Archive for the Adventures Category
Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in Adventures
Mason was only a year-and-a-half old in 2003 when Susan and I made the decision to sell our ’96 Dodge Neon and upgrade to a more family friendly vehicle. After doing some market research, we settled on the Honda Odyssey minivan. I don’t know that deciding it’s time to own a minivan is a particularly proud moment in any man’s life, but Honda lessened the blow by offering leather seats with seat warmers, automatic sliding doors, a six-disc changer, a DVD player with a flip down screen, and eleven cup holders. For some reason, our salesman really pushed the fact that the van had eleven cup holders.
We paid $32k for the van brand new off the lot. I’ll never forget, as we were standing in the showroom waiting for the paperwork to be finalized, we spotted a Honda S2000 — one of those sporty, two-seater convertibles — also with a price tag of $32k. There was a brief moment where we questioned our decision. Surely you can squeeze a kid’s car seat into the trunk of one of those things, right?
Ultimately we made the right decision. That Honda Odyssey has hauled myself, Susan, two kids and those eleven cup holders across the country more times than I can count. This past summer, with 200,000 miles already on the van, we drove to Seattle, Washington and back for our Alaskan cruise. During that trip the van took us through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The summer before that it took the four of us to Las Vegas, Nevada, through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The van’s been through Missouri, Illinois and the edge of Indiana more times than I can count. It’s been to Washington DC and back more than once, a route that takes us through (at least) Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. The van’s been to Mississippi at least twice. Two months ago, Susan drove the van through Alabama and Georgia and back.
Last month, with 215,000 miles on it, we drove to Chicago and back.
At around 100,000 miles, Susan put AAA on the van. We used it once. After being in Alaska for a week, we returned to the van and it wouldn’t start. AAA came and gave us a jump start. One of the kids had left on one of the rear dome lights and ran down the battery.
The van is not without its quirks. The automatic sliding doors occasionally have a mind of their own — possibly a by product of years worth of french fries, crayons, and loose change falling down into the sliding door tracks. The rear windows no longer open. The DVD player is a lot pickier than the day we bought it, randomly rejecting discs. Some of the leather has peeled away from the arm rests. Probably the most annoying quirk is that the radio controls located on the steering wheel occasionally “shift”, which almost always manifests itself whenever the driver attempts to crank up volume when a good song comes on the radio, causing the radio to change stations instead.
All first world problems, really.
As for the drive train, it’s as strong as the day we bought it. Like I said, last month we hopped in the van and put around 1,800 miles on it while driving to, around, and back from Chicago. The month before, we put on another 2,000, driving to Atlanta and back. Over the summer we put on around 4,000, driving to Seattle and back. I’d drive it anywhere tomorrow.
Well, not tomorrow — because we sold it. A few months ago Susan bought a Honda Crosstour, which has replaced the van as her daily driver. (After having such a good streak with the van, we stuck with Honda.) We’re hoping the Crosstour (essentially a 4wd Accord with a slightly larger body) holds up as well as the van did. We’re on our way to finding out; in three months we’ve 12,000 miles on it. (That’s high even for us.)
The Odyssey has set off on a new odyssey with a new owner. I’m not “sad” to see it go like I have been with some of our cars, but it’s been a damn reliable vehicle that has lots of years and miles left in it. Lots of life left in it for someone else’s adventures.
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Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Adventures, Main
Due to high (read: none) demand, I have created a new area of the website in which I track every states I’ve ever visited! There’s a link to it over on the left hand side now — or, you can simply click here).
To date, I’ve been to 41 of the 50 states (not including DC or the few times I’ve been out of the country). I spent a few hours Sunday creating a short entry for each state I’ve visited. For each one I noted the first and last time I had visited the state, and included pictures where possible. A few of them (about five, I think) I have only driven through and I debated whether or not to include them at all. In the end I did.
As future travels take me to new states (or back to old ones), I’ll post about them on the blog and update that repository at the same time. One thing I will do now is try to find interesting things to stop and see or do in every state I visit from now on.
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Posted at 9:46 pm by Rob in Adventures, Main
Today, I got to sit down and work from my desk for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks.
It all started with an invitation to a work meeting in Atlanta, which took place the last week of September (9/24-9/28). As I mentioned a week or so ago, my buddy Jeff recently moved to Atlanta, so I used the opportunity to travel a few days earlier than normal to hang out at Jeff’s house. (We are allowed to do this as long as there is no additional cost to tax payers.) I used a day of vacation on Friday, September 22nd to drive to Atlanta. (It took me just under 15 hours, although I’m sure I could beat that time.) I hung out with Jeff and his family that weekend, and reported to work in Atlanta on September 24th.
During that week in Atlanta I was invited to a second meeting, this one in Washington DC. Had I flown to Atlanta I would have flown home that Friday (Friday, September 28th) and flown to DC on the following Monday, October the 1st. But I didn’t; I drove, and driving the 15 hours back to Oklahoma City only to turn around and head back to the east coast the following day seemed ridiculous. So, I stayed in Atlanta at Jeff’s over the weekend, and drove from Atlanta to Washington DC on Monday, October 1st.
That weekend, Susan and the kids decided to drive out to Atlanta and see me and visit the Martins as well. We all had a good time together. I think Jeff’s kids enjoyed seeing some of their Oklahoma friends for a bit, and I know Jeff and Heather and Susan and I all had a good time catching up with one another.
I would also like to note that until I got there I had no idea how many friends I had living in and around the Atlanta area. I’ve already mentioned Jeff and his family, and I have several friends I’ve met through work (Earl, Curlen, and Deborah to name a few) that both live and work in Atlanta. Throw in a couple of friends from Digital Press, a couple of friends from the cDc, and my friends Jay and Thomas over at Video Game Trader, and … yeah. I could literally spend an entire week hobnobbing around Atlanta. The next time I’m in town, I’ll definitely set aside more visiting time.
On Monday, October 1st, I left Atlanta and drove to Washington DC. It’s not as far as it was from OKC to ATL, and I made the drive in around 10 hours. Unfortunately for me, I timed it to where I would arrive in Washington DC at almost exactly 5pm. Fortunately at that time of day the traffic jams revolve around getting out of DC rather than getting in. While the line to get out of DC stretched for miles and miles, the line heading in that time of day was relatively painless.
The part of DC we were working/staying in (Navy Yard) kind of sucks unless you’re willing to get on the Metro and head out. I think my phone showed less than half a dozen restaurants within walking distance (at least within my idea of walking distance). Normally on work trips I don’t worry about going over my per diem amount, but after being on the road for two weeks back to back I began reeling back the meal costs. Then again, I think I drank all my profit, so … yeah.
As the meeting adjourned, I had one task ahead of me; completing the third leg of the right triangle that would take me from DC back to Oklahoma City. The GPS said it would take 21 hours, straight through; I made it in 24 hours, leaving DC at 4:30am (no traffic for me!) and arriving in OKC at approximately the same time the following morning. For the most part the drive was uneventful, although I did have an orange and white safety barrel hurled at me by a careless trucker. Surprisingly, the Honda Crosstour handles fairly well even with the brakes locked into a dead skid. Once again, years of playing video games paid off.
For some reason, these drives always hit me the day after I get home. I drive literally all day Friday. Saturday I was tired, but not sore. On Sunday, I could barely get around. Thanks to Columbus discovering a place people already inhabited I was off Monday as well, which gave me an extra day to recuperate.
Because of the project I’m working on at work, there was no time to ramp back up; I hit the meetings at 8am this morning and had them all day long. Welcome back.
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Posted at 9:36 pm by Rob in Adventures
Those of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen a few posts and check-ins over the weekend from Atlanta. That’s true, I am in sunny Georgia for the week.
Early this year, my life-long buddy Jeff moved to Atlanta. This week I have a meeting in Atlanta, so I took advantage of the situation by taking vacation last Friday and driving out to Atlanta and hanging out with Jeff and his family for the weekend.
Fifteen years ago (WOW), Jeff did the same for me. After Susan and I moved to Spokane, Washington for work, Jeff and his girlfriend Heather flew out to Spokane and met in person for the first time. Susan and I lived in Spokane for a year and a half before moving back to Oklahoma. This time, it was my turn to travel out of state and come visit Jeff. It just dawned on me that Jeff’s son Talon is in 7th grade — that’s the same grade Jeff and I were in when we first met.
It was also ironic that Jeff and I ended up at a Chicago restaurant in Atlanta. In 9th grade, Jeff went on vacation with our family to Chicago. I was there when Jeff ate his first Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich, and as of this moment, I was there when he ate his last one.
Back in high school, we didn’t look alike at all. Now, people ask if we’re brothers.
Sunday I introduced Jeff and his family to geocaching, and we ended up looking for six different caches within just a few miles of Jeff’s house. We found four of the six, and each of those four were hidden in different containers: a plastic Rubbermaid container, a waterproof cylinder, a fake sprinkler head, and a tiny, really hard to find envelope. There were two that stumped us — one that has a long history of stumping people, and a second one that was apparently hidden on a gas pump at a busy gas station. We searched for that one until the manager came out and asked what we were up to. When it was obvious he didn’t know what geocaching was and disapproved of us hanging around, we split.
I had a great time this weekend hanging out with Jeff and his family, and we’re already talking about a follow-up trip in next spring.
This morning Jeff went back to work, Jeff’s kids went back to school, and I did a bit of sight-seeing around town before heading downtown to my hotel. Tomorrow it’s back to work for me too.
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Posted at 10:05 pm by Rob in Adventures, Main
Over the weekend, Susan, the kids and I had lunch at Grandy’s off of 39th and MacArthur. While eating, the kids mentioned geocaching again and we decided to check our new geocachine phone app to see if there were any geocaches hidden nearby. Much to our surprise, there was one hiding right across the parking lot! The cache was called “The City that Bites,” an obvious reference to the City Bites restaurant next door.
(The rest of this post contains spoilers as to the location of a geocache.)
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Posted at 11:39 am by Rob in Adventures, Main, Oklahoma
August 18th is International Geocacher’s Day (who knew, right?) and in honor of this, our local Community Center put on a small presentation covering the introduction of geocaching, followed by a small geocache hunt of our own.
Geocaching is an activity (a game? a sport?) where people hide things all over the United States that people can find using GPS coordinates. Actually there are two parts to the “hunt” — a GPS will get you close, and then you’ll have to do some searching (sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours) to actually find the hidden object. Every geocache has a small paper register that you can sign. Many of them also have things inside them that you can take. If they take something, Geocachers are expected to replace the item with something of equal or more value.
Our day began inside the Community Center. After watching a brief but informative PowerPoint presentation, we moved out into the open area. The people who attended the meeting (about 20 I’d guess) were pretty evenly split between active geocachers, and people who were simply out looking for something to do. Me and mine fell into the latter category.
It’s been 100+ degrees for months now with only a slight break last week. Of course the first time we planned an outdoor activity, rain clouds moved in. Toward the end of the PowerPoint presentation we could hear thunder outside. When it was time to actually go do some geocaching, it was raining, hard. Instead of going out and getting soaked we spent a few minutes inside talking to some of the other more experienced hunters.
On the right there is my old friend Jaime Olvera. Jaime is an experienced Geocacher with over a hundred finds and several “first to finds,” or FTFs. Geocaches get posted to an official site (geocaching.com) where they are vetted to be authentic and findable before they are released to the wild, so to speak. When they do get officially released, people race to be the first one to find them. Sometimes Geocaches contain special prizes for the first people to find them. Jaime said he found $40 in one of his.
Unfortunately rain and adults talking doesn’t inspire wonder in children, and before long my two budding Geocachers were doing this:
Soon the rain let up and we all went outside to do some real geocaching. Each team of newbies was teamed up with a more experienced group. Susan, the kids and I headed out with Jaime and his girls.
The first one on our list was hidden not 10′ from a parking spot I am sure I have parked in at the Community Center. I found that very interesting, to think that not 10′ from a place I am sure I have stood was this hidden container, stuck under/in/near a tree (I don’t want to give too much away!).
Again, the way you find these typically is by using a smartphone app. There are multiple apps for both iPhone and Android, many of them free. The one I was using (the official Geocaching.com app) told me all the surrounding caches within x amount of miles, which direction they were in, how hard to find and how physically challenging they will be to retrieve, and so on.
I can’t stress enough that the app only gets you so far. A phone GPS should get you to within 6-15′ of the target site; after that, it’s a game of hide and seek. I hope it’s because we were just learning the game, but we were overall terrible at finding the hidden objects. One, a darkly-colored ball, I never did see until the kids finally picked it up and showed it to me. The other, a camouflage-covered container hidden in the Community Center Nature Trails, definitely took some poking around to find. This was one misconception I had about the sport; the GPS and apps will only get you so far.
Each cache is rating from 1/1 to 5/5. The first number (I think) rates how difficult the object is to find, while the second number denotes how physical demanding it will be. All of the ones we hunted for were rated 1/1. I heard one of the geocachers talking about one they had to climb into a cave to retrieve. I’m guessing that was a 4 or a 5.
Many of the geocaches contain hints or clues in the form of riddles. This part also intrigued me, and I think that being the hider might be as fun as being the findee. According to Jaime, there are over 25 geocaches hidden just in and around Yukon. I was pretty surprised by that.
Another term I learned was “muggle,” which is apparently a Harry Potter reference (I really need to sit down and watch those movies). When a cache is “muggled” that means a non-geocacher found the cache and either removed or destroyed it. After finding a cache, Geocachers leave feedback on the official Geocaching site. If there are several reviews in a row stating that people couldn’t find the cache, the site may have been muggled. I suppose this is why some of them are hidden so well.
All in all we had a good time geocaching and found four of the caches hidden in and around the Community Center. It seems like an exciting way to have some fun and get a little exercise at the same time, so I’m hoping we go on a few more geocaches in the future!
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