First Days in Jersey

Why did I come to Jersey? This is a question I don’t find myself asking myself. I came to get away from my boat, to sleep in real beds, and to go to Europe. So far I have done the first two things. I’m no longer on my boat. I’m in a real bed. And on Monday I’ll go to Europe.

But first, how did I get to Jersey? Or actually first: What/where is Jersey?

Jersey is one of the Channel Islands. It’s part of the UK but self-governing. No one wears masks here except on public transportation and in hospitals. COVID doesn’t exist. Also Jersey is close to France. You can get here by ferry or fly. I flew from Heathrow after flying business class on American Airlines flight 156 from Seattle. It was one of the easiest flights to Europe I’ve ever had. I got on, got situated, ate dinner, watched Saving Private Ryan, slept, woke up, ate breakfast, and then we landed. And then I had a four hour layover in Heathrow.

The key to not wearing a mask at Heathrow is to always be drinking something. Or to always be on your phone. Or to just not wear a mask. While at Heathrow I bought a book called A Theater for Dreamers by Polly Samson. It’s perfect vacation lit. Based on an island in Greece with plenty of descriptions of goats and donkeys and wine drinking and sex. And people getting up at 4am and “only bringing a wine skin and a few pieces of bread” and shit like that which you only read about in books because in reality you gotta bring some water or you’re not doing much hiking.

My stomach is kinda fucked from too much sugar.

I’m gonna go swimming soon.

I’m staying in Jersey for three more nights. Tomorrow I need to change lodging. I can currently hear a seagull cawing outside my room. I just walked back from St Helier along the beach, about 5km. I might see if I can watch Spain vs Switzerland here in a second on TV even though I hate Spain. I love the country. But hate the soccer team. Bunch of whining diving non-men with ugly accents. That said, maybe I’ll go to Spain on this trip. Or maybe Porto. Or maybe Latvia or Lithuania. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. The only thing I have scheduled is an antigen test on Monday followed by a haircut. I’m thinking sort of a high and tight situation, but I’m open to suggestions. Should I get him to shave a notch in my eyebrow? Will that make me look like a gang member?

I don’t understand the people in Jersey when they talk to me. “Right, so you head down to high street, flip a right and keep going till you get to the big toe.”

I followed the man’s instructions, looking for a big toe which actually turned out to be a big toad. That said, people have been lovely here. There are lots of immigrants. Lots of Poles. Gotta love the Poles. I understand the Poles better than I do the locals. Also lots of Portuguese, which makes me wanna go to Portugal. But so far I’ve heard no one speaking French.

It was foggy this morning but now it’s sunny. Can I muster myself to go swimming? The water isn’t terrible. Probably warmer than Puget Sound. I just have to make sure I don’t take any naps this afternoon, because I already took a four hour nap this morning and woke up pretty confused. I headed bleary eyed into the town, and then took a bus to St Helier and went to Ried’s Pharmacy to ask about COVID tests. I wouldn’t need one if I was coming from the US, but since I’m coming from the UK I do need one. And it costs 50 pounds. But what’s the alternative? I’m in Jersey and it’s enchanting and I’m probably about to go swimming.

I either need to change shirts or change lodgings. The staff here is wonderful. I think it’s a mix of Poles and Italians. Cory just called the front desk looking for me and I felt so cool that someone was calling for me even though I assumed it had to do with my COVID test when I got here or something like that. I had the burger with hella ketchup and mayonnaise and aioli and my digestive system was fucked earlier and now I don’t wanna know what it’s gonna be like. Then I walked the town a bit and sat on the little sea wall for a little bit next to the yacht club. People are out tonight. The Old Court House is starting to shut down though. And I’ll probably read my book and go to bed. I can’t decide whether to stay here tomorrow or go to France. I’m pretty sure I’ll stay here. I mean I flit by  coming here but I’m not gonna do a bunch of mini flits now that I’m here because I know they don’t do the trick. But I have to change lodgings. And that way I won’t have to change my shirt. Plus England play tomorrow.

Bummed Italy won. I love Lukaku. Gonna read my book and go to bed. If I can’t sleep that is. Stanley Cup at 1am tonight but don’t think I’ll stay up that late. Full English breakfast tomorrow with fried tomato. Then move to the new lodging. Cheap one in town or nicer one in the middle of nowhere? Swim again tomorrow? Party

 

 

En Cuba | Memories of a First Trip

Trinidad, Cuba, circa 2006. Photo: Jenny Newman.

I feel a bit slooooooooooooooooooooow today. Even though I just had two cups of coffee, I feel a bit slow. But no matter. You don’t always have to move fast. You don’t always have to be limber, like a “taught, pre-teen Swedish boy.” You don’t always have to wake up and think, Man, I could just get out of bed and run 5k right now. 

I don’t know if I’ve ever run 5k in my life.

Maybe while playing soccer. 

I was kinda bumming on my hotel here in Zacatecas even though the location is perfect. That is until I had breakfast on the rooftop terrace this morning and basically fell in love. The breakfast was: coffee, a concha, huevos rancheros WITH chilaquiles, and fresh fruit. Oh and also bread, but I didn’t have any of that. And the view! My god the view. It was stunning. The city rippling out in front of me like a blanket waving in the wind. The sounds wafting up from the streets made me feel like I was in 2nd century Rome. The church spires in the distance, and the sun kissing my face. It was an ideal breakfast. 

But I’m not here today to talk about Zacatecas or my hotel or huevos rancheros or the fact the Subi is bone-dry on oil, I’m here to today to talk about Cuba. I would like to reminisce a bit. I went to Cuba for the first time in 2006, with my friend Jenny, and I would like to recount everything I remember about that trip. Which actually isn’t that much, since we spent a good portion of it drunk. But I’m hoping writing a blog post will dredge up memories about it, and for some reason today I feel like dredging. 

“En Cuba….In Cuba.” That was one of the first thing any Cuban said to us, translating this dastardly difficult phrase. He also pointed out “La palma,” meaning of course to say, “LaS palmaS,” but Cubans are incapable of pronouncing “s’s.” Find me a single Cuban who has ever fully pronounced an “s” in her life, and I will buy you a one-way ticket to Wenatchee. Jenny and I tried to HITCHHIKE from the airport to Havana, but ended up just getting a cab. For like 20 bucks.

That night we ended up in the middle of nowhere. We were trying to get to Trinidad, but the bus just dropped us off somewhere on the highway. We had no idea the bus wasn’t gonna take us all the way to Trinidad. But then we were in a ’54 Pontiac getting taken to Trinidad, and then we were on the rooftop of some kind of lodging we found, enjoying the tropical night and looking out at the stars. Did we get a bottle of rum that first night? Did we do anything at all?

We went swimming on a beach near Trinidad that wasn’t a beach. We got a ride there from a guy on a horse-drawn cart, and he kept yelling at the horse, “Cabaaaaaaaallo.” On the way back we hitchhiked on what might’ve been a huge army truck, a bunch of people standing in the back. At the beach women tried to buy Jenny’s sunglasses, and also asked if she had any makeup she could give or sell them. That night we DID drink rum and went to a club in a cave, where I danced like a fool and Jenny got romanced by some Cuban guy. This would be our routine: One night drink WAY too much, the next day be hungover and not drink at all. Then the next night drink WAY too much again. When you’re young you recover quickly. I was 23 at the time. My Spanish was the best it’s ever been. And it was Mexican Spanish, through and through. I didn’t realize then that every country had a completely different dialect. When the waiter said something  I didn’t understand I said, “Mande?” and then the guys next to us said, “Are you from Mexico?”

“No, why do you ask,” we said.

“Because of the word ‘mande.'”

Trinidad? Somewhere in Cuba…Photo: Jenny Newman

After Trinidad we went north, determined to go to a beach. We hitchhiked to a cay and went swimming and saw a barracuda in the water. At the beach bar of an all inclusive resort the bartender said, “Gimme 10 bucks and I’ll give you whatever you want.” So we had lobster and drinks. Then we went to the pool of the all-inclusive resort where we met some Brits who had a vendetta against the hotel and said they’d get us free drinks. And then when we were sufficiently housed we just went up to the pool bar ourselves and ordered whatever we wanted. Jenny was thrilled at being able to buy stuff in the hotel store of the all-inclusive resort. It’s hard to buy stuff in Cuba. Lots of times you go to the supermarket and there are just empty shelves. You go to an ice cream shop and they don’t even sell ice cream, just tobacco. You go to buy water at a gas station and they say, “Come back at 12pm.” When you come back at 12pm they say, “Come back at 2pm.”

After the cay we went to Varadero for more swimming. And then from there it was on to Havana, where we ate the only really good food of the trip. Cuba has amazing food, incredible food, but you have to buy it from places where locals eat. If you get it at touristy places it’ll be horrible and cost too much and probably be pizza. If you can’t pay in the peso nacional, you probably shouldn’t be eating there. I don’t remember much about being in Havana. We walked the malecon, one of the most enchanting parts of Havana, cars from the 50’s whizzing by and decadent mansions behind you, crumbling. Across the strait in front of you lies Florida, just a scant few miles away. En Cuba….

And then it was back to Mexico, back to Mexico City, back to consumerism, back to drinking and smoking cigarettes and speaking tons of Spanish and going out with friends. Back to “real life.” I didn’t like Cuba that trip. I sort of hated it. But that was just because I was hungover half the time. Even though I sort of hated it I always wanted to go back, and I finally did in 2017. And that of course was a different trip. That time I didn’t spend the trip hungover. I met actual Cubans. I stayed with Cubans. I met a wonderful girl from Denmark to travel with for part of the trip. I witnessed a Santeria ceremony on the beach. But most of all I got an appreciation for Cuban life, appreciating things we take for granted in the US, and just kind of going…slower. Spending time with family. Talking and laughing. Swimming. Walking. There ain’t a whole lot else to do in Cuba.

En Cuba….

Jenny Newman and the author.

The Other Side | Palm Desert to Mexicali (Grand Road Trip Leg 6)

Sunset in Mexicali.

The first time I came to Mexicali was in 2007. I remember it like it was 14 years ago. I was 23 years old, freshly graduated from the Universidad de Washington, where I had just majored in Spanish and Portuguese studies, despite having never studied Portuguese. My Spanish was the best it’s ever been, since I’d just studied in Mexico City the year before. The idea was to go from Seattle to Buenos Aires by land and write a book about it. That book never materialized, though parts of a rough draft of it did, mostly written in a coffee shop in Victoria, BC called the Moka House and also a the UVic library, where I would also read Jane Eyre until I fell asleep and then meet my girlfriend for a late breakfast, which usually consisted of hashbrowns smothered in ketchup and sausage.

On that trip I was actually in San Felipe, a couple hours south, and realized that if I wanted to go further south in mainland Mexico I’d have to go all the way back to Mexicali and get a bus. So my host, a guy from my parents’ church originally from San Felipe, found me a ride with a couple going north and next thing I knew I was at the bus station in Mexicali and for 50 bucks I got a one-way ticket o Mazatlan, a bus ride that would take 24 hours.

In Mazatlan I stayed with my friend’s grandmother, and then on the bus to Guadalajara from Mazatlan met a guy named Jeff from Vancouver, who I’m still friends with to this day. We got black out drunk on tequila in Guadalajara, and the only thing I really remember is sitting around Jeff playing the guitar and singing. The next day I felt awful. And the next day we were supposed to do a tequila tour. Those were my first memories of Guadalajara. After Guadalajara I went to Mexico City, and then my girlfriend at the time and I went to Puebla and Puerto Escondido. Eventually I did make it by land to Buenos Aires, albeit with a boat ride from Panama to Colombia.

Now, here I am 14 later, back in Mexicali, this time with my ’97 Subaru who BARELY got a Temporary Import Permit today letting her/us go anywhere we want in the whole damn Republic. The world is our periwinkle. And this barely happened because APPARENTLY my car has a damaged frame. Which means I probably don’t even have a clean title. Which I was a bit dismayed/surprised to learn. But at the same time I’m thrilled I even GOT a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) because I thought you needed the title to get a TIP and it turns out all I needed was the registration.

So now I’m in Mexico. I have Mexican car insurance. I have permission to go ANYWHERE I WANT IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING COUNTRY, and that might be exactly what I do.

But first I have to decide: Am I going to eat tonight.

You see, I’ve been fasting all day today, and I’m coming up on 24 hours. This has been one of the easiest fasts I’ve ever done, because I’ve been distracted by 1) driving all day, 2) crossing the border, and 3) getting a hotel. I’ve had water and a little bit of green tea, but no calories. And while I would LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE to eat tonight if I don’t eat tonight I could possibly do my longest fast ever, and tomorrow might be the perfect day to do it because tomorrow I might spend all day driving to Hermosillo.

Oh yeah, I’m probably not going to Baja.

I love Baja.

But, like, I’ve been there a bunch.

And I’ve never really been to Hermosillo.

And Hermosillo seems kinda dope.

Cuz it’s, like, the desert.

And it’s Sonora.

And if went there I might go to Chihuahua.

Which when I was younger I thought was pronounced, “Chi-hoo-a-hoo-a.”

Fajita.

You don’t really realize how ridiculous the border wall is until you spend some time on the other side of it.

If I don’t eat tonight, what am I gonna do? Just sit in my hotel room all evening? You see because if I eat then that’s something to do. That’s my evening. I eat and then I come back and I watch “Alone” for awhile and then I go to sleep. But if I don’t eat, then, well that’s an empty existence. But then again my whole life revolves around food. I’m like a golden lab.

OK, I’m gonna take a shower. That will feel nice. And drink some more green tea infused water. I forget that you can’t drink the water in Mexico. Which means if I want water I need to brave crossing the busy thoroughfare in front of my hotel. And I don’t know if I’m up for that. And let’s be honest, if I go to a grocery store right now there’s no WAY I’m not getting food. Ugghhhhhh this is so difficult. Why is fasting so hard.

OK time to chill.

I’m in Mexico.

So fucking stoked.

I Choose the Process | Fallon, NV to Lone Pine, CA

9:00am in Fallon, Nevada and I want to hit the road but my car is covered in snow. Luckily it doesn’t look like heavy snow. It looks like the kind my windshield wipers can handle. It’s not that cold out.

Going over Montgomery Pass the full-on blizzard conditions start. There’s a truck in front of me gong 20mph and I downshift into second so I won’t skid into him from behind. When I got off 95 the road started to climb, mile after mile of climbing, and I kept thinking, “How are we still climbing? How is this possible? We must be at 8,000 feet by now.” Then we merged with highway 6 and we were still climbing. I prayed that the Subee would hold it together, and she did, getting me over the pass. Once we were in California there was no snow at all. They asked me if I had any fruits or vegetables and then I was on to Bishop.

I planned to stay three nights in Bishop, but when I got there and went to the Von’s to fill up gas I thought, “Fuck this place. I’m getting out of here.” Everything about Bishop reminds me of the last time I was there, under much different circumstances, on a much different road trip. Things already feel like they’ve changed light years since then, but the memories are also still fresh. Pretty sure I wasn’t going to stay, I got a sandwich and a matcha latte at Schatz’s bakery, then made my way up to the Peabody Boulders.

If you’re new to this blog, let me tell you that last year about this time I became obsessed with the discipline of bouldering. It just so happens that Bishop is one of the best bouldering places on the planet, and it also just so happens that the Peabody Boulders, in the Buttermilk area, are some of the most famous boulders on the planet. Specifically the boulder pictured on the right side of the photo above, the Grandpa Peabody boulder. I figured if I wasn’t going to stay in Bishop I at least needed to see this bloc. I needed to touch the holds of Lucid Dreaming V15 and see The Process V16. I also wanted to check out Ambrosia V11, the 50-foot highball I’d seen Nina Williams send in a video.

The washboard road up to the Buttermilks was wretched. I kept thinking the wheels were going to fall of the Subee. Once I got there I parked in the completely wrong spot and didn’t take the trail up to the boulder because I didn’t know there was a trail. And then I was standing in front of it, looking at the lines, not thinking, “I’ll never be strong enough for this,” but rather, “I feel like I could pull on some of these crimps.” The main thing that impressed me about the Buttermilks, though, was the silence. There was no one there. It was cold and clear and you could see the Sierras in the background, looming over everything. I wanted to sit and appreciate the silence, but I also wanted to get out of there. I felt like I didn’t really belong there. I felt like it wasn’t my moment to be there. So I walked back down to the car, this time on the trail, and just as I was leaving two cars came ripping up the dirt road, disturbing the silence.

After Bishop I got on the 395 south, not knowing where I’d end up. I ended up in a town called Lone Pine, about 40 miles south of Bishop, in The Portal Motel. It was great. I watched Hulu. I chatted with friends. I spent way too much money on a black olive pizza from The Pizza Factory, and then spent several minutes stewing over the fact that I spent so much money when there was a special they didn’t tell me about over the phone that would’ve saved me a bunch of said money. And then, right before bed, I went out for a walk. The Sierras were glowing to the west, and the stars glowing in the sky. Orion’s belt was throbbing. I chilled at the skatepark for a bit, in the dark, but it was so cold that I was quickly forced back to the room. Right before bed I wanted to read and realized the only books I’d brought into the room were a psychology book by James Hillman and The Bishop Bouldering Guide. This presente a bit of a conundrum, as I wanted to read neither. But in the end I opted for the bouldering guidebook. I read the descriptions of some of the problems and also an essay on the development of The Process V16. To dedicate your life to bouldering, I thought, What must that be like? Finally around 11:30pm I turned off the light and tried to sleep but mostly just lay there, thinking. Thinking about what, I don’t remember.

 

Treachery and Nicotine | Leg 3: Burns, OR to Fallon, NV

Waking up in Fallon, Nevada and the first thing I notice is that my knee is swollen and stiff. Fuck. And yesterday I was bragging about how I’d gone on my first hike since my injury and how I’d be surfing in another month and bouldering in another two. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about? Maybe the injury is worse than I thought? Or maybe I just overdid it. Maybe I need to finally take some damn ibuprofen.

(*Puts 4mg nicotine gum in.)

Good morning! Here I am in Fallon, Nevada, and it snowed last night. The Subee is covered in a thin white layer of gossamer fluff. Highway 95 beckons us, but for some reason I’m not eager to jump in my car. Is this because of my knee? Is this because of the weather? Part of me wants to just stay another day in Fallon, but I know that staying in Fallon would consist of me paying too much for a hotel and eating burritos from Safeway. Not exactly a recipe for happiness. So I’ll probably press onward, to Bishop. Probably.

My first hike post LCL injury, in the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Or maybe not! Part of me just wants to get in my car and drive to Mexico right now. Cross the border. Be in a land where the sun continually shines and the hotels cost $30 a night. A land where I can eat for a third of the price and be more at large in the world. But aren’t I at large in the world here in Fallon? Must I always be somewhere else? Is my green tea done steeping?

Third state of the trip and then onward to California.

Yesterday I drove from Burns, Oregon to Denio, Nevada, stopping for a short hike on the way. It felt so good to hike, though I’m paying for it now with a swollen and stiff knee. Still, I would not take it back! Oh, to be alone in the wilderness, wondering if you’re going to be attacked by a wolf or a mountain lion. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked anywhere so remote. This last summer I went backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascades, and even that, after an eight mile hike in, didn’t feel so remote, mostly because we were surrounded by goddamn humans. It’s hard to get away from humans, and sometimes you need to. Yesterday I needed to. And I did. I hiked probably a mile in on a trail called “Three-mile Trail” or something similar, and the only sounds I could hear the entire time were the brook babbling next to me and the wind caressing the trees. Which I think were juniper trees. But I have no idea.

Mordor.

I have to say I’m not thrilled about being in Nevada. Is anyone thrilled about being in Nevada? Why would you ever move to Nevada? Are there people out there who are like, “You know what? I think we should move to Nevada?” As soon as you have a thought like this you should be locked up and the key thrown away. Though what am I talking about. If you’re the kind of lunatic who wants to move to Nevada, that’s precisely where you should be. Far from everyone else.

Nicotine gum for cognition.

At Wal-Mart in Winnemucca I bought some 4mg nicotine gum. This is supposed to be for smoking cessation, but I don’t smoke so I’m using it for cognitive benefits. Plus it’s just kind of a fun thing to have on road trips. I also bought some turmeric gummies to hopefully help with the swelling in my knee, but I should really think about just taking some ibuprofen. I’m loathe to take NSAIDS. I know your body swells for a reason, but also due to our shitty modern-day diets we probably exacerbate the swelling with the insane amounts of sugar and crap we ingest. Continued swelling, according to one website I consulted, “destructs and distends the tissues, and distorts the anatomy.” I feel like in my case I might’ve done this all wrong. I RICED the crap out of my knee at the beginning, and so maybe now the swelling I’m experiencing is just my body healing. I don’t know, and I don’t know how many doctors I would trust on this one, because almost all doctors would just push NSAID’s on me immediately.

Doctors like to push stuff.

Crimson and clover, over and over.

As the title of today’s blog suggest, treachery abounded yesterday in the form of me…getting on an interstate. Yes, you read correctly. I am a fraud. The road trip is ruined. But also there wasn’t really a way to avoid it. The google map directions had me almost literally driving on train tracks on a railroad service road. I had to do about an 18-point turn underneath an overpass just to turn around. And then I realized all of the roads Google wanted to take me on to avoid the interstate were dirt roads. So I hit one of the onramps, and never turned back. And got to Fallon in about half the time. And didn’t exactly feel bad about it.

And now here I am in Fallon and it’s still snowing and my first nicotine gum has run its course. I don’t know if I felt anything. Am I doing this wrong? Does this stuff even contain nicotine?

My tea is done steeping.