Road Trip Summer 2003: Miles 1-1663.2

Last Friday morning, bright and early, I caught a flight to Baltimore to start on the massive undertaking that this summer's vacation has become. Friday night was fairly chill, just hanging out with the family of my partner in crime and getting the car packed up. Saturday morning we were to attack at dawn.

Saturday, June 21: Baltimore to Buffalo
The first day's driving took us north from Baltimore, across surprisingly lush central Pennsylvania (the exact highway numbers escape me for now, but I'll get them from my notebook later). We made our first impulsive stop at Clyde's Reptiland, just along the highway; it was interesting, but nothing terribly special. We continued north into New York, stopping briefly in Corning to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. Sadly, the $12 admission was a little steep for us, and we were forced to travel on. We made it up to US-20 in the early afternoon, and 20 carried us most of the way to Buffalo; we quickly picked up the highway towards Niagara.

Niagara Falls are intense, and are certainly best viewed from the Canadian side -- in Canada, there are more shops, more people, a better view of the falls, and a generally more lively and collegial atmosphere than on the US side. The falls themselves are breathtaking -- it is a wonderful experience to just stand in front of them and watch the millions of gallons of water pour out before you. It was well worth spending an afternoon there.

Around 5 PM, we decided to head back to Buffalo for the evening. I have rarely seen a city so deserted on a Saturday evening, but between 6 and 9 PM, there was nobody on the streets except for a few panhandlers. We checked in at the clean but overpriced Buffalo hostel and proceeded to explore the city on foot. We walked to the stadium, where Buffalo's AAA ball team was wrapping up the second game of a doubleheader; we were able to walk on in and catch the last two innings. From there we asked an usher where we could get some good wings, and we were directed to the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were invented some 40 years ago. The wings were excellent. By that point, it was getting on into the evening, so with our bellies full, we headed back to the hostel to snack further and hopefully socialize with some of the other people staying. Sadly, the people were not as social as we had hoped, and we ended up turning in early.

Day 2: Buffalo to the Michigan Upper Peninsula
The second day's drive took us into Canada via the Peace Bridge and across Ontario to Detroit, MI. The water under the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is as blue as I have ever seen; I'm amazed that it's not more polluted. Detroit is not a place I'd like to spend much time, but we did stop at 8 Mile Road for some pictures by a sign, and we were suitably amused by Exit 69 on I-75, which is for Big Beaver Road. We took 75 north into the Upper Peninsula and crossed part of it on US-2 to overnight at Indian Lake campground. Indian Lake is a well-equipped campground, with RV hookups, hot showers, and plentiful company. Justin and I got some pictures at our first campsite, and briefly discussed our plans for the drive to Alaska with a Michigan native who was scheming along the same lines for the following summer. All in all, the campground was fairly peaceful and pleasant, and we spent a good, restful night there.

Day 3: The Michigan Upper Peninsula
For our third day on the road, we decided to stay in the UP, moving about 60 miles to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and staying at Twelvemile Beach Campground. Lake Superior, at least in the area of Pictured Rocks, is one of the most serene and beautiful places I have ever seen. The mosquitoes were relentless in the vicinity of the campsites, but along the shore, there was enough wind that one could easily sit and watch the water for hours. We took a few brief hikes, one to the lighthouse at Au Sable Point, another to some falls in the other direction, and the third along a 2-mile loop that showed off a lovely birch forest. I was probably most impressed by the birch; in the Northeast, birch are plentiful but scattered, and a stand of birch is something I had simply never seen. For the remainder of the afternoon, I sat by the shore, reading a book, getting a bit of a sunburn, and throwing handfuls of rocks into the water. I highly recommend this last activity; the rocks make a very satisfying "glorp!" sound when they hit the water close together. As the sun went down, we took a few more pictures, cooked dinner, and retreated to the relatively bug-free environment of our tent.

Day 4: Michigan UP to St. Cloud, MN
After a quick breakfast down at the lakeshore, we packed up and were on the road by 9 this morning. The day's drive took us on Michigan Highway 28 to near the Wisconsin border, where we rejoined US-2 for the drive across Wisconsin. The highlight of the Wisconsin segment of the day was a stop at a "Tourist Trap," where we took some pictures with a 35-foot wooden chainsaw called "Big Gus." Our yen for the tacky having been duly satisfied, we continued to Duluth.

Duluth is a lovely town, and Justin at this point expressed his desire to live there someday, if he could find suitable work in the area. We had lunch there, wandered around downtown a bit, and took the interstate south to connect with Minnesota Highway 37, which took us to St. Cloud. We are now in St. Cloud, enjoying the hospitality of a friend from Dartmouth and resting up for our continued journey west. We played a round of Frisbee golf, and hung out with our friend's friends. It is an excellent place to rest and relax.

Coming Soon:
South Dakota, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, and Edmonton, from which city I hope to make my next update in 6 days or so. I still can't believe we're actually doing this.

I've talked about carparks (and associated problems) before in my daylogs - you'd think that once would be enough for such a bland sounding subject but Ha! I have another story (also true) which took place just hours ago...

One of my collegues in tech support is affectionately known as Santa. He is named as such because he has a white beard and the beginings of a gut. At a guess I would put him in his mid to late 50s. Earlier today he had driven home for lunch as normal and was returning to work as the story begins (notice how I switch to present tense - it's genius, absolute genius).

Santa is minding his own business driving down the main street back to work, "dum de dum de dum".
A red car is behind him as he indicates and slows to enter a center park.

The driver of the red car is in a bad mood* and gets quite irate.
He watches Santa slow almost to a standstill to swing into a carpark, his rage festers.

Santa completes his parking maneuvre and gets out of his car to find that the red car has stopped (in the middle of the road).
"What's the problem mate?"

Without a word, the driver steps out of his red car, walks up to Santa and punches him repeatedly in the face, causing his reading glasses to smash and cut his face in several places.
"Stupid old bastard..."

(At this point I come back to the here and now)

The guy then got back in his car and took off. Only one person claimed to have seen what happened but didn't get the rego number of the car in question. Santa made the trip across the street and up to the office where he calmly informed the office manager that he had just been smashed. He was driven to hospital and his glasses are currently being repaired. I wondered if perhaps Santa's indicators don't work properly but didn't ask as everyone was still in that "ooh, if I'd been there that guy would be dead" mentality and I didn't want to appear to be placing blame elsewhere...

Road Rage

Some reflections on Quizro's Confession of Faith.

I don't subscribe to the e2christians usergroup anymore, because when I did I found myself wanting to argue with the conservatives all the time. (Or argue with SEF, who is not conservative but still irks me). With all due respect to Quizro, the E2 Champion of Jesus, he may be a moderate, but only because his own natural wit and intelligence allows him to rise above his upbringing. (Southern Baptist/Episcopalian = Moderate? Oh, please!) What follows is a confession of a Christian liberal.

I'm not born again. I was baptised before I was one month old and that's when I became a Christian. I've never had anything like a conversion experience. My feeling about "prayer in school" is that, as long as there are exams, there will be prayers in school. I think that if you are against abortion then you shouldn't have one. I think that if you are gay, that's ok. I don't think it's important to harp on other people's sins (unless those people are high-profile hypocrites: then I can't resist).

I was raised a Lutheran. (No, not like those Midwestern Lutherans Garrison Kiellor tells stories about: they're Scandanavians. No, I come from Pennsylvania: from beer-swilling German Lutherans.) Lutherans have a skeptical view of politics. (Can you name a Lutheran president?) We have an aversion to mixing religion and politics. Given that the Devil can quote Scripture when it serves his purposes (see Matt. 4:6) it is essential to have a skeptical or ironic view of all things religious. I was raised to believe that no story, no dogma, nor ritual and no saying is so perfect and divine that it cannot be corrupted to serve evil. We can't accept things at face value: we must ask, like Luther's Small Catechism taught us: "What does this mean?"

I have a theory as to how we got this way. My ancestors had first hand experience of this "ironic" status of religion when they somehow survived the Thirty Years' War. The Thirty Years' War killed off somewhere between a third and 40% of the population of greater Germany. The Baptists and the Quakers and the Methodists never had to deal with anything quite like that in England and Scotland. The German Lutherans of Pennsylvania only reluctantly joined in the American Revolution, but once committed, mustered a regiment and fought in the war. (Martin E. Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land, 121-122, 148 (Penguin, 1984)). In the last century, immigrants like my great-grandfather could get along without learning a word of English; but when the World Wars made Germans the enemy, they quickly assimilated and in one or two generations (my parents) didn't speak a word of German.

Every time I hear talk about prayer in school or legislating women's reproductive choices, an ancestral memory seems to waken in me, associating that sort of talk with pogroms and wars.

Lutherans in America don't confuse political or linguistic conventions with religion. The King James Version isn't the Word of God anymore than Luther's Heilige Schrift. Right-wing politics are not Christianity, and neither is socialism. I wasn't raised to be believe that social prejudices against drinking, dancing, smoking or card-playing were Christian virtues. (The Christian virtues are "faith" "hope" and "love", not chastity, temperance and thrift.) I don't believe it's really any of my business whether anyone else is a screwup or a sinner: my first duty as a Christian is to love; to build up, not to tear down.

I try to look for the real meaning, the divine inspiration, in all of the Bible and all of the ritual and tradition of the Church, because I'm convinced the Truth is in there somewhere. Tradition is tradition. I don't require that all dogma be verifiable empircally or by rigorous proof, though using Pascal's distinction between l'esprit geometrique and l'esprit de finesse (which I suppose could be translated "mathematical mind" and "holistic mind") it does seem to me that the doctrines of Christianity, particularly as explained to me by philosophers like Kant and Kierkegaard (Lutherans, of course), do make a kind of "holistic" sense.

I'm sure there are conservative Lutherans, but I'm not one of them. I'm currently not a church-going sort of Christian because my favorite congregation was taken over by conservatives who hate children. They insisted that we sit in the back pews and keep our kids quiet. For years I sat up front in this church every Sunday. I was a prominent member, teacher, council member. I won't sit in the back. My wife takes my boys to a different church now (shh: Presbyterians. Don't tell my mother) but I can't go because I'm still angry about that other one. I think God understands and won't send me to Hell for not going to church for a few years. I suspect he has other plans for me.

So my roommate announced the other day she is moving out. OK that’s fine. I don’t really think too highly of her anyhow. It was a roommate of convenience situation I needed a place to live she needed a roommate. So we moved in together. But she’s a 22-year old provincial uneducated mousey little girl and me I’m a worldly educated, urban ass. So there’s been some tension. Yesterday it hit the fan when she told me we must clean the house before the landlord comes over on Friday and I said why. I mean the house isn’t that messy. Not pig-sty messy. It’s quite neat actually. The cleanest place I’ve ever lived. Mostly because my roommate is a clean freak. She wanted me in the past to wash the floor of the room nobody uses. She wants to wash the doors of the apartment because of the fingerprints on them. She wants me to sit down when I piss so I don’t splatter the toilet (even thou I do wipe up any spots and hairs off of the rim – this is not clean enough). When she cleans the refrigerator she even wipes out the butter compartment even though there is nothing kept in there. Anyhow she wrote me this note:

Hey what’s going on with you? Why are you so frustrated? I am angry and sad, because you hurt me with your negative vibrations. I don’t want to talk with you, if you think it doesn’t matter what I think. I want you to respect me. You don’t respect me. I respect that you are standing on the toilet and that you only clean dishes and sometimes clean the floor. That’s are some little things, but I clean the toilet. The toilet you keep pissing of. It doesn’t matter, but I want you to clean the floor 1x a week or two. That are 5 minuets in your life. I can clean everything but I get sick and I am sad because the good picture that I had from you ged’s negative. It’s how you say or don’t say words. It’s like “fuck you.” I don’t want to fight with you. I know better things. I want to live in harmony. So I clean the floor alone. If you don’t help me. Miss Schneider (?) trust us, and I don’t want to kill the trust. I am sorry, but I really get rules – 1 rule is to clean the house when Ms. Schneider (our landlord) comes. In every house it is so. We are good people, why it doesn’t work?

So I don’t really give a shit anymore. I just don’t care about these complaints. I will compromise and clean the floors before Frau Schneider comes over and I will tell her I will clean the toilet more often. But I really don’t care. I’m not friends with this girl; she’s not friends with me. I don’t understand her. The other day after returning from Holland I was telling her about Rotterdam and how they don’t like Germans because of what happened in WWII when they (the Germans) bombed the centre of the city. She said this was wrong and that they should get over it. I said well maybe they should but I can understand their hatred (dislike, because the Dutch don’t seem to HATE anyone), after all if it was your town you might still be pissed off even if it was 60 years later. She said if that’s the case she could hate Americans because they conquered Germany. I tried to explain that there was a slight difference between starting a war (like America has done in Iraq) and finishing one. The difference between being an invader and defending yourself.

Anyhow she didn’t get it and just blankly said the Dutch should get over the past. That’s easy to say. The Germans these days just want to forget about the war. They are so sick of hearing about how they fucked up everyone and how the holocaust was so bad and all. They thing … shit it’s 60 years later won’t anyone ever forget and forgive!

More later…

Have you ever worried if someone that has been in you life is still alive?

I lived with this guy for around 6 months in halls in my first year at uni.
He was best friends with another flatmate (who is now my best friend). Ken is/was(?) gay and Mark was not, but they had a laugh and Ken was a great person. Anyway, Ken was prone to buying Mark more drinks than was necessary when we went out and even spent £50 on him for his birthday. (After living there for 3 months - you know where this is going) At the end of Ken's stay with us, he took Mark out for an expensive dinner which they both enjoyed and then, at the end Ken said he wanted to say a few words.
These were words to the effect of (paraphrased) "I have AIDS and I've been in love with you since the moment I saw you".

Ken moved out the very next day. I suspect he had already packed. I don't think it was the AIDS thing that bothered Mark, we both had a chat about it and neither of us had even thought about how it had affected us while we were living with Ken, we wanted to know about him. He has had a terrible time in life, mostly his family after he came out and a previous lover, the one we think passed AIDS onto him. He drank too much (even in the morning), but now we know why.

It's been around 4 years since we've even heard anything about him. We didn't know any of his other friends to ask. I really hope he's OK, he's ones of the people that never deserved what he got. He was regularly ill when he moved out, not debilitating but he was very unwell far too often for my liking.

Where is he now?

Today is my E2nniversary; I've been here for exactly one year now. In that time I've written 567 writeups (well, more than that if one counts nodes that were visited by Klaproth), amassed over 7300 XP, reached Level 7, and have gotten to know a number of good people. I first came to E2 back in September 2001 when I was looking for information on a topic - I've long forgotten what I was looking for - when I began following the softlinks from node to node. Initially I just read my way around the database until June 2002 when I came across a then-pathetic node about Night Court. "I know more about this than what's written here," I thought, so I created an account and proceeded to make all the classic newbie mistakes. My first few writeups were crap, I lashed out at seemingly endless criticism, and so forth. After a few days and some thought I began to figure out what this place is all about and I haven't looked back.

I've always been a fountain of seemingly useless information and trivia. I spent my youth in pursuit of video games, and as such I've retained an enourmous amount of information on the exploits of Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and other classic characters, so I know that shows in my noding style. Heck, I bet that over 75% of my work here is game related. I tend to shy away from noding poetry and fiction - I've only written one piece of original fiction for E2, an entry called "Saved To Memory" - and I prefer writing about factual entertainment topics. Hopefully you've read some of my work over the past year and smiled. If you learned something, then that's even better.

Thanks for a great year, E2. Here's hoping for many more.

So it's time to start the process of moving. Again. Last year this time I moved with my partner back to my hometown region, and felt so elated by the shift that I bothered to put up a website which extolled all the changes and things that are going to happen in the new place. Which is fine, except that here it is a year later, and most of the changes haven't been able to be accomplished, and I'm starting to hear and feel the same resolutions cropping up.

Why? Why bother to work through issues and get all worked up when nothing ever changes? I mean, new location, cheaper rent, closer commute, but when is it going to be his turn to change? 2 years of living together and it's still the same old shit. As I said to a friend of mine recently, we skipped the honeymoon phase and went straight from courtship to divorce proceedings.

It's not all that bad, though. Recently moving to an open relationship has really spiced up our love life... with each other, not with other parties. It's amazing how what is free is undervalued, but when there's even the possibility of loss or sharing it becomes prized once more. I like the change though. I feel like I'm on equal footing for the first time in the relationship in a while. Which is odd, because I'm the breadwinner, and I'm the planner, and I'm the one who's working to support and improve. So logically I'd be the dom, right? Nunh unh. Call it low self-esteem or the unwillingness to be the bad guy, or the asshole, but I've put up with a ton of shit in this relationship and it's just recently turned into a give and take again.

I swear, I will never commit to a relationship with a Libra again. It's all about them, with them in the center, and don't they realize it's supposed to be about Leo me? *grin*

So, this week coming up, it's going to be about life in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Another depressed economic zone bordering on the California of the East Coast... Southwest Fairfield County's finest rich white Americans. Though it seems Martha's going to be in jail soon, so there goes the neighborhood. The apartment is nice, with hardwood floors and all new appliances, and finally a gas stove. But it's hard not to wonder how long wedded bliss will last between two headstrong self-centered queens in a confined space. Unfortunately, our lives have blended, so have our friends and our things, which means that extrication even under friendly terms would be horrible. Not that I want that, but it would be a painful separation if it ever came to that.

Ah, shit. I love him anyway. I'm pathetic for it, and all my friends seem to think he's a deadbeat leeching off of me, but I see the potential and I see the chance for him, and I see as well what he is now, and I love him. I love coming home to him in the evening and discussing work. He's a bitch, but that's part of his charm. Merciless to the weak, cruel to the breeders, he's got rapier sharp wit and tons of charm. How can you not love him? So, on to the "bold new beginning", part 2 in as many years. At least we're close to the drinking and entertainment districts of Black Rock.

For those of you who read my daylog yesterday you saw a very upset individual who truly felt like they had no direction. Well I'm not here to say that it has changed today it's just I'm looking at my possibilities for which I feel I am qualified and I would want to do.

I've narrowed it down to a few which include: a major in history mixed with writing courses to write books and do my own photography in them, a major in English and do unknown with possibly teach across seas, or a major in fine arts crafts. It definitely spans a large area of possibilities that's the problem with narrowing things down at this moment. I scheduled an appointment for this afternoon with my advisor, not sure if I'll go or not cause I told her I narrowed my decision to history but I might change my mind again.

I saw a job opening for a summer contract teaching position in the UK that I'm considering taking I'm going to at least apply and see where it takes me. It'll be odd but it's teaching English to young children who are Italian. I'm looking forward to the change of scenery I'm hope I get accepted I at least have a shot there's over 30 openings.

I hope something happens soon either a good hit in the head or who knows what!

Well, it was my birthday today. 17. Its odd to see that number written there - right in front of me, indicating how long I have been alive. A year ago I remember telling myself, "well, you're only 16 once - experience all you can...feel everything...embrace every instant of this year". And now, this year is gone.

I'm now seventeen years old.

What does that say about me? Does it? How does it indicate who I am...the things I have seen, or felt, or experienced? I do not know. In theory, I understand what I am supposed to be - a child turning into an adult, or rather an adult trying to untangle itself from childhood. I do not know which I like best. I'm in transition - every day I discover something new, and my mind is swayed into a different direction. Talk about an identity crisis. Although, perhaps "crisis" is much too strong a hints at agony, hysteria. My state is just...transitional. I am seeking myself, trying to make sense of the world around me, but also my place in it.

That, there, is the most difficult thing to comprehend. As weeks pass by, I swing from attempting to recreate my own image in the eyes of other people to withdrawing completely into myself. Either way, I emerge...confused. These words I write - they are standard fare, their meanings forming what countless persons have tried to express before. This confuses me. I do not understand how I differ, what gives me originality. I am aware of being different - yes, that I have learned to accept. But own dear perceptions - what power have they?

I am seventeen years old. I confess, my mind and imagination wander freely to places of little value or importance. Often I observe myself pondering upon the most ridiculous things - and yet at that same instant, I am keenly aware of the fact that I am relishing every second spent this way. I am seventeen years old. There are things I should be doing - my conscience bites at my mind like a pesky little dog...I am reminded time and time again of just how important all those things that I should be doing are. I know. I'll do them, yes, of course...brushing past my laziness and wandering mind...although, when? Oh, that is a difficult question.

With every day that passes by, I become aware of the fact that I am very nearly completely ignorant of...well, everything. I see things every day that magnify my own stupidity, that attract my attention to my own lack of knowledge. My interests shift and scatter....I try to grasp understanding of at least one concept. It all fascinates me...if not today, then surely tomorrow...or next week...or perhaps next month...

The point it, I am seventeen years old. A new year - a new number to say, to write in the space provided below, and to turn over curiously in my mind. Life? What is life? Labeled thus, by two mathematical units: "1" and "7" does that quantify my life?

I do not know.

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