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Portlandia

Portland, Oregon – state #8

I had a great time chilling out in Portland – mostly swimming in the river, cycling, & drinking craft beer.
Cycling

Portland’s cycling infrastructure is really good, meaning that craft beer & cycling do go together …(?!) – the motorists are also very careful to stop & give both cyclists & pedestrians lots of room. A chap told me that this is because motorists are always seen as in the wrong if there is a collision, though I like to think it’s just good manners.

Bike Farm

I visited Bike Farm, a volunteer run collective that has been running for 10 years. They host do-it-yourself sessions (for the price of membership or $5 an hour), sell cheap used bike parts, and sometimes refurbished bikes. They are entirely self funded from these pursuits, relying on over 300 volunteers who lend their time sharing skills & building their skills with each other & the community.   I went along on a ‘Women & Trans only’ night &, with the guidance of Momoko, successfully learnt how to change my brake pads & true my very out of shape front wheel (which I had been riding on for a week!) Bike Farm was a wonderful community space – very warm & inviting. I ended up drinking craft cider with some volunteers after the session. I was offered a volunteer role and a roommate, & a few days later Momoko drove myself & one of her friends out to a local river & lake to go swimming! A very special experience.

Waterfalls & Mountains & that

Portland is also surrounded by beautiful waterfalls & mountains. It is home to Powell’s book store which covers a whole block, over 70 microbreweries, & the world’s official smallest park (Guinness Book of Records), which also happens to be the official largest leprechaun colony West of Ireland (Irish Government).

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Craft beers

Well, they’re just delicious.

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Summer of Love

50 years after it’s official Summer of Love, San Francisco is still an amazing trip…  Go there (but don’t move in, cus it’s bursting at the seams)!

I went head first into the city – saw loads, did loads, & met some amazing people. Too much to do justice to in one page. Some highlights..

A LGBT paradise

I went to an amazing play-in-progress reading & discovered the story of ‘Compton’s cafeteria riot’ – a drag queen / trans uprising against police brutality in San Fran, 3 years before the Stonewall riot. Two of the three writers hung out at Compton’s during the time. Afterwards I went to ‘Aunt Charlie’s’, a gay bar where it’s constantly Christmas, on the only street I know of that has been officially named after a transexual icon – Turk Street’s second name is ‘Vicki Marlane’.

I also spent time on the rainbow lined Castro, GLBT museum, & learnt more about Harvey Milk & his massive impact upon the LGBT community despite just 43 weeks in office. Reflected a lot on how much ‘hidden history’ is so easily lost, and the danger of people losing touch with recent struggles.

A hippie haven

I loved learning about the Summer of Love in 1967 – again, just a few months of hope, positivity & a slice of something different that had a lasting social impact . . . the Summer of Love inspired more people than the people who started it imagined – so many that they became generally overwhelmed & held a ‘death of the hippy’ ceremony to try and discourage more people from coming! Was it a revolution? Or an alternative lifestyle that got too popular? Could it happen again?

I also met so many incredible people – family of friends & friends of family – it is a wonderful place to pull up a chair & start chatting to a stranger. For me, that was a personal challenge & amazing experience in itself. Embracing the unknown. All i got was positive responses!

An exciting anomaly 

I got real close to a real life police chase WITH GUNS! Ok, one gun. It may have been an air rifle. . . But it was scary & exciting! The chap running from the police (who went right past me!) eventually made the decision to lie on the street & get arrested, as opposed to being shot.

 And so so much more! What an amazing place.

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California Zephyr (or 2 1/2 days on a train)

  • Chicago, IL to San Francisco, CA via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, & California. 
  • Going through 3 (?) time zones & losing track of an acceptable time to crack open a beer.
  • On night one, sleeping next to a man wearing a Jesus t shirt who covered himself head to toe in a coarse blanket. It felt like sleeping next to a giant sack of potatoes. 
  • Reading the Handmaid’s Tale whilst sharing a train with many women wearing old fashioned white bonnets & ankle length reddish dresses (Melanites?)
  • Starting to feel like a zoo animal & planning ‘trips out’ to the viewing cart two carriages back.
  • Meeting lots of lovely people in the viewing cart – a Scot living in Denver,  a chap planning to cycle from Reno to Vancouver, a couple on their way to a Jazz festival,  a couple visiting from Australia,  a nail technician starting biochemistry at uni… they laugh at Britain’s tiny mountains.
  • Travelling through the Rockies,  Sierra Nevada’s, Gold Country & heaps of beautiful places

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    2 days in Chicago


    • A tour of Chicago’s old time gangsters – gangwars, black mail, & the theatre where John Dillenger was shot. The people loved him so much that women dipped their scarves in his blood just for a momento.
    • Visiting ‘Oz Park ‘ & reading in the Emerald city (gardens)
    • Selfies at ‘the Bean’, Anish Kapoors’s addition to the city.
    • Feeling like a dinosaur in the fern stricken botanical gardens. 
    • A real Chicago deep dish pizza.
    • Seeing only 1 animal at the free zoo. Presumably the other animals were clever enough to steer clear of the heat… especially the polar bears.
    • Being inspired by social reform at the Jane Addams museum, the first American woman to win the Noble Peace prize & a massive lezzer.
    • Contemplating several quilts representing people killed by Chicago police.
    • Having dinner & a beer at ‘Revolution Brewing’.
    • Discovering the existence of an axe throwing range too late.
    • Staying with, & being spoiled by, Erica & Paul (& feline campanion, Alex)

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          Farm life

          • Catching my first runaway chicken.
          • Catching the same chicken 3 more times & developing an odd sense of pride & irritation each time i see her.
          • Imagining the great chicken escape to involve climbing, jumping & catapulting over the electric fence, only to discover her ungracefully shuffling under the fence.
          • Getting shocked by the fence.
          • Developing a welly boot hurdle tactic to avoid future shocks from the fence.
          • Fertilising the plants with a fish gut mixture that looks like, but certainly does not smell like, milky coffee. Wearing a ghostbuster-esqe plastic backpack & spraying it on whilst dancing to Fatboy Slim.
          • Hunting for fat grub-like potato bugs & putting them in a bucket to feed to the chickens.
          • Feeding compost to the pigs & watching them fight for the last banana skin.
          • Discovering barn cat living in the hay bales.
          • Showering outdoors with a view of the sky.
          • Driving around in a golf cart.
          • Planting, weeding & harvesting.
          • Riding the transplanter.
          • Learning about cover crops.
          • Celebrating Summer Solstice with the farm fam & other Wwoofers.
          • Trying a ‘Smore’ for the 1st time.
          • Re-reading Harry Potter & hanging out in the garage a lot.
          • Learning what a combine harvester actually is.
          • Coyote pups out back.
          • Celebrating 4th July, in America,  with Americans! 
          • Seeing Lake Michigan for the 1st time after sneaking through a state park at night.
          • Swimming in the Lake.
          • Driving a speedboat!
          • Trampolining.
          • Drinking local craft beers.
          • Climbing Sleeping Bear sand dunes.
          • Skipping stones.
          • Camping trip at Sleeping Bear. 
          • Compost toilet…

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            A change of direction

            Day 22 – to Kent City,  MI (50 miles)

            I found ‘Earthkeeper Farm’, an organic farm looking for helpers on workaway.org & wwoof.org – sites where you can find room & board in exchange for work. It’s 50 miles backwards & I’m heading there today. Goodbyes are always hard so I won’t mention those – it’s my first ride alone but the day is sunny, the trails are clear & I feel on the right path. There is a rainbow in the direction of Earthkeeper Farm as I make my approach. 

            I plan to stay for 2 weeks,  I end up staying for 3.

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            1000 miles ain’t bad

            Day 21 – Rest day

            A lazy day for me – reading, drawing, doing my Scrubba laundry (though dirt is now ingrained into my cycling shirts), solar powered showering under the sun, getting online & pondering my next action…

            We get a tour of Peter Bane’s developing permaculture space. He & Keith have done so much since they got the place a few years ago,  it is amazing. The excitement that Keith shows whilst showing us around his vegetable garden helps me make my decision – I’m going to leave the group & spend some time on an organic farm. I want to learn more that i can iimplement at home & right now I feel that I’m just skimming through places. I announce this at tonight’s meeting to mostly supportive responses.

            I have had an amazing time with the Green Riders & know that they will continue to have many adventures.  It’s been fun hanging out though I realise that learning was my main purpose of this trip.

            I’m proud to say that I’ve cycled 1000 miles with them, embarked upon something completely outside my comfort zone, & taken a chance. I feel ready to start a new chapter.

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            A wolverine in our midst

            Day 20 – to Montague, MI (59 miles)

            Another chilled out morning – hanging out in the climbing gym having breakfast & chatting. I set off with Jess, hatchet John, Suzie, Emily & skater John. We have a lot of fun. The route is mostly trail & we pass some errie wetland where the trees are submerged in dark lakes. Skater John plays music as he rides & at some point we all find ourselves singing along to ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. The morning is cool & grey before the heavens open & we get drenched by rain & hail stones. Riding through puddles is fun!

            By lunchtime it is sunny & we stop on grass outside a ‘correctional facility’ – dumpster pasta, tomatoes, peppers, avocado with foraged mushroom. The mushroom is a bit past it’s best & like chewing on a tasty old boot.
            I discover that my spirit animal is a Wolverine,  which pleases me though I do not agree. I spend the rest of the ride pondering my latent animal traits.

            We ride to a HUGE lake & jump off a soon to be private dock at the end of a half built cul-de-sac. The water is glorious aside from pond weed on my head.

            We do some more dumpster diving – pastries aplenty including very large doughnuts shaped like hot dogs & hamburgers. ‘The American dream’, I say, which amuses Suzie very much.

            Our host tonight is Peter Bane, author of the Permaculture Handbook. Apparently he us quite a big deal. He has mde us salad & pumpkin & venison soups. The rain starts again once tents are up & I have a lengthy tenancy battle with a mosquito,  who is eventually evicted.

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            Bee-autiful!

            Day 19 – to Grand Valley SU farm / sports center, MI (57 miles)

            I went to sleep to the sound of gunshoots lastnight then woke up several times thinking it was time to rise. The bullfrogs must have been playing tricks on me. Joshua makes everybody sweet potato, apple & banana pancakes for breakfast – they are delicious & the hive of activity in the kitchen keeps people around for a chilled out morning. 
            I leave with Vale, Cristina & Cheryl. We ride a beautiful scenic trail & stop for lunch at a farmers market in Middlesville. I buy honey sticks & a jar of honey & realise that my body is craving sugar. We get mixed responses of support & disbelief from the sellers. 

            Along the ride we find Rob on his bamboo bicycle & lose Cristina & Vale at a turn. Rob, Cheryl & I cycle about 10 miles off route – luckily in the right general direction – we miss a bike trail for a busy road but the ride a good aside from a few dodgy roads. We ride through an all American suburb & it is everything you’ve ever seen in the movies – the American dream. Big white clean houses with emmaculate lawns, big cars, self contained play areas for the kids & a clean safe cul de sac. I can see the appeal & the curtains twitching. Rob & I talk activism & politics though I wonder how much he understands my accent. Generally I have had to repeat myself 3 times for the Americans. How strange to be in an english speaking country & experience language barriers.

            We arrive at Grand Valley Student Union farm. I get the chance to wear a full on bee suit & help transfer the hive. The people leading the session are incredibly passionate about bees & it brings joy to my heart. I wonder if I’ll swat one by accident. We are told that bees are the only animal other than humans that we know can communicate abstract concepts – they communicate through dance & live by democracy. I find myself wishing that politicians were as clever as bees.

            The SU serve us up a pot luck dinner & we hang out there chatting to students & making faces at small children (a favourite pasttime of mine). Youtube sensation, Dumpster Dan, arrives with huge boxes of dumpster chocolate & sweets. Joshua arrives by car – he smashed into a telephone box earlier & seems badly hurt though insists he will be fine.

            We ride a mile to tonight’s sleeping area – the university climbing gym, which is, of course closed. I sleep on a giant safety mat which makes a wonderful mattress.

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            The long road to Mooville

            Day 18 – to Nashville, MI (57 miles)

            We have a late, leisurely start in our hotel room – laundry, hot showers (ultimate luxury) & general faffing.  We don’t get on the road until midday & Sarah speeds off, anxious about the faffing. The ride is quiet & long – not much around for distraction, I listen to podcasts about the Suffragettes – real feminism. We end up stopping at a family home to ask for water – there is the smell of weed in the air & they are the only people so far not to ask anything about our trip. 

            Lee has bike trouble & finds a ride to get her the last few miles. WlKim & i stop at ‘Mooville’, a diary & creamery with a selection of religious paraphernalia in the porch & a petting zoo next door. A huge cow statue stands facing the cow field like some kind of cow god. I wonder if cows get intimidated. I have spectacular Butter Pecan ice cream & a goat tries to eat my hair.

            We get a warm welcome at our next destination, a Warm Showers host. Bob’s wife, Maggie, invited us all to stay then gone on a 5 day bike tour. Bob is a gracious host. There is food on the stove & boxes of dumpster food up for grabs on the stairs. I set my tent up next to the creek while the bullfrogs sing. Ransom & John jam on a guitar & ukelele as the evening rolls in. A lovely evening under the fairy lights.