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I have been back in town for just under a month. Somewhat coincidently, it’s also been a month since I’ve posted anything. This primarily has to do with the total lack of anything positive to say about being back in town, and not even I can sustain an interest in my angsty griping.

I was mildly prepared for something of the culture shock that would happen when I came home, but the harsh economic realities of having no income for 4 months, emotionally bewildering social interactions and frigid temperatures really knocked me on my ass. Despite a baller roommate, who helps alleviate the sadness about having to give up my beloved St. Paul apartment, this has been a tough reintroduction to responsible adulthood.

It’s gotten to the point where nothing bums me out more than the question “How was your trip?”. The answer is “Great! Let’s stop talking about it immediately so I can continue to enjoy the happy memories, and stop comparing my life today to my life a month ago.”

Why get so offended at such a friendly, companionable question? Well, I’ll tell you. Over the years, I have had cultivate a Dr. Jackyll/Mr. Hyde style internal division for my life. Dr. Traveller and Ms. Accountable Adult, if you will. These two sides of my personality are almost irreconcilable, and are practically unrecognizeable to each other.

Accountable Adult’s job is to be just that: accountable. And she does so with just about everyone. Friends, family, bosses. She does the things that Dr. Traveller can’t be bothered with, like earning an income and getting glasses. These are things that someone needs to get done, in order to function on a very basic level. In contrast to this, Dr. Traveller is kind of a selfish jerkwad, but is 1,000% more interesting. AA not only has a job, but gets there on time, and will pick up shifts to help out. She’ll make reasonable plans with her friends, balances checkbooks, makes to do lists and sleeps terribly. Ugh, it’s literally the worst.

Dr. T, on the other hand, does supremely cool stuff like not talk to anyone she knows, sleeps soundly and gets misspelled foot tattoos.

Since everything AA does is so someone else, her alter ego can enjoy the fruits of her labor, she is always just tinsy bit cranky at everything. That might be the insomnia talking.  It adds to the misery when all everyone wants to do is talk about the other Corinna, the more interesting version. (Truthfully, can you blame them?) Not only does traveling Corinna get to have all the fun, and relaxed personality qualities, but she can’t even be the one to tell people about it?!

And just like in the story, someday I hope to con some lawyer friend into settling my affairs, while disappearing into my more fickle and anti-social personality type that sleeps well.

I am starting my tedious journey home today, along Interstate 80. The straight highway driving that should have been a cake walk was made more difficult by high winds and blowing snow. I decided to spend the night in Laramie, WY.

Since I didn’t even have cows to keep me company on this drive, I had to talk to myself. With some prompts from NPR and This American Life, I got to thinking about Adventure. The episode ends with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Adventure is all very well in its place, but there is something to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain. (Stardust)

The main consensus in most adventure stories is that the protagonist undergoes some sort of trial, and is usually uncomfortable. With my almost ravenous consumption of adventure stories in fiction, coupled with my well known desire to be the long-suffering heroine of my own story,it’s not usual to find me narrating some mundane task like laundry into a grandiose plot point, even before I left home. But when it comes time to actually get down to it, I’m not living in an adventure story. I spent a few uncomfortable nights on a soaking wet mattress, and have had to deal with some chilly walks to pit toilets, but all in all, I’ve been pretty comfy cozy, what with continuous access to a propane stove, grocery stores and a place to sleep. [I will say though that I did use the snow that would melt in the morning sun dripping onto my face as an alarm clock.  That could be considered as part of an adventure.]

My relative comfort and the total lack of a macguffin makes for some rather uncompelling narration. My adventure story is not so much Stardust as it is Thor 2, in that the plot is more than a little forced.

Not to be deterred in my delusion of grandeur, I have found a way that my trip can be considered an adventure. All I have to do is learn something, like Frodo, Link, Harriet the Spy and so many other of my fictional predecessors.

Learning lessons is hard for me, as I have a complete refusal to participate the culture expectation that I will come to some sort of  resplendent epiphany in my post-collegiate travels.  But it’s the small revelations that are often the most surprising and the most interesting. Before we get started, I would just like to remind everyone that I have killed and eaten my own dinner. Not that is a lesson exactly, but it does add a certain adventure style badassery.

So what lessons have I learned?  Well, I’ve gained confidence in my irrational and inscrutable refusal to eat soy. Even going to far as to ask wait staff if they wouldn’t mind asking the cooks to not put it in veggie pad thai and I found my spirit animal, the intelligent yet capricious goat.

I learned how much a shower is worth to me. More than the emotional value of being able to be warm and clean, there is a concrete dollar value associated with access to a shower. And it’s a lot.

You can be very functional with mittens. Not only can I type with mittens on, I can undo padlocks, tie my shoes, and even cook. You just have to want it bad enough. Oh, and seriously, don’t leave your shoes outside. They’ll either get slugs in them or snow. And that is the pits.

Hiking is really just walking. Except sometimes you end up above the clouds.

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I mean, when you’ve walked up a mountain, it’s pretty easy to pretend to yourself you’re on an adventure, even if your mom’s Audi is only a mile away. Best just to enjoy the feeling of feeling like you’re going somewhere.

Oh, and if anyone else is looking to pretend to themselves that they are on an adventure, bison make a good stand in for mythical beasts.

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First off, I would like to apologize for my comment in Part 1 of this post where I referred to year end recaps as a “cop out”. That is not true. Writing this post has been some of the most draining and irritating writing I’ve done. That being said, I’m half way done, so I might was well keep going.

November

IMG_1484November was the month that I got down to business. I got to 3 different farms, as well as began to explore the National Parks in earnest. I spent the last part of October traveling southward to Coarsegold, California to visit an organic olive oil farm. I spent 15 days on that farm, picking olives from dawn to mid afternoon. It was interesting to compare the differences between Skipley Farm that tried to cultivate a one-stop-shop farm that provided all the staples a person may need, to Blue Bird Trail Oil Farm that focused on one specialty product. I have nothing but fond memories of the olive farm.  I enjoyed getting to know my host and her daughters.

Bluebird was a lot more in keeping with what I thought I would be doing. I had a work schedule that consisted of hours of manual labor. I also got a lot stronger of an idea of what it would take to make a specialty product farm run, which is essentially relying on free labor and a day job that offers you a certain amount of flexibility.

IMG_1357I did end up getting a pretty smug sense as WWOOFer after WWOOFer bailed from the farm. I can’t really see what was so bad about the whole thing. Sure, repetitive, but gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery. It was at Bluebird that I first began to suspect what probably many people already knew: Farming is essentially just doing the same boring thing over and over again, and I find that I get an odd sense of accomplishment looking at a bin full of olives that I spent weeks picking.

It was at BlueBird that I ended up beginning to get to explore the National Parks system in earnest. Previously, I had just been passing through, arriving as dusk and leaving before the afternoon the next day. Since Coarsegold is so close to Yosemite I spent several days there, crawling around on rocks and touching trees, and more or less refusing to have a spiritual experience. I keep trying to come up with a more significant weight to the outdoors, but every time I try, I end up getting bored with myself before anything really locks into place.

It’s just nice to be out in the fresh air and bask in your own smallness. Plus it never hurts to be reminded that, when left to its own devices, nature accomplishes some pretty neat things.

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Leaving Bluebird, I got to visit with a professional beekeeper, and from that experience I learned I don’t have it in me to beekeep commercially. That was something I always suspected about myself, but it was good to have that confirmed. The things it takes to successfully make money through a pure beekeeping venture are not things I want to do, and I am ok with that at this point.

IMG_1700From the olives, I went to Arizona to spend time on a cattle ranch. This was my first time working extensively with another WWOOFer, and I was back to learning about what it takes to run a farm, and it’s not always farming. It’s a lot of maintaining a property. Grass fed cattle requires so much land and there is just a lot of work that goes into it. I learned a lot about property lines, grazing paths and water rights. I love cows, and after my experience at the Gold Bar Ranch, I am left wondering at the price of beef. It is really remarkable that it is as cheap as it is.

Oh yeah, Gold Bar is also the place where I scratched the sh*t out of my mom’s car, and has filled me shame and anxiety ever since.

IMG_1763It’s about this time that Theresa and I settled on a date for her to meet me in Las Vegas, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon Quail Hollow, a large CSA that operates out of Overton, NV. Quail Hollow was by far my favorite experience. Not only did I have two other WWOOFers to get to know, there were goats and chickens and bunnies. There was a schedule to follow, and actual work to be done. The farm was run by earnest, hard working Mormons who know how to buckle down, and by George, get things done. I think Quail Hollow is where I finally did decide that this type of work is for me, at least on some level. The Mormons are astute business people, and know how to exploit their market. It was in them that I found what I was looking for, people who knew a little bit about farming, knew a little bit about business, and learned the rest as they went. Talking with them made me feel like there isn’t anything special I need to know, I just need to focus, be willing to work hard, and be willing to do the same thing day in and day out. Even when you are in a foot of mud and dealing with princess goats.

Theresa arrived in the last little bit of November, and after a bit of detour (2,000 miles) for Thanksgiving, she and I made a serious effort for not doing anything.

DECEMBER

December is a month that is better told in pictures and videos. We drove down the California coast, over the Golden Gate Bridge, skirting L.A. to go to Joshua Tree, unexpected sand dunes, the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion. I am not sure if I learned anything too particularly shocking during this last month. Two big things that come to mind. The first is that Utah is one of the better places I have ever been to. The second is that most of our friends and family seem to think that our social skills are so poor that we couldn’t stand each other’s company for very long. (“No, really, you got sick of each other right?”)

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This December has been one of the best one record, and it’s not because it was so easy to forget about Christmas. It was pretty self-indulgent and thoroughly awesome, and an excellent way for shut-ins to spend some quality time together.

After looping back to Las Vegas to send Theresa home, I made my way to Salt Lake City, where I’ve come to collect my thoughts before finally ending my journey. As of today, I have put nearly 11,000 miles on my mom’s car, and will put another 1,000 on it before I am done.

I’m sure it’s at this point that I should have some sort of thesis statement about my trip and what it’s taught me, with supporting examples from the text. But I don’t. My life doesn’t really rest well into discrete parcels that way. And while this may be the start of new chapter in my life when I get home, my life isn’t changed. This was not life changing, because well, life isn’t just one thing and then another. Just like with farming, everything is connected and everything is so much more complicated than all of that.

And just like when I try to disect the National Parks, trying to explain the trip leaves me bored. Sometimes it’s nice just to let something exist as whole.

Man, I was doing pretty awesome there with all the regular blog posting, huh? Well that basically came to a crashing halt once I left Theresa in Las Vegas a few days ago. This is not our typical work style. Normally if the two of us are together, we dissolve into a blanketed mass that giggles uncontrollably at our own jokes, then rewarding ourselves for those jokes with salt water taffy. So you can imagine my surprise at discovering I haven’t actually been super productive since I got to Salt Lake City.

I am going to blame some sort of combination of drinking for the holiday, access to cable Nature Programs and pollution death cloud that settles over the city every winter. All in all, I’ve just been feeling very lazy, and have been doing a lot of reflecting. Which is I guess what people do when they are unemployed and have cable TV.

With both the year and my trip on their last legs, and every internet media outlet copping out in this last week of December with “Year in Review” articles, I thought I would take a webpage out of their book, and do a Walkabout Photo Redux for you. Before we get started, I do solemnly promise, to you, my most dedicated readers [Mom], that I am in fact working on pulling together an outline for the long form article I set out to write, as well as giving some thought to my next steps career-wise.

But let’s recap.

APRIL

dramatic re-enactment

dramatic re-enactment of what most of my spring was like

A visit to Chicago with my mom to do some intensive career aptitude testing leaves me on the brink of emotional and mental collapse. Returning home to find my car illegally towed, a grad school application that was mishandled, as well as a crash course in the more unfortunate aspects of running family business send me over the deep end. I spent several days crying, then quit my job, and after listening to “Measure the Globe” by Astronautalis on loop an embarrassing number of times, I decided I need to do something else with my life.

[I think it’s probably worth noting that in this photo shoot, which has the barista at the downtown SLC Starbucks wondering about me, I am again, listening to Astronautalis.]

JULY

I got my trailer in July, and I quite love it.  My dad’s anxiety level about the trip is skyrocketing, as I find mine dropping. I am not a nervous traveller, because I usually have a pretty detailed Plan and no one to upset if I need to deviate from the plan. Plans are like security blankets and I am coming to the point where I can just cuddle with one, and not have to really pretend to myself that they’ll keep any monsters away.

Business at Turkey Hill is starting to pick up, and I start to feel guilty about saddling my dad with a lot [all] of the work. I also am overtaken with a sense of indignation that I should feel guilty and overcompensate with pure selfish-ness that is probably only acceptable in young people. I was coming off a long period of not knowing what to do with myself. There is a certain kind of emotional gymnastics that accompany self doubt that I just don’t have the flexibility for. It’s exhausting not being able to trust yourself, and the amount of introspection that comes with over analyzing every decision is not something I can muster for very long.

Me, being awesome.

Me, being awesome.

If I am being honest, I felt broken and exhausted, and buying the trailer put an end to that. The trailer was the only thing that I didn’t have an anxiety about. Having the trailer in my possession made me feel confident again, and that I was in my own estimation, awesome. The only other decisions I can compare it to is the one to get my first tattoo. I did it because I could and I wanted to. The tattoo and the trailer are symbols of my often ignored impulsiveness and came at the end of long periods of not trusting my better judgement.

SEPTEMBER

Much of the early part of September was spent pretending to everyone that I had more of a plan than I did. While I was pretty ok with the total lack of firm plans for the first farm visit, most people I talked to really weren’t. This was a great exercise for anyone who wants to be a writer, I think. When people would ask me what I was doing, how I was doing it, or for god sake’s WHY, I had to find a way to turn an ambivalent shrug into a satisfactory answer that was good enough to prevent more in-depth questions. It’s an art, really, trying to turn something that is profoundly selfish into something that other people can relate to.

I left my parent’s house September 19th, with some hard farewells from the dudes in my life.

My dad shows his love the best way he knows how. Checking to make sure I hitched the trailer right.

My dad shows his love and relieves some of his own anxiety by checking to make sure I hitched the trailer right, for probably the 30th time. Not pictured: him checking the tires, oil, and probably lowjacking the car.

IMG_0963[1]Max is also ready for me to leave. He is just not sure why he doesn’t get to come along

I spent the next few days heading westward, making stops in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Glacier National Park, getting introduced in the RV life. Trailer life involves mostly discussing your rig with retired folks, and explaining that I can stay warm enough in that thing, and working very hard at finding a way to back into a camp site without anyone watching.

I also am starting to learn the ins and outs the blogging world, and have to come to the ego-killing realizations that the posts that get the most engagement are not ones that I write, but ones just have pictures from National Parks. So kudos, US Department of the Interior, you win.

After some quality time with my cuz in Spokane, I make my way out to Western Washington to spend 3 weeks on Skipley Farm.

OCTOBER

IMG_1234I spent three weeks on Skipley Farm, and it was my first WWOOF experience. It was not what I was expecting. I was impressed with the welcoming and helpful attitude that the men on the farm demonstrated, but it was hard to find my place. I was expecting an sort of up at dawn, work til sunset kind of way. But I quickly learned Skipley boys set their own pace.

The farm was beautiful, and very focused on perennial agriculture. I learned a lot about plant biology, and progressive farming ideas. Skipley Farm is out to improve the world, and their idealism and passion is admirable. Their style of farming is all ideals and academics, and I found it hard to get practical questions answered. They knew the what and the why, but had a harder time with the how.  It was not hard to leave Skipley Farm, emotionally at any rate. The disorganized nature of the farm made it very hard to actually get in the car and go. I was antsy to get going and make a visit to Seattle and to see my family.

I am also starting to concede that selfies can be useful, especially when taunting your work-mom.

I am also starting to concede that selfies can be useful, especially when taunting your work-mom.

In Seattle, I felt some pretty impressive love and support from my friend who flew out to spend an afternoon with me, showing me her favorite spots. Being downtown in a major city was definitely a reminder of all the travel experiences I had before, and am fairly good at. It reminded me of the type of travel I had enjoyed previously, and with the time spent in Pike’s Place market made me feel like there is a way to reconcile two important parts of my life: playing outside, and being in cities. Plus, getting to share that experience with Erin reminded me that I have some pretty badass people in my life.

IMG_1322I rounded out my October with some time spent with my remaining cousins in Portland. I got to hand it to my family for being a pretty accomplished and supportive bunch. That’s a pretty great thing to have in a family. Because while they make you tear out cabinets when you come to visit, damn if they don’t get sh*t done.

As a child I was very fond of the WB cartoon the Batman/Superman Adventures that aired after school. For those of you who are not in my particular age group, the show alternated between episodes featuring the two titular characters. I remember very vividly on one of the Superman episodes, Clark Kent returns to his home town of Smallville. and we are introduced to his parents. The running gag throughout the episode was that the Kent parents were small town rubes, with very little going on in their lives, so much so that they would comment endlessly about what was growing in their neighbor’s fields.

Well, here it is, some 15 years later, and I have become Superman’s parents. Driving over miles and miles of states’ nearly abandoned rural routes, I find that often the only words that pass between me and Theresa are quips that point out what’s growing, or some mild discussion of whether that is some variety of kale or maybe swiss chard.

Am I as boring as Superman’s parents? Will city children be taught to think I am tedious and boring? Well, if I am so be it. I thought it was pretty damn cool to see cotton growing for the first time.

So, sure some people might think that its boring, but wait until they see the 800 pastures with SHEEP grazing. Now, that will get them excited.  Read More

I decided the spend 2 nights in Morro Bay. I say “I”, because Mama TT usually panics when I ask her if she has an opinion. She usually doesn’t, but being put on the spot makes her nervous. Making all the decisions when I am alone is fantastic, but when I am with another person, it makes me feel like I am wearing my bossy pants. I am actually totally fine being the boss of people, when I am, in fact, the boss of people, like when, for example, I am getting paid to tell them what to do.

But when I am not being paid to run the show being the boss makes me feel weird. I think this is because I do have a natural tendency towards a massive superiority complex, and always think people should just listen to me. I have spent years trying to get that particular personality flaw under control, to varying degrees of success, depending on how much of a stake I have in someone not being a jackass.

Having Theresa with me is a good exercise in learning to trust people to voice their opinions, if and when they have them. As far as she has said, Theresa has little to no opinion, and has to this point, been perfectly content to come along for the ride. That in and of itself, is a hard thing for me comprehend. I am an opinated, neurotic control freak with the aforementioned superiority complex (but not in a sad way), and “along for the ride” is not how I operate. But I believe firmly in treating others the way I want to be treated, and since I hate being told what to do, I work very hard to be a reasonable, accommodating human being when forced to interact with others. I try not to care about things just to care about things, and instead temper my investment in other people’s affairs, so as not to be completely insufferable (not to mention exhausted). When others, like Theresa, are just like that naturally, and can go with the flow, I think the universe must be playing a trick on me. Surely no one is that chillaxed! But I would have to be a super big jerk face to insist someone has feelings that they don’t profess to have, so I just keep on wearing my bossy pants.

So, the decision to stay in Morro Bay was made. It had something to do with my mental and emotional exhaustion at driving down Highway 1, and my need to work out the melon sized stress ball that had settled in my torso. And the view from Morro Dunes RV park as well as the lethargic pace of the off-season tourist town, with its great salt water taffy and sea lions barking, seemed perfect for that.

Morro Rock, in Morro Bay, from our camp site

Morro Rock, in Morro Bay, from our camp site

But more than the exotic wildlife and candy, there were heated bathrooms, with clean showers like 20 steps from the trailer. And a nice laundry facility. Not to mention, a wi-fi connection that reached the trailer strongly enough to watch Netflix in the evening. To be honest, I was tempted to stay there until we died.