Sunday, August 5, 2012

At it again

After almost 3 weeks of packing, discussions on routes and celebratory toasts we're off on the next adventure. Stay tuned, with any luck, I'll update this with pictures and the occasional story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mississippi - Somewhere along the Redneck Rivierra

I’m sitting in the middle of a wetland somewhere near costal Mississippi. It’s beautiful here and the people are really friendly. After a long day in the driver’s seat, it’s nice to kick back and watch the sun set while cooking dinner, enjoying a drink and get eaten alive. From my limited knowledge of insects in winter I all these bugs should be sleeping or dead.

Oh, did I say limited knowledge? I meant no knowledge. My bad. In every place I’ve ever visited in America, these bastards are dead in winter. I’ve never spent a winter evening in Mississippi, nor have I ever contemplated how much a case of West Nile virus would cost me given my shoddy health insurance. I can now scratch 2 more items off my Never Done It list. Whoopee.

Word to the wise: don’t use OFF! anywhere near a camp stove.

This trip is turning into a nice adventure. Last we spoke (or *I* spoke, it is a blog, after all) I was in South Carolina where it was cold, wet, swampy and pleasantly un-buggy. Pulling out of the Congaree area, I caught an interview with the race manager for the Daytona 500 on the radio. Lo and behold, it was race day! Having watched Talladega nights (A compelling NASCAR drama staring Will Farrell and John C. Riley) about 255 times I’ve picked up a bit of a passing fascination with NASCAR and for half the day I flirted with the idea of driving to Daytona, finding tickets and seeing an American spectacle. By 11:15, after 4 hours of daydreaming, I had worked myself into a mental frenzy with the idea.

Could it happen? How far to Daytona? What time does the race start?

Lacking any method for getting information (the newspapers in SC have the thickness of two ply toilet paper and the same contents), I decided to resolve these issues by driving around the nearest town with my laptop out, scanning for an open wireless connection.

To my amazement, Burger King has free wireless. Wha?

280 miles to Daytona International Speedway.
The race starts at 3:30.
No idea if there are any tickets left.
I had 3 hours and 55 minutes to make the trip.

The GPS said I could make it. Daytona 500, here I come.

I could write pages about attending my first NASCAR race but I’ll spare you the details that you can imagine yourself (hint: husband and wife teams in matching DeWalt race gear). There are *three* main events I’d like to tell you about.

My welcome to NASCAR began immediately upon my arrival as I was wisked from my car to the bus lot by a tractor. On the bus that would take me to the stadium (almost everyone parks in an offsite lot and is taken by bus to the stadium) I got my first taste of the type of people I would be spending my day with.

NCToTexas 016

Boarding the bus, we were enthusiastically greeted by the driver. I though this was awesome. An “All right, all right!” to one passenger would be followed by a “Hey, ready to go racing?” to the next boarding passenger. Once everyone had boarded the bus he exchanged a couple of words with one of his coworkers about the time of the race and a short joke that I didn’t quite understand because he did this in Spanish.

At this point the woman in the seat in front of me gets visibly perturbed. She starts muttering, loudly to her husband that, “You’re in America so speak English.” And, “You’ve got to speak English to drive this bus.” After a few more attempts at saying the same thing her husband nodded in agreement and said something to the accord of “I swear…”.

I’m five minutes into my NASCAR experience and wondering if I should point out to these two that being bilingual is a commendable trait. I was halfway through working up the courage when I was distracted by the thought of pointing out to these two that wearing a jacket covered with corporate logos and anthropromorphic M&M’s makes you a tool.

Being a wimp, I decided to say nothing.

Brendan’s action packed summary of a NASCAR race (video):

This is hilarious: At the end of the race there are approximately 168,000 fans leaving the speedway, most of whom will need to be ferried, by bus, back to Lot 7 to pick up their cars (I have no idea where lots 1-6 are, or who parks there, most everyone was in lot 7). While there countless busses running the few miles to the parking area, there was still a one to two hour wait to get on a bus.

NCToTexas 046

Keep in mind that photo is only showing the crowd on the raceway side of the street, there are thousands of people in line on the other side of the street who are actually in queues for the busses. The wait was hours!

Fortunately there was a Barnes and Noble bookstore only 40 yards from where you waited in line for the busses. Heck, you didn’t even need to cross the street. I thought the store would be mobbed by people who, instead of waiting in line, were looking for a diversion while the crowd died down.

Here’s what the store looked like inside:

NCToTexas 048

Thousands outside, not a soul browsing for books. NASCAR fans: Not big readers...

Other notes:
Unlike other sporting events, NASCAR doesn’t discourage you from bringing in drinks or snacks. In fact there are signs all over the speedway notifying attendees that you’re allowed to bring in one, soft sided mini-cooler per person. Load it up with ice, beer and some chips and get ready to Go Racin’!

EVERYONE is a Dale Jr. fan. Whenever he’d make a move, the crowd would go wild. Those who weren’t standing up (most stand for the entire race) stood up. Unfortunately he was knocked out of contention in collision midway through the race.

30% of Americans approved of George W. Bush in the final years of his presidency. I now know what those people look like.

Tune in next time. Til then, y’all hold my beer and check this out!

(If you’re not in the know, those are a redneck’s last words)
NCToTexas 041

Friday, February 13, 2009

South Carolina

I’m back on my little laptop and that can only mean one thing: back on the road. The plan is to head on out to California - home - and find work while simultaneously doing a bit of surfing and catching up on normal life. Thailand was, at one time, a possibility but, with the recession going on, I’m none too plussed about burning through my $afety net and then looking for a new job. In a way, I’m looking at a career change so this job search is a bit more daunting than most.

I’m finding myself much less enthusiastic about this leg of the Big American Journey. As my dad suggested, this could be due to the fact that I’m headed home and have a gloomy job search ahead of me. It’s possible my wanderlust might be temporarily cured. Or the prospect of exploring one’s own country is a bit dull after a whirlwind tour of far more exotic lands. I’m blaming it all on winter. The days are shorter, the air is cooler and the countryside is, for the most part, dead.

Fortunately, America is a large country and two of winters’ curses can be dealt with by heading south. In the south, the landscape isn’t as rugged and the adventure is tamed by a serious lack of wilderness. I thought I would be up for experiencing BBQ for dinner and the southern pace of life but I’m way to impatient for this stuff right now. I dream of rugged and it’s hard to feel like you’re roughing it when fresh BBQ and cheap beer is less than a mile from your campsite.

Regardless, I’ll push on through. I don’t have a route planned yet but it’ll come together. Tonight I’m in Congaree National Park and will be exploring the swampy trails tomorrow. After that, I have no idea where I’m headed.

NCToTexas 014

Monday, January 12, 2009


Well, in case you didn't know I'm back in the USA (go ahead, chant: "USA USA USA!" You have my permission). In fact, I've been here for about a month now. Anyways I have about 8 blog posts I've written that I need to clean up and post and about 720-750 photos I need to edit. Not really looking forward to either of those...

NCToTexas 003

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Video update from Turkey

Warning: I swear like a sailor in this one. Like a puppy peeing on the floor, I tend to pepper my speech with obscenities when I get really excited.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I'm in Bratislava and finally got around to posting my travels through Bulgaria. I'm off to Turkey tomorrow so I'm hoping to have some time to start working on editing the photos of Romania tonight. We'll see if I get anything up in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Go Go Go

I've been on the move quite a bit in the past three weeks. I'm trying to put together posts on Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, the Black Sea coast, trains and Romania. We'll see how much I can plow through in the next few hours on this couch. Currently I'm back at Backpack Hostel in Budapest. This is the first town I've returned to on this trip. It was a really cool experience to wake up, get off a train and have some strange feeling of familiarity as I exited the station.