A Travellerspoint blog

Bus Thoughts

On Buses, Thinking Too Much and the Unpredictable Future

overcast 36 °F


I’m inspired. I would give almost anything for a pen right now. Sadly, I am pen less (which is almost as bad as penniless), and my journal remains unopened. Ah well, I’ll have to do this electronically and transpose it to paper later. This is the opposite of how this normally works.

I’m on a bus rolling north on Interstate 35. I’m a passenger. Why am I not a “passager”? Why is that “n” there? Now that is a perfect example of a bus thought. I’ve spent a lot of time on buses and trains this year. I’ve gone from the top of Michigan to the middle of Florida by bus or train. This has given me a lot of insight into the nature of this style of travel.

Here and Now

Parallel streaks of water slide down at a 15-degree angle from the top of the window. It distorts my view. The heavy gray ceiling hangs over drab landform of the plains below.

I’m listening to tunes on my I-pod. My songs: “Truth” by Alexander. “Some Say I’m Not” by Mason Jennings. “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. “How to Disappear Completely“ by Radiohead. “Islero“ by Crooked Fingers. The music creates a soundtrack to the movie of my life. I picture past events and put music to those moments. I’m vain enough to think it would be a cool video.

A minute ago, we passed an abandoned farmhouse and barn along side of the road. It would have been an easy scene to establish mood in a photograph. Three “D” words come to mind: Decay. Decrepit. Dreariness. Sadness hangs over that place, even the trees don’t want to grow. I wonder about it.

The dark afternoon suits my temperment for this ride. I’m a bit hung over today. I’m also a bit tired. Last nights adventure took my nephew, his future bride, and myself into downtown Kansas City. We ate and then went to the Blue Room over in the Jazz District. Have you heard of the Blue Room? It’s a Kansas City landmark, right on the corner of the Jazz District. Many Jazz legends have played the Blue Room. The proof hangs on the wall in the form of vintage black and white band photos. The music is good, the mood is light, the conversation flows. Two events surprise us: Free cake and a saxophone player. The latter being a musician of modest fame, who happened to be in town, and was packing his horn. The former was delicious. Both surprises are delightful.

My memories, the soothing landscape and my music are the order of the day.

On Thinking Too Much

Buses offer a lot of time to think. Alan Watts reminds us that, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. I’m not saying thinking is bad. Like anything else, it is useful in moderation. A good servant, but a bad master.”

So true.

What do I think about? My future. As a Zen free spirit, I find it amusing that I suffer from mild anxiety about my short-term future more often than I want to. I haven’t convinced myself that there isn’t anything to worry about. Everything will work out, as it should. Ram Dass has mused, “Isn’t that interesting? Far out, I still get uptight about this.”

Four Repeating Thoughts

My finances are dwindling. I may have to give up being a mariner. I don’t have another job lined up yet, though I am working on it. I’m tired of trying to figure out where to go.

These thoughts aren’t all that scary. I don’t know why I’m worried about it. I offer them to give a little insight into the mind of a wanderer. My life is different from most, and sometimes its not easy living on the very edge of stability. I feel like I’m coming to crossroads of my life. I can’t see the next path, yet, but I sense it is there. Which path should I take? And there’s the rub.
IMG_5076.jpg
This last paragraph has brought a smile to my face.

Posted by Rhombus 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged travel bus jobs philosophy roadtrips Comments (1)

Remembering Florida

My Favorite Memories of the Sunshine State

sunny 70 °F

Remembering Florida

Florida has been good to me. It's such a beautiful state - so full of life and color. It's a wonderful contrast to the chilly northern climates that I had been visiting. It was good to walk around in shorts again. It was good to swim in a river. It was good to sit around a bonfire under a starry sky. It was good to climb trees again. I ate a lot of amazing food. I did battle in my first paintball war in twenty years. I ate some of the best shrimp of my life in Apalaciacola. None of this would have been nearly as fun if it wasn't for my good friends and hosts, Clayton and Laura Lee.

Florida offered me many new experiences I wouldn't find anywhere else. I saw my first alligator. I ate my first alligator (it was delicious). I pulled an orange right off the tree and ate it for breakfast. I swam with manatees. I took a ride through a Florida swamp on an air boat. I built my first chicken coop. I ate the best strawberry you can get, and I snorkelled down a beautiful crystal clear river (see Soaring Through the Wild Blue). It was great.

Fireside Banjo Jam
DSC_7508.jpg
This is what it’s all about. I met up with my good friend Clayton on his farm way up in the panhandle of Florida. We spent 15 minutes cutting up a dozen pine logs and set up a good fire. The stars lit up the dark sky, accompanying the hanging crescent moon. We drank some beers. We played our banjos. We talked of life, and how good it is. This was my first night in Florida, and a damn fine one at that.

Stuck
IMG_4943.jpg
Clayton and I got back in his truck. He started it up, and stopped for a second. We could go straight across the sand lot, or we could turn around and stick to the parking lot. Clayton asked me, “Do you think we can make it?” I answered without really thinking about it, “Sure, let’s go for it.” Well, we went for it. We didn’t make it. The sand became deep halfway across and we sunk up to the axle. We were stuck.

After a half hour of futile effort, one call to a tow truck, and trying a few more bad ideas, a four pack of guys came to our rescue. The four of them lifted the back of the pick up and Clayton jammed a six by six log under the tire. Then we all pushed while Clayton spun his way to the road beyond. We escaped just before the tow truck arrived. It was a solid afternoon had by all.

Coop!
IMG_4998.jpg
Clayton needed to build a chicken coop for his chickens. I became excited about the idea, and drew up some elaborate blueprints of what Clayton wanted it to look like. I love sketching out the finished product almost as much as I like building them.

One afternoon we went out to the hardware store to buy the supplies, and the next day we started the build. It took a lot longer to build than I thought it would, but the end result looked a lot like how I envisioned it.
DSC_7524.jpg
I thought back to where I was two weeks before when I was wandering around downtown Manhattan. Now here I was building a chicken coop on a farm in rural Florida. I love the diversity of my life.

On Oranges
IMG_5070.jpg
Florida has the best oranges. Have you ever smelled an orange blossom? It is the most intoxicating perfume I've ever scented. Have you ever eaten an orange right off the tree for breakfast? I did. It was the juiciest most flavorful orange I have ever tasted.
IMG_5004.jpg

The Florida Wild

The following photos are from various parts of Florida. Florida is beautiful. It is full of birds, wildlife, flowers, gators, and some of the best trees I’ve ever seen. I love Florida’s trees. The white Cyprus and the giant live oaks are my new favorite, especially when covered in Spanish moss.

Florida Forests
IMG_5071.jpg
Terrapin
IMG_5056.jpg
Evening Tree Reflection
IMG_5019.jpg
White Cyprus and Spanish Moss
IMG_5005.jpg
Gulf of Mexico
IMG_4947.jpg
Female Grackles Walking the Swamp
55DE22812219AC681792DDD8D6A7B517.jpg
Male Grackle
DSC_7546.jpg
Swamp Vegetation
DSC_7559.jpg
Baby Gator
DSC_7569.jpg
Grackle Flight
DSC_7570.jpg
Ghost Fish
DSC_7585.jpg
Wood Ducks
55E1F7272219AC6817B70803788D84D6.jpg
Shamrock in Good Light
DSC_7646.jpg
Pitcher Plant Frog
DSC_7612.jpg
Lily Pads and Reflected Clouds
55E0B0FC2219AC681784A56824CDF922.jpg

My favorite part of Florida was spending quality time with my friends. Cheers!
IMG_4955.jpg
IMG_5053.jpg

Posted by Rhombus 11:02 Archived in USA Tagged turtles parks flowers wildlife friends florida photography forests oranges Comments (0)

Soaring Through The Wild Blue

A Unique Exploration of a Florida Crown Jewel

semi-overcast 78 °F


I am soaring through the wild blue. Superman is envious of my perfect form. The landscape below is interesting. I pass over huge bowls of limestone, their bottoms flat and sandy. I speed up as I glide over the lip - a victim of physics. The grasses on the sides of the rock reach out and try to grab me as I hurl along inches above their emerald tips. Then I pass over another rim of different rocky bowl. It is as though I’m filming one of the dramatic aerial scenes with an I-Max camera. You know this scene: The camera soars along a rocky mountain range before narrowly skirting by several jagged peaks and over the valley far below. The effect leaves the viewer thinking they are truly flying, though they are sitting firmly in their seat.

I am NOT sitting in a seat. I AM flying! A surge of tingles erupts at the base of my neck spreading downward through my body to the tips of my toes. I forget about everything, and start a series of lazy barrel rolls. My face holds a wide madman’s grin. This is as good as it gets.

Suddenly, I realize I have done one barrel roll too many. My intake is clogging and my engine coughs at the sudden moisture build up. I thrust myself upward and break through the surface of the water with a choking gasp. I force the water through my snorkel with a gust of breath that clears the airway. I pause for a moment to ease my breathing and take in my surroundings.

I’m bobbing along the Rainbow River in central Florida. It may be the most beautiful river I have ever seen. I think this is because of my choice of exploration technique. Snorkeling a river is far more intimate than other modes - kayaking or canoeing cannot compare. You can look at a beautiful woman, or you can make love with her. Which would you rather do?

Snorkeling reveals the underwater realms in their awesome hidden splendor. Now, I realize not all rivers are equal. Many rivers have terrible visibility-a condition of their hydrology, surrounding lands, trees, and geology. This is not my problem today. The Rainbow River has superb water clarity. The limestone beneath the river filters the water before releasing it by hundreds of springs. The springs on the Rainbow move so much water through that the entire river purges itself every four hours. This is a watery dream.

The water is relatively warm, holding through the winter months at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m wearing a thin wet suit, fins, snorkel and mask. I’m comfortable enough, though slowly getting chillier as the day goes on.

The river holds a steady one knot current. This doesn’t sound like much, but when soaring over those grassy rims of bedrock the flow enhances the feeling of weightless flying. I’m STILL grinning about it. This is a drift dive. This means the river current carries me downstream and I won’t be ending where I started.

The riverbed is beautiful. The main channel rises and falls. There are deep holes and shallow grass beds. I swim over steady sandy slopes and level bedrock. It is an interesting landscape unto itself. The swaying grass is mesmerizing. There are sunken logs and trees to explore, the hiding places for snails and turtles. The underwater springs percolate through the sand and bedrock, often changing my speed as I float over them. Some of the springs were large “caves” that I dove down to explore.

The wildlife under water is tolerant of me. I watch two different types of turtles. They held still for a minute before paddling off to hide in the dense grasses. One of them was a good-sized slider; its bright lines along its head and tail were very vibrant in the bluish clarity.

I love interacting with fish under the water. I didn’t bother them at all. To them, I was just a very strange ungainly fish (to be fair, I have no idea what a fish‘s opinion of me is). There are small schools of bluegills swimming around me. I wiggle the tip of my index finger at them. Sure enough, one of them stops, turns around, and looks at me face-to-face - mere inches apart. It slowly swims up and gives my finger a quick peck to see if it was edible. Realizing it isn’t, it swims off. I did this to other bluegills, and had two fish come up to me and peck me on the eye of my goggles. It was so cool!

I also saw a large gar in one of the deeper holes. The gar is an interesting looking fish with a long narrow crocodile like snout. It had beautiful one-inch spots on its body, to aid in camouflage and artistic delight.

The dive is over and I pass my gear up to the dive captain before climbing up the ladder. I sit down, dripping water, and shivering. I reflect on my day and smile.

One of my philosophical mantras is, “Go with the flow.” Well, today, I did just that.
P1190255.jpg

Posted by Rhombus 11:10 Archived in USA Tagged turtles snorkelling fish water rivers flying springs florida exploration Comments (2)

From Philadelphia to Washington D.C.

Walking in the Footsteps of History, Walking Through Philadelphia, An Amazing Three Days in Washington D.C.

sunny 40 °F

I have no interest in politics, but I have a keen interest in history. I’ve been walking in the footsteps of my forefathers from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. In a historical sense, these two cities are among the most important to our country. Our chief revolutionaries met in Philadelphia to strategize the birth of our nation in the late 1700‘s. Their successors moved the whole kit and kaboodle to Washington D.C. in 1800 - the newly minted capital.

The Potpourri of Philadelphia
Philadelphia.jpg
I’m well into a seven-hour walk through the streets of Philadelphia. It’s a good day for walking. The sun is bright, gliding through wintry pale blue skies. It’s brisk and downright cold in the shadows. But I’m moving fast, and feeling warm in my woolen layers. I tuck into a coffee shop for a cup of warmth. It tastes amazing. I pull out my notebook and make a few notes about my day.
DSC_7347.jpg
In Philadelphia, it’s easy to get a sense of what the city looked like in the old days. Much of the old city is just as it was hundreds of years ago. The brick buildings have a colonial clean look to them. However, the tenants drive cars around the narrow cobblestone streets instead a horse and carriage.
DSC_7343.jpgIMG_4862.jpg
I’ve walked all around the old city following signs that point the way to historical landmarks. The signs are helpful. Many of the old locations in Philadelphia stand among modern businesses and buildings. So far, I have seen Betsy Ross’s quaint brick house. I peered through the wrought iron bars at Benjamin Franklin’s Grave. I paid my respects to the unknown revolutionaries buried in Washington‘s Square.
DSC_7334.jpg
My heart beat a little stronger as I walk around Independence Hall. I’m not sure if its patriotism or if I’m realizing that I’m walking in the same footsteps as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Hancock among many others. What is it like to overthrow a government and create your own? It must be an awesome feeling. On the one hand, you fervently believe your cause is just. Yet terrifying to think about what you are actually doing. At the time of the American Revolution, nobody had overthrown a government before.

Beyond that, I like Philadelphia’s trees. When combined with the deep shadows formed from the low angled winter light, they are beautiful.
IMG_4870.jpgDSC_7321.jpg
DSC_7335.jpg

Three Days In Washington D.C.

I push open the front doors of Union Station and step out into Washington D.C. I’m not sure where I am. When I look out at the city, I see the U.S. capital building in the distance. I know the capital is south of where I am, and therefore, my hostel is west. I turn right and walk two hundred yards. Sure enough, there is Massachusetts Avenue right where it ought to be. I tighten the straps of my pack and walk on.

I check in at my hostel. I grab my pack and head out for the National Mall. It takes me 15 minutes to get down to mall. I only have three days to explore the mall. I know I cannot see it all, but I can explore several museums and monuments.
DSC_7366.jpg
I turn into Joe Tourist. I’ve never to Washington, and I aim to make the most of my visit. The first thing I see is the Washington monument. I’m impressed. It’s a cool monument.
6879E4E22219AC68178900083CFB1179.jpg
I walk along a straight path bordered by trees with birds singing in them. For some reason, I really like this trail. I think it is the warmth of the day. I’m happy to see the soggy green grass of the park. It reminds me of early spring. Where there are signs of spring, there is a sign of hope. And I’m digging my life.
DSC_7393.jpg
There is an impassive ranger standing against a pillar in Lincoln’s main chamber. He looks as though he is thoroughly sick of tourists and all that goes along with them. I can’t blame him, we tourists mob Lincoln’s statue as if it’s a celebrity. There is a sign at the top of the stairs that attempts to set a quiet, reflective mood when viewing Lincoln. Instead, the braying calls from camera toting tourists echoes throughout the main chamber.
DSC_7382.jpgDSC_7380.jpg
Lincoln is much bigger in person. He looks a bit haggard sitting on his throne, as if he had too much to drink the night before. I prefer the deserted side chambers that have two of Lincoln’s speeches etched into the wall. As a writer, I can admire the Gettysburg address for its succinct prose. It’s not easy to say so much with so few words.
DSC_7418.jpgIMG_4905.jpg
I like the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Wall. They are both moving in their own way, a reminder of the true cost of war: human lives.
DSC_7431.jpg
It grew dark and I find myself somewhere out in the middle of the mall. To the west, a brilliant sunset bloomed right behind the Washington monument. It’s the best sunset I’ve seen this year, and I can’t help but admire my timing.
DSC_7443.jpg
To the east, the capital building glows white against the darkening sky. It’s beautiful in its own right, but it doesn’t compare to sunset behind me. I turn around and watch the orange glow of the clouds fade as the monument grows brighter under the floodlights.
DSC_7456.jpg

The Museums
DSC_7486.jpg
I knew before I set foot in D.C. that I would never be able to see all of the museums given my limited time. I didn’t want to race through them in a mad attempt to see everything. I wanted to enjoy each museum for everything it was worth.

With that mindset, I’m going to mention the museums I visited, and which exhibits struck my fancy.

Smithsonian Museum of American History
IMG_4884.jpgIMG_4887.jpg
This was one of my favorite museums. I saw Horatio Jackson’s automobile. Jackson was the first person to cross America by auto long before there were any reliable roads. I saw Julia Child’s Kitchen (which would have made my mom happy). I saw the gold spike that marked the completion of the first continental railroad. I saw the 30 by 38-foot Star Spangled Banner that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem.

Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian
I played an interactive Peon Game of the Kumeyaay tribe. I loved the song they sing while playing. I like the exhibit about the Mohawk ironworkers. I would like to learn more about the Tohono O’ odham people of the American southwest. There were dozens of beautiful hand crafted items with each exhibit. I am in awe of the craftsmanship and detail put into each piece.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
IMG_4917.jpg
I saw Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” and The Wright Brothers “Flyer.” I really enjoyed World War I flying ace Ray Brooks’ story of facing eight Fokkers in a hellish dogfight. “It got to the point where I tried ramming the other planes, to see if I could knock them out of the sky.” I enjoyed the exhibit about Aircraft Carriers and I learned how fighter pilots launch and land their jets on a pitching deck of a ship at sea. I liked this museum more than I thought I would.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
IMG_4926.jpg
By far my favorite display was the Nature Photography Contest Winners. The photographs were stunning. When I left, I wanted to get my camera and head out into the wild.

National Portrait Gallery, West Building
I didn’t give myself nearly enough time in this gallery. I stopped in for an hour as I had an hour to kill. This museum was full of gorgeous paintings, portraits, sculptures and the like. My favorite pieces are Thomas Cole’s “The Voyage of Life.” I could look at these paintings all day without tiring of them.

Smithsonian Museum of American Portraits
IMG_4938.jpg
This museum has later hours than most of the galleries on the mall. I stopped in after dinner for an hour to walk through the main level. One exhibit was about Amelia Earhart. The single piece that caught my eye was her pilot license. Her photograph is beautiful. I wonder why the government started using mug shots of people instead of a beautiful likeness such as this. My passport photo makes me look like a homicidal killer with social interaction problems.

This museum also featured large-scale sketches from contemporary artists. I love to sketch, but I’ve never showed much talent in my art. These pieces were mesmerizing. How can they draw the human form so accurately?

International Spy Museum
I love this museum. This museum is completely interactive, giving you the chance to spy on your fellow tourists. For example, I climbed through an air vent. The goal was to pass through without making any noise. It was simple enough, but it put me into a sneaky mindset for the rest of the museum. I loved listening to the stories about famous spy rings, and dangerous escapes. The museum was full of interesting gadgets and tools of the trade. Spies used many of these clever devices in the field during World War II and the cold war. They seem clumsy to use by today’s standards, but cutting edge back in 1944.

I could have spent all day in this museum alone, but alas, I had to go.

I didn’t spend nearly enough time in Washington D.C. Three days is not enough. If I was planning a trip to D.C. I would plan to spend at least a week if I could spare the time. There is so much to do and see. I only scratched the surface with my visit.

Like MacArthur, I shall return.

Next week? Florida!

Posted by Rhombus 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged museums cities walking history monuments photography americana philadelphia Comments (2)

The New York City Sessions

Photographs From a Week in the New York City Area

overcast 33 °F

The New York City Sessions


New York has been good to me. I’ve spent this past week exploring the city and surrounding lands. I’ve seen a lot, and have collected a healthy stock of images that I want to share with you.

Fire Island
DSC_6743.jpgDSC_6749.jpg

New York City in Pictures

The city is more approachable than I thought it would be. I love walking through New York. I can see why there are photographers who spend their entire careers here. Every street is different. Every street carries its own vibe.

Walking in Manhattan is like exploring a massive canyon system full of interweaving maze of steep U shaped valleys. Instead of a river, there are the streets, teaming with cars and people like water over rocks.

The lighting is beautiful. It changes throughout the day and time of year. The light bounces off the side of the wall of tall buildings and glass.
woodside_platform.jpgDSC_7094.jpgDSC_6994.jpgDSC_6954.jpgDSC_6805.jpgDSC_6802.jpgDSC_6790.jpgDSC_6785.jpgDSC_6769.jpgDSC_6773.jpgIMG_4815.jpgDSC_7163.jpgIMG_4836.jpgIMG_4831.jpg

Street Scenes
DSC_6976.jpgDSC_7108.jpgDSC_7083.jpgDSC_7069.jpg5CE926042219AC68170B1A053D0919A2.jpgDSC_7022.jpgIMG_4826.jpg

Central Park
DSC_6817.jpgDSC_6827.jpg5CE3E1BF2219AC68175CA01347AE4F35.jpgDSC_6830.jpgDSC_6915.jpg5CE4F80E2219AC6817CF03A2ED0C0CC6.jpgDSC_6918.jpgDSC_6936.jpg

The Brooklyn Bridge
DSC_7127.jpg
I really wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I read about its construction in David McCullough’s book, “The Great Bridge” some years ago and wanted to see it for myself.
DSC_7135.jpgDSC_7145.jpgDSC_7132.jpg
I started out on the Brooklyn side. I wanted to get some perspective from Brooklyn Bridge Park. From here, I could see both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. The park was deserted, my friend and I the only ones brave enough to face the chilly winter air. I didn’t mind. I love deserted parks.

To walk the promenade across the bridge is to walk across history. The story of this bridge is fascinating. John Roebling designed it, then died from having his foot crushed on site. His son Washington took over, but was disabled and bed ridden by Caisson disease. His wife Emily became his eyes, ears for the project, directing the workers and engineers with written orders from Washington. The bridge was complete in 1883, and has been the link between Brooklyn and Manhattan ever since.
DSC_7183.jpgDSC_7206.jpgDSC_7207.jpgDSC_7209.jpg

The New Paltz Old Cemetery
DSC_7231.jpg
I found this cemetery walking through the town of New Paltz, NY. The side light of a wintry mid winter afternoon lit the old headstones beautifully. I enjoy walking through old cemeteries. They are peaceful, a good place to reflect.
DSC_7258.jpgDSC_7295.jpgDSC_7281.jpgDSC_7273.jpgDSC_7286.jpgDSC_7285.jpgDSC_7277.jpg
I may never make it back here again. However, it won't be from lack of trying. New York is amazing, and if you get an opportunity, go. Spend a couple days walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Spend some time in Central Park. Take a bite of the Big Apple, I think you'll find it delicious.
DSC_7126.jpg
I know I did.

Posted by Rhombus 16:56 Archived in USA Tagged bridges parks streets rivers walking newyork manhattan photography brooklyn cemeteries Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 189) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »