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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoodoo_%28geology%29 .

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010



The Sleeping Situation

So the boys rolled into Placerville before I even left Davis. Another couchsurfer was staying in Davis, the one who filmed our video blog for Day 1. We went out to get Thai food for lunch before I left. It was so completely delicious. Really fresh ingredients and sauce that was really light and delicious. I might actually manage to eat healthy on this trip.

When we got back our host was cleaning her house and offered a bike tour of UC Davis. Now that was really interesting. First of all, it turns out that UC Davis allows communes to exist on their campus. As in kids living in domes or old houses with land to grow vegetables and to raise chickens. Second of all even without the hippie commune people, UC Davis grows its own olives and makes its own olive oil, which you can buy and third of all there are frozen yogurt places all over which we needed after biking in the heat in Davis. I'm not entirely sure how the boys are not passing out on their bikes, but I suppose that is why I am their support car driver and they are the cyclists.

I nearly crashed the bike that our hosts let me borrow anyway. It didn't have grips, so after putting on suntan lotion holding on was a problem and it barely had breaks, which in traffic was a problem, and it made this really interesting continuous squeaking noise, which wasn't anything but worrisome. Also, I was way way too short for that bike. Talk about immediate bruising. Soooo basically I'm a big sissy and should stay away from biking. It's a good thing I'm on a trip called BAAM. Turns out in Davis I am also exceptionally clumsy. I managed to knock over bikes and drop things and bang into things. I mean I'm uncoordinated, but I'm not normally that bad.

Also, I had to attempt to parallel park. I have not parallel parked since i took my drivers test. The other couchsurfer was laughing pretty hard while he watched me try to do it. Not only was it parallel parking, but it was parallel parking with spikes sticking off the back of the car.

Davis is pretty much the biking capital of the world. Everyone there bikes. They told me that they have more bikes per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. and they were beaten only by one foeign country and I forget which. I could actually believe it. The place we stayed had at least 8 bikes. Driving around there were bike racks everywhere and bike shops. The city's symbol was a bike with a huge wheel. There are bike lanes and traffic signals and paths. It was all very pretty.

I called this post the sleeping situation because sleeping is funny. We show up at a place we don't know and have never seen and get some sort of sleeping arrangement. At our other place we had two couches a floor and a backyard, no air conditioning. At this place we had a big community room floor to put our sleeping bags on, air conditioning and free reign in the kitchen (church kitchens always seem to be well stocked).

At this place, which has treated us so so well, they didn't want me to sleep on the same floor as the boys. Every place we go to will have new accommodations and expectations, you have to be very flexible when you are living off the kindness of strangers. This one was exceptionally funny to me because... well... they're stinky so it's not like I'm going near them anyway. Also they biked all day and are probably sore all over, so we get to the new place the boys eat all the food they can mooch (OK, I do too) or that we can make, and then they wander around blearily in bikers shorts until they pass out on a sleeping mat sometimes still stinky.

Then they wake up in the morning and go go go. You would think this would be boring for me, but I get to hang around the places we've been with our exceptionally nice hosts and I eat food that Mike German didn't buy and I sleep in til 10 am. So far, I am definitely very relaxed. Soon I shall rustle up a dinosaur museum to visit.

So in conclusion... sleeping at churches means that you are well fed and treated very nicely in air conditioning in clean locations. Also really funny things come up like the issue of girls sleeping at minimum 7 feet from very stinky boys. This is something I can live with. They've all been nothing but nice.

Signed most extravagantly,
One Shelly Kessler

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Always Remember to Bring Your Towel

I might end up being the only person to update this blog; I'm going to be doing most of my driving and sight seeing alone. When you're alone for such a long period of time you want to reach out to the world. Apparently the solution is to post a blog into the abyss.

I had an amazing time in California, the first leg of my trip. Traveling without a care in the world beyond what shall I eat tonight and what wine shall I try and what place would I like to sleep is pretty nice. I wouldn't say that I am burnt out from college, but I am sick and tired. For the last week and a half I have gotten regular sleep and regular exercise. We would get up early, sight see all day and then sleep until we woke up. It is too bad that such a thing will never last. I don't know what to do with this much sleep; I feel well rested. I went to an organ concert and did not fall asleep once, this is highly unusual.

So, this blog isn't about the super awesome trip I took to California, which I highly recommend... It's about BAAM!UMBC

I missed the train to San Fran and missed meeting up with the boys. The family they had stayed with in San Fran sent someone to pick me up. He was very nice and dropped me off at the car and pointed me in the right direction.

A note about trains. Trains are awesome because you can always find another backpacker type on them. Today I ran into a couple who backpacked and couchsurfed for a year across Asia, Oceania and Eastern Europe. I aspire to be so adventurous. I love running into such people. They are always excited about what you're doing and they always have the most interesting stories to tell and excellent advice for your own adventure.

This trip is about being fearless. It is about adventure. It is about living passionately without regret and without hesitation. Namely this trip is about driving in places I never would have been able to drive in a week ago.

I got in the car and drove off into San Francisco. Now let me tell you why this is novel; I am terrified of driving in Baltimore City. Probably because every time I do, I get lost or perhaps it's from the one and only time I got into a car accident. Now imagine driving in a city where not only could you not possibly know where you are within the city because you have never been there and add hills. Did you know that San Fran has a lot of hills? I missed that memo in grade school.

The point I am making is this: Fearless. I'm in a state of Zen that as of yet I have been unable to obtain. It was a fantastic drive out to Davis... and a fantastic drive back when I had to drive an hour and a half back to pick up the bag of electronics that the boys left in San Fran.

I do believe the very nice woman who handed me the bag of electronics was mildly concerned when I told her I was off to another place I did not know to try to find Jesse whose bike had broken down. It's not like they left him in the middle of the desert. He had a bike shop and a restaurant to keep him company while he waited for me to show up. This is really a lesson in the kindness of people.

The drivers in San Fran actually slow down for bikers... and stop for pedestrians at cross walks! They will slow down and stop having been going 50 mph. This is a novel idea. I'm pretty convinced that all that sun has gone to their heads.

Not only that but the people we stayed with picked us up, called us when we left very expensive things in their home and were nothing but gracious to us as we ran here and there about California. Oh! I have to give a shout out to Fang. This man was an absolutely brilliant host in San Jose. He drove us to train stations and lent his car. He opened up his entire kitchen to us and took us out to eat (by us I mean Jon, Ellen and Anna... my previous travel companions). Perhaps he's reading this, in which case I say thank you so so so so much.

Jesse had a lady take him and his bike into town and a bike shop stay open late so that he could fix his bike in time for tomorrow.

When we finally arrived in Davis for real, it was to find that we had lost our housing for the night to a graduation party. However, as we all know Mike German is Mike German, so here we are staying in a place with half a dozen college students and one other couch surfer sleeping on their floor.

So today started out late, had a backtrack to San Fran middle and one break down. I did lots of supporting and driving, but all in all I think this is an extremely promising start to what looks like a most excellent adventure.

So, in conclusion to this whole rambling mess, I'm sorry mother but I am going to La Dee Da across the whole country.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day -1: To the Horizon by Mike G

States driven through: Nebraska, Colorado (whoops!), Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada (half)
Driving time: ~16 hr

Where to start when talking about yesterday?  During the day, each driver ended up doing 4-6 hr chunks of driving- Jesse, German, and Pacella.  Jesse had some pretty boring driving through west Nebraska, accidentally going through Colorado because we missed an exit, and then half of Wyoming.  The terrain was progressively more interesting, then there was Wyoming.  If there’s going to be lots of slowly rolling hills, that’s fine if there is agriculture to observe.  But, my word Wyoming you are flat, dry, and continuous (at least along I-80).  There was some nice elevation changes, with us getting to ~9000 ft.  And I guess the people were friendly enough, although they should have given Pacella some advice on not toasting his Chicken Salad sub at Subway, and the girl behind us who just ordered a piece of flat bread- that’s a bit weird.  Ladies, if you are interested in losing weight eat a well-balanced diet and exercise, don’t just eat scant quantities of nutrition lacking substances.  Anything else on Jesse’s leg?  I read some papers on nano-zero valent iron (NZVI) which will likely be something I work with at Lehigh- I’m so pumped for grad school!  Pacella slept in the morning- he’s doing that right now too, he’s prob got like a +2 in sleeping in cars in the morning.
Then I got in to drive somewhere after Subway.  My goodness was Wyoming boring, luckily I had two chapters of a book on tape from PJ O’Rourke called Driving Like Crazy, on some of his ridiculous driving episodes- those were pretty interesting.  I learned that a ’56 Chevy is not reliable 20 years after purchase, unlike common perception amongst others, and that motorcycles might be one of the most phallic symbols of manliness.  But I will desperately need more books on tape, so if you could pleas go to your local library, rip some books on tape, and send me the links for the files and they will be on my ipod like white on rice!  I don’t care what you send me, choose something you like!  The same goes with music.  After the trip I will delete, it’ll be like I checked it out and then renewed the item!  Right?

In the middle of the elevation changes of Wyoming, it started to rain.  It started to spit, it began to rain, and then it started to hale.  No worries, the Subaru is an all-wheel drive champ..  But when I can barely see the front edge of the hood of my own car, let alone the car’s who don’t turn their lights on with their wipers, things get exciting!  This lasted for what felt too long at 60 mph with cars ahead and behind you going the same speeds (or at least that’s what you pray.  I slowed down at one point, realized I shouldn’t, and sped up.  Thankfully I found a pair of tail lights to get behind and follow out of the horrible.  In the end everyone was still intact and I was happy.  The pounds of dead bugs on the hood and grill were washed away! Sadly, there was a casualty: the large BAAM! sticker on the passenger side lost a bit of its’ corner.  It was debated whether or not the windshield was cracked but upon checking the outside we realized it was bird poop or ice that fused to our window!  Continuing through Wyoming, there were many road horizons to pass over where you are then met with another road horizon.  This repeats, many times.  To encourage the driver or cyclist you can tell them:
Passenger: To the horizon!
Driver: Bring me that horizon.
Passenger: Aye, aye Captain!

This helps immensely?
I continued until “Little America” and a gas stop immediately after.  Little America had random signs at least 290 miles along I-80 before arriving.  I guess the place felt suburban enough, the urinals and water seemed adequate?  Laying on the grass, it was found to be well manicured and soft, although likely covered in dog pee.  There was a friendly lady from CA who had a small American Eskimo dog named Rocky (?).  He was fluffy and she seemed nice enough.  At the next gas station I was a bit confused as to the happs.  I went inside to pay and the family that ran the place was sitting at a booth eating lunch, I started at them confused, they laughed, and told me I could pay at the pump.  Well, of course!  That’s why there’re credit card machines at the pumps.  Then Pacella takes over driving.

Northern Utah is beautiful.  Just, wow.  It reminded of Sedona but green and wet, or maybe Scotland, or the Lord of the Rings/Jurassic Park.  Whatever, the place was, it was wonderful.  Sadly we didn’t have time to stop anywhere because we were late for arriving at our host in Elko, NV, apparently they indicated 8:30PM (their time-pacific time) via couchsurfing.  Salt Lake City seemed alright, there were cool ski towns to the east.  But Salt Lake, oh my!  That lake is beautiful and large.  We went to the marina and got same pics/vids while it was misting.  And I took a leak in the marshes.  The temperature was ~50F and that was a slight surprise.  We eventually got to Bonneville Salt Flats as the sun was setting over the mountains, gourgeous.  Sadly the video’s a bit shaky here because it was 56F with 20+ mph winds, but it ‘s still lovely.  Imagine, what you think the arctic looks like?  Okay, now make that flat with some dark mountains to the northwest and you have the salt flats.  It’s very hard-packed and as sticky as asphalt.  Crossing the border of Nevada leads brings the onslaught of neon lights and casinos, quickly followed by pitch black scruff-covered land.  Pacella gpt us to Elko and then to Spring Creek.  Along the way we saw signs informing us “Prison Area.  Hitchhiking Prohibited.” Nevada is classy. 
Leaving the main streets of Elko, we head out to the hills of Spring Creek.  Our host lived out on a dirt road where we maxed at 15 mph at night, so that our weighed down work horse with minimal travel would be happy.  Through two cattle gates designed to keep the cows in and out, we arrive at our desert mansion.  We call and wake up our hosts, find our places to sleep, gawk around the house, and sleep.  Jesse gets a queen bed, Mike gets a 3 section couch, I take a monster bean bag named “Love Sac” and switch to a love seat midway through the night.  Upon waking up at 6am to use the bathrooms we are wide-awake because of the magnificent view of the Ruby Mountains (11,500 ft at the highest) and nearby recreational reservoir.  We break out the oatmeal and scrounge some bowels from their house, sit down, and eventually our hosts wake up and we get a chance to talk.  They are warm, interesting people.

We got a rundown on their self-designed, self-built, energy efficient house.  They had evacuated tubes on the roof for hot water generation that would then heat the floors via a heat exchanger with propylene glycol-water blend and hot water streams- Pacella and I geeked a bit when hearing about the heat exchangers.  The excess heat is removed via natural convection with copper water pipes below the porch overhang.  We will be staying with their son in Carson City, NV.  Thankfully they reminded me because currently I had someone else (maybe?) written down as our host.  We eventually headed out around 8:45AM for our last day of driving!!

Tonight we should enjoy biking around San Fran like nuts, get some sweet climbs and descents.  We’ll see how my knees and left shoulders (knotted wreck) will be this trip.  I’m praying that once regular working out, plus some yoga, pushups, and abs starts for the first time in forever my body will become happy again.  I hate getting so out of the shape it makes me feel like crap physically and psychologically/emotionally.  I can definitely understand why exercise is recommended to those in depression.

So, all you lazy butts!  Get up, go outside, sweat, jump, make music, dance, play team sports, and get the endorphins pumpingJ

Our first blog post on the road! By Mike G

Timespan: 8PM June 9th- 9AM June 11th

Last night around 8:30PM, Pacella and German met up and loaded up the car a bit haphzaradly as we have now  found.  With access only from the back sseat, most items are burie d and inaccessible until we remove the bikes on Sat/Sun.  Oh well, no big  deal because for no we ar driving machines!  Between all our lovely photos taken by the Northeast Booster and German being horribly organized it wasn’t till ~2:00AM that we arrived at Jesse’s place.  There we realized a 5th bike was not going to fit and that a roof rack would be lovely.  By the time adjustments were made and more bags packed.the Subaru had about 5 in of clearance between rear tire fender and ground.  I meant to get stronger shocks put in the rear tires too, but oh well the car will survive- it’s a Subaru!  More goodbyes were said and our journey had officially begun.  I immediately try to sleep after lack of sleep and general low-level stress for the last forever.  Upon waking up, I can’t see out the window and Pacella is beasting up the Appalachia fog along 70.  My goodness it was thick, we felt like we were skiing through gates with the markers and shiny road patches being our only knowledge that a road existed below us.  I was too tired for this non-sense and slept on and off till the morning.  Yeah back-seat piles of stuff!  But it was a little “yeah… hair raising.”  The rest of the day we rotated sleeping, driving, and purchasing gas- Pacella, Crow, German, repeat. 

Where did we eat?  Around 6am at Panera in Ohio, somewhere.  I entered a $2000 giveaway, hopefully we win!  They didn’t have leftovers to give us because they give them away at night :(  We ate PB&J for lunch in the hometown of Mark Twain alongside the Mississippi river.  That was peaceful.  But the PB was hot, and as we realized PB’s viscosity is a strong function of temperature.  So, maybe it was peanut syrup and not peanut butter?  Oh well, it was still delicious.  On the roa we went and eventually we ate some dinner at Arby’s in Nebraska, definitely get the market fresh sandwiches and nothing else, Pacella’s sandwich totally trumped  our sandwiches.  About an hour later we arrived at our first couchsurf in the wonderful town of Kearney, NE- it’s much larger than you would imagine.  I was being a big momma sissy pants and figured we would all just want to sleep after driving for 22 hr.  But that’s stupid, we were in the middle of Nebraska!  We gotta go do it up at the Palm garden Lounge!  The “sleaziest” bar in town… yeah it wasn’t.  They got us a pitcher of Coors Light… mmm funny tasting water.  Pacella got some Jack and Coke so he’d be up for some karaoke.  Katie and Katie, our host and roommate, typically sing (or yell) and sometimes get pulled off stage.  I did Hound Dog with them by Elvis, but couldn’t hear the music or pitch over their screaming so whatever.  For my first time at karaoke, it was meh.  Then our lot got up and did Bad Romance by Lady Gaga- sadly not recorded.  That was fun, we killed  sometime in the beginning and told some jokes.  Then we did our number and I had fun, there was a regular karaoke lady next to me who had a decent voice, and so I could follow her in a song I’ve only heard once on youtube and partially a handful of other times.  We came back and crashed for almost 8 hr- so lovely.

Got up and headed out, I nearly left my electronics bag, whoops!  We got some cereal at the local Apple Market and afterwards I told our cash register woman bout our ride, and gave her aposter.  She said she had already heard about us.  Que?!  I don’t know if I had spammed one of her relatives via couchsurfing for a place, or she saw our ridiculously beautiful car or it was from us hooligans singing Lady gaga last night.  But, my goodness word travels fast in small towns.  Well ,that’s cool I’m in support of people knowing about us and hopefully donating some money on line!  Or giving us some food or lodgings.

Fun note, we saw many wind turbines on the backs of big rigs, so that’s a great sign!  Although, there was a report about raptors being the bird killed predominantly by windwills spinning fast.  But I don’t think that would be such an issue in the Midwest (?) because it’s just plains, but I don’t know anything about birds.

Good day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pre-Trip Thoughts by Mike G

The day has finally come for us to depart on BAAM! I have been dreaming and planning this trip since Urbana, which ended New Year’s Day. Some of my great ideas pre-trip totally fell through because of lack of time and last minute everything. That’s okay I guess I knew something like that would happen.

I pride myself on being confident and comfortable in any situation. In my mind, I can go anywhere and talk to anybody about what I want. I’m a pretty carefree and laid back person, and this is pretty much true. This likely was kindled by student council staff training, leadership workshops, etc. Even though I left with a bad feeling from unethical practices and minimal, tangible results outside the organization (exceptions being SMOBs, volunteer work, and legislative days), these were very important formative years for myself (and probably many others involved). But, I still overanalyze many things and think too much on trivial matters.

Last week, I got real nervous about this trip. I had to buy a million things, we didn’t have housing planned out for ~50 nights, I didn’t have directions printed, I hadn’t advertised much, I had no idea what we were going to do when we went to speak at different churches, etc. I still don’t have half of these things done! Some I’ll finish today, others not a chance. Heck, my original plan was to visit a bunch of VBS camp kids and do planned activities with them on water, to educate the children, who would educate the parents, who would give us money. HA I haven’t even come close to that level of organization. Now, I don’t even know how to raise money. But, I’ve found that by virtue of stating we care enough about international water issues and individuals who need clean water in Zambia to bike across the country that people will give us money along the way. We’ll also talk with them a bit and show them the documentary FLOW.

But, that’s okay, I have peace in God’s plan for this Summer.

The main problem in trip planning was me being frugal. I thought I could design up a route myself using Google Maps. You can get directions no problem, just plug in location A, B, C, etc, click no highway and no tolls, and BAAM! you might be on your way. But that idea was stupid, Rt 40 isn’t a highway, but I don’t want to bike on that road! So I caved and dropped $160 on maps. But that was ~1 month ago. Without a route you ain’t got nothing, no places to stay, no people to talk to, no sites to see, etc. So, note to self: DON’T BE FRUGAL/LAZY DURING EARLY STAGES OF PLANNING BIG STUFF. Also, thank you Adventure Cycling Association for making really sweet maps and routes, I highly recommend them for any long distance touring plans.

I think that’s all for now, I guess this is a decent first blog post. If you find yourself for any reason feeling bored this Summer, well I have about 10 things I can give you to do :P. Call me at any point this summer, for the sanity of BAAM! and yourself! 443-255-5103