Tag Archives: couch surfing

St. Paul/Minneapolis: Couch Surfing Awkwardness

Nomming on Casper's amazing garlic bread.

We left Peggy’s on the 8th, a day before the Twin Cities Couch Fest’s first event. Our first Twin Cities host was going to let us stay four nights. We arrived and the place was great: newly remodeled, lots of space, a private sleeping area, an air mattress. We sat in our host’s living room and chatted with her for awhile.

Casper cooked spaghetti and the most incredible garlic bread I have ever had and we shared our dinner with our host. Casper and I played chess (still no win for me) and then went to bed. The next day was the early bird kickoff for the Couch Fest. We left the house around noon, after a lot of much-needed cuddling, in search of wifi and a grocery store. We spent quite a bit of time online and, afterwards, drove to Joe’s Garage, for the kickoff.

We were some of the first guests to arrive, but within an hour the place was fairly full and we had made some friends. We spent a good deal of time talking to a fantastic lady named Roseanne. She just joined Couch Surfing and has yet to have her first guests. 2010 was a hard year for her, she told us, and she was ready to make 2011 a joyful year.

We also met a few other folks, two of which were from Philadelphia and around our age. I forget their names, but they encouraged us to come to Philly some day and we definitely plan to. After a couple of hours, we were peopled-out and needed to head to the airport to spend a few hours with my friend Mar, from Washington. He had just flown in from Seattle (via Phoenix) and had two hours before he needed to catch a shuttle to Duluth, in northern Minnesota. I promised him that we’d get him back in time for his shuttle.

But I didn’t. In short, he missed his shuttle so we drove him all the way to Duluth. Details on that adventure (because that, as most of my mistakes end up being, is exactly what it turned out to be) shall be told in another post.

It’s three hours each way to Duluth so we didn’t arrive back in the Twin Cities until 5am. We hung out at a coffee shop for a few hours before ringing our host’s doorbell. We had texted her the night before that our plans had gone awry and we wouldn’t be home until the next day. We also tried texting and calling her before doing the door ringing.

We had obviously woken her up but she didn’t seem too upset. I took a shower and then we went to bed immediately. We slept until 3pm. At that point, the awkwardness began.

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Madison: Georgia’s

Saturday morning, Jason slept in so we didn’t have to leave too early. He had told us at the beginning of the stay that he had another surfer scheduled for Saturday afternoon so we’d need to leave before that. We packed up, cleaned up and drove off. Jason was still in bed looking sleepy and obviously enjoying his day in.

Again…not really sure what we did on this day. My daily diary just says, “Slept at Georgia’s.”

Georgia, our second Milwaukee Couch Surfing host, lived a few miles from Jason in a one bedroom apartment. She has a degree in packaging and has a job designing boxes, but she’s also a musician and an artist.

We arrived outside of Georgia’ apartment building around 6 or 7, but our phone was dead (and the charger was at a library that wouldn’t be open until Monday; it was Friday) so we had no way to let her know we’d arrived. We knew her apartment number, but the door to the building itself was locked. The buzzers didn’t work and no one seemed to be coming or going.

We tried to find wifi on her front step, but no luck so Casper walked to a nearby café to email her. He returned and, just then, a man came out of the building. We went in, knocked, met Georgia, settled in. Later that night, two of her friends came over to “base fade”, as Casper calls it, which apparently means drinking some before going out. I, to no one’s surprise, had not heard the term before.

One of the friends who came over was another Milwaukee couch surfing host who we had contacted us. All five of us hung out for a while, chatting, and then they went out to some clubs.

I slept on the couch; Casper on the floor. Just as Casper does better going without eating, he does better with inadequate sleep, too. Either one of those things and I’m a freakin’ mess. (That’s me justifying the couch vs. floor arrangement.)

Milwaukee: the First Morning

The only unfortunate thing about staying with Jason was that he left each morning around 7am and only had one key for his door that only locked from the outside. So, after our first night, we were up and out of the house by 7am. We packed ourselves back into the car, drove to a nearby park and sat feeling dazed and half asleep for a while.

We were both feeling grumpy but it was a sunny day so I convinced Casper to lay out our blanket, rest, talk and sort out the day.

Casper was feeling off and we had a good long talk about that. I think I cried pretty good at one point, but that’s kind of the usual regardless of whose emotional health we’re discussing. (And, after several years of being unable to cry when it had always been a saving grace in times of panic, it’s a blessing how freely I cry these days).

Casper nomming on saltine buffet night in Palatine, Illinois.

Eventually, we talked our way beyond the tenseness and stress and enjoyed our time in the sun. We headed down the trail that led from the park along a beautiful river. We cut down on a smaller path so we could be right on the riverbank and found a fire pit. Casper was just about to really engage in the wilderness when I brought up the unfortunate fact that I was weak with hunger and unable to paint due to panic.

This curtailed Casper’s plans and I felt guilty about that, but no one wants to see me when I get hungry. I get incredibly weak and fuzzy-brained and grumpy. It’s just a fact that we adapt to because there’s really no way around it. I am on two different psychiatric meds; the least we can do is make sure I am fed.

So we walked back up the trail to the car. We acquired some food, which if I remember correctly was along the lines of the saltine buffet we had our last night in Palatine. Because saltines are cheap and we were broke, we had tuna with saltines, beans with saltines, and a little bit of cheese with saltines. I’m really not sure exactly what we ate that morning in Milwaukee, but I’m guessing it was along those lines.

Wisconsin Memories: Jason’s

My daily diary and Fruity, Jason's adorable beagle.

That first day in Milwaukee, we woke up in the car and drove to a nearby library to get online. We confirmed a place to stay for that night and, I think, just spent most of the day there at the library.

I keep a daily diary to jot down the basics of where and how we are each day. I started it August 13, when I was living in my parents’ basement last year. Originally, it was to monitor my meds/moods and to help me live each day intentionally. On August 17, it says, “told Mamá about Ohio.” Six days after that, I was on the road to Cincinnati with Casper, and I kept up the daily entries until November 3, 2010.

I picked it up again May 1, 2011, the day we left Cincinnati. It’s just the basics: usually half of a half-sized page per day. And sometimes, as was the case for our first full day in Milwaukee, it says much, much less.

Jason was a dashing young man with a sweet dog, a messy apartment (he was moving at the time), a passion for bicycles and a job in advertising. As you can see, I’m not really sure what we did on Thursday the 19th of May, but I do know we spent the night on Jason’s futon.

The comfy futon was in what I presume was the living room. Jason had rad art on the walls and bikes in various states of completion throughout the apartment. It was a really cozy place to be and Fruity, the pup, was a beagle of epically sweet proportions. Jason had a cup in his bathroom that said “I LOVE BEAGLES”.

St. Paul/Minneapolis: Leg #3

I’ve been feeling burdened by this blog as of late and I blame that on forcing myself to write about weeks past, trying to catch up. I have a few more posts like that queued up for the next few days, but I’m going to focus more on writing about today, this leg of the journey, the here and now. ‘Cause the here and now is pretty cool.

Since leaving Peggy’s, I’ve felt a definite sense of this being the third leg of the journey. Arriving and being in Chicago felt like the first; our time in Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Madison, Downing – felt like the second; and now, in the past few days, we’ve made the transition to the third leg.

Mostly, the shift was caused by a really awkward (and crappy) couch surfing experience.

I feel more empowered than I ever have to create the life I want to have. Casper keeps encouraging me, telling me that people really do like spending time around me. I often need reminded of this, particularly regarding people who I want to be friends with. Until now, I’ve pretty much just had lovers and acquaintances – another example (and there are many) of how I rely far too heavily on extremes, black and whites. Casper and I keep a count of “friends” I have: people who I like, who like me, and who I have established these facts with. A friend (apparently!) is someone who I don’t have to feel like a burden to, who I believe enjoys my company and who I have respect for. So far, I have four “friends” and it’s exhilarating! And new and exciting and empowering and validating.

I mention this because another part of our Twin City adventures so far has been reconnecting with my friend Mar, in unlikely and slightly unfortunate circumstances.

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.

Chicago Memories: Becky and Lindsey’s

After the kosher house, we moved to Lindsey’s house for our last three nights in Chicago. Lindsey lives with her friend Becky – they met while studying abroad in China – but she was out of town during our whole visit due to a family emergency.

Our second day there was a Sunday. We stayed in all day and wrote online to make some money. Per Casper’s request, I choose articles for him, he writes them and then I review what he’s written. Often, he’ll need me to add a few dozen words to reach the word count. The system works really well. I think we ended up pumping out about $50 – quite satisfactory.

Our second night, another couch surfer arrived. Kasha is Polish and working as an au pair on the east coast. She told us that when she started doing that nearly a year ago, it was her first time in the US. She had one week of vacation and she was determined to see as much of Chicago as possible. She’d been sightseeing in Boston right before. She was gregarious and talkative. Her style blew my mind: a quarter of her head shaved while the rest was past her shoulders, brightly colored shoes…very hip hop, but in a European way. Well, that’s my guess, anyway. My modern European education comes entirely from Skins.

Around this time, I was struggling with nightmares galore. I had three straight nights that I woke from feeling shamed, terrified and anything but rested. Because of that, we didn’t really do much around Chicago those last few days. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

Salem was allowed in at Lindsey’s and, after the fright at the kosher house, he did so well! He quickly surveyed the room when we first brought him in: noting dark corners, learning which furniture could be crawled beneath, and locating Lindsey’s comfy bed. Lindsey and Kasha were both great with him and it was really good to see him have such a good, relaxed time.

Chicago Memories: Friday the Thirteenth

Crazy art in downtown Chicago's Millennium Park.

Writing these memories from Madison, two weeks after the fact (and posting them from Minneapolis, a month later!), I can’t believe how much about our life and financial situation has changed since then. It was our last day at the kosher house and we were moving that evening to Lindsey’s.

On Friday the thirteenth, Casper and I participated in a cognitive learning study at some psychology center in downtown Chicago. I’m always on the lookout for paying studies when I browse Craigslist and this was our first time trying it.

We went to a really tall building and took an elevator up higher than humans are meant to go. Then I waited in my vagabond clothes in this fancy little waiting area while Casper did the study. Everyone who I saw was wearing suits. The only guy I saw wearing jeans apologized to the guy he was meeting for being so “casual”. Such a strange world to peek into!

The study was fascinating. We basically were asked to discover the pattern the computer was showing. Each page had a line of either exclamation points or percentage symbols on the top, then a strange, pixilated image in the middle, and then a row of four or five pixilated images below. We had to choose one of the bottom images and the computer would tell us whether we had picked the right one. So, by trial and error, we had to figure out what symbols on the page effected which bottom symbol would be correct.

I was told to go as fast as I could and it was stressful! I couldn’t imagine how Casper had lived through it; he’s not the fast-as-you-can type of learner. At the end of the study, the tester (who was really rad and working on this for her masters, I think) told me that Casper had been part of the group that was encouraged to take as long as they needed when answering the questions and I was part of the timed group. I said, “Wow, that is so us. I work better timed and he works better when he has all the time he needs.”

She looked at me with a grin and said, “You know, that’s exactly what he said at the end of his test.”

After she handed us our cash, I set up the laptop at a Starbucks – it was so busy they didn’t notice we didn’t buy anything! – and Casper walked to an occult bookstore he had his eye on. He had this nutty, esoteric-geek moment with the guys who ran the place and another customer where they all were seeking and discussing Golden Dawn tarot theory. When he returned, we headed back to the kosher house to get Salem and the rest of our things and headed towards Lindsey’s.

She wasn’t home at the time we arrived, so we drove to a grocery store parking lot and watched Lost on the laptop until it ran out of power. By that time, Lindsey was home and we settled in quickly.

Chicago Memories: Salem on the Loose

Casper cuddling Salem at Abby's. (I dropped the camera in the lake our first or second day at the kosher house, thus the lack of relevant pictures).

The kosher household was gracious enough to let Salem stay inside. We brought in his stuff, but just risked it as far as him staying in our room (the vast majority of rooms in the house didn’t have doors). He disappeared pretty quick. We told ourselves we wouldn’t worry until 24 hours had past. It did. We asked housemates and searched. Nothing. We waited a bit longer and then did a thorough inspection, starting in the basement.

The basement was full of…not “junk”, but the typical stuff that fills basements. There were bicycles in various states of health, luggage, etc. We took flashlights down to look for Salem and I started to walk about, calling the kitty’s name. Casper, on the other hand, being an honorary feline himself and basically possessing connected souls with our own legit feline, scanned the walls with his eyes trying to find the “place with the most corners”. Casper found him nearly immediately.

The wooden steps down to the basement were up against bare dirt. There was some stuff stuffed (oh, I have such an enormous vocabulary) between the stairs and the wall and Casper navigated behind that and shone the flashlight up under the stairs. And, there, with his tail curled around him and tucked in between two stairs, was Salem J Earle, Puddleby Ticklewhiskers, President Howard J Kitty Taft, looking absolutely terrified and covered in spider webs.

I helped Casper move more of the stuff out of the way and he was finally able to grab Salem. He was shaking and we took him upstairs to the loft. We gave him food and water and treats and wiped him down with a warm cloth. We barricaded the door and from then on he progressed from hiding under pillows in the loft to eventually trotting from under the bed, up the loft stairs and wherever he pleased in the room with confidence.

That was our most frightening time with Salem but I think it reinforced to him that though we may be moving around a lot, we’ll never abandon him. When we moved on to our next couch at Lindsey’s, he adapted quite quickly and has been doing well ever since. We are so incredibly proud of how well he handles our crazy lifestyle.

Chicago Memories: Downsizing Possessions

Chicago, as seen from the greatest Whole Foods in the world.

The night we left Cincinnati we knew we needed to get rid of a lot of our stuff. The car was packed to the gills even though we ended up throwing out a bunch of stuff at the last minute. It was heartbreaking!

Most of the stuff we decided to get rid of was clothing; nice clothing in particular. So, one day in Chicago while staying at Abby’s, we sorted out all the clothes we thought might sell at Buffalo Exchange and then hauled a huge tub of clothes to the store.

Unfortunately, they only wanted a few things. Apparently, our things were either too wintery or too “wash worn”. We put the clothes back in the car and put getting rid of them on the back burner. Then, one sunny day while we were at the kosher house, we decided it was time for a complete car reorganization session and drove to a nearby park.

It happened to be near a school and all the kids who passed stared and a bunch of them asked if the stuff was free or for sale. We took everything – and I mean everything – out of the car and put it on the lawn. We went through our clothes again, keeping things we’d only put in the giveaway pile because we thought they’d sell. We still had a huge pile of give-away, though, and were planning on taking it to a thrift store when a woman walked up and asked if anything was free. We looked at each other and then pointed to the pile of give-away clothes. She ended up taking quite an armload and we felt quite pleased.

Though it broke my heart, we got rid of Stu, the computer Garrick left me when we broke up. Garrick had built that computer for his sister a few years ago and then reclaimed it when she didn’t want it anymore. And then he left it for me when he moved home. It was the second computer that I’d ever been able to call my own and it was the first good one. But desktop computers are huge and by Chicago I knew it was rare that I’d ever want to set him up and use him. So, goodbye, Stu. Or, goodbye computer case. We kept the new hard drive we’d put in back in Cincinnati.

Getting rid of him opened up a lot of room in the trunk and by the end of our reorganization, the car was so much more livable. Salem had more room, everything was better organized, we had less stuff in general, and things we actually planned to use regularly were easily within reach.

Plus, getting rid of so much stuff was us making a bigger commitment to our life on the road, too.

Chicago Memories: The Kosher House

Cute growing method at the kosher house. (I somehow took no pictures of the indoors...)

After we stayed with Abby, we stayed in a three story communal house home to eight young Jewish folks. They kept a strict kosher house but also dumpster dived most of their food. It was really amazing to see how religion brought them together and gave them, from my point of view, a common ground that simplified communal living.

We were a little freaked out at first because it was so empty during the day: we would wake up around 9 or 10 and the house would be empty except for maybe one quiet person upstairs on a laptop. No one was very friendly at first. We’ve decided that we just hit the house at a bad time, because by the end of our six day stay the feel in the house had changed drastically. The house was warmer – literally and in terms of friendliness – and there was more laughter.

We slept in a loft that one of the housemates had built, under half a dozen soft, heavy blankets. He, we were told, was very into making beds. There were two bedrooms on the first floor, both with lofts as well as beds on the ground. Even the kitchen had a bed in it, built beautifully out of light-colored wood slats. And almost all the beds had lots of slatted shelving around them, too. Our room was also home to a big computer desk covered in papers and a comfy chair. The steps up to the loft had shelves underneath them, perfect for setting things on when sitting in the chair. The other room had a hammock, too, and steps that led to the basement.

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Leaving Chicago

We’ve decided it’s time. We almost slept out in a beautiful park Friday night, but since it’s been pouring down rain and freezing and windy we’re really grateful that a couch host came through at the last minute.

It feels so good to be able to decide when we’re done with a city and be gone within days of making that decision. We’re thinking Monday, after we visit a free, mini golf course in the basement of a funeral home in Palatine, Illinois.

While mostly this trip is about escaping our anxiety and proving to ourselves that the world is good, I’m not about to say that we don’t have any of that numb depression that makes running away the most satisfying option in the world. I have that more than Casper, I think, and I’ve been listening to this song all morning. We’re ready to roll outta this town. We’ve built a fire and we’re surviving it; we’ve found a storm and we’re riding it.

We Love Chicago!

Playing cards at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We stayed at the first couch, Abby’s, from May 2 to May 7.

Maia and Sophie, Abby's kitties.

By the second day there, we decided to bring Salem inside for good and let the three cats just have it out. There was lots of hissing and picking of fights. Casper hardly slept the first two nights because of all the 2am hissing fits. Abby’s kitties are Maia, who is very simple and reminds me of Brittany from Glee, and Sophie, who is more like Santana. They’d fight all night and then seem to agree to take a nap around 10am each day and there would be peace. Eventually Salem kind of won out as the king of the house and the last few days there were times when all three cats were quiet.

During our time at Abby’s, she was gone at work pretty much all day, every day. We spent quiet mornings drinking too much green tea (accidental caffeine overload) before heading out for sightseeing. In the evenings, we would chat and laugh with Abby. She works in a long-term care facility for folks with mental illness so she and I had lots to talk about. Her bookshelves were full of books Casper and I both recognized. Her walls displayed beautiful, goddess-y art and even some Frida. Casper cooked an incredible soup the second or third day as well as a nice breakfast on Abby’s day off.

A yak-thing :)

We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday because that is their free day. Jim Nutt’s work blew my mind and inspired me, too.

The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is free everyday! After it closed at 6pm, Casper and I went to a head shop and then a grocery store. We sat under one of the super noisy L overpasses and ate tasty challah and salami and cheese and juice. Then we passed by the Oz Park – which we’re definitely planning on visiting again when my feet aren’t killing me – and wandered our way home.

As we were getting some stuff out of the Pearl before heading up to Abby’s, Casper called out that there were ducklings in the road! They turned out to be geese: two parents and 11 goslings. There was a long line of cars behind them, driving at goose-speed with their headlights on. The family was headed for a big, nasty street so I immediately started guiding them to the sidewalk and to the right, towards what a bystander said was the nearest park with water.

Mama, Papa and 11 goslings on Wieland Street in Chicago.

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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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