Monthly Archives: July 2007

Photos Thus Far

The first batch of photos is up on my Flickr site.

The collection can be viewed here: Round the World

Individual Sets can be viewed by clicking on the names.

Redwoods

Death Valley

Zion National Park

Grand Canyon

Monument Valley

Road To New Mexico

Very Large Array

Road to Colorado

Royal Gorge

Pike’s Peak

I hope you enjoy them. More to come.

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VLA, Royal Gorge, Pike’s Peak

Days 7 – 8 6/27-28

The Very Large Array in New Mexico is the world’s largest radio telescope. After seeing the movie “Contact” many years ago, I knew it was something I wanted to see. Driving out to the Plains of San Augustin I started seeing the dishes dotting the landscape from about 5 miles away. When you see them in the movies they all look very close together, that is thanks to some crafty computer graphics. They can be positioned all together to get a tighter “focus” on whatever they are looking at but it is no small feat. A double set of railroad tracks and a custom vehicle would have to pick up each dish and move them closer together. I didn’t ask, but I’m betting they weren’t going to reposition them to give me a better photo op.

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The scale if each individual dish is massive and since they are all connected, the further they are set apart the bigger the collective instrument is as a whole.

After leaving the VLA I decided to start using my video camera to record the drive. Thanks to a “gorillapod” camera tripod and a power inverter I was able to record every mile of road. I thought it might make an interesting time-lapse project. We’ll see what I do with it… better to have the footage than wished I’d done it.

Day 7 included a scenic drive through Taos, NM on my sister’s recommendation. It was a beautiful drive and I came across some great weather to take pictures of. I’ll put a link up to the gallery when I get them all sorted out. 550 miles after I started I found a rest stop just outside of Pueblo, CO. It was a low mileage day so I sat in the rest stop and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while watching South Park on some station the TV in the van picked up.

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After a reasonable 6 hours of sleep I was awake and ready for the sights of Colorado. Directly across from the rest stop was a restaurant called Max’s Place. I thought it a fine spot to get some real breakfast. With a parking lot full of pickup trucks and a jeans and baseball cap clad clientele, I figured I’d fit right in (except for the laptop). The Max’s special was exactly what I was hoping for. Ham, 2 eggs, hash, biscuit w/gravy & coffee = Perfect

After dropping another $100 into the gas tank I was off to see the Royal Gorge and its famous “World’s Highest Suspension Bridge”. The bridge is 880 feet long but only 18 feet wide, with a wooden walkway with over 1000 planks. The bridge is suspended from towers that are 150 feet high. When I bought my ticket ($16 – early bird special) I was told by the seller that I could drive over the bridge and back. I asked what the weight limit was and was told “aw, couple million pounds I guess”. While I think his estimate was much exaggerated I was still ok with the attempt.

While walking on the bridge I became a little less confidant as I noticed how much the bridge shook with even the motorcycle and golf cart sized utility vehicles driving across it. Was this enough to dissuade me? Nope.

I drove across the bridge very slowly and heard the tap of every wooden plank as my 4ton van made its way across. The expressions on the faces of the other tourists on the bridge as I approached were, I have to say, priceless. I’ve got video of the crossing; maybe I’ll be able to take a few stills of the wide eyed pedestrians.

After that little adventure I was off to Pike’s Peak. My father has told me for years that if I ever find that I have itchy feet it’s because it’s in the blood. The blood connection is due to being a direct descendant of Zebulon Montgomery Pike.

Zebulon Montgomery Pike was a US Army Captain that was ordered to explore the South and West of the Louisiana Purchase. This expedition was about the same time as the Lewis and Clark Expedition but far less famous. After reading about his expedition a little I discovered that the anniversary of the end of his journey was 200 years ago last Sunday (July 1st 1807). Seems quite fortuitous to be on my trip and find this out.

It is a long drive up to the top of Pike’s Peak, sitting at 14,110 feet of elevation. (Mt. Hood in Oregon sits at 11,249). It is also a beautiful drive – totally without guardrails. Getting out at the top was a chilling experience, both in terms of temperature and my reaction to the altitude. The air was so thin at the top that I was wobbly and a little dizzy. I think my mountain climbing aspirations had a serious reality check that day. It was fun to realize that in the previous 7 days I had been to the lowest point in the United States at -282 ft. in Death Valley where it was 121degrees, crossed the continental divide, and was then standing on top of a 14,110 foot peak where it was snowing. Not bad for the first week.

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“Be Flexible”

So the motto for freighter travel is “Be Flexible” and I have already learned what that means.

Last Friday, shortly after I arrived in Sioux City, I received a call from Joycene at Freighter World Cruises. She was calling to inform me that the cargo ship I had booked for my transatlantic passage had broken down and was canceling all it’s North American stops. This was a bit of a shock. I had expected a day or two of delay due to loading problems or customs concerns, but not a full cancellation. She told me there might be some options available but due to the short notice she couldn’t promise me anything. There was also nothing further she could find out until Monday as the German offices for the shipping company were closed for the weekend.

Over the past few days I’ve been scouring the Internet looking for any other ship passage that could get me to Europe in a similar time frame to what I had anticipated. Last minute booking for transatlantic passage? Not advisable.

I found a cruse ship that would take me in half the time for the same price (effectively double the price) but it wouldn’t be leaving from New York until August 31st. I found a couple other freighter booking companies, but they seemed to operate the same lines that Freighter World does, and Freighter World has the best reputation from all the sources I’ve been able to review. I started considering changing the path of my trip by heading back to the West coast and going the transpacific route, but this would have created significant issues with all the Visas I would need to gather before my departure.

Finally I was starting to come to grips with the possibility that i might have to fly to get to Europe before the whole place turned into a rainy snowy mess.

About 20 minutes ago I received another call from Joycene and she had some good news and some options. There were two lines that had cabins available and one of those was run by the same company that had the money from my last ticket. Feeling that sticking with the same company and not having refunds, checks, and multiple Germany – United States FedEx deliveries was the way to go, I decided to stick with them. I’ll still be leaving from Savannah, but now on August 12th instead of July 21st., and arriving in Antwerp instead of Valencia. It’s a 10 day cruise instead of a 12 day so I’ll make up a little time there. The question is… will I still be able to make it to La Tomatina in Spain?

This sets my departure back by nearly 22 days. Luckily I’m at my parents house in Iowa figuring all this out instead of on a pier in Savannah, Van-less, and having to figure out where to sleep. But this is the game, this is exactly what I signed up for and I knew it going in. Specific expectations will get you in trouble on the road, you must “be flexible”.

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Day 6

I’m still catching up here so hold on.

Day 6

I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of trucks starting up. I decided since the sun was up as well I should start driving. On the way I figured out that the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was still available to me, and probably only 20 miles out of my way. Wrong. 150 miles later I’m at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Impressive, but the awe was diminished by my miscalculation and the $25 I was required to pay to look at this scar in the earth. By the price of admission, you’d think the US Government dug the canyon themselves and were trying to recover the cost.

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From there I was off to Monument Valley, Utah. While I appreciated the part of the Grand Canyon that I was able to see, Monument Valley was more beautiful to me. Maybe it was because the scale was smaller and I could take it in from the ground. While an aerial view would be a better way to take in the full grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

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After Monument valley I pushed on to Socorro, NM to visit the Very Large Array. It was a 400 mile push that left me exhausted. In the end I’d put in about a thousand miles on three hours of sleep and decided I needed a real bed that night to catch up on some restful sleep. So I found a cheap Motel 6 in Socorro to get a hot shower and some real pillows. I found out what their slogan means that night. “We’ll leave a light on for you” yeah, at least in the case of my room the light was left on to spook the roaches away.

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A good man is gone.

I received word a couple days ago that a friend had died suddenly. Michael Carnahan worked for the World Affairs Council of Oregon and was an integral part of the World Affairs Council Young Professionals of which I was a member of the Steering Committee. While I didn’t know him incredibly well I still considered him a friend and colleague. I had hoped I had many years to get to know him better and learn his stories, as he was a man who had many stories and a very diverse life. The last time I saw Michael was at my going away party he gave me a pair of comfortable running socks as a gift for my journey. Is it strange that those seemingly basic socks now have significant sentimental value?

As far as I’m concerned he was the heart of the World Affairs Council in Portland and was a mentor in international affairs to me. His support and advice helped guide me to the path I now find myself on.

My most sincere condolences go out to his family and his extended family at the World Affairs Council. His sudden death is a shocking blow to anyone who knew him. I’m sure anyone that knew him considered him a friend.

The world was a better place for him being in it, and there is a hole in it where he stood. This post doesn’t do justice to the life he lived or the lives he touched and for that I’m sorry.

Michael, we’ll miss you.

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