Monday, August 30, 2010

And, in the End, the Love you Take is Equal to the Love you Make...

Well, I said I would write one last blog for this trip and here it belatedly is.

We made it all the way to Maryland and stood on an Ocean all of us had seen all our lives like we had never seen such a thing before. We ran in and posed for pictures and took videos and loaded up our stuff to go get some well deserved dinner. Pacella, being the psycho that he is, insisted on biking to his front door and nearly beat us there because he was racing a car full of lollygaggers.

After arriving at Pacella's house we were greeted with delicious crab cakes. Half of us showered and headed out for celebratory drinks and a walk on the boardwalk downy ocean hon.

The next day we watched the second Lord of the Rings because we're all giant nerds and Mike German, Jesse and I set off for home after an awkward goodbye. I mean, how could it be anything but awkward. All of us didn't even know one another before this trip started. Then we spent two continuous months together and then we all went back to our separate lives. We shook hands and congratulated one another on a good trip well done and off we went.

I called home to let them know we were coming like a good daughter apparently surprising them greatly because our plans had changed so many times people thought down was up and up was down. I very politely with all sorts of sugar asked my parents to add us onto their dinner plans and they ever so graciously consented. I was expected them to throw some extra burgers on the grill or something of that nature. Something easy, but oh no. Not my parents. We show up and my father has cooked an entire turkey dinner: Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, broccoli. Delicious. He told me if I had given him more than 3 hours warning he would have had some stuffing too. My dad makes fantastic turkey dinners.

He also makes fantastic Apple Pies, one of which just so happened to be cooking in the oven while dinner was being prepared.

This is not to mention the balloons and signs and card with a dinosaur and hot air balloons and a mini car painted just like our baam mobile and flowers and chocolates put out by my mother.

So we had a dinner that couldn't be beat and Mike and Jesse after lots of hugs set off for Western Maryland with bellies full and I'm guessing barely a care in the world. Life is hard.

I turned off my phone, shut off my computer and went about visiting everyone within a 2 hour radius of my house. I most especially did not look at anything BAAM related for quite a while.

Well I didn't have long to rest and neither did the guys.

Mike Pacella moved into his new apartment in Baltimore City and has since started his graduate level work. It didn't take him long to get back on his bike (try less than 48 hours) and he will most likely be rather unreachable indefinitely while he works for twelve hours straight doing science and biking like a psycho. I think he's rather happy.

Jesse crow has moved back to UMBC for his next semester. He's working as an Maintenance Assistant putting all that construction experience to good use and apparently UMBC is as ready as it'll ever be for it's new crop of freshmen.

As an aside, have you seen what they've done to the campus? I'm so glad I got out of there before they ripped open the streets with construction plans. Have fun Jesse!

Mike German got back and saw everyone about as much as I did. Consequently, because we have a lot of the same friends we were hanging out the next day... and the day after, but definitely not the day after that.

He had to get all his hanging out and visiting done right quick because Papa Bear is taking over Pennsylvania. He moved up to somewhere, I want to say Bethlehem because I seem to remember being told he was moving to Bethlehem and snorting. Right, so he is now moved in with a nice young couple with a baby. He's only broken glass around the baby once so far, which is pretty good, and hasn't yet ripped off one of their toilet seats, even though it was a near thing.

He'll be studying environmental engineering something or another and saving the world one person at a time with whatever brilliant idea strikes his fancy. He is super happy to be back in school and using his mind again.

As another aside, we are only about 400 dollars away from our fundraising goal of 8,000!!!! We're actually going to do what we set out to do, isn't that neat? A big huge thanks to everyone who contributed including, but not limited to: friends (many of whom don'e have much to begin with themselves), family, churches, Anna Crow specifically (because of her super awesome fundraiser that boosted us up over 1000 dollars), local businesses along the way, and everyone else ever in the whole wide world. We're feelin' the love.

As for me, I got back and had a week of interviews with the Americorps Program, Public Allies. My favorite placement was in Laurel learning how to do casework and organize holiday programs. To my extreme fortune and pleasure they offered me a position as an Ally with them doing just that. I start in October and I can't wait to pretend to be a real person for awhile.

Well, standing around idle didn't really suit me (I use the term standing around lightly, I visited practically everyone I knew in Maryland and attended a wedding). I got rather antsy, so I took off for New England to visit everyone I knew and didn't even know I knew and everyone else in between that I might be able to rustle up.

I started out going to a casino in New York with my cousin Jim, them hop skipping over to Maine to visit Meaghan and her grandmother, now I'm in Connecticut visiting Alicia, a girl I backpacked in the Grand Canyon with. I'll be back when my time or my money runs out. It'll have to be soon because I promised I'd hop skip down to Atlanta to see Mr. David Tatum while I had the time.

Oh the lighthouses are so beautiful. I love lighthouses, they are so whimsical. All I need is a hot air balloon and a cup of tea and my life will be perfect.

Things everyone should know:

The majority of people are good and like you and me. I use good lightly without a capital G. No one is good good good good good. I just mean that most people are not the ones you see on the Nightly News for murder. The reason such people make the news is because they're so rare and interesting. Most people are just going about their lives however they choose to make them and when you show up they talk nicely to you about your travels and sometimes offer you a floor to sleep on if you ask and talk nicely in return.

Which brings me to point number two: most people are willing to help one another out, especially if you're a stranger in a strange land, and as it seemed to me on this trip, the less people had the more they were willing to give, from the kind people who cooked us food in a small town in Nevada to the nice people in Appalachia who drove by and rolled down their windows to make sure we had already been taken care of.

Point Number Three: We met so many people who expressed wishes of traveling like we did. We met a lot of people with a lot of dreams and while life will most definitely prevent some of them as goals and circumstances change, I just wanted to say that the biggest thing you have to do in order to do something like take a renegade cross country fund raising trip or open your own shop or travel to another country, the biggest hurdle is giving yourself permission to do it. If you decide you want to and then actually decide to do it, it's much easier than you think. It's when you build it up so big in your mind as Something For Other People that it becomes something unattainable. You cut your legs off before you even start.

And that's all she wrote, folks.

Signed most sincerely to all who followed our journey,
One Shelly Kessler, nearly a real person and rather contrite for getting preachy (but it's for your own good)

P.S. Don't take my word for it, go and find out for yourselves.

P.P.S. ...and Papa Bear, Snuggles, Psycho and Superwoman went on to have many more adventures.

P.P.P.S. The End

Friday, July 30, 2010

Virginia is for lovers... and I assume for haters (I doubt they'd turn away the money)

We're finally on the East Coast! We were incredibly excited because we found a Chic Fil A. I haven't seen a Chic Fil A since I left Maryland. It is incredibly difficult to go from eating Chic Fil A practically everyday on campus to no Chic Fil A at all. I didn't even realize that I missed it until I saw the sign and convinced Pacella and Jesse (who were not at all hard to convince) that breakfast at Chic Fil A was a good idea for breakfast.

The plan for coming home continues to fluctuate wildly. Initially we were to go to Yorktown, come back along the route and bike up to Baltimore.

Then we thought, why are we going all the way to Yorktown, when we can just bike up to Baltimore? Because we still need to touch the ocean to make it official.

Ok so the next plan was, we're going to bike up to Baltimore and arrive on the 5th, have our welcome home party on the 6th and then lead a mass of what I'm assuming would be only a few of our more crazy friends, but what Mike was probably assuming would be his entire network of Baltimore people, to the beach on our final day of riding.

That was all well and good, until we realized we were moving faster than planned and we'd be in Baltimore by the 3rd and why in the world would we wait around for 3 days to finish the trip? That seemed silly. And if we didn't want to wait three days to bike with everyone to the coast, why were we going to Baltimore at all?

The third plan was something along the lines of, we won't go to Yorktown, Virginia or Baltimore. Instead we were going to go up the DC/Baltimore metropolitan area, but we were going to stop in Annapolis, go across the key bridge and end at ocean city or Assateague island depending on whomever got their way. Ok, great sounds good.

Well we were looking at it, and that seemed silly because the transamerica route takes us up on roads we know we can bike on, then we could break away before Yorktown and make our way to the middle between the Bay Bridge and the Tunnel which Mike informed us had nothing but a ferry to take us across that cost 25 bucks a person and wouldn't take cars.

The moral of this story is that I have no clue what we are actually doing because it has changed so many times, but no matter what the route is, the date August third is the only one I have heard.

In conclusion, we are heading north east. We are ending in Eastern Maryland. We are taking either a bridge, a ferry or a tunnel to get from this side to that side.

I think we're taking a ferry? No wait I think I remember something about us cramming into the car for a drive across the tunnel and that'll be fine because it's only 20 bucks... and then something about wouldn't it be awesome if we got there the day they opened the bridge to bikers and walkers and then something about how the ferry puts us right where we need to be on better roads to bike on...

In conclusion I have no idea because I stopped paying attention and looked at the newest xkcd comic: the one about the University website. It's pretty good and completely accurate.

I apologize for the lack of blogging near the end of this trip. We didn't have internet in most of the places we've stayed and our cell service was pretty spotty for the last day or two while we were in National Forests.

I will now account for you about Kentucky.

Things I have learned:

Lincoln is from Kentucky. Who knew? I sure didn't. However, I have never claimed to be an American history major. I got to visit his boyhood home and his birth place and the town that has his museum and I'm not entirely sure what their relation to him was.

It made me realize that Lincoln is pretty much every guy I know from UMBC. Eventually I will post the picture of the exhibit of Lincoln awkwardly standing on the doorstep of the woman whom he was courting waiting for the door to open. Some of his letters were also priceless and bizarrely familiar. I wish I had taken more pictures.

Lets seeeee. Apparently Appalachia is it's own country. According to Jesse no matter where in Appalachia you are, people tend to speak pretty similarly and eat the same types of foods and have the same types of jobs and so the same types of concerns, making them rather separate from the state that they may happen to occupy.

Appalachia is thoroughly beautiful, when the forests are not cut down. It is shocking to come out of a natural forest and look beyond at the same mountains laid bare with no trees. Appalachia is also the place where we had the least cell phone reception.

The best place we have stayed. Well OK, there are two.

We stayed at this Baptist youth center with three big screen TVs, an xbox, a Wii and the complete extended edition box set of The Lord of the Rings. Luckily, when we woke up it was raining hard, the boys couldn't leave and so we watched the first movie in the trilogy while the rain cleared up.

People in Kentucky have been very kind. When I said we stayed in two best places, I meant three.

We stayed with an awesomesauce woman and her roommate in Berea. She cook us an amazing meal with everything leftover in her kitchen. I got to sleep in a real live bed! It was particularly great because I walked in and it reminded me of Alli's, Elise's and my kitchen junior year. I walked in and she gave me a hug, making me realized I haven't hugged anyone in two months and proceeded to talk like a girl and not a stinky boy about all things interesting and not biking while she cooked us an amazing dinner (completely reminding me of Alli). Then, because I am this desperate for my girlfriends, I asked her if we could watch a girly movie (I don't even like girly movies). I feel as though I haven't seen anyone but boys for two whole months.

There are very few girls on this trip. All the cyclists were guys. All the pastors, men. All the women, older than 40. This was the first time I was in a girls apartment in a long long time.


This also drove home the fact that I was going home to live at my parents house and not to Elise and Alli's kitchen. This is a bummer. I would prefer to live in poverty with 5 other girls in a crappy apartment, just so I can get that kitchen feel. You know the one. The, we like cooking and don't have time time to clean and have a ton of spices and odds and ends in our cabinets and if you cook something people will come swarming around to see what you're doing and taste things, so you have to always cook way more than you're going to eat because you end up feeding everyone who comes in with things like cheap pasta and soup and tea and all things lovely and homelike... kind of kitchens.

I was just talking about this with Pacella. In highschool, I dreaded going back to school after summer. I never wanted the summer to end. I hated school. I really did. They made you learn things you didn't care about and then you got to go home and do homework.

College. Now going back to college is not going back to school. Going to college is like going back to an entire new way of life. It's fantastic. It's live in community with many people you know and walk five minutes to class and barely sleep and walk out your front door and something is always going on. It's free museums and concerts and outdoor movies and interesting lectures and papers thrown together just so they'll let you stay. It's 2 am trips to Walmart and discussions and studying in laundry rooms or bathrooms at all hours of the night because it's the only place people aren't sleeping. It's walks at night and multiple parties to pick and choose from and traditions and gigantic dining hall tables full of only a small percentage of people you know because you know practically everyone and discussing what you'd do in a zombie apocalypse, or whether white pizza is pizza and what are the parameters the constitute a pizza? It's long arguments on morality and Christianity and Judaism and Islam and Paganism and the gods only know what else.

It's people being nerds cause it's college and everyone has a passion about something that they can talk long hours about and there are people around to be interested and talk long hours with them.

...yea sorry about that. I'm still in mourning.

So, her house was nice.

Then we stayed at this amazing free hiker/cyclist hostel on top of a mountain. It had bunks and a shower and a chair to sit in outside. I sat in that chair all day while I finished reading Dune and listened to the rain hit the tin roof as showers moved by thinking about how nice it would be to live here.

Some vague conclusions as I near the end of this trip, or more specifically, things I have learned to do better:

I can now navigate with only spotty information and a gps without worrying about it. I can even call Dave Tatum for directions and not have a single urge to yell at him while I decipher the directions he kind of gives me. In all actuality this may be because he has gotten better at giving directions now that he owns a car and drives in Atlanta.

I can now drive in places like San Fransisco and Pueblo and hopefully Baltimore.

I can walk up and knock on churches and peoples doors and ask for things, but I have learned what I already knew; I don't actually like doing this.

Perhaps I will save this for my last blog post on this website. I suppose we're obligated to post a final one. It will probably be the last after this one.

We are heading towards the beach, like I said, rather than travel up Virginia and Maryland in the mountains because we have been on every other terrain, but the coast and would like to do that for a few days, just for a change of scenery.

Not only that, but if we head towards the beach, I get to read in a new location... on a beach. Finally, a vacation.

Much Love,
Shelly Kessler, nearly home from her American adventure

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Come on Hear the Illinoise

We have made it to Illinois. Home of Popeye the Sailor man as the sign proudly announced as I hit the first town. Well, technically the town was home to popeye, but I suppose that means by relationship the state as well. They also have a 6 foot popeye statue, which I missed because it was dark and I was late anyway.

I did take a picture of the Illinois sign; The Land of Lincoln it proudly proclaims, but I didn't take a picture of me in front of it because it was dark. I also did not take a picture of the Mississippi river, which I have never seen before because the bridge I took to get across did not have things like places for tourists to take pictures.

The Mississippi was vast and powerful and I'm not entirely sure why I was impressed by it except for the vague notion that I haven't seen that much water in two months.

While I was driving over the bridge I carefully did not crash my car while I looked at the sun setting on the river. Really it was beautiful, perhaps I can rustle up a postcard, but I refuse to backtrack an hour to find one.

We stayed with another couchsurfer with his own fun stories of couchsurfing and things of that nature. We all talked for awhile, and then everyone got some sleep. This place was super fantastic because we each got a couch or mattress or futon to sleep on and because he was the couchsurfing type where he gives you his address, tells you he might not be there, but to walk in and make yourselves at home. Yes people actually do this and it makes them fantastic people.

I checked out the vegetarian restaurant in this place in Illinois, I can't actually remember where I am... Carbondale, I'm in Carbondale.

I now principally spend my time in coffee shops, local, indy, chains... I don't care as long as it has internet and a selection of tea.

The coffee shop clientele are interesting. They all look too cool and artsy for me. Businessmen come here to sit outside of cubicles on laptops and cell phones, artsy women in floral dresses come to talk about big ideas and to work on their craft, be it writing or drawing or who knows what.

I have Facebook chats with friends from home and get bored of my own thoughts and think about being a real person. This nomadic homeless existence is essentially like college without a dorm room. Not like the real world, or perhaps it is and I've just been fooled my entire life to think that real life is something different from school.

I'm fairly certain that I'm going to have to go back to school because I manage to become thoroughly bored with old thoughts within the space of a month or two and where can you get new thoughts? School. It's like an addiction. It has to be fed, otherwise I end up pacing in circles listening to the same old boring music and thinking the same thoughts in a rut that I need to pour new ideas into so I can get out of it.

Honestly I fit and and don't fit into these coffee shops. I'm in jeans and a t-shirt from Walmart... I doubt this crowd doesn't admit that they shop at Walmart. The clothes are carefully vintage. Of course there are the people passing through, but these aren't coffee shop people. There is a type.

And of course I'm writing like this because I went to Barnes and Nobles and impulsively bought a book about being a young twenty something in New York that's a bit like a cheap Sex in the City without as much success and isn't that thoroughly depressing as a concept?

Well, this isn't my blog, so I'm going to talk about this trip.

We were in Missouri last I blogged. Well, hurrah a new state, we're in Illinois. I like it better, I think because there are more things. It turns out, I like things. At the very least I like the option of going to see a movie and soy milk.

Don't blink because you might actually miss Illinois, we're only going to be here today. We were in this great hostel in Missouri yesterday called Al's Place. It's a bike hostel, show up, call the number on the door (The Fire Department who happens to run it) and they give you the passcode to get in. It's a requested 20 dollar donation to stay in a place that looks like a million dollar apartment in New York. It was over the old historic jail and had sections of the original brick artfully peaking through the drywall. It was actually a thoroughly beautiful and awesome place, right next to their downtown area, a block from the coffee shop and complete with another person to talk to.

We of course met another cyclist going west, they are starting to slim out because the high time for them in this area is late june, early july so they get to the end by August.

This place had everything a touring group needs. In case you are wondering this includes: air conditioning, bunk beds upon bunk beds, computer and internet, outlets by every single bed, including the lofted ones, a fridge and cabinets with leftover food for small amounts of money, a microwave and a washing machine and dryer.

The only thing it could have used was an oven and stovetop. In all it was pretty nifty.

Some fun things about Missouri I have learned. It is entirely acceptable to smoke. In most places smokers have been socially outcast to standing outside in the cold in strange alleys outside of bars. Here, they get to smoke in sunny booths in cafes and diners in front of their children and the rest of the patrons and no one looks twice. It's interesting what is socially acceptable and not acceptable depending on where you go. In Greece I walked out of the theater to get some air and into an entire cloud of smoke because everyone in the theater got up and went out to have a smoke which is how things used to be done in Maryland and are now no longer acceptable.

They call Missouri the show me state, it was explained to me why this was and I vaguely remember. It was something like they'll believe it when you see it, won't buy your bull crap, you'll have to show them it works first kind of thing.

What else? The Ozarks are beautiful. I highly recommend a trip to see them. The springs were like something out of a fairytale. I could not believe that it actually existed. I took pictures in case people didn't believe me that it was that beautiful.

The Ozarks are also like driving, and I would imagine biking, a roller coaster. I am very glad I was driving and not being driven. Up and down and up and down and up and down and curve around and do it again.

My glasses probably give me more cred in this coffee shop (We established on google buzz that I like side notes). The adults are sitting here having conversations about liberal parenting. Is it worrysome that I still think in terms of adults and children? Well, not adults and children. Adults and the real world, and college students and the better world... or something. College students not actually being adults, artfully prolonging the time before they have to enter the personal responsibility and drudgery in the land of no new ideas also known as the Real World.

I hear there are mythical jobs that people actually like where they get to have new ideas and try to actually do them. This is quite honestly maybe one of the only reasons I want to get into social justicey servicey work. That and helping people, of course. I could do that on the side, on a volunteer basis, but as a job? Perhaps a chance to like what I do and not live with when I'm not doing what I do.

Perhaps there will be a continuous stream of new ideas in the Real World and the college thing is a myth. Perhaps I will just hang out with everyone I knew who went to grad school without going to grad school myself just to hear new ideas. They're not even new ideas most of the time anyway, they're just new to us.

So how bout that Missouri? What else? The people we met who helped us out were awesome. The beautiful waterways would have been great to canoe if I had someone to go with. I refuse to go canoeing by myself, I am entirely aware of how nonathletic (spellcheck is telling me unathletic is not a word) and incompetent in things like canoeing that I am.

Anyway, apparently the land of Kentucky is full of dogs to chase the boys, which will be sure to keep them occupied. What ends up happening is Pacella and perhaps Jesse go by first which triggers them to start running after them. When they leave the dog's territory it stops and turns around to hurrah! See Mike German coming up behind them.

This is actually OK because Mike is very good with hostile animals. Ask him about the feral cat he managed to pick up.

So, that's about it. I'm actually publishing this on BAAM... I want my own blog, or no blog at all. That might be best.

Signed from the Land of Pretend that is Long Term Traveling,
Shelly Kessler,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Misery

Well, we're in Missouri.

So far the people have been very kind. Mike went to the library to ask about accommodations in Golden City, MO and got directed to our most excellent host Paul. Paul used to run a bike hostel in town. Cyclists would pick up keys, volunteers would help clean the rooms, they would lock the doors on their way out. It was all on the honor system. They'd ask for a 5 dollar donation to keep the lights on. Well they had to shut it down because they couldn't insure it without having someone in there running the place with the cyclists in it. The way it was being run, they just let the cyclists have the place to themselves.

So, Paul is on warm showers and is a most excellent host if anyone is ever going through the area.

His house has very cold air conditioning, it was fantastic.

Alright so we stayed in that First Baptist church and then made it here, we had finally caught up with Rich again. Rich was the same fellow who stayed with us in Telluride. He was in great spirits and took us up on a place to stay with air conditioning rather than in a park.

We found this super awesome Chinese Buffet. I think it was super awesome because I had been thinking about having Chinese food since San Fran.

Well alright so that was two days ago and then we get here and go to sleep planning on getting an early start, well when we got up it was to find that Pacella had been up all night sick and it was a no go for biking that day.

He looked pretty wretched. Mike and Jesse went to go get yet another meal and I eventually followed. I walked over to get some chicken noodle soup from the local store while Mike and Jesse went back to take a nap.

Man can Jesse sleep. You can't wake him up. He probably slept 14 hours yesterday.

Mike finally got out of the worst of his illness. At this point he was contorted in his sleeping bag and had managed to wind his way across the room and nearly under a table. Mike German of course thought the best thing for him was to eat a huge meal and get some energy in him. He balked at chicken noodle soup, which had nothing in it and which Jesse and I explained was the point.

I swear that boy can eat anything, Mike German that is.

Well alright we're guessing it was food poisoning because it came on so suddenly and severely. It did not go away quite so quickly. He managed to get from the floor to a chair for a bit and watch the tour de France. That's about it.

Paul invited us to watch a movie with him. It was a British mystery in a series which was really neat. I enjoyed having a chance to eat popcorn and watch a real movie. Mike joined us, but Jesse and our new cyclist friend Matt stayed out here talking about something. Who knows what. The nature of the universe? Actually I think that's what it may have been.

Matt, by the way is another cyclist we met going west. His friend was initially with him, but got something like 5 flats and one day and called it quits. Apparently he's very tall and muscular and was carrying 100 lbs worth of gear and the road bike wasn't liking it. It would have been like that all the way across America.

Well we introduced Matt to Paul and hooked him up with some air conditioning to sleep in, we figured we needed to replace Rich who had gone on his way that morning.

Oh! If you're ever in Golden City, there is pie. Lots and lots of award winning pie. Family's secret recipe award winning kind of pie. Stop in at Cooky's Cafe if you want some. They also have excellent dinner specials. Real good food.

So, Mike and I watched a movie with Paul and I get a text from Pacella asking where we were. Seems he couldn't seem to bring himself to claw his way off the floor. I can't blame him, the kid was looking pretty rough. We fed him some chicken noodle soup and some buttered bread and water while he protested he could make the soup and Mike German explained to him how being sick worked.

He checked his phone and saw a missed call from his parents. You didn't post that I was sick on-line? He asked. My parents read your blog, you know.

Oh, no I didn't. I told Elise because she's my texting buddy, but I didn't post it on-line.

Maybe Mike or Jesse? Mike did you post that Pacella was sick on-line?

No... well actually I did write a blog today and I talked about him being sick and us taking a day off.

Sorry Pacella.

Well, seeing as how his parents read this blog. He's fine. He was eating things and looking less like a survivor of a ship wreak this morning. They all set out late today after a long good night's sleep and were sticking close together. Mike German is actually a Papa Bear and will keep an eye on him. He's good about looking out for people.

They cut down how far they were riding today dramatically. We made sure he ate a full breakfast and drank lots of water before we set out and they're going very slow while he tests out his biking legs. We're going to ease back into the rhythm of riding and we're definitely not starting out with 100 mile days.

They're taking 8 hours to go 40 miles today with an idea of stopping in a closer town if it proves too much too soon.

It looks like we're not actually getting back on the 5th as initially planned and are now shooting for the 8th, so that I have time to get to my Americorps interview.

That's all. I didn't read Mike's blog. He probably already said everything I just said.

Signed in Missouri,
One Shelly Kessler

Friday, July 16, 2010

Golden City, MO by Mike German

Golden City, MO

Today we rest in Golden City, MO. We’ve been riding ~100 miles per day for the last forever. At 5:30AM we were all up and ready to go, but Pacella was in the bathroom puking, as he had been all night. After Jesse and I got ready to head out, and were about to pump up our tires, put on sunscreen, and be gone we realized it would be best for the group to take a day off, keep ourselves together and enjoy a day of rest. Jesse and I then got second breakfast at Cooky’s Diner CafĂ©. I had 2 eggs over easy, 2 sausage, a biscuit, 2 biscuits and gravy, orange juice, and a great slice of strawberry rhubarb pie a la mode. Fat and happy, we came back to the house of one of the amazing people we’ve met along this trip- Paul. He had let us stay overnight indoors in air conditioning!! Thank God that we found this place, especially not knowing that Pacella was going to get sick. Being sick camping would have been miserable for all. After arriving back at 9AM we slept until 1PM! Life is beautiful. Now I’m sitting in a library ripping some random books to my computer so I can listen to some books for the rest of the trip. It costs $2 to use the computer, which is a little dumb but I’m sure a nice source of income from all the residents and bikers who use the library. I tried hooking my computer up to their Ethernet, but that didn’t work.

A couple accounts of people and businesses generosity in the last days:

Passing through a town on the way to Newton, KS I was provided pizza and salad bar as a donation from D’Angelo’s Pizza (a lovely place). Since I’ve started asking businesses for food donations this has become a daily happenstance, except when we are in small towns who get very low populations passing through. On the way out of town, I stopped at a house with a baby pool to dunk my head in because the heat was horrendous (I think this was one of the days it hit ~110 heat index). They let me soak my head and thought I was a bit funny, the grandmother told me to sit down, and I obliged. The mother was so lovely she was trying to give me anything she could to help us cool down, some Gatorade, a ride to the next town, etc. Of the many people we’ve met, they didn’t seem too well to do, but their hearts were large and the family was close. The grandmother eventually gave us a total of ~$80, ~$30 at the house and then a $50 bill as we were biking down the highway, while still offering us a ride to the next town (2 bikers and 2 bikes, as she drove a PT Cruiser). I was floored.

The night before this on my way into Alexander, KS I stopped in a Lutheran Church because I saw there were cars outside and I had enough time to spend an hour before finishing the ride with some light still overhead. I walked in and the AC condensed all the sweat on my body, so that I was a walking puddle. The pastor came by during announcements and asked what I was about and I showed him my quartersheet I show to everyone about our trip. During a break he introduced me, let me talk for a while, and took up an impromptu offering where we collected $65.

We’ve stopped in countless houses who’ve provided water, bathroom, snacks, and short indoor stays with AC.

At night, we’ve knocked a ton of different churches and most have given us a place to stay. Although, I would recommend first checking in with the “First Baptist Church” in any town because they have been the most hospitable by far. They did turn us down in Laeoti, KS (sp?) but I think that was the only town so far where a First Baptist Church has failed us. In Laeoti, we stayed at a Presbyterian Church that was then considering opening up the church as a stop for future cross-country cyclists. They donated ~$200.

I thought that this trip would be a departure from wonderful tastes and eating, but with the warm hearts of so many individuals and businesses I’ve eaten extravagantly at times. Eureka, NV was the most ridiculous, where we were provided with homemade meals for nearly every meal, that were all wonderful. I think I’ve already written about how the sunsets in Diamond Valley compared with Hawai’i and the Mennonite/Baptist food was wonderful. But there’s also been many quality restaurants who’ve donated lunches and dinners that have been outstanding, especially a bakery and BBQ place in Telluride, two recent Mexican restaurants, meatloaf upon arriving in Pueblo, CO (at the wonderful Black Eye Pea), a Chinese Buffet in Great Bend, KS (you can eat healthy at these places, just avoid the fried and overly saucy foods- rice, meat and vegetables, and plates of fruit= grand), Hamburger Goulash (that reminded of the homemade Italian gravy I had from Mrs. Harman during my summer in Columbia, MD) at the Copper Kettle (in some recent town in KS, where we might get featured in their paper, I think it was between Hutchinson and Eureka), etc. By the end of this trip, I think my taste buds will have returned from their college days of eat anything and everything in sight. Although, everyone else in the group will say my breakfasts of rice and anything within reach are a bit atrocious. I think of rice topped with granola, dried fruit, peanut butter, jelly, and honey as more like a hearty mash or a PB&J on hearty, bird seed bread.

I’m going to get to finished up some post cards! 75 cards have taken a while to write, but it’s been fun and worthwhile. I was considering sending out 2 to everyone, but it’s taken me a great while to get done just the first round.

One regret of this trip, has been the time restraint. I would have loved to have sat down and talked longer with many of the people we meet day in and out. This would probably have made fundraising easier. But, as a first cycling tour and cross-country trip it’s been a great, quick summary of America. If you have the chance I recommend self-supported touring in a group charity ride while taking your time. I’m hoping this coming Spring Break I’m able to do another cycling tour in the Baltimore- Philadelphia-Lancaster-Lehigh area for a week. I figure that would be a relaxing tour of 60-70 miles per day by plenty of interesting towns, lovely people (some people we know), etc. So if you’re interested in a tour, sign up for Papa Bear’s Bike Tours!


Mike G


Pacella is doing much better and we will ride tomorrow.  We'll find out how long once the day is started.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So What's there to do in Kansas?

It turns out, there is plenty to do in Kansas.

For starters they have lots of community pools and they let cyclists in for free for showers and a swim. I spent the day at the pool, reading a book and hopping in and out of the water to cool off. It was absolutely wonderful. I could nearly pretend that it was the ocean where most of my family is currently vacationing.

Honest to God if I were near a real airport I would be at the beach right now. Not that I'm not enjoying Kansas, but sometimes a girl just craves the ocean. I've been landlocked for far to long. I have no idea how people live their entire lives without being near an ocean.

Alright so there are community pools.

There are also restrooms. This is a big deal I swear. A lot of the towns in Kansas will let you camp in their city park and they even put bathrooms in for the travelers. So, we've been sleeping on cushy grass next to a place with lights and running water that we can use. They're in the strangest of places too. Nicest restroom I've ever seen and it's right outside of a town of 70 people.

Then I went to a fort! They have a fort from the 1800s that is fully restored and preserved. Fort Larned is it's name. The park rangers were as always super nice. I think it must be amazing to work in some of the most beautiful land in the country doing what you love to do. It makes them all smiley.

Well the rangers take turns dressing up in period costume and talking to the people walking through. I got to put on a soldiers coat and hat for a picture. It was a really nice place.

Then yesterday I did something even more exciting... an Air and Space Museum!!! Turns out Kansas has the cosmosphere, which has an Imax and a Planetarium. They repair and accurately restore machinery used by NASA and put it on display.

What's really neat is they helped make all the stuff for the movie Apollo 13 look accurate. According to them everything used in the movie is accurate. So, they have big shuttles outside and you can step out and they play a recording that makes it sounds like it's about to take off while you look up and up and up at it.

They had an entire section on the rocketry developed by the germans during WWII which led into a section on the atomic era and the cold war and the space race. They even had a section of the Berlin Wall.

Alright so it went from German rocketry to the Cold War to the Space Race to the first people in space and an Exhibit on the Apollo flights and walking on the moon. They had the duck and cover videos and the whole broadcast of the first moon landing.

Oh man! They also had a planetarium, which I have always in my life wanted to go to. They sit you in reclining chairs and you look at the ceiling while they turn out the lights and project the night sky on the ceiling. Then they point out constellations that I've always never been able to see and draw pictures around them so you can visualize it. They went through the night sky in the northern hemisphere in all four seasons and then ended with a picture of the sky that night and what to look for at what time. Super cool.

They had an Imax film about creating airliners for the 21st century which was neat because you got an idea of how airplanes were made, but kind of silly because it was basically a big advertisement for Boeing.

And they had Dr. Goddard's lab, where a 7th grade science teacher from the local school lit things on fire. She dipped a cotton ball into liquid oxygen and then set it on fire (boom!) and she made and set off small rockets while explaining the very basics of what makes them work. It was really cute.

Oh! They also had pictures of famous events in early space flight with some of the famous astronauts who wrote quotes and signed them.

The moral of this story: Space museums are as exciting as dinosaur museums.

There is something about air and space museums that always makes me cry, I think it has to do with the sheer amount of human dreams and potential contained within one space that does it. It's like the space shuttles exude the raw emotion put into their creation. Especially the early ones, where crazy people risked their lives to test fly these things that had never existed before because they had this bizzare dream that they could fly, that they could have the audacity to go to space.

Man used to look up at the stars and claim them the territory of the gods and these crazy people went there and claimed it as within their grasp.

So... yeah. I love air and space museums. The only thing better would be if they had hot air balloons. I think I'll be the first woman to fly a hot air balloon on mars. (Only two people are going to get that joke.)

Alright, so there are swimming pools and forts and spaceships in Kansas. What else?

There is homemade icecream, which I'm not supposed to eat but I did anyway. There are gas stations that serve everything from cold cuts to homemade food to fast food to go where the locals come and get a cup of coffee and hang out for an hour. There are always people to talk to when you walk in.

There are also local museums. These are super great because you get to wander around with someone who is volunteering there and probably grew up in the community. I wandered around a local museum today with a really nice lady who made up the displays herself. She played the music box for me and let me touch things I probably wasn't supposed to. My inner history/ancient studies minor was cringing at being allowed to touch things I knew I wasn't supposed to, but it was a typical case of the tragedy of the commons. Everyone else was touching these public artifacts, so they were going to be destoryed anyway. They were all out and not preserved at all and oh to get to touch them before they're destroyed! I never get to touch them at home.

We played with the suitcase organ and the thing that looks like binnoculars which you put old pictures in front of and look through. I got to go in an old jail and stand in it and look at all the pretty ladies things.

She was very nice and gave me an excellent tour. I highly recommend community museums, they are so neat.

Now I'm in another library, it's rather new, so I think it's still being put together and added to, but It's very open and clean like all the other libraries I have been in.

I am mildly considering how much I still want to be a librarian, but I hear jobs are hard to come by.

Anyway, things to do in Kansas: community swimming pools, cosmosphere, community museums, homemade everything delicious, but especially icecream.

Oh and I almost forgot, Kansas has really interesting storms, so if you like watching them you don't have to wait long to see one. Apparently the storm chasers come rolling through here a lot. They get motorcyclists, cyclists and storm chasers through these parts. They look at you and guess which one you are. So far they have always asked me if i'm a cyclist. This is because the motorcyclists wear more black (i'm trying to stay cool and am in white), and the storm chasers look super intense and come running into libraries demanding internet and coffee and this and that and oh man we have to go go go there's a storm go go go! I am on a leisurely vacation and so they hazard a guess at cyclist.

I do believe that is all I have to say about Kansas for now, I'll let you know if I find anything else out in particular.

I guess I never did do a reflection on Colorado.

Colorado has a lot of mountains. The people in Colorado that we met tended towards the quirky with quirky buildings and coffee shops and stores. Outdoorsy reigned supreme, with many communities of people who moved out there because they love skiing and mountain biking and hiking. There are hikers who hike the rockies and cyclists who are biking over them and they all converge on this one place called the transamerica trail.

It's interesting to say the least. Colorado was probably the state that I wanted to spend much more time in. I would have liked to take a side trip into the mountains (Not a hike up a fourteener without any equipment while everyone else has base camps and ice picks and all sorts of gear, in that case I'll take another massage instead).

Alright, that's it, I'm off to find food.

I will say this about Kansas, if you're driving through, have a book on tape to listen to. It makes the scenery more interesting.

Signed most estatically,
One Shelly Kessler, Crazy Moon Woman

Friday, July 9, 2010

Section One - BAAM! (Plus a rant on water)

We are officially through the first section of our route. If you go onto our active water page there is a link to the first section and we are in the process of leaving Pueblo, CO today. This means that we are officially on the TransAmerica route, officially done the Western Express and will probably be running into even more crazy cyclists biking across the country. Goodbye Rockies, Hello Flatlands!

Pacella and I ended up staying in a motel last night, mostly because we couldn't find somewhere else to stay before dark and it had rained all day, so camping wasn't desirable. Mike and Jesse managed to get a free place to stay at the hotel next door. Mike should be a car salesman.

I'm sitting in a Starbucks; I stopped in the first one I found. Pueblo is an actual city with an actual amount of people in it. Something like 100,000. This means they have a Starbucks, a Walmart and a Barnes and Nobles. Guess where I'm stopping next? I'll give you three guesses and it's not Walmart.

Starbucks is playing chill music that I'm highly enjoying. I missed this.

See, the thing that I love about chains (God help me) is that when you walk into a Walmart and you've been on a trip for awhile, you don't have to talk to someone in the store and ask for directions because you already know where everything is located; not only do you know where everything is located, but you know it is actually there. You need a travelers pillow? I know Walmart has one, how do I know? Because I already got one at two different Walmarts. Food, camping stuff, little odds and ends that you think places would have and they don't? Walmart.

Small towns shops work because people can order the things that they need that they don't have through the stores. However, if you're on a cross country trip and you are only in town for a night, this is not going to work. Basically what happens is that every once in awhile you run into a Walmart and get everything you couldn't find for the past few weeks in small towns.

I even picked up the same shirt in Elko that I had bought back home at the Dundalk Walmart because I liked it so much.

Oh man, Starbucks is playing a version of Hallelujah that I haven't heard yet.

This trip is also about figuring out how I want to live. It's amazing, we've stayed with so many people who live in so many different ways that you can start to get an idea of what you would like to do and what you wouldn't. For example, I now know that I need to live by water. Clean water. There are places in Nevada with cancer outbreaks, where many people start cropping up in the same area with it. They check the water and find arsenic in it, so now because of the cancer scare and the arsenic everyone has to buy bottled water. So, living near rivers and the ocean is important to me, but not only that a clean water supply is important to me. I want to drink water out of the tap.

People in Nevada has water issues on their mind alread. The issue of water is everywhere. Not only is it difficult in some places in Nevada to get clean water, but it is difficult to get any water at all. A lot of people brought up what Las Vegas was trying to do to water in Nevada. Basically they were buying all of the ranches up north that had water running through them and redirecting them to Las Vegas. If they succeeded in doing what they were trying to do, the wells that everyone has spent all that money digging would be worthless. The irrigation systems, worthless. Everyone would have to spend a lot of money digging even deeper, if the water levels stayed reachable at all.

Water being used at that rate is not sustainable. It does not renew. People would be without water even more than they already are.

In Maryland, the issue isn't having water, it's having clean water. We've polluted so much of the Chesapeake Bay. What in the world are we doing? Chicken factories pouring waste into the rivers as though there are no consequences. Water that our parents used to swim in making people sick.

I've read the news, I've listened to NPR, I've taken the environmental classes. Hasn't everyone?

I was reading an article that predicted the oceans were going to become like the land. I thought it was interesting. What we've basically done is picked easily farmed animals and we've killed the rest. Goodbye predators, we don't want you threatening us and we don't want you threatening our livestock. The article predicted the collapse of the oceans fisheries, which we all knew was coming anyway, and the selection of 3-4 easily farmed fish. The end. This idea that the oceans are a vast and forever renewable resource because of it's very vastness, an idea that has lasted since humans looked out on the horizon and saw only water, is no longer viable. After all, how could we possibly run out of fish? It's like everyone knows what is happening and no one can come out of their stupor to do something about it, like we don't quite believe it. Obviously the problem is bigger than just the oceans.

One big problem is that our technologies have gotten us into trouble because it seems that every time we develop something new, we use it before the public consciousness has caught up with the consequences. By the time people realize what is going on, we have become so used to the status quo that we can't even begin to imagine how to change it. After all, haven't we always eaten this much meat with every meal? Haven't we always had seafood in the winter? Haven't we always had this much food, period? Haven't we always had this many things?

We can now dredge the ocean bottom. We can take big nets and big boats and scoop up everything. We can destroy the whole thing and how delicious the demise.

You know, when they write the history books and analyze what civilizations did wrong and what lead to their demise, it seems so obvious. Especially when you're in grade school. How stupid, how could they not have seen that coming? When they write ours, if anyone is around to bother writing it, what will they say? They had it all. They had all the resources they could possibly ever need, if they had any sense. They had all the fresh water they could need and some of the most beautifully productive virgin soil in the world. They had animals to hunt and fish to catch and just like that, gone. They thought they knew better. After all, how could it run out?

And when it does start to finally run out, who suffers? The first world? I think we've already seen that's not the case. There is other land to buy, other places to farm until it's all gone. After all we have the money and who cares who it kills. Who cares who it subjugates.

Water is going to be the next war. It's already started. After all, water has always been important. We can't live without it, civilizations have been built and prospered around it. Wars have always been fought over the best harbors, the best places to fish.

But when we have too many people for it all to go around, as we already do, and when we have access to less and less clean usable water. Oh what spectacular wars there will be. The haves vs. the have-nots, just as it's always been and always will be.

Can we actually change ourselves and our thinking enough not to destroy? Can we actually want less? I honestly doubt it. The next 5o years are going to be very interesting, to say the least.

OK, I did not mean to rant like that. I'm not even going to read it, I don't want to know how nonsensical it sounds. These posts are published with errors, in case you were wondering, because I have a mental block on reading my own work. If I go back and read it, it will never get published, so I generally just sent it out warts and all because I can't stand to read it. This is also how I had to write (wrote, haha I graduated!) my papers for school, my poor professors.

My point was, that this trip has afforded me the ability to look at how I live. It has also caused me to think more about water and how it effects everyone. It highlights that I have the luxury of taking the time to look at how I want to live. Like one of our hosts said, her life is together enough that she can think about where to put each piece of her trash. The paper goes in this box to be collected on this day, the plastic with a one on it goes here to be collected on another day, the plastic with a six on it is driven to another location, the organic matter goes in the compost... and on and on. If you are having trouble making enough money to buy food or getting access to clean water, what do you care what package it comes in and what you do with it? Just look at how much we dropped during finals, how much we cared about our health, what we ate and finals wasn't even a serious problem; it was just time consuming.

What is important to me? Obviously water and resources and living sustainably are a big one. Apparently they tell me that you can bike across the country, this means I can definitely bike to work.

I've been keeping a list of what I want to do, when I get back maybe I can actually come back and do it.

I'm going to leave this Starbucks and go to the Barnes and Nobles to get a book on tape for the road. After all, I'm just one of the masses. Give me bread and circuses and I forget all that I just ranted about. It keeps getting pushed back because I get tired of thinking about it and look for a distraction. Something girly, perhaps Pride and Prejudice?

Signed rather sheepishly after her first online rant,
Shelly Kessler

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Nerd Slumber Party - Part 2

The lost blog... continued:

Well I left our kind hosts and went to get me some Indian food. I figured I had better get it while the getting was good because we're probably not going to find Indian food again until we get back to the east coast.

After Indian food I went off toward Black Canyon and stopped in the national park. Pat and Maria, if you're reading this, I highly recommend visiting Black Canyon and driving around it's scenic route. I also recommend stopping in Ridgeway (I think that's what it's called, it's between Telluride and Montrose) because it's a quirky little town that seems a bit less expensive than Telluride. I also recommend Telluride if you don't mind spending a little bit of money.

Ok, so I drove around the rim of the canyon and walked out to scenic overlooks that were 100 - 1000 yards away from the road. Absolutely beautiful. The canyon cuts through the mountains and there's a place to drive down to the river for fishing and playing. I couldn't go down to the river because I had to get to Gunnison. I kept getting texts from the boys saying things like: we're going swimming, we're going to eat at the pub, it's so nice here... etc.

I do believe that Black Canyon is the second biggest in the United States, but don't quote me on that because I'm not sure and I don't feel like looking it up (Tim Milligan I'm looking at you).

I also met a really nice man named Frank by the canyon who owns his own bike shop and knows lots of cross country crazies like us. I'm mentioning him cause he was real nice and took our information, so I think he's probably checking this out.

Alright, so I get to Gunnison and our host was so nice. I stopped at Safeway and got everything I shouldn't get to eat before getting there because the boys had already gone out to eat. Well I'm in Safeway looking at the frozen dinners (not knowing our host did not have a microwave oven because I couldn't get a hold of Mike) and I see Salisbury Steak and Mac and Cheese... and I went 'awww it's home and Matt babysitting me and making me a dinner of Salisbury steak in the microwave and can't you just smell home?', so I bought it and ate it and it was delicious.

Our host in Gunnison had a really neat house. It was a log cabin at the dead end of a street. Apparently they get a lot of med students on their rural rotation that stay with them.

The next morning I hopped out of bed and threw on some clothes to go try Zumba with our host while the boys got ready to leave and Jesse went back to sleep because his knee was acting up again. Zumba is basically aerobic dance moves to hip hop/ dancy/ latin ish music. It was interesting.

Jesse and I got going after naps and stopped at the biggest Subway we have ever seen. I mean huge. How does this town need a Subway that big? I should have taken a picture. That subway meant serious business.

Then we drove up to Monarch Pass looking at increasingly interesting cloud formations. Monarch Pass, for those who don't know (I didn't know until yesterday) is at 11,000 something feet and probably the longest continuous climb they're going to have. It is also where the continental divide is located. If you pour water on one side it goes to the Atlantic ocean, on the Other and it goes to the Pacific. Or as our host said, 'you can pee on each side and it'll end up in two oceans'.

We got up there and it was freezing. For all you Baltimore people out there: I was wearing a winter hat and coat and looking at leftover snow banks yesterday. :-p

Oh don't you worry, our day will come. We'll be traveling on the East Coast in August. If June and July were in the 90s and 100s what will August be like? Armageddon? Won't you all be so disgusted if we get back and it's a nice cool breezy 70?

Well at the top of Monarch Pass is the option of taking a little gondola up to the tippy top, about 12,000 ft and looking out all all the fourteeners that surround the area (Pat and Maria, I recommend this too, only 7 dollars with a view to die for that you don't even have to work to get).

We had to wait out the weather, two storm systems were colliding over Monarch Pass, we probably spent a few hours up there before the guys could leave.

Fun Fact: Did you know there are people even crazier than us?

There are people who hike the mountains we were on. All the way down. From the tops to the bottoms. We met one such hiker named Mark from England. This is his bazillionth trip. He's done the Appalachian trail a few times. He's done the Pacific route that is probably also well known to everyone but me because I'm a real details girl. Now he's doing this one. Apparently it's like the triple crown of hiking in America and this is his last one. He hikes for a few days with limited supplies and then he goes out and down into some towns to get more supplies and heads back out again.

He was heading to Salida to check out a hostel and get more supplies. Since he was looking for their number because he needed a lift into town and since I was heading that way anyway, we made room for him in the car and I gave him a lift. This is not that uncommon in the mountains. There are a lot of long distance hikers who hitch lifts into town, in fact we saw a couple on our way down that were trying to do just that.

On the way we talked about what kind of people hitchhike and pick up hitchhikers and the trust involved. He's done a lot of hitchhiking in America. I think the more smiley you are the better chance you have of getting a ride.

We also talked about how everyone out here carries a gun (I know, I know I'm stereotyping, but It's a good assumption to be operating under) and how only criminals and police have guns in England. When I asked him how people go hunting if that's the case, he told me it was too crowded, there wasn't much game and people don't hunt. The ones he knows that do hunt come to America for our open seasons or go bow hunting.

Interesting huh?

He also warned me about getting the travel bug and ending up always having to go somewhere like hiking mountain chains when you're 40. Considering he's hiked around Asia and Africa, I don't think it sounds like that bad a deal.

Well we got into Gunnison and gave our host some last minute notice that we were coming. It wasn't that last minute. We told him that morning.

We were lucky, he had gotten back into town two days ago. We went and got pizza and called our host up for directions. The boys ended up biking with him back to his house while I drove there.

The house is absolutely beautiful. It's an old farm house (they have chickens!) with a wrap around porch that we sat on and watched the sunset.

I got to sleep in his daughter's bed because who wants a stinky boy sleeping in your daughter's bed? His family is still on the vacation he just got back from visiting family, so we had a couple of beds to choose from. Pacella got to sleep on Bob the Builder sheets!

He had huge fluffy towels and one of those free standing tubs with feet.

I'm actually sitting here and looking at all the clouds rolling in and wondering if I should go check on the boys.

They're doing a century into Pueblo, CO today but they're taking different routes. Pacella is doing the hard core cyclist route and Mike and Jesse are taking a route that's missing some of the climbs.

After today it's going to be pretty much flat flat flat until we get to Missouri-ish.

I'm taking the day off from exploring and finding us some places to stay for the next few nights. Once we get into small towns again it will not be hard at all because we have found a lot of places to camp and a lot of pastors that live right next to their churches that don't mind us sleeping on the floor.

For now I bid thee adieu.

Signed most handsomely,
One Shelly Kessler, Esq.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Nerd Slumber Party

I already typed a thing about Telluride because I couldn't remember if I had already talked about it and didn't feel like checking and then I accidentally deleted it, so watch the videos if you want to know about Telluride.

In sum: The boys hiked a mountain while I got a full body massage, Free blues concert, pizza, Mike and Jesse in the Parade, Fireman's barbecue, napping.

Well so then, we're on our way to see the fireworks and run into some Texans on a covered porch (it was drizzling). They seemed to know where the fireworks would be, so we asked them where a good place to watch them would be. 'Well right here!' they said and invited us right up.

Oh man oh man. They offered some wine and some fresh picked peach cobbler on vanilla ice cream. The nicest family. We have one little video up of them. All the southerners we've been running into have been so nice.

The fireworks. Amazing. They had some that went off as big as the mountains they were set against. We really enjoyed them with our new friends.

Alright so then we set off for Montrose.

I stopped in a coffee shop halfway between there and Telluride. A guy heard me on the phone saying I didn't know where the heck I was and seemed mildly offended. (I think I was in Ridgeway?). The coffee shop was real neat. There are lots of quirky mountain town coffee shops in Colorado, I recommend checking some of them out. The people in them tend to be the adventurous traveling sort.

Well apparently Montrose is frowned upon from up in the mountain towns because... They have a Walmart and a J.C. Pennys!!!! I'm ashamed; I really am. You try to find something you need in a small town. It doesn't exist. People order what they need through the store, which doesn't work when you're only there for a day. So, I was excited.

By the way, the spell checker thing on this doesn't know what Walmart is and keeps underlining it in red trying to turn it into Waldemar, Wallchart, Wilmar, or Walkman.

Montrose was great, mostly because of our hosts. They own llamas and go llama packing/camping in nearby open areas. We didn't get to meet the llamas because they were on the next mountain across the way at a farm.

Our hosts have traveled all over. They hitchhiked across America. They've taken years off and traveled through India and Africa and all manner of interesting places.

We had a great time. They fed us lentil and chicken soup and delicious salad and homemade bread and peach preserves. They had lots of interesting stories and pictures from their travels.

We had their entire upstairs, each one of us got something comfortable to sleep on, which is very unusual. So, we had nice long hot showers and good food and our hosts left us for the night because they get up early to work around their house. They're currently putting in an irrigation system. The whole house is designed and a good bit of it built by them. My favorite part was the outdoor patio that led up into a tower.

By the way if you ever plan on building your very own desert home, don't put gigantic windows in the thing like some of our host's neighbors. You're heating and cooling bill will be through the roof. Work with the environment people!

Well they left and Mike Pacella got out some light reading, a quantum chemistry textbook. According to him it is highly philosophical, especially the first few chapters. Which led to all of us sitting on the pull out sofa in a style reminiscent of a slumber party talking about quantum physics and chemistry and anthropology and science and what have you.

Alright here cuts off the story cause I got to run, the boys are calling me, so you don't get to hear about today...

We went to Monarch Pass and stood on the continental divide. The end.


Friday, July 2, 2010

We actually made it to Colorado

Some reflections on Utah:

1.) The Utah desert is more hot and intense than Nevada's loneliest road desert and there were less people in it. This is fun to note because the people of Nevada warned us of this and we chuckled like children who didn't know any better.

2.) There are lots of really neat festivals in Utah. For example: Groovefest and a Hot Air Balloon Festival and they are definitely worth checking out, especially the hot air balloon one.

3.) People are funny. They say things like 'around here we're all good christian fearin folk, but over there in (insert the next state here) you be careful.' The cyclist that we ran into named Clay who is cycling to the Great Lakes does a great impression of this and if you run into him on your journey you should ask him to do it.

4.) Utah has a ton of National Parks and they are all spectacular. I feel like I shouldn't be telling people this because I wouldn't want to tell people the secret and ruin the hardly anyone being there aspect of the parks.

5.) Utah eats camping equipment.

6.) Utah is windy. Very very windy. Very very very windy. Just ask the guys.

7.) I know I already mentioned this, but Utah has extensive deserts. Who knew?

That's all.

Last night I rolled into town to find Mike German playing Frisbee with some people he had met in the park while Pacella looked on disbelievingly. Where does he get the energy?

Then we went and got very interesting pizza from a place the people he was playing frisbee with recommending.

We rolled over to the Catholic church that had agreed to let us pitch tents in their yard (no one would be there to let us in). However, across the street was another baptist church. Mike guessed which one was the parsonage and walked over to see if we could sleep on their floor while Pacella and I hid behind the car. It was nearly 10 at night. Who wants a bear man knocking on their door at 10 at night? Baptists; that's who.

Of course you can stay here! Come in come in, use whatever you like just clean up. It's so nice to meet you folks. You know we had some cyclists not even a few days ago. Oh yeah real nice guy. We get you sort in here all the time.

Make yourselves at home, just hollar in you need something.

You can't argue with Mike German's results.

And now I'm off to check out more new and wondrous things.

Shelly Kessler, Lover of Libraries

p.s. Did I mention I was in an awesome library? It's got big windows, it's near a river, it's got a fireplace and stuffed chairs and rocking chairs and it's all wood and lovely. I love libraries.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We Met the Nicest Georgians in Utah

Mike says to me, "Try a Baptist Church; they do things on Wednesdays." This is after camping at Hite Recreational Area, a really nice place to camp and see the stars by Lake Powell which is one of the only water sources we've seen around.

Fun fact: The Utah desert is way worse than the loneliest road desert in Nevada. The guys hit a wall cause they didn't know what was waiting for them at the end.

We camp, the boys haven't showered in a week (I have, I paid for one at an RV camp site because I'm a girl.) I have to meet them in three hours to give them water because there is absolutely nothing between here and there and they head off for Blanding, UT.

I take a mini beach day and lounge by Lake Powell while they set off. Then I find them and see them hot and exhausted; it's much hotter here. Then I head off for Natural Bridges to check out some natural bridges. =)

It's a 9 mile loop that you get to drive to overlooks of the bridges with options of hiking around. I only did the .5 mile hike to the closest bridge because I had to get back to the guys.

As I'm leaving the park I run into Pacella, who is looking pretty beat and teach him about the wonders of wetting a bandanna to put around your neck to keep you cooler.

The guys all water up, German and Jesse had run into another support car driver that is much more advanced than our car and gave them cold Gatorade (The most I can manage is not hot Gatorade).

So, I set off towards Blanding thinking to get some food and decide to try a church anyway. The first one I try has some people milling about in it. They happen to be the nicest people I've ever met. They're from Georgia on a missions trip and here for a week. Some of the kids ran out of money, so they were cooking in and would you like some food? Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.

So they let us stay. We get showers. We get amazing food from the nicest people. Barbecue chicken and green beans and mac and cheese and tacos and pizza and spare ribs and sweet tea and we are in heaven. Fresh backed cookies out of the oven and milkshakes. Oh my goodness oh my goodness.

So I just had to tell you all because they were the nicest most genuine people I've ever met and I hope to run into them again some day.

Now I have to run because the library is closing.

Signed most sincerely,
One Shelly Kessler, Knocker on Baptist's doors.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The sort of camping that only happens in dreams

We hiked Bryce Canyon. That was super awesome. Hiking Bryce is fun because the whole time you're walking along you can make out shapes in the hoodoos. Hoodoos, for those who don't know, are: .

Hey that one is called Thor's hammer! That one looks like snoopy! - Jesse. Hey look it's George Washington's head! - Mikey G... and so on.

We only did a moderate loop. The boys biked the first half of the day and they I drove over and caught up with them, so we only had a few hours to hike. We initially wanted to hike the Navajo loop, but that was closed due to rock slide, so we were diverted to the Queen's Garden loop. This was very pretty and very neat and also a very easy loop. We stopped and took a ton of pictures (no one was killed or harmed in the taking of the pictures) and still made it back within two hours.

This is definitely very different from the Grand Canyon experience. I've never done a little loop before. I hadn't even really gone camping before. I suppose this requires explanation. I was in girl scouts and we went "camping" in cabins. Then I went to a campground and had camp food and watched a meteor shower before driving home without sleeping because I had work at 8 am.

Basically before I picked up and went to the Grand Canyon I hadn't been backpacking or camping before. It turns out that I really like camping, which is good to know considering I had better like it on such a long trip.

So this trip I am doing the two and a half month camping trip thing. Basically, I only do long epic camping trips rather than little weekend ones. When I get home I should try out camping for funsies in local forests, like normal people.

Anyway, when you get to the bottom of the loop there are a ton of rock piles from people who have been there before. They're stacked on boulders and trees and the ground and between things. We took video and will post when able.

Well we got out of Bryce and the guys biked the last few miles to Tropica, Utah. Yes there is actually a place called Tropica, Utah. No, it is not Tropical. Jesse had run into a cyclist that owns an inn in Tropica and he let us pitch our tents out in back of his inn.

It was so completely windy. I woke up from a dead sleep and shot into the air grabbing the top of my tent like I thought I was being blown away. Then I blearily looked around and fell back down into a sleep. I rarely wake up once I'm asleep. I'm a champion sleeper. In fact, I come from a long line of champion sleepers. We are so good we should win awards.

The next morning, the boys set out and I set off to find a shower. This was no longer an option. Being in wretched condition is all well and good when you are hiking in back country for a week, but when you are camping outside of towns and then going into them and sitting next to people there is a limit of not showering.

I went to one of the RV campgrounds and bought a 5 dollar shower. Five dollars for as long as I wanted, which translated into a half an hour shower. Money well spent. It was glorious. Each shower on this trip is better than the last. Funnily enough, each bed is more comfy than the last.

I sat in a restaurant and wrote in my notebook, where I'm keeping track of where I've been and who I've met. This little girl kept walking real close to the table and turning around and running back to her seat. Her grandmother finally told me that she's fascinated by journals and keeps a dream journal. It was rather cute. I let her take a look. She looked for two seconds and ran off again.

While I was writing one of the employees at the place was sweeping the floor next to me and told me to put him into my book. His name was Clark, so here he is making an appearance in the closest thing to a book that I'll probably ever write.

When I got to where we were going, after Boulder, UT and up a mountain, I ran into Jesse halfway. He got in the car because his knees were killing him. We passed Mike and he hollered, 'The thing is open!' What thing? The thing on top the car with all our camp gear in it. All of Jesse's stuff had fallen out; we had forgotten it was open this morning when everyone left.

We get to the top of the mountain and run into Pacella and another cyclist. The other cyclist was traveling with his bike full loaded and was heading towards maybe the Great Lakes. He's done college except for his senior project. He just has to write a novel.

We unloaded everything we needed and Jesse took the car back on a search for the missing things. There is no way to find them, it was all sharp turns and cliffs and sheer drops. Not to make the parents worried...

I walked over to the edge and wow. Oh wow. over 9000 ft up and you can see for miles and miles where we'll be heading. We pitched our tents next a bit back in a meadow next to an aspen grove. It was so incredibly beautiful.

It was perfect out. We made some rice and tuna and pb&j sandwiches and shared them with our new friend. Mike German rolled in and has apparently met his match in the other cyclist. We didn't think it was possible. The world is probably imploding as we speak.

Went to sleep and it stayed perfect. I can't even describe waking up on top of a mountain, in a meadow next to an aspen grove with a perfect view. It's just... perfection. It's like the camping people dream about having and never get. The fairy tale camping that shouldn't exist. But it does and it did and we experienced it. I highly recommend coming to Utah. It's beautiful.

Signed from a dream,
Shelly Kessler, Future camping extraordinaire

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In the Land of Buttered Toast

The past few days have been amazing.

So far I have:

Taken a ride on the ghost train, an old fashioned train in Ely, NV that takes you on a scenic tour of the area. I also had a great conversation with the artist in residence in Eureka. She gave me some tips on what to check out including Leman Caves.

Next I hop skipped over to the Great Basin National Park where I went on a tour of the Lehman Caves. These were really neat. The guy giving the tour was a biology major with a summer job. You could tell he loved it. His tour was actually really polished for someone who just started working at the park.

The Caves were neat because they were like works of art. Each room was more decorated than the last with popcorn looking rock formations, stalagmites (you might trip over them), stalactites (they hang tight to the ceiling) and shield formations.

We camped in the middle of no where off the side of the road between Baker and Milford on the Utah side of the state lines (I stopped and took a picture because it was the first state sign I had run into. I didn't see the one between California and Nevada).

Then we went to Cedar City, which was really neat. They were having Groooooovefest. So, I met up with our host, who was exceedingly nice, and went over to check it out. The musicians were really good. It was mostly some combination of Western/American/Rock/Bluegrass depending on the band. I'll post some clips of it whenever I have better wifi than this Subway I'm sitting in.

Some things to note: Lemonade with strawberries is a fantastic idea. Garlic fries are also highly recommended if you get them in a place that does them right. I don't remember ever seeing garlic fries in Maryland.

Plus! And this is important. I found snowballs in Cedar City. Apparently they moved in a few years ago and set up shop. They don't have chocolate and they didn't have marshmallow, so they still have awhile to catch us to the genius that is Maryland snowballs, but they're heading in the right direction. They do however call them shaved ice, or snow cones. Never snowballs.

Also good to note. People don't know what you're talking about when you ask for a fried egg here, but I'm pretty sure they don't always know what I'm talking about in Maryland diners either. They also generally do not know how to make hard boiled eggs in the diners I have stopped in. One diner cracked an egg into boiling water and let it sit for 8 minutes. Some of them just refuse out of practicality. From now on I order scrambled eggs; they seem to be the same everywhere.

When you get toast around here, they butter it for you before you even get it. No option because it goes without saying that of course you would butter your toast. It comes to you pre-melted onto the bread.

Let's see, what else? I got to sleep in the comfiest bed in the world (each bed is comfier than the last). Our host's daughter thoroughly insisted that I take this stuffed moose and give it to Jesse. She told me to give it to the bald one in the white shirt. We have some envelopes. We were planning on taking a picture of it with Jesse in a neat place and mailing it to her like people do with gnomes.

Then I went back to Groovefest for a few hours and got on the road to Panguitch, UT.

On the way there, there are some gorgeous view points where you can see Cedar Breaks (google it). It's really beautiful. While I was up there at 10,000 feet I ran into the nicest couple, Pat and Maria. They're busy traveling America in a RV. They've been all over and they're heading out the same way we're going next. I can't tell you how nice they were. I told them I'd post the picture I took of them on this blog, but that won't happen for another week until we get wifi. So, if you're reading this, check back! I'll post it eventually. I wanted to mention them here just in case it took me as long as I fear it will.

Now this town, Panguitch, is real neat. We decided to arrive in Panguitch on same night with 10,000 other people. There was a Balloon Festival!!! This is super exciting to apparently just me. Pacella and Snuggles (Jesse, =) ) just slept through the balloon launch.

I want to be a hot air balloon pilot when I grow up. I want to hot air balloon around the world in 80 days. I want to get married on a hot air balloon. In fact, if I could live on a hot air balloon, I would.

So... yeah, the guys weren't as excited as me.

ALSO! Quick note before I geek out over hot air balloons. Mike German (who I have been referring to as Papa Bear; Jesse agrees with this assessment) is thoroughly ridiculous as a person. We were trying to convince him to let us stay in a campground with a shower tonight; he of course refused. So we told him we'd each give him 5 dollars (the amount if would have cost us to pay for a camp ground) if he found us a place with electricity and a shower. Originally the deal was inside with electricity and a shower, but we scaled it back to be equivalent to the camp ground we wanted to stay in.

So, he wanders off with that walk of his. It's sort of a duck walk, stalking his prey, assessing the situation. He looks around and zeros in on a likely candidate. Well, what do you know. He found someone willing to let us camp in their backyard and use the electrical outlet outside their house. This was rather easy because it was a festival and there were a million people to ask. They already had other family from Salt Lake camping in their backyard. He did not find us a shower, they had too many people in their house as it was, so no fives for him.

That hot air balloon festival was awesome. They had all the hot air balloons line main street and they inflated them and lit them up in the night. It was really neat. They also had live music and lots of people milling about.

The next morning at 6:30 they had a hot air balloon launch; 35 hot air balloons taking off into the air at once. I got up to see it, and Mike G. stumbled out of bed to check it out. The other guys stayed in bed. Mike wanted us to walk over because he thought there wouldn't be parking. It ended up taking us a half hour to get over there (p.s. there was parking), I ended up losing him at some point as we got there.

The hot air balloon launch was not a disappointment. It was really great. They had a smokey the bear balloon and lots of brightly colored ones from all over. I want to reiterate my inexhaustible love for hot air balloons and my burning desire to be a hot air balloon pilot. New goal for this trip: ride a hot air balloon. This trip just wouldn't be complete without a hot air balloon ride. I'll see you later boys! I'm flying back to Maryland in style.

Mike G. was not as impressed as me with the hot air balloons. He said he would have preferred extra sleep. My enthusiasm will just have to sustain both of us.

Now we are headed towards Bryce Canyon. You will probably not get any more video updates for awhile because it looks like I will be using Subway free wifis for the next few days at least, unless Papa Bear ups the ante and finds us a free place with a shower, electricity and wifi.

We're going to take a rest day, basically they're only riding for 25 miles today, and check out Bryce Canyon. Then we're off to Escalante, UT for more adventure.

If what I have seen so far is true, Utah is full of festivals. It is the season for them.

Signed most extravagantly,
One Shelly Kessler, Future Hot Air Balloonist

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dinner with the Mayor

And we're off again!

The boys left late in the morning because it does not get that hot in this area yet. I stuck around, used the internet planned the next few days. I'm going to take the ghost train (an old steam train) aaaaand I'm going to go take a tour of lehman caves.

So I get going late and pass Mike and Jesse. I get to Ely and Mike Pacella is waiting. We find the church and the pastor lets us in. Everything is great, we have another place to stay.

So we're waiting for Mike and Jesse to show up and get a call. 'Hey is the place giving us food?' No Mike, no food this time. 'Oh well great we found some people who are gonna give us burgers'.

So Pacella and I set out to go find some much talked about biscuits and gravy, but before we get there we get a call from Papa Bear again. 'Hey, ya'll should come over. There's free food by the sign that says economy drugs and toys!'

So we stop by to assess the situation. They're having a cookout with lots of good food. Awesome. We grab a plate sit down and our hosts point and say, 'that's the mayor, the one in the red'. It was a 70s themed cookout. They had good music, good food and good people.

We're so cool we roll into Ely and have dinner with the mayor and the chamber of commerce. They took our picture and they're putting us into their newsletter. Hopefully we get some donations, but if not, that was pretty awesome all the same. If one of you are reading this because you're checking out our blog, Hi! Thank you so much!

Like I said before. They've been nothing but nice.

Signed most famously,
One Shelly Kessler, Imfamous cookout crasher

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Vacation from Vacation

So, I haven't updated because I have been taking a vacation. How is this possible? I am in Elko, Mike G. and Jesse are in Eureka and Mike P. is in Louisville, KY. See? A vacation.

Basically what has happened is this:

Mike German's Achilles tendon was acting up just outside of Fallon (Day 5). Consequentially he wrapped up his ankle and took the day off while the other two biked to Austin, NV. We were supposed to go to a campground between Fallon and Austin, but we sped up the time line. Instead of biking from Fallon to Eureka in 4 days we did it in two. This was so that Mike P. could fly out of Elko (about 100 miles away from Eureka) and return without missing any days of biking; we would only be about one day behind schedule instead of 3, which actually makes us right on schedule. Mike built in rest days, bless him.

During Mike's day of not biking we found a place to stay in Eureka with the local church. We also went to see the much talked about and recommended Berlin-Ichthyosaur state park, which I was super excited about and Mike was being tolerant about. Basically Berlin and the surrounding area used to be covered by water... sooooo they have water dinosaurs. Super exciting, right? Not to mention I'm trying to hit every dinosaur and quirky thing from here to Baltimore. Sooooo we get there and the little place with the fossils in it is closed, but you can look through the window. Mike was, um... well. It'll be good when he can start cycling again. It's hard to switch from cyclist mode to road trip mode. One is about exercise and going going going. The other is about seeing every quirky thing from here to Baltimore.

So we get there and turn right back around and go back. Keep in mind that to get there it took about 59 miles on a dirt road. The bikes got very dirty. This was OK because later on that night we camped off a dirt road making all the bikes even dirtier.

So, we roll into Austin, which has the International Cafe. A place where you can apparently get homemade pie. All the motels in town were booked, and Mike wouldn't consent to stay in one even if they weren't. So, we set off to find some hot springs that we had been hearing about. We didn't find them and it was getting progressively darker, so up a hill on a road we should never have been driving on we pitched our tents and got some sleep. Luckily it did not rain. Really this was a pretty amazing experience because there were actually no sounds. Normally when you camp you hear the people in the campground next to yours, or some animal rustling through your campground or something. This had nothing. It's the desert, there are no large predators. There are barely lizards. There was a bee that was particularly annoying in it's buzzing come 4 am. Other than that and a donkey off in the distance, nothing.

This Dunalk girl is entirely not used to no noise. You mean to tell me there are no trains going by? No sirens? No loud party next door or an argument on the street? No nothing? This exists?

The next day in Austin we got going late because the boys had to clean off their bikes having gotten them entirely dirty from all the dirt road driving that had been going on the night before.

Mike P. and Jesse got going before the parade started. Did I mention there was a parade in Austin? Someone who had a lot to do with the city, well it was his day. So they had the people who were running for sheriff go by. They had a little kid in a stroller made to look like a buggy. They had a girl on a horse that was labeled the pony express. They had a guy carrying an American flag, a guy next to him firing off his gun and finally the LDS sang a song about something that I'm imagining has to do with being from Nevada and a pioneer westward type. Mike G. was thrilled.

We got going and I dropped Mike G. on the flat part of the trail so that he could bike and I could drive and everyone could be happy. He wanted to try to work out his tendon without killing it.

So we arrived at the church about 12 miles from the town of Eureka. The people there are so so nice. We showed up and there was a casserole, bread, butter, coleslaw, and desert cake just waiting for us. So after catching up on some stuff, I went back to make sure the boys weren't dead in the desert. By the time I got back Mike P. had already arrived and we dug into the casserole. Delicious. Oh man.

Jesse rolled in not too long afterwards. We ate, I napped and Mike P. and I rolled out for Elko.

Oh man oh man oh man. Elko. The town, I don't like so much. I've never been much of a city girl anyway. But the house I am staying in. Oh my goodness oh my goodness.

The walls are straw bale with clay on top. The house is facing such a way that they get heat from the sun in the winter and shade in the summer. They have solar panels and a back up system powered by a kerosene tank. They designed and built it themselves. It is beautiful. Last year when I was ranting about cob houses and building and the like, this is what I was talking about.

They have a shower outside!!! This is the sort of thing you get arrested over in Baltimore. You can shower and look at the mountains and smell the flowers and it's amazing. You can shower outside because they're on top of a foothill, away from the city and have 40 acres. This means that even if someone did come up the road, they won't be coming up the driveway, so people are too far away to see you. Not that many people live over here to begin with. Like I said, it's an amazing place.

So I dropped Mike P. off in the morning and off he went. He is presenting at a conference about his research from his time as a TA. Something to do with teaching more sustainability in classes I think? He said his presentation went great and he met lots of people in the industry and the trip was completely worth it.

While here I finished reading 1984 and am appropriately devastated by the ending. I also picked up a new sleeping bag. I got cold in the other one while camping in the Desert of Austin, so I was a little concerned about the Rockies. This new one is ridiculous and had better keep me warm.

I pick Pacella up tonight and we drive back to Eureka so that the boys can get going in the morning. I feel this blog is even more uninteresting than the last, but that can't be helped because I'm on vacation and have stopped thinking. Perhaps the next one will be better. (The next one potentially being in Colorado because I'm not entirely sure we're going to be doing anything but camping in Utah.

Signed most wholeheartedly,
Shelly Kessler, solo adventurer

I am looking forward to the next week because we will be in the middle of nowhere Utah.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So Uhhhh What's the Situation on the French Toast Makin...SItuation?

So today was interesting. We stayed with a guy who reminded me remarkably of Jake Jensen. This will mean nothing to the parents who are reading this blog, but will be really funny to everyone else. So, to explain. Lots of stories about music and very extroverted and lots of fun.

He was really cool and made us a really good dinner. Great conversation and wine and food and a good place to sleep. We were happy people indeed.

So I woke up this morning and spent the whole time uploading videos that take forever to upload just to make you all happy. I might have thrown down about dishes at some point...right as I was meeting our new hosts... It might have carried over into video format... I don't think I'll be doing dishes anymore.

Sooooo I was on the road to Fallon, NV because I got a call from Mike Pacella that we were staying in a palace. They have a pool, cows, pool table, lots of couches, food left over from yesterday's party and an amazing view. I figured I'd get right over there and check it out, but on the way I passed the twice recommending Virginia City and thought I'd check it out.

At a gas station, before this awesome decision, I got a call from a pastor in Ely (which I keep pronouncing wrong... I bet you're pronouncing it wrong in your head right now... Ely... Yup that's wrong... Ely... stop it.)

So looks like we get to crash at a church in Ely. Sometimes life works out. Anyway I get the call from him and I couldn't hear him at all because I was right by the highway. Hopefully I wasn't too irritating trying to sound coherent.

So on the road I see the sign for Virginia City and one U turn later, I am on the road to adventure. It was cool, it had a lot of the old buildings and board walks still intact. I took the three dollar tour of the museum in town which was neat because it had things like old phones and old mine carts and old everything.

I was going to take the 5 dollar tour of the town on a trolley, but not enough people were around for the last tour of the day for it to happen. While I waited I ran into some people who had a son who had gone on a mission trip to somewhere in Africa; he worked at an orphanage and the town he lived in lost their well. He fund raised the money in his own church to fix it, so me and his father and a nice chat about why water is so important and how it's going to be the thing we start wars over for the 21st century.

On the way back I saw a Dinosaur!!!! T-rex to be exact. Made out of scrap metal on the side of the road. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of it, so I can't prove that it's there. This is like trying to prove that you saw a banana shaving it's legs in the shower (shout out to Jim Thomas who will never read this), so you'll have to decide for yourselves if you believe me or not.

Coincidentally the guy we stayed with (Mike) that reminded me remarkably of Jake Jensen worked for the City and surveyed wells and things. Apparently when it comes to water it all comes down to how long you've been on the land. There are people in Carson City who get first rights to the water because their grandparent's grandparents or something or another lived there, so the water is bought from them... or something. I'm a real details girl.

So food, has been amazing. Mike G. bought something like 40 lbs of rice and 180 cans of tuna... and about the equivalent in oatmeal and peanut butter and jelly. So I was rather frightened, but turns out Mike is also really good at finding extra food to supplement this rather awful diet. THe guy in Carson City made us some awesome chicken and something or another deliciousness. We just rolled into Fallon and they people here are very very nice. They had a party yesterday and so we've been eating all of their leftovers. Basically Mike sort of pokes around until he gets an offer of food and we hop onto the mooch bandwagon.

This may be the last post for awhile because we're about to enter the middle of nowhere Nevada (It's Nevahhhda) and then the middle of nowhere Utah, where apparently there are some of the most beautiful dark sky parks you will ever find. Dark Sky parks just mean that there are conservatories around them and they have some of the darkest skies in the world for viewing stars. Things will pick back up in Colorado when we're not camping.

Mike G. is wandering around like a bear man. He's tried two different couches and is still too warm. He's just wandered off into the desert... or rather the patio on the desert to find cool air... now the basement. Maybe I'll just sit here and blog about his crazy movements as they happen like that English assignment that everyone gets. You know, the one where you're supposed to sit in a place like a cafe and write down everything that happens around you. Only mine will be the Mike German experience. Here he comes again. His Achilles tendon has been hurting him. He's hobbling around like an old bear man. Here he comes with a sleeping bag, who wants to bet that he's going outside? Oh no... the dining room.... oh! and the surprise by the balcony door decision. I did not see that one coming. He grabs a pillow and an extra blanket and he is outta here.

So, it's been great so far... Donna, the woman we're staying with gave me a drink because I have to travel with three boys and some great food. She also asked me if I was dating Mike German. This is because I rolled into her drive way, called Mike and started yelling at him on the phone and in person as I got out of the car about dishes left in a sink in Carson City... I may have over reacted just a tad, but hey sometimes a girl just has to throw down about dishes; all the girls from Antietam can back me up on this one. This was about the last four years; poor Mike and Jesse were just the straws that broke the she-demon's back. A shout out to Mike Pacella for being completely self sufficient and good at doing dishes. I've never seen the like before. I probably shouldn't put my crazy on the internet. Oh well. Deal with it.

Soooo yea. The next few days will be interesting. We're coordinating a drop off of Mike P. in Elko to catch a plane for a conference where he's presenting. I will be driving up to Elko to stay with the nice people the boys stayed with on the way out to San Fran. Then I will pick up Mike P. and head down to Eureka, Kansas where the other boys will be waiting for us so that we can pick back up again. If you have never tried to fly out of the middle of nowhere Nevada, I wouldn't recommend it. It is at least 3 planes and 1000 dollars. This is why I'm not making it to my brother's wedding party.

So far we are nearly ahead of schedule. It looks like they're going to cut out the middle between Austin, Nevada and here and just go straight to Austin. I'm not entirely sure why but, when Chem E's start to plan something, you just let them do crazy mathematical figure 8s and acrobatics until you can figure out what the heck they're trying to do, so you can suggest something obvious.

Actually now that I think about it the next time I'll probably be able to update is in Elko... maybe. Who knows. That's why this is an adventure.

Signed Most Irrevocably,
One Shelly Kessler, She-Demon