Pennsylvania

Polaroid: Funktionhaus, 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.

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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, 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

Good Luck to the Power of Ludicrous

Conway, SC

Left my partying in Savannah and made a short jaunt to Ridgeland, SC, where I forked out for a hotel room for the first time on this trip. After the last month's overload of amazing people and hyper stimulation, I wanted a night to just sit. Get on the Internet. Be sober. Take a long shower. Order delivery pizza.  

I didn't leave my room once. It was glorious.

The next day, started to push myself a bit harder. Decided in the morning I'd make it all the way to Charleston, 85 miles away, or run myself into the ground trying. My longest day till then had been about 47 miles. 

Rode through miles of unmarked dirt road—got held up and lost a few times when those roads would suddenly end. Finally came upon a Wendy's, the one food option [or settlement of any kind] I'd seen in at least an hour of pedaling. Rode on through shoulder-less interstate. 

My state of being alternated between being too physically tired or sore [it may be time, soon, to fork out for a better saddle than my $30 score...] to notice my psychological state, and being overtaken, suddenly, by a creeping sense of mortal terror, suddenly too afraid and cracked out on adrenaline to notice my physical state. I thought about venomous snakes in the tall grass, and about aggressive guard dogs, and about being stranded out in the boonies [I hadn't really thought ahead about just how remote some of the stretches I was riding along really were...I'd often be faced with the choice between extremely dangerous interstate and safer, quieter, but completely off-the-beaten-track dirt roads], about running out of water, about being hit by a car, yadda yadda.

My mood would spike in a moment of euphoria as I'd pass some beautiful swamp reminiscent of Princess Mononoke and think, Man, you're gorgeous, but I'm a bit too worried about not dying to take a picture of you, which would inevitably have me laughing out loud. A couple times I was overtaken by mysterious nausea and, unable to justify the source of it, began to feel a bit panic-attack-y, as semi-trucks shoved their way aggressively through the wind to get in front of me.

I hit a long stretch with no water, no signs of other people except maybe an odd hunting stand [which I initially thought were kids' playhouses], and I'd get tired, so tired my legs would kind of just stop working on their own without my conscious insistence at each pedal stroke to follow-up accordingly. But I knew if I stopped for another break, here, I'd never get back up. If I took a power nap here, I wouldn't make it to Charleston—I'd started the day without a plan for Charleston at all, but by noon a girl on WarmShowers had texted me saying she could host me, which gave me new motivation to get there, and not have to find some random hidden spot to sleep.

At one point I had a long stretch—several hours—where I didn't see another soul, another building, nothing. I began to ration my water, kicking myself for not having brought even more. I was running out of food, too, since I hadn't really needed to bring much with me at any given time until now.

Finally I saw the sign of a BP's gas station, and in my profound relief, I ran inside and spent $50 on snacks and drinks and protein bars, tripping over myself and dropping things the whole time. At a fucking BP's.

A man outside offered to watch my bike for me and chatted me up. Nice guy. Kept asking a lot of the same questions. I nodded emphatically as a substitute for conversation, as I shoved a ham and cheese sandwich in my mouth and glugged down a canned doubleshot. Every time I've just gotten off my bike, I'm not really ready to be human yet, but invariably people want to ask questions. I try to accommodate as best I can...but "as best I can" is not a whole lot, sometimes. Especially when someone starts in on a religious tirade, as my new acquaintance soon did.

During that last leg of the day, when I was once again switched into "too physically tired to be scared anymore" mode, all my hypothetical fears that I'd been trying to push to the back of my mind came to a head. I was chased by a humongous dog and just barely managed to outpace it until it finally gave up. Shortly afterwards, I nearly ran over a huge rattlesnake as it was abruptly crossing the road. 

And, fifteen miles from my host's house, I got hit by a car on the I-17.

For the record, at least through South Carolina, the I-17 is a tightly-stretched, shoulder-less road. Every time [and there really weren't many times] an eighteen-inch-wide strip of asphalt jutted past the white line into the grass, an infatuated-schoolgirl-giddiness overtook me. I spent much of my time on it looking over my shoulder and bailing out into the dirt, just to be on the safe side. I have learned not to extend the slightest trust to drivers.

The car smashed into my front pannier and sent me over into the patchy, rumpled grass. I picked myself up and brushed myself off, too stunned to have any sort of an emotional reaction. I looked at my bike, and at myself. Not a scratch or a dent. Not even a small one. I wondered if I was in shock, and if maybe I was actually in mortal peril but my conscious mind was refusing to acknowledge it.

...Nope. I was fine. 

The car, on the other hand, skidded over the lanes to its left, and then over the grassy median, landing there pointed one-eighty degrees from its former position. Not sure how I managed to send a car flipping around backwards, but hey.

Anyway. Charleston could be a contender for my favorite US city. I don't typically like downtown bar scenes, but I liked the one there because people on the street were friendly. I don't mean crass or invasive. Just straight-up, open-smile, "high five, homegirl," passing-by friendly. Re: my housing situation, I was in the company of a bunch of badass independent ladies all around my age, including one couchsurfer from Germany on a four-month solo excursion of the States. A bunch of us ran around Botany Bay on Edisto Island where we smeared clay all over ourselves. I reunited briefly with Kai, a cyclist I met back in Key West who, upon graduating high school in Oregon, decided to bike the entire perimeter of the Lower Forty-Eight. Which makes my own trip look kind of wimpy in comparison.

After Charleston came another long stretch. I rode seventy miles on the first day, which was only slightly less exhausting than my last long day had been—each time I push myself a bit further, the next time I do that same distance it feels so much easier. Nonetheless, at some point, my sunglasses bounced off me and I didn't even notice until maybe half an hour had gone by. Gnats began to get stuck in my eyes as I rode. 

I'd planned to get as far as I could [I wouldn't make it all the way to Conway in one day] and then stealth camp behind some trees. I thought I'd be riding through a good stretch of State Park. Instead, I traversed endless miles of plantation land, riddled with some pretty aggressive "Keep Out"-esque signs [like, "Whatever the camera doesn't get, the gun will," and so on] which had me a bit uneasy. Plus, half the land around me was submerged swampland.

Eventually I got to an actual town and found a spot between two old brick buildings in a church, where I could just wedge my bike and my tent and pretty much be hidden from the road on all sides. I'd resigned myself to a thrilling night of trying to catch sleep in a sort of shifty place when my Conway host for the following night [Anzhelika Lewis, a fellow model] called and insisted upon coming the rest of the way to pick me up, since I wasn't too far from her house by then and she said the town I was in was a bit on the sketchy side.

I deliberated a little bit, because I'd sort of just resigned myself to the night and was looking forward to being in a new situation that scared me. But I was also coming down with a pretty bad cough that I couldn't figure out.

So she and her husband Rick came and got me, fed me well, and I passed out on the most luxuriously wide and rigidly bed-like couch I have ever slept on. Wound up being a good call, because all that night and the next day I had a persistent, painful cough-sneeze thing going on and could barely function [not a cold or flu, guessing it's a combination of allergies—particularly given that I've ridden long stretches through traffic—aggravating residual/chronic bronchitis, but what the hell do I know].

Fortunately, I've gotten to recover over the last couple days by basking on the deck of a seventh-generation plot of family land by the woods in my birthday suit, with a good book, with horses grazing in my periphery, drinking gallons of water and eating loads of Savannah Bee Company honey. Sadly, lots of allergy meds and cough medicine, too [both things I try to avoid taking except in dire situations]. Such a well-placed extra bit of downtime.

And once I was feeling like a human being again, I did a last-minute shoot in Myrtle Beach involving hard hats and muscle cars and broken metal grinders and a four-foot tall pipe wrench. 

With a certain perspective I could probably claim this was a tough week...but my luck's been through the fucking roof. In retrospect...really can't complain.

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