A Mini-Travelogue: Tired

I was fortunate during my time in the city in that my daily commute was easier than any other commute I’ve ever had. No joke. I never encountered the problems that the freeway commuters have to fight each day because I could use less-congested roads.

Traffic Late GIF - Traffic Late Early GIFs

When I do have to take the freeways at certain times, though, I get a taste of “rush” hour.

Today was a typical Monday. I was headed out of town to take care of some errands related to the majesty of moving (another story for another day). At all of the major interchanges, I had enough time sitting still to take in the “scenery,” and by “scenery” I mean scattered litter and smoke-belching tractor-trailers. I always budget my time to account for any potential problems, so I wasn’t rushed, which is good, because there’s nothing rushed about “rush” hour.

Three days later–or thirty minutes later, I think–I crossed the river into Arkansas and watched as the traffic began to thin. I figured I was about two towns away from being able to turn on the cruise control.

Before I was past the first town, I was rounding a corner with one tractor-trailer on my left, keeping pace with me the whole way. An on-ramp was to my right.

Annnnnd directly in the middle of my lane–there it was. The banana peel of the Interstate Highway System.

A big ol’ industrial-sized chunk of tire tread.

I guess you could say I had some options to weigh:

  1. Swerve to the left to avoid a tire and hit a giant truck instead.
  2. Swerve to the right and potentially hit a car in my blind spot (I couldn’t tell if there was one there or not–hence the term “blind spot”) trying to make their way on to the interstate via the on-ramp.
  3. Swerve to the right to miss the tire, over-correct before the potential other car can hit me from the on-ramp, and hit a giant truck instead.
  4. Hit the brakes and cause a forty-two-car-pileup.
  5. Try to straddle over the tire tread and hope the damage is minimal.

Oh, and I had about 2.463814 seconds to consider all of the above.

With about 0.294532 seconds to spare, I chose Option Number 5.

Option Number 5 seemed to be the choice with the lowest likelihood of significant personal injury and/or I-don’t-wanna-think-about-it-other-possibilities.

The thud was significant, and I pulled over to wait for all of the bells and whistles on the dashboard to tell me I wasn’t going anywhere.

That never happened. In fact, I couldn’t even hear anything rattling, nor did anything about the vehicle feel different when I made my way to the next town over to pull into a gas station for a better look.

Everything seems to be okay for now, oddly enough. I hope it stays that way. The dealership also gave it a good look, and they even washed the car before I left. I’ll say this, though–I’m a huge fan of coffee, but nothing in the world can keep you awake, alert, and paranoid on a commute quite like a large object in the middle of the road.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

“Tire”d indeed.

A Photographic Memory: The Grand Canyon

I recently started going through some older computer files to see what I might have overlooked in my photography collection. I determined that a) there’s no real way to overlook photos of something as majestic as the Grand Canyon, b) I had a few of them that I had overlooked in a way, and c) technically, I was actually overlooking the Grand Canyon when I took the photos, so now I’m just confused by my own words.

In any event, I took them around the time I was just getting started with more serious photography, so they leave a lot to be desired. However, it’s nice to look back on what you’ve done to see how far you’ve progressed with time and practice…although now I just want to go back for a do-over.

grand canyon GIF

Another factor in my “I-Just-Want-A-Do-Over” thought is that this was on the return leg of a road trip to Las Vegas. By the time I was able to get to the Grand Canyon (for the second time in my life), the weather had taken a turn for the stormy. IN JULY. Yes, I managed to find a storm in the middle of the desert. IN JULY. (Did I mention that it was July?) So, I didn’t get to stay as long as I had hoped to stay.

Anyway, the Grand Canyon is one of those treasured locations that everyone should have the chance to see in person. I’m just lucky enough to have seen it TWICE in my lifetime because I was along for the ride. I was also lucky that I was old enough to truly appreciate it the second time around…and that I had a really good camera, even if I was in the VERY early stages of learning about photography.

The colors, the contours…it’s just a stunning view from any angle.
You can see the clouds building in the distance. I decided against being struck by lightning to get the perfect photo. I think it was a good choice.

For more information about Grand Canyon National Park, here’s the link to the National Park Service website. (If you plan to drive and have trouble finding it…umm, it’s a really big canyon. Just trust your instincts on this one.)

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part Two-ish

As I was saying…

We’re now up to Day Two (wait…it might be Day Three, depending on whether or not the first day of travel really counts, but since I’ve already counted it for the purposes of my story even though I’ve driven to Nashville lots of times, we’ll call it Day Two/Three).

Day Two/Three started out early, but not quite as early as Day…umm…the previous day. (Math. Darn that math.) The reason it started out so early is because I had driven myself into a traffic and parking nightmare in and around Charleston, South Carolina on a Saturday evening. I never quite made it to Folly Beach, although I did buy the t-shirt. So, if you see me in my Folly Beach t-shirt, it’s slightly false advertising.

I woke up early so that I could see the sights in less-crowded conditions. Not only did that part work, it also meant that I was able to capture some sunrise photographs.

I had my choice of benches at 6:00 a.m. Plenty of places to sit...and park.
I had my choice of benches at 6:00 a.m. at White Point Gardens.
Charleston architecture is stunning.
Charleston architecture is stunning. Great photography opportunities.
I was looking forward to the chance to photograph these trees. It was worth checking out of the hotel before their complimentary breakfast was served to take this stroll.
I was looking forward to the chance to photograph these trees. It was worth checking out of the hotel before their complimentary breakfast was served to take this stroll.

With the second third of my trip down to Florida finished, it was time to start my third third. (Math again. Ugh.) It’s worth mentioning that I left the road map stuff up to my new car’s navigation system instead of burning data from my phone. Any time I wandered off the beaten path, the car would try to calmly talk me out of it. I would try to tell her (yell at her) that I was hungry or needed to buy gas, but she kept talking. She was very persistent. As further proof that she needs to work on her listening skills, however, she would occasionally say, “Pardon?” as I was SCREAMING addresses and ZIP codes at the top of my lungs.

My third third took me along the East Coast all the way to Vero Beach. When I reached Savannah, Georgia, I decided I wanted to see Tybee Island. In particular…the lighthouse. I grew more than a tad worried about my navigation system when she sent me out on a road that felt like one small step above gravel…and then I saw a HUGE cable suspension bridge in the distance that I was supposed to cross. (For the umpteenth time…I HATE HEIGHTS. Yes, I realize the irony of this statement coming from someone who was crossing that bridge to see a lighthouse, but you can admire a lighthouse from the ground.)

Found the lighthouse. Climbed alllllmost to the top before the heights thing got me down (haha).
Found the lighthouse. Climbed alllllmost to the top before the heights thing got me down (haha). Tybee Island, Georgia…more great photography opportunities!

The signage directing traffic to the lighthouse from the main highway is a bit obscure; my esteemed not-such-a-good-listener-navigator sent me to an RV park before I decided to stop listening to her and look for the little turtle signs. I was in for another surprise once I found the lighthouse. I paid my admission fee, and the guy that was working at the booth told me that the “admission fee also gets you into Battery Garland across the street.”

“Battery what?” I asked.

“Battery Garland.”


Say, that's my name, too!
Say, that’s my name, too!
I haven't researched this any further yet, although I doubt I'm related to this guy. Still...I should have asked if they had a Garland discount.
I haven’t researched this any further yet, although I doubt I’m related to this guy. Still…I should have asked if they had a Garland discount.

After that stop, it was on to the Sunshine State!

Haha, right. I didn’t go through any rain on that ENTIRE DRIVE until I was about twenty miles from the Florida state line. From there, it was intermittent rain for the rest of my trip.

I somehow managed to make it through Jacksonville with my bumpers in tact, although the “new car” smell was finally beginning to fade with each fresh hamburger. After a few more hours of driving, though, I’d finally made it somewhere that I’d be staying for more than one night…Vero Beach! And…it was time to check out the water.

The friend I stayed with apologized many times about the weather. Like she could help it. I was just glad to be out of the car and standing at the Atlantic Ocean in this photo.
The friend I stayed with apologized many times about the weather. (Like she could help it.) I was just glad to be out of the car and standing at the Atlantic Ocean in this photo.

I’m getting exhausted just recalling the driving part of this whole expedition. I think I’ll take a break. Up next…Part Three-ish!

An All-American Adventure: Road Trips And Convenience

The modern American road trip may take on an individual flavor for each who experiences it, but the general template remains similar to what it always has been. Over-pack, over-pay, underestimate the travel time, and under-dress to look the part of a pure tourist.

Although the template is fairly uniform, you don’t have to go back too far to find that one aspect associated with road trips has begun to vanish. And I’m not just talking about the “which-way-do-you-fold-the-map” argument.

Guess that road hasn't been invented yet.
Map? What map? Oh, you mean GPS. It’s very reliable. (Guess we were on a road hasn’t been invented yet.)

When I was nine years old, my family took a road trip to Florida. Fun trip, good memories, good times.

Fast forward to today–I just returned from a road trip to Florida and while the route seems much the same, one major deviation from the decades-old template is evident.

Convenience stores.

Nowadays, they’re just so…convenient!

Need a snack? Come on in! You can pump your gas at the same time.

Oh, and there’s a restroom.

In the building.

You don’t have to buy anything to use it, either!

You also most likely don’t have to do what we once had to do when we stopped for gasoline AND a restroom in a small town in the middle of nowhere…ASK FOR THE RESTROOM KEY. A KEY ATTACHED TO A HUBCAP OR OTHER EQUALLY CUMBERSOME AND HEAVY OBJECT.

You see, I remember visiting a lot of rest stops in Mississippi on that long trip to Florida when I was a kid. They were nice. I even remember getting a free soda at one. You’d take a few minutes to stretch and browse through local travel brochures, look around the parking lot at all of the assorted license plates while eating a snack from the family food stash, and get back in the car, buckling up for safety (I always made a big deal about that because they had signs every few miles about their seat belt laws…signs I never saw or noticed in Arkansas…and I was afraid we’d all be pulled over if I, as the sole nine-year-old, forgot to wear a seat belt…but I digress…). AND…the facilities always seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Contrast that with the country gas station–in ANY state–of yesteryear. It was expected that you stopped at a gas station for one thing: gasoline. Restrooms were secondary. Besides having to carry a key attached to a spare tire (the traveler’s hall pass), the restroom was usually on the far side of the building…the sunny side with no air conditioning…sweltering in the summer humidity. If you could manage to get the key to turn, you were usually greeted by a whole family of flies making their escape. Once the smell hit you, it wasn’t difficult to understand why even the flies couldn’t stand it.

If you really needed to go, though, your only choice was to hold your breath and deal with it.

Nowadays, most of the convenience stores have signs imploring you to let an attendant know if the restroom needs attention. (How convenient!)

Some of these old-school gas stations still exist, but they have largely been replaced along the interstates by giant travel centers with their one-stop shopping. Don’t get me wrong–I do miss full-service and the personal interactions. They were what they were…gas stations, and they served their purpose well.

This change to the template, though, is just one of the few changes in the subtle evolution of the modern American road trip.