This blog follows the journey of Sarah and Greg as they made their film. To see a trailer, read more, learn about the progress of the film or share your story visit AMERICANBEARFILM.COM

60 days. 25 States. 5 Bears.

Sarah and Greg are setting out on an adventure exploring American trust and fear through hospitality. Armed with their charm, courage, and a camera, they will rely on the kindness of strangers for a home each night, and if they're lucky, a few meals along the way.

The story began in summer 2009 when Greg exclaimed in his sleep, "We have to go to Bear, Colorado!" Unfortunately, no Bear actually exists in Colorado. However, there are five Bears in America, fortuitously located in a perfect a 'U' around the continental U.S. - in Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, and Delaware. Following the trail of the Bears, Sarah and Greg will travel through 25 states of all different cultures, demographics, populations, and Americans.

Through conversations with locals, we will explore our themes on a personal level and embrace the stories that turn strangers into neighbors. Our discussions with scholars and professionals will dig into the philosophy and nature of a core aspect of what makes us human. We will understand why (or if) we let people into our hearts and our homes.

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American Bear, Day 25: Twin Falls, Idaho

New approach: quick, with camera. Approaching people and saying, "Would you be up for a quick interview? 30 seconds?" If we get a yes, or an "Okay..." we proceed: "We're traveling around the country for 60 days and making a documentary in which we're relying on the kindness of strangers for a home each night." Pause. "So the question is, do you know anyone who could help us?"

We drove through Twin Falls, a much smaller town than we anticipated after seeing signs for it from hundreds of miles away -- but much bigger than Council and Bear from yesterday. We decided to return to the Target parking lot we had passed. Target, and most grocery/department stores, attract all demographics, and they're almost guaranteed to be local. This is one of the ways we're getting away from our most common method of meeting people, in which we explore a cute downtown by foot, maybe a park, and meet families and small business owners.

We were trying one more variation today: wearing a cross necklace. More than half of our hosts have had Christian decorations at home and cited religion in their decision to take us in: "It's just the Christian thing to do." We wanted to see if including Christianity in our appearance would make a difference in finding a home -- maybe it would be quicker. We both had mixed feelings about wearing a cross -- for both of us, it's a lie. I was most nervous that we would meet a wonderful host, who would eventually point out our necklaces, begin a religious conversation, and then feel terribly betrayed when we confessed that we weren't observing Christians. But I also figured it would be a pretty fascinating part of the film.

So in the Target parking lot we approached about 12 people and half declined to interview. Of those who did speak with us, no one offered us a home, but several took our card, hoping they would think of someone and give us a call -- we were actually impressed by how friendly a couple people were given our abrupt approach and the spontaneity of conversation with strangers. Of course, we had that experience to the extreme when we went straight to Larry and Judy's door in Bear, Idaho. After asking about a dozen people, we were kicked out of the Target parking lot for "soliciting."

We moved about two hundred feet and met more people in the WinCo grocery store parking lot. We had about the same rate of half-yes/half-no to interview, until we met our last interview of the day: Elma, 60s, putting bird seed in her trunk to bring home for the birds and squirrels in her backyard. She later told us that Sarah's smile and my eyes made her comfortable right away, and that she had even been smiling after witnessing a failed approach with four men just before we met her. We told her our quick story, and she didn't bite right away -- she read the release form carefully, and asked "What does a host have to do?" Sarah described that we're pretty low-maintenance, we have sleeping bags, we'd love to do an interview with our host... and Elma looked up and said "You can sleep on my patio."

We followed her home and over the course of the night met her daughter Beth, son-in-law Chuck, and Elma's husband Jack. Elma never stopped offering us things: dinner, water bottles, books -- and by the end of the night we were sleeping in the living room instead of the patio. Elma shared many stories with us, getting comfortable and personal almost immediately: discussing her family, her history with Jack, and her daughter who passed away three weeks ago. We formed one of our strongest connections with Elma; or maybe it was formed from the beginning, something about intuition and timing and Sarah's friendly smile. We sat on the patio with Elma and Jack for a couple hours, until it got dark and we moved inside. This morning, I woke up in my sleeping bag with Jack sitting a foot away in his armchair, sipping his coffee -- just because two new friends were sleeping on the floor didn't mean Saturday morning routine had to change.

Elma was our first direct success with our quick approach: knowing next-to-nothing about us, she felt instantly comfortable having us at her house. But in talking with her for hours, we also learned that she generally doesn't trust people -- she'd much rather spend time with animals, because people can hurt you. Above all, she trusts her instincts, and knows that if someone rubs her the wrong way there's a good reason. We talked about religion, and although Elma and Jack are both Christians, they "don't need to put on fancy clothes and go to church to prove it." Elma said she never even noticed the crosses around our necks -- and Sarah and I were relieved to take them off after feeling guilty all day. For the first day of this test, it seems that appearing Christian made no difference. Over and over again, we learn that our attitude is the most important way we find friendly and hospitable people. For Elma, it was Sarah's smile; when we looked gross in Couer D'Alene, it was our enthusiasm that matched with Cortney and Amber. Friendly people attract friendly people. The connections we make haven't been because of our appearance, they've been due to something intangible, trust and comfort and curiosity that comes to life between two strangers' smiles. Every day, I'm reminded of a pithy quote that I fall in love with more each day: "Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet."

Of course, there are dozens of people who say no to us, who don't smile, who don't speak to us at all. The documentation of our experiences mostly focuses on the positive, the one person or family a day with whom we have a wonderful time -- and the positive experiences are what we remember most as well. But maybe we need to explore the negative a little more too, find a way to acknowledge the 19 out of 20 people a day who say no to us, recognize the countless factors that lead to a cold shoulder, or just an "I'm sorry." Sarah wrote about the pressure of hospitality a couple days ago, and we've surely experienced that many times. But what about the people who decline to interview and never even find out what we're doing?


American Bear, Day 24: Bear, Idaho

Bear, ID used to have a schoolhouse, a post office, a store – it was a mining community dating back to the early 1900s. The schoolhouse still stands as a community hall, with a little merry-go-round, swings, and His and Hers outhouses – supplemented by modern Porter Potties now. The other public places have disappeared, but a couple ranching families still live there year-round, as well as a few dozen summer residents. There are even signs for “Bear” and mile markers on the way, making it much more high-profile than Bear, Washington, if still the smallest community passing for a town that we’ve seen.

Outside the schoolhouse.

In the Hers outhouse.

As we headed towards Bear, we had a lot of fun noting the similarities between the two Bears we’ve visited so far: wildflowers, rolling hills, farmland, cows. We got out a couple times and Sarah collected some flowers to hang in the car. After exploring the schoolhouse property, which now features a bulletin board reading “It’s A Short Walk From Bear To Heaven,” we continued up the main dirt road until we reached Bear Ranch. We decided to turn up the driveway.

The road led us to two cabins, with about six dogs on short chains, barking like mad; we knocked on the cabin doors, then backed up to an offshoot of the driveway, with a sign saying “Ommen.” It led us to another cabin, and a man sitting on his porch. I was nervous; Sarah was determined; we got out of the car, camera and all, and met Larry Ommen, then his wife Judy Ommen, and ended up sitting on their porch for over an hour. Retired from a power company and kiwi ranch in California, Larry and Judy now spend their summers in Bear and their winters in the Baja peninsula, right on the ocean. This was our first experience approaching strangers at their home, and we were amazed by how welcoming Larry and Judy were, immediately agreeing to speak with us, offering us water and a bathroom. We learned about their lives, their daughters, and the area, and they recommended who to visit in Bear and the scenic route through the mountains to the next town, Cuprum. We were disappointed to move on, but maybe we’ll find Larry and Judy in Baja someday.

We knocked on the door of a woman named Tina, who used to be the schoolteacher in Bear. Larry and Judy said she was fascinating, full of energy, and rich with history and stories about Bear. Unfortunately, she wasn’t home. So we continued up the road, and just after Tina’s house, maybe 150 feet from the road, we saw a bear. We jerked the camera on, pulled over, got out, and watched this teenage black bear sniff around and jog up a hill. We’ve been hoping to see a bear this whole trip, and where better to find one than Bear itself?

A field of wildflowers in Bear; the mountains in the distance are in Oregon.

Between Bear and Cuprum.

We drove a great long circle on a rough dirt road (the car has never looked more rugged) until we reached Cuprum. The “Welcome to Cuprum” sign proudly states the population of 8 people; there are a few more who come for the summer, but only 8 live year-round, including the owner of the one shop, where we bought ice cream bars and took pictures with Bill, a stuffed mannequin.

Greg and Bill in the store in Cuprum.

We’ve chosen to use the Bear days for reflection; we also shoot enough to fill up our video cards, so rather than seeking strangers to stay with in the Bears, we go our own way. In Bear, WA, we stayed in a motel to do some editing and re-evaluate the footage we’re getting. Last night, we decided to camp, and after speaking to some folks in Council, we learned we could pitch our tent in the town park, with public restrooms just a block away. Council is about 35 miles from Bear and the closest full-fledged town. We’re at a coffee shop in Council now to transfer footage and use the internet.

In the last few days we’ve started doing mini-experiments to test some variables in our interactions with strangers. In Couer D’Alene, we got sloppy: making our clothes and skin visibly dirty, messy hair, mismatched clothes. We anticipated that our messy appearance would repel some people; or maybe make some people more hospitable if they figured we desperately needed a home and a shower. But with one exception, we don’t think we received special treatment at all. In fact, we ended up staying at Amber and Cortney’s home, the cleanest, newest house we’ve stayed in. We asked some people about our appearance, and they usually said they didn’t even notice it. Wondering if the camera distracts from our appearance, we’ll do a camera-less approach next time we purposefully look sloppy.

The exception was with a man who ultimately declined to be in the film due to his military affiliation – a shame, because he was open and honest in a way few people are, at least on camera. After he declined to let us stay with him, he described that the main reason was that I was a man, and he was protective of his female roommates. We assume that many people have this reason in mind when they say no to us, but this was the first time someone had directly stated gender and fear together. This man was also the only person to point out my sloppy appearance, asking me what happened to my shirt. I believe there’s a correlation here, that my appearance very well led to his outright concern. I’m looking forward to our next sloppy day to see how many other “exceptions” we find.

In Grangeville we tried a different experiment: we both wore dark clothing, and more importantly, I conducted all of the initial conversations with people. Usually, we trade camera evenly, and whoever’s behind the camera ends up speaking to our interviewees as well. But in Grangeville, Sarah stayed behind the camera and I did most of the talking. Our qualifier for randomness was curly hair, so we only approached people with curly hair, and in our particular time and location, that meant we mostly spoke to women. The fact is, everyone said no to us, and almost half of the people we talked to declined to even interview. Our eventual hosts, Maura and Mark, whom we reached via their daughter Erin via her friend Anna, were actually contacted by Sarah first, a flaw in our mini-experiment just because Erin called Sarah’s phone, not mine. Did people say no to us because I was doing most of the speaking? We’re not sure: we have to try this out in several other communities, and also ask more questions to learn about it, but it does seem to fit with the general consensus that men are more intimidating than women. Next time we do a gender experiment, we will be more rigorous about whoever is behind the camera staying quiet; we’ll see what happens.

We’re almost halfway done with the project, and every day we reassess our approach, try something new, discover we’re more comfortable, and sometimes even find something we’re scared of. With our last shower now three days ago, we’re probably going to try another new thing today: showering at a gas station.

American Bear Catches Up with Pictures

At Kootenai Falls near Troy, Montana.

With (most of) the kids at Wade and Brenda's house in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Sitting on Lake Roosevelt near Bear, Washington.

Standing over the Lake near Bear, Washington.

Some of the young folks in Grangeville, Idaho.

David and Nicki in Grangeville, Idaho, who led us to a hospitable friend of theirs -- we ended up with another option first though.

Sleeping in on Maura and Mark's futon in Grangeville, Idaho.

American Bear, Day 23: Grangeville, Idaho

There is a lot to talk about with Grangeville.

We've never given out so many cards. We've never had so many people turn down interviews.

We had a lot of really amazing conversations. A lot of really interesting talk.
But not a whole lot of leaps of faith - not a whole lot of people willing to help us.

We started in the grocery store. Our qualifier was curly hair. And Greg was doing all the talking (It's one of our mini-experiments). So we talked to a lot of women (because most men seemed to have short hair or no hair) and 2 in the store said yes to an interview.

While we were in the store we ran into Anna - who was passing through to visit the parents of her best friend.

Anna took our card and left a message with Mark and Maura.

We talked to a few more people in the pizza parlor and outside of the movie theater. Again, everyone took our card but no one could host us.

We talked to two women on a walk who were incredibly helpful and friendly. A man in the pizza store offered to treat us (but we had just eaten). He had some amazing things to stay about the state of the nation. The kids outside the theater had a friend for us to call. But no luck really. Just a lot of friendly, talkative people.

Around 9pm we got a call from Erin that was followed by a call from Maura - she said she wanted to talk to us first but we should come on by. This was the first time that we've had anyone want to hang out with us before saying yes. Every time we talk, I mention this to Greg, "Why dont people screen us more often?" I know thats what I would want to do. Chat with some to get a feel for them before offering them a place to stay.

So we headed down there and she and Mark told us AMAZING stories. They joked that we had stumbled into the only liberal home in all of Idaho. It was probably true.

Their daughter Lily, was very articulate and excited.

Maura made us blueberries with yogurt and cinnamon and we talked till very late.

In the morning the day care was open. Maura takes care of anywhere between 7 and 14 children on a daily basis and we woke up to giggling kids.

She made us a DELICIOUS breakfast despite her business and they sent us on our way.

It was an amazing evening.

and Maura offered to send me earrings that makes. I want to send her something too.

The Lesson of the Day: There is always someone who is willing to help. Even in a town full of people who are scared of cameras and strangers. And there are always people who will try to help you, but cannot take you on themselves. And sometimes the people who are willing to help are incredibly friendly and have good stories. And sometimes they feed you amazing food.

I've been thinking a lot about my post from Bonner's Ferry. About the idea of excuses. I think excuse is the wrong word. There is something there that is important to get at, but I dont ever want to hold it against some one or accuse them of making excuses if they are unable to take us in. To some people being hospitable means having a bed for people to sleep in. Or a clean house. or food to feed them. And though we dont need all of that, it is still important to some people. Maybe its not only fear that stops people but the pressure of hospitality.

American Bear, Day 22: Couer D'Alene

I have yet to eat a potato in Idaho. Just like it took us a while to eat cheese in wisconsin. The local girls in Couer d' Alene said all the potatoes at the restaurants actually come from Washington. We have a few more days to try a potatoe and I guess I am looking forward to it.

We havent slept much in the last few days so it makes us a little goofy. Especially in the car. Greg won't stop saying everything in various accents and I cant help but sing just about everything I say. I am getting really good at fitting most things into well recognized tunes. It's fun but makes me feel sort of crazy.

Couer d'Alene was a long day. We talked to over 40 people and spent the day baking. We had decided to try what we call the "sloppy" approach. I put on tons of make up and smeared all across my face - I used a hershey's kiss to make little chocolate messes in the corner of our mouth. Greg made his hair really messy and we spilled salsa all of her his wrinkled shirt. He wore swim trunks for shorts and I wore my tank top kind of side ways and really messed up my hair - it was big and filled with tangled and quite greasy.

It didnt really seem to have a huge affect. A couple people asked Greg what happened to his shirt and a teenage selling snow cones told him he had something on his face. Generally people didnt really seem to notice. When asked about it they said we looked like beach bums, but nothing more. We were on the lake and everyone was looking kind of beach-bummy.

Greg and I decided that next time we try the sloppy experiment we need to buy/make him a sleeveless shirt and have him wear a bandana - and I'll to think of something equally as strange to accompany my dirt, smeared make up and funny hair.

We had many people take our cards in Couer d' Alene. No one could help directly but everyone wanted to find someone to help us out. We only got one call back - from Cortney and Amber who had just moved into their house a week ago and were newly independent hard-working 22 year olds. They were possibly the most enthusiastic people we'd ever met on our first encounter. The conversationd zoomed around and they shared so much with us.

While we were talking to them on the street we ran into another roup of young people who were equally as friendly and excited about the film: LJ, Macy, Jackie and Rhett. They invited us to taco bell with them and we had a lot of fun talking and eating. Greg and I have been eating so much mexican food lately, its kind of crazy.

Macy told us about the idea of fondly calling friends racial slurs. She said it was normal there. "You know, I had only known him for a few moments but I felt comfortable with him. So made sense to call him a beaner." This was really interesting to us because she didnt think twice about it. Until we started asking questions, "Now I feel all weird and guilty. Everyone does it here."

At around 10pm we got a text message - Amber and Cortney initially didnt feel comfortable having us over unless they checked with their third roommate - "our third roommate isnt coming home, sou can come over. ***" We called for directions and headed over there - getting a little lost in the process.

Just as we were about to pull into their driveway, we got another text, "ok our roommate came home and said no you cant come ***."

So we decided to knock on the door anyway. We were there and I needed to pee. For almost a minute no one answered. I joked that they were hiding in the bathroom - turns out (we heard later) they were.

Amber and Cortney opened the door together. They saw us and smiled and invited us in. Cortney said we could stay, she had just gotten scared. We offered to leave. They said no. And so the night began.

After Cortney and Greg both showered - we headed to the grocery store for a midnight ice cream run. It took us a while to pick flavors - not because there was a lot of disagreement but because everyone wanted everything. Apprently we all wanted ice cream. We took home two half gallons - mint brownie and frosted cake (or the fancy and strange renditions of those names). And then we found the pie. So we bought a chocolate silk pie. I was already feeling sick from too much sugar - but we were all excited.

Back in the house, Amber's boyfriend had arrived. He called some more friends over. Greg and I had no idea what was happening until we heard Nick say, "Yeah, we're staying up all night. Just come over. We bought ice cream." And so the night really began.

We watched New Moon (because Brock insisted) and ate ice cream and pie and talked and told stories and suddenly it was 4am and Greg was asleep on the floor. We had both been ready for bed before we met the girls at around 8pm.

Once Greg was asleep Amber and Nick went to bed and and everything sort of died down (Except Brock who watched another movie). Which is a good thing really. For all of us.

In the morning we did an interview with Amber. She talked about how scared everyone got - mostly because of the horror movies they had been watching lately. About Cortney having a panic attack and the two of them being scared. She had told us from the beginning that she probably couldnt sleep with strangers in the house. But she did. She slept from 4am till 10am and wasnt worried about us. She told us about her photographs, about her love of learning through experience rather than school. She told us about her upbringing and her family and the pain she experienced growing up. We talked about fear and trust. About intuition and how important it is. About being in someone's presence and how that can calm you or scare you.

And then we talked about good movies. Good non-horror movies.

The conversation as probably the lengthiest of our time there. And the most interesting and important.

This was the first time Greg and I had ever been asked to leave. And also the first time the people who asked us to leave changed their minds. The idea of fear is so present here.

They got scared by thinking too hard - by not being in the space with us. They got scared by scary movies and a cousin who liked to joke with them. (Amber says, "He was making jokes like. Can you hear that? It's knives sharpening." when I wasked if she thought he was scared, "No. He wasnt scared. He just likes to mess with us,") When they were with us and in public they were so enthusastic and comfortable - they approached us. There fear came about when they were alone, at home, at night, talking together. It's a confrontation of imagination and intuition, of public versus private. Maybe we are learning where fear comes from?

We become friends with these girls, but it took a lot of courage from them. And that's interesting too. Because maybe our friendship is stronger because they had to overcome something. Maybe it's weaker.

After our long conversation with Amber, I felt close to her. She got up for a second, went to her room and came back with a photo she had taken of the lake. It was in a bright purple frame. She handed it to me. "Do you like it?" "Yeah. It's nice." "Do you think its pretty." "Yeah, def-" "-You should take it."

People like to give you something when they feel connected to you. I think thats why we leave bears behind where ever we stay. It's a thank you but also a physical representation of the exchange that's occuring. It's why Wade carved as a willow whistle, it's why Jolene gave us necklaces, why Julia gave us a friendship pendant. Hugs and presents and offers. Thats all we can do to show some one that they helped us grow, that we will miss them.

I tucked the painting in my bag and hugged Amber goodbye. She was the most afraid in the beginning and the most comfortable in the end.

I think that's why we do interviews. To get to know people - to create a platform for sharing. It's why we talk too. A good conversation and a good interview can happen at the same time. We can share together.

We piled into the car and as we were driving away I got another text from Amber, "Hey its amber miss ya already haha but if u ever go anywhere beautiful on ur travels and happen to take any pictures i would absolutely love it if u send me some =) ***".


American Bear: Another Short Article

American Bear: More Photos and News

First! Two TV stations in Montana did little features on us:

Second! Photos.

Stanton Lake near Hungry Horse, Montana
I realized how little we exercise while hiking there. sigh.

Teal water!


The only way we can take pictures together is to get help from someone. Or do it ourselves. This lake was deserted - we did it ourselves.

There are so many more, but my little computer cant post them from the car - many more soon! I promise.


Check In

Greg and I just wanted to take the time to thank you for reading the blog.

It's very exciting that you are following us, and we want to ask you for your thoughts.

What do you want to see more of? Less of?

What is surprising you about our experiences?

What do you wish we were exploring further?

Let us know!

Day 21: Bear, Washington

Bear, Washington appears on a map, and Mapquest and Google Maps provide directions to get there. We didn't know what to expect -- and we've both been building emotional expectations for a year.

We pulled off the road onto the beginning of a dirt driveway, exactly where the directions said "Bear, WA" is -- we got out, walked around, surveyed the dozens of bugs, many of which we had never seen before. While driving as well, we were astonished by the landscape, one of the most beautiful and unique we have seen -- rolling hills (the tallest of which I believe is Bear Mountain), covered in purple, yellow, and white flowers -- some hill faces just shimmer with soft purple color -- and to our right, down the hill, is Lake Roosevelt, thin enough to be a large river, and so beautiful, curving between these colorful hills and pine trees. We walked down some very old tire tracks, which we hope weren't on anyone's private property, until we found a place that felt secluded and comfortable enough to sit, eat some snacks, set the camera on a tripod, and have a hearty conversation.

We've driven about 4,500 miles and arrived at the first Bear. There was so much anticipation -- we both wanted something really big, something profound, a feeling we hadn't experienced anywhere else. Instead, we used the unique location to reflect. Every day we are meeting people and learning about a community; this was an opportunity to be on our own, to be introspective, to experience a location rather than experience its people. We even ended up staying in a motel -- it's currently the following morning, and while I write this, Sarah is assembling footage from our day in Mazomanie, WI, to learn about how we've been documenting our experiences and how we can expand, or condense, or reshape what we're doing. Every day we learn new things, and every day there are dozens of things that happen off-camera, and dozens that happen on camera that we know we'll never use, right after they happen. We've been shooting about two hours of footage a day, and now, in the couple hours of this morning before we have to travel to our next town, we're reviewing what happens in those two hours a day and learning how to make them the most interesting, dynamic, and story-driven two hours we can capture.

As we say every day, we've been meeting fascinating people. Most of the families we've stayed with have been unconventional families -- maybe a mother, a father, maybe divorce is involved, or adoption -- and we've started wondering how this trend works. If complex families are more likely to welcome guests and trust strangers, it then raises the chicken/egg question -- are these people inherently warm and trusting, which may have led them to their complex family dynamics, or did the complex family make them more open and trusting? Maybe we should start asking people what kind of family they come from -- how many of the people that say no to us are from traditional families? We've also acknowledged the Christian element, which hasn't abated -- but it's also geographical. We've visited many towns that are almost homogenous with white Christians. We want to experience diverse races and cultures, and learn about that interaction with strangers, but we also hate the idea of targeting other races just to have them in the film. It's a constant dilemma, whether we should seek out the community's outliers, or continue to experience people randomly. We often choose a culturally-neutral attribute, like glasses, or sandals, to help us randomly select who we approach. But maybe we need to explore the outskirts of town, or spend more time in the grocery store or Wal-Mart, in order to meet all stripes of the community, and not just its majority.

In Bear, we had the chance to reflect on our relationship as well. We are spending more time together than ever before -- including the few days in New Jersey before we hit the road, Sarah and I have spent 25 days together, 24/7. We have literally not been apart. It's a little shocking to think about that, because it feels so natural at this point. And we bicker, and we've had a couple bigger fights. But I've also been experiencing my love grow every day. I'm having experiences that I couldn't be sharing with anyone else, and we are at the height of our working/personal relationships being intertwined -- which is at once stressful and amazing. But it's also difficult to reflect on our personal emotions when the only time we have apart is in the bathroom. We recently decided we needed to document more of our personal experiences -- our conversations in the car, or between interviews, or buying a milkshake, or doing laundry (at a laundromat this morning) -- we want this film to capture our journey, our adventures, we want to bring the audience along. But it's scary to wonder if we're diminishing our experiences by making sure to turn the camera on; by having personal and creative conversations while one person is holding our rig and invisible behind it; by turning this adventure into work. We knew that was an issue months ago, but I think we're both really feeling the effects now, especially as we review our footage and wish we had more of us, more scenes to build our relationship in the film, more to connect and reflect on other moments.

We're more than a third done with the film, but we've also got almost two-thirds left -- how will the camera and the work and the driving and the lack of sleep and the togetherness continue to wear us down? Or create an even more dynamic film?


Days 19 and 20: Hungry Horse, Montana and Bonners Ferry, Idaho

We left Kay's house early to find some internet access at a restaurant. But no one in town had wireless - the Perkins in town center was attached to a hotel that had wireless, so after trying from our table we ended up crouched at the end of the stairs in the back portion of the hotel, writing emails and working.

We made our way to Hungry Horse through Glacier National Park. I grew up around mountains, but these mountains were bigger and greener and covered in snow - a sight to see. The air changed quickly - I noticed it first when we pulled into a little diner for my first slice of huckleberry pie. It was crisp and flowery.

We were officially in huckleberry country - every where we stopped from that point on had something made from huckleberries and even now (we are in Northern Idaho) huckleberries are an option with every sweet thing. We even had them on our waffles for breakfast this morning. But I am getting ahead of myself.

After our first piece of huckleberry pie ever, Greg and I decided a hike was necessary. We have been confined to the car for so long - eating junk food and exercising only when we walk from place to place to meet new people - that my body was in shock for the first leg of our trek.

But once my lungs got used to it and I regained feeling in my feet and legs, it felt amazing. The air smelled great and we noticed bear poop every hundred yards or so along the trail.

The trail ended at an big teal lake. Nestled safely between a couple of the largest mountains I have ever seen - snow decorating the fringes of the tallest one - big pine trees sweet from the rain that we'd just missed- was this little cool clean lake. And it was my favorite color.


Hungry Horse, in the order we toured it, was a strange town. Our first stop was a late lunch, early diner at the Elkhorn Grill where I tried an Elk burger for the first time. I told Greg it was somewhere between lamb and hamburger, but more towards the burger side. I also had my (so far) best piece of pie - a too tart raspberry and rhubarb with home made crust -- rating: 8.

Our second stop was the local bar - recommended by both the firework stand operators and our waitress. They said it was colorful, and I imagined a lot of strange people - but mostly it was a lot of drunk people. A couple less drunk people and a couple very drunk people. And they were all still colorful.

We interviewed a few people, asked them for suggestions - no one knew where we could stay and a few even refused to be on camera (understandably, really). At this point it was almost 10pm - and we were starting to get worried.

Eventually we went into a big huckleberry shop - where everything was purple and huckleberry flavored. We spoke to one of the girls behind the counter, when the manager, Lori got a little worried. She spoke with us, making sure we werent asking questions about huckleberries - and then let us tell her all about the project. When we finished she picked up her cell phone, with in minutes we had a place to stay - Amanda, her daughter put us up in their old cabin, and while I wrapped a wedding present for her friend, she did an interview with Greg.

This made us really learn to keep on pushing. Sometimes, when it starts to get dark and we've talked to a lot of people it becomes very discouraging. We sort of want to throw our hands up and drive to the nearest camp ground. And that's sort of what it felt like staying with Kay - not that she wasnt kind or helpful - but we sort of gave up too early - because we were discouraged. But if we can just brave through that we can usually find someone amazing.

And Amanda was great. She had the most wonderful and beautifuly articulated things to say about why we need to help people. She was close to our age, we'd guess. And she wore a hoody and her hair back. But she sounded like she was giving a speech at a graduation - a really good speech about something Greg and I both believe in very much.


We left the cabin to drive to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Stopping only once at a hiking trail and water fall for a quick walk and glance at the river. On our way out we met some strangers who offered to let us stay in their six room tree house. The idea was exciting, but we didn't end up with them - they never called but we also decided it was just a little too easy, and not the right town at all. After much discussion, we decided Bonner's Ferry was where we needed to be.

Again, our first stop was food - At the Panhandle Cafe. Our waitress, Julie, was the funniest, most enthusiastic woman we'd met in a long time. She was super friendly and smilely and very real - every ounce of her hospitality was natural and comfortable - when we sat down she said "It's packed in here - so, I am not gonna lie, you probably wont be getting the best service." Then she laughed a big full laugh and took our orders. Later, when we were eating we heard to tell the table behind us, "Well its not as crazy anymore, so if things stay this way you should get some reasonable good service."

We decided we had to talk to her (maybe stay with her) - but with the craziness of the restaurant and her being the only waitress - we asked her when we should come back and headed towards the town. Our first stop was the Safeway parking lot. We talked to a few people - no takers. Someone recommended the sheriffs office. No help there, not an ounce of hospitality or advice - but then we pushed a little and we were told to try a church. For the first time on our trip we decided that trying a church might be fun, but maybe we should interview some more people at safeway.

It was there that we ran into Judy and Verle Smith, who told us all about the chips the government had placed in Judy's body - many in her brain and arms - to cause her tons of different pains. Verle took responsibility, he spent some time in jail and now this for his work on bullet specs. Judy was wearing what Verle told us as $3000 worth of magnets. She said they helped the pain. Verle told us about the Farraday room he'd set up in their house for Judy - how it no longer worked. We were all set to stay with them and investigate further when two things happened 1- they told us about the government men who followed anyone who visit them home and 2- they told us about the electronic cloud that covered their house making it impossible for any technology to work, and even short-circuiting many cell phones, cameras etc.

So we headed for the church. But on our way we ended up at the Fairgrounds - it was the fourth of July after all and we had been told to go there over and over. We said in the car for all of three minutes when I said, "Let's go talk to Julie again." So we headed back to the diner, where Greg met Wade and Brenda.

They told us about their 8 kids, their full house, their own adventures and help from the kindness of strangers. I thought, these people are so friendly and awesome, I'd love to stay with them, but they have a full house - on top of them they were housing Papa and a cousin. But we told them our story anyway, and without hesitation they invited us over. The one rule they said, is we would have to go see fireworks with them later, and also we would probably need to do some marshmallow roasting.

The rest of the night was a blast - we wrestled with children, ran through tunnels screaming with children, rolled down hills with children, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows with children. We met them all when we walked in the door - Aaron (15) greeted us at the car - he told me my name meant princess in Latin. Cheyenne (10), Sammie (9), James (8), Lexi (7) and Hunter(6) - Wade and Brenda's recently adopted children - grinned at us from the porch and all had something to show us instantly. Tylor (10), also had things to show us, including how easily he could tease his mother into a playful battle. They loved the camera and the sound recorder, they took pictures and whispered and shouted at the microphones. About twenty minutes later, Anthony (19) came home and helped Tylor start the fire.

Wade and Brenda had warned us that in their house play was a serious thing - water fights in the house were not uncommon and at this time of year, firecracker fights happened more than occasionally. And we were not disappointed. We even roasted marshmallows in the rain.
The night was great. I haven't felt so playful in a really long time. So much positive energy.

Eventually we all piled onto the couches for a movie and I fell asleep way too easily. With Greg at my side, Lexi on my lap, Hunter on his, it was warm and comfortable... and I was almost snoring.

A house is never too full for company. Especially if company is need of a place to stay. Of course, it's all about comfort level, but if Wade and Brenda can fit 14 people in a 2 bedroom house, then anyone can take home a couple of extra guests if they aren't afraid. We deal with the fear of strangers a lot, but there are other fears that come up too. There is also a fear of looking bad - a fear that the house is too messy or too small, that the kids wont behave or that these strangers might pass judgement on you. And there is a fear of having your possessions taken. And a fear that you might be manipulated, but personally and in editing. But these two are not afraid of any of those things. Their house is well-lived in, not messy, says Brenda. And the nice tv is of no concern. And the camera is cool and interesting and sometimes even blends in - its not something to be afraid of.

This town takes care of each other - everyone says so- and everyone has stories to prove it. There is a total lack of selfishness here. The kids still want attention and the food still goes fast, but if you need help, people will help you. The first half of our day we just weren't finding the right people - or maybe Julie and Wade and Brenda really are themselves, the selfless ones.

Wade and Brenda have taught us a lot about what's important. Family. And play. And love. We probably knew that already, but they are the embodiment of that - and seeing it only reinforces values that we already understand and believe in. And it makes us feel less guilty about our feelings that "I would, but...." are really just excuses. Maybe those excuses are not just created for us, maybe they are how we ease our own consciences, but when it comes down to it, there is always room and never a mess. Beggars cant be choosers after all. And when those excuses leave, all that's left is fear.