Monday, May 30, 2011

on my way

Manizales, Colombia

Getting to know Medellin was very cool.  Kelvin was completely fine with me dropping in, staying to figure myself out & my direction, even though our teams are pairing off for the Stankley Cup final.  Excited for everything I've learned about Colombia.  Chillin on the side of the road.  Finally ready to start another country.

Going through the countryside means going up & over the very peaks of mountains sometimes, and sometimes nice & low alongside the rivers.  Amazing vistas.  Towns that align themselves with the mountains casually beside drop-offs.  Juelien points out spots where 8 days ago a night bus went over at 5am, or a truck the month before.  It's not exactly oblivion, but still intimidating.  I'm confident in his driving.  He tells me about his 2 daughters & his wife who's jealous he's away transporting goods all the time.  We pick up a guy hitchhiking with a bed & two dressers.  Badass!!  And I thought hitching with a bike might be difficult...

You can catch any bus in Colombia on the side of the road.  So when I describe the place I'm trying to get to, strangers tell me the exact intersection I want to be on.  Juelien suggested I get a Wheely, which is a type of collectivo taxi - a pickup truck with a canvas top.  It costs about 1,400 pesos (~85 cents).  The seat pinches my bum & I'm losing skin on my ass.  My big grin turns into shifting uncomfortably for the 20 minute trip (seems longer).

When I briefly spoke to Geraldine, my host in Manizales, she said she'd send me directions when she got home (didn't) & said she lived on 23rd which is the main drag.  Every street in Colombia is numbered, which can be confusing because not only are the cities not grids, but some streets will have letters after them too.  (In Medellin we lived on 47F.)  The truck stops pretty close to Calle 23, around Carrera 19.  The street is busy with people selling fruit & the ilk.  Stingy downtown look, like my few experiences in scary downtown Guadelajara.  To my right stands a security guard with a great big muzzled Rottweiler watching me.  I ask if he knows where I can use a phone.  He helps me & says something I don't quite understand, but I get the drift.  I need to be very careful in this area because it's dangerous & I have alot of stuff which I need to be careful for.  No answer.  I wander around awhile, & hang out in the supermarket while it begins to get dark.  It took alot longer than it should have to get here, as usual.

This time the woman at the tienda who's phone I was borrowing gets a call back from Geraldine.  Someone tells me I'm in the Galleria.  She said "How did you end up there?!"  These are the stories I don't know the words to yet.  Apparently this is a bad part of town.  She lives on Carrera 23, not Calle 23.  Like mixing up Streets with Avenues.  She gives me bus directions to places she has to spell out for me.  I laugh & walk wherever several people on the street tell me to go.  I told her "Ah well, it'll be an adventure!", which always means Something will go wrong or Already has.

Kelvin mentioned a phenomenon he's experienced which is no longer being afraid of any places in North America.  Ever since he's travelled through Latin America, things seem tame.  He told me of the time he accidentally wandered through East Hastings in Vancouver without even realizing.  He was armed with a horseshoe, which I find hilarious in more ways than I can explain.  I still think it's a special mix of Ignorance & Confidence.  This is not the first time I've explored places people who live there shy away from.

The bus takes me further into the upscale disctrict.  Supposedly 25% of the population are students.  It's one of the few cities in the world with 8 micro-climates, & it's drinking water is one of the 10 best in the world.

I'm here with a purpose.  It's name is Nevado del Ruiz.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eternal Springtime

Medellin, Colombia

Pasar el Niagara en bicicleta

When we pulled around the corner on bikes, I held back as a truck came lurching around.  When I caught up, Kelvin tells me "It's a good thing you look where you're going, instead of just following behind."  Never mind getting hit by the car, if I were the following kind, I don't think I'd be here in the first place.

Where to begin.

Amu seems to be the mastermind behind the naming of the WaffleHauß.  6 or 7 times a month the house is transformed into a german waffle making machine, to be sold the next day.  There are about 100 always waiting for delicious consumption in the freezer.  They are super good cold.  And warm too, who am I kidding.

In this hauß, there is homemade bread baked 3 times a week, latin beats playing always.  Everyone speaks spanish & are patient with those who are learning.  Mona, our dog, is super lovable.  Everyone takes care of her, & in that way that dogs become like their owners, she sleeps most of the day (like Amu).  I do what little I can to contibute & try not to step on any toes while I'm here.  When Anna asked me to feed Mona, & offered some spare keys for when I go out riding, an olive branch, I feel Welcome.

Sometimes I beat the day so wonderfully, there's nothing to do but crash at night.  I finally found the flow of the city.  No matter the weather.  There is always something.

Critical Mass bike ride with 40odd locals.  The most beautiful way to see the city is on the wings of a bike.  Through streets we didn't know existed, through areas we wouldn't have been in otherwise.  To the airport plaza, the modern arts museum, and round&round roundabouts.  Whooping on every downhill & letting the brakes loose.  Soaked from the rain.  I broke a rule & panicked on the inside when I got split up, but I get lost on my own all the time & know well enough I can find my way.  So tired I was thinking in French, which never happens.

I love the rhythmic swaying over the mountains on a tram ride.  Everytime is a bit different, seeing the world from above.  Hiking through the forest always means washed out trails & a system of planks to cross.  Thick sticky mud, heavy moss, brilliant flowers.  Panoramas of the city below.  Waking up early to hike through a ravine mistaken for a jungle in the cleavage of the hills.  Dirt paths relocated from landslides, more mud, steep hillsides, bouldering along riverbanks with roots as footing, through the river to the waterfall at the end.

Kelvin is an expert hiker.  I can see how his importance in strategy can map out a different invisible route, or it can be changed to suit you.  I've learned alot from him in the short times we've spent together, probably alot more I haven't realized yet.  Simple things, life skills.  How to chop wood & hitchhiking come to mind.  Accountability on the road.  Going slowly & enjoying it.  Focus.  The finer points of travelling, whatever that means.  Taking things in stride with a sly sense of humour.  He is the difference between a global citizen & a world traveller. 

Finally a mission: to locate a Tejo court.  Tejo is a Colombian game not unlike horseshoes.  (Thus the saying, "Close only counts in horseshoes, handgrenades & Tejo.")  Two teams throw metal pucks towards a box filled with clay & a metal ring in the middle with two pink triangles on it.  Each triangle is filled with gunpowder that sets off a very satisfying explosion.  You are awarded points accordingly, with whoever gets it in the middle of the ring quietly, getting the most points.  And you pay to play the game in beer.
-
The area I found the court in is 8 blocks from where we live & kind of disreputable.  In such a way that nobody from the house had been there before.
Narrator:  "We were told not to go uphill, but with our new Canadian friend, we soldier on."
-
We played until someone got at least one mancha/explosion.  Safe enough.  At dusk, there was a group of 5 or 6 soldiers standing just outside watching us play.  My team won 3 times, until the ultimate Canada vs Germany vs Colombia vs Europe match, where Germany marked the pitch with a crater celebrating their win.  As for the area, it's the fine edge between Ignorance is bliss and the Illusion of Safety.

The taxi driver is playing Pink on the stereo.  I ask if he can play some Colombian music, he says his favourite bands are Streetheart & Aerosmith.  We're on our way to PalMahia to see Eliades Ochoa, a guitarist for Buena Vista Social Club.  We'd been told it might start early because of his age, but it's also a Cuban band playing on a Friday.  After ordering we find out drinks are 15x more than they should be.  11$ for a Smirnoff Ice & 33$ for a half bottle of rum.  Alarm bells should've gone off when we found out they didn't serve beer.  The table food for the evening is popcorn & mangoes with salt.  Sneaky buggers.  A learning experience.
-
The performance is phenomenal.  Danced all night, to every song.  Wearing down the others & going with whatever was thrown at me.  Triumphant trumpets.  Sweating & shaking.  Livid.  This is Living.

It's a funny feeling I have.  It's not excitement or anticipation, but more of a curiosity.  Curious of the road ahead.  What's gonna happen next?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Something to Prove

Medellin, Colombia

It's so calm up here.  On the terrace, with the christmas lights on.  There're orange streetlights spread over the hills in front of me & the MetroCables are always swaying.  Under a tin roof, this is the place to be.  Perfect, everything is perfect perfect.

Today was weird for the normal weather, but beautiful.  Instead of raining all afternoon & evening, it rained in the morning & that was all.  Damn, I was just getting used to it & scheduling around it.  Kelvin & I live on the roof.  I'm even getting used to sleeping on a mat on the ground & the rain on the roof cradling me to sleep.

Downstairs isn't as calm as here, with 6 housemates.  Someone's always awake or sleeping, playing music, cooking or playing music.  The terrace is calm, with a suggestive hammock spread out in front of me.

It's a funny thing.  The past couple months I've asked people what their definitions are of living somewhere.  Some people say if you pay rent, have a job, a relationship, have something to keep you rooted there, if you recieve mail, or an amount of time, minimum of 6 months to a year.  To me, I was living in Sayulita for 7 weeks last year, but didn't have any of those.  I don't think I've really figured out what my definition is yet.

It's a non-conventional way of travelling, or some might call it living.  I am super aware that most of what makes a place great are it's people.  When it comes to Colombia, they've all been great.  I've been here 5 days & no one's been less than super nice to me, as is their reputation, or at least the one that I'm aware of.

Yesterday while it was storming outside, Kelvin, Aleja & I made homemade peanut butter.  Later Amu, K & I played Settlers of Catan in both Spanish & German & ate waffles on the terrace.  Alex & Alejo are playing with some new recording software they bought the other day & Alex taught me some latin beats on the drums.  Anna, K & I are going to see a guitarist from Buena Vista Social Club Friday.  Aleja & I have quite a bit in common, & we walk the dog, Mona, while chatting in Spanish.  Adrianna comes by for work & together we practice vocabulary & communicating.

Kelvin & I met at the end of his journey from Antarctica to the Arctic when he drove me across Canada & for which I had to do ~350 pushups on camera.  In those 2 weeks, I met almost every main character in his life, at least in the past couple of years.  Every once & awhile I'll remember a quirk or story from last year.  Like how he's kind of a health nut & while playing Settlers of Catan it became obvious that he was the one who once played a 19 hour game of Axis & Allies that ended in a draw.  He's cheering for Vancouver in the playoffs.  All hell's going to break loose when they play Boston in the finals.

I love racing the traffic on a bike, the amazing ease of going up/downhill, & swimming in the sun.  Eating amazing new fruits everyday!  Grenadillos are like a combination of an orange & a pomegranate, & really fun to eat.  Zapotes are kind of like a pumpkin when you open them & sweet, not too sweet.  Unripe mango has the same texture of a big raw potato, except it's sour.  Colombians eat it with salt or vinager.

When I arrived here, I struggled at my own pace, trying to find my way.  I don't really know where I'm headed, or what I'm doing.  There is something new to do every night.  But in Medellin, a city of 2.5 million, it doesn't seem that big.  It's calm.

This is a good place to be inbetween.  I'm finding it on my own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Search Warrant

Key West, Florida

There was a request for my appearance.  By snail email.  My sketchy itinerary is flexible.  I've got alot of time & not much else.  It's a fine day when anyone wants to see me, plus I'm headed that way anyway, so I accept.  Off the Isles no more than a patchwork of sand bars strung together between the Atlantic & the Gulf.  Back to the southern home stumbled upon my way.  Vagabond again.

Unfortunately, I get into trouble everytime I step off the bus.  When asked how I'm getting there, the only answer is "Experimentally, and slowly."  Somehow between 1:30 & 9, I only made it 60 miles to Florida City, to catch the last bus South that doesn't even go all the way to Key West.

I broke the rule & Panicked.  Eating cheetos half crying/laughing on the side of the road kind of panic.  The kind that makes the bus driver feel sorry for you, wave the 2.50$ fee & lend you his phone.  I called Cameron in Key West to tell him my situation.  He is hard pressed cause he works at 6am & Marathon Key is 50 miles out of town.  He says he'll come get me, but he'll be late.

After waiting till 12, I find a place to crash on the side of the road.  Not too far from where I'm sure some creepy looking spiders are hanging out.  When I finally get to town the next day, he answers the phone with "Hey!  You're alive!"  When I wasn't there at 1am he checked with the cops, the local jail & put out a search warrant for me.  Not only that, but it was a shit day to be a coast guard.  As usual.
Key West is a 2x4 mile island.  There's not much to it.  I was expecting it to be different - there's no coming back from Fantasy Fest, but I hardly backtracked once.  Almost everyplace I went to I'd never been before, whether it was a gay club, kareoke, Navy base, or on the water.
(Damn, I still haven't gotten to ride the mechanical bull!)

When I started walking through town, I got the feeling of a plastic Mexican resort town, except that it's in Florida so there's more pink flamingos.  That's why everyone in Key West owns a boat.  You only realize this when you are on the water.   Everyone needs a getaway from the island & the demands of Duval Street, a clever temptress.

The water has that surreal blue that only comes from Disney movies.  The wind that's deafening.  My buddy Cameron is obsessed with fishing.  There's a picture of him on the postcard sent out to all the homes in Alaska reminding them to renew their fishing licenses.  Despite being hella tired, hella resentful, & bedridden for an entire day, he takes me out on the water.  Snorkeling, fishing & drinking.  In paradise.

Because of some flak I got about drinking too much & the possible nudity during Fantasy Fest, I'm just going to say that our night out on the town involved Key Lime Martinis.  :P  Yummy!

Leaving again means doublechecking who's winning our race to Australia.  We could both go buy a ticket & leave in a month, or tomorrow, but we're both sitting exactly where we were when the race started.  So we laugh somemore.

Wake up just late enough for the 9:45 bus, but 2 1/2 hours early for the 12:20 one.  Sigh.  So it goes...

Back up to Boca Raton to visit my other family/friends in S Florida.  Hoping to get there at a reasonable time never works, & I'm leaning towards a 10:45pm arrival.  Me & 3 other passengers of the Tri-Rail train conspire dubious plots against the Florida public transit system - by calling a cab, which also doesn't work.

These characters are Eduardo from Peru, who owns a travel agency there.  Javier from the Bronx whose parents are from Ecuador, who works for TravelZoo.  Yessy from Honduras who's had the longest day of all of us as the kitchen manager at a high class lounge called the Blue Martini.  She was called in early cause a girl crashed on their couch last night, woke up & refusing to pay her tab (14$), & instead broke 6000$ worth of shit, including planters in the mall.  Yessy's brother works for the Secret Service & she showed us a picture of him with Barack Obama, a picture he took in night vision & she has a presidential pen he gave him/her!  Plus, her house is haunted & she has a picture of a ghost from Halloween!  We had a killer train ride!  All of us had great stories to share - we should've had a campfire!

Neither Brooke nor Bryan worked the next day, so it didn't put them out at all to come get me from the train station.  It was so nice to see Emerson, their daughter, again.  We played a bit before school & she showed me her new pet snake.  Taking Daniel's advice about staying at least 2 nights everywhere has been so great that I felt so bad just staying overnight with them.  They always tell me not to worry & drop by whenever I've got the chance.

I have the most amazing friends, without a doubt.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beekeeping in Brooklyn

New York City, New York

On my way out of Scranton, I was in a bad spot, & didn't know it - an onramp to construction, where traffic was brutal & lots of people were taking detours.  I got picked up by a woman named Jeanette, she drove me right outside her hometown, & gave me her number just in case.  I could fill my pocket with such numbers.  A big Smile & full pockets.  :)

The first truck driver who picked me up kept trying to justify it to himself & was getting a bit strange when I pulled the plug.  The next one that stopped had an obvious accent.  El Salvador!  Yes!  Latinos are so much cooler than Americans!

My last experience with NYC had me on foot all day & sleeping at the airport for 2 nights.  I didn't bother looking for a CSing host, since I was there 28 hours total.  I've heard hosts in major cities can get as many as 40 requests a day.  Daniel (CSer extraordinaire) has a formulae for this, but I am sparce & rely on my backup Laguardia plan.

Renat is more than happy to have me in Brooklyn, very close to Coney Island.  It seems his doors are always open to fellow hitchhikers.  I'm stoked to explore somewhere I've never been (as usual) & at actually getting a host!

Renat is originally from Azerbaijian, has lived 17 years in NYC, & films all sorts of different videos.  Two projects he's been working on for awhile are the iDance project (where he gets random strangers to dance together), and The Truth Is, where people explain what Truth means to them.  He is a fantastic caracature & very effective.  Dror is another CSer staying over, from London, living in Israel, working on his PhD.  We started our time together by creating a completely absurd story, live, for half an hour.  Super effective I say!

Together, Renat & I bike around town for about....9 hours.  It turns out he has 2 folding bikes & has done one of my (3) prophecies from last summer.  #1 Hitchhiking with a bike.  Across the Brooklyn Bridge, making an absurd narrative for everything, because the truth is subjective.  Through & past every museum, village, square, centre, park & architectural masterpiece you can think of (approximately).  Went & visited Andy Warhol, John Lennon & a few of the kooks NYC's famous for.  Couldn't visit the Big Apple without getting an authentic parking ticket, SNL standby ticket rules & Judgement Day pamphlet - which, if has passed by the time you're reading this, Congratulations!

We spoke with people from all over the world (Chile, Korea, Russia), including some people selling honey on the street, which brings me to: #2 Urban Beekeeping.  Yes, I do believe one day it is my destiny to become an urban beekeeper in Brooklyn.  They have weekly meetings!  How cool is that?

Google Maps estimates my transit time to the airport as 2 hours, in rush hour.  My alarm is 6:20 for my 10:30 flight.  I wake up at 8:20.  So it goes....

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Maybe if the world contained more people like these...

Scranton, Pennsylvania

Bumming around, searching for inspiration & a couple more miles on my way.  Searching...

Ron Mitis is a genuinely nice cop who took me all the way to the county line.  We talked corrections & I informed him the result of an Australian court case in which the word 'Fuck' is no longer considered profane as an adjective.  If a cop pulls you over, you can ask him "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" but cannot refer to it in a sexual context.  Calling someone a Fucker is a term of endearment & the new insult is Clown.  True story.  (Thanks Daniel!)

When I got in & shook Jerry's hand, he told me he was running away.  At the age of 62.  He's lived almost all over America, never spending more than 2 years anywhere, except Upstate New York, where he grew up & currently lives.  After a frustrating day, he's looking for an escape & a destination, feeling good out on the road.  I'm headed to Scranton, so he drives me the rest of the way.  He says he'd love to "set fire to the house & leave but God won't let me do that."  We both laugh.  I can't tell who laughs harder.

Beautiful rolling hills, great conversation...

Jerry is a veteran of the Vietnam war.  When he came back, he was diagnosed with shell shock, now known as PTSD.  (I heard Romeo Dallaire speak one time: "The official number of American casualties in Vietnam was ~800,000, but another 600,000 soldiers took their own lives when they got back.")  Since he was headed South, he was vaguely considering heading for the memorial in Washington DC.  It hadn't been too long since he'd last visited, but long enough, considering the amount of friends he has there.  I almost pulled the reigns enough to go with him.  I have so many friends in the military, veterans, & some I'm sure have PTSD.  They are consistently the nicest people & I get along with them so well considering I have absolutely no will to ever enlist.

Scranton gets a bad name from the Office.  Small town, but pretty a chill place.  When I met Heather, she introduced me to everyone who happened to be standing around me. I think I introduced myself to somebody as "I have a gun."  Oh, perpetuating hitchhiker stereotypes.

Heather loves her job.  She loves everything.  In fact, it was her enthusiasm on her profile for how great the city is that made me stop there.  Together, we like cruising around tight corners at night, scaring the people in the backseat, listening to Indian-beat music & full-belly giggling.  More than once I'm sure we went looking for abandoned haunted sanitariums.  Demanding: trekking, ran home - downhill all the way, to a belly dancing class, went out hiking, then out to the corner bar (there's a bar on every corner) where they marvelled at my passport & told everyone who came in I was Canadian.  A different kind of cruising.  Rocked the pool table!  Both nights we stayed up late playing Did You Know, trying to outdo each other with smartypantsness.

She never wants to go home, wants to live out every moment.  Non-stop.  Something we all wish we could do.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Activate Plan B: This should be interesting...

or There Are Too Many Cops in Buffalo

Sitting in a diner, chewing my fingernails, nervously sipping Dr Pepper.  In the middle of nowhere.  Through my head repeats some of the only hitchhiking advice I know, "You will get a ride, even if it takes all day."  I am discouraged.  I've walked in here twice already, without knowing where to go or where I am going.  I am determined to prove hitchhiking is possible in the United States.  So far my rides have consisted of (#1) a transit bus, with an incredibly wonderful driver nicknamed Sunshine.  New York State has the longest toll highway in the US, the Thruway, which covers most of the major cities -Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany & NYC.  It is also illegal to hitch on.  The police officer (#2) had a stern demeanor & said "I don't know how you do things in Canada, but that's not allowed in the US," then dropped me off at the closest Tim Horton's.  I got sympathy inside & an egg salad sandwich for when things are sure to go further awry.  Another customer drives me to the aforementioned truck stop, where I spend the next 2-4 hours (time really isn't my specialty right now).  He asks me for a kiss goodbye & with my feet firmly on the pavement I curse myself for giving him my real email address.  (I haven't heard the end from Bigot Jim yet!)

I constantly try to overcome my fears.  When I'm nervous about something, I try to take a few breaths, and go for it.  Mexican truckers are super cool & frequently my heroes on the road.  American truck drivers make me very nervous.  They are segregated into a part of the diner that seems to be in a glass bowl (the smoking section).  I fantasize about walking in & making a brief but polite announcement about my search for a ride.  Instead, I am glancing over at them, sweating it out, making my fingernails bleed.

Reflecting over some more advice from an expert hhing CSer "Do not do anything you are not comfortable with."  This is the best advice.  I don't want to go with them if it's causing me this much anxiety.  Even if it's my only chance getting to my CS host tonight.  Walking along towards the I-90 East Thruway, to chance a lucky break, and spot a cop eyeing my signs & talking into his shoulder.  Anick-Marie's words are ring in my head.  The other direction towards the secondary road, at least legally hitchable, like the one I was headed towards before I left Buffalo for Middle of Nowhere.

Miles and miles of seemingly endless industrial parkway.  Not any places I could even fathom finding a payphone or ATM.  Sometimes it'll just be walking along the highway thumb out & a sign on my back.  Backpack altered for weight distribution.  Start to recognize the size & proximity of the engines; car, truck, motorcycle, semi.  Look up & sometimes there'll be a car stopped in front of you/me.  Run towards it.  Repeat.  Sometimes they let you out really close to a the Erie County Correctional Facility, with razor wire stacked 4x high.  I take pictures of the geese & their babies, and ramble on.

I always have emergency supplies & keep forgetting about them.  In Sticksville NY, I thought I lost my credit card, thinking that I'm completely fucked & forgetting about my hidden cash.  (It was in my pocket, obviously.)  I always have elastics, toilet paper, flashlight, scissors, gum, toothpicks, a marker & plastic bags among other things.  Cardboard makes it easier to sleep at night.

When explaining things to consider when hitching, The Spot is always mentioned.  You have to have a good Spot if you want a ride.  I forget about the eye contact, smiling, making yourself look fun, confidence...
Signs are hit & miss.  Lying in wait, waiting for the trap to set.  Testing out different forms of bait.  "Syracuse, Scranton, I Have Cookies."  Here Kitty kitty kitty...

I tend to thank profusely.  Just before I closed the door of the car I asked "where am I?"
Less important matters.

I feel pretty good about the spotting of my tent tonight.  Operation Plan B is in effect.  I didn't even get anywhere close to where I wanted to be, but tomorrow hopes to be an early start.  I (think) am in Darien NY.  Beside an old farmhouse & in front of a firestation.  I'm far enough in to be invisible, but my paranoia's monitoring my levels of exposure.  Lucky a guy outside the laundromat let me borrow his phone to let HQ know I won't be in tonight.  A kid biking down the street stopped to ask me about my travels.  I like travelling the secondary.  The roads & people are decent & forgiving, instead of big city robot freeways.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Fixed Address

Time to lick the end of my quill & keep going...

The month of February I spent in limbo, not sure if I'm coming or going.  It was important I had come home when my family needed me.  After the worst was over I was only walking around in my own footsteps, enjoying all my old haunts, trying to figure out my next move.

March's restlessness was subsided with a wave of being with my family once more.  March 31st was my grandma's funeral, and April 2nd was my dad's wedding.  The stress of that week had me thinking for the first time I want to go to the airport & pretend I'm lost & don't know anyone.  Just to be alone.

I spent all of April catching up with friends & moving out from the one home I've always had.  No phone number.  No postal code.  No fixed address.  It's sometimes too easy to disappear.  Ryan from the Weber Brothers tells me that the first time is the best.  Pessimist: I have no doubt it gets old over time.  Optimist: Enjoy it while it's here!

Daniel from Perth, in Western Australia is an engineer & bigtime CouchSurfing volunteer; he's got the low-down on everything to do with anything on the site.  He's also never driven in snow before.  I clenched my teeth on 2 hours of sleep & told myself I would hit him with the shovel I am forcing him to bring.  He left with a very low-confidence Jocelyn May 2nd with a foot of snow on the ground.  He seemed excited.  I have not had to push a car out of a snowbank yet this year, & it's not going to happen today.

Together we drove in the general direction of East, over Lake Superior.  Stopped in Thunder Bay to watch the Sleeping Giant in eternal slumber, the Boston Bruins kick some playoff ass, & the Convervatives with a Majority Government.  "The Conservatives are like Nickelback. I don't know anyone who likes them, but they always seem to do well."  Some things are beyond us all.  Sault Ste Marie had as much charm as the 3 kids wrestling us for two nights.  We fit in there more than we knew, since the next 10 hours in a car included a detour to go to Santa's Village theme park.  Who knew he lived in Ontario?!

Maya & I had some epic nights in Winnipeg last October, and she brought us to our knees once again, this time on her turf in Mississauga.  Wine tasting, bike riding, hottubbing & dance competitions - right up my alley!  Daffodils over the Niagara Valley, riding shotgun through vineyards.  Daniel & I decided that everyone invited to the graduation/going away party would have had at some point either their arm up a cow's ass, or a mohawk.  True enough - everyone is either from vet school, or her punk rock crew.

Tentative Plan A came to a screeching halt, realizing my choice airline for a free roundtrip voucher isn't out of Toronto or Montreal, but over the border in the USA.  Feeling aimless, I'm searching my pockets for a compass pointing towards the next adventure.  Daniel's flying to Vienna, & raves about Eastern Europe.  Maya's headed to Yemen, Serbia & Thailand.  They're both in love with Budapest (Hungary).  I'm impressionable, & inevitably find myself looking up flights to Europe, Australia & South America all at once. 
Maya mentions how beautiful New York would be this time of year...

I've come to realize how profoundly CouchSurfing has changed my life.  Story after story after story about the road behind/ahead & the people who've touched it, I inevitably reach the question "Do you know about CouchSurfing?"  I have friends all over the world willing to take me in, and discovered the secrets beyond lesser known places.  Sometimes it feels good to disappear.

Everywhere is beautiful in the eyes of it's locals.  I know that Mississauga's bad name isn't what it's cracked up to be.  It has great trails & is only a short drive to the centre of the universe.  I've even heard Hamilton complimented, and it's Hamilton.

I have CouchSurfing to thank for that.  And so much more.
Thanks Kelsey, Rowina, Maya & especially Daniel for being so awesome & welcoming across Ontario.

Next saga:  Hitchhiking in America!  Land of the free! (?)