7.30.2006

home base

Hey all - I am home in Seattle and safe and tired and full of energy and squeezing my cat to death. I will keep posting my trip journal in order as I have time to clean it up. I had the most amazing time, and it will be such a joy to remember each day as I post. Keep your fingers crossed that we didn't lose all of our pictures ... how's that for a teaser?!

xo
PJ

7.15.2006

tired, poor, & huddled

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
===========================

I know that I should be catching up on the day-to-day, but I need to take a moment to pause and relay to you all that this trip has really begun to renew my love for this country; and my faith in folks in general. I alluded to this in my last entry, but it bears repeating. And it bears remembering when I'm back home and caught up in my small and elite city community and when the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket all over the place.

The night before we left, we went over to Safeway, right across the street of out home on the top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, and we conversed briefly with one of our regular checkers. She's a very nice young lady, maybe mid- to late-20s. We slipped in that we were leaving for a month to tool around the west, and she said, "I have no desire to explore the Americas; it just doesn't interest me." WELL! Since our car was packed and we were on our way to go do just that, I'm not sure what conversation could have sprung from taking that path, so we simply smiled awkwardly and nodded. And pardon me for generalizing, but I might reckon that a lot of liberal city folk feel something simliar.

But they (and she) are missing out on an amazing richness and diversity. Diversity, much like people, comes in many colors. Diversity is not just found in Seattle, or in "the city." This country is so cussing beautiful in so many different ways that I think I have cried or gotten rather vaklepmt every day on this trip. Sometimes it's the scenery but mostly, it's random moments of interaction with the folks we run into that cause my heart to leap into my throat.

In a mere 2 weeks, I cannot count how many times I've seen strangers from all over the world strike up conversations and find something in common within 60 seconds. I've participated in this phenomonom myself (it turns out I truly am my parents when I travel campin'-style). How amazing is that? It is indeed a small world after all.

It feels a bit good to live in a liberal city and smoke and drink and feel a bit cynical about the world. But it feels better to lose a bit of that pretense and actually converse 1-to-1 with those who probably vote opposite of you. They want the same things - love, happiness, comfort, a future for their children. They maybe just see a different way to get there. The dream we can agree on; the path - perhaps not.

This track is not an easy direction for my mind to take. It's full of uncomfortable contradictions, and backtracking. It's easier to live in the liberal city and imagine that the stupid fuckers "out there" are ruining it for the rest of us.

Okay. So human beings are complicated. And the stupid fuckers out there are ruining it for the rest of us, kind of. But they are also amazingly kind people who, in a crunch, would give you the shirt off thier backs without asking any questions. City folk maybe ask a few more questions before dolling out their kindness.

I don't know. I'm a bit drunk on JD on ice. I am high on the fact that we decided to get a cabin tonight instead of setting up our tent. I am beside myself that the 4 cabins surrounding us seem to be rented by some family reunion; and that Shoogs and I watched a "under 10-years-old" talent show as we were unloading stuff from the car and pouring our first Jack. I feel joyously melancholy, if that makes any sense at all. I just know that I would not trade this trip for anything. And I also am aware that I am incredibly lucky to be able to do this at all. I feel very "connected."

Yep. And I need to sleep before I get any more sentimental. I may read this tomorrow and cringe. But as me and my best-friends-4-ever used to say back in drama club in high school, "The drunk man says what the sober man thinks." That may the only thing we actually understood at that age.

Love,
Peggy Jean

7.07.2006

Getting into the groove

Apologies for the sporadic nature of these road trip reports - I have SO MANY STORIES to tell, and yet such a strong desire to sleep when the sun goes down. ;o) Slowly but surely. Here's the next installment. xo PJG 7/12/06

July 5, 2006

Day five. 375 miles. Things are picking up. We're really getting used to our rhythms and our routines. Our bodies and minds are slowing down and it's easier and easier to remember where we packed that one thing that we want. It's amazing how much faster you can travel on the interstate. We took I-90 from Billings, MT to our present location. Perhaps not as picturesque, but really, the only logical way to go.

And now, I am in a hotel in Deadwood, SD. It kind of kicks ass. It's a very charming and small town of about 1400 people, and a mass amount of touristy types. Ya know, like us. I gambled away about $25 bucks. At some point, I won back $20 and was ahead, but ... well, jeez! it's so easy to stick in a buck and then another buck and then another into the slot machines. All of a sudden ... I'm still not rich. Ah, well. Ooh! And I got to see the actual place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. This is especially cool if you happen to a fan of the HBO series.

So today - a good day!

We decided not to go to Tetons. It was kind of a tough decision, because we'd heard so many great things. But we wanted to really ensure that we had some available days to cash in for various "surprises" we might find along the way. We made a conscious decision to slow our pace down a little, and go with the wind a little more.

We started out at Pictograph Cave State Park, right outside Billings. Some original cave drawings left by the aboriginal Americans. It's quite something to think about the span of ages and peoples. And this is the place where I got my first sunburn. Well - it was bound to happen, right?

Along the way to the Badlands, we passed by Little Big Horn and decided on the spur of the moment to stop. We thought it would be okay, but neither of us was that into Custer or his last stand. But, we had bought a National Parks Pass before we left, so it didn't cost us anything. And here's where it paid off to stay open to whatever lessons are waiting for us on the road. The ranger talk was EXCELLENT and actually was quite moving ... I wiped my eyes surreptitiously several times (feeling a bit like a nerdball but not really caring). Seriously - either this guy missed his calling by not being an actor or I missed mine by not being a park ranger. And who says learning is over when school is out? Turns out Custer was not a straight up Indian killer, and actually had testified fiercely in front of Congress; calling out the insanely atrocious conditions on the reservations, and taking some of the powerful leaders of the day to task with the kind of courage that is not often seen today. And the Battle at Little Big Horn? A crazy and incredibly sad story of misguided and misunderstood information regarding intentions on both sides. A dark chapter that Hollywood has warped our impressions of.

Sleep. Maybe tomorrow I'll win back what I'm going to spend in gas on this goddam trip.

July 6, 2006

Day six. 131 miles. We ate lunch at Kevin Costner's bar/restaurant/casino. Yup, you bet; of course he does. And we happen to be seated next to the stills from my favorite Costner movie of all time - A Perfect World. Haven't seen it? Rent it immediately. Put it on your Netflix queue. It's a fan-fucking-tastic movie. Of course, Costner is also a little bit famous for giving me and Mark our first big win in Deadwood. Of course, he then proceeded to rob us blind, but we've forgiven him. Basically only because of A Perfect World and (of course) Bull Durham.

We took a charming bus tour of Deadwood and Boot Hill Cemetery, where Hickok and Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny are all buried together. Ooooh! And for fans of the show - also Preacher Smith (who, disappointingly, didn't die gloriously of a brain tumor like in the show, but was shot with fake Indian arrows; presumed killed by the bad folks who were tired of him coming into the red light district and spewing his bible thumping morality).

Poor Shoogie developed a powerful headache by mid-afternoon and was barely able to breathe, much less eke out any kind of existence (apparently). You know those kind of headaches, right? People with migraines probably scoff, but seriously that shit is not fun. (And neither was Shoogie with this headache - ha ha.) But I forced him to drink water and eat some salted cashews (my theory bring that we had completely dehydrated ourselves in Deadwood by tying one on ... or five or six). Whether it worked or the headache just played itself out, we'll never know. Not being proud, I will claim the victory. None-the-less, Mark was recovered by the time we hit the Badlands in South Dakota. And I have to tell you - it was as good as I remembered.


July 7, 2006

Day seven. 89 miles. One week from home, and it feels like nothing and it feels like forever. We set up last night at the Cedar Pass Campground within the Badlands Nat'l Park. Really pretty glorious. The gorgeous prairie at our backs, the beautiful rugged face of the Badlands directly in front of us. I can't even describe the Badlands to you. You simply have to view it. I'm not kidding. This place captured me when I came through 12 years ago (when Phil, my ex-husband, and I drove through when we moved to Seattle in 1994). It's like God made sand castles. That sounds lame --- I don't know; it's just so astounding. Look it up; book a flight; rent a car; go.

We found place about 2 miles from us, just outside of the park that serves all-you-can-eat brekkie pancakes w/ sausage and coffee/tea for 4 bucks. And the people who run the place ARE SO NICE. Everyone we've met is incredibly kind and lovely. Granted, we don't talk politics, so I don't know about red vs. blue (I'm guessing usually red) --- but in terms of simple everyday human kindness and friendliness, it warms the cockles of my heart to find to find these lovely folks everywhere we go. The other thing these lovely folks possessed was a velvet Jesus for sale for $12.95. You do the math.

We hiked 4 trails today - about 2.5 miles. Okay, well ... really only 1 actual hike and 3 strolls. But the hike (Notch Trail) was kind of intense. We found out later that it was 102-degrees. Key-riced! But it's a dry heat. Ha ha.

Oh! And we discovered the best wildlife of all! Biting flies, the little shit cocksuckers. They SUCK ASS. They leave no welts - no indication of ever being there - but they latch on and the bite and bite and bite until you hit them. No amount of shaking of your leg or arm will dislodge them from their appointed rounds. And they bite through socks. Truly heinous.

In the evening, we were heading out to Wall, SD (home of Wall Drug!, which is home to free ice water!). As we were preparing to leave the campsite to make the trek (about 25 miles), a lightning storm sprung up in the distance. Have you ever seen an electrical storm come in over the prairie? Well, now I have, and I have to say that it is WAY BETTER than Wall Drug. I love Seattle, but one thing I miss is thunderstorms. And the best thing about this one was the beauty combined with the fact that it didn't land any rain at all on our heads - it passed right by. Best of both worlds. Then we did head into Wall, and let me tell you, it turns out that Shoogs loves him some Wall Drug.

I finally dragged him out of there, and he cooked dinner for us while I went to town and bought him that velvet Jesus. Hell yes, I did! It's Jesus at Getheseme, and it is kind of beautiful. Ya know, aside from the fact that it's a velvet painting. Mark, of course, was overjoyed and will love me forever.

We ate, and hit 2 of the evening ranger programs led by Ranger Shawn Smith, a sweet young kid from St. Louis who has a crazy penchant for Lewis and Clark. In fact, that's what the first talk was about - the L & C expedition through the Dakotas. It was quite interesting, but the highlight was that he showed a clip from the IMAX Lewis & Clark film, in which my friend Kelly Boulware plays Clark. It was surreal to see someone I know on a screen in a ranger station in South Dakota.

On the way home from the programs, we stopped by to get ice from ice vending machine. It was about 11:30pm and we ran into a guy cleaning out his cooler - he and his family were on the way home (to Orlando, FL). His name was Mark, and once he found out we were camping, he gave us all his leftover food. Hot dogs, mayonnaise, mustard, pudding, milk. Most of it we didn't want or didn't need, but he seemed so pleased to have someone to give it to that we took it. This guy Mark - nice fucking guy, and a TALKER. We were exhausted, but didn't want to be rude, so we talked for awhile. Once again - the glorious lessons we learn when we're open - he gave us the best tip of the trip so far --- CUSTER STATE PARK.

Adventures to come:
=>Trail ride with a horse named Sage!
=>Spelunking!
=>Begging burros!
=>More lightning storms and tent shenanigans in CO!
=>White water rafting on the Colorado River!

Who know where we'll be next?!

Much love to all of you for reading,
Peggy

7.04.2006

the twilight's last gleaming

Right now, I am sitting in a KOA Kamping Kabin (did I mention how much I love KOA?!) and I am listening to fireworks taking place in various places around Billings, MT. But, Peggy! -you gasp- How did you possibly get to Billings on the 4th of July?! Well, let me tell you folks … it was not that easy.

Day Two. July 2, 2006. 317 miles. In retrospect, perhaps we should have decided to make Glacier NP in 3 shorter days rather than 2 longer ones. The second day (July 2) might be the closest we come to seriously almost bagging this whole ridiculous idea and holing up somewhere and coming back to Seattle simply pretending that we took a month-long road-trip. Note to self: Eat more frequently. 2nd note to self: Somehow trick Mark into eating more frequently.

BUT! We made it to Glacier, and it was beautiful. In fact, the whole of the drive up to Glacier was also beautiful. And some of the time we even had the presence of mind to remember to enjoy it. It was a long day that ended with a crazy campsite fiasco, which almost made me cry and involved not getting a site at all, then getting one, then having it taken away, then getting another one. Then it rained on us. And then we got to eat dinner. Then we got eaten by a grizzly.

Okay, I made that last part up. In fact, after it rained and we ate, we took a lovely walk around the campground (not KOA this time, but actually in Glacier NP at the Fish Creek campround), and found 2 ways down to Lake McDonald where we relaxed to the view and the sound of the water. And had a rock skipping contest. The winner? Me at 11 years old. Boy, have I lost that skill. A shame, really. I’m going to do my best to rectify the situation.

After the walk, we drank wine and promised that the rest of the trip we were going to be better and nicer, and then giggled in the tent for awhile before lights out. I love the sound of other campsites’ quiet murmuring and laughing and then gradual silence. It’s a strong visceral memory from a childhood of campground vacations, and it soothes me and makes me feel safe.

Day three. July 3, 2006. 133 miles. The day started rough. For various reasons too complicated and personal to go into, I had a bit of a meltdown. I partly blame this goddam cold which I cannot completely shake. But there it was. That happened, then the air was clear, and everything else that day was magical. Out first real day of DOING rather than DRIVING.

After a lovely light lunch, we drove through Glacier NP on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, stopping liberally along the way wherever we felt like it. A vista here, a waterfall there. The Continental Divide. We hiked to St. Mary’s Falls and then onto Virginia Falls. St. Mary’s was beautiful, but we shared it with everyone because it was an easy climb. Virginia, however, was almost empty. It was also a fairly easy climb, but almost noone besides us kept going past the first falls. I’m glad we did. As beautiful as Glacier is, it was our only real moment of solitude, and we soaked it up. And I soaked my feet in the edge of the falls (far away from any danger, Mom and Dad – I promise). A few sips from the flask added to our sense of euphoria.

Then back on the road, and we continued our slow pleasant drive through the park. We decided to push on and find a campground further on past the park. Our first try resulted in a vaguely Chainsaw-Massacre-ish place, where the toothless guy came up from the house on his tractor to welcome us and express his hopes that we would stay because, “We like to party; we have a good time here!” Actually, in another week, I think we would have welcomed the adventure, but I think we were both looking for something more in our comfort zone. So on we traveled, and just as we were starting to think we’d fucked up again, we came upon the most amazing oasis of a small town called Dupuyer. It is a town of 80 people, 2 grocery stores, 2 restaurant/bars, and 1 B&B. The B&B was charming, and we were pretty excited, but it was obvious from the welcome they gave us that those poor folks were just hoping to have a quiet early night before the holiday. They had just vacated a whole house full of guests, and were so kind and completely willing to help us out if we had no other options, but they were also noticeably relieved to direct us to the county park (a mere block away) once they learned that we were prepared to tent. The park was not much more than a field with an outhouse where you could camp for free (!) – there is no earthly way we would have know of its existence without the B&B folks. It was awesome, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We stopped by one of the groceries to get some cold medicine (yes, it’s still hanging on), and she directed us strongly to one restaurant over the other. So we went and had some whiskey and all-you-can-eat tacos at this place run by two native Washingtonians that are about our age. De-fucking-lighful. Then back to the campsite to play Frisbee. Then the quietest night sleep yet.

Day four. July 4, 2006. Independence Day. 338 miles. About 30 miles from Dupuyer is a town called Choteau (“show-toe”), and we rolled into town JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to see their 4th of July parade. It was AWESOME. Fire trucks, tractors, the Shriners, princess floats – oh the list goes on and on. We shot a gazillion pictures. There is nothing like this in a city. It is impossible to have a parade like this anywhere but in a small town. We loved every minute. Then ice cream, then on the road again. And the road looked a lot the same from there all the way to Billings. That’s to say, beautiful. But our eyes were a bit saturated, and we were happy to roll into Billings to our Kabin, where here I sit on the bed with Mark now snoring and the pop of fireworks continuing into the night.

I shall take a moment as a fall asleep to remember what this day really means, and to pray for peace and freedom for all of us.

7.01.2006

Day One

324 miles. We started late and made it to just past Spokane today. Fairly uneventful, but we had a few first day blips. Getting on the was road for any trip is always a bit stressful, but perhaps slightly more so since it’s the two of us in a car for an entire month. Did we forget anything? Do we like each other enough to do this? If we were on the Amazing Race, would we have embarrassed ourselves in front of America?

On the TAR (The Amazing Race) scale, I’m guessing we would have come in around 9th (out of 11). Our navigation skills rocked, but our interpersonal interactions were shaky. Perhaps an earlier breakfast would have been beneficial. We’re the team that your bets would still be out on. Are they assholes or are they cool and just finding their sea-legs? Time will tell.

I woke up with a cold yesterday (hooray), and have been fighting it off fairly successfully, but it’s taken a bit out of me. (Patience, mostly.) And Mark was … well, Mark was cranky. We’re both better now that the camp is up and we’re sipping Basil Hayden on ice out of camping mugs. Thank god for KOA!

Route outline: I-5 North over to Highway 2 was our plan, but I-5 sucked balls traffic-wise. We stopped at a Denny’s (yay America), and found a shortcut to 2 that didn’t involve 5. Then we hit holiday traffic around Sultan. What? You’ve never heard of Sultan, WA? I already was expecting 2 to be slower than 90, but geez … it was even longer than I expected. Still better, though – peaceful and pretty. And I’ve seen that stretch of 90 more times than I can count, so I’m glad we did it. We’ll mainly try to stay off the major interstates, unless it makes no sense not to use them.

We stopped in Leavenworth for a cold one (which we needed – see previous note re: patience & crankiness), and chatted up some of the hippie townie bartenders, who were lovely. We enjoyed the majestic rock faces along the way to & past Wenatchee, and the colors of the WA State desert are stunning! I always forget. The dying sunlight off the wheatfields was amazing. And Mark and I have decided to retire to either Davenport or Startup.

We’re about to go brush our teeth and fall deeply asleep in our comfy tent with the top flap open to reveal a perfect shot of the Big Dipper. Dreamy. We still love each other. All told, any day that ends with that is a good one, no matter how many detours we take along the way.