Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road Stories 2: Asleep at the Wheel.

I've written before about my life as a roadie back in the day, but I don't think it's possible to communicate the level of physical exhaustion that went with that job. Our work days averaged between 16 and 20 hours, six or seven days a week. And we weren't exactly living on protein shakes and Red Bull. A breakfast of beer and doughnuts -- usually before an 8:30 am stage call -- was pretty standard, chased with any number of "supplements" to get the day going. The day might end as late as 3:30 or 4:00 the next morning, followed by showers and often breakfast at Denny's before hitting the road to do it all again. It was not unusual to do 29 shows in 29 different cities in a 31 day month, and I was on the road for as long as three months at a time. If we got a day off, it was because the next city was too far to get the equipment to overnight.

But as hard as it was to do the work, it was the driving that made it really exhausting. And dangerous. By the time I left the road in 1980, virtually everyone was riding tour buses with professional drivers, but when I started we were driving (and living in) converted cube vans that the boys in the wood shop had fixed up with couches and bunks and little reading lamps. After a few tours with six or eight guys living in them, they all smelled like smoke and stale beer and ass. And that was when we started the tour. They drove like shit and had to be filled up with gas about every three hours, but we didn't really care that much.

This is about 10 years newer than our crew vans, but it's pretty much the same vehicle. Add six bunks, a couple of couches, ice chests, ashtrays and six or eight smelly hippies and you've got yourself a party. They added a mobile home style door to the back for easy access, and to ensure that we got pulled over by Immigration at every opportunity.

So after working what seemed like our zillionth 18 hour day in a row, all of us would pile in the van and someone would have to drive while everyone else got some sleep. That someone was often me, because I figured out early on that whoever drove first was not expected to drive very long, and got uninterrupted sleep thereafter. I also usually loaded the last truck, so I was typically freshly showered and as awake as I was going to get.

We were on a George Benson tour in Vancouver (or maybe Linda Ronstadt, I really can't remember anymore), when the engine in our van burned up. The transportation arm of the company, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it would be better to ship the van home to Dallas on a train than to spend 2000 of those crazy Canadian dollars to get it fixed. In the meantime, we would carry on the tour in two rental cars, which have most of the disadvantages of the vans and no place to sleep. So we became even more exhausted*, which up to that point I would not have believed to be possible.

My wife's favorite road story happened about a week later as we were driving out of Toronto on our way to Ottawa. I was too tired to drive first, so I took shotgun in the rent car and told whoever was at the wheel to wake me up when they got tired**. I fell asleep about ten seconds later.

Some time after that, I remember opening my eyes and trying to figure out where I was. We were on a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, it was pitch black outside and the car was just entering a fairly significant left hand curve in the road. But something wasn't right with our trajectory. We were definitely not going to make it through that curve with this approach. I recall distinctly thinking, "Who's driving this thing?" That thought was followed a split second later with, "Oh my GOD IT'S ME!!!"

Now I was awake. Gravel flew as I wrestled the car off the shoulder and through the curve. My heart was pounding and my eyes were as big as ... well, as big as my eyes get. Pants may or may not have needed changing. I drove for another ten minutes or so, until I found a safe place to change drivers and wake up the one guy who had slept through the whole thing.

Apparently, we had stopped and swapped drivers and I had never woken up. The first guy swore that I had been driving for ten or fifteen minutes down that dark country road in Canada. He had already been fast asleep when I woke up. I had a history of sleep walking as a kid, and was apparently capable of performing fairly complex tasks and carrying on simple conversations, but nothing even approaching driving a car.

I was too shaken up to drive for several weeks after that. Luckily, the powers that be decided a few days later that the late/drop charges on the rental cars were getting out of hand***, and we flew the rest of the tour. This sounds better, but it's actually worse, because there are cars and hotels and airports and too much time is wasted getting from one to the other.

We all fell asleep on the sidewalk at an airport somewhere in California a couple of weeks later, waiting for the guy who had gone to fetch the rent car. Later that same day I asked someone during our lunch break how long we had before we went back to work. He told me 11 minutes. I told him to wake me up in 9 minutes and went outside for a nap on the grass. It was the best 9 minute nap ever.
* We were also not keen on the idea of being guests of a foreign government for an extended stay, so the supplements were always left at the border. Except for Paul McCartney, but that's another story.
** This is telling of just how tired we were, since it was customary for someone to stay awake and co-pilot in the wee hours of the morning to help keep the driver awake.
*** We were supposed to return the rental cars in Vancouver the day after we picked them up. It was almost two weeks before anyone thought to call Hertz to find out what it was going to cost us to drop them on the other end of the country two weeks later.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Ben Bernanke gave a speech today about how America's trade deficit played a role in creating the financial crisis, and how once trade starts up again, it will probably go back to playing the same old role, unless somebody does something about it. As for America's part, now that the big banks are back to making money hand over iron fist, the Fed Chairman says we should really work on reducing our budget deficit.

None of this is new or surprising, except when he recommended that Asian nations help by getting their own people to buy their crappy products instead of shipping them to us. Bernanke suggested that one way for countries like China to do this was to increase spending on social programs like education and health care, thereby allowing people to save less and spend more. This is essentially the opposite of what the capitalist crowd would like to see happen in Washington, which makes sense given that we are on the opposite end of the cheap money. Except that many of these same people have talked about how important it is to get Americans borrowing and spending again. Maybe now that so many of the jobs are overseas, we have decided that consumption should follow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Food, glorious food

A few years ago I went on the South Beach Diet. It was a great diet, the food was yummy, I lost a bunch of weight, and I should be on it right now, but it forbids drinking for the first two weeks and it's football season. Besides the weight I lost, I noticed three things about the diet:

1. I had to go to the grocery store all the damn time.
2. It was expensive and took time out of my day.
3. The only things I bought from the middle of the store were spices and sugar free Jello Pudding.

It turns out that this is not an accident.

My brother persuaded me to read The Omnivore's Dilemma a few months ago, and now I kind of feel like kicking his ass for making me want to be a farmer. And a hunter, and possibly a mushroom gatherer. (Not that I've never gathered a mushroom before, but that's a completely different subject.) If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. It's not really like The Jungle, or Diet for a New America -- the type of book that will gross you out to the point that you never want to eat again. It's more like Super Size Me: Behind the Music. The author builds a compelling case that the American food industry is a perfect storm of government waste, corporate greed, environmental irresponsibility and petroleum use, and that we are all paying the price.

American food has been industrialized and commodotized so that it is cheap to produce, easy to transport, easy to store and easy to sell. Note that taste, nutrition and cultural considerations do not appear on the list. Would it surprise you to know that "natural raspberry flavoring" probably has no part of a raspberry in it? It surprised me.

The New York Times reported recently that the new Smart Choices food labeling program, which features a green check mark on the front of packaging so that busy consumers can know what is good for them even if their Mom is not there, considers Froot Loops to be sufficiently healthful to earn the mark. Defended by the President of the Smart Choices Board because its better than doughnuts, Froot Loops made the cut due to its added vitamins, and because the total sugars don't exceed the program guidelines.

She also said the program was influenced by research into consumer behavior that showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them. So in other words, we want to buy what we were going to buy anyway but feel like it is good for us. I mean, come on. I've eaten my share of Cocoa Puffs, but I never tried to convince myself they were health food.

Apparently, one big driving force behind all of this is a system of government subsidies that pays farmers to produce more corn, and to a lesser degree, soybeans. While this sounds like a good thing for farmers, it actually drives the price of these commodity grains ever lower, putting the dwindling number of farmers deeper in debt. The only people who really benefit are food manufacturers like Cargill, ADM and General Mills. The current system of farm subsidies has been in place since Earl Butz*, Nixon's Agriculture Secretary, reversed the government's policy on farm subsidies and told family farmers to "get big or get out."

So is there any benefit to all this? Well, remember my list from the South Beach Diet?

1. Whole food is bulky and it spoils. Industrial food is compact, stable and keeps for a long time.
2. Whole food is not really more expensive to grow, but subsidies and cheap petroleum make industrial food ingredients (in the form of corn) cheaper to buy than "real" food can be grown.
3. Industry means growth, so manufacturers have to find new things to sell to get us to buy more and eat more. There is very little unprocessed food in an American supermarket. This leads to innovation and ever cheaper food.

There is a lot of evidence that the industrialization of food is at least partially responsible for many of the health problems that Americans suffer more than others in the world. And there is no question that it costs all of us in the form of taxes, petroleum use and environmental damage. It's up to each of us to decide if the trade-off is worth it. As for me, I'm making my own bread, shopping more at the farmer's market, and trying to think more about what I eat.
* Butz eventually got fired for telling an extremely (unfunny and) racist joke to a reporter on an airplane. This has to throw his judgment into question, if nothing else.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oktoberfest on the North Shore

New Orleans once boasted a number of large breweries, and was well known around the region for its beer. Falstaff, Jax, Dixie and Regal were the best known brands. But beermaking in New Orleans went the way of beermaking in most cities, and only Dixie survived, holding on as a local sentimental favorite.

Beer-making in earnest returned to the area in the 1990's, in the form of Abita Brewing Co., which started as a brew pub in the 80's and is now something of a regional powerhouse. Abita Springs (where Abita is located) is north of Lake Pontchartrain, an area known locally as "the north shore." During the 90's and the first part of this decade, other small breweries sprung up around New Orleans and the north shore, and beermaking looked to be on the verge of a comeback.

Map from Google Maps

Hurricane Katrina sealed the fates of most of the new breweries, and the fate of the north shore in a different way. The 50 miles or so between the I-12 junction with I-55 and its eastern junction with I-10/59 has been growing fairly rapidly for at least 20 years, but the population of the area has exploded since the hurricane. I know a lot of people who evacuated from the New Orleans area to one of the communities there and never went back, and more who returned to New Orleans and then relocated to the north shore a year or two later.

Image from here

One of the breweries that opened without much fanfare around the turn of the millennium was Heiner Brau in Covington. Started by a German brew master named Henryk "Heiner" Orlik, the brewery has supplemented its own brands by brewing "store brand" beers for some well known area restaurants. They even brewed some Dixie beer in the aftermath of the hurricane. Over the last few years, the brand has really started to take off, and is available in a large number of local groceries and watering holes.

Being German, Heiner probably feels compelled to put on an Oktoberfest celebration, if for no other reason so that he and his family can attend one. The Wife first learned of the brewery because of the involvement of the brother of her BFF from childhood, so the BFF often comes down from the midwest and we roll over there for the party.

Image from here

This year's celebration is this coming Saturday. Munich it's not, but fun it definitely is. There is a 5K in the morning (no thank you), some family and shopping time in the middle of the day, and around 2 pm the oompah band starts up in the big tent, and the beer and brats start to flow. That's usually when we show up. The crowd's not too big, and the beer's not too expensive, and it's the only Oktoberfest for hundreds of miles that I know of. And if you hang around and look interested, you might get a tour of the brewery. It's small, but it's spunky. Oh, and did I mention the beer is excellent?

So if you find yourself within 100 miles of Covington, LA this Saturday and you feel like a polka*, you should drop by. Maybe we'll see you there.
*That's what she said.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The tyranny of things

I have a friend who still has the golf clubs and several pairs of golf shoes that he cleaned out of his late father's country club locker over ten years ago. He holds onto them, despite the fact that the shoes don't fit and my friend doesn't golf. He is not exactly a hoarder, but he has attached feelings to objects and the events they represent in his life to the point that there are definite paths to walk in his apartment. When we were discussing it one time he referred to it as the "tyranny of things."

The Wife and I bought our current home from the three sons of the late owners, who built the house and lived in it for over thirty years. The first time we looked through the house, the daughters-in-law were going through the treasures and trash left behind from full, rich lives lived well, and we heard continual exclamations of amusement and surprise from the attic and bedrooms.

"Wow! There are flashcubes up here! Some of them only have one or two flashes left!" (At no time did anyone discover a camera that could use them.) "How many brooches can one woman wear?" ... "I can't believe they kept all of this."

I have been somewhat fortunate in this regard. I moved a lot when I was younger, and tried to limit my possessions to a volume that would fit in my car. A divorce taught me that we don't miss most of the crap we lose, and five years in a graduate student apartment trained me not to bring anything into the house without looking for something to send out. I adopted a policy of maintaining a fixed space for sentimental objects, and when that space gets too crowded something has to go. On the other hand, I have a lot of hobbies, and I love books, and it turns out that furniture and artwork and clothes and coats and shoes have a tendency to accumulate.

My geographic location and position in the family shield me from a good deal of the "tyranny of heirlooms," though I have received a few of my father's possessions that are really of no use to anyone, but I know meant a lot to him. What am I supposed to do with an architect's seal, or World War II era Army discharge papers? Two separate friends have recently had the experience of going through deceased relatives' houses, and both lamented the things they had to leave behind, knowing that many of their loved one's most treasured possessions would end up with strangers, or in a dumpster somewhere. I don't know if you've ever been to a professionally executed estate sale, but it's not something you want to experience if the estate belonged to someone close.

In my own experience, the times when I had the fewest possessions have been in many ways the happiest. I'm not saying that being poor is better than having money, but that people are better company than things, and that there are many activities more fun and satisfying than shopping and organizing our stuff.

I'm afraid that, in the end, we become the possessions of our stuff. It holds us in one place, both physically and emotionally. A thousand tiny threads bind us to all that we gather around us, and we become like the hermit crab, carrying our lives on our backs. Emotionally, the tyranny of things is associated with everything from severe anxiety to weight gain.

So can someone tell me why we feel the need to glorify materialistic behavior in everything from what we teach our kids to the way we run our society? We judge ourselves and those around us by our possessions, and there is nothing our children desire that they should not have. Consumption-driven economic growth is king, and if you're not buying then you're not doing your part as a citizen. We are supposed to desire and then acquire. Maybe it's good that products are becoming more disposable. I guess if we get used to throwing things away we can work on the front end later.

Image from here

Tibetan monks create complex mandalas from colored sand, often spending days or weeks creating intricate patterns with colored powder to heal and purify the world. The paintings are typically destroyed soon after they are completed, symbolic of the transience of life, and the empty nature of all phenomena. I try to remember this whenever I find myself thinking that I can't get rid of something, or when I set out to clean a closet.

So that's it. I think I'm through with stuff, and I don't need anything. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need...

Image from here

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've never really done this kind of thing before

I don't think I can link to another man's blog in two posts in a row without feeling like we're cellmates and he has the top bunk, if you know what I mean and I think you do. But I'm going to have to do it anyway. Because despite the fact that The Wobbler tried to get me to start blogging as far back as 2003, and The Wife implicitly encouraged me with her near-obsession with reading blogs -- often aloud -- a couple of years back, it was Johnny Virgil's post about the 1977 JC Penney catalog that finally got me interested in reading blogs, and eventually starting one of my own. Really, it's one of the funniest things I've ever read.

So when a Facebook friend posted this picture from his weekend newspaper circular,

I knew I wouldn't be able to let it pass. It's good to know that JCP is still helping losers get their asses kicked after all these years. I guess Every Day Matters because you never know how long you are going to last wearing their clothes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Star hunter update

The wife and I took a trip around the Four Corners area a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It may have occurred to you that my acquisition of a new camera and small telescope was specifically timed to coincide with this trip, which is absolutely true.

It wasn't so much the beautiful landscapes or wildlife that motivated me to spend a bunch of money and haul thirty extra pounds of crap with me all across the West. It wasn't even the fact that we were going to be in Albuquerque for the first day of the Balloon Fiesta. (You will have to suffer through more of all that when I work my way through the 2 gigabytes of pictures I brought back.) No, the thing that I really wanted to see was the night sky.

This picture of Orion, taken from the parking lot of the lodge in Mesa Verde National Park, tells the story. There are several hundred stars visible in this shot. On the clearest night at home I can see maybe a dozen in the same area. I spent most of both nights at Mesa Verde in and out of the room, alternately looking at the sky and reconfiguring my equipment* for another series of shots. Luckily for the wife, our other nights were all spent more or less in town, so she was able to get some sleep eventually.

Focusing a long lens on specks of light in total darkness is harder than it looks, and several weeks of rain preceding our vacation kept me from getting familiar with the camera settings that would be best for various types of night photos, so this was as much a learning experience as anything. And it's not really practical to take very long exposures without a tracking mount, so I was limited in what I could try. But besides a couple of wide star field pictures like the one above, I got several really good pictures of the moon.

It's what all the cool kids are doing, anyway. Oh, I also got some really good bird pictures with the new scope, but that's another post.
* Heh, heh.

Cajun Town

I've lived in this part of Louisiana long enough not to think anything of it when -- as my co-worker did at lunch the other day -- someone says "We were going to get down, but no one was home." This is one of the many endearing and ridiculous phrases that are common down here, presumably originating in literal English translations of common French or Spanish expressions. When I first moved to this area, phrases like pass the broom, make groceries, hose pipe, neutral ground or bring me to the store were distracting to the point that I sometimes lost the train of the conversation as I tried to decide if I heard what I thought I heard, or tried not to laugh. Now I have a hard time remembering that they are not part of normal American speech. This is in addition to all the Cajun French terms that are part of normal speech here, like lagniappe and boudin. My friend was married for a time to a man from Bunkie, which is where she claims she picked up most of her coon-ass speak, though I hear a lot of it from people all across the Southern half of Louisiana.

This led to a discussion of my friend Boudreaux, his wife Marie, and his friend Thibodeaux. Cajun jokes are similar to Aggie jokes, Polish jokes, blond jokes or any other stereotypical cultural humor, with the special characteristic that they are usually told about a man named Boudreaux, and often his friend Thibodaux. If a female character is required in these stories she is invariably named Marie.

So almost twenty years ago I got out of college, started a job and became friends with Marie*, who was dating, and later engaged to, Boudreaux. A couple of years later I was invited to attend Boudreaux's bachelor party, planned and hosted by -- you guessed it -- Thibodeaux**. You know it's going to be a good bachelor party when the guest of honor is already throwing up in the bushes when you arrive.

In addition to planning the party and holding it at his house, Thibodeaux had procured the entertainment, which consisted primarily of two "exotic dancers" from a local "gentleman's club." The hotter of the two "ladies" was wearing a plaster cast on her left leg from foot to knee.*** The other one had to leave early to pick up her nineteen year old daughter from somewhere or other. The girls tried their best, but overall it was a pretty sad thing to watch.

Once the boys had gotten a taste of exotic entertainment, and because Boudreaux had long since drunk away what judgment he possessed, we followed up the party at Thibodeaux's with a trip to the Gold Club, where Boudreaux was thrown out after about ten minutes for conduct unbecoming. It was a fitting end to an excellent night. And apparently the party had the right mojo. Boudreaux and Marie are still happily married, though we don't see as much of Thibodeaux as we used to.

Oh, and "get down" means get out of the car and go inside. As in, "We passed by your house to bring you to the store, but we didn't see a car so we didn't get down."

* Her middle name, and not the one she goes by, but I swear this is really her name.
** I am totally not making this up.
*** Still not making this up.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

It's ironic that Colorado is such a haven for creationists, since they live among some of the most beautiful and compelling evidence of the Earth's geologic history. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison -- where 170 million year old sandstone (much of the tan in the desert's color scheme) sits directly on top of igneous rocks ten times as old -- has its two billion year history written everywhere you look. Fossils are everywhere. It's impossible for me to look at this stuff and imagine believing that the Earth is 7000 years old. I am no stranger to having faith in the face of contradicting evidence, but it's something I'm trying to do less of, not more.

It's a wierd vibe in Colorado, at least on the western face of the Rockies. If you haven't been I can't explain it. If you have, an explanation is probably not necessary. The conversations I overheard or engaged in while in Ouray, Silverton and Durango centered on wine, hiking, running, local commerce and different things one could do with chipotle. Overweight locals ate rare enough to notice. Every single television I saw in a public space was tuned to Fox News, with the exception of a reprieve for Monday Night Football. Virtually all the music I heard was pre-1995. I saw exactly one black person, which was one-fourth the number of people I saw wearing sunglasses with white plastic frames. The local book store in Ouray had as much space dedicated to Ayn Rand and John Wayne as to current popular fiction.

I know at least a half-dozen people who moved to Colorado for one reason or another. None of them lasted two years. On the other hand, I used to work for a company that was based in Denver and I knew a lot of people who were transferred around the country from various places in Colorado. Most of them talked about home, but as far as I know, none have moved back.

I have visited different parts of Colorado several times, and except for one sexual encounter on the Durango-Silverton Railroad when I was fifteen, I've never really been able to connect with people there.* They are nice in a way that does nothing to make me believe they really like me, and most interactions are dotted with what feel like non sequiturs to me. I get the feeling that many of the people I meet feel somehow inherently superior to the rest of us, which is of course impossible.

I realize that this is all gross generalization against a whole state, and there are probably a million people in Colorado who could easily disabuse me of my prejudice. Some of the natives I met at my old job were awesome people. But every region has a sort of default personality, and for me, at least for now, most of Colorado remains a nice place to visit...
* I think that girl was from Utah, or California or something, anyway.

Into Thin Air

I have loved the outdoors all of my life, and have done my share of hiking. As much as I enjoy the beauty of desert landscapes, I've never really felt the need to spend a lot of time walking in the red and brown country. For me, hiking has always been synonymous with woods and water, and my favorite trails look something like this:

But last week I spent a day in Arches National Park in Utah, and it may be the single most beautiful place I have ever been. Around every corner there was something else spectacular, impossible and breathtaking that managed to be different from everything else we had seen. I was reminded more than once of the landscapes described in Lord of the Rings.*

The highlight of the park is definitely the Delicate Arch, a precarious rock formation perched on the edge of a sort of large stone bowl at the crest of an inaccessible and formidable hill. The image of this formation is featured in virtually all of the park's literature, and adorns many of Utah's license plates.

I'm not sure how much the difficulty of getting to the base of the arch contributes to its popularity and mystique, but I'm sure it does. Granted, most of my hiking days were when I was less than half my current age -- and a somewhat larger fraction of my current weight -- but I still manage to get out every so often, and I can generally hold my own trudging up and down the hills. The hike to Delicate Arch was the hardest mile and a half I think I have ever covered.

In my defense, my house is somewhere around fifty feet above sea level, and this was about a mile above that. I discovered that we really take air for granted. It was also ninety-four degrees and we didn't have as much water with us as we should have. But the water thing was our own fault.

After a few hundred yards meandering through the sand and scrub, and a couple of modest hills, visitors are confronted with what appears to be a single slab of rock, sloping up at a moderate angle. Definitely uphill, but doesn't seem particularly steep.

Doesn't really look like much of an obstacle, does it? What isn't immediately apparent is that this rock slab covers the better part of a mile. Think of the tiny bumps at the top of the photo as three or four story office buildings and you will get some idea of the scale. Everyone we passed who was coming down gave us a knowing and sympathetic greeting. More than once I was reminded of Jon Krakauer's description of climbing Everest**. Of course, just as I was feeling courageous and intrepid for persevering, a Bavarian family cruised by laughing and joking, small children, grandparents and all. I'm sure they were laughing at us.

The trip got a little easier once we cleared what I came to think of as the south face, and the terrain became more reminiscent of Land of the Lost. I really would not have been surprised to see a T. Rex at any moment.

The area around the arch itself is very difficult to describe, and pictures don't even begin to do it justice. You will just have to go see it. There were twenty people or so scattered around when we arrived, and no one was speaking above a whisper. It felt like we were in a cathedral. We wondered whether this was a universal reaction, or whether it was just the people who visited that day. Perhaps on other days there is more of a party atmosphere, though I doubt it.

This is my proof that I made it. That tiny speck under the arch is me.

The trip down was much, much easier, and we truly came to understood the grins and waves that had been directed at us during our ascent. As we made our own descent past the small groups of miserable men, women and children struggling up the rock face, we wanted to encourage them, but knew that all that lay ahead was more hardship and less oxygen, at least until they cleared the slope.

I stopped to snap a picture at the crest of the hill. This is about a third of the way back from the arch. You can just make out the parking lot far below.

I know it probably doesn't sound like it from my description, but we had a great time at the park, and in Moab, the neigboring town. In its own way, Arches National Park is every bit as spectacular as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, and considerably less crowded. Don't miss it if you ever get the chance to visit.
* Nerd alert!
** If you haven't read Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air, I highly recommend it. It is one of the most compelling stories I have ever read.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sleep tip

It is probably best to avoid watching 1408* late at night in an historic old hotel. Even if they do have free satellite TV. Trust me on this.

* 1408 is a John Cusack movie about an evil hotel room. Much better than I expected.