rob roberts and brianna randall - camping with a baby

The Secret to Getting the Best Compliment Ever

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Outdoor Adventures, Traveling

Traveling without internet is a recipe for one happy family. 

Yesterday, a friend hugged me and said, “You look well-rested, Bri.”

I almost jumped with glee. “That’s the best compliment I’ve gotten in years!”

Because you know what well-rested means? Sanity. It means I don’t look like a cat dragged through the gutter after waking up every few hours to soothe a crying baby. And it means I don’t feel like a hummingbird dipping ever-so-briefly from one person, job, chore, event directly to the next.

The view from the top of the Eureka sand dunes.
The view from the top of the Eureka sand dunes in Death Valley.

The secret to my success at resting? Vacation. Actually, several of them. We were lucky enough to close out 2015 with a suite of trips, hitting the adventure trail with a vengeance during the holiday season. All told, we spent more than 3 of the past 5 weeks in a cabin, cabana, or tent. Most of those trips did not include wifi, a laptop, or even cell service, and all of them fell during the darkest days of the year. We went to bed early and stayed there late, connecting to each other instead of screens.

The Thanksgiving week crew exploring the Wallowas in Oregon.
This crew spent Thanksgiving week exploring the Wallowas in Oregon.

First up, we drove to northern Oregon to meet friends for the week of Thanksgiving, hiking in the Wallowa Mountains, saying hi to the Columbia River, and playing sort-of-in-tune music. A few days after returning home, Talon and Cassidy and I flew to Puerto Vallarta to explore a couple of remote villages in the southern stretch of Banderas Bay while Rob went on a fishing trip in the Everglades with old friends. And a week after that, we flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and spent a week camping in Death Valley National Park with Mark and Katie.

Checking out the waves in Boca de Tomatlan, perfect for babies and mamas.
Checking out the waves in Boca de Tomatlan, perfect for babies and mamas.

As most parents know, traveling with a kiddo–especially an energetic, irrational toddler–isn’t exactly restful in and of itself. Just the opposite, in fact. We schlepped suitcases and sleeping bags, backpacks and carseats through jungles, deserts, oceans, and mountains. We endured way-below-freezing temperatures in a drafty tent, muddy river crossings after tropical rains washed out bridges, and shitty winter driving conditions over several mountain passes.

And was our personal sherpa when crossing the river in Yelapa, too!
And was our personal sherpa when crossing the river in Yelapa, too!

We consoled Talon when he woke up (often) in the middle of the night, uncomfortable because 10 people were crammed into a noisy cabin, mosquitoes were biting his head in Mexico, or an icy wind was howling across the desert.

Dirt abounds, especially when camping in the desert for a week -- the boys didnt mind.
Dirt abounds, especially when camping in the desert for a week — the boys did not mind.

But in the end, the challenges of navigating new places brought us closer as a family. It was well worth the work to watch Talon’s eyes light up at the sight of the sea, to hear his squeals of delight at the birds flying overhead, and to see his pride in climbing a sand dune all alone.

Throwing sand down the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park.
Throwing sand down the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

Moving beyond our daily Missoula routine gave me the space to breathe more deeply, and to focus inward long enough to rest easily while awake and asleep. I finally feel like my head and my heart are back in the same groove. Now, the trick is keeping them humming along in unified tempo back in the world of internet and errands. I’ll know I succeed if more people give me that ultimate compliment: that I look well-rested.

How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution? Happy 2016, friends!

Talon went on a rock climbing expedition to find the only waterfall in Death Valley.
Talon went on a rock climbing expedition to find the only waterfall in Death Valley.
A rare bloom of the desert sunflower above the lowest point in the U.S. ... 220 feet BELOW sea level!
A rare bloom of the desert sunflower above the lowest point in the U.S. … 220 feet BELOW sea level!
Aunt Cassidy carried Talon all over the beaches in Mexico.
Aunt Cassidy carried Talon all over the beaches in Mexico.
We spent plenty of time in PJs the past few weeks.
We spent plenty of time in PJs the past few weeks.


Talon Randall Roberts in a hammock in MexicoBeach in Yelapa

IMG_2922 - Copy t and rob. waterfallrob roberts and brianna randall - camping with a babyt in crackIMG_2972-Copy1-e1451866868715-1024x852P1020601


palapa in baja california on the horizon line blog

Stolen Pride (and lots of other stuff)

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Traveling

palapa in baja california on the horizon line blogIt’s April Fools Day.  Now, if only someone would pop out and yell, “Just kidding!  Here’s all your stuff back.”  We awoke after our 5th night under the open air palapa at Alan and Bequia’s place in Pescadero to another bright sunny morning in paradise … only to find that the backpack full of our favorite electronics had disappeared.  Yup.  Stolen.

Someone snatched our brand new MacBook Air, iPhone, Hero GoPro, Panasonic camera, sound recording equipment, iTouch and all their assorted accouterments right out from under our feet.  Literally: the bag was two inches from Rob’s left foot.

Rob went into Macgyver mode, finding the out-of-place footprints amidst our Croc and flip-flop prints.  He tracked the thief’s prints for almost a mile through the sand, up an arroyo, and down the road until they disappeared.  Meanwhile, I called bank accounts and dealt with the logistics of changing our online passwords and reorganizing our electronic-dependent lives.  We reported it with the Todos Santos policia, who said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of theft here lately  Buena suerte.”

I keep running through what should’ve been done differently, and how we could’ve prevented this.  I’ve been to Mexico dozens of times, and never been robbed.  I’ve  never had any trouble at all, in fact.  The luck ran out.  It’ll take weeks before we stop blaming ourselves for our carelessness, beating ourselves up for being dumb: why didn’t we separate the valuables better?  Why didn’t we lock them in the car?  Why didn’t we hear the intruder and wake up? ,Why. why, why??

The sting will last for days, but hopefully these lessons learned will last even longer:

– Although we lost much of what we wanted, we are left with everything we need.

– Keeping it simple is less stressful in the long run.

– Bad things will happen.  Anywhere.  And they will serve to highlight the good.

– We only lost things that can replaced with money or time.

– Our friends are solid gold.  Thanks to Katie and Mark (who are letting us use their computer to type this) and Alan and Bequia (who gave us their Olympus camera so we can take photos on our Pacific crossing) for their support, smiles, and footprint-tracking skills.

– Perhaps this voyage will be enriched by lightening our load, and by spending less time viewing our experiences through electronic devices.

– Sometimes you don’t get to choose your donations to society.

Next steps?  Well, we’re not going cold-turkey on the electronics.  We plan to find a cheap laptop in Panama pronto, so that we can keep writing and keep in touch.  I sure loved that MacBook Air, though.  Sigh.



katie and brianna on the beach in baja california - on the horizon line travel blog - gringo shades

Shades of Gringo

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling

katie and brianna on the beach in baja california - on the horizon line travel blog - gringo shades

The most noticeable thing about Baja (besides, of course, the stark beauty of the desert, the vast blue seas on either side of the mountains, the friendly people, awesome tacos and colorful culture) is the different shades of gringo.

On the light end of the gringo spectrum, you’ve got your rosy-cheeked young families on vacation, your fresh-off-the-plane northern retirees, and your honeymooners hiding under wide-brimmed hats. The darker varieties include the snowbirds who live here half the year, the college spring-breakers dedicated to tanning (and beer), and the ex-pats and mountain-cum-surfer vagabonds who are now Mexicans at heart. The shades of gringo hair vary inversely to the color of the skin: bleached and sun-streaked locks differentiate the long-timers from the Mexican newbies, with their darker and well-tamed hairdos.

Along with the amount of time spent in the country, the shade of the gringo can also indicate that particular foreigner’s willingness to meld with the culture, sink into Mexico’s rhythms, and embrace a new way of life. Or maybe the darker shade simply indicates the gringo’s willingness to shun the traditional 9-to-5-plus-2-weeks-vacation lifestyle favored by their lighter counterparts to the north.

katie and brianna on the beach in baja california - on the horizon line travel blog - gringo shades

Rob and me?  I like to think we’re at the darker end of the gringo spectrum. We tend to embrace new customs quickly. We happily quit our 9-to-5 lifestyle. We are officially vagabonds. Unfortunately, our literal skin shade doesn’t match up … yet. It’s straight up white. Pasty, creamy, pale, translucent. Ghostly. Almost see-through.

I keep forgetting how white we are until I look down at my feet next to Katie’s, or see Rob standing next to our friends, Aldo and Bequia. In my mind, we’ve already transitioned into beach people, and the type of gringos who mingle with locals while throwing out Mexican slang. But in reality, we are the same shade as the tourists who sit under cabanas in Cabo.

I’m trying to be patient while my true shade of gringo slowly emerges. Sure, I want the bleached hair and tan skin that clearly define my place in the gringo spectrum. But I also don’t want skin cancer, and won’t roast myself on the sand like a turkey on a spit. We have the luxury of time, so I know it won’t be long before our bodies reflect the true nature of our vagabond souls.

rob with pole spear and dog

A Typical Baja Beginning

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Outdoor Adventures, Traveling

baja sailing - on the horizon line blog

We made it to Mark and Katie!  And it only took an extra 3 hours more than planned, with only half the expected cost.  In Mexico, that’s quite a success story.

After leaving Missoula at 5:30 AM in the dark, chilly mountain air, we landed in SanJose del Cabo Airport at the southern tip of the Baja Californ
ia peninsula at 3:45 PM.  We’d hoped to take a bus directly from the airport at 4:30 PM, but …. well, it’s Mexico.  Though we had boarding passes written up by the cashier, we were a tad late in handing over the pesos, so the driver left without us.  “Siento,” he said, in an un-sorry voice.  “Bus is full.  They will call another driver.”  And how long would that take, did he think?  “Oh, 40 minutes.  Maybe 2 hours.  Hard to say.”

hummingbird in nest-smAfter much hemming and hawing in a mix of two languages, turns out the cashier REALLY wanted to go home.  She said it would be “mas rapido” to take a taxi to the nearest tiny town and grab a different bus from there.  Santa Anita didn’t have a lot going for it, except for the highway running through its center.  After a confusing round of differing instructions from a variety of helpful (but not always right) people, we finally bought tickets for the 6:00 PM bus (which showed up at 7:00).

The coolest part of the delay: as we waited with ice cream sandwiches on the side of the highway for our bus, Rob spotted a humming bird fly into a scrubby tree on the highway median.  He snuck up and saw it sitting  on a nest … the first hummingbird we’ve ever seen on a nest!  And beneath it?  Two tiny eggs the size of Altoid mints.

bri yoga on dock w selkieMark and Katie were planning to greet us at the Malecon in La Paz at 730 PM after our 3 hour bus ride. Luckily, we used our handy DeLorme InReach (more on this nifty tool later) to send them a message that we’d arrive at 10:00 PM instead.  After a Pacifico and empanadas, we all snuggled down on Selkie for the night.  And I did some dock yoga this morning, too.

Now we’re packing up to go explore some remote beaches for a bit.  Well, Rob and I are already packed.  The trick is fitting the 4 of us, our big bags, a golden retriever and an inflatable kayak in a tiny Subaru for a week of camping.  Stay tuned for pictures of that tetris game.  Hasta luego!

packing for todos santos

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri

“Where, exactly, are you going?”

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Sailing

kiss on sailboatWe leave one month from tomorrow.  Whoa.  As the departure date approaches, the main question we hear (aside from “are you getting excited?!”) is “where, exactly, are you guys going?”  Here’s the answer:

On March 26th, we fly from Missoula, Montana to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California.  We’re hoping to meet up with our friends, Katie and Mark, on their boat, Selkie, in La Paz.  The goal is to spend a couple of weeks decompressing from work, packing, and leaving our way of life.  We plan to leave Mexico refreshed and ready for a big adventure.

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri
Llyr under full sail.

On April 10th, we fly from Cabo to Panama City, where we’ll make our way to Colon to meet Llyr in the Caribbean Sea.  We’ve signed up to crew on this 53-foot steel ketch, and are excited to help Janis and Brooks, and their teenage boys, Connor, Rowan and Gavin sail her across the Pacific.  We’ll have to wait in line for a week or two to squeeze Llyr between mega-tankers, cruise ships and other yachts for her trip through the Panama Canal. We’ll likely head through the Canal by the end of April.  Once through the Canal, we’ll provision with food, water, diesel and other supplies while we wait for a good weather window to begin our “Pacific Puddlejump.”

bri and rob sailing in Baja

By the beginning of May, we’ll start our 40-day journey across the Pacific Ocean, heading south over the equator and (hopefully) catching a smooth ride on southeast trade winds as we sail west.  We should reach our first landfall in French Polynesia’s easternmost island chain, the Marquesas, by early June.  

Rob and I may continue with Llyr to Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.  Tahiti is kind of like the “transit station” for the South Pacific, where we’ll find lots and lots of sailboats from all over the world heading to different islands.  We plan to find one to crew on to the next island stop.  From here, plans get fuzzy (which we like).

Baja-rob and bri on the beach


Our goal is to hitchhike on sailboats from July through November.  The sailing season in the South Pacific typically ends in November as the summer months mark the start of hurricane season in the southern hemisphere.  Most folks head to Australia and New Zealand, but Rob and I are hoping to spend the summer in either the Soloman Islands, or north of the equator in Micronesia.  Below is a map of our potential route, though it’s all up for grabs post-June.

For us, the beauty of this trip is our freedom — we aren’t sure where we’ll be in a few months, and we like it that way.

View On the Horizon Line – Adventure Route in a larger map

Baja or Bust: Sailing in the Sea of Cortez

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sailing, Traveling

Four sailors.  Twelve days.  Five desert islands.  125 miles in a 22-foot 1978 Catalina.  In November 2011, Rob and I and two of our closest friends spent two weeks exploring the Loreto Marine Park in the Sea of Cortez.  And we did it for less than $1,000 per person (including flights and tequila!).

The full story will appear in the August edition of Cruising World.  We hope the story will inspire readers to just go: sail when, how, and where you can, even if it means cramped quarters on a 30-year-old boat you rent from a guy in Mexico named Rudolfo.  For now, here’s a few pictures and a “trailer” of our trip:

  • trading off nights camping on the beach under the stars;
  • preparing grouper ceviche and fish tacos;
  • swimming with dolphins, hammerheads, and phosphorescent glow worms;
  • petting goats and finding ice-cold beer in a remote fishing village on Day 10;
  • hooking a 4-foot dorado from our sit-on-top kayak dingy; and
  • spectacular anchorages in turquoise waters off desert islands.

It was a blast.  Stay tuned for the full article next summer!

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