Houston, Being on the Road, and SPAAACE

It took me a couple of days to figure out what to write about Houston, and what to write about the experience of being on the road. I thought I was prepared for this because I’ve done AmeriCorps; I lived in a van for 10 months with my team and lived in random places around the country. Vicksburg (MS). Anniston (AL). Atlanta. New York City. Frederick (MD). We traveled from site to site in our van, cooked and ate and slept together, and lived what I imagined to be the life of the nomad.

Turns out road trips are different. We drove across the country in NCCC, sure, but only as a means of getting from one place to the next; we still had homes, even if only for a couple of weeks. In a road trip, you don’t have that (it turns out). We skip across the country like a stone across water, never sinking in. It’s an entirely different feeling.

Also, the days are so full!

No offense to my former jobs, but time at work is not memorable, exciting time. Time at work is doing things until work-time is over. Then you go home and do some combination of cooking, eating, laundry, dishes, cat feeding, cat litter, cleaning, sorting, pressing, folding, mixing, and of course writing, which all bulges into the free time that you spend with your girlfriend or out with friends or doing something fun. For only a couple of hours a day are you doing something memorable, something exciting and new-experiential. Weekends are nice, but they’re partially spent sleeping and lazing around; if you’re like me, they’re maybe half-and-half fun experiential stuff and work/laziness.

Road trips apparently are not like that, at least the way we’ve started to do it. We had two days in Houston, staying with our overwhelmingly kind and accommodating hosts, Fritz and Michella. On our first day there, we visited the Yard of Giant President Busts, a warehouse/concert hall full of Raggedy Andy dolls that looked like the beginning of a horror movie, and a bar that seemed like a very small, very mild version of Burning Man.

On our second day… let’s see. We started the day with a wonderful breakfast cooked by Michella, and then a hot yoga class, which no one told me was a hot yoga class until right beforehand, and it turns out they really mean it. We drove from there across Houston (which is as wide as a Martian moon) to the NASA space museum, which, well…


And then inside it’s like this.


It’s like that scene in Toy Story where Woody and Buzz go to Pizza Planet.

Rebecca volunteered for a what-it’s-like-to-live-on-the-ISS demonstration, because of course she did…


…and flatly refused to pee in the toilet on stage.


The museum also had stuff like this.


It’s hard to convey just how unnerving and how honestly mind-blowing these exhibits were in practice. The man-model up there is rotating as you see him, in a way that completely rocks your idea of what gravity is and where you purport to be standing. The whole interior of that walk-in exhibit, the Skylab mock-up, is designed so that the cabinets and handles are accessible at impossible-on-Earth angles. When you stand on the floor and look up at them, you feel as if you could just push off the floor and rise to meet them.

Also this thing HAS BEEN TO SPACE.


As has this.


These are actual NASA spacecraft that actually were shot atop a rocket into god damn space.

And then there’s this.


Which we got to go inside.


And be cute outside.


When that ended, Fritz and Michella took us to an apparently legendary Houston taco place called Torchy’s Tacos, and then to a dance hall where the following things happened:

1) The door guy instantly called that we were not from Texas despite our cowboy hats, because “your [R’s] hat is backwards, and you’re wearing a felt hat with a scorpion on it. And anyone from Texas who wears a cowboy hat wears boots with it”. We, of course, were not.

2) There was a wooden lozenge with a bar in the center that served as a dance floor, and which Rebecca compared to a roller-skating ring, upon which we danced a lot.

3) We learned the Texas two-step and, thanks to Fritz’s friend Tyler, a whole bunch of spins that go with it—which are really fun and which we’re continuing to practice!

4) Country karaoke that included me doing Bob Dylan, and both Fritz and Rebecca showing off their vocal talent.

5) Watching really experienced couples dancing is an absolute treat. We watched older, presumably married couples swinging and twirling and two-stepping around the floor like they’d been doing it in the cradle, in perfect seamless unison—and even when they screwed up, correcting it without even noticing.

That was ONE DAY. (And the next afternoon, before leaving for San Antonio, we mountain-biked through Memorial Park.)

That day, while fun, was a healthy reminder that I need my introvert-recovery/writing/huddled-around-a-computer time. It was go, go, go, from wakeup ‘til bedtime.

Speaking of which, it’s close to 1 AM in Cibolo, TX, and I have an asleep to be. Will post San Antonio’s retrospective at some point tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, y’all.


A 4×10 Existence

Guest Post!

(And by ‘guest’, I mean ‘Rebecca’, who is in almost no sense a guest. This is her first *ever* blog post. You heard it here on Tisdel’s Tirades People of the Road, folks.


Today, June 1st 2017, is my 5-year Nolaversary. Five years to the day after I drove into New Orleans, I drove out. It’s the day that I no longer call New Orleans home.


We made it about seven feet before one of the Mo’s [Andy’s note: all our dashboard cacti are named some variety of “Mo”] had an accident. (They get carsick easily.)


My home now, at least for the next 2 1/2 months, is a 2012 Volkswagen Golf named Vivian. My co-pilot Andy and I have packed what we think we’ll need to travel 10,000 miles across the continental United States (and some of Canada). A new home awaits us in Cambridge, MA, but that’s a much later blog post.


Moving is an interesting experience, and I’m speaking of the figurative sense of changing houses, rather than the literal moving that we are doing at the moment on Interstate 10. In moving, it’s imperative that one looks at all the things that have accumulated in the house. Things that one didn’t necessarily decide to accumulate, but that end up filling the nooks and shelves of the entire space they’re given, like a gas.

Now multiply that by two. When Andy moved into my apartment, just about 6 months ago, he had a whole apartment’s worth of stuff already. Never have I wanted to be a minimalist more than sorting through all the junk to pack, to throw out, to give away or sell, to take with us.

And it’s now been sorted and pared down into the bare minimum that will fit in the car. It still seems like a lot.

Andy and I together have a combined 53 years of life under our belts. Although we haven’t been accumulating for that long, it’s still disconcerting to see roughly 1/600th of the stuff we had before as the stuff we decided to keep with us on this journey. Perhaps we’ll be ready for that dream Tiny House after this.



Almost All the Pre-Trip Shit is FINALLY DONE

I thought I’d share with y’all what we’ve been doing for the last couple of months to get ready for this.

-Find an apartment in Boston: We hired a realtor because Boston is crazy and you need one to survive, Rebecca flew up in April with her dad to research places to live, and we eventually signed a lease on a one-bedroom in Cambridge that is worth more than some entire buildings.

-Move Out: We found a new tenant, replaced the blinds, hired an apartment-cleaner (who is coming tonight), flea-bombed the house, canceled/transferred the utilities, and cancelled the composting service.

Board Cats: This one was a bear. Short of giving them away or grinding them into sausage, we had to do something with our three cats (Oatmeal, Jax, and Quinoa). After calling about 30 cat-boarding places in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut–whose lowest price for three cats and three months was $2,250–our new tenant agreed to watch them for the summer in exchange for a month’s rent.


Store Stuff: Rebecca’s father, who is a certified card-carrying saint, drove 1,500 miles from Boston to New Orleans in his pickup truck, hitched a U-Haul trailer to it, helped us load (and oversaw the packing of) most of our apartment, and drove it back to Philadelphia where Rebecca’s cousins unloaded and stored it for the price of pizza and cocktails.

-Get Rid of Stuff: Everything we didn’t move and didn’t plan to pack, we got rid of. Scarves, shirts, shoes, a toaster, books, blenders, chairs, bags, formal shirts, dresses, miscellany of all kinds, owl-shaped hot pads, thousands of glassware (or what seemed like it), a couch, tables, bookcases, a TV, a bedside table, several dressers… We sold as much as we could and donated the rest to charity.

-Trip Stuff: Figured out our route, made a budget, lined up friends and family with whom to stay along the route, bought a tent and other camping equipment for those times where we’ll be camping in national parks (that’s a thing), bought a National Parks Pass, enrolled in health insurance, closed a bank account, bought MORE camping equipment… this won’t be done until we’re in Boston.

And that’s all, besides the two graduate school applications, two frantic GRE studying and test-taking periods, and the frankly ridiculous amount of help we received from friends and family, in small ways and large. I just found a list of things we needed to do that I wrote back in April, huge, time-consuming tasks like the ones above, and every single well is now crossed off. Once we scrub the floor and clean out the apartment tomorrow morning, and move our backpacks into the car, we’ll be done.

The Next Ten Thousand Miles

Good God, it’s been forever since I did this. 

If you don’t know me already, my name’s Andy, I used to blog at Tisdel’s Tirades, and now I’m here. Why am I writing here? Because my girlfriend (Rebecca) and I are taking a road trip that’ll last from June 1st through the middle of August, and I wanted a fresh new place to write about the things we do and see. (Because no one’s ever made a travel blog before.)

Where are we going? Well, here:

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 9.30.33 PM 

I wanted to live in the West after I left New Orleans. I figured that since I’d lived in the Midwest (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Wooster), the East Coast (New York, Washington D.C.), and the South (New Orleans + brief stints in MS, AL, and GA), the next logical step was to live somewhere West–somewhere with “Mountains, Gandalf!”. I figured it’d be either Denver or Portland, and then when I learned that Portland would eventually fall into the sea,  I thought okay, Denver it is. Then life happened; I decided to go to graduate school, applied, was accepted into Brandeis University, and went oh, OK, I guess Boston is next

So I thought, if I can’t live in the West, I might as well see it while I can. 

West through Houston and San Antonio and Lyndon Johnson’s Hill Country, looping through Austin, then seven hundred miles due northwest to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. West again, past Meteor Crater to the Grand Canyon, through Phoenix, and down I-10 through Joshua Tree to L.A. North through California’s national parks, through Sequoia and Sierra and Stanislaus and Kings Canyon and Yosemite, all the way to Modesto; zig northwest to Reno, northeast to Lassen Peak, and back on I-5 through Oregon and Washington, all the way over the border to Vancouver. Then southeast for 900 miles to Yellowstone National Park, cutting through parks and forests and badlands and mountains and prairie, and on through Wyoming to Denver.

From then on, it’s the homestretch. We’ll cover Kansas and Missouri and all of Illinois, up to my family in Milwaukee and northern Wisconsin, then swing around the Great Lakes; Illinois, Indiana, Ohio (Cleveland), and on to Philadelphia. From there, all that remains is to get our belongings out of storage and drive the last, paltry 300 miles to Boston. 

I’m going to try to write something every day. Not necessarily on here, but something. Everything I write about The Trip will go here, and most of the pictures I take should find their way here eventually. I’m not used to actually writing about myself on the Internet–I’m much more used to ranting about politics or football or something else that doesn’t require the writer to be involved, so this is my first foray into the kind of blogging that most ordinary Internet people do. (Because it’s me, I’ll also post whatever else I happen to write in this forum.)

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy what I post here.