October 22, 2004

And So It Goes

"Hi, my name is Jen. I have medical training, can I help you?"

This is what one says to a patient when approaching, to gain consent to treat. This is what ran through my brain last night while sleeping. This sentence. Over and over and over....

Let's just say this class is freakin' intense. So intense I don't have time to elaborate right now. Endless three letter acronyms were drilled into my head on Day 1. Patient assessments. SOAP notes. And more. All must be learned. Not learned in the "I have a test soon, and must memorize this for the test" sort of way I got through high school, but more in the "This could save someone's life, and this information must be ingrained in a cellular sort of way". That's some pressure there, huh?

Day 2 was CPR. But first, I got to play the "patient" and have my classmates find me, assess my (moulaged) injuries and then go painfully step-by-step through what we learned yesterday of the Patient Assessment System. All the while, I was lying in three inches of snow and snow still falling. I was adequately dressed for the wet, but not for the cold despite numerous layers. (Call me a wussy California girl, I guess.) No Gore-Tex boots, so the feet took hours to warm up afterwards.

Okay, back to studying.....

October 20, 2004


I'm sitting in Lander's Laundrymat (sic). Jay's taking a phone call, so I'm stuck here doing our laundry while tinny country music croons from speakers unseen. I'd likely tear them down if I could find them; I hate country music. I hate laundromats, too. I'm allergic to them, all the dust, soap and mildew. This one's no exception. My eyes are itchy and my nose stuffy from the deuling scents of Tide and Ultra Cheer.

Despite the current suckage, today was a fun day. We drove out to Sinks Canyon and took the Stud Mobile into 4WD up, up, up a couple thousand feet on a muddy potholed dirt road. Six miles up there was a dark gray lake with windy white caps. It was starting to rain so we pulled on our rain gear and headed out for a hike.

We hiked around the lake, over downed trees and navigated our way across a stream that fed the lake. Huge tracks resembling a deer on steroids (elk, perhaps?) circled the lake. Never saw the magnificent beast, though.

After hiking and scraping off the mud, we headed back down and parked in a small, four site campground. It had a cool boulder and a grassy area where we did yoga. We made lunch. Okay, Jay made lunch, which of course included a juice. This one was actually palatable and I finished it all. Even before Jay finished his juice! Then we headed back and I got stuck doing laundry in this freakin' laundromat. Jay was going to hook up the WiFi so I could surf online while doing laundry. Looks like the satellite dish wasn't cooperating.

I'm feeling napful. Perhaps it was the crappy sleep last night. We stayed at The Noble, the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) hostel. Jay and I shared a room, sans roomates. We each got our own squeaky, painfully uncomfortable bunkbed. The sheets were without elastic, which pretty much ensured the bedding becoming knotted up as I thrashed around in fitful sleep. This was true dorm livin'-- the younger "kids" on a NOLS semested were up late and being noisy. I rolled over, deaf ear up, and slept anyway.

Despite my grumbling, I love, love, love this town. Enough so that I'm noticing which homes are for sale. It's a small town, about 5000 people and a mile high in elevation. There are big skies, diesel trucks, and changing leaves. Yesterday we got smoothies at a shop called "Chocolates for Breakfast". My kind of place, I thought, until once inside I realized it should have been called "The Jesus Cafe", given the amount of religious paraphenalia for sale in every nook and cranny. The Safeway here stocks my brand of Soymilk and tofu, a big plus in my book. The local chinese restaurant has veggie food on the menu, but more importantly, it's a probable source of fuel. They are the only joint in town that uses non-hydrogenated vegetable oil. (The van can't run on hydrogenated oil.) We sourced oil upon our arrival in town, and people looked at us oddly when we mentioned the van ran on used restaurant oil. Apparently NOLS has a bus that runs on veggie oil, too, and this Chinese restaurant is where they score their fuel, too. Fortunately for us, they're not running the bus right now, so there's no competition for the oil.

Anyway, this town is cool. Outdoorsy vibe, blue collar, and seemingly an equal number of Kerry supporters to the number of Bush folks. Good sign, especially in Cheyney country!

The Woofer (Wilderness First Responder) class starts tomorrow, so our relaxation and fun ends today. Tomorrow begins brain overload!

October 18, 2004

On the road....

Last night got hairy. Driving rain began showing signs of becoming fat, puffy snowflakes. We stopped in Winnamucca, NV for a fine dining experience at Pizza Hut. The snow made an appearance as we entered the restaurant. Inside Pizza Hut, the air conditioner was on. The place was empty and bad '70's roller-disco was coming through unseen speakers. We ate mediocre pizza, froze, and hit the road again.

We started climbing over a pass and the snow was coming down sideways. It was swirly and intense. We had to look through the snow, not at it, or else it was overwhelming. The snow covered all road signs. Other vehicles were pulling off the road or driving with their hazards on. The Stud Mobile chugged along, slow and steady in 4WD. I felt safe, in this solid piece of machinery, high above cars. Semi trucks were pulled off the road, looking like long strands of Christmas lights.

We drove until we hit rest area in Valmy, NV. It was a damn cold run to the rest room wearing Chacos and a sweatshirt. Jay popped the top on the van and we settled in for sleep, except for me running to pee several times over the course of the night.

The Cow (Jay's Blackberry, his phone-daytimer-life accessory) woke me at 6:15am with a Mooooo!! It then began chirping its stupidly giddy alarm. I hadn't realized Jay had set the alarm. I thought it was Jay receiving the morning's opening stock quotes. I got out of my darling down coccoon and went outside to shoot a few photos of the sunrise. The peaks around us were covered with snow. The skies were a cool, flat blue, the blue one sees before the warm colors of sunrise make an appearance.

We hit the road. It's a good thing we stopped when we did last night. The next pass looked like the storm was a doozy.

Starbucks 50 miles. Yep. There was a billboard in Battle Mountain announcing Starbucks in Elko, NV. Exit 303. I now had the coffee jones for 50 miles. I coerced Jay into stopping, and when we turned off at 303 we began looking for the green circled logo. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but then we saw the famed logo on the side of a casino. A casino? The Red Lion Inn and Casino housed the only Starbucks for miles and miles. Well, I wanted my fix so I braved the bling and went inside. Past all the glitz was a full-on Starbucks! How crazy, I thought, as a I tanked up on the biggest Cappucino I could buy.

We went back outside to check the van. Jay wanted to see if the poorly designed auxillary gas tank had gotten water in it. It looked pretty good. Jay tried to teach me a bit of Hacky Sackin', I sucked at it, and then we hit the road.

later on.....

We got Boulders! We stopped at a rest area in between Knolls and the Cedar Mountains in Utah. Up the hill beyond the plus rest stop were rocks! I walked swiftly up the hill, appreciating how good it felt to be moving my body. We did some bouldering, sans climbing shoes, on some cool rock. Lots of loose rock, and lemme tell you how much it sucked to be leveraging one's body weight, pull a hold, and the the rock loosen and wind up in my hand. We ran back down the hill. From a distance, I spotted what looked to be a Rottie. Upon arrival, it was indeed a Rottie, a sweet big 11 month old boy named Tucker. While Jay chatted with Tucker's owner about veggie oil as fuel, I got my dog fix.

October 17, 2004


At 2pm we officially hit the road, headed East on 80. No real plan, but it is East. We need to go East. Lots going on in the skies, dark and heavy and sleepy. REM's new album "Around the Sun" is on. The music and the sky make for a melancholy mood. I bury my nose in Backpacker magazine.

Somewhere around Auburn the tension settles, the anxiety diminishes and we settle into the road trip and start talking some. We eat a roll of Sree candies. I was surprised because these things are little artificial-everything sugar bombs, and Jay's not a junk foodie. Climbing towards Tahoe, it starts to rain. A pack of Harley riders are slogging through the weather and still have a ways to go to get to their NV homes. Or at least their license plates say that's where they're from.

Dense fog. More rain. Yellow leaves. I may not be sleeping outside tonight.

On top of Donner Summit, we encounter a white dusting of snow and some accumulating slush. Nothing too spectacular, but a reminder of how weather can rear its head. I imagine sititng in a snowstorn in Tahoe ski traffic. Yuck.

Heading down into NV on 80, traffic comes to a standstill. On comes Dharma Radio. It's Jai Uttal. Chanting and soothing voice while at a standstill. I guess this is where I remind myself to breathe?

Saw Reno as we drove through and Nevada became increasingly dark as the sun set. Flat. Dark. Headlights. That's Nevada so far. Humboldt, NV isn't what we Cally folks thing of as a Humboldt kinda place. Here it consists of an exit and a Penitentiary, nothing else.

October 16, 2004

The Art of Procrastination

We were supposed to leave today. We were going to clean the van, load it up, and hit the road.

Ha. It ain't happening.

That's okay. It's a lazy day, one that calls for a nap. I fought the urge and made another pot of coffee. I'm doing my half-assed packing thing, the routine goes like this: pull out some gear, put it on the back of the couch, futz around in the kitchen, play with the dogs, get online, pull out more gear, decide to pare down by putting away some clothes or gear previously put on the couch. I tell myself this works because I can decide slowly, and see everything.

For this trip, it's important to pack very minimally. I'm going to be living in a van for three weeks with my friend, Jay (aka Dharma-J). We're driving his studmobile (my words, not his) to Wyoming. Why is this van studly? Because it runs on vegetable oil, dude! Despite it's fuel source, it's a macho army-green. This van gets attention. Everywhere. People gawk at it, and guys get boners. It has a satellite dish so geeks groove on it, too. This van is Jay's home. It has a kitchen, toilet, and a big screen TV. Okay, I'm kidding about the TV. It's got a juicer, though. Don't get me started on the juicer....

Anyway, we're going to Wyoming to take a Wilderness First Responder course. Never been to Wyoming. Our road trip will also take us through states I've longed to visit: Utah, Colorado (I hope!), Idaho. Jay's been kind enough to open his home up to me for the next few weeks as his road trippin' buddy. The Stud Mobile is rad, but for two people, it's gonna be downright cozy.
Like sharin' a shoebox.

Stay tuned. We'll get on the road eventually. From the SMCHQ (that's Stud Mobile Central Headquarters), I'll be beamin' up stories of green juices, coffee withdrawl, gorgeous landscapes, mock rescues, and bivvying hither and yon.

Now back to packing...