I was glad to have stayed in a hostel last night. I had a contact there who had offered me a place to stay, but staying in the hostel sort of put me more in to a travel mode, which I was glad to get in to.
Leaving Toronto, I nearly killed some guy who was happily walking across a crosswalk with flashing lights above it. I guess everyone else in Canada knows that when those lights are flashing, it pretty much means the same as a red light. I had no idea. Leaving the city, I just sort of picked a highway that headed west and hoped that I'd find my way to Highway 6, which would lead me to the ferry to the Upper Peninsula. As I spend more time on the road I begin to develop a greater respect for truck drivers. It's a pretty lonely existence.
I think a lot when I drive, so don't be surprised if a lot of these thoughts make their way on to this journal. I think a big part of my trip is my de-digitalization. I first realized I was over digitalized when my mom mentioned to me that my grandmother had written her boss a stern letter and I responded by saying that I didn't remember her having a printer for her computer. It didn't dawn on me that someone could still use a pen and paper to write someone a letter. My over-digitalization also occurred to me when I think of things that I've forgotten to bring with me, and I wonder how I'll order them off the internet without an address to deliver them to. Then it occurs to me that there are these things called stores and malls. J
I finally found my way on to highway 6 and headed north. I had no idea what time the ferry left, or even if it left on a daily basis. For all I knew I could be sitting there for a week waiting for it. Luckily I arrived at 2pm, which was in time to make the line for the 3:30 ferry. That gave me a little bit of extra time to re-arrange some gear that I'd been meaning to shift around for some time. As I was strapping down my gear, I saw a guy about my age doing the same thing to his truck, and by the looks of it, his truck was set up with a bed in the back just like mine. I went over and asked' him where he was heading, and before he could answer, I saw that his t-shirt read "Alaska or bust". Kevin and Kelly were from Massachusetts and were headed to Alaska to find work. They both had great jobs in MA but felt Alaska calling and decided to go. They set aside 2 months to make the trek out there, and Kevin had modified his full-size Chevy truck to fit a double bed in the back.
We started talking and found that we had a lot in common. I asked him if he wanted to scope out a camping spot together, and he said he'd already picked out an area that he was thinking about camping in.
The ferry drops you off on Manatoulin Island, and from there you take highway 6 north over a couple bridges to get back to the mainland. Kevin had met someone on the ferry who told him about a fishing port on the Island where we'd probably be able to find some good fresh fish. Off we went.
When we arrived in Providence bay, we found that all the fishermen had left for the day. We wandered around and asked the locals if anyone knew of someone who might have fish to sell. One of the locals told us that we might try the only restaurant on the bay. We asked the same person if he knew anywhere to camp other than the campgrounds. He said there were 2 bluffs atop the ridge overlooking the bay. One of them was still maintained, the other one was left alone years ago and was now overgrown with tall grass. Sounded perfect. We talked the restaurant owner in to selling us 5 huge (one-pound each) filets of some awesome fish, and headed to the bluff. We drove up the ridge just as the sun was going down, made our way through the weeds and found the overlook. It was one of the most amazing views I've ever seen. It was the most perfect spot we could have asked for. Amazing view of the bay and everything around it, and it was all ours. No other people for as far as we could see. We cooked up the fish and I headed to bed and slept in my truck for the first time on my trip. I was going to put up the rear window for fear of mosquitoes, but was convinced to do otherwise by Kelly. I was so happy that I did. I fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing below, and got to watch shooting stars. I woke to the sun coming in to my truck and the smell of fresh mountain air.
On my way off Manatoulin Island, I crossed over a turning bridge. It was an old relic from the 50's still in use. Every hour on the hour it rotates 90 degrees to let the boat traffic through. It was a one-lane steel and wood bridge. Rather outdated, but it fit the rusticness of the countryside well.
People out this way are certainly very nice. I pulled in to a gas station that was self serve, but a kid that worked there offered to pump my gas anyway. All the time he was making conversation and just being very sincere. I just got the idea that most all people around here were that nice, from the kid in the gas station, to the old ladies that work in the markets.
I made it all the way to Michigan, and decided to try to find another cool place to camp. I drove down a little peninsula to a town called Fairport and found a boat dock that let people camp in their grassy lot for $10. There were a few people hanging out so I decided it might be a good spot to stay. I decided to head to the local bar and pick up a 6-pack to share with the others camping there as an icebreaker. There were 3 locals at the bar and I tried to drum up conversation. They really didn't want any part of it. That sort of surprised me. I guess I get used to hostel bars where people really like to meet other folk from other places. Well, I grabbed my 6er and headed back to the campsite. Everyone had left, which left 6 beers and me. I'm not really one for drinking alone, and as it turned out I had those same 6 beers 3 weeks later when I reached Nevada. The winds were whipping hard that night and I didn't sleep well.
I woke up early, mostly because I just couldn't sleep because of the wind, and got on my way to Green Bay. Today was Monday and I called my grandfather to let him know I'd be getting in to town today as planned. He let me know that today was in fact Sunday. Sure enough, he was right. One of the first things I did when I got to Green Bay was head to a store and buy a watch which tells me what day of the week it is and put it up in my truck.
I got to my grandpas house and got out my computer to show him the photos that I had taken so far. Somehow, by putting the camera card in my computer BEFORE booting, it erased all my photos. All the pics of NYC, of Canada, Niagara, Philly - the entire first half of the trip all gone. That is why you'll see no other photos before this point other than the ones I
I had such a fantastic time the 4 days that I spent with my grandfather. All the other times I had visited with him my parents were there as well. This was one of the first times it was just the 2 of us. To make it even better, we spent many of those days driving around to visit other relatives in other parts of Wisconsin, which gave us plenty of time to talk in the car.
I visited my aunt in Mount Horub, and got to see her great new house (view right) which she and my Uncle just built. I also got a chance to visit with my other aunt and cousin in Sheboygan. Everyone I visited with was nice enough to give me tours of their respective areas, which is always one of my favorite things - to get a tour of a place from a local.
I was also able to spend a day with my aunt Kari and my cousin Travis who also live in Green Bay.
I wished I could have had more time in Green Bay and Wisconsin, as there are so many people I would have loved to see more of, but in the end, I had to stay on track to make it to Burningman by the end of August.
Headed out of Green Bay and on my way to Iowa. I got a new battery on the way out of town and was good to go.
On my way to Iowa I crossed over the mighty Mississippi and went through Cedar Rapids and through a small little town named Fairfax. Man, I thought I was from the only Fairfax in the US.
Iowa is the only state that I've been to where the premium gasoline is cheaper than the regular. Its not a typo on their signs, and its not just one station. They're all like that in Iowa.
I made it to my grandparents place in Iowa just by nightfall. My grandparents sold their house 16 years ago and have been on the move ever since. They have a nice big camper, which is decorated just as you'd expect grandmas place to be. They tow it from city to city and stay in each place for about 3 months at a time. Sometimes they go from place to place depending on where they can find volunteer work, or work in campgrounds as managers. This summer someone told them about the WorKamper program at an amusement park called Adventureland. A good number of permanent camper-retirees head there during the summer to work at the park and to camp together. It's a pretty cool set up.
I spent a couple really nice days visiting with my grandparents and checking out the park where they worked. It was great to regress to being a little kid again and go on all the rides. With the help of my grandpa I was able to install some of the parts I had bought for my truck. At night we headed to the horse racing track across the street where I ended up winning just about every bet that I placed. I ended up walking away being up about $25 for the night. I'll have to remember to bet bigger next time. J
Back on the road. This is a heck of a lot of driving. I was prepared to have a few days where all I did was drive. I thought, no problem, I can handle that. I guess I wasn't prepared to think so much. I get all sorts of thoughts running through my head. Sometimes I even think about thinking of thoughts.
I decided to make it to my Aunts house in Colorado in 2 days, which meant drive as far as I could the first day, then finish the drive the following day. Well, as it turned out, I made it through Iowa and all of Nebraska and well in to Wyoming the first day. I was so close I could have made it to my aunt's house, but I had it in my head that I was stopping, so I stopped in Cheyenne. I wandered in to a small local bar just as it was closing. The bartender, a girl named Brianna, said she was headed to the only bar in town left open on a Sunday at 10pm, and invited me along. We got to the cowboy bar and it was just as I expected. Wooden beams inside, lots of people wearing cowboy hats, and a huge mechanical bull inside. The crowd was pretty cool. Brianna introduced me to a lot of her friends, and I had a pretty good time. I came close to getting roughed up by some guy who mistakenly thought I was hitting on his fiancée. Other than that, it was a great night. I ended up sleeping in a rest stop, and once again woke up waaaay too early for someone who doesn't have a job to go to.
As I make it to Colorado I wonder if my truck has any sense of being home. This truck lived here for the first 10 years of its life before moving out to the east coast with my friend Ryan. There's a ton of these first-generation 4runners here. Unlike DC where everyone has to have new cars and these 4runners are so far and few between.
In the morning I made it to my aunts new place in Colorado. Her and my Uncle have just moved on to 80 acres of prairie land just north of Fort Collins. It's their own little slice of utopia. Country living is very different from city or suburb living. I can see what would make someone fall in love with it, but don't know if it would ever work for me. It was nice to be out there so far removed from the hustle and bustle. The roads are all dirt roads and once a week or so a plow comes out to scrape out all the grooves. There are 4-way stop intersections that you go through at 50mph because you'd be able to see anyone coming for miles in any direction.
My uncle got out his shotgun and we took shots at the clay pigeons from the thrower he had set up facing his property. That was definitely the most I've ever shot a shotgun. I was a bit sore the next day. By day, you could watch Elk run across their property, and at night you could hear the coyotes in the distance.
I spent some time in the college town of Fort Collins, which looked like it would have been an awesome place to go to school. Then again, I went to Slippery Rock, which is one of the more depressing college towns I've ever seen so everything else looks great to me. J However, I was quite impressed with the place that rented hot-tubs. Man, what trouble I would have gotten in to.
Another interesting tidbit about Colorado is that they have a law called the "Make My Day Law" where you're allowed to shoot anyone who's on your property. Oh my.
I got some new spring helpers put on my truck as I left Colorado, which I've wanted to do for years. My truck no longer sags in the rear. Woo Hoo!
Every time a girl that I had dated would ask me what I wanted to name my kids, I'd reply "Rupert", just to piss them off. Apologies to anyone named Rupert who might be reading this, but I've always thought it to be a bit of a comical name. But seeing as I currently have no kids and with this trip, I don't see myself having them anytime in the near future, I've decided to pass that name on to my truck. I've always felt the truck needed a name, but I just never found one that I felt fit it - until now. Rupert it is.
As I get back on Highway 80, I really take notice of the change in Landscape. The lush green mountains of Canada, the pastures of Wisconsin. The cornfields of Iowa, to the flatness and dryness of Nebraska and Wyoming. There really was nothing much to see in both Nebraska and Wyoming - pretty much just flatness. Well, that's not completely true, there was a large sign upon entering Nebraska that read "Nebraska, Home of Arbor Day". I may be in the minority that doesn't know what Arbor day is, but whatever it is, it happens to be Nebraska's claim to fame.
The book I'm currently reading is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", which I'm really liking. There were a couple points made early on in the book that really made an impression on me. The first is that by driving to a destination rather than flying, it makes the destination seem more like a goal, or an achievement. By flying in, you miss that sense. In a way, trekking to your destination adds something to its beauty. The other point that really rang true was how so many things you see lose their beauty once you try to frame them. Every sunset I've seen on this trip has been against a different landscape and all of them have been fantastic. None of them have been able to be captured on my digital camera in a fraction of their beauty.
Battling the Rockies was pretty crazy in an underpowered 4 cylinder truck aptly named Rupert. I was slowed to 50mph at some points. Once I got the hang of drafting off the 18 wheelers, I could use their wind to drag me up the hills at 70mph or so. It worked well enough to get me in to Salt Lake City by tonight.
I checked in to a hostel, which had to have been the most unsocial hostel I've been to yet in all my travels. It was an AYH hostel, which people warned me were like that. The room was nice though. I think it also didn't bother me as I was headed to Burningman the next day and I was just far too exited about that to care about much else.
So, Burningman doesn't really start for a few days, but talking to some people on-line who needed extra help, I volunteered to head out there a couple days early. Besides, I always like the vibe that an event has as it's setting up or tearing down.
Before I headed out to the event, I stopped in Sparks, NV to get a desert bike off a guy by the name of the Desert Rat. The desert dust and its high-alkalinity will kill just about any bike you take out there. So rather than use my new bike, I bought a good used one off the Desert Rat so I could just thrash it.
The rat was a great guy. Also a world traveler. We talked for a long time about traveling, settling down, women, life, and a lot of other things. I spent about 5 hours with him as I covered my bike frame and seat with snakeskin patterned felt and painted the wheels and tires candy-apple blue. If you think that's something odd to do to a bike, you've never been to Burningman have you? That's just enough to make the bike slightly acceptable.
I went to Burningman last year and didn't write anything about it. I think I'll do the same this year. Which might seem odd, seeing as I said before and will say again, that of all the amazing things I have seen in my life and in all my travels around the world, Burningman is hands down the most impressive thing I've ever been a part of. The thing with Burningman is that there is just SO much there, that its impossible to try to sum it up in anything less than 500 pages. Besides, there's no way to describe 90% of what you see or experience.
It was a great time as expected though. I wanted to meet a lot of Californians whom I could visit while I was traveling, which I did. I was camped with my friends from DC, which was nice to see them all, but for the most part, I was headed off doing my own thing as I've so often been known to do. I met great people from all over California, including a great group of people from Sonoma called the Goddess Patrol who totally rock, and a couple guys from San Jose who had a liquid latex camp. I also met a real great bunch of people from Portland who I hung out with for a few days, and a couple of people from England, one of whom I hope to visit on my trip there. This is in addition to the tons of people that you meet each day, some of whom you spend a minute with, others a couple hours.
Everyone at Burningman is expected to participate in some way. Most people bring something to show or build a theme camp. People living out of their 4runners are a bit more limited in what they can do. So, instead I decided to volunteer. I volunteered as a greeter, which is the job where we have a team of people who greet everyone of the 25,000 people that come through the gate. Its our job to tell them the rules, but as my greeter did for me last year, I made it my job to get every person super excited. I lost my voice by second day from screaming with excitement for every car that passed through my lane. I loved that job and fully intend to do it every year that I attend.
The other notable thing to mention is that I shaved my head in to a Mohawk for the festival. I'd actually been growing my hair out since new years just so I could shave it in to a Mohawk here.