August 23, 2009

Lost in Denali

From Sable's Summit

The night before Seth and I disappear into the Denali Wilderness for three days of adventure, I can’t sleep. My restlessness comes not from fear about living in grizzly country where the rangers warn, “You will be the only people you see. You must be ready to save yourself if you get in trouble,” or from fear of the hike’s difficulty. In fact, the difficulty is precisely the attraction—extremity has a way of cleansing the body and the mind. The objective of such an adventure is of course to spend time in nature, but also to exhaust oneself to a point beyond worry and fear, beyond thought.  

After packing on Sunday night, I stand outside the bus and stare at the cool glow of the sun setting just beneath the horizon. It’s 12:30 am. That the sun never really disappears is a strange feeling. It simply tucks itself in for a few hours before embarking on its slanted course through the sky, feeling forever like early morning, then early evening forever again, inviting insomnia. I know I need to get some sleep, but I’m ready to go get lost (with a map and compass, of course).

I try to sleep. Still wide-eyed at 5:59 am, I ask Seth if he’s ready to go. A second later my alarm buzzes, my hand already poised to silence it. Within a couple of hours we’ve packed, eaten breakfast, and are being let off the camper bus at the border of Unit 29, our very own eighty square miles of uninterrupted wilderness to explore.

From the road we follow Tattler Creek for a couple of miles, climbing about 1,000 feet up the rock bed to where several streams draw lines between the mountains all around us before merging into the creek. A curious ermine inspects our bag, running almost up to my boot. An eagle flies overhead and perches on a rock ledge above our path.

Our goal for the day? To summit Sable Mountain at nearly 6,000 feet. We drop our packs and hoof it up a stream leading to the top. Although climbing the water slick rock steps of the stream makes for easier travel, we’re eager to ascend, so we move to the steep tundra which provides no natural steps but rises from the drainage quickly. Hiking without trails is a different animal than what I’m used to. With each step we climb a foot or so vertically while taking care to sink the sides of our boots into the moss to prevent our ankle from turning sideways. A flat spot is hard to find, but when we find one we greedily steal it as we would a seat on the train after an exhausting day. I’ve never appreciated flat ground more.

Eventually the tundra breaks into even steeper scree slopes. Now with each vertical step, I slide down several inches before my footing takes hold, sending rocks tumbling down below us. I swear I’ve never worked so hard in my life to push through the dizziness and fatigue, but the reward is immense: each step reveals more of the Alaska Range, whose glaciers and snowy caps motivate us to surmount one rock cluster after another until we’ve reached the summit from where all things descend. This view comes with a price, but it’s well worth it. Seeing as how 80% of Denali’s visitors never leave the road, I feel privileged to be on top of Sable.

The other creatures high on the mountain are Dall sheep. They graze at high altitudes so they can spot their chief predator the wolf as he approaches. Because he cannot employ stealth in such openness, he seldom follows the sheep so high. Their tracks under our feet trace paths toward even steeper slopes than we dare to traverse. I’m impressed by the tenacious woolly creatures. While we never catch up with them, we spy them off in the distance, sprinkling the ridges like lint, always on a different ridge of the mountain than we’re on, either ahead or behind us, as though they always know where we are. 

When we finally reach the top, we have climbed almost 2,000 vertical feet in less than two miles. Our ascent path is so steep we can’t see it from the top. Instead the slopes appear to fold underneath themselves creating vertiginous bulges that skew distance and space and scale and make me feel like I’m falling backwards, not up, the mountain. A quick glance at the horizon, and I’m upside up again.

With legs like overcooked noodles, we regain our packs, located about twenty feet from a giant bear hole, and eat a lunch of beef jerky, tuna fish and crackers, and M&Ms, while contemplating our next feat: a 4,500 foot mountain we must overcome to get to where we think we’ll make camp. We decide to take off before the food coma sets in. Going up is par for the course, but once at the summit, we see the valley on the other side roll out below us like a giant, undulating carpet. We see the stream leading to the Big Creek where we plan to make camp:  a nice, flat, green hill next to the river.

Getting there’s a little tricky. It’s not that bad, really, just an hour or so spent descending, or rather sliding down an interminably steep slope of loose scree. Then another hour or so crossing hills covered in squishy tundra and sprawling berry bushes. At this point we’re fatigued and my ankles twist and I stumble at almost every step because there’s no way to know the depth my foot will sink in the mossy pillows or where it will find an even deeper crack hidden between them. I learn quickly that walking directly on the bushes provides for more stable passage, even though I imagine myself as a giant breaking the limbs of the poor creatures underneath my feet.

When we arrive at “the Thumb,” our prospective camping spot which we named for its shape, my feelings of remorse change. Instead of standing on a smooth, flat, hospitable hill we thought we saw from the mountaintop, we’re instead neck deep in thick trees atop tundra. One minute of walking through this terrain and the cheap rain pants we bought at Wal-mart for $4 are trailing behind our ankles.

We descend to the river to make camp in the rocks and forest, both of which are cause for discomfort. Scat and prints of almost every animal we can think of cover the ground. Shed moose antlers shine white through the low brush. Furry appendages and fur balls hawked up out of giant carnivorous throats lie moist and matted on the ground. While we eat dinner in the middle of what we surmise is a major moose crossing, I project into the hills Public Service Announcements thanking the animals for their cooperation and apologizing for any inconvenience our intrusion has caused.

But despite signs of imminent carnage all around us, we sleep undisturbed and rise on our second day to another challenge, an endless rain that compels us to hang around camp, leaving only to collect blueberries on the hill. Animals in the wilderness are almost always on the move, scouring the hillside for food, avoiding the paths of predators.

However, when cold and wet, we humans tend to be shivery and quiet and unwilling to make our location known to animals. During our time on blueberry hill, we encounter a moose coming over the ridge—we think it crosses through our camp during our absence—and a grizzly bear who’s doing what we’re doing, grazing on berries, just on another hill altogether.

We’re comforted by the knowledge of our superiority to beasts, including the not insignificant ability to collect things in one of our species most ingenious inventions, the zip lock baggy. As we hoard berries for future desserts, we lick the sweet juice from our discriminating fingertips and opposable thumbs, feeling sorry for the quadrupeds that must take the whole branch, leaves and all, to consume just a tiny morsel of fruit and certainly cannot take any with them.

We spend our final night unmolested in the tent (which to an animal must appear the oddest object in the wilderness, especially when a terrifying rendition of the Star Spangled Banner erupts from it each morning). As though the weather hasn’t been wet enough, it starts snowing as we don our parkas, pack our gear, and get ready to hike out along Big Creek.

We’re learning to adapt to the Alaska climate and to the mountains, which make their own weather. We walk for miles through rock bed and dense forest, following moose trails through the thick tree stands. The river goes on for a few miles, passing from the south to the north of the western edge of Igloo Mountain. Just north of Igloo we turn southeast toward the road and enter miles of soggy bog heading to the edge of the wilderness. I keep my spirits up with song, “We’re TRUDG-ing THROUGH the TUN-draaa, TRUDG-ing THROUGH the TUN-draaaa, TRUDG-ing THROUGH the TUN-draaa To DAAAYY!”

I have to admit that the last few miles walking through the tundra’s dense, waist-high brush kind of freak me out. But then I realize that my boots—just another thing that separates man from beast—are impervious to the bog’s murky waters. During the walk I step in muddy water above my laces so many times, but I feel hardly any dampness. Impervious.

I brag to Seth about my boots which I bought for $8 used at an army surplus store. His feet have been wet since day one.  For the remainder of the walk, the landscape rotates between open, berry-bushed tundra, slimy bog, thick forest, and spruce mazes. Seth and I fight our way through dense tree stands that seem to be blocking our access to the road, forcing us north when we need to be going east. We come upon a lake we must circumnavigate. Seth says, “It seems like it’s going on forever and ever, huh?” We keep moving.

By the time I’ve convinced myself that I’m really not a wimpy, hairless creature stuck in the wilderness, but a survivor of extremity, the road suddenly appears before and then beneath our feet, eliminating the need for self-confidence, a point that despite our fatigue feels a little disappointing. As we celebrate with embraces, the wilderness immediately recedes in our imaginations even though it’s still only a few steps away. We remember for the first time during our adventure that it is our two-year wedding anniversary.

I told Seth on the mountain that I thought the experience would be like childbirth, almost too painful to bear but a pain easily forgotten and replaced with an overwhelming desire to do it again. I wondered how long it would be before I felt again like hauling myself up and down and through the thick of it, in search of whatever it is we’re after: clarity in exhaustion, accomplishment in extremity.

I do know this: I miss my boots already.

August 16, 2009

Getting Here

Bracing myself on the edge of the passenger seat with my left hand, I tightly grip the door bar with my right. “Let’s take it slow”, I say to Bob as his foot quickly jerks from the gas pedal to the brake. The past hundred miles or so that we have been approaching the imaginary line separating the Yukon Territory from the noncontiguous state of Alaska, the road has been a myriad of dips, bumps, holes, and gravel that send the bus airborne, rendering all passengers weightless for a mere second. There are no visible lines restraining your vehicle between the boundaries of the road or steering one clear of any oncoming traffic. Of course the oncoming traffic is few and far between aside from the countless dogged souls on a personal mission to pedal their way across the last great frontier. Coming to a stop behind two other vehicles a friendly woman informs us “it’ll be about a 5 minute wait”. The stretch of road ahead appears to be a sea of holes paved with dirt and rocks. “Hey, do you need a ride through this shit?” Bob hollers out the open bus door. Maneuvering his bike through Walter’s cluttered vestibule, our wayfarer gives his thanks. The young, lean man having no more than a pack on his bike and a homemade flag pronouncing “Jesus Christ is our God”, spoke with a twang in his voice that, for a moment, took me back home to the south. The conversation was your normal getting to know your hitchhiker conversation, talk of the Carolinas and his recent misfortune of being a victim of a hit and run. Walking away with only scrapes and bruises, he was more worried about being set back on his journey a few days. He hopes to make it to the far point of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and back before winter sets in. As our jaunt across the rubble came to an end he carried his bike off the bus, and politely handing Bob a pamphlet asked if he could pray for our safety throughout our travels.

Driving through the Yukon Territory is like slipping through a portal to an imaginary land. The sky is endless and filled with cotton white clouds casting gray shadows on the mountainside. Each massive, majestic peak is unique, ranging in color from greens to browns to snow tipped white, and terrains from thick forests to rocky mounds to sharp glacier carved crevices. The road flows up and down and forms snakelike curves as we tip toe, not over, but around the sleeping giants. The waters of the rivers and lakes are sparkling crystal with hues of blue and green. Only on postcards and in books have I laid eyes on places of such beauty.

Approaching the border crossing we run through all the possible incidences, such as the commandeering of our tomato plant and how we will explain the 40 cubies of 200 gallons of veggie oil stacked under every table, on each step, and hidden around every corner of the bus. Bob slowly pulls the bus up next to the little guard house with the little window, and a little, but round man steps out. We hand over our passports and he begins to go through the routine questions that we have come to expect at our border crossings: “where are you from” , “what is your reason for traveling to Alaska”, “how many people are on board”, “how do you know each other” and “can you please step outside of your vehicle and stand over there”. We single filed out of the bus and realizing that the temperature had dropped well below, well cold, some of us quickly reboard the bus to put on proper attire. Appearing to be senseless tourists shivering in the cold meaning no harm to Alaska, and carrying no illegal drugs or weapons, the guard promptly steps off the bus and tells us “you may board your vehicle again and have a nice evening”. Our celebration is not flashy, simple sighs of relief at the ease of our crossing, jubilant grins at the satisfaction of making it this far, and butterflies of excitement at not knowing what to expect next.

One thing that I think we did know to expect, but were unaware of its impact, is the sheer beauty. There are copious amounts of words that can and have been used to describe Alaska; however, I will simply say that it is awe-inspiring in all its glory and everyone should visit atleast once. After only a handful of miles past the border, Seth pulls the bus over at a scenic overlook. Sitting in the driveway with a look of curiosity on his face, a scraggy wild fox invites us to come out and play. Cautiously keeping us at a certain distance, the fox loiters about entertaining us with his mere existence and accepting our offerings of bread. Snapping hundreds of pictures, we could possibly remain for hours, us staring at him, and him staring at us. Unfortunately, Kentridge has other plans in mind. Pouncing out of the door and darting across the highway, he chases the fox into the woods. After a few minutes of worried whistles and calls the incorrigible hound returns, and we all hope the sly little fox got away unharmed. Spotting clean outhouses stocked with toilet paper, we decide this is the perfect place to spend our first night in Alaska. The hours pass, but daylight seems to linger forever. It is well into the night before darkness finally sets in. And as we climb under the covers, bellies full with satisfaction, we begin dreaming of the adventures that tomorrow will bring.

August 14, 2009


We dared Walter to get us to Alaska and instead of revealing some silly crush he has on a german made Sprinter, he took the dare.  I think it was the best dare I’ve ever been a part of.  Better than daring my cousin to run naked through my grandmother’s yard. He took that dare as well because, as we would find out much later in life, he secretly liked boys and liked them looking at him naked. 

More to follow in the days ahead.  About Alaska, not my cousin.

August 9, 2009

Strange Pockets

Along the Alaskan Highway

Our first stint on the Alaskan Highway went well. Seth drove about 280 miles from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson, sometimes down grades as severe as 10%. At the tops of those hills, the roadway dipped so low it disappeared like rollercoaster tracks, and the rivers, lakes and massive rock faces spread out over the valleys.

The Alcan draws the extreme to it, whether they prefer traveling by force of a 17-ton careening bus, or by more trying means: their own legs. We shook our fists in triumph at a biker as he humped up a large hill we were coasting down. He saw us and shook back. Later we saw another guy doing not so well as the rain had started, and I asked Seth if we should stop. Seth said, “If he’s out here alone on his bike, he’s doing it for real.” I guess those guys know how to throw out a thumb if need be.

The road wasn’t always so treacherous. We’d travel for stretches down long, nearly straight highways lined with thick forest. At one point a rain cloud looming on our right finally overtook us, but the sun was still cutting underneath the stormfront from the left, casting the roadway in severe shadows flickering in the rain and trees.  Taylor said the whole scene, when paired with the most brilliant double rainbow we’ve ever seen, was “Awesome!” The trees flew behind the rainbow which I could trace almost all the way to the ground.

This morning we woke up in Fort Nelson, British Columbia. This little town’s primary economy seems to come from travelers stopping here on route to the Yukon Territory and Alaska or the lower provinces. Last night, our first stop in town was Boston Pizza to look for oil. For a minute there, we thought this trip down the remote Alaskan Highway was going to be too easy. But last night we discovered that our favorite Canada oil source doesn’t have a grease receptacle here in the nether regions. Furthermore, there’s nowhere else to get grease around here. Our trip still may be easy, but now we know we stocked up on oil for a reason, carting over 220 gallons reserve to add to our 100 gallon tank capacity. Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, has a handful of restaurants we know and trust, so hopefully we’ll have some luck there.

When we came into town, we did find a few things: RVs and semis parked wherever along the roadside, rollicking drunk young people, some reeling down the street clasping their beer bottles and cups of vodka spiked Kool-Ade or whatever, and an unlocked wi-fi signal streaming from a hotel with an adjacent bar. All night, we parked out front of the hotel and borrowed the internet while the boisterous exhortations of boozers carried into our windows as they were bounced out of the bar and into the streets. And these drunkards were clearly Canadian: “Eh Bouncer?! You a *%@$er aren’tcha’ eh!

"So much for a sleepy little town," Seth said as we searched for an unlocked door into the hotel, so we could borrow a bathroom.

July 27, 2009

The Eagle has Landed!

At approximately 6:30pm, Sunday the 26th of July, the Transit Antenna lunar module landed in Regent, North Dakota. It was a momentous occasion for all of those involved. Spectators looked on as astronauts Bob Snead and Jamie Self reenacted man’s first walk on the moon. Original NASA recordings of the correspondance between Houston and the Eagle were transmitted by radio waves from the bus throughout the entire town of Regent, and played on handheld radios brought by the audience.

Transit Antenna would like to thank Gary Greff and The Enchanted Highway for the use of his workshop, tools, scrap metal, vehicle and installation location! We would also like to thank Steve for helping organize the event and coordinating the burgers and brats! All proceeds from dinner go towards Dickinson Tornado Relief and The Enchanted Highway. And thank you to the town of Regent for welcoming us and coming out and having a good time!

July 20, 2009
The Eagle will Land Soon!

The Eagle will Land Soon!

July 14, 2009

7/11/2009: Wierdest Road-side Attractions You Never See

Part I

We landed in Sparta, Wisconsin yesterday. There wasn’t much, except for the only intersection in America with a historic building on each corner. We went to one corner, the one with the Deke Slayton Space And Bike museum.  Only me and Seth entered to save the money of everyone going in. The first thing we saw was a cool piece of moon rock, a scale telling you how much you weigh on other planets, and an orange bike that looked like a motorcycle.  On each side-wall were a row of TONS bikes, all different kinds, from the first bikes to the newest ones.

On the end of one row were a few interesting ones, like a lawn-mower-bike and a ski-bike.

In the middle of the room was the NASA and space stuff. Many of the things were about Deke Slayton, the man who stayed awake for 100 hours in the NASA control room to help safely land Apollo 13 back on Earth. He had wanted to go into space, but couldn’t go because of heart problems. Later on in his life, he did get to go with the Russians to help setup the space station. There was an old astronaut suit that looked like a dead person laying down.

There was also a small model of the lunar lander in a glass case.

There were other things, such as small articles about Deke, and artifacts from the spaceshuttle launches of that time. On the ceiling was a life-size model of one of the early planes, and a bigger than life model of a hand-glider.

In the back was a model of a “pod” and a flat cardboard space man with the head cut-out.

There was also a little, kiddie toy-room. We walked around a bit, and on our way out, we saw a mural.

Part II

Later that night, we had been driving for a while, but we stopped in a little town called Blue Earth, in Minnesota. It just happend to be Jolly Green Giant Day(the icon for Seneca Foods).

We watched an awesome fireworks show with a really cool finale.

Everyone there honked their car horns- and bus horn! Then we vanished, driving off into the night.

July 11, 2009

Central Time Zone

We’ve put a few miles under our tires and a few states behind our bumper in the past couple of weeks. Our last pit stop story came from Lexington, KY and the next will take you across the highways and biways of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconson.

After getting a little tipsy at the Woodford Bourbon distillary in Lexington, we got our ducks in a row and headed for Cincinnati, OH. We were on a mission to acquire some veggie oil and hoped to stay for the night before moving on to Hicksville, OH for Independence Day festivities.  We checked out the Manifest Gallery and Drawing Center near downtown Cincinnati and secured a place to park overnight at their Essex St. Studios.  The studios were housed in a large warehouse that was also home to The American Sign Museum, a gallery of old lighted signs.

Before settling in for the night five people packed five laptops into five seperate bags and walked to the nearest cafe/bar to get their fix of electricity and free wi-fi. The next morning those same five people were on their way again. Destination, Hicksville, OH to celebrate the Fourth of July with the Kristofolettis.

The warm welcome and gracious hospitality never diminished for the 4 1/2 days that we spent in Hicksville with Joe and Anna. We were fed three full, delicious meals a day with snacks in between and entertained with stories of times past and given lessons for future success. The house that Joe built from the ground up sits in a peaceful field of lush green grass with tall evergreens planted sporatically around it. One could easily spend an entire day (which Taylor and I did) on a blanket in the grass playing games, watching the clouds go by, and taking silly pictures.

We celebrated the fourth with an impressive display of fireworks in all colors and shapes. Sunday morning, Bob and Joe rose with the sun and went out to the lake to go fishing. Coming in day after day empty handed in Mexico, Bob finally had some luck and caught his fish. On Monday morning we all went down the street to the new high school to take a look at Joseph’s murals up close. They were quite impressive, as was the new school itself. After many hugs and kisses and good luck wishes we hit the two lane blacktop once more heading west.

We were on the search for oil again and our GPS brought us to Fort Wayne, IN. Aside from refueling we didn’t make any other stops in Indiana and drove on to Chicago, IL.

Sitting in the Windy City Cafe we laughed and made jokes as Annako stepped out of the train stop in a sweater and scarf and we sat comfortably eating lunch in our shorts and tank tops. A few hours spent walking the city we learned that Chicago is not called the Windy City just because and you never leave home without a sweater. Our first stop on this Tuesday afternoon was Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. The museum featured art by seven self-taught artists hailing from the great state of Ohio, as well as an exhibit of landscape drawings from the artists travels across the country and around the world. However, the most exciting exhibit found at Intuit was a permanent installation of the contents of artist Henry Darger’s living and working space which was located in Chicago. The Henry Darger Room Collection includes tracings, clippings from newspapers, magazines, comic books, cartoons, children’s books, coloring books, personal documents, and architectural elements, fixtures, and furnishings from Darger’s original room.

We also checked out the artwork on display at the Contemporary Art Museum.

Actually, it was an engaging exhibit for Taylor, making it a successful family outing.

We strolled through Millinium Park and took multiple dorky photographs with all of the other tourists in front of a gigantic silver bean. After pounding our puppies on the pavement all afternoon, we took a train ride to Annako’s house to visit with our friend and enjoy a nightcap of espressos and hot chocolate.

Madison, Wisconsin is nestled on a strip of land between two lakes. There are three times more bikes found in Madison than there are cars. It is now Thursday. We parked the bus in a lot by the boat landing and walked the path along the lake into the city. After spotting quite a few fish floating belly up, we learned that the lake, and the fish in it are polluted with chemicals. According to a posted sign, the state fish the Muskie, can be caught in the lake, but is only safe to eat once a month. While some of the other species are safe to eat as often as once a week. I decided better safe than sorry and ordered the pork burrito at lunch instead of the fish tacos. We strolled the cirular path around the state capitol building and Bob, Taylor, and I visited an Odd Wisconsin Exhibit at the History Museum while Seth and Jamie took Kentridge for a walk around the block. Getting back on the road before nightfall we drove slightly north to Sparta to get an early start on Friday at the Space and Bicycle Museum.

June 30, 2009

Where are we?

Over the past two days, we’ve been in three different states and cities, so I’ve had to remind myself continuously where the heck I am.

Asheville packed a lot of fun into a few days. Right down the tracks from where we were parked, the Wedge gallery and micro-brewery served up $10 pitchers of a beer that Seth will actually drink (that means it’s really good). We also made some new friends and revived some old friendships: thanks to Stacey and Lee for taking us to the falls, and thanks to Justin for the great dinner and company!

So we left Asheville yesterday afternoon where the day before Seth and Bob painted murals in the mural garden, a local wall dedicated to harrassment free expression, we were told by the folks at Flood. From the looks of it, few mural painters grace the mural garden. The walls were completely covered with tags, though, and several by a tagger called Doink.

The only rule at the mural garden is to completely cover another person’s work, taking care not to leave anything half-covered. The garden was close by, so the guys schlepped some paint cans down the railroad tracks to the wall. A tagger called Doink had a few things up. Seth painted this over his tag:

Behind this wall are some shorter silos on which Bob painted a tractor emiting a cloud of nasty smoke whose nastiness comes from several tags showing through a light coat of gesso and white paint, but I don’t have any pictures of his, so he’ll have to add a picture HERE:

Flood had a great library where I found an illustrated version of the Bible by world-class painter, Thomas Kinkade. I just wanted to share this.

Here’s a little sampling from the inside. I’m not sure how his imagery relates to the content.

We got the bus cranked and probably spent thirty minutes tuning our CB radio: thumping it, testing channels, figuring out (or not really figuring out) what SWR, USB, LSB, SSB, talkback, af gain, rf gain, roger beeps, dimmer, squelch, and 10 codes are all about. Finally we hit the road and got a little CB action. There was some work on I-40 and a trucker was telling another trucker that he better “geeit on over when they says merge, don’t be scaird now!”

It wasn’t but a couple of hours and we found ourselves in the rapidly dwindling mountains of Knoxville, Tennessee. We made a quick stop to see the folks at Yeehaw Industries who run one of few letter press shops in the country. They use mostly post-consumer papers and cardstocks, which is just one reason why you should buy stuff from them. Another reason is that they make really cool stuff, so check them out.

After leaving Yeehaw, we found ourselves at a crossroads: head to Nashville or head north to Kentucky. While we all want to go to Nashville, Dawn and Seth did some research on temperatures around the country, and we were figuring the westerly route might bring us into hotter climates, so we’re heading north for the Great Lakes, Canada and…oh yes…Alaska.

But first a stop off in Lexington, Kentucky and then Cincinnati, Ohio. Today we met up with friends Brian and Blakely who treated us to an afternoon in the Raven’s Run nature preserve. We hiked out to an overlook of the Kentucky River.

Tomorrow might bring a visit to the Wild Turkey distillery, which offers free tours. What would a visit to Kentucky be without taste-testing some whiskey? Until next time…Jamie

June 25, 2009

Hasta La Vista, South Carolina!

We left Spartanburg after being there for over a week and enduring the stifling heat. We know it’s time to move to cooler climates when the vegetables rot in a day, the bread is gooey warm and not in a good way, every time we open the fridge a stream of defrosted water flows around our toes, and even the Governor flees South Carolina to blow off steam in the mountains of a state with way less moral propriety than his own (just like the other 48).

But whenever we find ourselves actually tolerating the weather (sweating bullets, making ourselves nearly sick), I think how far we’ve come in adapting to our ever changing environs. Being from South Carolina, none of us would have ever said before the trip that it’s okay to live not even outside, but inside a heat-trapping vehicle sitting in a parking lot! I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

Before we left Spartanburg, we gave Alex, Betsy, Jonas and all the residents gifts of the assorted prints we made, including this lovely garment that Bob made. It was inspired by a (perhaps intentional?) design error in the promo material the resident artists made for an upcoming event called the “Make-a-thon.” The flier pictures a crab scrawling something with a red pen that looks an awful lot like “Make-a-thong.” Seth was a trooper and modeled it for the camera.

So we packed up the bus and left the graffiti wall that our bus looks really cool against, and took a cue from our Governor and headed to the mountains of Asheville through the Saluda grade. Man, the air is so much cooler here! We had some difficulty scoring oil as we rolled through town, but when we changed our oil filters, they didn’t leak when we put them back on, which was AWESOME—never happens! I told everyone to thank Tootsie, who is our oil goddess, just so you know. (You might say a word or two each night to help us out.) Yes, we’d already been turned down by several restaurants with “contracts” whose oil containers were chocked full, but marked by the ubiquitous Blue Ridge Biofuels sticker, but our luck was changing. I wasn’t worried.

Finally, we scored a full tank, not marked by Blue Ridge Biofuels, and headed to the Wal-Mart for easy access facilities and sleep. In the morning, we all bought ourselves some new digs: shorts, tees, nicer shirts for me since all mine look terrible. Next, laundry. Next, heading to the Flood Gallery and Art Center where we were greeted with serious Southern Hospitality.

Flood is a collective gallery, studio, and residency space that also houses (what do you know!?) the Blue Ridge Biofuels operation! What a coincidence. Nice folks at Flood. They’ve got so much going on, biodiesel making, glass blowing, sculpture, blacksmithing, artist residencies, exhibition spaces, a library, writing workshops and readings, and a haircutting salon where I will tomorrow chop all my hair off. There. I said it. Now I have to do it! I was thinking something like this:

That way my ears won’t sweat.

Anyway, we’ll be in Asheville for a couple of days parked at Flood, another place where our bus looks cool, and will report soon with information about our whereabouts and all the new stuff you will soon see in our Transit Antenna shop.

Until next time…Jamie