Taking the less traveled north entrance into the park
Cotopaxi (5,987m), Ecuador
We were the only campers in the whole park
Chiborazo (6,310m) central Ecuador
A shit-ton of birds, south western Ecuador coast
Ocean side view, Ecuador
El Heuco making a beautiful curl
Just another beautiful sunset
Late night border crossing
What number was this tire, 24 or 25?
The road up the Rio Santa, simply amazing
Our morning view, March 20, 2007
Parque Nacional Huascaran, Big B-Day!
Care for some switch-backs?
Sweet 200,000 miles and she's still pushing strong
Ninos is Ocros, Peru
As they say in Norway: FAEN!!!!
Carlos getting us back on the road and free of charge!
Our drunken Peruvian photographer
Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
Getting ready to drop down into Colca Canyon
Local dude taking a nap along the trail
The sweet pools of Oasis, inside Colca Canyon
Stine fresh out of the canyon
Life on the road is beautiful and our adventures have only gotten better. We last wrote from Ibarra, Ecuador at our friend Graham’s house. We’d love to thank him again for taking us in. There is nothing better than spending a few relaxing days at a comfortable house to shower, lounge around, and finish some much needed laundry. Next stop: Quito and the surrounding volcano country.
We pushed south to the impressive capital city of Quito, where we spent our last day with the Norwegians. They were running behind schedule after their little side trip to Colombia and in a hurry to get Cusco. We did have a great time though and wish them well on the rest of their travels.
The city of Quito is far from plano, built over an abundance of huge hills and green valleys, it offers diversity around every turn. We stuck to the historical center of Old Town where the steep streets resembled San Fransisco and the colonial architecture was quite impressive. It was International Women’s Day and the streets were filled with flowers and ceremony. We walked around enjoying the sites and sounds of Quito and eventually found a sweet camping spot overlooking the city. This was at the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the tallest church in Ecuador. The Basilica is completely covered in neo-Gothic spires and pinnacles; it is built entirely of concrete, and has a dark stormy presence to it. The church is perched high up on a hill over looking much of Quito and their parking lot is even higher up with an amazing view of the church as well as the city. We set up shop atop of Quito that night and enjoyed our lovely panorama.
For the first time since Honduras we were back to just the two of us and the luxurious van. We were eager to escape the Pan-American Highway and explore the famous Volcano country of Ecuador. Our prizes in site: Cotopaxi (5,987m) and Chimborazo (6,310m) the two highest points in Ecuador. Both are quite imposing with their ice covered peaks, yet strikingly different in their natural surroundings. Although Cotopaxi is high up in altitude, the surrounding environment doesn’t look very mountainous. There are beautiful green grass covered hills and small streams flowing down from the volcano in all directions. Cows and horses living in paradise and virtually no sign of humans except for the occasional souped-up tour company Land Cruisers passing us by on the disastrous dirt roads. Here in the beautiful highlands of this amazing national park, far from anything, we were navigating the roads and enjoying life, until sadly, I clipped a huge boulder, blowing out a perfectly good tire, # 19 of the trip. In that moment, in the middle of nowhere I had to lean back and yell as loud as I could, asking El Jefe above, why this was happening. It’s a funny feeling knowing that one more blowout could have you camped out for days.
We pushed on though with only four tires to a sweet camp spot down in a pine tree filled meadow, where we hid the van deep in the dark green cover and took in the fresh air. Our evening consisted of sweet black Colombian coffee and the sounds of the silent surroundings; we were the only two people for God know how far and slowly the evening fog took over our little meadow. It was one of those moments where you could really feel the power and beauty of nature.
Chimborazo was a different world, set roughly 100 km south of Cotopaxi and right off the Pan-American. It is a tower hidden deep in the clouds and we could have easily passed it if we had not read about it. There is a beautiful road that breaks of the Pan-American and navigates its way around the volcano. From here we found an even smaller dirt road that makes its way up the side of the volcano. The environment here is light leather brown and empty of any kind of vegetation. The road snakes it way up through the cloud cover and boulder fields, eventually leading us to the top of the world. We saw wild vicuna, a deer/llama looking animal, and an incredible sunset from our vantage point at 15,011 feet. The evening was much the same as Cotopaxi, the fog slowly started to surround us and before long we could barely see out the front door. Once again we found ourselves over taken by the beautiful presence of nature, lost in the solitude of our location. It was an amazing place in the world to be that night.
As we expected, the morning brought bluebird skies and we were parked right near a real &%$*ing impressive volcano. You had to tilt your head back just to get a good look at its massive size. There was this icy blue cornice that hung off the peak just waiting to break. We spent the morning enjoying our coffee and exploring the area on foot. The altitude was giving the van a little too much trouble and she could barely climb the winding road.
It was time to head to the coast. Jeremy and I haven’t been surfing since Bo and Karen were with us in Panama, and we knew Ecuador had some famous surf. We planned to visit the southern coast of Ecuador, just east of Guayaquil, between Salinas and Playas. Here the map shows a long section of dirt road and over 90 miles of beach. As it turns out this dirt road was more of a scattered 4x4 track than anything else. We were in an adventurous mood though, packed with still only four tires we pushed on into the desert. We found a whole lot of nothing, except some of the poorest fishing shanties we’ve seen all trip. Ecuador is simply a beautiful country and I would easily come back to visit, but this stretch of coast was depressing. No vegetation, no nothing, just concrete huts, the hot sun, and some of the most horrible smells we’ve ever experienced. Our eyes were watering just driving through the fog of odor in some of these little villages. It was one of those places that really make us thankful for our comforts back home. Sure enough though, with a little local help we came across this awesome little left point break just behind the city of Pto. Ancòn. The afternoon was spent enjoying the surf and possibly the last of the warm Pacific water. We found a very soft dirt road that led like a roller coaster up to our camp spot on top a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was one of those we´re screwed if it rains dirt roads...and sure enough it poured that night. We could barely walk around the van there was so much mud. We thought we’d be there for days waiting for the road to harden up; but we really didn’t have the time...there were waves to surf and borders to cross. Over the course of twenty minutes we fitted the back tires with our snow chains and discussed proper mud-romping technique to get us out of the mess we were in. Jeremy hung out the window with the video camera and I sat behind the wheel. We took the first corner full fishtail, dropped down the steep hill, meandered our way across the brown swampy basin and miraculously peeled our way up the other side. It was a moment of brilliance on the van´s part and a huge sigh of relief for us to make it out. Oh the sweet van, just never ceases to impress us.
We stopped for a quick lunch in the hustle and bustle of Guayquil, and found one of the best road-side ice cream stands of our whole trip. For a quarter we could buy a cone of either coconut of orange, simply amazing. It was so good we planned to do a drive by on our way out and get some more. When we made it back to the van, much to my dislike (and after asking both the parking guy and the guard not to wash our van) there she was shimmering in the afternoon light. In almost all of Latin America there are dudes that work different sections of street as parking guards. They watch your car for a small tip and if you like they’ll even wash it. Well we try to keep the van as dirty as possible to ward away robbers and stay low key. You don’t want a shiny foreign marshmallow rolling through town. Plus we don’t have the money to pay an extra $5 every time they wash our car. So I come around the corner to find the workers and guard laughing as I realize they washed the whole van, not a spot missed. I was pissed! $5 is three days lunch in these countries. I argued and they laughed until they figured out we weren’t going to pay, then they argued assured us God would strike us with four flat tires on our way out the country. In the end they made out with $2, and we left in the shiny marshmallow.
Back to night border crossings! We were ready to get into Peru and start the adventures of a new country. But not without one last Ecuadorian surprise. I was driving, and after asking about a million people for directions, we were back on the Pan-American Highway making our way for the border in the evening light. After a few hours on the road we came across a diversion in the highway; the road split towards the left through some kind of check point, while a sign pointed traffic to the right. Neither Jeremy nor I knew what the sign read but figured we’d follow the arrow and be on our way. With in seconds of passing the sign two soldiers in full camouflage ran out in front of the van flashing their machine guns and waving us to stop immediately. Whew! What a feeling, although there was that rebel urge to break through the post and book for the border, we came to an abrupt stop. We’d taken the truckers fork in the road and skipped the police check point altogether. The soldiers were cool about it though, and got a kick out of our trip, they couldn’t believe we’d driven from the states and soon we were on our way.
Crossing the border was an ease. A stop here and a stamp there and we were in. It was funny to think that three years earlier I had taken a six hour plane ride to arrive in Peru and on this night, after close to seven months we had driven that same distance.
Most of Peru’s coast is dry desert, nothing but sand dunes and the occasional town. We were going to spend a few days surfing and then to the famous mountains in Ancash region. Peruvian surf turned out to house the most Nima friendly waves of our entire trip. The location of note was Lobitos, a pueblito hidden in oil rig country. We counted forty-five oil rigs just off the coast of this tiny town and tons of other rigs scattered on the surrounding land. There were two awesome breaks here. One was El Hueco that made a beautiful left curl before it crashed into the rocky shore and the other, Lobitos, was just around the corner. For the first time since Santa Cruz, California we broke out our wetsuits. Here, among the few local surfers, foreigners, and oil rig workers I found myself catching wave after wave. The conditions were just perfect. This area of coast was almost perpendicular to the rest of the coast and thus we could ride the wave for a good thirty seconds. We’d get out and walk back to the break each time cause it was much to far to paddle. It was awesome, catching a long, sweet wave is comparable to a fresh deep powder run.
Next stop, about six hours south of Lobitos was Pto. Chicama, the world’s longest wave. When the swell is just right surfers can ride this wave for two kilometers! There wasn’t much of a swell when we arrived but enough to paddle out with the local kids and get a feel for the area. Here there is a nice sandy bottom and I could stand up almost anywhere. Think if I could have only leaned to surf here and not Mexico’s over head breaks. We were also really impressed with the town. The locals took us in immediately; we had a great meal with them, and then were invited over to one guy’s house to watch his home videos of the surf break. It was pretty impressive how long people were riding this famous wave. Jeremy and I have got to come back here in the future.
From the high altitude volcano’s of Ecuador and then down to the beaches, we were ready to start our climb into the world famous Cordillera Blanca, Negra, and Huayhuash in Huaras, Ancash. Here there are a multitude of peaks towering above 6000m. We opted for the less traveled northern entrance to the great valley between the Cordillera Blanca and Negra via the Santa River. This road up the river is another marvel of human engineering. The canyon is almost vertical on both sides and the Santa River is filled with impressive class V rapids. Yet somehow they’ve built a tiny dirt road up this canyon that meanders its way in and out of more than 40 different sections of tunnel. It is easily one of the most impressive sections of road we’ve traveled all trip.
The city of Huaras, which sits at 3000m, is the center for exploring some of the best glaciers, snowcapped peaks, and remote mountain lakes of the Andes. Here we found countless trekking companies which offer tons of different options for backpacking, biking, and mountaineering in almost all of the surrounding mountains. We chose to do our own scenic drive up and over Punta Olympica, the famous mountain pass that sits under Huascaran (6,768m) Peru’s highest peak. We figured, from the maps and guide books that this would take us roughly five hours and we would arrive into the next valley for dinner.
It was March 19, the night before my birthday, we left Huaras in the dark and drove up to the entrance of Huascaran National Park where we would get up early and make our way through the mountain pass.
Morning light hit the van around 6:00am, and we stumbled out of the van to find we were sitting right under the great Huascaran. There is not a more beautiful place in the world we could have been for my birthday. This icy blue capped mountains was an incredible sight. We were suddenly much more excited for the adventure this day would bring, and went straight to register at the park entrance. We sat inside the ranger station drinking hot milk and talking to the ranger. Then we came out to find non other than a flat tire (#20)...we changed the tire and the ranger wished us well. The following hours were mesmerizing; we stopped at almost every new vantage point to take pictures. The road kept making its way up, deep into the valley. As the ranger described it, we would drive up the valley between two huge peaks and then run into a third, here the road would make its way up over the pass and down into the next valley. Well before long we were high up in the mountains, above the snow line and getting into some iffy road conditions.
It was cold, the road was either mud or snow, and the van was struggling in first gear due to the altitude. Yet somehow, God knows, the road just kept going climbing higher. Soon we were in a blizzard and around the last switchback. The road pointed straight up through the mountain pass, in wet mud and snow, and we soon emerged on the other side. It was some of the gnarliest mountain driving either of us has ever done. The other side proved to be just as beautiful...more snow-capped peaks and pristine mountain lakes. A few more hours of driving and we were ready for a birthday beer in the tiny village of Chacas.
This turned out to be great, we hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch, and sat down for a few beers and ordered the lunch special at the only restaurant in town. After about an hour and a couple bottles each we realized our meal wasn’t coming. We flagged down the waiter to see what happened and he nicely told us it was too late for the lunch special but that if we wanted he could cook up a special something for a little extra charge. Well this was just hilarious for us and called for a few more beers. We don’t know where the mix up happened but it was just too funny. Another half hour of sweet Polar Malta Beer and out came our plates; fried chicken, salad, rice, and a huge avocado. This was heaven, one of the most rico meals of our trip. In all, with the mountains, food, and Jeremy’s good company, it turned out to be a great birthday.
Off to Peru’s sprawling capital of eight million, Lima. It had been since Graham’s house in Ecuador when we had last showered, and we were rolling into Lima nice and ripe. Our plan was to find the Hitchhiker’s Backpacker’s Hostel as soon as possible and get cleaned up. The South African couple we had met in Colombia told us about this cool little hostel. Here, for less than the price of lunch, they let us park the van and have full use of the hostel. We washed our clothes, used the internet, and even watched Wedding Crashers. Miguel the owner of the Hostel turned out to be a computer whiz and stayed up till 4:00am rebuilding our computer. It had completely died the week before. While working on it one day the screen went blank and read: “Dumping all Physical Memory.” Then before we could even think to react: “Dumping of Physical Memory Complete.” The computer was dead, and we thought that was the last of our website for the second time of the trip.
We had one contact in Lima, a Mr. Alberto. My parent’s good friends, Bob and Carol told me to surely contact him when we arrived and that we did. We planned on meeting Alberto the following day for lunch and going on a little tour of the city. Alberto turned out completely different that any of our expectations. He’s this laid back middle aged surfer dude. He pulled up with a few friends wearing flip-flops and an 80’s multi pattern Polo shirt. It was great. We all went out to lunch and then ended up spending the whole evening and following day with him. Alberto is one of those people you meet that truly has a great outlook on life. He’s opened his house to a bunch of roommates from all over the world, and has an amazing music collection. We spent the evening meeting new people, playing instruments, and making a delicious meal. He even gave us a whole bunch of music from around the world to give our I-Pod a little culture (including the Kangaroo Dance!).
In all we didn’t really see much of Lima except for Miraflores. But we had a comfortable time at the hitchhiker’s Hostel and an unforgettable two days with our great new friend Alberto. Thanks Again Alberto, We’ll be back!
There are many ways to get from Lima to Cusco; an hour and a half plane ride, a 24 hour bus ride down around Nasca and back up to Cusco, or finally the four day straight-line journey though the mountains that we opted for. On the map it all looked real simple; we figured two days across the mountains, going from Lima to Ayacucho to Abancay to Cusco. Easy enough right? By the second day we were in Ayacucho and a tire down (#21), It was a Sunday and all the tire shops were closed. We realized this trip was going to take a lot longer than we thought and that we needed some real tires. We enjoyed a quick plate fresh fried trout and local corn then set out to find tires. This proved to take most the afternoon, but finally we found four tires that looked alike and in fair condition: Goodyear Hi-Milers. These Hi-Milers are like nothing we have in the states. They are big, narrow, and mean. We didn’t even think they would fit in the wheel wells. But sure enough by nightfall we had four “previously used” truck/van tires for the off-road and a super strong spare. These tires added a good two inches of lift and a whole new personality to the van. She now looked Moab ready. We set off into the mountains under the starry sky.
The van was like a whole new machine; she no longer drove, she “Romped!” We were flying through these mountain roads, rocking out to Indigo Girls, and making some good timing. Finally around 1:00am we pulled into a little pueblito not on our map and parked right in the main Plaza.
Driving through the late hours of the night in South America is always an adventure because of the wild places you find yourself in the morning. This random town was no exception. First off I woke up at a slant, and soon realized maybe we hadn’t bought four bomber tires, perhaps just three. Then as I got out of bed to check I found we were the center of attention of more than a hundred school kids waiting for class to start. Our windows are tinted and so they couldn’t see in, but they were quite interested none the less. I hoped out of the van and felt the stare of a hundred little kids. They were blown away. I said Buenos Dias and they just stared. I asked questions and got no reply. Then a local guy came up and asked me what continent I was from, as if just a general direction in the world would satisfy their wonder. It was wild; these kids had obviously never seen foreigners. Then Jeremy moved around the van and they all ran back to get another peak. He knocked on the window and they all jumped. Then when he came out of the van they where even more impressed, two of us weirdos. It was hilarious. By then the principle was at the front gates of the school blowing his whistle and half the kids still wouldn’t budge. Slowly they made their way to class and we went looking for breakfast.
We put a tube in the tire and continued towards Cusco, waiting for the next van issue to surface. Like usually I was driving, and Jeremy and I were arguing over this rattle the van was making. I could hear it, and he couldn’t. Finally when we turned off the music and it was apparent something was rattling we pulled over. We both began to laugh when we walked around the van. Our back right hydraulic shock had broken in two. It was hilarious, where in the world, but the middle of nowhere Peru would your shocks break? All the weight of the van was resting against the spring. We took apart the shock and continued down the canyon at a much slower pace, without the shock of course. This was a little unnerving cause we could watch the wheel chatter up and down without the shock. Twenty minutes later came an abrupt, metalllic CRACK...this time it was our spring! A whole loop of the half inch thick steel car spring had snapped off. Things were not looking good now. One more break of the spring and the wheel would jam inside the wheel well and render the van useless. From here we drove in first gear for a good few hours until the little town of Andahuaylas, where we pulled into the first shop we found.
The shop owner/mechanic, Carlos was a good guy, and quick to get us back on the road. He took apart our other spring which had also died, got us a cab and sent us to the town parts store. We arrived into the center of town behind the taxi, pushing. The taxi driver obviously had never taken care of his car and it finally died on him a few blocks from the center. He walked us to the parts store where we found a huge variety of shocks ranging from S/ 50.00 (Soles) to S/ 108.00. We found a sweet pair of bright yellow, made in U.S.A. Monroe heavy-duty shocks for a reasonable S/ 80.00 each. That’s roughly $28US a shock, not bad. We returned to Carlos’s shop and got them installed. Soon the van was looking sweet and we were ready to continue our epic journey to Cusco. Carlos, being the badass mechanic that he is didn’t let us pay him, saying that our new friendship was enough. Wow, it is those kind of people you meet in life that just brighten up your day. We showered him in Alta/Bird stickers and thanked him immensely. What a cool guy!
Back on the road, we drove through the night, romping over the dirt roads with our bright yellow shocks and beefy tires. Then suddenly I felt a tire go, #22, the one that was giving us problems earlier. We threw on the spare in record time and drove on a little pissed off. The amount of money we’ve wasted on tires in the last few months makes us sick. We were close to Cusco though and ready to give the van a week or so of rest...some time to think about the way she’s been acting lately.
Day 4, we pulled into Cusco. I was shocked by how green the mountains were. When I had lived in Cusco three years earlier there had been a drought and the mountains looked like the SLC foothills in late summer. But this was a whole new Cusco, lush mountains and a fairly clean looking city. Jeremy drove while I yelled out directions as fast as I could remember them. We circled the cobblestone streets and made our way down past the Incan stone palaces towards the Plaza de Armas. We had made it! It was great, we parked the van and made our way to Jack’s Café, the most trendy, expensive, gringo hangout in Cusco. We treated ourselves to El Gordo the complete breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes, beans, toast, sausage, and coffee. It was good to be back. While eating our breakfast fit for a king, in came Stine our Norwegian travel companion. She and Marit were still hanging around Cusco. It was great to meet back up with them and catch up on the last few weeks. We talked of mountains and surf, while they spoke of restaurants and the famous Cusco clubs. I think we had the better deal. Marit was on here way to Bolivia that night, but Stine had a few more days to kill and thought she’d travel down through Arequipa with us, and then on to Bolivia.
It was time to go visit the Concha family with whom I lived with, and get ourselves situated. It was awesome driving up to their house. I had walked the same route across town so many times that summer and seeing it all again after so long was excellent. We pulled up in front of the house and knocked on the door. Before long we felt right back at home.
In 2004 I called up my uncle Tim to collect on his long time offer of sending me to Peru. Tim, over the last 35 years, has done countless humanitarian projects in Peru and made quite a few friends. With the help of his friend Duane they got me situated with Daniel Concha, a great guy who lives in Cusco with his family and works as a tour guide as well as running a few community oriented projects. Here I spent two months living with the Concha family; his wife Rose, Danny, Manuel, Liz, Axel, Georgina, and Rebecca. I had a great time that summer with them and couldn’t be happier to be back.
Daniel quickly found us a place to park the van, and gave us a room to use while we’re in town. Jeremy and I figured we would relax a little, and enjoy the amazing home cooking of Rose and Liz. But, as usual, we’re always on the run; Jeremy’s parents are coming to Cusco the following week, and we thought we’d explore the southern city of Arequipa a little before they arrive. Just north of Arequipa is the famous Colca Canyon, known as one of the deepest canyons in the world and for the condors that live on the rim of the canyon.
The following night we met up with Stine and took the overnight bus to Arequipa (The White City), and then immediately made the five hour journey north to Colca Canyon. We spent the first night in Chivay, enjoying the local hot springs and then later the streetside fried chicken and herbal teas. For about $0.15 U.S. we could get our tea to go. They would use two sandwich bags, pour all sorts of flavors and honey into it and then tie it off with a straw in the knot. This was a perfect way to walk around the cold streets and keep warm.
We were up at 4:00am and on the bus that goes along the canyon rim to Cabanaconde. Ideally, if you don’t want to take the main trail down into the canyon and back up, you can have the bus driver drop you off a few miles up canyon where the less used local trail starts. This turned out to be just as amusing as the first time I’d been there. They stop at a random place in the road and point towards the canyon. Before we knew it we were in the middle of nowhere, by ourselves, walking towards the canyon cliffs. No sign of a trail anywhere. Then off in the distance, up the canyon a ways, we could see the silhouette of the trail carved out of the canyon wall. The trail cuts its way down for over a kilometer to the depths of the canyon, crosses the Rio Colca, and then straight up the other side to the tucked away town of Tapay. Making this trek up to Tapay is no small feat, especially because Oasis, the camp destination, is a ways down canyon near the water. After a good ten hour hike we had made it to this little paradise, all a little sore, and Stine with some impressive blisters. Oasis is a little grassy piece of land at the bottom of the canyon with cabañas and a few pools. Here hikers can relax, eat, and rest before they make the three hour vertical climb up to Cabanaconde and out of the canyon.
A few miles before the town of Cabanaconde is the famous Cruz del Condor, a touristy lookout point where if the weather and temperature is just right one can spot the 10-15 condors that live just under the canyon´s edge. Due to our clashing bus schedules we had all of about ten minutes at this site and didn’t have any luck seeing the condors. From my past visit here though I can assure you all that it is worth the sight. These magnificent birds can reach a wingspan of two meters. They are jet black with a white doughnut looking section around their neck. When the temperature is just right and the sun is out they spend all morning flying just off the cliffs edge in a figure eight pattern wowing the hundred some odd tourists atop the cliff.
Back in Arequipa we had one last stop to make before we shot back to Cusco; to visit Miguel, our good friend Justin’s older brother. Miguel has been living here in Peru for the last 6 years working for an American mining company. He lives in Arequipa with his lovely Peruvian wife, their two-week old daughter, and at the moment his visiting father. We showed up hungry and dirty with only a short time to visit, but Miguel took full care of us “Anything for Justin’s friends,” he said. Within a short time he had thrown together a great meal for us and we were able to spend a short, but enjoyable evening with them. Miguel, thanks again for the hospitality!
We dropped Stine off at her hotel and wished her well on the rest of her trip. Her plans are to make her way through Bolivia down to Buenos Aires, meet back up with Marit, and then off to Brazil. Again we wish them well in their travels.
Back in Cusco! We made the overnight bus, and now we are relaxing on the top floor of Daniel’s house. We have a beautiful panorama view of the city, hot mate tea, and the at the moment, the computer is up and running well. The plan is to get this latest website posted and await the arrival of Chuck and Mary Pat, Jeremy’s parents. With the help of Daniel’s expertise we have quite the week planned for them; we’ll visit the tiny towns of Quillabamba, Vilcabamba, and the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. Should be great!
We hope all is well back home and to our close friends we ask one question: Where is going to snow next: Little Cottonwood or southern Chile? HaHaa!
Take care, and keep the emails flowing,
Also a special thanks to Jessica Holtzer, Jordan Breighner, Shannon Callahan, and Mark Nelson. A little bit goes a long way down here!