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Waffles and Hypothetical Racial Tensions

Posted on October 16th, 2007 after 10006 miles by Dean Croshere.

After spending most of my life OTP, I went ITP.

Did you catch that? It was Atlanta Lingo. (The pictures of fish are distributed through this because I took them in Atlanta and they look better not concentrated).

I guess all the cool people live inside the perimeter highway, including my host for this past weekend. Shortly after arriving on Saturday evening, we prepared to go check out the clubbing scene. The first place we went, it was the, erm… wrong night. Here is a situation you won’t find most other places in the world.

We drove (very slowly: traffic was not kind) past the front of the club. Pretty much everyone in really long line was black. I think we counted six white people and couple of Latinos. Each of these representations of multiculturalism was obviously there with someone who was black.

I feel like I should defend myself here. I’m not sure if it will do any good, or if it is necessary. First, there were only 3 or 4 black people in any school I have ever been to. I have never really interacted with the issues that arise with minorities. Second, there were plenty of black people in the clubs of Saint Louis (the only other place I went clubbing), and I had no trouble dancing with or talking to them. Third, I realize that such defenses are irrelevant as racial issues do exist and I have no idea how to handle them.

It wasn’t like there was anything going on in the line of the that would have been occurring had everyone in the line been white, but it was also apparent that we shouldn’t go in.

“It just isn’t a good idea to tempt things.” My host told me.

I agreed. We went somewhere else.

We found a different club, if you want to call it a club. I suppose the most politically correct way to describe it is to mention it’s name, the “Pink Pony.”

The clientele for this place was nearly entirely white.

While we were standing in line at this club (a line at a place like this?) we did find something that entertained us greatly. A car pulled up bearing an official “medical inspector” license plate and a few stickers displaying the same. The guys inside had brutally unhappy faces that looked like they couldn’t impossibly this establishment, much less anything else. They sat in their car for a while before parking it in a VIP place.

They were both wearing stuffy suits. One of the guys had a bow tie. The other, the far more interesting and unhappy looking, was using a golf club as a cane. It actually looked like he had stolen it from the local Hap-E!-Put miniature golf course. They walked in, skipping the line.

We were all wondering what he could possibly be there for. One person noted that he once saw on CSI that the medical inspector checks out the body after a murder.

Oooh, intriguing.

We never did find out why he was there, but we did end up sitting not far from him at one of the bars. He had a British accent and enjoyed scotch.

The next day we headed to a Waffle House. These things are all over the place in the south. Nearly every exit has one. Further, everyone knows the joke.

“What has four arms, four legs, four tits, and three teeth?”

“The night crew at the Waffle House.”

They serve the normal breakfast stuff, a couple of burgers, and hash browns 7 different ways. I had mine “peppered” and “diced,” meaning they came with jalapenos and tomatoes. There was a special where you could get them smothered in cheese.

In fact, there was a special where you could get everything smothered in cheese.

I decided against it. It was already all starch soaked in oil then fried and covered in syrup. I decided to go with the healthy option and forgo the cheese.

Following our trip to the southern breakfast special, we headed to the aquarium.

The lady asked if I was a student. I told her yes. I suppose I used to be, and I still have my old ID card. I’m glad she didn’t ask me how I managed to be in Atlanta with an Oregon student ID during the school year. It made the trip quite a bit more affordable.

I haven’t been to an aquarium in quite some time. Fish don’t really interest me. Luckily, taking pictures of fish does interest me. I love the depth they provide. Plus, it becomes incredibly frustrating to try to get them to line up the perfect shot when you have no control over where they go.

“Hey, you, red fish, move to the left. A little more. A little more. Damnit. Blue fish moved.”

I also snapped some pictures of the 6 month old kittens. They were almost cats, but they still had that curiosity that makes them so endearing. I love that look they get.

“What’s over there? This is interesting. Let me hit it with my paw. Is it edible? No? Oh hey something over there? I gotta check it out. Time to sleep.”

That, and they are fuzzy. Everybody loves fuzzy things.

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The South, University of

Posted on October 18th, 2007 after 10006 miles by Dean Croshere.

How would you begin to express this?

My host suggested that he would start with a b minor 7.

I went with a 1/500 of a second exposure with a 26mm lens at f/4.2.

I’m not sure I captured it. I’m not sure it is possible. There is something infinitely majestic about sitting atop a plateau in Tennessee watching the sun set off in the distance on a perfectly clear day with just enough clouds to show off the magnificent coloring in the sky.

It also helps to be sitting underneath this enormous cross.

The cross was a war memorial covering several wars. I'm not sure if it was a memorial to all soldiers, just Christian ones, just soldiers from the area (presumed to be Christian), or what exactly is going on there.

Picture the University of the South. Imagine a school that embodies everything that is the South. Know that it is in central Tennessee. What do you see?

Is it the above view on a hill? Is it something like this?

Personally, I expected to hear banjos, see confederate flags, and watch guys in big trucks chew tobacco.

I was entirely wrong.

Well, I was wrong about the last one anyway. I did hear a guy playing a banjo, and there was this confederate flag. It’s just that the guy playing the banjo was in a nice suit and the confederate flag is an actual civil war battle flag. I didn’t see any big trucks, instead I saw a bunch of cars with bumper stickers like these.

All told, the school was absolutely beautiful. It was about the size of Pacific in students, but it owns the second largest amount of land of any campus in the States. The food service, like that of Pacific, is provided by Aramark. It was quite tasty. They were also not secure at all. If you walk in the front door you have to swipe a card. If you walk in the back door, no one notices you. I used this back door method to get four free meals. My host told me if anyone asks why I was there, I should claim I was his prospective student. Just the day before I was claiming I was already a student to get cheap aquarium tickets. It seems I’m regressing with my lies.

I had a great time in Tennessee. My host is a very active guy and loves to play the same sports I do. I unfortunately missed the Ultimate Frisbee game, but we wasted little time to head to the schools gym to start playing racquetball.

I lost the first game of horribly. I got back into the rhythm of the game and won the second match by a pretty good margin. Then I crashed and lost the third and fourth. All in all, it was an excellent cardio workout, the likes of which I haven’t had in quite some time.

After the game of racquetball, he went to a class and I hit the library to post about Atlanta. The campus was beautiful and everything was really nice, save for the internet speeds and the cell service, both of which were terrible.

I had been enticed the entire time I was considering heading to Tennessee that there was some great places to go climbing. The school had an indoor wall and, while I generally prefer indoor climbing, outdoor is where the experience is. That is when skin touches rock and the air is fresh. The holds are tougher to see, likely sharper, and the fall is much less comfortable. The benefit is that it is natural. It is the element to be conquered.

Unfortunately, I simply don’t have the muscles for climbing anymore. I don’t have many other ways to work out my finger or forearm muscles. It was a little depressing given that I used to love climbing and was quite good at it.

Whatever I do later in life, I hope I find a way to climb. There is simply no other sport that can compare to the exhilaration found in climbing. First, it is incredibly mental. Sure you can power through the moves, but often times it helps to slow down and think about how your body has to be situated to make that next hold work. Do I need my hips to be in or out? Do I need my feet higher or lower? Should I flag my foot to the left? Should I stack on that crimper or mantle on that sloper?

Then, and I think I like this part more, the sport is a combination of power and mental work.

There is only the climber and the rock. I will stay on that rock as long as my fingers grasp it. I have to physically let go in order to fall. Unless the rock breaks, I have to fail or I succeed. Fall, or reach the top. It is a competition against my own desire to stop the pain in my hands. As I said, I was really out of shape. I fell a lot.

The next day, on the way out of Tennessee, headed to Kentucky, I got lost.

See, I was supposed to take TN-41 alternate south, which, I found out later, was headed north. Instead, I got on TN-41A north, which was headed south. After a while I found myself considerably too far west of where I wanted to be.

It all really didn’t make much sense.

I was about to pull over to figure out where I was when I saw a sign at a crossroads that cheerfully informed me that the Jack Daniels Distillery was straight ahead.

Turns out I wasn’t lost at all. Turns out I was going on a distillery tour.

There were a few interesting tidbits about Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey that I picked up.

1. Jack Daniels is NOT bourbon.

2. Jack Daniels, the guy who started the largest whiskey distiller in America, stubbed his toe on a safe, got gangrene, and died.

3. Lynchburg, the town the distillery is located in, is in a dry county. With the exception of on the premises, no alcohol may be bought or sold in the county. There are 74 million gallons of Whiskey in this dry county.

4. Jack Daniels, unlike bourbon, is charcoal filtered.

5. The sugar maples are turned into charcoal after they are soaked in high proof whiskey and lit on fire.

6. Historic Lynchburg should really be called, “the worlds largest seller of Jack Daniels memorabilia.” There are about 20 old looking shops here. They all sell Jack Daniels memorabilia and little else.

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The quintessential kentucky day

Posted on October 20th, 2007 after 10789 miles by Dean Croshere.

Bourbon and horseracing. That’s a good Kentucky day.

Here is “Destill My Heart” at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, having a snack. Destill came in last in all 7 races she ran. She is now an attraction at the visitor’s center.

Bourbon tasting has been high on my list of things to do since I began this trip. It was back in April that I first started drinking whiskey. At first, I found the burn repulsive. I had motivation though. The girl I was dating at the time loved the stuff. I certainly wasn’t going to be disgusted by something she loved, so I dove in headfirst and developed a taste for it.

Long story short, while my relationship with her is over, my relationship with bourbon is just beginning.

I love the complex flavors that can be found in the firewater. Makers Mark has a fantastic smoky flavor. Woodford Reserve has a delicious maple cinnamon flavor. I’m sure some of the others have great flavors too. I’ve only just begun to sample them.

It is fascinating though. Alcohol tastes bad. All of it does. When we say an alcoholic drink tastes good, we are really saying it “tastes less bad.”

Then again, I guess you could say that the process of “acquiring a taste” for booze is to learn to ignore the bad so as to better appreciate the complex flavors that can only exist in alcohol. I’m really curious, would seltzer water taste good stored in a barrel for seven years?

Probably not. It has to be rotten grapes or grain to properly age in toasted barrel.

This is sweet mash. It is a mixture of corn, malted barely, and rye. Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. Woodford reserve is 72% corn. Scotch is usually about 90% malted barely. This bourbon mixture is currently fermenting.

In a few weeks, it will be sour mash.

It will then be triple distilled in these copper stills. After the first it is technically beer. After the second, it is technically wine. After the third, well, that’s whiskey. This process is specific to Woodford Reserve. Apparently most distilleries do this step in only one or two steps, and they do it in stainless rather than copper.

From here, they are poured in barrels, rolled down this track, and placed in these big storage buildings for seven or eight years.

The barrels must be white oak, they must be charred, and they can only be used once. The barrels are then sold for various purposes, including the creation of scotch. See, bourbon isn’t stored for as long as scotch because the barrels are new and they impart their flavor much quicker as the burnt wood absorbs and releases the whiskey in tune with the temperature changes.

I used to believe that bourbon must be made in Kentucky. This is not the case. Instead, bourbon must be made in America. It just so happens that all bourbon (so far) is made in Kentucky. Note that bourbon is never charcoal filtered like Jack Daniels.

One of the most interesting things about whiskey is that, unlike wine, it is not made in the same location as its primary ingredients. The best wine is made in the valleys where the grapes are best grown.

Apparently, the Kentucky whiskey is so good for the same reason the thoroughbred horses are so fast. The water is naturally limestone filtered so it is loaded with calcium. This apparently makes really healthy yeast for fermentation and really strong bones for fast horses. I’m not sure why water from other places can’t just be fortified with calcium, but I digress.

Ok, I guess I wasn’t really digressing, there wasn’t much more to say about that. After the bourbon tour, I had a choice. I could go visit other distilleries, or I could go to a horse race at the Keeneland racetrack.

I went with the horse race.

I know next to nothing about horse racing. That didn’t stop me from putting a couple bucks on loosing horses in a couple different races. I made some slightly more educated guesses for the second race. By more educated guess, I looked up the horses names and went with the one with the coolest name. “Liquoreaux” sounded like an awesome name. I imagine it is pronounced "liquor roo."

I nearly won some money. My horse started off way ahead before giving up about halfway and finishing…well, look.

You can see him on the leader board there in the background. Number 5 in green. See, on the list there at the bottom? Listed in last place? That’s him. Or her, I guess. I suppose the horse is probably a her. I really don’t know much about horse racing.

::Discuss::Permanent link::Location

Banjos could signify doom

Posted on October 22nd, 2007 after 10789 miles by Dean Croshere.

“Kapow! Fwoosh! Zingg!” said Hobbes, "the trees are like natures own fireworks display."

It was time to pull off the highway. Time to find that shot. I had been driving through the beautiful red and yellow trees for hours, unable to stop and take pictures. I was on an Interstate after all. Interestingly, I don’t mind them nearly as much now as I did before I got to the east coast.

Still, I had to take an exit in what looked like the middle of nowhere before I started driving around looking for a place to take pictures.

In Tennessee, every exit is a highway. In fact, just about every road is a highway.

Anyway, I exited the highway after I exited the freeway. I drove around in the middle of nowhere Tennessee for a couple of hours before I found the spot. A long dirt road that wound its way around a hill, the lower side of which was beautifully covered by changing trees.

My ears perked for the sounds of banjos that might signify my coming doom at the hands of hillbillys, I managed to get some pictures I was proud of.

After I jumped in my car, I realized how lost I was. I had no idea where I was, which direction I was facing (it was overcast), or which way the freeway was from me. I drove around for a while before I pulled off behind a church that had a van that said where it was from.

I knew where I was. Now I just had to map it with my phone.

Unfortunately, the error for “that location does not exist” and “could not connect to the Internet” is the exact same thing, “directions could not be found.” I had a good network connection, so each time it told me “directions could not be found,” I just assumed I was wrong about my location. I kept driving about looking for a better indication of where I was.

There is also a bug in the Google Maps application on my phone where occasionally the phone will refuse to connect to the network. It happens most often when trying to use it with a spotty connection as I had been for a while.

I finally found a post office with its exact address printed on the side of the building. When I was still unable to get the phone to recognize this location, I realized it was probably that bug. After resetting the phone, the search worked and I was able to map my way home.

By home, I mean Atlanta.

In the near future I knew I had to get to Alabama. This is for reasons I will explain later.

Since I was headed to Alabama, Atlanta seemed like a nice central location. To add to the benefit, I had another place to stay in Atlanta so I could get a chance to check out the town a different way.

Shortly after arriving, I realized I had lost my debit card at a gas station at some point on that drive. I called in to cancel the card.

The lady asked me, “what city state did you lose the card?”

“well, uh, I’m not exactly sure. I think it was Kentucky.”

“Mmhmm.”

“Lets see, it also could have been Tennessee or Georgia.”

“and which city in those states”

“I have absolutely no idea. Let me check.” Luckily I write down what city I fill up in so I can put it on this site. Unluckily I delete them after I put that fill up online. I had already put it online.

“Nope, I guess I don’t know.”

Anyway, she cancelled my card and sent a new one to my parents place back in California. It was about time anyway. The card expired at the end of the month, the magnetic strip was splitting lengthwise, and the signature strip had long sense been stripped down to say “void.” The fact that I was still able to use the card (until I lost it) does not engender faith in the safety of the security features of such cards. I mean, isn’t the word “void” supposed to mean something?

I now have no good method of getting cash until I get that card. I hope what I have will last me for a while.

This time in Atlanta we headed to “Stone Mountain,” site of one of the worlds largest rock carvings. Naturally the carving is a Civil War Confederate memorial.

I was more interested in the complete lack of originality in the name of the Mountain. Why specify that a mountain is made of stone? Were the people who named it under the impression that most mountains were made of cheese?

We headed to the viewing platform and snapped a few shots of the memorial before leaving to go hike up the far side.

On the way out, there was a butterfly that appeared to be on its last legs. It allowed me to snap a bunch of pictures before he tried to fly away.

He didn’t get far.

We moved on.

The hike was nice and refreshing. The whole way up there were places where people had carved their names + that of their lovers. Poor Nick here will wait into eternity for his lover.

A mile a half both ways, I don’t know how much elevation change there was. It doesn’t really matter, as Boxer did not come along.

Up top, there were some nice views of Atlanta.

You could also look down to see the viewing platform we had just been at an hour or so before (on the bottom left of the picture).

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Sweet home... Alabama?

Posted on October 23rd, 2007 after 11200 miles by Dean Croshere.

I got sloppy joe all over my shirt.

That is, if you read the outer bag. If you read the inner bag it says that it was meat with barbeque sauce that I got all over my shirt. The sloppy joe sloppiness (meat with barbeque sauce barbarism?) was doubly frustrating because I had succeeded in finishing my “fruit punch with electrolytes” out of the brown plastic bag without spilling a drop on my clothing, though my hands and feet were dyed red.

During the process of changing my shirt, I noticed I was being swarmed by butterflies. Given that I was still in the middle of nowhere, I set Boxer out on the dirt road in the hopes I could get a butterfly landing on him. None did. None even got close. Even after I set a flower on his head as bait.

After 15 boring motionless minutes of hoping, I got bored and started chasing this butterfly just about everywhere. I had to keep him between me and Boxer, away from any ridges in the road, and I had to get low enough to frame the shot right and keep the butterfly in focus. I’m sure anyone watching me would have thought me to be quite the crazy, running around and ducking down to get a shot before getting up and running again.

After snapping that shot, I got a few of the butterflies in the field.

This ladybug was much more stationary, which made it easy. I tried transplanting him to Boxer (barely in the background), but he woke up and flew away.

After all this macro photography, it was time to hit the road. Steinbeck stopped in Texas to take a break. For me, this break is in Alabama.

Then again, Steinbeck stopped with family and his wife flew in.

I don't have a wife and I'm not staying family (though I might think I was, given the wonderful way I'm being treated). Instead, I am staying with one of my friend’s parents who happen to have a disturbingly similar name. My name, Dean Croshere, is not usual. His full name is only two letters different and pronounced nearly the same.

The place that I’m staying is accurately described as the highest room of the tallest tower of a storybook castle.

I am, however, not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue me.

Pictures of this place will come when the lighting is right.

The first night after I arrived, we took a small tour of the town. There is this nice pier that has been rebuilt after most of it was destroyed in Katrina a couple years ago.

There is also this awesome fountain. I was actually prepared this time. I brought a tripod. It allowed me to get some nice 30 second exposures which create the nice soft fountain effect.

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