Tag Archives: Nomads

road tripping the color wave ~ new england to north carolina ~ autumn 2010

WHERE MY PEEPERS AT?

although tim and i had gotten pretty good at cold-weather camping and the temperatures in new england weren’t too difficult to deal with, it was clear that summer had relinquished its hold on the landscape. the leaves, once merely edged in gold and crimson, were becoming prisms; shards of color. we began our journey south, attempting to stay ahead of winter’s hem.

and like a slow wave of transformation, the foliage followed us. for what felt like months, we drove through, hiked amongst, and camped in peak fall foliage. from acadia national forest to the loblolly stands of north carolina, we were caught in the swirl of nature’s kaleidoscope.

what follows are a series of quicktime virtual reality files. how they work is this: click on the empty square and an image will load. once it appears, click and drag on the image to rotate through a full 360-degrees. if you would like to zoom in to check out a detail (tim brushing his teeth, or a partially obscured sign, for example) click the + and – buttons which appear on the bottom of the image.

1. baystate village, ma ~ this beautiful backyard belongs to two of my closest friends, brooksley and ezra. we’ve been lucky enough to crash here several times on the endless road trip and it’s always a wonderful time.

2. atlantic oaks campground, eastham ma ~ we camped out at this campground just before it closed for the season. it was almost completely abandoned, and our campfire felt like the only one for miles.

3. dingmans falls, delaware water gap recreation area ~ we stumbled across this beautiful hike almost by accident. how could we resist the pull of a place called dingmans falls?

4. harpers ferry national historic park, harpers ferry wv ~ tim and spent our 5th anniversary here. it was chilly, rainy and gray, but we still had a great (and very educational) time.

5. bears den hostel, bluemont va ~ we were lucky enough to find this remarkably charming hostel on a night that was too cold for camping. definitely one of the best hostels i’ve ever been to.

6. fort raleigh national historic site, manteo nc ~ got another national park passport stamp here and wandered around the grounds. next time, i want to see a performance of the lost colony, the nation’s premier and longest-running symphonic drama!

7. the elizabethan gardens, manteo nc ~ right next door to fort raleigh, this is a most beautiful formal garden. it’s just gorgeous here.

8. jones lake state park, elizabethtown nc ~ another happy accident brought us to the shores of jones lake. we spent several days and nights here, the only campers in an expansive and luxurious campground.

9. morrow mountain state park, albemarle nc ~ gosh, just another gorgeous campground we stayed at. the place was simply teeming with deer. we ate many meals surrounded by wandering herds of these usually timid beasts. the tourists insisted upon feeding them, which seemed like a terrible idea to me. cut it out, people!

bryce canyon national park in springtime ~ 26may10

so it’s been almost nine weeks since we visited the amazing, the awesome, the unbelievable bryce canyon national park, and i still haven’t gotten around to posting anything about our time there. why? well because really, what can you say? i mean, it really is beautiful; truly and profoundly beautiful. if you’ve been there, you don’t really need me to remind you of how insane the landscape is because you probably have a million photographs of your own. if you haven’t been there, then no amount of adjectives, no matter how artfully arranged, will provide even the tiniest glimpse of the beauty that this place tosses about with such wild abandon.

so let me just encourage you to find your way to bryce canyon at least once in your lifetime. not only for the nature, which let me repeat, is sublime, but also because witnessing the cross-cultural chaos that occurs when thousands of foreign visitors — from india, germany, japan, france, the uk, the middle east, australia, spain, mexico, brazil, china, russia and yup, even canada — collide with southern utah mormonism and the good old american tourist. imagine a table of parisians at an all you can eat buffet offering classic american items such as: chicken fried steak, pot roast, canned corn, baked beans, and dinner rolls more like giant marshmallows than actual bread. imagine overhearing an interaction between a red-faced german couple and their teenaged waitress that begins with a heavily accented, “vat exactly iz a pickle pie?” it’s an awkward, hilarious and touching parade of all the absurd variety that human culture has to offer.

fortunately, we did not camp at the park itself, or i’m sure that the aforementioned parade of humanity would have driven me absolutely batty. we stayed here , about 14 miles away from the park. (i’ll get around to posting some photos of this place sometime soon because it, too, is outrageously gorgeous.)

so if i were to summarize this post in three bullet points, they would go something like this:

  • bryce canyon is so crazy beautiful it almost makes your eyes bleed.
  • the people watching is outstanding.
  • get your ass in gear and go!
  • great sand dunes national park and the medano forest fire ~ mosca, colorado

    WALKING ON WATER

    one of the most surprising, beautiful and surreal places that we’ve visited on this endless trip is right here , tucked into the southern edge of colorado, right where the rockies begin to descend into new mexico. the first time we laid eyes upon this bizarre landscape was in june of 2009, relatively early on in our journey. by that time we had logged a lot of road miles, but because of a lingering rocky mountain winter and a couple of long-ish house sitting gigs, we hadn’t yet done a lot of actual camping. as we pulled off of US160, heading north towards the great sand dunes, we somewhat naively believed that the place would be mostly empty and that we would have our pick of the park’s campsites. i mean, we’re talking about an extremely isolated, sparsely populated stretch of high plains desert…the veritable middle of nowhere.

    and yet, as we pulled in, we couldn’t help but notice the line of heavily laden suvs, pickup trucks, and rvs. the place was a madhouse! when we finally reached the entry gate, we were greeted by a sign — campground full — and a speech that the park ranger seemed to be reciting from memory: “i’m sorry folks, but our campground is all full up. you might try san luis lakes state park, about 10 miles away, but i’m not sure if there’s any space there either. there’s also a privately owned campground just outside the park boundary…don’t bother asking about tomorrow, because we’re going to be all full up then too.”

    the dunes themselves are magnificent. this is one of the few national parks that allow dogs anywhere past the parking lot and so the three of us dragged our way up a series of undulating, collapsing ridge lines, attempting to get a glimpse of the vast interior of the the dune field. every time we crested another dune, some subtle magic lured us onward, promising us a greater revelation if we managed to reach the next peak, the next vista. we hiked until all we could see, from horizon to horizon, were dunes. it felt like we were on another planet, like we could have walked on forever.

    as remarkable as the dunes were, it was the medano creek and the surge flow that captured my imagination. there was something so entrancing, so completely compelling about the endless combinations of wind, sand, water and sunlight, that i fell into a post of fugue state, utterly transfixed. patterns emerged and retreated in the water’s surface; a strange and half remembered calligraphy. within the space of a few windswept minutes, the water would take the form of delicate herringbone lace, a single standing wave, a string of tiny suns.

    my communion with this place brought one of the first and most persistent revelations of our journey. standing ankle deep in snowmelt, held in the distant embrace of sun, sky, mountain, dune, forest and cloud, the connection between all of these physical forms became manifest and wholly evident. the only thing separating smoke and creek, sand dune and pine tree were the relative scale of time and size. beyond that, there is no distinction. everything exists only for a moment, every form is transient. all that holds us together is vibration; we are simply standing waves in the profound medium of universal energy. we arise and subside as quickly as a pattern in sand, as unexpectedly as a tree growing on the shoulder of a mountain, as beautifully as a forest fire. all is one.

    words are as inadequate a tool as a cell phone camera in the attempt to capture the depth and reach of a landscape like this. better not to dwell too long on these ineffable concerns. better to simply surrender to the call of whimsy, of play, released from the bounds of eternity. let the mountains grind themselves to bits, let the sand scatter, let the snow dissolve into the desert. the sun is shining, the breeze is cool, and the whole world, even the forest exploding into flame, trembles with beauty.

    comfort food at the goody goody diner ~ st. louis, missouri

    while we were passing through missouri, we followed the interweb’s advice and went to have breakfast at one of the st. louis’ landmark eating establishments, connelly’s goody goody cafe . we pulled up to the restaurant on a hot, muggy mid-morning and were surprised by two things: 1) the location. 2) the size of the crowd.

    for against a patchwork background of decaying industry, struggling businesses and post WW2 tract houses, as unexpected and as incongruous as a giant toadstool, sat the goody goody. its parking lot was full, the surrounding streets were lined with cars. and when we walked in, we were confronted by the sight of a small foyer jam-packed with folks waiting for a seat and a dining area overflowing with good vibes. my first thought was, wow, i bet this is going to be good!

    goody goody is one of those rare and happy places that cater to people of every race, color, creed, sexual orientation and credit rating. having spent months in many places where i felt like the only brown person within a hundred mile radius (hello northern idaho!), entering a room chock-a-block full of this much diversity always makes me happy. add to that a menu featuring chicken and waffles, greek omelettes, and something called a hobo bowl, and you’re pretty darn close to diner-style ecstasy.

    i had the spinach and cheese omelet with rice (instead of hash browns or grits), a biscuit (instead of toast or pancakes), and a side of sausage gravy. i would have posted a picture of this delicious meal, but in the excitement of its arrival, i lost all composure and devoured it in a way that would have made mazy proud.

    the following audio offers a sample of goody goody’s happy clamor. we were seated between two young african-american women discussing their love lifes (one was beginning to wonder if the dude she was pursuing might actually be gay) and a group of middle-aged folks exchanging office gossip.

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    canyonlands national park ~ southern utah


    DEATH BY NEEDLES

    if you want to skip ahead, there is a slideshow and an audio recording of tim talking about why he loves the needles district of canyonlands national park with such intensity. however, if you are willing to wait, and you want to read the story of how tim and i almost lost our lives in this unbelievably beautiful corner of the world, continue on.

    the first big trip that tim and i took was in 2006. we caught amtrak’s lakeshore limited from springfield to chicago. we got off the train long enough to have a quick lunch with my chicago besties, wenner, freddie and m, and then we boarded the southwest chief and headed down towards albuquerque.

    anyway, it was a long trip and very eventful. (ask tim about his relationship with our traincar attendant and why it was so awkward…seriously it’s worth it). after many adventures involving a tiny hyundai that we got from alamo rental and my first introduction to tim’s sister katja, we found ourselves entering canyonlands national park . what with all of our dilly-dallying in moab, we got a much later start than we had intended. still, it was a beautiful day, sunny and brisk, and we were very excited to be out on the trail.

    you should know that it was march, and that winter still had a firm grip on the canyonlands. with the full sun pouring down on us, it was very comfortable for hiking, but in the slot canyons or in the shade, the air was brisk, edged with cold. we hiked up through the first pass and entered elephant canyon. a barely believable landscape passed around us; red sandstone spires giving way to wide sage-dotted plains, twisted bodies of junipers, and bright porcelain sky. we followed the dry bed of elephant creek, stair-stepping on god-sized risers of perfectly formed granite. and then we arrived at druid arch . for those of you who followed that link, i know, right? it’s beautiful! supposedly, it’s called druid arch because it looks like a celtic rune.

    tim and i hung out at the arch for a good long while, taking photos and exploring the nooks and crannies along the canyon. then we continued on, making our way slowly to chesler park. we stopped at a grand overlook and ate our meager picnic lunch. we watched the sun began to settle towards the horizon. when we consulted the map, a slow horror began to creep into our consciousness. we had an 8-mile hike back to the parking lot and about 2 hours of sunlight to do it. this, through fairly demanding terrain, the path trailing up and around sandstone spires, disappearing into slot canyons, and climbing from the desert floor up through layers of geologic time. we checked our daypack and discovered that we only had one headlamp. the layers that we had brought along, which had felt so substantial in the noonday sun, began to feel meager and thin. we had no emergency blanket, no more food, and not a whole lot of water.

    our pace quickened. the sun’s rays began to diffuse behind a layer of purple clouds crowding the horizon. darkness spread, swallowing the shadows like a rising tide. we decided to hike as long as possible without the aid of the headlamp. we had no idea how long the batteries would last and once we started relying on its light, we would be fully dependent on it. in the azure light of dusk, the path remained barely visible in our sensitized retinae; a pale ribbon twisting between the variegated darkness of plant life and cryptobiotic soil.

    as if toying with us, the sky began to spit down a cold rain. lightning played on the horizon, illuminating what looked like a massive storm front heading towards us. my adrenaline addled mind began to frantically pursue possible outcomes. would we survive if we were forced to spend the night out in the wilds? would hypothermia claim us? would sharing body heat be sufficient? would anyone know we were still out here, scared and rushing heedlessly through the darkness?

    eventually, the trail led us onto an undulating rock floor and then disappeared in its constant, monochrome surface. from here, our only guides were tiny, widely spaced cairns that stitched their way through a landscape made treacherous by sudden dropoffs and unexpected chasms. in the failing light, the cairns were all but invisible. we stumbled on, terrified of losing our way. the cold rain intensified. we turned on the headlamp and began casting about in the darkness, searching for the trail markers. when one of us couldn’t find the next one, the other would take the lead. slowly, in this staggering, frightened way, we continued on.

    my memory began playing tricks on me. were we going in circles? had we rejoined the path that first led us into elephant canyon? finally, just as i was about to suggest that we stop and try to find a place to shelter for the night, we crested a low rise. tim shone the headlamp into the blankness ahead and uttered a cry of relief. he had seen the hyundai’s reflectors shining in the lamp’s pale beam. we had made it back to the parking lot!

    giddy with relief, we hurried to the car and got in. somehow, the simple act of closing the doors made us feel safer. we hugged and high-fived, congratulating ourselves on surviving the ordeal. the awareness of how tenuous our situation had been came crashing down. if we had begun to bicker or lay blame, if we had taken one wrong step, one of us could have twisted an ankle or fallen and broken a leg. or worse. we could have lost the path and ended up wandering aimlessly, searching for a path that wasn’t there. we could have been soaked by the coming rain and succumbed to exposure or hypothermia. giddiness was replaced by wonder. how had we escaped unscathed?

    as we left the park, a strange, almost surreal series of events taught us the price of our survival. in the few miles separating our parking space from a generous bed and a comfortable night waiting for us in bluff, ut a total of 14 desert hares streaked out of the darkness and sacrificed themselves to the hyundai. by way of comparison, in the entire 1 year and 4 months of this endless road trip, we have killed exactly zero animals. that night, we killed 14; the last of which lay down in front of us just as we turned into the sleeping town of bluff; just as tim uttered the words, “well at least we aren’t going to kill any more rabbits.”

    in this sad way, we learned how much the canyonlands required in order to spare our puny human lives.

    our latest visit to the canyonlands was much less eventful. we enjoyed a beautiful day with pati and andy, marveled at the incredible beauty of this sublime landscape, and made it back to our campsite without injury or loss of animal life. the canyonlands had accepted our sacrifice.

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    natural bridges national monument ~ lake powell, utah

    BURNING BRIDGES IN MORMON COUNTRY

    in this audio clip, tim and i attempt to relate some of our experiences at the national bridges national monument. on listening, i realize that i can’t stop using the words “beautiful,” “amazing,” and “unbelievable.” sigh. before i record any more stories about our time in southern utah, i will have to consult a thesaurus. attempting to describe the sights and sounds at bryce canyon, kodachrome state park, and canyonlands will surely require the usage of similar concepts.

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    allergy season ~ albuquerque and santa fe, new mexico

    OF VINEGAR AND KARMA

    back in the early 1990s, i spent about four years living, working and going to school in albuquerque, nm. i was in my early twenties, and to be perfectly honest, i was not at my most emotionally healthy. in the common parlance of the rom-com, i had a lot of growing up to do. there are memories of my time in new mexico that can still bring moments of sweaty, gut-cramping embarrassment. i wore a skirt? a miniskirt? i fooled around with an aspiring model named clint? i sent secret admirer notes? ergh. sure, there were wonderful times and unforgettable experiences as well, but even those were fraught with the self-absorbed angst that only a twenty-year-old, semi-closeted, recovering seventh day adventist could muster.

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    what i’m trying to get at with all of these terrifying revelations is that new mexico and i have a very intense emotional history. under albuquerque’s chronically sunny skies, i experienced more than my share of awkwardness and inflicted more than my share of cruelty. i could go into more detail, but really, what would be the point? suffice it to say that whenever i go back, i can’t help but feel that there’s a shit ton of karmic payback waiting for exactly the right moment to serve notice.

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    that moment was april 2010. it may seem overly dramatic to assert that the allergies i experienced during this visit to new mexico were a sort of cosmic retribution for my past sins, but i was there and i lived through it, so i know. this was some serious heironymus bosch shit. being eaten by a bird-headed creature while crows fly out of one’s ass could hardly be more terrible than the life-sapping combination of congestion, leakage, migraine, insomnia, dehydration, bloody nose, and puffy face that new mexico’s flora inflicted on me. apparently, other people suffered as well, this being the worst allergy season in years. new mexico had seen an unusually wet winter and pollen and mold counts, so i was told, were through the roof. such knowledge proved a cold comfort. misery may love company, but i would prefer to keep misery at a safe distance.

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    luckily for me, i stumbled upon a remedy so powerful it not only does away with allergy symptoms, it also eradicates bad karma. my friend carla suggested it when my eyes, nose, mouth and throat first began to leak, but i foolishly chose to ignore her advice. it was only after i had hit my own rock bottom and realized i was helpless before this seasonal affliction that i finally surrendered to a higher power: the power of apple cider vinegar.

    for those of you who are afflicted by allergies, bad karma, or both, i recommend the following brew:

    2 C bragg’s apple cider vinegar
    2 inches of ginger, sliced thinly
    4-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
    several dashes of cayenne pepper

    bring the above ingredients to a boil, turn heat down and simmer for a while. turn off heat and add:

    2-4 teabags (stinging nettle, breathe easy, gypsy cold care, etc.)
    enough local honey and warm water to dilute and make the brew palatable.

    drink this stuff all day long. drink it til the people around you begin asking if you smell something weird.

    how do i know it works on allergies? well, in my case, about two days after getting serious with the vinegar, my symptoms had all but disappeared. it verged on the miraculous.

    how do i know it zapped my bad karma? because even though i started my tenure in new mexico as an insecure, awkward, unnecessarily cruel, sometimes vicious, skirt-wearing, closet case, i somehow managed to end up with the coolest, kindest, smartest, funniest, most talented and generous friends in the entire state. so to m, a, w, c, z, h, and e: thanks for putting up with my endless bitching and moaning about my damned allergies. you guys made new mexico more magical – one might even say enchanted – than ever.

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    Posted by Wordmobi

    arizona ~ get off my lawn!

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    our visit to arizona was punctuated by three unexpected and unnerving run-ins with the powers that be. the first was a security inspection conducted by the department of homeland security just before crossing the hoover dam. the other two happened at security checkpoints set up by the border patrol. the first of these took place just north of patagonia, az, about 20 miles north of the border. the second occurred on the day we left arizona, just north of truth or consequences, nm.

    there is something truly frightening about being scrutinized by folks with military authority. the line between a fairly benign interaction and one gone horribly awry is just one miscommunication, one misunderstanding, one unallayed suspicion. the balance of power is tipped almost entirely in their favor and it is easy to feel as though you are entirely at their mercy. the whole thing requires an attitude of deference, something i have little practice in. fortunately for us, however, we have a good luck charm from tim’s childhood watching our back. macgallowitz, a large-ish, two-tone teddy bear, has done much to lighten the mood and reduce the stress of these surreal interactions. at hoover dam, for example, the constables who were inspecting the contents of our truck were greeted by macgallowitz’s impassive stare. “who does this belong to?” asked a crew-cut. “that’s his,” i said, nodding in tim’s direction. the crew-cut looked at tim with an expression saturated with bemusement. “you don’t have any guns or other weapons in there, do you?” he asked. i scoffed. “no way!”

    the combination of the stuffed bear, my incredulity at the thought of owning a weapon, and our general squareness banished any suspicions the crew-cut might have held. he waved us through with a slightly mocking smile.

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    some things which might interest you about our visit to arizona, the 49th state of the union:

    that picture up there? that’s chamoy. it is the craziest thing i’ve eaten in a good long while. i can’t even begin to explain it and i have no idea why nobody ever told me about it before now! it’s sweet, salty, bitter, sour, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, ice-cold spiciness. yummy!

    in arizona, gay marriage is extra super duper biggie-size illegal. until recently, the state extended domestic partner benefits to state employees, but out of what seems like sheer mean-spiritedness, az has repealed them, leaving a lot of people in the lurch.

    springtime in the desert is surreal. imagine entire mountainsides painted the bright orange of mexican poppies. with every breeze, billions of tiny petals trembling, setting the earth on fire.

    the ads for john mccain’s 2010 reelection campaign use the tagline john mccain: arizona’s last line of defense. no wonder they’re so nervous!

    thanks to the generosity, kindness, and goodwill of our many hosts, we ate the tastiest fry bread, watched the most staggering sunsets, lounged in the most decadent hot tubs, practiced yoga in the most crowded classes, and hiked the most painful trails. if you get a chance, ask tim about the restorative yoga class…it’s hilarious.

    due to severe budget cuts, all state run rest areas in arizona are now closed to the public. seriously. they’re surrounded by chain link fences and bright orange closed signs. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if arizona ends up changing its travel and tourism slogan to arizona: we don’t really want you around.

    waterfalls in the desert? who knew? we were there at just exactly the right time to witness this spectacle. two weeks later it would have been a dry gully.

    by june 3, around two-thirds of arizona’s state parks will have closed their doors for the foreseeable future. our last night in az we camped at a sweet little park set on the edge of a lake within sight of snow covered peaks. it offered a hot-spring-fed hot tub and big, clean bathrooms with good showers. it was also full to capacity with campers. despite all of this, in a couple of months it’s getting shut down. sigh. ain’t no shortage of wal-marts, though, so if you feel like camping out under the stars is essentially the same as sleeping in a parking lot, you probably won’t be affected by this tragedy.

    a saguaro forest is an otherworldly landscape. when they become very very old, their dolphin-like skin becomes as thick and gnarled as treebark. occasionally, one will mutate and become cristatic. it is crazy looking, like it’s trying to grow a brain.

    the two tallest buildings in tempe, az are abandoned condominium skyscrapers; casualties of the housing collapse. they stand there, dark, silent and unfinished monuments to hubris and greed.

    frank lloyd wright’s last building, the gammage center, is on the campus of arizona state university. it is, as they say, a confection, but you can get an all-access tour for free, and it’s history is pretty cool. if you go to the gammage, then you have no excuse for not visiting asu’s fine arts building, designed by antoine predoc. when the new york times did a review of all of the buildings on asu’s campus, it beat out the gammage center as having the most architectural importance. it’s a pretty special place.

    outdoor shopping malls are now being marketed as lifestyle centers. shopping at pottery barn and eating at the cheesecake factory? now that’s what i call a lifestyle!

    although it gets very hot here, our visit coincided with the most beautiful and temperate season to be in arizona. cool evenings, warm days, and high overhead, the distant eggshell sky. while we were riding our bikes around and sleeping under sheets, the rest of the country was pretty much socked in by rain, sleet, hail and snow.

    if you look like you or your parents were immigrants and the authorities have a wild hair, you’d better watch out! you are exactly the people that john mccain is trying to defend arizona against.

    031320102181.jpg our campsite in chloride, az.


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    031320102188.jpg st. patrick’s day parade in chloride, az.

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    031320102207.jpg the mohave museum of history and arts, kingman az.

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    031420102249-001.jpg mission san xavier del bac

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    031720102308-001.jpg near mt. lemmon, tucson az

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    032020102345-001.jpg magically, we found ourselves in patagonia, celebrating dan’s 40th birthday.

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    michelle, adrian and jmichael made tucson our home away from home.

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    032120102450-001.jpg saguaro national park.

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    032520102535.jpg tempetown.

    scottsdale.

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    032620102593.jpg the heard museum.

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    032720102765.jpg desert botanic garden.

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    033020102827.jpg phoenix.

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    leaving arizona.

    we spent almost 3 weeks being held by the vortex that is arizona. i had a marvelous time hanging with friends and exploring the desert in springtime, but still and all, i was happy to get the heck out of there. what with the whole gay as second-class-citizen thing, the looming threat of surprise security inspections and the potential that i might be required to produce documents to prove my legality just to walk down the sidewalk, arizona just doesn’t feel particularly welcoming.

    Posted by Wordmobi

    eastward ho!

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    in march of 2010, we commemorated two important milestones: on march one, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of this nomadic life. yup, one year chock-a-block full of camping, skiing, visiting old friends and family, driving, chasing ufos, trainspotting, swimming, practicing yoga, playing, rollerskating, laughing, eating delicious food, gaping in wonder, meeting new friends, dreaming, dancing, sailing, bickering, processing, and occassionally stressing out about the future. one year of traveling by truck, train, trolley, sailboat, subway, ferry, steam engine, canoe, taxicab, bicycle, quad skate, monorail, airplane and, oh yeah, on foot.

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    it is a remarkable thing, how easily a human being can adapt to new and challenging circumstances, and this past year has been a clear demonstration of this fact. we may not own a bed or a refrigerator; we may not have regular access to hot showers or flush toilets; our choices may have led us into surprising and sometimes frightening scenarios, but we have continued on, learning, healing, and expanding. i now know how to make apple turnovers over an open fire and how to rig a tarp that will survive 5 days of unceasing rain. i now know how to navigate portland’s bike lanes and washington dc’s metro. i can now feel, more strongly than ever, the web that connects me to each and every one of my friends, binding us together in a single swirling chaos of dance.

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    more than anything else, however, this past year has taught me to not simply live with uncertainty, but to actively embrace it. we have no way of predicting the future; we have no way to force our way into an imagined life. all thoughts and beliefs that tell us otherwise will ultimately disappoint. if you had asked me five years ago what my life would look like today — or at twenty-one, what my life would look like at twenty-six — my answer would have been laughably naive. to believe that my vision of where the next five years will lead me has any validity seems to me to be the definition of foolhardiness. and while this might be frightening or disorienting, there is not much i can do but to keep on following the path unfolding before me. there have been many days when tim and i had no idea where we were going to sleep or how we were going to get there, and whether we stressed out about it or not, whether we fought or disagreed or simply relaxed into it and had faith, somehow it always seemed to work out. as i have written before, we may have less, but we have been deprived of nothing. in fact, my life after one year on the road feels richer, more textured, and more vivid than ever. what a beautiful planet this is! what poignant creatures we are! i can’t wait to see what happens next!

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    on march 9, we reached another,more prosaic milestone. the odometer on tim’s truck, the loyal and dependable rainbow frontier, finally hit the 100,000 mile mark. thank you old girl; long may you rave.

    the one year anniversary of the wonder caravan found us in los angeles, ca, just about as far from northampton, ma as you can possibly be while still in the continental u.s. on the way to socal, we passed through new hampshire, vermont, maine, new york, massachusetts, pennsylvania, ohio, michigan, indiana, illinois, missouri, kansas, colorado, new mexico, utah, idaho, montana, wyoming, oregon, washington, nocal, nevada, nebraska, iowa, virginia, west virginia, maryland, kentucky, wisconsin, minnesota, and north dakota.

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    apart from the railfan extravaganza that brought us from martinez, ca to washington dc, the past year was spent heading west, towards the pacific and the setting sun. it makes a kind of sense, then, that the beginning of our second year on the road marks a literal turning point. we’ve stitched our way down the western coast, from washington’s san juan islands to santa monica, ca. we’ve walked along the edge of the continent and seen land give way to endless hecatombs of ocean. now it’s time to turn our faces to the rising springtime sun and head east.

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    the beginning of our eastward journey began with a return to hemet, ca, where my auntie made us a delicious dinner of arroz caldo.

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    and for desert, purple yam! we stayed at her place for a few days, decompressing from los angeles and waiting out some cold, rainy weather, and then made our triumphant return to joshua tree national park.

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    it is always a joy to sleep out in our tent, especially after an extended visit to the big city. there is something re-grounding — comforting, even — in being completely surrounded by the natural world, even when the nights are cold and the spring winds are blowing hard enough to bend tent poles and send aluminum stakes flying. every task, from cooking breakfast to building a fire, to filling our water jugs, feels strangely empowering; if we can survive and thrive with just these basic tools, we’re capable of handling just about anything!

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    next time: stories from the road to las vegas.

    Posted by Wordmobi

    in aztlán ~ los angeles, ca

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    folks get a lot of mileage out of hating on l.a. one of the many mellow-harshing conversations that tim had to endure at the hot springs in tecopa, ca , for example, was basically some dude yammering on and on about los angeles’ many and varied faults. blah blah traffic; blah blah hollywood; blah blah etc. and this highly discerning connoisseur of urban life was from las vegas. yup, that’s right, beautiful idyllic las vegas! huh.

    to be sure, los angeles has a long list of well-documented downsides. i admit that i don’t know how well i would do if i had to live and work there full-time. the prospect of a daily 3-hour commute on l.a.’s screwy freeway system is enough to give me the shakes. but for an 8-day visit — which happens to be exactly how long the three of us spent there — the city of angels is practically perfect in almost every way.

    here, then, in no particular order, are the things i loved about the much-maligned city of angels.

    1. la comida ~ yes yes yes, i know, there’s good food to be found everywhere. portland has its whiffie hand pies and random order cafe and all-you-can-eat ethiopian buffet. san francisco has delfina and the ferry building and that little tiny place on 14th and valencia (or is it 17th?) that serves the best falafel sandwiches ever. hell, even hemet, ca has carne asada tacos that have made me groan with pleasure. so what about l.a.’s gustatory offerings made me stand up and take notice?

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    the dulce de leche cake from the coffee table cafe.
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    ethiopian vegetarian combo at messob.

    for one, there is just so much of it! l.a.’s sprawl might make your daily commute a living hell, but it also means that there is a seemingly endless supply of places — big, small, fancy, filthy, and everything between — serving an endless variety of food. our week-long food party included vietnamese bun, dim sum in chinatown , ethiopian veggie combos , a traditional brazilian buffet , a japanese curry house , american brunch classics , down-home mexican, home-made ice cream, fresh vegetable juice medleys, and a place that was devoted solely to cream puffs. oh yes; and one regrettable late night dinner which started with deep-fried macaroni and cheese balls and ended in tears. and all this eating barely scratched the surface of what l.a. had to offer. we didn’t have any sushi or korean bbq or lebanese or umami burgers; we didn’t eat anywhere specializing in raw, vegetarian or macrobiotic food. it wasn’t for lack of trying! paul, one of our hosts, kept shaking his head at us and saying, you guys are out of control! no, paul YOU’RE out of control. now let’s go eat.

    2. la clima ~ some folks complain that l.a.’s weather is too nice; too consistently wonderful. to this i say, puhleeze. find something real to complain about.
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    3. la estación de tren ~ this truly distinctive landmark somehow manages to capture both the soaring aspirations and deep cultural roots that define southern california. part spanish mission, part art deco hood ornament, it’s glamorous and romantic; the kind of place where double agents are hunted and hard-boiled detectives fall in love with platinum blondes. tim and my visit was far less dramatic. first we oohed and aahed at the tilework and heavy-boned furniture and then we used the public bathroom. what can i say; we’re tourists!
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    4. avistamientos de celebridades ~ nuff said.

    5. nuestros amigos e familia ~ of course, we wouldn’t have known about the cream puff place or the dim sum house or the joys of topanga canyon’s eagle rock; we wouldn’t have found the beautiful fig tree or ethiopia-town or the farmer’s market; we wouldn’t have had as much fun or laughed quite as loud or received so many hugs, if not for our friends and family. so massive gratitude and thanks to everyone who made time and space to see us on our whirlwind through socal.

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    to paul, who let us crash at his place for a very long time at the risk of alienating his housemates and exhausting himself, and who never got upset when we flailed on late night plans. i’m reading your script and will give you notes soon! promise!


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    to ruthie, who broadened our horizons and gave us space for healing, contemplation and wicked good conversation. may our paths cross again soon, if not here, then in brasil!

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    to sara and tony, who host the most awesomest monthly party in the northern hemisphere and who introduced us to kitsu and whistler. may the inspiration you’ve given be returned to you ten-fold.

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    to marty and pj and matt and jim, who brought us to muscle beach and encouraged us to drink. may the screeching never end.

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    to tim’s wonderful family, the whole happy hilarious gang. next time, we all have to go rollerskating!

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    to matt, heather and calan, who brought us to eagle rock to watch the sun
    set and whom i lamely did not even photograph. may the wind be at your feet and may you walk in beauty.

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    viva los angeles! next time, we promise we’ll go out dancing, re-enact key scenes from xanadu, and get more brazilian food. until then, see ya later, gang!

    Posted by Wordmobi