I’m telling you, I want to be a professional hitchhiker picker-upper. I just dropped off the bodies of my….I mean I just dropped off my second pair of hitchers in two days. I’m in Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory, preparing to hit Alaska sometime tonight. I hope I meet more hitchhikers. Since Praveen flew back to LA, I’ve been on my own on the open road for the most part, driving. It’s FAR more interesting with hitchhikers on board than solo. Especially this first couple I picked up outside of Ft. Nelson in BC. Katrina, Trails (his name), and Illia their dog. They were classic vagabonds–been all over Canada hitching and hopping freight trains, camping in the bush and playing guitar on the street for money. That’s called “bunking,” I learned–playing for money on the street. Anyway they were headed for Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory which was on my way to AK, so they all piled in to the Sportsmobile and we drove until midnight, then pulled off the road aways to camp for the night. Before crashing though we had a little cocktail party in the Sportsmobile, safe from the mosquitos, and they told me all their stories of being juvenile vagrants. Pretty fascinating what they’d been through, and how self-sufficient and mature they were for their ages (which I didn’t ask, but I think they were under 20). Then they took the penthouse (the pop-up portion of the Sportsmobile) and I slept downstairs. It was still light out at 1:30 am. This morning we drove the remaining 4.5 hours to Whitehorse, where I dropped them off at the Klondike Inn to meet up with some friends of theirs. We parted ways and I went to a campground to take a shower.
The second couple I picked up just outside of Whitehorse. They were from the Czech Republic and had been traveling in Canada since May. They were more traditional european travelers as opposed to vagabonds like Katrina and Trails. But they were super nice and I was disappointed to find out they only wanted a ride to Haines Junction, about 45 min away.
So I’m heading out of here in a minute or so and will probably get to Alaska tonight, but not my final destination.
I’m in Vancouver, B.C. right now. I crossed the border an hour or so ago. The Canadian border chic was a cute blonde with a ponytail and a bullet-proof vest. I handed her my passport and then she started grilling me:
“Where are you coming from?”
“Where are you going?”
“Do you know anyone in Canada?”
“Have you ever seen a grown man naked?”
You know, the usual.
But once across the border, everything was different. It was like I’d just crossed into a foreign country or something. My GPS started speaking french and using the metric system. There were no road signs, and all the cars only had 3 wheels, and they were made out of salad. Gas cost one million dollars, and the internet is 6 times as fast as in the states, but only for sites about Celine Dion. You can pay for parking meters with your cell phone. Their money looks funny and to confuse you they call it “dollars.” Their Red Bull has cocaine in it, and caffeine is illegal unless you snort it. Water comes out of the tap carbonated. I’m telling you Americans don’t know shit about Canada.
Space was held for me by two Annas on a spiritual journey up Eagle Creek in the Columbia Gorge yesterday. What an amazing hike. The path rose gently next to steep cliffs alongside a crystal clear stream. Leaves from giant moss covered trees filtered the sun and cast a green light on our skin. The temperature would vary as we emerged from the cool shade of the trees to the warm breeze of the clearings. A mile or so into the hike, we took a path that led down to the stream where other travelers were taking photos and eating lunch. Looking for more solitude, we found a trail leading up the bank and took that and found a nice secluded area. In this spot we held a ceremony for nature. Intentions were voiced, the ceremony carried out and then we resumed our journey, climbing back to the main path. With two Annas as my guides we continued hiking this beautiful path a few more miles, then turned around and retraced our steps as the sun sank lower in the sky.
I did some weird stuff in Portland. First there was ecstatic dance. Then acupuncture. Then a massage and a soak in the tub and sauna. Then the ceremonial hike in the gorge. This stop in Portland has been transformational. I’m leaving here lighter and happier, more focused on my goal, more solid. I love Portland and hope to return, if not actually live here.
Crap man, I’m speechless kind of. Blown away by all the great things that are happening on this trip. We’re visiting all kinds of super cool people and visiting super cool places, one after another. It’s awesome. But it’s tough squeezing in the writing between driving, sleeping, visiting, and actually doing stuff. So I’m kind of frustrated right now, but anyway…
Taking the unexpected 20-mile dirt road through Navajo country was a bit of an adventure. We got great views of the smoke plume from the Flagstaff fires. Then we proceeded to Flagstaff where we found a pretty cool coffee joint using the GPS. Had a veggie burrito, then went to the brewery across the street where we still had the signal from the coffee shop. I was in heaven. Then we asked the waitress where we could camp. We wound up camping in the city parking lot, but I pulled up next to some other white commercial vans with the hope of blending in. No one bothered us, we got up at 5:30 and headed for LA. Got to LA and I ran into a building overhang in the Sportsmobile. No damage really, to the Sportsmobile, but I took a chunk out of the stucco building. Seems the Sportsmobile needs a clearance greater than 7′ 1″. Good to know. We took a nap then went out to an evil doll bar in Santa Monica. Talked to some nice people afterwards who were very impressed with the fact we had quit our jobs and were travelling. It was weird to be on the other side, to be the one who had quit and was doing something. Had breakfast the next morning at Swingers Diner, then headed up the coast to Santa Barbara where we went to Samy’s camera to get my sensor cleaned. Praveen bought a camera of course. Walked around the farmers market where the beautiful Brooks Institute photographer girls were all over the place. Then we took 154 over San Marcos pass and had dinner at Cold Springs tavern. This was a walk down memory lane for me. The light was great as we continued up 101 and past Santa Maria, where I used to live. Then we passed San Louis Obispo, another old haunt. Arrived at Rick’s in Santa Cruz around 1030.
From Santa Cruz we headed up the coast to visit our friend Scott in Pt Reyes, where I am right now. Headed for Portland next.
Here we are, only Sunday, day 4, and we’re just past Albuquerque. The sun is rising over the Route 66 Casino and I just gambled away my last $20. Ok not really, but I did just lose $20 in the crappiest gas station slots I have ever played. And, this is totally true, we took a wrong turn somewhere in Albuqurque. I don’t know what it is about Albuquerque and wrong turns, but somehow Praveen hyperspaced about 10 exits in front of me without either of us realizing it. When we called each other to find out where we were, it was very confusing that the exit numbers were going in opposite directions. Anyway, we wound up rendezvousing here at the casino.
Our goal today is to reach LA, which shouldn’t be a problem, except that it’s like 13 hours away and we’re kind of sick of driving at this point.
Really. We’re in CO. So beautiful here at Ray’s place in the mountains, totally off the grid. He’s got solar power and everything. I’d like to write that up some. How you conserver power and are careful about what you use. Spring fed water tastes delicious. Aspen groves out back in the 91 acre back yard. Living room views of the La Garita wilderness. Another awesome dog, Loki. Delicious breakfast of cheddar jalepeno bagel with lox and avocado. So anyway, the whole house is paneled in local wood. So beautiful. A large table once owned by Georgia O’Keefe. And now we’re listening to Praveen’s stereo, drinking coffee and computing. So what else…we camped out at a rest stop in KS the night before, so this stop was especially incredible. I always love leisurly mornings with friends after a great night’s sleep.
St. Louis has a Costco! My favorite store in the world. However, there’s a lot more to this. First of all, I’m in St Louis. Praveen (my roommate) and I left DC yesterday in separate vehicles at 6am and drove 16 hours through WV, KY, IN, and IL to get here. We stayed with his friend Deepa and her husband and their awesome puppy, Frye. They have a cool house in a sketchy neighborhood so we had to park our equipment-laden vehicles in their gated backyard. I’m carrying Praveen’s stereo in the Sportsmobile, plus we have a lot of camera gear between us. So back to Costco, my favorite subject. Anyway, Praveen got his oil changed in his Subaru Forester, and I needed my tires rotated on the Sportsmobile. Costco is great for tire shit. So I went there and they told me my 8-year old tires were not roadworthy. Fuck me. So I just shelled out $857 and change for 4 new tires. But, better to do that than to get stranded in AK or something.
So what else has happened since we’ve left? I’ve learned some new travel tips already on the first day. I’m very happy with my Engel fridge. Not having to stop for and deal with ice is great. My MP3 player (it happens to be an iPod but it’s just a fucking MP3 player people) is awesome. GPS is indispensible because it has a database of all the Costcos in North America. I’m thinking of planning a trip visiting every Costco in the country. Man I would love that. While it’s true I love Costco, it seems a little pathetic that that’s a highlight of my travels, something I can go to every day anyway even if I don’t travel. What’s that all about? I’d love to hear some thoughts on why Costco can get such a grip on you.
Packing up the house and putting everything in storage was such a fucking nightmare; I’m so glad that’s behind us.
So, so far so good on this trip. I’ll take preventive maintenance any day over crisis repairs. It increases your freedom and peace of mind.