Grand Canyon

Letchworth State Park: Beautiful Place, Ugly Name

I was hoping to write something meaningful today. But I wont. Three things have happened which deterred me from writing a “normal” blog:

1. My wife’s previous blog, “When We Were On Fire” is wonderful. How can I follow that up?

2. I have a mid-term for my Econ class today. Leisure and Hours Worked have been taxed.

3. Yesterday, I finished reading “The Great Gatsby.” It was just so good. I feel both inspired and incompetent to write. I’ll need time to reconcile.

4. My neighbors have sex really loud at 9am, almost every day. I’m trying to get used to it. However, I feel one is never suppose to get used to the sound of strangers having sex.

5. We went to a state park the other day, and it was so beautiful that I want to share some pictures. Here you go!

NOTE: Letchworth is a State Park about an hour-ish from Rochester, NY. Hit it in the Fall and you’ll see all the beautiful colors we did. There’s some great waterfalls and bridges and canyons. Everyone here calls it “The Grand Canyon of the East.” We also went to the Grand Canyon this year. Though beautiful, it is no Grand Canyon. That said, if you’re ever up this way, it’s worth your time.

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Adventure: Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be

Adventure is weird and complicated. Like ordering a martini for the first time or Thai food, it’s not easy. It’s sexy, sure. We escape the familiar in favor of the unknown. We leave our friends and family behind. We buy maps (or iPhones) and plot new courses.

My wife and I have only five days left of our six-month stay in California. From here, we’ll pack up and drive to Idaho for a few weeks and then drive, finally, to Rochester, New York, where we’ll settle.

The idea of living in three states in one year sounded fun, initially. A couple of fair-skinned gypsies in a Prius-charriot awaiting adventure—that was us.

All I’ve ever wanted was adventure, and truth be told, I’ve had my fair share.

I’ve back-packed through Ireland; I’ve driven to the Grand Canyon on a whim; I’ve rode through a carwash on a razor scooter… Adventure is in my blood.

Is adventure good for blood?

Fake Adventures

I grew up idolizing movies like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and The Mummy where characters traveled to the ends of the Earth, or universe, to conduct business. I’d watch TV shows like The X-Files and swoon. The monster-of-the-week storyline, on the search in a new area, fascinated me (and still does).

But it’s all fake. It’s exciting, but truth be told, if I met a new monster every week and I’d be dead by now. I’d be digesting in some mutant’s stomach and that’d be an awkward funeral.

Then there is the whole social media thing. All the fake adventurers. I recently read an article about the “Instagram Envy Effect,” which, really, is just how it sounds. Instagram captures everybody’s good moments, new moments. The rest of us watch and wish we could have those moments. Really, it’s all just fake. We post the interesting moments and leave the rest hidden, like reality TV.

I bring the Instagram article up because social media—as well as movies, music, and books—teach us some falsehoods about adventure. They tell us adventure has no downside. That it’s all just fun all the time and YOLO and pose!!!

Warning: Adventure is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Here are some tips to make sure you never, ever have an adventure.

Issue number 1:

You’re basically always packing. I’m not sure how you feel about packing, but I’m not a big fan.

Issue number 2:

Friendships are rare. It’s hard to get close to people when you’re always on the go. It’s not like the comic books where the hero has all the friends. The real-life hero, the traveler, is awkward at parties, unable to connect—not sure if he even wants to.

Issue number 3:

It gets harder and harder to leave. Maybe I’m getting older, maybe the traveler’s heart is just failing to pump like it used to, I don’t know. Maybe a six-month vacation wasn’t a very good idea. All I know, is that it’s getting harder to leave.

My friends, my family, my town. Sometimes, adventure just kind of sucks.

The memories are worth it, and that’s what I’m holding on to, for now.

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What are your thoughts on adventure?

My Name is Kevin and I’m a Phone Addict

I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone: I love it and I hate that I love it. In other words, I’m completely addicted. My life, my eyes, my attention—this little gadget has taken it all.

I used to make fun of phone drones, before my iPhone, that is. It was a pastime. The human race was declining, absorbing into their phones, but not me; I felt pretty good about myself. A distant judgement, sure, most likely rooted in bitterness since, well… my phone could barely turn on, let alone surf.

Here’s a handy, step-by-step guide I created for phone dependency:

The Phone Drone Fun Chart

1: Moderate. They take pictures or check e-mail. Causal tweeting exists here. Maybe they’re old and just don’t care.

2: Gateway. Instagram is new and they fight the urge to continually check it. Angry Birds exists here. Flirting with addiction is, potentially, the game.

3: Junkie. They check Facebook (or Instagram, or Twitter) once an hour to hold off diarrhea. They do it to feel “normal.”

4: Clueless. Reality, and the world around them, is gone. You’ve enjoyed waving your hand in front of their face at dinner.

5: The Walking Dead. These people run into telephone poles on the sidewalk. They also drool in waiting rooms.

My iPhone arrived last Christmas morning. Like any new toy under the tree, I ripped open the package and played for hours. Then for days. And days. Then six months went by and I’m playing with it still. You could say, my iPhone was probably the most successful Christmas present of all time.

My addiction level recently jumped up notch. Shortly after arriving at the Grand Canyon last week, my phone died. Within hours I began scratching my skin.

The cold-turkey technique, though effective and great for addiction diagnostics, is terrible for skin.

At the Canyon, there was only one place to charge my phone—the campground bathroom. So yes, I took my phone into the smelly Grand Canyon campground bathroom so Mother Electricity could do her thing. Fearing a stolen phone, I stood by the sink to watch it charge. Every few minutes someone would fart and I’d look towards the ceiling. It was awkward and weird.

This has got to be a sign. (fart) I’ve got to get out of here.

Here were the two lies I was telling myself:

1. I needed my phone to feel normal

2. I needed to share the experience to make it worth it

In other words, I had to brag to feel normal. This is big time Level 3 stuff; I’m totally a phone junkie. DANNGGG IT. Worst yet, I wasn’t present for my wife and my friend when I should’ve been. I let them down and disappointed myself.

I hear Step One is admitting the problem; so, this blog is my confession. I should probably set some boundaries before I run into a telephone pole.

What’s your level of phone dependency? Any tips on detoxing? Any feedback is greatly appreciated! 

The Grand Canyon (or, How to Set Up a Tent in 28 Easy Steps)

The Grand Canyon. It was incredible.

Since Megan and I are moving to New York in the Fall, we realized our Grand Canyon window was dwindling fast. We kicked around the idea late last week, got our friend Randall on board, booked a campsite online, and left after work Friday afternoon for the 12 hour drive.

After 12 hours of sunflower seeds and energy drinks, our Prius arrived just shy of Grand Canyon Village at around 4am. Randall, a current CCC member (and best friend since 6th grade), claimed national forests were cool with parking and sleeping. Since national forests are usually outside of national parks, we were in luck. We parked in the forest and slept as long as possible.

27 degrees and 2 hours later. 

You know it’s cold when you consider peeing your pants for warmth. Or say, cutting open your friend to sleep inside him via Empire Strikes Back. None of those things happened. It was cold though.

Feeling spry, we woke up and drove into the park. The South Rim. It was $25 for one car, not bad considering all you can do once you’re in the park.

Our campsite wasn’t available until noon so we had to tough out the tiredness and make the best of it. We traveled to the East Rim (about thirty minutes, maybe) and checked out Desert View. There was an old tower to climb up in with a store right below you. Incase, you know, you want to buy a magnet or something.

Coming back, we stopped at one of my favorite views of the whole trip: Moran Point. It was killer. We tried to recall the name later to our camping neighbors. Megan called it, “Morgan Point,” and I called it “Moron Point.” It turns out we were both wrong, Moran Point. If you go, make sure and stop there.

Noon came around and we had a tent to set up. Megan and I were completely exhausted and since we borrowed the tent, it was our first time setting it up. (Thanks Scott, your rubik’s cube tent was a delight). In all fairness, if we read the directions first—instead of dead last—we would’ve noticed everything was color coded and kind of obvious. After about an hour of this tent embarrassment, Randall stepped in and helped. I collapsed into my sleeping bag and felt rocks under my body. Oh yeah, the air mattress… we forgot that.

Exploration

After some rest, we went back to the nearest town of Williams to try the Grand Canyon Brewery. I wont say it was awful, but just avoid it if at all possible.

The next day we hiked down into the canyon. Not far, a thousand feet or so. Not wanting to add, “Rescued by a mule” to our list of life accomplishments, we heeded the warnings of the trail and stopped at Cedar Ridge.

Once back up, we continued our day of exploration. Hopi Point was awe inspiring. The geology museum was great. The general store had a hot pickle.

Before we knew it, our trip was over. Monday morning had come. We drove a different way back, stopping in Vegas to lose $5. Before we left Nevada for good, we swerved off the desert highway for one last casino. The lunch buffet and $1 roulette signs nearly caused a freeway pile up.

We made it into San Luis Obispo around 9pm and I took the longest shower of my life. I’m still in it. That’s how long it is. Actually no, but nothing is sweeter than that first shower back from camping, eh? I next collapsed into bed where there was a mattress and no rocks.

It was sweeter than any canyon I’ve ever seen. Funny how that works.

Adulthood: Embracing the Now & Forgetting the Why

One can’t help but get a little older. Wives are good for nothing if not for telling you how old you are. Megan reminds me of this all the time: “You’re two years older.”

“And wiser,” I respond.

Despite the rabid pace at which youth escapes my body, I expect some of the mannerisms and routines that accompanied my early years will always be with me.

The sample tables at Costco are primary. Shopping is second… at best. There’s others like me, too. Yesterday, I ran into the same sample shopper at every table. We nodded.

My attention span is weak, like coffee from the church foyer weak. At any given time, I’m usually half present and I apologize for this; I’m trying, really. This will probably be a lifelong struggle. Bare with me.

I say weird things at awkward moments. That is, the moment is fine until I make it awkward. Once, I worked at a hotel and checked in a guest. During the silence I asked if he met any ladies on his trip. He was a priest and promptly said, “no.”

You see what I mean. I’m sure you do weird things too. I know you do. The crazy little brain movements and body patterns are just part of the human experience. You probably rant in the bathroom with strange accents or something. I can only guess.

We are all just grown up kids. (No one has refuted me yet!) As adults we can choose when we want to be a child, that’s the coolest part. I mean, haven’t you seen Hook? (You’re doing it, Peter!)

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As we get older, we pretend this stuff doesn’t exist. The weird mannerisms. The strange facial expressions. The awkward moments. After all, we’re adults now and there’s bills to pay. We have kids and jobs and degrees. There’s no time to be ourselves anymore.

Don’t Start Eating Boogers Yet

It’s okay to have responsibilities; in fact, I rather like them. There’s men and women who meet the challenge of adulthood at every turn and I respect them.

I learned responsibilities from an early age; most older people around me were too busy beings kids so I had to step it up in their absence. Sometimes people never grow up, because of them I now struggle with letting my hair down on the weekends, or being myself.

I’m convinced, though, that every now and then we need to embrace the child within. We need to be ourselves. Not revert back, but just be ourselves. We need to allow who we are to shine and forget about the future for a change.

We need to embrace God’s greatest present—the present.

I’m sure we could all use a little more of that.

Road Trip

This weekend, Megan and I decided to be irresponsible. With two days notice, and a very inspiring episode of Parks and Rec to motivate us, we’ve decided to visit the Grand Canyon on a whim.

We have little money, a car that’s traveled too much this year already, and a severe lack of camping material; needless to say, we’re excited. My good friend Randall, who you may remember from Salmon Creek Trail, will be joining us.

It’s Friday. Go do something fun this weekend. Enjoy the present! Embrace the kid within you and report back to me. You may find adulthood to be a little more interesting when you do.

What are your thoughts on God’s gift of the present? Is it dangerous to focus too much on the past or the future? Any good stories of embracing the kid within? How about Grand Canyon advice?