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itinerary | my "i've been everywhere" progress | mpg log
3-12-07 (21:53)
  • 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 a job.
  • 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.

  • 3-9-07 (20:18)

  • 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 relatively well.
  • 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 otherwise be.
  • 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 harass me.
  • 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 was.
  • 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 arch?

    colorado national monument

    the mormon church in salt lake city

    road kill off highway 50

    state recreation area in nevada

    3-7-07 (21:24)

  • 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 left.
  • 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 sleep.

  • near amarillo there were scores of duplicated highway signs. an intelligent use of government funds.

    hotel in santa fe, typical of the architecture

    great sand dunes national park in colorado

    3-6-07 (21:47)

  • 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 should know.
  • 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 rest area.
  • 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 old sucks.
  • 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 a problem.
  • 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.

  • tennessee parthenon

    somewhere on the road

    sun studios in memphis

    lorraine motel in memphis, site of mlk's assassination

    the car passes the 240k mile mark

    3-4-07 (21:37)

  • a lot has happened in the past two days.
  • yesterday morning i left at 9:30.
  • 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 hospitals.
  • 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 place).
  • 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 reporting...
  • 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 carolina.
  • 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 that town.
  • 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 ever has.
  • 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 swing.
  • 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 years.

  • most of these photos didn't come out very well...


    capitol building in nashville