HIS SPIRIT LIVES ON! ... BONER, THE PIANO DOG ... November 27, 1994 ... February 20, 2010
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August 31, 2011
Denali National Park, Alaska
This has certainly been a big month! Having no idea where we would stay tonight I left Fairbanks wanting to stop in Denali National Park. I shot up a prayer to turn all concern over and out. It is unbelievable the difference a few days have made with the autumn color. The mountains and hills were the brightest yellow with every shade of green. The word glorious came to mind. The ground with the mountains as a backdrop looked like a carpet of yellow flowers but Alaska is so big... it was a carpet of yellow full grown, tall birch trees. The day was cloudy with drizzle. I started to stop at motels and places in Healy. Everything was booked, over priced, over sanitized, no dogs allowed or had too much attitude for the money. Even though I wanted comfort I was ready to settle for the sleeping bag if needed. Putting out money for a room is always difficult for me to do. I drove into the tourist area of Denali with all the souvenir shops and price gouging hotels. There was thought about sleeping in the truck rather than deal with any of it. I began to drive into the park and the tourist energy was way too much for me to deal with but... after about ten minutes I realized that I was here in the peak of color, right now today. There is no way to pass by the beauty and not stop to smell it. Driving through to my next destination in Trapper was a constant option if I could not find anything.
Then... a whole bunch of synchronistic stuff happened. It had to do with a conversation I had with Margie last night about a place called River Cabins. Her friend worked there but she was not sure if they allowed dogs. There was talk about campgrounds across the street called the Grizzly Bear that might baby sitting Mo if I wanted to do a long hike. I was not interested in any of the conversation and forgot about it. I stopped at a general store in Healy that had internet and went online looking for a couch to crash on in the area. There was a guy and he worked and lived at the River Cabins. I did not make any connection but emailed the guy to tell him I was going to come looking for his couch at his work! I stopped to ask someone along the way if they knew where the cabins were and they said the place was ten miles back so I let go of that idea. And then I saw the Grizzly Bear (not making any connection) and a sign said they had cabins to rent. I began to turn into the driveway when I saw the sign for the River Cabins across the street. Wow! I drove across the street looking for the couch guy but he left his job last week and the workers suggested I see if there are any cabins at Grizzly Bear even though they are dry (no bathroom or water)... because the River Cabins stink.
I went to check out the Grizzly Bear and the dry cabin was a hundred bucks! Then the girl next to the attendant said they have private rooms with a bath and everything else at a special $139 rate normally upwards to $200. I went to check them both out. The higher priced room... all wood on the ground floor, an the end of the building, parking space next to the room, private balcony overlooking the Nenana river with its rushing waters and amazing mountain scenery with a train riding high up through it, quiet, clean, dog friendly... strong impulse... Do It. I did. Two nights and then I thought, "you are in a spectacular area, giver yourself this gift" ...four nights it is. The most expensive stay ever for the journey. I am hoping the clouds will clear so I can see the mountain. I felt inspired to create some music so into the parking lot. A large van of Swiss tourists came in and began to swarm around with cameras which led to me jumping off the truck as soon as I could! Ha, I ended up getting back on to play for them. Mo is experiencing so much life. I enjoy watching it happen to him. Planes, trains, automobiles, all types of nature and styles of people, environments... still his favorite thing to do is to simply run and play.
August 30, 2011
I sat for most of the day trying not to think. Ha, it was like trying to touch the sky. I looked out the window and did nothing. The plan was to meet someone with the Traveling Piano but they cancelled by email. I was very relieved while wondering why I make commitments that I have to work my entire day around. Its not how the journey works. Fairbanks has been a pleasure to stay in. There has not been enough time. There is plenty to do. I was thinking about how as a child I was taught that Alaska was all ice and snow and people lived in Igloos. This place has its seasons and igloos were used as hunting huts here. I am going to miss the sounds of the mushers in the trees at nights. Their howling, the music they make together with the echo's are some of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.
I found an old gold mining town named Ester. While turning the truck around to leave and wondering why I ever drove there a guy yelled from his truck, "hey, lets get a picture!" It was very funny because the street only had three falling apart buildings still used, closed today. There was a saloon, store and some other kind of shop. We had fun with his buddy, both life long residents. I knew as in the past, I was there was to meet just them. I stopped at a Fairbanks tourist trap to see if they had any end of season clothes discounts. The place was so touristy it gave me the heebie jeebies I just could not hang around long enough for anything. I am a little concerned about how far removed I am from stores, malls, shopping centers, etc... I got back to Curt and Margi's place before sunset to meet another one of their friends. I'm missing this place and I'm not leaving until tomorrow.
August 29, 2011
I woke up this morning in silence. Margi and Curt were at work. Two different neighbors are mushers and own a bunch of husky and hound mix dogs who howled back and forth to each other all night. I love the sounds but one of the sled dogs barked by himself all night. No love for that. It felt totally good to have the place by myself in the morning. It was quieter than a motel cabin, no chance of anyone knocking at the door or walking by outside, no need to interact with anyone, Mo and I were completely by ourselves in silence in a new, clean, big, open house. I was laid out on the floor downstairs while Mo laid by himself upstairs for a good hour. He needed the time by himself just like I needed time by myself. In not wanting to rush to take the Traveling Piano into Fairbanks I forced myself to ask my hosts if I could stay with them an extra night. The house is giving me needed respite. Graciously they said yes and by two in the afternoon I felt fully rejuvenated. I offered to take them to dinner but they said to save my money for the journey. People who contribute like this make the journey!
I drove into the center of the town and found a farmers market with different types of stands setting up. It was perfect because I was not out to play for tourists and the people there were mostly locals. When the area opened to the public the police came and told me I had to move which was perfect timing. I drove by a field of migrating cranes. There is a huge dog park in Fairbanks. Mo had his time with many dogs and then while I created some music he sat on top of the piano to watch the other dogs play.
At the dog park I discovered that Gloria, a seventy two year old woman who got onto the piano to play earlier left her purse in the back of the truck. A woman I was with at the dog park found her phone number in the purse and we called her. That took the Traveling Piano into the downtown neighborhood where she lives so I could return the purse to her. This was really great because she wanted me to play outside her house which was a small very old log cabin. Neighbors came out, people were lifting their blinds to see what was going on, cars that saw us went out of their way to drive by and wave. I am being told that even though it gets cold here in the winter people still get out and about all the time. There is a lot to do. Most people consciously... stay active.
August 28, 2011
Yesterday I had no idea where we were going to stay for today. I turned the issue over to a power greater than myself and then bingo. Friends I will be staying with down south connected me with relatives here in Fairbanks for the next two nights. Curt and Margi are enjoying their new house that Curt built by himself. They have been in it for only a few months. It is amazing with radiant heat, big picture windows and spacious rooms. They lived in a very, very small house next door for thirty years while raising two boys who are now adults and out on their own. I wanted to arrive this morning to meet their church congregation but Rich the guy I was staying with was available to take some North Pole pictures for me that I just could not pass up. Then I needed to say goodbye to Kyle his roommate who invited me to the North Pole and then there was Traveling Piano experiences to be had before leaving at the firehouse where he works. Curt my new host works maintenance for the Fairbanks school system and Margie once a teacher is now a secretary for the schools. She is also the pianist for her church.
Curt and Margi invited their longtime friends Dixie and Evan over for dinner to meet me and I was once again treated to a salmon dinner... this time the fish was seasoned with brown sugar. There was yogurt fruit salad, wild rice and an extra special treat... fiddlehead ferns. I had never had them before, they tasted like asparagus. I learned that part of their property was good for growing the other not because it was permafrost. This is ground that is permanently frozen year round. Only small trees can grow in permafrost. Another new word... there is a "slough" that runs through their property and that is a slow moving creek or river. My new friends are Lutheran. I asked if they were tight or loose Lutherans having learned surprisingly while in Joplin, Missouri a few months ago that Lutherans can be quite fundamental when it comes to their religion. Curt said, "we are liberal" and then Margi jumped in real quick preferring the word "joyful." I love joyful Lutherans! Hahaha... We all went out on the lawn before it got dark for some music.
August 27, 2011
North Pole, Alaska
In the winter smog is a major problem here because everything stays twenty feet off the ground and does not move and -40 degrees happens. Today was another sunny day in the seventies. I stopped by a big Santa thingy in town to get a picture. Having let go of everything I owned, I keep as little as possible in the Traveling Piano truck because there is no room. I must have known somewhere in my subconscious that I would one day get to the North Pole because of all things... inside the piano I stored and saved my Santa hat and piano dog Boner's reindeer antlers. Those items along with the mitts and red coat given to Mo a few weeks ago in the Yukon... ha, what a picture it all made for today!
In town the firefighters were using their boots to collect for Muscular Dystrophy from traffic driving by. I joined them for awhile and also drove around the streets. I needed some pep so I stopped at an expresso stand. The girl working was not allowed to come out so I drove the truck close enough to the window so she could reach out and play a note. Ha... to what extremes.... There was a hamburger, hotdog firefighter dinner towards nighttime in a Fairbanks, Alaska park. I just showed up. No one knew anything about the Traveling Piano. I played music and hung out while everyone wondered who I was and where I came from. It was kinda interesting especially seeing as I was completely at ease the entire time.
Mo and the dog Vador where we are staying are like adolescent brothers playing. They play strong and hard and really have been enjoying each other. The "catastrophic" hype of hurricane Irene back east in my old home area... I have worked very hard to not get caught up in it all. Still, I always love a good storm but I really dislike the unproductive hysterical and stimulating media defined distractions that my attention gets drawn to. I'm looking forward to the future and what it will bring. Ha, did I just say that?
August 26, 2011
North Pole, Alaska
I'm staying with Kyle, his dog Vadar and his roommate Richard. I slept until 11:30am and needed to do that. The temperature outside, I lucked out it was sunny and seventy degrees today! The afternoon was spent taking my time and cleaning the truck. I had a hose to use for the first time in a long... time! Ha, that felt good but there was still clay I had to scrap off the sides from the last few hundred miles. This town is small and interested. Everyone is taking notice of the truck and that does not always happen. A bunch of kids who work at the Mc Donalds had a try with music. The one girl mentioned how she loves her job working there. I enjoy hearing someone say that they love their work. Kyle invited me to dinner at the firehouse. The rescue squad and firehouse work as one entity and everyone cooks for each other with family like dinners. Having never hung out with firemen or EMS workers... I really enjoyed the time. Father Robert the fire chaplain and paster of the local church joined us. He did a sixty minute meditation (my description :) of music on the Traveling Piano. Towards night, rain began to fall and the temperature dropped.
August 25, 2011
Traveling North, Alaska
Time is flying by. I turned a bend in the road and saw orange, yellow, green, red trees and brush, the backdrop... huge mountains surrounding a glacier. The mountains were so amazing along the road I stopped at one point and cried as I could not contain the beauty. It was magnificence. It was spectacular. I wanted so much to stop and create music in it but I was on a seven hour drive and had slept about two hours last night. Maybe I cried because I was so exhausted. I passed through Delta Junction, Alaska and it felt strange to find a four lane street. It lasted about only a half mile but still... and then I ran into street lights, ha.
I took pictures that I am hesitant to post because the color, depth, detail and contrast are not half as good as what I saw but... they are almost unbelievable in poor quality and if I correct them I'm thinking that they will look fake. Can you imagine showing bad quality pictures to make them believable? I ended up at the North Pole. Mo and I are staying with a new friend named Kyle who is a twenty four year old, fifth generation Alaskan. We sat and talked surprisingly for hours. (as tired as I was) Kyle's work is in firefighting and EMS services. I was continually relating to him in every way. It was very curious because out thinking and ways are the same but directed so entirely into different kinds of work. I think he is a conservative guy who wants one hundred percent to bring value to his community. I tired to look at the pictures from today because I am so excited but could not because I am so exhausted.
August 24, 2011
Kenny Lake, Alaska
We are with friends Judith and Matt once again passing through Kenny Lake to head northward. Matts dad Rod with Judith's friends Karin and Vincent jumped onto the Traveling Piano so I could get a group shot of everyone. On the way into town I stopped at the grocery store and Marlene the owner struck up a conversation with me. She walked behind us in the parade that happened last time I passed through town. She's looking into helping me get the Traveling Piano onto a glacier somewhere for a photo op. Synchronistically, the local newspaper named the Copper River Record comes out tomorrow and the Traveling Piano is featured front and center with a really nice article. I need to figure how to post the page to share but it is lights out time for the night.
August 23, 2011
In the Bush, Alaska
Even though I've missed Traveling Piano activity for a few days because I am soo... in the bush, the time has been put to good use processing pictures from Jim's and my Glacier hike. I have some fantastic pictures. I'll be heading out tomorrow... wish me luck big time with the road. (see the posting from when I came into the area) I received an email each from my new friends Judith and Matt who I'll be staying with tomorrow night... They have a small house with a couch and loft and will have a friend who's already staying with them, plus two more and Matt's dad yet... me and Mo are still invited for the night and for dinner.
August 22, 2011
Swift Creek, Alaska
Today, I woke up feeling like I was not sure if I should try to move. I did and it felt ok... until I stopped moving. After that, the day went downhill with anything having to do with moving or not moving. I could not move and I could not, not move. Ha, its all good. My joints and tendons and muscles from yesterdays hike... wow! I think i'll live... but it will be real slow and easy for the next day or so.
August 21, 2011
Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska, Alaska
I often have impulses about death, not that I want to kill myself but that I want everything about my life to end, to stop... everything I know. The feelings and thoughts often seem natural to me. Today while hiking I thought... In order to live I must do. The fact is that I will "do" until I don't. What I do to live doesn't matter as long as what I am doing keeps me alive. I almost always don't want to do anything until I'm doing something.
The people who I have met who live rurally do it out of choice. Going outside to use an outhouse to poop in, saving your dirty toilet paper for the stove, going out to find a tree to chop down and split for heat, constantly fetching five gallon containers of water from the river to take a bath and drink, always watching battery power for light, growing and storing whatever food is available... A person can put all their energy into that or... work a nine to five job in an office cubical, get paid money by someone or something, dicker over food prices at the supermarket, deal with finances, with traffic congestion, hire people to service belongings, soak in media fear mongering, primp themselves and how they look, climb ladders of success... it is all the same energy, different issues to deal with. I'm somewhere in all that energy mix just not sure where.
While hiking I was thinking and soaking in the awesome adventure I was having. I thought... every person in life is as lucky as I am. Anyone who says I am lucky or more fortunate then them... well, thats just wrong. I have the life I have first and foremost because I "practice" gratitude. That is what works for me. Maybe I practice gratitude more than the people who think I am just lucky. Gratitude is what creates everything I experience in life and I could use a lot more of it for sure!
My friend Jim and I took a hike into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to walk onto Route Glacier today. Audrey said I needed boots and luckily Jim had an old pair that fit me. At first I was thinking about how wearing someone' s old beat up boots would be like wearing someone's dirty underwear but they said I had no choice. They were correct about that! I would not have been able to walk on the ice or wear crampons without them. Crampons are metal traction devices as the dictionary says, " to improve mobility on snow and ice." Ha, it should say, "to walk on ice, period." I did more than walk on pure ice today. I climbed without using my hands because it is not possible to hold onto ice with your hands... up, down, over, in, on bumpy and glass smooth ice for most of the day. I finally understand what a glacier is. All my life I grappled with the idea. I could not grasp the concept of it being simply a humongous piece of pure ice because sometimes it looks white!
We started out on four wheelers for an hour and a half drive to the trail that leads to the glacier. I really, really like driving a four wheeler. Along the way I watched clouds stream through the mountains. The trail began at the Old Kennecott Copper Mill Mine. They call the towns of McCarthy and Kennecott ghost towns but I did not feel any ghosts. Chaos from the people that live there a little bit, but ghosts no. Once on the glacier we got lost. We were lost inside a melting glacier for hours!
There were some periods where I was getting worried. There were deep pools of blue glacier ice water to avoid falling into. Constant cliffs and canyons and deep valleys of ice. Everytime we thought we were making progress (we were trying to get off the glacier) by walking up a crest we would find another and then have to find a way over to another without walking down. Sometimes we walked across ledges of clear glasslike ice less than a foot wide. If the crampons had not worked we would have gone no where but down. It was a MAJOR adventure. I would follow Jim and then when he started to whine a little I would take charge and tell him to get a move on so he followed me. We found one rock and Jim sat for a short spell to rest. When he was ready to go I knew not to sit, we needed to keep moving. Jim is a hero to me. He's a frigid' eight year old man with amazing stamina. He couldn't see where he was walking half the time because his eyes kept watering. I wished I had brought my sunglasses. I could not see the pictures I was talking. I would just point the camera at something and take a shot. All throughout the adventure, not one moment with all the feeling of being lost, fatigue etc... did I stop exploring. Jim would talk about the his history. He didn't think about getting stuck there, the sun going down, his strength, his falling down or my falling down. (we both fell only once) His only thought was to get off the glacier.
I could not believe that with the difficult time we were having Jim would break into a tale of past history about something... and he could not believe that I would be stopping to take pictures even if I didn't know what I was photographing. How fortunate for me to be with the first homesteader in this rural area, the oldest living resident... showing me around, sharing an adventure of a life time. Once we got off the ice there was a huge steep mountain of rocks and dirt to climb. At the top, way up... there was a trail where we would walk back to Kennecott. It looked to me about a half mile up, straight up. At the top Jim climbed over the ledge, no rocks and all soft dirt. It was unbelievable to see him do it. I thought, "God, I was never good at pull ups in high school. How am I going to pull myself up over that ledge." The scenario ended up with me hanging while grasping on to the hand of an eighty year old man with one arm dangling from a cliff while he held on with his other hand onto to a simple bush limb. Jim is very hard of hearing and kept yelling at me to grab for a nearby rock and I kept yelling at him to stop talking so I could think. I remember thinking first an foremost, "take the drama out of it all." Once over the top my energy was completely spent. There was still seven miles to walk. Jim could have done the walk back in half the time that it took. I could not move any faster than the glacier we had just been walking on.
While walking back I was thinking about how people walking on city sidewalks need to watch so they don't step in dog poop. Here in the wilderness you have to watch not to step in bear poop. Its everywhere! I could see that the seasonal color of the trees had turned since we had left in the morning... that fast. All throughout the day rocks, stones, pebbles and dirt would fall all around, water was flowing everywhere, the air and temperatures would constantly change as well as the wind. I have never experienced the earth so alive with movement. Once back at Jim's house Audrey had vegetable beef soup waiting with fresh cooked muffins. Believe it or not Jim had cell phone reception when we to the top of an ice cliff he would get a call. Of course Audrey was concerned. It was funny to experience in the middle of nowhere, lost and on a sheet of ice with nothing else anywhere... a cell phone jingle go off.
August 20, 2011
In the Rain, Alaska
I am told the rainy season is coming... did not know anything about a rainy season! Jim and I were going to go hike on a glacier today. We started out and it was cold and felt like rain. We turned back. Another excuse to create more pictures for the Alaska link I posted yesterday. I really have been blessed with a few amazing shots due to the suns lighting and clouds. If I had a better quality camera I could make some money from them! We were heading to the glacier on two wheelers. I had never been on one and was apprehensive for about a half mile and then... I want me a four wheeler!!! I rationed Audrey's treats to give Mo today. She really should have a dog! I cannot believe Mo has not been in my life for a year yet. I really appreciate Jim and Audrey sharing their home with me, food, cooking, etc... I'm not leaving until I get two good hikes in and that is that. If it is not raining tomorrow... hike, if it is raining... music outside under the shed in the rain. I need to play some piano.
August 19, 2011
Swift Creek, Alaska
It has been raining all day. I updated the journeys story. It is a very raw and ninety pages long, at this point. To have people read it feels embarrassing because it is a rough draft but I posted it on the site here anyway, just in case something happens to me. You'll have to search to find it, ha! I've been using the rain opportunity to file and post pictures. I just posted over a hundred and fifty from Alaska so far. Go to Boner The Dog and click on the link that says Alaska... on the left... when that page comes up, click on the thumbnail of any picture you want to see bigger.
August 18, 2011
In the Bush Near Mc Carthy, Alaska
I woke up in a fog after a really weird bad dream. I'm not sure where the day went but I am sure that I told myself it did not matter! Constantly, I discover how stereotypical my knowledge is and how wrong it can be. For example... I kinda thought I was going to find eskimo villages with all all ice and snow. Even in the arctic circle some, there is no snow in the summer. Alaska's summer seasons may be short but when it is summer it is the same as everywhere else. There is snow high in the mountains of Colorado all year round as there is in Alaska. I wanted to do something to help out around the house today. Jim has been building a cabin out of junk catalogues sent to him in the mail for ten or eleven years. Its pretty amazing. I could have helped with that but choose to become Lumberjack Danny the Traveling Piano Man for a day. I split wood for the stove. When I was done I sat in the hot tub with Jim for awhile.
August 17, 2011
Swift Creek, Alaska
I have no physical energy today and also, it was rainy. I am so thankful for the people in my life. Jim and Audrey who I am staying with have been incredibly flexible with sharing their space, home, food, consideration, friendship... Audrey is in love with Mo. Jim is constantly keeping an open mind about the visit. Jim is in bed by 7:30 pm and me... usually 1:00 or 2:00 am. He's a good guy. I must scream at him or talk close to his face while looking at him straight in the eyes to communicate. Hearing aids do not work for him at eighty years of age. Last year while in Montana I spent a week writing what might become a book of the journey and life. I spent yesterday for the first time since continuing that work. I am finding that writing a lengthy piece of work can be intense, laborious and somewhat painful! Nevertheless it is important and I am very excited about getting it done and then sharing it. I may have an opportunity for an airplane ride to a few very special Alaskan areas in a few days so I will be staying where I am to see if that develops. In the meantime, deep down I am starting to figure out my next move.
August 16, 2011
The day started out with hauling some local gals from Mc Carthy to Kennecott for lunch in the back of the truck. There were three in the truck and one followed on a four wheeler with her dog. The only bridge over the river to Mc Carthy is privately owned and it cost a pretty penny to get a pass but I was given free use for the day as long as I was not crossing to do any business. I did not realize the route was four and a half miles from Mc Carthy to Kennecott. It was a bumpy ride. Mo did not make it the whole way sitting on the piano; it was too much for him. He fell off and then jumped into the truck window. Enough was enough! I did have fun in Mc Carthy but it was mostly with the visitors. There's only a few places of business. I got a feeling from the people working that fun and work did not mix. I could tell they needed and wanted a little relief. Two of the workers pleaded for me to come back later. The main business owner who I had extended my hand to in friendship yesterday while at the mail shack, milled around us both in Mc Carthy as well as Kennecott but avoided interaction like the plague. I think he had some control issues which felt ridiculous seeing as it was such a small town with so few people in it. As unbelievable as it may seem to me, some people can be very afraid of a truck with piano in it and a cute dog sitting on top of the piano!
In Kennecott, Alaska the business owners came out to greet me with pizza! It was a beautiful spot. They jumped onto the Traveling Piano and invited me back if ever in Alaska again. I parked the Traveling Piano on a cliff overlooking the terminal moraine of where the Kennecott and Root glaciers merge. There were huge mounds of dirt. A few inches underneath the dirt was melting glacier ice. There was a huge mountain on the other side of the glacier that was not visible ten years ago. The glaciers are all melting... fast! I found an amazing looking owl camouflaged in a tree and also saw my first big black Alaskan bear today. The bear was coming over a hill and retreated before I could snap a picture. In Kennecott there is a huge hundred year old, fourteen story copper mill that is being restored. It was a great picture spot. We parked on a bridge that led to it for a few minutes of music. Before returning back over the river to where we are staying I stopped once again in Mc Carthy by the museum and then again in the town center. A fifteen year old girl stopped by and played some really beautiful music. A fiddle player from Fairbanks Alaska treated me to a simple song. The resident painter and I had a really nice exchange and a few visitors stopped by.
August 15, 2011
Mc Carthy, Alaska
The day started out with Jim and I, we "walked the mail." Twice a week the plane arrives with mail delivery and it is a five mile walk each way to get it. Mail pickup is like a social event where all the neighbors collect in one spot and play catch up with what is going on. We got a ride back (luckily for me) but first stopped in the small village of Mc Carthy to check it out. The place is real small with only a few houses and places of business. I plan to take the Traveling Piano truck there tomorrow. Later on in the day between meals... Audrey has been keeping my stomach well stocked... (tonight I had a salmon filet) I pulled the truck out onto the field to record some music.
Jim and Audrey like real good sports came out to have an experience. In true synchronistic form as soon as I began to play I heard a chain saw begin. On the other side of the trees a couple of newlyweds were building their house. Jim went to go get them. They were hearing the music but of course live piano music in the woods? Soon they all emerged from the trees along with two pups and of course we all had a good time. The first words out of their mouth... "what a great way to bring neighbors together." Mo especially found a couple fine new friends. After everyone left I stayed to create music. One of the neighbor dogs came back and laid in the grass right next to the truck for our entire time there. He just really enjoyed being with us.
August 14, 2011
In the Alaskan Bush
It is about a four mile drive off the main road to my new hosts house in the woods. The road is too rough for the Traveling Piano to drive on so once I drive back out I will need to find a solution. I can't be going in and out on the road. As we drove onto the property we came across a mother moose with her baby. There is a clearing of grass with the mountains as a backdrop.Today was spent getting a tour of the property to see how things work. I asked how this couple gets along throughout the winters with little day light. Audrey stays in the house and Jim goes out and cuts wood for the heat. We use an outhouse. After my poops, I roll up my used toilet paper in a piece of newspaper. All used toilet paper gets thrown into the fireplace to be used as a starter. After I did my business I could not resist looking into the hopper. I saw a little daylight shining in down there. Mushrooms were growing! Any light at night is from a twelve volt battery. During the day regular house current is used; any appliances are run from a generator. The water comes from a complex system that runs downward from a stream up in the mountains. It is called the water line. We walked the water line today. That needs to be done often to make sure all is running well. I very much enjoy drinking natural water.
There are several cabins on the property and I was offered one to have and use indefinitely. Cozy and small deep in the woods each with an outhouse of its own, no electricity, water to be carried in from the stream, (a distance) wood to be constantly chopped, carried and piled to replenish the stock pile, rodents to deal with all the time, a quarter mile from the main house, a lot farther from anyone else, 300 miles from the nearest decent store, a long dark winter... I don't think I could handle it although the idea is very tempting. First I would need internet and a heated garage for the Traveling Piano truck which last night was stored under a shed because it was raining. I was learning how people start forest fires. Fires need to be made in creek beds because when they are made on the dirt ground the fire burns down and under, burning the moss as it crawls through the ground and emerges to the top months later as a huge fire. The trees here in Alaska are Jim's religion. At night Jim and I sat in his hot tub with a beautiful stream running behind us. Audrey has been generously sharing her cooking talents.
August 13, 2011
Mc Carthy, Alaska
I'm way, way out there in every way. I stopped at the Kenny Lake fair before leaving and wish I had more time to just hang out. It was a small community hangout that could not have been better. I stopped and got gas which is getting close to five bucks a gallon and needed brake fluid... somethings up with the truck and I just don't want to know about it. Onward to Chitina where the paved road ends and then to Mc Carthy... wow, it was a stretch for me, Mo and the truck... it took five hours to drive sixty five miles but we all made it! The rocks, potholes, washboard road surface and dust did not keep us from our destination. The biggest problem was the way people drive. When a car approached I usually pulled over to stop which helped slow most people down. When they were aggressive I drove into the oncoming lane and then back into mine to slow them down while they wondering what the hell I was doing. Then there was one large service vehicle... I had to play chicken with it and luckily I won. It was barreling down the road so fast it looked like the wheels were going to fly off and with dust so thick I decided it was not going to let it ruin the Traveling Piano truck. I drove into the middle of the road... he needed to slow down in order to pass. After I called his bluff he screeched to a halt as he was passing me and began screaming obscenities as I kept my slow turtle pace forward down the road... I looked back to see him jump out of the truck like I was supposed to stop and challenge his anger... and then he jumped back in his truck and tried to turn it around to come after me and do whatever. I'll never know because the road was to narrow for him to completely turn around. I just continued to putter forward at ten miles an hour.
Once I finally arrived at the end of the road to Mc Carthy I stopped and made a call to Jim and Audrey, new friends I am staying with. There was a phone by a bridge and all local calls are free. I turned to the left and there I saw a huge translucent glacier! Wow, it was so cool, I never saw such a thing that looked like that. On the way I was astounded with mountain scenery like I could never have imagined. With the sun shining on sharp mountains they were a bright orange an also almost translucent and then more rounded mountains appeared with grey topped domes. Huge, huge riverbeds... As soon as Audrey arrived to show me the way back to her home she asked if I was going to play and I told here I was too exhausted but then other people arrived who were interested and the journey took over. My energy level shot through the roof and we all had fun. A neighbor asked Audrey and Jim for dinner and I chimed in yes! Hahaha... never to pass up a meal we had copper river red and copper river king salmon cakes with a greek beet and potato salad with salad greens that had a dressing with boiled honey and soy sauce. Lucky man am I! Of course it all about the friendship and people right? Right, but I can't ignore the fantastic perks that goes along with that! Jim happens to be the oldest not only in age but in time... homesteader in this area of the world. He is now 80 and settled here in 1955. He was the first one here! There were only six people in the beginning. The area started with the richest copper mines in the world and copper is still mined here. Audrey an amazingly young looking seventy two year old retired teamster foreman. There is so much more to write about but I am completely exhausted. I am looking forward to writing about this place where I am staying, this amazing place deep, deep in the Alaskan bush.
August 12, 2011
Kenny Lake, Alaska
Today happens to be the 50th Anniversary of Kenny Lake. This is a small community and today they also had their 1st ever parade. It was a one firetruck parade. There's some synchronicity eh? Of course I joined the parade with the Traveling Piano. First I needed a shower and to shave so Matt called a local bed and breakfast named the Copper Moose and the proprietors C.D. and Kathleen were happy to comply. That shower felt good! It was a long parade route so at points where people were standing we would stop the truck so they could get on for a picture and a few notes. This was a perfect scenario for me, a small rural Alaskan town of interested people. They had a community dinner fundraiser after the parade and auctioned cakes that people made. Some were going for fifty bucks. This is a generous community from what I see.
Matt drove the truck today while I played and Judith took pictures. There was a seventeen year old monster classical pianist who I drove around. Earlier in the day Mo spent most of his time rolling in smelly stuff around the yard. Ugh! He preferred to stay on top of the piano while I ate at a dinner table. The truck is his den and the piano his lookout. He feels safe there. Tomorrow I am heading deeper into the Alaskan bush. For how long I have no idea, not too long. About twenty people have told me the road cannot get worse. I'm going for it anyway. I want to meet some new friends.
August 11, 2011
Kenny Lake, Alaska
I'm in Kenny Lake, Alaska wondering where the lake is. I am deep in the woods. The people I am to stay with gave me directions... I could not get them by cell phone today so here I am sitting in there cabin but they are not here. There are ten sled dogs tied to their dog houses in the trees. They have two others with them wherever they are. This could not be more backwoods. It seems safe enough. There is a huge garden, a generator for electricity, an outhouse (which I will need to use soon) there is a suit jacket hanging on the wall and I cannot tell you how strange that is with the rest of the cabin. The place is in the middle of being built. There are two desks with computers, a sofa, long shelf table for food, a wood burning stove, gas stove and plywood floors. A small loft holds a twin size mattress that I would fall out of on both sides if I slept up there. We are talking raw living! I'm trying to write this quick before I forget everything because the computer battery is going to run out... no electricity. When we arrived the dogs barked until I set the truck up and began to create music. Immediately the dogs heads turn to a tilt and then they all began to sit and then they all laid down quietly. I'm not sure what to think about that but it was very interesting to watch. I played for about twenty minutes. They all seem to be ok with us being here.
It has been days since I shaved, took a bath, etc... Rain was falling when we started out I felt like a mud ball driving in mud but then the skies cleared, the road became paved and scenery beyond anything I have ever seen began to appear. Then the roads got bad again. Trucks once again covered everything with dirt and dust, there were dead forests for about an hour and then... the sun came out again with never ending awesome views... huge mountains and ranges with a hundred shades of green, brown, black, gray, white, blue and purple. Some of the green and black rolling hills with the clouds reminded me of Ireland. Something is wrong with the truck. There was a constant whistle sound coming form the engine. I think it is a loose belt. It was driving me a little crazy. I don't know what to do about it at this point. The nearest repair shop I passed over an hour and a half away. I am exhausted from the absorption of nature and I am trying to embrace the dirt and mud. As I drive on mountain top ridges and see rivers snaking across the land below I now see the roads I am riding on snaking across the earth. We drove from Chicken to Kenny Lake skirting the Wrangell St. Elias nation park and preserve.
I passed through Tok, Alaska but kept going because it was raining. It is so amazing to me to be driving through rural Alaska. I was picturing myself driving on a paper map of the world. Being here, I am still processing the reality. Today I would be driving and look down to do something in the truck cab and then look up to find a completely new view. It would be cliffs, or valleys, a huge white mountain... I am exhausted from absorbing the intense beauty. The outhouse use... I don't know... every share an outhouse with over a people from a tour bus... and be the last one? That was the way it was before I left Chicken. There have been so many impressions for my life I can't remember one moment past the next. I ran into a bunch of people from Germany over four times in different places hundreds of miles away from each other. People who have played on the truck I run into and have no idea who they are.
So... Mo and I are sitting on the couch in a small cabin wondering if our new friends meant for us to just come and stay by ourselves while they are living somewhere else and then... two dogs came barreling in the door. It was erie, it was a surprise and no people followed them. Mo froze like, "i'm not here" and stayed that way. Not even his eyes moved. I just sat there. No way was I going to move. They were like people, spirits in dog form. We all just "be." No reason to make any moves. :) About five minutes later my new friends entered. The dogs had run ahead of them and the one dog had leaned how to open the door by pulling the latch down just last week. We are staying with Matt from Nashville who has lived here for the last twelve years with his wife of one year Judith from the Normandy part of France and a young woofer (worker on organic farms) from the Aix En Provence of France named Augustin.
I told them the situation would take some getting used to for me but most of all I really needed a shower and to shave. It was nighttime so the outdoor solar shower was too cold and none of their friends have a inside shower. That means no shower for today. I have found amazingly wonderful, intelligent, progressive relationship oriented people. Matts is 35 and Judith is 28 years old. Matt runs the dogs with a sled in the winter, they both raise vegetables to sell at market and to create community exchange and they both are publishers of the Copper River Record, the local newspaper with a circulation of about 1200. About two to three hundred people live here. I was treated to dinner. Ready? They had just returned from fishing in the creek and brought back with them Alaskan copper river red salmon which were fixed both in sushi style as well as cooked with dill and wild rice and a blend of orange delicious, blewit and puff ball mushrooms found in the woods earlier with a yard salad mixed with mustard greens, arugula, romaine, galactic merlot, back seeded simpon, roach mountain spinach and marigold leaves and flowers. Imagine... the fish just caught an hour before as fresh as it gets from the Alaskan waters. Tomorrow I'll wake up with Matt's version on pancakes made with ground flax, corn meal, organic flour and fresh eggs from the chicken coup along with organic milk pinch of salt.
August 10, 2011
I woke up and it has been raining. My first thought, "I'm not going anywhere, I am not driving a full day through mud and in the rain." Everything is still and quiet. Mo feels the security and relaxation of being alone with just me and no one else while we rest. Yesterday he found a couple local dogs who took him into the woods to play for a bit. He was romping! Life is moving slower and slower all the time. Sometimes I wonder if I should do something about that. Here in Chicken, Alaska there are about five year round residents. Not many people on earth experience this part of the world but I realize that is relative. I asked Susan the owner of where I am staying if I could stay another night. I told her I would pay. The cabin cost a hundred twenty five bucks to rent so over the course of two nights she gets to give to me a little, (last night was a contribution) I get to give to her a little (I'm paying for tonight). She's giving more because this is her business. Everything costs double here and I was thinking, things cost to make it worthwhile for someone to provide. Do I want food and shelter here in this part of the world or not, there can be no complaining on any level for anything." I feel grateful. Plus, it has always been easier for me to put out what little money I have when others have put it out for me first, ha. This business here in Chicken has been making most of its money off a tour bus that comes once a day. The single visitors have dropped over fifty percent from the past years for various reasons. There is a great little bar in the complex, a perfect souvenir store, great food...not much money is being made but enough to survive. I did not get Susan or Scott the cook onto the piano yesterday and that is a priority before I leave. Rain is pouring and I am just hanging out writing the blog while looking out a picture window into the wilderness with the stove burning wood for heat. I think I'll take a nap. I'd like to read a book but choose to do journey work instead. I had some reindeer bratwurst for dinner. It was excellent!
August 9, 2011
Another Wild Dream Accomplished!!! The Traveling Piano has landed in Alaska!!!!! I am constantly working to process the reality. Especially in seeing that I am in such a different world from where I came from. Back in Philadelphia the rest of my funds are draining quick in another stock market crash. Will I have enough gas money to continue or get back? If so should I end my life up here? And then there is the reality of the awesome nature and the beauty of this earth. Solar flares are affecting internet reception so there is little. There is no cell phone service unless I want to pay a dollar a minute.
I will officially pronounce for myself and embrace the fact as I have often been told... "I Am Courageous!" In the back of my mind I have always thought about traveling to Alaska. When the journey began, I started to think seriously about it. Last year I tried unsuccessfully and a little over a month ago... well, here we are! The Canadian boarder crossing to leave the Yukon was exactly the opposite from arriving. An American agent standing behind a Canadian lady customs official says, "cute dog, do you have anything to declare... do you have any ammunition, ok goodbye." That was it. I was driving and saw a tour bus parked on the side of the road with people taking pictures by a sign that said, "Welcome to Alaska." I was like, "Am I in Alaska?" I was looking for the American customs gate. I stopped in the rain to get a picture with the sign. How could I not?
The road from Dawson City in the Yukon was not bad and then in the states it was another story. The US side was totally unpaved dirt road... soft, hard, rocky, muddy, dusty dirt. It rained for most of the time. There was lots of mud. I could not drive the Traveling Piano over twenty miles an hour... for hours! Mo became majorly over jiggled from the bumpy ride. Before the mud, when a tractor trailer or large RV passed everything became a dust storm so dense I could not see out the window. Everything under the tarp, the equipment, my clothes, etc... covered with dust. When a large vehicle would approach me from the opposite direction I would change lanes and drive directly into it so they would slow down. As I drove I was looking to see how these huge vehicles made the sharp horseshoe turns. it seemed impossible to do.
The first buildings I saw were just a few and included a really neat looking old cabin. The areas name is Boundary, Alaska. A few gold miners live there. I circled the cabin curiously twice with the truck in the rain and as I was pulling away I saw someone at the door of one of the buildings. I thought, "someone is showing interest, these are the first people in Alaska, go back and say hello." The first encounter I had in Alaska was with a Gator from the Everglades in Florida. That was the guys name. I also met Adam and his son Ryan from Delta, Alaska. They are gold miners. They said that seeing as I was circling the building they wondered if I had sensed there was a piano inside! Ha, out of the rain and inside to this hundred year old cabin with nothing but small bottles, relics and an old falling apart piano. It was good enough to play the Maple Leaf Rag on. We video taped it. I was very glad I stopped to say hello.
Now I understand what everyone says about Alaska. The land is massive. It is expansive. It is big! I rode on the edge of cliffs thinking if I ever fell off it would be a long, long fall down and no one would ever know. The world is always getting bigger to me. I think I said this while in Canada but today while driving... there was the experience of being on the top of the world when I walked on and over the mountains of Glacier Park in Montana. Here I was driving over them while feeling on top of the world. It was peaceful. On foot everything was so large. Here in a vehicle the mountains were even larger than on foot. The unpaved dirt roads made everything feel even more natural. The Traveling Piano has now officially driven into its fourth time zone. Here it is twelve noon and on the east coast four in the afternoon. I had to be careful as the unpaved roads have no name. I almost made a wrong turn into never, never land. When I thought it might have happened I assured myself with the fact that I had a spare container of gas with me and also that I did not need to worry about it getting dark because the sun does not go down until around midnight.
When I finally stopped it was in Chicken, Alaska.. the second place there was to stop. Exhausted, I pulled into a small place that had gas, food, rooms etc... and asked the lady sitting on the porch if there was a hose around to wash off my truck. It was covered in dirt an 8th of an inch thick. She was like, "Are you joking?" There was a bit of attitude attached to her voice. "We have to go to the stream to get all the water and bring it up in buckets and what we drink we need to treat chemically. We generate all our own electricity, there is one "out-house" over there, (she points far away) and everything is shipped in from a distance. I looked at her and said, "well I was going to play some piano for you but I'm not doing it with a dirty truck." Her attitude changed. Two buckets of water appeared with two clean towels. I was invited to stay the night in a beautiful cabin, given wood for warmth, dinner, dessert, a bed with sheets and comforter. (no electricity, stove or toilet) Turns out Susan who is my age has owned the place for twenty five years and where she came from? Bucks County, Pennsylvania my original home back east! The Traveling Piano was somewhat dusted off and I created music. A bunch of the kids working created music. A charming couple from Switzerland created music. A couple I had passed on the way appeared. They created music and then before Susan passed out from working all day I got back on the piano to create some music for her bedtime dreams.
August 8, 2011
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
A guy named David from France joined me today to have fun, shoot some video and take pictures. He was very giving in nature. We took the ferry across the river and of course I created music during the trip. On the way back I played some Ragtime and Boogie and the ride became a mini concert. At the top of a hill we met a bunch of guys from Switzerland. One of them was from the Jungfrau where I have visited. While waiting for the ferry on the way back I was talking to a few truckers and one of the guys I had coincidentally met last night on the top of another hill. That was crazy! I was talking to another guy from the area who works everyday for seven months of the year and then travels to Thailand where he lives for the rest of the year owning property and toys like a boat, four wheeler etc... We were talking about how there are many ways to live life and a crazy amount of ways that people make a living. He was talking about a group of guys he knows who transport criminals around the world. That is their job.
Back in town some of the locals got onto the truck. A woman began to cry today as I created music. That hasn't happened in a while and... of all things, she has had a twenty year dream of purchasing an RV with a piano in it to travel the world. I walked around town and found two saloons with old pianos from the early 1900's and of course I played the Maple Leaf Rag on them. Peter returned early with his kids and I was turned onto Hwech' in Fiddlin' music from the Indians in Old Crow from the Northern Yukon area. (air access only) Every community has their own style of fiddling. I posted a picture today of Dawson City where the Yukon river is fed with glacial silt from the white river down south. The Yukon river meets with the Klondyke river at Dawson City where you will find a one river with two distinctly different colors... in the same body of water. Tomorrow I will be heading into Alaska!
August 7, 2011
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Today was a day... I can say! The first thing that comes to mind was playing at the Midnight Dome overlook on top of the world. I went there way before sunset to avoid people. I wanted to satisfy a dream. It happened. Mo and I were all by ourselves with nature for about an hour. I'm not sure why I never had todays feeling before. In the second year of this journey I was going to treat myself to Zion and Bryce Canyon parks in Utah. I had wanted to be all by myself (with Bo of course) to create and record music just for myself. It never happened because just before I arrived Virginia Tech called us asking that we travel back east to be with them for support after their tragedy. Ever since, I have been waiting for the feeling I was looking for with Zion or Bryce Canyon. In Glacier Park last year I played in some beautiful areas but they were always just off a main road and it was minus my dog Bo to share the experience with me. Today I was five miles up in the air. Mo without question felt todays unique experience. I found and experienced totally the feeling of nature's musical expression.
All day long I played throughout town. I was really surprised with the amount of people who could play. I drove several of them around. There was a lot of classical playing as well as improvisational. Dawson City is really interesting. I can't put a finger on it. The city survives on tourism but there does not seem to be that many tourists. The streets are all dirt and the sidewalks are made of wood slats. This place was the spot for a major gold rush in 1897. Gold is still mined here. I was playing by the river and the beach was filled with quartz. I did not know that gold is usually found with quartz. There are only about 2000 people in this city. The weather, yesterday I was sweating and ten minutes later it felt below freezing. It is time to put my shorts away and bring out the long pants. (stored inside the piano) Soon I will need to get to bed. It is almost eleven at night and beginning to get dark. In the winter there is daylight for only three hours. Every week this place loses a half hour of sunlight. I am totally enjoying the days being bright for so long. The people here in Dawson have difficulty saying the letter "z" they say "zed" for z.
Last night I used my new sleeping bag to cover me. Ahh... from my old house with an expensive queen size bed to friends futons, to couches and now to a sleeping bag. I surly hope that my sleeping bag does not end up with me using it on any floor indoors or out. So be it if necessary but not having a comfortable nights sleep makes for a very tired looking old Traveling Piano man. A friend said the other day that "money makes the world go round." I said that money does not make MY world go round. She thought I was being idealistic. This blog, my life for over five years has been totally idealistically realistic! I've been thinking about it all. Money in of itself does not make the world go round... Contribution makes the world go round. Money is in the mix but not at the core and it does not fundamentally make the world... or life work. Today I met a couple, the guy was from Argentina and the girl from Spain. They have been traveling... living all over the world for eleven years continuously. They never worry about money. Things happen and they get what they need. They prefer living life to the fullest through natural providence. Me too... at this stage of the game :)
August 6, 2011
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
I am at the end of any roads going north. The Traveling Piano is as far north as it gets for driving in the Yukon region of Canada. We are in Dawson City where the Top of the World road begins. It is a rural area but not isolated. It was a seven hour drive from Whitehorse. How I got here is amazing. Several people pushed me up here for the scenic drive and then Cheryl the last person I stayed with said I must go and meet her friend Peter and experience the town. Pete is a teacher, musician, father of two girls, and a guy who has built three electric cars with a friend of his. Cheryl said I could stay with him or just go play outside the Westminster hotel which is nicknamed The Pit and tell them I need a room and I would get one. They are not in the business of selling rooms but have them for people when needed and music is totally respected in this town. I called Pete and even though the house is filled with his daughters Kara, Allyson and her friend Kathern... I can sleep on the couch. Sleeping on couches, this is new for me! Ahh... life's experiences. Pete said dinner will be waiting for me. I found out that Pete's dad passed away last week and his funeral was today, he starts work with school tomorrow and also needs to drive seven hours to Whitehorse with the kids. Here he is inviting me into his house with all that going on. When they leave for Whitehorse which will be until Tuesday, I can stay and have the house all to myself. Trust... This guy opens his house up to a musical circuit of musicians where he gives them his house to sleep in, feeds them, and then sells tickets for them to hold a concert in the house. All the money goes to the musicians for the concert.
One of the first things Pete begins to talk about is the energy field that has been discovered in Dawson City and exactly where it can be found in a parking lot behind a hotel. It is a Vortex!!! As anyone who has read this blog throughout knows... I have a very unusual connection with Vortex's. Before the journey I knew nothing about them, didn't care, still not into romanticizing the idea but... I cannot deny my experience. All written about in this blog the first, Sedona, Arizona... second, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia... third, Eureka Springs, Arkansas... fourth, East Glacier, Montana... and now fifth, Dawson City, Yukon Canada. Why, how, what??? I have intense experiences in these places and significant happenings have resulted. I don't ask about them. I am told about them. I don't look for them and don't think about them. Concerning Dawson... from the start of my decision to travel to Alaska and possibly through Canada, Dawson City has been ruminating in my mind. I thought there just must be something catchy about the name or it was reminding me of something in my past. Never the less I have thought about it constantly, the idea of staying over night here not really having a grasp on where it was. I passed through Dawson Lake on the way here and thought, "why would I have wanted to stay here it is a bland generic place. Then, the next day I saw a billboard advertising logging in Telsin lake saying Dawson Post motel 3 miles ahead. I was very tired, looked at the truck mileage counter, it said 233,3333 so that was that. In the back of my head it felt like the place was already set up in my head to stay at because of the name Dawson. Then I learned about Dawson City, "The Dawson City" that had been floating around in my mind while in Whitehorse. Intrigued, still I had no plan to explore it. Well, here I am in Dawson City.
On the way I stopped to get gas in a town named Pelly River. This was the first time on this leg of the journey that I felt like I was in a foreign place. It was totally rural and all indians. I stopped at another place and thought I had purchased some fried chicken in a box. It was full of spicy, deep fried pork meatballs. I loved them like I did the fried pickles I found in Geneva, Illinois. It rained all day which was the first time while driving on the journey. That was a good thing because it kept the unpaved part of the road from being dusty. With gratitude I can say I experienced very little unpaved road, no more than ten miles worth. Luckily, there were not many vehicles on the road because now I understand the talk about the rocks and stones flying into me from large vehicles on the other side of the road. There are now three stone cracks in the Traveling Piano windshield.
I first drove to the vortex in the city and began to create music. There were people around but not much attention was paid. Then I met one guy and then Pete's daughters got on the truck. I drove everyone through the city several times while they played on the back. A lady from Paris and also from South Africa found us and had some fun with music. At sunset we drove to an overlook called The Midnight Dome. All I can say is Wow! On the way I just missed getting a photo of two beautiful black foxes with white tipped tails.
August 5, 2011
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
I decided to stay an extra day in Whitehorse. Only local residents need to feed the parking meters here, visitors do not. A little gesture like that goes a long way with me. I needed downtime today. While Cheryl and her daughter Carolyn went to work I was able to give my body a rest until one in the afternoon. My head was awake but my body just needed to lay still. Also, I need to be completely alone to write the blog. There was so much life to write about from yesterday. I have been talked into taking a different route than originally planned from this point. It is a longer rougher route with unpaved gravel and washboard roads which may cause a lot of trouble but then hey, this is an adventure eh? Also, frost heaves (humps in the road) and huge potholes may make night driving impossible. I'm feeling a little scared about it.. Looks like there is a good chance I may get stuck without places to stay overnight and will need to sleep in the truck which means no sleep. I will live, eh? This is a journey. A ferry will be involved. Most likely I will not be able to drive over twenty miles an hour and I have only five days left on my visa to get out of Canada. The good part... I will be traveling the Top of the World Highway. Today I purchased a sleeping bag just in case... God, what is this journey coming to? Ha.
August 4, 2011
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
I drove into Whitehorse for a twenty minute stop to get a quick oil change as I do not want to take any chances with the truck. There was an immediate feeling of comfortability. It cost a hundred bucks which was more than I had expected but what was I to do? While I waited I took Mo for a walk and saw a pet store with a santa claus sleigh advertisement on top of it. I wanted to see if they might have a coat for Mo. He is without question not a cold weather dog. The people were smart and friendly. That turned into a Traveling Piano experience which turned into a contribution of the dog coat, four paw gloves and an envelope with a hundred bucks in it. See how it works? Gratitude... Before I left I had another short encounter with a mom and daughter. We got into a little conversation of how I was thinking about creating a television show but am not sure because I do not want to simply project something that people will live through vicariously. I want to help people to take hold of my experiences and make them their own in what ever way might inspire them. She said, "It only takes one." Wow! That was completely empowering for me. I "get" that totally. Anyway, I want to thank the people at Tanzilla Harness Supply ... Canada's leading sled dog outfitter. They really gave me a lift.
After taking care of the truck and Mo... I thought to take care of myself and treat myself to some Yukon food. Also it felt like a good idea to put some money back into the local economy. First, I stopped into a local clothing store to ask if I could use their phone to make sure my room reservation was secure for the night in Destruction Bay. The rooms along the way have been filling up by late afternoon with travelers. Then I went around the corner and got some Yukon fish and chips and wow, I picked the perfect place. They were so friendly I told them I'd be back when I was finished eating to play a song for them on my piano from the back of my pickup truck and as I was sitting in the truck eating and wondering if I should play some music for the woman who let me use her phone in the clothing store... another women walked up to me. Her name is Cheryl and she works on the second floor in the building above where the truck was parked. Cheryl is Director of First Nation Relations for the government of the Yukon. (the Nations of Yukon Indians) She had seen the truck out of the window and was super curious. All hesitation vanished, the journey took over... the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) radio guy appeared... I asked him to hold the interview we had for a few days because I did not want to get in trouble with the boarder police. They do not want for me to create music in Canada because of assumptions that I want to make money even though my agenda is clear with proof. (disgusting) ...The CBC guy promised... lots of fun ensued. I drove around the corner to the restaurant, a bunch of employees came out to jump onto the truck and a few passerby's jumped on to be part of it... a street guy stopped and after telling him I was from Philadelphia he said he had always wanted to go there. I told him to jump on, when he got off he dug into his pocket and said I need to give this to you and handed me the money he had, a five dollar bill and all his change. I almost cried because I was able to give him my all... (in fun, friendship and respect) and he gave his all in return. Housing is a problem in the Yukon. It is amazingly expensive. They have a tent city in the center of town. There are more ethnicities here than I have seen in other places. There are only thirty two thousand people in all the Yukon and a little over twenty six thousand of them live in Whitehorse.
I had a feeling instantly before all the fun started that everyone here in Whitehorse knew me. They were greeting me like they knew me. Word did begin to get around about the Traveling Piano in less than a half hour. The people here use the term "By Moccasin Telegraph." Hahaha... I realized it was now late and I still had an over three hours drive. I was exhausted and physically teetering with my health. Cheryl wanted me to meet her daughter Carolyn who plays the piano and is in a boarding school on full scholarship down in Victoria the capitol of British Columbia Canada. She is sixteen and wants to go to the University of Pennsylvania of all places... in Philadelphia my home town! Here I am in the Yukon territory of Canada??? Being late I called the motel where I was booked and cancelled the reservation. Cheryl offered me her couch for the night in her mobile home that feels totally like a house, is on a small lot and is worth about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars with the areas housing shortage. Cheryl is a decedent of aboriginal people, part Beaver Cree Indian and part French. Her work is all about dealing with land claims negotiations, self government and treaty making. Cheryl is as smart with a strong character and personality. How great that she would trust her gut and invite me, a stranger into her home for a stay. She told me that she had had a boy friend from a few years way back when from South Philly! Cheezzz.... ha. Her dog named Angel a Bichon who took to me immediately. Mo took to her. I was treated to a salmon indian fish and Philadelphia cream cheese sandwich before bed. Ha, too much!
August 3, 2011
Telson Lake, Yukon, Canada
This morning before I left Liard, British Columbia a bear was behind the cabin where I was staying. There was a hiker standing across the road with his thumb out screaming. I asked what was going on and was told he needs to keep making noise in order to keep the bears away. Mo usually likes to sleep at my feet on the bed. Last night he realized that if he sleeps under the covers stretched back to back with me we both stay warm. He can stretch out good and long, a perfect back warmer. I am reminded from Glacier park last year that many people hike from the top to the bottom of North America. I met a couple, the guy from Copenhagen the girl from Sicily who were bicycling from Fairbanks, Alaska to Argentina. They plan to do it in a year. I passed a surprising amount of people bicycling, one had a trailer hitched to his bike. I'd like to see someone bike up some of the hills I've driven down! Today, it was visibility for as far as the eye could see with green pine trees, streams and lakes and trestles bridges. On the road there are large trucks all traveling about seventy miles an hour. I just let them pass. Its the campers I need to stay in front of. They waver back and forth sideways as well as with their speed. There's nothing worse to spoil a view than a big fat white rv camper in front of you!
I was thinking about how much the earth is not experienced by people. How few people travel this amazing road because of outdated fears like the road not being passable, nowhere to get gas, bugs clogging car engines and visibility impossible from bugs smashing into windshields... no television reception in motel rooms, "lions and tigers and bears, oh my." I am going to take my time experiencing Alaska. Drinking water out of a dirty faucet here tastes as pure as it can get. It is a huge difference from the chemically treated so called spring water sold in stores. The local graffiti seems to be people's names spelt out in stones on road hillsides everywhere. I met a musical family from Nunavut the most northern Community in canada. People from the area think of the Alaskan highway as north to south even though it is east to west. Two different sets of people stopped me today as they have experienced me from a media interview in the past. I think thats crazy to find that here in such a rural area.
A herd of wild buffalo played chicken with the Traveling Piano on the road today. One particular buffalo walked onto the road and stood in the center for about five minutes to see what we would do. After I took pictures of him I drove around him. Mo was so excited his teeth were chattering. Can we talk funny??? After another wonderful day in wonderland, overwhelmed with gratitude, driving all day and exhausted from practically no sleep last night... we found a small motel room in a beautiful scenic spot on lake Telson. The place has cabins, rv camping, motel rooms and a cafe. Mo went fetching in the lake, a huge lake. It is now nine at night and not a peep can be heard from anywhere. Whats with that? Everyone to bed at nine? Oh God, I am not looking forward to the morning when I'll be sleeping and everyone else up and about. The breeze and temperature is perfect.
August 2, 2011
Laird River, British Columbia Canada
I have to keep reminding myself that I am in a different country. I think the days of wearing shorts are ending as it is getting to be quite chilly. Mo constantly amazes me, his ability to adapt. I stayed in a motel last night and oh how good it felt to have my own space. I sat watching a few movies, did a little correspondence and got some journey pictures together. I love visiting and being with other people but definitely need to be by myself too. A major gift for my life is to totally enjoy being by myself. The slogan for British Columbia in Canada is Super, Natural... and that is an understatement. First I experienced the south island of New Zealand and then Glacier park, now I have found another match for my experiences of ultimate beauty... the Northern Rocky Mountains. The first half of the day was just beautiful with the skies, green trees, carpets of flowers creating color schemes of purple and green and then white, yellow, red and blue... ahh, wild purple asters and blue lupine. The green pine trees were mixed with white birch. There are road signs saying, "Logs May Sway Into Your Lane." (logging trucks) There were only a few spots where the Traveling Piano took some pretty hard hits from pot holes. Constant awareness is the name of the game. The roadway has three car lanes of mowed grass on each side so there is an open view of not only the road but nature as you travel.
The second half of the day... I drove for hours in an intense state of awe. Hundreds of miles of constant awesomeness. Lakes, rivers gorges, mountains, valleys, meadows... I was thinking, how can there be so much beauty on earth. I was inundated with nature. The drive to Alaska through Canada is an ultimate drive through experience, totally spectacular. With everything I have seen I felt like I was in a new place. The only hassle was to do it all at sixty five miles an hour, especially the twists and turns. I had no time to waste. Riding around the tops of mountains rims through valleys, I was riding in the sky and felt like I was on an airplane. It was super duper difficult not to stop and play with some music. The entire time I was snapping pictures out the window with one hand while trying not to drive off a cliff...
I drove to the Laird Hot Sulfur Springs as I was told the area was a must visit. It was on my mind constantly. In the middle of nowhere after driving at least seven hours... the only place that had rooms booked sold out just as I arrived. A guy named Greg who is the cook among other things at the place offered me his couch. Within an hour I realized that Greg was having a huge battle with alcohol. We talked in depth about his life. The area I am in is controlled by the Liard First Nation of Indians. Indians here are not associated with the word tribes. In Canada the word they use is "bands." I kept running into two woman along my all day drive. We finally connected and the Traveling Piano also connected with a truck driver, really a nice guy. He gave me his rib dinner as did Greg and I ate them both. Wow, was that great!
The hot springs... it was a quarter mile walk down to them. Greg went with me even though he could hardly stand. There was a sign that said, "Bear in Area." Really, there were nine of them. A mother and her cubs were spotted an hour earlier on the very trail we were heading on. Rangers had been sounding off guns to scare them away. Greg was instructing me on how to be "bear buddies" to help each other out should we come onto one unexpectedly. I left Mo back in the truck with the windows up. The hot springs were well worth the effort. It was like a large lagoon in the forest, about eleven at night, it was just getting dark, steam coming from three tiers... super hot down to medium, down to warm. There was a water fall where I sat and let the hot mineral water wash over my shoulders and the back of my head. My muscles had been very tight from driving. I was completely revived, all stress in my mind and body had left me. I wish I'd had my camera for the whole experience from the beginning of the walk through the woods till back at the cabin. Greg who by the time we were to leave could barely stand... thought he saw a bear and figured he had best just let the bear take him if it was going to happen... he ran in fear like a jack rabbit with no stumbling all the way back to his cabin a quarter mile away. It has been a long time since I shared a room sleeping with someone. The snoring... there was no sleeping for me still, I appreciated having a place to rest my head for the night and for having met such a caring person and I hope to become friends with him.
August 1, 2011
Fort St John, British Columbia, Canada
The Traveling Piano is heading up north to the Yukon territory today and then into the Alaskan bush. I forget if its one, two or three thousand more miles. I almost don't want to know. I want to get into Alaska as soon as possible without killing myself and need to take it easy with the truck. No rushing allowed. I purchased a five gallon gas can for an emergency in case I run out with no place to get gas and I hope I do not run into any unpaved roads because that will result in twenty mile an hour travel not to mention the wear and tear on the equipment. I doubt I will have internet access but who knows. We all will by seeing wether there are any blog posts for the next week.
I received an e-mail from a woman in Joplin, Missouri that I want to share in order to create clarity for myself. Here it is:
This message is long overdue and I apologize for just now sitting down to send it. Joplin, MO is my hometown. All of my family still lives there and many of my loved ones lost everything in the tornado. We traveled to Joplin at the end of May and stayed for a week to help with the relief effort. After spending a week looking at nothing but destruction, the beautiful music coming from the back of a shiny red truck came like a huge wave of sweet relief. For a brief moment, we stopped, took some deep breaths... everyone was silent... and we thanked God for sending our friends and family a glimpse of beauty if even for a moment. Thank you so much for using your talents to bring happiness to others. Blessings, Patrice
I have strongly emphasized from the start of this journey that I am doing everything first and foremost for myself. This is true. I am out to create fun for myself. When I have fun, my world has fun. I have often said that I am not a do-gooder but I do enjoy sharing my life and manifesting gratitude. Well, maybe it is time to extend myself and say it is ok to reach beyond myself and help support the world and other people. I am well aware of how the Traveling Piano and me and my dogs... have changed peoples lives with fun, friendship, respect, empowerment, inspiration, synchronisity, spontaneity, etc... but I still say everything works through me... ahh, its late at night and I don't know what I'm writing about. All I know is, a letter like this really helps me, it keeps me going, I need all the encouragement, reassurance, validation and everything else that I can get! Ha.