Friday, July 30, 2010


After a month and a half of sleeping in a new place nearly every night and spending most of my time alone, this week I got a little change of pace- a whole week in one bed and the company of 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 frogs, 2 cats, 3 horses and 20 chickens. Oh yeah- there were 2 adults there too! 

Last night was my last night so we went out. (Just the kids and the adults. No animals.) I got to witness girl's night out in Montana:
They even got out their spoons and did a little dancing.  It was pretty entertaining, but we moved on to something a little more our speed:

A great last night spent hanging out listening to music and eating burgers. Just what I needed to rest up for tomorrow because it just might be a big day. You'll have to come back to find out!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Since I went as far north as possible on the west coast, I finally had to head east. One last stop in Bellingham on the way:
I pretty much traversed Washington in one day, spent a day on the river at the border and then cut through Idaho:

Into Montana. Sunny skies, warm weather and some boating, tubing and wakeboarding fun:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I arrived in Vancouver Monday afternoon. I was here less than 4 hours before my car was towed, which basically means I lost my car and my home in a foreign country. There was a bit of panic, followed by the realization that in the grand scheme of life, spending an hour and a half locating my car and retrieving it (for $120) is really not that big of a deal. Plus, I learned my way around the area pretty quickly since my taxi driver got lost. Thankfully I had looked up the directions online beforehand so I could help him find our way. It always pays to be prepared. At least he gave me a discount.

The highlight of Vancouver so far definitely had to be this place:

A 137 meter long pool right on the beach. It's so long, they don't even need to put lane lines in. Everyone just swims one direction on one black line and the other direction on the other. It looks like it would never work, but somehow there is total organization out of what appears to be chaos. I'm kinda thinking that this is support for the fact that if you give human beings a lot of freedom they actually handle it pretty well, because I must say, I've never swum in a pool where people were so nice to each other. Maybe it's the lane lines that make us crazy in most pools. if taking the lines off the road worked this well the world would be a much better place.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Kindness of Others

You'd think that being on the road with no job I'd have a lot of time on my hands. It's been a month now and still just can't seem to find enough hours in the day. Some nights I find myself parked in the van, hiding under the covers with a flashlight writing, torn between not wanting to get caught sleeping in someone's neighborhood and not wanting to forget something amazing that happened that day.

The last two days have been nearly indescribable. The kindness and generosity of other people has pretty much left me looking at the human race in a whole new light.

First I met Li in a coffee shop in Seattle. Four hours later, we finally forced ourselves to stop talking. I left the coffee shop with a list of things to do in the area and plans to meet her the next day. She volunteers at the Center for Wooden Boats so we met there the next day. After I spent some time checking out the boats, we took a rowboat out on Lake Union:
Li, rowing my butt around! Really, I did do some of the work!
Post row, outside the Center for Wooden Boats
After our row, we hiked up Capitol Hill and made some dinner in the park. I was a little worried about hiking back by myself in the dark, but it was worth the views:

Unfortunately, I couldn't capture the sound in this pic, but standing on a road over the interstate taking pictures is quite the sensory overload!

Yesterday, I headed out to Camano Island to the other Center for Wooden Boats site, hoping to paddle a kayak. They only had doubles so I put on the running shoes and headed out on the trails. When I got lost, I stupidly thought I could just head for the water. Ummm- can you say blonde moment? Needless to say, nearly 3 hours later I had pretty much run the perimeter of the island. If you need any real estate on Camano, let me know. I now know every house for sale on the entire island. I also know a nice realtor who helped me find my way and gave me water!  

After my 3 hour tour, I headed to Bellingham. After a shower at the Y, I headed to the marina to cook some dinner. As I was cooking dinner, nearly everyone that walked by spoke to me. Just as I was marveling at their friendliness, Julie walked up with her dog. She saw that I was cooking beans and invited me to her boat for some "real food" as she put it. 

What came after this was truly amazing.  This awesome woman, who had known me for less than an hour, let me sleep on her boat for the evening. She went home for the night and left me there with her boat, the bathroom code (always essential!), snacks, wine and best of all, electricity so I didn't need to hide with my flashlight! 

Honestly, I don't really even know what else to say except thanks to the incredibly kind people I've met on this trip!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More Boats

I can't seem to get enough of boats lately. Seattle makes it easy. A few of my favs from the last few days:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Some pics from the last few days:

One last stop in Oregon on Mon. morning to check out this shipwreck on the beach.
Bike trail pretty much all to myself near Long Beach, WA

Monday evening walk on the beach, Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula
Salmon Cascades, Sol Duc, Olympic Peninsula

Lots of cool boats, Fort Warden State Park, Port Townsend
View of Mt. Baker from the top of Mt. Erie, Anacortes. The lady at the visitor center told me I wouldn't want to ride the bike up here. I only had to push it once!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


When you’re traveling alone, some days are really quiet. Yesterday was one of those days for me. In fact, one of the only conversations I had all day was with a billy club wielding cop.

Really, I swear there was a cop out there who found it necessary to approach me with his billy club ready. I can tell you one thing- it’s really hard to look a cop in the eye when he talks to you while holding a weapon. In fact, I really can’t tell you a thing about that cop’s appearance except that he was bigger than me and was holding a billy club. I can, however, tell you how I came to be talking to a cop with a billy club.

It all started on Saturday night. I found a sweet spot to park the van on a street that had a hotel and restaurant on one side and a day-use state park on the other. It was also about 100 yards from the beach, where there were about 30 groups of people having bonfires. It was perfect- if anyone saw the van they’d figure I was either a hotel guest or someone who drank too much at the beach and caught a ride home. Plus- the state park had a bathroom for the morning.

The sweet spot proved to be sweet for a good night’s sleep on Saturday to gear up for Sunday’s long trail run. Well, that long trail run became over 4 hours of running plus another 45 minutes of tree climbing, bushwhacking and mudsliding. Needless to say I ended up exhausted and covered in what appeared to be a pint of blood, a gallon of sweat and about 5 pounds of mud.

While the public bathroom sink made for a halfway decent shower, it couldn’t wash away the exhaustion so I headed back to the sweet spot for another night. Apparently the locals didn’t think me staying there for two nights was so sweet.

Luckily, the restless legs from Sunday’s adventure on the trail had me awake at 6 am when the pounding on the van started. (The billy club, I’m sure.) I figured it had to be a cop, because even if someone was stupid enough to break into the van in broad daylight, he probably wouldn’t knock first. So, I did what any mature adult would do when the cops are looking for her. I hid. I pulled the blankets over my head and held my breath and hoped like hell that since I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me. When I didn’t respond to the banging, he shook the van a little too, just in case that might actually make me admit I was in there.

After a few minutes, he gave up. When I heard the car pull away, I got up, threw on some clothes and jumped in the front seat.

I should’ve just headed out of town, I know, but there was a bathroom right around the corner and like every morning, I’d awakened feeling like I’d somehow swallowed a gallon of water in my sleep. Just as I parked in front of the bathroom and started to get out, I noticed the city cop car pull up behind me. I watched in the mirror as the cop got out and cautiously approached my van, billy club ready. I had no choice but to open the door this time.

Now, imagine you’re a tough guy city cop ready to do battle with your billy club and you discover that your opponent is all 115 lbs of me- smiling. Yeah- pretty disappointing.

I mean, I’m sure the bedhead and puffy eyes made me look slightly fierce, but clearly he was disappointed.

Oddly though, despite his obvious size and power advantage, he never did put the billy club away.

So we had our obligatory “if you’re going to sleep in your van can you at least pull outside the city limits so the residents have to call someone other than me to complain” conversation while he held his billy club and I held my gallon of pee.

Needless to say, I was pretty agreeable. One, he was bigger than me. Two, he had a weapon. Three, you know how a guy will tell a girl just about anything she wants to hear in the heat of the moment if he thinks he’ll get some sex? Well, I will tell you just about anything you want to hear if I have to pee and you’re impeding my progress to the john.

Thankfully, I’d barely gotten my, “Sure, no problem,” out when a dirty guy with dreadlocks stumbled up from the beach right next to the sign that said, “No sleeping on the beach.”

Some people have impeccable timing.

So, while the cop made a beeline for the dreadlock boy with his billy club ready, I made a beeline for the bathroom with my bladder.

Pics (sorry, none of the cop) and travel updates coming soon. Lots of beautiful stuff in the Olympic Peninsula!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Lesson

Yesterday I took my second windsurfing lesson. I had been disappointed after lesson one to learn that Heidi, the instructor for lesson one wouldn’t be teaching lesson two. She’d been encouraging and gotten me excited to learn more. Of course, as I found often in life, things always work out for the best.

Although I’m pretty adventurous, when I’m learning something new I often need someone to push me, give me a bit of a challenge. My friend Tom used to tell me, “There are no such thing as mistakes, only unexpected learning experiences.” I know in the back of my head that making mistakes is part of the learning process, but sometimes it’s hard for me to actually suck it up and make them in front of other people.

Fortunately for me, Jack was teaching lesson two. The first hour he let me play it pretty safe. I’d learned to stand up, go in a straight line, and do a 180 degree turn the day before. That first hour, we worked on sailing with both hands on the boom and turning more smoothly. After that hour, when I still hadn’t really gotten wet much, Jack said, “If you’re not falling, you’re probably not challenging yourself.” He challenged me to get out there and practice the turns faster. Anyone who knows me well knows this- if you offer me a challenge, I will take it. I’ll probably also try to tackle it full speed just to prove a point.

Less than a minute later I attempted my first fast turn. Instead of a 180, I somehow did a 360. I’d hauled the sail around, gone to all that work and I was headed right back in the same direction I’d started. Let me rephrase that- I was pointed in the same direction. I wasn’t really “heading” anywhere since my 360 had zapped all my speed.

Somehow I managed to get turned around and caught a little wind. Once I was moving again, I decided to try another turn at speed. This time, I’m pretty sure I made it through about 270 before a gust of wind caught the sail, knocking me backwards off the board. Since I was still hanging onto the sail, I ended up flat on my back in the seaweed with the sail on top me. Of course, Jack was witnessing all this. I was just hoping he was impressed that I was “challenging” myself and not disappointed that his pupil seemed to forget everything he’d just taught her.

I headed back over to him and said, “I think I suddenly forgot how to turn.”

Of course, he already knew how to fix the problem. He explained that I was moving the sail, but not walking around the board with it. When I did this, I ended up facing the wind. As Jack put it, “If you’re facing the wind you know there’s a problem. You should always have your back to the wind.”

Oh. Duh.

With this tidbit of great advice, the rest of the lesson was more encouraging. Don’t get me wrong, I still ended up in the seaweed most of the time (which Jack called “mowing the grass” I think I mowed the entire lawn and deforested the entire area as well) and managed some of the most ungraceful falls I’ve ever take in my life. Fortunately for me, water is a very forgiving medium or I’d be covered in bruises.

It wasn’t until later in the day, when I was on the road and had some time to process all of the events of the last few days that I realized what great advice Jack had given me,   not just for windsurfing but for life in general. When the going gets tough, it’s probably because I’m facing the wind, going against the flow, fighting something that can’t be fought. So my lesson for the day, the week, the year is this- when it feels like you’re trying too hard, put your back to the wind and go with the flow. Everything is easier that way. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010


When the wind picks up in Hood River, it becomes a playground. (Not that it's not already, with all the great rivers, trails, etc.)

Of course, this means I finally got to windsurf.

I'm staying another day to have another go. Then I must hit the road before I stay forever!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Floatfest 2010

Before I start telling stories here's a few quick pics from the last two days:
My Tuesday night dinner/bivy spot in Vancouver, WA

Multnomah Falls
Oneonta Gorge

After spending yesterday doing some amazing hikes, I rolled into Hood River last night hoping to take a windsurfing lesson today. I woke up this morning to one of the only non-windy days of the whole trip. Crap!

Hoping the wind would pick up later, I did some much needed laundry, had breakfast and called my folks to let them know I was still alive.

At 10, there was still no wind. I headed over to Big Winds anyway. I walked up to the rental and lessons department and said, “I want to windsurf but there’s no wind.”

I was informed it would be windy tomorrow so I signed up for a lesson, but I still had a whole day ahead of me. I asked the guy working if he knew of some running trails or road biking routes.

Ten minutes later, Mike had given me a map filled with highlight trails and roads. There was also a highlighted area to paddleboard and a section of river highlighted for rafting. I must’ve seem excited about this, because then he gave me the really good info. His friends were meeting up later for “Floatfest 2010.”

His buddy’s house got highlighted on the map too and he sent me off with instructions to buy something that floats and beer.

An hour later I showed up at JP’s house, introduced myself and loaded my floating Walmart chair into someone’s car for a ride up the river.

I figured a river trip with 30 people I didn’t know was as good a way as any to make friends, especially if there’s beer involved.

I spent the rest of the day floating down the river with people on air mattreses, inner tubes, rafts, paddleboards and best of all, a floating couch. While my chair was pretty comfy, I gotta admit, I was really wanting to paddle that couch.

Somehow at one of the stops along the way, I managed to score myself a seat on it. Before I knew it, Adam had swapped me his warm and relatively dry couch seat for my low-riding very wet chair.

I spent the rest of the day in style on the Liquid Force couch.
Thankfully (for the camera's sake) but unfortunately (for your viewing pleasure's sake) I was smart enough not to take my camera down the river. Hopefully I can get some pics from someone else to share later.

Hopefully the windsurfing is just as fun tomorrow!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Corner Bar

It was the music that finally drew me in.

I’d been walking back and forth through the town of Newport killing time before the fireworks began, looking for a place to have a drink. The Bay Haven intrigued me the first time I walked by, but I didn’t have the guts to go in. It looked like the local dive bar. I love local dive bars, but this one looked like it might be full of fishermen who’d already tied one on. It was on the fourth trip that I heard the band start up. I couldn’t resist.

I snuck up to a corner seat at the bar thinking that a whiskey-drinking girl like me would fit right in.


That might have worked except that “taverns” such as this one in Oregon only serve beer and wine. So my gluten-free self ended up the only one in the bar with a glass of wine. So much for fitting in.

It didn’t get any better when the band started playing Girl from the North Country and the singer started singing right to me. 

It wasn’t until he laughed (and everyone turned to look) while singing the line, “She’s wearing her coat so warm,” that I realized that while everyone else was in shirtsleeves, I was bundled up in a down jacket and beanie. Great, now we’ve moved up from not fitting in to sticking out like a sore thumb.

Right as I was debating whether to slink away or just take off the coat and hat, a minor miracle happened. I recognized someone. A face from my climbing days in Joshua Tree. 

Fifteen minutes later Michael Paul had introduced me to half the bar. I met the band. I met James the Bartender. I met Jimmy the Surfer.  I met Captain Robin.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Who needs whiskey to fit in when you suddenly know half the town?

When it was time for fireworks, we headed to fishing boat owned by Robin’s friend and watched from the harbor.
When I was preparing for this trip, a lot of people wanted an agenda. They were shocked when I said I didn’t have one. I didn’t make one because I don’t want to rush anywhere and miss something like this. This is when the good stuff in life happens- when you slow down and wander into a place you happened upon because you had nowhere else to be.

If I’d had an agenda, I would never have gotten a glimpse into the lives of the people in this town- the guys who worked hard all day on their boats and deserve to play just as hard on a night like this. I would never have gotten to spend the night at the oldest house in Newport, owned by Michael's parents. I would never have gotten to sit around the kitchen table the next morning and share stories with Michael and his mom. I would never have found South Beach and spent some time there with Sheba, the gentle giant Rottweiler.
There’s a John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” I say, “Life is what happens when you have no plans.”

 All photos on this post were taken by Michael Paul.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The 4th

I finally have to stop hating on Starbucks. I’ve explored half the Oregon coast and I absolutely cannot find anywhere else with free internet AND somewhere to plug in the computer. My battery has a short life and I’m sick of sitting in the McDonald’s parking lot trying to upload to the blog while charging the computer via the lighter. So- here I sit in Starbucks. Now if I could just get them to sponsor my trip if I promote them on the blog!

I've also quickly discovered that I simply will never be able to tell all of my stories on the blog. No one would read my 2000 word posts. I’ll just have to write a book. Until then, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet with lots of photos.

I’ve discovered the pleasure of free “camping” so my 4th of July began when I woke up at 6:30am parked between two RV’s in a casino parking lot. This is a great idea until you wake up having to shit. Then it’s just plain uncomfortable.

I had scouted my breakfast spot the night before when I got this view of Heceta Head Lighthouse while hiking.

I decided breakfast at the actual viewpoint would be a splendid idea as I heard it is less windy there in the morning. I discovered the term “less windy” is definitely relative when it took 10 minutes to boil a half a cup of water for my oatmeal. 

After breakfast, despite the howling winds, I was finally able to do something I’d been trying to do for days- capture a picture of a lighthouse right when the light goes off.

Supposedly the light on this one can be seen 22 miles out to sea.

After breakfast I spent a couple of hours running the trails at Cape Perpetua. Afterwards, I headed to Yachats for their infamous La De Da parade. Oh, how small town parades amuse me! I’m not sure whether the guy next to me laughed more at the parade or at my reaction to it. Supposedly 635 people live in Yachats. I’m pretty sure they were all in the parade. I probably could've bought a bag of candy to throw and jumped right in and no one would’ve been the wiser. Especially if I’d had a costume. Let’s just say the parade explained why I’d seen so many weird outfits in town earlier. First of all there was this guitar playing bride:
Note the perfect little hippie family in the background. Pretty typical of this area. At least around here no one calls ME a hippie. 

Then there was this dancing tractor man:

Pulling this band:

There were some ladies promoting a construction company:

The other side of her sign said, “Free hugs.” Gee, I think I’ll pass….

My favorite though, was this fireman in his 80’s outfit. I got the impression he wears this daily.

I’m just gonna go ahead and spare you the pics of the belly dancers. There was a lot of belly.

While we waited for each group to come through, the little boy next to me and I amused ourselves by throwing the candy he didn’t want to kids across the street. This was all fun and games until he beaned the Statue of Liberty in the head as she went by and she came after us on her skateboard. His dad said, “Oh boy, you’re in trouble now!”

Well, we all know I’ve heard that before!

Happy 4th!

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I made it to Oregon Thursday night. I had a feeling this might be my last chance to have a campsite for a few days since they’ll all be full for the 4th of July. I wanted to do a long run on Friday morning so I hoped to find a place with trails and a shower. Humbug State Park was my place. It had hot showers, the trailhead for Mt. Humbug, access to the Oregon Coast trail, beach access and a few open spots.

In true Oregon style, it rained all night. Rain hitting the van roof is pretty soothing. I was up by six, excited to explore the trails. The ascent up 1700 foot Mt. Humbug starts like this:

I was just hoping the river didn’t flood while I was out there.

I’m not even sure quite how to describe the run up Mt. Humbug. It’s sort of like running in the rainforest only about 100 feet from the beach. Ferns line the trail, creeks trickle down and every so often there’s a view like this:

Except the view was from about 1000 feet higher on the trail. I didn’t have my camera with me while running so I took this from the road later.

After Mt. Humbug, I headed out for another 2 or so hours on the Oregon Coast trail. The snails had come out to enjoy the wet trail, so every descent was a challenge of avoiding rocks and roots while also trying not to squash any critters.

The few fleeting moments I’ve had on this trip of, “Oh my God, what have I done? Am I crazy to leave my job and home?” were pretty much completely erased during this run. I think I smiled for the whole 3 hours and 20 minutes.

I was showered by noon and headed into Port Orford. I’d heard they hoist the fishing boats out of the water with a crane and I was curious to see this. I wasn’t disappointed.

I headed to Banton, where I made dinner on the beach at the State Park. I stayed for hours and enjoyed the place all to myself for sunset.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Unexpected

One of the last promises I made before leaving FL was to not give any strangers a ride on my trip. I really thought I could keep this promise.

Then I met Travis on the plane.

Travis got out of the Marines a little over a month ago. He packed up is backpack and headed to Europe for a month. When he sat down beside me on the plane, he had been in 4 different airports waiting for standby planes for 3 days.  We were going to land in Sacramento. He needed to get home to Ukiah, 2 and ½ hours away.

I had no agenda except to go north. I would probably have chosen the boring route and gone north on I-5, but then, Ukiah was north and who could really deny Travis a ride?

By the time we landed in Sacramento, we’d bonded over the story of Gram Parson’s body being burned in Joshua Tree.  Having lived there for 6 years, I knew the story well. He knew it too since it was his dad who did the burning. 

So yes, I gave a guy a ride after he told me his dad was a Hell’s Angel who burned someone’s body. At least the guy was already dead.

After he took me to his favorite lunch spot in Sac (where I’m pretty sure he consumed a 6 pound sandwich and I ate a half a jar of banana peppers) we hit the road to Ukiah. An hour and a half worth of bull-shitting and story-telling later, Travis realized we’d missed our turn off….30 miles ago.

Four hours and a bar stop later we made it to his family’s ranch in Ukiah. After a tour and a chat with his stepdad and aunt, I realized I still had quite a bit of day light left so I hit the road.

To be honest, last night when I still hadn’t found a place to sleep by 10:30 (which means I’d been awake for 20 hours) I started to regret this decision. Luckily, the nice ranger at the state park saved me $35 in camping fees when she informed me that I could’ve just pulled over at any of the numerous pull-outs I’d seen in the last 2 hours.

Less than 30 minutes later, I was sound asleep in the van for free in a spot she’d recommended.

Thanks to Travis and the detour to his ranch, by 8 am this morning I was running on the beach and I found these:

Again, the little surprises in my life lead to something wonderfully unexpected.