Day 19

Well, today marks the official last day for this blog thread. Alex and I made it around the country in eighteen days, and by day nineteen… we were home

Alex woke up first today (shocker) and wouldn’t let me continue sleeping, for he knew it was in our best interest. With morning breath and sleepy eyes, we folded the blankets; rolled the sleeping bags; put the food, bags, and shoes in the back of the van along the walls to keep it in place, and we were on our way. Though Alex was tired, he politely took the drivers seat and allowed me to throw on some music and upload the blog post from last night

Within thirty minutes and a lip pack of coffee grinds, Alex asked if I could drive. Note: I can run full days off of two hour night-sleeps, and then physically take a run, so I was more than willing. We pulled off at the nearest exit to Chinese-Firedrill one last time

Our drive through Pennsylvania was quiet at first, omniscient in a weird way. We didn’t have to say anything to know what we were thinking. Though we were not quite in New York, the roads were extremely familiar. Dense trees enclosed the road, gloomy clouds hung overhead, and drivers snuffed their hoods up the Sienna’s booty. It was comforting because it was familiar, yet unsettling due to how wonderful our drives had previously been

Whether it was just the rain, just the cold, just the fact that home means two seperate homes, just that we go back to rules and regulations, just the idea that we’re heading off in two totally different directions along the east coast in a few weeks, or all of those things combined… there was a unspoken heartache shared between us both. There was absolutely no reason to be sad… We’d taken our first extended trip together! We were able to experience new people, cultures, food, art, landscapes, hikes, cities, and everything in-between with our fingers interlocked. Most great things come to an end… It’s upsetting but it’s simply life. I wanted to be so thrilled, so grateful for everything I was exposed to, but it wasn’t so easy in these moments

The journey was born to a single parent. I believed I would tackle this experience alone. I hoped to gain a new insight as to the way people act given such different settings. I wanted to understand how cities in the same country could be so diverse, and why people are drawn to them. I wanted to see into the mentalities held by the many as you moved further south, west, and looped around to the tip-top of the country. Of course, I was able to view these things and formulate many of my own conclusions… but I was foregetting a large part of my overall experience… The other traveler

One can begin to understand a city after speaking with locals, making a purchase or two, walking around the un-touristy areas, driving around, ect. However, while only having a few hours to preserve for each stop, you begin to see trends, but are left to question the “whys?” and “hows?” 

One can begin to understand someone’s attitude and overall demeanor within a few hours as well. Now, turn those hours into days, those days into weeks, and see what can be found. After being with someone you love day in and day out, it’s simple to recognize there quirks, what ticks them off, what makes them truly happy, and moreover, why you fit there niche well enough to embark on such a journey together. What I learned on this trip was how to coexist with someone. I don’t mean live in peace, but live as one. After spending years with Alex, and watching him grow (more than just facial hair)… it only took eighteen days to truly understand him. It’s extremely hard to throw words together to describe the deep connection you can feel, so I’ll add a few examples. We say the same things at the same time far too often. I’ll say something (random or not) and get a “I was just about to say that” type of answer. “I know,” I’d reply. Our cravings for food even began to parallel. We laughed at the same things, happening our of the corner of our eyes, and noted the same parts of new places. I expected to travel with Alex and see the world. Thus, I overlooked the long car rides, the initial crowded sleeps in the Sienna (we figured out how to make it spacious), and the shared semi-worldly encounters

What I undoubtably gained the most knowledge about… was us. Not just Alex and not just myself, but the both of us as a team. Yes, we are stellar individuals, but that only makes for an advantaged team

I know that this isn’t the final scene for a tear-jerking romance, so I’ll continue…

In driving around, it became simple to recognize the ease at which people could tackle life with. In many parts of the southeast -> midwest -> southwest, the speed limit of eighty mph was only diligently followed in the left lane. It was actually treated like the maximum speed. In seeing those areas of the country on foot and communicating with so many others, it’s recognizable that their is a certain level of leisure in their daily life, less overall aggression. Services and retail workers were much friendlier, and larger percentages of people not only greeted you with a smile, but held longer conversations. Note: these were the groups of people who would respond to my “I like your shirt” compliments 

In hiking around, I’ve come to understand that culture as well. There’s a much friendlier aire when passing people. It was fun to say “hey!” or “good morning!” to someone else simply trying to walk to the same structure you are and getting a similar greeting in a different language. Now THAT is a west coast kind of thing, considering not too many fly from other nations to see the Catskills

The semi monotone car ride gave me time to think, reminisce, and continue to expand brewing ideas

Getting back to the main roads of Babylon felt too familiar, if that makes sense. I didn’t have to rely on google maps or waze. Pulling up to the house and parking behind the soobie was bittersweet, especially because of the welcome home balloons on the porch (thanks Mama). Of course I wanted to see my family, but was I ready to wake up alone in the bed I’ve known all of my life after waking up in a different state each morning? I’ll have to figure that one out

As I officially close this thread, the memories, photographs, laughs, and not-so-funny times will remain forever open. The excitement and realizations live in memory, ready to be recollected at any moment

I’d like to thank everyone who helped us along our journey… from the people who gave us a bed to sleep in, to the locals who gave directions, to the random people I enjoyed a conversation with… Oh, and especially those who told me I was crazy, and this was impossible:) People are simply people… Meaning that most are willing to reach out, lend a hand, listen to your story, and help to shape such implausible experiences. This is obviously the first of my aroundthecountry stories, but there are too many countries out there for it to be my last

 

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Day 18

While most days have had an early start, today began extremely late. We woke up with our a.m. alarms, and fell right back to sleep, as per usual. My phone buzzed again a quarter passed ten. I hopped out of bed (yes, we found a motel late last night), grabbed my toothbrush and quickly woke Alex up. “It’s ten fifteen” was enough for him to leap out of bed. We were in the lobby, checking out of our room with all of our belongings on our backs by ten thirty. We weren’t rushing, but moved efficiently, not wanting our cushion time to turn into crunch time

There was a Panera and Starbucks right up the road, the perfect to start our morning in the right direction. Note: Panera soufflés are intact life changing. As we pulled through the drive thru, I gained access to some Panera wifi, and posted yesterday’s blog. Note: I was able to upload photos and a full post in less than three minutes, so I’m assuming their wifi is pumping

Within forty minutes, Alex asked me if it was crazy to want a milkshake. I responded with the fact that we’ve done much crazier things on this trip and he shouldn’t worry about it. “Good because there’s a Dairy Queen at the next exit.” We pulled off, and got mini blizzards for the first time. There was a gentleman in line who wanted to know all about what we were doing after seeing our New York license plates, and wished us safe and happy travels. We were handed our upside-down blizzards and tagged a sign      

Then, it was driving time. No stops until Chicago… which wasn’t very far. We woke up in either North Dakota or Minnesota, it’s all a blur. Anyway, we got through Wisconsin and most of Illinois by three in the afternoon. We drove around downtown Chicago and hung around the area for a few hours. Note: there is some crazy architecture in this city. I got my ear pierced, and we ate some fuego deep dish pizza. I don’t think either of us were ready for the physical density of this pie. Yes it was doughy, with a thick-walled side, but there was a least a half pound of cheese on this personal bad boy. They made the pie fresh to order, which took about thirty minutes… and they had horchata, so we obviously got some. Note: They put the cheese under the sauce in Chicago

After spending too much time in Alex’s least favorite city, we purchased some fruits and headed back to the car with many miles ahead of us. I moved the driver’s seat a foot and a half closer to the steering wheel, adjusted my mirrors, and we were off. I drove through Indiana and Ohio before switching of with Alex at the Ohio Welcome Center… Ironic because it’s on the side of the road that heads east and out of the state, a Goodbye Center if you will. We stacked up on sugary snacks, filled up our half tank of gas, and were back on the road

It was so simple to see the changes of the east coast as we approached. The interstates are no longer surrounded by rolling hills, miles of farm fields, grazing animals, blue skies, and there are certainly no mountains in the distance. Instead, there are dense trees enclosing the highway. You can see only large trees and grey clouds for miles… really keeps the trip moving! I think it goes without saying that neither of us necessarily want to get home, especially when chilly, wet weather and lost views are what greet us to the coast. It’s going to be tough waking up in the same bed, alone each morning after a few weeks of waking up in a different setting every day. I’ll miss the hikes that gave my shoes a reddish tint, the beaches with crystal water, the cities with such strong culture, the constant mountains in the distance, changes in scenery, and new people all along the way

Once we hit Ohio, things got weird. Nothing in the atmosphere changed, but Alex and I had finally gone stir crazy. Filling in the words to songs, asking each other odd questions, speaking in a plethora of accents, and sticking feet out of the window. We’ve learned quite a lot about each other after spending the past four hundred thirty-two hours together… specifically how childish and crazy we have the ability to be (in the best way possible)

While the trip isn’t fully over, it’s been extremely easy to reminisce on this long car ride, but ’ll save it for later

Once the night time rolled around, we agreed that we would only drive until two a.m. and pull off wherever we were by then. We switched driving so I could begin to type the blog and transform the Sienna into nightmode. The amount of caffeine in this car is intense… we’ve been downing iced coffees, red bulls, eating ample amounts of sugar, and packing lips of coffee pouches. I’ve also learned that I may be cut out to be a trucker, and I’ll always have some type of profession to fall back on:)

For now, I must move everything from the back to the passenger seat, and lay out the mats, sleeping bags, and blankets for one last night spent together in SieSie

Good Night,

Celine 

Day 17

I am standing, peering through a fence. I heard the train whistle once, twice… Who was on the tracks? It’s a gentleman laying down on the raised ledge, a foot between him and the soon-passing train. Another man running toward him, shouting to wake up, to move his arm. “Get up,” I want to shout. I can’t speak. The train passes and my shoulders shake. I was dreaming

I woke up to Alex, popped up and shaking me, a train whistle getting louder. He looked to see which direction the train was coming from. The look on his face convinced me we had parked too close to the tracks in the very early morning when we settled here last night. The train was getting louder, closer, horn blaring. We opened the car door and saw the fence in front of us, the tracks about thirty five yards away. Heart pumping, hands shaking, we were okay and absolutely awake…Quite an intense ten seconds

The day began with a harsh nightmare and horrifying wake up, which made it possible for the day to only get better. We drove until we could find anything that didn’t sound like a gas station breakfast burrito. (We don’t actually eat those don’t worry.) As we settled on the fact that breakfast was going to be an apple and some granola, we pulled off for gas. There was a sign for the “Southern Beach Cafe,” only a mile away! First of all, how are you calling any square foot of North Dakota a beach? Secondly, how are their enough people here to   populate and run a cafe? 

We fueled the car and hoped for some real food from a homestyle restaurant. We pulled through the desolate, small town and came across the ultimate archetype of a back country, blueberry pancake/biscuits and gravy serving, single waitress working dinette… It was cute and pretty unique to the area

The waitress was unsettled when we asked if we could take our food to go, and slightly more confused when we ordered eggs on toast, almost like a sandwich or something.(?) I recognized today how eggs on toast, as opposed to on a plate with some hash browns slapped on the side, are only popular on the coast. This led me to the conclusion that things inland are taken a step slower. Everyone doesn’t want their breakfast conveniently wrapped to take along with them on their morning rush. Most are perfectly content with taking twenty minutes to use utensils and enjoy their first meal of the day. Sit with some friends on a Sunday morning to catch up with them, shoot the breeze, and just take it easy

We grabbed our sandwiches and ultimately ate them with a fork two, embracing the fact that it wasn’t going to hold itself together. We were forced to eat slowly and (attempt to) enjoy them. I do miss coast food, for I’ve noticed that some inland food tastes slop together

Alex drove for about an hour and downed a nitro-cold brew, but was still just too tried. We pulled off at an exit and Chinese-fire drilled to switch seats. I drove as he napped in his frightening, one eye half opened Alex-only kinda way. This kid is the definition of sleeping with one eye open. Note: it was only actually frightening the first time when I thought he was just dead

I blasted a well-crated pandora station on our Bose speaker, which we have found perfect places to perch in the Sienna. I sipped on a red bull and I even smoked one of the hippy “herbal energy” cigarettes we picked up in Portland, composed of mullein, lobelia, skullcap, rose petals, and catnip (the plant). It may not be the healthiest lifestyle, but we’ve got three days to get across the country safety, and I had no time to be tired 

Once I was wide awake, I was able to see the beauty of North Dakota. Most of the towns we’ve pulled off of the highway and into appear to be in a different time. While we are used to constant cites and big buildings with tons of lights and people, cars everywhere and most preoccupied by their friends Instagram posts… These towns are less full, with small shoppes, local grocers, and county fairs with outdoor games on Sundays. Note: ALL of these shoppes will let you use their bathroom, even if you aren’t a customer 

North Dakota also has some interesting landscapes. Of course, there are large fields on both sides of the highway, a comforting trend along about eighty percent of our road trip. There are also beautiful blue lakes, rivers, and streams… probably more than Montana.They drill for their own oil, there were small power stations (quite transformer looking) for each town. We came to the conclusion that there are so few places in the whole state that need the amount of energy produced at larger station, and each place is so distant that it makes sense to keep them local… like I said, there is an entirely different general atmosphere in different areas, and the North has been the most country-styled, abstract place yet. Anyway, there are the fullest  clouds with flat bottoms, sitting right in the troposphere. There are also tons of baby animals grazing about in N Dakota, and TONS of bugs. The car got dirtier today than it has in the past two weeks combined. The grill of the car is splattered in bug and we’ve had to squidgy the windshield at every gas stop. There’s this overwhelming population of beautiful butterflies that splatter into a bright yellow paintball when they catch your windshield the wrong way. We came to a second conclusion of the day, that the prevailing wind of the windshield/ roof of the car traveling at eighty miles an hour (still the speed limit, no worries) can safely fling a butterfly about an inch over the car if it catches the critter with it’s wings spread flat. The poorly-timed butterflies that came too close seemed to just splatter

As you can tell, we have had a lot of time to think, ponder, bounce ideas off each other, and stay curious 

We did have our first confliction of the trip today… A suicidal bird. There was a thud, and Alex tightened his grip on the steering wheel, staring ahead. He said something I couldn’t catch. He wouldn’t repeat it, and I told him that simply wasn’t fair. “I just hit a bird,” he confessed. Well, damn. We pulled off at the nearest exit, and I made Alex check that it wasn’t stuck on the car, or still suffering. “Just some blood on the bumper,” he said as he described how it casually flew down and forward from the side of the road. Note: these animals are extremely comfortable with this four lanes highway, as exemplified from the amount of them laid on the shoulders of the road

I drove us into the sunset, and stopped for dinner at a local diner. Sitting anywhere but the car for about forty minutes was a beautiful thing. Don’t et me wrong, the Sienna is comfortable and quite cozy/ lived-in by now, but getting my eyes off of the road and nutritious food in me was lovely. Alex grabbed a children’s coloring placemat and some crayons as we entered. The waitress grabbed our menus, ready to show us our table, but couldn’t hold back a laugh. At least she was real with us, and enjoying her day a little more. We had simple, tasty meals, and headed back to the car

I drove for a few more hours, and was almost excited when we’d seen signs for gourmet chocolate only twenty exits away… They were closed. Alex, being his gentleman self was determined to find chocolate. We tried another chocolate shop found on google maps, but no one was trying to vend chocolate around eight pm on a Sunday… it’s understandable. We stopped at a small local coffee shop in the area instead and I enjoyed some tea

For now, were off to find a motel with a shower and vacant room… wish us luck

Good Night, 

Celine

Day 16

Today we woke up sweatier than ever, next to a bright green field and massive haystack that we hadn’t noticed last night. The sprinklers (those massive ones that span across a full field on wheels and push themselves with the force of their own water) were on, so you already know what we did

After changing out of our bathing suits and toweling off, we were grateful for the cold shower, and got ready to drive. We were both pretty hungry after skipping dinner the day before, so food was a priority. We started driving with the knowledge that we were both done with what Alex calls “road food.” Luckily for us, we saw an adorable cafe/ coffee house within five miles, and pulled off. We need to put in the miles, but agreed it would be in our best interest to just sit and enjoy breakfast. We got smoothies and some egg sandwiches. If you’re from NY, they weren’t really egg sammies, but they were certainly tasty. They were made with a cold egg patty, and more cold cuts/veggies than actual egg… but the flavors were all there and we were more than happy to not be eating egg mcmuffins and fries

As our food was prepared, we sat outside at a table, surrounded by the bright sounds of others enjoying their breakfast, catching up with each other, and admiring the cafe like we were. There were massive hanging baskets that overflowed with colorful flowers, a wooden fence that enclosed the area, and concrete buckets with small poles to mark the parking spots. I took advantage of the open wifi, and uploaded the previous day’s blog. 

We dove in once they brought out our sandwiches, they were so fresh and everything fast food isn’t 

After breakfast, Alex grabbed an iced latte for the road, we headed back to the Sienna. The goal: North Dakota by tonight. We passed through the rest of Washington, Idaho, and most of Montana. 

Along the way, we recognized that the same snacks we’ve been required to eat for the past two weeks were getting old, so we found the nearest whole foods. Newsflash! They don’t have actual grocers in bumblefrick Montana. We arrived, instead, at a local collective selling all organic fruits, veggies, crackers, candy, local spreads and dips. We stocked up on a plethora of trail mixes, hummus, carrots, crackers, peanut butter, cookies, and apples. Finally, new foods!

After that, our next stops were gas and relief only

I napped through most of Idaho, but Montana is quite beautiful, and one of Alex’s favorite place to drive through so far. It’s peaceful with winding roads, random velvety blue waterways, and rolling hills. There’s bright green patches of grass sporadically placed throughout fields of mustard-yellow, with rolled hay placed randomly throughout the field. There are free range cows that graze as they please, and baby deer and horses that instinctively follow their mothers around, learning to nibble on grass and drink from streams. Note: I haven’t seen any street art, but there are beautiful sunsets here

I drove once night time rolled around, until I was too tired and had to pull off. We had hopped to make it to a rest stop, but couldn’t… So Alex took the wheel. He also go too tired and pulled off before the rest stop. On a side street in Montana, we’ve parked for the night. Our belongings are tossed in the front seat and a sleeping bag stretches across the back of the minivan

Good Night,

Celine

Day 15

Holy birthday! Today was filled to the brim with so many different experiences packed into one sixteen hour splint. We woke up in a full sized bed, in a quaint little room, full of framed paintings and an easel that didn’t want to be leaned on. We each took a shower, while the other one tidied the room, and ultimately packed the car. We enjoyed a continental breakfast which is honestly an extremely smart thing to do as an airbnb host. We ate some fruits and this amazing nutty, chocolaty spread the host is trying to market on waffley wafer cracker doohickeys and spoke with our hosts, Ed and Amalia. We divulged the details of our trip and I exchanged a comforting smile with Alex when we learned that they also took their first road trip as a young couple at age seventeen. Note: We intend to someday host bed and breakfasts as well

We headed about twenty minutes back into downtown Portland, toward voodoo donuts. Parking in the city was always easy, and the hometown bums would rather make conversation or ask for marijuana than ask for money… I like this place too. While it was only half past nine in the morning on a Friday, the line for magical donuts already wrapped itself around the corner of the shop. We got a guava colada donut, maple glazed blunt donut, Homer Simpson donut, and a sticker. Good things do come in pink boxes. We had to restrain from picking at them as we headed toward the Portland Air Tram. Alex purchased tickets, and we waited for an empty gondola. Within five minutes we were soaring through the air at twenty-five mph, looking at the rooftop gardens, water, and mountains in the far distance. When we got to the drop-off platform, we walked over to the viewing point and looked across at Mt St. Helens and all the other, less cool structures in the distance

After we got back from our elevated city excursion, we drove back over to Alberta St to hit a few local shoe and clothing stores. I purchased a stone and a pair of pretty sweet, rose colored slip on shoes with a cutout design. We wandered around and saw the styles of Portland until we were hungry enough to head across the bridge, enter the downtown area, and get Poke Bowls. MMMM raw fish, veggies, and rice and everything else that is sushi, in a perfectly crafted little bowl. We at them outdoors and walked to King’s Hooka when we finished. It was my one request for my birthday… do something I am now legally allowed to do. We sat on an outdoor couch while the hooka king (store manager) brought us our hooka, wand, and peach mint sheesha. We did some people watching at sat outside for about forty minutes. The gentleman chuckled when we couldn’t get through the full hour and asked him to take the hooka because we were done

On our way, we passed another Dutch Bros coffee and remembered our two punched cards for free coffees. We stopped to get canned cold brews in anticipation of our forty hour ride home, and I got an iced coffee because birthday coffees are free too. They hooked it up and helped us acquire all of the necessities for our coffee fix

Onwards, we found our way back to the car to check out a few studios. Considering I only want a small, unshaded design, I wasn’t feeling the minimum fee of eighty dollars. I called about a dozen shops before deciding this wasn’t the time and/or place to get inked

We went to the local library…well I walked once I was fed up with all of the road work and traffic. I printed out our John Mayor tickets while Alex was probably still five blocks behind, and received a call as I was walking out that he was in front. Perfect timing. We struggled with the rush hour traffic of leaving the city at four pm, but we were on the road

We made it a point to not stop often, keep track of our phones, and get a quick dinner. We refueled the Sienna at a packed, full-serve gas station, and the gentleman pumping gas never took my card, yet told us we were good to go, and to move up… Free gas? Alrighty. Our next stop was at a rest stop with a McDonalds and a Cinnabon. I went inside to get us some sweet, sticky buns and somehow came out as Alex pulled up to the food window of the drive through, truly impeccable timing today:)

Within four hours we were pulling up to the Gorge amphitheater. I guess we came from a crazy direction because we rolled right into the parking lot pas a line of at least three hundred cars on the opposite side of the street. We were already an hour and a half late to the show… I can’t imagine that they saw a single song. We packed some snacks, water, sweaters, and held our blankets, ready to head into the show. We breezed through security, and into the venue. Yeesh, there were SO many people perched on this mountain. Everyone swaying to the beat, most without shoes, some sitting and just enjoying the clear night. Within a few songs, the acoustic came out and John played some classics. We missed about half of the show, and I was surprised that he didn’t encore, but the performance was still a blast. He interacted with the crowd, and played his heart out…fingers probably bleeding by the finale. His final songs were symbolic, as they ended not only the night, but our first journey. As John thanked the crowd, I couldn’t help but think back to all of the people I want to thank. Who’ve let us use a room for the night, help fund this adventure, and the random fellows we’ve met along the way. The fans of John Mayor got him to this point in his career, and all of my supporters made this experience possible

My eyes get hot as I think of having to go home, head back to school, and stay grounded, for the next few months, but I can’t forget the things I’ve learned on this seven thousand, one hundred and seventy four mile journey. The things I’ve learned about myself, the places I’ve been to, the people surrounding, my friends, family, family friends, and of course, the relationship that’s been secured and come so far over these past few weeks

Tomorrow we sleep in late, and head off toward the east coast with stops for food, gas, and rest

Good Night,

Celine

Day 14

The alarm rang once before it was snoozed. The second alarm was smacked, and finally I turned the alarm off after the third tap. Around eight thirty, I received a call from an unknown number from Babylon, NY. Recognizing I’d have no voice to answer with, it went to voicemail

As I contemplated answering the call I realized what time it was, and that we had hoped to be leaving San Fran by seven. I poked Alex’s shoulder until he got up, and we transformed the Sienna into daymode. It was extremely wet, windy, and cold on Ocean Beach that morning, and the bathrooms were locked… so we moved pretty quickly

On our way out of the city, we stopped at a cute little cafe to grab coffee and a bagel. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, wash my face, and basically freshen up, considering today was day three of no showers after sweating, hiking, and everything in between

After this quick stop, we hit the road, prepared to conquer the twelve hour drive ahead of us. We plugged Portland, OR into google maps, and laughed at the five hundred and ninety three miles we had to drive on i-5 N. Our first stop was for gas, right next to a Dutch Bros coffee place. For all of you east coasters who don’t know, Dutch Bros is a shack-like establishment that brews and cans a nitro cold brew, and makes these crazy energy smoothies that taste like red bull slurpies… They were great and just what we needed 

As I drove, Alex snapped photos, joked around with me, chatted, rocked out to a few songs, and made himself tired enough to pass out for a few hours. The ride from northern California to Oregon was beautiful, full of large trees, a mountain that took at least two hours to get down, many of trucks who took it upon themselves to go fifty five mph in the left highway lane, and SO much free range cattle. For the amount of cows I saw, there was not a single overstuffed, cruel cow farm in sight, I was feeling this place

We continued on with our travels, only stopping to relieve ourselves, and refuel the car. We eventually settled on KFC as the road food of the day, and dealt with it. Note: KFC in the south and/ or west is much better 

Our last stop before Portland was for gas. My turn onto the exit woke Alex, and he was suddenly ready to drive. We switched seats after we fueled up, and stopped at another Dutch Bros. We tagged the post of the drive thru, and the super friendly window attendant told us that your first beverage as a new customer is supposed to be on them. Considering we had been at the same coffee shop just that morning and not received the special offer, he gave us cards of two free drinks… Free coffee tomorrow morning! There’s something to be said about being super smiley, outgoing, and friendly in nature when communicating with people… especially people working in sales

We got back on the road, me sitting passenger and rubbing out my calf, post ten hour drive. We were laughing and watching the sun begin to set until we recognized that Alex’s phone was not in the minivan. We pulled off, but still couldn’t find it anywhere. We pulled up find my iPhone, the handiest app in existence, and it showed that the phone was, as I had suggested, back at the gas station… forty minutes away. Just when we though we were making good timing, we had to head back and find it at the bottom of the trash bag containing old coffees, water bottles, and Kentucky Fried Chicken at the gas station…Yummmm

Finally, we made it to Portland. This cute city had tons of parking, lights, and good vibes, even on this thursday night. Our first stop was at a tattoo parlor, to see if my idea could be done. It seems impossible, so don’t worry guys, no tatts for me.

We got tacos at Robo Taco, and walked around for a bit. We drove to the original Salt & Straw, arriving ten minutes before they closed. I don’t know why I was worried that they wouldn’t let us in, the line was still going out the door, workers hustling, and music playing. We waited until well past eleven, when a worker came out form behind the counter to ask first if we were being helped followed by the question “do you have any questions and are you ready to try some samples?” We sampled five crazy flavors, and ultimately settled on homemade waffle cones filled with abstract flavors. Alex found himself with Lemon Buttermilk with Blueberry, and Lavender ice-cream (seeped for four days), and I was stuck on Arbequina Olive Oil and Portland Creamerys Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero (funky, I know). 

We walked down Alberta Street, where the ice-cream shop was, and explored that part of town, marking down all of the closed storefronts we would like to see tomorrow morning. I obviously admired the street art, and was pretty excited to see the amount of food trucks around the city. 

We made our way to the car, and headed for the Airbnb, and almost made the twenty minute trip with no stops… except for the four cops that felt the need to pull us over for driving too fast. Who knew certain Oregon highways are twenty five mph zones? The cop felt bad for us considering our age and traveling from NY, only to get license points for being unfamiliar with the area… and he only pulled us over because there’d been many drunk drivers. When we were too sober to ticket, he let us go and told us to have fun travels and a good night.That’s three warnings and NO tickets! I’m pretty proud of us. 

When we finally got to what we believed was the airbnb, we wandered around a dark house for quite some time, until we recognized that we were three houses down, oops. Well, we eventually reached our room, recognized one am was too late/early to shower, and decided it was time to just sleep. We did some research on local stores and decided what we will do in Portland tomorrow. I opened up my first birthday present, and began to type. 

Tomorrow we tackle the city of Portland and head to WA for the afternoon.

Good Night, 

Celine

Day 13

Today began with whipping winds and an intense mist that deterred us from hiking to the actual base rock of the falls. After packing up in a pretty tough cold rain we decided against hiking to the top of the trail just to go down… we knew this wouldn’t be our last time in Yosemite and were content leaving the trail open.

We made oatmeal on a portable stove with granola and fruits and whatever else our backpacks had to offer, packed up our things, and hiked down to the base of the trail. There, we found a warning ticket held down by the wiper, placed at two in the morning, with every possible mistake checked off. We hadn’t put all of our food, toiletries, liquids, blankets, and humanly belongings in a bear locker and the Sienna was a threat to the park… who knew?

Happy that it was just a warning and the five thousand dollar fine was not ours to pay, we unpacked our bags, fixed up the car, and headed off for San Francisco.

The drive out of the forest was crazy. there were intense wildfires that filled the air with thick smoke. picture a barbecue gone wrong. The atmosphere smelled like bonfire and the sky was hazy, in addition to all of the roadwork taking place. It was a blessing that our intended highway travels were not infringed upon by the road closings, and i-120 was very open.

We stopped in the park to get fruits and a homey plain chobani yogurt. Ahh, clean food.

Then, we were off with only one stop for gas. We made it to San Francisco and instantly headed to the beaches. We went to Ocean Beach and almost instantaneously regretted it… Nothing like Southern California’s Ocean Beach. The beach was lame, colder, and just not where we wanted to be. So, we continued driving down the coast and pulled into a beach with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We threw down our towel and hung out until it was unenjoyably frigid.

We did some threw some dirty laundry into the was at a local laundromat and headed downtown. We wanted Poke bowls to an extreme level, but all shops were closed by about 7. We walked around an Asian concentrated area of San Fran and quickly found an adorable little sushi restaurant, Floating Sushi Boat. It was exactly what it sounded like. Alex and I sat at a counter where sushi floated by on small plates in little revolving boats. We took whatever looked interesting and paid by the plate… boy did we have a stack of plates and overstuffed stomachs by the end.

We continued to walk through the cultural streets with lanterns strung up and native clothing shops on every corner. We went into our first Oriental bakery and purchased a Japanese macaroon to split. We stopped in a small store and found pocket Buddhas and ‘lucky candies.’ We found a small, white walled art gallery with some FUNKY art, stopped to speak with the owner who beckoned us in, and continued on our merry way, headed back to the car. Our two and a half hours in a parking garage miraculously cost a dollar and fifty cents, and we continued to the shopping district. I purchased a supercozy sweater because Northern California is way to cold for late July, and then we were off to pick up our freshly washed clothes, with a pitstop to Walgreens for some toiletries and a candy to share. Note: San Francisco is full of homeless people… they don’t look like your average, shot homeless person, but glazed over and disoriented and its disheartening.

We pulled right back into the Ocean Beach parking lot, transformed the car into nightmode, and prepared to rest, planning tomorrow’s activities in Portland, OR. Its an early wakeup, so

Good Night,

Celine

 

Day 12

Before today took shape, I agreed to let Alex write the blog post. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite Forest, you would understand why I couldn’t resist to write as well. The following posts come from our similar view points and were written separately about today’s mesmerizing journey…

Hello world 🙂 today is my turn to write a bit of a post and we’re gonna do things a little differently, we’re going to start at the end.

Right now it is 10:15pm and I am in a quaint (very damp) tent at the base of the tallest waterfall in North America. I can hear the water ripping though the air and crashing onto the rocks with such fierce force and power. I sit here and struggle to find words as to how this place makes me feel. It is so beautiful here and I am so unimaginably content. That’s where I am right now. This morning I woke up in the nicest apartment I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping in, and tonight it is my turn to tell you how we got from there, to here, and everything in between.

It started at 6am with that goddamn alarm that I’ve come to love. You hate it for 5 seconds then you realize what the day holds ahead and you get right up. First thing Celine and I did was write a thank you letter to our awesome host Ben (shout out to Ben, uber dope man and simply a kind individual). Shorty after we set out street art hunting, which seems to be Celine’s newfound favorite activity, After a couple solid shots (photos of course) and some egg samies we were off to Beverly Hills. We cruised around BH for a bit, then found our way to the Hollywood sign. I peed on some rich dudes driveway and we tagged a Hollywood street sign.

From there we moved on out, heading north, Yosemite bound. Our drive today was enjoyable (as they always are). The drives have become simply relaxing and fun. Imagine being stuck in a waiting room for hours with a person who simply knows you like no other. Long drives are far from something to be dread. As we approached Yosemite, the forestry started to become much more dense and deeply green. Some of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen found their way in front of my eyes today. Massive, thick pines, towering, watching. These trees to me seem old and wise. After a windy mountain drive, we found our way to camp 4, the start of our hike to Yosemite Falls. We slapped on our packs and started truckin’ up some dirt.

After about 1.5 hrs of hiking we finally saw Yosemite falls, by far the most amazing waterfall I’ve ever seen. Being the young grasshoppers we are the first thing we did was drop out packs, hop off trail and climb down to the base of the water fall. Here we found Narnia, or at least what I’d imagine Narnia to look like. Giant open landscape with bright green grass, large boulders of deep gray and black, littered throughout, all of which slowly slanting towards the base of the fall. Our original plan was to continue upwards on trail, but after finding Narnia, we knew we had to set up camp here. We settled in, built a fire pit and burnt a bit of wood. The night was simple and wholesome, filled with excessive natural beauty (no such thing). And that Ladies and Gentlemen is where I lay, in my tent, unimaginably content with all around me. I can’t wait to hear that goddamn alarm tomorrow morning :).

-Alex

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Each day begins with a different atmosphere, due in part to the completely new setting

Today began with a simple 6:01am wakeup. We rolled back the thick grey comforter, and gathered the last of our things before heading out. The sun was just coming up over the smog of the water, city, and bustle of others, as we walked across the balcony of the stunning second story apartment

We headed straight for the car because we were on a mission: Celine needed to see all of the art the streets of the LA had to offer. Alex drove in the directions we were introduced to last night, and I made him pull over every so often so that I could hop out. I guess I should stop snapping all of these pictures of street art if I have no intention to find the artist and credit them… but the murals are massive, and meant to be seen. Note: I will never stop taking pictures of full wall paintings

While I was on the hunt for street art, Alex made the executive decision to stop at a small deli we passed for some breakfast. We got egg samis on croissants because Cali folk do notrfff offer them on rolls, and they were delicious. Note: they won’t ask you if you want salt, pepper, or ketchup, they will simply throw mayonnaise on that sucker

We ate as we drove, because we had just begun. Once I was fulfilled with my own street art gallery of a camera roll, we headed toward all of the things any teens in California would want to see. We drove through Beverly Hills blasting the song 90210 < > . Whilst in the area I mailed postcards back home… They don’t have anything to do with SoCal, this was simply the first post office I’d stumbled upon, start checking the mail mom&dad

We saw a ‘Babylon Cleaners’ on our drive and recognized we are never disconnected from home

We then made our way up to the Hollywood sign in Griffith park. It was extremely fun to drive through the neighborhood as it began to rise with the day. There were people jogging, dog walking, biking, loading their cars, and starting work for the day. We attempted to see the sign from multiple “viewing areas” on the mountain, but recognized how lame that was and how we can’t rely on google when the things we want are right in front of us. So, we hopped back in the Sienna and drove toward the sign, which was pinned on a map. We got pretty damn close, and I was content with a good view rather than driving another thirty minutes up a rock to see a sign. Note: we tagged a powerbox on the streets of Hollywood

I got out as my barefoot, long haired self, walked too far down the block, back up, and snapped some fun pictures. Note: I love physical cameras

By the time we hopped back in the sienna, it may have been the seventh time hopping back into the car that morning, we knew there would be no more stops. We were northbound with nothing but (excessively) high gas prices holding us back

After a short six and a half hour drive, we reached Yosemite National Park. I’d personally never heard of such a place, was ignorant on the existence of a waterfall, and assumed everyone else would be too…I was very wrong. We pulled into a mess of cars and an hours worth of traffic where you’d least expect it. There were freshly constructed roads on the mountain, not yet linked to cellular maps which just threw everyone off

Ultimately we made it to Camp 4 and parked the Sienna right were she needed to be for the night… Next to an old Subie Outback

As always, Alex established our packs and we figured out how to bungie a sleeping pad (or yoga mat) to our backpacks. I grabbed the camera and set off for what I didn’t know would be one of the most intense hikes of my life. We went from lot-level (approximately 3000ft elevation) to godknowshowfar up this massive rock in about an hour. This was encompassed by the many waves of nausea (my body knows only sea level), ample amounts of sweat, and a nice knee scrape on our first short cut up

After some woman had told us the viewing point coming up on the left wasn’t worth it, we stumbled upon the location and were engulfed by what we saw. I was past done with carrying my overstuffed Jansport by this time, so I convinced Alex to trash the packs and see how far down we could climb off the trail. We headed off the crowded, overly beaten path, and down, loving the large smooth rock that led us. We had to climb a ton, jump often, and come to terms with the tree branches scraping our limbs. We headed deeper and deeper into the unknown, closer to the falls… I just wanted to touch the face of the stone

We made our way down a long rocky path, and suddenly, we were walking through an enclosed, woodsy, rocky area. We reached the end of the dense greenery and came to what we both agree was our version of Narnia. The falls were as loud as they’ll ever be, with an open field of rocks, boulders, and petite white flowers. Id like to say frolicked like a kid, but I was never that ballsy of a child. I found many points I wanted to stand on… and I ran to them, climbing whatever I had to and stopping only to straighten my back when I was ready to stop. Every perch, boulder, dip, ect was a new perspective; a new way to see the water physically fall from a reallllly high level

This was where we both agreed we wanted to stay… It was cute, desolate, near the base of the waterfall, and SO much fun

We hiked back up to our packs and strapped them on to head back through the little enclosed rocky terrain, onto our beautiful field. With the sun setting shortly, it was time to set up camp. There was a large, slanted boulder facing the falls, with rockless grass just large enough to lay the tent. Alex pitched that, while I wandered around and explored the site. I came back and we began building a fire pit. We thought it would be necessary to have one but soon found that we were located on a spot with minimal water spray and tons of wind…so no mosquitos! Still, I went and broke off pieces of trees and then came back to camp to set up stones in a fire pit fashion. Taking rocks and stones out of the ground and organizing our home for the night was really refreshing. Everything we did felt primitive in nature. There aren’t real words to describe how intuitive it felt to dig, throw, and break things. It was fun, exhilarating, but also homey… I guess I need a thesaurus because I’m at a loss of words. You would simply have to experience the depths of the falls and all of the rock jumping in Yosemite to understand how and why I’m typing this

Standing on that field surrounded by boulders, forced to look up at the historic granite wall that towers over me, trees that have more life in them than I can comprehend, intense fading sunset sky, and feeling the invigorating spirit of the rushing water that’s powerful enough to split stone, I am continuously reminded of how small I truly am. No, not because I’m 5’1, but because we as a race are just inhabiting such small areas of the incredible scenes the world has provided us. The vitality of the area was like no other because everything was just SO friken big

Not long after the fire was started was it put out, and dusk settled heavily. The wind changed because we were suddenly facing a much more intense spray, and I retired to the tent. We moved our valuables under the rain tarp, and feel safe to say there is no need to pack our food off camp. Next to some oversized mosquitos and moths, we are probably the only life form for a few miles. Most other campers are at the sites in lots beneath us, and a few probably made it to the top of the trail today to camp on the mountain. In a field enclosed by only rocks, I can say that I feel cozy to an odd degree

Once we settled inside, the wind picked up and the slight sprays became a pitter-patter on the tent… So we were inside for the night. We’ve finally mastered the interior set-up of the tent, just as we did with the Sienna after only a few nights. We prepared soup -like I said we’ve got hot water- and ate until our conversation fizzled out. By then we cleaned up some scrapes, strung the lantern, and laid down. Note: Yosemite requires a large amount of energy to fully engage you; and you will in fact be drained by the end of the day

As I lay here texting my thoughts out (missing my computer) the falls are whipping the tent walls. The stars (once I muster up the power to endure cold rain to the face) are unexpectedly bright considering the hazy day we had

With a 5:30am alarm set and a car ride to explore San Francisco, it’s time to turn the lantern off

Good Night,

Celine

 

 

Day 11

This morning, I woke up bright and early to write the blog, considering I passed out directly after our hike last night. I folded clean clothes… dry, clean clothes

Once my Uncle Vito and Alex were awake, the country music turned up, and blueberry pancakes began. Note: Krusteaz water-only pancakes are incredibly fluffy. We discussed what life from New York to California was like, having a deck to eat breakfast on year round, his horses, how we all (Joanne included) would rather live in an RV for a while, and watched interesting country music videos

By the time we finished our breakfast, it was past time for the animals to eat. We threw on some shoes and let the horses run around, one by one out of their stalls. We pet them while Vito filled the troughs and laid their hay. We attempted to feed the goats our extra pancakes, but they weren’t feeling it. We later watched these goats play-fight, and it was quite the sight to see. Goldie has three legs, while Kingwasabi has no horns

Once the many pets were taken car of, we hopped in one of my favorite cars (a ’98 subaru forester quite obviously) and took it up the mountain to see some views.  Wow, that car handled the road better than any other. We drove up to a log cabin-looking home that sat near the peak of the mountain. It was an incredible view, with tons of wildlife.

Once we got back, we took the Sienna and followed the topless mustang to the coast. We parking it in a central lot right off of route 5 and hopped into the cute convertible to see some of the beaches of SoCal. At La Jolla, we saw an immense amount of seals, laying, sprawling, rolling, flopping, barking, scratching, swimming, playing, and sleeping. We walked right onto the rocks, got up close and personal, and took some sweet photos. I threw on a baiting suite, and we were on to our next stop: Ocean Beach. I shouldn’t forget to mention that we passed Pacific Beach, which was another landmark to ✓. We got to OB, saw the cute, poppin little town, and surfed. The waves were so clean, with beautiful height for two Long Islanders. The water was warm and crystalblue. Vito generously let us borrow his board and bodyboard, so we were in the water for much longer than originally planned, but it was well worth it. We went to Hoboy’s Burgers and ate at the coolest little surfside burger joint, promoted by Guy Fieri. The food was fast, filling, and incredible

From there, it was back to the Sienna. We took a short drive back to OB with the camera and shot some street art. Note: OB people can friken paint. Then, we were off to LA. Note: Don’t dare think that heading anywhere on route 5 after four in the afternoon is a good idea. There is traffic everywhere and I get it… Headed toward the beaches is great, heading into Los Angeles is cool, Long Beach, Venice, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Fe, ect is just what you want to be doing… so the roads must be packed with people enjoying everything around, ALWAYS

Well, we arrived in Santa Monica to Ben’s beautiful bachelor pad by about 7pm , and indulged in showers. Before the sunset, we were off to a lovely little seafood restaurant right on the coast of Malibu, perched on rocks, overlooking the ocean. We had amazing poke tacos, crab cakes, fish, and funky other flavors like coconut jasmine rice and snap peas

We drove around Venice and through the narrow canals, coated in twinkling lights and adorable, quaint beach houses. We went to Salt & Straw, which is the cutest little organic ice cream shop with FUNKY flavors, with a line that stemmed back a block. We waited until we learned that going in for pre-made pints is a cute-the-line situation. We decided on salted, malted, chocolate chip cookie dough, and ate it on the balcony, overlooking Santa Monica. The town was lively and extremely modern

After enjoying some of the flowers of California ( ツ ).We climbed up onto the roof and looked out across to the cityscape, at the line of lights in the distance, and even saw some fireworks. By the time we were back inside, scrolling through some trip photos, we knew that bedtime had come

We prepared to sleep (YAY another bed), and worked out the logistics for Yosemite tomorrow. I’m just hoping the hostiles are open

Good Night,

Celine

 

Day 10

“What a day,” I said to Alex as we laid down to sleep. 

The day began with us waking up at 4am, recognizing we weren’t  going to meet my cousin in Sedona, and passing out again until 5am. We woke up without an alarm the second time, and then a third time at 6am. Watching the sun peak further and further over the mountains all the while. 

Once we’d woken up for the third time, we accepted the fact that sleeping on late rocks was intact uncomfortable, and it was time for us to head out of the canyon. So, we packed up our tent, backpacks, grabbed our food bag set a ways off camp and headed back up the canyon. There are some things I’d like to note while hiking into the Grand Canyon. Primarily, hiking in is 9638295 times easier than hiking out. Secondly, the canyon is full (and I mean firkin full) of bright, shining faces by 7am so there’s a ton of foot traffic. Lastly, you can’t call yourself fit until you’ve gotten through a walk like that…down and up. I thought I was in pretty good shape, well, minus the lack of nutritional meals for the past nine days. Yet, while hiking up on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, I was wheezing, nauseous… whole nine yards. People even asked me if I needed water or help… yikes. 

After our hike out, we settled back into the car, I stretched a little, and we headed off into the canyon village to find breakfast. We found an authentic Mexican restaurant serving breakfast. We got breakfast burritos, omelets, and everything that didn’t feel like typical roadfood to satisfy our intensely accumulating huger.

From there, we made a stop for coffee and we were off. Well, almost…I found prairie dogs and I think they loved my camera, so I made Alex wait for the duration of a photo shoot. Then, we were off.

It was a mere eight hours until we reached California. WEST COAST! We made it. We really did it. We are half way into our trip, and halfway through our journey. I obviously never doubted us, but this felt great, We drove about a mile on route 66 and then through all sorts of terrain. We saw mountains as we entered the state, which turned into big dirt hills as we drove through them. We saw fields, farms, cacti, full sand dunes, mountains made of small rocks, and ultimately, drove three thousand feet up a mountain to arrive at Vito and Joanne’s lovely house. Note: the ride took us through so many sudden changes in scenery, which are in order below↓

I was greeted with a big hug, and walk straight into the pool. Wow, after two days of no showering and hiking that felt great… minus the fact that my phone was in my hand. Shortly after our dip and some catching up, we walked around the property, were introduced to the three horses: Sambuca, Bradley, and Melvin; and two goats: Kingwasabi and Goldie. We decided an evening hike would be amazing, so we got ready. 

Vito and Joanne whipped up a delicious BBQ dinner with fish, corn, salads, and all of the nutrients we have needed for the past week and a half. We changed, and set off on our hike. We drove about twenty minutes to Stonewall mountain, basically ran up in in forty minutes, and caught the sunset at the top of the mountain… Holy views.

We hung out up there until the stars began to reveal themselves, and had a longer, darker hike down. We traveled with extreme caution, not trying to see the scorpion or tarantula we met on the walk up, and ultimately made it to the car. Note: night hiking is exhilarating.

We recognized today, that after hiking all of these massive structures that have been around for millions of years, we are just a small speck, that lives maybe ninety years. We occupy such a minimal amount of the world. All of our stresses, small worries, and uncalled for annoyances are fractions of our speck selves, and we shouldn’t let ourselves get wrapped up, wasting the small portion of time we have here

While it is only half past eleven here in San Diego, Alex and I partook in more exercise today than the past eight days combined, and are ready to sleep like rocks… not on rocks because we did that last night. We have been blessed with an bed tonight, and are looking forward to a day of beach viewing, surfing, hiking, and foodie-ing around the southern coast of California tomorrow.

Pray for my phone, currently sitting in rice with a decent amount of the picture from today…uploads tomorrow!

Good Night, 

Celine