Matt and Joanne’s Page

January 5, 2009

Winter in the Wallowas

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 12:24 pm

Looks like we’ve gotten a little lazy lately in keeping our page updated. Although, to be honest, we haven’t really done a whole lot other than watching the snow fall in our backyard. It’s been three weeks since snow started falling in Hillsboro and looking out the window, I can still see a few patches here and there. So we’ve almost had a “real” winter here!

We did manage to escape the city for New Years and took a trip over to Northeast Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains. We were there two years ago and had a good time so we decided a return trip was worthwhile.

The snow ended up being absolutely incredible. Without skis we were sinking up to our waist in powder.

It’s not hard to find untouched trails in the Wallowas where you can set out and blaze your own trail through snow covered pines with magnificent views on the surrounding mountains.

Yogi had to follow our ski tracks to avoid sinking over his head in the snow.

Yogi is a snow dog but in this kind of powder he wore himself out quickly. After just an hour of skiing he was getting exhausted so we took him back to the car to warm up and rest.

More pictures to come later (once I find our other camera!)

December 23, 2008

Snow In Hillsboro

Filed under: Home — Tags: , , — Matt Stamplis @ 12:00 pm

I remember a post from a couple years ago where I got so excited by a few inches of snow in our backyard that I rolled all the snow up and dug out a little snow cave. Well, this year has been a bit crazier: I finally went out and measured the snow in our backyard…14 inches! (12/24 Update: A couple more inches fell early this morning!) Apparently Portland hasn’t seen this kind of snowfall in 40 years…woah!

Of course, the city isn’t really equipped to deal with this (minimal number of snow plows, no salt, etc.) so it’s been a bit crazy out on the road (chains required). We’ve mostly stayed near the house. Yesterday Joanne tried to get to work by taking the train to the bus station. But when she got to the bus station she learned her bus was stuck in snow an hour away and wasn’t going to arrive anytime soon. So we got to hang out at home all day!

Our home!

Piling up on the picnic table…

The best part has been the skiing: we’ve been able to get out and ski 4 or 5 times already. And there’s a nice trail through the woods just a block from our house. With all this snow it’s turned into the perfect cross-country ski route.

Yogi has two favorite places: the beach and anywhere with snow! So he’s been having a great time!

So we’ve had a bit of extra time indoors the last few days. Joanne was ambitious enough to reupholster one of our couches to add a splash of color to the room. I don’t have any “before” pictures but we bought this couch a few years ago for $30 or so: it was a dark green and had a broken arm (which Joanne fixed during the reupholstering).

How’s it look? And in case you don’t notice, those are roosters all over the couch. Yes…roosters…We sort of bought the fabric as a bit of a joke but we thought it turned out pretty well. So who knows what’s next? Rooster curtains? Rooster wall paper? In fact, Joanne already sewed roosters as patches onto a pair of my pants!

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!!!!!

December 19, 2008

ACTUAL Cost of Our Roadtrip!

Filed under: Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 7:59 am

OK, in our last post I just kind of estimated what our trip costs were but Joanne thought it made more sense to figure out exactly what it cost us. If you don’t like numbers, this post might not be for you. But if you want to know exactly what this trip cost us, check out this mind-numbing table!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Total Annual (12 months)
Food (includes eating out) $356.68 $491.44 $369.56 $401.99 $336.86 $298.79 $528.83 $553.45 $3337.60 $5006.40
Gas $1001.97 $205.53 $592.83 $349.00 $426.60 $464.46 $203.13 $277.57 $3521.09 $5281.64
Campgrounds $207.00 $74.00 $229.00 $208.00 $0.00 $40.00 $87.88 $39.44 $885.32 $1327.98
Health Insurance $260.46 $260.46 $260.46 $260.46 $260.46 $201.00 $201.00 $121.55 $1825.85 $2738.78
Cellphone $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $10.00 $0.00 $110.00 $0.00 $120.00 $180.00
Climbing Gear $0.00 $0.00 $426.58 $316.00 $0.00 $0.00 $35.85 $461.79 $1240.22 $1860.33
Car Insurance $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $52.00 $416.00 $624.00
Yogi (Dog Stuff) $62.99 $4.11 $1.49 $55.00 $234.68 $298.60 $0.00 $0.00 $656.87 $985.30
Vehicle Maintenance $0.00 $0.00 $693.81 $0.00 $150.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $843.81 $1265.72
Propane $16.72 $0.00 $16.00 $30.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $62.72 $94.08
Misc. Spending $214.24 $126.62 $155.85 $594.50 $141.44 $360.00 $61.56 $0.00 $1654.21 $2481.32
Totals $2,172.06 $1,214.16 $2,797.58 $2,266.95 $1,612.04 $1,714.85 $1,280.25 $1,505.80 $14,563.69 $21,845.54

And here’s a little graph making it a little more obvious where all the money went!

So there you have it, $21,845 for the ultimate year-long roadtrip around the U.S for TWO! Doesn’t seem too bad at all…guess we better start saving for our next trip! Maybe next time we’ll make it through the whole year. 🙂

Some anomalies – the $1000 for gas in January was a result of driving the motor home from Oregon to Arizona – Yikes! $693 in March on car maintenance went towards towing and 2 very expensive motor home tires. The car insurance numbers are for the Civic, though surprisingly, I don’t think the motor home cost much more. The misc spending category is for costs that didn’t fit into other categories or for purchases for which we lost receipts.

Also, I’ve only included the period from Jan-Aug since we didn’t really track our spendings in Malaysia very closely. But the annual cost column extrapolates the first 8 months of the year to get an annual cost. And I should probably note that this doesn’t really include the cost of paying our mortgage: in an ideal world we would have sold our home and would still be traveling 🙂

December 11, 2008

The Cost of a Road Trip

Filed under: Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 10:20 am

I’ve had a few people ask me how much it cost us to take our extended road trip. I never really answered those questions because I don’t really know (Joanne tracked most of our expenses) but I did a lot of the initial budgeting, which is just as important if you’re thinking of hitting the road yourself. Every trip is going to be different and every person has slightly different spending habits but you can generally get a pretty good idea of how much savings you’ll need to pull off some traveling. First, we figure out the obvious costs of a roadtrip: the food, fuel, and a place to sleep.

For food budgeting, the best way to figure this out is just to look out how much you’re currently spending. Unless you plan on drastically changing your eating habits (by not eating out, buying cheaper food, etc) you can expect this to stay the same. For reference, we ate out infrequently, tried to eat cheaper foods when available (expired bakery goods anyone?), and ended up spending somewhere around $75-125/week. We never resorted to dumpster diving! Interestingly, we spent less on food while traveling in the RV than in the Honda Civic.

Fuel costs can be a bit tricky but if you can figure out a rough outline of where you want to travel, you can get pretty close. Use google maps to figure out distances between destinations: then add 30% for local trips and detours. Or just take a guess of how much you’ll drive, say 15,000 miles/year. Then figure out what you _expect_ to pay for gas (probably more than the current price of gas) and the MPG of your car and there you have it, your annual gas budget.

Finally, the cost of camping. $10/night seemed a good number for us but requires some discipline to stick with it. For example, we never stayed in private campgrounds ($25+/night) and only in public campgrounds when absolutely necessary (National Parks/Forests). We sought free camping whenever possible: this is easy in many of the states we visited (Arizona, Utah, Wyoming) but very hard in others (Colorado). In Colorado, we drove 45 minutes to our campsite every night ($6 gas roundtrip with our Civic) to avoid paying the $28/night campground fees in Estes Park. A similar situation was required in Boulder, as well.

So now you have the obvious costs of your trip figured out: maybe it’s looking pretty cheap. But what about the things that you might not have thought about right away? This list of expenses includes auto insurance, car maintenance, health insurance, cell phones, taxes, climbing equipment, $90 for an annual National Park Pass, and other miscellaneous expenses. I won’t go through all of these but just offer a few pointers for those on a tight budget.

#1 Don’t skip the health insurance! Especially dirtbag climbers! A $25,000 medical bill will ruin more than just your day! I’d recommend a plan that will completely cover you in case of a catastrophic accident (after the deductible, because 20% of $50,000 is more than I want to pay). $125/month here is money well spent.

#2 A prepaid cell phone is the way to go: the cheapest we found was $0.10/min with T-Mobile. Coverage can be spotty but it’s dirt cheap (assuming you don’t have to buy a phone) and you only pay what you actually use.

#3 Climbing Gear. For a year-long trip where you do a lot of climbing, expect to burn through at least 2 ropes! We also ended up buying a few extra cams and some aid gear before visiting Zion and Indian Creek. These turned out to be incredibly useful.

#4 Try to overestimate your expenses when creating a budget. This way you can be confident you have enough money to pull it off.

Creating this budget is good for two reasons. For one, you know upfront what kind of money you need saved up before you leave. And two, if you’re clever, you’ll track your expenses while traveling. If you end up over-budget in the first month, you can correct it in the 2nd month by spending less on food or gas or whatever. Especially when traveling in the RV we had a tendency to blow our gas budget so we would force ourselves to extend our stay in one location before moving on to lower our expenses. This will make it easier for you to stick with your budget so you don’t end up 1000 miles from home with no money!

December 5, 2008

Homemaker

Filed under: Home, Random thoughts — Matt Stamplis @ 1:40 pm

Alright, it looks like my official job title is now “House Hubby”. Joanne’s bringing in the money and I hang out at home all day. It sounds easy but I’m discovering that a stay-at-home spouse has their work cut out for them. Besides doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry, job hunting, and dog-walking I don’t have a car so I ride my bike to buy groceries. It’s not particularly hard work for me but everything takes up time: from the time Joanne leaves in the morning till she comes home I seem to have my hands full. Who knew? So give your stay-at-home spouse some extra love tonight!

December 1, 2008

Chaco Canyon

Filed under: Roadtrip — Tags: , , — Matt Stamplis @ 12:35 pm

On our way back to Oregon (from Michigan) we chose a slightly circuitous route in order to avoid snow in Wyoming and Colorado. So we drove down towards Texas and New Mexico: it added a bit of driving time (3340 miles and 51 hours of driving, according to google maps) but it allowed us to stop a few places we had never been before. One of the new places we stopped was Chaco Canyon and the mouthful-of-a-name Chaco Culture National Historical Park. I had vaguely remembered seeing some pictures of the place and although it was a bit of a detour off of I-40 we decided to go and spend a day there.

But on the drive to Chaco Canyon I started to get a little nervous: the final 20 miles of dirt road to get to the park was in lousy condition. In places the washboarding was bad enough that I had to slow the car’s speed to a crawl. And in one rocky spot, I had to hold my breath as our Civic just barely avoided bottoming out. All in all, the 20 miles on this road took me a nerve-racking hour and a half to drive! I was curious about this apparent lack of maintenance and did some searches online: there are groups lobbying to keep the road unpaved. One of them is even named dont-pave-chaco.com. They argue that by paving the road, visitation will increase dramatically and negatively affect the canyon. I more or less agree with this argument but my poor Civic would like to see parts of the road improved: no one needs to abuse their cars in this way!

Towards the end, as we progressed further into nothingness (60 miles from a gas station!), I started to have a few worrying thoughts. What if we get a flat tire? What if the car breaks down again!? What if this place is not worth it? Fortunately, the belts on our car managed to hold themselves in place (for once!) and the tires stayed puncture-free. And, as it turns out Chaco Canyon really is worth the drive! For starters, it has one of the most beautiful campgrounds!

This is one of the campground spots. Most of the sites are scattered along the side of this cliff band and are surrounded by huge boulders. A very sheltered and special place: inside the campground you can find the ruins of an ancient dwelling.

Chaco Canyon was one of the major settlements in the Southeast from around 800-1200 A.D. The area is famous for its huge public houses, where hundreds of rooms were connected together for communal living spaces, storage, and cermonial purposes. There are numerous great houses in the canyon that you can stop and see, in varying states of excavation. Pueblo Bonito is the largest site and also the most excavated: walking amongst the ruins gives you a good idea of the ingenuity of these people.

Morning shadows on Pueblo Bonito. Here you can get some idea of the size of this great house. It contained around 600 rooms and was up to four stories tall. The exposure of the sky is a little weird after stitching these shots together but I just didn’t feel like spending hours touching up photos today!

Taking a stroll around one of the massive plazas. Joanne’s bundled up here since temperatures dropped into the 20s at night. This may have been a bit of a shock to my mother-in-law who is still adjusting to the climate here!

I think every person who walks through Pueblo Bonito takes this exact picture…I couldn’t resist either.

November 25, 2008

Good news….or bad news??

Filed under: Random thoughts — joannestamplis @ 8:40 pm

Well, today is my first day at work. It’s good to finally make some money but I still have mix feeling about this job. The drive is just too far (I have to commute 45mins one way) and I’m so worried driving. Today on the way home, the car right in front of me hit the car in front of it. What a close call but the junction between I-5 and 217 is just too scary. Matt told me that there soon will be a train that goes right into Tualatin so I might be able to take the train instead of driving. I’m looking forward for it.

November 24, 2008

Bukit Takun

Filed under: Climbing, Malaysia, Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 11:28 am

OK, I can’t resist: One last post from our stay in Malaysia! The day before our flight back home we decided to go “check out” this climbing area near Kuala Lumpur, called Bukit Takun. It has some of the only trad routes near the city and we were looking to climb something (after our failures on Kinabalu and Tioman!). So we met up with a local climber (Zee) who had been there once before and got a ride with him to go see.

Bukit Takun! A pretty impressive looking wall. There are numerous short routes along its base but the only route that tops out goes up the bushy looking face on the right. The imposing center of the wall is unclimbed!

The approach is not bad but requires some diplomacy and possibly some animal handling: the wall is in the middle of a gated community and golf course. Fortunately, the guard was willing to let us through. The approach trail picks up at the end of the road, right in front of this huge house. So we parked down the road to be a bit discreet and then walked by the house. Of course, they have 3 dogs that start barking like mad (there goes our discreetness); fortunately, the biggest dog was behind a gate. But the other two were getting a little close for comfort so we kept moving and entered the jungle.

Immediately we were swarmed by hordes of mosquitoes! The approach to the wall took, at most, 10 minutes but in this time we each donated a sizable portion of blood. The good news is the mosquitoes seem to bite you and then leave. After five minutes of hanging out at the base of the wall we were left to ourselves. But we lit a few mosquito coils to make sure!

Joanne and I didn’t really know what to expect from the climbing here. We figured we would climb a few pitches then head home. But Zee suggested trying the 9-pitch route that goes to the top. We figured sure, why not? I think we were half expecting to make it halfway then bail so we brought a little less than 1 liter of water for all 3 of us. Hot sun beating down on us in the tropics, 95% humidity: how much water could we really need?

Zee taking the lead on pitch 2. This was one of the best pitches on the route. There’s a great looking roof crack above his head that might make a fun variation. We ended up doing a traverse to the right.

Following the traverse on pitch 2. You can see the golf course in the background.

The first 4 pitches of the route are bolted on interesting rock. Bukit Takun is mostly limestone but it’s growing over a base of what might be granite. So the first pitch appeared to be granitic and the second was on incredibly shaped limestone: pretty weird! These pitches were well-protected and mostly fun. But at the halfway point up the wall, the bolts disappear and the route changes character dramatically. It becomes what I think could affectionately be called “jungle-neering”: an insane vertical bushwhack on roots that are loosely attached to flaky limestone. The climbing was never hard but it was always sketchy and I frequently found myself 20 feet above my last piece testing my holds and holding my breath as I cautiously moved upwards.

Jungle madness! I think you can spot Zee if you look closely. At least the mosquitoes didn’t follow us up the wall.

So maybe now it’s time to mention our water supply. By the end of pitch 3 or 4 we had finished our water; mercifully, the wall had moved into the shade but we were still thirsty. At one point I lead 4 pitches in a row but was starting to wear out so I gave the last lead to Joanne who took us over the last stretch of dagger rock to the summit ridge. But now we needed to get down!

Someone spray-painted arrows in places to mark the way down. But even with these markings, several times we found ourselves standing on the edge of a cliff and were forced to backtrack to find the correct way. We were slowly running out of daylight so there was a sense of urgency but it was still slow-going. Note to self: bring shoes for the walk off! Finally, we could see the remains of the old military camp that was here and found the short rappel down to the ground. Our tongues like sandpaper, we stumbled through the jungle until we came across a stream. Coming right out of the rock we figured it was about as clean as we would find and we all drank and drank. Maybe a little too much, too fast! I also picked a leech off me before he could sink his nasty little fangs into my ankle.

We made it down safely before dark and managed to navigate past the dogs again. After rehydrating we stopped at a restaurant and had some beer and noodles. 12 hours with no food and minimal water will certainly build a healthy appetite! All in all, everything turned out great (except the color of my urine that night, but that’s a different story…yuck!).

Bukit Takun certainly gave us some good adventure: we felt great to finally succeed on SOMETHING in Malaysia. But to any future climbers, and especially the local Malaysian climbing community, I would recommend finding alternate access to this crag. If it ever becomes more popular you can be certain that homeowners will shut down the current access road. Perhaps a longer trail could be established that comes in from a different side: it might make climbing here more painful but it would be better than having it closed for good. Or if there’s any incredibly rich climbers, buy the house at the end of the road!

November 20, 2008

Bad mechanic = roadtrip nightmare

Filed under: Roadtrip — Tags: — joannestamplis @ 5:59 pm

Well, we are back in Oregon now. Unfortunately the road trip from Michigan to Oregon was full of bad experiences. Let’s start from beginning: our Honda does not start when we first got home after leaving it sitting for 2 months. We took it in to J&D Auto in Oak Park, Michigan because my father-in-law ‘recommended’ it. This is a decision we will soon regret.

Turns out the timing belt is old and need replacement. They also replaced the power steering and air-conditioner belt since they looked old (note, they replace 3 belts). Well, somehow to replace the timing belt took J&D 5 days to do. Once the car was fixed, we started our trip back to Oregon. We drove from Michigan>>Indiana>>Illinois>>Missouri>>Oklahoma>>Texas>>New Mexico>>Arizona>>Nevada>>California>>Oregon took us about 1 week.

Anyway, here’s the fun part: the car broke down in Texas and when we took it in to the Honda Service Center, we found out that the power steering and air-conditioner belt tore off and the nut holding the pulley fell off. Apparently it is too hard a job for a mechanic to tighten the nut. Good thing J&D decided to waranty this (they later tell me they were kind enough to do this without much questioning. Ah ha….I’m not sure what is there to question when the nut fell off!)
Delay to roadtrip = 3 hours.

When we get to Las Vegas, the car engine was making rattling noise again and when we took it into another Honda service center, they found out that the timing belt is loose, skipped 2 teeth apparently. When we called J&D, they refused to pay for the waranty because they said that there are no prove that they did something wrong and our car could possibly be having internal problem…ah ha….SO NO NUT FELL OFF = NO WARANTY. Well, once the car is fixed, we drove from Vegas to Oregon fine and has absolutely no issue at all.
Delay to trip = 8 hours.

Basically everything that the J&D Auto touched, we need someone else to redo the work. Needless to say, I never completely comprehend it when people said a bad mechanic can make your life miserable until we experienced it first hand. So, in the end, we paid the exact same job TWICE!!! If we would have taken it into a good mechanic in the first place, we would not waste so much money and time. Note to anybody reading this, NEVER EVER take your car into J&D Auto unless you want to have the job done again after 1000 miles.

And here are the costs we had to pay:
1. Timing belt + power steering + air cond belt at J&D = $549.52 (we paid $183.98 because our car waranty which was still valid at that time covered the rest)
2. Power steering + air cond belt at Texas = $231.50 (J&D covered this which according to them is out of good of their heart, ah ha…)
3. Timing belt at Vegas = $524.39 (This is the full cost we had to pay and nothing from J&D)
Total cost just to replace those freaking belts = $708.37 + 11 hrs delay
If we took the car in to a good mechanic in the first place, it would have just cost us $200 the most and we would not have all the stress and waste time fixing the car.

November 19, 2008

Tioman Island

Filed under: Climbing, Malaysia, Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 11:14 pm

After killing some time on Singapore (more on this later!) we took a trip to the tropical paradise of Tioman Island. We wanted to scope out the climbing on the island and take a stab at the imposing Dragon Horns. From the mainland we caught a ferry to the village of Genting. But we had to get to Mukut, on the south tip of the island, so we had to hire a boat (a bit costly – haggle!) to get there.

Mukut village, nestled between the ocean and the beautiful Nenek Sumukut (Dragon Horns).

We arrived towards the end of the “tourist season” so Mukut was devoid of tourists. In fact, the only other tourist was a Frenchman named Martin who had stayed in the village for 2 months: during this time, we were the only people who had stayed overnight! It seems to me that it might get lonely staying in a village where no one else speaks your language. Then again, Martin drank 20+ liters of wine in less than a month. So that’s one way to pass the time!

A closeup of the Dragon Horns. The left horn has been climbed only a few times. A local Malaysian is working on another route but for now, there’s only one established route, called Waking Dream. To get to the base requires a moderate 1 hour hike from the North End of the village. The trail is mostly obvious, and a guide is definitely not needed. You’ll know when you’re at the base of the route when you reach a nice little platform with a broken radio (dropped by someone on route?) and a huge boulder with a nice hand crack on it.

The first “pitch” is sketchy jungle thrashing to reach a big ledge at the base of the real climbing. Here’s Matt hanging out on this ledge.

It turns out we didn’t get too far on the route, though: I took the lead on this 2nd pitch and started working up it. I was mostly aid climbing and while moving slowly, I was starting to get into the rhythm when I was getting close to the top of the 2nd pitch. It was here that the crack system began to thin and I found it hard to get any gear in. A hook (which we forgot in KL -d’oh!) might have worked and though the moves looked fairly moderate, I just couldn’t work out a sequence. So instead, I fiddled in a tiny micronut and eased myself into the top step of my aiders. I started reaching up towards a good looking handhold and then *POP* I was flying. I gave out a short scream as the micronut below me caught my fall.

I got back up there and started playing around with gear for around an hour but I couldn’t make any progress. So I down aided (the micronut I fell on is now fixed) then we bailed from the route. So we hauled food and water for 3 days but we never even spent the night on the wall. Instead, we went snorkeling and enjoyed the beautiful beach and atmosphere. Not a bad trade off!

Bailing on the route: rapping through a jungle with a heavy pack sucks!

Getting ready to snorkel. The water here was probably 40 feet deep but amazingly clear. Neither of us had done much snorkeling before this but we really had a great time, seeing beautiful coral, schools of fish, and even a big sea turtle. If you’re lucky (well, maybe that’s not the right word) you’ll see blacktip reef sharks: we saw one just standing on the dock. Fortunately, they’re not dangerous!

The beach at the village of Juara is pretty hard to beat. Beautiful sand, great weather. This is my definition of tropical paradise.

When we got tired of the hot sun we came to this swimming hole to cool off. The water here was cool and incredibly refreshing.

Our last day on Tioman, enjoying breakfast with our buddy Martin. He was the only other tourist in Mukut!

This was one of my favorite places we visited in Malaysia. So much so that I have reservations of posting some of this on here. If too many people visited some of these small villages it would change the place dramatically. (Yes, I’m selfish!) So I’m already thinking about when I’ll be able to return. 2010 maybe?

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.