Archive for the 'Travel' Category

“I wonder what they’ll say, when they see their boy looking this way?”

I last slept in my own bed the night of Saturday, August 1. The next day, I drove to Henderson NC to pick up my two youngest from summer camp, then on that Monday, drove us all to Duck NC for an Outer Banks vacation. On Friday, August 7, I bade goodbye to my family and aimed my little Prius westward. In the sixteen days since then, I have passed through Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico on my way to California, then back through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and now Indiana. I probably missed listing a state or two, but I am tired. I awoke this morning in Evansville, and face another 500+ miles to Virginia. My sleep last night was pierced by dreams of abandoned children. Today, I am haggard but hopeful; tonight, August 23, by hook or by crook, I sleep in my own bed.

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Sunrise, Sunset

I have spent all of my life on the coasts; California through the 1980s, and the Atlantic coast since then. Moving from one coast to another, I immediately made two observations. One, we seem to have an innate sense of where the ocean is. When I moved from L.A. to New York, I kept getting north/south and east/west mixed up. After twenty-plus years, I’ve finally straightened that out, but it all came rushing back on this trip when I drove from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Santa Cruz, California. To go from having the ocean on the east to having it on the west was very disorienting.

My other observation is that sunrises and sunsets are very different. On the west coast, sunrise is pretty fast. It goes from dark, to dawn, to day rather quickly. But, as the sun sets in the west, it also reflects off the Pacific Ocean and back into the sky, so that long after the sun has disappeared over the horizon, the sky stays light and then slowly dims. On the east coast, the effect is the reverse: the sky begins brightening long before we ever see the sun, reflecting off the Atlantic and into the sky in advance of sunrise.

I spent yesterday driving from Colorado to Kansas, and observed a wholly different effect. Here, in the high plains, you can practically see the day/night terminus. As I drove east, I could see and the sun set behind me, the western horizon awash in dramatic layers of red and orange. And before me, I stared into darkness as night approached from the east. It was a very spooky effect that, I realize, most of the country is familiar with, but to a boy from the coasts, it looked like I was driving into the end of the world.

Where the Wind Goes Blowing Down the Plain

Oklahoma Wind Farms

Oklahoma Wind Farms

Driving across America, one gets a feel for how large and varied is our country. In Oklahoma, I soared through miles and miles of wind farms. I know that some communities have fought against these turbines, referring to them as “eye pollution” but I thought they were beautiful. I could have spent hours just watching them spin.

Approaching Shamrock, Texas, the town where I spent last night, I saw multiple storms dumping rain twenty miles away. I was like driving under a gigantic, gray sponge.

The Curse of the Stupid People

I must be a bloody genius.

As immodest as that may sound, all the evidence points in that direction. The only rational conclusion I can reach is that, on a mean curve, I must be among the brilliant people on the planet because other people are so d*am stupid!

Case in point: I am staying at a hotel in Arkansas. (“Aha,” I hear you say, “the results are already skewed!“). The bathroom shower is graced with a plastic curtain on a rod, and next to that is a sign that reads “When showering, please close curtain.” And just to emphasize the point, there is a pictogram of a person showering with the curtain open, and a red slash through it. Well, thank goodness they took the time to write out the sentence (in English and Spanish, I might add); otherwise, I might have thought that showers were forbidden!

But just think about this for a moment. Not only are people so stupid that the hotel management feels compelled to tell us to close the  curtain while showering, but the very fact that they went through all the trouble of making those signs means that it probably happened!

I assume that, when I checked in last night, the clerk did not size me up and think “Hmm, better give him the room with the sign about closing the shower curtain.” Rather, it is safe to assume that such signs exist in every bathroom in the hotel. Which means, at some point, someone neglected to close the curtain while showering, stepped out of the shower and into a puddle of water, looked back at the shower, spied the curtain, and thought “Huh?”

So to my fellow geniuses out there, the ones who think of closing the shower curtain without the use of visual aids: what other signs have you seen lately that show just how awfully smart you must be?