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Ciao Milano

The Prologue

People have been asking a few different questions recently. Where is Whitney? How come you haven’t blogged in a while? What have you been up to? How can you afford to travel?

I’m attempting to answer these questions here:

1.) I am currently in Tampa. Plan to see some “How to do Florida like a local” posts in the future. I really like it here and I’ve started to accept how Floridian I am.

2.) I’m all full of excuses of why I haven’t blogged in a while. Mostly it’s because my life is busy, but in a more mundane sort of way.

Ecclesiastes 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die…”    …A time to surf and a time to host

Yes, I’ve been doing lots of hosting. I have a map of the U.S. that was hand embroidered by my Great Grandmother hanging in my living room. We use it as a reference point. “What states have you visited?” “I’m on holiday in the U.S. for two weeks, where should I go?” “I’ve been there.” I love hearing about other people’s journeys. Every Couchsurfer does it differently: foreign exchange students, long-distances bicyclists, au pairs, freelancers, conference attendees, vacationers, hitch-hikers, WOOFers and those lucky Germans on sabbatical.

3.) I’ve actually been up to quite a lot and that’s why I’m trying to get back in the swing of things!

4.) I know this may blow your mind, but traveling is not expensive. NOT AT ALL! In fact, it can be cheaper than staying in one spot.

So without further ado, I bring you my Italian adventure!

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The Town of Jackson

I was fortunate to get a last-minute Couch Surfing acceptance from Seth in Jackson, Wyoming. Locals call it Jackson, not Jackson Hole. I made that mistake and put Jackson Hole in my GPS and ended up at a parking lot of a resort I couldn’t afford to stare at. When I finally made it into town I walked around and swung into the Grand Teton Gallery. Seth was out in the woods and I needed to kill time before meeting him. I found the right gallery as they were having a magazine launch party that evening! I lucked out! Bar! Who needs a bar! I found a social place with free food (and good stuff – shrimp cocktails, cheese, meat, crackers, watermelon…), wine  and lots of art! A few of the pieces in the gallery were from some of the same artists that show at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. I do work for the arts festival, so I was so excited to see the work of some artists that I knew!

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Boise and The Oregon Trail

I have always wanted to head west. In elementary school I had a guinea pig named Fievel and I loved playing Oregon Trail. I always knew that the real Oregon Trail was going to be a highlight of my trip and I planned to stop at as many landmarks as I could. One of these landmarks that was featured in the game was the Whitman Mission. There wasn’t really any of the mission left to see, but they had a nice museum and it had a park atmosphere great for leg stretching.

I was happy to get out and stretch my legs. The scenery changes drastically from eastern Washington to Idaho. The desert makes way to vast green hills. I had underestimated the size of the hills in my mind. I was driving along some elevation, but you would look over large amounts of flat land too. I’m so grateful for interstate highways and motor vehicles. Seeing those tracks winding over the sides of hills looked precarious enough without a wagon on them.

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My Hitchers

After leaving the beautiful still serenity of my campground in the Redwoods (The Journey to Ft. Bragg post), I started looking for a gas station in town. My plan was to make the long drive to Coos Bay, Oregon. I didn’t have a place to stay lined up though, so I was pretty much up for whatever. While I was driving I saw a young couple walking in a ditch down the side of the road and I felt strongly that I should pick them up. I’d never picked up hitchhikers before. I kept driving though and pulled into a nearby gas station to fill up. While filling up my tank, I noticed that the couple had walked to the gas station and set up shop in front of the door with their cardboard sign. I walked up to the boy. He was a short, shrimpy looking kid between the age of 18 and 20. “Where are you looking to go? I’m on my way to Oregon.” He got all excited, “We’re looking to go to Eureka.” “Ok, I’ll give you guys a ride.” “Oh, thank you! What can I do for you? Can I wash your windows?” “Um… ok…” I rearranged my car, while the boy washed my windows.

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Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

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Pigeon Point LighthouseAbsolutely beautiful and relaxing, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is located right over the cliffs from the beach. It is known for its hot tub overlooking the water. The view is amazing. I enjoyed eating dinner and having a few beers with some of the other hostellers. I met lots of interesting people: a lady from the area, coming back after a long time, two guys bicycling the coast and some girls from Europe. Flowers grew all along the cliffs. I heard that many of the flowers are actually non-native and that they were planted there to prevent erosion. It was breathtaking.

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Steer Shows and Pot Holes

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Chuck Wagon Race

Chuck Wagon Race

The beginning of March, I stayed in Houston with my sorority sister, Amandine. She is a graduate student at a university there. On Thursday night I arrived just in time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Three other girls were at the apartment waiting on me. A car and then a train later, we were scouting out fair food. Between the four of us there were giant baked potatoes, a foot-long corn dog, a turkey leg, over a dozen fried Oreos and… fancy metal flasks.

I never realized that a rodeo contained so many different events. We played a ridiculous game of telephone in the bleachers as cowboys and a few barrel racing cowgirls roped, wrangled and rode in the dirt far below. The highlight of the night was the Mutton Bustin’ competition, where five year-olds are padded up and sent off riding lambs. A little guy named Brody won. They presented him with a man-sized belt buckle and asked him what was the secret to winning. He responded with a southern twang, “You just gotta keep you’re head down and hold on.” Read the rest of this entry