Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Captain Huckleberry Finnegan: Where is he now?

Hey everybody, long time no see! We've decided to pop onto the blog to answer a recurring question: where is Finn these days?

When we found Finn in October at a park near Mark Twain's historic residence in Hartford, CT, we weren't one hundred percent sure what we'd ultimately do with him, but he was malnourished and hungry for affection, as well as full of worms so we figured giving him food, love, and care would improve his situation no matter what. Ultimately, as the end of our adventure neared and we made our respective plans, it became evident that living with either of us was not the best option. Kelsey moved into an apartment in Portland where she simply couldn't have pets, for starters. Tressa could have a cat in her new Los Angeles studio for a $250 deposit, but Finn was so lively and adventurous she felt hesitant to take an adventure cat and reduce his world to 450 square feet. Letting him outside in the busy, dirty streets near the apartment was out of the question.

However, Tressa's aunt, who was one of our very first project contributors and an avid animal (especially cat!) lover, mentioned to Tressa one day that she was considering acquiring a friend for her cat, Lunita. Sis lives on a big wooded hill with Tressa's other aunt and grandma, and their two dogs. They all agreed to see how Finn fit in, and at first things did NOT go well — Lunita was not happy with the prospect of sharing her domain with another feline and would make some wild sounds and chase him down when she saw him. For a while, we worried that things wouldn't work out. But as time has gone by, we are happy to report that our little ginger cat is adapting quite well, and has successfully persisted in trying to befriend Lunita.

Finnegan now has access to many trees, which he has learned to climb up AND down finally, and has taken to demanding snuggles from all human residents of the house. Tressa has been back to visit, and he trots up for butt scratches and treats but seems quite at home, playing outdoors and wrestling with Lunita. He is even bigger than Lunita now, and appears to still be growing. What was once a skinny little worm-ridden kitten is now a big, healthy, well-traveled and feisty teenager cat with vast stomping grounds and a loving family.

Before: Finn the day we found him.

After: Finn & Lunita today.

Our enormous thanks to Sis for taking in our little orphan — we know he couldn't possibly be in better hands!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Adventures in Domesticity

It's been a little over a month since we've returned from our road trip. Here's what we've been up to:

Coming back to California was a bit of a whirlwind for me. Once we got to LA, Evan and I began apartment hunting and soon signed a six-month lease for a studio in the downtown/Koreatown-ish area. Our apartment is in a pretty rough part of town, but it’s cute and I’m enjoying the sensation of nesting for the time being, although in some ways being stationary has felt a little challenging. Evan is going to school at CalState LA and in the mean time I continue to do social media work from home and from coffee shops, and have been looking into working with animals and possibly volunteering at a local rescue or shelter. Of course, I also have quite a bit of writing and even more editing to do as I sift through my notes and impressions from the trip and begin to put together the pieces.

Slightly over a month after the culmination of our American exploration I’m sitting in a clean, amenity-ridden, third floor apartment in Portland surrounded by gray rainy skies, the pervasive scent of bacon and onions and donuts, and bustling downtown streets. Instead of wondering which can of cold soup to eat or when I’ll be able to shower, I wonder how low I should set my employment standards and what to expect from the expensive photography marketing course I’ve just enrolled myself in. I’ve been challenging the cozy, comfortable routine of sedentary life by running on drizzly forest trails, acquainting myself with my new city, and dreaming of the next adventure.

Now that we’ve had some time to get past the holidays and situate ourselves in our new home bases, we’ve started developing a system for working collaboratively from long distance. We’re using shared Google Docs to collaborate, breaking our journey down into small segments of time and scheduling to-do lists and weekly meetings for ourselves to discuss our goals, edit, elaborate, and continue building our photographic and written narrative. What you may not know is that we have a LOT more material that has not gone into the blog or onto our Facebook, in fact a lot of our favorite things we've saved for the final project.

We will probably not be updating the blog or social media accounts nearly as frequently since the work we are doing is a lot less externally tangible and exciting, but we’ll let you know how it unfolds and will definitely share more when we are nearing a finished product!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Home Sweet 'Homa

We're back in California, finally — in a strange interim wherein we are home and yet do not have homes quite yet...

When we last wrote, we were Oklahoma bound, and we found our time in Oklahoma City pleasantly surprising. We were hosted by a sweet couple that had just returned to the area after some time away and attested to it's rapid growth and change. Sara was an amazing cook and she taught us to make spring rolls, fed us delicious Indian food and shared her plans for the new house with us. In OKC we had amazing Guatemalan food, befriended someone working at a fun little T-shirt shop that made us "Home Sweet 'Homa" pins, and checked out the Murrah building bombing memorial, which was beautiful and somber. On our last night, Sara took us to two of her favorite dive bars in what's known as the "Bar-muda triangle" and we sampled some of their signature cocktails and people watched for a bit.

Our next stop was Austin, Texas, where our friend Nicki was visiting her brother Mitch for Thanksgiving. We joined them for a mellow Thanksgiving morning hike that ended up including a bit of icy river-crossing, and then got down to business making some serious grub. Our dinner included all the good things: mashed potatoes, sweet potato dishes, a big ole turkey, corn bread stuffing, green beans, salad, some Fireball spiked cider, and much, much more. After dinner, not much more occurred besides belly rubbing, dessert consumption and some poorly made snacking choices.

On Friday, we met up with Travis, who was our host in Lawrence, Kansas, but was from Austin and was around for the holidays. We headed to a beautiful but freezing little swimming hole with him and some friends, although we abstained from submerging ourselves to the degree that they did. While Travis met up with some friends to play music, the two of us checked out South Congress St - a painfully adorable part of town full of cute shops stuffed to the brim with things we have no money or space for. We met up with Travis at a nearby bar to say our goodbyes, and took off for a night drive towards New Mexico.

Albuquerque is weird — a desert down full of bright pastel colors and curvy adobe buildings. We visited a few Breaking Bad sites, including Walter White's house, whose non-fictional resident came out to meet Finn, and Tuco's hideout, which is actually a coffee shop with some bomb bagels. We wandered around the rather touristy historical part of town, and dropped in on a little brewery to sample some beers. On our way out of town, we visited the Petroglyph National Monument, which was frankly not that awesome, but only $1. New Mexico, it turns out, was not only our 47th state, but also apparently the 47th state in the country! 

Finally, we crossed the border into Arizona, our 48th and final state. What a strange sensation! We couchsurfed in Flagstaff in a big artsy house where we shared a quiet vegetarian dinner with our hosts. The next day was rather gray. We visited a few coffee shops, and went to a weekly BLT potluck get together with our host's roommate where we met some interesting humans and a fluffy pup. In the morning, in spite of the disagreeable weather, we headed for the Grand Canyon. Even shrouded in thick clouds and mist, it was a breathtaking sight, all the expansive purple red, all the unfathomable depth.

We started down the Bright Angel trail in the drizzle but after an hour or so were thwarted by the slick mud and the impenetrable white fog that stunted our view severely. We trudged back up the trail and instead meandered along the Rim Trail, scrambling out onto protruding slabs of rock, where we had a picnic of canned dolmas and granola bars before the sun began to slip away behind the dark gray mass of clouds. We camped at the Canyon that night, snuggled in the van with Finnegan with candles and snacks and leftover tequila, as the rain beat down on our tin roof.

In the morning, we awoke before the sun rose and drove until we found a little pullover along the rim, where we could just barely see some of the tallest rock formations peering out of the mist. We made coffee and breakfast and sat staring at at the fog before gathering ourselves up for the lengthy desert drive to Los Angeles. It was a long drive through the scruffy barren landscape, but we rewarded ourselves with In N Out, so here we are, on our last day together before Kelsey continues North with Eric, and Tressa stays in LA for a bit, waiting to sign a lease with Evan.

Rest assured, we will be reunited for a bit in Sonoma County, and we still have a lot of work to do together to work on our final project, so stay tuned for more details about exciting things to come!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Alabama, Arkansas, I do love my Ma and Pa...

After our Florida vacation, we headed to Mobile, Alabama. Our host was this wonderful enthusiastic man named Kenneth, who had been renovating his house and working on becoming sustainable with rain harvesting, composting, chickens and gardening. Kenneth took us downtown, where we had drinks with some of his friends and even met an alumni of Tressa's alma mater (UCSC), who had started a non-profit bike workshop that gave people the opportunity to fix up bikes and buy them by working hours at the shop helping others to do bike repairs. The next day we visited the workshop, where the others' rescue dogs trotted about amongst the industrious people and up-turned bikes. We strolled around downtown Mobile, observed a park full of incredibly fat nearly tame squirrels, and chatted with Kenneth about home over homemade pizza. Our last day in Alabama, we dropped Finn off at the vet to get fixed and then headed to Blakely State Park, which came highly recommended to us by Kenneth's friends, and while poor Finn was under the knife, so to speak, we enjoyed a leisurely hike. We're happy to report he is a much mellower kitten because of it.

From Mobile, we through the bottom of Mississippi to get to New Orleans. On Wednesday we surfed with a wonderful working traveler named Jessica, who inspired us with her successful and nomadic ways and treated us to tacos. Thursday, she was headed to Mexico, to meet her boyfriend who was on a long term bicycle trip, and she was even kind enough to give us access to her house until her Air BnB guest arrived on Friday. On Friday afternoon, we couldn't help but go explore the haunting site of a Six Flags theme park that was abandoned before Katrina and never reopened. On Friday night, we were treated to an uncharacteristically classy experience by our sponsor, Camlow Cellars; you can read more about that night here.

Our last night in New Orleans, we visited Frenchman's Street, which we were told was somewhat less of a shitshow than Bourbon Street. We perused a cute but crowded little artisan alleyway full of handmade jewelry, clothing, art, and even voodoo talisman, complete with preserved chicken feet. A fun little band played on a street corner and we rummaged through old books and chatted with artists.

From NOLA we headed to Jackson, Mississippi, where our hosts informed us matter-of-factly that was simply nothing to do. Luckily, they had some pretty great dogs, so we were happy snuggling puppies and working on some crafting projects in their living room. In Jackson, we endured our coldest night yet, reaching a low of 21 degrees. We slept in lots and lots of layers and burrowed deep into our bed lasagne, where Finn joined us. We managed to sleep surprisingly comfortably, although getting out of bed was another story. Our last night in Mississippi was spent at a Mexican restaurant where our hosts' friends were gathered in a party for their neighbor, who was scheduled to begin six months of house arrest the subsequent day — complete with a "Happy House Arrest" cake. Needless to say, things got a little weird.

Although we'd already been to Tennessee, we felt impelled to spend a little time in Memphis, so that was our next stop. We spent our first night with a sweet woman named Rachel, who collaborated with us on a vegetarian version of Memphis BBQ, as well as some green beans, and a seven layer salad, which is apparently a Southern tradition. The next day we met up with Kat and Dustin, a wonderful pair of transplants with a majestically fluffy cat named Koz, that was supposedly the antisocial type but eventually warmed up to Finn. We joined them for some trivia at a nearby Irish pub that night and after running some errands the next day, we decided to check out the infamous Beale Street.

We didn't get far before a rather zesty man approached us about a charity program for homeless people, and although we don't have much money, we did rustle up some fruit snacks we'd been hauling around since Burning Man as well as a few other food items we could spare to part with. We checked out the general store, the Elvis statue, and then went to the Peabody Hotel to watch their famous ducks march on a red carpet from the water fountain into the elevator, which was quite the scene. That evening, Kelsey joined Kat and Dustin for a group run that culminated in free beer and pizza.

Arkansas was next; first we visited the Pinnacle Mountain State park for a short but vigorous uphill hike to a gorgeous vista, where we encountered an absurd amount of ladybugs, one of which made it's way into Tressa's mouth. After our hike, we drove to Fayetteville. Our host, Zach, was a philosophy student and professor, who lived with a philosopher, and took us out for drinks with more philosophers. Fayetteville is quite the bustling, football-happy college town, we found. We had a leisurely Sunday morning, tried unsuccessfully to introduce Finn to the resident cat, Sophia, and then drove to Crystal Bridges — a free museum recommended to us by a lovely woman we met in the parking lot at Pinnacle Mountain. The museum was quite worthwhile and we spent several hours exploring, while outside it began to rain, and the windows were illuminated with sporadic lightning.

We have just entered our 45th state, Oklahoma. Only 10 short days until we will be back in California, and we can hardly believe our journey is coming to a close...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So two scruffy van dwellers walk into the luxurious Hotel Monteleone...

No really, we actually went and stayed at a four-star luxury hotel in the heart of New Orlean's French Quarter on Friday. How, you ask? Well, it was all thanks to Camlow Cellars, one of our biggest, most generous sponsors.

People actually quite often ask us how we are able to take such a big chunk of time to travel — it can sometimes seem absurd that two twenty-three year olds are able to traipse at their leisure across the country. The secret is a combination of things: hard work, foresight, creativity, and scrounginess. Before leaving, we worked our buns off. We did some rough routing and mileage calculation and tried to figure out how much money we needed, and then to save that much money. Tressa does social media work, so she continues to work from the road to keep afloat. We spend a lot of money on gas and very little money on anything else, we eat simply, we avoid pricey tourist traps, we urban camp and couch surf.

We did a crowd sourced fundraiser that many amazing people and companies donated to — and this is where Camlow comes in. Camlow approached us about the possibility of choosing their own reward for our fundraiser, an option we hoped people would have fun with, and they did just that. They gave us a few bottles of wine and asked that in exchange for their donation, we take photographs of the bottle exploring America as a part of a Social Media campaign that we've had a ton of fun with. Now, as we come to the last leg of our journey, Camlow surprised us with a reward of our own; one night of pure luxury!

We checked into the Hotel Monteleone on Friday evening, a bustling and resplendent establishment far fancier than anywhere we've been thus far. Our room included not one but TWO luxurious beds, and we played music and danced around as we tried to figure out what in gods name we could get away with wearing for the next event of the evening — a sumptuous Creole dinner at Muriel's Jackson Square!

We walked the crisp, lively streets to the restaurant where we poured over the menu and tried to look casual and did our best not to devour the tasty warm bread and butter on the table too ravenously. Kelsey savored a cocktail called Honey Child, a sweet honied berry concoction, and Tressa lost it over a minty, cucumber cocktail called Autumn Rain. I hope you're ready for a blow by blow of our dining experience, because we want to brag a little:

(Left) Spinach and Granny Smith apple salad with sweet onion, walnuts, smoked blue cheese and sugar cane vinaigrette. (Right) Wood grilled eggplant roulade with three cheeses - goat, ricotta, and mascarpone - on baby arugula with smoked tomato-butter.

Muriel's Vegetable Soiree: Lentil quinoa cake with cilantro sour cream, roasted beets with horseradish vinaigrette, haricot verts with red pepper aioli and sweet onions, flash fried zucchini with creole tomato jam and feta cheese.

Pan Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast: Roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash hash and roasted duck.

Creme Brûlée

Sweet Potato donuts with caramelized pecan dipping sauce

After coffee and dessert, we decided to check out Bourbon Street, which was just as crazy, if not crazier, than we imagined — a long cacophonous stretch of wobbly bridesmaids and rowdy swarms of friends, plastic cups in hands, while people called down from balconies, hurling beads at cheering women and the occasionally lucky dude, and religious people decried the whole scene in clusters around big crosses, yelling into megaphones, and doormen danced to stay warm, vigorously waving passersby into their establishment, promising $3 shots and bull rides. We had a few drinks, wandering from bar to bar, people watching, befriending a leash cat and a street dog, watching a rather enthusiastic cover band of older men and their plump wives shaking their butts in wild and boozy adoration.

After a few over priced shots and beers, we meandered our way back to the hotel, where downstairs there is a famous bar that is an actual slow-moving carousel, so we stopped in to take a few photos of the Camlow bottle enjoying an evening at this historic watering hole before heading to bed, but were unexpectedly swept up by a rather inebriated local that thrusted us upon his friend group, and before we knew it we were circling the carousel lounge with them, chatting about New Orleans, about the aftermath of Katrina, the sense of displacement and community effort that went into rebuilding, until the bar closed. We felt incredibly lucky to be able to casually ride the elevator up to our cozy quarters and conk out.

Thank you so much Alan and Craig, we had such a wonderful time taking Camlow out on the town! Check them out on Facebook and Instagram to see all the photos we've been taking with the bottle, and California friends, keep your eyes out for this awesome duo's wine release.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

One month remaining!

After leaving South Carolina, we headed to Savannah, Georgia, where we met our new host, Nick, a tattooed, fire-fighting father that took us out to the big sprawling Bonaventure Cemetery, full of ole crooked tombstones shadowed by big trees full of Spanish moss. We fell in love with all those big, mossy trees — the South was really beginning to look like the South.

Savannah is one of those magical places where you can drink beer on the streets, so in the evening we did just that, strolling through the picturesque squares, sipping on Georgia beer. We walked along the waterfront where a few big piratey looking ships were docked, and even befriended a wonderful retired couple that has been traveling in their boat for the past 14 months. As we strolled, we even ran into Nick's other two surfers, a woman from California and her English traveling companion, who he miraculously recognized from their CouchSurfing profiles.

It was fun being in a house full of CouchSurfing enthusiasts, sharing a big tasty breakfast on Nick's sunny porch and swapping stories. That afternoon, we drove to out to Tybee Island, had a quick bite at The Crab Shack where we got to watch baby gators lounge in the sun, and then strolled along the beach a bit, before taking our leave in the early evening, headed South towards Florida.

Evan was scheduled to fly into Miami the day before Halloween, so we did a bit of Halloween thrifting and bought some craft supplies with which to make our Fantastic Mr. Fox costumes: Kelsey would be Kristofferson, Evan would be Ash, and Tressa would be Agnes. Miami was HOT. We picked up Evan and checked into a cheap motel for the weekend. On Halloween we headed to Churchill's Pub, which was actually recommended to us as a fun cheap spot and possibly the oldest punk bar in Miami by an artist we'd met in Detroit. It was fabulously divey and we had an awesome night drinking cheap beer and listening to music.

Our weekend in Miami with Evan was all around mellow and hot and lazy, and before we knew it we were dropping him back at the airport and then heading north towards Indian Harbor Beach where Colin and Jill (Kelsey's pop and bonus mom) were waiting for us in a fancypants beach front condo with seashell themed couches that felt a little bit like heaven after a motel room so cheap that we literally didn't even have a trash can. Soon we were strolling along Cocoa Beach, sipping on piña coladas in the hot tub, playing Scrabble and the game of Farkle Linda and Jack gave us in Maryland, lounging on the beach and generally RELAXING.

It's been nearly a week of vacation wonderland, though, and the road is calling. Florida is our 40th state, and we only have 8 more to go and just about a month left ahead of us before we are back in California. It's strange to see the end of the journey approaching so quickly — November snuck up on us! But we are excited to plunge back into the adventure and get deeper into the South.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Snacking our way into the South

From Maryland we headed to Virginia, and visited the colonial town of Williamsburg, which was an interesting look back in time. Our favorite part of the town was the little garden and nursery we found, full of rusty old tools, cute sheds, drying flowers and herbs. After a day of exploration, we decided to spend the night in Charlottesville, a college town. We sampled some beers at Three Notch'd Brewery, and then wandered around a bit before climbing up onto a stone wall overlooking a bustling street to drink beers and people watch. We ended up making friends with a few chatty college students that climbed up to talk with us about our adventures for a while.

We were urban camping in front of a fratty-looking college house, and when we returned to the van there were ton of bros milling about on the front lawn, so we figured we should check in about camping out, and while they didn't seem to mind, they did mention that they'd spotted Finn and were plotting about how to "break him out" of them van. We reassured them that Finn was quite set with food, water, litter, and toys, and that we figured if the van was enough space for us to sleep in nightly, it seemed to us that he was fine to hang out for a bit in there as well. We put Finn on his leash and introduced him to everyone and they seemed convinced, as well as a little incredulous about our whole set up.

Kelsey's aunt, possibly one of our most enthusiastic supporters, Carole, lives near Asheville with her boyfriend, Danny, so we headed there to hang out with them. They have a beautiful hilltop property with an amazing view, and took us driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and then downtown for a zesty "thai-dye" pizza and some beer. There were SO many cute dogs in downtown Asheville, it was hard to contain ourselves. That evening, Kelsey baked a scrumptious apple cake and we had a relaxing movie night. After a leisurely morning breakfast and some much needed van-organization, we said our goodbyes.

Our next stop was Charleston, West Virginia, where we were excited to meet our couchsurfing host, Justin, and his canine companion, Pearl, who he said would be fine to hang out with our feline Captain! We had a chatty evening with Justin and Pearl, sipping on Sierra Nevada and watching the two critters get to know each other. They got along marvelously, and Finn was quite bold, batting at Pearl from beneath the couch at first, and eventually coming right up to her and giving her a careful sniff. The next morning, we attempted to take Finn for an autumnal hike, but were thwarted by rain, so while Kelsey jogged, Tressa holed up to work in a little cafe, where a few people spotted our van decal and eventually we were chatting with a man named Charles who had returned to West Virginia three years prior, as an experiment in rediscovering what it meant to be West Virginian, and had been thinking a lot about home and place. We ended up meeting up with him and a friend later at a nearby bar, to drink beers and discuss West Virginia, which they were incredibly enthusiastic about, as well as disappointed that our time there was so limited. As the night drew to a close, Charles took us to Tudor's Biscuit World, a West Virginia standby that consists of tasty biscuits topped with greasy breakfast food.

Our host in Lexington, Kentucky, was an incredibly cheerful Japanese translator. His name was Chuck, and he had a big ole ginger cat that Finn was soon chasing and romping with in some truly glorious wrestling matches. Chuck has a radio show at the WRFL college radio station, so we accompanied him to the station and even got on the air briefly to promote our trip and play some California tunes (California Honeydrops)! When the show was over, we drove around Lexington for an impromptu night-tour of the local street art, and then headed back to the house for a dinner of tortellini with some fresh herbs from Chuck's garden. In the morning, we decided to go check out the horse races, and afterwards we headed to Red River Gorge, which Chuck said was one of the most beautiful places he'd ever been. It did not disappoint, it was all autumnal colors, breathtaking views, and gorgeous rock formations. We didn't quite realize how much we had been missing the woods until we got to stand beneath the deciduous trees, listening as the leaves fell all around us, and we felt a great sense of peace.

We were a bit torn about where to go in Tennessee, but ended up Knoxville, where we ran some Halloween-related errands (it's hard to get costume crafting time in when there's so much to do and see!) and then checked out the Sunsphere at the World Fair Park, where we even sneakily harvested some chard that was growing in planters which appeared to be mostly decorative, and then had some work time at Old City Java, which is apparently the oldest coffee shop in Knoxville and is also adorable, found some dollar pizza nearby, and then meandered around Market Square for a bit. We decided we'd attempt to return to Tennessee to check out Memphis when we explore Mississippi and  Arkansas. The next day, on our way to Charleston, South Carolina, we stopped at the Smoky Mountain National Park, which Justin had highly recommended to us. We made breakfast in a picnic area and let Finn explore a bit, before heading out on a little hike, where we met a gregarious retired military pilot, who had spent the last seven years living in his motor home and was looking for an adventurous older lady to share his life with.

In Charleston, SC, we met up with Ben, an old high school friend of Tressa's who had moved to the area for Navy training. We hung out at a dive bar that is the self-proclaimed #2 seller of PBR, and the next day went for a beach excursion with Finn, who we even let romp around sans-leash for a bit. We were a bit pooped, so we meandered lazily through town, lounging for a bit in a park where a few men were yelling at each other, before checking out Pepper Palace, where we did some extensive hot sauce sampling, and then returning to Ben's to make an epic lasagna and watch a movie.

We're writing you now from the Blind Tiger, a cute little pub we were recommended by a gorgeous lady that lived in the house we were parked in front of this morning, who popped out and asked to say hello to Finn and then informed us that her pub was animal-friendly. We spent our day wandering through Battery Park and checking out the historic water-side houses and cannons, before coming in here for wifi, coffee, and fried green tomatoes — perhaps an odd combo, but a delicious one. Finn is a bit of a celebrity, of course, and even the waitress keeps taking his photo.