Showering Amidst Strangers on the Way to Alaska — By Jennifer Shipp
Alaska North America United States of America Washington Trips

Showering Amidst Strangers on the Way to Alaska — By Jennifer Shipp

Seattle, Washington Kurt Cobain's House
Lydian and Camile kneel beside a bench in a small grassy area known as “Kurt’s Park”. As they were looking through the various items left on this bench in homage to Kurt Cobain, an ice cream truck drove by. You can’t go into the house or even get very close to it, but the small park is apparently located where the garage once stood…the place where Kurt took his life.

As the rhythm of showering amidst strangers and sleeping with only a thin sheen of mesh between me and the outside world becomes “normal”, I start to feel that inner pleading for the comforts of home. It’s been 12 days since John, Lydian, and I took off in the tent camper. Camile, Lydian’s friend and band-mate joined us three days ago. Though I thoroughly enjoy being out of my element, I’m still human and I still crave comfort.

Not having air conditioning in the tent camper has been challenging over the past three days. Sharing a bathroom with thirteen other people every morning leaves me a bit socially hung-over by 8:00 in the morning. The mattresses are soft, however, and the campgrounds are generally quite comfortable and safe although we did wake this morning in Toppenish, Washington to some strange hand and arm prints on our van window indicating that someone checked out our “stuff” last night (our goods apparently weren’t good enough to risk breaking into our van and so the perpetrators moved on).

Yesterday I had a conversation with a seventy-five year old woman as I put my various facial cleansers and lotions on my face after a 7 mile jog. As I casually dotted my forehead, cheeks, and nose with white stuff, the woman told me about all the different places she and her husband had been. She’d already been to Alaska and visited China and Australia. Every year she had gone some place different with her family.

Note the handprints on the window. Obviously someone was looking in through the windows the night before. The van had just been washed and the prints weren't ours, so.....
Note the handprints on the window. Obviously someone was looking in through the windows the night before. The van had just been washed and the prints weren’t ours, so…..

Toward the end of our talk she asked me her age and I told her I was 37 years old. A strange look crossed her face and I tried to divine the reason. “So…I’m half your age.” I said and she looked down and away and then told me that her daughter was 37 when she died of breast cancer.

We finished our conversation cheerily enough, but that thought stuck with me the rest of the night.

Tonight we are stationed at a KOA in Seattle. Lydian and Camile already pulled out their instruments and played for an hour or so. We spent the day exploring Seattle for Kurt Cobain’s house, a restaurant with gluten-free food, and a store filled with oddities like Siamese calves. It was a relatively full day and now, we’re all hot, grumpy, and tired and there are bugs flying around in droves all over the place outside, making it hard to relax at the picnic table where I’m sitting.

But that’s part of the adventure.

Seattle/Tacoma KOA
Lydi and Camile set up to play at the Seattle/Tacoma KOA in a gazebo during an ice cream social.

Lydian has been playing with a ladybug on her hand for the past 10 minutes and Camile is taking a break in the scorching hot tent camper, watching covertly for some boys who earlier walked by our space all dressed up in animal masks. About five degrees cooler and ten thousand insects fewer and it would be…pleasant.

At least at this temperature, basic things are still a little challenging and I get to congratulate myself for bringing along the DEET. The only air conditioned places in Washington so far have been grocery stores, but there are some freezers at the KOA store that could I open and stand in front of like someone shopping  for beer or ice cream if become desperate enough for cool air. John, Lydi, and I used to go hang out near the frozen vegetables in the freezer aisles at the grocery store in Costa Rica when the oppressive heat and humidity drove us to the breaking point. A little breeze of coolness can go a long way on a day like today.

Discomfort is a form of entertainment. I’m interested in what I’m doing even though it’s

Fortune Teller Machine at the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington
Lydian and Camile both got fortune teller cards at the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. The shop contained some oddities, but it wasn’t nearly as unique as we’d hoped.

just basic stuff like sleeping and eating, showering, and getting a little exercise every day. We’ve got a really low-level challenge going on right now and it’s just enough for me to not ever feel bored. Tomorrow we turn north though and the hours of daylight will be increasing until the sun goes down around 1:00 AM and comes up again around 3:00 AM in Fairbanks, AK. I’m curious to see how the girls cope with the near-constant sunlight.

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