Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ohio, where the corn grows but in a good way

7/25/2014 Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Greeting from Ohio! For all the fun and mockery made of it, it’s actually pretty. I’d put it up there with Missouri and Oklahoma in terms of “I could totally see myself spending a week tooting about here camping” type states. I’m planning on not visiting any of the Ohio cities, so maybe that is why I like it: scenic routes and lesser interstates and parks parks parks! I rolled into Hocking Hills later in the day, but still with daylight and I set a new tent set up record: 4 minutes, 52 seconds. Got under 5 minutes! It’ll be tough to beat. Check out isn’t till 1pm, so I get to sleep in and utilize my site a bit before I head out. Tomorrow I’ll try and find one of these mounds Mom has told me about, and go to Riverside to get a photo of you know what sign, then it is off to Indiana! For…whatever is in Indiana!

Yesterday I had a nice drive from Grand Rapids, back towards Detroit and then down down down into Ohio. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, warm but not broiling. All together very pleasant! And Ohio has plenty of trees, and corn fields, but nothing too big and expansive for hours upon hours of dull driving. I got to Findley State Park early in the day, well earlier than when I usually roll into a campsite, and set up at site 27. Sites 1-27 were walk in and non reservable. Nice of a campground to set aside campsites for just that purpose. I had the loop to myself, and there were only a few campers on the way to the loop. Very quiet and peaceful. Talked to Mom. Updated my atlas. Organized. Ate some pudding. I did a little driving around the park, but no hiking. I retired to my tent and stayed up late reading. Later on when I was trying to sleep, there was something in the woods near my tent. Probably a deer. Could also be an Ohio Bigfoot. Bigfohiot?

Slept way way in. Slept so far in, I would have missed check out if I had been camping in New York (11am based on where I camped). Packed up and headed out to Cuyahoga National Park! Which would be a bicyclists paradise. Tons of paved trails all along this river. Very nice, but unfortunately a pain to navigate due to tons of road closures. But I did get a hike in at Brandywine Falls. A nice loop around and through the woods. Again, perfect weather. Hot, not terribly humid, sunny with some clouds.

It was about 3 hours to get to Hocking Hills. I’m in one of the youth group sites, so I have tons of space and no one nearby (there’s a bunch of space between the sites). The lightning bugs are plentiful. Wish we had them in Washington, but I guess we have phosphorescence in the water, and that is something!

It’s been nice getting back to the long drives and camping state of travel. Sometimes arranging places to stay can be such a headache. That being said, I’d really like a place to crash in Chicago. BUT as all I want to do is a museum and get a sandwich at this place Jeff told me about, it wouldn’t be so bad to parking garage it, then find parking near the sandwich spot, and then get outta there towards Milwaukie (where Andy is). Just need to look at the old Atlas and figure out driving times.

Hope all is well with you, see ya!

7/26/2014 6:40pm rest stop in Lebanon, Indiana

So it turns out that the Riverside that Kirk will be born in is in Iowa, not Ohio! At least it was on my way to Indiana. I left 11ish and then drove around mid/southern Ohio looking for these mounds that mom mentioned to me, but I couldn’t find any. Just lots of corn and small towns that looked fairly inhabited, instead of the usual destitute forgotten towns. Ohio isn’t so bad! Very scenic, though I can’t imagine living here. The Indiana page in my atlas provided little of interest, so I’m trucking on north to Chicago. Might rest stop/Walmart it, but there might also be some housing lined up kudos of Stephen. It’s all rather up in the air. There are no obvious “don’t sleep here” signs, so that’s a promising sign of these rest stops. I’m charging my devices and working on the communiqué, as that is something one should absolutely NOT do while driving.

Sweet, in the course of writing this, I have procured a place to stay for the night! Then it will be onwards into Chicago for the day (museum, pizza, sandwich) then I’ll see Andy and then it’s up up up!

12:06 am Crown Point, Indiana

I’m showered, my hair is clean, I’ve hydrated, I’ve had some ice cream, all is well! Stephen connected me to his friends Amy and Travis, and I’m at their place, and it’s wonderful. Only an hour and a half from that rest stop. Easy peasy. I’ve filled up my gas tank, so no worries about doing so near Chicago. Cities tend to add a quarter to the gallon price.

And I am going to go to Megan’s wedding. I think it’ll be the best way to kick off the final month of travel. I’m saying a month, could go faster. But then I also want to camp at some of the boss National Parks coming up.

My final route looks like this right now: Indiana (where I am now) Illinois but just for Chicago Wisconsin east into Michigan and south to Grand Rapids for the wedding, then south and back into Indiana and Illinois Iowa Minnesota North Dakota and South Dakota Nebraska Wyoming Montana Idaho Oregon and then back home to Washington! The loop de loop through Michigan solves the problem I was having with zig zagging through the remaining states and not back tracking. Plus I barely saw Michigan and it seems like a nice state, so it would be nice to, well, see more of it!

Also Travis & Amy have a lovely 8 month old baby named Calvin.

And I’ve gone back a time zone! So my body says midnight but it is 11. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but still. It’s been a while since time changed. It’s a sign of going west once again.

AAANNND I just thought about how when I was first heading east, the fields were not so grown, and now they are more grown! I guess a season has changed during my journey, and my planning for the weather has been mostly spot on. Go through the south early, and the north later but not too late.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

guess I gotta go to Ohio

Figuring out Ohio. Not the most enthused as I look at the map and it's so much flat and little parks. But there is a National Park! Just not one with camping. So I guess I'll drive down into Ohio, avoiding the toll road, and stop at a park, camp, then go to the National Park tomorrow, then go back West like a good girl.

But Michigan! It's nice! And it cooled down a bit. Not so muggy, not so hot. I left Detroit, filled up my tank for .40 cents less a gallon than it was in New York, and hit the road for Grand Rapids. Well, Rockport/Rockfort. I met Megan, a school chum, at her Mom's house, where the back yard is being set up for their upcoming wedding. On the 2nd! It's a lovely property. It has a gracious back yard with trees, a patio for the dance floor, a swing set, laundry on a line, and an ample tree line. It will be a marvelous setting for a wedding. I helped string up lights for the dance floor. Deb, Megan's Mom, fed me some stir fry. Lovely people! I know I've been saying that a lot on this trip, but there are some really swell and kind and giving people out there, and I've only met a fraction of them.

The light stringing was fun. Not sure how much of a help I was, but I did help. Clothes lines had to be brought down to fulfill the wiring needs of the bauble lights.

Megan & Eric let me spend the night in their spare bedroom. Had another good night sleep under a roof. They've gone off to work, so I shall go off to Ohio. State #35.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

fire breathers, Canadians, old friends, new friends

Greetings from a house referred to as "The Bunker". I'm in Detroit, staying with some friends of Toon, my first roommate in Portland. One of those full circle moments in life. It's called the bunker because the walls are cement reinforced. Toon's art is on the walls, and it's nice and cool. In a few hours I'll head out to Grand Rapids to see my school friend Megan, and stay there! But I'm so far ahead of where I last reported, and it's only been a few days! I love it when this trip accelerates. I'm getting my wind back and it is blowing me west.

My Day in Toronto

I set out at around 10amish. On foot. I had drawn up a few maps of where the comic shops are and where the St. Lawrence Market was, and I looked at the map of Toronto and knew it would be a walk, but hey! Gotta see the city! It was less hot today than it was when I arrived. Perfect for walking! I went down Avenue and turned right on Bloor (rhymes with door). I walked past the Royal Ontario Museum, which had a funky architectural construction. The mix of people in Toronto was refreshing. Not overly suited like DC, not obviously students like Burlington. Just a good blend of all sorts in all ranges of fashion.

I swung by Little Island Comics, which was cute and all ages. Then I wandered into Honest Ed's, which is this massive store of discount goods of all sorts. Wonderful signage throughout, hand lettering and slogans. You gotta go upstairs through a room of bins of men's clothes and cut across and go down into the basement to get to food. And lots of that backtracking. It isn't easy to get around, but damn it was fun. I bought some snacks and headed out to the brilliant light of day.

The Beguiling is the best comic shop I've been in since Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon. That's saying something! Indie shelves, foreign comics, zines, and knowledgeable staff. Made my heart swell to be in such an awesome spot, and really made me realize how far out of the comic loop I am. I was so into comics, what happened? I'm still into them, just not as much and not as actively.

South on Bathhurst was my next course of action, and I consumed my snacks (a canned iced tea and some chocolate) as I strolled down to downtown. Through a park. Past huge buildings and so much road construction. There is a lot in Toronto, but it doesn't have the hustling feeling that other cities have had, but it doesn't have the same concentration of stuff that Philadelphia had when I walked several miles through it. Caroline and Gary said it's a good city for food and beer. And the beers we had at the little pub last night were very good. And the beers we had tonight were also good, but that is jumping ahead!

So I wanted to grab lunch at St. Lawrence Market, which is a huge closed market with tons of stalls. And after walking for ages to get down there, I found it closed! It closes on certain days! Damn!! All that walking! Had I known, I would have stayed up around Bloor where it was more trendy. But also if I had an operational smart phone (mine doesn't work internationally) then I could have Googled stuff.

As it was, I just found a park and stretched my aching feet and read and ate snacks. Then I found my way into the Subway station and looked at the map and figured out roughly which station would be best to get off on (not many lines in Toronto, so no transfers!). Paid by $3 Canadian (Uncle Mark gave me some Canadian dollars) for a token, dropped the token in the thingy, and got on the train. Easy! And while I overshot the return to the apartment, I overshot it going uphill, so it was an easy walk down. I was loaned keys, so that I didn't have to coordinate with them when I was going out and about.

I lounged in the apartment for a bit and Caroline came home and I threw my shoes back on and off we went downtown to meet Gary at Wvrst for sausages and beer. We got on the bus, got a transfer slip, got off the bus and on the subway, then off the subway and onto the trolley! Such scooting about.

Wvrst has a great menu with interesting meats. Kangaroo. Guinea fowl. I went with the wild boar. And Caroline got some duck fat fries. Oh so good! Such carnivores. I'm glad that I can travel and consume with no allergic limitations. And as it was Monday, all Ontario beers were $5! Tasty tasty. Time flew by at our long bench style table. And oh the sausage was fantastic. We grabbed a subway back and arrived home after dark, and we all went to bed properly tired.

Escape from Toronto

You know how hard it is to get out of a city when you don't have any GPS and your printed out instructions end up being useless due to road constructions? Very. It's very hard. I said my goodbyes to Caroline and Gary in the morning, and loafed around a bit in the apartment before packing up. I dropped Caroline's loaned key off at the front desk of her work (which was really difficult to find due to it being on the second floor of a complex with a not so obvious elevator). My car was in a parking garage, which had decent rates. No harm was apparent on my car, hurray! I didn't think it would be. So I loaded up and put on comfy shoes and drove off. I had printed instructions for how to get to Detroit, but the route was blocked to construction, so I decided to get on Gardiner and hope there would be a turn off to 401, which I seem to remember seeing. But getting to Gardiner was tricky, and I ended up at the entrance to an airport or something. But the attendant at the gate and a truck driver gave me instructions (go out, second right, first left, right on this, then there is Gardiner) and I followed said instructions, and they were perfect! Mind you well over an hour has passed from me leaving the garage to this point, and I've only covered a few miles of distance across Toronto, but despite the congestion it was better than Nashville, which was heinous for driving.

And Gardiner did have an exit for 401! And thus the hours of driving began. The windmills were cool, but it was a whole lotta the same. Vast, sure, but no scale besides the windmills for the expansiveness of it all. A hill would have been nice. I took a mininap at one of the "ONroute" rest stops and spent some of my remaining Canadian coins on an iced coffee.

I crossed the border by way of the Winsor Tunnel. The wait to get to the customs agent was less than it was getting into Canada, but they made me park and leave my car so they could check it. I guess I haven't crossed the border into America on this passport, and the car isn't in my name, and I've been camping. I can see why they'd search me, and I have nothing to hide except carrots and a mallet. And even that I was honest about. So I sat in the waiting area and read and then struck up a conversation with some of the other waiting people about border crossings. I explained myself to the agent, the trip I was on, who the car belonged to, in all honesty of course. I'm not good at lying. And I was good to go! Nothing in my car looked ruffled. I was worried I might have to reorganize, but I didn't. Whooo!

Put a little bit of gas in my car and headed to Cyphar's. Cyphar being a friend of Toon. He, Mishiu, Eric(Rick?) and I went to get Lebanese food and oh what a platter of tasty meats that was! And tabuleh and rice. Shwarma. Mmm. We ate our fill and then some. My jaw is still giving my trouble. Have to eat slowly. I'm trying to feel out if my bite feels crooked, like my jaw somehow is a little out of sync. The alingment of one's jaw is really something taken for granted.

After food, I got a bit of a driving tour of Detroit (and we picked up Steve). And we stopped at an abandoned building and walked up the stairs to the roof and looked at the city from that vantage point. Gorgeous view. The light of Detroit obliterates the stars in the skies, and there are many buildings lit up all sorts of gleaming colors, but there are also dark patches where there are no lights, where there should be. It's a strange city, and very much on the surface how it is perceived: graffiti, obviously bad neighborhoods, deconstruction, abandoned buildings with shattered windows.

I have a bed to my own here at the house in Detroit, and I slept well in it. Now to go to Grand Rapids and see Megan!

Michigan makes 34. 14 to go!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Buffalo to Toronto

I totally neglected blogging in Buffalo. I thought, oh I'll do it tonight. Then oh I'll do it in the morning. Now here I am in Toronto, Canada!

I am in Toronto with Caroline and Gary. I've known Caroline online for well over 10 years. Probably the oldest online friend pen pal. We've been through so many stages of life together, and fluxes of conversation and no conversation. Seeing her in Toronto was one of the main uber goals of this trip. One of those "if I can accomplish this, it'll be amazing" and here I am without a hitch! My phone does not work in Canada, but I let her know before hand it might not so we just planned for me to park nearby and for me to hollar at her through open window and she came down and I found better parking for my car and yay here I am in Toronto! There seems like much to do, and I'm only here for one full day and Caroline and Gary work that day (Gary is Caroline's boyfriend, who is really nice), but we'll have the evening and I get time to roam but it also might be raining. Still, I'm here. Toronto is one of those cities I should visit again on its own for a few days properly. But driving up was painless. Just over two hours, and that was more due to a weather delay than traffic. Crossing the border was all sorts of questions about how I know Caroline, how much money I have, what sort of trip I am on, what I have in my car, who the car belongs to, does this person know I am visiting. I told the truth but it was one of those things where it's like, dang, I should have just lied. "Oh we went to college together". Boom! Easy! But I was let through and on I went. I was treated to dinner and we had several pints and gabbed (the three of us) and it was perfect. Like old friends catching up, which it was in a way. I'm wearing my most American shirt, which is a graphic of America where each state is represented with typography of the state name.

I don't know where to state with Toronto! It might be easier if I had good access to my phone and maps, but I don't. So I'll probably just walk a whole bunch tomorrow and draw a map. I don't know what exactly I want to see, but then again that would be better probably for a Toronto specific vacation.

But yeah! Whooo, Canada!

So, Buffalo? I guess I'll sum that up.

I got in to Janet and Mark's house and was let in by Maddie who is a friend of Kat, who is a summer intern of sorts who is staying at their house. Janet and Mark were else where. I took a shower and put on pajamas and M & K left, so I had the house to myself. I snacked and relaxed. Janet and Mark came back and we ate popcorn on the back porch while catching up. Janet and Mark, for the uninformed, are the parents of Leanne who I stayed with in Florida. Family upon family. Roaming the country.

Breakfast was aebleskivers, a Danish food, with bacon and eggs. Perfectly delicious! After breakfast, we three went to Niagara Falls. We parked on Turtle Island and walked, for we are good walkers! And we arrived during a perfect break in the rain. Well, it still rained, but lightly. I got some good views of the falls, and ANNDDD they treated me to a ride on Maid in the Mist, the boat that goes to the falls. We all got commemorative ponchos...which were needed to keep our torso dry in the mist, which was really just rain from the waterfall. My feet and pant legs got soaked. Still, what a blast! Just torrents and wind and mist and the falls RIGHT THERE! It was great. Absolutely wonderful. And Mark provided lots of insight about the falls.

We slogged our wet togs to Anchor Bar and met Kat and Maddie, and we were treated to a bucket of wings! Legit Buffalo wings. Mmm so good. That sort of usurped dinner plans, so hours later at home we went straight to dessert with strawberry shortcake, and card games.

Come morning, Mark picked up Great Aunt Doris, and we all went out for breakfast. Doris remembers that the last time she saw me, I was playing with Beanie Babies. I got some good stories about Grandpa, and just life way back when. Doris at 95 is still sharp and very mobile. There is a strain of longevity in this family, well a strain if we try to take care of ourselves. So I guess I need to start doing that.

After breakfast, I cleaned my car. I took everything out of the front seats and vacuumed. I reorganized. I tidied up. I made an effort to not make my car look totally shady when it comes to border watchers. Was there ever a time when you didn't need a passport to get into Canada? Seems like there wasn't, these days. There was some lunch after I cleaned, and then I packed up and off I went! Weather was good, but there was a bit of a storm, but it cleared up when I got into Toronto proper. Now I'm here! And that was what you've been missing. It's a top floor apartment and it's very warm.

But it isn't Florida.