Monday, December 28, 2009

Violations of personal space...

What is it about today (Sunday) that has gotten perfect strangers to feel that touching my head is a totally acceptable practice? OK to be fair I at least know the second time this happened it was someone mistaking me for someone else...

So I was sitting in the airport at Reagen (DC area) watching the Broncos play (I do cheer for them as a team as long as they are not directly playing the Chargers). And someone pats me on the top of the head. As I moved myself up in the seat (oops- caught slouching) I started to turn myself around for some bizarre reason expecting to hear a parent telling me to sit up. I heard a female voice apologizing so I said- no worries and didn't even bother completing the turn around- meh. Life goes on.

So a few hours later and I am in the plane sitting next to the sweet family I was on the same plane with flying to DC. That's besides the point but an interesting coincidence.

So as I'm reading my magazine, listening to XM on United, and generally zoning out someone reaches over and does that scalp rub/scratch/play with hair move known throughout the couples circles as a way to get your honey to pay attention and not startle them. So I turn my head around and up I'm sure with a total quizzical look since there are only a select few people I'd ever expect to inititate that type of touch with me and as far as I can recall none are on the plane.

The poor man who thought he was touching his wife's hair was startled and seriously apologetic. I said no problems and no worries. Turns out we both have dark brown hair and she's sitting directly in front of me. But it was a move that affected me- I wanted it to be my honey when I turned around. I wanted it to be someone who knew me. I wanted that touch to be something besides the mistake I knew it was.

I am someone who spends 90%+ of my time in hotels by myself. I have become totally comfortable driving 4-6 hours in country never before seen in daylight by myself and only having a destination and a rough idea of the path. I know on days I want to have conversation I eat at the bar and on days I want quiet I sit at a table... either way I bring reading to dinner every night I travel. I stop to take pictures and note things to pass along to coworkers, family, friends, and post in blogs. I use the "Frontier" gate to terminal A just to look at the art and walk a bit farther in the Denver airport. I know where to get the Jamba juice, Starbucks (only 1 in DIA), best bagel, and microbrew beers in DIA (which is the Denver International Airport).

I have not traveled with anyone besides family (Mom and brother) in a flying situation for over 5 years. In the past 5 years I have flown to more places than my previous lifetime accumulated.

So it startles this lone wolf traveler that I do want it to be someone I know when I turn around. I am surprised that I do get lonely when I travel. I try and make this adventurous life full of moments to enjoy and learn something about every destination. I have my good night call and live an amazingly blessed life- and even then I guess sometimes I want another half- a person to sit besides me on a flight.

So with all that duly noted and observed I think I'm going to try and get the little guy across the aisle to smile at me again. He's a very well behaved 18 month old with a great smile :-)

post script aka P.S.


I would just like to state for the record that the Holiday Magic exhibit is very worth a wait. We spent 30 minutes or so waiting in line at the Botanical Gardens... Let me amend that- at least 1-2 members of the party at all time stood in line and the rest of the time adults were trying to keep the two little boys entertained, moving, and happy.

Then we headed into the exhibit of amazing little model structures made from natural sources such as sticks, pine cones, leaves, etc. The houses/ships/furniture were all built from these plant components. Then the real reason we were there- the model trains running through these little tableaus. The boys enjoyed the trains almost as much as their dad :-)

The whole exhibit was enjoyed by all and I could have spent over an hour just staring at all the details. I think I absorbed about 10% of the artistry. So for future reference if you are in the DC area during the holiday season (Nov to mid Jan) make it a point to travel over and see the Holiday Magic display... it is worth it even if there is a wait.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slight sightseeing...

When in Washington DC it's always good to get out to see a few of the sights (even if for an hour). So this week was really baby centric seeing as my nephews are still being counted in the months these days...

BUT we did knock out a couple of museums. One of the most awesome things about DC is the fact that so many of the museums are free. Which makes it great for strollering though since you feel no obligation to stay and get your money's worth.

This week there was the National Building Museum and the Smithsonian American Indian Museum.

The National Building Museum was great in that it has an amazingly large space in the building- lovely for children to stretch their legs. There is also a great playroom (shoes must stay on, adults accompany children, no food... the norm). The playroom has all sorts of blocks, books, toys, and even a story corner. It's a great place from at least 1-8ish.

The Smithsonian American Indian Museum is architecturally fascinating building. There are no right angles in the walls of the building. Now in the interior with things such as elevators there are right angles but they are few and I think try and be far between. The exhibits are very well done and are quite artistic from the display of the arrowheads to peace symbols or guns. I was particularly interested in a necklace that my sister and mom pointed out... it was made of grizzly bear claws. It was a very unique piece that was interesting both from the amazing number and trying to imagine how many grizzly bears it was composed from as well as the aesthetics (it did look in it's own way- beautiful). We didn't have a significant amount of time to wander but we did cover most of the 4h floor as well as some of the 3rd. One can get an interesting amount of information in an hour or spend multiple days delving into each drawer with multiple artifacts and screens and screens of information.

On another note- an intended excursion was to see the Botanical gardens with some train display but the drizzle and the long line convinced us babies would not be excited about the waiting. But the display is on till January 10th so maybe the boys will still be able to view it.

Also we drove by the Einstein memorial a couple of times this week- one of my favorite memorial sculptures in all of DC and well worth the scavenger hunt to find it.

Well tomorrow I am home again to Denver and have a couple weeks for local adventures before the next random location.... Buffalo, WY! Stay tuned ;-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Belated NV wrapup... and in DC

So last I posted I was writing from Tonopah NV- then my friend joined me on the road and my extreme attachment to all things digital was paused. Instead of focusing on my digital life we headed out for beers and margaritas in the evening and talked about our jobs and real lives. Upon arriving home I was spinning in a flurry of activities until right about now... which means I must be on the road :-)

So back where I was.... in Tonopah with the temps at 7 degrees and snow on the ground. After wrapping up that real job thing of teaching we headed down to Beatty. We dropped off my rental car and headed out to see Death Valley National Park. It's the kind of place I've always seen signs for and wanted to at least see it.

So two non-desert type people head out to the National Park known for it's extreme desert qualities. I have to say it was a day with 55 degree temps- so cold but not horrid compared to our previous time. We were driving in my friend's truck which made for off road capabilities or at least dirt road driving. I must say for a National Park it was one of the least signed National Parks I've ever seen... there were interpretation signs but not as much road/directions.

I once again justified my purchase of the Federal Lands Pass last year since it was a $20 entrance fee park. I obtained my typical lapel pin and passport stamp (oh yes, I am THAT National Park geek). We even got out and walked to an arch. It was not a typical hike in that it felt as if we were treading rocks- feet sinking into the shale- at every step.

I also visited the lowest point in the US... and a few years ago I visited the highest point in the lower 48 at Mt Whitney. These two points are from what I can tell less than 100-200 miles apart. Well I could just google it now but I'm being lazy so as my dad used to tell me... "You look it up" and you can get back to me on that. The lowest point is in an Alakali flat. If you stand at the little sign in the Alkali flat the soil is all crusted and cracked and I know there is a technical term for that in my soil science book sitting in the basement but I'll go with it was just interesting to soak in. It was an odd experience to turn around and look up at the mountain of rock jutting up into the sky across from the parking lot and see a sign up there- "Sea Level" 258 feet above me. Now I lived near/at sea level most of my life so the idea of being below that was just... strange.

Death Valley to me was a completion of understanding East side topography (by this I mean the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains). It was a place I could not picture and wondered about. Now the sky was cloudy and grey so I can't say that it was overwhelmingly beautiful or anything but I do realize how it could appear with a blue sky above or wildflowers blanketing areas. When we were there it was desolate, unsettling, fascinating, and extremely worth it. I needed to see and comprehend it. I may go back again and hopefully visit the north end of the park with the dunes and such. But I do have to admit it's not on my top 20 list... but I'm also not too much of a desert person in general.

Once we were done at Death Valley we had dinner in Beatty and tried a few local bars- with the smoking in bars it was not our particular scene. Next day brought a totally rainy version of Vegas so hikes were cancelled, dog was stashed in a room, and the strip was explored. Please note for all people missing the Hawaii ABC store- there is one on the Las Vegas strip.

At home life proceeded to be crazy and now for the holidays I am in DC with family. Not sure if I'll head out to any sights or make it to some relatives to visit (seriously the snow here is impacting travel still). But if I do see anything new, unusual, or simply am in a writing mood I'll update you... till then :-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiny Tonopah

So I will admit I have had very limited time/energy to explore the town of Tonopah. So far I have spent lots of time at the office and eaten out a couple of times- but unlike my normal travels I have taken to eating in a bit since I have a microwave and fridge here. I think it's the biting cold air... the air is the type that by the time I got from the rental car to the hotel lobby my nose already hurt. I have taken the opportunity to look outside a few times at the amazingly blue sky, the mountains dusted with a dry squeaky snow, and the nice little small town.

The area has mining hints to the town of Tonopah. I haven't had time to explore the little shops (and unfortunately probably won't). But the people are amazing in this town. I've been welcomed with hospitality and tried to learn to adjust to the slow pace outside of the city. I realize my impatience level at little things and my expectations of efficiency that do not match up with the typical pace in a place where people go to take care of their horses at lunchtime (the water is freezing).

So while I haven't had the opportunity to explore as much as I would like to but I think it's a lovely place to stay a bit.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

snowy southern NEVADA...

oh wow... today encapsulates the word Monday. I must say that the little things weren't much as I flew into Las Vegas from Denver. The guy got me safely from home to DIA without any incident... but you know the airport is getting ready for a bad morning when you see at least 3-5 tow trucks staging on Pena Blvd.

I was very excited to venture over to my favorite burger In-N-Out... for all those not from the true western states (CA, NV, UT)it is a burger joint with a cult following and "secret" menu. But as a total bonus today the random In-N-Out that I choose happened to be next door to the corporate offices and included a store.

Then I headed out from the urban center out to rural Nevada of Tonopah. Now this is the first time I've explored the area from Las Vegas up to the Highway 50 corridor. Now there really is not a significant amount of infrastructure as you head north on 95. There was a traffic jam for a bit near Indian Wells (overturned SUV) but it cleared out quickly for our northbound side (luckily).

There is something about the vast emptiness of the wide open desert that I find soothing though I have heard some feel it is unnerving (I can empathize but not relate on that one). So I am relatively used to the wide open desert and have driven across California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah at times by myself and at times with a companion. I've driven through most of the weather I've encountered when I've been in more populated areas so today brought a bit of tension as I had the opportunity to drive through the open unpopulated desert with rain, hail, AND snow! At times visibility dropped down to a half mile or so.

The sights were stunning as for most of the time the tops of the mountains were shrouded in clouds and where the clouds met the ground was a dusting of white on the dark mountains. As I rose higher in elevation the snow became thicker and dusted the Joshua trees. Joshua trees always remind me of Dr. Seuss books and to see dark shadows of Joshua trees framed against graying mountains with a dusting of white on the ground... it was like a surreal painting suspended between serenity and melancholy (not in a bad way but in the kind of way where you can sit next to your grief and feel it but not have it be overwhelming). Then the clouds started lifting a bit off in the distance and the sunbeams came down from the clouds and caressed the earth lifting the mood of the landscape.

So after a bit I made it through the weather and into the little towns. I stopped at a neat little spot in Beatty to stretch my legs a moment and pick up some nuts- pistachios and raw pine nuts. Now I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with the raw pine nuts but I just couldn't resist ;-) The prettiest town I drove through was Goldfield- the architecture was old west but unfortunately as I drove through quickly a number appeared to be vacant buildings. I made it to Tonopah as night descended so I haven't seen the town in daylight yet.

So far my impression has been wonderfully nice people, cold cold air, a few inches of snow (which at around 6030' elevation is not that out of the box), and wanting to just rest. So I shall explore and observe more tomorrow.

Till then... adios from the snowy desert

Friday, December 4, 2009

Things of home...

I really think that the way to stay sane when on the road is to have at least one night where it's almost a normal night. So last night I luckily had the opportunity to enjoy dinner with a friend and his kiddo. It's great to catch up and have a normal night of pizza, beer, and socializing. It reboots the week to keep on teaching.

After my class was over tonight I took time to relax and visit my favorite restaurant in Boise... The Bungalow on 13th. It's a place where the food is simple and delicious. Tonight was comfort food... mac n cheese with bacon and chicken- ok I did have a salad to try and balance it out. For anyone traveling through I highly recommend it- plus the house wine hasn't disappointed yet. After dawdling over dinner for a couple of hours I finally retired back to the hotel to go through the routine once again... packing packing packing...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Basque in Boise...

After teaching all day I really didn't want to head out. I was melting onto the hotel bed... trying to get up the energy to move and explore a little bit more of Boise. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend of a friend I discovered something I never quite registered... there is a Basque history in Boise.

When I think Basque I think Alturas, CA or Reno, NV (which I admit may not be in other's thoughts but hey it reminds me of the the Basque fire guys). I don't know how in my days of walking downtown Boise the Basque connection just eluded me. But tonight it was dinner at Bar Gerinka. I had the lamb grinder and the house special red wine. For a fussy meat eater I was thrilled with the sandwich. The bread was fresh, the meat was lean and the veggies were grilled just right. The fries accompanying the meal were so-so but I can forgive that because I had the chocolate pudding. Wow. Yup, red wine and house made chocolate pudding won the night.

It was the kind of dinner where I just wanted to keep ordering things so I could enjoy reading my paper and chilling out. I definitely recommend Bar Gerinka for those exploring Boise.

I do have to say in the clean cut town of Boise it was relieving to find a place with scruffy beards which reminded me of my wilderness/river ranger friends. It was a nice break from my normal assessment of Boise which is a lovely outdoor town made for married couples with darling little children. Of course as I walked back to the hotel there was some sort of event going on and there were a plethora of little ones traipsing all over the sidewalks. It was a nice evening to explore a little and I look forward to tomorrow night :-)