I Was So Proud Of Myself That Night

After a long, gorgeous day of riding, I pulled into a state campground on the shores of Lake Erie just as dusk was falling and the collecting rain clouds were deciding if they would unleash themselves or not. The park cop told me I was welcome to spend the night in the laundry room since I didn't have a tent, and I thanked him, thinking that sounded like a nice plan.

I parked the Vespa at the campsite I had paid for - a lovely spot, the only site with a tree - then walked down to the laundry room to check it out. It was home to a terrifying mass of the largest spiders I have ever seen. I will ride a Vespa across the country but I will not sleep with giant spiders. I returned to my picnic table and my tree and decided to make a shelter. It was dark at this point, so I tucked my mini maglite into my bra strap and set to work.

I tied the rope I had brought (because you're supposed to bring rope on trips like these) to two branches of the tree and stretched it diagonally above the picnic table, which was too heavy to move. I draped my tarp over the taut rope and used hair rubberbands to secure it in place, and with that, created a funky shelter. I avoided the spiders, though several moths flew down my shirt, attracted to the flashlight in my bra.


Thinking (Wyoming)

It's about now. We so easily get wrapped up in thoughts of then (be it past-then or future-then), we miss out on or ignore or are blind to or rush past the gifts of now.


Connecticut Dawning

I take the dirt road out of town, through woods and fog, past stone walls half-hidden, slowly overtaken by brambles and moss. Mist hangs in the air around me, obscuring the definitions of things so that they are felt more than seen. Colors are soft and muted; silver-blue sky blends delicately into a silvery-green meadow, silver-barked trees look leafless and glowing, semi-obscured by the mist. The mist rises from the earth and settles in from above - one can't tell from which direction it originates, only that it meets everywhere and everything becomes part of everything else.


Traveling With Time

Storm clouds threatened in the skies above as I left Bozeman, Montana. I made it 26 miles before the rain began. I had just reached the neighboring town - Livingston - and ducked into a coffeeshop to wait out what I hoped would be a typical Montana storm: hard rain for an hour, then blue sky. It wasn't; it lasted all day.

I became fast friends with Kate, the owner of the coffeeshop, and she invited me to put off riding in the rain and stay the night at her house. I accepted, on the condition that I at least wash dishes for her at the coffeeshop. The next morning dawned beautiful and clear, and Kate and I got up early to open the coffeeshop and have a cup together before I set off.

There were only two possible roads east out of Livingston: I-90, or 25 miles of dirt called Old Convict Road. I had planned to take Old Convict Road, but neither Kate nor I really knew how to get to it, and after the rain it could have easily turned into impassable mud. I decided to try to find it anyway in order to stay off the interstate.

I was gathering up to go when the first customer of the day came in - a huge, burly man named Time Keeper. He was a miner and a biker, with a ponytail beard and the most gentle laughing eyes I've ever seen. His gloves were so big I could have worn one as a hat. A beast of a motorcycle, decorated with skulls, was parked outside next to my Vespa.

I asked the Time Keeper if he knew how to get to Old Convict Road. He did, and as he drank his coffee he began explaining the way. After several directions of the "turn left at the third fence post" variety, my eyes glazed over and I interrupted him to dash for a pen and paper. Amused, he asked when I was going.
"Right now," I said.
"I'll ride out there with you," he said. "I've got the morning off."
And so we zipped up our leathers and waved to Kate and must have looked like the oddest pair to anyone out that early.

I followed the Time Keeper's massive, graceful silhouette into the sunrise. He led me out of town and into the open land to the unmarked turnoff that was Old Convict Road. Before he turned back to Livingston, I gave him a hug and showed him the tiny skull decal that discreetly peered out from the back fender of my Vespa.


A Recap - To Get In Gear, So To Speak

I left San Francisco on August 1st with the leather outfit that encased my body and not much else: a camera, my journal, a sleeping bag and a tarp, a few t-shirts, one pair of pants, long underwear, toiletries and first aid, a cell phone with three batteries, a can of Fix-a-Flat, and a few sentimental totems. I didn't bring a tent, and I didn't bring mace or any other weapon. I spent some nights alone, some with friends of friends, and some with complete strangers I met along the way. I rode in formation with Harleys, and shared the road with tractors and Amish buggies. I rode my Vespa into a bar, a coffeeshop, and several stranger's garages. My route took me down back roads, dirt roads, and secondary highways; through a glittering high-speed underwater tunnel and over quaint wooden bridges. I rode through gravel and mud and only eight miles of interstate. I reached elevations of 8,000 feet; survived a record-breaking storm; and endured temperatures that ranged from 109 F to 42 F. I drove through lightning, thunder and some of the most gorgeous landscapes ever seen; was rescued from a budding tornado by an entire community of people; rode a longhorn steer in a Badlands bar and hugged a cheetah in Cincinnati. I ate a lobster on a dock in Maine and fresh cantaloupe in the Dakota dust; made friends I'll keep for the rest of my life and experienced more than I could have imagined.

When I arrived in New York City, I was stunned at how difficult it was to end the ride, how heartbreaking. It had seemed like a life, a lifetime, a lifestyle; I didn't want to give it up. Sitting on the curb in Brooklyn one night, I reflected on my ride - two months, moment by moment. And there, the truth of the trip emerged. We are here to live on this earth in awe, of people, of place, of ourselves.