Last Minute Trip to Chicago

Chicago is probably my favorite big city. Every time I have been there I have a great time. I have been a few time before this trip but it has been eight years.

Eight years ago I stayed with my cousin in her dorm and she took me around to all kinds of really cool spots.  Before that, my trips there were with family and we did all kinds of tourist activities.
This trip I was determined NOT to do any touristy things. I had family and friends who might as well be in the city. I really didn’t give a fuck what we did, I just wanted to spend time with them! So that’s exactly what I did.

I showed up in Chicago the same day as Cindy and her mom. They had planned to stay at my friend Justin’s apartment by he was still out of town. I tagged along with them. I told his roommates who I was and how we met in Taiwan. No problems, slept on the couch.

The next morning my cousin picked me up to drive out to Naperville to see her mom. Cindy was leaving to Minnesota for a couple days and Justin wouldn’t be in until for a couple days. I had nothing better to do then go to the suburbs. But, I am super grateful that I did.

We stayed up all night with her mom drinking wine, eating cheese, and talking about our family history. I learned a lot of things that I hadn’t known. It really puts certain family situations in perspective.

The next night, we had dinner with my cousin’s boyfriend. After that, we went to a bar and played darts. I almost won my first game. Does that count for anything??

The next day, a Friday, I was alone in Chicago. Everyone I knew was either working or not in town. A made myself vulnerable and tried out Couchsurfing’s new Hang Out function.

It was a great experience. I think I met up with the group at around five p.m. and ending up closing a bar at 4 a.m. Couchsurfing makes it easy to never travel alone.

One of the guys I met was named Darren. He was interested in going out approaching people and meeting girls.  I told him the truth, “I am down to go to talk to people, but I am awful at approaching strangers.” “It’s easy,” he said.

He told me, “just go up to this group and ask them what a good bar is.” Before I could come up with any excuse not to, he literally pushed me into them.

We went from bar to bar doing these all night until I left him to go to sleep. I learned a lot from him. It actually is no big deal to approach strangers in a bar. Everyone seemed quite happy to talk. This is not something I have personally experienced in my life before.

I’ve led a shy existence. But, that is changing.

The next day, technically it’s the same day because I went to sleep at 4:30 A.M., I met up with my friend Justin. He had another friend he met in Taiwan, Carina, visiting too. We all went out for a late breakfast. Justin had to go work. I wanted to go to the Lincoln Park Conservatory to see the plants. Carina came with me.

After the Conservatory we rented some bikes and rode by the lake. This was such a relaxing way to spend the day. It reminded me of the bay in San Diego. I wanted to go home and make a point of riding along the bay regularly. (I have not done this.)

The plan was to meet up with Justin for dinner. But apparently Carina is just naturally late. Justin told us to meet 30 minutes early so we would be one time. Fantastic! They went to a play and I went back to my cousin’s to get cleaned up. We met up for drinks after.

Ended up getting drunk. Getting hungry. And, dropping a watermelon in the grocery store. I also through a cantaloupe at Justin while he was trying to sleep. I went to bed at 4 or 5. Two hours later Cindy showed up.

She had pie from Justin’s mom. She feed it to me while I was barely awake. Life can be good sometimes.  😉

I spent the next two days doing some touristy stuff with Cindy and her mom.

I took only four pictures. Mostly of Lego versions of the Chicago skyline.

And a fat Tinkerbell graffiti piece.

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Chicago was wonderful.

Back in San Diego (Again) For a Week or So. I Really Can’t Remember.

Written in October 2016, takes place in July 2016.

 

Coming back to San Diego from Arcata sent my mind spinning out of control. I was envisioning myself running away to a new life in the woods. I was jealous of my friends starting new.

I felt like I have been through a lot in the past few months. It wore on me mentally and physically. How could I not want to run away?

I spent the next week in San Diego working all day, dreaming of the redwoods, and spent my nights smoking DMT. A lot of it…

I learned a lot from my experiences but I am definitely forgetting some of my days.

I ended up canceling my trip to visit a friend in Montreal because I wasn’t sure what was going on and I was pretty sure I was moving up to a farm in Humboldt County. Something about inter-dimensional  travel makes you think.

I decided on a whim to buy a cheap round-trip ticket to Chicago. My Taiwanese friend was to be visiting there, I have a great friend I met in Taiwan who works out of Chicago, and my cousin lives there! I haven’t seen here in eight years.

And, I was a little worried that if I didn’t force myself to take a break I would have just kept experiencing DMT. Which isn’t a bad thing. But, I was letting myself prioritize that over what I knew I wanted to make my priorities.

Probably One of the Most Rewarding Trips I’ve Taken

Arcata, CA July 2016

I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of exciting things. I have fond memories from many trips. All of my trips have provide me with that warm tingly feeling we call happiness.

But, I would have to say that the trip that has provided me with more warmth and more tingles (?) is a recent trip I took up the redwoods.

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Just a typical amazing view from up North. Those light green patches are places that were clearcut back in the 50s or 60s. Notice how they still aren’t recovered. People still clearcut.

A couple of friends of mine from high school are moving up to Arcata, California. One for school, the other for love. They’re married.

When I first heard that they were moving, I selfishly volunteered to help them. Any excuse to travel I will take. I told them I could barrow one of my dad’s work trucks to move their furniture.

Months had passed since my  initial offer. During that time two of the work trucks died. There was nothing left for me to barrow. The company was short on trucks. But, I told them I would help them and I wasn’t about to break that.

I rented cargo van.

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I picked up the van late on Wednesday afternoon. Then drove it up to their home in North County (San Diego). I hadn’t been sleeping much since I got back from Montana. I gave them the van keys, told them to load it up, and proceeded to take a nap.

Ten hours later, I woke up. Maybe about half of the packing and apartment cleaning that need to be done was done. I tried to help out as best I could, tetrising in as much of their belongings as I could. Almost everything had to fit in the van because she drives a small Honda and he drives a Fiat.

When it was finally time to leave, we left San Diego just in time to meet up with the LA rush hour.

My aggressive driving style and their frequent bathroom breaks got me about an hour and change a head of them. We stopped in Sacramento for a late night dinner. Only one place was really open so we went their for tapas.

We decided that it was best to find somewhere to camp for the night instead of trying to drive the next six hours (estimated arrival time 4:20 A.M.). We found a small campsite on google maps outside of a town called Collusa, about an hour north of Sacramento. It wasn’t too much of a detour.

When we got there, I pulled out their living-room rug, spread it out on a picnic table, tossed out my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

The morning started lazily. But, soon enough we were headed back out on the road. From the Five we took the 101 to Arcata. I’ve been to Arcata a few times, but never via this road. New is good.

It was beautiful drive in. I don’t know what it was about this particular trip but I couldn’t help but think, during the entire two days of driving, how happy I was. I was happy to be on the road, I was happy to be with friends, I was happy to be a part of huge change in their life.

I missed their wedding when I was in Taiwan. They had it the weekend after finals and a week before I got back. They were to selfish to push it back when I asked, so whatever. I didn’t go, nor did I get them anything. I considered this a late wedding gift, early housewarming, and repayment for that time I was supposed to help you pay for that van we totaled in high school.

 – – –

Arcata is a beautiful little college town in the heart of the redwood forest in Northern California. It’s home to Humboldt State University.

We all pretty much spent the next four, or five, days (I can’t rememeber) smoking weed, taking naps, smoking weed, walking around town, hiking,  smoking weed, and drinking.

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Taking a nap on Strawberry Rock. I slept here. The photo was after I woke up.

This was also during the Forth of July. We met up with some other friends from high school and their friends and drove down to Eureka to see the fireworks.

I would wake up earlier than other people, take the van to a near by beach, and spend some time alone mediating. The mornings were foggy, I loved it. I was alone on the beaches until about 9 or 9:30. I found it very relaxing.

Then one morning, I had to wake up and leave. Almost without saying goodbye.

I drove back down through Avenue of the Giants, Mendocino County, and over to Glass Beach. Glass Beach was two hours out of the way but way worth it!

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I love this picture! I think it is great that the focus is on the dead bugs on the windsheild over the amazing backdrop outside.

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You can see some dead bugs here too lol

– – –

I had this strange urge to move there. To stay in the mindset that was I in. I had been so depressed the past couple months. The friends who were their for me just moved 14 hours away to some redwood paradise. I fantasized about moving up there, working on a farming, dumpster diving, trimming, and selling psychedelics purchased off the dark net.

These thoughts persisted for a few weeks after I returned. I was contacting a friend-of-friend who had a farm job to see if there was work. I signed up for a WWOOFUSA account to find farms to live at. I told my family I was thinking about doing. I even used it to justify canceling a trip to Montreal to visit a friend.

Then I realized something. I was lost. I was just filling my emptiness with another persons dream. After college, after my long-term relationship ended, I didn’t know what to do. I had to much freedom of choice and I attached myself to the first wild idea that presented itself. I paused. Reevaluated.

As much as I would love to live in the moment that was my five days in their home. I can’t. I would have gotten over that novelty. It was their dream to live their not mine. I have wild fantasies of my own I must chase.

And, I am. Stay tuned.

Glacier National Park, Montana

I hate the middle seat. I’m a window seat kind of guy. I enjoy looking down below at the patchwork of farms that makes up America. Also it’s nice to lean my head against the wall pass out.

I was still dehydrated from some intoxicate use the night before.

I was up late last night. Went to a MoCA event with some other couchsurfers. I got stoned because I couldn’t sleep. Now I’m on a plane, with no pillow, in the middle seat, getting shit sleep.

 

Growing up, going over to Montana. We’re on our way to spend 10 days in Glacier National Park. This is the park my dad never got this to his children. He was busy marrying a crazy bitch, my brother was graduating, and I was entering the world of psychedelics.

But we’re going now. I’m here because my dad loves his kids. This is the family trip he’s been wanting. If anyone needs an escape from their life it’s him. [I’m probably projecting here, I need escape too.] My goal is to make sure he has fun with his sons.
Turns out my dad isn’t the greatest at planning trips. We are staying in Great Falls the first night then our next few nights are pretty close, without much to do or see in between.

We ate lunch, after picking my brother up at the airport. He flew in separate from Ohio. The place we ate was mediocre at best. I wold soon learn this would be a trend in Montana cuisine.

 

Afterwards we spent an unfortunate amount of time in a sporting goods store. The time was passed a little quicker with the company of an unaccompanied minor who wanted fifty bucks to put a gun that shoots salt at bugs.

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The next night we stayed in Browning. It was only a two hour drive from Great Falls with even less to do.

We find our residency for the evening; a tipi village. I could tell my dad was underwhelmed to say the least. But once I saw inside teepee I was excited. I love camping. And the foam had they provided was way softer than what I normally camp with.

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We spent the day driving up to Canada.

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Canada has a national park that borders Glacier, Waterton National Park. Together they create one large International Peace Park.

Canada is beautiful. Is it fair that their side of the border is nicer than America? Canadian bacon was right. He didn’t do much there but it was exciting because I got to drive in another foreign country and I’ve now been to national parks and three countries. Possibly for, not too sure what the deal is with the Philippines.

I slept very well in Tipi that night.

 

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The next day few we went hiking in Glacier National Park. My dad was slow because he’s old and my brother was slow because he got sick from a frozen salmon burger. Regardless,  they both impressed me by hiking 15 miles in a day.

We did the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail. We knew it was closed because a trail marker had said so. In my head I just assumed that meant the trial was closed and I could ignore it. BUT no, they actually have a big ass metal door that closed the tunnel!

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The trail was still fun. We saw some marmot, some goats, and had a hell of a view.

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I spent every night in Montana staying up late because I couldn’t sleep. It was lighter later, a time difference,  and I need time alone to quiet my mind. So I mostly spent my evenings alone, drinking in the hotel lobby.

 

I hope my dad had fun! I love that guy.

 

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We walked all the way around this lake. Pictured is about 3/4 of it

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This is a beaver dam. I recently watched a show about beavers as a keystone species. I was excited to see this.

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Buffalo, outside the park

 

Working in Wisconsin

A few days after my graduation ceremony I was still recovering from the massive amount of stress my body and mind had gone through. When my Aunt sends me a congratulations text.

Except, she also wanted to know if I wanted to come work with for her for a week. She was going to buy me a ticket, pay me, and feed me. Of course I’ll go! You don’t even have to pay me just get me a ticket.

A week later I was on my way to Wisconsin. I’m a nice guy. I told her to get the cheapest ticket possible. The cheapest ticket came with a six hour layover in Denver. I brought a couple books with so it’s no big deal.

When we were scheduled to land in Madison there was a lightening storm over the airport. We were rerouted to Milwaukee, landed there, and hung out for an hour and half. We left rather abruptly because the pilots wanted to take off before the storm got to Milwaukee from Madison.

We ended up flying around the storm. Not sure if we went north or south though. I finally landed in Madison. Three hours late.

The next day I was to go to a few breweries with my Aunt Shelle, Great Uncle Jim and Great Aunt Sue. So much for working!

We went on a brewery tour that cost $5. They gave us a free beer before. A six pack at the end, and all you can drink for 30 minutes. This was brewery one of, I can’t even remember.

The next day I barrowed a car and drove two hours north to visit a Great Uncle on my dad’s side. He is eighty-plus years old. It was important for me to go visit him. We spent six hours talking about life. His travels, my travels, my plans, his advice. I really enjoyed the time I spent there with him. I hope to get back out there soon.

I spent the next week doing various yard work around my Aunt’s home. Mowing the lawn, unloading a huge pile of mulch, planting veggies, and weeding. But  by far my favorite was every morning taking care of the horses.

My Aunt Lisa rescued an abused horse. It was living next door in the neighbor’s stable with the neighbors horse. Every morning I would go over there early to brush them, feed them, and clean out their stalls. I loved it!

I hadn’t ever worked with horses before but I am hooked now.

I got to practice leash lining the rescued horse. It is essentially when you put a leash on the horse and run her in a circle. The goal is to get her used to commands before anyone tries to ride her.

 

This trip came at the perfect time in my life. I had been going through a lot at the time. I was feeling abandoned by my ex. But, in Wisconsin, family was coming from all over just to see me. They wanted to be with me because I was me. It made me feel great.

I talked to my Aunts about what I was going though and they told me about their lives. Everything was starting to make sense. I was calming. I remember hoping it would last when I returned home.

Of course, I would only be home for ten more days before I’d be off to Montana!

 

First Days in Taipei

I arrived early in the morning. By the time I got my bag and found a taxi it was 1 a.m. The taxi I ended up getting was an unmarked black car. It was pretty sketchy but I had read that Taiwanese people are super honest and friendly. So, I went with it. Probably not the best idea ever, but I kept my bags with me just in case and not in the trunk. I ended up at National Taiwan University safely.
I got dropped off at the front gate. It’s kind of hard to explain where you want to go when you do not speak the language. P,us, the instructions I was given were only in English. Luckily a security card had a translator in his phone. He was kind enough to type out all the directions and then convert it to English. I had to walk all the way across the campus in the early morning hours with all my shit. It was great :).

I woke up in my empty dorm room. I decided that I need to get out and walk around before my orientation later that day. When I walked out of the dorm towards the street the first thing I heard was this loud obnoxious roar, then I saw it. Literally, around 100 motorbikes had just taken off from the red light. It was a crazy sight. I’m in Asia.


The next day the College of Management had a tour of Taipei planned for all exchange students enrolled in their college. We hit all the big tourist attractions in Taipei in one very long day.
National Taiwan Museum

National Palace Museum - Taiwan - Taipei

This is a place where you can see a sub-par piece of jade carved to look like a cabbage and rock polished to look like pork!

When Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan with the Republic of China government during the communist revolution in China, they took with them a ton of Chinese historical art pieces to protect them from being destroyed. All of these artifacts are housed inside of National Taiwan Museum.

CKS Memorial
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is not only a huge transfer station on the MRT it is an Abe Lincoln Memorial like statue of Chiang Kai-shek and below is a museum where you can see some historical photos. But, more instesting is his cars on display and replicas of his favorite meals. I kid you not!

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Selfie with Chaing Kai-Shiek

A lot of Taiwanese people where taking selfies with this portrait, so I took one too.

Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is the only image that comes up when you search Taipei online. It is the symbol of not only the city, but the country as a whole. If you come to Taiwan you just have to go. You can go up to a three story observation deck. One floor is the main floor with glass all around, then there is a lower floor to view the damper, and you can even go on the roof of Taipei 101 to enjoy the view without all the smudges and fingerprints on the glass.
Taipei 101 looking up

Taipei 101 from the ground up

Din Tai Fung
 Some really good dumplings. Wasn’t aware this was a chain though! I could have just went to LA if I wanted to try it 😉 However, I got to say that I really did enjoy this place. I was able to find better dumplings elsewhere later in the exchange for much cheaper at a nice hole in the wall restaurant.
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Night Market
The last place on our agenda for the trip around the city was Roahe Night Market. This is probably the most popular night market. It’s hard to say which is the best. The different night markets have different atmospheres and offer a different assortment of things. Taiwan is famous for night markets, so if you go, and you are interested, I recommend see as many as you can.
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Taipei Zoo & Maokong Gondola

The next day after the orientation I met up with some people to go check out the Taipei Zoo and the Maokong Gondola.From the dorms we could walk across campus and get to the MRT (subway) on the green line at the Gongguan station. Or, we could walk two blocks the other way and get on the MRT on the brown line at the Technology Building station. To get to the the Taipei Zoo we have to take the brown line.

The brown line is not like the other MRT lines in a few ways. It has the smallest train cars, the train cars are driver-less, and it is above ground. It’s a pretty enjoyable ride because you can actually see Taipei out the window. Getting to the zoo is easy. The brown line drops you off right next to the main gate.

The zoo in Taipei is extremely cheap! It’s like two bucks, but with our student IDs it was even cheaper. Realize though that the zoo is just a zoo like any other. It was interesting to see the section of just Taiwanese animals though. My favorite picture from the zoo is this of the Formosan Black Bear.

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Right next to the Taipei Zoo is the Maokong Gondola. The gondola was pretty fun. You use the same EasyCard you use to get around on the subways and buses to take it. It is extremely cheap as well.The gondola is a long ride up the mountainside that takes you up and down and then up some more all the way until you get to the top. Make sure to get one of the crystal bottom cars, they cost the same.
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We Got Rained on in Death Valley

In the beginning part of January, my [then] girlfriend and I decided that we would drive out to Death Valley for a while to go camping and hiking. You might know of Death Valley National Park as the hottest place on Earth (134 F), the lowest place in North America (282 feet below Sea Level), and the driest place in North America (average annual rainfall 2″). In the winter though the park has nice weather. It isn’t all just valley floor, salt flats, and mysterious moving rocks either.

Death Valley Floor

The valley floor is extremely dry.

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 States with 3.4 million acres. It encompasses a variety of landscapes the most popular of which is the most radical one, the valley floor. This is where all the crazy barren pictures you see are taken [and where select scenes from the orginal Star Wars where filmed]. This is where the the hottest temperature was recorded. Oh, and in the summer this is where crazy people run a marathon! But the park also boasts mountain ranges, old mines, a mansion called Scotty’s Castle, sand dunes, slot canyons, and even an underwater cave.

Devil's Golf Course Death Valley

Devil’s Golf Course

We camped at Texas Spring Campground which is in the middle of the of the roads on the East Side of the park making most of the trails more accessible whether we went North or South. It blew my mind how big the park was. Just driving from one trailhead to the next took us way more time than we anticipated because this place is unfathomably huge. The campground was nice it had running water which is great and flush toilets if you are into that sort of thing. There are however other campgrounds in the park that offer the same amenities but offer free camping. If you are on a budget check out Emigrant Campground for one. Here is the link for the National Park’s Campground.
Because we were relaxing in the morning, making good breakfasts, and enjoying ourselves; and due to the vastness of the park causing longer than expected travel times to get to trailheads we didn’t complete as many hikes as we originally wanted. On Ted’s (ex-girlfriend’s brother) last day in the park we got rained on. It was surreal to be in the the driest place in North America in the rain. Here are some pictures from the hikes that we did do.
road to Death Valley Trail

A long road out of the desert into the foothills. This is where we left the truck.

Slot Canyon in Death Valley

Off the beaten path, we had the entire canyon to ourselves

Natural Bridge hike in Death Valley

Up on top of the Natural Bridge

Hiker in Death Valley

Enjoying the View

Just this month Death Valley NP started a campaign to get people to come out and hike the park. If you complete a variety of different hikes with different points associated with them and get a total of four or more points you can get an exclusive “Hike Death Valley National Park 2015” Sticker. Luckily, I learned about this before we went. We didn’t actually do enough hikes on the list, but we did complete plenty of hikes and the rangers knew we knew enough about the technical aspects of getting over dry falls we weren’t lying. Most the hikes we did were not on the map the park service gives you.
Death Valley has some amazing hikes but if you would rather just drive through the park there are some really unique side roads and dirt roads that can take you way out and give you that I’m in the middle of nowhere feeling. I was happy my Ted brought his truck out but when he had to leave for school I was still able to get my ’98 Lumina way out there! I did have to get out a few times and level out the gravel and move some larger rocks. Some of the more popular drives you can take in a car without getting out to move rocks include Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Team Road, and Artist Drive (all of which were featured in Star Wars).
Road to Dante's View

The road up to Dante’s View on a cloudy day.

Hole In The Wall Death Valley

Road In Death Valley

My car out in nowhere up in the mountains of Death Valley

Rusty Car in Death Valley

Someone else left there car parked out there too

Death Valley has a vast collection of cultural history they protect. There are mines left from old gold prospectors and ghost towns. We didn’t make it to Panamint City but the Rangers recommended it for people who are interested in history.

Aguereberry Camp Death Valley

Birdseye of Aguereberry Camp

Aguereberry's House Death Valley

Aguereberry’s House

Aguereberry Camp

 

Eureka Mine Death Valley

Abandon Railway into Eureka Mine

This was my first adventure to Death Valley National Park. I am so happy that I was able to go with my girlfriend (and her brother for a few days). We had a great time out there. The thing I think we all agreed upon that was the greatest thing about it was the lack of people, the lack of crowds that most National Parks bring. What blew me away the most about Death Valley NP was the vast openness that is the park. You fell so small out there. The roads are long and take quite awhile to get from one place to another, but the scenery is extreme. As the sun’s position in the sky changes so do the colors on the rocks. One mountain at sunrise was not the same mountain at sunset. Artist Point Drive is best lite up in the afternoon. I can’t wait to go back to Death Valley.

In the summer I want to explore the West Side of the park, the mountains. The Rangers explained to us that during the summer the temperature is actually quite nice at the high elevation compared to the valley floor. There are campgrounds up there and I look forward to hiking up to the top of Death Valley’s highest point; Telescope Peak.


 

 

Below are some resources to help you learn more about Death Valley National Park: