A Travellerspoint blog

What to drive, and how to drive it

Station wagons, fuel economy, and gadgets!

semi-overcast 77 °F

Over two years ago, as the concept of this roadtrip became more concrete, we started looking at what sort of vehicle we might take on the road with us during this massive journey. The kinds of vehicles that come to mind when I think "stereotypical road trip" are basically RV, van, or VW minibus. In my own experience, my family made trips to Florida and North Carolina to visit my grandparents several times. At first, we took Dodge Colt Vista - something of a minivan predecessor. After that car kicked the bucket, we replaced it with a Dodge Caravan. Or maybe it was the Plymouth equivalent. It had not occurred to me until typing this paragraph, that I've spent most of my roadtrip miles in Dodge vehicles - even if one of them was basically a rebadged Mitsubishi.

"My Greek father, John, was a mechanic and a general fix-it man. As far back as I can remember, he owned a big, blue Honda station wagon. The back was filled with buckets of tools and hardware, and miscellaneous mechanical parts. It was filthy, and smelled of hot vinyl. He always had it tuned to a radio station that was playing Cliff Richard's "Some People" or Tiffany "I Think We're Alone Now."

"I have many fond memories of that blue station wagon, and when I was in my late teens, I bought a shitty $2000 blue station wagon of my own. Mostly, I used it to transport band gear, for which it was very useful. Being shitty, it developed many problems, most egregiously - the windsheid leaked at the top. My mother, when borrowing it one time, fixed it with silicon caulk, which was obviously slathered across the top of the windshield and onto the roof. The next time my mother borrowed it, I was in the USA on our roadtrip to new orleans that partly inspired this one. When I got home, my mother said, "Your car's been confiscated." I was, naturally, shocked. What on earth happened, I asked her. I thought maybe she had been dealing drugs - anythign is possible with my mother. Turns out that she had simply been driving it on Paramatta Road, where police had 'randomly' pulled it over for a safety points check. It failed spectacularly, and that was the end of my blue station wagon. Until Matt came home with this one.

"I love small cars, but my heart lies with big blue station wagons."

There were two big features that had me eyeing up a Dodge Magnum for the roadtrip. For one - I was pretty sure that if I put down (or took out) the back seats, I could lie flat on my back and still have room to stretch. The other thing that it had going for it was surprisingly good fuel economy for a full-size vehicle. At the time I was looking, we both drove Hyundai Elantras - I could squeeze 450 miles out of a full tank, getting at least 32mpg. The base model Magnum has an advertised fuel economy of 27mpg. That's close to double the economy you'd get out of a van, certainly double the economy of any RV. But some research, combined with some advice from old friends had me doubting the longevity and capabilities of the base model's 2.7l V6 engine. Additionally, if we're going to be on the road for an extended period time, we're going to want something comfortable, and generally, car manufacturers only give you a cozy interior if you take a bigger engine with it.

Now the next step up version of the car was now on my radar. It has a 3.5l V6, 250 horsepower (my 1st car had less than half that at 89hp) - but only gets 23mpg on the highway. That might not seem like such a drop, but that was now almost 10 fewer miles per gallon that our Hyundais got. And when you're planning to drive tens of thousands of miles in a single month - that's several hundreds of dollars of added expense. Some of the niceties that kind of offset that are the fact that the model we eventually found had the 'comfort package' installed - power adjustable everything (you can even reposition the pedals), big comfy leather seats, a sunroof and Sirius radio, and the one we found was low mileage at a great price. But still - 23mpg! And that's what the EPA says we'll get if we're on the highway, I don't even want to know what it got driving the streets of Philadelphia.

One thing it did not get, something only available if you bought even BIGGER engines, was a car computer display. Buy a Magnum with a Hemi, and you get an active readout of your MPG, various fluid temperatures, and other handy diagnostic things. Since we were going a long distance relying on this car not only for travel but for a place to sleep, I'd love to have something like this on our car. Retrofitting it is possible, but I couldn't justify the cost. I did learn about this thing called a Scangauge though - it shows even more information, and works with just about any modern car. Really, the only thing I wanted it for was the fuel economy meter. If we had an idea of what effect our driving techniques had on the gas tank, we could save a few bucks on this trip.

I've already gotten way too wordy, but the long and short of it - through careful driving, and hanging behind tractor trailers when we could, we've been getting around 27mpg. Again - doesn't sound like a big deal. On a 500 mile drive, that's about 3.2 gallons less per day. At four dollars a gallon, that's $13 a day. Being on the road 35 days - that's a savings of $455 over the trip.

And that's cheap. As Mel just added - "Gas costs three times as much in Australia as it costs here."

Posted by leviathant 08:33 Archived in USA Tagged wagon money van vehicle mpg economy speed scangauge Comments (0)

Moar photos: OBX and Asheville

I am refusing to write proper blog entries because it's my summer and I'm sick of writing.

semi-overcast 82 °F
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FLICKR SET: Roadtrop: Asheville

Posted by mormolyke 05:40 Archived in USA Tagged lighthouse north_carolina asheville outer_banks hatteras Comments (0)

Flickr Collection: Roadtrop

Click to go to the collection and see 'em bigger

rain 65 °F
View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.


Posted by mormolyke 18:46 Archived in USA Tagged virginia maryland north_carolina delaware hatteras cbbt pea_island Comments (1)

Day 1: Fog, rain, Route 13, and an enormous bridge

rain 60 °F

After briefly showing Tony around the house that he was going to look after for the next month, we took to the road under gray skies that promised our first day would not be without rain. We took quickly drove through Delaware and Maryland via routes 95 and 13. I took the first shift driving - our GPS said that if we continued at pace, we would be in Hatteras by 6pm, although we didn't really have any intention of getting there quite so early. For one, the fog along the Maryland/Delaware peninsula was incredibly dense, even well past noon.

Usually, during long drives, the drive itself takes a back seat to the destination - top priority on day 1 is to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, without attracting attention from law enforcement along the way. A great way to reinforce the less rushed schedule we're on has been to pay attention to our fuel consumption gauge, and actually go the speed limit.

Our car is rated at something like 23mpg, but according to our Scangauge, I was able to push it up past 25. When Melissa took the wheel in Virginia, she was able to eek out 27mpg. Compared to the fuel economy that vans or RVs afford you, and given that we're driving some 15,000 miles in a month, this is a big reason why we chose a station wagon for the trip.

After going a fair way into Virginia, a little bit past the "Isn't Rte 13 boring? We're not. Ahead 5mi" sign (didn't catch the name of the business behind the observant sign) it was time for us to pull off the road for a bite to eat. As we were talking about this, we saw a banner at the edge of a strip mall parking lot, "THAI FOOD". I'll admit, if you asked me what kind of food I might find on the eastern shore of Virginia, Thai wouldn't be my first guess, but it sounded like a great lunch, so we pulled in to what turned out to be one of the sadder strip malls I've been to. That Thai restaurant that had invited us off the highway? "Coming soon." There were folks building the counter inside where residents of this area would soon be eating delicious Thai food, but the only other place in this strip that had food was a standard fare strip-mall Chinese buffet. Outside another store front was structural damage, evidence of an unfortunate high-speed joining of road vehicle and immovable structure. There was a Mexican restaurant - but it was closed. Even the Chinese buffet looked closed. We got back on the road, and followed signs to a cafe - also closed. We were close enough to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that we decided to just snack at this point, stopping at a local grocery store to pick up some bread to tide us over.

Before long, we had made the bridge-tunnel - a 20 mile engineering expanse featuring a series of bridges and tunnels, with a restaurant in the middle of it all. At a scenic viewpoint just before the bridge, we got out to have a good look at it, curving off into a hazy vanishing point on the horizon. The drive across the bridge reminded me of driving across Lake Ponchatrain a decade ago, when Melissa and I drove to New Orleans. Happily, by this point the clouds had broken off, and as we emerged from one of the tunnels, doing the requisite hairpin turn to get into the restaurant, the sun was beaming down unhindered by clouds, without a drop of rain in our sight. I found the view from this island in the bay stunning - you emerge right alongside what I can only guess is a major shipping route, given the number of enormous vessels we saw cruise past the restaurant in the time we were there.

After a late lunch, we were back on the road south to North Carolina.

FLICKR SET: Roadtrop: Setting out

Posted by leviathant 14:53 Archived in USA Tagged mpg cbbt fuel_economy Comments (1)

Ten years of Trips. And a new one beginning tomorrow.



I am excited beyond belief that we're leaving TOMORROW. I've had my head down for a few weeks finishing out my last semester of coursework, but the weeks (months) of planning I indulged in earlier have me feeling pretty relaxed the night before we head off.

One of the reasons this trip is so awesome is that it marks ten years of Matt and I traveling together - through life, and literally. A decade ago last month, we roadtripped to New Orleans, and on the way, we fell in love. Since then, we've managed to get away as often as we can.

April 2002 New Orleans
The original. It really was the trip itself that convinced us to give in to our attraction and venture into a crazy intercontinental relationship. I'm not one for supernatural beliefs, but it was like the entire universe was telling us, shouting at us, to be together. Photos available on Facebook and Flickr.

December 2002 - January 2003 Australia
The trip during which Matt proposed, and an opportunity for me to show Matt around famous parts of my country I hadn't actually visited myself. We witnessed some crazy bushfires in Canberra, and much else besides.

August 2003 Seattle
An internet meetup!

January 2005 and June 2006 Pittsburgh
I don't think I have any pictures online from our impromptu New Year's Day drive to Pittsburgh from Harrisburg, but the second one was for an epic Nine Inch Nails experience complete with an obese stripper.

May 2005 Coachella
Another internet meetup, and a chance to see Nine Inch Nails at a festival in the desert. Photos aplenty.

August 2006 Australia
Matt and I return to Australia so that I can say goodbye to my (step)dad, and he can meet my father for the first time. Also the first time I chopped all my hair off for a trip.

October 2007 Niagara Falls
I drove Matt there for his birthday to see the Video Game Orchestra (and a great big waterfall).

September 2008 Los Angeles
This was a really special one. We renewed our wedding vows in Malibu on our fifth anniversary after making it through an annus horribilis.

May 2009 Phoenix and Sedona, AZ
Matt scored some super-cheap airfares, and we got away for a weekend.

June 2009 Schuylkill Sojourn
We kayaked down the Schuylkill River for seven days in Matt's new Advanced Elements tandem kayak.

December 2009 - January 2010 Egypt
Our last really big trip, and our most exciting so far! I'm glad we were there before Arab Spring, but I yearn to go back one day. Although I could do without the female genital mutilation and the bedbugs.

April 2010 Red Hook, NY
The Gonzales Cantata was performed at Bard (photos by Kendall Whitehouse).

April 2010 Minnesota
We attended the SEAMUS conference (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music of the United States, or as I affectionately refer to it, the Beardo Conference) and hung out in Minneapolis for a weekend.

May 2010 Kansas City
My choral work "What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?" was performed by the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, but it was also an excuse for yet another internet meetup.

June 2010 and June 2011 Waterford, CT
Two years in a row, we attended the O'Neill National Puppetry Conference. This year we have to miss out because of the roadtrop, but hopefully we'll be back in the future.

June 2010 Asheville, NC
A spontaneous drive to see Matt's grandpa. We'll be swinging by again in a couple of days!

January 2011 San Antonio, TX
Another Gonzales Cantata performance which we turned into our first trip to Texas.

January 2011 Boston
Puppet Pandemic!

April 2012 San Francisco
We really only just returned from this trip, but I've written so many papers since I returned, it feels like a lifetime ago. Yet another trip for a performance (of "Omaha Beach" by Chanticleer). I kind of love turning performances of my compositions into excuses for hopping on planes - since I'm not even the one performing, it's so low pressure!

This list by necessity only contains trips for which we had to drive more than three hours or fly. It would be impossible to tally up all the daytrips and vacations we've taken to New York, Baltimore/DC, Gettysburg, Philly (when we didn't live here), Delaware Water Gap, Appalachian Trail, etc., etc. If you notice a big gap between dates, it's likely we went to a bunch of those places.

Anyway, that's all behind us. This roadtrop has been on the cards since at least 2004, so I have years of anticipation to fulfill. Right now, I'm just kind of thrilled that Matt's home from work, and I'm home from school, and we're going to be in the same space 24/7 for 35 days.

Posted by mormolyke 18:34 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Woah. We won the lottery.

The lottery to climb the Half Dome cables, that is.

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So, craziness. A couple of months ago, I reported that we were lucky enough to snag a campsite in Yosemite for Memorial Day weekend in the few short minutes before they sold out completely. Shortly afterward, we also entered the Half Dome lottery.

Half Dome is a great big rock. Maybe it's the most famous large rock in America? I come from a land often defined by a very large rock in the center that I've never actually seen in person and certainly never climbed, but for some reason I decided that perhaps we should try climbing Half Dome, despite the fact that it kills people. Like, holy shit, quite a few people. Enough people that I started to have second thoughts, and then figured I should let fortune decide; because Half Dome was becoming (even more) dangerously crowded, the park service recently implemented a lottery system for permits to climb it.


So, we put in an application and waited. And on Friday, we were told that our application was granted.

Oh, man.

Since I am a giant scaredycat whose mild vertigo seems to grow a little stronger the older I get (this happens to a lot of people, I've heard), I have ordered us some climbing harnesses and via ferrata sets, and damnit, we are going to use them. I don't care if we look ridiculous. I grew up wearing an oversized orange stackhat while riding my bicycle; I can take it.

I thought at first that we could invite friends along with us, but no, it turns out the permit is for just the two of us.

Wow, I listened to all the lyrics in this song for the first time, and damned if it isn't about this very roadtrop. Obviously, Bill Withers is (a fabulously wealthy) clairvoyant and is speaking directly to me.

Posted by mormolyke 08:28 Archived in USA Tagged yosemite dome planning half Comments (2)

Trial Run 3

In which we are thrown out of a Walmart lot.

sunny 65 °F

Less than four weeks to go now until we leave for the big journey. The end of my semester is approaching, with its requisite deadlines and procrastinated workload, so this may be the last time we do a sleepover test run in the Magnum.

On Saturday, we were in Central PA for our friend Tony's birthday, and since there are far more state parks out that way than there are closer to Philly, we decided we wanted to stay overnight. Unfortunately, all of their campgrounds aren't open until the second weekend of April, so we had to seek other options. Was it finally time to try boondocking in a Walmart parking lot?

Also unfortunate: neither of the York Walmarts allow overnight parking. But we decided to try and see what happened. Worst case scenario, they would just kick us out, right?

They did. After about two hours, at one in the morning, we heard a sharp rap on the window, and a mall cop told us to clear out. ("There's a Holiday Inn around the corner." Uh, yeah, not really the point.) I suppose she was alerted to our unconscious presence, despite the sun shades we use to block the windows, by the rivers of condensation on the panes. We finally found a spot in another strip mall where a few other cars and at least one truck were also boondocking, and slept undisturbed until daybreak.

We spent most of Easter Sunday at Gifford Pinchot. It's quite pretty.


Other things we tested out:

The Cooking Rig

The Cooking Rig

The MiFi wireless internet. Hooray, I can surf the web on my laptop in a forest.

The MiFi wireless internet. Hooray, I can surf the web on my laptop in a forest.

Posted by mormolyke 18:53 Archived in USA Tagged planning gifford_pinchot Comments (3)

Trial Run 2

Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge

overcast 53 °F

Matt and I took another test run of our sleeping cabin on wheels this weekend, with a trip down to Delaware. Initially we were hoping to see NASA fire some rockets, but it became clear on the way down that thick mists had rapidly descended, and I began to worry there would be nothing to see at all even after we woke this morning.

Fear not. We always find something to see. True, visibility was so low that we couldn't see the ocean, but on the way back up the coast, "Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge" caught our eye, and we ventured in to take a look.


Prime Hook scenery

Prime Hook scenery

Heron at Prime Hook

Heron at Prime Hook

Every misty cloud has a silver lining.

Posted by mormolyke 21:34 Archived in USA Tagged birds planning delaware Comments (0)

Solar Eclipse May 20!

OMG I am accidentally a genius

View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.

I was idly browsing the National Park Service website this evening, as one does when one is obsessed with planning a giant roadtrop, when I stumbled over this page:


Ohhh, holy moly! How is it possible that I did not realize that, on the same trip during which we are visiting not one but two Space Centers, and for which I have purchased the first telescope I've had since I was a kid (an Orion SkyScanner I nabbed on eBay), there is a beautiful solar eclipse occurring? Imagine my ecstasy when I realized that we are going to be in *exactly* the right place at *exactly* the right time (if we pace ourselves)!


On May 20, we will be traveling through Arizona from New Mexico to Utah, and in the early evening, we will be somewhere around Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The annular eclipse begins at 6:30PM. Perfect.

I just picked up some Mylar to make my own solar filter. We already have a T-ring attachment for Matt's T2i, so expect lots of pictures.

Posted by mormolyke 19:52 Tagged eclipse planning canyon_de_chelly Comments (2)

An impromptu test of our custom recreational vehicle

Using a trip to Cabela's as an excuse to sleep in the Magnum for the first time

sunny 40 °F

The very day that we had completed installing the bed in the back of our car, I wanted to test it out. It felt a bit like having a tent, but only your backyard to camp in, and not having the childish luxury of an uncluttered, unbusy schedule. But sleeping in your car, in your driveway, in your neighborhood - that didn't have any appeal to me. It was winter, our street gets a fair amount of regular traffic day and night, although I bet at least one neighbor would get a funny story to tell friends and family that day. So we built our home away from home, and then we occupied ourselves with other things while we waited.

It's April now, and we have just about all the equipment we need for the trip. There were still a few things we needed though, things that we could probably find at an enormous sporting goods destination superstore. About an hour and a half's drive north of us, there is such a store - and they, being sporty and outdoorsy, have a massive parking lot and encourage spending the night in your RV in the driveway. It was last Friday evening when we had the idea to go to Cabela's. That idea formed within the same hour the store was closing for the day.

This turned into an excuse to break from our wait, to see just how well the bed we constructed in the back of our car would work. An added incentive: the forecast for the evening predicted that the temperature would drop to freezing - which is at least as cold as Yellowstone tends to be in May. So we set off a little before midnight, and after an uneventful trip up the northeast extension of the PA turnpike, we arrived at our destination around 1:30am. Snaking our way up the road to this absurdly huge superstore, we followed the signs pointing us toward the RV parking, cut the lights, and clambered into the back. We may have just been parked in an empty lot in Hamburg, PA, but turning around to the bed and seeing the rear windows as a panoramic viewport over where we slept gave me kind of a thrill. This morning-after photo doesn't really do it justice.


At first, it felt like the heat from the ride up would be sufficient, but the cold front that whipped wind at us the whole drive north had the cabin temperature equalizing with the ambient outdoor temperature within an hour or so. We had started off with just the light sheets that we had made the bed with months before, but it wasn't long before we pulled out the sleeping bag that was stowed under our bed frame. It was warm under the covers, but the air on my face and in my nose gave me a chill that reminded me of sleeping overnight in the White Desert in Egypt.

We awoke the next morning as sun poured around where we slept. It didn't look much like our neighbors for the night were up yet. Or, if they were, they had the advantage of much larger quarters to spend their morning in.


Although we woke up just in time for the store to open, we wanted some breakfast first. Whenever I need food in a strange town - particularly breakfast, it's hard to go wrong a local diner. Having that in mind, we made our way to downtown Hamburg and before we could even look for it, we stumbled across the Hamburg Diner. This little eatery was situated in between houses on State street, and was just what I was hoping for. We walked in (and were very clearly the only non-locals there), seated ourselves in a booth, and ordered scrambled eggs, home fries, & toast. We had the younger server, the older lady was busying herself with regular patrons.

Breakfast at the Hamburg Diner

Breakfast at the Hamburg Diner

We paid cash for our meager bill (Sometimes I forget how cheap food is in the further-out bits of Pennsylvania) and backtracked over the Schuylkill river and down the road to Cabela's. What followed was hours of spacing out in front of racks of guns, knives, and ridiculous displays full of mostly stuffed whitetail deer. I really can't express to you how many stuffed deer there are in this place, and I'm not even counting the trophy heads hung on the walls. They also had polar bears, an elephant, a rhino, mountain lions, zebra, wolves, wildebeest, chipunks and squirrels... so many stuffed animals. There's a pond stocked with trout, and an aquarium with a few large tanks full of, well, mostly catfish. There were a lot of other fish too, but catfish dominated the aquarium. Melissa took the opportunity to get familiar with the tilt-shift setting on her Canon G12:




We did a lot of wandering - there was a 'gun library' (read: the used gun gallery), a side-gallery with a bunch of trophy deer heads and an animatronic bow hunter who regales you with tales about deer, a huge clearance section, and the 'bargain cave' - a section of Cabela's that resembles Gabriel Brothers, where all the open-box items are sold off at cut rates. Eventually, hunger tore us away from the consumerist trance, so we grabbed lunch at - where else - Cabela's restaurant. Mel grabbed a Bison Bratwurst, I went with a sandwich called "The Legend" -- a buffalo burger, topped with bbq brisket and cheddar cheese. We both sucked down Pennsylvania Dutch White Birch Beer, and spent another two hours in a daze before we finally picked up some bear spray, knives, and other outdoorsy things. We were on the road by 2:30, and back home by four.


I'm really looking forward to doing that kind of thing over and over again, with different destinations and 'homes', for a whole month. Of course, I'm also glad we've got a few couches to crash on along the way. Oh hey, by the way, this is Matt. With Melissa driving for half of each day, I'll see if I can catch up with her post count before the trip is through. We've got a lot of fun stuff to document our travels (look for the semi-cliche 'time lapse video of the entire trip from the dashboard' video when we're through), and I'm really glad we're able to share that.

Posted by leviathant 21:12 Archived in USA Tagged planning Comments (0)

States we're hitting

Because I like lists

Lists are fun. For example, I have a packing list that I've been working on obsessively for literally months now.

Today I felt curious about how many states we'll be driving through on the roadtrop. So I compiled a list.

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Delaware
  3. Maryland
  4. Virginia
  5. North Carolina
  6. Tennessee
  7. Georgia
  8. Florida
  9. Alabama
  10. Mississippi
  11. Louisiana
  12. Texas
  13. New Mexico
  14. Arizona (twice)
  15. Utah
  16. Nevada (twice)
  17. California
  18. Idaho
  19. Wyoming
  20. South Dakota
  21. Minnesota
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Illinois
  24. Indiana
  25. Ohio
And back home to PA.

Only 25 states! For a five-week tour I was expecting the number to be higher. Then again, that's an average of only 1.4 days in each state. Damn, I guess I moved to a big country.

Posted by mormolyke 13:10 Tagged planning Comments (0)


View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.

T minus ten weeks today! Preparation is going very well. I have now ascertained that we'll be able to take the roof rack off the Magnum, since all our luggage will fit easily under the bed; this will probably save us a couple hundred bucks in gas thanks to reduced drag, believe it or not.

I am experimenting with having a pixie cut so that I won't have to brush my hair on the road, but it turns out, no, my hair needs brushing no matter what. It's very fine, and there's a lot of it. Too much of it; it always takes twice as long as the typical customer for me to have it cut. I kind of adore having super short hair, though. I might just settle for wearing spiffy hats in the morning to tame the bedhead.

One of my developing concerns about this roadtrop is bears. Stephen Colbert knows what he's talking about. Bear in mind (bears on mind) I grew up in Australia, where there are no large predators out in the bush, unless you are a baby and count dingoes (I'm going to hell, by the way). It's astounding to me that Americans become hysterical about our spiders and snakes when in this country, there are BLOODY GREAT BIG THINGS WITH TEETH AND CLAWS THAT EAT YOU. Hello. Also, you have plants that cause people to break out in hives just by touching them, and they're everywhere, what's up with that?

Anyway, back to bears. My own hysteria was awakened after I bought and read Yellowstone Trails: A Hiking Guide.

At the very start of the book, the authors launch into what seems to me a huge section dealing with the threat of bears, which contains such sage advice as "Bears are unpredictable. Avoid meeting one in the backcountry." I understand that there are crazy people in the world who might actually seek out a bear instead of avoiding them (see: my favorite documentary, Grizzly Man), but to me this is kind of like getting a horoscope that says "Avoid making mistakes today." Here's where things get really interesting, though:

Leave your pack on. Lie on your stomach. Interlock your fingers over the back of you neck and bring your elbows up to cover your face. You pack offers protection for you back, leaving only your buttocks and legs exposed. The bear may bite and scratch you, but you must remain still and silent. This sounds incredibly difficult, but many "ordinary" people have done it. People who have played dead and been bitten and scratched by grizzlies have told me that they weren't aware of any pain during the attack. Once the bear leaves you, don't move, as the bear may be watching you from a short ways off, looking for signs of life. Continue listening, and only move when you are sure the bear has left the area.

So, apparently if you are being eaten by a bear, you should do everything you can to squash your survival instincts. Let the bear have a bit of a nibble. Whatever, you didn't need that buttock anyway. Oh yeah, if the bear is eating the person you love most in the world next to you, just, you know, just lie still and don't say anything. Easy. His body will be in such an extreme state of shock that he's not feeling anything anyway, so just let it be. Bleeding to death? Wait until the bear leaves. That might be a while. Oops, you're dead. Easy.

But before you think that maybe bears aren't so bad - they are just enforcing the rules in some bizarre Mother Nature-adjudicated game of Sleeping Lions - read on:

If the bear enters the camping area while you are asleep and pulls you or one of your party out of the tent, this is the time to fight back. Do not play dead in this situation. This is one of those extremely rare situations that have occurred periodically in Yellowstone and other areas in bear country. The person being attacked usually isn't capable of resisting the bear, so it is up to the rest of the group to distract or deter the bear. I would definitely use my pepper spray. This is a volatile stituation and everyone is in danger of being injured, bit without help, the person being dragged off will almost certainly be killed.

Well, shit. I am not sleeping in the woods. Nope. And I may need to take a Valium before hiking anywhere. And I'm buying some bear spray and an airhorn and a little bell, and maybe some tactical weapons and full plate armor. And maybe I should take up bear blasting.

See, I'm sure some Americans work themselves up into similar froths about our spiders and snakes. The thing is, I can kill a spider with my foot or a quick squirt of fly spray. Snakes bite once, usually out of fear, and then they generally fuck off into the undergrowth so you can immediately tourniquet your wound and head off to a hospital. They certainly don't sit around a couple dozen yards off waiting for you to try to move so they can attack you again.



This is still not dampening my enthusiasm for this trip. I'm just taking into account the fact that I might be eaten by a bear, that's all.

Posted by mormolyke 12:06 Tagged planning yellowstone Comments (0)

Retrofitting a bed into the back of our Magnum, part 2

I bought a new four-inch foam mattress for $80 on eBay. I was thinking about sourcing one secondhand on Craigslist, but then recalled a very unfortunate incident involving bedbugs that occurred when we went to Egypt in 2010. Just thinking about it still makes me crazy. With the help of a cheap electric carving knife, we cut the foam down to size (39"x71").

Remains of the foam mattress

Remains of the foam mattress

Foam is kind of gross to sleep on by itself, so I pulled out some upholstery material I have lying around that I can't even remember buying (it must have been an awesome deal, because it's horribly seventies-licious and I have a LOT of it; I think we used it as a drop cloth in Downingtown at some point) and whipped up a cover today. I wanted to be able to take the cover off to wash, but I didn't have a giganto zipper, so I made do with some of my corsetry supplies.


I was pretty excited to install the finished product in the Magnum, especially since it's a gorgeous day which doesn't even warrant the use of a sweater, let alone a coat.


Here it is with just the sheets:


And here with the double-sized beach towel I found at a bargain price, multi-purposed as a blanket. I love terry cloth blankets -- they're mostly a Chinese thing, and I grew up with them -- but they're next to impossible to find in America, so I have to make do with gaudy branded creations marked down on sale.

Magnum bed by Lacoste (not really)

Magnum bed by Lacoste (not really)


Posted by mormolyke 10:30 Archived in USA Tagged planning Comments (2)

Childcraft Vol. 3: World and Space

I quite like designing things, but I am hamstrung by the fact that I can't draw.

Something I have turned to frequently for design inspiration of late is the 1970 edition of the Childcraft encyclopedia -- the edition with which I grew up. My set disappeared sometime after I moved out of home, but I recently found the same edition in pristine condition (N.B. correct usage of "pristine") on eBay and bought them for nostalgia's sake. I was not disappointed; I remember every page so well, especially the amazing illustrations and graphic design, that flipping through the volumes is an exercise in goosebumps.

How to use a road map

How to use a road map

Aside from the design of this blog, it's impossible to estimate how much of an effect these books had on my life. I read about Mozart and Gandhi and Benjamin Franklin for the first time in a Childcraft encyclopedia. I learned to recite nearly all of the first volume's poems in my early speech and drama lessons. I used to wish I lived in America because so much of the content was US-centric (mostly I wanted to track rabbit, deer, and foxes because Australian animals just seemed so boring).

I hope some of my friends with kids get sets of these for their own children. I know kids have the Internet et cetera now, but there is something wonderful about the permanence of these books. Maybe the best part about reading through them now as an adult is revisiting all the completely outdated information. Sounds syrupy, but it not only pushes all my nostalgia buttons, but makes me feel good about the world to see how far we've progressed.

Posted by mormolyke 16:54 Tagged blog Comments (2)

Our Magnum on IKEAHackers

Following a suggestion in the comments of the below blog entry, I submitted our bed-in-a-Magnum to IKEAhackers, and they just published it:



Posted by mormolyke 14:49 Tagged planning Comments (0)

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