Rules

So this weekend Kt, Chad, Max and I went hiking to Wallace falls (see instagram). It’s a state park and as it was MLK day, the park had no entry fees. There was a fold out sign placed in the middle of the path, right at the trailhead, as well as a notice board with park rules and a large map. The fold out sign on the trail itself highlighted one rule in particular: ‘Pets must be leashed’ and that the consequences were a $99 fine per WA state law. (Other posters throughout the park stated an $87 fine, so I’m assuming it was recently increased). One poster even explained ‘Six reasons why you must keep your dog on a leash’. It featured a picture of an injured dog receiving treatment on a stretcher. We kept Max on leash all day long.

We met a couple with two dogs who were well behaved and even played with Max for a minute. Both were off leash. The best one, though, was a lady running down the trail in jeans with a full grown Rottweiler galloping behind her. The trail isn’t wide or paved: it’s a narrow and rocky dirt path cut into the side of a hill, with switchbacks most of the way up. At the moment this lady decided to come hurtling down the trail, yelling ‘I’m coming up behind you!’ like a semi truck blasting it’s horn, two other groups were passing each other, using up the limited space on either side. We politely stepped out of her way, and so did the group coming up the trail, and she just barreled past us all, big dog in tow. Off leash.

I was a bit irritated by that behavior. She was obliviously inconsiderate. If anyone deserved a $100 fine, it was her. We ranted about it half way down the trail, about following the rules. Even if a particular institution isn’t perfect in its application of rules or enforcement, the fact is they are not optional. If you consent to being a part of the community (state park users), even just by showing up and being at the park, then you have a responsibility to behave in accordance with the rules established for that space. There are consequences if you don’t. The least of which is being written about on this blog.

Despite the minor inconvenience of someone being rude, we had a great hike. It was beautiful, clear weather, challenging enough, let us talk, and reconnect with nature. All the reasons why we go hiking in the first place. I’m only concentrating on the negative observations to process them for myself, and consider thoughts about how people behave in certain contexts. A simple example is how someone talks on the phone versus how they talk in person. There’s a big confluence of factors that can explain someone’s behavior, and whether it’s caused by internal or external forces. An internal force might be your personality, an external force might be a sign on the wall that says ‘no cell phones’. It all comes back to our incredible capacity and potential. If I can do anything I want at any moment in any location, what combination of mysterious forces enable and restrict my actions? What causes me to decide to follow the rules, while other people feel entitled to ignore them?

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Travel Plans

I’ve come to realize how much I live to travel. I have my long term plan to drive around the US. In the meantime I have short term plans to visit nearby places by car:

  • Idaho (for work)
  • Canada (again, to see family)
  • California (for a family reunion)

Later this year I plan on using a week of vacation to visit the North East:

  • Washington D.C.
  • Philadelphia
  • NYC
  • Boston

I’ll fly out and catch the train between each city. I’m really excited to explore a part of America that is culturally diverse from what I’ve experienced so far. There’s a mix of history and modernity on the East Coast. I’ve never seen it, and never been there, but I have images of it my head. The idea of the NE mainly comes from popular culture, and people I’ve met who live or lived there. It’s foreign and I’ll be a tourist in my own country. I want to go because I think I’ll like it there. I want to go because I can challenge my preconceptions about those places with real and personal experiences.

Halloween

‘Laughing just to keep from crying’ – Rory Gallagher, “Bullfrog Blues”.

I was dressed as Captain America all day yesterday. After some pre-gaming at my house, some friends and I went to a house party. They had savory croissants with meat, lettuce and cheese. I ate five of them and no one even noticed. I danced through the house to Rock Lobster by the B52’s. We bar hopped the rest of the night, until closing.

Today I watched the documentary Maidentrip about Laura Dekker who was the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Her story is very inspiring. Strong, independent, and a complete badass. That’s the kind of person I want to become. She went through some things I can relate to.

Although my own transformation is still in progress, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in the last eleven months.

I try to stack up all of the baller things I’ve accomplished: living and working in America; driving my dream car; adventuring; and travelling (even as far as Costa Rica in eighteen days!). Playing soccer and trying to stay in shape. Partying with friends until the bars close. Dancing. I’ve got it together. I can manage the things that need tending to. I handle those responsibilities one at a time, shutting everything else down while I tackle a particular problem.

A feeling has been creeping up on me. I’m not homesick because I don’t miss Australia. I’m in a kind of fight or flight mode. Just when I think I’m okay, and swimming along, something will happen that threatens to pull me under. Usually money problems, like an unexpected bill. I impulse buy Nutella one time, and spend weeks fighting the resulting breakout. I notice how small my arm muscles have become. I’m treating these little frustrations as emergencies. I think it might be a while until I’m no longer in that state of mind. In the meantime, I’m trying to minimize disruptions to the fragile stability I have.

Sometimes it’s tricky to see the big picture of what I’m doing, and what I’m about. I know I’m headed for greatness, and while I might not have a nautical charts to guide me, I have enough confidence to keep moving, even when the wind isn’t with me.

Birthday Weekend Part 2

Saturday

I woke up to an invitation to go a street parade in Seattle. I declined, because ‘the mountains are calling’. I grabbed a few essentials and peeled out. First stop: gas. Second stop: Walmart in Puyallup for bottled water. Third stop: Ranger station at Mt Rainier National Park.

Wherever you are in Washington, and especially in Tacoma, you are bound to catch a glimpse of Mt Rainier. You can’t miss it. It doesn’t tower over everything, so much as it appears between buildings, trees, through bridges, and at the end of an open road. It is an inescapable landmark. Today was the first time I’d ever actually approached it.

Highway 410 is a two lane, yellow lined, black top, mountain pass. It zigzags around the base of Mt Rainier, connecting Enumclaw in the west with Yakima in the east.

I’ve been on a couple of weekend road trips with a few of the car guys back in Australia. We’d drive a big loop on the Great Alpine Road, over a mountain range in Victoria. It was always a weekend of fun driving, road side repairs, and camaraderie. on those road trips, when you get higher into the mountains, the line markings turn yellow. I always loved that moment, and the yellow lines themselves. They are very American, and signal that you’ve made it up into Alpine territory. I was dreaming of coming to America for the yellow paint on the road.

All the way up, I was stuck behind soccer moms in their minivans, and a doing-less-than-the-speed-limit PT cruiser. I overtook the slower cars, one by one, at high speed. The FR-S’ sixth gear is perfect for cruising, fifth and even fourth are really for passing. In one swoop I passed a couple of trucks and slow guy hauling a trailer. It was exciting. I bet they all think I’m a total jerk.

Two older Nissan coupés were pretty lively, passing slower cars and keeping up with me. We stopped together at the ranger’s station and had a quick chat. The leader had a pretty banged up little car he had been working on. The spark plug wire had come free, which is why he hadn’t been able to keep up completely. I took off before their group did, and it’s probably better we went separately. I was enthusiastic enough throwing the FR-S into corners, without needing any extra encouragement.

This was a solo road trip anyway. I’d come up here to go driving and hike up some kind of peak. Whenever we were on camping trips in high school we would do these ‘solo’ things. Basically you headed out on your own into the wilderness for a couple of hours. Just to spend time alone. You weren’t allowed to talk to anyone, and you just sat there and wrote stuff down. I think I needed that solo experience today, and that’s why I chose to go driving on my own, rather than go to Seattle with friends. The passenger seat still felt empty.

I chose a twisty road, which was incredibly fun. Even the hairpin corners were a blast to pull out of in second gear. I didn’t go too hard because I’m still running the engine in (less than 1000 miles), and I don’t know the limits of the car, so it’s not worth pushing it so soon. I did get stuck behind a slow truck on the straightened out stretch to the top car park. At that point it was all scenery anyway, so I didn’t mind.

I took some photos of the car at various points. I climbed up a snow capped mountain peak above the car park. Certainly not the tallest peak around, but it had a pretty awesome view over the mountains and of Rainier. Climbing up was hard work, climbing down was a matter of falling gracefully. I also realized just how far my cowboy boots have travelled with me.

Coming down I was stuck behind a slow VW and a motorcyclist who had a bad habit of breaking all the way through corners. It didn’t matter though, I peeled off at one point to a campsite, and took some more pics of the car with Rainier in the background.

Driving home involved a quick stop at Mickey D’s and a lump of traffic that carried me all the way back to Tacoma. I snuck a good look at Mt Rainier in my side mirror coming home down River road.

Why the U.S.?

  1. I’m a citizen by birth. Mum is a US citizen, so I am entitled to inherit citizenship from her.
  2. The United States is part of my identity, and I feel the desire to cultivate it by spending a long time there.
  3. I’m in my twenties, young, healthy, unattached, have few responsibilities in life. Now is the perfect time to travel and go on an adventure.
  4. I have loving family there, who can help support me initially (and in times of need).
  5. I want a clean break, a fresh start, a chance to create a new life for myself. It’s not that Australia is a terrible place, it’s just that I’ve been going through the motions here. My life isn’t challenging me enough right now.

I get nods of understanding and encouragement when I tell people any of my reasons. I think it’s a well known narrative: twenty-somethings exploring the world, and never coming home.