A Travellerspoint blog

May 2009

Church, breakfast and home

So, on Friday, Ada had mentioned that she would be singing at a church on Sunday. I wanted to go see her, so we went. It was way over on the other end of town and we were almost late, but it worked out OK anyway.

I had to go meet my mom and dad at Prague Deli for lunch, so I invited Ada along. I had a picture of her at breakfast, but she deleted it right after I took it. I ordered and ate some delicious Palicinky with salmon and shared some cheese and strawberry ones with mom.

Then, we said goodbye to John and Ada and went walking around a park for a while. We witnessed a crazy man in a big fur coat, trying to sell us a car, or get us to sell our car to him, I couldn't quite figure it out.

Then, I got dropped off at Scarborough Town Centre, and my ride picked me up. It was an uneventful drive home, I fell asleep a couple of times and also managed to get slightly addicted to Tim Hortons iced coffee. I can't help it, it's good.

John in his usual stance

John in his usual stance


Dad vs. palicinky

Dad vs. palicinky


MMMMmmmMmm

MMMMmmmMmm


Yum

Yum


Me vs. palicinky

Me vs. palicinky


Crazy homeless man

Crazy homeless man

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Art Gallery of Ontario and some yuppie bars

We went for brunch at the Butler's Pantry in Kensington Market. Apparently we had sat down at the same time as everyone else in the restaurant, so the waitresses were flustered. Maria and Lisa were starving and it was taking them forever to bring us menus even. When we finally got our cutlery, it was handed to me upsidedown. Lisa thought this might have been a sign of disrespect. I disagreed. There was much more analysis of the waitress' actions, but we decided the real problem was the poor management of the fine establishment. I will spare you the details.

Maria's friend, Joan came over from her art gallery across the street, Spence Gallery. After brunch, we went over there to check stuff out. I thought some of it was really nice. There were some abstract paintings glossed over with resin, as well as some Cuban style ones. The Cuban paintings were beautiful. They had a watery, dream-like quality that you have to see for yourself to understand I guess.

John then took me to a movie memorabilia store and then the Art Gallery of Ontario to look at the model boats. I stayed there while he went and did whatever it is that he does.

I was thoroughly entertained by the exhibit on surrealism. Did you know that Salvador Dali designed jewelry? I bet you didn't. Well now you know.

After the gallery, I moseyed on down through Chinatown, with a mission to find bubble tea. That of course, is not a difficult task. I quickly found some, but the bubbles were all clumped up at the bottom. Never thought I would say this in my life but... Worst. Bubbletea. Ever.

On my way back to John's house, I heard yelling and screaming, like a whole bunch of people REALLY angry at each other. "What could this be?" I think, and I have to find out of course.

Across the street is an open garage door, with a sign overtop of it saying "Rapier Wit". Apparently it is a school for actors. They ONLY teach onstage combat and fighting techniques. How nichey and cool is that? I asked if I could watch their class for a bit and it was cool. They were practicing the scene from Fight Club, where the narrator has his first fight ever with Tyler Durden. Check out the video, it's interesting.

I came home to find a note on John's door, saying he is taking a nap, so I took a nap for an hour too. When I wake up, it starts raining a big, crazy thunderstorm and suddenly, I see a huge rainbow in the sky! I run out and take a picture of it, it's nice.

We have to go and meet some people at an art exhibit called Off World. It's at Camera gallery and it's interesting because you can only see it for a few hours at a time. All the videos are stored on cellphones and mounted in the front window of the gallery. They depict scenes of children in the Phillippines rooting through garbage dumps for useful items that they can sell. It's sad, but there are also happy scenes too.

Just next door, there is another gallery full of photos from the Montreal bed-in with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I guess it's the 40th anniversary this year, so there is a special exhibit lasting as long as their bed-in.

Someone recommends that we go to the Golden Turtle for Vietnamese food, so that's what we do. We order wayyyy too much food and I get a jackfruit milkshake! How awesome is that?

Later on, we meet a bunch of people at Reposado, a "tequila bar", never heard of that before, but I go with it. *gasp* $9.50 for a margarita??? Whatever. Those crazy yuppies.

It's still a nice night, despite the rain earlier, so I go outside and chillout. I am needing some chillout time and some people start freaking out, like I'm bored or something, but really, I just like it outside.

Some people decide to go, so I go outside, thinking they are right behind me. However, they are not, so I figure they will come soon. I have probably a 20 minute conversation with the bouncer and then they walk down the street 20 m to another bar, that's pretty much exactly the same as the bar that they came from, except there's no chill patio in the back. So now, I really am bored. I just go outside and talk to people smoking.

Later on, I go with John to a place he calls his "local". A St. Louis sports bar. We talk for a while with the waitresses and then when it's closing time, we talk with the kitchen staff. It's pretty entertaining. Their lives are full of drama.

Maria @ Butler's Pantry

Maria @ Butler's Pantry


Lisa @ Butler's Pantry

Lisa @ Butler's Pantry


Joan @ Butler's Pantry

Joan @ Butler's Pantry


Shael @ Butler's Pantry

Shael @ Butler's Pantry


John @ Butler's Pantry

John @ Butler's Pantry


Me vs. eggs benedict

Me vs. eggs benedict


Joan's gallery

Joan's gallery


Maria vs. Joan

Maria vs. Joan


Spence Gallery

Spence Gallery


Crazy parking lot

Crazy parking lot


Nice exhibit

Nice exhibit


Surrealist clothing?

Surrealist clothing?


Favourite architecture ever

Favourite architecture ever


"Welcome, you belong here"

"Welcome, you belong here"


Chinatown

Chinatown


Me vs. bubbletea

Me vs. bubbletea


Rapier Wit acting classes

Rapier Wit acting classes


Rainbow on Wellington

Rainbow on Wellington


Off World exhibit

Off World exhibit


Bed in exhibit

Bed in exhibit


Me and John @ Golden Turtle

Me and John @ Golden Turtle


Me vs. jackfruit milkshake

Me vs. jackfruit milkshake


Shael and Lisa vs. pho

Shael and Lisa vs. pho


Pretty lights at Reposado

Pretty lights at Reposado


Me vs. $9.50 margarita

Me vs. $9.50 margarita


Ada vs. paparazzi

Ada vs. paparazzi


Tony @ St. Louis

Tony @ St. Louis


Kelly? @ St. Louis

Kelly? @ St. Louis


I just liked his shirt

I just liked his shirt

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Spookey Ruben SUCKS

I caught my rideshare with Nafis, Alan and Imad at the Greyhound Station. Not exactly the most convenient pickup place, but it was OK.

We just drove straight until we got to Toronto. It was about 10:30 ish when I got there. Nafis dropped Alan off at Scarborough Town Centre, and Imad and I went to Yorkdale, because apparently it is closer to downtown.

So, I called John and he was about to go over to see some band I had no idea what it was. OK, fine, I will meet you there soon.

I tried to call Eugene, to no avail. I had written the number down wrong on my paper, ugh.

So I met John and his friends at The Gladstone. I even got there before them... two subways and two more streetcars, and I got there faster, nyah to that.

Some strange art-rock band was onstage and nobody wanted to hear it except me. Soon, I didn't even want to hear it, so I joined everyone else in the karaoke part of the venue. That was also terrible.

Lisa is really into this Spookey Ruben band, but no one else really knew what it was. So, whenever they came back onstage, we all went out there and tried to dance around to it. But it was just terrible.

They tried to revive the show by throwing processed cheese slices and bringing dancing Ukrainian ladies out on the stage. Still terrible.

At the very end, one of the band's biggest fans got dressed up like an owl and danced around. It was so pathetic I had to get a picture of him. Sorry Spookey Ruben, I hate you.

Spookey Ruben on the phone

Spookey Ruben on the phone


Spookey Ruben

Spookey Ruben


Spookey Ruben

Spookey Ruben


Spookey Ruben

Spookey Ruben


Ukrainian ladies

Ukrainian ladies


Weird death metal guy

Weird death metal guy


Weird guy in an owl suit

Weird guy in an owl suit

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Clean up and go!

Not much was accomplished this morning, besides cleaning up the campsite and getting in Nate's car home.

I couldn't wear my sandals, so Nate generously offered to let me borrow his flip flops. I gave them back to him later that night at a comedy show that I won free tickets to.

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

I GOT POISON OAK

I fell asleep in David's cottage, and I was woken up by a bunch of people tromping through and shaking the ENTIRE foundation of the place.

We had a lazy morning, sitting in the sunshine around the campfire. When Jan-Mark woke up, he made us eggs, that was nice.

I started to get restless and I wanted to go for a hike. I told some people and then some more people, and all of a sudden, everyone was coming with me.

We went out into the forest, and David warned everyone that there was poison oak so be careful where you step. Great. I'm the only one who was dumb enough to wear sandals.

Sure enough, I notice that I have absentmindedly tramped through the poison oak. Crap.

When we get back to the cottage I just freak out and start washing my legs and feet off. I can't find a place to wash my sandals off, so I simply don't wear them for the rest of the weekend. Needless to say, I get really dirty.

Anyway, David brought a big bag of potatoes so we start peeling and cooking all of them. It takes a while but it's delicious when it's done. After that, I take a nap in a shady spot, only to wake up in the blazing sun. Arg! Why do shadows move on you like that?!

So Bonnie and the rest of the gang had to leave. David, Matt and me were left all alone until Pam, another Matt, Nathan and Gilbert showed up. Mostly we just napped on the giant lawn until they got there. That was fun.

Pam and Matt brought a whole crapload of food and we ate it after Pam cooked it. We also played more Werewolf and Balderdash.

I wanted to sleep under the stars and the only person who would, was David. So, we set up our sleeping bags beside the fire, and in the middle of the night, it started to rain. We moved inside, and then it stopped. Maaaan.

The tents

The tents


David, Ryan, Bonnie and Jan-Mark chopping

David, Ryan, Bonnie and Jan-Mark chopping


Bonnie, Jan-Mark, David Ryan

Bonnie, Jan-Mark, David Ryan


Yes, that is my bum

Yes, that is my bum


Me, David and Jan-Mark

Me, David and Jan-Mark


Matt

Matt


David chopping wood

David chopping wood


David chopping wood part 2

David chopping wood part 2


Jan-Mark playing soccer

Jan-Mark playing soccer


Jan-Mark playing soccer

Jan-Mark playing soccer

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

We drive 30 minutes for our camping trip

My friend David Narbaitz has a cottage in Aylmer, Quebec. I don't know why, but he wanted to go camping behind his cottage this weekend.

I had a class at Eliquo again today, so I had to bring all my stuff to class, and then go over slowly to Jan-Mark's house to wait for him to get off of work. I talked with his roommates and finally he showed up. Then Ryan showed up and we drove to meet Lorina at Ottawa U.

David was also meeting us there with Bonnie and Matt.

I guess David is more used to biking around? Because he probably took the most slowest way to get there. We think it's because it would have been the way he would ride a bike, ha.

So, we stopped in town, bought some things to eat, and then immediately fired up the grill. I was soooooooo hungry, I cracked open the cheap Quebecois wine and started barbecuing up a storm.... until the gas ran out. Great.

We managed to concoct a makeshift BBQ overtop the campfire, and it worked out OK.

Later on, we decided the correct thing to do, would be to jump into the Ottawa River on windsurfing boards and look at the stars. I just jumped in with all my clothes, forgetting that I had an iPod in my pocket. Oh well, byebye iPod.

The stars were nice, but not dead iPod nice. It was also cold.

I dried off and sat around the campfire, totally bitched out Jan-Mark and talked until 4 a.m. with David.

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The freezing bike ride back home

Well, we all woke up in time for brunch at dimsum in Kensington market. I wasn't too impressed with the place where we went, but it was good enough.

John took us around the Kensington area and also to see his bar. It's pretty cool, in front is a casual bar type place, and in the back there is a stage for theatre productions and also bands to play after. So it's kind of ingenious. You get to turn the crowd over twice in one night for double the cover charge. Interesting.

So, pretty soon it was time for me to pick up my motorcycle at my aunt's house back in Newmarket. Alan is eternally awesome, so he said he would drive me all the way there just out of the goodness of his heart. Thanks Alan!

My aunt and uncle had already prepared quite the sumptuous spread for lunch. By the time I actually left, I think it was 3 p.m. I wanted to get back to Ottawa before dark, but that wasn't destined to happen.

It was quite cold on this Victoria Day weekend, so I dressed up in as many clothes as possible and just took off. It was easy to get the hang of driving it again, so that's a good thing.

I drove all the way back to Ottawa on Hwy 7, which is a beautiful drive, but brutally slow. Not a problem, except I got ridiculously lost for about an hour near a place called Odessa. Poor me.

Before I left Toronto, my aunt randomly reminded me that I needed my house keys before I left. Oh man, they are in Ryan's car with the rest of my luggage! Crap.

Luckily, Ryan would be home for me to pick them up. Phew.

So anyway, it was cold, did I mention it was cold?

By the time I got to Sharbot Lake I was shivering. It was dark and the gas station was just about to close. I walk in...

"Do you have anything that's warm that I can wear?"

The guy obviously noticed my unfortunate predicament and immediately turned the lights in the store back on.

"Yeah, absolutely, there should be some long johns in the back corner."

So I walk over and there are only shirts, not gonna cut it. I need something to keep my legs warm. I buy the biggest, warmest looking pair of socks I can find and fill the tank up. Thank you Sharbot Lake gas station man.

There is only a few hours left until getting home, so I tough it out, stopping every time I hit another city for some coffee to warm up. It's brutal, really, my life is so tough. I call Ryan to get encouragement along the way... haha.

Perth, Carleton Place, OK I am almost there and manage to find Ryan's house, pick up my keys and get back home before midnight. Phew, back to work tomorrow, the roadtrip is complete!

Ryan vs. octopus

Ryan vs. octopus


Me vs. dim sum

Me vs. dim sum


Me vs. octopus

Me vs. octopus

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Back in the T-dot!

Today we slept in like maniacs. By the time we left Detroit it was a totally stupid hour. We made it over the border no problem, with the car that we were driving for strangers.

We drove straight to the car wash, vacuumed out the Lexus, cleaned (we thought) as nice as possible, and brought it back to Judy. She wasn't happy that we went over our allotted kilometres, I could see that. Ryan explained that the kilometres didn't factor in driving around town, which we did a lot of trying to find our hosts.

Judy and her son looked through the car and said it was fine, gave us the gas money and then we left to go to my aunt's house, for a shower and possibly a nap.

I called our host, John and he wasn't answering, seems to be a common theme with our hosts. *sigh*.

When we got to my aunt's house, everyone was there, even my mom and dad. It was my uncle's mom's 90th birthday party (not my grandma, btw). They had a veritable feast set up just for us.

As I was walking in the door, John called Ryan's cellphone back and he told me that the place I wanted to have the meetup at was probably closed on a Sunday night. Oh God. So he offered to make new reservations at another place, post a sign up directing people to the place that was actually open (Bier Markt). Wow, what an awesome favour.

By the time we were done eating and getting semi-clean, we had to go back downtown to meet everyone. We left without looking up directions... so reliant on the GPS we realize that we don't have it anymore in Ryan's car. Oh man.

Calling John again:

"John I'm SO lost and we're going to be LATE."

"Ohhhh OK, turn left somewhere and get to the Don Valley."

To Sylvain: "Sylvain! Turn left!"

"Where? Here?"

We pass it...

"Yeah...there"

"Oh...dammit..." He keeps going and then somehow turns left and finds the Don Valley parkway.

We manage to make it to the restaurant right on time and everything works out well. We have a nice table of 12 or so full, drink some beers and chat all night. Later a terrible cover band comes on, so we get everyone to leave and go to this place called The Hideout. There is a band that ends up turning into a Sublime cover band because I keep yelling at them to play more Sublime over and over. It's great.

For some reason, John's friend tells him to go to some other bar, that's supposed to be better, so Sylvain and I hop in Sean's car, to get there. He does impressions of John Lennon while driving and finding a place to park. Adam and Ryan are tired and they go back to sleep.

When we get to this awesome place we go on the wrong floor and it's boring. So, bah, we should've stayed at the Sublime cover band, I think.

When that gets tiring we all go back to John's place and me and John have more beers and talk all night until finally going to sleep at 4 a.m.

The trip's almost over and I am TOTALLY zonked... yeah that's a word from the 80s I used right there.

Adam at Bier Markt

Adam at Bier Markt


Ryan and Sylvain at Bier Markt

Ryan and Sylvain at Bier Markt


John at Bier Markt

John at Bier Markt


Mom and Dad at Bier Markt

Mom and Dad at Bier Markt


Bier Markt

Bier Markt


The Hideout

The Hideout


The Hideout Sublime cover band

The Hideout Sublime cover band


The Hideout

The Hideout


Sean's trunk

Sean's trunk


Some bar

Some bar

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Meetup in Mexican Town and Audra's concert

Detroit is not that far away from Chicago. When we got there, the first thing we saw was a giant abandoned building. We got out and took some pictures of it. Ryan said that we are ghetto tourists. I guess so.

The boys were hungry, so they stopped for some Mexican food, and I had some sangria.

We tried to call our host Audra a few times, but she wasn't answering her phone, so after lunch we just decided to drive on over.

Detroit is an interesting place. The city is frozen in time. Driving and walking around in Detroit is like taking a time machine into the '70s.

We have an address, but the house corresponding to that address doesn't exist. Two men are mowing the lawn of a church, so I ask them if they know who Audra is. They don't. I keep walking and see some people sitting on a porch. Their house is the nicest one on the block, but it's surrounded in a giant fence, a castle, locked to the outside world.

"Hi! I'm really lost!" I call up to the couple six feet above the ground.

"Oh really? What are you looking for?"

"Well we're looking for Audra, we're supposed to be staying at her house tonight."

"Oh Audra! She's the singer right? She lives right across the street."

They were friendly enough, definitely not as scared of the world as their home seems to suggest.

So we go to Audra's house. There are all kinds of crazy axe murderer things in the front lawn. A gas mask dummy, about 20 child size plastic ponies, the colour long ago bleached out by the sun, hanging haphazardly over the fence and a strange tree stump with a window on the side of it. Peek through the window and you will see a dead bird. There are also a few cats roaming around. We knock on the door and no one is there.

Now what? I guess there's nothing to do.

The boys didn't want to come to the meetup tonight, so they went around exploring while I just set up shop in a restaurant, updating my blog and getting down to business.

As I was sitting there in the dark corner of Mexican Town, Arvid finds me. He is having a drink at the bar with his wife, Irina, waiting for me.

These two have traveled half the world over, and they've got a story for everywhere they went! I spend about two hours just listening to their adventures, and wondering when the rest of my posse is going to show up.

Eventually they do, with good news! They found Audra! Just randomly they went back to her house and she happened to be pulling up just as they were leaving. Thank goodness, because, now we had a plan for the night. Audra would be playing piano at a little hipster venue, Cafe D'Mongo's Speakeasy.

It's the perfect venue for our night in Detroit. You walk in and you feel like you're in a bad 70s gangster movie. Even the people that frequent this place are wearing the clothes. Skinny jeans, longish hair and mustaches for the guys, and rockstar hipster mullets and boots for the girls. Amazing how they are all so coordinated. We stand out.

Audra is great, and the other band is also great. They do a nice cover of Brand New Key that I thought was good, so I videoed it.

One of Audra's friends ate a space cake, so she is quite entertaining all night long. Every...word... she... says... seems... like... it... took... a .... while... to... come.... out.... of... her... brain... ha.

Soon everyone is tired, so we go back to Audra's. We end up staying up way too late, and never going to a "black person" bar, as was the plan earlier on.

The Golden Nugget

The Golden Nugget


The patriotic car lot

The patriotic car lot


Sylvain and baguettes

Sylvain and baguettes


Abandoned building

Abandoned building


From the other side

From the other side


An abandoned sports stadium

An abandoned sports stadium


Me vs. cactus

Me vs. cactus


Arvid, Irina, me and Adam at Mexican Town

Arvid, Irina, me and Adam at Mexican Town


Audra

Audra


Bar in Detroit

Bar in Detroit


Audra

Audra


Audra again

Audra again

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

It rained and it rained, then we danced.

Our day in Chicago started out REALLY bad. The whole way to Chicago it rained and it rained. We drove until we got to Chicago. Our first taste of really bad traffic. They have a saying in Chicago, it goes like this: "The traffic on Monday started on Friday"... or something.

Now, in most North American cities, there is a sad lack of payphones. I am a born-again cell phone user. I refuse to have one. I don't like the person that I am when I have one. I see myself as an annoying little teenager with too much time on her hands as soon as I turn it on.

It's pouring rain and none of us have a cellphone, so we stop and pull over to try and use a payphone. The stupid thing steals my money, AGAIN AND AGAIN. So I'm standing there in the pouring rain, without a jacket on, getting angrier and angrier every time I try and hear the operator on the other end of the phone. The line is staticky and I can't understand a word she's saying.

I try calling our host Matt. We finally get through, and his girlfriend Stephanie tells us to come over, she's waiting for us in the apartment.

We get there, and no one is waiting in the lobby, so we dial up. A lady answers and says she has no idea what we are talking about. She is Matt's sister and she hangs up.

Oh my god! What do we do? Well, call Stephanie again I guess. So off into the rain we go. We find a ripoff payphone in a McDonald's down the street and realize we should use a calling card from now on. Yes, calling cards, they rip you off less than the payphones in Chicago, who knew?

By the time we did that, Stephanie had come downstairs, and we had to walk back and meet her. We went up to their apartment, planned out our evening, and then went for lunch.

We had to buy a "funpass" for the bus. Because just a regular day pass is not going to cut it, not in Chicago, oh no.

Right. So, I was about to be late for my meetup, I walked on down Broadway to find Kuma's Korner. The bad news is that it was full. The good news is that there was a Mexican bar down the street with a cool looking mariachi band in the process of setting up. I told the waitress lady at Kuma's that we'd be meeting there instead, so if anyone came looking for TravelPod, they should go down the street.

"Oh, OK. I'll try." She rolled her eyes. Right.

I waited out in front for a while and Suzanne and her friends Carol and Bryan came to meet us. They were hungry, and there was no food being served at the Mexican bar. That sucks. So, they went in search of food at an Irish pub. I said I'd wait a while and then meet them there later.

I did that, and then Carol and Bryan dropped Suzanne and I off at the Mexican bar where we danced the night away with our hosts.

The Kum & Go *eyeroll*

The Kum & Go *eyeroll*


Me vs. tofu something or other

Me vs. tofu something or other


Some Bears fans

Some Bears fans


Lots of people trying to get into a Mini

Lots of people trying to get into a Mini


Shoe store I liked

Shoe store I liked


EVOLution...brilliant

EVOLution...brilliant


TPodders at the pub

TPodders at the pub


TPodders at the pub

TPodders at the pub


Mexican band

Mexican band


Adam dancing with Suzanne

Adam dancing with Suzanne


The gang at the Mexican bar down the street

The gang at the Mexican bar down the street

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Wichita garage sale and blues in Des Moines

Well I woke up earlier than everyone else again, so I decided to walk around town and get a coffee somewhere. I decided to turn left, and that was a good idea because I found a typical midwestern diner, Jeanne's. I ordered some coffee and the newspaper, chatted with a big fat man in suspenders and the waitress who had been working there for 12 years.

This soon got tiring, so I went back to see if anybody had woken up yet. Turns out no, so I walked back down the street again, and I found a sign for a garage sale.

OK, well I guess I'll see what's there.

After about a 20 minute walk, I find that it is filled with Barbies for sale.

"Whoah, I used to have this one when I was a kid!" I say, picking up the "glamour gown" or something, Barbie.

The petite woman with long mousy brown hair, bangs and large glasses takes a drag off her cigarette and smiles.

"Now you're making me feel old, honey."

I smile and look at a few more, she really has an amazing collection. These things could be GOLD on Ebay. Too bad I don't have enough room in the truck to start my Barbie selling business. I look around at some other stuff and decide to buy a real Air Force shirt. It's got buttons and could be warm enough to be a jacket. I will need a jacket. It's already cold in Kansas, it's only going to get colder on the way north.

Everyone is STILL sleeping when I get back to the house. So, I read the little guest book that our hosts have on their coffee table. It's full of people that partied at AJ's place, nice stories and kind words, drawings and more.

Slowly but surely, the troops are rallied. They wake up and for some reason, I recommend that they go to the garage sale. Why do I open my big mouth? I don't know. So Shannon, Ryan and Adam all go, then they go for some weird donuts for breakfast. There is a famous place in Wichita where you can get "bacon maple" donuts and donuts with cereal on top. Weird.

I decide to stay and hang out with the people at the house. Joey and some other guy who seems to be really excited all the time. Today though, he is especially excited because he is preparing for a cello examination. Those crazy classical musicians.

About an hour later, everyone comes back and we are ready to leave. Off to Des Moines!

The driving again is uneventful, aside from some UN-calibre debates on everything from abortion rights to bilingualism.

We got there with enough time to walk around a little bit, the city is full of incredible dichotomies. There is one street that is absolutely immaculate, clean, full of after-work diners chilling out on patios, sipping wine. But if you turn one corner, you find yourself fact to face with the dregs of society.

We parked our car in such an area. Tom, the parking attendant, wearing a dirty Vietnam vet trucker cap, directs us to Fong's Pizza, where we will be meeting Billie Greenwood and our host for the night.

We talk to him for a while, as another customer drives in. I couldn't resist, so I took a picture of the white bread snadwich he left on the bumper of a random car. I giggled uncontrollably. Ryan needs to wash some clothes so he does that, I throw my Air Force shirt in there as well. It smells like cigarettes.

We walk around some more, find some kind of anarchist book stor and talk to the crazy owner for a while. Then, we go back to Fong's to find David and Billie. Luckily for me, it seems a lot of people actually showed up to this one. We much some Thai pizza, talk to Billie about her work at the Mexican border. She has just come back from spending a few months out there helping migrants in the area. She's definitely got an interesting life. Now that she's back in Iowa, she'll be helping the homeless at home.

Billie's got a long drive ahead of her, so she leaves a bit early and the rest of us go to a blues bar, Blues on Grand. It's open mic night and there are quite a few talented people taking the stage. It's a nice night. No one really dances though, unfortunately I'm alone on the dancefloor again.

After all the bands, we went back to David's house and promptly fell asleep.

Wichita garage sale

Wichita garage sale


Des Moines court house

Des Moines court house


Sylvain vs. Des Moines freedom fry

Sylvain vs. Des Moines freedom fry


Sandwich on a car bumper

Sandwich on a car bumper


Des Moines bail bonds

Des Moines bail bonds


Weird guy and his store

Weird guy and his store


Me and Sylvain vs. Thai pizza

Me and Sylvain vs. Thai pizza


Me and Billie

Me and Billie


Weird random shot

Weird random shot


The gang at Fong's

The gang at Fong's


The gang at Fong's again

The gang at Fong's again


The bathroom at Blues on Grand in Des Moines

The bathroom at Blues on Grand in Des Moines


The blues band at Blues on Grand

The blues band at Blues on Grand

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

We drove through the prairies

One of Ally's roommates woke me up early this morning by turning on the light and getting ready for work. I couldn't sleep after that. It was about 6 a.m. I tried to sleep for a while, and then just bit the bullet, got up and started getting ready to go.

Adam, Ryan and Sylvain were of course, all still sleeping. I made some breakfast and pretty much just tried to get everyone else up to go. I am excited to meet Heather, and I don't want to get there too late!

I drove out from Denver on the 1-70 and about 2 hours into the drive, what do I see? A freaking TUMBLEWEED flies across the road! I had difficulty controlling my bladder, that's how excited I was. I thought I'd see one in the desert, but nope, there it goes, over the green rolling hills of Colorado. Just magical. The tumbleweed.

When we are about an hour outside of Wichita, we call up AJ to let him know we are on our way. There happens to be a frozen custard place where we order a bunch of the creamy goodness, and then get on our way.

We arrive just on time to find Heather and Kelly chilling out with some microbrew at River City Brewing company. They have made friends in the waiter, Dan, and he brings us FREE pizzas and later on, FREE beer even. What a guy. I decide he deserves a TPod t shirt.

Heather is so cute and funny, I'm glad I met her. She gave me her Jesus action figure that caused such a big fuss in the forums a few weeks ago.

Our car is like the United Nations, we have the guy from China, the guy from France, the guy from rural Ontario who likes to shoot guns and... me. So, we've been having a lot of debates on our long drives everywhere. One recurring debates is about gun control. Do you feel uncomfortable with guns? Why? Should they be banned? Is hunting a valid hobby? Etc. etc.

So, we ask Heather and Kelly about it. They are both not so comfortable with concealed weapons, but they seem to be pretty cool with hunters. As we cross the country, we find that this is the general consensus among the people we meet.

Before I know it, it's time for Heather and Kelly to go. We say goodbye to them and then we head out to AJ's place. It's just down the street. It's a really big house where a whole bunch of classical musicians live. Their friends seem to be there any time of day or night, partying and playing music and chatting.

Once again, I pose the gun control debate question. This quickly morphs into a discussion about crackheads. AJ's friend Ben (who is joining the Peace Corps and going to Tanzania soon) says he used to shoot them in the head with a BB gun.

.....

Hold on a second.... WHAT?!

"These people are human BEINGS, Ben, what's your freaking problem?!"

"No they're not, they're the scum of the earth."

"OK fine, you can think that but you're just perpetuating the problem by shooting them!"

"Well they moved out of my neighbourhood after that..."

I am speechless for a minute....

"WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY GO!? THEY JUST GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!"

Ben abruptly gets up and leaves and AJ says he is tired and goes to bed. Yeah, I'm tired too, see you guys in the morning.

Frozen custard

Frozen custard


Me vs. frozen custard

Me vs. frozen custard


Sylvain has a day with sunshine

Sylvain has a day with sunshine


Jesus vs. beer

Jesus vs. beer


Heather and Me at River City Brewing Co.

Heather and Me at River City Brewing Co.

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The HOT SPRINGS!

Sleeping is a wonderful thing. Ally's couches are so comfy, I get all the sleep I need, wake up and take a shower, immediately feeling 10,000 times better than I did yesterday.

So, we went downtown to see Ally at her work, the Tattered Cover. It's a really cool bookstore in an old building. It's what Chapters tries to be, but can never pull off, basically. We have a nice chilled out breakfast, with REALLY bitter tea that needs milk and agave nectar to actually be palatable.

Sylvain is more interested in seeing the city of Denver than the hot springs, so Ryan, Adam and I say goodbye to him and then tell him we'll meet him later at 3:30 to pick him up at Ally's house. `

When you pull into the Indian Hot Springs, all you think is "tourist trap". But honestly, there is no way you could design the outside of this place, to reflect the amazingness of the inside. There is no point in making the outside all fancy, when the inside is so indescribable.

Basically, it is just a cave, with holes in it, where hot mineral water is pumped in from white plastic pipes in the "ceiling". So, what you do, is take off all your clothes and just sit there, and boil, like vegetables in a stew. Seriously. A few of the pools were tested at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Adam and Ryan were too chicken to go in because they "didn't want to pay $20 to sit around naked with a bunch of men." So they went on a hike, without watches, and picked me up half an hour too late.

Anyway, hot springs = awesome. I could only sit in the pools of water for about five minutes at a time. So, I'd get out every few minutes, have a drink of water and chill out in the cold room, then go back in. Sooooooo awesome and relaxing and blahblahblah. Definitely worth it for $20 to sit with a bunch (specifically TWO) naked old ladies and chill out.

After Adam and Ryan came to get me, we went back to meet Sylvain for 3:30. But first, we stopped for $1 beer and a cheap cowgirl dress for line dancing later tonight.

When we got back to Ally's house, Sylvain wasn't there. Why? Because his watch was still set to some other time zone. What we thought was 3:30 was only 2:30 to him. Big misunderstanding. Oh well. We left him a note, saying we were there at 3:30 but he looked at it and thought we were lying. Ha! When we realized that Sylvain probably had the wrong time, we went out for lunch at a place down the street, which was delicious. We came back and Sylvain was waiting for us. Yay. Ally's roommate Terence took us to "Red rock".

It's a big giant natural amphitheatre out in the countryside, built inside some huge red rocks. The best thing about it, Terence says, is that you can climb up the hills behind the stadium seats and listen to the concert for free.

We climb up the stairs to the top and then talk to a lady from somewhere nearby. She says she comes to the rocks when she has to think about life issues and such. Crowds of fitness fanatics are also there to climb the stairs and run on the bleachers in the afternoon sun. They get pretty creative with their routines, I saw some jumping up the stairs like kangaroos, doing pushups and jumping rope on the stage and still another man climbing up the sides of the amphitheatre by way of a succession of graduated tree planters, all of them higher than his waist.

Before we know it, it's time to meet Ally back at her place, eat dinner and go out to the country bar. It's Tuesday night and we're ready to party! We hit the organic grocery store, buy stuff for breakfast tomorrow and some frozen pizzas tonight.

As soon as we get back, Ally just walks in the door. We feed her some pizza, meet more of her other roommates, and then make our way to the Grizzly Rose. I am sad to report that the mechanical bull was not in service.

There is however, a 30th birthday party happening, and one full grown adult man is dressed in a pink tutu with a red Flava Flav clock around his neck and making a fool of himself on the dancefloor.

I also notice three men putting shots topped with whipped cream on their crotches so that women (who I'm assuming are familiar) can grab the glasses with their mouths to drink it. ... Yeah... Tuesday night in Denver!

The band was pretty good, they played a Black Crowes song, which was fun. Some strangers started teaching me how to linedance because I was trying to follow along and they noticed I was screwing it up continually.

So there you go, line dancing in a country bar in Colorado, voted the best dance venue in the US of A by the Country Music Association. Check.

Next we went over to the Deadhead bar, (one of five in the city). It was pretty boring, and Ally had to get to work the next day early, so we left quite soon. There is free pool there, so of course Terence was there too, just like he said he would be.

Adam and Sylvain at Tattered Cover

Adam and Sylvain at Tattered Cover


Hot springs

Hot springs


Me vs. bitter tea

Me vs. bitter tea


Denver

Denver


Me vs. hot springs

Me vs. hot springs


Locker room at Indian Hot Springs

Locker room at Indian Hot Springs


The hot springs

The hot springs


Hot springs

Hot springs


Small creek outside hot springs

Small creek outside hot springs


Ladies angry at each other

Ladies angry at each other


Me vs. BLT

Me vs. BLT


Red rocks

Red rocks


Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre


Sylvain vs. Jack

Sylvain vs. Jack


The Grizzly Rose

The Grizzly Rose


30th birthday party

30th birthday party


Cover band

Cover band


Line dancing

Line dancing

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Driving through Monument Valley and the desert

At about 6 a.m., I couldn't take it anymore, so I got up and started putting our stuff back in the car. Sylvain threw it all out last night to make room for him to sleep (he was the last one in). Feeling like total crap, we go back and look at some more Grand Canyon. It all looks the same to me.

We kept driving and driving, stopping in the middle of nowhere for a breakfast burrito on an Indian reserve. Monument Valley was not too far away. The terrain in Arizona is just incredible. One minute, you're driving in the middle of a flat desert, the next, you're in the middle of some incredible red rock formations. We had to pull over and capture the moment.

We get back in the car and drive some more, my head is pounding and I sleep a little bit. I'm dehydrated, sleep deprived, too hot, and probably suffering from some form of mild altitude sickness. I can't decide whether to keep my eyes open, taking in every bit of landscape that I can, or make myself feel better by having a little snooze. I end up doing the former. Everything is just so incredible and unbelievable, that I force myself to stay awake until we get to Denver.

We stop for dinner somewhere outside of Denver, I am not hungry but I get a slushy that makes my head feel marginally better than it did before.

It's 10:30 when we finally get there, and Ally is waiting for us with her roommates giant Great Dane standing at the door. We are Ally's first Couchsurfers, so I try and talk with her a little bit, but my head feels like it's going to EXPLODE, so I go immediately to sleep in the basement, after figuring out what our plan is for Denver. Ally says we should be able to stay an extra night, so we plan on taking her out tomorrow to the country bar. The one with line dancing and a mechanical bull... YES!

Sylvain in the truck

Sylvain in the truck


Grand Canyon in the morning

Grand Canyon in the morning


Grand Canyon in the morning

Grand Canyon in the morning


Grand Canyon in the morning

Grand Canyon in the morning


Grand Canyon in the morning

Grand Canyon in the morning


Adam and Ryan vs. the Grand Canyon

Adam and Ryan vs. the Grand Canyon


Me vs. breakfast burrito on an Indian reserve

Me vs. breakfast burrito on an Indian reserve


This is nowhere

This is nowhere


Monument Valley

Monument Valley


Me vs. Monument Valley

Me vs. Monument Valley


Me vs. Monument Valley

Me vs. Monument Valley


Monument Valley

Monument Valley


Adam vs. Monument Valley

Adam vs. Monument Valley


Famous arch in Utah

Famous arch in Utah

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Grand Canyon

I woke up this morning to the sound of two dogs freaking out. Carrie has trained them to fetch the newspaper, so now they get really excited when they know it's there. They will bark until you let them out to get it.

Carrie made us some coffee and we talked in her peaceful backyard, under a climbing rose bush in a couple of comfy Adirondack chairs. We found out that Thomas has a gun in his bedroom (!), but I guess it's just the culture that they have in this part of the world.

I munched on some leftover pizza, and then Thomas and Carrie took us to "Ranch Market". It's like a little piece of Mexico, put into an air conditioned facility and transplanted to Arizona. We had some smooth and creamy horchata, bought some FRESH corn tortillas for lunch. They made them right there, and the smell of it transported me right back to Mexico City, circa 1996. I also saw some REALLY cheap paintings, but they were too big to bring back home, so now I'm on a mission to find some art in Sedona.

On the way, we see a sign for "Montezuma's Castle" so we pull over and check it out. It's a 300 year old house built way up on the edge of a cliff. Why the native farmers put it there, no one knows.

We had our picnic lunch in the shade (FRESH TORTILLAS) and took off again, pulling over every so often to take pictures of the Painted Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon.

I stopped at one really upscale art gallery, and found that most things were a bazillion dollars, so I just browsed and happened upon one that really stuck out. "Oh, that one must be so expensive, I won't even bother looking at the price." However, I managed to glance at the price. $275. Sold. Awesome. A really cool looking wood mosaic, matching the hues of the earth in Arizona.

OK, so, everyone in the car except me wanted to go see the Grand Canyon. It was way out of our way, so I told Ryan he had to explain to Howard why we went over our allotted mileage. I don't want to be there when it happens, honestly.

So yeah, we ended up at the Grand Canyon just in time for sunset. It was a little hazy, because of pollution, but still beautiful. I believe that the Grand Canyon is one of those places that truly looks better in pictures than in person. Most people would probably disagree with that statement, but I'm sticking to it.

After that, we went for some Mexican food, which was not really that great, but it was one of the only places open. We wanted to sleep under the stars, but we hadn't brought a tent, and I hadn't brought a very warm sleeping bag. So what we did was drive around until we found a secluded spot, parked and just slept right there, on the ground. We thought it would be a lot warmer than it was. I was totally scared, I was convinced an angry Arizonian would come after us with a shotgun for trespassing on his land. Anyway, I slept until about midnight, then I went into the car because it was too cold. Later on, one by one, everyone else followed. Eventually we were all in the car, and completely freezing.

Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle


The river

The river


Me vs. homemade fajita

Me vs. homemade fajita


Sylvain vs. homemade fajita

Sylvain vs. homemade fajita


Ryan vs. lemonade iced tea

Ryan vs. lemonade iced tea


Adam vs. grape

Adam vs. grape


The American Flag

The American Flag


Monument Valley

Monument Valley


Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon


Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon


Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon


Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Me vs. Grand Canyon

Me vs. Grand Canyon


Me vs. Grand Canyon

Me vs. Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Sleeping in the wilderness

Sleeping in the wilderness

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)