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

DMV

Photo: Grissom Photography, Fredericksburg, VA

Photo: Grissom Photography, Fredericksburg, VA

Baltimore, MD

"I suppose if there's anything you've learned on this trip, it's to have no expectations, or that if you do have expectations, don't attach to them."

Ain't it the fucking truth.

Whew. It's been a socially and photographically dense week-or-so.

Reston, VA: Hung out with photographer Kollin Bliss and art model Blueriverdream. Indulged in some decadent TV-watching vegetation and chocolate-eating, had some good long talks accompanied by aimless wandering, seafood, and beer. 

College Park, MD: Spent a couple nights at the Whytestone Creative Outcrop, an intentional burner community. Such a delightfully eclectic revolving-open-door stream of people...artists, activists, performers...and also government contractors and corporate 9-to-5-ers with secret deviant lives. Good conversations ensued.

I slept in a curtained nook in the magically-light-proof basement that successfully nullified my [sometimes pesky] biological clock, where a bunch of us watched Ex Machina projected on the wall [supplemented with delicious beer and pizza intermission], atop a magic-carpet double-decker-couch-mattress. I spent my last day there testing out a transcendentally exciting hypothesis about protein bars, crawling around in the grass during a thunderstorm, and being part of the cackling peanut gallery for what could be described as a spontaneous and unintentional 90's Calvin Klien ad. To make a long story short.

Baltimore, MD: Went to a charity art auction with photographers Funktionhaus [below] and PK Brazil and I won a T-shirt, just as I was passing out from compounded exhaustion! 

Several days of back-to-back photo shoots.

During a beach shoot, I befriended a pretty young woman who'd been sunbathing nearby, and she told me I'd shattered her preconception of what models were like [i.e., ditzy and catty]. Score! 

Moments later, I got slashed up on a rusty fishhook on the beach. Can't win 'em all. Hoping my tetanus booster is up to date...

Spent a day riding around Baltimore [which seems to be mostly dilapidated row houses] with a badass cyclist and kindred spirit [he's on a short tour around DC/Philly/NYC...on a fixed gear bike, with nothing but the messenger bag on his back]. Then we were treated to Ethiopian food by Jim, the friend I made in Beaufort, NC, who is almost at the end of his year-long post-retirement journey traveling in a catamaran, and who surprised me yesterday with two books he'd gotten me as gifts: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and Gary Paulsen's Winterdance.

Polaroid: Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

Polaroid: Nick Nemphos, Baltimore, MD

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

Charlotte!

Charlotte, NC

Goodbye to my hosts from Conway, SC, with a celebratory flight:

Been falling in love with North Carolina. Knew I would, but damn. Charlotte, in particular, has one of my favorite places from this trip [I'd like to spend more time in Asheville, too, but, alas, I only had a couple days there...one good shoot, and one pretty hardcore miscommunication that I am trying not to be too disgruntled about].

Aaaand spent a good amount of time hanging out with [and modeling alongside] fellow model Brennan, who is an utter fucking riot and magical human. Definitely want to see more of her. 8]

Haven't had much leftover time or energy to write proper blog posts, but take that as a testament that I'm having a good fucking time.

PS: Anyone who sees this who donated before my trip began [meaning before March]...I've sent most of you cards [still got a few left to send out, been staggering], but please let me know whether or not you've gotten mail from me! Slightly paranoid that not all of it has made it where it needs to go; don't want to gyp anyone!

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