Then winter arrived.
First Friday in Miami is always a fun event if you are a fan of the modern graffiti arts.
Then headed down to Orlando to stay with a friend for a few days to hang at Cocoa Beach and a night kayak trip with bioluminescence plankton.
After a couple weeks in SoFlo I started working my way north. Starting with The Hostel in the Forest for a few days.
After a month or 2 of working a string of weird “temp” jobs I headed back down to South Florida working at a restaurant while helping my friend with some art projects before going back to Bahamas for the next season.
Christmas time came so I quit the restaurant and went back to Bahamas for season 2.
After Michigan I ran into a family friend who lived in Connecticut, she said she was about to open a flower store and dress shop so she needed help setting up the stores for a few weeks. The day before we arrived it decided to turn into the Arctic tundra and we carefully maneuvered our way into town through 2 feet of snow. Unfortunately that 2 feet of snow caved in a section of the roof so the store idea was aborted. Instead spent a few weeks shifting things around the unopened store, doing a late night mission with their church group to NYC to bring homeless people winter clothing, exploring a few cities in CT, going out to eat, bowling, organizing photos and whatever else you can do while its 30 degrees outside.
Lucky for me the owner of the farm and I weren’t particularly fond of each other so my time spent suffering here was relatively short in comparison to what was originally planned. He had a lot of judgements and preconceived notions about me (mainly based on my appearance, long hair) that were untrue, but it led to dissent in the ranks among the farmhands and I so my departure of course became imminent. There was an odd dynamic between the owner Mark, Scott and I. I was new to the farm so getting the hang of all the different systems, relatively quickly, but not up to the instant standards of the owner was the main bone of contention. Scott would report on mundane and minor mess ups to Mark, but then come to my defense if Mark talked about kicking me out, which I found odd and confusing. But 1 day out of nowhere after Scott had been promoted from farm intern to farm manager he simply left in the night without a word to anyone. So with my backup gone I soon received my walking papers under my cabin door and the next day I booked a bus to St. Paul. I arrived in a -20 degree blizzard and a couple months later left in an incoming -20 degree blizzard, I took it as a good omen. Although I didn’t see eye to eye with the owner I’m thankful for a very unique experience in the Minnesota tundra and all the interesting things I learned while there. It was definitely quite the crash course in intense unforgiving winter farming.
I’m pretty sure while drinking this hot chocolate and eating the strawberry croissant is the moment I had a conversation with a friend who had painted me murals in Richmond. He had just gotten confirmation he would be managing The Hostel in the Forest and invited me to come be the garden manager after hearing news of my farming fail. Tree houses, a lake with a floating dock, outdoor showers, pretty college girls, my own garden, chickens, goats and raccoons, Oh my, sign me up! And just like that the next year and a half of my life more or less was suddenly allocated to the swamps of GA, trust me it’s more romantic than it sounds. So South I headed, stopping through NYC for a few days prior to soak up the spoils of a big city.
We pulled into Detroit around sunset and found our way to a run down block on 1 of the “mile” roads where our Couchsurfer was located. He said there was a party at the end of the block and to meet him there. A couple hours after being at this very eclectic party we were told by our Couchsurfing host that we would be staying with his next door neighbors because he had a guest already. Our new hosts were 2 drug dealers named “Work” and “JB”, very unique individuals, plentiful face tattoos. No electricity or running water in the house, or for that matter probably the entire block since soon after the introduction realized we were deep into a squat block. The house was filthy so Delphine and Romain were hesitant to stay, but it was now midnight or later and getting in the car to escape the neighborhood seemed like it could be just as much of a risk as staying so we perhaps stupidly decided to stick it out.
We survived the night on a few hours of sleep, I was kept up most of it by “Work”, “JB” and an Eminem wannabe with a red lightning bolt tattooed on his face. They spent the night attempting to pass me blunts while I laid down on the couch, speaking of their favorite rapping past times, how the Detroit rap scene was on the up and up. The highlight was red tattoo speaking about his dream of becoming the “Ghetto Steve Irwin” and “I wanna shoot crocodiles in the face and shit, I’m serious B I’m tryina do this.”, a more or less accurate excerpt from a well thought out conversation.
Upon exiting the house in the morning we were blessed to hear the pleasant news of a not double or triple, but quadruple murder 1 block over. Probably not an uncommon start to a Detroit day. We said our farewells and fist bumps then were on our way to greener pastures to follow up a few new Couchsurfing leads.
We found a new Couchsurfing couple in a much more upscale part of town with a couple bikes for Romain and Delphine to borrow, so like that we were off exploring the wide open and empty 6 lane city streets of Detroit. Even with the rocky arrival to the city I must admit that based on style points it is 1 of my favorite cities I’ve visited. I have a weakness for urban decay as well as graffiti and Detroit has plenty of both of those to go around.
As luck would have it a friend of mine was now living in Detroit who got in touch with me so we stayed with him and had a really awesome time for the rest of the trip. Sailing the Detroit river, going to Jazz Fest and a Polish food festival to name a few of the highlights.
And just like that the Detroit Dream wound down to an end… Romain and Delphine flew back to France and a week later I hopped a literally $1 Megabus to Pittsburgh, then a very brief stop in Richmond before the next adventures.
This particularly random trip happened to launch my next few years deep into gardening/farming even though there was no initial intention of that. A friend of mine from Richmond was going to school in Ann Arbor Michigan and needed help transporting a piano on a moving truck, so I packed a bag, my bright red Cannondale and we were on our way.
I tracked down a farm in a town called Cheboygan and as luck would have it caught a ride with the daughter who was passing through Ann Arbor on her way back to the farm.
Shortly after our day off expedition to Mackinac Island the French Wwoofers and I suddenly had a surprise abrupt ending to our time on the farm. Backstory: Their Wwoofing farm page actually had no references at the time of my arrival, but they emailed me back saying there were 2 other Wwoofers on site so I figured if it was that weird at least I would have some potential teammates on site. The daughter seemed relatively normal when she picked me up in her fancy cherry red Mustang so I threw caution and instinct to the wind and went anyway.
The woman who ran the farm was a bit weird as well as OCD, but overall fairly pleasant at first and somewhat generous with breakfasts and dinners. The father, son and daughter however all seemed to live slightly in fear of her, it was clear she wore the pants and must be the bread winner, which became very apparent upon our last morning there. The work was reasonable at first, nothing out of the ordinary; feeding/watering animals, milking cows, harvesting crops, weeding, mulching, etc. But gradually becoming harder and coincidentally around the same time food started becoming more and more sparse due to her being busier with a second job as a massage therapist. Suddenly we were chopping a shed full of wood, building fences with 18 inch deep concrete foundations dug out with post hole diggers and best of all Baling hay. Multiple fields of hay all day for the better part of a week or 2. To this day I thank God that the amount of sneezing while being behind that tractor and pulling and stacking hay bales out of the baler didn’t kill me. Anyways, long story short woman in charge got more and more rude to us with less and less food accompanied by harder work which started to wear on us, but we still hadn’t revolted even though that fire was beginning to stoke. The morning after a much needed Mackinac Island trip she made breakfast for us later than usual so of course we were slightly late getting to the barn. The one day we play music while getting dressed she comes in and checks on us to aggressively ask us where we are, she opens the door and hears Bob Marley and absolutely melts down. Due to my general acceptance of chaos I found it pretty entertaining and comical if I’m being honest. My french compadres however were not amused as they had never had to come up with such a drastic last minute fall back plan. This was our first actual negative verbal match with her besides a couple very minor disagreements and within 2 minutes of a back and forth we were told to pack up and get on a bus, which she conveniently knew the exact time of departure and we would still make it if we packed up in the next 30 minutes. So before we knew it and with some attempted resistance from the French Wwoofer Romain speaking his mind to the owner, and the family not speaking up for us to attempt to come to our aid, we were on a bus to East Lansing Michigan.
I created 2 more Couchsurfers on the 4 hour bus ride to East Lansing and we suddenly were all furiously working away at smoothing out the chaos that was now our lives. We tracked down what we thought was a promising lead in Detroit then lined up a car at the Lansing airport where the bus dropped us off, a nice shiny Chrysler 300 was our chariot to my French friends delight. The chaos of that day was not quite finished with us however…
We spent a night with my teacher/X-roommate from Sedona then they decided to reroute to Mexico last minute, so I caught a ride up to Flagstaff and took a train to Denver to stay with a friend.
Seems I was on a role with the Couchsurfing ride share forums because I caught a last minute ride to Chicago out of Fort Collins Colorado.
I actually attempted to preserve this dead Starfish and dry it out, but I went back east soon after finding it so it didn’t finish curing. I had it wrapped up in a bubble wrap container with a home made tape handle so it got a lot of funny looks while I was getting back across country. Also, you really start to question your life choices when you find yourself in Flagstaff AZ running down the street in snow with a large travel backpack and a dead starfish in a bubble wrap bag at 6am to catch a train because your taxi left you in the dust.