Epilogue: life’s too short

June 5, 2008

Life’s one big to-do list; regret is when you’re too old to check items off the list.

That’s the only thing I can come up with, five years out of college. Now that life has settled back to normalcy, after a crazy week at work and getting organized from the trip, I’m happy to say more and more items are getting checked off my list. Running a 5k anytime soon won’t be one of those, but one has to know one’s limitations.

I’ve always been a fan of projects. And there are always a few going at once. Recycling has an e-waste drive coming up, and I’m in charge of our printed materials. I just bought a new bike to replace my old one, which means the Falling Water Trail will be explored. All my vacation materials need to be organized into a coherent whole. I still have to organize my year of Rotary.

…on and on it goes.

That’s life, right? We’re never done living, unless we give up early. But I’ve got too much to see. Now that I’ve covered our wonderful country’s four corners, there’s still Alaska and the Gulf Coast states to explore. And some foreign countries.

Barack Obama has seen his share of foreign countries, unlike our sitting president. I don’t trust people who haven’t seen some share of the world. Their view is narrow, and their conversation dull. A president who has seen the world, and has learned something from it? I guess we can be thankful both candidates share the similarity.

Unlike our president, Obama grew up in a fractured family, was raised by his grandparents, and had to wonder what life would be like if his parents stayed together. In other words, he’s now considered a “normal” American, despite the awkward name, and I trust him more than some rich ape from Massachusetts who lived a life of privilege but takes to wearing cowboy hats when it suits him. But this isn’t the place for that rant.

No, this is to realize that there are too many great things to do on Earth to be holed up in some dark room watching a glowing box while kids play frisbee outside.

When I played outside at Walden, a 90 year old man taught me that you’re never to old to go swimming. Who can argue with that? By paying attention to the birds that sing in the spring and to the flowers that bloom in my grandma’s lush garden, I’ve learned that you’re never too old for anything. Or too young.

Some of my friends know this. My little brother made a gamble: he moved out to California with his girlfriend and now lives an interesting life. I couldn’t be more proud. And his sister is moving to Pennsylvania on another gamble that I know will pay off, too. I wish her (and Jimmy!) lots of luck.

Rapture could come any day now. There’s no excuse not to say “To hell with this,” and move to a different state to see what else the wide world holds. It’s another item on life’s big to-do list. Your friends will be there when you get back.

So will the TV. Which is why you should shut it the hell off and get some fresh air. Life’s too short. There’s a chilly pond somewhere in the wilds of New England just waiting to greet you. It waved to me, and it waved to a guy who sat on its shore for two whole years and thought and wrote and tended his beans. He lived.

Thoreau’s to-do list was probably longer than his life granted him. It’s a tragedy, but it’s the case for most of us.

The trip, by the numbers.

May 25, 2008

At Putnam Park in Connecticut

Made it home safe and sound.

Was surprised to find that getting from upstate New York to Jackson, MI took a lot quicker than I realized. I guess I forgot that the Erie section of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a narrow one, and so I spent a few hours napping outside of Cleveland before shot-gunning home. Got home about 9-9:30, took a four-hour nap, and spent the day getting reacquainted with real life.

“That’s fine,” you say,”but Jesus, man, how much did you spend on gas?”

I have answers to that and more questions right here.

  • Gas: $324
  • States visited: 10
  • Miles traveled: 2,800
  • Money spent on toll booths/parking alone: $50-75
  • Favorite part of the trip: Walden Pond
  • Hardest part of the trip: My knee hurting when I needed it not to
  • Nights I drank beer for dinner: Every single one
  • Best meal: “The twins” – lobsters at Taste of Maine
  • Funnest fact: Everyone in Rhode Island speaks like Peter Griffin in “Family Guy”
  • Best roads for driving: Connecticut
  • Most interesting thing learned: Benedict Arnold was a heroic guy, despite his flaws

I haven’t had time to process the whole trip just yet. I’m still thinking thoughts along the lines of, “A week ago, I was in New Jersey.” It kind of feels like I never left, which is a feeling that plagues me whenever I return home.

I’m glad I did this trip the way I did (with the Revolutionary War stuff as the focus), and I’m not sorry I missed seeing some of the sites. There are some points to return to, and some to avoid, and these kind of “greatest hits” trips make it easy to figure out what’s to like and what’s not to like.

But it does back up my thought the whole time: that we live in an amazing country, with an amazing history, and a lot of people rose up and fought back right when they needed to. These days, one can’t escape the feeling that a lot of what the Continentals and minutemen fought against has returned. America is in a weird spot right now. I feel like if every American took a trip to Old Philadelphia, or walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, or remembered the words of Thoreau, they might not be willing to put up with so much abuse or neglect or bullshit.

Hope springs eternal, my journalism professor and mentor Dr. Renner always told me, and so one can only hope that those men who stood atop Bunker Hill and went looking for a fight in Lexington aren’t being taken for granted.

On top of Mt. Cadillac

May 24, 2008

Here’s the video I hinted at earlier. The wind was strong, so some of it it is hard to hear.

Saratoga or bust.

May 24, 2008

On the farm at Saratoga

Yesterday, after leaving Fairfax, VT, it was time for the final stop on the trip: Saratoga.

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The Old Man meets Ben & Jerry.

May 24, 2008

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far from this trip:

  • Subaru is still in business because of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. They’re everywhere
  • The nature-based parts of my trips are always the best
  • Vermont may be the prettiest state in the union
  • Route 1 and I-95 have followed me everywhere I go
  • Because of parking and toll fees, my budget for this trip is totally shot
  • I can’t drive with my wallet in my back pocket – it’s too damn thick
  • My car can handle anything. Anything, that is, except Mount Washington

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Cadillac Mountain High.

May 23, 2008

I\'ve been to to the mountain.

Yesterday, I climbed my first mountain.

And it’s not a king-hell Rocky Mountains mountain. At 1,500 feet, Mt. Cadillac at Acadia National Park gets eaten for breakfast by most mountains. But it is the tallest mountain along the Atlantic coast north of Brazil. And it was a pain.

But I did it.

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On Walden Pond.

May 22, 2008

Thoreau and his big idea

I read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden the summer after my junior year of college, and it changed my life. So it was with great excitement that I headed up to Concord to Walden Pond.

For two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau lived by himself in the Concord woods in a one-room shack he built by hand. Why? To be alone. I find honor and respect in his experiment, and I went to pay homage to the idea that people can be happy and useful in nature, by themselves, doing their own thing.

Me at Walden

And it was everything I hoped for, and more.

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Boston: Red Sox vs. Red Coats.

May 22, 2008

Me and the gang

There’s no other way to put it: Boston is a strange and wonderful place. So full of history, so full of pride in itself, and so full of Red Sox and Celtics fans that it’s hard for a Midwesterner like me to feel comfortable.

From the winery it was a pretty short drive up to Beantown, except when I got there my Google directions sent me directly into the mouth of madness. I made a few wrong turns and was on the other side of town from my hotel before I knew what happened. Then, magically, I turned onto the right street. Zip. Just like that.

The Bulfinch Hotel.

My hotel was the Bulfinch, and it’s shaped like the Flat Iron building in NYC. It’s a great place. I got my stuff settled in and, since it was only about 5 p.m., decided to hit the town to see as much as I could before night fell. That, and I was incredibly exhausted after waking up at 5:30 in the morning.

The Freedom Trail begins

The Freedom Trail, a few-mile-long path that leads from one Revolutionary War site to the next, is a perfect was to see the city. It guides you, helps you learn the streets, and gives you a sense of order and place in a city where a “square block” is as rare as the dodo.

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As Providence would have it.

May 21, 2008

I’m typing this in what is possibly the coolest sea-side motel on Earth, on the outskirts of Rockport, Maine. Why, you dear reader, ask? Because it has an iMac:

iFriends from the \"M\" states

A G3 Cobalt version at that, not too much different from my own G3 at home, except this one is running OS X 10.1 – a waaaay early version. Now my iBook has a buddy. But anywhoo.

Downtown Providence

Where to begin but where we left off: in Rhode Island. I woke up yesterday (Monday) morning on the coast of Connecticut, hit the road to see Rhode Island, grabbing a great breakfast at E & J’s Diner in Wickford, and zooming up to Providence.

Where the river flows.

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Connecting in Connecticut.

May 20, 2008

Into the Lincoln Tunnel.

It’s hard to know where to start, two days and four states later, but oh well. Here goes.

Getting into New York was relatively easy; getting out of it, on the other hand, was wrist-slicingly difficult.

Central Park South

For an island that was traded for a bunch of beads, you’d think they would put more value into it. On the brighter side, I did get a nice clean windshield from a bum.

Mecca.

But whatever. I can safely say I can drive anywhere: LA, Chicago, New York. A 75-acre farm, however? That’s when I get stressed. Read the rest of this entry »