Roadtrip in Review

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Three weeks ago (suspended disbelief: I wrote this blog the day we got back), two friends and I stuffed some bags with clothes, tossed in a load of camping equipment, and packed two metric tons of food inside our minivan. Since then, we’ve traveled from one coast to the other, and back again. My oh my.

You’ve read our adventures and experienced with us the highs and lows, the near-death moments and instances where we felt like we brushed the fringe of heaven. The stories abounded. The memories will last the rest of our lives.

So how has this enormous undertaking served our lives? How am I different? What have I learned? I’ve compiled a list of just such things:

Lessons learned

~ Iced tea apparently doesn’t go stale if it’s not refrigerated, no matter how long it sits in the car

~ Paying to enter national parks can be optional

~ There actually comes a point when granola bars aren’t appetizing anymore, at all, not even a little

~ If you encounter a sign at Zion National Park that says “steep and not for people with fear of heights,” its not kidding

~ Showering daily is a luxury, like owning a GPS, sleeping in a bed, eating square meals, and having electricity

~ Every state in this country has something beautiful about it, some places more so than others (except for Kansas because it’s got nothing…let’s sell it to Mexico and get out of this economic downturn)

That about does it for lessons. I have plenty more tidbits but I think that you might not be so entertained by the rest of my epiphanies. But I do have other big news for you. Can I get a drumroll, please. Seriously, for dramatic effect I would really appreciate you drumming your pen, pencil, spoon, carrot stick, french fry, thermometer, or whatever your holding. (I’ll even accept fingernail-tapping.)

The final count for pullovers is…………….36. Thank you Police Officer for patrolling our nation’s roadways and keeping our country protected and traveling within the prescribed bounds of speed. Thank you as well Mr. Speed Limit Violator for keeping those officers busy so that we were able to pick up were you left off.

The final count for road kill is……………….105. What a slaughterfest! Some interstates resembled how I’ve always envisioned ancient Jewish animal sacrifice customs. I could go more in-depth about the blood, sinews, bone, and skin and how they smeared the streets in splatters of dull red and chunks of furry brown, but I’ve decided to avoid that topic entirely to cater to the soft stomachs of the world (in other words Derek). At least we didn’t add to the tally, unless you count that bird, but I’m still not even sure it died; I mean, I never heard a thud and just because I didn’t see it reemerge on the other side of the van doesn’t mean it couldn’t have.

Now let’s tackle the issue of the License Plate Challenge: sighting all 50 states’ plates in one road trip. So how many did we see? 40? 45? 50? With a note of sadness in my words I sit here and reveal that we only captured 49. Who was the delinquent? Hawaii? After all, it’s in the middle of the ocean. Alaska? A whole country sits between us and that state. Montana? They own horses there, not cars. The truth was that we saw all of these states. Not to mention plates from 5 Canadian provinces, a country in Europe, and a car from Back to the Future. Yet, in all of these sightings Rhode Island escaped us. I shake my fist at them and their lacking sense of tourism.

So where does this leave us? Well, now I’m living at home. Jobless. Without a car. Single. But I have a 100+k college education and a three-week road trip under my belt. I’ve got the world just where I want it to be!

Currently, Fox, TNT, and Sci-Fi are all ruthlessly fighting over the rights to our blog to make it into a series. I told them, though, that school has dibs and that I’m not interested in a show or movie about our trip. The offers haven’t stopped pouring in the mail to go on the sequel road trip, asking us to stop at certain places all over the states. We’ll see how that happens. Brett Faro released a comment to the syndicated press, “We went West this trip. Next time, Go West Young Men go East, Middle East.” Stay tuned for developments in the coming years.

Gas: $900
Oil Change: $20
In-N-Out Burger Fries: not much
In-N-Out Burger Fries Animal Style: a lot more
Postcards: $10
Yellowstone/Zion/Grand Canyon Entrance Fees: $0 (suckers!!)
Roadtrip of a Lifetime: Priceless
There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Messiah grants!

Anything I write to bring this blog to a finish would feel trite. In these portions, I’ve offered snippets of wisdom from Coach John Wooden. I’ve written television themesong lyrics, homespun lessons, sarcastic remarks, Star Wars quotes, poems, movie lines, trivia questions, hopeful blurbs about tomorrow, Messiah shout outs, and more. I wanted to conclude all this hoopla with a smattering of funny, fascinating, and insightful quotes.

“Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf.” – Lewis Mumford

“The shortest distance between two points is under construction.” – Noelie Altito

“A driver is a king on a vinyl bucket-seat throne, changing direction with the turn of a wheel, changing the climate with a flick of the button, changing the music with the switch of a dial.” – Andrew H. Malcolm

“Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.” – Author Unknown

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.” – Dave Barry

Thank you all (so my mom and the people she told) for taking the time to read the blog. Thanks for your comments and prayers. May you all find adventures of your own whether driving down the road in a car, raising a herd of children, working at the office, or sitting at home with a well-worn book. It’s a big, beautiful world. Enjoy it everyday!

– JD and the boys

Day 22 – The Cornhusker State

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Morning light pried my tired eyes open. Teeth unbrushed. Hair uncombed. Attitude unsuperb. I got up and went inside to see Grandma. She was in the kitchen dressed for church and ready to feed me. She whipped up some muffins, baked a batch of frosting-lathered cinnamon rolls, and set out the cereal and bread. What a great turn around from yesterday.

(Quick note: I asked Grandma about the key to the front door. She said it was in the birdhouse, attached by magnet to the back, the one place I didn’t look on that infernal piece of decor.)

After getting cleaned up, we met up with my Aunt Connie and drove to church. It was great to see the church again since I half knew half of the congregation. My family (brothers Ben and Bruce, and sister Jen) had all been there at some point and people knew my mom who grew up in that area.

One guy comes up to me and says, “Bruce right?”

“Close,” I say, “JD. You’re a Kment, right?” He nods and smiles.

Not a couple minutes later another guy comes up, “We’ve been praying for you.”

I respond kindly, “You probably mean my brother Ben. I’m JD. You’re a Kment, right?”

Then some random kid walks past and says, “That’s not fair. Seventy-five percent of the people here are Kments.”

I was just waiting for someone to come up and ask, “So Jen, how have you been?”

After church, our trio had a decompression session. Sentiments were shared. Frustrations were freed. Emotion were expressed. Opinions were, well, you get the idea. Another building block for Go West Young Men.

The rest of the day we spent at my grandma’s house. Two things happen there: you eat and play cards. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You’re either munching on some piece of good old fashion country cooking or dealing out the deck for another round of Pitch. Most commonly you’re doing both of these.

The culture of Nebraska revolves around food.
You eat to celebrate. You eat to mourn.
You eat when you’re hungry. You eat when your friends are hungry.
You eat three meals a day, have twice as many snacks, and fill in the time between with nibbling.
You eat to live and live to eat. It’s as natural and breathing and talking and happens almost as often.

Food, suck-on-your-thumb-to-get-the-morsel-under-your-fingernail-it’s-so-good food, is the common denominator that joins this culture together and brings in friends and neighbors. Everyone bakes. Everyone eats. Cinnamon streusel coffeecake, homemade potato salad, sausage chili, monkey rolls, canned corn, hot coffee, and cold watermelon. The food just keeps coming. That’s one reason why Nebraska is one of my favorite places on earth.

But this isn’t a state of people who just sit around all day stuffing their faces with the nearest handful of food. It’s a buzzing community that thrives on group activities, which translates into playing cards at my grandma’s house. We socialize around the table, perhaps working our way to the bottom of a bowl of popcorn, jawing about the current topic (maybe the lack of rain and how it’s hit the farmers hardest) while Aunt Lonna is plotting to drop the dreaded queen of spades onto the pile during a game of Hearts. Or maybe we’re passing the cookie plate around for the umpteenth waiting for Uncle John to take a card or not while watching him sort through a quarter of the deck that he’s (barely) holding in his hand.

It’s something that I’ll always love about going back there. Great people. Loads of fun. Endless food. I mean, that sums up my life’s ambitions right there.

This place, though, was only another stop on the trip and we were leaving that very night. After we received some food, we hugged goodbye and headed out the door for the 8-hour ride home which would put us home around 5:30am.

8 hours? What is that at this point but mere child’s play, a trip to the grocery store for diapers and a bottle, c’mon we’re road warriors now and nothing short of (if even) fiery meteors or Megatron himself will be an impediment for this drive. That being said, Faro drove.

Can’t say I remember too much about the ride from NE to IL except that the back was cool, comfortable, and I had lots of pillows to muffle noise and snuggle into like a baby bird in a nest.

Tomorrow I reach my last stop of the trip. I have a sense of fulfillment and completeness going into the end of the journey. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.

Stay tuned for my last post coming soon where I’ll share some lessons from the road, divulge final counts for road kill and pullovers, reveal if we spied or not all 50 states in our license plate roundup, review some trip moments, and wax poetic at times (as all good English majors should).

Life is a highway….i’ve seriously been riding it all night long for almost a month now.

– JD and the boys

Day 21 – At Least Today Wasn’t As Bad As Chernobyl

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Yesterday’s clouds and rain only grew stronger for today. A musical drizzle played outside the lodge window when I woke up. I checked the sky to see only a thick ceiling of gray cement.

We packed up our belongings, checked out of the room, and migrated to the van for departure. Before leaving, Faro rifled through the van searching for Bos/Scot/MS (his stuffed teddy bear). He wanted to go back to the room because he thought he left it there. Sipe and I both looked in the room and assured him it wasn’t there. He ran back anyway, the foolish boy. As it turns out, apparently the little stuffed bear varmint was hiding in there and came out when Faro entered. It really would have been a shame to lose that mangy creature.

Then we piled into the van to begin the longest driving segment of the trip. We drove about a half an hour when we stopped to see another Yellowstone Attraction, West Thumb Lake. We discovered (by the smell) that there were sulfur hot springs there as well. Nice views. But the memorable factor came into play on our way out as we walked past one of these boiling pools. We saw a brown lump that looked like a rock or wooden stump. It wasn’t. I guess Bambi was thirsty or cold or needed a bath. Whatever it was, that baby deer isn’t getting out of that hot spring anytime soon.

Then we drove. Miles faded into miles. The interstate shot under our tires like a treadmill on a rocket-ship setting. (A rocket ship that of course abides the posted signs for speed limits….)

During this trip, though, we didn’t have big blue skies like other days. Not by a long shot. We encountered fog, clouds, rain, hail, huge hail, small tornados, bouts of sunshine, thunder, and lightning. For a long segment we actually were driving through thick clouds in the Big Horn Mountains and couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of us. That was fun. I still don’t know if the sides of the road led to sheer cliff faces or if they were grassy meadows. I didn’t care to really find out.

Nonetheless, the drive continued. It dragged on like a sermon when you’re sleepy. It crept like the days before your birthday when you were six. It crawled like Frodo ascending Mount Doom. It relentlessly went on and on like an obnoxious, loquacious, verbose, wordy, and redundant English major trying to make a point. You get the idea.

Here’s where it started to get fun. Well, now I say fun. Fun, though, right then wasn’t the word zipping to my lips.

About twelve hours into the trip (around 2am mind you), we pull off the main interstate and enter a smaller highway. With stoplights and stop signs, it impaired our ability to make great time. For one reason or another, the three of us weren’t exactly in the highest or happiest spirits. Maybe it was three weeks in a car together. Maybe other factors were involved.

This road would lead us to another road that would lead us to another that would lead us to an intersection that would have my grandma’s house. So we were basically a hop, skip, and a jump from our destination. Something like that anyways.

Well, the late night morphed into early morning while the temperament in the car shifted from annoyed to downright irascible. As the story continues, we were nearing my grandma’s house. It sits off a gravel road lodged deep in the heart of Nebraska nestled in cornfield country. We were in desperate desire to be off the road, out of the darn car, and sleeping on soft beds with even softer pillows. Then I spotted her house. It didn’t help that I was bleary-eyed staring into the dark night with fog all around (or for that matter that I’m severely navigationally impaired) but it would appear that the farm we pulled onto wasn’t hers. Yeah, you just read that, I confused me grandma’s farm with someone else’s. But let’s not dwell on the past.

I knew Derek was very upset when he didn’t make any comments but just turned around the continued down the bumpy gravel road. Now I was really ready to be done with today’s drive. The fact that Derek was driving down the road like it was black ice and he had bald tires started to drive me up a wall. But there was no way I was going to say anything, not then anyway.

This whole time we didn’t say a word except when it was completely required. Otherwise, silence. Well, silence from us. But the radio continued howling on some bad country station. Another testament to how angry we were all becoming was that no one ever cared to touch the dial. It didn’t matter. Fun and jokes didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but getting into bed.

We soon found my grandma’s real house. We parked and I went to open the door to the house. It was locked. I thought it might be. But many times before I’d seen my mom on family vacations pull a hidden key from somewhere on the porch and open the door. So I didn’t worry but started instead to find the key. The boys sat in the van. I looked some more. They watched. I kept looking but found nothing but a rising temper revealed in a stone-cold demeanor. Then Faro joined in the search. It wasn’t in the pots, or under the pots, or by the cat dishes, under a ledge, in the corner, attached to the railing, lying in a dark corner, beside the chairs, or even in the birdhouse hung right by the door which I checked twice because it looked like the perfect hiding place.

I said, “Looks like we’re sleeping in the van tonight.” No eye contact – at all.

Silence.

Derek asks, “Can you call her?”

I take a long moment to look at my watch, knowing it’s after 4am but trying to prove a point to Derek. I deadpan a reply, “Nope.”

If people were heavily irritable before, I wouldn’t say mutinous or seething would be over-strong descriptors for the mood at this point.

I grabbed a mat, pillow, and sleeping bag and dropped them near the van. Faro and Sipe rustled inside the van until sleep took them. I watched the dark sky and felt the cool wind hoping that rain wouldn’t greet me in the morning. Either way, tomorrow started soon as we had to leave for church in the morning. What a day.

Today’s lesson: if you have nothing good to say don’t say it at all.

How true that is.

– JD and the boys

Day – 20 Musings at Snow Lodge

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Whenever beds are in the picture, it seems that early mornings aren’t. As I stated in my previous post, we’re staying at the Snow Lodge in Yellowstone. “How?” you may ask considering our strict budget and scrooge-like tightfistedness. Well, it was no doing of our own. It was a blessing from a kind benefactor. You know who you are so I won’t reveal your identity. From now on, let’s just call this person Papa Blackjack. He saw fit to not only grant us a two-night stay in this quality establishment but also sponsored a dinner for us. What a guy! In all seriousness, though, thanks Mr. J– oops! I mean, Papa Blackjack.

By now in our travels, I think we’re a little over national-parked. Thus, I blame that factor for us not being overly impressed here today. I’m sure Yellowstone is truly awe-inspiring but for us, today, it didn’t evoke much response. We toured some of the hot springs/geysers (not really sure of the difference), and that was entertaining because we hadn’t seen anything like them before here. By the way, Old Faithful was pretty cool. I mean, it was scalding, sure, but I consider that another notch in my National Parker belt to have witnessed an eruption from this famous geyser.

We would have ventured to other locales but the weather turned cold, rainy, then stormy. We just didn’t have the slightest inclination to combat it. I guess that can be expected after nearly three weeks on the road.

So I did what any English major should do on a stormy day; I curled up on a soft sofa, next to a warm fireplace, with a good book, and listened to the rhythm of the rain while I drifted away. Let’s just say that between yesterday’s drive and this afternoon, I made mincemeat of Eragon. Onto the next book in the series: Eldest.

After finishing the book, I took a moment to have a fireside chat FDR-style with a couple who shivered their way inside the door. They cozied up to the flames and let the heat erase the bone-deep memories of the dreary weather outdoors. We inquired about each other’s travels and shared experiences from the road. Then, as if on cue, a lady sits down at the piano to tickle the ivories playing rolling classical numbers as well as snatches of Claire de Lune. I really enjoyed that moment.

With no televisions, this hotel doesn’t offer a lot of entertainment (as evidenced by the boys hitting the hay before 10pm). The Snow Lodge, on the contrary, seems to be fostering some sort of community by investing in clusters of chairs and sofas versus tv’s. Maybe they’re taking a page out of Messiah’s book. Whatever they’re doing, I like it. This whole lodge has a rugged hospitality about it. It’s all logs and lampposts with clean spaces and hot showers.

Tomorrow holds in store another epic drive. I think the longest of the trip. Yipee! (If you could only hear the dryness in my voice as the monotones fill the air begrudgingly…) On the up side, at least we’ll have plenty of hours and miles to chalk up more road kill and pullovers (Heaven forbid that we aren’t one of the pullovers…or the road kill for that matter!)

– JD and the boys

Day 19 – Homeward Bound

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This morning we packed up, bidding adieu to Jordan and Portland with her. The time has come to launch our journey back to the East.

I don’t know if I’ve stated it yet, but the novelty of interstate driving is wearing off. Today was spent largely, if not entirely in the car making our way toward Yellowstone National Park. It’s a hefty drive consisting of over 13 hours. We broke it up with a couple stops. We dropped off Last Chance Harvey. We got an oil change (much needed). And, of course, we refueled when necessary.

Sighting of the Day: Bald Eagle perched in a tree near the interstate (Don’t listen to what Faro and Sipe tell you, I really saw it!)

Idaho has some pleasant landscapes that assuage the monotony of a drive of such proportions as ours. At times large, angular mountains patrolled the side of the road. They were green and soft looking as if the whole chain was swathed in felt from a billiard’s table. At other times, it seemed that someone had split open these mountains revealing innards of crumbling rock, weathered from years of enduring the unshaded sun, the falling rain, and the blasting winds. Then far in the distance jagged, snow-sprinkled peaks ran parallel with the road like an ever-present guide shepherding our return home.

But when I wasn’t peeking out window, I had my nose buried in a book. I don’t normally read well in moving vehicles but these straight, flat roads proved rather facilitating of my endeavors. The toughest part of reading was trying to gain sufficient light. As the evening sun drew closer and closer to the horizon, its light streamed through the windows like a golden lamp. The trick was when we’d veer left or right I would have to track the light with my book. I place myself in some rather precarious positions while pursuing that precious light. I finally had to lay my book to rest for the night when a low-lying column of clouds consumed the sinking sun.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve supplied an update on our trip tallies. Pullovers have achieved a new high of 39. Road kill stands at a lofty 81. (It’s a shame we’ve been going without meat so often on this trip when God has so kindly provided sweet manna right under our noses….and tires.) We can only hope to hit the 100 mark before the trip’s conclusion. So send a hopeful wish our way that animals keep throwing themselves sacrificially before cars.

With three bodies and only two beds, we had a predicament entering our hotel room at the Snow Lodge. Thus, we competed head-to-head-to-head in a coin-flipping contest. I quickly lost when I called “heads” and it landed on “tails.” However, Sipe and Faro entered into a long stalemate in what was reminiscent of a WWI nobody-budge trench warfare setup. At long last, though, Faro won the battle and the single bed.

– JD and the boys

Day 18 – Impossible Is Nothing

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Today was just one of those days. Some days you win. Some days you lose. And some days you hit the jackpot.

It was by no means an early start. With last night’s milk purchase, I knew I had hope for a breakfast of cereal so I raided out still vast stock of food nesting in the van and found a box of granola. I’m pretty certain not a single day has gone without me consuming some form of granola product. It may be in my Top Five foods behind steak, flopjacks, and anything from In-N-Out Burger.

Faro magically pulled an interview from his bag of tricks this morning. But not just any interview; we were scheduled to meet with some folks at Adidas. We had no idea what we were getting into.

Leah Harrison greeted us warmly and guided us from place to place throughout the day. She’s a wonderfully bubbly and conversational lady, and made out time at Adidas a remarkable experience.

Our first interview of the day included Jim Gatto, the Director of Global Sports Marketing. He had some interesting things to say about his time and duties with Adidas. He also delineated how he likes from time to time seeing and chatting with his boys Chauncey Billups, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard. You know, just a regular office guy doing regular office stuff.

After that Leah escorted us to the soccer side of things. There we met and spoke with Ernesto Bruce and his team. They were a fun crew to spend time with. They explained to us a bit about what they do, and what a typical day there is like. During this segment, they unveiled to us several pieces of merchandise that won’t be revealed until 2010. That’s right, we’re in the know about cutting edge Adidas products. Also, we all were able to touch, fondle, and caress a pair of soccer shoes that will eventually wrap around the feet of David Beckham. So I’ve pretty much played soccer with David Beckham is what I’m saying.

Then, as if we hadn’t had enough fun yet, Leah introduced us to Tony Holmes who is in charge of the heritage footwear for the US. This guy has been working with Adidas for 20+ doing more jobs than he cared to describe and was very down to earth. We just chatted about his experience and he shared a bit of wisdom with us about the working world and the Adidas organization. For this staunch Puma aficionado, he softened my heart towards Adidas. I may be a convert in the making.

Then crazy events began to unfold. Derek and Brett found themselves the fortunate recipients of a pair of free shoes from Adidas. Their feet are the size that sample shoes come in so they benefitted well.

But soon after this gift all our lives were changed.

Leah explained to us that on campus Adidas had a store. She was taking us there so we could go shopping. Employees get a 50% discount on all merchandise. We didn’t got that discount, too. But we didn’t end up using it because Leah also informed us that we each had a $150 limit (which was flexible still) on anything in the store. Yes, she said grab clothes, pile shoes, snag socks and short until you have a pile of merchandise in your arms that comes out to about $150. The joy of this moment was washing over me like Niagara Falls. That experience was better than Christmas, and if you know me and know how much I love Christmas, then you understand how epic that was. We said goodbye eventually to all our new friends at Adidas and gave Leah a hug. Adidas: great people, great product.

Later my joy was renewed whenever I thought back to that shopping spree and realized it wasn’t a dream. It was real. I really had a bag of stuff from Adidas sitting in the van waiting for me to wear and enjoy.

After Adidas, we traveled five minutes down the road to meet with Todd Bausma at the Portland Trailblazers arena. Todd has a vibrant personality and the interview was both casual and very informative. We heard an insider’s perspective on the organization and the specifics of what they’re trying to do to improve it. He gave us a tour of the facility and posters of the stunt team and cheerleaders before we left.

From our many interviews today, I heard a theme of relationships and community running through most if not all of the conversations. Getting jobs isn’t strictly about background and qualification. It’s also about the person you are and the relationships you’ve built. An employer who cares about the business doesn’t want just any Joe-schmo filling a position. He wants the right person for the job. (Everyone reading this is probably like, “Good advice recent college graduate. I, however, am financially secure and have a job. Good luck making money in this economy.)

The afternoon found us napping back at Jordan’s house on the sofas. We watched the tube to wind down as well. Brian Williams, fascinating job on following Obama and the White House for a two-part special.

The night ended with us watching Last Chance Harvey (since we didn’t get it in last night). Touching story. It’s no Runaway Bride but it’s pretty classy as far as chick-flicks go.

Tomorrow starts the beginning of the long trek home. Wow. It’s tough to think the return is nearly upon us. What a trip it’s been.

– JD and the boys

Day 17 – Our Own Oregon Trail

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Nights spent in beds are always more enjoyable than ones on the ground or in vans. Today, it was a great feeling waking up and going back to sleep knowing I was on a mattress. It’s the little things in life really.

Speaking of little things, one small detail humorously escaped Faro last night as he went to bed. He meticulously rounded the room, closing drapes and shutters to prevent that caustic morning sunlight to burn open his eyes from sweet slumber. Well, he did a fantastic job as no light burst in from the windows. However, he seemed not to discover until this morning that his bed was planted directly beneath a skylight. It’s the little things in life really.

The morning wasn’t too active. Faro mysteriously went for another fun-run today. I showered instead of getting sweaty.

We eventually got our act together and bumbled into the car for an exciting tour of the city of Portland. Our first stop brought us to Powell’s Bookstore. This place takes up an entire city block. It has over a million books and color-coded sections to help you find your way. I picked the Pearl Floor and nursed some photography books, one of which was Ansel Adams: Trees. It was one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read; yes, I read the 101 page book in one sitting. If you like trees, pictures of trees, Ansel Adams, and snatches of brilliant poetry and prose, then you’d like this book, too.

I wanted to camp out there. But since we had beds waiting for us at Jordan’s house, I thought it best to sleep there.

After the bookstore, we visited Adidas next door. The merchandise was cool, if not trying desperately to revive back to the 80s, but was priced steeply. The highlight inside this store was coloring on a banner they had hanging at the back of the store. They supplied markers that we used to fill in outlines of shoes.

Afterwards, we wondered until Puma came into my sights. If I were going to rob the living daylights out of one store, it would be Puma. The place is full of treasures disguised as clothing and shoes. (My birthday’s in November, and if you’re having trouble thinking of a good gift to buy me this year…)

Then we drove home and made a scrumptious lunch consisting of prepackaged salad, beans, and macaroni and cheese with hotdog segments. We thought about going to watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup but laziness set in, and, well, you can guess the rest of the story.

The next several hours found us sitting on the sofas listening to the nightly news, blogging, and catching up on bumming around. We caught up.

Around ten tonight, we had a sudden urge to get a movie and Oreos. Our adventure led us down many streets before we happened upon a grocery store. We bought Oreos. And Chips Ahoy. And vanilla cookies that taste like sawdust. And milk. And rootbeer. And ice cream. Oh, and then we stopped by Hollywood Video and rented a new release: Last Chance Harvey. Tonight was Girl’s Night In.

We found our way back home again using our internal GPS systems that God gave to all men. Once back, we slurped up the milk and chomped down the cookies. Before popping in the movie, we enjoyed the second episode of the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Conan, I submit, is the funniest someone can be while still be mortal. Anyways, his guest was Tom Hanks. While giving some insider’s info about L.A., Hanks unabashedly plugged In-N-Out Burger! He even made a reference to a Four-by-four Animal Style. It’s the little things really.

Random but interesting fact. During lunch we calculated to what extent Faro’s addiction to Mountain Dew runs. Annually we tallied how much Dew he consumes gallons. Ten perhaps? Twenty? Thirty even? Faro chugs a minimum of sixty gallons per year of Mountain Dew (and that’s a conservative estimate). I’m not even sure I drink that much water in a year.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard some sage advice from the man, the myth, the mantra-making-machine known as John Wooden. Let’s see what Coach Wooden has to say about the little things.

“These seemingly trivial matters, taken together and added to many, many other so-called trivial matters build into something very big: namely, your success.
You will find that success and attention to details, the smallest details, usually go hand-in-hand, in basketball and elsewhere in your life.
When you see a successful individual, a champion, a ‘winner,’ you can be very sure that you are looking at an individual who pays great attention to the perfection of minor details.” Thanks for these wise words, Coach.

In our lives, big events are born of small instances. Though the milestones may be what others remember, the moments are what we’ll never forget.

– JD and the boys

p.s. (Ben Jordan correctly named Han Solo as the one with the mystery quote closing yesterday’s blog. Congrats Beeje!)

Day 16 – Sequoia sempervirens

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After waking up in the van this morning, we made the short trip to Redwood National Park. This was another location where I was very excited to explore. Although I’ve never been there before, I have seen it several times when watching Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Remember it? For those of you who need a little refresher course, most of the scenes that occurred on the Forest Moon of Endor were filmed on location inside this park. Just think a long, long time ago Ewoks lived in these woods.

We parked and walked a 1-mile loop called the Ladybird Johnson Trail. Our pace was nothing like others hikes up places like Angel’s Landing or down Bright Angel. It wasn’t grueling, or fast, vigorous, or even speedy. Heck, it wasn’t even medium. It was something faster than loitering but slower than creeping. Snail-ish would almost be accurate but we actually spotted a snail along the way and, well, we were travelling slightly faster than it.

I loved soaking in the views.

A thick, cool fog wrapped around the massive trunks and drifted through the leafy canopies high above. The woods felt quiet, hushed like they were waiting for something. Acres of ferns covered the forest floor disturbed only in places where fallen giants slowly decayed under layers of crawling bugs and spreading moss. Bit by bit, Redwoods retreated into the distance, fading mysteriously into the fog like strangers stepping backwards holding a finger over their lips. The park was full of unheard stories whose secrets would probably never leave the shadowy borders. It’s an incredible world and something you have to visit to understand.

After our time at the park, we returned to the open road and proceeded northward. Portland was waiting for us only a few hours away. At this point, five hours in a car is cake. We drove. We filled our tank with gas. We drove some more. And then we reached Portland. I can’t say in good faith that anything mildly interesting or eventful happened during this drive, except for I reached my 100 milestone for granola bars eaten on this trip. How exciting!

Once in Portland, we parked at Jordan Cunnings house. She’s a friend I met during my study abroad in Ecuador. It wasn’t long before we hopped in her car and made a run to the grocery store. Once back to her house, we ate and caught up on some rest and relaxation.

This following quote has no inspirational quality or moral fiber. It’s a favorite quote of mine from a favorite character; first to name who said this quote will win a special shout out in the next blog.

“Jeez. I’m out of it for a little while, and everybody gets delusions of grandeur.” – ?

– JD and the boys

Day 15 – Don’t You Dare Close Your Eyes

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We didn’t get an altogether early start this morning. But that’s not too bad since today’s outline is all about driving. We noticed when we were trying to pack our stuff up that we had sort of moved into Pope’s place. Well, I did anyway. The other guys actually had a reasonable amount of clothes and whatnot. I had enough things with me to live at his house for a month. What can I say, I like to acclimate to an environment and get cozy.

Before long, we were saying goodbye to our new friend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Our travels took us up the 101, and eventually we transitioned to the 1. If you haven’t taken this drive, you need to! Highway 1 really is amazing. It skirts the ocean offering stunning views of the jagged coastline and rock mounds sticking in the water like miniature mountains.

The downside of this road is that driven at anything but a snail’s pace it tends to function like a roller coaster with all the loops, dives, twists, and twirls. As Jasmine sings in A Whole New World, “Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling!” Now, those words don’t only apply for a magic carpet ride but also driving on Highway 1. If you do ride on it (Highway 1, or even a magic carpet for that matter), don’t eat too much beforehand but do have your camera ready.

Sipe had the unfortunate lot of lying in the back during this twisty-turvy route. I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as Faro and I did in the front. Apparently luggage kept shifting and toppling onto his head with each bend in the road. If you ask me, the back sounded like quite an adventure during that portion of the trip. But Derek had quite his fill of the 1. The novelty of picturesque shoreline scenery (that he couldn’t see all that well anyway) combined with slight queasiness, and a bombardment of bags seemed to suck all the joy out of it for him. Oddly, he developed an unusually strong desire for Subway.

Derek’s dreams of a sub went unrequited for the longest time. He would mumble between bouts of napping about a Subway. Like a thirsty man in the desert seeing an oasis, we would see signs for gas stations or hotels and blurt the word “Subway” with excitement in his voice. His conditioned only worsened as the journey continued. He grew more and more agitated when no Subway emerged even in likely places.

Garberville changed his life.

A long, loud, soul-powered scream filled my ears, the van, and most of Northern California it seemed when Derek spied a sign for Subway. We stopped at the gas station with the attached Subway and all purchased a now infamous $5 Footlong. For your information, Garberville doesn’t have the smoothest operating Subway. Between finding someone to make our subs, getting the gas pump to work, buying the sandwiches, changing cash registers so I could buy one with my credit card, getting my money back from them overcharging me $2, and finally pulling out of that vortex of slow movements and slower thinking, we wasted the better part of a half hour. On the up side, I bought a sheet of beef jerky! Any day’s a better day if it’s a jerky day.

The next couple hours get a little hazy as I drifted in and out of sleep. All I know for sure if that we ended up in a very woodsy rest stop where we parked for the night. Faro and Sipe made dinner in the bathroom while I tried playing soccer with a tennis ball. I’m not sure anybody won.

After soccer, I took a new book I started, Eragon, over to the water fountains. A good light shown down for some quality reading light (mom always reminded me of the importance of good reading light.) While reading, I heard a soft rustle in the forest beside me. I looked and saw something like a cat paw silently onto the pavement. It turned out to be a small, gray fox. It trotted near me, pausing to look me in the eyes. For some reason I can’t really explain, it was one of my favorite moments on the trip. After tarrying for a second or two, the creature glided away back into the darkness.

We slept in the van again tonight but we were able to finagle some serious room and crack the windows so it wasn’t as hellish as before. In fact, I slept rather swimmingly, for the second half of the night anyway. For the first half, I suffered the ever-cooling air of the moisture-laden coast. I tried to cover myself with spare pieces of cloth around me: Derek’s jacket, a beach towel, and a long sleeve t-shirt I found crannied somewhere in the car. My life changed when I turned the car on to roll up the window and grab my sleeping bag. Finding warmth when you’re cold and trying to sleep has got to be one of the Top Ten sources of contentment in life.

Didn’t read much Wooden lately. How about this snippet from Tolkien.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

– JD and the boys

Day 14 – Short and Sweet

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Before we awoke today, the Pope was home twice, bought us breakfast, and was already gone again. I like our morning better than his, spent under warm covers with eyes closed.

We didn’t have extravagant plans for our third day in San Francisco. We knew one thing, though, and it was that we were hungry. I neglected to mention previously that last night we used some directions from Google to lead us to an In-N-Out Burger that was supposedly 0.3 miles from Pope’s house. It was late and we were desperate for some inexpensive, delicious, fresh-never-frozen burgers. Our late night hunt through the city left us more tired and hungry than when we began. The fruit of our labor was the “closed” sign for a place called Burger Joint. We were less than pleased. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say somewhere between mopey and irritable.

Well, today we believe it or not our hunger returned to us again. Once more, Faro researched some directions online for In-N-Out Burger. He found a place three miles away. We were greedy for good food.

It turns out that our drive took us back to the Fisherman’s Wharf where we were just the day before. It didn’t dampen our burger spirits, however, as we all indulged. Burgers, fries, shakes, and happiness. Believe it or not they sell them all. Ever had happiness animal style? It’s unbelievable.

We proceeded to try and explore via van Chinatown and some other cool locales of San Francisco. Somehow we couldn’t find Chinatown. No matter, in all of our driving we stumbled across that famous zig-zaggy road with all the well-groomed vegetation. We stopped to look at it but someone honked at us.

We returned in time to meet Pope before heading out to watch Game 5 of Cavs/Magic. He took us to this great sports bar that was absolutely churning with half-intoxicated customers watching one of the 30+ flat screens mounted on the walls. But as we learned, they were interested in the basketball game so much as the opening game of the Stanley Cup. Red Wings fans are both boisterous and devoted. We assimilated ourselves into their culture and cheered with them, booing when they booed, even doled out high fives to one another after fortuitous plays. Once I tried to start a “Red Wings” chant but, well, it caught on about as well as Saved by the Bell: the College Years.

The rest of the night, we hung out with Pope. We had fun meeting some of his friends. The night ended with some pizza. I’ve had better. All in all, it was a good night.

We cast off tomorrow and make our way northbound toward Redwood.

I’ll conclude today’s sermon with something I saw at the Pope’s house that I enjoyed reading myself:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

– JD and the boys