When in the comforting embrace of home there come irresistible temptations to sleep in late, to watch movies, and to procrastinate writing blog entries. It’s been a week since our return, and I apologize to any readers who are still waiting for my last post.

Here are some final stats from our trip:
We drove through 30 states.
We drove approximately 9,000 miles, so it appears we gave the blog the wrong name.
Our longest drive was 29 hours long, our shortest was 5 hours.
We made it from Arizona to Massachusetts in 3 days.
We went through 2 oil changes and 20+ tanks of gas.
5 seasons of television shows and dozens of movies were watched by Zagy and I in the back of the van.
There were over 1,200 hits on the blog
There were over 6 gigs of pictures taken

And some final pictures from our trip:

View from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You can see the North Rim of the canyon in the right corner on the horizon line, 18 miles away.

2 hours, 5 miles and 3,500 feet down into the canyon.

Exploring a boulder field in Alabama.

Our last day of climbing on the trip, at 6 in the morning and two hours before we left for Baltimore.

So that’s all folks! Thanks for reading.

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Last days in LA

Los Angeles has been a blast, especially thanks to the hospitality we have received from Zagy’s family and from the Bass/Glovers. We spent our Friday afternoon bodysurfing at Venice beach, and with Zagy and I busting our muscles at Muscle beach. During the evening we had a wonderful dinner with the Bass/Glovers near the beach.

On Saturday Zagy had a raucous time with two of his friends, Eli and Daniel. Baz and Nani were once again disappointed in trying to replace her lost sole, finding an overly expensive thrift store instead of a thrifty one. They did, however, pick up a pair of misfit cowboy boots at a yard sale. I got scorched at Joshua Tree, saw my first road runner, and jumped Jesse Spencer’s car, the actor who plays Dr. Chase on House (thanks to Amanda for coming with me and recognizing him). At night Zagy and I met up with Baz and Nani, who were with our friend Cory at his apartment. While on the way I pulled into the parking area of an apartment complex, thinking it was a parking garage, and its automatic gate shut behind me. Thankfully we found the people who had opened the gate at the moment I was passing the building, otherwise Zagy and I would have been talking to our friends all night through the bars of the world’s largest jail cell.

So after that close call and some others, we’re off to Arizona!

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Baz, Nani, and I slogged through LA traffic to visit the Getty museum yesterday. Incredible architectural design! The museum’s great white walls made it seem like a castle atop the cityscape. They are made of rough blocks of fossilized travertine, each of which produces a different tone when struck; a massive xylophone. Some pics:

Lion on the Lookout. Gerome. About 1885. Oil on canvas affixed to panel.
Their main exhibit at the moment is the life work of Gerome, a french painter and sculptor. He had quite a fondness for lions, and even acquired an aged circus lion as a pet.

Horn. Facon de Venise, possibly Spanish, 1600s or 1700s
Free-Blown amber glass with lattimo canes (thin sticks of milky white glass) and applied decoration

Self Portrait, about 1857-1858, Edgar Degas. He painted this at twenty three, not intending it for public view.

French decorative furniture, 1700s I think. Possibly belonged to a tax collector.

Portrait of Pope Clement VIII (Ippolito Aldobrandini), 1600-1601, Designed by Jacopo Ligozzi, Produced by Tadda (Romolo di Francesco Ferrucci)
Marble, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, limestone, and calcite on silicate black stone; gilt-bronze frame

Turkey, Meissen manufactory, about 1733, model by Johann Joachim Kandler
Hand-paste porcelain

Delusions of Grandeur, 1967, Rene Magritte

View of the rebar trees and one of the pavilions from the central garden. 16,000 tons of these fossilized travertine blocks form the museum’s five pavilions and countless walls over a 110 acre hillside.

The cactus garden and Los Angeles.

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Yell stone and get Yellowstone

Parents, you can relax, we’re out of bear country. It’s been quite a change of pace here in Los Angeles: Zagy and I have been playing games in the pool, when ninety-six hours earlier we were minding our mileage through endless stretches of Wyoming highway. And after a sixteen hour drive yesterday, of which the latter five were in one-hundred and ten degree desert, we pulled up at night to a stucco mansion under smog and stars and palm trees, an arrival quite unlike our premiere at Yellowstone, in which we stopped at dusk to watch a buffalo kick up dust and demolish a young pine.

This is something that everybody knows, but from a first-time visitor: Yellowstone is amazing. During our three night stay, we went around in circles visiting Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Black Sand Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, and most notably, Fire Hole Canyon. Once again, I suffered from giddiness, and put myself within the dangers of volcanic hot springs and disgruntled megafauna. I could’ve crashed the car too, because simply driving from place to place was awe inspiring and breathtakingly distracting. If we had stopped at every pull-off to take in the view, we’d be there for another month. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves this time as well, at the bottom of the post.

As you may have inferred we decided to skip Red Rocks. The fact that I was the only one interested in going there did not justify a thirty dollar automobile entrance fee, or another night of cold food and bad bedding, i.e., none. So, after the aforementioned hell-drive to LA, we stuffed ourselves generously and slept like we were back at home. Zagy started his day with some laps in the pool, kept at it sporadically until he was thoroughly exhausted, and then, for lack of better things to do, sunk into his bed. Baz and Nani went looking for a salvation army to replace a lost sole, but wound up at a church instead. I swam with Zagy and read about National Parks; Yellowstone is the eighth largest in the States, behind all those ones in Alaska. It’s also, as I learned from Zagy, one big supervolcano, in fact the biggest on the planet, and active. Most of the park is located within the crater.

I feel like Vegas deserves a mention too, as our drive through it served to shock us out of our backcountry haze and into a pedestrian mindset. We had been blasting the heat through Utah and Arizona to keep the engine from overheating, and found some relief at a convenience store near the strip. I walked by a row of slots on my way to the bathroom, and passed a gambler sitting like I do when I play computer games. Zagy bought a pint of chocolate ice cream, and also managed to find four more fluid ounces of water than I did for the same price. Nani bought an Arizona Iced Tea, despite the suffering we had endured from the hot state, and Baz slowly walked around the parking lot, drawling, his face flushed and with a bored expression, in the worst condition I’ve seen him this whole trip. After this slight reprieve from our Toyota oven, we got back in and drove past all the casinos, unsold houses, and billboards for adult entertainment that Vegas had to offer.

For tomorrow, Zagy and I found an ultimate frisbee game in Santa Monica. On Friday its off to Venice Beach. Saturday we’re going to Joshua Tree National Park, and maybe also seeing Warlock (Cory). At some time on Sunday we’ll leave for the Grand Canyon.

We stopped at a trucker bar in the middle of Wyoming. It was classic mid-west style, sleazy, run-down, and empty, except that the owner was playing World of Warcraft. Baz and Nani bring some New England flair to the nation’s least populated state.

Fire Hole Canyon. Here you can ride the rapids down through the canyon.

Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin. It’s the largest hot spring in the U.S. and third largest in the world. Picture a pristine lake of boiling water.

I left my hat in Grand Prismatic. It was really windy! There were four other hats to keep mine company, and more at other sites. Yellowstone volunteers remove up to fifty hats a week during the summer using long grabber tools.

Black Sand Basin

A giant rainbow during our drive across the park. Further down the road we could see it end to end.

Mammoth Hot Springs…

…but we saw no mammoth.

Baz: After observing Old Faithful, Nani and I walked over to Zagy and saw a boy standing next to him. This boy started engaging us by mentioning rocks in his shoes, to no response. He then introduced himself as Zack, told us that he was going into high school, and displayed his firm left handshake. When introductions were through he asked Nani for a friendly hug, then asked if she had a cell phone so he could tell her when his birthday was. Nani explained that she had a boyfriend and that he was standing next to her. He said that was okay and we could both go to the party. She told him that we lived in Massachusetts. He responded that he could go to her house and have his birthday there. At this point the lady ran out of words and I apologetically informed his that it was not going to happen. He asked her for one more friendly hug, then his mom called him, and we never saw him again. I know that the trip is not over yet, so this may be premature, but I nominate Zack for the the road-trip award for courage and persistence.

Last but not least, the buffalo:

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Last day in Colorado

When one is in alpine territory, far out of earshot or of any cell phone signal, what is the most dangerous thing for him to be feeling? It’s not fear nor panic, despair nor hopelessness, not hunger, thirst, or wooziness, not over-confidence, obliviousness, or hastiness. It’s giddiness; that innocent sense of excitement that causes one to skip along a cliff’s edge, gaze up at trees and trip over their roots, curiously approach sharp-toothed animals, and wade in frigid waters. Stick a New England boy in the Rockies and giddiness will coarse through his veins, warming him as he frolics through snow at 11,000 feet above sea level.

Well, you can guess what I did today. Here are some details: I took a shuttle out to the Glacier Gorge trailhead and hiked up to Loch Vale, and then scrambled further upwards to Sky Pond, traveling ten miles by the end of the day. I’ll let the pictures at the end of the post speak for themselves.

Baz and Nani explored Estes Park today, hitting art galleries, museums, chocolate shops, and scenic highways. They went to the Stanley Twins Museum, and learned about the man who invented the airbrush, the steam car, and a plating technology for photography. He started the first bus system, built a casino hotel, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a short life span at 56, and soon after moved to Colorado on a doctor’s recommendation. By the age of 91, he had become a big figure in the conservation movement. When I returned from my hike they offered me a delectable apple slice, dipped in caramel and ‘tiger butter,’ a peanut butter and chocolate swirl confection.

Zagy had an epic day at the Epic Climbing Gym, and though we weren’t anywhere near each other, our paths crossed slightly in the afternoon. Some guys had come in to the gym talking about a new climbing route they had just set up in the Rockies, the same exact route that shadowed part of my hiking trail. In fact, I was there when they were rappelling down from it, and managed to snap a few pictures. Many girls took an interest in Zagy at the climbing gym, but he turned them down for his road trip buddies, and his new wife. Bros, and the wife, before hoes.

We’re kicking off tomorrow morning with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and then ascending to Yellowstone. After that its Red Rocks, and we probably won’t have internet until we get to Los Angeles on the 14th/15th. So while there might not be any blogs for the next few days, I’ll have a juicy one for you from the city.

Pics from the park:

This is the trail!

I was standing right over this marmot.

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Zagy and I have been engaged in an ongoing argument about the merits of spontaneity versus planning. Zagy advocates for a spontaneous approach which, applied to the context we find ourselves in, means driving with no specific destination and hoping to find a campsite by chance, or otherwise sleep on the roadside. I advocate for planning which, also applied to said context, means stopping at a Starbucks or McDonalds for free wi-fi, searching the area for formal and informal campsites, and then calling information centers to get directions, discover availabilities, and make reservations.

Both Zagy and I are very persistent in our approaches, and ceaseless in our arguments. We find ourselves constantly compromising, not from cooperating, but from winning and losing small rhetorical battles. As a result, the progress of our road trip is guided by both a spontaneous spirit and active foresight (though not always accurate). While it would seem that this blend of trusting fate and careful step taking would work to our benefit, our current situation proves that sometimes compromise is not always a good thing (but no nods to Ayn Rand here). Both spontaneity and planning have their disadvantages, and our constant bickering has cherry picked these disadvantages to provide us with the campsite where we now find ourselves pitching a tent (and in Zagy’s case, hanging his hammock from the roof rack).

If you zoom out, our location is superb: the buzzing town of Estes Park, Colorado, sitting at the foot of the Rockies, and full of local shops and treasures, bubbling creeks, giant boulders, and herds of elk. If you zoom in a different scene is depicted: the KOA Kampground of Estes/Drake, a gravel clearing, a decrepit lean-to, bordered by route 34 and downwind from a horse ranch. The benefits are plenty: private showers, clean water, cookstoves and free wi-fi, but our campground here is far from the idyllic site 14 off of West Magnolia Rd. that we slept in last night, where the soundscape was composed of chirping crickets, whittling woodpeckers, and the tribal drummers of site 5.

How did we end up here? Zagy’s spontaneity had us leaving Connecticut a day early, and then driving through the night the next day to Boulder. Thus, we had two extra days to burn before our check-in time at Yellowstone, and negative one days to be able to reserve any nice campsite we became attracted to in Colorado. After three rainy days in Boulder, we decided to see somewhere else. Though I had little notice, my planning instinct nonetheless took hold, and I tried to spontaneously plan our stay near Rocky Mountain National Park. I found dozens of campgrounds in the area, either free or inexpensive, and we embarked to Estes Park with a confidence that we could easily find a place to stay. This was not so, as everything was either booked, un-reservable, or un-findable. Thanks to the help of a Rockies YMCA employee, we found our current site and shelled out the big bucks for it (granted, it’s not that expensive). Thus, we find ourselves having been shafted by the immediacy of spontaneity and the unbacked confidence of incompetent planning.

Possibilities for tomorrow: a hike up the rockies, a cold swim in Lake Estes, Zagy going to Epic Climbing Gym across the street, and a leisurely tour of the town of Estes Park. By the night of the 10th, we’ll be in Bozeman, Montana at Yellowstone Park. On the 11th, we’ll be surfing the rapids of Fire Hole Canyon Drive (if we can find it). By the 13th we’ll be at the Hoover Dam, and then soon situated in smoggy Los Angeles.

Other fun facts:

-It’s cold and rainy.

-Cold beans are awful.

-We drove past a man at a road construction site asleep at a traffic barrel, holding a stop/slow sign and supposedly directing traffic.

-Baz punched me in the face when I gave Nani a look that was supposed to say nice nose ring.

-Zagy got married.

-Theresa just woke up.

-Boulder has an awesome kite store.

-We went to The Spot and found out where the griever hole is.

Our new sidecar.

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Dynos at The Spot

Spent the afternoon on Flagstaff mountain, beautiful views!

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The Drive into Boulder was spectacular. Ranches, oil wells, and housing developments began popping up around us, and where the land once intersected with the horizon, a faint view of the Rockies emerged, gradually becoming taller and more tangible as we approached the city. Baz suggested we climb a couple peaks before dinner.

Having no specific destination in mind to enter into the GPS, we had decided earlier on getting directions to 69 Main St. Unfortunately, this turned out to be nowhere near the center of Boulder, and we took a 45 minute detour through agrestic mountain suburbs.  We passed a small town with a general store that was a patchwork of old building and plywood, and then a larger town called Nederland. This route led us winding down Boulder Canyon drive into Boulder, possibly the most stunning route we could have ended up taking. Except for lack of castles, it echoed of Rohan.

We went from local to ranger to local to ranger getting directions to campsites (remember how we’re resolved to never sleep in the car again) and to the Flatirons (for climbing). After much disoriented meandering through Boulder Canyon, we made it to the grid of Boulders main streets, and drove up 9th street to Chataqua Park, where the Flatirons were. These massive structures of rock are five triangular plates that jut out of the mountainside. A 15 minute hike/scramble brought us in between the 2nd and 3rd Flatirons, an area speckled with boulders, boulders on top of boulders, and boulders on top of boulders on top of boulders.

We’re staying at campsite 14 off of West Magnolia Rd., about 3 miles south of Nederland, and high in the piney mountains. To get settled in, we pitched a tent while Zagy got a fire and makeshift rock oven going. We placed our cans of refried beans, Spaghettios, and Chef Boyardee atop the oven. 20-30 minutes later we had warm meals, and had taken our first step towards hobodom. In the morning we met our neighbors, what seemed to be a hitchhiking father and son team.

It’s been heavily raining today, and so far we’ve been checking out the various nooks and crannies of Nederland. We stopped first at a small art gallery, and the woman there* directed us to a carousel down the road, built by a vietnam war vet for two of his fallen comrades. He spent years fixing up an old carousel, now named the Carousel of Happiness, and carving dozens of eccentric wooden animals, from rainbow cats to ballet llamas. After a ride rich with happiness, Baz and Nani stopped for some home-made mini-donuts while Zagy and I checked out a few other stores. After a visit to a geode store, we drove to Boulder. At this moment, we’re in Starbucks posting this blog entry. Next we’re heading to The Spot Rock Gym (one of the best in the country) to get some climbing in despite the rain!

*This woman also told us about an annual event that happens in Nederland. A man, who has since been deported, cryogenically froze his dead grandfather up in the mountains. Every year the town has a big ridiculous party ‘commemorating’ this man. They do things such as coffin races, where groups of six carrying coffins race each other, and speedily putting on frozen t-shirts. She hopes that Nederland becomes known for the Carousel, instead of this. 🙂

Quick picture stop during our 45-minute detour

Approach to the Flatirons

Climbing in the Flatirons

Heating dinner

Riding the Carousel of Happiness

Big geodes. One for $6,000, two for $10,000

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Battles with sleep/further battles with I-80

Today we logged another 300+ miles on I-80. Highlights include a 75 mile an hour speed limit, and a sign that said “Friend — exit 369.” Lowlights include not having to turn for 50 mile stretches, and lots of cow manure.

Ahoy from Colorado! If you’re wondering how we got here so fast, let us explain. We got into Iowa City at around eight last night, set up the van for sleeping, and then passed the time with Magic cards and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Baz and Nani took a short walk to a small airfield nearby, and soon after they came back, it started pouring outside. Thus, we found ourselves trapped in the van, with the windows closed. To quote Baz: “I hate to turn this into an inferno, but we better close the windows.” However, our efforts to stay dry were for naught, as all of us soon broke into heavy sweats in the ‘inferno’.

We tried sleeping for maybe ten minutes when one of us cracked and suggested we just drive to Boulder through the night. To translate, they were actually saying “let’s make it so we can turn on the air conditioning.” We all jumped at this suggestion, and soon I found myself waking up at four in the morning to drive my shift through a Nebraskan sunrise. Omaha lit up the darkness until the sun emerged and we drove out of the city. Fog rose with the sun, covering vast fields of grass with ethereality; it appeared as if we were driving over bodies of water. Baz kept me company in the front seat, and our experience of this formerly dreaded state was an awe-inspiring one (although it inevitably showed its true monotonous colors once the sun was fully out and the fog gone).

We just recently passed into Colorado, freeing ourselves of I-80. Nebraskas vast flats turned into rolling hills, corn fields expanded, and cows plumped up. Boulder in a few hours!

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Battles with I-80

We changed plans a little and kicked off our Fourth of July celebrations with a drive to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. We set off at sunset, under a lemon sky and pink clouds. As we were going along we probably witnessed twenty or thirty fireworks celebrations. I tried to snap some pictures of the ones igniting above us, but I was too slow.

After a few hours we stopped to switch drivers at, lo and behold, a WalMart supercenter, our brief stop being the first of many encounters with this evil yet comforting corporate giant. On the way to the bathroom Baz and I failed at frugality and bought some really awesome looking magic pre-made decks. In all the trip last night brought us six hours west. Our next stop was Iowa City, and then to Boulder a day early! Agenda (mine, at least): bouldering in the Flatirons/Boulder Canyon and a visit to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Do people have any other suggestions?

Yesterday morning we woke up in a foggy parking lot and prepared our first meals of the trip. Zagy bought some walkie talkies for communication from the front of the van to the back (and for our national park expeditions). Then it was on the road, with an australian GPS voice named Lee, a red Toyota I followed for eighty miles, and three napping buddies to keep me company. We stopped at a rest area for gas and lunch, and to switch drivers. For Nani’s driving shift Baz rode shotgun, while in the back I read The Mezzanine and Zagy watched Tron. We spent more than four hundred miles on I-80 traveling from corny Pennsylvania to congested Illinois and beyond. Baz made sure to play the Sufjan Stevens’ album Illinois, and the billboards made sure to show us a dozen times that if we buy one firework we get six free at Krazy Kaplans.

Things I’ve recently seen for the first time:
The full extent of an interstate, or five states in a day.
So many Illinois license plates at the same time.
The highway bridging across a massive quarry.
Buffalo farms and giant windmills.
A Nascar truck.
A gas station convenience store selling guitars.

I’ll end this entry with a funny quote from The Mezzanine on the loss of brain cells:

“Mathematicians need all of those spare neurons, and their careers falter when the neurons do, but the rest of us should be thankful for their disappearance, for it makes room for experience. Depending on where on the range you began, you are shifted as your brain ages toward the richer, more mingled pole: mathematicians become philosophers, philosophers become historians, historians become biographers, biographers become college provosts, college provosts become political consultants, and political consultants run for office.”

Some fireworks on the road

MORE PICTURES TO COME SOON (McDonalds wifi is failing me), check back to this post later in a day or two.

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