We would like to extend a huge and incredible public display of our affections and gratitude to the following list of people.

These folks have generously donated time, energy, and money to our project. Some have even gone so far as to welcome us into their homes and feed us, despite our lack of hygiene and our occasional crankiness, thank you :

Barbara Wolff
Mallory Craig-Karim
Susan Forker
Sarah Wolff
Carly Zektzer
Coerte Voorhees
Diane Vannais
Abigail Thompson
Sandra Sorlien
Jamie Morgan
David Graham
Roman Broberg
Cynthia Rhodin
Sarah Stolfa
Ali Lee
Lucy Murnane
Erin Kim Farnsworth
Naomi Mindlin & Stephen Perloff
Jim Coane & Marty Moss-Coane
Kate Powell
Penny Ettinger
Wendy Herbert
Carole Kelly-Daversa
Rebecca Bancroft
Henry Horenstein
Laura Jackson
Gene Kennedy
Nina Strong
Sandy Dobberstein
Leslie Sauer
Rosemary Tottoroto
Raymond Mathis
Lizze Ferrari
Angelica Recierdo
Steven Bilsky
Colin Montgomery
Tim Tracz
Melissa Lawrence
Phillip Block
Linda Heinemann & William Heinemann
Paul Rumsby
Sandra Stark
Rachel Weisz
Gary Minnix & Melanie Minnix
Emma Perloff
Mary Brown
Marcia Gehman
Richard Petry
David Litschel
Mariann Boston Reh
Carol Herbert
Harold Herbert
Jean Pearce
Joe Mitchoff & Curtis Thompson
Thomas Lamb
John Rumsby
Barbara Smith
Karen Hallowell
James Griffis
Mark Daniels
Myra Jacobs
Andrea Cetra
Danielle Picard
Elizabeth Bayardi
Judy Tripathi
Kenda North
Penny Mecca
Gary Mecca
Caleb Savage
Terry Culleton
Julie Lambert
Laura Gradowski
Gwen Kerber
Devin Drerup
Philip Dalgarno
Sara Harmon
Dottie Highland
Joseph Highland
Caitlin Brimmer
Lisa Satterwhite
Jeffrey Blake
Kelly Herbert
Sara Eliason, Cheryl Eliason & Richard Eliason
Alex Hinson
Clara Gray
Brad Mumaw & Jen Mumaw
Brendan Lambert-Ryan
Jacob Ritts
McKenzie Koepke
Anna Rock
Debby Duchscherer
Zoë Moore
Stephanie Bronco
Tara Grundy-McGlaughlin
Janet Jackson
Aly Passanante

Having your Pie and Eating it too

You meet someone a world away on another continent, in another context, in what seems like another world from the one you're living in now. You spend day in and day out with them, sitting in well-lit yet drafty classrooms, learning a wide-range of subjects in a foreign language. The holidays roll around and they're leaving soon, but not before their parents come to visit. You meet their parents, who generously treat you to some local delicacies before casually extending an offer to come visit them if you ever get the chance.
Several hugs, even more smiles, and several hundred miles away, you meet the whole gang again. Another city, another holiday, a couple new characters (a sister, a brother-in-law), and another offer to visit. You scoff and politely thank them, not even wondering if you'd ever take them up on it.

And by "you" I actually mean ME.

The friend is Sara. The continent Europe. The parents Cheryl and Rich. The holiday is New Years Eve 2014. The offer? To stop by and say "hi" the next time I'm around Omaha, Nebraska.    As. If.

Well, as one could surmise from the above photo: we're here. In Omaha. Taking them up on that offer. So here, a quick summary of our visit so far in a cute lil humble brag of an adorable photo of Cheryl holding up an ~*~*InCrEd!bLe*~*~ homemade, from scratch, all sugar included, extra sprinkle on top, peach+raspberry pie :


Let me show you another photo, one which I think pretty much sums up a lot of what we've seen since we've gotten out here to the MidWest (or, as I was kindly reminded by Cheryl: Nebraska - the Beginning of the West).


This here photograph was taken from the Omaha World-Herald's article entitled "Crowning the best chip tosser".

Now, "chip" can refer to all manner of things. Potato chips, an alternative for "fries" if you're weird (read: British), micro-chips, to have chip on your shoulder, to be chip off the old block, etc. Fortunately, the Herald is not talking about any of these -- arguably -- more sanitary options.

The caption in this Saturday's picture reads: "Miss Northwest Nebraska, LaRissa McKean of Omaha, was hoping for a win of a different sort at the 2015 World Championship Chip Throw earlier this month during Fur Trade Days in Chadron, Nebraska."

So yes. All of those clods of brown earthy- consistency in the foreground, including the bit in mid-air, which had so recently been clasped in anticipation in Miss McKean's hand, are exactly what you think they are. Poop. Well. They're the highest grade of all-natural, organic, low-fat, gluten free, high fiber bison pies -- I mean excrement -- collected from herds at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford and brought over -- by the truckload. Holy Shit!

Needless to say, my first reaction upon reading this first thing in the morning -- as I shoved  yet another super-scrumptious, homemade, from scratch, all sugar included, with extra drizzled on top, pecan sticky bun into my recently coffee washed mouth -- was outrage and disappointment. How could I miss such a glorious opportunity for photomaking!? The Americana! The Essence of the MidWest(TheBeginningoftheWest)! The chance to try my hand at flinging around another animals poop! And be rewarded for it!!!!!

I sighed in utter despair. I acknowledged that I would forever have a chip on my shoulder for not being able to witness such an incredible feat of American tradition. Here I sat, sucking sticky molasses off my fingers enjoying the all the home-baked goodness Nebraska Nice (#TheGoodLife #VisitNebraska #VisitNice #HomeofArborDay) could shovel onto my plate and thinking about the pointlessness of our journey.

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What does it mean to #VisitNebraska #VisitNice? What even is #NebraskaNice? Is it sitting here talking to the locals about 3/2 beers, where they could buy Coors back in the day and how happy they were when they did? Or is it digging through mounds of fresh, hot, organic clumps of bison doo-doo in order to pick the perfect dough for your soon-to-be-airborne pie so that you may launch it into the great abyss of Chadron's Main Street, hoping to surpass the difficult 100ft+ mark, and be crowned 2015's World Chip Throwing Champion as I thrust a gold-plated pie in the air?!

The answer is so glaringly obvious I can't bear to see it writing.

See you in 2016, Chadron, Nebraska.


Indinois and the two Bloomingtons

As it turns out, there are two Bloomington’s. That’s a lie. Actually, there are quite a few Bloomington’s, maybe even hundreds. I’d hazard a guess at just how many, but my estimations tend to be quite hazardous.

Anyway, there is more than one Bloomington. And in today’s episode of It Turns Out We Don’t Really Know That Much About Geography Despite How Much We Love Maps, starring Occasionally McDumb and Slightly O’Stupid, this tidbit is crux of our drama.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have our call for shelter answered so enthusiastically that we’ve needed to turn people down. We only have time to spend a night — a bit of a nap, really — most places (read: every place). Metropolitan areas tend to be the trickiest. For example, we have about 237 (rough estimate) connections in Chicago, and, unfortunately, not enough time to do the rounds. There are huge swaths of the country where we know no one, so when someone mentions they live in Nebraska or Montana, this is big news.

Bloomington was one of those locations.

“You mean to say you know someone who lives out in the middle of almost nowhere Indiana? And we could *stay* with them?!”

These kinds of tips are immediately logged into our book as IMPORTANT and COULD SAVE US FROM POSSIBLE STARVATION and WILL ADD PURPOSE TO THIS LEG OF THE TRIP.

To add a little anecdotal drama to the story: I had ordered a ton of film for the first part of our expedition, but too late. It arrived the same day that we left PA, but about 5 hours after we’d already put Newtown in our rearview mirror. My super helpful and resourceful photo assistant (read: Dad) offered to mail this film along to Bloomington. I’d given him the address I’d received and thought nothing of it.

The next couple of days found mentions of Bloomington, as the conversation would inevitably lead to The Trip. It is –honestly– the only topic we’ve talked about this whole time (except for those two hours that we fought about what art is and who determines what can be considered art). Every time Bloomington came up I had to catch myself because I kept wanting to say: “BloomingtonIndiana” even though I *KNEW* we were head to “BloomingtonIllinois”.


At this point you may be thinking, “wait, I thought she said she had a sweet shelter hookup in Indiana?” You would be correct, so if you wouldn’t mind calling/texting/emailing/etc me about 48hrs earlier than RIGHTNOW, it would be much appreciated. I should’ve clued into my mental/speech block preventing me from accepting Illinois as our next destination, but I didn’t. It took calling my dad in a musty bookstore in Milwaukee to comment on the seemingly sad windswept affairs of Wisconsin in order for me to set things straight.

Like any good father, he casually instilled fear into my heart. This time, it was by saying he mailed all of the film I needed to INDIANA, not ILLINOIS.

Like any good daughter, I thought he had royally, and foolishly, screwed up by sending my stuff to the wrong state.

Lucky for all parties involved, especially all that unused film, the fear burrowed and blossomed in my ribcage and I checked the address of our next shelter.

He was right.

Or actually…I was right, originally anyway.


This tacked almost a whole two hours onto our trip, not including all of the unpredictable photo making stops. We were frantic. We sped on impossibly straight back roads down from Milwaukee, around Chicago and Gary to Bloomington, INDIANA. Or, as I like to call it, TheRightBloomington. –Please pause to note the crafty reference to relative geographical location.– we sped so swiftly on these roads meant for speeding that we didn’t even notice the cop hiding behind the corn – CORN! – until we’d already passed him at 20+ miles over the speed limit. We then noted, with alarm, that there must be a serious speeding problem in backwoods Indiana because the cop didn’t even flinch.

This unexpected change of plans took us through the largest grouping of wind turbines we’ve ever seen and taught us the necessity for renaming Illinois and Indiana as East and West Indinois, respectively. Hey, it worked for the Carolinas and the Dakotas. Maybe it will even inspire a whole trend of kid naming, because I don’t see Illinois or Indiana catching on anytime soon.

-X I N A-




The Calm Before

You’ll want to know what it’s like. Kind of empty, really. Difficult to understand. People ask you to describe. They ask about her. They make generalizations. They talk about the old times. This is what’s happening now, or what’s assumed to happen tomorrow at noon. Kind of frantic, like a cat might be in the measured fractions before the pounce.

Will, how you feeling? What’s goin’ on in there? Are you nervous?

Anticipation has many forms. There’s the giddy format, the jittering suspense of standing in today’s grass when tomorrow’s oversaturated lawn seems to catch the sunlight. Then there’s fear, the gnawing wasp that circles the silent classroom during testing. Some may describe the grinning anticipation of prediction, the mousetrap in motion. Others remember the structure of desperation, when your hands move faster than those on your wrist. Finally, there’s plain-old expectation. That’s when your aunt’s wedding date rides in the saddle of your brain until maybe you remember the location and it slaps the reigns hard enough to bring it out of a trot and into a canter. None of these answer the question.

Photo by Will Wolff

Photo by Will Wolff

Let’s start over. My name is William Wolff Herbert, and I’m going to be accompanying Xina throughout New America. She’s been a co-conspirator of mine for awhile now, but this is the biggest, most ambitious scheme we’ve ever pulled. You might even say we’re not prepared. Well, you might say I’m not really prepared. With a background in game design and a passion for music, it’s hard to tell why a talented artist like Xina would want me as a partner on a cross-country artmaking road trip. The BFA in digital art probably helps, as do my award-winning narrative-driven games and my minor in English. Hopefully it’s starting to come together.

As for the trip itself, the clock has struck midnight, and my secondhand Toyota Prius has transfigured itself into a transcontinental, road-ready pumpkin. Unbelievably, our journey starts tomorrow at noon. So when people ask what it feels like to anticipate six nomadic weeks as a traveling, two-man circus, I’m expected to produce an answer. The thing is, my mind goes blank. The anticipation is purely physical. I don’t sleep, I won’t eat, and I can’t fathom an emotion save dry, unadulterated boredom. I feel mechanical.

Photo by Will Wolff

Photo by Will Wolff

Really, though, The Quest West began weeks ago. It was thrust upon me when the campaign ended, during the time I spent negotiating routes with Xina, and as the last of belongings crossed over the Massachusetts border into the Eastern beyond (Connecticut). That’s when I started snapping photos, and that’s when I started stewing the themes in my mind that will eventually translate into my poetry and fiction.

This past week has been similar. Trips to Costco, REI, Target, CVS, Best Buy, and Dick’s have fashioned our hours and minutes. I’ve driven across the river to Newtown, and Xina’s driven back to Skillman. We tinted our windows. I spent time crafting a system for writing digitally in the passenger’s seat. Xina drove the red-eye down to Washington for her visa. A professional wilderness instructor consulted our plans and preparations. I was offered suggestions on the best freeze-dried meals. More often than not, trunks were packed and re-packed.

You might think it unusual to go into a trip without a clear plan of what’s ahead, or where you’ll be sleeping, but for Xina and I, it’s all part of the journey. Just as our mistakes teach us more about ourselves and the world around us, flying blind will show us more about America than any civil war re-enactor ever could. So, with the car packed and a change of clothes in the back, we’re ready to get our hands dirty. We’ve reached for the heavens, and we’ve prepared for the storm. From here on out, we’re bound to the idea that an understanding of rain requires you to get a little wet. So stay with us, watch the forecast, and who knows? You might even catch a little moisture on the way.

Until next time,