Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Whirlwind Tour of New Zealand with Iowan Friends

The pace picks up. When Ben Garrett and his girlfriend, Christina, joined us on November 1st we had 10 days to get as much ground covered as possible. Needless to say a car was required to complete this mission. Unfortunately, the 60-80 degree weather we had experienced the 3 weeks prior was replaced with 30-50 degree weather. Along with these colder temperatures we experienced rain, sleet and snow!

In the North Island we experienced:
* Coromandel Penninsula (we actually sat in the hot water holes this time at Hot
Water Beach...see previous blog posting)
* Taupo Lake (hiked)

We didn't spend alot of time in the North Island because we were trying to get to
the South Island which everyone said was absolutely beautiful.

In the South Island we had a great time:
* Did some hikes in the mountains and had great vistas.
* Ward, Christina and Ben went skydiving at 12,000ft (air temperature at that
elevation was -4 degrees F). They said it was quite an adrenaline rush. They were
free falling for 45 seconds.
* Ward and I drove to Milford Sound and did an overnight cruise through the Fjords
(If you wonder why I didn't go skydiving its because I spent my money on this
instead.) It was incredible!! We kayaked and saw penguins, seals, and dolphins.
Highly recommended. You'll have to read the egroup and see the pictures.
* Christina and Ben bungy jumped off the bridge where the bungy jumping
originated. Too scary for Ward and I. They did it in tandem. Some people
actually got their body dipped into the water head first.
* Christina and Ben went scuba diving.
* We all went mountain biking on single track through the hills.

The North Island has rolling green lush hills with lots of dairy farms. It is much more populated than the South Island. The South Island is known for its picturesque mountains, fjords, and adventurous activities (as well as its "sand flies!"). An egroup will be coming shortly and will explain all the activities, etc we did in more detail. Please let us know if you have had difficulty signing up for the egroup. If so, we will send the email to you directly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pictures from Coromandel Pennisula

Coromandel Pennisula in New Zealand

Before we started our whirlwind tour of New Zealand schools we were able to bike around the Coromandel Pennisula. Wow! Is it gorgeous! We did't even mind the on and off rain. Some hills are small but some are down right arduous, especially when you don't have a triple ring bike. We've had to stand up hills that are 2 and 3 miles long! Ward says its good for us but I beg to differ. We've had beautiful vistas and the various colors of green are unbelievable. We have scoped out the beaches. One in particular that was very interesting was the Hot Water Beach. People literally brought shovels to the beach and dug a hole and let the hot water from the underground bubble up. Then they would relax in it. In some areas the water was actually boiling so you had to take caution. One guy was even trying to boil an egg. This was a good time for us to bike the penninsula because it will be packed with tourists in a matter of a couple of weeks. It will make the biking dangerous through the winding hills.

Pedaling For Pencils is in Full Force

Our Pedaling for Pencils: Write to Remember project is in full force. While we were in the U.S. we toured Northeast Iowa by bicycle and visited schools and Rotary Clubs. We spread our message and tried to inspire over 1600 school kids to follow their dreams. We also spoke to 6 Rotary Clubs.

We are currently in New Zealand and continuing our Pedaling For Pencils mission. This week we will talk to 9 schools and 2 Rotary Clubs. We are having a blast and we learn as much from them as they learn from us. Thanks to everyone that has donated to our project. The project will continue to live on.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Zealand's Hopitality Gets An "A" Rating

New Zealand not only has beautiful scenery it has beautiful people! We have been overwhelmed with the hospitality that we've received from the local Kiwis. We have not only been excepted into their homes but have experienced real Kiwi culture. We've learned the most by attending school events such as the goat and lamb showing competitions at the local country school as well as observing their dairy farming businesses. We are including pictures of the champion dairy type (Keegan) and the reserve champion (Joel).

Great Monuments of Washington DC

We were able to go to Washinton DC while we were back in the United States. We saw the Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, White House and many other beautiful buildings. All admissions were free and we were surprised at how clean the city was. We can't wait to go back.

There's No Place Like Home...the U.S. Visiting family and friends.

South America was a wonderful experience but there is no place like the United States. The freedom and security provided to us here makes us prouder than ever to be Americans. On our way to New Zealand we spent time in the U.S. We visited our son and his wife, John and Molly, in North Carolina and helped them weather out Hurricane Hanna. John also took us fishing in the ocean and we actually caught fish! John has since been deployed to Iraq and we will keep him in our prayers.

We then headed to Chicago where we visited Jacky's sister, Gail and Connie. Gail and Dennis took us to a boat drag racing competition. I got to be the passenger in this rocket boat for the warm-up session and skip across the water at 60 mph. Exilarating. Then we visited Connie at the Experimental Station which contains a bike shop. We talked to the local school kids about our trip and tried to inspire them to dream. Ward was in his glory working on bikes and I helped my nephew Axel sell mushrooms at the Farmers' Market.

We were also able to visit our son Ross in Ames who is enjoying life on Sorority Circle. We visited friends from Decorah and Madison and we spent a weekend with the Budweg family and also with the Spreen family. It was sure great to see everyone. It makes it easier to leave again.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ecuador, it was an experience.

Ecuador provided us with a good variety of experiences. We met a really cool bike shop guy that lent us bikes and took us on a mountain bike ride through the incredible lush green rolling mountains of Cuenca. Wow, was it beautiful. The only down fall (no pun intended) was that as I was dodging a bigger than life, ferocious snarling dog...I crashed! My foot swelled up and it is still swollen 12 days later. I'm not sure what I did to it but I'm milking Ward for all the sympathy I can get.

We also met up with our friend, Bryan (Pastor from the Decorah Lutheran Church). He taught in Cuenca in the past so he was our tour guide and knew all the great places to eat. It was fun to see a familiar face and speak English again.

Then it was time to remove all of our jewelry (soap and twisting works great for wedding rings) and prepare for our risky bus ride to the Colombian border.

The School that Elroy Built

(Photos: handing out pencils at the school; the founding Father and Sister.)

My dad (Elroy Spreen) has been telling me about a boys' school in Ecuador that he contributed to in the past...but he didn't know where. Details, details. Well, we tracked it down. It is located in Quito, Ecuador. Now, I didn't see a corner stone with my father's name on it. But, I believe him.

Originally, the school took shoe shine boys off the street and taught them the principles of life. Now, it not only works with the boys but with the whole families. They learn skills and trades and are able to work and support their own. They have changed their name to "A Family of Families". The school has been thriving for the past forty-four years and appears to still be going strong. We met the 20 volunteer teachers for this next school year. We had a great time staying with them for a few days and being inspired by their stories and endeavors. Good job dad!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Helping at the Orphanage

We took the bus to Lurin, Peru which is just outside of Lima (remember, we are currently bikeless). We planned on helping out an orphanage for 3-4 days but the great hospitality made it easy to stay 7 (It reminded us of the song, "Hotel California" by the Eagles. We tried to leave 3 days in a row but that didn't happen.)

Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II takes children off of the street and not only gives them food, shelter and clothing but also teaches them respect, spiritual growth and inspires them to dream. They follow the "Boys Town" model and it is truly successful. We thoroughly enjoyed painting, playing soccer and volleyball with the kids, going to a pro soccer game with some of the boys, and sitting around the breakfast table talking and badgering each other. I recommend checking out their website: www.casahogarjuanpablo2.org Ward and I will definitely return some day.

Goodbye Somas!

After confirmation from our new sponsors "Schwinn" we gave our bikes away. Schwinn is going to be providing us with two new bikes. Coincidentally, the bike model's name is "World Bike". We said goodbye to our Somas. They were great bikes and held up spectacularly well. We found comfort in knowing that the Rotary Club that we gave them to is going to either sell them and use the money for projects or give the bikes to two hard working students. We are excited to try out our new rides. Thanks Schwinn!

Monday, August 4, 2008

One month in Brazil

We have just spent one month in Brazil in the state of Mato Grosso. We were learning Portuguese and fishing and climbing through waterfalls. We slept in the jungle with crocodiles, jaguars and monkeys.

We saw weekend at the beach and also some of the most productive agricultural land in all of South America.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jacky crashes big time

We are traveling to see my friend Wilson in Tangara de Serra, Mato Grosso, Brazil. We have to options take the pavement and travel 500km. or go by the shorter gravel route. We had ridden the gravel in the south of Argentina and we handled that. This was different, 120 km of deep sand, large loose rock, constant washboards and 109 degree temperatures. It took 8 and 1/2 hours to cover the distance and we were out of everything, no water, no strength, no smiles and no positive attitude. Our rearends were almost raw from the pounding and the heat. Jacky crashed 3 times in the loose dirt. She only has a few scrapes and bruises.