Machinery's starting to wear out [NY, MA, NH]

Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

Melrose, MA

Today and yesterday have been devoted to resting up my knee, which have caused me increasing aggravation over the last week. No idea why. So it goes.

I feel like the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper. I'm staying in a suburban neighborhood with pretty wooden houses. It'd be nice if I were more mobile—for the sake of my knee, I've been keeping off the bike and only cursorily wandering around the neighborhood on foot [I'm a bit of a ways from the nearest T station on foot]. The greater Boston area's got a special place in my heart; in 2009 it was the backdrop for a paradigm shift that started me on the world-wandering, helter-skelter beginners-mind m.o. I've since committed ceaselessly to for going on six years. But in this particular instance I'm trapped by the needs of my damn meat-suit. 

On this trip I've gotten an empirical, concrete look at degrees of separation. You know how sometimes you'll have an acquaintance or friend who introduces you to another friend of theirs, and then you and this new person hit it off and eschew the middleman? 

Right now I'm staying with a partner's ex-girlfriend's stepdad and we're having fascinating ideological conversations over dinner. And I only met my partner in the first place because of the vehement referral of a woman I briefly worked with when she found out he and I were both in Thailand at the same time. 

There've been a lot of those, as far as my hosts go. I'll meet someone on this trip [by happenstance, or via Couchsurfing or Warmshowers, or because they're a client, or because they're staying at the same house I'm staying at], they'll set me up with a sibling or a friend or a coworker or a neice-of-former-coworker-of-a-friend-of-a-friend a couple states down the line if they think we'd like each other.

It's pretty cool. The matchmaking abilities of people I've randomly met on the road have been pretty on point.

So, backpedaling.

I left Brooklyn, hung over and sleep deprived, and biked seventy miles to Mastic Beach on Long Island. That's when my knee started to complain, and consequently the seventy miles on flat were a lot more grueling than I expected. Once in Mastic Beach, I camped in the backyard of a couple's beach house and was treated to fully-from-scratch homemade pizza with truffle spread. I was so tired that my tent caused me insurmountable difficulty to erect for the first time ever.

The next day I was rained on throughout the fifty miles to the Orient Point, NY ferry on the tip of Long Island that would take me to New London, NH. My compounded exhaustion was beginning to get to me—fifty miles had recently become so attainable, but when I got to the ferry I slumped into a bench and could barely move. 

My host had taken pity on me because of the weather and offered to come scoop me up from New London. The weather wasn't actually a problem—other than all the water in my eyes, I've kind of enjoyed my days riding through the rain, provided it's not too cold or windy—but my knee was beginning to feel a bit swollen and a lot worse. So, he came and got me, equipped with arnica cream.

In the meantime, I had a brief look at New London, a place that had never been on my radar. I thought it was very cute, and had a good feeling about it [within seconds, I knew I liked it more than everything else I've seen of Connecticut]; I made a mental note that if I ever passed through again, I'd stop by for a bit.

Tom, my host, had gone out in the morning and gathered clams and oysters and caught a bluefish for tonight's seafood feast in Westerly, RI. After quitting his job two days ago, another cyclist, Josh, was also spending the night; we decided to ride out to Providence, RI together the following day.

And then there was Providence, where I found the extrapolation of Peter Pan's Lost Boys hanging out on Pinocchio's Pleasure Island.

Got mad fancy in the funky jungle: where the roads are paved in glass, where the cops parallel park like they're on acid, where small children cart around Peewee Herman mannequins on snowboards in June, where all ideological conversations crumble into deconstructing a movie where the protagonist is a rogue car tire, where everything begs to be clobbered with drumsticks, where lort is a $3.50 mystery, where kids in rehab are cheered up with morning renditions of "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park".

Stayed in a punk house for a couple nights, graffitied into oblivion, juggling pins and beer bottles and dumpstered furniture and peeling ceilings and walls. Hung out on the porch [into which the words "No Parents No Rules" were inscribed], was offered many beers. Laid back in the bed of a truck and was carted to an underground show in an unmarked loft by a convenience store, whiling away the ride with a discussion of 90's cartoons.

I don't think I've met nicer kids in my entire life. Absolutely no pretense, no judgment. It was a rare situation where I was the only girl amongst a group of guys in their twenties...and felt neither dismissed nor idolized by anyone in any way. Just a homie with a stash of purse beers, a good spitting range, and a loud laugh.

Actually, that's not even a matter of being in an all-boy group. Being in a group, in general, of any kind, with other humans, makes one vulnerable to being compartmentalized based on their gender. These kids didn't, in the way that little kids don't [until they're soon set straight and taught to...].

Of course, no photos from this time exist. A lot of things in life are best left undocumented.

From Providence I rode to Hull, MA, an adorable beach community I'd never heard of, because a friend I'd met earlier on this trip was there and offered to spring for dinner. I was given an impractically large bottle of wine that I resolved to carry to my hosts in Melrose the next day, with the hopes that they'd consume it [no such luck, they don't like white wine]. Stopped in Boston to bask in introspective nostalgia and sunshine, sit in the grass, and eat an entirely bacon-themed meal from a food truck [I'm not even into bacon, but damn, that was a decadent oreo cheesecake bacon truffle].

And here I am, with my grumpy knee, using this time to make good on the weeks of sleep debt.

My host and I drove lazily around, admiring the diversity of architecture in a few beach communities, stopping to examine lobster traps and figure out how they worked, and wandering along a squeaking beach as the sunset painted everything lilac.

Portsmouth, NH

The overcast ride up along the coast of New Hampshire was a contender for the prettiest stretch of bike riding I've seen on this trip. I passed several amazing sand artists...somewhat hilariously/tragically, though, all their badass sculptures were defiled with the logos of the huge corporations they were endorsed by [Geico, McDonalds, etc]. So it goes. 

My body's begun to mutiny against me in general for this last leg of the trip [joints, stomach, you name it...]. Fortunately I opted not to book any work in Maine, preferring the idea of relaxing for the last leg of my trip, so I've been able to squeeze in some recovery time while still continuing to move along on schedule. So, eh. It was bound to catch up to me sooner or later.

In Portsmouth was treated to dinner by a friend-of-a-friend with whom I had quite a bit of overlapping interests/experience [he's gone to Burning Man for fifteen years, has hiked both the PCT and AT in their entirety—twice for the AT, and has begun photographing models for glamour and art nudes]. So many of the connections I've made on this trip have been referred by friends...social media's good for something, after all.

We then went to Smuttynose Brewing Company so I could get dropped off with my host [also a friend-of-a-friend connected to me via social media], a brewer there who was wrapping up for the day, and wound up getting a full after-hours private tour of the brewery. Boom, boom. Over the next couple days I made some new friends, rode around town on the back of a monstrous '87 scooter, and watched urassic World, during which I had a great time [but may have inadvertently precluded others' enjoyment] by continuously laughing at debatably inappropriate moments because...well...was I supposed to take any part of that movie seriously? 

On to Maine: The final frontier.

Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

New Jersey & New York

Photo: daniel Anton NYC, Brooklyn, NY

Photo: daniel Anton NYC, Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Rode from Philly to North Brunswick [under crusty seafood green overpasses, past Princeton, on, on, on—getting so much faster than I used to be], where I hung out at the Photocoop, a studio that hosts shootouts and instructional workshops, and scampered around an incredible swimming hole with photographer Niel Galen and model Nadine Theresa.

Much fun was had. A contender for my best outdoor shooting experience, even. I jumped off rock into a very narrow 22-foot chute of geothermally water at the base of a mossy horsetail fall. Photographic evidence exists. I will post it when I receive it.

My time in NYC was a blurry sleepless whirlwind from which I am still recovering.

I rode into Brooklyn to crash with an old climbing buddy from Colorado whom I hadn't seen in four years; went to the Museum of Sex and found myself drowning in a cave of giant bouncehouse titties and getting lost in a dark mirror maze [oh, and super full-circle moment: the ludicrous bicycle-fuck-machine-contraption I'd seen in a film at Bike Smut, which I'd attended in Jacksonville during this trip, was on display there]; wandered Highline [one of my favorite little chunks of NYC] under a surreal gray sky; was [serendipitously, almost immediately, and without consequence] reunited with the ID and credit cards she'd left behind in New Jersey [I'd left it at Niel's, and he had a job in the city that day so I was able to track him down in Manhattan—once again...with this kind of luck, I'm never going to learn] over BBQ; went to a comped yoga class that thoroughly wrung out my tight legs and hips; rode my bike around the city in the rain at night; have actualized various degrees of reunions with phenomenal company [a lot of people I'd met during this trip just happened to be in NYC at the same time]; and even managed to catch up on Game of Thrones

...And that was all just the first day, against a backdrop of chilly drizzle and lightning. 

Other than that, I spent a lot of time in a hot tub full of nude models [specifically Rebecca LawrenceJessamyne, and Erica Jay, who are all an utter fucking riot of loveliness and absurdity] surrounded by a flock of plastic flamingos; guinea-pigged some vagina steam tea witchcraft while watching Broad City [seemed fitting]; got a little trigger-happy with craft cocktails invented by eye-bleedingly beautiful bartenders who were varying degrees of dapper and posh [luckily, a couple of those cocktails wound up being free when I closed my tab, heh...apparently I can sometimes still be charming after breaking glass in a bar].

I also enjoyed a multitude of little moments: randomly being given a balloon animal and then finding a small boy to give it to on the metro; sticking a larger bill in an elderly street performer's case and seeing his reaction; flipping off a particularly lewd catcaller and smugly enjoying his brash indignation.

...And I still somehow managed to squeeze in a bunch of work with great people [honorable mention goes to Daniel Anton NYC, Jamie Hankin, and Harlem Photo], be in a yoga video, get a free bike tune-up [thank you Tony <3], and see Sleep No More again [exactly two years after I first saw it, according to Timehop].

Every single time I come to New York City, I think, "Dammit, why did I wait this long to come back? I ought to come back more often. I ought to make it a twice-a-year thing, or something..." 

But then aeons pass before my next return, and I'm left thinking, "Dammit, why did I wait this long to come back?..."

Once all my shoots were accounted for, I spent my last night in town being a responsible adult and staying out with friends till 4 am, knowing I had to ride 70 miles the next day. The cops beat us to an alleged "some kind of naked warehouse party" I'd been told about [and none of us knew what "some kind of naked warehouse party" was supposed to mean and so, of course, we had to go find out], but at least in the frenetic aftermath, throngs of drunk people kept trickling up to us on the street asking, "Can I join you guys?" and inevitably getting separated minutes later, and we had a good little wander, miasmically forming short-lived posses with new groups of strangers around Williamsburg.

I may not have felt incredible the next day, but I knew there was a tent-friendly plot of lawn behind a vacation home on Long Island with my name on it. So there I went.

Photo: Niel Galen, North Brunswick, NJ. With model Nadine Theresa Stevens.

Photo: Niel Galen, North Brunswick, NJ. With model Nadine Theresa Stevens.

Pennsylvania

Polaroid: Funktionhaus,&nbsp;Baltimore, MD

Polaroid: Funktionhaus, Baltimore, MD

Philadelphia, PA

Started off my time in Pennsylvania hanging out with Ivy Lee and Greg Gardner.

In addition to being a high-profile glamour nude model [Penthouse, etc.] and talented fine art photographer, Ivy's exceptionally organized and runs awesome glamour and art photography meetups for which she recruits traveling models such as yours truly.

We ate, drank, watched Interstellar, laughed at her cat's shenanigans, and I went on a late-night Cinnabon eating spree [gross]. The next day was an exhausting one; I clambered all over the ruins of a house from the late 1700's, including getting up a ladder into a small crawlspace towards the top of the chimney. Lots of fun, but I was definitely sore the next day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 9.52.00 PM.png

In Philadelphia proper, I spent a couple days riding all over the city with a couple of awesome ragamuffins who I crashed with in south Philly. We found a hidden hippie haven renegade campsite overlooking a park, pulled over for craft beer pit stops by the water, swam in the Wissahickon, asphyxiated in the dense crowd of people hanging out by the river's Harbor Park [stuffed with vendors, hammocks, a roller rink], meandered amidst the Mütter Museum's morbid medical oddities, sat on the ground in focus-mode as a gourmet ice cream tasting flight melted all over my leg [flavors included Everything Bagel and Buttered Popcorn]. No photos exist from this period of running amok, as my phone was dead and I was too busy tooling around to bother with taking photos, anyhow.

Then I was transferred over to my next hosts, in west Philly. Different vibe, still awesome people. The last couple days have been mellow and have largely revolved around conversation and food. Ate a squillion grilled veggies upon my arrival, then sat atop a roof shooting the shit with my new hosts and their neighbors as the sun set and unexpected fireworks popped up over the treetops. Went with a friend of a friend to Charlie Was a Sinner, a craft cocktail bar where the bartender obliged me by inventing new cocktails according to my preferences of the moment, and topped off with basil gelato. 

Figure model and artist Katie Marie came by and we hung out on the little "porch" ledge underneath the 4th story window of the Spruce Goose [the group house where I'm currently staying] as the soggy air crescendoed to what felt like a rolling boil [thankfully the heat burst into a small thunderstorm in the evening which has made the heat slightly more tolerable].

It's kind of blowing my mind that this trip is 3/4 of the way done...now that the end is kind of in sight, I'm trying my best to remain present and not think in countdown terms, but exciting summer prospects in Reno are calling my name [i.e., as much as I told myself I wouldn't be part of a Burning Man project this year, or even go to the Burn at all...I'm going to be on crew for the Mazu project that's come from Taiwan via the Dream Community...it's an amazing project being run by an amazing crew, which includes many of the people I love most in this world...along my travels I've met many people whom I adore, but very few whom I miss and whose absence I really feel].

Photo: Robert Moran,&nbsp;Brookhaven, PA

Photo: Robert Moran, Brookhaven, PA

Virginia

Photo: Mer Soleil, Amelia Island, FL

Photo: Mer Soleil, Amelia Island, FL

Fredericksburg, VA

Stayed with a Warmshowers host in Norfolk, an awesome girl who works as a civil engineer and had her last cross-country bicycle tour from San Diego to Virginia cut short when she was hit by a car in Arizona.

Norfolk is gnarly to ride through. Not in a good way. There were no good bicycle routes, so I wound up riding past landfills and porn shops, getting lost, and eventually winding up on the correct ferry despite having been mis-directed by several locals.

Made it to my next Warmshowers hosts in Williamsburg, which lent itself to much more pleasant scenery as I rode trails through the Jamestown Settlement. My hosts had a beautiful, giant house right on the river—the entire back side of their home was glass, lending itself to incredible panoramic views of the sunset, and my room had its own private deck over the water.

Set out for Richmond the next day, where I stayed and rested for a couple days at the Bainbridge Collective, an awesome house full of like-minded freelancers/artists/weirdos.

I'd ridden my most grueling five days in a row: about 320 miles in total, with some gnarly headwinds and hills. In the middle of those five days I felt my body shut down entirely; my ass was sprouting painful saddle sores [over bruises, no less] and my brain was barely functioning, especially after a few terrifying jaunts over shoulder-less highways and bridges with fast traffic [as much as I've tried to avoid dangerous roads, I've found myself having to take them on occasion]. Oftentimes I'd have to re-stock on food in gas stations, with no other nearby alternatives. 

My body hates me a little bit, but it'll thank me once I learn to crush wine barrels with my legs.

In any case, that last fifty-mile day over rolling hills felt like a breeze...I've become so much stronger. At the beginning of this trip, fifty miles was the ceiling for how much I'd ride in a day, and it would take me all day, on flat ground. 

Anyway, I fell in love with Richmond at first sight [my hosts in Williamsburg had given me a great bike route for getting to it—riding through unpopulated countryside and small local farms, and then dropping around and down a hill, suddenly, to see the skyscrapers of RVA barely popping up ahead over a dense foreground of green].

I rode into the city, on a trail along the river, through grimy chunks of industrialization, past run-down warehouses and winding alleyways, under overpasses thick with seafoam-green-stained metal brackets and woven together so densely it felt like a fantastical subtropolis.

If ever a city has beckoned me to pursue some urban-spelunking...this one's got to be a goldmine. It brought the video game Fallout to mind; a juxtaposition between anachronism and post-apocalyptic gloom. I absolutely loved it.

The house instantly felt like home. In a span of a couple days, I wound up at a free vegan cooking class, getting a beer flight at a local brewery, enthralling the resident alley cat with my feet at night, wandering Carytown and eating gourmet cupcakes, naked lizard-rock basking and swimming in the warm river, watching Red Dwarf projected onto the huge blank white wall of the tall-ceilinged house, watching cage dancers at a local goth/fetish club, decompressing in my skivvies with a new book [The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho, a gift from a friend I'd made in Charlotte] on the incredible back porch, eating amazing cheese steaks from the place next door. 

The residents of the house all seem to be pretty busy and active people; I had the house to myself for good chunks of time despite there being six-or-so residents, and didn't even manage to meet all of them in the couple days that I was in town. The ones I did meet were supremely easy to fall into and out of socializing with, and I hung out with in a revolving-door fashion...I'd be sitting on the back porch and one of them would come home, grab some chocolate milk or a beer or a cigarette, and sit on the back porch and talk to me for a while until it was time for either them or me to head off to whatever other plans we had next. When someone was free, they'd take me on a short adventure [i.e., most of the above paragraph], and drop me back off at the house when it was time for them to go to work or whatever else they had going on. Awesome people; before I even left town I already wanted to come back and visit again.

Also hung out a couple times with fellow traveling model Rachel Dashae, who is a total sweetheart and fucking adorable.

From Richmond, rode on to Fredericksburg. Sixty miles on a hot day with a couple thousand feet of climbing, which I managed to do [on very little sleep] in the same amount of time that it had taken me to ride 35 miles on flat ground at the beginning of this trip, a couple months ago. 

Everything's changed on this trip. My aptitude at coping with fear, fatigue, frustration, pain, discomfort, monotony. I feel infinitely more humble, and infinitely more confident. I'm not at a point where I feel I can even come close to doing any of my inner processes justice via blog entry [nor do I feel inclined to publicly share them, at least any time soon], but this trip has changed my life in a pretty huge, unprecedented way.

And I'm still only just over halfway done. No idea what else is in store.

Fredericksburg is rounding out to a pretty balanced couple of days:

Stayed with another Warmshowers host in an enormous house full of snakes [one of which may be getting named after me—quite an honor], with a six-story-tall yard made up of backyard terraces and a complicated system of wooden decks, shrouded in thirty species of tree...there's a bocce ball court waaaay down at the bottom of the terraces but you can't really see it from the house. 

Got a couple shoots lined up—knocked one out today with Transient Photography, who was absolutely lovely to work with and talk to, and am shooting tomorrow with Touched by Gray Photos, who's been very well vouched for. 

Tomorrow I'm visiting my great-aunt; she's eighty-five and has broken her foot and could probably use some help around the house. It's been years since I saw her. 8]

And! Triumph! I finally succeeded in sleeping in, after weeks of failed attempts, which was probably facilitated by visiting a buffet after riding over from Richmond and, for the first time in my life, being able to make the most out of the all-you-can-eat factor...i.e., I had five full plates of food.

Good stuff. And I've got plenty of shoots and shenanigans lined up for once I get to the DMV!

Photo: Noisenest, Durham, NC

Photo: Noisenest, Durham, NC

Georgia

Photo: Theresa Manchester, Miami, FL

Photo: Theresa Manchester, Miami, FL

Spent most of Georgia hiding out with no power and no Internet. Hence being far behind [realtime update: I'm in South Carolina now].

Stayed at the Hostel in the Forest. Easily one of the most magical places I've ever been. Was taken to a glass room on my first night, where I was treated to a magnificent panoramic light show by the local fireflies. Spent a lot of time naked-canoeing around a pond to a floating dock in the center [with little floating gardens of lemongrass and other herbs along its corners] where people would lounge around in the sun, drinking wine and jumping into a net hanging in the middle of the dock in order to cool off. Spent a couple nights sleeping in the floor of the geodesic library [below] that smelled of tree sap and had perfect acoustics; each morning I'd wake up to a couple hippies playing beautiful music in the center of the room as others sat around the edges and drank their coffee in reverence of the quiet mornings. Took hot baths outdoors, surrounded on all sides by trees. Tough life, I know.

At one point, we found a three-foot rattlesnake which was a safety concern [particularly since children stay at the hostel], so one of the guys bashed its head in and a bunch of us had to help hold it down as it was being skinned—even half an hour after being decapitated, it was writing reactively to each cut. Not wanting to waste, we then ate the meat, fried. I suppose my inner Lord of the Flies-ness came out, but I was so giddy and entranced by the whole process that I couldn't stop giggling, in complete awe, for hours.

After that, found myself in Savannah. Admittedly I didn't explore the town too much because I was too busy being enamored with the hilarious people I met there. Got dressed up arbitrarily while sitting around at home, played music, went to Tybee Island, got a stick-and-poke in my palm [my first] from one of the girls I stayed with, and it's already begun to fade. Fittingly, it says This too shall pass in Farsi.

I easily could have stayed there for a week, or a month...but I've got places to be. So I rolled onward, into South Carolina, where I am currently. More on that in my next post.

Didn't do any modeling in Georgia [was too busy being captivated by the woods and by the sparkly people I'd become so enamored with]. So you get more Miami-Beach-during-a-storm photos by the lovely Theresa Manchester. C'est la vie.

Photo: Theresa Manchester, Miami, FL

Photo: Theresa Manchester, Miami, FL