Everyday Should Be A Holiday Pt 2…Vagabonding days 12-29

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Where did I leave off? Wisconsin?

Our trek across ‘Murica was a first for me, going so long without working or having a home base. 4 weeks is past the threshold — at two I wanted to stop, we moved camp every night, only staying in Yellowstone two nights, but then you’re like Oh, we still have another 5,600km to go, guess we better re-pack the car.

The second half of the trip is almost void of photographic evidence. Staring at the world wiz by through the windshield started to lose its excitement before Elko, Nevada, and became downright exhausting by Idaho, where, thankfully, the speed limit rose from 70mph to 80mph (that’s 128km, so 140km was the average) because people do not want to hang around in Idaho. Flash-forward to Wisconsin.

Milwaukee was not a place I’d ever expected to go, so having done no research I pulled up some info on my phone only to discover that Milwaukee is quite stabby — and since we’d had to spend $300 we didn’t really have to cross Lake Michigan at 6am the next day, a hotel was out of the question. I located the safest neighbourhood, which happened to be a 5 min drive from the ferry, we had a long, delicious but not too expensive dinner at a bustling hipsteraunt, then had a horribly uncomfortable sleep in the front seat of the car. And by sleep I mean the Canadian snoozed lightly and I remained awake fearing we’d be arrested or shot.

The next morning we crossed Lake Michigan, which was sadly the waters were incredibly choppy, so 50% of those on board (like 30 people, it was a small ferry) vomited the whole time. My sea legs were not up to the ferocity of this great lake.

Once back in Ontario, we went up to Parry Sound for the weekend to visit friends, then over to Ottawa for a couple of days, then started up again, going to Montreal to eat bread and croissants.

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We crossed into Vermont. The boarder guard sounded like he only peaked into the car because he’d spent time in Germany and knew our model MINI had a suicide door and he wanted to see it in action. Smallest border crossing ever?

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Originally we’d planned to make it to Massachusetts, I’ve wanted to go since I was a witch and ghost story-loving kid and to visit Berkshire Mountain Bakery, but then we checked our bank accounts and decided we didn’t have the gas money to get there.

Zipped through New England to get out to Nova Scotia via the Saint John ferry, a much smoother ride than the Lake Michigan vomit-fest from the previous week. Saint John looked the same as every time I’ve been there.

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Foggy.

Lunenburg, NS is impossibly cute.

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We’d driven around like mad people trying to find fire wood in Bangor, apparently no one uses it there. The kids who work at the grocery store don’t even understand (“Why don’t you just cut down a tree?”). We had to buy a pre-fab xmas log from Walmart. So we picked up fire wood as soon as we could, excited to set up camp on the hill in the centre of the town.

Silly us, NO FIRES AT THE UNESCO Heritage Site. Pub it is.

The view of the Back Harbour at sunrise was worth the wind storm that kept us awake all night.

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Halifax was as charming as ever.

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We stayed in Glace Bay for 5 days picking berries, hiking, and searching for ocean treasure with the Canadian’s sister and her family.

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On the way back we drove a bit of the Cabot Trail, a wonderful time of year for driving through the East Coast.

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We slugged through New Brunswick, which in all honesty, I admit I don’t go to the East very often because you have to traverse this intensely boring province to reap the rewards of fresh fish and fiddlers. It was his first trip through, and he’s agreed we will somehow avoid New Brunswick in the future.

In an effort to avoid Quebec driving (let’s face it, the roads are horrible) and because New England is the happiest place on American soil, the plan was to cross into Maine.

Except the US Border guard did not want to let us in.

We’d met with some concerned faces at border crossings when we declared having bear bangers (I have an intense fear of bears), which are flare-like noise makers many people outside Canada (and bear country) have heard of. This time, however, it seemed the combination of the bear bangers and the lack of employment or home triggered their radar and they hastily proceeded to strip the car.

The border guard proudly waltzed back inside holding up a baggy, booming “AND WHAT ARE THESE?”

We’d taken to seed saving, I’d forgotten the Canadian had collected wine grape seeds from a vine in Glace Bay.

“Those are grape seeds.”

“OH WE’LL SEE.” He consulted with another guard, who assured him it wasn’t a bag of pot seeds. “ALRIGHT WELL, THESE WILL NOT BE GOING BACK WITH YOU.”

He proceeded to accuse use of attempting to become illegal aliens, “YOU HAVE NO JOBS AND NO HOME, WHAT IS TO KEEP YOU FROM ACCEPTING A JOB IF YOU ARE OFFERED ONE?”

This is where we both wanted to say aside from the minimum wage in this country? Instead the Canadian says “No offence, I’m half-American and I have never wanted to live here.” Admittedly we were scared of being declined entry, we didn’t want to go back to New Brunswick.

“YOU CAN BE HALF-AMERICAN ALL DAY I DON’T CARE. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO GO HOME TO?”

“Family?” NO “Friends?” NO “Our things?” NO.

“WHERE IS THE MAJORITY OF YOUR POSSESSIONS?”

“Calgary.”

“Wh-WHAT? WHY ARE YOU OVER HERE GOING THIS WAY AND YOUR POSSESSIONS ALL THE WAY OVER THERE?” He demanded, gesturing over an invisible map.

“We are moving. So we started in Calgary, drove to Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, through the Redwoods to Chico, across Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, then — what’s the one next to Minnesota? The double-u one –” Mid sentence the guard is shaking his head, eyes closed. He grabs our car keys from behind the counter and before I can finish listing off all the states, pushes them desperately towards us, begging

“JUST GO, LEAVE.”

I’ll give him credit, he re-packed our car perfectly.

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Everyday Should be a Holiday…pt 1…Vagabond days 1-11.

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Leaving isn’t easy for me, though in the last few years given how much I’ve moved around, it probably seems like I’ve got the hang of it.

I haven’t. That part of me that wants routine and familiar faces, comfort and stability, that part of me that allowed me to work in one place for 5 years still exists, even if my desire for adventure had expanded exponentially.

We left Calgary on the 31st of August for several reasons, the major one being that fact that we still didn’t have an apartment. The cost of living was too high, and even though I’d begun to really like it there, we wanted more independence.

So we drove across the continent.

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I use the word continent because what started as a simple drive-across-Canada somehow developed into a more complicated, 8700km journey across 5 provinces and 15 states.

Some mishaps like the car outlets blowing, leaving us with no power for our gps, cellys, and computers, as well as my brilliantly forgetting my laptop power cord, I was unable to post regularly on our adventure. Travelling for 31 days and living off of bread, cured meats, yogurt, and coffee, living out of our car and mostly camping was more exhausting than we’d anticipated, but it was still amazing. We fee very fortunate we were able to do it.

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We drove to Vancouver, feeling it was appropriate to start at one sea and head to the other.

Seattle happened. Seattle is a horrible place to drive. Don’t drive in Seattle. Ever. But then we saw the Hotel used for the opening credits for Twin Peaks, and the diner used in the pilot, had some pie and coffee (dream come true, luv u 4eva Agent Cooper). That took the edge off the Seattle incident.

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Portland was amazing. And full of homeless youth. Apparently, people move to Portland just to live in Portland. No doubt, this is why there are so many (SO MANY) well-dressed homeless 20-somethings living out of shopping carts. The doughnuts were really great, though we couldn’t finish them, and our trips to Ken’s Bakery and his resto Trifecta were great, even got to shake his hand (eeek).

We saw the Redwoods in California. Just go. I can’t say anything else.

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Met Dave Miller, famed in bread circles, at the Chico Farmers Market. Considering the drive (along the white-knuckle route 36 through the northern California mountains, 140 miles of roads so narrow and corkscrewed there were often no dividing lines in some portions, no guard rails, highest elevation was 4,077ft — this road is a 3.5hr attraction in itself) and the hotel, these three loafs are likely to be the most expensive I will have ever purchased. Worth it. Kamut, Chico Nut, and Einkorn, his whole grains are delicious and nutritious. I hope to be as good as he is one day.

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Reno was not a place we ever thought we’d go.

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Honestly, we just went to the car museum (awesome) and had a mediocre dinner. Then spent over a day doing this:

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Which was better than Idaho. But we only discovered this when we had 5 hours of Idaho left.

We hit Montana for about 5 minutes. West Yellowstone is an adorable old-timey settlement at the Western entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Experienced a brief but sweet dust storm-rain storm which was confusing but exciting. Bears in a truck and a dead moose? Check.

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Yellowstone needs no explanation. It’s amazing and stunning. People approach bison with their cameras held high like zombies going for brains. Darwinism right there, on the other side of your windshield. Wow.

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Wyoming was stunning. I’d anticipated a boring drive akin to Idaho, but the landscaped changed at least six times. The most refreshing part of our trip I think. Almost no photos were taken because I knew a camera couldn’t adequately capture the landscape. “Saw” Devil’s Tower, but not really the fog was too thick.

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South Dakota interested me mainly because the wild west began there, there is a ridiculous drug store of american-roadside fame called WALL DRUG, and Black Hills National Park, which sounds pretty badass. Sadly the Black Hills are only a small part of a long state that turned out to be a lot like Nevada but flatter, and Deadwood is supported by gaming, which was banned in SD but allowed in Deadwood to keep the city’s history alive. Sadly, most of Deadwood burned down like 45 years ago, I didn’t know that before we showed up.

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Wall Drug, however, is insane and kind of awesome. SD also has the world’s only Corn Palace. You read that right. A palace made of corn (apparently it is actually a gymnasium and when we saw it, it was being dismantled to be re-corned, which they do every year — a google will show a more impressive palace than the one below).

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On an aside to SD, the highways are a little gut wrenching — almost everywhere an automobile death occurred is an X on a small sign, some of which say simply THINK (to remind drivers to be safe) or WHY DIE? The number of X signs is shocking.

Minnesota is where we realized we’d only seen white people since Reno.

Wisconsin was our next big stop. We were rushing to get to THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK, an attraction built in the 50s by an eccentric collector/architect who built this house on and out of a large rock in the rolling hills south of Madison. Inspired by asian architecture, he allowed for trees and the original rock itself to help bring the natural landscape into the bachelor style home that was mainly designed for beatnik parties.

It was a location Neil Gaiman mentions in American Gods, the main character at one point is overwhelmed by the carousel, which is the largest in the world, swirling in the glow of red and white lights, carved angels hung overhead, booming music being played by an automated orchestra that hangs from the ceiling and walls. The house is interesting, but the collections beyond the original structure are truely overwhelming and an intensive sensory experience. It felt like being inside magic, which doesn’t make sense but if you’ve been to the House, you probably know what I mean.

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America is so fucking weird.

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