American Grassland Afternoons

Day 79 – Corey’s Entry – June 30 – 8:45am– Black Kettle National Grassland, Oklahoma

I feel good. I really thought by this point I’d be aching for the comforts of my apartment, but I’m happy to be camping again. I’m much more relaxed now. Things that bothered and angered me a few months ago, don’t get to me anymore.

We met a nice guy last night named Desmal at our campsite. He’s a photo professor and instillation artist in Georgia. He creates temporary art galleries in towns that have none. Something he mentioned connected with me. He said, “It’s not about who you are when you start the trip, but who you are when you end the trail.” I love this, because I feel like I started this journey a ball of over-thinking stress. I know I’ll end this trail in a positive state of mind. We sat on our own private, albeit-forgotten dock to watch the sunsets.

Black Kettle National Grassland is the buggiest place we have stayed. The ground moves with ants, wasps, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, and cicadas. They all want to be in our tent or on us. We can’t put anything down without a spider weaving a web on it. We brush ants off the tent and within seconds they return with new soldiers. They were relentless, but entertaining.

This is our first time camping in such heat on this trip. I’d rather bundle up in cold, winter weather. In the heat, you can only take off so many layers of clothes and lay in the shade until the sun goes down. We almost jumped in the murky lake, but without a shower, we knew the smell would have overtaken us in the night.

We bought a fan that hangs in the tent for the heat. As we lay on top of our sleeping bags, we noticed how the tent setup was reminiscent of our old apartment on Lanewood Avenue in Hollywood. It’s as if no matter where we live, we set up our Home the same way. We have a ceiling fan, I sleep closer to the main door, our closet is at our feet, and our phones on the bedside tables (in the mesh pockets next to our pillows). It doesn’t matter where we lay our head, it only matters that we do it together.

Day 79 – Emily’s Entry – June 30 – 1:15pm - Smokin’ Joe’s Grill – Pampa, Texas

We just stayed two nights in the Black Kettle National Grasslands in Oklahoma. The days were hot, but once the sun began to set around 8:45pm, the nightly show began. Sunset was stunning.

Every color appeared in the sky.

Last night there was a lightning storm in the far-away clouds. I played my ukulele on the decaying dock behind our site as the moon shone full and the cicadas hummed.

We saw cicadas walking on the ground. Their empty shells were strewn on anything higher than a foot off the ground.

The recent Oklahoma flooding and storms are ever apparent. We tried walking on 4 trails, but bridge damage, tall grass, and hidden trails deterred us. Corey had about 7 ticks crawling on him and his clothes. We met photographer Desmal Purcell at our campsite who gave us a lucky crystal he mined himself in Arkansas, fulfilling the time-old saying, “It’s good luck to receive an Arkansas crystal from a Georgia man in Oklahoma.”

We’ve been in Texas now for about an hour. Everything IS bigger in Texas. My sandwich is HUGE, the hats are HUGE, the trucks are HUGE, etc. I’m excited to see what comes next.

Day 79 – Emily’s Entry – June 30 – 3:54pm - Side of the Road, Texas

I just discovered a tick on my scalp. We’re pulled over, and Corey is inspecting my head.
He just lit a match then blew it out to burn the sucker so he lets go.
He pulled him off, and the tick took a piece of me with him.
Gross. This sucker's green and black.
I just left a piece of my scalp on the side of Route 87 in Texas.

Day 80 – Corey's Entry – July 1 – 7:45am - Garden of the Gods - Bunk House 7 - Colorado Springs, Colorado

Traveling through the grasslands of Texas and Oklahoma has been interesting. There were more bugs than I’ve ever seen camping before. Coyotes howl in big packs every night circling the campsite. I always thought they were loners and scavengers. The prairies harbor abandoned Homes taken over by nature, and rusty trucks sit forgotten in deep grass riddled with bullets.

Last night, we arrived at Thompson Grove in the Rita Blanca National Grassland. Flies, cows, and coyotes were the only things around for miles.

Late afternoon, a man pulled up in his White Yukon with a mustache and a ponytail. It was Sketchy McJoJoe personified! Back-story: Sketchy McJoJoe is a character Emily and I made up on this trip. He’s always at your party, but nobody invited him. He left his job as a part-time adult video store clerk to start up an underground alligator-fighting ring. He sells beer to children and always smells like Marlboro Lights and musty van. We generally try to stay away from this character, but here he was personified at Rita Blanca free campsite outside of Nowhere, Texas with Kansas license plates. He seemed harmless, but then again he didn’t wave back at us so we through up a mental Red Flag. He sat there eating his salad watching the cows. We wondered if he was thinking about his wonderful dead family or plotting our murder. We really try not to judge, but he didn’t pitch a tent and for hours it looked like he was either cleaning cups or polishing a gun in his white Yukon. Hot and swarmed by bugs, we left Sketchy McJoJoe alone and escaped to our tent. He turned out to be fine. He was probably just thinking about the family thing.

On our way to Colorado Springs, we stopped to say hello to a nice, little horse family on the side of the road. As I was shooting, I jokingly told them to line up for a family portrait. To my surprise, they turned around, got together, and posed Dad, Mom, and baby. If only I could get my own family to do that, Christmas cards would be easier.