Photos From the Road - May, 1 - May, 24
 Looking down my nose at me? 

Looking down my nose at me? 

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Yuba River, CA

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No sticks on this bit of the Yuba River!

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Jesus...is my co-pilot ok?

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Old Apple Farm (left to right) Dave, Gregg, Mike and Trevor.

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A little cold for a Wombat, Moonrat.

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Cannon Beach, OR

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Our pals Jesse and Paul in Astoria, OR.  Bossa Nova session, as recorded by an old man/cricket.

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Pelé was given a choice by a wise and ancient beetle in the grass.  She spoke to him in a tongue only the uncomplicated animals can hear.  "Sir", she whispered, "would you care to dance with the devil, drink with the gods, or piss on a golden obelisk?"

Without hesitation, Pelé closed his eyes and raised his leg in gratitude to the creature, sending a message to all gentle and curious travelers to come.

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What advice would you give yourself if you met a younger you?  

Buy a mask, and get mean! 

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Astoria to Washington over the Columbia River. 

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"Yes, I'll have the swordfish, not overcooked this time, thank you, and the lady, when she wakes, will take another Chablis."

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Lake Wenatchee, WA

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Patreon.com/monkeytooth to help prevent this from being permanent.

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Ross Yuly, 85 years old, totally relaxed, our new pal.  

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More podcast recording in Index, WA.

The (Not So) Innocents Abroad...
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To be sure, travel writing is an old game. Writing down one's thoughts with the intent of entertaining others, or shifting the burden of memory from the brain to paper (or screen in this case) has been a pursuit of the traveling man, I would suspect since we began drawing figures in caves. As you might expect these journals are not an improvement on the genre. 

Our departure from home was one for the books, though. In the morning, the last we would spend on our small, rented piece of land, began with our sweet neighbor, Kristen and roughly 3 children (they are hard to count, as they never stop moving, and all look basically the same to me) were diligently picking flowers from a rose bush in front of where we parked the van for the last time. 

Kristen told us we absolutely had to give at least five minutes notice before leaving, as they were planning a rose petal parade for our departure. The flowers they were picking were being shuttled to another cache of children in the school itself...

I should mention, our neighbors and landlords operate a small school out of their home. It is called the Wigwam School, and it is usually teaming with happy little runny-nosed monsters. I tend to use typically uncharitable adjectives to describe the kids, but I do love them and wish them all of the best. I just hope they experience the fullness of that love and enjoy the best life has to offer at a distance which germs and shitty attitudes cannot cover. 

So now you know, somewhat out of linear order, there is a school next door to where we parked. Did you also know we have lived on that piece of land for the past year and a half in an RV? Not to be confused with our van, we lived in a 33' RV for the past three and a half years, at various locations around Sonoma County, CA. We ended up selling that to a couple of other neighbors, and have since been living in our van...about a week now, as I write this.

The last week of our time in Sonoma County was something of a quest to defeat our fears of failure and our own potentially crushing expectations. I (Andrew), had knee surgery, our van was in the shop for three days, and I was out of town for about 56 hours immediately before my surgery. Feel free to read the previous journal entry if you are curious about that.

My good friend Erik, a fun and interesting guy in his own right (who incidentally refused in his own suborn way, to be a guest on our show), was kind enough to let us stay at his home through the most difficult bits of my recovery...the part where I was walking with a cane. Before that, our friend Sally (Also fun and interesting, but unable to sit with us for a recording of one of her many tales) let us stay with her the evening before my procedure. She also picked me up from the mechanic's shop when I dropped off the van, as Tiffany was under strict obligation to adhere to a previously scheduled ritual sacrifice she had written in the book of death with her own blood and threats of eternal damnation, should she miss that appointment...I may have the details there a bit confused, but I'm pretty sure it must have been incredibly important to leave her ceaselessly loving husband alone to sort out the problems with the van in which we are both meant to be living in for the next two years. It couldn't have been a reservation at a restaurant, I'm certain of that.

At any rate, we owe a debt to our friends...all of them.

The task of reading one's self for a journey is a fairly typical experience, one needs a way to store food, water, clothing, and shelter. The method of transportation must be in sound condition, and the traveler must be in a physical and mental state, suitable for travel. In the case of a two-year expedition wherein man, wife and dog are planning on leaving little or nothing behind, the aspects of travel preparation which are a-typical, are joined by the daunting task of deciding what to do with all of the shit you have collected over the years.

Tiffany was busy sorting through our remaining items (mostly making piles of things to give away, and a much smaller pile of things to mail back to the house I rent to my family members in Memphis, TN), and I was on the task of hobbling around our van, cleaning, organizing, making last minute adjustments and repairs, and basically futzing. 

When we finally decided it was time to go...after about a 30-minute nap for me to rest, elevate and ice my knee (Mom), we told sweet Kristen we would be leaving soon. 

The students, ages 2-4 years old, gathered at the edge of the semi-circle driveway, with their shirts filled with flower petals, ready to throw. Tiffany stayed behind to film the procession, as she was also driving our car, which was filled with items to donate. 

Incidentally, we also donated the car to our good friend, and the first host on our journey, May Dwyer. You will hear more about her in a bit.

As the van pulled up the hill, the adorable teachers and students rained petals in crazy little arcs down from a little hill, some reaching the inside of the van, some landing just in front of the tires, and one getting caught in the snapping teeth of Pele'. The kids were shouting, “Goodbye, Happy Birthday, Be safe!”

It was a beautiful send-off. The video Tiffany took of it is something quite special and can be seen on Instagram, or Facebook.

From there, it was all business...mailing shit, picking up the last package from the mailbox, buttoning things up, and eating one last greasy meal in town before sitting in traffic for the next two hours on our way to Nevada City, to see our friends, May, Allison, Kevin and their son Rowan (2 years old & some change). 

The drive was largely uneventful and represented one of the very few times I have driven in the van over the last few months without Pele sitting next to me. The dog rode in the car with Tiff, and evidently tried to wedge his tiny face into holes in the steering wheel. 

On the way from Nevada City to our host's property (which is in the hills, just outside of town in an area called, “The Ridge”), we saw what looked like a terrible motorcycle accident. Once again, I timed the ingestion of pot-laced confections quite poorly; this time in the form of 5mg THC espresso beans. I thought our friends lived closer to town, and I ate the little beans when we were what I thought was about two hours out..it turned out we had another 30 minutes to go. I ended up feeling a rush of sadness and intense paranoia as we slowly drove by the officers and first responders tending to a man, supine in what looked like a full body brace. His rather large and severely damaged motorcycle was on the opposite side of the road, somewhat pinned under a big black SUV.

That is the last time I try to “time” the eating of edible pot while on a drive. Fool me once, shame on me. If I fool myself again, I've been fooled by a fool, and that is a little hard to take. Also, the road to our friend's house was gravel, and at one point, we had to drive across a creek-bed and climbed over some seriously beat-up roads for the last mile and a half. 

Our time with May and her friends was a blast. She was also waiting on some other friends from New Orleans to return from the river, Kenzie, and Matt. Matt and Kenzie are fantastic people on a similar journey to ours.

I actually knew Kenzie from New Orleans, and am super glad to have met Matt. He is a skilled builder, wood-worker, metal worker and all-around cool person. I almost forgot how much I liked people from New Orleans. Kenzie is a kind and beautiful young woman who is smart, funny, and fun to be around. Their vehicle is painted in a beautiful fashion by a New Orleans artist...both sides are covered with a lovely rendering of a heron.

We had time to chat in the morning with everyone, then played in the Yuba river for several hours before leaving for the night to interview a great friend of Charris Ford by the name of Ross Evans.

Ross is the founder and owner of Xtracycle, an electric assisted cargo bicycle company. We sat with Ross at his home, just outside the downtown area of Nevada City and had an incredible conversation with him. Ross, as I hope you will hear in the podcast, is a high IQ, quick-witted, ad sweet guy who truly believes what he is doing is for the better good of humanity. We believe him. His wife came home shortly after the podcast interview, with his two beautiful boys, one of whom climbed up a large door, and onto the second-floor balcony with several comic books in his mouth in order to read them from a choice spot. I liked him immediately. 

Shannan, Ross's wife had a Sprinter van full of groceries, which Tiff and I were happy to help haul up the stairs to their home. We had just enough time before the kids had to go to bed to chat for a bit with them and to play with the youngest boy, Ike. 

Ike is one of those super healthy little babies who are about 20 pounds heavier than they look like they would be; a solid little man, to be sure, robust and happy. He and I got along right away, and we read a few stories together, and he dropped a uniquely heavy little steel bottle directly on my knee-cap. He is only about a year and a half old, so the odds that he did it on purpose are fairly slim...you never know though. 

The older son, Kale, was deep into his books and was not particularly interested in talking to us. He was totally sweet about it but fairly firm on getting to the last pages as soon as possible. We enjoyed listening to his impassioned plea to be able to bring the books to bed, in-spite of his father's edict that they would not be passing the threshold of the kitchen. 

Ross and Shannan said we could sleep where we parked, and invited us to share smoothies in the morning before the caravan of cycling the children to school began. We did not want to miss that.

In the morning, Pele and I tossed the ball for a while before Ross showed up with three of the thickest and most nutritious and dense “smoothies” I have ever seen. They were incredibly high in fat, low in sugar and carbohydrates and tasted great. I was full until lunch. 

The neighbor's son and Ross's oldest came down with the rest of the family, and the neighbor offered to let me ride his Xtracycle, as my knee was hurting too bad to ride my own bicycle through the hills of Nevada City. Tiff rode her bike, and we barreled down the hill to get the kids to school, just shy of on-time. 

The bikes are fantastic. An Xtracycle is a long bike, with cargo space for additional riders, luggage, supplies, groceries, or basically anything which will fit. They come with an electric motor that can go from “off”, to barely have to work at all, with the push of a button. I needed that feature and made liberal use of the highest setting. Never at any point did my knee hurt, and I was able to go about 20 miles per hour on the rare flat surfaces in town.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with Ross, his wife, and Ike, and had a delicious, home-cooked lunch! We are super grateful to have spent time with Ross and his family, and am excited to share the podcast we recorded with him soon! 

From there we got a crazy tea made from coca leaves...I was flying by the time our friend, May took us to the South Fork of The Yuba River. If you have never seen this river, it is absolutely worth the trip...you WILL see naked hippies, so brace-yo-self!

We spend another nite with May & company and had such a beautiful and relaxed time. Little Rowan is sweet, playful and smart. We feel so fortunate when we get to spend time with these little beasts, pet them, get them pumped up, and then leave them behind to be tended to by their parents.

We spent the evening in Marysville, CA with the goal of seeing the Bok Kai Temple there. Our friend, and former guest, Heather Young has been involved with the restoration and upkeep of this beautiful, sacred space. 

We arrived after the temple closed, so we ended up wandering around the downtown area for a few hours, before finding a (relatively) quiet place to park for the night. We noticed the town was fairly busy with cars, but almost no people were walking the streets other than homeless folks and ne'er-do-wells.like us.

In the AM, we drove over to a little lake in the center of town, found a picnic table to use for breakfast, and settled in to play around with the dog for a bit. It was peaceful, there were men fishing quietly on the banks of the man-made, brick and stone retaining wall. Geese, swan, and ducks swam lazily around with little chicks in-tow. 

Mercifully for us, just as we were finishing the task of packing up to leave, a crazy sound penetrated the air. Have you ever heard a crackhead, shrieking in tears? Well, if you haven't, you are missing out. I do not wish to make fun of this man's suffering (excessively, anyway), but the shrill howling and caterwauling of a toothless, wildly disheveled, and more than just a little crusty cracked out crazy person will make a guy want to rethink some shit. 

Another sound, much deeper and more menacing soon followed. We turned our heads as said crackhead threw a large piece of broken masonry, with great effort, at the windshield of a parked truck. He followed up immediately by scooping up the stonework and smashing it completely through the driver's side window of the same truck. 

We decided to leave, right away. As I started the van, Captain Cracktackular had smashed the windshield of the Jeep parked next to the truck he had been brutalizing, and he was attempting to break the driver's side window of that vehicle; this time, without success. 

We drove away and pointed our undamaged vehicle in the direction of a hallowed, Taoist Temple on the other side of town. 

The Bok Kai Temple is something to behold. It was built in the mid-1800's and houses a trove of artifacts from the first wave of Chinese immigrants to enter California. It is a part museum and part active temple for worship.

I was happy to lay aside my skepticism and just enjoy the experience of buying incense, and beseeching the various deities in the temple for the protection of our loved ones, the success of business interests, and for protection for the community of Marysville from the ravages of floodwaters. To be fair, I sent up an extra little petition for the well-being of the crackhead and the owners of the much-abused vehicles he was using in-lieu of brutalizing the vehicles owners.

All prayed-up and smelling like the delightful incense of the temple, we pointed the van north, and drove clean out of the state, stopping just once to water the good soil of the most beautiful and dynamic little country in the United States; California!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Couch
Go On, Ya Big Dummy...

Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy!

Do you ever feel like anything can happen at any moment? Perhaps a wadded up twenty dollar bill will fall from your pocket, only to be picked up by the youngest child of a struggling single mother, who will then take that twenty and buy a winning lotto ticket? Or maybe just a big-ass hunk of shit will fall from the sky and break the branch in the tree where you had planned to hang a noose? 

As you may know, Tiffany and I are preparing to undertake a voyage of self-discovery and adventure with our newly adopted friend, Pelé the dog. In the midst of this undertaking, I have been writing emails to a man who I consider an intellectual hero of mine, Dr. Christopher Ryan (full disclosure, spell check had to help me out with the spelling of intellectual...twice). Over the past year, I have been sending him emails about random topics. Things like, 'I liked your interview with so-and-so'. Or, 'if you are passing through such-and-such town, you should check out blah, blah, blah'. 

Dr. Ryan was always generous with his time, and usually sent some type of response. When Tiffany and I decided to start a podcast based out of our 2006 red sprinter van, I felt compelled to explain this to Dr. Ryan and assure him, where we seemed to be copying him blatantly, it was completely by accident, and where the similarities were more subtle, we were doing it on purpose. Dr. Ryan was gracious and replied with good humor and wished us well.

About two weeks before our journey was to begin, I decided to shoot for the stars, and invite Dr. Ryan to be a guest on our show. To be sure, this is a busy man with a variety of tasks both personally and professionally, which demand quite a bit of his time. I honestly thought if I got a response at all, it would be a polite no. To my surprise, the good doctor said yes.

Now, I should also tell you that while attempting to prepare for our journey, I was told I needed to have an arthroscopic surgery on my knee, to prevent a potentially uninsured injury of greater severity in the future. This surgery was scheduled for the Wednesday before our departure. The time available for Dr. Ryan to meet with me was that Monday, at 2 PM, in Topanga, Ca.

Getting to Topanga from Sebastapol is no big chore. An easy 7 hours without traffic. I was happy to do it, as it meant I could stop and see some friends and my niece on the way down. My niece and I had Hawaiian BBQ, and I gave her some books. My friend Alex saw the van and gave me a hug. My friends Gnome and Vickie have a hot tub in which I was delighted to soak before Pelé and I crawled back in the van for a good night's rest. On Monday morning, I had breakfast with Gene and Vickie, got some much-needed exercise for Pelé, then drove down the coast in Malibu to connect with the road to Topanga. 

When I arrived in Topanga, I immediately felt welcome. It reminds me of the town we've been living in, Sebastapol. Both are small, and filled with a clash of farmers and hippies. There are intellectuals in the hills and cafes, and the local economy seems somehow snack-based.

Dr. Ryan is in the final stages of his most recent work “Civilized to Death”. That alone makes a man busier than most. In addition to that, his father was in the hospital, and his wife was due to arrive home the following day from several weeks abroad. That Dr. Ryan would have set aside an hour in the middle of his day to chat with a complete stranger, was a sign of a guy who takes a relaxed view of scheduling and obligations. It also suggests to me a confidence that the number of hours in a day is always exactly the right amount of time.

We had a fun and wide-ranging conversation in my van. We talked about van living, travel, bullshit, the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, his friend and mentor Stanley Krippner, disaster psychology, and poop. Just getting the opportunity to casually and leisurely chat with him was a blast for me.

After we wrapped up the interview, Chris invited me to his home to take a look at his van so I could experience the same sensations he had experienced when sitting in our van. We drive the exact same vans, and both have similar floor plans. His van feels much more open and spacious. When sitting in our van for the first time, he said, “it's like meeting your girlfriend's better looking twin sister”.

Dr. Ryan lives about half way up a rather steep hill. His driveway flows past his landlord's home, a 92 year old retiree from NASA named Ginger. I didn't get a chance to meet her; luckily she was once a podcast guest of his, so I have the opportunity to hear her tale. 

Chris offered me a coffee, and I accepted, thinking he was being gracious and getting me caffeinated for the drive home. The coffee was a double espresso...if you know me, you know that caffeine has an intensely powerful effect on my mood and aspects of my personality. This double espresso got to work immediately. I started telling stories as Dr. Ryan and I walked around his place. After about 10 minutes, he asked if I wanted to hang around for dinner. The overly polite weirdo in me wanted to decline, to give them man some space. The southerner in me who hates to turn down hospitality and home cooked meals thankfully spoke up first and accepted the offer. I was also having fun, and felt like hanging out, so I didn't end up sabotaging a good time with the urge to be polite.

As my mouth continued to run and the stories got, I would imagine, progressively stranger, Chris asked, “would you like to sit down and record another podcast?” At this point, my mind was swirling down the drain of a caffeine toilet, and any hopes of being polite or demure were gone. I accepted.

It was an enormous privilege for me to actually watch the host and producer of a show that I listen to every week, sit down to do his craft. It was like being a guest and a student at the same time. I felt incredibly comfortable and had a distinct feeling that I was making a new friend. 

I honestly can't remember most of what we talked about. I know we talked about my parents, my jobs, masturbating and me, me, me. I already talk too much, as it is. I am now keenly aware of just how much I talk about myself. At this moment, I am writing about myself, talking about myself. I will soon reread these sentences about myself, to myself. 

Mercifully, my time with Chris Ryan was not all me yammering...we had a fantastic meal, and we talked over dinner about books, writing, polyamory, sociology, psychology, and a host of other subjects about which I know basically nothing. The whole time, I felt at the very edge of my capacity to think clearly about complicated subjects. Never at any point did I feel like I was bothering him. I was also not worried that he was having a dull time talking to a thick-witted hippie-bro from the internet. It was a completely relaxed time, and I felt like I was hanging out with an old friend...exactly the way it feels when you meet people traveling and become fast friends by a campfire, or at a trail crossing. 

Time spent with a wiser and more seasoned traveler is time well spent. 

The evening drew to a close, I thanked and hugged my host, and Pelé and I walked back down the steep hill to our van, and we drove out of Topanga Canyon about as content as a man and a dog can be. I'm beyond grateful to Chris. I am learning to trust my impulses and intuition...making the split-second decision to drive to Topanga was worth every minute. It was also a great opportunity to shake down the van...

On the drive back home, about 120 miles from my front door, I heard one of those sounds you never want to hear while driving; a loud pop and bang, followed by a distinct whooshing sound coming from the turbocharger.

I immediately lost power, as I climbed the first of the many hills which would be torturing me and the van for the next several hours. 40 MPH was top speed on the incline of a hill. Black smoke would blast out of the exhaust, and the sound from the turbocharger was constant. 

We travel with an onboard diagnostic tool, which can read and clear engine codes. I pulled over, plugged it in, and immediately wished I hadn't. The panoply of fault codes filled the screen with horrible little letters and numbers and crammed my head and heart with the kind of dread you can only seem to get from car trouble. 

I searched through blogs and forums to try and diagnose the severity of the problem and came away with a slender confidence that I could drive it to a shop close to home...slowly, perhaps, but at least not in need of a tow truck. Three hours later, I was pulling into a shop.

I should also explain, almost ten minutes before this happened, I ate a pot chocolate. Those typically take about two hours to kick in for me, and I figured I would be home before things got weird, or clear thinking became difficult. Edible pot is excellent for creativity, lovemaking, and relaxation. It is a uniquely terrible substance if any amount of critical thinking is needed. Also, my exposure to paranoia is increased dramatically. 

Of course, like clockwork, the last hour of my tortured journey, and the bit where I had to deal with explaining to the mechanic just what in the fuck I thought was happening with my van, was stumbled through in a paranoid and moronic haze.

Over the next three days, and in the middle of dealing with my surgical procedure, the van would spend time in three different shops. Finally ending up at a Mercedes dealership, where they replaced an exhaust hose, cleared the fault codes in the computer, charged me $800 and sent me along my merry way.

What is the lesson here? We took from that experience the following insights; Do what you want, listen to your intuition, be prepared for your intuition to fuck you over occasionally, and remain calm the whole time. Anything you worry about will suck at least one more time than it should. 

We are grateful to have experienced all of this before the trip began in earnest, and that all of this happened at home, and not in the middle of nowhere. Let the journey begin!

 

 

 

Andrew Couch
A gift...
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On a hot summer afternoon, while walking the country lanes near our home, Tiffany and I encountered a wretched old man, dragging behind him a large stick. His clothes were tattered and threadbare. The long, spindly fingers of his dirty hands looked like an angry bowl of pasta had been shaped into old-man-hands by Picasso. In his eyes, we saw what looked like the last embers of a campfire, the morning after a party. In his wake, in contrast to his beleaguered and disheveled person, the grass was unexpectedly turning a bright and healthy green.

When we asked if he needed any assistance, he laughed. The sound was like that of a great tree limb, breaking in the distance, and falling on a herd of asthmatic goats. The man raised his great stick and pointed it directly at my beard.

“You would be cursed for speaking to me, but I have been cursed by one more powerful than I. My curses now bring joy to others, and that joy is my curse.  Behold!”

As he spoke, my face began to feel quite strange. I looked down, and my beard fell right off of my face and began to spin crazily on the ground in front of us.

The old man, who I can only describe now as a Wizard, continued to laugh as he turned his back and walked slowly away.

The ball of brownish and grey hair was spinning and spinning, and suddenly began barking! A cloud of dust and hair and moving madness was at our feet! Tiffany could barely continue drinking her wine!

When the dust settled, laying on his belly, with feet stretched out in front of him, looking deeply into our eyes with great anticipation, sat a perfectly content, tail wagging little dog. Just in front of him, lay a pinecone, which he clearly was waiting for one of us to throw.

In other words, we have a dog now, his name is Pelé, and he will be joining us on our journey.

MTP.DOG

This is the first entry...We will do our best to update this as often as we can.  Our journey will officially begin on May 1st, but before we leave, there is much to do.  Our goal is to record a few stories with friends and family to make sure we have at least some of the bugs worked out before we take off.  

We are building a gofundme page and a Patreon page.  As soon as those are live, we will be sending emails and notifications to everyone we know.  We will also be making a video of our van project, and will post that to youtube as soon as it is done.  We hope to attract the attention of the many people out there working on their own van projects, looking for inspiration.  We found that incredibly helpful in our project, so we would like to return the favor to a stranger.  

Although we want to spend most of our time exploring and wandering around without any particular goals in mind, we are both the type of person who needs shit to do...and it must be the sort of thing which is worth doing.  This podcast is most definitely something worth doing.

If you have any suggestions, know of someone you think we should meet on our travels, or would like to help support us in any way, feel free to contact us!

Looking forward to more entries - T&A

Andrew Couch