My workbench

My workbench

Monday, January 31, 2011

WWOOFing in the USA

So I'm not the kind of person to whom you say "I'm older, I've done this for years, and therefore I know best." Not do I believe that "these yokels" who have been up here for multiple generations are absolutely barn-bread idiots- they must know a thing or two about farming in the area, they've been doing it for two hundred years. Along the same lines, accepting homosexuality, recreational drug use and having a "green" look on life does not make you open-minded, especially if you are unwilling to even consider outside points of view. A university degree, even a few of them, is no substitute for experience, nor common sense.

**EDIT** No amount of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, or experience as a vet tech qualifies HER to tell ME about structural/mechanical engineering, or how to build something from scrap metal.

Oh, and 40 degrees? That's not freezing cold, you're just a SoCal wimp.

I'm giving another chance to this woman, but so far, a combination of rudeness, insolence, ignorance, narrowmindedness and downright foolishness have really turned me off.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Orange Acres

Orange Acres- A NomadBase, American Style.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Helena

Yesteday started like many others. Brushed my teeth, checked my Email thanks to free wifi at the Bozeman rest area, and set out. I was heading to Helena, to visit a cafe owned by a highschool friend's cousins, and I had offered up my spare seat on Craigslist rideshares. A quick detour on my way to pick up Ali, my passenger, netted me four books and a few kitchen items for $4 from a thrift shop. I swung by the mall to pick up Ali, and we headed off.
Ali is a pretty cool chick, not least by the fact that she normally hitch-hikes her way around the state in lieu of driving her car. She was, in fact, headed to Helena to retrieve her (hopefully repaired) car from her father. We spent the nearly two hour drive chatting about everything from travel to sustainable technology. I should point out that Ali is/was/will be an architect.
We parted ways in downtown Helena, and I found a place to park. Unfortunately, the No Sweat cafe was closed...go figure, not open on Mondays. As I turned around, however, I ran across Glymm parallel parking the LARGEST PICKUP I HAVE EVER SEEN.Photobucket Covered in awesome stickers, I helped him avoid squashing the surrounding cars, and we struck up a convesation. This eventually lead to him calling a friend, wherein I was provided a place to park for the night in a residential neighborhood (at Kathleen's).
Returning to my van, I retrieved my phone and noticed that I had missed a text message. Ali had noticed that the No Sweat was closed, and invited me to have a drink with her at a nearby saloon (bar/pub/watering hole, for those not used to the vernacular). Glymm directed me, and after exchanging contact details we parted ways. I spent the next hour or three having a most pleasant conversation with Ali, continuing our discussion on environmental policies, sustainability, architecture, travel, etc. She is lovely (but married). At some point, she admitted to recognizing me from a dating site I have a profile on (OKC)...she uses it to pick up snowboarding partners. As it was getting dark, she had to leave, and I returned to my van. No sooner had I pulled out one of my new-found paperbacks, Glymm called and asked where I was. He showed up a few minutes later and we headed off to Kathleen's. Oh, I should mention that, in addition to giving me $20 for gas for the trip, Ali also paid for both of my beers, against my weak protest. Glymm, I should point out, looks remarkably like a heavily ink'd version of my friend Reese.

We headed to Kathleen's house, though she was out at the grocery store at the moment. She called my phone and asked if I needed anything from the store, either to eat or drink. I graciously declined, though fifteen minutes later when she did return home, I was graced with a large package of seeds and trail mix. The three of us drove to drop Glymm off at the library, and after a short sight-seeing tour of downtown Helena, Kathleen and I returned home.

This is a compliment I have never used, but I cannot think of a better description: Kathleen is Moey-like. If you don't understand what that means, ask. Kathleen cooked an excellent chili, which she, Lynn (her husband) and I scared down heartily. We then spent the next few hours chatting, again bridging topics from travel to sustainability, engineering to the sociopolitical climate of the nation. I did the dishes despite protest, and around 11PM retired to my van to enjoy a good night's rest.

This morning I woke, went inside, saw Glymm, hugged Kathleen, and was prepared to depart. Before I was able to get away, however, $20 was pressed upon me. This, on top of all other hospitality, and a request to return. "It's nice to know that there are wonderful Americans like you traveling around the world." I was nearly floored.

Departing, I made my way to the No Sweat cafe, owned by Meg's aunt and cousins. One of the most attractive redheads I've met (a cousin) served me a scramble of egg and veggies, and upon identifying myself as Matt, friend of Meg, both cousins (server and cook) came out and chatted for a while. Again, I was treated to food, despite weak protests, and in turn bought a post card, which I need *someone's* address in Quincy to mail.

And now I will head to the library to post this, wash my face, and head for Missoula, where a couchsurfing community awaits. These are the kind of adventures I knew I would find, if only I stopped looking.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Calendar added!

So I've added a few things to my blog. Links to my various online/social networking profiles, ads on the bottom (Hey, a lil cash wouldn't hurt), and most importantly, a link to my google calendar to notify y'all of my various destinations.

I don't know when the Snowbird trip is, so I posted it as March 8th. I'll correct that eventually.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark

Blackness envelops me as I turn off the main highway, heading up to the mountain resort I temporarily call home. Vast open plains stretch before me, the faint glow of my headlights illuminating the snow-covered moonscape ahead of me. In the distance, only visible as low, darker black shapes loom the mountains, their contours and ridges indistinguishable in the inky dark. The low growl of the engine is the only way I can be sure that I am truly moving, advancing towards the forboding behemoths. Fast-paced rock music pulses from the stereo, mingling with the sounds of the engine and the wind outside, creating a morbid symphony I advance on my way.
The entrance to the canyon looms ahead, hiding in the darkness, it's prescence only revealed by the occasional sign warning of danger. At 55 miles per hour I cross the bridge, the unofficial start of the canyon. I let off the gas, knowing only too well what reckless driving can cost here. White crosses somehow stand out against the backdrop of snow, a warning to those whom would ignore other signage in the area. Groups of twos, threes, and fours go by, more than I care to count. I slow just a bit more, never in a hurry, not wanting my legacy to live on in a cross on the side of the road.

Plans!

Location: Teton Valley, ID
Dates: Mon, 14 Feb 2011 thru Wed, 23 Feb 2011

Wilderness First Responder course. After that I'll probably poach Jackson for a bit, then head to Colorado Springs to visit Leigh. After Colorado Springs, I'll head to Snowbird to meet up with the fam.


Looks like plans settling in place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Van Name

In the spirit of the nomadbases and other such places in which I have had fun, I want to name my van.

So far the most prominent suggestion has been Casa Blanca. Casa Dilligaf is my personal favorite, but it doesn't quite roll...And only Aussies get the joke. So I'm taking suggestions. They don't need to begin with Casa, that was just my thought.

So, suggestions? Leave comments pls!

It all started back in '08

August 8, 2008. My Canadian partner had ditched me, once again, in search of...well, who knows what. I don't really care. I remember sitting in my cube, no views of the beautiful Green Mountains which surrounded this office. A post on a website, one small link in my unending research, mentioning some European hitch-hiking gathering...

My attention snaps back to the present. Daydreaming is both a blessing and a curse, a way to escape the realities of life, whilst being a distraction blending reality from fantasy. I've got the date and location, with the Eiffel tower standing before me. Now where are the hitch-hikers? Sure, there are backpackers. Some have signs, asking for money, promoting social issues, while others simply sit around in groups drinking and smoking cigarettes. How am I supposed to figure out who is the hitch and who is the backpacker here? For that matter, how might anyone recognize me.

At some point I worked up the courage to simply start walking up to people. I've never liked cold calls, a throwback to my childhood. I never found it polite to intrude, to ask for something which was not already offered. Walking over to a group sitting at the edge of some trees, I quietly inquired about hitch-hiking. Receiving no response, I almost walked away. A nagging suspicion pulled me back, and I met my first European hitch-hikers.

From that day forth, I saw that I was not alone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Remembering a near miss

As the lights faded into the distance, the reality of my situation fully sank in. It was only 9PM, and yet temperatures had dropped into the mid-teens. Inside the canyon, there are only a few places to hitch, or even stand, and that is at the best of times. At night it would be suicide. Camping was my only option; I knew this going in, but somehow it had never fully registered. A gust of wind picked up, breaking me out of my reverie. I broke trail into the snow, my low-cut sneakers not doing enough to keep snow away from my feet. I made my way over to the river, fortunate to have a running source of water, despire the temperatures. I turned on my headlamp, searching for a suitable place to make camp.

The snow was shallow, an unfortunate and unforseen problem for me. The trees in this part of the canyon were scrub, no taller than I, and yet spindly and not prone to breaking easily. Once again my survival instinct kicked in, and I began searching for a place without any snow on bottom. After choosing a suitable location, I laid down my tarp, in the hopes of at least keeping dry. I knew that if I failed to do so, an unpleasant evening could quickly turn into a fight to stay warm. At fifteen degrees, with winds picking up, that would be a losing battle for sure.

I surveyed my gear. A 45 degree jungle sleeping bag, the 6'x8' nylon tarp keeping me try, a lightweight frameless backpack and clothes suited for a trip to Thailand. Just 30 miles away, up at the base of the mountain, all of my winter gear was waiting: a down sleeping bag, gloves, hat, snowpants, thermals, the works. I kicked myself for getting in to this situation, but quickly chastized myself for even thinking in that direction. Hindsight is for the review, after I survive. For now, it was just a matter of making it through the night.

I took all of the clothes out and laid them in an approximate profile where I would sleep. I changed wet for dry socks, and put my feet into the now-empty backpack. Aftewards the pack and feet went into the sleeping bag. I had on a pair of jeans, the heaviest pants I was carrying, along with a pair of cotton pajama pants underneath. Two T-shirts, plus a windbreaker adorned my torso. I wrapped a Tshirt around my head for warmth, and settled in for a cold night.

Every half hour or so I would wake, feeling a cold spot somewhere on my back or my side. Shifting brought temporary relief, though I knew that I would wake again soon. Thoughts of other poor decisions, bad situations and similar troubles went through my mind, as I kept telling myself that I could survive. I knew that I was tougher than this, even if I was foolish enough to wander into a survival situation again. As with other trying times in my travels, I swore to myself that I would not die that day.

Morning sun never felt so good.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Travelers guide to poaching a ski resort

The cafe has free condiments, water, and microwaves. Also Wifi, power, and, well, it's warm, indoors, and unlocked 24h (or at least until 1AM).

The pool/hot tub areas are unmonitored, and courtesy negates the need to actually HAVE an entry key on the one gate requiring it- others will have one.

The bell men and their unfailing 24h transportation service is reserved for guests staying at the hotel. As long as you are not an actual employee, 'misleading' them into believing you are a guest is fairly easy. Oh, and tips (cash or beer) go a long way.

Only the base lifts check tickets.

Friends whom work in the kitchen are incredible.

Any party is a good party, so long as there isn't a cover, and it someone else is driving.

I ahbor stealing, but the housekeeping carts are a goldmine.


If ever question about ACTUALLY staying at the resort, indignation goes a long way. As does speaking to a manager. Unless, of course, said manager happens to recognize you from working at the resort two years ago.

Facial hair makes such an identification (see above) less likely.

Pick up hitch-hikers. You never know.

Stories about the crazy times traveling around the world can be useful currency for things like drinks, coffee, or snacks.

The one-dollar hot dogs are GREAT when combined with the two-dollar bowls of chili. Ignore the $2.50 Chili-dog.

Rotating impersonations seem to work the best. Rotate between Tourist, Rich prick, employee, and wandering traveler on a frequent, but not necessarily regular, basis.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ski resorts without skis

Are like hitching without cars. I've found other ways to entertain myself, however, mostly involving socializing with friends from prior visits and van projects. I had, in fact, taken pictures earlier today of my van to post online. Unfortunately, I am a crap photographer, so I deleted them and will take better photos tomorrow. Otherwise, things are going well...The cold spell is ending, with the next seven days bringing mid-20s weather and light snow, perfect for both riding and van-dwelling (the past two evenings have clocked in around -10F). My buddy Kris's birthday is in a few days, as well as the Sno Bar event on Friday...this is the same event I stuck around for last year, and things may be going the same way.

From Bozeman I will make my way to Oregon, to visit some old friends and maybe ride a few trains/explore a bit. From there, uncertain, but probably down towards Lake Tahoe, CA, to either ride or continue south to Bishop, where I'll begin some serious outdoor explorations.

Things are going well, aside from my water supply freezing. I have numerous ideas on how to solve the problems, but KISS stepped in: Go somewhere warmer. Oh right, my house has wheels...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cold

I haven't felt cold like this morning since, well, the last time I came up to Big Sky. I survived it, with only minimal chilling of the toes and fingers. Tonight I shall be better prepared.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scenery

After my short indulgence Wyoming, I had to be on my way. As the sun began it's long, slow descent into the night, a range of mountains, freshly illuminated, shone to the west. I felt alive. For the next hour, as I drove parallel to an ever-deepening fireball sunset, I was given a delicious treat in the mountainous ridges rising out of the white snowfields. The ground was laced with gullies, snaking their way across the land like fine blonde hair. Now the cold settles in, bringing with it the midwest night sky. Tiny pinpricks of light can be seen, as if painted on, piercing the curtain of blackness. Winter's cold soon has its toll on me, and I retreat to my cot, snuggling up in two sleepings bags to face the 15 degree temperatures. Goodnight.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Casper, WY

Wow it's beautiful out here. Clear blue sky, warm (40s) day on the plains, with the backdrop of the Tetons to the west. Still no word from Jess, which has me getting impatient. The driving is easy, very relaxed and slow. Well, as slow as 55 in a 75 can be. That's all for now...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chilling

It's 2AM, EST. I'm chilling in the back of my van, listening to some tunes parked at a rest stop on I-80. I took a bunch of state highways though Indiana avoided the tolls. It was also nice to see a little bit more than freeway...I think I'll be staying off the interstates for the most part.
Pending a response from Leigh, I'm either headed to Bozeman or Colorado Springs. If I head for Boz, I'll probably shoot over to OR before heading back by Boz to Co. Springs and then down towards Tucson/Austin. At least, that's what is going through my head right now. Tomorrow things could be completely different.



Oh it's 11F out.