Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slowing Down and Caring

I've talked numerous times about how our fast paced life and modern technology isolate us from the gritty world we live in. These young people in Germany made a beautiful video that illustrates it beautifully. 

Kudos and thank you to all those who stop to care.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rest and Re-supply

After traveling nearly 5500 miles we are back home. I'm calling this the "rest and re-supply" phase which basically means we have to make more money so we can head back out. All those hours and miles spent together were a great test of this new relationship which we passed marvelously. I wasn't really nervous simply because of how the relationship came about but still, trips can do funny things to people - "it's the way of the road". We got together shortly after a previous relationship had ended and I had decided that the whole romantic arena could bite me for the foreseeable future. We met last year but I had at least one incorrect notion about her and was prejudiced to the point that I didn't pay any attention to her or think of her as anyone I would ever date. All that changed rapidly as we began hanging out as friends after my breakup and my prejudices were quickly dispelled. You never know when life is going to throw a wonderful surprise your way so it pays to keep an open mind and go with the flow. 

The 2.5 weeks on the road felt like a month (in a great way) and we were both sad to return home. I commented as we were nearly back how it will be nice to flop into our bed and put all our stuff away but it didn't feel like home - home is the transient places we find adventures in. Supposedly people didn't pay attention to clocks very much or have any sort of synchronization between towns clocks until the railroad came through necessitating cohesiveness for catching trains. I imagine that before trains, life probably felt a lot like being out camping. Unless you structured your life around church or weekly social activities, you would lose track of the days of the week living more in the moment. They say time flies when you're having fun but I think it's more in relation to paying attention to the seconds ticking away on a watch or cellphone. Living outside of time, a schedule and expectations was completely relaxing despite some semi-grueling hikes. After six months of ridiculously long weeks, this break was exactly what was needed. 

Campgrounds have always appealed to me because they contain nomadic people of varying intensities. Some tent camp, others have home spun campers made out of old airport shuttle busses while others live luxuriously in RVs with ridiculous names like Seneca, Intruder, and Leprechaun. No matter what level of money invested or comfort lived in, these folks are all my type of people to some extent. We met an older couple that live out of one of the tear drop style campers and they regaled us with stories of their travels around the world, Antartica being the most intriguing to me. 

Yesterday we literally exited the highway near our house and went straight to the tattoo shop to get tattoos of one of the pictographs we had seen. There are times in your life where an experience defines your future like my first day on set - I knew it was going to become a part of my life. This trip has changed my life in that I always wanted to have adventures but now that I have, I know it's not something I can put aside. Work will punctuate the adventures simply as an enjoyable practicality not as a daily grind that I slowly watch my life disappear into. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tripping Walls

I've been putting a lot of thought recently into self preservation and surviving life's assault. For the longest time I felt like building walls was a reactionary response to being hurt or fear of evil and was unhealthy. You see people with tremendous walls up who never let anyone get close to them, a plight I never wanted for myself. I'm pretty much an open book which seemed like a good way to be until I began to discover that the world did not adhere to my preconceived ideas. Being completely open allows nefarious people to take advantage of you but it also can keep you in a perpetual low grade panic because you know that destruction is always potentially imminent. 

As a child I was admonished many times with the bible verse "he that has no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls". This was generally used in the context of anger because I had a ferocious temper but also was used broadly as a warning to guard against the ever present predator - sin. Religion throws up walls of separation as protection, avoiding things like having the internet in your home so you don't fall prey to pornography or imbibing alcohol for fear of indulging too much. It's a way of living that excludes many things that are innocuous because of the fear of being over run. I was tired of living a constrained life so as an adult I opened myself up slowly and quit trying to hedge my life in for fear of fucking up.

Now, I'm enjoying my life way more, but I am tired of feeling like I don't have barriers against the emotional damage life can cause. There is wisdom in "ruling your spirit" but I don't see it as blocking everyone or every potential "evil" out, holding the world at arms length. Guarding yourself in a healthy way is like a good drug trip. I'm sure you're probably thinking "what the fuck?" but bear with me. I don't have extensive experience with illicit substances but the little I have has taught me a lot. The first drug I ever tried was weed and I completely over did it which freaked me out at first but as I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep a part of my mind was detached as if I was observing myself from outer space. This objective viewpoint allowed me to instruct the part of me that was freaking out and eventually calm down. I recently tried shrooms for the first time and my subsequent experiences informed this journey. Instead of freaking out at all the different feelings and sensations I accepted them as part of the trip. I retained a calm unlike I've ever had in my life and completely enjoyed the experience because instead of letting each little thing effect me, I detached and let it wash over me as if I was observing this happen to someone else. I knew that it wouldn't last forever and if I felt bad or scared, it wasn't real, just a figment of my imagination. There has to be that separation between what your brain is processing and what the other part of your being is experiencing. You do your best to select an experience that is not harmful and then let it wash over you knowing that nothing is forever and that the things that are trying to assault you can only take hold if you let them. 

Our culture doesn't meditate or get outside ourselves very much thereby causing too much proximity between the external and internal. It's like the transference of energy experiment you do as kids where you place two pennies together touching and then slam a third penny into the middle one causing the furthest one to fly off. We need a distance between the data coming in from the world and the spirit or whatever you want to call who you are inside. That insulation doesn't hide you from life like a wall stopping the penny delivering the energy but prevents you from being damaged because the energy is deadened by the middle penny your finger is on. Your brain and spirit can, and I believe, should be detached from each other. 

Religion appeals to many people because it provides a barrier between their conjoined mind and spirit and the outer world. All the rules keep the world a distance away or act as a life preserver like my previous view of sex. There is a huge difference between religion and a belief in a god. One is a crutch and a wall for protecting a feeble mind. The other is a factual acceptance. I believe much of our emotional and even physical disease would be lessened if we practiced things like meditation instead of building walls to keep everything out or the alternative of being unprotected allowing life to slam into you like asteroids cratering the surface of your heart. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sex Is Not A Life Preserver

After my last post I spent some time thinking out on a float in Bear Lake and came to a realization: flippancy regarding sex bothered me because I have a fear of abandonment. That probably sounds extremely odd to most people but let me explain. Being taught that sex was only something for a committed relationship created an unconscious faulty logic that I have carried throughout life. I felt that if a relationship got to the point of sex, there a much better assurance that I wouldn't be abandoned. 

This probably stems from my childhood where I felt like my parents would have taken severe measures if I fucked up and "dishonored" them. A friend of mines parents allowed him to be locked in a room alone for 6 weeks with only a bible, bed and food at one of our home school programs facilities because he had been caught making out with a girl there so the fear of drastic measures akin to abandonment wasn't a stretch. While I know that I will be okay if I'm alone and I never want to control anyone, the fear of the pain of being abandoned is still there. Coming to the realization that sex isn't sacred to most people set off a subconscious alarm bell in my head "you can never feel safe". It's like boarding a plane with the belief that there are floatation devices under your seat but then mid flight the pilot comes on the PA "attention passengers, we are having engine trouble possibly forcing a water landing. Oh and by the way, the life vests under your seat - yeah that shit doesn't work." 

Nothing is certain in life and while I still believe there can be love that lasts forever, I realized today that sex is not a life preserver and I have to just be prepared to swim if the ship goes down. 

Side Pieces

A few days back I caught a snippet of the Espys where Drake performed a couple songs one of which was about side pieces. Everyone was laughing (some looking slightly more uncomfortable than others) because everyone knows it's just the way most people of note behave. Apparently in the real world very few people take sex all that seriously which is hard for me to wrap my head around. The way I was raised placed a high value on sexual intimacy which I adhered to. Now I feel my perspective was akin to putting something pedestrian like banana peels on a pedestal while everyone else just throws them down the garbage disposal which makes me feel like a chump to say the least. 

Some people trade sex as a commodity but I find that kind of sad particularly for women. It's like a stock option who's intrinsic value decreases over time when you could have been investing in a bond. Maybe some people don't have that desire for a long term companion but eventually it seems like the loneliness will overtake you like a storm cloud beating down on a ship without an anchor. I probably have a highly over romanticized view of relationships but I feel like it should be analogous to buying a new car when you are young and then holding onto it till it's a classic years later. It takes a lot of work to keep it in pristine condition which may be a pain in the ass but is worth it. All the guys I've seen who have held onto their "baby" for years cherish that hunk of metal. I understand that the analogy falls apart a little because a lover isn't an object you buy but hopefully the point still comes through. 

Apparently I am an outlier in today's society but I am trying to wrap my mind around this because the idea of people being okay with "side pieces" and random sex troubles me and I don't like being troubled. I may never understand because I missed that period in life where most people go crazy in their teens and 20s and it would be irresponsible and inappropriate at this stage. I've been able to work past many of the bizarre things I was taught as a kid but this is one that just doesn't want to die. I suppose I don't have much of a way to wrap this up except that it's on my mind and it's bothering the fuck out of me. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 10/11 - Angels Landing / Grand Canyon

We left our KOA camp site after spending three days there (the longest we've stayed in one spot so far) to head back to Zion National Park one more time for a jaunt up to Angels Landing. The path is a fairly acute angle for most of the 5 mile round trip but if you pace yourself and plod up the hill, it's not that bad. Being such a steep road, you change elevation quickly which is quite satisfying as you see the valley swell before you.

After the point where this picture was taken, the climb levels out a little bit and you head straight back between two forested canyon walls until you reach the last 75' change in elevation which consists of numerous quick switch backs. What I would term the second portion of the climb is thankfully much cooler due to being hidden from the sun somewhat and the canyon walls holding in some coolness. Once you are at the top of the switchbacks there is a look out area on a big rock where many people stop for water and a snack. Opposite the side you just climbed up is a very steep drop off down into the valley. As soon as I got close to the edge to take some pictures, my stomach flipped over but it was worth it.

All the lore I heard of Angels Landing and the photos I saw online looked like it was only something daring people would attempt. The trail I described above is actually only the trail to Angels Landing. The landing proper is a small mound (maybe another 35' foot rise) that you climb up holding onto a large chain bolted into the face of the rocks. We didn't actually go to the top so it maybe we missed out on the treacherous section but the pictures I saw online seemed to be false advertising. It's not all that steep of a climb and the rocks are almost carved into steps by nature itself. 

In this picture you can see the chain in the background running along this type of surface. The climb was beautiful and peaceful but don't get your expectations up of having an acrophobic victory to brag about to your friends. 

I didn't post yesterday because as soon as we returned from the hike and ate lunch, we headed to Arizona to see the North Rim today. Most of the campgrounds were booked but we were fortunate to get into De Motte campground where they only had 2 spaces left. This campground is so far out that there is no cell service and my hand crank weather radio could barely pick up a station till I MacGyver'd an antenna leaving us with NPR and country to listen to and no internet. 

Last night was the best night of the trip with cooler temperatures and the most beautiful sky I may have ever seen in my life. Unfortunately my cellphone wouldn't capture any of the night time wonder but it was like going to a planetarium. You look up and the sky actually looks like a dome where you can see constellations you never knew existed and satellites streak by. For a while I thought there was a light but patchy cloud cover until after it didn't change for several hours, we realized that it was the Milky Way Galaxy we were observing. Being that far away from everything feels like you are on a different planet. I mean shit, they still have a working payphone at the gas station across the street. That's saying something. 

This morning on the way to the North Rim we saw bison in a meadow on the side of the state road. Like the somewhat foolish person that I am at times, I tried to creep up and get a closer picture. When a large male bison picks up his head and starts eyeballing you, you don't wait to see if he's going to let you pet him or shove his horns up your ass. I snapped and then ran. 

There are several places you can go on the north side but we chose Cape Royal which was absolutely gorgeous. It's about 20 miles from the entrance through hills wooded with birch and fir trees. The roads are narrow and winding so it's slow going but the air is cool and scenery is enjoyable so it's not really a chore. While I enjoyed all the other sites we had seen on the trip with hiking the Narrows being the most fun, after a certain point the sites just become another fucking rock sticking out of the ground: the Grand Canyon is different. It's not just that it's beautiful but the sheer magnitude of the canyon is awe inspiring. The color palette is diverse as are the formations of rock and across in the distance you can a massive plateau that looks completely barren. 

I had never been to the Grand Canyon till today, the closest I'd ever gotten being 4 miles from the south rim in 2006. It was the first time I attempted to move out to LA to pursue my dreams and my car threw a rod through the oil pan as we climbed a hill near the park. Since then, the Grand Canyon has always been a memory of disappointment and temporary failure especially since I never was able to make it to the actual park. When I got divorced last year, my ex-wife asked "that if I ever decided to sell my ring or whatever, that she would buy it off of me". That whole idea made me feel ill and I've had it in my storage unit trying to decide what to do with it till this trip. Today I walked out close to the edge, said a few words and then let the ring go forever along with all the disappointments from the past into the depths of the canyon. This trip has truly been an adventure worth every penny. Each part of it would have been worth doing alone but together it has made for an unforgettable experience.

Buried Above Ground

We created a life not realizing it didn't fit
The years spent together brought moments of joy but mostly pain
I finally acknowledged our plight, delusions shattered
But you would not - denying the cancer

You cried, begged, clung to your world 
Finally retreating like a defeated lion
Yet still you asked for the gold
That symbol of commitment - a glimmer in the darkness
I will not foster hope, nor father cruelty

Hurled into a chasm not traversed by mortals
To rest in an unmarked grave a casualty of war like a body at sea
The elements will be the last to wear the band
Committed to returning it back to the earth from whence it came. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 9 - The Narrows

Yesterday was a chill day to recoup from all the hiking in the blazing heat and also do some laundry. Today we got up and headed to Zion National Park to hike the Narrows starting down the path around noon. While we brought plenty of water, I wasn't too concerned with the 100+ degree heat because you are between massive canyon walls traipsing through a river for most of the hike. For the first mile or so I was nonplused with the experience because it was mobbed with people and you couldn't get a good photo without 50 strangers in the background. I also hate wearing wet shoes and socks but quickly resigned myself to the fact that sopping feet are part of the experience. 

After a while the riff raff cleared out and we were able to have some solitude that increased proportionally with distance. At 3.5 hours we had traversed approximately 4 miles and stopped to have a snack. The intention was to hike four hours in and then four back but when we heard thunder and saw ominous clouds approaching we turned tail and ran. What took us 3.5 hours to hike out only took 1.25 to return from with the potential threat of a flash flood at our back. 

If you are to ever hike the narrows I would recommend two things: a walking stick that is smooth and footwear with a good sole. We picked up random sticks along the way but they were a little rough and were on the verge of causing blisters towards the end of the hike. Since you are scrambling over wet rocks and through mud, a solid pair of shoes is extremely helpful. It's really pointless to wear waterproof shoes because they will be soaked within the first 10 minutes - no way around it. 

It was a great day and I was able to get In N Out for dinner for the first time in 3 years. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Gives You the Right?

I've gotten a lot of flak lately for my views on what some people perceive as their rights which has caused me to consider why I feel the way I do and also if I am wrong. My beliefs can be summed up as follows: no one has a right to anything unless you believe there is a higher moral code. The only thing you have a right to is what you fight for.

As I've stated before, if morality is subjective as some believe then there isn't an ultimate truth of how the world should run and it comes down to a situational basis of what profits you best in the moment (or society best if you are a more globally conscious individual). This rubs many people the wrong way because they feel that they deserve certain things and I have heard many times the phrase "what gives you the right to do xyz?" when people feel that their intrinsic values have been violated.

A few nights ago while eating dinner my girlfriend and I were discussing this topic and it suddenly dawned on me where my belief about rights or lack there of comes from - my childhood. It's more specifically a teaching that was espoused in our home school program based off a story of a missionary in Papua New Guinea and his pineapples (and that's not code for his balls). The short version of the story is that he planted a pineapple garden because they were his favorite fruit but the natives began stealing them from him. Increasingly escalated steps were taken to stop the pineapple larceny as the missionary grew more and more angry all failing until he procured a german shepherd which scared the shit out of the natives. It finally occurred to the missionary (or he said God told him) that his desire to protect his right to fresh pineapples was interfering with his objective and purpose of being in the country. God told him that he needed to lay down his rights and trust that god would provide what he thought the missionary needed.

This teaching was coupled with the "turn the other cheek" message Jesus taught and was drilled into our heads - you don't have a right to anything. We were taught to be grateful for the freedoms that we have in America; however, we were to be conscious of the fact that they could be taken away and we would just have to deal with it. This leaves me in my current quandary over what we do and do not deserve. I believe that if someone were to harm me or those I love, I would take action to protect them but when you branch out into things like "what does the government or society owe me?" I feel uncertain.

I believe that there is a universal code of "treat others how you would want to be treated" however, that still doesn't per se denote any specific civil rights. If blacks hadn't fought for their rights in the '60s then they probably wouldn't have them today. I completely endorse that effort and mission of people who are treated as less than to achieve equal status which goes along with my belief - if you want something, you have to fight for it because other people aren't going to just hand it to you. I know this sounds awfully close to me saying that people don't deserve civil liberties which is not my belief because I hold true that "all men are created equal". What I am pondering and trying to ascertain is where that line of "unalienable rights" based on humanity dissolves into people being selfish. For instance do we all deserve health care as a basic human right? If so why? Sure, if you fight for it because you think you deserve it and achieve that goal then great, you now have that right through the process of litigation and lobbying.

What people deserve or potentially think they deserve is a touchy topic because no one wants to be told no. Much of the world is very self centered and interested in what they can gain for themselves so to say that they only deserve what they can build with their own hands stirs up huge amounts of vitriol. I'm still trying to figure all of this out and knowing where my thought process got it's roots in is a helpful step in determining where my beliefs go from there. Bare with me as I attempt to figure this shit out.

Day 7 - Pictographs & A Waterfall

This is going to be fairly short and simple because I don't feel like writing a ton today. Yesterday consisted of hiking the Calf Creek trail out to the waterfall a 6 mile round trip. The gentleman who oversees the visitors area gave us a tip about a pictograph that was off the beaten trail requiring some scrambling up a hill. There are several drawings up there but the most notable and somewhat chilling is the Protector of the Valley.

After climbing back down we hiked the rest of the way to the falls in the mid 90 degree heat. By the time we arrived we were both quite hot and I decided to jump into the pool without taking time to cool down first. The water is at least 68 degrees if not colder (I didn't wait to see how far past that my watch would go) and was a bit if a shock to the system. 

Unfortunately the quick change in temperature was the catalyst for a nice headache making me dread the hike back. However, a storm had begun to roll in and the temperature dropped ten degrees to about 84. It's amazing how much of a difference the temperature can make on efficiency. We hauled ass back to the car at almost a jog to beat the storm, a pace that I could have kept up all day in those conditions and felt fantastic. It started raining and briefly hailing about a mile from the parking lot but we made it back to the van albeit soaking wet. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Darkness

I close my eyes and see it there
The darkness coming closer
Creeping in like a storm cloud over the plains
Closer and closer till it's partially over my head
I see the twisted smile, the hideous faces
They try to scare me, make me run
I'm not a child anymore - they can't hurt me
As I look into the face of evil I say "hi"
I have the moon at my back
She keeps me from being swallowed by darkness
"What do you want" I ask "show me your worst"
The faces writhe from one grotesque rendition of evil to another
As if the fury will unseat me
Still I sit, staring, unmoved
Fear rendered powerless when you let go
Though the world crumble I will thrive
The moon at my back
Staring down the blackness

Day 6 - A Different Side of Utah

Moab, while dotted with some beautiful geology painted a very bleak side of Utah. I honestly couldn't understand how anyone would want to live there unless that's where they were born and had no idea the rest of the world existed. On our way to Zion we decided to stop by Escalante which turned out to be an excellent decision. The drive from Moab to Escalante  (mainly on state road 12) takes you up into beautiful mountains where there are free ranging cattle crossing the road, copious white birches and my favorite thing - the air smells amazing. I don't know how to describe the smell exactly but it reminded me of summers when I would go to visit my grandmother on her farm in Vermont. It's clean, almost sweet and literally made me happy to breathe it in.

Escalante is a very small town but there are a ton of trails and sites to visit. In fact they sell a guide book that is an inch thick with pictures and info on all the trails which would probably take a good several weeks to accomplish. Lunch was procured at Escalante Outfitters, a combo outdoors equipment store and restaurant. I found the food to be fantastic despite the demure appearance of the establishment. Fortunately the Petrified Forest campground right outside of Escalante "downtown" still had a couple tent sites available and we took advantage of site 13. The park has a small reservoir that you can swim in which was surprisingly an agreeable temperature and very relaxing. After cooking dinner and hanging out for a while playing cards we laid out a blanket and sat on top of a large rock watching as a storm slowly rolled in around 1:30 am. The lightening show was amazing and we hopped back in the tent when the lightening / thunder intervals were less than 5 seconds.

Most of the storm skirted around us as far as the rain was concerned but the wind was vicious. As the tent walls snapped in and out we were seriously wondering if the tent poles would hold or if we would be replacing the thing the next day. Thankfully we had staked not only the corners of the tent but also the ropes that come off each corner as well. It finally settled down around 3 am I guess or I just passed out unconcerned by the potential of become a human burrito inside the tent. If I went home today, I would pick yesterday as my favorite day of the trip between the peaceful beauty of the mountains and the amazing little campground in Escalante.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 5 - Devil's Garden

88 degrees isn't a bad way to start a day of hiking in Moab. Really, it's like hiking in AC compared to the 107 degrees that the wizardly technology in my wrist mounted chronograph was displaying yesterday. I honestly don't know how the Native Americans did it back in the old days especially when water is so scarce in these parts. The signs in the park warn to hike early or late and I can attest to that having started both in the mid-afternoon and in the mid-morning: it's vastly different. We took the longest trail, Devil's Garden (7 miles RT), to the Double O formation. Being my typical self, I had to climb up 25' on a rock pillar to get a different vantage point for a picture of an arch along the way.

Out of all the things we saw in Arches, the Devil's Garden trail was my favorite. It's a great climb with a variety of scenery and it also wasn't anywhere near as crowded as the other parts of the park. 

After spending some time resting at the Double O formation snacking in the shade, I figured what the heck, why not try and get on top of the thing. It actually wasn't that difficult to do requiring only minimal climbing up a short bit of wall and then a modicum of bravery to slide down a few bumps onto the actual top of the O. After I climbed down other hikers who saw me decided to do the same thing but instead of climbing up the rock wall, they just walked further up a hill till they simply could walk onto the upper section. Kind of ruins it when everyone else copies you but hopefully they had fun and didn't get hurt. 

We reached the car again around 2:15 and didn't feel like doing much else but getting into some place cool so we stopped off again at the Moab Brewery. The timing was perfect because overtime had just started in the World Cup final so we got to watch that with numerous Germans in the restaurant. You can only drink so much beer after hiking in the heat so we went back to the campground and tried to decide what to do. At this point it was 100 degrees in the shade and about 118 in the sun making it unpleasant to even sit around. Partially from the 3 pints of beer and partially from the climbing, I was rather tired but it's hard to sleep when it's 110 in your tent unless you are completely naked. It's funny how you can get to points where you just don't care any more and comfort takes priority over worries of impropriety. It's still 88 as I'm writing this so I'm probably going to try and watch some Justified on my phone or read a book till it cools down a little bit more. This place is beautiful and cool to visit but I think you must have done something bad in a former life to wind up being born here.

When Everything is Special, Nothing is

Driving into Arches National Park yesterday, I was struck with how many people were there because of the accessibility afforded by the paved roads throughout the park. While I don't want to be some kind of elitist, I think it's unfortunate that things are so accessible these days requiring only a perfunctory effort to experience. It used to be that only the most adventurous people would see the wonders of the world because they required determination not sitting in your car with the AC cranked to snap photos with a telephoto lens. Everyone wants to feel special or famous these days (I blame reality TV) while most of them are just ordinary or are talented but lacking drive. It generally takes a lot of hard work, determination, and time to achieve success and the things you want. When everything is special, then nothing is. We need to quit paving roads for people because if you want it, you should have to work for it damnit.

Day 4 - Burning Up

I tried to post last night but the internet at the campground decided to go on the fritz so I'm going to try and get this done before the alarm goes off and we get going while it's still cool. Yesterday brought us to Arches National Park in Moab Utah around 11:30 in the morning. Their campground was full with the only option being either to camp at least a mile off the trail somewhere (which required a permit) or bed down at one of the numerous campgrounds in Moab. Considering the fact that we aren't experienced hikers, our tent isn't super compact and our packs aren't the newer fancy style that you can load a bazillion things on as if you were Dick Van Dykes one man band, we decided the wisest thing to do was not try to forge into the wilderness dragging a ton of shit with us. I wouldn't know how great of a decision that was till the end of the day.

By the time we got a map of the park and drove the numerous miles in, it was 1:30 pm when we set out to see what we thought was the Double O trail (about 4 miles RT) but instead we accidentally went to the Double Arches trail (only 1 mile RT at best). It was beautiful but was fairly crowded with tourists and did not take much time.

That's when we decided to hike not the longest, but supposedly most grueling path in the park at the hottest point of the day - the Delicate Arch trail. It's only 3 miles round trip but a rise of 480' in elevation with almost nowhere to hide from the sun with the ambient temperature being 100 degrees. About half way up my girlfriend started to get over heated because as it began to dawn on us - we didn't need all the shit we had in our packs. Since we had decided against camping in the back country, all we really needed to bring were bottles of water for a hike of that length not a 20lb pack with everything to survive a post apocalyptic world. After stopping several times we made it to the arch which was quite beautiful and then turned tail and hauled ass back to the car to relish the AC.

As I wrote yesterday, there is something to be said for planning ahead and that definitely applies as well to being over prepared. My boss will say "I overstand" when someone prattles on and on to relay information and it's funny but too much of anything will bog you down and can even be dangerous. Thankfully my other half is smart and knows her body and the signs of overheating so we were only slowed down by the excess baggage we were carrying.  However, it could have been serious if she decided to ignore better judgement and push on. The alarm is just going off now so we're going to go have another adventure but hopefully slightly more educated and enjoyable from our experience yesterday.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 3 - The Importance of Planning

As much of an impulsive, let's do this shit now kind of person as I am, I haven't ever really done anything like this trip. Sure I moved across the country a couple times trying to start a new career more or less flying by the seat of my pants but it was chaotic at best. I learned something each time and put more thought and some planning into each successive attempt however, I still am not the greatest at mapping out a course or stops ahead of time. Looking back, the few leisure trips I have taken by myself could have been much better if I had made some preparations in advance and were really only saved by the friends I was visiting in the area.

My girlfriend parrots her father's mantra "not planning is planning to fail" and I'm starting to agree. If it wasn't for her attention to the logistics, this trip would probably be a bit of a cluster fuck. It sunk in today that I would have driven way out here and then made an expression like a quizzical dog: head cocked to the side, ears up with a "what are we going to do?" face. We stopped off at Garden of the Gods and Royal Gorge which were cool but slightly underwhelming. While both were beautiful, there were a good many tourists and the suspension bridge was closed at the gorge so we only were able to see it from a distance where it could have been made out of silly string for all we knew. I'm glad we stopped but am really looking forward to big parts of the trip that are ahead where we can get out and explore on our own.

Technology is great but sometimes putting your trust in it can come back to bite you in the ass. Terminator or IRobot anyone? We were following the GPS and for some reason it directed us on a circuitous route but it still turned out okay because we got to see some beautiful country side that we probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. Check out my instagram to see some of the wonderful things we have seen so far.

Day 2 - Colorado

Yesterday was fairly uneventful and consisted of simply pounding out a bunch more miles to get into Colorado. A few things of note:
We stopped by Martinelli's Little Italy in Selina, Kansas who's salad was apparently featured in USA Today recently. I thought the food was good as well as the service but I honestly would take my grandmother's salad over theirs any day.
There was a cop in an SUV on the side of the road blocking a gigantic bull who had escaped the fence from getting onto the highway. When I say gigantic, this thing was the size of the police vehicle. I've never seen bovine that large before. Unfortunately we passed too quickly to take a photo of the officer doing a good deed for a farm animal.
After unpacking at the campground in Colorado, we decided to go get beer at the gas station across the street. I don't know if its a state law but neither gas station by us sold beer and we had to walk a ways down the road to a liquor store. Ironic that I could buy weed (if I could find a dispensary) but not beer at a gas station.
Sitting in the peaceful evening drinking our beer my girlfriend commented on how it was funny that people were inside their campers watching TV. Every time I get away from normal life and slow down, I realize how much of what we put importance on is bullshit. Sure, I enjoy watching TV shows, going out, etc but I could do without a lot of the things in normal life and be way happier and more peaceful. There are so many convenient things around in our modern society to "drug" ourselves with instead of getting out into life and doing what is in our hearts. I had several people seem to be in awe when they heard about this trip and my response was "dude, you can do it too. Just choose a place and get in your car and go".
A song that keeps coming to my head (ironically written on a TV show) is Going Where I Need to Be. Check it out and maybe help my buddy out by purchasing it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Peaceful Sleeplesness

The cool summers eve envelopes like a blanket
An inanimate blessing wrapping ethereal arms around entangled naked bodies in love
My arm draws her close to cherish every atom of her presence
There will never be enough but yet I am in bliss
All cares cast aside like freed prisoners shackles - worthless and unwanted
I may stay awake simply listening to the sounds of the night - crickets, cicadas, her rhythmic breathing
Long sought for peace, better than sleep. 

Day 1 - 700 Miles

We embarked this morning around 9 am but didn't really get going till 11 am after running a few last minute errands. Fortuitously, a friend with a lot of hiking and camping experience called me randomly yesterday so I asked if he had any recommendations for gear that we might need. Considering our final destination being the desert he suggested a light weight tarp so that we could get out of the sun while we are taking breaks. It's not something I would have considered but seems like sound advice so we picked up an 8x10 at Lowes as our last stop before hitting I-20. Simply driving down the interstate highway knowing that I was heading somewhere other than "here" filled me with excitement. It's an opportunity to get away from life that no matter how hard you try, can become very mundane. Every time I see towns that we pass through in the blink of an eye, I think about how sedentary our lives can become. Major cities, outlet stores, nondescript factories all feel like they want to trap people in them to feed off of. Ok, I'm being a little dramatic but I love to switch it up and not get stuck doing the same thing day after day.

There was one small adventure today when traffic came to a stop on I-40 due to an accident. My girlfriend was driving and hopped on Google Maps to see if there was a way around the mess. It appeared that there were some surface streets that would cut past the bullshit traffic snarl so we slowly made our way to the exit and turned onto the specified road. The road turned out to be more of a gravel trail between fields of crops which I wasn't bothered by because we were just going to take it slow and it also provided some cool photo opportunities.

The highway was visible across the fields and we laughed at the "suckers" still waiting but then all of a sudden the gravel path turned into a dirt path. Actually it was more of a dirt road covered in a layer of slick mud. Everything was fine as we crept along, hugging the side till I pointed out the fact that the middle looked like it might be dry now - almost big mistake. We almost instantly started sliding so she let off the gas and when we tried to get going again I could hear the tires spinning. Who wants to go find the farmer and say "hey we're stuck on your dirt road like a couple of city slickers" so I got out and attempted to push. Mistake! Never try to push a car out of mud wearing flip flops. There is no traction between a flip flop and wet clay. It's like trying to start a 100 meter dash in a pool of snot wearing water skis. Thankfully my girlfriend is an excellent driver and was able to slowly worm her way out in the lowest gear. We started high fiving and congratulating each other till all of a sudden we looked down where the path (now once again gravel) reconnected with the main road - there was a big farm gate across it. A short distance away was a ratchet looking trailer, the kind you would expect some dude to come flying out of with a shotgun with little provocation. I hopped out of the van, ran to the gate and discovered that it wasn't locked so we high tailed it out of there. 

Her cunning detour saved us a bunch of time and we got to a campground about an hour ago. I couldn't find my old tent so we bought a new one a few days ago and the thing is brilliant. It literally takes about 30 seconds to setup even in the dark. Whoever designed that needs a Nobel prize or better, a lot of money. Heading to bed so we can pound out some more miles tomorrow. I'll leave you with the beautiful sunset we got to witness tonight.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Into The Wild

Preparing to go on an adventure like I've never done before is both a daunting and exciting task. Tomorrow we set out for a backpacking / camping trip at several national parks and the question is still in my mind "do we have everything we need?" At the inception of this vacation, I bit off way more geography than I could handle in the allotted time frame and had to make some really tough decisions on cutting out several major portions of the trip much to mine and others chagrin. It's kind of like trying to please everyone and instead pissing off the whole bunch. Try to see everything on a tight schedule and it will be neither relaxing or enjoyable.

There have been several debates on the provisions necessary for the ecosystems we will be visiting. Do we have enough water vessels? What about bears, mountain lions etc? How much is enough first aid supplies? Some people online say a bear bell is sufficient to ward off most wild life but I sure would feel better with a can of bear mace at minimum and a gun would just be comforting all around. I can assure you that I have a shit load of knives, way more than are logical to bring: a Bear Grylls survivial knife, an underwater rescue knife, a quasi-butterfly knife and the latest member, the Bear Grylls Parang. I had a SOG fixed blade as well but was informed I was being an idiot (in the kindest way possible) after purchasing the parang so the SOG is staying behind. A quick promotional side note: the Bear Grylls Parang is FUCKING AWESOME!!! It's wicked sharp (I think I could honestly chop someones arm off in one swipe) and it looks cool not to mention that it's only like $40. The parang rightfully elicited "you are 12" and an eye roll when I said I was going to strap it to my back because "it's badass".

While shopping for food supplies this evening, the excitement started to hit me. This is going to be a fantastic adventure not just because of my companion and the natural beauty but because it's going to be devoid of many comforts. I expect that some days all I will eat is a can of black eyed peas for lunch with a can of soup for dinner and as weird as it sounds, I'm delighted. As we assembled all the provisions, it started to dawn on me how much of our everyday conveniences we take for granted. My hope is that distancing myself from normal society and cutting down on comforts will help bring a new perspective, a refreshing for my spirit and open my mind further.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pushed From Grace

This afternoon I was listening to a story about a real life 21 Jump Street that took place in Florida and it reminded me of a line from a book I just finished: "some people fall from grace, others are pushed". The radio story delved into the life of a high school student who as he fell for the under cover officer went to great lengths to procure weed for her because she asked him to. At so many points in time she pushed him along a path that he wouldn't have normally traveled which culminated when he finally got the weed and was arrested. He was going to give it to her because he was in love (or infatuated) but she insisted on paying for it so that she could make the bust. Now he has a felony charge on his record and 3 years probation. I believe people are ultimately responsible for their own actions and I may seem like a judgmental asshole with posts like yesterdays; however, I also think it's complete bullshit that we are pushing people from grace.

After getting into an argument with a good friend on facebook over what I had written yesterday I thought about it and realized that it's really just me being angry at people being apathetic and blaming their problems on everyone else. On the flip side, I also realized that I am furious with all the corporations and political interests that are using their power to push people towards what serves their interests. Tonight my girlfriend and I watched an amazing video about some women who have designed houses for refugees out of recycled wooden pallets. The homes are beautiful, inexpensive and downright amazing but the designers commented that they don't understand why the model isn't being adopted globally. It comes down to greed and personal interests of the powers that be which made me realize that I'm not just annoyed at slack handed citizens but also at the people who hold the influence in the world. You couldn't erect one of these pallet houses in most parts of America because it wouldn't be sanctioned by the building department since it doesn't fit into their paradigm. Advertising, laws, climbing the ladder and our culture in general are the catalyst to other individuals failures. Let's stop pushing people to and over the edge but instead offer a hand to guide them in a more beneficial direction. I understand some people will never choose the better path and continue to jump. All I can say is "fuck them" but many people are in the middle ground that just need the right influence. To me, that's what defines being liberal - giving people a hand up when they need it. Not pushing everyone that's questionable over the edge because it makes my life more successful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Weak Links

Numerous of my online acquaintences have been venting about the Supreme Courts decision regarding Hobby Lobby and their unwillingness to pay for birth control. I wouldn't have said anything except that someone posted a meme last night taking a jab at the decision that said "I'm going to quit paying my student loans because it's against my religion. In the bible debts are forgiven every seven years". I'm quite tired of people having absolutely no logical assessment of situations and arguing emotionally with non-sequiturs. Grow up people, that's how children react - based off of their emotions. 

Discussing this with my girlfriend last night she said "pick a side and get off the fence". To be clear, I think Hobby Lobby's beliefs are stupid but I also think they are completely entitled to make those kind of decisions regarding what they will and will not cover with their money. No one is forcing you to work there, hell almost every job I have ever had didn't provide any kind of insurance so the fact that they provide any coverage is a benefit. I understand how people feel like this is part of a vendetta against women but I guarantee you that if condoms were $50 a piece and were something health insurance would cover, Hobby Lobby wouldn't want to pay for them either. It has nothing to do with trying to oppress women but all about them not wanting to pay for what they would see as meddling with God's will. 

I am not on the fence because there isn't a fence to be on. Many people in the world have come to think that they are owed certain things but it's completely without merit unless there is some kind of cosmic rule book. I am very thankful that we have rights in America however, unless there is a higher power that says "you deserve xyz as a human" then it's simply a feeling you and maybe a bunch of other people hold. Don't tell me morality is subjective and then talk out of the other side of your mouth about how people are owed things because that is a contradiction. I do agree with much of the "liberal agenda" because I believe there is some higher power that wants us to treat each other with respect; however, I cannot get behind people being whiny, emotional cunts. If you believe birth control for women should be readily available then go out and develop an over the counter product that is safe and inexpensive. Is it unfair that the onus is mostly on women to prevent pregnancy? No, it's just nature and many aspects of life aren't fair. Having a vagina is just as "unfair" as the guy born without arms who plays guitar with his feet. He didn't complain "why don't they make guitars for armless people" but adapted and figured out a way to make it work for him. Adapt and be an adult. Even if Hobby Lobby's choice was purely because they hated women, you still have the opportunity to create options outside of the realm of their authority. America is not the great country it used to be because a majority of people think they deserve someone else solving their problems and handing them a comfortable life. You can sincerely believe you are owed things and I sincerely hope that evolution takes you out because you aren't strong - you are the weakest link. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Closing Time

You know you've been working too much when you wake up and have a glass of Code Red and an American Spirit Black for breakfast. Or when you feel like you can't form a cogent thought or even one that's moderately intelligent. That my friends is when you need to step back and say "what the fuck am I doing?" Working is great when you enjoy what you do but these last two projects spanning 6 months of this year have beaten the crap out of me. Maybe it's a psychological release similar to when you have to go to the bathroom driving home and you do just fine holding it till you are about to pull into the driveway, but seeing your house and knowing the toilet is there gives you a false sense of relief and then it feels like you have to muster all your strength and some Harry Potter magical shit to keep from turning your car into a really expensive honey wagon [HOLY RUN ON SENTENCE BATMAN] I don't know, but these last few days have been torturous and while I probably could muster up the fortitude to go on if we were continuing for another two months, I'm so glad today is the last day. 

The lyrics were probably meant in a way different context but "check yoself before you wreck yoself" comes to mind. It's all about money and furthering the careers of the upper echelon in business and rarely do they give more than a perfunctory shit about you. My breakfast is a reality check which confirms that the upcoming vacation is not just going to be fun but is necessary to my health as a person. Time to Viva la Vida.