Petrified Forest NP: Nature’s Canvas


Colors of The Painted Desert

A new opportunity to learn more about what life was like for early residents of the Arizona desert is one more reason we’d love to return. We’ve driven through the area several times, and have always been struck by the stark beauty of the region. Wide, sweeping views across the badlands, decked out in shades of reds, purples and grays always make us feel we’re part of something bigger. All of the colors of the Painted Desert are produced by different types of rock as well as concentrations of different minerals within the rocks. Then there’s the sky. It’s absolutely endless, dotted with puffy clouds and gleaming beams of sunlight. Darker gray sheets hover over distant mountains, hinting at faraway rain.

Petrified Forest

Hills of The Painted Desert

New Village Discovered in the Petrified Forest

Pieces of ceramic, fragments of stone tools, and careful collection of field notes, led archaeologists recently to the discovery of an ancient village within Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Scientists believe the village, which covers about 66 acres, is 1300-1800 years old. Clusters of “pit houses” demarcate where the village stood. This would have been part of the transition from people living as hunter-gatherers, to come together and settle for longer periods of time in groups in villages. Though the Hopi, Zuni and Navaho tribes have cultural ties to the lands that make up Petrified National Forest, the artifacts that have been found pre-date the arrival of those tribes.

Petrified Forest Logs

Petrified Conifers

Long, long ago, Arizona was a lush, green wetlands with lots of streams and mud, and giant, tall trees. It’s said that at some point, flood waters carried huge logs onto the sandy plains, and ultimately those logs were covered with volcanic ash and silt. When water containing silica seeped into the logs, they eventually petrified, only to be uncovered MUCH later by erosion. Some of the logs in the park are massive! The pieces of petrified wood are solid rock. It’s hard to imagine it ever could have been wood. All of those textures and patterns are amazing to see. If you visit, mind the rules, though. Up to 12 tons of petrified wood per year have been lost in the past due to theft! We heard though that taking a piece was sure to bring bad luck. The Park office receives countless packages each year from people begging for the pieces of rock they took to be put back where it came from, hopefully restoring their lives back to normal after suffering all kinds of mishaps as a result of their irresponsible actions.

How to Get Here and Where to Start

Most visitors explore the area by car, driving the 28-mile road that takes in the Painted Desert to the north of the highway before looping down to the Petrified Forest to the south. (Off of I-40, take exit 311 from the east or 285 from the west. The closest town is Holbrook.) There are many pull-outs and overlooks, as well as short, paved walks. Plan for at least 2 hours if you’re just driving through. You’ll definitely want to stop . . . a lot. If you have more time, there are also some great hikes in the backcountry. These new routes are being publicized more, and Park Rangers can give you ideas as well. There’s even a section of Historic Route 66 that runs through the park. Travelers heading west along that famous Main Street of America passed right through the Painted Desert, maybe stopping at the pink-hued Painted Desert Inn along the way. The building is still there today, and holds a museum within its architecturally significant walls.

More to Explore

Even with the recent discovery of several ancient villages, and remnants of even older fossils, there is still a lot of land in the park that has not been explored. As much-needed public funds can be funneled in, and new rounds of scientists, archaeologists and interns spend more time here, there are certain to be more exciting developments in the future. The new, more open access to the backcountry calls us back too. We’d love to visit the historic Painted Desert Inn on a future visit.  There’s an amazing mountain lion petroglyph on display inside! As geocachers, we were also excited to discover the Petrified Forest National Park EarthCache Program, guiding cachers to some of the park’s coolest spots. Regardless of how you choose to explore here, one view of the striped hills of the Painted Desert, and you’ll be hungry for more, guaranteed.

Food for Thought with Two Monkeys Travel

For many of us, food is a big part of our travels. We’re tempted by new flavors and colors. Once we’ve left, food memories become powerful triggers, bringing us careening back to places we’ve visited. In our case, we love to visit local markets and experiment with street food. There’s so much to learn from what people eat, how it’s served, and the origin and history behind traditional meals. Even new food trends tell us something about the ways societies are changing. The Food for Thought series explores these ideas through the eyes of travelers. This week we’re joined by Kach and Johnathan from Two Monkeys Travel Group. Like us, these two intrepid travelers like to take things slow when they can, in order to get to know a place more deeply. One of the ways they do that is through food! This pair has a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, and we look forward to following along on their adventures.

Meet Kach and Jonathan

3-Jonathan and Kach in Agonda Beach, Goa, IndiaKach and Jonathan Howe are a working-on-the-road couple from the Philippines and UK. Having each decided to quit their jobs and set off around South East Asia to start their new lives, neither imagined they would end up traveling the world with someone they met in a backpackers’ bar in Laos. But that’s what happened! They are both certified Tantra Yoga Teachers, Ayurveda Massage Therapists and TEFL Certified Teachers. Working wherever and whenever they want! Travelling status: 20 months of being on the road and currently based in Arequipa, Peru.. their next major travel goal- Antartica via Argentina. You can follow their website-

Food for Thought

The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Definitely agree. Traditional food tells so much about a place, its people and culture – Climate and availability of ingredients, wealth, history, previous invasions and colonization and even spiritual beliefs. There are often very specific reasons why things are done in a certain way and these are what make food so interesting.

Filipino Food

Filipino Food

What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing? Do you crave it while you’re away?

For me, being from the UK but grown up abroad, I don’t really identify home too strongly with food. Besides, I can find roast chicken or pork, potatoes and broccoli anywhere! Kach on the other hand identifies very strongly with Filipino food as it was such a big part of her childhood. There are some very specific dishes, like Adobo and Sinigang, which require certain flavours or spices, and of course rice – there must always be rice!

How has travel affected the way you think about food?

We’ve both always been open to trying just about anything and have always loved street food, so really it’s more about associating food with memories of the places we’ve been and people we’ve met. Stories often revolve around interesting or strange food we found in certain places, rather than the places themselves!




Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)

We don’t have any specific technique, we usually just ask people we meet on the way somewhere, often on buses or trains. The longer that we stay somewhere, the more we learn, like in Arequipa. However, if we breeze through a place quite quickly then we only tend to scratch the surface of what’s available and the stories behind it.

Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?

One of our favorite meals was at what looked like a roadside truck stop just outside of Arequipa. We were on the way back from a day road trip with some Peruvian friends, Pepe and Edwin, when Pepe randomly turned into a car park. It really didn’t look like anything special, until we got up close enough to see the whole lamb roasting over a fire and several women poking around in what looked like several blankets covering a hole in the ground. That hole in the ground was in fact, Pachamanca; a traditional form of ‘pit oven’ in parts of Peru, where a large hole is dug in the ground and part filled with rocks, a fire is lit to heat the rocks and when the flames die, pork, chicken, vegetables and potatoes are added. Not only was the meat perfectly cooked, moist, with intense flavor, there was a whole sense of ceremony and occasion to the meal that made it really memorable.

Kach joining a reality TV show in Vietnam about eating the most disgusting food in the country!

Kach joining a reality TV show in Vietnam about eating the most disgusting food in the country!

What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?

Like I said before, we’re both open to trying pretty much anything, but when Kach joined a reality TV show in Hanoi, she ended up pushing that to the absolute limits! The show was all about getting foreigners to try as many of the weirdest foods that North Vietnam has offer, including; intestines filled with raw, jellied blood; fertilized duck eggs; dog meat (of course!); snails; frog stuffed with frog and finally, albino rat intestine soup…In her words, ’Yes, it was a pretty gross couple of days! And no, most of it I would probably never eat again!

Indian Food Forever!

Indian Food Forever!

And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

Indian cuisine! I’m cheating quite a bit with this choice, as the huge variety in culture and cuisine across the country means I would never be stuck with just one type of food, but in my opinion it’s some of the healthiest food in the world, with amazing combinations of taste, flavours and ingredients. However, Kach would probably leave me, because when I eat Indian food every day, I smell like Indian food from every pore on my body!

All images provided by Kach and Jonathan  from Two Monkeys Travel.  Connect with them via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!

Memories from the Road: RV Travel for Gameday

Roadside Picnic

Roadside Picnic

Nomads for Life

Over the past decade of traveling together, we have taken on quite a few interesting jobs along the way. We currently don’t earn any money from our blog, so we choose other avenues to maintain our full-time travel lifestyle. Our main source of income is as Tour Managers for mobile/experiential marketing tours. Basically, this means we spend much of our time traveling from city to city, setting up and managing events for a particular client so people can be introduced to their products or services. We work on a contract basis, so between contracts we are free to travel on our own itinerary (although we stop getting paid!). On the other hand, while we’re “on tour” for work, we have almost no expenses, so it’s a good time to save up for the next journey! It’s fun to look back and reminisce about some of our crazy adventures on the road for work along the highways and byways of the US.

The RV before getting it's vinyl graphics. RV Travel

The RV before getting it’s vinyl graphics.

Our Season of College Football’s Gameday

The ESPN GameDay program is a 3-hour, live broadcast previewing the week’s big college football match-ups. It usually takes place on the university campus of the the marquis match-up of the week. Students are already gathered for tailgating, and it’s one big party that advertisers try and capitalize on. For those unfamiliar with tailgating, American football fans arrive to the area surrounding the stadium several hours before the game to meet up with friends. Some set up grills, tents and even TVs to gear up for the game. Food and drink are plentiful, and everyone is usually dressed up in their team’s colors and brandish banners and flags to show their support. As a major sponsor that year, Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) launched a coordinated marketing tour. As part of it, we worked as Tour Managers to oversee operations on the ground, attending the tailgate each week. Our staff interacted with the crowd, explaining the cell phone providers services, showing off new phone models and plans and running contests and games.

Our four month journey laid out on a map.

Our four-month journey laid out on a map. Total miles covered: 27,000!

Where to Next?

Since the following week’s event is determined by the outcome of the current week’s games, we spent every Sunday night through Monday morning refreshing our emails to see where we might be driving next. We’d never know for sure where the next college campus for the next game would be. Between September and December, we drove a total of 27,000 miles, crossing the country several times. The longest drive was 4240 miles from Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ to Penn State University in Happy Valley, PA. The previous week we had started from Virginia Tech to get to Arizona. It was exhausting, but our events were only on the weekends, and we enjoyed our new RV travel lifestyle.

Getting some seat time!

Getting some seat time!

So . . .  after about 2 months Donny finally let me drive.  All the excuses had been tried: “Too much traffic.” “You don’t like to drive at night.” “Looks like rain.” “I’m not tired yet.” Finally I got my chance, driving a few hundred miles across New York state. There was another long stint through Arizona and New Mexico, battling the wind. The big, boxy shape of RVs makes them really blow around! Donny even felt confident enough in my skills to sneak off to the bed for a nap a few times.

Big & Rich and TurtlesTravel Comin’ to Your City

If you haven’t heard of them, Big & Rich are a country music duo. The two songwriters, vocalists and guitarists are probably best known for the song, Save a Horse! (Ride a Cowboy) from 2004. In 2005, their song, Comin’ to Your City was chosen by ESPN to open the Saturday College GameDay television broadcast. The lyrics were edited a bit to mention different college football teams. Our tour vehicle was wrapped in life-sized graphics of Big & Rich, with a bright orange color scheme to reflect the Cingular Wireless branding. It got a LOT of attention to say the least. Behind the 40-foot RV, we also pulled a wrapped trailer filled with additional equipment. Fans of Big & Rich sometimes asked if the duo was inside, or if they traveled with us. In Texarkana, logically located at the border of Texas and Arkansas, we came out of our hotel one morning to find a perfumed love note under the windshield. It read something to the effect of, “My name is Ellie May, and I’m your biggest fan. I’m right upstairs in room 242 and I’d just love to meet you both!” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

RV Travel with HUGE amounts of space!

RV travel provides HUGE amounts of space!

Perks of RV Travel

Having to cover so many miles in a relatively short amount of time, we loved the convenience of being able to keep food in the RV’s refrigerator to prepare while we were driving. Donny could continue behind the wheel, while I made a sandwich or snack. We used truck parking at rest and truck stops. Since the vehicle was to be awarded as a prize at the end of the tour, we didn’t sleep in it, getting a hotel most nights. Admittedly, the “prize” may have been slept in a time or two on especially long drives, though the plastic never came off the floors or the bed. We were told we could use the RV’s bathroom for “#1, but not #2,” but we opted not to let anyone use it at all, or guess who would have had to clean it!? If we had been traveling on our own, the bathroom would be a great convenience. While working, it was great to be able to get out of the elements into the shelter of the RV. The RV had plenty of space to move around, and when parked, slide-outs on the sides expanded to make the floor space even bigger. We were hooked up for satellite TV for events, so as long as we pulled over and pointed the dish the right way, we didn’t have to miss a single episode of that season’s Amazing Race.

This thing is big!  Hard to find easy parking sometimes.

This thing is big! Hard to find easy parking sometimes.

The Downside

We had a multitude of small repairs to be made during the season. Road rattle (the shaking that occurs over many miles on the highway) can result in all kinds of things coming loose: drawer, cabinet and door handles. We even had the driver’s side mirror blow loose (Donny fixed that with zip ties for weeks), as well as some of the under-panels on the RV’s body. While we were able to rig things up that were cosmetic, finding RV shops to get us in and out in a day’s time was a big challenge. Branded vehicles are also big targets when it comes to vandalism and theft. In Katy, TX, someone broke into the RV overnight and stole several large-screen TV’s and other equipment: NOT fun to handle any time, but especially when time is of the essence. Our other big challenge was parking and transportation. An RV that size is by no means advisable for taking to any downtown area, never mind a decent restaurant. We were limited to shopping centers with massive parking lots, and hotels far out of town that we could count on to have 7 or 8 parking spots in a row available. We did a lot of walking (which is a good thing) to find food, but options were always very limited. Take-out pizza and Chinese were sadly frequent.

What We Learned

Our four months of RV living made us curious for more. We dreamed of having a vehicle we could carry bicycles in, or maybe a set-up where the RV portion could be detached from a truck pulling it. We loved chatting with other RV’ers when we crossed paths, and vowed to one day rent an RV ourselves somewhere to explore at our own pace. The closest we’ve come so far was living for a month or so in a converted van in New Zealand. It wasn’t outfitted for power, so it was quite a different experience, much more like camping. The freedom of being able to stop wherever we wanted and change plans on a whim suited us perfectly.


Have you ever traveled by RV? Where did you go, and how did you like it?

Food for Thought with An American Abroad

Some think of eating as just a means to survive, while others think of food as one of the great pleasures in life.  We are fortunate, and the latter is the school we subscribe to. Regardless of how you view it, food tends to bring people together. For us, sharing a meal has broken down barriers and formed new friendships even when language is a challenge. There are so many things you can learn about a culture just by tasting the flavors of its cuisine. In the Food for Thought series we chat with like-minded travelers to get their take on food and its influences on us as we travel.  This week, we caught up with Laura from An American Abroad.  Like us, Laura opts for slow travel. She likes to spend enough time in a place to really get to know it, shopping in local markets or grocery stores, making friends, learning new recipes, maybe some of the local language. She has had the fortune to reside in some great foodie countries, including her current home, S. Korea where she works as a teacher. Just reading some of her posts makes our mouths water for the wonderful flavors of Korean BBQ!

Bio PhotoMeet Laura

Laura Bronner is an American girl addicted to life abroad. After graduating from college she set off on what was meant to be a year of travel. That was four years ago. Since then she has lived in New Zealand, Australia and now calls South Korea home. You can follow along with her experiences on her blog An American Abroad, or catch up with her on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.


Food for Thought

An underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I completely agree. For me, traveling and gaining understanding of a place is very intertwined with the food. One of the main reasons I travel is to try new foods and treat my taste buds to something totally different.

What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing?  Do you crave it while you’re away?

I think simple meals like macaroni and cheese or spaghetti bolognese will always remind me of home. They are the meals I ate often growing up and I cook one of them whenever I’m feeling a little bit homesick. They are the kind of hearty comfort foods that are easy to make but can pack a real punch of flavor.

Korean Barbeque, food for thought

Korean Barbeque


How has travel affected the way you think about food?

I think about it more! I have always loved food and trying new things, but travel has made me much more adventurous. I have learned about different flavor combinations and cuisines through my travels which has lead to me being infinitely curious about trying more. I am a girl possessed when it comes to trip planning. I like to look up what the local dishes are for each area so that I make sure to have it while I’m there. I’m never worried that I might miss a sight, but I am always concerned that I might miss my next best meal.

Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)

I try to do as much research as I can on what the local dishes are so that I can keep an eye out for them. I love to take cooking classes, but if I don’t have time I just head to as many markets as I can to sample lots of street food.

Food for Thought

Traditional Korean meal


Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?

That’s such a tough question. I have had so many memorable meals in Korea alone, never mind elsewhere. The one that springs to mind is a Korean barbeque meal I had recently. A Korean friend invited my boyfriend and I out to a new restaurant that had opened in our city. We waited for almost half an hour to get a seat, it was so busy. When we sat down they immediately brought over all of the side dishes that you usually get at Korean Barbeque, but this time they whacked it straight on the flat top grill that covered most of our table. Then came the meat, cut up and lining the grill in all of it’s beautiful shades of pink. Then the onions, mushrooms and eggs. The server set it all on fire, immediately proclaiming it time to eat. I sat with my boyfriend and our good friend Ji Young, and we talked for hours, until all of the food was gone. We ordered rice to be cooked in the remaining oils and put that into our already full bellies. I left the restaurant feeling grateful for not only such an amazing meal, but having been in such good company. It’s not one I’ll soon forget.

What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?

I recently tried Sannakji (raw octopus) here in Korea. They take a fresh, young octopus out of the tank and cut him up while he’s still alive. When they bring the pieces to the table they’re still moving. When you put it in your mouth to eat it wriggles and suctions to your cheeks and tongue. It’s actually quite tasty – very light and fresh. I would definitely eat it again.

And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

I think I have to go with British. Meat pies, beef stew, potatoes, thick meaty gravy, Yorkshire pudding, breakfast fry-ups, Sunday roasts, fish and chips with mushy peas and curry sauce, rhubarb pie with hot custard and curry (it’s the national dish after all!). That’s the sort of food I could see myself eating for the rest of my life without growing tired of it.

All images were generously provided by Laura. You can connect with her on An American Abroad or via Social Media: Facebook, TwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

Cranberries, History and Puppies in Carver, MA


Sometimes the most mundane errands can turn into a lovely adventure. My Dad lost his faithful companion, Yankee this past spring, and he’s really been missing the companionship and fun of a dog. We accompanied his wife and him to check out some Golden Retriever puppies in Carver, MA, a town an hour or so away from our winter escape on Cape Cod. The litter of 6-week olds consisted of five girls and two boys. Seriously, is there anything cuter than puppies? Dad fell in love immediately with the adorable, larger male, and made an appointment to return to pick him up when he’s old enough to leave his mom and had a first visit to the vet, around 8 weeks. We stuck around to find out more about what’s going on in Carver.

Edaville Entrance

Edaville Entrance

Carver, MA

Carver, MA is located in southeastern Massachusetts, about 38 miles from Boston. It was named for the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, John Carver. Though it was settled much earlier, the town was incorporated in 1790. With its historically abundant water supply, there were many sawmills here originally. Iron ore from the swampy lands was the real moneymaker for early residents, though, and you can still see mansions built with the proceeds of successful businesses. Today, Carver is best known for cranberries and the Edaville Railroad, one of the oldest heritage railroads in the US and a New England holiday tradition. I remember visiting this attraction at Christmastime as a kid, for its amazing Festival of Lights.

Cranberry Bog: Carver, MA


Cranberries have been an important part of the economy in Carver, MA since the beginning, and even more so with the decline of the iron ore industry. In the 1940s, the town of Carver produced more cranberries than anywhere else in the world! Through the 1800s, immigrants, many from from Cape Verde and Finland arrived to work on the cranberry bogs, and added their cultures to the mix. Many became prominent members of the community, and went on to own their own bogs. Influences are still evident today. (Finnish sauna anyone?) For more history and a detailed account of the Cape Verdean role in building the bogs and the industry, check out this great article by Querino Kenneth J. Semedo. The bogs are beautiful any time of year, but the most vibrant photos come from late fall and are mostly taken during the wet harvest, when all the bright red berries float up to the surface  as the bogs are flooded. There is a big annual harvest festival, and opportunities to tour and take part in the activities. Our visit was in late December, so the bogs are dormant and mostly dry. They were still very pretty though! Some farmers try to protect their bogs by flooding them and allowing the water to freeze. I remember ice skating on Cape Cod bogs as a youngster, when it was cold enough for them to freeze solid.

Union Church and cemetery, Carver, MA

Union Church

Union Church and Cemetery

In the historic Union Cemetery, behind the pretty Gothic style Union Church, we saw graves of prominent early families. Several family names kept popping up, so we checked out whether we could find any more information on any of them. There were many Atwood’s. Ellis D. Atwood was the founder of Edaville Railroad. The name comes from his initials, “E.D.A.” Albert T. Shurtleff, of the Shurtleff family, was the first man in town to enlist in the Civil War. Though he lost an arm at Bull Run, he went on to serve as Town Clerk and town Selectman. The Savery family also had some impressive monuments. William Savery created the first divided highway in the US (more on that below). Union church itself was built under Savery’s direction in 1855, though the cemetery dates back even further. It was associated with a meetinghouse originally located on the other side of the cemetery which was built in the late 1700s. Union was the first non-denominational church in the country.

Union Cemetery Fence

Savery Avenue

Savery Avenue, first divided highway in the US. Carver, MA


Savery Avenue

Carver, MA is home to the first divided highway in the US. William Savery opened the road to the public in 1861. You can still drive down it today. The trees in the middle, and along the sides were left untouched to provide “shade and ornament for man and beast.” It is still indeed a lovely shaded lane. We wonder if it was originally any longer than the 1/4 mile or so it is now.

Whether Carver is your destination or you are en route to another locale Carver, Massachusetts certainly has some great history to offer anyone who takes the time to look for it.  We will have to make a second trip out to see the cranberry harvest.  Have you discovered any hidden gems while on a completely different mission?