Category Archives: Travel


After two weeks of leading a jet-setter lifestyle, crisscrossing the country in economy class, and enjoying only the finest plastic cups of Canada Dry, I have returned home. Ahh, Hood River, where all the postal clerks know my name, I have the EDGE network all to myself, and there are no more than two places to eat in town.

Having flown on no less than eight flights and two different air carriers over the last couple weeks, I feel I am in a position to accurately report on the current state of air travel in our nation. Here’s the gist of it: Fewer flights, packed flights, longer flights. It’s a totally awesome combination, considering that you are free now even from the in-flight burden of consuming a bag of three broken pretzels. As far as I can tell, air carriers are running fewer flights to most destinations, and packing all of their remaining flights to maximum capacity. Every one of my eight flights was completely full, with additional travelers on standby in case of no-shows.

Now, a completely full flight takes a ridiculously long time to plane and deplane, so one would think that this, combined with a record number of delayed flights, would result in a cascading disaster of lateness. Not so! It seems the air carriers have taken into account the additional time it takes to load up all that extra meat, and have padded their schedules accordingly. If the flight before yours takes an abnormally long time to deplane, and your flight takes an abnormally long time to board, you’ll still likely arrive at your destination “on time”, as the travel times between cities have been arbitrarily increased to allow for these delays.

If your flight happens to board quickly, however, it just means more time sitting on the tarmac, waiting for your takeoff window. The good news is, this allows you all sorts of extra time to peruse Sky Mall, which currently features such awesome products as a colon-shaped brownie tray, litter boxes for one-legged cats, and Taylor Fay.

So where, you ask, did I travel during all this? Two weeks ago I had an incredibly early flight out of Portland, so I spent the previous night at the La Quinta near the airport to take advantage of their “Park and Sleep and Fly and Sleep and Park and Fly and Park” program. Thanks to an utterly bizarre celestial alignment I drove to Portland State University that night, and caught up with a Hopkins friend who I hadn’t seen in over ten years.

The following morning I flew from Portland to Dallas, met up with my cohort Jake Ingman, and flew to Austin for the SXSW Interactive design conference. For the next five days we drank obscene amounts of liquor, fed Mark Bixby obscene amounts of bacon, and occasionally talked about interactive design. We also cruised around in RVs and ice cream trucks, got kicked out of bars, rode giant wooden unicorns, and established Awesometown, USA (population: You).

After all that (there is a whole lot more to “that” than mentioned so far) I flew from Austin to Dallas, where I had a five-hour layover until my flight back to Portland. After reaching Portland I didn’t even bother driving back to Hood River, because the following morning I had to catch a flight to Minneapolis. Instead I once again spent the night in a king-sized Tempur-Pedic bed at La Quinta Portland, still confused, drunk and disoriented from SXSW.

I met up with Kate at the Minneapolis airport and we flew to Detroit, an airport that is so utterly dominated by Northwest Airlines that in the baggage claim they have a sign that says, “Lost or damaged baggage? Then fuck you!” We took a shuttle to Enterprise Rent-A-Wreck, who sent us away with a Grand Caravan and five children who needed a ride to soccer practice, and we then drove to Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan.

We spent the next four days in Ann Arbor, meeting with our graduate programs and eating Silvio’s Organic Pizza and wandering through cemeteries, until deciding that we just weren’t far enough south and needed to travel to Indiana. We headed back to Detroit and traded in the Grand Caravan for a Chevy Rollerskate, a deathtrap of a car that gets 32 mpg and would likely get lodged under an SUV in a crash, and drove to Bloomington to see what Indiana University is all about.

Indiana University is all about rain and “hoosiers”. We know what rain is, and there is apparently a lot of it. As for the hoosier, no one seems quite sure what to make of that. Fortunately Bloomington is wrought with delicious Thai and Indian food, which is simultaneously foreign and familiar for both Kate and I. Bloomington is also far enough south that McDonald’s has sweet tea on the menu, the student union has a Chick-Fil-A in the basement, and Kate swears that she will pick up a drawl if we happen to go to school there.

The sun shown beautifully on the Red Lobster the day we left Bloomington. Bound for Detroit to catch our evening flight back to Minneapolis, we stopped in Ypsilanti just so we could say we had been there (it’s called the Sufjan effect). From Minneapolis my flight to Portland was delayed, but by that time it was already so late and I had flown so much, that you could have told me our plane was infested with flaming poisonous snakes and tiny clones of Samuel L. Jackson and it still wouldn’t have fazed me.

Upon reaching Portland I took a shuttle to the hotel, thought wistfully of a giant Swedish mattress, but resolved to collect my Subaru and make the dark drive back to Hood River. Eight flights and two weeks later, I stumbled through my front door at two o’clock in the morning.


Phew. It’s been a busy holiday, though hardly in the conventional sense. On Wednesday they sent me home early from work, partly because I was sick, but mostly because I was being a regular old sourpuss on account of being sick. I went home and took a three hour nap, and then loaded up the Subaru and started on my way down to Bend for Thanksgiving. The plan was to celebrate with my friends Shane and Brandee again, and perchance do some mountain biking or snowboarding or whatever, as dictated by the weather.

When driving to Bend in the winter I typically like to drive out to The Dalles and turn south on 197, so I can avoid going up and over the saddle of Mount Hood. The route barely adds fifteen minutes to my drive, and it lets me avoid the Cascades and do the bulk of my driving through the dry high desert landscape. Despite my careful planning for this trip, I never made it to Bend. I barely even reached the first exit for The Dalles.

I swerved to avoid the first deer.

And that’s when I hit the second deer.

He was a huge feller, much bigger than the doe that I didn’t hit. For one thing I am a gentleman, and I would never hit a lady. For another, I live by the conviction that if anything is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right. If you’re going to hit a deer, hit a huge fucking deer. That said, I have nothing on my uncle, who suffers from Parkinson’s and just recently shot an eight-point buck from his freaking wheelchair.

The buck did an incredible amount of damage to my car, smashing in the headlight, mangling the fender and the hood, shattering the windshield, snapping off the side mirror, and denting in the passenger doors. Fixing it is going to be ridiculously expensive. While I’m kinda pissed about the whole thing, I do realize that I still have my life and liberty, which is more than I can say for the deer.

Meanwhile, my hobbies lately have included sneezing, coughing violently, and talking to my insurance company. I’ve been doing my best to fight off this virulent plague I’m hosting, and so long as it’s not the Killing Cold I think I’ll be able to come out on the other side of this one. I’ve been pulling down hard on the Western Family Orange Juice, a from-concentrate concoction that’s so delicious you can actually taste the municipal water source.


I donno, I was just thinkin’ less purple, more green. For spring, ya know? That, and I’m becoming unhinged towards my existing branding, the whole “brown and ambiguously-purple” thing. Purple is out, green is in. Next in line is hot pink, but I wanted to ease ya’ll into this thing slowly. Imperceptibly slowly. Perhaps so slowly that it will never actually happen, which is a recurring theme of mine, so much so that one might even call it a branding effort.

Last night while waxing my snowboard I sliced a good hunk of skin off my knuckle. While scraping down the base my hand slipped, and the back of my finger slid clean across the edge of the board. It was a pretty good gash, one that took its sweet time to stop bleeding, but everything seems to be fine and clotted now. I actually had to dig out a Band-Aid (also known as an adhesive medical strip) for this one, which is a rare thing for me. I don’t even keep Band-Aids in the house, but luckily my backpacking first-aid kit was near the surface and I managed to find a couple in there.

I had my backpacking gear strewn all about my living room, for as chance would have it, Kate and I are going backpacking down in Zion National Park the week after SXSW. Our plan is to take two days driving down, spending a night in Salt Lake City in exchange for a few cases of Full Sail brew, take a day to explore the main canyon of Zion, and then spend the rest of our time exploring the backcountry.

When I went backpacking in Zion back in 2002 with Wuda Wooch! we had so many people that we had to split into two groups. Our group explored the Right Fork Trail while the other group went up Coal Pits Wash, so this time ’round Kate and I plan on hitting up Coal Pits. ‘course, we might be at the mercy of weather conditions, water scarcity or other rough-and-tumble groups, so it’s best that we stay flexible in this regard. The Right Fork was certainly no slouch, and we spent days exploring all the intersecting canyons and streams in the area.

Coal Pits seems to offer more as far as getting up on the plateaus and enjoying sweeping vistas, but I’m pretty much cool with whatever. The Southwest as a whole is one of my favorite places on this gol’ danged planet, ever since I went there with my father for spring break when I was in fifth grade. Over the course of a week we toured Las Vegas, Death Valley, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Caverns, and Zion.

In all honestly I spent nearly every waking moment playing my Game Boy, and yet it all seems to have left an impression anyhow. I think my only picture from the Grand Canyon was of the asphalt in a parking lot, when I finally beat Metroid II and set my Game Boy on the ground so I could snap a picture of the end-game sequence.

While I expect most of my pictures from Austin to hold true to a similar degree of pathetic nerdery, here’s hoping that this time around I can return from the Southwest with some better pictures.

Breakfast at Wendy’s

The weather back here in Hood River has been chilly as of late, and we’ve even got a coat of snow that’s managed to hang around for a few days. Thus warmed internally by the cold fire of gin, I find within myself a desire to reflect on the events of the last couple weeks.

It all started way back in December of last year, a few scant days before Christmas, when we charged through the biggest snowfall the Gorge has seen so far this season in order to get my sorry self to the Portland airport. It was there, after removing my shoes and belt and going through the world’s strictest of strict security, that I was treated to the worst breakfast ever visited upon mankind.

My first mistake was choosing Wendy’s as my poison of choice that morning. Wendy’s, yes, which is known across the globe for its culinary prowess in preparing fine breakfasts. I’ll be the first to admit that from the beginning of this, I was simply asking for trouble.

I went with Wendy’s finest, a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. I made it a combo so I could get a bag of Li’l Tater Grease Soak-ums, and some coffee that you can’t drink at first because it’s so piping hot, and you can’t drink later because it tastes so dreadful.

But the namesake of this combo, yikes. My sausage biscuit with egg and cheese was such an abomination that it may have turned me off from the whole “sausage biscuit with egg and cheese as a palatable breakfast choice” thing for the rest of my life. It was bad, I tell you. The sausage was cold and the biscuit was burned, and it was like trying to eat a tire sandwiched between two coal seams. Despite a ravenous hunger I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it.

I tried to cut my losses by focusing instead on the hash brown things, which I managed to finish even though they had already soaked their paper bag translucent with grease. I also put considerable effort into downing my cup of magma, which didn’t do a whole hell of a lot besides burn the inside of my mouth and leave behind stringy bits of flesh that would plague me for the rest of the day.

In all honesty, however, I took a strange comfort in the fact that my sausage biscuit was burned and horrible. I guess it’s nice to know that somewhere in the preparation of this breakfast there is still enough human intervention to allow for such an error. I had always believed that the entire process of fulfilling my fast food order was one of automation, of conveyor belts deep-frying my fries and chixxen nuggets, and heartless robots thawing my quasi-meat product with their eye lasers.

No. That my breakfast at Wendy’s could be so abhorrent, that it could deviate so far from the consistent mediocrity that we expect, nay, demand from such establishments, is proof that at least one disenchanted fast food employee must have been involved in its lax preparation. This error reveals the manner by which the meal must have been created, and it proves that humans still have enough influence over the process to fuck it all up.

What’s also notable is that my breakfast had to be prepared with only the tools and ingredients that could make it through security, which these days excludes such high-risk items as butter knives and water. Ultimately, I should consider myself lucky that the meal came out as well as it did.

I only wish I could say the same for the rest of my trip to Minneapolis.

Ghost Town

Like a scene from a surreal dream, Kate and I currently find ourselves in the abandoned tourist town of Medora, North Dakota.

Medora is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a huge and gorgeous tangle of bluffs and cliffs out in western North Dakota. It’s a kitschy western tourist town, complete with saloons, general stores, wild west storefronts, and street signs hewn from wood and set in western fonts to mimic old time sign posts. This town was born wearing cowboy boots and listening to shitkicker music, and Kate assures me it’s a bumpin’ place during the summer.

The story is completely different come the winter. By the time we pulled off the freeway at the Medora exit it was already dark outside. And boy was it ever dark. “Are you sure there’s a town here?” I kept asking Kate. Nowhere was a town in sight. There were no street lamps, no road signs, no glow in the sky. Just, dark. And a road that wound through a narrow valley.

We pressed on, and after a few minutes of emptiness the road dumped us in the middle of downtown Medora.

There was not a soul to be seen.

We checked into our hotel, and left our car alongside the three others in the parking lot. At least one of those cars, obviously, belonged to the staff of the hotel. The others? They could belong to other guests, but there hasn’t been any other sign of them yet. The desk clerk told us that during the summer tourist season the town held a permanent population of 200 people, but right now there were only 80 or so. We would soon discover that even this number is probably quite generous.

Kate and I decided to hit the town on foot, so we’d be able to stumble back to our hotel after whatever secret revelry Medora would offer us. We made for the Iron Horse Saloon, after the desk clerk suggested that it was probably the only place in town that was open this time of year. On our walk we found some sort of bicycle (it wasn’t a bicycle so much as it was a regular human-sized tricycle, with a large basket on the back) abandoned on the side of the road. I hopped on the bike with glee, excited to cruise around town in style, only to find that the likely reason it was abandoned was because the chain was missing.

We gave up on the tricycle and made for the Iron Horse Saloon. The first few doors we tried to open were locked, but thus encouraged by a beer sign claiming the saloon was open, we eventually found our way inside. We were met by the harsh glares of two people, a lip-pierced fellow in a red flannel shirt, and an emo gal with bleach-blonde hair.

We said we were looking for supper (that’s what they call it in these parts, supper) and the fellow hinted that they might could do such a thing. If taken literally, the words he spoke suggested that they could indeed cook us supper. Taking into account the tone of his voice, however, it was obvious that he intended for us to fuck the fuck off. Kate whispered in my ear, and we pushed away from the bar and bound out the door.

Not yet ready to call it a night, we decided to explore the creepy town of Medora a little bit more. Besides the people at the bar, we hadn’t seen any other people. No one. Everything was closed, the streets were empty, the houses dark. In the middle of every intersection was a large pile of snow, five feet high. There was a police car that would pass by us every fifteen minutes or so, but beyond that we never saw any other cars. No one had bothered to rake the leaves from autumn, but the wind had gathered them into random piles in the quiet corners of town.

Many of the sidewalks in Medora are made of wood planking, and our footfalls would echo across the town. Other times the sidewalk was covered in a thin layer of crusty snow, and the loud crunch of our footsteps would make us shiver. As we toured the town we nary spoke above a whisper, lest we awaken the ghosts.

Before long our imaginations were getting the best of us. We started seeing people out of the corner of our eyes. I swore I smelled someone cooking doughnuts. Some life-sized cowboy cut-outs were arranged in front of the Medora post office, and both of us thought for a moment that they were real people.

At one point we walked up to a gift shop to peer in the window, and remarked at a stuffed cat that was seated on the window ledge. Suddenly it moved its head, blinked, and after a few seconds of confusion we realized it was actually a real live cat.

It was the only living thing we would see that night.