Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Land Of Enchantment

Lives up to it's name.  New Mexico, was unexpectedly awesome.  In most places with good scenery, you are staring at the same scenery for miles while New Mexico had the unique ability to change it's scenery every 10 minutes.  First you'd be look out at vast flat desert with snowy mountains in the background then you'd surrounded by hills littered with shrubs along the landscape.  Incredible.  The farther north you go, the better it gets as if it's leading up to Colorado, the epicenter for natural beauty.

Ever see the movie Independence Day? Always wanted to see Roswell and Area 51 after that movie.  Roswell is a humorous disappointment.  They have a museum which is cool, but the entire town is way over the top(actually it's a city now but they still call themselves a town) is completely Alien themed, full of Alien memorabilia everywhere.  You can go to the local bar and get your "Alien Beer" and the local Arby's had a sign that says "Aliens are Welcomed".  It gets better, and I took plenty of pictures of some of this ridiculousness. The local Days Inn has an alien directing your entry and exit, downtown buildings have statued aliens peaking over the corners and ufo's crashed into their brick walls.  The people there however, were quite normal.

In a days time, I left Amarillo, passed through Roswell and Albuquerque (a pretty cool city as well).  So far, New Mexico has tied Alabama for most hospitable state...everyone I met in New Mexico were very friendly, talkative, and proud of their culture (keeping the travelers mindset).  I stayed in Santa Fe that night.

I Must Say Santa Fe, You Intrigue Me

The whole state of New Mexico was interesting but Santa Fe was completely different than anything I'd ever seen before.  I joked with a receptionist about there being a city ordinance that required that all houses be either Adobe or Traditional style...but he told me sure enough...the city DOES require your house to be one or the other if you live in downtown Santa Fe.  They don't allow any new buildings to be taller than 4 stories.  Incredible.  Near the Governor's Plaza, everyday Native American descendants gather and sell jewelry, pottery, and other items along the sidewalks.  It was just a cool place, you don't have any visual points to locate where you are in the city since everything is so small in size.

Easter in Sante Fe

I decided to fast all day on Easter Sunday and it was surprisingly easy.  Santa Fe was the perfect place to end up on Easter.  I was able to visit some historic and famous churches including San Miguel which is considered to be the oldest Church in the US and I went to see the Miracle Stairs at the Lorreto Church.  Now, legend has it, a mysterious carpenter came to the church sometime in the 19th century and helped build a staircase.  The finished project was a helix-like spiral staircase (oddly resembles DNA) which defies engineering logic.  The man left without even being paid for the project and nobody ever found out who he was or where the wood came from.  Some say, it was Jesus himself.  You know, magicians are good at tricks too.  PS...It is a terrible idea to fast for a day  and night and then splurge on Sante Fe food but onward and upward  I went and passing through another awesome spot in New Mexico which I highly recommend seeing sometime called the Eagles Nest.

Buddhists Believe in Personal Property?

After passing Taos on the way to Colorado I stopped and saw a sign for a Buddhist Monastery..The Fa Yun.(there was also a sign for Shadow Mountain Academy, however, I avoided this).  Heck, I've never been to one, lets see what this is all about.  I made a 3 miles trek up this little mountain only to come to a fence and a sign that said "Warning: No Trespassing...Private Property".  This dumbfounded me, what if I was seeking enlightenment?  I would have been heartbroken and confused because I thought Buddhist Monks didn't believe in possession, let alone private property. I was enlightened, however I will not quit, I am now determined to meet a Buddhist Monk and have some good convo with one...I hear California may have a bunch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Travelers Mindset

Since doing this trip, my attitude towards some things has changed.  I've been more open, not only to experiences that I never would do back home, but also to people.  There hasn't been a day where I haven't been able to hold a long conversation with a complete stranger, most of the time more than a handful in a given day.  This doesn't happen as often when I'm in the regular day to day mindset and I think I miss out on meeting some tremendous people b/c of that.

When people are on vacation they are naturally more open to experiencing things and observing the beauty around them.  How excited are they when they see a mountain they've never seen before or a waterfall?  Or trying a different restaurant.  Maybe the exciting factor, is simply the fact that it is something different, but a lot of it is the mindset.

But the reality is that there is beauty all around us, we just have to be open to it.  God has planted beauty in every part of the world for the people who live there to enjoy day in and day out, and beauty all over the world for us to explore endlessly.  I see locals, who take places that fascinate me for granted and I'm sure I do the same back home.

I pray that the mindset I've had on this trip, I will keep for life, no matter where I am.  So look around you, try something different, get excited about the food that you eat, the places, experiences, nature, and people around you and know that there is nothing else better...just different.  Enjoy what God has given to us in our own locality because after all, we're all just travelers through life anyway.

Texas Left-Overs

Dad, You Prankster
When I was in San Antonio, originally had planned to pass through it in a day, but when I realized that it would take me 8 1/2 hours to drive to Amarillo from there, I decided to stay an evening.  My Dad insisted on me staying at the Menger Hotel, "Son, You HAVE to stay there...for the experience."  I didn't know why at first other than the fact that many famous people had passed through this hotel including; Teddy Roosevelt(he used the bar to recruit rough riders), Oscar Wilde, Babe Ruth, R.E. Lee, and Bill Clinton.  That's what I thought he meant...well apparently the place is haunted and I didn't realize this until I had a weird vibe in my room and I decided to google the hotel.  I gave him a hard time about how he forgot to mention the haunting part,  but it was fun.  There were certain areas where Sallie White is seen walking the halls, the main lobby door likes to mysteriously open on it's own, and some dead chick plays the piano in the lobby.  The workers there have plenty of stories of their own too. So, I stayed up a while trying to "ghost hunt", unfortunately I didn't see anything, I guess Ghosts don't like the fact that we can snap pictures of them and upload them on facebook nowadays...and then tag them.

Last quick thought on San Antonio, another good place for a couples/family vacation.  The River Walk is pretty cool and there is enough to do in the city for at least 3 days.  Hensley Approved.

The 72 Ouncer at the Big Texan.
In Amarillo, I paused for a bit, saw the Cadillac Ranch and went by the Big Texan.  I seriously contemplated going after the 72 ounce.  Now, I can handle getting lost in the ghetto, losing my tires in Arkansas, a demon lady, and seeing eye to eye with a bear (I used to joke about how the best way to 'go' would be wrestling a bear....I no longer find this comment funny.), Miami, haunted places, and roughing it for the night in my car, but I could not handle the 72 ounce steak and chickened out.  I settled on a 20 ounce.  I could've done a 40, and I would have done a 60 but I would have been sick, and I still would have had 12 more ounces to go.  That's 5 pounds of food (you have to eat the rest of the meal as well) and this is broadcast'd live on webcam.  Plus if you fail, you're out 80 bucks which is how much the meal costs. No thank you.

Footnote: No, I do not believe in Ghosts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Month Ago And Amarillo

T'was a month ago that I started this journey.  The first month of this trip could be summed up with the slogan "Just Do It."  I didn't plan ahead, I merely went wherever I felt like going and stayed for as long as I felt like staying.  The lack of planning was fun and landed me some adventures but it also got me into some tight situations and wasted funds.  What I learned, is that you miss some even better experiences if you don't plan ahead accordingly.  I didn't want this trip to be merely touristy stuff and my intent was not for it to be simply a vacation either, although of course it is to a large degree but there is an even larger end goal in mind.

So, for Part II of this trip, my slogan word will be "Authenticity".  A word so hard to come by in todays world.  I'm going to try to get the most authentic experiences I can and I expect to get bogged down out in the west for quite a while since there is so much beauty here that I have never seen and who knows when/if I'll get to see some of these things again.  The Southeast Tour featured a lot of things and places which I feel as though I can go to and do anytime.  Some of these places out west however, who knows.

I've been parked in Amarillo here for a couple days gearing up and actually, finally, doing some planning so I can make the best out of the wild west.  I got some things up my sleeve.  Also, in addition to that, my goal is to update the blog more frequently (daily if possible) with shorter posts, followed by some end of the week longer posts maybe.  I'll try to make the blog daily entertainment as best as I can.

I'll be leaving Texas tomorrow.  I did some sight seeing, saw some friends and enjoyed some fantastic scenery.  And let me tell you, it's no joke, this is one big state.  I've been here a little over a week now and drove for ten hours just the other day.

At the end of the trip, I'll try to put together my own "top ten" lists for different categories.  So stay tuned for that.  Once again, thanks to everyone for your comments, txts messages, facebook messages, wall posts, etc. etc. They mean a lot to me.  Love and Blessings to you all.

Onward and Upward!


PS: Sorry if I've been bombarding your facebook feeds, sometimes I think of something funny and I don't have a side seat passenger to share it with so facebook is the next best thing!  I probably need a twitter account, although I refuse to stoop that low.  I'll try to tone it down :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Alamo

Greetings and Happy Good Friday/Easter to Everyone!

When I was a kid, I loved history and war movies. John Wayne's version of the Alamo was by far one of my favorites. I used to watch it so much, that when I had a birthday party when I turned 6, my best friend cried b/c he thought I would make him watch the Alamo...I think we watched gumby.  Anyway, seeing the Alamo in San Antonio the other day was a real treat for me since I dreamed of seeing it since I was able to read. To most, its just a historic monument which represents freedom and sacrifice, to me, it was that plus a cool way to reconnect with my childhood.  

I hope none of you cry, but here is a link to what I still think is one of the most epic battle scenes in movie history! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Message to All of you Attached Ladies

It's a simple fact of life that will never change, but us guys, we need to keep our egos strong. So ladies, don't be afraid to build your man up. You will be rewarded for it tenfold.  If I may let you in on a little secret?  Most of the things we do in life, we do it for you all. As Proverbs 12:4 says "a worthy wife is her husbands joy and crown a shameful wife saps his strength."

Do not think that our heads will become so swollen that we'll up and leave.  We won't.  We know where the source of our ego comes from and that is you.

Don't ask me where I got the inspiration for this post. I will not tell you. Just know that we men thrive on the encouragement from our women.  So let us know when we are doing well, and be sure to let us know when we are not as well.  If we are failing and it's beyond our control, don't say anything...or as the wise man Larry The Cable Guy would say, "stay in the truck."  Always be encouraging and we'll be better men.  Otherwise, we would all be unshaven, dirty nomads.

My 2 cents for the day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gateway To The West

First of all, wow, I can't believe it's been a month already since I left Virginia.  Like all intense times in life, it seems like its been fast but in some ways it also seems like its been forever as well.

I spent half a day in Memphis after leaving Jackson, TN where I spent a day to catch up on some rest.  From there I went to Graceland, went to the Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was shot and hung around the Mississippi River for a while before leaving for what I hoped would have been St. Louis...I got Joiner and Osceola Arksansas intead.

Deliver Me From Joiner, Arkansas
I was already wrestling with a fork in the road.  Little Rock was merely two hours away and I had distant relatives there I was looking forward to visiting with...good ole Great Uncle Tuck.  Had I gone to visit them, I know I would have had some stories to tell.

Instead, I decided to head for St. Louis, Missouri, which was a four hour drive but I left early enough that I could have made it there by 9 p.m.  I figured I'd hit Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma heading west so I wouldn't have to dip so far south on the way back coming from the Dakotas and Nebraska.  I had gotten a phone call on my way out of Memphis and forgot to get gas, I noticed when I was on I-55 that my gas light was on, and there were no signs for any gas stations, so I took a chance and got off on an exit that led me to the town...if you can call it that, of Joiner.  A couple miles out I finally saw a Citgo sign.  Eureka!  Nope.  It was a run down gas station no longer open.  I saw another gas station across from a small grocery store...nope... that one was no longer in service either, and on the other side of the road another empty gas station.  I desperately stopped at this little store and was told of a gas station two miles out...I had to have barely made it, but I gas light had been on for quite some time by this point.

With a full tank of gas, I headed back for the interstate a happy camper, ready to leave this little run down place....NOPE.  I forgot to mention how crappy the roads were out here, I was coming around a curve and went far over into the right hand side of the lane to miss the pot hole from hell before I noticed that the road had been washed out on the edge...both of my tires on the right side were popped.  I can't tell you what a sick feeling this was.  Luckily, this happened near the outskirts of the town near what seemed like an okay neighborhood.  I dragged the car into the driveway of an elderly couple named the Ashburns.  They were incredibly friendly people, Mr. Ashburn was blind but a real fun guy to talk to.  They waited outside with me until towman Kenny arrived.  This happened around 6 p.m. and there were no mechanic shops open so I accepted the fact that I was going to be stuck in Arkansas for the night.  Kenny the tow truck man was also a great guy, and pretty open about his faith in Christ(we had to go about 25 miles to the nearest shop in Osceola so we had some time to talk.)  He cut me a little bit of a break on the tow as well.  We dropped the car off at Smiths Tires and about two miles down the road I was dropped off at yet another cheap motel.  The next morning I had to walk about 2 miles to the shop but along the way I noticed a billboard that said "Osceola, Home of Country Star Buddy Jewel"...neat, so my music tour hadn't ended yet after all, you never know what gems you're going to come across in the most obscure places.

The guys at Smith Tires were also awesome, one thing I will say about this area is that it was full of some really nice people.  They made sure they had me out of there and on the road by 11, but before that there was a small chance I wouldn't be able to leave for another day.  The wheels on both the tires had been bent and if they couldn't be welded back I would have to purchase new wheels from the dealer in Michigan (the closest junk yard didn't have this type of 4 bolt wheel.  It would have taken a day for those wheels to come in and would have come at a very hefty price.  Luckily they were able to get the wheels back to normal, crack free.  Big thanks to Ben and Jesse out at Smith Tires.

You Never Know Who You're Going to Meet
On my way to St. Louis I stopped to get gas and a quick bite to eat, I can't tell you where I was, not Brenson, but Brenton, Missouri?  I met a girl who was working there and talked for a while and  got into a discussion about football (best thing about the midwest is you find more and more Dallas Cowboy fans) she told me one of her cousins, Lindsey Cook, is a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams.  I now have a contact to see some games there...why don't these kind of things happen in Virginia?

Chasing Tornadoes
After leaving Missouri, stopping at St. Louis and Kansas City along the way, I entered Kansas.  Kansas by the way, is underrated for it's beauty.  It was so vast, full of endless green fields.  I enjoyed the long stretch along I-35.  I stopped in Topeka, and did some networking with some ministries there that I wanted to visit but when I set out again, I heard that there was a tornado forming in Cambridge so I raced to get there in time.  Another tornado and formed west of I-35, not sure when exactly, but I definitely felt the winds from something along this stretch of highway.  I got some video footage of this, it was tough to open your car door, but the locals (no exits, but they had McDonalds every 20 miles in the medians) seemed to be used to these kinds of high winds.  There were no exits from what I remember until I got to Wichita so I was never able to get to Cambridge.  Sadly, more tornadoes formed throughout the next couple of days and killed dozens of people in many different states.  Someone said that someone is watching out for me since I just barely missed these things(I barely missed on when I was in Florida as well)....I caught myself for a moment wishing The Father wasn't so overprotective so I could have at least gotten to snap a picture of one of those things!

The Real Cowboy City, Oklahoma City.
I didn't get a chance to spend a whole lot of time here, but from what I could tell, it was more of a cowboy culture than anywhere else I have been so far.  I liked the atmosphere there, it seemed like a laid back place.  The next morning I made it to Dallas for part of the day and saw Cowboy stadium as well as the Grassy Knoll.  I ended up in Houston that night, which is a gorgeous city.  Houston, is definitely on my list of favorite cities as far as its lay out and super clean and smooth streets.

Joel Meets Joel...The Other Joel
That's right, Joel Olsteen had the pleasure of meeting me this past Sunday at Lakewood Church in Houston.  I kid, I kid, I'm not that ostentatious.  It was kind of cool to visit there, but as you can tell I'm not a big fan of televangelism.  I think it's cheap and watered down Christianity, and sure enough when Mr. Olsteen gave his sermon he didn't use a single passage from scripture but told a bible story and followed up with a feel good message of motivation.  Not that he was saying anything incorrect in his sermon, but I always long for something deeper when I come to church.  I will say this, I was impressed that afterwards he took the time to not just meet any visitor who wanted to meet him but he would actually take time to have conversation with them as well.  I waited in line for about a half hour before I got to talk to him, told him about the trip and he asked me a few questions about that and what I wanted to do when I got back, so I explained my limbo situation, he looked me in the eye and said "You'll do Great" " I know".  I met a Nigerian couple who were able to snap a photo so I'll try to get that from them soon.

I'm currently in Austin, Texas...staying with my good buddy Nathan Vassar and his new bride, Jessica, they've been incredible hosts and they are the first familiar faces I've seen in a month! I'm trying to decided now between Amarillo or El Paso but either way, I expect to be in the Rockies towards the end of this week. Thanks again for reading and for keeping me sane along the way!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Country Music Trail: Alabama & Tennessee Again

Obviously, I’ve been about almost two weeks behind on my blog posts. It’s now been 3 weeks since I left home.  I’m now about 20% through the journey and I felt God telling me I needed to slow down and reflect, so I decided to take the day off from the trip and hang out in a small town in Tennessee.  It’s hard to post, b/c a lot of places that claim to have high speed wi-fi actually don’t, some book places don’t have outlets for me to charge my computer, and this place actually has high speed so I’m taking advantage.  I want to blog more, b/c I am by myself a lot of the time and I do have a lot of thoughts racing through my mind which blogging allows me to sort of vent out.  So pardon me if my writing gets a little over the top and unhinged with these last few posts.

As I write this, a couple in the room next door continues to fight for whats now been well over an hour and a half.  The guy has his car started right now and the girl keeps chasing him back.  It’s breaking my heart to hear it right now b/c the girl is sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t know how many prayers I’ve had to lift up so far on this trip, lots of people out there have some problems.  I just want to go outside to get my socks man.  Anyways, I posted some pictures on facebook, I have a video camera which also takes snap shots, as well as some pictures on another camera which I haven’t loaded yet (photos of Charlotte, Charleston and the Cove).  I only uploaded a few from each place I was at although I’ve taken well over 250, I uploaded maybe 80.  When I get back home I will try and compile all of these into a video format. 

The Country Music Trail (CMT).

I stopped and got lost on a country road in Georgiana, AL after finding Hank William’s boyhood home.  I love doing that in every state to see what the countryside has to offer away from the interstate.  I made it up to Montgomery, AL and stayed there for a night.  Got up the next morning and hit the Hank Williams museum and stumbled on some type of weight lifting competition…it reminded me how much I missed lifting weights.  Something I haven’t done much of the past year, but I believe God has wanted to teach me about true strength as opposed to pseudo physical strength that I overly concerned myself with throughout college and early post-college.

Onward on I-65 towards Nashville, I got stuck in some traffic but I finally arrived this past Saturday.  I stayed at the Music City Hostel for two nights and loved it.  Such a different atmosphere than the last hostel I stayed at in New Orleans.  It was full of musicians and songwriters who grill out and jam on their guitars each evening.  It was a little cliquish, since some of them had been living there for a while, while trying to make it in the music industry.  I remember Chris from Britain and John who worked there, but I can’t remember the names of the others I met.  Saturday, I finally got to see the Grand Ole Opry…Little Jimmy Dickens approaching 90+ years old was hosting it and Joe Diffie was the main act, it was just cool to say I’d finally been there. 

Nashville was Paradise City for me.  Country music & cowboys hats were the norm, so what better place to go out and see if anyone would drop you a few bucks for playing?  I would never have done something like this in Harrisonburg, but here I figured I could get away with it.  I had forgotten how much I loved country music, the real kind.  Just like the mountains speak to me(I discovered I am not a beach bum), so does country music.  I do like other types of music but none of it gets to me quite like country.   So, I went out on 3rd and Broadway street and picked a spot where there was little people traffic…I was merely just out there to be a goof ball and have a good time so I tried to pick a little. in the picture my guitar strap actually broke off right as it was being snapped and I was trying to tune the thing.  I had some passer-bys take it the photo.  I was out there for maybe ten minutes…and decided that was long enough for me to check it off the bucket list. 

Playing My First Song at the Nashville Palace

Before I went to the Grand Ole Opry that Saturday, I had dinner at a place called Nashville Palace.  The guys playing there talked to me for a bit and asked if I played and if I wanted to come up and jam with them, I would have had I not had to be at the Opry.  The manager, Steve, told me I could come in tomorrow night and play so I did just that.  Steve was a really cool guy and had just started managing the place a few weeks ago, he told me Alan Jackson and Randy Travis(he thought it was Randy) had gotten their start there, and Alan Jackson used to wash dishes at this place.  I ended up playing Tracy Lawrences “Time Marches On”…and in my opinion, it was pretty bad, but it was the first time I’d ever performed(playing AND singing) in front of anybody, including family…although it took me 2 beers to do it.   Again, all for fun so who cares. 

Before I was up, there was a young lady who sang a few songs and had sung the night before as well.  She said on stage that she was from Winchester, VA.  I met her after, and apparently her and her family come to Nashville fairly regularly.  Her name is Heather Shannon, she’s a 16 year old, nice young lady who writes her own songs as well I think.  I figured I’d put in a word for her on the blog since she might be the next Taylor Swift.  She has an awesome voice.  You can check her out on YouTube and I think she has a MySpace account as well. 

The next day I went to the Country Music Hall of fame, then got a random inside tour of a Masonic Lodge.  The country music trail will end tomorrow in Memphis.  I think I’m finally caught up to speed here on the blog!  Thanks for reading!


New Orleans and a Barber Shop

The Radio

Along the trip, I’ve tried to listen to some radio stations in different states, you occasionally hear some songs that aren’t ordinarily played in your home area and I also like getting the state political scoop in each state.  In Georgia they were debating allowing alcohol to be sold on Sundays and I think Florida amended their constitution about six times while I was there (political humor ;-)  ).

New Orleans:

After being in Miami for a couple of days, I had to get this Latin Techno out of my brain, so it was sweet to hear some Jazz in the downtown streets of New Orleans.   I stayed at probably the most disgusting place I’ve ever been to in my life called the Marquette.  It was run by a couple of middle aged guys and I don’t think it had been cleaned for at least a year.  My roommate was a 45 year old guy who just got back from the Phillipines.  Apparently he’s been living off his military pension and his only valuables aside from the clothes he was wearing were the things in his backpack.  He comes back to the States, finds a small job to make some money and then he heads somewhere else again….I hope to God that I don’t get the traveling bug to that degree.

I arrived in New Orleans on the first day of Jazz fest.  It was a perfect time to be there, there were lots of people but it wasn’t as crazy as Marti Gras.  Although, I will say, people in New Orleans want it to be Marti Gras year around so I won’t speak any further on that.  I took a few photos (yes, of tasteful things only) and wondered around the French Quarter and Bourbon Street for a good part of the evening and when it got to the point where I was offered and asked if I had any cocaine about 4 times, as Michael Jackson would say, I figured it was time for me to just beat it.  I am lucky I survived that hostel. I only stayed in NO for a night, I could've gotten into some trouble there if I stayed.  The next day I went out to see some bayous and took I-10 east, back through Mississippi in order to get to I-65 north to take me through Alabama onward to Nashville, TN. 

It’s Growing In Nicely:

My beard has been growing out close to a month now, so it was more than due time for a good trimming.  What better place to stop at a barber shop than the state of Mississippi.  I got off of I-10 and went to a place call Long Beach, and was surprised to find a sign for a karate place run by some Hensley’s down there.  I stopped in at Ray’s Barber owned by father and son Ray and Jason Fountain.  It was a barber shop like no other, the conversations were awesome and it was everything that a true southern barber shop should be.  Jason trimmed my beard for me had some interesting stories.  He suffered a stroke a few years ago but that certainly didn’t stop him from talking about everything and anything from politics, the bible, weather, women and all the things that you SHOULD talk about at a barber shop.  Just a neat place I thought I’d talk about, so if you’re ever in the southern most part of Mississippi, be sure to stop by Ray’s Barber Shop!  Good guys there. 

Floridian Invasion Part II: Cocoa Beach and Miami

Cocoa Beach/ NASA

Cocoa Beach is a pretty chill place located next to Cape Canaveral.  This is also home to the Kennedy Space Center.  My second day in Cocoa, I spent practically the whole time at the Space Center.  I think the next shuttle launch is April 29th.  NASA is probably one of the few federal government agencies that I'm incredibly supportive of.  I would like to see more emphasis on this kind of forward thinking rather than our government busying itself trying to care for us from cradle to grave.  

Story Time:

Bouncing at the Sandbar?
Some of you saw my facebook status about taking a job as a bouncer so I thought I take a second to explain that one.  When I was a youngin' I saw the Patrick Swayze movie "Roadhouse"(probably too young the first time I saw it) and since I was a kid I always thought bouncing would be a cool thing to do.  I stopped in at a place called the Sandbar, which was a short walk from the motel I was staying at and I was told they have some good live music there.  Sometimes when I get bored, I'll strike up a conversation with a bouncer, server, bartender, whomever.  This time, I talked to the bouncer.  After talking to him for a while, we got into a conversation about bouncing as a job and how I always thought it'd be cool, without hesitating the guy (Mike) told me they were going to be hiring a couple more here soon to get ready for the busy season.  He ran and got his manager and I basically did an ad hoc, informal interview in which the manager told me I looked "healthy enough", big enough, I then hyped up my little bit of martial arts experience.  They basically said they rarely have to throw anybody out, so I flirted with the idea of staying in Cocoa for the spring and summer and cool would that be?  As cool as it may have been when I was 21 or 22, it would be major backtracking for me now, but it was fun to think about the possibility.  Jokingly, I tried to get an employee discount on my purchases.    

Surfer Dan:
My last day in Cocoa I got up early to get some surfing lessons in at Ron Jon's Surf Shop.  When I walked in an interesting looking fellow, probably close to 50 years of age approached me...he had a pony tail, lots of earrings and an interesting go-tee, he had the surfer look going on and he was to be my coach for the next hour or so.  Unfortunately, there were no waves, it was flat.  Dan was kind enough to show me some stuff free of charge since the waves were flat and I didn't really get to surf....what would have cost me $40 bucks cost me nothing and I still got 25 minutes worth of lessons.  Surfer Dan (he actually has another nickname that I can't remember) had an interesting story.  About 18 years ago he was driving home one night and his car got caught up underneath of a tractor trailer.  He had to have part of his face reconstructed and was told that he would never be able to walk without a crutch from then on out.  In his early 30's, shortly after this he was depressed until he discovered surfing.  As soon as he got on that board he forgot about his pain and walks around fine to this day (you can't even really tell that his face had to be reconstructed).  He said "it's therapeutic to me, I could be mad at something, but when I'm on that board, I may still be mad, but it doesn't bother me near as much".  He gives lessons to kids and is pretty well known around the area.  Dan was a really awesome guy and I highly encourage anybody who is in Cocoa and plans to take surfing lessons to take them from Dan and Ron's Surf Shop.  

What this taught me was the importance of having safety nets for happiness.  In addition to hobbies,  everyone should find something that is therapeutic and relaxing to them as well as something that is exhilarating and makes you feel alive.  Too much of one could make you lazy, and too much of the other could leave you with very low lows.  Find something that you can turn to when things get rough to take the stress away.

Ecclesiastes: Miami Edition

I may be one of a few people to ever say this, but I feel sorry for a lot of the people living in Miami, especially the South Beach area.  I stayed in Miami for 3 nights and lounged on the beach during the day, but honestly nothing exciting happened there.  I arrived on a saturday and spent literally a couple of hours in traffic and trying to find a hotel that was under 100 and had available rooms, the hostels were all booked.  I finally landed a hostel the last night I was there, Miami International Hostel, which actually was a pretty cool place.  I had 5 roommates:  2 from Paris, 2 from Munich and 1 from Amsterdam all of them except one of the Frenchmen spoke fairly good english.  I hit it off real well with the guys from France.  They were fairly politically knowledgeable as well, so I talked to them a bit about French politics..they were fairly to the left, weren't fans of Zarkosy, and thought the EU was a great thing.  The guy from Amsterdam, Sayeed, was probably one of the rudest people I've ever met.  Aside from him sitting on other people's beds, coming back to the dorm at 2 a.m. turning the light on and leaving it on until he was done doing whatever it was he was doing (which took 20 minutes), he also had the tendency to not know how to change his clothes in the bathroom rather than in the center room where all of us were sleeping.  Not aware of his surroundings or considerate of others, that perhaps sums up my perception of a lot of people there.

"Hot and Stuff"
Miami had some good cuban food though and I'll have to recommend Davids Cuban(?) off of Collins Street.  There was also a famous little pizza joint...I can't remember the name but my pizza box said "Hot and Stuff" so I'm assuming that was the name of the pizza place.  When I walked in, I didn't realize I was standing in a hall of greatness....I noticed that on the wall there were pictures of people who had visited this little place, people of such stature which towers that of R.E. Lee in was that of Paris and Nikki Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Terra Reid,  and some others whom I didn't recognize nor care to.  They did not look very happy in their photographs.  

I say I feel sorry for some down there because the culture was incredibly materialistic.  Many nice cars, nicely dressed, and of course incredibly attractive people.  Not that there is any wrong with that by any means, but I would hate to live there b/c it's a lot to keep up with.  It's like chasing the wind.  My interactions with people left me with the feeling that many were defensive and snobbish.  In most places, I've been able to have some good long conversations with different people....and other than my french roommates, that didn't occur here in Miami.  I did meet another homeless person, and broke bread(power bar) with him after someone else walked past him waving a pizza in his face.  People there only seemed to only know how to communicate by car-horn.  The beach, however, was quite nice, and I had a nice run on the boardwalk.

As you can imagine, I didn't like Miami.  I didn't fit down there, not even in the business district.  The experiences inspired me to re-read the book of Ecclesiastes.  When I was reading, I noted a couple of things within it which  I found interesting:  While I hope you enjoy some of the passage below, I will admit my perspective on this book in the Bible is slightly critical.  The author, whom could have been Solomon, almost tends to devalue life entirely by devaluing everything within it that makes  It shows the hopelessness of life before Christ.  I only post these, b/c they touched on some things that have been passing through my head the past few weeks.  Here are just some of the things that jumped at me:

"After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine.  And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness.  In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world." ch 2 v 3...he goes on to talk about the futility of seeking riches, then the futility of hard work.

"Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors.  But this too is meaningless-like chasing the wind.  Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin." ch 4 v 4-5.  

"Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool." ch 5 v 3.

Politics & Work
"Don't be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land.  For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy."

"Those who love money will never have enough.  How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!"

"It is good for people to eat, drink and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them and to accept their lot in life."

On Wisdom & Fools:
Quotes from Ch. 7: "A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time...Control your temper for anger labels you a fool......Don't long for 'the good old days' this is not wise."

Ch. 8 v 1 "How wonderful to be wise, to anlayze and interpret things, Wisdom lights up a person's face, softening it's harshness."  

Ch. 10 v 3 "You can identify fools just by the way they walk down the street!"  (I've experienced this quite a few times already).

On Investments:
Ch 11 v 2 "Divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead."  

On Youth:
Ch 11 v 9 "Young people, it's wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it.  Do everything you want to do; take it all in.  But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.  Refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy.  But remember that youth, with a whole life before you is meaningless."

Chap 12 v 12 "My child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful for writing books is endless and much study wears you out."


I entered Florida on March 28th and in a days time I drove through Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Daytona Beach.

St. Augustine is also for Lovers:

Part of my goal for this trip is to “scout” places I would potentially be willing to live at and places that would be good to take the family on vacation one day.

St. Augustine is another place that has a unique culture all it’s own.  Founded in the 16th Century, it’s the oldest existing port city in the United States today. It is a port city and in addition to the unique structures it also has a lot of pirate-y places and stuff.  There were mostly couples around the old city part, and family in the beach part so it could be a family trip too, but seems like a great place to go for couples.  A car in front of me half way down the trip had “just married” written on their jeep and were headed for St. Augustine as well.  It was close to nightfall when I got there so I didn’t get a lot of pictures but a very cool place.

I slept at a cheap place outside of Daytona Beach since I had been driving all day.  Other than the International Speedway and a beach, I didn't think there was anything overly significant there.  The next morning I drove around a bit and before getting on I-4 and heading for Orlando.


I liked Orlando, but it wasn't the greatest, partially because it rained the whole time I was there.  The first day I arrived in the early afternoon and didn't have time to do much but go to this TBN sponsored place called "The Holy City".  It was a little over the top.  Maybe take your kids there for good interactive biblical stories and lessons.  It was a neat set up though and if I had more time there I probably would have enjoyed it better.  But like everything TBN does, a little much.  

I spent the next day at Universal Studios and had a blast there and met some cool people as well.  I also met people from all over the east coast at the Jimmy Buffett restaurant at the City Walk.  I tried to at least stop by Cinderalla's Castle the next day, but it was pouring down raining and my windshield wipers weren't working, so I left Orlando.  It would be weird for a 25 year old man to go to Disney World by himself, so I'll save that one for the kids.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One of My Favorite Poems...

As I bum my way along the Florida Shores I've had a chance to get some reading done.  I'm trying to finish the Essentials of Robert Frost right now.  But "If" by Rudyard Kipling remains one of my all time favorites.  I try to live life accordingly to this poem as best as possible, it's a poem that should be memorized, and I thought I'd take a second to share it with you all...What would a roadtrip be without some good poetry?

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Wild West of East Atlanta & The Guidestones of Georgia


From Charleston I headed south on I-95 to Savanna and took some pictures. it seemed like a cool place but I simply can’t stop everywhere, so I hit I-16 for Atlanta that evening.  I-16 from Savanna to Atlanta has got to be one of the most boring drives in the Southeast.  It was about 11 p.m. before I decided to stop just a few miles outside the city at a Budget Inn.  The owner reminded me of a Persian Micky Mouse, with a highest pitched voice I have ever heard.  During the night, I was awoken at roughly 1:30 a.m. by the owner and some guy driving a “meat” truck…yes that’s what it said.  The two men were arguing for close to an hour...the argument was heated enough to make me want to keep ole betsy close by.

I stayed in Atlanta for 2 days...Mostly just to catch up on some reading and rest. I did the touristy thing around Olympic Park.  Atlanta offers a lot for vacationers, but in general, the city is not worth going to unless you have a specific reason to be there.  They have a neat underground part of the city and also have the world's largest aquarium. I did a tour of CNN and got to see, I believe it was Kiran Chetry, which was pretty cool but probably not worth the cost of 20 dollars.  My tour guide was from Richmond though...doesn't miss it.  I saw signs advertising for Wrestlemania 27 and contemplated coming back for that since they still had tickets available...I know what you're thinking and no, I do not watch wrestling but will admit that I did as a kid, and it would have been a dream come true for ten year old Joel to go the famous historical event in which Hulk Hogan scoop slammed Andre the Giant, Kane Tombstoned Pete Rose, when Mike Tyson punched Shawn Michaels....okay I'll stop now.  

Lastly, everybody told me to stay away from the West I decided to venture out to the West End and see what all the fuss was about...yes, it is pretty bad.  

The Georgia Guidestones: 

Since there isn't much happening on a Sunday, I went for a backwoods country drive east of Atlanta and found a little town there called Elberton.  Elberton is home to a neat little gem, tucked away in the middle of nowhere on some farm called the Georgia Guidestones.  Nobody knows who exactly established this 'monument' but the group that did so called themselves "The Guidestone Group" and it's leader went by the alias "RC Christian".  They chose the location since a lot of Granite is to be found there.  Surprisingly there were quite a few visitors who stopped by while I was hanging out. Adventure Rule #1 Always talk to the locals when travelling to creepy places.  I stopped by a gas station to ask for directions since the monument isn't advertised or listed on any map. I asked the woman there what the Guidestones were exactly and with big serious eyes she told me "It tells you how the world is going to end." Well, it didn't tell me that exactly when I got there, but making a stop to that creepy little town gas station served to hype things up.

Anyway, heres what the Guidestones said:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity. 
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language. 
  4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.  
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts. 
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials. 
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.  
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.

After reading them, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of nerds would take the time and money to come up with this stuff up, are they sneaky nerds or are they just rich morons who like to play pranks on people?  A few names crossed my mind but the nerd that stood out the most...Mr. Ted Turner. Since Ted Turner had just begun his CNN Empire around 1980 which is when the Guidestones were erected. He's also made some comments in the past regarding population reduction, so even if it wasn't him, he would probably agree with the some of the suggestions.

To everyone I just wanted to say thanks for all of txting, gchatting, calling me and even if I can’t answer you back right away know that I appreciate all the close contact very much!  Now about pictures, yes I have been taking a lot of pictures I just haven't had time to upload them yet. I will be doing that soon though.

From Cocoa Beach, FL