Journal Entry # 22 - Road Entry#12 (Train - New Haven to Vermont - 3:08pm - July 13, 2010)


Surfing the cushion-wave...

The adventure continues in a new way today. I being my first couch surfing experience with a total stranger.

Before I get to that, I want to recap the past couple of days in New Haven, CT. Overall, it was very relaxing. I wasn't in a giant city with an unspoken or spoken amount of pressure to get out and "DO Things". Tyler was a great person to stay with because he just acted as if I was living in New Haven with him. I loved being in New Haven for that reason. Tyler is a great person and a great family member. I think we came closer together and enjoyed each others company.

New Haven as a city is an interesting study. The city is divided into three major regions with a sprawling suburban area to the north. The city can be divided into the east side, the west side, and the downtown/south side. The identity of New Haven lies within Yale University as the center of the city. New Haven has a cute little downtown area, adjacent to Yale. The entire city center, including Yale, is one square mile, maybe two square miles. It is easy to get around by foot, bike, and public transport - which is nice. I rode Tyler's bike around mostly, rarely using his car while he was in New York or at work. Yale divides the east from the west. Both sides run in a north-south fashion with some major streets acting as the arteries for their respective communities. State street, Orange street, and Whitney street all parallel each other in the east - with cute bistros, cafes, italian eateries, and homes. Demographically, the east side seems to be the area of white, european, and immigrant decent. The west side is defined by two perpendicular streets, Dixwell and Whaley. This is the heart of the african-american community of New Haven, and unfortunately the crime of New Haven.

So that's my Frommers guide to New Haven geography. I hope I painted a picture of New Haven for you. I guess good practice if I want to get a job with travel publications.

As for my experience in New Haven...

Tuesday night I went to bed late because I had to pick up Tyler from the train station around 3am. I slept in Wednesday morning, had breakfast, did some Vermont and Montreal planning, and then went on a quick 3.8 mile run. Tyler went to work from 2-9pm Wednesday, so I was on my own. I decided to go down to the bar that was recommended by the cute bar tender from the Black Bear Saloon Monday night. The bar is called "BAR". It's a trendy joint with unique pizza, cheap drinks, and live music on Wednesday's. I went primarily for the live music, but also was willing to meet some new people!

I ran into the bar tender there. Abby and her friends were there for $2 wells (all night). I drove down there, so I only had 2 drinks (a cocktail and a beer). Abby was encouraging me to drink more, but I wasn't going to risk my life and good fortune with a DUI or accident. I met her friends who were very interesting and we chatted for a couple of hours until closing. I met her friend, Vinny, who is a movie producer and marketing guru. He is now in the entertainment industry after working 8-10 years in marketing. He is moving down to Los Angeles in a couple weeks for a PR platform for this movie that he and his buddies or colleague have been working on. I told him about my life and my journey - and he suggested I meet some of his sports marketing "people" and he would make the introduction. He said Tiki Barber used to be a client of his, along with a couple of other athletes. I said sure, I would love to pursue any opportunity available. The bar then closed with me getting his contact information and me going back to the computer at Tyler's to write an e-mail immediately.

Thursday was a great day! I woke up to an e-mail from Alexandra Harper, a couch surfer that could host me in Vermont. I got in touch with her and accepted the invitation for what I wanted to do - see the natural beauty of Vermont and the glory I've heard so much about. From this point forward I needed to find a way to get to Vermont - bus? train? hitch-hike? ride-share? renal car? I did some research and found that train was the cheapest and effective, so I booked it (where I am right now as I type). With a solid plan for the weekend in Vermont, I went to bike around New Haven and take some pictures. I went to the Yale Bookstore, Broadway Ave, some very old educational halls, and downtown area. I took some great photos of the architecture of Yale's campus!

I then went for a snack at the famous Louis Lunch on Crown St. Louis Lunch was the first place in America to serve a "hamburger" on the go. Back in 1900, a business man asked Louis to make him a ground beef meal to eat "on the go". Louis claims that it is the first place to place to serve the hamburger with the beef in between to pieces of white bread along with tomato, onion, and cheese. To this day, that is the only thing you can order at Louis'. If you ask for lettuce, ketchup, pickles, or anything "extra" you get thrown out.

I took myself over to the cafe where Tyler works to shoot the breeze and get some free cold water. While there, I met Julia Zangerl. Julia is an Austrian exchange student on her masters studies in German literature. It was her first time in New Haven and is currently living in Brooklyn. She was in New Haven for the weekend to get some research done at Yale's libraries. She was actually Couch Surfing as well and her host was meeting her on the corner outside the cafe. I spoke with her until he showed up and met him as well. His name is Erroll Philip and he is from Melbourne, Australia. Erroll has lived away from Australia for the past 10 years all over the world. I was very jealous and could use a lot of his advice for my travels and life! Erroll is finishing up his PHD work in the Cancer hospital in downtown New Haven and studying at Yale. I couldn't believe I was chatting it up with two international and interesting people! I suggested we meet later for a drink and more conversation because I had to run back to Tyler's to pick up his car and get ready for laser tag later that night.

I got to Geronimo's Southwest Tequila Tavern to meet Julia and Erroll at 8:30pm. We enjoyed each other's company and talked about so much over a 2 hour period. I could have sat there for days and shared. Unfortunately I had to meet Tyler for laser tag by one of Yale's libraries. Before I left, I got Erroll and Julia's information so that we could continue communication while living in the states. Erroll is scheduled to study and work in New Haven for the entire year, but Julia is only in New York City for the summer. Nevertheless, it was amazing and inspirational to meet them.

I left Geronimo's at 10:30 and met up with Tyler for the laser tag. They started without me around 10pm. Tyler has met about 10-20 people that get together every Thursday for laser tag at night. They choose "levels" or "maps" to play laser tag with these Nerf laser tag guns. You can play in a free-for-all format or a Team format. It is like paintball where the team or last man standing wins. Each gun has 6 laser shots per round, a reload trigger, and infrared sensor on top of the gun. Therefore each team shoots each other's guns. It was so much fun! We played until midnight and I got really into it. I used my running to my advantage and won a couple of matches in the free-for-all and team format. The technology is amazing on these things and Tyler's friend says its getting even better. At the end I was drenched in sweat and tired as a derby horse. Tyler and I went back to his place to crash before this morning.

This morning consisted of a hearty egg breakfast, laundry, and packing for Vermont. The couch at Alexandra's awaits me!

I signed up for CouchSurfing.org in 2008 when I was traveling around Spain, France, and Germany. I never committed tot he idea of couch surfing and never stayed with a host. I stayed at hostels while traveling around Europe.

I am now in the states and surfing with my first host - Alexandra Harper. She is a 28 year old Vermontonian that currently lives in New York City. She is staying with her parents over the summer at their home in Weston, VT. I was trying to get to Burlington, VT originally, but she contacted me after I posted a couch request on the Burlington group boards. I took her up on her offer to stay with her because she lives in the natural beauty of Vermont and her family has a boat on Lake Champlain. She made an unbelievable gesture to host me for Friday and Saturday night before going to Burlington on Sunday. We have planned to stay in Weston, VT Friday and then stay on her boat Saturday night, sailing over to Burlington to drop me off Sunday. I was elated when she offered me this opportunity to see Vermont this way. I used my time in New Haven to set this up, taking Tuesday and Wednesday to find someone to stay with in Vermont. I just talked to her and she will be picking me up at the Bellows Falls, VT train station at 5:45pm.

The philosophy, values, and optimism that CouchSurfing.org generates is breathtaking. It is an online social-network and community that appreciates and values the act of meeting new people - fostering relationships and education. I sincerely believe it is a beacon of light and a pioneering website. I believe that successful surfers communicate their story to a potential host while representing courtesy, graciousness, and safety. The website is moderated constantly and every message posted through the website is read by the moderators. There is also a process of getting verified by the moderators - having a piece a mail sent to your home address after $25 minimum donation. Since the website is a non-profit website, they encourage a donation if you truly want to get the most out of couch surfing. On my profile, you can see pictures of me, my story, my history, my philosophies, my interests, my couch surfing experience, my Couch Surfing friends, and couch information (if applicable). People on the website can join to meet new people through being a host or guest, but also through social get-togethers throughout the cities (like frisbee / BBQ's in the park on Sunday or coffee on a lunch break). It really depends on the users comfort level with a stranger.

27 days into living on the road, I couldn't be happier! I have set up surfing spots throughout Vermont and into Montreal, Canada for the next week. I am doing research now for the final week in July (Quebec City, Toronto, or back to the States). Here are couch surfing and location dates for ya!

July 16,17 - Weston, VT / Lake Champlain --- Alexandra Harper
July 18 - Burlington, VT --- Jade Montagiron
July 19, 20 - Montreal, Quebec --- Daniel Grinberg
July 21, 22 - Montreal Quebec --- Frederic Roy

This is the only July 16,17,18th weekend in 2010! Take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves this weekend. Have a great one.

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