high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A taste of the West: As far west as you can go without getting wet

Our journey continues from Bryce Canyon National Park to its conclusion in Irvine...

Part V: Bryce Canyon National Park to Las Vegas

The next stop on our trip was at Zion National Park, also in Utah.  Both Divya and I liked Bryce better, but we only spent half of a day at Zion, so we may not have seen the best parts of it.  Like Bryce, Zion is a canyon, and our time there was spent in the bottom of the canyon.  It was very pleasing to look at, but didn't have the same "wow" factor as Bryce.  None of this is intended to be a criticism of Zion - believe me, it was quite nice!  Zion was extremely tourist-friendly, with paved walking paths and a fleet of shuttles to take visitors to each of the points of interest.  Overall, I would have to say that Zion had a very Jurassic Park-esque feel.  As you began the shuttle journey, you expected a huge gate to open and a voice over a loudspeaker to say "Welcome, to Zion National Park."  And then for a bloody goat leg to land on the sunroof. 
Here's a little fella' we spotted along one of the paths.  He stood out, not surprisingly, because of his bright blue tail.  Upon seeing the picture, Nate hypothesized that the brightly colored tail was intended to cause predators to go for the tail, which the lizard could afford to lose because it would just grow a new one.  Now, Nate is a smart guy, but I think he was way off base on this one.  Clearly this guy was trying out for the lizard version of the Blue Man Group.  They're known as the Blue Lizard Group.  You may think that name is un-original, but the humans actually came second.  What's that?  Oh, why do the lizards have blue tails rather than blue heads?  Well, again, the lizards had the idea first.  I think the humans would have done the same, but in case you didn't notice, humans don't have tails.
This wasn't the best angle to capture this image,  but much like Zion overall had a Jurassic Park-esque feel, this rock had a Pride Rock-esque feel.  I didn't make the connection until right now, as I'm typing this, that it was probably called "Pride Rock" in the movie because a group of lions is a "pride."  Oh Disney, how clever you are, with your double meanings and subtle insinuations.  Disney really outdoes itself.  We're all caught up in the moment thinking "Why the heck are the antelope bowing down to Simba?  Run you stupid antelope!"  And the whole time the Disney folks are like "Haha, let's call it Pride Rock!"

Thinking about Rafiki lifting Simba up in his arms makes me think of the many kid-carrying apparati we saw at Bryce and Zion (especially at Zion).  No joke, as we were walking down one of the paths there was a guy approaching from the other direction with a large backpack on his back.  It was only as we passed each other that I realized there was a kid in the pack!  It was rather startling.  Other people had these large, ungainly contraptions on their backs that looked like they probably took a whole evening to assemble.  Actually, the contraptions were likely super-simple to assemble, and that's why so many people had them.  But seriously, it wasn't that long ago that the "in" thing was this piece of cloth that you wore around your body.  It looked like somebody ripped a t-shirt in half and decided it was ideal for carrying their kid around.  Now, I have to admit that seeing the half t-shirt always made me worry that the baby was going to spin out of the cloth and drop to the ground at any moment, but the sudden jump to these Mech Warrior-style devices is crazy.  We need to find a happy medium people.
This is Nevada.  Remember how I described Utah as desolate?  Well, compared to Nevada, Utah is quite interesting, and Kansas is positively lush.  You may think that the camera was poorly focused in this picture, and that the bugs splattered on the window are too prominent, but in fact that was intentional.  The bugs are far more enjoyable to look at than Nevada.  
Las Vegas.  Where a giant pulled his pants down in the middle of the desert and took a shit.

In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I've got to say about that."

Sorry if you were expecting more.
Beautiful, gorgeous Zion!

Okay, just needed that to "cleanse the palate," if you will.
Part VI: Las Vegas, land of fake luxury, to Irvine

There were few things I was as excited to see along the way to California as this sign.  Why?  Because in high school my favorite band was the SoCal group Stavesacre, and one of their songs was the kick-ass, fire-and-brimstone rocker "Zzyzx Scarecrow."  Now, I truly hate to do this, but I need you to follow the following instructions carefully to partake in listening to the song:

1. Perform a Google search for "zzyzx stavesacre"
2. Click on the link at the top of the search results for iLike.com.

You should get a little box to pop up with the song playing, and it should be the whole song (6:07).  THIS ONLY WORKS THE FIRST TIME.  If you close the box, and try it again (at least on your personal computer), you will only get the first 0:30.

This is probably a great example of how techno un-savvy I am, giving instructions to readers to "game the system" on a Google search so they can hear the whole song.  But so be it.  You may see that there is a YouTube video of a live performance of the song, but the video was taken on a cell phone and it totally sucks.  Ironically (if you listen to the song), you could say the YouTube video doesn't do "justice" to the song.
Aaaaaaand here we are!  The Pacific Ocean!  Wow, that trip across California sure was quick!  That's probably because I was doing 80-90 across the Golden State.  Well, at least I was until we got about 20 minutes outside Irvine, which is when I got pulled over by the cops for speeding.  Honestly, I had been going 80-90 across Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and the corner of Arizona as well, so only getting caught in California really wasn't that bad.  It was just annoying because we were almost there, and there's something about getting pulled over in the state of California, and to make it even worse, the cop said that their helicopter overhead caught me!  Seriously, I thought all those signs for "speed monitored by aircraft" were just for show!  I still don't know how much the ticket is for, because the amount wasn't shown on the ticket, and I haven't gotten anything in the mail yet.  I went online to look it up, but couldn't find a link anywhere to look up traffic tickets.  Maybe I should just go out to California and appear at my November 4th court date.  You know, see if I can get the judge to act surprised that I showed up from Ohio.  Tell him I drove or something.  And went 80-90 the whole way.  
Irvine, specifically around campus, is a decent place, although they seem to have a thing for aspirational street names.  Rather than having normal street names like Main Street, or Park Street, they go for things like Harvard Avenue, Cornell Boulevard, and Dartmouth Road.  It's like a constant reminder to the students: "We wish you were better."  I did see a Georgetown Avenue, so at least students could get an apartment on a street outside of the Ivy League if they wanted to feel better about themselves.
Not only does UC-Irvine want to replace its students with Ivy Leaguers, but it also apparently wants to discourage disabled students from attending.  Hey disabled kids!  We built you a ramp, but we made it too steep!
After arriving in California, we took advantage of the occasion by driving along the famed Pacific Coast Highway.  We went through Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.  This is a picture of Laguna Beach.  I believe Newport and Laguna are supposed to be the richest places in the country, in addition to being the settings for popular TV shows.  Not surprisingly, Seal Beach doesn't get any love as the title of a TV series.  "Seal Beach" just doesn't have the same auditory appeal.
Keeping up appearances in Laguna Beach.
So, after 2700 miles, three national parks, 10 states, and 1 speeding ticket, our journey came to a conclusion on the shore of the Pacific.  And a good trip it was.
Of course, I still had to make the return journey to Columbus, but this was much quicker than the journey out, as the return trip was through the air.  It was somewhat reflection-inducing to hear the pilot announce each place we were flying over: Vegas, Zion, Bryce, etc.  Yep, been there, done that.  I would have liked to look out the window for the aerial view, but my seat was on the aisle, so visibility was limited.  

Despite my attempts to give the impression in this series of posts that I'm some experienced traveler, the truth is that I'm not very well-traveled compared to many.  In fact, the return flight from Irvine was only my fourth flight ever, the other three being Pittsburgh to New Jersey, Pittsburgh to St. Louis, and St. Louis back to Pittsburgh.  The most recent of these was probably at least 12 years ago, so pre-9/11.  Given this lack of experience, I felt like I was just following the leader to some extent.  Person in front of me handed a ticket to a person in the uniform?  Well, I better hand a ticket to the person in the uniform.  Person in front of me took their shoes off and put them on the conveyor belt?  Well, I better take my shoes off and put them on the conveyor belt.  Person in front me goes to gate 12 and gets on flight 5281?  I better go to gate 12 and get on flight 5281.  Just kidding.  Barely.  This course of action was obviously flawed, because there was no guarantee that the person in front of me knew what they were doing, but I figured the chances of finding someone in front of me who was less experienced at navigating airports and flights was pretty slim.  While finding my seat on the plane I didn't see numbers on the seats or rows anywhere, so I wasn't even sure how to find my assigned seat.  I took a guess that you could probably just count back the rows, and confirmed this to be true, but only after double-checking with the guy behind me, who pointed out that the row numbers were posted under the overhead compartments, out of immediate view.  Being a theater-goer, I naturally assumed that the row numbers would be down in the armrest area of the seats.

After getting situated in my assigned spot, I began observing the surroundings and activity a little closer. Before too long I reached the conclusion that the airline attendants' primary duty was to repeatedly slam the hatches down on the overhead compartments with all their might to try to get them to close.  There were two seats next to me, the far seat by the window and the middle seat.  The far seat by the window was occupied by a man in a pilot's uniform, and I (or we) lucked out in that nobody ever claimed the middle seat.  Perhaps the pilot reserved two seats just so he could avoid sitting next to anyone.  

Before long the stereotypical crying baby started up in the row immediately behind me, although it was more like a hacking cough most of the time.  After a few minutes, I realized, to my horror, that there were actually two babies behind me!  It was like that scene in Jurassic Park where Muldoon thinks he's hunting the velociraptor, and has it in his sights, but then another velociraptor pops up right next to him and moves in for the kill!  Fortunately, the talons hadn't developed yet on the babies' feet, but the hacking coughs were bad enough.  We had a connecting flight in Minneapolis, and upon landing at the end of the first leg of the trip the pilot turned to the mother behind us and said "Wow, he did pretty well, huh?"  I'm sitting there thinking "Either this guy is a frickin' moron, or he's just trying to be the nice, understanding pilot figure."  I would find out on the second leg of the trip, from Minneapolis to Columbus, that in fact the pilot knew exactly what he was talking about, because the baby on the second flight was clearly being branded most of the way.

The flight from Minneapolis to Columbus was delayed for about an hour due to rain, but it really wasn't that bad.  The flight from Irvine to Minneapolis had been delayed even less, and we were only about 10 minutes late taking off, with the reason being "excess weight."  Apparently we were about 500 pounds over the weight limit.  Seriously?  Well, drop the food, I say.  Clearly the people on this flight don't need it!  Or maybe drop the babies.  They probably only weight about 40 pounds each, but all their luggage and crap must make up the difference.

The reason the hour delay in Minneapolis went by quickly was because I had planned ahead and brought a novel to read on the plane.  The Three Musketeers was my choice.  As I was breaking out Dumas' classic, it struck me that this was probably not the greatest selection if I was hoping to chance upon that "beneficial coincidental meeting," where you end up sitting next to Bill Gates or something and get offered a job because you impress him so much with your intelligence.  

Bill: Hi there, Bill Gates.  You may have heard of me.
Me: Of course!  Wow, what a chance occurrence, sitting next to you on a plane!
Bill: I know.  So, what's that you're reading there?  
Me: The Three Musketeers!
Bill: Oh, going with a classic adventure novel for adolescent boys, huh?  
Me: Uh, well...
Bill: Don't talk to me.

You see, a choice like Good to Great, or First Break All the Rules, or one of those other shitty books would have been much more impressive.  But, the truth is, I like me some good old turn-your-brain-to-the-off-position adventure.  And really, it's just as possible that The Three Musketeers will lead to the life-changing conversation as any other book.  That's the whole idea of a chance occurrence.  In fact, the guy sitting next to me between Minneapolis and Columbus did ask me what I was reading, and although he seemed a bit dismissive of The Three Musketeers, it did prompt a conversation that led into other topics.  Unfortunately, I concluded about 45 minutes later that the guy wasn't interested so much in having a conversation as he was interested in something like a verbal knowledge assault on a captive audience, which continued for another 45 minutes.  Nice guy, but...yea.....  That's not to say I didn't learn something from him.  No doubt, I know more about the functioning of the heart now than I did before.  I still have the diagram he drew for me.  

Well, vacation concluded, post concluded, memories made.  Feels good to be back in Columbus.


  1. Soo jealous- I've wanted to do a Rt. 66 tour from Chicago to LA forever. Utah and Vegas seem a lot more interesting, though.

    Sorry we missed you. See you in November for the court date.

  2. No doubt. I've got you marked down as a character witness.

  3. That may be a mistake. Just so you know.