Monday, January 11, 2010

Dumpster Diving 101

So this is Jay here again. As the title of this post divulges I am going to write about the wide and wonderful world of dumpster diving.

I like to think of the practice as "urban foraging". It's a great way to keep the cost of traveling down to an affordable level. While Elwood chugs gas like it's going out of style at least our food budget is extremely low. Last night was pretty much the first time we had to actually go and buy food since we left the Ranch ten days ago. Besides beer most things we require can be found for free.

I started the practice a couple years ago when I began my bike resuscitation business in Calgary. At the time almost all of my parts came from alleyways or the local dump. In Vancouver I continued with the bike biz and expanded to other items that I required as I had ditched most of my worldly possessions in my move to the west coast. I learned that you can easily furnish an appartment over the span of a couple months for almost nothing. I never really had to look for edibles at the time as Janet's job at a grocery store conveniently provided us with all the free food we could eat.

Now that we have become detached from this steady supply of goodness we must find our own sources of free foodstuffs. I've learned through friends and people I've met along the way some of the best spots and stores to check out for dumpster delights. Trader Joe's is by far the number one most reliable source I've found so far. They are pretty much everywhere in the states, barring southern Oregon, which is more or less empty of human civilization. They can let you down from time to time by locking their dumpsters (which is a total dick move) or kicking you out if you get caught poking around.

Even so I've scored tons of rad shit at their various locations including mountains of fruit and veggies, cheese, eggs, cookies, cereal and pretty much anything else that might have had it's packaging slightly damaged during transport. We once lucked out huge and found a tirramasu chocolate cake that was still perfectly sealed in it's wrapper and was absolutely fucking delicious. Google maps is also your best friend when seeking out local dumpsters. Search for "organic grocery" or "bakery" within your area and you'll be sure to find some goodies.

The waste that occurs within the food retail industry in the western world is really quite disgusting. There is so much that is simply trashed due to cosmetic damage that could feed all of the hungry within our own continent, never mind the wider world that consistently goes without. As far as I'm concerned it borders on criminal. Even worse is the lenghts to which many companies go in order to prevent even the most resourceful scavengers among us from liberating their so called "trash". The compactor is by far the biggest enemy of the dumpster diver and is employed by almost all of the larger US grocery chains. While I have found some more accomidating forward thinking retailers, such as the Rainbow Grocery Co-op in San Francisco, these places are few and far between.

So to all of you who have yet to try your hand at the fine art of binning I challenge you to put on a pair of boots, grab your rubber gloves and head to your favorite grocer under the cover of night. You'll be surprised by what you can get for free.

One man's trash is anothers free lunch.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chasing Summer

I feel like there were a lot of moments between the ranch and getting here to the resort that I wanted to convey through this here 'blog but are slipping through my memory to that place where smells and images will pull them back out but I might not be able to locate the file all by myself.

San Francisco was a real treat. It's been high on my list of cities to visit for a long time and was made even more memorable by having a really great time with a really great host. Thank you again and again, Jess! You are so sweet and funny and you really made us feel welcome. Your roommates are awesome too.

It's been great to be back on the road, chasing summer and seeing more of the Pacific Coast. We figured it was a good idea to take the coast highway from San Francisco to Escondido instead of the Interstate because who knows when we'll be back out this way again... And our return journey will take us to the Grand Canyon, Utah and Wyoming but not back to the coast.

The California coast is so insanely beautiful. The highway is just a tiny shelf on the side of massive mountains that descend directly into the ocean. The remnants of previously possible islands jutting out of the surf like monuments to the sea's powerful caress and the passage of time. Nothing compares. Nothing that I've seen yet anyway.

We've also been so lucky to see amazing wildlife at close quarters. We were driving along and I (being on the west side of the car) was watching some tourists take photos of what looked like a beached whale or a sea lion corpse but then there was a parking lot with "Friends of the Northern Elephant Seal" signs everywhere. These huge beasts everywhere, thousands of them, roaring and yelping and stinking to high heaven. This particular species had been hunted to near extinction in the 18oo's and only recently have they been found anywhere other than Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

On the pier at Oceanside, California we were visited by a pair of brown pelicans, most likely a mating couple judging by their colourings. It was so foggy you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you and all of a sudden, there they were, just sitting on the railing awaiting our admiration. Now I love pelicans.

I hope to do some catching up on reporting our adventures while we're here at Welk Resort in Escondido. Yes, Welk as in the Lawrence Welk Show, champagne music and "A-one and A-two"! Thanks again Terri and Doug, this is amazing!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

'Frisco Observations

After walking approximately 25 miles over the past two days, I feel like I have some ideas about the beautiful city of San Francisco. I also have very sore feet.

I've noticed a lot of Volkswagen Beetles. I've seen as many fixies as Vancouver, if not more. I've seen quite a few British bulldogs, American bulldogs, pitbulls, chowchows and many, many. chihuahuas. There are no alleys and not a lot of basements because all the garages and parking spaces are in front. Even two million dollar homes are small (unless you're up at the top of a hill). Not everything is on a hill but there are a lot of incredibly steep hills. It's very small and dense.

I love all the pastel Victorians with ornate bay windows. I had pretty much convinced myself that they were called bay windows because every house here has them and y'know, the bay and all. But I guess it's just a convienient way to maximize a view in small spaces and coincidentally some of the view here is of a bay.

Young people pretty much look the same. Hipsters and hippies. Almost everyone we've met is an artist but I guess that has something to do with the fact that our lovely ambassador Jess is an artist herself.

Today we'll take a bus, on accounta the sore feet, up to Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach. Tonight we'll head to Oakland to check it out and we'll probably dumpster dive in Berkeley tomorrow. On Tuesday we're taking an Alcatraz tour. And Wednesday we're outta here, on down the coast to Big Sur and eventually through the big sink to Escondido.