Denver, Colorado

8/12/2008 – 8/14/2008

I’ll keep this pretty short: my train arrived late Tuesday morning, but Sarah was happy to pick me up anyways. We went to breakfast. It was good. Then she took me back to her apartment where I was re-introduced to the cat, Squash, and she (Sarah, not Squash) gave me a key, her bike, and some advice.

Colorado Capitol

I went for a run, then hopped on the bike and rode around downtown Denver. As part of my explorations I stood on the step of the Colorado Capitol that is exactly one mile above sea level. After a time I stopped and got some coffee and read for a bit, but eventually meandered my way back to Sarah’s apt. I walked across the street and bought some Oregon beers (yay!) and then hung out at the place until Sarah got home, at which point we walked downtown and wandered around Larimer Street for a bit, had a couple beers, and I got drunk on a very small amount of alcohol (altitude!).

British Columbian Art

Our first stop Wednesday morning was the U.S. Mint. We arrived at 8:40 and conned our way into the 9 o’clock tour to look at coins and coining machines for a while. After a tasty omelet for breakfast I made my way to the public library–where I used the free internet to order my new camera–and then on to the Denver Art Museum. The museum was actually very cool, and I ended up staying there for quite a while. After returning to Sarah’s apartment I went for another run before we began the night’s activities. The plan: dinner and a Langhorne Slim concert. The concert was great! Check out the music. After the show we had a drink and then headed back to Sarah’s house. At this point we had a pretty surreal experience. *lowpro moment* Fun times.

Thursday morning, I caught my train. It left three hours late, but I knew that was going to happen so I didn’t show up at Union Station until 10 o’clock.

Reading: On The Road

Departure: Amtrak California Zephyr, Denver’s Union Station to Emeryville’s station, $120.00

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New Camera!

I ordered a new camera this morning. It’s the Canon Powershot SD890 So my picture-taking should be both more frequent and of higher quality in the near future.

I think I need to start taking pictures of my meals. That’s always fun. Anyways, I’m in Denver, Colorado, and enjoying the free wifi at the public library before I head out for some art gallery and museum action.

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Chicago, Illinois

8/8/2008 – 8/11/2008

After finding out that my place to stay had fallen through on Tuesday, I had three days to find accomidations. I quickly managed to make a reservation at the Hosteling International hostel in downtown Chicago, but at $34 per night I hoped to find something cheaper. A couple of phone calls later, I had several friends trying to find me a place to stay. On Thursday, Ben came through by setting me up with the totally awesome husband-and-wife Mig and Lety.

Sculptures of the Puerto Rico Flag mark the borders of the neighborhood

Mig and Lety live in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood just a short distance outside of the city center. Even though they had a few plans throughout the weekend, these two were great hosts, letting me tag along to a friend’s birthday party (free drinks!), hanging out with me a bunch on Saturday, and giving me lots of good advice.

Many thanks to Andy, Tara, Kate, and Ben for out-of-town suggestions on what I should do during my visit. I didn’t manage to do everything, but I feel like I had a great Chicago experience.

On Friday I took the train from O’Hare all the way to Union Station. I currently have a small backpack and a big hiking pack with me — I’m carrying too much stuff. I plan to drop a lot of it off at my mom’s house in Eugene, but for the moment I’m stuck with it. Anyways, I went to Union Station because I knew they had lockers and I didn’t want to carry the big bag around all day. I didn’t really think the plan through, though, because my big bag had lots of stuff I would need during the weekend in it. Like clothes. So I ended up keeping the both bags with me, hanging out at a coffee shop and doing some computery stuff for a few hours, and then walking a few blocks through downtown to meet Mig outside his work. Along the way I visited the post office to send a few pounds of stuff to Eugene. Kind of expensive, but worth every penny. After meeting Mig and taking the train back to his place, I relaxed for a while before we all went out to a friend’s birthday party. Nothing too eventful happened. Good food.

The Bean, Millenium Park

Saturday morning I woke up at a decent time (Mig had to get up early to take an exam) and went out for a run. Humboldt Park, after which the neighborhood takes its name, is actually pretty nice. An interesting mix of people out walking their dogs or playing soccer and suspicious characters sitting in their cars. As far as the run goes, I’m again amazed at how fast I am when it’s not humid. When I arrived home Lety was in the midst of preparing breakfast, so after a quick shower I joined her for coffee and a delicious scramble. We then headed downtown and visited the Chicago Cultural Center. It was pretty small, but the library dome is pretty cool. I then split off and explored Millennium Park, paying particular attention to “the bean” seen in the picture. I think it has a real name but apparently that’s what everyone calls it. I also read in the park–The Alchemist is a very good book–before wandering around downtown on my own some more.

It was about this time that I discovered my phone’s google maps transit directions feature. Andy had suggested that I try a Maxwell Avenue Polish hot dog, and had suggested a chain that served good ones. I cell-phone-google-mapped (how’s that for a verb) it and google gave me great directions including which bus to take, where to catch it, and when. Super convenient, and I used this feature quite a bit while I was in Chicago. I think I was able to see a lot more stuff because I took buses and trains more than I would have without my phone’s access to google maps.

After the hotdog and another bus ride for no particular reason, Lety called and I headed over to where they were hanging out. We trekked north, eventually catching a bus, to go to a huge gay street festival called Market Days. Fun times, lots of shirtless and/or drunk guys, and sloooow service at a street-side restaurant. We walked by Wrigley Field just after the Cubs finished getting spanked and took in the craziness that is Chicago post-baseball fandom. Lakeview is a wild neighborhood. Took the bus back to Humboldt Park and spent the evening in a local bar drinking beer, finishing the the evening off with a damn good late-night burrito. Lety and Mig shared Super Nachos. I think that’s a funny name for a dish.

First thing Sunday we walked over to the laundromat so I could start my small load of laundry. Next stop, awesome breakfast place three doors down. After breakfast, we stopped back by the laundry and moved the clothes to a dryer, then walked around the park for a while. Noticing the time, we had to rush back to the house so Mig and Lety could get ready for their soccer game. Mid-Run, Chicago and Me While they were playing, I was planning to run along the lakeshore. They dropped me off at the lake on this beautiful morning and it was a truly excellent run. I got to see a lot more of Chicago and Chicagoans. And the beaches are crazy popular! Who knew? After returning home I got cleaned up, watched some Olympics, and then headed out on the bus to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Dinner was weirdly good Potato and Rosemary square pizza and great Goose Island beer, then more Olympics watching until bed.

I got up at work time with Mig Monday morning and took the train downtown with him. After saying goodbye, I went to Union Station and dropped my bag off at a locker, for real this time. I toured around the Chicago Art Institute’s gallery for an hour or so before heading back towards Union Station as train time approached. I rode the L, just for kicks, attempting to use my farecard one minute after it expired (the nice guard let me in anyways) and stopped for a kate-recommended Billy Goat Tavern burger and beer. Good stuff, and a great way to leave the city. The train left on time, and I settled in for a long trip.

Arrival: United Airlines flight into O’Hare, $127.99 + $15 checked bag fee

Reading: Mirrorshades – finished on the plane; The Alchemist; On The Road – started on the train

    Departure: Amtrak California Zephyr, Chicago’s Union Station to Denver’s Union Station, $186.00

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    Schedules Are Important, Sort Of

    When I thought my flight to New York was: 8:00 AM
    When it actually was: 7:00 AM

    They put me on the half-full 8:00 flight and everything was fine.

    Cost / Benefit of missing my actual flight? I gained an hour of sleep, a few minutes of stress, and the increased possiblity of losing my luggage in the New York to Chicago transfer. We’ll see what happens with that.

    Anyways, this kicks off the trip. Between my place to stay in Chicago falling through and missing my very first flight, the journey promises to be an interesting one.

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    Plans

    The Burritos have taken to referring to my upcoming trip as LowPro’s Greatest Hits. I guess that’s pretty optimistic, but here’s to hoping.

    The quick and dirty long and complicated plan, dates excluded for simplicity, is below. I really wish I could take a big world map and a marker and scribble out the route. That would be fun. Hmmm… I need a map.

    Some of this is tentative and some is for sure, but it’s a fun plan so far.

    I start by flying from Washington, DC to Chicago, Illinois, to hang out with my friend Amy. Then I hop on the California Zephyr* and ride overnight to Denver, Colorado where I’m visiting Sarah. After a couple days, I get back on the same train to complete it’s run to Emeryville, California, a town near where my buddy Andy lives in Berkeley. We’ll spend a day or two in San Francisco before I head over to Sacramento to see my dad, his wife, and their dog. I complete the California leg of the journey on the notoriously late, avoid-at-all-costs, Coast Starlight* heading north overnight to Eugene, Oregon.

    Phew. This is my hometown, my mom and sister live here, and I get to relax for only a week before heading out to near Sisters, Oregon for a backpacking trip with my buddy Jake and probably a couple of other people. When I return to Eugene I’ll get on the Cascades* to Seattle, Washington with a potential stop in Portland to visit friends. I’ll probably stay with one of the Sarahs for a couple of days there before heading up to Vancouver, British Columbia to re-acquaint myself with Sebastian, Hope, and my old stomping grounds.

    From there, I’m going to take the dreaded Greyhound up to Kamloops, British Columbia where my grandparents live. I might also go to Kelowna for a day to see some family on my dad’s side. From Kamloops, I will place my butt firmly in the back right seat of my grandparent’s Subaru for the next two weeks. (Really, I’ll get out sometimes, but the idea is that we’re going to be in the car a lot.) We’re going to lots of places in western & central Canada including Oxbow, Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatachewan, Calgary, Alberta, and lots of others that I don’t know about yet.

    Once we return to Kamloops I hope to chill out at Lac La Juene for a few days before beginning my back-to-Oregon journey. After returning to Eugene, I will once again relax for a week or so before I head to Toronto, Ontario to visit my ex-DC friend Chip. Finally, I’ll take an unknown method of transportation to New York, where I’ll hang out for a day or two.

    By now, it’s mid-October and I’m about to head to Paris, France, where I’ll hang out with my good friends Christina and Rebecca for a long weekend. Christina lived there for a while in the past so I’m pretty sure she’ll make an excellent tour guide. After the ladies head back to the states, I’ll jump on a super-cheap flight up to Stockholm, Sweden, where my friend Aaron lives. Lots to see and do here, I’m told, so I’m not sure how long I’ll stay. Regardless, the next stop will probably be Amsterdam, Netherlands, quickly followed by Rotterdam and Delft, where my Dutch friends Jorn and Daniel live. Here things get a little fuzzy, but I know that I’ll probably visit somewhere or somewheres on my way south to Rome, Italy, where I’m meeting John from Alaska and getting on board our cruise ship. For the next 12 days we’ll be in the Mediterranean with stops in the following places:

    • Naples, Italy
    • Athens, Greece
    • Kusadasi, Turkey
    • Istanbul, Turkey
    • Mykonos, Greece
    • Port Said, Egypt
    • Alexandria, Egypt
    • A day trip to Cairo, Egypt
    • Rome, Italy

    Once we return to Rome, John and I will fly to Split, Croatia to begin the overland portion of our journey together. After seeing what Split has to offer, we are taking a ferry down the coast to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Next stop is Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina for a couple of days before continuing to Skopje, Macedonia. From Macedonia, we will continue to Thessaloniki, Greece where we catch a night train to Istanbul, Turkey, our final destination on this leg of the trip.

    After a few days in Istanbul we will catch flights up to Amsterdam, Netherlands where we’ll spend a few more days together, probably drinking beer inside away from the winter weather before John heads back to the states. I then have a week or so unplanned, though I’m considering visits to Denmark or Luxembourg before I go to Berlin, Germany to visit my friend Nuria.

    I think I’ll probably take another train back to Paris for my flight back to New York, where I’ll only spend one day before flying even farther west to Eugene, Oregon for a much needed rest.

    That’s as far as I’ve planned, but my probable next stop is Xela, Guatemala, by way of New York City once again, where I hope to enroll in Spanish language school.

    Whew. Quite a plan, won’t you agree?

    * trains, in case you didn’t figure that out

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    Catching Up

    I don’t really know who all reads this thing, but I figure most of you know me for real. If that’s the case then some of this stuff won’t be news to you, but here it is anyways. Turns out that a lot of stuff happens in real life when you’re not paying attention. Here, in no particular order, are some highlights of the last while.

    Running

    I ran the half-marathon I mentioned earlier. It was definitely worth doing, even though I didn’t run it super fast. Read more about it and see my time at runningahead. Since then I’ve gone through a couple of phases. First, I was running 30-ish miles per week for several weeks in a row, culminating in a 5k race that I didn’t rest at all for. I broke 20 minutes, which I was very happy with, but I could have run quite a bit faster, I think, if I had done the few days before the race differently. Oh well.

    After that, I left for the Philippines and ran once in two weeks. It was a great trip, and deciding not to stress about running was a smart move. I’m back now and will try to get consistent again before I begin traveling in earnest. More on that below.

    GRE

    I took the GRE on June 9th, as planned, and actually ended up doing very well! I just got my official scores in the mail today and I even scored high on the writing part. All this after beach/pony camping all weekend with the Burritos. Now to decide whether I’m going to grad school or not, and when.

    Beaches

    Speaking of beaches, I’ve spent a lot of time on beaches this summer. Maybe not more in a year than I have in my life before, but certainly more than since I was a little kid. And I haven’t gotten a sunburn yet all season! That’s even more amazing. I remember burning pretty much every time I went to the beach in past years. Maybe with age I am getting wiser. Here, I’ll pass on my wisdom: apply sunscreen every 45 minutes or hour if you are as white as I am.

    The first trip of the year was my visit to Puerto Rico back in April. We spent quite a bit of time outside, but each day also involved chilling out inside so I just got darker rather than burning. Next up was a 4 day visit to a beach house in North Carolina with a great group of people. Tossed the disc a lot, played in the water a little bit, and generally had a great time. Next, went with a big group of people, mostly from the frisbee team, to Assateague Island for beach camping. Again, tossed the disc a lot and spent the whole weekend outside. Finally, I went to the Philippines for two weeks.

    The Philippines

    That’s right, two whole weeks of vacation. Dave and I took off from Dulles on Wednesday, June 25th and returned just a couple of days ago on July 9th. This trip marked my first time in Asia (now my continent count is three). Basically I can sum up the trip by saying “I love the Philippines.” Our experience in the country may have been a little bit atypical because we had a good friend (Chip) there to plan, rescue us from language difficulties, and introduce us to his family and friends, but I think a well-prepared tourist without such a local contact could still have a great time.

    We were based in Manila, but took three different 3-day, 2-night trips to various places around the country. There is so much to see and we only scratched the surface of it, but we still experienced a whole hell of a lot. Chip decided that the trip’s goal was to experience the various types of beach life in the PI. To this end we went camping at a beach with boat-only access (Anawangan, in Zambales), stayed a couple of nights in a beautiful villa in a coastal town (Sabang, in Puerto Galera, Mindoro), and enjoyed a weekend at a resort on the island of Bohol. We spent two days scootering around on small motorbikes, seeing various sights and tearing up the roads as much as we could with 110 horsepower. We also did lots of other stuff that I’m not really talking about here, like: Snorkeling! Eating! Drinking! More Eating! Relaxing! Hiking! Watching terrible movies on buses! Taking pictures!

    Even though I didn’t take more than a handful of pictures myself while I was there, I was traveling with some photo-happy folks, so I ended up with a DVD of over a thousand pics showing the whole trip. If you want to see them and hear (a lot) more about my trip then please ask.

    The real kicker is that I took this trip three weeks before my last day of work at the Fed.

    Quitting My Job

    I’ve known since this spring that I’m going to quit working at the Fed this summer. And for the record, they’ve known too, so I’m not some kind of jerk for not telling them. I’ve actually really enjoyed my experience at the Board of Governors. My coworkers and bosses have been great, the work has been mostly interesting, and I’ve learned a lot. I’m a very different type of programmer now than I was when I started, and know quite a bit more about applied statistics (econometrics, specifically). Also, the benefits and pay have been awesome and I’ve managed to take quite a few fun trips, both locally and quite far away.

    DC has been a really good place to live, and I’ve made a lot of friends here (Burritos!) but I’m moving on now. I might come back at some point, maybe even next year, but for now I plan on doing some traveling.

    My final day of work is August 1st, two years and one week after I started working here.

    Plans

    Where am I going from here? As I hinted at just above, I’m going to be traveling for a while. I’ve got quite a few tentative plans, a couple for-sure ones, and a lot of ideas. I’ll write another post about that soon. If you have any ideas or want to go somewhere with me, please let me know!

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    Puerto Rico!

    I spent the last ten days in Puerto Rico, visiting my buddy Jimbo. He lives in Old San Juan, which I’m told is the oldest settlement in North America under the American flag. It’s a very cool old city: narrow cobblestone streets, vibrant colors, lots of neat bars and clubs, and friendly people.

    Jimbo has been living in Old San Juan for about two and a half months at this point, and it sounds like he’s had a very good time. He actually moved there with his friend Kevin, who sold him on the place as follows:

    “It’s cheap, and you don’t need to speak Spanish.”

    Neither of these things are true. It’s true that many parts of the island are tourist destinations so you can get by with only English, but meeting people and living a full life require at least medium language skills. I don’t have any Spanish skills, or at least I didn’t. I picked up a few things, but mostly relied on Jimbo–whose Spanish has become pretty passable in the time he’s been there–and the many bilingual people I met to help me out.

    As expected, I forgot my camera. I was bummed about that, but it wasn’t a huge surprise. So you’ll have to take my word for the fact that PR is a very beautiful country. It’s an island. On the edge of the Caribbean. The beaches are awesome. It also has hills and farms and forests (and rainforests) and cities. We did several whirlwind tours in our rental car which allowed us to see quite a bit of the island.

    The climate there is great! Low of 70, high of 85! Every day! Sounds pretty hot, I know, but there’s air conditioning in a lot of places for sleeping and buildings are generally designed to channel the breezes through the interior, keeping it quite cool. It rained once while we were there, just in the morning, though. Because of the temperature, many places don’t have warm water available. I am about to have my first warm shower in 11 days and I’m really looking forward to it.

    I realize I’m not writing that much about what I did there, so here’s a quick summary: helped put on a concert (Pink Skull), got some artists to the airport with all the crap from the art show they had been doing, drove to beaches all over Puerto Rico, went to parties, played cribbage, listened to lots of music, and more I’m forgetting already. If you want to know more about my trip contact me!

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    Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

    Last Sunday, I raced in the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. It was great! The weather was almost ideal, with temperatures just below 50 degrees, no rain, and only a little wind. Happily, I ran just about exactly the time I expected and hoped for: 1:09:34. I was hoping to finish in under 70 minutes, and I did. I didn’t write much there about it, but you can see my splits over at runningahead if you’re interested.

    I gave blood on Wednesday, so I’ve been taking it pretty easy this week. I’m not sure how much running I’ll do in the next week or two, either, since I’m going to Puerto Rico for ten days starting tonight. I looked at the weather there for the next few days, and the highs are in the low 80s and the lows in the low 70s. Wow! It sounds like Jimbo has some great things planned for us, so I should have fun so long as I don’t die from the heat. Wish me luck!

    Update: A bad picture of me during the race. Enjoy.

    me running

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    Cell Phone, Part 2

    After a way long IM conversation with Ben, I think I’m going to try to get the same phone he has. It’s quite a bit more expensive than the motofone, but the Sony Ericsson W810i has bluetooth (for wireless sync with my computer), a decent digital camera, and plays music (for leaving my ipod at home). Oh, and I’ll be able to use it in other parts of the world, too, since it’s quad-band. I’m hoping to score one on ebay for something less than the $200 that Amazon wants.

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    I wrote this in my head on the chinatown bus

    Yes, I realize, I post on here very infrequently. Oh well. I think it’s just the way it’s going to be. Anyways, I rode the chinatown bus home from Philadelphia today. As we were pulling out of Philly, I drafted the following (in my head):

    If this is the worst thing that happens to me today I live a good life

    I am appalled that the bus driver thought it was a good idea to play that movie where Vin Diesel is a soldier-nanny.

    But after suffering through the first movie the driver redeemed himself. He played Total Recall, which we all know is one of the best movies ever made. So that’s it. We got to DC right before the climax of the film, but I’ve seen it lots of times so it’s okay.

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