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Hello Cowboy

30°16' 2" N 97°44' 35" W Austin

Nov 26, 2014  –  by Maeva

When we looked up the directions from Moab to Austin, Google Maps said it would take 19 hours. Okay then… The road was actually a little scary that evening because it was extremely dark, a single lane in the middle of nowhere with the speed limit of 75mph (120km/h.) We were definitely afraid of animals crossing the road so we were constantly on the lookout for movement ahead of us. We stopped to sleep at a Walmart in Albuquerque (New Mexico) and we woke up really early and really cold. There was snow on the road as we kept going and when we decided to check the temperature, we realized it was -14 degrees (7F). There had been no transition for us, we had gone straight from summer to winter in a split second!

Snow on the road to Austin
Snow on the road to Austin

After a day of non stop driving, we finally arrived in Austin in the evening. Too tired to do anything, it was Happy Meal and straight to sleep! Just like the kids. The next day, we went to the outlet store in the morning and instantly caught up on our lack of shopping over the past 2 months! North Face, Nike, Adidas at crazy prices, say no more! Once we were done, we were obviously starving. We first drove to the famous Franklin’s Barbecue. Obviously they were sold out. They open at 11am and are so popular that people show up at 8am to start lining up. They wait up to 4 hours in order to get to eat there. The girl who explained this to us said that the wait was part of the experience: “Some people come with camping chairs, blankets, games. It’s almost like camping!” Okay… When have we ever waited 4 hours outside in the cold to eat? Never.

We then picked a Tex-Mex location that had good reviews and where we would actually be able to eat right away! We ended up at El Rancho’s (check) in a cute hacienda like restaurant. You know the saying that everything is bigger in Texas? Well it’s true when it comes to food! We found ourselves with a huge amount of food on the table, everything looking more delicious than the other. After 3 bites I think we were already full, but the fajitas that we got to make ourselves from meat still burning on the plate were just too delicious to stop. When we were officially full (and I was half asleep on the table), we got the rest in a box to go.

Matt's Famous El Rancho Austin
Matt’s Famous El Rancho Austin

It was then night time and a Friday night, so we knew we had to do what a real Texan cowboy would do to go out. We went to Broken Spoke, a family owned bar celebrating their 50th anniversary. Entering this place was like entering a new dimension: cowboys, girls wearing santiags, very very old school haircuts (the ones you wouldn’t think are even still possible to get today) and a Texan cowboy singing country music and yodeling at the same time. I was still in a bit of a food coma so I asked the old lady at the bar for a coffee, to which she replied with a stunned expression on her face: “You want coffee?! There’s the beer menu here!” In the bar, there was a cool room called the Tourist Trap, which obviously lured us in. It is a collection of photos of the owner with all the celebrities that visited this bar from Clint Eastwood to Tarantino to Robert Rodriguez to Robert Duvall. 50 years in business, 50 years of photos. We also got to see two-step dance lessons given at the back as youngsters arrived for a dance night dressed in their boots, cowboy hats and mini skirts! I even got to take a photo with the cowboy owner, please admire the diamonds on his shirt.

Broken Spoke
Broken Spoke
Clint Eastwood photo at the Broken Spoke
Clint Eastwood photo at the Broken Spoke
Dolly Parton photo at the Broken Spoke
Dolly Parton photo at the Broken Spoke

Maeva and the cowboy owner of Broken Spoke

It was still relatively early in the evening so we decided to move to another typical Austin location for a night out: Dirty 6th. Now, this one is a little less old fashioned and gathers all the young people of Austin into one street full of bars. We started with Buffalo Billiards to play some pool. Obviously, I lost – in my defence, Steph has practiced many times and is too mathematical to be beaten. We then randomly picked another bar for a few drinks. There was live music from a super friendly guy named Joe Vega who could play a huge list of songs upon request, right there with his guitar and microphone. Steph picked “Escape (Pina Colada)” as we’ve been listening to it a lot from our Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It was lots of fun, especially as we got to watch a few birthday girls who had had a few too many drinks dancing in the middle.

The next morning, we passed by in front of Franklin’s to see if people were really THAT motivated for barbecues. And it turns out they are! It was early on a Saturday morning, it was raining, it was cold and a huge huge line was just waiting outside the restaurant… O-kay. We went to Spider House Cafe instead for a warm drink in a warm and cozy coffee shop. With an eclectic decor, a hipster setting and lots of vintage furniture, the place is perfect for good coffee and good conversation. You can never get enough of artsy and kind of weird places with a unique charm like this one!

Franklin's barbecue Austin
Franklin’s barbecue Austin
Cool graffiti in Austin
Cool graffiti in Austin
Spider House Cafe
Spider House Cafe

 

Mc Gyver

49°15' 41" N 123°8' 22" W Vancouver

Sep 17, 2014  –  by Maeva

wood and material in van
wood and material in van to build the bed

“If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.”

McGyver said that.


This is officially the first post for Steph and I’s road trip blog, so I’m feeling a bit of pressure here. Being named chief editor of “U.S. by us” means great power. And by now you should all know that “great power means great responsibilities”. Hum, two sentences in and I’m already off topic and making Spiderman references. Readers, you are in for a rough ride.

So, back to McGyver. The American adventure we are about to embark upon would not be the same without our very own McGyver. Yes you’ve guessed it, I’m talking about Steph.

When we decided to go on a crazy road trip across the U.S. he started spending a lot of time on Pinterest, scrutinizing DIY Van pictures and setups. He would show me some incredible car interiors with beds, a kitchen, drawers, etc. I thought it was unreal. Now at this point, you should know that the closest I have been to encountering my McGyver self was..never (I’ve been told that building something from Ikea doesn’t count). In other words, Steph knew the bed construction in the car was going to be completely up to him.

But to some extent, I think that wasn’t such a problem! I mean we’re talking about a guy who built his own desks and ski modules since he was a toddler. Displaying his advanced organizational skills he scoped blogs, Pinterest boards, sites and any source of inspiration to pimp our van. You can see it all for yourself in the links at the bottom, should you be curious or about to turn your van into a home.

Here is a little peak into the construction/preparation phase for our beautiful Chevy Venture.

The making of the bed:

Maeva holding bed structure in kitchen
Maeva holding the bed structure in the kitchen
Bed structure in kitchen
Bed structure in the kitchen
Bed structure final in the van
Bed structure final in the van

 

The making of the window covers:

maeva outline window covers
Maeva outlining window covers on the floor
Steph installing window covers in the van
Steph installing window covers in the van

 

And this is how our van got completely upgraded in a couple of weeks thanks to master organizer Steph and my moral support (hey you noticed I did do the contour for the windows right?). A bed with a real mattress, space underneath for our stuff, window “curtains” to sleep in peace… Ze dream.

Here are the links to every source that helped Steph customize our new home:

Inspiration
http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=minivan%20camping

Bed structure
http://www.morehawes.co.uk/travelling/canada/minivan-camper-conversion-stage-one-complete

Windows
http://sillysadhaka.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/minihome-in-a-minivan-for-the-mega-journey-creating-windstar-window-covers-and-bedframe/

Tent
http://thegroveguy.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/toyota-sienna-van-conversion.html

Bonus
http://thenomader.com/2011/05/11/our-home-for-the-next-6-months/