Hitchhiking to Alaska, a photo essay

Found this cool story about a young guy’s hitchhiking trip from NY to Alaska.  Check out the “abridged” link for some of the best photos, but I really enjoyed the stories from the unabridged link.  Really reminded me of the film Into the Wild that Jay and I just saw.  Really good film, especially for me since I hadn’t read the book and was totally surprised (and even shed a few tears!) at the ending.

Me again, after a long hiatus

Yo, kids. How´s life in the real world? I´ll start out by apologizing for the lack on postings. Matt and I have been all over southwest france and eastern spain and when we´ve come upon an internet cafe i´ve been either tired, hungry, or ready for a glass of wine, and walked past. I guess the ease of overseas phone and text messaging makes it easy enough to stay in touch that i haven´t felt the urgency of writing as much. But it´s our last day here, so I´ll at least give a few highlights.

I love windfarms. They´re actually quite graceful and all over the place here.

I think we liked Biarritz and a mountain town in France called Mendes best. We´re in Sitjes, just outside Barcelona right now, and it´s lovely, but the call of an early morning flight is looming.

We´ve eaten so well. The hotel we stayed at in Mendes had a two star restaurant and the food was incredible. The mountain air was amazing. And the next day was the Saturday market so we walked around and bought some saucisson sec and cheese, though later Matt wouldn´t eat the sausage because it smelled like Yogi´s feet. Go figure.

We´ve stayed for the last 5 nights with rooms looking out onto the beach. Last night it was the Mediterranean, the 4 nights before it was the Atlantic. Two in France, and two in Spain.

We´ve seen so many sites, churches, cathedrals, castles, walled cities, roman arenas, etc, that by the time we got to Biarritz we were ready to just relax and hang out in seaside resort places, which is so not what we were expecting. But we did get to have lunch in a cave inside an old Templars´fort from the 14th century or so. Carcassonne was really cool too.

The tally of towns we´ve stopped or stayed in is dizzying: Barcelona, Blanes, Balyieu sur Mer, Arles, Avignon, Mendes, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Biarritz, Hondarribia, San Sebastian, Biboa, and Sitjes. We have yet to get the car towed (knock on wood), cuz we´ve figured out the parking payment system.

We drove coast to coast yesterday. From the Atlantic to to the Med Sea, at least.

The dogs of Spain and France are so well behaved, and there are so many of them we´ve really missed our Yogi.

Anyway, I´ve left Matt on the beach and he´ll probably melt if I don´t rescue him soon. We head to London tomorrow morning early, and hopefully after a few hours in town, back to Seattle. We miss you all, and can´t wait to see you. I´ll see if I can´t think of a few good anecdotes.

Notes on laryngitis

As some of you know, I have been without much of a voice since Friday afternoon. At that point I thought I was getting over last week’s cold, but I started losing my voice during a late-afternoon meeting and it just got worse from there. At some point over the weekend it became clear that my cold had morphed into one of the disgusting sinus infections I get at least once a year, with evil bacteria marching south to my irritated vocal cords.

That’s really how it feels — like an invading army has occupied the seat of my voice — despite my agreement in theory with Sontag that these martial metaphors for disease serve us poorly. I think it is fair to say that we guys tend to think of our identity as being tied up in certain body parts, and as much as I may fall prey to this phallic fallacy myself from time to time this incident has made me painfully aware of just how much my identity is invested in my voice. To a surprising extent, I am my larynx.

While I am a decent writer, it is clear to me that I’m a better talker, or at least that my gift for gab is the one I use to greater effect. My work in PR means that I talk for a living — less so than for a newscaster, but probably more than most of my friends. Being voiceless makes it impossible for me to counsel my clients, rally my team or share my ideas. It was a wake-up call to realize that despite my prodigious production of emails, memos and PowerPoint decks, most of my real business value inheres in my voice. Likewise at home, I’m the talkative one happily married to a man of few words. Not being able to talk to David made me feel like I was somehow angry at him, giving the silent treatment. I’m the master conversationalist, social caller, the planner of events, the maker of reservations. Just not right now. In a profound sense, being voiceless has made me feel impotent.

I spent the weekend in near-total silence. It was bad enough that I resorted to using the “text to speech” function on my Mac to talk to David, which led him to call me Mr. Hawkings. The few times I did have to talk to someone — ordering coffee, getting my hair cut at Rudy’s — my interlocutors looked stricken, as if they were unsure whether this were a temporary problem or a more permanent muteness, and that either might be catching. It was deeply strange for me, a jabberjaw virtually from birth, to be so conspicuously quiet.

It seemed like resting my vocal cords had helped, so I went into the office yesterday. That was a huge mistake. Even people who knew it was painful for me to talk couldn’t help it — they needed things out of me, and despite all our electronica sometimes an IM doesn’t always cut it. Talking was not just painful, it was exhausting. I decided, wisely, to cancel a two-day trip to Chicago for some meetings — realizing that not only would the travel probably make me sicker, it just made no sense to go to a meeting where I would be unlikely to be able to speak. Worst of all there would have been no way to keep up my two-tea-an-hour consumption habit. There are only so many times you can leave a meeting to pee and refill your tea.

On the way home last night I picked up some prescriptions designed to give me my voice back. They seem to be working, but slowly. I was  listless last night, but as soon as I went to bed I set to painful coughing and couldn’t even apologize properly to David for waking him up as I tossed and turned. Today I slept in, deep in a codeine cocoon, listened in mutely on a conference call and reviewed a few documents in a desultory fashion. I’m really ready to be talking again; whether those around me are enjoying their vacation from my voice remains to be seen. But in any case, I’m looking forward to the end of my own private quiet period, the longest no doubt since I starting speaking before my first birthday. And I will return to the land of the speaking with a newfound respect for the tone, timbre and power of my voice.

Ms. McKay and Mr. Sand drive out to see a view; Paulette drives them

Or rather, they drove off the highway because Matt said the Dali Museum was off a certain exit. Which, apparently was not the case, however it did give us anple opportunity to drive along the sea, which is lovely, and the roads are narrow and twisty and many hundreds of feet above anything else, and largely without guardrails.

And have I mentioned yet that Matt is afraid of heights? Which is likely why, as we rounded a corner on a one-lane street, high above the cute little beach town we were traversing, and a truck came barreling toward us, forcing us to swerve ever so slightly to the right, Matt let out a terrified yelp of “oh, fuck me” and then upon looking down at what he assumed would be our landing place after the nonexistent guardrail failed to stop our fall, he let out an even more panic-stricken “oh, fuck me twice!”

Is it bad that I enjoyed that moment so much?

Anyway, when we had turned off the highway, having made excellent time out of Barcelona, I should not have said “hey, we’ll be in France in half an hour” since it then took another 4 hours of nearly single lane roads well above the sea and switchbacking around mountains before we reached the French border. Not long after, we decided to call it a night, found a nice little town and a hotel on a beach in it’s own little cove where the cost of a delicious dinner (lentils with seared foie gras, grilled dorade with eggplant pancakes, and tarte tatin), as well as breakfast were included in the price of the room.

At the moment we’re in Arles, where van Gogh did his thing (including the ear thing) and wandering around, likely heading to Avignon sometime later this afternoon.

Love all around!