Riverwest 24- Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I’m gearing towards another big change in my life today- I’m finishing packing up my life in Wisconsin and will board a flight to Australia this evening. Before I do that and begin another theme of blogging (I swear I’ll finish my overland stuff yet…) I wanted to share these photos my mom took this summer at the Riverwest24 in Milwaukee. The Riverwest 24 is a 24 hour long bike race that takes place in my former neighborhood. This is my second year participating in the RW24. This year I had my own team, The Terrible People Team. Named as such after a little club my friends and I had when we were younger and made bad drunk decisions (I def don’t do that anymore…) and the fact that most people on the team kind of suck at biking.

The Terrible People team didn’t place well but it was probably my favorite weekend of the entire summer.

More photos to follow.

Portezuelo, El Salvador

Our accommodation coming out off Juayua was highly recommended by Life Remotely, the saints of overlanding who wrote a free e-book for fellow overlanders to prosper off of. Just north of Juayua, Portezuelo is a park up in high coffee country that has reasonably cheap campsites available. We stayed for two nights at $12.50/night.

The park seems to be used for a lot of school overnights. Next to our campsite there was an extensive and intensive obstacle course. Since both Billy and I are a bit scared of heights we didn’t make it very far on the course.

The first night we camped out there was a school church group staying overnight in a big cabin barn. It was funny to listen to them sing in prayer and then bounce a beach ball around in an icebreaker to songs like “Get Lucky” and “Mr. Boombastic.” With the church group present, there were also a large handful of armed guards patrolling the parks perimeter. The next night we only noticed maybe one other guard than the one at the front entrance. The armed guards were friendly with one another and didn’t seem too serious. I almost did feel comforted to wake up in the middle of the night with these “protectors” strolling past.

Horses were available to take out on coffee plantation walks. I don’t like horses so we stuck to the ground. Perhaps Portezuelo owns all the coffee fields around. We just wandered down some paths and would occasionally run into farmers or groups of boys playing soccer, in which they would yell out the few English words they knew to me- “I love you! I hate you! Mi novia!”

The first night we were at Portezuelo, all through the night we could hear the services and songs of a church that seemed fairly far away, blasted into the night sky. We made a mention to one of the guards what a pain it was to listen to that all night and he gave us a little look that seemed to say, ‘you are crazy! ‘

The climate up in the coffee mountains was so different to everything we had experienced so far. It was cool but not cold, foggy at night, and warm in the sun. Waking up there was a delicious treat. I remember the air just smelling amazing.

The workers at Portezuelo were quite kind and brought us firewood per our request. Unfortunately it was a bit too wet to use.

Juayúa, El Salvador

I love El Salvador.

Thinking back to this day I’m greeted with so many memories of the sights and activities that greeted Billy and I as we headed out of San Salvador and on to our next destination, Juayúa.

Our hostel owner, Lena, easily convinced us to swap our El Salvador beach towns from the overly touristy and trashy La Libertad, to Barra de Santiago, a tiny beach strip town in north El Salvador where she conveniently owned another hostel that we could camp at. We would head there in a couple days but first we would stop in Juayúa to enjoy their famous ‘Feria Gastronomica’ or weekend food fest, before heading slightly north to our next camping spot.

Getting out of San Salvador wasn’t too hard and the drive was beautiful as we headed up into El Salvador coffee country. We accidentally drove straight through the town of Sonsonate on our way up, a town notorious for gang activity. As we tried to navigate our way out, we saw there was quite a commotion going on in the center of town. Residents flocked out onto the street to watch as heavily geared riot police made their way towards something. We had parked Kavinsky and were trying to ask for directions when we heard some smashes coming down the street we were parked on. Fearing the worst for our vehicle, we saw a group of men running down the street throwing rocks, followed by some police. Kavinsky was okay.That sort of worry was our cue to go so we hit the Ruta de Flores and made it into Juayúa just in time for lunch!

Apparently Sunday is the big day for the festival, we were there on a Saturday afternoon so according to the man in charge, not as much was going on. We met the head honcho of it all after watching him get up and preform some songs for the diners on a microphone in front of some food tents. His English was quite good and he apparently traveled quite a bit to represent his town and country globally. Doing what I am not sure. We had watched a non official looking “security” guy use some excessive force to push some unsavory looking homeless guys out of the festival area earlier on. We asked the boss man about it and he said he has to have that security to keep the drunks out. He’s had them puke on people in the past.

Always craving meat, Billy and I got some BBQ plates to share. We sampled some ‘conejito’ or rabbit and drank quite a few Pilsners- our El Salvadorian beer of choice, along with my favorite drink, horchata and a ‘fruit salad’ type drink.

Before leaving to find our campground, we stocked up at the outdoor market on veggies, finding them to be cheaper than we had ever paid before!

Early morning pupusa breakfast- San Salvador, El Salvador

We woke up early in San Salvador and took a walk to try to find some grub before we hit the road. Just around the corner from our hostel, we found this little pupusa stand up against the back of a factory serving early morning workers breakfast. It was perfect and so incredibly cheap. For only $1.50 we had four pupusas and a cup of coffee each. We shared a laugh with the men at the table when Billy realized he had taken the fork out of the curtido, the shared coleslaw that goes on top, and used it to eat his pupusa with.

As we sat there, this legend of a lady walked by. I tried my best to get a good photo of her t-shirt. Billy and I almost died laughing. It reads in English “BJs Are The Best”!!!!!

San Salvador, El Salvador (by accident)

We had planned on heading to the beach our first day into El Salvador. The aim was to hit La Libertad by the afternoon. At the time, we were using offline maps on Billy’s smart camera. The maps came off an app he had downloaded that you had to pre-load maps of ahead of time. It moved incredibly slow and it was hard to find your place again if you lost it. Navigation was my job so I should say that I was the one who really got us off track this time!

Somehow instead of heading east towards the beach, we ended up taking a wrong turn and heading west. Thicker clusters of buildings started to pop up around us, and just as Billy asked me to attempt to check the map for the thousanth time, we looked up into the sky and saw the “Bienviendos San Salvador” sign! We had absolutely not been planning on visiting San Salvador, or any big city at that! Without decent maps, we headed into the city, just following the road we were on, past derelict buildings pasted with bad graffitti. It was getting later and Billy was incredibly agitated by my poor navigation skills that led us to be stuck in traffic in an unknown major city. We had our 2009 Central American guidebook along so I was able to look up potential area hostels, the problem would just be getting to them.

There seemed to be quite a few options for hostels, if not hotels, just off of Blvd. de Los Heroes, a main shopping drag. Not knowing what else to do, we stopped at a petrol station to try and ask someone for directions. Billy asked a man who pulled up next to us on a motorcycle in the parking lot if he knew how we could manage to get over there. It was our lucky fucking day, or moment, because the man insisted we just follow him through traffic to get to the right street. I have no idea how else we would have made it, but he so kindly guided us to Blvd. de los Heroes! We were able to find a hostel, Ximena’s Guest House ($20 for a room to ourselves), easily enough from the map in our book after that!

The hostel itself was a bit worn down. We ventured out hoping to grab some beers and food and found ourselves at our first pupusa stand. It was a Friday night and many people were coming in to put in orders for family dinners. The ladies working were pretty busy so we sat around and had some beers while we waited. After such a day the beers were going down great and the pupusas ended up being amazing. We bought some bigger bottles of beer and took them back to the hostel, paying a deposit towards to the bottles with a promise to bring them back.

On the roof at Ximena’s Guest House.


In the hostel communal space, the few other backpackers that were there started to gather. Everyone loves a small world story so here it is- there was a British couple staying there who looked a bit famliar, turns out just a few months back they were living in Melbourne and were regulars at the pub I had worked at! As it sunk in we both began to recognize each other a bit more and I even was able to remember the dudes drink order- pink of Little Creatures Bright Ale!

Border Cross Day: El Salvador

Our border cross from Honduras into El Salvador at El Amatillo was our easiest and quickest yet. We grabbed another breakfast baleada as we checked out of Honduras and then made our way over to friendly El Salvador! This border town was bustling with little shops with people swerving around on tuk tuks. The border into El Salvador was beautiful and lush; with houses built on cliffs along the river that bordered the two countries.

One last baleada, this time con pollo.

Honduran baleada stand.

Billy coming back with some paper work from the border.

Untypically for Aduana workers, the ones operating this border were friendly and helpful by a considerable margin compared to ones at other border crossings. After getting our passports stamped and a bit of paperwork for the car sorted, we hit the road for a couple of K’s until we reached the car import building of the Aduana. This was the most tedious part of the border cross, as Billy had to sit in an open building and wait to be processed. Some truck drivers joked to him that he should just bribe the officials and we would get through sooner. They also told him he must go to Brazil for the women with the fake boobs.
We were done with the whole process in two hours and left Aduana with a good feeling about El Sal!

I Turned 25; the Last 5 Birthdays

Last weekend I turned 25 years old.

This post is a break from my overland stories. This post is about life right now, and it’s about the last five years.

I could write a book about how I’ve felt since my travels ended and my life in Milwaukee has re-begun. It’s been hard. It’s been hard to transition back into the almost exact life that I once thought I loved. It’s been embarrassing going back to that exact life as well. Having my life move backwards instead of forwards. These past six months have seemed like some of the worst in the past five years. The week leading up to my 25th birthday was spent dully moving through the same job I’d had in Milwaukee since I moved abroad, to spending my evenings in bed eating Mexican food and watching the last couple seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and feeling lonely and sorry for myself. In the end, turning 25 wasn’t so bad.

Here’s a recap of my past five birthdays. From age 20 to age 25.

June 6, 2009- My 20th Birthday

I had just a few days before returned from a backpacking trip in Costa Rica and Panama with my boyfriend at the time, Jimmy. He was my first love, we were incredibly proud of ourselves for surviving two weeks in Central America at a time that was just before Costa Rica’s big tourism boom. The night before my birthday Jimmy and I celebrated with dinner at Stefano’s with my parents, feasting on calamari and veal and drinking champagne even though we weren’t quite of age. Later in the evening we burned Christmas tree’s in the backyard beach of my Grandma’s house in Sheboygan, a family tradition. The next day on my actual birthday we went down to Jimmy’s hometown of Waunakee to attend his little brother’s high school graduation. His family bought a cake decorated with a ladybug on top for me.

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Me being a 19 year old babe yet in Puerto Viejo in my mom’s old bikini from the 70’s.

June 6, 2010- My 21st Birthday

This is really embarrassing, but on the night of my 21st birthday I didn’t wear any underwear and everyone saw my vagina and butt. I had been running a lot the month leading up to my birthday and bought a super tiny and thin bright pink dress from American Apparel. With my roommate Anna’s encouragement, I didn’t put on any panties, as you could see all undie lines right through it. We threw a party on the night of the 5th in our apartment just off North Avenue and went out at midnight. This means that everyone who was out on North that night saw these private parts of me as well. The night ended with me pounding on the Ian’s Pizza sneeze guard demanding a slice of Bacon Cheeseburger pizza which they were out of by that time in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, various friends met up with me for breakfast and bloodies at Hi-Hat Garage followed by a brewery tour at Sprecher after and then a pub crawl down Brady Street and North Avenue. I may or may not have ended my night at Axel’s.

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Crossing North Ave in Adam’s arms. I know there are still a couple photos looming around on the internet of my butt from this unfortunate night.

June 6, 2011- My 22nd Birthday

My most vivid memory of this actual day is that my boyfriend at the time, Ryan, went out and bought a gun. Just to have! I remember crying on the stairs at his house, dressed up and ready to go out for dinner. We almost didn’t make our reservation which was at Sake Tumi for the Milwaukee Downtown Dining Week special. After dinner we ran into my current roommate Sarah and she bought me a jalapeno mojito at Trocadero. I had just moved into a couple of friend’s sunroom in their apartment on Prospect just for the three months of summer and the weekend following my birthday we had a pretty massive party for me. This was the party that our dear friend Dinah backhanded our not-so-dear friend Margaux in the face for being the bitch that she was. It was pretty epic, though the end of the night brought a lot of negative energy and many people left crying. Other notable mentions for this birthday party were our friend Matt showing up with Juggalo face paint on, a dead bird was given to me in a box saying “Happy Birday” and then there was the introduction of Jason to Sarah which in forth brought my very favourite two year old and housemate, Oliver into the world, about nine months later!

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The Prospect housemates and I at my party, including Margaux who got backhanded, to my immediate right.

June 6, 2012- My 23rd Birthday

I was feeling very fresh the summer I turned 23. I had just broken up with Ryan and was planning my life escape to Australia. Everything was feeling magical and I thought my life was just where it needed to be. The night before my birthday I went out to eat with my family at Braise in Walker’s Point. Nothing special, we thought, and we’ve never been back since. This was the night of the recall election for Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker. After dinner I met a couple friends at Hotel Foster and learned that Scott Walker was not successfully recalled. It was a big bummer for everyone but a good friend made sure a Brand New song came on at midnight and I drank delicious peach cocktails for free for the rest of the night. The next night on my actual birthday, a group of my favorite friends pulled up to the Centro Cafe bar where Adam was bar tending and had a meal with me. We went out in Riverwest after. If anyone picked up a disposable camera that night at Foundation, I am still upset because that it went missing there. The weekend got better and better with way too many late nights out and rebounds for me. I closed it with the best Locust Street Days ever, falling asleep on a back porch somewhere in Riverwest.

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We were drinking a lot of Mike’s Hard Lemonade at this point in my life. Kelly and I take time out of Locust Day for some Photobooth fun- note the studded shorts!

June 6, 2013- My 24th Birthday

My birthday last year I was living in Melbourne and getting pretty serious with Billy (wait, that’s a horrible phrase- getting pretty serious! Ugh!) We met at the Collingwood train station and he took me out for dinner at a surprise location, the Movida in Hoiser Lane. The best part of the meal was spicy beef tartare! We had some drinks in the CBD and then went back to mine to share a wine with my 63 year old roommate and look at his iPhone photos with him. The next day I splurged on a Mister Zimi dress to wear out for my birthday. I had people over at my beautiful Collingwood warehouse apartment and made everyone enchiladas, a dish that became my specialty in a country with little Mexican influence. A bunch of the Vans crew came over and we took some illicits and went to the Carlton Club where a workmate was having a going away party. Around 5 or 6 in the morning as we laid down to bed finally, Billy whispered very fast that he loved me for the first time.

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Vans Crew at Carlton Club- Off the Wall!

June 6, 2014- My 25th Birthday

I avoided letting many people at work know that it was my birthday so that I wouldn’t have to get up during Shabbat Sing in front of the entire school and have them sing me a happy birthday. After work my parents and youngest brother came down and we went for dinner at La Merenda. It was good, but nothing was amazing. I’m getting bored of Milwaukee restaurants. After dinner I came home and Sarah and I popped open a bottle of champagne. I was coming to terms that that night might just be her and I drinking on the porch. Instead, I was surprised by our friend Dinah, who came up from Chicago though she said earlier in the week she was busy! We had some more people over and eventually made it out to Art Bar. I came home and passed out in the shower and had to be carried out by poor Sarah. The next day, Dinah, Sarah and I went for brunch at Wolf Peach. It was nice. Gay marriage was legalized the night before and Pridefest was happening at the Summerfest grounds so on Saturday night Dinah, her friend, and my friend’s from Sheboygan, Nancy and Darrick, danced our night away in a DJ tent there. I realized that I have been friends with Nancy for 15 years, as we remembered back to our 5th grade birthday parties. The next morning I woke with much anticipation for the best day of the year, Locust Street Days! The morning moved by at a snail’s pace but the day was almost just as magical as it was two birthday years ago. We drank Coconut La Croix with rum and saw Platinum Boys, Castle Thunder, Rio Turbo, the Fatty Acids and Kane Place Record Club. Kelly and I ended up in the wrong backyard after the fest was over. Shooting for the a friend of a friend’s bonfire , we accidentally wandered into their neighbor’s backyard which had a blow up bouncy castle going. We were invited in to play ‘Zombies’ with Cash, 4 and Ian, 7. They were even allowed by their parents to come over to the drug and alcohol fueled bonfire party next door with us. That’s Riverwest, I guess.

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A crew assembles during Locust Street Days on Rebecca’s steps.

The end of the weekend left me feeling loved by all those who celebrated with me and love for Milwaukee, something I haven’t felt much of since I’ve moved back.