, and try to cuddle with us. It is adorable, but at that same time, I know that I cannot let it continue; otherwise, she will start to think that she can do it whenever she wants. It forces me to get up and get her needs taken care of, even if I have another hour of sleep that I can get that morning.

She is also a little destructive. We are constantly looking for new toys for her that she won’t be able to destroy, and when she does not get her way, she will rip up her blankets, or bed. We even had an incident with a couch, and will have to buy a new one when we move out of our house. This has made Zoey a more expensive dog than we intended.

So, why am I excited to get back to her if she is such a stinker? Despite all of her drawbacks that we have with her, she is still has a charm that draws you to her. We get to go on long walks with her where her infinite curiosity allows me to explore the neighborhood I live in, and her desire to be friends with everybody has introduced me to new people in our neighborhood. We do go out in our backyard from time to time, and I will kick a soccer ball around that she loves to chase after and carry in her mouth, and if she isn’t into that at the time, she still loves to play her own version of keep away in our yard.

Zoey also will calm down eventually, and when she does, she turns into the cuddliest of canines. She will lay down on me while I am watching television, and give me a kiss from time to time to remind me that I am there. She also will pat her paws while she sleeps and when she is having a good dream. And the best part comes when I come home everyday. People who own dogs know what this moment is like. The expression of unconditional love that happens as the dog rushes to greet you is unforgettable. They are all paws and wagging tails as they wish to show you how excited they are that you are back home. No matter how long you are gone for, eight hours or fifteen minutes, they will always greet you in this way. It is that love that can turn a terrible day into a great one.

This is the greeting I am looking forward to when I get back home. I know that she can be a stinker at times, but I am looking forward to seeing Zoey again. It is just an indication that I am ready for summer to wrap up so I can get to a life that I left behind a couple of months ago. It has been great to have this break, and I have enjoyed seeing all of the people I have gotten to revisit with during this time, but I am looking forward to getting back to the folks in my other life, especially my puppy.

The Purge, The Best Thing about Moving

There are many things that you can learn while attending college, but the most important one come when a friend asks you what you are doing the next day. You always tell them you are busy even if you are not. This goes double if you are the proud owner of a truck. The reason for this is because nine times out of ten, that friend of yours is looking for your help to move them. This is never a fun experience, and the only reward you usually get for all of your time spent might be a slice of pizza and a Keystone Light. Never think that they will be around to help you when it is your turn to move because they already played the mental chess game of asking you what you are doing the next day, and where that will lead them.

I know that moving is never a pleasant experience. It is even worse if you are only moving from one storage unit location to another. When that happens, you don’t get the joy of actually putting your new place together and getting to feel what it is like living there. During this experience you are just looking through your stuff that you haven’t seen for awhile, and putting it some place else where you won’t look at it again for another long time. Even though this is the case, there is something to take out of the experience.

The reason we got a storage unit in the first place was because there was a lot of our stuff that we wanted to hold on to, so when we wrapped up living overseas and moved back to the United States, we could have that stuff to start over again. What we didn’t realize was that we would soon forget all of the stuff we packed into that tiny space, and what was not really worth holding on to in the first place. This opportunity of going through that stuff again allowed us to rethink what we were saving. In other words, it was a great time to purge and reduce our possessions down to the think that really held value to us. Too often, when we are living in a space, we collect stuff, and have a belief that this stuff is important because it is what we can see and hold on to on a daily basis. But as soon as you pack that stuff up and move it to a place out of sight, it quickly moves itself out of your mind.

But that’s the thing. If it is out of mind, how important is that thing really for you. This was the standard that we created for ourselves as we went through our storage unit. We had to do this. We went from a 10 by 15 foot unit to a 10 by 10 unit, and not all of our stuff would fit in the new space. So if the item wasn’t unique or special to us, or we would have to buy it again when we moved back, it went into a pile that went to Goodwill. There were some tough decisions made along the way, but in the end, we were able to organize ourselves, and load up the storage unit with just the stuff that was really important to us.

Most people would think that this kind of purge would leave them feeling deflated, like the years of living ends up in a pile on the donation site at a Goodwill store. It can feel that way, but if you are being honest, there is a lot of stuff that we collect over our lifetimes, and we need to purge it from our lives. These stores that collect the stuff that you no longer need know ways to repurpose it. There are plenty of people out there that would love to have that stuff in their lives for a reasonable price as well. and when you look at the clean and clear space that is left behind, you will feel better about your lives because you will no longer have that clutter hanging over your head. So, yes, the two days I spent moving from one storage unit to another, and the various trips I took to Goodwill to purge some of this stuff was exhausting, but in the end, I feel a lot better for having accomplished the task. I feel like I have simplified my life, and what I have now own, I truly appreciate.

I will close the door on my new space as I get ready to move back overseas for another year of teaching, and I am sure I will forget about all of the stuff that I have collected in that space. Who knows, maybe in another seven years, I will have the opportunity to purge again, and bring it down to exactly what I need, but I am not sure if I can simplify it more than I already have. Then again, in seven years, I may wonder why kept all of this stuff and feel the joy of bring it down to an even smaller unit that will be the essence of my life.

The Heirloom

Right before I moved overseas, I was given this old clock. It used to belong to my father’s uncle who had just passed away, and it was given to my as a family heirloom. It no longer worked, but I was told that if I invested a little time, energy, and money that I could get it working again. At the time, I didn’t have any of those things to offer, but I thought that it was a cool looking old clock. I knew that one day I would look into getting it fixed, but until then I needed to store it some place. We had just sold our house at that time, and we were moving most of our worldly possessions to a storage unit. Obviously, the clock was going to be one of these things that went into the storage unit, and as I started on my adventures overseas, I soon forgot about the clock.

This was until recently. The price of our storage unit kept on rising over the seven years we were overseas, and we noticed that if we moved to a new storage unit, we could lower our price by almost a quarter of what we were paying. It seemed like a no-brainer, except for the fact that we were going to have to go through all of our old stuff, get rid of some of it because we were moving to a smaller unit, and go through the toil of moving it from one place to another. While we were in the process of moving, I came across the old clock again. I recalled the vow I had made to get it up and working again some day, and I knew that it was small enough that I could find a place in the new storage unit that I would be able to get it fixed when I moved back to the United States. So there it sat as I worked on moving stuff from unit to another.

Once again, I put the clock in the back of my mind. That was until, I started to hear it tick. At first, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The clock was supposed to be broken and badly in need of repair, so I moved closer to it to see if what I was hearing was accurate. It was working now not only because of the ticking, but the minute hand had advanced seven minutes from when I first pulled it out of the storage unit. This would have been a creepy enough thing even if it wasn’t for the fact that I had just watched the fourth season of Stranger Things a couple of weeks earlier. I looked around to see if Vecna was going to pop out and take me away to the upsidedown. I did not see him, but I did see my wife walked back to our original storage unit.

Of course, I beckoned her over to see if she would hear and see the same thing that I was at that moment. I pointed out how the clock was ticking away, and I started to take a picture of it with my phone. She agreed that she could hear it too, and when I finally snapped that picture, the clock let out a gong that made both of us jump back. It only took a couple of minutes after that when the clock returned to its usual state of not doing anything, but my heart was still pumping away from just having gone through the experience.

For those of you who were worried, first, thank you for your concern. Second, I am sure that it was a freak occurrence that had something do with me triggering the clock to get it started up again, and Vecna is not going to come out of the woodwork to take me away. Despite all of this, it made what would have been a dreary day of moving into something a little more fun, and lively. Plus, now I know what this clock will sound like the day that I get it up and running again. At least it will not be out of my mind until the next time I run across it because it is too good of a story to tell to forget about it now. I guess that is what makes it a true heirloom.

Campus During the Summer – Madison, Wisconsin

When I was in college, I would drive up 1-25 in early September every year with a carload full of my stuff to get ready for the upcoming school year. I would spend the next couple of months in Fort Collins, making the trip back to Littleton around Thanksgiving, the holidays, and Spring Break. When I finished the school year up in May, I would pack all of that stuff up again to head back down I-25 for a summertime job, leaving behind the college campus. This is the story of many college students, but what story is not told is that of the college campus that we all travel to. During the school year, it is a crazy place of activity and stories are being written around every corner, but what happens to that campus during the summer months when the population drops because of the mass exodus of college students?

I was lucky enough to have stayed behind one summer to be able to answer this question. It is a strange experience to be on a college campus without all of the students. It is calm, and relaxed. The insane parties and rallies to support the college lifestyle are also gone. It is instead populated by people who are considering on attending the school some time in the future, the students taking summer classes because they are really interested in learning, and people coming out for professional development in their fields. I am having a similar experience I had during that summer on the University of Wisconsin campus right now.

Let me start off by saying that the campus of the University of Wisconsin is absolutely beautiful. It sits on a lake, and there are amazing old buildings and some really cool statues usually centered around Bucky the Badger. It also is not far from the state’s capital building on State Street where there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops, so not only does it make for a cool place where the students can hang out, but it also presents a place that attracts tourists that seem to always wandering about. I never knew that Madison was such a destination place, and I was surprised about the amount of tourists that I saw as I wandered around the campus.

The experience that I had though was a completely different one than the ones that happen as soon as the school year starts up. There was a little bit of the hustle and bustle that I saw with the tourists, but they did not have an agenda, and could leisurely make their way around town. As soon as classes start, the students will need to be at certain places at certain times, so there will always be this constant flow of people moving from one place to another. State street will also have a different feel to it every night. Instead of easily getting into restaurants or bars, I am sure there will be places packed with people inside, and even more waiting to get in. I could also imagine more of a party atmosphere as people hop from one bar to another. I was not getting that kind of flow while I was out here.

There is also the aspect of the weather. I was here during the summer months and was lucky enough to experience that time during a mild spell during the summer, so the days just begged for me to come outside and enjoy walking around. I have been told that this not always the case during the summer, that sometimes it gets really hot and humid. The winter months can be even more brutal with the winds and snow that sometime blow in from the lake. So this made this moment in time even more special. I got to be out here during the slower summer months with the weather that people hope to find when they go traveling to any place in the world.

All of this probably helped in the way that I fell in love with this city and campus. I have to keep on telling myself that this is not the way that it looks most of the year, and it makes me want to come back again some other time to see it in its other iterations. I do hope that I get to do that some day, and for those of you who consider yourself badgers, thank you for sharing your school with me during this week.

Happy Campers vs. Go Campers – Iceland by Camper Van

One of the best ways to enjoy Iceland is to rent a camper van and spend the day driving from sight to sight while spending the night in one of the various campsites that can be found all over the country. If you are planning a trip to Iceland and you are thinking about going this route, there are a few things that you need to know about traveling this way. If you want to get that information, look at my post about tips for traveling by camper van. If you are interested in knowing which camper van is right for you, I have a comparison of two of the bigger and more affordable companies that can be found just outside of Reykjavik, Happy Campers and Go Campers.

Organization

Both companies use the same type of van for their smallest version of a camper, the Nissan        . It is really funny to get in the driver seat of both vehicles and have it feel exactly the same. They do have all the bells and whistles that you need to drive comfortably and safely, but as soon as you get in the back of the vehicles, the organization of them change dramatically.

Happy Campers tries to make the back of their camper vans to feel like a mobile home. On the side behind the driver’s side they have a couch that at night can be folded down to become your bed. Underneath this, they have some storage space that they claim is easily accessible, but this is not the case. The lifting and lowering of the couch becomes a chore if you store the wrong stuff in this part of the camper van. The side behind the driver’s side is where they have the kitchen area. This consists of a sink, more storage space for dishes and pans, a place for the stove, and the refrigerator. It takes up a large portion of this side of the van, and if we used the couch more, it would have been a comfortable way to cook. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be enough space in this camper van. We spent a lot of our time moving stuff from the front of the van to the back of the van depending on whether we were driving or settling down for the evening. Granted we took too much of the extra, such as the bedding, a table, and chairs which we should have scaled down on, but I think that the way the van was organized, we would have had to continued to do this with our stuff anyways.

Go Campers went for a more stripped down approach. The kitchen equipment is located in the very back and you have to open the back doors to access it. It definitely puts it out of the way, and as long as the weather holds out, it is a great location for this stuff. Unfortunately, this was not the case while we were in Iceland, and it made cooking in this camper van a little bit of a chore. Still, most of the campsites have kitchens that make for easier cooking, so the fact that we used the kitchen so little made this one a better one for the overall organization of the van. The bed is folded up and placed on top of the kitchen equipment. When bed time rolls around all you have to do is pull the bed out, climb on in, and get some sleep. Our stuff became a little disorganized in the back because there is a huge open space in between the back and the front where we put all of our stuff. The bed just covers up all of this stuff, so there was never a need to move all our stuff from the front to the back every evening.

Though they both had their flaws, I do believe that Go Campers organized their vehicle better than Happy Campers make it the better choice in this category.

Comfortability

Let me start off by saying that being a six foot two man, living in a camper van for three weeks will never be a comfortable experience. With that in mind, I still got some wonderful nights’ sleeps while on the road. This was due to the fact that we rented sleeping bags with the van, and did not rely on the duvets that they gave us with this rental. I do believe that this was one of the most important things that we did on our trip to make it more comfortable, but it did add to the overall cost with both companies.

The front of the car was comfortable for both vans as well, and both were organized the same way. They both had nooks and crannies that allowed you to put all of the important stuff that you needed while driving, and there was not much difference there. It was the beds and the movement in the van that mattered when we stopped.

In the case of the Go Camper van, there was a lot more freedom of movement and I did not feel as cramped inside. There was also a lot less of the moving stuff from the front to the back as we prepared for either driving or the night. They did only supply one door to exit the van at night, so if the person sleeping on the left had to get up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, they were forced to wake up the other person which was a poor design. The bed also had wide open edges on either side that I some times felt threatened that I will fall off. The heater was in a more wide open space though which allowed for more access to the heat, and the lack of windows made it very dark in the land of the midnight sun.

The Happy Camper van did have windows which made for a feeling that you weren’t staying in a cave. They did give you some blinds for the windows to make the space dark during the evening, but they did not close well enough and you could never make it dark enough at night. The bed also fit in almost perfectly to the back of the van with the kitchen adding a nice space to put your stuff at during the middle of the night. The bed was a little skinnier which sometimes caused some struggle for the fight for space at night, but it was still big enough for a good night sleep. The door on either side of the van made for easier entrance and exit access which was great for the middle of the night as well.

For the most part, either van had some flaws with its design which made it difficult to completely get comfortable, but that is part of the appeal of traveling this way in the first place. Despite this fact, I would still give the edge to Go Campers but it made things a little more simple to move around in which was much appreciated after a long day of exploring Iceland.

Friendliness

Both companies did a great job when getting us to our camper vans. They had somebody come and pick us up from our hotel and take us to their office so we could go through the paperwork and start our adventure. Both companies did not do a good job of getting us back to where we needed to go after we dropped off the van. Basically we were on our own, except Happy Campers did supply a shuttle once a day to the airport which was nice. Otherwise, we needed to pay for a cab which are ridiculous expensive or to work our way to a bus stop with all of our gear if we wanted to get anywhere. Both companies are not located in central locations with Happy Campers being the further out of town, but they are located closer to a bus stop. Figuring out this problem would be nice for both companies to figure out because it was a struggle both times to make it where we needed to go.

As far as the people helping us out and making sure we understood what was required of us, there was one that I felt more comfortable with. Happy Campers were more willing to answer our questions, and had a more warm and inviting office that when we left, and made for a better overall experience. They were a bigger company with more vans, but that did not take people away from giving us the help we needed when we needed it. At Go Campers, it felt like we were rushed through a little more, and it wasn’t because both places weren’t busy. They both had about the same amount of customers, and employees to help out those customers, but Happy Campers took that little extra time to make sure we were ready to head out on the road than Go Campers did.

Price

Of course, this is a really important thing to consider before renting a van especially in a country where things are really expensive to begin with. Considering you are getting the same van for each company, and both of them gave us coupons to N1 gas stations for free coffee, there is not a lot to say about the differences but the bottom line.

As of July 2022, Happy Campers 90 Euro a day/ Go Campers 129 Euro a day. Both include heaters, and kitchens. They both had strong batteries that would allow us enough power to run those heaters and kitchens when we needed them. So if I was just looking at the cost, Happy Campers are obviously the choice to go with.

Extra Perks

Both companies have a list of items that you can rent with the van that can supply you with the experience that you are hoping for. These can be anything from camping chairs, French coffee presses, tables, coffee mugs, and bedding. You can get wifi as well, but we found that all we needed was a SIM card at the airport when we first arrived, and had enough GB of data to make it through a three week trip with some even left over at the end. The prices between items were very comparable between the companies, but there is something you want to keep in mind when you add these extra bonuses. Whatever you rent, you have to carry around with you, and that will take up precious space in these vans. So before you keep adding on the comforts of home, thing about the size of the item, and if you will really need it. There is nothing more annoying than spending each night rearranging the whole van so you can be comfortable. With that in mind, Go Campers recognized this and would warn people if they kept adding things that would make their vans more crowded. Happy Campers just kept on adding it on to the bill and pulling it out from the supply.

They both had a pantry of food left behind from other campers that you could grab for free. This was a great perk, and an easy way to get started on our trip. Happy Campers’ pantry had more of a selection but this was probably because of the size of the company as opposed to Go Campers.

Happy Campers also gave free gas for the camp stove which was a life saver. The stoves were not always needed though because many of the campsites had a kitchen with a stove that you could use instead, so I do not know how important this really was.

Happy Campers also had a stack of flannel blankets and allowed each customer to take two for free. This was a great perk, and we used those blankets on a regular basis, and felt the absence of them when they were gone.

Overall

Once again, both companies were great, and which ever one you choose, you will not be disappointed about it. It really comes down to what is important for you when you make the choice. For me, personally, it came down to how comfortable I was in the van. With all things put into consideration, I would lean more towards using Go Campers again in the future rather than Happy Campers. Because of the organization of their van, it was easier to move around in, and I enjoyed my experience with them more because of that.

Either way, Iceland is a great adventure, and you will want the right camper van for yourself to make the most out of that experience. I know this will not cover everything, but I hope it helps you out a little bit when you make that important decision when flying off to Iceland for that adventure.

Tucked Away on the Bay – Anacortes, Washington

Up on the northern end of the town of Anacortes in the state of Washington is a ferry port that will send people out into the San Juan Islands and beyond. You can work your way down to Seattle, and if you plan it right, you can even find a way to get up to the southern shores around Ankorage, Alaska. There are many sailboats that make their way up here, and if you look out into the water from certain points, you can see the constant flow of boating activity. At the same time, you can also move a little further into the bay and avoid all of this activity, and find yourself a quiet little bay instead.

This completely changes what Puget Sound can be. Instead of being staying on a place where you are constantly watching the passing of boats, you can nestle back in a chair and enjoy the quiet beach and calm waters. It makes the place the perfect place to come on vacation. A calmness comes over you as you sit back and enjoy the scenery, but there is still enough to do so you don’t get bored with your time there.

Most of it involves being on the water. I was amazed at how few boats I found on this cove, but the ones I did see were very active. There were a couple of motor boats that were floating waiting for their owners to come use them, and a couple of sailboats doing the same thing. But the others I saw were manpowered, and that was the way most people enjoyed this little corner of the Puget Sound. I went out a couple of times on a kayak, and my wife took it a step further to go paddle boarding. The currents in this bay made being on a paddle board difficult if you moved away from the shore. Kayaks were a little more stable but it was still a bit of a workout.

Getting across the bay took me to places even quieter than the simple Air B+B that I was staying at. There was some tribal land that is available to hike, but you are not allowed to dock your boat there. It does not make it any less beautiful as you can simply coast down the shore and look at the forest, beaches, and cliffs that make its landscape.

There are a couple of other islands that have easy access from this bay as well, some of which can give you the perfect private beach for an afternoon picnic. It does take a little bit of effort, but not enough to wear you down before you get there, and not so hard as to make it a chore to get back home. All of this, and free from the crowds that can found a little further to the north. It is a great escape, and if you can find that perfect little bay, you will get that quiet weekend getaway we are all looking for.

Deception Pass – Anacortes, Washington

On the northwestern tip of the contiguous states of America lies one of its greatest treasures, the Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands. There is a lot of protected land out here, and many little place to explore using many different ways to explore those areas. The main town to jump off and explore this area is Anacortes, Washington, the home of the ferry that will take people out to the islands, mainly the biggest attraction out there, Friday Harbor. Many people make there way out here to take this journey and explore that town, but they miss a great spot that only takes a short drive from Anacortes to explore, Deception Pass.

Deception Pass is a state park that is celebrating its 100th year this year, and cover over 3,800 acres in the San Juan Islands. Its most prominent feature though is the Deception Pass Bridge which was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. The bridge basically connects two islands, Whidbey and Fidalgo over the expanse of water that rushes between them that gives the park its name. The reason that this rush of water has earned the name, Deception, is because of the way the water has caused problems for so many sailors over the years. The water changes speed based on the flow of the ebb of the tide. At its greatest speed it can reach 8 knots that can make life difficult for people in kayaks, and they can be sped through this narrow pass, making it hard for a return trip.

The bridge is of course, a great viewpoint for the area, and there are walkways that people can take to safely walk leisurely over it. But this is not the only reason to come out to visit this state park. There are horse trails, bike trails, and 38 miles of hiking trails that will take visitors to various beaches, tide pools, and lush forests to explore. There is also kayaking, fishing, boating, camping and of course, for those just coming up for the day, picnicking.

The wildlife out there is worth the trip as well. There are tons of birds hunting for their next meal in the water with the herons being the most impressive of the ones that I saw. I also saw a few small fury creatures scurrying about, and there were signs for deer, so I am sure that there are sighting for those as well. If you stand at the shore long enough, you will also see seals pop their heads out from time to time. And of course, it is dog friendly, and there is always one of them that are willing to come up to greet you.

It is a beautiful park, and a must see if you ever make it up to this part of the country. It is a twenty minute drive from I-5 on highway 20 in Washington, and the drive over there is just as amazing as the park itself. It is also a great jump off point for exploring other parts of the San Juan Islands as well. I just spent an afternoon exploring what it had to offer and barely scratch the surface of this place. It will be a place that I will come back to visit again sometime.

Where the Lost Dogs Go to Play

Many of you tuned in to my post, A Short Love Story, a post about a puppy we adopted off of the streets of Jordan, and the tragic end of her life. It was a tough experience, but it did not end in Jordan. I like to think that there was a little bit more to her story that ends in Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon. For many of the dogs I have known, this is the place where their stories end, at least, the part I know.

My in-laws have a house that is hidden in a corner of the forest in Central Oregon, not far from Black Butte. Before I moved overseas, my wife and I would load up the car, and travel from Denver to here with our dog at the time, Bear. It is a great place to unwind and relax, and Bear loved it. There were plenty of places for him to roam, the wildlife always kept him on his toes, and it smelled of fresh pine. In other words, it was the perfect place for any dog. It was fun to watch him on the car trip over. He hated being in the back of the car, and would mope about the whole time, but as soon as we would get close to Black Butte Ranch, he would sit up and start to sniff at the air. I could easily say that it was his favorite place in the world.

When he passed away in 2014, there was only place that we could think of to spread his ashes. We took one more car ride across the country with him in the backseat, except this time he did not raise his head up to sniff the air as we got closer to Black Butte Ranch. We found a nice tree to spread his ashes at, and I like to think that he is now running through the forest that he loved so much.

Since then, I have been a part of spreading the ashes of other dogs from other members of the family. The backyard of the house has become a playground for all of these dogs and for most of them, this was their favorite place to be, so why shouldn’t they spend the rest of eternity frolicking here.

I was never able to bring Suji out to this special spot because she was not given that much time on this earth, but I would like to think that she would have really loved it if she was ever given the chance. So when we were thinking about a place to spread her ashes, this was the obvious choice. We could have found some place in Jordan to spread her ashes, but the places that came to mind did not lend themselves to a place for her to jump around and play with other dogs, so we started the long process of carrying her ashes halfway around the world to lay her to rest. It caused some fun moments at airports, but we eventually were able to make it, and introduce her to a couple of friends of ours in the process. I am happy to have done it too, because it gives Suji the happy ending that I know she deserved.

Rest in Peace, Suji, and have fun playing in the place where all the lost dogs go.

Camper Van Tips for Iceland

One of the best ways and also most common ways to enjoy Iceland is to get a camper van and drive the Ring Road. Along the way, there are many campsites where you just park your van and then just camp for the night. Some of these campsites are right in the heart of some quaint Icelandic towns; whereas, others are out in the middle of nowhere, and no matter where you go, you will always run into crowds. Despite this, there are things that you can do to make these crowds more manageable, and the time that you spend at these campsite more enjoyable.

Be Early

This is the most essential tip I can give, especially if you are coming from some other place than Europe. There are a lot of Europeans in Iceland, and they are pretty much already adjusted to the time zone. They are on vacation and want to take advantage of the ability to sleep in a little bit later than usual. Because of this, the camps don’t get moving early in the morning, but around 9 o’clock, things start to get busy in the kitchen and bathrooms. Considering that there are limited burners, and showers, this means if you start moving around this time as well, you will have a harder time accessing these things. It is amazing how easy these things are to access if you are up and moving as late as 7 o’clock. 

It adds another little extra bonus. You will be pulling out of camp before everybody else which means that you will be getting to the sights earlier as well. Sometimes you will be at extremely busy locations all by yourself until the middle of the day which makes it feel like you are truly in the wilderness that is Iceland.

Another bonus to this practice is that you will also arrive at the next campsite before everybody else. There are many times that we showed up at our campsite at 5:30 or 6 and basically had our pick of the sites, but by the time 8:30 rolled around, the campsite was so full that we would have ended up at the worst spot available.

Buy Pre-Seasoned Meals

We spent some time at home before we left getting a couple ramekins together with the spices that we thought we would enjoy the most when we arrived in Iceland. On our first day we ran to the grocery store to buy some food for the trip. We thought that we would have to find various meats and then prepare them at the camp at night. On a whim, we picked up a couple packs that were already marinated. They cost about the same, and little did we know how good they would be. We liked them so much that we bought more of them and were pleased each time. The best part of these pre-seasoned meals were the fact that they made cooking exceptionally easy.

Basically, it made us feel like we were eating something good instead of the ramen and hot dogs that seem to be the typical fare that is found in Iceland. They do cost a little bit more, but if you buy your food at Kronan or Netto, these meals will not break your budget. We still squeezed in the cup of noddle of hot dog every once in awhile, but this made our meals in Iceland so much better.

Park Close to the Facilities

This one goes hand in hand with being early. If you are moving an hour or two ahead of the crowds, this means that you will arrive at your next campsite before everybody else, and get your pick of where you want to stay. Some camps have some amazing views with them, and they are great places to sit, have a cocktail, and enjoy your dinner. And on nights where the weather is going to work with you, these are going to be the places where you are going to want to park. However, Iceland weather is unpredictable. There were many nights on the trip where we went to sleep with the sun shining, only to be woken up in the middle of the night under a wind storm and a torrential downpour. Of course, it worked the other way as well.

When the weather is great, traveling in a camper van is fun and exciting. When the weather is terrible, living in a camper van is a challenge. The nice thing about most of the campsites is they have facilities where you can get out of poor weather. Some of them are bigger than others, and it is not fun to make the trek there through this inclement weather. This is even worse when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to use the facilities. I would suggest trying to find that place that gives you the amazing view, but also allows you easy access to the facilities, especially if you know that weather is the going to be terrible that night. It won’t make it better, but you will have to deal with the weather for shorter amounts of time.

Run the Heat before Bed

A lot of the features of the camper vans run on batteries. In this modern age where people are always looking for ways to charge their devices, and the fact that you will want to run a refrigerator all the time to keep some of your food cold, it means that you will have limited power that you can tap into. Some of the camper vans, such as the company, Happy Camper, supply a battery that charges with the spinning of the tires. The guy that rented the car to us, told us that it should give us enough energy to keep the heat running all night long, but we discovered that this wasn’t actually necessary. This isn’t the heat that comes out of the front console of the car, instead, it is a big blower right under the bed that just cranks out hot air. It does take a little bit to warm up the whole car, but once you get the car heated up, it takes some time for it to cool down as well. Because of this, if you run the heat for an hour before bed and you get some good sleeping bags, you should have enough heat to keep you comfortable for the whole night.

The reason for this is quite simple. If the battery for your van dies, you are not moving further on your trip. Though there are a bunch of people at the campsites that could help you if this becomes a problem, this might not always be the case. We did run into a couple of people out in the middle of nowhere whose battery had died, and luckily we had some jumper cables to help them out, but in one case, they had been there for quite some time. The rental companies do give you a number to call if you do break down, but there were a couple of places where we ran out of cellular service. The bottom line is that you do not want to get stuck in the middle of some place because you wanted a toasty camper van instead of power in your battery.

Enjoy the Sun while You Get It 

Part of the reason that we decided to go to Iceland is because we had a friend a couple of years who went, and the pictures she brought back with her were stunning. She had sunshine for the ten days she was there and she was smiling underneath the warmth that it brought.

This summer, we were constantly told that Iceland was experiencing the coldest summer that it has had in thirty years. We rarely saw the sun, and there were many days where we were under five different layers, including rain gear, to go see the sights in the wind and rain. We were excited when we saw the temperature reach 4 degrees Celsius, or about 40 degrees in Fahrenheit. It did not prevent us from having a great time while we were there, but it was a much different experience than the one enjoyed by my friend.

With this in mind, when the sun did come out and we had those warmer summer temperatures that Iceland usually has during the summer, it was an amazing experience. It did not always last long, so when the sun did come out, we made sure to get out of the camper van and enjoy it. Iceland is one of those places where you have to take advantage of what is given you, and when you do that, those moments will become your favorite ones on the trip.

Bring Slide Sandals

This tip goes closely with the place where you park, and enjoying the sunshine. You will spend a lot of your time in Iceland wearing hiking boots. It is the safest way to see a lot of the sights, and they do keep your feet warm. But when you get to the place where you are going to stay for the night, you are going to want to take these boots off and stretch those feet for a little bit. During these moments, you will want your feet to be as free as they possibly can. This is where slide sandals come in. They don’t necessarily need to be slide sandals, but something that you can easily slide on and off.

There are added bonuses to having shoes like this with you. If you wake up in the middle of the night, and have to go to the bathroom, it is a lot easier to slip on these sandals and run off to the facilities than spending the time putting on your shoes again. They can also be used in the showers. All of the showers that I saw were always well maintained and clean, but this did not mean that you wanted to take a shower in your bare feet. The slide sandals give you that little extra protection, and they always dry off quickly. If you bring a pair of these with you, you will find that you will use them more often than you would have thought, and you will be happy that you have them with you.

Shower When You Arrive

Anybody who has ever spent time in hostels in Europe knows how busy the showers get in the morning. People tend to line up just so they can look their best for the day ahead of them, and there are times when you will wait a good hour before you can get your turn. Iceland campsites are no different. I was really surprised at the amount of people I saw making sure that their hair was perfect, and they looked good in their hiking gear. Didn’t they know what they would be doing the whole day? They would be hiking, sometimes in bad weather. They would not look good at the end of the day, so what was the purpose of standing in line to try to look good in the morning? Also, there were not that many showers to share in the first place. Some of the campsites only had one shower to share which made the lines longer and harder to endure.

When I first started on the trip, I was one of those people waiting for the shower, but as the trip progressed, I learned something. When I made it to the campsite, the showers had just been cleaned and nobody was waiting in line to take a shower. I also felt dirty from the day of running around seeing stuff, and really wanted a shower at that time. It made more sense to me to take the shower when I first arrived at the campsite instead of waiting in the morning and battling the crowd. It was not as if I was going to dirty myself while I was at the campsite, and I could wash away the grime of the day. I was also ready in the morning to move, and we beat the crowds because we were able to get out of the campsite that much quicker that everybody else. I am not saying that this is the way you should do it for other European countries, but I found that it worked best for Iceland.

Traveling Iceland in a camper van is an adventure, and the best way to see all of the sights on your own terms. It took me a little while to figure out how to make it work, and I hope these little tips help save you some time and pain as you figure out your camper van when you get to Iceland. It will give you the adventure that you are looking for without the trial.

Two Days in Tucson – Arizona

So far, the theme of this summer has been cold. Part of this I expected; after all, I did travel to Iceland. I was expecting the cold there, but I wasn’t expecting to participate in the coldest summer in thirty years. When I finally arrived back in the United States, I was expecting the warmer weather that is normally associated with this time of year, but I landed in the Pacific Northwest which was experiencing the wettest and coolest summer they have had in recent history. I was walking around in jeans and hoodies for the week that I was there, hoping that some day I would be able to switch over to shorts and spend some time at the pool. I finally got fed up with all of it, and decided to hop on a plane and fly down to Tucson, Arizona where I knew that I would find some sun.

So I might have misled you. The trip was not as spontaneous as I made it seem. It was part of the greater plan this summer as I hop all over the place. Two friends of mine were retying the knot, literally because they are both rock climbers and they made it part of the ceremony, because they had gotten married during Covid lockdown, and they wanted to have a more traditional ceremony with their friends. Of course I went down there to participate in this celebration. I would add pictures of the event because it was a big reunion with a bunch of people I used to work with in South Korea, but due to privacy reasons, I have decided to not share them with you.

That still does not mean that flying down to Arizona is not what I needed this summer. This time of the year is a thawing period for teachers and students alike, and I had not had those moments where I could let the sun do its work. Yes, it was extremely hot down there like you would expect from Arizona during this time of the year, but instead of running to air-conditioning to stay comfortable, because of my recent experiences with the weather, I embraced the heat.

A lot of my time down there was spent attending wedding events, so I do not have a lot to talk about outside of those moments, but I did have some time to wander around the University of Arizona campus and the area surrounding it. I have always found it strange to be on a college campus during the summer months because they do not have the energy that you can find during the school year. It is a beautiful campus though, and if I was ever going to make a movie about an evil dean that is not giving a group of misguided youth their fair shake, I would think about filming it here during the summer. Otherwise, I got to enjoy the great restaurants around the campus, and got that much needed vitamin D for the first time this summer. It made me feel that slower pace I have been looking for all summer, and it was great.

I know that it was a quick trip, and I was able to bring some of that sun back with me to Oregon, and they are starting to experience the same type of summer that I have been looking for as well. I hope that you are getting the same kind of summer as well, and it is allowing you to shed the problems and worries that we collect during the colder months out of the year, and you are allowed to go out and enjoy the outdoors a little more right now. Maybe what all of us need is a couple of days down in Tucson to get that feeling going for each of us. I know it was what got me in the summer mood for this first time this year.