adventure, Android Jones, art, art festival, Backpacker, Backpacking, blackrock, blackrock city, BM2015, BRC2015, Burner, burning man, burning man 2015, carnival of mirrors, conclave, death guild, Deathguild, deathguild thunderdome, dust storm, El pulpo Mecanico, Festival, Fire, Fire Arts, flaming lotus girls, mayor monday, photography, Ranger, reddit, reddit meet up, Road trip, serpent mother, Thunderdome, Travel, traveling, white out
My last few days in Boulder were spent gathering supplies for the biggest venture of the trip; the Blackrock desert and the city that buds within!
Burning Man 2015 was on the horizon. The desert happening has brought so much change, so many people, so many events and learning into my life just through its influence, yet I never experienced it myself, I’ve never journey out there. Until now.
The drive from Boulder was significant, (considering we had just driven from New Jersey to Denver it wasn’t THAT long) but still something to contend with. 18 hours of more cornfields and emptiness, although come Utah, the landscape finally started to change.
Finally we arrived, and by arrived I mean we made the last turn out of civilization. No more stores/gas/stops outside of a tiny little town a ways away. We got maybe five minutes down the road before we hit the back of the line. I’ve heard stories about the gates taking upwards of six hours, so I pretty much knew we would be greeted with brake lights.
The combination of a car accident, gate pulsing, and 70,000 people trying to get into the same place at once left us on the road for most the day. We made the best of it, all part of the overall experience, right? The crowded cars soon expelled their humans and the roadside pre-parties started popping up. Every time the caravan started moving the crowd would scurry away toward their cars, only to reemerge a few minutes up the road.
TWELVE hours later….
Exhausted, disgruntled, and hungry, we dropped out things in the sand and dust, and set up camp in the darkness. As much as we wanted to explore, the bed was much more inviting. After my years of local burns I’ve learned that pacing is absolutely key. Don’t burn yourself out on day 1, because you’ve got way more to do! And so, we face planted into our mattresses and passed out.
Now, before I get into this, let me preface by saying this:
One of the greatest challenges I faced after returning from Peru was trying to find the words to fully encompass everything I had experienced, especially to my eager friends/family who wanted to hear every detail. My ayahuasca ceremonies just felt lacking when I tried to attached words to them, so empty for such a powerful and life changing experience. I tried to put things down on this blog, I really tried, but I still did them no justice. Here I find myself again trying to find the words to describe Burning Man.
So instead of forcing my numerous experiences into hollow casings, I’ve decided to just let my pictures tell the tale. I’ll review some highlights, but I’ll leave this entry mostly to the pictures.
Unfortunately, my camera took a serious dive and the focus/lens never recovered (and my phone ended up breaking on the drive in! Lesson in being present much?!? ) Please excuse my blurry photos, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.
The Temple of Promise
The temple is always one of my favorite places at the local burns, but finally seeing the grand scale of The Temple of Promise was like a tragic dream come true. The Temple warps in shape every year, and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the respect for the structure seems to be universal. Nestled away from the high energy radiating through the rest of the desert, the Temple is where one goes to let go, to mourn, to grieve, to pray, to reflect, to forgive, to express whatever it is they need to express (before it all goes up in flames on the final night).
The walls may be made out of wood, but the structure itself is infused with so much raw emotion that it’s a challenge to step inside and remain untouched. I made it a few steps passed the threshold before my eyes started to well up with tears. The stillness is the first thing I noticed. In a work of art filled to the brim with people, only silence and the occasional whimper, cry, or whisper filled the air. Along the walls, writing utensils hung freely for those who had something to add to the walls. Messages were written, pictures of loved ones hung, whatever it was you wanted to express, the Temple is the place to do it.
With tears streaming down her face, I watched from afar as an older woman wrote a message to her mother who had passed away recently, finally saying the things she never got to say in life. Behind me was a scathing message written by a woman to the man who had brutally raped her in the past. On the bench next to me, a man sat in quiet meditation, holding a picture of a young child. Stories of love, hate, encouragement, loss, sadness…I could go on. Everywhere. Every story, every makeshift shrine was different, but each one was laced with powerful emotion.
I wrote my own message, a personal something to myself, and I silently cried my damn eyes out…
-Write in the Temple of Promise
Wednesday some dear friends arrived at camp. For any long time readers, you may recognize them from one of my very first entries. We unloaded their car, helped em setup and made our way back to the playa.
The DeathGuild’s Thunderdome was my kinda place. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the house music, the burners and all the oneness with the universe and what not, but the Thunderdome stole my heart. Hard rock/industrial, people fighting, girls in revealing black leather and the guys suited up in some badass wasteland armor! When I arrived they were blasting some of my favorite songs by Manson, Rammstein, and Mindless Self Indulgence. MSI on the Playa!?!? I loveeeee my MSI!!!
The goth kid in me came out in full force! I found myself at the top of the Dome, shouting for the combatants to tear each other apart many, many times throughout my week.
Warning – The video has strong language and sexy people in black leather NSFW
I love you Thunderdome!!
Finally see the Thunderdome in person
The Serpent Mother
Created by the Flaming Lotus Girls, this monstrosity of fire and metal has earned its place high on my list of all time favorites. I’ve seen a lot of fire performances and fire art, but this was…this was something else. The serpent writhed back and forth in the sand, lifting her head and opening a mouth lined with flaming daggers. The metal body of the serpent gleamed in the night, illuminated by the the plumes of fire hissing from each one of her segments. Within her coil, the Mother protectively wrapped her flaming tail around a massive copper egg.
I stood within the Serpent’s grasp, surrounded on all sides by the roar and heat of the fire until the crowd was ushered a safe distance away. A safe distance from what? I wasn’t sure, but I was about to find out.
With all the flammable humans at a safe distance away, the egg she so carefully guarded over, bloomed like a lotus. The hatching egg remained quiet, until a hiss louder than anything its Mother had produced up until then, came screaming out of the top of the egg. What burst forth was a plume of fire unlike I’ve ever seen before. One, then two, then three at once. These spires, these spears, these swords of fire tore through the sky, spouting flames of nearly 50 feet. The bright red flames bled into a blinding orange, then to a burning emerald green.
This was something to behold, truly. Words do little justice…
Radical self reliance is high on the list of Burning Man principles. You must bring everything you need to survive, and you must be capable of surviving in the first place. This is definitely not just some music festival (much to the disappointment of some girls I found sobbing in a dust storm, complaining about how terrible everything was and it was nothing like they thought). As fun as it all is, if you’re not prepared, you’re in for a world of trouble. Of course people won’t let you die, but you should do you best to not be a burden for anyone else. Whether it’s food, water, or weather, be prepared. And we had quite a bit of weather…
The white outs are a common occurrence out on the playa. Huge dust storms that blow in and drop visibility to zero in a matter of seconds. I prayed I’d get to experience one, and I think I prayed a little too hard! As my friends said, the intensity and frequency of the white outs was the worst it had been in a handful of years. Structures fell, tents were destroyed, I watched people smash their bikes into one another when their sight had disappeared.
For the first day or two I really tried to keep the dust out of my tent, but by the third day I realized how futile the battle was. Falling asleep and waking up in INCHES of playa dust took some getting used to but, hey, I enjoyed it. How comfortable does one need to be anyway?!
The art, the structures, the builds were all so beautiful to experience. But like all things, nothing is permanent. Everything must burn…
In Conclusion, Burning Man was as incredible as I thought it would be. I got to spend it with some of my favorite people, got to see some of the art I’ve only seen in pictures, and now I’ve got a ton of stories to tell! Like I said, words do little justice, and as much as I did the entire week, I still missed so much more! This is but a glimpse!
But it wasn’t all fun and positivity, unfortunately I’m coming away with a few regrets. Regrets due to a symptom of a larger internal issue. Under the microscope of a the big burn, it’s easy to see such things. Now, to fix it. Things to work on.
Always evolving right?
Regrets aside, this was truly one of the favorite experiences of my life.
Dance on an Art Car -View the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life when the man burned Live in the desert for a week -Finally see El Pulpo Mecanico -Spend time with my Philly friends at BM2015 -Sit in for many BM workshops -See Android Jones’ work in person -Finally make it to Burning man!!!! Burning Man 2015: Carnival Of Mirrors!!
Cheers to the possibility of Burning Man 2016!!
adventure, Alaska, Amazing Race, Backpacker, Backpacking, Cali, California, Cliff diving, Fanastic Race, Getty Museum, graduation, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Race, Party, photography, photos, Retreat, Road trip, SoCal, The Getty, The Getty Center, Travel, traveling, trip, Venice, Venice beach
(Ok, I’m back. Time to finish this story and catch up with the Firsts!)
Before I made it to California, I had another unfortunate run in with the Denver airport. Thankfully however, it wasn’t for another 9 hour layover.
At least I knew the airport by heart and revisited my comfortable corner. During the height of my boredom the first time around, I wrote this note to myself since I knew I would be coming back. I wanted to see if it would still be where I hid it, tucked away behind a phone kiosk, and alas, it was. HA!!!
California, how I missed thee. I hadn’t been to Cali in a few years, but once again, I found myself walking through the familiar lengths of LAX. I had a few weeks to kill, had some plans, had plenty of free time, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get
into, but I trusted myself to cause some laughter inducing mischief.
First on the list and the heart of the trip: my cousin’s graduation.
Attend my cousin’s graduation
Also got to meet my new baby cousin. New boy in the family! Finally!
Highlight #3: The Getty Museum
I’m not one for museums, never have been, I’ve never really found the level of engagement I need to enjoy a museum. With that said, the Getty did house some exhibits that I found interesting and I absolutely loved the garden grounds. The building itself was my favorite part to be honest, it was like a beautiful fortress resting high above the clouds and the world below.
Highlight #4: Clubbing in Hollywood
My sister’s wanted two things for her birthday. Fishbowls and to go out in Hollywood. We accidentally made them pretty strong, but they were still delicious!
Later that night we made our way into Hollywood. Some of my sister’s friends showed up and recommended a spot we decided to check out so we made our way over there. 600 dollars for table service? SIX. HUNDRED. I nearly told the group I’d wait in the car! Mathematically though, considering we had a small group with us, it kind of evened out to a regular cover charge. “This is pretty much what you’re going to run into out here, even if we go to another place” said someone in the group.
Before we walked in, we all huddled together for a quick pep talk. My sister’s friend jumped into the center of the circle like some rabidly enthusiastic football coach “Ok. We just spent a lot of fucking money. So we’re gonna go in there and do this proper! Readyyyy break!”
The venue was actually pretty cool. We were greeted by a fireplace lined outdoor courtyard filled with a large rectangular fountain running through the center of it. This fountain was overflowing with bubbles, while a beautiful young lady was seated on a swing mounted above. She smiled as we walked passed and gave a light kick to the foam, littering the air with glistening bubbles.
We got our table, neat little spot actually. Food, drinks, mixers, fruit. It was honestly a nice spread, and my sister seemed happy so it all worked out. The group wandered the venue and we eventually ended the night on the dance floor.
In rare form, I ended up drinking too much and got myself a pretty potent case of the spins. I guess that’s what I get for accepting shots from the costumed woman sitting on the shoulders of a man on stilts (even if most of it got in my eyes)
Go clubbing in Hollywood Dry Heave until the sun came up
Highlight #5: Venice
I’ve been to Venice beach many times, but every time I’m there the beach is a playground for photos.
Highlight #6: Cliff Diving
Go cliff diving in California
Highlight #7: The Amazing Race
I would highly recommend this one to anyone with a competitive group of friends/family. This was easily one of the best things we ended up doing while in Cali.
The race was a mixture of a scavenger hunt, puzzles, riddles, etc that sent us speeding through the streets of Hollywood. We solved puzzles while weaving through crowds at the Chinese Theater, ran through subway stations to catch trains with moments to spare, wracked our brains at the Disney Orchestra building and burned through the streets of Hollywood while police were yelling at us to slow down.
There was a moment there, when a series of cars exploded in the background, that left me feeling like John McClain in Die Hard 3. (The explosions weren’t part of the Race, they just happened to be filming a commercial in the area, but it was still really friggin awesome).
The creators were rather brilliant in their design. Not only were you playing a game, but the race led you to city hotspots with an intention, rather than just milling around in the tourist crowd. You can also make it as intense or relaxed as you want. We just happen to be rabid competitors so we sprinted most of the way.
Like I said, I would highly recommend. This was simply incredible AND they have races opening in more areas. Check it out!
#1 Cupcake ATM We were dumbfounded. “What? That doesn’t exist” we said. We were wrong.
And they came in neat little boxes too. LA can be a strange place.
Eat a cupcake from the cupcake ATM that really does exist
#2 Dinner and Piano with friends
Have drinks at a piano bar in Hollywood
There’s plenty I’m leaving out, but this entry is already long enough! California was a fantastic as always, and it served as a perfect end to my extensive trip.
Alaska to Canada, Canada to Minnesota. Minnesota to California, California back to Philadelphia. (Start at the beginning here: Things I’ve Never Done:31 Returning to Depart)
Good times, good memories, and some great Firsts!
My companion was at the front desk, signing his lease and other official while I slipped into the stairwell and made my way to the third floor. She was here somewhere, behind one of these doors scattered throughout the long twisting hallways with the 70s carpet.
I was on a stealth mission and as such, I dodged and hid in the doorways when residents made their way in my direction. There must not have been any cameras in the building, or security wasn’t watching, but my venture through the labyrinth that was the apartment complex probably looked shady as all hell.
But alas, I carried on! My job was to find her door, set these two stuffed animals my companion had brought back from Alaska, knock, and run back to the awaiting apartment downstairs before she could see me.
“Mission complete!” I shouted as I bolted into the door of my companion’s new apartment downstairs. I laughed and retold the tale but was hastily interrupted when the door swung open. Enter new character: Caelys.
In she walked, the voice and the words I’ve spoken to for ages in physical form. We came across one another through mutual friends and started up a friendship that has lasted over the years. We’ve talked, we’ve skyped, but this was, however, the first time I was actually seeing her in person. Proper greetings were in order, and so, we hugged. It was lovely.
I crossed mountains, swam rivers, fought ice trolls in the frigid north, and finally turned up on her doorstep victorious! With the three of us united at last, celebration was in order! Drinks all around!
Have a drink with friends in Minnesota
On the way home, we stopped at a few places since the fridge was empty. We got some much needed essentials for the rest of the week and the upcoming house warming party.
There wasn’t much planned now that the drive was over. The goal of this entire trip was to assist my companion during his move to MN; I pulled the final bag from the backseat, and my job was now complete.
I had a week in MN before flying out to my next destination, let’s find something to do.
The Mall of America was one such outing. I remember back in 5th grade, hearing about it for the first time and being absolutely captivated by the thought of it. Here I was, walking through the lengths of the massive building, mentally high fiving the shadow of my younger self.
We also stopped for sushi. Delicious, delicious sushi.
I would recommend. Ask for Rebeka.
Eat Sushi with friends in Minnesota
We ventured on; saw the rides, the mirror maze and other attractions before it dawned on me that this was, essentially, just a mall. A mall that had all of the same stores that any would have, just larger and more of them. Does one really need a floor sized Abercrombie?
Lost in a world of mirrors.
-Visit the Mall of America
The housewarming party was next on the list. Caelys brought her friends and we had ourselves a night of games and hastily created concoctions. I discovered a strange mysticism people have with magnetic stacking balls, and finally took my hand at Cards Against Humanity.
Play Cards Against Humanity
Make new friends in MN
After the festivities, the pace for the remainder of the trip settled into that of a relaxed state. The days were spent doing random activities, or visiting more of the Caelys’ friends…
-Meet MJ. Maria. David. Devon!
…while the nights, I found myself in her apartment watching movies and spending some time together. The driving companion and I had been conjoined at the car for the majority of the trip, so it was nice to get away for a bit.
The days slipped away until my leaving date had arrived. I packed up my bag, gave Caelys a hug goodbye, and walked out to the car. My companion and I were off for our final ride together.
This is where I took a bow, and exited the scene. Through the automatic doors I stepped, and into the crowd of the bustling lobby. That feeling, that excitement tinged with just enough fear to keep you heightened, but not enough to actually stop you from continuing, ah, yes, that feeling of being inside an unfamiliar airport, how I’ve missed thee!
At the start of this entire thing, people thought I was out of my mind for even considering such a trip, and to be honest, I’ve never actually considered going to Alaska or Minnesota. All of these entries, this whole story, all the photos, all the people I met and things I saw, are a product of stepping out of my comfort zone and saying “yes” at the very beginning. I could have said no, quite easily too, and erased the possibility of it all from my personal history. How frightening of a thought, how many other “No”s in my timeline could have ended up being brought into beautiful reality?
I suppose that’s a question for another day, because I say “Yes“, yes to it all, and that makes me smile.
-Meet Caelys – Hug Caelys
Conclude the Alaska to Minnesota trip in its entirety
My plane left within the hour. Onward to California!
We let out a sigh of relief as the border disappeared from sight (with no FBI agents driving black SUVs in hot pursuit).
Enter the United States. Hello again.
North Dakota. How would I describe North Dakota? It was…nice? Flat. Green. Empty. Lots of farms and tiny planes flying everywhere, dusting their fields.
Not much for people, more cows and livestock than anything else. A couple houses here and there, complete with rocking chairs and grain silos.
And lots of bugs
We made good time, though our speed fluctuated as we got used to driving in MPH again.
The trip had been pretty flawless, minus the car breaking down a couple times and the border agents, but with our finish line almost in sight, we were……..SHIT! Almost right on cue with our conversation about DWB, a cop sped passed us coming from the other direction.
We pressed our faces into the rear view mirrors, watching the cop as we held our breath. We were clearly speeding so our only chance was for the cop to just turn a blind eye to it.
“Don’t U-turn! Don’t U-turn!” we chanted, hoping he would disappear under the horizon.
Unfortunately for us, the cop slows down and makes the dreaded turn, lights ablaze. We’re not even in the states for an hour and we get pulled over!
At least the cop was nice about it. And a $35 dollar speeding ticket? That was a welcome surprise. I get parking tickets for more than that!
-Get pulled over in North Dakota -Drive through North Dakota
Back on the road (paying close attention to the speed limit this time). No longer days, HOURS until our final destination.
6 hours remained. Then 4, then 2, then 1.
Drive into Minnesota
The expressway turned to residential roads and our finish line was the apartment complex in the distance. With a final right turn, we pulled into the lot and parked, marking the end to our journey.
The car let out what sounded like a long, deep sigh of relief as we stepped out and took in the surroundings. Victory!!! We did it!
-Drive from Fairbanks, Alaska to St. Paul, Minnesota. Venture through the Yukon, through nature reserves, through numerous Canadian towns and through the plains of North Dakota, with our eventual destination lying in Minnesota.
^Be sure to click this one, look how much earth that is! I’m quite impressed.
The drive was over, but not the trip entirely. No, no, no. Inside that apartment complex was a dear friend of mine, who I’ve known for years but never had the pleasure of actually meeting face to face. Inside she waited, unaware that we had arrived.
The drive was finished, but the week in Minnesota was just beginning.
Let’s go find her…
We packed in the darkness and left Banff while the sun was still nestled behind the mountain in the distance. Today was the push. Today, the Canada chapter was ending.
Onward, once more.
We passed through Calgary, the home of two brothers of the soul from my retreat down in Peru (Previous Entry: The Ayahuasca Retreat). Not one, but two people from my retreat, how exciting! This was the closest in proximity I’ve been to any of them in almost a year, and who knows when the next time would be. My dear citizens of the world, scattered throughout, it makes me smile to know you’re out there, but I do miss those physical shapes of yours. Sadly, as much as I wanted to stop, we pressed on.
After the haze of tax and duty free stores littering the landscape, we made it to those familiar looking lanes. This was the first time I was crossing INTO the US from a neighboring country, but the procedure was about the same.
We waited patiently behind the van in front of us, while I entertained myself by teasing my companion about the illegals and getting shot in the face by the former vice president turned border agent.
Finally it was our turn, and we pulled up to the window for the usual questions. However, instead of the “Ok, welcome home boys, go on through!” that I expected, the agent told us to pull around for a search and further questions. That’s new.
My companion is convinced that there were secret microphones in the grass, and my joke about Dick Cheney was overheard through the rolled up windows, thus the reason for secondary questioning. I’m pretty sure it was just random, or training, or they saw two weirdos in a car packed to the brim, and wanted a closer look. Whatever the variable, we obliged and pulled into the awaiting lot.
Uh oh! We’re in trouble now! We got out and sat patiently in the lobby.
The urge to cause mischief was skyrocketing, I had no drugs, weapons or illegal immigrants in any of my pockets, so why not? Surely they wouldn’t hold an upstanding citizen like myself, right?
We surrendered our passports at the counter before being asked to sit down once more. Then, they came for me. Just me. Two large men, uniformed, armed, heavily mustached, and who waddled more than they walked, due to their batman utility belts and their overall girth. “Come with us please” the leading man said, before turning and motioning down the hallway.
The crunch of leather echoed down the corridor as they led me to a very sterile looking room around the corner. Just a small window, small table and two chairs awaited me. Inside they ushered me to one of the chairs, and mentioned they’d return momentarily. I suppose to build anticipation for questioning?
I sat in my chair, attempting to get comfortable and lean back, but the thing was bolted to the floor, as was everything else in the room. When they returned, the older of the officers took the seat across the table from me, while the other stood uncomfortably close with his arms crossed, demonically gazing down at me. Second cop was clearly bad cop.
And then it began. “Where are you going” “Who are you with” “Got any drugs?” “Are you actually traveling together or have you been kidnapped?” “Are you smuggling any moose?” “What’s in your hat?” “What did you do in Canada” “What did you see?” “Why did you want to leave the US in the first place”
I do believe there was a question about whether or not I believed in or sympathized with jihad or something of that nature. It took my everything not to say “Yep, ya got me!“, but I’m sure my attempt at humor would be met with blank faces and possibly handcuffs.
“Please empty your pockets”
And so I did. He reached over the table and picked up my wallet, carefully examining it before he pried open every corner of the leather. Money. License. Bank card, business cards (wait for it!), a condom, a razor blade, and two pills.
He blinked. I blinked. He nonchalantly laid the three items in question out on the table looked at them, looked at me, looked at them, looked at me. I didn’t look up, but I could almost HEAR the veins popping out of bad cops forehead. My heart jumped at the blade, I had completely forgotten that was in there. At the same time, my mind was desperately trying not to laugh at the many scenarios one might use all three items for.
“Don’t ask me about the razor blade, don’t ask me about the razor blade“ my mind whispered. How could I put “I couldn’t bring my usual blade on the plane, so I opted for something smaller and more compact“ into terms that wouldn’t get me held indefinitely.
He slid the two pills toward me. “Oh thank god, he picked the unmarked drugs!“ cheered my brain. “What…are these?“ he said, as he did the now comical, rapid stare from pills to me.
Which they were, but with the razor blade and condom, you’d think I was railroading em right before having myself a good ol’ time.
He held his stare and folded his arms. Much to my surprise he didn’t press, and leaned back satisfied.
The bad cop finally broke from his statuesque posture and stepped toward me. He leaned down and wrapped his sausage fingers around the soulstone hanging from my neck. AGAIN, this is the second person to molest my crystal with their filthy, unwanted hands. I met his glare with one of my own and repeated the exact lines I used with the TSA agent. (Previous Entry: Onward To Alaska)
“Quartz. Crystal”. “Where did you get it?” “Peru”. He stared into with an official curiosity, while I sat there questioning why people are so dumbfounded by quartz crystal.
With no more questions, the officer at the table stood up and shook my hand. He thanked me for my cooperation and said he would be with my momentarily.
Meanwhile, the bad cop uprooted himself and walked out of the room. He crossed the corridor window, and exited through the security door. The officer who was talking to me, reached for the handle before it closed, but he was a second too late and the heavy door clicked shut. He swiped his ID card, pulled the handle, but the door remained locked. He swiped it again, pulled a little harder, yet still nothing. He did this two more times while I watched, peering out from the room where the air of authority is still thick in the air, with this look on my face
One more time he tries, and one more time he fails. He stood there for a second, defeated. And in that glorious moment where zero tolerance meets awkward human nature, he slowly turns his head, looks through the window at me, and lets a timid smile shine through his stuffy mustache. Aw!
Bad cop eventually opens the door and lets him out. They get my papers back in order, then I’m released as well. Bad cop is standing at the end of the row with his hand extended. I thought he was going for the handshake, but he had my razor blade in his hand “Forgot this” he groaned. “Oh. Yeah. Thanks.”
My companion was released shortly after and we returned to the car to exchange stories. All that and I didn’t even get a stamp in my passport. What a bummer.
Hello United States, I’m back!
-Conclude a road trip through Canada -Cross into the US from a bordering country – Get stopped at the border for secondary questioning – Pull a razor blade on a border agent -Enter North Dakota
We fought our way through the Ice Fields, bloody and beaten, but we emerged victorious atop our mechanical steed. In the distance sat another tiny town in the shadow of a mountain, and here, at long last, was our final destination in Canada. Banff.
Like Jasper, Banff dripped of personality and had all the familiar symptoms of a place I could spend some real time in. After a bit of driving in circles, we found our room for the evening. This large home turned hostel, would house us for the evening. The place was beautiful, as was the girl behind the counter.
Find the deer that was stalking us.
We got situated in our new home before I wandered downstairs to get some local information about the happenings in town.
I had to see what this place was about, what it had to offer! The town seemed like a beautiful mix of Pisac, Peru and Queenstown, New Zealand. A walkable size, full of hostels and young people, with music playing out in the streets and the delicious smell of food lingered in the thin mountain air.
My companion decided to sit this one out, so I packed a small bag, grabbed my camera and out into the world I walked.
Once again, I found myself alone in an unfamiliar country (Entry: Severance). That feeling, that unmistakable rush of being absolutely alone on all sides. Where the world is open to you and anything is possible. I felt heightened, empowered, motivated and unstoppable. If walking down a foreign street puts me in a ravenous mood for mischief, it’s a good thing I don’t have a lot of power or money, because I think I’d go absolutely mad with.
The temperature started to drop, and the breeze had acquired a biting cold to its whip, but there was too much to see to turn back. Down the streets I strolled. Into buildings. Into conversations. Chatted with a few skateboarders and met a lovely young lady outside one of the many hostels on the strip. We spoke about everything and nothing as we watched a truck unload keg after keg into the building. Each time a new barrel rolled inside, it was welcome with loud cheers from the patrons (This happened about 10 times).
I continued my stroll until I felt like I had saturated my experience with enough Banff to put the ever present “Will you regret not doing this?” question to rest. Sure there was still plenty to do, but I was at peace with calling it a night.
I didn’t get back to the house until the sun had long fled the sky. “Sleep when I’m dead” is usually the anthem! (Even if it usually backfires).
We pushed for the border in the morning. The story of Canada was coming to a close.
On and on we raced. Following swiftly parallel to the rise and fall of the earth on either side.
Miles turned to hours. Hours turned to days. We traded off on driving more than before. My companion napped in the passenger side while I took the wheel and pressed on. The drive was long, sure, but never too overbearing. For me, it’s not about comfort, it’s about “doing”. It’s why I don’t care if I have to sleep on the floor, or sleep in a car. The story that’s left behind after it’s all said and done, that’s what I care about. So give me discomfort, give me cold showers and a bit of hardship. I might hate it at the time, but I’ll love it when I’m writing it down.
And so, the journey continued. We were making good time, and still took plenty of scorpion breaks.
Then, the road that had carried us for so long, so far, had finally come to an end. Dawson Creek, BC marked the beginning of the Alaska Highway, though for us coming down the opposite side, this was the end.
The road before us was still long, but that stretch of asphalt I had come to enjoy over these last few days, slowly drifted away before it disappeared from the mirrors.
-Drive the Alaska Highway
Upside down rainbow?
Enter Jasper National Park
Jasper is one place I’d love to spend some actual time in. Not only was it absolutely stunning, but it hosts the largest dark sky preserve on the planet! For a star gazer like myself, that alone is a selling point! And that’s not even counting the lakes, the hikes, the wildlife, and the town itself. I would love to rent one of the little bungalows and just spend a week of exploring with friends. (Official Jasper Site)
-Drive through the Jasper National Park
We sputtered to the pump, much to our relief (The gas gauge light was generating heat for being on for so long) and took a breath of the sweet Jasper air.
Our next stop was Banff, a town similar to Jasper in size and style, but the mere mention of the name elicited many positive remarks from my Canadian friends. Before we made it however, we had to cross the murderous, the dangerous, the frozen wastes referred only as the dreaded Icefields.
The mental imagery evoked by such name was sinister and daunting and I was anxious to see what perils awaited us. One of us was going to die, I was sure of it, I just didn’t know the method of our demise. Yeti attack, glacier collapse, frost Gnolls perhaps? Despite the horror that awaited us, I was ready.
And then, we came upon the Fields of Ice
(Click for full resolution)
Ok so, there were no eldritch creatures lying in wait, and neither of us were in any mortal danger. Color me disappointed.
Cross the icefields
Taste some Canadian glacier water
Almost run out of gas in Jasper
Onward to Banff!