Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

New Year's at Calpine Fire Lookout

January 8, 2017
Last weekend, we stayed at the Calpine Fire Lookout in the Tahoe National Forest. The forecast called for a major snowstorm, so we geared up for cross-country skiing and winter backpacking (including our tent, in case we got waylaid by the storm hiking in). Sunday morning, we drove to Sierraville and hiked 2 miles in (with 1000 feet of elevation gain), carrying 4 gallons of water (since there is no running water at the tower) and our XC skis (since the ground was pretty clear on the first day).

The forecast was correct – it started snowing the first night and continued for days (which gave us plenty of fresh snow to melt/filter/boil for extra water). We played Scrabble and card games, read, drank hot chocolate, (re)-learned to XC-ski, and ate good camping food. (The place turned out to have a very well-equipped kitchen, minus running water, which augmented our usual backpacking kit.)

On Tuesday, with 2-3 feet of fresh snow (still coming down), we geared up and slogged back down the trail. (The thin XC skis fell right through the snow, so we were basically plowing with our legs the whole way.) We had a great time and would definitely go back.

Calpine fire lookout, upon arrival.
Calpine fire lookout, upon deparature.
Hiking in, skis strapped to our packs.
Not much snow on the ground when we arrived.
We made it!
Ben carried four gallons of water.
View from the lookout - day 1.
Cabin balcony - day 1.
Cabin balcony - day 2.
The beginnings of a Scrabble game.
Writing in the visitor's log

View from the lookout - day 2.
Re-learning how to XC ski.
XC ski boots keep your feet warm and dry.
Ben all geared up for skiing back to the car.

Making New Year's resolutions.
We made a snowman.

A few more photos of the lookout.

Storm blowing in
- Steph (photos) and Ben (video)

Map: What to eat and see in Havana, Cuba

October 12, 2016
Havana is exploding in popularity now, but it’s a tricky city for tourists to navigate. There’s no internet access on mobile phones and very limited public wifi, which means you have to come prepared. On our trip, we relied almost exclusively on own custom map that included recommended restaurants, must-see attractions, museums, and more. It proved much more valuable than the guidebooks we had brought along.

havana city map
Our map is available to any aspiring Cuba traveler. You can view the high-res version below.
We brought our printed map with us because internet access is slow, unreliable, and expensive, and the Google Maps app does not allow Cuba maps to be downloaded offline. We also preferred consulting a few sheets of paper versus pulling out an entire guidebook. So please print out or buy a map before you go!

Our map combines information from a wide array of sources (English-language guidebooks, Spanish-language restaurant sites, Cuba travel blogs, etc). In particular, we put a lot of effort into finding places where we would want to eat —where to eat lunch in Havana Vieja away from the crowds, where to go for a special dinner, where to grab a drink with the best views over the Malecon, and so on. Cuban cuisine doesn’t have the best reputation, but we followed our map and we ate really well.

A few notes about what our map includes (and doesn’t include):
  • Sights: It lists the major sights in Havana Vieja along with a brief description. I’d recommend bringing along a Havana history guide to learn more about specific locations.
  • Museums: It lists the major Havana museums, most of which we found to be worthwhile.
  • Restaurants: This is where our map shines. We present a carefully curated list of restaurants and include sample dishes, decor, and contact information. We include must-visit culinary destinations and fallbacks, for when its 2pm and you're starving.
  • Tourist traps: We’re not really into following the tourist hordes so you won’t find Bodeguita del Medio on our map (you’ll know when you’re there because of the throngs of people gathered outside at all hours).
You can download our map below. We put a lot of time into making the map, so if you find it useful, please consider paying (whatever you think it's worth). But most of all, we want you to enjoy the map and your trip. We loved Cuba and hope you will too.

Here’s a brief overview of our itinerary:

  • Day 1: Vintage car tour + Havana Vieja (including Plaza de la Catedral de San Cristobal, Taller Experimental de Gráfica, the Plaza de Armas, Calle Mercaderes, Calle Obispo)
  • Day 2: Havana Vieja (including Almacenes de San José craft market), Capitolio, Paseo de Prado, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
  • Day 3: Museo de la Revolución, Centro Havana, Malecón, evening in Vedado (La Torre, Cafe Laurent, La Zorra y el Cuervo)
  • Day 4: Day trip to Vinales
  • Day 5: Rum and cigar shopping + El Cocinero + Fabrica del Arte Cubano 
  • Day 6: Castillo de los Tres Reyes + last-minute activities

More detailed information about our trip: If you spot any errors in the map, please let us know in the comments.

Note: Direct flights to Cuba are now available from the United States. Travel restrictions for U.S. citizens are still in place, but travelers claiming the people-to-people license no longer have to travel as part of an approved tour group.

Note to email subscribers

September 25, 2016
Hello faithful blog followers! Sorry for our extended absence. We've just posted seven long overdue blog posts. Here are the direct links:
We hope you enjoy the photos and we'll be back soon with more. Thanks for reading.

- Steph and Ben

Camping trip: Hills over Healdsburg

July 10, 2016
Over Fourth of July, we took the motorcycle to Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley.

lake sonoma liberty glen campground
Hills over Lake Sonoma
- Steph

Camping trip: Sonoma Valley

June 22, 2016
For our second camping trip of the summer, we spent the night at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma.

- Steph

Weekend trip: Santa Fe

May 31, 2016
For Memorial Day, we flew to Santa Fe (thank Southwest companion pass!). The highlights: hiking at Tent Rocks and cocktails at Radish & Rye. The lowpoint: our cracked rental car windshield.

Hiking at Tent Rocks
tent rocks santa fe
tent rocks desert new mexico
Santa Fe Railyard District
Santa Fe Railyard District
Santa Fe Railyard District
santa fe church
- Steph