eugene

so much has happened. eugene, surprisingly inspiring for me. i spent 3 months here, and once i gave up on the idea that i would or should get a job, i welled up with creative ideas. plus, PLUS, i arrived to adventure buddies, and adventure we did!

first off, i don’t want you think i barged into my friends’ lives for 3 whole months. i have my faults, but that i did not do. i did reach out to the local hostel and did some work-trade for a bunk, so i guess i did sort of get a job, but it was 4 hour shifts 5 days a week, so not so bad. and it was super easy for me to request to work/not work certain times to go adventure. also, i met even more people moving around this world in different ways for so many reasons, reasons i will be exploring in many ways.

as for the creativity that opened up in me once i recovered from logistics hangover, i am still amazed at how much i am giving in to it. it could be the space i am creating and plans i am laying out so that i don’t spend precious mental space worrying and fretting. but i have started having dreams at least once a month about ideas and directions that i want the book/story/potential series i am working on. things i haven’t been able to work out during waking hours.

i have also taken the time to teach myself how to draw, or should i say let youtube videos teach me to open up to the possibilities that i can create with pencils and pens..maybe water colors. i have never let myself do this. art supply stores intimidate me. i have looked at art classes, but was shy and afraid of not being good enough to share, and they always make you share.

so i have taken one of my dry bags and filled it with my journal, sketch pad, and a pen and pencils…my little art bag. it is so fun. sometimes when i am on a hike or some such fun activity, i don’t always want to write, or the words won’t come to describe my thoughts and feelings, so i draw it. i has effected all aspects of my expressive outlets. my photography benefits as i adjust for lighting or looking for the small details. same for my writing. if i am imagining a scene to write about, i can sketch out not just what i see, but people, lighting, feeling tones for the place come to life sort of speak and fill in what i’ve been missing. its great! also, it is yet one more thing that i can use to procrastinate what i am “suppose” to be doing now. so win win!

adventures! so many!

first, i got there and eugene was having a late summer pride event! it reminded those of us who came out in the 80s and 90s of those smaller community prides we use to have. ones that were free instead of 20 bucks or more and use local area entertainers instead of big names that blow the community’s budget for other things. i do appreciate both for different reason, but definitely love the smaller community feel.

my fellow bike adventure friend took me on a bike path tour one day. showing me how to get to the river trails, what streets are good for getting to favorite breweries and bike spaces. then he left to visit family and left the two of us alone to mischief. the other pal in this crew is more of a walker, so we walked all over the town. he showed me how to get around to the parks and buttes to walk and wonder. we went to the museum, heard some music, and he introduced me to some of the friends the two of them had made since being in eugene. this was the first time the 2 of us had so much time with just the 2 of us, that we really got to know one another even deeper. such a special time i can’t even express.

the adventures i had in eugene were mixed with solo and buddies. it has been so long since i had an adventure buddy, i forgot how much fun it could be. the adventures i had with my friend in kansas city was remarkable, but it was piece of my longer plans. also, with all the flooding, the planing was different. so planning micro-adventures with someone was just so fun.

eugene does have a wonderful public transit system that reaches out to nearby communities, including the mckenzie river ranger district, so i took a couple trips out there to wonder the river woods and hot springs. we took the bus down to cottage grove to bike the covered bridge route and play around those little towns. all for the cost of a regular bus ride of $1.75 or $3.50 for a day. i also rode my bike out to springfield fairly often for the fun of riding the river trail out to have a beer or for big queer yoga on friday nights.

i can’t say enough just how beautiful this valley is. how easy it is to so any different unique nature places from ancient forest to high deserts and mountains. hot springs and ice cold rivers.

i do have to say getting back to the trails up and around the sisters wilderness was pretty great. my buddies had decided to get in a backpacking trip before school kicked back into gear for the year. so we decided to rent a car and i would drop them off and we’d camp out together for a night. then i would get another car and pick them up and we’d have a little hike and adventure on the way back. there had been a fire recently where i walked them into the start of the loop they were doing. it was eery for sure, but still so beautiful. i feel fortunate to have experienced this forest in both situations, and to see the freshness of the fire mixed with the growth already returning. it was so soothing to be back up there smelling those piney forests and absorbing high altitude sunshine. catching the views of the first snow setteling on the peaks of the sisters’ peaks.

sitting by those high altitude lakes i was able to do more internal exploration of what is my responsibility to these areas that i both recreate in, and have reverence for. it is where i am refreshed, renewed, and fills me spiritually. it is a deep relationship that i feel whatever “wilderness” i am in, and it should be, needs to be a reciprocal relationship. so what is my responsibility? what do i have to give back to these forms of kin?

settleing in eugene for the winter is certainly a tempting thought, but there are many dark sides to this little city, besides nike. certainly here was the first time on this trip i truly felt unsafe. it was the topic of many conversations i had here. it was a tough topic to talk about because it could go in many ways and we wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren’t talking about the fear of the high rates of houseless folks living on the streets and in tents by the river. it is mostly in white men and not just the drunken frat boys. there is a high rate of people on meth and other drugs that are unpredictable who will do about anything for their next fix. it is a complicated topic that goes deeper into a myriad thread of our social ills in this country.

on the flip side, i think that being in eugene was more of a coming home than being in portland for a few weeks, but we’ll talk about that when i do a portland adventure wrap up. but that will be after our overnight to the coast #optoutside!

philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

from the south to the east

from my friends in north carolina, i did a one-way car rental to a city with a train station to get to philly with bike in tact. as i pulled out of the rental car place, i stopped at a local brewery to get my bearings and have a snack. i hadn’t exactly decided which way to get to charlotte, or where to stay when i got there. at the brewery i sat outside with a view of a creek, and in the distance i could see what i found out later, a huge community garden. this little town has much to offer.

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as i sat there looking, thinking, and planning the woman next to me struck up a conversation. i’m not sure how it started, but she said she had recently decided to “go vegan” and this place has some great options. soon the conversation switched to community and how conservative the next town over is. her “boy friend” joined in for a little while. he is a health educator in the school district and the conversation got detoured a little. yet, we got a little deeper into the perception people out side of the south have about the people who live in the south and just how wrong that is, and it is true and troubling.

i think this falls into my idea of political false sense of security, and the pacific northwest, and all liberally identified towns/cities are guilty of this. it is part of what the denial has led to the flourishing of fascists hate crimes in places that refused for so long to believe it could happen here. anway, it was a good way to get sent off and out of the south, but first charlotte.

well first, cherokee north carolina.

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i should have taken more time here, like a day, and gone to the cherokee nation museum run by the reservation. i should have. instead i drove through the town. through the gross tourism businesses with awful names and mascots and symbols. i did stop by the park by the river and watched the families swim and cool off even while it rained. it wasn’t hard to imagine this relatively flat open area of the river being popular as a gathering place for various families and “tribes” of the cherokee pre trail of tears and genocide. i walked the banks until the rain got too heavy for a comfortable drive.

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the short time in charlotte was fairly uneventful. i didn’t ever really feel comfortable in this town. i got into town and found the amtrak station, then where i would return the rental car, the searched for a cheap place to stay that was an easy logistical equation to solve…that included a place to consume good food.

it was quickly apparent where infrastructure money went with just a short drive from the train station through downtown. one side had pot holes that would eat a car, the other smooth paved roads, light rail lines, and bike lanes. i had to find a way to navigate both. i checked into a cheap hotel, dropped off the car, walked to an interesting place for dinner….a brewery (are you really surprised). this space was actually pretty unique. it is in an older wherehouse type district, but all the buildings look more like airplane hangers. where i pulled up a stool is actually shared by 3 breweries, and is huge. there is so much space inside. outside had all kinds of “lawn” games, fire rings, and picnic tables all being well utilized. inside had t.v.s (so many t.v.s in in american pubs i.e. public spaces). they also have a video game lounge with fancy gaming devices and big screens. seems like a neat idea to merge breweries into a space to share resources (including a pretty good menu) but with different style beers.

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i must confess, though the walk was only going to be 20 minutes to the hotel, i took a lift ride. i was so tired, and the sun had just set, and i had to be up around 5 am to check out and make my way to the train station.

the morning was gorgeous. it was still so hot, but the sunrise and moonset created so many amazing colors in the sky. i ended up taking the light rail as far as i could through downtown, and then biked some residential backroads i found to avoid as many road craters as possible in the dark. got to the station early only to find out we would be leaving at least an hour late…and the train adventures began.

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i ended up 5 hours or so late into philly. thank goodness for friends you like the night life, and taught me the first rules of philly, break all rules.

when she picked me up at the train station, she just pulled over in this odd little nook, we threw my bike and bags in the car. she then explained that people in philly do what they need to do, to accomplish what they need to accomplish, especially parking.

as we entered west philly (baby) she pointed out some points of history and places i may have heard of, the world cafe (npr), osage street (the one time america bombed itself. you may have heard of the MOVE 9)…my tired eyes tried to take it all in while watching the lights and cyclists bike the city, as i relaxed into being back in the presence of this person who has known me for so long.

naturally we double parked to pick up the food she ordered earlier. as she jumped out of the car she quickly turned back and said, “don’t talk to strangers!” what? laughing, that is kind of what i do!

philly is going to be fun! stay tuned (i listed to a lot of whyy)

retracing good times

as i clean up and insert pics in this post, it is raining the nice specifically pacific northwest kind of rain. you know, it is too heavy to go with out a jacket of some kind but not enough to zip it up. the kind that drives drivers nuts because you can never get the wipers just right, always too slow or too fast.

we had been watching the weather, hoping and getting excited as the chance for rain increased each day. last night we i mused that i felt like a kid a christmas, excited for the morning to see what would happen. then the morning, it happened. while we were out for breakfast. we looked out just as we were about to walk home. so wonderful. and it is suppose to continue through the day.

ok so here i am going to start writing about all the good times that got over shadowed by the challenges and struggles i face, for there was so much fun and laughter, and that is what kept me going….

so

once i saw thelma and the sleeze where going to be playing at the hanger in carbondale, i was tempted to hang longer. finally some music i love and relate to. but really that was all that was tempting. i was able to eat pretty good at the co-op, but it was time to go. so i bus tailed it outta there.

the overnight in knoxvile, as i have said was fun. the city market area with the art, and food, and bike race monitors, fountains for kids, and being designed as a pedestrain “mall” was super nice. to walk and wonder without having to worry about cars is always a treat.

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the walking and wondering with freedom encouraged more walking wondering and exploring. i went up streets, down street. i wondered alleyways and shop windows. all the murals in the alleys led me to more alleys and city perspectives.

i’ve always loved alleys. it reminds me of being a kid. the first house i remember remember as a youngen had an alley. we cut through to friends’ houses, playing hide n seek, check what games friends were playing before they knew we were there. it was also the furthest view point for adults to find us, or for people to think to look for us for any reason. it is also a great way to check on the neighbors’ gardens. then there is the unused, dirt floor garages that no one used except us for shenanigans.

i’ve only had a few homes since that had alleys, but i always enjoy them. portland had some good alleys. wondering pals who enjoy meandering through alley ways are priceless, and it is good to know i have a few.

it seems, based on my little trip, that more cities are utilizing their alleys for more than just a place for dumpsters and smoke breaks.  i have found wonderful mural art projects, one might call city art-scapes? i like it. here in eugene google maps often sends seem through alleys. and some store fronts/brewery entry points are in alleys. so good.

so from knoxville, i went to asheville. i made the big decision to stay a week in ashville. it was the week of 4th of july….not a fan of this day of nationalistic celabration especially how nationalism is playing out these days. so i hunkered down in asheville with some international travelers and misfits. also the women’s world cup was entering the final rounds and there are fun places to watch such events here.

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the hostel i stayed at is in the heart of downtown, down a narrow alley like street actually. everywhere i went was .4 miles (aka a 20 minute walk) according to google maps. i was near vegan restaurants, a co-op, so many good breweries, coffee shops and 2 tea shops, multiple book stores, music venues, and a vegan punk cafe that was so flipping great on so many levels. it is kind of how i imagine the red and black cafe could have been if they could have held it together better.

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rosetta’s, the punk cafe, had an upstairs and a downstairs if you entered on a certain street. the upstairs is at street level one street over. the upstairs is kind of told school order at the counter kind of place with self serve stations and a beautiful copper pipe and tile water station that i wish i had taken a picture of. downstairs is like a regular table service kind of place. both have the same menu.

i had such a hard time deciding what i wanted. everything being vegetarian or vegan, and most things could be made vegan. would it be nachos? comfort food? healthy bowl? salad? or what really sold me on the cafe the pay it forward rice and bean bowl.

the pay it forward bowl, actually called beans and rice under the heading everybody eats, is set up as a sliding scale meal and they let you know how much pays for the meal to what would allow someone else to eat if they didn’t currently have the currency. i think this simplifies the whole sliding scale healthy food and water as a right not privlage kind of action vs. philosophy/theory. it is offering an option to a community while holding boundries that allow them to stay in business without giving up their ethics and values so that they can contribute more. it is a fine line and a tight-rope to walk. also the people who worked there were all super nice and not at all snarky the whole time i was there, everytime i was there, regardless of who they were serving.

then there is the actual setting of the place. great art and murals on the walls, walls and stairway FULL of poster and flyers of events, bands, actions, community groups and organizations, calendars for other places having punk rock trivia fund raisers for trans folks at the southern border needing/wanting leagal or/and basic needs met. a zine library was in a very visable corner next to the condiment stand. it was clean with out being starial. it is a place i felt comfortable in as a dirt-bag and as a cleaned-up kid out for a good meal that wouldn’t make me feel like a sell-out for eating out.

the places i watched the world cup were fun and energetic. i high-fived strangers. we held one anothers palces as we went to the bathroom. we made a group food run when we realized bloody mary’s started before we remembered we hadn’t been awake long enough to eat. it was one of the few times i was around some sporty dykes that felt super comforable to finally talk about our sports-ball experiences while in school. most of us, at least in my age group, we pretty shamed out of sports, especially team sports. may be why i prefered individual sports like track. let me be and i will run my ass off, stretch longer while everyone else hits the locker room. or finish faster so that i can get in and out before the rest of the “team”. i was tired of being made fun of or being baited about attractions or crushes. i loved the sports, but i hated all the rest that went with it. eventurally i just used an injury that wouldn’t heal (pulled muscles in my knee training indoors), and needing to work as a reason to drop out. very real reasons, but if i had felt supported/safe, who knows. i’m also not a very competitive person, so probably would have still quite. seeing the portland thornes play during pride weekend one year, that was pretty special. seeing professional women on the pitch and in the stands be out and open…rainbow thorne flags…it was something to experience. i felt much more proud there then being at the ubber corporate sponsored “pride” parade held earlier that day.

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one evening at the hostel i met this interesting woman is in her late 60s and is just discovering the joys of solo travel, and is toying with the idea of becoming untethered herself. her husband died a couple years ago, so why not sell the house and move into some kind of camper type situation and see the country. she spent her time at the hostel asking anyone she could how, why, where they venture, whatever question was on her mind. it was fun to see her open to so many possibilities.

i also met a guy who practices chinesse medicine in l.a. he comes to asheville every so often for continuing education. turns out we know some of the same practicioners and share some of the same theories of healing. i left him some of the foods that i thought might not make the hot journey to my friends.

i did really fall for asheville. i can see the attraction and why people have reccomended it to me so many times. i have thought about it as an option. i checked out cost of living, housing, jobs, access to nature and wildness. it could be a livable city option for me. yet something just seemed off. not quite right for me. it is a big city. bigger than i expected and full of tourists, like actual tourists and not just visitors, so…there is that. but it is closer to some great pals that i got to have a wonderful visit with.

 

life and threats on trains

i am jumping some stories. mostly i just need to get this one out of my head.

trying to find the way i wanted to travel west with my bike for the least amount of money as soon as possible was my mission. after pouring over options that just were not going to work, finally one popped up.

it would take me early wednesday morning to mid-day sunday, but i could load my bike up without the need to box it up. seemed good. i packed some foods and beverages and prepared to be able to just kick back, write, read, look out the window and day dream. what more could a kid ask for?

philly to chicago was fairly uneventful, in fact, was delightful thanks to the woman i was sitting next to. her youngest child had finished high school, so now it is her time to do whatever, so instead of the kids leaving the nest, she left.

she had seen me run around the station with my bike and that is what started our conversations and connection, leading many more. she got rid of as much of her life as she could and is moving to montana where her eldest child lives. she loves to bike, run, swim, and basically just be out of doors. she “hates the city”. we would go to the lounge car for our own happy hour moments, a night cap, or morning coffee. our conversations always shifting and changing, or involving whomever decided to chime in. upon arrival in chicago we both had a four hour layover, so we went out in search of salads for lunch, and wine for her to take to her sleeper car for her next train ride. we helped each other find our next trains, exchange contacts and say so long. a very delightful 30 hours.

while waiting for the next train, the califonia zepher, i ran into another person loading their bike. we didn’t really chat until we were waiting to take our bikes to the baggage car to hand up to the loaders. i should have known this leg was going to be an interesting one. we didn’t get to hand hand our bikes up to the baggage people. we had to lay them down in a different baggage car, and the guy that was showing us which car to load on to, made it clear that he did not appreachiate bikes on trains. did he know that we most likely would not be using the train if it weren’t for the ability to bring our bikes? later, when i was trying to claim my bike, i kept getting sent back and forth until they finally listened to me about where i had put my bike a couple days before.

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the conductors on this first section of this train were just rude. they treated us all like we were misbehaving children before we even left the station. later i would wish that they would actually address the parents of the children running over people all day and night. i spent a good deal of the time either in the observation car or the cafe beneath it. here i met so many people studying or practicing so many different kinds of physics. our conversations were amusing. to me it was about who was so certain of their knowledge vs. who acted curious and inquisitive. i also met a cycling guy from england who had also over heated and decided to go west. we both felt validated by our decisions based on our conversations. we both asked and listened, gaining insight from one anothers’ experience. so nice.

infact that was something that followed throughout this train ride. certainity vs curiosity. traveling through lands that i knew very well and over hearing people sharing information with their traveling companions about what things were or did, and being so very incorrect. one person actually tried to argue with me about sunflowers. insisting that they were mustard seed plants. i didn’t aruge. why would i? didn’t seem worth it, but it did lead me to this whole different internal dialogue about who knows what and how do we know what we believe we know and why do we cling to that knowledge so tightly?

is this how we end up so certain in our believes? in our own dogma? what makes some so certain and others open to different or alternate possibilities? is it possible to move from firm dogma to open possibilities? i was thinking all these thoughts as we were moving through various canyons of the colorado river. there was a bear, a fox (again arguments about fox or coyote), and some mooning from river rafters.

then we were back to the desert. we had entered navada and those getting off in reno were very excited. we were running a few hours late due to the need for amtrak to yield to rail/cargo trains. however, about an hour from reno things would change.

the engineer, or lead conductor was on the intercome giving us updates on times and various pieces of information about the gorgous forested lands we would once again be traveling through when all of a sudden the trains emergency breaking system kicked in and gasps came over the speakers.

soon we were told that there was some kind of mechanical issue and that they were going to do an inspection of the train and then get back to us. having the same kind of thing happen just outside of philly, i doubted that this was the truth. i should also mention that a rail train was stopped on the tracks next to us, heading east, and also at a stop.

the train outside philly stopped for a long time because there was a fear that we hit some trespassers on the tracks. i couldn’t help but think that something of the sort had happend here. we were pretty close to a major highway (and i had just seen a person on a bicycle peddling by wishing i could get to my bike and peddle away).

eventually they told us that we did indeed hit a “trespasser” and that we needed to stay and make sure that the “trespasser” was ok (they never mentioned if it was a human or non-human animal, it was always the trespasser). eventually, naturally, we noticed the various vehicals showing up and since we were the last car of the train and all the action was directly behind us, we knew some kind of shit happened.

couple of hours later we are told that we did hit a “trespasser” and that we “were waiting for the coroner before we could leave.” then we had to wait for the crew to give statements to the sharriff, then waiting to be cleared by the sharriff’s office or police crew. don’t really remember. i just figured we would go when we could go and no amount of questioning was going to change our situation. the crew in our train just kept trying to reassure that amtrak would make sure that everyone eventually would get where they wanted to go.

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we would sit there outside of reno for 4 to 5 hours. the train was running out of food and beverages…and patience. they ended up having to make an emergency meal for all the passengers on the train. the complementary meal would be a beef stew and mashed potatoes. i went down to the snack car to see if mike still had some vegan burgers. nope. we was out of almost everything, but encouraged those of us that do not eat meat to go to participate anyway to put it in their minds that they need a different plan for emergency meals. the diner crew was not happy and was down right pissy to anyone asking if there were other options. i get it. they were way late to get off duty, were tired, frustrated, and probably a little traumatized as well.

mike, the guy who worked the snack car, told me a little about what had happened. the “traspasser” was actually a crew member of another train (the rail car stopped already) who was walking along a live track with earbuds in, knew our train was on its way in. the whole crew broke all the safety guidlines. we were going full speed when “he” was struck. he most likely died instantly and didn’t feel it, or at least not for long. the question remaining on many minds: suicide or accident.

i thanked mike for all the work he did, and the service he provided all of us, and i wished him and the rest of the crew well. i can’t imagine how the crew must feel under these conditions: a person dying, being so late getting into the end of the line before they had to turn around and go back the other directioin, having to answer all the questions from everyone about where to and how they were going to get some place.

my 10 hour layover in sacromento became a 3 hour layover. it was late enough that i didn’t even bother trying to load my bags on the bike and look for food. some of the screaming kids from the last train were in this waiting room, so i just went outside then up to the platform to wait for my train. it was a nice summer evening and i wanted to enjoy as much as i could. in reflection this could have been a good or bad thing.

our train was only 20 to 30 minutes late coming out of l.a. i was told that i would load my bike up in the front baggage car, then would board in the last coach car. i’ll tell you that is a long haul with full bike bags.

i got in line to board, and this would be the first time on this trip that i would have to wait for an assigned seat. the guy handing out seat tickets would become known as the “beanie guy” as he was the only crew member wearing a beanie. this guy actually sent me up one car, so i was in the next to last car now. we boarded a little after midnight so i had all my sleep stuff on the outside of my backpack making it easier for me to set up my sleep station, put on headphones, cover my eyes and pass out.

in the morning i woke before 6 (when the cafe opens). a few people around me were already up and were talking about there being a second mass shooting. i knew about one, but not the other. this was not how i wanted to wake up. i wanted to at least acknowledge my internal noise before the external chaos of the world permeated my being. so i went to the observation car. we were approaching mt. shasta and the sunrise views were outstanding. i struck up a conversation with the woman next to me who was returning to eugene after a weekend at the national storytelling confrence in california. we had a wonderful conversation before she went to the dining car for breakfast. i eventually went to my seat to read some more after a really long wait for a rail train to pass while we were next to kalamath lake.

the people around me where interesting. all kinds of conversations where going on, but mostly people were sleeping or reading or listing to something with earbuds in. i had just told my friends when i would be coming into town just before we went up the pass and out of cell range. at odell lake we came to a slow stop and told we were waiting for a rail train to pass.

funny how time passes when stuck on a train with no where to go. an hour passed and nothing. no train. no info. the conductors where kind of pacing around. going down the stairs, up the stairs, leaning against a wall behind the seats just in front of me (i was sitting in an aisle seat at the top of the stairs, so it was easy for me to watch them. the one conductor would talk into his radio thing from time to time. at one point, as we could hear the radio crackle with information, he said there should be something soon, that it appeared that the train we were waiting for to pass was having engine trouble.

our car was getting a little antsy, as i’m sure most people were. a few of us stood up and stretched and chatted. i told the people behind me that i didn’t think the conductor was telling us the truth and explained to them my experiences thus far. i was pretty sure we didn’t hit someone up here, but that something was going on.

i had smelled cigarette smoke several times that morning, and it appeared that a few people kept going downstairs by the bathrooms where carry on luggage can be stored, with empty cups, but coming back up with full ones. i knew they had thrown people off the train for such things, but why stopped here for so long for that. none of it was making sense.

the guy that had been sitting across the aisle and behind me came up the stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and said that everyone was suppose to move to the back of the train. that the conductor was going to have us all move back. this didn’t make sense. i stayed in my seat.

meanwhile some guy that i couldn’t see kept yelling about wanting the “fucking dog off the train”. a young guy in our car had a service dog.

the beanie guy kept coming up and down the stairs with wide eyes, yet unable to make eye contact. something was happening, but what the hell was it. not having cell service was not easing anyone’s situation and internal dialogue was quickly becoming external, making its way to whomever was nearby to listen.

by this time, i was already suppose to have arrived. my friends have traveled by train often and know things happen and how to get info. i found out later that where they were waiting for me, the happy dive bar across the street from the train station, was close enough for them to hear the amtrak announcements letting them know that we were late, but not how late or why.

so here i am chatting with the people behind me, telling them that i didn’t think any of this was making sense when i looked up and on the other side of the door, in the next car is what looks like a gaggle of riot cops or swat team trying to open the door to our car and charge down the aisle. shotguns up and pointing red laser beams at us as they moved our way.

at first i was laughing, as i reached for my phone to record anything that may happen. there were lots of brown and black folks on this train. i was laughing because the lead swat like guy couldn’t get the door open. it took 3 or 4 tries before they all came charging down at us, fully armed and pointing shotguns at us all. and i was laughing because this is what would happen now here.

and where did they go, but to the back of the train, pointing their guns at all those who did move back there (so happy i did not move). eventually the guy who told me to move, told the cops not us, that guy over there.

the cops backed up, pointed all weapons on the guy who had been yelling about the dog on the train. the cops asked him his name, i didn’t hear his answer, then asked if he was armed, “yes, i have a 45”. then shouts “i got it! i got it!” after we had heard him drop it on the floor.then they hauled the guy off the train as he kept asking what he was charged with and that he had been sleeping for the last 3 hours. and off goes another angry white guy that’s been carrying a gun ready to fire away at any moment.

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what the fuck

5 fully armed officers from various departments had boarded the train. then they started taking people off one by one to interview them. seems this guy was threatening people since the sacrmento station, starting with a woman’s pre-teen daughter. people had been alerting amtrak employees about this guy from the go.

on the train he had a coutdown going for when he was going to start taking hostages,  had been smoking on the train several times, and it seems everyone in our car had some story about this guy, except me. i had managed to miss almost everything.

eventually they let us all off the train for a “smoke break”. i did suspect some of the people came forward with a story once they saw people getting to smoke while talking to a cop.

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eventually we got back on the train and we got to start moving again. all of us sitting near one another shared stories and asking what were we suppose to do now. those who had the guns pointed directly at them started to breakdown into tears and sobbed on shoulders.

the woman who had been sitting/sleeping next to the guy overnight had been in the observation car during the time we were stopped and came back once we started moving again. i had seen her in the morning. she thought he was just another crazy white guy and she was a strong black woman tired of crazy white guys. i ran into her later when i went down to the cafe car for a beer and a snack. the cafe was closed but i saw her in the back by the bathrooms alone, looking shaken up.

i asked if she needed anything. we talked. well she talked. i listened. she had no idea he had a gun. she had yelled at him. they had faught pretty much all night until she got up and left. she had bad feelings about him from the go. “he could have shot me at any time!?”

we didn’t see or hear from a conductor until we were abut 30 minutes from the eugene station (our next stop). someone came over the speakers as the guy sitting next to me and i went in search of some kind of information anouncing the approximate new times. some of us did our own math and believed that they purposly went slower than needed to talk about what and how they were going to respond to what had happened.

when a conductor finally did come back to check in on those of us getting off the train in eugene, he had no response. no one was going to come make sure that we were “ok” or that those personally traumatized had access to support via amtrak or some other means. i found out, by talking to others while in line for bathrooms or drinks, that unless one was in our car, no one knew anything about what happened. even those in the observation car that the armed cops came through to get to him, were told nothing.

to be a little fair. once the incident was over and we were moving again we saw beanie guy head to the front of the train with his bags packed looking none to happy. we never saw him again. we assumed he got off at the unscheduled stop before we got into eugene proper. he was the one conductor people had voiced their concerns about the guy since before boarding in sacramento. this could have all been handled quickly in a station with support.

the conductor who did talk to us had only been on the job for 6 months, and he was the one we saw back in our area. the lead conductor i only saw once early in the trip. she was recalculating arrival times in the cafe car after the stop we had in klamath. i did see her in the baggage car when i went to claim my bike. she apologized for any inconviencies. i wished her well. i just wanted to load up my bike and point it to my pals who by now had gone home and were cooking up a nice curry for us as the beer was chilling. have i mentioned how much i love my friends?! all of them! everywhere!

it took awhile for some of us to take in everything that had just happened. i still am i reckon. many of us that follow just how much gun violence there is in this country. how many mass shootings there are. how much fear people live in and with every flipping day; sometimes it takes a minute to realize what was experienced.

as for myself. i’m ok. i’m good, as pools well up in my eyes right now. i don’t know how i felt as i was instructed to stay in my seat and keep my head down as i could see it all go down. it was so instinctual. the arsonal of the police/military weapons at eye level, the brown man i was sitting next to me waking up as everything was happening, me putting my hand on his back telling him to stay down. i trusted no one in this situation but my own privlage keeping me more safe than those around me…and as a queer low-income gender queer person in this country being white and educated was what i had going for me…as usual. i say this with no ego or good for me moment, my concern  was for those around me. i never believed i was in physical danger, but that others would be. i don’t know why. as others processed what could have happened if….i listened. i never felt the danger. as i’ve taken some time to process and talked it out with my people i still don’t feel like i was in physical danger. maybe part of my laughter of the military police having problems opening the door, was the idea that “of course this is what is happening” with no sense of suprise.

but i am certainly feeling something

i feel for those who did feel threatened

those who were sittting near this white man spouting violent threatening language

those who feel this threat each and every day due to how they look or move through their lives

where their families moved here from as refugees seeking asylum

forced here

colonized here

no matter who we are

no matter how we vote(d)

where we live

for so long now

this is our reality.

the people behind me? they were suppose to be at that garlic festivile that was a scene of a recent mass shooting.

everyone had some kind of close call with a mass shooting in this country, or white supremest hate filled violence to share.

so i have a question(s) for all those who voted for this administration, for this way of governing for this hate sponsored politics. those of you who don’t believe that this is what you voted for…that you voted for the economics or whatever you thought was going to provide you with a sense of safety and future you wanted to see, who think this is not the america you wanted to make great again.

for all those who believe that there is a grave threat from people who seek refuge along the southern border, or are muslim, black, brown, queer, trans

how do you “know” that this is the source of violence or some kind of risk to your safety, financial or physical. how do you “know” this to be true?

i also have questions for all those who have asked me if i feel safe traveling alone? camping by myself, biking by myself. i have never felt a threat until i entered the places more populated by people.

because of all these and so many more questions i have, i don’t know how to end this post.

thank fucking much that i had some of the best people in the world waiting for me with food and beverages and hugs and listening skills when i got off this train to help me deal with a fairly benign situation comparitively.

i shouldn’t have to deal with this, no one should.

the things i should have to deal with have nothing to do with fragile egos with guns, fists, white houses fed by congress and mega corporatioins.

i’m tired too

i’m tired of being angry

i’m tired of deciphering if that sound was fireworks or gunfire

i’m tired of filtering

of self censoring

and if i am this tired, how do others who have done this for generations, centuries feel?!

a final note. i looked this incident up on line just to see what if any news would be reported, because we never saw a news crew. there was very little reported. mostly that we were delayed for 5 hours costing amtrak lots of money in lost revenue due to missed connections and such. that there were 272 passangers and 15 crew members. that there was no injuries reported and no weapons. really? no weapons??!! we saw the weapon. i heard the man say he had a 45. i heard the cop drop it then pick it up and repeat several times “i got it! i got it!”

know who to trust with what you know is true

 

 

 

a year in a month

can’t believe its been a month or so since i wrote last.

the osarks seem so far away both spatially and temporally.

so here is a brief recap on what’s been happening.

it is hot

and humid

the country is in a big heat wave with lots of extreme heat advisories everywhere i have been.

rolling into murphysburo to stay with some mighty fine warmshower folks, a short 30 miles or so nearly did me in. then as i was cooling off at the public library while they wrapped up work and such, a huge thunderstorm rolled in. gratefully they only live a few blocks from the library.

the next morning i pushed on into carbondale to figure things out. i was told of this old school motel that should be good to stay at and the location would make it easy to get around. just before i reached the motel, i spotted the co-op…hello good food! good food always helps clear my mind.

i looked up heat exhaustion, heat stroke, the weather patterns where i was heading. this was the end of june, and it was only going to get hotter. at the time i didn’t know that july would become the hottest on record all around the counry…so far. i believed if i continued it would not be in my best health interest. sure i could do it, slow but steady, but leaving the ozarks and facing the apalachian/smoky mountain range…well i didn’t see it going well. and i was excited to see my pals! i needed to see my pals more than i realized at the time.

i researched bike flight, a company that specializes in helping one get their bike shipped wherever they need it. then i looked at amtrak and greyhound to find my way to asheville, the closest city i could get to my next friend stop. and i have always wanted to experience a town i had heard so much about.

the couple days exploring the college town of carbondale was fun and odd. everywhere i went things just seemed a little off. i don’t know how to explain it. maybe they sensed i was the outsider? i don’t know, but i only felt this way around the white folks. i had wonderful conversations with black folks. it was probably me still nervous about being deeper in trump land, but this trend would continue as i searched out conversations with strangers.

so i made my plans and went further east.

there was an older black couple waiting at the greyhound stop in the amtrak station. when our bus was super late, as in after amtrak office closed, they made us wait outside. it was a hopping saturday night. they shared stories of their party days and then one of their friends just happened to wonder by and the stories really got going. their laughter lightened the moment, and even cooled down the steamy night a bit.

our bus was 3 hours late coming out of st. louis. the air conditioning was not working so they had to find and switch out the buses. when we got into nashvile it was a cluster chase for every one of us that was trying to get connecting rides. the couple i had met in carbondale and i sat and chatted until our respective buses were called and we wished one another well.

in knoxville there is only 1 bus to asheville and it leaves at 6:30 am. we got into knoxville something like 9 or 10 am. one of the older women who worked at the station saw me put my bags down (i kind of stand out with my bike bags and being one of the few white people wondering around the station). she asked where i was going/what i was doing. when i said asheville, she told me to give her my ticket and follow her.

she quickly disapeared behind the counter, talked to someone in an office behind the counter, and let me know “he’ll take care of it, have a seat.”

so i sat and waited.

next thing i know, he comes out, writes some things on my ticket, hands it back to me, says a taxi will be here shortly to take me to the hotel and to make sure to be in the lobby by 5 am to be returned to the bus station. that is right. greyhound hooked me up with taxis and a hotel, which let me explore knoxville tennessee for a day.

i want to take a minute to talk about a situation i witnessed and experienced in the knoxville station, but i am going to save it for another post. more has happened around the issue of ICE and the amazing work some people are doing for refugees trying to find their way in this country. a reminder the so called border is everywhere, or nowhere.

anyway, while waiting for the the next bus to take me to asheville, and closer to the next friend stop, i had a wonderful chat with the woman standing nearby. we talked about all the delays and the heat. there was a young child who was not having it any more and was throwing a fit. she talked about traveling with her kids, absent on this work trip. later, she asked me if i knew what was up with the table that had water and food and clothing (the thing i will write in my next post) that was now broken down. when i told her it was for refugees, she started to get worked up, thinking of the children locked up in concentration camps. you don’t do that to children. to anyone. but children?! hell no! we both started to have tears of anger and frustration well up in our eyes: what can we do, should we do, where do we turn? i could see the anger of a strong black woman/mother begin to surface. my heart swelled. my muscles tensed. interupted by the call of a bus….not either of ours.

we changed the subject.

she knows kansas city. she goes there for school bus driver conferences and such. she loves going to old kc. it is where she met her husband. he followed her east to be with her family. we talked of family and favorite places. then her bus was called.

i spent a week in asheville at a hostel downtown. i was able to walk everywhere. nothing was more than a 20 minute walk. for real. whenever i looked up directions to some place i wanted to explore, it was .4 miles away. it became a joke amongst many of us. my friends that live close by came in for a few hours one afternoon. we made plans for me to get to them. i bike 30 some miles to a town near them and they picked me up.

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the roads from asheville to waynesville were beautiful. lush green everywhere. rolling hills that were getting steeper again. i did have to stop several times to cool down. by the time i rolled into waynesville, i was rung out. its funny though. as hot as i get on these days, the air conditioning where i stop is too cold for me. i waited at a coffee shop, drinking some iced tea, but had to sit outside, it was just too cold inside. luckily there was shade and i could cool down and dry off enough to wipe the salt off my legs and arms.

i had an amzing time with my friends! to have such wonderful people in my life! i am so excited for their next adventures! the time here was so good. i spent hours, days just staring out at the trees and hills while my pals worked on their projects and  plans for their next things, or prepare for art shows. then we would chat about whatever was on our minds. i was able to unburden some of the turbulence inside me with out, hopefully, putting anything on them. it is such a gift to have people who can listen without needing to take anything on.

but there was still logistic storms in my head, and no one could do anything about that but me really. though my pals would play a part for sure.

how to get from here to philly was the next challenge and i was at a lost. i thought about biking back to asheville, then? i knew i couldn’t keep biking until the heat wave broke. it was so hot by 10 or 11 in the morning, and the nights never really cooled down. so i decided on a one-way car rental to charlotte where i could pick up a train to philly that would let me bring my bike without putting it in a bike box again.

so i loaded up, put on some tunes, and made a road trip, but i went a little backwards. i stopped in cherokee, nc first. it is part of the reservation with lots of history of the people of this land. i learned a little about this band and how some of them were able to avoid the trail of tears that was part of the indian removal act. again, i will write more on this very soon. thoughts on the indian removal act and public lands and our parks systems.

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so i got on a train in charolotte. we were almost 2 hours late in leaving due to mechanical issues. then due to having to go slower in some areas because of the effects of heat on unmaintained rails in areas, (for realz we have an infrastructure problem in this country on so many levels) and then a strange situation just as we were entering philly. people rambling on the rails outside of town. someone thought the train hit someone. we had to wait for the police to clear everything up. they told us no one was hurt. shrug. i guess i believe them?.? we were 5 hours late arriving. thankfully my friend here is super wonderful and acted unfazed by it. even ordered  chinese food for us to pick up on the way “home”.

and here i am, my last day in philly! it has been a wonderful time here. i got to get intouch with another friend who moved here from portland, and they turned me on to some protests/demonstrations that i was hoping to get involved in.

tomorrow i hop on a train and begin my journey west. for some reason i just feel pulled to get there. i have some ideas of bike tours i want to do once i get there, but again, its my pals.

lots of things have fallen apart on this trip, pretty much from the start plans have shifted and changed many times kind of on a daily bases. sure this is part of pretty much any adventure. yet, there has been one thread that has not changed since i started. friends. connections both new and well established relationships, including the one i have with myself.

i am excited to spend four and half days on a train ride accross the country garenteed to have some good stories come out of it, as well as some wonderful views as i get to ride the zepher from chicago to sacramento. on this ride i hope to write about the wonderful experiences i had in the stops i’ve made so far. i have an outline of what i want to share, thoughts i’ve had, the people i’ve met, the pieces of community i’ve found inspiring, and photos…it should keep me busy while on the train.

i do apologize for not writing, but to be honest, i have had to fight the feelings of failing. myself? those who support me? the adventure it’s self? not totally sure, and i’m over those feelings now, mostly. it is all about the adventure, and for the most part i am doing just what i want to do anyway, so, there you have it.

this past month i have experienced more than i may have in the last year. much has been packed in this time frame. and i couldn’t be more grateful for any of it.