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Our Nation's Capital

Posted on October 8th, 2007 after 8451 miles by Dean Croshere.

I came into Washington DC last night and hit up the Capital Mall today. I have been here once before. That was my 8th grade graduation trip.

This time it was 90 degrees and I had a 50 pound dragon dog. The total walking distance on the mall was about 4.5 miles. I'll guesstimate that there was at least another half mile of to, from and inter-subway walking. 5 miles would be a new record, but I cheated. I used wheels. I put Boxer into a little rolling suitcase thing with his head sticking out, which was a bit of a pain as Boxer caught on everything, was off balance and rolled the suitcase over a lot, and I totally destroyed the suitcase.

The subway gets off first right at the Capital building. It really is a beautiful building.

After this we headed down the mall to the Washington Monument. My host is one of my best friends from high school and it was nice doing a little reminiscing about times past as we walked through the sweltering heat and humidity.

Shortly after we walked to right underneath the Washington Monument, I realized that I needed to be in the penumbra at the tip of the shadow so the sun needed to be right over the peak of the obelisk, giving it that halo look.

We crossed the street to the tip of the shadow and took a picture that I'm very proud of (though I prefer horizontally oriented pictures).

We continued down the mall alongside the reflecting pool that a kid named Tim fell into on our 8th grade trip. Also, Tom Hanks ran through it in the movie. It really would take talent to run in the pool, Tim mentioned that the bottom was really slick and covered in gooey slimy stuff that made him slip more after falling in.

I like how the Geese are hanging out right in the section of the pool that has the wind blowing over it, giving a nice midrange for the picture.

Of course we got some nice pictures with Honest Abe. Unfortunately I wasn't patient enough by this point to wait for a moment to get this picture without any bystanders.

Finally we stopped by the Vietnam memorial.

I heard that the Index (Pacific's Newspaper) has printed an article about this trip. If you are here from that, welcome! (If I can get a scanned copy of it, I'll post it here on a different page).

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The eighth son

Posted on October 10th, 2007 after 8760 miles by Dean Croshere.

I know what Boxer is.

I can't tell you what a revelation this is. I'll try though.

I spent an untold number of hours researching Boxer and, while I had a few leads and ideas, I never found out what Boxer actually was. The leading idea was that Boxer was a "foo dog" or Imperial Guard Lion (Wikipedia link). This didn't make much sense to me. Imperial guard lions are almost always found in pairs, one male, one female, have one paw on a lion cub or globe, and stand outside to guard a building. Finally, they are large and owned by rich families.

Everything I had heard about the history of Boxer did not lead me to believe that this fit with what he is.

I knew Boxer was owned by a family of druggists in Foo Chow China. I also knew he had incense placed inside him on holy days. Finally, Boxer originated in the Ming Dynasty, about 600 years ago. (Also, both of Boxer's legs are on the ground).

It wasn't essential that I knew what Boxer was and I didn't have the time to dive into pages and pages of dragon lore, so I let it be.

I was in Philadelphia today. I took pictures of the Liberty Bell and Independence hall and a few other awesome things. Those will all be posted later.

It was when I put Boxer down in front of Independence hall that the answer was given to me. There was a group of Chinese tourists taking pictures of the Hall and they immediately turned their attention on Boxer. Most of them didn't speak English and gestured and smiled to ask if they could pick him up. They all said "uumph." One guy who did speak English asked me why I had it. I told him. He asked me what it was. I told him I didn't know.

"It's Dragon's first son." He replied, "With the scales and the stature and the hooves like a deer. Dragon's first son."

They promptly walked away. I pulled out my phone and immediately googled to see if he was right.

He wasn't. Dragon's first son is a tortoise dragon, he is often found at the base of pillars and means the building will be sturdy.

It was a lead though and I followed it up. What were the other sons? I found there were nine total.

With increasing trepidation I read descriptions of each son. Most of them weren't quite right. Finally, the eighth son, Suanni, had the following description:

"The 8th son SUANNI resembles the resplendent lion as he is usually drawn with the mane and body of a lion. He rarely moves so he is usually shown stationary. He has a preference for sitting quietly and observing. His golden body is enhanced with flames. He is often shown sitting on top of incense burners and candle stands. His presence brings knowledge and wisdom and he also ensures that the sons and daughters of the family will all look attractive." (source)

That's it. I'm sure of it. Wikipedia even says the concept originated in Ming Dynasty. Boxer is actually Suanni. Check this out.

Look about right?

Yeah?

Suanni.

That's it.

Dragon's Eighth son.

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Rocky and the Bell

Posted on October 11th, 2007 after 8760 miles by Dean Croshere.

“Be good and eat your veggies,” said the man in the tri-corner hat.

I suppose if you must depart with a piece of wisdom, mother’s favorite is as good as any.

I’m back up north a bit in Philadelphia. Philadelphia the much vaunted home of the Aramark corporation headquarters. I couldn’t possibly have taken a road trip across the country without getting a picture in front of Pacific’s much loved food service provider, now could I? (Feel free to apply as much sarcasm to that statement as you wish.)

I should have planned out this section of my trip ahead of time. I didn’t do it right. I drove down to DC, then back up to Philly. Next I’m going back down to Baltimore. I guess I figured that since all these big interesting towns were within a few hours of each other, I could jump between them in any order.

I forgot about toll roads.

It cost me $20 to get to DC, then another $10 to get back up to Jersey, then another $3 to get into Philly. This is just to drive on the roads. Whatever happened to just charging the states’ taxpayers for the roads so I can mooch off of them to drive on the interstates for free?

There was only one picture that was essential to take in Philadelphia. I needed a picture with Boxer and the Liberty Bell. This was an entertaining event. First, the security was the tightest out of any place I’ve yet to be, yet they did not have an X-Ray machine. They had signs that listed all of the banned items. The list was only outdone by airport security, no knives of any sort, even pocket knives, were to be allowed near the bell. They carefully examined Boxer and every pocket on my camera bag, but they did not ask my to empty my pockets or to have me walk through a metal detector.

I had to lay on the ground to get this picture, but when I stood up to take a look at the bell from the front, the guard told me that if I didn’t stop immediately to pick Boxer up, she would have to evacuate the building and confiscate the statue.

The bell is a national artifact, a symbol of freedom (or at least it became such near the civil war, according to the tour I mostly ignored). I can certainly see why they need to protect it from explosives, but knives I don’t understand. I understand why they searched my bag and kept me near my strange hollow thing, but why didn’t they have explosive sniffing dogs or metal/x-ray machines?

They also all asked me strange questions. I guess there is a school nearby with the dragon as their mascot so they just assumed that he was representative of them. It didn’t help that the school had a strange name that sounded like a grunt, leading me to mistake many a question as an uninterested observation. Ignoring security guards’ honest questions leads to suspicion, suspicion that I was trying to avoid.

Anyway, after the liberty bell, the next obvious destination is Independence hall, especially since it is right outside.

This is where I finally figured out what Boxer was, as I posted yesterday.

Jubilantly, I returned to my car where I ran into the man in the tri-corner hat. He drove one of those tourist horse-carriages. He was really energetic and really interested in the whole Boxer thing. After we went through the normal conversation, he suggested I go take a picture in front of the Rocky statue at the Museum of Art. He even told me what bus route to take to get there.

I got off a little early, accidentally. This is fortunate because it put me right in front of Rodin’s “Thinker.” I had always assumed that this was in Europe somewhere.

After a little while trying to figure out where the museum actually was (and totally missing the huge “museum of art” letters written on the map), I found those famous steps. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to climb them with Boxer. Instead, the statue is at the bottom of the stairs, off to the right. Since there was nothing preventing me from putting Boxer on the statue, I did just that.

While I took these pictures a couple came up and started taking pictures on their own, totally missing the son-of-dragon (I’m going to stick with dog, actually) at Rocky’s feet.

On the way back, I did take a picture at this fairly entertaining graffiti.

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Am I going to pick up a drawl?

Posted on October 12th, 2007 after 8760 miles by Dean Croshere.

I got that feeling again today.

That complete and utter, “I’m road tripping and I can do anything I want” peace.

I last felt it in central Illinois.

This time I was in central Virginia.

While I had technically crossed the Mason-Dixon line almost a week prior, Maryland and the DC aren’t the south. Not only did they not secede during the civil war, but (and a friend from the south assures me that this is the far more important metric) they serve a continental breakfast instead of grits.

Virginia though, Virginia is the south.

It was on hour 4 of today’s drive. I still had about 4 more to go. I don’t think I’ve driven more than 4 or 5 hours in three weeks. It was really nice. I missed driving. I figured it was time to stop for a bite to eat, so I pulled over next to this lake and looked through the box of MREs (military field rations with complete with chemical heaters) my host outside philly hooked me up with. One of them was helpfully labeled “Rice, Beans, Sausage, Cajun Style, I figured I’d celebrate entering the south with an abomination of a southern favorite.

The chemicals take about 10 minutes to heat up the food, and during this time I wandered about, enjoying the nice clean air and other beautiful aspects of being in the middle of nowhere with no responsibilities.

I felt quite energized. I had slept for more than 12 hours the night before, just outside Baltimore. I’m afraid I was quite unenjoyable towards my host there. She was kind enough to take me on a brief tour of the harbor and make me dinner. I repaid her by promptly falling asleep.

Boxer didn’t come to the harbor, but I did snap pictures of this decommissioned sub:

The was also the Baltimore World Trade Center and a lighthouse ship:

Finally, we took a look at The “Old Iron Sides” Constitution’s sister ship, The Constellation:

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A ripple on an otherwise flat world

Posted on October 15th, 2007 after 9574 miles by Dean Croshere.

I’ve been lax.

I promised myself (and a few other people) that I would keep this site updated and current. If I got behind, I would start to miss things and lose some readers.

I’ve broken that promise. I’m behind. Way behind. My last update covers up to central Virginia. I didn’t even stay in Virginia; instead I went straight to North Carolina. Then I went to Georgia where I stayed for a couple days. Now I’m in Tennessee.

I stopped a couple times while I was in Georgia to slow down and catch up on what was going on. I just didn’t know where to start. It wasn’t that nothing spectacular had happened. I have had a great time in the south so far. I think it was a combination of two things. I didn’t have any awesome Boxer pictures and I am reticent to talk about my hosts.

I am far more willing to write my impressions about complete strangers who may or may not read my site. I both owe these strangers far less than my hosts, and I have nothing to lose by writing about them. If I write about my hosts, I may inspire some fear (or at least some nervousness) in future hosts that I may write about them in a strange way they don’t like. After all, they consented to let me sleep at their place, they didn’t consent to being written about on the Internet (regardless of the necessity of such consent).

I think this, more than anything else, is why I have refrained, with only one exception, from giving my hosts a name. Of course, simply referring to them as “host” becomes complicated as an update covers multiple sites and hosts, but I think I prefer the anonymity it gives.

Lets see if I can straddle the line between appropriately describing my hosts and providing a good description of my experience.

North Carolina comes first. I showed up in Raleigh, “Carrie” (Carry?) on Friday. There was an unfortunate gap of time where I was unable to meet up with my host because of work schedules. I wandered around town for a bit before holing up in a Starbucks to write up the post about Virginia.

My host in the northern of the two Carolinas was another forumite. All of the people on this forum have one thing in common: They are nerdy enough to post on an Internet forum. How this nerdiness spreads into everyday life is always interesting. There are the book nerds (I hang out in bookstores and have more bookshelves than cupboards), the World of Warcraft nerds (I spend hours playing a single game, the rotation of the earth and the resulting changes in light and “time” mean nothing to me), the Halo nerds (Single handedly lowering the youth pregnancy rate by giving guys something else to do while drinking). Luckily, my host was the perfect kind for a Friday night. The “lets go to the bar and get a few drinks before crashing back here and joking around while playing video games” nerd.

It was a great night wherein we meet up with a few other guys from the forums that we drank with for a while before retiring to the video game console and cheaper beers. To make the night even better, one of the guys snatched the bill from my hand before it got there.

The next day I stuck around in town for lunch before heading out. We hit up a barbeque joint that served the meat rather interestingly. Rather than cook my pulled pork sandwich in the sauce, they simply served it dry and the sauces were on the table. Apparently, the North Carolina sauce is the vinegar based one. I prefer the tomato-based thick sweeter sauce.

I should mention at this point that I have noticed how incredibly flat the world is. I have had very similar experiences at nearly every place I have been so far. The only major differences have been the people I’ve met along the way.

It isn’t that these people are fundamentally different from each other. It isn’t like a northeasterner is any nicer or meaner than a midwesterner. With the exception of the idiots I saw as I was driving into Manhattan, I’ve noticed that people drive the same everywhere. This may come as a shocker to you (and nearly every host has told me about how terrible the drivers are where they live), but people drive the same everywhere.

Now, I realize that a lot of this “flatness” is because I seek the same sort of things no matter where I am. I know what entertains me and I look for that. Further, my hosts are all somewhat likeminded with me. After all, I knew them somehow.

Further, in this age of communication, with the Internet and television, accents are disappearing. Before I came to the south, I only heard a bit of a local accent in a couple of places in Boston. Otherwise everyone just has a “stage” or neutral accent.

That was before I came to the south. It was in North Carolina that I heard three ladies talking in a bar. Every once in a while they said some things that had a bit of an accent, otherwise they sounded like just about everyone else.

It was briefly exciting. Sort of like a little hill on a road that has been perfectly flat for miles. Certainly this little event is more interesting than the NASCAR time trial that was on TV. Watching cars turning left is boring enough. Watching them turn left without any other cars on the track? Dear lord.

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