Friday, October 30, 2009


There's a lot of litter here in Maine. I mean A LOT. It can never understand the rationale behind, “I'm done with this, I'm just going to throw it out the window.” And how can you not understand the bottle deposit rules? You buy your tall boy at the gas station, they charge you an extra 5 cents and when you're done, you throw that in the woods? That's like throwing a nickel in the garbage.

So I decided to try and up my Maine karma (and crotchety-old-lady-in-training status) another quart by giving a little purpose to my morning walks and doing a little litter removal. I needed just the right tool, because while I may be simplified, I may be minimalized, I sure as hell ain't touching the McDonald's cup you used as a spittoon, mister. Enter, THE GOPHER™. You know those deelies that old ladies use to get cereal off the top shelf at the grocery store? (Endorsed by the late-great Billy Mays himself!) Perfect for picking up 75 empty cigarette boxes without having to resort to the old “nail on a stick trick”. I'm just wondering how many bags of trash I have to pick up to undo the guilt that I had to go to Wal*Mart to get it!

**Note, “The Gopher” is no longer available, but “The Reacher” (it "Reaches So You Dont [sic] Have To") is…and they're exactly the same product. I smell drama here…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time to Recycle!

What to do with those things that you can't just drop into the recycle bin? Electronics? Ink cartridges? Batteries? can direct you to anything you might want to get rid of but (thankfully) major retailers are getting into the eco-game.

Home Depot accepts CFL bulbs and rechargeable batteries
Brita has a plastic filter return program. See their website for mail back options.
• Some US Post Offices have mail back envelopes for small electronics and ink cartridges
Nike recycles old athletic shoes
Staples, Ikea, Best Buy all have recycling programs for ink cartridges, rechargeable batteries, small electronics.

Thanks to the latest version of the Burbank Public Works newsletter for these tips!

Friday, October 16, 2009


So after a few days of beautiful fall weather, a little rain must fall. Temps are still around 45º so I'm not running back to California quite yet. (Not that it matters, the weather report says 60º and raining back there, which I'm sure feels like 45º to Angelenos.) The cabin is cozy, especially after I rigged up a sheet to cut off the kitchen from the living area. The difference is drastic-curtain up, the kitchen is a good 15º colder when the heat is on in the living area. Thankfully I figured this out on day 2 and not day 25. Suns supposed to be back out tomorrow, but I notice that temps are supposed to go below freezing tonight! Ah October in New England. I have missed you so.

So I'm not gonna lie, the water here smells like rotten eggs. There, I said it. I was left a note saying it's “Safe for drinking, cooking and bathing…but here's 25 gallons of bottled water just in case that's your preference.” I'm going for the drinking and cooking with bottled and hoping if I smell of sulfur everyone here is too polite to mention it. Bummer that in the land that provides water to the eastern seaboard, I can't even filter to drink what comes out of the tap.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


To say this little vacation is Thoreauvian would be presumptuous; We’ve got running water, electricity, a television (w/ VCR and DVD player… sadly no cable though). Thoreau lived within 2 miles of Concord, MA … I’ve got a Shaw’s and a CVS 5 miles down the road and year-rounders on all sides of me. While my cabin has 4 small rooms and a sun porch, his cabin was only 10’ x 12’. But in our society of sensory overload, this might be as close as I can get to Thoreauvian solitude (without heading further up into the Maine woods) Everyone has one of two reactions to my little undertaking: either “Why?!” or “Hmm, that’s kinda cool”. I’ve got a trunk full of projects to keep me busy and I know that I would be distracted too much if I were at home in L.A. I am also the type of person who thrives in situations where I’m forced to be a little creative to get along and spend time recharging my batteries.


Erie, PA -> Auburn, MA
What many people don't realize is just how big New York state is…on this trip, I have driven more miles in NY than I have in Colorado or Nebraska. I did a double take as I crossed the state line after leaving Erie… 450 miles to New York City?! The additional wonder of the New York Thruway is the deceiving toll ticket you get as you enter the state: wow, only $3… but that only gets you to Buffalo. They have graciously waived the toll fees around the Buffalo area, but continue on through and that toll ticket the size of a Pop Tart is back in your hand. And while other states have adopted the exit number equals the road mileage, the NY Thruway has 59 exits spread over that 450 miles. There were also so many vehicles with Ontario license plates I wondered if Canada was closed for the weekend. Not even the promise of the end of the journey could make this day finish soon enough. It rained from start to finish and worst of all, the only traffic I encountered in almost 3,000 miles was on the last 30 miles of today as I sat on the Mass Pike and inched toward my friends and family.

And on the 7th day, we will rest… eventually. Just a short jaunt up the Maine Turnpike and we are home for the month. One of those beautiful New England fall days that make you gasp from how beautiful it is-rainbow of foliage colors, backed with a bright blue sky peppered with just-the-right amount of fluffy clouds. And for the first time in a long time, I can breathe.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Day 4 (Grinnell, IA to Elkhart, IN)
Nice to awake to a fairly easy day of driving-and break it up in the middle with lunch in Chicago with my sister. The “I” states are smooth sailing-hit cruise control and sail on through to Ohio… well stopping for tolls of course. Wish I was able to order my automated toll transponder in time for this trip, they save so much time when you're on the road and plus it helps take your mind off how much it actually costs you in tolls when you're not forking over the money at every toll booth. (FYI cost of tolls from California to Illinois? $0. Cost of tolls from Illinois to Maine? $52.05. Maybe California wouldn't be in such debt if we started charging the people who drove more. Just sayin'.)

Day 5 (Elkhart, IN to Erie, PA)

Had a later start this morning (okay maybe 7:30 a.m. isn't that late but it took awhile for my cell phone to figure out what time zone we were in). Today's a day where I am reminded why I do these trips every year: it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. It's not about how many miles I can make in a day, but it's about this moment: this 8:04am on a Thursday morning with the sun trying to push it's way into the sky. It's about getting off the interstate for a few miles and riding the back roads of Michigan and taking time to breathe for a bit. Even better is ending the day visiting with a good friend… unfortunately that visit has to take place in the smoky bars of Pennsylvania (well it doesn't *HAVE* to, but tradition dictates). One forgets how poorly one's body processes cigarette smoke when one hasn't been around it in months and months.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


An early morning back on the road after a frustrating day 2 (even more frustrating when I find out after the fact that a good friend lives in an area I drove through yesterday, grrr.) Strangely enough, the sketchier the hotel room I stay in, the better night of sleep I usually get. Or maybe by day 3 I'm just so exhausted I'll sleep though anything. Trying to get out of the northeast Denver area continues to be frustrating because even at 6:30 a.m. the streets are packed and drivers are aggressive. But perseverance pays off and soon I'm back to being one of the only cars on the interstate, traveling through what Kerouac calls “the middle of coyote nowhere”.

Speaking of which, I popped the audio book of On the Road into the iPod and got to listen to Matt Dillon read to me for 2 straight days about the Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity. Not a bad way to pass the empty miles. Nebraska is amusing in that you will drive over 400 miles of interstate and not see one vanity license plate… until you get to Omaha, and then it seems everyone has one.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Up and ready to face the day-southern Utah to deal with and then lots and lots of Colorado. The first few hours of the day I barely pass anyone on the roads. I went over a half hour at one stretch not seeing a single other car on the same side of the interstate-what a drastic change from Los Angeles. More cars speed past me with their bike racks making me miss mine even more. I can see it sitting there in pieces in my kitchen. So sad.

Colorado has a tendency to make me lose my mind-the altitude probably has something to do with it, but this trip especially, I just found very frustrating. Hills are not my car's best friend and long slow inclines to 11,000 feet are a sort of torture. I made the mistake of pulling over to a chain up area to take this photo, and trying to get back up to speed (let's say… 30 mph) well, it would have been faster to get out and push the car up and over the Vail Pass. But Colorado at least is gorgeous to look at while you're losing your mind. I'm slightly sad this trip because this route reminds me of the last trip through Colorado in the days before I had a wifi card, where I was stopping at every small town library to use their internet to send emails back to work. I must have stopped 5 or 6 times in towns like beautiful quaint Georgetown (tiny little storefront library which was closed when I got there), Glenwood Springs (where a neighbor had named their wifi with a dirty version of the library's name) Fruita (where I sat on a children's chair trying to work before they closed). It was actually a fun challenge getting off the interstate and then trying to instinctually find the local library… I would give myself 5 minutes of driving around to find the sign that pointed me in the right direction until I'd cave in and ask directions. Just another way technology continues to speed our lives up.


So this weekend I set off for another cross country jaunt, nothing too novel or pioneering, as this would be my 26th cross country trip in 14 years and I had a 6 day time limit to make it from LA to Maine. Packing the car up I was concerned that all the “stuff” I was bringing with me was going to add serious weight to my car and cause my gas mileage to plummet. I had this vision of my car looking like the Clampett’s as they putt-putted into California. I looked at the bags and bags of stuff, trying to figure out what I could do without for 3 months. I mean, I was trying to advocated simplicity… one woman should not need this much stuff. Sadly, the first thing to go was my bike. As much as I hated to leave it behind, I know where I’m going it’s going to be COLD. And I know that riding my bike while making me temporarily warm, leaves me freezing for the rest of the day. So while my bike doesn’t weigh that much (under 20 lbs) it did free up the room so that I could now see out the rear view mirror. I played the camping game: what do you really really need? And we were off! Me, adventure kitty, and my traveling companion The Los Angeles Roaming Gnome. We hit the 15N (for the 3rd time this year) and the wind kicked up in Devore—we watched as new fires kicked up in the mountains and I was truly happy to be moving away from that destruction. That wind however pushed us all the way to our destination: Beaver, UT, 500 miles at over 57 mpg. Satellite TV was knocked out by the wind when we got there, which we were slightly bummed about (Gnome and I enjoy watching The Amazing Race…) but it was nice to just sit and be peaceful for a night. Tomorrow, we head to Colorado and hopefully Nebraska.

Special note about Beaver, UT: not only the childhood home of Butch Cassidy, (I looked for the cabin but my keen eyes could not spot anything at the location I got off the interwebs) and it also claims to have the Best Tasting Water in America. Not bad I have to say and it’s a good place to fill up the canteens for the long drive tomorrow. No more plastic bottles!!