A Beautiful Adventure

On the Road Again...

Tag: Western United States

Road Trip 2015: Circling back to Nor-Cal

“On the road again

Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway

We’re the best of friends

Insisting that the world be runnin’ our way…

On the Road again

Just can’t wait to get on the road again”


Holdings hands and listening to our song, we began the last leg of our road trip. From So-Cal to Nor-Cal, circling back towards where we began.

Saturday we have a wedding in San Francisco. After that we are spending some time at my family’s house to prepare for South America. We will visit with my friends and family and stay put in my hometown for a while so we can sort out what is next for us.

People keep asking us “what’s it like, being nomads”. It is difficult. But, life tends to be difficult with a toddler and a zoo crew no matter where we are. Difficult does not mean bad. Will we do another Road Trip like this? I wouldn’t put money on it; though I will never say, “never”. One thing I will say for sure, if I had to go back in time and decide all over again if we were going to do this, I would still say “yes, lets go!” It was one of those experiences in life that we won’t regret reliving in our old age.

Stay tuned for more beautiful adventures of the Zoo Crew. Up next, Peru, South America.

Happy Traveling,


Road Trip 2015: So Cal

We’re going back, back, to Cali, Cali…

From New Mexico, to Arizona, onto Long Beach, California, we drove for 12 ½ hours. Driving into Phoenix, Arizona there is this section of cacti that looks like something out of a cartoon. We pulled over here to let everyone stretch their legs and to check out IMG_5579the amazing cacti. There were several different kinds, and some of them were gigantic! JZ and I agreed that taking the little breaks of this nature, the ones where you go “pull over, I want to get a better look!” are what makes the road trip a road trip. Yes, we are excited for each stop, but it is also about the space in between, the journey. Those moments where you say “I’ve seen things I’ve never seen before”, are the moments to hold onto during all the instability of living this nomadic life.


A late night dinner at In N’ Out seemed fitting before we quickly settled into our airbnb for the night.

Sunday was another big day: Disneyland! We took Little Monkey to Disneyland for the first time and we did it up big! We rallied in the morning and took him to the character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen, which I highly recommend. It is pricey, but it’s a sure way to get up close and personal with the characters. Little Monkey didn’t like them to get too close, but the characters were great about warming up to him. It also made him more excited for the rest of the day. Every time he saw Goofy walking around or in the parade he would squeal and point. And it seems like he’s got a soft spot for Minnie Mouse. Just like the zoo, we went marathon style at Disneyland; but this time we took a nap/dinner break for a few hours in the late afternoon. This was nice because we were able to check on the dogs, rest, and order pizza to our Long Beach house. We considered not going back but we are so glad that we did. Little Monkey really loved the light parade, and the firework show is extra spectacular this year because of the 60th diamond anniversary celebration.


In addition to Disneyland, there was a lot to do in Southern California for us. You see Long Beach is my old stomping ground. I graduated from CSULB many moons ago. So like JZ in Seattle, I had many friends to see and many of them have little monkeys of their own now too. We got some great visits in with wonderful friends and it was great to introduce Little Monkey to those that hadn’t met him yet. Our activities included a day in Santa Monica, exploring the Santa Monica Pier and hanging with friends. We even ventured up to Pasadena to spend time with friends who treated us to “The Rise of the Jack-o-lanterns”, a sculpture exhibit made up entirely of jack-o-lanterns. JZ made sure to take a lunch break swim in the ocean with us, and of course we had to take the dogs to their favorite dog beach in Huntington Beach.

dogs on beach

Visits to Southern California never seem long enough. I always feel like I could easily move back there. Someday, maybe. For now, it’s time to say goodbye and hit the road as our adventure begins to end.

route 66 2

On the Road Again,


Road Trip 2015: New Mexico

route 66In a little over nine hours we made the drive from Colorado Springs to New Mexico. An impromptu diaper change had us pulling over and for a short while we were on the famous Route 66! This was a highlight for me (last season I choreographed and coached an award winning routine to this song!). JZ’s Dad and Step Mom, lovingly known as Granny & Gramps, live on an 80 plus acre homestead out there. This place is heaven. No other home can be seen from their house. No other light can be seen from their house. I’ve been there three times now, and still, it blows me away. I have never been to any other house where I can’t see another house, or light. or road from it. This is truly our Little House on the Prairie. JZ did have to work every day but we had family meals together every day and got to enjoy beautiful skies every night. The Total Lunar Eclipse happened the night we arrived and so the moon was extra bright during our stay. There is no light pollution out there and so the moon and stars are just breathtaking. The entire visit was relaxing.


Little Monkey managed to keep me busy though. One afternoon we explored the grounds and climbed about a tractor. The next afternoon I hosed down an area for mud pies and that took up the better part of the afternoon. (I kept thinking that my Grandmother M was smiling down on us while we played in the mud. Having grown up on a farm in Kansas, getting down and dirty and having fun seemed like something she would have approved of). One afternoon during lunch break, JZ put Little Monkey on his back and we hiked up the mesa with the Vizslas. Even from atop the mesa, we couldn’t see another house. Incredible. Gramps fed the horses and that provided an entire morning of entertainment for Little Monkey. Every evening JZ and I took Little Monkey out to the see the horses; and sure enough he was saying, “horse” and pointing to them constantly, after just a couple days out there. Lucky little guy even got to get on one!

Again, the time with family was the best part. Seeing my son with relatives and seeing them love him makes my heart swell. And after a short week in New Mexico, we saddled up the Subaru and drove off into the sunset.


On the Road Again,


Road Trip 2015: Colorado Part III

JZ had to fly out to San Francisco for work. He flew out Sunday and I packed up the rest of the Zoo into our trusty Subaru and headed south to Colorado Springs. The idea was to stay with my family while he was out of town, for moral support and all that jazz.

It was fantastic! Aunt M and Uncle T showed me the sights and spoiled us rotten. They took us to the Golden Bee for a half-yard of beer, and drove us up to Victor to see the changing of the leaves. I have never seen so many aspens before, and especially not full of so much color.IMG_5337 It was truly beautiful. Little Monkey and I also got to see our cousins a lot. I made more super food for V2 and this time made a diet version for V1, which I’ve decided is too chunky for a Vizsla. Dogs aren’t really allowed off leash in many places in Colorado, so finding ways to run them was challenging. I finally found the best dog park that I’ve ever been to- Bear Creek Dog Park. If you have dogs and are in the Colorado Springs area, take them there! This made life a bit easier because once I knew where to go it became part of my daily routine.

When JZ was finished with his San Francisco business, he flew back out to Colorado and met up with us in Colorado Springs. To give us an idea of what if would be like if we moved to Colorado Springs, Uncle T drove us around to some neighborhoods, focusing on where my cousins live out in the country. We are very interested in someday living on a nice piece of property and so it was very nice to get a good idea of what our options would be if we settled in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs was jam packed with activities. Aunt M and Uncle T watched Little Monkey one night and when Jake got off work the two of us biked around Garden of the Gods. JZ went back and hiked there with the dogs on his lunch break the next day. Our family date day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was our favorite family activity during this road trip so far. The zoo is incredible and Little Monkey had the best day of his life, I think! We did the marathon version of the zoo and saw every animal. Feeding the giraffes and seeing the grizzly bears were our top picks. Interestingly, the zoo held it’s grand opening for the tapir exhibit that day. Tapirs are unique looking creatures from…South America! We were pretty excited. There was tons of family time with all the cousins. Visiting with Aunt M and Uncle T, seeing Little Monkey interact with his cousins, and getting to catch up with mine, has hands down been my favorite experience of this road trip so far.

Although it’s lacking in the water/boating category, we do love Colorado Springs and it stays on our list of possible places to settle down someday.

On the Road Again,


Road Trip 2015: Colorado Part I & II

Friday I was scheduled to fly from Denver to Palm Springs for a bachelorette party. With the missing puppy ordeal I didn’t think I was going to make it. Though I was exhausted, I was very happy that I still got to take my girls weekend; also my first weekend away from the baby! We booked it from Jackson, Wyoming to Fort Collins, Colorado on Thursday. Trying, again, to make Queen Bee more comfortable, we put her carrier between the driver and passenger seat up front (with the strap snapped around a head rest, so she was “buckled” in). We arrived Thursday night in Fort Collins and stayed with JZ’s Aunty. I shuttled it to Denver for my girl’s weekend and had a glorious time until my return Sunday night. JZ and the rest of the Zoo Crew shacked up with Aunty for the weekend and spent some quality family time with JZ’s relatives. While away in Palm Springs I was being blasted with pictures of the cousins together. Although there is an eight-year age difference, their bond is already apparent and pure sweetness. They also got to see JZ’s grandma and uncles everyday. Knowing that Little Monkey is getting to spend such quality time with such important people like his Great Great Grandma makes me feel that all this is still worth it.

I came home from Palm Springs Sunday night and we stayed with Aunty for a couple more nights. We weren’t really sure what our plans were, because while we had a general outline of our schedule, we were thrown off by the missing puppy adventure. We also had never followed through with booking an airbnb in Boulder, which was our original plan. Low on funds and tired of searching, we ended up booking with the Hyatt House in Denver for the remainder of the week. This ended up being a great way to go. We decompressed, caught up on life a little bit, and just generally relaxed. We were out by the airport, so a pretty far ways away from the hub of Denver. While this seemed too isolated at first it felt really nice in the end to be away from the hustle and bustle after our Jackson adventure. Finally wising up, we bought a spray bottle and so when Queen Bee meows, we spray. Sounds mean, but it doesn’t hurt her and she actually calms down and I think it ultimately lowers her stress level (it definitely lowers our stress levels).

Denver did end up being a productive and interesting stop for us though. I took another dance class. Little Monkey and I got our passports taken care of. JZ went shopping downtown for some work items he needed. I cooked up some super food for V2, to help put some of the weight back on that he had lost during his freedom run. Friday night, we went out for dinner and ended up at Maria Empanada. The empanadas were authentic, delicious, and this place is highly recommended to anyone in the Denver area looking for affordable, ethnic food. Finding Maria Empanada was exciting because we are also preparing for a South America adventure here soon (stay tuned!).

Saturday was spent hanging around Boulder, Colorado. We packed a picnic lunch and drove in for the day. A good portion of the day was spent walking and hanging at the Pearl Street Mall. And, because we have two Vizslas, we found a beautiful hike that took us along the flat irons to an overlook of Boulder city. Then, by chance, we happened to end up at the world famous Dark Horse Grill for dinner and joined the locals while they watched Colorado State vs. University of Colorado’s football match. While we were originally disappointed that we couldn’t spend more time in Boulder, finishing up our Denver experience with a day trip there was satisfying and also a great way to close that chapter.


On the Road Again,


Road Trip 2015: Wyoming

We stayed in Pray, Montana because of its’ proximity to Yellowstone. Our goal was to drive through Yellowstone in daylight. Because we were heading through to Jackson, it was $50 for a weeklong pass that allowed us entrance into Yellowstone National Park as well as Grand Teton National Park. I did the driving again, so that when he intermittently got reception JZ could finish up some working. Queen Bee was still an issue during this driving day. She actually ended up in JZ’s lap at times, we tried letting her head poke out of her carrier, but ultimately she was still miss cranky pants and was put back into her carrier for most of the drive. Despite the discontent of Queen Bee, the drive into Wyoming was amazing.

Yellowstone did not disappoint! We were up close and personal with a couple herds of buffalo. They crossed the road in front of us and even walked right down the middle of the road, just doing their thing! While we didn’t get to see more wild life than the buffalo, that in itself made the experience IMG_5080epic! Old Faithful was just that- faithful! Right as we walked up she began to shoot up and we got there just in time to see the show. Apparently, others had been waiting over an hour. Then, after leaving Old Faithful, right as night was falling, we passed Yellowstone lake. We wish we could have done some more exploring around the park; but even just passing through it was still so amazing. Yellowstone is on our list of places to vacation to as a family later on in life. Regardless of whether we ever make it back though, our experience there was a good one.


Unfortunately, “our experience there was a good one” will not be said for the rest of our Wyoming adventure. Usually, we start each leg of travel by playing one of “our songs”- On the Road Again by Willie Nelson. We self proclaimed this as our theme song during our bike tour in 2009 (to re live that amazing adventure visit lotsofbiking.blogspot.com). Well, we forgot to play our song when we left Montana, and call me superstitious, but I have since made sure to play that song every time we head out again. To start off, the arrival into Jackson was exhausting. Driving in the dark, worried about hitting antelope, and moose, and buffalo, and elk, and any other number of exotic forest animals is stressful on the driver (aka, ME). Then the meowing; oh the meowing. But alas we arrive to Jackson, Wyoming late Wednesday night. Thursday (day) in Jackson was actually quite pleasant. JZ road his bike into town and worked from a co-op. Little Monkey and I rode our bikes into town later and met him for lunch. We all had a very nice day exploring the cute little town of Jackson. I had discovered Cache Creek trail and decided that we should do a family hike with the dogs when JZ got off work, then go into downtown Jackson and enjoy a nice dinner, since we were leaving in the morning. Well, early into the hike, everything went array.

Apparently, Jackson does a chuck wagon touristy event in the evenings that we did not know about. They bring in covered wagons and reenact cowboys vs. Indians type situation, finishing off with a big cook out. One of the horses bucked toward V2, we grabbed V1 in time to put him on the leash, but right at that moment the Indians began hollering and V2 took off. I ran after V2 and as he approached a fork in the trail the gunshots went off. I continued after him, always just a step behind. The day turned into the night though, a storm came in, and we couldn’t find our precious pup. We had to leave him out there. The search and rescue continued for 5 more nights! We were at our wits end deep into a nightmare that we couldn’t wake up from. Finally, after racking up a hefty hotel bill, hiring an animal communicator, calling for prayers from around the world and essentially turning V2 into a celebrity with our pleas for help, ready to call in professional animal trappers, finally, after 5 nights away, the call came. Tuesday morning JZ’s phone rang. Our prayers had been answered! We had our fairytale ending and we are all reunited! Having combed every.single.inch of Jackson, I will be happy to never see that town again.

The experience wasn’t completely bad though. Jackson is a beautiful place. The people there are amazing. Almost everyone went above and beyond to help us find our pup, and we even made some lifelong friends in the process. The kindness and generosity that one particular couple showed us was out of the world. It was the kind of experience that makes you stop, look at your self, and want to be a better a person. Because of their kindness and generosity we even got to stay at the Grand Teton Lodge for a couple of nights while we recharged and prepared to leave. It wasn’t just the people in Jackson though. Even our own friends showed the depth of their friendship by offering to drive out from California to help. Our parents were extremely helpful financially and supported us in every way they could to help us get V2 home. Although a nightmare, it was also one of those experiences that reminds you how grateful you for your life, family, and the life you choose to live.

While we won’t be going back anytime soon, we could possibly revisit the idea of vacationing in Jackson again someday. Without the animals.

So, what was meant to be a two-day visit turned into a nine-day ordeal. It didn’t matter though because we were reunited. As a family, very happy to be together, we said goodbye to our new friends, to Wyoming, and set off for Colorado.


On the Road Again,

Kato’s Zoo Crew

Road Trip 2015: Montana

The drive from Washington to Montana was long. We got going later in the afternoon, and unfortunately didn’t get to see most of the Montana section in daylight. We did make it to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho before sunset though. We enjoyed a nice pit stop here as we walked along the lake. Although we just passed through, Coeur d’Alene seems like a great little vacation spot for the future!

baby lake courd'alene

We spent a couple nights in Missoula at an airbnb. While JZ worked on Monday, the boys and I hiked up to the “M”. This was a image1_1pretty easy hike, but plenty of a workout for us. I think we counted 14 switchbacks and it took us about 45 minutes each way. A college student who was doing her pilgrimage to the M adopted us and we chatted with her the entire way. Monday night, JZ watched Little Monkey while I took another dance class. I took a jazz class at the Downtown Dance Collective. Again, this was a great class for any adult. A good level for me to enjoy, but from what I gathered it seemed repetitive from week to week, which is great for those who have not been dancing very long and enjoy it for a workout. Before my class, we had a delicious, inexpensive meal at a Brazilian restaurant, Five on Black. Great thing about college towns: delicious, affordable food! Then after my class, because ice cream makes a bad day good and a good day better, the three of us enjoyed some world famous ice cream at The Big Dipper. Our Missoula visit was short and sweet. We would never want to live there, or even vacation there, but think it’s a great little town for college and if Little Monkey wanted to go there, hey- he’s already done his pilgrimage to the “M”!


Tuesday, we checked out of our airbnb around lunchtime and JZ worked from his hotspot while I drove us down to Pray, Montana. This drive was very pretty. I feel like I got redemption as far as scenery goes, since we missed the drive coming into Montana. We spent one relaxing night in a cute little ranch cabin. The pups loved the wide, open range; and we enjoyed stargazing and chasing Little Monkey around. The cabin image2even had a great telescope that I used to glimpse the moon in a way I had never before. Out on the ranch felt very wild wild westish. The next morning, JZ worked an early shift and I took the boys out for another hike. I found a great little hike in the woods up to a waterfall. After getting out some energy, it was time to say goodbye to our home on the range and prepare the car for our next leg of travel.


Now, so far, the most frustrating part of our trip has been the packing. Originally, we planned on putting the pups in the rear of the Subaru behind the doggy gate- and the cat in her carrier in a backseat. Well, after a 3½ hour drive from Tahoe to the bay area with an unhappy Queen Bee, we decided to try something different.  V1 & V2 sat yin-yang style (if you know Vizslas and have multiples, you know what I mean) in a back seat, and Queen Bee ended up with the entire trunk area to herself.  We ordered this pop up “room” for her and also this pup up “litter box ” which I had planned on using as a litter box/feeding area for her so as to keep the pups and baby out of her space during our stays. To try and make her as comfortable as possible, we set up this pop up “room” for her in the back of the Subaru and she had the best seat in the house from the bay area to Montana. She was still pissed.

The insensate meowing was not working for us anymore, so we decided to give something else a try. Rearranging the car again, we put her in her carrier in the other back seat. Also, trying to make our activity toys (ie stroller, bike trailer, baby pack, etc) more accessible, we put the suitcases up top in the Thule rocket box and loaded the outdoor activity equipment into the trunk.

Wishing we had rented an RV, we headed toward Yellowstone.

On the Road Again,


Road Trip 2015: Chelan, WA

We arrived to Chelan on a smoky Tuesday evening. Wednesday and Thursday were spent mostly indoors at Grandma’s house. Although stuck in doors due to the smoke, we got to do some great visiting. JZ’s childhood buddy came to visit with us on Wednesday evening, and Thursday afternoon Little Monkey and I packed it up and went to visit friends for the day. So far what I’ve loved most about this trip is introducing Little Monkey to our friends and to their little monkeys! Thursday night I even got a Mama’s night in with wine and board games while the Papas watched over our monkeys.

Friday came and finally we got out of the smoke. Because of our traveling and for insurance purposes that I don’t fully understand, Little Monkey missed his 15-month check up. Luckily, we have great insurance and I was able to find a pediatrician in-network in nearby Wenatchee. While it was a little bit of a drive to get the appointment, I did not mind at all. Grandma came with us and we got to see clear blue skies! The appointment went very well and the three of us enjoyed a lovely outdoor lunch and a walk around Wenatchee’s Pybus Public Market. We even stopped for delicious espresso milk shakes on the way home (can’t remember exactly where, it’s a little drive through near Entiat but soooo yummy!). JZ went out Friday night with his buddies.

With help from the rain gods we had semi clear skies come Saturday morning. This was great news! Finally, Little Monkey was able to get outside with Grandma and enjoy her beautiful country home picking grapes and looking at flowers. Saturday night Grandma watched over Little Monkey and JZ and I went out with his pals for some good old fashion fun on the town in Chelan. Between dancing and boating in the moonlight, our night out was one for the record books!

Sunday rolled around and it was time to pack it in and move on. The skies had cleared up and we would have loved to stick around Chelan a little longer, but we had already pre-paid for an airbnb in Missoula, Montana. We took a detour on the way out of town to see JZ’s old childhood homes. Neither of them burned down, but the scorching right up to the doorsteps and all around were devastatingly surreal. Praying for everyone who was affected by these horrific fires. And praying for rain!

Chelan Quiet Valley Road fire damage

On The Road Again,


Road Trip 2015

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Yes, we may be certifiable. Nonetheless, we are going to pack our bags (or more accurately, our Subaru) and head off on the wide open road.

Who is going? All of us! Meet the Zoo Crew.  I’m Kato- Mama of the Zoo Crew.  JZ is our Papa.  Little Monkey is our newest addition, born in April 2014. We have Queen Bee (Our eight year old Feline) who runs this roost. Then we have V1 (our five year old Vizsla) and V2 (our two year old Vizsla).

What are you doing? Are you camping? Are you renting an RV? No, we are not camping. No, we did not buy or rent an RV. We are packing all of us into our Subaru Forester to travel the western United States. We will be staying with friends and family part of the time and staying in hotel rooms/rental homes at other times.

When are you doing this? This summer/fall (2015). After our lease is expired in our Tahoe Home, we are putting everything into storage and traveling.

Where are you going? Everywhere! Well, not everywhere. Just the wild wild west. We’re doing a western loop of the United States. Starting in California, we’re going to drive up to Seattle, over to Montana then down through Yellowstone to get to Colorado. From Colorado, we will head south to New Mexico then over to Southern California and back up again. The end. 😉

Why on earth? Because, we are CRAZY! Yes, maybe because we are crazy, but also because it is something we’ve always thought would be cool to do and we can. Now is the time.  JZ is blessed with employment that allows him to work remotely and our child is not enrolled in school yet. We aren’t blessed with a mortgage payment yet so instead of jumping into another rental we will spend our rent money traveling. This gives us the opportunity to: a) travel, b) explore different areas of the country we think we may be interested in living someday and c)visit with and introduce our Little Monkey to friends and family.

Wish us luck and check back here for updates on how things are going!

On The Road Again,