"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Thursday, April 30, 2009

4/30/09: Corbin City, NJ-Wendy

Chris and I got a relatively early jump on the day. The idea was to make our way as far north as we could, with a minimalist goal of May's Landing by Saturday. This would give us two days to go the nearly 20-miles or, hopefully, much further with a ride. Chris's mom was planning to pick us up Saturday, and had an offer from Ken to get a ride if we could get anywhere on I-95. Thus we had set simple "goals" of getting as far as possible to shorten her drive or, if we were very lucky, hooking up with Ken somewhere around Philadelphia or Trenton. Unfortunately, we were also coming to accept that rides were unlikely, at best, in New Jersey.

This was the first day of consistent walking since we had shut it down because of my heel, and we kept up a surprisingly good pace. Since the shoes had broken in quite a bit now, the heel was repairing itself nicely, and I had lightened up, we were moving more quickly than the week before.

We stopped for some supplies, then quickly found the ever- present Wawa... which, with its coffee and cheap(er) smokes, was becoming my favorite stop. Stop we did.

While reclined against the wall outside, we were approached by a bearded, tattooed character who slid along side, crossed his arms, and asked "What are you two up to?", as if he recognized something.

Tom was a biker who also ran a moving company. He looked to be in his 50's, and had a beard that would impress both the saltiest biker and biggest ZZ Top fan. He & his wife, Rita, were driving to Cape May with their teenage son for Rita's birthday, and running into us had delayed things a bit!

The conversation went on for quite a while considering the venue, with Rita both reminding Tom that they had things to do AND taking part at the same time! It was comical, and obvious that the four of us got along famously! Too bad that they were going the other way, we could have talked until Anchorage. I loved these two!

We lingered at the Wawa for nearly two hours not feeling the urge to accomplish much, despite our "goals", and had a nice pace for the day. Tuckahoe was next after a rest or two and a hike thru a nature preserve. On the way thru this little village, we pondered buying a converted short- bus that had been converted to an RV, much like the veggie bus. Something fitting about the fact that it was a...short- bus.

Corbin City begins across a drawbridge from Tuckahoe, and is barely a town. I had stopped on the other side (if it has "sides") to get rain gear handy, when out of the antique store we had parked in front of walked a pair of elderly ladies who were curious about the creatures mingling outside. After a nice chat, they pointed out the Corbin Cafe just up the road, which they suggested as a place to refill water before the "nothingness" further up 50.

We were greeted with what I sensed as suspicious curiosity as we lumbered in asking the bartender if we could please fill up the water bag. The suspicion quickly melted away as the 3 or 4 patrons learned that we had found their little town after traveling from New Mexico and Colorado. Corbin Cafe is the typical small- town dive I love, and I liked that it had "Corbin" in the title, as I could easily see my late- friend, Michael Corbin, loving the place!

We stayed for what I thought was a surprisingly long time chatting, and when we finally pulled ourselves away to find our ground for the night, Keith came after us carrying the Coke bottle I was using for spare water. I had left it sitting at the bar, and along with the forgotten water came an offer for beers if we chose to come back inside. That sounded damn good.

Two beers turned into us buying dinner, which of course turned into more beer. After an hour, we had an invitation to camp in the bartender's backyard, and the bar had begun to fill up for the Thursday night pool league. The bartender's name was Wendy, and thru the course of the night we met her boyfriend, Avery, as well as her daughter, Tiffanni, who were playing in the league. After two or three hours, the accommodations had been upgraded to Wendy's camper trailer: A bed!

Chris and I both had a grand time with the notion that all this had come about by simply stopping in to a place most would ignore to ask for water. We had also intentionally suspended frugality for the night concluding that it was worth the money to have a little genuine interaction with people. We were right. We had a great time. Everyone at the bar was unbelievably nice. They all knew each others names. And each others business. Keith had even put together a sort of care package: snack foods, along with packets of tuna and Spam. It was quite the gesture.  

I received a call from Ken early in the evening, saying that he was in Richmond, VA but would be driving through the night to try to make Boston by 7am. It was obvious that we were going to miss him, but I'm not sure we ever held out anything other than a faint glimmer of hope from the beginning. The topic had only rarely come up during the day.

After several beers, many conversations, several attempted playings of the Soggy Bottom Boys on the jukebox, and another full meal for Chris, Wendy and Avery were ready to head home at about 11:30. That was perfect, since both of us were fading fast. Wendy lives in Tuckahoe, about a mile down the road we'd just walked, and once there we were quickly shown to the camper accompanied by a not so- subtle hint to "leave it as we found it!" I love direct people! Once my head hit a real pillow, it was no time at all until I was out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

4/29/09: Seaville, NJ

I got a good night's sleep, and awoke refreshed & in much better spirits. The weather, however, had gone toward Hell. We knew the happy days of sweaty sun were behind us for a bit, and had actually expected it to rain overnight, but it had held off, being windy and cool as we broke camp in the reeds.

The first order of business was breakfast at Dock Mike's cafe, which is right on Cape May harbor. I had a spinach omelet, and chuckled to myself when I realized that, judging by one of the barnacles, it appeared Popeye himself had dropped anchor outside.

The omelet and multiple cups of coffee were fantastic, and so was our waitress Dottie. She kept the coffee coming as Chris and I discussed things, including my mental menstruation of the day before. It seemed after some reflection that we were entering a new phase, and not just New Jersey. The methodology had been handled. Now, perhaps, it would be money and, most importantly, how to generate it.

Just before 11, we left Dock Mike's fully fed and with the literal and figurative batteries charged. 
The weather had become decidedly wetter during our visit with Dottie, with 40- 50 mph gusts off the Atlantic. The temps were now in the low 50s, which felt like 20 after getting used to low 90's. I began to seriously question the wisdom of mailing the seemingly extra coat home the day before, as I would have now used it beneath my rain jacket.

We elected not to walk the mile into town for the library, instead walking back over the bridge to try for a ride toward Atlantic City & New York. Again. We were there perhaps an hour, having a grand time in all our inept glory, when a state cop pulled over and politely asked what we were doing. With my cynicism toward police still festering, I just assumed he was either a) a smartass or b) a nimrod; neither being good breeding traits in lawdogs. He was polite, and never asked for ID, even after he told me, half-smiling, that we couldn't hitchhike anywhere in New Jersey. It was illegal in the entire state.

Well... shit.

He did happen to have a NJ Transit schedule in his seat-sack of piggie treats, so we took one, quickly agreed that Cape May held no further treasures, and that taking a $4.75 bus to Atlantic City would be a good idea. We walked BACK over the damn bridge for the last time and made our rain soaked way downtown to the bus station, getting there ten minutes before it left.

I spent the ride north just writing. Just as I had finished, we discovered that the next stop was a Parkway Service Center/commuter Park 'n Ride. Since I had kept my head buried in Pocketmail, I assumed we were close to A.C., and before we knew it, we had made an almost unconscious decision to get off right there and skip the Adventures of Atlantic City. This seemed to amuse the driver, who pointed out that we had paid all the way to AC. Only later would I realize we were barely half way there. Behold! Fiscal genius at work.

The service center was at least pathetic, and perhaps even toxic. The restroom/ Roy Rogers area closed at six, and there was next to no traffic. But, there was an Information Center where we decided, finally, to get a map. But only because it was free. I find it slightly amusing and mildly troubling that I will spend money on cigarettes, but not a fucking map. Something is possibly askew...

After an hour or two, and using our trusty (sort of) new map, Magellan realized that US-9 was just west of us, running next to the Parkway an open field away. By now, it was getting late and cold. The plan: get on route 9, find a spot, have a hot meal, get a good start on Thursday. For once a plan went as planned.

After eating and setting up camp, I did get a surprise call from Ken saying that he was headed from Miami, thru New York City, and all the way to Boston, via I-95. We could ride the rest of the way with him if we got to the interstate. That would save Chris's mom a trip, and be neat to get the three of us together. It didn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility that we may possibly get there the next day, and gave us something to strive for on Thursday...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

4/18: Virginia & DC

Saturday started early, at least for Devin and Leif. We had gotten a good piece of Virginia behind us before stopping for the night at a rest stop 90- miles or so south of Roanoke.

After a quick refill with the remaining veggie oil stored from Memphis & Nashville, it was off for the final push thru the rest of Virginia, into Maryland, and finally Washington, D.C.

Virginia was one of the pleasant surprises of the trip so far. The western part of the state is disturbingly beautiful, at least the sliver I saw from the bus on I-81. The slight regret returned in that we hadn't gone thru this part of the country afoot. Maybe later...

The drive toward Winchester and I-66 went quickly; almost too quickly to suit me. It seemed like 300 miles were gone in a blink of the eye, and coming into Washington brought back a flood of memories. Devin was driving thru the same area I'd lived in, for a few months, back in 1995. I wondered what had become of the people I had known, and lost touch with, during my time there. And, I again wondered: how was I living there alone if I was only 15? These are the questions that linger...

Chris coordinated with his friend, Trent, as we began to gather our things and arrange our packs for the drop off in DC. Devin had a friend to see downtown, so we asked him to drop us off at the Mall so we could goof around, playing the part of Japanese tourists, while we waited for Trent to get into the city from his home in Chesapeake Beach, which is on the bay about a half- hour's drive south of Annapolis.

The weather was perfect... sunny and in the mid 70's again... as we stepped off Zeitgeist Apparatus (Devin's pet name) for the last time. I had come to enjoy being on the bus and the routines that we had fallen into. I also felt that I was leaving old friends behind, ones that I had known forever, because of the experiences we had shared over the 5+ days we had traveled together. We had a good laugh at Tennessee Law Enforcement's expense, signed their guestbook, took a few pics, did the man- hug thing, then stepped off toward The Mall- with the huge falic- tribute to capitalism looming overhead. This felt remarkable. We'd boarded the bus in Santa Fe and disembarked nearly 2000 miles away, in the heart of the most powerful city on earth. At the risk of sounding like Chris, we are a couple of badasses.

We hiked a roundabout route from Constitution Ave., around the Reflecting Pool (Forrest!), to the Lincoln Memorial, snapping pictures and relishing our role as spectacles. People were sneaking pictures of US... at the Lincoln Memorial. Ha!
Trent called after about an hour, so we trekked back down the Mall to meet him at Thor's Penis. We then walked to his car, near the Capitol Building, and drove off to Maryland.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

4/16: Memphis- Lawdogs

When we last saw our hero, he assumed he was riding toward Little Rock and pondering contact possibilities. In reality, he would awake in the hamlet of Searcy, AR, nowhere near Bill Clinton's old whorin... er... stomping grounds. Devin had decided to bypass it via my old friend from last summer in Asheboro, NC: US-64.

I scoped out the unfamiliar Walmart parking lot area, then Chris and I stopped into IHOP to feed ourselves and our cells. From there, it was a pleasant couple of hours riding thru back country Arkansas toward West Memphis, then across my Rubicon into "The East". I always get an odd feeling crossing the Mississippi, it's a much different world on the Memphis side, at least to me. I then repeatedly mocked Chris's goofy notion that we were now on the "east coast".

We needed veggie so, once thru the city, Devin chose an area to scavenge where Chris and I paired up for the now- familiar routine of chatting up eateries. We are quite good at this, as you can imagine, and after perhaps an hour, we hit the used- grease motherlode at The Cajun Catfish Company, a swanky seafood place.
The manager was all about bio- diesel and, more importantly, they had a FULL dumpster full of nearly pristine oil. In addition, there was ample space out back to park the bus and do our thing. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the mid 70's, and once we got going, the whole process was fun. The people we chatted with through the course of the day were all friendly, and some quite amusing. Particularly Bob at "Bob's Place". He reminded me of the owner of "The Country Bunker" in the Blues Brothers. Was that character's name Bob, too? "Well, I sure would appreciate it..."

We filled the tank and all the spare receptacles at the Cajun Catfish Company, and got back on I-40 in good spirits, happy to be in Tennessee, and making arrangements to meet up with Kim and her boyfriend when we got to Nashville to stop for the night. It was a great day... and then...

Flashing lights.

Leif had passed an unmarked cop parked in the median. We noticed them, and commented on the fact that they were gawking madly at the bus as it passed. The pullover was half- expected... what happened next was a disgusting display of misplaced power, paranoia, and pathetic futility... all under the guise of your "safety and security."


The reason given for the pullover was that they "couldn't read the dirty license plate", which is Piggie for "we think you look suspicious." If you're over the age of 15 and believe differently at this point in your life, please go away. Then keep going...

Chris has already provided a rundown of the details, so I'll try to conserve space, but it entailed having all of our IDs pulled, being interrogated (complete with poorly- veiled threats), then pulled off the bus to sit on the side of I-40. All with the machismo that even Pancho Villa would find better suited to a frat house.
I've discussed my disgust for these arbitrary, Gestapoesqe "I don't like your look" searches, and at length with Chris, Shalain, and Kim before. I see them as the primary, singular example of un- Americanism; abuses of authority. The one thing that anyone living in this country should be immune from, based on (what used to be) our ideals.

It occurred to me to ask, forcefully, WHY they were running my ID. What cause did they have to search me? My blood was boiling rapidly, but quickly realized that these weren't ordinary highway cops. These were drug- hunters looking for traffickers. To my amazement, and perhaps everlasting shame, I managed to keep my mouth shut. I answered their questions, and sat on the ground watching in quiet rage as Devin signed a search consent, they brought in the dog, then proceed to literally ransack the bus.
All for NO real reason.

Amerika, I love ya!

As bad as this was for the rest of us, what they did to Leif was unconscionable. He suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder so naturally stammers a bit, and gets visibly perturbed when he's nervous. These investigative "geniuses" thought they were REALLY onto something while all four loomed over him, in ATF/ tactical- ops looking outfits complete with sidearms on display, asking him why he was "so nervous." Mocking him. I still don't have the words to tell you how disgusted I was, and still am. I've never had a great admiration for cops, due to my own "adventures in justice", but this was something different; it had a sinister, authoritarian stench to it.

Of course they found nothing, much to their obvious chagrin. They seemed perplexed as Scooby Doo bounded off the bus to play with his handler next to the highway, while the rest of The Corp of Futility had finally had enough and told us we were "free to go". They were going out of their way to let all of us know that Snoopy had snooped out a baggie that had "once had held pot, he'll find anything!" Obviously Blondie's sniffing powers were something to behold. Yeah, that's amazing... except Wonderpup and his Band of Merry Fascists missed the jarful of weed, sitting in plain sight, next to the driver's seat. I had to laugh when a certain, distinct smell made it's way to the front as we approached Nashville.

So... consider all the shady ethical examples presented by Tennessee's Finest. THEN consider that they missed the very thing they were after? THAT'S the illusion of safety & $ecurity that erodes freedom and liberty. Maybe you Tea Party people should start there rather than with approved- party dialectics.

We all felt quite violated after this, and tried to console Leif who was feeling guilty and was obviously traumatized after the way they tried to humiliate him. I've grown quite fond of him. He's a gentle, good- hearted person who's just uncomfortable and nervous in his own skin at times. He most certainly did not deserve that.

The next few hours to Nashville were a bit edgy. I set up a place to meet Kim and Chad on the far NW side, keeping in mind that we ALL needed a drink or ten.. .

Monday, April 13, 2009

4/13/09: Amarillo, TX


Devin and Leif picked us up at the Giant shortly after 2, and after an extended stop at Trader Joe's, we were on US-285 toward Clines Corners and I-40. Devin stopped about half way there to get the "veggie" system going, then it was thru Santa Rosa, Tucumcari, and San Jon into Texas.

Devin and Leif are both quite easy going, and fun to be around. Once we got aboard, it seemed from first impressions that all of us would get along well. Devin even used one of my phrases, "liberal bourgeois" almost immediately. That should have meant next to nothing of course, but my primary concern was riding with my favorites: pretentious hippies.

The bus itself is a converted '76 Catholic School bus that has a little kitchen, and four bunks installed in the back. Beats the hell out of riding in a car, even though the top speed MAY be 65! The interesting part will be scavenging Amarillo on Tuesday for vegetable oil, which could take most of the day. The bus runs on both diesel and veggie, with the oil lasting around 300 miles to a tank...for free...using nothing but restaurant waste. Makes the hassle worth it.

There was a nice piece of comedy near Amarillo when we thought Leif was being pulled over. We all saw flashing lights behind us, but after 10 minutes sitting on the side of I-40, realized there was no one behind us! That was amusing in and of itself, but as Chris and I were about to deposit processed coffee in the grass, a cop actually showed up thinking we had broken down. We've all heard the stereotypes regarding Texas cops, but let me partially put that to rest. He was quite nice, never ID'd anyone, and was quite interested in the bus.

Leaving Santa Fe was a bit awkward to say the least. Laina was on her way with her parents to Albuquerque when they dropped us off, and it felt quite odd saying goodbye to her with her parents as an audience. I have no idea whether they know the possible extent of this trip as they have never asked, and I like to avoid the "I'm leaving your daughter here alone because..." discussion. The goodbye could have been a bit better; that is all I am saying!

The actual departure was odd too; both familiar and weird. I had no time before leaving to think myself into a frenzy, and before I really knew it we were dropped off. The fact we were riding off to terra incognita was ordinary to me; Chris and Amtrak were my exits last year. It's a bit different for Chris in having to adjust to this method! I'm quite surprised at how easy I seem to have fallen back into the patterns after nearly eight months, but honestly I never REALLY came completely off the road, mentally.

Tomorrow may bring Oklahoma, and our hosts are talking about a trip to Norman to see some people and just hang out near campus. That suits us quite well since we still seem to be afflicted with "Sooner Curiosity", and we're both making a conscious effort to de-structure ourselves; saying to hell with "plans" (ha!), expectations and schedules. Yeah, I'm anxious to see how that goes too...

4/13: Bus, Bus, the Veggie Bus!

As I awoke Thursday, the realization that we were supposedly two days from leaving was becoming much more real. Chris and I had tried to hash out different options on our first leg of the trip, with an ultimate destination being Nashville, TN. Nashville had become a sort of vortex; a lot seemed to be happening there at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Kim last summer and looked forward to seeing her again, as well as the fact that Thursday was the day that my sister, Shelly, was going to let my father know that she was in contact with me.

Say... WHAT?

It’s a very long story, and one that is going to play a major role in this easterly phase of the trip. Briefly, I met my father in 2000, and have spent a grand 20- minutes with him in my “29”- years. I have only recently been in contact with Shelly as well… “meeting” her for the first time, via Facebook, in late February. I have another sister and two brothers that I have had no contact with whatsoever. I will explain this all in its time… but my father is leaving on vacation on 4/13: to Nashville. For a person who thrives on Synchronicity, you can see the draw!

As I was gulping my morning caffeine, I decided for the hell of it to take a gander at the rideshare section of the Santa Fe Craigslist. Lo and Behold, a post looking for riders to go thru Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, and… all together now… NASHVILLE.

They are taking a 34’ school bus that has been converted to run partially on vegetable oil that they obtain from restaurants. Devin called almost immediately, we negotiated a contribution we’d provide, which was LESS than the Dirty Dog to Tucumcari, and more significantly, we now had an obvious path. The bus was leaving New Mexico on Monday, 4/13… which added another two- days to our stay in Santa Fe.

This set into motion a flurry of thought. To Chris and I, this explained the lack of clarity that we have both experienced when it came to establishing a route out of Santa Fe, and for me personally it snapped me back into the mindset that I was in last year. Trying to remember to sit down, relax, and let life happen… rather than trying to control everything. That’s a very difficult concept for many to grasp. I’ll try to provide myself as the guinea pig as time goes on!

Impatience was now something to deal with, especially for Chris. By Thursday, he had been in Santa Fe for five days, and was obviously itching to get back on the road. We were having conversations about things laying out in front of us at their own pace, and this was, to me, an opportunity to see if it would again play itself out.

Saturday morning, the original departure- plan date, was REI’s annual “garage sale”. Since we were here, we decided to see what kids of bargains they had. Because of their liberal return policy, you can quite often find next- to- new items returned due to buyer’s remorse! I was hoping to find the OR bivy or a backpack, but instead found the shoes I had used last year, which are now discontinued, in my size… and they were ¼ the price I had paid for my Asolos, which I could now return of course! That is… a lot of money. I immediately snatched them up, along with some clothes that were insanely cheap.

I was a bit concerned that I had spent too much money, but not 4- hours after making these purchases, I received an email regarding a camera I had posted on Craigslist in February, and had given up on selling. The guy wanted it, was NOT haggling, and was willing to deal that night… if I drove to Albuquerque. Not wanting to mess around with another CL- flaker, I asked him to cover the gas and Chris and I were on our way. The selling price of the camera nearly doubled the money I had spent at REI that morning!

Ten minutes out of the driveway, my old buddy the Saturn had something go wrong with it. I’m no mechanic, but I know when your car makes odd noises, smokes, and has fluid gushing from the bottom, it is a good idea to get it home! That is exactly what I did. I still have no idea what’s wrong with it, but DO know that it died at the perfect time since after this weekend, it was going to sit indefinitely anyhow. We switched cars and completed our trip to Albuquerque.

The ride home was remarkable. There was a sense of joy that we all remember feeling as children, but for whatever reason, lose for the most part, as we grow up. A sense of excitement and knowing you are on the verge of discovery. I would love to elaborate on that, but the conversation ultimately led to the realization that we are in the audience watching the dramas of our own lives unfold.

Sunday was a wrap- up day, and as I type this, we are about to head out on this long- awaited journey. I’ve been encamped for seven months, and am ready to go. The typical pains of departure are still there, but I know I am on the right track. Right now, the “plan” is to ride to Nashville and see what happens. Kim’s roommate has suddenly decided she would rather not have company this week (after saying it was fine a month or two ago), but that’s par for the course! We’ll see what happens over the next day or two… I’ll let you know... and I still have NO idea what this draw to Oklahoma is!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

4/1/09: Chris-On the Road

I chose that title simply because I know how much Chris hates Kerouac.

I finally heard from him this morning as he was preparing to get aboard the Front Range Express from Denver to Colorado Springs. He had some trouble getting the apartment closed out in Denver after his roommate flaked out on helping clean the place, and needed to stay the last night to finish.

Going on about an hours sleep, Chris took the 12:40 FREX from Downtown Denver to Tejon St. in Colorado Springs, I then Google Mapped a route for him to take to get out of the sprawl. There were two ways to go. The western side that would take him adjacent to Ft. Carson ending on US-50 about 20-miles west of Pueblo, or the eastern route thru Fountain, running parallel to I-25 and the train going directly into Pueblo.

Chris elected to take the eastern route in order to avoid the military’s prying eyes, being so close to NORAD. He arrived in Colorado Springs at about 2:30, and was in Fountain, a little hamlet to the south of the city, by 6:15- after which there is nothing but prairie all the way to Pueblo, another 30-40 miles south. At last check, he was in Fountain with a dying cell phone battery, spying out places to bivy-down for the night.

He said that his pack weighed 70# with all the food, and that the weather was cold with snow obviously falling in the mountains off to his west, and over Colorado Springs behind him. The forecast says there was a possibility of an inch of snow AND/OR thunderstorms (!) tonight dropping to the mid 20’s, but with the Alpine bivy, a good sleeping bag, and many clothes, he’ll he snug.

Tomorrow should be about perfect as it will be warmer, and he'll be out in the bush...er...grass all the way to Pueblo.