Tuesday, July 31, 2007

24. Goal Ball

I know what you are pondering. "Why did they stop in Bemidji?" you are asking yourself. Ponder no further, I will enlighten you.

We went to Bemidji to see my friend Rob. Rob is a teacher at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson. Among his many talents, Rob is a goalball coach. One week out of every year, he coaches goalball in Bemidji at a camp for visually impaired students. Although we've had plenty of chances to see him at work in Tucson, for some reason we never managed to make it to a game until we got to see Rob at work in Bemidji.

We started with a tour of Bemidji State University, where the camp takes place. It's a really beautiful campus, on the shore of Lake Bemidji (they use the lake as a parking lot during the winter). Then we went to the gym to see the students play goal ball. We were there at the very end of the camp, so we were seeing the tournament that determined the camp champion goalball team. The game is fascinating, though like soccer, I think goalball would be more fun to play than to watch.

We had dinner with Rob at a lakeshore restaurant, and I also got to join Rob for breakfast Saturday morning before we headed off for a short 100-mile drive to Bay Lake.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

23. The Center of North America

Friday was an easy driving day -- only half the distance of the day before. It was also just about completely uneventful except for one pleasant surprise -- our route took us right past the geographical center of North America. I understand that the precision of the measurement of this location is fairly dubious, but this is where they marked it and it's probably as good a location as any.

We were in Bemidji by 2pm, and ready for our next adventure.
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22. Skipping Canada

Wednesday's troubles left us way behind schedule. Our plan had been to go further north and drive across a big chunk of Alberta and Saskatchewan on the trans-Canada highway, then drop back into North Dakota. To get back on track, we decided to skip Canada, and drive straight east for 630 miles to get back on track as quickly as possible. So we got ourselves onto U.S. Highway 2 and drove east. Along the way we proved that it is possible to get a speeding ticket even in Montana. We discovered that highway 2 is a popular route for bicyclists on coast-to-coast treks. We must have passed about 30 bicyclists loaded down with camping gear. They ride on the shoulder of highway 2 with cars buzzing by at 70 mph. The idea of a cross-country bike ride appeals to me, but not on the narrow shoulder of a highway! I think we should take a one-day break from the war, and use the money we save to build a nice bike lane from Maine to Washington alongside highway 2.

Anyway, we managed to get to our destination -- Minot, North Dakota -- well before nightfall, tired out from the extra long drive but happy to be back on track.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mountain Goats in Glacier Park

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21. One Bad Thing

--or how to save money--

I suppose that on a trip of this magnitude, it's inevitable that One Bad Thing will happen.

This was a section of the trip that I was particularly looking forward to. A couple of years ago I wrote a short story that involved a road trip through Glacier National Park. I wrote the descriptions based on maps and photographs, since I had no memory of having been through the park myself. I had been hoping ever since to have a chance to travel the same path that my protagonists did, and to see how closely the reality of the road matched my imagination of it.

Tuesday night found us in Kalispell, outside the western entrance to Glacier. Lodging near the park entrance is quite expensive, and rather than spend upwards of $150 for a hotel room, I decided to spend about $25 for a tent spot at a campground. Now, the best laid plans of mice and men are often gang aglee (or something), but these were hardly the best laid plans. As soon as I started to set up the tent, it started to rain. It would rain off and on all night. Stands to reason that our one night of camping would also be our one night of rain. We had dinner at the campground restaurant. I had a hoagie and Jake had ribs. Jake said the ribs tasted a little funny, but not too bad.

The plan for Wednesday was to drive through Glacier park in the morning, ending up at Cardston Alberta hopefully by one in the afternoon, and Swift Current Saskatchewan before nightfall. The drive from Kalispell to Cardston would echo the drive my characters took in my short story, though presumably without their mishaps.

I woke up in some amount of pain. I injured my back a couple years ago, and every now and then it flares up. Sleeping on the hard ground instead of a nice hotel bed probably didn't help.

Jake awoke feeling just awful. I mean really really awful. We thought it might have been due to the altitude, or the twisting winding driving we did the day before, but our prime suspect was the ribs. Which we saw again that morning, if you catch my drift. We couldn't leave right away anyway because we needed to give time for the sun to come up and dry out the tent. So Jake rested while I went and got coffee; then I came back and broke camp while Jake rested more in the car. Jake was still not feeling great, but he decided to try to tough it out. I didn't know if the mountain air would revive him, or if the twists and turns of Going-to-the-Sun highway would only make things worse.

It was the latter. Jake was miserable on the entire trip through Glacier. He lay there with his eyes closed and moaned while I saw some of the most magnificent scenery on this planet. Jake did manage to open his eyes momentarily to watch the big horn sheep that walked casually across the road in front of us. I did stop a couple times to snap some photos, but didn't spend anything like the time or attention that I wanted to in the park.

By the time we reached Saint Mary at the east exit of the Park -- only about 60 miles into our intended 400 mile drive -- it was clear that we were done for the day. The only thing available at the Saint Mary lodge was a 2-room cabin for a hundred and eighty bucks. So we checked in and I got Gatorade and water and Pepto for Jake. I hoped that this wouldn't last more than a day. I canceled the reservation in Swift Current, and began to strategize a plan to get the trip back on track.

20. Couer D'Alene and Steve

Tuesday's drive was from Kennewick, Washington to Kalispell, Montana, with a stop for lunch in Couer D'Alene, Idaho. Couer D'Alene is the new home of my old friend Steve. Steve and I have known each other since we were in our teens. These days we only manage to get together every couple years or so; his job keeps him moving around a lot. When I planned this trip, I did not know he had moved to Idaho, so it was a happy coincidence that we were able to hook up for lunch.

An outside observer might wonder at how enduring our friendship has been -- we have almost no interests in common and our temperments, philosophies, and approach to life are wildly different. But we are always very glad to see each other, and in all these years we have never run out of things to talk about. This short visit was no exception. Steve had to get back to work and Jake and I had to get back on the road, but it was hard to make the conversation end. I am kicking myself because I meant to get a picture of us together, and totally spaced out on that.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

19. Columbia Gorge

Our first change of plan happened on Monday. We stayed up pretty late Sunday night watching the Tempest, and decided not to
bust out early Monday morning. So, instead of going up to Crater Lake (which Jake wasn't that keen on seeing anyway), then
cutting diagonally across Oregon, we decided to stick to the interstates, going up I-5 then across I-82, a longer but faster route.

The route took us through Eugene, home of the University of Oregon, so we finally did Boomer some good, getting a photo of him
in front of the stadium where the Ducks play.

Skirting the edge of Portland, we then paralleled the south bank of the Columbia for most of the width of Oregon. I'm not going to try to describe the beauty of the Columbia Gorge, many others have already done it better than I could and anyway we pretty much blasted through it at 70mph without taking much time to appreciate it. But we did have an early dinner at a restaurant right on the water in Hood River. I knew that the easter half of Oregon and Washington is desert, but I was surprised at how abrupt the change is. One moment we were in a rain forest, the next we might as well have been in Nevada.

At the end of the day we crossed the Columbia into Washington. We stayed Monday night in Kennewick.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

18. Thought for the Day

I saw the old rancher wearing the straw cowboy hat and sitting in the beat up old truck in the drive-thru at the Starbucks, waiting for his morning Latté, and I thought, is this a great country, or what?

17. Lost in the Tempest

When I was explaining the plot of The Tempest to Jake I mentioned that it was kind of like Lost.
Now I realize it is a LOT like lost.
Why didn't I ever notice this before? Someone else must have commented on it by now. The parallels between The Tempest and Lost are enough to make me think that it is more than coincidence. Sure, Lost covers the actions of a lot more of the survivors than the Tempest does, but it's got seven years to tell its story. Also, Lost sticks with the point of view of the victims; Prospero is an unseen force in the background.

The ship breaks in two at the beginning, but the passengers are miraculously saved. Those from one section of the ship land on a different part of the island from the others; and each party thinks the other did not survive.

Caliban is Ben Linus
Ariel is the smoke monster
Prospero is the mysterious Jacob.
The King of Naples and the Prince of Naples are Jack's Father and Jack. (okay, that one may be a stretch...)

Of course, this doesn't account for Miranda. Unless somehow Danielle is Miranda in some weird sort of way. but I don't think so.

I never read any of the discussion groups talking about Lost, but certainly this must have come up before. I can't be the first person to notice this. And it can't just be coincidence.

Can it?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Greetings from Ashland

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16. Ashland

Ashland is where the adventure really began on this trip -- our first foray into unexplored territory. We awoke early in Vacaville and drove north on I-5, intending to get to Ashland as early as possible to maximize our time there. We got to Ashland before 3 p.m. Our motel was run-down and it was far from the town, and we had some trouble finding it, but at least it was cheap.

Downtown Ashland is everything that you want it to be; lots of little restaurants with creekside dining, little bookstores and used clothing shops, lots of brick.

The Shakespeare Festival consists of three theatres, showing twelve plays in repertory. Each season they show three Shakespeare plays, all at the Elizabethan Theatre. We were there to see The Tempest (which I had read but never seen). We rested at the motel until 5pm, then we went into town to pick up our tickets and get dinner. The play began at 8:30. I discovered that there is something called a "preface" which is presented at 6:30. Its purpose is to give you enough background on the story that it will be easy to follow, even if you are not up on your
Elizabethan English. Unfortunately, I also discovered that you had to buy a separate ticket for that, and they were sold out, so we had to do without the preface. We had a creekside dinner at a place called Louie's, where one finds the best burgers in Ashland. I had the delicious Oregonzola Burger.

There is a green outside of the three theatres, and at 7pm they put on a free "Green Show", which was half an hour of modern dance set to medieval music. There were 8 dancers and they were quite good. They did a lot of cool athletic things; not quite at the level of Cirque to Soleil,
but really beautiful to watch.

The Elizabethan Theatre is a beautiful open-air space with large comfortable seats, and a great faux wood-and-wattle stage, which looks a lot like the stage at the Globe in London. The set for the Tempest was extremely simple -- just 8 tree trunks.

The play was wonderfully done. They made two small changes -- Ariel was played as female, and so was Antonio (changed to Antonia). I think both changes are improvements. I always imagined Ariel as female anyway. In making Antonia female they added a layer to the relationship with Sebastian, with the added implication that they are lovers as well as conspirators.

The Tempest is different from just about any other story I've seen. In most drama, the protagonist has an external conflict he or she must overcome. The Tempest is unique in that Prospero is in complete control of the situation from the opening to the final curtain. Yes, there
is a conspiracy to kill him, but the conspirators are so comically inept that the audience is never worried for a moment that Prospero is in any danger. Propero is an all-powerful magician, with magical sprites who serve him willingly and a monster who serves him unwillingly, and he has every one of his enemies in his grasp. So where does the dramatic tension come in?

The brilliance of the play is that even when the good guy holds all the cards through the whole show, the drama is still there. If you were in Prospero's position -- in complete control of enemies who deserve death -- what would you do? Would you choose Justice or Mercy?

If you ever get a chance to see a performance of The Tempest, don't pass it up!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

15. Not Doing Boomer Any Good at All

It is around 3pm on Sunday. We are in Ashland, Oregon. When I picked up Boomer Bear, I figured we would stop on our way north and get a picture of him in front of the Rose Bowl, and drop by Stanford during our week in Los Altos to get a pic of him in front of Stanford stadium. I have managed to do neither of these things, so Boomer right now is no better off than when he was stuck in the ammo box in Rancho Bernardo. We will be traveling near WSU tomorrow, so maybe I can get at least one Pac-10 pic. But with my track record I shouldn't make any promises.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

14. On New Jobs and Old Friends

Our week in Northern California is coming to a close. We could not have asked for a better week. It was great to meet all my new coworkers -- now I'll have faces to bring to mind when I hear their voices on the phone! I really like the company, the job, and the people. It is a great relief to be in tune with my job again.

More heartening still has been the time I've gotten to spend with old friends here. I blogged earlier about the tragedy of having completely lost contact with people who were important to me, but this week has reminded me how blessed I still am, with many good friends. Yeah, I lost touch with Bob. But during our week here I've gotten to spend time with Michael and Linda and Kelsey and Christopher and Greg and Elizabeth and Paige and Emily and Tucker and Helen and Caitlin and Rachel and Scott and Debbie and Matthew and Annie and Marius and Abigail and Emily and Thomas and Kipp and Dave and Angelika and Zoë. And more visits with old friends still lie ahead on our trip. I don't put enough effort into nurturing all my friendships, but few of us can manage that these days. Life sweeps us along a little to quickly. It's good to know that in spite of that, many friendships endure.

For all the great times I'm having with old friends, I'm also missing my new friends. I'll be glad to see you all again when I get back to Tucson!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

13. The Legend of Boomer Bear

Once upon a time there was a travel bug named Boomer Bear. He began his life on July 15th 2006, in Oklahoma. All Travel Bugs must have a goal, and Boomer's is to see as many college football stadiums as possible.

On August 1st last year, a father and son from Tucson, travelling across the nation, picked Boomer up from a travel bug hotel in Oklahoma, and took him on his first set of adventures. Boomer saw the Kansas City Chiefs practice at UWRF, then went on to see Notre Dame stadium, Knute Rockne's grave, and the college football hall of fame.

One short week later, Boomer was dropped off in a geocache outside of Nashville, TN, hoping no doubt for a rabid southern football fan to take him from stadium to stadium throughout the 2006 college football season.

But it was not to be.

Boomer waited in the Nashville cache until the first of October, when he was retrieved by a man who took him all the way to San Diego, but did not show him any football. The bear lay forgotten through the whole season. In February, he was placed in a very challenging multi-cache in the hills north of San Diego.

This was a very difficult cache, and not many cachers found it. Months went by. Finally, the bear heard the lid of the ammo can pried open, and he saw the sunlight stream in. Alas, the geocacher looked at the bear, but chose a different treasure. The lid closed again. Boomer wondered if he was doomed to spend another football season just waiting.

Meanwhile, Boomer's fate became known to the father and son who had taken him on his first adventures. Unwilling to let Boomer hibernate away another season, they set out from Tucson on July 7, 2007 to rescue him. Despite the complexity of the multi-cache's puzzles, despite the record-breaking heat wave, they persevered, found the cache, and retrieved from California the bear they had left in Tennessee.

This is a true story.

To be continued...

Friday, July 6, 2007

12. A Journey of 5,986 Miles Begins

We left Tucson today, though I think the real adventure begins in a week when we leave Silicon Valley. I am feeling pretty good. In these posts so far, I've been musing on the melancholy aspects of Road Tripping; it's been a relatively melancholy period in my life. But like all of life, road trips are complicated beings, and there are plenty of great motivations for, and great things about, running down the road. I will have a lot more to say about the positive stuff in upcoming posts.

I am at my folks house in SoCal at the end of the first day, though my folks are away for the weekend. Jake and I hit the road at 7 am, grabbed a latté and a scone, and hit the road. I-10 to I-8 to I-15, stop for some geocaching, I-15 to CA-210, and here we are. In time to have dinner with my brother.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

11. Imminent Departure

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

It does not take long to get from "Will this vacation ever arrive?" to "how will I find time to finish packing before I have to leave?" The first leg of the trip begins in just a couple of days. Here is what the whole route looks like so far. Yesterday was my last day at the old job. Tomorrow my first full day at the new job.

And as the road trip comes into focus, I'm starting to think about what to do, where to stay, and which geocaches to try to snag. Nina is planning the final week of the trip -- from Chicago back to Tucson. My week in Silicon Valley and my week at Bay Lake are all set. That still leaves two weeks to figure out. I may not talk much here about my plans until they come to fruition.

I will be gone from Tucson for five weeks. I'll miss all my friends here; I wish I could take you all with me. The whole gang vacationed together in the spring, but I wasn't able to join. Hopefully it will happen again next year and I can be part of it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

10. We Are All Just Fine

This afternoon we went to the mall to see Ratatouille (a different mall than the one featured in post #9). The movie is about food and Paris, so of course Nina has been eagerly awaiting the movie since she first caught wind of it. Ben and Heather and Jake were there as well.

We saw all but maybe the last 60 seconds, I think. Based on what was happening on screen, the movie was about to wrap up. We absolutely loved what we saw. But, just before the end a man in street close walked to the front of the theater, and said, "everyone has to leave", and opened the emergency exit. The house lights stayed off, and the movie kept playing. The man did not appear to be a policeman or a theater employee. But, we all calmly got up from our seats and shuffled out the emergency exit onto the roof of the mall, wondering if maybe there was a fire or something. The patrons of the other 19 theaters streamed out as well.

I was so proud of the whole several hundred of us. Nobody panicked. Nobody screamed or ran or jumped. Nobody knew exactly what was going on, but someone talking on a cellphone said there had been gunfire.

We were led down a stairway to find the whole mall being surrounded with yellow "Police Line" tape. Before us were a couple ambulances, a firetruck, and possibly every police car in Tucson. We made our way to our cars, and, considering everything, made it out of the mall pretty smoothly. The entire mall was evacuated.

Details are still emerging, but what we know so far is that a verbal altercation between two shoppers (possibly gang members) turned violent, one of them pulled a gun and they struggled for it. Three shots were fired, both of the fighters and one innocent bystander were wounded, apparently none seriously. The incident happened at 3 pm, the mall was reopened at 5.

A lot more excitement than I was counting on for a Sunday afternoon, but we are all just fine. Except we don't know how the movie ends.