Tag Archives: travel

Greyhound Story #2 (Fried Chicken)

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I was living down south, in the land of my birth, when I decided to attend an anarcha-feminist gathering in Wisconsin. No one I knew would be there, so I would have a comfort zone expanding experience among strangers.

I didn’t have a car, and my job made my travel time limited. I decided to fly to Chicago, then take the Greyhound to a small Wisconsin town where I’d be picked up in a car and driven to the women’s land where the gathering would be held. I’d probably be the only woman flying to the anarcha-feminist gathering, but I decided to do it because I had the money but not the time.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful. From the airport, I took public transportation to the tiny Greyhound station which I think was downtown. I got on the ‘Hound at the appointed time, and we took off to Wisconsin.

The bus was full. At first everyone was quiet, but as time passed, a few people started talking to their seatmates or the folks across the aisle. I sat quietly and read a book.

As more time passed, passengers started getting restless. I could feel the shift in the energy as people started shifting their bodies.

When are we stopping? someone called up to the driver.

I need a smoke, someone else hollered to the front. The other smokers chimed in with agreement.

The bus driver named a town and said we weren’t stopping until then. The people who knew how far we were from that town groaned.

Knowing how far we were from cigarettes and food did nothing to soothe anyone’s agitation. If anything, people seemed more on edge.

We were on that bus for a long time. I know it’s hard for a smoker when the body says it’s time for a cigarette and s/he can’t have one, but everyone on the bus seemed to be growing increasingly disgruntled.

Then the women in front of me pulled out the fried chicken.

One of the women was young, early 20s probably, and the other was a senior citizen, so I pegged them as grandmother and granddaughter. These women obviously knew the ropes of long distance bus travel because they were prepared to provide for themselves if the bus went a long way without a stop.

The hungry travelers who were waiting for a stop at a restaurant or a truck stop or a convenience store were not happy with the aroma of chicken wafting through the bus. The rumbling of the passengers increased. Those women were braver than I was; I would have never risked my fried chicken with that crowd.

Girl, give me some that chicken! the man across the aisle demanded. I thought he might be ready to start what the future would know as The Great Greyhound Fried Chicken Riot.

The people in the nearby seats held their collective breath. Would the women share their chicken?

This is not a loaves and fishes sort of story. No miracle occurred. The fried chicken was not multiplied to feed everyone on that bus. The women did share even one piece.

I wish I could remember what sassy words the young woman snapped at the man, but they shut him up and slumped him down in his seat while everyone who heard the words laughed.

The women ate their chicken while the rest of us waited for the driver to get us to a place where we could eat too.

 

Greyhound Story #1 (Surprise!)

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When I got on the bus in the Midwestern college town, nearly all the seats were taken. I pushed my daypack into the overhead bin and looked at the woman stretched out across both seats below. She got the hint and pulled herself entirely into the window seat.

She was a white girl, younger than I was, probably in her early 20s. She had lank blond hair down to her shoulders and flat bangs. She had the blank face of someone who’d already been on the bus for a long time.

Our first rest break was at a truck stop deep in the flatlands of Kansas. I used a flush toilet in the truck stop in hopes of avoiding the smelly, swaying restroom on the bus, then filled my water bottle with ice from the soda machine. I saw my seatmate standing outside, drinking a Red Bull.

Once back on the bus, I read, listened to music through my headphones, and dozed as the prairie passed outside the windows. My seatmate had nothing to say.

We had another rest break before we hit Colorado. This time the bus stopped between a McDonald’s and a Taco Bell. I dutifully used the flush toilet, put ice in my bottle, and bought two bean burritos for my dinner. I took my food back on the bus and reclaimed my seat.

When my seatmate returned, she had a Red Bull in her hand.

Red Bull Energy Drink

I wonder where she had to go to get that, I thought as I stood up to let her back into her chair.

It was dark when we stopped again. I did my routine of restroom and ice, looking forward to closing my eyes and trying to get some sleep while the bus rolled through the night. When I returned to the bus, my seatmate was already there, yet another Red Bull in hand. I didn’t see how she’d be getting any sleep.

That’s when she started talking.

She was coming from Chicago or Des Moines or Omaha or one of those other big Midwestern cities. She was going to Utah, to Salt Lake City.

Her speech was rapid, choppy, evidence of all the caffeine coursing through her veins.

Her boyfriend was in Salt Lake City. He’d moved there. She was going to visit him, to surprise him. He didn’t know she was on her way.

I kept my mouth shut. There was no sense discouraging her now. However, I wondered if surprising a boyfriend who’d moved halfway across the country was such a good idea. What if my seatmate arrived to find him shacked up with another woman? What if she discovered him satisfying his previously secret bisexual curiosity? What if he was doing drugs or dealing drugs or cooking drugs and she walked into the middle of illegal activity? Personally, I wouldn’t want to surprise a boyfriend (or girlfriend) living in another state. I’d want to give a person fair warning if I was on my way.

I don’t remember how I managed to untangle myself from her. Maybe I just told her I needed to get some sleep. When I closed my eyes, hers were still open, staring out the window into the darkness, the land invisible in the night. Every time I woke up, she was in the same position.

We arrived in Denver to make our connections just as the sun began to peek over the horizon.

I must have gone to the ticket counter to find out which numbered door to line up in front of. Although my seatmate and I were both going to Salt Lake, we were standing in different lines.

She approached me, yet another can of Red Bull in her hand. She was screechy and twitchy from some combination of exhaustion and caffeine.

Why are you in this line? she demanded. Aren’t you going to Salt Lake City too?

I must have mentioned to her that I’d be passing through Salt Lake on my way to the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t tell if she was worried about me being in the wrong line or if she was concerned for herself.

I explained I was in the line the woman at the ticket counter had told me to get in. I conjectured we were in different lines because her final destination was Salt Lake City, and I was just passing through. My explanation seemed to satisfy her, and she went back to stand with her luggage. Shortly, we boarded our separate busses, and I never saw her again.

I’ve always wondered what she found when she knocked on her boyfriend’s door.

(Guest Post) RV Living: A New Reality

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Today I have the pleasure of sharing a post by Carolyn Rose, author of the blog Carolyn’s RV Life.

It was a cool autumn evening. The sun was lazily making its way down the western sky and the smell of wood-fires and home-cooking infused the air with familiarity and reflection. On my evening walk, I passed two children playing in a huge natural yard. I noted how different it was from the perfectly manicured postage-stamp size yards, hidden behind six-foot fences that I’m used to. In the San Francisco suburbs, children don’t just play out in the open like that.

I marveled at their carefree innocence from the other side of the street. They laughed and played and hung on a good-natured and patient Golden Retriever. Not a care in the world; they didn’t even notice me. I felt like I’d been transported back to simpler times.

Bronze Cowboy--Joseph, ORI’d parked my RV at the little league fields, a few blocks away, earlier in the day and spent the afternoon working and writing and enjoying peace and solitude. I was amazed that not a single kid came to the field to play nor nearby residents to walk their dogs. And I realized, it’s because here, in tiny-town USA (Enterprise, Oregon) everyone has a yard. Their little league field is for actual Little League, not a community yard where people who live in giant houses with tiny yards and neighbors within arms’ reach must drive to get some exercise and fresh air.

Spending the day in the tiny northern Oregon town took me back to my own Upstate New York roots – the ones I fled when I moved to San Francisco at twenty-one, and never looked back. Roots that I’ve spent my whole adult life running away from and denying. In my race to run from my past, I ran from myself. I ran from my predisposition toward a simpler way of life: where the streets aren’t always paved and the clerks in the grocery store know their customers by name.

As I hobbled over the cracked and crooked sidewalks, through old neighborhoods with normal-sized single-story houses (not super-sized McMansions), and inhaled the crisp home-town air, I realized how much living in a metropolitan area for nearly three decades had changed me. I’d forgotten how the rest of the country lives; how pure and simple life can be.

I was surprised at how comfortable it felt. Like I’d walked into a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and a world where kids are innocent and free and old-fashioned kindness and community rules the day. I wanted to wrap the town around me like grandma’s handmade quilt and fall asleep in its warmth. scenic-bridge-joseph-or

As the afternoon turned to night, I meandered through the tiny town wanting to see and experience it all. I saw, through the lighted windows of cozy homes, quaint shops and tiny wooden churches with stained glass windows, what had been missing in my city life. Family. Community. Simplicity.

It dawned on me that my big city experiences and values had isolated me from the reality of what most Americans experience daily. I pondered the contentious election, and for the first time, I understood. I understood the fear. I understood the challenges that small-town America faces and how they feel like their way of life is on the verge of falling off the cliff. I understood how they view a sensationalized version of the events in our country – and the world – through their TV screens and it terrifies them. I understood how their serene and quiet lives seem threatened. And like the crackle of a fresh log put on a dying fire, my brain awakened to a new concept of reality. And a new awareness of how relative reality really is.

What a gift I was given that day. My new life as a full time RVer put me in a place I’d never have experienced in my old life.  My new, slower RV Life allows me to get out from behind the windshield and immerse myself into new places and not just fly past at 70 miles per hour. A new town isn’t just another double almond-milk cappuccino served up by the local Starbucks barista at an anonymous interstate town, but a real, live breathing place with history and community.

Joseph CafeI spent three days in and around Enterprise, Oregon. I talked to chatty coffee drinkers in cafes, friendly grocery store clerks and helpful mechanics. I got to meet real people, with real wants, needs and concerns. Real people, with families, friends and happy Golden Retrievers. Not nameless, faceless political ideologues or Facebook trolls. But real people.

What a wonderful life I get to have by stepping away from my version of reality, hitting the road and forging my own path and a new reality. My RV Life opened my eyes – and my heart –  to a community, which, on the surface seemed so different from my old Bay Area community, but at the core, was very much the same.

Thank you, Enterprise, Oregon, for letting me temporarily live in your town and experience your reality.

About Carolyn Rose:

Early in 2016, at forty-eight years, old, I sold everything I owned, bought a 23-year-old RV and hit the road with my dog Capone. I’d spent decades building a career and a company and chasing the American Dream. After hiking 256 miles in 26 days alone in 2015, I came to accept that the life I’d been chasing wasn’t what I wanted. I was tired of living a lie; working to buy things I didn’t really need and feeling trapped in a tiny Bay Area apartment.  I wanted space. I wanted freedom.  And as a marketing consultant, I was free to work wherever I wanted. So, I took the leap and changed my life!

To read more about my journey, you can visit my website at http://CarolynsRVLife.com for more information.

Photos were provided by the author.

Answers

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I recently offered my readers a chance to ask me questions. Today’s post consists of the questions submitted, as well as my answers.

Let’s start off with an easy one, shall we?

Dave asked, Pot pie or pizza pie?

While I would not turn down pot pie freely given, my choice will always be pizza. I would choose pizza over most anything else, except maybe ice cream.

Here’s another easy one, from Mary. Do you work for the state or federal government?

Neither. Of course, I am not working at the moment, but when I am working, it’s not for any governmental agency.

Now onto a question with a longer answer. This is a fun one.

Muriel2pups asked, Blaize, What would you do if you won a million dollars?

Funny you should ask, as I do have a plan, although buying lottery tickets is not part of the plan. Not sure how I expect to win if I don’t play…

Over the summer I noticed sometimes my coworker and I would talk about the possibility of some event or reaction and then the thing we talked about happened. I decided we needed to turn this ability to manifest into a million dollars. My coworker and I agreed to share any money sent our way by the Universe. So, if I won a million dollars, half of it automatically belongs to my coworker.

I have a handful of friends and worthy causes to whom I would dole out somewhere between  $200 to $5,000 each.

I would have my van repaired and overhauled in every way necessary.

I would visit Montana and Alaska.

Would I still have money left after that? I have no idea. I don’t have a clear concept of how much half a million dollars is. I guess I would probably do some socially responsible investing with whatever was left and try to live off that money while writing or making art.

Cindy had several questions. Let’s take them (and their answers) one at a time.

 I am pretty interested in the life out on the Mesa outside of the bridge in Taos. Have you ever lived out there? What did you think of it and what was your experience if you did.

No, Cindy, I never lived out on the Mesa. I have a couple of friends who do, one I visited a few times and one I house and dog sat for several times.

Like many neighborhoods, the Mesa is a mixed bag. There are people out there living in huge, seemingly expensive, “nice” houses. There are people out there living in shacks, old school buses, and homes they built themselves, piece-by-piece, over time. There are people out there living in structures somewhere between a mansion and a shanty. Some people on the Mesa use solar power, and other people have no electricity at all. Many people on the Mesa have no running water and have to haul their water home.

Two women I knew have been murdered on the Mesa in less than three years. For me, these killings put a dark cloud over the area’s visually stunning landscape.

Do you keep your money in a bank at all?

 Yes, Cindy, I do have a bank account. There was a time before I had a bank account when I kept my cash on me. Of course, I worried about getting robbed. During that time, I did not keep my money hidden in the van, in fear of the van getting stolen or towed.

Now I worry about a breakdown of the financial system which would leave me without access to my money. I suppose if the financial system breaks down, that paper’s not going to do me much good anyway.

Just a fun question. What is your favorite meal? Like if you could have anything to eat for dinner tonight what would it be? ..and your favorite dessert?

 If I’m cooking for myself, my favorite meal is some variation of brown rice, tofu, and veggies. I particularly enjoy blanched broccoli.

If the Lady of the House is cooking dinner, I’ll take gumbo!

If any food in the whole world could magically appear in front of me, I would go for boudin.

As for dessert, I don’t know if I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Any sort of concoction with brownies or cookies or cake and ice cream would make me happy.

Camilla said, I was wondering why you never post a photo of yourself anywhere on your blog.

My privacy and security are very important to me. I don’t necessarily want strangers to know what I look like, so I don’t post photos of myself. The same goes for my van. While I don’t think I would be mobbed by adoring fans, I feel safer without my face plastered all over the internet.

Besides, what I look like has no bearing on my writing, my photography, and my art. I would rather you judge me on how I behave and what I can create rather than on how I look.

Louise asked, Do you think this is something that you’ll be doing for as long as you can or do you think that you may choose a more stationary life? Maybe I’m asking when/how/if you would choose a more permanent (or semi-permanent) place to lay roots for a while.

In “Truckin,'”Robert Hunter best explains my life as a van dweller:

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down

 When I’m stuck in one place, I want to hit the road. When I’m on the road, I think about the benefits of settling somewhere.

Don’t forget, I was mostly settled before I started my life on the road. I know what it’s all about.

But yes, I do think about settling down in some shitty little apartment, working some shitty little job, stuck in some city. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where I didn’t already have friends and a support network. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to live in most of the places where my good friends live. I’m not willing to work 8 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year at some job that’s not doing much good for the world so I can take a two week vacation to visit people I love.

Also, I wonder if I could even get a real job these days. I’m a middle age woman who’s been mostly out of the  job force for seven years. Who’s going to hire me? It’s not like I have any specialized, marketable skills.

I do worry about getting older, about getting sick, about being injured. (I am very careful getting in and out of the shower these days.) However, I’m not willing to sacrifice my now for future unknowns. Maybe I will be able to work as a camp host until the day I die.

Sue asked a long and complicated question. I will try to condense it.

I’m sure you’ve thought about what you went through a LOT. And while you did think about them, did you isolate things he said and did, and then re-identify them from casual remarks into recognizable warning signs? In other words, have you learned to think about what people say and how they act so it will help you in future relationships?

One reason I don’t write much about my ex is because there are many aspects of both his and my life (and our life together) that would immediately reveal our identities to folks who knew us fairly well. I’m not interested in my ex finding me and contacting me, so I don’t share parts of our past that would lead him to me.

That said, during my relationship with him, I was mostly cognizant of what was going on. I don’t have to look back and say, Oh, that was a warning sign. I look back and remember how I knew at the time how some word or action was fucked-up shit.

So have I learned to think about what people say and how they act? I don’t know. What I can do now is identify fucked up men from a mile away and run in the other direction. (I could probably spot fucked up women too, but I don’t get as many opportunities.)

Brent asked, Blaize, I would like to know what you don’t have in your life that you would like to have.

While I have many close and wonderful friends, I spend most of my year far away from them. I’m lonely a lot. When I do visit, my friends have work, kids, relationships, a million obligations they can’t drop just to spend some deep quality time with me. I get it, but it’s difficult for me to feel fulfilled by friendship in passing. I wish I could spend more time with the people I love.

Laura-Marie asked me the following sweet question: how did u get so wonderful? i really mean that. what factors came together to form beautiful u?

Aw, shucks.

But I don’t feel wonderful! I’m grumpy and short-tempered and pushy and annoying. Anything good you see if because I am working against my natural tendencies to talk too much and make stupid jokes. I’m working against feeling irritated and wanting to have everything my way.

I used to do nice things for people because I wanted people to like me. Now when I do nice things for people, it’s usually because it’s the right thing to do. I try to treat people as I would like to be treated. I try to act like the kind of friend I want to have.

 

The Rhythm of Travel

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I recently wrote about Clara Bensen’s book No Baggage. One of the things she wrote about travel struck me as particularly true.

This was the rhythm of travel–exhausting marathons of movement punctuated by surprising moments of calm where time slowed and there was nowhere to be except right here…

No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering

No Baggage

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No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering
Recently, the Divine Miss M had Amazon.com send me a couple of books. I hadn’t asked for the books or even heard of them until they showed up in my stack of mail. One was a novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I haven’t read yet. The other was nonfiction, a travel memoir called No Baggage.

In No Baggage, author Clara Bensen tells the story of the existential crisis she had in her early 20s when she concluded she might not be able to follow her bliss and live her dreams. Heck, she was barely able to complete applications to grad schools. She had a prolonged mental health meltdown and spent quite a long time wracked with anxiety and unable to eat much more than choked-down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

She slowly pieced her fragile psyche back together while living in Austin, TX, and decided she needed to start dating. She joined OkCupid, posted her own profile, and began looking at the profiles of men on the site with advanced degrees. She encountered the profile of an intriguing college professor and emailed him. They went on a date, immediately hit it off, and started having fabulous times together.

The first part of the book read a little much like a teen romance novel to me, and I was a bit turned off. I have to admit, I was more than a little jealous and a bit bitter. I haven’t met a decent, unmarried man to date in years, but this gal met an incredible man on her first try. (It probably helps to be young, thin, and live in a major metro area.) But I stuck with the book to get to the good part, where Bensen and her beau went on The Trip.

The fellow was already planning on taking The Trip when he met Bensen, then invited her to go along with him. While it was risky enough to go on a multi-country journey with someone she only knew a short time, the No Baggage of the title refers to no suitcase, no backpack, no tote bag.

Here’s what Benson took with her on the three week expedition: in a “small leather purse,” she somehow puts three pairs of underpants, a deodorant stick, a toothbrush, a retainer, a contact lens case, a pair of glasses, two tampons, an iPhone, an iPad Mini, a notebook, a pen, her passport, a tube of ChapStick, and “a stack of cowboy magnets to hand out as Texas souvenirs.” (There’s no mention of a credit card or traveler’s cheques or cash, so I don’t know how purchasing food and transportation tickets worked out. Maybe the money the guy carried was for both of them?)

Since I live in my van, I have fewer material possessions than most Americans, but I still have so much stuff! The part of me that makes do with less was intrigued by the minimalist approach to travel introduced by Bensen’s guy, but after all, it was only for 21 days, not a lifetime. I’m pretty sure I could make it on no baggage for three weeks, especially if I had a new love interest to keep me company. (I’d leave behind the iPad Mini–which I don’t even own–and the deodorant and the cowboy magnets, and take my water bottle with me.)

I like travel stories, and I enjoyed Bensen’s. I enjoyed her tale of spending the beginning of her time in Istanbul not knowing if she were in Europe or Asia. I liked hearing about the positive experiences with Couchsurfing.com, especially what happened in Turkey, when Bensen and her guy arrived unannounced at a dark train station, only to be met by a woman on a bicycle who said, “I recognize the hat from your Couchsurfing profile.” She was one of the many hosts they’d emailed, and she’d somehow known when and where to meet them, even though they hadn’t known when they might arrive.

The book was full of such stories of traveling serendipity. Some call it luck, and the Rainbow Family refers to it as “Rainbow magic.” Hikers of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails know about it too. Sometimes it’s as if the Universe is conspiring to get people where they need to go and make beautiful things happen.

In fact, this book is not just a love story or a travelogue or a treaty on minimalism. It’s also about coincidence and serendipity. It’s about What are the odds? and What are the chances? What are the odds that two people so well-suited to be together would meet on OkCupid and find a “weird, magical thing” happening between them? What are the chances a Couchsurfing host would appear exactly when and where she was desperately needed? Bensen’s guy “was in the preliminary stages of developing software to measure the experience of coincidence,” so they ended their three week journey with a visit to a “professor of Risk at Cambridge University…one of the premier researchers on the subject.” The book asks what causes the “connections between seemingly random intersections?”

The day before I finished reading No Baggage, I wrote a blog post partially about a road trip song by Dar Williams and partially about an idea of SARK’s about managing expectations. To illustrate my point, I told a story about a road trip I took in the late 1990s. In telling that story, I mentioned my friend who owned the car and did all the driving on that journey to a women’s gathering in an adjacent state. My friendship with the woman was intense during our time on the road, but mellowed out when we got back to the city. We still liked each other, but our everyday lives kept us busy, and we saw little of each other. When I moved away from the city the next year, I thought of her fondly when I thought of her, which wasn’t often. I could only remember part of her name, so there was no Googling her or looking her up on Facebook. And then suddenly there she was, driving through my blog post.

The next day I finished reading No Baggage on the afternoon of my day off, while lying in my bed with the back doors of the van open to the meadow. That was a good book, I decided after I’d read the last page. I liked it. I’m glad I read it.

Then I flipped the page and saw the heading Acknowledgements. I’m the kind of book geek who at least skims an author’s appreciations. I’m not sure why. I never see a name I recognize. Only this time I did. There among the four names thanked for their “generous feedback and critique” was the name of the woman I’d written about the day before, the woman with whom I’d shared a road trip and not communicated with for nearly twenty years. What are the chances of that?

I know in my heart of hearts that I’d not glanced at the last page of No Baggage and seen my friend’s name, not even for a split second. I know that Clara Bensen didn’t mention my friend in the book in any recognizable way, wrote nothing that would have made me think of her.  And yet, as I read a book about travel written by a mutual friend, I wrote of my own long-lost, seldom thought of friend and a time we traveled together. What are the odds of that happening?

I plan to write to  Clara  Bensen and tell her of this coincidence and our connection. Maybe she’ll tell me how to contact my old friend.

 

 

Women Travel Book Reviews

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Almost as much as I like to travel, I like to read what others, particularly women, have written about their own travels. Today I will share some of my reviews of writing by women travelers.

I really enjoy The Best American Travel Writing series. Although I never like all of the pieces in those books, there is always something (usually several somethings) that I do like.

In The Best American Travel Writing 2001, edited by Paul Theroux, the piece I liked best was “The Place to Disappear” (about Bankok’s Khao San Road)  by Susan Orlean. It was so good, I read it twice.

The aforementioned Susan Orlean is the editor of The Best American Travel Writing 2007. My favorite piece in that collection is “Long Day’s Journey into Dinner” by Elizabeth Gilbert. This piece is about walking the Grande Randonnee in France. Although I have practically nothing in common with Gilbert and her traveling companion (he spoke French, I’ve got nothing but English; they had money to eat sumptuous meals at expensive restaurants and sleep in charming, cushy little inns each night, while I am poor; they drank bottles of wine each day, while I am a teetotaler), Gilbert described the journey as so wonderful, so magical that I wanted to (literally) follow in her footsteps. (It was only when reading the book’s writer bios did I realize the author is the Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. I have avoided Eat, Pray, Love for years, but after reading “Long Day’s Journey into Dinner,” I’ve added the memoir to my stack of books to read.)

Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write from the Road (edited by Jennifer L. Leo), is a collection of short travel stories from the Traveler’s Tales Humor Books series. I picked it up from a free pile, and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. I actually wasn’t expecting much, as I had read at least one other book in this series and wasn’t impressed. If by “funny” the publisher means “mildly amusing,” this collection is right on target. I laughed out loud exactly once while reading these stories. (Unfortunately, I cannot remember which author made me laugh.)

I actually read More Sand in My Bra: Funny Women Write from the Road, Again! (edited by Julia Weiler ) before I read Sand in My Bra. I picked it up on a whim at the library, and it turned out to be not so good. Sigh.

The subtitle, Funny Women Write from the Road is a lie. Well, the from the Road part is true and the women part is too, as far as I could tell, but funny? No.

A few of the pieces were well-written, but some were embarrassingly amateurish. None of them were memorable.

I really wanted to like this collection, but I just didn’t.

I also borrowed Curves on the Highway: A Self-Help Guide for Female Automobile Travelers by Gerry Davis from the library on a whim. I read the first two chapters and skimmed the third.

This book was not written for women who have any road trip experience. This book was written for women totally new to the idea of traveling alone in a car. This book was specifically written for women who like to stay at fancy hotels and go shopping.

Some of the advice was pretty good. Davis encourages women not to broadcast the news that they are going out of town, and she point-blank tells women not to dress in a way that calls attention to themselves.

But she also gives weird advice like “Shoulder pads: a must!” and “Take starched cotton shirts.” She also says that during travels is a good time to lose weight and suggests women snack on “…a bag of crisp chopped lettuce, kept cool next to your baggie of ice.” Sounds like the worst road trip snack ever!

I guess this book might be helpful for someone, but it sure wasn’t helpful to me. Well, I did take one thing I read here to heart. Davis advises women to never let their gas gauge go below a quarter of a tank. I’ve started taking this precaution, and I stress a lot less about running out of gas.

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image courtesy of http://classroomclipart.com

Around the World in a Bad Mood!: Confessions of a Flight Attendant by Rene Foss was supposed to be funny, but it really wasn’t.

The author had been a flight attendant for over 15 years when she wrote the book. The book is based on a musical review also written by the author. Maybe it’s better as a song and dance…Some parts did amuse me, but nothing made me laugh out loud.

This book is mostly a manual on how not to act. It’s also mostly a yawn.

I couldn’t tell what author Polly Evans was trying to do with Fried Eggs with Chopsticks: One Woman’s Hilarious Adventure into a Country and a Culture Not Her Own. Was she trying to discourage Westerners from visiting China by showing it as a dirty place, full of disease and people with questionable hygiene habits, a place with weird, bad food and a difficult-to-speak language? Was she trying to be funny by poking fun at a culture she’s not a part of? Was she only trying to tell about her own experiences? I think most of all she was trying to sell her book.

I didn’t hate this book, but it did come across as if the author thinks living in the West is better and China is a strange and dangerous place. I did like the way the author seamlessly worked Chinese history into her story.

I’ve never really longed to visit China and after reading this book, it’s even lower on my list of possible travel destinations.

In the graphic novel French Milk, Lucy Knisley tells her story of spending a month in Paris with her mother. This was the journal and sketch book of her day-to day-life as a young women in a new place. I liked that. I liked getting a glimpse of what she did in Paris, where she went, what she ate.

The attitude about money bugged me. The author/artist mentioned several times that she was worried about her finances and couldn’t afford to buy things, yet did manage to buy things. My guess is that her parents picked up the tab for the trip, but how did they afford it? She also mentioned only receiving little presents from her parents for Christmas because the trip was a big deal, which also led me to believe her folks footed the bill. However, one of the little presents she got was a brand new digital camera; not a little present at all where I come from.

Ah, class issues. They can’t be escaped, even in comic books.

The last book for today is No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday. Ah, Ayun Halliday. I should write her a fan letter.

I enjoy her self-deprecating wit. I enjoy any author who is not afraid of showing her weaknesses, because seeing them makes me feel a little bit better about my own.

I like that this book explores the downside of budget traveling, doesn’t only show it surrounded by the halo of happy coincidences and good vibes and swell luck. A lot can go wrong when traveling, and Ayun is not afraid to share it with us if it gets her a laugh.

I also really adore the title of this book, and have taken many opportunities throughout my life to shout at random,  NO TOUCH MONKEY!