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The Emasculating Hostel

Posted on November 10th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

I stayed at a hostel in Dallas.

It was an interesting place, completely informal. I had to follow some strange instructions printed on the front door of what was otherwise just a large house. The instructions asked me to wander around to the back and knock on the door there.

I did.

“Hello?” The apparent owner of the establishment came and opened it.

“Uh, Hi.” I responded.

“Hi.” He retorted.

“Um, is this a hostel?” It certainly appeared to be one. There were quite a few people of various nationalities milling about, mostly watching TV. Not to mention the sign on the door that read, “hostel”

“Yes.” He answered as if this was a strange conversation to him.

This was followed by an awkward pause. I kind of figured my desire would be obvious. I’m at a hostel, I need to stay a place for the night. I kind of figured he would offer, or ask if he could help me. Something.

“Can I get a place to stay for the night?”

“Sure!” It’s like he finally figured out why I was there. He didn’t seem to be slow or unintelligent. I actually think he was just shy, which seems really odd for an owner of a hostel.

Since I still didn’t have cash, and he wouldn’t take a check, we worked out me paying him through Paypal, which cost a couple of extra bucks, but I suppose it worked.

He showed me my bunk. It was covered in plastic with a thin sheet thrown over it. It was the middle of three bunks. I had to find some method of climbing into it while laying down. I had about two or three vertical feet, not even enough to bend a knee up.

All told, it was a nice warm bed for not much money.

The other people milling about the hostel kept to themselves. I heard bits and pieces. There was one girl who was hitchhiking across the country with her backpack. She managed to get a guy in a big rig to drop her off at the hostel.

There was a couple from Germany, and another group that was speaking some Asian language.

All told, they make my little trip look weak, driving about in my car, staying with friends and family and in my own country. It felt strange to have my endeavor emasculated without intention in this way. Luckily I distracted myself and stopped worrying about it.

I arrived early in the evening and sat down to write a post, an endeavor that took several hours, as usual. Due to this, and the fact that I left early the next morning, I didn’t get a chance to see much of anything in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.

I did notice one thing. The drivers are more timid than anywhere else in the nation. Most of them are, anyway.

I think it is because there is so much space. In New York, where I’ve found the most aggressive drivers, there is no space. There are many cars and not much road. Drivers must go where they need to go, and everyone else must get out of their way.

In Texas, there is enough space to be gracious to other people and expect them to be gracious in return.

Gracious drivers are not necessarily good drivers. I’ve had people stop on uncongested quickly moving through streets to let me pull out from a stop sign.

It may have been the gracious thing to do, but it was unpredictable and thus dangerous. If they had just kept driving I would have been able to pull out behind them just as quickly as waiting for, and figuring out why, they stopped.

I have never seen so many people afraid to merge as I have in Texas. In traffic, merging usually only requires the most basic establishment that the person behind you sees what you are doing, usually established with a handy signal built into your car. People are really good at reading the “body language” of cars.

They can see a car that is about to change lanes, and they will give them space. If they don’t, they will cause an accident, and no one wants that.

In Texas, people seem to be unwilling to trust that they will be given access to a lane. They will drive with their signal on until there is an extremely large amount of space before they move over. At one point, while stopped at a light, I had to honk at someone who had stopped with his car halfway between two lanes. He was looking back at me like I was going to drive through him or something. Just drive. Go.

Of course, not everyone is timid. There is still a portion of the drivers that will not signal or wait for you to notice them.

I prefer an entire population of predictably aggressive drivers to a partial population of gracious ones.

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Oklahoma, at least it had my bank.

Posted on November 13th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

This is scenic Oklahoma.

I’m not being sarcastic. This was the most scenic view I could find on the more scenic of the two “scenic” turnouts I had crossed in the past 10 miles. These turnouts are almost certainly the best possible use of few thousand dollars of taxpayer money, after all, they were certainly the most scenic parts of Oklahoma that I saw.

I was on the way from Texas, to Texas, on a route that I slightly modified to take me through Oklahoma.

See, the easternmost Bank of the West is in Southern Oklahoma, though there isn’t any in Texas or New Mexico. It wasn’t terribly far out of my way to drive to reach one of the bastions of money storing utility. I could finally put a PIN number on my card so I could answer the prompts on the LCD display of any ATM machine or POS sale doohickey.

It was describably relaxing to watch the teller count the cash and put it into my hand. So describable, in fact, that I would describe it to be as relaxing as being secure in the knowledge that I had cash. I could finally pay just about anyone for just about anything.

I don’t really know much about the Oklahoma City bombing. I know Timothy McVeigh exploded what I think was a truck full of manure based explosive inside the federal building, killing over a hundred people, including many children that were in the daycare section of the building.

Of course, that is one opinion. The other, as was espoused to me by the man who seemed to have nothing better to do than espouse these things, was that the whole thing was a government orchestrated conspiracy plot. He kept repeating himself in a mumbling fashion without actually describing how the government would benefit by blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City. He couldn’t even explain why the government blamed a domestic bomber instead of foreign terrorists, as they originally assumed.

I finished taking pictures of the memorial and, failing to find the ice cream cone that I found myself craving, I hit the road.

Oklahoma City is the very center of Oklahoma. The drive to it from the south was so boring that the earlier scenic picture can be described a highlight. The drive from the City to the east was just as boring. At least the Midwest has corn and soy, Oklahoma has nothing.

Except for these guys. Maybe they should have just stuck with "wide load."

I also still had nothing to listen to. My podcast directory was entirely dry and I was growing really bored of having my music on random.

That’s when I got a genius idea. I still had the audio book of Travel’s With Charlie in the backseat of my car. I could listen to it again.

I popped it into the deck and began listening to the tome that had helped to guide the beginning of my trip. I first listened to the tape when I was about a week into my trip. Now, on my tenth week, it had new meaning for me. For one thing, I now had a scale for my trip. I’m at about 15000 miles in just over 2 months. I figure I have 2 or 3 thousand miles and a few more weeks to go, putting me at about 17500 miles in three months. Steinbeck traveled 10000 miles in roughly the same amount of time.

Amongst other reasons for this, he almost certainly drove slower, especially considering his 1950’s truck with the living quarters stacked on the back. I have more observations about his trip, but I’ll leave those for a later post, maybe even a reflection piece when I’m all done.

Steinbeck helped me pass the time until I arrived at my destination, the Palo Duro Canyon state park in Texas. It is labeled to be “the Grand Canyon of Texas,” proving, once and for all, that not everything is bigger in Texas.

The Canyon is just outside of the city of canyon, located just south of Amarillo Texas, the place Steinbeck had to stop for a few days so a vet could nurse his poodle, Charlie, back to health.

I arrived after the gates were closed, but there was a little late arrival campground provided for people like me. I cooked myself another MRE while I shot some long exposures of the remarkable night sky.

Then I got bored. Real bored. I have been so over stimulated for this entire trip, that I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself.

I spent a little while taking pictures of the deer in the field right by the gates. I’m not sure what chemical light provides a green light like this, but it sure provides for a nice picture.

I also got creative and took a long exposure self portrait.

After this last exposure, my camera battery died.

Unsure of what to do, I made a few phone calls. I was lucky enough to have a good cell connection. I spent a couple of hours talking to friends and family back home as I wandered about the premises.

Finally, I got tired enough to go to sleep under a wide open sky featuring canopy of more stars than I’ve ever seen or even knew existed.

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The Grand Canyon of Texas

Posted on November 13th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

I woke up shivering. I was in a sleeping bag rated for this weather, wearing a sweatshirt, beanie, and scarf, with every drawstring pulled tight.

It was 4:30 AM. Too early.

I rolled over so I was breathing into the hooded section of my sleeping bag and went back to sleep.

I woke up again at around 7:30 AM with the warm Texas sun beating down on me. After cooking some oats for breakfast, I headed to talk to the ladies at the entrance gate. They gave me a campsite to stay at that night, instructions for where to go, and the best trail to hike.

I found my campsite. It was unspectacular. There was no grassy area to sleep on like there was in the late night entry place so I would have to sleep in my car if I stayed the night. There was, however, a place to set up a campfire, something I had really hoped to be able to do the night before. I looked around at all the other neighboring campsites. Only one was occupied and the owner seemed to be packing up to leave.

I wasn’t entirely sure whether I wanted to stay for another night or not.

Regardless, I drove to the recommended trailhead and checked out my route. The guide said it was an 11 mile round trip. That seemed like a good distance.

I resolved not to take any pictures until I was at the far end, on my way back. That way I would both have a scale for how interesting things were, and I would be able to see everything at least once without examining everything else for it’s photogenic qualities.

I walked a 2.5 mile trail, a 2 mile loop, and the same 2.5 mile trail back.

I’m not sure how that qualifies as an 11 mile trip.

I got back to my site and cooked myself lunch. I took a can of whole kernel corn, a can of precooked chicken breast, and a cup-o-noodles. I emptied the water from the corn and chicken breast into the pot and set it to boil. While it heated, I ate a can of soup. These cans are great appetizers.

Once the water boiled, I poured it into my cup of noodles. After the noodles softened, I ate a few bites, added some corn, ate a few more bites, added some chicken, ate a few more bites, and added some more. It was absolutely delicious.

It ought to be, I figured that with the soup, corn, chicken, and cup-o-noodles, not to mention the salt water everything was packed in, I ingested about 200% of my daily value of sodium.

It’s a good thing I drank so much water on that hike.

It was time to make a decision. There was a roughly 6 hour drive ahead of me to Santa Fe and it was 2 PM. With the time change at the edge of Texas, I would make it by 7 PM.

I didn’t really feel like another hike and I couldn’t come up with anything else that could possibly occupy me for the rest of the day, much less the night. I couldn’t even get cell service in the canyon.

I stopped on the way out at the gift shop/ranger station to pick up that ice cream cone I’d been craving since Oklahoma. It tasted great, after all, it was more salt.

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Another Film School

Posted on November 13th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

For the second time on this trip, I stayed with someone I met before I left. Will, my host in Santa Fe, was my best friend in middle school. We practically grew up together. We didn’t hang out quite so much in high school, though that was where we both got a start in film.

Our high school, Analy High, had a magnificent video program. The teacher wasn’t exactly wonderful, we quickly taught ourselves enough to feel like we could teach the class better than her, but she was very good at one important skill.

Getting money.

I would take a teacher like her, one knows that she isn’t incredibly knowledgeable, yet is able to get enough money to keep the program adequately funded over the opposite. The teacher that is somewhat knowledgeable, thinks they are incredibly talented, and is entirely unable to write a grant or get money from a managing group, seems to be far more common and is far more frustrating.

Will and I both went to video school. He went to a tiny private school in the southwest, I went to a tiny private school in the northwest. While College of Santa Fe, his school, is half the size of Pacific, the film department is 3 or 4 times larger.

I’ve become used to touring the film departments of other schools.

I’ve become used to being jealous. It is so easy to tour some other place, see all the facilitiesand equipment that place has, and become jealous. CSF has a whole theater with a 16mm projector next to a digital projector. A modern digital projector.

Pacific has a multi purpose room with a few uncomfortable couches and chairs that can be brought about to see the smallish pull down screen. There is one old projector that may have cost a fortune in its day, but could be replaced with a pretty cheap one now. Maybe a new projector could show the color red without bleeding it to the right, creating a horrible smear that destroys the mís en scene.

This is obviously not the full story. While I would kill for a department that didn’t have to live in the basement of various buildings, that didn’t lose the serial key for expensive necessary applications, I would not give up the people at Pacific for anything.

I was not impressed by the people at the CSF. There were a few cool people, sure. By and large, though? I could see myself getting real bored and frustrated, real quick.

There is so much riding on college, so many differences and so many things to choose between.

Should I go to a big school and blend in, but have a huge alumni base and massive amounts of school spirit, or should I go to a small school, be unique and noticeable, but struggle to stay proud of the institution?

Should I find a well funded program that made so many of the greats we all look up to, or should I go to the poorly funded program, and make my own name?

To make it even worse the decision has to be made in high school under the pressure of actually being accepted or not.

It is so easy to regret a decision about college. While I may feel pangs of regret that I didn’t have this or that, I can always take a step back and a deep breath. I went to Pacific. I have met incredible people and learned important things from them. Besides, the grass isn’t always greener over there.

The cafeteria at CSF was pretty bad too.

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Local Color

Posted on November 13th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

I didn’t have any plan when I left Santa Fe. Well, not much of one anyway.

I knew I was going to head towards four corners to try to find a campground of some sort so I could spend the night for cheap.

I didn’t get on the road until the early afternoon, so I crossed into colorful Southeast Colorado. Naturally, the brown sign declaring the state to be colorful is the same color as everything else in the state.

There are some remarkably beautiful brown things here, but they are still brown.

I drove towards what I thought would be an open campground until I got to Cortez, Colorado. It was about 7 PM, so any gates would be closed, though I might be lucky enough to have a late entry place like there was in Texas. I expected there to be a small road that lead towards the campground leaving out of the west side of the city.

There wasn’t.

I realized I had no idea how to get to this campground.

I drove back into town and checked on the prices at a motel that offered WiFi. I figured I could at least get some writing done.

Her price was above what I paid at the three star place in New York. There was no way. I went back and sat in my car and tried to do some research on where I could go. I was getting tired.

I needed some caffeine. Luckily, the motel shared a parking lot with a diner.

I sat at the counter and ordered my coffee. Ever since I listened to Steinbeck again, I’ve tried to stop for coffee more often. I always do it the same way. I walk in, ask the waitress or hostess if I can just get a cup of coffee. She’ll sit me at the bar or a table, bring the coffee and ask if I want any cream. Nope, just sugar. Real sugar, please. I can’t stand the nutra-fake stuff. I always use two packets of sugar. This is regardless of the size of the coffee or the packets of sugar.

You get some interesting local color in diners. Rarely are these people the top crop of society, but probably good for an inward laugh.

“They’re real short handed today,” the guy at the other end of the bar said.

“Oh?”

“One of the waitresses didn’t show up today, and it’s been real busy.” I’m sure he would have told me this even if I hadn’t prompted him. I looked around. He was right. It was pretty busy.

“I’ve worked in a restaurant before,” I said, “I know how frantic it can get when you are short a hand.” I realized he might be able to point me to the cheapest place in town, or maybe some other option. I didn’t know, I decided to hint at what I wanted. “I’m trying to find a place to stay for the night,” I opened.

He either missed it or ignored it. “It’s like when a dishwasher doesn’t show up. I’ve washed a lot of dishes, you see. When a dishwasher doesn’t show up, you’ve got to make up for the guy who isn’t there. Everyone expects you to do the work of both of you.”

This was not only a repetition of what I had just said a moment earlier, but it had a blatantly obvious statement tacked on to the end of it. It would be one thing if he was just complaining, but it sounded like he was actually trying to teach me something about the world.

Maybe it was the way I looked at him, but he paid for his coffee, got up, and left.

I followed shortly after, ending up a motel across the street that was considerably cheaper, and possibly even nicer.

The lobby had a couple of old couches and an iron stove. An elderly gentleman came out and asked if he could help me. There is so much inflection that a person can put into a statement that simple. He said it in the manner of a person who honestly wanted to make sure I got what I wanted.

It was really refreshing.

The room was clean, the WiFi was slow, the TV wasn’t cable, and the beds were comfortable. I wrote a post, talked to some friends back home, watched the one movie I had brought with me, but never got a chance to watch, and promptly fell asleep.

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