catching up: Denver and San Diego

ok, we've been home for a couple weeks now and i'm ready to report on the second half of our trip.  After Chicago we took the bus to Omaha, where my sister did a mission for our church, and visited a few of her friends and saw the beautiful winter quarters trail center.  We arrived in Omaha in the morning, found a park, slept for a couple hours, ate our leftover jam and hummus on crackers and then wandered around.  We weren't particularly impressed with the downtown which seemed kind of abandoned (although the park we slept in was quite beautiful).  After visiting the trail center we got back on the greyhound which took us overnight to Denver where my uncle lives.  Upon arriving in Denver we heard about the theater shooting which had happened in Aurora that very morning.
Staying with my aunt and uncle was fantastic.  They were extrememly hospitable and we were able to get to know my little cousin Sean who we hadn't ever really spent much time with before.  This was the only segment of our trip that did not involve wandering around a city.  We spent the 3 days we were there hiking, swimming and kayaking.  We didn't even set foot in Denver itself except when exiting and boarding the bus.
After Denver we took a strait shot ride to San Diego.  With the exception of our initial SLC-BOS trip this was the longest of our rides. About 24 hours long if I recall correctly.  When we arrived in San Diego Sam's sister picked us up from the bus station.  We were instantly relieved by the cool weather!  All through the midwest and even north east temperatures had been in the 90's or above.  San Diego was perfect and breezy and we loved walking around for a couple of days.  We wandered through the old town and saw the mormon battalion museum, took the train downtown and had lunch at the Gaslamp District near the convention center, and then hiked up to Balboa Park where every wednesday there are track races at the San Diego outdoor velodrome.  We need a velodrome in Utah.


ride safe,


the migration of the art

hello everyone! if you're wondering if i've thrown in the towel, chopped up my drafting table to use as kindling and given up art all together, you should start following my tumblr, where i will be posting all things art and leaving this blog to all things 2 wheeled and human powered.  i will of course make sure any bike art shows up here as well.  see you around!



the 'how much money' of the greyhound discovery pass

welcome to the third and probably final post on the ins and outs of the Greyhound Discovery Pass.  an important part of traveling is knowing how much money everything is going to cost.  unless you buy some sort of vacation package with all expenses included, this can be difficult to estimate.  Sam and I were not quite sure how much this whole thing would cost us beyond the cost of the pass itself, and looking up lodging costs in various cities.  about a month before our planned departure we bought our 2 month bus passes online (to be picked up the day we began travel) and divided up our bank account funds toward things we wanted to do in different cities.  for example, we knew we wanted to see a show on broadway, so we did some research and reserved 80$ towards that.  i knew i wanted to buy french language comics in Toronto, so we put away 100$ towards that.  we didn't know anyone to stay with in toronto, so we researched hostels, and sent out requests on couchsurfing.org.  we were prepared to spend several hundred dollars on lodging in Toronto until a few weeks into the trip we got a good response on couchsurfing.org and took it.  once we'd laid all of this down for the first few cities, we got very vague with our budgeting for the second half of the trip.  we had no idea if we'd be totally broke halfway through and have to head home, or if we'd be eating peanut butter sandwiches for 30 days.  the good news is we made it and quite comfortably!  here's a few lists of real hard numbers showing what we spent, when, and on what.  i wrote down our expenditures as we went along, but i'm sure i overlooked some minor ones, so take these as a good estimate.  also take into account that we planned our trip partly to pass through cities where good friends and family lived, so in many cases we were shown such generosity that we hardly had to spend any money at all.  lastly, these numbers reflect the costs of a couple who don't mind sharing every meal.

here is what we spent our money on:

greyhound discovery pass: 1,128$
total food: 624$
   (eating out: 451$)
   (groceries: 173$)
transportation: 202$ (within cities, does not include greyhound)
comics: 230$
lodging: 190$ (only 2 nights out of 60)
theater: 134$
clothes: 270$ (i bought a nice jacket.  this number is ridiculously high)
movies: 48$

here's a list of money spent on a daily basis:

june 12:
   groceries: 50$

june 16- july 2:
   books: 21$
   rain coat: 170$
   dress: 35$
   mexican food: 15$

tues, wed, thur:
   metro: 15$
   higgins armory museum: 24$
   indian food: 9$

friday: 218$
   metro: 5$
   hostel: 190$
   groceries: 23$
saturday: 181$
   metro: 10$
   broadway tickets: 84$
   comics: 43$
   shirt: 10$
   jamba juice: 6$
   convenience store: 9$
   bento: 9$
   groceries: 10$
sunday july 9: 13$
   laundromat: 2$
   groceries: 11$
monday: 88$
   metro: 10$
   comics: 43$
   falafel: 4$
   ice cream: 5$
   sushi: 26$
tuesday: 20$
   metro: 10$
   groceries: 10$

wednesday: 173$
   train tokens: 18$
   smoothie: 5$
   comics: 82$
   bike share: 27$
   putín: 8$
   groceries: 8$
   toronto fringe festival show: 20$
   frozen yogurt: 5$
thursday: 32$
   train: 11$
   groceries: 8$
   shwarma: 8$
   frozen yogurt: 5$
friday: 92$
   train: 14$
   toronto fringe festival show: 20$
   burrito: 8$
   pastries: 2$
   drinks: 2$
   more pastries: 3$
   spiderman movie: 14$
   ramen: 22$
   movie rental: 4$
   ice cream: 3$
saturday: 17$
   groceries: 17$

sunday july 15: 55$
   metro: 20$
   groceries: 24$
   pizza: 11.25
monday: 9$
   ice cream: 3.50$
   frozen yoghurt: 5$
tuesday: 44$
   art institute: 24$
   native foods: 20$
wednesday: 25$
   pizza: 8$
   frozen yoghurt: 5$
   groceries: 12$

thursday: 14$
   wrap and danishes: 8$
   bus: 6$

friday: 0$
saturday: 0$
sunday july 22: 0$

monday: 32$
   macdonalds :-( 8$
   dark knight rises: 24$
tuesday 21$
   soda: 3$
   metro: 10$
   pizza: 8$

wednesday: 20$
   pad tai: 10$
   cafe 10$
thursday: 37$
   gas 20$
   pizza: 15$
   parking 2$
friday: 78$
   getty museum parking: 15$
   breakfast: 25$
   ramen: 15$
   metro: 10$
   in and out: 13$
saturday: 7$
   panera: 7$

sunday july 29: 0$
monday: 20$
   brave: 16$
   candy: 4$
tuesday: 48$
   comics: 18$
   cd: 10$
   clothes: 10$
   parking 6$
   jamba: 4$
wednesday: 0$
thursday: 0$
friday: 0$

saturday: 45$
   bachelorette party: 30$
   proper eats cafe: 15$
sunday august 5th: 0$
monday: 34$
   cup and saucer: 20$
   burt's bee's facewash 9$
   drinks: 5$
tuesday: 70$
   floating world comics: 23$
   powell's books: 8$
   milkshake: 5$
   art lamp: 15$
   sketchbook: 10$
   american gods: 8$
   blues dancing: 1$
wednesday: 109$
   noodles: 7$
   putín: 8$
   smoothie: 4$
   manicure/pedicure: 35$
   theater: 10$
   shoes: 45$
thursday: 50$
   ice cream: 7.50$
   little big burger: 10.50
   books: 32$
friday: 30$
   waffle window: 13$
   powell's books: 17$
saturday: 13$
   subway: 6$
   panera: 7$
sunday aug 12: 17$
   subway: 7$
   a & w: 10$

AVERAGE DAILY: about 30$


we had been saving for this trip for so long that it took us a little while to loosen up and realize we could finally spend our hard earned cash on things we'd denied ourselves for an entire year. (i honestly think i spent less than 50$ on comics since last summer)  we spent almost everything we had saved, and now we're back to scraping by like usual, which is oddly refreshing.

i hope this info is helpful as you plan your next adventure!

ask me anything about the trip and i'll get back to you pronto.



the 'how' of the greyhound discovery pass

ok folks, this is the second of three posts on the Greyhound Discovery Pass.  if you want to know why we chose Greyhound, see my previous post.  I wanted to share a list of what we packed and some of the techniques we used to make 2 months on the road fun and comfortable.  some of these things hopefully are helpful and apply to you.  some won't.

what I packed:
- 4 shirts (3 long sleeve, 1 short)
- 2 pairs of pants
- web belt
- 1 pair of socks
- Vibram five finger shoes
- Toms slippers
- bandana
- dress tie (for formal occasions.  one of my shirts was a semi-casual dress shirt)
- underwear (including undershirts)
- swim shorts
- rain jacket

- passport
- wallet with ID, cash card, etc
- photocopy of Sam's passport/ID
- Greyhound Discovery Pass
- check book (we had to send rent checks to our landlady while on the road)
- deposit envelopes

- sketchbook
- watercolor set
- 3 pens, 2 pencils, eraser
- ipod touch
- headphones
- headphone jack splitter (so we could listen to audio books together)
- gameboy advance
- zelda games and pokemón red
- plastic waterbottle
- foundation, Isaac Asimov
- pocket knife
- lip balm
- hawthorne berry tincture (an herbal supplement)

for both of us:
- 2 toothbrushes
- toothpaste
- floss
- tongue scraper
- deodorant stone
- tiny first aid kit including:
    - 5 bandaids
    - 3 gauze pads
    - bug repellent (tiny bottle)
    - sunscreen (tiny)
    - a few cough drops
    - neosporin
    - moleskin
    -afterbite (Sam reacts more severely to mosquitos than I do)
(i once heard great advice on first aid kits: if you don't know how to use it, take it out of your kit. it's useless if you don't know how to use it.)
- towel (to remind us not to panic)
- fleece blanket
- small piece of clothesline (to tie up blanket/other uses)
- laptop computer (we actually planned on leaving this at my parent's house which was the first stop on our trip, but we ended up keeping it)
- rechargeable AA battery charger
- digital camera (with protective case)
- USB cord for camera
- Sam's Kindle Fire
- chargers of all kinds! (computer, ipod, phone, kindle.  we used a USB/outlet jack and were able to charge most things off of one jack instead of carrying around one for each device)
- large lightweight synthetic shopping bag (you know, the ones that crumple up really small)
- empty trash bag for dirty clothes

what Sam packed, from memory:
- 4 shirts
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1 long skirt
- swimming shorts/top
- underwear, including 2 bras
- 1 pair of socks
- slip on walking shoes
- flip flops
- necklace
- contacts
- contact solution
- feminine hygiene products

- passport
- wallet with ID, cash card, etc
- photocopy of my passport/ID
- Greyhound Discovery Pass

- journal
- earbuds
- water bottle
- redwall
- phone

(the actual Discovery Pass)

I'm sure I've left a few things off the list by mistake, but that should give you an idea of what we took.  we packed almost all of our clothes in 1 gallon freezer bags and pushed all the air out of them by sitting on them, so our clothes were very compact.  this was also very useful when trying to keep things organized and nice when unpacking and repacking.
we carried everything in 2 backpacks.  Sam used the Vaude Brenta, 38L and I used the Osprey Talon, 45L.  the above mentioned items all fit easily in our packs with plenty of room for everything we bought on the trip.  this next list will give you a feel for what Sam and I consider important in our lives. :-)

what we picked up along the way: (and still had room to carry, mostly)

-13 books (most of which were comic books, many of which were hardback and larger than 8" x 11")
- 3 pairs of shoes
- 1 dress
- 3 shirts
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 leggings
- 1 bandana
- 1 poster
- 1 CD
- 2 spoons
- disposable razors
- bar of soap
- facewash
- several playbills
- architect lamp
- sketchbook

most of these things were purchased at the very end of our trip when we had only one or 2 more cities to visit, and we ended up needing a shopping bag in addition to our backpacks our last ride back home. for me, comic books were the main temptation, but I could only buy books that I was willing to carry on my back the rest of the trip.  this meant that I only bought REALLY good ones, or ones that I couldn't find online or in my local shop. (for example, Toronto's comic shops were full of french language comics that are a pain to get in the US)

and now a list of advice we found useful:

- pack less than you need (which is less than you think you need) unless you plan on venturing far away from civilization, you can buy an extra t-shirt if you really need one.  don't overpack.
- pack things that have more than one use.  if you're going to a wedding at the end of the trip (like we did) bring a shirt that you can also wear out to dinner, or at the beach.  my Tom's are black and i wore them on the bus and to any semi-formal occasions.
- bring a journal if you're going to write in it.  I forgot mine and sorely regret it.
- you don't need a computer.  we failed on this one, sort of.  we planned on giving the computer to my sister at our first stop, but she was buying a new one, so we kept it.  we didn't use it much on the trip, except to post on the blog occasionally.  bring a tablet instead.
- drink water all the time
- bring something to sleep with on the bus. we used the towel and blanket and it make a huge difference.
- carry your pack onto the bus with you. we had heard stories of people's under-the-bus-baggage getting lost or damaged, so we crammed our bags into the overhead compartments every time.  I'm not sure if we would have had a problem with them in the storage compartments, but it did mean we had access to all of our stuff at all times and didn't have to wait for our bags when we got off the bus.
- sleep on the bus. we planned almost every bus ride to be overnight.  people are generally quieter on the bus at night (although not always...) it's dark and easier to sleep.  also you don't waste a day of travel when you could be exploring another city.  the downsides to this were that we didn't see the landscape of the country much.  we were willing to sacrifice that for more time in the cities.  also after an overnight bus ride we usually needed about 2 hours of undisturbed sleep either at our host's home or in a nearby park.
- audiobooks.  bring them, but don't pay for them.  go to your local library a few weeks before your trip and check out all the books on CD you want, rip them onto the computer and put them on your ipod.  we highly recommend Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book.
- bring good music. whatever does it for you.  i spent most of my time listening to the Gorillaz, and the Kooks.
- bring food on the bus.  you wouldn't believe how many people get on a 30 hour bus ride with no food.  although the bus stops often for meals, your options are limited to fastfood only.  not worth it.  our favorite travel food usually included a fruit juice, hummus, crackers, granola bars and trail mix.  we also experimented with cheese, salami, ginger ale, jam and chocolate bars.  Don't bring cheese if you mind it being kinda soggy.  same with the chocolate.  we did see a couple travelers bring a small cooler filled with ice. (one of those cloth lunch-bag type ones)  they would refill the ice whenever they needed to. (the bus stops frequently at convenience stores)  it's not a bad idea, and there were a few times i wish my cheese and ginger ale was cold. :-)  we figured if we had to endure less than comfortable busses, we might as well have good food.  ps: before getting on the bus we put all our food , ipod, kindle and blanket in our synthetic shopping bag and kept it at our feet the whole ride.
- swim lots.  we never regretted finding places to swim and cool off.
- practice walking.  before the trip walk places you usually drive or bike to.  a month or so before leaving wear your travel shoes every day and everywhere.  i also recommend wearing your pack lots.  the Osprey Talon is pretty small when all the straps are tightened and i used it as a school bag for months before leaving.
- stay with friends, relatives, friends of friends, or use couchsurfing.org.  we only paid for lodging for 2 of the 60 nights we were traveling.  we planned ahead.
- travel together.  lots of people prefer to travel solo, but we found lots of benefits to traveling in a pair.  here they are:
    - when one of you is tired, depressed or uncomfortable, the other can keep you going
    - you usually don't have to sit by a wierdo on the bus
    - you can sleep on each other on the bus.  take turns.
    - it's safer. i think.  we never felt threatened in any way on our trip, but having another set of eyes ears and never being alone is probably a good thing.
    - you can share food.  we often ordered a single meal and shared it at restaurants, or bought bread cheese and fruit and ate as we explored.  to make up for the smaller portions we ate about 4 meals a day.  we preferred smaller frequent meals and it costs the same but with the advantage of getting to eat at more cool restaurants.
- have a good attitude.  this saved us every day of the trip.  greyhound kinda sucks.  i wouldn't use the greyhound discovery pass if I wasn't ready to deal with it and enjoy the cheapest way to see north america.  we loved it.


the why of the greyhound discovery pass

Sam and I are back home and readjusting to stationary living and with our recent adventures fresh in my mind I wanted to write a post that attempts to sum up why we used Greyhound Discovery Pass and some of the invaluable things we learned about spending 2 consecutive months on the road.
Because I still plan on posting about the rest of the cities we visited, I won't spend time on that here.

(never travel without your towel)

We loved the 2 months of traveling and we loved the Greyhound Discovery Pass.  Here's why:

-The Discovery Pass is cheeeeeeaaaap.  we paid about 550$ per 2 month pass. (at the time of writing a one month pass is 461$ and a 2 month is 564$)  We couldn't have even bought a single roundtrip flight to the east coast for that price, so cheap.  The only thing that might be cheaper is a car full of people willing to chip in for gas. maybe.

-We traveled together.  Before leaving we heard a different greyhound horror story from almost everyone we talked to.  Online forums confirmed that the prevailing opinion of greyhound is pretty awful.  Some of the most common complaints were of sitting next to strange people, being uncomfortable, busses breaking down, busses without air conditioning, busses being late, stations being located in dangerous parts of town, and my favorite, getting minor but strange diseases from greyhound seats.  Our experience pretty much confirmed that these things do happen occasionally, but traveling in a pair, and traveling on an extremely loose schedule almost completely eliminated most of these problems. (and although I'd like to share greyhound horror stories, we rarely had anything more eventful than a late bus happen)  ----Sam and I were able to sit next to each other on almost every bus we took which meant we could sleep on each others' shoulders, etc which means we had much more space together.  Also because we were not on a schedule, a late bus here and there didn't matter at all to us. (I would never take greyhound if I had to be somewhere on time, you get over that quickly when using the discovery pass)  Generally speaking we were prepared for the worst and had a good attitude going into it, and that made a huge difference.  (see the forthcoming 'how of the greyhound discovery pass', on what we brought and our travel techniques)

-The Discovery Pass is flexible.  To get on a bus with the pass all you have to do is get in any line and then show ID when boarding.  Greyhound's website says that sometimes you need to acquire a ticket at the ticket counter before boarding, but not once did we do this.  The flexibility of the pass allowed us to hop busses and change plans quickly.  On our longest leg of the journey (Salt Lake City to Boston) we arrived in cleveland 2 hours late and missed our bus which was going to take us to Boston.  If we had normal tickets we would have been forced to wait overnight until 5am or so to get on the next Boston bus.  Instead we immediately boarded a bus going to New York and worked out a transfer to Boson when we got to NYC.  We also were able to spend an extra day with friends in Chicago when we felt too exhausted to pack and ride the bus that day.

-Greyhound is frequent.  We mostly stuck to large cities on our trip, and greyhound had several busses each day going where we were going.

-Greyhound Discovery Pass allows you to travel slowly.  When traveling I usually try to make the most of every hour and see and so as much as I can.  This is exhausting (albeit fun) and is a great way to spend a week or so, but traveling for 2 months meant we had to relax more and take 'break days' which involved sleeping, eating and lounging around a park usually.  This was pleasant and new to us and I highly recommend taking a trip long enough that you have to take it easy sometimes.

-Greyhound busses (many of them) have improved since the 70's and 80's (which it seems to me is where many of the above mentioned horror stories originated from).  We estimate that about 60% or more of the busses we rode were newer, had lots of leg room (I'm a slim 5'9") outlets for computers, ipods, phones and free wireless internet.  The older ones were less comfortable, smaller seats, no wifi or outlets, but most of our longer trips were on newer busses so it wasn't much of a problem.

-We took the bus at night.  We loved riding at night.  We sacrificed some sightseeing, true, but we saved on lodging and both Sam and I were usually able to sleep decently on overnight rides.

-We had friends in almost every city.  This is not directly related to greyhound, but made such a huge difference on our trip.  I plan on posting a complete breakdown of our expenses soon, but i'll tell you that we could not have afforded this trip without generous help from friends, relatives and friendly people on couchsurfing.org.

-Finally, we have come to the predictable conclusion that attitude made all of the difference for us.  Greyhound busses are full of vocal people who are mad about greyhound busses.  Don't be one of those people.

Ask questions!  I'm sure I've left things out and I'll respond quickly.



ps: we're happy to be home and on our bikes again. :-)


and then we went to chicago

To be honest, Sam and I had pretty low expectations of Chicago.  Neither of us had been to Chicago before, so we admit it was a bit unfair.  Despite this, Chicago turned out to be one of our favorite cities because we stayed with some fantastic people who lent us their bikes, we got to play with their ridiculously friendly kitten, and we got to hang out with friends who tipped us off to the best things to see and do.

Here's the quick version:

hanging out with our hosts who love comics
eating pizza (ala voodoo donuts if you're familiar with that.  chicken and waffles pizza is yummy!)
free zoo! (it really was very nice and unbelievably free.  so cool.)
movie in the park (barefoot in the park)
farmers market
art institute museum (big and amazing.  roy lichtenstein exhibit passing through)
eating raw corn on the cob with justin (i will never eat cooked corn again if given the choice.  uncooked was so juicy and flavorful! try it!)
swimming in the lake
eating at native foods (tasty tasty with locations in CA etc. all vegan i believe)
slices of chicago deep dish pizza (the one we had was OK, not great, but HUGE! more than we could hope to eat in one sitting)
Quimby's comic shop! (so rad,  also Chicago Comics)
frozen yogurt (now a destructive habit for us)

The art institute and our great hosts made Chicago very memorable and we'd love to go back and hang out again sometime!

After Chicago we dropped by Omaha very quickly and then to Denver.  Probably a post on that soon.

Spencer and Sam