Friday, September 12, 2008

Getting to New York.

Thursday, 17. July 2008
It's a gray July afternoon when my flight gets me to the JFK airport in New York. I pick up my backpack and head for the exit to find a bus into the city.
But why am I even in New York?
It all started a few months back, somewhere in my head.
Every day I was getting more and more into bicycling, ever since I came back from Berlin last May. It was pretty much taking over my mind at the expense of my other favorite things to do. I got so much into it that I thought a vacation on two wheels is the next thing to do.
But then again, every three years I travel to the United States. Now, what is THAT about? Every three years? Sounds weird, doesn't it.
Well, my first trip to the US was in 1996. 3 years later, my former band decided to tour the States, so the tour happened in 1999. I wasn't thinking much about it then, but when my 2 university colleagues asked me to go on a vacation to the States together in 2002, I definitely saw the pattern there. 1996, 1999, 2002,... So I just decided it's actually quite a cool idea to go to the States every 3 years, so after that 2002 trip, I went again with a friend in 2005 and, of course, it's 2008 now so - time for the USA!
So, how do I combine a biking vacation and a trip to the USA? Well, I thought what would be a good thing to do and the idea was born: I'm going to bicycle from Seattle to Los Angeles on a bicycle! 2000 kilometers on two wheels in about a month.
But first I gotta get to Seattle, no? Well, that's where we left off.
So, I catch the bus to downtown Manhattan and then a bus to my friend's Peter. Because there's another Peter in this story, I'll just call him Peter Ki.
Peter Ki had been teaching at Ambrit school in Rome for about 4 years and had just returned to New York. We used to hang out in Rome a lot, play tennis, go to parties, barbecues,... He's one of the people I'll miss in Rome.
So with Peter Ki I head to a dinner where actually 5 people who at one point or another lived in Rome will gather. 5 of us and Peter's friend from LA.
Karen is another great friend from the same group of friends that Peter Ki was part of. She's moving to Israel and is currently on vacation in the US. She came down to NYC from Rhode Island just to meet us.
Daniela is Italian (from Rome) and she's hosting Karen in NYC. I haven't met Daniela before, but she's a cool cat.
Campbell (I can never remember how to spell her name and I only remember now because she signed my lucky dollar bill at that dinner) used to teach at the same school in Rome as Peter Ki and Karen. In fact, that's how we met a few years ago.
So with Peter Ki, his friend Gerry and myself it makes for 6 of us.
We have a merry good time at a tiny restaurant with a garden (properly called "Tree") and then split for home shortly afterwards.

Campbell, Peter Ki, Gerry, Daniela, me, Karen @ Tree in Manhattan.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Friday, 18. July 2008
The weather in New York City is incredibly hot. Hot and damp. Totally hard to breathe.
I'd say it's at least 40 degrees Celsius, but I could be wrong because I know the humidity makes it seem much, much worse.
This kind of weather doesn't make you want to do much, other than stay inside with AC and chill.
So in the morning I manage to get a phone and a phoning plan and I'm super happy with it. In the afternoon Peter Ki and I go to the MoMa museum with Karyn and then have a picnic in the Central Park together with Daniela.
In the park the heat and the humidity are a little bit more bearable so we relax with tons of food we bought earlier on. Lots of charades playing and checking a few bars is what we do until bedtime.

Daniela, me, Karen in the Central Park, Manhattan.

Saturday, 19. July 2008
The heat and humidity are still unbearable. They call it a heat wave on TV. I don't care what the TV says, I call it the worst weather I've ever experienced. For somebody who hates the rain, you can imagine how bad it is when all wish for is some rain to break this friggin' heat down.
Today I manage to ship some packages to a couple of customers in the States. I didn't have the time to do it in Rome and wouldn't want somebody to wait on his records for two months, so I thought: what the heck - I'll just mail them from the States. It's cheaper as well.
Somehow, another person i know through Couchsurfing (visit www.couchsrfing.com) is in NYC right now, so we manage to meet for lunch. The appointment is at Kate's Deli in the East Village.
Emma (my couchsurfing friend) her friend Viktoria and another guy enter the place. We all sit down (the three of them, Peter Ki and I) and start chatting.
The guy introduces himself as Scott. He's about my age, interestingly enough about my height and more interestingly into music as well. So when he says he just came to NYC to visit and he's actually from Louisville, Kentucky I ask him if he knows any of the Louisville HC/Punk bands that I used to listen a lot to and still occasionally do.  Surprisingly enough he does. Endpoint, By the Grace of God, Falling Forward,... are not unfamiliar names for him.
He says he plays in a band too. Which one I ask. Metroschifter, he says back.
Holy cow, Scott F. Ritcher! We met in 1996 in Rome when I organized a show for Metroschifter, Omaha and Washer. Hell, I didn't recognize the guy.
Small world, isn't it?
Scott pulls his blackberry out and, well, his blackberry confirms what I just said. Autumn 1996, show at CSA Brancaleone (that was before Brancaleone dropped their CSA tag and became sort of a drum'n'bass venue) with Omaha and Washer.
We chat a lot about those bands, about Facebook and how everybody from those bands is pretty much on it, while Peter Ki starts discovering how good the vegetarian cuisine is and decides to take me to another vegetarian restaurant for dinner.
Some walking around, more chatting and then to a bar to meet Peter's friend Janet. The three of us then head to Red Bamboo to have one of the most delicious vegetarian dinners I've ever had. 
We explore the West Village until we're so tired that our tongues can't talk anymore. The jet lag has been hitting me ever since I've arrived to NYC and by midnight I'm pretty much useless. 
It's bedtime much earlier than I'm used to.
Sunday, 20. July 2008
In the morning I move to Brooklyn to stay with my other friend Peter. For the obvious reasons, let's call him Peter Ka.
Now, Peter Ka and I go way back. Back to 1996 and my first US trip actually.
I was staying with a friend from Sarajevo, Bosnia just outside Pittsburgh. One day we decided to check some talk on socialism and religion or something of sorts at the Carnegie Mellon university in Pittsburgh and noticed a couple of guys with some cool Punk patches on their bags. Soon we made new friends.
Their names were Andrew and Peter, and they had a radio show at the college radio. I gave them some Goodwill releases, they invited us at the show and we kept hanging out for the next few days.
Then a year later Peter came to visit me in Rome and we had some great time there getting locked inside some ancient Roman ruins amongst other things. We've never lost touch, although our communication suffered the usual laziness and the amounts of being busy and not keeping in touch because of that. But a few mails a year almost always happened, besides finding each other at different virtual communities like Friendster or Facebook (that I still confuse, by the way. most probably cos both start with an F).
So Sunday morning I take a cab to the west village to join Peter Ka and his friends at a very crowded brunch. I tend to forget people's names, but I remember Jose. He's a young architect from Santiago de Chile who just moved to New York City from Minneapolis. He has a few interesting stories to tell before we all walk to take the train home.
Peter Ka and I get to his flat in Brooklyn. Wow! What a place!
It's a two level apartment in a wooden building in the heart of Brooklyn (better known as Williamsburg) with the kitchen, living room, two bathrooms and a storage room at the bottom level and 3 rooms and one more bathroom at the top level. Behind the house there's a small garden (where I planted an avocado without telling anyone!) and in front of the house there's a little patio with the gate. Peter's room is the biggest of three. Not only it's the biggest, it's actually gigantic. At least 30 square meters (or over 90 square feet, for you Americans) if not more.
We hop on bikes (his roommate has a Schwinn that he doesn't care much about, so I get to ride that one while in NYC) and head to an empty swimming pool to watch some bands playing. Emma, Viktoria and Scott are already there and we watch a couple of bands (one of them is Liars, the other I forgot the name of and the one we missed is called Team Robespierre) together, before Peter Ka and I head into exploring Williamsburg on bikes.

Peter, me, Viktoria, Emma in Williamsburg, NYC. Photos by Scott.


It's actually a very nice and extremely diverse neighborhood. From the hip and trendy, student populated area around Bedford and the North 4th, 5th, 6th... Avenue, to the Hasidic Jews' neighborhood just a few blocks away (south of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway) to the black neighborhood further up Bedford street.
In the evening, I meet Emma and Viktoria at White Ginger, a vegetarian restaurant in Williamsburg. With them there's this young couple that has just moved into the area. His name is Briton and we discover to have at least 10 friends in common. Not only that. When he asks me for the name of my label, he says "I've heard of Goodwill records before. You've released someone big, haven't you?". Well, we haven't released anyone big, but it turns out that he's best friends with the Damage Done who we released a split 7" with a few years ago. That's why the name of the label made him think it must've been someone big. I guess it was just familiar in a different way.
At home (Peter Ka's place) we wait for "Ben". "Ben" (not his real name, although it makes sense to call him Ben as I've never heard his real name before) is a friend of Peter's roommate's friend. Or better, he's a friend of his roommate's ex roommate, if that makes more sense.
In reality, neither Peter nor his roommate (who isn't even at home a the moment but rather on the other side of the world, exploring China) have ever met "Ben", but his roommate's ex roommate has asked Peter's roommate to ask Peter if "Ben" could stay there for a few days.
"Ben" was supposed to call in the afternoon, but he hasn't. We both worry what may have happened to the guy.
Finally, at around midnight a taxi stops and "Ben" arrives.
"Ben" is about our age, not very tall, to put it politely and despite he comes from London, he doesn't have English accent at all. I ask him where he was from and he says "Kosovo".
Ha! We exchange a few sentences in Croatian and then chat until it's really late and makes sense to go to bed, especially for the two that have to work in the morning. Not me.

Monday, 21. July 2008
Today the whole heat + humidity combo has gotten down to acceptable levels. I check my mail most of the morning and then head out to check Academy records that Briton suggested to me the night before. To my surprise, it really is a good store. I find quite a few records for quite cheap and head back home.
I meet Peter later on in Brooklyn and we go to the biggest US food coop together. He is a member and I need a pass to go in. A pass to go into a food store??? Well, we go upstairs to the office and I get a pass.
This is the story: the Flatbush Food Coop (that's the full name) was established in 1976 and has about 3,000 members. To become a member you pay a $ 200 fee (or $ 25 a year, until you've reached $ 200 total) that is returned to you once you decide to cease being a member. This money helps the coop to run and it invests this money in equipment, food or else. Besides your investment, you are also asked to volunteer a certain amount of hours in a certain amount of time (for more info on the coop go to  www.flatbushfoodcoop.com).
Only members and their guests (I guess I qualify for a guest) can shop at the coop and the food they buy costs much less then elsewhere. Just for the record, a South American dark chocolate that in Rome goes for about 3 euros ($ 4.50) there costs about $ 1.50 or basically three times less. Now, that same chocolate wouldn't cost $ 4.50 in a store in the US, but still at $ 1.50 it's a steal. 
We get tons of veggies, chocolates and some other stuff and I invade his kitchen to cook us pasta and broccoli for dinner. I think there's enough for him to take to work for lunch.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday, 22. July 2008
In the mornings I'm normally home alone, so I use them for checking e-mail and other internet related stuff. Peter Ka is at work, his other roommate (not the one in China) usually wanders off somewhere in the late morning and "Ben" is somewhere in Manhattan taking care of business he's here for. He's in the fashion industry so I think he's meeting people in that industry here in New York.
I get a list of record stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn and decide to check them out. Some are OK, some have nothing that catches my interest, so the best so far remains the Academy records I visited yesterday.
My favorite food is Mexican and thanx God this place abounds with Mexican restaurants. I stop by some Mexican place on the corner, near a couple of record stores and get myself a burrito (of course, what else?).
I bike over to the 6th avenue and there's some serious street basketball tournament going on. There are refs, audience, a scoreboard, a huge bin with tons of drinks,... everyone has proper jerseys with numbers,... Must be some kind of tournament they have on this court regularly.
I sit on my bike and watch. Of course, everyone is black except one white guy. Needless to say, they kick some serious ass. I see some moves and shots that only show me how lousy we play over there in Italy. The game ends over 100 points and the team I cheer for wins (despite they were behind for the entire first two quarters). If my guys played against the worst 5 of these guys here, I doubt we'd score more than 30 points while they would probably hit 200. They play so fast it's sometimes hard to see what's going on. The only person I can see playing at par with them is our San Francisco basketball magician Quinn. You can tell he profiled his skills on such street courts. I call him magician because when he plays the ball disappears. It's so fast that you don't understand where the ball is. I hope he's back to play next season.
Anyway, yesterday night on Facebook I discovered my friend Gianluca is in town. He's been living in NYC for 7 months but for some reason I thought he was home for the summer.
He played in this band Brigate Rozze, which is how we first met. I helped with printing the cover of their first CD. Then Brigate Rozze became Threat Of Riot and our ex guitar player PG went to play with them for a few years. They even covered "My Life" which was probably the best known song of my old band This Side Up. And Gianluca actually lives pretty much around the corner from me, although we never really see each other in the neighborhood.


Gianluca, me, Alessandra. Italian HC/Punk in Manhattan, New York City.


So we decide to meet in the evening at Astor Place. Another person I know, Alessandra, is visiting Gianluca right now, so they're both there at 9 pm. Alessandra used to order from Goodwill records and she supports my favorite team Inter, which shows some great taste both in music as well as in football.
We go to a bar, then to some sandwich kinda place and finally decide to kill ourselves with chocolate fudge cake and cheesecake. I have about 10 kilometers to ride on the way home to burn the calories from that cake.


Same evening, different camera.

Wednesday, 23. July 2008
I'm on internet for the whole morning and early afternoon. I'm trying to find a ride to Seattle. I post on Craig's List, on Couchsurfing,... several people reply, but they're kind of going there too late. I need to be in Seattle by the first week of August. 
Finally, I get a message from Amanda from Couchsurfing. She's going to eastern Oregon and she's leaving soon. I figure eastern Oregon is not bad. I can just hitchhike from there. So I write her back and we decide to meet in the evening.
It's almost 6pm when I leave Peter's house for Manhattan. I stop by an electronics shop in Broadway to get a cheap digital camera. I find a Nikon Coolpix S210 for about 85 euros (probably twice as expensive in Europe) and then head to Times Square to meet Amanda.
Amanda seems OK. She's 22, not very tall and quite friendly. Her couchsurfing host is with her as well. We meet with Peter Ki and head off to some ethnic fast food place of sorts. Peter Ka joins us as well and we all chat for a while.
Then we say goodbye and Peter Ka and I walk down the city streets until the rain forces us to take the train and soaks us on the way out.

Thursday, 24. July 2008
I'm getting restless in New York. I really want to leave. New York isn't my favorite place on earth (although I admit Brooklyn is quite a different ballgame than Manhattan, and it's a good thing) so spending a whole week here seems like a lot.
Amanda agrees on leaving tomorrow. Good.
I hop on my bike and get to Manhattan again, this time to meet Emma and Viktoria again.
We meet in front of 99X, the shoe shop that I was robbed in front of 6 years ago. Most of the shops from that time are gone. 99X is still there. Emma and Viktoria are already waiting across the street. They both have new tattoos and they're both having full hands of bags. I guess it must've been a shopping day for them.
We go to another veggie place. This one's called Atlas Cafe. Emma has a whole list of vegetarian places in New York and she's crossing them one by one after eating in them. I guess Atlas Cafe hasn't been crossed off yet.
The place is small. Or better, tiny. But the food is good, an that's what matters.
We go for a croissant to the nearby St. Marks Place and then say goodbyes.
I head to the West Village to meet Peter Ki. He's in some fancy restaurant with a couple of friends. One of them is Janet, that I have already met.
We have a drink, then head to another place. By the time we're there my jet lag hits me hard that I have to say goodbye and leave. About 45 minute ride home wakes me up a bit and I stay chatting with Peter Ka at home for a while.
He's baked a great banana bread and we eat some and chat until it's really late and we better go to bed.

Heading west

Friday, 25. July 2008.
I pack my backpack, eat some more of the banana bread, plant an avocado in Peter's garden and hit the road. 
Amanda is waiting for me in Edison, New Jersey, so I have to take the train to the Penn Station then take the train that will take me to Edison.
At the station my credit card doesn't work. It's the first time something like that has happened, so it gets me a little worried. I pay in cash and wait for my train.
How and where to get on a train isn't the clearest thing there, so I almost miss my train. They don't tell you the track number until a few minutes before the train leaves and if you don't watch carefully you can easily miss it.
I somehow manage to get on the right train and get to writing a few chapters of my novel.
Writing a novel has proved very hard because I never find time for it. The only time I find is when I travel, because there's not much to do on the plane for example, which gives me the opportunity to write. So I managed to get down a few chapters on the flight to New York and a couple of them on my train ride to Edison.
When I get off the train Amanda is already there with her host. The two of us get in the car and head westward.





Amanda and I before hitting the road in Edison, New Jersey.






We drive out of New Jersey into Pennsylvania. Cross most of Pennsylvania without stopping and head towards Pittsburgh that is located on the western end of Pennsylvania. We have a host for the next 2 nights in Pittsburgh, hence why we're driving there.
Before I left, Peter Ka told me to look up his friends Bill and Kelly in the Pittsburgh's couchsurfing community. Apparently, they're couchsurfing ambassadors and really nice folks. I've already spoken to them via internet, so if things somehow go wrong, they can host us as well.
Our host in Pittsburgh is Elaina. After the GPS navigator made us looping around the same intersection forever because of the ongoing roadwork, thanx to an elderly lady we manage to find Elaina's house.
We knock on the door and get welcomed in by a somewhat hippie somewhat alternative redhaired gal with glasses and tons of tattoos.
She's a bit nervous because we're amongst her first guests through couchsurfing (I believe she's only had 1 person stay at her place before) but we get a chat going easily and then head for a night out in Pittsburgh.
Apparently, there are other couchsurfing (from now on CS) visitors in town so we meet up with two of them, Juan and Mike, and a local CSer called Sarah. We all go to a cool club where we end up seeing a few good local bands, amongst which Soul Hamonic that sound somewhere between Pixies and Indie Rock (like Snow Patrol, Jimmy Eat World or Smashing Pumpkins). They give me a free T-shirt and a couple of CDs (that's how cool they are) and we have a little chat at the bar. For those interested, check Soul Harmonic at www.myspace.com/soulharmonicband
After the show it's already kind of late so there's nowhere to go as all places in Pittsburgh close at 2 am. We walk down to a park and then back for some late night meal in the local diner.




 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Saturday, 26. July 2008.
Today we go for some shopping to a mall. We end up buying tons of groceries and I make the girls my pasta with broccoli and avocado hummus. The amount of food puts Amanda to sleep, so Elaina and I wander through the neighborhood while she's napping.
I manage to check one record store and it's super boring - mostly old Rock and Country music. I'm about to leave when I notice a 7" sized box on one of the shelves. I pick it up and start going through it and record after record true gems started popping out. I stack about 20 7"s (one of them was Infest 7", for example) and take them with me upstairs to the cashier. Well, at the cash register the guy tells me: "These are not for sale.". Bummer.
They're probably having them for Ebay or something. Oh well.
We hear that there's a party at one of the CS ambassadors' place, so we head to Oakland to meet Bill and Kelly (Peter's friends, remember?). While waiting for them to pick us up, we play some cards in the park. They swing by, pick us up, and all 6 of us (Bill, Kelly, Elaina, Amanda, I and a girl in the back seat that I forgot the name of) go to a party at Jason's.
Now, Bill and Kelly are an amazing couple, but that whole party actually shines.


Partying Pittsburgh style. Unforgettable times!


There are 4 people who are signing (talking sign language) as one of the people at the party is deaf. He's 60 years old (looks 45 at most) and works with other deaf people in a center that takes care of kids who are not only deaf (as if that wasn't enough) but also mentally ill. There are two of his colleagues (Jason is one of them) who work with him and they tell us incredible stories. Stuff that makes your blood freeze. It really takes guts and dedication to do such a job, so hats of to people who decide to work with those who are less, so much less fortunate than we are.
We stay there for hours, listening to stories and exchanging opinions. It was such a weird mix of people of all walks of life yet so fantastic. Probably the best party I've been to in a long, long time.
Bill and Kelly get us back to Elaina's car and we get home ready for some sleep.

With Elaina, our host in Pittsburgh. _______ The view of Pittsburgh.

Sunday, 27. July 2008.
It's time to say goodbye to Elaina and hit the road. But not before she covers us in gifts. 
She gives us tons of stuff and we say goodbye to her and her little cat and hit the road again.
Now we're off to Cleveland where Amanda is going to visit the best amusement park in the United States. I agree to go with her if she can't find anybody else to go with. Fortunately she does, so I can check some record stores and eat some good food in Cleveland. But more about that later.
We hit Cleveland early in the afternoon. Our host is Marie and we're her first CS guests. 
One thing I immediately notice in her apartment is her record collection.
I mean, I could understand seeing Dead Kennedy's and Crass, but PTL Club??? Awesome!
We listen to some Elvis Costello and then go out to pick up Sarah, Marie's friend and head to a wine bar.
Now, drinking Sprite in a wine bar isn't exactly what people do, but I get away with it and soon a friend of Marie's joins us for a chat. He's just seen the new Batman in the cinema this morning at 10 am (who the hell goes to the cinema in the morning???) and wants to go and see it again. He's secretly hoping that one of us would express a desire to go with him, but I bet everyone thinks he's a little bit crazy for wanting to do that.
Finally, his phone rings. Some girl is on the other side of the line and they agree to go see the Batman. He flies away on his cape (actually, it was a bicycle) and we never see him again.
We fly away to a late night diner and get some typical American food (french fries were there, I can remember that much) and then hit the bed. Amanda is all excited about going to the amusement park tomorrow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Monday, 28. July 2008.
The girls get ready for the amusement park (if memory serves me right, it's called Cedar Point) and I get ready to explore the city. Marie is so kind to give me her bicycle, plus she hands me her spare set of keys to the apartment and I'm all set.
We arrange to meet for dinner after they're done with the park and off I go.
The bike is a bit little for me, but it works, somehow.
I manage to find a few record stores, but nothing memorable. I take a break and go for a veggie + cheese sandwich + some funky french fries in this place called "Melt". The food is awesome and I get at least 5 glasses of Sprite (you only pay the first one in America, the next ones are all free). In return, I give the waiter a good tip and get back on the road.
I find a few more record stores and at least one of them is good. I find the Necros / White Flag split LP, the Morally Bankrupt LP and a Kill Your Idols LP for dirt cheap. I'm about to leave when I spot a guy with a Token Entry LP under his sleeve. The guy just got in to sell some of his records. I wait until he's done dealing with the shop and then get the Token Entry and Jawbreaker LPs. Good.
I'm back home to check e-mail. I try to watch a movie on a video tape, but the VCR won't collaborate. I ditch it and get back to the internet. The internet is pretty much a "Should I stay or should I go" thing, only here it's more like "Should I work or should I not". It means I get it to work for about ten minutes and then it dies. Ten more minutes and it recovers and thn it dies again. And so forth. Not much fun, if you ask me.
The girls are back super late and we try to find the only open thing in town which is Wendy's. definitel not m favorite place, but I get a veggie burger and don't complain much. After all I'm a guest and aftr all, nothing else is open. So there.

Tuesday, 29. July 2008.
Around noon we say goodbye to Marie, who was a great host, by the way, and head towards Chicago.
The whole trip is uneventful except that we have to pay for a plethora of highways. As some of you may know, the vast majority of highways are free, but you find some that are not, and they're mostly in New York, New Jersey and California. And the one that leads to Chicago.
We get to the Windy City (aka Chicago) early in the evening. Our host Kent is not at home, but we spot a girl on the street and it turns out to be his roommate. She gets us in and there we're welcomed by Jackson.
Jackson is the craziest and most energetic dog I've seen in my life. He can't stop for a split second. Now, for a while it may be a great fun, but when you're sleeping on the inflating mattress on the floor then you're not so happy when Jackson runs all over you and start licking your face or feet or hands or any uncovered part of your body for that matter.
Anyway, Kent is back soonish and with him another CSer. He's Irish, tall and not very talkative.
Kent takes us to a great place called The Handlebar and I get the weirdest (but delicious) vegetarian meal I've ever had. Kent suggested it and he got the same, and my intuition usually tells me to listen to locals when food options are concerned.
From there we hop quickly to Reckless records and then some cheap bar for the rest of the evening. At least they have a great jukebox and I can't resist not to play some Buzzcocks and Clash. But there were many good options from Ramones to Elvis Costello to the Pixies and so on.
The rest of the night is spent trying to fall asleep with Jackson running all over me. In the middle of the night I wake up because the calm was surreal. I look to my left and there's Jackson, sleeping. I look at him in disbelief, when he opens his eyes. I close mine and pretend I'm sleeping. I guess it worked.This is Jackson, THE dog.


Wednesday, 30. July 2008.
We don't spend much time in Chicago. Amanda goes to see the house her grandmother was born. We take a few photos and hit the road again.
On the way to Nebraska I try to figure out what time we'll be around Omaha. A friend of mine has a record store there and I'd like to check it out. 
We used to trade records back in the 90s. Then he opened a store in Lincoln, Nebraska and I paid him a visit in 2002. All the records I got there got stolen in front of the infamous 99X shoe store in Manhattan, but that's life I guess. However, I remember it was a good store so I look forward to shopping there again. Nebraska may seem right in the middle of nowhere and that there'd be no Punk or HC scene, yet there were plenty of people who did zines, record labels, bands,... bought records and listened to that kind of music.
So I call Mike and get to know that he closes his store at 6 pm, while we'll only be in Omaha around 9-9.30 pm. However, Mike offers to open the store for us around 9 because he doesn't have other plans for the evening and so we roll into town around that time.
Omaha is right on Interstate 80 and it's kind of nice to see a little bit of a city after miles of cornfields. It's a city, although not an extremely big one like Chicago for example. Fortunately, we have a gps navigator so finding Zero Street record store isn't difficult at all.
Mike has moved into a bigger location than the one in Lincoln and it seems to be working well. I find TONS of records and spend about +300 dollars in the store. Like a good friend he gives me a discount and Amanda and I happily drive to Kearney, Nebraska, where our next host Anthony, lives.
Thursday, 31. July 2008.
We get to Kearney after 1 am. Anthony is awake, kindly waiting for us.
Right of the bat I figure he's a great guy and indeed he treats us greatly. Couch, clean towels, separate bathrooms,... and then we end up playing Guitar Hero on Social Distortion and Dead Kennedy's tunes. Great!
We're up fairly early as our host has a meeting at work and get on the road again. Too bad we only had to spend a few hours with Anthony.
I get a few donuts that will make my stomach churn for the rest of the day and we get the car rolling. Direction Salt Lake City.
In Salt Lake City our host is Gino. Gino from Reno, as he'd introduce himself later.
Gino lives on the top floor apartment with a strip pole and a beautiful view of downtown Salt Lake City. Really great place to live. 
He takes us out to some kind of music festival and we meet a bunch of his friends.
Finally I manage to get some healthy food there. I spot a stand with organically grown food and they have several dishes that are available for a free offer.
That's right. You get a plate full of stuff that you pick and pay as much as you think is fair.
I read their brochure and find out that you can also volunteer your work in exchange of a free meal. Great concept! Hell, there are awesome ideas everywhere, you just need to come across them or dig them out. I'm really glad we came to this fest as it was a nice change to get some fat ridden food after days of surviving on burritos and such.
Friday, 1. August 2008
We say goodbye to Gino from Reno in Salt Lake City and head north.
When we stop to check internet on Amanda's laptop, I grab a flat, square piece of cardboard to make a hitchhiking sign off it. Today we'll be getting to La Grande, Oregon and that's where Amanda is leaving me. She's visiting friends there and I need to find my way to Seattle, Washington.
We stop once again at Subway and make our way to La Grande where we get around 4 pm. Amanda and I say goodbye to each other at a gas station near the highway where I decide to hitchhike.
I get to Albertson's to get a marker and make my sign say clearly: "To Seattle (from Italy)".
I move from the gas station to the highway entrance and in less than 45 minutes I get my free ride.
The guy looks a bit sketchy, so I insist on having my backpack next to me. He starts talking shit about Americans and tries to convince me he's a great guy. Yeah right.
Halfway through our trip he stops at a Dairy Queen because he's hungry, he says. I use the chance to send his phone number (written on the back window of his car) and plate number to Debra, just in case. You never know what may happen, so it's good to be careful.
When he's back, he opens his trunk and makes space for my backpack. I tell him I'd rather have it by me. He insists. I insist back. He shrugs his shoulders and we continue our trip.
For an American this guy uses his hands way too much. He "accidentally" hits me a few times on my legs. Then as we approach the destination he does it a bit more frequently.
All of a sudden, while I was explaining something, he drives off the highway and into a park. He says he got distracted listening to me and took the wrong exit. Hmmmm. As we're driving through the park he slows down. I ask him how tall he is. He says "5 ft 2" (about 160 cm). I tell him "I'm 6 ft 2 (187 cm) and I have a mace in my pocket, so think about what you wanna do next."
He starts saying it's some sort of misunderstanding and in record time he gets back on track and drops me at a gas station in Pasco, Washington.
At the gas station in Pasco I get a ride in about 20 minutes if not less.
A guy with a dog approaches me asking if I really came from Italy. I tell him that I do. He offers me a ride to Ritzville, which is on I-90 hence probably easier to get to Seattle from there.
He's got 2 kids and a dog with him, so I figure this ride should be safe. And it is.
David (that's his name) is a super nice guy and we have a friendly chat during our trip that also involved his two kids. We take photos when he drops me off and he gives me his business card, if I ever need anything. Go figure, David is a detective. He works for the Portland, Oregon Police Department. Usually when a cop gives you a ride it's a bad thing (as the destination is usually a jail, right?). This time it was a good one. Thanx again, David!
I try to hitchhike in Ritzville, WA but it's already dark and nobody stops except a car with 3 girls. They're going to Alberta, Canada, but they stop to chat a bit and ask me to teach them some Italian. They genuinely tell me they'd take me with them if they were going in my direction.
So after a couple of hours I try to find a cheap motel and score one for only 37 dollars. A good chance to shower and wash some clothes.
















This is David, one of his sons and me with my hitchhiking sign.

Welcome to Seattle!

Saturday, 2. August 2008
Ritzville, WA can't be the most happening place. I walk a good half an hour to get back to the gas station and head right for the Subway (the sandwich place, not the underground station).
The shop assistant is amazed to hear I got all the way from NYC there and we chat for a bit.
I take my favorite spot from yesterday night I try my luck again.


There can't be much to do in Ritzville, I guess.


It's incredible how many people stop to show their support or crack a joke at you. Pretty much everybody is going in the opposite direction (that would be Spokane) but a lot of people either stop, say something or smile at you.
A biker points at my sign (that says "To Seattle (from Italy)") and asks me if it was a long swim. Ha, that's a good one!
A guy in mid twenties walks over and approaches me asking where I was from and if I was hitchhiking for a long time. He's just got back from a hitchhiking trip to Europe and shares a few ideas and tips. I actually find them quite useful and decide to give him a listen. His name is Ely and, just like pretty much everyone else, he's headed in the opposite direction. But before he leaves he gives me a map of Washington state. At least now I can see what I'm actually doing.
A couple of people stop and ask me if I need money. One of them offers me a 5 dollar bill that I politely decline. I mean, I'm touched by the gesture, but hitchhiking isn't really always a necessity. In most cases it's a choice, actually.
Not long time goes by and a guy called Don stops with his pickup truck.
Don and his dog Wade are going to Wenatchee, WA to set up a couple of tents for his sister's in law bachelorette party. This is the first time Wade is travelling by car, so he's venting a lot. He sits in my lap most of the trip and we become the best buddies.
Don drops me off in George, WA (yep, that's right: George, Washington) and offers me a couple of bottles of water. He tells me if he didn't have to set up these tents he'd have given me a ride all the way to Seattle. Great guy.
I take my sign to the highway entrance and not 10 minutes go by that a guy in a small, blue pickup truck stops buy. He reads my sign and gestures a lot (I guess he thought people in Italy don't speak any English). He's trying to say: "I have a fruit stand across the street. Come there and I'll give you some free cherries to take with you." but he uses some broken Spanish and his hands a lot. I assure him I do speak English and follow him to his fruit stand.
As I get there he shows me his little shop and all the fruit in fridge containers. He talks about his work with lots of enthusiasm and gets his daughter to prepare me a raspberry milkshake. The milkshake is seriously the BEST I've ever had. Not only because I was quite hungry at that point, but it really was tasteful.


They make Espresso even in George, Washington. Look at the signs above our heads.


Troy (that's his name) takes a couple of photos of me with his daughter and niece. The daughter picks up a laptop from nowhere and before you can say "milkshake" the photos are already on MySpace.
We chat a lot and he gives me a full bag of cherries for my trip. I give him my card and offer him a place to stay if he's ever in Italy.


Troy and his daughter Sara Lynn in their fruit shop in George, WA.


The hitchhiking is kind of slow and nobody really stops. Time goes by and I finish all the cherries. They start having some funky effect on my stomach. I run back to the gas station to use the bathroom. I guess I just had a bit too many.
A couple more hours go by, still nothing.
All of a sudden a car with 4 girls playing loud music stops at the intersection. They roll the window down and one of them yell "Are you Adam?".
What? I'm totally puzzled. I look at my sign and it says Italy, not Adam. I look at my T-shirt. It doesn't say Adam either. How do they know my name???
I say "Yes". They giggle, wave goodbye, and drive away.
I don't have the time to think about it, another car, this time with 3 girls, stops by. They roll down the window and ask "Are you Adam?".
Hell, now I don't understand anything anymore. How do people in this country know my name??? Am I famous without knowing it?
They wave at me and drive away.
After some more thinking I think I find the solution. It's probably Don's sister in law and her bachelorette party's friends. He must have called her telling her if she sees a hitchhiker at that particular intersection, that must be Adam who he's dropped off there.
They make me smile and grin for a while and I try not to think it's already been several hours at that same intersection and still no ride.
Troy comes by again and says I'm more than welcome to stay with his family if I don't find a ride. I thank him saying I'm hopeful I will find one, but I'll keep his offer in mind if I get stuck.
By 8.30 pm I'm still at the same intersection, quite sunburnt and a little sad that no one's giving me a ride.

It took me about 5 hours to get a ride from George to Seattle.


Debra send in a text message saying if I haven't found a ride she'll drive 2 hours from Seattle and get me. Just as I finally give in, a car stops and this guy Justin lets me in.
He says he never picks up hitchhikers, but I didn't look like the usual hitchhiker so he decided to give me a ride.
He's a cool cat. Works in IT industry and calls his girlfriend to tell her he's picked up a hitchhiker. She's quite worried but he reassures her saying I was an interesting guy.
He drops me off 5 minutes from Debra's place and she comes there to get me.
It's 10.30 pm and I've finally made it to Seattle. Yipeeeee!
I'm so glad to see Debra. I haven't seen her in about 5 years or so. In fact, I've seen more of her parents lately than I've seen her.
Jim and Barb, Debra's parents, have come to Rome twice on their Mediterranean cruise in the last 4 years, plus I visited them in 2005 at their home in Tucson, Arizona.
Me and Debra go way back to 1999 when our respective bands This Side Up and Shenanagans toured the States. We were playing at Wilson Center (historical DC Punk club) in Washington DC when the bass player from the support band comes to me and asks: "Are you guys going to play "Struggle"? That's my favorite song."
Of course we played "Struggle" that night, and after the show we all sat down on the warm asphalt beside Wilson Center figuring out our itineraries. When we had a day off, Shenanagans invited us to play with them on their dates and when they had nowhere to play This Side Up invited them to play with us on our dates.
We ended up sharing 4 shows and strong friendship was born. The touring camaraderie where you support each other's band and share the food and money.
We were still on tour when the Shenanagans tour ended, so we met Steve (the bass player/singer) and Jennie (the merch girl) in San Francisco.
Steve and Jennie visited us in Rome a couple of years later. Then the following year Debra (guitar player) visited Rome. And we pretty much never lost touch since.
And after I got robbed in Manhattan in 2002, Debra sent via her parents two work jackets for me, to lessen my loss in a way. That's how I first met her parents. And that's when I learned the phrase "They (her parents) stick out like a sore thumb." I don't think I'll ever forget that one.










Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sunday, 3. August 2008.
It's a full house here. I'm sleeping on the floor on an inflating mattress (no Jackson this time, but Schmoopy - I can guarantee though, they both love stepping on your bed and waking you up!) Debra's on the couch next to me, Lisa (Debra's girlfriend) and Lisa's mother sleep on the bed in the bedroom and Schmoopy sleeps in her bed (until she decides it's time to wake me up).
Schmoopy is a Dalmatian. Practically, just like me. I'm Dalmatian as well, from Split, the capital of Dalmatia and the second biggest city in Croatia. That's where I grew up. I doubt Schmoopy did as well.
Lisa is not Dalmatian. She's from Seattle slash Portland. But she walks Dalmatians and other dogs as she runs a dog walking business. Sometimes dogs run after her. Sometimes nobody runs and it's all just walking. She's lovely and I'm glad she's my friend's girlfriend.
Lisa's mom lives in Portland but is visiting right now.
And then Donna, Debra's sister drops by and we all go to get me bicycle and the gear for my trip. I'm to say the least, a little embarrassed. I'm going from store to store with 4 women who are running around me trying to help me find a bike, helmet, gloves, sleeping bag, tent,... We go from Recycled Cycles to REI to Gregg's Bikes to Performance to Target to K-Mart and so on.
I don't find much of what I'm looking for but to make everybody think we've at least accomplished something I buy a helmet, gloves and a couple of dayglo ankle straps.
We also get tons of food and I declare a peaceful occupation of Debra's slash Lisa's kitchen and prepare a gorgonzola/fontina/parmesan + artichokes pasta and avocado hummus. Everybody's happy and we go to sleep. It feels like home again.

See how people are smiling when Adam cooks the dinner. : )
From left: Lisa's mom, Lisa, me, Debra.

Monday, 4. August 2008.
Debra is at work, so I'm hanging out with Lisa. 
She's super helpful and after she's printed out a customized map for me we all go (Lisa, her mom and I) to a couple of bike shops in the morning. I'm meeting my old friend Tara at noon, so I skip bike hunting for now.
I've known Tara since forever. We used to be pen pals because she had found my old fanzine Zips & Chains in a shop in San Francisco and decided to write to me. A the time she was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Must have been around 1996 or earlier.
Then, when This Side Up played Bellingham, WA (USA) she came down with her husband at the time and we hung out for a few hours. Then the following year we met in Rome again. 
We've just reconnected via Facebook recently, so since she was in Vancouver, BC, Canada (only a few hours from Seattle) we decided to meet here.
Tara has moved into cinematography field and is now shooting/producing documentaries with political background. She pretty much looks the same as when we last met, except that she wears shoes about 3 sizes too big.
We get some delicious Mexican food and wander around the city. We even drop in at Singles Going Steady (at the time the greatest record store in Seattle, now maybe not so anymore) and get a drink at a bar across the street.
I have to split around 6 pm to meet Lisa that has found some bikes off Craig's List in the meantime. We go to Radio Shack so I can put some credit on my phone and Debra reaches us there after work. Some guy tries to steal some equipment, but Lisa figures him out and reports to the store manager.
We're having crepes with chocolate or strawberries or whipped cream for dinner. Adam invades Debra's slash Lisa's kitchen part 2. Yahoooo!

Tuesday, 5. August 2008.
Lisa's mom is leaving today. She's travelling back to Portland, OR in her "small" (note the quotation marks) SUV. She was cool to be around. Lisa and I help her get some boxes into the car and wave goodbye.
Lisa finds another bike on Craig's List. We arrange with the guy to see the bike around 4 pm. But before that, we drop by an Office Depot store to get a Tom Tom gps navigator that we have seen for cheap. They ae usually 199 dollars, but here they were 129. The chance is that they only have the very last display copy for sale so we get additional 10% discount on that. Sweet. Less sweet is when the awkward shop assistant drops it on the floor. Ouch! I was hoping he'll ad another 10% discount after that, but he didn't. Oh well.
The bike guy shows us a nice Cannondale hybrid bike. It looks brand new and has some extra stuff, like bike rack, bell, bike computer, pump,... plus he's adding a helmet, some tools and an extra tube.
Seems like a good deal at $ 150, but Lisa and I miscommunicate (I guess neither of us is good at sign language) so I ask for $ 130. And $ 130 it is.
Finally I have a bike to ride to Los Angeles with.
We get the bike in her car, get Debra on the way to the city and manage to get new tires, a front wheel fender and a few spare tubes for the bike.
Then it's time for some Japanese food. We get to the restaurant during the busiest hour and we pretty much leave last. The food is plentiful and tasty. We think we need a doggy bag, but we end up staying long enough to finish it all. Yummy!


The Japanese restaurant. I'm not holding drumsticks.

When we get back home, I lock myself in the basement and get the bike ready to get going. By the time I'm back up in the apartment, everybody's asleep. Including Schmoopy.
Wednesday, 6. August 2008.
Today I can try my bike out and that's what I do.
In the afternoon I stop by Debra's work. She works for a big Swedish construction company in Seattle and their offices are really close to some of the bike shops I've been to. I meet some of her colleagues, though unfortunately nobody's Swedish so I can't practice the (very) little Swedish I know. I guess it'll be for another time. I get to speak some Italian though, cos one of her colleagues is a second generation American Italian. She's got a thick Venetian accent. So odd to hear that in the middle of Seattle.
I get around Seattle, check out a few bike shops in search for panniers (bike bags), check out pawn shop for the same and in the end check out a record store for... well, records.
Nothing memorable this time, but I manage to find 3 different Broccoli 7"s (different "brocoli" from my "pasta and broccoli", just so you know) and happily ride back home. On the way there I stop at Taco Del Mar, which is the same Mexican place Derek of Himsa took all of us in This Side Up for some tasty burritos 9 years ago. I was so glad to be able to find the exact same place. And the burrito still tastes as good as nine years ago.
I get home, and inspired by my recent found at the record store I cook - yes you've all guessed - pasta and broccoli!
It's been the third time on this trip and it's slowly but surely becoming my "forte".
Debra is tired, so I bike away with my new Tom Tom to check one more record store. Of course I get lost and get back shortly. However, Debra is all excited to get back on the bike after months of being lazy, so she inflates her tires, get ready and we all, including Lisa, go for a late visit to Sonic Boom record store in Seattle.
The ride is great (you bet, it's all downhill. it's probably gonna hurt on the way back tho) and we get to the store in 15 minutes. Check it out and then go for a drink in the nearby cafe'.
The ride back was, yes, uphill, but no casualties. Everyone's happy.


Debra and Lisa in the cafè. Notice Barack on the table.


Biking is good stuff! Little night ride: Lisa, Debra, me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday, 7. August 2008.
Frances comes in the morning to pick me up by the house.
Now, if you had seen me in the last couple of years, you know who Frances is. We have done so much together and hung out so much together that most people assumed we were a couple.
We played in the same basketball team, we coached together a basketball team, we played tennis together, went hiking a lot, went to vegetarian dinners and barbecues together, ... We'd be hanging out together for 3-4 days a week. For those 2 years we were big parts of each other's lives and you can often catch me saying "my best friend in Rome" or even just "my best friend" (although my 2 best friends are both male and Croatian and I had known them for a few decades now).
So, she picks me up and we go to a nice Mexican restaurant near the lake and just a block away from Recycled Cycles, where we stop afterwards (remember, I still have to buy bike bags for my bike).
Then we drop by a post office where I have to ship my backpack and a few other things to Peter Ki in New York when my credit card decides not to collaborate. Fortunately, like endless times before, Frances helps out and the packages get shipped.
We go to her place. I've only seen it on a photo so far, It's a cool hose with a nice dining room/kitchen on the first floor, bedrooms upstairs and sort of a garage/work place downstairs.
We're soon back in town and I finally get those bags off a bike shop for 120 dollars. Sizewise, those were the cheapest on the market, since I had no luck finding them used.
I go to Debra's place to pack and Frances goes home.
At Debra's it's a full house. A young couple that lives in the same building is buying Lisa's old Vespa. Then another couple from the floor above is there for some chatting too. Shortly afterwards Frances joins us, so it's a total of 8 people.
Debra treats us with pizza and we stay up late playing "Time's Up".
I say goodbye to Frances and fix the last things on the bike so I'm ready to go in the morning.

The trip starts here!

Friday, 8. August 2008.
So, this is to be considered the first day of my trip. The trip that will take me from Seattle through Washington, Oregon and California all the way to Los Angeles. By the time I reach Los Angeles I estimate I will have biked a total of over 2,000 kilometers, which is the distance between Rome, Italy and Olso, Norway.
Debra wakes me up around 6 am on her way to work to say goodbye. It was great seeing her again and spending time with her. She said she's sorry because she had to work and study all the time I was there, but nevertheless I was really happy to be with her because she's a truly amazing friend.
I get up a few hours later and get ready for the trip. I load my bike, hit the road and then about a mile in the trip I realize I forgot the helmet at Debra's apartment. Oh well.
At least I can say goodbye to Lisa. So I call her up and she's there in about half an hour.
We say goodbyes and once again I get on the road. This time for real.
I start navigating through the streets of Seattle using that Tom Tom I got a couple of days ago, but just as I get out of town the Tom Tom dies and I'm left with a really approximative map to figure my way down to Olympia.


Less than an hour into my ride I run by chance into my favourite publishing company, home of "Love And Rockets" by Jaime Hernandez. Go figure!


I just decide to ride towards the airport and then luckily run into a guy who was biking all the way to Tacoma, so I join him for the ride.
Scott has lived virtually everywhere, including lots of places in California, Oregon, Washington, and even Japan. Now he lives in Tacoma and works in Auburn at a residential place for elderly people. And he had his bike made especially for him by an Italian retired bike builder. It even has a little Italian flag on it.
We share the ride, the food and drinks and quite a few stories. He's the first person I've run into on this biking trip and I'm excited.
The biking to Tacoma takes over 5 hours. We get to a small place called Puyallup and I opt for Taco Bell over biking more without stopping. Scott tells me how to proceed for Olympia and hurries up to get to Tacoma.


Scott and I. He's the first biker I ran into. Notice the matching colors of our clothes and the poster in the back! ; )


By the time I climb up the hill I'm pretty tired and seriously consider hitting a motel for the night, hence leaving Olympia for tomorrow. The first motel I run into costs 50 dollars and it looks it should cost nowhere near 50 dollars. Hell, it looks cheaper than the 37 dollar motel in Ritzville!
So I keep going until the next one, several miles down the road and in a different town. This one's 60 dollars. Hell no. I'll rather keep on going and see what the next town offers. It's about 9 pm and it's getting quite dark. The next place is 8 miles away (12 km) and is called Roy. When I get there, people just shrug their shoulders and say there are no motels in this place. So I bike some more to McKenna. Same story, only this place's even smaller. Finally, more miles down the road I get to a town called Yelm. This place is fairly big (considering the previous two) and it does have a motel. By this time I'm so tired that I don't care about the price.
Well, to my dismay, the place is full. Shit. When the receptionist tells me it's over 20 kilometers to the next town I feel like crying. 20 kilometers on a dark road in the woods doesn't sound like the most appealing thing on earth. However, at that point I just decide to bite it and bike all the way to Olympia.
I get to Olympia at half past midnight. My hosts Danielle and Ross aren't asleep yet and they give me directions how to reach them. By the time I reach their little cottage I'm half dead.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Saturday, 9. August 2008.
The place Danielle and Ross live in is super cool. It's a cottage in somebody's backyard (literally) and it's surrounded by plum trees and blackberry bushes. Inside, there's pretty much only 1 space/room sort of divided in two by a curtain.
To the right, there's a compost toilet (there's no water to flush the toilet, but sawdust to toss above your poop or pee) that is composed of a toilet seat above and a bucket underneath. The bucket gets emptied into a compost container along with all the organic waste and sits there for a year when it's ready to be used as a fertilizer. Next to it there's a shower (this time real water; you don't toss sawdust on you, no worries) and a bathtub.
In the other part of the room we have a sink, that serves both for washing dishes and brushing your teeth, and a little living space that contains a table with a few chairs and a really comfortable futon that expands into a bed, used by yours truly.
Above, there's a little loft with a bed and then shelves pretty much everywhere with tons of books and games.
All in all, a lovely place.
In the morning Danielle is off to work so Ross and I chat for a while and he prepares us an amazing breakfast. Now, you have to know that breakfast in the US is seldom similar to a breakfast in Italy. Cookies, croissants, bread with butter and jam, milk and coffee,... that seldom pops up on an American table in the morning. What they have for breakfast sounds more like something we'd have for lunch. So Ross prepared a mix of tons of vegetables (both homegrown or gotten at a farmers market) cooked together in a pan. Weird for a breakfast, but delicious.
Soon comes Angelina, his friend, and invites us to go pick some cherries in a nearby park. Two more girls are waiting for us there and we all pick cherries for about half an hour. They're so ripe and so many that we get full bags to take home.
On the way home we take a detour to Angelina's place and I check my e-mail there as Ross and Danielle don't have a phone line or wireless connection.


A random wall in Olympia. Somebody likes superheroes I lot, I guess.


I get downtown in the afternoon and meet a couple of couchsurfers in a cafe. Funnily enough, next to me is sitting one of the girls from the park this morning that I picked cherries with! That pretty much explains how small Olympia really is.


Even the police station looks nice (from the outside). Not that I was going to check out the inside really.


This is downtown Olympia.


In the evening there's a weird show with 4 bands playing. Russ runs a record label called Bicycle records and one of the bands has done stuff with him, I believe, while another artist is a friend from Seattle. I decide to take a walk around the town and I run into Danielle who was biking from work. Another example how small Olympia is. But when you think of the amazing amount of music this town has produced (bands like Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, Bratmobile, Sleater Kinney, Unwound, Frumpies,...and record labels like Kill Rock Stars, K records, Chainsaw,...) it seems quite strange.
I get back to the hall where the show takes place and check out the next two bands that are decent but nothing that rocks my boat really. The last band is quite horrible and we unanimously decide to head home.
Sunday, 10. August 2008.
Before Ross manages to prepare another "American" breakfast I suggest we make pancakes with cherries we got yeterday. It works and we both get down to work. Pancakes are ready in 15 minutes and they taste delicious. Mmmmmmmmm.
We hop on our bikes and get to the farmers market. We run into a bunch of people that we met yesterday and that's yet another example of how small Olympia really is. Well, I guess I should stop saying it, but when you're in some foreign town and things like this keep happening to you, you really start woundering what's up.
We end up at the fish market where Ross' benjo player works (oh, I forgot to say that besides running a record label Ross also plays in a folk band called June Madrona) and Ross gets some free fish and seafood. He certainly knows how to live economically. Getting fruit from his front yard, vegetables from his garden, fish for free,... What more could you ask for?

Outside the fish market, Olympia.


Ross, Danielle, me in front of their cottage in Olympia.


We get back, right in time to meet Danielle who's finished volunteering at a local coop so I greet everybody and get on the road.
On the way out I stop by a bike shop to get a little computer for my bike. It tells me the speed, the distance travelled, the average speed, the hour and I think it'll be really useful on this trip. I set it up on my bike, chat a bit with bike shop assistants and get a complimentary biking map of Washington state. I hit the road again and right before I leave the city I meet one of the people from a band I saw yesterday. I just goes to show... nevermind.
The weather seems quite challenging, as it looks as if it could start pouring down anytime. Yet, it doesn't and I get to a town called Tenino and getmyself a pizza. The owner is a cool dude of Italian origin (though he can't remember where exactly in Italy) but he's super nice and gives me free cookies for my trip.
Tenino is actually quite a nifty place. I like it. I see one of the first old cement buildings here on the West Coast. I mean first for me, not first in an asolute sense.

This is Tenino, WA. The building on the corner is the old Tenino bank.


I get to Centralia in the early evening and my hosts Summer and Tom meet me in front of the Olympic hotel downtown.
This hotel is really neat. It used to be one of those speakeasy places during the prohibition era that served alcohol and it still looks that way.
I shoot some pool, but Summer kicks both mine and Tom's asses and after losing 3 games we decide it's enough humiliation so we head to Summer's place.


Summer, Tom, me. Can you tell she's just kicked our asses at pool.


Centralia is not big and doesn't seem to offer lots of entertainment on a Sunday night, so we get some wood and have a nice chat next to a bonfire. Tons of jokes and stories and generally good times.
There are 4 dogs in the house and somehow one of them adopts me so I share the couch with him sleeping in my lap. It's only 2 and a half weeks old puppy so it sleeps like a baby and I do too.
Monday, 11. August 2008.
As usual, everyone's up before me. I just like sleeping late. It's cool people don't mind it. I guess one of Summer's dogs does, cos my wake up call cosists of a couple of licks on my face.
After breakfast I'm on the road again. Summer explains me what road to take and prints out a little map for me. Today I don't know how far I'm going. Portland seems a bit too far so I'm looking to stay somewhere halfway between Centralia and Portland.
It's a bit of a hilly ride, though nothing major. I enjoy beautiful countryside of the suthern Washington. It's really pretty here.
A part of the path runs along the river and it's really beautiful there too. I stop just a couple of times. The first time at a Subway, not far from the Interstate 5, for a sandwich and the second time at a random gas station to get something to drink.
In the evening I get to Kelso. The first motel I stop at doesn't take my credit card. I continue and get into Longview. The next motel has nobody at the office, so I keep going. Finally the third motel is open, inexpensive and looks pretty tidy so I choose to stay there.
I can finally do some laundry, so I do that, watch some of the olympics and go to bed.

Oregon.

Tuesday, 12. August 2008.
From Longview you cross the immense Columbia river and you're in Oregon. I've never seen so much lumber in my life. I mean huge pieces of wood ready to be shipped to a factory that will produce your bed or wardrobe. From the bridge that crosses Columbia river you see tons and tons and tons of wood.
I bike along the river for a couple of hours and stop in some recreational area to take a few pictures. Back on the road and I see another biker, biking in the opposite direction on a recumbent bike with bags and a tent hanging off the back. It's always nice to see someone else on a long trek as well.
The road to Portland is fairly nice. Just a couple of hills and that's it.
I get into the city pretty early, around 5 pm. My Tom Tom gets a bit "lost" in the center so it disorients me for a bit. I manage to find my way out to the very end of Portland (along the neverending Division street) where Ivy, Simon and Nick live.
Ivy and Dixie, the dog, are waiting for me. Shortly afterwards Simon and Nick come home and we have some awesome burritos together. I stay for a while chatting with Ivy, but she has to be up at 5 am so I just stay up late and start writing this blog.
Note: the dates of the blog are all messed up in order to make it read from the beginning of the trip to the end. I started the blog on 12th of August, writing the backlog from the very first days in the US. Now that I write this is the 17th and I'm trying to catch up. Read on.
Wednesday, 13. August 2008.
Portland seems to be a very nice city. It gives you sense of being a safe place, plus it's very bike friendly and relaxed. I like it right from the start.
Ivy is at work, Simon and Nick went to the beach with Dixie, so I'm home trying to write some more of this and checking my e-mail.
I finally manage to get into the city only around 5 pm. I make myself a list of record stores and go to check them out in order of proximity.
The first one is Green Noise. I go through the 7" section quite quickly and am about to leave when a small stack of 7"s catches my attention. I ask whether these are for sale or not and the guy behind the counter says they are but they have to be priced. I ask how much for a Siege bootleg, Inside Out (NY) 7" on Noiseville and a Red London 7". I expect some high prices at least on then first two, but they're actually 4 and 3.50 dollars respectively. I get them. Once again, I'm about to leave when I notice another stack of 7". I ask whether those are for sale
and the guy says they belong to the customer who just got into the store and is selling them to the store. He lets me go through them and I set aside a Gorilla Biscuits "Safari" boot, Madball 1st 7", Walk Proud first 7", Insted 7", an older Misfits bootleg, PHC 7", Infest 7", Bad Brains 7" on Caroline and a few more classics.
The guy at the counter prices them fairly and I get all of them.
In the meantime I start chatting with the guy who is selling them and it turns out he's from the greater Los Angeles area. That explains Insted, Walk Proud, PHC, Infest,... He says he got them at the time and that sounds quite right as he looks a couple of years younger than me. We discover we know tons of people and have many mutual friends.
The sad part is that he's currently unemployed and is selling his record collection to pay bills. In the end, he's happy with the money he got, the shop assistant made some money for the store and I'm happy to have these records. However you turn it, it's a win win situation.
In the end it took the guy so long to price everything that no other record stores are open anymore.
Ivy meets me at a coffee shop next door and we have some crepes together.
She has some incredibly interesting and quite radical ideas about changing the world and helping the community. I listen and learn and hope that she finds the wherewithal to turn them into reality.
Thursday, 14. August 2008.
Today we're going to the river for some swimming and jumping off the cliffs so I can't sleep till late as I usually do.
We go to get Cameron, Oren and Lisa and drive for about an hour in Ivy's roommate's Jeep until we get to the right spot.
It's a very pretty place where the river creates a series of waterfalls and there's one high cliff (about 10 meters) you can jump off.
There's a bunch of characters there and it's pretty amusing watching the things they do. Cameron makes us a salad and we swim and chat and lay in the sun. I manage to write one more chapter of my novel.
On the way back we stop at a Mexican restaurant "Porque No?" and have a great meal together.

Downtown Portland as seen from a car. __ Me, Ivy and Cameron at Porque No?


Cameron is another one with interesting ideas and challenging views and it's really great talking to him and Ivy. Two really inspirational people.
In the evening I say goodbye to everyone as I won't be seeing anyone the next morning, except for Dixie that will be there guarding the house of course.

The good faithful Dixie. _____ Me, Ivy, Nick and Simon at their place.

Friday, 15. August 2008.
I wake up fairly early (for my standards. that probably means around 11 am) and get myself on the bike. Portland is the last big city for a while so I want to check the record stores here as I won't be doing that for a while.
The first three stores go fairly uneventfully. However, the Discourage records abounds with good vinyl. I don't even have the courage to check the LP section, but the 7" section is full of American, European, Asian, South American, Australian Punk and HardCore. It's not cheap or anything, because I guess the owner bases his prices on Ebay prices, but with dollar so low it's still OK.
I end up getting about 140 dollars worth of 7"s. The problem is, I don't have the time to go to the post office which means I have to drag an extra box of stuff all the way to Salem. That's life, I guess.
So I get back to the apartment, get myself ready, greet Dixie and hit the road again.
Tom Tom proves to be a major pain in the ass indicating the steepest roads around so I just ditch it and choose to ride down along the highway 99.
I get to Salem at 11 pm but as soon as I ring my bell in front of my host's house I feel I've come home. There's a whole welcoming committee who are really excited to see me and the moment I set my foot in the garage I know this is good times.
The Gatorade keeps flowing, the ice cream keeps coming and good conversation keeps good company until bedtime. There are five people there beside me: Rose (my host), Laura Love (one of the funniest girls I've had the chance to meet), Laura (Rose's younger sister), Patrick and Travis (who has just hitchhiked across the USA in 104 days).
Good, good times.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Saturday, 16. August 2008.
Rose wakes me up at some point and we go to the post office to mail those records. Next to the post office there's a "european shop" that Rose thinks is mostly Russian. I can't resist the curiosity to go in.
Well, I can't believe my eyes when I see Napolitanke "Kras" in, like, 5 or 6 different flavors!! What!?! All the way from Croatia! I continue checking the shop out and hey, there's Vegeta "Podravka" and Radenska 3 Srca! Amazing!!! All Croatian products.
I even find some Italian panettone that I've never seen in Italy and of course, there's Nutella.
Feels so much like home. I get a box of Napolitanke and we head home.
I take over the kitchen again and I make the best I could out of stuff that was given to me. We end up eating a super rich omelette with cheese, squash and potatoes. To tell you the truth, it didn't come out so bad for a first timer.
Rose has to go to a wedding, so we say goodbye and I head down towards Eugene.
The road is pretty flat and that's a huge plus. There are HUGE blackberries growing on the side of the road, so I stop to pick some. I've never seen bigger blackberries in my life. And they taste so good.
I see an apple tree with ripe apples, so I pick one. The nature is so generous here. Lovely.
In the afternoon the wind rises and sometimes it's quite bothering.
I get to Corvallis, trying to see if I remember anything from 9 years ago, when This Side Up was on tour and was scheduled to play this town. Nothing looks familiar really.
Tonight I' staying with Ebba. She apparently lives out of town cos I cross the whole town and still have about 3 kilometers more to pedal.
When I finally arrive she's just finished the first stage of preparing the apple cider. There are many apple trees in the area, all bursting with ripe apples, so she picked a few boxes of apples and used them to make cider. Good idea, eh?
While I talk, she prepares an awesome veggie dinner, that reminds me of the meal I had in Salt Lake City. If people here ate this kind of stuff, there wouldn't be so many obese people in the US. Instead, crappy fast food is everywhere and people just fall for it.
I fix my bike seat that has become a bit loose and go to sleep.
Sunday, 17. August 2008.
I wake up to experience some of the neatest pancakes ever. Amazing pancakes made with a special kind of dark flour and nuts, with an apple/pear jam on the top. Yummy!
I leave Ebba and her roommate Kyle around noon. There was a storm yesterday night, but the sky seems to have cleared a bit. Not completely, but enough for a ride.
Today I'm riding down to Eugene which should take me about 4 hours or so. Eugene is at the end of the valley, so it's pretty flat all the way to down there. From there on I'll have to go across the hills and mountains to get to the sea.
However, sometime halfway through the trip there's a motorcycle accident on the road. Someone is laying on the side of the road, motorcycle on the asphalt, bags everywhere,... Two ambulance cars are already there and then little by little the road gets crowded with 2 police cars and a firefighters vehicle. The road is closed and they're expecting a helicopter to come pick the injured any moment. They put bright orange road cones on a field next to the accident for the helicopter to land. The helicopter takes the person away and the volunteers inform us that the road will be closed for about an hour and a half for the official investigation of what happened. I don't have much choice but to wait. Fortunately, a police officer sees me and gives me the sign to pass. He apologizes for not doing it earlier and wishes me a safe trip. Not even half an hour down the road I see a bag full of pennies. Some are still in the bag, while some are scattered around. I stop and pick them up. There's tons of pennies. Over a hundred, minimum. It's amazing what you can find on the side of the road in America. So far I found: 2 mobile phones (both non functional of course), 1 bungee rope (turned out VERY useful), 1 screwdriver (didn't pick it up, but would have been useful), a bag full of pennies and various clothing accessories. I only took the bungee rope and the bag with pennies with me. Anyway, the biking starts getting more and more difficult because of the wind. It's blowing in my direction and it's slowing me by at least 5-6 kilometers an hour. While I'd ride 25-26 kph on a flat road, now I'm barely going 19 kph. I finally get to Eugene. It's pretty much as I remember it. Not very big, nice, green and quite hippyish. Looks like a place I could easily live in. My Tom Tom helps me find Sherman, my next host. She's just come back from biking for a month around Ireland, so she is excited to have a traveller doing pretty much the same thing in the United States. Time to have a glass of water and chat a bit, the BEST vegetarian sushi I've ever had is ready. I must be looking hungry cos Sherman cuts another loaf of sushi the second I've finished the last piece of the first. We chat a bit on the couch and I check my e-mail. She suggests me her couchsurfing friend David in Coos Bay, where I haven't managed to find a place to stay yet. I e-mail David and hope he's available. Tomorrow I'll be biking probably the most dangerous route so far and Sherman sounds fairly concerned talking about the road I'll be taking. Especially since there's a thunderstorm going on as we talk.
Monday, 18. August 2008.
I wake up quite early (for me). It's barely 9 am. I get to check my mail and see that David from Coos Bay has written me back. There are good chances I have a place to stay in Coos Bay.
I check that bag of pennies and count 148 pieces! Wow! That doesn't account for much money ($ 1.48) but I wonder what was somebody doing with a bag of pennies. Some were even quite old. From the 60's. Oh well.
The sky is gray but it doesn't mean it's necessarily going to rain. I get ready, chat to the guy who lives upstairs, leave a note for Sherman, grease my bike chain and get on the road.
The stories about the bad road between Eugene and Florence (my next stop) scared me a bit last night, but at least I know what to expect. Plus I started my biking quite early today so I should be in Florence before it gets dark.
There's a bit of the wind, and although I'm riding different direction from the previous days (west) it's still against me. By the time I get to my first stop, about 35 kilometers later, it's already raining a bit.
I get a burrito and some tater tots and keep on going. It keeps raining on and off. If it wasn't for the rain and the wind, this would be the most beautiful part of my trip so far.
Just as the rain starts being a serious pain in the ass, I ride by two hitchhikers. I feel so sorry they have to hitchhike in the rain in the middle of nowhere. Plus how likely it is that someone would just pick them up here in the middle of the woods. They'll be wet by the time they get a ride. I wave at them and say something; they wave back.
The road is winding a lot and goes up and down the hills. Sometimes the shoulder is almost inexistent and I have to ride on the road. The rain intensifies. The wind does too. The road is wet and slippery and the rain hits my face hard. Dang, it doesn't take much more for the worst case scenario.
I feel I'd better hide for a while. I see a sign for a camp. The ramp goes downhill so I follow it to the first building and take a shelter.
I stay there for a while hoping the rain will stop, or at least slow down.
Some guy approaches me. He asks me if I had spoken to anyone. Well, no I haven't. He says I can stay there for a little while, but I can't wait there for the rain to stop or slow down because the camp is private.
I say it's OK, but really wonder what's wrong with this guy. There's rain blasting outside and all I'm doing is taking a shelter. How wrong can it be?
I prepare myself for the rain and get ready to go. He's back. He's making sure I'm not staying any longer. He starts asking questions about the trip and so forth. Then he says, I'd give you a ride to Mapleton (about 10 km away) if I weren't so tired. I say it's OK. 5 more minutes of chat and he decides he's not that tired anymore and offers to ride me to Mapleton. After all, he's not all that bad, I think.
He comes over with his pick up truck. We put the bike on the truck and hit the road. We're in Mapleton in about 5 minutes (probably about 40 minutes ride for me). He decides he's actually going to drive me to Florence (another 20 kilometers). Wow! I wonder why he had to act like an ass first to make up for it later.
We chat about the war in ex-Yugoslavia and about the religion (the guy belongs to the Baptist church) and get to Florence really quickly.
He drops me off and drives back to the campground. I'm happy I got to Florence alive and maybe even sooner than I expected. I imagine the guy is happy for this random act of kindness towards a complete stranger. The rain has definitely slowed down and I first look for a Mexican restaurant to eat something. Then I find a cheap hotel and crash for the night.
Tuesday, 19. August 2008.
The first thing I do in the morning is looking up the sky. It doesn't look promising at all, but at least it's not raining.
I get myself some pancakes with jam for breakfast and get going. Every now and then I see the sun for 5 seconds, but then it disappears forever.
By the time I get to Reedsport it's raining again. I talk on the phone to my host for tonight David who tells me I'm not far from Coos Bay where I'm headed but pretty much there's nothing between Reedsport and Coos Bay.
I get a sandwich at Subway hoping the rain will stop while killing time. Not a chance.
However, the rain is not too heavy so I get my rain gear and get on the road. I see another two bikers who do the same.
I have a raincoat and helmet but I'm still getting soaked. And everything's so wet that it appears rather dangerous riding in such conditions.
I'm glad my host was wrong because after half an hour or so I see another tiny town. It's called Winchester Bay. It's seriously tiny. I can only see a few houses and a handful of shops. I take shelter under a roof of a drive through restaurant called King Neptune's and wait for the rain to stop. The biking couple I saw earlier gives up as well and decides to call it a day and stop in this place.
I wait for a couple of hours then decide to get inside to warm up and get some food.
In the meantime David calls me to see what's up. I tell him where I am at and he offers to come pick me up. It's amazingly fortunate that so many Americans drive pick up trucks.
He comes with his big, black pick up truck in less than half an hour. We load the bike in the back and head to Coos Bay. Phew, that was an amazing save, I must say, and super kind of David to do that.
Rain is following us all the way and pretty much doesn't stop the whole night.
The house David built himself probably has the best position in the area. It directly overlooks the whole bay and the view stretches out for miles. However, what's really stunning is the house itself. This house is something you hardly see in Hollywood movies. It's 2 floors high, with an open ceiling above the first floor, huge glass windows practically everywhere, wood and marble are the two predominant materials inside the house and everything is furnished in the smallest detail with a lot of style. And if you think the view from the gigantic living room is amazing, then you miss the superlatives when you walk upstairs. Personally, I've never seen a house like this.


This is the house David built for himself.

David shows me my room and my bathroom and I pretty much get lost in the labyrinths of the house.
He has built a dancing studio in the other wing of the house and around 7 pm his dancing partner Caitlyn comes and they practice for the dance they have to perform this Saturday.
While they're dancing I wander around the house and get the dinner ready.
David and I chat for a few hours about anything and everything and I get on internet after he goes to sleep. I hope tomorrow is sunny.