A K9 Unit for a Hobo

Except for a few cars strewn across the Kmart parking lot, I was alone and content on this beautiful summer afternoon. I had found myself a nice spot by the side of the building next to some bushes and trees at the edge of the property. With my curtains closed and PJ´s on, I was laying in the back of my tiny mobile home reading a particularly fascinating book on astronomy and physics, while occasionally texting my best friend. That´s life my friends! I can´t even begin to explain my level of contentedness that day. No worries in the back of my mind, a comfortable place to lounge, no annoyances. I was living in the here and now, enjoying every sensation this world offered me. It was perfect. And then shit happened. Of course.

I had been reading for maybe 45 minutes, when I heard a vehicle approach and park close to mine. I didn´t exactly start hoboing yesterday, so the sound of vehicles is but a familiar background noise. However, something started itching in the back of my mind. Why would anyone pick a spot next to me in an empty parking lot? I figured a little movement wouldn´t hurt and while I am at it, I could peak out the window to see who decided to join me.

When I moved the corner of my curtain up, I saw a small, grey, beat up car one spot over from mine. The man in the driver seat hadn´t left and seemed to be waiting on something or someone. “Damn drug dealers” I thought to myself. Seemingly oblivious to my existence, he engaged in the typical activities of bored humans in solitude ranging from checking himself in the mirror to picking his nose. Whatever. I went back to my book. I´d hear if he leaves the car or drives off; no need to keep staring at him. With that, I made myself comfortable again and continued reading my book. Unlike just 10 minutes ago, however, I now found myself distracted wondering what on earth the guy next to me was up to. I couldn´t wait for him to leave.

I barely made it through a page, when I heard a second car approach and park in close proximity. “Here we go” I thought. Surely some goods and money were about to change owners. Drug dealers aren´t exactly great company to have around, but they tend to leave quickly and, for obvious reasons, are unlikely to call the cops on a hobo. Live and let live, right? I listened to car doors opening and slamming shut, some whispering, and a quiet “Hey man, hows it goin?”. I made out voices from three different people, but it seemed like I heard another muffled, deep sounding voice from somewhere else. Still holding my book, I waited for the people outside to leave, but had no such luck.

“Christ! What´s going on out there?”. Annoyed I decided to take another look. I kicked the sheet off me, used a random piece of paper as a bookmark, and shuffled towards the window. The guys outside were laughing and exchanging stories about their weekends. What is this? A BBQ? Just before I had a chance to lift the curtain, the muffled voice reappeared. It seemed so unusually familiar; as if I had heard it a million times. “I brought everything you asked me for in that text”, I heard the first man say. I carefully lifted the corner of the curtain a second time to check out the situation. Three large men in their early 30´s to mid 40´s were standing behind the second car, an older SUV. I quickly pulled down the curtain, when one of them looked in my direction.

There are three options in a situation like this. I can wait and hope everyone leaves without noticing me. Squeezing from the back into my front seat and getting the hell out is another option. This, however, compromises my spot. I could also slip out of my vehicle unseen, pretend I came from somewhere else, and then leave. This is more dangerous, as I have to put myself within reach of whoever is out there. Also, the fact that my vehicle lights up like a Christmas tree, whenever I open a door, makes this a tricky option. I decided to just wait it out and make a jump for the front seat if the situation required it.

My entire perspective changed when I heard the muffled voice once more. It suddenly clicked. My heart dropped and my entire body tensed up. The voice was coming from a walkie-talkie and those guys out there weren´t drug dealers or friends meeting for an afternoon BBQ in a parking lot, they were undercover cops! Now, for a large percentage of the population, this would be great news. Not so for us hobos, who are being arrested merely for living outside a society-approved dwelling. This wasn´t good. This wasn´t good at all.

I could only check my surroundings for seconds at a time, since all eyes were pointed in my direction. “Are we sure someone is there?” I heard one of the cops ask. “Positive”, another replied, and I had the horrible feeling they were talking about me. I made sure to text my friend that I may be uhm… unavailable for the rest of the evening and kept close watch on the situation outside my place. Several minutes past and nothing seemed to add up. Why weren´t they just coming over? What on earth were they waiting for? They must be here for me or else they would have checked the vehicle they parked next to. And this is a nice, remote part of town; nothing close by worth playing Rambo for.

As I was trying to make sense of this unexpected gathering, I heard a third vehicle approaching. “What the…?”. Soon I´d have the entire police station in my back yard! I looked out the window and saw a vehicle with the label “Police K9 Unit” park next to the second car. “This can´t be real” I thought to myself. “A f%&king K9 Unit for a hobo? With my blissful zen more than destroyed, I considered to just go outside and turn myself in. Sure, I am breaking the law by sleeping here, but whatever they think they need a handful of officers and a K9 unit for, I didn´t do.

I anxiously texted my friend who advised me to stay calm and do whatever the officers say. In a comical onset of useless thought, I wondered if they´d be so kind to knock. After all, they couldn´t just kick in my door. “Let´s get this shit started. And remember, we have to be quick”, said the voice of a female officer. With that I heard a lot of movement outside; heavy footsteps moved over sandy pavement, zippers were zipped, car doors were opened and slammed shut once more, and, to my surprise, engines came to life. “Huh?”. I heard one car after the other leave the parking lot and within seconds I was alone once again. No cop knocked on my door, no windows were smashed in, and I was still seated in front of my window like a child waiting for Santa.

Tense with adrenaline-fueled anxiety, it took me a moment to comprehend what had just happened. Dumbfounded I peaked out the window and watched the group of cars disappear towards the city. I started laughing. Loudly. I am not sure if I laughed at my own fear of getting arrested, the idea of a hobo almost jumping out of the car to turn herself in to a group of occupied cops, or the fact that said cops, who were running an undercover busting operation, not once thought about checking the car they parked next to. Regardless of the reason, I laughed. And laughed.

Ryan´s faucet

The faucet had been broken long before I met Ryan. I don´t remember the story, but somehow someday something happened that snapped the kitchen faucet in such a way, that made water shoot diagonally through the room whenever it was turned on. Ryan was the master of the faucet. Only he was able to turn on the water in such a way as to fill up the kitchen sink. Whenever I tried, I pressure washed the kitchen and all its appliances.

Ryan and I both were group home kids, who were left to figure things out on our own at an early age. When I met Ryan, he had already left behind the group home and lived in his own apartment. I was a few years younger and was living outside, with friends, and soon transitioned into a group home myself. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time at his place and we routinely got ourselves into trouble. But we were free and young and even though we lived well under the poverty line, we had plenty of fun.

Ryan´s studio was in the process of being sold and the current owner promised Ryan that he´d figure out a deal to keep rent low. He showed up with a couple buckets of paint and asked Ryan to paint and “clean the place real good”. The buckets got kicked to the side and we pretty much forgot about it. Several months later, I receive a phone call from a frantic Ryan. It was Friday and the potential buyer was going to show up Sunday morning. Well, shit.

I made my way to Ryan´s and we began what would be a two day cleaning/painting binge. Poor Ryan really believed that he was a rather clean fellow. While I have definitely seen worse places, his studio was anything but clean. Inches of dust covered the windowsills, his bath tub had all kinds of nasty crap stuck in the groves he created when washing the rocks of his fish tank in it (yeah, I know), and his couch aka bed, which served between 2 – 4 people a night, contained so many random crumbs and unidentifiable stains that I opted to sleep inside a duvet cover at night. Regardless of the condition of the place, we made great progress.

The evening before the potential buyer was scheduled to show up, we decided that the floors needed cleaning badly. It seemed like the perfect time, since we had moved everything out to paint. To the best of my knowledge, we were sober that night. I contribute the following to youthful fun and a couple spoonful of crazy.

What better way to get a crusty old floor shiny again than lots and lots of water? And what better way to add lots and lots of water than Ryan´s homemade endless water shooter aka broken faucet? Exactly! We began the deep cleaning by intermittently shooting water 10 feet across the air into Ryan´s living room, while one of us mopped. Soon the entire floor was wet and we removed dirt we previously thought to be part of the floor´s pattern. Since I was lacking faucet operation skills, I ended up pressure washing parts of the ceiling, the windows, and those nasty windowsills as well. Everything looked so nice and clean…. except for sweaty and tired Ryan, who was standing in the middle of the living room mopping. I couldn´t help myself. I aimed and hit my target at once! I followed him all the way through the living room soaking him from head to toe. The war was on! Ryan began chasing me through the apartment, hugging me with his wet clothes. I slipped on the wet floor and he used the opportunity to aim the faucet at me. Soon both of us were completely soaked, made peace, and began dancing under the still running water. Despite our age marking us as teenagers, we really were nothing more than oversized children. We laughed and hugged and were filled with joy.

By the end of our cleaning spree, we were tired, happy, and standing in a good half inch of water. We used every single towel we owned to soak up the water. Once everything was somewhat dry, we moved all the furniture back in place and called it a night. What a great job we´d done! After a few hours of sleep, we got up in the morning and I went my merry way.

Now, I wasn´t there when the owner and potential buyer showed up, but I was told that they were less than ecstatic. Long story short, the guy was unable to sell the place, due to the condition it was in. Aside from the ruined bath tub and the broken faucet, he found many more things wrong with the place. I have no idea why Ryan didn´t get kicked out right then and there, but it would take another 4 years before the owner finally booted him.

Colorado Reality Check

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Yesterday, I sat under a tree wearing flip flops, thin pants, and a long sleeve shirt, while reading one of my less exciting textbooks. Worried about getting sun burned, I occasionally moved to escape harmful UV rays. It got up in the 80´s; I heard birds chirping, people laughing, and children playing. It was an unusually warm, but very comfortable fall day.

Today, I am at the library wearing a thick poncho, two pairs of pants, and regular shoes, while watching the snow fall outside. There is no chance I could get sun burned, as the sun is hidden behind a heavy cloud cover. The temperature is in the 30´s and I can hear hysterical international students outside, who´ve just encountered their first snow.

Gotta love Colorado. Except for these extreme weather fluctuation, I enjoy the pace of the season change. It provides just enough of a transition phase to mentally prepare oneself for the upcoming winter. Also, Colorado has 300 days of partial and full sun days; if that doesn´t make for a good mood, then I don´t know.

What changes for a hobo during the cold season?

  • I typically sleep better in my 0° bag when it´s nice and cold out. No more random overheating and waking up at night, as has been happening since I switched bags late September.
  • Rather than taking extensive spit baths in the morning, I tend to head for the gym more during the winter. You think you enjoy showering? Try showering after spending several days outside!
  • Also, for me this is the season of cold hands. I´ve identified 4  stages of cold hands: a-little-cold, damn-cold, numb-and-painful-cold, and useless-sausages-cold. The last two stages typically happen in the morning, when I am getting ready for the day.
  • My diet changes for two reasons: First, I need more protein to stay warm. Second, I can store different foods, such as lettuce and berries, that usually go bad within days.

No matter the weather, I know it´ll be beautiful!

Doing a Bad Job at Staying Alive

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I am no doctor; so really, I can´t tell how close my friend came to death. However, from my perspective he was very very lucky.

My three friends Karim, Adam, and Lucy, and I went for a camping trip in the northern part of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Except for some wind, the weather was fantastic and the changing trees provided the perfect backdrop for some serious rock hiking.

After a fun Friday night at our camp ground, we headed for a lake about 25 minutes north the next morning. I´d been to this particular lake many times and explored quite a bit of the area in the past. The road had recently been fixed; what had once been a barely passable level 6 road, is now a relatively smooth dirt path through a remote forest. To my friends, I am known as the one who plans fun mountain adventures and thus I was excited to take them to this beautiful valley.

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My friends immediately fell in love with the lake and we quickly began exploring the area. We decided to head around the lake for a little while and then continue straight up the mountain west of us. The hike up is difficult as the mountain is rather steep and littered with boulders of various sizes, some too big to climb over without equipment. In addition, we had to deal with lose dirt and rocks, random tree trunks, and an army of cacti that seemed too eager to teach us a lesson or two.

After climbing over and crawling under massive boulders for approximately 45 minutes, we finally made it to the top. The view was spectacular. Adam found a spot that protected us from the wind and we settled down. After we caught our breaths and refueled on water and snacks, we began talking about everything and nothing. In the end, we decided that life is good and nature is beautiful. What a great day!

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We began our descent about 30 minutes later. It was getting pretty warm and I knew I´d get burned to a crisp if we stayed much longer. Adam took the lead on our way down and we followed alerting each other about lose rocks and angry cacti. We made it about 1/4 of the way, when I suddenly heard a sliding noise next to me. Karim had climbed onto the boulder next to me and had lost his footing. With nothing to grab a hold of, he quickly slid down the rock. When he fell over the edge, his backpack caught the rock pushing him forward. He hit a boulder 10 feet below; first his body, then his head.

“Karim, do not move!” was all I could get out. From my position it was difficult to get to him, but I forced myself down the rock as fast a humanly possible. I got there first and assessed the situation. Karim appeared dazed and confused. Adam and Lucy joined me seconds later. Since Karim had already managed to get up onto his knees, we decided to sit him down in the shade. There was no even ground anywhere; just boulder after boulder and we did our best making our wounded friend as comfortable as possible.

Initially, it seemed as if his wounds were our top priority. He denied feeling pain in his back and neck and he didn´t seem to have any broken limbs. I was in charge of his profoundly bleeding finger, which had gotten crushed upon impact. Lucy and Adam took care of his forehead and nose, which were both bleeding badly. I was just about done wrapping Karim´s finger, when I heard Adam say “Oh, no no no my friend, you don´t get to sleep!”. Karim was leaning back, slowly closing his eyes. We couldn’t keep him sitting up for long before we had to let him rest on his backpack. For 5 minutes we did our best at keeping him conscious; we talked to him and asked him questions about his hobbies and school. His condition was rapidly deteriorating and when he stopped responding to pain, we knew he was out cold.

It became clear that we needed emergency help. Without a signal for miles, Adam rushed down the mountain to call 911. Karim´s skin was turning cold and clammy and I was unable to find a pulse. I had been calm and collected the entire time, but was losing my cool quickly. I pressed my hand on his chest, neck, and wrist; still nothing. I could see his chest moving slowly; he was still breathing. “Found it!”, Lucy proclaimed holding Karim´s wrist. “It´s really faint though”.

While Lucy continued to care for Karim, I perched on top of a boulder holding a mylar blanket up in the air. I could no longer see our vehicle at the bottom of the hill; Adam must have not been able to get a signal in the valley. As I rhythmically moved the silver sheet through the air, I  wondered how far Adam would have to drive before he could call 911.

Karim slowly opened his eyes. He was dizzy, felt nauseous, and his vision was blurry, but he was alive. Our friend was very confused and began muttering about not needing a helicopter or an ambulance. “You got to be freaking kidding me”, I thought. His finger had bled through the wrap, there was blood on his hands, head, and on the rocks around us, and he was still bleeding out of his nose. “Your ass is going to a hospital!”

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The emergency response was amazing! I can´t tell you how long it took for the first cop to show up, but the man ran up that mountain as if he was being chased by a bear. Overall around 25 people arrived to help: an ambulance that drove over 60 miles from the nearest city, two search and rescue people, half a dozen EMT´s and cops, as well as every resident within a 10 mile radius. Adam, fueled by adrenaline, ran back down the mountain to guide the remaining rescue personnel to us. He even carried their first aid bags. Everybody was there, except for the helicopter, which had flown to the wrong lake and didn´t have enough fuel to make it to us. Fantastic! We had no other choice but to somehow transport Karim down the mountain.

With Karim conscious we made it down the mountain rather quickly. His busted foot did not allow him to walk very far and thus he spent the majority of the way sliding down rocks and dirt. Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill, the EMT´s assessed Karim´s condition once again, before we were allowed to take him to the hospital. It took just under an hour to get there; not bad at all.

We placed Karim in a wheel chair and stormed through the emergency room entrance. We were  stopped by a bored looking security lady. “Do you have any weapons on you?” We looked at each other, shrugged, and began shedding weapons left and right. 4 knifes, 2 pepper sprays, 1 hatchet, and 1 gun later the security guard looked at us as if we were crazy. Needless to say, we were not allowed in unless we removed our arsenal from the building.

Once inside the hospital, Karim was put into a fashionable hospital gown and neck brace. Doctors, nurses, and EMT´s gathered around him like an army of ants. Initially, I was the only one allowed back there, but once Karim´s most immediate needs had been taken care of, all four of us gathered in the tiny room. I could feel my body coming down from its adrenaline fueled high and was overcome with hunger and thirst. All of us looked tired, dirty, and disheveled. What a day! When a nurse walked in 20 minutes later, she stopped immediately, looked at us, and exclaimed: “My goodness, what is this smell?” We hadn´t showered in two days, had an incredibly exhausting sweaty day behind us, and reeked of campfire. Adam made an attempt to explain our situation; the rest of us just grinned.

Karim spent roughly 4 hours at the emergency room before being released. They scrubbed his wounds clean, applied gauze and bandages, and took a variety of x-rays and CT scans. The final verdict: a concussion, a sprained ankle, multiple bruises, wounds on his head, nose, knee, and arms, and one badly crushed finger.

“Man, you really gotta do a better job at staying alive”, I said before we headed back into the wilderness.

Spot 4: Compromised

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This does not happen very often at all. And by not often, I mean never. I have lost spots due to criminal activity, increased police presence, or construction. Not once, however, did I have to abandon a spot because of a suspicious neighbor. Not once!

Spot 4 has only been used 3 times before being compromised. It never was one of my top favorites, but was good enough to provide an occasional parking space. It was located at the edge of a residential area. Close enough to the neighborhood to look like I belong, yet far enough away to have some privacy. Just a bare field without sidewalk to my right, and a road to my left. Not bad.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled into my spot and began packing my bag next to me. Even before I had a chance to unhook my safety net behind me, a woman with her two dogs passed me on the other side of the street. Usually, that is nothing to be alarmed about. People typically don´t even notice me and if they do, I am just like everyone else who is about to head to their house.

This encounter was different. Very different. She didn´t just notice me, she stared at me. It was a stare as if I was dancing on top of my car, naked, while burning the American flag. She reminded me of a deer, as she managed to locate, bag, and discard her dog´s poop all without once taking her eyes off of me. It was making me downright uncomfortable and I had to resist the urge to roll down my window and yell “Stop staring for fucks sake!”. I tried to ignore her as best as I could by faking a phone call, inspecting my purse, and checking my finger nails. Eventually, she replaced her continuous stare, with an awkward let-me-turn-around-every-two-steps-stare. I knew I had to leave and could not come back.

I have not the slightest idea what made her so rudely suspicious. On one hand, maybe she went through some sort of neighborhood watch training and learned “awkwardly staring” as a defense skill. On the other hand, she´d totally get shot for that in some other parts of the country. Just saying.

The city, boobs, and lots of colorful people

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The city! What can I say? City life is exciting, fast, loud, overwhelming, fascinating, delightful, filthy, eye-opening, and, and, and. While I most definitely wouldn´t enjoy being a full time hobo in a city like Denver, I do enjoy coming here to people watch, check out novelty stores, go to events, and walk through parks and market places.

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Although I had been planning on attending an international sister cities event, I found myself so intrigued by the pagan festival downtown, that I ended up spending most of my day there. It seemed like every last hippie, goth, nature lover, shaman, eccentric Joe, witch, and herbalist gathered and celebrated diversity and mother nature that day.

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Much to my surprise, I also encountered many men and women who in observance of the “National Go Topless Day” did exactly that while marching down the streets and hanging out at parks.

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Before leaving the city, I went by my second favorite museum in the world, the DAM (Denver Art Museum), to check out their new modern art exhibit. I wasn´t disappointed! The “Women of Abstract Expressionism” event was filled with beautiful, grotesque, intriguing, and stunning paintings. Below is my absolute favorite! Painted on metal, it has this nice metallic shine to it that reminds me of the industrial revolution.

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That´s it. A day in Denver in a nutshell!

(And yes, these are individual plush fries in their plush fry box)

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Rougher than a cat´s tongue

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Here I am. This is my first week in a new city, a new tiny mobile home, new job, new school, new everything, and it´s been rough to say the least.

I had no idea how incredibly comfortable I had been in my old Ford and how easy it is to get ready for bed when you already know all your spots. While I´d almost been bored with my daily routines this past year, trying to figure out all the hows and wheres in my new house is driving me up the walls. These days I have to rely mostly on neighborhood parking, which is a whole different animal compared to the mountains, Walmarts, and Park´n´Rides. Additionally, my new ride looks so ridiculously fancy, I just don´t fit in my usual kind of spots anymore.

It appears that my adventurous spirit went for a vacation and I am left to figure things out on my own. The cozy-comfy-cave feeling of my old Ford has been replaced with the unsafe feeling of living in a fishbowl (which is probably due to the fact that I major messed up those curtains and sleep on top of an actual bed). Nothing really feels right at the moment and there is still a lot I need to figure out.

What can I say? I´m just going to have to hang in there and hope for the best. And enjoy the last bit of summer.

Take care fellow hobos!

One person´s trash…

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Over the years I have found quite the collection of random items in the woods. The picture above depicts my most recent findings I collected during my two-day-stay near Buffalo Creek, CO. In general, the busier the camping area, the more you will be able to find. I enjoy repurposing the things I gather. My most memorable findings include intact clay shooting disks I repurposed as candle holders, fishing line, which is very durable and useful for all kinds of tie jobs, and a discarded camping chair that I used to hold up my shelter.

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It took some serious muscle power and the help of a discarded belt to get that trunk wedged in between the trees.

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The chair, which is on the far right of the tarp, holds up the center log of my rain shelter

 

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Bonus! Build in cup holder and storage sack!

Although it is great to find little treasures here and there, I am actually opposed to littering of any kind. As I was roaming the forest, I found an area that looks like it has served as a dumpster for quite a few years. Approximately 60 cans lay scattered around the area; most in various states of decomposition and covered in rust. Many looked like soda cans, but some may have very well held paint. What´s wrong with people? I simply cannot comprehend how anyone could spend peace filled days in the woods and then treat mother nature like this. Shame on you who deliberately left the camping chair and shame on every single person who thinks it is OK to contribute to this can collection in the middle of this beautiful forest.

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Take care fellow hobos!

 

The excitement is real!

Believe it or not, I am actually more excited about upgrading my house/vehicle than I was about receiving my Bachelor´s degree.

Here is the deal: I´ve been researching vehicles since late November and after countless hours of reading reviews, comparing specs, calling car companies, and learning about fuel efficiency, transmissions, and horsepower, I finally decided to narrow it down to three finalists: Nissan NV200 Van LWB, Ram ProMaster City, and Ford Transit Connect LWB.

The Ram ProMaster has been on my back burner for a while due to its high cost and lacking availability. In terms of used availability, the Nissan also falls short. So, for the last couple weeks I have been focusing on finding a used Ford Transit Connect.

There has been, however, one problem: the color! Virtually all used vans come in white. Of course, the dealerships would tell ya “Oh no, its not white. Its pearl, glacier, powder, or arctic dust”. Let me make this real clear car industry, I don´t want any of your 7 million shades of white. I am trying to blend in and not look like part of a delivery fleet or creepy van organization. So, I had to get creative and decided to check out the Ford Transit Connect Wagon instead of the van. I knew that both the van and the wagon are on the same wheel base and hoped that the interior wouldn´t be much different as well.

The pictures below show the van and the wagon (in that order). After an hour of crawling around the insides with measuring tape, checking every inch of the vehicles, and test lying in different spots (much to the bewilderment of the car salesman), I decided that the wagon will work just fine once I remove the seats and some extra panels.

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Although I was more than willing to purchase the wagon right there and then, the car dealer and I simply could not agree upon a price. However, now that I have a bigger market to choose from, I am excited to continue my car hunt!

Celebrating Peace and Nature

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Spontaneous Road Trip! I am currently hanging out at the Canadian border to get some rest from society and remind myself of my freedom in this world. It has been pretty warm for the most part and I am really enjoying the fact that it´s light out till 10pm here.

The other day I went on a trip to the International Peace Garden, which is located right on the border between the U.S and Canada. Considering that there is a whole lot of nothing out here (which is great!), I was surprised at the size of the Garden.

Since I am a huge fan of succulents, I took plenty of pictures of cacti and other plants belonging to that family.

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I really enjoyed seeing the little peace chapel, which was build right on the border. The music inside was very calming and the quotes engraved into the marble walls made think, if just for one second, that maybe humans can live at peace some day.

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As usual, the weather report didn´t hold true and it was raining pretty much all day. Since it wasn´t terribly cold though, I still walked around in some areas of the park.

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And last but not least, this curiosity. As I stopped by a lake for lunch, I came by a little outhouse. My first thought: Ew, I´d rather pee in a bush. My second thought: Why the hell are there two seats right next to each other? My third thought: The image of a couple sitting next to each other in said outhouse holding hands.

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