For those that have been wondering “where did Nikki adventure to and lose her laptop”, I am still sort of wondering that myself. In all seriousness, I sit in front of the laptop all day long, but for some reason, the creativity doesn’t flow. The jazz doesn’t play. The fingers don’t type anything except “thank you so much for your email, let me investigate this further and I will be back with a resolution”. In other words, the work noose snuck around my neck and started strangling the passion of writing that used to flow through my veins like the pollen in the air during spring in the south.
During a recent trip to Wisconsin, a very dear friend (a total stranger in real life, but a long time via the interwebs) and I connected over a delightful lunch and beers. I hadn’t thought about writing for “fun” in a coons age and was sort of confused when asked why I didn’t do the blog business anymore.
Total shrug. I dunno, but I’m too busy doing. . . what? I can tell you it’s not eating healthy and exercising, and it’s certainly not doing anything worth my time. It sent me into a self-induced soul search. The time that I used to spend on my precious “Adventures” site seems to be stuck on an endless scroll through social media timelines. Watching other people present their lives, their boring, mediocre, hey-look-at-my-dinner-without-context-posts. I could do better, and I want to do better.
Insert lightbulb moment.
Hey! I travel every week to amazing places that people may or may not have heard of, and I end up really superficially sharing my experience via unengaging Facebook posts. There are people out there that make a hell of a lot of money writing worse than me, adventuring to lamer places, and not really offering the viewer anything of value. That’s where I’m going to be different. I’m going to offer a tour-guide-like service, almost if you will, a concierge service to the world. Food? You bet. Parks? Heck yes. Oddities? Of course, come on, it’s like you don’t even know me.
The CEO of the company that I LOVE working for had a little all-company rah-rah session two weeks ago and mentioned, “if you want something to happen, write it down, look at it, and it is more likely to happen”. I scribbled furiously this morning, making a layout of the next two months of content, daily schedules, and in bold letters, no excuses.
To motivate me, I’m harnessing the world’s greatest motivator, money, so I opened a Patreon for my Adventures. Anyone who isn’t living under a rock can see that fuel isn’t cheap, so ya know, it’s a friendly suggestion. Of course, just like any other Patreon page, you’ll get exclusive, behind-the-scenes info and the perhaps non-PG version of the experience. Feel free to click over and check it out. Of course, it is certainly a work in progress.
First post – Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas. Is it worth it? Is the entry fee goofy high? What else is there to do aside from looking out at some scenery? You’ll learn all of these things and more!
(By the way, I have a new adventure mobile, so be ready for some car-related shenanigans too!)
I’d love to hear your comments below, and as always, feel free to share. You know, sharing is caring!
As some of you might know if you follow me on social, I’ve been putting some miles on the old Volkswagen. Over 25,000 miles since May and I’m not done with my rambling ways yet.
I did want to poke my head in quick and tell you of a delightful find on one of my adventures. In the background, when I’m not trouncing around the country being a sort of virtual nomad, I have a strange and not-very-lucrative hobby. I collect cow creamers. Big and small, I love them all. At last count, I think I have something like 30 of the open-mouthed loveable bovines. In my hunt for cows, I come across some pretty groovy old ceramic pieces. Some are such weird (siamese twin/cat combo), and some are just something that makes you wonder “why”.
Yesterday on my normal junk route, I spotted a Kangaroo friend. It looked familiar, something from my past. I scooped it up and found that it was the kangaroo from Pulp Fiction, a movie that I have watched countless times. Somewhere in my memory, it called to me, and I’m glad it did. The iconic Kangaroo that held the smuggled-up-the-butt watch is now sitting on my “sell” table.
Why get rid of it? Easy, it doesn’t look right next to my cow creamers. I feel like it would be WAY more appreciated elsewhere.
Give this lovable Kangaroo a home, and gift it to a Tarantino fan.
“You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life.” Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is The Way
Sitting perked at my desk, sunk into my overly plush velour swivel chair from the early 80s I found a slice of paradise in the most unassuming locations. Browsing the internet, and finding locations to pop into on my next adventure, I overheard a YouTube video that Phillip was watching. There were murmurs of “a new country”, “is this even legal”, and finally the axiom of that particular video “become a citizen!” Huh? I swiveled and caught the tail end of the video, catching a glimpse of nothing but a dapper-dressed sultan with cop shades and a sexy-semi-scowl. The semi-scowl got me, I was intrigued, captivated, but also sort of giggling on the inside. How could this be real, could this dude really swipe up a chunk of land and create his own empire? To be honest, there were so many times in the last 20 years that I’d love to have had the chops and guts to create my own little world. A place with my own rule, my own parameters, my own society. Alas, I succumbed to societal pressure and allowed the world to bully me around while I was secretly bullying myself. The guts to set rules in stone and be able to tell someone they’re not welcome was such a new concept to me, so of course, I did what any rational person would do. . . apply for citizenship.
Now, before you go getting yourself excited, I’m not an ex-pat yet, but the temptation is certainly there.
As someone who has gotten internet verified for various things, including pharmacy certification, becoming a Dudest minister, and even the moderator of a Tractor Forum, I was expecting an easy peasy application. Negative, ghost rider. The application process required more than two brain cells to rub together to complete, and I really liked that. Instead of a country built on birthright, Slowjamastan built its foundation on intelligence and acknowledgment that ignorance and stupidity have no open invitation within its borders. Appallingly enough, according to the official Slowjamastan government website, people fail the application process because they can’t follow simple directions.
Follow. Simple. Directions. Let that sink in. A whole country
*** Authors note: Last week while hanging in my semi-posh Austin Hotel overlooking the Armadillo World Headquarters, I spent the better part of two hours and four beers finishing this blog. It read like something out of a Hunter S Thompson novel. Steamy moments, unpleasant encounters, a roadblock or two – – but alas – – without my noticing, the hotel wifi shut me out after 30 minutes, yet I continued to feverishly keep typing. Revisions, retractions, and a few typos were made, and all were lost.
I have tried for the past week to jump back into the mindset and vibe, but I’m afraid it is lost. The only way through is back, and although I hate to do it, this will have to sit as Part One of a novella of Slowjamastan blogs. Accept my apologies, or don’t.
“Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there was a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.”
Hunter S. Thompson
Truth be told, and much to the overwhelming dismay and disappointment of the fans of my by-gone era of pseudo-gonzo journalism, I haven’t been reading much HST lately. I wheeled across the desert in my own “Great Red Shark” a few years ago. I lived the lifestyle, wrote the essays, took the photos, and developed a weird cult following for a while. They might have been mostly affluent upper-middle-aged men from the car club circles, but hey, a following is a following. I was out there, I was having fun, and I was doing a hell of a lot of writing about it. It seemed like everything was a story, everything wanted to be written about, and I had time, effort, and imagination to put it all into words.
In those adventures, some of my more HST-inspired moments ring vibrantly in my head, almost like one of those incredibly tinny-sounding instruments you hear at church. Perhaps the word church and some of those stories have no room in the same story, let alone in the same paragraph as each other. Like the time I parked the One-Series in the parking lot of an Indianapolis Marriot in the dead of winter with all the windows down only to find it the next morning with snow inside; or the time in Tombstone, Arizona where I made a friendly western bet with a real cowboy that he couldn’t figure out how to open my hood. Good times for sure, but very much more HST than church bells.
At the same time, it wasn’t all about reckless abandon and thrill-seeking. So what, I jumped out of perfectly good planes and had brake failure going down a front straight of a road course and 108 miles an hour. The problem was (and still is) that the highs were always hiding around the next corner, and where I was ended up always being in relative proportion to yesterday’s adventure. I’d be looking for the next adventure before the one I was on was finishing up. Distinctively I remember being completely lost, on foot, alone, and soaking wet in the rains of late October in Sweden. As I sauntered through the most beautiful park I had ever seen in my life. With Zips strapped to my back in a sack, I wondered aloud, “if this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, what else is out there?”
“Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why”
From there, the adventures became somewhat out of a Dali painting, with recognizable context, but a sort of convoluted ending. Everything turned into a game of connecting the dots, where the dots were never in order, and many of the dots were skipped entirely. A prime example of this adventure-seeking hopscotch was my career path. I started doing what I was meant to do, tried to do something else which sucked my soul, and skipped over to something completely different. Of course, I was missing all of the things that mattered in between. What was I doing in the deep depths of a pharmacy learning about “mechanisms of action” when my heart was outside with dirty fingernails?
I don’t have to tell the faithful followers of “The Adventures” that the relationship sector sort of played suit similar to work. It was a quest of “where is the best adventure?” Everything in life became not a quest for the American dream, but the American Adventure, no matter the cost. I blew people off that meant the world to me, I disappeared like a fart in the wind from some of the people I considered my best friends. My adventures weren’t of pure intention, they sort of ran off the rails. Making plans for one place, only to ditch them for the next big thing – or so I thought.
Here’s the thing that is impossible to extract from your literary heroes, no matter how much admiration or resounding applause you give to them; they are not you. A famous quote from my days of studying philosophy sticks with me “yours is not theirs” – in other words – what you’re chasing and what other people need are seldom the same. In a psychological vacuum, we could all walk in this world and adventure to our hearts’ content. There would be no reason to feel shame, especially while glancing in the mirror. We could drive slow in whatever lane we choose.
We’re not in a vacuum, and very often our adventures can be the taproot of others’ emotional distress. Adventure responsibly. Brush your hair. Be aware of the drivers around you. I’m not sure why I have to say this aloud to myself occasionally, but I do. Getting wrapped up in the adventure is part of the adventure, but knowing when to acknowledge that the adventure needs a break is an artform.
“I enjoy gambling, but I work hard for my money, so what do you care?” The Gambling Adventurer spending their time seeking the sweet slot, meanwhile, his loanshark is planning on taking out his knees in the parking lot with a flat bar.
“My work gives me the gratification of providing a product and service the community needs, I want to make it better” The Career Adventurer looking for the gratuitous payoff while utilizing the cheapest materials produced by slave labor overseas.
“My appetite for companionship far exceeds what you can provide me with.” The amorous adventurer that spends time finding the right one, all the while gaslighting their suitors into mental disorder.
“I can beat my previous time by so much if I only adventure out of my comfort zone.” The speed seeker that is willing to risk personal well-being while their mother sits at home worried about their safety and tips the bottle to relieve the stress.
The list can go on, and in almost any sector you look in. Careers, money, power, fame, fortune, sex, people will push if they think there is something out there that is better than what they have. This is where adventure becomes perverted, and sound thinking tends to take a back seat. My favorite example was a person wanting to tear interior components out of his daily driver to make it go *that* much faster off the line at stop lights. Keep in mind, this car never saw a track a day in its vehicular life.
In a conference call today, I realized that I’ve done things that people dream of doing for a living. I have to chalk that up to being both reckless, but also slightly talented. One person mentioned he wanted to be an automotive journalist. So, dude, go do it. What’s stopping you? Someone else wanted to work in a greenhouse? Go do it!! The primary reason why people don’t seek out the adventure they really want (career-wise at least) is that there isn’t any money in dreaming. At the end of the day, how do you compare your daily comfort to your lifestyle?
As much as I hate to use the term “sustainable”, there is no other world that I can think of that depicts the antithesis of “The American Dream”.
Sports cars, McMansions, pools.
Disney vacations, holiday photoshoots, matching buffalo plaid family pajamas.
A Tik Tok following of 4 million, perfectly contoured face, the finest of all fashion.
As much as I don’t get many of those things, I respect them as being some form of the American Dream. There is no blueprint for it, there is no book that tells you where to find it. You just have to go get it. You want that vacation, save your damn money and go do it. You want to do that photo shoot, practice smiling in the mirror, and hope your family does the same. I’m not here to poo-poo on your dream, so when my dream is to adventure professionally with little to no roots anywhere, leave me alone about it.
And if you don’t, I’ll be the first to comment on your post at Disney or in buffalo plaid jammies and compliment you. Just because the world needs more nice.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson For some reason whenever I feel so incredibly typical, I think of this quote. Although it’s not one that is in my normal rotation, it’s still in the top 20. Someone that bases their life decisions on other people’s musings and quotes, that’s me. I’ve always been that way, I have diaries dating back 20+ years of these random notes, musings, and quotes. It’s when I feel like I’m trying to be someone else and fit a preset mold I feel ugly, I feel unclean, I feel. . . well. . . incredibly forgettable. I stare down the barrel of 40, of 20-year high school reunions, of indecision and bad decisions, and although there were some sketchy moments in there, I consider myself accomplished.
I know I was working on getting a normal cadence in for getting a destination post out every week on a set day – but you know what – life happens. The adventure takes a lot out of a person and sometimes you have to step away from the keyboard and realize you need a moment to take a collective breath, analyze where your life is, and resituate yourself. “Are you still being yourself in this wild and crazy world?” I asked myself, the answer was no, and I panicked. I was not being me, I was being a robot programmed for production, and it made me take a pause and step back, where would I rather be? As a responsible adult, of course, I have to work and do “adult things”, but all I could see were endless tabs of work and seemingly unsolvable problems. Where would I rather be?
As I sat there with a dumb look on my face, another voice came into my head. “The bums lost, Mr. Lebowski, condolences. The bums will always lose! You hear me, the bums will always lose!” It was like a slap in the face, my passion for my job, my lust for life, and my taproot of temptation rousted me out of my funk and found a place in my memory where, perhaps I was a bum, but it was totally worth sharing the experience about. Was it a low point in life, yes, but I don’t like to consider it such. I’d like to refer to this location as a deviation from the highpoints. Step into your Wayback Machine to plus or minus September 2014.
Without adorning details or getting personal, I was scheduled to take a 3pm flight to Detroit out of Greenville and spend the weekend not only adventuring around Michigan, but also renting a car and driving around the flaccid phallic-looking lake to visit my family in Wisconsin. I seriously had one thing to do that entire day. One. One thing, to get to the airport on time. I fell asleep at one in the afternoon and woke up at 2:30, there was no way I was making the flight. I hopped in the German chariot and gave it my damnedest, though, and found that, alas, I was not anywhere close to making it. Jogging to the front of the airport carrying nothing but my purse, way overdressed in a pin-up style dress, I knew it was in vain. I saw a friend casually strolling along, he said “you’ll never make it.” He was right. I didn’t.
Phones calls later, I was booked on the next flight to Detroit. I made a pact that I was going to make that early flight even if it meant I had to sleep in the airport parking lot. I was determined, but at the same time, I was left with ample time on my hands to research all that Detroit had to offer. Keep in mind, 2014 Detroit wasn’t the place you really looked to for a holiday, but I was going. Even though the missed flight and overall weird energy around the trip warped my positivity, I arrived at the airport on time the next morning and boarded the flight. I was anticipating grabbing a rental car and getting my way Wisconsin-bound as soon as I landed. It wasn’t exactly going to happen that way.
Upon arrival at the airport (it’s a really nice airport, btw), Hertz informed me that the car I requested was no longer available. It was promised to me, so I had to push a little to understand why. After beating around the Buick a while, they finally dished the scoop that the car I wanted was involved in a, ahem, police-related incident the night prior and it was still in impound awaiting car-bail. Fine, give me another one, I won’t be picky. They scooted some paper around and after about 25 minutes of me tapping my toe thinking that I’d be destined for public transit for the duration of my visit, they came up with something. Something. It wasn’t much of anything. Enter the recently freed from impound (separate charge) Altima coupe.
Imagine the cheapest base-model you can, then subject it to being a drug-toting rental for weeks (maybe longer, I’m not sure). They proudly gave it to me at a discount and sent me on my way. After looking around at the cabin, it was very obvious that every piece of plastic had been unscrewed, items had been obscured, and then plastic parts refastened. The smell was surprisingly not like the fragrance I was expecting from a “drug car”, but quite the opposite. There wasn’t a smell, just plastic turmoil in the form of rattling over every single bump. The bums that had previously used the car definitely lost. It wasn’t that the car ran poorly, that it wasn’t comfortable, or even that it gave me any issues. The problem was that it seemed like it exuded a sort of bad vibe, some sort of cosmic car karma. One that if I had just made my flight the night prior, I’d have something different, without the crime-ridden vibes.
Without incident, I arrived in Wisconsin to visit with my mom and who I didn’t know I was going to lose, Grandpa. Driving out to the farm, he was eager to hop in the car with me and go to the local bar to shoot some innocent dice, a memory that I will cherish forever. He hopped in the car with the agility that I had no idea he had and buckled up. Looking at the floorboards, he nodded and chuckled. I reminded him it was a rental, and he laughed a little more. We didn’t have a ton of words on that 15-minute ride, but it was good to have Grandpa to myself for a bit longer.
In the grand scheme of things, it was probably a more forgettable story than most, but if it weren’t for the Hertz Rental Car in Detroit, my Grandpa and I may not have had much to chuckle about. The car was unforgettable, but the trip itself was even more special to me. Maybe this wasn’t the most “location-specific” adventure post, but let it serve to remind all that life is fragile, and sometimes you just need to take the afternoon off to shoot dice with your Grandpa (and in this photo, sister, mom, and step-grandma).
The bums may always lose, much like I was a bum and missed my flight, but the bums that take the time to enjoy life always win in the end. Every time I feel like I’m being sucked into that vacuum of shoulds and shouldn’t, I think back to that rental car and imagine where the bums that were driving that car before me ended up. At that moment, I realize, I’m not that much of a bum after all.
“I can live for months on one good compliment” Mark Twain When it comes down to landscapes, be it manmade or naturally occurring, I have a very sophisticated palate. Considering I spent almost 14 years doing landscape design for the pickiest of rich dames in the South and my entire life exploring the human-designed park-scapes of the world, I’m not easily amused. Naturescapes that send people into “oohs” and grappling for their cell phone cameras to capture the moment rarely get me excited. I do, however, take a photo along with the dorks, but only so that I have some sort of digital record of my location on that given day. I could do an entire series on “Most Disappointing Places”, “Why Did I Waste My Time”, and “Give Me My Money Back”.
Why do I feel like I can be so picky, almost catty about it? Well, because I’ve seen a lot, and I feel like I can be a little selective as to what sends me into wow-mode. The internet, television, and seat-back rag mags that adorn airplanes can scam you into thinking something is beautiful and worth the trip, but what’s going on behind the scenes? My bet is that there was a big, fat check cut to the publication or program to highlight them in their very best season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the most majestic places aren’t that majestic. It’s just that on a wrong day even a supermodel can be a little less than impressive. I’ve had wrong days myself, very ugly days (just ask the locals in Brigham City, Utah).
When I share a location in a positive light, it’s from the gut, the soul, a place that seriously changed my life one way or another. To avoid all spoiler alerts, I refrained from hinting at the location in the title and even the introductory paragraph, only to keep you reading. (Tricky, I know). I want you to sit there and wonder quietly to yourself, “what is this magical place that is so life changed, and, should I go there?”. The answer, before I even divulge the location, is probably not. Not to ween you off of this story, but I have to be honest, it was a magical place for me at that point and time in my life. You may have a bar from college that was magical to you at one point and time or even the special place where you met your significant other. Nothing like that happened here, and let me tell you, there was blood, tears, and some regret.
Picture it, Boring, Oregon. I sat at work at my desk next to an amazing, adventurous woman whom I’ll always look up to as a mentor, guide, and mother figure when I needed one. To this day, I still feel like I could pick up the phone and she would cheer me on in my adventures, cautiously of course. It was a Friday, my life was quite messy, and I was looking for something to occupy my time over the weekend. I needed something, anything, to keep me from the solitude and loneliness that was the bedroom that I rented. Knowing my zest for travel, love of nature, and ample free time, she mentioned “Dog Mountain”. My ears perked at that anticipation that maybe, just maybe there was a place in Oregon that had a mountain of dogs that you could pet and love on unconditionally. Lord knows I needed some unconditional love at the time.
Turns out it was not a pet shop full of lovable dogs. In fact, there were very few dogs at all, it was a hike, like, up a real mountain. One that you have to plan on packing snacks and gear for. One that required you to take a shuttle bus from miles away just to get to the trailhead because it was that popular. One that was so heavily trafficked that there was never going to be a single moment when you weren’t swarmed with other hikers, all happily experiencing “Dog Mountain”. After doing my research and reading every single AllTrails review on it, I felt like it was a safe solo hike, and began packing my day pack for the next day.
Dog Mountain in perspective to where I lived was not that far as the crow flies, however, there was a big ass river (Columbia) along the way with very minimal crossings. I knew one route over the river through Cascade Locks, a bridge called “Bridge Of The Gods”, and always welcomed the toll every time, mostly because going all the way into Portland and taking the free bridge was just insane people-wise. I dished out my $3 to cross the bridge into Washington State and headed East to connect with the trailhead with the naive hope that I would be the luckiest hiker of the day and find a parking spot recently vacated in the tiny parking area at the foot of the mountain. Luck was not on my side.
I passed the parking shuttle and giggled at those waiting in line, wondering how long they’d have to wait to get on the sweaty, hiker-ridden bus just to get to the trailhead. “Suckers,” I thought to myself, as I pushed the Civic into third gear to pass a little faster. I was certain that I was going to find a place. As luck would have it, I did find a place, conveniently located 2.5 miles away from the trailhead on the side of a very heavily trafficked road with a minimal shoulder. I parked on a rocky ledge, and grabbed my day pack, Zips, and my stainless steel water bottle full of, well, cold celebration beer for when I got to the top.
As someone with less hiking ambition than most, but a heck of a lot of time on my hands, I set off down the road on the narrow shoulder to get to the trailhead. Two miles in, I was starting to doubt my decision, I mean, seriously, I was already two miles in and I hadn’t seen anything more than the roadside. Empty beer cans, plastic waste, and rocks (so many rocks) were all I saw. I pushed onto the tiny parking lot at the trailhead where a family of foreigners had *just* pulled into a spot. I was over it, but I pushed through. I had an entire day of time to waste and damn the torpedoes, I was going to climb this damn mountain.
The first setback was being stuck behind a couple that seemed like they had never been in the outdoors before, they cursed the humidity. They cursed the bugs. They stopped in the middle of the trail to drink water every five minutes, not being courteous of those of us that had something to prove and somewhere to be. Twenty minutes went by behind these loafers, and not only was I getting irritated, but the people behind me were getting irritated because I wasn’t getting irritated. There was a moment where they paused to complain that there was a bee next to them, my Zips-loving motherly instinct took hold. I needed to downshift to pass these bee-fearing weirdos.
That was my mistake. My desk-job body coupled with a higher elevation than I was used to wipe me out pretty quickly. Me being me, I didn’t take notice until I was about a mile from the top of the mountain and my panting started to replicate a dog locked in a hot car without water. As I closed in on the apex of this magnificent mountain, I took a pause to smell the flowers and take in the view.
LIES. I stopped because I was out of breath, but really, it was the most opportunistic “out-of-breath” I’ve ever had. Grasping for my water bottle, which was actually full of Portland Pale Ale, I panned my vision towards the gaping chasm of the river that I had been working so hard to climb away from. For whatever reason, at that moment, the view could have never been better. A lazy barge worked its way up the river, and the flowers were crawling with the creepy-crawlies that the other hikers lamented, the world was quiet for a moment while I sucked the thin air into my lungs. It was a good moment, a moment for a photo op because the world was suddenly painted in a canvas of yellows and greens, unlike anything I had ever seen.
This is where the story goes sideways. This is where I almost didn’t write about this because I lost faith in humanity for a brief moment. Seriously. When you’re doing anything, anywhere, if you see a solo person, doing their thing and living their best life seeing the things that need to be seen and they’re struggling to take a selfie – HELP THE DAMN PERSON OUT! I sat, unsuccessfully, on a few trailside pull-offs trying to get a photo. People walked by and looked, almost scoffing that the idea of me wanting to take a photo. It was, in all honesty, the most breathtaking photo I could have ever taken. . . then it got me thinking. . . why does my mug have to be in it? The landscape could totally hold its own without my goofy smile in it!
Zips stood in once, god bless him. Only because it was difficult for me to grab a snapshot of the enormity of the mountain, the complexity of the flowers, and the sheer magnificence of the hike. It was as though the world had been painted with a wide brush stroke of yellow. From the arduous climb up through the conifers and hardwoods, the world opened up into a wildflower extravaganza. Unlike the wildflowers of the midwest (chaotic in color and willy-nilly), the color scheme was organized and beautiful. As far as the eye could see skyward, the trail was carved through lemony floral decadence.
To squelch the ascent, there were increasingly more people as I approached the summit. After the 2-mile hike to the trailhead, and then the hike itself (3.8 miles straight up), I was feeling less than friendly. It seemed like hikers had lost all social skills when it comes down to trail etiquette. Keep right, wasn’t a thing, there were people milling about, pausing for water in the middle of the trail, stopping in the middle of the trail for god knows what, and those that had slowed to a crawl due to the difficulty of the trail. For the amount of time that it took me to climb the 3 miles straight up, it was taking me longer to get the last .8 miles to get to the peak.
It wasn’t working for me, and even though the river cutting through the rough, mountains and the wildflowers creating an image that would haunt me forever, I just couldn’t do humans anymore. Within eye-reach of the lookout platform. 3.5 miles up the mountain, so close to the to top, I turned around. The people were just too much. The girl hiking in front of me did the same, and the solo-dude behind me did the same. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone, there were three of us trying to get down off the mountain as fast as possbile, taking in the glory of the flowers along the way.
Yellow flowers, bees. Yellow flowers, bees. Yellow flowers, bees. Purple flower. Rock. Yellow flowers, bees. Purple flowers. Rock. Conifer. Cool root-form. We cruised down the mountain at warp speed, not without respect for the beauty, but because we were over it (not that I had spoken to the two others, but you could tell). Cruising down, I had a mindful concern of tripping and falling down the mountainside. The first mile melted away in a yellow puddle of flowers and we were encapuslated in the craggy treeside of the Columbia River gorge.
He fell. He bit it bad over a tree root, and although my excitement over it not being me was high, I knew it was only a matter of time. Both I and the other lady hiker stopped to help the guy up, who only suffered a few superfical wounds, the equivalent to a scraped knee as a kid on a bicycle. No names were exchanged, but the faith in humanity was reestablish.
She fell. It was less than a mile from the trailhead and there as a muddy corner that grabbed her ankle and tore her to the ground like some sort of mud monster. The guy that fell and I helped her out, fished her water bottle out of the muck, and helped her for a few steps to make sure her bones weren’t broken. For me, I knew my time was near, I was going to fall, too.
I did. The tiniest root threw a hitch in my giddy-up and I toppled sideways. The girl, already scraped, stopped and the fella turned around even though he was well ahead of me. I wasn’t alone anymore. “Do you need anything?” “Do you have water?” “Can I help?” I was suddently surroundend by people that cared, even thought I felt like the most alone person in the work in Oregon, the trail in Washington State made me realize that people DO care.
As we approached the trailhead and parking lot, the accomplishment and pride overtook me and I did a tiny celebration in my mind. At the same time, the reality of another 2 mile hike to the car was overwhelming. Long story short, I made it, and it will still be one of the most enchanting hikes I’ve ever taken. I look back, in quiet reflection, and know that if I took that hike at any other time of the year it would have been a trail-march up a mountain with a good view. My experience, however, paints a different picture. It not only reminds me that the world is beautiful, but humanity isn’t a lost cause. Betsy guided me to this most amazing location, and I will never thank her enough!
Tucumcari, New Mexico. A city build on the blood and guts of the railroad, wild west, and Interstate expansion all rolled into a troublesome twinkie of a roadside stop. It gets really hot, it gets really cold, it’s extreme, to say the least, so those that live there have to have certain gravel in their craw to digest fully the environment around them. I knew this when I made my plans to stop there for the night to grab 40 winks on my adventure, and I was actually feeling more at home around the grit. After perusing Expedia, I settled on the Econolodge, after having to talk myself out of the super seedy, although
I have to say, upon checking in, the front desk gal wasn’t the warm “welcome to Tucumcari” face I was hoping for, more like a “here, have a key, and go away”. No worries though, I mean, it wasn’t like my plans were to hang with her and smoke in the parking lot (which she immediately went to do after checking me in). I totally get it, working the night desk probably wasn’t her lifelong dream, and dealing with overly spontaneous thrill seekers needing a place to bed down between living their dreams probably wore her down a bit. If I had more time, I’d probably try to crack a joke. . .say something like “so, life isn’t working out for you, either, huh.” The atmosphere was slightly tense, and instead of lobbing a distasteful remark at her, I smiled and went about my business.
Besides, there was an eclipse to watch! The night skies around Tucumcari, especially over the abandoned building next door were perfect to view the lunar spectacular that was appearing in the sky above me. The parking lot itself was plenty big and seemingly safe (we’ll get to that in a little bit). Since it seemed like a sort of, well, “who cares” area, I popped a beer and watched the moon change color before my very eyes. Super cool stuff and the desert landscape was definitely the place to do so. After a beer or two of eclipse viewing (Hopadillo, snagged from Amarillo and delicious by the way), it was time to bed down for the night.
The energy of the lunar eclipse matched the ambiance of the lobby and the demeanor of my new acquaintance at the front desk. The colors, instead of becoming a vibrant contrast of dark and light, turned into a dusty, almost supernatural glowing orb in the sky. As my eyes followed the colors, but I was distracted by the plateless 15-year-old Acura MDX with a busted windshield and what I could only assume was the hotel prostitute standing a few parking spaces down. The colors of her dyes hair and go-go boots definitely painted a more vibrant picture than the faded desert moon.
Grabbing my cooler, suitcase, attache case, and key card, I made my way for the lobby and the stairs to my humble abode for the night. Now, I’m pretty in shape, but those stairs gave me a workout. It was never mentioned if there was an elevator, but hey, I’m young. At the top of the stairs, I was bathed in an electronic bath of eyes. In every corner, between every door, and suspended from the ceiling, security cameras everywhere. My normal disposition would require me to wave and make faces, however, this didn’t seem like the place or the time. I suddenly had an eerie feeling of being at the equivalent of the Hotel Cecil of New Mexico. Upon finding my room, I quickly opened the door, ducked inside, and bolted not one, but all three of the Auxillary locking mechanisms aside from the one on the doorknob. What in the world sort of crime occurs here? I didn’t want to know.
The shock of the cameras and locks wore off really quickly when I discovered that I was smack dab in the middle of a super-mod room of red. There was an energy stemming from so much red in one location that I couldn’t quite grasp. Usually, at least in my adventures, hotel rooms tend to be a nice, calming, neutral combination of mass-produced art and beige. This was neither, but I liked it. After scanning the vinyl furniture, the burlap-sack-of-potatoes textured bed, and tv, there was nothing to keep me awake any longer. I closed my eyes, curled up, and hoped that I didn’t have crimson-colored dreams of hotel prostitutes and crime.
Luckily for me, it was a pleasantly quiet night. My eyes popped open early in surprise, though, as there was a familiar voice speaking in the room with me. I held my cheap hotel blanket against my chest and in the early morning slumber and confusion, I tried to figure out how anyone got through the three locking mechanisms and security camera.
“Now listen here, Mr. Grand Poohbah.”
I swallowed hard and sat up, there she was, Kathy Bates was right there in the room with me in the Econolodge of Tucumcari. She was giving someone the riot act in her stern, weather-beaten tone. The movie Delores Claiborne was on – one I’ve seen at least 15 times. It then occurred to me, that movie was about an eclipse, there was a lunar eclipse the night prior, and it was almost divine that I fell asleep with this exact channel on. I had to watch the rest of the movie, I just had to. It’s one of those that you can’t turn off because even though you know the ending, you still want to see it just because it feels better to see the bad guy get it in the end.
Roll credits, scum bag died, the old woman died, the ferry boat still ran daily.
Lugging my possessions back through the invisible tangle of electronic eyes and down the worn carpet stairway, I took a pause to eavesdrop on the conversation in the lobby. Talk of ghosts and maintenance men didn’t pique my interest enough to sip a complimentary coffee, so I continued on. Into the parking lot. No more eclipse. The prostitute was gone. The busted MDX was still there My sunroof was WIDE ass open (after my Stepdad told me about fifteen times the week prior not to forget). No harm done, it was a still, dry desert night.
Pulling out of the parking lot, the lightbulb of epiphany turned on and I turned off of the perenially-under-construction Route 66 section of town. The most famous line from Delores Claiborne, “Sometimes being a bitch is the only thing a woman has to hold onto” thumped me in the temple. That woman last night, maybe, just maybe, that is the only thing she has left to hold onto in life. If that is the case, lady, next time I’m in Tucumcari we’re going out for house-liquor margaritas and complimentary chips and salsa, because I feel like you might need someone to talk to.
“To live without hope is to cease to live” Fyodor Dostoevsky
“I just keep pushing, I just keep pushing. I made every mistake I could make, but I just keep pushing”
What do a grim author that penned a book about a bleak, Depression area bars and depravity and a Russian mega-book author have in common? Not much to the common folk of the world, but to me, they were with me at some pretty bleak points in my life. As the closet nerd that I am, I always crack a book to act as a mental salve to my emotional wounds instead of confronting them headlong. In my early 20s, it was reading The Man With The Golden Arm and A Walk On The Wild Side that reminded me that life isn’t that bad. In my early 30s, I would plug through the classic novels of ole Fyodor to keep me sane. Totally different books, but the same message of hope (sort of).
Dark novels. God bless them. While I’m at it, bless each and every one of you, too. That’s what my Grandma would want me to do. This is what this sporadic post, after months of radio silence, is about. My Grandma Reidy. I know everyone thinks they have the best Grandma in the world, but I’ll square up with you over it. Not only did I have the best Grandma in the world, I’ve had a whole pile of them. Some adopted Grandparents from relationships I was in and of course the blood ones, my Grandma Reidy was something special.
When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I would write and write, I had secret books that I had written when I was in middle school (I guess they would be called fan fiction now). I never thought I was good at it, though. Actually, I didn’t think I was good at anything. Grandma Reidy, however, told me that I could do anything that I could put my mind to. If I wanted to be a writer, I could be a writer. If I wanted to be an astronaut, I could probably do that too. Even the silly kid stuff that you feel like telling someone, but you just couldn’t tell your parents, Grandma got that info, too. She was my pal. She was my confidant, she talk me the word prerogative. Now, she’s gone to be with the lord, and although I know her soul is at rest, I’m in turmoil.
My Grandma instilled the “you can do it” attitude, the bullish mindset that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to damn well do it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always a positive thing. If I was going to ruin a relationship, I really ruined a relationship. If I was going to royally blow it at work, I really royally blew it. If I do something good, however, I do really well at it. So it’s really a double-edged sword. I can do it, and I will do it, but on my terms and at my level. In the smoldering rubble of bad decisions, and even more poorly executed apologies, I channeled that voice in the back of my head, my Grandma telling me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Mere hours before her funeral, I sit here in an overpriced hotel lobby full of 10-12-year-old female hockey players, I want to give them her voice. I want them to hear that they “can do anything”.
Without a beginning, a middle, or an end, there is no story. I feel like perhaps this blog post is one of those. We’ll just call this my “Unfinished Symphony” much like Beethoven had. I may have more to say after the funeral and the reality sinks in.
Just a friendly reminder, though. Don’t forget to smile at someone today. As John Prine eloquently put it.
“So if you’re walking down the street sometime And spot some hollow ancient eyes, Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”
It’s going to be another one of those eye-rolling blogs. You know the ones that start off with “If you were to ask me a year ago…” So if you’re time crunched you can click here and get to the meat of the matter. If you’re having a metaphysical conundrum and feel stuck in life this will uplift you. If you’re looking for that BMW content that you’ve grown to love (or hate) from me, there will be a tiny smattering of that peppered in as well. I’ll try to make this fun for all onlookers, but no promises.
Who am I kidding, this is going to be dark.
One More Suicide
I searched for longer than I care to admit trying to find that perfect “hook” quote about suicide and came up empty-handed. The crux of the topic is that there is no “one-quote-size-fits-all” quote. Everything from Jack Nicholson talking about writing poems about suicide to bland interpretations as to what suicide means to the person contemplating or attempting it. Quotes about what it means to commit the act, and quotes about how selfless it is. The more digging I endured, the more aggravated about it I became. Those people creating these quotes may feel like they had an idea as to what it meant, but by no means were any of them qualified to become an “expert” enough to write about it. Even the most qualified in brain matters only understand what suicide is as a textbook definition. The real truth is that the only ones who have the right to quote about the issue are those those that have gone over the edge.
There was one that stuck out: “To run away from trouble is a form of cowardice and, while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.” Aristotle
**Disclaimer** I am fine, do not take the talk of suicide as a cry for help on my own behalf, as there was a post I did about 8 years back that triggered instictual responses in a friend of mine and I found myself being woken up to a policeman in my bedroom asking if I was trying to harm myself. I was not, I was sleeping, and although I was in a dark place, I was okay. Right now, I’m okay. This is a post about those that are not okay.
The hardest part about this article is that there are so many forms of slow suicide it’s hard to really classify it as a term that indicates an ailment. That’s why enjoyed Aristotle’s take on things – it is a cure for an illness that has seemingly had no cure. Depending on your belief system, there are multitudes of possibilities as to what actually happens after you pass on. You can become a new being, your soul may go on, you may be embraced by a higher power, but nobody knows for sure. That’s the part that scares the pants off of me, the person, who is at the end of their life rope, gives up, and in the final moments, what is there? A light? Darkness? Does your film role stop playing, just like an old VCR tape?
Flashback to a year ago from today. We had just moved to our mountain top perch in Flagstaff in our tiny camper. Everything was twice as expensive, the winter was looming, and there were rumors of the tiny part-time company I was working for bein sold out to a German firm. Life seemed really hard, but I knew that no matter how hard they could get, I always had a support system to fall back on. It turned out the winter really was bad, the camper started leaking, and being cooped up in less than 200 square feet with another adult and an elderly canine took its toll mentally. Every morning I would peer out the one window that wasn’t foiled up for insulation to find some solace in the surrounding beauty of the wilderness.
Stumble back to just a week ago, I sat in the same geographical location, with a new job in the fast-paced world of e-commerce. I had zoom meetings, people counting on me, and twice as much space in my new camper than I did before. The world was the same, just some slight modifications made it different. As the Monday morning meeting drug on, talk of Mo-Vember was uttered. “Men’s health, mental health awareness, men struggle too!” There I sat, in all of my hormonal furies, and realized, “whoa, men really do have it pretty tough.”
Think of it, they have the weight of the world on their shoulders at times. Being a stereotypical man can be difficult, especially when you weren’t dealt the same manly deck as others. The guy that lost his business due to *fill in the blank* feels not just unlike a man, but less than worthy of being a human. It can get dark, and the more I thought of the darkness, the more I realized the only people that I know that have succumbed to their own knife have been men. Every. Single. One. Sadness set in, and I felt angry at myself for ever feeling bad for myself. As a female, I feel like I’ve been able to skirt through difficult times with support and more understanding than, say, if I was a dude.
When our company presented its “Mo-Vember” movement for men’s health, I knew I wasn’t going to go do a lame “walk-a-thon” or just dole out a lump sum of cash. I know myself better, I’m terrible at keeping promises, and I don’t exactly have a lump sum of cash to dole out. So, I came up with my own way to hopefully raise awareness for the Mo-Vember movement and raise some lump sum cash for the cause.
**Disclaimer – although I have done research into the Mo-Vember organization and see that it’s a decent organization, not a total scam. Although it only scores a 72.52% for responsible financial decisions and 100% for financial transparency. It’s a passing grade, so I’ll support it.
So, to creatively raise money for Mo-Vember, I have painted this lovely Moo-Vember painting. Let’s face it, I have zero space for any more paintings but enjoy painting, so I’m going to use my hobby as a catalyst for fundraising. Creative, right? To be fair, it is a paint-by-number, and you might be able to see where I did a poor quality job of filling in enough paint to hide the number, but it’s not so much the painting, it’s the thought that counts. To enter to win this fine painting of mine, all you have to do is make a donation of any amount to our team by clicking here.
Everyone that enters will be entered in a raffle/random drawing on November 30th, and the winner will receive this lovely Moo-Vember painting and a handwritten thank you from me.
“May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.” ‘
The power of intention – Wayne Dyer
The will to power – Friedrich Nietzsche
The ebb and flow of power – Aristotle
Create dangerously – Albert Camus
Get the heck out of bed – Nikki Weed
It’s hard to sit here and ponder on all of the intentions, creations, and destruction that has become the tumultuous wake of my existence. At times, I feel like my creations are so temporary and fleeting. Other times I feel like my intentions are stupid and there is no use in trying. Sometimes I feel like when I’m in front of the speeding bus, I’m actually in the middle of an Metra track during rush hour. Somedays, I don’t want to get out of bed.
“What’s the use,” rattles through my head as I shuffle the five steps to the bathroom and then four steps backwards to my desk. Many times I don’t even crack open the coffee maker or even brush my hair before hopping on my computer in my tiny workspace and diving into work. Suddenly, when my fingers grace that first keystroke and the electrical hum coming from the power inverter five feed away from my desk starts to resonate within my chest, I know there is a reason to get up. If I were to stay in bed, I would essentially be the bed. You are the circumstances in which you surround yourself with. Vis-a-vis, wrapped up in an overpriced Pendleton would make me nothing but, well, an overpriced blankie.
I’m lucky in a way, but cursed in the same way ( sort of like an ebb and flow of cursed ). During my young, formative, teenage wasteland of years, I buried my head in philosophy. I didn’t party, I didn’t skip class, I didn’t do “youth activities.” I dug into Aristotle, I dug in to Nietzsche, I dug deeper within myself, trying to find myself. The problem was, I wasn’t developed, I wasn’t there. There was nothing to find. I was dipping my bucket into a well whose spring hadn’t sprung yet.
Sitting on a seat from a car that was used in crash testing (because normal teenager had bean bag chairs and futons), I plummeted my not yet formed mind into the concept of Kant’s’ Universal Law. Young and full of optimism about the general public, the idea of having an unspoken do-right mentality seemed like it was plausible. I mean, what person would intentionally hurt someone, something? There was a naïve hope that the world wasn’t such a bad place, only because there were always repercussions of doing wrong.
Right? Right? RIGHT?!?!?!
Wrong. Dead wrong. As I dove deeper, connecting dots of intention, consequence, and the power to create your own existence, the startling fact that not everyone was on the same “do good” page was very defeating. Why wouldn’t you want to help an elderly woman cross the road? Why wouldn’t you want to call your grandma every Sunday afternoon? Why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to create a more harmonious partnership with the rest of mankind? I started not seeing people obeying the Universal Law (simply put, do onto others), but a world of really crummy people.
Scam artists, compulsive liars, thieves, cheaters, liars…they were all out there, not being good people. How the heck could I deal with it. I sunk into a depression, and it chased me through over a decade. The bad people caused me to be a bad person, the came concept of Universal Law applied to me as well. If people are treating me terribly, why should I treat people any differently? This turned into me flinging my disappointment at society in all directions in a self-destructive tumbleweed that pick up and toted a little bit of everything its path came across.
I look back at that tumbleweed and shake my head. The same books that were so soothing to my soul also created a monster.
Needless to say, the tumbleweed monster needed to be kicked firmly in the teeth and reminded that, although there is some ugly in the world, there is way more good. It took a few kicks.
After pondering the obvious “what now, what comes next” philosophical saga, I realized that the amount of effort you put into life is directly associated to what you get out of it. What came then was a quest to avenge the good that is latent in every human. Good, not for the sake of what race you are, what religion you are, who your parents are, your wealth; but good because its the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s not as easy as it seems, but it’s still the right thing.
So when I struggle to get out of bed. When the night was short and the impending day is long, I think about one of my horticultural heros, Luther Burbank. A man of high school education and a lot of hands in the dirt experience, he became one of the most renown plant people in the country (and world in a way). When he was a fledgling in his career as a plant man, a sage friend in the field told him he’d never make it, and that his heart wasn’t in the art.
What a blow, but Burbank took that statement as rocket fuel and pioneered past. By the time he passed away from – of all things, hiccups – he had created over 800 varieties of cultivated plants. If it weren’t for Burbank and his meddling with plants, landscape as we know it today would be very different. Of all things, his greatest accomplishment, and challenge, was to develop the perfect landscape daisy. It took him 17 years to get it right. 17 years…working to create one simple daisy.
So where I sit now, I look at interpersonal challenges and human interactions as nothing more than potential Shasta Daisies. It may not always be easy to do onto others, but, in the end, the reward is that much sweeter.
In the recent weeks, I’ve been focusing my intention on doing good. Part of this is to start raising awareness to the sad condition of pet care on many Indian Reservations. Humans, let alone canines are in sad shape, most riddled with poverty and homelessness. Every time we pass through on an adventure to the lake, Monument Valley, or parts of Southeastern Utah, it’s hard to overlook the “rez dogs” that roam free looking for shelter and a meal.
I want to help, my belly is fed, I have shelter, but they don’t. Through t-shirt sales from the Tan Van Adventure Channel on YouTube and my website here, I want to channel awareness away from me, and towards those helpless creatures that really need it. I’m okay, don’t worry about me. It’s them to worry about. With a harsh climate, with temps often over 115 degrees and water sparser than hair on Kojaks head – they need your help.
100% of T-shirt sales for our Tan Van shirts go to Tuba City Humane Society. Click here to shop (and if you’d like to see the image on a different style/object, let me know!)
Click here to donate directly to Tuba City, and click here to follow their mission on Facebook. (Warning – the images are hard to look at, but your donation can help).
Don’t turn your your back on Universal Law.
One of the rez dogs, hungry, dirty, and potentially pregnant.