31 May 2009

This time, last year

Leadville, CO

On our way to Ouray, Telluride and Moab, we stopped in Leadville, CO - the highest city in the US at 10,152 feet (3094 m). Like most western towns, it was once a booming mining town. At one time Leadville was the second most populated city in Colorado, after Denver, and the home of Doc Holiday (who was not nearly as attractive as a young Kiefer Sutherland). Now, again, like most western towns, it is not quite a ghost town with a well preserved historic district, a really good coffee shop, and a fantastic antique shop (where we lost well over 2 hours). At this time of the year only one of the two passes over the Rockies leading to Leadville was open. I wonder if the whole town gets a little Shining-esque in the winter when both passes are closed. We were really surprised by Leadville; I think it is now what Telluride and Ouray used to be before the rich-and-famous stepped in. There still exists a strong culture of individualism, and a lot of pride in the community and the town's colorful past. In Telluride and Ouray these things get lost more and more often, as compared to even 5 or 10 years ago.

this was taken as we were driving away

notice that, even at the very end of May, spring has not yet sprung

25 May 2009

This time, last year

Yellowstone National Park

We were supposed to be camping - but freezing rain, slush, and snow (sometimes all at the same time) led us into a little park cabin. We got a lot of strange looks as we huddled on our front step over a camp stove cooking our dinner.

Some of the park was still closed b/c there was too much snow. Yellowstone Lake was frozen still. 

This was one of the many bears we saw. This guy was right outside our car door!

On one of the few sunny days.

21 May 2009

Is it a beach or a butler?

I can't tell if they are beach names or butlers. I keep referring to Smathers and Higgs beaches as Smithers and Higgins.

Smithers is the largest beach on Key West. All the KW guides say that the beach runs along the southern shore for almost 2 miles. But, the actual beachy part is only a little over 1/2 a mile - the walk/bike path along part of the southern shore, which happens to also be along the beach, is a little over 2 miles. The island rumor is that the sand on Smithers is brought in from the Bahamas... but, that may be just what the locals want to blelieve so they can feel like they live on a real Caribbean island.

Higgins, the county beach, not to be confused with the neighboring Rest Beach, is the more popular beach among locals, probably because of the bar and restaurant right on the beach (which may have good food, but has a poor beer selection) and the free beach wi-fi. It was once a burial site, unmarked for well over 100 years, for nearly 300 victims of the African slave trade. The burial site was largely forgotten after 1860, and only marked as a historical site in 2001.

20 May 2009


This is what I see almost every morning. I have started running with a camera, like in that bad Jim Carrey movie Yes Man (seen on a plane - I take no responsibility for any bad movies watched during long plane flights). It's not my real camera, but our 8 year old Canon PowerShot (Little Yellow, because we seem to give everything a nickname and I keep it in a yellow cloth case). It was one of the best cameras at the time. Now, it's not so bad for random morning scenes.

18 May 2009

This time, last year

Banff National Park, Canada

08 May 2009

Car Games

Brad and I have spent approximately 328 hours in the Jeep together this past year, maybe a little more. A lot of this was very long driving days around the western US (on a 39 day road trip), across the country to Vermont, and down to Key West. Driving in the West is not like driving in the East, where you can drive for 4 hours and pass through five major cities. In the West, you can drive for 12 hours and see only forest or desert (sometimes both) and maybe some deer in between your destinations. This past Sunday we drove 15 hours down to Key West stopping only to get gas, food, and to pee. 

Somehow we've managed to do all of this driving with only one fight (in Prague - both of us hungry and thirsty - driving in the dark, in circles, looking for our hotel). It's true that we generally like each other, but after that much time in a small car anyone would start to irritate you. So, how do we stay together on the road? 

We talk. After all of this time driving around, we still manage to find things to talk about - whether it's the people we met in the last town or space travel. We plot the next adventures. But, we are also OK just looking out the windows.

Satellite radio has been incredible, making it easier to listen to something else without searching for, agreeing on, and putting in a new CD. Now, we can simply switch to another song. During the last two days of The Road Trip we discovered the comedy stations. These are a great distraction for long driving days, and usually lead to some off-the-wall conversations. But, we seem to reserve the comedy stations for the end of the day or when we get exceedingly anxious to get somewhere, anywhere. 

One of the things we never do is read while the other person is driving. I think this is a sort of fuck-you to the driver. I do admit that on the way down to Key West, somewhere around hour 11, I desperately wanted to flip through a magazine. We sometimes look at guidebooks and talk about the next destination. Or, in a pinch and in a good cell area, we check out the Wikipedia article about the next destination on Brad's iPhone. Without this we wouldn't have broken up a very long drive out West with a stop to a ghost city boasting the country's largest historical landmark district, the longest running whorehouse in the country, and a superfund site that has been turned into a tourist attraction (we drove around in circles looking for the whorehouse and gave up when it started snowing - I'm not sure what I was planning to do once we found it anyway).

When we get really bored, we play a game we like to call "Who Am I." One of us gives one clue about a person, anyone, and the other asks yes/no questions until he/she guesses the person. This game usually leads to a conversation about something we wouldn't have otherwise been thinking about, like space travel. 

06 May 2009

Who's paradise is this?

Exactly one year after starting on our road trip through the West and Canada, we drove from the D.C. area down to Key West (the Jeep was hanging out in a family friend's barn while we were in Europe). The drive down was long and not exactly fun. I think we were both tired of traveling and just wanted to be somewhere for a little while, and the long drive was another obstacle in the way of getting somewhere. The car was so full that driving was slightly more difficult, and we were both worried about getting into an accident. Even when it's empty, the Jeep is a little wonky at high speeds. The stop at the Waffle House didn't help matters either. But, we are here now. 

After three days in Key West, I am very surprised by how much I like it. My idea of paradise has always been a cabin with a wood-burning fireplace high in the mountains with a nearby meadow and a cold, clear stream out back. I am now living in the paradise of the Parrottheads. But, I like it here... a lot. Especially the "whatever" island mentality. Really, what is there not to like about island life? The hurricanes, maybe.

On my morning runs along the Atlantic, I have begun to play a little game with the locals I pass (really I am the only one playing or even amused by it). One of the many things distinguishing locals here from tourists is how quickly they wish you a good morning, day, or evening. I try to be just as quick with my greetings now. If I am first to greet a passerby, the response is always a bigger smile and a heartier "good morning" than if I merely respond to their "good morning." Big smiles in the morning while watching the sun rise from the ocean makes the rest of the run, and the day, just awesome. 

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