8.01.2014

Bears, bears, bears



So the pictures pretty much represent what goes on up here in the North Woods...


Lions and Tigers and Bears- on my!  Bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, chattering chipmunks, sly, slithering snakes- OH MY!!! Life in the "UP", as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is commonly known as- "Yoopers" affectionately...  

I originally thought I would get so much done here.  I mean, there is nothing but woods here, right?  Wrong. There is my family- who are pretty active actually. There are my neighbors, who I visit daily for morning coffee and evening wine :) There are all the running routes in the woods where I run with my hands tightly gripped around either a whistle (for the bears), a few rocks (for the wolves and coyotes) or the mace canister (for the bears)... You think I'm kidding?  I'm no city slicker, but there is evil nature out here in the North Woods :) I jest... There is the nightly jaunt to Pine Mountain Ski Jump where Yoopers tackle a series of 500 steps up to the ski jump.  You can also climb the rickety stairs to the top of the ski jump as well to have an excellent 360º view of Iron Mountain and environs. I've become accustomed to doing 3 rounds of the stairs ever since my brother dared me to last week.  It takes about 42 minutes to complete the total 3000 steps and yes, going down is nearly as difficult as going up- for people with bad backs anyway...

We've went up to Marquette a few times to spend the day there. Marquette is the largest city in the UP, and a very cool city at that. It's a huge university community and it is right on Lake Superior.  There is an incredible park, Presque Isle, right in the small city that borders Lake Superior.  There are a series of trails for running and going to the beach or rock-hopping.  Apparently people surf there as well.  Yes, you read that right!  It's a favorite picnic area.  Shopping is also fun in Marquette. I have a few favorite stores that I frequent when in town. 

Marquette also hosts a large athletic population.  Hockey is obviously popular.  In summertime though there are an abundance of kayakers and other naturalists that are all too happy to be outdoors during their 10 days of summer annually... I jest (kinda)... Everybody is always out biking and running through town.  I have to say that I really, really like the community.

Because I've never lived in the UP (the rest of my family grew up there), I really enjoy visiting.  In a way it does feel like another home of mine. I was just thinking while on my 2014 Semi-Truck "Truck" Tour that Southern California, where I was born and spent my wonder years, doesn't feel like home.  I haven't been there for ages really.  It doesn't even sound 'right' to say that I'm a 'Californian.'  I'm definitely 'from Hawaii.' Over half my life I've lived there.  I still do in spite of the fact that I've lived abroad for the past 5 years.

So, what have I been doing with my time here for the past 2 weeks?  I've been ordering up a storm of online shopping items.  It's been like the 6 days of Christmas the past week for me.  Every day another box either shows up at the mailbox at the bottom of the road, or at the doorstep... I've been buying a lot of stuff that 'I need.' Seriously, I need all this stuff... Honestly though, it's cheaper to buy it while on vacation in Michigan and get free shipping rather than get it shipped to Hawaii (ridiculous shipping rates) or Bahrain (extremely ridiculous shipping rates with the added challenge of even making it there).

I just finished my final report for my past ten months as an ELF (the teaching grant I was granted from the DOS/Georgetown University). I generally don't talk about my work on my blog, but this is relevant and a big part of my life actually. I'm crossing my fingers that the story I submitted with my final report gets selected for publication.

I've been cooking some breakfasts and dinners for my family.  I made Turkish kebabs one evening. This night is always a huge success when I do it- at least once every year I visit.  My French Omelette is also quite popular for breakfast so I always pull this recipe out of my hat along with the requisite rabbit.

I go grocery shopping with my mum a few times a week!  This is always an adventure to look forward to.  I mean, I get to 'buy' stuff (okay mum buys it) that I would never normally buy.  Also, for added amusement, my mother reads EVERY LABEL on the food and heckles me accordingly... I'm a pretty conscious eater, but really... She won't quit. 

We go for drives around the UP.  Yes, this seems old-fashioned because it really is. My mum loves to go touring.  This past week we cruised around Lake Antoine and Fumee Lake, we visited the Alpaca farm in Norway, we hiked around some gorge with loads of waterfalls and river rafters, we went to the iron mine in Norway, etc.

Today I took my mother and brother to a geocache in Iron Mountain.  We had a blast.  The hint from the website stated that it was in pine trees.  Well, it was a bit difficult to find because they were actually fur trees where the cache was located. 

Some days we don't even leave the house as there is so much to do around it- meaning work- yard-work specifically. Living in the woods means constantly clearing the woods so your home doesn't get consumed by the woods.  I tend to do the fun stuff like cracking the Lupine seeds open and broadcasting them around so that they will sprout next spring.  Feeding the deer leftovers is also another past-time.  Watching to see how close the overly friendly chipmunks are brings me moments of anxious glee. My brother feeds, and names them, them so they are quite friendly, and chatty.  They come right up to me and are not afraid in the least.  Silly animals don't realize that we Homo Sapiens are evil creatures comparatively...

All this talk about wild creatures has me wondering if I will really see one.  I did see a few young foxes in the past week crossing the road, but as much as I prepare for 'the big one", I haven't seen them yet (bears and wolves).  They are all over the area, but elusive- thank goodness. They are smart after all.  They, unlike chipmunks, avoid Homo Sapiens' for obvious reasons... Regardless, I carry my mace, whistle and handful of rocks with me every day on my run. 

The one 'evil' thing that I do see every day is poison ivy- now that I know what it actually looks like... I don't think I've ever came into contact with it, or if I have I haven't had a reaction. I've had to make pit-stops in the bushes a few times...

Yesterday on my run to the Iron Bridge there were a few groups of kids jumping off the bridge into Bear Lake.  Yes, the weather has been warm (80º- which is considered to be quite warm here in the UP), but the water still is pretty cold. As I was watching them jump, or try to jump, I noticed all the poison ivy EVERYWHERE! 

Honestly, just sitting on the tailgate of my brother's truck in the yard and watching the world go by is enjoyable. 

When my sister was here we were sleeping out in the tent, and then I did a few nights alone after she left, but that ended when I kept hearing 'strange' sounds.  Yea, I know... Probably nothing, but a tent in the woods- alone- paranoid- you get the idea.  A few nights ago I heard the neighbors horses making their 'nervous horse sounds' . I'm thinking bears make horses make 'nervous horse sounds' in the middle of the night, or wolves.  So, that ended my nights in the tent.  Besides, I discovered that Duck Dynasty is on late night on A&E channel... So there's that...

I also engage in doing quite a bit of nothing- and THAT is time-consuming...



Holy shit- Just saw a big bear in my mom's backyard earlier this evening at twilight. I can't believe it finally happened. It was strangely awesome.  I knew they were always there, but right next to the tent where I had previously been sleeping... That is just too much to process.  I don't even know if I'll be able to go on a run tomorrow morning...

7.31.2014

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XIX Wisconsin - The Finale.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XIX Wisconsin - The Finale.

6pm.  Feels good to be driving again... It was not a good day. But the good news is that here we are at the finale of the 2014 Rolling Thru Amerika on 18 Wheels a Semi-Truck "Truck" Tour :). It's a smooth easy ride with little traffic on the road. Well, it is Sunday evening and it is rural Wisconsin...

I'm on strict orders to not drink any liquids as we. Are racing against time (truck laws on hours a day you can drive, or these other crazy laws that I don't understand).

Milwaukee. I went through here last year and thought it was so beautiful, and it really is. This little city has so many churches with these incredible steeples. The architecture is amazing.

As we headed through Green Bay I was thinking to myself that another journey is coming to an end.  I'm sure Mr. J.S. was thinking the same thing.  It has been a fantastic trip across Amerika, again. It was definitely time to 'hop off the bus' as I was antsy to get moving- as in like running and hiking.  Sitting on one's ass for nearly 2 weeks in a moving vehicle can be trying at best.  I don't know how trucker's do it, but they do- and the LOVE it...

We headed to the meet-up spot at the rest area off the highway.  I called my mom and her and my brother were at the rest area as well- except on the opposite side of the highway.  After that initial hiccup, we met up and did the hand-off of merchandise- me! We all sat around for a while on the picnic bench and talked story- as human beings are prone to do :)

So this was the end of my "Rolling Thru Amerika on 18 Wheels "Truck" Truck Tour, but we still had 1 last stretch of highway to master, my family and I.  The drive from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Iron Mountain, Michigan- in the "UP" or Upper Peninsula of the state. My mom's trusty Subaru Forrester got us home in a little over 2.5 hours.  Soon enough we were nestled inside our house talking more story.

More on that later though... 

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVIII Illinois to Wisconsin.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVIII Illinois to Wisconsin.

Chicago... Maybe I'm just burnt out, but I can't seem to find anything to describe what I'm seeing. I see lots of concrete...

I can't even being myself to describe today except I'll say it was like a bad drug trip... 9 hours spent at a truck stop in Rochelle, Illinois waiting for another truck to met us to switch loads...


I can't go into detail about this part... I need to recover first, as it is an entire story that needs to be told separately- when I recover. 

So... Wisconsin- finally...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVII Indiana to Illinois.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVII Indiana to Illinois.

Indiana: 4 pm. Wake me up when we get to Chicago...

Seriously...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVI Ohio to Indiana.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XVI Ohio to Indiana.

10:30 am.  There is definitely a cold front moving through the Midwest region. This is the only cold day so far on the 2014 Rolling Through Amerika on 18-Wheels Semi-Truck Truck Tour. The warmest articles of clothing I possess are a pair of black yoga pants and a lightweight black long sleeve microfiber zip-up. Currently I'm bundled up in both...


I realize I am praising America a bit much here so I'd like to take this opportunity to completely disrespect on an American tradition/obsession: fast food. One thing that has absolutely grossed me out driving across America is seeing America's dependence, up close and personal, with fast food. Billboards are plastered across America's beautiful landscape advertising death... McDonalds says "I'm loving it." Just what the fuck is there to love about processed food? Every fast food joint has some cute advertising 'jingle' to let people know that it's super easy, super cheap and supercool to eat this crap.

I notice more wildflowers off the road now. Blue Spruce (pines) too. They are such beautiful trees-my favorite pine tree because of their blue hue. It was beginning to clear up, but outta nowhere  it is smacking down rain hard.

So, I-80 West from Ohio,Indiana and Illinois is a series of toll roads so many drivers take the more southern route to avoid them. On this route there are a series of 'super rest areas' called 'service plazas' where the services are more than the basic rest area services. There is a gas station, a huge area for semi-trucks, fast food places (at rest areas there are only vending machines) and Starbucks! Now, I hate to support Starbucks, but after being on the road for nearly 2 weeks and only having access to truck-stop coffee, this is a most welcoming surprise. At the next 'service plaza' we come to, we are stopping so I can pee, and get a Starbucky's :)

That was a 5-minute downpour. The sun is out again and everything looks magical. Ohio sure has a lot of cornfields... Easy to sleep through Ohio.

Ohio to Indiana continued...

I realize I am praising America a bit much here so I'd like to take this opportunity to completely disrespect on an American tradition/obsession: fast food. One thing that has absolutely grossed me out driving across America is seeing America's dependence, up close and personal, with fast food. Billboards are plastered across America's beautiful landscape advertising death... McDonalds says "I'm loving it." Just what the fuck is there to love about processed food? Every fast food joint has some cute advertising 'jingle' to let people know that it's super easy, super cheap and super cool to eat this crap.

I notice more wildflowers off the road now. Blue Spruce (pines) too. They are such beautiful trees-my favorite pine tree because of their blue hue. It was beginning to clear up, but outta nowhere  it is smacking down rain hard.

So, I-80 West from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois is a series of toll roads so many drivers take the more southern route to avoid them. On this route there are a series of 'super rest areas' called 'service plazas' where the services are more than the basic rest area services. There is a gas station, a huge area for semi-trucks, fast food places (at rest areas there are only vending machines) and Starbucks! Now, I hate to support Starbucks, but after being on the road for nearly 2 weeks and only having access to truck-stop coffee, this is a most welcoming surprise. At the next 'service plaza' we come to, we are stopping so I can pee, and get a Starbucky's :)

That was a 5-minute downpour. The sun is out again and everything looks magical. Ohio sure has a lot of cornfields... Easy to sleep through 

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XV Pennsylvania to Ohio.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XIII West Virginia to Maryland and Pennsylvania border.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XIII West Virginia to Maryland.

We are moving deeper into the 'sticks' (woods) upon entering a West Virginia. It looks more rural. I like traveling through all these rural parts of America. It's like going back in time and there is a time capsule that I get to observe underneath a microscope. We are passing through Harper's Ferry - a revolutionary war site.

We are in the Eastern Panhandle of the state. Apparently George W. (Washington) spent a lot of time here his youth. We're on a 3-lane highway with no one on it at 9 am. I think it's safe to say this place is sparsely populated.

I've been seeing a lot of these 'smart cars' on the road- especially the 'Cube.' Energy-efficient little death traps as they don't look sturdy at all... It's always a female, or a metrosexual (city boy) male driving them :) these cars would not do well on Middle Eastern roadways, in my humble opinion... I don't even think they are marketed back there anyways as fuel is so cheap... As well, it's more traditional with bigger families.

...And in the blink of an eye we are in Maryland... That was about 15 minutes max of West Virginia...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XIV Maryland to Pennsylvania.

I've got nothing to report...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XII Virginia to West Virginia.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XII Virginia to West Virginia.

Once again, the Welcome Center/Rest Area (Virginia this time) is a beautiful space with immaculate restrooms, free maps of everything to see,do, etc. in the state, and a maize of outdoor picnic tables shaded by Cottonwood, White Pine, White Oak, Crepe Myrtle and Flowering Dogwood trees.

We are headed up our first steep pass in a while: Fancy Gap. The view down to the coastal plains/lowlands is gorgeous. We are chugging along in a convoy of semi-trucks going over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At a Flying J Truck Stop somewhere across the Virginia border. The weather is cool enough to not need air con again tonight. We just watched a pretty decent Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action movie. We have a lot of miles to cover tomorrow, plus a drop and pick-up in Pennsylvania.  It looks like I'm getting dumped off in Chicago and will catch a flight to K.I. Sawyer (airport) in Marquette, Michigan. Never a dull moment on the 2024 Truck Tour- many reflective moments though. This is seriously fun shit. I hope you all see this through my writing. I feel pretty privileged to be doing this, and actually having the ability and resources to do this.

Yea, Mr. J.S. Is one cool dude. Phamily. There are a few shocking debts though that I can't believe about his gig: first, he doesn't have one of those hanging bathroom kits- like when you're camping and can just hang your stuff on something instead of needing a counter for all your crap. This, to me, is organization 101 and I am surprised someone as seasoned, and organized, as he doesn't know the wonders of this handy invention yet. He doesn't have a DVD cleaner. He somehow has this "Fonzie" touch though. When the DVD froze for the  kazillinenth time, he slapped the tv a few times and it somehow unstuck.

I think I'm tired now.

*kerplunk*

Friday 6:15 am

I think we've been on the road (I-81 North) a few hours. I just woke up and am in a daze still. I woke up to this incredible Virginia a Blue Ridge Mountains sunrise. It's like I heard the sunrise, which looked like a Tequila Sunrise splashed up against the sky (thank you Tom Robbins For that one :)

Now that I'm properly coffeed, I'm slowly coming out of my food-induced haze from last night. I didn't realize that Virginia was so rural- at least in the western portion. There is just so much about this country that I don't even know. I want to know more. The history of America is spilling over on the side of the road here on the East Coast. There are brown signs (historic sites and places of interest) all over: Stonewall Jackson this, Woodrow Wilson that, battlefield sites, parks, ski areas, caverns, caves, grottos, trails, etc. I forget that America was re-discovered from the East Coast...

Even the truck stops here are beautiful, picturesque settings nestled I between mountains and grasslands with large manors strung about. The architectural style is so colonial with huge pillars, columns and staircases cascading down from large lanais (porches or decks). It's as if these people had nothing better to do than watch the landscape back in those days, so they built their dwellings accordingly and making what matters a priority- like huge decks... Most are 2-story with an upper deck as well. They are so tall as well. Old growth trees hide the houses, as they recede shyly into their shadows. Every place I observed have this moment where I think, "What would I do if I lived here?" I don't have any answers yet, but lots of pondering.

Harrisonburg- a small town in the mountains we are passing through now. It is built up somewhat, for the area. You can see the new development here- the condos or housing tracts that look awkwardly out of place, yet likely much needed. These new, gentrified areas are an ugly contrast to what has been previously built into the environment with more thoughtful consideration. A slap-in-the-face to what is happening globally due to population controls tipping the balance. Not that there isn't enough space to move outward here, but maybe it just isn't supposed to be happening- in an organic sense...

Here is another interesting story from the road: last night at the diner I decided I wants a good old-fashioned American hamburger. It's one of my last nights on the Truck Tour so I just wants some comfort food. Now, I never buy or cook meat myself as I don't like to. I generally just like to live a vegetarian diet, but when I dine out (which you have to do living in a semi-truck), this is when I to to order beef. I said "medium-rare" when asked how I wanted it cooked. The waitress looked up at me and said that the cook wouldn't be able to cook it any tapers true below medium-well.  She said he might be able to do medium.  Okay, whatever I thought to myself.

Now this has happened before in America last summer, but I didn't really think about it much as I guess I didn't eat a lot of meat then either. When I asked oracle (Mr. J. S.), he mentioned stuff like Ecoli and other things you can get now from uncooked/undercooked beef, chicken, eggs, etc. It just is another 'thing' that makes me wonder just what the fuck Homo Sapiens are doing to ourselves. I mean, we use so many herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics with all our food/animal crops (which is disgusting enough in itself), but WTF, I thought the purpose of all that cancer-causing shit was to kill off bacterias, etc. So it's like this double-whammy of dis-ease we are giving ourselves as a species. We are doing ourselves in- slowly.

Shenandoah National Parka d the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. So much US nation building here on top of Native American heritage.  This area is the watershed for Chesapeake Bay. The area is so lush. It doesn't seem like there is a water deficiency here.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI North Carolina to Virginia

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI North Carolina to Virginia

See South Carolina...  I kid, I kid...

North Carolina has a super awesome Welcome Center/Rest Area coming from I-85. There are so many woodlands here in the South. I didn't even realize that there were logging operations here. I thought tobacco was the only industry here. I'm still waiting for a "Dukes of Hazzard" type car to come cruising up beside us... Yes I know, cliche.

I spent some time in North Carolina's Outer Banks when I was a teenager. My older sister and I camped out all around the area: Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Cape Hatteras, Okracoke Island, etc. She had this huge, white German Shepherd, Talvid, that came with us in her dodge Pacer. Guard dog...

After doing this cross-country cruising for 2 summers now I start to think about my brother David, and all the cross-country hitchhiking he surely did as well as train-hopping. I'm sure we have seen many of the same sights, roads, rest areas, etc. I definitely have his gene for wanderlust that perhaps the rest of the clan doesn't have. Well, maybe we all do actually. As a family, we were always driving across the country for summer vacations. Anyway, I think about David often when traveling.

North Carolina gets a solid thumbs up for rest areas on the highway. About every 40 miles it seems there is a sign. They are all really scenic too and in wooded, quiet areas. There is always a specific pet area where you can walk your pets and let them poo. There is always a separate car parking from semi-truck parking. And there is always toilet paper in the bathrooms!

7.20.2014

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI South Carolina to North Carolina

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI South Carolina to North Carolina

We are knocking off all these states here in the South like nothing. State borders are so small here. We are running on I-85 North. We've nice cloud cover this morning so far and light traffic on the 2-lane highway. 

So far lots of tranquil lakes with boat docks. *yawn*

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume X Georgia to South Carolina

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume X Georgia to South Carolina

It's 10 pm local time. It's dark. We made miles today. We plowed through 5 states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and now Georgia. Mr. J.S. did an awesome job behind the wheel today. The truck stop in La Grange, Georgia was packed solid so we went across the street to an overfill empty parking lot for truckers and camped out for the night there. The cool air was a nice change and we didn't turn on the air con all night- a first this trip! 

We watched "3 Days to Kill" with Kevin Costner as a CIA hitman.  I didn't think he could pull it off, but it was a pretty entertaining flick. I have a feeling that the movie was a plug for chicks to join the CIA because Amber Heard was a badass CIA hit woman who was always dressed up in slick S & M couture... 

10:30 am and just drove through Atlanta ("Hotlanta"), Georgia. Again, lots of trees surrounding the city and much prettier than I had thought it would be. 

I don't know if it is across America, but there is a $1200 fine for littering (throwing trash out of your car) on the highway in Georgia. I know fines are heavy throughout the US, but exact numbers I'm not sure of.  This is awesome.  I have hardly seen any trash, plastic bags, etc. Bahrain and a Turkey should take note... Highway construction in America - talk about safety rules! All construction is clearly marked MILES ahead, consent ructions cones start way before construction area starts, construction signs are an electric orange color, etc. Cars speeding in an active construction zone pay DOUBLE the fine... These laws are set, and obeyed. The traffic cops here are working. They are more than happy to give out tickets to offenders. 

I secretly chuckle every time I hear mr. J. S. bitch and moan about cars doing stupid things because everything I've seen so far, to me, is child's play compared to what I witness drivers do in Bahrain.  Everyday I am behind the wheel in Bahrain I am cussing to myself at the shit the majority of drivers are doing there. Seriously. I firmly believe that driving in Bahrain has prepared me for driving ANYWHERE... 

Now let's talk about construction workers... I can't tell you how many hot guys in hard hats are working on the roads here... Sure there are loads of ogres too. And there are a lot of female construction workers too.  Why not? Great paying job, insurance, other benefits, etc. 

Talking on cell phones is illegal while driving in every state. Although I have seen this throughout the trip- but it is the exception more so than the rule... 

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IX Alabama to Georgia.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IX Alabama to Georgia. 

Heading for Mobile, Alabama on I-10. The motto here is, "Alabama the Beautiful." We shall see. So far it looks just like Mississippi, which looked just like Louisiana... I realize I'm being overly general about this though...

Mobile, Alabama. Same old shit as the rest of the scenery on America's highways through cities: motels, strip malls, car dealerships, fast food, churches (southern Baptists here), ugly billboards... 

Neat bridge over Little Lizard Creek giving a neat view over the 'savannah.' The Mobile, Alabama River Delta is huge. Just passed a Confederate memorial battlefield. Getting into some intense American history here now.  Lots of riding law mowers on the side of the roads. We have left the Gulf and traversing southwest to northeast through the state on I-65 North. The landscape is drier now and there are more pine tees. Elevation-wise, there are more rolling hills. It is a slow, steady rise to the Appalachian Mountains from here on in I think.    

My driver wishes to stop st a casino here for a mandatory break... I can turn that into a pee break and a nap. The landscape today is so interesting, and the fact that I've never driven through these parts of the US has prevented me from taking my mid-day nap. Maybe the casino will have some cool swag though... 

We are entering the Creek Indian Reservation- hence the casino. Yep, exit 57, the a Creek Gaming Center, WindCreek Casino and Hotel in Monroeville, Alabama. 

I won $28 on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine!  I think, for me, the lure of the casino is really just to people watch. This one was smokey. I've noticed that I've seen more people smoking in Alabama than anywhere else so far. Guess it's the influence of the tobacco industry here in the South. 

Burnt Corn Creek

We are now heading for Montgomery, Alabama. It's close to 6:30 pm and will stay light until 8 maybe. We plan on making a run for the Georgia border by quitting time tonight. 

Murder Creek

Lots of deer grazing near the highway at sunset and beyond. Some dead raccoons on the road. Apparently there are black bears all around who are becoming a little too comfortable living among Homo Sapiens. Said Homo Sapiens round them up and bring them back out into the deep woods. Why would bears even want to come close to us. We are pretty vile creatures - comparatively... 

Montgomery, Alabama seems like a sweet, small city. Just outside the city proper new freeway under/overpasses are being built. The city must be expanding. They are also widening the highway. When I think about it, ever since we hit Texas there has been steady roadwork, more or less. 

The temperature feels nice right now. It wasn't too humid of a day today. I opted to walk back to Truck from the casino instead of take the shuttle. The inactivity of truck life is kinda the deal breaker with this whole gig. I mean you can walk around the truck stop at night and in surrounding areas, but is it safe enough? The truck stops seem fine perhaps, but a chick will definitely get some unwanted attention. I don't know that I would want to chance it. Just getting up in the middle of the night and walking to the bathrooms inside can be daunting enough. Truckers are fine and harmless, but tweekers tend to hang at truck stops. This is just a generalization of course, but...

We are in the Tuskegee National Forest. One of the road signs mentioned the site of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. They were a squadron of African-American pilots during World War II. They assisted/escorted fighter pilots in North Africa and Europe. They never lost a plane apparently, and became one of the most decorated squadrons. The story (told by mr. J. S.) reminds me of the 442 Battalion (Japanese-Americans from Hawaii)  sent to fight on the front lines in Germany, etc. 

I think we are close to the Georgia border now. It is 8:30 pm. It's been another good, long haul today.  

10:00 pm Georgia border

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VIII Mississippi to Alabama

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VIII Mississippi to Alabama. 

As far as I can tell from I-10, Mississippi looks the same, geologically, as Louisiana. We're nearing Biloxi, which is a port city. Lots of billboards advertising playing slot machines here.  

3:20 pm...And that was Mississippi...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VII Louisiana to Mississippi.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VII Louisiana to Mississippi.



The sides of the highway look like they will swallow you whole if you stop and step out of your vehicle... These puddles look more like ponds. No wonder cemeteries around here house their inhabitants above the ground as all the land looks to be below sea level. 

I first went to Louisiana in 2011 (TESOL Convention) and decided that I really liked New Orleans. I was 'couchsurfing' on this guys couch. He is a local boy and a high school teacher. He lived in a "Shotgun" house (an architectural style in the area where it is a narrow one story home where the front door is straight in line of sight with the back door. This way, you can shoot a shotgun straight through from front to back) on this island right across from downtown in the French Quarter. I remember it was like a 10-minute ferry ride across the Mississippi River and BAM you are in the French Quarter, ready to party it up. 


I didn't see much of the conference, but I played pool, ate a lot of bar food and had good fun. It was the end of Mardi Gras so the town was already filled with a festive nature which, I suspect, is actually year-round. I can't think of his name on hand, but he had this super cool old jeep. I think an International Scout. It was topless with a roll bar, and it had a killer sound system. We cruised town and some other areas that I'm guessing don't tend to see a white girl like me much. We walked into one bar (I think his cousin was bar tending there) and I swear everyone stopped what they were doing and just stared... at me. I looked around and yep, sure enough, I was the only whitey in there... I'm no porcelain-doll looking type either, but man it was an interesting feeling to be a specimen for a brief moment. In the end, no one gave a shit after raising an initial eyebrow. He had a commending presence with ultra long flowing dreadlocks. Everybody knew this dude. It was a great time. I drank a lot of vodka/grapefruits with him at various famous watering holes throughout some amazing neighborhoods. 

Here is a plug for couchsurfing.com :) as it is a great way to visit an area when you don't have any money for accommodation. It is safe as the website is self-policed in that you write a summary of your experience with that 'couch surfer' that can't be erased by them and vice versa. 


The local Native Americans here are a called 'Couchata.' They made these flat canoes with a keel (flat bottom). They would stand in them and used a pole to push off the bottom of the bayou. 

Local crops include: sugarcane , beets, tobacco, cotton and rice, etc. 


A flock of pink flamingoes. Buoys defining Crawfish ponds. Yep we are in Louisiana! 

We've just entered Lafayette Parish (county). 


Now we are coming into Atchafalaya Wetlands and Basin. The roadside Black Oak trees got bigger right here. Henderson Swamp is full of Cyprus Tree stumps and moss so electric green. Lake Bigeaux has some boats fishing on it right now. It looks like some fishing shacks are on the lake as well. Bet there is a lot of gators in those waters. Gators mean gator hunters...


I-10 Highway here is a 24-mile long bridge through this huge swamp and lake waterway. This is so cool. We just crossed over Whiskey Bay. Now Bayou Des Glacies. This area must be a huge bird sanctuary. 


Pee break at Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Tony the Tiger lives in a cage there.  Kinda sad, but he is certainly a big attraction for tourists stopping along I-10 East. 

Entering Baton Rouge and crossing over the great Mississippi River. This is Southern Baptist (church) country down here in these parts. 


2pm Mississippi border...

7.19.2014

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VI Laredo, Texas toLouisiana border.



2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VI Laredo, Texas to Louisiana border.

We are stocked up on food and drink and ready to rock and roll down the highway. Off we go!  Stay tuned y'all because I'll be coming in live and direct from Dixieland in no time :)

Sign spotted nearing San Antonio from the south: "Littering is unlAWFUL". I thought that was pretty neat for obvious reasons. That should be a road sign campaign in a both turkey and the Middle East... Pisses me off to see people just throw shit from their cars. I mean, it happens here in Amerika too, but if the police see you do it, it's a major fine- MAJOR fine. That's what it takes to make dense people stop doing shirty things- major fines... Nuff said...

Looks like a thunderstorm brewing from the northwest. We're heading for Houston, Texas now, and Beaumont after that (border with Louisiana).

There's a saying when entering/leaving Texas: "Texas- come on vacation, leave on probation." I wonder why they say that actually.

Shit Mr. J.S. says on the road:
Every time we pass so e dilapidated old house, barn, etc, "I can fix that up"
Every time we see something weird going on, "you just can't make this shit up"

Shit Holly says on the road:
Every time we wonder about some landmass, fact, etc: " I can look that up" For example, when I get some wifi next stop I'm going to look up:

* The saying "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care."

* What is the difference between a "recreational vehicle" (RV) and a Mobile Hone? There must be a difference in thing to do about the legality of hungry vehicle and moving it, etc.

* What does the Fleur d'leis symbolize for Louisiana?

* What class of species do turtles belong to? Reptiles?

* Ask my mom how my father acquired a taste for pickled Pigs Feet.

Just passed "Woman Hollering Creek" in Cibolo, Texas. Very descriptive. I can look that up...

Passing rain squall

There's a graveyard of blown-out truck tires on the highways in Texas. Lots of road kill too.  Driving a bit hairy between San Antonio and Houston. It seemed like every 10 mile intervals traffic turned to shit with cars speeding and braking, etc. It reminded me of driving in Bahrain... I'm not joking. It looks like we will hit Houston just after rush hour. This is good.

So we are carrying a load of Hershey's Chocolate to Pennsylvania. Twenty-one tons of chocolate candy bars to be exact. Peppermint Patties are among them- prolly my favorite brand of shitty chocolate bars...

8am Wednesday
Going through Lake Charles industrial area. The sun is rising and wispy clouds smother the sky. The air is moist and heating up the atmosphere. The place looks like a swamp- a beautiful, green humid swamp that is alive with weird wild life, as well as potential deadly wildlife: alligators, Water Moccasins (snakes), etc... This place is a spurge that soaks up tears from the sky.

Just passed Bland Cemetery. Billboards advertise lawyers that deal with accidents with semi-trucks, riverboat casinos in Louisiana and factory outfits for western wear and cowboy boots. Car dealerships literally litter Texas. Can't believe how many of them are in every town- even here in east Texas, which certainly doesn't seem to benefit from oil wealth like the rest of Texas.

Blue Elbow Swamp is on my right and BINGO! Folks we just hit the Louisiana state line :)

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume V Kansas drop and headback down to Texas (Laredo this time) via Oklahoma again.


2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume V Kansas drop and head back down to Texas (Laredo this time) via Oklahoma again.

Kansas... We made a bunch of small kine errors to get here... Just passed through buttermilk, Kansas. It is Sunday morning (noon actually so we are late for our Dodge City drop at noon), so it's been a pretty quiet morning all around. Everybody entered to church in these here parts and that's about it. I am hoping that after this drop that we will fix this window as the noise is deafening and the wind blowing in my ear is driving me mad. Not to mention the wasps and yellow jackets that have been flying inside the cab...

All these small towns that we have been going through this morning are like out of a 50s picture book. The highway will run right through the downtown center of whatever little town that dots the map.

9pm
Back at the RiverWind Casino- where we were last night... The day ended on a high note after pretty much sucking- haha. Let's see, the window wouldn't roll up for a few hundred miles, the right blinker wouldn't work, we took a few missed turns, uninvited wasps and various insects flying at high speeds into the cab, and at one point the engine wouldn't turn over... It was like waking up in a parallel universe today where everything set out to destroy us. We prevailed though and suddenly everything came together.

The shuttle driver from the semi-truck parking lot to the casino was another interesting sort. He was talking to me about immigrants coming into Ellis Island back in the day. He said I needed to go to the East Coast to do my interviewing of truckers- where the "real" stories were. He thought I would have a hard time figuring out if the stories I would hear are real or not.

2:30 pm Monday somewhere in central Texas off of 35 south.
Just passed through Austin, Texas. Looked like a cool city, and very green with full growth trees, etc.  San Antonio is next up and then Laredo. In between? Just a bunch of flatlands.

People are definitely talkative and friendly here. Men open doors for me and I'm still 5-10 seconds away from the entrance. And then they take a little mini-like bow. The cashier lady just called me "mama", "that's $1.49 mama."  Heh heh.

Laredo, Texas
W're right on the border with Mexico again. What an interestingly strange town. Everywhere you look, it's a sea of Kiawe (Mesquite) trees. I mean a seriously impenetrable FOREST of Kiawe Trees. The landscape of Central to south Texas is flat. You can see forever. A pale blue sky with swirling clouds that follows you around.

We stayed in the TA Truck Stop. It's the Wild West out her folks.  I mean, long, hungry eyes followed me around everywhere... Prolly wasn't the best nig to be wearing my "hippy" pants- although a young, hip Mexican-American woman complimented them in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth :) she complimented my ass as well... Heh heh. What does one do but blush when encountered with this?

Back at Truck we ran into some major (minor) functional logistics problems- a small fuel leak that prevented us from running the air conditioner. Imma just say that it was sweltering hot inside the rig. My eyeballs were roasting. Because Laredo is a trucker hub, it was packed full and so we were out on a waiting list for mechanics to take a look at the problem. Our estimated time for inspection was 2am. It was 7pm...

The top bunk was mercilessly hot. It was hot outside with a slight breeze though. The rain gods/goddesses were not complying with my whining, whimsy-ass requests... Mr. J.S. figured out it was an easy fix though and once the crescent wrench twisted everything back into a tight fix, we were ready to rock with full, frosty air-con. Feeling like King Fudd, he sat back in his lower bunk in Regal fashion and turned on the tv. It was about 10 pm and we were giddy. Seriously, I'm usually freezing and all bundled up in Truck, but I was so happy and shivering in the arctic zone that I was ready for some frostbite!

We watched "Ender's Game" first. Great sci-fi movie and I'm sure the book series is even better. I gave a thumbs up on that one. Next up was "Barefoot." Thumbs down from me on just that one. I hate rom-comes, generally speaking. Last up was a classic: "The Big Liebowsky." You can never tire of that movie.

Noon Tuesday. We just got a run into Palmyra, Pennsylvania so we head out now into the South! We are headed straight for the "Heart of Dixie", which makes me swoon. I've never traveled through the South so I'm excited to soak in the scenery- and tell you guys about it. I'm thinking it will take us all day to get through East Texas and hit the Louisiana border tonight.

Once again I'll say that people are souk nice, gracious and friendly that I encounter on this trip. As well, Mexican-American folks are beautiful people with large hearts- as big as Texas actually. I had to turn back around upon laying my eyes on more than a few men here... It's always nice when they turn back around as well :) I got to brush up on my Spanish a bit here in these parts as well.

Every truck stop had these huge Mexican siesta/fiesta hats that Mariachi band members wear. I wanted one so badly... I'm still on the hunt for a cowboy hat... As well as more Mexican silver and turquoise jewelry :)

7.15.2014

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IV Oklahoma to Kansas

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IV Oklahoma to Kansas



2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IV Oklahoma to Kansas

Just crossed the North Texas border into Oklahoma on 35- Chickasaw (Native American) country. What's the first thing to see across the Oklahoma border? Win Star Casino! This is not any ordinary casino, no sir. This is the largest casino in the world!  We stopped on for a break and got me a Player's Card (my stack is getting bigger and bigger as we cross the country :) and played some slots. Of course Mr. J.S. got lucky his second spin... BAM just like that. Don't know how he continues to do it, but I just sit back amused as always and smile. I have no Lady Luck as bad luck would have it...

NOTE: we are officially in 'Tornado Alley.'

One thing I notice ( a few things actually) about people in casinos. Women love to wear bling here! I mean, I still have my love affair going with my newfound lust for bling that I only acquired since moving to the Middle East so I put on my dowry jewels along with my new Bahraini bling sandals I got at A'ali Mall with Sister Sherry. So, I know the desire to bling with the best and so do huge chicks that come to casinos. Not all, of course, as many were just in slippahas, shorts and tank tops.  I did catch more than enough sightings though of seriously blinged-out chicks. Dandies too. I mean dudes too. I saw more than enough mustachioed dudes with tank tops perfectly tucked into their tight jeans with huge belt buckles. Damn I love people-watching throughout the world!

Passing into Oklahoma, the landscape seems to change immediately- making it a noticeable difference from Texas. Maybe it's just me, but the grass is greener, there are more trees and they are closer together and greener. It seems more mellow too. Lots of farm tractors, etc on the sides of the highway parked at houses spaciously spaced apart (did that make sense?).

The area we are traveling through is known as the Chickasaw National secretion Area. It is further defined as the "peaceful valley of rippling waters." How beautiful is that? It's comprised of Eastern deciduous forest and the mixed-grass prairie.

Oklahoma is home to many Indian nations. It seems many of them got ran out of their lands and came into Oklahoma to settle. It surprised me last year how beautiful Oklahoma was.

I think we're coming upon another casino up ahead. Mr. J.S. has 'casino radar' as strong as steer manure.

We just hit up Treasure Valley Casino here in Treasure Valley, Oklahoma. I won $20 on a .30 cent bet. This shit is fun I admit. Extra bonus was 2 pee breaks! Pretty good for a 1/2 hour break :) this is a small, quaint, manageable casino. That last one was acres and acres and acres and you needed a map. GPS would of helped to triangulate as well...

...And we are currently at the 3rd casino of the day! Still in Oklahoma, but this time at the Chickasaw Nation's "Riverwind Casino" in Norman, Oklahoma. Mr. J. S. is playing poker and I've retired to Truck to chill out and do some writing and hopefully get over this cold.

Casino culture continues to fascinate me. Everybody is nice. Everybody has a story- many of the hard-luck variety. It is a viable slice of America from what I can see.

Sunday 13th
Oklahoma City TA Truck Stop 7:30 am
Old Catfish was behind the counter. Dude had a fish hook on his TA cap and just looked confused as shit. The young kid with a large earring sitting next to him must have been on a break as he did nothing. Poor old Catfish didn't know how to fix the computerized shower ticket system thing so had to do it by hand. He was all kinds a grumpy. And slow. Imma call him 'Grumpy Old Catfish' now. He talked slow and with a drawl too. He sounded like Woody Harrelson when he plays a Southern character...

Anyway, now we're holed up at another TA just down the road so we can get some shit done- namely closing the passenger (my) window... It don't seem to wanna close back up... That ain't no good now, is it? No ma'am.  Certainly not for me trying to get over this cold. Additionally, I see all the dead bugs in the mirror next to window and it is a scene of slaughter for sure. That's what imma feel like if this window doesn't close.

Anyway mr. J.S. Is mad as a nest of hornets getting their nest smoked out. Poor Old Catfish didn't help out either. He was just slow pokin' around the cash register with a line of peeps waiting.

Just went through Cheyenne/Arapahoe territory. We seem to be I. Cherokee Nation territory now as all signs say something about Cherokee: Cherokee 7-11 ahead, Cherokee Trading Post ahead, etc.

North of Oklahoma City the landscape seems to be characterized by orangish-red dirt- and a lot of it! The soil looks so rich in minerals, and is a beautiful contrast with the electric green shades of grasslands that meet up with a pale blue sky on the  horizon.

We just went through Geary, Oklahoma. Apparently there are some big problems with meth here. Not much here but farmland. I guess I can see that the kids are looking for cheap thrills... Suddenly they're hooked and building meth labs in their bedrooms...

Seiling, Oklahoma. I think it is a prerequisite to have a junk car or 2, or 5, to live in Seiling, Oklahoma :) damn it's beautiful though. Green, green, green and then some black dots (cows) congregated around a tree here and three enjoying the shade. Lots of creeks (pronounced 'crik')  alongside the roadway. Always there is a 'cemetery road' with an arrow pointing. I can't tell you how many Cemetery Road signs I've seen since entering Oklahoma.

Definitely looks like cow-tipping country here :) as well as cow pies, which means mushroom spores too. I'll say it again, it is beautiful here. This is the place to meet a cool dude and shack up for a bit- in summertime of course... Yea, I could become a cowgirl for a while here.

We are entering the "panhandle" of Oklahoma heading towards Woodward. From there we head north on 183 to Sitka, Kansas. Suddenly the scenery changes again. The area now seems a bit drier and not so many trees.

7.14.2014

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume III El Paso, Texas to Oklahoma




2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume III El Paso, Texas to Oklahoma

Woke up with a slight cold. Don't feel too bad actually, so Mr. J.S. got some coffee, I got some tomatoe juice and we hit the road. We are following I-10 East, alongside the Rio Grande River valley. It is a green oasis in a sea of scrubland desert. Some towering mountain ranges to the southeast, Mexico, rise up out of the earth looking rather majestic.

This mountain range we are following (I can't find on the map as they don't go into detail for Mexico) is located in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and started, I think, just outside of Ciudad Juarez (opposite El Paso, across the border). It seems so familiar as I have memories of driving through Mexico at various times in my life.

There was always something about Mexico that intrigued me. Spending my 'wonder years' in Southern California, I had Mexican friends and, of course, there were many Mexican kids in elementary and middle school with me- as with many other ethnicities. California is, after all, a melting pot- as is America. You know, I always say, when asked, that I'm from Hawaii because I don't have a lot of memories of my time in California. Additionally, I haven't been back in Southern California, in my old neighborhoods, since that time. I am only in contact with one friend from back then as there wasn't any internet access, etc. back then. So I really have no connection to California, and it feels foreign to say that I do honestly. I have spent half of my life in Hawaii and so it feels like home. In short, it is home...

But these mountains, they bring back something from my past that I revisit. It's nice, and interesting to feel some sort of connection just by seeing a mountain range in Mexico while driving through West Texas. Life can be surprising, and these are the gold nuggets that we search for.

We're heading for a pass at Sierra Blanco Mountain now. This is our first climb in Texas as El Paso seemed pretty flat.

9pm
We just finished driving, and we are still in Texas! Texas is a long-ass state to be sure. I guess it's as they say, "Everything's bigger in Texas." As well, there are so many rolling hills and grasslands and scrub brush and then pine trees, etc. It's like we went through so many different climates. One thing there isn't is any mountains- as far as I know anyway.

Today I was also pretty much sick all day too. As I type, after a hot shower here at the TA Truck Stop in Tyrell, Texas, I feel a bit better, but being sick is never a good thing- especially when in a semi-truck... Hopefully a long night's sleep will put me back in working order for the morning run. We are dumping a load (the baby kale) early in the morning (4am) and then heading to somewhere in Kansas to drop off an empty trailer, and then back down to Laredo, Texas to drop off another empty container. After that, I believe we are heading east through Louisiana, Georgia, etc!

In essence, it will be a good day tomorrow to be sick as it's heading up to Kansas... I think we go through Oklahoma to get to Kansas, and I do remember really liking Oklahoma last year (all the Indian Reservations and casinos!)

I'm listening to 2 different conversations, and it can't understand either one of them. One is in Spanish, but the dialect I can't follow, and he is talking really fast. The other is English, but definitely southern. Heh heh.

People here in the here parts of the States still say, "maam"- like in the Middle East. It still seems weird to me- even here in America. People are really friendly in Texas I have noticed. Everybody makes conversation with you- cashiers, waitpersons, etc.

Every time I ride passenger in the cab, I think how cool it would be to do my PhD on ethnographies of truckers.  I would want to focus on oral histories and storytelling. These guys, and gals, young and old, have stories to tell. They see so much on the road. Even their individual stories of where they come from, their routes, weirdest things experienced on the road, etc, would be of interest to many I'm sure. It can't just be me that thinks this is so interesting. There are also so many of ethnicities of truck drivers. This further entails more stories- culturally relevant. The area of err search seems so rich and... wide open.  I guess I need to do some research to see if this has been done before. To me it sounds unique, but perhaps someone already 'beat me to the punchline' as we say :)

Here's a story from the road yesterday. We were somewhere in Arizona. We were eating at a truck stop. A young Native American lady (I assume a Hopi as she mentioned she was born and raised in the immediate area) had a jewelry stand set up inside near the entrance toe truck stop restaurant. I was looking at her things (all silver, copper and turquoise, and all beautiful) and saw some dolls.  I asked about them as I have a girlfriend that is pregnant and I thought the handmade Indian dolls were really cool and would be a neat gift for her unborn daughter. She said they were "Kachina Dolls." It is a tradition of the Hopi Indians to make these dolls. She mentioned that the Navajo also started making them, but it is tar additional for only the Hopi. Also, she mentioned that it was a dying tradition to make these dolls. Because we were hungry I set one aside to purchase later, after eating, and left to eat. Besides, I wanted to take some more time to look at the jewelry!

Back at the table I learned from Mr. J.S. that the Hopi traditionally made these for their own and that they were very sacred and that we foreigners were not supposed to handle them, etc. I sat and thought about it, not necessarily agreeing, but listing to the argument presented. Him being part Native American himself, I had to take this into consideration. To sum up, I didn't agree that an outsider shouldn't have one, but I respected his opinion and decided that I wouldn't buy one and lug it around in truck for the rest of our journey.

After eating, I found the girl again and told her a short summary of why I wasn't going to be able to purchase the doll. She was okay with this decision, but said she hadn't hard this before (again, it is likely an old tradition, and the younger generations are breaking away from tradition generally - due to just the modern world pushing forward as well as other issues I'm sure). Her daughter came up to her at this point, as well as Mr. J.S. so we all started talking. The woman had 5 children (she looked so young herself, as well as very small and fit)! It just turned into a really cool situation and ex stayed a while and bought some jewels:)  that is it- the story. Nothing monumental, but just talk story. I really dig that shit.  That is what is so appealing of driving across America in a semi-truck!

Not sure what time it's, or even what day or date... Must be on vacation. We are in Denton, Texas en route to Dodge City, Kansas to drop off an empty trailer. Yesterday was pretty much a blur. Definitely shitty to be sick while riding in a semi-truck. Speaking of which, I could never do this for a living as I need to go pee way too much...

Here's a little tidbit that explains Texas, perhaps. Late last night I went inside the truck stop to go pee (we were parked a wee bit too far from the truck stop last night I might add). Anyway, as I was coming out I noticed a sign saying, "hair color and perms available." Truck stops here in America can be petty luxurious now- I'm being totally serious.  There are tv rooms, laundromats, game rooms, different restaurants, etc. There are also hair salons sometimes. I haven't seen a hair salon advertising for perms in many, many years!  This cracked me up at 2 am for sure.

Just saw a sign for the Chickasaw a Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Another sign for Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. Damn this IS the land of open grasslands, trees and billboard signs.

7.11.2014

Rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels. Volume II - 2014 Yuma, Arizona to New Mexico & El Paso, Texas



Rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels.   Volume II - 2014 Yuma, Arizona to New Mexico.

Thursday am
Just went through border patrol in Yuma, Arizona. Stopped at Love'sTruck Stop and got some pretty decent coffee. Now we're cruising through some really beautiful territory in Dome Valley. We just passed through an area called "Coyote Wash."

Mr. J.S. is re-living his casino experience last night. We're plotting out the next stopover. No casinos tonight as they are all up on I-40. We are on I-8- which meanders alongside the Mexican border, which is border less here (no fence). I'm sure there are drones taking care of business here...

 We should make it to the Texas border tonight. We have all day to pass through Arizona and New Mexico, and the scenery is very easy on there eyes. Gazing out my window I see homesteads intermixed with PaloVerde, Ironwood and KiaweTrees with a smattering of Ocotillo cactus, which the Native Americans here used for medicine (the entire scene is one big medicine cabinet for them I imagine).

The houses, so far, all seem to be single-story "California Ranch" style houses. I haven't seen any Adobe style houses here in these parts yet. The yards are typically barren. Maybe a few scrubby- looking trees, some purple or white Sage bushes, etc. Many cars, in various stages of decay, line the 'compound'.  It's so interesting to witness these little slices of life (I call them 'scenes') while driving through. A snapshot of existence.

Just passed Dateland, Arizona. It's a little pitstop of a place with an oasis of Date Palm Trees- Duh...

Heading for Phoenix, but first need to go through pass over the Superstition Mountains. It's 8:30 am and the 2-lane highway is quiet. The sky is dramatic with clouds hovering around the mountains. I love the names here: Sand Tank Wash we just passed. Very descriptive. Butterfield Trail- wonder who Butterfield was... Gila Bend now so I'm thinking the area is known for Gila Monsters :)

Just passed through a forest of Cholla ("Teddy Bear") cactus. Apparently they 'hug' you when you pass by too close and their thorns stick on you... All these cacti here look deadly honestly. I'm going to look up Apache and Commanche Indians to see what lore/oral histories there are with them using cacti.

Just saw a tree loaded down with Mistletoe. I've never seen so much on a tree before. Now a forest of Saguaro Cacti. So cool looking. They are so stout and tall, rising above the low scrub brush desert flooring.

Just passed a border control (Mexico) truck at an Arroyo (Wadi). The "Coyotes" (smugglers) bring in the illegals through these areas so the border patrol agents hang out in the wadis (lower elevation) and then pounce on them- I guess.

We have about 35 more miles to go until Casa Grande, Arizona - where we'll stop and grab some breakfast. Smooth morning on the road :)

Just passed through the Papago Indian Reservation. From the road all I could see were mobile homes. Their homesteads just be well camouflaged. I see a fair bit of mobile homes, piles of old tires, rusty tractors, shipping containers, etc.

Arizona is an "open-carry" state meaning that ordinary citizens can carry pistols, or any type of guns. I guess there are many dangers her: rattlesnakes, bandits, etc... I think I might possibly freak out to walk into a store and see someone toting a rifle... Maybe not though. I might also think it was kinda hot...

Okay relief in sight. I have spotted the Petro truck stop- which means BATHROOM :). We'll have breakfast at The Iron Skillet... Oh the life of a truck driver. It doesn't seem so healthy: sitting down all day, driving for 11 hours a day, fast food at truck stops, etc., but you can make it healthy actually.  Mr. J.S. certainly does- most of the time :)

Santa Rosa Wash ( a "wash" is a dried-up riverbed) had a little trickle of water coming through. The landforms here in the Sonoran Desert is beautiful.  This area gets a monsoon season actually. Out in the distance is Picacho Peak - which is a famous Tuscon, Arizona landmark. It's on the I-10.

The deserts here in America are "living" deserts meaning that there is all sorts of animal life, trees, cacti, etc.  You could survive here for a while, as opposed to "real" deserts like in the Middle East. You can find shade here. You can cut open cactus and get gallons of water. You can catch small animals and eat them. Birds are cruising. Flowers are sprouting from cacti, etc. Of course I'm sure the Bedouin can survive in Middle Eastern/North African deserts too. I obviously don't have an eye for how to survive in those deserts as all I've ever seen was sand in them...

I'm having a traditional southern breakfast I guess with eggs over biscuits and gravy. Why not?  Funny to see Mr. J. S. purchase a newspaper and proceed to read over it over breakfast. So old-fashioned in my mind I guess. Perhaps it's that newspapers where I live are generally in Arabic, and I don't go out to eat breakfast much...

A lone Zopelote (vulture) in the sky against the backdrop of Picacho Peak.

Entering West Tuscon, Arizona now.

Texas Canyon rest stop has these really cool balancing rocks - some are HUGE and just seem to defy gravity. Ah, America the beautiful. As we head out of east Arizona and get closer to the New Mexico border, the air is drier and the scenery more dramatic in terms of contrast of desert scrublands and intense blue sky with large, puffy white cotton-ball clouds. Chiracahua national monument is coming up. The Chiracahua are an Apache tribe. They were feared, fierce warriors.
Chief Cochise was their last great fighter. His hideout is somewhere in these mountains (Chiracahua Mountains?). Looks like Mexico is getting a thunderstorm over to the east now. Damn, the cloud formations here are amazing. Big, puffy 'thunderhead' clouds leave huge swaths of shade spots on the ground and the contrast is to interesting to take notice of: hot, dry, sunny land masses broken up with clouds casting soothing shadows

New word I learned: "Lot Lizards"
Lot Lizards (I'm obviously thinking a derogatory word here) are hookers that frequent the truck stops. They go up to the trucks at night and knock on the doors to see if the dudes need any 'comfort.' Must be interesting when they knock on the female truckers doors... There are a lot of single, female truckers I've seen out on the road the past few days. Also there are a lot of couples that live the trucker life. Two people mean 2 incomes and 22 hours a day of driving time- if they wish. Little dogs are also frequent co-pilots in the cab.

 I don't know what Johnny does when driving alone. I mean, he talks a lot! He IS storyteller. He knows all the secrets that these mountains hold. All this information that I'm relating to you guys, it's all from him.

Century plants line the highway in these parts. Some of their white flowers are towering over the desert scrub brush. The colors of the land here are beautiful. It's a gradation of beiges, reds, pinks, browns, etc. The greens are super electric and vibrant. It's like a hallucination so beautiful and alive when you get a glimpse of them. Railroad lines absolutely litter the scenery everywhere. Picturesque trains chug along all day and night. The American flag is always in the caboose, and the individual boxcars are full of unique graffiti.

Dust Devils are whipping up right now. We are near the New Mexico area. Now a grove of Pecan trees. They sure look luscious against this rocky landscape. On the other side of the highway are Pistachio trees.

2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels.  New Mexico to Texas.

New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. Upon entering the state, you see the sign and there are a pair of red and green chili peppers on the sign- enchanting, right? The white, puffy clouds seem so heavy, like they are falling down to the ground underneath their weight. Many different layers of cloud formations too. It's 2 pm and it's hot.

Here we are in El Paso, Texas at the Petro Truck Stop. The famous Rio Grande river runs the distance and separates Mexico from the US here at El Paso, and the entire length of the Texas/Mexico border.

Time for a shower, dinner and sleep. I think I'm catching a cold.
 

7.10.2014

2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels

2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels



Volume I: California

Sitting here in "Cafe 50's" ('cash only')  in Venice Beach with Mr. Johnny Stack, independent trucker.  Our 2014 semi-truck tour begins here. It all started at LAX on Monday morning, July 7th. I haven't cruised LA in a few years (last was with EdV when en route to snowboard in South America).  Additionally, I haven't been in Venice Beach in eons. Wow. Nothing has changed. Staying with phamily of Johnny's (and now mine :) and I'm in awe. I mean, Venice Beach has not changed. All the old time signage is still up. Houses are quaint and nestled into each other in different architectural styles reminiscent of Santa Cruz back in the day when I was living in various beach bungalows there.

I guess I thought this area would be all glitzed up, but much to my surprise, no! The place is still so charming and livable. Driving around yesterday, eating at diners and an awesome Mexican food joint for dinner... I'm a happy camper. I've my eye on this vintage clothing store (American Replay) right across the street from the diner we are in right now. I can totally see me getting my shop on faster breakfast.

Speaking of shopping... Somehow I managed to forget to take my underwear that I had packed back on Maui. I was a bit surprised this morning upon excavating my backpack and not seeing my care package! My first thought was that the airlines went through my bag and somehow that package didn't get put back in... As I sift through my internal hard drive (brain) though, it's likely that I left them back on Maui. I generally don't do absent-minded things as such, but I was in a heightened state of consciousness back on Maui so... Oh well, I imagine there is a Target so ethereal nearby.

Our hosts here are Claire-bear (the 2nd, as the 1st resides in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan with her husband and adorable twins), Robert, and super-daughter Johnene. What a cool beach bungalow they have. It's like a museum of California life and lore from the past up to the present. I mean every moment ...

Time to eat...

Wednesday morning in Colton, California at the truck stop watching Johnny eat a heartily breakfast full of meat (protein). Talked to Simone on the phone as she is in Cali says well (San Diego).  Feels good to be back in America...

One way this 'feel goodness' is being manifested by me: wearing Daisy Dukes and tank tops and not caring about what is showing, knowing that no one else cares what is showing, and just feeling good about being nonchalant and normal in general. This is what I miss most about America perhaps: the ability to realize that my body is just my body. It is not something that needs to be covered up, and is not considered to be 'sexualized' in such a way that needs to be hidden. I'm not making any judgments, but it just feels good to not wonder on a daily basis if I'm exposing too much skin- above elbow, or above knee, or cleavage.  I am, of course, respectful when living abroad, but not a day goes by when I think, and re-think, my attire. Here I am inside a truck-stop diner just letting it hang naturally, and no one pays attention in any overt way :) That's all.

9 am
Hanging out in my (top) bunk catching up on some news while Johnny figures out logistics of our route, etc. Heading to get Truck washed and then to pick up the trailer and onward to pick up our load by noon.

10 pm
Just back to truck from Quechan (Native American) casino on the California/Arizona border at Yuma.  Ended up coming back with $50 & played the slots for a good, long time so definitely got entertainment value.  Mr. J. S. was playing poker (update: he won- as always). Seriously, every slot machine he touched, he cashed in on. I got myself a new player card from a new casino, so all is well from my camp as far as I am concerned. My slot machine names generally consisted of Greek gods or Egyptian pharaohs. I consider these my 'lady luck' slots...

Our run today was from Colton to Yuma (Cali/Arizona border). We followed the Mexico/USA border for the last hour of the journey, which consisted of a massive, rusty, solid-looking fence following the path of low sand dunes intertwined with scrub brush. So that is about a 250 mile run on a 1250 mile run to dump off the Baby Kale in Texas that Truck is carrying. An easy day today and wins at the casino, not to mention a steak dinner. Heh heh.

We are parked in the casino parking lot for semi-trucks so no amenities, which means getting creative when needing to pee, which means I'm considering the parking lot fair game until sunrise... Fortunately it's the middle of the week and not many other trucks here.

Time to kick it and chill on my top bunk and check out "Burn Notice" season 2. In summary, it's nice to be back on the road again rolling on through Amerika on 18 wheels and watching the moving picture show go by. I'm stoked beyond measure that these simple things make me so happy and grateful.