Chris' Blog

"A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything." -Laurence Sterne

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Time flies when school is kicking your butt!

I'm half-way through rotations now. Just finished with six weeks in internal medicine at a clinic in Duluth/Superior. It's been a demanding rotation, but I think I've learned a good amount.

Next it's on to family practice in Woodbury. I'm stoked to be working/studying so close to home. Hopefully the bike will be out of the garage more this summer.

No major adventures planned for the immediate future, but Julia and I are going to be Hawaii in August to visit a friend. Very excited for that!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back Home

The trip is officially over! We made it home. Randall has been visiting friends and family in Minnesota and Duluth, and now he's on his way out East to Vermont. It sounds like he may be staying there for a while - if he doesn't end up on a yacht in Florida. I'm back in school now after just a few days of recovery. It's been hectic, of course, but I'm enjoying it. This year I transition to the clinic, and that's going to be a whole new kind of adventure.

"Thank you!" to everyone who helped us in the fundraising for Save the Children. I've heard that the money will be going to a new program called Project Child Protection in Mongolia that will commence in the near future. The details should be available soon on the Charity Rallies website ( I would also like to extend an equally exuberant "thanks!" to the people who helped us with parts, repairs, and gas for the Jeep. Without you we wouldn't have been able to experience this great trip! The Jeep, by the way, was sold for $5,200. The money will be going to the charity organization Go Help, which will use the funds for local projects.

Randall and I hand over the keys to Dulguun of Go Help after 8,300 miles through 15 countries.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saving the Children

As you know, we've been raising money for Save the Children in Mongolia. It's been pretty successful, but the other day we witnessed some atrocities: kids climbing with terribly substandard equipment! This was an opporunity to really save some children.

Our last day at Terelj National Park, we found some bolted climbing routes. We floundered on them for a while, but had fun. The rock was good, but the crystals were large and sharp. As we finished our second route, we noticed that a group of three kids and an adult had set up a "rope" a little ways down the rock from us, so we walked over to say hello.

It turns out that the three children were from Ulaanbaatar, and they were climbing with an instructor. They were using shoes that didn't fit them, and were clipped into a worn and frayed piece of webbing, not rope, by a single non-locking carabiner. The instructor was belaying them without the use of a belay device, essentially holding one end of the webbing in his hand. We were mortified. We uncoiled our rope and climbed the route they were on, setting a proper top-rope for them to use.

We showed the kids some essentials. Randall showed them how to tie into the rope with a figure-eight follow-through knot. I showed the oldest of them how to safely use a belay device. Then we did a demonstration for them before easing them into belaying. We supervised some climbing and belaying before cutting them loose to give it a go on their own.

When we were done climbing and ready to go, I gave the intructor some gear and the rope. Now he should have enough to teach some proper top-roping and even lead climbing on a short route. The kids were excited to be able to climb with some good equipment, and we were happy that their lives were no longer in danger!

The Mongolian belay method.

Nice rock and hard routes.

Randall imparts some wisdom and his proclivity towards safety to the children of Mongolia.

Just Another Day Mongolia

The day started normally...

We awoke in the Mongolian countryside. We were camped on a ridge with a 360 degree panoramic view of tree covered hills, large rock formations, and herds of yaks and cattle. After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we walked at least 100 meters to an unclimbed rock and spent an hour trying to make a first ascent.

After climbing, we decided to move up the valley to find another campsite and to see more of Mongolia. When we tried to start the Jeep, however, we discovered that we'd run the battery dead with episodes of "The Wire" and spider solitaire. No problem, right? We were on a hill, so we thought we'd roll the Jeep down the hill to the road, wait for a passing car, and get a jumpstart. Good plan in theory, but in actuality we were parked barely on the other side of the ridge. We pushed like crazy to no avail. We came up with a new plan and decided to use the climbing gear to set up a 3:1 pulley system to pull the Jeep over the ridge. Success.

Once on the other side of the ridge, we put'er in neutral and rolled down the hill. Once to the road, we were met by a nice family coming down the road. They gave us a jumpstart and went on their way. We let the jeep idle for a few minutes to let the battery recharge, then we took off down the road. The family had pulled over and were waving us down. We stopped, and they asked us if we could take two people in their car to the family's ger camp. It seemed that there were a few river crossings that their car could not handle. They had helped us out, so we thought we would return the favor.

We'd crossed three or four streams when we came to one that was a bit wider than the rest. The two guys in the vehicle with us were giving Randall, who was driving, directions in Mongolian. The older gentleman, who smelled of vodka, was obviously telling Randall to punch it through the river. Randall gave it the juice and water came over the hood. Then the Jeep died. Randy, with his rally experience, knew that trying to start it again could cause serious damage. We were in deep water, though - deep enough to start seeping through the door seals.

Our riders had cell phone and were good enough to call for rescue. A 4X4 Benz showed up and pulled us out, but not before the Jeep had flooded. Our passengers had us towed back to their family ger camp, where we spent the afternoon draining water from the air intake, removing spark plugs, and then dismantling the interior and taking out the carpet to dry. In the end, we got the Jeep running again, but still needed to let the interior dry out, so we decided to spend a night in a ger there.

The next day was nice and sunny, so we opened the vehicle and let everything dry out. In the meanwhile, Randy and I spent some time riding horses with a guide and eating traditional meals with our host family. That evening we put the Jeep back together. It ran perfectly and the interior had never looked better. Of course, after so much activity we were shot, and decided to spend another night. We did feel a bit better about our predicament, though, as three more vehicles had gotten stuck in the same spot as we did during our stay.
We attempted the return trip the following morning. This time everything went smoothly. We made it through the big stream without any problems. We said our goodbyes and thank-yous to Byemba, the head of the family, and the rest and went on down the road into Terelj National Park for another night of camping.

Our camp on the ridge. Great views!

Some wild onions we fried up.
Randall climbing an unamed toughy.

Stuck, Byemba on the phone, and the beginning of yet another adventure.

The crew that helped pull the Jeepo out of the water.

The Jeep getting torn apart.

Our ger.

View from our ger.

I got the lazy horse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ulaan Baatar!

We made it! Last night we rolled into UB and some of the most chaotic traffic I've seen yet! We found a hostel and settled into a ger (yurt) for the night. Today we are happy to be taking the day off from driving. We have nothing planned but relaxing. We may also do some housekeeping with the Jeep and a bit of laundry, though. It's been a tough last leg and we're excited to be stationary for a moment.

The challenges began the day after we left Novosibirsk, Russia. Sections of the road through Siberia, M-53, was under construction and the detours were horrendous. We were funneled down washboard gravel roads with cobblestones the size of volleyballs, old paved roads with bathtub-sized potholes, and mud tracks. We tried to go slow and avoid as much of it as possible, but there was no getting around some of the obstacles.

We got our first flat tire late morning that day, which was quickly remedied with a swap of the spare. At the next village we brought the flat into a tire shop to see if they could fix it. A chunk of scrap metal had cut a gash about two inches long in the tire, and the techs were unable to patch it. There were no tires of the appropriate size for our rims for sale, so we rolled on down the road without a spare.

The second flat came just outside of the next big village, luckily. We limped into the tire shop there, nearly riding the rim. This time they were able to patch the punctured tire. Once again, though, there wasn't a tire available for sale that fit our rims. We moved on without a spare.

We went to sleep that night happy to have four inflated tires. We were disappointed the following morning, however, to find that the patch didn't hold. We had a flat and were camped between towns. This meant that one of us would have to leave the Jeep, take the spare rim (from which the useless tire had been removed), and find a new tire to put on it.

I volunteered to look for the tire. I left around 9AM while Randall stayed to keep an eye on the Jeep. We agreed that if Randy had not heard from me by noon the following day, that he should start worrying. I took off with me a backpack of essentials and the spare rim, walking a half-mile to the highway, and then hitching a ride to the next village.

The Russian man, Roma, who picked me up was what Randy calls "a Fixer." He knew where to go and who to talk to. He didn't speak a word of English, but we communicated with little Russian that I know and some sign language. Within 3 hours I was back to camp with a brand new tire. I offered to pay him for all the driving around that he did, but he refused, and I ended up stashing a $20 bill in the car for him to find later. Unfortunately, I was in such a survival mode that morning that I forgot to even snap a picture with Roma.

Randall and I slapped the new tire onto the Jeep and immediately went back to the tire shop. We bought another new tire and discarded the patched tire. With five good tires, we traveled on in the direction of Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

We spent a night at camping resort on Lake Baikal. We had a terrific meal at the restaurant of a traditional Russian soup recommended by the waitress and fresh fish. The following morning we took baths in the lake and then hit the road again towards Ulan-Ude followed by the Russia-Mongolia border. The road was good and the travel was easy (for a change).

We made it to the border just as they were closing down the Russian side. We ended up spending the night in the Jeep there. The next morning we made it through the Russian side in about an hour, which was followed by five on the Mongolian side.

Completely unprofessional customs workers made for a frustrating day. We watched as a woman shuffled our papers, walked them from one booth to another, chatted, walked to another booth, shuffled the papers, and chatted some more. At one booth, the woman inside was busy tending to her child. An obviously drunk worker tried made some gestures that we didn't know how to interpret, while someone's dog barked from the corner where it was chained. Eventually we made it through and continued our journey, driving through a stunning Mongolian landscape.

So here we are in Ulaan Baatar! We're taking a rest day before we decide what to do with the remainder of our time in Mongolia. We'd like to get out and see the countryside before handing the Jeep over to Go-Help/Charity Rallies for auction.

We'll be home soon, and hopefully I'll have a chance to tell you some stories in person and catch up with the happenings and goings-on. Speaking of which, big "CONGRATULATIONS!" to Mike and Megan on their engagement! See you all soon!
Randall with our first flat.

Putting on a wheel after the hitch-hiking and tire-finding adventure.

A village in front of Lake Baikal.

The gateway to Mongolia. Finally there!

Typical scenery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back in Russia

We left Kostanay a bit tired a few days ago. Instead of getting a good night's rest at the hotel, we ended up going out on the town. We found that the dance clubs just get started at midnight. That made for a late night, and we didn't get to bed til at least 4am. We had a blast, though, and were glad to party down for one of our last nights in Kazakhstan.

Since then, we've been on the road and camping. Angus and Tim, the other team that we're traveling with right now, have quite a bit of "kit" in their Vauxhall Combo. They have a few chairs, a table, and a two-burner stove. Thus, we've combined our supplies and skills to make for some extraordinary camp meals. For example, we bought some fresh-picked mushrooms roadside a few days ago and had a nice pasta with sauteed onions, garlic, and mushrooms. The following morning we had mushroom omelets with beans and toast. Delicious.

Last night we arrived in Novosibirsk, Russia. We found a relatively inexpensive hotel with community showers and no hot water. No problem, though, as we're just stopping over to clean ourselves up a bit before we head on our respective ways. Randy and I will leave for Irkutsk and Lake Baikal today, which will take about three days. Angus and Tim head for the Altai and western border of Mongolia. It's been great traveling with them, and hopefully our paths will cross again in the future!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taking a Break in Kustanay

*Check out some of the earlier posts. I've posted more pictures*

After four nights of camping in the Kazakh wilderness, we're staying at a hotel tonight. We need to register our passports in Kazakhstan before we get to the Russian border again, so we stopped in Kustanay to do so. Apparently, to register, one needs to be actually staying at a physical address somewhere. We can't enter "camping" or the name of just any old hotel in the box on the registration paper. That's fine with us, as we're in need of showers and laundry service.

We've made some new friends in Kazakhstan! While looking for LPG a few nights ago in Aktobe (Aktubinsk), a man approached us and offered to take us to a station. Zhora and his wife escorted us across town. We exchanged some gifts, as well. He gave us a few smoked fish, some Kazakh beer, and a CD of the local flavor. We gave him a flask of the good stuff and a Johnny Cash CD. A good trade, indeed. They were then kind enough to escort to the proper road out of town and gave us a nice send-off!

I'm looking forward to some local cuisine this evening and some good rest in a bed! Oh, and we finally bought the correct LPG pump adapter for Kazakhstan! Too bad we'll only be here another day or two.

The Lost Crusade, our new friend Zhora, and Team Ulaan Baantor.

Not a tree, road, or building in sight.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kazakh Roads

Yesterday was a great drive from Atyrau to Oral (Uralsk). The road was magnificantly straight and bump free! The other road, to the east, we heard was frought with so many potholes that people routinely drive in tracks in the desert parallel to the road.

We had some interesting and diverse interactions with the Kazakh people yesterday. The spectrum was covered. We met terrific people and terribly cranky people. We got kicked out of a gas station for inquiring as to where we might buy a certain adapter for our LPG tank. I even got into a shouting match with a police officer who, I think, stopped me for not having my headlights on - at 5:30PM. After I gave him a flask of special "American vodka" (ask me in person about that sometime), he gave me my driver's license back.

We're in Aktobe now. We've met up with some Englishmen who we'll convoy with for a few days. We are going to head towards Kustanay tonight and camp somewhere along the way. We have run out of time/money on our cell phone, so the map ( may not be updated for a few days until we can sort something out.

The road awaits! I wish I could be more detailed, but we must be on our way.

Camels crossing the road. I didn't even know that had camels in Kazakhstan until this trip. We've seen many heards and flocks of livestock here, but interestingly we've yet to see a fence.

Out in the countryside looking for a campsite.

Ran into this little hedgehog while looking for a spot to camp.

A grassy spot to sleep, trees for cover, and a good sunset. We'll drink to that.

Monday, August 10, 2009


The ferry and entry into Russia went down without problem. We left Sochi the same day, August 8th, and battled traffic on narrow winding roads through the foothills of the Caucusus mountains. We stayed a night at a hotel in Mykop and kept truckin' the next morning. Once through the mountains, we traveled straighter roads through prairieland. We camped behind an abandoned gas station and watched an episode of "The Wire" on Randall's laptop. We again awoke and hit the road for the Kazakh border.

These two and a half days in Russia yielded no less than seven stop-and-checks by the Russian police, who wanted to see our documents. No fines, tickets, or bribes (despite some solicitations).

Yesterday we entered Kazakhstan after gifting two Beanie Babies and a broken Ipod to the border guards. The roads past the border took a turn for the worse. We traveled bumpy bouncy pavement with juicy suspension-killing potholes all the way to Atyrau.

We ended up camping across the road from an oil refinery near Atyrau last night. We awoke at 7AM to a car horn honking. Security wanted to know why we were there, but ended up telling us we could go back to sleep. 15 minutes later, a work crew pulled up, and we met the foreman, Ahman.

Ahman spoke passable English, especially compared to my terrible Russian. We made him a cup of coffee and asked him as many questions as we could about Kazakh roads, where to find LPG and an internet cafe, and about Atyrau. He was stoked to be practicing his English and was a tremendous help. He drew maps to LPG and internet and we were on our way, glad that we'd camped where we did!

We found the LPG station, but didn't have the correct adapter. We waited at the fuel station for about a half an hour until someone with the right connection came along. We borrowed the adapter, fueled up, and gave the owner and the station attendant each a Turkish beer.

Now we're doing some business on the web (obviously). Next on the agenda: try to figure out what our next move will be. Apparently, there are limited LPG fueling stations in Kazakhstan, and this will be a huge factor in the decision.

Trabzon, Turkey from the ferry as we sail away to Russia.

In Sochi. Welcome to Mother Russia!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Monastery and Rock Clımbıng

As planned, we took a trıp to the Sümela Monastery. It was a neat place ın an ıncredıble settıng. The orıgınal monastery was buılt by two monks ın the 4th century on the sıde of a clıff uner a large overhang, whıch formed most of the ceılıng of the buıldıng. Sınce then, ıt has been added on to over the centurıes by varıous partıes. Many of the frescoes have been defaced by muslıms who belıeved that art should not depıct human forms. The paıntıngs on the ceılıngs have mostly avoıded thıs fate.

After vısıtıng the monastery, we found a campsıte and set up camp. Once we were settled ın, we decıded that we should explore some of the local rock. We had seen a nıce lıne up a large face earlıer ın the day that looked clımbable and protectable ın the tradıtıonal clımbıng style. It started ın a rıght-facıng corner wıth a crack ın ıt. Thıs crack followed the corner for about 60 feet to a large roof, whıch could be bypassed to the left. The remaınder of the clımb was on face holds that were margınally protectable. The clımbıng was decent, but the descent was the real adventure. As ıt got dark we stumbled through brambles and thorny vınes to get back to our packs at the base.

We leave for the ferry to Russıa ın about one hour. Wısh us luck gettıng ınto and through Russıa ınto Kazakhstan!

The Sümela Monastery built into a large hollow in the middle of a cliff.

The original monastery, covered with frescoes.

The ceiling inside the original monastery.

The rock that Randall and I climbed yesterday. I'm pretty sure that was a first ascent. I'd rate our route about a 5.7/5.8.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Just before leavıng Istanbul, we met up wıth another rally team, Ephram and George. Ephram went to school wıth Randy ın Duluth years ago. He and George are now lıvıng and workıng ın Dublın. They are partıcıpatıng ın the Mongol Rally proper (not the Charıty Rallıes event). We'd been trackıng theır progress, and by chance happened to be ın the same place at the same tıme. Small world!

The four of us left Istanbul a few days ago on great freeway roads. They deterıorated after about 400km to two lane road wıthout any markıngs. Constructıon, fog, and ındıscrımant use of brıghts by Turkısh drıvers confounded matters. After 700km of tough drıvıng, we arrıved ın Samsun at around 2am and drank Turkısh beer on the shore of the Black Sea. We spent the nıght at a campground near the beach. When we awoke the next mornıng we went for a swım, ate fısh for lunch, and then departed for an easy 330km to Trabzon.

Randall and I are now ın Trabzon awaiting a ferry to Sochi, Russia. We parted wıth Ephram and George, who are contınuıng on to Georgıa and Azerbaıjan. The ferry should be leavıng here tomorrow. Untıl then we are goıng to do some explorıng. As soon as we fınısh up some busıness checkıng emaıl and checkıng the status of other rallıers we plan to drıve south to Sumela monastery. It was buılt ınto the sıde of a steep clıff ın the 4rd century by Athenıan monks. It looks lıke ıt wıll be a very cool place.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mosques and More!

The imposing Blue Mosque.
The Hagia Sofia at night. This was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly 1000 years. Built in the 6th century as a basilica, it was later converted to a mosque. It is now a museum.
A Whirling Dervish. This is not a dance, but a spiritual ritual of persons devoted to the Mevlevi Order. This order practices Sufism, which is the mystic component of Islam.
Turkish delights.

The Vehicle

We're riding in style. Our 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee may be more than ten years old, but she's flush with creature comforts - and they all still work, suprisingly. All, that is, except the airconditioning, which probably just needs to be recharged. She's got electric windows, locks, sunroof, and seat control. If those aren't enough, she also has electric headlight adjustment, heated seats, cruise control, and leather upholstery. Brilliant!

We got the Jeep on the cheap from It cost around $600, plus what we've spent on repairs, some of which have been fairly major. The labor for these repairs was nearly free, however, as a friend of Randall's has helped us out immensely. Thanks to Dave, who has rally experience and an awesome shop in Evesham, England, we have a running vehicle.

The best part about the Jeep is that she runs on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is the same propane that you use to fire up your gas grill at home. LPG is nice for an endeavor such as this because it costs about half as much as gasoline, and burns cleaner. Petrol and diesel emit particulate matter into the air, whereas LPG emits virtually none.
Filling up the tank. The petrol tank has been reduced in size and the LPG tank is mounted alongside it.
The LPG runs from the tank under the Jeep to a modulator, then to a heater, then into the fuel injectors. We must start the vehicle using regular gasoline, then when the engine heats to 40 dgrees celcius, it switches to LPG. The transition is seamless and we never even notice.
This is one type of pumps. We have adapters for two additional types, because the standard is different from country to country.

Friday, July 31, 2009


We just spent some time in Croatia on the Dalmation Coast a few days ago - not enough though, of course! I didn't get a chance to do any deep water soloing, but we all went for a dip in the beautiful blue water.

After Croatia, we turned inland to Bosnia, stopping at the amazing city of Mostar. It was bombed in the Bosnian War in 1993 and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. It is the site of the famous Stari Most bridge, which has since been rebuilt. We spent that night in Sarajevo and enjoyed dinner and a stroll through the city center.

The following day we had some problems and miscommunication with the border to Serbia, but made it through in about 4 hours. We spent the night in a small town in Serbia with a friend of Karina's. Today it was smooth sailing to Istanbul, where we are staying tonight.

Lots more photos to post!

The Stari Most bridge in Mostar. Gorgeous place!

Julia in Sarajevo.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Austrian Cows

Yesterday and this morning we spent time at a mountain hut near Kitzbühel, Austria. The weather was gorgeous, and we went for a hike up the mountain to a small lake. The hillsides were dotted with cows grazing. On the way to the lake, we stopped to rest at small catholic chapel. Inside there were four pews, each holding two occupants. It was very idyllic with views of rugged mountains in the distance.

We also spent some time hunting for and picking mushrooms growing on the slopes near the hut. Our friend and acting guide, Karina, told us which ones were edible and which ones to avoid. We must have picked nearly a half pound of small yellow mushrooms. Later, we cleaned them and Karina used them in a spaghetti sauce. We ate dinner at dusk while the cows came down the mountain, bells jangling.

Karina, on a layover between jobs as a psychiatric nurse, has decided to join us on our way to Istanbul. We'll be on our way in a few hours, with a stop for perhaps a few days in Croatia. There is a film festival going on there that we'd like to check out. We also would like to visit the Dalmation coast while there. Personally, I'd like to try to do some deep water soloing (rock climbing over water without gear or rope, just shoes) over the Adriatic.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gas leaks, Traffic, and Austria

In the past few days, we've blazed through France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany. Now we're in Austria. It hasn't been an easy cruise, however.

After all the engine troubles that I talked about in the last entry (radiator, cracked head, etc) had been taken care of, we thought we were set and on our way. Not without some trouble with the security system first, however. This caused us to end up staying an extra night near London with a friend of Randall's, who helped us out tremendously. Once the security system issue was sorted out, we rolled down to Dover. With school just getting out for the summer in England, the roads to the ferries were congested. We all thought that we'd end up camping near the white cliffs and losing another day, but thankfully we were able to book a ferry for the same evening.

We got off the ferry in Calais, France around 9pm on the 24th. We started booking it for Germany, and arrived at the border yesterday (25th) in the wee hours of the morning. Too tired to continue, we camped at a random wooded spot in a rural area. We awoke later that morning, packed up, and hit the trail (quite literally). We'd gone no further than 50 feet when a strong gasoline smell filled the cab. We stopped and opened the hood to find unleaded draining from the fuel line into the engine compartment at the head.

Randall and I took the line off and took stock. We found a couple of plastic spacers, one good O-ring, and one disintegrating O-ring. We fiddled with it all for a while, trying to get a good seal - until I dropped a spacer and the good O-ring into the compartment. We searched for the missing parts for a while, then resorted to combinations of duct tape and zip-ties to seal the coupling betweeen the fuel line and the nipple it seated onto. After nearly two hours, we finally found that we could use some spare rings from an MSR stove kit to seal it.

Our improvisation must've been sufficient, because Julia, Randall, and I spent the remainder of the day making our way through Germany in stop-and-go weekend vacation traffic. We arrived in Austria around 10PM. We settled into a vacant flat that a friend set us up with in a small town called Kirchbichl, near Innsbruck. A few glasses of wine and a beer or two down the old gullets, and plans to hike up to a mountain hut this morning (26th) materialized from seemingly nowhere. I'm pretty pumped for that, of course, and hope to enjoy some fresh alps air before we hop back in the Jeepo for the drive to Croatia.

When I get a chance, I'll tell you about our Jeep a bit. It runs on petrol and propane. Until then, auf wiedersehen!

We found some woods down a backroad in Germany and caught some Z's before continuing to Austria.

This is where we had the gas leak. Good to go now, thanks to an MSR Whisperlite camp stove repair kit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beyond the Pond

Julia and I made it to the UK today. We flew into Heathrow International and checked into our hotel shortly after. Because Randall is up north taking care of some last minute issues with the Jeep, we'll meet up with him tomorrow. In the meanwhile, we are trying to beat the jet lag and stay active with some sightseeing.

This afternoon we took the "tube," or underground rail, to Central London. We popped up from a rail station right in front of Big Ben. It was a great introduction to the city. We also saw the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. After our self-guided walking tour, we had dinner beneath St. Martin-in-the-Field church at the Crypt Cafe. It was a good way to start the trip, to be sure.The House of Parliament and the Westminster Bridge.Julia in front of Westminster Abbey.Chris and Julia in front of the National Gallery.Julia enjoying a bite at the Crypt Cafe.