Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Week to the Start of the Journey

Once upon a time there was a girl who moved to Iowa City.  
photo credit: Todd Landry (http://www.toddlandryphotography.com/)

And it was a glorious town with a surreal park,

Pinhole Iowa City Park Airplanes (by MarcioTK http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3153669)

 a frothy river,

a quaint center,

occasional strange occurences,

 and ample writing time.

The girl had moved almost a year ago from NYC to become better versed in the ways of the playwright through the University of Iowa.

But as the impending 90% Midwest humidity settled in, as her peers filtered out of town to their respective summer writing journeys, she began to think of her aunt and uncle in Boston and the wonderful time she had when she visited them last July.

(The guy with the hat is not my uncle. He's standing to the left of him. That’s musician Amos Lee. We’re at the Lowell Summer Music Series. Picture borrowed from my uncle’s blog: http://www.jimsullivanink.com/)
The girl glanced around and decided-- it was time to take her own writing journey. But as she sat in her IC apartment, gazing forlornly out her window, she thought...

 "hmmm…this playwriting direction is kind of economically harrowing—how can I not spend $400 on a plane ticket?"

And she thought and she thought and she thought...

                            Until it hit her...

                                               like a bus...
                                                        The solution:

If you book far enough in advance you can get tickets for as low as $1 (plus a 50 cent booking fee).

I booked in May.


Where this takes me:

Iowa City – Chicago – Cleveland – Pittsburgh – Philly -- Boston – NYC – Pittsburgh—Columbus, Ohio – Chicago—Iowa City

  (and I’m sure to plenty of seven-hour-bus-ride-introspective-ramblings).

The best part: the megabus has wi-fi and outlets. (ßvirtual office!)

The drive:
A combination of my semi-spartan grad school existence, adventuresome spirit and a thwarted attempt to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Boston the last time I was in NYC for one of my plays. (The timing didn’t work out).

Finding the most affordable route became a game. A really logistically complex one (beyond Stratego) that involved pretty much two days in May, eyes-locked on my laptop at the Iowa City Public library.
Also, possibly charts and spreadsheets.
But I’m a grad student. It’s summer break. Let’s go!

ICPL (how I spent two days of my summer)
If a savvy / mildly OCD computer coder invented a megabus routing system like hopstop.com or expedia, they might make buckets of money.  (And if they wanted to give me 3% of their company for being their muse, as soon as I get fiscal sponsorship through fractured atlas-- they’ll be an arts donor. Cough...in the meantime, I have a paypal account).

Total this costs me: $69.50. (ßHuzzah!)

Total length of trip: July 12th- August 10th.

And I have a subletter. Rock on.

Ultimately though, while my financial philosophy is embodied by thrift-shops and affordable bus tickets, this is actually less about saving money and more about the people I hope to meet on the road, and the chance to spend time with friends.
With the help of:
Couchsurfing.org (a hospitality social networking site that I have been a part of since January)
And a slight internet addiction...

This has spiraled  into an opportunity to visit new places, revisit older ones, meet new people and reconnect.

I find that once you start exploring off-the-beaten-path ideas and alternatives to hotels- you not only save money, you have more fun and become a magnet for the awesome.

My recent misadventures through couchsurfing.org have encouraged this notion.

Since I joined in January, I have hosted:

Valentine, a scholar and theater kindred spirit from Lyons, France. She traveled all the way from France specifically to Iowa City to write a paper on the artist Grant Wood.
Not familiar?

I've also hosted:
--Meaner Pencil, an awesome cellist vocalist from Lincoln, Nebraksa.   (http://www.reverbnation.com/meanerpencil). Her band name is an anagram of her actual name, Lenna Pierce. My encounter with Lenna resulted in a night of hanging out with experimental musicians in a former child violin playing prodigy's living room and my discovery of the existence of an instrument called the shruti-box. A shruti box according to wikipedia "is a small wooden instrument that traditionally works on a system of bellows." Anything that works on a system of bellows is inherently cool.  http://www.shrutibox.com/

--A gentleman hitchiking between organic farms.

--A motivational speaker on his way back to Canada after two months in a rainforest of South America following a broken engagement with his fiance.  I learned a lot from this guy. Also, he motivated me to set up a twitter account. (http://twitter.com/#!/DeborahYarchun).

And while he was couchsurfing Iowa City, I had coffee with comedian Phil Biedron who has been taking intermittent tours of the midwest via Megabus by booking $1 tickets in advance. Phil was clearly very inspiring. (http://midweston25.blogspot.com/2011/04/iowa-city-party-party-fun-time.html)
Phil and his girlfriend Meg will be hosting me during my time in Chicago.

My only adventure in surfing so far was mid-June through the Twin Cities Couch Fest / a quasi-couchsurfing convention.

There I met:

Sean Kolk, who is on his own bus journey of the United States-- a remodeled school-bus.

(Like "Into the Wild," but not.)

Me on the bus.
At the TwinCities Couchfest, I also met an architecture student midway through a coast to coast bike journey.  He didn't join us on the bike tour, where I tested my own limits by biking 40 miles in one day through St. Paul and Minneapolis.

And I was hosted by these two wonderful people:

Indie album shot taken from my phone.
Dylan, a brewer of fine microbrews and his wife Laura, a self-employed seamstress.   They not only let me borrow a bike for the weekend, they gave me a ride in their 1960 Mercury to a picnic at Hidden Falls in St. Paul.

At the picnic at Hidden Falls.
That was one weekend and I have four weeks coming up starting July 12th.

I gotta feeling that it's going to be a good ride.

Let the Great Megabus Adventure of 2011 begin!

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