En Route to Eunice, LA

So I woke up around 7 AM, unable to attempt any more car-sleeping. WAY over-rated. I’ve done some car-sleeping during my Worcester State days when I was in Worcester from 8 AM to midnight, but that was in a cooler climate with the whole backseat available to me. The humid Mississippi evening and the front seat of my car offers little comfort. My legs are still sore from attempting to stretch out.

Needless to say, Panda found it hilarious.

And I apologized to her for all the times I’ve left her in the car during this trip.

My next stop was Waffle House, where I had a delicious, and gigantic breakfast, at 7 in the morning. I felt like a specimen, however, since I think all the locals were watching me. This conspiracy was verified when I went to leave, and a couple of the older men yelled out goodbye to me. Haha.

Magellan informed me that there was a petting zoo / safari extravaganza place nearby in Folsom, Louisiana, which thrilled me to no end, and by 9 o’clock I was waiting in line to get on the wagons and feed the animals, hahaha. I promise, my dorkiness has no limits.

Regardless, it was amazing and I had so much fun. I sort of attached myself to some older couple and their great-grandkids, hahahhah, cuz I’m cool like that, but they were good about it. The man even gave me a dollar so I could buy a water bottle, since it was ridiculously hot there, even so early in the morning. But the little 2-year-old boy, Jeremy, was amazingly adorable, and I enjoyed watching him squeal with delight every time a camel or deer or giraffe took some of his feed (not that I didn’t squeal or anything…) Okay, I might have squealed when the camel stuck his head right in the wagon and stole my feed cup! Hahaha (and yes, Joshua, I lied to you – I thought it was the giraffe but the proof is in the pictures). But then one of the french-speaking guys there jumped up and became my instant hero and retrieved my feed cup from the bugger’s mouth! πŸ™‚

After that, I continued over to Eunice, LA, where I am now, with Cori and Clay. They have been extremely kind and welcoming, even though I’ve been totally lame and basically slept for the past day or so… in a vain attempt to recover my from my ridiculous driving and walmart-sleeping antics!



Smoky Mountain National Park

Today was a wonderful driving day. Occasionally it became haphazard and awkward, but overall I really enjoyed my time by myself, in my car. It had been a while (about 9 days) since I had been on the road, so it was long enough that I could appreciate it again.

I said my goodbyes to Doug and Lisa this morning (okay fine early afternoon) and it was really bittersweet, because on one hand I was really happy and honored to have gotten to know them so well, but on the other hand I literally had to tear myself away. But it was time – time to move on, time to meet new people and see new things.

So in the spirit of seeing new things, apparently, I drove directly back the way I had came a week earlier, heading back to Cherokee. Haha – oh well, it was still a beautiful drive. I was actually really happy to drive it again. In fact, my favorite part of the day was very unexpected, and completely based on a whim. I was driving all the curvy roads, when I saw this abandoned farm-like place on the side of the road. I remember seeing it on my way to Georgia, and wishing I had stopped to take a picture. Well, this time I did exactly that, in abundance. I pulled over on a side street, walked down into the property, and took about 300 pictures (in fact, in total today I took around 800 photos!). The location was just so inspiring – everything was deserted, there was broken glass and boxes in one building, and bird’s nests and farm equipment in another… it was really a photography heaven. I’m hoping to get the chance to edit some of the pictures tomorrow and post them; I’m really excited about that.

Of course, that threw me off course by about an hour, so by the time I arrive in Cherokee, I was well behind schedule. I entered the Smoky Mountain National Forest, and before I knew it I had to start pulling over to take pictures, since everything was breath-takingly gorgeous. I stopped at the old Mill, and at a couple of the lookouts, and then did the hike up to Clingman’s Dome, where I stayed until the sun set.

Which, naturally, threw me more off course (that, and the adorable baby bear that was on the side of the road), and all that made me even later to arrive at my final destination .

Which is where I am now – in Knoxville, Tennessee.

On my way here, I drove through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which were ghastly, haha. But more than that – it was the unbelievable way you enter into Gatlinburg. One moment I’m driving through beautiful bendy roads of light and trees and tunnels, and the next I’m bombarded with neon lights and fast-food restaurants. It was the STRANGEST thing – at first I was sure I was hallucinating, but alas, it was real. It was a like a mini, hick-filled Vegas. Oddest thing. And the worst part is I felt this incredible, morbid fascination with the entire place. In fact, I almost pulled over and decided to spend the night, but I kept myself strong and kept driving. But I’m telling you, I want to go back – the perversion of it all, the bright lights and tacky storefronts… oh man, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe that this was Tennessee.

But here I am now, in Knoxville, with Scott and his wife. I arrived later than anticipated (around 10:30), but Scott welcomed me so kindly; in fact, they both did, and we instantly started having fantastic conversation. Scott and I spent the last couple hours talking, about this and that, and it was great. I think, so far, my favorite part of this trip has been the fantastic conversations. How I have longed for profound, intelligent, humorous conversation -with people who are passionate and inspired and open-minded, and poets at heart. πŸ™‚ It’s been wonderful. And I’ve had a beautiful fill of such conversations, and such people lately.

Which reminds me – as I was driving the last stretch of road into Knoxville, I had serious heart-pangs about leaving Ellijay. More than anything, I wanted to be sitting in my bed there, on my computer, listening to doo-wop and drinking sweet tea, and knowing in the morning Lisa and Doug and the deer would be there… but alas, I had to move forward. Regardless, it was bittersweet to miss something so acutely. It’s been a long time since something was that wonderful enough to miss.

Tomorrow? Well, I guess it involves a little boat, and traveling to the Gulf of Mexico.

But Scott might have been joking about that.


Cherokee, NC & Ellijay, GA

Panda is extremely happy about our new location. She is currently reclining like a queen in our king size bed, listening to the sounds of the Cartecay River outside our third story cabin window, occasionally mumbling to herself about how she wants to feed the deer in the morning.

This evening we are in Ellijay, nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

We were welcomed here a few hours ago by my cousin, Lisa. She is actually a second cousin of my mother’s, and they grew up together. Mommy is very happy to know I am safely ensconced here with family, not gallivanting about couchsurfing. It is absolutely gorgeous here, so I can’t deny that I’m content to be here, as well. First of all, the drive alone was majestic, traveling through the mountain ranges. My straight and wide recollection of highways could barely handle the curvy turns and twists of the narrow roads here; nevertheless they are termed as highways, and are the only way to get from point A to B. As I drove, I couldn’t help but to think how even a hundred years ago, a mile was a mountain, both figuratively and literally. No wonder people settled into the curves of the hills and never left; there were little options beyond that existence. There is something both tranquil and terribly isolating in that thought.

Before the Blue Ridge Mountains welcomed us, Panda and I briefly visited the Great Smoky Mountain Range, as well. I was thrilled to attend my very first Native American Powwow, right on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. I woke up, relatively early (for me), said goodbye to Chris as he left for work, then headed over to Cherokee for the Memorial Day Weekend Powwow. As I drove deeper into the mountains, I could barely contain my joy – I could smell the husky smell of wood smoke, and almost drove off cliffs a couple times due to my absolute awe of all that was around me. I was tempted to pull off to the side of the road, and simply refuse to leave. For the rest of my life.

Nevertheless, I made it to the powwow, and gratefully so, for it was a wonderful experience. I sat next to a nice woman named Pat, who was also traveling alone, and we both enjoyed taking lots of pictures of the singers and dancers. As soon as the singers began drumming, I felt that burgeoning feeling in my chest again. I have felt so much energy, deep within my chest – first with yoga, then the mountains, now the music. It’s as though the air is pressing down upon my heart, and it is a perfect mixture of yin and yang, pleasure and pain. As the drumbeats started, and the players mixed their voices into the beat, tears formed in my eyes, and I could barely swallow. Again I was overwhelmed with profound emotions, spilling up from my soul. It is not only an awareness of joy and of life, but also of a deep soul pain, probably in a war between feeling and healing.

I’ve only been with Lisa for a few hours, and already we have had incredible conversations. She is a great representation of the kind of person I hope to be, and has accomplished many of the things for which I strive. At the very least, she owns this cabin, which is a perfect symbol for me of everything I dream of – the earth, a sense of peace, security, and authenticity. She might have to pry me off the porch to get me to leave.

Hilton Head, 3:30 AM

“We’re running around in circles; I’m chasing you.”

– Chris Bruno

The highlight of my day today was going for a walk (no, the walk itself was not the highlight, keep reading), in an attempt to take pictures, and instead getting my foot sucked into a boggy-ish swampy thing and losing my shoe. I was on the phone at the time, so freaked a little, hung up, and wondered what to do next.

I really like that shoe. It’s a sandal but a sneaker and it’s a skecher but more than that, it’s a…

Well, regardless, the next thing I knew I was on the ground, in my pretty blue dress, reaching my arm all the way down into a puddle of suction cup-like swampland. Perhaps not my most graceful moment, but it eventually got the job done.

I was glad to have my shoe back, but correspondingly covered in mud.

I decided to walk towards the beach, where I had been heading anyhow, figuring I could use one of the beach showers to clean up. Little did I realize it was happy hour, and the entire island population could apparently be found at The Tiki Hut, which was located directly in front of the showers.

Again, not my proudest moment.

It was all made worth it, however, by the two adorable children who looked at me and stepped aside from the showers, saying “oh, you need this more than us!” and continued to hold down the button so I could clean myself off. Then while I was washing my foot, the little boy said “I like your necklace,” which was a bit surprising coming from a young boy, but a compliment nonetheless. Then he started talking to me about this hermit crab he found, and I assured him that I could manage the button-pressing while he ran off to retrieve the little guy. At that moment, I knew a bunch of people from the beach bar were looking at the mess I had made of myself, but I didn’t care, since two beautiful children were sharing a moment with me.

Afterwards, I finally took a few beach pictures, then walked out towards the water a bit and received a phone call. It was from my mother’s cousin, Lisa, who lives in Georgia and wanted to talk about the possibility of me visiting her. I’ve only met her a couple times in my life, but we talked for over 30 minutes, and now I’m all giddy about spending time with her in the Georgia mountains, where they have property.

I decided to confront The Tiki Bar head on, and returned to purchase a drink. Yes, a drink. I figured I was on the beach, at Hilton Head, on an island, with sand and music and seagulls – I should order a drink. Of course, I knew no one, until the waitress recognized me from Sarah’s introduction the other day, and she made me feel more comfortable and put in a drink order. As she walked away, I noticed… okay, I noticed a delicious guy. At first I figured he was just the typical beach bod asshole, but then I noticed the group of friends he was sitting with – a silly, slightly awkward group, who definitely had plenty of signs hinting towards dorkiness and perhaps even intelligence. I tried being surreptitious, probably failing miserably, and eventually decided to simply sit somewhere near his table and look at my pictures.

As I turned on my camera, however, the only girl at the table made a comment about what a nice camera I had, then hit her boyfriend as he proceeded to stare, which is apparently rude if you’re from Indiana – which they were! Haha, that last line sounds even more ridiculous if you could hear the way I said it in my head. Thank goodness this isn’t a video blog.

Anyhow… before I know it, I’m invited to join their table. I was especially convinced when yummy boy smiled and patted the chair beside him.

Overall, I was proud of myself for putting myself out there, and encouraged by the actions of others to start believing in humanity once more.

And really sad that somehow in the shuffle of saying goodbye, I lost yummy boy. Alas, life goes on.

Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da.

I recovered from the loss of yumminess and quirky smiles and adorable sunglasses and rumply hair, and made it over to Wild Wings, where Sarah was working all day and night. It ended up being an enjoyable evening. The band that was playing, the Lloyd Dobler Effect (lloyddoblereffect.com), was a*m*a*z*i*n*g, and I was fine with admiring them from afar, but in the end we all ended up laughing and hugging, and I’m going down to Savannah tomorrow with Sarah to watch them play again.

I don’t know… I’ve listened to a lot of mediocre bands in my time (haha, i’m such a grandma), but very few of them actually connect strongly with me. This band – their lyrics, from the very start, were just beautiful (they worked ‘innocence’ and ‘decadence’ – I mean really now). The lyrics were poignant, and they were poetry, and I couldn’t help but admire their ability, through both words and vocal effect, to take the soul someplace else, even if only for a moment.

I’m a dork. And I’m thinking there isn’t a single person in that bar tonight who would be like “dude, exactly man” to what I just said, but I’m still standing behind it. πŸ˜›

Plus, on top of their delicious music, they were GOOD people. As in – GENUINE, and authentic, and humorous, and cuddly. Okay, I don’t know if they were actually cuddly, but it’s a good supposition to make.

It’s 3:30 in the A.M.

Enough of this madness.


“She walked into my life last night
Then she walked out just about half past three.
Though it was innocent and decadent, I must confess
Sometimes these things are never meant to be.

There ain’t nothing like a stranger looking out for you
To make you feel like you’re at home.
And ain’t it something when she’s someone sweet and beautiful
And you don’t spend the night alone.”

– Phil Kominski

Interconnectedness, Day 8

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

– John Muir

Am I supposed to understand the intricacies of the human heart? No, I am not. However, I am willing to keep learning and growing, and each day understanding the world and human relationships a bit more. Or perhaps never understanding, and learning to accept that, as well. Regardless, I find it fascinating how one twist in the strands can tint a moment different shades, and leave you unable to sleep for hours.

But enough of that. I am vacating North Carolina today, and traipsing down to Hilton Head, South Carolina
to see my friend, Sarah, and spend some time with her there. She recently moved, and she seems excited to (a) have a visitor and (b) have that visitor be me. Sarah is someone whom I have known my whole life, but the social networks involved in growing up always kept us a few steps apart. However, when I do spend time with her, I see many more layers to her than meets the eye, and I feel that we have grown to respect and care for each other a good deal, even if it’s often from afar. So it will be nice to get to know each other a little better, and have a little fun. Sarah likes to have fun, and I’m not really accustomed to that, so it will be interesting to do something different, haha.

Last night I had an interview with a company from Beijing, China. A couple weeks ago I sent out an application, interested in teaching English abroad. Corey thinks the idea is stupid, and I can’t help but understand where he’s coming from. πŸ˜› I was thinking – no matter where I spent my coming year, if it was outside Massachusetts, it would be an entire new world for me. So it is not really necessary to displace myself so extremely as to go to China. However, I will give the idea consideration. They were impressed with my resume, and such an experience would only develop me more profoundly.

Yesterday was an invigorating day. I went for another walk (this time for almost 2 hours) behind Corey & Laura’s condo complex. Each day, I find new paths and new pictures… and it’s just amazing how every hour, each minute, holds something new and beautiful. Nature can teach us so many priceless lessons, if we are only willing to pay attention. And judging by my photography, I have definitely been a star student. I can not stop taking pictures, and doing so has made me ridiculously happy. Each time I capture beauty behind the lens, I feel ready to jump out of my skin with happiness. It’s comforting to know that writing isn’t the only medium through which I can paint. πŸ™‚

After my walk, I decided to shower and go see something new in the town of Raleigh, NC. So I put on one of my new dresses (yay, dresses!) and pressed a bunch of numbers on my GPS, and found my way to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It was there that I… learned stuff. Haha. It was nice to take my time and look at the exhibits, and realize that I was far from home, learning stuff. πŸ˜›

Following the museum, I made my way to the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University. At first I was unimpressed with the gardens, but then as I wandered further into them, a whole universe of colors and light and smells was opened to me. I took about 600 pictures in two hours (ridiculous, I know). I played with light and colors and my new macro lens, and was basically in heaven. My favorite part was taking off my sandals and feeling the grass and dirt beneath my feet, and finding the hidden secrets of the flowers.

I’m getting stronger every day. Stronger, and happier, and more confident. I even felt pretty yesterday (shock of all shocks!), so we know that this trip has already helped me in many ways. When I left Massachusetts, I couldn’t have been much weaker, in spirit and in song. Already, the layers of my happiness and my hope have begun to warm themselves in the sun. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity to feel alive again.

Blackwolf Run Lane, NC

I woke up this morning (okay… early afternoon) and took a walk through the paths behinds Corey and Laura’s condominium. I’m so glad I did… it was just delightful. Yes, delightful.

It took me about 30 minutes to walk the first half mile, since approximately every ten feet I felt the need to traipse through the grass and practically fall into the swamp trying to get pictures of every little chirp and breeze. My efforts, however, paid off, since I’m in love with some of the pictures I was able to capture.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way a day can be made complete with the capturing of at least one transcendent picture πŸ™‚

My most ridiculous moment of the day definitely goes to midway through my walk, when I was snapping photos, and heard a rustling in the woods. I stopped, listened, and there it was: a loud rustling, definitely a large creature of some sort. I became slightly concerned for my safety, and considered hurrying along. At the same time, I was intrigued, and readied my camera. The rustling got louder and louder, and the anticipation was almost too much. I prepared for either a great picture or my imminent death. This is what I got:

Yes, it was a turtle.

Yes, I felt the fool.

But I swear, that little sucker sounded like a bear.

Anyway, I followed random paths through the woods, and was rewarded with beautiful gifts. πŸ™‚


The rest of the day consisted of P.F. Chang’s with the neighbors, who are the kindest people, and a bit of shopping (where I discovered I have not outgrown my dress addiction). Later on, Corey and I went grocery/gift shopping at Walmart, where I attempted to drive him crazy with my annoying quirks… but he was undeterred. He definitely has me outdone on the annoying quirks front! πŸ™‚

Gosh, am I happy to have met him. He is an angel in my life. And you would think that after years of annoying each other, the beauty would have worn off… but it certainly has not. It is merely validated to me each time I speak with him that he is one of the truly good men in the world. And we can add to his attributes that he is an amazing father. Gabby just drools all over him. Literally.

But Gabby drools all over everything, so perhaps that’s not a good judge of character.


I’m very happy. Happier than I’ve been in God knows how long. I have HOPE for the future, which is something I haven’t experienced in so long I stopped remembering how it felt.

It feels like sunshine and lollipops.

And I was thinking… I have enough money, and resources, and friends, and an uncanny ability to get random jobs… that I could probably extend this trip for… at least a couple years.

πŸ˜›


Shenandoah County, Virginia

NO idea what town I’m in… but it’s in Virginia.

Okay, I checked. I’m in New Market, VA. Part of Shenandoah County.

I’m currently sitting in a cute Cracker Barrel-like restaurant called Johnny Appleseed’s, eating a cheap steak dinner with green beans and potatoes. The best part of the meal was the powdered sugar-covered fritters they gave me when I first arrived. Up until two minutes ago, I was the only customer in the restaurant, which I always find delightful. Or awkward, depending on how you’re treated.

I feel very peaceful at the moment. First of all, the accents have arrived – the sweet southern drawls. The only time I’ve ever heard these accents in person were from the occasional traveler up North. To be surrounded by a southern drawl is quite … giggle-inspiring. But I must say, a guy can look like a regular ol’ bum up here, but when he opens that mouth to speak, following up his mono-syllabic words with a lopsided smile, my northern girl resistance melts. Boy oh boy. My oh my. πŸ™‚ I think I might be in trouble!

I’m on my way to Corey and Laura (and Gabby!) now. I have about… gosh, five more hours or so to go. I’m taking my time, though. To be honest, I want to stop at about every exit. I want to see the cows and the caverns and the adult book stores (kiddingggg) and the civil war monuments and the antique shops and the hiking trails and… well just about everything. But I’ve restrained myself and kept driving ever forward.

It’s a very surreal feeling – to be driving around the country. I’ve honestly never driven outside of New England. This has been a long-anticipated journey, and although I always imagined traveling it with someone by my side, I am indeed finding my solitude to be quite comforting. In fact, I’ve barely turned on the radio, I have yet to plug in my Ipod (!), and oftentimes I just drive in silence, listening to the hum of the car and the beating of my heart.

When I went through West Virginia briefly, I stopped at the welcome center and took some lovely pictures of flowers and trees there. I look forward to many more moments of sunlight and nature… with me and the shutter of the lens.

When I entered Virginia, my paranoid self insisted that I pull off the road to the nearest Jiffy Lube (thank you, Magellan GPS) and have my oil changed. One hundred dollars and synthetic oil & an air filter later, I continued on my way. However, I first need to mention something: the service. The young men at the Jiffy Lube were ridiculously sweet – holding the door open for me, explaining the services, “escorting” me to my car (whatwhat?!). The only complaint I have is that one guy must have reset my mileage for my trip, which just broke my heart. My OCD-like nature is all about numbers and order, and it saddens me that every time I look at the mileage I’ll have to add 420 miles onto the total. ::sigh:: I suppose this is just a test of my anxiety levels, haha. I’ll show Zoloft it’s not needed no more! Durn it.

After my oil change, and running away from what the locals labeled Hell but the town of Winchester labeled the “Apple Blossom Festival,” I called and had a great conversation with my favorite friend of the past – my dear Jessica Ralph. I felt like a total loser, however, since I called her after passing her vicinity by about 30 miles. Stupid me. But it was nice to hear her voice, and to hear her smile over the phone lines.

Well I suppose I should be hitting the road again. I finally have a full belly and a taste of southern accents, so I suppose I can move along.