Posts Tagged ‘trip’

Pre Plan

3 June 2011

Dear J-

Although I’m pretty sure the heat will be a shock I’m looking forward to traveling next week mostly because it’s a break from the grind of work work work with the same issues causing the same problems ad infinitum. It also gives me a chance to do things I’m not necessarily comfortable with — talking and interacting with strangers, dining alone, exercising some sefl-discipline. Well, let’s just say less experienced instead. Travel is good to break up the routines you find yourself in and I wonder if before kids I would have been more eager but then I remember the summer of Ann Arbor and the decisions I made because of it.

When I was working for a contractor instead of directly for the company that contractor was founded by ex-Michigan alumni and based in Ann Arbor. Well it tjurns out that because of some legal requirement the company cuts contractors loose for two months every two years, and my expiration date came up in 2004. We were all unsure what to do with me so I got called in to Ann Arbor, flying back every other Friday for the weekend (perhaps stupidly choosing the Sunday redeye). It was a good experience and I liked working with everyone at our headquarters; we did all sorts of fun things after work but after too long it would just get stale.

I remember that the contractor put me up in a reasonably nice suite outside of the Briarwood Mall where I could experience the amenities of home (which really meant that I could boil spaghetti and assemble the shame sandwich of bologna and bagel in the privacy of my own room) and not feel too cramped. Instead I’d hang out at the mall* and float through stores that would typically pique my interest at home — books and video games — without any real interest, just a glassy-eyed, dull shuffling as if the zombies had gotten inside after all. When I travel now the other guys are happy to be near malls and the suburban standard restaurants — Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Outback and the like — but for me it flashes back to those eight weeks spent in Briarwood pretending to be happy for everyone’s sakes and failing. Hmm. Maybe not quite so excited about the trip now.

Mike

* I will say that my lasting souvenirs from my time there, besides the Mad Catz Panther DC, are my favorite pair of glasses — with my first titanium frames. They replaced a pair I’d had for ten years and were mended with some old paperclips. I finally replaced those in 2008 though and now there somewhere in a drawer — I can’t bear to part with the frames.

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Ebb and Flow

2 June 2011

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Dear J-

The next trip is in a few days and I’m finding it hard to muster up any serious enthusiasm for it as it’s to a part of the country that still frightens me irrationally and the timing seems all off: we have a couple of birthday parties to attend on Saturday before I head out on Sunday, and I also particularly hate giving up a weekend day in favor of travel without any makeup. Truth is that I’ve treated the trip as a good excuse to get some toys that I suspect will be put away until the next time we end up on the road (which this year is actually turning out to be fairly often, so we’re good for now).

I sometimes feel like we’ve adopted an over-distant approach with figgy. A couple of nights ago our neighbor came over about some vet business and spent maybe half a minute of focused attention on her, introducing himself and talking about his animals. She was entranced. All night last night she only spoke in reverent whispers as he promised he’d be back again to talk with theVet. It reinforces. The notion that attention is a kind of currency and that I get to go away for a week both frightens and encourages me when it comes to how figgy is developing. On the one hand you have the tyranny of the familiar: she expects the attention and knows it, often taking your presence for granted.

On the other by going away I break that for-granted chain but I also lose sight of her as she keeps changing so fast. One of our regional wetlands has been restored in the past few years — it’s a project that I’ve followed from my passenger-seat window — and now in the mornings if the conditions are right you’ll get a low-hanging bank of fog glowing in the sunrise where before it was just another dried-out field. The transformation was fast but if you consider that we only really have figgy for eighteen years — and probably less, in fact — for us to mold and that a quarter of that time is nearly gone it feels like a sprint sometimes: you have to fool yourself into believing that you can keep up.

Mike

Double Whistle

28 April 2011

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Dear J-

Another travel day — nearly ten hours in transit — and we stop in two places again, roughly three hours apart. On the road distance is flexible compared with time and we spend a luxurious hour at each rest stop, which consists of a meal (for Calcifer) and a chance to stretch our legs. We get gas once, with a minor incident*. Hamburgers are eaten, tantrums are soothed, and after some detours and traffic we come to a park in San Dimas, notable for Raging Waters and Bill and Ted, a movie I knew nothing about in ninth grade but needed to see after talking about it in hushed tones all that last trimester.

The GPS has elicited a lot of what-if and why-not trips based on some green blobs and interesting icons, and today, on other people’s advice, we detoured around Los Angeles and its unheavenly traffic (the last few times we always hit I-5 at the precise time in the afternoon when everyone else chose to do so, and crawling through traffic with impatient children is no one’s idea of fun) on I-210E to CA-57S while taking advantage of carpool lanes while we could. Timing and distance conspired to put us at Bonelli Park when we had the second break, and instead of pulling off to some rest area or fast food joint we got a shady spot by the lake. One stop can make or break the trip and we’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to stop next time.

Mike

* We were waiting for a spot at the pump and someine else snaked it. I made the universal “what’s up?” gesture to no avail, and the person at the neighboring pump pointed us out which elicited a “so what?” We went to the station across the street instead, no waiting and the only regret is I didn’t think to take a picture.

Impending Trip

23 April 2011

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Dear J-

This is the gist of it: we have a long trip planned tomorrow and an early morning in front of us so rather than our usual leisurely evening we threw a wrench into everyone’s plans by rushing around and making all kinds of noises to disrupt kid evenings. The routine didn’t stand much of a chance today, actually. Between the Easter basket (read that as “sugar”) and news of a trip, figgy didn’t really have much incentive to go to sleep quickly tonight and showed it, popping up out of bed and falling on the bad habits of two years ago before succumbing to the gravity of unconsciousness.

We have thrown enough monkeys into the works tonight. Let’s see what tomorrow brings, what fun, what unexpected detours (that year we went to the reservoir and Andersen’s Pea Soup restaurant in Santa Nella by mistake was the BEST), and what we might have planned for Monday before my brother gets back to the US, that’s a good time for all. Remind myself: best part is doing it all together as a happy family unit.

Mike

Ghost Writing

13 August 2010

Dear J-

The plane is headed west, which is great news for me, although they’re already talking about the next trip out (three weeks from now). This particular audit went well, I think; it was clear that they’d taken pains to read through the requirements of the ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code and had structured their program accordingly: it’s neither cheap nor easy to get certified by the Board, so my Mickey Mouse audit activities had roughly the same effect as whistling into the wind. Who am I to point out discrepancies and deficiencies; knowing how we are at work I sometimes feel like a giant hypocrite whenever I open my mouth on an audit.

I had trouble sleeping last night, whether it was the difficulty of being an auditor, the excitement of the last day, me actually choking on phlegm (or my mind thinking I was), or the plans for this last day. I kept waking up every couple of hours, checking the clock disgustedly and throwing myself back into bed (oh, and here’s a tip: Hilton is proud, in their Garden Inns, of their soft beds and pillows; by last night I felt like I was drowning in quicksand every time I laid myself out) until the too-early alarm intruded and showed me to today.

Afterward the audit exit meeting we went our separate ways — some of us heading back to California this afternoon, others traveling onwards to the next one, and still others not yet ready to travel — I don’t necessarily get it. The Southeast has been quite hospitable but the choice between one more night here and going home doesn’t even make me think twice.I had just enough time to make a side trip up to Kennesaw Mountain, which is a Civil War battlefield dating back to Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’ve never been to a Civil War site before (I know, very lame for someone who’s interested in history, gravesites, and the military) but I found it oddly refreshing despite the triple-digit heat and mugginess. I’d go back, given more time and another chance; it’s places like that which shaped our nation. The battles around Kennesaw took place on days like today, where the humidity and heat take your breath away; I can only imagine what those young men felt in their hot woolen uniforms marching through the dappled woods.

It was a fitting capstone on this trip; if I was traveling with family I’m not sure we would have taken the time to head over there. At work we like to talk about lessons learned and operating experience, which can be summarized thus: smart people learn from their mistakes, but really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes. If I’m coming back in three weeks I’ll have a lot more stuff to bring (hard to believe — it boggles the mind — but that PE isn’t going anywhere at the moment and I still need to study) and a better base with which to attack the touristing issue. At one point — standing atop the mountain and looking at the haze wreathing modern downtown Atlanta — I realized that the trip was worth it (the whole week) for that one moment. The ghosts were whispering stories in my ear today, maybe all night last night and I’m glad we had a chance to meet; there are so many lessons, and I love to learn.

Mike

Water Ways

17 June 2009

Dear J-

Through some sort of strange coincidence we found ourselves at two of the Department of Water’s stations along the I-5 corridor, the San Luis Reservoir and Pyramid Lake. The timing had something to do with the flood in figgy’s pants and something to do with her behavior, as she ran away the restlessness in the visitor’s centers. The total trip takes roughly ten hours each way with all the stops figured in (we made three each time), though we are now running low on unique places to pull over — that middle part north of Santa Clarita and south of Highway 152 is pretty desolate.

The San Luis reservoir is down in volume, as I noted before — when we pulled over the winds were amazingly fierce, in sharp contrast to the baking heat at Pyramid Lake. The Southern California site is more glitzy inside too — blinking lights and animated displays showing the tortuous path water takes from Lake Oroville to Lake Perris. The hours we spent are nothing before the mighty civil works; I grew up not far from Grand Coulee Dam and am constantly amazed at the scale of machines. Yet with all that said, why they can’t make I-5 any wider north of Fullerton to keep traffic faster than a crawl makes no sense at all. Should they eventually build the promised high-speed rail system that’s one stretch of road I won’t miss.

The one constant was figgy running laps at each stop — kid’s got energy to burn and the last thing she needs is to be strapped to a chair for ten hours and forced to sit still or sleep; we’re still trying to get her to fall asleep for the night. We’re still learning about each other, you know, and the more I understand the more we can make sense of the things we do.

Mike

California Notes

13 June 2009

Dear J-

One thing that you might want to know for later is that the 34 miles between Highways 46 and 41 along I-5 can be the longest stretch of road in the world if you fail to realize that there are no suitable turnouts or recreational opportunities for active toddlers not used to being cooped up for hours on the road. Lesson received loud and clear; do not plan on explaining that you were wanting In’n Out instead of Carl’s Jr. to a two-year-old — that kind of thinking gets you nowhere.

Thanks to an aggressively merging tractor-trailer, we missed our turnoff onto Highway 152, leading west past a perilously low-looking reservoir (last year I could have sworn it was like a scene out of the Alps; this year it was more like Mad Max) and sun-dried meadows to Gilroy. Instead we made it up to Santa Nella and the moderately famous Andersen’s (notable for their split-pea soup) — intrigued, we went inside to poke at their gift shop; we ended up having to bribe figgy out of the handful of toys she’d collected by offering magical pocket contents — another travel pro-tip, then: don’t travel without a pocket flashlight, as you never know how handy it can be.

Ten hours and nearly five hundred miles later we’re that much closer to swearing off car travel altogether; I sometimes suspect that we bring as much stuff as we do because we can, not because we have to. Yet the distant miles lend a sort of perspective on how far we’ve come. The sense of displacement is magnified by this not being the same house I grew up in — same parents and the same eclectic decorations, but different arrangements and configurations; maddeningly familiar and totally strange, all at once.

Mike

Road Warriors

11 June 2009

Dear J-

The first long road trip I can remember taking was in 1979, when my parents went to Yellowstone with a like-minded uncle and their set of kids, nicely bracketing our ages (we were four and seven; they were three and ten).  I can see the lessons learned on that trip applied the very next year; instead of the board and blanket converting the back seat into a makeshift bed — we rattled around a lot, without seatbelts — the ten-year-old 1969 Cougar got traded in on a Cutlass wagon, just like the uncle’s family had (okay, they had a Custom Cruiser), save the nausea/rumble-seat.  Of course a CB radio was de rigeur — between listening to trucker chatter and keeping in touch with the family convoy, that was the peak of the CB radio craze.

I also remember that was the first time I had corned beef — part of the Yellowstone experience being “roughing it” in a park cabin and excitedly eating meals out of cans and outdoors on picnics (I can still remember my cousins’ delight at seeing Wonder Bread on the table).  No one ever expects to be livng in anything but the most modern times, but it felt like endless pioneer days to a four-year-old, regardless of the number of Motel 6 stays we made.

What I barely recall were the tricks used to keep us in line; I remember begging for various souvenirs (one, a kind of fuzzy bookmark/animal that would arch its back when petted, just because all the other kids were getting one; another, a thunderbird keychain that caught my eye) and books (another trend was starting to peak — the Scratch-N-Sniff — and there was a magnificent book they kept trying to say I was too old for, complete with smells of honey, campfire smoke, and skunk).  It now dawns on me that if it’s this hard to keep figgy entertained in a house filled with stuff and junk, how we’re going to pull the same trick while on the road is beyond me.

Mike

Feral Children

13 April 2009

Dear J-

We’ve been watching the tiger cubs at the San Diego Zoo now for a year or so now; before they were a bit uncertain alone — but bold as a group — and now that they know all about their enclosure, their mom has left them mostly on their own (we see her hanging out at the top of the hill, where the food is distributed) and they still hang out in their little pack of three.  Not as rough or immoderate in their play; perhaps some slightly more sophisticated games are at work here.

If they end up getting split — sent to different zoos — I’ll always wonder how bonded the trio are; would they recognize each other given a hypothetical reunion, would they welcome another into their midst?  As it is, they are unafraid to display themselves, and quite willing to come up next to the glass as any other wall; before they were born, you’d catch a glimpse of the adults sitting atop a distant hill, if you were lucky.  Is that a juvenile behavior, or will it persist into adulthood for these cubs?

Our own feral figgy continues to make us wonder what changes are in store; we picked her up from day care on Friday from the bruised sitter and a note explaining that she’d been bitten (“I was reading her a story, and she bit me.”)  Obviously, that behavior has to change, but as much as we’re teaching her, she picks up from the other kids.  Do younger children learn from the older sibs so readily?  I remember being a skilled mimic of everything my brother did; he’d had the hard work of figuring everything out, where I just got to do it based on seeing that it was possible for children.

Mike

Bumbling and Brash

19 March 2009

Dear J-

Well, despite my best efforts at sheer incompetence and procrastination, it looks like I’m on my way to Sacramento early next week:  Monday through Wednesday will be spent auditing one of our vendors.  We haven’t been back often — I remember going back twice now, I think, since leaving in 2001 — but for only being a few hours away, it might as well be across the country (reminding myself, here, of how long it’s been since I was in a different time zone, nearly three years).

I like to talk about how small the world is but I know that’s true on paper; faced with the prospect of actually traveling distances — yes, it’s possible, and I can only point to how lazy I know I am.  The journey is not the reward.  When I’ve got nearly everything I need here — and it seems like the rest can be shipped in — it makes me perfectly happy to be stuck where I am.

I guess that the point is that I haven’t traveled enough to be truly well-seasoned at it; various maladies will assault me on the road, and I’ll probably spend half the first evening awake and staring, insensate at the TV regretting the meal that sounded good on the menu.  We’re not so well-traveled that we can claim favorite places in far-flung corners (I’m more familiar with Ryo’s Yokosuka and Kazuo’s Kabuki-cho than most of Sacramento, in fact), but there’s compensations on tap:  perhaps I’ll finally be able to get the right Yolo causeway picture that’s been haunting me for years.

Mike