Monday, August 31, 2009

The End Has No End

"Thank GOD we can finally send Kevin home."

Location: Home... almost, then Home... really, California

The Kia made it! GLORY... almost. Less than a mile from our door, Miss Thang (the Sportage) ran out of gas on the last hill. Above, you can view our gloomy faces circa 11:30 pm at the local gas station. Ten minutes later, GLORY... really.

We have arrived at our destination. Our traytables have been stowed and locked in their upright positions, and our seatbelts are no longer securely fastened. Homecoming leaves a bittersweet taste in all of our mouths, but it was expected and to some extent, it just makes everything mean that much more. Things are happening quickly now. Kevin is leaving in a few days to go back to Chicago and start a real big-boy job, I am moving to San Clemente, and Alex and I both begin the job-search. It's not easy to say goodbye to life on the road, sixteen days spent not leaving one another's side in a car all three of us are taller than forged familial ties more quickly than years at school would have. The Kia became our home. We ate there, slept there, played there, laughed there, it was a simple formula really, and it became comfortable and unrestricted. Alas, all good things come to an end and now we will continue our quest for more good things, more good people, more good deeds. Although the roadtrip is over, we hope it does not mean our giving has come to an end, too. We hope, through this trip, that we have helped ourselves become more aware, more conscious of those around us and what we can do for one another, and how what we do has the potential to create small ripples, which have the potential to form big waves. We hope that through our trip, if we're lucky (which we have been so lucky thus far), maybe it has helped others become more aware of their potential as well. Thus the title, "The End Has No End." We must also say that our attempts at giving have already come back to us infinitely in the warmth and generosity of those we have met, those who have taken care of us, donated to us, prayed for us, wished us well, followed our story, called us and given so much of themselves to us. In some ways, we have been given so much on our trip it feels it almost negates our trying to donate to others. The experiences we have had will take a lot of time to sort out in our minds, but we know they were real and true and good, and we have so many others to thank for that. We hope we have made you proud. Especially we would like to thank Al for all you contributed, The Mannex's, Heidi and Jeremy at Boss' Pizza, The Freedom Writers, Frank, LaDean, Vik and Katherine at The O.C. Register and Dana Point News for writing our stories, our friends and families, and a lot of hotel parking lots, side streets, and ditches on the side of the road. We would also like to thank the Sportage... people had their doubts and you proved them wrong; you proved them 25 miles per hour wrong up every mountain! And we'd like to thank one another, for seeing each other in what could be the most awkward of situations and loving each other despite them.

For now,
Rebecca, Alex, and Kevin

Location: Kia dashboard, Everywhere, USA

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The San Francisco Treat

Worst Gift...Ever."

Location: San Francisco, California

San Francisco was a family affair. Collectively, all of Alex and my siblings live in San Francisco, two of whom live less than 300 yards (according to our GPS) from one another. One such sibling, Alex's middle sister Catie, set us up with her roommate Shaun who is a "big brother" to two boys, nine and eleven. We were able to meet up with Shaun and one of his "little brothers," Evan, 9, to see if we couldn't brighten his day. Evan comes from a very rough family background, having been from foster home to foster home in the middle of a pretty mean part of town. Recently, Shaun introduced him to skateboarding as a way to be active, get creative, and spend time together. Evan was using one of Shaun's old boards, a sweet hand-me-down by all accounts, but it was old and the grip-tape was tearing and we knew what we could do.

We took Shaun and Evan to a sweet skate shop in the Mission District called Mission Skateboards and let Evan pick out his own brand new board, deck, trucks and everything. He picked a deck that featured his last name, and the sales guy put together his board right in front of him. We also bought a set of trucks for Shaun's other "little brother" who we weren't able to meet so he could start skateboarding with Shaun as well. After Evan's new board was all set, the five of us went to a nearby skate park so he could test it out. Evan was not deterred in the slightest by the bigger, older guys (I could see you at the top of the ramp, Chris Dedinsky) waiting to drop in, and he strolled right up with them. Alas, as we watched him take the drop the first time, he completely ate it. He was so disappointed and upset that he fell, he stormed up and insisted, "I hate this board! I want my old board back!" He was slightly injured, but nothing more than scrapes. Alex, Kevin, and I realized we had successfully given the world's worst gift...ever. We never intended a donation to make a kid bleed. But we are pretty sure that given a couple days to heal, both ego and bruises, Evan is going to get used to the new board and really, truly dig it. We just hope any future gifts won't make it onto any more world's worst lists.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Sleep 'til Portland

"Supporting each other... is
vital to our own growth."

Location: Portland and its coast, Oregon

We apologize for the major delay in updates. Portland turned into a black hole of time for us, and we ended up staying much longer than anticipated. A friend from school, Lacey, and her family fed, housed, and entertained us while in Portland, and they were such gracious and amazing hosts, and human beings for that matter, that we just couldn't find ourselves back in the 2-door Kia, spacious and commodious as it is. The Mannex's were also wonderful in that they let us sleep as much as our hearts desired, and we could fully extend our legs, which as it turns out is a key ingredient to reposing successfully. We slept in Portland like we ate pizza in Sioux Falls: on a mission.

As for the latest causes we addressed in Portland, we primarily focused on two. The first is a cause that, for more than one of us in the car, is personal. The nature of the organization doesn't lend itself to outside influence or publicity, however, and we want to respect its mission. Please take our word for it though, we promise it isn't creepy.

The second cause is something we had not yet addressed, but is so integral to Portland's character and its overall vibe as a city it seemed only fitting to check out. On Lacey's suggestion, we went to a temporary artist colony of sorts, whose moniker was Mile Post 5. Mile Post 5 took over what was once a retirement home facility and gave over three stories of rooms, hallways, and the courtyard to different artists to create their own spaces and display their work. The entire operation was like one living, breathing installation piece, changing when you entered or left each doorway. Some of the art inspired us, some scared us, some we thought was putrid... but we're not critics or anything. Overall, Mile Post 5 was a scenic journey through many people's minds, one which we would gladly take again. Some of our favorites were Keith Rosson, Nicole Linde, and Eatcho. The overall goal of Mile Post 5, a two week event, was to raise money for the new accomodations that are to replace the retirement home once it gets torn down. In its efforts to keep Portland weird, the city (and its artists) are supporting building affordable housing condos where the retirement home once was, so starving artists can keep creating. And the word artist is not only confined to those that create on canvas or wood, with paint or pen or plaster, but to the larger definition of arts, like chefs, musicians and seamstresses. Mile Post 5 was an extremely enjoyable experience we were happy to donate to, and to the artists themselves, whose work we were happy to purchase.

Other artists to check out:

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Man's Gotta Eat (And Women, and Children)

"I'm sorry, you're going to have to move along. We don't let people sleep in our parking lot."

Location: Boise, Idaho

We got into Boise around one a.m. Tuesday morning after a short respite spent in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons per Alex's request and to Kevin and my great delight. We knew we only had a few hours on Thursday morning to check out the different giving opportunities available in Idaho's capitol, Boise. During a lovely breakfast (Thank you, Holiday Inn Express- you always have had incredible cinnamon rolls), we decided we should give blood. Kevin suggested it, and it was a great and simple idea, probably far too often overlooked. We contacted the local Boise Red Cross donation center and lucky for us they were hosting a blood drive so there was availability for us right away. The luck was mutual as well, as Joyce, the center's volunteer coordinator, informed us they have had a recent and noticeable decline in blood donations this past month. The giving was easy, the giving was free, and the giving had snacks at the end! With no money spent, we searched for a local cause to which we could give.

We decided upon The Idaho Foodbank, serving Idahoans for the past 25 years in their mission to ensure "no Idahoan go hungry." While at the Foodbank, Alisha graciously showed us around the premises, their packing and storage warehouses, fridges and freezers while informing us of the varied communities the Idaho Foodbank serves. The Idaho Foodbank, the location in Boise being the main hub, serves schools, senior centers, food pantries, and rural families through a myriad of ways, whether they fill and ship food orders to different locations throughout Idaho or pack up their meals-on-wheels pantry to meet even the rural-est of individuals and communities. Since the decline of the economy, demand for foodbank aid has risen 25%. One of the newest additions to the foodbank programs has been the Backpack Program, sending children home with a backpack filled with 2 cereals, 2 sandwiches, 2 dinners, and 2 snacks to provide the child with meals over the weekend. You can buy a backpack to feed a child over the weekend for the small price of $5.75. We were happy to be able to feed about 20 children, and leave some extra for the foodbank to invest in alternative areas they felt were most necessary. Foodbanks will accept many, many materials and kinds of food. Canned food, rice, pasta, cereals, even fresh produce and beauty and hygiene products, however, due to the foodbank's partnerships with businesses like Albertsons and Fred Meyer, the foodbank is able to purchase about five times the amount an individual can with the same amount of money, reaching about five times the amount of the hungry. It is also important to note that until recently, many grocery stores would simply discard much of their unbought produce, dairy, and bread. As of late, the Foodbank's partners have began donating what they would have originally discarded to the foodbank, stifling the cycle of waste and promoting efforts to end hunger. Everybody's gotta eat, and we are lucky to be able to provide the peace of mind to some schools and families that they will not have to worry about the source of their next meal, at least not just yet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All the Small Things

“You pay our Social Security, you don’t need to buy our dinner too!”

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Giving in South Dakota was an amalgamation of little things. Things to make people smile. Things to make people laugh and share. We tipped heartily, we bought rounds of drinks for an awesome group of people who would soon become new friends, and we met people whose spirits were genuinely passionate and compassionate (Jeremy, Kegan, Derek, Wes, all of you…) Jeremy, we wish you the best with the upcoming proposal (we’d say yes!). We were lucky enough to be in the presence of so much love in South Dakota, the main event revolving around an elderly couple, Larry and Lucy, eating a celebratory birthday dinner together at Gold Stone Restaurant, home of the World’s Largest Cinnamon Roll. Lucy was turning 86 and the two of them sat happily with one another on the same side of the table, sharing drinks, dinner, and pie. We had to do something for this couple… soon to celebrate their 66th anniversary, whose love and adoration for one another was palpable. Along with the kind and lovely waitresses at Gold Stone, we sang happy birthday to Lucy. The three of us decided to buy Larry and Lucy’s birthday dinner. The two were both touched and worried, “Do your moms know you’re spending your money on strangers?!” But it was more than our pleasure. We had the good fortune of meeting this adorable couple, and Lucy, suffering a bit from Alzheimer’s, was still a peppy and sharp firecracker of a woman. The duo was touring some of America together in an RV. It should be said here that as much as we are enjoying giving, so much is coming back to us. We have been so blessed to meet people not only interested in and supportive of our journey, but so many who insist on helping us locate places to stay, or match donations, or pay for a tank of gas. It seems sometimes it is so easy to see the violence, the sadness, the frustration present in the world, present in each of us, but we cannot forget that good intentions, good people, goodness is everywhere. We just need to work to bring it out in one another.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Glory!!! (Almost)

Location: Boss’ Pizza and Chicken,
2111 South Minnesota Avenue, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

We arrived promptly one hour and thirty minutes prior to our scheduled appointment at Boss’ Pizza. They warned us, of the 18 teams that had attempted the Boss Hog Challenge, only two were victorious, one of which consisted of two college football players. We looked unassuming, at best. We asked about local charities in need because if we won, we were going to donate the $200 worth of food certificates to someone in need. We then left to explore around Sioux Falls a bit and prepare our minds for the undertaking of glory (almost). Upon our return, we took our seat at a booth whose table could barely contain the six pound, 28-inch, three-topping monster of doom. One hour later, Kevin and I had managed to eat 40 of the 56 pieces but failed to take down the ultimate adversary, the Boss Hog. Although we may not have won the challenge, we still wanted to purchase food certificates to give them to local organizations in need. We bought $160 worth of certificates, but the owners Heidi and Jeremy graciously offered to not only comp our pizza, but to match our planned donation. They sent us out into Sioux Falls with full stomachs, a list of worthy organizations, leftover pizza, and $320 in food certificates to Boss’. Heidi and Jeremy run a fine fine establishment.

The first organization we chose was The Children’s Inn, a safe house for victims of domestic abuse. The Children’s Inn takes in battered women and children and provides them with a stable and secure environment that promotes a family atmosphere. Support and love is found everywhere at The Children’s Inn, from the set up of the family and teen and toddler rooms, to the backyard playhouse and, most importantly, a small but enthusiastic and caring staff. We had the good fortune to meet two of the staff members, Stacy and Amanda. Amanda lead us on a tour of the Inn and we were able to see and feel the camaraderie between its occupants. In interest of the occupants’ safety, we can’t post any photos of the families at the Inn. Amanda was so excited to receive the $200 to Boss’ so she could host a back-to-school pizza party for the kids as school resumes on Monday.

After leaving the Inn, we went to Sioux Falls’ Ronald McDonald House, an affordable home away from home that offers a place of respite for families whose members are in surrounding hospitals for extended periods of time. We gave them $100 to go towards meals for visiting families on a low budget.

With the last twenty we thought we would just make a stranger’s day, so we gave it to a family leaving a local hotel.

And the fate of the pizza? Kevin and Alex spotted a homeless man sleeping at a bus stop, so Kevin hopped out and offered him the remaining pound of pizza. Upon opening the box, the man gasped and accepted it gladly.

The Middle (of America)

Well, something found us. On our way to Sioux Falls to accomplish the impossible (pictures of the carnage can be found below), we came across Keisha, a beautiful nineteen year old girl stranded in the first lane of the Kansas City Expressway. She ran out of gas, so we offered to give her a lift to the nearest gas station and buy her a gas can and fill it with fuel (for you especially, Frank!). First we had to move her car off the road and onto the shoulder. We didn’t know this before, but apparently Kevin has the mechanics of moving vehicles uphill down to a science. They tell us he’s smart. Maybe so. Keisha had a story of her own. At nineteen she is already a happy mother of three and has been with the children’s father for the last eight years. We hugged it out, both stoked on meeting one another. After we parted we took to the road for our next day’s goal: Sioux Falls and the Foreboding and Ominous Pizza Challenge at Boss’ Pizza and Chicken.

After waking some miles out of an Omaha rest stop (who knew that’s what you do at those places), we stopped at breakfast buffet so Kevin and I could train for glory…in the form of a six pound pizza.

Continuing on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota…