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Hitting the Trail Again

May 7, 2010

Whew. I’m pretty exhausted. The last month has been a complete whirlwind- but only in great, fabulous, wonderful ways.

After my season ended in Telluride I promptly hit the road with three good friends. We drove across the Southwest, then up the West Coast on the way to Tacoma. From there I hopped onto a red eye and headed to NYC for a wedding, stayed for a few days, then hopped back on a plane towards my new home. This is the second time in one calender year where I’ve been in transit for a full month. Crashing on couches, camping, and spending long days driving in the car. It’s been exhausting but fun. There is something amazing about being on the road. I love the symbolism alone. That open stretch of pavement going as far as the eye can see. Sage brush whipping by in the hot desert sun. You can’t help but feel excited about the prospect of being on the move, going somewhere. But at the same time I’m ready to arrive. I’m looking forward to the prospect of new beginnings in Seattle. A fresh start. I have a good feeling about this next chapter, and I’m excited to get it started. But first let me give some updates about my recent travels…

End of the Season- If I haven’t mentioned this before- I don’t think I’ve ever dressed up more in my life than when I lived in Telluride this past winter. I don’t know if it’s a ski valley thing, if it’s because Telluride has a free-box usually loaded with awesome/gaudy clothes, or if the altitude is effecting everyone’s brains. But Telluride was chock full of occasions to dress up in ridiculous ways. The last day of the season was no different. I don’t think I can truly describe the ridiculousness of the event without pictures, but if you want a little help watch the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine. I felt like I was back in the 80’s tripping on acid. There were leg warmers, bright pink zoot suits, half-naked women with pasties, and seeing as it was the same day as Easter of course the Easter Bunny made an appearance. The whole event took place at the base of the hike-to’s at a bar carved out of snow. Also carved out of snow were beruit tables and a small fort overlooking the event. Afterwards everyone stumbled down to a concert on the mountain. Such a fun way to finish the season, pretty much capped off an unforgettable time in my life.

Driving through New Mexico- After the season a bunch of us jumped into our cars and headed south to the land of enchantment. Growing up I’ve always seen New Mexico as my second home. A place that has had a strong influence on who I am today. Now it seems to be becoming more and more my full-time home. So me and my traveling companions drove into Taos. I picked up some of my stuff, saw some old friends, and introduce my new friends to the wonderful town and cuisine of Taos. It was nice to be able to show my friends the area, and my family’s home there.

Afterwards we headed to Santa Fe and stayed with an old rugby buddy of mine. Again I got to show them my house, my old college, the plaza, the Indian art market, and the various historic churches near the plaza. We grubbed on some more green chili (in my continual attempt to get them as addicted as I am), and sampled some of Maria’s 500 so tequilas. I love the Southwest, and it was so great to be back. The desert is such a unique type of beauty, but once it grows on you it never leaves. Hence why all of the locals call New Mexico the “Land of Entrapment”.

Onto Arizona- Our next stop was in Prescott to see my brother. On the way down we stumbled upon the scenic route by accident, but I’m so glad we did. Instead of zipping down the highway and going across AZ-169 we took 89A which goes winds along the Oak Creek canyon. Along the way people were pulled over to splash in the stream and hike the steep canyon hills. One especially cool looking place was “slide rock” state park. It’s basically a natural water slide built into the sandstone over years of erosion from the river. Definitely a spot I’d love to come back to. We then arrived to Sedona, which is home to some of the prettiest sand stone you’ll ever see- bright red mammoths sticking out of dark pine green forests.

From there we headed to Prescott to visit my brother. Prescott is a funky little town tucked way up in the Arizona mountains (yes, Arizona has mountains). It used to be the capital of Arizona, so it has a fairly built up infrastructure and a pretty killer night scene (aptly named Whiskey Row). We went to a few bars, one which had two live bands playing. I don’t understand where all of the people came from, but regardless we all had a great time.

The Grand Canyon- So after a night of heavy drinking we collected ourselves and headed up to the Grand Canyon National Park. While the park itself felt more like an amusement park than a Natural wonder of the world it was still a spectacular vision. But I think “grand” is a complete understatement- it’s massive. A gigantic gap in the earth, containing layers upon layers of separate little worlds. I think all nature allows us to sit in reflection of our mortality. Our simple and speck-like place in this world. But the grand canyon truly reaches into your soul and grabs on. It’s about as close to starring into the abyss as you’ll get.

VEGAS!!- So after the Grand Canyon we drove to a hot springs close to the Hoover Dam. That failed. Turns out the boat house closed at 5, so our boat trip to the hot springs didn’t work. Instead we camped just outside the hoover damn, where we could see the toxic pink glow of Las Vegas off in the distance. The next day we drove across the hoover dam towards Vegas. Along the way we stopped to walked across the hoover dam, and incredible display of human ingenuity and design. We pondered what was more impressive, the hoover dam or the grand canyon- we all agreed the grand canyon.

From there we crossed the border to Nevada, and entered the insane city of Las Vegas. I’ve been a few times by now, but it’s always had fun. Plus I was very excited to show my friends the craziness of sin city. My friend and I checked into the Tropicana our other two traveling companions hid in the casino. We checked into our two person room pretending to be a couple who required 2 beds for whatever reason. Afterwards we napped, then headed out into the night.

Our first stop was to get dinner, at a bizarre restaurant called “Dick’s Last Resort”. Where the waiters are literally dicks to you. If you don’t order fast enough they leave your table, if you ask for napkins they throw a fist full of them into the air towards your table. It’s basically like being at a restaurant with the worst service you’ve ever had- then tipping them for it. So bizarre. Sounded fun in theory, but as soon as we sat down I began to regret it. Afterwards we hit the arcade at New York, New York, then the tables near-by. We then headed to the MGM for more gambling, and stayed up until the wee hours of the night. At the end both my friend and I broke even, so that was a nice consolation prize of the adventure. We ended with a terrible buffet at a place literally called “Terrible’s” (go figure), then hit the road towards Los Angeles.

Los Angeles- It’s so bizarre to enter back to an old home. Driving into the city on the same congested freeways I used to travel every single day I almost felt as if I had never left. But the best thing was that there was not a single fibre of my being that truly missed it, that said “I wish I was back here”. That made me feel good. It confirmed to me that I needed to get out of that city, and find my own place in the world.

Sadly I didn’t have enough time to see my old friends. While I didn’t miss LA, I do miss my friends. I was able to see a few here and there. I was able to see some of my favorite little spots, but two days is not nearly enough to see everything in a city as big and as diverse as Los Angeles. It was also a cool feeling to be able to show my friends around, it reminded me that I have gotten to know LA pretty well in three years. Like I said in a previous post I won’t have nostalgic feelings of the city, but I don’t regret my experiences either. I did experience a lot, and adventure plenty during my time. Like I said, I got no beef with LA. 13.5 million people can’t be wrong right? It just wasn’t right for me.

California Coast- While I don’t love LA I love the California coast. Probably some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Big Sur, the fruit stands, the tall elegant red woods, the crystal blue waters crashing against tall rocky cliffs, and the ephemeral fingers of fog brushing up and down the hills. The first night we camped on the cliffside of the Kirk Creek campsite, one of my favorite car camping spots in the world. We hiked to the beach and watched the sunset from a small island off the bay. It was the first night we hit the coast, and we all sat in silence sipping our beers as that red ball of fire slowly dipped below the ocean’s horizon. We looked up at the stars and named each castellation and star that we knew as they appeared, and even made up a few more. It was a wonderfully peaceful wonderful moment, shared with three new amazing friends. The next day we roamed up the coast to San Francisco. We crashed one night with our friend’s college friend, and another night we spent camping in the Marin hills. That night we drove to the beach and played tag with the waves at dusk, then drove to the over look and watched the starry night-scape of San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge. As much as I dislike urban sprawl I have to admit it can be beautiful at night. The next day we drove to the red woods and camped just outside the park by a beach, this time driving deep through thick old growth forest. The next day we woke early and drove out, taking a quick stop by the red woods to wander about their massiveness like ants among grass blades. We jumped back into our vehicles and headed to…

Oregon- I know California is huge, but it amazed me that it took us a few days to drive out of California and only a full day to almost drive through Oregon. We were in a bit of a crunch at this point in the trip, so beside a quick stop at the Oregon dunes we bolted it up the coast. Nothing too much to report on the first day, except one more beautiful ocen

The second day was pretty awesome though. We started off with a full breakfast at Pig n’ Pancake, a chain of Oregon breakfast establishments that I learned about when I was in Astoria back in September. After that we went to Tillamook to check out the cheese factory. We took the tour, and I encountered one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make over the last few years. Out of the 38 flavors of rich creamy ice cream that they had I was forced to choose 2. Sure I could have had a full 38 flavor sampler, but I had to drive, and I didn’t feel like getting sick. I was never a big fan of raw cheese before, but a bite of smoked Tillamook cheddar changed that. A magical place of dairy dreams and legendary cheddars.

After that we drove east to another amazing culinary center: Portland, probably my favorite place to eat and drink the in the world. There I met some of my old friends, some of my friend’s old friends, and some of my friend’s old high school friends. The whole trip was a wonderful amalgamation of second and third degree meet-ups. It’s always interesting to meet your friends friends from another time. It gives you one more facet of their personality to look at and study. I love Portland, and wish we had more time to stay and adventure, but sadly we had to drive out. My flight was the next day.

Washington- The next day we traveled up to Tacoma for my two friend’s reunion tour at Puget Sound. One rowed in college, so every year they have a race with alumni. Like I said before I got to meet her old college friends, and see a whole new side of her- which (being the complete free-spirited and amazing girl she is) made perfect sense. After some brief reunion time for my friends and a little lunch we headed into Tacoma to explore the town and see their old campus. I hadn’t heard the best things about Tacoma before, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to explore it a bit more. It’s a cute sound-side town filled with beautiful buildings and cool rolling hills. We drove to the coast and walked the beach, tossing a disc along the way. It was a nice way to spend our last few hours together. Watching the waves crash on the alternating stone/sand beach, sitting on washed up logs and staring at a Mt. Renier half covered in clouds. Afterwards we headed back to their friends place where we made one last dinner for the team. It was sad to leave them. We had all spent the entire winter together, and now an entire month-long road trip. It’s funny how sometimes people that you’ve just met can become some of your closest friends within the span of a few months.

NYC- So after saying my good-byes I jumped on a plane and headed to New York on the red eye. I left at 10:30PM, and was scheduled to arrive the next day at 6:30AM. I love the convenience of the red eye, but I absolutely hate it. Coming from Sea-Tac it was an even shorter flight than I was used to, giving me about 5 hours to sleep. Even less if you subtract the time it takes to taxi and land (which you cannot possibly sleep during). Not to mention there is not a single comfortable way to sleep on a plane. I tried upright, leaning against the window, leaning on the tray table, almost nothing worked. I was able to piecemeal a little sleep, but nothing substantial. After landing I jumped on the train and headed to my cousin’s place. She was kind enough let the doorman know I was coming, so I had a couch to nap on as soon as I arrived, which was very welcome.

The rest of my time in NYC was excellent. I always love visiting New York. It’s like a pen pal. Something I feel very close to, even if I see it every so often with just a few times every so many years. I was able to see some old friends from all spectrums. Old high school friends, old college friends, and a Telluride buddy even showed up in the mix. It was excellent. And being a wedding we all got to see each other and carouse a good amount. It was such a good time. Getting older you have so few occasions to gather together as a group, so every event is always so welcome and special. I also loved being able to spend more time with my family. I’ve probably already said this, but I love that my cousins and I are getting closer as we get older. I kind of wish I had a bigger family, so it’s nice to be working on getting closer with the ones I have. Plus they’re both awesome. I am so proud to call them family, and I absolutely love them to death.

Back to Seattle- The flight back to Seattle was much better, and made up for my flight to NYC. I didn’t have anyone sitting on my row, so I was able to stretch out and have the entire thing to myself. I take back what I said about there being no good way to sleep on a plane. As we descended I was able to see an aerial view of my new home, which looked beautiful. Lush green trees giving the urban development a close hug. Tall buildings reflecting the blue sky and cotton-like clouds on their steely faces. And the entire thing sits right on the edge of a beautiful body of water. It was the perfect way to look at my new home for the first time.

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