November 12th, 2015

My final full day in Chicago was a blur of car horns, books, helicopter noise, cracks in the pavement, and good food. I dedicated my day to simply walking everywhere in the city, but only after visiting the Newberry, a rare books archive for researchers.

I woke up early in the morning to grab the train into the city only to learn that they were not running at the moment. Helicopters swooped over the train line all the way from where I stood into the cityscape of towering skyscrapers that stood in the distance. Apparently a man tried to end his life by throwing himself in front of the train. It was horrible to hear and I felt the sadness drift upon as I realized that even I, and I am sure many others, when I did not know the reason for the delay was angry about the traffic and the not functioning train. For a moment I had felt that this man’s death, his misery, his trapped and hurting heart and mind where simply an obstacle to my forward movement. That is a horrible thing to think but I hadn’t even realized I had felt it and when I realized my own unconscious thinking it felt like a punch to the gut. A man’s death, his suffering to a stranger trying to get to work or a tourist trying to tour the city only felt the delay of his actions, not the truth behind them. It was a hard morning and I hope his family has some peace in this. I had lost sight in my mania of exploration of the people around me as real people. I felt like I had woken up when I heard over the cab radio what had happened. This trip in many ways is a very selfish endeavor, it is for me and me alone, maybe to be enjoyed by others in the stories to come, but as a result I had forgotten to actually look into the eyes of the people around me as real humans with personal agendas and personal pains. It was a contemplative morning for me to say the least and I walked away hoping to never forget to value each person on the street as someone who deeply mattered in their own special way.

I took a cab to the Newberry instead of the train but was further waylaid when my cab got hit by another cab. It wasn’t bad but it skidded along the side of the car and took off the side view mirror with a loud clash and bang. I sat with wide eyes in the back of the cab as my driver got out and started to yell at the other driver. It was a very strange incident and I was just happy to get out of the car and rely on my own two feet for the rest of the day.

The Newberry was impressive and I felt pretty special getting my visiting scholar badge and my own little personal desk where they spread out the books I had requested in little pillow beds. I spent the majority of the morning pouring over old Milton books and William Blake paintings. It was enough to make my little english major heart implode.


I emerged from the library with a mind full of poetry and paintings onto the urban streets of Chicago, ready to get lost in between the towering buildings.


After getting some coffee at Bowtruss I wandered all over the place but the riverwalk was definitely my favorite. The different bridges and the sun reflecting off of the glass buildings like the scales of some enormous fish onto the grey streets below. The noise of this city is somewhat overwhelming yet beautiful. The clinking of change in a cup, the thudding of tires on the slates of the bridges, the horns of passing tour boats, and the chittering of people all around me. This truly is a beautiful city, there is so much for the eyes to feast upon everywhere you look.



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I took a break at Do-Rite Donuts where I got a delicious maple bacon donut that kind of blew my mind. I had never had a donut like this before and I sat down by the river to enjoy the view and the food.


I also had to do the iconic sights like Cloud Gate or as it is commonly called The Bean.



My obligatory Bean selfie.

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After my touristy stops I wandered back down the Magnificent Mile or Michigan Ave shopping streets where I stumbled upon a food truck. Right in from of the NBC building was this bright yellow truck with a long line so I decided it must be worth while. It was Pierogi Streets, a pierogi truck. The food was unbelievable, I had braised beef and spinach/feta pierogis topped with spicy grilled onions, sauerkraut, and bacon. It was heavenly.

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It was a great day of wandering but by the end my feet were tired and the sun had set on the city. The shadows cast by the tall buildings created almost a canopy of darkness and in this artificial shade I left the city behind to go pack my belongings for the road ahead.

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I left Chicago that next afternoon after a morning at the Ferrara Bakery, a visit to my aunt’s studio, and a fantastic final lunch at the Art Institute.

I am so grateful for my family that has helped me along the way, none of this would be possible without them. My lovely aunt and uncle and my beautiful cousin were so kind to me and welcoming and after so long since I last saw them. I love that I get to see so much of my family but it is so hard constantly leaving everyone behind after just finally getting to see them after so long. I have never said goodbye so many times before in such a short period of time. Every person I see along the way makes it harder to say goodbye the next time, I am more reluctant to leave yet also more excited for what comes next. This trip is one of the most challenging things I have ever done but also one of the most rewarding. I will carry these memories and these special moments with me forever even when I have returned home to California. But after Chicago I headed even farther East. I drove that day from Chicago to Pittsburgh across Indiana and Ohio. At the moment when it felt hardest to leave my family, it felt inconceivable to be moving farther away from the world I knew and loved but the East Coast was on my mind and I meant to reach it as soon as possible. The other end of the country was within reach and with it the goal of my solo road trip was within sight.

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November 3rd, 2015

On the hunt for a new home, seeking graduate school with great coffee, better books, astounding architecture and a cohort of inspiring academics. I am touring graduate schools across the nation while I drive and had to stop at Northwestern in Evanston, IL. So I took a whole day off by myself to drive up there and tour around the campus. But first, I grabbed coffee at Caffe Streets on Division to prepare myself for the adventure to come. It has been really hard on me honestly visiting graduate schools when my heart still belongs in Berkeley. I miss my academic home dearly and all of my friends who are still there. Nothing makes the sting of remembrance lost more painful than the constant reminder of what you left behind by where you are going next. Trying to find a new home when I don’t want to give up the last is a brutal conditioning towards the constant change of my future despite my deep desire for everything to remain exactly the same.

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The cup of coffee and an hour spent in contemplation of strangers walking down the street brought me back to reality where I had things to accomplish and places to see. I did make one more pit stop at an amazing bakery with zombie head cakes in the window that were mind-blowingly realistic called Alliance Bakery. I grabbed some breakfast and hit the road that wound up the coast of Lake Michigan towards Evanston.

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I toured the entire campus for several hours making some especially long stops at the English Department in University Hall and the main libraries, Deering and University Libraries.




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The views all around campus where beautiful and very nicely accented by the fall leaves and the emerald hues of Lake Michigan. The gardens and greenery all around the campus were stunningly beautiful and the entire trip was exceedingly pleasant all around. I thoroughly enjoyed the school and everything the campus had to offer.

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After walking the entire campus I finally (and begrudgingly) left Northwestern. However, when I got back to Chicago I visited another fantastic coffee shop in Pilsen called Cafe Jumping Bean that served as the perfect end to a long day.


November 1st, 2015

Getting to visit family is priceless, especially family that I haven’t seen for some time. Long talks over drawn out meals or nights spent laughing next to warm fireplaces together are the foundations of memories for years to come. I have loved being with my family here in Chicago, we have had a lot to catch up on and what better place to do it than this beautiful city.

Yesterday we explored the Pilsen district in the rainy Halloween weather and ate delicious food (I got chicken and waffles for the first time) while talking for a long time.

Today we went into Downtown Chicago since the sun was out in force and there was so much to see. We got Dim Sum and then meandered around Millennium Park together.




The Chicago skyline is exquisite; the sheer variety of shapes, widths, colors, and materials that compose the rugged ups and downs of this city’s outline are unbelievable. I could stare up at these buildings forever. Cities have a way of making people feel small but in a good way; the fact that people conceptualize and then materialized these structures is humbling and exciting at the same time, a living monument to the capacity of man.

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It was such a warm day and after so many cold days in Michigan it was a breath of fresh air. Even the trees still had color! It is amazing to have watched an entire months forth of autumn in Michigan only to come here and start at the beginning again. So many trees here are still green and it is a marvel to me that not everything is dead. Regardless, we wandered around the park and then returned home for a short break.

I then ventured out alone to the Wicker Park area of town which is full of quirky life and graffiti. Both Pilsen and Wicker Park had some great work like these I found.





I went and got some coffee at the Wormhole, which is an offbeat and fun study cafe squeezed between vintage thrift shops and bars flashing with neon lights. I sat and read my book for a little while only to realize that the sun had already disappeared. Darn daylight savings time. Stealing all of the sun.


But I happened upon a bookstore I had been hoping to visit without even trying called Myopic Books; this collection of over 70,000 books is an astoundingly awesome second-hand bookstore. I could get lost in this store for hours. It was a great coincidence that made my nerd heart very happy.



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I wandered around the warm city streets taking in the glittery shops and shining street lights amidst the cacophny of car sounds and found myself beginning to readjust to city life. There is a specific brand of beauty in big cities, I have not yet fully discovered the nature of that beauty but maybe it will be more clear to me in the weeks to come as I explore more major cities on the east coast.


For now the night time streets of Chicago are more than enough for me.

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October 31st, 2015

I have exchanged my endless forests with city streets and skyscrapers; swapped Lake Superior with Lake Michigan, and found more family along the way. If there is one thing that I have learned on this journey thus far, it is that even on a solo road trip, I am never truly alone. The are so many people who take part in this journey with me, friends, family members, and strangers that become friends. Even when I think I am truly alone there is always someone on the end of a phone or at the end of a long day of driving. There is a peculiar feeling of desolation that I have grown familiar with, that clings to me like a shadow and sometimes eclipses my vision. However, the desolation is only as real as I make it.

So here I am, another city, another loving family that has taken me into their home. Bootjack to Chicago. The difference a day can make is astounding. I left behind my comfort, my home away from home and my family once more in Michigan as I did in California and then Colorado. I am constantly moving away from the places, people, and things that I love only to realize that not only can I never truly leave them behind, but there is always someone else waiting with open arms. I love my family, everywhere across the United States and I have never known so securely that I am loved and not alone.

So even though it was hard driving away from my home in Michigan after one final look across the still waters of Portage Lake at the end of the frosted dock, I knew it had to be done. It was time to move on and begin again. In the dark of early morning, long before the sun rose I drove away down Bootjack Road.

Its funny, I have been in so many big cities on this trip and somehow managed to avoid rush hour traffic jams in all of them except for Houghton. Tiny little Houghton, the gateway that literally bridges the upper peninsula to the rest of the world. I got stuck there in traffic (as I would find out later this would be the motif of my day) for quite some time and finally made it out just as the first light of day was creeping into the dark skies. I reached the Bishop Baraga Shrine, the snowshoe priest, at the southern end of Lake Superior to watch the sunrise and say goodbye to Lake Superior one last time.




The sky turned such a vibrant pink for a moment and it felt like Lake Superior was bidding me farewell. It is so hard for me to leave that great lake behind because for some reason I feel so lost without it when the sting of fresh remembrance is so clear in my mind. I feel disoriented without its waters to guide me and driving away from it feels like I am setting out into the world without a compass. But leave I did.

I stopped in L’Anse to buy a giant cinnamon roll the size of my head but that was really my only stop (besides a lot of detouring since so many of the roads I had planned to take were closed due to construction) until I reached Sheboygan on the coast of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan.


I said hello to Lake Michigan for the first time on this journey but did not linger long at the water’s edge.

I made a major stop in Milwaukee, which is a surprisingly wonderful city! I had no idea it was so interesting and I ate lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market.



It was a great break before heading into the stressful heart of Chicago traffic, which was completely overwhelming after a month of living somewhere where your only roadside companion is the occasional tractor. Being back in a big city is baffling to me and very stressful but I finally made it to my Aunt and Uncle’s home where I will be staying for the next little bit. It is so great seeing my family again especially since it has been a long time. We went out to a wine bar called Bascule where we drank wine, ate delicious food (I tried octopus for the first time), and caught up on the space between all the years since we had last seen each other. It was a long day but overall a good start to my life back on the road again.

October 18th, 2015


Even though I have a home once more, I have found myself taking to the road. Not to get anywhere in particular, I have no grand destination at the end of a long road anymore, but I take to the road all the same. Somedays I drive just to feel normal again, the road has become my home in more than one way. But most days, I drive to watch the fall leaves twirl in the air of my car’s wake as I devour mile after mile of empty roadway. This is my now, after the colors turned, after the winter winds began, and after the leaves began to fall. But this isn’t where I want to begin, I want to go back when the trees were still green and the lake lay still. I want to tell you where I have been, how strange life has become, but in the best of ways.

3,354 miles and a little over two weeks on the road. The space between me and everything I once called home. Now it is over a month since I left the sunny west coast behind me and I have been living in the Northernmost tip of Michigan where the sky meets water and the land ends.


This place is not unfamiliar to me though, it is not a strange, exotic and unknown location; this is my home away from home. However, I have never seen it quite like this before. The closest city to me is Houghton, a drawbridge city with cobblestone streets and old brick buildings lining the downtown stretch of road. But every morning this is the view I wake up to.


So many things are different now, things I have never seen before because I only ever visited in the summer time. I feel like my world has been turned topsy turvy, everything is so similar yet just different enough to disturb the normalcy of everything I had grown accustomed to since I was a very young child. Small things are off, like leaving a book on your desk and returning to find it on top of your bed with no one around to have moved it.

Small things like seeing acorns on the ground. The entire ground is littered with them but since I have only ever been here in summer I have never seen an acorn here. Or watching fog lift off of the lake in the early morning or funneling down the channel when I have only ever seen sun, rain, and lightning in the sky before now. Or realizing that the shadows fall differently because the sun is in an entirely different position. The sun sets so far south and instead of 11pm sunsets, the sky gets darker earlier and earlier every day. There are endless things that entirely transform this place I have visited almost every single year since I was born. I feel like I have found myself on the other end of the looking glass and everything is slightly distorted.


There are two not so subtle changes that have really transformed this once familiar place into a mysterious and new experience. The first of which is obvious, it is Fall. I have never seen the once verdant ubiquitous green burst apart into such an array of beautiful colors. It makes me look at everything with new awe struck eyes.


The land around me has become its own sea of colors. Amber, wine, violet, peach, rose, and so many other colors have transformed every tree into a color palette of startling fiery colors. Every day the world around me looks different. Every day it transforms a little more, becomes a little more beautiful, or looses a few more leaves. This ceaselessly protean landscape has dug its beautiful fingers into my imagination and lit my eyes aflame with the possibilities of fleeting life. There is such a desperate beauty in imminent perishing life.

The other difference is the life that already perished. The loss of my grandfather, one year after his passing, is thick in the air everywhere I turn up here. It is not necessarily a bad or sad feeling, just a very persistent one. Memories are the greatest ghosts we could ever conjure.


I dreamt for years about coming up to Northern Michigan to see the peak of fall colors, but I never dreamt that it would be without my grandfather. I always thought I would walk arm in arm with him through the forest of amber and wine colored trees. I thought we would sit in his favorite chairs by a fire, no words passing between us, just a mutual understanding that sometimes words aren’t necessary to know you are loved. Now I am finally here and on the one year anniversary of his passing. I wish he could be here with me and I cannot believe, even a year later that he is actually gone. I miss my grandpa but I see him and feel him in the flurry of falling leaves everywhere I go.

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I am staying in his home without him and every time I hear this old house creak I always wonder if it is him. I feel like I cannot go anywhere without bumping into his ghost. But I know he would have wanted me here. I just wish he could have been here along side me.

I think one of the biggest things about being here by myself is how much older it makes me feel. I can physically see the changes, the way that time has transformed this place and myself. I have always known this place as one filled with love, family, laughter, adventure, mischief, and growth. But now I am here at the end of fall and the cusp of winter. It isn’t summer anymore. I have grown older, my grandfather and grandmother are both gone, my cousins aren’t here with me to enjoy each others company, and the leaves are falling one by one as the water slowly recedes from the shores.

It is a beautiful death here. A beautiful transitioning between the life of one year and the life of the next. This is where I find myself. Between the death of an old life and the beginning of a new one. The west of my past and the east of my future as Kerouac would say if his journey had been reversed. I am moving slowly towards something, but I know not what yet. For now I sit and watch the world around me changing, wondering what will come when the color is gone.


October 6th, 2015

I am caught somewhere between way to busy and being too tired to reflect to put my thoughts on the page, or, in this case, on the internet. I know I have neglected my blog the last couple of days, so here is the update: I made it. I had one last final day of driving after I finished my time in Madison. But I had to have one last breakfast in this wonderful city (which is somewhat of a foodie heaven, especially for the midwest!) and stopped just outside of the captial building grounds for a great chai latte and a dark chocolate, caramel sea salt crepe from Bradbury’s. IMG_9855

Driving away from my amazing aunt who was gracious enough to host me for my time in Madison and with the gorgeous capital building in my rearview mirror, I hit the road one last time.

I drove through Wisconsin up into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I will be staying for the next month. I saw a couple of really amazing places on my way up like Minocqua, Wisconsin. This little town surrounded by a series of wonderful lakes, crisscrossed by trestles and interwoven by a state hiking trail. How amazing is that? I totally stumbled upon it on accident while trying to take a picture of a trestle. IMG_9858

The trail was a long and winding stretch of covered pathway, framed by trees and surrounded by lakes. I felt like I was weaving my way through a wonderland of lakes. IMG_9861



The trail took my breath away between the aqua green waters and the fall colored leaves. It was a great accidental side trip before I crossed over the state line into home territory, Michigan. Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

I also took a few random side breaks to campgrounds, lakes, and boat launches just to sneak off the main road and find some water or fall forests to explore. IMG_9894


The fall colors from Minocqua upwards were unbelievable. Colorado was a land of golden trees but here were so many shades of oranges and reds, trees the color of wine and cinnamon. I couldn’t help but laugh at the rush of exhilaration I felt every time I turned around the next corner because each view was more amazing than the last.

My final stop was at Bond Falls, a great stop that I always make on my way in or out of the UP (Upper Peninsula for all you non-midwesterners). The cascading waterfalls at Bond Falls compounded with the fall colors was the last step in total and uncontrollable excitement about being back in Michigan. IMG_9899


I had made it, driving in along the rainbow of fall colors I rolled down my windows, blasted my music, and felt the cold crisp air of impending winter, knowing all the while that my heart had come home again. There is no home to me quite like going up North to the Keweenaw Peninsula. No brighter colors or stiller lake, no calmer heart to be had than when I sit on the dock next to the gentle lapping waters of the place I call home. And of course, there are no sunsets quite like the sunsets in Bootjack because every day is a beautiful day out here. There are many beautiful days to come and hopefully I can post more now that life is beginning to settle down a touch more, but for now I am staying put. No more open road for a little while but there is still adventure to be had in this quiet land. And I have every intention of not wasting a single second of my precious time up here in my home away from home.

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October 2nd, 2015

Trying to catch up on the last days of my road trip, it has been kind of hectic so bear with me! Here is the account of my final day in Madison, Wisconsin.

One of my favorite features thus far throughout Madison are all of the amazing gardens. From ALlen Centenntial Garden, to the Abrotetum, and now finally the Olbrich Botancial Gardens, all have been spectacular displays of nature within the confines of a major city.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens was like a playground for nature lovers. From amazing fountains, art exhibits hidden in the trees, and my personal favorite, a kaleidoscope of succulents. IMG_9791






My view of all the different gardens around the city had begun to feel like a kaleidoscope mash-up of everything I had seen thus far. I had luckily caught a period of time right before the major frost where flowers were still blooming and beautiful but leaves had begun to change colors already. I was getting the best of both worlds and I knew it. So I reveled in the amazing gardens and was shocked by the array of colors and textures I found everywhere I went.

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There was even a Thai pavilion in the gardens that was ornate and beautiful with the backdrop of flowers surrounding it.


Everything was beautiful and so much fun to explore with my Aunt, we really had a great time.



There is one thing I forgot to mention thus far and it is the frequency with which Madison has free libraries in front of their homes. It always makes me very happy to see free book boxes in neighborhoods but Madison had an astounding abundance of ornate and well stocked free libraries. A neighborhood feels healthy and lively whenever there are free book boxes lining the streets. I really enjoyed this one which was a vibrant orange and had a beautiful mosaic of a tree on the side. Well done Madison, well done.



I went off on my own again with a more serious mission in mind this time: visit the University of Wisconsin- Madison campus and check out the English Graduate Program. I spent the rest of my day slowly meandering around campus (with an additional stop inside of a wonderful liitle bookstore on State street) and visiting the English Department.

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The campus was really and truly very nice, I was genuinely impressed. The buildings were beautiful, the people were kind and generous with their information, the scenery was amazing (right on the lake and covered in colorful trees), and the available opportunities to talk to students and faculty was very abundant. I quite enjoyed it.


I even found an acorn friend that sadly rolled away from me and got crushed by a car. It was slightly heartbreaking. Can you tell I haven’t been terribly sociable? I have started befriending acorns.


But honestly, it made me miss Berkeley. There were so many things that kept reminding me of my alma mater and it left me with a heavy heart burdened by homesickness. There was even a tower that looked like the campanile (complete with carillons) and several of my favorite professors from Berkeley were going to be visiting campus to give lectures in the coming weeks. I missed my friends, my mentors, and the feeling of belonging to a community regardless of whether the people around you knew you or not. Despite actually really liking this campus, I left full of sadness because I wasn’t sure if anywhere else would ever feel like home in the way that Berkeley was. I know this is naive in many ways; I know I will go somewhere and I will learn to call it home, but Berkeley will always have my heart.


It was a hard day, the first of probably many to come in the next few months, but not something that would stop me from moving forward. Some days are worse than others, but every day on the road is a step farther from home that I am proud to be taking even on the days when I wish for nothing more than to be back where I was. I am learning to miss the things I love and I hope each day to miss these things with happiness rather than sadness, but sadly that day has not yet come. Despite my sadness, I know nothing is gained without losing something first. Growth can be painful and I would be foolish to wish that pain away, so for now I grit my teeth and try to push forward to days when it hurts less.

But I know it is worth it.

September 30th, 2015

I woke up to the sound of rain against the window. It was the first time in a long time I had heard rain calling me outside. I lay in my bed listening and for the first time it became real. I knew I was very far from home; I knew that I was no longer in California and would not be returning for quite some time. In many ways this whole trip has been so surreal. A strange mixture between road trip and living in a bunch of different states. I bounce from one location to the next, usually with someone I know waiting at the end of my drive so it never feels like I am truly alone. But this morning I woke up and felt alone. I felt far from my friends, family, and all that was familiar to me. I felt it ringing in the rain drops like a vibrating siren and each drop sang out the sound of total strangeness. It was an odd moment, of finally letting it sink in that I wasn’t going home, at least not for a while. I had to make a home wherever I could find it now.

For now home is with my Aunt in Madison but even that is not for long. I pulled my tired body from bed and looked outside at the cardinal on the bird feeder below, unfazed by the rain and even more vibrant in it. The roads ran like rivers and the fall leaves had been glued to my car like some child’s scrapbook of autumn.

On our way to explore Madison we first stopped to get some really great coffee and Colectivo. A roomy coffee shop with huge windows, bright furniture, and great study spaces, Colectivo was definitely instantly on my favorite coffee spot list.

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I took my coffee out into the cold rain to warm my fingers as we explored the state capital building. It was truly a magnificent piece of architecture and I loved escaping from the rain under their marbled ceilings and fancy decor.
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It was quite the place and the square that it sat in was surrounded by adorable shops and fantastic restaurants.

After we had circled the captial building a few times, marveling at the architecture from every angle, we drove through the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Going through campuses that are closer to the east coast always impress me because they are so thoroughly different from west coast campuses. The buildings are older, crafted from beautiful stone or brick and much more ornate than the average west coast campus building. I love my alma mater but I cannot help comparing the architecture between campuses and I was thoroughly impressed with the Madison campus.

At the far end of campus we stopped at the Allen Centennial Gardens, a small enclosure of nature next to an old historic home. The gardens, though small, were marvelous. Even in the rain, the vibrant crops like kale, colorful swiss chard, and of course corn, were incredibly beautiful.

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There were some really unique looking flowers, like the ones below, that lit up the entire park with vivid colors. IMG_9697


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From boardwalks to koi ponds, gazebos to vegetable gardens the entire garden was surprisingly entertaining. After marveling at the entire complex we continued on our way.

We decided to poke in at the Henry Villa Zoo. It was a fun little zoo but the alligator was by far my favorite. I had been taking pictures of the fall leaf littered pool, not realizing it was an alligator enclosure until afterwards when I looked at my pictures. It surprised me so much that I hadn’t even noticed the alligator lying quietly below the leaves.

There were also some adorable little badgers having a fun time digging around in the mud, which was pretty quintessential for all of Wisconsin. Go Badgers :)

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After the zoo, my aunt and I parted ways for a bit and I went off on my own to the University’s Arboretum for a hike. It was pretty, but also pretty marshy so my hike kept getting cut short by closed pathways. But what I did see was quite nice; the variety of different trail landscapes that I set foot on in just the few short miles I was able to hike was staggering. It was a wonderfully diverse park filled with prairies, lakes, and flowers.


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We finished out day with a sunset mini walk along some overgrown boardwalks next to Lake Monona. Stepping over a natural bubbling spring, we walked along the creaking old wooden planks along the rim of the lake watching the sky turn pink under wispy clouds. IMG_9754 IMG_9755

It was a good first day in Madison (finished with some really great pizza) but I am finding myself growing more and more tired as each day passes. Michigan is only one day away of driving from where I am now and I can feel the closeness in my road wearied bones. I have been traveling now for exactly two weeks and I have been alone for one week; it feels like a lifetime.

A good rest is in order soon and I know it awaits me on the shores of Lake Superior, so close yet so far from where I am now. For now, there is still more work to be done, more things to see, and always another adventure around the corner.

September 29th, 2015

Kansas City, Missouri to Madison, Wisconsin; day two of my long days to come. To break up the monotony of corn I decided to make a quick stop in Wallace State Park, a small natural park about an hour outside of Kansas city, to take a hike and get out of the car. It was a great idea but also turned into somewhat of a nightmarish experience that I could never have predicted.

I exited the main drag of interstate and entered into a wonderfully windy and hilly back country road that wove its way deeper into forested countryside. The road was pleasnatly meandering through farm houses and red barns disappearing from my fast paced world into obscurity behind me.

As I found the enttrance to the park I was pleasantly surprised by a doe and her little baby deer grazing calmly on the roadside. I took a few pictures, kept my respectful distance, and continued on my way just as they did theirs.

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There was no one else in the park, so I had the stillness of the lake and the chittering of the woods all to myself. The forest seemed alive and vibrating with wildlife that remained unseen but well heard. The lake was so still and serene, the perfect reflecting basin for the world that surrounded it.



I laced up my hiking boots and headed out across some wonderful foot bridges, but I did not get very far before things started to get weird. First of all, I was slightly on edge because there were so many noises all around me that I had never heard before, be they bugs, birds, or small mammals, the noises they made were somewhat haunting and remotely sounded like a child crying or a wounded animal screaming. Not a great start. So I tried to ignore the noises that were far off but present in the mysterious woods around me. I tried not to let it get to me, but being a woman hiking alone and having no one else in the park put me too on edge. So after a short bit I returned to my car and decided to drive around instead of hike because I was sort of freaked out.


Once I went back to my car I drove to a separate trail away from the strange noises of the forests I originally started by and found an amazingly beautiful boardwalk.

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Again, I didn’t get far before everything went down hill. I didn’t even get onto the boardwalk, I was just taking pictures of it, when all of a sudden there was a wild frenzy of cracking twigs and rustling bushes coming from the hill behind me on the other side of the parking lot. I turned around with my heart in my throat and the horrible thought in my mind that it was going to be a bear charging at me out of the woods. A thousand things go through my mind: I don’t have a weapon, just my camera, I can use my telephoto as a (very expensive) weapon if I have to defend myself, if it is a black bear I have to stand my ground and get angry, big, and scary fast, there is no one to yell for if I need help, my car is so close but whatever is coming at me is between me and my car, and a bunch of other gut reaction thoughts about whatever was making that horrible ruckus in the woods.

When I turned and found the source of the frenzy I was relieved but also deeply shocked and confused: it was a deer. A very angry deer. I don’t know why or what was going on except maybe there was a baby nearby it was trying to protect, maybe even the same mom and baby deer I had photographed early about a mile away, but I didn’t know. It was a very angry doe running out of the woods kind of hunched over, straight legged, and kicking every which way and coming right for me.

Luckily, I was already on edge so I was able to react quickly and jumped up onto the banister of the boardwalk above the reach of the deer. I don’t know what I would have done if it had reared up because it could have possibly reached me, but thankfully it stayed roughly on its four feet. It ran up to me on the boardwalk and started battering the post I was standing on with its front legs and angrily snorting. I started yelling loudly at it to scare it away and weilding my telephoto in one hand, ready to use it to defend myself, tried to scare away the pissed off deer as it attacked the boardwalk posts I was perched atop.

After this back and forth went on for a little bit the deer seemed to calm down and kind of ran off back towards my car and away from me. Warily eyeing it I waited until it seemed distracted and jumped from the banister to run off into the woods the other way since it was still between me and my car. I had planned on taking a hike, this was just not necessarily the way I had wanted to do it.

It didn’t come after me and all I can assume is that it left and whatever spooked it was gone (including myself). So I calmed down from the scare and tried to enjoy my hike. Then things got weird again. Yeah, I know, again.

I was walking through the forest when I started accumulating a few more spider webs getting caught on me than I was comfortable with. So I stopped to wipe them off and kept going only to get even more. Feeling the hair on my arms rise, I stopped again, wiped them off and tried to peer forward into the wooded pathway I was taking and was horrified: there were spiders everywhere. So naturally I almost threw up, ripped my coat off my back and yelled


And ran as fast as I could out of woods, frantically clawing the webs from my body and trying not to imagine all of the possible spiders crawling on my body. I made it back to my car, the devil deer was gone but my car was COVERED in spiders and webs. COVERED.

I ripped the door open and jumped in as fast as I could and took off. I kept trying to wipe the spiders away with my windshield wipers and couldn’t stop twitching I was so freaked out. Once I was a safe distance from the park I pulled over, screamed at the top of my lungs at a corn field and thoroughly checked myself for spiders. I flipped off the park behind me, hopped back into my car and continued on my way.

I’m sure it was a perfectly nice park, it just hated me. It was a misadventure to say the least, but at least I got some nice photos of the beautiful scenery.

I pulled into a McDonalds to wash off my hands, ordered the largest coffee I could get and looked like a mad woman pulling twigs out of my hair as I waited for my drink, being watched by a tour bus full of old women with questioning eyes.

I had finally calmed down after I crossed the Missouri state line into Iowa and was glad to have left it all behind me.

To further soothe my rattled nerves I took an innocuous stop at an Amish Country Store in Iowa. I sat on a curb for a while and pet a little Amish Corgi that had popped out of a bale of hay covered in straw and wagging its entire body like only a Corgi can do. I spent some time there just enjoying the sunshine, the endless fields of corn, which suddenly seemed strangely more appealing than the woods to me after that morning , and my little Corgi friend.





The rest of Iowa was more of the same, endless corn that swayed in the wind like the undulating waves of a dusty amber sea. After a while of this I decided to take a break because I was getting pretty tired at this point. I felt like a person who has been on a boat for a long time who then steps foot on shore and feels like everything is still rocking, except I felt like the world was still whizzing by me at 80mph despite everything moving at its normal speed. It was disorienting and I figured it was time for a breaking from the mind numbing monotony.

I just so happened to pull off in Des Moines, Iowa at a BBQ place called Smokey D’s BBQ Joint, which had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. So I got some good ol’ Iowa BBQ and enjoyed my break.



The rest of the drive was a blur, nothing between Des Moines and Madison except corn, corn, and more corn. I do enjoy the silos though that break up the continuous fields. But aside from that, nothing.

I made it to Madison totally exhausted, toast. But I got to relax in my Aunt’s backyard who I was staying with and watch cardinals flit about a bird feeder dancing like little red ballerinas about one another. It was a peaceful and restful way to end the day, watching the sun set over the green backyard of Madison.

September 28th, 2015

Literally. Yesterday I drove all the way across the width of Kansas from Colorado to Missouri. It was a long day of solo driving, just me, Mama the Llama, the Serial podcast, and corn. Lots and lots of corn.


I drove away from Colorado with the Flatirons of Boulder in my rearview mirror and my heart in my stomach as I left behind the state I had grown to love over the last week or so. I traded in my grand majestic views for two lane interstates, the loss of beauty exchanged for ease and speed of transportation. Sometimes I think that places like Colorado have such wonderful single lane roads in order to force you to drive slower through all of the beautiful scenery, while places like Kansas and Nebraska offer speedy roadways so you can get the hell across them as fast as possible.

While I will admit, I actually didn’t hate Kansas like I thought I would, it was still a really long day of somewhat monotonous landscapes. It was still better than my old road trip nemesis Nebraska. There were at least some nice rolling hills across the state and every once and a while the sea of corn fields where swapped with some lovely fields of a red colored crop (possibly old corn?) that contrasted with the rolled hay bales resting like giant marshmallows across open fields in a rather photogenic manner. There were also some impressively large energy wind mills that almost seemed to be stirring the clouds like cotton candy as the gusty winds whipping across the open plains sent the clouds speeding across the horizon. My little prius did not care much for the high winds that kept jerking my car across the roadway like a toy.

But the journey, though long, went quickly with a few fun stops like the Kansas welcome center, the World’s Largest Easel, and the historic landmark of Brown vs Board.

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But mostly it was just me and wide empty expanses of road heading off into the flat horizon and my own thoughts. I had thought a lot about how this day would go, considered whether I would be able to make it all the way by myself or not. This was my big trial day where I was either going to be able to prove to myself that I was capable of so much more than I thought I was, or I would crash and burn. I will jump past the long anxious hours of ruminating about whether I could do it and tell you that I did. I made it in one piece and feeling fine.


This might not seem like a big deal to most people but this was a huge deal for me. Time for some honest talk. For those of you who don’t know me and even for those who do know me but don’t know about this, here it is: I am sick. No, not sick in some horribly dramatic, I am terminal and will never recover sick, but not in a cough cough I just have a cold way either. I have been plagued by chronic pain, migraines, and unknown illnesses almost my entire life. I have some names to label my pain like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Fibromyalgia, and Alopecia Areata but even they do not encompass what is wrong with my body. The baseline is this: I am an adventurer in my mind and heart, but most of the time my body physcially disagrees with me. I cannot predict or know when I will feel bad (and usually what accompanies feeling bad is headaches, painful muscles, extreme and sudden fatigue, and nausea) so I live in a constant state of anxiety about whether I will feel well enough to do the things I want to do.

Most of the time, there is no physical or external symptom that others can see so it is hard for a lot of people to understand this fear and these feelings. I have an invisible illness that even I don’t fully understand. It is unseen yet dictates most of my every day decisions and actions. This is why this road trip means so much to me as a solo adventure. I am so constantly worried about being incapable or handicapped by my illness and this is my big middle finger to not feeling well. That might be strong, but I have a lot to prove to myself and each day at a time on this solitary adventure I am learning to trust in my own abilities and stretch my capabilities.

So to drive for ten hours by myself is a huge obstacle surrmounted that has lingered in the horizon for quite some time for me. Despite how flat Kansas is, it has seemed like Mount Everest to me. This long day was my veritable mountain to climb, just to show myself that I was capable of anything, no matter my illnesses, no matter my fears.

So driving across the Missouri River into Kansas City where I was staying the night with some incredibly generous and hospitable family friends was like crossing the finish line of my own personal race. I was tired, but it was a well earned exhaustion that was soul satisfying and only bodily tiring.

I had the great treat of trying out a local Kansas City BBQ joint called Gates where your ears are constantly ringing with the sing-songy cry of “How MAY I help YOU?” as you enter into the building. It was the perfect end of a long day filled with conversations with old family friends and good food. I was only stopping for a night and would then be continuing on to Madison, Wisconsin the following day. One step closer to Michigan, one step closer to my next major stop. I am almost halfway done with my trip now, Michigan is the next major stop and I will be there for about a month and then continue onward to the East. My mind is being pulled in a thousand directions towards memories of what I have seen and imaginings of what tomorrow will bring, but all of it boils down to the road, the pavement beneath my tires and the miles speeding past my eyes. I am right where I need to be.

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