Couch Surfing Zach Bardon Girls!

I occasionally Google myself, just for fun. There’s plenty of hits about me and my music, and a ton of hits for some programs I wrote ages ago (an m3u-to-HTML conversion utility and a solitaire card game I invented and co-wrote with my friend Kevin Baba).

Today, among the Google results was a Thai website detailing search statistics, and in the list of keywords was “couch surfing zach bardon girls.” All together.

What does this mean? This means that someone, somewhere, did a search for the phrase “couch surfing zach bardon girls”! I think that is fantastic.

As it turns out, a Google search for “couch surfing zach bardon girls” lists that Thai site as the only result. If I remove the quotes, we get my friend and fellow singer-songwriter Amaryah’s MySpace page as the top hit (I’m playing drums on a couple of her tunes, by the way). Amaryah has been Couchsurfing a bit, and I’ve commented on her page, oddly enough mentioning girls, hence the match.

Just in case there’s something the searcher knew that I don’t, a proper search for “zach bardon” couchsurfing girls (quotes only around my name, “couchsurfing” is properly one word) shows nothing terribly exciting. Some Couchsurfing pages where I happen to appear, Amaryah’s page again, and a couple blogs — one by David Lamignan Larsen, a Norwegian rapper I recorded in San Francisco, and one by myself, where I was talking about the Tour on my own MySpace.

I feel that the search terms “couch surfing zach bardon girls” ought to have much better results than that, so I have used them several times in this post (including the title) and I am also including actual pictures of real Couchsurfing girls that I have stayed with and/or hung out with during the Tour, in the hopes that if anyone makes this search in the future, they will have more fruitful results.

Actual Couchsurfing Girls that Zach Bardon Met on His Tour

Daneen in Minnesota Liz in Boston Angie in NYC Becky in Tucson Emily and Megan in Storrs Trinh in Atlanta Susan in Mobile Maggie in Gulfport Julia in Knoxville Laura in San Fran Dominique in Vegas Kaelee in Logan

I, Zach Bardon, would like to express my thanks to these girls for giving me many excellent couch surfing experiences, and for each being another wonderful reason the Couchsurfing project is world-changingly great!

Also, if you are the person who searched for “couch surfing zach bardon girls”, please let me know so I can thank you for making my day.

NEXT: Our regularly scheduled travel blog about Logan, UT.

Boise, ID

Get ready for Boise! I didn’t record anything there!

“Explain this long post then,” demands AG snippily.

Whoa, what’s gotten into you today?

“Sigh… I’m impatient to hear about further recordings, not just travels. I already know you traveled, and all those scenic pictures just make me jealous.”

Well, lucky for both of us then that my remark about not recording was a gimmick. I didn’t record in Boise, but I did record in two fairly close Idaho towns — Nampa and Mountain Home. But first, an interesting story!

So there I was, driving away from Bend.

The geographical center of nowhere.

I didn’t realize before leaving Bend that there would be no civilization at all for the next billion miles. I had a half a tank of gas, but it kept dwindling

and dwindling

and dwindling

until the fuel gauge was starting to go below E, still with no sign of civilization in sight. I actually found a couple gas stations — more like shacks — but they didn’t have prices listed (and had trees growing out of them), so I assumed they were closed.

I began to formulate a plan: the moment my car dies, call AAA. I took note of the mile marker and got my coordinates from the GPS so I could tell them exactly where I was. It would mean costly delay, but I was planning on using the time to fire up my laptop and get some work done.

I was well below E at this point. Another gas shack was coming up, but I assumed it was also closed until I saw a truck parked in front of one of the pumps.

SALVATION! I feel certain I was literally seconds away from running out of gas. I rewarded that gas shack with business by filling up and buying some snacks.

Interesting story right?

“That story sucked,” compained some of the teenagers.

You guys… what reprehensible vocabulary. I bet you’d like my story if I had sung it to the tune of “Love Shack”… “The gaaassss shack is a little old place wherrrre… we can get –”

“No, that sucks worse,” they agree immediately.

Anyway, the rest of the drive through Oregon was scenic as all get out. Which is to say, quite scenic.

This nothing is the most something-like nothing I've ever seen! On this trip I often thought about the engineers who built these roads.  They were the stuff of legend. Wide-angle lens would have been nice. This vista looked so huge and awesome in real life that I fully expected it to look this unimpressive on film. Now we join that river we've been loosely following on a trek through the mountains. Scenic as heck.  Actually, far more scenic than heck. Let's go in for a closer look. These mountains were to prove my undoing! On the other side of the mountains, having forgotten to put my seat belt back on after the photos.

I was about to safely leave Oregon, when suddenly,

Do you know why I pulled you over today?

I had removed my seatbelt to take some beautiful mountain pictures. This particular officer, unlike me, was attentive to my lack of seatbelt. Good job officer. It’s probably because he is used to all the mountains so they don’t give him a sense of awe which normally causes one to forget one’s seatbelt.

“Ok, fun stories about gas, scenic scenes, and tickets. Now what about the recording sessions??” says AG impatiently.

You’re going to have to change your name if you keep that up, Girl.

“Hmph,” she pouts cutely, folding her arms and looking away.

Haha, ok. So, very soon after leaving the attentive officer, I was in Idaho!

Entering ID.

Wherein I drove to Mountain Home, which oddly enough is not in a mountain. But it is kind of between mountains, so that’s permissible. Still better than Rhode Island. A fellow named Corey Grubb had contacted me via an amazing amount of text messages about the project, and we arranged to meet at a gas station in Mountain Home. He showed up in a car with some friends, and I followed them back to one of said friends’ house. (It doesn’t sound right but I think that’s correct grammar.)

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Idahovian students.

Wherein we unloaded everything and I got to officially meet Corey and his friends, Anthony Mazel and Stephen Kruckeberg. They are high school students who enjoy making music. Sweet. I set up the stuff and we started tracking!

L-R: Anthony, Corey, and Stephen, laying down the tracks.

I would like to reiterate my previous assertion that cleaning supplies make great mic stands.

This mic stand really sucks!

But sometimes so do … wire bins?

I was always pretty good at improvisation.

After that, I backtracked a ways to my host, who lived in Nampa and who also happened to be a musician with a sweet name.

Um, this is where someone asks me what his name was.

“What was his name,” mumbles a surly teenager, looking at his shoes.

His name was Amadeus DeKastle! Sweet name!

Amadeus, with instruments.

Amadeus did a lot of awesome things for me:

  1. He hosted me, which is of course awesome.
  2. The following day, he recorded all the above pictured instruments for me. Yes, that is a digeridoo (and a mandolin).
  3. He introduced me to joik, an amazing traditional music from the Sami people in Norway, and some of the modern bands which perform music in or based on this style.

I had a great time hanging out with and recording Amadeus, who is also a teacher. He’s a super friendly dude and I’m glad we got to hang out. As usual, however, the hangouts were cut short by my need to be at the next stop.

No one’s asking? Fine. The next stop is Logan, UT!

“Logan? What’s in Logan?” barks Mr. Yerfulovit scornfully.

You shall see, my skeptical friend. You shall see.

NEXT: Logan, UT!

State of the Project: 12/23

It’s been over a month since my dad took this picture:

The triumphant return!  Only about 17 steps to go!

In fact, now it’s the day before Christmas Eve (a.k.a. Christmas Eve Eve) and here I am, writing about what I did back in the beginning of October. But there’s a method to my madness: if through some miracle I finished writing about the tour today, there would be months of nothing but “well, I’m still mixing…” posts. Not very exciting. Instead, I’m timing things so you get a slower but constant stream of actual, exciting project news.

“Bah!” grumbles Mr. Yerfulovit. “You’re just telling yourself that to make yourself feel better about not updating as often!”

Maybe partly true. And hey — welcome back Mr. Yerfulovit, we haven’t seen you around for a long while. Anyway, while slowly bringing the travel bloggings home, I will occasionally mix in current project news so you also know what’s going on now.

Current project status

Mainly, I’m waiting on my visa to go teach ESL in Korea again, and start climbing out of the debt this project has already put me in. The wait is far longer than expected, evidently due to lots of changes to the visa process in Korea. Because I needed a week or two where I wasn’t thinking about the project and 10,000 related details every day, I had been planning on waiting until I was in Korea to really buckle down and get things edited, mixed and recorded, but as the wait drags on I’ve had to reassess that plan. So, I have been working on making sure I have everything recorded in the States that I need. I’ve been doing a good bit of mixing, and recording a handful of people in Omaha.

But to be honest, I’m experiencing a bit of a “down” after the constant hustle and bustle of traveling and recording. Certainly I needed to crash a bit, just to recover from the exhausting tour. But I still don’t feel like doing anything, and it’s been about a month since I got back to HQ. This constant waiting for the visa and not knowing when I’m leaving yet has also got me a bit frayed. But it’s been more than long enough and I need to get back on my feet.

I’ll be taking a very stripped-down version of my studio with me to Korea, so I’ll be able to finish up the project over there. But I won’t be recording anyone (besides myself) in Korea. It’s a kind of project rule: only US Americans on the project. I know some great Korean musicians, but I’m saving them for later. This particular project is about Americans from all over playing American music from all over. As it turns out, even limiting it to the USA is diverse enough for at least three albums (Amazing!). I’m not generally very nationalistic — I don’t see why any country is necessarily better than another, when every person on Earth is equally valuable — but America is my home and the source of a lot of my musical upbringing, and the best context for my first album. A kind of foundation, from which I can depart but never permanently (I’m applying that to both my geography as well as my music).

In exciting future news, I have both a really great painter and a really great graphic designer both on board to help out with album artwork and jacket design (!!!!1!!11!!), and a handful of musicians ready to collaborate with recording online should I discover a hole I’m not able to fill myself in Korea.

There’s a new version of Sonar out. It looks shnazzy.

And now for our regularly-scheduled travel blog.

Bend, OR

Bend! Besides being the home of famed cluster balloonist Kent Couch (undoubtedly the first cluster balloonist to fly in a lawnchair from Bend to Idaho), Bend is also known as one of the most scenically scenic places around.

“Excuse me,” interrupts Attractive Girl, delightfully.

Well, it’s been a while! I was almost afraid you had moved on to someone else’s blog.

“Nope, not every girl is like that,” she replies, winking.

You have to stop winking like that, it’s very distracting.

… What was I talking about?

“Bend. And what I want to know is, why Bend? It wasn’t originally on your itinerary.”

I went to Bend because of —

MPM: THE LONG ARM OF RAMON.

— um, yeah. Geez, we had two entire posts with no narrative devices and now this.

I had not yet located a host on the way towards Boise (the next stop) so Ramon very generously bought me a night at a bed & breakfast in Bend, which was pretty much exactly halfway to Boise from Portland.

“Hey,” says the ugly passerby, “did you by any chance steal that phrase about Ramon’s arm from a song by your friend Michael Olson, entitled Long Arm of Love?”

Dang, you caught me. Can I continue?

“I knew it!”

On my way to Bend I saw many scenic scenes. I even, on a lark, decided to follow a sign for a “Scenic Route” which ended up adding only a half hour to my trip, and negligible distance.

Watch for runny noses, next 12 miles. On the way up McKenzie Pass.  So scenic!

A few times the scenic route actually came out from amidst all the trees to give me a view of something, but unfortunately it had started misting.

Look!  The mists of time!

At one point, I knew I was really high up and there was a ridge to my left so I got out and climbed up the ridge…

Just over this rise...

I thought if I just went a little further I could have a spectacular view. At last, I came over the top of the ridge and saw:

Wow.

Ok, not quite so nice. But I turned around and got a decent shot of my car.

Car, by road, near deceptive ridge.

Finally, I reached the summit. It was dark.

Taken from a moving car at night.  Not bad!

The bed and breakfast I stayed at was called Country Inn the City. It was a nice homey place run by two very kind and motherly young ladies.

The Kind and Motherly Ladies of Country Inn the City

I had a bed!!!

It was pretty much like visiting my grandmother.

The following day, after an exemplary breakfast, I was on my way. I poked about Bend for a bit before heading along towards Boise.

Mountains.  I think some of them are sisters (of the Three Sisters). Driving through the bustling downtown of Bend. More mountains.  I think one of those is The Bachelor. There must be something interesting in this photo, but I'm not sure what it is.

On behalf of Attractive Girl, the ugly passerby, the mob of teenagers, Movie Preview Man, everyone who hears and enjoys the final product, and of course myself, thank you Ramon!

NEXT: Boise — where is it and why doesn’t it rhyme with “tortoise”?

Eugene, OR

Eugene! Not to be confused with the Korean singer/actress Eugene formerly from S.E.S., nor the software designed to aid political scientists in testing expected utility theory of war and dispute initiation (Expected Utility Generation), this Eugene happens to be a town in Oregon famous for its hippies. I didn’t happen to see any hippies while I was there (can’t say I looked for them either), but I did see an old friend of mine who claims that his name is Tim Bess!

Tim Bess, musician

Tim is a classy dude who plays keyboards and trombones and does a great job at both. In addition, he has gotten himself married to a classy short girl. I always enjoyed playing with Tim back in the day and enjoyed getting the chance to a) catch up with him and meet his wife over lunch, and 2) get him playing some trombone and keyboard on the project.

Tim keyboarding.

Yay!

Unfortunately, my stay there was brief, as I was on my way to Bend, OR that very day.

NEXT: On my way to Bend, OR that very day.

Tour of Love 100%!

Yesterday morning, I arroved (was arroven?) back in Omaha after successfully completing the “Traveling and Recording” phase of the project.

THE GIST: I am now done touring and recording!

TOUR OF LOVE 100%!

I will now address your questions. (Many narrative devices raise their hands.) Yes, you in the back.

Q: Did you go to all 50 US states?
A: No, that was never my goal. I had no plans to drive to either Alaska or Hawaii.

Q: Fine then. Did you go to all 48 continental US states?
A: No. I had to skip North Dakota due to the aforementioned computer problems.

Q: So you went to all 48 except North Dakota?
A: Yes.

Q: I think North Dakota only counts as half a state anyway.
A: That’s a good idea, but I still only went to 47 states.

Q: No, because there are 50 total states, so the extra half has to come from somewhere.
A: Where?

Q: Probably California. Yeah, let’s say California counts as 1.5.
A: Okay. So I went to 47.5 of the 48 continental states.

Q: Cool! But… this blog still has you in Portland, OR.
A: I liked it there, why not stay?

Q: Haha! Seriously though.
A: Now that the touring is complete (which was rather exhausting, by the way) I’ll have some time to start catching the blog up to the present. Don’t expect me to catch up lightning-fast, because I have only a couple weeks to prepare everything before I go back to Korea (where I will teach ESL again), but you can safely expect more regular updates.

Q: Can we get a promise, say 2 posts per week?
A: No. In the history of the internet, that never works. I won’t waste your expectations.

Q: Okay. What’s next?
A: The next phase of the project is the hole-plugging phase. I recorded a massive smattering of happening peeps, but some of the songs still have sections that need a little something. I will be working on trying to fill those holes, either by recording people in Omaha before I leave, collaborating from Korea with musicians in America over the internet, or playing stuff in myself.

Q: The question everyone wants to know the answer to is: when can we hear it??
A: It will still be several months. Don’t panic, but don’t hold your breath either. Rest assured that I will keep working on the project just as hard, even though I’m no longer Touring. While you wait, read my exciting posts about the awesome places and people I encountered and recorded. Play a game. Call a loved one. Perhaps enjoy a cold mojito. Above all else, chillax.

Q: What does that mean?
A: Kind of like hanging out, but a really cool type of hanging out.

Q: Sweet. Will do.
A: Awesome.

Q: Yes.
A: Okay, stop now. These aren’t even questions.

Q: I know, right?
A: Every time you say something I have to answer you to keep the Q&A format intact, but it’s really annoying when you aren’t even asking a question.

Q: Okay! I’ll stop.
A: … *sigh*

Q: What?
A: NOTHING! Shut up.

Q: Got it.
A: Good.

I hope that all of your questions were addressed in this highly informative Q&A session. If not, please submit any further questions in the comments, but they may not be answered unless you include “Q:” at the beginning. Just FYI. Thanks.

Q: You’re welcome.
A: …