Anniversary Season: A Look Back

A year ago, I parked my car on Citrus Ave after dropping my dad off at the airport, sat on the couch/my temporary bed with my buddy Rob and his roommates, and anticipated the start of a new journey. I had accomplished the task of driving cross-country in my brand new car, with my brand new computer, and my entire wardrobe of Boston Sports T-Shirts and Sweatshirts and arrived at the start of my brand new life.

The road trip was a great opportunity to catch a glimpse at some parts of the country I would have never been, but on a deeper level it was also a great chance to simultaneously take my mind off the big jump I was about to take, and also mentally prepare myself for it. That seems strange to say, but does make sense in that you need distractions when freaking out about something for too long or you’ll just go crazy. The whole trip I was nervous every time I thought about moving to Los Angeles, but when I was marveling at the Grand Canyon, none of those thoughts came into my head. While a plane trip is still long enough to go through those thoughts, I feel that I matured a bit on the road trip by having been through it and witnessed the sights I’ve described throughout the week.

Taking this week to look back on a very important and literal crossroads in my life was another excuse to reflect on the past year. In fairness, I shouldn’t say excuse, a year out of school and into a new life is a pretty big deal. If you’ve read any of my other reflection-based posts, it’s not secret that this time has gone by too quickly. One thing I may not have mentioned is how unexpected this whole year has treated me.

Obviously, going in, I didn’t know what to expect, or at least knew that I shouldn’t expect to never be surprised by what happens. But despite that, I had a general idea of what would likely happen. It didn’t end up going as I had tentatively planned. For example, I would have thought I’d have some sort of full-time job by now. Not that I’m complaining, things happened they way they did and at this point all I can do is just push onward and hope it doesn’t take another year for that to happen.

I always tell myself this when dwelling on the unemployment thing, but it’s not like I haven’t had ANY work, and it’s not like I haven’t brought in ANY income. It’s just been a struggle on both ends. I’ve settled into a freelancer/intern situation that has given me a couple outlets for creative expression through the art of editing, and while neither of these ventures are salaried positions, I’ve been content with the opportunity to acquire skills that will hopefully help secure a similar but full-time job. But I can’t ignore my lesson learned from the previous paragraph – it may not happen at all like I hope or think it will.

What I can look forward to is continuing to ride this wave that’s been ebbing and flowing through all of 2009, into 2010. With a year under my belt, I know that there will be dry spells, there will be busy spells, and I know how to better deal with both the highs and the lows. Maybe this year the highs will be higher and the lows may be lower. I can only expect to be surprised by how unexpectedly things may go. I know what I want to accomplish – finding that full-time job, seeing through the projects I started last year, get back into writing, take improv classes, to name a few. Even with those goals thought out, who knows what will happen?

Anniversary Season: Day Seven – Las Vegas/Hoover Dam, Nevada

Our seventh and final day on the trip took us on a quick detour through Nevada. Nothing could top the Canyon from yesterday, but the man-made sites of Hoover Dam and Las Vegas almost wowed me in a completely different way. Two vastly different spectacles of human construction and architecture, the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas are worlds apart, yet only about 45 minutes apart.

Coming from Arizona, we drove over the Hoover Dam, which happens to be the line between Mountain Time and Pacific Time. The traffic across the bridge is a bit heavy, as there’s a security check point and the cars have to move almost slow enough to turn back time, if the time zone switch didn’t take care of that already.

Once we got to the dam, we appeased the historians in us and took advantage of the $15 visitor center fee to learn some interesting things about the dam’s origins and construction. I won’t bore you with those details, let’s just say it’s amazing how impressive a structure it is considering the era it was made, and considering how much it positively affected a struggling economy. (see: the Great Depression)

Attempting to do it justice with regard to it’s massiveness, here’s a good picture from the visitor center. It’s too big to get a wide shot of, but this is the widest I could get.

Hoover Dam, Nevada

Hoover Dam

You can see some pedestrians walking across the bridge on the top giving some aspect of a scale.

After witnessing this man-made masterpiece, we drove down to Vegas to witness some other artificial spectacles in the middle of the desert. What other place could you see a Castle, a Pyramid, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower within the same half mile of each other that’s not a video game?

We didn’t spend much time in Vegas, just a few hours of touristy sightseeing. We’re not big gamblers us Glasses. I had never been there, and I just wanted to see what it was all about. It was different but as outrageous as I was expecting, and eventually I’ll come back for more traditional Vegas outing.

After doing the crash course on the Vegas Strip scenery, we made the 4 1/2 hour drive to Los Angeles, our final destination on the road trip, and my future city of residence.

In Barstow, we caught back up with the old Route 66, and I almost bought out the store’s worth of memorabilia, but decided against it, tired from a week of driving, and wanting to finally get settled into my new life.

So that’s the end of the trip. We sat at the bar in the hotel on Friday night, amazed that we came so far, survived an iced storm, didn’t fall off either the Grand Canyon or the Hoover dam, and left lost Vegas only having lost the money we spent on a meal and the pointless “check out the back of this hotel” tram rides. This is definitely the kind of trip one never forgets, and luckily I have the pictures and now the hilariously insightful blog posts to help remind me.

Look for a longer reflection sometime late Sunday night, I’ll pour my soul out on what the road trip meant to me, and how I feel about the past year of my life. It will be heavy stuff, get your tissues ready.

I leave you with one final bonus picture, an “after” picture of what a week’s worth of driving cross-country will do to a brand new Honda Civic.

Dirty Car

Wash Me

Relax, it did get washed.

Previous Days:

Day Six – Grand Canyon, Arizona

Day Five – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Day Four – Lubbock, Texas

Day Three – Little Rock, Arkansas

Day Two – Memphis, Tennessee

Road Trip Begins

Anniversary Season: Day Six – Grand Canyon, Arizona

Day Six was a great day for sightseeing. As I hinted at yesterday, we went to one of, if not the most spectacular natural occurrences the nation has to offer. I was completely amazed, took about a thousand pictures, and was overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of it. More on this later.

I should really say “Big Holes in the Ground, Arizona” as my title, because before seeing the Grand Canyon today, we stopped off at the Meteor Crater, a few miles off of I-40. The crater was created well before humans were around, and while it isn’t big enough to be the one that killed off the dinosaurs, it was quite large – almost a mile across and 550 feet deep. Obviously, there’s a visitor center with a museum and gift shop, but being able to walk up to the rim and look down into it was pretty great. In addition, at the highest point of the visitor’s walkway, you can get a great panoramic view of the entire area around the crater, which really isn’t much as it’s in the middle of the Arizona desert, but was peaceful and beautiful nonetheless. Here’s a bonus video of the panorama around the crater:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Panorama, Meteor Crater“, posted with vodpod

Onto the Canyon. As I said, I was floored by the natural beauty of this place. I really didn’t know what to expect except that it was large canyon. It was bigger than I expected, it was more beautiful than I expected, and it was even more peaceful than I expected.

There were so many pictures to choose from, (and I have even more from when my family came back in July), but here’s a good example of what amazed me about the whole scene –

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon

This picture is a good example of the vastness of the scenery, as it includes a tree in the foreground for perspective. One good thing to note is how much the canyon itself looks like a painting – the rims at points are several miles apart, and like in this picture, depending on where you look it’s too big to even resemble a conventional canyon.

I really still can’t fully explain my feelings toward the Canyon. That’s why I took so many pictures, every visual was worth keeping to me, and while a picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s a great reminder of the initial amazement I felt upon first glimpses at these formations.

Tomorrow was our final day on the trip, where we sneak up to Las Vegas for a few hours before going down to our final destination of the City of Angels.

Previous Days

Day Five – Sante Fe, New Mexico

Day Four – Lubbock, Texas

Day Three – Little Rock, Arkansas

Day Two – Memphis, Tennessee

Road Trip Begins

Anniversary Season: Day Five – Sante Fe, New Mexico

Day Five saw much better weather, which allowed us to clear our way out of the large state of Texas. We eventually caught back up with 1-40 in a town called Santa Rosa, which happened to be our first run in with the famed Route 66, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, and was long considered “The Mother Road” for cross-country travelers. Since 1984 the route itself is no longer a nationally commissioned highway, and many parts of the original roadway no longer exist.

But fortunately for many fledgling Route 66 historians, like myself throughout the remainder of this trip, many of the businesses and tourist traps that lined the route are still in existence today.

Route 66 Diner, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

The Route 66 Diner in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

1-40 follows most of the old route through the South/Mid West, from Arizona to Oklahoma, and many parts of 1-40 have business loops that go through the town centers, instead of around them as many of the interstate highways do. A good portion of those “Business-40” loops were once Route 66, so we took some detours to view old diners and shops like this one above.

After Santa Rosa, we drove up to Sante Fe, which is the oldest city in America, dating back to the Pueblo Nation in the 11th and 12th centuries. There were some cool, old-looking buildings there, including the nation’s oldest Church, and oldest house.

While the drive up was a bit boring – a hilly road off of I-40, the ride down was fantastic. It was around sunset, and as we drove down the mountain where Sante Fe perches, and through Albequerque to get back on the interstate, we were facing a great sunset. Here’s a bonus picture, free of charge –

Sunset over I-40

Sunset over I-40

Our final destination on Day Five was another city on the old Route 66 – Gallup, New Mexico. We went for some real Mexican food, and then did a little exploring through the city’s main street, which was once part of the route.

Tomorrow we follow the old path of Route 66 into Arizona, and I finally get to see one of the country’s biggest and most amazing natural phenomenon. If you can’t tell what I’m hinting at, just come back and find out. Even if you know what I’m talking about, come back and read about it.

Previous Days

Day Four – Lubbock, Texas

Day Three – Little Rock, Arkansas

Day Two – Memphis, Tennessee

Road Trip Begins

Anniversary Season: Road Trip Day Four – Lubbock, Texas

Day Four of the Cross-Country road trip gave us a little bit of a scare. Yesterday after Little Rock, we attempted to go through Texas on I-20 instead of staying on I-40 and driving through Oklahoma and what was supposed to be a huge ice storm in the midwest. Unfortunately for us, the storm went down to Texas, and we barely made much progress past Dallas today. The roads were pretty horrible, the car would slip if we went over 40 mph. We made an executive decision to go as steady as we could and as far as we could until it didn’t make sense to drive anymore.

That decision took us through Abilene, a quiet town that almost seemed like a ghost town from a movie, but turned out to be the birthplace of Jessica Simpson. We stayed there for lunch and to wait out the storm, then headed back on the ice pack toward Lubbock.

Once we reached our destination, it was a bit earlier than any of our previous final destinations, but due to the in-climate weather, we decided to stay. We went to dinner, then caught “The Wrestler” at a local movie theater.

Lubbock is a college town – home of Texas Tech, (Not Texas A&M…I guess confusing those two is like confusing BU and BC) so despite it being slightly empty due to the ice, it resembled some of college towns I’ve been to over the years. Upon further research and observation, we found out that Lubbock is the birthplace of music legend Buddy Holly. In fact, the Buddy Holly Center is located here.

Buddy Holly Center - Lubbock, Texas

The Buddy Holly Center

Unfortunately, it was close when we left, but man if we ever find ourselves back in Lubbock, this is destination Numero Uno to visit for sure.

Tomorrow, Day Five, we attempt to travel out of Texas. Do we make it? Come back to find out!

Previous Days

Day Three – Little Rock

Day Two – Memphis

Road Trip Begins

Anniversary Season: Road Trip Day Three – Little Rock

Day Three took us past the Mississippi River and into Middle America. The scenery changed instantly – flat ground for miles and miles, and strong gusts of wind that you could feel moving the car back and forth slightly. Hints of an upcoming ice storm that we were going to hit.

Our only stop today was at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. This building was pretty much the only reason for stopping in Little Rock; it was a lengthy horizantal glass structure right next to an old bridge over the Arkansas River.

Clinton Library, Little Rock

The Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas

Inside was a number of interested artifacts from Clinton’s presidency, including a replica of the Oval Office. The Library itself was on the top floor and for those really fascinated by the man and his legacy. For the general public, there was a museum-like showcase of the important things that happened during his time as President, including a rundown of major events in each of his 8 years.

There were some light-hearted pieces of memorabilia, including a picture of his cat Socks, and his collection of saxophones.

Tomorrow is Day Four, our first day in Texas. As I said before, we ran into some weather issues, which delayed our plans a bit. Check out the site tomorrow to find out more.

Previous Days:

Day Two – Memphis, Tennesee

Road Trip Begins

Anniversary Season: Road Trip Day Two – Memphis

Day two of our road trip took us to Tennessee, where 6 months earlier I had the privelege of attending the Bonnarroo Music Festival, to see such great acts as Metallica, Pearl Jam, Ben Folds, Jack Johnson, BB King, Chris Rock and a whole lot more.

This time around we went straight to Memphis, specifically for the purpose of seeing the famous Graceland, where Elvis and his family lived (and also where he died, but we won’t talk about that).

The house was pretty impressive, most if not all of the rooms were kept just how they were when he was still living (cleaned up a bit I’m sure). The back shed was converted into a shrine of sorts – all of his gold and platinum records, memorabilia, his vegas outfits, the works.

In the back, there was another sort of shrine – the gravesites of him and his immediate family.


The Priestly Family laid to rest

Elvis’ countless fans have sent flowers to Graceland over the years, for this precise purpose. In fact, we had only missed his birthday by a couple weeks. I’m sure it would have been a much crazier and somber scene at Graceland if we had been there at that time.

After taking in all Graceland had to offer, we explored downtown Memphis a bit. We had dinner at BB King’s Blues Club on the famous Beale St. Great Memphis BBQ and some great live blues acts performing right in front of us on the stage. And we got a couple of huge tall boy pint glasses to boot.

That’s it for day two, check in tomorrow for day three, where we stop through Little Rock, Arkansas.

Previous Days:

Road Trip Begins