Category Archives: traveling

I am going to scream if one more person says…

“Hitch hiking is dangerous! You musn’t! Do your realize there are SEX OFFENDERS out there???!!!”

I started dreaming about hitch hiking when I was 12. I did it for the first time when I was 17 but only because we were bored. A few years later I hitch hiked up and down Vancouver Island for two weeks with my friend Katherine. And of course last summer Casper and I got dozens of rides over four months when it was our only transport through southern Oregon and nothing California.

We ditched one ride because of bad vibes. One ride, out of dozens. He hadn’t slept and was probably on something. We grabbed our packs from the bed of his pick up while he was inside paying at a gas station. As we walked toward 101 to start hitching again, a lovely librarian picked us up and gave us a ride right into the heart of San Francisco.

Casper working on getting us from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco.

People keep saying DON’T HITCH HIKE IT IS DANGEROUS. And then they say DON’T PICK UP HITCH HIKERS IT IS DANGEROUS.

This isn’t the world I want to live in, folks! I have been the driver cruising passed hitchers and I have been the person on the corner with her thumb in the air. Trust your gut, regardless of which position you are in. We are all humans, all sharing this planet. The likelihood of you dying in a car crash is way bloody higher than a hitch hiker you feel good about hurting or robbing you.


Walla Walla: travels to and from

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Thanksgiving evening on the side of the freeway in Grants Pass.

We spent Thanksgiving hitch hiking through Northern California. The night before we got a hotel room in Eureka. We were trying to get to Eugene but called it a night in Canyonville, after a trucker dropped us off at a truck stop near the casino. We made it to Roseburg the next day via a local bus and took Greyhound from there – Casper to Eugene and me to Portland.

Foggy mountain morning

Foggy mountain morning

It has been 15 days since we left Humboldt County. In those two short weeks we have seen a lot of extended family – me in Olympia, Seattle and Walla Walla and Casper in Eugene – and we are exhausted from the combination of transition, travel and visiting.

My parents reside in Walla Walla and I came home with them the weekend after Thanksgiving. Casper joined us a week later via Amtrak from Eugene.

That was four days ago. Tonight we board an Amtrak train headed east. Saturday morning my sister will pick us up in Minneapolis and yet another life begins. We will descend into yet another world.

And that is what we do, you know: we place ourselves over and over in new worlds. We watch and listen a lot; don’t speak as much as you might think.

And right now we’re thinking that we want to do more of that.

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On top of a parking garage in Roseburg, Oregon.

My mom will join us out in Wisconsin for Christmas, and a good friend of Jess’ (who we met when we visited her in Texas last year) is coming right after Christmas. She is house-sitting a little house in the same valley where we grew up and our own self-built house still stands.

Sisters are magical; I expect great beauty and growth for all present in the next three weeks. Also there will be a lot of really good food and my sister’s beautiful laugh which is contagious, particularly for me.

After Wisconsin – January? February? – Casper and I are flying to Mexico City! “Another white dash,” I think when I contemplate our latest leap of faith into a new world – and “once more with feeling”. Pack the bags. Reconsider your few belongings: what is now superfluous that last week was essential? what new items have taken top priority? We leave behind the ripped sleeping bag that was our only blanket this summer and trade out Casper’s threadbare backpack for a big duffel bag. I get to pack dresses, my paints and brushes, more than one pair of shoes. Every item we use regularly is re-examined for its worth in our new situation. Every possession is chosen.

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“Please understand I have been waiting to leave ever since i figured out there were roads willing to take me anywhere i wanted to go.”

In Mexico, we plan to live in Xalapa. We know what we want to do with our time and just need the space to do it so cheap rent and foreign culture beckon us. We are excited, though this morning our minds and hearts are caught up in the present transitions of leaving Walla and arriving in Wisconsin and the dreamy travel-time of Amtrak in between.

Oh, and I’m making solstice cards and I want you to want one. Send me your address in the next week or so for best results. <3


Quick photo post…

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: The Duluth Adventure

I met Mar in high school, though he went by a different name then, and said hi to him when we crossed paths in college, but I’ve actually only hung out with him a few times. Yet, he feels like a good friend. He was headed to Duluth to help a friend of his mom’s move across the company. It was so good to see him. Casper and he immediately hit it off, too, which allowed me to relax socially.

Mar was hungry, having been traveling most of the day, so we headed to the Mall of America. It’s just a tram ride away from the airport and we already had our passes because we’d parked at a park and ride and ridden the train into the terminal. (So cool!) I had considered just taking us to our car since we had some food there but thought MOA would be easier and more fun. Boy, was I wrong.

Mar didn’t have too much luggage so Casper took my purse, I took Mar’s suitcase and he carried his backpack. Before going into the Mall, we smoked a couple cigarettes and he bestowed upon me the following:

The last few lines of Bukowski's "Alone with Everybody", the second poem of his I read and what convinced me to borrow the book.

We strode quickly through MOA searching for decent food. It was late – 8ish – and not much was open. All we could find were ice cream shops. At 8:07, we gave up and hurried back to the tram. We got on, but it just sat there for quite awhile before finally taking off towards the airport.

It felt like my birthday! At Peggy’s, I acquired a book of Rumi, too, so I am in poetry bliss at the moment book-wise.

Mar’s shuttle was scheduled to leave at 8:45. We arrived, after running up and down escalators in the airport, at 8:47 and the shuttle was nowhere in sight.

I had promised Mar that, if we missed the tram, we’d drive him to Duluth. It was no big trouble for us – we didn’t have any plans for the night, we love to drive, and it gave us more time with Mar.

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Winona, Part II

A beautiful day in Winona, MN.

Casper woke up in the car in the McDonald’s parking lot in Winona around 9am. He joined me in McDonald’s and we talked a bit, found directions to a Walgreens for my meds and located the public library.

The Winona public library is the cutest thing I have seen in quite awhile. It has three or so levels – it’s hard to tell. There’s a basement and a second floor that lead off of the entrance on the ground floor. And there are books everywhere. Metal staircases tucked into corners lead to the different floors. The basement rooms, where fiction resides, look more like a book store than a library. So compact! So adorable!

The Winona public library.

We left Winona around 3pm and arrived in my hometown a couple hours later. Our first stop was the Acoustic Café, where I have been enjoying hoagies since before I could see over the counter. We got the corned beef hoagie, because that is what I always get, and a lemonade because Casper is a big lemonade fan and my sister loves their lemonade and she’s a connoisseur of the ‘ade as well.

Then we drove out into the boonies. We stopped along the road and played chess. Casper was freaked out by getting his first tick. Upon him winning (I’ve never beaten him, but I’m getting better), we drove a mile to the valley I grew up in. It was an exquisite day and the green and blues of the Wisconsin landscape were freakin’ out of the world. Perfectly blue, smooth sky with pure white clouds. I freakin’ love this part of the world.

We arrived at Peggy’s, hugged, unpacked, ate, talked, set up our bedroom, slept. Salem loves it here!


Winona, Part I

Our car top carrier, covered in Mississippi River bugs.

After the nude beach, we drove north to Winona, Minnesota. We got gas, were awed by the amount of bugs we had collected while driving along the Mississippi and then drove to the top of this big hill. It was incredibly windy but warm. We parked near a cell tower on the grassy crest of the hill.

We tethered Salem out so he could get some fresh air and snack on some grass. He escaped at one point, leaving us with an empty harness attached to the car door. Luckily, he’s not the running type and was huddle a few yards from the car. The flashlight caught his eyes so he was easy to find.

Where we slept in Winona.

After watching some TV in the car, we set up our bed next to the car. It was a gorgeous night: windy, warm, bright stars. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sleep. The wind was just too loud and…busy. I couldn’t feel settled, no matter how many hours I laid there. I got a few hours of sleep but Casper only got one hour. A few rain drops hit us around 3am and thought it never actually rained, they convinced us to move back into the car. We tried sleeping for a few more hours and then, around 6am, I woke up for good. I asked Casper to drive down the mountain (as we like to call it) to the McDonald’s so I could get online.

I played Tropico 3 and blogged while he slept in the car for two more hours.

The McDonald’s was nuts! Continue reading


Madison Memories: Mustard, Nudity, Etc

Monday morning, we left Jolien’s (a couch surfing host) with our sites on Middleton, less than an hour outside of Madison and home to the Mustard Museum. We stopped in there after repacking/organizing the car in Madison.

I have never seen so much mustard. Seriously. There was herb mustard and horse radish mustard and mustard with whole mustard seeds packed to the brim. They had antique mustard pots from the early 1900s and from around the world. They had vintage (extremely sexist) mustard ads. Apparently, in the 30s and 40s mustard was a pretty new thing; the ads were all about how to use mustard correctly. And how they would make your man strong and happy when at work. They also had a quiz thingie which grabbed the attention of us trivia geeks. Do you know which country exports the most mustard?

From Middleton, we headed to where we had heard a nude beach was. We had to ask directions at a liquor store and then from a canoe rental place but finally found it. There were tons of cars and dozens of bikes parked around the entrance. We joined them and walked a good quarter mile down to the water. It was hot. Casper was still feeling weak from a few days of sickness, but we made it.

So many naked people! Playing volleyball, sunning themselves, wading in the wide, sandy river, boating. I loved it! We took our clothes off pretty quick so we could get sun screen on. A guy named Michael came up and talked to us about the beach. He said, “It looks like this is your first time in the sun this season” and we both laughed. Casper is a ghost (thus the name) and we’re both suspicious of the sun. He burns hard but I just freckle. Either way, we both were kinda glowing from being so untan.

Michael told us that he’s been going to this beach – Mazo Beach, between Sauk City and Mazomanie – for 20 years and is involved in the group that is defending the beach against local religious groups who are trying to shut it down. We’d read about this conflict online, too. He told us that certain parts of our bodies we should apply sunscreen on ourselves instead of letting the other do it and that if we were going to walk anywhere off the beach we should put a towel on.

He said they’d just cut down all the brush around the beach to cut down on the “riff raff”. Since Casper and I were sort of looking for a more private place, we later came up with the stencil idea “we are the riff raff” and are quite proud of it.

We waded and swam. Casper takes a lot longer to get into water than me; I claim it is because I have so much blubber to keep me warm and he is just skin and bones. There was a sandbar half way out into the river that we waded to. The whole river bank and bottom were *so* sandy. Casper found a fist-sized rock with his feet and that was the only rock we ever really detected. The beach was sandy, hot and surrounded on three sides with dense forest. So beautiful!

We spent three hours there and we hadn’t brought books, cards, chess or anything. We just spent three hours – that felt like one – basking, wading, etc.

Heaven. Seriously.


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A donut shop we drove past that made Casper think of inside joke he has with a good friend of his. So, this is for you, Ian.

We left Lindsey’s, and Chicago, on a Monday. Casper went to another successful Craigslist gig; he was paid $75 to have his hair cut on camera. He wanted one side shaved, “like Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element”, but the barber wasn’t game. So, instead, he shaved both sides and around the back. When combed down, it looks like a mop top, which has always been one of Casper’s favorite hairdos. When combed to one side, he gets a little of that Gary Oldman look that he was after. It took me a week to get into it, but I’m quite fond of the cut now.

Casper's new hair cut.

Our plan upon leaving Chicago was to drive to the suburb of Palatine, where a funeral home has a free mini golf course and arcade in their basement. We had an appointment but couldn’t find the darn place so gave up. We found a beautiful forest preserve and I built a basic fort off of the trail a ways. We set up our bedding and then went to Dunkin’ Donuts for wifi.

And this is where stuff started getting rough. Casper lost his wallet. In that wallet was his hair cut money, our food stamps card and our prepaid gas card. So, basically, we had no money. We had no way of continuing our travels or getting dinner.

We made it work. The canned food we’d brought from Cincinnati and two nights in our fort allowed us to wait out the payment from our writing work. With that, we were finally able to move on to Milwaukee.

But, before we left, we searched the car in its entirety – we took the opportunity to reorganize, too – checked every place we had visited since the disappearance, and tried to come to terms with the loss. It was hard not to fight when we were both stressed, Casper in particular. I was amazed at how well I took it in stride; I kept expecting to have a breakdown about it, but nope! I have no explanation,

Along with Casper losing his wallet, I lost one of my lenses while in Palatine. Luckily, I soon found my spare.

but I’ve lived in this head long enough to just take some things like this as blessings and not question them too much.

When we finally had the money to move on, we stopped by the funeral home. We had good directions this time and were really excited to finally play. We both love mini golf but have never played together. And I have only played once or twice in my life. The guys who gave Casper his haircut knew about the place – apparently they and friends had gone on some epic Midwest road trip seeking out the best mini golf courses – and said it was totally a place you could just drop in on.

They were wrong. We pulled into their parking lot and used some herbal incense. It was such a relief to finally relax, to finally be on the road. We just sat in our car for quite a while, enjoying the sense of relief moving on brings. But, when we finally went in and asked to play – they told us on the phone they had free hot chocolate in one of those machines where you just press the button! – they said we couldn’t just drop in and we had to make an appointment.

There was no chance in hell we were staying in Illinois any longer so we grumbled to ourselves and headed north to Milwaukee!


On the Road to Chicago: Part II

A can of applesauce I went at with a pair of scissors and a spoon and a beautiful butterfly sculpture outside of the Michigan City library.

We woke up feeling rested around 6 or 7. We packed up and drove towards the dunes. It was still dark so we couldn’t see the lake or the dunes, but we did see two adorable raccoons and a bunch of deer. We headed back to town and looked for a diner with no luck. So we headed back to the dunes and, with the sun up, were awed by the incredible blueness of Lake Michigan. I had to reeducate Casper in the fact that rivers and lakes do not have tides, only oceans, seas and Lake Superior.

We pulled over to the side of the road just to sit and look at the lake and, though we felt alert, I quickly fell asleep on Casper’s lap. A state patrol woman woke us both up about half an hour later, telling us we couldn’t sleep there. We apologized, grumbling to ourselves that we had seen maybe one car since parking there so it wasn’t like we were blocking traffic, and then got back on the road.

Now on the 12, we again returned to Michigan City, finding the actual city this time instead of just abandoned factories and the terrifying nuclear thingy (the first one either one of us had ever seen in person). We found a pretty library and spent several hours online, sharing Casper’s laptop. I cut up old magazines, tried in vane to walk to a grocery store, and ended up eating a stale-bagel-with-peanut-butter-and-a-carrot lunch in the car while Casper read news online.

When it was my turn, Casper read Atlantic Monthly, tried to drive to a grocery store (also in vane) and created some sort of lunch out in the car. I looked for couch surfing hosts, when the Chicago Fellowship of Reconciliation was meeting, work for us while in town, and lots of other things to do and see in Chicago for free.

Lake Michigan!

Around 4pm, we departed, first finding a grocery store at long last. We snacked on oranges and Reese’s and Casper drove us all the way into Chicago. Our first stop was the FOR meeting. After some struggle, mostly caused by wanting to stay off of freeways, we finally found the place. We made sure Salem was fed and watered and then went inside to meet the chapter and watch that night’s feature: William Stafford. This was Casper’s first experience with FOR and I was pleased to see he enjoyed the lack of pretentiousness that keeps me coming back to the group. The meeting was only about seven people, all at least 40 years older than me, and we ended up grabbing our speakers from the car to help out.

Before and after the movie, we all sat around in comfy chairs and discussed the Chicago chapter’s actions, my experience and news from the Western Washington FOR chapters and Osama Bin Laden’s capture. I continue to feel completely safe, at home, appreciated and inspired by every FOR event I attend.

Earlier in the day, in Michigan City, I had contacted several Chicago couch surfing hosts and one responded nearly immediately. Her name is Abby and it is from her home that I type this. Even though we have yet to be verified on the couch surfing website, she invited us into her studio home right near the lake. We arrived at her home around 10pm. She gave us a parking pass for her street and we immediately felt at home. We have many shared interests and the evening was spent trading stories and discussing books.

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On the Road to Chicago: Part I

After leaving Cincinnati at around 2am on May 1, we headed north on the 127 because Casper wanted to skip as much of Indiana as possible. I fell asleep in the front seat, surrounded by our excess of belongings. Salem hid in the trunk and Casper drank an energy drink.

We stopped at the Wall first, a brick wall outside of Stop-n-Go where we had the most important conversations of our early relationship. Last fall, it was the only place we both felt capable of opening up and talking. Per usual, at 2am the place was packed. We sat on the Wall, watching drunken college students make fools of themselves. The clerk always buzzes folks in at this our as the place is notorious for being robbed (some call it the Stab-n-Go). The security guard kept an eye on everyone, the college students lined up outside the door. And all this in the flashing police lights reflected from some crime happening around the corner. I’ll miss Cincinnati, but it was time to leave.

Our perfect sleeping spot near Lake Wawasee in Indiana.

I slept until around 4am. Casper pulled over at a rest stop and we slept in the uncomfortable front seat for a few hours before continuing north. Somewhere around Bryan, Ohio, we headed west on the 6. We’re avoiding freeways because we’re not hurrying anyway, we want to see the world we pass through and slower speed limits conserve gas (a theory we weren’t sure would be proven to but it has!).

The 6 took us across the entirety of northern Indiana. We missed Michigan by a few dozen miles so I still can’t check that state of my list.Around 11am, we stopped near Syracuse, Indiana, and followed our atlas to Lake Wawasee. We couldn’t find a way to get down to the water, but we found a most glorious square field full of lush grass, chirping birds and dandelions. We laid out our big red blanket and slept, thanking the sun when it appeared and cursing it when it slipped back into the clouds. We ate stale bread and delicious hummus for lunch. No one bothered us, though a cop car slowed down near us at one point and that freaked Casper out. Luckily, we were just strapping the car top carrier back on and he or she hadn’t seen us sleeping.

Me, waking up from my nap, and the glorious abandonment across from our field.

About a mile from our Wawasee location, we heard a weird thumping noise which turned out to be a flat tire. What are the odds?! Less than 24 hours into our road trip! Luckily, we broke down right near a farmhouse and northern Indiana feels like home to me because it looks like Wisconsin. I went up to the house, the young boy mowing the lawn eyeing me curiously, and asked the woman who answered if they had metric tire wrenches. For some reason, the tire wrench we currently have does not fit our car’s tires. It’s pretty silly.

The woman said no, but within a few minutes a man about the same age came out with some tools. We were unloading the trunk to get the spare tire and Casper was jacking up the car. The man, whose name I think was Dan, was accompanied by his second grader Lily. When he went back to his garage to get some tools, she returned with a hula hoop but was too shy to show us her skill. She made it clear, though, that she was a better hula-hooper than her dad. He agreed.

Dan was incredibly nice. He told us he’d never really left the Syracuse area in his life, but he didn’t treat us like weirdos even though I was barefoot, wearing sweatpants, a torn up pink vintage church dress, and a long red coat. Casper in his sleeveless black hoodie covered in obscure band patches, a blue bandana and patched up tan jeans probably didn’t look too rural either. Lily couldn’t keep her eyes off us, me in particular. She said she does, in fact, like school and she was very interested in the fact that we had a cat in the car. Her eyes looked like they were taking in all she saw and adding it to her growing list of things and lifestyles that are possible.

She, and her relationship with her dad, made me think so much of myself as a little country bumpkin 15 years ago in rural Wisconsin.

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