Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

California Part 3: lived myth

The trip from Yosemite back to the coast (Monterey) was mostly uneventful. Mostly:

Not an event exactly, but warranted u-turns and picture-taking

Once we reached Monterey, and thereafter, I was no longer in completely uncharted territory. I felt so veteran, so in touch with being a tourist in California.

Therefore, having spent a total of 12 days in California in my life I am qualified to write as a California know-it-all. In my presumptuous Canadian fashion, I’m about to tell you what California is. Conclusively. No really. I’m positive I understand it all. By “all” I mean the coastal portions along the remote, harrowingly winding roads of the number 1 highway, with grazing cattle, crazy post offices, and pavement known only by those who spent way more time in the car than, well, anywhere really. Ready to learn?

California stings

Monterey Bay Aquarium lion's mane jellies

California educates

California  mystifies

Seahorse magic

California emancipates

California inspires fashion

California thrills

Santa Cruz beach carnival along the boardwalk

California disappoints

In my carousel inexperience and excitement, I picked a dud horse

California nourishes

Yummiest store ever with reasonably priced foodie options of all kinds

California goes under cover

I promise, it's the Golden Gate

California glamourizes

California hollows

Drive through a tree? Check.

California ensconces

The hospitality of ancient wood

California awes

Looking up a lightening scar

California dominates

California ends

Finally someone else taking a picture of a state sign

I can’t say much for the urban pulls of California. Seascapes, rolling hills, rock formations, and endless remoteness bowled me over. For a state with so many people, there’s a heck of a lot of space to just be. I am grateful for the utter miracle that is the expanse of undeveloped, or little developed coastline. Shh. Don’t tell anyone.


October 6, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , , | 4 Comments

California Part 2: Yosemite

Unfortunately, we reached Yosemite at the point in our adventures where trip burnout was sinking its teeth into my smelly flesh. My cranky-meter was going off a fair bit and I wasn’t as able to fully appreciate the famous Yosemite National Park. What might I have appreciated more on another day in another time?

  • The two and a half hours of campsite searching. Despite all warnings, planning and good intentions, these hours were spent hot, hungry, smoky and desperate with a car making loud weed-wacker noises through several otherwise idyllic and quiet campgrounds. There may also have been chasing cars and a general sense of frenzy.
  • The hilarity of the gas station inside the national park being mounds cheaper than the gas station just outside the gates – the one we used. (Only in America do National Parks have gas stations, multiple gas stations.)
  • The dry and dusty two mile Mariposa Grove trail through a variety of magnificient and huge Giant Sequoias. This was beautiful and I actually enjoyed it immensely considering I was a slave to the last shuttle of the day (bad planning on my part). There was little time to take photos and actually enjoy the trees. We brought no water, the trail was darn steep and I literally ran most of the way back down. I may have used expletives most of the way up.
  • A good old fashioned full day hike. I was just too burnt out to take the time to enjoy a good hike. It’s sad.
  • The family that poached/shared our campsite while we were away all day. We had heard stories of people sharing campsites in desparation, but were a little surprised to learn that we’d driven past our campsite in the dark because an entire surprise family of 5 was bustling around the fire blocking the view of our tent. I was very sympathetic until they pretended they couldn’t understand us and were doing us a favour by letting us stay. Things warmed up after that and I realized I was just really tired. Eventually, we were offered blankets after realizing the parents were keeping their kids warm with towels.  They left in the middle of the night.

What would I probably never appreciate?

  • The acrid smell of forest fire and consequent smoke all through the famous Yosemite Valley
    • I get that the forests have to regenerate and all, but that doesn’t mean I have to love wheezing it in.
  • The mounds of people. Yosemite is just too darn close to thriving metropolitan areas. It’s no Yellowstone, which was still busy, but not like this. Note to self: go again, go often, but don’t go in August.
  • The couple that was every so grateful that at least we were from a neighbouring country and spoke English unlike all those real foreigners who surrounded us. Actually, this was the only anti-tourist/foreigner comment we got the whole trip so I was pretty impressed.

I will, however, always appreciate the couple who saw us driving around looking desperate and waved us into their site. After giving us an interpretive tour of the site’s many bonuses: next to the outhouse, has its own stream, far from people, visiting bear, tent in morning shade, picnic table in morning sun (they were like campsite realtors); this lovely couple recommended some of the top to-dos and merrily got into their Prius and drove into the afternoon sun.

Gremlins are withholding my captions (grr). Choose your own adventure:

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October 3, 2011 Posted by | Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , | 6 Comments

California Part 1: the central coast

Being masochistic and heat-hating, we continued a lengthy drive from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas by driving all the way to the outskirts of Los Angeles. This meant we managed about 690 miles or 1,100 kilometres in a day. Next up? Coastal life was on the menu, from Lompoc to Salinas along the coast.

Still recovering from desert punishment, I was mildly perturbed (steaming mad) when I missed the “Welcome to California” sign and got only this:

I am Canadian. Cacti crack me up. Especially cacti that look like fraggles.

My interest in the law had little to do with how cool this courthouse in Santa Barbara was:

I can only dream that this light actually lights up when court is in session:

Thinking optimistically that I would be keen to cook vegetables on the road, I could not wait to hit the famous (overcrowded) farmer’s market in San Luis Obispo:

And who knew roasted corn had so many condiment (ewww) options?

Eventually we made it to William Randolph Hearst’s castle and ranch to see what it’s like to be rich, love art and cultural objects, and be crazy. These are just a couple of the dozens of ceilings he collected. L’il ol’ me didn’t know you could collect entire ceilings, walls, or fireplaces.

If I had my own movie theatre, I guess I’d have something like this lighting the way:

One of hundreds of statues contemplating nakedness:

or contemplating a visit to a roman bath:

Getting in touch with my Mediterranean roots, except not really:

Next stop, off the ranch, I managed to catch an elephant seal in something other than the “I’m dead” position. I wish you could see how they move. Imagine jello doing the worm.

One of the many views at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

And finally, the requisite crazy coastal bridge with fog coming in or out, as it did most of the day. This, of course, has nothing on the upcoming Golden Gate fog.

Next stop: Yosemite!

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , | 5 Comments

Woman Recovers in Vegas from Assault by Arizona Desert

An ampm. Posture like she’s been doing hunchback auditions. Slumped at an empty row of slot machines. Face tomato red. Remaining skin white. An exception. Armpit in violation of an air pollution regulation. Also an exception. T-shirt pulled up on her rib cage. Unaware. A scarf pretends to cover greasy hair. A greasy scarf. Slaughtered by Route 15.

The trip to the washroom all a blur. Pacing. Maybe buy something? No wallet. No idea what to buy. There she sat.

The chicken bites™ shine under the hellish red light.

People enter and exit. Gas, condoms, pop, gum. Staring. Unaware they’re living in hell. Hell with craps. A clerk passed giving sideways glances.

“You know, you look familiar.” “Oh, I live in Canada so…” “Hm, but you look familiar.”

The chicken bites™ smell under the hellish red light.

Face still burning. Body too covered in salt to perspire. A pig on a spit. He walked in to buy ice and a slushy drink. Did she want anything? No, she still couldn’t think. Is this deliriousness? Or just hot?  Another slot maching occupied. Man with chicken.

And the chicken bites™ smile under the hellish red light.

Sniff. Armpit requires its own postal code. Must go outside. A slotty goodbye. Skin peeling off vinyl. Doors like biblical gates. Shade is an oven. Sun is a frying pan. Man with chicken follows. Into her deep fryer car. Gestures. “British Columbia, where’s that? Vancouver?! That’s cool! I’d love to go to Vancouver. Coffee shops and stuff.” Smiles. “What do you need to get into Canada? A passport? You probably need a passport…Do they let felons into Canada? Maybe, eh? S!*$, that’d be cool. Yeah.”

A wave of privilege overwhelms the heat. For a second.

“So what do you think? Just driving through? … Hot? Oh, this place is [whistle] something else. No air conditioning!? I’ll show you. Everyone has air conditioning. Huh. No air conditioning. Party on the strip tonight. It’ll be fun… Is this your guy? Canada, eh? No air conditioning. Have fun on the coast.” More smiles, waves.

Action: Cooler full of ice. Ice on skin. Ice on tomato face. Feet in cooler. Ice.

Driving, dripping, icing, wind, eiffel tower, driving, drinking, ceasar’s palace, wind, ice, ice, ice.

And the chicken bites™ fade in the softening red light.

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Minor American Roadtrip, Travel and intrigue | , , , | 8 Comments

Utah: Another blip in the Minor American Roadtrip

I admit that this is painful installment 4 of 74 of my boring summer vacation. I somehow feel the need to document. I understand if you somehow feel the need to ignore me entirely.

I had already entered Utah in my last Minor American Roadtrip post. The state, to some, is the new “it” place. Where people still sound un-mainstream for going and there’s tons of cool, outdoorsy things to do. It was pretty easy to understand why. We planned to go back before we even got there so our 30 or so hours in Utah didn’t entail much except a promise to return. Its national parks are still calling my name.

The next stop (after the Bluebird Cafe) was Antelope Island just north of Salt Lake City, apparently referred to as just “Salt Lake” when you’re  in Utah, not to be confused with Great Salt Lake, which is the actual lake where Antelope Island is. Confused yet?

I had read about Antelope Island before we started our trip. Somehow I pictured some sort of uber-Okanagan wonderland with piles of kids just pouring out of doors, windows, holes in the ground and beer cups; 20 year olds in boats and hip bathing suits sounding ever-so-vaguely obnoxious on the water; lots of retirees; and a healthy dose of sunscreen and goofy hats. Maybe I had Antelope Island confused with a Kissime St. Cloud commercial mashup with a Florida-style spring break. At the very least, I thought, being 45 minutes from a city in the dead of summer would mean there’d be some traffic and maybe even a full campground. I was pretty dead wrong. P.S. This is always okay by me. People are minor irritants at the best of times. I love seeing everyone out enjoying beautiful places, I really do, but I love near solitude even more.

After 7 miles along a narrow causeway, we reached the actual island. I had never seen a campground like ours; the photos are pretty inadequate to show the surreal views of the lake, cheeky sunflowers dotting the landscape, and blessed metal shelters giving my pale skin a refuge. Aside: the downside of the metal is that creatures arriving in the night sound an awful lot like a band of toddlers playing jingle bells on pots and pans. After setting up good ol’ Mr. Wet Tent, we ventured to the lake for a swim.

The rumours are true. Great Salt Lake is greatly salty, and consequently stinky, but also very warm. It was great fun to swim in and a huge reprieve from the heat that day. That said, I did gain an appreciation for freeze-your-toenails-off glacier fed lakes. They feel and smell so incredibly clean and have a crispness that you just can’t buy in that heat!  Post-swim we were on the hunt for bison and antelope, which the island still has both of, strangely. I may or may not have driven around screaming “Home, Home on the Range.” Probably not. The relaxing, warm evening with accompanying sunset was just what the doctor ordered.

In classic bad tourist fashion, the next morning we moseyed to Salt Lake for a quick glance at the capitol building and Temple Square, the Mormon complex with piles of volunteers guiding tourists around the awe-inspiring grounds. I then got religio-skittish and we drove like we were getting paid…all the way to L.A.

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September 17, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Now featuring a few hours in Idaho/Entering Utah

The next installment in the documentation of the Minor American Roadtrip:

A trip always means choices. On some trips, that choice means driving straight through Idaho twice without much regard for Idaho’s self-worth and what it has to offer. Sorry, Idaho. I’m quite certain you have your charms and wonders, but I’ll have to explore them another time.

What little I did experience of Idaho was pretty fun and memorable though.

Well, not the sign part, but the rest of it. We had a visit with the jerky man whose name I can’t remember. He and google have not yet met up, sadly. He sold elk and bison jerky as well as plain old beef. With a set up like this, we couldn’t help but stop:

I sneakily tried to take his picture as he got right to work on  his sales pitch. As I was digging for the camera, spy style, he yelled out for the little lady (that’s me) to come out, too: “I’ve got saaaam-ples!” he bellowed. This guy was something else. So excited we stopped, he cut small samples from about 12 different kinds of jerky. And he had a system. You start with plain bison, then go to plain elk (it has more flavour and will ruin your pallet for the bison), then you move into teryaki, spicy, extra hot and goodness knows what all else that I can’t remember. Once we disappointed him by buying only one package he launched into the second part of his work: giving directions on the most scenic and entertaining way to get to Salt Lake City, UT. This guy mapped it out for us and we followed his instructions to the letter.

  • First stop: The Montpelier Oregon Trail Centre. Now when I say we followed his instructions, I mean we drove by, slowed down like annoying tourists, and took pictures. I’m sure the Centre had a lot to offer, but as I say, travelling is choices (I’m a big, touristy ass).

  • Second stop: St. Charles (only on the map if you scroll in) for the famous “best” raspberry shakes. I was off dairy so instead I entertained myself in other ways.

  • Third stop: Viewpoint of Bear Lake. He was right yet again. This was beautiful and worth a stop, though the picture doesn’t do it any justice. Technically at this point we’ve already entered Utah, but I’m using my artistic license (not yet expired) to talk about the rest of jerky man’s recommendations within the Idaho post. Idaho really does get the shaft.

  • Finally, the climax: The Bluebird Cafe in Logan, Utah. Jerky Man said that this was the place to get lunch. I believe he said something along the lines of, “a neat little place with a lot of character.” So after a stop at the Logan  Temple, we headed to the Bluebird. Guess which one is which.

What I failed to factor in at this point is that, as lovely as the man planning my day was, we may not have the same taste in restaurants. He really got me with that whole “character” thing of his. And he was right, it was a different sort of place, with murals of Logan’s history, cheap food and a diner style menu. We went in looking like people who hadn’t showered in a couple of days, because we hadn’t, and they stuck us in a back room by ourselves. I was a little uncomfortable but probably also weird looking, so I thought that was ok. Unfortunately, my nose is a little in the air when it comes to food and my meal didn’t thrill me. It was, however, good for a laugh.

Cheers to the Jerky Man, he made our day in more ways than one. Next Post: Utah Continued!

September 15, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Next Stop: Wyoming

As will become increasingly obvious, I didn’t spend enough time anywhere along the journey. What I saw of Wyoming was pretty incredible, but I was only in the western-most sliver. There’s really something to be said for places just east of the rockies, foothills and the like, where you’re far enough to get perspective on the mountains on one side and the prairie on the other. I had only experienced that southeast of Calgary before, but the feeling continues further south. I can’t remember exactly, but we crossed the continental divide an insane number of times, back and forth in Yellowstone National Park and weaving through some crazy valleys later.

My poor calculations about how long it would take to get to Yellowstone from Glacier National Park meant that we arrived at the park gate at about 11pm. A deer had dashed out in front of us, lightening flashed ominously ahead of us, I was keenly aware that we didn’t know the area well and that the park road would not be a freeway. Yet we plowed on, not willing to give up our campsite in the height of summer. Right after taking the first picture, of the park sign, we stopped to consult the map and ran into a ranger. He pulled over to ask us how we were, my paranoia must have been heightened, I thought for sure we were in trouble for something. But we were free. After about 10 minutes of driving my traveling companion passed out and I began imagining grizzly bears dish-like faces appearing in my windshield right before driving of the edge into the ominous darkness on one side of the road. I eventually had to shake the passenger seat to get back to sanity. It was an hour and a half of torture before we got to our campground.

An aside: I’ve begun to realize about myself that pure “nothingness”, as us civilized types might see it, actually sends me into panic. On the one hand, I suppose it just indicates that I’m aware of my weaknesses, my dependence on technology, people who know how to do things, etc. On the other hand, I think it’s sad that if I’m in a remote enough place and there’s only one other person around, I have no sense of security or peace. Lights, structure, and additional people all give me great comfort but my intellectual self says I should just enjoy the wildness.

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Our last stop in Wyoming was Jackson (the hub of the famous Jacksonhole valley), a Banff-like town embedded in the foothills. In the middle of everything and nowhere all at once. Elk racks and wagon wheels decorate the wide streets. In the summer, it felt like a party.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Irritated, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Self-reflection, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | 3 Comments

Featuring Montana

For no good reason at all, other than maybe being extremely indulgent and thinking that anyone cares, I’ve decided to do a brief highlight reel of each state I spent any amount of time in during the recent U.S. excursion.

First stop: Montana. No offence Idaho and Washington, but given that I only stopped to use the facilities, you don’t seem worthy of a post, unless it was about rating washrooms around the world a la George Castanza. If you’re actually curious about the route through Montana, this was it approximately. This is not the efficient way to get to Yellowstone when leaving Glacier National Park at 1pm, if you’re curious.

It was around the Montana border that I started to realize that those crickets that were following us throughout the trip were morphing into weedwackers and were in fact engine sounds. The sound persists. One day I’ll care to find out what it is and then not do anything about it some more.

What I saw of Montana was pretty stunning. I had been hearing this recently but was eager to see it with my own eyes. I’m partial to the mountains of southeast BC, Rockies and otherwise, so Glacier National Park did not disappoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time there. I will have to return to do the Iceberg Lake hike, and others, and spend more time talking to people. What I’m saying is that I have very little to say about Montana.

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September 7, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , | 3 Comments

3 days to mildly epic road trip

Bags are not packed but piles are formed. Optimistic list of food that wil get prepared is developed. Car almost fully tuned. Routes tentatively established. 4 days of camping joy booked. Cat lady reserved (oh dear).

The left to do list is much longer but I’ve handed it over to higher powers. My only responsibility this week is class reading. Well, and some other boring responsibilities like changing clothes and going to work, potentially showering.

It’s unfortunate I won’t be able to post pics until a couple weeks after I get back. You’ll manage, I’m sure.

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Travel and intrigue | 2 Comments


…a 5000km whirlwind tour in the U.S. of A to be followed by a 10 day intensive field course on BC’s central coast. Stay tuned for pictures and adventures from Wyoming, Utah, and the Great Bear Rainforest…

Because nothing says life like trying to accomplish everything in August.

p.s. All my plants have brown spots on them.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Self-reflection | 5 Comments