Where the hell have we been?

Funny thing, blogs.

We started out guns semi-blazing, kind of stoked to share our adventures, unsure of who was actually reading about them. And then the road happened. And a big question kept popping up over and over and over again…

Who the hell are we doing this for?

(Not just the blog, the whole damn trip).

Spoiler: We are doing this trip for us.

With that question quickly answered, we bailed on the blog. Instead, we’ve been keeping a daily journal of our adventures. It’s in a book made out of paper and we use a pen with ink.

But for those lovely folks who have come here to check in on us, here are our statistics since our last post:

States Visited: 18 (including Alaska)
(Total states so far: 29)

Canadian Provinces Visited: 8 (including Newfoundland)
(sorry prairie provinces)

Miles: 17,000 (by road) (24,000 so far)
Bonus: ferries and planes (total ferry time to Newfoundland: 23 hours)

We ended up staying in Canada for much longer than originally planned, and by the end of our visit we were feeling pretty Canadian: casually comparing poutine in Quebec to poutine in New Brunswick, and becoming emotional every time the Bluenose II came back into port in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Time with friends along the Ottawa River also solidified our Canadian-affinity, inspiring us to add a sparkly Canada sticker to our bumper.

We’ve been walking an average of 5.4 miles a day (yearly average), hiking in some amazing national parks and urban jungles. We were among the lucky few to get a complete view of Mt. Denali and saw our first glacier along the Ice Fields Parkway near Jasper, Alberta. And then there was Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons with bears and bison and moose. Detroit is wild and fascinating. We experienced Radiohead in Montreal and Neil Young in St. Louis, and watched and loved Killing Eve and Fauda in the back of the van, parked in campgrounds and parking lots.

We’ve not been on vacation, simply living nomadically.

Since our last post:

Ted has published two huge new books/guides for the SAT and has launched a comprehensive online course. AND has been tutoring from the road!

Matt has completed a rough draft of his novel and has avoided filling the van with antique treasures that he has found at the seemingly endless flea markets and antique shops.

And so we continue. Summer has us exploring the eastern shores and we will continue to plot our path based on “asking the locals” and following our guts–most often towards lobster rolls.

Wishing all of you a happy August, with gentle encouragement to move towards and through the unknown. There’s a lot to see and feel and do out here and there.

Like this…

 

A month in New Orleans in sum, as told by the health app and a credit card statement

We’ve got some time and distance between us and our month in New Orleans, but our credit card statement just arrived and brought us right back. So I did some data collection from that statement, the Health app on my phone, and some foggy recollection.

Please enjoy.

 

Health and Wellness

Distance walked: 133.0 miles
Distance biked: also a lot of miles
Calories consumed: 1 goddamn zillion

 

Restaurants eaten at:

Summary Stats:
Number of restaurants eaten at: 38-ish?
Best restaurant in New Orleans: impossible question. Never answer a question this stupid. If you see the Buddha in the road, kill it!
Total cost of restaurant meals: decline to state
Calories consumed: 1 goddamn zillion

Restaurants we ate at in New Orleans:

Coop’s (x10)
Felix’s (x3)
Bywater Bakery (x a bunch)
Drago’s (x2)
Willie Mae’s Scotch House (x2)
Brennan’s
Commander’s Palace
Pizza Delicious (x a bunch)
Bacchanal (x3)
Paladar 511 (x2)
Jock-I-Mo’s
Harbor Seafood
Feelings
The Joint
Kingfish
Frady’s
Markey’s Bar (x several)
Poke-chan
Spotted Cat Food & Spirits
St. Roch Market
Toup’s Meatery
Parkway Tavern
Two Tony’s
Three Muses
Cochon Butcher
Dat Dog (x3)
Port of Call
Buffa’s (x3)
Louisiana Products
Verti Mart
Muriel’s
Oceana (x2)
R’evolution*
Central Grocery
Cafe du Monde (x a bunch)
Sylvain
Compere Lapin**
Paloma Cafe
Satsuma

*Note: This is the restaurant with the greatest gap between quality of name (which is terrible) and food/experience (which is incredible).

**Note: This is the restaurant with the greatest gap between location on the list (near the bottom) and quality of food/experience (near the top).

 

Cocktails drunk:

Vieux Carre
Sazerac
Creole***
Pimm’s Cup
Old Fashioned
Manhattan
Redhook
Bywater
Other Hip Place Names
Jack and Coke
Jack and Soda
Probably a bunch of others. What, do you think we were keeping a notebook? We were drinking, not conducting anthropological research.

***Note: do you want the best cocktail in America? Sit at the bar at French 75 and ask Chris H. to make you a Creole.

On the computer—and getting off it

One thing I’ve realized about the purpose of our trip: part of the plan is to spend less time on the computer and/or phone (aka small computer).

***IRONY ALERT!!!***
But Ted, aren’t you using the computer right now? You bet I am, and ask me what I’m going to spend the rest of the day today doing: that’s right, using a computer. I am no saint. Please, never mistake me for a saint.

OK, irony aside, stepping away from the computer was not an explicit decision but more of an implicit one. We wanted to break up our routine and thus make our lives feel longer, get richer. Well, one helluva way to break up your routine is to get the hell away from your partner, the (space age gray and rose gold) box.

Speaking of which… I’m OUT!

Carnival Season in New Orleans

New Orleans might be the capital of hospitality. Residents are vocal in their warmth, greeting everyone who passes at length, with eye contact. Couple that with the food, the cocktails, the music… and just about anyone would feel at home. Or at least at the home of their cool-but-unreliable uncle.

Hospitable, but also unknowable. If someone tells you they understand New Orleans, that person is wrong. Not totally wrong: everyone knows—and typically loves—their New Orleans. God bless them. I felt the same way.

The longer I spend here, the less I feel I get it. It’s a European city, a Caribbean city, a poor city. A rich city. A city where slavery wasn’t as terrible as it was elsewhere. A city that was the hub of the slave trade. It is not an American city, even though it technically is. It is definitely a wet city. It is a party town. A college town. Super gay-friendly. An up-and-coming city. A violent city. A gritty city.

I’ve given up on getting it. That said, and regardless of whatever contradictions wove the fabric of the city, there is one thing about New Orleans at present, the best clue I have, one crumb of evidence that makes me feel like if I can’t wrap my head all the way around it, I can understand at least a part of it.

Here it is:

Parade season in New Orleans runs nine months a year.

The city marches in parades in every month of the year except July, August, and September, at which point it’s too damn hot to walk outside anyway.

Carnival season just wrapped up this past Tuesday, Mardi Gras day. Mardi Gras is not just a day; it is a season. The first krewe (mystic krewes are the social groups who throw parades… again, you can see why I’ve given up on understanding or explaining New Orleans…) marches on the Epiphany. Epiphany is a Catholic holiday, the day the Wise Men visited baby Jesus.

That’s another thing. Mardi Gras season is based on the Catholic calendar but is purely hedonic and atheistic. There is no God here on Mardi Gras, just the guys with bullhorns hollering at the thousands of revelers on Bourbon St., who in turn either ignore or openly mock those guys’ attempts at party pooping.

Parades reveal the ideologies, values, and resources of the krewes who throw them. That means they run the gamut, from Endymion (“Mardi Gras’ Main Event” in their words… if you want my opinion on Endymion, all I have to say is this: Pitbull was the star of their 2016 Endymion Extravaganza) to ‘tit Rex, a krewe that rolls mini, shoebox-sized floats. Krewe du Vieux is a smash hit on our side of town, a group that specializes—no, focuses single-mindedly on—politically-themed double entendres (my favorite this year was “The Besh is Yet to Cum” float, smashing chef-cum-douchebag John Besh for his restaurants’ tolerance of sexual harassment and abuse). St. Ann’s on Mardi Gras Day was wild fun… a people’s parade full of absolutely elaborate homemade costumes, many elaborate and truly beautiful.

This is me scratching the surface. I don’t know the entirety of parade season. No one could—it’s too much, too widespread. But parade season is like a translucent vein, an slicing angle of quartz giving a view into the history, the heart, the soul of New Orleans.

Meg, Ted, and Evan on Canal St. for Oshun and Cleopatra
Guy in cool costume I met at Red Beans parade on Lundi Gras.
The King of tit Rex
Sighted at Red Beans: “The Leguminati”
Kevin D., ideal Mardi Gras company
Our bikes, decked out for the occasion, loaded with Verti Marte po boys
Matt and Ted, Mardi Gras day
St. Ann-apostrophe-s Parade — for some reason if I type an apostrophe this thing freezes
Hey, cool float!
Matt and one of his botanical friends. Plus the guy in the background.
Another botanical friend
The day after(math). Aww, the float did not make it.
Day after(math). The city, transformed in 24 hours. For example, today there is no man in an ultrathin jockstrap shaking his ass from the top edge of this church.
Day after(math). You should have seen this place yesterday. Nightmare shitshow.
Day after(math). This might literally be the cleanest I’ve ever seen New Orleans (now why did THAT apostrophe work? Huh.)

 

Jefferson Davis

I’m pretty open-minded about taking in new experiences. That’s actually a part of my 5 factor personality index…I’m highly into new experiences.

So, we took in the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library yesterday. It’s in Biloxi, Mississippi, at Jeff’s last home on the gulf.

I thought it was fascinating. We’ve been to the Reagan, Nixon, Clinton, and Carter presidential libraries and museums. By comparison, this one was pretty much shitty. Understaffed, poorly curated…and of course, covered in confederate flags. If one place is entitled to fly confederate flags, I guess it’s this one, but the volume was still a little unnerving. There were hundreds, maybe a thousand confederate flags and gift items to buy.

Matt heard our tour guide say something that he thought might have been racist. I sort-of-willingly ignored it, then later acknowledged that yeah, that was totally fucking racist. He said:

“They have black spring break down here. You ever witness that before? Three years ago they almost burned the whole town down.”

The part I didn’t hear was the adjective ‘black’ (which is key).

Here’s the weird part: I really liked our tour guide. He was sweet, funny, gentle, well-informed. I was a fan.

And he is also a racist. That’s a fact. That he’s a volunteer tour guide at the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library might have been my first clue, but his comment left no room for interpretation.

What do you do with kind, funny racists? Matt wanted to kick him in the teeth. My friend Martha, whom I spoke to today, said that “his heritage is slavery, and slavery is something we shouldn’t celebrate.” I agree. I get it. I just also think that people are people, and that even when they hold hateful beliefs, most of the rest of their beliefs line up with mine. We can be friends, and if we are, we’ll likely get along and understand each other’s positions better than if we are enemies.

At the cash register in the gift shop.
The wood is cypress that was painted to look like oak. That was how you told people you were fancy in 1852.
That’s Jeff up on the wall.
The front of Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s home circa 1880. The place got hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. No one escapes nature.
Jefferson Davis’s death mask. He’s a pretty good lookin’ guy! Also, please take in the typography.

Gems of wisdom

We’ve been on the road for three weeks already…time to share some specific, clearly-articulated gems of wisdom from life on the road.

-You don’t need three watches. You need one watch.

-You need one calculator, not two. This one is embarrassing.

-On the other hand, bringing your electric toothbrush is actually a pretty good idea.

-Time is a more precious resource than money. Money isn’t unlimited, but you only get 24 hours every day.

-“Every day” means “all of the time.” “Everyday” means “routine or ordinary.” This tidbit originates from my spelling pet peeves, not from the trip so far.

-Make big, bold decisions that work for you and how you want to live your life. Everyone else will be fine.

A probably pretty boring post about transition-states

Before we left, I predicted that we would have some moments of “adjustment” during the first part of the trip—just some understandable discomfort as we completely upended how we live our lives. Well, I was right. Somehow the joy of being right does not, however, lessen the challenge of an adjustment period.

To make adjustment even tougher, we’ve been bouncing around a lot. Since January 1, 2018, we’ve spent the night in nine (9) different locations. Nine! That’s a lot of bouncing around, don’t you think?

So not only are we essentially homeless, we’re also itinerant.

Freedom, man!

Freedom is great, but I think it’s fair to say that no one really wants complete freedom. Is it un-American to say that? Am I a bad van lifer?

All I know is, some freaking stability is also nice. Even on the road. So we’re in Mobile, Alabama, and will be for the next five nights. And then we’ll be in New Orleans for a month. And then, who knows? Maybe we’ll be ready for a little more bouncing around.