Eat this, Bourdain

Ryan gave me a camping cookbook for my birthday. That, coupled with his new camp stove, made for some tasty meals on the road this summer. One of our favorites: jambalaya in Yellowstone.

There was also the night we made peanut chicken at Avalanche Creek campground in Glacier National Park. The ranger walked by our site to remind us to keep the grounds "bear-friendly," and stopped mid-sentence to peek into our pots.

"Whatcha, like, gourmet or something?" he asked.

The irony is that I'm not the best cook when I'm at home. Usually I work late, or make the mistake of not thinking to cook until I'm already hungry. But that's the beauty of camping: if you're not out hiking and exploring, you probably need to be eating, or preparing food. Hence the Action Jackson.

Coco and Bigote Discover America, Again

We are in Portlandia.

Correction: I am in Portland, having just dropped Ryan off at the airport after an awesome night with our friend Jenn Chavez and her boyfriend Erin. Yesterday was a pretty unbelievable day: we awoke to deer tiptoeing through our foggy Cougar Campground on Mount Rainier, drove up to Paradise pass, which is still under 10 feet of snow, then embarked on a brisk 5-mile hike on the Wonderland trail before setting off for Portland. Once we made it off I-5 (oh, how I loathe thee), we met Jenn and Erin in Belmont for--get ready--an art show, a drive-by candy car, dinner at Sizzle Pie Pizza, and an awesome metal show by Avi Devi at Katy O'Brien's.

It's not often that I start the day on a mountain and end it on a pool table, surrounded by men with chin-length hair and women with surprisingly screamy voices. Oh, and after the show, Jenn and Erin took us to a pod--not of whales, but of mobile food carts, all strung up with bright lights. Ryan got poutine (Canadian fries with gravy and cheese), and I got a fried coconut chocolate pie.

We are now very much back on the grid, after spending the past ten days camping in western Canada (first in Glacier National Park in British Columbia, and later on Vancouver Island), wandering through Olympic National Park in Washington, where we visited the Hoh Rainforest and camped at Mora campground on the coast. We were so wrapped up in the intensity of hanging moss against the blue blue skies that we almost didn't notice the abundance of goth girls hanging around the Forks Thriftmart. That's when we started noticing the vampire signs--apparently Forks is where the Twilight books and films are set, and there are kitschy tours that teenage girls and their moms take. We even passed a sign that read "Vampire Threat: Low."

Ryan has returned to California this week to attend a wedding and take a class while I am staying at Reed College to participate in the Tin House Writer's Workshop. You could say that we are shifting gears--I'm focusing on writing (one year til my thesis defense!), he on teaching. He'll fly back next week and we will once again stock the car with carby snacks and mosey our way back home.

Coco and Bigote Discover America, Part Deux: Canadian Invasion

One year ago today, Ryan and I were in New York, the halfway mark in our first cross-country road trip. Today we are enjoying Canada Day in Canmore, Alberta, a beautiful little town just outside Banff National Park.

We departed California on June 19 and made our way east through Nevada to Idaho, where we saw the Craters of the Moon National Monument (lava tubes and craters in the middle of the greenest, lushest potato country imaginable), and bathed at Lava Hot Springs before trundling on to Wyoming. We camped at Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, encountered a moose on the Jenny Lake trail, before moving on to Yellowstone. Ryan had never seen a geyser before, so we were extra lucky to catch Old Faithful sounding off twice during our afternoon at the park. We saw bison shedding their fur, black bears, elk, moose, marmots, squirrels, deer, and an uncountable number of fellow humans.

From Yellowstone we headed northwest through Montana's Big Sky country toward Glacier National Park. We spent one day on each side of the park, starting at Avalanche Creek on the west side, where we nearly hit a black bear as it scuttled across the road. The sunset was spectacular over Lake MacDonald, but we also loved camping at Rising Sun on the west side, near Many Glacier, where we spotted a Grizzly bear. From Glacier we drove the 35 miles across the border to Waterton National Park in Alberta, a scenic little village with perhaps a higher deer population than people. We enjoyed hot chocolates at the Prince of Wales Hotel, a historic hotel perched high above Waterton Lake.

We made it to Banff in time to celebrate Ryan's birthday by hiking Sulfur Mountain and taking the gondola back down to the hot springs. We had planned to camp tonight in Jasper, but campgrounds in all directions are booked for Canada Day.

Our journey is slowly approaching its halfway point. Tomorrow we plan to drive to the Columbia Icefields, and hopefully camp near Jasper, before turning our wheels westward toward Vancouver. We've been operating off the grid so far, making gourmet dinners on Ry's new camp stove, and averaging 3-5 mile hikes in the mornings.

Basically, we're becoming Canadian mountain goats, and from what we've seen, that's a good thing.


Originally uploaded by Julia_h_j

Last night, Wayne Coyne floated past my head in an oversize inflatable balloon. Nothing says summer like a Flaming Lips concert at the Harmony Festival in the middle of Northern California, on a day that hovered right around 80 degrees.

It is the best time of year--that time when cherries are plum and red, when the sun stays out so late that you can walk out into the fields long past dusk, when even on the shittiest of work days you know that by Friday you will have an adventure in your back pocket. Thursday was my last day of work as a graduate student researcher at UC Davis, and after spending about 30 hours that week on my final term paper, I walked off campus with that special kind of glee reserved for the last day of school. I don't care how old I get; this is still the best feeling in the world. That feeling that you have finished what you set out to finish, and hopefully you're smarter for it; and if not, well at least you've produced something that you probably wouldn't get to finish, if it weren't for deadlines and professors.

It helps that I got to spend the weekend with my best friend, boyfriend, and extended family; also that I spent the better part of a day driving along the California coast just one week after the rainiest, stormiest June 4 I've ever seen. This week I am supposed to get this pesky cast off my arm--decorated though it is, I am impatient to jump in the water. I have a short list of things to accomplish this week, and then Ryan and I are off to Discover America, Part Deux: Canadian Invasion. There is so much of this world left to see, and goshdarnit, we are off to see one more slice of it--while we both have vacation time and health insurance.

I keep thinking of this image that the Flaming Lips projected onstage last night: it was the silhouette of a naked woman pounding the drums. She started her set by pointing one drumstick straight outward, like a wand, walking in a circle as this beam of green light was beamed out across the audience. She stopped right before the band launched into its drum or guitar solos, at which point she'd throw all her weight into this one drumstick, slamming down on the drums with explosive force. The screen erupted into a series of rainbow pixels.

I want to be her, ringing in the summer with unabashed energy, force and rhythm. Who knows, maybe by the end of August, Ry and I will no longer be driving my little white Volvo, but rather rolling from state to state in a huge plastic ball. Hey, it could happen. The nights are long enough this time of year.