Redwood Diaries III

Dates: October 7-10, 2016
Campsite: Standish Hickey State Recreational Area
Crew: Your Author, Matt, Jeana
Photographs: Flickr: Camping in Mendocino


Friday 10/7
I prepared to leave today by sending a WFH email. Had a very productive day despite the nagging feeling that I’d done little in way of packing or planning. All I knew was that I could fuck off around 1pm and that I was heading north. Matt & Jeana almost sure they’re riding up to meet me. Sounds like they can’t leave until tomorrow morning.

So after signing off around 12:30, I found myself in a panic to pack. First, I had to go swap the Volvo for the Jeep, because there was a comment from Matt about wanting to hug the coast. Or maybe it was a comment from me about how Usal Beach was a viable option; one that I could be talked into. And if there was a chance we’d be camping down at Usal Beach, it had to be the Jeep. The Volvo totally COULD make the journey down that blasted fire road, but I think honestly we’d have to sacrifice her down there cause it would be her last road trip.

Once back with the Jeep, it took all of 30 minutes to pack up; everything cleaned and repacked from the last trip. Good boy Sean. I think I was on the road by 1:30, taking Lakeville Hwy north to skirt the Petaluma Santa Rosa lunacy. Popped out onto 101 north of Sonoma State and would plan to stay on this road for until Sunday afternoon.

Solo road tripping affords many things, but one of the best is the captive self audience and captains chair from which to make phone calls to creatures you’ve perhaps not phoned in some time. I chatted with my Dad, then a separate call to my mom. Quick call to Jude to remind him that he MIGHT need to pick Charlotte up, during which he revealed that he DOES like camping; it’s the missing Monday part that he was chaffing against. Then a long call with Jeana to hash out what we knew and when we thought it might be happening.

By this time, maybe 3:30, right after I’d stopped to shoot the Cloverdale Deadwood, I made it official (to myself) that I’d overnight in Ukiah. I was so far ahead of schedule that I could easily have {A} done my grocery run and {B} made it up to the campsite before dark. But I’d have to push both, and just because I always seem to do it, I truly despise setting camp in the dark. This decision got better and better the more it was unfolded: I could get a growler from Mendo Brewing, I could have dinner at Ritual, most hotels offer free breakfast, and best of all: hot tub, bitches. Oh, and that’s hot tub COMMA bitches.

The Internet has already pretty much given this ample coverage, but sweet baby Jesus there’s just nothing better than a small town Walmart on a Friday afternoon. And if that small town is Ukiah, you MUST factor in the laissez-faire attitude towards parking lot camping. Lots busted up and broke down palaces that could EASILY have been on tour 10 years ago. Hell, some of these cats may well be Family. As always, if you go into a Walmart without a solid plan and exit strategy, you’re heading for a stomping. But, in their defense, they charged the EXACT same price for a GoPro Stick.

Good meal, couple errands run, and there I was buck naked in a hotel room by myself. Drinking bourbon and flipping back & forth between Fox News and CNN, soaking up the coverage of The Donald providing detailed descriptions of how to commit vicious sexual assault and get away with it. There is a wedding here in Ukiah tomorrow. A big one. Or maybe multiple smaller weddings. Either way, this place is packed with partying 20-something couples and 50-something couples. I saw a bachelorette party conga lining it to the lounge at Ritual. It’s too small a town for these to not be connected.

Saturday 10/8
Woke alarm-less around 7. Declining a shower, I had the Jeep repacked, a strategically balanced breakfast and an empty colon by 8. Raley’s by 8:30, back on the road by 9:30. No good coffee in Ukiah. Which is probably bullshit, but I couldn’t find an EASY non-chain mocha in Ukiah at 9:30. There’s always Willits. Then failing that, there’s Pour Girls Coffee in Laytonville.

But this time Matt and I were texting about their departure north. They left at 8:15, so it should not be hard to let them overtake me. All I have to do is take my time. Normally I’d be hell bent on exploiting the early hour and getting to the camp site as early as possible. But there were lazy pints and small town lunches with old friends at stake. And you could do a whole lot worse than this part of 101 to take slow. Gas in Willits, no coffee. Photographs before Laytonville, then Laytonville proper. Took my time With my mocha, finding a spot in the shade to park in and read while I waiting for M&J.

You started to see it in Ukiah, and really noticed it in Willits. And now here I was extending into my 2nd hour in Laytonville, and the social anthropologist in me perked right up. An inordinate amount of individuals 20-30 years in age. Scruffy, dreads, lots of ink, all in the shade, some with dogs, most with packs, others with signs wanting to head north: Garberville, Eureka, Oregon. Now, their appearance is material to these observations. But so would it be if their attire was so homogenous in some another way (preppy, soldier, etc). That they wore the uniform of card carrying ______’s should be irrelevant. It was that there were SO MANY of them that was remarkable.

What are they all doing here? What was their shared experience that they should have so much objective decor in common? Being WHERE we were is telling. This is the southern edge of what stands to be the epicenter of a new California gold rush should weed be legalized this year. You’d be a fool to think that there aren’t significant grow operations indoors here, and outdoors all up in the hills. And it’s those outdoor farms that cannot be underscored. I am of the opinion that there is simply too much weed being dispensed in this state alone for indoor growers to supply on their own. The demand is driving these clandestine and heavily defended woodland farms.

Maybe these kids – and they are so fucking young – are congregating here because they think there’s field hand work to be had; that if they stay inundated in the community for long enough, their stories get vetted and trust is built and soon they might get tasked with doing night patrols, water delivery, etc: the kinds of tasks that you give the new guys to see how they do before you let them near the golden gooses. Then, after a while, they might be earning better: trimming, sorting, mule’ing, etc. But still, if even HALF of the above is a viable scenario, these kids milling around Laytonville are not working, and thus still effectively homeless.

Lunch with M&J at Wheels Pub. Excellent fish & chips. No shit. Fish & Chips share in common something with Huevos Rancheros. You can acquire a good working feel for the quality of any restaurant cook staff by how well they prepare these dishes. A fine basket of F&Cs, in my opinion, requires only 2 things: {A} the chips be seasoned; don’t fucking bore me with golden blonde potato strips; DO something with them and {B} the fish be well-done; don’t serve me floppy, soaking-wet fish that falls apart the moment you complain about it. In the case of Wheels Pub, the fries had some sort of cheese chunks battered on top of them, each chunk no bigger than a booger. And the fish was crispity cruchity outside, hot and flaky inside.

That’s it. There’s nothing left to do but ride north. Only stop I need to make is to drop a pin at Area 101/Healing Harvest Farms. Keep meaning to stop inside this dispensary some day. Figured since I was alone sans kids, this would be a perfect time. But it just didn’t feel right. Maybe on my way back down Monday afternoon.

We reached the camp site around 1:30, far earlier than any of us are accustomed to arriving. Which gave us plenty of time to SLOWLY pick a spot and set camp. The good news is what my heart was telling me all along: that at this time of year, spots this far north are DESERTED. When I called Standish Hickey yesterday, she said something like “of the 91 sites I have, maybe 89 of them are empty.” And I believe the same would be true for the 10-12 similar 101 adjacent camp sites between here (Leggett, CA) and Eureka.

Unfortunately, we missed by 2 weekends the lifting of the seasonal bridge that provides access to the lower Redwoods sites, which Charlotte and I discovered last September, then Jude and I further evaluated the very next weekend. But these upper sites – Hickey and Rock Creek – are both quite amazing. And not just because it was so deserted. Each site has tons of level tenting, improved tables and fire rings, raised critter boxes, water spigots every 10 sites or so, EMPTY recycling and rubbish dumpsters, and best of all? Proper flush toilets with propane power.

Some drinks, some medications, some snacks and a bunch of hydration later, we hiked down to the swimming hole. Actually, the South Fork of the Eel River. It was just the way I remembered it from last year: same water level, same high 80*/low 90* weather, maybe 2-3 other people there. Matt went straight in, without hesitation and seeming impervious to the low 60* water temps.

I tried to make the best of things when a family of 3 girls all around Charlotte’s age showed up. All blonde. Each with full wetsuits like I was going to bring had MY kids agreed to come with me. It’s an out-of-sight / out-of-mind situation when you’re not only without your kids when you wanted them, but without your kids because THEY DIDNT want this. I don’t honestly think my kids all of a sudden just started to hate camping. Nor do I think divulging of this info registered to their kid brains how hard it hit me. I’ll keep trying.

The route back was all Sean: not the way we came down, but to investigate if the FOOT bridge to the Redwoods sites was still up. And it was. Talk about deserted: there are 61 individual sites down here, and not one was occupied because the auto bridge was dismantled a couple weeks ago; which allowed cars to ford the South Fork and get here. So while i added a good extra mile, the last 1/3 of which was uphill, it gave both M&J a start look at how awesome these lower sites are. They’re hooked, and are already talking about a mid-to-late summer 2017 excursion back up here. The notion that all 161 TOTAL camp sites are reserved for Hickeyfest seemed intriguing to Matt. Like me, I don’t think he gives two shits about the music in the abstract; without hearing the bands it’s hard to gain internal momentum. But that there was a fucking music festival and this whole place is filled with fun loving creatures seemed a small point of conversation.

A quick bounce to the Peg House for firewood, and {SNAP} like that it got dark. I know it’s that we’re nestled in a low valley surrounded by dense redwoods and their canopy. But it never ceases to amaze me how fast we transition from post-sunset magic hour to needing battery operated light sources. Luckily, the weather is quite on our side: even after dark it was still pleasant. Typically up here in the Redwoods, the setting of the sun is the onset of mid-40s. But I don think it ever dipped below 55* last night.

Backgammon, talking about backgammon, whittling, Matt whittling with a brand new Gerber Zombie Apocalypse axe, defending the merits of the carnivore. Good talking. Nothing cursory; very little idle chit chat. Or maybe there was idle chit chat, but that you cared so much for the person talking. It was all meaningful syllables and deep listening. Not that we were talking about core personal issues or struggles or revelations. It’s just that when you start as close friends, then sequester yourself in the darkened woods like this around a fire, the conversation takes on a profound gravity. This is why I keep doing this. This is why I think even the most camp-averse of my friends could find true therapy in woods at night with a full belly and distilled spirits in-hand. Even alone, solo camping, I would do well to remember that it’s all about getting out here; to forget the neuroses of camping by myself and realize these nights, the whole process, is how I dream. OCD as it is to admit, my version of counting sheep is to mentally assess my camping kit, what was missing or extraneous the last time, how awesome it would be to do stretches of nights, etc.

Odd dreams. Camping always does. But twice last night I woke from bizarre machinations and each time it took me an hour to fall back asleep. Didn’t help that yet again I am confounded with how to deal with my mattress options out here. I’ve more or less mastered – to a fault – the other elements of car camping. No one who’s camped with my would ever accuse me of being an under-prepared car camper; or in any way prepared for proper backpacking camping. But the sleep slab options continue to vex me. I’ve tried 3x patio chair cushions, with and without 3x layered Mexican blankets. I’ve tried $20 Amazon camp mattresses, with and without 3x layered Mexican blankets. I’ve tried $110 REI camp mattress, with and without. The closest I’ve gotten is the twin sized air mattresses that you’d break out for house guests. But each brand – from Intex to Aerobed – have some issue. From faulty battery pumps to slow leaks requiring topping-off at 2:30am and again at 5:30am. Nothing works. This time: kids sized Intex blow-up mattresses with tradition pool-toy style valves. These provide ZERO deflation, but at nearly 72 inches, I find my feet and legs arguing with the lower edge of the mattress.

Sunday 10/9
Other than thoughts during a couple episodes of Deadwood:

  • For all the pomp and circumstance of his high position, I think Al Swearingen KNEW he was the only one who had the stuff to scrub a blood stain.
  • Leave the demons to God and trust the pain to me. – Doc Cochran
  • Write Lynn Gillespie. At length.
  • I got problems enough today without kiting checks on tomorrows – Harry Manning
  • No one asked if you could imagine bleeding, or you’d have tumbler’ing and cartwheels and somersaults to bring you into the lists. Drink and fuck on the house, but do not attempt to detain me.
  • Every day takes figuring out all over again how to fucking live – Jane

God Dammit Jubal

An email excerpt from my long winded spew to Jubal, just 2 weeks after an epic day with him, fucking off and day drinking around St Thomas, with me narrowly missing the cruise ship departure window. High as a kite, stewed to the bone, and somehow wearing his shirt. I missed it. He was hurting then, and perhaps had made up his mind already. I’m told his departure was preceded by an earlier attempt, just a few weeks prior to our day together. I read these words today and cannot understand how they were not interpreted as an invitation to fucking CALL ME before operating heavy machinery…

But please know that everything you said makes sense: Your transit back and forth between warming yourself by the fire of companionship vs the natural internal heat source of spontaneous creativity. You may at this point in your life be feeling as though there’s no overlap between the two; a broken Venn diagram. I cannot assure you otherwise, for I too have felt these competing forces. I too used to create and write and think grand thoughts with ornate flourishes. However, that I don’t anymore is not something I either can or will attribute to Anna/family. I suppose I was just consumed by so many other levers to pull and moles to whack. I would encourage you to find new vigor and renewed spirits in the back and forth. They’re both essential to your well-being. Let’s call them symbiotic bodies around which you orbit, nourishing you in the gravitational pull of the one, while you long for and expect the slingshot into the other. This figure eight may be taxing for you; you may not have written so were it not. However, I wish upon you the strength (patience?) to find peace in these transits. It may be your special sauce. I may be what is making you who you are.

Then news of his success at completing his final solution. After buckling sobs and confirmation calls with long lost friends, here: an attempt to parse the shit and bile and anger of his suicide just a few days earlier, the warm comfortable blanket of bourbon and QWERTY. Never finished. Never sent. Never shared. Sent i suppose to Jubal. He was the only real audience or recipient to this spew.

I’m just going to write to you as if I didn’t just hear the news today. The ball was in your court, reply wise. I was expecting an equally long-winded spew of a reply to my spew screed of guts and heart. But I thought I’d give you a little more time. I just always thought there’d be more time.

I seems clear to me now that there was more to this than just a horrible accident. I will for now bring myself just shy of calling it premeditation, for that just seems too bold a claim; one likely to have your beer come out your nose. Again. But all one has to do is look upon what you’ve left us to know this day fit snugly into your thoughts.

You’ve been carrying a lot of shit for as long as I’ve known you. You create such beautiful art, but you’ve always done so with such struggle. We all have baggage, but you always seemed to live out of your suitcase; always in transit with it; never truly experiencing the emotional stasis of emptying your baggage and stowing it under the stairs.

Your email last month mentioned as much. But your phrasing was one of struggle, not defeat. Your words have always been peppered with darkness as well as light. When one reads your words, they’re not the words of desperation, man! They’re the words of Jubal seeking a way. That when we hear from SAD THINKING MAN, the sad was just a means to an end, right?

Fuck. How did I miss it? I’ll go batshit if I keep asking myself that.

Rather, I’ll propose that you didn’t think this one all the way through. No one would ever accuse you of being pedantic. Nor would anyone who knows you think for one minute what Jubal did or did not do required a rats fart of approval from anyone other than Jubal. As closed-off as you may have felt in those last couple two three hours, had you fired up a flair, a smoke signal, hell: interpretive dance your cry for help – had you said some fucking thing, I’d have been there.

I’ll be there for you in a heartbeat.

Easy to say right? No doubt: True. But help and hope are odd birds, man. They can and often do come from the simplest of things. Like plans, for example. The making of plans. The WHAT IF of future plans. The foggy memory and inflated half-truths of past plans. The seeds of some future road trip. The notion that you would get along with _____ who also plays guitar from that place way down deep. As simple as they are, the mere presence of even loose plans could have been that one fucking thing that kept you on the line and out of the shit.

We were going to Tucson in November. We were going to stay at Hotel Congress and walk the All Souls Procession. That was MORE than a plan. That was something that you became full-body animated about when I brought it up on Island. I had it all planned out and spewed all the details to you in that last email. Dammit if you wouldn’t have dug it the most.

I would here continue on with my bit about how we are an amalgam of our friends, that we are indeed a construct of who our friends and family have made us. It is a mantra I’ve been feeling really hard these past few years, for reasons I already went into. But what you’ve done, you little shit, is put a bit of stank on the concept. It’s also what our friends and family DO that have an impact on us. That the actions of our friends have objective rhythm upon OUR lives. We are perhaps most accustomed to this when our friends visit us, or send us shit, or @mention us, or tag us in photos, or ring us up and tell us to meet them round the fucking pub. You know, the good positive life-affirming things they do that define them as our friends and good people in general.

Not talking here about the bad that HAPPENS to our friends. Those too effect us in some part; in some small way. There’s little ambiguity our empathy for our friends nudges our lives by a few degrees.

Rather, it’s the shit they pull that gets added to our baggage as their friends. When they shit the bed, that too causes glitches in our stack. When they get fucked up and start using again. When they get arrested, again. When they make embarrassing judgement calls. When they have gross lapses in compassion spanning 1500 words. These all act as adjustments to our course.

Redwood Diaries II

Dates: September 25-27, 2015
Campsite: Standish Hickey State Recreational Area
Crew: Your Author, Jude
Photographs: Flickr: Camping with Jude


4:55pm Saturday
Awake at 5:30, on the road by 7:00, Ukiah by 8:45, camp by 11:00. If you would have told me those were my milestones for today, I’d have slept longer. Once again, we are damn near by ourselves here. Only 2 other sites occupied, and we can neither see nor hear them. But we’ve met them, at the swimming hole. We took two trips there today.

When we arrived, it was LEGO building time. A long tradition between Jude and I. He sits patiently for the X hour drive with a fresh unopened LEGO box on his lap. Only when we get to the campsite is he allowed to tear into it. He builds LEGO while I build our campsite. Well, this time we had 4, and 2 of them were mine. So there we were, 2 boys snapping together precision plastic parts, drinking our drinks, snacking on prosciutto and cheese-it’s, listening to Andrew Bayer.

We took a walk about to the watering hole and to charge the Luci lights. We hid them out in the middle of a meadow in full sun. We just have to remember to fetch them on the walk back. No sooner had Jude eyeballed the swimming hole than he suggested we head back, get some lunch and get our suits on. So we had a short walk about.

Followed by a mean game of battleship. He insisted we play a game of battleship before we went swimming. It’s odd, but when he was younger, he aged at the campsite and became a little bit more of a man. Now today, when he’s naturally transitioning up into manhood, here at camp in all the nicest ways he seems to regress and act a bit younger than his 12 years.

Good lord the Green Car is sofa king happy right now. For years she’s been relegated to the step child second fiddle commuter car. She’s like Levee. Once the center of attention; the alpha. But then came a spunkier funner cat named Jeep that put in a corner as a punchline. Well ok her eating habits helped do that. But like Levee, The Green Car perhaps thought her best days were behind her; that her road tripping days were over. Certainly never to go camping again. She’s the car that got me & my shit to Black Rock City 4 times, took us to Carp and back dozens of times, I think she’s even been to Phoenix. At 148k miles, she thought she was done. And yet here she is: Under the redwoods, having swallowed everything we stuffed into her, engine purring the whole way, getting great mileage, with not so much as a hiccup. Yea, I personify my cars. So what? Just realized she and Jude are the same age. The Green Car might be going thru puberty soon.

The host here at this campsite, she looks like Jeffery Tambor. And I don’t mean a lady-fied Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent. I’m talking the Tambor bloodline is strong and this woman is his 1st cousin. I can’t look at her too long without busting out a HEY NOWWW! That is all.

There are a variety of phrases that if heard whilst camping, you’re either in good experienced hands, or up shits creek.
“Oh I can easily get those coals started right back up in the morning”
“There should be toilet paper already in there”
“This will totally be enough wood to last us”
“We’ll be fine, there’s no way raccoons can get the lid of that cooler open”
“Flavorer almond milk is totally just as good as the chemically Coffee Mate stuff”
“I would like to get home Sunday before sundown”

We dined on pineapple hotdogs and 2 different kinds of beans. Everything came together when the fire goes up smoothly. I know it’s cheating to use those wee fire starter logs. I do. But dammit if a whole segment of the evening isn’t taken up by tenting & tending kindling, tearing & rolling up the cardboard wood box, then washing the soot from your hands, I’m ok. Fire & forget.

Looks like Jude got tired early. He was in he tent in his bag all quiet and having a council with the LEGO guys. It was only dinner that got him out. Maybe it was the (sudden) onset of dusk here in this redwood valley. Again, he’s a little kid today. I’m sure a darkened headphoned screening of Mad Max will put some hair on his chest.

Fire starter is the bomb. You can take that Eagle Scout badge and shove it up your juxie. Or start YOUR morning fire with it. Instead, I’m having Jude light the bag here and here and moving on to coffee, thankyouverymuch.
Pop tarts over a camp grill is something every school aged child should (a) watch their hungover father prepare and (b) try at least once in their lives. Once, ha.

Mad Max went over quite well last night. He was incredibly focused on the whole, pausing every so often to ask questions about Millers dystopian universe, me having to go back in time to discuss the 1979 Mad Max to explain Hardy’s Max’s flashbacks and hallucinations. I think those are about the most salient connection the current Max has with the previous movies: his wife & child from the 1st movie. Also the wind-up music box from Road Warrior. There may be more.

He seemed to get and perhaps appreciate MY pausing every so often to point out the use of practical effects over CG. He’s there one that noticed that the fingers on Furiosa’s mechanical arm were twitching in same unison as the fingers on her natural arm. My son, as of tonight, may have a life-long crush on Charleze Theron.

The best thing about camping with the Green Car is not having to play a blasted game of Tetris in order to pack the camp up. With the jeep, even with the big cargo box and just 2 people camping, it took a patient hour out of the day to not only get everything in, but to do it in a way so that you could access some subset of it en route. With the Volvo, she just swallows everything on one layer without having so stack. I know the smaller cars are the way to go the closer we get to Max Max style fuel situations, but I am now even more convinced that a family like ours must have as a requirement a vehicle with gobs of cargo space.

Redwood Diaries I

Dates: September 18-20, 2015
Campsite: Standish Hickey State Recreational Area
Crew: Your Author, Charlotte
Photographs: Flickr: Camping with Charlotte


8:20pm Friday
Having been kinda tense the whole drive up, it’s hard to put into words the feeling right now. At a stunning camp site, right on the banks of the eel river, with proper facilities, and NO ONE around. And not a minute too soon: we pulled in as the sun was going down. If this place was a bust, we were on the road north an hour more to a hotel in Garberville. No Bueno at night on THAT road. But here wee are, settled in (mostly), with the tent all set up, a fire going, and beverages either being poured or refilled.

9:16pm Friday
Which isn’t to say this trip has been without its mishaps. Nothing the car camping kit can’t patch. But just true WTF misses. Like, socks for Charlotte. I put them in the pack pile. But where are they? So she is wearing the 1 spare pair of mine. Big puffy sweat socks 7 sizes too big. Then, keeping on the foot front: flip flops for me. Which means I’m without footwear around camp unless I go barefoot (too cold) or put my whole sock & shoe rig back on. And a score of other little things I’ll write down to never forget next time: cutting board, whiskey glass, fire starter, etc. And then there is the doubt surrounding whether or not to bring our bikes. Could have done that, easily. Too many unknowns back at 495. But now here, it’s a pretty bike able site. Sprawling even.

Dinner of spiral pasta with chunks of Hebrew national diced in with garlic seasoning. Simplicity at its core.

10:23pm Friday
Tented in. Cleaned up, food shit locked away, fire logs deconstructed, game of go fish done, whiskey poured and slumber around the corner. To the sounds of wind pushing 3 ton redwood limbs against each other. Beyond that the rustle and additional white noise of the Eel River about 200 meters below us. Not one single car has passed our site. I’m beginning to thing this place is closed and we just haven’t been rousted yet.

May or may not need to head into Garberville tomorrow. Can’t think of why we’d need to. It’s the just cause you can clause we Alexander’s deploy with great success up in Canada. With the DNA of George Carlins stuff routine. Where we pack our shit up and drive all this way to go camping. Get here, unpack and just as we’re settled in, we take a small subset of that shit on another smaller road trip into town for more shit we should have thunked-up earlier or simply don’t need anyway. Well, that’s not true. The 9lbs of ice from Novato is now 4lbs of water. It might last. But it’s the firewood that will write the story for us. I’m sticking with this: not unless we fucking have to will we drive the xx miles north to Garberville.

There will be plenty to do tomorrow exploring around here. The river, the entire (empty) grounds. There’s a shitload of things to see a short drive from here. Maybe THATS what gets up up to Garberville. (See? Real-time justification of my own arguments). The road between here and there is perhaps the most storied stretch of 101 in the whole state. And my personal favorite. Legend of Bigfoot, Avenue of the Giants, Confusion Hill, that malt shop in Myers Flat, the strange train. And hello: a round of fancy beverages at the Benbow? See what I’ve just done there, Alexander?

9:18am Saturday
Oh my god the dreams. Holy mother of baby Jesus the dreams. Crazy doesn’t even come close. Waking dreams that have me spun today. Paul Dano in jeri curl and a TRON mask. Aunt Peggy getting an unholy DUI crashing into a dozen plus cars. There may or may not have been a small woodland creature INSIDE the tent last night.

11:44am Saturday
Lunching with Charlotte. Her: noodles. Me: hotdog. We just got back from a hike and found a proper swimming hole. Water seems good temp. So we headed back to eat and get our suits on. Earlier, we drove up to the ranger kiosk to pay. Only now are we starting to see other humans. Ranger said watch out for skunks. Now I’m thinking that small woodland creature was in fact a skunk. And my hissing and waving my pillow at it, while for hours relocated to a fever dream, may actually be a miracle that we didn’t get sprayed. I mean shit: when YOU step over the sill of a tent that’s dead-silent with the door half-zipped shut, then get shooed away violently by a hissing mammal 5x your size, aren’t YOU going to have issues scrambling back out the same way without evacuating your anal glands?

1:58pm Saturday
She did it. She jumped into the south fork of the Eel River. It was much colder than either of us anticipated. Brought the GoPro and a couple of sodas. The miss on the flip flops is really a bummer. Would have made the swimming totally different cause of the rocks on the shore. Slow and tender walking. Got back here to discover at least 2 more cars arrived and set up camp. No one directly next to us though.

Tried again to play Battleship, but again the system of recording hits and misses just stumps her. Finally flipped her board around and she had recorded the string of aircraft carrier hits I called out, but at totally different coordinates. Imagine playing Battleship with a dyslexic. Yea it’s like that.

2:19pm Saturday
Stoney moment digesting maps, drinking m’beer, watching Charlotte make castles out of the dark, dank camp sand, listening to Bon Iver. This is mine. This Moment. This is what I remind myself I deserve when I’m spread thin in the default world. Be a whole lot cooler if I had my flip flops.

9:21pm Saturday
Finally broke. Hours ago. Did my best George Carlin and drove out with some of my stuff to 101 to head north for more ice. But we hadn’t even made the left before we noticed the Peg House 200 meters away: an antique gas station turned general store. With a pitch perfect SOUTH PARK monster truck school bus out front. This mirage claimed to have everything we needed and a bumper crop of shit we didn’t. Clearly emblazoned in neon: ice. And beer. And bookstore. And souvenirs. All boxes we checked by the time we paid. So, technically yea: we left camp for additional supplies. But I think there’s a distance clause we could invoke.

So back to camp we went. With fresh horses and renewed spirits. A couple more dice games and a shit ton of cheese its. And just when the length and breadth of the day started to take its toll, Charlotte gets the wild bug up her butt to go exploring. So off we went up the Big Tree Trail. And there she was boasting of her energy. And on that I checked my Fitbit: 13k steps today. And still she kept going. A walk amongst the redwoods. A stand that could really compete with Muir Woods. In some stretches. Temperature fluctuations of 20°+ depending on which side of the canyon we were on. And just like that, she decides she’s done and wants to head back to camp.

10:02pm Saturday
This camp site rocks. No arguments brooked. Has everything. Abundance of sites, most of which are worthy on their own merits, over half with new shit be they tables or critter boxes, dozens of miles of well tended nature trails, trash cans everywhere, dish faucets every 4 sites, proper well-lit facilities with flush toilets, provisions and sundries just a 1/4 mile away from a camp amongst the redwoods. In a different life, I could see myself spending many consecutive days here either writing another novel or hiding out from authorities.

After so many years of primitive camping, I guess I’m just smitten. I mean, I knew the KOA sites were like this. But you traded so much for that. The pure solitude offered by Usal Beach will any day trump those other lowest common denominators. But this is an odd ball. We’re out here WAY out here and even on a Saturday night in September there’s only 2 other sites occupied down here. And perhaps 30 quality redwood slots just lonely.

And walk through the doorway.

We all believe in something. Even if we believe there’s nothing to believe. I’m not interested in telling you what I believe, and trying to make you believe in something. But I’m curious: How do you know what you know? How did you get your beliefs? What is it in the moment? We could know the truth of everything. What does the consciousness know? For just one moment, if we could get it all out, if we could just know for one moment what our consciousness was, is, and where it came from. And get it all out.

What if we could crack through the illusion of linear time, in the same moment? What if we could experience all of history and all of eternity, in a single moment? For this single point in all of eternity, knowing all there is to know, we choose our next thought. This next thought will be the seed for our new belief, our new perception of a new world.

Forgive any resentment. Release any anger. Dissolve any guilt. Refrain my regrets. Accept anything I may be resisting. Love away any fear. And walk through the doorway.

– Unknown

Diary of the Migration to Clipless

Day One :: Monday
Despite my first clipped-in spill occurring on Embarcadero in front of ferry bldg and about 30 tourists, the hardest part thus far is the FUCKING STRUGGLE TO CLIP BACK IN!! It takes more than a little bit of emotional and momentum energy to find the clip and get back up to speed.

Day Two :: Tuesday
As of the morning of my 2nd day with the new clipless pedals, I finally found what may be the trick to clipping back in. Instead of finessing it whilst the pedal is up, try mashing into the clip in the down position. A wiggle and a push and we’re in.

When coming up to a potential down foot scenario, if you’re in doubt, just clip out to avoid a spill.

These things take some time to get used to. More to the point: to get my body to break what is a 3 1/2 decade old habit: to lead to step off with my toes instead of my heel.

2nd fall this morning. At a deserted stoplight in industrial San Rafael.

As of the afternoon of my 2nd day, another lesson learned: make sure the cap screws under each shoe are more than just tight. I noticed one was loose whilst clipped in this morning. But when my fingers confirmed it wasn’t loose, I just chalked it up to normal play within the clip.

Well, on the blast to the ferry this afternoon, that same foot would not come out of the clip, no matter how far a jarred my heel. It just stayed clipped. Scary shit. This is my right foot, used almost 80% of the time to clip out and foot down.

Turns out I lost one of the 2 screws and the other was loose. Luckily I have basic tools. No wait, luckily I got the dual pedals cause I was able to get to the ferry on time. Where I could then sinch down the remaining 3 screws on both shoes.


Day Three :: Wednesday
Third day, third spill. This time early dusk. This time with visible damage to vehicle and rider.

As with each of the other spills, the part of my body to strike the tarmac first has been my right knee. This time the surface was highly uneven and my knee strikes and scrapes. As I stand here now in line for the ferry, I dare not lift up the legging.


Also on the right side are my trusty cap end blinkies. I suppose they were never stress tested for this. But a third jam and it just exploded in a spray of plastic, lens and AAA battery.

Slower Traffic Keep Right

Slower Traffic Keep Right


21650. Upon all highways, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows:
(a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing that movement.
(b) When placing a vehicle in a lawful position for, and when the vehicle is lawfully making, a left turn.
(c) When the right half of a roadway is closed to traffic under construction or repair.
(d) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.
(e) When the roadway is not of sufficient width.
(f) When the vehicle is necessarily traveling so slowly as to impede the normal movement of traffic, that portion of the highway adjacent to the right edge of the roadway may be utilized temporarily when in a condition permitting safe operation.

21654. (a) Notwithstanding the prima facie speed limits, any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(b) If a vehicle is being driven at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time, and is not being driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, it shall constitute prima facie evidence that the driver is operating the vehicle in violation of subdivision (a) of this section.
(c) The Department of Transportation, with respect to state highways, and local authorities, with respect to highways under their jurisdiction, may place and maintain upon highways official signs directing slow-moving traffic to use the right-hand traffic lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn.

21656. On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. As used in this section a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.

21659. Upon a roadway which is divided into three lanes a vehicle shall not be driven in the extreme left lane at any time, nor in the center lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the roadway ahead is clearly visible and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn, or where the center lane is at the time allocated exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is proceeding and is signposted to give notice of such allocation. This section does not apply upon a one-way roadway.

Shaman’s Black Rock City Supply & Preparation List


This is in no way intended to be a complete end-to-end list of what to bring with you to Black Rock City. For example, i am not telling you remember your ticket or to bring X gallons of water per day per person. But i may provide some details about those items. In fact, I wont even try to re-state what you should already have read and memorised:

What i do list, i do so out of desire to share learned experiences. I stand by these items & processes as they’ve been formed over years of experience and vetted in the field. The items listed are in no way hierarchical or prioritized by importance. Some lists may be in somewhat chronological order, but are meant to be digested as a whole.

Getting to Black Rock City

The following assumes your arrival will be from the South (395N) or Southwest (80E); at very least travelling thru Reno. I have no personal experiences accessing Black Rock City from the East (80W) or from the North (395S).)

Drive Safety

The entire drive out there, use better than average common sense. Road officials from Los Angeles to Reno to BRC itself know there are 50k additional people on the road, any number of which carry with them a higher than average potential for contraband, tom-foolery, etc. This is NOT the way the majority of law enforcement officials think. But YOU should.

  • Have all vehicular documents accessible & ready: Drivers License, Registration, Proof of Insurance.
  • Know your rights if stopped. Here and here.
  • Dont have open containers or other gotchas in plain-sight
  • Keep no more than 5mph over the posted limit. If you’re pulling a trailer, your speed limit may be less, regardless of posted limit.
  • If you’re a passenger, remind driver & other passengers of these things

The moment you leave Fernley on 447 North, the stakes get even higher:

  • You’ll be travelling through at least two Native American Reservations, each of which with their own law enforcement, each of which actively maintains zero-tolerance for speeding
  • You’ll be on 2 lanes now, for 80 miles: you’re going to have cars & RVs stacked in front and behind you the whole way, dicks will pass you on blind curves over double yellows.

Dont be a dick:

  • Dont pass on blind curves or on double yellows; be patient and wait for a safe hole (snicker)
  • Dont tailgate. Communicate with cars ahead of you in other ways. Seems like in all countries EXCEPT the United States, the universal way to send this message is to flash your brights.
  • If you’re GETTING tailgated: Is there a stack of vehicles behind you? Is there a good deal of distance ahead of you? Has the vehicle behind you flashed their brights at you? Congratulations: you are slower traffic, and need to keep right. This has nothing to do with going the speed limit. Please use a turn-out and let them pass
  • Be ALERT, be SAFE. And sweet baby jesus look around you: this is one of the most breath-taking drives i’ve ever seen. Enjoy it. And revel in the fact that by this point, you’re only a short distance away from Home.


Best rule of thumb is that the sooner you get to the playa, the better. No brainer here. But this also applies to time-of-day: Early morning is going to have far more agreeable entrance lines versus 2-4 pm, for example.

Try to use co-pilot solutions to drive thru the night to arrive early morning. Try to stage the drive by getting a hotel in Reno (Grand Sierra has good rates)

Enroute Supplies

Buy whatever you can in Reno, especially water, which typically makes up a large portion of weight in your vehicle. All the less weight you have to lug up & over the Sierras. Less weight equals better gas mileage. Use the stores on I80 between Reno & Fernley to (drain and) top off your coolers with more ice. Just remember that whatever cold goods you pick up at this point, even though they’re cold, will contribute to ice melt.


  • From The West
  • Safeway – 5150 Mae Anne Avenue, Reno, NV – (775) 746-9000 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 1630 Robb Drive, Reno, NV – (775) 746-6400 – MAP
  • From The South
  • Raley’s – 4047 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV – (775) 825-2151

24-Hour Supercenters (some with full grocery)

  • From The West
  • Wal-Mart – West Reno: 5260 W 7Th St, Reno, NV 89523, – (775) 624-2000
  • Wal-Mart – Fernely: 1550 Newlands Dr E, Fernley, NV 89408 – (775) 575-4832

Last Minute Outdoor Gear

  • Cabela’s – 8650 Boomtown Road, Verdi, NV 89439 – (775) 829-4100 – MAP

Last Last Chance

  • Buy whatever you can in Emprire or Gerlach: support local communities. Even if you’re stocked up, you should stop and browse. Exercise caution during peak hours as you’ll most likely have to park on the shoulder and walk a short distance to the store.


Gas-up in Reno, or better yet, one of the stations along I80 between Reno and the Fernely turn-off. You want to have enough fuel to get you from the gas station on 80, up 447 to Black Rock City, and then back down again X days later.

Don’t wait until Empire or Gerlach to top off: these stations are almost always at least a 30+ minute wait for fuel. And i’ve seen them run out. If you’re arriving at odd hours, and there are no lines, then yes: top-off again in Empire/Gerlach. Especially if you’re in an RV.

Basically, you want to have as full a tank as possible prior to Exodus, when you’re idling for what may well be many hours. Moreover, after Exodus, Gerlach/Empire will have worse lines then arrival.

Playa Turn-Off & Entrance


  • Your ticket(s)
  • Keys to locks on trailers (for inspection)
  • Your mask & goggles (headlamp if late-afternoon; it will be dark soon)
  • Maps to or street address for your camp
  • Camera
  • Celebratory beverage(s)
  • Take some pictures of the sign. Dont worry, everyone does, you’ll be happy you did, and is a great kick off.

Stop here to gather some critical essentials:

Depending on time of arrival, the line for the gates & greeters could easily be 2 hours or more. The line moves the whole time; its just a long line. But more lanes are open during peak hours.

The chokepoint is the multiple lanes compressing into fewer as you approach the inspections, which may range from under a minute if you’re in a car, to a few minutes if you have a trailer or RV. Have keys ready to unlock things. You wont have to UNpack, but these cats are thorough. That impressive Tetris-worthy packing job in your trailer? They WILL insert their bodies up into your shit looking for stowaways. Its quite entertaining.

Once inspected, you come upon the Greeters. Keep in mind THIS is where the 5mph limit should really begin. Use your best judgement based on volume and time of day.

Dont be a dick and make your own new lanes. Sheep will follow you and NO ONE gets in any sooner.

Tune your car sterio into BMIR (94.5 FM) or (welcome back) RFBM (99.5). There may be dozens of stations; keep searching the dial. Incredible entrance soundtracks abound

If you’re lucky enough to be caught in a sand and or wind and or rain storm, DONT get out of your car. It will only get your interior dirtier than it will already get, and you may get caught in whiteout and lose your car or your passengers.


Love them.

Perform for them. Offer them a beverage. Get them laughing so hard they break character

Get some and give up some extra hugs & stranger squeezes. They have the hardest but perhaps most fulfilling job at BMORG if you ask me…

The packet of information they’ll give you (1x per person) is invaluable. It contains art maps, newspaper, invites, late announcements, stickers and many other items that immediately start your BRC archive for that year.

Once Inside

Stop. Pull over and just stop. Get out and share the moment. Even if you’re solo. Perhaps especially if you’re solo. Revel in it. It all starts right here. Acknowledge that is is beginning. Ok, get back in and go find your camp.

Dont be a dick:

  • Observe 5mph speed limit. Slower than that or even STOP to get past walkers, bikes, zombies, large unhinged steam-powered ferris wheels, etc.
  • Not unlike a boat in an inner harbor kicking up a wake: if you’re producing a dust plume behind you, you’re driving too fast.

Your Camp

Your greeter package should have a street map. Get it out.

If you are part of a theme camp, you should already have a street address.

If you are not part of a theme camp, or otherwise lack a specific street address to drive to, then you need to make a decision. Or, preferably, implement a previously-made decision amongst your passengers & support vehicles: WHERE TO CAMP?

You’re all about to make a highly subjective decision

Inside: You may have very good reasons for pressing on into the center of the city to find a camp closer to Esplanade. Just keep in mind this is a popular decision, and therefore the closer you get to city center, the less room you’re going to find. Many plots that look open and available will be reserved by the camp on either side (for their friends yet to arrive, or to maintain frontage/margins). Engage them with a smile; Strike up a conversation; y’all may within a few days become life-long friends you guys.

  • Ask how much space they need
  • Communicate how much space you’re likely to take up
  • Ply & sway them with the good shit & wonderful company your troupe will offer.

Outside: If its space and elbow room over location location location, then my personal preference for non-themed camp is 8:00 – 10:00 on the ORT (outer ring territories). By this i mean the block created by the 2 outer-most roads, where you should shoot for a camp on an edge of one of the hour spokes, preferably on a corner.

  • These are the last places to fill up, so there is typically lots of space to establish a sprawling camp
  • These are far away from Esplanade, and do require more than average distances.
  • But they’re typically much quieter, and still see a fair amount of art car touring (for when you’re home)
  • The sunsets out here are astonishing. They’re not unlike beachfront property sunsets: nothing much to obstruct.
  • There are land surfers and kites and R/C planes and all sorts of activity you might otherwise not see on the other side of the city.

Your Cooler Situation

The Ice Wars

Def: The battle to retain ice for the entire duration of Black Rock City without resorting to Arctica

General Guidelines

  • Ice melts much faster when you’re trying to change an items temperature (cold to colder)
  • Ice melts slower when its used to keep colder (frozen) items from getting warmer.
  • Keep the cooler in the shade at all times, but not in a tent away from a breeze. If you can, elevate the cooler up off the playa (again, for brreze, airflow)
  • Open the cooler only when absolutely necessary, and only for a short amount of time. Size of cooler and internal organization helps here
  • Freeze anything you can to act as cold elements to slow the ice melt. Especially liquids, provided they wont burst when frozen. But also applies to meats, sauces, & pre-made meals; thawing on the playa is very easy
  • Remove items from any sort of paper-based or plastic containers. This not only frees up valuable real-estate in your cooler, but also reduces the amount of trash you’ll accumulate as you use these items.

Multiple Coolers

If you have access to more than one cooler, try to strategize, with one you hardly open, another for items you’ll use more frequently. The hardly open should be your food, meat, dairy, cold cuts, etc (what you’ll use less often thru-out the day). The frequent open should be your canned beverages, drinking ice, etc (what you’ll use more often than 2-3 times a day)


  • You need at least a 50 quart cooler per person, 62 quart
  • Try to find one with wheels.
  • Some of the retro steel-belted metal coolers from Coleman, while expensive, are very efficient
  • If you have access to or funds for a marine/boat cooler, they too are constructed a bit better
  • Cooler handles are notorious for first thing on a cooler to fail. Have zip-ties and/or rope to repair or augment.


Use one or more clear plastic shoeboxes with tight clasping-lids for keeping different cold foods both separate from each other, and relatively dry. Container Store has good odd-sizes here, to utilize real-estate. You wont keep your cold compartmentalized items totally free from moisture however, so…

For added compartmentalization, wrap your frozen cold items in a couple layers of paper towels, then seal them in zip-lock freezer bags. Nest these within the clear plastic shoeboxes.

These clear plastic shoeboxes are also great ways to keep a set of cubes clean for drinking ice

Ice War strategy

Freeze 3-4 one-gallon water bottles, and place them in the corners of the cooler.

    Crystal Geyser 1-gallon squares

  • These should be IN ADDITION to your daily water! Not a replacement for ice cubes; just a way to keep the core temp of the cooler down. Towards the end, they become 4 additional gallons of drinking water.
  • This tactic is a serious hit to real estate in your cooler, which is why something larger than 50 quart is key.
  • Crystal Geyser has the perfect bottles that are not too squat, and their square format makes them great for maxxing real-estate. UPDATE: These things are now round, no longer square. But they’re still the key tactic in the Ice Wars.
  • Steer clear of the traditional gallon milk jugs, as the walls of these containers are too weak, and they will split.
  • Start the freeze process at least 4 days prior: takes that long for core to freeze.
  • Before you freeze, unscrew the cap, and drink or dump some of the top few inches. Otherwise, when these babies freeze, the water expands and will extrude up & out the hole. Oh, and freeze with the caps OFF!

Organization & Loading


  • Items you use the least, or plan on using last should be placed at the bottom of the cooler
  • Using the above tactic of 4 x frozen water gallons as corner items, most cooler shapes (depending on size) should offer a good space in the middle.
  • Fill cooler to half-way with ice cubes, then compress the cubes down; remove space between cubes.
  • Insert the clear plastic shoeboxes between the frozen gallons, then line the remaining space with as many frozen items as possible.
  • Fill remaining real estate with ice cubes, then compress, repeat. When closed, cooler lid should be in-contact with top of ice


Provided you have a quality cooler (insulation) and don’t open it too often, the above steps should render you victorious in the Ice Wars. If you’re not successful, no worries: Arctica will sell you ice. If/when you do, beg borrow or abscond with a dolly or other wheeled contraption for the ice. Bike baskets work, but can tear the bags. Be prepared for long lines, or get there early. Arctica can sell out later in the day.

And keep in mind: sales of ice from all Arctica locations go directly to Gerlach-area charities and community groups. Oh, and they also love tips. These guys are magicians keeping a shipping container full of ice out on the playa.

  • Locations:
  • Ice3 in the 3 o’clock plaza
  • Arctica in the Center Camp Inner Circle
  • Ice-9 in the 9 o’clock plaza
  • Hours of Operation:
  • Monday – Saturday 9:00a – 6:00p
  • Sunday after the Burn 12:00p – 6:00p
  • Labor Day Monday @ Arctica only 9:00a – 12:00 noon
  • Please note: There will be no ice sales at the 3 or 9 o’clock plazas on Labor Day Monday!

Prices: All Ice Sales locations have 7lb bags of crushed ice and 10lb bags of block ice. The price for individual bags is $3 each. Six-packs of 7lb bags of crushed ice will be available for $15 – buy 5 and get the 6th bag free! Proceeds from ice sales go to help the local Nevada communities.

Dry Ice

  • Guidelines
  • Remember first & formost that touching DI with bare hands can cause burns & serious discomfort. Use Gloves!
  • Anything in your cooler that is right next to the DI will become frozen solid
  • In my experience, DI melts at about the same rate as ice, maybe a bit slower.
  • Just like ice, if you use it to get items colder, that transfer of energy will melt it; Use it to keep frozen from warming up.

Where to Obtain

  • Dedicated Dry Ice Sales
  • Airgas – 6438 Martin Luther King Jr Blv, Sacramento – (916) 428-4700 – MAP
  • Praxair – 3100 Power Inn Road, Sacramento – (916) 452-1261 – MAP
  • Crystal Ice & Oil – 1345 West 4th Street, Reno – (775) 323-5145 – MAP
  • Airgas – 1545 Industrial Way, Sparks – (775) 358-2260 – MAP
  • Supermarkets
  • Safeway – 5150 Mae Anne Avenue, Reno, NV – (775) 746-9000 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 1630 Robb Drive, Reno, NV – (775) 746-6400 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 4047 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV – (775) 825-2151

For most, the DI sold by larger supermarket chains will be enough. They come in blocks roughly the size/shape of a large textbook.

Optimal Setup would be the same as above Organization, but first: line bottom of cooler with 2-3 in of DI. This keeps both the frozen water corners and the ice frozen longer. The layer of ice cubes should prevent the goods in the shoebox(es) from freezing solid.

What’s In My Bag

Get the proper bag

Camelback or similar brand of hydration pack.

  • Anything else means you’re carrying a bottle. With as much & as frequently as you’ll be drinking, this will quickly become a pain.
  • A bare-bones hydration pack with JUST the bladder is good; one with additional pockets & zipper compartments is very good (assumed in all below). More space the better; read below
  • A 70oz bladder is minimal size, for all, regardless. You’ll refill it daily. A 100oz is best to lessen refilling. Note: A scoop or 3 (or more) of powdered gatorade mixed in with a full fill helps the body replace electrolites without being too strong tasting



What you bring with you out onto the playa for your adventures, be they either day or night a or blend of both, is a critical set of decisions. You need to weigh – literally – what you feel you’re going to need. At very least, you’re going to need at the very least a pack that will keep your arms & hands free, as well as large enough to carry some of the essential items listed below. You’re just going to have to field test yourself and your bag.

  • Cup or Mug – Bartenders almost always pour stronger when you provide your own vessel. With handle so you can clasp it to the pack when not in use.
  • Extra goggles – These are in addition to those you’ve got on your face
  • Extra dust masks – Again, additionals to your primaries.
  • Lights – Anything: blinkies, headlamps, etc. You have no idea how long you’ll be out and if you’re out after dark, you’ll want these
  • Clothing layers – See Lights, above. If you cant make it back home after dark to change, you’ll be happy to have a layer or two extra.
  • Identification – Or a photocopy thereof. You WANT the bartenders to be responsible and card you, right?
  • Lip care – I have a tube of soft vaseline intensive care AND a stick of chapstick.
  • Sunscreen
  • Eye-Care – Spare contact lenses + case, saline solution, eyeglasses in case both above fail
  • Baby wipes – Try to find the smaller travel sized boxes. A Costco brand brick with 1/2 to 1/3 left compresses nice
  • Q-Tips
  • Snacks – PowerBars or granola bars. Baggies of crunchies. Oranges. Beef jerky
  • Paper – Clean ruled paper for journaling, note taking, leaving notes, etc. A few loose sheets will do, but a bound composition book is better. Clean blank sheets (for sketching)
  • Writing utensils – Personal preferences trump here. I like having both pencils as well as pall-point pens as well as sharpies. See below.
  • Pencils – Perhaps better for sketching. If you bring wooden pencils, dont forget your sharpener. I will be trying mechanical pencils this year (use softer leads (HB and up) as the arid climate makes hard leads too hard)
  • Ballpoint pens – Handy to loan to others, wont smudge like pencils
  • Sharpies – For writing on structures like the Temple
  • Extra carabiners
  • Lighter/matches
  • Make-up + compact
  • Condoms
  • Camera + Gear – Lens cleaning, Memory card(s), Charger. For all camera-related gear, it is best that they’re all in their own nested bag. GorillaPod, mini-tripod. Consider nametags: Each year, dozens of cameras are lost and returned to owners. nametags make this easier
  • Tools – Pen knife, Zip-ties (for bike repair), Wrench or multi-tool for bike
  • Cash (for coffee)
  • Map – Handed out by greeters, this names & locates all art installations
  • Bike Gloves
  • Hair ties – Even if you have short hair, they’re great gifts to those without
  • Zip-Lock baggies – For trash you create (above) or MOOP you encounter
  • Toilet Paper – Or personal size kleenex. If its your time, and the freight train is coming, it might not coincide with when the nearest porta-potties were last cleaned/stocked

Letter to my Father…


See the attached photo for an approximate location where i think the injury occurred.

Its about 15-20 feet straight out from dock, and about 10-15 to the left. That is where it happened, roughly.

Immediately prior, I was treading water in about 7-8 feet of water, the bottom uneven strewn with large boulders descending rapidly into dark green-black as you go towards Ink Bottle. With goggles i spotted a rock that came up to about 5 feet; enough to stand solid with head out of water. As I paddled legs-first, it was the one stoke I thought would land me on the rock; that’s the one that cut me. So even though i expected to touch rock, no rock can make a slice as clean as this thing was. But whatever it was, its leading edge must have been level with or near the top of the rock. It was highly unlikely my foot descended to the muddy bottom where sharps tend to collect.

My hunch is that it must have been either:
(A) glass somehow wedged & protruding, or
(B) a multi-pronged fishing hook stuck fast into/onto the upper side or top of the rock.

A bottle of Yamazaki if you locate and quarantine the damned item…

s e a n

Yambo in Little Havana

2011_0710_1524 a video by seannarae on Flickr.

We had just come from a hot sticky sangria-soaked day on Miami’s South Beach. All we wanted was some authentic Cuban food. Yelp kept sending us to places that I dont think would have been wise to introduce to an unseasoned body. We were all set to give up and drive back to Boca when we came across YAMBO. It was *so* over the top, we had to stop.

Not a word of english was spoken to us. There was no menu; nothing printed or posted (in any language). The lady behind the glass simply held things up for us to choose. We ended up eating what may well have been one of the top 3 meals we had all trip. Not sure precisely what part of the cow we ate, but it felt tri-tippy. The rice & beans were just a touch salty & sweet (aka: perfect). There must have been 4 lbs of food. The Nicaraguan beer was called Toña, and was like a sweet Corona.

All for $8.