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Entries in Canadian Roadtrip (6)

Saturday
May162009

Eat. Shower. Canada - Fire. Water. Burn.

Monday
May042009

I try to try, and I live to live


Vancouver to LALocation: Hollywood, California, USA

I woke up yesterday somewhere in Oregon, which was another beautiful gem to add to my list of unknown states. It had rained some more but now was relatively patchy. Everything was incredibly green because of the fresh moisture and as we wound through the mountains, the light mist turned to light snow. There wasn’t much of it, but it was just enough to flock the trees and dust the roads. It was extremely picturesque coming down into the valley. Then right as we came out of our Christmas tree farm, right in front of us is Mt. Shasta. Now, I had heard of this little bump in the ground before, but NEVER did I expect this. It’s is this GIANT volcano that juts out of the middle of nowhere. There are no other mountains touching it and it is just surrounded by grassland and pine trees. Completely snow peaked and surrounded by some clouds, it looked like a painting. Unfortunately, Herr Brian (aka nazi) wouldn’t pull over to let me take a picture because he said we were running too far behind, so I snapped what I could from inside the car and onward we continued.

It was probably about this point that we ran out of music on my iPod as well. I have about 2000 songs on there, which I guess lasts about 80 hours, because that’s where we were. Not good. So we decide to do a little Chris Cornell marathon and play everything I have before the show.

We continue down central California through the central valley, Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. We pass hundreds of acres of cherry trees, avocado trees, orange trees, grapes, lettuce, almonds… pretty much everything. But that’s really all there was. It was relatively boring and redundant. Traffic started to pick up as we passed San Francisco and so did the winds which made it hard to drive a consistent speed. As we got close to LA, I took over driving again and led us into the city. We drove straight to the Wiltern in Hollywood, grabbed some PBR and a bag of chips and parked in the covered garage to change clothes and have a snack.

We walked into the Wiltern about 3 minutes before Chris went on stage. We grabbed a quick beer and ran in just in time to hear the beginning. It was one of the greatest shows I’ve seen, such an honor to watch such an amazing rock legend do his thing. And absolutely the perfect ending to the best and longest road trip any human has ever attempted in one weekend. Brian and I swung by the SM Apartment to pick up my mattress and Tinsley and then I dropped him off in Belmont Shore and headed to my own little pad for a much needed nap. And that’s that… the end of an incredible trip… And definitely one I’ll never forget.

Vancouver, BC, Canada --> Long Beach, CA
Miles travelled: 1319
Time travelled: 24 hours

XOXO

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Sunday
May032009

If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name


Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

So we hit the border last night around 3:30 AM (slightly later than planned – damn fruitless Yellowstone detour). I was wondering how they were going to receive us… Two Americans, a Scotsman and an Aussie – staying for less than 24 hours in the country except for the Aussie who is staying on a 12 month work Visa… all very complicated. But the only part that caused trouble was Dan’s visa. Apparently, the systems were down at all of the checkpoints across the border and there was no way for them to issue him his work permit. Now we panic for a solid 30 minutes probably. He either has to wait on the US side until 8 AM and then try again, or he can go into Canada as a visitor and return to the border within 10 days to get his permit. Seriously? Not cool.

So we opt for option 2, leaving the border patrol station just glad to be in Canada. That didn’t last long. We quickly realize that we’re almost out of gas and that the next official gas station is more miles away than we have gas in the tank. Now we’re also wondering if we will actually make it to Panorama in time to get Dan to work at 9 AM. There are HUNDREDS of deer off the side of the road and I, having been driving for almost 45 hours at this point without a break, am starting to see things. Thankfully, Mark chimes in with the perfect distraction and teaches us a great Irish drinking song called “Seven Drunken Nights” which we sing and perfect while coasting down the Canada mountains towards the gas station – which we luckily made.

We continue towards Panorama, it’s about 6 AM now, and now the REAL animals start to jump out at the car. We’re talking gigantic horse sized Elk hiding in the bushes and lurching out at us when we drove by. About 15 minutes outside of Dan’s apartment, I hit my brick wall and he takes over driving the home stretch. We arrive at the employee lodge and his apartment is ready and waiting for him. We stumble in, he takes a shower and we pass out three deep on his twin sized dorm style bed while he heads to his first day of work.

After a couple hours snooze, we say our goodbye’s and the three leftovers head towards Banff where Mark has now decided he wants to go for a couple days. We drive through Banff national park, which is, of course, beautiful. It’s always been one of my favorite places and it never gets old to drive through there. We attempt to take our picture at the Alberta border, but that was a disaster without our stellar time photographer, Dan. We meet up with Mark’s friend at the McDonald’s (go figure) in Banff and grab some lunch. After saying another set of farewell’s, Brian and I start the long trip home. As we calculate it, we have 25 hours to get back before the Chris Cornell show starts at 6:30 PM on Sunday. That’s going to require yet another straight through drive – yippee….

We drive through much of British Columbia and stop a couple times to take pictures and once to watch what’s called the “Spiral Bridge” which is a set of tunnels and bridges where trains descend from the mountains down to a lower elevation valley. It’s way cool and at one point you can see the train going in one side of a tunnel, out another and then through a spiral in the mountain and coming out right below itself. It’s just like a train set you would build in a garage, only… real!

About 30 minutes after the spiral train… I am done driving. So Brian takes over and starts his 24 hour streak. I pass out in the backseat for about the next 8 hours while Brian does his thing. We hit a pretty bad storm outside of Vancouver and run over a couple trees (or at least that’s what they looked like to me). Needless to say, I was laying in the backseat with all three seatbelts on in a strange fashion. I knew we had to book it, and I knew if I kept watching, I’d freak out, so I just laid down and said some prayers. I guess it worked fine!

Kalispell, MT --> Vancouver, BC, Canada
Miles travelled: 863
Time travelled: 23 hours

XOXO

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Sunday
May032009

Vagabond Traveling Roadshow


Utah to MontanaLocation: Kalispell, Montana, USA

So we continued on from Salt Lake City and into Idaho. Originally, we had planned on stopping somewhere either in Utah or Idaho to take a couple hour’s nap, but we’ve decided to trade that in for a trip to Yellowstone… I mean… why not?

Idaho… I’m really not sure why no one ever talks about Idaho. I was very impressed and am disappointed that it isn’t hyped up more! The Rockies here go from full sized down to these sort of muffled eroded Ozark looking mountains. There are tons of farm towns with colorful fields with snow capped peaks in the background. It’s stunning. The people here are almost Southern (almost) with their hospitality and to make things better, there’s relatively no one here, so the driving is perfect. Cruise control was invented here. We stopped to take pictures at the state line (which has a nice little no-man’s land – endlessly entertaining) as well as at a couple of picturesque little farms with perfect red barns and white picket fences. We then detoured off the main highway to cut across to Wyoming and wound our way through a couple open ranges (way cool) where we saw quite a few trucks parked on the side of the road and even a duo of hunters with their large rifles carrying something with antlers to their pickup. And now is about the time we start to get a little bored… So naturally… it’s time to break out the traveling band! Brian had brought a guitar, snare drum and a pair of metal spoons (YES!) thinking we could entertain ourselves once we got to Canada, but it was time to jam earlier than that. Brain and Dan led the way in the backseat with the Drum/Guitar combo and me and Mark rocked the front with our stellar spoonability and beautifully harmonic singing voices (HA!). We tore through everything we could think of including Lynard Skynard, Eddie Vedder, Cranberries, Everclear, Green Day… It was quite a riot… So naturally, when we hit the Wyoming border in mid-song, we decided to make that our pic for the border… We jumped out of the car and played and sang while our picture timer went off (again set by the mastermind Dan) before being chased away by an angry woman with a broom! Ok… well not quite, but we did think we heard someone so we all ran back to the car and sped across the line.

We drove through Wyoming and into Jackson Hole. We continued north towards Yellowstone, stopping to paparazzi some buffalo hanging out on the side of the road (who then proceeded to snort and threaten to charge the car). Once we arrived at the gate, we saw the sign: “Yellowstone South Gate: CLOSED.” Nooo… that can’t be right… so we pull up to the guard and ask/beg to be let in. No way. Turn around and go back where you came from. Well, that’s not going to happen, but we’ll backtrack a little I guess. So we drove back to Jackson, almost destroyed a pair of elk running across the road, grabbed a bite to eat, filled up the cruiser and headed back to Idaho, slightly disappointed. We also convinced Brian to shave his beard into a nice handlebar mustache which provided entertainment for at least an hour. At this point, Dan took over driving for a bit so that I could get some work done – which was incredibly interesting because he’d never driven on this side of the road before. I gave him the quick and easy Abbey’s guide to driving on the RIGHT side of the road (double meaning intended) and he mastered it in no time. We switched back near Idaho City and proceeded north to Montana.

Except, suddenly, we were in Montana with no warning. We never saw a sign, never a change in scenery, nothing. So we turned around… we were not about to miss a state sign. But… there wasn’t one! Lame Montana doesn’t have a state Welcome sign – which is lame. Apparently there is some sort of visitor welcome center like 65 miles into the state, but we couldn’t find that either… Anyway, right near where the border was supposed to be, there is this tiny little ghost town that we had to check out. There were tons of rundown buildings and houses and it looked very old timey. That’s about all we saw in Montana. It got dark about half way through and we hadn’t even hit a city yet. We picked up some McDonalds again and spent the next couple hours reading Brian’s entire Joke book (with multiple impromptu jokes thrown in by Mark – how do you guys remember all those things?!) and a couple sweet riddles that occupied my time for quite a long time.

Taking our last stop in the states, we’re stretching and whatnot and a cop pulls up behind us to check and make sure we’re not broken down. After he hears us speak with our four radically different accents, he wants to stick around and chit chat, so we let him. Real people and real air. I’ve gotten so used to LA, I’ve forgotten what it’s like.

Salt Lake City, UT --> Kalispell, MT
Miles travelled: 879
Time travelled: 20 hours

XOXO

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Saturday
May022009

Eat. Shower. Canada.


LA to UtahLocation: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Oh no… my plans have changed a lot. No, that is not a mistake, I am in Salt Lake City, Utah. How I got here though, is somewhat of a blur.

Dan mailed me around 6 to ask if I wanted to grab dinner at King’s Head with him and a couple buddies from the hostel. I hadn’t eaten so of course I agreed and headed that way. By the time I got there, they had already eaten and were ready for beer, which was even more to my taste, so we left King’s Head and walked over to the Promenade to Barney’s Beanery (yup – my #2 spot to take surfers… I know, I’m boring). At this point, it was Dan (the Aussie), Mark (a guy in Dan’s room from Scotland who is in his 18th or so month of traveling after quitting his job and just leaving town) and Max (a German vegetarian who doesn’t drink – yes that does exist). The pool tables were occupied when we got there, so we headed for the shuffleboard – which none of them had played before. After losing miserably at shuffleboard (partnered with Dan – I’ll blame it on him) and then playing probably the worst game of pool I have ever played (again… Dan appears to be bad luck), we dropped off Max back at the hostel and I drove us over to Main Street to Finn McCool’s. So much for asleep by 9…

There was a great band playing at Finn’s. It was a cute little punky looking girl accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer/bongo-er who covered some really unique songs not usually sung by a girl or in an acoustic setting (love her style… oh wait, ya that’s what I like to do too). We had a couple beers (Corona for some reason) and started chatting about next steps. Dan was scheduled to leave at around 7:30 AM for Calgary out of LAX and we schemed about how he was going to get to the airport, and Mark decided he couldn’t take LA for much longer and needed to get to San Fran. Both boys were headed out in the morning.

Next thing I know, my hand is laying on top of Dan’s and Mark’s on the bar and someone is saying “alright, let’s make a pact… we’re actually going to do this… k?” Oh wait… that was me saying that. We pact and then throw our hands in the air in celebration before ordering another beer and contemplating the decision we just made.

After determining that Dan would have to catch the earliest bus possible to the airport and if he missed it he would be late for his flight and Mark casually asking if I would drive him to San Fran instead of having to take the wretched greyhound, It was suggested that Dan skip his flight and Mark and I drive him up to Panorama, Canada instead. Huh? How did that happen… “Do you have any friends that may want to come along as well?” Mark asked… actually… I thought… I do. I joke to Dan and show him the incredibly simple text message I’ve drafted… I guarantee this guy’s response will just be… Yes. So I texted Brian:

12:30 AM (Abbey): Hey, roadtrip to Canada tm? I’ll pick you up at 11… you in?
12:35 AM (Brian): Uhh… ok, sounds good. Seriously good timing.

So we swung by the hostel, grabbed their packs and headed back to the APT. We set our alarms for 7 and passed out. When I woke up at 7, I remember kind of wondering why I was getting up so early on a Thursday (generally a work from home day for me) and then realized that there were two men sleeping in my house. Oh wow… what am I doing? But I can’t back out now, Dan already missed his flight. Shower it is and pack. Once the boys woke up, I tasked them to pack as much of the heavy furniture as they could into my car. While they worked on that, I made a couple calls, got myself ready for the long trip ahead and packed up some weekend clothes.

We got on the road by about 8:45 and headed down to Long Beach. I dropped them and the furniture off at the new place in Belmont Heights and then we made a stop at the Port of Long Beach and Valero to do a little work and fill up the tank with some cheap gas. We still had to run back to SM to pick up the packs that we hadn’t loaded to cram as much furniture as we could into the car and so we decided to do a quick drive through Compton (I warned that it wasn’t going to be as exciting as what they were expecting, but we went anyway). “Alright guys,” I asked, “what’s the plan?”

Eat. Shower. Canada.

Simple enough. So we stopped on our first of many Macker’s trips (YES! Haven’t been around Aussie’s in too long… loving the déjà vu fast food abbreviations) and took quick showers back at the APT in SM. Naturally, it took us about 2 hours to get out of LA once we finally got on the road – traffic is something you can count on when you’re heading towards Vegas via the 15. And that’s just where we were headed.

We arrived in Vegas just before sunset and took a quick drive down the strip. Brian and I (who between the two of us average a trip to the Sin city every other week) point out the big sights, spit out some facts and then I drop the boys all off at the Bellagio to run in and play a quick game of Blackjack. We had a quiet (HA) dinner at the Hoffbrauhouse after this, which is a great off-strip German restaurant with somewhat reasonable prices and great beer. They also had a live band in Lederhosen with an accordion (love it!) and lots of drinking songs and “Prost!”-ing. Turns out our waitress is from central Arkansas and went to U of A so we had a nice long chat about life in the Ozarks and that was that. We were on the road again.

I was sad that we were going to be going through Zion in the dark because I really want to see this part of the world. Just when we crossed the Nevada/Arizona state line though, we realized the area was still going to be pretty amazing. We found ourselves driving down a road with huge walls jutting on either side of us. We pulled over to see what going on and found ourselves deep in a gorge. The perfect clear sky straight above with thousands of stars (can you find the Southern Cross… HA! I’m smarter than you think Mr. Kytic). We were dangerously parked right around a corner and Tay Tay bravely guarded us from massive semi’s rounding the corner just barely under tipping. We did a lot of yelling to hear our echoing voices and I think Mark attempted to take a couple pictures, but the beauty of this place was not in what you could see, which was minimal, but rather on how it felt. When there were no cars driving by, it was completely silent and the tranquility and emptiness of the moment was unrivaled. So much so, that my scardycat-ness set in quick and I felt this overwhelming need to get back in the car and lock the doors… *shiver*

On we went, stopping at the Utah border to take our 3rd state line picture. Utah was mostly dark so not a lot happened. The boys slept on and off for the next couple hours and we passed by quite a few Mormon temples and not much else. The sun started to rise as we passed downtown Salt Lake City and so we found a place on the lake where we could sit on the beach and watch the sun come up. The lake was beautiful and we did confirm that it is wide enough that you cannot see to the other side (just like the great lakes!). We sat on the edge and observed nature do it’s thing. I may have tasted the salt water to see how salty it is (not at all) and we stopped to get some more fuel (for Tay and ourselves).

According to our GPS, we have 27 hours left, but we only had 23 to start with so that can’t be right. The trusty iPhone says 14 hours… so we’ll go with that.

Long Beach, CA --> Salt Lake City, UT
Miles travelled: 789
Time travelled: 22 hours

XOXO

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Friday
May012009

A typical spring day in LaLa Land


The new digsLocation: Santa Monica, CA, USA

So I have officially begun moving into my new place down in Belmont Heights. I haven’t gotten much moved, just the first load of miscellaneous accessories, household items and decorations, but it’s a start nonetheless. I’m pretty excited about this place, it’s going to be so much more spacious than the place in Santa Monica, which I am looking forward to. I also got all of my utilities and cable set up and turned off at each respective house. All in all, things are looking positive!! The parking situation is a little iffy… there’s not really a lot of place to park around there, but it doesn’t seem like too busy of an area. We’ll see how it is for real once all the beach traffic starts showing up.

After I left BH last night I drove up to West Hollywood to meet up with Mary Sullivan who is the CEO and founder of MommyMixer. Now, those of you who live in Austin likely already know about this service, but for those who are not as familiar, here’s the scoop. As a sitter/nanny, you put together a resume with all of your kid watching experience and sign up for a “mixer.” As a mom/dad, you pay a fee and sign up for a mixer. At the mixer (which is usually hosted by some sort of boutique of children’s clothes or toys) all of the sitters get up and do a brief introduction of what they are looking for and where their experience has primarily been. Meanwhile, the moms listen and follow along with a resume book of everyone attending. After all of the introductions, moms and nannys mix together over lemonade and cookies and attempt to find the perfect mutual match. It’s the greatest way to find a nannying job and is primarily focused at college aged girls and middle/high income families.

Anyway, so Mary and I have been talking about expanding mommymixer into LA for a while now but just haven’t been able to get anything together. She hired a city coordinator who put on the first of hopefully many events to come in the area and I ran by to say hey. While there, I got a chance to throw some ideas out and hopefully I’ll be able to help her to establish a little more presence in the city. I know taking on ANOTHER thing doesn’t seem like a good idea right now, but this takes priority because I really feel like I owe her something for all of the great families I had a chance to work with when I was in Austin.

After I left Mary, I headed back to SM to pick up Dan who is a couchsurfer I unfortunately couldn’t host because of the move, but who I promised I’d go out for a beer with when he got to town. We headed to King’s Head (duh – where else do I take my surfers) and one beer accidentally turned into about 4. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of Dan today because of this massive headache I am now plagued with. The company was great though, which is why the “one beer” limit disappeared relatively quickly. He’s going to be working up near Calgary at a place called Panorama in their golf club for the summer and then he’s going to try and get a job as a ski instructor come next season. I’m pretty jealous. Although I’ve never been to Panorama itself, I know the area around there and it has to be one of the most beautiful places in North America, so I can’t imagine it’s too bad of a gig. He’s stopping in LA for a couple days on his way from Sydney to Calgary. He flies out Friday morning so I think we’re going to try and grab another drink tonight. Since I got little to no packing done when I left him last night at about 4 AM (which ended with about a 2 hour drawing session at the front desk of the hostel on 2nd St and the acquisition of one stuffed koala), I don’t really have anything to unload out of my car, so I’ll probably be back before sunset and in bed by 9ish.

Work should be light today… Most of my clients are relatively light this week and I am definitely looking forward to this weekend when I can hopefully move the rest of the apartment and enjoy a much needed detox period. I’m thinking 12 hours of sleep a night and a lot of veggies… I’ve eaten enough queso in the past couple days to feed an entire Mexican village for a week.

XOXO

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