Thursday, November 20, 2008

In case of zombie attack, break glass

The other night, I came home to my roommate watching Shaun of the Dead. Being a better movie than most I tend to walk in on him watching, I settled into my usual indentation on the couch. Eventually, being the people we are, we got into an indepth discussion about what we could do in the case of a zombie invasion. Our emergency zombie plan, if you will.

This is serious, people. How often are you watching a zombie movie, thinking to yourself (or perhaps yelling outloud depending on your current level of obnoxiousness) "What are you doing? Don't go there! It's not safe! And while your at it, chop off their damn heads. Everyone knows that's how you stop a zombie. Come on! Don't you watch zombie moves?!"

I've said it. You've said it. Ever since the original Night of the Living Dead ("They're coming for you, Baaarrrbbbrrraaaaa"), we have no excuse to be zombie ignorant and not to be prepared for an invasion. Even grade school kids know the quickest way to incapacitate the undead.

Go for the head. Damage the brain or spinal cord. None of this mucking around hitting them with bats or shooting them in the chest and screaming "Why won't they go down?! Oh god they just won't die!!" Duh. They're undead. A little critical thinking can go a long way people.

Anyway, back to the original topic I was to discuss, before my tangential rant (speaking of which, math related post to come soon...I know you've all been waiting eagerly on the edge of your seats for one). In our discussion, we came up with some criteria for an appropriate zombie safe house.
  1. Control of all entrances and exits. This is hugely important. If you can't lockdown your hiding place, I guarantee some clever zombie will find his or her way in. In every zombie movie, if someone ever utters "this place should be safe, it only has the one glaringly large hole in security; but really, what are the odds they'll find that one way in", within ten minutes the zombies' hunger for brains has driven them to solve this particular puzzle.

    Following this requirement, there are a couple of things to consider when choosing a location with a known, limited number of exits. Make sure it is small enough so that you can really guarantee safety; don't be space greedy if it is going to put you in danger. However, don't lock yourself in the first garden shed or cellar you come across. You want some living space, who knows how long you'll need to tough it out until some organized effort is put forth to deal with this living dead issue. Think ahead.

  2. You and your rag tag team of survivors are going to need to eat. Don't plan on delivery or being able to pop down to the local pizza joint as options. Therefore, you're safe house of choice should come stocked with food. Preferably canned or other non-perishables (electricity will most likely be spotty, at best). This leads one to think of grocery stores as an ideal location. However, considering the previous point, this may be unwise due to the number of possible entrance points and sheer size of these buildings. Also, most grocery stores won't be able to fulfill the remainder of our criteria for safety. Not to say we ruled them out, though.

  3. So what happens if you need to leave your safe location for a brief period? Or perhaps you become overrun and a zombie or two happens to slip through your security perimeter (hey, it happens to the best of us)? Whatever the situation, it is inevitable that at one point or another you will be forced to have a face to face with a member of the recently risen. And just like the the popular rhyme us unpopular kids would sing to make ourselves feel better, words really won't hurt them. You are going to need something to deliver a large helping of violence, with a side of steaming ass-kicking.

    Now, depending on the variation of zombie you are dealing with, different levels of automation and efficiency will be required of your weapon of choice. For dealing with those annoyingly fast zombies a la 28 Days Later or the remake of Dawn of the Dead, a gun is most definitely preferable. You can't really afford to get up close and intimate with these guys. But if your flavor of zombie seems to be more Night of the Living Dead-ish (i.e. sluggish, imbecile, less dead human and more living inanimate object), a more personal or improvised weapon is acceptable; as long as it is capable of damage or removing the head. Shovels, axes, sharp bit of wood, street sign, mangled piece of metal. The key here is to be creative, since you have the flexibility.

    Keeping all of this in mind, your choice of hideout will need to be amended to ensure you have access to the appropriate level of weaponry. This requirement sort of rules out traditional grocery stores; however, hybrids such as Fred Meyers, Super Walmart, Super Target, and the like are still possible options.

  4. One key factor to consider is travel time. The less time you spend getting to your designated safe house, the less chance it will have become overrun or that you will get bitten (and therefore doomed to cause the downfall of your party) en route. You can't be roadtrippin' it; who knows, the roads may even be blocked with debris such as traffic cones, trees, other cars, or bits of ex-people. Having a large truck, in this case, would be beneficial. However, it still may be a better idea to locate a safe location within a mile or two of your most probable situation with the invasion begins.

    Again, the most important point here is to plan ahead. With all the stress of having to dismember your neighbors while keeping their brain-thirsty jaws away from your person, the last thing you want to be worrying about is where you will be sleeping tonight. Also, having a goal is requisite for survival. Those who end up having a lie about, moping at the injustice of it all or other such nonsense will more than likely get eaten in the next act. While being goal-driven doesn't guarantee survival, it certainly helps keep your mind off of the depressing fact that the girl you've been crushing on for the last few weeks is probably a zombie now and dammit you really should have asked her out before this whole mess happened because seriously the worst she could have said was no and since she's undead now anyway you wouldn't have lost anything plus as a bonus if she had said yes she'd probably be with you now in your rag tag group creating the necessary romantic tension to drive the story forward.
After discussing these issues, we began brainstorming on possible prime locations. Our first thought was Home Depot. It is fairly close (probably about a mile away), and would have plenty of the construction materials needed to properly barracade any exits. Plus we could build a neat fort. Unfortunately, Home Depot severely lacks any sort of food more substantial than candy bars and bottles of soda. Also, in case of the scary fast Olympic sprinting zombies, we'd be gun-less.

My next inclination would be Fred Meyers. It is even closer than Home Depot, has much of the construction materials we could need (sans raw wood, but we could improvise), and would have more than enough canned food to last us quite a while. The large supply of food even means we could support not just our rag tag team, but any other survivors who perhaps had the same idea as us. We run into the same lack of gun problem, though, and also Freddie's is quite large; securing the location could prove problematic. Although the thought did just occur to me that we could definitely take advantage of the built in security cameras (provided we had electricity). Despite not being ideal, I don't think I'd rule it out yet.

After a while, Allen became sold on the idea of using Bimart as our fallback. All the canned food benefits of Fred Meyers, with a subset of the Home Depot construction tools, and the bonus of guns in stock. I mostly agree that this seems to be a better choice; the store is much smaller and therefore easier to secure, as well as being less popular so the chances of having to clear zombies out when we get there is lower (seriously, who actually shops at Bimart other than my mother?).

Our own apartment was ruled out fairly early due to the fact that I put very little faith in the construction of this building to withstand a wave of undead. Yes, Allen may own a sword, but in the confines of our living room I think we'd be more likely to chop off one of our own limbs while practicing our ninja moves than actually putting it to proper use.

In the end, Bimart seemed to remain our best option. It offers the most in terms of supplies, tools, and protection. So when the revolution invasion comes, head on over to our place and we'll set off on a daring escape through the streets, hacking off bits of living dead, making incredibly witty banter of course, only to reach the final showdown with the king zombie in the parking lot of the Bimart where he will force us to make either a terrible choice or heroic sacrifice in order to not only save ourselves and all of humanity, but win the girl (or guy, depending on your persuassion).

Yes, we did talk about this for over an hour. Hush.

Sidenote: So, what happens when a friend is infected? Do you immediately kill them to avoid the possibility of their eventual turn endangering your entire group? Or do you wait until the moment they turn since, after all, they're still human up to that point.

My argument was to leave them alive. First of all, do you really have the heart to kill them? Really? They're still human, you know. Could you be such a cold hearted bastard? Ok, even if you could, hear me out.

While still alive, this person can offer necessary utility to the group. Now that their life is basically forfeit, they could provide a much needed diversion or be the one to make the heroic sacrifice that tugs at the audiences' heart strings. Of course, this all depends on the turn time; the average time seems to be several hours. Considering most people don't even seem to last that long uninfected, why needlessly kill off a useful member of your party prematurely? Also, if you let them live you can get a better understanding of how the plague spreads, how long it takes to turn based on the severity of their injury, and other very important data you may need to not only survive, but ultimately defeat the king zombie.

Plus, how badass would it be to have a zombie friend? Think about it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things I've learned as a bicycle commuter

  1. Most drivers are courteous enough, but there are still those that forget I weigh about two orders of magnitude less than them.
  2. It's all fun and games until it rains.
  3. Beaverton smells. Really bad. Sometimes it's fallow pools of water (what the locals may call "a wetland", but most sensible people call a mosquito breeding puddle), sometimes it's the piles of garbage on the side of the road, and sometimes it's just good old fashion car exhaust. At least the variety keeps things interesting.
  4. You can still sweat in sub 40 degree weather. Which of course just makes you colder. Which also brings me to...
  5. ...butt sweat. Yup, it happens.
  6. There is a reason you see bikers rolling up their pants. And no, it's not just to look ridiculously hip. That just happens to be a pleasant side effect.
  7. No roads are actually flat. However, the hills you always imagined as being torturous are usually not quite so torturous.
  8. Planning is key: although the 10 mile ride may be fun, keep in mind you usually have to make the return trip.
  9. Not oft used bike lanes = all kinds of fun sharp things to run over.
  10. Yes, you can be pulled over.
  11. Despite as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, 4 working gears out of 10 really isn't adequate.
  12. My tires are exactly wide enough to fit nicely inside of the street car tracks. Unfortunately, this makes steering, and staying upright, difficult at best. Also, the best time to discover this is in front of a large group of people.
  13. The best bike lane traffic signal sensor is in front of the Beaverton library. Seriously, the moment my front tire crosses over, the opposing light immediately turns yellow. Too bad such technology is wasted on one of the least busy intersections around.
  14. Wet brakes + hills in Portland + trying to stop = not going to happen. (Astute scholars may note that the derivative of this is "nearly crapping my pants").
  15. It's farther than you think.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chronicles of Public Transit: Chapter 1

I take MAX into and out of Portland about four times a week. On my way home, I usually board during rush hour (anytime between 4 and 7 really). The newer trains have four hooks to hang bikes on, so I try my best to maneuver myself towards those. Unfortunately, this means I usually have to 1) shove my way through the crowds, knocking over old ladies and small children with my two wheeled monstrosity; and 2) stand next to my bike, staring aimlessly and uncomfortably at my fellow commuters.

Spending this much time on public transit, given the distribution of nutty people, the probability of "interesting times" is high.

To begin, three stories.

The pick up.

About two weeks ago, I boarded MAX downtown near the Pioneer Place mall. I'm pretty sure it was a Thursday, which meant it must have been around 4:30 by the time I grabbed the train, coming from a grueling session of Differential Equations (math with numbers, not my favorite; petition to keep numbers out of math!). To keep myself occupied I usually bring along my iPod, which serves the two additional purposes of keeping my glasses from falling off while biking it up and lets me ignore most of the crazies mulling around.

On this particular day, I had left my precious headphones at home. Mistake number one.

A few minutes into the ride, the man standing next to me asked me a question; I answered it. Mistake number two.

What started out as an innocent enough conversation began to get a little unsettling. I'll try to recreate as much as I can remember. Enjoy.

Him: "So do you work downtown?"
Me: "Uh nope, go to school."

[3 minutes of silence]

Him: "What do you go to school for?"
Me: "Math"

[2 minutes of silence followed by another couple unrelated questions and increasingly personal questions]

Him: "Do you go to a gym and work out?"
Me: "Nope, just ride the bike."
Him: "Oh, well you have nice mass" as he motions to my chest/back region.
Me: "Uh....thanks?"

[4 minutes of very awkward silence]

Him: "So what are you doing tonight?"
Me: "Just going home."
Him: "Where is home? Who do you live with."
Me: "A friend"

[Why oh why did I forget my headphones today, I think to myself]

Him: "What are you doing for dinner tonight?"
Me: ".....Not sure yet. Eat at home probably."
Him: "Do you like to dance?"
Me : "....."

Me: "No."
Him: "So you have a girlfriend?"
Me: "Uh, yup." Pretty much a lie, but it seemed like the right answer.

The last few minutes before my stop were spent in more awkward silence, with myself attempting to do anything except make eye contact with this very persistent man. The train finally pulled into my station, I grabbed my bike, and realized he was also getting off at the same stop. As I jumped on my bike and began peddling like mad, I looked back and noticed him crossing the platform to board the eastbound train back into Portland.

I have a new found sympathy for the ladies who are constantly accosted at bars.

The botched bike theft.

This happened a few nights ago. I had just taken a Group Theory midterm, after which myself and two friends from the class met up at the Market St. McMenamins to drink and commiserate. Much beer and tots were consumed, with a healthy dose of bitching and griping.

Afterwards, two of us walked down to the 10 st. MAX stop, mostly engrossed in slightly too loud conversation. While standing around waiting, a man and a woman walked up from behind us, stopping a few feet to our left. It wasn't entirely clear if they came together, or just happened to arrive at the same time. I'm not sure which would be more disturbing, considering what the man said next.

"Hey, you two, stop being such big losers and talk to this woman. Don't you want to talk to this woman instead of standing around like losers and watching this bike here? Go over there and talk to her and leave this bike here. Stop being such freaking losers, seriously. Just leave this bike here."

Really? That's the best you can come up with? I honestly expect better from crack-head would-be-thieves that hang around MAX platforms.

The typing teacher.

I saw Mr. Bristow, our high school keyboarding/journalism/yearbook/probably something else teacher, get on today at Pioneer Courthouse square. He looks exactly the same. I don't think he recognized me.

True story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama wins, country heaves collective sigh of relief.

The outcome was expected, but I didn't want to get my hopes up until the moment we knew for certain. Congratulations to America, lets move this thing forward now.

Also, I have to mention that after watching John McCain's concession speech my respect for the man has been resurrected. He seemed to return back to the McCain of 2000 and 2004 who actually stood apart from his party affiliation and spoke with integrity. I'm sure many of his flipped positions in this election were due to a need to please the Republican base, despite McCain's history of moderation. It is a shame he had to run the way he did, but I suppose politics will be politics.

I nearly convinced myself today that maybe McCain was running a subpar election on purpose; in some kind of underhanded way to backstab the Republican party. Like he was a secret Obama supporter, and really wanted him to win, but had to make sure it wasn't too obvious. Sounds like a good movie idea...

A few of us got together tonight to watch the results, either to celebrate or commiserate the results depending on the outcome. Like many others, I'm sure, we decided to make a drinking game of all the coverage. The rules went like this.

  1. Every time the electoral college map was shown, take a drink.
  2. Every time an American flag was shown, take a drink.
  3. Every time someone in a suit made a prediction or analysis, take a drink.
  4. Take a drink to celebrate whenever a state was called for Obama.
  5. Take a drink to wash away the pain every time a state was called for McCain.
  6. Whenever blah blah blah, take a drink
  7. Blah blah drink blah blah blah blah.

I think we all won this game.

Now for two months of everyone insisting this will be the most important election of all time and the insurmountable wall of obstacles Obama will face upon inauguration. Oh well, a step forward is a step forward. The news channels need something to talk about I guess.

Yes we can? I think we just did. Go us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Epilogue Part I: If we could only see us now...

Note: I've been writing this post for a few days. Not that that indicates any increased level of editing or proofreading, but just that it has been somewhat difficult to write. I find that writing light-hearted or humorous posts much easier than serious and personal ones (surprise). I almost didn't post it, but figured it would be a waste of keyboard wear and tear if I didn't. Enjoy.

Thirteen thousand and ninety-nine miles.

Fifty days.

Thirty-three states (and two Canadian provinces).

Countless bottles of water and Naked juice.

It's been nearly three weeks now since the end of my journey around the country, and if it weren't for this blog and a few hundred photographs (not to mention an increase in my Visa debt), it would seem like it never happened. Almost.


The idea to take this trip came from a conversation I had with friends of my parents when we visited Scotland for Christmas of 2005. The couple, being retired and with all of their children out of the house, took to excursions around Europe, collecting fine wines and cheeses from across the continent. The places they had seen sounded amazing; the history and culture, the food, the spectacular vistas. My desire to travel and explore, which up till then had really only fueled my tendency to take long ways home or explore back roads around where I lived, intensified. The great European vacation from so many books and movies would be mine, I decided.

But really, I thought, why Europe? What had it to offer in terms of unexplored territory that my own continent didn't? I have lived my entire life on the West coast, venturing north and south of Oregon, but rarely further east other than layovers in Newark or Chicago. There was so much to see without even crossing an ocean, why not take advantage of what is in my backyard first. Because honestly, I knew next to nothing about what the United States really felt and looked like outside of TV or movies.

And so, I began planning. I graduated that June and took a mini trip with Scott for a week; a blazingly fast, week long tour of a couple states close by. From that trip, I learned one of the most important rules for an enjoyable roadtrip: don't rush it. If you are always in a hurry, always trying to get to your next location, you'll miss a lot of the country at 80 mph.

The idea for my own trip took a backseat in my mind for more than a year afterward. In the fall of 2007 I was working at an internship at Intel and began to feel antsy again. Maybe it was the sterile corporate environment, or perhaps the frustration of driving the same 10 miles of highway day in and day out; the stagnation, the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty about my future or what I really wanted, feeling stuck in a rut. I desired to break out, explore, drive miles of empty road. I desired to get away. So I sat at my computer one afternoon and haphazardly plotted a course across the country, choosing destinations that I always wanted to see, or had heard about, or just sounded interesting. The exact route was unimportant, the idea was to improvise if necessary.

I started tossing the idea around with some friends and family, getting reactions and advice. Winter was approaching, and considering I was scheduled to work until mid-January as well as not wanting to get stuck in the snow crossing the Rockies, I decided I would leave in the Spring.

For the next few months, I refined my plan, talked some more about it, and above all just waited. It began to feel like one of those amazing ideas you have that simply would never materialize, whether due to lack of opportunity, lack of resources, or a lack of will to really follow through. March rolled around, and then April. I left for another trip to Scotland for yet another wedding two years after the first, my dream still unfulfilled. By the time I returned home, I had less than two months remaining on my lease. Another excuse to for me to wait. June, I thought, I can leave right at the beginning of June after I move.

Near the end of May, tightening funds and a new romantic interest forced me to reconsider a June departure. I've waited this long, I thought, whats another month of two. Plenty of time to save up enough to comfortably cover the trip.

Summer came, and summer slipped away like so many other things. I found myself in the last week of July with no more reasons to stay, no excuse to put off leaving any longer. I had made the decision to return to school in the fall, so my window of opportunity was ever shortening. Without really realizing what I was getting myself into, on August 2nd I packed my car and turned east.


I don't think I was ever really sure what I would accomplish on my trip. I can throw around cliches about finding myself and discovering America, about the great American Road Trip or a quarter-life crisis. They're all true in their own ways, but were more so as unintended results rather than reasons to go. When I try to be honest with myself, I think it was mostly a desire to escape for a while. With no creative outlet or focus in life it is easy to become bogged down; with nothing to work towards or particular reason not to it is easy to stop moving. I felt bogged down, slowed down, from the past two years.

My solution was to drive away. I've always felt at home in a way out on an empty road, even driving alone. I find it relaxing, almost comforting. Call it a consequence of introversion.

I was in a place I didn't much like and needed change. What better change than a new city every night? What better escape than to put thousands of miles between me and where I'd been? It may sound horrible, but we all escape in our own ways every day. Getting lost in music, a TV show, a book, movies, video games, hikes, alcohol, drugs. Some are obviously more productive or destructive than others, but each one offers us time to forget for a while, to be somewhere or someone else. I would get my escape, and as a bonus I would see the country I had lived in for 24 years and perhaps discover some things about myself along the way.


I've seen mountains so beautiful no words I write could describe them. I've been in uncomfortable situations, maybe even dangerous situations, lost and alone. I've stayed in hostels, hotels, motels, and guest houses; slept in my tent and my car, on couches, air mattresses, floors, and friends beds. I arrived in Sturgis during Bike Week and New Orleans during Southern Decadence. I've watched sunsets that took my breath away and others that I barely noticed. I've seen a full moon rise over the Atlantic, red as blood. I've fled swarms of insects in Montana and Mississippi and I've been bitten more times than I can count. I've seen the Milky Way on a night so clear I could swear there was naught above me but open space. I saw friends I hadn't seen in years, and met some for the first time. I've tried to remember, and tried to forget.

It seems that I, as well as most I talked to, had the idea that I would have passed through a fundamental, material change upon returning. I've been back for more nearly weeks now, time enough to try and digest my experiences and perform some serious introspection. And to what conclusion did I come to, you may be asking? ("Of course I ask that," you say, "why else would I be reading your epilogue?"). Am I better off having spent the better part of two months crossing the country? Am I different now than before?

Well, yes and no.

My trip served the purposes an extended absence can, answered the questions I had that it was able to. A part of my motivation was to search for any other place in the country that could feel like home. I traveled through a wide variety of environments; sweeping open lands, mountainous regions, the farmlands of middle America, big cities, small towns, tourist traps, holes in the wall, deserts, urban jungles. Could I picture myself living in these places? Mostly, yes. I was hard pressed to not find at least something appealing about everywhere I went. But was it home? Did I feel that indescribable feeling of comfort and belonging? Why not? What was it about Portland that kept drawing me back?

The saying is tired and cheesy, but there is truth to it; home really is where the heart is. After you stop groaning, stick with me for a minute while I explain what I mean. Sure, Portland is great, there are lots of things to love about it. But Boston was great too; Austin had an amazing atmosphere; Nashville was more fun than I expected from the capital of country music; Portland Maine, Cleveland, Bozeman, Whitefish, Santa Fe. I could go on, listing (nearly) every city, town, or village I stopped in and come up with a reason to stay. But home is more than a place, more than your address or where you sleep each night. Home is a state of being, home is your friends and your family. Without that, you're never truly home. That is what I finally figured out on this trip.

"Is that it? That was all you got out of seven weeks of driving?"

Of course not. I also learned that this country is giant. Hell, driving across Texas alone took me about four days. On a less facetious note, the time away alone gave me more than ample opportunity to think, to reflect, to let my mind wander. I mentioned this in a previous post, but it deserves repeating: when you're mind wanders, it rarely wanders the direction you want it to. The world is full of triggers to memories; a car, a song, a town, a name. Even single words can stir up thoughts you'd rather not have again. And eventually, all of my thinking of thoughts converged to conclusions. Perhaps not resolutions, but conclusions that are more satisfying than questions.

This may sound like the vague babbling of a madman (and that it may be), with talk of thoughts and triggers and wanderings. The important part is not what particular conclusions I came to about particular thoughts, rather that too often I don't take the time to truly reflect. I push down thoughts or feelings to "deal with" at a later date that rarely comes. I doubt I'm the only one that does this. Sometimes it is necessary to get away from the distractions and activities we do, force yourself to be truly alone with nothing to do but think, no one to talk to but yourself.

You can call it finding myself if you like. I'm not sure I'd go that far.

Which, of course, brings me to the latter part of my answer about whether I have changed or felt different. Early I talked of feeling a need to escape for a while, and how this trip was partly a result of that. The problem with a circular route is that eventually you come back to where you started. And everything I had left behind to escape from was waiting for me, slightly annoyed for being ditched.

This is where I make some grand revelation about not being able to run away from problems and all that good jazz. We all know it, we've heard it untold times before. I'm going to skip it. I have nothing new to bring to that table, there is no easy solution there. I may have returned with new perspectives, new experiences, renewed feelings and hope, but that doesn't change what I left behind (both mentally and physically). It does, however, help me now with doing what needs to be done.

As well as all the mental turmoil I seem to have gone through (and I must apologize to you, poor reader, for you must feel at this point that my trip is turning into a bad emo song), I also learned some fun facts along the way. Behold, the List of Facts!
  1. Internet is everywhere. EVERYWHERE. When even the podunk motels in the podunkiest towns are offering free wifi in every room, thats when you realize the future is now (queue the booming voice over "In the twenty-first century, the future has arrived!").
  2. Planning a trip spontaneously is fun and all, but for some activities you really just need to be prepared. For example, you can purchase a National Parksannual pass for only $80. Yes, this would have saved me money.
  3. Tourist traps are called so for a reason. Beware the boring, overcrowded, overpriced monuments and museums (I'm looking at you Mt. Rushmore, and runner up Rock n Roll Hall of Fame).
  4. Sturgis: Leather chaps + bikinis. Enough said.
  5. Motel prices rise on Friday and Saturday nights by an incredible margin. Avoid if possible.
  6. Sometimes toll roads are just a fact of life. Carry spare change and a couple of bucks just in case.
  7. If you're tired enough, you can sleep just about anywhere.
  8. Good microbrew beers can be found just about everywhere, although sometimes they are referred to as craft beers.
  9. French Canada is seriously French. Seriously.
  10. Portland, Or > Portland, ME
  11. Driving in major metropolitan areas leads to high blood pressure.
  12. Motel 6 provides exactly what you need, is usually the cheapest, and actually less sketchy than you may think.
  13. Museums in DC are completely free. They got something right there.
  14. Pumping your own gas > Having someone else pump your gas
  15. Wikitravel is your friend on the road.
  16. Music is always better live.
  17. Insects are always better dead.
  18. My blood tastes better than Graham's to mosquitoes.
  19. Waffle House is never a good idea. Never.
  20. Blogging is easier to do regularly than journaling because you have the illusion of writing for a captive audience.


Was it worth it? The time, the money, the misadventures? Had I a time machine and could deliver myself a message three months ago, would I still advise myself to go?


Would I do things differently, knowing what I do now? Perhaps, but for all the mistakes I made and missteps I took, the least I can say is that I learned from them. They also make for good stories.

The title of this post, "If we could only see us now" is one of my favorite quotes, and comes from a Thrice song (those who know my musical tastes will probably say "what a surprise" with very sarcastic intonation). It has stuck with me over the years because it always feels relevant in my life. I've interpreted it as a comment on how we never really know where we will go in life, and often wouldn't believe where we end up until it happens. If we could only see us now, would we still act how we do? If we could only see us now, what would we have changed?

If we could only see us now.


The sunset on the first day of my trip. It was beautiful.

First experiencing the feeling of not knowing where I'll be sleeping that night.

Walking through a field in Montana with the Linns at dusk, the grasshoppers springing up around our ankles.

Feeling disheartened and overwhelmed after Glacier, being less than a week in.

Driving through the night, under a cloudless a moonless sky.

Feeling truly lost for the first time.

Company after a week of solitude.

Remembering, and it being a good thing.

The bartender at the Harbor Inn in Cleveland.


Discussing the origins of altruistic behaviors, among other topics.

Watching the moon rise on an Atlantic beach.

Getting no sleep whatsoever at a hostel in Boston.

Being alone again, on the opposite side of the country.

Seeing a police officer smoking a cigar, on the job, in New Orleans.

A Texas shaped sink in a Texan McDonald's.

Sunset over Whitesands.

Realizing that Death Valley may actually defeat me.

Driving on familiar roads for the first time in six weeks.

Arriving home.


I'm working on the final two installments of the epilogue. The next will be a collection of photographs, most of which haven't been seen yet. It'll be done "when I finish working on it" (hopefully less than another three weeks).

After the epilogue, I plan on continuing this blog. Life is interesting, and interesting (and odd) things seem to happen everyday. Or maybe I just attract interesting (read: odd) people. Either way, I can't help but feel there are stories there.