The Road Trip That Wasn’t: Day 39, 1/22/2015, Arches National Park

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We started the morning with a hike to Landscape Arch, the longest, most popular arch in all of Arches National Park.  As it turned out, it’s a very thin arch. You get the feeling that one day it’ll just collapse, and become two oddly shaped spires. That’s happened before. Erosion will do that to every arch, eventually. Dang you, erosion.

In 2008, in fact, Wall Arch, which had been the 12th largest arch in the park, collapsed in the middle of the night. Before: super cool natural bridge. After: just two pillars of rock.

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We have been working with Stephen and Arwen about erosion, making this trip a huge science and ecology lesson for them. That’s one of the things I was hoping we’d see on this road trip. No kid sitting in a classroom — in any nation on earth — is going to get the kind of education, the cultural, geological, historical, anthropological lessons that these kids are going to get in the next year. They’re going to build a lifetime of memories in this year, and they’re lessons that they’ll remember for having experienced them, instead of just reading or writing about them.

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As has become my tradition, having become addicted to its amazing wonder, I stayed up late to see what the night sky offered us this night. I was not disappointed.

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Tomorrow we’re leaving Arches. Just one more National Park and we’re pretty much done with Utah — for the year! It’s hard to figure out how I’m making this math work. I’ve got to visit 49 states in 12 months, and after one month, we’re only done with one of them. This is going to get tricky.

We were in Arches National Park on 1/22. Can you guess where we’ll be on 1/29? There’s a $5 bounty for the first person to guess. All you gotta do is comment below with your guess before midnight tonight. Winner announced when the 1/29 post goes live.

(The Road Trip That Never Was is a fictional account of a year-long road trip I am (not) taking across America. Follow my nomadic journey by subscribing to the email feed on the top right. It’s fun, fast and free!)

 

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The Road Trip That Wasn’t: Day 38, 1/21/2015, Arches National Park

We had to get up a little early to reach our destination today on time. Normally we try to set our daily driving range at four hours except for the few Long Haul days we have in store for us. Still, Arches National Park is 229 miles away, and, as it turns out, five and half hours of desert driving.

Arches National Park is the fourth (of five) National Parks in Utah — and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be hitting number five in the next couple days, but for the now, our goal was to see how many of the 2000 arches we could find in the park. Two thousand!

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Basically, the park sits on top of a giant underground salt lick, or some such, and over time, the salt has dissolved or been washed away, and so the land keeps revealing holes in the rock left by the original salt. I think that’s how the geology goes. Whatever the reason, it seems like there’s something really neat to photograph at every corner.

We set up shop at Devil’s Garden, the only campground in the park. There’s not much in the way of services… Just some pit toilets and basic camping pads/fire pits. But that was enough for us. We had our fresh meats, eggs and dairy from Salt Lake City in the fridge, and plenty of firewood. The campground did have something no other campground’s had so far: its own arch!

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Tomorrow we’re going to take a hike to see some of the more stunning arches — there’s also spires, towers, all sorts of really neat rock formations. I will say one thing for Utah… It has had the absolute NEATEST, COOLEST, most CRAZY kinds of rocks, canyons, hoodoos (can’t forget those guys!) and other geological oddities you can find, scattered all over the state.

We were in Arches National Park on 1/21. Can you guess where we’ll be on 1/28? There’s a $5 bounty for the first person to guess. All you gotta do is comment below with your guess before midnight tonight. Winner announced when the 1/28 post goes live.

(The Road Trip That Never Was is a fictional account of a year-long road trip I am (not) taking across America. Follow my nomadic journey by subscribing to the email feed on the top right. It’s fun, fast and free!)

 

 

 

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The Road Trip That Wasn’t: Day 37, 1/20/2015, Salt Lake City

We slept at the Wal-Mart last night. What? Don’t judge me. It’s hard to be on the road for a year. Campsites and hotels add up, man! Besides, we’ve got a stove, shower, and everything else you need for a comfortable stay. Most Wal-Marts will let a through-camper stay for a night or two, and we’ll probably take advantage of more than one such stay on the way.

The first order of business today was shopping for new gear. We’re looking at another ten days in the bush and (a first!) a three-day hiking trip planned. We need to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible and prepared for the march. After this ten-bagger, we don’t have another extended stretch of camping until summer, when July, August, and September have just… oodles of National Parks planned: six(!) in July, three in August, four in September.

So, back to camping preparations. When we did our overnight hike, Mom’s complaint was comfort. She needs a better mattress pad. Our camping trips are never going to be super-long multi-day affairs, so we can afford the extra weight of another pad for her.  We tried a couple out, and ended up having to go with a big, bulky monster, the Exped MegaMat 10.

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We’re gonna need a bigger backpack

Stephen’s biggest issue had been his feet. We let him pick out some really nice padded socks. They’ll help until he breaks his new boots in. Arwen needed a new camera… REI is too pricey for that, so we grabbed one at the Wal-Mart. The cool and really cheap (this was a key factor!) Jazz Cam.

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I know, I know… today’s post is pretty much just a “Hey, look at all the crap we bought at Wal-Mart and REI” post, but some folks are interested in the goings on of the road trip and the gear we’re using. Like I said, we’ve got ten days of hard-core camping coming, this was our day off. Oh, and we went and saw this, too:

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We were in Salt Lake City on 1/20. Can you guess where we’ll be on 1/27? There’s a $5 bounty for the first person to guess. All you gotta do is comment below with your guess before midnight tonight. Winner announced when the 1/27 post goes live.

(The Road Trip That Never Was is a fictional account of a year-long road trip I am (not) taking across America. Follow my nomadic journey by subscribing to the email feed on the top right. It’s fun, fast and free!)

 

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A Quarter of the Way Into “The Gods Themselves,” Isaac Asimov Blew My Freaking Mind

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I like to think that I’m Isaac Asimov aficionado. I’m not, really. I just like to think that. I mean, I read the David Starr books when I was a kid, the Science Fiction Book Club introduced me to the Foundation Series, I read all his magazine essays in compilations, the Robot mysteries, and his non-science fiction mysteries were all well known to me.

Today, I read “The Gods Themselves.” I figured it was a typical human drama like Heinlein’s space pioneer books (“Have Spacesuit, Will Travel) or other Asimov books themselves, say like the Foundation Series itself, and the opening act proved me right. One scientist has discovered a way to transfer materials out of our universe, and with the help of mysterious creatures in an alternate universe, generate energy as a result. Another scientist is (quite correctly) terrified that this will lead to disastrous (on a galactic scale) results.

Typical Asimov.

According to my Kindle, I was 23% of the way through the book, when Isaac Asimov blew my freaking mind. The second act started, not on Earth — where the first act had resided. Not even on the Moon, where one character had been heading. No, this act started in that alternate universe. It starred three aliens of a race so wonderfully imagined, I have not seen its equal in science fiction anywhere, although Orson Scott Card’s alien race in “Speaker for the Dead” appears to have been inspired by Asimov’s.

I don’t want to give it away, because the joy of this entire segment of the book was far, far more than the story going on — and it was an important, VITAL part of the entire story. No, the discovery of this race in my mind, as Asimov carefully placed it there, each word picked perfectly, every phrase, every minute piece of world-building and xenology (to coin a phrase, as he was wont to do). On every page in the second act he surprised me, something I did not think he could do. On every page he delighted me, and I was even more surprised and, well, delighted at that too.

As I read this, I felt “This is something special. This is something Asimov has never done before. Can he keep it up?” — Sadly, the third act returns to our universe, and wraps up very neatly, as many of his novels do. The science fiction was spectacular, but it all felt forced — as though the verdict had been decided before the words ever reached the page. Still… that second act.

When I reached the final page, I put the book down, and immediately jumped onto Wiki. Sure enough, “The Gods Themselves” had won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Locus awards that year. Asimov himself said that he believed the second act was as creative and inventive as anything he’d ever written.

I have to agree.

 

If you haven’t read this science fiction classic, but you love sci-fi, I encourage you to pick a copy up today. You won’t be disappointed. I also ask that you consider getting the book from my Amazon link, below. This site stays open through the generous patronage of readers like you. Thank you!

 

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The Road Trip That Wasn’t: Day 36, 1/19/2015, Salt Lake City

After ten days in the wilderness, it was time for civilization! We shot straight north 218 miles,  for four hours on the I-15 from Capitol Reef National Park to the capital of Utah: Salt Lake City. Home of the Mormons, the Utah Jazz, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Mormons. There. I promised my last bit about Mormons would come when we got to Salt Lake City, and now we have, and I’m done. Let’s talk about this beautiful city.

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The underlying rule for every capital-city visit is we’ve got to go to the capitol building. Salt Lake City’s Capitol Hill is located in a part of town called Marmalade Hill because, apparently, before they made laws here, they made marmalade. I don’t know what marmalade is, but I’ve heard of it. I guess that’s something.

The streets in Marmalade Hill are narrow and difficult to maneuver. I didn’t even try getting the RV there. We found a place nearby to park and took a bus to the building. When we got there we found a building that looked much more like the Capitol Building in Washington DC than those silly Capitol Domes in Capitol Reef National Park did.

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We found a neat bookstore downtown, Weller’s Bookworks, where we got the kids some books about the natural places we’ve been this month — Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park, and more about the Native Americans who settled these lands first. It’s a great store, you should check it out if you’re ever in Salt Lake City.

In the evening, we did our grocery shopping and then went to see a movie. I saw the new Hobbit movie (my review of it is here), and was happy, at the least, that the series is over. I love Middle Earth, and I know Peter Jackson does too, but after six movies, I feel like we have worn out our welcome, and am glad to be shutting the door to that realm for now.

We have another ten days in the wilderness ahead of us, so we’re going to stay the night here in Salt Lake City. Tomorrow we’ll do the laundry, get a propane refill, stop by REI for some better mattress pads and other camping gear (I want to get a solar device charger) and maybe stop by the Mormon Tabernacle, if for nothing else than to get pictures. Then… off the grid we go!

Now you know where we were on 1/19. Can you guess where we’ll be on 1/26? There’s a $5 bounty for the first person to guess. All you gotta do is comment below with your guess before midnight tonight. Winner announced when the 1/26 post goes live.

(The Road Trip That Never Was is a fictional account of a year-long road trip I am (not) taking across America. Follow my nomadic journey by subscribing to the email feed on the top right. It’s fun, fast and free!)

 

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