Day 128

Friday, February 30, 2005Apache Junction, AZ
Miles: 14200Now that's traffic!

Today we hung out in the cabin for awhile, out of the extremely drying sun. Around noon, we headed back into downtown Phoenix so Keath could go to a meeting and Ceridwen could get a massage. Massage and meeting both went well, and we plotted what to do while we ate a yummy Indian lunch. The city of Phoenix was a city we had put on our itinerary specifically for the purpose of checking it out for a possible place to live, but the combination of heat and traffic put it right out. We had planned to stay a few days, but grumpiness set in and we abandoned Phoenix after lunch and launched out for parts unknown. As the road dwindled from 5 lanes to 2, we knew we were headed in the right direction. We stopped at a truck stop town, basically an exit with a hotel and a gas station for the night, hanging out in the pool to combat the heat.

Day 127

Thursday, September 29, 2005Apache Junction, AZ
Miles: 14200Holy Hank in the Round, Batman!

Today we drove to Phoenix. The drive was long, but the scenery was gorgeous. We drove through the red rock region, taking a dip in the very cold river at the Slide Rock State Park. The colors were ridiculously bright, and for awhile we felt like we were on a soundstage. The sky was so very blue, the little trees a deep green and the stones, well, red, as you might imagine. Awesome.

The awesomeness continued until we got to about 30 miles outside of Phoenix. Then we stood still. Ugh. Keath did some quick navigation and we took a detour in the hopes of getting to the Henry Rollins show on time. After some slick maneuvering, we managed to make it to the very cool Coliseum. It was a half round and all the seats were good. We managed to be only a few feet from the stage. From that distance, we could see that Hank has been aging some. He's still funny enough to give you a headache from laughing, though.

Due to the absolutely atrocious heat, we rented a Kamping Kabin (with air conditioner) at the Apache Junction KOA. We were exhausted, so we tossed the sleeping bags on the urine resistant rubber mattress and went to sleep. Uncomfortably. This was the first and last time we ever stayed in a Kabin. Guck.

Day 126

Wednesday, September 28, 2005Flagstaff, AZ
Miles: 13672Which came first: the planet or the dog?

Today was a boring day for you blog readers out there. Unless you enjoy reading about cold people drinking hot cocoa, doing laundry an going to multiple post offices. In which case, we have this to say to you: Get a life!!

Our afternoon and evening were much more interesting. We went to the Lowell Observatory to buy tickets for the evening telescope viewing, and ended up staying and taking a daytime tour of the property. LO sits up on top of a mountain right outside of Flagstaff. While Flagstaff is the first Dark Sky City, the lights still cause too much interference for real research to be done, so the facility is now used to raise money and educate the public.

The tour was awesome and informative. The highlights were the telescope that was used to discover Pluto and the one used to help discover/explain the red shift. It was amazing that all the things that are now done with computers, were once done with clocks.

After having dinner, we drove back up to the observatory to actually do some observation. We saw many star clusters, a nebula and a ring. All very cool, and some of the local amateur astronomers share their telescopes with the public. We stayed for the "Tonight's Sky" presentation and tried once again to learn where the constellations are.

Day 125

Tuesday, September 27, 2005Flagstaff, AZ
Miles: 13672Petrified Wood. Mmmmmm.

Today was a somewhat overcast day. Keath learned firsthand how drastically different Flagstaff's temperature is from the rest of Arizona. Frost on the blackberry is probably not a good thing. Ceridwen was still feeling somewhat off, but well enough to get some work done on editing her novel. When we were both done with our respective work, we set out for a day trip out to Petrified Forest National Park (along I-40 again!)

The trip across this particular stretch of desert had far less inexplicable roadside objects. In fact, with the exception of one or two small truck stop towns, it has no roadside anything. Just plain flat desert with far off mesas in the distance. It is quite a sight to see. The winds, however, were terrible. We had to take turns driving in order to give our arms a break from holding the steering wheel in place.

In addition to the obvious and copious amounts of petrified wood (which, for the record, is not wood, but rather a fossil record of wood, where the organic material of the tree has been replaced by minerals and solidified underground) there were rock formations similar to what we saw at the Badlands, but with some more color (blue!) due to the different minerals floating around this neck of the continent. The park also has several spots where you can view far-off petroglyphs through scopes. This was an excellent idea compared to other places we've seen petroglyphs that feebly post signs to say "please don't add your own art."

When we got back to Vantom at the visitor's center, we were quickly accosted by a gentleman hanging out in the doorway. He was very excited to see New Hampshire plates, as he was from New Hampshire and liked to talk to people. It turns out that he moved to Arizona 30 years ago and really really liked to talk about nothing in particular. We finally escaped him and drove up through the park, visiting each of the lookouts with stealth and dexterity so as not to get cornered again.

The park road leads up through some beautiful views of the painted desert. These are the views we dreamed of back in May when we owned a home and wanted to hit the open road. The colors in the ground and sky just can't really be captured in our photos. But they were majestic.

After looking at all the park lookouts, we headed back across the desert. The wind had blessedly abated somewhat, and the sunset was gorgeous, even from inside the Denny's where we stopped for dinner. We had learned (back in Canada, eh?) that Denny's has a veggie burger, giving us a filling option when on the road. Greasy and full of french fries, but a filling option.

Day 124

Monday, September 26, 2005Flagstaff, AZ
Miles: 13672Getting Close to The End

Before setting off today, we learned a very valuable lesson about Lake Havasu City, Arizona. They have real bagels. We've been craving bagels since The Great Bagel Shaped Artisan Bread Debacle of Southern Oregon. Real tea. Real bagels. All is right with the world. Yum.

For months, when describing to people our route, it has always ended with "and then we do this spiral thing around the southwest." (This is usually accompanied by a vague hand gesture of said spiral thing.) In our minds, the spiral starts at Flagstaff, Arizona, loops through Phoenix and points south, up through New Mexico, in to southern Colorado, across to Utah, down through the Grand Staircase back in to Arizona, then a little zip off to end in Las Vegas, NV, just 250 miles from the starting point of Flagstaff.

For some reason Lake Havasu City didn't seem like Arizona yet. Perhaps it was the "Arizona Coast" of the Colorado River. Perhaps it was the surreal California-esque tourist feeling of London Bridge. Perhaps we just hadn't looked at our itinerary in a few days. Whatever it was, today consisted mostly of driving up to, then across, the infamous Interstate 40. We are fairly certain this is the first time we've been on I-40 since the start of our trip, and of course we couldn't help but make frequent references to the Deadbolt song Roadside Cross. (If you've never heard Deadbolt, they've got some samples on their site, or you can just buy a copy of their CD from Amazon. You'll thank us. Unfortunately, no free samples of Roadside Cross. But we digress.)

The road to Flagstaff was mostly uneventful desert. There were some cool rock formations; mostly piles of boulder with capstones and assorted scrubbrush. There was also some exciting inexplicable roadside whatnot, but, well, they were inexplicable.

The KOA in Flagstaff was repaving, which is a good thing, but not good for people who are still not feeling too good in all the heat. Even on the outskirts of the area they were working on the fumes were still a bit much. So we headed on down the road and found another campground which seemed okay but was a bit sketchy. (In short, the owners are insane, but their daughter is very friendly and competant. They should let her take over.) But, we have a place to sleep, cook, and work, and are ready for whatever Flagstaff has to offer!

Day 123

Sunday, September 25, 2005Lake Havasu City, AZ
Miles: 13454London Bridge is... in the desert

"Visit Oregon and Switzerland." This is the most interesting piece of bathroom (or pit toilet) grafitti we've seen. There were even crude maps scratched into the paint. Why would anyone be so keen on us visiting Switzerland (we've already visited Oregon)? It boggles the mind.

Today was a record breaker, as the Lewin family got on the road in 1/2 hour. Wahoo! We drove through endless desert with no other cars. It was like, well, a car commercial. Sweet.

We arrived at the beautiful Arizona Coast (the Colorado River, actually) in the afternoon and were a little alarmed to see the beachy atmosphere in the desert. More odd was the London Bridge, spanning a small stretch of water and bringing tourists to the manmade island filled with tourist traps. Clever. We've known for a long time that London Bridge was in AZ, but that fact doesn't prepare you for how very odd it is to see all that old stone in blazing sunlight. We checked into a hotel room and slept away the 100 degree plus afternoon.

Day 122

Saturday, September 24, 2005Joshua Tree NP
Miles: 13144Health: Ouchie in the tummy

Somehow it's easier to wake up early in the desert than anywhere else. Even Ceridwen, who is not a morning person in any way, got up around sunrise. Maybe it's the threat of horrible heat later in the day that motivates a person to get up and about. And the sunrise is damn beautiful, too, the pinks and blues starkly beautiful over the rocks. We hiked into the Hidden Valley, a microsystem of plants that don't survie anywhere else in the desert. In a valley of rocks, plants are protected from the sun and wind and can hold onto water better.

We drove around the rest of the park, taking in the view from a high lookout. Signal Mountain, about 95 miles south and in Mexico, was visible, since it was a relativey clear day. After finishing our tour of the park, we drove into town and watched Corpse Bride, which was good but kind of forgettable.

Day 121

Friday, September 23, 2005Joshua Tree NP, CA
Miles: 13144I have kissed honey lips.

Note to selves: Vannywantoms does not enjoy it when you plug your laptop into him over night. It makes him go all wonky and not start. For this reason, Keath spent the day sitting outside the bathrooms working, using the building's electricity. Ceridwen went boogie boarding and nearly died in the undertow. A great day all around. We thought that when we checked out and headed on our way, things would get better. Then we stopped to get the oil changed by the most loquacious oil change guy ever. Argh. Vantom's needs taken care of, we headed on our way to Joshua Tree, NP, a route that largely went through wind farms.

We arrived in Joshua Tree, and marveled at the cool silhouettes cast by the eponymous trees. Pretty. And photo-alicious. We checked into the Hidden Valley Campground, which did not have any ranch dressing, but did have a coyote wandering about. Eek. We sat around and stared at the stars for quite awhile, since it was the first time in a few weeks that we'd been able to see them. The wind sounded almost like the ocean and the neighboring campsite's fire lit up the huge rock formations surrounding us. All in all, a happy return to nature.

Day 120

Thursday, September 22, 2005South Carlsbad, CA
Miles: 12863It's pretty much San Diego

After working for the day, we drove into San Diego for the afternoon. We hung around a little port area and had a very early dinner of Greek food, which was very tasty. We then drove to Coronado Island and looked at the Coranado Hotel, which is basically the same idea as the Mt. Washington Hotel in NH, but with fewer ski areas and more sea gulls. Same red roof and creepy "The Shining" feel.

Day 119

Wednesday, September 21, 2005South Carlsbad, CA
Miles: 12863Hang ten!

Wahoo, surfing lessons! We took a walk down the campground beach to learn more about the surfing lessons offered, then just ended up taking a one class right on the spot. Ceridwen stood up for about two seconds, which was very exciting. It was fun to learn how to surf, but the instructor sort of sucked. He didn't give a whole lot of instruction and was generally not very helpful. But it was still really fun and extremely tiring.

We found a really nice campground right on the ocean and pulled in for the night. After our fun day, we cleaned up the van a bit and watched a truly spectacular sunset while we ate dinner and then went to bed.

Day 118

Tuesday, September 20, 2005Carlsbad, CA

After breakfast at Ana's, we headed a little East to go to the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, where we saw animals we didn't know existed. There was a nice train ride through the whole park that allowed us to see the big animals who need room to roam, and the guided path through the park let us see some smaller animals up close. Sadly, we saw no cheetahs. Apparently they were hiding.

After our trip through the park, we sat in the hot and sticky parking lot trying to figure out what to do for the week. We had planned on spending the whole week in San Diego at a campground, but Ana had told us that the neighborhood was a bit shady, so we decided to change our plans a bit and stop in Carlsbad instead, espcecially as we'd already discovered that big cities are not a good fit for this trip, since they're expensive and not terribly interesting to us.

Day 117

Monday, September 19, 2005Vista, CA
Miles: 12793Family!!!!

Today we got up relatively late, and since Ceridwen's knee hurt from the surry-with-the-fringe-on-top ride, we did no boogie boarding. We did drive through LA. It was the middle of the day and traffic-y. Uck. Our destination was Keath's Aunt Ana's, who had purchased a house in Vista, CA, about 45 minutes north of San Diego, around the same time that we purchased our house. We arrived in the late afternoon and met up with Ana. Her long time boyfriend, Randy, came home a while later and the two of them treated us to a wonderful Indian dinner. Yum. We had a good time hanging out and talking, and also sleeping in a real bed and using a real bathroom.

Day 116

Sunday, September 18, 2005Ventura, CA
Miles: 12616A very SoCal morning

To start our SoCal morning, we jumped into our wetsuits and went boogie boarding in the early morning mist. Songs with a vaguely Californian theme ran through our heads and the waves were awesome. The waves were huge and a few of them were almost alarmingly fast, but we had a great time and decided we could get used to this. People wandered everywhere in wetsuits.

We went back to the campsite and had breakfast, then jumped in the hot tub. Ah. Sadly, the showers were cold, since the rest of the campers had used up the hot water earlier in the day, but that's ok. We rented a weird, two person bike thing and rode it to the pier. Where they were having a big festival, which was a tiny bit stressful to ride through, but Keath drove with great aplomb, avoiding clueless tourists adeptly.

We at lunch at the end of the pier, then rode back to the campground. We watched the surfing competion from our bike on the way back and again avoided any collisions. When we arrived back to the campsite, we decided to stay a second day. The campground was deserted, as a large group staying for the weekend had departed earlier in the day.

Day 115

Saturday, September 17, 2005San Buenoventura, CA
Miles: 12616Southward to adventure!

Today we woke with a new sense of adventure that had been lackig for the last week or so. This we attributed to overstimulation of the siteseeing glands, but a day or so of driving aimlessly had cured us. Hallelujah! We awoke at sunrise oddly pumped and ready to start the day. Sadly, we had to start it with Instant Breakfast consumed while driving, since the stench of the campground toilets did little to entice us to cook.

We showed up at Hearst Castle, ready for the first tour of the day. Of course, we then had to wait for the actual tour to start, but we had to get tickets early. The tour was really amazing, as was the house. William Randolph Hearst had some odd thoughts and way too much money. Guest houses abounded and there were strict no extra marital nookie policies for guests. Hearst was married for 40 years and had a mistress for 30 years, which makes him the biggest hypocrite in the world, but when you have that much money, I guess you can tell people what to do.

After leaving the castle, we drove South, stopping often to check out various views and beaches. We saw our first California surfers, marking our entrance into SoCal. Just as we were beginning to wonder if we had in fact crossed the boundary, a low rider truck with SoCal written in big, gothic letters passed us. Sweet.

We stopped for the night at a campground in San Buenaventura, or Ventura as the less romanically inclined call it. Our original intent was to stay for free at an en route campground. We had no idea what this meant until we pulled up. It means you pull over on the side of the road. And that you need your own potty. Hmm. No. Instead, we went to the private place down the road. A bit expensive, but they had potties. And showers. Woohoo! We collected some bamboo from the beach and made a crazy hot fire.

Day 114

Friday, September 16, 2005San Simean State Park, CA
Mile 12412No Beach for You!

Now that it's fall, everything is changing. There are fewer people everywhere, and everything seems a bit slower. It's nice, but a bit sad as well. It is nice to know that everyone else is going back to their regular lives while we're still driving around on an extended vacation. Heh heh.

We drove down the coast, stopping frequently to admire the ocean on one side and the cliffs on the other. As we drove, we passed many dirt roads that led further down the cliffs, but they were both inaccessible and privately owned. Damn California, letting people own the coast line. Grrr. We stopped in San Simeon for lunch and a look at the Hearst Castle, but instead decided to stay the night and go to the castle the next day.

We got a super nice campsite that overlooked the water and after some beach wandering, we ended the evening by having some wine and watching the sunset from a field of grass. Pretty. Then Ceridwen burned our extra dowel. Why do we have an extra dowel? you ask. Good question. Ceridwen didn't know either, so she played pyro with it.

Day 113

Thursday, Sep. 15, 2005Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, CA
Mile 12325Diagnosis: Need more ocean!

Today we left the town of Reedley and decided to head back to the coast, rather than back to King's Canyon. The drive up to the Park was kind of long and arduous, and Ceridwen didn't really feel like doing any hiking or anything, so to the ocean we went. We arrived in Big Sur, about 30 miles South of where we had left the coast early in the afternoon and set up camp at the Big Sur State Park. Ceridwen took a nap in the hammock and contemplated spending the night in it, but the prospect of being jumped on by squirrels and licked by deer put that idea to rest.

Day 112

Wednesday, September 14, 2005Reedley, CA
Mile 12116Health: It's tomorrow :(

It was all going so beautifully, 'til Ceridwen wound up in the hospital...

We awoke and drove SE, heading for King's Canyon and Grand Sequoia National Parks. We went to a fruit stand along the way to buy some peaches and grapes, then continued on our way. After arriving in King's Canyon NP, we checked into our campsite and started out on the 30 mile scenic drive. It was a beautiful landscape, though not as breathtaking as Yosemite. We stopped at several scenic outlooks. At one, about 20 miles from the ranger station, we noticed some bugs buzzing around and Ceridwen carefully avoided them, thinking they might be bees. Getting back into the van, Ceridwen felt a sharp pinch in her arm and flung the offending insect away with a yelp and a swear. Keath hunted the insect down, found a squished bee and Ceridwen used her Epi-Pen.

Since the Epi-Pen is only supposed to be a first line measure, we drove back to the ranger station, stopping for some ice for Ceridwen's arm on the way. The park medic came and checked out Ceridwen's vitals, which appeared fine, but the ER doctor that the medic called said it would best if Ceridwen were taken to a hospital. In an ambulance or two. So, that's what happened. After getting hooked up to both oxygen and IV, Ceridwen enjoyed a trip down to the town of Reedley in first a park ambulance, then a town ambulance that met us halfway. Keath followed in Vantom and we wound up spending the remainder of the afternoon in the hospital and the evening in a hotel in town. Fun times.

Day 111

Tuesday, September 13, 2005Oakhurst, CA
Mile 11914Health: ...Gone Tomorrow

We woke up early in order to get the most out of our relatively short time in Yosemite. The white morning light was filtering through the trees and down onto Keath in an alarmingly pretty way, which was a nice photographic start to the day. Our campground was surrounding by big, beautiful trees, which made it nice despite the extreme angle at which we had to park the van.

We drove into Yosemite Valley and were greeted with great, sunny weather, a blue sky and awesome scenery. We lollygagged a bit on the valley floor, wandering a meadow a bit aimlessly, just enjoying the sheer beauty of it all. We continued our scenic drive and saw some little water falls, but we were too late in the season to see Yosemite Falls in all its glory. This was particularly ironic since Ceridwen had had a photo of Yosemite falls on her computer desktop for months as a symbol of the trip. Ah well. The hugeness of the valley was scenic enough even without the falls, and it was kind of neat to see the stain that all those gallons of water made on the rocks.

After completing the loop on the valley floor, we drove up to Glacier Point and just stared in awe at the views of Half Dome and the valley from above. It was truly remarkable and we spent a lot of time sitting in the sun and ogling.

We left Yosemite in the late afternoon and drove to a nearby hotel to spend the night.

Day 110

Monday, September 12, 2005Yosemite NP, California
Miles: 11812Health: Here Today...

Keath spent the day working in the relative comfort of the airport hotel, and we headed out after checkout time. Our goal was Yosemite, and after we left the urban area surrounding San Francisco, we were in a land of hills covered in sunbaked grass and huge white windmills. We stopped in a strip mall oasis to get Ceridwen's Romania photos developed, buy some shoes and get a haircut. The photos and Ceridwen's haircut were successful, while the shoe buying and cell phone battery replacing were not. We headed back on the road. While trying to pay for gas 25 miles down the road, we discovered that Keath had left his credit card back at the Wal-Mart photo desk. Oops.
We continued our drive through groves of almond trees and trucks filled with tomatoes. Yummy. We arrived in Yosemite too late to really do anything but set up camp and have some marshmallows. We may have had some wine, but come on folks, four months have passed. Who's going to remember?

Day 109

Sunday, September 11, 2005South San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11573Health: Still so very jet lagged

We started our day by checking out of the Worst Hostel Ever a day earlier than planned. Ceridwen had not slept well at all in the tiny second story bunk bed and was not looking forward to another night of it. SF, we decided, would just get one day of us. Our desire to leave was only strengthened by our experiences with the staff. Here's a little tip for all you hipsters out there: all the body piercings, tattoos and thrift shop clothes in the world won't make you progressive if your soul is still fascist. The coffee shop Ceucescu (how did I get back to Eastern Europe?) watched everyone like a hawk to make sure they didn't a. have a juice glass that was too large, b. get a refill of coffee, c. take more than their allotted 1 package of the people's cream cheese, or d. try to exercise their right to not be yelled at by a scrawny guy with a tribal tatoo at 7 am. Uck. The bedredlocked girl at the front counter was no better. She scowled and generally acted like a fat old woman at the DMV while checking us out. All this trauma led to us using the word 'comrade' more than is advisable. Anyway, on to the fun part of the day...

We took a trolley car up the street, only to be stopped cold by the maintence crews. Not wanting to sit there forever, we hopped off the trolley and headed to the transfer point on foot, hoping to get on the line that would take us to Coit Tower. Due to our early departure from the People's Hostel, we would be cramming a lot into one day. We had purchased tickets to Alcatraz the previous day, and had to get to Coit Tower at 10 when they opened in order to make it to the boat on time. Once we got to the transfer point, we saw that the maintenence guys had switched to the other side of the tracks, namely the ones we wanted to be on. So we walked, up, up, up the hills and made it to Coit Tower with 10 minutes to spare. We took the elevator up and looked at some pretty views of the city. People have been dropping various coins out of the windows of Coit Tower for some time, and Ceridwen wanted to drop some Romanian Lei out, but thought she might only have one coin left. Since she didn't really buy any souveniers, she wanted to hold onto her coins, so there was no lei added to the money collection.

We made the trip from Coit Tower to the wharf in record time and enjoyed some french fries before getting on our Alcatraz boat. The boat smelled like pigeon poo. Yum. Once on the island, we took the audio tour and wandered around looking at cells. Ceridwen had taken this tour before, but still liked listening to the stories. After our tour, we got back on the boat to head back to the mainland. We watched some street performers, including some break dancers, before heading back to the van.

It started to get foggy, so we drove around to see views, of course. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands and looked back at the city, which by this time was all but gone behind the fog. Ah well. We headed back to the airport area to spend the night.

Day 108

Saturday, September 10, 2005location
Miles: 11540Worst Hostel, Ever

Since Mount Diablo was too far away from the city for us to do much, so we headed back down into SF today and took up residence at the Fisherman's Wharf Hostel. It seemed ok, if a bit pricy for a few dorm beds. (A private room for two would actually have cost more than many hotels near the airport!)

We wandered around Fisherman's Wharf and gazed out at the harbor. All in all, SF is a very scenic city. Except for the on street urination, of course. The Michael Franti Power to the Peaceful festival was today, down in Golden Gate Park, but we opted for the chocolate festival in Ghirardelli Square instead, given Ceridwen still not quite being ready to deal with people or large expanses of open space. The chocolate festival, however, was definately not our thing. You basically pay for some tickets and then stand around in a crowded little atrium waiting in lines for samples of chocolates and breads and other foodstuffs. It all looked yummy, but standing in line was not what we had in mind for the day, so off we went.

We wandered the streets a bit, checked out the sea lions, and decided we ought to see Alcatraz Island. Everything was sold for the day, so we scheduled ourself a trip for tomorrow (OMG! Planning in advance?!), saw some more of the city, and returned to the Worst Hostel Ever.

Day 107

Friday, September 9, 2005Mount Diablo State Park, CA
Miles: 11498Dormir Sobre Las Nubes (del Diablo!)

Ceridwen may not remember much of it, since she was still pretty out of it, but after living it up at the Hotel Palomar, we spent a night atop Mount Diablo, which is said to be one of the best views in the world - up there with Kilimanjaro. We'll have to get started on planning our mountain climbing trip to Tanzania. The view was indeed beautiful, with our campground above the cloudline, which is pretty cool to see.

On the down side, it was a little cold up on Mount Diablo, and it was way further away from downtown than we thought. The intent was to camp for a couple of days and drive to the closest BART stop to head in to town during the day, but the trip up the mountain made it clear that this plan fell significantly short of clever.

Day 106

Thursday, September 8, 2005
San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437Reunited and it feels so . . .

Ceridwen spent far too long in the Bucharest Airport. She tried to keep herself occupied but ended up asleep and drooling on herself in a chair by her gate. After several long hours flying from Romania to Germany to California, amplified by the time zones changing in the wrong direction, Ceridwen landed in San Francisco International. Shortly after landing, the sun mercifully set. Thank god. The sun had been up for 20 freaking hours for Ceridwen, and it was beginning to make her feel a little ancy. On the plane, Ceridwen catalogued all the things she had missed. Dogs who are owned and pampered to the point of ridiculousness, the fact that the only place you ever hear a cockerel crow is in a corn flakes commercial and a population of people who have the same kind of neurotic distaste for waiting. Since she had sweet talked the Lufthansa clerk in Romania to let her check her bag 6 hours before her flight, it was the last one off. The crowd in the welcome hall was very relieved to see that Keath did, indeed, finally find his wife. All is well.

Back in to downtown SanFran, we moved in to our one night recover-from-eastern-Europe accommodations: the Palomar. It's a classy joint just upstairs from the Old Navy. More importantly, it's the only place in San Francisco with hot tubs in rooms that don't have names like "Presidential Suite" and "If You Have to Ask it's Out of Your Range." Much to our disappointment, it is also the only Klimpton hotel that doesn't have a complimentary cocktail hour. Poo.

Ceridwen relaxed, slept, and bathed a lot. And that was the day! She felt very hedonistic wrapped in her plush robe and napping on the pillow top bed.

Day 105

Wednesday, September 7, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437One more day . . .

Most of the people Keath had gotten to know at the hostel had left last night or earlier today, so there was much less idle chit chat. He followed up with Aaron, who had started his first day at AmerCorps the day before and was worried he wouldn't qualify for food stamps. (Chicago considers AmeriCorp's living stipend to be a salary, but apparently they're not supposed to!) Things went pretty well and he will find out how much he qualified for soon. Keath and Aaron also spoke with the Indian family that has been living there for a while about what it is like to be a vegetarian in America. We tried to convince them that we're not as rare as they thought, but they still thought we were pretty odd. Robbie and Barbie (the kids' Americanized nicknames) are very curious and friendly kids, although they can tend to be a bit loud when people are trying to read or watch TV in the common room. Although, in all fairness, they are about 10 years old and living in a hostel - don't think Keath could have pulled that off at 10!

Meanwhile . . .

Wednesday, September 7, 2005Busteni, Romania
Miles: 17885Leavin' Busteni

Scheduled: "Bucharest, tour of Village Museum, Peasants Museum etc. Cultural Center: press conference about the program about invited writers, about the results and the benefits of the program for Romania and for the participants at the program followed by a reception."

Reality: Chaos. Disorder. Mutiny. Confrontation. Flee!

Day 104

Tuesday, September 6, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437Haircut day!

Some of you may have noticed that in nearly every photo of Keath over the past 103 days, Keath has been wearing a bandana, shmata, du-rag, headband, skullcap, or whatever you want to call it. If you weren't curious in the least bit, good for you. If you were, the secret is that Keath had this clever plan to just stop getting haircuts ever and hadn't had one for a couple of weeks before we left New Hampshire, making for about 16 weeks of untouched growth. Keath's hair tends to get poofy as it grows, and thus the headgear. Ceridwen was very not pleased and was expressing her displeasure with increasing regularity before leaving for eastern Europe. So . . . today is haircut day!

Haircut day really isn't that exciting. Keath planned more than enough time to get to the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology (fancy, huh?) for his appointment, and promptly remembered that his day starts significantly earlier than the average west coaster's. The staff and students at the Institute were still in their morning meetings and were not quite ready for customers/practice yet. Eventually they were, and Keath had his hair cut by Angee and her teacher Kevin over the next two and half hours. This was supposed to be his lunch break, but it turned out to be more of a midday vacation. So much for finishing the day early.

Angee learned a lot (it was only her second men's haircut since starting at the school), Kevin chipped in a bit more than he probably does on a typical woman's cut, and Keath looked that much closer to groomed. Wahoo! Now back to work, the hostel, and yes, eventually to bed.

Meanwhile . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2005Bucharest, Romania
Miles: 17885Climbing Carp

Schedule: "Hiking on Carpathians: Busteni, Babele, Omu peak. In the evening: readings from the work of participants, meeting with Romanian writers."

Reality: Hikingin the Carpathians. Whoa. Also, a visit to Peles Castle in Sinaia while it is open!!! Will wonders never cease?

The Carpathian Mountains, if you care, are the eastern wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe, curving 1500 km (~900 miles) along the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania. It is unclear as to whether the name "Carpathian" came from the Carp, a Dacian tribe (attested in Late Roman Empire documents as living on the Eastern Carpathian slopes) or if name of the tribe may have been derived from the name of the mountains. Chickens, eggs, chickens, my friends. They surround Transcarpathia and Transylvania in a large semicircle, sweeping towards the south-west, and end on the Danube (which flooded half the country just before Ceridwen got there!!).

Day 103

Monday, September 5, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437What do we do on Labor Day? We Labor!

Working his way back up to east coast work hours, Keath actually got up fairly early today. San Francisco is actually a much more attractive city before dawn. All the bums are asleep. All the trash crews have just finished tidying up the streets. And the air is . . . stiller? Something like that.

Anyway, not much excitement today. There was a new guy guarding the office, so Keath had to convince him all over again that he belonged there.

Since he got up at a reasonable hour, Keath actually got in a full work day by 3:00. He took a new route back to the hostel which looks a lot more interesting than the one he'd been taking. Well, cleaner and less stinky at least. It also seems to be where all the clubs are. Ah, it's the gay district. Note to self: always find the gay district. It's usually "better."

Back at the hostel, Troy was plotting tonight's festivities: a rooftop bar-b-que. He had figured out by now that Keath was vegetarian (the tofu dinners probably gave it away) but pointed out that there's be salad and booze. How can anyone resist a desert like that? After temperature dropped to the point that smart people were wearing sweatshirts, Keath turned in early so as to get a proper start to the next day.

Meanwhile . . .

Monday, September 5, 2005Busteni, Romania
Miles: 17885Mooooooooo!

Schedule: "Bran and Risnov fortresses and Brasov city tour. In the afternoon: a history of Romania under the communist period and its effect on Romanian artists. The invited lecturer is a Romanian history professor who will present interesting video and audio data on the subject."

Reality: How does a nice picnic in the park sound? Maybe some wandering through town and introducing oneselves to the local livestock?

Day 102

Sunday, September 4, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437Pancakes indeed!

Can you tell how lonely Keath is? He's excited about pancakes. But they did have bananas in them; so there! Actually, Keath is slowly remembering how much fun a communal living environment can be.

Communal living and pancakes delayed the trip to the office, but that's a good thing. Apparently, on Sundays, in San Francisco, Market Street sports a farmers' market! A welcome distraction from the everyday and, much to Keath's excitement, a man selling fresh samosas! Yummm number 2!

Work work work. Plot plot plot. Walk back to the hostel. Played some games and went to sleep.

Meanwhile . . .

Sunday, September 4, 2005Busteni, Romania
Miles: 17885Dracula!

Schedule: "Tour of Sinaia, visit of Peles and Pelisor castles etc. In the afternoon: conference about present and past Romania versus Eastern Europe (history, geography, politics, civil society, human rights etc.)"

Reality: Off to Brasov City, home of Bran Castle! Bran castle is, by the way, popularly known as Dracula's Castle, even though he only occupied it for a brief time.

Day 101

Saturday, September 3, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437Saturday in San Francisco

Yup. Non-stop excitement here. Keath slept in a bit, walked to the office, convinced the security guard he was allowed in the building, worked a bit, and then headed out to the only Post Office in San Francisco opened past 3:00 so that he could mail a kind donation to his mother in law who is setting out on a 300 mile bike ride to raise money for a scholarship fund at Kearsarge Regional High School in memory of Stuart F. Sidmore, Jr. a former teacher at the high school who passed away of cancer in 1996. (How's that for a single sentence?!) You may have heard of it - it's called the Tour de Stu.

Anyway, when Keath gets to the block which contains this supposed Post Office, he can find nothing. There's a building with an American flag on it; it's a gap and the address is about 100 lots too high. Head back the other way and there's a grocery abot 30 lots too low. What's this in between? This scaffolding and construction permit clad framework? Oh, that'd be the Post Office gutted for renovations. Garrrrrrrr.

Back at the ranch, James (the fella from New Zealand) and I tried to explain to Sasha and Mia (the couple from Slovenia) what Forrest Gump is about. We failed, but everyone watched it anyway. Actually, we might have watched it on Friday night, but Keath failed to take notes on these exciting goings on. Sorry.

What definately happened on Saturday night was that a man named Troy, who works for the hostel, intimated that there might just be pancakes for everyone in the morning. Mmmmmm...... pancakes.

Meanwhile . . .

Saturday, September 3, 2005Busteni, Romania
Miles: 17885!!!

It has come to our attention that the sheer volume of stuff that must be said about Ceridwen's trip to Romania is far too great to undertake in this forum. It has held up quite a bit of . . . uh . . . blogging, we suppose. So we will be brief and get a move on. There are many photos posted and more to come. We hope to catch up soon. Gets a readin', you!

Oh, the quality of the Romania photos? That's a combination of the plan not to take the good digital camera to eastern Europe and the poor quality of Wal*Mart's film to digital developing process. The film spending four months in a warm van and Ceridwen dropping the camera half way through might have had something to do with it, but probably not.

In short . . . Schedule: "Meet with Romanian writers and artists in Romanian Museum of Literature studio. Welcoming speech and a series of reading of Romanian contemporary writings. In the afternoon, travel to the accommodation in Sinaia at the residency of writers. In the evening: readings from the work of participants."

Reality: Well, Ceridwen and the group toured Sinaia. They saw some sights, bought some stuff, and returned to Busteni.

Day 100

Friday, September 2, 2005San Francisco
Miles: 11437100 Days of Homelessness!!!

So here's the plan. Keath is going to document San Francisco goings on (not very exciting) but not publish anything beyond September 2 until Ceridwen returns to document Romanian goings on. They will surely be more interesting! Note how Keath even manages to keep up the third person narrator - pretty cool, huh?

Many of you are probably going "So, uh, why is Ceridwen in eastern Europe?" The answer to that is quite easy, actually: she was selected for the 2005 Writers Cultural Exchange Program, run by the Alviogut Foundation. "The program is meant to promote Romania's past and present culture, to bring together writers from around the world, to develop a more sophisticated perspective about cultures, people and borders." Keath wanted to go with her, but tickets to Romania don't exactly grow on trees, my friends. So he holed up in a San Fran hostel while Ceridwen jet setted. Jet sat? You get the point. You can read more about the program here and about this year's specifics here.

So what is Keath doing in San Francisco? Well, today, at about 3:30 AM Pacific Time, Ceridwen landed in Bucharest and managed to find a phone to call Keath from. He was very confused, but wished her well in finding Florin and getting about town. A few hours later Keath rolled out of bed, learned that there's a window that doesn't close all the way in the hostel's shower (this is a breeze issue, not a privacy issue), and set off to the office. The day passed fairly quickly, and then back to the hostel it was.

The actually interesting part of Keath's San Franciscan goings on are all the other people in the hostel. There weren't too many people about on Thursday night, but on Friday there were plenty of people (trying to find something to watch on the 871 digital television channels). There's a couple whom he thought were from France but turned out to be Slovinian. (Keath is apparently really bad with languages. Another guy, from New Zealand, officially gave Ceridwen permission to complain about a 13 hour flight; in his official world traveller handbook, it is said that anything over 8 hours is obscene. (California to New Zealand is 16 hours with no stops)

In between idle chit chat, Keath finished uploading the photos which were still on the camera. And that's about it.

Like I said, Ceridwen's updates are sure to be more interesting...

Friday, September 2, 2005Bucharest, Romania
Miles: 17885Homeless and Airborne

When I picture German airports, I picture three things; cleanliness, glass and shiny metal. The Frankfurt airport is more like the forgotten strip mall in your hometown that someone has decided to land some planes near. Odd. This was also my first introduction to European boarding. Though there are still zone assignments on your boarding card, the boarding process pretty much amounts to a free for all. Which worked just as well as the zones assigning, aisle calling and other machinations that Americans engage in. Which makes me wonder; why do we bother? Everyone found their seat and we left on time. Wahoo.

By the time we arrived in Bucharest, I was freakin’ exhausted. I had been up for some ungodly number of hours, thanks to my non-reclining seat and the fact that until somewhere over Greenland it was too early for bed, and now I was shaking and not making a lot of sense. The first thing I saw when I stepped off the plane was a smoking security guard. It seemed very foreign. Before I left Romanian customs (some guy nodding at you as you wandered through) I took a few minutes to freshen up so I didn’t outright offend the people meeting me.

When I exited customs, I was spit out into a big sea of people, most of them carrying signs that said things in Romanian. I was looking for one that said Artfest. But no luck. Hmmm. I took another stroll by, thinking I must have missed it. But again, no luck. Harrumph. I squeezed around a young couple who were so happy to see each other that they were practically having sex right in the airport and found a payphone so I could call Keath and let him know I was safe and sound. In the hundred yards or so to the phone, I was asked if I wanted a cab about ten times. I said no each time, but was starting to wonder if perhaps I did need one. To get where, I wasn’t sure.

A call to Keath later and I was still no closer to finding my program. Eek. More people asked me if I wanted a cab, including one guy who was really persistent. He asked if I wanted a cab now, then if I would want one later. When I said no, he said that when I changed my mind, he would be there for me. How sweet. I bit my tongue and didn’t shout that the next person who offered me a cab was going to get kicked in the jimmy. I get cranky when I’m tired.

Not knowing what else to do, I leaned against a wall that had a good view of all the signage. This turned out to be my saving grace. A security guard came to yell at me, and I said, “What’s that?” forcing her to speak in English. I then responded in English and the exchange caught the ear of Katherine, the assistant for the program. She approached me, asked if I was American and a writer and then showed me the itty bitty sign she was carrying that said Alviogut. Not Artfest, but I wasn’t going to complain now that I had someone to tell me what to do. Katherine was a participant last year and now works for the Foundation, so she speaks English, which is a big bonus. She’s also quite pretty and looks a lot like Tara Reid. She thought I was a student, which is understandable given that I travel in sweatpants and pigtails and carry a big rucksack instead of a more adult looking rolling bag. While we waited for the other writers to arrive, I suggested that she change her sign to read “Artfest” to avoid confusing others.

Once all the writers had arrived, we piled into the minibus and started our two hour ride to Bustini. According to the online itinerary, we were supposed to spend the first two nights in Bucharest, but apparently that had changed and we would instead be spending the whole week in a rented villa in the mountains. The minibus was packed with us and our stuff, but in Sinaii we made a stop and picked up Eric, a writer who had been hanging out in Romania for the past 12 days. Since there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit, Florin had to stand for the rest of the trip, which was luckily only a few more miles.

Katherine had told me while we waited for other people’s flights to arrive that picking rooms in the villa might be akin to a reality show. None of the rooms had been assigned, nor were they all equal. There were two or three singles and the rest were doubles. A few of the rooms had their own bathrooms, which was the key for me. As luck would have it, the roommate gods had smiled on me once again. (For those of you unfamiliar with this idea, basically, I thankfully wound up rooming with my kickass freshman roommate, Laura, and we became instant friends. This luck of the draw was referred to by my mother as the roommate gods.) As we rode along, Michelle, the woman sitting next to me, and I quickly bonded. I told her about the room scramble ahead and we decided to just room together, rather than try to fight it out for the singles. When we arrived in Bustini, we snagged a double with a bathroom and settled in.

Everyone was exhausted from either long plane flights or, for those who had arrived a few days earlier, from riding around Bucharest all day in the minibus while they waited for the rest of us. We went down to the village for our first Romanian meal. I was surprised to see how many people were hanging out in the square. Techno music blasted from huge speakers and teenagers on bikes ran around speaking rapidly and dramatically to each other. Rancid, Nirvana and Metallica were only three of the American bands represented on their t-shirts. Apparently, teenagers are the same everywhere. Florin, the program director, was very sweet and helpful in getting me food I could eat (vegetarianism isn’t huge in Romania) and everyone but me had some wine. I was still shaking and starting to feel like hallucinations were imminent, so I decided to forgo any imbibing. After dinner, about half of us went back to the villa and the rest stayed on to get to know each other. They apparently stayed up and talked right outside our room until about 1 am, but since I wear ear plugs, I didn’t notice. What I did notice was the dogs barking right outside our window. I fell asleep with the personalities of the 13 other writers swirling around in my head.

Day 99

Thursday, September 1, 2005San Francisco, CA
Miles: 11437I Left My Heart in SFO

Keath worked half his day in the morning before Ceridwen got up. We finished packing, tidied up the van a bit, threw out things that would smell bad a week later, and head out to SFO. It took us a while to find the parking lot that had the good deal, but after three time around (maybe four or five) we found it. Since San Francisco International is right on 101, instead of a loop road they have a system of terrifyingly interwoven exit and entrance ramps that don't all link up with one another. We ended up heading up the highway a couple of exits to turn around and approach from a distance. Apparently our hotel was too close to the airport to allow us to actually get to the parking lot. Never did we think Newark would seem like a brilliant design, but right now even Logan looks brilliant. And they reroute the roads while you're inside.

Once inside the airport, things were a little better organized. Lufthansa's San Francisco staff are far more capable than any domestic airline's crew. They weren't able to fix the fact that Expedia lied to us about when to ask for a vegetarian meal (Call the airline more than 24 hours before your flight; not within 24 hours of your flight!) but they made sure that Ceridwen was all booked in through her connection in Germany. They were also very friendly when she failed the "will your bag fit in this box, ma'am?" test. We did a test poke while in line and were certain that it would, but it seems that we underestimated the squishability of the her belongings. Fortunately, she packed a smaller bag with the essentials she would need on her person in case she become separated from her backpack. And Lufthansa only allows one carry on anyway - no "personal items" - so she'd have to check something anyway.

Ceridwen has been having a hankering for bagels since before the North Bend Round Artisan Bread Debacle, so we set off to find some. Surely a big city airport would be able to suit her needs, plus she could stash some extras for the flight. After a brief but unfulfilling search, a nice old man at the info booth informed us that there are no bagel shops in the international terminal, though he could not say for certain if there would be any after security. We had ourselves some delicious penne with cream sauce instead and Ceridwen took some extra cash for post-security opportunities.

Then it was time for the big, sad goodbyes. We hugged and kissed a bunch and didn't want to part ways, but it would be a very silly reason to miss an international flight, so eventually Ceridwen had to get in line to go through security. Keath hung out at the barricade with a half dozen other guys trying to keep an eye on their loved ones as they passed through the corral to security. Kisses aplenty were blown. And then Ceridwen's head popped up one last time when she waved back to Keath before passing through the metal detector in to lands unknown to non-travellers.

Keath was sad. He briefly tried to bury his frustrations in collecting all the abandoned carts and turn them in for some extra laundry money, but, just like Terminal, an airport staff member thwarted his plan. With nothing else to distract him, he headed out to the BART terminal to get in to town to find his hostel.

As luck would have it, Ceridwen was boarding just as Keath approached the hostel and she called to say goodbye just as the front desk clerk was letting him in. So after a very confused and chaotic goodbye, Ceridwen got on her plane and Keath got checked in to the European Guest House. After checking in, Keath set off to his company's San Francisco office to pick up a key and work the second half of his day. He spent much time checking in on the flight status of Ceridwen's flight, but learned little more than the fact that it was running about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. (Which will hopefully be a relief to his father, who was worried that a 45 minute layover in Frankfurt was cutting it too close.)

Keath finished up his day and then headed out on the lonesome walk home (back to the hostel). After doing some blog updating, checking on Ceridwen's flight a few dozen times, and meeting some other folks staying at the hostel, he turned in for the night. Meanwhile, at 30,000 feet, Ceridwen was unable to get much sleep at all.

Thursday, September 1, 2005Bucharest, Romania
Miles: 17885...

After my one last goodbye wave to Keath, I headed on through the metal detector. I didn’t set it off, so I grabbed my hoodie and my shoes and made a beeline for the nearest secluded spot to put myself back together. Oh, crap! My backpack! I ran back through the end of security and grabbed my bag just as it rolled out of the x-ray machine. Yeesh. Think I travel alone much?

An hour or so later, I boarded my flight to Frankfurt. It was uneventful, which is really the best thing for a flight to be. I had some pasta, which, luckily, was vegetarian since we’d had some problems getting me a vegetarian meal for the flight across. I read a lot, I tried to sleep and I watched Fever Pitch, which made me oddly homesick, considering I’m not from Boston, but I do know plenty of people who are positively rabid about the Red Sox. It was a good movie, even though it didn’t help me sleep. I was in one of the seats that didn’t recline, which meant I spent the flight sitting completely upright with the seat in front of me about 4 inches from my face. Ugh.

Somewhere over the Atlantic, it became Friday.