Categotry Archives: Summer Sojourn 2009


Top Nine Highlights and Lowlights for 2009

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, From the Road, If You're Going to San Francisco, Let's Go M's, Summer Sojourn 2009, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m thinking about compiling one of these for the decade too, but let’s look at what made 2009 great and not so great.

In summation, looking back at this year, it’s been one of those seminal and all-encompassing annums. It’s been a slow and generally joyous year, punctuated with some really lousy events. I think it’s good to look at the good and bad of a year, lest one think that any year, no matter how great or terrible, is all one or the other. Ultimately, however, I have to say that I’d be pretty happy if all the years were like this one.

Let’s start with the lowlights (who knew I could have a happy ending in something I write?!)…
9. In June, we were informed that we would be getting a small (464 square foot) apartment from the housing lottery at Princeton. Emily and I fought about to what extent the preferences I’d asked her not to list on the housing form had determined this decision and the ensuing tension lasted for much of the summer and the early part of our time moving into Princeton. Upside: We ended up being happy with the place and sincerely calling it “cozy” instead of just tiny. Though it will always be Tiny House to us.
8. In August, at the conclusion of a great six-week trip, we moved to New Jersey. We’d come to accomplish many great things in school, debate, and writing, all of which wound up going pretty well. But… New Jersey. Upside: Yeah, we were moving to Jersey for some pretty good reasons.
7. In December, a co-worker of mine from Glide passed away. While he was not my closest friend or someone I’d even contacted since departing Glide, his passing hit me very hard with its suddenness and the loss of such a vibrant, joyous personality. He’d moved me to tears the day I sent out my e-mail announcing my impending departure from Glide, coming down to my office, giving me a hug, tearing up, and saying “I don’t want you to go.” I can’t stop thinking about this scene, how much it meant to me, or how little time he proved to have left. Upside: While one never wants to see an upside in death, it does always get those still living to examine their mortality and priorities, which never hurts.
6. In November, I got tremendously sick, derailing my writing at the time and prompting my parents to cancel a long-anticipated trip to see us on the East Coast. I had extreme trouble breathing and went through a number of inconclusive tests, ultimately requiring simple time and rest to recover. Upside: The illness didn’t derail my novel as I feared it would at the time.
5. In July, we left the Bay Area, possibly never to return long-term. While I felt we’d stagnated a good bit in the Bay and needed a change, the actual departure was tough to swallow and required leaving jobs we’d felt were the best we’d ever had, people we really enjoyed, and an area that seemed more naturally like home than where we’d be going for some time. Plus, there was a lot of packing. Upside: (Most) everything that followed.
4. Over the course of the year, I lost an impressive amount of money in the stock market. I had been up big and got complacent and started losing like crazy. While all of this could theoretically be recouped, I’d started betting against banks right about the time people got irrationally excited about banks again. Granted, I hadn’t risked anything we couldn’t afford to lose and it was all in long-term futures anyway (i.e. money we can’t touch till we’re 65). But it still hurt. Upside: Banks could still collapse.
3. In July, Emily and I were informed that all of our stuff making the cross-country trip to support our life in Jersey had been in a rollover accident outside LA. This proved to be more devastating in the resignation and loss it inspired in us between then and finding that the damage was generally much better than anticipated. Almost all the most sentimental items came through minimally scathed, though we still took some costly losses. Upside: It was a good reminder of the relative insignificance of material goods.
2. In January, Emily and I were informed that her mother had colon cancer. We endured a horrific month of ambiguities and tests and worries. Upside: Not only was the surgery successful, it wiped out the cancer so completely she didn’t even need chemo.
1. In October, Emily and I were in a car accident that could have killed me were it not for a pickup sandwiching itself between a passed-out octogenarian and myself. The Prius sustained 5 digits worth of damage and Emily and I had 4 digits worth of damage assessed by the ER. Upside: We survived the accident.

And now for the highlights
9. In September, Fish and I (accompanied by Madeleine and Emily) saw John K. Samson play “Sounds Familiar.” live.
8 (tie). In November, the same four of us (no John K.) enjoyed a restful and rejuvenating Thanksgiving weekend in Washington DC. It was just what we needed at the time and recharged our batteries to make a last push in the book and the semester.
8 (tie). In March/April, I spent a similar week of restful rejuvenation in LA with Russ, the last of my many trips to his apartment while I was living in the same state. We watched movies, talked about everything, played chess endlessly, beat FIFA on World Class mode with Denmark for the first time ever, and I even won the most money at online poker I’d ever won. It was just what I needed to get through the last 45 days of day job I had left.
7. In March, Emily ran the table on her grad school applications, going a perfect 5-for-5 in schools applied and allowing herself to have the maximum possible options. This culminated in her full-ride to Princeton, freeing up our options as a couple to pursue what we’ve spent most of the decade putting off in terms of personal aspirations and fulfillment.
6. In June, many New Mexican friends and I reunited for Jake’s wedding. We had a fabulous “bachelor party” hiking in the woods above JPL that would later be endangered by fire. Many of us wrapped up the weekend of celebration with a visit to Disneyland and California Adventure that was probably the most efficiently jam-packed such visit of my many to such parks.
5. In May, I watched Randy Johnson pitch what was almost certainly his last game in Seattle, going out to a triumphant standing ovation from an infinitely appreciative fanbase. Though watching him shut down the Angels in the ’95 one-game playoff, let alone his relief appearance in that year’s ALDS, will always be more charged memories, those were witnessed on TV. This was my single greatest live moment of Mariner fandom to date. No less, it was enjoyed from the best seats I’ve ever secured at a Major League Baseball game. This was the highlight of a generally great trip to Seattle.
4. In November, the Rutgers team I’d been coaching for two and a half months enjoyed their first break in almost two years, to quarterfinals at American University, a tournament fielding 90+ teams. After being uncertain of the impact I was making on the team, I finally had confirmation of progress and great reason for optimism about the coming semesters. The team celebrated at a DC diner that night with spirits raised high to the future of the team.
3. In May, I left Glide exactly as I’d hoped to, going out after ten weeks’ notice with a perfect day of meetings including the long-anticipated foray into what would ultimately be the new database solution for Glide’s programs. I could not have scripted a more fitting exit and I finally got to leave something on my own terms, with a great replacement, and with people wanting me to stay.
2. In July, Emily and I departed for a six-week tour of the US, with stops in National Parks and baseball parks, plus plenty of time with friends and family. Highlights from this trip alone could fill this list, so it’s only fair to group the whole trip. Our anniversary dinner at the Wawona in Yosemite, hiking the Grand Canyon, and camping in the Badlands are probably the most lasting memories from this epic journey.
1. In December, I finished writing a novel for the first time in eight and a half years, after working on it for seven and a half. The culmination of everything I’ve hoped to do in the last decade of struggling to write against a backdrop of day-jobs was finally reached, five days ahead of my deadline. I had once again proven to myself that there’s reason to take this writing thing seriously. Just before year’s end, I finished editing the work.

Yeah, like I said, I’d be pleased if every year could be this full of life, decisions in the right direction, survival, and joy. I’ll take ten more like 2009 any time. 2010, care to start with one?


The Sojourn in Pictures: New Jersey

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 16 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Thursday: Pennsylvania

We missed the entry sign for Jersey amidst construction. However, this is almost as good – the other half of the sign (not pictured) says The World Takes:

Our crooked rusty corner sign:

The Prius made it in good shape:

Tiny House!

Inside Tiny House – it’s tiny:

I had not intended to grow facial hair on the trip, but my razor broke on the second day. This is thus a follicle chronicle of our journey:

Em was tired, but had time to come up with the brilliant idea of pool floats as mattresses while we waited for our stuff (and did a puzzle):

That’s it for the Summer Sojourn – hope you’ve enjoyed this pictorial odyssey. Next up will probably be some rendition of the India & Nepal 2008 Trip, which I was doing a decent job of posting about right after it ended, then was unable to keep up during new day job obligations at Glide. The daily content/series thing is fun, though I wonder how relevant it will feel almost two years after that trip. That, at least, has words and pictures together, since I kept an extensive journal on that trip (which didn’t exactly materialize in this year’s domestic venture).


The Sojourn in Pictures: Pennsylvania

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 15 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Tuesday: Ohio

I think this highlights the problem with putting gubernatorial names on state entry signs:

PNC Park!

We had amazing seats – the closest I’ve ever been to a major league field – for not much dough… I guess it helps to set a record for consecutive losing seasons:


The Pirates may be the only major league team with two mascots. Some teams don’t even have one:

Cool out-of-town-scoreboard with game situations:

Tony LaRussa!

The Duquesne Incline – the best little city attraction you’ve never heard of:

First one comes up in the red incline car:

Then looks at the amazing view from the top:

Then starts on the descent:

View from the bottom after going up and back:

Next up in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie:

This picture fails to capture the epic size of the diplodocus pictured:

Storey with stego:

Em with triceratops:

Em contemplates what it would be like to encounter this giant sea turtle in the wild:

Return to the fabled cafeteria at Dickinson College – it hasn’t changed a bit:

The emergency exit door I shattered with a baseball at CTY and had to pay to replace:

Hershey’s Chocolate World, where I asked to Em’s embarrassment why they didn’t have M&M cookies:

The highlights of the tour are these singing animatronic cows, espousing the virtues of MILK! chocolate:

The real factory (no admittance):

Philly at night:

Waffle House in NE PA:

World’s largest crayon or fake plastic filler?

Cozy day of reading in Ariel & Mike’s new place:

And last: New Jersey


The Sojourn in Pictures: Ohio

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 14 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Sunday: Michigan

The only Lt. Governor to get their name on a sign in America?

Faint moonset over our hotel in Cleveland:

Cuyahoga Valley “National Park”, in its one very pretty view:

Tiny toad!

Much larger dragonfly:

The rushin’ waters of the Cuyahoga:

Bikers are the most common wildlife in this Park:

Tomorrow: Pennsylvania


The Sojourn in Pictures: Michigan

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 13 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Thursday: Indiana

If only they were the “Good Lakes”:

Mmmm… baseball….

Those are some fierce cats:

In case you were wondering where we are:

Emily attempting to high-five the Tiger:

Nifty whale mural in the distance:

This guy convinced me he was real and waiting for the People-Mover, at least at first:

The Ren Center:

Inside the stadium:

Pretty cool scoreboard:

And a run comes in:

The only place in America where the sports team supports a company rather than the other way round:

The bright lights of Detroit:

The Pepsi Porch area looked neat from a distance:

The tigers’ eyes light up when the team scores a run:


Next up: Ohio


The Sojourn in Pictures: Illinois

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 11 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday’s Post: Iowa
Actual Previous State: Wisconsin

They’re really into the whole Lincoln thing in Illinois:

I, on the other hand, am really into that whole Ray Bradbury thing in Waukegan:

Emily liked the space-age swingsets:

The ravine from Dandelion Wine:

Really nifty explanation of the renaming of the park for Ray:

Skyline of Chicago:

Skyline from US Cellular Field (frmrly New Comiskey):

I’m not exactly clear on what the pinwheel thing is on the South Side, but they seem to be into it:

Right after some home-run fireworks:

You can putitontheboard – yes!

Blue tower near the Magnificent Mile:

A river runs through it:

Emily was unconvinced that this building was all that tall:

I can’t believe they’re trying to rename the Sears Tower – it doesn’t seem to be sticking with any of the locals:

The Sears/Willis Tower was really a fan of the 2016 Olympic bid, though:

I’m pretty convinced – it’s tall:

Guess what – another Union Station!

Emily with her namesake, or at least one rendition:

Perfect blue buildings?

I’m pretty sure these were in the establishing shot for the Bob Newhart Show:

Tomorrow: Indiana


The Sojourn in Pictures: Iowa

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 10 (should be 9) in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

So in my rush to get these out, I forgot Iowa. I know, I know. My 48th state of all time. So while yesterday’s post was Wisconsin, it should have been Minnesota. For those of you scoring at home.

Fields of Opportunities!

McGregor, Iowa. If I had to live in Iowa…

I still kind of can’t get over this restaurant’s name:

The effigy mounds. They are difficult to photograph from ground-level:

It was a hot day:

The park is beautiful, with or without mounds:

The mighty Mississippi:

Next (actual chronology): Wisconsin
Next (posting chronology): Illinois


The Sojourn in Pictures: Wisconsin

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 9 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: Minnesota

One of the most elaborate state signs, replete with governor… I guess when you have governors for 4 consecutive terms (see Tommy Thompson), it feels like something to etch on a sign:

The capitol, which we sadly forgot to take the camera into – overall, perhaps the nicest of the many state capitols I’ve seen:

On the way to the Dells, we saw this sign. Em was captivated, but we didn’t stop to sample the cuisine and compare it to Em’s beloved in Oakland:

This is more or less what most of the Dells look like. For some reason, it was not what I was expecting:

One of the cooler formations:

The “stack of pancakes”:

It occurs to me that while the subtitle for the Sunset to Sunrise Summer Sojourn 2009 was “National Parks and Baseball Parks”, it could have just been “Rock Formations”. I mean, really. We saw a few:

Green… in the wa-ter…

This picture… rocks.

Toadstool formation:

Those aren’t rocks – those are bricks!

There wasn’t a game within a number of days of our visit to Milwaukee, but they still let us in to a part of Miller Park, from where we could see the field:

Emily was enthralled by the AAGPBL exhibit, honoring the Wisconsin-based basis for perhaps her favorite movie, “A League of Their Own”:

One of the niftier takes on retractable roofs I’ve seen:

Tomorrow: Illinois


The Sojourn in Pictures: Minnesota

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 8 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Friday: South Dakota (part two)

One of the cooler state-entry signs:

The Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth. It’s hard to see because of the trees directly behind her, but Em is standing under the Giant, between his boots:

The Blue Earth DQ. I love DQ.

The Metrodome! In its 30th-to-last baseball game ever:


The dramatic nightscape of Minneapolis on the postgame walk back:


Sadly, in the early morn rush out the door for the camping trip, I forgot to take my camera up to Duluth and points north. Thus I have no pictures of Highway 61 (yes, that Highway 61), Duluth, Lake Superior, Gooseberry Falls, or the campfire. This makes me sad, though I think one of the couples we camped with got some shots that may one day find their way back to us. So just imagine what those things might have looked like and we’ll see you…

Tomorrow: Wisconsin


The Sojourn in Pictures: South Dakota (part two)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 7b in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: South Dakota (part one)

Today, we finish up South Dakota, with the Badlands through Mitchell…

The Badlands are a bit like a lunar landscape:

Or perhaps like Mars:

But with rabbits!

Our first day there, it was quite stormy:

There are paths atop most of the formations, leading out from the ridgeline upon which people can walk:

‘Twas nice and windy too:

The formations are all quite dramatic, a bit like getting to drive through the base of the Grand Canyon:

It had cleared up some by the time we headed out for our camping trip:

We were advised to register in the Backcountry log so someone would know we were out in the hinterlands – there are no other passes, fees, or registrations for Badlands camping!


A view of the rock formation which we camped against:


The line cutting diagonally across this formation is a different type of rock that looks for all the world like a ribbon or a sports field line:

A rabbit?

An eagle?

A sunset!

A moonrise…

The next morning, it was plenty bright:

Still windshield with grasshopper:

One of our hikes later in the day involved this epic ladder:

It was worth getting to the top, though:

A Martian metropolis?

Bubbly formations in close-up:

One of the widest-spanning views:

We depart…

…for Mitchell and the Corn Palace!

San Francisco, a la corn:

This is a pretty corny scene:

Next up: Minnesota


The Sojourn in Pictures: South Dakota (part one)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 7a in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Day before yesterday: Nebraska

I have decided to divide South Dakota into two parts since there’s so much to cover. Today will cover Wind Cave through Wall, while tomorrow will be the Badlands through Mitchell. Never been to South Dakota? It may be the most underrated state in the union.

This is a lot of America stuff for one sign:

Wind Cave National Park is actually one of the oldest, if more obscure. Here our intrepid tour guide on the Natural Entrance Tour demonstrates how fast the wind is coming out of said cave:

Wind Cave is famous for “boxwork” formations, which look like this:

I saw an old pirate skull in the cave!

Wind Cave is the largest source of boxwork in the world. It’s different than typical stalactite/stalagmite cave formations, but no less cool:

This ranger at the Wind Cave station was a great animated storyteller:


We went for a hike in the Wind Cave area, looking for wildlife:

We found another cool rock formation instead:

The buffalo didn’t really show up in earnest till we crossed into Custer State Park:

Classic bison pose:

There was a herd:

Mother and child reunion:

Other large mammals:

Another buffalo herd – we saw well over a hundred buffalo in CSP:

A calf getting a snack:

These antelope looked for all the world like they’d leapt in from the African savannah:

This is pretty much funny only if you’ve visited the Taj Mahal. Emily’s simulating the motion that many tourists were making when posing for pictures in front of said Mahal. The problem is that I didn’t have time to take the shot from the correct angle because all these militantly patriotic people were looking at us like we were urinating on their vision of America. So we had to make it quick. In some ways, though, I think that makes this shot even funnier:

Not only did the world change on 9/11, but apparently so did Mt. Rushmore. There are all these new installations to deal with the increased patriotic traffic. But this Bush administration contribution was our favorite – naming Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus as one of his 4 (four) “National Highlights”:

This was my actual favorite part of Mt. Rushmore – evidence that its sculptor saw the project more as a memorial to a country that would someday be gone, not a swaggering announcement of American permanence. This statement contradicted so many of the other quotations about the carving, which stated that it showed America would last for a million years.

Wall Drug!

Wall Drug is like a big theme park dedicated to kitschy stores and the Old West. I absolutely love it. It purports to be “America’s Roadside Attraction”. I think its restaurant inspired (or helped inspire) the design of the Frontier in Albuquerque. Where else can you see a twenty-foot T-Rex that periodically rises up and roars with smoke and steam pouring through his nostrils?

Seven foot rabbit!

A riding jackalope!

Five-cent coffee! (Yes, they still sell it for a nickel a mug. I had several.)

Huge pterodactyl!

Tomorrow: More South Dakota!


The Sojourn in Pictures: Nebraska

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 6 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: Wyoming

The Good Life!

Having never been to Nebraska, I was in a rush to pick up my 47th state:

Obligatory self-portrait with the good life:

I had been told that Nebraska was entirely flat. This is not flat land, kids:

Sadly, we didn’t get the camera out for the diner in Chadron. So this is all the photographic evidence we have.

Next up: South Dakota


The Sojourn in Pictures: Wyoming

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 5 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: Colorado

Forever West:

Wyoming purports to be the first government in the world to grant women equal rights, as this statue Esther Hobart Morris, an early Wyoming suffragette from the 1860’s, attests. Contrary to some rumor that Emily heard, this is a copy of the one in the national capitol’s Statuary Hall, so she is honored by Wyoming both there and on the state capitol grounds, pictured here:

The symbol of Wyoming, the bucking-bronco-bound cowboy, also on the capitol grounds:

Some irony in the genderization of the sign with the testament to women’s rights in the background:

Home of the Jackalope!


Tomorrow: Nebraska!


The Sojourn in Pictures: Colorado

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Part 4 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: New Mexico

Colorful (and dizzying) Colorado:

An intense game of Pac-Man in the massive arcade in Manitou Springs:

Also in Manitou Springs, Coke and Pepsi together again:

I almost came back, but Emily got me 7-5 in air hockey:

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs – this is called the “kissing camels” formation:

Pretty impressive work by the rock here:

Union Station in Denver. I don’t know the percentage of cities whose train station is called “Union Station”, but it’s got to be high.

Gametime, Coors Field:

Fred Lewis is coming for the Rockies:

Glaciers in Rocky Mountain National Park:

A neat lake as we started our ascent into RMNP:

Emily checks the darkening skies as the horizon retreats:

And then the rains came:

People don’t like rain:

Emily’s hat is waterproof:

Mine, less so:

The rain was in the upper elevations, so we retreated to the lower Moraine Park:

Emily found the river a place of peaceful contemplation:

As did a coyote:

Next up: Wyoming


The Sojourn in Pictures: New Mexico

Categories: A Day in the Life, Duck and Cover, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , , ,

Part 3 in a 16-part stately series pictorially documenting the Sojourn.

Yesterday: Arizona

From a car in the dark with a migraine:

In line at the beloved Frontier Restaurant:

My parents’ backyard has become home to a small squirrel colony:

Much of my time in Albuquerque was actually spent on the issue of public outdoor drinking fountains, such as this one here in Petroglyph National Monument:

My favorite petroglyph (or Duck’s eldest ancestor. Speaking of which, Duck and Cover should be back next week.

While not as scary as the centipedes, millipedes in Nuevo still pack a mighty scare. This was one of about 12 we saw on the trails at Petroglyphs:

My second-favorite petroglyph (they aren’t all of duck-like birds, by the way – I’m clearly spoiling your sample here):

My parents in front of my Dad’s nifty carriage house garage doors:

Madrid is one of my favorite towns in New Mexico, where most of the houses look something like this (it’s pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, which is pronounced just like the word “mad”, so instead of sounding like the Spanish capital for which it was surely named, it sounds like someone named Drid is upset):

One of my favorite buildings in all the world, the La Fonda in Santa Fe:

Two of my favorite things: Emily and La Plazuela, the restaurant inside the La Fonda. I know “the La Fonda” is grammatically incorrect, but it’s how I grew up saying it and now I can’t stop. Also, they have substantially ruined La Plazuela with its redecoration, mostly by making it too light and open when it used to be turquoisey and mysterious. I blame consultants.

Tomorrow: Colorado


The Sojourn in Pictures: Arizona

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

Today marks the beginning of what will be a roughly two-week series chronicling our recently ended odyssey in pictures. I’ve decided to break it up by state, since that divides the pictures into pretty neat little chunks (who wants to look at 250 pictures in one sitting?) and it so happens that my first pictorial post of the Sojourn covered all the noteworthy pictures of California – no more, no less.

And, as a programming note, to help you index the Sunset to Sunrise Summer Sojourn information more efficiently, I’ve created a category called Summer Sojourn 2009. Just click on it above and you’ll see all the similar subject matter, neatly sorted.

To the pictures!

Obligatory blurry taken-from-moving-vehicle state sign picture (this is one of the best of the collection):

Emily’s first sight of the Grand Canyon (Mather Point):

Emily’s favorite tree near the South Rim at dusk:

View of our destination from the top – we were headed for Indian Garden, which is the collection of trees and greenery in the center of the picture, in the bottom of the near, visible ravine:

Heading down the trail in the morning, in good spirits:

At the bottom – 110 degrees in the shade. They have all these signs throughout the Canyon discouraging people from pushing themselves, lest they die of heat exhaustion or similar:

A view from the bottom:

We were going to wait till sunset to hike back up to the South Rim, but a thunderstorm was coming in, bringing clouds to offer us cover from the midday sun:

The trail behind us as we walked up:

Almost to the top:

Obligatory squirrel with don’t-feed-the-squirrels sign:

Emily, just shy of the top, surveying our journey:

Just too tired to smile (yes, that’s the shirt I bought in the summer of 2000):

This gives you a good idea of what the Bright Angel Trail is like:

And here’s a profile of some of the Bright Angel switchbacks:

Em’s favorite rock formations in the Canyon:

One of the neatest parts of the downtown Flagstaff skyline:

We showed up to Flagstaff pretty late in the day:


Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona:

Me too:

Next up – New Mexico!


Summer Sojourn: Trip in Review

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

At some point, I will probably feel inspired to write more specific details of the second half of our trip just ended, replete with photographs and witticisms and anecdotes and the like. That day will probably not come in an icy fluorescent computer cluster, rolling past midnight and anticipating sleeping in an overwarm empty house, using twin six-foot pool floats as a mattress.

What I can offer you today, however, is the below summary of the trip, which I offer in equal parts to posterity and to you. I can also offer you this fact that I learned today: there is such a thing as pigeon racing. On the way to see the film “In the Loop” today, Emily and I were behind a truck full of racing pigeons. There is, apparently, no limit to the human capacity to exploit birds.

Summary of Events

Day 1 – Tue, 7/7 – Berkeley, CA to Tracy, CA
Highlights: Departure, seeing all three apartments lived in during time in the Bay Area.
Movie: “Ice Age 3D” at the Grand Lake in Oakland, CA.
Book: War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (begun before trip and only book read subsequently unless otherwise noted)
Night in: Tracy, CA (Home of the Guitar Hero)

Day 2 – Wed, 7/8 – Tracy, CA to Fresno, CA
Highlights: Going to the park with the nieces and nephew.
Night in: Clovis, CA (Garin Homestead)

Day 3 – Thu, 7/9 – Fresno, CA
Highlights: Detailed discussion of educational policy with Em’s parents.
Night in: Clovis, CA (Garin Homestead)

Day 4 – Fri, 7/10 – Fresno, CA
Highlights: Swimming and board games with the Garin clan.
Night in: Clovis, CA (Garin Homestead)

Day 5 – Sat, 7/11 – Fresno, CA (with King’s Canyon NP, CA)
Highlights: Boyden Cavern with rock-hopping in nearby river.
Hike: Small loops near sequoias (KCNP)
Night in: Clovis, CA (Garin Homestead)

Day 6 – Sun, 7/12 – Fresno, CA to Yosemite NP, CA
Highlights: Epic hike into Ostrander Lake, quick tour of Yosemite Valley.
Hike: Up to Ostrander Lake (YNP)
Night in: Yosemite National Park (camping, Ostrander Lake)

Day 7 – Mon, 7/13 – Yosemite NP, CA
Highlights: 6th wedding anniversary dinner at Wawona Hotel Dining Room.
Hike: Down from Ostrander Lake (YNP)
Night in: Yosemite National Park (Wawona Hotel)

Day 8 – Tue, 7/14 – Yosemite NP, CA to Los Angeles, CA
Highlights: Dinner with Russ at Mao’s Kitchen.
Night in: Beverly Hills, CA (Chez Gooberman)

Day 9 – Wed, 7/15 – Los Angeles, CA
Highlights: Games with Russ.
Night in: Beverly Hills, CA (Chez Gooberman)

Day 10 – Thu, 7/16 – Los Angeles, CA (with Altadeena, CA)
Highlights: Visiting Pandora’s summer home, epic life talk with Russ.
Night in: Beverly Hills, CA (Chez Gooberman)

Day 11 – Fri, 7/17 – Los Angeles, CA to Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Highlights: Loopy discussion with Emily about GCNP’s dystopian future, Em seeing Mather Point for first time.
Hike: Test-hike half-mile down Bright Angel Trail at dusk (GCNP)
Night in: Grand Canyon NP, AZ (Maswik Lodge)

Day 12 – Sat, 7/18 – Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Highlights: Returning to the Canyon’s trails, creek at Indian Garden, three-mile-house stop on upward journey.
Hike: Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden and back to South Rim (GCNP)
Book: This is Water, David Foster Wallace (in entirety at Indian Garden)
Night in: Grand Canyon NP, AZ (Maswik Lodge)

Day 13 – Sun, 7/19 – Grand Canyon NP, AZ to Albuquerque, NM (via Flagstaff, AZ)
Highlights: Rim hike and shuttles, lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge, Em’s big driving stint.
Hike: South Rim Trail to Mojave Point (GCNP)
Night in: Albuquerque, NM (Casa Clayton)

Day 14 – Mon, 7/20 – Albuquerque, NM
Highlights: The Frontier and Hurricane’s, catching up with the parents.
Movie: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” at the Century Downtown 14 in Albuquerque, NM
Night in: Albuquerque, NM (Casa Clayton)

Day 15 – Tue, 7/21 – Albuquerque, NM
Highlights: Touring parks with Dad.
Night in: Albuquerque, NM (Casa Clayton)

Day 16 – Wed, 7/22 – Albuquerque, NM
Highlights: Morning coffee run, El Patio, balloon puzzle.
Hike: Petroglyphs National Monument
Night in: Albuquerque, NM (Casa Clayton)

Day 17 – Thu, 7/23 – Albuquerque, NM to Colorado Springs, CO (via Santa Fe, NM)
Highlights: Seeing the La Plazuela in the La Fonda reopened, for better and worse.
Night in: Colorado Springs, CO (Marriott Extended Stay Hotel)

Day 18 – Fri, 7/24 – Colorado Springs, CO to Denver, CO (via Manitou Springs, CO)
Highlights: Waffle House, Manitou Springs arcade walk.
Hike: Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
Baseball: San Francisco Giants 3, Colorado Rockies 1
Night in: Denver, CO (Tess’ Place on Clayton Street)

Day 19 – Sat, 7/25 – Denver, CO
Highlights: Finding out about our moving van’s accident.
Movie: “Public Enemies” in Denver, CO
Night in: Denver, CO (Tess’ Place on Clayton Street)

Day 20 – Sun, 7/26 – Denver, CO
Highlights: Seeing Yana and her son, Lyle Lovett at Red Rocks.
Night in: Denver, CO (Tess’ Place on Clayton Street)

Day 21 – Mon, 7/27 – Denver, CO to Douglas, WY (via Cheyenne, WY)
Highlights: Epic mountain thunderstorm, wildlife in Moraine Park.
Hike: Lake-hopping hike shortened by thunderstorm, Moraine Park jaunt (Rocky Mountain NP, CO)
Night in: Douglas, WY (Motel 6)

Day 22 – Tue, 7/28 – Douglas, WY to Wall, SD (via Chadron, NE)
Highlights: Picking up Nebraska (state #47), Wind Cave, wildlife in Custer State Park, too many Harleys.
Hike: Wind Cave Natural Entrance Tour, Centennial Trail meadow hike (Wind Cave NP, SD)
Night in: Wall, SD (America’s Best Value Inn)

Day 23 – Wed, 7/29 – Wall, SD to Badlands NP, SD
Highlights: Wall Drug, Em seeing the Badlands, aborted scrambles down rock formations, just beating thunderstorm to set up tent.
Hike: In toward the rock formation (BNP)
Book: The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling (in entirety in tent overnight)
Night in: Badlands NP, SD (camping, unnamed rock formation)

Day 24 – Thu, 7/30 – Badlands NP, SD to Sioux Falls, SD (via Mitchell, SD)
Highlights: Buffalo herds, rock scrambling, Corn Palace.
Hike: Out from the rock formation (BNP)
Night in: Sioux Falls, SD (American Budget Lodge)

Day 25 – Fri, 7/31 – Sioux Falls, SD to Minneapolis, MN
Highlights: Jolly Green Giant and DQ in Blue Earth, walking downtown Minneapolis.
Baseball: Los Angeles Angels 11, Minnesota Twins 5 (11 innings)
Night in: Minneapolis, MN (Churchill’s Palace)

Day 26 – Sat, 8/1 – Minneapolis, MN to Gooseberry Falls SP, MN (via Duluth, MN)
Highlights: Highway 61, Lake Superior, tree-climbing, campfire stories.
Hike: Around waterfalls, over rivers, and to the lake (GFSP)
Night in: Gooseberry Falls SP, MN (car camping)

Day 27 – Sun, 8/2 – Gooseberry Falls SP, MN to Minneapolis, MN (via Duluth, MN)
Highlights: Discussion of religion with Ike/Mo and friends, lunch in Duluth.
Hike: Along lakeshore and up to the abandoned fireplace (Split Rock Lighthouse SP, MN)
Night in: Minneapolis, MN (Churchill’s Palace)

Day 28 – Mon, 8/3 – Minneapolis, MN to Madison, WI (via McGregor, IA)
Highlights: Picking up Iowa (state #48), lunch at Latino’s Mexican Restaurant in McGregor, views of the Mississippi.
Hike: To various viewpoints of effigy mounds (Effigy Mounds NP, IA)
Movie: “500 Days of Summer” at Sundance Theater in Madison, WI
Night in: Madison, WI (Holiday Inn)

Day 29 – Tue, 8/4 – Madison, WI (with Wisconsin Dells, WI)
Highlights: UW campus, Wisconsin state capitol, the Dells.
Hike: Very brief “hikes” on Wisconsin Dells boat tour (the Dells).
Night in: Madison, WI (Holiday Inn)

Day 30 – Wed, 8/5 – Madison, WI to Chicago, IL (via Milwaukee, WI)
Highlights: Breakfast with Angelo, oil change and Miller Park visit in Milwaukee, Ray Bradbury Park in Waukegan, IL, nice hotel staff.
Baseball: Chicago White Sox 6, Los Angeles Angels 2
Night in: Chicago, IL (Holiday Inn Express, Magnificent Mile)

Day 31 – Thu, 8/6 – Chicago, IL to Detroit, MI (via Ann Arbor, MI)
Highlights: Walking all over Chicago, Michigan campus, Japanese food in Ann Arbor.
Movie: “Food Inc.” at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, MI
Night in: Detroit, MI (St. Regis Hotel)

Day 32 – Fri, 8/7 – Detroit, MI
Highlights: Walking much of Detroit, amazing lunch, People Mover, return to the Renaissance Center, fireworks at Comerica Park.
Movie: “Orphan” at the Ren Cen 4 in Detroit, MI
Baseball: Detroit Tigers 10, Minnesota Twins 8
Night in: Detroit, MI (St. Regis Hotel)

Day 33 – Sat, 8/8 – Detroit, MI to Cleveland, OH
Highlights: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Night in: Cleveland, OH (Holiday Inn, Airport)

Day 34 – Sun, 8/9 – Cleveland, OH to Pittsburgh, PA
Highlights: The most absurd “National Park” ever, 10th row 1st base seats at PNC Park for cheap, chess.
Hike: Early morning towpath walk around bikers (Cuyahoga Valley “NP”, OH)
Baseball: St. Louis Cardinals 7, Pittsburgh Pirates 3
Night in: Pittsburgh, PA (Extended Stay America Hotel, Airport)

Day 35 – Mon, 8/10 – Pittsburgh, PA
Highlights: Duquesne Incline, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, massive thunderstorm.
Night in: Pittsburgh, PA (Extended Stay America Hotel, Airport)

Day 36 – Tue, 8/11 – Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA (via Carlisle, PA)
Highlights: Return to Dickinson College campus, Hershey’s “Factory” Tour.
Movie: “Julie and Julia” in Philadelphia, PA
Night in: Philadelphia, PA (Messily Manor)

Day 37 – Wed, 8/12 – Philadelphia, PA (with Easton, PA)
Highlights: Visit to Crayola “Factory” Tour in Easton, PA with Mesco/Afsheen (not driven by our car and thus exclusive of 6,206 miles), dinner at Ariel/Michael’s.
Night in: Philadelphia, PA (Brickhouse of Books)

Day 38 – Thu, 8/13 – Philadelphia, PA
Highlights: Mugshot’s coffee shop of slowness, reading, talking, lounging.
Night in: Philadelphia, PA (Brickhouse of Books)

Day 39 – Fri, 8/14 – Philadelphia, PA to Princeton, NJ
Highlights: Dropping off Ariel at the airport, Route 1 to Princeton, arrival.
Night in: Princeton, NJ (The New Place)

Wow, that took a lot longer than I expected to type. Please excuse the fun names I used for people’s various places of residence/hosting. And many thanks to those people, namely the various members of Emily’s family, my parents, Russ, Ike/Mo, Mesco/Afsheen, and Ariel/Michael. And extra-special thanks to Em’s sister Holly for helping us book Hotwire rooms from the road, which probably saved us hundreds of dollars. Seriously, we stayed at some ridiculously nice places for absurdly cheap.

Really looking forward to how hot it’s going to be back in our new place right now. This computer cluster joins much of the state, apparently, in over-air-conditioning the world when it’s a little hot outside. I’m going to have to carry a jacket everywhere in New Jersey summers, just in case I want to set foot in a building without catching pneumonia.


New: Jersey

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Summer Sojourn 2009, Tags: , ,

We have arrived in Princeton.

Our place is just as small as we thought. The floor is not hardwood as advertised, but something like a parquet linoleum. It may be challenging to even get everything in, broken or not, let alone adding more furniture. On the plus-side, things always look smaller when empty.

Final statistics on our trip include:
39 days
16 states
6,206 miles

Our stuff will not be here till Tuesday morning. Our phone will not be hooked up till Wednesday afternoon. These facts combine to mean that I will be spending a lot of time in the computer cluster, which is thankfully close to our place and seems to be empty a lot.

I am hungry, so I must away at this point. But because of the above, there should be much more from me after my longest posting drought in the history of this incarnation of the blog. Adjusting to this new life is very very strange, so far three hours in.

I am about to become a New Jersey resident. Wow.


Spirits in the Material World

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Summer Sojourn 2009, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , ,

Then one day
the sky fell in
and freedom lost control
and ran off the road and hit a pole
And it was all
and it was nothing
at all
-Josh Joplin Group, “Dutch Wonderland”

Woke up this morning in Denver after a pretty severe series of nightmares involving burrowing underground and interacting pretty negatively with space aliens therein. It was the eighth distinct location where I’ve woken up since the open of this trip 2.5 weeks ago, making for further discombobulation of my already rather tormented subconscious. The details of this particular dream are needlessly grisly. Suffice it to say that I’ve had better nights.

The morning voicemail on Em’s cell, however, was in some ways darker still. Apparently the moving truck with all our stuff, save the few items we found relevant to our six-week Sojourn, was in a car accident outside of LA, turning over at least once. No word yet on the extent of the damage or even whether any people were injured (though it sounds pretty bad). There was a claim from the President of the moving company who kindly left the message that, while their insurers were still sorting through it, the damage wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Whether this is an accurate reassurance or an early attempt at liability limitation remains to be seen.

In any case, it requires the contemplation of all of our stuff being gone or irreparably damaged. One’s mind quickly jumps over the furniture and the replaceable though seemingly indispensible stuff (vaccuum, lamp, and so on) and straight to the really sentimental stuff. Stuffed animals. My collection of small carved/sculpted turtles. A few papers. And oh, the photographs.

While the turtles are probably toasted oatmeal, being fragile as all get-out, one would think that most of the sentimental items would survive such a crash well intact. But then the pivotal question, one we can’t likely ask till Monday, is whether the truck opened or not. If it remained closed (and didn’t catch fire or something), then we can at least be sure that there will be an accounting for everything. But of course the vision that quickly develops in the mind’s eye is one of whipping winds carrying burst-open boxes of heart-rending items across the heartless LA freeway, careless convertibles dodging and weaving amongst the testimony of decades worth of beloved accumulation.

Damage I can deal with, but total loss is challenging. And the potential ambiguity of knowing what was lost, the direct result of a failure to sufficiently inventory box contents amidst the madness of frustrating packing, is perhaps the worst of all. And though we are steeling ourselves in an attempt to mentally imagine that there will be no truck at all showing up in New Jersey, just a settlement check for some number of thousands, there is some space between this mental commitment and the understanding that one’s wedding albums and pictoral history of high school are gone.

Of course, there is also opportunity. Like the disasters that would whip through SimCity, wreaking the best-laid zones of half a century to waste in a couple months, the losses that at first seem devastating are often incredible invitations to rebirth. I have been all too aware of the conflict between my own desire to transcend materialism of all kinds and my affection for a certain amount of material items and the collection thereof. It may be just this kind of event, like meat making me sick in high school, that is necessary to nudge me in the right direction. Em and I even talked about this possibility (hard to invoke discussion of insurance, to which I begrudgingly assented, without contemplating doomsday scenarios, which is incidentally one of the many reasons I conceptually hate insurance), realizing among other things that we would probably stop collecting books (probably the only type of item we overtly collect) should something like this set us back. Perhaps we will emerge from this completely devoid of our physical attachments to inantimate objects, able to face the future with a new fearlessness. The very thought is strangely inspiring.

And yet, there are the pangs. A history told in words and pictures. The computer that I didn’t back up quite well enough, or some of the backups that were insanely packaged in boxes in the same shipment as the computer itself. The fact that my decision of whether to start over with American Dream On, my second novel, or work with the 80-some-odd pages assembled over the last 8 years, may be determined by the condition of that machine and its survival or lack during the accident. (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that stupid and that there are backups of this in multiple places, but one never really knows until something like this happens.) And some things dear to Emily – her grandmother’s music boxes and the candelabra. And the few bits of shared accumulation in 6 years of marriage, few to none significant in their own right, but this is how Americans are taught to mark the passage of their time. It’s not right, but that doesn’t abridge the emotional twists and agonization.

I would love to tell you that I just don’t care. And while I feel closer to that than I ever thought I would, it’s not true. If it were, we wouldn’t have packed up just shy of two tons of stuff and sent it across America’s dangerous highways in the first place.

It’s overshadowed the last week of events, suddenly, which is too bad. In some ways, it could cast a pallor over the whole trip if we don’t start to get a decent handle on how totalled our stuff really is. But it’s a stuff-tragedy, not a personal one, and for that I’m grateful. Stuff can be rebuilt or rebought (or more likely not), but people are inconstructable. The sting of an event like this could create a lifetime of counterbalance to American training about stuff, which could be just what I need. A little bell that goes off every time I crave an item, a Pavolvian antidote to the way capitalism makes us pigs.

There’s just no way of knowing till it all shakes out.

I would love to now launch into the travails of a return to the Grand Canyon and the roundtrip to Indian Garden, of a whirlwind Albuquerque with my parents in full fervor, of the discovery of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a town that joins Nevada City, CA and Madrid, NM, and probably a few others as potential small-town retreats for a future I still can’t flesh out. But these will have to wait – personal timing of the trip unending calls us to another outing and my own wrestling with late developments makes such review seem relatively trivial, or at least not primarily pertinent. There will be time and space to discuss those details – they are not forgotten. And suddenly, those may be some of the only photographs of the last 15 years that I have.

Someday, I will leave this world. And take not a single physical possession with me on my way. Perhaps it’s time to enact the latter early, well before having to engage in the former. An opportunity indeed. Not one without pain, but perhaps, over time, one without sorrow. Or at least regret.


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