Emerging from the Road

October 7, 2009

It’s almost horrifying to see that I haven’t posted anything since April. Self-discipline is something I REALLY need to work on.

So, life has been rather interesting – and busy – these last few months. I was working full-time for a while at the data entry center (as mentioned in the “New Job” post). I say “was”, as I received an email at the tail-end of my recent travels advising me of no work being available. Yes, I was away for 5 weeks, but give over, eh? Thank the Gods I have a partner who’s helping me out or I’d be sinking again. The price I pay for being the “Wandering Pixie”…

In July, I went to Toronto for RushCon 9. I’ve been part of the organizing committee for the past two years and it was good to catch up with my fellow Rush peeps. Notable moments include Chickenman, Random Guy, the Limelight gig, rain & shine on Toronto Island and the surprisingly lovely Michael Mosbach. 🙂 Although I can’t stand the thought of ever living in Toronto, it does make for a pleasant visit.

Soon, the committee will be meeting to start planning for RushCon 10 next year. There is talk of perhaps holding it somewhere other than Toronto. Whether that comes to pass or not, time will tell, but personally I think it’ll be a good thing. A change of scenery, a breath of fresh air…all that. 😉

On the Vancouver front, I’m now sharing an apartment with my partner. Whilst I do miss my old apartment, my current situation just made it financially untenable. Sharing a one-bedroom place does get a little cramped at times, but it’s working out quite well.

The big event of the last few months was the 5 week trip to the US from late August to early October.  My partner and I travelled together for the first part of it, from Vancouver down to the Oregon Coast, then out to Nevada for the Burning Man festival. Together being somewhat subjective – she drove the camper truck and I travelled in my own car, as I was continuing on with my travels after Burning Man.

Burning Man itself was quite an experience. It was my second burn, having lost my “burn virginity” back in 2006. There were some good moments, including:

  • Ranging out into deep playa on my bike.
  • Flying my kite in various locations on the playa.
  • Meeting up with George & Gloria again. They’re a lovely couple from Texas who come to the burn every year and are famous for their friendliness, hospitality and breakfast pancakes. Indeed, George introduced me (and my ex-partner/friend Kevin) to the concept of Carolan’s in coffee).
  • Bumping into Lady Laughter & Calico at the Temple Burn. (Another couple I met in 2006).
  • Quiet time and personal tributes to loved ones at the Temple.
  • Dancing my butt off at Opulent Temple.
  • “Fire Night” – watching a number of fire performances around the playa, including our neighbour Jim from Florida and the Flaming Lotus Girls.
  • John – a guy with whom I had a very interesting conversation out near the playa fence.
  • The deep playa drumkit and Hippy Guy.
  • Painting myself blue and tearing around the playa on Friday afternoon (including my black pixie wings). This was followed later that evening by a clean-up attempt that lead to the shower cubicle being dubbed the “Exploding Smurf Chamber.”
  • Self-bondage & the viking helmet. 😀
  • Making a contribution at Picasso Camp.
  • Taking an accidental swandive off the back of the camper and onto the playa on Friday night, leaving a heck of a playa mark (which I had to remove by hand) and two trips to the Med Tent. Props to November Anne for the initial first aid!
  • Lunatics at the Burning Man (which took FOREVER to come down!)
  • Random Conversations. This was my partner’s initiative – we couldn’t settle down on the Saturday night, so at about 5am, we went meandering about on the playa, having random conversations with people and polishing off an entire bottle of wine in the process. Definitely one of the highlights of the burn, not to mention that it’s possibly the first time in my life that I’ve been inebriated at eight o’clock in the morning.
  • The Temple Burn.

Overall, a mostly positive experience. However, there were the occasional downsides. There was some personal conflict between myself and my partner during the week, not to mention the dust storms from hell. By Friday, the interior of the camper was an absolute dustbowl. Rather than stressing about it, one gets to the point of simply accepting the fact that playa dust is now a part of oneself. You eat it, breathe it, drink it, sleep in it. It’s simply part and parcel of the whole experience.

Despite my still relative newness to the Burn, I did detect a change in the ‘vibe’ of the event since 2006. Part of it may be a result of no longer having the first-timer’s “Wow!” reaction to everything, but I definitely felt a difference. It seemed that the event was being taken over by the candy-raver/tourist/”let’s go out to the desert and party for a week” crowd. Whilst that element has certainly been present at Burning Man for many years now, it seemed to be much more prevalent this year, crowding out the artists and community-builders. Maybe the event is getting too big or too mainstream, but if the trend is not reversed, the artists will go elsewhere and BM will simply become nothing more than a rave in the desert.

Having said that, there is a possibility I will attend again next year. I’ve certainly learned a few lessons from this year’s experience:

  • Camper vans are a cool idea, but when the battery runs out, you may as well have hired a cargo van.
  • Kite flying is fun! 😀
  • Stay away from the blue greasepaint! Maybe the silver powder may come in handy next year…
  • Buy half (if not less) the amount of food – we bought WAY too much food! I wound up taking some of it down to New Mexico with me and donating it to Kevin’s pantry.
  • Have an IUD implanted by the time the next burn rolls around so I’m not poleaxed with period cramps for the first 3 days (this seems to be becoming a playa tradition for me).
  • Take better photos – scout more, get creative and use the damn tripod!

* * *

Following Burning Man and a turbulent night in Reno, I proceeded south via the east side of Nevada. I’ve always wanted to drive the Extraterrestrial Highway and check out Rachel, Nevada, thanks to it’s proximity to Area 51. Ergo, a good time to take the roads less travelled. On the way, I got pulled over near Hawthorne for speeding (all hail the great god Leadfoot?) but got let off with a warning.

Thanks to the late departure from Reno, the light ran out, so I pulled over for the night in Tonopah, Nevada. My accommodation for the night was the amusingly monikered Clown Motel, named for the collection of clown paraphernalia amassed by the original owner. The collection is now arranged in the main lobby area of the hotel. Some cute, some downright creepy. Dinner that night led me to the conclusion that small casino dining is nothing to write home about. Thankfully, the breakfast the next morning was somewhat more palatable.

The road out to Rachel was one of the loneliest highways I’ve ever encountered during my daytime trips in the US. Barely any traffic for miles, which made for a happy wandering pixie! Mostly desert and ranchlands, with the occasional cattle crossing.

I stopped by the Little Ale’Inn. It turned out to be rather cheesy – a lot of overpriced ‘souvenirs’ and a few UFO photos and articles. Not quite what I’d expected, really. From there, I went through Las Vegas, saw the Hoover Dam (finally!) and hit I-40 west through Arizona to land at my friend Kevin’s place in New Mexico. Wound up overnighting in Flagstaff after attracting police attention again. This time, though, it was for a dead license plate light, a small problem easily remedied the next morning at the Goodyear shop near the Super 8 motel.

New Mexico is a place that has been rather dear to my wandering self since my first visits way back in 2005. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but there is certainly an energy down there. Maybe it’s the desert landscapes, the mountains (Sandia in particular), the unusual clarity and vividness of the sky, the friendliness of the people…who knows. It’s no mistake that New Mexico has a large population of artists, photographers and other creative types. I’ve said for a long time now that if I had the chance to live in the US, New Mexico is where I would go.

I spent a very pleasant two weeks around the Albuquerque area. Unfortunately, Kevin & I didn’t get to do much together, thanks to his punishing work schedule, but we were able to get away to Santa Fe on the first weekend. The goal of the trip was a day at the Ten Thousand Waves day spa, just the thing I needed after the rigors of Burning Man. A day spent soaking in the tubs, having a wonderful massage and an all-over salt scrub helped to wash the playa away. We timed it pretty well – the Santa Fe Fiesta was happening at the same time. Food stalls, street markets, parades, the town was packed! I was also re-introduced to the joys of New Mexican cuisine at the Blue Corn Cafe, just off the Plaza. I swear, the chili is that good, you walk out feeling high!

Whilst I did spend a fair bit of time on the house front, helping Kevin get his apartment set up, I also took the time to explore the Albuquerque area. Checked out Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum, the Balloon Museum, Petroglyph National Monument and rounded it all off with a trip up to the top of Sandia Peak the day before my departure. Spectacular views over Albuquerque and surrounds, but by the Gods it was COLD! (Note to self: bring a jacket next time).

Refreshed from my New Mexican sojourn, I struck out on what would become the Epic Drive of ’09, crisscrossing the bulk of the continental US and Canada. On the way…

  • I captured a beautiful New Mexican sunset with my camera.
  • Had my second speeding warning whilst crossing the Texas panhandle.
  • Witnessed the morning mists in Arkansas.
  • Got woken up from an afternoon nap attempt by a local high school parade in Kansas City, Missouri. I also went on a fruitless goosechase in downtown Kansas City whilst looking for the Central Public Library. The library carpark is painted to look like books on a shelf, a point of interest to my photographer self.
  • Went stomping through mud in sidewalk roadworks whilst taking photos of a church and the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

The evening/day I drove from western Ohio to southern New York state would have to rate as one of the all-time driving days from hell. Whilst the lightning storms around Columbus were suitably spectacular, the pounding rain, the endless stream of trucks, roadworks on Interstate 80 and crazy Pennsylvanian drivers made for a rather miserable day. I breathed a massive sigh of relief as I entered New York state and later turned north on I-87.

The primary aim of this part of the trip was to meet and spend time with a dear friend who lives in the top part of the state. We’ve been acquainted for a couple of years, thanks to the magic of cyberspace and phones, but never wound up meeting in person…until now. Even though it was a fairly low-key visit, it was still good to see him and hang out with him. He’s been having rough times for a while now and whilst I do worry for him, I think he’ll be OK eventually. His dog was also an absolute sweetie – barked at me for 5 minutes, then became my new best friend. 😀

I do know this – given the drive that followed, the next trip I take over to that part of the US WILL involve a plane flight to Montreal!

* * *

I’ll be posting pics from various legs of the journey in the coming days & weeks. All I will say for now about the final leg of the journey is this: 3,027 miles – 6 provinces – 93 hours.

Never again!

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