We cannot spend the day in explanation.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way is a book on implementing Stoic philosophy with three main attack vectors: perception, action and will. The book is designed to help with how the reader deals with obstacles in the path first by changing how we perceive them, then how we act against them and finally (I assume, I’m not this far into the book yet) how we stay focused on them until they are dealt with.
The Emerson quote particularly struck home with me. The full context of the quote regards how Emerson must write when the Muse strikes him, regardless of what else is going on in his life. Of course, it is easy to act when the Muse is heavy upon us. The real power in a bias towards action lies in all the days when the Muse is silent or hungover or generally feeling sorry for Herself. Continuing to act on those days is a super power, one that results in a lifetime of results and more importantly, improvement in the craft.
This is something I have come to struggle with a great deal. I THINK about doing things all the time. Projects, todos, phone calls, letters, cleaning tasks, garage organization, websites, they all rotate regularly through my consciousness. Yet, at the end of the day, I’m more like James McMurtry than Emerson when he said “All I want to do now is sell all my stocks and sit on the coast. I don’t believe in Heaven but I still believe in Ghosts.” Ghosts of previous days when I was in shape or when I did build websites or when things got done.
Action is hard. It gets harder when you think about right action or “not having to do it again” action. But in reality, doing things twice is better than not doing them at all as long as you aren’t writing software for the Space Shuttle or doing heart transplants. If you’re learning to write or playing the piano or drawing or learning some new technology, any action is better than mere thought about action. When I read Emerson’s quote, I want to apply it not in an anti-social way regarding rejecting all in times of Muse-y-ness but in an admonition against the constant “thinking about action” trap that I regularly find myself in.
One way to do this is to be present in the moment which unsurprisingly is another tenet of the book. In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer hammers this point home that no amount of concern or thought can change either the past or much of the future. You only have this moment now and the worry and anxiety of results from the past or potential disasters in the future are wasted time. Focus on this moment, pick something to act upon and do it. My main struggle in this area is just the size of many projects and the fact that if I start now, I may get interrupted or I only have 1 hour so why bother. But 1 hour done regularly can make a world of difference. Building a bias towards action can overcome the long, tedious middle ground of a project or craft when it seems nothing is changing, no progress made.
A focus on the present also removes all fear of failure or internal discussion of ability from the equation. We cannot fail in the moment. Failure is an artifact of the past viewed through the lens of history and hindsight. Remaining here in the moment removes failure as a consideration. There is only right now, learning another chord or writing another paragraph or putting a few more strokes on a painting. Thinking about anything else immediately introduces failure as an option. Focusing on that failure puts the obstacle right back in your way.
In The World Outside Your Head, Matthew Crawford explains an interesting phenomenon as a motorcyclist. I have encountered something similar on a bike. If you are going along and you notice an object in your path, you must note it and then immediately move your eyes back to the path or road ahead. If you do not do this, invariably, the bike or motorcycle will track directly at the object until you hit it. The obstacle becomes the focus and try as you might, you cannot avoid it. Where we focus our attention is critical not only to our success but also our progress along the path.
Combining presence with action will undoubtedly change the output and result of any task, project or obstacle. I find that it my focus on the final result that hinders my progress. I think of how great it will be to be done or what it will provide. But who can know what the final result of anything might be? The Stoics would tell you that you have little control over the future, that this might be your last breath so use it as if it were. Some people then find this approach fatalistic and it’s important to avoid this. If you have no control over the future, why do anything? This is where I think Stoicism reveals itself less as a philosophy and more as a structure for self control. The Stoics say little about morality or values as guidance for what to do. You must augment Stoicism with a set of values that you develop separately. Your values tell you why and what to do, Stoicism tells you how.
If we can combine our values with the Stoic principles of presence and action, we can live a fulfilled life. We will be both less concerned with final results and more able to achieve them successfully.
Why does one do something like keep a stack of brochures and a sheaf of receipts around for 2 years? Perhaps from some sense of duty which was briefly discussed in parts one and two. A duty to what in particular? I guess it’s a duty to detail a set of experiences that one’s family enjoyed (mostly anyway though the last few days in a tiny trailer with 1 year old were rough) on an epic vacation. But to keep these things around for 2 years including an entire 9 months in a new house where the brochures literally laid either on the floor or the dresser for long periods of time as a reminder to one’s unfulfilled duty like a jury summons? What kind of monster inflicts that upon himself? All rhetorical as you might imagine since the answer is and always has been, me.
What makes tonight the night to restart a series of blogposts detailing the adventure from 2017? I have no idea. But here we are, having arrived at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and spent 2 nights exploring a wilderness so epic in scale it makes the mind swim. I’m not reading any moral philosophy currently which was the theme of the two posts last year. Instead I’ve recently finished The Alchemist and have just begun The Untethered Soul. It’s weird when the Universe or Fate or God seems to push all the stars into alignment on a particular theme or topic. Both of these two books have been on my Holds list at the Dallas library for months. Then they both suddenly came available at the same time. They are both concerned with being true to Self, one from a fictional perspective and one from a yogic-consciousness-awareness perspective.
I’ve also read two biographies this year, one on e.e. cummings and one on Charles Goodnight. They both chased and arguably achieved their Personal Legend. The Alchemist details the story of a shepherd who leaves all that is familiar to find his own treasure. It’s a story about being true to what is important to oneself. The Untethered Soul is similar but is more of an instruction manual on the road of discovery. While I’m only a quarter of the way through, a main component to knowledge of Self is always having your heart open. So often, we walk around and live our lives with our hearts closed. In looking back at this roadmap, I realize my heart was closed a lot which led to some of the aforementioned friction of living in close quarters with a 1 year old for two weeks. It is our default to close our hearts out of fear and anxiety. But only by remaining open can we both change our own Self and the world around us.
What does all this have to do with detailing this adventure almost 2 years later? I have no idea. Only that in many ways this two weeks was an expression of Self and that even though I failed at being open all of the time, I realize it was a mighty adventure worth writing about even at this late juncture.
Friday August 18th, 2017
Miles traveled: 206 miles
We left Black Canyon at 9:07 AM and headed for Dinosaur National Monument in Jepsen, UT. We ate breakfast in Montrose before really getting on the road. It cost $34.41 and included a Pour Over Mama Bear Geen Chili Breakfast Burrito and a Bear Paw Bread. It was fantastic but you can see why it might have gotten to be tight quarters in a 14 foot trailer. That’s actually the only receipt I have from the day though I do remember stopping for lunch somewhere in Grand Junction, CO. Dinosaur National Monument and the Quarry there are really incredible. They built a huge building around an excavation of hundreds of dinosaur bones that you can walk though in air conditioning I might add which is a nice feature in August in Utah. We then hiked up to see some petroglyphs that date to the Fremont Culture which was the main draw for Mara. A short drive up the road led us to Josie Bassett Morris’ cabin. Here, Mrs. Morris lived by herself, miles from any fellow humans for 50 years (1913-1964). By herself. Her story is incredible. We then found a campsite in the Green River campground for one night. It’s a beautiful campground that I think we would have been happy to stay at for several nights. But Wyoming beckoned and we hit the road for Seminoe State Park the next morning.
Saturday August 19th, 2017
Miles traveled: 271 miles
This was a long day of traveling and I have the receipts to prove it. While I only kept one from the day before, I have 8 from 8/19/2017. They include a trip to Walmart ($59.88 which included $10.97 for some Zinfandel and $3.98 for some Febreeze- Green Chili Burrito nightmares recurring), lunch at Denny’s for $14.49, a $100 ATM withdrawal (the Powerball had reached almost a billion on this trip so I was buying a ticket), a piece of pizza from Flying J’s (I didn’t want Denny’s), two gas fill-ups ($2.65 a gallon in UT, $2.30 a gallon in WY), 1 12 pack of Coors Original for $13.79 and four yogurts and some pork rinds from Flying J. It was a long drive. Also, southern Wyoming is not the Wyoming of the Tetons or Yellowstone. It is mostly a flat expanse of prairie with more pronghorn antelope than you can imagine. Mara got tired of me pointing out the herds there were so many. But when you come from the plains of Amarillo and they are a real treat to see, I couldn’t help but be excited each time they were just grazing by the side of the road. Once in Seminoe, there wasn’t a lot to do. We mainly had picked this spot because it was as close to the full eclipse as we thought possible. The park is really pretty with a huge lake and a really interesting settlement of people who live in a mobile home park out of the Twilight Zone.
On Sunday, we drove back into town for some supplies and an ice chest because the fridge had stopped working very well. This was also the first time we broke out the generator just to get some air going in the trailer. We also bought Harper her first camp chair which we have to this day. We met some nice people from Boulder, CO who were also up for the eclipse. They took their paddle boards out into the lake several times. I stuck my hand in the lake and realized there were people in the world who were heartier than I. Even in August, the water couldn’t have been much above 55 degrees.
On Monday we broke camp and left the trailer there. While talking to our friends from Boulder, they had told us about the road up out of Seminoe to the north that was a shortcut to Cheyenne. I had assumed we would watch the eclipse from the park but when we heard about the shortcut, sanity (mostly Mara’s) prevailed and we packed up the morning to drive up a crazy road through the mountains to get into the full eclipse. I’m glad we did because the experience was crazy. It was shorter than I expected and not dark like night. But to be standing in the middle of a field in the middle of the day and suddenly be in darkness with the birds quiet is eerie. I took several pictures but none of them do it justice. Just an amazing moment to experience.
When it was over, we packed up and headed back to get the trailer and drive to Steamboat. That story will have to wait, though hopefully not 9 months as the receipts are scattered all over the bedroom floor.
In the absence of information, rumors will be born because humans are narrative beings who need some level of coherence as a way of explaining the facts of their lives. Information and rumor are two types of communication, both serving the same purpose but in the Venn diagram of understanding, they are not mutually exclusive. The only way to completely remove Rumor is to be totally open with Information. The caveat of course is that the information has to be trustworthy, it has to explain all, or at least most, of the pertinent facts of a given situation and the people who are being informed have to believe the information is worthwhile and explanatory. If Information fails these basic categories or requirements, the humans, being narrative creatures, will make up a story that explains the pertinent facts of their situation and because the made up information will be far juicier and dopamine producing, the rumor will spread, take hold and become what the humans believe to be true.
Rumor can also start not because of information withheld but because of poor communication. This may even be the main genesis of Rumor. You as a leader may believe that you are communicating clearly and with purpose but chances are, your blind spots and your biases prevent you from actually telling a cohesive story. There will be nooks and crannies of what you have tried to communicate that exist explicitly because your world view is decidedly different from the world view of those you are trying to communicate with. Because you rarely have an actual discussion with those people, you do not understand what people believe or live with.
There is a dirty secret around Rumors as well that most people don’t think about. Rumor is contraindicative to Culture. If Rumor thrives, Culture wanes. Again, from the level of a leader, you may think that Culture is thriving because you regularly communicate, though often with asymmetrical information, the events and stories that make sense to you. But because the information is in fact asymmetrical (you are hiding things unless you explicitly go out of your way to unhide them), Rumor begins and slowly expands into the fissures and cracks of your Culture, freezing and thawing over and over until the rock that you thought was holding every thing together splits and your Culture is broken in pieces. If in the intervening time period you have also changed the organizational structure in fundamental ways, the Culture is further broken. A company can have a Culture that crosses the boundaries of organizational charts but it is an exceptionally difficult thing to do well and nourish.
What is Culture? Superficially, it’s the norms and rules that a group of people function under, possibly outside the bounds of the group’s stated goals or missions. Often, things like happy hours or game rooms or any number of other superficial things are cited as evidence of culture in the working world. These are what Clay Christensen called hygienic factors in How Will You Measure Your Life? But a real culture is deeper than these factors anyone with a checkbook could implement. A real culture is deeply ingrained in the people who come into and are accepted by it. Long time members of the culture are fierce protectors, buffering it against change through rules, spoken and unspoken, that are enforced militantly and without exception.
Leaders often like to act like Culture is just something people step into and adopt, like a team uniform that a player puts on when they get traded. The hygienic factors of culture are exactly like that. But the real Culture, the one, if it exists however unlikely, that ebbs and flows through the veins and arteries of the body is not something you just put on. It is something imparted with difficulty and learning and discovery that must be actively cultivated (they share the same root, “cult” which has its own connotations that are relevant) and nourished. Talking about a great culture can certainly help sustain one that exists but it will never be sufficient to restore one that has faded or create one out of nothing.
Culture in the workplace is even harder to sustain and foster and more susceptible to the insidious effects of Rumor. It is almost natural for leaders to withhold information from those people most likely to support or undermine the culture. It seems logical to not tell people the full story about changes because perhaps the full story isn’t as rosy as one might hope. But because humans are narrative creatures who attempt to make sense of their world, a poor story, full of plot holes, will be collectively improved through rumor. If what people are told is stupid, they will, those who remain, try to make sense of the situation by gathering together and working out the details like a theatre workshop. The spread of information will not stop at the boundaries of the meeting where you told a goofy story. It’s just that the information will be created by the people who are most affected by the missing pieces. That information created without guidance or basis on the actual situation will begin to degrade the actual facts because the made up story will be far juicier and ready for easy transmission through the organization than the original ever was.
Culture can also not stand for a sea change of group members or a shift in leadership of the group. Culture requires the absorption of new members in a slow process that imparts upon them both the norms and benefits of the culture. When too many individuals join or leave the culture, it is almost impossible to do the work to sustain it because new members, no matter how much they talk about how much they appreciate the culture, have no reference point for what it actually means to be a part of. Often, cultures are barely held together by the force of personality of a particular leader and when that person leaves or is replaced, the thin threads that hold it all together cannot support the weight of keeping things as they were. Change sweeps the culture aside. A turnover of group members will have the same effect as too many people cannot be assimilated into the group in the ways of the past and they will bring with them their own ideas of norms that are important. If a strong voice, individual or collective, cannot impart upon the swath of newness the importance and enforcement of the prior culture, the culture will change or die entirely. That’s why when a company chooses growth, it’s culture almost always radically changes. Think “Do No Evil” at Google and how it has gone entirely missing in recent years.
A word one rarely sees Harvard Business Review studies on or reads in the hottest TechCrunch article is tradition. Culture is constantly talked about and pushed but no one discusses tradition which is the actual mechanism of passing norms and behaviors to later generations. This is likely twofold in nature. One, cultures, sharing the same root as “cult”, are often actually weak, ephemeral and top-down. They are the force of a outspoken and strong leader. They are hygienic and not intrinsic. A cynical take might go so far as to say the implication of a culture is a way to enforce a normalization of voices within the organization as a mechanism for control. By hearing there is a culture over and over again, one may actually begin to believe there is one even if evidence to the contrary becomes overwhelming.
The second reason tradition never comes up is because it is where the hard work actually lies. It is the mechanism for passing the culture on to new generations of members. Because it involves generational learning, it takes longer to develop. It is the backbone of culture enforcement where new members learn what the rules are for the culture and how they are to operate within it. Without strong long lasting traditions, the culture is merely hygienic at best and cynical at worst. If a person can’t come into a culture and immediately understand the boundaries of the system through the spoken and unspoken traditions of the group, there is no real culture. When I first started working at One Technologies, there was a tradition that every developer got a pairing station. A pairing station is a single computer with two keyboards, two monitors, two mice, totally set up so that two people can work on the same thing. Pair programming involves two developers working together on a problem. There is some debate on whether this actually leads to better code and as with many things in the software world, the answer depends entirely on the implementation, the people, the considerations of other factors, etc. But the point is, that at OT, there was a tradition. You knew it on day one (and even in interviews) that the expectation was that you would pair program.
Developing a culture and then maintaining it is hard. It involves vision, honesty, an exceptional level of communication, an ongoing commitment, and near universal acceptance of the members of the usefulness of membership in it. For it to really last, it has to provide intrinsic meaning to the members via some mechanism beyond the superficial. People’s identity need to be involved with it. Without those characteristics, almost impossible to develop and maintain in a narcissistic, greed based world, culture is just something those in power use to manipulate the nominal members of the culture. Without real meaning, culture devolves into an ironic state of serving the opposite characteristics that the leaders are regularly touting as beneficial.
The blank page, like the New Year, always seems so promising, full of possibility and goals and mental assurances that THIS will be the year one definitely learns Spanish. But also like the blank page, there is a certain anxiety about the New Year, a little cricket-like voice in the corner who says it just isn’t going to happen, that nothing can possibly happen that might fill the available space or replace the emptiness with something of meaning. Which is why so few people probably bother with writing or expecting anything from a year, especially on the almost entirely arbitrary day as New Year’s Day. Alas, I have both compulsions and then the matching compulsion of evaluating the results. So here we are after a few years absence, looking back at the past and thinking about the future.
I try to set goals for every year with explicit targets because once I read on the Internet that that was the key to success. Let me tell you, it isn’t. There is plenty of advice, also on the Internet because who reads the paper these days, on successful New Year’s Resolutions. Much of that advice says just don’t do it because you’re a loser and you aren’t going to change that in the coming year. The Internet is mostly filled with melancholy cynics and frauds though. Still, the slightly OCD neurotic in me likes to update my spreadsheets that I have developed over the years and see my progress update in the progress columns. Unfortunately, in 2018, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I wanted my goals to be and so mostly, they were an abysmal failure. I’m ok with that given my inattention to setting them and then consequential inattention in achieving them. But for the record, my noncommittal, numbers based goals in 2018 were:
- Spanish (120 hours)
- Writing (26 documents, artifacts, letters, essays, books, etc)
- Exercise (180 days, essentially every other day)
- Books (18, 1.5 a month)
- Movies watched (12)
Noble expectations all. Let’s start with the bad and move to the good. I worked on Spanish approximately 2 days out of 365 and since I didn’t spend all 24 hours those days on learning that particular Romantic language, it was essentially a zero. This was largely a conscious decision as my allotted time for both Spanish and reading books is limited by my time on the train. This isn’t entirely true but many times, extenuating circumstances like exhaustion or a couple of cocktails make it true. I really wanted to read more in 2018 and it quickly became apparent that I had to choose one or the other so Spanish got short shrift.
Movies: I didn’t watch a single one unless you count Fletch which I got sucked into one night in December when I was shutting off the TV and saw it running on HBO. Fletch is so awesome that it almost seems like 12 movies in one but still, this column is ending the year as a failure. I really like to watch movies when I do it but I never choose to do it intentionally. Also, it seems like most movies today, like most TV series, are designed to be anxiety inducing and I just prefer to skip those genres.
Writing: The 26 was chosen because that’s one thing every other week and seems totally doable when one starts setting goals. I did 11 so maybe it wasn’t so doable. The year ended with a flourish as I wrote 3 essays on these pages but mostly, I ignored it.
Exercise: 180 was chosen because that’s every other day. Science is starting to say that people who exercise between 120 and 150 minutes a week are much healthier and so I thought if I did 30-45 minutes every other day, I’d be good. Instead, I skipped almost the entire summer except for the 6 weeks in the height of July heat when we only had 1 car and I was riding my bike to the train station. Doing that resulted in 106 days of exercise or about 60% of the goal. I also track the minutes per week and ended up averaging 83 minutes per week. Those numbers seem mediocre but they are a massive increase over 2017 which had the same goals so maybe there is something to this goal setting stuff. Still, I ended the year in the worst shape of my life and running 2 miles yesterday felt like death. Much work to do here.
Books: The only real success (and it’s because I was totally focused on it for 2018) was the reading category and I finished with 18 books read. It would have been a great deal more as I had 9 read by 5/7/2018 and seemed ready to blow the goal out of the water. Then I started Metaphysics As A Guide To Morals which took over 4 months of steady reading to complete. It was worth it as I feel snobbishly smarter now but it also showed me that my concentration levels and ability to read philosophy has been seriously compromised by the lack of practice and ever present interruptions that I choose to allow into my life (looking at you Twitter and where I work). The webpage linked about goals above says if you link goals, you are more successful and you’d think if I had just written about the books I was reading, I could have hit that goal too but I managed to totally derail the science and divorce the goals from each other.
The books I did read were (in chronological order):
- The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch Wonderful book by Murdoch (you’ll see soon that 2018 was the year of Iris Murdoch for me). Her character development and stories are compelling.
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running This was an audio book that I listened to while working out in the mornings. Great book for seeing what an obsessional focus can accomplish for anyone.
- Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom Compares the two men’s approach to fascism and the War.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez’ masterpiece of magical realism. He died in 2014 and this book made it onto my list. Took me 4 years to get there but a wonderful book that probably requires a reread with better focus.
- A Life Well Played Arnold Palmer’s final book on his life. I wrote about it in these pages.
- The Irony of American History Reinhold Niebuhr’s book on our country’s ironic existence, our inability to come to terms with our place in the world and the implications. This book definitely should have spawned some writing but didn’t. One of the downsides of reading on the train versus in a quiet corner at home is the difficulty of making notes and then following up on them.
- Drop Dead Healthy Jacobs is a neurotic but it makes for amusing books.
- Louis Brandeis: American Prophet Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I strongly believe we have neglected our anti-trust beginnings and history by allowing companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook to grow to proportions that give them inordinate control over our lives. Brandeis was the forefather in America of these thoughts and this book gives a good overview of his life and academic and judicial reasonings.
- The Moviegoer One of Walker Percy’s best novels centered around our anxiety producing lives with their existential dread and alienation.
- Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. The aforementioned philosophy book by Iris Murdoch who looks at our culture and belief system in an age that is increasingly secular and without the moral anchors of God and religion. It examines the main philosophical schools of her time, structuralism and existentialism, finds them lacking and returns to her personal beliefs in Plato and his philosophy where The Good is the key driver for happiness and moral behavior. A fascinating book for those who struggle with these same things.
- In A Narrow Grave Larry McMurtry’s book of essays on culture, his books, his family and a variety of other topics. Wonderful writing about Texas and its literary history. I could read John Graves and McMurtry over and over again.
- Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born An examination of the Jamaican genesis for Ian Fleming’s Bond. I wrote about it briefly in my Turks And Caicos review. Worth reading both for the history of Bond and for Fleming’s ambivalent interactions with a changing colonial world that has slight implications for America as she possibly begins to extract herself from wars around the world.
- The Man Within Graham Greene’s first novel.
- Dead Solid Perfect Dan Jenkins vulgar, hilarious novel about the PGA tour in its middle years. I loved it but I’m a golf nerd.
- The White Album Joan Didion’s book of essays. Incisive and wonderful, I love Didion’s writing.
- The Bell Murdoch’s first novel on religion and the struggle of the modern world with increasing secularism.
- The Fire Next Time Basically a book length essay by the premier chronicler of the Civil Rights movement. Baldwin is hard for white people to read but if more of us did so, perhaps this country would be better off.
- The Italian Girl Another Murdoch novel.
I’m pleased with that list and other than the very clear focus on Murdoch, it’s a wide array of topics, fashions and styles.
So what to expect from 2019? I’m bumping my books goal to 24. I actually have less reading time these days because my train ride has been cut by 75% but because the time itself is unchanged, I think I can achieve this by reading more at home, more in the mornings and at lunches.
Writing goal will remain the same at 26. Spanish is going away this year as I realize it just doesn’t seem to fit into my schedule. Exercise goals will remain the same and I’m hoping to find a race or event that will be an overall motivator for the daily goal of getting back into shape. I’m also dropping movies from the list. It’s clear they aren’t really a priority.
I’m going to try and do 6 woodworking projects. I know of 3 already on the list so this bar may be too low but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
On the ambiguous “resolutions not goals” side of things which probably immediately dooms it, I plan to spend less time on the activities that prevent me from living a well-examined life. The main culprits here are drinking and Twitter. Looking back at 2018, I can’t possibly even estimate how much time was wasted on those two things that could have been used instead to achieve things worth writing about here. They are both the simple carb that immediately pleases the lizard areas of my brain but provide no long-term benefits and probably actively destroy things that are good and useful.
This examination of 2018 hasn’t even begun to touch my Bullet Journal and the topics there like vacations and time spent with family. Suffice it to say, 2018 was tumultuous but good for the Bim family and if we could only sell that goofy Oak Cliff house, 2019 would be off to a fantastic start.
For those not in the know (where the know is poor Texas hunters with no lease and no family land that’s been around for generations), Texas Parks & Wildlife has a system that is essentially a lottery for hunts around the state in State Parks and WMAs and other state owned land. The locations get shut down for the duration of the hunt and typically the winners get assigned particular compartments to hunt in. I’ve been applying since around 2011 and have been lucky enough to win several including a very exclusive Caprock Canyons hunt.
This year, I won a hunt on private lands in Travis County that was last week. The private lands hunts cost a little bit more to enter ($10 versus $3 for other types) but if you win them, they don’t have an entry fee which makes it a pretty good deal. When I applied for this hunt, there was no description of the hunt so I thought “Hmm a hunt in the Hill County on private lands? That sounds like a great deal.” As it turns out, they probably don’t provide a description because they don’t want the general public to know where the hunt is.
Without disclosing the location, I’ll just say it’s essentially in the city limits of Austin. It’s a beautiful piece of property but isn’t what I’d actually call a Travis County Ranch. The property is managed for the two endangered species, the black capped vireo (recently delisted so yay) and the golden cheeked warbler. Deer are a threat to the habitat of the birds so there are management hunts on the property to keep the deer population in check. And by in check, it apparently means way below normal.
The hunt itself is well managed and the sheer size of the property at four thousand plus acres means you feel like you have the place to yourself. There are seven blinds on the property but only four were in use for my hunt. The hunt ran from Thursday at noon to Saturday at noon. We were in assigned blinds which meant you didn’t see much of the property other than where you were selected for.
The hunt I won was an Antlerless/Spike plus unlimited feral hogs hunt which is essentially a cull hunt meant to reduce the number of does. In most of Texas and most Texan hunters like to shoot bucks which results in a bad ratio of bucks to does. So these management hunts typically restrict you to only does or spike bucks which means a buck with one horn with no points. Last year, I was on the Richland Chambers WMA archery hunt and it was exactly the opposite because they had had a huge flood two years prior that really wiped out the deer population. So they wanted does to rebuild the herd. On that hunt, I saw nothing but does of course and shot nothing. This is kind of foreshadowing. Also, this ranch doesn’t seem to have any feral hogs so that unlimited feral hogs thing shouldn’t get anyone’s hopes up. When I see “unlimited” anything, I start to think Chinese Buffett gluttony but that’s not the case here. The hunt administrator said he might see 1 hog a year.
After orientation, I got to the blind about 2:30 on Thursday and sat until 6:15 or so. That night, the only notable mammal running around was a coyote with a bum leg who I started calling Gimpy since he showed up later in the play. Friday morning, I was in the blind at 5:15 and stayed until 11:30. In those six hours, I saw a bobcat right around 8 AM, a decent sized six point buck who came loping in at 10:45 right about the time I thought I might leave the blind and a roadrunner.
That night, I was back in the blind by 2 PM and sat until 6:15 again. I saw a little four point buck come in around 4:30. Then Gimpy showed up again briefly, gamely hopping along on three legs. Then at dusk, a big eight point buck came in that was definitely a shooter on any other property but because of the no bucks rule, just visual candy for me. I watched him eat corn for about 15 minutes before wandering off into the scrub.
Early in the afternoon, an Eastern Phoebe started perching in the mesquite right in front of my blind and dive-bombing insects which was fun to watch. He put on a show for probably 30 minutes.
Saturday morning, I was in the blind again at 5:15 and sat until 11. I saw the same little four point from Saturday come into the feeder at first light and then the big six pointer came in at 9:45. I also saw two Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays, a pretty blue bird that I’d never seen before that ate as much corn as the deer did probably. I never saw a hint of a doe.
My blind was on an area of the property where the original farmhouse stands. The hunt administrator said they believed the home was built originally in the 1870s with some additions later in the 1920s. It’s badly overgrown and could use some basic caretaking but just being near it and thinking about what life was like for those people 150 years ago was pleasing. I wandered around the homestead and marveled at the rock buildings that someone knew how to build in 1870. I fear if I had to build a house today, it would be something out of the Three Little Pigs first couple of stanzas.
For the hunt, I stayed at the Wyndham down by the airport at 35 and 290. It was pretty convenient but was one of those hotels that was built in the 80s and looked its age. It smelled like a casino without the added benefit of having a casino. On the plus side, at 4:30 AM, it was 18 minutes away from the ranch which is way better than sleeping in a tent. I ate Saturday night at Bill Miller’s BBQ which was a decent place, very old school, and apparently run by nothing but high school and early college age women. It’s no Franklins but then I didn’t have to wait in line 3 hours to get decent brisket and sausage.
Overall, I’d probably apply for this hunt again, just with much lowered expectations. I enjoyed just being on the land, watching nature all day with no expectations for any level of success. It was a convenient hunt since it’s in Austin and would be really good for kids. But at 12% success last year and with only one person taking a deer when I was there, it’s definitely not as promising as many other TP&WD hunts. So caveat emptor and know what you’re getting into.
Then I felt too that I might take this opportunity to tie up a few loose ends, only of course loose ends can never be properly tied, one is always producing new ones. Time, like the sea, unties all knots… — Iris Murdoch in The Sea, The Sea
As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the tie of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
II Corintians 6:1-2
Whereupon I begin a series of possibly 1 to N posts writing my thoughts down on the Sunday morning sermon at Kessler Park United Methodist Church. This Sunday we talked about time and our usage and abuse of it, our habit of treating it as an unlimited resource and our stewardship campaign of this year which is called Connect 52. A central theme of Connect 52 is giving an hour to God and possibly the church every week so that if everyone participated, we would collectively spend 52 hours each this year on God.
Of course, this likely caused some anxiety in those people prone to the disease as they wondered where in the clearly not unlimited supply of time they hold could they possibly find an extra hour. Reverend Magruder wanted to address this anxiety because finding that proverbial extra time in our not so unlimited time bucket was not the intent. The intent in fact is an analyzation of our usage of time to see if the way we currently spend our time is in fact both useful to God and to ourselves. The question is not “can you please find an extra hour in your week to spend with God and the church?” but instead “can you find an hour, any hour, not an extra hour, that you are currently spending frivolously and instead redirect that to a more meaningful use, a use for God or for growing relationships or giving back to the community?”
Framed in this way, the question becomes clear and anxiety free. Well, except that Rev. Magruder invoked the Death Clock as his main tool for bringing to the forefront our typical attitude towards time as an unlimited resource. The Death Clock tells you when you are going to die. It’s morbid. But it’s also surprisingly freeing in a Stoic way that causes us to confront our own impending death (and no matter what the Death Clock says, our deaths are impending from a geologic consideration of time). I’m going to die on September 21st, 2046 which saddens me because that’s before the State Fair of Texas starts that year. There is another Death Clock which apparently got their actuarial tables from some guy at State Farm whose cat just died as they are significantly more depressing. According to that site, I’m done for on Monday April 12th, 2038. The good news is I won’t have to pay taxes that year. Oddly, average male testers with my BMI have an average life span of 81.7 years. Death-clock.org must somehow know I had 3 donuts and a handful of Hershey’s kisses for lunch yesterday.
Regardless of the results of the fun sites above, I apparently have less than 30 years left and in the case of the latter, less than 20. I was sure I was going to live forever. Thinking about such things might in fact reintroduce the aforementioned anxiety regarding time even if the church didn’t selfishly want .03% of my remaining 169,995 hours. Or instead, the results might refocus one on things that matter and time wasted in a very limited lifespan. There is nothing that can be done about the time washed under the bridge at our feet and so we shouldn’t worry about the past. Also, nothing can be done with the time we have left though we can try to increase our allotment with healthy choices. Instead, only the moment is important and how we are spending it which is what II Corinthians 6:1-2 was saying.
Rev. Magruder then talked about what he thought were the four top ways we misallocate our time. The first was by spending too much time on work. I am fortunate in that this is not a problem for me mostly. I have come to a certain detente with my position at work and for the most part, never think about it at home and I rarely work extra hours. Others are not so lucky and spend an inordinate amount of their limited lives thinking about something for which they aren’t properly rewarded or considered. If you are working for The Man as they said in the 60s, you owe him no more of your life than the agreed upon 40 hours. Even if you don’t work in a salaried position, there is always the question of if spending time on work is better for you than spending it on something more rewarding.
The second big time misallocation is distraction, especially in our distracted, divisive anti-social world. We are regularly manipulated through our own actions and the actions of corporations vying for our eyeballs and money to spend our time in ways we may look back upon in disgust when the Death Clock man comes calling. iPhones apparently now have a way to see how many times you looked at your phone and what you did on it. Android P has something similar. I do struggle with this one as my 16.2K tweets can attest. Luckily, those 16.2K tweets are hilarious and widely read.
The third misallocation of time is not spending enough time with God. This of course almost goes without saying, even for those who regularly give to God and the church, as our society becomes less and less religious over time. Even for those who are non-believers, this can be phrased as not spending enough time doing things that improve society or community.
And the fourth misallocation is procrastination which is a massive loss of time for me. There is always tomorrow. I can work out tomorrow. I can stop eating carbs tomorrow. I can stop drinking tomorrow. I can write that novel or application or whatever tomorrow. But as the verse above points out, now is the appropriate time. There is no other more appropriate time then now to begin.
Facing the fact that time is rushing away through our fingers like sand at the beach can be depressing. Or it can be a way to refocus (or possibly focus for the first time for many of us) on what is important. With only 169,995 hours left, I better go do some pushups. And start writing a great deal more often.
My employer’s semi-occasional trip to the Caribbean was this past weekend when we whisked off to Turks and Caicos for four days. This year, Harper had aged out of the “kids under 2 get to go” rule and so we had our first trip in two and a half years sans Wobbles. This was exciting and terrifying, lonesome and relieving all in one. We left on Thursday from DFW. When we got to the airport, we learned that there had been scheduling problems with the 767 we were supposed to fly on and that it was still in Italy. For a replacement, Atlas Air had decided to send us on one of their 747s which was big news. The plane sat 460+ people and since we only had around half that, there was plenty of room to go around. Alas, it wasn’t as James Bond-ish as I had hoped. There was an upper deck but it was just seats, no disco ball, no gold lame wallpaper. It was mostly just flying on a REALLY big plane. As a plane junky, I’m glad I got to do it but it wasn’t overly different than a 767.
Upon arrival to the T&C airport, we disembarked in a rain shower and proceeded through customs and immigration which for a Caribbean country went pretty smoothly. However, waiting for taxis to the resort was less so. There, the natural tendency towards inefficiency kicked in. It’s always shocking to first time travelers to these countries how different attitudes are towards getting anything done. As we stood in the taxi line for 30-45 minutes in the fall Caribbean heat, I was reminded of David Foster Wallace’s essay on cruise ship travel, highly recommended. Travelers, largely (and large, sometimes extra) American and European stagger off planes into the humidity of the tropics and expect to be whisked away to the lovely all-inclusive air conditioned resort enclave, the brochures of which they have been staring at longingly for weeks. Instead, they are met with the “taxi line” where four empty vans sit across the parking lot while a bunch of people with no apparent logic try to figure out what nine people out of the line of a thousand should get on the next van.
My first inclination is to attribute this to an intention to manage the experience whereupon the workers mean to keep people in the heat and misery so that when one gets to the resort, one is struck by the wonderful contrast and therefore thinks the resort actually is paradise. However, this would require coordination amongst multiple entities and frankly, coordinating multiple entities in the Caribbean is an impossibility. So I have to assume the taxi-line phenomenon is just an artifact of “island time” writ into employment. Nothing seems to happen with alacrity on an island there. In fact, alacrity is an oxymoron of sorts. Things can happen quickly or things can happen cheerfully but nothing can happen briskly and cheerfully. Return travelers know this going in yet still, the American tendency towards “things must be done NOW” is so ingrained that after 15 minutes of standing watching nothing happen, it becomes almost impossible not to take over the process.
Thankfully, the interminable wait eventually ended and we did arrive at Beaches Turks & Caicos which is a semi-walled resort on the north side of the main island. Here we checked in, were handed rum drinks and sent off to various rooms throughout the compound, all of which had the AC set on the Ice Age setting. Driving from the airport, it is fairly apparent to anyone with a sliver of observational skills (which is about a quarter of the van as everyone else is staring at their phones) that air conditioning is not a universal luxury on the island and in fact, almost no buildings seem to have it. Yet here, every room of the sixteen thousand or so rooms all have their thermometers set on “Turn the sweat dripping off the Americans into icicles”. Self awareness kicks in (I assume) and I am struck by this juxtaposition. The people of the island, who I might remind readers lived through a category 5 hurricane just the year before that devastated the island, have none of the luxuries we are affording ourselves of. Compounding the contrast is the fact that almost all of the tourists are white in shades ranging from Scandinavian Pale to New Jersey Mafia Gold to Italian Bronze, sponsored by Glidden while almost all of the workers are black. Knowing that many of the workers go back to homes at night with exactly none of the amenities we are enjoying makes clear that the majority of the money ends up in the coffers of some monolithic development company in one of the aforementioned very white countries. it raises a certain amount of touristic guilt. Making things worse, Turks doesn’t seem to be the kind of place you leave the resort much (though some intrepid people did) and so most money spent is not shared with the islanders.
So just as DFW noted in Shipping Out, there is something unbearably sad about the place, a place where rooms go for upwards of $2000 a night in the high season which is about 1/15th of the per capita GDP. While the experience is not nearly as structured for pleasure as it might be on a cruise ship, it is still quite controlled. Which is not to say it isn’t a very relaxing place to be especially if you are into having all the food and drink you want at pretty much any time you might want it. We ate 3, sometimes 4, meals a day. Occasionally, we had multiple entrees at the same meal because, well, it’s included. Diving was included which is the best part of the trip. Regardless of the rest of the experience, time spent in the water on a pristine, protected reef, is amazing. The dive boats were crowded this time but not overly so. We saw several large sharks, a big ray, turtles, barracuda, lobsters and a whole host of Caribbean fish. Grace Bay is a protected area and it shows. Just snorkeling off the beach resulted in seeing four sea turtles and tons of fish. It’s a marine paradise.
While on the trip, I read Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born. It’s the story of Ian Fleming’s time in Jamaica, a similar island paradise with similar political and cultural history (they were both British colonies, Jamaica achieved their independence in the 60s while T&C remains a British dependency). Jamaica was a rich creative source for Fleming but he lived there in drastically different circumstances than the ones under which we visited T&C. He bought a few acres on the north coast with a beach that had been only reachable by boat. He built a very spartan, masculine house where the ideas for Bond would be embellished and worked on in an ascetic atmosphere (though he still had a staff of 3 or 4 and plenty of fancy parties to go to. He wasn’t much of a party goer though).
During that time period, the rich of the Western world were discovering the Caribbean in general and Jamaica in particular. The country was undergoing many of the issues that I discussed earlier in becoming a resort destination. American hotels were being built frequently and the charms of colonial Jamaica were being lost. Many of those charms may seem nostalgic under close examination but there is no doubt that visitors at that time were forced to interact with the people of the country in ways that visitors to T&C are not. When one is whisked directly from the airport to a walled resort, it is easy to ignore any thorny cultural or political problems. I do recommend the book if you are a Bond fan or if you are interested in the history of the end of the British Empire. It struck me as being not dissimilar to what America may very well be going through today. Our exercise of empiric powers was never quite as overt as the British but there can be no doubt we have had our fingers in places throughout the world. When the British Empire began to crumble after WWII, many people such as Fleming (and Noel Coward, heavily discussed in this book) longed for the old times of the Empire, times when relations between races and peoples were more clear cut, less ambiguous and the native peoples didn’t make so much noise about independence and self governance. It is fascinating to read about Fleming’s experiences during this time period.
If you have the opportunity to visit Beaches Turks & Caicos, I do recommend it if you have a taste for extravagance and pampering. It is not a real experience in any meaningful way but for a brief time, you can experience what it is like to be rich and waited on for everything. Many of the guests are what one might consider nouveau riche. They bring entire families to a destination by plane where upon arrival, everything is handled. Dinners are all the same, regardless of location, not because the food is the same but because there are no real choices involved. Activities are structured and there is no real danger of having a terrible time. If you don’t like the food, order something else. There are no consequences, no searching, which I suppose is appealing to some people. But consequences are often the spice of life, the genesis of stories you tell as a family for years to come. In 12 months, I will remember nothing of the food or drinks I had this weekend. But six years later, I still remember the muffuletta from Frank’s after walking through the French Quarter in the late August heat of New Orleans in search of the restaurant. There was nothing pleasant about trying to find it, sweating in the New Orleans tropical weather, making wrong turns, etc. But then the cold beer, the attitude from the waitress, the sandwich itself, the time spent with a new found love of my life. All of those things are what make experiences memorable. Getting served two entrees because I couldn’t decide what I wanted while the staff probably went home to eat things they had to? Only memorable in its American ostentatiousness and gluttony.
It was odd to me this year to come back from the trip so unrelaxed. Much of that is due to other circumstances like owning two houses and the ongoing insanity at work. But I believe it’s also because I want real experiences now, not manufactured, all you can eat extravaganzas. Our daily life is “all you can eat” in many ways. Everything is already out our finger tips and visiting a place that provides that same thing in spades is boring in many ways, maybe all ways. I terribly enjoyed the ability to read for hours on end without too much interruption but that could have happened anywhere, in a campsite in the East Texas woods or at a small VRBO place on the Texas coast. I love the salt life, the diving, the beach and incredible blue waters of the eastern Caribbean but there are probably other ways to experience all of that.
As always, we wonder if this is the last trip for OT and there are plenty of signs it might be. It will be the last one for many of my coworkers who will move on to other places of employment. It is wonderful to work for an employer to provides this amazing perk but much like my ongoing ambivalence and confusion about my continued usages of Amazon, the trip causes me some level of anxiety, a certain amount of wallowing in American style guilt and a regular examination of the consequences of traveling to these locations without once venturing into the town to experience something less tourista and more local. I think our next family trip will likely be a trip to the coast but a coast that requires us to deal with consequences and contingencies and I am looking forward to it.
This is the second installment of a multipart effort detailing last year’s two week road trip through the Western US. You can read the first one here.
Last time I talked briefly about Kantian ethics and the idea of Duty in the philosophy of morality. For Kant, utilitarianism (the most happiness for the most people) was insufficient as a source of morality and instead we had to rely on Categorical Imperatives, rules or maxims that are unconditional and universal. “Don’t murder” is a Categorical Imperative and for Kant, it was universal and objective. Which of course raises questions about application of the Imperative, in for instance, my current moment when the neighbor’s rooster is yet again crowing at 5:45 and I want to walk over and rip its head off and watch it run around and then fall over dead. “Always write a blog post about your family’s trip” is an imperative that isn’t Categorical because obviously, if we all had to do that, I would have had this series of essay’s completed last year to fulfill my duty to the Categorical.
Categorical Imperatives make up a deontological theory of morality where the system is based on a set of inviolable rules which is attractive to those of us who prefer to not deal with the messiness of people, i.e. engineers. However, there are some clear issues with this type of system. Do not murder means exactly that so then one has to further define what one does in a situation where one is attacked by someone intent on murder. Is it murder if you kill someone in self defense? What about war? What about preemptive war like what the US does these days with drones? When you think about it that way, maybe we could use a little more categorical imperative in our political world.
What does any of this have to do with a road trip with my little family? Nothing except that it’s things I contemplate as I look around the world and wonder about the state of it. It’s interesting to consider that at one time in the not so recent past, philosophy had large effects on the popular understanding of life. Philosophers were written about in newspapers and as recently as the 1950s and 60s, philosophy (existentialism) had a profound impact on the world. Today, it seems we lack any clear exposition of how to live our lives, how to interpret the events of the world, how to make things better. Without the guiding force of the nuclear family and with the further degradation of religion in the Western world and with nothing like a coherent philosophy of morals to replace those things, we have become largely a narcissistic ephemeral society with no larger meaning expressed in our lives. Categorical Imperatives start to sound useful in a situation like this where it seems like no imperatives at all exist in our society other than if you can yell the loudest, you get heard.
While Kant’s philosophy is probably too restrictive and has serious implications for our (overly?) liberal political world, it’s interesting to consider what the imposition of Categorical Imperatives might cause. For example “Always be fair” seems like an interesting start to me as it would refocus our narcissistic attentions away from our own little world and refocus them where it matters, on our interactions with other people. Studies show that children, from an early age, seem to deeply understand the concept of fairness though those kids haven’t chatted with my kid about who gets to play with Melmo (Elmo). So one has to wonder where things start to go wrong?
Probably enough contemplating our (lack of) moral philosophy, it’s not what you came here to read. Unless Google sent you here in search of ramblings about Kant to which I have to say I’m deeply sorry.
We left at 11 AM and I have no notes as to why the start was so late. I think we were just enjoying the mountain air and the view across the lake. In the last installment, I forgot to mention eating at Joseph’s Bar & Grill on old Route 66 in Santa Rosa, NM. One of those places that appear in idealized memories of a bygone era, Joseph’s has been around since the 50s and is a fun place to stop. It’s off the main highway but anything of value is off the highway. We met other traveler’s and talked about destinations and where we were headed. Harper got to run around with other kids and explore the gift shop.
It’s always interesting to me how some places survive the changes of technology and progress while others fade away. What are the reasons why Joseph’s is still around but other nameless places are not? How much of it is talent or work or effort and how much of it is sheer accident, contingency, luck? We hate to think about how much of our life is accidental because it seems to negate our own agency but the fact of the matter is that everything about humanity is contingent, effects building up over time of random accident. I’m glad Joseph’s survived even though others did not.
Leaving Navajo, we had a plan and that was to get to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This seemed totally doable, it’s only 161 miles from Navajo and we’d had a day of rest. Of course, as with much in life, doable plans some times go awry. This was our first day driving in the passes in Colorado and let me just tell you, dragging a trailer with a big truck on the plains of Texas is drastically different than the passes in Colorado. To this day, I’m pretty sure I still have nightmares about making a mistake and tumbling over the side into oblivion. I can’t imagine what semi drivers deal with.
The trip up to Durango and over to Silverton and Ouray was both beautiful and nerve wracking. We stopped in Silverton for lunch at the Brown Bear Cafe and wished for more time to explore this small town filled with Harley riders and tourists taking the train to Durango. But we loaded back up and headed up the Million Dollar Highway towards Ouray. This is an incredible drive, more so from the passenger seat I presume. Once you come back down out of the mountains, you head across the plains towards Montrose. If you know anything of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, this seems confusing. This park is supposed to be a magnificent canyon, one that is awe inspiring and breathtaking yet here you are driving across mostly flat plains as the GPS says 60 more minutes. Then you head east out of Montrose and start climbing up what seems to be an average hill in Colorado. As you enter the park, you still don’t really see how this could be such a big deal.
But once inside the park, this chasm, this rift in the earth suddenly appears out of nowhere. Luckily, you don’t have to drive very close to the edge and we’d already parked the trailer at our campsite. I’d had enough of near death hallucinations pulling a trailer for one day. It’s one of the most awe inspiring vistas you can see in a state with more than its share of inspiring vistas. Pictures don’t really do the place justice, at least not the pictures I took. We stayed here two days taking in the place, spending a chunk of one day down on the river learning about the crazy people who used to try to explore the entire canyon.
All along our journey, we encountered historical figures who attempted incredible feats or took these incredible risks to try and accomplish something that had never been done before. The Gunnison river was the first of these areas that drew people like moths to the light of adventure and (I suspect) fame. The Uncompahgre Valley just west of the canyon was essentially a desert before the 1920s. People living there came up with an idea to dig a tunnel from the Gunnison river through the canyon wall to the valley to provide irrigation water. I can’t imagine thinking such a thing is feasible today with the technology we have but in 1900, I would have thought it ludicrous. But of course, after four years of toil, those crazy people built the tunnel in 1909. I wonder who their JIRA admin was?
Next up, we head towards the desert and the heat and Dinosaur National Monument.
This is going to be a multipart effort designed to catalogue last year’s road trip. Also, I need to throw away the sack of brochures I have been keeping around for a year.
I have been reading a great deal of moral philosophy lately. Well, “a great deal” is like 4 pages a day because it’s HARD but that’s 4 more pages then almost all of my readers so it qualifies as “a great deal” if you ask me. My reading has been predominantly focused on Plato, Kant, Wittgenstein and how we derive or justify morality in an increasingly secular world. Luckily I haven’t had to read all of those people because that’s craziness. Instead I’m reading Metaphysics as a Guide To Morals. For most of my readers, stick with me because this essay isn’t actually about moral philosophy, at least not primarily. I promise to be just as entertaining as I typically am.
One of the main developments of moral philosophy was Kantian ethics (also called duty ethics and I just made you say “doody”) wherein there are two types of duties (types of doodies), perfect and imperfect. A perfect duty is one that everyone must follow. Kant believed you should never lie under any circumstances because once you decide it’s OK to lie in this one instance, the line becomes fuzzy and you can convince yourself to lie in lots of other circumstances, mostly to yourself when you say things like “Yeah it totally makes sense to put the house on the market immediately after a six month ordeal of getting a crazy successful play up and running”. I digress. An imperfect duty is something like giving to charity. Yeah you should do it but how much? How often? That’s pretty much up to you and Kant wasn’t going to bust into your home and fill out that Paypal form for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
What does any of this have to do with a two week road trip? Nothing really except I needed an intro and I feel an imperfect duty (it’s clearly imperfect since it took 12 months to complete) to write about our travels as a way of cataloging our lives for the time 18 years from now when Harper is in therapy and needs to track her violent crime spree back to something and she can remember through my words about the time we spent fourteen days in a tiny trailer for no apparent reason whatsoever. It’s enough to make anyone homicidal.
Sunday, August 13th, 2017
Miles traveled: 349
We planned to get an early start and so we left at 11:40 AM. Plans are for work, random late starts are for vacations. We drove to Amarillo and stayed the night with my parents, the last time we’d see a non-camping shower and toilet for 10 days. In fictional literature and education, this is what’s called a harbinger. Typically harbingers are for bad things like when the Raven shows up on Poe’s doorstep. This is no different. It was nice to spend a night with my parents.
Monday, August 14th, 2017
Miles traveled: 461
We left at 9:20 AM which actually is early in the grand scheme of organizing a one year old and also knowing this is the last time in ten days you’ll be in a bed that wasn’t purchased at a camping store. We didn’t really have any clear plan other than to head towards Pagosa Springs. Not having a plan is the defining characteristic of the quintessential Western road trip you idealize in your head. Not having a plan with a one year old in a car seat is the defining characteristic of madness. Still, we drove and drove and ended up in Navajo State Park which is actually 35 miles past Pagosa Springs. We actually did have a plan and that was to make it to the mountains on day two so that the rest of the trip could be somewhat more leisurely. Mission Accomplished.
We arrived at Navajo right at sunset. The park is on a huge lake that spans the Colorado and New Mexico border. It’s very beautiful. We ended up staying in Navajo for 2 nights which was pretty much the pattern everywhere we went. We decided that it was more fun to do slightly fewer parks but for longer periods of time. We (the Royal We, where it’s defined by “Brett”) also thought packing up every piece of gear every morning and getting it back out every night sounded insane. We spent time exploring Navajo and just enjoying being somewhere that was cool in the morning and pleasant in the afternoon. There are some great trails at the park, none particularly long, and they are well suited for families like ours. The lake was created by the damming the San Juan River but at the beginning of the lake is the San Juan and the Piedra confluence which you can explore.
Navajo has some large campsites and we spent some time ogling the massive trailers that some people were hanging out in. At this point in the vacation, we were still in the honeymoon phase and while later, we would ogle these types of trailers with insane jealousy and plans of a coup, it was mostly just fun to see the varieties, from tents all the way up to trailers that were larger than my first three apartments combined.
I seem to recall some attempt to get milk or other necessary good on 8/15 where I drove 20 miles or so up some random road looking for a convenience store at 7 PM at night. I also recall total failure in this attempt. Luckily, there are no notes in the Bullet Journal to catalogue this failure.
On Wednesday morning, we packed everything up and headed for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I think based on today’s millennial attention span and my need for feedback and closure, I’ll break this retroactive travel journal into multiple posts. I can’t promise I’ll do one every day until it’s done but one needs goals. And plans.