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.

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

North Carolina [Durham through Outer Banks]

Art: Noisenest, Durham, NC

Art: Noisenest, Durham, NC

Norfolk, VA

Many people, shoots, soul-searching-solo-stints, and harrowing holy-shit-I'm-going-to-die-today experiences later...and I'm behind on the whole blogging-updates-thing, still. [Also, still have a few cards I haven't mailed out. However, if you DID receive one, please let me know...trying to keep a head count to make sure mail's getting where it's supposed to].

This is going to be another compensatory here-I-don't-have-time-to-write-about-all-that's-happened-but-have-some-photos-instead posts, for the most part.

Everyone I meet keeps joking that I should just write a retrospective book. Wild on a bicycle. Ha. [Incidentally, I just finished reading Wild this morning.] 

Which sounds ridiculous to me, because the most essential, formative, hilarious, beautiful, exciting, monumental parts of this trip are the ones that I don't feel remotely inclined to publicize—certainly not for a long, long time. I think that's just how life is, at least if you're living a good one. 

But I'll give you a little something, context-wise, before passing out from exhaustion now that I've made it to Virginia. Which, over the last couple days, I kind of thought would never happen.

Headed from Charlotte to Durham, where I worked with Noisenest, Aureole, Bman, J Clarke. All awesome folks. I spent a lot of time running around with a flashlight in a creepy warehouse basement full of broken dolls and stuffed animals.

Photo: Aureole, Durham, NC

Photo: Aureole, Durham, NC

Photo: BmanPhotos, Clemmons, NC

Photo: BmanPhotos, Clemmons, NC

From there, went to Beaufort, NC, and stayed with Kevin at her new adorable little beachy-1800's-house-with-dolphins-for-neighbors there. We originally met at the Everglades Hostel in southern Florida for a night...then randomly bumped into on the street in St. Augustine a couple weeks later. Serendipity, boom boom.

Kevin and I went out in the morning on my rest day in town, though the pouring rain sent her back home. I spent a day wandering around aimlessly in the rain on foot, singing and enjoying how ghostly the town appeared, off-season and on an off-weather day. I wound up on a dock, doing yoga, and then after assuring myself that Kevin's house [i.e., a warm shower and a bed] were within quick-sprinting distance of the dock, I impulsively jumping into the cold water, fully-clothed. 

ut instead of running to Kevin's house once I climbed back out, I laid out on the dock and enjoyed a brief period of the numb chill, knowing it wasn't too cold. A bit of rain, a bit of a breeze, some muted sunshine peeking through for reprieve. 

On what's been such a socially dense trip, I'd almost forgotten how high I get off slow chunks of solitude [granted, those come on a bike, too—but since I've started pushing myself to do longer days, I'm often just distracted by how much my ass hurts].

Went out on my own at night for some food, and [after I elbowed off some rather aggressively chauvinistic drunk military bros] wound up befriending Jim, the only other non-local at the one open diner [we picked one another out instantly as fellow aliens in what was otherwise a rather homogenized social scene]. Jim's been steering his boat along the Great Loop for a year, and we hung out and swapped travel stories for hours on his thirty-foot catamaran. 

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From there I rode the ferry to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks, and for the next couple nights I mostly kept to myself, wanting to continue the trend of solitude I'd recently felt inclined towards. People often tried to stop me as I pedaled past, beseeching me with offers of hospitality or meals or drinks or rides, usually with open-hearted generosity [though with obnoxious and condescending persistence in one or two cases] but I'd smile and decline and continue. It felt important to put myself in a bubble for a couple days, for some reason, and the Outer Banks felt like the perfect place to do it. Besides the single-serving friends I made for a few minutes at a time while on the ferries between islands, or when stopping to eat, I kept to myself.

I ninja-camped along the way in hidden spots. I read on the beach. I found a seven-foot dead mama shark, her baby still in amniotic fluid. Beautiful and incredible and sad.

In other news, I've been pushing myself harder than ever. Riding longer miles [at one point I my map lied to me and directed me to a road that doesn't actually exist...which turned into a 45-mile mistake when I had to backtrack], through the worst headwinds of the trip, for consecutive days. Rode over a bridge during sunset rush hour that wound up having no shoulder and rather aggressive traffic, and thought I was going to die. Heh. Whoops. Won't get any rest till Richmond. Oy.

And I'm going to have to take a couple days to recalibrate my appearance before commencing with Virginia or DMV shoots. These last days have inevitably left me with saddle sores [owww] and dark tan lines, despite sunscreen and so on. Which I'm sure most clients would not be very excited about. So that'll delay things by a bit.

But on the bright side, I've got some awesome Warm Showers hosts lined up for Virginia that I'm really excited to stay with [good change-up from the ninja camping, as nice as it is]. Whoo!

Art: Noisenest, Durham, NC

Art: 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