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The City of Roses (and Thorns)

Ten years ago, on August 31, 2006, I moved to Portland, Oregon. I had spent the summer of 2006 heartsick, couch surfing, and working as a nanny in Indiana. I had portland-415957_960_720gotten out of a long-term relationship around February of that year, graduated from college that May, and found myself ready to move out of the state where I was born and raised. I needed a change, but I couldn’t decide where to go or what to do with myself.

I had interviewed for two very different opportunities in two very different parts of the country, and had been offered both jobs. One was to move to New York City and work with Teach for America and the other was to move to Florida and work as a camp counselor for a year. One would have required me to live in a giant city, in an assigned apartment with other teachers. The other would have required me to live in a teepee next to a lake. While they both sounded like amazing (and kind of terrifying) life adventures, neither housing option would allow me to bring my dog.

My dog, an old blind pug named Buckeye, was my best friend. That little buddy and I had been through a big breakup and homelessness together. He was with me the day I moved out of the house I shared with my co426074_636536074858_1349282714_nllege sweetheart, he was there with me when I decided to skip my college graduation ceremony and go camping, and he kept me warm by curling up at the very bottom of my sleeping bag. There was no way I could abandon him. I had to find a place where my dog was welcome, where I fit in better than I did in Indiana, and where I could get a fresh start.

I knew that place was out there, but I hadn’t yet found it. I asked my older sister, who had done quite a bit of traveling, if she had any suggestions. She suggested I visit her in Portland to think about my next steps in a new environment. Of course, as soon as I spent my first day in Portland, I fell in love with it. I think she knew that would happen when she invited me there. That tricky bitch. 😉

I could write a novel about my life in the Rose City. I have experienced a lot during my ten years there; the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life have all been in Portland. In a lot of ways, it has been a wonderful place to call home and I am grateful that I experienced the majority of my twenties there. However, I have a complicated relationship with my city now, as do many people who have lived there for a while. Oregon is a lovely state filled with natural beauty in every direction, Portland is a special city with gorgeous green parks and lots of rivers and bridges and art and rain, but it is not paradise. In fact, it has some major problems that seem to be getting worse. Portland is becoming more and more expensive by the month, gentrification and overpriced housing are pushing out long-time residents, beloved businesses and buildings that once gave the city character are being demolished and replaced with pretentious condos that most Portlanders could never afford. In many ways, the city is losing the charm and uniqueness that put it on the map in the first place. Homelessness, the rapidly rising cost of living, and a lack of jobs have already caused many people to leave, and it certainly contributed to my decision to buy an RV and convert it into my tiny house on wheels/sex ed mobile.

When grief and the end of my marriage were added to the list of things I was dealing with in Portland, it became obvious to me that I needed to get away from my city. So, it seems fitting that on the ten year anniversary of moving to Oregon, I left the state. Yesterday we crossed the border into Idaho, and today we continue heading east. We plan on visiting the Craters of the Moon, Lava Hot Springs, and having another night in the woods to think and heal and reflect.

Looking forward to the famous Wyoming night sky.

Xoxo,

Amory Jane

Adventure, Life Changes, Motorhome, moving on, Personal Blog, Roadtrip, RV Lifestyle, self-discovery, Sex Ed Mobile, Sex Ed Teaching Tour, Teaching Tour, Tiny House, Travel, Travel Blog, Uncategorized

Chapter 2: Life on the Road

Hello from the road! St. Edna the Sex Ed Mobile and I are officially on tour!

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Two of my dear friends, Amari and Amber, have joined the first half of this adventure with me and I am thrilled! We have been friends for over nine years but have never taken a trip together. It’s only day one so I know that doesn’t say much, but so far everything is great and we travel very well together. We are all sensitive souls who seek to understand others, who love to sing, love to be creative, love nature, and who like to feel connected. We also all appreciate Edna and the hard work she has put in today, driving up steep mountains, through deserts, and around rock falls. Thanks, St. Edna!

We had a hectic start to the day and there were a few hiccups (the bar in Edna’s clothes closet came detached while driving, the table broke, and Amari almost forgot her passport in Portland) but we hit the road and managed to arrive safely to our first stop about 90 minutes before sunset. Our destination was the John Day Fossil Beds: Painted Hills Unit.

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The Painted Hills are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon and I can see why. They were incredibly cool looking, almost like a Martian landscape. Highly recommended for anyone heading through central-eastern Oregon.

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We were lucky enough to find a convenient campsite about an hour away from the Painted Hills where we could build a campfire, eat a meal, rest our bodies and rest Edna, AND have electrical hookups so I could write this blog post before bed. 😉

It was a lovely first day and I look forward to tomorrow’s plans, which will be driving out of Oregon and into Idaho for more camping (and perhaps some local karaoke). I don’t haven’t any teaching gigs or conferences scheduled during these first few days of the tour, so my focus will be on bonding with my pals, seeking adventure, and doing more adjusting to life on the road.

Looking forward to continuing this new chapter and sharing my journey with all of you.

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Amory Jane

 

Adventure, DIY, Life Changes, Motorhome, moving on, Personal Blog, Renovation, RV Lifestyle, Sex, Sex Ed Mobile, Sex Education, Sex Educator, Tiny House, Travel, Uncategorized

Up and Running

Bustlwhirle. Whirl. Hurly-burly. That is how my life has been for the past two weeks. I’ve slept in a few different beds, dog sat a few different dogs, felt a lot of confusing feelings, and memorized the lyrics and harmonies to over a dozen songs that I will be performing live this weekend. I have also been working on my RV conversion (St. Edna the Sex Ed Mobile) whenever possible.

After a few hiccups, Edna finally has running water in addition to having power! The only things not working yet are my stove and shower, and I think that is just because the propane tank is empty. Once I get a free weekend, I should be able to take care of that problem fairly easily. The key is actually getting a free weekend.

Edna is close to being ready to hit the road though. Just the propane, a few more repairs, and a new inverter, and we should be ready to head out of Portland in mid to late August for another sex education teaching tour!

Where should I go?!

Adventure, divorce, DIY, guest blog, Life Changes, Motorhome, moving on, Personal Blog, Renovation, RV Lifestyle, self-discovery, Separation, Sex, Sex Ed Mobile, Sex Education, Sex Educator, sexuality, Shame, Tiny House, Travel, Uncategorized

Doubt and Hope: Solar Panels & Bathroom Carpets

postTime for my first guest post! This was written by a fan and new friend, Eric Snyder, after he volunteered to help me with Edna last weekend.

Thanks, Eric!
———-

I pulled onto the street and was met with the visual of St. Enda the Sex Ed Mobile sitting diagonally in the middle of a suburban-like street in NE Portland. At first it put a smile on my face to see this RV I was looking forward to meeting sitting right there in front of me. However, I quickly assessed the situation and realized there was some stress in the air. Amory Jane, Edna’s owner and sex educator extraordinaire, was sitting behind the wheel with a trusty friend by her side and an onlooking neighbor was starring the situation down. Cars were maneuvering around Edna, but it was a little precarious for sure. The peering neighbor offered the oh-so-helpful advice of ‘you’re gonna have to move it’ as he took another puff of his cigarette.

I parked and approached the situation. Within a few moments AJ took control, tried to tune out the neighbor, and with the help of her friend pulled Edna safely up a steep gravel driveway. The stress of the first situation had been defeated, but soon the three of us were starring at a solar panel that needed to be attached and tested. None of us had any working knowledge of such things and had only done some minor Googling. The stress had returned, but we were soon on our way to understanding.

solar-panels-871284454772qkB9Going over to help with a few things was my first time meeting Edna and only the third time I had been around Amory Jane. The second time was an impromptu hang that included pizza, pot, silly movies, and life talk. The first time was when she led a sex education class about cunnilingus at Portland’s wonderful She Bop. I attended the class because I was very newly re-entering the world of dating after a 15 year relationship. I went to the class excited but filled with nerves. I was quickly comforted as Amory Jane and her co-teacher (Sid Need) put everyone at ease and educated us about oral sex. I learned tons of different tips, ideas, positions, and more practical information about anatomy than any public education or Google searches had ever provided me. Most of all though, I was provided a safe space where I could be curious, ask questions, and feel comfortable speaking about sexuality. Unfortunately, these spaces and opportunities are few and far between in our world. I  wasn’t raised in a sexually oppressed environment shameand as a middle class straight white cisgender male I definitely had more opportunities than many. However, I did have plenty of cultural shame attached to areas of sexuality, and as a feminist I definitely wanted to approach sex and dating with respect.

In this short class, Amory Jane proved that as a sex educator she was the perfect tour guide into exploring these ideas with lots of enthusiasm and knowledge and without shame. That is why when I heard about her sex education tour, and then the idea of this traveling sex education mobile, I wanted to help make it possible in any way I could with my limited resources.

As we got the basics of the solar panel set up, unfortunately the rain clouds started to roll in. It seemed like a moment of defeat, but I couldn’t leave without helping. I knew AJ had mentioned the trouble she was having trying to remove the ratty carpet in Edna’s bathroom. Armed with an exacto knife type of tool, I took a crack at it, and soon big chunks of carpet were coming up. It didn’t feel like much to me, but AJ seemed very grateful.

p_SCF_050_05In all reality, Amory Jane has a lot on her shoulders and she is feeling it right now. Going through a divorce (as she mentioned in her first post), making quick decisions about purchasing an RV and starting a business, and other life issues were making her feel like she was in over her head. However, amid the defeatist language we sometimes use when we feel overwhelmed, there was still hopeful talk about Edna’s future. The bathroom I was 2691721382_b0c0ddfab8_bcurrently ripping up carpet in would eventually have an outer space theme and perhaps a floor lined with miniature dildos. Dildos in space? There was also talk of  having an exterior wrap on the RV, proclaiming Edna’s name, Amory Jane’s website, and logos for sponsors.

These thoughts also perhaps felt out of reach to Amory Jane in the midst of the swirling situations she has around her. However, as I stood outside and prepared to leave with a quick hug and promise to help in any way I could, I stole one more look at St. Edna. Sure, she looked a little worn in and like any other RV that you’d spot in camp grounds or freeways across America, but I had a vision of her future. Someday, in the not too distant ajfuture, Amory Jane will be behind the wheel traveling the country to not only educate and discuss sex and sexuality with the masses, but to truly bring them hope. There are people like me out there who need to learn more and feel comfortable with sexuality. There are also people who have been made to feel ashamed of sex or abused or confused or dealing with rejection from family and friends. There are people across America that will see St. Edna as even more than a kitschy cute sex education mobile. There are people who will see her and Amory Jane as actual saints providing the safe space and opportunity to explore ideas and get their questions answered without fear or judgment.

Adventure, divorce, DIY, Life Changes, Motorhome, moving on, Personal Blog, RV Lifestyle, self-discovery, Separation, Sex Education, Tiny House, Travel, Uncategorized

Edna’s Lucky Day

It was almost 90 degrees and I had not gotten much sleep the night before. I knew I had to go to the DMV anyway, because St. Edna the Sex Mobile needed license plates and to be properly registered. I was expecting it to be a mildly miserable experience, like most trips to the DMV, but what happened next made me start wondering if luck is on my side. It made me DMVfeel like I really am on my own hero’s journey and may have just met my mentor.

I grabbed a number: 180. Number 130 was currently being called. Knowing there were 50 people ahead of me, I settled into one of the few open seats and started playing Blendoku on my phone. I felt a sneeze coming on and politely covered my mouth and squeaked out a high-pitched “achoo!”

A few people said “bless you,” including an older gentleman to my right. Then he told me he was an ear doctor and could tell by my sneeze that I was congested and asked if I wanted any advice. I appreciated that he asked instead of just offering, so we talked about sinuses for a while and about how his grandmother had a very loud sneeze that would startle people. Any time someone would sit in a chair near us he nodded and said hello. I could tell he was genuinely friendly and liked humans.

Eventually our numbers were called and we finished our transactions around the same time. I went out to the parking lot with new plates for Edna and he was parked a few spots away. “Is that your new toy?” he asked as his eyes lit up.Edna

“Sure is. Her name is St. Edna.”

“St. Edna? I like that. Like Edna St. Vincent Millay?”

“That’s who she is named after!” I was excited that someone had made the connection without me pointing it out.

Then this kind stranger told me that he had lived the RV life for 12 years. He asked what work needed to be done on it and I told him. It turns out he has most of the parts I need, and he was going to donate them because he has a new 30 foot trailer and doesn’t need them any longer.

He also had pliers in his trunk that would get the rusted old New Jersey plates off Edna , just in case I didn’t have any with me (I didn’t). He asked if I wanted help removing the plates and I said yes. Now, normally it would weird me out that a stranger was paying attention to me in the DMV parking lot, but this guy was like Mr. Rogers. He told me about Mr.-Rogershis son (who is around my age), his hearing clinic, and his land on the Washougal River. In fact, he said, he had an RV spot on that land that has water and electricity hookups and I would be welcome to stay there any time I wanted, free of charge!

We chatted a while longer while he walked around Edna to makes notes of what he has that might work for her. He also reached up into her outdoor light fixture by the back door and knocked out a hornet’s nest. Whoa. This dude is like the dad I never had but always wanted, and I met him at the DMV!

I got his business card and promised to email. I will definitely be following up. There is a lot to learn when being new to an RV lifestyle, and now I know a friendly fatherly figure with land, tools, supplies, and advice (that he always asked if I wanted to hear first). A mentor who uses consent language, reminds me of my childhood role model, and who offers me free parking on a beautiful river that is only 40 minutes from work? What a lucky day!