Thursday, July 31, 2008

The journey continues through Wyoming

After waking up in the Medicine Bow National Forest and drinking coffee to warm us enough to pack up camp, we headed back down the mountain to Laramie, WY and the free wi-fi at their Safeway to figure out what else Wyoming had to offer us. It turned out that Wyoming has a lot to offer. Hot springs (Thermopolis has a free one in accordance with Chief Washakie's agreement), Devil's Tower (Emily thought this was just a figment of Steven Spielberg's imagination), Yellowstone (we had our pic-a-nic basket), the Grand Tetons, a rodeo in Jackson, WY and so much more. It became clear that there was too much to see and do if we wanted to keep our schedule of reaching Portland by August 1. Making it to Jackson, WY for the evening and catching their rodeo, perhaps checking out a hot spring on the way and driving through the Grand Tetons in the morning seemed like a reasonable plan.

Our drive criss-crossed us over the Continental Divide and through vast empty areas. We have never been to a part of the country that was as unpopulated that it was possible to run out of gas if you didn't plan ahead. As we drove across the treeless landscape, Emily grew hungrier and hungrier and wanted to stop and make sandwiches with the Laramie salami and Iowa cukes. Just as blood sugar was dwindling to a bickering level, Wyoming DOT's Sweetwater Station rest area appeared on the horizon. We dined in a windy picnic shelter. As we were preparing to head out, three bicylists that we had passed a few miles earlier rode in to take a break. As we are on our way to document a similar journey, we struck up a conversation and learned that they too had left from the Baltimore area and were making their way to Astoria, OR. Small world.

Internet and cellular signals continued to be weak, leading us to drastic measures to find a wifi signal. Max found one behind the Exxon that we stopped at in Dubois, WY.

It turns out that Jackson, WY is a pretty happening town. To keep out the rif-raf (us,) hotel rooms were $200 and up, and all the campgrounds in the area were filled. As darkness was quickly approaching and the cost of a hotel room was way out of our budget, we decided to drive towards the Grand Tetons and hope to find the perfect campsite/RV park: cheap, with a restaurant so we wouldn't have to set up the camp stove and eat beans again for dinner, and with free wifi so we could catch up on our blogging.

As we approached the National Park, we spotted the Grand Teton Park RV 'Resort', called and found that it was $40 to stay the night. As previously mentioned, we (Emily in particular) are quite scared of bears entering our camp and decided that the perceived safety, and wifi signal, were worth the price. We checked in, met a real cowboy in the convenience store (he was advertised as a horse whisperer on the cowboy church flyer in the bathroom), bought a can of chili for dinner and a Wyoming sticker for our rooftop carrier and set up our tent as the sun set behind the Teton mountain range. Our tent had wi-fi, so we sat side by side in our layered clothes and sleeping bag and typed away.

The quiet of the evening, albeit interupted occasionally by the humming of RV generators, was broken by the sound of galloping hooves punctuated by snorts. Buzz immediately sat up and we peered out the mesh door of our tent to see that the field next to us was now inhabited by horses grazing about ten feet away. Horses beat out bears any day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wyoming - Day 1 (and the rest of Nebraska)

We spent most of the morning and afternoon driving over the vast spaces that Nebraska inhabits. It's the longest state that we have driven through as yet. We did enjoy a few of the state owned rest areas, where Buzz ventured out of the car to relax under a tree while we ate sandwiches. As the mile markers drew closer to zero, our excitement of conquering Nebraska was tempered by the fear that the seemingly endless prairie would merely continue into Wyoming.

Admittedly, we have not done too much planning for our trip out west. Although we had a general sense of the route we would take, we planned on using the EVDO Verizon Modem to plan where to go and where to stay. But as I-80 through Nebraska transformed from an information superhighway into a slow trickle of random cellular signals, we had to quickly estimate where we would end up and locate a suitable place to camp.

Shoshone sounded nice, but -possibly for the first time on this trip -we decided to be realistic and aim for the Libby Creek Willow campground in Medicine Bow National Forest. Worst case scenario would be showing up way before sunset and being able to go further into the forest to cover more ground and maybe even try to do some dispersed camping.

We were wrong about the endless prairie. Wyoming exploded into our field of vision as soon as the the sign announced its welcoming attitude. Immediately, mountain ridges rose from the horizon and we quickly passed through Cheyenne, WY. We made a quick stop in the Safeway in Laramie, WY for some salami and beans to add to the rice we had brought along and headed down Snowy Range Road to Medicine Bow. Max had called ahead to find out more information about the campsites available, and on the second call learned that there had been a bear sighting at Libby Creek. As we carry along our own bear bait (Buzz) wherever we go, we decided to try to camp as far away as possible from that particular site. We drove up into the mountain, and around the mountain, until we found an available site in Nash Fork Campground near some other friendly campers who lent us a can opener as we had forgotten to repack ours after the farewell tuna sandwiches we made in Baltimore.

We set up the tent, cooked dinner, nestled into our sleeping bags and proceeded to freeze throughout the night. Wyoming is beautiful and also very, very cold at night in the mountains. No bears came by and we did see some of the brightest stars that we have seen in a while, so a little lesson learned about the importance of layered clothes is not so bad in the larger scheme of things.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What has five 'I's but cannot see?

Our goal was to make it as far across Nebraska as possible, but making it to Lincoln, a mere 60 miles into the behemoth that is NE, before Lazlo's shut its doors, and 'camping' in the nearby Motel 6 was the best we could do.

As this is the first time that either of us has driven across the country, it's hard to resist stopping at the many landmarks, rest stops, and vistas along the way. The Mississippi River was one of these milestones. A milestone into which Emily felt the deep need to dip her toes.

Two hours later we set out to conquer Nebraska, but first a little thing called Iowa stood in our way. Amongst the endless rows of King Corn, one highlight of this leg was finding This bare bones cornucopia of information was clearly assembled an earlier internet epoch, and so must be verified by calling the listed contacts or scoping out the area, but we were able to find a farmer's market in Urbandale, IA where we bought some delicious granola and three-seed bread from Big Sky Bakery and cucumbers and peppers from another stand which were much tastier than the avocados and cukes from the Bi-lo in Pennsylvania.

Monday, July 28, 2008


We made it to Chicago late Saturday night and made our way to Max's sister Karen's apartment. Through the kind of magic that only Craigslist can lead to, she happens to be subletting from everyone's favorite alcoholic older brother from an early 90's TV show, Micheal Stoyanov. Before we left Baltimore we were able to catch his performance as 'Dopey' in The Dark Knight at the Bengies Drive-In, and so were even more stoked to sleep on his floor.

After sleeping in, we spent the day walking around Karen's neighborhood. We stopped in Grant Park to watch the Criterium Bike Race and went to Millenium Park to take in the Bean. For those unfamiliar, the Bean is an enormous chrome... well, bean. It reflected an enraptured throng of tourists, busy gazing into it and back out at the city, proving that shiney objects attract people like moths to... well, a shiney object. Every city should get one.

Dinner and uplifting conversation were generously provided by Max's Chicago cousins, Tom and Debbie at Club Lucky in Wicker Park. It was a rare treat to see them and their daughter Sarah, and the night quickly passed.

Right now we are en route to Lincoln, Nebraska. We have two goals for Lincoln: 1) try and make it there in time to have a beer at Lazlo's Brewery and Grill- where Emily's friends Tiffany and Gretchen worked, met, and fell in love twelve years ago. and 2) get the hell out early so we can cover some real ground tomorrow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


One thing we have failed to give its due on this blog is the fact that we are traveling with our cat, Buzz.

Buzz was already a troubled teen when we took her in, and has grown to show us a capacity for love no one thought she had. She will still tear apart anyone who isn't us, but what can we say- nothing better for the ego than a creature that loves you and only you.

Ego boost that it is, we would still rather have left her, and her never ending stream of shed hair, with a friend. But you see, Buzz is not only unpleasant to other people, she is also diabetic. It seems that her childhood of being left alone in a NYC music studio with only a pile of food to console her has led to both her distrust of humans and the type two diabeties that requires her to be shot up every day with insulin. Vicious cycle. Vicious kitty.

Being a city kitty, she shows no desire to leave the apartment, let alone go camping. She spent the first part of the day yesterday in the car complaining and panting. And by the afternoon she looked like this.

She always likes the car, but the heat seems to stress her out sometimes. When we began to prepare to make this film, we knew it would be contingent on Buzz being a happy camper. We practiced a few times and she was better at it than we were. She doesn't scratch the tent, just gives a gentle people-in-the-walls nudge with her face to let us know she wants out. And when she does get out of the tent, 90% of the time it's because she wants to sit in the car instead. Couldn't ask for a better camping buddy.

But this extra soul in the car, with her diabetic food, insulin that must be kept cool, litter box, and box of syringes (no officer, I swear, those are for the cat) is not helping our chances of fitting everything we need to make the documentary in our trusty steed, or being truly able to go anywhere and do anything to get the shots we need. At some point she is sure to ruin our day, but she has brought her special secret love to so many of our days past that we have to take that risk.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hit It

A day late, but still on pace to make the coast by August, we are making the push to Chicago as I type. (thank you EV-DO) Saying goodbye to friends and neighbors was harder than we thought and we ended up getting the truck to Jersey late Thursday night. So we took Friday as an organizational day, as well as an opportunity to visit Max's Grandmother and Aunt in NY.

After a long and enjoyable dinner at Ardsley's own Pumpernickel, we headed back to Jersey to pack the car. The truck was already unloaded, but the car sat empty with an intimidating amount of gear- everything we thought we needed to camp and shoot- laid out in my mom's garage, threatening to keep us up too late to be safe drivers today.

Emily went to sleep and I pulled an all-nighter packing the car with only the 'essentials,' tetris- style. The deal was Emily would wake up this morning to a ready vehicle, refreshed and willing to drive the 750 or so miles to Chicago. It actually worked out and we are now just about 106 miles from Chi-town. While not exactly well rested, I am excited to be back in the Second City for the second time in my life (the first was in 1999 for Los Crudos' final show at the Fireside) and Emily, My Lady of Blessed Acceleration, is excited to stop driving soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Friday we head out - if I ever get off of hold talking to Verizon

I'm on hold with the phone company. I have been for almost two hours, and can't seem to drag myself away from it now that I have so much time invested. We are trading our Verizon DSL service for their "Enhanced EV-DO Rev. A technology Wireless Modem" so we can post on the road. I am still in disbelief that the word extreme was nowhere on the packaging. I just hope it works and we can keep up with this blog without wasting time searching for wifi hotspots.

We have been busy the past week trying to clear out our little house in Baltimore. Emily had her last day at work on Thursday and can now focus completely on packing. Emily's mom Debbie came by yesterday and brought her packing guru skills and a massive rental car. We brought four loads of furniture and I'm not sure what else to our local thrift store. I don't know why they left it all outside, but all of it piled out there on asphalt was a bit depressing. Especially when it started pouring later that night.

Luckily we know that at least some of our stuff found a good home before the rain came. Max went back to shoot the lot full of our crap,and ran into a nice couple who live out of doors liberating our possessions from what would have been a watery grave. We hope they and the stuff they rescued stayed dry last night.

Our plan is this - pack for the next two days. Get a rental truck and pack it up Wednesday. Drive up to Max's mom's house in New Jersey on Thursday. Unload. Hang out and relax. Friday - drive 12 hours to Chicago and stay with Max's sister. Totally doable, right?

We'll see...

By the way, if you live in the Baltimore area and want to cancel your Verizon service, the direct number to a real person who can do that for you is (410)594-8493. Live outside the Baltimore area? While on hold with the main number, take a separate phone, (so you can still listen to that sweet hold music) and call all the local numbers you can find for your provider and eventually someone will take pity on you and give you the secret number. It is not listed. That's how you find it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good things are happening... why are we still in Baltimore?

We had a great day selling a good amount of the possessions that we have acquired over the past six years this past Saturday at the Station North Flea Market (great place to de-excess and meet friendly people,) and yet - there is still more to pack and put on craigslist, the last throes of employment, and a whole country to cross.

Every day that goes by it seems like another milestone has gone unfilmed. Their record release party was packed; Aimee Mann invited them to open for her in Portland; and this week they were chosen as the itunes download of the week. This is a lot to have all gone down in our absence.

This is both inspiring and overwhelming as we had originally hoped to offer the band some exposure, and now it seems they are quite capable of exposing themselves. We now find ourselves frantically trying to tie up our loose ends so we can get out there before we miss any more.

By the way, the single is free, but the rest of the album is also discounted, so seize the opportunity to get the whole album for a low low price. The chosen single, "Go On, Say It," is an awesome song, and probably the most universally appealing of the bunch, but "One Red Thread" is my personal favorite.