Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Road Trips 2003 #1

Des Moines - I was gearing up for my big trip in April and May and
needed a few days out of town, so I took off for Des Moines on a
Wednesday night. Priceline got me a suite at Chase Suites in Clive and
I got there late Wednesday night. I visited the Capitol building and
took pictures of the tallest building in Iowa. I also went to the Iowa
arts center, which is a very interesting building. They have a good
variety of media (sculpture, canvas, even a room of shadow boxes) and I
saw one of my favorite paintings ever, 'Bridge on a Snowy Day' by
Hassam. It has people in the foreground rushing around in the snow and
a blurry image of the bridge in the background. I want to find a print
of it for my house. I went to the Blank Park Zoo, which was
disappointing to say the least. The cool part was the wallaby/emu
enclosure. You can walk right in among them, but they don't get very
close to you. The rest of the animals were either not on display
because it was too cold or were very hard to see. I guess I am spoiled
by having the Minnesota Zoo so close. I went to a mall and saw the
movie 'Old School'. On Saturday morning, I was going to head out at
10am, but I woke up at 3 and couldn't get back to sleep. I ended up
watching a movie about kids at a private school cheating on some test.

Road Trips 2002

Omaha - In April, I had five days off of work and nowhere to go. I
checked some last minute deals but didn't find anything I liked, so I
decided to drive somewhere. From the Twin Cities, there aren't a lot of
places within a day's drive that I haven't been to, but I decided on
Omaha. I got a great deal at the Clubhouse Inn And Suites and hit the
road. I know I was doing 90 miles an hour at some points and I got
there in about four and a half hours. It is supposed to take six. I
went to a movie, 'The Scorpion King', did a lot of shopping, saw the
band Audiovent at a local club and went to the Henry Doorly Zoo. I had
forgotten my camera, so I bought one disposable and only took pictures
at the Zoo. I also won 50 dollars at the casino on the Iowa side of the
Missouri River. On my way into Omaha, I stopped at a visitor's center
to pick up some maps and brochures. One of the things I picked up was a
map of the US. I was looking at the map in my hotel room and decided to
mark the states I had already visited, which was 26 (plus DC) at that
time. I saw that the rest of them were mostly concentrated along the
east and west coasts, and remembered how much fun I had driving down to
Omaha, blasting my music and going at my own pace. I decided to visit
the rest of the states that I hadn't been to yet, except Alaska and
Hawaii. I started to plan a trip around the country for the next April.
I planned to keep a week of my 2002 vacation and use 2 weeks of my 2003
vacation and take 3 weeks to do it. More on that trip in an upcoming

- In June, my youngest cousin on my mother's side graduated from high
school in Vancouver, Washington. My mother and niece had been out to
visit my aunt and uncle twice before, and I was determined to go this
time. My mother, grandfather, grandmother and I decided to drive out
together in their van. I had to fly back separately, since I couldn't
take more than a week off of work. We set out on a Saturday and stopped
at the painted canyon in Theodore Roosevelt Natl Park before making it
to Glendive, Montana. Traveling in a minivan is so much nicer than a
car, especially when you have more than two people! The next day we hit
Ft Peck Dam before stopping in Cut Bank and decided to find a hotel
there instead of going on to Browning. This was June, and there was
still snow on the ground. The next morning we headed for Glacier Natl
Park. There's a road that goes through the middle of the park, but it
wasn't open all the way through and we could only go about 14 miles in
before we had to turn around. I had borrowed a friend's digital camera
and got some great pictures. Once, after coming around a corner, we saw
a perfect rainbow in a valley. After visiting the park, we headed south
towards I-90 and passed a field full of llama. My mother pulled over
and we watched them for awhile. A guy came down from the house across
the road and started telling us about the preserve. It belongs to Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.
He told us about how they rescue livestock that are being abused or
neglected and let them live their lives out in peace. We drove through
Idaho (the skinny part) and got to Spokane that night. The next day we
drove on to Portland. We went southwest until we hit I-84, which winds
along the Columbia River Valley. There are some spectacular views along
that stretch of highway, including the approach to Mount Hood. We spent
several days just hanging out in Portland and Vancouver. My cousin
graduated on Friday, and her brother, their cousin and I stayed up very
late and drank around the fire. The next morning, we all set out for Mt
St Helens. That is a great trip! There are visitor's centers all along
the road leading up to the summit. At the top, there's a movie about
the eruption and at the end, the screen raises up and you are looking
at the top of the mountain. I had no idea how it changed the area
around it, and how involved Weyerhauser was in the recovery. I had to
fly home on Sunday and got a one-way flight on America West through Las
Vegas. It was the first time I had flown since 9-11 and I had never
been to Vegas. I had 2 hours on the ground there, so I decided to hit
the strip. I couldn't ditch my carry-on anywhere in the airport and had
to take it with me. I took a cab to Caesar's Palace. I had 20 dollars
on me and I won at least 40 on a slot machine right away and spent the
rest of the time gambling it away and checking out the Forum Shops. I
headed back to the airport with my original 20 and got some food from
Burger King. My flight was delayed for an hour, and I gambled the rest
of my 20 away. I had a red eye flight back to Minneapolis. It was a
plane with three seats on each side, but there was no one in the middle
seat in my row, so I had a seat and a half to sleep in. I had added six
states on this trip, so I was up to 32.

Saturday, January 17, 2004


So, school started this week. I have a Programming class on Mondays and a Politics class on Wednesdays. The programming class is the second in a series, and I took the first one several years ago. Back then, they were teaching Turbo Pascal, and now it's Java. So, everyone in my class had a beginning Java class except me. I am going to review the first four chapters of the book, which we are skipping. I did fine on the first assignment, so I am not too worried. I don't have it next week because of MLK day.

My politics class is called The Politics of Resistance and Protest. There are four readings every week, to which we have to write 2, 3 or 4 response papers, plus a midterm of 6 pages and a final of 12. So, there's lots of reading and writing in my future. My teacher was saying that we aren't going to look at the historical facts surrounding, for example, the Civil Rights movement, but more the mechanics of how it was organized and their successes and failures. I am excited!

My major is Computer and Information Sciences. I figure it will take me 8 quarters, plus 6 CLEP tests to finish, if I take 2 classes per semester. So, I will finish in the summer of 2006. That's also the summer that I hit 10 years working at AT&T and turn 29. I think at that point I will want to move on to another job and/or city. I might need to go fall quarter as well, and I might stay at AT&T until 2007. Ideally, I would like to take a trip along the northern Mediterranean for my 30th birthday. Start in Portugal, go to Spain, the South of France, Monaco, Italy and Greece. Time permitting, I'd go to Morocco, Turkey and Cyprus, too. I'm not sure how long that would take me, so I might want to be in between jobs at that point. It also means I need to start saving for that trip right now!

A Year of Reading Dangerously

Last week, I decided on a resolution a little late. I am going to read 26 books this year, one for every letter of the alphabet, using the author's name. I am going to allow two weeks per book, which will leave two days left over. Hopefully, I'll get a review posted for each one. I have already finished Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage, which I got for Christmas. I am currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert. Here's my list right now, which may change:

Adams - Hitchhiker's Guide*
Bourdian - A Cook's Tour
Cagan - Quirkyalone
Dick - Man in the High Castle
Elliott - King's Dragon
Fielding - Grand Avenue*
Goldsmith - Simple Isn't Easy
Herbert - Dune*
Ibarra - Working Identity
Jordan - Eye of the World*
Kinsella - Confessions of a Shopaholic*
Letts - Where the Heart Is
McMillan - A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Otteson - The World Awaits or Orwell - 1984*
Pots - Vagabonding
Rawn - Dragon Prince
Savage - Skipping... DONE
Tan - Kitchen God's Wife
Verne - Around the World In 80 Days
Watters - Urban Tribes
Yourcenar - Memoirs of Hadrian
Zelazny - The Great Book of Amber

The stars are books I already own. Between this and my Politics class that started on Wednesday, I am going to be reading 24/7. I was going to do it in alphabetical order, but I was dying to read Gomorrah and had started on Dune. I am going to try once more to get through 1984, which I now have the Cliffs Notes for. If I don't, I have a back up. I knew X U and Q would be hard to find, but I am surprised I haven't found an N yet. I started by checking my Amazon wishlist and hit a used bookstore.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Road Trip 2001

2001 - Ohio - My friend and I went to Cedar Point in Sandusky to ride
the Millenium Force, which was the tallest roller coaster in the
country at the time. We drove there in a day and got to our hotel very
late. We had a hard time finding it in the dark with all the
construction. We were going to be in town for three days, but we didn't
know if we would want to spend the whole time in the park, so we bought
a two day pass to start out. We decided to work up to the Force, so we
rode the Raptor (inverted) and Magnum XL-200 (steel) which is over 200
feet tall. As we were nearing the top of the hill, I told him "I don't
think I can do this" and he said "Too late now!" Then we waited in line
for almost two hours to ride the Millenium Force. That was the best
ride I have ever been on! It is 310 feet tall, reaches 92 miles an hour
and starts you off not with a chain, but by rocketing you out of the
station. We rode several of the other rides and left the park at around
9pm. We couldn't find a place to eat and drove all around town until we
got to Red Lobster. I had a calamari dish and had trouble sleeping that
night because if it. It was the first and only time I couldn't sleep
because I had eaten something weird. I had been feeling sick and
finally realized I had strep throat. We were both sore the next day and
decided to just go for half the day, so we hung out in town, shopped
and ate and bought a late admission ticket. We used our passes up on
the last day. All in all, we rode the Force seven times in three days,
and one of the times we got to ride in the front. You can't wait for
the front seat, but we were second in line and the first people didn't
want to be in front, so we went up there. The cool thing about Cedar
Point is that it's on a peninsula in Lake Erie, so when you go up on a
ride, you get an awesome view of the coastline and lake. During the
drive, my friend was playing Missy Elliot's So Addictive CD. I knew
about her, but I had never listened to much of her before that, but
that's when I got to be a real fan.

Point now has a Roller Coaster that's 420 feet tall, the Top Thrill
Dragster. It reaches 120 miles an hour and starts by shooting you
straight up in the air, then turning you 180 degrees so you are
speeding back towards the earth to begin the ride. I'm going to need to
go back there.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Trips of 2000

2000 - Orlando - In February, I was sent to Orlando for two weeks for
my job. It's not as nice as it sounds, since in the 16 days we were
there, we only got 3 days off. The rest of the time was spent working
11 or 12 hour days. But, we stayed in the brand new Crowne Plaza hotel
in one-bedroom apartment sized suites. I never had a desire to visit
Florida, but now that I've been there, I will go back. I spent all
three of my days off at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I
bought a two day pass that was valid in both parks and spent the whole
first day in Islands of Adventure. That's an awesome park. The Jurassic
Park water ride and the Dueling Dragons coaster were the best rides
there. The next day I started in Universal Studios. I liked the Twister
ride the King Kong one. For some stupid reason, I went on the Jaws
ride. I have an extreme fear of sharks, but I figured it's a fake one
so it won't be a big deal. I sat next to a father and son who probably
think I am crazy. The shark comes at you three times and I had to cover
my eyes and ears each time. During one part, you are in a boat house
and the water is green. Suddenly, the shark starts hitting the building
and it sounds like it's going to collapse. That was one of the most
scary experiences of my life. Sad, huh? I spent the rest of the second
day in Islands again. I rode the Jurassic Park and Dragon rides for a
second time and went through the Dr Suess part, which was cool. The
third day we had off, one of my coworkers and I went to Citywalk, which
is a mall they put between the two parks. We shopped a bit and then
went in to Margaritaville. We drank and ate and drank some more. That
night the whole crowd went to a lobster buffet. I don't eat lobster or
prime rib, but I tried clam strips and decided I liked them. I need to
go back to Islands of Adventure and I would like to visit the Space
Coast and Busch Gardens, and maybe a Miami/Keys/Everglades trip, too.

- My spring trip in 2000 was to Ohio. I got a lot of strange looks, but
I wanted to see Columbus and Cincinnati. My mom came with me this time,
although we booked our flights seperately, but we met up in Columbus.
We went to the Zoo and to a good restaurant called Spagio's. We drove
down to Cincinnati and hit the Zoo there and also the Newport Aquarium
across the river in Kentucky. I had to run through the tube at the end
where you walk under the sharks! In both Zoos, we saw manatees, which
are so funny looking. I wondered how they can stay so fat while only
eating lettuce and plants! The Cincinnatti Museum Center is like three
museums and an omnitheater put together. I saw a movie about the Amazon
here. They had a big exhibit in the local section on World War II. Not
about the overseas stuff, but how things were here while it was going

Yosemite - Labor Day weekend I went to visit my friend Mike
who moved out to Berkeley. We went into San Fran one of the days and
ate at the Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant. We drove over the GG
bridge and through the beautiful hills on the other side. Then over the
weekend, we drove out to Yosemite Valley in the Natl Park. On our way
there, we repelled down into a cave. That was so much fun! I want do it
down the side of a mountain. We saw El Capitan, Half Dome and Glacier
Point (speaking of repelling!). The scenery was breathtaking. Mirror
Lake was too shallow and cloudy to reflect anything, but Lower Yosemite
Falls was quite the sight. While entering the village, we saw a family
of deer on the side of the road. We stopped to take a picture and
anther one came bounding from behind us. We turned to see a coyote
chasing it, but when he saw us, he stopped and ran away. On the last
day, he had to work, so I went to the UC Berkeley campus in the morning
and hung out and had lunch before taking the BART back to the airport.

Trips of the Late Nineties

1998 - San Francisco - It had been 3 and a half years since I had been
on a trip and I had vacation to burn. I decided to visit San Francisco,
all by my lonesome. I stayed in a cheap hotel right on Market street. I
didn't rent a car and spent the entire week in the city. I planned on
going to Berkley or Oakland, but I was busy enough with the things I
found on the peninsula. My mom said she half expected me to call home
to say I wasn't coming back. I rode a trolley to Fishermans Wharf and
went to the Embarcadero, The Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Palace
of Fine Arts, The California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park,
the beach near Seal Rock (my first ocean sighting), The Golden Gate
Bridge, Twin Peaks, Haight-Ashbury, Union Square, Lombard Street, the
Zoo and Yerba Buena Gardens. Like most large cities I have visited, I
so wanted to move there.

- Boston - For my next trip, I decided to visit the other coast and
headed for Boston. I went far too early in the year, as a storm hit on
my way from the airport to my hotel. I was taking the subway, since I
wasn't going to rent a car until the middle of the week. I think this
was the first year I got pneumonia, which is not fun to have when you're
travelling. I went to the Boston Tea Party Ship, Harvard, the Isabella
Stewart Gardner museum and the Museum of Science. I shopped at Quincy
Market and went to the New England Aquarium. I rented a car and drove
down to Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower and a cranberry
bog on the way. I had planned to drive out on Cape Cod, but time was
short and I had to get to my hotel in Providence. That's a nice city
and I took some pictures before heading out in the morning. I couldn't
be that close to Connecticut and not visit, so I hopped across the
border and ate at a Wendy's. Than I headed back towards Boston via
Worchester, where I stopped at an outlet mall. I would like to visit
again, but this time in the summer!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Road Trips of the Early Nineties

As I mentioned earlier, I take a lot of road trips. It all started in high school marching band (This one time...). I was in it for five years, and four of those years I went along on the big trip. From 1991 to 1994, we went to Chicago, Washington DC, Cheyenne and St Louis, and also to every moderately sized town in the State of Minnesota. We took a coach bus on all of the out of state trips. I have vague memories of visting relatives in Lincoln, Nebraska when I was like 3 or 4 and there are pictures of me and my sisters in the Black Hills, but the high school trips were the ones that told me I loved travelling and that driving is the way to do it.

- Chicago was the first time I had been in a large city other than
Minneapolis and St Paul. I was captivated by the skyline, the bustle
and the general feeling of being there. I remember going to an Aquarium
that was right on Lake Michigan and then sitting outside afterwards. It
was cool how the tall buildings gave way to a blue and tan coastline.
The view from the top of the Sears Tower was unforgettable. We also
went to Six Flags Great America and rode the rollercoaster that went

1992 - Washington DC was a different experience. It's
an odd layout because no building can be taller than the Capitol, but
it still feels like a large city. We marched in the Fourth of July
parade, which marked the 500th anniversary of Columbus sailing for
America (not the day, just the year). I was surprised how little our
nation's capital seemed to celebrate Independence Day. We went to the
Natl Air & Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and
I'm pretty sure we toured the Capitol (and laughed at the sign
'Majority Whip'). We saw the Iwo Jima Memorial and went to Arlington
Natl Cemetary to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal
Flame over JFK's grave, as well as RFK's next to him. As we were
driving through Pennsylvania, I saw a turnoff for New York City. I
wished we could take it and go there as well as DC. I remember staying
in a hotel in Maryland that was under construction. I also remember
feeling very wierd in Indiana, probably due to lack of sleep. But
things got wierder when the bus driver turned a seat around so that
four people sat facing each other. I'd had a dream about that a few
weeks before. Then, we stopped at a rest stop and looked across the
freeway to see ... the exact same rest stop! Okay, so all of those
things aren't really that odd, it was just the timing of it all that
freaked me out. I never liked Indiana after that.

1993 -
Cheyenne, WY - We drove through South Dakota and went to Wall Drug,
Wind Cave, The Badlands and Mount Rushmore on the way. I think we even
drove past the Sitting Bull memorial, which just looked like a big rock
back then. We marched a parade in Cheyenne and went to a rodeo. My
friends and I went to the midway of the fair that was across the street
instead of watching the cowboys. I remember the distinct smell of
cowpies, even downtown. Then, we took off one day to visit Rocky
Mountain Natl Park near Estes Park, Colorado. It was the first time I
had been on a mountain, and Estes Park was a beautiful city.

- St Louis - I don't remember very much about the city from this visit,
just visiting the Arch and going to Grant's Farm, which is a great
animal park. We also went to some mall that used to be a train station
and to a dinner cruise on the Mississippi.

Later that summer, my
mother and sister and I took another road trip, back to St Louis, on to
Memphis and then down to hit Texas before we headed back north. We
tried to go to Grant's Farm again, but you have to make reservations.
We did go to the zoo and to the Botanical Gardens and up in the Arch
again. My mom was surprised to find out it was built in the late
sixties. We didn't make hotel reservations for the first night and had
quite an adventure trying to find a place to crash. We hit some bad
neighborhoods and finally ended up at 'The Airway'. My family still
uses that term for any fleabag motel. We heard some gunshots right
before we ran into our room. We piled furniture in front of the door. A
few days later, we were in a Subway and saw an undercover cop take a
large gun off of a kid in the parking lot. My sister said the kid had
been inside the restaurant when we first got there.

We drove
down to Memphis, going through Arkansas where it rained the entire
time. We visited Graceland, because my sister has always been a huge
Elvis fan. It's a great tour, except you that exit into a gift shop
every time you leave an exhibit. Once, while we were driving on the
freeway, there was a big metal door in the road! When someone would hit
it, it would fly up so cars were swerving around it. We couldn't swerve
and ended up hitting it, but the car survived. We saw the hotel where
Martin Luther King was when he got shot and Beale Street. We also went
to Mud Island, which has scale model of the bottom half of the
Mississippi river. We started towards Texas, again through Arkansas,
and again it rained the entire time.

I had always wanted to go
college in Texas, so when I saw how close we were going to be, I said
we had to go. We went to Texarkana, which is on the border between
Texas and Arkansas. The main street divides the states and the City
Hall building straddles the line. We drove back to Minnesota through
Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. We thought Tulsa was pretty, but
ended up getting lost in Omaha because of a freeway detour.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Happy New Year, Ralph

I ushered in the New Year with a Windsor Canadian inspired hangover. All I ate yesterday was Sprite and crackers. Then finally, at like 10pm I went to Wendy's and got a chicken sandwich.