Friday, June 28, 2013


I interrupt the sequence of events in this blog to bring you the funniest driving experience I've ever had EVER!  I had nearly gotten out of Tennessee alive and with what dignity I had left too...

So, I left Oklahoma City with very little time to make it back to the Philly area in time for what I'm sure will be an EPIC (and I mean that word, I'm not just saying it because it's the word du jour these days) wedding and reception. I ended up driving around 20 hours yesterday. I drove through half of Oklahoma, Tennessee the LONG way and made it a little ways into Virginia before I had to stop because my body obviously had had enough.

I get ahead of myself. Let me take you back.  Even on this mildly long traverse across the United States, I have not been eating a ton of Fast Food. It's not really because I'm a snooty health nut or anything.  I just have cravings for things, and I like to get out of the car and walk around on my breaks.  So I go to places where you can eat in.  Mostly I pick Breweries (further proof I'm no health nut). I like sampling the local hops.

Well, I'm in a rush.  I picked up the second best fried chicken from Gus's Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis, take it in the car with me and eat away at it, gnawing on the bones like a starving wolf.

By the way the first best fried chicken is from one of my best friends mom.  She rocks it!  And she does it so simply, but it's what I like!

So next I eat some AWESOME fried green tomatoes because I'm in the south for crying out loud.  Even if you didn't like fried food, you would eat it because there is NOTHING ELSE TO EAT. I love fried green tomatoes. I love soul food, I love the comforts of the south. I do NOT like grease on my fingers, especially when I'm driving.

I stopped to gas up and take a hand shower...I really had to scrub away!

Booked it through Nashville, getting up to the top of Tennessee and right before I breach the border with everything I came into this state with...I got hungry for dinner.  I usually like to eat something green after I eat something greasy to balance myself out. I looked hard for a place that had salads. It's the south, I'm pretty sure the only green stuff they have is collard greens cooked in ham bone grease. (and it's delicious!) I settled for Wendy's because I know the fast food joints are trying to put on a good face and have something healthy on their menus.  Good job guys. Way to be! This salad was actually good too.  Almonds and blueberries, even strawberries from California! Must be good, has California in it! Yum. Satisfied...

...or am I?

I decided I better get a coffee because it was 8 o'clock pm and I was barely halfway through the days journey. BUUUUTTTTT It's also dessert time. What to do...

Guess what's next door...


Chocolate Chip Frappe' please! and since I had a salad I'll get a large. I can start worrying about things like exercise and eating right when my donkey isn't planted in a car seat for 20 hours.

I love chocolate, I love it SO MUCH. I sucked that large Frappe' down almost to the end.  And then I got that familiar, "Jax, there is a capacity to sugar and grease in this bod of yours" feeling. I set the the drink down and put the windows down because the humidity was getting balanced by the lower temperatures and I think I'm growing my gills back.

We all know about self control, and how I don't have it.  2 minutes later that large sugary chocolatey devil of a drink was gone and I was searching for it's relatives through the straw.

Well that's done and over with and Virginia is about 20 miles away. Nice. Familiar Territory.


10 minutes later I got that queasy feeling you get when you eat the pounder Reese's cup your boss gave you because you love chocolate and peanut butter so much in twenty minutes. (Oh you've never experienced that feeling?) Too much sugar, Jax.  I knew this was going to happen. Guess I'm going to have to drive around with a stomach ache. Ugh.

UUUGGGHHHHHHHH...this isn't just a stomach ache.  This is the scene from Journey to the Center of the Earth. There are prehistoric animals battling in the acid ocean down in my soul. (Yes my stomach is my source) Churning and gurgling and it's making me...

...OH GOD!

I have to go...I have to go BAD.  I cooked a brownie in an easy bake oven, man. Safety NOT FIRST, I'm taking off this seat belt.  I need to interpretive dance!  There are no signs anywhere.  I just left the last freaking bathroom area ON EARTH.  TENNESSEE WHY?!

Ok. Ok, calm down. I think I can get myself together, mind over...matter. The interpretive dancing is working. I'm calming down....relaxing. I'm kind of laughing to myself.  Oh my gosh *chuckle chuckle* that would have been one for the blog.  I thought for a second I was going to have to pull over and drop off the Cosby kids on the side of the road. PHEW! Glad I got myself under control. Can you imagine...I mean I could have done it...I actually have toilet paper and a shovel from my backpacking stuff.  I could have totally "roughed it" on the highway. *giggle giggle* THAT was close better look for a stop area soon, good thing I'm not lactose intolerant or anything....


Still no exits anywhere, let alone ones with potties. Second wave of disaster hitting the Richter scale:

OH no, that first one was like a 5...This next wave is hitting at an 8 AT LEAST!!!! GREAT DEVASTATION! There's no TIME, I'm going to have to take a CRAP ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!!

Oh no, oh no no.  There's no amount of dancing that can save this day.  I screech to the next exit which is Nowhereville, TN (go away Tennessee, I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW!) There aren't even street lamps, I'm going to crap my pants. I have to get out of the car. At least I can get off the highway and duck behind a hill. Oh god, the shame of it.  I don't know one single story of anyone taking a crap on the highway. NOT ONE. I'm going to be the the first person to take a crap on the highway! RIGHT NOW!!!!!!

Oh yes...what is that I see in the dim light?! A construction area...a PORTA POTTY! OH GOD OH GOD YES!  I swing into that construction site like its the Fast and The Furious! TWO WHEELS BABY! Hobbes is still smoking and the dust is no where near settling and I'm running with my knees pinched together and I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN MAKE IT!

I jumped into the the Porta Potty which some JERK put on a little hill and nearly knock myself over in a porta potty that might possibly roll down a hill with me in it.  But there's only a few seconds of dignity left...if dignity is here at all. Oh my god, why do people put BUTTONS ON PANTS!!!!!!

I have to dance lightly in the porta potty to keep it from tumbling into the abyss and then...

...I had to do what no woman on the planet should have to do. There was no way to keep this toilet still without putting my backend on...TOUCHING...a construction site's toilet. My bottom lip curled up and and I whimpered like a little lamb that was about to be eaten by a lion. But I did it...and then I DID IT.


And I'll never forget you Tennessee. I sure did make some music...

Meanwhile, VA is the home of toilets. There are toilets EVERYWHERE. Thanks guys. Way to go.

You say goodbye and I say hello!

I woke in the morning feeling like P. Diddy, actually I didn't feel like that at all...

I felt like a plain old normal person who can tell the difference between toothpaste and jack Daniels...

If by chance you have no clue what I'm talking about:

I do not condone this music, by the way. It's called an earworm. It's completely true! These songs are designed to get in your head. I can't be mad though, because the Beatles were the kings of earworms. 

So I woke up, and took down my bike from its perch atop Hobbes and to Petaluma I pedaled!

The reason? Well I wanted to see where I was for sure, but the big reason was the Tillmans are fancy kitchen people with fancy coffee and soda machine things.

I didn't want this to happen:

 I looked for a plain old kettle to make tea, but couldn't find one. People without kettles? Are we joking?! That's not possible...

...and we all know one does not make tea with a microwave, even when desperate.

Yes I could have boiled water in a pot, I am aware. Instead though, I rode my bike to get coffee.

The entire time I was pedaling away I was looking around like I was Angela Lansbury with a basket on my bike and a smirk on my carefree face ready to solve mysteries and saying to myself, "I am in California, this is California, wow I'm in California!"

Aaaaaannnndddd I'm a local! Much like Denver, bikes are very common. A main form of transportation for some. I love this! Who knew I'd love bikes so much?!

Coffee, blog, bike....what a wonderful world. One that I was leaving for three days almost immediately.

Hello Petaluma! Bye Petaluma! I'm off to pick up Jon, go to yosemite, and I'll be back! Stay here, I love you!

I'm not narcissistic...I swear! But obviously San Francisco knows me and loves me...

But not enough to let me park without driving around for twenty minutes. This time elapse is apparently a miracle because it can take upwards of 45 minutes to find parking in this place...

San Fran: strike one Denver: also one strike (no ocean remember?)

Hi San Fran! Awesome ice cream! Bye!

Yosemite= the most amazing thing I've ever seen. The pictures that follow can't describe the scope of awesome, actual awe inspiring sites that are there. The park is about 40x60 miles. Lets all thank John muir now.

So there I was with my hiking group:

Oh sorry, that was a different group of seven gay men with a sassy dark haired gal...

Here's my seven gay men complete with sassy herself:

We can't decide who dopey is...we're hashing out the details, but I totally call Snow White!

Hello Yosemite!

Also, hello Bambi (what a Disney trip)! Really, it wouldn't lift it's head so I called out Bambi! And she responded!

We hiked through to the arch (I have been seeing arches across the country...Kentucky, Utah, California) and had a snack while admiring one of the greatest rock climbing areas on the face of the EARTH!

The more things I check off my list of things to do, the more I see.  The more I see, the more things I want to do.  It's exhausting.  Added to the list, climb half dome:

We whistled while we worked our butts off up the hills.  I proved once again that East coast in shape is just're not IN anything.  You're mostly just OUT of breath.

And everywhere that Mary went (gay joke) or in this case, MarIES...North Dome was there to stare at.  We stared and stared AND STARED and it never stopped being the most amazing thing I've seen.

We all broke camp in the shadow of Half Dome.  We were on North Dome here, this is the home of all of the mosquitoes of California...I'm pretty sure.  I did some pretty awesome Mosquito dances here.  My interpretive dancing has become something spectacular since this camp out!

We hiked, as Nicholas says in his very explicit directions of where we go, "down, up, down and up again."  We went down to get water, up to basket dome, and then back the way we came.  Here is our view from Basket Dome.  Seriously it's the most amazing thing to experience!  AND if you look closely you can see what the natives called the weeping woman.  The legend escapes me now, but it involves her waiting for some lost lover or other. We all saw everything on the Half Dome from Michael Jackson to the number 8.  We conclude that we're all pretty insane.

The fire was necessary.  ONE: I'm a pyro TWO: mosquitoes.

And I spent my most romantic night in California with 7 strapping (gay) men watching the sun set in Yosemite and staying out until the chill ran us back into our tents.  We saw so many shooting stars, discussed why Fresno is a light polluter and huddled together contemplating the secret to life.  I think we may have found a piece of the secret...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

For the birds...

So I'm out like Liberace....actually upon research, Liberace denied his homosexuality, whilst dying of complications related to aids...

Rephrase: so I'm out like the fat kid in a zombie apocalypse...

Still working on this opening.

Anyways, SLC is eating my dust, or more accurately, my salt. All that white dustiness on the side of the road is salt. Guess the ocean really wanted to stay and tried its fighting best:

It was really entertaining to drive past all of these salt desert areas. People seem to love rearranging the rocks on the side of the road to make cute little messages. There are the typical Suzy + Peter 4ever and class of '13 and all that. My favorite message you ask? It was not a message of peace or love or anything like that. It was simple and hopefully true: "my gonads!" How clever! How original! Provokes thought...

How old are you gonad boy?
What about your gonads?
Why did you go with that one?
Do you have a girlfriend?
Does she know about what's up with your gonads?


Anyways, I had decided through soggy hairless cat tears that I had enough of driving through this nation. Louisiana purchase can suck it, this place is enormous. Nevada, you're getting the Kansas shaft!

Nevada tried to trick me a few times. I just wanted to get through this state to California. It's a pretty cool looking state, nothing like Kansas. 

Actually, for men I deduce its probably something of a Mecca. Lots of hoohaas and gambling. Gambling everywhere! Hoohaas I avoided for obvious hetero reasons...

But seriously, I don't have a desire to gamble let alone a gambling problem. Slots at the gas station?! Yeah I was tempted...maybe I'll get my gas money back...

I did not stoop to gas station gambling. It was tempting though.

Anyways, Nevada is tricky:

Nice try! I won't gamble and I won't fall for the ole "Beverly hills" trick!

Ok, a little more tempted. You've obviously studied up on my nerdiness...

But then, I guess Nevada got angry because it couldn't fool me and also because I laughed at it (someone with my kind of humor but a medium security penitentiary in a town (of one penitentiary and thats it ) called Independenceville...oh your funny!).

So my penance was white knuckling the steering wheel for the rest of Nevada because of severe wind storms:

I wasn't at the pointy small bottom of Nevada either...

And, I'm no Midwestern expert, but is that going to turn into a tornado?! Oh my gosh! OH MY GOSH!!!

Turned out to be annoying wind that probably ruptured my ears tornado! Phew!

I arrived in California through Donner pass in Tahoe, where there is an agricultural check...what is a freaking agricultural check?! I have an apple in my car! Am I in trouble?! Is that not allowed?!

The guy at the booth took his job extremely seriously and barely looked at me while waving my car on (that's east coast sarcasm Cali).

And as soon as I got out of those gorgeous and I mean GORGEOUS mountains into civilization...

....someone cut me off. Ahhhhhhh it's almost like home! Some people here are not quite nice! And there's an ocean here! What's not to like?! I waved happily at the obviously advanced human being who cut me off and promptly shifted into fourth gear and bolted past him. Yay!

I got gas at some nothing has station and immediately saw to hot blonde chicks and thought, "we'll I guess I'm on the west coast..."

Smelled the salt in the air (how do people  live without the ocean?! Strike one and only Colorado.) and turned onto San Antonio rd.

This road is for farmers...I was in the dark and unfamiliar with California. Churning in my head...every scary movie ever....

Where is GPS taking me?! Where do the Tillmans LIVE?! 

Turns out an amazingly glorious house with a hot tub and wonderful neighbors.

West coast journey ended with a pineapple and a great visitor center worthy itinerary of things to do:

The Tillmans are fantastic human beings. I could not say one ill word about them!

Hi California!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The sad part...

I left the scorching hot desert with food on the brain thanks to what I suspect was a wonderful Mormon family. It's funny what you consider close when you started your journey in pa...but Salt Lake City was just a few hours away and I almost moved tgere when I was a wee one (a teenager). So SLC was where I decided I'd lay my noggin for the night.

Since I've explored SLC quite a bit, I knew the one place I wanted to stop:

This is the best Mexican food I've ever had...EVER. I was so hungry and desperate for civilization after almost getting lost and dying in the desert....I'll be honest, I was booking to get there. Then I searched their hours and found out I would arrive five minutes after they close...soni was REALLY booking then. But seriously, it's the desert, no one cares. AND you can see everything for miles. I hit 95mph easy. Hobbes was not pleased. Hobbes may be developing asthma as a result...

I totally was winning a very serious game of beat the GPS. Which is a very dangerous game that should never be played young'uns ;)

Then something came out of the desert that had no business being's not what you think! 

It was an honest to god one horse town...

I was in shock! People live here! A horse lives here! My "piece 'o lead" came off the accelerator, my chin rested at 12 on the steering wheel and I pushed my sunglasses on top of the old thinker...

What in Gods name made these poor neglected humans stop here?! (I'm sure there was a river somewhere)

I hadn't seen a "town" in so long I didn't know what to do! I did know Taft the speed was probably not 90mph. I was going a snails pace at 50mph when I hit town...

I found out 5 minutes later, speed limit: 40. 

Bwoop Bwoop! (Damn you Schrufer, you jinxed me!)

Right as I got outta town, he got me. If you know my past, I have been known to get pulled over a time or two. I know the drill, but what I can't stop is my laughing. It surely doesn't help my case.

"Did you see me on Main Street ma'am?"

In my head: "there's a freaking Main Street?!"
Out loud: "tehehe, no sorry!"

"Whelp, speed limits 40mph, I clocked you going 55."

....(am I supposed to respond) awkward head nod and giggle...

...............losing beat the GPS.............

"Um, I wasn't sure the speed, guess I missed the sign."

"You coming from Moab?"

Reaching in glovebox full of tampons, looking for insurance and registration...

"Uh (pause with hand stuffed between tampons) yeah, how'd you know?"

"Well ya have the bike in the rack (starting to like this strapping young cop) and well..." (This means there is absolutely nothing between here and Moab)

"Oh right..." Gives dashing copper papers.

What seemed like precious red iguana Mexican food time slipping away...staring at the one horse on the outskirts of town I wait.

The handsome cop comes back and gives me the lesser fine, I sign the paper and he bids me farewell trying to be regretful of the ticket.

And this is where I always "carry the water melon" (this reference is from dirty dancing). I respond with "(giggle giggle) THANKS FOR THE SOUVENIR!"

Crap crap crap...roll up the window, shift into gear and get the hell outta dodge at an easy 40 something mph!

Well red iguana was not going to happen so I dropped down to 85mph. Just a slow cruise really. Then since my music was making my ears bleed from the repititions, I popped in one if the CDs John the janitor had graciously made for the trip. He has been my school music guru all year, sharing my passion for the Beatles. This cd was a collection of what he called "pastoral classical songs."

Well, this is the sad part...

I've got peaceful music playing, a $90 speeding ticket sitting next to me and a couple of hours left to SLC. I'm exhausted from hiking in the heat, it's like midnight eastern time with no one to talk to, and I'm dehydrated with no Mexican food in my belly...

Ya know what I do in times like this? I hug my mommy. She's not here. No one was there...

I finally hit the point that the brains of this operation (Angela) told me would eventually happen. I finally felt the aloneness that only classical music and a speeding ticket can induce. I cried.

I'm not a pretty crier. This mug looks like a wet hairless cat that has sunburn when I cry. I think I scared some neighboring cars. I made awful eye contact with a few drivers...they promptly changed lanes. All those hopeless feelings came back and I cried for at least an hour until I was almost to my shitty motel.

Of course I sent a message to my mamma and then texted Angela to let her know she was right. I bought some beer and put it next to the bed and fell asleep.

I wanted you to know the sad part and that all the sad things I carried on the east are still here with me because adventure is not all sunshine and rainbows (and of course unicorns) it's also the strength you have to strain through sadness to feel happy despite it. Yin and yang: you'll never appreciate the wonderful things until you set them next to the sadder ones to see the difference.

Also I was hungry. You're never happy when you're hungry.


So lets set some happy next to that:

I finally got some delicious mole at my favorite SLC restaurant! Then I drove around the Mormon temple (that I learned as a teen you should never compare to the Disney castle even though it looks just like it) and I waved at Moroni! He is the prophet on top of the temple who is made of gold. Legend has it that at the end of time he comes to life and sounds his horn and all the Mormons who have been good boys and girls get to go to heaven. No one else.

To remember his name, I used to call him macaroni Moroni. (C'mon like other people haven't thought of it!)

I gave my mamma an update of my whereabouts and the following text ensued:

Happy ending! Mamma knows how to set things right!

Life's for Livin'

Well it's been awhile. Currently I'm actually back on the road... But there wasn't time to write because I packed in so much LIVING!

So I drove from the edge of Colorado (grand junction) to Moab, utah. I headed to arches national park. Canyon lands is also nearby but I had to choose!

Do you know what inspired me to choose arches?!

I wanna DO THAT!

So I'm driving through this "high desert" and there isn't much out in Utah on this highway. There were exits that exited onto a dirt road cattle path. There were a lot of those. There were not many people at all. I started to get down past the halfway point of the gas tank And I began to wonder if people I this highway (if there are any) knew about gasoline powered vehicles...

Luckily it turns out they do, just barely. I was able to fill up at a "gas station" which consisted of not one, but two pumps! It also had what is known as a shed to pay! Thank goodness for technology!

Made it to arches, the most beautiful rock I've ever seen! It's like the red rock area in Arizona, but with amazing and multitudinous formations that make you go hmmmmmmm! Heaven!

Headed to what I like to call the license plate arch. It is located off a trailhead at Wolfe ranch.

Apparently mr. Wolfe suffered from a complaint in his leg (maybe from a war?) and the dry arrid vicious desert agreed with him and his leg. Boys....

So he and his son moved out here to this ranch in the middle of awesome rock and a beautiful stream that looks green from all of the deposits. Probably did look like an oasis when he came to it in his wagon. But driving to it from the visitors center, boy just looks crazy for staying here. And in fact, he did leave after I think around a decade staying there. He returned to the east and promptly died. Guess he was right about the desert after all... 

Hiked the trail. And if I thought hiking in Colorado was tough, I added in heat wind and extra dry air. I'll never leave the car without Chapstick again!

There is a lizard! They are super (still a little Colorado "super" in me!) cute and very skittish!

One more corner! And then there it is!

License plate arch (because its on all the utah plates)  is actually delicate arch. BUT a nice Salt Lake City man informed me that the name of this arch and another in the park were accidentally switched when the map maker came in, SO originally this was called landscape arch. Phew!

Look at these people looking at it from afar. If you know me at all you know I need to touch...

It was a hop skip and windy and I mean WINDY jump over and I'm here!

Gorgeous! A Minnesota lady (retired her already) and I just sat and contemplated its demise. How would you like to be stared at, waiting for your end? The arch took it well...

Then this older Asian couple stomped up. This Asian lady was awesome, she made all of the "phews!" And "oooiii" and "hummmppphhhs" she could make about the hike. She did it in such a dramatic but happy way. It was cute. She said "how long was that hike?! It was exhausting!"

Minnesota and I informed her it was about 1.75 miles...

"Oh no, six miles at LEAST!"

Little Asian ladies are so cute. Facts don't matter, what she thinks is what counts!

Checked out the peytroglyphs from the Utes on my way back. Pretty decent art compared to some of their ancestors. Of course they'd probably laugh that it is considered art to people now.

And then that little Asian lady inspired me to take the longer hike to angel arch. I didn't think I had enough time, but there were a few arches on the path, so off I went on the *gasp* 4 mile hike!!!
So I went, and on the way learned that the flakes above could someday become arches. The water gets in between the rocks and makes these flakes. Then wind and water beat them down into different shapes. Some become arches. Cool! Water is so powerful!

I'd love to tell you I made it to angel arch, but I didn't. I'd love to tell you I didn't get lost on the path, but I did. I started freaking out and thinking about those old movies where the actor wanders through the desert begging for water. Well at least I had water...

Honestly I wasn't that far off the path, but ever read or see Into The Wild? It could happen anywhere. Trick is to keep calm and not think about that you drove all the way out to utah by yourself and no one knows what path you even took. You DON'T THINK ABOUT IT!!!

So I was lost for about two minutes. Got back on the path and made it to double o arch:

I'm not dead! Yay! And shortly after I made it, I ran into the Salt Lake City man and we shared pictures and stories. He told me all about his six children and the WHOLE time I tried to use ESP to figure out if he was Mormon. I guess I thought it would be rude to just straight up ask...

I did get some awesome food recommendations and also was told there is good climbing up in SLC area. I have to research that for my next trip...

Peace out arches!

Even the desert scribes my name...

E for Ellis!!