Archive for the 'Travel' Category

The End of Summer Blues and Promises not Kept

Sometimes even dogs get the blues
I, probably not at all unlike most people at this time of year – most of all students, feel the End-of-Summer Blues coming on.  As I find myself approaching middle age, these post summer pangs are probably a bit worse than when I was merely a student with little else to worry me than another year of bully-induced aggression and education-induced drudgery.  For now, I view the end of summer as yet another milestone from which to measure failure, goals I did not meet, and promises not kept.

So let’s see how I did:

Goal: I’m going to go camping with the family
Result: The camper never made it out of storage and now sits unused under a black walnut tree covered in blackened walnut effluvium

Goal: This Summer I’m going to read more
Result: I read 2 chapters in the book I started on New Years (the last time I had a resolution to read more)

Goal: Take the family to parks more
Result: I took the kids on 3 occasions (we’ll call that partially met)

Goal: Take the family swimming
Result: Again, partially met – we went swimming together as a family 3 times

Goal: Take the boy to an amusement park and ride some really big roller coasters
Result: By some last minute maneuvering, I achieved one! With 2 months of constant prodding – and an almost immaculate confluence of weather, schedules, and finances – I was able to take him to an amusement park and he really enjoyed.

And even though I usually hate the crowds and commercialism, I really enjoyed it too. From the grizzled, middle-aged (and maybe hackneyed) perspective of someone who realizes this: when I am gone special memories like this may perhaps stand out and allow my son to remember me more fondly (than as the distracted workaholic he might otherwise envision) and to set a better example for his kids.

I know this is the true “theme” that these theme parks pimp and have programmed into hapless parents like myself, yet it is probably one of the few advertising gimmicks that has some ring of truth to it.  Spend a day with your kids, don’t think about anything else, and share a memory that might live on a little beyond yourself.

When your daily work, missed goals, and failures are forgotten, this is the one thing that remains and lives on: the fond memories of your friends and loved ones – perhaps at least one reason to feel less blue. 

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In the Garden of the Gods with the Truffle-Truffle Trees

Probably the biggest (and only) role of government could be summed up as this: “Keep the big guys from stepping on little guys.”  This often means that we have to protect the public from itself.  For instance in the case of public parks, we need to keep people who want to enjoy nature and open spaces from people who need to use these spaces for commercial interests so they can have a job. 

Nowhere is this role better demonstrated and fulfilled than in the U.S. National Park Service.  Founded by President Teddy Roosevelt (even though you can barely tell by the poor coverage of this topic on their website), the National Park Service is government at its best.  One might argue that we could do without Big Bird and the Rural Electric Association, but managed open space in the form of national parks truly benefits all.

Boulder Beach

I got to enjoy a slice of this reserved open space on a recent trip to the high desert Joshua Tree National Park.  It is good (and should be a prerequisite) that as you drive to this park from LA that you see every available hill and mountaintop capped with multi-million dollar mansions.  It makes you appreciate this open space all the more and you quickly realize what might have happened without government intervention.

Truffle Truffle Tree

The park is best know for its desert landscape (the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet in the park), huge rockpiles, and, of course, the Joshua Tree.  The park’s namesake, the Joshua Tree, reportedly got its name from the Mormon immigrants who thought it looked like the Biblical Joshua beckoning their people from the desert to the promised land.

In describing these fantastic trees, even the normally reserved Park Service is forced to write something interesting. As Jane Rodgers does in her article (published on the web and in the literature given to visitors) “I Speak for the Trees” in which she compares them to trees from Dr. Seuss books and describes their history – oddly enough starting out as humble lilies.  Just as all living things are dependent and connected, the Joshua tree depends on the Yucca moth for pollination.  And the Yucca moth on the Joshua for seeds for its developing young -a simple and perfect example of symbiosis. 

Adapting and flourishing in one of the harshest environments in the United States, these trees are a fitting symbol for rugged American Indians and early pioneers: rugged, tough, adaptive, and utterly unique. 

Joshua Looks into the Valley

Go West Young Man!

I’ve flown to the Left/West Coast maybe 20 times in my life and yet I never cease to be amazed by the scenery.   The variety and range of landscapes is truly awe-inspiring and makes even a jaded traveler like myself spend most of my time gazing longingly out of the window.

Springtime in the Rockies I

It is almost as if the country feels guilty for making you view the intense monotony of the Great Plains, that it feels it must reward you with some of the most striking scenery imaginable once you pass Denver.

Moon-scapes, Mars-scapes, Snow-capped Mountains, Red Rocked Canyons, Granite Deserts, and fractal patterns of almost every make and description.

Fractalscape III

And all of this amazement is only further increased by the realization that people were once so determined that they crossed this forbidden wasteland on foot.  Does any of the toughness and determination of these hardy predecessors live on today? 

I hope so – certainly free land is an potent motivator.  Recently an Alaskan town gave away free land and had plenty of takers – although these modern day homesteaders are more likely to be driving Ford Taurus-rather than Conestoga- wagons – I suspect they are the same hardy, adventurous sort.  May they meet with similar success.