Monday, October 24, 2011

Laramie, Wyoming

I stayed with Jessie and Lucie in windy Wyoming. Laramie was the name of the town. When I mentioned the wind he told me something that Wyoming residents say,"Utah blows and Nebraska sucks." And so all the fertile Wyoming soil has been blown into Nebraska. Jessie works with international students at the community college. He likes Norse Mythology and can read German. He made us spaghetti with meat sauce, and later we had brownies and ice cream for dessert. We watched some "Dirty Jobs," which I haven't seen in years. It might have been the first time I've watched TV since July.

His house is a duplex with an evergreen trim. He has two bedrooms and a bunch of closets, and it's decently priced. He had bookshelves and paintings on the walls, kitchens and a table, and a fully-stocked kitchen. It was a comfortable place to stay.

His puppy was 4 months old, part Border collie part part Blue Heeler. She was soft and playful and patterned like a cow.

Area 51 Goth club

Sadly, I have no pictures of our stay at the goth club in Salt Lake City, but here's the name, taken from their website. There were three dance floors: downstairs played the industrial, dark goth music. They played such favorites as "Tear you apart," by She Wants Revenge, and "Reptile," by Nine Inch Nails. Upstairs played classic rock for a little while, then it got more modern--they mixed stuff by Kesha and heavy rock beats. It sounded kind of cool, but eventually got really annoying, because we wanted goth music, not only the music, but the words as well.

The third area was in the bar. The bar took up two floors, and on the bottom floor there was a small dance floor in front of a large TV-screen playing music videos. They played a little Marilyn Manson, and they played my favorite jazz song "Stray Cat Strut," by the Stray Cats. We spent a lot of time dancing on our own, and sometimes we swung to industrial music. "I've always wanted to do that," he said.

First frat party: Mormon

I am borrowing this picture so people will hopefully read this entry! Eric and I went to our first frat party ever. (He's in grad school, and I was an undergraduate until a year and a half ago.) We dressed him all in black, and I wore my new goth-corset with my long black skirt. Out front there was a guy playing with flames across something like a trough. The dance floor was in the basement. Stringy glow-in-the-dark things hung from the ceiling, they were neon pink or green. The theme was Angels and Demons, so many of the girls wore white dresses with wings, and some guys also wore wings--a few were black. Some people were dressed normal. I was wearing my purple choker.

Eric and I danced close. We danced together or apart to the modern mixed-up music. Sometimes I danced goth. We swing-danced now and then, whenever the feeling arose. When we wanted a drink, we joked that they might not have any, since it's a Mormon frat-party, but with the way girls were dressed and dancing, we figured maybe there was so alcohol--because a Mormon girl does not show her shoulders, and most of these girls were barely contained in their skimpy tops. But alas, when we reached the drink table at the end of the basketball court, the only available drinks were sodas; the brown bottle that we thought might be beer turned out to be root beer.

Before the party, Eric told me that Mormon parties advertise "Root-beer pong," instead of the traditional "beer-pong." I hate that game anyway. I wouldn't play it sober or drunk. But it must be really boring when sober.

We solved the problem. We went out, got some shots (the bars are hidden in the backs of buildings) and returned, rejuvenated. Eric was invited to join the fraternity on Sunday morning with a password: "72 and sunny." We danced until the music ended.

Nature in Utah (and Eric)

This is Eric Allen hard at work on some outcropping (I think he called it that). He was writing about Matrixes and stuff. A matrix wall is where rocks are touching other rocks.

Whenever I ask Eric "what kind of rock is this?" He licks it.

I guess autumn is pretty here on the east coast, but it's so firey in Utah. I love the reds and oranges, especially when there's some dark pine in the background. The only leaves that change color in the Sawtooths are on the Aspens, everything else has needles.

Eric is like a beer. These were...Elderberries? They were good. We ate a bunch of them. He said blue berries are usually okay--it's the other-colored berries you want to be careful of.

Like myself, Eric is fond of going off-trail, and we found ourselves following a small river through a ravine. The walls were steep, but here and there we found places to climb up, and we eventually made it to the top, where we hung out with the ancient trees and trees that looked like moss. I got bit by a spider or something, and it started out as one small bite, then turned into five or six bumps in one area on my wrist. I was a little nervous, because there aren't a whole lot of things that can kill you where I come from, but the rest of the country is like a dark forest of hidden killers, isn't it? I didn't die, though. So I guest it wasn't a big deal.

The Gunny Wolf

This is the story of "The Gunny Wolf." I found it on Utah State's campus. (Some sources spell it gunniwolf.) According to the sign, it was a story that was original told by slaves to their children, and then a teacher in Utah started telling it to her student. It's a great story to read out loud because there are sound effects. The gist of the story is a girl's father tells her not to go out the gate of their home. But when she's alone one day, she sees some beautiful flowers outside the gate, and she wants them for her father, so she begins picking them, and she keeps seeing another, more perfect flower than before, and she keeps getting further and further away. She begins singing when suddenly a wolf comes by--the gunny wolf!--and says, "please sing that sweet song again," and she's terrified, but she continues singing, until the wolf falls asleep, and then she starts tiptoeing home. He confronts her several times, and the same thing happens, until she reaches the gate and she's safe at home. "And she never went outside the gate alone again."

The story is addressing a couple points such as obeying one's parents, but also: girls should not go outside alone. Maybe it's because I was in Mormon country, but that's what I got from it. It also shows that the girl could defend herself though--she wasn't completely defenseless, since she could sing the wolf to sleep and get away. I would have gone outside the gate again after learning that I could do that. But I should stop analyzing the children's story. Not obeying one's parents could be a biblical reference to Adam and Eve and the apple, or it could just be a parent trying to get her children to obey her so she can keep them safe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One day in Oregon

I stayed in Grants Pass with my hostess Lauren--in the green Malibou shirt--and her housemates. The guy in the picture is her friend Dave from Pennsylvania. He's been WOOFing and was on his way to another project down in California. He's been vegan for seven years and doesn't smile much. He had some crazy stories about WOOFing in the spring, although he didn't seem to know how interesting those stories were. He told me he squatted with friends in San Francisco for a few weeks while waiting for another WOOFing job. Apparently the situation is not very simple, and it's even more difficult for volunteers when they don't have their own transportation. He hitchhiked down to the Cali. place the day I left the house.

People at various stages of life were at the glass doors of the Good Will. The store opened at 10 a.m. When the doors opened, we all rushed inside. There were boxes large enough to have delivered washing machines and inside these boxes were clothes of many sizes and styles; a mishmash of adults and childrens' and underwear and fancywear.

I began picking through an untouched box as the sounds of others digging through shoes, books, appliances and other clothes, tumbled around me. A woman with her child joined my box and she started tossing armloads of clothing into the empty wooden pen beside the box. "This makes it easier," she told me, "So you don't keep looking at the same stuff."

"Do a lot of people come here?" I asked.

"Yeah, a lot of times people buy here and then sell again later."

"What are you looking for?"

"I'm looking for anything leather."

"I think I saw--" I said, reaching back into the box.

"No, it was fake," she said, moving on to another box.

An older guy moved great heaping piled of clothes faster than I could sift through them. Many fell onto the floor. "I only come here for the Levis," he said. I wasn't sure if he meant the jeans of the name brand.

I brought my 5 or 6 girl shirts to the counter, wondering if I'd have enough money to pay for it all. The price was 70 cents a pound. "Two eighty-seven," the woman said, after weighing my new clothes. That would have cost me at least $20 at Salvation Army, or $60 at Marshalls.

Rained out Redwoods

I finally made it the Humboldt Redwoods! I got in early--around 1 p.m. the day before. I set up the tent, took a two hour nap, then decided to chill until morning, when I would do some real hiking. Around 5 a.m. the rain woke me up. I fell back asleep. I kept waking up, but every time I tried to sleep just until the rain stopped falling. It never did. Around 8, I got up and began dragging things out of my tent, where my bag and some books had already gotten wet from the condensation inside.

In pajamas and bare feet, I took the tent apart, wrapped it up, and stuffed it into the back of the Focus. I tried taking pictures of the campsite at least, since I knew I wouldn't get any of the forest, but every one turned out blurry and I decided not to post any here. I cleaned up in the coin-operated shower stall, then began the journey north to my next couch in Eureka. But I didn't make it. I slept in another Wal Mart. I drove to my next destination in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Car broken into

The morning after goth-night, I went out to my car and found the rear passenger window shattered over the sidewalk and the seat inside. My friend Miguel's bag had been stolen, as had mine, and both of the duffel bags with my clothes were also gone. Goodbye underwear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, winter jacket, hairbrush, deodorant, all of that stuff. Luckily, though, they had left the massive suitcase with all my pretty dresses, and I am lazy enough that most of my skirts were lying around my car since I'd never bothered to put them away.

The idiot who broke into my car overlooked my laptop, camera, GPS, and CDs. It was amazing, really. And he left Miguel's walking stick, which made Miguel very happy. "Everything I owned was in that bag," he said. And now it's gone forever.

I drove out of San Francisco as fast as the speed limit would allow me, wind whipping in through the glass-less back window.

Rte. 1 Pacific

I took Route 1 North as advised by many people. It was worth the curvy roads for the views.

This is an old pond on the side of the road. Old machinery rises from its murky depths.

Cool trees.

Can you tell where the ocean meets the sky?

Muir Woods

I made it to the Redwoods on a weekend, of course. As I speed-hiked my way down the path, trying to get as far as possible from the crowds, I saw a couple walking just as fast, also trying to get away. This is a couple from New Orleans. They own land in Alabama, where the man hunts and burns brush. He's an engineer. They have three kids. We hiked for 7.5 miles. I had no map and would have probably gotten very lost if not for them. The Redwoods here were pretty, but not nearly as spectacular as I imagined...especially after seeing the Sequoias.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goth Night

My new friend Chiara--from Italy--went to the Cat Club in San Francisco for goth night. Here's a rated G version of the story:

A skeleton dangled from the top of the cage. The cage was taped off so no one could play inside it.

Sweet, dark music was already vibrating in the back room. One girl in a body-gripping dress and veil was dancing on the floor, swirling her arms and legs and very slowly leaning back into sensual poses. Two tall, skinny transvestites danced in the corner, together yet not together. The more masculine of the two was wearing a black hat and trench coat, and his partner shimmied in fishnet tights and a short-short skirt, with long hair and paint on his face. I danced every second throughout the night. The fem-tran scratched his fingers at me and we competed to see who could sink lowest to the floor.

Dancers on the floor keep their hands outstretched but to themselves; we keep our own space. No one invades the bubble, unless invited.

I wore a dark blue corset, a ruffled black and puke-green skirt, and knee-high platform boots. A friend clipped black netting in my hair to serve as a veil. The night's theme was "Undead Wedding," And my friend and I were hoping to get in for free if we looked enough the part. Sadly, there was a girl at the kiosk, and we had to pay the $3 entrance fee.

There were dancers on the side stages. One of them was this man with long hair and a painted face, a white, long-sleeved button-up--bloody. He moved like he was fighting demons with shoulders and arms and fingers, spinning around to get the ones behind him. I wanted him fiercely.

The music was sweet and lovely, like a seemingly well-behaved child, but underneath it slipped around longing limbs.

It was a lovely, intense night. We danced for so long that my feet were bruised for days afterward.

San Francisco: Miguel & '80s night

From the Singer's house, I walked to the Golden Gate Bridge and saw a rainbow. It was there that I met Miguel. He was walking across the bridge away from San Francisco, and I was walking back. He was carrying a carved walking stick, a backpacker's pack, and wearing a hemp shirt with a hood. I pulled off my headphones and asked him where he was from, and then we spent the day together.

Miguel had been in town for the last 5 or 6 days. He's been traveling since July. He hiked from Seattle, Washington, and said that only 200 miles or so were in a car--the rest he walked. Back home he has a good job. But he wanted to do something else, to see something else. So he put it on hold and left. He's a little more than half Irish, and a little less than half Mexican. He was heading back to Portland, Oregon to stay with this woman he met. He planned on getting a job for the winter and would then continue his journey down to Colorado in the spring. I offered him a ride.

This was an awesome door. Miguel kept putting his staff in front of my pictures, and this one came out all right, so here it is. You can see that on top of the staff is a bear, more teddy-ish than wild. A man in Miguel's hometown of Salem, Oregon gave him this staff. It's heavy and finely carved.

Miguel went with me to the Cat Club for Thursday's "'80s night." My mom would have loved it. Women wore in zebra-striped dresses and shoulder pads; they wore knee-high socks and put their hair up in poofy styles. For some reason, guys at these types of places think that it's okay to touch the girls they're talking to--I wanted to hurt someone every time they touched my back or my arm or a shoulder. I was SO not interested in that. But I did dance in the cage, which was fun. Well, mostly I climbed to the top of the cage, because climbing is my thing.

San Francisco: The Mission

I visited the Mission, as advised by the Diana Kapp. I stayed with she and her husband David Singer in the Presidio Park--a very safe, sane corner of San Francisco, very close to the Golden Gate Bridge. They aren't allowed to mow the lawn, paint rooms in the house, or fix anything without telling the park rangers or whatever they are, who then come in and do it for them. The park was a military base in the late 1800s.

Walking through the mission reminded me of home. Home in Lawrence, Mass. Most of the signs were in Spanish, there were outdoor food markets, and I didn't fit in very well in my purple-and-pink patchwork skirt. But no one bothered me.

The main street that tourists visit was not the street I started on--here's Valencia Street, where some very expensive cafes live, charging $5 for one parfait, or $7 for a slice of pie! I walked in and out these places a lot. But this, this is a pirate store. It is awesome. There are booby traps, and drawers of rocks and soft things. There's a cabinet that says "oops!" and when opened a jumble of bouncy-balls fall out. The store is really a writing program for teens, and I guess the store just built up around it. The girl behind the counter said she started out helping with the writing program and gradually moved into the store. In the back there are tables with groups of teens gathered around, working on writing exercises. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have something that cool back home!

Welcome to Paxton Gate! This crazy shop full of bizarre taxidermied animals and plants, and strange books and other things. It was very cool. The store has been around for some 20 years, while another store I visited in Haight-Ashbury has only been around for a couple years. The other one was called "Loved to Death," and it had the same concept going, except it was a little darker, and much smaller. There were stuffed birds and mice dressed in doll clothing and sitting at dollhouse-sized kitchen tables with teeny plates and silverware.

On my way back to the bus, this street musician was singing. She sang in a shrill, almost painful voice, but she did it while balancing on the globe and playing the violin. It was a painful sight. Don't worry, I didn't just take the picture and bolt.

Lake Tahoe

On my way to Lake Tahoe I got my first ticket ever, for "not stopping completely at a stop sign." The cop had several scribbled on my ticket and gave me the wrong phone number to call. But the guy who answered the phone told me this anyway: "Every moving violation is a fine of $235," or something like that. I got sick immediately after getting the ticket. There are so many dumb things that people sue over, why shouldn't I sue over that?

But anyway. I made it to Lake Tahoe and drove around the lake.

I saw some pretty neat shops, like this one--it sold crystals and hippy-dresses and new agey- items. I was strongly reminded of Martha's Vineyard--lots of shops along the water, each unique, no real chains or whatever. But a bunch of places were closing up, and there wasn't a single used bookstore. I went into an antique store where one of the sellers told me they were selling out because they just couldn't afford the overhead anymore. I visited a lot of thrift stores, and those seem to be doing all right. My favorite was the "Pass it on Thrift Shop," where the owner sold items at an all-time low, and even lowered the price on some books I bought because one seemed in bad condition. I got Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," (my former professor's first delve into literary Journalism) and Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer."

I stayed with a friend of Cecilia's, Erik. He's a very smart guy who worked for Apple for eight and a half years. His house is overflowing with organized piles of stuff: books, CDs, DVDs, wires, computers, candy...on every floor. He is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, duh, so I had some good reading while there. He even took me and a friend of his out to dinner. Don't tell anyone at the ranch, but this dinner was better than anything I'd had in Idaho. And there were paintings on the walls for $1,200.

It was raining when I left Tahoe, and the lake was as fierce as the ocean. But it was beautiful too.

On my way west, I took a detour and found the old Donner route. I followed it.

In peoples' yards and on the side of the road there was snow more than a foot deep on this old road I took. I think the road was 44, although I'm not sure. It said it was an old road.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mono Lake

This is the South Tufa side of Mono Lake. These coral-like columns rising up are called "tufas." They're made of "calcium carbonate," a type of limestone. They look like they might be made of that sandy-stuff at Lake Powell, but they're tough and sharp like coral reefs.

Mono Lake is 2.5 times saltier and 100 times as alkaline as the ocean.

A type of shrimp--Brine Shrimp--is unique to this lake. They survive off of the bacteria in this water along with the alkali flies. These are flies that can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes at a time.

The natives who lived here were known as the Kutzadika.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Leaving Yosemite and First Campfire

I drove North after leaving Yosemite. It was an extremely scenic route.

My next point of interest was Mono Lake, as suggested by Jim back in L.A. As soon as I got there, I asked about free camping and got myself a fire permit. This permit means it's okay for me to start a fire in any national forest in California. I couldn't believe they gave me one--I've never started my own fire! But permit in hand, I drove to the national forest outside of town and began down long, treacherous dirt roads. I was talking to my dad on the phone, and I think that's why I popped a tire.

I had to unpack everything from the back to uncover my spare. A nice family who was moving to the Silicon Valley stopped to help me.

After that drama, I found a place not too far off a main road. It was in camping area SI17. Finding firewood was easy--everything was dead. And it was all dry, too. That made me a little nervous. I cleared a spot, then searched for rocks to make a pit, but there were no rocks anyway, so I used logs to form my pit. Bad idea, I learned later, but anyway, I made my own campfire for the first time!

I guess I've figured out the technique. It got pretty big at one point, and it even started eating the edges of my pit, so that didn't work out too well. The wind was fierce at times, so I had to keep an eye on my fire, which I did. And I finally got to make dinner over a fire. I dissected an onion, then stuffed hamburger inside. I wrapped a potato in tinfoil. I put them both in the fire, as close to the coals as possible.

I wasn't sure if the hamburger was still good, but I ate it anyway. The onion was tiny, so that part of dinner was gone in seconds. The potato didn't seem to be cooking, but when I cut it open it was soft. There was black stuff inside, and at first I thought it was burnt, but then I realized it was mold. Ugh. I made hot cocoa for dessert.

I spent a half hour or so putting my fire out--I was not interested in causing a forest fire. The coals sound like broken glass as they're moved around, and they look like hot orange stars in a sky of ash.

The night was awful. There were no bear boxes around, so I was certain an animal would try getting into my car. At every sound I woke up, car key close to my hand so I could push the panic button in an attempt to save my car. I woke up every hour or so. The wind got crazy, and while I was warm when curled up, the noise was too loud for me to sleep through. But the tent made it through the night.

In Mono, Daniel tried bending my alloy wheel back into place. It seems to have worked. He charged me $20, but Ricky (?) the guy at the register only charged me $15. It's going to be weird when I get older and the kindness of guys just stops. But for now I'm enjoying it.

Yosemite Valley and: there's no place to stay

When I got into Yosemite Valley, I began to understand what all the hype was about.

This whole trip I have been enjoying hikes by myself. But sometimes it gets lonely, I wanted a hiking buddy. I found this guy sleeping in the theater and started talking to him. His name was Steve. He lives in Denver, Colorado and is originally from Kentucky. He was an easygoing guy and we had some good conversations. I asked if he wanted to share a campsite, and then we went searching for one.

The climbers in Fresno had told me about Camp 4, so we looked for that one first. When we got there, there were tents pitched everywhere. The site was right next to some sweet walls, and people were climbing them! I was trying very hard not to ditch my new friend right there and start climbing. The site was full. I asked some guys if we could just pitch a tent on their site, and one guy said, "You're welcome to, but if you get caught it's a $200 fine."

Steve and I were like, "What?" And the guy showed us the tags that were attached to every tent--proof that they belonged there.

"You can grab a sleeping bag and camp under the rocks. The fine is less if you're not in a campsite."

I wanted to camp there so bad. I was sure I could make some friends who would let me stay in their tent, but I couldn't just ditch Steve. The worst/best part about the site? It cost $5 a person--definitely the cheapest I've ever seen in a national park.

Steve and I searched for over an hour for somewhere, ANYWHERE to camp. But it was the weekend, and even during the last weekend of September, apparently, Yosemite is suffocating under a heavy blanket soaked with tourists. We tried this one place, but it cost $100 a night and pretty much a glorified tent:

It's illegal to sleep in your car inside the park. It's illegal to camp in a national park without a permit or unless it's inside a campground. We decided to drive out of the park and into the national forest for free camping. But we must have gone a bad route--I think it was 140 west, into some forest. But the one trail we saw had signs up: "No overnight parking. No camping." And we knew if we did it, our cars would be ticketed in the morning. I was dying to make my hamburger-stuffed onions over an open campfire, but we turned back and checked out a hotel.

The hotel had a room. Two queen-sized beds. We got upgraded though, when they realized that room was taken. So we got a family-room, which is basically the same thing, plus a room with a king-sized bed, an extra bathroom, and a kitchen. It was awesome. He paid for the room and I couldn't afford much, so I got us dinner at the restaurant. Steve was very nice and got an appetizer for dinner, as did I. $20 an entree is not worth it!

In the morning I made breakfast. I made him french toast with sliced bananas and apples (I had no syrup or cinnamon) and for myself I made some eggs and toast. It was delicious. It was amazing to be able to wash dishes in a sink.

I thought I'd spend at least one night at that climbing camp, but there was no way to get to it driving--there's a shuttle bus--and I was very tired of all the people. So I ran away. I ran into traffic. And I got to see a controlled forest fire.