Craig Update #9|
(sent September 7th, 2003 from Portland, Oregon, USA
Welcome to the last update/book of my 18 month long Australia to New Zealand to Los Angeles,CA to Portland,OR to Yakima,WA journey. Over the next few months I'll be adding stuff to the lunky.com site (like all of these updates) and things a giant word search puzzle consisting of every word on the travel site. (really!)
I was going to send this email out before I went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada last week, but obviously that didn't happen. You can see a couple pictures from Burning Man on the front of the clock site. It was quite an experience to say the least. When I was taking clock pictures, two different people came up to me who had seen the humanclock site, so that was kinda cool. Keeping with the naked women references in these updates, there was also a bike ride there of about 3000 women all riding topless in a huge procession. After about 35 minutes of watching boobs roll by me, I got so desensitized and frankly a little bored. (really!)
Here is kindofaquickrundown of what has been going on the last time since I emailed you all, (like four months ago!):
New Zealand highlights:
I think the last update left off when I was in Wanaka, and MCQ and I were headed to Doubtful Sound to do some sea kayaking. That was a lot of fun. There are plenty of picture on the lunky.com site around April 2003 if you want to check it out (http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=4-26-2003&page=1) . Oh yeah, next time you see a wonderful picture of the New Zealand fjord land and imaging you were there instead of working, don't forget to imagine getting the crap bitten out of you by sand flies. Everywhere you go these little bugs descend on you, leave an itchy bite, and you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night scratching yourself crazy.
On the trip back north a few days later, probably one of the most so-cosmic-things-it-should-be-on-a-new-age-calendar things that has happened on this trip occurred at this point. We took a 100km gravel road on our way back to Queenstown. It was a nice ride back in the middle of nowhere. There was a crop dusting plane flying around, we'd wave and the plane would tip its wings back at us. The next day we were biking back towards Queenstown when we saw two bikers heading towards us. We ended up stopping to talk to them. They were a couple in their 50's. We said hello and MCQ started talking to the couple. I stood there looking at the guy. As soon as the guy opened his mouth I got this funny feeling. I interrupted their conversation and said "hey! were you biking down the coast of California around June 1997?" The guy looked at me with a blank stare and said "yeah....hmm, yeah, I was!" I said something like "yeah! I remember you because you asked my friend and I if we'd met a lot of loose women in the last town and your wife giggled when you said that." He just looked at me knowing that was probably something he said and shrugged, "wow, I'll be, man, I'm never going to say anything bad about anyone again." He took his glove off and shook my hand. We talked for a long while and made plans to run into each other again in South America in 2008. All in all it was kind of a weird experience for me. It was like having this bookmark into your past that you can look back to. Just meeting him again made me think of all the things running through my head back then (sex, music, computers), and all the things running though my head now (computers, sex, music). We reached Queenstown a bit later. We went out and hit the town. Tom Petty once wrote that "Even the losers, get lucky sometimes". Apparently he wasn't singing about MCQ and I, because despite us being losers, we didn't get lucky...although I did have fun getting a bunch of us to pogo on the dance floor when they played Nirvana. We blew off Queenstown and headed back to Wanaka for some real fun. MCQ and I rode back to Wanaka (a day's ride) separately. It was an amazing ride with an incredible sunset.( http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=5-1-2003&page=2) (ok, there is another token New Zealand scenery reference for you, back to news...) I ended up riding in the dark all the way back to Wanaka
MCQ and I got back to Wanaka and went back to Robin's Treehouse. It was kinda cool to come back to someplace familiar. We went into all our usual routines. Wake up, make movies, go to the Hammer for lunch, make movies, do work around Robin's place, work on the clock site, eat dinner, Robin tells funny stories, lose at scrabble, gripe about the lack of girls, etc. After seeing all the fun MCQ and I were having with our digital cameras, Robin had bought one off of Ebay. Now all three of us were the Canon Nerds, running around taking pictures/movies of everything. We ended up with some really funny movies. MCQ's "3 minute Tango" one was by far the best of the lot. Robin is full of funny stories, from eating doughnuts with Jimmy Carter in the 70's in the mountains of Idaho, to getting arrested in Barcelona for juggling without a permit. (check out it out this nice article he wrote about the experience: http://www.juggling.org/jw/87/1/ramblas.html)
MCQ was wanting to get up to the North Island and I kind of wanted to stay put and work on the new clock site...since Robin's place was good for that sort of thing. MCQ headed out in early May and I ended up staying at the Treehouse till the end of May. It was good to just stay somewhere for awhile and exercise the other side of the brain for awhile...I got a lot done. I spent so long at the table working on the new humanclock.com site that I ended up sticking a sign on the wall reading "Daniel Craig Giffen memorial computing center".
So I biked up the west coast of the south island....
I biked out to a settlement known as Okarito, which has a population around 30. The hostel is an old schoolhouse. I rolled in there and it turns out they were having a community potluck at the hostel. I got to meet all the locals. Got to talking with this one guy named Richard who ran the local kayak touring place. He needed some work done on his website. I ended up overhauling his website and stayed about 8 days at his place with his wife Edwina and their young'un Monty. It was kind of nice to be clacking away on the PC, the ocean crashing on the beach below, and the rain pouring down (without me in it). On the day I was going to leave a guy across the street named Mike popped his head into the house. "Oh, I heard from a little bird someone staying here is good with computers". So I spent a couple hours helping them set up some stuff. I ended up getting a free day trip up on the glacier the next day. The glacier trip was fun. One of the guides was an Orc in the first Lord of the Rings movie too....so I had to get him in a clock photo.
As I neared Nelson I started seeing giant clearcuts in the forest and it made me homesick for Washington and Oregon. I spent a good few days in Nelson at this backpackers called the Palace. Took a bunch of clock pictures there, lost a lot of games of chess. I told the guy running the place I'd come back there someday and be really good in chess, and just play games for a room.
I spent the last couple weeks in Wellington doing a whole lot of nothing. Even got my first membership to a Non-North-American video store. I turned 30 on July 2nd. Guess what I got for a present? The flu! I missed out on having a real celebration and seeing an all-girl band called The Coolies. They are a band that, er..my friend Jeff W. would call a "chicks with picks" band.
So a couple weeks later I find myself at the Auckland airport getting ready to get on the plane to LA. After going though piles of security I reached the spot where you board the plane. In that area was the most concentrated amount of Americans I have been around in nearly 17 months. Standing there observing the crowd, I thought, "wow! The stereotype is actually true, Americans are very loud and they all hi-five each other over the most uninteresting accomplishments/discoveries". (made up example: "woo! hoo! The toilet paper in the bathroom is 2-ply, put it here bro!")
Los Angeles - I arrived in LA about 7 hours before I left Auckland. Yep, you read that right. 12 hours later the plane landed at LAX, I was back in North America, it was hot. It was a bit tedious passing through immigration. It was super crowded and stuffy, the line was long. Eventually the line passed under an 8x10" picture of George Bush. I was put off a little at first, but hearing the sound of a couple kids making vomiting noises nearby put me at ease. Went though customs and out into the lobby, there was Sara! Sara as in Sara King, the girl from Portland who I haven't seen in about five years. I spent the night at her place with her husband Michael and their new daughter Riley. (side not to Wanda X of Perth, I'm getting better about mentioning people that I stay with!) We went and had Mexican food. The portions were of course about three times the size of anything in the southern hemisphere. I forgot what it was like to get something off the menu and not be able to finish everything. That night Sara and I got prettied up and went out to Beverly Hills. We paid a visit to a certain public toilet that George Michael got busted at a few years ago for being naughty. (you can see pictures at humanclock.com, but forget to type in that essential 12th letter of the alphabet...I have this site too so nobody tries setting up a porn site there). Anyway, Sara drove me down Sunset Strip, "River Phoenix died on the sidewalk there, John Belushi died there...." We went to some swanky hotel bar called the Standard. Sara got a yummy drink and I got a beer, only came to about $25 with tip! Sara had seen a bunch of famous people there, and I had the clock with me. I started taking clock pictures of Sara with the big cardboard sign. After a good five minutes I could tell everyone was DYING to figure out what the heck we were doing, but they were all asking like they could care less. Sara says it is an LA sorta thing. We ended up leaving and going to another bar. It was closed and it looks like it was some sort of private function or something. It was good having Sara around cause she could identify all the famous people I was walking past, totally oblivious. Here was saw the girl from Chasing Amy...Joey (something). Then in the bar there were a bunch of guys talking to this really pretty girl that I couldn't place. Sara said that it was Zooey (D-something) who played the older sister in Almost Famous. We cruised to another bar and saw Jaimie Foxx of In Living Color/etc fame. He was surrounded by about 10 heavy-set guys on cell phones looking like they went to the Puff Daddy school of entourage.
The next day I went with Sara and Riley to Santa Monica. They were at the YMCA, so I walked around the Wednesday farmers market for a little while. It is about three blocks that are closed off and people set up stalls in the street, it isn't really that big. I left about 10:00am and went back to the YMCA. The really creepy part is that about three hours later an guy drove his car though the market killing 10 people and injuring a bunch more. I still feel a bit weird about this how I was just there and that happens a little while later.
The next day Sara took me to the home of other friends....Phoebe, Greg, and Tristan. On the way there we stopped at a market, I brought my coffee mug. Get this, I asked the woman for coffee, she said, "Would you like room for cream?" "Yes..!" I said as I nearly burst into tears. I paid my dollar and had my 12oz of drip coffee. I hadn't been able to do this in 17 months. In Australia/NZ all they have is espresso type stuff, none of this "fill up your mug" sorta business.
Anyway, we ended up at Phoebe and Greg's place. I knew Phoebe from PSU and hadn't seen her since she and Greg got married. I hadn't met Greg before, but he is a nice guy. He has a record label called Bomp! (bomp.com) and he's been around the music block a few times. We all went out for Mexican food. You really can't get Mexican food in Australia/New Zealand, so I was wanting all I could get. We talked of humanclock commerative plates, computers, Australian Rock bands, and the manufacturing defects of Scotch recording tape made in the 70's. Phoebe and Greg drove me to the Bomp warehouse and I got a clock photo of them: (http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=7-16-2003&page=2)
The next day they drove me to the Burbank airport where I flew to Portland. It took the security guy 30 minutes to open up both my bike box and suitcase looking at things. Funny thing about the suitcase, I paid $5.00 for it in NZ, but it took $10.00 of strapping tape to make sure it stayed shut! So I left LA, and no, I didn't buy a clock on Hollywood Blvd. they day I left. (that is a music reference a few of you might get).
Flying up to Portland was a bit of an experience. I really really really missed the mountains around the Pacific Northwest. I actually got a little bit teary when the 3 sisters and Mt. Hood came into view. Home! We flew right over Crater Lake and I thought of when I was there in 1996 on the PCT. Landed in Portland, my buddy Jeff picked me up and took me to friend and lunky.com reader Chris Thoman's house. Hopefully Chris' employer isn't on this email list, cause Chris told me he had actually read every single word on the lunky.com site and seen all 12,332 pictures! I couldn't tell him any stories since he had read them all, so I filled him in on a couple stories that weren't on the travel site for obvious reasons. Went and saw everyone at the bar for Bollio's 30th birthday party. A few days later I found myself up at Mt. Hood for he and Betsy's wedding. The wedding was splendid, everyone was shedding tears. Even me. At that point a CNN helicopter swarmed in and tons of paparazzi showed up, the headlines of all the major newspapers carried headlines of "Craig Giffen shows actual human emotion!" Seems the newspapers even interviewed ex-girlfriends for their take on the stunning fact that I actually showed some sort of physical emotion about something for once in my life.
My parents were going to come down and pick me up on a Thursday, so I got the bright idea that I would bike back to Yakima and surprise them a day early. I really missed the Cascade mountains and wanted to bike though them. Somehow biking the 230 miles from Portland to my parents house felt like a fitting end to the trip. I left Portland on a Tuesday. It was a bit strange to be riding on the right-hand side of the road again but I got used to it. I was standing outside a mini-mart in Castle Rock, WA (free tomato sauce/ketchup again!) and a huge Chevy K5 blazer pulled up. It was blaring that fist-pumping Toby Keith song I've read a lot about but had never actually heard until that point, so I got to hear that crass line about 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass, It's the American way'. The song will probably continue to be popular provided someone else's son/daughter/brother/sister is wearing "the boot". In another sad reminder I was back in the USA, over the next 30 miles I saw more "No Trespassing" signs on this stretch of road than I did in 14,000 miles of Australia and New Zealand. (Ok, back to happy-fun email!)
The next day I biked a whopping 130 miles to my parents house. Although I was carrying a lot less weight than normal, it was the longest day of the entire trip! I rode over White Pass, past Dog lake where Dad, Grandpa and I always fished. I thought about the lake a few times on the trip and now I was standing in front of it. I arrived in Naches, WA. I biked up to my old high school to see if it would spark any cherished memories I might have forgotten, nope, it still sucked just as I remembered. I chuckled a bit at how funny it was that things are 100% different than they were back then.
Saw my Aunt Shirley who was house sitting my Grandma's house...she was surprised to see me. I made the 7 mile ride to my parents house and got there at dark. I turned up the road and made the last push uphill to my parent's house. I was worried my parents would be in bed, but the garage doors were open. I was so excited to be surprising my parents. I pulled up into the garage where my was doing some work. "Hi Dad!" He was scared at first cause he didn't expect to see a bike/person there, then he was shocked again when he realized it was me. Dad hasn't changed much (e.g. his circa 1988 in 2003 attire: http://www.lunky.com/temp/flamingfather.jpg) nor has his sense of humor. He had me sit outside on the deck and drink a beer/smoke a cigar. Then he got my mom to come out and look at stars. Mom came out and was really surprised to see me.
I ended the travel site with a picture of Dad and I drinking beer and smoking cigars on the deck, seems like a fitting end to the bike ride: http://www.lunky.com/files/photos/rdc640-561-img_6176.jpg
I've had the late/great Charlie Rich's "Feel like going home" stuck in my head for a few days now. I dunno what I'll be doing in the coming few months. Maybe I'll by a used car lot and not sell anything. Just so I can drive a different car each day depending on how I feel. (last two sentences stolen from a Tom Waits tune).
I've had a lot of really good memories from this trip. It was kind of a nice finish to have finished biking all the way around Australia, then find myself a day later having a beer with Richard Buckner backstage in his dressing room before a show, talking about Tasmania, and his jaw dropping after me telling him a story which is strangely absent from the lunky.com travel site. Other good memories were quite simple, such as someone slowing down to give me a beer, saying "thought you might need this", and then driving off.
Thanks to everyone who gave me food, a roof over my head, internet access so I could keep all these websites going, funny stories and mannerisms. (e.g. I have Maree's little wave now (move your hand side to side really fast)).
I don't really know how to end this though. A few years back Henry Rollins' published a book called "Get in the Van". It was basically his journals from 1981-1986, talking about touring with the mighty punk band Black Flag. He ends the book talking how a lot of bands these days will have a big hit record when they start out and fly between gigs and sleep in nice hotels, never getting beat up, having to push a van, or sleep on a cold floor. That is nice...he hates to think that they are missing out on a lot of fun too. That is kind of how this trip has been...some days were messed up due to a massive headwind or bike problems and I wasn't always happy, but in the end all I really remember are the good times.