Working Vacation

I'm currently camped out in the back of a FedEx/Kinko's in Washington, D.C. for the second morning in a row, using their [reasonable priced, but not free] internet. I don't suppose that I can rightly say that I am on vacation when I've been checking in with work and logging in to fix bugs every day since I've left, but that's okay. In fact, while there is definitely a downside to it, being the optimistic guy that I am, I see a side to the working vacation that I kind of like. Let me highlight a few.

1. When I am able to work from the road, I don't need to let what's going on with work affect my travel schedule. As long as wherever I am going has an internet connection, I can always carve out a couple of hours from sightseeing or napping to do a little work.

2. It lends some structure to my day, which I generally am in need of. If I didn't have to at least check in with work, I might lounge in bed until 11:00 or keep coming up with excuses on why not to change out of my jammies and leave the house.

3. Doing even just a little bit of work in a day lets me feel like I've accomplished something and that I've earned the 2 ice cream cones that I'm bound to eat in my daily roamings.

4. Being a contractor, logging a couple of hours also means that I've earned enough money to pay for those 2 ice cream cones, so I don't need to carve away at my savings too much while traveling.

5. Daily (or almost daily) exposure to work reminds me why vacation is so important, so when I logoff, I can more fully appreciate where I am and what I am choosing to do.

6. When my co-workers/bosses/project managers know that I am taking time out of my vacation to get done what needs to get done, they really appreciate it, and feeling appreciated is a good feeling.

I imagine the novelty will wear off soon and I will start griping about having to check in with work. But luckily, the busy time at work will also start to taper off, so it'll all balance out. Then I will have to come up with another excuse to get my daily computer fix. *cough*nerd*cough*
Friday October 17 2008File under: work, travel

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PDX Weekend


As I mentioned in last week's Lopez Jugglefest post, I was planning on attending the Portland Juggling Festival. This past weekend, I did just that. It was, however, less juggling oriented than I thought it would be. While I did get my a fair amount of juggling in (including a great walk around pattern with drop backs that we came oh so close to running) and watched some great juggling take place, the weekend was so packed with other stuff, it would be unfair to restrict my post to just juggling.

There was also gambling friendly wagering! In the course of just 24 hours with Andrew, I managed to lose $24 in bets about the most random things. $9 on trivial pursuit (the wager: +$1 for every question I got right, -$1 for every question I got wrong*), $10 on skee ball ($5 per game), and $5 on frolf. Andrew (or in the case of frolf, Myke) won each of these bets on a fluke and I would be willing to throw down anytime again. Luckily, just before leaving the juggling festival, I made all my money back by winning the crumbled dollar bill juggling event in the games*.

Besides juggling and gambling friendly wagering, there was some biking around to visit friends. Once again, I was reminded of how bike friendly Portland is, even if you happen to be riding a fixed gear bike of death or basket-ed cruised that is 11 sizes too small (but seriously, I'm grateful you guys letting me pedal your babies).

Biking, juggling, wagering, frolfing, and hanging out with friends: not a bad way to spend a weekend. It serves as a great opening to my travel season.
Monday September 29 2008File under: juggling, travel

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More Bus Fun

Warning: Rambling anecdote follows. Proceed at your own risk.

I love riding the bus in new places. It reinforces the power of public transportation when a person unfamiliar with an area can get where they are going without resorting to taxis or calling a friend to pick them up. With the proliferation of online trip planners, finding your way around a non-familiar area is easier than ever. That said, it doesn't always go so smoothly.

Yesterday, I took the train down here to Portland. (My love affair with trains continues, despite them not showing a movie...) Andrew, being the good friend he is, offered to pick me up at the train station. "No," I said. "I'll just hop on a bus." I had done my research before hand (on trimet.org) so I had schedules and routes all documented.

I exit the train station and find my bus stop. There was someone else there, so I quickly confirmed that this is the bus I wanted. We had 20 minutes or so to kill, so we struck up a great conversation*. The bus comes and we go on our way. Trimet buses have reader boards displaying each stop as you pass it, so if you are paying attention, you won't ever miss your stop. I was paying attention.

While I don't know Portland overly well, I've spent enough time to get a general feel for it. From that general feel, I sensed the bus wasn't going in the direction I was hoping to. "Have faith," I told myself. Often buses take meandering routes to get to their destination. When everyone else had gotten off, my faith started running dry. I asked the driver and sure enough, I got on the right bus, but going the wrong way. Alas.

Armed with new directions from the driver, I get off and start trudging to the nearest bus stop. (By this point it is after 10:00). As I am walking away, the driver opens her window and yells, "I got a better idea. Get back on." It turns out that she was officially off duty and returning the bus to the garage, which was in the direction I wanted to go. So she turned on the off-duty sign, made me promise not to tell how fast she drove, and then floored it. In the course of my personal bus ride, she told me her life story, another meaningful conversation with a stranger courtesy of the bus.

I finally made it to my destination, perhaps a little later than I might have, but filled with inspiration from meeting a few good people and an ever renewed sense of appreciation for public transportation.
Friday September 26 2008File under: transportation, travel

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Sensational Salt Spring Island

In celebration of 6 fabulous decades of life for our dear old ma, us chilluns organized a trip up to Salt Spring Island Canada for this past weekend. It was a bit cramped with 7 of us staying in a cabin that was built for 4 and all piling into the Subaru* to get around, but hey, if family can't invade each other's personal space then who can?

Anyway, aside from the coziness, it was a great weekend. I've been hearing about Salt Spring Island for quite some time; about its artist communities, its natural beauty, etc. etc. It didn't disappoint. We were deterred by the rain a bit, but we got a hike in, to see the farmer's market, check out the local one screen theatre*, and see the island landscape in general, where views, forrest, and farms abound.

Speaking of farms, our little cottage was on a goat farm, which proved to be good times. They gave us something to watch from the porch and someone to feed our food scraps to. Punksto esp. liked feeding them and, after initially being a bit shy, grew more and more brazen. Then the goat headbutted her. Goats are jerks. (She was scared by it but okay.)

Yeah, Salt Spring Island is pretty neat. You should check it out sometime.
Thursday August 28 2008File under: travel

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Greyhound Alternatives

I've mentioned before the qualms I have with Greyhound. While I appreciate the coverage they offer–bringing transportation to places that may have no other options–I've had enough bad experiences* to actively seek out alternatives. Until I started looking, I didn't even know they existed. "Bus travel" and "Greyound" were always synonymous in my mind. I was pleased to see that this isn't the case. On the off chance that you have some of the problems with Greyhound that I do, I thought I would share some alternatives I've come across.
Megabus: Serving 3 different regions (CA,NV; Midwest; Northeast) with "low cost daily express bus service". Book early and you might only pay $1 for your seat*.
Sample fare comparision: Megabus vs. Greyhound
Chicago -> Cincinnati: tomorrow $37 vs. $46; a month from now $36 vs. $50


Bolt Bus: Serving DC, Philly, NYC, and Boston with inexpensive direct routes. They also do the ticket for a buck thing, if you book far enough in advance. Free WiFi on the bus is another perk.
Sample fare comparision: Bolt Bus vs. Greyhound
D.C. -> NYC: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; a month from now $15 vs. $34


Chinatown Buses: Chinatown buses started springing up as a cheap way for people (and wares) to get from Chinatown district to Chinatown district of major cities in the Northeast corridor. It has recently become a very popular way to get from city to city for anybody. With a straightforward loading process and very extensive schedule, this is the preferred method for many east coast corridor travelers.
Sample fare comparision: NYDC Express vs. Greyhound
D.C. -> NYC: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; a month from now $20 vs. $34


Concord Trailways: Serving Maine,New Hampshire, and Boston, this is a great example of a regional alternative. Benefits over Greyhound that I've personally experienced are movies on the buses and better connection/station location in Portland, along with saving a few bucks.
Sample fare comparision: Concord Trailways vs. Greyhound
Boston -> Berlin, NH: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; (4.5 hrs vs. 14 hrs (with two transfers))



These are a few alternatives I've come across in my travels. While I haven't ridden all of them, the ones that I have proved a better experience for me than GH. I don't always discount Greyhound because they occasionally have better rates or better schedules. I've found, though, that it is always nice to have options.
Monday May 19 2008File under: travel, transportation

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Rejected Photos Slideshow

I took a bunch of photos on my latest little adventure. Some of the good ones made it into pertinent blog posts. Others, due to theme, quality, or time restraint, never made the cut. Well, here's their big chance! I've compiled all the good-but-not-good-enough photos into this fancy slideshow*. So if you are looking to kill some time, click here and enjoy.

There are 72 photos in the slideshow, so it might take a second or two to load up. I figure if my old laptop can handle it, your's should have no problem.

Oh, and it should be noted that not all the photos are mine. I stole–er, I mean reused a few photos from I Heart Jonahbees and Sir Maxalot, so there might be repeats for those of you that read those blogs*. I also snatched a picture or two from Sara's camera while she wasn't looking. You really gotta love the age of digital photography.

And second Oh: no fair making snide comments about how many self portraits there are. Being creative with picture taking while traveling is hard.
Tuesday May 6 2008File under: travel, pics

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The Other Local Food

We have all, undoubtedly, heard me go on and on about local foods, right? Well, I now offer you a slightly different version of the same concept: foods whose ingredients don't necessarily come from the immediate area, but foods which are closely tied to a place either because that is where they were invented/popularized or for some other reason. I took special care to experience as many of these foods as I could while on my trip. Here's the list.

Chicago deep dish pizza in Chicago; Philly cheese steak in Philly (sold from great little sidewalk stands); scrapple served up by Amish people in Phillie; crab cakes in Baltimore*; BBQ, hush puppies, and sweet tea in North Carolina; and New York City bagels* in New York City. Pretty much everything was awesome; each food stuff deserves the recognition it has achieved.

(Also worthy of note, although not famous except in certain circles, is my brief stop in Fredricksburg, VA at Carl's ice cream joint. I can't remember who recommended it to me along the way, but what a place. It was a local place that was so hoppin, I had to wait in quite a line for my shake. Totally worth it (both the wait and the riding my bike all over town to find it after a hard day on the road). It is worth including in this post because in my eyes, it captures exactly what a local establishment can be. Anyhoo, if you happen through Fredricksburg, you should definitely check it out.)
Sunday May 4 2008File under: food, travel

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Four Nights

Like many people, I harbor a secret desire to write; I mean really write, with vivid imagery, foreshadowing, and all that good stuff. So instead of the typical I-did-this-then-this post, I wanted to try something new. Please bear with me.

It wasn't the sound that woke him from his slumber, a tame noise that easily faded into the background, but it was the first conscious recognition that he had. Before even opening his eyes, he started to wonder what the source of the sound might be. His thought process, uncommonly clear at so early an hour–a trait he silently thanked his ancestors for daily–led him first to think about location, which was an interesting detour in itself.

Four consecutive nights and four different pillows on which he has rested his head; lately not so uncommon an occurrence. For the past couple of years, he spent less than half his nights at home, in his childhood twin bed tucked in his mother's garage. The other half had him either watching other people's houses as a housesitter, one of his many somewhat unlikely "careers", or on the road. Currently he was at the tail end of a 6 week jaunt through the northeastern United States, having successfully accomplished the goal of seeing old friends. This was his last stop.

He mentally laid out the previous 4 nights. Thursday was a freshly carpeted floor in midtown Manhattan. Friday was a couch in a quintessentially Maine apartment–slanted ceilings, old wood floors, and more character than an entire suburban development combined–in Portland. Saturday night he closed his eyes in upstate New York and opened them in Ohio, with the comforting clatter of the rail line to keep him lulled in semi-sleep. Last night was, that's right, Chicago again.

With his location established, he reluctantly opened his eyes to further pursue the sound. A quick check of his watch, held approximately 3 inches from his face, offered the final clue: 7:00am. The shower. His host getting ready to head off to work. While he could stay tucked in his sleeping bag for a couple more hours–both because he was still recovering from the magical yet incomplete sleep from the train and because he had nothing at all planned for the day–he knew getting up to chat was the courteous thing to do. He learned from experience that folks offering their homes out of the goodness of their hearts don't take kindly to having the fact that they have to run off to work while their guest gets to lounge about all day rubbed in their face. Plus, he could always lie back down later.

Monday April 28 2008File under: travel

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New York New York



Cause everyone's my friend in New York City
And everything looks beautiful when you're young and pretty
The streets are paved with diamonds and there's just so much to see
But the best thing about New York City is you and me

New York, New York!
It's a hell of a town!
The schoolyard's up and the shopping mall's down!
The stray dogs go to the animal pound!
New York, New York!
New York, New York!
Springfield, Springfield!*
Thursday April 24 2008File under: travel, pics

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Green Travel

We've all pretty much accepted that I am an eco-geek, sometimes to an annoying degree, right? So it shouldn't be a surprise that I put a lot of thought into the environmental impact of my travels*. I addressed the issue, albeit novicely, back when I got back from Asia (remember?). Well since then, I've done more reading on the subject. This is the conclusion I've come to.

Calculating the impact of travel on the environment is hard. Do you measure the impact in CO2, which is ever so popular these days, or do you focus more on what type of fuel is being used and the impact of how we obtain that fuel? How does infrastructure play in? (ex: Building roads and rail lines across long distances can really gnarl up the landscape while planes just require a place to take off and land at each end.) What role does/should capacity play? (ex: If the plane I fly on is 1/4 full vs. totally full, my passenger miles per gallon are extremely different, with me having no control of that.) Even within a give style of transportation, there are huge variations that make generalizing towards a usable rule difficult. (ex: Turboprop planes, which are often used for short commuter flights, are way more fuel efficient than their jet engine cousins. And diesel trains belch more particulate matter per mile than electric trains.)

This graphic (and an expanded version over at their site) does a great job of summing up a general rule when thinking about travel: in order of most to least harmful goes traveling solo by car, flying, traveling via mass transit (train, carpooling, bus), non-motorized travel (walking/biking), followed up by not traveling*. While is isn't a hard fast rule, it is helpful for a quick sanity check.

The impact of all this for me is complicated, and I won't get into it too much. Sufficient to say, I take this all into consideration and I try to make responsible decisions. I try not to travel frivolously*, I try to fly less, and I actively seek out mass transit options. And I try to encourage awareness without being too much of a jerk about it. I hope I somewhat succeeded.

P.S. Happy Earth Day!
Tuesday April 22 2008File under: environment, travel

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