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Showing posts from July, 2010

Day 56: The Way Life Should Be

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After last call Em, Conor and I devised a brilliant plan for a late night excursion to Wafflehouse. There we loudly proclaimed our appreciation of their food and service to all the many 2am patrons of that fine establishment, confident that they too would share our enthusiasm. Oh delicious food! Oh dear friends!

Went home and slept a few hours before setting out northward and eastward to Maine with my father. Thoroughly exhausted, I let him drive. It was the first time on this roadtrip that I've been in a passenger seat. Tried to nap as much as possible, so the subject of my year differed would not be discussed in length. My father turned 60 this year, and his driving is deteriorating as he gets older. As much as he worries about me for what he perceives as my Peter Pan tendencies, I worry about him for his denial of his own limitations. It's a strange thing when you grow up enough to recognize that your parents may need your help.

We got to the family beach house in Biddeford…

Day 55: Trans-American

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The band crashed at a friend's house in Columbus, and I had arranged to tag along in advance. The festivities had continued well into the early hours, and I woke up around 9am on an unfamiliar floor feeling thoroughly partied. Wished I could have stuck around and hung out with everyone more, but it looked liked they'd be in recovery for awhile. The drive ahead was too long to wait, so I woke Dave up and said goodbye.

Third day in a row running on only a scant few hours of sleep. Sobering up, driving, and trying to maintain some semblance of cognitive cohesion. I was headed home just for one night, picking up my father on the last leg of my journey, to Maine for my aunt's wedding. Wanted to make town early enough for a shower and a visit to my favorite watering hole on Main Street.

Reached Delaware in the evening. Reveled in the comforts of home for a little bit. Played with my kitty cat, and took a shower before heading out to meet up with two of my favorite people in the wo…

Day 54: Columbus Rocks

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Holy moley. Long day. Woke up early in Chicago after only a few hours of sleep. Went to a diner with Raija and Ben for breakfast that clearly had remained untouched since the 1960s. Everything was smothered in butter, which made the grits extra tasty. They left for school, and I hung around a little bit figuring out my game plan, waiting for traffic to die down. Rolled out. Drove south along the lake shore listen to mad decent public radio for the first time in a long while. Discovered Vocalo. Quite possibly the best radio station ever. The content is mostly listener generated, youth oriented, provocative and intelligent. When I tuned in they were having a conversation about interracial dating. Intrigued with nothing better to do while driving, I called in. Ended up talking to the host about my experiences for a solid ten minutes on air. Ha! Never done that before. Hopefully I pulled it off with a modicum of finesse. My friend Dave's band, All Dinosaurs, are out on their first to…

Day 53: Dear Chicago

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Slept a few hours at one of Iowa's excellent "modern" rest areas. Apparently they have wifi, mosaic tiling, and electronic info centers. Then spent the whole morning driving through the alternating corn fields and suburbs of eastern Iowa and all of Illinois that isn't Chicagoland. It was oppressively humid by 8am, which made for a beautiful sunrise and a tortuous heat index. I finally gave up and resorted to air conditioning.

Around lunch I reached Chi-town and head to the north side to visit Raija, a friend since grade school. She and her super boyfriend, Ben, are learning how to make violins and other similar string instruments. I met her at the school where I was immediately treated to a full tour and overview of the process. The work is so painstaking, a labor of love and fanaticism that shines in the remarkable craftsmanship of the finished pieces. Making wood sing. Resonate plant fibers. Raija continues to be one of the most awesome people I have the privilege …

Day 52: Badlands National Park

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It was so warm and arid that I decided to sleep under the stars. Each campsite had a picnic table with a bit of an awning. Just rolled my sleeping bag out on top the table to escape the crickets and rattlesnakes. A cool breeze picked up round midnight. I snuggled down and gazed out at moonlit mountains as rabbits and birds slipped by in the night. Through the wide slats in the awning I could make out familiar constellations of summer skies above. Lovely.Rose with the sun, feeling superb. Didn't have to bother with packing up a tent, just set off to explore as much of the park as I could before it got too hot. Took an 8:30am walk and geology talk with a ranger. Did three real short, highly recommended hikes, the Door, Window, and Notch trails. The first two were crawling with tourists, but the last was rough enough to keep a lot of the crowd at bay. The heat is exhausting. I couldn't have hiked more than three miles, but it felt like ten and I drank a liter of water. Still want…

Day 51: Black Hills

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Woke up early, and drove a few miles down the road to eat breakfast with a lake side view. Then set off and found the headquarters for Black Hills National Forest. Talked to a ranger and got maps, info, and recommendations. Based on that decided what to do for the day, and as always got ambitious about it.Drove an express route back west on 90 to Spearfish. Then started back east on scenic byways. The drive through Spearfish Canyon was superb. I hit it early enough that there was little traffic. The rising sun lit up the ridges and walls of auburn rock, natural cathedrals enveloped in foliage. I got to drive the way I like to, switching gears and hugging turns. Stopped in Deadwood to let my mind run wild with western cliches, and pay homage to a few larger than life legends. Did the self guided walking tour of downtown, and visited the town's collected history at the Adams Museum. Main Street is still hustlin' with vices, gambling and saloons, though tourist traps have taken t…

Day 50: Wind Cave National Park

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Long, long day. Did the nap and drive method through the night on 90 from Missoula to Wyoming. Northeast Wyoming is true cowboy country, endless grasslands dotted with rolls of hay and fat appaloosa ponies. Made the South Dakota border around lunch, and now I can proudly proclaim that I've been to all fifty united states! Went straight south to Wind Cave National Park. There I sucked it up, and got over my claustrophobia and fear of the dark long enough to take a tour of the cave led by a ranger. It was the first cave I had ever been to that wasn't a tourist trap, which made it much more enjoyable. Still, the feeling of exploring Earth's bowels and intestines is both fascinating and unnerving for me. After the tour I did a short hike around the top side of the park, swaying prairie lands with small patches of pine forests that hide rocky out crops. Unfortunately, I was too exhausted from driving through the night to take on anything too challenging.Drove some sweet scenic …

Day 49: Big Sky Country

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Good gravy, Montana just won't stop stealing my heart! Another stupendous adventure in Zoo Town, Big Sky Country, USA. Lauren, my couchsurf host, and I woke up real early so we could go to the Missoula's farmers market, the best I've ever been to. It's so large they have to divide it into three sections spaced around the city. Almost felt like a street festival, and it certainly seemed like the entire town and turned out for the affair. There I had the best coffee of the entire trip from Butterfly Herbs, a real store that also sets up a stand at the market. After we sampled and browsed to our hearts content, we made a few select purchases. Then Lauren took me on a walking tour of the town, which included key stops at all the local favorite bakeries, craft shops, and alternative boutiques. Crossing the bridge over Clark Fork, a river that cuts through downtown, I stopped to watch a couple of kayakers surf a sweet little rapid with the city skyline as a backdrop. As much…

Day 48: To Be A Good Woman

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The ferry reach Bellingham, Washinton early first thing in the morning. We all unloaded and went our separate ways with many well wishes and vigorous waves goodbye. I headed south on 5 a little ways to catch 90 outside of Seatle, that great highway that runs all the way to Boston. Set out due eastward on 90, passing through the Cascade Mountains. In high school I spent a week in them once for a youth group conference. Snow capped mountains in August above, and salmon swimming upstream to spawn below. Visited it's eastern side of the first time. Sage brush grasslands occasionally heavily irrigated from underground wells to coax an agriculture oasis from otherwise arid lands. Saw my first dust storm today, a small cyclone in a valley kicking up dirt high to the sky. I only have two days left to decide what to do about grad school. Finally got around to thinking about it long and hard, and talking it over with a few key people during the lonely stretches of drive today. More and more…

Day 47: Blue Skies

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When I woke up in the middle of night last night it was actually pitch black on the other side of the railing. I haven't see the depths of night like that in almost a month. Today it seems the weather has broke for good. It was sunny enough this afternoon that I and a couple other passengers laid out to soak in some vitamin D despite a good breeze off the port side. All signs suggest we are approaching the lower 48! Sometimes it's been so cold and damp on this trip that I've feared I was missing summer. So it's quite possible that I'm looking forward to the familiar sweltering summer weather of the mid Atlantic seaboard. Take me to sandy beaches to tan these bones!

Canadian waters all day. Many hours spent reading, napping, thinking, knitting, and chatting with fellow travelers. An easy like sunday morning kind of day.

At the Juneau terminal I had ended up in a conversation with an older gentleman in a cowboy hat and boots, who spoke with a bit of a twang. He mentio…

Day 46: From Pent-up Aching Rivers

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The first night I slept in the recliner lounge out of a desire for cushions and warmth. But, it was uncomfortable, stuffy, and noisy. Last night I managed to snag a spot in the solarium. On this ship the solarium has two sides of windows, one steel wall, and the fourth side is open to the deck where people pitch tents. Heaters are suspended from the ceiling. The open side faces aft, and beyond the railing the tents tie to is an pure, unobstructed view of the passing scenery. I was worried about being cold, but the heaters are quite effective. I was worried about being crowded, but there was a spirit of goodwill that permeated the space, lending it the air of a sleepover. Around 4am it began to rain, and everyone made space under the heaters for those who had been laid out in sleeping bags on the deck. Very little grumbling among fellow adventurers.In the morning we reached Ketchikan, the southern most city of Alaska. I walked the several miles into town to check it out, but downtown w…

Day 45: Island In The Sun

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In early the morning the ferry docked at Sitka, an island seaside town. Since I had heard a lot of good things about it, I paid up to take a short tour bus ride the seven miles from the ferry terminal to downtown. Definitely worth it. The guide was a knowledgeable local, and I wouldn't have had time to walk or hitch.I love places that are an unusual blend of cultures. Sitka is part Russian, part native, part American, and thoroughly interesting. I could have happily spent a couple days there, especially if I rented a kayak to explore the many tiny surrounding islands. Unfortunately, I only had a couple hours, and was restricted to a whirlwind walking tour of historical spots, artisan shops, and pretty coastal views. I'd either love living on an island for the independent, insular community, or go crazy over the lack of open road. Maybe I need a boat? I think I'll add living on an island to my list of things to try before I die.

We left port around noon, and continued south…

Day 44: Cooler Than Being Cool

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Another fantastic day. Made my usual breakfast: a handful of dried cranberries, a handful or raw almonds, a good dose of cinnamon, a dash of brown sugar, and a half cup of rolled oats set to simmer for five or ten minutes. Took my little pot down to the beach, and watched the tide go out as I ate. I'd like to think the view made it taste even better than usual. Packed up, and set out to touch a glacier. Seven miles round trip with a 1,300 foot gain, one of the most challenging trails yet. There was a near vertical climb up the crevice of a trickling stream to clear the first ridge. It made my heart jump to my throat, and dearly wish for climbing gear. Only my steadfast resolve to touch the glacier saw me through. The last half of the trail was high, barren ridges of crumbling shale overlooking Mendenhall Lake. No animals, few plants, and only small, sparsely placed cairns to show the way. A biting wind blew in firm gusts off the ice fields, cold and fast enough to steal your breat…

Day 43: Tramps Like Us

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A day of accomplishing small tasks. Made oatmeal for breakfast. Moved to a campsite within view of the bay. Got a map of the Tongass National Forest. Went to the visitors center at Mendenhall Glacier to talk to a park ranger for info and trails and firewood.

Mendenhall is a great glacier, because John Muir found it, it has a lot of trails, and you can actually hike on it. It's lesser qualities include being the closest to the city, and consequently a destination for cruise ship tourists. I did the mile walk to Nugget Falls, a massive waterfall that feeds into the same lake as the glacier. On the way I called home, as I've done every sunday of this trip. The conversation was good, and the view was pristine, but there were simply just too many tourists. As yet another bus load of people arrived, I gave up and headed to town for ice cream and internets.

Back at the Juneau Library I spent some time on CouchSurf trying to find a host in Missoula. Mailed more postcards. Returned t…

Day 42: Amazing Grace

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Whenever I'm on an interesting road I always want to drive it to the very end. In the main 48 that end could be hundreds of miles away, and I have to wrench my heart back from curiosity, and stay the course to my destination. In Alaska, where by sea or by air is the transportation standard, the roads are shorter and their ends are attainable. The campground was too crowded and noisy to even make the free hot showers worth it. I quickly vacated for a smaller campground near the bay. Picked a spot I could smell the brine and hear the seagulls from, and set out to find the end of the road. It was a stunning coastal drive of island filled bays, spruce frosted points, and vibrant bunches of wild flowers. It ended at Echo Bay, a sheltered cove and evidently a local favorite fishing hole. Clearly an outsider, I received many askance glances. It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but it felt good to find the end. So, I turned around and to try one of the many hiking trail turnoffs I …

Day 41: The Road Not Taken

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Through the night the ship entered the inside passage along Alaska's southeastern panhandle. I woke to calm waters and cell phone service, a sure sign of consistent civilization. Among the messages I had missed during my 24 hour trip across the service void of the gulf, was a voicemail from my father informing me that a very thick envelop and come in the mail from USC. I've been accepted to the USC Annenberg School for a masters in communication management concentrating in entertainment. For the kinds of com theory and research topics that interest me, it is one of the best schools and programs in the country. I feel honored, that all my efforts during college, studying for the GRE, and completing the application have meant something important. Still, this trip has made me reevaluate so much in my life. The next time I choose a path as an independent adult it has to be one that is completely true to who I am and how I want to better myself. I'm starting to question whether…

Day 40: Married To The Sea

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I've never slept at sea before. It was all kinds of lovely and enjoyable. The rocking of the boat as it surmounted each wave and rushed down in success was relaxing. The constant hum of the motors softly muffled by water and steel lulled me to sleep. When I woke all I could see was endless miles of ocean, the gulf of Alaska, undulating darkly shaded crests stretching to the infinity of an equally fridged sky in the smooth shades of a thousand grays.

This has been the only time on my trip where I wasn't driving, hiking, or working. Consequently, it's been the only time on my trip where I could sleep in and do a little fasting. I'm planning a juice fast for the trip from Juneau to Bellingham, but since I'm coming off the hearty meat and potatoes diet of the ranch, I used this trip prepare. Some granola, a little dried fruit, a small can of vegetable soup, and lots of water. I spent the day showering, napping, writing postcards, and watching the ocean.

In the evening w…

Day 39: Anchors Away

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Woke up especially earlier, packed up my car, and headed into Homer to get breakfast at Two Sisters, an organic bakery that's a favorite among locals. I had the best sticky bun and hot chocolate of my life there. No lie. I got a scone for the road, and a shirt as my only souvenir from the peninsula. Went back to the ranch for a cup of coffee, and all the many so longs that needed to be said. I must admit I was sad to leave, and it was especially hard to say goodbye to Kathy. Anchor River Llama and Alpaca Ranch was a whirlwind of an experience unlike any I've ever had before. There were so many memorable firsts and new skills learned. But of the utmost value, I got to feel useful, something this trip had previously lacked and I had yearned for. The French couple had also planned to head out around the same time as me, and roughly in the same direction. They were going to hitchhike, but instead I offered them a ride. We drove north along the coast, and then headed east through t…

Day 38: Happy Trails To You

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My last day on the ranch appropriately began with buckets of rain pouring from an expansive, overcast sky. We slogged through the wet to get the regular morning chores done, but it was coming down too hard to do much else. I wasn't feeling well, so I took a nap in my tent. Feel asleep listening to the soft splatter of dripping rain on canvas, and breathing deep the scent of dusty wood, rich loam, and wet animals. When I woke up I called home, dad, grandma, Em, and Conor. We caught up, made plans for Maine, and eagerly anticipated my return east.

Never one to tolerate cabin fever, when I returned to the crowded farm house I almost immediately suited up in rain gear and recruited two people to help me cut grass for evening feeding. We drove to an overgrown neighbor's yard that needed clearing, and on the way passed the most amazing house I've ever seen. It looked like a rambling, ramshackle abode straight from a fairy tale. As if it had been assembled from parts of several di…

Day 37: Meet Me In The Morning

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The karaoke bonfire carried on until almost 2am. The morning found a few casualties claimed, so I took charge of cooking up a hearty breakfast of eggs to order, breakfast sausage, gravy, and hashbrowns for the tired and hungover. Consequently, we took the rest of the day at a slow and steady pace.I spent the afternoon working on a website for the ranch, while Bob Dylan songs played over and over in my head. Just rolling along. I'm learning to take things up as they come. There's no time to think too much here. It's probably good for me to try living this way, but I'm also looking forward to the ferry ride. Then I can reclaim my thoughts as my own, sit awhile alone, and tend to them. Feels like this whole trip I'm just craning my neck trying to see around the next bend, straining for the next thing in hopes that it's better. Expectation leads to disappointment. Maybe that's why I'm so strung out on the let down.In the evening I made rocky road brownies, …

Day 36: Cowgirl In The Sand

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Today was a good day. With the total number of WWOOFers now at six, morning chores got done in a flash. There was time to eat a leisurely breakfast, and get started on the day's work by noon. Everyone pitched in and help weed the garden, and cut grass for the animals. A massive amount of tedious work got done in just three hours. To celebrate, I proposed we spend the rest of the day exploring Homer. I took a shower, put on a dress for the first time in weeks, and we headed into town.The weather was perfect, glowing with sunshine, freshened by a brisk and blithe breeze. I got a drink at the Salty Dog, the oldest bar in Homer, a rambling establishment made from a lighthouse and two other buildings that has been decorated in the flotsam and jetsome of tourist and locals alike. Experienced the gift shops along the spit while looking for a wedding present for my aunt. Skipping the touristy spots, there were plenty of small galleries with pieces from the resident artisan community. At …

Day 35: Homesick

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Sometimes I feel like I'm hard to get along with, and a hard woman to love. Yet, for the most part I want approval, friendship, love, and support. Most of the people who I consider to be my best friends are people are grew up with. I know they love me even though they've seen me at my worst. And somehow, though I don't have the slightest idea how or why they, accept my duality. They call me out, and love me hard. That can make it uncomfortable to be surrounded by new strangers. I feel like they can't help but see me as different and difficult, and I am reduced to the ugly duckling I was as a child. For no reason in particular, just a general feeling brought about largely from my own insecurities, I find myself lonesome and homesick for the people who have come to inherently understand me and my flaws. I miss my best friends dearly.The main project for today was building a massive fire pit: two feet deep, six feet across, and ringed in large rocks. I built it with two n…

Day 34: Moose Burgers

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Yesterday in addition to all the more regular chores and projects we pulled weeds for four hours straight. A humbling, meditative task, but certainly not the most enjoyable. Even with six people helping we only finished about half the area that needed to get done. What we got done looks pretty fabulous, I must say. The thought of how big and tasty the red potatoes and parsnips will be is rewarding.

Kathy really appreciated our efforts though, so today she encouraged us to take it easier. The weather was gorgeous for most the day. After morning chores, I worked on some functional and decorative improvements to the a-frame tent I'm calling home. Soaked in the sun while I painted a sign that says, "welcome friends". Made a large batch of oatmeal spice cookies with plenty of ginger, and a good dollop of applesauce. Took a long shower (I completely appreciate hot, running water more than electricity now). And, I learned to do needle felting.

Kathy wanted to make hamburgers f…

Day 33: No Rain

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I got the lyrics to No Rain by Blind Melon stuck in my head this morning. My life isn't pretty plain, but I wish it was. And, I've always liked "watching the puddles gather rain". Even here, where the nearly constant rains of a coastal peninsula make it difficult to get work done, I like it. The hills with their stunted pines, and the muskeg with its tiny mosses and lichens are swathed in a cool grayness that inspires a calm quietness in me. It makes me want to curl up under a warm quilt, "pour some tea for two and speak my point of view". Though sometimes I wonder if it's sane, and I have no one to share tea with.

It's a sharp contrast to the hectic noises of the crowded farmhouse, which is deliciously homey, welcoming all, but maybe not quite what I need right now. Yesterday I moved out of the shared trailer home to an a-frame tent that's better suited for one. Hopefully, I can get a little more desperately desired solitude that way. The lands …