Monday, November 30, 2015

Day 88: Garbling Out Goodbyes

You know how you dip your fingertip in hot water to test the heat or quickly touch a plate to check the temperature when someone says 'look out, this is hot"? I feel like I'm doing that with people. Good people. I'm just flitting around the country, temperature-checking lives, friendships and strangers-made-friends. My incredibly gracious host family this past week has magnified this feeling that I thought might ease with every hello, goodbye; like doing it again and again would get me used to the idea.

But, it doesn't get easier. I now have this amazing collection of vagabond friends. People that are near and great and different and fun, whose lives I drive into, get to know and then drive out of as quick as it came. In a way, it makes me happy to know so many, but in a way, it makes me sad. I know I'll likely never seen many of them again, but I just lie to myself that we'll totally all keep in touch, though I realize this is unlikely - and perhaps even impossible - to happen.

I want to bottle the people and keep them in one place. I want this vast collection of friends - new and old - to remain part of my life even after I leave. Because it's too fucking interesting to get to know so many people in so many different places and ages and phases of their lives not to grow and attachment to them as individuals and as a collective, awesome whole.

I've become that weird person that sneaks out while everyone is asleep, or away. I've become that idiot that says goodbye as they walk backwards, still farting out those last few words just to extend the connection a few seconds longer.

Then off I go to my next destination. I know each encounter is burned into my everything. People as become as much - if not more - of a part of this adventure as the places I have been. These conversations over waffles in a cheap hotel lobby are meaningful, these amazing people that offer this stranger their extra bed are amazing. And I'm thinking: I wonder if they'll remember me too?

Because a memory is likely all that we'll ever have to last our fleeting encounter, but these connections are greater than any photo of a mountain. Or any bucket l ist item checked done. It's hard to walk away, but perhaps that because they mean something to me; each have carved a tiny spot in my heard that is forever theirs for being part of this journey with me; for supporting my dreams having barely known me (as well as the ones back east already emblazoned). The exits just get harder as I collect more spots, but the spots glisten and fulfill. So I guess I'll just keep walking out backwards and garbling out goodbyes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 87: One Last Weekend with Seattle

(taken later when i accidentally ended up here)
My last weekend in Seattle began with breakfast as Luna Cafe. Later, I met up with my friend Jaci again for the Turkish dinner we had planned for Tuesday (and I postponed for Hats). Afterward, we met up with a few grad program friends of hers, then over to a cider tap house. I love cider and couldn't have been more pleased that it was $12 for a flight on ciders you choose (out of about 35 on a board). Chai cider is delicious. Jaci squeezed herself in my still mostly full trunk (the only way to fit in my passenger seat is to 'roll up in a ball,' as I put it to anyone who inquires about a ride) and I dropped her off. I then met up with my host family, who were, again, at a pinball bar. I was pretty tired though and we didn't stay long before we were back in Carnation because we were getting up early to finally head to Olympic National Park, now that the roads reopened.

Around 10am on Saturday morning, we headed out to catch the ferry over to Bainbridge Island in order to make the drive up the mountain. We stopped for some lunch supplies at Safeway and then began the hour+ drive to the park. When we got there, there were sledders and the visitor's center was closed. (I didn't get my commemorative pin, damnit!) The views were nice, but there wasn't much else to do in the park, so after an hour or so, we headed back out of the park. We stopped for dinner to avoid the long wait to get back on the ferry and arrived back to the house, pooped, well after dark.

I spent Sunday packing and prepping to be on the move again. And also, preparing to go beach camping tomorrow with Thom. He owned a company that outfits cars for outdoor adventures and offered - so, as I am wont to do - I said yes. But, it was going to be cold on Bainbridge Island, so I was packing layers. Re-packing my car for travel after so a nice, long break in one place, plus packing for an event I was completely unfamiliar with proved to be a bit of a challenge.

I took frequent breaks to hang out with my host family - I was going to miss them. By now, I consider them all friends. And told them I may stop back in after I go to Vancouver on my way back down the coast. I also finally pulled the trigger on taking a loan out on myself. I had been considering this for months - ever since I had a credit card offer for 0% APR pop up while paying another one - and decided to go for in so that I could extend my travels past the holidays. I figured if I didn't use it, I could just pay it right back; when else am I going to have the chance to do this kind of trip again; and I've already got all my debt and school loans, whats a bit more; plus, I'm going to need a little cushion as I re-establish myself anyway. Confident in my choice, and still only mostly packed - I headed off to bed after a Tarot reading with Michelle, Dave's wife: in her reading she said I was unsure of what I was doing was right in my travels (I don't think so; I'm pretty happy as a nomad, but not the best thing to hear right before you take off alone again - which tends to create it's own little flurry of anxiety on it's own), but that everything would work out in the end (good!).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Day 84: Tindering and Thanksgiving, Part 2

Late date, manual transmission detour photo op.
(And then I sat in my car, at a dollar store tuna salad kit and did my makeup before moving on.)

So, I tried again. The following day, I had a day date set up with a guy named Thom. It was his idea to go day drinking, but when I texted him around 11:30 (hoping to postpone till evening), then 12, then 12:30 to confirm our 1pm date, I got no response, which sucks because it's a 35 minute drive into the city. I was nearly in the city and it was quarter to one when he finally texted me back: He had forgotten about our date.  (Well, there's an ego boost.)

Honestly, I was blasé about it and said I was happy to spent time in the city until he was ready. I wasn't planning on finding love through Tinder, so as long as we still met up and I didn't waste my time driving out and putting together and outfit, I was fine with it. We settled at 5pm. And I set off exploring the city, accidentally finding myself in Queen Anne with the best view of the city (above, when I made a right instead of straight because I wasn't about to stop at that red light on the 90 degree incline) and making my way to Pike Market (but that was mostly because I had to pee; I'd been last year and I'm not a huge fan of uber tourist things). I had a couple of people compliment my magic coat and then it was time to head over for my date.


I arrived in the Fremont section of town on time. I was then fifteen minutes late on purpose - tit for tat, Thom. When I walked in the door, I decided to make a sort of dramatic entrance for no other reason than that I felt like it in my magic coat. So I entered with my hood on, waited until he looked up (he had long hair and a beard and reminded me of Dave Grohl, plus he was the only single dude in the place, so he was easy to spot), then removed my hood by lightly grabbing the fur that framed my face and slowly pulling them down. I don't know, maybe it was my Jean Harlow moment...

Evidently, it worked. As we immersed ourselves in happy hour margaritas and got to know each other, he loosened up enough to admit: "You are gorgeous. You are the first person who is more attractive in person than in their profile photos." If that weren't flattering enough - and perhaps because he seemed to only flatter my aesthetics - I asked for words that would describe me: "bold, beautiful, intelligent and interesting." Nice. Ego boop! Um, you are now (mostly) forgiven for being four hours late.

After a couple of cocktails and a nice big meal, we decided that playing Bananagrams was the next right move. So we stopped at a store and grabbed the game and cider and more Not Your Father's Root Beer (if I drink it while it's free, maybe I won't want it when all I have is me again, I thought). Unfortunately, when I went to place the cider on the belt, the bottom fell out. So then I'm standing there with an empty six pack around a pool of cider and broken glass with the cashier looking at me like I don't know how to adult and I'm just blinking back, stumbling for words. This is so typical.

Making me slightly less stupid, was the fact that Thom left his card at the bar and asked me to pay. He assured me he would pay me back later. We went back to his place and drank and played Bananagrams. I had too many drinks to drive 40 minutes back to Carnation legally - like I drank so much 'Root Beer,' I had to switch to water because the sugar made my stomach cramp - so I stayed there. (Initial new rule: Limit to two alcoholic root beers per sitting.) In the morning, a knock came at the door. Being that it was Thanksgiving, this seemed odd. The knock came twice more, with increasing ferocity before he finally answered the door. Awkwardly enough, it was his ex-wife. I hid - which is somewhat of a challenge in an apartment the size and shape of a hallway. This is so typical.

considerably less "gorgeous", but now with a
banana in the bag!
Soon after, I gathered my things. We talked about getting back together that evening to watch "The Big Lebowski" after I had my Thanksgiving meal - and he avoided his with his ex-wife and their child. Heading out the door, I put my hand in my coat pocket, while observing how incredibly ridiculous I looked (and having a laugh over it) and found a 100 bill. Thom had indeed paid me back with "the smallest bill [he] had." (Sorry. No change!) Now, had I not felt walk a shame enough, the $100 bill made me feel particularly awkward and then when I walked outside, there was an male octogenarian messing about in his car who took time away from his task to blatantly stare at me. I was waiting for him to come over and ask "how much." This is so typical.

I got back to the house and hopped in the shower. I then made my mom's broccoli salad for my contribution to the casual pot luck Thanksgiving. I spent time with my host family and their group of "orphan" friends they invite over for the delicious holiday. It was a nice time. The food was good. And I was so damn happy to not spend Thanksgiving alone - a concern I had out of the gate.

In the evening, I headed back over to Thom's for a cuddle (zomg! extended human contact!) and a movie. As a bonus, I didn't dispense change as instructed and was, thus, $60 richer - and with Bananagrams I'd already announced I was keeping. I was a happy little human being!

The view off of the back deck of my host house at dusk on Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Day 82: Tindering and Thanksgiving, Part 1

One of the four key components to finding a new city is checking out the dating scene. So being in that I was trying to weigh Seattle to be certain it wasn't my new home, going on a few dates seemed like a given. The first date was today, Tuesday, and incredibly spur of the moment. I don't like to go into a host families' homes and eat all of their food, plus I needed to buy supplies to make a couple of dishes to contribute to Thanksgiving  potluck on Thursday, so I was on my way to Safeway when I got a message from a guy we'll call Hats.

We arranged a meet around the corner from where we both happened to be in Redmond (a town just outside of the city) at a tap house. He was letting his "friend's" dog out (which I later got him to admit was actually his ex-girlfriend's dog, because either I'm perspicacious or men are transparent... probably both) and I was just getting to Safeway. When I got there, I had to canvas the tap house/beer store for his face and I'm bad with faces and he happened to look like every other dude in Seattle: hat, long hair, some sort of cargo pant. My tactic when canvassing a room is to make eye contact with every man I see who might be the guy and wait for one of them to react: the one who reacts is typically him. The one who points or waves is always him. So he waves and I walk towards him.

Now, typically I have a rule that if a man is wearing hats in all of his photos, then I don't swipe right on him (right is yes, left is nope).  I like a man with hair and 9 time out of 9.5, if a man is wearing hats all of the time, he is bald. This nope rule also applies to: Soul patches, photos with cars, noting that they prefer cats, or if their bio is full of only travel or job information. I think if all you can talk about is what you do or where you've been, then you're probably not very interesting on your own. It's Tinder, I can be as judgey discerning as I please. On this occasion, I suppose I just wasn't paying attention while swiping and when we sat down to have our drinks and he didn't remove his cap, I immediately began to suspect that his tendrils, which extended well past his shoulders, were the last stragglers of the losing side of a civil war.

the quality of the photo of this rock wall is on par
with the quality of climb i did on it.
Despite that, I decided to cancel the tentative dinner plans I had with Jaci and postpone them until later in the week so that Hats and I could go to a park around the corner that had a free climbing wall. I found this an intriguing proposition, despite the hat and the cold. First, we stopped at a grocery store for a six pack (I chose Not Your Father's Root Beer, which I'm still obsessed with) and he acquiesced. He purchased the beer and we got back in his 1993 Buick. It was a real gem and smelled like wet shoes, which he attributed to wetsuits and weekend climbs. After that we were off to the park, but the wall was wet and it was cold; my frozen fingers could barely grab a hold - let alone a wet one - and I barely got off the ground. It wasn't worth it to me to get hurt when I have to pay a huge deductible for the shit insurance I'm using as a carry-over.

Soon after, we left. I was starving. He took me to Taco Time. It's as fancy as it sounds, but I'm not going to complain about free food. The weird thing was, he got the food to go. I thought we'd sit down and eat and then that would be the perfect time for me to make my exit. He asked if I wanted to eat in the car (that smelled like wet socks) or go back to his place. I went back to his place, he took off his hat and confirmed all of my hairy suspicious: the south was winner, showed me around and tried to cuddle a bit. I stayed in that predicament for about an hour, not wanted to be rude and shoving off just after eating my tacos. He offered that I stay and I said I'd better be on my way. He asked if he could see me again, I gave him a polite maybe before I headed out the door and back to Carnation. Nice enough guy, alright impromptu thing, but not really selling the Seattle dating scene there. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Day 81: A Slow Start, A New Schedule

A view from the back porch of my host's house of Mt. Rainer

I had been to Seattle before. February 2014, to be exact. I was there to check it out, as it was my last location I was going to move to (aside from a brief idea bout Phoenix in, which died disastrously and lead me to idea to vagabond in search of a city) until my girlfriend I was going to stay with until I got settled had a life altering event and moved home to Boston. I was so ready to go, in fact, that the car I have now was purchased August 1, 2014 in anticipation of the move I was to make six weeks later. Life had other plans, I guess.

When my girlfriend left Seattle and I considered Phoenix, brimming with delight by the fact I was eating ice cream outside in the sun in February, she said, "Well, maybe Seattle really isn't sunny enough for you." I believed her, but just to be sure I didn't want to live in Seattle, I decided to revisit it.

That being said, when I arrived, I didn't have any particular plans in mind. Go with the flow, mainly. I wanted to check out Tinderings to see what dating life was like in the area and how locals felt about the city. And I was also thrilled to not have to spend my favorite holiday alone.

Friday, 11/20, I did nothing. It was amazing. Saturday, Dave wanted to take me hiking near his house and to see a local waterfall. First, the waterfall wasn't even sort of visible thanks to fog - though we did stop for a cup of coffee at a local cafe before a day of fail, which was delicious. And then we tried to go to the hiking trails, but they were blocked by downed trees from the storm that rushed across Washington and Idaho (the same one that trapped me in Couer D'Alene.), so the trails were close.

my appropriate 'adult' chair in the cafe with the best mexican chocolate coffee. yum, seattle coffee.

The following day, we had big plans to go to Olympic National Park. I had a thought that perhaps we should check what Mother Nature had done for that route before he went on the two hour journey out there. And, unfortunately, Mother Nature had blocked off the roads we needed to get there, so that was out too.  The weekend nights found us at bars downtown, mostly pinball bars, as Dave is a huge pinball player. (They have leagues even and apparently Seattle is the pinball capital. Who knew?)

Since we weren't going to the park on Sunday, I took the opportunity to go have dinner with a good friend of mine from DC days. We met when she was sleeping on the dining room floor of a mutual friend of ours for the summer while she had a internship before moving out to Seattle to get her PhD. One of those people you immediately click with and no matter the time that's past, you pick right back up where you left off. She's always a good time and it was wonderful to see another familiar face. Quite refreshing after so much time alone and away.

Monday rolled around and I have finally finalized my plans to go home for Christmas. My mother had been bugging me about it since Moab. Since my father got sick, she had to cancel her plans to meet me for a long weekend in San Francisco. In exchange, she was trading in her tickets to fly me home for the holidays. Unfortunately, flights were about $750 one way out of all of the California airports. So I struck up a compromise to drive 1,200 miles out of my way to Las Vegas for a $200 flight, and then the saved money could be used to fly me down to Clearwater to see a middle school long friend of mine, whom I have called Butthead forever. Butthead called a few weeks ago for a chat and mentioned that maybe I could make it down to Florida since I didn't drive that way and she had just moved there last year. Florida sounded wonderful after having driven into an early winter. So, my mother booked my flights on her cancelled trip for 12/24, 12/31 and 1/7 for LAS to PIT, PIT to TPA and TPA (SAT) to LAS, respectively. And now, I have a schedule to meet again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 77: Hello Seattle

Seattle Bound, Day 6: 

She wakes, dancing to the tapping rain, listening to the circus of early day Wal-Mart patrons in Moses Lake, Washington. And by dancing, I mean more of a wriggle, because things have been accumulated along the way and less space exists in the trunk. The car is sporting a tight 2.5 foot by 5.5 for space for one human's slumber. I am that human.

It's chilly here in Washington - the more temperate climates only west of the mountains. It's the cold I was trying to avoid back east, only when I check back east, it's still in the 70s there. This has become a frustrating fact. However, as homage, it's time to wake up and  hit to the road. Today's the day we get to Seattle. But first, Ellensburg, if only to pay homage to my rockstar momma. 

boop! hi mom. okay, moving on.

And then, I made my way to Leavenworth via the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (beautiful, above) and, by now, mostly clear-skied. My friend, Dave, who I'm going to stay with in Seattle, told me to visit Leavenworth on the way so - as I have become accustomed to on this journey - I did as suggested.

It's an adorable little tourist town in the middle of nowhere Washington, about two hours outside of Seattle. It used to be a logging town, but when that well went dry and the town became nearly entirely ghosted, someone came up with the idea to create a faux Bavarian town as a tourist spot and today's Leavenworth was born.

While my vaga-budget left little room for tourist purchases, I did have a good time poking around shops and finding things that - as a normal, job-having adult - I would have liked to have had. I did, however, purchase one thing. And I went in, looked at it, searched amazon for it (coming up empty but now aware it had *just* won product of the year at a inventor convention), went back and bought a Steepware. This is my new favorite thing (number three behind my magic coat and Foo hoodie, of course) and perfect for the nomadic tea lover. 

hi. i'd like to order one fire table, please.

After some hours in Leavenworth, one Bavarian pretzel (the wurst were $5 vs. $2) loaded with (free!) sauerkraut (sorry, oncoming host family - ha!!), a s'mores piece of candy and my lapel pin to add to my growing collection, and admiring the rushing river with newly minted rain water and in-process Christmas lights, it was time to leave. I'm chasing light and it gets dark earlier and earlier and sad faceI was finally on my way to Seattle: For a shower. Some home cooked food. And company of a familiar face and a house full of new ones.

I arrived around 8pm. My host greeted me with a hug: I hadn't seen him since he left the company a couple of years before I left. Later in the night, his family trickled in and we introduced and I felt welcome. I had my very own space set up with a inflatable mattress on the floor in the basement. I'd made it and - the best part of it - the weather was nice for the foreseeable future. Which was great, cause I'm here for at least a week, because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm so happy to have good people with whom to spend Thanksgiving. 

Hello Seattle.  

(Well, technically, I'm in Carnation.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 76: Sondering Strangers and Spokane

Lake Ceour D'Alene

Seattle Bound, Day 5:

I woke up at 8am. I'll be damned if I wasn't going to get that free breakfast. I had already spent $45 dollars more than I wanted to, plus the $8 food truck burger (which I still don't regret, but the fries were unnecessary), so I told myself I was going to be damned sure I got up for breakfast. Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm not a morning person at all. So that's how much I meant this. (ha.)

When I walked into the "lobby," which was no more than a hallway sized room leading to the receptionist window with a counter on either side with a waffle maker, some doughnuts to my left and a coffee canister to my right (with a sign that read: "for guests only; not for weekly residents"). I helped myself to a chocolate covered doughnut, poured some batter in the waffle iron, and hovered near it, trying to talk myself out of eating another chocolate covered fried dough. As I enjoyed my doughnut, an overweight, middle aged woman ambled, looked around and then called to the back for more waffle batter to be brought up. (I had used the last cup of it.)

Once the girl on duty brought more cups of batter out of the fridge (and I complimented the doughnuts, which apparently were nothing special, BUT THEY WERE), the woman asked if I was making a waffle. I told her that it was almost finished and she began to rave about how delicious they were, (because she "stays here all the time and just love(s) them"). From here, we began to chat. I learned that her name was Julie and she was on her way to take care of her aunt in Oregon, who has Alzheimer's... and has for the past nine years. NINE YEARS. From this, I surmised that Julie was a saint... and also probably needed someone with whom to talk.

I was going to take my waffle to my room - the entryway had no tables to eat and and breakfast trays intended to transport your breakfast - but Julie began chatting. First, she lamented about the trials of caring for someone with Alzheimer's, then about her home town where she lives when she not taking care of her aunt. I stood for a while, then I moved to the other side of the fridge, then moved again when I was asked to move because it dinged in the back from a sensor every time I crossed it.

Julie invited me to sit. She told me about her life, her abusive mother; her blossoming career in New York City as a promising Opera singer which was cut far too short because, at 21, her father became ill. She spent the next two years caring for him in Montana. A week after he died, her brother was diagnosed with cancer; her own mortality - being only two years his junior - shining in her face. Her mother fell year while Julie was in her 30s. Again, she took time away from herself in order to care for a loved one (despite the abuse). Over and over, Julie, in what appeared to be a leavening moment of catharsis, repeated, "I don't know why I'm telling you this. I never tell anyone this..."

For nearly three hours I listened, interested and intent, sprinkled with bits of my own story and current hard brush with a newly ill family member. But it was clear Julie didn't have many people to talk to - even warning me not to move to her town (Missoula) because there people there were backwards and backstabbing - so I mostly enticed her speak. I wanted to; I was interested and Julie had a lot she wanted to say. Towards the end of our hours together, with check-out time looming near, she asked me about myself; she was on her way to take care of her aunt and this hotel is her normal halfway point between Missoula and Oregon, but what was I doing in Ceour D'Alene? I told her that I was traveling the states; looking for my new home. "And you're doing it all alone?" she primed, quizzically. 


"Oh, that's amazing!! Good for you. I would have been too scared. But I wish I'd done something like that. Before my life was ever really started, I was back home taking care of my father and then I just became the family caretaker." It was very clear that Julie had a lot to talk about; perhaps a lot of regret. "What are you looking to find?"

"Well, I'd like to escape the snow," she nodded in understanding. "I'd also like a partner because I'd like to have kids and I'm not getting any younger and my odds are much better on the west coast than the east coast: Like two to one."

"How old are you," she asked, perplexed why I would rush into something so young and I when answered 32, she seemed surprised. "Oh. Wow. You look so young! [I grinned. Yay!] I'm so surprised that you're still single, you're just beautiful!" she exclaimed for like the 10th time.
"Thank you," I replied, bashfully, "But I'm not even wearing make-up," finally both uncomfortable and comfortable enough to admit that I felt far from beautiful without my 'face' on.

"Oh! You don't need make-up!" she informed me, dipping her voice down now to offer her sage advice, "And here the men don't like a lot of make-up. The Idaho men don't like to see a lot of make up so you'd be better off finding someone without wearing much make up. Just put some on so it looks like you're not wearing any."

"Well," I approached this subject with my typical defiance when this subject arises, "If there is a man that doesn't want me to wear make-up, then I don't want that man. I like wearing it. I enjoy putting it on. I wear it for me, not that men, so if a man doesn't want me because of my make-up, I don't want that man."

"Well, good for you," she said. "Good for you for admitting what you want and going for it. Don't lose that; you need to live for you first - I figured that out too late. By the time I realized what I wanted, I was in my forties and it was too late for me. I will pray for you. I will pray that you find what you are looking for."

"Thank you." I felt the warmth of her prayer. I felt touched as though she really wanted for me to achieve the things I wanted. We parted a few minutes later, realizing that we had been talking for three hours and it was now nearly 11am; thankfully I had asked for a late check out. Julie and I traded information and I hoped that we would keep in touch, but realize it's probably unlikely (she doesn't care for email and has a flip phone) We hugged and I felt an affection towards her; I felt connected. I left feeling as thought I served a cathartic purpose for someone that day; that Julie felt better having gotten a lot of things that she "never tells anybody" off of her chest and was lighter, perhaps even happier because of it. It's these really random encounters with strangers that have become the most interesting part of my trip, and Julie, by far was the most intimate of encounters. I feel like we're strangers turned acknowledged and linked sonderers.  

I left for the day and headed west towards Spokane.

Unfortunately, arriving in Spokane didn't alleviate the issue of downed traffic lights. Apparently the windstorm was states-wide, as I had also woken up to a text from my friend in Seattle, who informed me that it was a good thing I pushed my date back because they didn't have power. Well, neither did Spokane. Apparently Julie and I had managed to find one of the only places in the tri-state to have no lost power.

I arrived in Spokane and found a Verizon store; I was mid-panic since I'd left Coeur D'Alene and hour earlier because my JetPack had died in the night. Surprisingly, Verizon was also one of the only blocks that still had power. I was panicking but luckily it simply needed reset, the winds in the night had caused a power surge and had disabled my JetPack. Soon after, I was again on my way... but to where. I navigated the downed lights (and props to Spokaneise, who used the four way stop method quite effectively. It would have be total disaster in DC) and headed to downtown. Parking was an issue, so I kept going until I headed into an unsavory part of town and realized there was no power their either. 

I headed back into downtown. I looked into the price of hotels, which were well out of my price range of zero dollars. I wanted to stop and have a look but parking cost money and I didn't see much of anything to do - besides eat, which also cost money - or walk around their downtown park, but then the parking cost money. I was there for about four hours, I got a well enough feel of the area to realize I didn't need a larger feel of the area, inched my way back out of power-less lights and back onto Interstate 90. By now that sun was setting and I was heading directly west - so told by the blinding sun.

I ended up in Moses Lake, Washington. I didn't make it very far today, but that wasn't really the point: Ron, from South Dakota had told me to check out Spokane, so that was more of the point of today than getting far. So once night fell, I spent an embarrassing amount of time driving around Moses Lake, attempting to figure out my night's 'home.' I checked out a truck stop, which wasn't going to work, then a Motel 6, which I decided was dumb (since I will have full access to a shower tomorrow at my friend's house) and too expensive at $50, then I settled on a Denny's, which after choosing a parking spot, also decided against. I was back out and happened to pass a Dairy Queen when I was scoping out a residential area to see if perhaps I could sleep there unnoticed. While I had a brownie blizzard for dinner (sorry, mom), I decided to see if there were any Wal-Mart's in the area. It's probably about time that I enact my plan of sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lot's anyway, I figure. 

Lucky me, there was. So, here I am for the night, sleeping in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It seems I'm not the only one though - I've got about four other friends parked about five spaces apart each, on the periphery of the Wal-Mart near the auto center. And here, tonight, is home. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 75: Winds in the Land of Potato

 Seattle Bound, Day 4:
full disclosure: this was from the other day when I first
Idaho and 'ready for potatoes'
 I woke up in Missoula, fresh faced and late check-out requesting, because when life hands you the opportunity to upgrade your dwellings for free, you take as much advantage of that as possible. I had breakfast, got together the laundry I had done the night before (having recently discovered that most hotels have laundry facilities), stuffed as many coffee creamers in my pockets as possible and was on my way. I poked around town for a bit to have a look around, as I had wanted to do the night before, prior to having the pleasure of meeting George (and learning from experience and Tyler, that Missoula has a bad drug and homeless problem). Then it was time to head west.

The drive was uneventful for the most part, until I drove back into Idaho - now in the panhandle - and the wind began. Someone had told me to stop by Ceour D'Alene and, about 30 minutes out from the small, lakeside town, I was on a mountain pass, being thrown side to side by intense winds. What was more concerning were the tractor trailers being visibly tossed about on the elevated highway. By this point, it was getting dark and the rain was beginning to fall. I stopped for gas to assess my options; hotels in the area were too much and were not on the docket for the evening, even though I had scored a free room last night. I was still aiming for the Wal-Mart in Ceour D'Alene, even though it wasn't safe to be driving anymore. I was only about 30 minutes away from my goal for the night. I decided to push forward.

wind is mean and i don't like it.
75 ... that explains the tractor trailers...

When I arrived in Ceour D'Alene, the town was a disaster. I had been driving for five hours and spent the next three going no more than three miles. 70% of the stop lights - in a town FULL of lights - were out from the storm; branches were in the road; trees were down. I pulled into a parking garage thinking I could park there for the evening, but while they had free parking that night, I couldn't decide if I would have to pay to get out in the morning. Additionally, the parking garage, though a massive structure, was swaying in the wind, which made me nervous, it was full of cameras, and I couldn't figure out where I could use a bathroom if I used this as a camp.

I pulled back out and tried - again - to get to the Wal-Mart. I sat in traffic for another 40 minutes and went maybe seven blocks. I turned right...again. I found a Safeway, but it was patrolled, not 24 hours, and in a residential area, meaning, again, I'd have no 'toilet.' I  pulled back out into traffic, but refused to go towards the Wal-Mart where all of the lights were out. Ironically, the lights in 'old town,' near the river, were all in service.

I got so frustrated that I was still in the car three hours after arriving in my destination, that I gave in and paid $45 for a damn room in old town. It looked really shady, but the Expedia reviews were well enough. By this point I was also starving, it was pouring rain and still windy as shit and I was unwilling to shuffle around my car to figure out something to eat. I drove down to get a burger from a food truck. Best $8 of the day. I then settled in for the night - for the second time (since Route 66) in room 111. Good luck or angels or something - but this number appears a lot since I left (prior to leaving, I often saw 444. A sign of death in Asian cultures) so I took that as a good sign despite the bad evening.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 74: Boise or Missoula?

Montana bound.
Seattle Bound, Day 3: 

The next morning, in my server's guest room, I woke up well rested. Brock and his wife left to pick up another puppy and left me alone in their house with a note that said to help myself to anything I wanted and inviting me to stay the day if I could (but if I had to go, that was okay). Unfortunately, I had a schedule I was trying to keep, so I couldn't stay. I took a nice hot shower and headed out. Brock invited me to come back any time and if I ever needed a place to crash, I could go back to his home. It was then that I realized: It those that have the least to give who are most willing to give everything that they have. I left beyond touched by Brock's kindness. His energy warm; his heart open. Humans can be so damn lovely.

I meant to go to Boise (my mom had said she heard it was beautiful), but also I wanted to see Missoula (I had heard a lot of people chirping over it). Naturally, to decide where I should go, I posted a poll question on Facebook: Boise or Missoula for the evening/morning? Missoula won, hands down. So there I was, traversing north into Montana...beautifully... (and also hysterically),

Sir Mix-a-Lot probably lives here.

I got into Missoula around dusk, which at this point in the year means about 5:30p. I was looking forward to poking around the city for a bit, but the hotel I booked had other plans, having gotten a hotel on account of my previous free nights. I have an every-other rule in order to keep my budget and still get to shower and avoid the now-freezing temperatures at night. (So much for avoiding winter.) Since the past two nights were free, this one was definitely a hotel night.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, I was informed by the front desk kid, Tyler, that was no hot water; the heater had broken and the part they needed wouldn't be delivered until tomorrow. I was offered to go down the street to use their shower at a sister hotel. With a huff, I agreed verses getting a refund and paying $10 more for a different hotel. Then there was an issue with my card; I had booked through Expedia, who had charged my card, but the card provided by Expedia didn't go through for the hotel.

At this point, vagrants began to trickle in. First, a tweeker couple checked in; obviously regulars. Then, a drunk man, named George, used the lobby phone to order a pizza for delivery. George was about 68 and 70 sheets to the wind and I'm not sure when was the last time he partook in a shower; perhaps it was the lack of hot water.

The manager, who had been loudly listening to Glenn Beck and complaining about Obama and gays, came out to assist me with what had now become a full blown bullshit issue. Expedia was trying to figure out their credit card issue with the hotel and I had been in the lobby for 45 minutes. So much time that George had ordered his pizza, missed the door knock, the delivery guy had come into the lobby, Tyler called George and told him to open the door and the delivery guy went back up to Georges room. Another vagrant looking couple had also checked and Tyler informed me that homeless often sleep at his hotel. By now, Tyler and I had become friends.

So after an hour and a half of bullshit, I called Expedia myself - while the hotel was still on hold. Tyler wished me good luck when I told him that I was going to ask them to cancel my reservation at their hotel and book me a new reservation in town that Expedia was going to pay for; he didn't think it was going to happen. I was confident that sound resent and politeness would make it happen. Ten minutes later, Tyler was shocked I had gotten what I asked for and I told him that travel tip was free (with a grin; pleased with my outcome), just as George came in and offered us the rest of his pizza. I declined after considering it (normally it's against my rules to turn down free food), bid adieu to Tyler and was soon on my way to my new hotel for the night. And this is how I ended up in a three star (fancy! for me) hotel for the night for free.

The juxtaposition not lost on me: Last night I was sleeping on a bare twin mattress on the floor of my server's house, rolled up in a blanket like a burrito  and tonight I'm staying in a super nice three star hotel - complete with box spring and sheets! This highlights just how totally weird my life is right now. And I love it.

PS When doing laundry in the hotel laundry room and running out of quarters before your undies dry,
you can improvise. This was my laundering MacGuyver move. : ) And it works!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 73: Seattle Bound

Roadside Wyoming.

Day 1: I (reluctantly) headed out of Moab, having already delayed my arrival in Seattle by some days.
The guy (an old coworker from DC, who moved to Carnation (just outside of Seattle) three years ago) that I was going to stay with in Seattle, asked me if I was getting sick of traveling, to which I responded: No, I think I could do this endlessly. So I probably wasn't much of a surprise when I delayed my arrival day not once, but twice, in order to cover more of the country and see more beautiful things.

With this in mind, I left Moab and headed to Washington by way of Colorado - in the exact opposite direction. But I would rather drive a couple hundred miles out of the way and see new land than backtrack. I headed north via 19 (a empty nowhere road) to Utah and stayed in a hotel in Vernal, Utah. I treated myself to a burger from a food truck, which rocked my world. And that covers day one. Invigorating, right? It gets better.

Day Two began with a late start. I drove into Wyoming - having a lunch on the stateline - before making it to Idaho at dusk. Just in time for dusk, which I was pleased about so that I could get a state sign selfie on the backroad highway. I headed into Idaho, looking for BLM land that I could camp on. Unfortunately, I soon realized that all of the BLM land in Idaho is closed in November in order to allow the wildlife to migrate. I was at a loss until I passed a truck stop in what seemed like a small oasis of civilaization the middle of nowhere. About five minutes after driving past, I convinced myself to turn around and ask them if I could park in their lot overnight, explaining about the BLM land.

Five minutes later, I was inside asking to 'boondock' and the attendant immediately said sure and even offered to allow me to use the trucker lobby upstairs and if I wanted sleep up there since it was going to be so cold that night (30ish). I was so pleased and suddenly I realized that truckstops are a seriously untapped resource for me!

swank truckers lounge.
I found a nice spot along the pariphery of the lot and got busy making my car into a bed. Afterwards, I went into the diner to order a dinner, charge my items and use their WiFi. Also, I needed to have some potatoes. I ordered the pot roast dinner for $10 and settled in. I planned to stay until it was time to go to my 5.5 foot by 2.5 space for the night.

My server was a 19 year old named Brock. Apparently I looked out of place because Brock asked where I was from and I responded with the synopsis of what I have been doing for the last 75 days.
"OH YOU HAVE A GYPSY SOUL!" he exclaimed, "I have a gypsy soul too," he continued, nearly delighted and finished his thought, slightly deflated by stating, "but I don't get to get out much because I work three jobs."

Brock explained that he married last year and to keep his wife and himself afloat, he has to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, which leaves no time or money for travel. Over the hours I was there, we got to know each other little bit by bit and I attempted to encourage him to travel; get out, appeal to his wife for compromise so that she would travel with him (she's a big homebody and doesn't want to leave her family in the area).

Soon after, Brock told me I would be staying with he and his wife that night. I declined, but thanked him for the generous offer. This sweet boy was completely unrelenting. He paid for my meal and around midnight, I found myself following a near stranger through Idaho to Bear Lake and his apartment. (He had an adorable new puppy and he informed me his neighbor had four more left in the litter for $50. I spent the evening talking myself out of getting one.) My bed for the evening was a twin mattress on the floor, no sheets, one blanket and I proceeded to roll myself up like a burrito and pass out almost immediately.

Drive-by Wyoming.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Day 71: Canyonlands NP

I woke up and headed out of Moab and up the hill. There were a few campgrounds along the way, Horsethief Campground, the only one of which was still open - about 5 miles outside of the park. I drove in, made a nice chicken salad with tomatoes and avocado in my car out of whatever was in the "kitchen", then hiked around and took looks of photos at the Grand View Point Overlook. (Accurately named.) Montage time (all photos - aside from the header photo are unedited) ...

I was there for about three hours, and by then I was chasing a setting sun. So I hurried over to Green River Overlook and Upheaval Dome, hiking back at sunset.

I drove up and down the mountain - or canyon - top for a bit, looking for WiFi reception before deciding that the campsite I had found earlier was my best option. I  had one bar at the site at the end next to a party that was happening by a camper. Unfortunately, I apparently was sharing the spot with another visitor...

Poisonous spiders? No thank you. Being the only spot with one bar, I was unwilling to move. I decided to sleep in my car. I layered up in my zebra onesie, transitioned my car into my bed, made some tuna salad and a bourbon ginger, popped in the DVD I had won at trivia night and salt lake and was snug as a bug in a rug (although I really don't much understand that turn of phrase). It was a good night. I was satisfied and comfortable...until I had to pee. The temperature was in the 20s, so I walked over to the nearest bush (the vault toilets weren't worth the trek) and froze my bum off... literally!

Since there were were only four cars there that night and the temps dipping to around 20 in a particularly off season, I decided try my luck at avoiding payment by grabbing an envelop, filling it out, putting the tag on the post as normal and then tucking my envelope with money in it under my windshield wiper. (It worked. Savings: $15. Score.)

I awoke in the morning to a call from my mother. A status update on my father and a general "how are you." I then did my makeup in an attempt to feel slightly more civilized before heading back down the hill to running water and people with jobs. I was surprised to look at myself and realize that while reality said I hadn't seen running water in over 30 hours, my face said 'normal'. Onward to Seattle...

Blog Archive