Monday, August 28, 2006

Sausalito Mojito Burrito... Oh, San Francisco

Some journal scribbling from my wanderings.

"Aug. 27 - 4:30pm

I've stopped for a cappuccino in the SoMa (South of Market area) neighbourhood, on my way back from seeing a Giants game. As I was standing in line to buy a ticket, this guy in a Cinncinnati Reds cap came by and asked if anyone needed just a single ticket. He didn't even want money for it- he just had an extra ticket to give away. Sweet! So, I got in for free, to see baseball in a real ballpark, with real grass and views of the Bay. Like so much else in San Francisco, it's so beautiful it almost brings tears to your eyes. Especially after seeing so many games at the concrete bunker that my beloved Blue Jays play at. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but it really is as neat as it looks on TV, with Kayakers and other boaters haning out in the Bay waiting to fetch home runs, and lots of space to chill out near the water when you're not in your seat.
I was thinking about taking this ghost tour tonight, but I'm pretty tired. I might just chill out at the hostel... I have to book my plane ticket online, and I wanna book a tour of wine country tomorrow, which'll mean getting up early."

"Aug. 28 - 9pm

After a day of serious walking, I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and chill. I'm at a vegetarian restaurant right now ('Herbivore'), right near my hotel... why do I ever even leave this neighbourhood? Today I walked from my hostel, past Mission Delores, through Haight Ashbury, and then all the way through Golden Gate Park to the coast, where I took off my shoes and waded into the ocean. It was a long trip, but well worth it; walking across town like that reminded me of driving across the continent: long, filled with worry and weariness, but also with untold surprise and satisfaction and calm at the end. I really do wish I'd biked it, though, as I had originally planned. However, after putting off my wine country trip until tomorrow, I slept in way later than I intended, and I felt that it wouldn't be worth my daily bike rental dollar. So, off I go, walking way more than a normal sane person would consider. After getting to the coast, I wanted to take transit back, but i also wanted to check out Presidio too, another big park around the Golden Gate bridge. On the transit map, it looked as though by taking a couple of different buses I could go through it, and pass near the water, so I tried doing that. Unfortunately the one I hopped on short turned when it got to the park, The bus that properly went through went in a loop, not going the way I thought it would, and only every half-hour. I decided to walk even more, which wasn't such a good idea, since it took me about an hour to get out of the park (it's huge!), and it was starting to get dark. It is cool in the Presidio woods, though - I had to idea there was so much forested parkland in San Francisco.
Although i'm tired now, earlier, especially while walking through town and along Haight, I was telling myself how desperately I wanted to stay in this town and never leave, and I'm sure I'll feel that way tomorrow too."

I've made it to San Francisco, where my days are filled with wonder and veggie burritos. I'm about to pass out, but here are some snapshots of how I got here:

"Aug. 23 – 7:30pm

I’m on the ferry to Vancouver Island. After much deliberation, and finding out that a hostel in Victoria had room for me, I decided not to stay in Vancouver, nor get quite to Seattle or Olympia Washington (since that would’ve been undoable today by ferry), so I split the difference, and Victoria it is. I plan to leave first thing in the morning for Washington state.

I’m happy to finally be at the coast, at the Pacific Ocean proper (or at least the Georgia Strait… close enough) I feel like my Piscean nature is most at home near oceans. The Great Lakes often don’t quite cut it. I sat at the ferry terminal and watched the birds – seagulls and some grey birds and smaller birds that I didn’t know what they were. They seemed happy to be there, I thought. A girl on the bus had dreadlocks, and a big blue backpack with a gasmask attached, and strawberry shortcake (as in, the children’s toy) luggage. I overheard her talking to someone at the ferry terminal, saying she takes the gas mask with her wherever she goes, just in case shit goes down. She was going home to salt spring island. Ah, the left coast.

I’ve rarely felt as alone and as free as I do on this boat right now. And I think that loneliness is the price of freedom, and that freedom is the gift of loneliness."

"Aug. 24 – 8:30am

I’m in Victoria this morning, and the problem with my plan to come here last night is that, like whenever I get to a new place, I don’t really want to leave so quickly. But, as I write down the date, I realize that I can’t afford to linger, because if I do the weekend in San Francisco will slip away from me. Yesterday, as great as the ferry was, the bus+ferry+bus combonation took forever (left Vancouver at 5pm and didn’t get to my hostel until 10). And now that I’ve committed myself to this course of action, I have a day of ferries and slow buses ahead of me, probably getting no further that Olympia tonight.
Oh, I’m at a diner having a proper breakfast this morning – they have numerous types of egg benny here, including 3 vegetarian options (I had mine with tomatoes and asparagus, on homemade corn bread). The waitress called me honey. She also touched my shirt to feel how soft it was, which was weird. It’s my grey MEC fleecy shirt, the same one I was wearing in Missoula, actually. Apparently, it drives the small town (or smaller-city) girls wild… in this case, a 40 or 50-something girls. Oh well, I'll take whatever kindness I can get."

Actually people in BC were generally super nice, especially Victoria.

"Later that day, 3:20pm

I’m on my second ferry ride of the day, this one going into Seattle. Earlier I went from Victoria to Port Angeles, on the Olympic peninsula. I thought it would be a cool way to go, but other than the ferry rides themselves, the drive has been pretty blah, and so was Port Angeles itself. I could have gone to Port Townsend, possibly a nicer town, but I would’ve had to have taken a of local buses, which would’ve taken longer, especially since I just missed one of them, and the timing was perfect for this sort-of-express bus I’m taking that’s going straight into Seattle.
This is a cool ferry ride right now, though… I’m gonna go enjoy. Oh, but first, I’ll leave you with an anecdote… as I was getting on the ferry, there was a family ahead of me, and the mother said to her young daughters: “Uh oh, no pets allowed. I guess that means daddy has to stay in the car.” Zing!"

"Aug. 25 – 10pm

A lot has happened since I last had the chance to write anything. I’ve made it a very long way down the Pacific coast to the most beautiful city of them all, San Francisco. As to how I got here….
Well, I got to Seattle, which I sort of wanted to miss initially, but I’m really glad I went. I got off the bus, put my big red backpack in a locker at the bus station, and went for a walk, intending just to use my laptop to get on the internet at a coffeeshop and hop on a bus or train that evening, within a few hours. I walked, almost accidentally, right to Pike Place Market, which was great. Lots of coffee shops, local produce, and right on the water too. A lot like St. Lawrence market, but bigger and better and almost right on the water. On my way in, I passed Safeco field, where the Mariners play, and while drinking my triple-espresso Americano, found out there was a game that night, within a few hours. Since the train I wanted to take didn’t leave until the next morning, I thought it would be a great idea to stay the nigh. According to my travel guide, there was a hostel right up the street – everything was working out perfectly, and I was high on life… and probably also caffeine.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans in store. As I approached where the hostel was supposed to be, I saw scaffolding around it, and up close I found a sign that said the lease had expired and the hostel had to move around the corner… to be opened in September. I found another hostel near Pike Place Market with a view of the water… cool! Except it was full for the night. Another hostle was out of business. No luck with the cheaper hotels in my guide book, either.
Luckily, I’d also been checking out craigslist for the possibility of a rideshare going south. There was one person on there that wanted to leave either that night or tomorrow morning. I called, and at first the girl riding down to San Fran wanted to wait until the next morning. But soon she called me back and said she’d found someone else who wanted to leave that night, and we arranged to meet later that night at the Greyhound station.
This was ok by me – this would be even more of an adventure, and way cheaper too.
My first inkling, however, that this driving option might not live up to my romantic expectations came fairly quickly. After waiting about a half hour past our arranged meetup time at the particularly dodgy greyhound station, this girl Paula called me, while still driving, saying she was just pulling up to the station. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hey, I’m just about to pull up to the sation, but I’m not sure where to stop or park or anything. I thought there’d be somewhere obvious, like, at the front. Is there somewhere obvious where we can meet up at the front?”
“Well, there’s sort of a front. I’m near it right now, right on Seymour Street.”
“I don’t really see anywhere that could be the front. It’s not really obvious. I thought it would be obvious, you know. I’m just gonna park my car.”
“What does your car look like?”
“It’s, like, just a grey truck.”
“What street are you on? I’m on Seymour St., between 8th & 9th.”
“I don’t really know. Let me see. Okay I’m getting out of my car. I see some greyhousnd buses. Can you see me? I’m wearing a feathered hat.”
“No, I can’t see you. Do you know what street you’re on? Then I can find you.”
“Uh, I’m on . You know, I really hate driving in the city. I get all turned around. You know, like, this isn’t really my city. I see these greyhound buses, and a city bus stop with a lady waiting at it. Can you see me now?”
Around this point I’d walked around the Greyhound station at least once.
“Listen,” I said, “Can you get to a street corner? What street corner are you near?”
She went on for awhile about hating cities, and this not being her city, etc, etc., until eventually telling me a street corner that, as I quickly found out on my map, was sort of close to the bus terminal but was definitely quite a few blocks away. When I figured out roughly where she was, and after she complained and rambled about how stressed and confused she was, I suggested she relax, and I could come to where she was. She didn’t like that idea, and hung up on me, saying she’d call me right back.
After all this, thankfully Paula managed to figure out htat she’d been at the Greyhound courier terminal the whole time of our 10 minute expensive roaming-charge cell phone conversation, and made it to the passenger terminal where I was."

"Sat. Aug. 26 – 11:30am

Okay, I had to stop writing last night because I was just too tired. I slept almost 12 hours of much needed rest. I’m eating Huevos Rancheros on Mission St., and a Mexican country band just walked by wearing full, black and red cowboy gear (tassled shirts, cowboy hats, boots, etc.) and carrying their instruments. This neighbourhood is considered “Little Mexico” and most people are speaking spanish. Swoon.
I’d like to finish my story of my journey down here, but I’m sitting near the open front of this café, and a big black guy just came by and asked me for something to eat, then told me about god for a little while. He gave me a bible passage to read: 6 Timothy 6:10. He even wrote it down for me.
Anyway, as for my trip from Seattle… Eventually, about 10:30 or 11pm, we were on the road. Me, Paula, and this other girl Chris who responded to the craigslist posting, and who apparently had no money to put towards gas, but was willing to do most of the driving. (Dodgy!) It was good to be on the road, and on an adventure. Paula’s 36, and as our meeting demonstrated, a world class flake of the the sort the west coast attracts like wildfire. However, also a pretty interesting person. She told me she lives in Maui for about 6 months of the year doing massage therapy. 3 months she works trimming marijuana, and the other 3 months she just travels. She was on her way to San Francisco to meet up with some people, and then was on her way to Burning Man.
Chris, well, as for Chirst, I never did really find out what her story was. Despite not having money for gas, she was wearing a fleece shirt and down vest, both emblaxoned with the “North Face” logo (not cheap) and nice new-looking shoes. She was 34. She never really told us why she was going to San Francisco, much less how she ended up with no money.
The only thing I know for sure about Chris is that she absolutely did not get along with Paula. The trouble started after Chirs took the wheel for a while, late at night after Paula had been driving for a few hours. Paula went to the back of the covered bed of the pickup truck to try to get some sleep. After a couple of hours in which Chirs did, admittedly, drive fairly fast, and almost nod off I think because the car went off the highway a bit a few times, Paula knocked on the back window and said she needed to pee. When we stopped, I got out of the car and Paula told me she wanted me to drive because Chirs was “scaring the fuck” out of her, and proceeded to list the ills of her driving all while the window to the back of the cab was open and Chirs could obviously hear everything. But, just in case Chirs didn’t hear, Paula made sure to give her a thorough list of her driving problems to her face. Paula ended her rant by saying “I’m not criticizing, I’m just giving you some suggestions.” Which in my book doesn’t mean you’re not criticizing, it just means you’re a hypocrite. I appreciate that Paula was worried about her car, but her reaction was, uh, shall we say, less than tactful. I mean, why agree to take someone without gas money in the first place? Chirs, needless to say, did not drive the rest of the trip. In fact, Chris slept for the vast majority of the first 10 hours of the 15 hour drive.
I was willing to put up with Paula’s idiosyncracies for most of the trip. We stopped in a cool town called Weed, near Mt. Shasta in California close to the Oregon border, at this organic café where I had a homemade blueberry muffin. Paula drove around trying to find a friend of hers near there who had a pair of her pants, apparently (don’t ask). We had no luck. We also stopped at a Walmart so that she could look for a small scooter to take to Burning Man.
Eventually, it was all a lot to take, especially on a practically non-stop 15 hour drive, and things came to a head towards the end of the ride. Firstly, once Chris was awake, Paula basically treated her like a leper, which I found pretty hard to witness. I drove the last leg, and approaching Sacramento, we got to an exit which split off the I-5, onto a highway called the 505, I think. The sign said it led to San Francisco… but Paula wasn’t sure and didn’t have a map out, of course. I was hesitant to get off the I-5 when we weren’t sure, and Chris thought we could switch on to the I-80 leading to San Francisco further along and it would be quicker. Paula was no help at all, basically; she blubbered and sputtered about being too “cracked-out” from lack of sleep and too much driving.
As we drove further along the I-5, Paula finally dug out a map. It turned out that the 505 was, in fact, a shortcut to the I-80 towards San Francisco. The I-5 went south for a little while, and then would turn east, towards Sacramento and away from San Fran. As Paula started freaking out, I saw on the map that around where the I-5 turned east, there was a smaller highway that continued straight south, going through Davis and connecting with the I-80. I could see which highway while driving, but when I saw a sign with an exit heading to Davis, I took it. Paula, in a state that could only be described as increasingly hysterical, wasn’t sure about anything. In an effort to appease her, and to make damned sure we were going in the right direction, I got off the highway. Despite looking at the map and proving that, in fact, this was the correct way and the right highway, and only took us in a slightly different route than the 505 would have, Paula just couldn’t stop herself. She laid into Chris because she gave us the wrong directions, as well as everything else Chirs had done wrong. She didn’t attack me directly, but pointed out repeatedly how stupid it was to have gone the wrong route, and how we would end up driving through San Fran in rush hour, and how it was wrong to have pulled off the highway into a busy area, and generally just did an excellent job of making sure everyone was at least as miserable and stressed out as she was, with absolutely no constructive suggestions. All this while I was trying to drive. How I managed to not have a heart attack, and not snap at her, I have no idea. Somehow, I bit my tongue except to point out, early on in her freakout, calmly, that now that we missed the exit, that there wasn’t anything we could do about it. I kept on thinking about how I hope, as a teacher, to never have to deal with a child as immature as her.
Once we got to the I-80 leading to San Francisco, Paula calmed down for a bit. I’d say our route added 15, maybe 20 minutes tops, to our trip all told. Maybe not even that. She apologized to me for freaking out, sort of. But never apologized to Chirs, despite treating her in a way no human should ever be treated. And, of course, once we got over the Bay bridge and into the city, Paula started freaking out about directions once again. If it wasn’t for the fact that Chris navigated me perfectly by whispering over my shoulder from the backseat, I might never have escaped from that damned car.


I had to head out from my morning spot, café la Taza… the day was getting on, and I’d spent quite a while writing there and my huevos rancheros had long gone cold. Las night, I had a quick verrie burrito at one of the many little joints in the Mexican neighbourhood my hostel is in. Now, after a day of walking around the city, I find myself in a neat little place in an Italian neighbourhood, drinking montepulciano from a little cup instead of a wine glass, at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café. It overlooks Washington Square park, where apparently Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married. I’m sitting right at the bar in this cozy spot whose ambiance is only diminished by the bad classic rock played too loudly. They just played Thin Lizzy’s “the boys are back in town”.
Anyway, I pretty much finished my rideshare story, but one last rant to get the last bits of bad taste out of my mouth. Yes, that girl Chris was super dodgy. After we got dropped off, I asked her if she had a place to go and stuff. She said yes, and then (ominously) that she had “something to take care of first” I’d love to know her full story. As for Paula – so many questions that I probably shouldn’t even think about… why even offer a rideshare, much less take somebody with now money for gas, when you’re so damned self-centred and have no tolerance for other people… or any adversity, for that matter. How can you lead such a charmed life, and yet be so resolutely determined to be miserable, and to drag everyone else down with you? I thought about telling her that as I left, that other people would love to lead the life she does, to tell here that she really should take the time to enjoy it.
Oh, and I almost forgot. We pulled off the highway just before the Paula freakout, and she suggested her and I split a hotel room in town. She had people she could stay with, but she reasoned that she couldn’t meet up with them right way, and wanted to sleep as soon as she was in town. She knew of some hotels that would be almost as cheap as a hostel bed if we split the room. I hesitantly and tentatively agreed at the time; but obviously backed out as quickly and as delicately as I could when the time came to actually reserve the room as we got near town. In conclusions, Americans are crazy.
I would almost go as far as to advise staying away from Americans altogether, but I have to say that would mean you’d miss some great stuff. Foremost amongst that greatness is San Francisco, which is, incredibly, worth all the suffering it took to get here. Practically everywhere I go almost brings tears to my eyes. Last night, I only had to walk the block around my hotel to go past some of the coolest bars and cafes I’ve ever seen. One little spot had a guy playing acoustic guitar and singing in a wistful Ryan Adams/Mark Kozelek/Elliot Smith sorta voice. I felt like I was in an episode of the Gilmore Girls, with a Grant Lee Phillips character as my personal troubador. Bah, I hate to compare stuff to television… how about this… it was like an even cooler Graffiti’s that I’d stumbled across, and I was filled with the sense that there were thousands of places like this throughout the city. The bar opened all along the front, with chairs and tables spilling out all over the sidewalk. To top it all of, it’s called Revolution and had a big red star as a sign. Swoon! Later on last night, the same bar had this group playing almost classical music, with a violinist and a girl who sounded like she was singing almost operatically. Cool.
Tons of history all over this town. As I said, I’m sitting now in a neighbourhood with many Italian places and there are old neon signs lining the streets, like in old pictures of the 20’s or 30’s or something. So many little bars make the best of their history, as if nothing’s changed except the culture around them and the people inside. To say San Francisco is vibrant would be an understatement – it makes other cities seem like lifeless carcasses in comparison.
Today, all I did was basically just walk. I went to City Lights bookstore, where the beats used to hang out and have their stuff published. I went to a “really really free” market near where I’m staying, where people were playing music and just giving stuff away – even barter was way too uncomfortably capitalist for them. I walked right through downtown. I went to Pier 39 on the waterfront, which was kinda sucky and touristy, with the very notable exception of the incredibly number of sea lions which hang out right near there – you can practically reach out and touch them from the pier, and they lie on floating docks. They look super cool.
I walked up Telegraph Hill, with a great view of the bay… even though it got really foggy and cloudy this afternoon.Didn’t see any parrots, like in the movie, but walked right where much of it was shot. (if you’re reading this and haven’t yet seen the documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph hill” go rent it, you’re missing out.)
Oh, also, I bought a bottle of wine for $4. Tomorrow, I’m planning to go see a Giants. Game. I love it here. I hope someone tells me the winters are really bad, otherwise I might never leave. "

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Travellin' Man...

Okay, It's been a little over a month since my last update... life in Toronto got a bit busy with a job and a big project, so I headed out of the east and into the west. I'm in Vancouver now, after driving to Kelowna in 5 days... which, as I discovered, is not really enough time to drive that far, especially by yourself. At least if you wanna retain your sanity. Luckily, the waters of Lake Okanagan and the mountain air of the BC have refreshed me enough to continue on. I'm at a great cafe in Vancouver right now, so I think I finally have time to recount some of my adventures thus far. Because I've only had spotty internet access and a tight schedule, I've kept a bit of a journal, which I'll refer to now in quotation marks, with occasional interjections for stuff I've left out.

Actually, first of all, I should recount the first part of my trip, since I didn't write about it at all... I didn't get out of Toronto until about 1pm on Tuesday the 15th. I got over the border with no problems whatsoever. They have these camera things at the border which I assume x-ray your car or something to make sure you're not driving anything explosive. After that, telling the border guard I didn't have any alcohol, firearms, or fruits or vegetables seemed to make him happy. I spent the first night camping near Grand Rapids, Michigan. I went into downtown for dinner, where I was met by throngs of people leaving the local arena after American Idol on tour got out. Ick. But, other than that, Grand Rapids seemed like a pretty cool midwestern american city. Like a little Chicago... more on Chicago below...

"August 16, about 4pm

I’m in Chicago now, and I’m riding the El – whoah, I just went by Wrigley field. Well, now I know where I need to go to find it. Now the train’s stopped. I really like Chicago – I’m staying in a hostel on the north side of the city, and I drove through downtown along the lake on my way in – it was, and I don’t use this word lightly – breathtaking. The shoreline goes on forever, and its just all so big. I mean, of course, Toronto is big too, and I’ve been to many big cities, but Chicago is also so spread out – it’s tall, and wide, and big all over.
Now I’ve gotten off the El, and I’m at a pizza place downtown – the bigness continues – add 2 lanes or more to a Toronto street, and add 5 stories to every skyscraper downtown. Although, as I was riding the El in the area closer to where I’m stayi8ng, it was much less dense. A lot of good mid-rise buildings, and parks and such. Geez, I could just ride the El all day – it’s a great way to see a city. I’ve often thought Toronto should build more subways, but screw that – Elevated trains are way cooler. Why be stuck underground when you could be looking at the beautiful city you’re in? Give your transit ride some much needed context and enjoyment. It goes underground here near the city centre, but central business districts are always a bit impersonal anyway.
I keep on comparing everything to Toronto – I’m not sure why. In the past, I’ve been proud of Toronto as “liveable” in comparison to other North American cities. But I’m starting to wonder if that just means we’re boring – streets of staid Victorian houses along tree lined streets, filled with people who are scared of any different or new or too big development. Meanwhile, outside of those Victorian style houses, we’ve largely obliterated a lot of the rest of our history – especially the 20’s & 30’s & 40’s, some of my favourite periods, especially in North American history. Out where I’m staying (near Loyola University, north of the city and near the lake), it’s a pretty damn nice neighbourhood, yet completely unlike Toronto. What if, in Toronto, we filled in all the single-family homes with 3 or 4 storey buildings, and filled in spaces with parks (real parks, too, not just fields of grass). Would people talk to their neighbours more? Could there be more inclusive and tighter communities? Or would we just end up with more American-city-type problems?

I just ate a deep-dish cheese pizza – it was excellent. I also just got a glass of water, and the waitress placed a straw in a wrapper beside it; I’ve always felt that straws in wrappers were something quintessentially American. I remember really noticing it on trips to the U.S. as a kid. Like, seriously, can’t you put the straw in the glass for me? Is it a health regulation? Are American hands so filthy that they can’t even touch a straw? I guess a lime or lemon wedge would be out of the question. I can’t help but think that this points to the essentially puritanical nature of the American character. Or else I’m just overanalyzing… that’s just the way my mind works.

Oh, btw, I’m drinking Honker’s Ale now, a local microbrew, right after a pint of 312 – named after a local area code, I assume, since the tap handle is shaped like a telephone headset. Which is a damned great idea – I must started brewing 416 lager (which will, of course, be unavailable in the 905). Perhaps soon to be followed by Centre of the Universe Ale (not available in Alberta)."

it took me forever to get out of Chicago.... I ended up on a highway that wasn't the interstate, which was annoying and took more time. But, eventually, I got through to sioux Falls:

"August 18, about 9am

I’m at a Perkins restaurant inj Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and all the omelets have ham in them. Actually, I think one of them had turkey instead… I guess that’s for big fat Midwesterners who are on a diet.
The theme of American bigness continues, except here in the Great Plains, that bigness in spread out to impossible widths. And I only just got into South Dakota – I thought I’d never escape from Minnesota… it went on forever, just expanses of green nothingness. By the end of the day I was exhausted, totally sick of driving, and not nearly as far west as I’d hoped I’d be. And the worst part is that I’ll need to keep on driving like a maniac to make it to Kelowna on time.
Although yesterdays’ driving got to me a little, there were some major highlights. The best by far was stopping off midday near Baraboo, Wisconsin at Dr. Evermore’s industrial sculpture garden, home of the world’s largest junk sculpture. ( This place was amazing –There was one big, huge fantastical sculpture towards the middle of the place, and a few other big ones here and there – but more impressive was the incredible number of small to mjid size stuff; mostly bird & insect-like creatures; it was like an alien colony. I can’t really do it justice in words – luckily, I took an absolute ton of pictures.
Other occasionally transcendent moments included driving over the Mississippi river in Minnesota – absolutely breathtaking (unfortunately, the other, oh, 4 or 5 hours through Minnesota felt like a 4 or 5 years). I even ended up in Austin, yesterday… but not exactly as I would have hoped, since it was Austin, Minnesota. The only thing to do there is go to the Spam museum… but it was closed, so no Spam-themed souvenirs for back home, unfortunately. I gassed up across the street from the museum, where the air all around positively reeked of the smell of Spam. I also briefly stopped in Blue Earth, Minnesota and took a picure of a 60ft. tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant.
Anyway, I’ve finished my French toast, so I should be on the road. Oh, last night I camped just outside of Sioux Falls, at Big Sioux recreation area, in a town called Brandon, South Dakota… which I thought was quite fitting."

Okay… I’ve barely gotten an hour outside of Sioux Falls, and now I’m pulled over to the side of the road. It’s started raining harder than I’ve ever seen while driving. Visibility is absolutely non-existent. It’s so windy that rain appears to be coming at the car from the side, as if it’s shooting across the earth from the north. I have absolutely no idea how long this is going to last. This sucks. I was already worried about my time. Damn damn damn. There are tons of other cars by the side of the road as well. The only vehicles driving are trucks, which actually makes the roads even scarier."

"Sat. Aug. 19 – 7:45am
I’m at Tom’s Main St. Diner in Buffalo, Wyoming. Check out this note from the opinionated menu: “Potatoes are a great idea. Someday I hope to meet the fella who invented hash-browns (soaked in an industrial strength preservative and quick frozen) and tell him how badly he screwed up. We do home-fries; par-boiled real potatoes cut up on the grill and browned in a light oil. Good, basic food.” I love it… it sounds like Steinbeck complaining about processed food in “Travels with Charley.” Finally, an authentic small town diner, with coffee that doesn’t totally suck. They also have these great big thick white coffee cups with the diner logo on them, which I must own.
Anyway, my drive is turning out to be fairly stressful. I’d love to be on the road right now, but I’m forcing myself to eat, because I didn’t really eat a proper lunch or dinner yesterday. After breakfast, all I had was a Taco Bell 7-layer burrito and various snack (apple, banana, almonds, etc… admittedly, a lot of snacks, I guess.)
Although I’m close to Yellowstone now, which was my initially planned destination for last night, that extra distance looms large. Even if I had gotten there, I’m not sure getting to Kelowna in one day is do-able… add those extra hours and it’s almost impossible. I will likely need to camp tonight again, hopefully I make it into BC to do so. I’d half decided to go to Glacier national park, because it’s on my way if I take a slightly different route off the I-90, but now I’m not so sure. Any extra time taken on slower roads will kill me. I’m already veering off the I-90 to go through Yellowstone."

Aug. 20, 8:30pm

Hallelujah, I’m finally in Kelowna. So far all I’ve done since dropping the car off this morning is take care of some of the necessities of existence that I’ve been neglecting up ‘til now – namely sleeping and eating (3 hour nap plus big healthy salad with pita and hummus). In fact, I’ll probably go to sleep for the night fairly soon, since I’m still exhausted. Last night, I pulled over at around midnight, slept a few winks in the car while parked in the lot of a recreation area somewhere in Idaho near Coeur d’Alene. I woke up at 5am to make my final drive, making it (almost) in time (I got to Kelowna in time, but got lost in town trying to find the airport). Thankfully the border patrol/customs guy didn’t stop and search my car, even though I get the impression he rightfully should of and was doing me a favour letting me pass.
Yesterday was cool, but way too hectic to properly enjoy. I drove through Yellowstone, with a few very short stops along the way at some of the geysers, hot springs, and Yellowstone grand canyon. All that suff was cool, although being there on a Saturday in the middle of summer made it incredibly busy and touristy - and being in a hurry made it impossible to get off the beaten path at all to escape from that. There were a ton of bisons throughout the park, which wa probably my favourite part of going through there.
Oh, and I almost forgot, before Yellowstone I drove through the Bighorn mountain range, wich was one of the more beautiful and unique parts of the Rockies that I've seen.
My only other stop was very briefly in Missoula, Montana to grab a coffee and food for the road in the early evening. A very cool town, actually, where the few people I talked to were incredibly nice. (well, mostly just the guy who made me my pita and the girls at Starbucks.... the first Starbucks I've run into since Chicago, and practically the first decent coffee... there's alot of bad coffee in the great plains.) Also, a car full of girls drove by and honked at me and told me they liked my shirt. I guess that's what people do on Saturday night in Missoula. Too bad I had to get back on the road - I would've liked to have fully experienced Saturday night in Missoula.
Tomorrow, I'm determined to take a hike and properly enjoy the wilderness a bit, since I've missed so much in my hurry to get here. After that, I really want to get to San Francisco - but the idea of being on the road anytime too soon makes me sick to think about. All I can think of is curling up next to a redwood tree and giving the rockies and this whole damned continent a bit of the time and respect it deserves."

"Aug. 22 - 3:30pm
I'm on the bus headed to Vancouver from Kelowna. We just stopped in Chilliwack, and are driving along the ..., on what must be one of the best stretches of highway I've been on - if not the best - and I'm extremely grateful not to be driving; to have the luxury of just looking outside at the mountain, and occasionally nodding off. Even if there is a baby on board who occasionally starts screaming, it's a small price to pay. I hate to say it, but I think all the nice scenery from accross the country I just took days to drive accross is all clustered in this 6 hour stretch of BC. Right now, we're in a perfectly flat valley, with a mountain not too far in the distance. As we've driven, the mountains have become more and more lush with trees, as we get closer to the coast and away from the scrubby sandy soil and sparcely treed mountains of Kelowna.
Oh, yesterday I did take a hike, by the way; up and down Knox mountain, and along the edge of Lake Okanagan. I aslo had a swim and put in some beach time. All in all, a very good day of relaxation. I considered staying longer, but I've got it in my head that it'll be cool to ferry from Vancouver to Seattle, and I hope to do that tomorrow.
Hey, we just got into Abbotsford... and passed a place callled "Ethical Addictions" coffeehouse. I like that. Speaking of other small observations, I got a taste of the undercurrent of weirdness in BC this morning, on my way to the bus station. First, I saw an anti-abortion protest outside of a hospital, with a rown of signs, and a mother with 2 small girls in tow wearing a sandwich board. Blech. Also, a holistic practitioner near the hospital had a sign which featured 2 of the seven dwarfs from the disney version. I took a picture, so as to later determine exactly which dwarves they were (I swear one of them was dopey).
The first think I wanna do when I get to Vancouver is get a cappuccino... mmm..."

(actually, it was a latte)
Anyway, yeah, now I'm in Vancouver, which is really a heck of a lot like Toronto, except with mountains, and way more junkies. Waaaaaay more junkies. Also, it feels like September here, if not October already.

Okay, I should go. I've spent an awful lot of time in this place, and they may ask me to leave soon. Unless I get another coffee, which I may do after so many bad coffees throughout the land. When I next post, I hope to be in San Francisco.