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This is amazing

Posted on October 25th, 2007 after 11200 miles by Dean Croshere.

Have you ever read this book?

I’m guessing that most of my readers have. It is pretty standard reading for elementary school students. This woman wrote it.

Sharon Creech came to give a speech at the place I’m staying.

I

I’m not sure exactly how to explain the wonderful place I’ve been in for nearly a week now. I know I’m going to be here for nearly a week more.

I mean, this really isn’t a common thing. If I wanted to, I could have sat in “my” room and watched a Newbury Award winning author talk about her newest book. Of course I didn’t. I sat with my hosts in the yard with all the kids running about while their son stayed inside working on a project for math class.

That is skipping the morning. Earlier that day my host had arranged for me to show my 45 senior thesis documentary film about Boxer to a small audience in Alabama. He contacted the local newspaper and managed to get a press release I wrote printed with the Nixon and Boxer picture. They had everything prepared and a small basket set up for donations. I made a few bucks, showed a few people my movie, and spoke for a minute about the history of our school and mascot.

Then we went home.

…and watched Sharon Creech give her speech. I bought a copy of the book that she then signed. Well, she put a signed sticker inside it anyway.

She just finished saying what she wanted to say when the rain started. There was a bit of warning so the crews that had laid out all the books were already frantically putting them away. I helped with the last few books before running and joining the sound crew. By the time I started helping them, the rain was coming down hard.

I started grabbing cables and coiling them. There is a special way high quality cables like these are coiled. Under over it’s called. Each time another coil is made, the wire is twisted the opposite direction to keep the net twist at 0.

Under over I coiled. Over under.

The guy who owned all the equipment checked to be sure I knew what I was doing. It was a brief assessment; it was raining on his gear.

Over under. The cables I coiled were covered in mud. Under over. Kids were everywhere trying to help, (colliding with each other, in a big thud?). Their parents were out folding chairs, they were moving equipment, and just plain being wonderful.

Once all this was resolved I wandered back to the house where my host handed me a beer.

Remember how his son was working on that math project?

He and his group were stuck. They didn’t really understand what they were doing. They tried to explain it to me and didn’t get far.

Through a series of questions, we got to the point where they could take the project over and finish it up themselves. I’m glad I got the chance to help them out on it. Luckily it wasn’t homework for me, I could think of it as a logic puzzle. That, and I love physics. They didn’t know it, but they were doing a simple torque problem. I briefly explained lever arms and how they relate to force.

Filtered throughout this post are some pictures I snapped of the place I’m staying. I’m sure I’ll take more of this amazing and beautiful home, the neighbor of which I’m currently re-roofing.

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I didn't want to be there

Posted on October 28th, 2007 after 11200 miles by Dean Croshere.

I ran away.

I was roofing. Rather, I was de-roofing.

It was cold out, rather chilly. I could see the sun, I could see the shadows on the ground. When the light hit my skin, I was warm. When it didn’t, I was cold.

The roof was in the shadows.

The light didn’t hit my skin.

I was cold.

It is a very claustrophobic feeling, being cold. Especially when you can see the sun.

It wasn’t just that I was cold. I was moving, so my body was struggling to warm itself. It was like the expanding warmth of my body was trapped inside a small contracting shell of a cold exterior.

The section of roof I was working on was steep and small. Between a valley and a roll. Corners and edges are a pain to remove and refuse any sort of good rhythm.

Rhythms clear the mind. They help to induce a state of meditation. As any athlete or employee will tell you, a state of meditation while working is simultaneously calming and blissful. The job or workout breezes by with less attention to pain or frustrations.

I really needed to clear my mind. I was on a downward spiral of thought. One where I accepted that my fears might come true.

Interpersonal relationships. Women.

Did they mean what they said? Should I take silence as a good thing or a bad thing? Were they lying? Are they- she- just humoring me? What does she want? Is it the same thing I want? Am I being stupid? Should I do what I know I should do or what I feel I should do?

Each answer kept coming back in the negative. If I tried to stop and think in the positive sense, I couldn’t get free.

I reached a roll. It didn’t want to pry off with my shovel. I pick up a crowbar and hammer. I readjusted myself. My borrowed work jeans shifted uncomfortably as I tried to find a way to support myself on the small steep roof to pry off the shingle. They’re practical. Tighter than I’m used to. They didn’t help.

I hammed the crowbar in. Grabbed a nail. Yanked. It came out.

Too easy.

It didn’t take any real effort.

The next nail.

Place, hammer, pry.

I wanted it to be hard, to strain the limits of my strength. To tire me. To distract me.

It didn’t.

I went back to the same pattern. 1. Roof: Shovel till I hit a corner, 2.Thoughts: downward spiral. It was only a minute or so later that I hit the valley. I stopped. I considered picking up the hammer and crowbar. I felt so trapped. I had to be somewhere else. Anywhere else.

In two quick steps I was at the top of the roof, in the sunlight. It felt good. I dropped my gloves. The air on my hands was refreshing. I still wasn’t happy. My mind was still deadlocked. I wasn’t sure why I felt that being somewhere else would help, but I was sure.

I felt guilty. My host was in some kind of a meeting with some people that seemed like they might be clients. I didn’t want to disturb them to say, “I’m currently mentally breaking down. I’ll be back later.”

He’s a good guy. I knew he would worry. Maybe even leave the meeting to try to calm me down. I just needed to walk.

I was already off the property.

I only had a vague idea of where I was. I knew mobile bay was nearby and I vaguely recalled a map and where a few things were. I could use my phone, but that was not what I needed. I would have loved to be lost.

A couple of times I distracted myself, got my mind off the negative spiral. I would congratulate myself for the that I wasn’t thinking about her when I realized I wasn’t thinking about her, which made me think about her, which started everything over again.

I found the bay almost disappointingly quickly. It was only a few blocks down the road. A hop skip and a jump later and I was on the pier.

“Women these days” the fat old guy fishing with his buddies began. I was right next to him and listening intently, I mixed up exactly how he continued, I think it was, “Dats a hrumph dump humph.” It might have also been, “Ders sha num rump bumpfh.” While the later is entirely different, it gets the same idea across.

I also couldn’t have agreed more.

I didn’t stop to fraternize. The pier was long and there was more to walk. I still needed to walk it.

Most of the way down I stopped and looked over the edge. There is a little gazebo thing that was casting a shadow in the cloudy dark green water. The shadow was enough to allow a few inches of visibility. Tiny little fish, maybe even tadpoles, swam madly about, in and out of the shadow provided visibility. I stared for a few minutes trying to find deep meaning. I actually hoped for the kind of epiphany, the kind of revelation that would free me from my little self induced torment so I could go back to work.

Lets see, “Look at all those fish dashing madly about, they…. Um, have no meaning? My life has no meaning?” That’s no good. Lets try again. “Look at all those fish dashing madly about, lessee here, um, dirty… small… insignificant….”

I gave up. The fish weren’t my answer.

I kept moving. I thought about getting in my car and driving. Going somewhere else. Leaving. Going on a road trip. Luckily my car was in the garage getting checked up again. I admonished myself for wanting to run away on some kind of road trip while on a massive free form road trip.

I found a little place at the very end of the pier that wasn’t occupied by fishing lines. I’m not sure how long I sat there, out of places to go, my only option to go back.

The light glinted off the water and disappeared much as the little sparkling bits in the trails of fireworks disappear at the big 3rd of July show. I always thought that was clever. To have the big show on the third so everyone goes to it before having their own 4th of July party.

Glinting, moving, fading, another sparkle right behind it.

I slowly calmed down. I spent a while just breathing, relaxing. A speck or two may have gotten stuck in my eyes as they kept, erm, watering.

I have no idea how long I was there. I guess eventually I hit that meditative state I was looking for.

I started to head back. I was feeling a little better and I was no longer thinking about the crap I had been stuck on earlier. In fact, just thinking about the fact that I was no longer stuck on the matter didn’t throw me right back into it as it had earlier.

I stopped to read a little poster on a wall midway back across the pier. It was pleading with people to not litter in mobile bay.

“The Mobile Bay estuary is worth seeing because it is beautiful and it is worth understanding and protecting because we need it.”

What?

Why is the word “because” in the same sentence twice?

I wrote better than that in middle school.

Lets try it a little differently, maybe with some punctuation.

“The Mobile Bay estuary is a beautiful resource that is not only worth seeing, it is worth understanding and protecting.”

For some reason I found this incredibly humorous. There are multiple novelists that live in Fairhope. It is a little artist town here in southern Alabama. I find it amazing that not one of them could be recruited to write the little “protect Mobile Bay” board on the pier. Maybe just a local high school English student?

This little issue reminded me of another atrociously written sign I saw in North Carolina.

“Each Employee’s Hands Must Be Washed Thoroughly, Using Soap, Warm Water and Sanitary Towel Or Approved Hand-Drying Device, Before Beginning Work and After Each Visit to the Toilet.”

Ok, first of all, what is happening with the capitalization? Why is every word capitalized? For that matter, why is “or” capitalized while “and,” “to,” and “the,” are not? Second, why is the entire thing written as one sentence? Could this not be expressed perfectly well in two or three sentences? Third, why is there no article before Sanitary Towel? Would it not make more sense to write “A Sanitary Towel” though with the capitalization scheme, it makes about as much sense to write “a Sanitary Towel.”

Lets try this again and make it readable.

“Each employee must thoroughly wash hands before beginning work and after each visit to the toilet. A properly thorough hand washing technique must include the use of soap, warm water, and a sanitary towel or approved hand-drying device.” I suppose this version would not allow someone else to wash the employee’s hands for them while the original version would. My version also includes a period to separate the idea that hands must be washed from the idea of what thorough hand washing includes.

I came to the conclusion that the various government of the south must be uniformly afraid of punctuation. There is no better explanation for the government sponsored signs in North Carolina and Alabama both displaying an atrocious use of the sentence separating constructs.

I was feeling better about myself. Not only had I finally regained control of my own thoughts, but I had spuriously convinced myself that I was more intelligent then the combined governments of the south.

I headed back into town. I still had a roof to remove.

I managed to get myself a little more lost this time. I decided to finish the little loop that I had begun, a decision that would take me through town and back to the house in roughly the same amount of time. Of course, with all of the interesting things to check out in town, I forgot to pay attention to what street I should be turning on. One of these interesting things was the trash cans.

“Waste Please” they read. Heh. Whoops. I don’t think this is what they are asking for. I’ve never before seen a city advocate that the people waste more, much less ask so kindly. Perhaps they meant, “Waste, Please.”

I also walked by a fudge shop. I’m pretty sure it is impossible to be even slightly depressed while walking past a fudge shop. The smells will mechanically turn any depressed mind into a little door opening shop entering automaton.

I decided an ice cream cone was just what I needed.

I was right.

There is something so youthful about an ice cream cone. A little sugar and cream, the coldness on the inside competing with the heat the beating sun was now providing. How many times has mom fixed a lost game, a race disqualification, a bad day, with a trip to the local ice cream parlor?

Actually, not many, now that I think about it, but that ice cream cone I ate while running away from my responsibilities in Fairhope sure felt good.

Oh yeah, responsibilities.

My host was worried, as I was sure he was going to be. I apologized profusely, picked up my shovel, and got back to removing some shingles.

They were no longer in the shade.

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Miss

Posted on October 29th, 2007 after 11200 miles by Dean Croshere.

The Grand Hotel in Point Clear Alabama is old. Old by my standards anyway.

My standards are simple. Anything older than my fraternity, founded 1863, is old. Anything younger (or newer) is young (or new).

As I said, the Grand Hotel is old.

It is also one of the few places a mint julep can be ordered on any usual day.

I have a particular way that I like a mint julep to be made. I’m fairly certain that, much like the old fashioned, it must be made at home to have it made right.

That said, atmosphere is important. A nice warm October evening in the south, the back yard of a 200 year old hotel, it seems like some pretty nice atmosphere.

The sunset was remarkable. I had brought my nice camera, but I left it in the car. I did what I could with my phone. I do rather like some of these.

I ordered another, this time with a little more sugar. The bartender was a very upright fellow wearing a tux.

“Yes, sir, right away, sir.” He spoke with a heavy german accent.

This julep was better. I continued exploring the grounds, stopping briefly to remark on the wonderful weather and remarkable sunset with a nice old lady (people are exempted from my usual method of ranking how old something is).

I headed back to Fairhope to pick up dinner. A pizza and a couple of beers later I decided to leave my car where it was for the night.

As I walked back into the house, I saw a couple pictures that were simply waiting to be taken. I grabbed the camera and a tripod and set up the shots.

Night photography is best performed a little drunk.

Assuming about a minute or so of adjusting lenses and dials, each of these shots is a 30 second exposure. After the 30 seconds, the camera takes another 30 seconds to render the image. This means it takes about 2 minutes for one exposure.

Being drunk helps pass the second minute exposure after exposure.

Here is the house I’ve been de-shingling. The darkness obscures it, but I’ve been working on the right. The small section I mentioned yesterday is on the backside of the far right end.

One thing I realized, and have wanted to experiment with for a while, is that a long exposure can be written on with a bright light.

The writing on these pictures is not done in photoshop.

It is quite difficult to get this right.

First, everything has to be written backwards.

Second, there is no way to tell where the past stroke was written.

Third, there is no way to tell how wide the canvas is. Fourth, there is no way to stay even with the canvas as it occupies 3d space. Finally, It takes a full minute for each exposure, and only about 15 seconds to write the letters. That’s 45 seconds of waiting to see if the previous attempt worked or not.

My last attempt, when it was finally legible, was my 44th exposure. My buzz was pretty much gone.

I’ll let that one stand on its own.

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Mobile Pier

Posted on October 31st, 2007 after 11200 miles by Dean Croshere.

Some of these articles are very text heavy and may have one or two incidental pictures.

This is not one of those articles.

I specifically planned to be at the pier at sunset to take some pictures. In the process of researching the sunset time, I came across this stock picture for sale. I hoped to be able to take a picture that came near the quality of that one.

I knew I couldn't recreate it. First of all, that picture was taken before Katrina. The pier in the foreground does not exist.

Second, that is a long exposure. I didn't bring my tripod (or Boxer, I wanted to be light) and wasn't going to be taking any long exposures (Though now that I think about it, long exposures of sunsets is a really good idea. I'll have to try that later).

Finally, There were plenty of cooperative clouds in that shot, and there weren't any when I began mine.

There were two or three really short piers next to the boat ramp. I went down to the furthest one in an attempt to frame one of the closer piers in the same manner as that stock photo.

It didn't work.

With plenty of time until sunset, I snapped a picture of this corrugated pipe sticking out of the sand in the beach area. I thought this really strange considering the beach is an attraction and probably not natural.

Directly behind the corrugated pipe was this scene.

Sunset was fast approaching. I gave up with my far pier and started to move closer to the main. This was when I noticed the birds. The next pier over was loaded with them.

While there isn't one on the pole, there is one on the light hanging off the pole. You can see him if you look closely. I kept inching closer and closer. I hoped to be able to get a silhouette of a bird on a pylon with the sunset in the background.

They weren't going to have it. Every time I got even fairly close, the nearest birds would fly off, spooking the rest.

I gave up that idea.

Instead, I scared them all.

My camera can take up to eight and a half pictures in a second.

You can bet I was pretty near to that.

They were flying everywhere. I knew where my subject was. It was just a matter of getting lucky.

I still had a couple of minutes until the sun hit the water. I snapped a shot of the sick bird that was camped out on the steps.

By the way, these pictures have the most editing I've done for this site. This one is the first time I've significantly altered the look of the picture. The colors in the original were stunning, I just preferred them muted and unified. Not to mention the original picture is a landscape.

At this point I was walking down the pier taking near constant pictures.

Sunset came and went, as it does.

There was a guy just in front of me that told me I shouldn't be taking his picture. I started to apologize and showed him that he couldn't be identified, much less located in the picture.

Turned out, he didn't really care.

Then someone recognized me. It was someone I met on my first night here.

I love to meet new people, love to chat. Most of the time my subject isn't going to change much. Most of the time it is, at worst, a minor annoyance that I have to stop taking pictures to talk to someone.

At sunset, I was straining to keep my focus on her and her friend as I saw beautiful shots literally fly by.

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Now you can play along too!

Posted on November 2nd, 2007 after 11958 miles by Dean Croshere.

I updated my map, if you prefer the old fashioned style to my points on a gmap locations. It is probably best that you click on this one to see it high res.

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Grandpa
Carlsbad, CA
Central Ala- 'Bama
The middle of the state.
Heaven on a Bun?
Next to the CdA lake
Driving in Idaho
Just south of Coeur d' Alene