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Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

I usually don’t write anything this early, mainly because it takes me all day to think of something decent to say (or in the case of this blog, a week or two). However, I just watched an amazingly beautiful short video created by a talented individual by the name of William Hoffman, and I thought I’d share it with you.

I saw the video, “Moments,” as part of a running series that has been meditating on death on WNYC’s RadioLab (an amazing show in its own right). “Moments” doesn’t need much explanation, other than you should watch it, so without further ado, here it is:

I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Think happy thoughts 🙂

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Well, I have been home now for a bit over a week and have neglected to wrap up my traveling experiences.  It has, no doubt, been a rather eventful week home, traveling to Delaware and then to Boston for some extra time on the road.  I had delightful times at each, but I feel that I must first discuss the end of my month (and a little extra) long journey.

For starters, it seems that I often have a hard time, or just neglect, finishing things.  I have a multitute of songs I write, but never finish, and myriad ideas that run through my mind but never come to fruition.  As with this blog, that I have neglected to write on for that past few weeks, I feel that I often find myself moving on to the next project before the one at hand is complete.

Whether this be a simple habit or a consequence of my rambling mind and all the things that swirl through it at any given moment, I think there is an inkling of unease with the concept of having an “end result.”  That is to say, I seem to cherish the “process” more than the “product,” and may in fact unconciously but very purposefully leave thoughts, ideas, and projects such as this one lingering as to not close the door on future progress.  If you never finish something, there is always the chance of returning to it, modifying it, adding to its life and movement.

I will return to this thought in a moment, but I must first touch on the last segment of our traveling.

I believe I left off in Minneapolis, so that’s where I will begin.  We spent two nights there enjoying the comforts of our friend Ian’s abode.  We spent the majority of time relaxing, as traveling was finally getting to us, but we did go out to enjoy some wonderful Pakistani food at a local market.  We also got to see Pawn America, one of the most commercialized pawn shops (and one of the most expensive) that I’ve ever seen.  Culver’s was another stop that we made in Minneapolis, and although I don’t eat red meat, I was told that the burgers are delicious 🙂

From Minneapolis we traveled to Chicago.  Although we didn’t have too much time there, we did have a chance to wander around the city and explore the parks and many art displays, which included towering digital displays with real faces shooting water out of their mouths (I know it sounds strange but I’m sure an image is available if googled).  Bret hung out with his friend Liz, who we were staying with, while I wandered off to meet up with a fellow couchsurfer, Mina.  We met at Buddy Guy’s Legends, a blues bar in the area, and enjoyed an open jam that was taking place.  I sat next to an older fellow wearing a straw hat drinking heinekins, and unfortunately neglected to realize that it was the one and only Buddy Guy before it was too late…quite exciting in hindsight!

After hanging out a bit there, we headed to another jazz bar to catch the last song played by an AMAZING three piece, bass, drums and guitar.  We parted ways for the evening and Mina drove me back to Liz’s for the night (thanks Mina!)

The next morning we headed to Cleveland, only to get there as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame closed.  Since we had no place to stay and we really couldn’t find anything else to do in the city, Bret called up a few friends in Pittsburgh who we met up with for a lovely dinner.  They let us stay in the gorgeous castle (literally) apartment for the night to rest up for our drive home.

The final day was all driving, but we did get to meet up in Hershey with a highschool friend Amisha.  She is in med school and has been out there for a few years, so it was really great to have a chance to catch up.  We enjoyed a great lunch and some wonderful, freshly made hand dipped donuts before heading home and completing our trip!  Here’s some stats for your information:

Dates: June 20, 2009 – July 23, 2009
Starting Mileage: 88,333
Ending Mileage: 98,677 (Total 10,344)
Average MPG: 31.06
Average Miles Per Day: 304.2
Average Cost of Fuel Per Day: $26.11
Total Cost of Fuel: $887.88
Average Cost Per Gallon: $2.66
Number of States we Traveled Through: 26

We as humans are constantly changing, modyfing and reinventing ourselves to change the story that will be told after we are gone.  The actions that we take now dictate the final product that will be left when we have ceased to exist.  As we are born, live, and die, so do the artistic masterpieces that we enjoy.  Artists have to face death everytime the last stroke lands on the canvas, the last note is recorded into memory.  This, however, breeds life for others, as memories are born again and again for all future to enjoy.  I suppose this is why I have a knack for not finishing things…I enjoy the process and don’t like to see it end.  This however, is necessary to enjoy the beauty of what has been created, to leave your role as “artist” and begin to see what you have created as “spectator.”  Finishing this trip was an accomplishment that I will not soon forget, and I encourage you to enjoy each and every moment of every journey that you take through life.

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We’re coming up on the last few days of this amazing quest across the United States, and this will probably be my last or second to last post before writing from the comfort of my own home!  Right now we’re resting with Ian in Minnesota after a long day of driving, which started out with an early wake-up call to catch the sunrise over the Badlands.

After we left Colorado, we headed back on north and to the east towards Nebraska.  We caught some of the spots along the famous Oregon trail along the way, including Chimney Rock and two others that we followed a man in a truck who we met at a gas station to find (Jail rock and Courthouse rock).

Oregon1 Oregon2

We made it to Custer State Park late in the evening where we set up for the night in a Cabin at Blue Bell Campground.  This was probably the coolest place we’ve stayed all trip!  The cabin looked like a backyard shack that was just built, complete with a small deck and some benches.  Inside, two bunk beds awaited us along with a small table and nightstand.  We had electric, so we decided to watch some movies and catch up on some computer happenings (no wireless, but what can you expect in the middle of no where?)

(not a very good picture, but a picture none-the-less straight from my phone)

Cabin

We got wonderful sleep in the cabin, and we didn’t have to deal with the tent in the morning, so we got a somewhat early start and headed on to check out the rest of Custer State Park.  We went to the Wind Caves, but you could only go in if you go with a tour, and since we missed the morning tour and couldn’t stay for the afternoon one, we had to skip it…maybe next time.  Instead, we went to the Crazy Horse Monument that is being built in the Black Hills of Nebraska.  It was a bit pricey at $20 to get in, and the monument isn’t anywhere’s near completion yet, but we got to go into the museum and hear the story of why and how the monument is being created.  The work was originally started on a commission in 1948 to Korczak to build a monument honoring the Native American people.  Work is still being done today, and progress is slow due to the fact that it is completely publicly funded (no tax money, just donations and revenue from the site).  Here’s a few pictures:

Crazyhorse1 Crazyhorse2

After visiting Crazy Horse, we stopped by Mount Rushmore for a walk around the mountain and a few shots of the sculptures:

Mount Rushmore1 Mount Rushmore 2

Since we wanted to get to the Badlands in time to take pictures while there was some light still out, we didn’t spend too long at Mount Rushmore and instead headed southeast to the Badlands.  After a few wrong turns and a long trip on a dirt road, we made it to the main section of the park, which included beautiful overlooks and great views of the vast expanse that was once home to an inland salt-sea millions of years ago:

Badlands1 Badlands3Badlands2

After exploring a bit, we decided to head to the campsite for some food and to setup for the night.

That brings us to this morning (or technically yesterday morning since it’s 2:42 AM here now).  We woke up at 5:30 to catch the sunrise and some light for additional pictures of the park before heading east towards Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I have to say that there wasn’t a whole lot to see along the way, however, one great find which we were told to seek out was Wall Drug.  Located in the middle of no where, a small town named Wall is home to one of the craziest drug stores I think I will ever see.  Not only do they fill perscriptions, but they also have two restaraunts, an arcade, about 10-20 small shops, and crazy attractions.  You really have to see it to believe it!

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(Yes, those are all from Wall Drug, even the dinasaur!)

After Wall Drug, we continued east to Minneapolis, where we are now.  Hopefully I will be able to update the blog over the next few days, possibly in Chicago.  If not, I’ll catch up when I’m relaxing at home!

Night 🙂

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Yesterday myself and Bret met up with Caitlin (who we met in Yellowstone) and ventured down to Boulder to visit our friends Nick and Brian there. We had some time to catch up and hang out before heading to our big event for the night…seeing Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Bird, and Death Cab for Cutie at Red Rocks Amphitheater! I’d really been looking forward to this show all trip, and since Bret is good friends with Ra Ra Riot, we were comped seats. Bret also got to go back stage during the show to hang out with the bands!!

Concerts are always an exhilarating experience for me, and invariably make me want to be on stage creating music that inspires and moves people in positive ways. Its been hard on the road to keep up with music due to our constant movement and lack of alone time to play around on guitar or record, but I’m definitely planning on setting aside some good-sized chunks of time to work on music when I return home. Music is something that I truly love, and the feeling that I get from listening and playing is something that little can compare to.

Here’s some pics from the show:

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Our passes included the “aftershow” but we didn’t know what it entailed and we didn’t all have them, so I gave mine to a very thankful girl at the show and we headed home.

Today we hung out around Boulder, CO. Its a great little town with a ton of really neat restaurants and shops. An added bonus was the farmer’s market which happened to be today from 4-8. There was a plethora of local produce and wonderful fresh food that we enjoyed. We also stopped for lunch and checked out a neat tea house located in the center of downtown Boulder.

For dinner we headed back to Chris and Amanda’s house for a nice cookout. It was a great end to a wonderful time in Colorado. Tomorrow we’ll be venturing east towards South Dakota!

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I’ve said it before, but I really must emphasize how hard it is to keep track of all the things that are going on, especially with a lack of time and internet access!  Right now, we are in Greeley, Colorado, close to Fort Collins, staying with our friends Chris and Amanda.  They live in a wonderful location, and since Amanda rides and trains horses, they have two horses, a few chickens, a dog and a cat!  We arrived late, but had some time to catch up and chat before bed.

The past few days have been great, and we’ve gotten to see some wonderful things!  We spent our first day in Portland exploring the city with Harvey, who is in a pretty big band called The Builders and the Butchers (he plays mandolin and banjo and is actually beginning a headlining tour in a few days!)  You should check them out:
http://thebuildersandthebutchers.com/

We took the MAX, which is the public transit train, around town to visit a few hotspots.  One was Powell’s Books, a huge independent bookstore with new and used books for very reasonable prices.  We also visited a few different independent music stores and a clothing store that buys and sells used clothes (Portland is a very “independent” do it yourself kind of town!)

Powell's

After a bit more exploring, we headed back to hang out with Harvey and Rachel a bit and then ventured out to see his friend’s band, Pancake Breakfast, at a local venue.  Portland has a huge music scene with tons of local artists playing original music.  It was great to see so many people at a local show, and everyone had a great time!  We stayed to see a few bands before picking up some donuts at the famous Voodoo Donut shop:

Voodoo

The next day we got an earlier start (driving is tiring and we usually end up sleeping late the day after a long trip).  Rachel and her Friend Kara took us around to a bunch of places around Portland and outlying areas.  Our first stop was a waterfall located about a half hour outside of Portland.  Here’s a few pics:

Waterfall1

Next, we headed to Mt. Hood, one of the active volcanoes in the area.   Because of the high elevation, some snow was still on the ground:

Mount Hood

We also visited Timerline Lodge, which is at the base of Mt. Hood and was used in the famous movie The Shining.  They had some memorabilia, but what was more interesting was the history of the lodge and people who participated in its development (it was almost like a museum)!  Anyway, here are a few pics.:

Timberline1 Timberline2

After Timberline, we headed back to walk around the city a bit more and ended up getting some food at a place called Montage where the waiters all have their own eccentric personalities and your leftovers are wrapped in aluminum foil sculptures!  I’d love to post some photos of it, but I didn’t take any, so the website will have to do just in case you ever decide to go to Portland! http://www.montageportland.com/

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Our next stop was Seattle where we stayed with Jana, who we met up with at Pike Place market.  If you ever go to Seattle, this is definitely a place you need to see.  It is right next to the water and has a slew of incredible merchants selling their handmade goods, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and amazing fish!

Pike Place1 Pike Place2 Pike Place 3

Jana was an amazing tour guide and great comrade to have around the city.  She took us to many of Seattle’s “must see” spots including the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the wonderful water fountain in Seattle Center,  and a bunch of other really cool things, including a really great statue of Jimi Hendrix outside of a popular local music store

Seattle1 Seattle 2 Seattle3

We also got to see the Fremont Troll (famous for its appearance in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You”) and Jimi Hendrix’s final resting place in Renton, Washington.  Our friend Mike was also in town, so we were able to finish out the day by meeting up with him at the Vessel bar in Downtown Seattle.

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I realize that this is a long post, and I’m cutting out some major details, but as time is short and words are few at 2:00 AM, I must be brief.  After Seattle, we headed on to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The drive was relatively long (about 13 hours), but we made it ok and met up with couchsurfers Andrea and Patrick.  They were amazing, and ended up taking us to two neat night time locations in the park even though we got there late.  Since the two work in the park for the summer, they have lodging and were nice enough to let us stay with them.  We also met Cait, who offered us a hiking experience the following day.  We agreed and exchanged information and times and headed to bed after a long day of driving!

Our first full day in Yellowstone was spent exploring.  We saw such amazing and wonderful things, including up-close-and-personal Bison, waterfalls, hills and valleys, trees and meadows, and everything in between.  We also hiked up Bunson’s Peak, which is supposedly one of the best views of the park.  It was a tough hike for a beginner such as myself, but I made it!  Here’s some pics of the day:

HiBison! Yellowstone1 Yellowstone 2 Yellowstone 4 Yellowstone 5 Yellowstone 6

Unfortunately, Bret lost his wallet somewhere along the hike.  That definitely put a damper on his day, as did the continuous thunderstorms that we experienced throughout the night at our campsite at Bridge Bay, but we made it through and moved along the next morning to take a quick peak at Old Faithful erupting and heading towards Colorado:

old faithful

The drive through Wyoming was long, and most of it was relatively boring.  We did, however, pass through the amazing Grand Tetons.

Teton1 Teton2

We also happened to catch a wonderful thunderstorm that produced some unbelievable clouds and two full rainbows.  I unfortunately didn’t get great pictures of them, but just imagine the most magnificent rainbow you’ve ever seen and multiple it by two!

So now here we are, resting in Colorado.  Tomorrow we are planning on catching up on a few things, including a much needed oil change and a trip to Bret’s bank to deal with some lost wallet issues.  After that, we are heading to the Red Rock’s Amphitheater to see Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Byrd, and Death Cab for Cutie.  It should be an awesome show!

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We’re now in Portland for a few days, staying with Rachel (a friend of Bret’s from college) and Harvey, so we have a bit of time to catch our breath!  Since we have internet, I figured I’d update our progress before I get too far behind.

So far, we’ve travelled across the country and up the west coast.  Having the iPhone has been amazing, and it just so happens that when you take a picture with it, it tracks where you are through its GPS and puts a little pin on a map.  So, based on these little pins, you can see our progress thus far:

Portland Map

There you have it, we’ve made it to the other side and we’ll soon be on our way back!!!

I think the last time I blogged I left off in San Fran, so I’ll start up again there.  The first (and actually only full day) that we had in San Francisco was well spent exploring the city.  We first headed over to Dolores Park to see the San Francisco Mime Troupe perform a very politically oriented performance called “Too Big To Fail.”  It was really cool to see a group of people so enthusiastic about art, performance, and getting activily involved in speaking out about their political concerns.  If I learned anything about San Francisco, I learned it leans to the left…

San Francisco Mime Troupe

After half of the show, we decided to head out to explore the city a bit more.  We walked through Castro, which is the LGBT community of San Francisco, and Haight Street, both of which are extremely colorful and eclectic elements of a lively city.  In fact, all over San Francisco, its hard to miss the exuberance that surrounds you, from the vast amount of street art to the colored facades, walking around is something of an art show in its own right:

SF1 SF2 SF3

We also caught a glimpse of Golden Gate Park, which has a beautiful botanical garden in its center and leads to the California Academy of Sciences.  The building itself was quite expensive to enter, and due to limited time we decided to forgo the experience, but we were able to take an elevator to the top of the observation deck to get a glimpse of the city from high above ground:

SF4

After this, we wandered a bit more and decided to take a a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Figuring out how to get to the right bus stop and what bus to take was a bit of a challenge, but we eventually made it and were greeted with an excellent view of the bridge as well as a chance to walk it (which I do not recommend on cold, windy days unless you are up for the challenege!)

GG1 GG2 GG3

GG4

After walking across the bridge (there and back), we were pretty much ready to head to the apartment.  The busses were difficult to navigate, but after a bit of waiting and even more time figuring out what lines to take, we ended up back at the apartment in time for movie night with Maya and our new friends from San Fran.  It was a full day of exploring, and we were very ready to relax!

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The next day we picked up some breakfast and headed out to do some last minute exploring before driving up to Prarie Creek, our campground for the evening in the Northern California Redwoods.  We picked up some breakfast and drove to the pier to see the sites.  One cool stop was Pier 39, where sea lions have decided to make a dock their home (you can read more about this by putting in Pier 39 to wikipedia):

Sea Lions1 Sea Lions 2

Our next stop was Lombard Street (AKA the crooked street).  I drove down and took a video, and afterwards we parked to get a view from below.  Its quite fun (and not as hard to drive as you’d think!)

Lombard

We also stopped off on the other side of the Golden Gate to get a better view of the massive bridge and to check out some old batteries that were constructed to protect the bay against invasion:

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That was pretty much our final stop before heading north along the Redwood Highway.  We passed some lovely wine country and vineyards, and the rolling hills were fun to drive along.  Eventually, we came across a sign for a “Drive-Through Tree” so we decided to check it out.  When we pulled in, there was a person stationed there to charge $5 for entry (everyone needs to make money someone I suppose).  We had already gone too far and there was really no turning back without seeing the site, so we handed over a $5 and continued on our way.  Driving through the redwoods is an interesting experience, almost like driving through a town of Ewoks…the trees are big and the brush is dense, making it an eerie and altoghether lovely experience at once.

The tree was about a mile down the road, and in fact, it was pretty big.  I didn’t attempt to drive through it due to fear of breaking off my car mirrors, but I did take a few pictures:

Tree1 Tree2

Since it was getting pretty late and we still had quite a drive ahead of us, we decided to forgoe any additional stops and headed straight for the campground, Prarie Creek.  Up here, GPS does work, but since the iPhone relies on Google Maps for the actual picture of the map, you basically get a moving blue dot with a blank background.  Despite that, and after one missed turn, we arrived at our campsite around 10:30 PM.  It was a really cool place, with little cut outs in between big trees and brush for cars and the tent.  Bret figured out the tent, we setup shop, and went to sleep after an eventful day!

Tent

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After waking up, we packed our things and drove over to Fern Canyon, a site that we were told to check out.  Along the way, we saw some grazing elk, something you don’t see everyday in New Jersey!

Elk1 Elk2

Fern Canyon, (which we visited next), is a really cool site to see if you ever find yourself in Northern California.  Due to the water being so close (we’re on the coast at this point) and other factors that I’m not completely sure of, fern plants are able to flourish along the walls of a particular canyon.  We hiked along the bottom for quite some time, through small rivers and streams and over fallen trees and stones.  It was a lot of fun, and we got some really nice pictures too!

Fern Canyon1 Fern Canyon 2 Fern Canyon 3

After Fern Canyon, we took care of a big stretch of road before stopping at our final roadside attraction before Portland.  It’s called the Oregon Vortex, and the story goes something like this.  There was a landslide in the area a long time ago, and the land was set off kilter, including a house that remains on its original foundation but is crooked.  Something happened in the landslide, or at least people started noticing something after the landslide, that makes things appear to be rather funky in terms of size, shape, and relative angle.  For instance, If I stood to one side of Bret, I looked a lot taller than I actually am, but if I stood on the other side, I looked even shorter.  Another weird phenomenon was that they had ramps setup throughout the place.  Some looked like they sloped down, but when you roll a ball down them, they actually come back to you.  Now, I don’t really know if this was all an optical illusion or what, but it was still a lot of fun to see regardless!

OV1 OV2 OV3

After completing our strange experience with the Oregon Vortex, we made it back on the road towards Portland.  Actually, we are staying just north of Portland in Vancouver, Washington, but as Rachel and Harvey explained to us, its basically just a suburb of Portland in another state.  Today (Wednesday) we’re heading out to explore the city and hopefully catching a local show later.  It should be good times…we have less than two weeks left in our adventure!

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I don’t have too long because we’re about to head out on the road again to Prairie Creek, a campground in the northern Redwood Forests, but I just wanted to record a little update before we leave.

I think the Pacific Coast Highway has been the most beautiful drive we’ve had yet, and possibly the prettiest thing we’ve seen throughout the two weeks we’ve been on the road. The shore against the vast cliffs was truely a remarkable site, and even though we didn’t get to see Hearst Castle along the way due to time, the natural surroundings made the drive well worth it. Here are some pics:
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We also stopped by a nature reserve along the coast where elephant seals spend their time.  It was amazing to see them in the wild (although it was quite smelly!!)

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Seals2

We also stopped at McWay Falls (pictured above) in Julia Pfeiffer State Park.  The view was magnificent, and if you’re ever driving along the Pacific Coast, you should definitely stop by!

We arrived in San Francisco pretty late (around 10:30) and hung out a bit with Maya, who so graciously offered her residence for two nights!

More updates on our San Francisco adventures will come soon.  Right now we’re headed to the Redwoods!!!

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