Birthday Boy in the City

2 Feb

It was the best homecoming.  When I left Pittsburgh, I apologized to my room for leaving.  And when I came back?  I gave her a HUGE hello.  But first…I landed at our adorable Pittsburgh airport (voted 2017 Airport of the year #neverforget).



Getting ready in the airport bathroom. Classic.


And drove STRAIGHT to the Pittsburgh Improv where my boyfriend, Collin Chamberlin, met me at our favorite spot (in a parking lot).  What a feeling it was to hug him after over a month of being apart!



BONUS: I watched him perform!


Jeremiah, Kendyll, Mike, (and a surprised Jan and Jill) were all there.  At midnight, the staff sang “Happy Birthday” because, drumroll please…
duh duh duh duh duh (this is how I imagine a “drum roll” in writing sounds).  It was officially Collin’s birthday! 

After cake, we headed to the Dreamflat — Nate left it so nice ❤

February 2nd
COLLIN’S BIRTHDAY; aka my first Collin’s birthday.
In the morning, the handsome birthday boy got to open his cryptic present filled with lots of cards from friends from around the world! And a homemade geocaching (inspired) puzzle to solve.


11/11/2017 – Answer: A signed, Bruce Springsteen vinyl (single).



The family party!


(where Colleen gave me a phone pep talk <3)

At night, Brian and Andrew hosted an EPIC Super Bowl party!!!


with all the best food and all the best company.


Highlights included:
– Watching Pearl (try to) go under the TV to get her toy…and watching her come back out.
– Brian, hoisting me up and running around the room. What strength!
– “Ask your parents if they are watching the Super Bowl.” – Andrew
 “Yeah. I hate this halftime show.” – Dad
Katie Sowers 🙂 female coach, Kansas

Lowlights included:
– My car broke down and we had to leave it at Andrew and Brian’s house. Thank goodness for them letting me (always) store mouse at their house.


36 hours after arriving home, Collin and I flew Jet Blue to New York City – thank you, Bri! –  chilled in the lounge, heard our names over the intercom (just how I like it), and had a layover in our favorite Boston.


New York City.  What follows is, essentially, my diary.

February 3rd
For the first time in 6 weeks I had an evening to myself.  I was productive af; got my inbox down to 15 and posted the final Guatebloga post (to be fair, that’s cashing in on Helen’s productivity).  Here’s a quote that I enjoyed: ”We love the cooperative game we call traveling abroad together.”  — Helen




Daliah listening to Ray’s instructions on how to cook Italian.


February 4th (and some other dates)
New York City bagels.  Again, productive.  
A cleared inbox!  Horrible therapy online. Geocaching in Astoria! During snuggles, *his* phone fell on my face.  I met the incomparable Katie Barbaro for a yummy Thai dinner.  And there was late night peanut butter off of a spoon.



Sam we am.



A bad comedy show that included a child.   Backlava with Barbaro.  There was also a morning walk that was canceled by the rain but we salvaged with bagels from Nate. The birthday boy told me that he is 0 to 60 and I’m 60 to zero.  The team upgraded to ‘premium’ Geocaching, I’m committed.  A nice hang with Steve at Gossip coffee (tea).  Luce, the movie, on Netflix. 

Katie Barbaro is on her way here! Joy storm is brewing!


February 8th
We spent the day in bed.   And the evening was filled with comedy!



A great show at The Beauty Bar.



Cousin Wendy and (not pictured) Paul  🙂


February 9th (or, maybe I’m getting the date wrong)
A long walk. 



Breakfast at The Thirsty Koala


Lunch with Wendy at Sweet Greens (thank you again!).  We did search for, but couldn’t find, a geocache.


From my notebook:
“Tonight was delicious!  New York City pizza! Followed by Insomnia cookies and a hang with THE Steve!”



Looking all famous or whatevahh


February 10th
A freezing cold walk.  A geocache retrieved!  



After going back a second time, we found it.





Double date bowling with pitchers of beer.



February 11th (I think)
Collin woke up with his arm through a hole in the blanket. “We’re homeless.”

A visit to Katie’s apartment! And a walk to look at possible condo’s I might buy.  The Brazil nut, date combo became my new favorite dessert.


February 12th (I am now certain that the order of this blog is off.)
A meeting with Phillip! 
And then cake pops, because, reminder, this blog is called “Birthday Boy”.



Katie’s first geocache!

Central park at night.



Reenacting our first, CRUCIAL hang at Whole Foods


At Whole Foods, it was the time of my life.  Here is my recap: Katie and I chose really good, healthy, inexpensive snacks and took.our.time.  (Including blood oranges, the hot food bar, sweet, sweet dates, Brazil nuts, and “geocaching” for pecans within the mixed nuts.)

I’m going to throw this out, directly.” – me
“Wait!!” – Katie
“Why?” – also Katie
“It’s a hazelnut.” – Sammi, the relentless food editor.
“That is a small almond!” – Katie, our hero.


At the cafe, a blood orange fell onto the table, not to be eaten.  Katie, put it in the trash pile but, alas, how quickly we forget.  I watched Katie find that piece of blood orange while saying “look what I found” with her eyes and simultaneously putting it into her mouth.  Before I could say anything, I watched Katie – still making eye contact – turn from pleased to disgusted, realizing what she had done.  She spit out the blood orange and the two of us laughed until we cried  ❤️
“I have ecoli,” said Katie.  “I can taste three diseases in my mouth right now”, she continued.
We both felt high. “This is how one feels if Sammi likes you”, Katie explained. 

On the walk to the train, Katie produced pocket chocolate that we both got to eat.


February 13th
Early airport run + a hang at one of our favorite lounges  😍 


Kings are born in February.
Happy birthday, Goose, I love you.



Sorry, ladies. He’s mine.

Best Friendship

1 Feb

I had a brief layover in Seattle AND I’M SO GLAD I DID! (what uncertain times we live in now). Not only was I thrilled to be onto the mainland (and off of all islands for awhile) but the best reason is (and always will be)… FRIENDSHIP!!!  HELEN AND PATRICK LIVE IN SEATTLE 🙂


The bomb dot com


Bel picked me up in a big white truck and impressed the heck out of me with her ability to park it in a compact spot.  (Later, Patrick ALSO impressed me with that same skill. Conclusion: My best friends in Seattle are really good at parking big vehicles into small spaces.)  

I slept so well (in an actual bed!) and had a real bathroom to use; (Thank you!) an incredible space, generosity, and forever best friendship!  On this trip, the only downside was that it was SUCH a bummer that I missed Victoria ❤  


Kitty kisses.


The very next day I visited Bella at her temp job which, ironically, was difficult to find.



A place of work or, my next obsession?


Helen, it must be said, got me into Geocaching.  She took me to find my first (and second and third) cache.  Good job, and I mean that literally.  🙂

We met up with Patrick and I got to enjoy Helen enjoying some drinks (that dry period is over!)  “What do you guys wanna do?”
“I think we should go Geocaching”. -Sammi
Question:  How do you go from one restaurant to another with adventure in between?
Answer:   Same way you turn 120 feet into a mile. Geocaching!





We laughed, longed for Barrel Thief burrata, listed all the provinces and territories in Canada (“Newfoundland and Labrador?  Oh, that’s the ‘and Herzegovina’ of Canada” – Helen) and ate some really incredible Thai food.

The next day I visited Bel’s private, residential gym, showered, and had some quality best friend time on the Instagram famous rooftop coupled with a fire pit and some wine 🙂



It’s even better than it looks.



For dinner, Patrick joined us and took us to a DELICIOUS Jamaican restaurant with festival, Ting, ackee, callaloo, and no salt fish.

After, Bella did my hair (THANK YOU!) while Patrick helped me brainstorm and create the puzzle that is: “Walter you doing for Collin’s birthday?” (THANK YOU!).  All the while, “Reputation” played in the background.

The next day, Helen and I both devoured and renamed a yummy kale-sadilla. And, I got to see Patrick’s great new apartment!!  We had lounge access and a fun, fast-paced, secret trip-planning session — which now we know was all for naught.  

Before, drumroll please….



One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.


…Cozying up to watch the new TAYLOR SWIFT NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY!

As we designed our perfect space, Patrick and I walked to get some cookies for the team, despite the rain.  Chip had 12 kinds of cookies…and we wanted one of each, please.  Plus ice cream.  


IMG_2058 2.jpg

Dessert distribution.

Despite wanting more time to sleepover at Patricks, hug VB, eat Helen’s breakfast (she was going to cook), meet Ashely, watch comedy, and a longing for that upstairs remote to work on that downstairs television, this Seattle trip was darn near perfect.  Obviously.


When P-Mart dropped us off, Bel and I stayed up as late as possible, with best friend chatter, not wanting to miss out on a moment of soaking each other up.  I was VERY grateful for the early morning (does it count as morning if it’s still dark outside?) ride to the airport.

And then, I slept for a full 3 hours on the tray table.

Zero wake-ups,

Aloha, Hawaii

28 Jan

A very clear sign indicating that we have, indeed, landed at the airport we meant to.



There are 8 main islands in Hawaii.  


We were on Oahu, the most populated Hawaiian island aka WE WERE BACK IN AMERICA!!!!!!  Rachel and I had traveled back in time, repeated January 26th (because time is just a construct) and were more bedraggled than ever.  
We flew on Jet Star (which is not as nice as Jet Blue).  Once in Hawaii, our initial car rental fell through.  So, at 7am we walked to another rental spot, waited an hour (where I talked to Molly who was JAZZED; should I become a landlord in New York?!), picked up our rental car (with an adorable Hawaiian license plate), and promptly slept in the airport parking garage for 3 full hours. We were WIPED.

Rae and I woke up feeling slightly refreshed and, using miles instead of kilometers, drove on the right side (right side, right side) of the road to see important WWII history.



Part of the Pearl Harbor war memorial.


After a fish dinner at Zipped, the Hawaiian Eat ‘n Park, and shaved ice that was just okay, we slept – in the car, in a safe neighborhood – for 10 straight hours.


January 27th



Rise and shine!


Breakfast and lunch were from the grocery store and included gummy bears rolled around in dried plums.  Later, we tried poi (food) and didn’t love it. 



Describes how we felt about most things in Hawaii.



 A beach from above.



Eye candy all DAY


The whole island is small (and we were used to driving), so Rachel and I decided to see everything.

The temperature here made us think of Goldilock’s porridge:
New Zealand, south island:    Too cold
Australia:                                    Too hot
Hawaii:                                        Just right




“Well this is nice, driving around Hawaii with sand on our feet, listening to Jack Johnson.” – Rae

Side note: Turns out, I love upbeat, Hawaiian music.  (“Is that a ukulele?!”)



Location of a world class surfing competition.


Banzai pipeline, preliminary competition.  At noon (on a Monday) we witnessed some “Epic conditions for finals day.”  It was really cool!  There were HUGE waves that were mega intimidating and talented, strong surfers, each with their own special ritual before they went into the water i.e. praying on the sand, kissing the water, ect.  There was even a  professional surfer (who I had to google) named Billy Kemper. 

“Should we add surf competitions to things we don’t understand?” – I whispered to Rachel. 




Leaving no nook, cranny, or road undiscovered.



Dole plantation.  Featuring, delicious pineapple ice cream.


As we wrapped up our tour across the entire island, Rachel and I used a McDonald’s bathroom for all it was worth before spending the night, sleeping in our car, in a new neighborhood.  We found our DREAM spot to park/sleep but, two hours later, another car pulled up behind us with a VERY loud engine that they would’t turn off.  “Go away!” Rachel frantically whispers, “You’re blowing up our spot!”  After 30 minutes, with still no signs of them leaving, we found another (almost perfect) spot.  Unrelated to that car (but very related to sleeping in one), I’m fairly certain that I will never again take for granted getting up to pee in the middle of the night AND THERE BEING A TOILET (vs. holding it all night/exploding due to being in a LITERAL neighborhood with no bush for cover).  That night, I slept with some pee in my pants.


January 28th

We drove to the airport before the sun rose and we lived that lounge life.   Rachel left. (Tears emoji!) We had been counting the days until this trip was over and yet, I still felt a huge pit in my stomach when we separated.  She and I started texting almost immediatly.  

My flight was boarding in one hour.  I was that much closer to “cashing in on one months worth of snuggles.” Collin was so patient while I was off, tramping the world.  

During the 5.5 hours to Seattle (here I come!!!) I reflected on this past excursion.  I knew that I would never again take a journey for this long, away from home. [Even though, yes, I’ve been on (way) longer trips before.]  — that chapter of my life was coming to a close.  I felt SO grateful for my experiences AND for the acute awareness of its finality.

In a lighter vein, I did the math; I had deleted over 8,000 photos on my phone…making the grand total of pictures I had less than 10,000, a number I felt proud of (and, of course, has since risen).


“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect”      – Paul Theroux



To the mainland I go…



In retrospect,

New South Wales, tales

26 Jan



January 22nd

We woke up NEEDING Vietnamese food.  We walked to this:



We over ordered.


Full, we headed to the Sydney Aquarium.



Here, we finally saw some penguins.



And, a dugong!



There are only TWO dugongs in captivity in the whole world.  This one, a male, eats lettuce all day every day (’cause sea grass grows too slowly) and he receives bean sprouts as a reward. It was extra fun to watch him eat because, earlier, we had received bean sprouts with our Vietnamese food (see above).

After the aquarium, Rachel and I kept walking.  We tried to visit an Instagram cafe, but it was closing; Rae bench bartended, we popped by the casino, and then?! Met Rusty for dinner.  It was luxuries to hangout with him!  SO wonderful to catch up! AND SO MUCH FUN 🙂



Everyone say: Juan Pablo Montoya 


January 23rd
100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Raman for lunch, Jojo the Rabbit at an adorable movie theatre; I closed my West Pac bank account, it was the end of a era era era. Matt, darling Matt, picked us up and gave us a tour of his gorgeous new home.

“Say knife” – Rachel
“Knoife” — Matt


Forever friends.


There was a warehouse brewery tour, koozies from The Grifter, talk about sports, a night train to Newcastle, bench bartending on the train platform, and the hottest train ever…with not enough water.



Pour me another one, please.


When we arrived, Kelsey and Travis had a bed set up for us ❤  Never mind that it deflated a few hours later and we had to move to couch because the next night, Travis let us sleep in his air con.  Thank you, Travis!


New Castle
{Did you know that New Castle, Australia is also referred to as “The steel city”?}

January 24th

Australian Aldi (Al-dee), a chat with Collin — Kate, in Rochester, made our day better with an upgrade, a walk for Rae and I down Darby street, a complicated cold coffee that did me good, and our first introduction to LOLA, the french Bulldog.



G’day Lola!


For lunch we ate gnocchi (emphasis on the g) at the Cranker (thanks Kelsey!), followed by Bloody Mary’s, and the Beach Burrito Company for dinner. Unrelated, you wouldn’t believe how big the bats are here — they look like crows.  At dinner, there was an offer to burn incense and we couldn’t help but notice that there was an appreciation for our accents outside of major cities; “Lets trade accents when you get back from the bathroom!” – Ellie



Cheers ❤


Above: A brewery on the water hang. 

Below: The brand new/free subway with exactly 5 stops

Not pictured: Watching Hughy warm up for karaoke and a good night’s sleep with air con.



Riding the subway to no where.


January 25th
Brekkie with charcoal activated DELICIOUSNESS.


A morning beverage that was so tasty I don’t ever want to forget it.


Goodbyes to Travis, emphasis on “THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!” 🙂

A (better) train ride back to Sydney with an airport hang…that included Matt and Priority Pass 🙂


IMG_1828 2.jpg

Hanging out anywhere that will have us.



TRIPLE J HOTTEST 100: Sitting on a Melbourne bench, with all of our earthly possessions, eating, listening to the top 10, loving on most of them, hating on number 5, and jamming out to number one; Bad Guy, by Billie Eilish. 



Possoms in the park; a possy.


That night, we slept in an expensive hostel where weren’t allowed to use the stairs, and had the worst nights sleep.

January 26th

Australia Day
Invasion Day
Send Scott an email Day (!)

We skipped the Australian Open, visited a lovely market, and headed to the airport…where we put on all of our clothes and were hot (in temperature) hunchbacks. ‘Nothing suspicious going on here, customs officer’, we were just wearing all of our clothes to avoid extra airport fees.

In Melbourne, we LIVED THAT LOUNGE LIFE!  One of the best airport lounges either of us had ever been to; including +216 worth of bonus bucks to spend (which we DID!)




And, yes, after that, we were on the plane back to America (thank god).

In road dogs we trust,

Back to Oz

21 Jan

It’s not often that I go back to a country for a second time 🙂  But, in Australia, I had some unfinished business…


Sydney, New South Wales


In keeping with my resolutions, this post was FUN and EASY for me to write, which means it lacks details.  These are memories of this blog down under are for me, for Rachel, for Travis, for Melina, for Kim and for anyone else who would like to join.  They start on:


January 20th
Operation Rescue the Money

Travis, THE SAINT AND GOOD FRIEND THAT HE IS, picked us up from the airport at the crack of dawn.



Pittsburgh down under, yinz.



A hidden key.


Through the help of Melina, Mark, Mark’s mom, and again, TRAVIS, we safely retrieved the second safety security box key.

Downtown, we parked in the Queen Victoria parking garage, saw a black huntsman spider scurry across the ground, headed to Gringotts Bank complete with a goblin who was working security, had my signature scrutinized, retrieved all the money AND a letter to my 29 year old self (only 3 years later than I’d anticipated, well done), went to the post office across the street, insured the package for $30 (GULP), bought SIM cards half a block away — 30 gigs of data for less than a week — I’ve never had so much data in my life, I’m rich!

“Operation Retrieve the Money” was a TOTAL success!


My heroes.


After a slight walking tour, Rachel, Travis, and I realized we were starving, and found the PERFECT, fancy place to eat in The Rocks; an outdoor space serving kangaroo, crocodile tail, and pony espresso martinis.  We ate and drank our fill before heading to Beach Road Hotel, which served us well, and was located near the famous Bondi Beach.




Things we talked about that day:
How bummed I was that I didn’t get to see Melina, Mark, and Tilly
“This is such good music!”
THANK YOU TRAVIS, you’re a true mate!
“How great is it that we’re not driving?!” (Said multiple times by Rachel AND Sammi)
I need to get my Burks tightned.
Let’s stop at Ice bergs for a drink.
Celebrate:  A person who marries people and HOPEFULLY MY FUTURE JOB 


Back at the Beach Road Hotel, we rearranged all the beds so that they were laying on the floor.  Travis used his connections.  And Kim met us for some soda water, a chat about the horrible fires, a different key (THANK YOU!), and a bought of friendship.



Real queens fix each other’s crowns.



Throwing a perfectly curated party.


At night, we took hotel room blankets onto the sand, a park bench, and a beach shelter, and the three of us bonded on Bondi ❤ ❤ ❤


January 21st
We slept a little but the next day was a VERY hot day.  Since business from yesterday was already taken care of, the three of us decided to walk around, see the sights, and explore Sydney’s free, Royal Botanical Gardens.  



The entrance. Or, one entrance.  This place is HUGE.



My lizard brain, telling me over and over how hot it was outside.


When we got to the succulent garden, with no shade or respite, I thought ‘Maybe it was the wrong idea to come to these gardens today…’  When the Herbarium was closed? I was pretty sure we had made a mistake.  But then? The Fern Garden changed my mind.  It was nice in there.  And the Carnivorous plant exhibit aka ‘Plants That Bite’, with all the mist, totally won me over.



A room full of Seymour.


Travis, Rachel, and I continued our walk to the Sydney Opera House, drank hair of the dog, used Trav as our GPS, continued on to Darling Harbor, bought discounted ticket to the aquarium, paid homage to Brendan, ate $10 Fish and chips on Tuesday — with every free dip, and said “see you in a few days! We love you!” to our dear friend Travis.

Rachel, me, and all of our stuff, were on our own again.  With our backpacks on, we headed back to the Royal Botanical Gardens, drank wine in The Fernery, and learned that our second favorite tree is called the Silver Fern.  It had been my Facebook banner photo for over a year, but it took coming to Australia to learn that it was the national symbol of New Zealand. Better late than never.

She and I continued walking, past the bin chickens (Ibis); past the sweetest, softest, pinkest, loveliest frangipanis we had ever smelt; back to the Sydney Opera House for AN ACTUAL OPERA, La Boheme (which first aired in 1896).  We went through security, stored our backpacks at the coat rack, and arrived bedraggled, sweaty, and with one minute to spare. But, like always, WE HAD MADE IT!



The iconic Sydney Opera House where we were heading to see an ACTUAL OPERA!



Dressed in our best.



It was so good.


There were 4 acts and I cried during all but one of them.  The 4th act had us both sobbing.  We sat in red, cushy seats, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  It was a fantastic night out.

That night, Kim graciously let us sleep at her apartment while she was spending time in Asia. (Thank you again, Kim!)

All these years later, I had come back to Australia.  My mission was accomplished.  Friendship abounded.  We had come down with a bad case of the good times.
In Travis we trust,

An email to Scott, NZ Frenzy

19 Jan

As loyal New Zealand blog readers of AdventureSam, you will know, Scott Cook, author of the incredible guidebook series called New Zealand frenzy, is someone that Rachel and I adore.  Sure, we’e never met him.  But, for two months we carried him by our side, referencing his knowledge, laughing at his humor, and strictly following his advice.  At the end of our trip, we decided to write him an email.

Here is that exchange:





Scott! Hello! 🙂 🙂

You don’t know us but we feel like we know you. Attached are some photos, I’ll explain. I’m gunna start with, what you might think, is the best one, that’s Rachel and I kissing. 🙂



In February 2019, we had NZ frenzy as a companion for one VERY FULL/EXCITING/BEAUTIFUL SQUARED month. Which was spent entirely on the northern island.

Fast forward to this year: January 2020. The South Island! — where we also had NZ frenzy for our EPIC one month stay in the southern part of STUNNING NZ. You have made such a positive impact on both of our trips.






So, back to the kissing picture. This pic was the first waterfall we went to on your recommendation. Piroa falls.  We couldn’t go into the pool because, well, see the sign. But we followed your instructions as best as we were could…

…Including heading to Tui Brewry after Tongariro crossing — where we drank and took a different photo.

Because you know what? We looked for you everywhere. Those times you said “see ya there!” At the end of your posts… we really did try to see you there.  “Are you Scott?” Was an anthem for our trip. “What would Scott do?” Was a question that came up often.






We boiled eggs in hot springs (and then brought those delicious eggs on our hikes), explored New Zealand’s cracks and crevices, and tramped our little American hearts out.






Rachel and I referenced you. Talked about you. And recommended you. We passed your books on to locals who assured us they would follow your advice with them same zeal and vigor as we had.






Thank you for all of the work you put into your books. For the GPS coordinates, the special details such as bringing magnets to the black sand beach, and for all the places you suggested we should have a drink. I promise you, we did.




Rachel and I feel proud to be part of the NZ frenzy gang and even prouder to call you our friend.

Lots of love, endless gratitude, and all sorts of adventures,

Sammi and Rachel








And then, 4 days later….WE GOT A REPLY!!!!!!


Yo Frenzied ladies… whoop whoop from Timaru!!

Such a fun email!! Where’s Cookie??
I love all the pix… but Tui and Dirty blond sure made me laugh extra… and the egg bag off that hot bridge( I did the same my last visit!)
Yay naked Shine… way to carpe the crap outta that diem!!
Sooooo…. I’m working on the follow-ups to the Frenzies. Everywhere far more obscure and away from the ever-maddening Insta hordes.
“Newd Zealand, the skinny-dippers guide to the world’s most beautiful county”
Yup. All nakey guide to hidden wonder spots. I’m sick of trying to sell “normal” guidebooks to lame people.  I’ve got a partner, @Naked_Kate, who I met in Abbey Cave two summers ago. She and her gals were on your same trip, but they did find scott cook underground in a cave! Now she’s my partner. Check her on Instagram!!!
Got any pix of you two for our book?? They’ll be minor overlap at obscure spots of swimmitude, but not too much. All these years later Nz wows me more than ever before! The hidden spots I’ve uncovered the past two summers are off the hook!!!!!
Here’s a spot a few kms before Milford Sound… then we found one that was even better!! Whaddayas think??
Cheers Scott
And that, my darling readers, is our New Zealand trip wrapped up with, what I think, is a nice, neat bow.
In Scott we trust,

5. The New ZealEND

18 Jan

Blog 1    —     Blog 2   —    Blog 3    —     Blog 4

January 17th



Driving the getaway car.


“I wouldn’t change a thing” – Rachel.  “It was a
 flipping good time”.

For whatever reason, the gravel road out felt shorter than on the way in.  And, we noticed, all the animas got out of their pens last night.  “Is the heat on? Is the heat working? What’s going on with the heat?”

We ate the Eggs Benedict we were dreaming of — disguised as tuna and canned vegetables — as we headed to the northern most point on the south island.  We were checking off: The southern most point on the northern island, the northern most point on the southern island, and New Zealand’s geographical center.

We were on track to finish all our food stuffs!!  No one left behind. All the cans are currently gone.

A morning highlight?  A new level of closeness was reached: We pooped at the exact same time. Outdoors. In a field. Within visibility of each other.

Cape farewell.   How fitting.


Seals, looking like dots on the rock.


Robotic voice. Slight right. Slight right. Slight right.   Carla (and Carla’s slow cousin). Another roundabout.  Heading towards the tame eels cause “I only want tame things right now.”




We washed our hands both before and after feeding this thing.


We fed them salmon, even though they lived in a salmon pond.  And caught our own fish lunch.  1.94 kilos!!!! (4.27 lbs).  It took us 45 minutes, and we had an excellent strategy.



Rachel is not bad luck.



Please, be a tidy kiwi.


We ate as much smoked and raw fish as we could, and left feeling immensely better.  We chose to skip the Tasman hike, skip a different cave, said goodbye to Scott at a dairy, and saw two congruent movies at the same time (Bombshell and 1917).

At the campground, we got stuck in the sand but fellow kiwi campers helped us within minutes because KIWIS ARE SO NICE.



Resting bach face.


January 18th

3rd and final shower in NZ. (21 day span) 

“Still wouldn’t change a thing” – Rae   

The craft market in Nelson for free samples, Alex Cameron, Far From Born Again, our final hike of New Zealand, the geographical center of this country, merge like a zip, 



Pics peanut butter, made with Australian peanuts.


The kite flying festival we HAD TO STOP AT on the way out of town.




BYOK: I bought one we named Shelia.  She brought me SO much joy.
Are you ready for the jelly??



We left the sandflies.  Saw fur seal pups on the drive to Christchurch, finished The One and Only Ivan (book), 3 weeks and the two of us didn’t wash our dishes with soap once, traveled many kiwilometres, and counted wake ups instead of sheep


On the final night in the imposter bach: We never loved you. 



Sleeping next to a field.


January 19th

We ate double coated Tim Tams – which are never disappointing — and a lack-luster sushi train — which was, our last van lyfe hang, how nice is it to not have piddle in our panties? Airport sleep, and one final shock when it came to our (lack of) Australian visa.

In fresh kiwis we trust,



“‘That’s SO pretty!’ – How many times do you think we say that a day here?  20?” – Rae


4. New Zealand, tight friendship

16 Jan

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3

The mossomeness continues….

January 13th

Glacier Country Helicopter Flights!!!

How incredible to still be topping that list! And knowing straight away.” – Bel

It was THE most perfect day.  And we were heading to see the Franz Josef receding glacier.


Same page rebels.




Our ride.






Pure pleasure.


We noticed the toll that the bush fires in Australia had taken on the snow (made it dirty, even all the way out here in New Zealand). And debriefed about our trip / let the helicopter ride settle in during a YUMMY chai tea indulgence.   And then applauded when the Department of Conservation pulled up, ’cause we fan girls.

A disappointing color at Hokitika Gorge.  Headlamps purchased. Much needed eggs Benedict. Real fruit ice cream.  A phone chat with the love of my life.  Always different weather in Arthur’s Pass (this time rain). Back for Devils Punch Bowl waterfall. Or should I call it ‘jaded falls’.  Filled up our water at the river spot. Wrong side of the road.  About an accident: Well, we know they wrapped police tape around the car and just left it there.  Klondyke Corner to sleep. Cloudy night sky.  Started, finished, and loved the Netflix show Unbelievable.  


January 14th

Bealy Spur track. Finally, we were tackling this hike. And would you believe we nailed it with the weather?  It was a GORGEOUS day.  

Does it make you a tramp if you’re tramping on a hike in New Zealand?  

And then…





It was fun to feel slight fear, hiking down to this cave. 



That water was so COLD it took my breath away.


We were prepared.  Headlamps on.  Higher water then we thought. Freezing cold water. Up to our chests. Turn around. Back to the entrance. Try again. Same result. Heads hung low. Back to the car? A little bit of heart break.  That feeling of disappointment. Wanna eat?

In the evening, we left Arthurs Pass, never to return again.  Barefoot in the grocery store. Picking up some pull tab Watties. And heading to the movies.  Peanut Butter Falcon, WHICH WE LOVED!! 


Finished before the movie even started: Popcorn & a Unicorn Rainbow Cornetto



January 15th

Low tide. Nailed it! 

A Motukiekie beach walk (means bush island in the Maori language).






Looks like the west coast of Seattle 🙂


On this walk we were the closest to seeing Scott that we’ve ever been.

Waited for high tide at the blow holes.  Talked to Travis   Re-evaluated our Australia trip.  



“Did I tell you I have a library in my van?! It’s next to the kitchen.”




Pancake rocks; we were destined to be unimpressed.


New world refuel.  Changed our Australia trip, lost money, ate our feelings. The doc lady came around and startled us.   Of course we were always going to pay $16 for the night.  Grateful to the imposter Bach for keeping away the sandflies 



January 16th

Rae used a can opener in a non traditional way but for a traditional purpose.  I talked to Helen about my impending visit (!) and our deleting pictures obsession — 12 wakeups!!

Mt Robert loop, 2.5 hours.


We beat Scott’s time by 30 minutes. A goal I didn’t even know I had.



On the road, again.


30 kilometers of winding gravel prettiness.



Paturau beach, we Deeted UP.  Wine and a beach walk “with big brains, not just any brains, smart ones who bought Scott’s book”.



Attacked by Oyster Catcher Birds. 



Searching for adventure…


A swamp person named Gram.  Quads. Leaning to the left.  Beers.  Carbonation.   A river crossing.  Gravel road.  Everyone’s okay.  Rachel always had my back.  “Get on the quad again”. Honking from behind.  We thought this van was a POS but THAT van 🤢  

Well, we had picked out a spot where we were going to sleep but it turns out? Parking the car anywhere was fine. Stars; that big night sky we wanted.  Actually, we got a lot of what we wanted tonight.  Too much. We need to run from this place. No feeling sorry for ourselves, said Rachel, We’re not the first girls and we won’t be the last.

Road dogs FOR LIFE, and in Rachel we trust,

3. Heading North (but still, south NZ)

12 Jan

If you’ve missed the first installment, here it is
A link to the second.
And I’m just going to jump right in:

January 11th


Kathleen, the kiwi hitchhiker in front of a “famous” scene.


Followed (quickly) by Benedict, the french hitchhiker, who was boring.
And a Shot Over River jet boat, which was anticlimactic. Modern day gold miners, who we appreciated.  And Bungee jumpers, who were mesmorizing.  No ghost town for us, we needed a 4 wheel drive to get there.

And then, THE LAVENDER FARM.  Does this stop deserve it’s own post? Yes.  Will it get one? Nope. Resolutions, remember?  Here are some photos.



Not pictured: Lavender ice cream!



Knocking on heaven’s door.



The best my feet smelled all month.




I must pet you.



I was absolutely taken with this farm; it was the most beautiful one I’ve ever been on (that’s a note for myself, for the superlative blog).  There were farm animals, an al-blacka, bees to make honey, bees to accidentally step on, a shop with good smells, and a gorgeous lavender tractor. 



This farm was the GOAT.



After that, we headed to…




Cinema Paradiso, which was sold out.  Thus, we went…


camping nearby.


January 12th



Pesky duck, but I do need friends.


Puzzle world, bringing us optical illusions, a maze, and this AWESOME challenge:  


Psychics — We challenge you to find two halves of a promissory note hidden within 100 meters of this point.  Follow the rules, find the two halves, and the $100,000 is yours! Since 1994 seven challengers (5 psychics, 1 Diviner, and 1 devout Christian) have tried and failed.




The Great Maze: It took us 44 minutes to complete, including, a period of frustration by the green tower.


Followed by this long, GORGEOUS drive.  Ever seen a beach with no penguins on it?  So have we. 



Not all lunch spots are created equal.


The hike to Fox Glacier got canceled, due to global warming. And our long hike tomorrow?  Because of that? It was also canceled.  (At this point, we weren’t bummed to miss a long hike, eh Rae?).



Our chef cooks dinner with each of our favorite tuna cans. Mine: Thai spicy chili, with an actual chill to toss.


Yes, we did have a “chilly” bin, but it was weather dependent.  For dessert, I had 2 bags of seaweed and dry oats, which wasn’t the weirdest combination of the night, that award went to spoonfuls of peanut butter followed by seaweed 🙂   It was a nice campsite.  There was an option to shower that we didn’t use.  At night, I counted the wakes until I saw Collin (20).

In sheep we trust,




2. Farther South, New Zealand

10 Jan

January 6th

We didn’t see the sea lions.
Screech, say the windshield wipers.
No albatross, no yellow eyed penguins, no blue penguins: We’re done with bird watching; no success.



The windiest spot




It was so windy that things/hikes were actually closed. But the “steepest street” was open.



Disgruntled at home.


“It will be warm tomorrow…. YEAH RIGHT.” – Tui


January 7th

2 words, fresh undies.



Thinking: If we can’t be up above ground maybe we want to be below ground…in a cave.
Flash-flooding: Never-mind!

“You’re going to get to a roundabout…and then go straight.” – The directions.


Invercargill, ALL the way south.



Southern most tip.


Little Women.  Loved it. Seafood dinner, large portions and, a thrift store to buy warmer clothes. Brrrr.


January 8th

Yet another cloudy day.


An infamous wire walk.



Pure Kiwi Kiwiness.


Roast chicken and rocket for dinner; did the dishes with a paper towel #always #nevergotsick


January 9th

Same pants new day. Reminisced about the north. Milford sound.  Waited (at ‘home’) for the weather to turn better AND IT DID!


The drive.



The sounds.



The sights.



Kiwi’s daytime-cousin?!



We went on multiple hikes.  



Thank you, Scott. 



Our favorite, in case you go, was the Key Summit hike.


Fiordland National Park.



Spectacular cubed.



Whucking amazing.



It had been 9 days since my last shower. 



Got dressed up for nachos and jam session Thursday’s.


TBH, they were the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life. 


January 10th

Laundry day.  Also, driving day.  The sound of olives sliding. The Peugeot speeding by. More sheep.


NZ fact: a Trig is at the top of a mountain peak.



Tuna and chickpeas.



Queenstown.  Our first (but not last) time shopping at Pak ‘n Save.



Ferg bakery, meat pies.



“Cookie Time”, the worst, best decision we’ve made all trip.


Acrobats in the park. “Come to fly!”


Glenorchy drive. 


Lake Wakatipu. Kinloch camping.


Photo: Reading outside – for less than 5 minuets – before being attacked by sandflies.


In poster bach we reside,