We were starving and fed up with Greyhound, so Lauren took us to dinner at McNellie’s, a popular Irish pub in town. The food was good, but the conversation was better. It was nice getting to know Lauren off the slam stage! Later that evening, she took us to Partners, and its sister bar, P Too, two back-to-back lesbian bars in Oklahoma City. We were kind of astonished because nearly everywhere else we visited had no lesbian bars, or the bars had gone out of business. Not only were Partners and P Too thriving, they were smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt!
In the morning, Lauren took us to see the Oklahoma City Memorial, in honor of those who were killed in the OKC bombing in 1995.
Traveling across the US, we’re learning that every city is completely different, but in a lot of ways are exactly the same. New Orleanians are still reeling from Katrina, New Yorkers from 9/11, and the citizens of Oklahoma City from the ’95 bombing.
After this, we spent a lot of time lounging at the house with Lauren’s pets and awesome housemates, Aulbry and Nigel, another rad queer couple! We spent a lot of this time daydreaming about future adventures and destinations.
Marine: These are tips that Ashley and I used to get the ball rolling for our US trip, please use and adapt them for your own trip. If you have tips to share please contact us or leave a comment!
1. Plan Long in Advance: Daydream and write places you want to go to. Plan the dream trip before you even think you’ll start the adventure. It’ll give you time to surf the web and find the perfect money-saving techniques for you. Maybe you’ll even make a living off it one day. The idea for this trip was planned before Ashley and I were dating and definitely before we had any savings.
2. Estimate Cost Reasonably: To start planning a backpacking tour, you must be reasonable about your expenditure so that you don’t remain stranded somewhere without money for a flight home. You’ll spend a lot more money traveling Europe than South America or the states. If you have no preference, find a region where food, transport and lodging is the cheapest.
On the road:
3. Lower your biggest expenses: Your biggest expenses on the road will be lodging, transportation and food. If you like food, like we do, you will probably not want to lower this expenditure by much. However, you can still eat well and spend less by eating out at lunch and cooking your own dinner. Lower your cost of lodging by staying with friends Hello straddlers!! Take the cheaper method of travel to lower your cost of transportation. When you have a limited amount of time, use some simple steps to find the cheapest flight. If you’re taking the bus, use budget lines. Who can beat megabuses $1 dollar fares.
4. Avoid unnecessary expenses: I told Ashley to cut down on Starbucks and get the $1 coffee at 7/11 instead or better yet, brew it. Bring reusable water bottles because buying water can add up. Have your own drinks before hitting the night scene or limit your drinks at the bar/club.
Before leaving Oklahoma, we stopped in the arts district to explore and share some poetry. We got a private tour of a gallery that used to be a bank, found a unique gift shop and had pho for dinner.
After saying goodbye, it was time to hop on a plane headed to Denver, CO. We were greeted byJovan Mays, a champion slam poet from Slam Nuba. We hopped in his truck and he drove us to Word 4 Word Slam. The slam was unique, but really strange. The hosts didn’t know to have a bout draw, and instead of judges, each audience member got to vote for their favorite poet.
To kick off the weekend, we went to South High School’s Slam Off, which is put together by teacher and slam champion, Jen Rinaldi. The kids perform in their own open mic and slam, and Jen brings in featured guests like Ashley and Amy Everheart.
We hurried out of the youth slam and managed to catch More Than Metaphors, a social justice themed open mic benefitting Syrian refugees at the Damascus Grill. Amal Kassir was the featured poet of the night, and shared alongside other national champions like Dominique Ashaeed and Ken Arkind.
The next day, fall was in full bloom in Denver. We walked around and explored the neighborhood a bit before meeting up with more straddlers!
The International Autostraddle Meet-Up was at Vine Street pub and grill, where we socialized, played Cards Against Humanity and sampled a few of Denver’s craft beers, which were absolutely delicious!!
The group then took us to Charlie’s, the fabulous local gay bar, where our quick two-step tutorial by a straddler was not enough to match the dancing talents of the locals. When the night ended,Chealsea, a local Denver musician and straddler, gave us a ride back.
Sunday morning was greeted with coffee, scrambled eggs and potatoes with the Mays family. It was great to be treated as family when we’ve been away from ours for so long. That night, we went to the Mercury Café, a completely organic and locally sourced restaurant, which ended our week with some great poetry, free food and new friends.
Up Next: more Denver, CO and Seattle, WA
Greyhound says you’re not important
The ticket clerk rolls her eyes
Tells you to deal with it.
Bus driver scoffs
Tells the last 15 people in line,
who are paying customers,
to wait for the next bus,
this one’s already full.
I sit in the back.
The lavatory door doesn’t shut,
It swings open whenever the bus turns.
The driver calls everyone to prayer
in a church I do not feel welcome in.
Everyone speaks my second language.
My tongue is broken
it is a record scratch.
The bus is full of men.
The hour-long layover turns into no more
than five minutes.
Our driver mocks his own passengers,
says, “this ain’t no Disneyland ride.”
Customer service hotline is disconnected
No one to tell you that you’re right.
A woman stumbles into the broken stall,
mumbles to herself
and comes out smelling of gin and pinesol.
You are a pretty white girl
on a Greyhound bus.
Your boarding pass says
someone will come looking for you.
It says you got a little too used to taking airplanes.
The driver told you not to sit up front,
you look a little too used to that type of treatment.
I stop holding my girlfriend’s hand
in the station.
Somewhere between Waco and Tulsa
I lean in to kiss her and she stops me.
We arrive in Dallas
and I am reminded that here,
they shot JFK in broad daylight
so I don’t stand up for myself.
I take a seat,
learn something the rest of the world
already knows about.
I am told the first row of seats
Is not allowed to be occupied
because too many drivers got stabbed.
Hours of empty field roll by outside the window.
We have 3 more stops and no one gets off.
Everyone has 6 pairs of eyes
and I am suddenly self-conscious
of my buzzed hair,
the half naked mermaid tattooed to my arm.
There are only 10 hours to Oklahoma City
where I can go back to the real world again.
The one where I am not a rolling field,
that everyone stares at
but just passes by.
We spent a night chatting and sharing pizza with other weary travelers in our Houston hostel, and the next day we were off to Austin! After our little trip to the big easy, we were ready to relax, get back on budget and try some real Texas barbeque!
When we arrived, we were greeted by our host, Jackie, a student and aspiring writer whose sister reads Autostraddle while living overseas in Israel! Jackie lives close to some hiking trails and a lake, so we spent some free time walking around and getting to know the area.
We went a little over budget eating beignets and seafood in New Orleans, so we knew we had to tighten our wallets in Austin. With a kitchen at our disposal, it was the perfect opportunity to grab more groceries and get creative.
After a dinner in, we went to the Austin Poetry Slam to check out the local poetry scene.
Ashley: I was happily surprised to run into an old friend and lovely human Sam Sax. He’s a fantastic poet who helped me get a spot on the microphone, and gave us some tips on things to check out in town!
Sam let us know that the Write Bloody store was located in Austin, and happened to be walking distance from our temporary home! If you ever need a recommendation of new poetry to check out, this is the place to be.
After spending too much on books, Jackie picked us up and took us to meet her friend, Jenn Hassin, who is an amazing artist that shared some of her work with us. Jenn works on projects that highlight important issues like drinking while driving, and sexual assault.
We didn’t realize just how artistic Austin was until we wandered down 6th street. There’s a bar on every corner with live music every night of the week.
We stopped for happy hour at Wahoo’s fish tacos. Once we saw a Wahoo’s, we knew we were getting closer to the best coast!
The University of Texas was our next stop, as we were planning on listening to Sarah Ruhl read from a new collection of essays. The work was engaging, and we ran into Sam again!
Before our last night in Texas, we also managed to squeeze in a trip to the capital, and a window shopping excursion down South Congress street, otherwise known by locals as SoCo.
SoCo was filled with creative shops. Anything from fancy cowboy boots, odd antiques and treasures, candy, and vintage clothing can be found wandering down this street. Tons of local artists and vendors convene here to share their wares and knick knacks to tourists and locals alike.
After wandering the streets and trying our damnedest not to tap out our budgets, we were closing in on our last night in the lone star state. Our hostess planned a fun night in with some close friends for board games, poems, and baked snacks!
We played Apples to Apples, Risk, and Quelf. We laughed, we cried, we made complete fools of ourselves and it was a lovely way to end this leg of our trip.
In the morning, we could barely peel our eyes open, but somehow managed to make it to the Greyhound station for a 10-hour bus ride to Oklahoma City. Though our love for megabus is unmatched, it doesn’t provide service throughout many of the remaining cities on our trip. Our bus ran late, and despite being in front of the line, we had to sit separately. After horrifying ourselves over some dastardly yelp reviews, we were both glad and shocked to know that we weren’t alone. If any of you have had any Greyhound horror stories, please share them with us!
Despite the conditions of the unkempt bus and the driver’s constant insistence on joining the whole bus in prayer, we managed to make it into Oklahoma City unscathed. When one of Autostraddle’s hottest ladies was at the station to pick us up, we couldn’t have been happier. The week ahead with Lauren Zuniga and her family is going to be a blast.
EMERGENCY: We need housing in Denver, CO October 24th-30th. Email Ashley [at] thatstarvingartist [dot] com if you can help us.
Up next: Oklahoma City, OK and Denver, CO
I wrap 23 cents in a bag
of paper wishes
and send it into a mardi-gras bead covered
kiss the head of the Voodoo doll,
knock on the stump nine times
send you a message.
Ask for a bag of gris-gris
filled with beauty shop hair chatter
and love potion.
Clutch a severed chicken foot
in my pocket
and tell myself I’ll make it
through this night
because this here high priestess
gone where no Catholic church
told her she could go.
You be patron saint of everything.
You be fistful of alligator teeth
You be an altar of burning incense
and human skulls.
They kneel to altars,
burn incense, pray to crosses
and call you crazy.
Paint you she-devil
Dark skinned creole woman
who always knows too much.
Seduces white men
and peddles his babies.
They don’t know what to do with you.
But you be black cat enchantress,
who made a few extra dollars
by not letting your own culture
die on a slave ship.
They mad because Voodoo
is just Catholism
without all the gold.
Marie, you be forest of bones
Juju filled vixen woman,
Virgin Mary with a simmering cauldron
and 15 children.
Daughters of God,
They say voodoo dolls and hexes
are Satan’s game.
Say you know demons,
say maybe you are one.
They say that about all women.
They think we all cast spells
Diminish high priestess
because you can’t be woman
without all that magic.
You be everything religion
taught me you not.
You be woman,
mother and goddess,
beautiful and dangerous,
the fleur de lis unfurled
a jazz alley saxophone
and a haunted cast iron porch.
I’m wishing on 23 cents
for some magic