Jan 2015

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 47 Comments

The End of the Road


After 927 days, 45,822 miles, 34 countries, five continents, and countless hours spent watching our very own real life documentary unfold through the big screen of Nacho’s windshield, we arrived right back where we started. When it comes to good decisions that we make in life, this will certainly go down as one of the better ones. But all good things must come to an end. We set out to drive around the world, and when we pulled up in the same driveway that we left almost three years ago, we had thereby accomplished our goal.

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Dec 2014

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 11 Comments

The Immigrant


The fact that Barna lives in Baltimore is a pretty big deal.

The first door we tried was the wrong door, and a Pakistani woman wearing a bright green sari answered. She didn’t speak English, but invited us in for tea so that we could wait for her husband to come home, as he would certainly be able to help us. This is the kind of hospitality that we came to know in South Asia, and being in Baltimore made it stand out even more. In America we’re skeptical of door knockers, a deep seeded reflex that is a result of generations of door knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Girl Scouts, and Avon ladies.

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Dec 2014

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 15 Comments

Dixon’s Isle


Way back in the far off distant beginning, I wrote about the day that I quit my job. After I had broken the news that I would be leaving to the CEO of my company, he invited me to lunch and did his best to convince me not to go, and in the end suggested I see a shrink. For the sake of simplicity, in that story I opted not to mention that the company’s former CEO was also at lunch with us that day. Thus, it was both the former and current CEOs teaming up to try to convince me not to quit my perfectly good job to move into my van and drive around the world. But something funny happened at lunch that day.

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Nov 2014

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 37 Comments


0- intro

On a snowy day nearly three years ago I shat my last shit in my own house. Soon thereafter we crossed the border into Mexico and I saw a cinderblock shanty on the side of an embankment. It had a broken down truck next to it and there were various rusty signs in Spanish around it littering the roadside. I thought to myself, I have shat my last shit in my own house, and I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone for the next three years, and there will be nothing I can do about that. Our driftwood raft had lost sight of land, and one day, inshallah, we would find land again.

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New Book from Drive Nacho Drive!

We are very excited to announce the release of our book, Drive Nacho Drive: A Journey from the American Dream to the End of the World! If you’d like to read it, click below to buy it on Amazon.com, and then help us spread the word by sharing our news with your friends.

Click here to buy Kindle E-BOOK ($3.99)

Click here to buy PAPERBACK ($15.15)

Need more buying options?

We’ll soon be releasing the book in more e-reader formats, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.

  • Have an iPad? Buy the e-book above and download this app on your iPad.
  • Have an iPhone or iPod Touch? Buy the e-book above and download this app on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

From the back cover

On an afternoon just like many before it, Brad Van Orden sat at his desk. When a coworker meandered past his window, Brad succumbed to an impulse and blurted out the most outlandish thing he could think of—”Hey Steve, let’s drive your hippie bus to Tierra del Fuego.” This prompted Steve’s halfhearted response: “I don’t think so.”

But this got Brad thinking. What if we just dropped everything and left? Isn’t there more to life than this? He messaged his wife with a question: “Want to do this?”, to which she immediately responded: “Yes!” They clearly had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

Drive Nacho Drive tells the hilarious and sometimes harrowing story of what happens when Brad and Sheena trade in the American Dream for a year on the roads of Central and South America aboard “Nacho”, their quirky and somewhat temperamental Volkswagen van.

As a result of questionable decision-making skills and intermittent bad luck, Brad and Sheena repeatedly find themselves in over their heads. Whether negotiating cliff-hanging roads in rebel territory, getting caught illegally smuggling a transmission in a suitcase over international lines, mounting a stealth mission to steal Nacho back from a deranged Colombian auto dismantler, or clinging to the side of a vegetable truck while descending a 16,000 foot Andean pass, there seems to be no limit to the predicaments that these two can get themselves into.

With Drive Nacho Drive, the Van Ordens deliver a thoughtful, hilarious, and mouthwatering depiction of adventure and misadventure on the Pan-American highway—one that will leave you shaking your head and holding your sides, while asking yourself,isn’t there more to life than this?

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Sep 2012
DISCUSSION 22 Comments

Gun-Toting Contraband Smuggler Man

Although we were having all kinds of fun with family reunions, seeing our friends, eating stuff, and drinking alcoholic beverages, it had come down to game time.  We were home for a reason, and we couldn’t avoid it any longer.  We needed to pick up a transmission, put it in a suitcase, check it onto a plane, and somehow get it through Customs in Colombia without being caught.  Since being home, we had also managed to acquire an eighth grade girl’s weight in other car parts, fishing equipment, clothing, and more car parts.  We knew it would require a great deal of savvy and luck to pull it off, so we trained for it in the only way we knew how; we played horseshoes to hone our precision, and we rode our bikes to build our endurance.  We saw a sign that told us that guns were the source of freedom, which we were going to need, so we got some guns and shot some little clay disks.  We were willing to try anything.

Our first step was to swing by AZ Transaxle and pick up the transmission.  I was pleased to see how shiny and clean it looked; this would play a key role in my ability to lie my way through Customs in the event that I was caught trying to smuggle a used transmission into Colombia.  As you may recall, smuggling such things into Colombia is illegal.

Next, we had to pack it up.  We needed to make it as small as possible so as to fly under the radar of the Colombian Customs agents, and we needed it to be light.  The maximum weight allowed for a checked bag, regardless of how many crisp Benjamins you flash in front of the ticket agent’s face, is 100 pounds.  I decided to remove the bell housing to make it sleek like supermodel, and then build a slim wooden box in its place to protect the input shaft.  With any luck the box would survive a fall from the airplane’s cargo door.  Just to be sure, I wrapped the thing in a whole bunch of bubble wrap.  We didn’t want to sneak through Customs only to discover that we had a trashed transmission again, so we used wood and plastic.  Nature and science.

My original idea had been to try and carry the transmission in my carry-on bag.  Everyone said I was crazy, but it made good sense to me.  First of all, it would save us $350 in overweight baggage fees.  I mean seriously, who has ever had to weigh their carry-on?  All I would have to do is put the transmission in a backpack, and then pretend that the backpack weighed less than 20 pounds so that no official types would think anything was fishy.  Then, I would have to ensure that I could lift the transmission over my head and place it in the overhead compartment, while not leading on that it weighed more than 20 pounds.  And lastly, I would have to hope that the overhead compartment didn’t come crashing down, killing someone’s child.  That would make all of my sneaky heavy lifting effort null and void.  In the end I decided against it, but only for the children.

Finally the day had come.  Sheena went on her merry way to United Airlines carrying two checked bags.  In those bags were many illicit objects, including a transmission bell housing, a new starter, some new LED interior puck lights, new spark plug wires, a clutch master and slave cylinder, a new flyfishing rod, a spare alternator regulator, some new brake lines, and a few other odds and ends.  Her bags were, in short, Customs lightning rods.

In my bags, things were looking no better.  I went off to the Aeromexico counter carrying a transmission, two salvaged rear hub housings made of rusty cast iron, a slightly modified and very rusty catalytic converter, two stub axles, a fancy air filter, a timing light that looked just like a gun, and some corrosive/explosive fluids.  All very used, and all very illegal.  Well, the fluids weren’t used, but they were surely illegal.  My bag containing the transmission ended up weighing 94.5 pounds.  Just under the legal limit.  When the nice Aeromexico ticket agent weighed my bag, she looked rather shocked.  She told me, pity in her eyes, that I owed her $350.  I nicely asked her in her native tongue if she would give me another 20 pounds for free, and she instantly obliged, knocking $100 off of my fee.  Things were going great so far!  Good thing we shot those guns!

The trip to Colombia went off uneventfully.  My stopover in Hermosillo was too short to dart out to the taco stand like last time, but I did manage to gorge myself on tacos on my second stopover in Mexico City.  Poor Sheena ate at an American chain restaurant in Houston, and nothing more.

When I stepped off the plane in Bogota, Sheena was waiting for me at baggage claim.  She already had her bags full of illegal contraband, and waited patiently while I recovered mine.  I found a note on my bag saying that US Customs had seized something from my bag.  I unzipped it in a panic, and quickly found that they had only stolen my brake fluid and the cleaning agent for my new washable K&N air filter.  I zipped it back up, swallowed hard, and Sheena and I coolly walked toward the exit.

“Don’t worry, Sheena,” I said, “I shot a gun before we left.  We will have freedom.”

Everything was going great and soon enough we could see the exit doors; the rays of light streamed through the plate glass like bullets from a freedom gun.  As we approached the Customs agents, a mere 50 feet from the exit doors, I whispered for Sheena to look straight ahead and be cool.  I casually checked my watch, sighed, and pretended to see someone I knew outside.  This gave me a reason not to make eye contact with the agents.  And then, all at once, we were accosted.  An agent stepped in front of us and pointed to the x-ray machine.  His gaze said it all; “I know you’re smugglers, you sons of bitches!”

We pretended it was no big deal, and walked to the x-ray machine with our 244.5 pounds of illegal imports.  Sheena put her bags on the conveyor first, and I helped her stand them on their sides in just such a way, so that the bell housing would be less obvious, and the starter would look less like a bomb.  I hefted my transmission onto the belt next, followed by my hubs, axles, catalytic converter, and gun-like timing light.  I stared at the agent behind the computer, trying to avert her gaze from the screen using extra sensory perception.

Look away … look away … look away … look-

“We have something here! We have something here!”  She looked around, hand in the air, calling for backup.  Sheena and I looked at each other; we had seen Broke Down Castle, and knew that these situations usually ended up with the smugglers spending the rest of their lives in an all-women’s Thai jail.  The agent spun the screen around so I could see it.  Sheena’s bags were still in view, but she was pointing at mine.

“What is this!?” She seemed angry, pointing directly at the transmission.  I tried to think of something quickly that would make her believe that indeed this was not a car part.  Anything but a car part.  If she knew it was a car part, it would be all over.  Our illusion of freedom would disintegrate like the crumbling walls of an all-women’s Thai jail.

“Uh…it’s a car part.”  Doh!  “It’s … um … it’s a transmission for a car.”  Doh!  Doh!

She moved the conveyor, burping Sheena’s illegal contraband out the end.  “These are car parts TOO!”, she said, pointing at my next bag containing a whole gaggle of car parts.  As the woman continued to call for backup, I gave Sheena the nod.  She quickly snatched her bags and speed walked out the door and into the street.  It had only been a few seconds, but I could no longer remember what freedom tasted like.  Whoever made that gun sign was a liar and a moron.

A woman named Alicia, someone I would come to know all too well over the course of my Customs incarceration, led me across the linoleum floor to the DIAN office.  “Everyone fears the DIAN,” Constanza would later tell us.  “They are the IRS of Colombia.  Everybody must pay the DIAN.”

I sat in an uncomfortable chair against the wall while I watched a young man being humiliated by a DIAN agent as he pulled illegal electric motors from his suitcase.  “They are for my father’s business,” he said.  “Your father can’t save you! You’re in DIAN now, son!”  They didn’t say that, but we all knew it was true.  I waited my turn, what seemed like hours.  I would have to get used to waiting, as I was now a common criminal in the Colombian DIAN justice system.  Just another scumbag smuggler, trying to outsmart The Man.

“Car part smuggler? DIAN will deal with you now.”

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Sep 2012
DISCUSSION 10 Comments

No More Dreaming

When we began our quest last January, safely stashed in Nacho’s cabinet was a loaf of banana bread, a few slices of quiche, and my aunt’s cream cheese cutout cookies. The cookies however weren’t shaped in candy canes and Christmas trees like the two dozen times before, but angels and X’s and O’s. And when I ate the last slice of quiche somewhere along the deserted highway on the Baja Coast in Mexico, I had a strange sensation of helplessness, as I realized I was devouring the last tangible piece of home.

Fortunately the mind is strong. The sensations, emotions, and experiences tied to this place we call home are abundant, and within a split second, you can be home.

At least in your mind.

When I close my eyes, I am back at the doorstep on Skyline drive. In the foreground, Black Mountain rises high in the crisp blue sky. The smell of desert rain is irresistibly and deliciously potent, and from every direction, the long reaching shadows of saguaros paint the volcanic rock. Rabbits and families of quail scurry through the cholla cactus and aloe vera patches. And inside, saltillo tiles lead to the kitchen and the aroma of banana bread from the oven gloriously chokes the air.

And then there’s my other home, two hours North, which rises high above the desert. Here, the pine forest stretches for as far as the eye can see. This time, the San Francisco Peaks are in the foreground. When I step outside of our dollhouse in the valley, I stand frozen in time, so fortunate to be spying on the massive herd of elk bugling on the hillside. I run alongside the river, flowers in bloom, briefly stopping at the pond to catch my breath and to watch the mother duck and her trail of babies, bottoms up, scanning through the depths of the water for food.

Fortunately, in July I didn’t have to dream anymore. Our impromptu trip home landed us back in Brad’s home town of Prescott just in time for the 4th of July festivities. Brad’s family and mine gathered in masses, grilling up hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob. In true Southwest fashion, mounds of guacamole, spicy salsa, tortilla chips, and many salt rimmed margaritas lined the flagstone countertop.

Farther down the desolate back roads in Prescott, more relatives spoiled us with their delightful food.

July was also the perfect time to visit the Red Rocks of Sedona and the overflowing blackberry bushes that lined Oak Creek. After a wonderful day of mountain biking, Brad and our good friend Mike insisted they could catch us ladies (Lauren and I) some trout. In return for their hard labor we’d make them a blackberry pie and fudge. While they fished, we put on our pants and long sleeved shirts, ready to put in a good fight with the massive web of thorny bushes. We laid down planks of wood through the bushes, gaining us access through the mess until we left in victory, bowls full of lusciously ripe blackberries. Needless to say, no trout arrived back at the house; however we did gorge ourselves on blackberry pie (recipe).

Back in the desert, my bucket lists of things to eat was satisfied in its entirety. Brad’s was too. His only request was that we make it to Barro’s Pizza. History took place here for the two of us. It seemed like a decade ago, and in actuality it was. During high school he’d come in and watch me work while dipping his fat slices of pepperoni pizza into ranch dressing.

And finally, my mom slaved away in the kitchen, cooking up batches of banana bread, quiche, and French toast. Most certainly, if I were to make a cookbook of family recipes, these would easily be the top three. I curiously wondered what foods made home “home” for other people. So, I asked Brad. Chiliquiles from Martannes, the curries at the Himalayan grill, our homemade burgers and daily cappuccinos.

Our trip back home fulfilled us in so many ways. Truly, the food came nowhere close to the enjoyment we received by visiting with friends and family. We never know where life will take us and what circumstances, both good and bad will arise in the future.

Cindy, many X’s and O’s back at you, and may you have many angels watching over you as well.

Banana Bread
Yield: 1 loaf of banana bread

1/3 cup Crisco (or butter)
½ cup turbinado sugar (white works fine as well)
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed banana (the riper the better)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a baking pan, coat the sides with butter or Pam.
In a large bowl, mix Crisco, sugar and eggs together. Next, add the mashed banana.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
Combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the bread pan.
Lick the bowl clean, preferably with a spatula or spoon. This batter is not to be wasted.
Cook for 45 minutes, or until you can poke the bread with a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Let cool on a baking rack. Slice and slather in butter!

Yield: 1 pie

1 cup of half and half
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of flour
½ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup of cheddar
Spinach (1 frozen package)
2 chicken breast (boiled and shredded)
1 prepackaged Pie crust
2 slices of swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together half and half, eggs, flour, and salt. Set aside.
Line the bottom of the pie crust with swiss cheese. Next, add the spinach evenly over the cheese.
Add the shredded chicken on top of the spinach, stopping when the chicken is level with the pie crust.
Pour the egg mixture lastly, stopping when the mixture has come close to the top edge of the pie crust.
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is cooked through and top has browned.

Challah bread French Toast
Yield: 12 slices

1 loaf of challah bread (egg based bread)
Canola oil
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
A few pinches Nutmeg
2 teaspoons of Vanilla
8 eggs
Whole milk (about 1 cup)
Powdered sugar

Thickly slice the challah bread and leave out for a few hours. This allows the bread to dry out, better absorbing the batter. In a bowl, add the eggs. Pour in the milk, stopping when the milk to egg ratio is 1:1 (about a cup of milk).
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well.
Dip each slice of bread into the mixture and set aside.
In a griddle, pour an incredibly healthy dose of canola oil and heat to medium high.
Place the bread in the griddle and let cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, or until brown and crispy.
Sprinkle each side with cinnamon and sugar.
Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup, or Brad’s favorite, plain yogurt and brown sugar.

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