Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tentative Itinerary

Due to popular demand (my parents) here is an itinerary that we reserve the right to change dramatically and whimsically at the drop of a hat:

Arrive Duesseldorf, Deutschland on July 1st 7:10 AM local time
July 3rdish Arrive Senj, Croatia
July 6thish finish hitchhiking contest
July 11thish Arrive Copenhagen
July 15thish Arrive Norway
Early August or somewhere in here visit Anna in The Netherlands
August 15th Arrive Ireland
September 1st Arrive Continent
September 5th-October 10th visit (in mostly West-to-East order):
Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece
October 15th Arrive Istanbul (or other part of Turkey)
November 20th - either continue on to Asia or fly home for the holidays.

Hitchhiking and New York City Pictures

This is where we best like to hitchhike. In FRONT of no thumbing it signs.

Just like that! Beautiful!

Ooooo... Dan, I have to go to the bathroom, too!

I got your nose!

Muskrat along the road - found at an "Oasis" (See earlier post)

That's really us with Anne Hathaway, I'm not kidding.

And there's Nic!

Isn't Stina an elegant architectural photographer?

New Jersey across the Hudson at Sunset

Goodbye, New York City

Sorry there are not more words in this post, but we're frantically doing all our errands before we go get our plane.

Friday, June 26, 2009

We're in New York City!

Tuesday morning in Toledo (really, Sylvania) after we grocery shopped for bread and apples, a grapefruit and a mini-notebook for taking hitchhiking notes, Dan drove us out to an I-80 entrance. It was an entrance for both east and west, so we made a sign that said "EAST" and stuck out our thumbs at about 11:30am. It was a very low-traffic entrance, so after a few minutes we decided to walk a little closer to the actual turnpike and catch people coming from the other direction as well. Within minutes, a cop pulled up and very kindly told us we couldn't stand on turnpike property and hitchhike. He said if it were up to him, we were standing in a safe place and he didn't mind, but it was against the law. He directed to where we could legally stand. This was around 12:10pm.

We moved to our new spot, which seemed more promising, at least, than our original location. Here, though, we were greeted with the rudest responses to our hitchhiking that we've encountered. One youth flipped us off, another man made a crude sexual gesture, and then another person flipped us off. It was disheartening. At 1:13pm another cop stopped. He apologetically said he wouldn't normally hassle us, but Joe Biden was going to be passing near us on the turnpike, so we needed to move along. This is the first time we've been moved because we pose a security threat. Or maybe they just thought the vice-president would find us unsightly? Anyway, we ended up moving to our original location and its few cars.

It was very hot outside and when the few cars passing us kept on not stopping, we were growing a little dismayed. Then Adam came to our rescue at 2:13pm and said he could take us nearly all the way to Pennsylvania. We were with him for about two hours and learned that he repairs refrigeration units for major companies across the midwest. He is on the road a lot and said he gets tired of it, especially because he is married and has a young daughter at home. He told us about http://www.slacker.com/, a free radio website. He dropped us off just before I-80 splits with 76 at 4pm.

We spent nearly an hour at the rest stop there, fixing up sandwiches and resting. I had a horrible headache, likely from so much sun exposure and not drinking enough water, so I hydrated a lot and then we headed out to thumb. Around 6:25pm two guys stopped, but when we said we were trying to get to New York City, they said they weren't going that far, they were going to Penn State, and then they oddly and slowly drove away as we were telling them we'd be happy for any ride east.

The ways things work out while hitchhiking often seem meant to be, though, and it may have been because we need to meet Jake and Kati that those two guys drove away. Jake and Kati, on their way home from a day at an amusement park, picked us up at 7:22pm. They weren't going far, they said, only about 60 miles. To us, 60 miles is a decently long ride, so were quite happy. Plus, they were close to our age and seemed really interested in our trip, and were very interesting people themselves. Jake is a parks manager and gave us his card so we could contact him if we got into any problem at a Pennsylvania state park. Kati recently finished her degree in education and they'd been out celebrating that she had just gotten a teaching job.

They dropped us off in Barkeyville, PA, apologizing that it wouldn't be helpful to us for them to host us for the night because they lived another 30 miles or so off of I-80. We thought we might try to get one more ride after eating dinner at an all-you-can-eat diner there, but we were happy to pitch our tent if need be. After seating ourselves in the diner, though, we got a call from Jake offering to host us for the night, and promising that he and Kati could drive us back out to I-80 in the morning. We happily accepted and bought Subway sandwiches while waiting for them to return.

They made us feel so comfortable at their place, treating us like good friends, sharing wine that night and making breakfast for us the next morning. Our second night on the road, and we had another bed to sleep in. The kindness of strangers keeps astounding me and reaffirming my trust in people. We had a great time getting to know Jake and Kati and learning about their lives. And I think they enjoyed learning about ours.

The next day they took us back to Barkeyville at 12:30pm and after asking one trucker to no avail, we walked over the I-80 east entrance and stuck out our thumbs. At first, we weren't right by the entrance, so one kind woman stopped but wasn't heading onto I-80. After that we moved closer to the entrance so people wouldn't be confused about where we wanted to go. At 12:38, a trucker was getting on and seemed to be passing us, so we waved good bye. Lo and behold, he then slowed down and stopped for us!

Van, the 32 year old trucker, was heading to Waterbury, Connecticut, which is only 87 miles from New York City. He was happy to take us all the way there, or drop us off earlier, as we wished. We talked books and movies with him, and he invited us to come and play X-box with him if we ever pass his way again. I hope we do, because I think it would be really fun to play Rock Band with him. We asked him to drop us in Danbury so we could go to New Canaan for Mike Chmiel's show (Mike was a teacher and administrator at First Stage Milwaukee when I went there). The earliest train from Danbury to New Canaan didn't leave until 8:59pm, though, so we'd never have made it. From Danbury we took the train to New York City. By this time it was about 7:30pm or so. We'd spent the whole day with Van enjoying the scenery of Pennsylvania.

At the train station in Danbury while waiting for the train to arrive, we met a friendly, most thoughtful cop named David. He is from New York, and told us we've got to go to McSorley's, the oldest bar in the US. There's more I could tell you about David - his politics and his attitude towards the world were refreshingly down-to-earth, and he had interesting things to say about the history of Danbury and interesting stories to tell about his life as a cop, a carpenter and a human being. And I've got to tell you what we've done in New York so far, but I'm nearly out of time on this computer in the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library, and I still have to print our itinerary to Germany. So long, then, and sorry for any typos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Harold, Mike, Amy, Dan

We begin again! Our travels today took us through 4 states in 5 rides.
The first, from Wisconsin to Illinois, came from my parents. My mother (and father, too, I'm sure, but he's not as vocal about it) worried about us all the way down, and was even making contingency plans for if we didn't get a single ride all day.
They dropped us at an Oasis (a gas station and shopping area along the tollway - significant because one usually has to pay to exit the tollway, but since you're staying on the tollway and there's no access from the oasis to the rest of the world, it's free to get off at). We wandered over to the entrance, pausing to ask a truck driver and hearing he was going some other way. We stuck our thumbs out, and saw nary 5 minutes go buy before Harold stopped to pick us up. Harold is a carpentry contractor at O'Hare who was commuting back to his Indiana home. Harold took us our first 60 miles, and got us off to a quick start. He spent his teens in the Philippines. He worries about his kids and where they're going.
In Indiana, we got a ride from Mike after only 6 minutes. Mike loves to travel, and told us about the places he wants to go. He took us about 30 miles, to Laporte, IN. Mike was involved in gangs. He worries about his kid and how he feels about where he is.
Mike dropped us at a pretty dead entrance, so we waited on the side of the highway, in the grass median between the entrance and the roadway. Across the road, a dead car was being towed. After about 15 minutes, an official looking truck slowly approached.
"Are we going to be hassled?" I asked Stina. "I think..." I answered myself, but as the truck arrived and stopped, the face inside didn't look like it had any chastising to do.
"Where are you trying to get to?" Amy asked.
"New York City," I responded.
"I can't take you that far, but I can take you to the end of my zone, about 20 miles."
As we rode with Amy, we learn that she had, indeed, saved us from probable harassment. She'd overheard a co-worker radioing in to alert the Highway staff to the presence of 2 hitchhikers, and so she stopped to help us out instead of leaving us to the mercy of the highway patrol. Now that's what I call good citizenship! Amy likes to go to Miami. She referenced La Cage aux Folles (okay, not really... she referenced The Birdcage), and we talked a little about Albert. I'm sure she, like all people, worries, but it didn't come up. I don't think she has children either... see a pattern?
She dropped us off at an Oasis, and just as we got out of the truck, Dan approached us. He'd seen us earlier, and briefly paused to learn more. We took advantage of the opportunity and asked him for a ride. He obliged. He thought maybe we were Phishheads (odd, since Harold had dropped us off at an Oasis, and a man exiting the Oasis with two dogs had asked us about the fish; were we there because of fish...?). We are not, but we learned about Phish the band and that there had been a big concert this past weekend in the Alpine Valley, WI. Apparently there's currently a wave of hippies without cars exiting the area en masse, and so the assumption will be that a hitchhiker was at the concert. Not a bad reputation to have, no matter how false, if other Phishheads feel an affinity for you. Dan seems a reluctant, but most generous host. After giving us a ride, he offered to let us pitch our tent in his yard, then seemed to wrestle with himself, and ultimately opened his home to us, letting us sleep in the luxurious guest bedroom, offering us towels and this here internet that I'm using. He's offered to give us a ride back to the freeway in the morning. Dan has an adorable cat, works in insurance, travels regularly, and gave us a window into the world of a Phishhead. He worries that his neighbors would worry what their kids would think [about us camping on his lawn] and whether or not his pets get enough attention.
And so tomorrow morning we'll go grocery shopping and then head onwards towards NYC. If things keep going at this rate, we'll be in New York by Wednesday! Wish us luck!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A week and change in Wisconsin

I'm writing to you from the wilds of southeastern Wisconsin. This week has been an upturn for me. I began the week with some sort of illness, a fever and cough. My mother worried that the respiratory illness had to do with my appendicitis, and we almost went to the emergency room when my fever hit 102.4. Luckily, a little tylenol on day 3 of the illness and a steady recovery since then allowed me to attend my regularly scheduled doctor's appointment on Monday. Dr. Froehlich told me the illness was unrelated to my appendicitis. My dad thinks I had the swine flu (Wisconsin has the highest incidence of H1N1 of any U.S. state).
I finally left my cloud of illness on Tuesday, and realized that my mother was in Madison for the week at a writer's conference in Madison. Stina and I spent most days lounging about the house, avoiding mosquoitos and going on brisk walks with the dogs (running past the pond to escape the mosquitos). We thank our luck stars that we're getting married in October 2010, after mosquito season.
On Wednesday I started to show an interest in being a useful member of society, and managed to  make Stina one of her birthday dinners, a delightful task I've been catching up with for the past several days. On Thursday I managed to acquire the presence of good friends Wiley and Nicole for a little RPG action. They'll return in the morning for the final installation of our game.
Wiley may (fingers crossed) join us for part of our tramping through Europe.
I've seen some family here: the Bruces on the day we arrived; Delmer while I was sick, and we were just able to reconnect with my family at my uncle's 60th birthday party: David, Roseann, Sarah, Betsy, Delmer, Helen, and extended family, including Stina's first-cousin-once-remove-in-law-in-law-to-be (or, as we say in Wisconsin, "a shirttail relation").
And so, another day passes, and we get this much closer to my whole body wellness and our next journey. We're leaving on Monday for NYC and will leave NYC on June 30th (with my appendix still intact) for Dusseldorf and lands beyond. Michael (of Freeballin fame) will let us sleep at his mother's home in NYC.
After Europe we plan to move to L.A. so I can pursue my dreams of professional acting... then on to the wedding and back to Seattle if the film industry doesn't love me like I hope it will.
Love It! and you,

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Choices We Make

Guess what I spent all day doing? Loading hay bales onto the back of a truck. If you guessed we're not in Seattle anymore, you are right. Brendan had a follow-up appointment on Monday and the doctor said he was looking good and it would be fine for us to travel. This doctor even said that he doesn't recommend Brendan has his appendix taken out as long as there aren't any more problems with it. We are taking his advice to heart so far, but also keeping a close eye on Brendan's health. Right now he is running a slight fever and has a cough, but no pain in the appendix area. We think he may have just caught something from someone, because we did just spend two days on a bus traveling from Washington to Wisconsin. Brendan has a doctor's appointment this coming Monday with the Weinhold family physician, so they'll check everything and make sure he's really okay. 

As soon as we found out we were cleared for travel, we started packing up our things and making plans to leave the next morning. My sister Amelie and I treated my dad to an early Father's Day treat of dinner and a movie that evening since I won't be there to celebrate with him on the 21st. Tuesday morning, we were off! My parents drove us to the Everett bus station and we headed out at 10:10am. We arrived in Milwaukee around 8:30am Thursday morning, where Brendan's dad picked us up. We've already had one delicious dinner at our favorite pizza place, Tomaso's, and we played mini golf last night. And today I worked my butt off and I'm now going to reward myself with sleep. Good night.