Canyonero

This road trip has been a great one for outdoor places. Sure I've seen some cities (or at least little bits of them): San Antonio, New Orleans, Vegas, El Paso, etc. But the parks have been the real stand outs. In each of the 3 main parks we've visited, the best scenery in my opinion has been the canyons.

* Big Bend National park in southwest Texas: I would love to spend more time there. It's really got some great geography.

* Red Rocks near Las Vegas: a great scenic drive even if you don't get out of the car. If you hike around a little, it gets even better.

* Death Valley National Park: lots of desert, but some of the narrow canyons are pretty freaking spectacular too.
Tuesday January 5 2010File under: travel, USA

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Another Roadside Attraction

Traveling the back roads of America far outweighs interstate travel, if you ask me. Sure it is a little slower, but seeing real towns instead of exit ramp after exit ramp of the same chain stores makes it all worth it. Passing through Eastern Oregon on a small back road recently, I came across this gem that I just had to share.

There was no plaque or explanation. Just a bunch of license plates nailed to a fence and fence posts. Upon closer inspection, I noticed there was a can of nails and a hammer for anyone to add their own contribution. Erica and I both did our part*.

When we stopped in the next town*'s little cafe*, we asked about the art installation up the road. They didn't have much to offer in way of explanation but did point us to another similar attraction in the next town over.

Yep, back roads America: I'm a fan.
Sunday January 3 2010File under: travel, USA

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Dear Las Vegas

I've been told by a few people that this post is a little "weird", "out of character", "too personal", or "emo", so I thought I'd throw this disclaimer on it. If you like your posts normal, in character, impersonal, and whatever-the-opposite-of-emo-is, it's probably best to skip this one.

Dear Las Vegas,

I like you. People who know me are sometimes surprised by this, but I do. I recognize that you have so much more to offer than getting drunk and spending too much money. Every time I visit, I learn new and exciting things that make me appreciate you more. When people try to put you down, I stick up for you. I remind them of all the free entertainment, outdoor opportunities, and visual excitement there is to see. I point out that by having excesses concentrated and sharable, it allows people to avoid excesses at home. I point out what a genuine feat of engineering, art, and marketing it is that you even exist. I'm really one of your biggest fans.

But there is something I have to get off my chest. Despite your many facets of entertainment, history, culture, and interest, there is just one thing that I can think about when I visit you. It's not money (although I do catch myself occasionally thinking about what it would be like if I were to take home that over-sized novelty check). It's not the shows either. Whenever I visit, see a movie or tv show set upon your glamorous streets, or even hear someone mention you, I think of her. I'm convinced I see her two rows over in the grocery store shopping for coffee. Wasn't that her car that just cruised by as I wait to cross the strip? This park totally seems like the type of place she might come to hang out, Yeah, I know there are millions of people roaming around at any given time, so the chances of an encounter are slim, but still. And not that I even want an encounter, I think, maybe. I just can't help but have such thoughts fill my head.

There. Now that I've said it I feel a lot better. What do I expect you to do about it? Not much. I mean, if you see her, maybe tell her I say hello or something. No biggie. I guess I just needed you to know.

Anyway, I gotta run. I'm trying to catch as many free shows over at Circus Circus as I can. If I learn something, I can write off this trip as a tax deduction. Thanks for being so cool.

Always,
Wren
Friday January 1 2010File under: open letter

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Two Tales of Two Cities

NORLINS

What do you do if you have 5 hours to see all that New Orleans has to offer? Well, I did what I could. I saw Bourbon Street, tried to take some artsy photos, watched some street performers, ate some beignets (YUM!), waited in line for a fancy restaurant, ate crawfish etouffe, gumbo, and jambalaya, and drove around looking flood damage.

Yep, if I go back, I will do it in a little more organized fashion, and maybe even have a plan, but until I do make it back, I've at least got a frame of reference for when all those saints go marching in.
SAN ANTONE

I last went to San Antonio 22 years ago or so. Needless to say, I don't remember much (except some vague recollection of the movie Cloak and Dagger). Luckily, I had the chance to refresh my memory with a quick visit. We saw the Alamo* and the riverwalk.

Then someone on the street looking for a fight decided to punch me in the face 2 times. That's a first. It turns out that it doesn't feel so great. Luckily, San Antonio's finest* were right around the corner, so Mr. Firsticuffs shan't be bothering the nice River Walkers any longer.

Tuesday December 29 2009File under: travel, USA

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Bike Trip Recap

Start point:Pensacola, FL
End point:Slidell, LA
# of day:5-ish
# of nights:4*
Total miles travelled:200
Average miles per day:40
Actual mileage breakdown per day:18, 82, 28, 40, 30
# of states visited:4
# of geocaches found:4
# of all you can eat buffets:2
# of all you can eat buffets that were a bad idea:1
Ratio of angry horn honks to supporting honks:3:1
# of abondoned water parks explored by cover of darkness:1
# of days until my knees are regularly functinoal again:5? 15? 50?
# of photos taken:Not nearly enough
But still: x-mas beach fire, giant gorgeous tree in Bay St. Louis, frontage roads make me happy, drying clothes after a storm, on a ferry, biking rocks.

Sunday December 27 2009File under: travel, USA

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Twas the Night Before Christmas 2009

Twas the night before Christmas as we pedaled along
The wind and the rain were frightfully strong
The wind was no problem for it was blowing due east
It help us to cruise at 18 mph at least
The rain however was not quite as nice
Despite the warm weather the drops felt like ice
The trip to this point has been almost a breeze
We earn every mile but stop when we please
We take in the sights for to me it's all new
I walk on the beaches and take in the views
But now the sky grows darker and threatened still more
We see an oasis just down the shore
The casinos of Biloxi with their neon light
Might be our savior on this dreary night
We duck in the first one for a big bite to eat
Those epic buffets are a real treat
It's still raining so I try my luck
At the gaming tables, I win 15 bucks
So now stuffed to the gills with shrimp and ice cream
Our thoughts turn to sleeping for our sugar plum dreams
We could sleep in a field or a barn brought to ruin
But tonight is not last night so a hotel we'll be pursuing
In the lobby of the Hard Rock we work internet and phone
To find some cheap beds before we're soaked to the bone
Now as all my clothes hang o'er the sink just to dry
My thoughts turn from practical to friends far and nigh
For tonight is a night that goes beyond chimneys and toys
It's more about sharing life's little joys
So I offer this wish to my friends near and dear
Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Thursday December 24 2009File under: holidays, poetry

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Travel Self Portraits

I've been criticized in the past for taking (or at least posting) too many self portrait style photos. I see the issue and how it can seem very egotistical. But I would like to make a defense.

Traveling alone means you are the only one taking pictures (unless you are the type to flag down a passer-by to take the shot, which I try to avoid but occasionally succumb to). So that means any photo of yourself is going to be self portrait style. I personally like photos with people in them more than just landscape shots or whatever. For example, I like this better than this, and this better than this. Furthermore, I feel the need less to explain a photo if I'm standing in it, as in the photo at the right: you can tell that I'm stoked to be getting fresh orange juice, eh? Just a picture of an orange pile wouldn't be the same.

Anyhoo, this was meant to be a dumping ground for a few of the self portraits I've taken recently, so here they are (with a mini-defense about their purpose): "hey look, I bought a bike" and "since sunset pics rarely turn out with my camera, maybe if I reflect it off my sunglasses".

I could go on about my defense of self portrait pictures, but I won't. Instead, I'll just concede; yep, I'm just that egotistical.*
Tuesday December 22 2009File under: travel, USA

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Epic Wrong Turn

Just so you don't have to learn the hard way, like I did, when the National Parks Service calls a route "scenic", it actually means "you are goin' to see all there is to see because you will be lucky if you actually make it out alive." Just keep that in mind*.

So, through a series of unfortunate events, I find myself back in a rental car. The downside is that I'm burning through the old travel budget much faster than I had hoped*. The positive side is that I get to explore the non-greater Miami part of Florida.

Once such leg of this "exploration" came in the form of an epic wrong turn. It took about 1.5 hours to get through 10-15 miles of this. Luckily, the scenery was beautiful. The wildlife wasn't so bad either. Now that I've survived the gators, the only thing I have to worry about is what the rental company is going to say. Perhaps it is time to look into a new form of transportation*...
Sunday December 20 2009File under: travel, USA

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Southernmost Post in the USA

It has been 13 years since I was last in Key West, FL, and from that last time, I don't remember anything except which Key Club girl(s)* I was chasing and who we dressed in drag and sent out on the town*. Fast forward 13 years and I've got a whole new impression.

Key West has a ton of lore associated with it in my life. First, there is all the Jimmy Buffett lore: Margaritaville, Duval Street, Capt. Tony's, A1A, conch fritters*, etc. Then there is the street preformer lore of Mallory Square. I went to two sunset celebrations down there and watched quite a number of shows. Nothing totally blew my socks off, but it was fun nonetheless. Finally, there is fiction lore. My favorite genre of book is the South Florida action/mystery*. A number of the books have parts set in Key West. Roaming around the streets gave me a better feel for the setting for those books.

I have a bunch I feel like I could say about Key West and how much I enjoyed spending a few days here. Instead, I'll just post these two totally cliched pictures: #1 and #2.
Friday December 18 2009File under: travel, USA

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Bellingham Circus Guild Calendar

I've just finished work on a project that I've had a good time with. It is a calendar to be sold for a fund raiser for the Bellingham Circus Guild. I think the finished product will turn out nice (although I'm not on the printing/assembly team). So if you are interested, be sure to get yourself one. Either talk to a member of the guild, or e-mail me and I'll act as middle man.

The project was very interesting on two fronts. For one, the layout of a calendar isn't so straight forward, at least with the way we decided to lay it out: the back of this page is the front of that page but upside down, etc. I had to make a mini-calendar to figure out the layout of it all. Working out the captions that go across pages was a task on its own. After working with it now for almost a month, I feel pretty confident that to do it again would be no problem whatsoever.

The second front that made the project interesting was one that has popped up in a few different projects of my recently. It goes like this: I pour quite a bit of effort into something, both technical and design effort. When I present the results of said effort to the "client" proudly, the criticisms I receive really affect me more than they should. Part of it is feeling that the suggester doesn't have a firm grasp of the technical implications of their changes (which means they have don't have an appreciation for my input). Part of it is a frustration that if the client had such strong opinions about the details of the thing, it would have been much more efficient use that from the get go instead of me putting in so much time making something that is just going to be deconstructed anyway.

I recognize that this is a symptom of collaboration and that this frustration is of my own creation. It is something that, now that I'm conscious of it, I can mitigate. All that said, however, being involved in projects like this bring me more joy and pride than frustration, so it's all good.
Thursday December 17 2009File under: jugging, misc

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