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We set out early yesterday morning from Terelj, headed about 650 kilometers south to Three Camel Lodge, which is a bit northwest of Dalanzagad in the Gobi Desert. After about 90 minutes of driving, we stopped in the first of three towns that we expected to see along the way to get some bread, water, and a few snacks. Yes, that’s right, just three towns in more than 400 miles. No joke. And they were tiny towns with just the basic necessities. It reminded me a bit of Alaska or the Australian outback.

The first two hours of our journey were on dirt roads, constantly checking the GPS to make sure we were on course. With Chris as the driver, me as the navigator, and Kai with the ultimate powers from the backseat, we were lucky to easily find the paved road that we were seeking for the middle few hours of our drive, finally finishing off the last two hours on a dirt road from Dalanzagad to Three Camel Lodge.

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Along the way we saw many animals; horses, cows, and more two hump wumps than Kai could count. We saw a golden eagle, pikas, marmots, ermines, and even a fox, but strikingly few people. Deep into the Gobi, Chris slammed on the brakes “Brit get the camera! I hope the zoom lens is on! Wild cat up ahead!” We are still debating if it was a lynx kitten or a baby snow leopard. Thankfully, this furry feline was tame!

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After a full day of driving, covering hundreds of miles, I have concluded that Mongolia is indeed vast and it is most certainly empty. We knew that it was the least densely populated country in the world, but that doesn’t hold much meaning until you visit several province capital cities that are smaller than Dawson City, Yukon. It is pretty remarkable.

The Gobi Desert is much different than our desert in Dubai. We are accustomed to Lawrence of Arabia style sand dunes and suffocating humidity, but this is a flat, dry desert covered in low grass and brush with some occasional tumbleweed blowing by.

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We spent last night in a yurt in the Gobi, which was a pretty remarkable experience. The temperature dipped quite low after the sun set, but the yurt had excellent insulation and a wood stove to keep us warm. Our yurt had the special distinction of being a double yurt with a bathroom and flushing toilet in the smaller side.

After a night in the Gobi, we are excited to see the Flaming Cliffs tomorrow, and maybe some petroglyphs and dinosaur eggs too!

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Our second day in Mongolia began with a trip to the local tire repair shop. In reality, I think it was the local fix everything shop; there was also a boat under repair. It really wasn’t much of a shop at all, it was a concrete building with rustic looking wooden doors, a few yurts in the yard for the proprietor and his family to live in, and a junk yard dog thrown in for good measure.

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When the tire was fixed, we headed back to our hotel to put it on the car. Kai supervised.

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Nervous about a less than awesome tire patch, we headed out on a day of adventures to test it out before our long drive to Dalanzagad and Three Camels Lodge tomorrow. In the morning we visited Turtle Rock and a meditation temple before deciding to ditch the touristy stuff and explore some more remote areas.

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Shortly after heading off-road, Kai did her requisite road trip puke in the car. Chris cleaned the Kai while I cleaned the car. And we both prayed that she had nothing left in her tummy to throw up again.

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We drove for several hours through nothingness. Over hills, through valleys, past yaks, cows, horses, and yurts. At one point today we even saw a two hump wump, um, camel. After nearly three hours of driving we had almost completed a semi-circle drive from one main road to another, when our path ended.

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Disappointed, and having exhausted all other alternatives, we turned around to drive back the way we came hoping that we would make it before sunset. Just before dark, we pulled into our hotel only to have the day finished off with projectile vomiting all over the lobby of the hotel. Kai seems to be more prone to motion sickness than most people, I am better than most at puke cleanup.

A few weeks ago Chris and I were inspired to buy plane tickets to Mongolia for the upcoming Eid holiday. Before doing much research, we took the plunge and bought the tickets deciding that we would figure out the details later. Our initial searches on the Internet told us that Mongolia might be a difficult country to travel in, but we were undeterred and forged ahead with our plans.

Fast forward to a few days ago when we hopped on a plane bound for Beijing, still with very few plans for Mongolia, still hoping that we would figure it all out when we arrived. Yesterday we visited the Great Wall of China and then caught an early morning flight to Ulaanbaatar. Less than a day into our trip to Mongolia, I can already tell that this is going to be an adventure.

My initial impression of Mongolia is that it is only for the most laid back fly by the seat of their pants travelers. After an ordeal lasting more than three hours we finally got our rental car. It involved Chris heavily editing an absurd car rental contract, a trip to the local mechanic to have the under side of the car inspected, and Chris walking out of the car rental office once with the intention of abandoning that plan. If there had been more than one car rental car company, then we probably wouldn’t have complied with all that nonsense, but Google wasn’t turning up any other legitimate options.

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Finally we headed out of town in a big Nissan SUV making a pit stop at a grocery store along the way. Surprisingly, the random grocery store that we found was far better than most in Dubai!

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After stocking up on bread, peanut butter, fruit, water, and UHT milk, we left Ulaanbaatar for Terelj where we will spend out first two nights. Within ten kilometers of the capital city, things began to change.

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And we even saw our first two humped camel!

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The going was slow, in part due to erratic traffic patterns and in part due to the quality of the road, but we made it to our hotel without even getting lost

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…only to realize that there was air GUSHING out of one of our back tires!

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The adventure has begun!

Can I still write about my vacation last month? Its old news, probably not, but I’m doing it anyway. I have had a lot going on in the past three and a half weeks since we got home and I haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about my trip, but, as Chris keeps pointing out to me, I will enjoy reading about it someday if I make the time to write about it now. So, here it is, I’m making time.

When I first sat down to look through my pictures from Norway, I realized that there were not many pictures, and even fewer good ones. I’m a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. It is pretty difficult to manage Kai while effectively taking photographs. We have a lot more pictures from the second half of our trip in Prague where Chris joined us and championed the photography effort.

In my last post, I went on a rant about the high price of food in Oslo, although, all said and done, I managed to only spend $298 on food, entertainment, and transportation over the three days that we were there; I feel pretty good about that.

So what does one do in Oslo anyway? That was a big question for me before our trip, but I quickly found out that there are many exciting things to see there.

We visited many museums such as the Fram, Munch, Nobel, and Viking Museums as well as my very favorite, the Ski Museum. I almost didn’t make it to the Ski Museum because it is a bit out of the way and involved a long walk, ok, not that long, maybe a mile, straight uphill from the nearest Metro station, but I am so glad that we went. I really enjoyed reading about the history of skiing and, for some reason, Kai patiently allowed me to do so.

Because the weather was chilly and drizzly, I sought out as many indoor activities as I could find. Kai seemed to stay quite warm in her stroller sleeping bag*, but I kept getting chilly and I kind of regretted leaving my Uggs at home. Don’t get me wrong, we did many outdoor activities as well, just fewer than we might have done had it been warm outside.

*If you live in a cold climate and need or want a stroller sleeping bag, I highly recommend the 7AM Enfant one. It is by far the most awesome one that we have used, Kai’s feet stay warm even in sub-freezing temperatures when she kicks her shoes off.

So more about Norway, I’m not finding a lot to say. I am glad that we went. I cherish the opportunity to go new places, see new things, learn about other countries and cultures, but I’ve had trouble writing because it wasn’t all that I had hoped for. I still haven’t written posts about the Maldives for the same reason. [Chris, remind me that I should get on with that as well!]

My main hangup with Norway was the people. They are very beautiful, arguably the most beautiful people in the world, but they can act kind of ugly. They were friendly in much the same way that I have experienced friendliness in France; read that how you will. I had a few experiences in Norway that just rubbed me the wrong way. None of the situations were dangerous and I understand that they do not reflect the behavior and attitude of each and every person in the country, but I’m just having trouble getting past a handful of extremely rude people who I encountered.

Overall, Oslo was a safe, clean, beautiful city with many activities for tourists, nevertheless, I don’t think it is at the top of my ‘revisit’ list.

Our first day in Oslo started off pretty well. We took a short nap and got cleaned up before heading out for some lunch and some sightseeing. We hit up several of the sights in Central Oslo before I decided to look for somewhere for us to eat.

Big mistake. Finding food for us took much longer than I expected. I quickly found out that it would be difficult to find even a fast food sandwich for us to split for under $12. I was also realistic enough to realize that splitting a European-sized sandwich with Kai would not even come close to filling my oversized American appetite.

I started to get kind of nervous. I had been warned that Norway was expensive, heck, I had even been warned by a Brit who thought Oslo was far more expensive than London. It just didn’t sink in though until I was converting the prices of things in my head.

Thinking back on our trip to Japan, I made a beeline for McDonalds. We had a few meals there in Japan and they were pretty reasonably priced. I shuddered at the idea of feeding Kai McDonalds. Bad. Mother.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw that the price of a Big Mac Value Meal was more than $17. Yikes. My fear of feeding Kai McDonalds went out the window because even that didn’t seem like a reasonable option.

I needed to buy some time while I figured out what to do. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a small (~16 oz) carton of milk for $3 and a banana for $1.22. At least Kai would forgive me for another hour or so while I got this sorted out.

Finally, I found a grocery store that was open. I bought some fruit and bread so we would have something to snack on while we were out and about, but there was nothing in this store that would make a meal suitable for Kai without my having access to a kitchen.

I eventually settled on getting us $12 fast food sandwiches. Naturally, I ended up eating nearly two $12 sandwiches because Kai didn’t like either one. I should have seen that coming.

In the end, we did not end up spending a fortune on food in Oslo, but we also never ate at an establishment that offered seating of any kind. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though; sometimes it is stressful to take a toddler into a restaurant by myself, so alfresco dining had its perks.

We got to see a lot of awesome stuff in Oslo, but I’ll share more about that another day.

Kai and I took two flights to get to Norway and, thankfully, they may have been her most successful yet. After both flights, passengers commented to me that they had no idea that a baby was sitting adjacent to them.

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The first leg of our journey took us to New Jersey where we had a twelve hour layover and an opportunity to hang out with my family all day. We got to have blueberry pancakes, a trip to the zoo, and a big dinner before heading back to the airport for round two.

For the second time that day, Kai fell asleep before takeoff and managed to sleep until the final approach into our destination airport. The sounds pretty good, but there is a bit of a downside for me; it means that I did not sleep much at all as I was dealing with various limbs falling asleep from her weight and the inability to get up to use the bathroom for nearly seven hours. Still, this was a much better alternative than a cranky, wakeful baby.

Sunday morning we arrived in Oslo, caught a train into town, and secured a super early check-in into our hotel. So far, so good!

All winter long I have been super stoked about a snowboarding trip to Vail, one of my most favorite ski areas. For a week or more, I have been excited to the point that I had trouble focusing on anything except for daydreams of shredding. Last night I could barely sleep. Finally, I found myself counting down the hours of the work day.

With just two hours until I planned to leave work, I logged onto the Internet hoping to find a flight upgrade notification. I did and I was super stoked all over again.

Until I looked more closely. Our flight from Indy to Denver was cancelled.

Immediately I called United on one phone while using the another to blow up both of Chris’ cell phones with calls and text messages. Minutes later he arrived at my desk to finish my phone call with United while I packed up my stuff. Our only hope to get to Denver tonight was to rush to Cincinnati and catch a Houston-bound flight and we needed to leave ten minutes ago. We picked up Kai on the way out of town and decided to go for it.

I felt a rush of adrenaline as we drove to Cincinnati, excited that we had a second chance, but nervous that we wouldn’t make it. With eleven minutes before the checked bag cutoff, we pulled into the expensive parking garage closest to the terminal. Chris jammed inside with our suitcase and the snowboards while I packed up Kai and the car seat before hurrying inside to meet him. As I approached the ticket counter, excited that we had made it, Chris’ face told a different story.

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Two hours after we began our journey, we were again piling into the car, hungry, tired, and deflated. Shortly after getting back on the road, we ran head on into the storm that had grounded our flights. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain were flying at us in a scene reminiscent of Rad Racer, if you are the right age, you know exactly the level that I am talking about.

We crept back home from Cincinnati at a snail’s pace, our return trip taking almost twice as long as the journey there. I’m super disappointed that the trip did not work out; it seems that Vail is getting hammered with snow right now and the conditions will be perfect for anyone who can make it out there.

Hopefully we’ll have a chance to get out there later in the season.