Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apples and Clams

While walking across Providence in a desperate attempt to get to a Best Buy so I could find out if someone was going to put me up for the night, I strolled through the rain for God-only-knows how many miles. On my walk, while drenched and drowning in the unrelenting downpour, I emerged from beneath an overpass to see numerous apples rotting on the sidewalk beside Rhode Island Hwy 2. If they had all been the same size or in the same state of decay, I'd have assumed they had been tossed out. But they weren't. I looked up and beheld an apple tree.

After setting down my pack I plodded up the hill and selected a nice, mostly ripe apple. It was quite tasty and scrumptious. I had never picked an apple before and if I hadn't been forced to walk across Providence to Warwick, I wouldn't have had that experience.

With the apple consumed, I tossed the core at the base of the tree and moved on to eventually find Best Buy and post the blog that went up the other day.

I spent most of today walking around Newport, taking photos of houses that are almost 300 years old, but the highlight of my day by far was eating clam chowder in White Horse Tavern. Built in 1673 as a home and converted to a tavern in 1730, it's the oldest tavern in the country. The bar and dining area is let my candles and oil lamps because there's no electrical wiring. The cash register is hooked up to an extension cord.

The bartender, a guy named Aryn, was extremely interested in my travels and shared with me stories of his time working on yachts and traveling with them. The chowder was great, the atmosphere was rich and the staff friendly. On top of that, I was eating in a tavern that was serving people drinks more than 40 years before this country was founded.

Thanks for the chowder, Aryn. And thanks for taking my picture at the bar. I'm going to hang on to that one.

I'd like to tell you all about my wonderful experiences in the Providence area, but eventually I have to sleep. All I can say for now is that the downtown district was designed to make your jaw drop. If you come up here, bring extra batteries and memory cards for your camera.

Take it easy everyone and thanks for following. Let's see where I end up next.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two Things To Find

Everyone is searching for something because no one is ever truly complete. We can only push ourselves closer. I took this trip knowing that something was missing and being on the road where the complexities of life are stripped away and only my raw self remains has shown me what is missing. There are two things that I'm currently searching for. One is something that I have owed to myself for years, the other is a better understanding of something that I already knew.

I'm surprised that I learned what it was that I was looking for so quickly. With each passing day I come closer to understanding that which I need a better understanding of.

I've seen so much in the past two weeks. I've traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticuit, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. I've seen more in these last two weeks than on years of vacations.

My trip might not last a year, but I won't try to guess now how long it will last. It'll be done when it's done, and I guess I'll know when that is.

But now I feel I'm one huge step closer.

Made It... Sort Of...

So Wednesday I woke up bound and determined to make it from Montgomery, Alabama all the way to Providence, Rhode Island before October. 1,300 miles of interstate stretched before me and I didn't have a ride, but my determination won out... for the most part. 20 miles of walking, 7 hitches, 2 semi trucks, 1 hour in a Pennsylvania State Police car, a short bus ride and a robbery later, I'm sitting in Providence, Rhode Island.

The cop, one Officer Powell, who picked me up for walking on the interstate (which is illegal in Pennsylvania), didn't write me a ticket. Instead, he searched for a way for me to get to my destination without breaking any more laws and even drove me 40 miles up the road where I could continue my journey. Thanks Officer Powell.

To avoid arrest, I took a bus from Hazleton,PA to Rhode Island and had a 1 hour layover in New York. While waiting for my bus to arrive, some random ass-hat snatched my carry-on bag which was 2 feet away from me. I chased him for about 2 blocks down Amsterdam Avenue until my bad ankle blew out (again). I limped back, short one novel (On The Road by Jack Kerouac), a pen, a scrap of paper that had the name and phone number of a guy who was going to give me a place to crash when I arrived in Providence, a camera case (empty) and most importantly my journal which containes every detail of my trip thus far.

So, my log of everything I've done, everyone I've met, and everything I've felt on my most important adventure is gone, lost in the streets of New York, probably in a dumpster on Amsterdam Avenue.

I'll try to remember everything that was in it, but I know that so much information is lost and will never be retrieved. That journal was the most important thing I had and this setback is by far the worst.

I'll see if I can find a place to crash in Providence. They're running all the homeless people out because they errected some massive tent city downtown, so sleeping on the streets is now impossible.

Let's see where my adventure takes me next.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Montgomery, Alabama

Made it to Montgomery the other day and it's a stark change from Mobile. The ass-hats of that town are not to be found here, at least not in any of the places I've been thus far. When I hitched a ride into town and was dropped off near a coffee shop, an employee who was setting up outdoor tables said "grab a chair, backpacker." Those were the first words spoken to me by a Montgomery resident. I enjoyed being called a backpacker. It's a far cry from "f#@&ing bum" which was all I heard in Mobile.

Being treated like a sub-human for those two days took an unexpected toll on me mentally. It wasn't a pleasant experience at all. There were a few exceptions, like the three girls who were nice to me. Laura, Donna and Caroline, thanks for treating me like a human being when so many others cursed me for asking directions or threatened to arrest me for walking on the sidewalk.

Montgomery is turning out to be a pretty cool place. The downtown area is really nice and full of historical points of interest, most of which are civil-rights oriented. I got to see where Rosa Parks got on the bus and where Martin Luther King ended his march, as well as a house he lived in. I've also seen the Confederate White House where Jeff Davis lived. The Hank Williams museum is there. I took a trolley ride all over the downtown area for 50 cents. They point out all the historical places along the way. I rode it a couple times just to be sure.

The whole Montgomery area seems to have more warmth, culture and charm. I really like it here, so I don't regret staying a few extra days to nurse a sore ankle. I'm staying with a guy I met on couchsurfing.org, a website for travelers that helps people travel cheaper while meeting people with similar interests. It seems like a really cool idea and I look forward to hosting travelers after my trip is finished.

The weather cleared up a little. Yesterday was the first day since a week before my trip began that it didn't rain. I was beginning to think I should have taken a boating trip instead of a walking one.

Not sure how much longer I'll be in Montgomery, probably just one more day, then I'll move on. I'll either head up to Birmingham or over to Atlanta, and then make my way into North Carolina. I have a lot of that area to explore and I might spend a month doing it. After that, toward the end of October, I'll see how the weather is and figure out where to go from there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Hardest Thing

I'm in some town called Alabaster, north of Montgomery. It's raining here, again, just like everywhere in Alabama. It rains twice a day and sometimes it sneaks in a third storm in the middle of the night to catch me off guard. That's alright, though, I'm prepared. I have a sunburn, but it's starting to brown. My blisters are turning to callouses and my legs are toughening up. I'm not eating as much as I thought, which is both good and bad. It's good in that my food budget will last longer and I can divert some funds to my fun budget. Also, I can afford to splurge and eat a meal that isn't as bland as rice and chicken, rice and sausage or rice and mashed potatoes. Did I mention that I'm eating a lot of rice?

A lot of things are tough, like carrying a pack up the side of an overpass with a sore ankle or walking five more miles to the next exit because a pair of crackhead bums at the last exit got tired of snorting coke and decided to give you crap instead and you have to threaten their lives with a bigger than shit knife to get them to back off. Or realizing that you have a blister that formed on top of an existing blister (that's going to be one hell of a callous). But all those things seem to fade into the background once my feet hit the pavement again and I start making more progress. That all just becomes part of the experience and either becomes a blur or enriches the travel memories.

What's really difficult, worse than those things and then some, is not existing. Toting a pack and being a little dirty makes one somehow not human. The guys who curse you for being a burden to the society for asking directions to the interstate, the snot-nosed brats driving Daddy's car who yell at you and even throw shit at you while hitching, the couples who suddenly pause their conversations while passing you and continue walking all tensed up as if I'm a rabid dog on a long leash, and all the dozens of people who keep their eyes focused on some distant object as they walk, praying I won't speak to them as they pass, that is what makes this trip difficult. The feeling of being a person who has slipped through the cracks, one who is no longer a person at all, of being completely alone and no longer a member of the race is worse than missing my friends and family, worse than the blisters and sunburns, worse than the tired legs or the threat of being arrested. It's worse than the driving rain and the midday heat, and mosquitoes at night. It's worse than the heavy pack. Somehow, it's even worse than missing my girlfriend. It's worse than all that combined.

I have a newfound respect and sympathy for those who have truly fallen through. Those who have lost their way and lost their homes. Next time you pass a homeless person, smile and look their way. You have no idea how much a simple glance means until you find yourself in a state of being in which you no longer exist.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Chalmette to Mobile

Steve and Josh dropped me off outside of Chalmette and it didn't take long for a kind woman named Miranda to pick me up off the side of the road. Her and her husband had spotted me and made an illegal U-turn to double back and then made another to pick me up. They took me over Lake Ponchatrain and into Slidell. We rocked out to some classic rock (CCR) and Kid Rock's 'All Summer Long'. This really lifted my spirits and got me into the mood for more travel. They dropped me off at a truck stop and I slept under some trees until the heat of the day had passed. Then it was back to I-10 where I was immediately picked up by a 350 lb. transexual named Lynn. He/she was in full drag, including a red dress, clear heels, and a Cher wig. He talked about hiking the Appalachain Trail when he was younger. Now he's a 47 year old man who is one surgery away from being a 47 year old woman. He's trying to get a job as a chef/chefette, but says that for now his occupation is to "entertain truckers". I didn't ask for an explanation.

He/she dropped me off in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile is a strange place and if you're into hitching, DON'T GO TO MOBILE! The cops are first-grade assholes. One picked me up this morning when I was asking him directions. He put me in the car, drove me to I-10 and told me to get out of town or he'd arrest me for public intoxication. I told him I wasn't a bum, but he didn't care. I snuck back into town to refill some water bottles and was immediately harrassed by another cop. He pulled pretty much the same stunt, though he didn't specify any charges. Many of the people here are rude as shit. I asked a man if he could tell me what road I was on (Mobile lacks street signs) and he barked at me. On the flipside, on two separate occasions, once last night and once today, very attractive young women have simply walked up to me and handed me money. The first was outside of Wal-Mart. I was waiting for the rain to stop last night so I could get to the overpass to sleep. A cute girl named Donna walked up and handed me $8. I refused, telling her that I wasn't destitute and explained my trip to her. She insisted and eventually won the argument. Then, just about an hour ago while eating at "Steak and Shake", my waitress, Caroline, gave me $5. Again, I explained the situation and again she insisted that I take it to help with my journey. I gave her this website and left the money with her tip.

I'm currently in Best Buy on Airport Blvd and I-65. I'm going to look for a place to crash tonight if I can't hitch to Montgomery. Hitching around here seems a little more difficult than in Louisiana. Come to think of it, the nicest people I've met in Mobile were the three bums that greeted me when I arrived under an overpass last night. Eddie and Jerry were warm, friendly hosts who had known each other for about five minutes when I showed up. I didn't catch the other guy's name. I told them about my trip and they praised me for it. We chatted for a few hours before retiring for the night. They gave me some pointers for living on the road and saw me off this morning when I took off.

Signing out for now, but I'll be back soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Left from home on Tuesday,and hiked across town on the pipeline, then up Cities Service Hwy and slept under the overpass. There was a drunk homeless guy that showed up in the middle of the night, but he didn't give me any problems. He was pretty cool when I talked to him Wednesday morning. From there, I hiked along I-10 into Westlake and then took the train tracks over the lake where an operator got pissed at me for crossing. He kept yelling for me to come back and face his wrath,but I just kept on walking. It was at this point that my cousin, who had been walking with me, finally turned around and went home. That's when the realization of my solitude really kicked in. Those first steps alone were the most difficult.

I made it to Enterprise Blvd, and was picked up by a former coworker (thanks Becky) who drove me to Welsh. I kept walking, intent on making it to Jennings before midnight. Sometime during the night I found that after walking for over twenty miles with that heavy pack in some intense heat, I was ready to collapse. I took an hour nap beneath the Mile 61 marker on I-10. I then slept in a field until 6:30. I walked into Jennings and hung around for a bit, sleeping through the heat of the day. Then I thumbed for a ride and got picked up by a Mr. Griffin (father of Minnesota Vikings' lineman Cedric Griffin, he has a ton of his son's cards and autographed photos in his truck) who drove me nearly to Baton Rouge. A few minutes later, I was picked up by two friendly guys (Steve and Josh) who drove me to their shop in Chalmette where they operate a cement works business. I got a shower and managed to get my clothes washed.

I figured that hitching would be difficult for a bearded skinhead, but I'm finding it's the exact opposite. I thought that it would take a month to get across the state. Looks like I'll be in Mississippi for the weekend. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Knit Cap

Every adventurer needs an adventure hat, one that can keep the rain and sun off the head, and I have had mine for over 2 years now. It's a kangaroo leather outback hat that I ordered from an Australian manufacturer for use on backpacking trips. But many people, especially those whose heads are actually adorned with hair, tend to ignore the other type of adventure hat, the kind designed to keep the skull warm on those snowy days.

Just today a package arrived in the mail with just such a hat. A few months ago, my girlfriend contacted Meredith Kubricki at Fair Trade Knitters and inquired about a custom designed knit cap. The requirements were simple; natural color, tight knit, rugged and warm. Within a few days the design and material was pinned down. The style was very plain, more function than flair, and the yarn was spun from American Bison hair. This yarn was suggested for it's softness and durability.

As soon as the details were established, the order was placed and some kind woman in Ecuador began knitting my adventure cap. Several weeks later, we received an email from Meredith informing us that the cap was complete and it would be shipped to me soon. Now, with the cap in hand (or rather, on head) I understand what they meant by the softness of Bison fur. I always figured bison to be coarse creatures, but their yarn apparently is quite comfortable (thanks Mr. Bison). The cap as a whole is a pleasure to wear and the Ecuadorean woman did a fine job in knitting it.

Check out their site at Fair Trade Knitters and their new site at 1855wool.com