Update: Not Dead, Just In Arizona (The Grand Canyon Says Hello)

At the Grand Canyon, they lack Wi-Fi, except in certain areas–the visitor’s center, the general store near the Desert View campgrounds, presumably a few other places–and I lacked anything like the motivation to get out my clunky, clumsy, hopelessly out-of-place electronic device and haul it over to one of them just to type up a blog post. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon before, slash camped out at it before, it’s…

I mean, it’s fucking incredible. It is literally not credible. I had to train my mind out of thinking I was looking at some kind of backdrop for a colossal movie set, because things that large and beautiful and spectacular just don’t exist in the normal world where I normally live.

We hiked into it, twice–we did the Bright Angel Trail up to the 1.5 mile mark, two days ago, and yesterday we did 1.5 miles of the South Kaibab trailhead. The Bright Angel trail is located on a fault line, which makes it about the coolest thing I can imagine; I don’t know about South Kaibab, but it is extremely steep.

Walking into the Canyon, and walking back out, is an exercise in humility. Forget cell phones, Wi-Fi, electricity, and all the rest. That was never even an option. There’s no ski lift, there’s no elevator, there is no way to go down or up except by hiking. And it is hard. There are signs plastered all over the tourist areas of the canyon that make it very clear–Rebecca put it best; park rangers are really good at clear and direct communication–that the Canyon is not your friend, it is not a casual day-hike, it is a serious and physically demanding journey that will fuck you up if you don’t bring enough water or food, or get overambitious in any way.

“Going down is optional. Coming up is mandatory,” said the sign at Cedar Ridge, at the 1.5-mile mark on the South Kaibab trail. There was no water down there, unlike at Bright Angel the day before, so Rebecca and I carried five full water bottles between us, totaling probably six and a half liters. We brought two packets of trail mix, beef jerky, Triscuits Wheat Thins and peanut butter, generic saltine crackers, Cheez-Its, two apples, carrots, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. (You have to bring salty snacks to replace what you’re going to sweat out.) We brought two tubes of sunscreen, big shady hats, sunglasses, and chapstick.

Before we were out, we had drunk every last drop of the water, eaten most of the food, sunscreened up maybe three times each, and been devoutly thankful for the hats and glasses and light clothing we were wearing. The Canyon is as temperatureamental as anywhere I’ve ever been; you can be sitting in the sun and it’s 90 degrees, and then the wind comes up and it feels like 50, not half a minute later.

We made it to Ooh Ah Point, 0.9 miles from the canyon rim, and decided to hike the remaining 0.6 miles to Cedar Ridge, a drop of 440 feet. That was our goal.

We made it, and the view was spectacular, and if it weren’t so late at night I would make some effort to upload photos and put some of them here for you–which I really will do, some day. (WordPress lets you schedule posts so they come out later, which is nice when it’s 1:30 AM and you want to write something.)

But I want to convey to you just how hard it is to hike even the little bit of the Grand Canyon that we did. (One day, we will return, and we will hike rim-to-rim–South to North, crossing the Colorado River on the way.) Not because look how badass we are, but because it was humbling. Going down is whatever. Going up consumes the entirety of your attention.

The path up from Cedar Ridge is in the Redwall sandstone, reddish-orange, slaty rock. The sand of the path is orange. There is not much shade. The grade, well, is steep–440 feet in not quite two-thirds of a mile. The path is sometimes even, sometimes rocky, sometimes dug out; a crew of National Park Service AmeriCorps volunteers were resurfacing it, which meant digging out the dirt areas between the logs that define each step, filling in the areas with rock from the canyon wall, and spreading a layer of dirt over the top of that. We walked over some areas with just the rock, which was fine, and a lot of areas that had been dug out but not yet filled in. Two-foot gaps in the orange dirt between the logs. You step from log to log, or you trudge through each hollow, or you balance on the larger rocks that line the side of the path, but climb it you do. It’s not glamorous. You’re just putting one foot in front of the next, in front of the next, in front of the next, up the equivalent of 112 flights of stairs. And you’re doing it at 8,000 feet above sea level.

We drank every drop of our water. We took breaks under trees, under overhanging rock faces that were cool to the touch and provided us some shade. The rangers tell you not to hike between 10 AM and 4 PM in the summer; we had started around 10, rested at Cedar Ridge until maybe 12, and hiked up from 12 to 1 when the sun was directly overhead–even so, there was some shade, and we used it.

We sang songs, probably irritating the other hikers, but we didn’t care. The day before, we’d run through a number of old marching/folk/work songs–“What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor”, “Willie The Weeper”, “Erie Canal”, “British Grenadiers”, “Drill Ye Tarriers Drill”–before finding that “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” has the perfect beat to hike to; when all the verses had been sung, we made up our own, naturally about hiking. “And they’ll all go tumb-ling down from the can-yon wall.” We made up a story in which Andy and Rebecca kept slipping off the trail and tumbling all the way to the bottom, eventually deciding to simply stay at the bottom and build a cabin there. Twenty years later, they hike up to the top just to see what it’s like now; the hikers tell them that Trump is no longer president, but Steve Bannon is still in power–“And his storm-troop-ers, they wait on the can-yon rim“–and of course they decide instead to stay on the canyon floor.

When we made it back to the canyon rim, it was the last thing of consequence we did that day, other than urging some idiot tourists away from an elk that was drinking at the water fountain (pictures to come, SOMEDAY), going back to our tent, napping, reading, cooking dinner on the camp stove, eating, building a fire, cleaning up after ourselves, stringing up the hammock, playing cards, watching the stars and the Milky Way come out, and reading (me)/listening to Roald Dahl’s “The Mildenhall Treasure” from The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (And Six More) before going to bed.

Time works differently when you’re camping, I guess, even when it’s camping at a designated campsite with running water and actual bathrooms. In the cities we’ve gone to so far–Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Santa Fe–I’ve been like, “What are all the things I want to do in this city? How can we do them in this amount of time?” It’s been very schedule-driven/planning-driven–what are we doing, where are we going, with whom are we staying, etc. At the Canyon, it was the opposite of that. Once we secured our campsite, it was like, we have no schedule and are accountable to no one. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want, or nothing at all. We woke up with the sun, at 7 or 8 AM, and went to bed around maybe 10:30; we rarely looked at a clock. Rebecca told time by measuring the distance from the Sun to the horizon with her fingers.

What I’m trying to say is that one does not keep up with news, or write blog posts, or really do anything to connect oneself to the world outside, when one is a) camping and b) spending one’s time next to an incomparable natural masterpiece.

Hence the delay.

I’m nearly 1,400 words in and I’ve left out most of everything we did over the last week. No mention of Yavapai Geology Museum or the geology tour we received; not a word about the Watchtower, or everything we did wrong in our first camping trip, (Rebecca has floated the idea of a post in that department), or the Rim Trail, or anything about Santa Fe at all; the balloon ride Rebecca surprised me with, the living RPG that was Meow Wolf, the New Mexico History Museum or the Governors’ Palace or the wonder that was driving into New Mexico through a towering hundred-mile thunderstorm; not a word about the Caves of Ice and Fire (no shit, that’s a real thing) or the slightly overblown majesty of Meteor Crater, or even our first night camping in a rent-a-site campground in Flagstaff. Hell, we’re in Sedona, AZ now, and I haven’t said shit about that. And I won’t. Why? Because I’m doing the modern-world thing again where I abuse electric light, and it’s 1:23 AM by my clock and it is past time to be in bed so I can get the hotel’s complimentary breakfast that ends at 9:30, the skinflints, and be on the road in time to get a campsite at the other end of the six-hour drive to Joshua Tree. Those stories will have to wait. Tomorrow there’ll be more.

Maybe It’s Okay to be a Tourist… Sometimes… a Little

In the (almost) three years I lived in New Orleans, I probably saw more tourists on the whole than actual people who lived in the city. The city is overrun with them. There was awhile where I was righteously disdainful (“I live here”), and then a while where I got used to them. Didn’t care, didn’t really see them. But when I was planning this road trip, one of my core principles was to see stuff in each city that tourists don’t typically see. To spend time with our charming hosts (Austin edition: Eli and Febianna) and ask them for places that were Off The Beaten Path.

I’m not a hipster (Rebecca snorts). I’m not too cool for The Beaten Path, just… well… I wanted to see “the real city” wherever I went. Again, I lived in New Orleans for three years; I know what the French Quarter looks like and what the rest of the city looks like, and I know they are not the same. So in each place I went, I wanted to take some time and see what made that city unique. What made Houston Houston or Austin Austin? What places or ideas could I experience to get a sense of that city’s soul?

Yeah, that lasted all of three cities.

It turns out that the places tourists typically visit are tourist attractions because they’re interesting! Who knew!

In two and a half days in Austin, we visited the Austin Science and Nature Center and hiked up a little trail with a creek and cliffs, went Texas two-step dancing at some bar White Horse to a live country band, did geeky trivia at another bar and met Rebecca’s cousin there  (was that Wednesday??) and went to kareoke at a Korean place afterwards, walked through the Texas Capitol (that was just me, surprising everyone), ate Texas chili at a downtown place that had a sign ‘said “Hippies use the back door”, visited a clothing-optional beach at a beautiful man-made lake, took a yoga class…

Austin is a bad example. The only truly touristy things we did were the statehouse and the Science Center. (I really wanted to see the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, but we missed it–we were apparently in the middle of their birthing season anyway.) But like, you see? We missed the bats and the LBJ Presidential Library–which I didn’t quite feel right visiting without having finished The Path to Power and all its sequels, anyway–and Lady Bird Lake, and countless other known attractions.

That paragraph above was two days worth of stuff. Two days! It isn’t possible to see all the touristy-for-a-reason stuff, and see the off-the-Path stuff, and sleep, and eat, in a given city, on the timetable we have. Really, any timetable at all that isn’t Jack Kerouac’s. Cities are like wells. You can sink and sink and sink and still… never see all… that’s a terrible analogy. (This is a first-draft-to-post post because I need to go to sleep soon.) The point is that there’s more to see in any given town than I could possibly experience on a trip like this.

And that’s okay. The point of a road trip is the road. I’m not going to stay anywhere long enough to get a true sense of the place, because I’m a freaking tourist and that takes years to accomplish. I speak as someone who wanted/would still totally love to be a journalist, sports journalist, Congressional staffer, think tank guy, author, nonprofit manager, etc., all at the same time. I’m going to finish writing my book while I’m in graduate school. I don’t do well with picking and choosing stuff. But as a tourist, you have to. The world is too big to digest in one sitting.

Did I get a sense of the true soul of Austin? No. I have no idea what Austin is. Eli and Febianna and Rebecca’s other friends were cool. Vincente, the Portuguese skydiving life coach we met at White Horse, was a wonderful human being. So was Danny, Rebecca’s cousin. The dancers at the White Horse, the trivia people at the Spider, the people at Hippie Hollow, all seemed like interesting human beings who give the city color and who I’d love to get to know. And that’s all. Maybe I’ll come back someday; in fact, I’d love to come back someday, stay a week or two, and get a fuller sense of what this town is about. But that’ll have to wait. The road is calling first.

The Alamo and Texas Myths

In the Extra History series about Korea’s Admiral Yi, creator James Portnow spends much of his after-hours Lies episode talking about historical narratives. During his life, Admiral Yi is presented as an unfailingly noble and honorable person who persevered despite being betrayed time and again by unscrupulous nobles. His humbleness, willingness to work hard, and steadfast righteousness against all incentives are part of what make him Korea’s national hero.

Portnow talks about how this story is part history and part myth. Admiral Yi was that person, and he did do those things. But the reason he is celebrated for them in Korea, besides the fact that he won a war against Japan essentially by himself, is that he exemplifies the Confucian tradition of the humble, hard-working public servant. His story fits into and feeds an existing Korean historical narrative that those sorts of people are the righteous and prosperous ones, and which presumably forms a key part of Korea’s national identity.

I was thinking about that when Rebecca and I visited the Alamo, located in San Antonio, Texas. I knew vaguely about the Alamo as the last stand of embattled, outnumbered Texans, but I had no idea how great an influence it has had on Texas’s conception of itself.

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The video about the Alamo’s history, the signs outside and inside the Alamo (including the church where the lastest part of the last stand was made), and various other placards and inscriptions refer to the Alamo as a shrine, and to the battle or the Alamo itself as sacred. The statue in the courtyard outside the present Alamo, in an area once enclosed by the Alamo’s walls, contains a nude godlike figure, sheltering huddled figures at his feet, and a rather messianic inscription (would put a picture, but upload problems).

 

There is a real sense in the Alamo that this was not just any battle, or even any heroic last stand; the siege and storming of the Alamo was a foundational event in Texas’s history and Texas’s idea of who a Texan is and why Texas is special. The men who died on the walls, in the courtyard, in the barracks, and in the church are presented—in the film, the inscriptions, and so on—as freedom fighters, battling against an oppressive Mexican government that sought to curtail their power. The Alamo fighters are presented as ideal Texans: free men, hard-bitten and hard-biting, who are loyal and honorable and fiercely protective of their rights.

 

 

None of which is wrong out of hand. I would love to read more about the details of the Texian/Texan rebellion, why it happened (apparently General/President Santa Anna introduced a new centralized constitution that disempowered the various Mexican states, and a whole bunch of people rebelled) and what happened in it. The details of the Mexican secession from Spain, the Mexican governments and their policy towards encouraging Americans to settle in Texas, Santa Anna’s assumption of power, and of course the battles of the war itself are all lovingly detailed. But the narrative is a little too clean and fits a little too well into the narrative I know of what Texas is. In the Alamo’s telling, the American settlers are presented as basically blameless in Texas’s war for independence; they were encouraged to settle in Texas by generous Mexican land grants and comparatively expensive American ones—so much that they soon outnumbered native Mexicans 10 to 1—then appropriately rebelled when Santa Anna threw out the old Federalist constitution and replaced it with a Centralist one that would deprive them of their rights. It’s all neat, clean and tidy. There has to be more to the story than that.

 

The lack of eyewitnesses on the Texan side, other than a few women and children and one slave, has also led to what feels like myth-making to me. There are apparently multiple, conflicting eyewitness reports of Davey Crockett’s death, with at least one saying that he died fighting valiantly in battle, and another eyewitness saying that he was captured and executed. There are several accounts of James Bowie (pronounced “buoy”)’s death, which happened in his sickbed; he shot himself, he was carried out of the room by Mexican troops and killed, he was burned to death, he was bayoneted in his bed, or (as depicted in a painting shown in the video) he emptied his pistols at Mexican troops barging into the sickroom before being shot to death. And although fort commander William Travis died unambiguously—killed on the north wall—one story holds that Joe, his slave and the only adult Texan male to survive the battle, was released by the Mexican army and then traveled back to Alabama to inform Travis’s family of his death in person (which, bullshit).

I think all of that is part of the Texas founding myth. I don’t mean myth as in something that is automatically untrue, but myth meaning the stories that tell us who we are and about the world around us, where capturing how it feels is more important than exactly what happened and when. The Alamo was a touchstone for the whole identity of the state of Texas, because of it being a Last Stand and the “I would rather die than retreat”, the honorable frontiersmen who fought for freedom and would not be moved, the leaders who died like heroes. And the modern Alamo museum continues to celebrate that historical narrative, to correlate the story of the Alamo with the feeling of “this is what it means to be a Texan”. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, just that it’s something to be aware of when we look at how people tell their own histories. (It’s also cool to see a state that has such a powerful and passionate founding myth as part of their identity; Wisconsin’s story is “We traded beaver furs… and then we started mining stuff”.)

 

Regardless, the Alamo was a really cool thing to see. I often have to make an effort to imagine, when I’m at a historical site or old battleground, that the peaceful, tourist-infested buildings or hills around me were once the site of a desperate struggle, fought by real men against men. They’ve made that connection pretty easy at the Alamo, including little touches that connect the events you’re reading about to the landscape around you, like the plaque that marks the wall where Travis was shot. They also tell the full story of the Alamo, from the Spanish missionaries that built the Alamo through the battle and the 170-plus years afterwards. There are lists of the dead in the church, swords and guns and lances in the old barracks, and mock uniforms of both sides. (Whose idea was it to put the Mexican troops in uniforms with white crosshairs on their chests?!) I walked out of there wanting to know more about the Alamo, the revolution, and the whole history of that time, which is really what any museum should try to accomplish.

Downtown San Antonio is also pretty neat, with a long Riverwalk crowded with restaurants that runs right through downtown, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not, kitschy tourist shops (it feels like they looked at the Alamo and went “WE ARE GOING TO MILK THIS FOR EVERY CENT IT’S WORTH”) and some really interesting shops; Rebecca bought a tiny wall-rug charm from a Turkish shop with beautiful glass lamps, and we both got a podiatry lesson from an elderly Indian cobbler when Rebecca asked him about the thread he was sewing with. True story.

 

Finally, I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention the hospitality of Jay and Leanne, whom we stayed with, and their two spoiled-rotten beagles, Max and Lady. We somehow both forgot to take pictures of them, but they exist—trust us. Leanne fed us the kinds of things that road people just shouldn’t be able to eat (chicken parmesan meatballs, poached pears, brownies and ice cream, homemade pizza, homemade cinnamon rolls) and dispensed a flood of helpful cooking tips, recipes, cookbook recommendations, and pitches for specialized kitchen equipment. (Apparently we need a KitchenAid blender and all of its accessories.)

I decidedly did not get this post up when I said I would last time. Instead of our first night in Austin, I’m putting this up on our first night in Santa Fe, having just finished a seven-hundred-mile drive across the desert of northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico, the part of the map that just looks brown. Another post will be forthcoming about the drive itself.

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…

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And then inside it’s like this.

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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…

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

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The museum also had stuff like this.

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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.

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As has this.

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

And then there’s this.

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Which we got to go inside.

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And be cute outside.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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-Rebecca

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.

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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:

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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.