Return To California
| my "i've been everywhere" progress
| mpg log
after my visit at great
basin national park i drove across the rest of nevada on federal highway
50. ate at a place called jerry's restaurant in fallon, nevada. had a quality
omelet for dinner. it was a real middle american experience. people watching
at a diner in the middle of nowhere is a great activity.
that night i slept in a
state park about 20 miles outside of carson city.
the next morning i drove
through carson city, beautiful, but overly visited, lake tahoe, and davis.
i visited justin (my old boss from tower) and saw davis for the first time
in months. it was also the first time in a few months that i had to take
off my sweater while outside. after spending some time with justin i drove
to oakland and saw meryl. got to see my new home. i like it a lot and it's
a good combination of nice neighborhood and price. now i just need to find
heard a story on npr about
a minnesota challenge to a local law that used cameras to catch people
who run red lights. they challenged, and won, the policy on the grounds
that it shifted the burden to the public to prove themselves innocent,
rather than the city to prove the individual guilty. there was some other
reason for the challenge, but i forgot what it was. there was also the
fear that this was the beginning of greater surveillance. i can sympathize
with this slippery slope contention, but i don't completely buy it. i do
think that there's a certain benefit and function of allowing citizens
to break the law a bit. i think it relieves some of the pressure of modernity
and living in an overly law-centric society. i consider myself a law-abiding
citizen, but i also enjoy the fact that i can jaywalk, run some stop signs,
etc. and get away with it. one could contend that so long as the cameras
were only used to enforce laws, one shouldn't have a problem with it, but
i think that there's a greater social value to allowing the citizens some
leeway, than in enforcing every law to the letter.
after visiting great sand
dunes national park i drove to gunnison, co and ate dinner at a nice cafe
which was celebrating its three year anniversary.
following the meal i looked
for a place to sleep. drove west along the highway that runs through curecanti
national recreation area, and settled on a nice side road leading to a
campground that was closed for the season. the road proved a good spot
for sleeping because the highway wasn't very busy and it was quiet and
dark. that night's sleep was the best i've had so far. i woke up around
5am because it was in the 20s and i had a bad dream, but up to then i slept
that morning i left for
black canyon of the gunnison national park. when i woke up the car was
covered with snow and it was still snowing. driving up the pass to the
park was a bit tough at times since they don't salt the roads and there
was only one plow out on the road. i was a bit worried that i'd get stopped
and have to buy some chains or, worse yet, be turned back due to bad road
conditions. as it turned out, though, there was only about an inch of snow
accumulation as a result of that weather system.
when i got to black canyon
of the gunnison i was immediately impressed. the canyon isn't nearly as
deep as the grand canyon - it's about half as deep as the mile deep grand
canyon - but black canyon is more narrow and the snow made it look more
picturesque than it might otherwise. i also saw a snowshoe rabbit and a
bobcat on the drive up. i was the only one in the park for the first hour
or so that i was there, so i got to talk with the ranger (paul z.) about
all sorts of things. i watched the video, did a short hike and took some
pictures. the park gets about 300k visitors a year. much of the scenic
drive was closed due to snow. it's a very nice park and it's too bad that
it's not better known.
next, i took off for dinosaur
national monument. this wasn't originally part of the plan, but i had plenty
of time and it's basically along the way to salt lake city, so i figured
i may as well. along the way i decided to take the scenic route and go
through colorado national monument. i've been there before, but i wanted
to see it again since i remembered it being a pretty place. there was construction
along the twisting road that goes through co nm, but i was glad that i
took the detour. colorado national monument is another one of those lesser
known gems of the park system.
the drive through northwestern
colorado is both beautiful and sad. most of the state is truly noteworthy
and picturesque, but that portion of the state has been used for oil (and
i think natural gas) lately, so it's a little less beautiful than it might
dinosaur national monument
was originally made a monument by wilson early in the 20th century because
of the important fossils found in the area. under fdr the boundaries of
the monument were expanded. the title is a bit misleading because much
of the land is more about the canyons and wildlife, than about archeology.
one of the visitor's centers was abandoned because it was built on a fault
line (i think) and was shifting. they apparently knew about this when they
built the structure and designed it with the ability to move in three independent
parts, but two of those parts collided and that made the building unsafe.
again, the main scenic
road was blocked because of snow, but i drove up one road and saw some
junipers (which look like limber pines to me, so i couldn't tell you the
difference between the two). i also went on a hike that shows the fossilized
backbone of a dinosaur still in the rock.
after i got my fill there
i left for the holy land, aka salt lake city. i got there around dinner
time so i cruised the downtown area for a while and then went to get something
to eat. i ate at some burger chain called hines big h (or something similar)
and it reminded me a bit of the varsity in atlanta, only smaller and with
a bigger menu. the meal was good and the oreo shake was closer to a blizzard
than a shake. good eating.
i saw the mormon temple
and church and headquarters and everything else. it's more centrally located,
and far bigger, than the federal building or capitol. in fact, the capitol
building, which is a few blocks north of the church, wasn't lighted at
all, while the church was clearly visible. i found this to be odd. i noticed
some construction by the capitol, but i know that the power was working
because a few office lights in the building were still on. i've never gone
to a capitol at night and had it be dark like that. anyway, the capitol
looked very plain from what i could see. meanwhile, the church looked like
a castle; it was quite impressive. it's sorta depressing that churches
are so frequently the best buildings in a city. the museum of utah history
was another building that had some striking architecture.
all in all, i found salt
lake city to be fairly nice. from what i understand, the city has undergone
a bit of a renaissance since the olympics. only 50% of the city
is mormon and i could tell that there were signs of some counter-culture
in the city. the conservative mayor (rocky anderson) has gotten some press
in the last year or so because of his anti-bush, anti-iraq war stance.
i listened to him a bit on the radio, and i've seen bits of him on tv,
and i found him to be fairly on top of things in the bush/iraq category.
i also liked the fact that salt lake city had what seemed to be a decent
and simple public transit system. the interior of the city reminded me
of denver and the exterior reminded me a bit of parts of west la.
it was getting late and
i was getting tired. rather than watching a movie, i decided to hit the
road and find a place to sleep. my plan was to spend the night somewhere
on the outskirts and check out provo and the byu campus, the next morning.
i drove south towards provo
and exited when i saw a sign for a state park. i drove to the park, but
found that the gate was closed. i quickly found an open lot across the
street, though, so i parked there and got read to sleep. within a minute
of my putting my head on my pillow, a cop car came rolling up and the cop
put the spotlight on me. i opened the door and put my hand up to recognize
his presence. i waited for him to approach me or use the bullhorn to ask
me to get out of the car or something, but he just took the light off of
me after a few seconds and drove off. it was a bit unsettling because usually
the cops will just pull up and ask for id or ask why you're there, etc.
i wasn't sure if his action was an attempt to scare me off, or him just
checking me out, or what. after a couple minutes he came back and shined
the light elsewhere on the road and drove off. then he came back again
and shined his light on another car that was parked about 40 yards south
of me. i had noticed this car when i pulled into my spot, but it looked
empty so i thought nothing of it. the cop got out of his car and shined
his flashlight into the other car. he talked with the person for a couple
minutes and then they drove off. at this point i fully expected to get
questioned next, but the cop just pulled out of the spot and drove down
the road to the corner near a stop sign. he drove very slowly around the
corner and stopped there for a few seconds. just as the cop was doing this,
another car came from the other end of the road in the same direction that
the cop was going. at the stop sign this new car rolled through the stop
and turned. as he did this he must have seen the cop because he stopped
and then accelerated, as if he knew he had just fucked up. sure enough
the cop turned on the lights and went after the guy who just ran the stop
sign. it was pretty sad because you know he probably got a ticket, but
that intersection was the kind of intersection that 90% of the population
would roll through in those circumstances. it was late, it's a three way
intersection, and it's at the very end of a block. shitty luck i guess.
after i saw that i started the car and left, wondering why the cop didn't
i drove further south and
exited where i saw a gov't (non-ad) sign that read "drowsy drivers exit
here." i thought to myself "well, that's divine intervention." so i exited
and saw a park and ride parking lot, but nothing resembling a rest area,
or even a motel. i did, however, see a movie theater. i figured this would
be the perfect place to stop since i wouldn't be bothered in the morning
since theaters don't open until around noon. there was one car in the two
parking lots adjacent to the theater so i parked in the lot opposite the
lone car. as i got ready to sleep, the car pulled into my lot and i saw
a guy drive by while looking at me. i knew where this was going. a few
minutes later two cop cars pulled into the lot. this time i got out of
the car and said hello. they said they got a call from the guy who was
closing the theater and he was worried because they had had some break
ins in the past. i told them i just wanted to get some rest and would leave
if it was private property. one cop suggested the park and ride and i pointed
out to her that the sign on the lot explicitly states that the lot should
be used for commuters only. the other cop suggested the wal-mart parking
lot and i said okay, thanks. i didn't want to argue, but i'm pretty sure
wal-mart has private property signs in most of their parking lots. it's
also too bright in those parking lots to get any sleep. so i got back on
the highway and eventually found a place on the side of highway 6 that
worked well. what a pain.
the next morning (today)
i woke up early despite not getting to sleep until 1am. when i opened my
eyes i saw a hawk flying by the front window so i figured that was a good
way to start the day. highway 6 intersects federal highway 50 which is
known as the loneliest highway in the country. i took highway 50 pretty
much the entire way from central utah to carson city today and the name
proved to be prophetic. through most of nevada the highway is very desolate
and goes from valley to mountain range pass to valley to mountain range
pass. it's beautiful, but very repetitive and it makes the drive seem longer.
further, the towns are all very small and have limited services.
my first stop was to great
basin national park. the great basin region isn't a basin as you might
think and the park covers only a very very small portion of that basin.
the great basin includes mountains and basins and the "basin" actually
refers to the fact that the region has no outlet to the sea. the region
includes the salt lake area as well as nevada and parts of neighboring
states. great basin national park has a few interesting features. lehman
cave is well-known for its shield formations, which are fairly rare - only
about 50 caves in the world have them. it also has some bubble formations
which are even more rare. they're not certain how these form, but the formations
look like soda straws with bubbles in the middle. these bubbles are hollow
and the walls of the bubble can be potato chip thin or up to an inch think.
overall, a better than average cave.
the park also has some
bristlecone pine trees. one such tree was cut down and discovered to be
4950 years old. their longevity is attributed to their high resin content.
while i was there i noticed
that they had a 20 year anniversary poster that was framed. in it, they
claimed that, in 1986 under ronald reagan, great basin was the first national
park in 15 years. since i'm somewhat of a national park geek and a jimmy
carter lover, i knew this to be patently false. i told the ranger about
the inaccuracy and she forwarded this information to her supervisor. the
truth is that, in 1980 under jimmy carter, several parks were put into
the national park system. about 5 in alaska, one at channel islands in
california and biscayne in florida. there were others before that, and
still within 15 years of 1986, that were also made parks. nothing in the
wording of the poster indicated any caveat that would have made the statement
true. great basin was already protected, i believe as a national monument,
so they couldn't even claim that it was the first park in 15 years that
wasn't already under federal protection. there were also a couple inaccuracies
in their newspaper, but i didn't want to be a nuisance. one was a statement
that there are 54 national parks, there are actually 58. i'm not sure,
but there were 54 probably sometime in the late 90s. cuyahoga was added
in 2000 and great sand dunes in 2004. i forget what the other inaccuracy
i looked at a map of california
and folded it in half to see what point marked the north/south boundary.
turns out that san jose is right at the half way mark. everything at or
below san jose would be southern california and everything north of it
would be northern california. this was confirmed by looking at latitude
markings as well as two maps of california that separate the state into
north and south; both do so right at, or just north of, san jose.
assuming i drive 4500 miles
on this trip, and i most certainly will, and assuming i got paid .35/mile
(a conservative estimate for long-haul trucking), this trip would have
yielded me $1575. $1500 for driving for a week would be pretty sweet. i
could do that like three months out of the year and have enough money for
the rest of the year.
imagining what it must
have been like for the first settlers of the west is something i enjoy
doing while i'm traveling. while i've done it before, it takes a while
for it to truly set in. when i first thought about settlers seeing the
grand canyon, for example, i thought that settlers would be surprised by
how big it is. but when you think about a settler who has only seen a canyon
500 feet in depth, it puts things in a different perspective. a canyon
of that depth is only one tenth the depth of the grand canyon, and hells
canyon is even deeper than that. it would be like my seeing a tree twice
the height of the cn tower. the tallest tree i've seen is about 360 feet
tall so seeing one ten times that height would be beyond mere surprise,
it would be disbelief.
black canyon of the
gunnison national park
a mcdonalds with one
colorado national monument
the mormon church in
salt lake city
road kill off highway
state recreation area
i think arkansas and oklahoma
have had the most cops so far on the trip.
i wonder how much it would
cost to install a computer system on the highways to catch speeders. they
have it for some intersections already, i wonder why they don't apply it
to speeding as well as running red lights.
left elk city around 8:30
and drove pretty much all day. went through amarillo, but didn't stop.
i should get a personalized
license plate. i've thought of several ideas: EDUC8, H8R, FUKTX, FUKDKKK,
TXSUX, GODAINT, GODSDED, and more that i can't recall.
after driving through oklahoma
and the texas panhandle, it was nice to see the more varied landscape of
northern new mexico. i made it to santa fe by midday. santa fe has a population
of about 60k and may be the most unique capital i've seen. that's another
list i'm going to put together - capitals i've seen. at any rate, it's
a fairly spread out town considering its population, but the downtown area
is as compact as most cities. there must be a local ordinance like davis
has, though, because none of the buildings seemed to be over 5-6 stories
tall. even the capitol was only two or three stories tall. the architechture
is the most unique thing about the city. i expected a southwestern flavor
to the city, but it was remarkable just how few structures were not adobe
or in the spanish style. i guess it's one of those things that you either
like or don't. i happen to like the style because it's not obtrusive and
it helps make the city unforgettable. the downtown area is rather touristy,
so i don't know what it would be like as a resident, but it was a nice
place to visit.
after spending some time
looking around santa fe, i hit the road for great sand dunes national park.
there's a supermarket chain in the great lakes area that's similar to safeway.
it's called giant eagle, but i've always felt that they should call it
great eagle because great means giant, but it also means very good. whoever
named great sand dunes national park was more wise than whoever named giant
eagle supermarket. anyway, it took about 4 hours to get to the park from
santa fe. i was under the impression that the visitor center closed at
5pm so i was trying to make it to the park by then. i got there at 4:45
and it turns out that the visitor's center closes at 4:30. so i did a self
guided tour and looked at the mule deer and read about the dunes and then
from what i could see of
the visitor's center, it looked very nice. it looks like a new building
- the park was made a national park in 2004 (the most recent addition to
the national park list) - and the exhibits inside looked neat and informative.
sadly, i could only see so much through the windows.
laptop battery dying, gotta
near amarillo there
were scores of duplicated highway signs. an intelligent use of government
hotel in santa fe,
typical of the architecture
great sand dunes national
park in colorado
forgot to mention that
there's a freeway in north carolina that's named after billy graham, yes
that billy graham.
in a hotel tonight because
my back isn't in great shape right now.
infomercials are great.
turns out that olmstead
designed the lay out for louisville. i forget what other work of his i
i think i was in tennessee
when i saw a bumper sticker that had a confederate flag and read "heritage
not hate." i guess they don't realize that the confederate heritage includes
hate and the limiting of freedom for blacks. ironically, they will tell
you that the heritage is one of freedom from government oppression.
after louisville i drove
towards mammoth cave national park and slept at a rest area. i went to
mammoth cave national park the next day and had to wait around 1.5 hours
before the visitor's center opened.
mammoth is the largest
cave system in the world. i think wind cave is number three and number
two is in russia or some former russian nation. mammoth is drier than other
caves i've seen like lewis and clark or carlsbad. went on a two hour tour
with 14 other people. of the 15 people, 7 of us were from california. there
was also a group of 6 mormons with us.
from mammoth cave i drove
to nashville. nashville's a decent city overall. i saw the capital building
and the replica of the parthenon. nashville has a nice downtown area, a
seedy east end, and a trendy west end. overall, it was a better city than
i had envisioned.
after driving through nashville
and eating at a place called noshville, i drove along the natchez trace
parkway towards memphis. the natchez trace parkway is a two lane divided
highway similar to the blue ridge parkway. both are scenic highways and
aren't very well traveled, at least relative to the interstates. the natchez
trace portion southwest of nashville is supposed to be one of the nicer
stretches. i thought it was a nice drive and a fun one as well.
made it to memphis at night.
memphis reminded me a bit of a more ugly version of los angeles's valley,
especially along sepulveda, north of sherman way. the downtown area is
touristy and was fairly busy when i was there. i drove to sun studios and
had mixed feelings. it was amazing to see the place where so much great
music history began, but it was also weird to see a domino's and bp across
the street. it was anticlimactic. i also went to the hotel where mlk jr.
was killed and got depressed. it's a shitty little hotel in a not so great
part of town and the site is relatively nondescript. it was odd to see
such an important place without any sort of obvious markings.
while in memphis i heard
an npr story about great actors and actresses. the guest speaker had just
written an article about the supposed superiority of english actors relative
to american actors. he said this was even more true of actresses. he also
said that the top ten actors of all-time would likely have room for only
a few american actors and that the rest would be british. i've never been
so infuriated by an npr piece. quite simply, the guy was a moron with very
specific tastes. personally, i think olivier is over-rated, not to mention
branagh and some of the others he listed. he mentioned brando and a couple
others as potential americans in the top ten. brando is over-rated too.
he failed to mention james stewart, humphrey bogart, dustin hoffman, paul
newman, steve mcqueen, walter brennan, gary cooper, henry fonda, and many
others. even his list of great english actors was incomplete. his list
of great american actresses was extremely slim and didn't include bette
davis, either hepburn, meryl streep, barbara stanwyck, lillian gish, etc.
his list was also extremely limited in that it only considered those two
countries. what of toshiro mifune or takashi shimura or gerard depardieu?
what a grade "a" moron.
that night i slept in a
the next morning (tuesday
- today), i threw out my back while getting dressed. that's the disadvantage
of sleeping in the backseat of a car. your body gets all cramped up and
my muscles weren't ready for the difficult task of putting on pants. getting
drove through little rock
and onto hot springs, arkansas. hot springs national park is unusual. it
surrounds the town of hot springs in a "u" formation and is the smallest
national park in the national park system. it's also the only national
park that i know of that allows collection of any of its resources. they
allow visitors and residents to collect the spring water and there are
actually several fountains throughout the town to facilitate this. it also
has what is the best visitor center to my memory. it's located in the town
in an old luxury bath house. i saw the video and went on a tour with a
volunteer who told me of the various treatments people would get while
there in the early 1900s. a nice looking place with some good exhibits.
scooter libby was found
guilty. best news of the day. fuck that guy, throw him to the sharks. o'reilly
said that he believes libby lied, but that he shouldn't have even been
questioned about it. wonder if he feels the same way about clinton/lewinski.
heard about ann coulter
calling edwards a faggot. she's such a cunt.
arkansas has been the most
smelly state on my travels so far. i assume they were industrial smells,
but i couldn't be sure.
after hot springs n.p.
i drove through the beautiful ozark mountains on my way to tulsa.
tulsa is a forgettable
little city. i drove through it and looked around and didn't see anything
worth remark. the four biggest highways that lead to tulsa are toll roads.
not sure what the deal with that is. took historic route 66 for part of
the road to oklahoma city. that stretch from tulsa to ok city is the longest
continuous stretch of route 66 left.
ok city was a surprise.
the capital building was nice and the capital building complex looked like
something i would expect to see in brasilia. around the capital building
and its supporting structures there's a lot of open space and residential
properties. it's a very distinctive, unique, and odd capitol. much of oklahoma
city is like austin's outskirts in that there's a lot of open space between
the roads and businesses and homes. it makes everything seem very far apart.
san francisco and new york city are on one end of the spectrum and oklahoma
city is on the other.
on my way to downtown oklahoma
city i passed a ford focus that had a couple old ladies inside and its
windows rolled down. as i passed them i drove over a pothole which was
filled with water. the water splashed up onto and inside the car. when
they caught up with me at the light i apologized and they said it wasn't
there's a nice area of
oklahoma city near the minor league baseball park and convention center.
other than that it was pretty spread out and not very pedestrian friendly.
before i left town i went to the new federal building and the ok city bombing
memorial. it was a nice, modest memorial.
right now i'm in elk city,
oklahoma. amarillo is the first stop tomorrow. had take out from a diner
called olde glory cafe. a very middle american greasy spoon with very good
food and some interesting interior design. it's off i-40 and is the kind
of place that probably won't be in any guide books, but is good nonetheless.
somewhere on the road
sun studios in memphis
lorraine motel in memphis,
site of mlk's assassination
the car passes the
240k mile mark
a lot has happened in the
past two days.
yesterday morning i left
drove through ohio, west
virginia, virginia and north carolina.
listened to "world have
your say" on npr during part of the trip down. it's actually a bbc program
that's syndicated worldwide. it made me recall the fact that brits refer
to hospitals without using an article. so, upon hearing that someone fell
deathly ill, they'll say "did he go to hospital?" in the u.s. we'd say
"did he go to the hospital." i think it basically comes down to the fact
that, for whatever reason, they view all hospitals as part of a larger
institution (Hospital), much as we view college (which they'd call university).
so, we'd say "it's important that a high school graduate go to college"
or "i graduated college," but we wouldn't apply that linguistic logic to
also heard of a case of
a woman whose obese child was going to be potentially taken out of her
custody because allowing her child to get dangerously overweight was considered
child abuse or negligence. it's an interesting debate. i don't think the
state should remove the child in those circumstances, but perhaps mandatory
awareness classes or education would be in order. one caller said that
if a parent allowed their child to smoke we'd remove the child and that
eating poorly is the same thing. a doctor on the show said that one cigarette
does immediate damage, while one bad meal does not. this is partly correct.
i've heard of at least one study that showed immediate blood flow decreases
after consumption of foods (like french fries) that have been cooked in
oil that isn't fresh (as would be the case at just about any fast food
before i left cuyahoga
valley national park, i did get to see the great blue herons. they came
back to the rookery early this year so i got to see a few of them in their
nests and flying, etc. they have a wingspan that's almost as big as a bald
eagle's, but their bodies are smaller. impressive birds nonetheless.
i wonder if toll booth
workers have a higher incidence of sickness than the average american worker.
they handle so much money all day, the chi of their booth can't be all
that great, and they inhale plenty of exhaust so it would stand to reason.
get me the stats on that stat.
if i ever taught a critical
thinking class i'd hand out a bunch of those snack sized chip bags to the
students and tell them to go ahead and open them and eat them in class.
then i'd walk around and see if anyone opened the bag "upside down." i'd
be willing to bet that everyone would open the bag with the text right
side up. for some it might be because they actually read the ingredients
or nutritional information, but for the vast majority it would be out of
habit and a sense of order.
immortal technique succinctly
put to words one of my major gripes about our current economic system.
he called it "corporate sharecropping." i've never thought of it in those
words, but it summarizes my sentiments rather well.
enough thoughts, now some
hit some snow in ohio and
some rain in west virginia. after this trip i might do a state ranking.
i rank everything else, so i may as well. i won't go strictly 1-49 (since
i haven't been to alaska), but i'll put them in three tiers. so there will
be the top tier which will have states like california and new york, the
middle tier, which would probably have a state like kentucky, and the bottom
tier, which would have places like texas and florida. i'd rate the states
on culture and natural resources. natural resources would be anything from
proximity to other interesting locations to great national parks, well-preserved
wetlands, etc. culture would include everything from politics to roadways
and cities and food and music.
west virginia is known
for its coal industry and mountain culture. i saw a bit of both along the
way. my guide to the u.s. has only four pages dedicated to the entire state.
pretty pathetic. i drove into charleston, the state capital, and it reminded
me a bit of harrisburg, pennsylvania's state capital. it was a nice enough
little city (pop. 50k).
after west virginia i drove
through virginia and into north carolina, where i caught the blue ridge
parkway. i've been on a different stretch of this scenic road before and
wanted to see more of it, so i did. this part had a speed limit of 45mph
and was only one lane going each way. i enjoyed the scenery for about an
hour and then got back onto an interstate.
landed in asheville, north
carolina. drove into town and found a popular place to eat. couldn't find
a place to park though. finally did and went to pay for it, but the electronic
machine insisted i pay $3, instead of the $1 posted amount for under an
hour, and wouldn't give me my money back. thieves and idiots live in north
in all seriousness, asheville,
and this part of the country in general, is depressing. all of the public
billboards are devoted to meth addiction. one of them showed a woman who
was an addict for three years and it showed her before and after meth photos.
i also noticed that two people didn't turn on the car's headlights, despite
it having been completely dark for at least 1.5 hours. one redeeming factor
was the fact that asheville had a mellow mushroom pizzeria. meryl and i
ate at the one in gainesville and thought it to be the best thing about
ended up finding a place
called sylva, which is a bit outside of great smoky mountains national
park, to sleep. the downtown area of the town was pretty quaint and the
outside of it looked pretty much like most towns that have a state road
that bisect them. 677 miles on the day, much more than i thought i was
going to do.
drove to great smoky mountains
n.p. from the south. part of the land is owned by cherokees so there's
the obligatory harrah's casino on the doorstep of the national park. pretty
lame. what was even more lame, though, was that the road bisecting the
park was closed because of inclement weather. while i was at the visitor's
center there was a maintenance guy who was using a leaf blower to clean
up the sidewalks of the fallen leaves and twigs. i fucking hate leaf blowers
and to see one in a national park was even worse. the sidewalks weren't
a complete mess, they just had the usual amount of debris. it's supposed
to be nature, i think people can live with a little tree debris on the
walkway. very sad.
drove all the way around
the park and then through it on the interstate. having done this i could
have just stayed on i-40 and gone to knoxville, but i wanted to return
to the park to give it another shot and see its north end. i also wanted
to see what gatlinburg is like since it's a fairly famous gateway town.
jackson hole is another famous one. driving to gatlinburg took a while
and it was snowing the whole way there. the town itself reminded me a bit
of banff, but not as quaint or old looking. it was very crowded, especially
for this time of year, so i decided to just go to knoxville, having only
seen the park from my car. according to their research, 95% of park visitors
don't go further than 100 yards from their car while visiting the park.
sadly, i did not buck that trend. but at least now i can empathize with
the 95% that see the crowds and the closed roads and just say fuck it.
as i left gatlinburg i got fairly depressed. the further from the park
that you get (heading north), the worse the town looks. motels are as cheap
as $15 and it looks like the canadian side of niagara falls. there are
shitload of pancake houses, motels and cheesy ways to waste your money.
my only defense was to pop in immortal technique's "revolutionary volume
2" and play it as loud as i could handle. that made me happy.
tennessee borders more
states than any other state in the country.
listened to a lot of talk
radio while in tennessee and kentucky. illegal immigration was the big
issue of the day. i'm torn on the issue. if we're to have any sort of immigration
policy then it relies upon the ability to enforce it. if you can't enforce
your laws then there really isn't much sense in making them. i think we
can all agree upon that. another issue is - to what extent do we turn a
blind eye to illegal immigration and why? we've done so in the past for
economic reasons. there's also the "they were here first" argument which
i only sorta buy into. it's a tough issue and it seems to really be taking
hold, especially in middle america.
the democrats are going
to need to develop a simple platform for 2008. my three suggestions are
immigration, healthcare and the middle east. i think those are the three
big issues and i think that the democrats need to develop some easy to
remember and pithy slogans. one thing i found remarkable on the conservative
radio show that i was listening to, was the attack on big business for
the role they played in bringing illegal labor to the country or, in the
case of bank of america, giving credit cards to illegal immigrants. one
thing that middle america can't stand is the idea of an unfair deal. they're
willing to deal with varying degrees of prosperity and taxation and problems
overseas, but they hate it when there's the perception that one group will
get something without having to earn it. this is why the image of the welfare
mother with 15 kids that reagan bandied about was so powerful. the current
one is of the illegal immigrant who can get credit, doesn't pay income
taxes and still gets access to healthcare and education. it's going to
be interesting to see how this all shakes out. remember - in the last 11
election cycles, the candidate who won tennessee, wins the presidency.
i also find it interesting
that both the right and the left use "end of the world" tactics to motivate
their base. with the left you could say that global warming taps into this
fear that the sky is falling. with the right you could say that the religious
zealots claim that armageddon is right around the corner.
saw a church sign in louisville
that read "no jesus no peace. know jesus know peace." tower had the same
slogan, but it was "no music, no life. know music, know life." when i read
that, though, i first though of the la riots - "no justice, no peace."
i also thought of islamic extremists (and other fundamentalists) who essentially
say that if you don't believe what we believe then we're going to bomb
you. i'm sure that the church would claim they meant no jesus, no inner
spiritual peace, but....
after the failure in the
great smoky mountains i went to knoxville. that's one more that johnny
cash names in his "i've been everywhere" song. it's a fairly shitty city.
the university of tennessee seemed just as big there as the university
of texas is in austin. "T" stickers and licensee plate frames were everywhere.
the campus wasn't very impressive. pat summit is impressive, but i didn't
see her. she has more wins in division 1-A basketball than any other human
i still had plenty of time
before bed time so i drove to lincoln's boyhood home national historic
site and was met by a road closed sign. the site closed about 30 minutes
before i arrived. so i drove onto louisville (also not on the original
itinerary) because i've been curious about it for a while now. kentucky
is the birthplace of many interesting and famous people. muhammad ali has
a street in louisville named after him. both presidents of the civil war
- lincoln and davis, diane sawyer, bill monroe, hunter s. thompson, george
clooney, loretta lynn and plenty more. an interesting cast of characters.
louisville is a nice city.
the downtown area is clean and easy to navigate. the entire city is laid
out like washington d.c. - one freeway forms an oval around the city and
one more freeway bisects this oval somewhat like the greek sign of theta,
turned on its side. that freeway that bisects the oval is I-65 and it runs
north-south. the streets are laid out fairly simply in a grid with the
numbered streets running north-south. the city also looks very nice. most
of the large buildings are visually interesting in some way. even the american
red cross building is interesting. i'll include some pictures when i get
a chance. don't visit the city on a sunday, though, because most of the
places were closed. they have a little promenade on 4th street that looks
like it could be fun on a saturday, but i didn't get to see that in full
as i was walking around
a man approached me and said "hey bro is that 5th street up there?" i said
yes and he said thanks. it's funny to visit a place and have someone else
ask you for directions. it happened in nyc once and i was able to oblige.
on my way back to the car the same guy saw me and asked me if i knew which
bus to take to get to a certain part of town. couldn't help him that time.
as i was putting my bag into the car the guy who was parked behind me asked
if i was from california. i said yes and asked what was up. he said "you
wearing a kings jersey?" and i said that yeah, i was (actually it was a
sweat shirt, but it doesn't matter). then he said "what do i gotta do to
get that off you?" as he asked that he got out of his car and a bottle
clinked on the ground. i wasn't sure if it was his bottle or a bottle that
was already in the street, but it was covered in a brown bag and he was
asking what he had to do to get my sweat shirt so i was expecting that
this conversation might not go so well. i replied "oh, nah i'm keeping
it." and he came back "come on man." i said no thanks and he came back
again "my boy garcia plays for them." and i said "oh, yeah, he's a good
three point shooter." and he said "damn right. he used to go to louisville.
so, come on. you want this jacket?" and he pulled at his army windbreaker.
i smiled and said "no, my girlfriend gave me this sweat shirt and she'd
kill me if i gave it away. sorry man." then he said "oh, okay. well i'll
stop bugging you then." we exchanged a couple more lines about garcia and
then i left. i was in fry's electronics once when i guy asked me for my
shoes, so this marks the second time that someone has wanted something
i was wearing badly enough to offer a trade on the spot.
after cruising around louisville
a bit i listened to npr. they had a show called "you've got a way with
words" and they talked about various linguistic pet peeves and word derivations.
liked it a lot, but i don't think i've ever heard it syndicated on any
npr station that i've listened to before. they talked about the derivation
of the term "in a pickle" as well as "pre-boarding," which george carlin
addresses in his "airline announcements" bit. pre-boarding is basically
just boarding for the people who are either handicapped or rich or early
to the airport. i love parsing language like that. hopefully that show
is on in the bay area.
heard another show on npr,
this one about science. they talked about honeybees in some part of america
that aren't able to find their way back to the hive because of the use
of chemicals known as neonicotinoids. this means that fewer plants are
being pollinated and that's having some adverse effects. apparently, einstein
once said that if honeybees ever go extinct humans will follow within four
most of these photos
didn't come out very well...
capitol building in