Large letters reminiscent of the Hollywood sign in the Mojave desert spell "The End of the World."

Tile Trek

Today, I would prefer to be writing other’s stories. Like the one about a deeply spiritual, intelligent, and slightly quirky apprentice tile setter who had to wrestle through some complex emotions after being informed the floor he had just installed was going to be pulled up and reinstalled. But for now, I’ll continue the brief overview of my tile trek. I’ll pick up where I left off in the Mojave Desert.

The End of the World

Did you know that The End of the World is somewhere in California between Needles and the Pacific coast? I saw it with my own eyes after my first attempt at boondocking. The temperature must have been well below freezing. I slept fitfully, shivering despite my two sleeping bags. My gallon-size water jug was frozen solid in the morning. As such, it couldn’t be poured into the perfect little metal container that came with my handy dandy backpacking stove, which meant there would be no coffee.

No worries. I checked my GPS, and I was only about 20 minutes from a tiny oasis of civilization in the desert. I assumed a convenience store would be there and that desert people drink coffee, too.

The thing is my car battery was dead. Thankfully roadside assistance was fast. Within a couple of hours, I was once again making my way through the land of nothing, a hot mug of joe in hand.

Driving along and not seeing a soul for the longest time gave me a creepy feeling. Tumbleweeds lumbered and trundled by, like there was some bad energy in the region. Then, I reached a giant sign (reminiscent of the Hollywood sign) that said: The End of the World. The letters were at least twice my height, maybe more. The air seemed to be so thick with impending doom that I felt hesitant to even get out of my car to take a picture.

Nearby, there was a restaurant with a faded sign and a brightly colored Alice-in-Wonderland themed bookstore. The Alice writing this blog post was feeling like perhaps I had frozen to death the night before and that everything since boondocking had been the first day of my bizarre new afterlife.

It turns out I was quite alive. I was also about to be quite ghosted by the first contractor I was supposed to meet.


A contractor had expressed interest in me coming for a project site visit. We decided on a window of time that would work for both of us. I touched base with the contractor a few days ahead to confirm. Upon arrival, my messages went unanswered.

Since this was my first site visit outside of agency work on the restoration side of the industry this hit a little harder than it might have otherwise. That uneasy feeling of desert weirdness returned.

What was I doing? What was I thinking? Just like Alice in Wonderland, I drank a potion called “unrealistic expectations” and grew too large to navigate comfortably through the door of a project site. Why should I believe that contractors would want a writer around? People can be cruel online, and I was about to tell stories that could invite negative feedback into their lives.

So, I ate the cake called “reality” and could feel myself becoming too small to be seen or heard. This wasn’t going to work. I was wasting my time and money on a stupid dream. I was too ambitious for my own good. The Wonderland of Tile and Stone Installation operated under a different set of rules, and I did not understand how to function in that world.

Beach scene showing the last bit of sunset with the moon and a few stars appearing.

I got a good night’s sleep and took my Clyde for a nice long walk on the beach to clear my head. This really helped me to stop stressing and gain some perspective.

This installer, I reasoned, might not accurately represent the response I could expect from other installers. Maybe being ghosted was more about what was wrong with him than what was wrong with me.

Copher Tile & Stone

My first installation project site visit as a freelancer was with Adam Copher, Copher Tile & Stone. It was an awesome experience for many different reasons that I look forward to sharing. While I was in that area, there was a record-breaking snowstorm that resulted in a mandatory evacuation of the campground where I was staying.

CTEF Town Hall Meeting

Before I hit the road again, I attended CTEF’s virtual Town Hall Meeting. Among other topics, there was some discussion about whether influencers ought to be allowed to publish footage of CTI tests. I realized that they were talking about me and a video I had created. This surprised me in two different ways.

First, no one had ever referred to me as an influencer before. (As a blog writer back before there were influencers in the modern sense of the word, I was once officially and very publicly labeled a heretic by clergy. Maybe I’ll share that story someday.)


Second, the video was somehow controversial. I wasn’t sure how this could possibly be, since one of the points of doing the CTI at TISE was to showcase the CTI test.

I tucked these observations away to write about later, along with so many, many other experiences on this tile trek.

Bergerson Tile & Cabinet

The drive to my next stop in Astoria, Oregon, was breathtaking, with the ocean to the left and mountains to the right. I spent over a week at Bergerson Tile & Cabinet. This company is like a microcosm of the tile industry. I had a free place to crash behind the office space above their showroom and fabrication shop, so I had plenty of opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of this family-owned business.

Reign it in, Alice.

At this point, I’m realizing that this blog post is turning into a book. Since it is supposed to just be a quick overview of my tile trek, I’ll sort of bulldoze through the rest of the trip. Don’t worry, you’ll get lots of rich details about everything, and then some, if you continue this Tile Trek with me:

  • Apprentice training at United Tile
  • Hawthorne Tile – showroom and warehouse/office
  • Columbia River Tile and Stone – residential bathroom project
  • Custom Mosaic Creations – home workspace
  • My camping gear was stolen and how this influenced my approach to tile trekking
  • Level Plane Tile and Stone – residential high-rise project, commercial project
  • Pratt and Larson – showroom, manufacturing facility tour, the “outlet”
  • Greg Byrd, mosaic artist – home workspace
  • Tiger Mountain Tile – residential project site visit
  • Ghosted again
  • Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center – site visit, pre-renovation
  • United Tile and Stone – two project site visits, warehouse/office
  • Coverings 2023
  • AKDO / Allison Eden Studios launch party for a new tile line called Botanicus 
  • Pasha Starykov’s GPTP training

Coming Soon...

There are a few changes in the works for this blog.

  • Adding a subscribe option so that you can be informed by email when a new blog post is published.
  • Adding a donate button. I paid out of pocket for round one, but it is not sustainable for me to continue to do so. I would like to avoid sponsors, if possible, so that installers can be free to name drop any brand at any time as they see fit. (I may consider ads at some point.)
  • YouTube and IG
  • Changing the name of the blog to “Tile Trek.” I reserved the domain name today. “Stone and Tile Stories” will remain as the byline.

The reason for the name change is that I think it better communicates the way I prefer to collect stone and tile stories. It’s as if there is a shield that slowly disintegrates the longer people hang around each other face to face. We all have stories that we keep in our back pockets to tell and retell. These polished stories usually have some sort of subconscious hidden agenda. In the field, unplanned situations and interactions prompt people to share stories that have less glamour and more grit. Lessons are learned. Stories that foster a sense of community arise in a natural, organic way. I won’t outright ban stories conveyed by phone or digital communication, but my focus will always be to go out in the field, including places that are often overlooked.

Plus, the name is a wink to one of my favorite TV shows, Star Trek.

Tile. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the tile industry. Its five year mission: to explore strange new recruitment practices, to seek out new technologies and new solutions, to boldly go where no trade has gone before.

UPDATE: I decided that since almost a year passed since reserving the domain name for Tile Trek and people have grown accustomed to Stone and Tile Stories that I should allow the domain name to expire. Live long and prosper, Tile Trek.

By Alice Dean, Writer, Video Editor, and Content Manager

I help tile installers and other trades contractors to be seen, heard, and understood by creating marketing content that attracts and educates your target audience and sells your services.