Stay tuned (patiently) as we occasionally throw updates on here about what steps we're taking to get to our end goals, DIY tricks and life-hacks, child-rearing tactics (strategery), etc.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Georgia and Tennessee

We stayed in Macon, Georgia last night, and we got gas this morning just north of Macon. This place seemed to represent all the worst parts of Georgia. The pumps were all old and decrepid. There was trash everywhere, including piles of clothes on the road. It was weird, almost surreal.

We headed north, through Atlanta and Chattanooga, to where we are, at some Shell station in Tennessee. Monkey's driving soon.

The adventure is continuing. I'm happy with the decision of skipping the Jack Daniels distillery, hoping to make St. Louis by the end of the day. With any luck, tomorrow morning we'll get to go up in the Arch, and we'll be rolling in to Denver Monday night.

I can't wait to road trip in the BattleWagon!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I've Got Georgia On My Mind

Monkey and I got out of Orlando around 4:15 and headed due north. The sun went down, and we lost the gloomy, gray clouds to darkness. We laughed as we drove and danced to techno music to keep us awake. We stopped in Voldosta, Georgia, where we grabbed a bite to eat at Steak N Shake. Monkey offered me $20 to eat 10 sweet peppers, and I got through 4 before he name me laugh. The pepper juice went up my nose, and the challenge ended then and there. We're now on the road again with Macon, Georgia in our sights. It's starting to mist snow a little bit, but this truck is warm, and the Knob and Noster are keeping their souls lit by means of CocaCola, Starbucks, and some classic Pearl Jam.

The picture just proves something even more personal for me:  If you focus on what's behind you, you miss everything around you.

The Patchwork of the Bread Basket

We left DIA this morning around 7:30, and we just landed in a cold and wet and rainy Atlanta, excited for our continued trip to Orlando. Hopefully we'll get some time to pee and eat before we board again.

When we were flying, I snapped this picture of the plains, the different shades of dormant crops laying out like an organic checkerboard underneath us, before the clouds came and covered it all up like a fluffly white blanket.

Wings

It's 6:47 am, and this is the vehicle that will take us to Atlanta, where we'll get on a differnt plane for Orlando. The airport is quiet this morning, and the air is still. The sunrise is pretty. The morning has broken.

Knob & Noster 2: The Florida Saga

It's 5:24 am on a Saturday. Monkey and I are en route to Denver International Airport. This is to be our second foray to the deep south, flying to Orlando and driving back to Denver with a truck full of Monkey's wife's mom's stuff. She moved out here not too long ago, and Monkey, being the great son-in-law he is, has volunteered to pick up and move her stuff out here. We did this trip once before; I want to say it was November. This time, we'll have a shorter truck and no dog coming with us.

The "Knob & Noster" comes from the town Knob Noster, Kansas, which we drove by on our last trip. Monkey dubbed the two of us Knob & Noster, our aliases of adventure.

I love the first day of any vacation where you have to get up early and go. One of my favorite things when I was a kid was when my dad would wake us all up at 3:30 or 4 to load us in the van bound for Phoenix. Those were always great trips. I miss those days, when the family seemed closer than it is. Sometimes it really sucks being an adult. But then, you meet great friends, and the adventures continue.

More coherent blogs later, when it's not an hour before sunrise.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Morning Has Broken

This morning I was listening to the radio and looking out my kitchen window. I was thinking of that classic song by Cat Stevens, "Morning Has Broken". He says "Morning has broken, like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird." I woke up this morning feeling like it was the first morning, like life had started new and fresh. While this would normally make me optimistic, today it's different. Today it makes me feel humble, as if to outline all of the work that's cut out for me. I have a lot of things that I need to accomplish, not pipe dreams or things on my bucket list, but actual goals to help restore my mental and spiritual health. It's almost daunting to realize and admit that I have some severe issues I'm dealing with, but if there's any one thing I need to stick to, it's that I can't lose faith that I'll be able to succeed.

Even getting through the first step and admitting that there are things in my life that I can't help, whether they be external or internal, is turning out to be a very daunting task. I can't blame it on anything, but it helps to know that the blame can't include me. I don't know if that's true all the time, and there are times when I want to punish myself for my own transgressions. It's intimidating, but I can't give up, and I can't hold it against friends and family members who are hurt by me.

I sit here writing this, listening to "Explosions in the Sky", I feel much more introspective than normal, almost fearing what is to be found inside my head. But I must keep going. I must not quit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Avatar

There have been movies which have been controversial upon their release. The Catholic church practically waged war on "The DaVinci Code", and the conservatives labeled Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" a bleeding-heart liberal doctrine. Other flicks are almost pure hype, and then when you see them, the whole experience fizzles out leaving you unsatisfied and disappointed, sometimes even angry.

I try to pay attention to the news, and it's hard to do that and not see the hype for "Avatar". I have to admit that this made me hesitate to see it. Firstly, I'm not impressed by movies that make a ton of money right away. People are easy to con. Secondly, James Cameron's last great outing was "Titanic", which, all cool effects of the ship itself aside, was kind of a weak love story with the beautiful ginger Kate Winslet and short guy Leonardo DiCaprio (umm... not really). Needless to say, with "Avatar" I was skeptical, almost to the point of writing it off in my head, when a co-worker invited me to go with them to see it.... at the IMAX.... in 3D. (I'd never seen a 3D movie before...)

So I went. Oh, boy did I go. I stood in line for 45 minutes at the Colorado Center's IMAX theater, the same place I took my brother and parents to see "Star Trek" over mother's day. The people were enthusiastic, all wearing their yellow 3D glasses with pride. And when the movie started rolling... phew... to quote Samuel L. Jackson's character in "Jurassic Park", "hold on to your butts." James Cameron came out swinging.

The whole movie takes place on this alien moon called Pandora, where a race of natives, I'm guessing to be around 10 or 11 feet tall, live there in peace and harmony with nature. They're so in tune to the world around them, that they have these biological USB-ports on their pony tails that they can use to plug in to plans and animals. That sense of harmony and respect for nature was something that I really identified with, something that was threatened by the people of Earth, who show up to pillage the planet for a mineral called "unobtainium", a mineral that has strong enough magnetic properties to make big deposits of it actually hover above the ground. There are even the "Hallelujah Mountains" on Pandora, entire mountains hovering above the ground. What happens is a classic, yet beautifully done battle of the natives to defend their homeland, and as for the end, well, you'll just have to see it.

The attention to detail in this make believe world were so overwhelming and beautiful. Unlike "Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones", this was a very believable reality, not cartoonish at all, almost like you're looking at a movie filmed in the Amazon, but every plant and animal is not something you recognize. At one point, sitting in a theater with two big and intimidating guys, I broke down and let tears roll out of my eyes, enamored with the beauty of the movie.

Out of 5 stars, I would give this movie a perfect score, and being a trekkie and having my big day last May, I have to say that this motion picture blew that one out of the water.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Mother Cabrini Shrine

Sunday, I visited the Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine in Golden. I'd consider my heavily spiritual, yet not overly religious. Yet this place, a home for Catholic brothers and sisters, gave me pause and showed me a humbling side of the human condition. Devotion is something I'm very envious of, and I continually find myself impressed with individuals who believe something so fiercely and honestly that they live for that thing every day of their lives.

Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini moved to Denver in 1902 and in 1904
founded the Queen of Heaven Orphanage, a place where young women
and girls of all ethnicities could explore their own potential. In 1910, she negotiated the purchase of the land where the shrine how stands, and from then on, children from the inner city orphanage could come out to work on their farm or just play and run through the hills, being as loud as they wanted. The orphanage didn't close until 1967, when, as I understand it, orphanages were replaced by foster care.

Mother Cabrini died in 1917 in Chicago, and was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1946, becoming the first American Saint. In 1948, the 22-foot statue of Jesus was mounted on an 11-foot base in her honor.

Now that the historical stuff has been roughly covered, I can tell you that my personal experience here was rather touching. The whole area has an aura about it, as I imagine many places do. The hike to the shrine features something like 373 concrete steps,
and, along the way, the stages of the Cross are presented, complete with places for pilgrims to stop
and prostrate. Once you get to the top, the views are spectacular. To the west, the front range. Mt. Eva
ns pokes it's head over the horizon. To the east, Denver seems to be humbly nestled against the hills, the vast plains stretching out to the horizon behind it.

It was a great hike, and if you're looking for a place to stretch your legs on a cross-country drive, this is a wonderful choice.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

The BattleWagon II, In the flesh!


After my accidents, both with the deer and with the kids from Colorado Springs, I have found myself a new BattleWagon! Without further ado, here it is, ladies and gentlemen: The BattleWagon II!

This is a 1990 Chevrolet G-20 series van with a Starcraft LX conversion. It has a 3-speed automatic transmission with over-drive, a 5.7 Litre V8 (350 cubic inches... my dad always said "there's no substitute for cubic inches). Seating for 7 with seatbelts, and it sleeps two or three comfortably. The hi-top has a place for a TV and DVD/VCR. It also has hookups for a CB. It's basically what I wanted when I lived in the BattleWagon. Now I have a luxurious palace, and I have an equally luxurious travel barge. Moab, here I come!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

HomeBase

In October, I moved indefinitely out of the BattleWagon and into HomeBase, a lovely and spacious apartment off 2nd Avenue and Lincoln Street in the Speer neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. I fear it wasn't too soon a move, as shortly afterward, I had the catastrophic collision with the Subaru Impreza, the vehicle I'm now dubbing "The Kamikaze", although a Kamikaze has traditionally been a suicide-killing, and The Kamikaze Impreza got away from this relatively unscathed... but I digress.

This apartment is a lovely place in a great area of the city. Bus lines flow within yards of the front door. The Mayan Theatre is close by. The SoBo (short for South Broadway) restaurant and bar district is one block away. Senior Burritos, one of the most underestimated Mexican restaurants in the city, is across the street. Dougherty's Pub, an Irish "Cheers" is two blocks away. Everyone already knows my name, and I've been there maybe three times since I've lived here. And, for the sake of medical and munchy emergencies, Walgreens is right across the street, too.

If you're ever in Denver for a few days and would like to go on adventure, while the sleeping in the BattleWagon is postponed
until further notice, you're welcome to swing by here and catch some winks... or suds... or both.

News update on the BattleWagon, since you BattleWagoneers can't get enough of me, the insurance company representing the Kamikaze has taken the van for appraisal. Once they give me a settlement check, the search will be on for a new BattleWagon. It will most likely be a full-size conversion van or an older model Chevy/GMC Suburban. Thanks for reading, and yes, I have dubbed my most loyal readers BattleWagoneers. I'll come up with a cool T-shirt design at some point, don't you worry.

Oh, also, notice in the kitchen picture that I've "re-adopted" a partner in crime. Her name is Harry Dean Stanton. She's one of the sweetest calico kitties I've ever met... provided you don't introduce her to any other animals... then she's angry!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Family

After two weeks of holidays, I've had some highs and lows that I would like to share with everyone.

Firstly, I've discovered that Christmas is Christmas for families whereas New Years Eve is Christmas for friends. Both are important for bonding with those you love and having the opportunities to confront those you love even more, which is even more important.

Secondly, I've found that all families are virtually indestructible. However, that being said, I've also discovered that no families are invincible or invulnerable to the less flattering sides of life (i.e. depression, alcoholism, grief, illness, poverty, anger, lack of communication, ad nauseum). The preceding contradiction is explained like this: no matter what goes on in a family, what sorts of negative energy gets thrown in the mix, whether it be an alcoholic who bottles their anger and never reaches out or a child perceived as perfect and chosen by their siblings and has the arrogance or ignorance associated with that stigma, regardless of these traits, it takes all but death to drive virtually any family apart. Whether someone has been shamed once or a thousand times, at the end of the day, the family will always stand in some capacity. It may be a shell of what it once was, but it will stand. The amount of work needed to make it a tight-knit family... that's the biggest variable. The harsh realization of growing into an adulthood of some form is that, when you can see the bigger picture, you realize your share of the work is much larger than you ever thought. Some kids are thrown into this at a young age, pushed by the negativity and negligence of their parents, but some people don't understand this concept, due to their selfishness, until their 20s, 30s, or even their 40s. Some people don't even realize the responsibility they have until after their parents have passed on. The bigger picture is remembering your family's values and traditions and upholding them to the best of your abilities, for better or for worst.

Thirdly, forgiveness is essential to one's well being. I've recently had the good fortune of reconnecting with someone who is very special to me, but wasn't always. As a matter of fact, while I think hate is too strong a term, I had a large amount of fear and loathing for this person. I've been working very hard to forgive myself and, as a consequence, them for the misconceptions I've had and the ignorance I've taken on in my heart about such things. Forgiveness truly is one of the aspects of love, which I believe to be the salvation of man.

Finally, communication is amazingly powerful when employed and terribly destructive when neglected. From experience, I've lost some of my best friendships by introverting and keeping my thoughts and ideas to myself. Conversely, I've maintained some of my worst friendships by simply allowing my friend to communicate with me and vise/versa. This holds true for all relationships, including friendships, family relationships, and romantic interests. The more communication is in place, the more likely something will succeed. Simple fact.

I wrap up this blog with words from Richard Bach's book "Illusions", and I'm sure I've quoted it before on here: "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof." Final summation: talk to everyone, those you love and those you don't. Understand where they are in life, and help them to understand where you are. When these lines of communication are opened, all of the other problems you have will have outlets to flush themselves out. Share your respect and joy with others, and grow together, regardless of where you're growing.