Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So long, Seattle!

It's hard to convey just how much fun we had in Seattle. We had a lot of fun. In Seattle we were hosted by Kelsey's cousin Kyle, his boyfriend, Ben, and his wonderful apartment mates. Before we even arrived at the apartment, we had a sense that we were going to like Seattle, just walking through Capitol Hill and looking around us at the shops and street art. Although Kyle was working our first evening in town, Ben met up with us and showed us around a bit, split an amazing cupcake with us and took us to gorgeous Gas Works Park where we could see the city skyline as the sun set. This enchanting start to our stay was slightly mitigated by the fact that Seattle also gave us our first parking ticket, and the fact that it took us about two hours to find a place we could actually park without acquiring anymore tickets. Ouch.

Evan drove up to see us from Chico, which put some shed some light on how little distance we've really covered, although we both feel as though we've been living in a van for much longer than we have been. We visited Pike Place Market, which was wonderful and overwhelming, watched fishmongers tossing huge fish at their customers, enjoyed a piroshki, listened to a soulful troupe of singers outside the original Starbucks (which we did not enter - that line was ridonk...), and were vaguely grossed out by the famous gum alley.

One night, Ben took us to visit Kyle at Japonessa, the incredible sushi restaurant where he works, and he sent us a billion tasty things as we sipped on fancy mixed drinks and waited for the rolls we ordered. It was possibly one of the yummiest meals of our lives. We highly recommend the spicy tomato tofu.

On Kyle's night off, we made two big lasagnas for him, Ben, their roommates, Breck and Jay, and their friend Andrew. He mixed us cosmos and we played Cards Against Humanity while we waited for it to bake, and then we downed some beer and some wine, hit the bars and even went to our very first drag show. Those ladies kicked ass, we had so much fun, and everyone else was having so much fun, the energy was contagious. After the show, the stage became a dance floor, flanked by booty shaking cowboys and we got our groove on in a serious way.

Due to the strenuous amounts of fun we had the night before, we missed most of the Fremont Solstice Parade, which apparently features thousands of naked, body painted cyclists, but we bussed into town in time to catch a few naked stragglers and check out the festival, and we made our way to the Fremont bridge to scope out the famous Fremont troll.

On our way out of town, we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls and checked out the Salish Lodge, where a lot of the filming for the hotel in Twin Peaks was filmed. We found it a little strange that there was no mention of the show anywhere, but soon after found Twede's Cafe, "Home of Twin Peaks cherry pie, and a damn fine cup of coffee," and almost lost it. This was us at our most touristy, and we had no choice but to get pie and coffee. It was a pretty strange shift to go from gorgeous, progressive Seattle, to this weird down, where the waitress seemed offended by our presence and didn't mention that there was no such thing as a "small" order of onion rings and instead grumpily brought us a huge, expensive plate of rings that we begrudgingly demolished. There was really no good place to stay in North Bend, so we headed East towards our next destination, Spokane, and crashed in another Walmart lot.

Friday, June 20, 2014

From Portland to Puget Sound

In Portland, we stay with Emily, Derek, and their three kids; this charming, laughing family that surprises us with their goofiness in their adorable house, where we wedge our van so far up the narrow driveway we dread trying to back it out. Portland is drizzly and wet and colorful, we fall in love with the houses, we drink endless coffee, explore Powell's bookstore and snack at the food carts. Our time in Portland, like much of our journey thus far, is meandering and slow. We walk up and down the streets, linger over our coffees and chat with the Clayton family about street art and the ways Portland has changed over the years.

We spend our last night on Alberta Street with a high school friend who takes us to a number of bars, including one filled with cat themed art — the night culminates in a few drunken interviews that we're pretty excited about. All in all, we enjoy Portland, the coffee and the cutesy food trucks and handmade zines, but something about the bustling adorableness is also slightly exhausting, so we're excited to take off for the Olympic National Forest.

The drive to Washington is short and beautiful, lush green hillsides dotted with wildflowers, snowy mountains looming in the distance. We stop in Olympia to get groceries, now that we've picked up our cooler from the REI in Portland, and spend some time organizing the van. Olympia is refreshingly small and drivable, and although we don't see much of it, we get good vibes. We camp out in a Walmart parking lot and visit the farmer's market in the morning to snag some veggies to take camping. The market is bustling with musicians and portraits artists, greens, fruit and honey, homemade soaps and lotions, succulents and knitted goods. We feel at home sniffing at the soaps, sipping coffee, petting a few dogs and finally purchasing some chard and broccoli.

We pass some elk on our way up the peninsula and pull into tiny Forks as the sun is sinking lower in the sky. What we aren't aware of is the fact that the Twilight series is set in Forks, so there is a crazy amount of vampire-fiction related tourist stuff. We spend the night in a rest stop/van pool parking lot and in the morning try and talk to the woman in the visitor center about hot springs but all she wants to talk about is Twilight.

We spend Monday attempting to hike to a viewpoint of Mt. Olympus but underestimate the 6mi uphill hike. We hike for something like three hours, stopping to photograph indignant laser chipmunks, delicate flowers, and waterfalls before stopping for snacks and heading back down to our campsite — the first place we've actually paid to sleep in so far.

The next day we walk to another waterfall on our way out, then take a long winding drive that's not entirely paved to get up to the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint of Mt. Olympus we didn't quite make it to on the previous day. It's a breathtaking panoramic view of snow caps, complete with fluffy munching deer. Afterwards, we drive to Port Angeles and overstay our welcome at an adorable cafe, finally making some progress on planning the next steps of our journey, contacting some folks in East Washington, Idaho, and Montana. We sleep in another Walmart parking lot and in the morning make our way to the Bainbridge Ferry to cross the Puget Sound to Seattle, where we are currently and somewhat belatedly writing this update!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Caffeine, Craters & Connections

In Ashland we stop at a coffee shop that feels like the Barlow — all bright wood, clean lines, burnished metal and latte foam leaves. In Medford we find a Trader Joe's, a mecca of familiar and affordable snacks; we climb onto the van rooftop in the parking lot, eating our eggplant wraps and salad and smiling at a few passersby.

A man named Ken pumps our gas and grins at us through the window. "Now you've met your first Oregon weirdo," he says.

On a whim, we drive East to Crater Lake, winding into the trees until patches of snow appear. It's getting late, so we pull off at a campground, following the gravel road until it curves past a landslide and we turn around awkwardly and park in a little wooded turn out that looks camped-in We brush mosquitoes off our arms and try to drink frothy champagne that's warm and car-shaken. Instead we spill it on the floor and give up on pretending it tastes celebratory.

Crater Lake stretches wide and blue, the bluest blue. Older couples chat about their luxury campers, children hurl snowballs at their parents, and I pet every dog in sight. Kelsey and I pick wildflowers and huff up hill to stare at the expansive green-blue view. I sprinkle a handful of my grandpa's ashes into the wind, thinking of him as we pass a cluster of big bikes in the parking lot.

In Eugene we meet Arnita, a friend of a friend who remembers me from long ago. We meet her two dogs, her cockatiel, her enormous tortoises, brothers who have started fighting after 16 years of peace. We talk to her about her travels, about the 22 National Parks she's visit with her daughter, an acrobat and violinist that's spent time living in Norway and Germany and joined a circus in England for a while. We eat CSA vegetables and talk to her about photography, about her incredible book collection, about Sonoma County over beers and ice cream.

After saying our goodbyes, Kelsey and I explore Eugene on foot — thrifting forgotten kitchenware, thumbing through old postcards, tasting local beer and chatting with delightfully strange people. We acquire free stickers, free coasters, and a few stories, and head North to Portland.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Check out our space!

Yesterday we took a second before take off to film a little video tour of our renovated van space. Things got a little weird but that's to be expected, right? Check it out here:

Our Trevolta campaign has officially ended, and we wanted to thank Camlow Cellars, Aaron & Cheri Fessenden, Farra Ferrere, and Sandi Bowen for our last donations! A few people have mentioned still wanting to donate although the Trevolta funding expired, so maybe we'll look into setting up a Paypal donation button and just keep track of the rewards ourselves, but that's a project for another day.

Writing to you all from Ashland, Oregon and considering checking out Crater Lake today and possibly staying there or heading up to Eugene before hitting Portland.


Tressa & Kelsey

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pieces of home.

It's interesting being on the very cusp of this grand adventure, holding in our minds the questions of home through all our preparations, and being in some ways aware of the things that seem important to have in our mobile dwelling during the the duration of the journey. Do these things signal to us what the ingredients for a new home are for us? Not the obvious things — clothing, food, toiletries — but the little things we could have left but didn't. A small succulent plant, bright new handmade curtains, a few novels, a dream book, a ball of yarn and a pair of circular needles, face paint, a polar bear hat, scented candles...

In spite of our desire to be minimal and functional, to pare down to the bare necessities, we held onto these things, found places for them in our tiny living space. In some ways these comforts seem necessary. They are markers of identity, particulars that make us feel human and individual, and they will make our rusty '91 Chevy feel like home.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pet Portraits & Progress

Yesterday we met up with Tressa's aunt Sis, who donated to our trip and chose the custom reward option in order to get some portraits of her cat, Lunita AKA Little One. Since we were going to spending some time hanging out with her and Lunita at her home, we thought we'd use the opportunity to talk to her about home to give us some practice asking questions and having the conversations we're setting out to have. We've been thinking about some questions to ask people, but we also don't want our conversations to feel like interviews, so that's going to take some work to get the hang of. Luckily Lunita is goofy and adorable and Sis was gracious about answering our awkwardly phrased questions candidly and openly.

 We are forever grateful to Evan, who has been spending most of his life under our van looking over every last detail we definitely would have missed. We've made a ton of progress but still have to bleed the brake system, fix our cigarette lighter, change the oil, flush the radiator, try and find and install a door panel, finish building our bed frame, finish resurfacing our counter top, fix two of our cabinets, get our cooler, an extra gas jug, a water jug, make a sunroof cover and sew some cute curtains as a finishing touch. All that in four days!

Huge thank yous to Anne & Craig Campbell, Wendy Shelton and Sishawna Fessenden for donating! Thank you to Abbey Carpet of SF for the carpet remnant, thank you to Twin Palms Ranch for letting us park our van while we work on it and to Tressa's dad for lending us a billion tools, and thank you to our boys for all their help!

Four days until takeoff!

Kelsey & Tressa