Maren

Springtime in Salem

4/29/24

Happy mid-spring to all of you in the northern hemisphere! (And mid-autumn to those down south!)

After my dramatic last post, the past few weeks have been pretty tame and pleasant. Although the rains and cooler temps have now re-descended on the Northwest, I was blessed upon my return with a solid couple of weeks of unseasonably dry and sunny skies, coupled with beautiful spring blossoms, both in Portland—where I stayed with two friends for a few days each, then did a short cat sit—and then in Salem/Keizer, where I spent a week with a wonderful kitty named Rocky.

There’s really not much to report, so I’ll mostly make this a photo essay, since I visited several local nature parks, but a couple things:

I got to see Johnny again, after a two-month absence, and it was wonderful to learn about all the great things he is working on in the prison, including lots of projects with the Asian Club as well as regaining a job as one of two healing garden caretakers, so he’s spending lots of time nurturing his creation and enjoying the out of doors.

I also had a cool serendipitous meeting with a fellow Bromptoneer in Bush’s Pasture Park! Salem is not a hot spot for Bromptons. Although I spot one in Portland maybe once a week or so (including immediately after my train trip back up here after Salem) I think I had only ever seen one in Salem, in the 12+ years I have been visiting there regularly.

But on my last full day in the area, I was enjoying spectacular weather next to one of my favorite parks in the city, immediately after doing a meet-and-greet for a possible late-summer cat sit in an adjacent neighborhood. After walking through first the camas forest and then the resplendent rhododendron path, I had found a nice shady bench and was simply sinking into the moment, when along came a man on a beautiful, brand-new-looking dark green Brompton. His name was Wayne, and he sat down and joined me for what turned into a chat of well over an hour.

I love serendipitous magical meetings! And it’s so fun how the Brompton often sparks them when I’m out and about.

I’m back in Portland now, caring for a couple of cuties I’ll write about in my next post, but I’ll leave you here with a parting photo of Rocky.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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One helluva ride to Portland

4/10/24

Wow.

I got more than I bargained for these last two days, on my ride back up to Portland from LA on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.

Yesterday began early, when my alarm went off at 6:00. I fed Ellie, showered, cleaned up, and packed. I locked up the condo, and started rolling downhill on the rig at 7:56. My goal was to make it to the station by 9:00, for our 9:51 departure.

I enjoyed a lovely bike ride in the morning sun, mostly on the LA River bike path. I did arrive at the station just shy of 9:00, and made it to the first class Metropolitan Lounge to check in. I was glad I had upgraded to the roomette for the whole duration of the trip; those were points well spent.

As I boarded from the rear of the train, I noticed that we would be towing two beautiful private rail cars. (Later, at dinner, I happened to look out the window as the train went around a bend, and discovered that we had added a third!) I hope that someday I get a chance to ride in one of those cars. A Facebook friend commented that sometimes the owners of those cars are willing to take on passengers, for a donation. I’m going to keep that in mind!

Once inside, I settled into my berth, excited for the journey ahead.

We departed exactly on time, but unfortunately had to stop within the first half hour, because a train ahead of us had fatally struck a pedestrian. This was certainly a sobering event, especially because within about fifteen minutes of the time the conductor announced it to us, my phone screamed with a “silver alert” about a recently reported missing elderly or impaired person. What a horrible day it must have been for whoever called in the alert, not to mention whoever was driving that train, or anyone else who might have witnessed the incident.

(Compounding the tragedy, the next day—today—our counterpart, the southbound Coast Starlight, also had a fatal collision with a pedestrian.)

Our resulting standstill, in Glendale, ended up being three hours—just two miles from the condo I had left at 7:56.

During the delay, our lunch service began. I was seated in the dining car with a woman from Olympia, who was returning from a conference in San Diego. We had an interesting conversation about her varied career path and her time living overseas. As it turned out, she also has two cats, and some upcoming travel plans. I gave her my card; maybe at some point I’ll do a sit for her.

Meanwhile, three Portland friends had reached out to me, nearly simultaneously, requesting sits in the next few months. What a cool synchronicity.

After lunch, however, things took a bit of a turn.

I wandered into the adjoining observation lounge car, where I always like to spend a good chunk of my ride, checking out the view and seeing if I can find spontaneous magical meetings.

I did enjoy some beautiful views.

But the peacefulness of the ride was marred for me by a 61-year-old man behind me, talking more loudly than I judged he needed to, for a total of about two hours. The man’s name, I soon learned, was Dan. (Not really, but I’ll call him that.) During this time span, Dan engaged in two extended phone calls, with the intervening hour or so taken up in his conversation with the 21-year-old young man a few seats down from him. (One “excerpt” from the phone calls: “… Yeah, and he saw some houses for sale in that area, and thought they looked really great. He was asking me, Hey, could you loan me half a million to buy one of these? But I was like, No, I’m not loaning you anything for that…”)

The young man seated near him, it turned out, had recently dropped out of college in order to become a firefighter. This pleased Dan immensely. He proudly related that he himself was a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, and that his sons, now in their late 20s, had followed similar career paths as the young man. (“The younger one jumps out of helicopters.”)

I lost track of how many times I heard him say “Good for you. I’m proud of you!” but I would estimate it was at least seven or eight times. The young man seemed to appreciate the positive feedback, but it grated on my nerves every time I heard it. (Sir, this young man is a stranger to you—not to mention a sovereign being—and has not sought your approval of his life choices.)

I did my best to focus on the beauty in front of me, rather than cringing repeatedly as Dan held forth on a variety of topics, including authoritatively pointing out to everyone within earshot where Elon Musk’s launch pad was.

At 5:30, dinnertime came, and I was relieved to be able to leave the lounge and enter the dining car again. What cool fellow passengers would I meet there?

The first was a young man originally from Hawaii, now returning to Santa Cruz from a weekend in Santa Barbara.

The second… turned out to be Dan.

My heart sank, and my teeth set.

I was now going to be forced to engage in extended conversation with this gregarious self-appointed authority on life.

I ordered a complimentary vodka drink with dinner, my classic Amtrak cocktail. I had looked forward to loosening up with the drink to have a cool dinner conversation with a delightful dining companion or two. In this unexpected and unfortunate circumstance, though, I was still very glad to have the drink: within about ten minutes it took my disgruntled edge off, such that I was able to relax and even somewhat enjoy the conversation. Dan, of course, repeated himself quite a bit, unaware that I had already heard much of his shtick. I nodded politely. He was fascinated to hear about my nomadic cat sitting lifestyle, and seemed to especially admire that “You don’t have to answer to anybody. Good for you!”

Indeed.

The conversation somehow became tolerable, even pleasant. (Amazing what alcohol can do. Dan, for his part, started the meal with a double whiskey on the rocks, followed by another single shortly afterward.) The three of us talked about a variety of topics, and I found myself, to my great surprise, genuinely smiling and laughing.

Was this to be a poignant example of finding someone distasteful at first, but then actually having a face-to-face conversation with them as a fellow human being, and changing one’s perspective? I was struck that this was what the world desperately needs right now. And Amtrak’s dining car could be a venue to nurture such conversations.

At one point, I felt comfortable enough to bring up Johnny and his project to build the Japanese garden in the prison. Dan seemed duly impressed, though perhaps less effusive than some other people have been upon learning about it.

He then asked what I thought was the one single change we could make as a society to end all crime.

I thought for a moment, then said, “End trauma.” (Or maybe “heal trauma.” It was something like that. I felt very grounded in my answer at that moment—and I do think it is a solid answer—and I think the cocktail helped me to say it extra confidently, even to a former LAPD officer.)

Dan, however, brushed off my answer. He said something like, “You don’t even need to think about trauma,” implying that his answer was going to supersede anything trauma-related.

Our dinner was over, and we were asked to leave, as new passengers needed to be seated. Our dining companion, the young surfer, had checked out of the conversation a while ago, and was now headed back to his seat.

During dinner, Dan had offered to buy me another cocktail, which I declined. But he now wanted to continue our conversation in the observation lounge. I agreed, curious though skeptical as to what his answer might be to solve crime in the United States without addressing trauma.

As we made our way out of the dining car and into the lounge, he began his explanation by impressing upon me the importance of women. Fixing his eyes on mine, he said, “You are tremendously powerful. Tremendously powerful. You have a calming effect on us. We are brutish beasts, and you…”

He trailed off, lost in thought, as I began to realize that the conversation was shifting, and found myself laboring to keep my eyes from rolling visibly.

We found seats in the lounge, and with the new intensity in his eyes, he began discussing the decline of the nuclear family.

“Tell me what you think of this: One man, one woman, a stable marriage… and no undercutting each other in front of the kids.”

This was his solution to crime?

I value respectful dialogue, and I am curious to understand the beliefs of people with whom I disagree. I’m always hopeful as to whether people with seemingly opposing beliefs can find potentially constructive common ground. So I asked a few clarifying questions. I also said that I thought a stable two-parent family could indeed be a good basis for raising healthy and well-adjusted community members, but that I didn’t think it needed to be a man and a woman: “I think we should open your model to allow for gay and lesbian parents, too, since they can also raise healthy and well-adjusted kids.”

This did not sit well with Dan.

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur for me, but I remember a few things:

Dan first brought up a particular sexual kink that he said gay and lesbian people practice, which he knew because of “seeing it” in his police work. (“They have”—he leaned in close to me, lowered his voice, and contorted his face—“orgasms… from choking!”)

I found this to be an odd and tangential thing to bring up, so I simply replied (with puzzlement probably visible on my face) “Straight people do that too,” which he said he had “never seen in all my years on the force.”

He then asked me to tell him if I felt more or less safe now, walking around a city at night, than I did 20 or 30 years ago. I could guess the answer he was looking for, of course, but the question did make me curious about my actual lived experience, and I wanted to answer honestly. So I looked slightly up and to my left, thinking back a few decades, so that I could give an accurate answer. He saw me thinking, and didn’t like the looks of it: contempt overtook his face as he said, “And don’t give me any of that, you know, politically correct…”

At this point, as he searched for the most scathing noun to use, I became very aware that I did not want to be in this conversation. This was not the conversation I had agreed to. It was clear that the questions he was asking only had one “right” answer, and it was also clear that I was not playing my assigned role in the script.

No… this was decidedly not the Amtrak lounge experience I had envisioned.

Out loud, I said, “I’m not enjoying this conversation.”

I don’t remember his reply, but I do remember that his voice grew louder and more combative as he delivered it, and I felt my face getting hot. I gathered my bag and stood up:

“I’m leaving. We’re done. We’re done.”

As I walked away, back toward my room, I heard him yell after me, “Yeah… that’s how you all are! Dumb as hell!”

Wow. Even just writing that now, 24 hours after the fact, I can feel my stomach tighten.

This is not the America I want to live in. I’m so disheartened. I don’t know how to fix it.

I had a hard time falling asleep after that, thinking about it all. I avoided the lounge the whole next day, today. (Fortunately, the views from my side of the train in my berth were beautiful, including Mount Shasta, which we saw in full late-morning daylight because of our delay, which had somehow increased by two hours overnight by the time I woke up just south of Chico.)

At breakfast, I was relieved to not see him in the dining car.

However, a little girl in the booth behind me was coughing and sniffling copiously, in a very contagious-sounding way.

Great.

As it turned out, though, I was seated with her and her mother at lunch (thankfully no sign of Dan again, though I knew he would be disembarking with me in Portland, then continuing on to one of his vacation homes on the Oregon coast) and the girl’s mother assured me that the child’s symptoms were a result of allergies, not a virus.

Perhaps the most surreal event of this journey, however, happened this afternoon after lunch. Once again I returned straight to my berth, avoiding the lounge car. I noticed a message on my phone from someone I barely know—a young man in a country on the other side of the world, whom I had met via English tutoring. After our initial meeting, about six months ago, we had had a brief chat about my travels, and then no further contact.

In his Facebook message, he said he had some questions for me on a “sensitive topic,” and would I be OK to discuss them with him?

Good lord.

Was he going to ask me about US foreign policy, or something like that? Was he going to ask me to answer for the actions of my government? My mind jumped to the most stressful hypothetical possibility.

Was I prepared to have a conversation like that?

No. In my current state, I definitely was not.

But could I say that? Is that just a privileged American cop-out, to avoid difficult conversations because we’re “having a bad day?”

This day did seem to be getting worse.

I debated with myself. Should I just ignore his messages? I barely knew the guy. And the messages actually seemed to be written in kind of an odd way, and I wondered if perhaps his Facebook Messenger had been hacked by a scammer. This has happened to several of my friends recently. Maybe the “sensitive topic” was some sort of pyramid or crypto scheme…?

Arghhhh!

I sat with it all for a moment.

I decided not to let difficult circumstances—even this recent “Dan trauma,” which I was still processing—make me shrink back from life.

I know that courage is important, even in small interpersonal communications. Choosing to just avoid more and more people shrinks the arena of my life.

At the same time, though, I did still want to honor myself and my boundaries.

So, I wrote back to this person, telling him I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to discuss a sensitive topic. I then related a brief version of my recent interactions with Dan.

The young man replied with such empathy and concern that I felt myself tearing up.

Wow.

How powerful it was to be witnessed—for the first time, since I hadn’t shared my interaction with Dan with anyone else—and also supported. And not just by anyone, but by a near-stranger, from a totally different culture, halfway around the world.

I thanked him, and he reiterated his support.

And, he said he wasn’t looking to talk about religion or politics. He had questions about sexuality! His culture is much more sexually conservative than mine, and I don’t know what made him reach out to me specifically, but I was so relieved that this was all he wanted to talk about!

I actually welcome the opportunity to talk openly about sexuality, especially with younger people, in this era of ubiquitous internet porn (which turned out to be what he had questions about) so… wow.

Was not expecting that.

We had a respectful and informative exchange for about half an hour, until the train reached southern Oregon and my internet dropped out suddenly, cutting off the conversation rather abruptly. Fortunately, I had warned him ahead of time that this might happen, so hopefully he wasn’t too surprised or disappointed.

All in all, I would say that this was one of the most surreal 36-hour+ journeys I have ever experienced. It kind of reminds me of the gnarly-but-worthwhile acid trip I took almost exactly a year ago… and I feel about equivalently wrung out in its wake.

I now wonder what Oregon has in store for me this summer? I hope it will be lots of snuggly and easy-care kitties, lots of nature and forest walks, and lots of powerful magical meetings, both in person and around the world.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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A magical week in LA before returning north

4/8/24

Wow, what a full week this has been!

Happy post-eclipse, for any of you reading who may have been able to view all or part of it. I was slightly disappointed to have not been able to travel to a “totality” destination (especially since I just missed totality on the last eclipse—I went to work at my job in Portland rather than taking the day off to travel to Salem) but I am grateful that LA had at least a partial eclipse, and that the weather was clear and sunny to allow us to enjoy it.

But let me back up a bit:

When I left you last week, I was bidding a fond farewell to San Diego.

The following morning, I bicycled from my Pacific Beach sit to San Diego’s Old Town Transit Center, where I boarded the northbound Coaster train to Carlsbad. I stayed the night in a Carlsbad hotel, and then in the morning my friend Daniela picked me up in her tiny-and-packed-to-the-gills yellow Fiat. At first, we weren’t sure how we would be able to fit my whole rig in the car, but where there’s a will (and a bike rack!) there’s a way. In short order, we were headed north.

She dropped me off at my cousin Nathalie’s place in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, near Pasadena. Daniela then continued north on her epic road trip back to Portland. (I’m sure I’ll see her there soon!)

For my part, I had a free day, and Nathalie wouldn’t be home from work until the evening, so I took the opportunity to get my bike repaired at an awesome Brompton-certified bike shop, Just Ride L.A. The shop is downtown, but after about a ten-minute fully downhill bike ride, I was able to catch a bus that took me the rest of the seven miles to the shop.

I was really impressed with Just Ride L.A. They had more Bromptons available on the shelf than any other Brompton shop I’ve seen.

Not only that, but when I mentioned to the employee, Danny, that I happened to have a friend in LA with a Brompton, he said, “What’s her name? It’s a small community!” When I mentioned her name, he told me that he had a brand-new purple 12-speed Brompton on hold for her, ready for her to pick up the very next day! He even showed me a photo of the bike. Clearly, these folks care about their customers.

I needed a specific repair, since a piece of the rear fender had fallen off the bike(!) while I was riding down Nimitz Blvd. in San Diego a couple weeks ago. However, Danny told me that he could save me some money on the labor for that repair—and the usual one-week wait they have for service—if I would allow them to do a full tuneup on the bike, with a no-charge “rush” to get it done by the end of the day, since I explained that even next-day service wouldn’t really work for my situation.

I hadn’t budgeted the time nor money for this, but I had to admit that the bike was due for a tuneup, and getting it done before my return to rainy Portland sounded good.

So I pivoted my plans for the day, and dropped off the bike for a few hours. He even gave me a loaner Brompton, so I could enjoy tooling around downtown LA, which I had never done before.

Of course I had to visit the legendary LA vegan doughnut shop, Donut Friend, where I enjoyed a hazelnut-cream glazed doughnut that was amazing.

After that, I visited several downtown pocket parks, all of which impressed me with their lush beauty amidst the urban pavement and auto traffic.

That evening, Nathalie and I enjoyed a catchup talk on her balcony, over a dinner of incredible sandwiches she treated me to from Maciel’s Plant-Based Butcher. (I had been dreaming of that place since my last visit, more than a year ago. If you find yourself in LA, go! They have two locations.)

The following afternoon, it was time to ride my freshly tuned bike and its trusty trailer from Highland Park to my new cat sit in Los Feliz, just south of Griffith Park. It was a gorgeous day for the move (my rain curse was finally broken!) and I was pleased to find that most of the nine miles were on car-free bike paths.

There was a steady climb at the end, but I made it to my destination in time to meet the host momentarily, and receive the keys in person.

And this sit has been everything I dreamed it would be. What a wonderful way to spend my week in LA, and my final week in SoCal for the season.

The condo was built in 1976, and it has a wonderful feel I probably can’t convey in words. For me, it evokes Simon and Garfunkel’s The Dangling Conversation (although that was released ten years prior) in the best possible way. It is spacious yet warm-feeling, light-filled yet cozy, full of lush plants and midcentury furnishings… this space is definitely one of my favorites from the past year and a half I have been cat sitting, and I hope I can come back sometime.

And the cat!

Ellie was one of the sweetest and easiest-to-care-for cats I’ve sat for… but her facial expressions have often been comically surly! (Her people have assured me that this is her standard demeanor.) I hope you’ll indulge me; I can’t help sharing an extensive gallery of her scowls, but also snuggles and flops. It will be hard to say goodbye to her tomorrow.

While I’ve been in this place, I have been out and about exploring the city, too. I went back to the OsteoStrong in Studio City, enjoying classic subway views along the way.

Then yesterday, I took a spur-of-the-moment trip out to Pasadena, to meet a man who had contacted me after stumbling across my blog.

Peter lives in a sort of ad-hoc community in Altadena, largely tied to a classic (40-year-old!) vegan grocery store and cafe. Sadly, the store was closed when I visited, since the proprietor was taking a short medical leave. (I wish I could have met him, because he sounds like an amazing person.)

But I had a good chat with Peter, and got to meet a few of his housemates, one of whom was a turtle named Slider!

It was another gloriously sunny day, so we all enjoyed the front yard while we talked about community, traveling, and bicycles.

Then today, I had another spontaneous adventure when I made my way up to the Griffith Observatory lawn to take in the partial eclipse. I took the bus partway, then walked up seemingly endless flights of neighborhood stairs until I reached the dusty path upward to the observatory.

Along the way, I met another interesting man, Shin, who has lived in LA most of his life since arriving from Japan with his family in 1979. Shin had his adorable dog Percy with him, as well as some mats for sitting on the ground. Neither he nor I had managed to find eclipse glasses to bring (I had visited five optometrists’ offices yesterday afternoon, to no avail) but I was relieved to discover once we arrived that the gift shop was indeed selling them, despite their website’s warning that they would not be available today.

It was really cool to hang out on the observatory lawn, with probably a few hundred other people, for about two hours, and watch the moon slowly take a bite out of the sun. It only obscured about half of it, so we didn’t get cold or dark, but it was still surreal to experience.

The descent from the observatory afterward provided the incredible view of the city I had seen for the first time about a month ago, when I did a sit in Burbank, and had a magical meeting with a new friend at the observatory.

Tomorrow morning, I will rise early and bicycle about seven and a half miles to LA’s Union Station, to board the train back to Portland. (No rain in the forecast on either end—fingers crossed that holds!)

As always, I’m looking forward to the journey. I’m also feeling incredibly full and joyful from this past wonderful week, and these past wonderful two months in California. I’m so proud and grateful to have manifested about half of my original plan from twelve years ago, to live in San Diego from December through March. Maybe I can manifest that fully next year. For now, I’m excited to spend the next six months in my beloved Portland.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Last days in San Diego

4/1/24

Well, this is it—my last day in San Diego County. I’m spending the night in a hotel in Carlsbad, before my Portland friend Daniela picks me up tomorrow and drives me to LA. (She’s been staying in Imperial Valley for the past week or so, and will be driving all the way back to Portland, so I’m lucky to catch her on this early leg of the trip.)

I had initially planned to take the Greyhound to LA two days ago. I bought the nonrefundable ticket several days ago (oof, $32 down the drain) because I believed it was my best—actually only—option, and I also believed that if I didn’t jump on the purchase, the price would increase. (Pretty sure I was correct about that, and when I did later try to push it back by a day, the additional cost to change the ticket date was going to be $35. Argh!)

But then—of course!—severe rains came to San Diego (complete with flood warnings) and I feared getting completely drenched on the 6.3-mile bike ride from my sit to the Greyhound stop, which would not have made for a fun ride.

I further feared having to wrestle the sopping-wet rig into the cargo hold of the bus. (It would have cost me an extra $30 to go by the book and pay for the trailer, so I had decided to try my luck sneaking it on, which was a successful strategy a few weeks ago when I last took the Greyhound to LA. But my fear-mind couldn’t help envisioning a torrential standoff with a cranky driver—as faithful readers will know, this has happened twice recently—and ending up forfeiting the bus fare anyway, plus being stranded at the transit center, having already locked the house key inside when I left.) Rain was also forecast for LA that day—including flood warnings—and I would have had to bicycle a significant distance there on the other end of the Greyhound ride, including a formidable hill at the end.

So, I sprang for a $67 nonrefundable hotel ticket for tonight here in Carlsbad, and took up my affable and generous cat sitting host, Steve, on his offer to stay the previous night at his place. This way, I could catch the ride with Daniela, since she was to be coming through the area Tuesday.

I’m glad I did this. It gave me two more days in the San Diego area. I admit I was somewhat chagrined to discover that I actually probably could have made it to the Greyhound stop just after the day of rain stopped (literally, about half an hour before I would have needed to go) but given everything I was juggling, I can’t have any regrets: I made the best decisions I could given the circumstances. (That is what this lifestyle is all about! And I always choose not to have regrets; I know I’m always doing my best.)

Anyway, this morning I packed up my things and said goodbye to Steve and the kitties, and had a gloriously sunny and leisurely ride through Mission Bay over to the Old Town Transit Center. This was the same place I would have caught the Greyhound, but this time I caught the Coaster (which was running!! Yay!!) and decided to take it past Carlsbad all the way up to Oceanside. I had about three hours before check-in time at the hotel, so I moseyed my way south to Carlsbad, stopping to rest and relax at every park I passed.

Actually, back in 2021, when I was still planning my year of travels, it occurred to me at one point how cool it would be if I made a “policy” of stopping to rest on a bench in every single park I bicycled past. I didn’t end up doing that—sometimes I was on a tight timeline—so today I thought back on that idea, and realized that with my current lifestyle of cat sitting, I am more able to take the time to do so.

I’m so happy to be living this life!

Tomorrow, after the ride to LA with Daniela, I will spend the night at my cousin Nathalie’s place in the Highland Park neighborhood. Then I’ll spend the following week on a new cat sit in LA’s Los Feliz neighborhood, just south of Griffith Park.

I will leave you with a new picture gallery. First (including the “cover photo” of one of my favorite buildings on the Prado) are scenes from Balboa Park over the past few weeks. All my previous posts have been too full of other photos to include these, but I have to share pics from my beloved cactus garden.

And, on this visit I also explored the eastern edge of Balboa Park for the first time, and loved the spring-tree feeling there, as well as a view of one of San Diego’s many canyons, just east of there.

I also want to share some scenes from yesterday’s stroll through the Pacific Beach neighborhood, where Moppet and Mittens live.

And lastly, a few shots of those two cuties. I’ll miss them.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

San Diego drawing to a close

3/28/24

Wow, I’ve been in SoCal for almost two months now. The time has flown. I’m very sad to think about leaving soon.

I’ve got two more full days here in San Diego, and then a little more than a week in LA… and then I’ll be boarding that Amtrak for Portland on the 9th!

I plan to write at least a couple more blog posts from down here. This time, I’ll just do a catch-up of my life from the past couple of weeks. There hasn’t been anything as dramatic as in my last post, but it’s been a pleasant time.

Probably my top accomplishment has been filing my taxes, which I finished yesterday. It seems like they get more complicated each year, especially now that I’m mostly a gig worker juggling multiple Schedule Cs. And it’s hard to no longer have W-2s, and withholdings: even with my extremely meager earnings this year, I still owe more than $400.

Oh well… I’m living life on my own terms, and mostly loving it!

After I left off from my magical stay in Hillcrest last time, I moved onto my next cat sit, less than three miles away in South Park. But I did not escape my moving-day rain curse, despite a completely sunny forecast. When I got on my bike to make the move, within a few short blocks, some clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped.

Within a few more blocks, it was a downpour! (I repeat: the day’s forecast was for bright sunshine, with no clouds or rain.) I took shelter under the eaves of a Mexican restaurant, then ventured out again when it lightened up, then ducked into a parking garage when it started pelting again.

Eventually I made it to the home of my next adorable charges, who had awaited me patiently.

That was a short sit—just three days—and thankfully, it was sunny the day I moved out. Unfortunately, though, I was not able to find a place to stay with a cat sit nor a local host, so I ended up shelling out a couple hundred for a hotel for two nights. (I did use my new AARP hotel discount!) The “vacation” from responsibilities was nice, although the hotel was within about half a mile—if that—of the runway at the San Diego International Airport, so there were loud planes flying directly overhead most of the time.

I used the “downtime” opportunity of that middle free day to go out to Ocean Beach, which is a neighborhood I always enjoy, but hadn’t been able to find a sit this time. It’s rather out of the way from the parts of town I usually prefer to stay, near Balboa Park, so without a car it takes some time to get there. I strategically chose the hotel’s location to be about equidistant from both neighborhoods, and I biked over to OB that day. I got to visit my beloved vegan fast-food restaurant Plant Power, and also the Ocean Beach People’s Food Co-op, San Diego’s only cooperative grocery. (And right outside, a Little Free Library, complete with one of my favorite childhood Richard Scarry books!)

Once again, the forecast had called for sun, so I hadn’t brought a raincoat. Before you know it, though, the clouds started rolling in, and my friend Michele in Escondido texted me that they were having a downpour, complete with thunderstorm(!) up there, about 30 miles north.

I decided to head back to the hotel. The bike ride back was lovely, except for two things: 1) I was racing the rain (and nearly made it, though it started to drizzle by the time I got back to the hotel) and 2) a piece of my rear fender fell off while I was riding!

I was able to recover some of the part from the bike lane in the street, but I later realized there were a couple more parts I will need to get it repaired. The bike is still functional without this part, but it is now clunky and awkward to fold and carry it.

Sadly, there is only one certified Brompton shop in San Diego, and it’s on the island of Coronado, which is not convenient to get to. When I called the shop, they said they would need to keep the bike overnight to make the repair, which just would not have been feasible for me. I called an LA Brompton-certified shop near Union Station, and the mechanic I spoke with said they have those parts in stock, and can do the repair while I wait. So I’ll hold off until I get up there.

Biking along the harbor on the way back was probably the highlight of the day. The bike path offers a view of the downtown skyline, and with the clouds it was especially striking.

That evening in the hotel, I had my magical meeting with Ellen’s friend Hope, whom I had mentioned in my last post. Hope is indeed a magical young woman, currently in Illinois but soon traveling to Germany for a Workaway experience. I’m excited for her!

After the two nights in the hotel, I loaded my rig onto an express bus from the nearby Santa Fe train station up to Escondido, where Michele very generously rescued me from homelessness in her house for the next four nights.

On my way to her place, I stopped by Grape Day Park, which I always enjoy for its vintage railcar.

We went on a few excursions with her coonhound Dawa, and one day Michele took me to a hidden gem: Queen Califia’s Magical Circle! It is indeed a magical place—especially fun for kids, who could get lost in the mirror-mosaic-walled maze—designed by a French woman artist, the late Niki de Saint Phalle.

The next day, we went for a walk with a dog-walking client of Michele’s, Hunter, during which we saw some beautiful green hills (the rain undoubtedly helped!) and some beautiful snails. I’ve been surprised to see a lot of snails in this area.

The following day, I got to meet up with Trina and Phil, just about a mile up the road from Michele. These were the two whose cat, Lily, was the one to bring me down to SoCal in the first place, for a sit in February.

After that, my friend Tamara, who lives just north in Temecula, drove down to meet me and took me on a nice hike at nearby Dixon Lake. It was cool to catch up in person; we hadn’t seen each other since she moved away from Portland a few years ago.

Finally, about a week ago, I boarded another bus (in the rain, again!) to get back to San Diego—Pacific Beach, this time—to care for my new cuties, Moppet and Mittens. (I love the Beatrix Potter reference!) Mittens has been quite shy, but Moppet has made up for it with her snuggles.

And to top it off, the back yard contains an amazing orange tree that is now in season. It has been dropping about an orange a day for me, which I have thoroughly relished at breakfast time. (There are also a few strawberries just now ripening!)

I’ll definitely be sad to leave this city. I’m so glad I’ve been able to spend almost two months here this time, and I’m looking forward to my next stay here!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Rainbow network full circles

3/16/24

Wow, wow, wow.

This is a long one. (“Strap in tight, ’cause it’s a long, sweet ride!”)

It’s been a little more than two weeks since my last post, and I can’t believe how much has happened between then and now.

When we left off, at the end of February, I was just finishing up a sit in Mission Bay, near the beach. After that, I headed up north of LA, where a sit in Burbank was waiting for me. But first, I stayed with two wonderful Host a Sister women, one in Moorpark and one in Northridge. On my way up to Moorpark from San Diego, though, I found myself in a transportational pickle.

Having seen that the Amtrak Surfliner train was still running its “bus bridge” between Oceanside and Irvine, I decided instead to bike from Mission Bay to the Old Town Transit Center to catch the Coaster train, to take it to Oceanside and then transfer to the LA-area Metrolink train up to Moorpark.

Once I arrived at the transit center, though, I discovered that the Coaster was not running that weekend.

Doh!!

I managed to find that Greyhound had a bus departing that transit center for Oceanside within about an hour, though, so I breathed a sigh of relief, although I would have much preferred to take a train than a Greyhound, especially a $6.50 train vs. a $15.98 Greyhound.

But I dutifully made my way over to the stop, on the side of the street. I bought a ticket through the Greyhound app. I debated whether I should add a $19.99 ticket(!) for “bulky baggage.” I was quite certain that my trailer, and possibly also my bike, would qualify as checkable baggage that should be paid for. I also knew, however, that most Greyhound drivers don’t seem to care about such things. But I fretted that I had already hit one transportation snag in the day, and I feared what might happen if the driver somehow did decide to bar me from boarding. Reluctantly, I parted with the extra $19.99 for the baggage.

The bus arrived 40 minutes late. By then it had started to rain, and our stop was uncovered. Luckily, we didn’t have to stand there long enough to get drenched, but the raindrops did take a further edge off an already tricky day.

To add to this, I found that my $19.99 had indeed been wasted: after loading all my own baggage while the driver was checking in other passengers, I went to him to scan my ticket. He looked at me quizzically. “Why do you have two tickets?”

Argh.

Oh well. On the bus, on our way!

When we arrived at Oceanside, I wheeled over to the Metrolink train stop to wait. Soon, a transit center employee came out to tell me (and the family also waiting for the train, who had just spent $60 on all their tickets) that the Metrolink was not running that day.

Apparently that whole section of track was being worked on, so that’s why there was no rail service along that stretch.

But… seriously??

OK, what to do next?

I wanted to save my money by using the Amtrak gift card a generous friend had recently given me, so I preferred to take Amtrak rather than another Greyhound. I decided to book that “bus bridge” ticket after all, from Oceanside to Irvine, and then transfer to the Surfliner train for the rest of the ride to Moorpark.

All went well with the bus bridge, although after disembarking I did have to wait nearly an hour in Irvine for the Surfliner train to arrive. Fortunately, the rain mostly held off during that time.

But when I got on the train, I received a stern lecture from an exasperated conductor, shunting me to a different car specifically for bikes, and yelling that “bike trailers are not allowed on this train! It’s right there in the rules!”

I was flabbergasted.

Bike trailers not allowed on the Surfliner??

I had managed to board and stow it myself on the trip down from LA in February; I guess a conductor never saw it that time. It had never occurred to me that trailers might not be allowed.

Grateful to be aboard and on my way, I was still quite rattled. I hate breaking rules and upsetting people, and I also hate the idea that I can’t take the Surfliner anymore. It is a beautiful route, along the ocean rather than the freeway, and it is the primary way to get between LA and San Diego by rail. But the conductor kept yelling, “For future reference! For future reference!” so I don’t think I can chance running into him again with the rig. Guess it was fun while it lasted…

I set aside my worries for the time, and did my best to enjoy the ride. When I disembarked in Moorpark, I did see that some other bicyclists had joined the car, and indeed the space was filling up, so I could appreciate the reasoning behind the ban. But Amtrak needs to figure out a solution for this. Multimodal travel is important.

My friends Dave and Melissa met me at the train platform, and we stopped at Moorpark’s only vegan restaurant—Vegiterranean Kitchen—which I had sadly missed visiting on my last trip to Moorpark because of my soggy shoes. We picked up some food to go, and went back to enjoy it at their house while we caught up on our lives.

The visit was brief, though, because I needed to get to my new host Patricia’s place. As it turned out, she lived only about a mile away from Dave and Melissa. Dave gave me a ride over, and those two met and chatted about vegan potlucks and neighborhood things. I love it when I can facilitate people meeting each other; it’s a big part of what my life and travels are about!

Patricia was a warm and gracious host, with a cute Siamese kitty named Teddy. Patricia and I had some great conversations, and she even introduced me to some of her friends at a brunch meeting the next day.

When it came time for me to go to my next host’s house—Janeece, in Northridge—Patricia kindly offered me a ride, which I appreciated because I was now skittish about boarding the Metrolink train. (What if they also claimed I wasn’t allowed onboard? How would I then get back to San Diego?)

When we arrived in Northridge, Patricia and Janeece got to talking, and it looks like those two might begin a friendship as well! It felt cool to be a part of that possibility.

Janeece and I also had some juicy conversations. She is interested in becoming nomadic with her van, so it was cool to talk about life, aging with grace, traveling solo as women, etc. She also told me about a nearby Japanese garden, which I was happy to bicycle over to see while I was there.

The following day, when I was planning to bicycle 20 miles to my cat sit in Burbank, the forecast was looking foreboding, and Janeece happened to have a doctor’s appointment in Burbank. She gave me a ride, which I appreciated more than most rides I have ever received: the sky absolutely dumped, for the entire ride and then some.

She dropped me off at Kari’s apartment, where I was to spend one night as a guest, then take care of her two cats, Flash and Cali, for the next week. Kari and I had a lot in common, and we ended up talking for seven hours straight!

During that time, she told me about an amazing woman, Alex, who reminded her a lot of me. She had been the other applicant for that cat sitting gig. She is also a car-free full-time pet sitter, but currently based in LA. I recognized a great potential magical meeting, and asked Kari for an introduction.

Sure enough, a couple days later, Alex took three buses from Pasadena, while I took three buses from Burbank, so that we could meet up in person at the Griffith Observatory. Alex had been there before, of course, but I never had; in all the times I had visited LA over the years, I had never seemed to be able to find a way to visit there.

I’m so glad we did! The building was beautiful, and so were the views, and we had a wonderful in-person magical meeting, talking about the TV screenplay Alex has devoted her life to developing over the past two and a half years. She has been shopping it around, and from what she told me about the concept, I think she will find a way to make it a reality. I’m so excited for that! (Dear reader, if you have any Hollywood connections, feel free to reach out if you think you could help!)

When it was time to leave Burbank and return to San Diego, I wasn’t sure how to do it. No Surfliner, obviously. Could I take the Metrolink to the Coaster? What if one or both weren’t running?

I ended up deciding to take the Flixbus. They had one running from downtown LA—a 12-mile bike ride from Kari’s place—straight to Balboa Park, just a few blocks from where I would be staying with my next hosts, Lynne and John. I had heard about Flixbus, a German company, when they first arrived here in the US a few years ago. I had always been curious to try riding. They recently acquired Greyhound, too, so it was easy to book the bus from the Greyhound app.

After my recent experience with the Greyhound driver’s apathy about extra fees for baggage, I thought I would try my luck just boarding with a ticket for myself. I figured I could load my own bags, and no one would care. I even checked the app for the fullness of the bus; it looked to be only about half booked, so I estimated that there would be plenty of space underneath for the bike and trailer.

The bike ride to the Flixbus lot was mostly quite pleasant, mostly along a car-free bike path along the LA River. One stretch along that path was pretty awful, though: first, it was harrowing to cross a major four-way street with no crosswalk or light, to get onto the path. When a kind driver stopped for me and helped me to cross, that’s when I saw that the bike path itself was barricaded by a chain-link gate. It was padlocked shut.

What??

What was I supposed to do?

Just then, a French-accented gent on the other side of the gate stopped and picked up his bike, carrying it through a huge hole in the fence, which only then became apparent to me. I asked him if the path was open on the other side, where he had come from, and he assured me it was.

Thank goodness.

But getting through that hole meant I had to take apart the whole rig, and carry it piece by piece through the opening, with a big wire cable running diagonally through it.

Folded bike through? Check. Empied trailer through? Check. Bags through? OK. Now to reassemble it all…

And I was on my way. But on a couple of occasions, I saw cars driving on this very-obviously-car-free path.

Oh, Los Angeles.

I arrived at the Flixbus lot, and waited in the designated area with a group of people, some of whom, I later learned, would be boarding another Flixbus all the way to Las Vegas.

When my bus pulled up, and the cargo hold door opened (remotely!) I started loading my things, even though the trailer is quite heavy and bulky and awkward to load. Hardly anyone else was loading any bags, so my plan seemed to be working perfectly.

And then the yelling and waving of hands began.

“You! With the bike! Take that out of there! We don’t take bikes on this bus!”

I was dumbstruck.

What?? This progressive, German bus company was telling me bikes can’t go in their buses?

“And that cart! That’s way over the dimensions! We don’t take those either! Get ‘em out, get ‘em out!”

I found myself on the verge of helpless-rage tears. How was I supposed to get to San Diego?

Eventually, after much back-and-forth, one of the staffers was kind enough to go inside the building and return with a garbage bag. He put the folded bike into the bag, then insisted I take the wheels off the trailer and put them into the garbage bag as well. I did so as carefully as I could—fearing damage to either the bike or wheels—but the driver was yelling for me to hurry the whole time, that I was holding up the departure. I shoved everything into the cargo hold—giving myself a nasty bruise on my thigh and a small abrasion on my knee—and boarded the bus, thanking the driver and other employee profusely while the driver continued to glare at me.

We took off, and were on our way.

At the stop before Balboa Park—and then again when he dropped me off in the park—the driver took the opportunity for further “explanations” and complaints about the fact that I was on the bus with prohibited items. He kept talking about liability. I kept thinking that Greyhound has never had an issue with anything like this, and the buses are the same.

Finally, the nightmare was over, and I emerged—bruised in more ways than one—into the gentle sunshine of the park.

Now the magic could start flowing again!

A little backstory:

Twelve years ago, I first visited San Diego on a “scouting trip.” I had begun making an escape plan from Portland’s winters, having sloshed through 22 of them at that point, and having been about ready to be done with them after the first ten. My plan was that someday, somehow, I could spend about four months a year—December through March—in San Diego, with the remainder in Portland. My vision at this point is a bit more flexible, and geographically farther-reaching… but it was a cool plan at the time, and honestly, if I were able to manifest it long-term, I think I’d still be pretty happy.

On that first scouting trip, back in 2012, I visited Balboa Park for the first time. My friend Ember had said to me with a knowing smile, “Oh, you would love Balboa Park, Maren!” She was so right. I clearly remember walking along Upas Street on that first trip… specifically the segment between Park Boulevard and the canyon just to the west of there… and thinking, “Wow. How amazing would it be to live in one of these houses? I wonder if there could be some way that I could bring that about… some magic…”

I hadn’t thought much about that since. For most of the times that I’ve visited this area, I’ve made a point to find an AirBnb not too far from there, roughly around Florida and University. It’s been close enough for my purposes.

And now with cat sitting, of course, I’ve been taking the sits wherever I can find them: University Heights, Mission Bay, South Park, Pacific Beach…

But I needed a couple of days of fill-in before my current South Park sit began, so I looked on the Servas website.

And what should I see, but a house just about two blocks away from that tiny, specific segment of Upas Street that I had dreamed about all those years ago!

I reached out to Lynne, and she graciously confirmed that I could stay in their backyard AirBnb suite for the two nights of a traditional Servas stay. She and her husband John were quite busy during that time, so we wouldn’t be able to spend much time together, but she invited me to join them for breakfast both mornings, and I did. It was great to connect with them, and talk about travel and life, as we Servas folks always do.

And being in that lovely space in their backyard for two days felt like a dream come true. It even occurred to me that my initial dream—“living” in one of those houses—might have been overkill. Was more than two nights really necessary? In that one full day in between, I was able to appreciate the closeness to the park that had drawn me in all those years ago.

The second part of the magic happened during that full day.

You may recall that almost exactly five years ago, I had a life-changing epiphany in a little “spur” of Balboa Park that I had never visited before. That was when the “rainbow network” became a part of my consciousness—a part that has guided my life ever since, and that I believe will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

That little spur of the park is just a few blocks away from their house. After I was returning “home” after a few errands, I decided to ride a couple of blocks out of the way, to see if it was possible to enter that part of the park from the neighborhood to the east of it, rather than from the north, as I had originally done.

It was.

Looking carefully, I spotted what appeared to be an enchanted staircase descending from the residential neighborhood.

I hesitated for a moment; it looked like it might be private property.

But then I realized that if it were, there would be a sign to that effect.

So I locked up my bike on a nearby signpost, and began to descend the staircase.

Within a few steps, I found myself within an enchanted world, even beyond what I had hoped to find. When I had had the epiphany five years ago, the park felt otherworldly, but not especially beautiful, in the January gray drizzle.

But now, it felt like a scene out of Heidi, in the Swiss Alps. Trees were newly green with spring growth, flowers were blooming bright yellow and purple, and sunlight was dappling it all.

I stood in that first shady spot, and drank it in for about five minutes.

When I emerged into the sunshine a few steps later, things looked and felt a lot more ordinary. But as I continued to walk with a sense of wonder, more beauty seemed to spring up all around me.

After a few more steps, I gasped as I found myself at the “intersection” in the path where that initial vision of myself as a glowing green Christmas light had appeared. And as I retraced my steps and came back around the way I initially had, I reached the spot where the whole rainbow-network vision came to me.

As with the first time, I stood there for several minutes, just soaking it all in.

When I returned to the house that evening, I felt that I had completed both a 12-year and 5-year cycle by being there. It felt so powerful.

Earlier that day, I had had another cool connecting-with-the-past moment: I had walked over to the main part of the park, in the northern part by the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic, in search of a bench to sit and relax upon. Just as I found one, I saw a sign nearby: Blind Community Center Pollinator Garden.

This reminded me of Ellen Starr, the amazing woman in Princeton, Illinois with whom I had a very serendipitous meeting on my way out of town about a year and a half ago, and who had then told me that her goal was to make Princeton the “pollinator capital of the United States.”

So I had to text this photo to her!

She replied quickly, enjoying the sign, and told me that she had recently met someone who reminded her of me! Of course I asked for an introduction to this woman, named Hope (I love it!) and our magical meeting is now pending. I’m looking forward to meeting her!

This blog post is incredibly long. I will sign off here shortly. But first, I want to make an update to acknowledge the incredible kindness and generosity of two parties—one individual and one couple—whom I won’t mention by name since I assume they would prefer that, but who made some very generous gifts to me after reading about my recent financial struggles. If you are reading this now, thank you again; your gifts have helped me to breathe a little easier!

Also in that vein, offers for paid cat sits have been coming to me pretty regularly now, for this summer in Portland. I now have possibly up to six paid sits waiting for me when I return, which feels amazing after doing mostly unpaid ones for the past year and a half. Perhaps the tide is turning for me…?

And still, there are always more opportunities to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” such as discovering that I may owe a few thousand dollars in taxes for last year—oof!!—and also having my lodging for this next week fall through, so that in this moment I’m not sure where I will be sleeping tomorrow night, nor for the following five nights.

But I’m smiling! This life is an adventure, and for all the challenges, there is tremendous beauty and magic around every turn.

Thank you, as ever, for following along with me.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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SoCal so far: rain, shine, challenges, and beauty

2/29/24

Wow, how did more than three weeks go by since my last post? Time flies in the sunshine, I guess…

Actually, however, the first week of my time in San Diego County was marred by almost constant rain. It was a “trial by flood” for me: so painful to leave the rain of Portland to reach the sun down here, and yet have my familiar pattern repeat itself: this was at least the fourth or fifth time in the past dozen years that my “sunny winter SoCal getaway” has turned out to be rainy and/or cold, despite continual protestations from the locals that “this never happens here!”

Honestly, that was a rough week for me, not least because the rain also seemed to prevent my host’s internet from working well (we’re not in Portland anymore, folks!) so I forfeited a good chunk of my projected week’s Cambly earnings when I was simply unable to connect to the platform. (Foreshadowing, as it turned out—more on that below.)

But after forcing me to endure that meteorological “hazing” week, the weather gods relented, and since then it has been mostly sunny skies and warm temps, and I am loving every minute of it!

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the past three weeks, but here is a brief summary:

I stayed for just over a week with some wonderful hosts in Carlsbad. (That’s Kimberly holding the umbrella over us outside her front door, shortly before she departed for her excursion to Antarctica!)

I have sat for three adorable cats so far: Lily the ebony beauty in Escondido, Theo the gorgeous tabby in University Heights, and Phifey the snuggly cutie here in Mission Bay. (Theo was lucky he was so pretty—his youthful antics tested my patience daily! The other two kitties, though, were a sitter’s dream: snuggly cuteness coupled with easygoing personalities. At this very moment, in fact, Phifey is fast asleep, snuggled up against my leg here on the couch.)

I have been out and about to reconnect with a number of friends from over the years, and to see many beautiful natural places.

Those places include the Bottle Peak County Preserve;

the San Diego Botanic Garden;

a couple of parks and beaches in Encinitas;

the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden;

Mission Bay;

and La Jolla, including a lovely bike path and Seal Cove!

This pic of my muddy rig is from the Coaster, the regional-transit train between San Diego and Oceanside to the north.

That was the day I moved from Carlsbad to University Heights, and got thoroughly soaked. (In a bizarre twist, almost all of my moves between hosts or sits here have taken place on the few rainy days we have had. You could almost set a clock to it. I’m heading up north of LA day after tomorrow, on the 2nd, and rain is predicted once again, after nearly two weeks of sunshine. I will have an all-day multimodal journey by bicycle and multiple trains on that day.)

Remarkably, though, kind friends and hosts have offered me rides on some of those rainy days, saving me from soggy misery. But that one day (and, I fear, this coming Saturday) I faced the elements on my own. Thank goodness for rain gear, transit vehicles that can accommodate my rig, and space heaters to dry out waterlogged shoes at the end of the day!

The sunshine has indeed been the balm for my soul that I had hoped for. However, my time here has not been devoid of challenges, beyond the weather and transportation.

My finances are once again stressing me out. I have less savings in my emergency fund now than at any point since I began my travels in September of 2021. Coming down here by train cost me a pretty penny. I gauged it to be a worthwhile expense, given how strongly I wanted to not only be in a different weather pattern, but also to prove to myself that I was making progress in my life goal to do so. (Living multiple months of the winter here has been my goal for at least the past twelve years, and this is my first time to actually do it. Woohoo!!)

I therefore don’t regret the expenditure, but it has been made all the harder when unexpected extra expenses have arisen, such as higher cost for OsteoStrong’s monthly membership in California, coupled with the three-month moratorium on selling the plasma I used to sell to fund that, as a result of my December colonoscopy. The most recent shock, though, was receiving Cambly’s email the other day, notifying me that as of March 11th, their website will no longer be accessible from California. (Despite the fact that Cambly is based in California, the company has run afoul of the state’s labor laws, since they pay only $10.20 per hour, well below the state’s minimum wage, and also treat workers as contractors rather than employees.)

I can appreciate that the state of California wants to do right by workers; that is commendable. However, since nearly all my meager income does derive from that tutoring work, I will now be out about $500 for one month, at the same time that some of my expenses have increased.

Yikes.

It’s hard to know what kind of work I can do to fill in, in the meantime before I get back to Oregon and will be able to use Cambly again.

I am necessarily nomadic at this point, so anything I do can’t feasibly be in-person work. I have tried applying for online data annotation work, but I don’t think I passed their screening test, because I never heard back. I have tried offering some paid travel consulting or by-donation life coaching sessions online, but had little response. (One person did take me up on it, and we had a great session—if you’re reading, dear travel planner, thank you for that!)

In addition, another wonderful friend “fairy godfunded” me a $250 Amtrak gift card(!) which is allowing me to comfortably take a trip up north of Los Angeles for about a week and a half, since I hadn’t been able to find any cat sits nor hosts in the San Diego area for that particular gap.

This is exactly the sort of support I appreciate the most—it is directly aligned with both my work in the world, and my joy in the world.

That is the “prize” I’m keeping my eye on: to care deeply for myself and keep my self-care and joy as a priority, while also committing myself to doing my work in the world, to make this a better place for us all.

In that vein, I am continuing to do magical meetings with folks around the world, including—just this past week—South Africa, New Zealand, and Utah. From one of those folks—a fellow Servas member—I learned of two intriguing overseas possibilities I may look into: NALCAP, for tutoring English in person, in Spain(!) and Peace Boat, an amazing-sounding ship based in Japan that sails the world in service of peace and intercultural understanding; they are also seeking English teachers.

I’m keeping my eye out for opportunities for “day job” kinda stuff (let me know if you know of anything that might be a good fit) and I’m also continuing to lean into trust that my heart is my compass, and it knows what I am to do on this earth, and that if I keep committing and re-committing myself to it, the material resources I need will find me, as I need them. (Know any fairy godfunders who may feel a resonance with my journey? Feel free to introduce us!)

As always, thanks to you all for witnessing and supporting me in my journey. I wish you all a magical March!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Beautiful multimodal journey from Portland to SoCal

2/5/24

Hello from the deluge!

Wow. It’s been raining solidly for more than 24 hours here in Carlsbad, California, and the forecast tells us to expect a few more days of this. There have been flood warnings in the area, and some places north of here, around LA and Santa Barbara, have been losing power, experiencing mudslides, and worse. (I read about three fatalities so far in the region as a result of all this rain.)

Fortunately, I am warm and safe and dry with my Host a Sister host Kimberly (and her friend, brother, and pug Ruby) and she has graciously offered me a ride tomorrow to my upcoming cat sit in Escondido, 17 hilly and soggy miles east of here.

Kind and generous hosts continue to be a theme for me, especially from Facebook’s Host a Sister groups. Since my last blog post, I stayed for nine nights in northeast Portland’s Hollywood neighborhood, just south of the Alameda ridge, with a woman named Dee and her family. Coincidentally, during five of those nights I had the house to myself, when they all were vacationing in the San Diego area!

Small world.

Dee dropped me off three days ago at Portland’s Union Station, and my southbound adventure began!

I’ll mostly leave you with these photos to tell the rest of the story. A few notable items, though:

On the train, we didn’t see much rain, but skies were very cloudy and overcast for much of California (surprisingly not Oregon—that rainbow is from the stretch between Portland and Salem) which made for a different experience from the usual scenery. Normally, the sun sets spectacularly over the ocean, just north of Santa Barbara, on the second day of the journey. The darkening of the sky was much more subdued this time.

When we arrived in LA at about 9 pm, the rain was just starting. It made the 2.3-mile, mostly uphill, bike climb to my hotel less than wonderful, but I made it there and got a good night’s sleep, managing to capture a few cool night shots of LA along the way.

In the morning, I headed back to the train station to catch the Surfliner train to Oceanside.

However, the train only took us as far as Irvine, where track work (I think) forced us all to transfer to three buses to cover the final 40-minute leg of the journey.

Once in Oceanside, I set out on my bike ride with quite a bit of wind in the forecast. It did show up later—in the form of a headwind, of course—and even some blowing sand to complete the effect.

But first, I had mechanical troubles when my recently “repaired” trailer hitch began malfunctioning, dropping the trailer off the bike while I pedaled, no fewer than three times in a ten-block stretch. Thankfully, no harm came to the trailer nor anyone else on the road or sidewalk, but it was a stressful and dangerous situation.

Fortunately, when I stopped for lunch at a cute classic natural-foods store, I spotted a bike shop right across the street. They were able to help me out, and I got back on my way.

Much of the ride took place on a dedicated car-free path, right near the ocean. The sunny skies were wonderful, and I was biking in a T-shirt. This was what I came down here for! Later, some darker skies loomed, but miraculously, I completed the 13-mile bike ride a couple of hours before this relentless rain began.

And when I pulled up to Kimberly’s house, what should I see in her front yard, but a Little Free Library!

Small world.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Winter intrudes

1/22/24

Wow. Wow.

What a couple of weeks.

Those of you in the US, or other cold climates, are you holding up OK? Here in Portland we have finally thawed out, as of yesterday/today, but wow, that was a challenging stretch.

I’m extremely grateful for 1) never losing power, in all four places I stayed during this time; 2) always being warm enough; and 3) kind people—both previously known and unknown to me—who stepped forward to help me when I was struggling to navigate it all.

For those of you who may not know, Portland didn’t used to have very cold or snowy or icy winters. Temps might dip below freezing a bit, for a few days each year. We might or might not get a couple-few inches of snow, which would magically shut things down for a few days… and then we would get back to the rain and highs around 45F/7C.

Now, the new norm seems to be at least one major (at least for us, since we are not municipally well prepared) storm each year.

In this case, temperatures plummeted as low as 15F/-9C, and hovered around there for several days. Then the mercury rose to within a few degrees of freezing, and stayed there for about a week. Meanwhile, we were having various combinations of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and regular rain, which then made all the ice on the roads and sidewalks extra slippery.

I began the storm at the luxury NW Portland apartment of one elderly kitty by the name of Mac, who unfortunately had had a very dramatic gastrointestinal disturbance shortly before my arrival. (His people told me that this happens to him about once a month.) By the time I walked in, a few hours after the couple had departed, he had seemingly purged the contents of his entire digestive tract—from both ends—onto almost every hard and soft surface in the entire apartment. I felt bad for him, of course (and couldn’t find him at first, which worried me, but I eventually discovered him under the bed) but I was also gobsmacked by the breadth of “destruction” possible by one small senior kitty.

I texted his people, and they walked me through a cleanup routine which actually ended up being more effective than I would have guessed. After a few hours—including about 30 minutes of using baby wipes on all hard surfaces, followed by two loads of laundry for the bed and sofa covers—the place looked totally back to normal. And Mac, having literally gotten it all out of his system, seemingly felt fine for the rest of the four days, just relaxing on the bed.

After an initial grocery stockup upon my arrival, just before the temperatures dipped below freezing, I didn’t leave the apartment for the next four days of the sit.

Unfortunately, by the time the sit was over, the weather was still below freezing, and I also didn’t have another sit for another two days. I put out a call to request friends and members of various hosting groups to host me. Several people did offer, but unfortunately all of them were either on the east side of the river or in the western suburbs. I knew I wouldn’t be able to navigate those distances on my bike, and the MAX trains and streetcars—which could have accommodated my rig, unlike city buses—were all suspended from service because of the temperatures.

I knew I had to stay within walking distance of that sit. But that limited me to very few options, and also cost me about $150, which I could ill afford.

Despite the cost, I was eternally grateful that the wonderful NW Portland Hostel was able to make a weather-related exception to their policy of not allowing guests with local ID. I stayed there for two nights, and it was a delightful experience in their vintage buildings.

My walk over there with my rig—about 16 blocks—was surprisingly comfortable, given the 27-degree (-3C) temperature.

There was no precipitation falling, and I even caught a cool reflection shot of myself in front of Portland’s classic old movie theater Cinema 21.

Arriving to my room the first night, I was so grateful for the warmth and coziness! They even provided a free bagel-and-peanut-butter breakfast the next morning.

Unfortunately, however, after that first night, a fire sprinkler outside the hostel succumbed to the temperatures, and stopped working. They couldn’t repair it, because the part they needed to replace couldn’t be procured with all local hardware stores closed for the weather.

Therefore, to be safe they had to shut off the water to the building where I was staying. Fortunately, the neighoring building had open rooms, so they gave me a key to a new room. I was initially reluctant to have to pack up everything and move to the next building on the ice—with a light rain falling—but once I did, I found that the new room was much larger and more deluxe than the original! Cool free upgrade.

After those two nights, the streets were still looking impassable by my rig, and the trains still weren’t running. (And even if they had been, they would have only carried me about half of the 6.3 mile/10 km distance I needed to travel, some of it uphill.)

The hostel folks were kind enough to let me leave the bike, trailer, and even my suitcase in their basement storage room, locked up securely, for the extra two days of my cat sit in SE Portland. I packed a few extra items from the suitcase into my backpack, and set out with the backpack, my smaller hydration backpack, and a few extra layers of clothes on my person—none packed, for lack of space—to catch a couple of buses for about an hour’s journey.

On the first bus, shortly after I boarded I witnessed a tense confrontation, between a slightly built elderly woman in obvious mental-illness distress and the bus driver. The passenger appeared to be homeless. When she boarded the bus, she began speaking and moving aggressively, especially towards the driver. A fellow passenger—a security guard on his way to work—stepped in to help “encourage” the woman off the bus, but it was very tense because he seemed to have little to no empathy for her, and in fact seemed to quietly relish the possibility that he might need to physically remove her. When she finally did get off the bus, he boasted to the driver that he had brandished his knife to intimidate her.

So… back out she went into the barely-above-freezing temperatures. Everyone remained relatively physically safe, but no one really won in that situation.

The bus drove on, eventually depositing me at my transfer point, but we just missed the transferring bus, so I had to wait, with one other passenger, for another 15 minutes, at an unsheltered bus stop, on a solid sheet of sidewalk ice, while rain fell on us. Fortunately, my clothing kept me warm and dry, and I made a conscious effort to keep a smile on my face, knowing that everything was working out for me in one way or another.

We boarded the new bus, which then dropped me off three blocks from the cat sitting house. The walk to the house looked and felt treacherous, but I made it with no falls.

Inside the house, a portly and droll mustachioed feline, aptly named Groucho, welcomed me into the warmth and coziness.

I thawed out there for the next two days, but not without some stress, since my food rations were running low, and getting to the grocery store in those conditions was out of the question. I also didn’t want to order any grocery or restaurant delivery, since that would have put the delivery driver in danger.

I had lined up a welcoming couple, via Host a Sister, to host me just about a mile away for the following two nights, but despite my best efforts to trust life, anxiety continued to gnaw at me for the two days of that cat sit, seeing that the ice out front was not budging.

Not only would I have to travel the mile to get to their place, I would also need to stop for a few essential groceries—including badly needed toiletries—and I also would need to go all the way back to the hostel, across the river, to retrieve the bike, trailer, and suitcase.

How was I going to do this? I guessed that maybe, since I had rain pants and rubber-palmed gloves, I would just need to crawl on my hands and knees—balancing both backpacks and a plastic bag of a few extra items—the two or three blocks to the bus stop. Once I got to the hostel via those two buses again, I expected I would need to order an Uber (a $25 gift card for which Mac’s folks had given me to offset the unpleasantness of my extreme cleanup experience) to drive me and the rig and suitcase back to SE Portland. But would the Uber driver want my grungy belongings in their car? Would they fit? I expected I would need to pay extra for a larger car, but I still wasn’t fully confident that all drivers would welcome my extra “baggage.”

Argh!

However, after a humorous-but-slightly-pitiful-sounding post I made on Facebook, a miracle-worker acquaintance of mine sprang into rescue mode. She let me know that she lived near the house of the couple who were my final destination of the day, and that she had an AWD Subaru as well as some STABILicer spiked shoe covers she could loan me. She was willing to pick me up from the iced-in house; take me grocery shopping; buy me lunch (she insisted! and the lunch included chocolate, at her further insistence); take me to the hostel; wait while I retrieved all my belongings from the basement; help me to load them into her car; and then carry me back across the river to my new hosts, Hannah and Matt.

Wow. Gratitude does not begin to express how I felt. (And when I messaged her again later, to thank her once again, she made a point to volunteer any future “ferrying” of my rig, if needed. Some people are absolutely amazing.)

I had a great stay for two nights with Hannah and Matt, while the ice and snow slowly melted outside. I ventured out for lunch at a nearby vegan restaurant the second day, and happened to run into a longtime acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years; apparently he has lived in that neighborhood for twenty years!

Today, I made the trek—via my rig, hallelujah!!—from their house to my old friend Alison’s house, also in SE Portland, which she shares with her husband and their housemate, who apparently is also a cat sitter! I will be here for two nights as well.

Meanwhile, as of this afternoon, I have managed to line up lodging and/or cat sits for the remainder of my time in Portland, which takes a big load off my mind.

I have also lined up a couple of confirmed, and several hopefully-soon-to-be-confirmed, cat sits for February and March all around the San Diego area, including—for those of you who know—Escondido, Carlsbad, University Heights, South Park, Point Loma, and Mission Bay.

Wow.

Magic and human kindness are real, and as long as I can keep my anxiety in check—a work in progress, but I’m pretty proud of how often I succeed these days—I can really enjoy the journey!

I hope you are all staying warm and safe… and joyful!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Heading back to California!

1/11/24

I’m so excited! In December, I completed all the medical procedures that had brought me back to Portland this time, despite my distaste for the weather here. I’m so happy to be on the other side of all of that! And, as a silver lining I have managed to capture a few nice “mood shots” of some of my bicycle and transit adventures here in the rain and early darkness.

Now it’s January, and I’m choosing to stay another month here because I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting in person with my former partner, now close friend, Johnny. (Who, by the way, after an extraordinary past seven years manifesting an incredible Japanese healing garden inside the maximum-security Oregon State Penitentiary, will be seeing the parole board this year for his first time, after 26 years of incarceration. If you know and love Johnny—even just through me, as I know many of you do—and if you’d like to possibly support him in his bid for parole, please let me know! It’s going to take a village, and he will need everything from letters of support to employment opportunities, to housing, and more, in order to put together a viable parole plan.)

But meanwhile, I’ve been yearning to get back to the warmth and sunshine—especially since Portland has a polar vortex on the way for about a week, starting tomorrow, with temps dipping down to 15F/-9C—so I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself to get back down south.

And the other day, that opportunity presented itself! My friends Trina and Phil, in Escondido just north of San Diego, will be visiting Portland in early February, and offered me to cat sit for their sweetie Lily while they are gone.

I have visited Trina there before, for a magical meeting on her beautiful jungle of a balcony overlooking the pool, so I’m excited to do this! I also have other friends in Escondido and San Diego I’m hoping to see (including my friend Michele, who took that top photo of me on the beach back in 2016) and my intention is for this one-week sit to launch me into at least two months in southern California, doing various sits as I can find them. (Do you know anyone around San Diego or LA who might need a cat sitter?) I’m looking forward to also connecting and/or staying with various friends and Servas, Warmshowers, and Host a Sister hosts. I’m excited for all the new and amazing people I will be meeting!

Speaking of which, I’ve had a wonderful past week, with many magical feline and human connections. First, I sat for two really mellow and cute kitties in the Pearl district, Monte and Theo.

Then, I stayed three nights with a wonderful Servas couple in Westmoreland. (Like me, they also moved to Portland in 1990.) Most recently, I’m now being hosted by an incredible woman from Host a Sister, just a few blocks away from my condo here in SE Portland! I’ve got one more night with a friend of a friend here in SE tonight, then four or five nights with a wonderful sweetie of a 13-year-old kitty named Mac, in NW Portland.

I’m finding that it continues to be a growing edge for me to navigate finding places to stay. I’ve been living this lifestyle, in one way or another, for almost two and a half years now, and it has been absolutely wonderful. I’m always having meaningful adventures, and I never get bored! I meet incredible people at every turn. This is the life of my dreams! But wow, it was a bit of a nail-biter for me this past week, when I had a six-day gap between sits, and was struggling to fill it. It has worked out swimmingly, though, so I’m choosing to trust that I will also find just the right place—either a sit or a host—for next Tuesday and Wednesday, the 16th and 17th. After I sit for Mac—and before I sit for the next cutie, Groucho, in SE Portland on the 18th—we will have sub-freezing temperatures and quite possibly snow. I am concerned about how I can even navigate safely to whatever next host I find. I will put it out here, just on the off chance that anyone reading here might know someone who could host me for at least the 16th, and maybe the 17th, in NW Portland within about half a mile of 21st& Raleigh. If so, please feel free to work your magic and connect us!

But as my current host Carolyn reassured me last night, magic has been holding me so far, and it will continue to do so. I will find the perfect, wonderful place for those two nights, and I’m excited to discover where, and with whom, that might be!

And, I have already manifested nearly $200 of that $600-$1000 I need to head south. It happened within about 24 hours of my making the decisive choice to take the trip, so I trust that I am on the right track for my life’s continuing journey, and the rest of that money will find me in the next few weeks.

And… on February 2nd, I am so excited to board that magical Coast Starlight train once again, to the land of sunshine!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)