Big Bend National Park, Texas; 6 1/2-hour drive from Austin (via National Geographic)
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico; 11 1/2-hour drive from Austin (via me)
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas; 1 1/2-hour drive from Austin (via Texas Parks & Wildlife)
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana; 6-hour drive from Austin via Most Beautiful Pages
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas; 4-hour drive from Austin (via me)
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona; 12 1/2-hour drive from Austin (via Geoff)
Saguaro Nation Park, Arizona; 13-hour drive from Austin (via Geoff)
Monahans Sandhills Sate Park, Texas; 6-hour drive from Austin (via Texas Parks & Wildlife)
Caddo Lake State Park, Texas; 5 1/2-hour drive from Austin (via Texas Parks & Wildlife)
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana; 4-hour drive from Austin (via U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
Life is interesting.
Sometimes it takes you to the Texas Gulf, on a shrimp boat captained by a man named Mauricio. On that boat is a beautiful woman doing aerial silks. While you watch her, your boyfriend is dressed as a sea captain and is aiming a fake firearm at a fictional person. Two friends are simultaneously filming these scenarios. You and Mauricio stand there staring at all of it; you try to speak with him in your newly learnt Spanish, but he laughs and corrects you. You discover through the beautiful girl, who is filming a crowdsourcing video for her festival to heal the bay you are sailing in, that the water around you is polluted by the plastic and aluminum factories she points to in the distance. All the sea life around you is toxic, and the beautiful woman plans on reducing the mercury levels in the bay by planting oyster mushrooms.
Sometimes life is interesting, and you’re in appreciation of it all.
Over the holidays, I took my sixth domestic train trip. Since my fear of flying creeped on strong about two years ago, my modes of transportation are now the car, the bus and for long distance, the train. (I don’t recommend taking the bus; it can be a sad and disorienting place.)
I’ve learned a great deal about American’s great passenger train, the Amtrak, over these past two years. A lot of friends have said that my journeys have inspired them to take the train themselves, which makes this blossoming rail nerd very happy. In case you’re interested in traveling via the train yourself, here are some tips, tricks and hacks for getting the best out of your Amtrak adventure.
1.) Spread yo’self out
During the slow season, you can easily claim yourself two coach seats and sprawl your fine ass out during sleepy hours. This is not frowned upon. However, if the train car does fill up, you gotta give up that extra seat. Don’t be the dick that pretends to be asleep when someone is looking (more…)
I can’t remember how our conversation started, but we talked from 8AM to 10:15AM. He was 60 years old, a truck driver. His daughter bought him his first smartphone, and he asked me if I could download a few apps for him. I was surprised how relaxed he was giving me his phone and personal information, but the train has a way of making you feel comfortable. I find myself sharing stories of my own life to strangers.
While I was downloading the apps, he began talking about his daughter who gifted him the phone. His face lit up when he spoke of her. “She’s an artist, a poet, a rapper. She’s cool,” he said. Many years went by where they didn’t see one another, and when he saw her again, he noticed that she had a very beautiful “female friend” with her. “You know, my daughter likes members of her own sex,” he told me. He mentioned God once or twice in our conversation, so I wasn’t sure where the conversation was headed. “She was afraid to tell me that she liked women,” he said. “Everyone in the (more…)
When I tell people that New Mexico is my favorite state, they ask why.
Why that grizzled old state?
If they have ever visited the Land of Enchantment, they end their conversation with, “Santa Fe and Taos are beautiful, but the rest of the state can go.”
Even as non-New Mexican, this comment cuts at my heart like a steel blade. You see, many people just don’t understand New Mexico.
It is the place you drive through to answer your California dreams.
You have a distance relative, Dancing Thunderbolt (not her birth name), who lives in a New Mexican ghost town and sells turquoise. You’ve never met her. A common family dinner conversation is how Dancing Thunderbolt hasn’t shaved her legs since 1976.
You know there is poverty. You know that there are Native Americans.
Maybe you’ve heard of Hatch green chiles or the Manhattan Project or Georgia O’Keeffe.
You’ve most definitely heard of Breaking Bad.
Is the state filled with meth labs?
But mostly you don’t think (more…)
Wilmington, North Carolina, is one of those idyllic coastal towns peppered with rose-lined picket fences, friendly neighbors, an old-timey Main Street and, in David Lynch’s version of the city, the occasional severed ear chilling in a field. Located just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, this town of 110,000 boasts a wonderfully weird arts and culture community nuzzled within 19th century storefronts and brick-lined roads.
I first visited Wilmington last year when our film played the Cucalorus Film Festival. Now in its twentieth year, Cucalorus has become an institution in Wilmington. Run by a colorful group of filmmakers and film champions, this interactive fest takes hold of the city for one week, with pop-up screenings featured across downtown. What makes this fest special is its seamless intertwining of the local community with visiting filmmakers. It is quickly jumping the ranks of top regional film festivals in the U.S., and filmmakers flock to attend. By the (more…)
I’ve clocked 125 hours on the train in the past ten months.
Ninety-six of those hours were spent on a single trip from Austin, Texas, to Syracuse, New York.
The train became my preferred form of travel after flying started setting off all kinds of anxiety alarms. The experience of going to the airport and then barreling through the air in a disorienting metal tube forced me to keep my feet on the ground.
After my initial train trip from Tucson, Arizona, to Austin, Texas, where I rolled out of bed from the hotel, walked across the street and straight onto the train, I became hooked. Every time I see the bright, streamlined body of the antiquated trains also sends a small chill through my spine. Even as a little girl, I loved the rhythmic sound of a train rolling along the track. Trains beckon to a time that I dreamt being a part of.
Though the train is extraordinarily inconvenient if you’re short on time, it’s the people you meet and the new landscapes you see that keep you (more…)
I met a lot of people on my recent 96-hour train trip.
I shared a story about the old man who looked like the main character in Up. He was traveling to Chicago from San Antonio, heartbroken after arriving the day after his sister had passed away. He was tiny and had an infectious giggle. Though sad, you can tell he is a man who loved his family and life.
The next story I’m about to share is of a man on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Today’s post is about the American vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. Or the drunk who just got out of prison.
Some of you who may follow my Facebook page have already heard this story, but I’d like to share it in more detail here.
A man gets on the train at 5AM.
He can’t sleep. In fact, he hasn’t slept in days.
He looks down at my sleeping body and wakes me up to say, “Hey, Girl. What’s up?”
I mumble that I’m sleeping, and he takes the cue to leave me alone. For now.
As I drift in (more…)
Last week, I took a 48-hour train trip from Austin to New York. Some of you have been following my adventures on social media (thanks for coming along for the ride!), but I wanted to share some more stories on my blog from the tracks. Amtrak didn’t pick me for their Amtrak Residency, so I decided to make my own.
When I boarded the train in Austin, my eye immediately noticed an elderly man that looked like the lovable character in Up. He was so tiny, with his pants up above his waist, and he wore oversized horn-rimmed glasses. He sat in silence by himself and stared out the window, lost in thought. One could only imagine what was going through his mind as he watched the Midwest glide before him. I wanted to talk to him, and I smiled each time he passed me, but I was too afraid to make conversation. I took a photo of him with the caption, “I want to know his story,” and I truly did want to know. What was he thinking? What did each line on his face represent? Friends online invented (more…)
Last weekend, I jumped in my car and drove to LA, like a goddamn fool.
I’ve been a huge pussy about flying and after crying like a little bitch about whether or not I should buy a last minute flight or make the 42-hour roundtrip car ride to LA, I decided to toughen up, throw some clothing, snacks and water in the car and head West.
I forgot how invigorating, then mind-numbing and then ass-hurting the drive to Los Angeles is. There is nothing quite like driving through the American Southwest. It is full of wondrous nature, breathtaking landscapes, terrifying truck drivers and even more terrifying rest stops with fluorescent lighting that makes you feel like the bimbo blonde wandering aimlessly in an 80s horror film. If you can survive the sleep-deprived truckers, the rest areas of night terrors and the monotony of the drive, then you feel like an American bad-ass after completing the trip.
The reason why I drove to LA is because my Dad lives out there (and I used to live there). (more…)