Easy Time in NC

Traveling can be tiresome, tedious, and draining. I was reminded of this yesterday as I left New Bern NC to start heading north. A botched attempt at hitchhiking (in a thunderstorm the likes of which you can only dream of) followed by bus, taxi, and train, all with their hidden annoyances. Normally I try to avoid noticing the grittier side of travel, or at least avoid posting about it on the old blog. Yesterday, however, it seemed particularly noticeable because I had just got done spending a care-free, easy time with with the SirMaxALot crew.

I had such a great time. It was the perfect mix of downtime/recovery* and cultural and local activities, with plenty of time for catching up and philosophical conversation (with a healthy dose of Simpson quotes, of course). The weather was crazy good–so good, in fact, that I got to participate in one of my favorite activities ever: being shirtless outside*. I felt so welcomed into their home that it made all the hassle of travel just drift away. My collection of photos hardly does the time justice*. All the good shots ended up on their camera, so you will have to stay tuned over there to see the goodies (although I am hoping to snag a few for a wrap-up slideshow)*. That said, here are a few captured moments: my first NC geocache is Max's first cache ever; Sean, Max, and I enjoy some of the lovely riverscapes surrounding New Bern; and Christen, Max, Jack, and I did a little strawberry picking (the real photos from this one should be great).

Yep, now I am back on the dusty road with the next stop in NYC. Small town North Carolina to the City; I'm sure I will hardly notice the difference.
Monday April 21 2008File under: travel

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BdW Catch-22

Blogging can sometimes be a funny thing. When I've got all the time in the world to make posts, nothing bloggable seems to happen. On the other hand, when I am out having adventures that I want to write up and share, it is often hard to find the time (and computing resources) to make a post. During these periods of activity, posts inevitably either get totally out of sync with what's currently going on or lost in the excitement of the next thing. Case in point, the last two weeks.

I never got a chance to report on how I had a truly Baltimore day, hosted by Dave (of Publius Baltimore) and Sarah; Orioles game, seafood* at the world famous Lexington Market, geocaching*, and walking around the inner harbor. Or about how enamored I am with Annapolis, with its wonderfully cute downtown and all the nautical goings ons, all guided so informatively by not-a-native-but-you-wouldn't-know-it Anne. Or how I spent half a day meandering around our nation's capital, peeking at monuments and cherry blossoms*, followed by a great chance to catch up with an old friend. And I didn't get a chance to relay how I was treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal, great conversation*, and a place to stay* by Annie and Sam in Arlington, VA.

But I suppose if I had to pick a way for the scale to unbalance, it would be towards more bloggable happenings and less time to post. I still try to do my best keeping the blog updated, but sometimes I'd rather go camp on the beach than find a local library to make a post from. I'm sure you understand.
Saturday April 19 2008File under: travel

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Biking Recap

Ten days ago, I bought a used bike in Baltimore. It was nothing fancy; just a couple of wheels, gears, and a rack. The whole idea was to show (both to myself and anyone else interested) that with very simple tools and very little preparation, biking was a viable semi-long distance transportation option. Five hundred miles later, I'm glad to say that I've presented enough evidence to myself, at least, to fully accept this premise (and therefore never have to prove it again).

As with pretty much all my little hair-brained schemes, if I was to do it again, I would do it slightly differently. For one, I would have spent more time on finding a bike better suited to me. Because of the size of this bike, I didn't get to exercise all the muscles in my legs, but just my quads*. Also, learning over the handlebars as far as I had to left me with a bruised palm and tingly fingers.

I also prolly should have spent a little more time in planning out a route, specifically planning overnight locations. When you are road tripping by car (or scooter, for that matter), you have the luxury of waiting until near dark and then starting to look for the nearest campsite, motel, or dirt service road. While riding, my legs had pretty much given up for the day around 5:30 and I was lucky if I could even find a place to eat dinner (usually a gas station*). This led to some need for creativity regarding sleeping spots, which I will address later.

The other thing that I would do differently is to bring sunscreen. Who would have thought that having the back of your hands facing directly up to the sky for 10-12 hours a day would cause them to get sunburned? Well, it does, and in a big way. By about the 3rd day, I was resorting to smearing mud all over the back of my hands to keep the sun off. It actually worked surprisingly well*.

All these little things aside, I think the whole thing worked out great. I'm extremely proud of myself* and this accomplishment. Biking 500 miles in just over a week is something to be proud of. On my long days (everything after Arlington, VA), I think I averaged 75-80 miles a day. Anyway, for anyone that wants to see a general route (with mileage), click here (please to note: this route mileage is somewhat of an estimate in places because I lost track of all the crazy back roads* I ended up on. Also, mileage is off because I did have to take a bus through a tunnel under a river/bay in Norfolk and I couldn't figure out how to dis-include mileage from the ferries.)

Of course there are all the sights I saw (a surprising amount of wildlife, actually) and interesting characters that I met along the way that made this little trip such a grand adventure, but this post is too long as it is. You'll have to hear about that stuff in real life.
Thursday April 17 2008File under: travel, USA

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OBX North Carolina

Have you ever been to the Outer Banks* of North Carolina? If not, you should check them out. I've never gotten too much exposure to the treasures that the south has to offer in terms of "Hey, you should go visit [insert cool southern place name here]", but I had at least heard of the Outer Banks. That was reason enough for me to check it out*.

Although I only spent a brief day and a half there (and most of that was in the saddle), I can definitely say that it was worth the visit. If you can look past the rampant tourist/consumeristic overtones (that weren't in full force yet by the time I was there, luckily), there is a ton of history and natural beauty. As for history, there are all sorts of pirate stuff (ship wrecks, museums, etc.), civil war place markers, nautical landmarks, and of course Kitty Hawk, location of the first heavier-than-air, self-propelled manned flight. The natural beauty of the area comes in the form of gorgeous beaches and dunes, back water channels, and great wet lands. There are birds galore as well, but I would only be showing my ignorance if I tried to identify them. The area protected in the National Park/Seashore/Whatever looks as if it has been that way forever, which is so interesting to see. When cars weren't flying by, I sometimes would just stop* and marvel at how calming that bit of gorgeous nature was.

Yep, next time I pass this way, I will allot much more time for beach sitting, nature walking, and pizza eating*. (Oh, and for all you schralpers, there is plenty of gnar to be shralped*.)
Wednesday April 16 2008File under: travel, USA

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Signage

Forgive me if I have posted about this before. I remember spending a lot of time thinking about it when I was on my scooter trip.

Signage can make all the difference when travelling, esp. by alternate means. Sure it is annoying when you go 20 miles off your route in a car and have to turn around. When you go 20 miles out of your way on a bike, however, it is very different. And it isn't only lost time and frustration that good signage can help alleviate. It can be a safety issue.

Take today for example: it was all set to be the first big day of the bike portion of my trip. I wanted to go as far south as I could get. I left Arlington VA early and found a nice off-road bike path the 20 or so miles down to Mount Vernon*. After that, I just headed south. I eventually came across a visitor's center with a nice "Bike Virginia" map that was supposed to help keep me off the main roads and on the purty back roads. Well, the map was really unclear about how to get on this mythical bike route. And since it shared the same name as a highway, I figured I would just hope on the highway and find a sign. 25 miles (on almost shoulderless roads with traffic zipping by at 50 mph) later, I senendipitously found a sign pointing me to what a wanted. I'm hoping now that I've found it, I'll be able to stick on it.

Moral of the story: good signage can make a HUGE difference. So for all you planners out there, whether it be for a bike route, a nature walk, or a tour of the bridges of Madison County, I implore you to not skimp on the signage.
Thursday April 10 2008File under: travel

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Day 2 in the Saddle

Don't worry. i'm not going to do a day by day posting of this whole bicycle thing. i will however use this as an excuse to post a little picture of my steed. Other than that i will not write much today because the computer i am using has multiple eys that don't wor (such as that one that comes after J and the comma (so no complaints about grammar typos or spelling on this post)).

But i did mae it the 40 or so miles from Annapolis to D.C. yesterday and in record time too. i even had enough time to chec out a few of the monuments before meeting up with a friend for dinner and a place to crash.

(There are more photos but since the alligator eys and equal sign don't wor either i will wait to post those another time. (Those that i did get to wor was all using cut and paste character by character which is tedious (but a good challenge (ind of lie a haiu)))
Wednesday April 9 2008File under: travel

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In the Saddle

One used 12-speed bike on craigslist: $65
Used bike accessories (bike rack, lock, helmet, etc.): $30
Chance for a little adventure: Priceless

Day one: Baltimore to Annapolis. 20 miles (after a ride on the light rail). Almost completely on a paved bike path. So nice. But having not ridden much in the past couple months, I was really feeling it. We'll see how my legs (and ass) feel tomorrow. Perhaps buying the first bike I came across (that turned out to be too small, kind of rusty, and fully ghetto) was a bad idea. Time will tell, I guess. Tomorrow is the Annapolis to D.C. leg. Prolly about 30 miles, unless I wuss out and take the metro for part of it. But that's okay. I shouldn't overdo it too much. I've got a long way to go.
Monday April 7 2008File under: travel, USA

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Straight Forward Philly Post

At the risk of receiving more flak for making somewhat sterile posts not filled with reflection and insight, I'm going to tell you about my all too brief time in Philadelphia. (You are, of course, welcome to not read and skip ahead to all the pretty pictures.)

I really really enjoyed my time in Philly. I'm not a city person, but I can appreciate a good city when I see one. The first thing that I noticed was how incredibly walker friendly it is. There are lots of people who live downtown, so the city doesn't shut down on the evenings and weekends like many other cities you see. Plus, there are produce markets, grocery stores, and other functional stores* interspersed. As a corollary to the walking, I noticed a big presence of car sharing. I'm sure this walkability had a huge influence on my impression of the city.

Another great thing the city has going for it is history out the wazoo: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell*, lots of churches, and brick everywhere. I tried to take this picture to show the great balance of modern and historic, but the settings on my camera were all wonky so it didn't turn out great*. I could have easily passed the whole day wandering around the historic district and looking at all the firsts: the first bank, the first free library, the first place that Benjamin Franklin took a poo, etc. Unfortunately, I had a strict schedule to keep.

Other activities (which I will mostly gloss over because this is getting wordy) were a visit to Love Park*, a tour of the U.S. Mint*, and the discovery of some very interesting crosswalk art*. Yeah, 24 hours isn't really enough to do this wonderful city justice, esp. if you are recovering from an all night drive on a tire you expect to blow out at any time with a complete (although, it turns out, very nice and generous) stranger*. City of brotherly love, I'll be back.
Saturday April 5 2008File under: travel, USA

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Good Friends

Traveling solo can get lonely. Even if I am* keeping busy with viewing cathedrals, finding geocaches, eating the local cuisine, etc., there are hours of downtime to pass. When waiting for the bus, winding down time in the hotel/hostel*, or even strolling through some historic something or another, I have only my own thoughts. On the one hand, this can be a good thing: I am in charge of my own schedule, I don't have to take the minor criticisms that even the best friends can offer, and I have time to work out thoughts, unhampered by interruptions. On the other, it can get lonely. With no one to distract me from my own thoughts, I can sometimes get overly drawn in. Plus, who is going to offer those little criticisms that are good, like that I've got lettuce in my teeth. All this is to say that traveling solo can get old.

Enter friends. Sometimes I meet folk along my travels that allow a respite from the solo traveling thing. Maybe it is just someone to sit next to on the train or maybe I will pass many days together. Other times, I have friends along the way where part of the goal of the trip is to visit them. I've been lucky in having both.

Passing time here at the Richards' household has been great. They've taken me into their home, fed me, and entertained me*. I couldn't be more thankful to have had this time to catch up with old friends and be openly welcomed into their life. Good friends are good things. Anyway, keep your eye towards IHJ for pictures of the time*. (I often neglected to bring a camera or slacked on taking shots, but luckily Jenn had my back.) The pictures (and maybe even video) of the slide are not to be missed.
Wednesday April 2 2008File under: travel, USA

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De Plane Boss. De Plane.

I'm here in Dayton, Ohio visiting the IHJ crew (getting in some much enjoyable baby time). But outside of just chilling around the house (I'm sure you would be ever so interested in hearing about Mario Kart battles and board games), I wanted to get the full Dayton experience.

People here love their* aviation roots. They promote it everwhere. To put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, they've got the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum. I thought I might swing by to see what it was all about*. Planes, planes, and more planes – three hangers worth. It was all very interesting, esp. the historical stuff about Orville Redenbacher* (I could have done without the exultation of the war stuff). Being able to be so close to so many full sized planes gave good perspective on this thing that we are all so familiar with, but in a distant sort of way.

Anyway, I could visit all sorts of other aviation related tourist stops here in Dayton, but I think I might just hunker down for a good old game of Guitar Hero.
Tuesday April 1 2008File under: travel, pics

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