Dusting it off, 3 years later…

Hello readers!

I know it’s been over three years since I last posted on this blog. That’s mostly because I haven’t been fuckin’ truckin. Since moving to New Orleans, I’ve spent probably less than 2 months out of state, mostly back in Santa Cruz and a little bit in Austin. I’ve checked out Pensacola and Pittsburgh, too, but I’ve been pretty sedentary; I lived in the very same house for almost 3 full years.

My experiences have been less about traveling in space and more about traveling in time. I’ve gone through several jobs, one master’s degree and one boyfriend; I recently moved into my very own place. I’ve written a lot and learned a lot and eaten a LOT and made a whole new community, people who I consider to be practically family. I’ve gotten into swimming. I’ve acclimated to the fabulous Cajun diet. I’m growing a real vinyl collection. I’ve learned how to make all kinds of killer cocktails, and how to hold a conversation with pretty much anybody.

I love this city. I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

Except for this road trip in a little under a month!

I’m taking about 3 weeks off work (I bartend at a Hilton property) to traverse the Southeast-to-Southwest with my little sister, Yasi, who is in the middle of her own epic truckin’ journey. Ben, my ex, who was featured in this blog so recently but who I hadn’t seen since until this past week, is also traveling the country; he hasn’t had an apartment of his own since June.

I am blessed to know such adventurous souls. I’m not sure I am one, right now. I love having my own space, my records, my books, my paintings on the walls.

But I’m looking forward to doing another little tour of America.

So stay tuned!

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Photo post: The Bywater, August 29, 2013

Eight years exactly after Katrina hit, I took a couple hours to walk through the Bywater, a neighborhood I hadn’t yet explored.  I can’t get over the houses here, the way everything is so much like the New Orleans I had as a preconceived notion.

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Days 41-45: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Final Destination!

DAY 41, CONT.

The drive back to Chicago is uneventful, except for I hear a big thunk and think my car is leaking something important.  (It turns out to just be water from the A/C.)  Eliana and I meet at a German café and cross the border into Indiana. 

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Indianapolis, AKA Vonnegutland, the most interesting thing about it.

We eat in Indianapolis, which seems bland, and make it across the state to Clarksville, where I have my first couchsurfing experience. 

Matt and Jeremy have several beds in the basement, tons of 45s, and a steel pedal guitar.

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DAY 42

We cross the Ohio, which is the Mason-Dixon line, into Louisville, Kentucky.  Immediately it gets muggy, and restaurants have “New Orleans Breakfast Scrambles with Andouille Sausage.”

We stop at the Jim Beam factory and sample bourbons.

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Much of Kentucky has no service, and Google Maps stops working altogether.  The state is bluegrass and rolling and beautiful.  It keeps switching between Central and Eastern time, adding a haze to the day.

We spend the afternoon in the Mammoth Cave system, which is incredible.  Aboveground it is a jungle—belowground it is endless caves.

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Cave!

We roll through Dinosaur World, but we do not enter the exhibit.  It is about to close.

Then Nashville.  We are staying at a massive industrial hostel with no nearby parking.  We check out Broadway, which is an incredible concentration of honky tonk.  I am too exhausted to fully appreciate the honky tonk.

 

DAY 43

We move to another hostel near Vanderbilt.  There is an exhibit at the Frist called SENSUOUS STEEL, about art deco vehicles.  It is… sensuous.

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Real sensuous.

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Soooooo sexxxyyyyyyyyy.

More honky tonk.  We meet a band from LA.  We learn about the Ryman.

 We almost lose Mosely after dinner.

My high school friend John lives here and he heads a band called The Inscape.  We meet at a bar, and he gives us his records. 

 

DAY 44

The Vanderbilt area is hip.  The man who works at the cookware store warns us about pythons. 

I get an ice cream soda.

My tape converter has broken, so we buy some tapes.  The Johnny Cash tape only plays backwards.  It might be the devil.

We spend the night in Birmingham.  Eliana’s mom has succeeded in terrifying us about Birmingham, so we stay in the hotel.

 

DAY 45

We detour at Lake Lurleen to swim.  The rain in the lake is unbelievable.  

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We fuck up the drive-thru at Sonic.  Neither of us knows how to work a drive-thru.  But now we have eaten Sonic (unimpressive at best).

We cross Mississippi. 

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I’m not actually sure if this is Mississippi, but it’s definitely AMURKA!

Then, Bienvenue en Louisiane: to enter New Orleans we cross the long bridge across Lake Pontchartrain.  It is epic, the endless lake, the slowly approaching skyline, the city I have been edging toward for forty-five days. 

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The rest is here, and I am going to document it differently.  Eliana stayed for a few days, and we ate out and danced and eschewed everything but funk.  But being in New Orleans is my end point; it isn’t traveling, not for me.  I’ve been here now almost three weeks and it must be described from some other, more leisurely angle. 

 Apologies for the delays, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep posting thoughts and pictures from this incredible city as my life here deepens.  There’s an opportunity with WWNO, so I’ll let y’all know about that as details fill out….

Days 36-41: Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin

DAY 36

In the morning, before we leave the farm, I discover that my credit card information has been stolen.  Someone has been buying a lot of gas with my credit card in cities I have never been to.  I get it canceled and we take off.  Suzan tells me she thinks I am better suited for academia than farming.  She is making fun of me for my weak constitution.  She doesn’t know about all the running I did with her awesome German shepherd Jackson.

On the road, I have a phone interview for a job at the New Orleans Audobon Aquarium (spoiler: nothing ends up coming of it, at least so far).  

We get coffee with Megan in Geneva, Illinois.  All of a sudden there are tons of toll roads, our first ones this whole time.  We get to Kenosha, WI at 8 to hang out with Ben’s grandma.  We watch The Late Quartet.  Ben’s grandma is awesome.

 

 DAY 37

We go to Tenuta’s and look at cheese and beer.  We eat artichoke dip.  It is hazy.  We watch The Picture of Dorian Gray and start Six Feet Under.

 

DAY 38

In Kenosha there is a market and a public museum.  There is also fried ice cream.

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Another one of these

 

DAY 39

Lollapalooza!

Everyone on the train to Chicago is ridiculous and seventeen.  In Chicago we eat deep dish, obviously, and then go to Grant Park to cash in our tickets. 

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Why I’m not gluten-free: exhibit one.

We see Alex Clare, Tegan and Sara, Alt-J, Dogblood, Major Lazer, and the Cure.  Alt-J and the Cure are particularly awesome.  The music festival is big and hot and there is no service because there are so many people using their phones. 

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On the way back we have to wait for a long time.  All of the concertgoers burst into song at Ogilvie.

 

DAY 40

I get to see the beach for Lake Michigan.

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DAY 41

Ben’s grandmother tells us stories.  I am leaving to meet with Eliana in Chicago.  We say our goodbyes. 

I listen to Fleetwood Mac in the car.  

Days 25-35: Draco Hill, Iowa

DAY 25

I drive until the Archway with a cheesy Old West escalator.  We get Runza in Lincoln.  Iowa has “Modern Rest Areas”.

When we land at the farm in West Branch, Iowa, Draco Hill, there are dogs and mulberry cobbler and another volunteer named Melanie, who is vegan.  The house is beautiful and incredibly efficient (geothermal, etc).

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Also there are guinea fowl.

DAY 26

Paul and Suzan, our academic-farmer hosts, are busy in the morning.  I start reading The American Way of Eating, which is fascinating.  (I read this book pretty much the whole time I’m here, and it teaches me a lot, although the author, yet another skinny white NYU alum based in Brooklyn, is a little irritating.)

In the afternoon we thin apples at the neighbor’s farm. I fall off the ladder and skin my arm, which will lead to a mildly impressive scar.  Melanie turns out to be not just vegan but also Lutheran.

Later, we meet Grant, a startup farmer who Paul and Suzan are investing in, and discuss gluten.  Grant is a red-bearded hipster who is gluten-free, and we are supposed to be his helpers while we’re here.

DAY 27

We pull garlic with Grant, then at this hippie Derek’s farm, Echolective.  Farming in Iowa runs on a gift economy, and our labor is something to be traded—this is nice because it allows us to see a lot of different styles and situations.  We meet a lot of hippies and they give us some fresh trout.  One of them used to live down the street from Ben in Syracuse.

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Slightly before the awkward sunburn which took forever to get rid of.

After her Hooverball practice (see: West Branch, Iowa), Suzan finally gives us the speedy version of the ground tour.  They have bought this land from Big Corn and are trying to restore native Iowa prairie; it’s beautiful and there are fireflies and something we’ve recorded as a “priceless moonrise.”

DAY 28

We help out another local farmer, Jean; I pull beets and trim varities of basil for her CSA.  At lunch Grant’s friend Daniel, a locavore (everybody seems to be a food geek, which is awesome), tells us that the smartest, cheapest way to be farmers is to live on a commune.

DAY 29

We are finally actually working on Grant’s land—his farm is large and has to be walked (no four-wheelers here).  Our job is to compost his plants, which have names like honeyberry and seaberry and look hopelessly dehydrated.  I begin to understand why unconventional farming is, well, unconventional.  On the way out of the farm I get a Charlie horse in my stomach and am out of commission for the rest of the afternoon.

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A girl we met at Echolective, Elena, who used to volunteer with Paul and Suzan, has invited us to the bar in Lisbon where she works.  Ben and I drive to the bar; there is an impressive thunderstorm.  At the bar we discuss bacon vodka, and a drunk named Dustin tells Ben to work for Pioneer.

DAY 30

We battle an old fence, and I learn how to make köfte, Turkish meatballs.  In the evening Paul and Suzan have guests over, so the three of us go into Iowa City, the college town that hosts the University of Iowa, to listen to music.  It reminds me of Santa Cruz.

Afterward we have a good bonfire on the property and talk about religion and philosophy.  Fireflies, still.

DAYS 31-32

Wood chipping, chainsaw trouble.  We like to wood chip.

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 Also, there are academic conversations which are pretty rad.  I learn a lot about farming politics and Big Corn.  Paul is a radical anthropologist and Suzan is an ex-communist.

DAY 33

The guinea keets break their light bulb.  Melanie and I pickle garlic bulbils in vinegar.

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Later, Ben runs the tractor into a solar panel.  Disaster ensues.

DAY 34

It is wet and we go to Grant’s anyway.  Too wet to really work (plus Grant is MIA); Ben and Melanie disagree with me about this, since they have martyr complexes.  I sleep all afternoon to try and avoid the fever I feel coming on from getting soaked.  Suzan thinks I am a baby.  Later there is a good game of Scrabble.

DAY 35

We clean the guinea coop, then go to Iowa City while Quaker kids are visiting the farm, to get out of the way.  I spend some time at Prairie Lights bookstore.  We see Hoover’s birthplace.

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This is where Hoover slept

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Days 22-24: Colorado, Nebraska

DAY 22

Driving into Denver was intimidating; today, Denver continues to be sprawling and distant.  We get breakfast at an expensive creperie in Cherry Creek; the waitress gives me a discount just for asking. 

I leave Ben in Denver and drive down to Buena Vista (pronounced “Byoona Veesta”) to visit my friend Chloe and her parents.  On the windy drive there is a lot of lightning. 

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DAY 23

Buena Vista has a river and Collegiate Peaks, named after Harvard, Princeton, etc. because they were named after those schools were founded, although they are unimaginably older.

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I reconvene with Ben at his cousin’s place in Littleton.  Ben’s friend Andrew, a beatnik, happens to also be driving through Denver with his equally hip friend.  We meet up for spaghetti and almost go to a show.  I remember the poems about Denver.  It does not feel like the same place.  Everyone we’ve met in Denver has moved to Denver in the last six years.  

DAY 24

Back on the road: Highway 76 -> 80.  I make a reservation through hotels.com over the phone, where my credit card number might have been stolen, although who knows.  In Nebraska we eat at a place called Lisa’s Restaurant, which is very quiet. 

Ben has bought a road trip book by Chuck Klosterman and we take turns reading.  

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Days 18-21: Idaho, Yellowstone, Wyoming to Colorado

DAY 18

We leave the farm after hangover waffles.  First stop: Craters of the Moon.

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We stop at another roadside attraction: EBR-I/II, the world’s first nuclear power plant.


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We spend the night at an overpriced, underserviced hotel in West Yellowstone.  Everything seems to be made with huckleberries.

DAY 19

Yellowstone!  What a shitshow, although the geysers are crazy and strange.  Finding parking is almost impossible; by some stroke of luck I make it back to Old Faithful just in time for the eruption.

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We haven’t planned where to sleep, and our options seem limited to the backcountry, which seems like it will be an adventure.  We obtain a pass, which involves watching a video telling us how likely it is that we will get eaten by bears (fairly likely).  On the way to the trailhead we miss the turn; Ben makes a 3-point turn and we get rear-ended by the Honda behind us.

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My bumper is dented; the other car is totaled.

While we fill out paperwork for the rangers, people and buffalo both rubberneck.

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Running out of time to hike, we are placed in emergency campsite G300 where the danger of getting eaten by bears is much lower.  There are still buffalo everywhere, though.

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DAY 20

Ben makes a statement to Progressive Insurance at a beautiful rock-skip lake in the Grand Tetons.

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I try to call my insurance, but there is no service in most of Wyoming.  Wyoming is mostly rain and rocks.

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DAY 21

I get through to Farmers.  We stop in Casper, see a Wells Fargo building that looks like an onion and a Tate Geological Museum with a mammoth skeleton.  In Wyoming the roads are pink.

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We make it to Aurora, Colorado by the evening, where Ben’s friend lives.  All of the radio in the Denver metropolitan area seems to be about smoking marijuana.