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Nashville and Asheville

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Nashville was truly my last stop, as in Asheville was meeting my family and Elliot, the guy I was dating back home, in just a few days for the 4th of July. I arrived at the very welcoming home of my Couchsurfing host Jacob, and his roommate Ken.

Timing does really mean quite a lot in life. In Kansas City I had been surrounded by people at the International House of Prayer and listening to their opinions. Like most conservative Christians, they found issue with the fact that back home I was dating a Jew.  I didn’t really find any issue with it, and neither did my family. Jews do have great reputations after all, they are known to put out hard-working, respectable, financially responsible men who treat their women well. What’s not to like? And besides Jesus was Jewish! But I did understand where they were coming from, it wasn’t something I hadn’t heard before and I began to wonder if I maybe should only date Christian guys.

Coincidentally, about a week later in Nashville I landed on the doorstep of two attractive young Christian men. Little did I consider (it was pretty obvious once it was pointed out) that one of the effects of traveling the country by yourself is that you become more interesting, and therefore more attractive. People love to live vicariously through travelers, traveling solo makes you seem very secure in yourself and since this was the last destination really, I had plenty of stories to tell.IMG_20130701_183017_649 Read the rest of this entry

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St. Louis – Back to the South

Apparently there is a debate across our country on whether St. Louis is really Southern. From my experiences it is – though my thoughts on whether a place is Southern or not is largely culinary based. Do they brew the sugar in the tea or do they stir it in after the fact when you order? I can taste a difference! Do they traditionally have their own distinct style of BBQ (Pulled Pork Carolina Mustard Style, Texas Cut Brisket, ect.) I grew up sticking my head out the school bus window to smell that savory smoke billowing out the front screen of BC’s BBQ – the pride and joy of all the Yalaha, Florida locals. I’d smell it down the road on Saturdays and hear the vroom of  biker groups speeding by on their pilgrimage. We had to stop by grab the meat, a coke from the long wall cooler and a mini sweet potato pie at the cash register. I later worked at Sonny’s serving up the good stuff – smelling of sweet sauce. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some authentic St. Louis style ribs!

I was directed to this place called Pappy’s by my Couchsurfing host Mark. I was fortunate to have a spare bedroom in the apartment of my freshly college graduated and surprisingly platonic roommates Mark and Laura. I was told to go to Pappy’s at an odd time of the day, because it is always packed. I headed over at around 2:30. There was a line out the door, but the BBQ was worth the wait! Ohh… it was some good stuff!

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Praying for Home

I covered a lot of ground between Laramie and St. Louis. It’s mapped at about 13 and a half hours of driving, but it took me several days. I left Laramie hoping to make it to Kansas City. That thought was a little over ambitious as for the record I don’t drive over 7 hours a day by myself and it’s a 10.5 hour trip. I ended up driving just about as far as I could.

Nebraska is a rather boring state. It’s filled with farms and towns that are barely a speck on the map. The terrain is flat and doesn’t contain many large trees or bodies of water. I stopped to stretch my legs at Fort Kearney. I jumped in the air after almost stepping on a snake and I took a ton of photos of my adorable little prairie dog friend.

Around sunset I stopped for free camping in a public park. I was surrounded by RVs and locals playing baseball. It was a nice park, but I couldn’t tell you where it was. I don’t think I could’ve told you where I was at that moment either. Settling in for that night I was hit in the face with humidity for the first time in months. Before I left on my trip, I didn’t really understand humidity. Growing up in the South people like to talk about humidity, but it’s just that there’s indoor air and outdoor air. I thought all outdoor air felt a certain way – because well, it isn’t air conditioning! That night I finally understood it was like someone had decided to throw a warm bucket of water in my face, I couldn’t sleep in my car without being damp, I couldn’t sit outside without moisture. It wasn’t the most comfortable night – I don’t like sleeping under bright lights anyway, but a long day was ahead.  Read the rest of this entry

Laramie and the Landlords

I made it to Laramie and decided to check out the Wyoming Territorial State Prison. Laramie is a small college town and there isn’t a whole lot to do there, but there is the prison. I was actually really happy I checked it out! There are a ton of cool old buildings on the site and the audio tour is very informative. Some outlaws make infamous by western movies (such as Butch Cassidy) were incarcerated there and the truth was normally not quite as exciting as the legends. The prison ran a broom factory on site and part of the prison had been used by the university at one point, so not only could you learn about prison life, but you could also find out about farming and old-fashioned broom making.

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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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