Aaron is walking around America. This blog exists to help him connect with people while he is away and for anyone who is interested in following him on the path. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Aaron's trip, blog and route are under a bit of reconstruction. I guess an adventure of this scale was bound to have a few kinks in the beginning.

I appreciate your patience and that you come here to check on the progress and state of the trip. Please bare with me until I can provide more information.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just one more thing to say about... SQUIRREL!!!

It had been a few days since I had walked any considerable distance. At least with my pack on. I had zipped around Portland mostly unencumbered. With my bags safely stowed away at the hostel, I screwed around town, racked up high scores on pinball machines and fantasized about being the worlds greatest male Tarot card reader.

Then the next day it was all about train rides and staying out of the rain.

And now that I was finally back in action, I was getting frustrated, almost immediately, that the days I took to rest did almost nothing to relieve the pain in my feet and calves.

I do not know when I became such a monumental wuss. Library softened me like a delicious pastrified Hansel and Gretel I guess. I know that Hansel tricks the witch in the popular version of the story; but in the moron version, where the two kids eat everything in sight and the witch porks out on baby German schnizles all winter long, well that is how I feel after 11 years of working in a public library. Soft. Doughy. Atrophied muscles. Ready to stuff any old part of a life sized chocolatey gingerbread house into my face without a second thought.

I had planned to go about fifteen miles to a "town", according to Google Maps, called Bridal Veil just after Multanomah Falls where a bed and breakfast with a vacancy hopefully awaited me. The foot pain mentioned above began before I got out of Gresham. The pain added with the rain, that was dropping just enough to piss me off, would have had me in a state of misery were it not for my mood being lightened by a group of high schoolers, or college age kids, who were walking down the street ahead of me.

One of them was clowning and goofing as he walked. He had perfected a kind of Jim Carrey/Jerry Lewis half-staggering, half-falling, jelly legged/flailing armed strut. The kind where it looks like his is always about to fall on his face. His friends were cracking up and so was I.

I like that I am not so old that I can not appreciate the humor of teenagers. Although I can no loner tell the difference between college kids and high school kids, I still have some connection to the good parts of that age. Whenever I see kids being themselves and not posing, or trying to act too cool for culinary school, it is always a good sign.

I followed Tony Stark street out of town and along a high cliff looking over a river. I crossed a bridge and finally, after about three hours had reached the road I had planned on traveling along for most of the day.

As soon as I reached the byway I found Dabney Park and I stopped there for half of my sandwich. As I ate the worlds slowest grey squirrel crept up to me like a zombie, looking for a handout.

It was creepy. I had never seen a squirrel move like this. He did not have ADD-jitters or hyper spasmadic disorders like every other squirrel I have ever seen. A combination of fear and free meal expectations energized in the body of rodent with the heart rate of a hummingbird. This squirrel however, moved with a deliberate slowness. Like Snoop Dogg approaching the stage to accept an MTV best rap video award. Awwwwwwww-yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.

He moved to within three feet and stopped, looking up at me with vacant, black baby button eyes. He held his paws in an awkward way. Not like a chipmunck with both paws grasping an invisible picnic basket under his chin; he posed, braced for action like a cage fighter. One paw higher than the other, away from the body, both off center. Freaky Nosferatu half inch long claws, casting shadows in the grass. Freddy Kruger claws. Wolverine claws. This animal could star as a heel in a live action remake of Watership Down for sure.

I tossed a piece of sandwich bread over his head just to get him away from me.

He stared at me for what seemed like a minute, refusing to budge. Eventually,when he realized that I was not going to throw him a piece closer to where he currently stood, he turned around and walked over to the bread and crammed it into his cheeks.

He returned, this time hoping up onto the picnic table, coming to within a foot and a half I tried to scare him away but he only backed off a little ways when I tried to shoo him off. I decided that I would wait to eat the other half of my sandwich in peace, packed up my stuff and d got the hell away from that sinister rodent before he started to haunt my nightmares.

I used the park restroom, climbed back up to the main road through a tangle of blackberries, without getting stuck once and tried to enjoy the view of the Old Scenic Byway from the shoulder that does not exist.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Mostly Good, The Occasionally Bad and the Unquantifiable Other

I have news, lots of it, almost so much that I am not sure where to begin.

For the last few days I wanted to get down to some serious walking. Before I left the hotel in Gresham, I was going to post about how the love I have gained for this blog was really slowing me down. It had become a form of digital masturbation. I am already an expert at self gratification to the extreme, so believe me when I say that thinking about what I am going to write next and getting a charge out of the comments from Youtube, Flickr, Emails, this Blog and now on a scrolling updating map that charts my path, was starting to border on the unhealthy. Alright, I will admit it, I was obsessed.

I know in my heart that not for uniqueness of this trip, which is not happening, because of all the blogging and bedmaking I have been doing, there would not be much interest in what I have to say. I took the truth of these thoughts to heart and I started a blog post stating how I was about to get back to walking and did not intend to post on the blog for a while. Which when I thought about it seemed pretentious and overkill and so much me-Me-ME all the time that I got a little bit queasy... Even for me.

So instead I just decided to head out and not worry about this blog for a few days. That it would be here when I got back. That a few days on the road would provide an excellent opportunity to have something amazing to write about and celebrate once I got back.

Instead I come to you now humbled, worn down, weakened to the core.




Aaron's trip across the country is about to undergo a drastic change. (The first change will be to stop referring to myself in the third person like a pro wrastler) I still have many things I want to share about the last few days. The things I have seen and done. The wonderful people I met, the things I have learned and loved and been frustrated by. Walking up to and peeking over the edge of quitting. One leg dangling over the jagged rocks and splashy waves of total failure below. I even told a few people that I was all done, which I regret doing now, but I think I have figured out a way to continue that actually heals my heart and gives me an opportunity to help people the way I have wanted to since this journey began.

More details coming in the next few posts.

Monday, May 24, 2010

This Message Has Been Approved by Aaron

Greetings this evening.

Aaron asked me (Barbie) to post a quick post here and let you know that he's been camping along the Columbia (near The Dalles but don't him I told you) with nary a wi-fi signal in range. (Just one of many reasons for my life long camping boycott.)

He will return here as soon as he can. Please stay tuned and know that he appreciates you checking in.

In the mean time, feel free to go read this:

Or this www.lessisbliss.blogspot.com.

Take care, ~ Barbie

Thursday, May 20, 2010


No lie: Portland is a cool town.

Being dropped off there after my day of hitchhiking, about three hours before my train left the station, I had a chance to cruise around the city and check things out.

It is an interesting place. Lots of free trains and buses and rail cars. Some guy tried to sell me an already opened can of axe body spray for 5 bucks. I ate lunch at a place called Hillbilly Bento. They had the daily specials up on a board, one for each day of the week. When I asked the couple behind the counter what day it was I could feel them give each other the suspicious eyeball. It's a strange feeling walking around without really knowing what day of the week it is. When they told me it was Thursday I checked the board, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo over dirty rice with a side. It was pretty darn good.

The guy behind the counter asked me if I was traveling and I told him all about the trip. They were both interested and he said that he has always had a similar goal of cruising around the country and visiting all of the MLB baseball stadiums. I thought that was a sweet idea and tried to support him in his enthusiasm, but my support is often met with kind of a strange look. More on this dynamic of trying to nudge people into doing what their hearts tell them to in a later blog post.

Eventually I went back to the station, but not before I stopped off at Ground Kontrol for a couple games of pinball, and waited for the train to arrive. These kids and their playful hijinx kept me entertained for a while as I waited.

Riding back to Washington for the weekend for my second weekend of rest and relaxation with Barbie was the perfect thing. We had a great couple of days together and in all honesty, I was not really looking forward to going back to the walking thing. It is becoming hard and harder to leave when I visit her and we have made an agreement to not come back for this weekend to see how this feels. It feels like a necessity if I am going to get anywhere in any amount of time I am going to have to be away for a while. Which I am also not looking forward to. *sigh* I love you ~B~.


When I returned to Portland to resume the journey I immediately went looking for a four and a half star hostel I had found on the internet. It was a lot closer than I thought it was and I checked in to The Northwest Portland International Hostel and Guesthouse. Here is a picture that reflects exactly what it looks like from the outside.

It was a nice place and staying at a Hostel is another thing I can add to the list of things I had never done before I went on this trip. That list is starting to get looooooong.

So after checking in I was able to leave my things in my room and run around town unencumbered by my big ass backpack. I decided to have dinner at this hole in the wall pub where a pleasant surprise was waiting for me when I got inside.

Seriously, Portland is an awesome pinball town. Even if you take Ground Kontrol out of the equation, just about every bar has at least one machine. Very cool.

After Rocking Monster Bash for over an hour I walked around after my dinner of a cheese sandwich and wrench fries. I found a Tarot Salon and was totally going to go in for a professional Tarot Card reading but alas, when I called the number to set up an appointment an automated messages said that the phone # could no longer receive calls. I guess hard times have fallen on the Tarot card readers same as everyone else.

I wonder if they saw it coming?

The next day I set out with the sun shining and the weather report predicting doom and gloom. I looked out my window and could see the bikers and dog walkers of Portland out in full force. Although to be honest they seem to be out at all times day and night regardless of weather conditions.

Some fun facts about Portlanders.

  1. Backpacks are required. Everyone, either on foot or on a bike is sporting a backpack. Sometimes two or three. It takes me back to my freshman days at high school when I was cruising around with my pee-chee and everyone else was trending Jansport wanna-bees. Only now I am grateful because with the huge pack on my back, I fit right in.
2. Everyone but me in this town has a dog. They collect and carry, with apparent pride, little blue bags filled with shit like kids collecting Pokemon Cards. I saw one guy with four bags in one hand, smiling and swinging his arm, looking like he had won a major prize, a major prize he won a major prize!

It did not take long for the weather reports to unleash their wrath. Soon after I left the whole town turned to gray. I hopped onto a rail car while it was still in the free ride zone and got a lift over to the library just as the drops started to fall. I went inside along with all the other homeless people and tried to wait it out.

After about half an hour I grew impatient and I left the library while the rain was still falling and made my way over to the MAX light rail. I climbed aboard the blue line which, if ridden out to its completion goes all the way out to a suburb east of Portland called Gresham.

"Remember Gresham.... Yoooooou... are my number one..... Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuyyyyyy..."

On the light rail, as the rain continued to pour outside, the train was packed with little kids. Kids are a trip. Little boys dodging cooties. Little girls playing those hundred hand slap games that are just as confusing to me now as when I was 7 years old. But as the train left the city limits and passed through suburbia the grade school class got off and enough room opened up for meadn my backpack covered in black garbage bags to have a seat.

I passed the rest of the train ride counting the stops till the end of the line, wondering what I was going to do once I got off. I wasn't really sure where I was and I did not know where I was going. I said a prayer, looking for guidence and a way forward. Slowly the train emptied its passengers until only a couple of people besides myself were left.

I am not sure why but I asked a woman if there were any hotels near the last couple of stops. She said that there was a Howard Johnson near the last stop which sounded like the nicest place I could have imagined. I asked if she could point me in the right direction and she said that it was on her way and she would show me the way. Her generosity kept me from wandering around in the rain aimlessly, searching for a dry place to crash. Yet another example of a cool person on the road who has given me a hand. For that I am very grateful.

And that is where I sit today. Dry and in the HOJO trying to decide if I should set out tomorrow morning or stay one more night. Bad weather forcasted again for the next couple days. I suppose if worse comes to worse I could let the Tarot Cards decide...

Things look pretty good from this reading. Except for that 17 of footballs Dave Krieg Card. Scares the shit out of me to try and imagine what nightmares that could possibly be eluding to...

Stay classy Portland. Peace.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Notes on Hitchhiking

I have a little hitchhiking synopsis I would like to share that I did not add to the last post:

1. People love hitchhikers, they just do not seem to love picking them up. Especially young people. Young girls on the way to town or the beach smiled and waived and gave me the peace sign many times. Young men in their Honda's with their loud mufflers and booming bass speakers honked and smiled mischievously and gave me a thumbs up. I waived and smiled and returned the playful gestures each time.

2. Even on a cool day, hitching a ride is thirsty work. Maybe it was all the concrete around me, but it was hard standing in the sun, even with the rushing wind of all the cars that refused to give me a lift trying to cool me down, it was sometimes uncomfortable in the heat. When I finally reached my destination my water containers were getting very low. Makes me wonder about all those times I passed by hitchhikers on a hot summers day or in the rain or at night...

3. Hitchhiking is Fun! I had a blast. It was so cool to do this thing that I had never done before. Meeting and talking to new people I had no idea even existed. People are so interesting. They all have their own little quirks and stories to tell. After a day of hitchhiking, I think that this is probably going to be one of those ways where my "walking" journey evolves into some other kind of journey that includes hitchhiking in more regular intervals.

Stay tuned. :)


Pete: Ain't nobody gonna pick up three filthy, unshaved hitch-hikers, one of them a loudmouth, know-it-all that can't keep his trap shut.

Ulysses Everett McGill: Pete, the personal rancor reflected in that remark I don't intend to dignify with comment. But I would like to address your general attitude of hopeless negativism. Consider the lilies of the damn field or... hell! Take at look at Delmar here as your paradigm of hope.

Delmar O'Donnell: Yeah, look at me.


I have picked up hitchhikers before. An accurate estimate would probably come to about ten times my whole life. And always out the Key Peninsula where I grew up. Hitchhiking is illegal in Washington but out in Longbranch and Lakebay and Home the rules have never really applied. I have, in the past, been scolded for this somewhat dubious practice. In my typically defiant ways I would blow these safety concerns away like a child playing parachutes off of a cliff with a dandelion.

Now, having experienced the other half of the equation. I do not think I will be inclined to pass by a hitchhiker on the side of the road ever again.

Not that I had a bad experience during my hitchhiking adventure. My mission was to get from St. Helens to Portland by 6:15 in the P.M. I started after I checked out from the hotel at 11. After walking the rest of the way through St. Helens when the sidewalk was about to end, I stepped of the curb and like polar bear diving on New Years day I just did it. I took the plunge. I thrust my left arm straight out, thumb skyward and began to count the cars pass me by as I trolled for a ride.

After about five minutes and 39 cars later, car number 40, a bright new candy red Pontiac Solstice two-seater convertible, being driven by a 60 year old woman, with long grey and black hair, part hippie, part Native American, part Hells Angel, Janet was her name, swooped onto the shoulder and gave me a lift. It was a peaceful, quiet ride. In Cannery Row, one of my favorite books, Steinbeck when talking about hitchhiking, explains that many people who are given a lift feel like they have to pay for it in conversation. He says that a good hitchhiker is one who knows how to enjoy the ride. It was an easy ride to enjoy. The sun was shinning. The wind was blowing in my face and through my hair with the top down in the convertible. It was too bad that she was only going to the next town over, Scappoose. And before I knew it I was back out on the side of the road again. I thanked Janet, my very first hitchhiker-picker-upper lady and decided that since the first experience was relatively easy and painless I would take a stroll through town before resuming the mission.

I just passed through but I found two cool little shops on the edge of town:

The Bread Place is basically a bread bank. The ladies there were so sweet and kind, even if they had an aversion to dust. I took a loaf of bread, left a donation, dropped off a few adventure cards and left feeling better about Scapoose. The Love Potion Shack looked like fun. Unfortunately they were closed for moving over the next couple weeks. Major bummer.

Outside of Scapoose I walked for a couple miles before sticking my arm out again. I checked the clock and it was 1:07 when I began my second attempt. I started counting cars again as before thinking that it would be as quick as the first time.

When I got to 160 I decided to stop counting.

When I had walked for about two miles with my arm out next to me, without even a sniff of a ride, I decided to stop walking.

I turned and dropped anchor at the top of a hill. With my supplies heaped at my feet it took over forty minutes for someone to stop for me. It was not a hot day, but after walking for a couple of miles, with clothes sweat-wet from the march, it can be frustrating.

The second man who stopped for me was a kind old feller named Zane. He drove and old rusty ford truck, wore a cowboy hat and jeans that were filthy as my old woodcutting pants. He is a Gideon. One of those guys whose specialty is traveling around to the hotels and handing out bibles. He was returning from making a run to the Bread Place and he had past me by going the opposite direction on the way there and decided to give me a lift on the way home. He was a little embarrassed for not having a Bible on his person so we went back to his house where he found a pocket sized copy of the New Testament. He handed it over to me saying that these little bibles are like love letters from God. I couldn't think of a more perfect a thing to say when handing out a tiny bible.

He drove me to a stoplight about a half mile down the highway where he thought I would have better luck finding a ride. We shook hands and parted ways. I took up a position on the other side of a bridge and continued on my quest.

The third ride I got was the charm. I was about thirteen miles away from Portland and after about another half hour, a man in a small blue nameless Toyota Four Door pulled over and gave me a lift. He said he was only heading into downtown Portland which was perfect. Big Jim was his name and he was a talker. He liked Boxing/Sparring at the gym, he liked sandwiches from the 7-Eleven, he had lots of opinions on places all over the country that I should visit. Big Bend in Texas. Montana. Maine and Vermont in the summertime were some of his suggestions. He talked about his criteria for picking up hitchhikers and said that I was putting out a good vibe. Good energy. I liked hearing that for sure.

He stopped at a smoke shop about ten blocks away from the train station. Pointed me in the right direction and sent me on my way. I am so grateful for all of the good souls in the world. I have not traveled very far but so far I have found that this is an amazing country we live in. I can not wait to see more of it and to continue to soak up all of the unknown and miraculous things still out there for me to see and do.

God Bless America!