11th July 2001 (old cut+paste email posing as travel blog)
it’s that time again.......
when mass-emailing works best for the financially-disabled and time-saving nomad.
it’s gonna be a long one...
just got off the green tortoise bus about 4 days ago. still trying to get used to big crazy new york... crazy as it is, i haven’t encountered anyone asking me for change or a spare cigarette!
in san francisco, they were everywhere! i’ve never seen so many homeless people in my life. it’s quite depressing. i got cursed once with bad karma when i refused a ciggie to this homeless kid. u know how sometimes they said they’d give u a quarter for a cig? and u always end up giving the cig away without taking the quarter? well, when i was at the Haight one day (a really kewl suburb in SF - funky clothes store, biggest record store ever, hemp-town), i endeavoured to not give away any ciggies.
so this guy, the same one who approached me for a cig, followed me down the street and “bad-karma-d” me for about 3 minutes b4 leaving me alone.
it was kinda scary.
SF pride weekend:
‘twas pretty unreal. esp the dyke march the day before. it started at about 4pm at Mission Dolores Park, with bands playing... like Tribe 8! it’s kinda like Fair Day in sydney, except it's a park full of grrls!! kewt ones too...
anyway, bands performed, we drank and ate (i was with sharona), then at about 730pm, the dyke march began and we all marched down to the Castro (main gay suburb) where the street party was. i caught up with gretchen, a gal i met one night at the lexington (girly bar). we started hanging out and i spent the rest of the weekend with her until i left SF on monday night. she was really nice
we got up too late for the parade the next day (which started at 10am!), and spent the rest of the day lounging in front of the women’s stage. (there were different stages located at various locations in the city that weekend).
i left SF on monday night and got on the green tortoise bus, which took me from SF to NY.
the Green Tortoise Northern Eastbound 12 days trip:
i got on this trip 'cos i calculated that it was gonna be the cheapest way for me to get from the west coast to the east coast, and visit some places along the way. (compared to renting a car, which i did a few weeks back with Moto when we went around the south-west of USA, which cost me a small fortune. it was fun though... no regrets.)
the green tortoise is an adventure tour travel bus and i absolutely hated it at the beginning of the trip and thought to myself, “fucking hell, i’ve got 10 more days left on this crampy smelly bus with a bunch of loonies till i get to NY!”
but as it turned out, it was one of the best 12 days i’ve had in the states (or rather, 10days, since i hated it at the beginning). i wished the end didn’t come as soon as it did.
there were 39 of us, including 2 really amazing bus drivers – robert and... sue, whom i had this huge crush on *grin*. sue and robert took turns driving our 1954 green bus. we camped out 4-5 nights, and the rest were overnight drives, which were kinda kewl in itself ‘cos sue and robert wouldn’t tell us where we were heading, and we’d often wake up in the morning to some gorgeous national park
the route we took was:
california ---> nevada ---> idaho ---> wyoming ---> montana ---> south dakota ---> minnesota ---> wisconsin ---> illinois ---> indiana ---> ohio ---> new york ( ---> boston).
we swam in hot springs, cold lakes and rivers/streams almost everyday. they were our means of washing up. there was an arvo when we all got naked and jumped into a muddy stream and had a mud bath and mud-baked ourselves silly. we hardly had any showers... only 2 on the whole trip when we entered national parks that have shower facilities. fortunately, no one stank.
went through yellowstone national park and i have to admit, that was kinda awful even tho nature, esp the hotpools, were amazing. it was so tourists-infested. they had proper boardwalks for trails. that was on the 4th day. and after spending 4 days in the wilderness with no one else except the 39 of us, tourists weren’t exactly what we were expecting.
we then went on to Mammoth Hot Springs where the white rocks were stained orange from the sulphur flowing/seeping out from the earth... quite a sight. smelly too
imagine: pure white, and orange-streaked landscape with wisps of smoke coming up from the ground. quite surreal.
Badlands in South Dakota was really KEWL! there was no one else there but us, and we had the whole prairie to ourselves. i can’t begin to describe how vast the land is. that night, we camped anywhere we wanted. of course we didn’t stray too far off the bus...
i took the best poo ever, facing the sunset in the distance behind the hills... haha :D had to hike a fair way away with the trusty shovel. dug a hole. did my business. enjoyed the moment – no sound except for birds chirping,looking into infinity painted with sunset, savouring every second of it. covered up whatever needed covering. trekked back with trusty shovel by my side to our base. ahh.. the simple pleasures of life...
got to see niagara falls too. it was the day b4 we got into NY... it was a sad sad day
as it meant good-byes...
aw man, there are still things i wanna mention about the trip, so i guess this is all jumbled up, as usual:
we went on heaps of treks, almost always ending up in a hot spring or lake or somewhere we can swim in. sometimes we trek back, other times, the bus will pick us up on the other end.
had a few of what we called “bus-fucks” (no not the dirty variety).
considering it’s an ancient 1954 bus, it had served us well.
on the 2nd day, at about 530am, robert turned around from the driver’s seat and shouted “everyone wake up and get out of the bus!! u all have to walk up this hill! i might or might not meet u at the top... not sure if Mission Trails (name of our bus) can make it!”
we were up this windy mountain road at Sawtooth National park, and ‘cos it’s a route that the green tortoise has never been on, they weren’t expecting it. so all of us piled out, sleepy-eyed, and started climbing up the hill. 530 in the morning.
there was this period of time when we had to push the bus almost everytime after the engine is switched off, like when we camped out. something wrong with the alternator or something, and the bus won’t start. during those 2 days of huffing and puffing, we had to keep reminding everyone not to turn off the engine lest it dies on us again.... until we got to chicago and got the alternator replaced.
we blew a tyre on a highway one day too.
took about an hour and a half to replace it ‘cos it was an inner tyre.
ran out diesel in cleveland, ohio once at 330 in the morning...
but these tiny calamities somehow generated its own sense of fun...
we cooked most of our meals and they were always yummy! i was so impressed on teh first morning when we got our supplies down from the roof of the bus. had salmon bagel with capers and cream and fresh fruits...
wasn’t expecting exciting meals like these. thought it might be cereal or toasts. we had veg curry night, roast veg night, steak night, mexican lunch, pasta, salad, etc, etc... i can go on and on. they really took care of us... chocolates and chupa chups were passed around the bus on drives... yummy energy bars given us b4 a trek...
we did get sick of cooking by the end of it though. just the whole process of setting up... getting all the stuff down form the roof - food, tables, crockery et al. so we ate out.
we got to ohio one night and thought we’d have burger king. and there were amish people eating in burger king itself!... with kids... and that was already about 1045pm! it was a strange sight... i thought part of their culture was to grow and eat their own food??
oooh... one arvo, when we were in a little town in idaho called salmon, at a gas station, we met some jesus-loving hippies! it was really strange. they came in their vans and buses, and at first, wheni saw this guy wearing a “i love jesus” button on his shirt, i thought he had meant it as joke. but slowly, we began to see “jesus loves u” bumper stickers on their vehicles, and bible verses scribbled on their windows...
this girl came on board the bus and started chatting to us. she was wearing one of those thin gold cross on her neck, and when someones wears that, u know they’re not joking.... and man, she looked like she was high on something. she was so out of it. we asked her where they were heading, and she replied “the rainbow gathering”... which is a big hippie fest in the woods that lasts for a week or something. anyway, we then continued and asked her what this rainbow gathering entails, and she went “ w-e-l-l......... e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.....”, like real slow and spaced out. so we asked, “like what?” ... and she’s like, “u.... k-n-o-w.......... s-t-u-f-f......”.
‘twas really funny!
hmmm... burger-king eating amish, and jesus-loving hippies. great antithesis...
the day b4 we got into chicago, which incidentally was the 4th of july (independence day), we stopped in a little town in minnesota called Albert Lea. went to a thrift shop and everyone got green outfits to wear when we get to chicago. as a group, we looked fantastic. some of the outfits... man! i can’t even begin to describe it. i would have to scan those photos and send them out.
rounf the corner from the thrift shop was this gas station called “Pump ‘n’ Munch”! we thought the connotation was hilarious.
we all stayed up the last night on the road and got real drunk playing drinking games. started playing truth/dare... or rather, dare/dare.
cut out of original email
3 paragraphs... involving names.
about stuff that happened on the bus on the last night, and the night when we were in NY.... and also about someone i had a major crush on. anyway!
okay okay... i htink i should stop now. i thought i was gonna write a short essay, but it’s kinda getting way too long...
hope it wasn’t all too boring for u guys. just wanted to share my experiences from the amazing last 2 weeks. i’m sure it’s an inadequate description, not giving it enough justice. but it’s the best i can do.
i hope you’re all well and things are swell
i want to hear your individual stories too!
i’m leaving new york this weekend... i’ve cut short my stay here by about 2 weeks ‘cos i’m so out of money. so i’ll be in london on the 15th of july! not sure what i’m gonna do yet once i get there, but i’m kinda over being on the road (as much fun as it might be, i’m tired), so i might just settle in london and look for a job and travel later. *shrugs*
will decide when i get there.
p.s. if u wanna know how the 39 of us fitted into the green tortoise bus for 12 days, here’s a description...
roof of the bus is where we stored out non-refrigerated food, 3 big tables, our propane gas for cooking and out big woks.
left and right side of bus, at the bottom, accessible from the outside, is where we kept out cutlery, crockery, gallons of water, tools for the bus (for all the bus-fucks we had), extra diesel (which came in handy!!)...
back half of the bus is where we slept, on a platform, and underneath that platform was where we stored our big backpacks, and we don’t have everyday access to it. every 3-4 days, or unless it’s really urgent, we’ll bring them out.
there are bunks above the platform too... kinda like bus-racks in a normal coach, but wider.
right at the back of the bus is the driver’s sleeper. sue and robert take turns sleeping in it, when one is not driving Mission Trails - name of our beloved green 1954 bus.
middle of the bus are 2 tables on either side of the aisle, which convert to sleepers at night when we do the “miracle”. (will explain the “miracle” later)
front half of the bus, we have 2 horizontal benches on either side of the aisle that stretches length-wise. and underneath these benches are the coolers for our vegs and cheese and stuff like that.
in the middle of the aisle is another smaller cooler where we store our alcohol.
so, when the “miracle” happens, which is around 11pm when we’re doing an overnight road trip, the front half of the bus with the benches converts into a big platform stretching across the aisle, so the aisle is no more. and we put our daypacks and shoes under this platform. the tables then convert into a sleeping “platform” as well. and when we sleep, we sleep in a “zipper” pattern- ugh, i can’t explain this. if u can’t imagine, too bad. ha.
on nights when we camp out, we’ll pull the foam mattresses out of the bus, and sleep on the ground, under the stars.
right at the front of the bus, is our “funnel”. used in times of emergency, like drinking way too much alcohol for the bus to do pee-stops all the time.
i just can’t stop writing can i?