Sunday, September 25, 2005

J and I have been having a capital time in the Capitol. DC is a pretty cool city and I really can't say anything bad about it. We went to the museums, "did" some monuments and touristed the place up for two days. Yesterday I went for a long run with Meghan in preparation for her upcoming Marine Corps marathon. She was scheduled for 20 miles, of which I did 14. Fortunately I'd prepared by running 6 the previous Wednesday. No injury yet, but I'm working on that.

Next to Philly. Philadelphia should be good, but what I'm psyched about is the tour of the Cannondale bicycle factory next Friday. With luck we'll get to see a 3D lazer cutting tool in action. Totally sweet!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Well, the road trip has begun. Living the American dream in the passenger and occasionally the driver's seat of a compact automobile. We headed out from Iowa last Thursday evening and arrived twelve hours later at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. For those of you interested in spelunking, I'd recommend the trip highly, but as far as caves go, it really wasn't the most spectacular. There are relatively few stalagmites and stalactites or any of the other features that one associates with caves. The water formed lots of horizontal channels joined by vertical shafts making it more of an "I never want to get stuck here with the lights off" place than a "magical underground kingdom" place.

Next up on the tour we drove to the Red River Gorge national river in eastern Kentucky for some R and R. Relaxation and Rock climbing. The relaxation part worked out well, but the rock climbing while potentially spectacular, was limited by my limited abilities. I fell a lot and my toes hurt from the terribly small shoes I use.

Now, 8 hours of driving later, we're in Chapel Hill NC visiting my friend Claire Lutgendorf, whom I met while cycling in the Twin Cities. Chapel hill is nice, if hot and humid. Next up is our fair city, Washingon DC. where we'll hang out with our esteemed friends Meghan and Brendan. From there, Philadelphia, and from there, the WORLD!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ok, so this is my trip to China, abbreviated of course. It would behoove the viewer to start from the bottom of the stack and go upwards chronologically. But really, since each shot in and of itself could win a Pulitzer, don't hesitate to skip around and feast on the glorious digital images.
Then onto the ferry for our 40 hour ride to Osaka. This trip was exciting, initially because I ate a dragonfruit, pictured here, and next because the boat sailed through a typhoon. It was my first experience with sea sickness. I can tell you truthfully, if you're gonna puke, green tea isn't so bad.
We met up again with Alf, for 3 hours, and ate scorpions. Then we went to a lovely little cafe and drank scorpion liquor. What a great trip.
Then to the Wall. As Nixon said upon his visit, "It sure is a great wall." True that Dick, true that.
There were hundreds of people selling kites, watches, guide books, post cards and the like, and occasionally, a really cute kid would show up.
After another couple of days in transit, we ended up in Beijing, on Tienanmen square, where everybody and his brother wanted a picture taken with foreigners.
We saw yaks, and the edge of the Himalayan plateau, in front of which we are posed so lovingly.
Next, after the 20 hour train ride from hell and the grottoes of Dunhuang, I, for my part, spent the time there going to the toilet and wishing I were dead, but we followed it up with a great spot, Xiahue- Little Tibet.
But the scenery was cool. Especially if you're into desert waste-lands.
Next came the 20 hour diarreah ridden train ride from hell.
This mountain overlooked the lake with the Yurts and is the main reason why it ranks up there on the beauty scale.
The next day we slept in a Yurt on the back side of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The scenery was great and the hospitality first rate, but this was to be the last day of my good health.
Organ meats? Grill 'em up and serve 'em hot. I ate sheep heart and spine, but couldn't bring myself to eat stomach. I couldn't get over my gripe with tripe.
The fabulous Terra Cotta Warriors, the only real reason to visit Xian. They were cool. Thousands and thousands of them standing in rows for two milennia. What the hell was that emperor thinking?
Guys sitting on a street in Xian. Everybody in China sits on the street, drinking tea and playing chess or some similar game with big wooden tablets on the ground. This goes on until maybe 1 am, takes a 5 hour haitus and resumes at 6.
Here's a Uyghur dude making some noodles by hand. First it's a dough ball and suddenly, it's a big fist full of noodles. Boggles the mind, delights the stomach.
We next went to Alf's new home town of Hangzhou. This is the lovely West Lake, and a fabulous sunset there. Shane's in the foreground sweating and taking pictures.
Shanghai at night. It's like Las Vegas, so I've heard. Lots of people, lots of humidity. Lots of people trying to sell you crap.
This is the Shanghai "Tourist Tunnel" it's purely a tourist trap that takes you from one side of the Yellow River to the other. It played weird music and said things like "Space Ray" in English and Chinese.
Well, now that i've been back from china for a few weeks, I suppose it's time to finally post some of the stuff from that trip. I'll start with the beginning, as it seems fit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

In preparation for the impending road trip/fact finding mission that Jennifer and I are embarking on, we took the car in for service at the local "Freedom Tire" outlet. THe CV joint boots are both cracked which means that the innards of said joints are crapped out. This assesment agrees with the clunking noise present in the left front wheel. Unfortunately, "Freedom Tire" really is an code, really they want to free the money from my wallet. $650 was their estimate for two half shafts, which, I have learned, are the drive units for all front wheel drive cars. This seemingly exorbitant price prompted me to think that, since I know how to fix bicycles, how much harder could cars really be, I mean really. It was going to be a big adventure, buy the parts, jack up the car, get reeeeally dirty and fix it in about 12 hours. Well, after looking at the repair manual, this dream turned to be not super fun looking after all. After calling around to less "free" establishments, we discovered a place that would do the job for $350. What a bargain. It's hard to imagine that one place would be so much more expensive than another. Is there a big difference in the quality of service or what? Number of cigarettes smoked by both places seems about even.

I mentioned fact finding mission before. Yes, this is a mission to find out the facts. The facts pertaining to the case of "Where the hell should I live next?" We're travelling out east to check out places with good stats in the following categories:
Jobs (interesting ones that pay me money)
Housing (cool old ones that just need a little loving)
Outdoor recreation opportunities (including cycling, climbing, running and skeet shooting)
Cool restaurants (Variety of cheap and delicious ethnic quisines, and steak)
Schooling opportunities (Some university where it's easy to get into the grad programs and it costs about $50)
Arts and crap (stuff like theaters and guys on the sidewalk drawing cariactures of passerbys, celebrities and bible heroes)

So, what it boils down to is this; we're going to tour all around the country, East and West, and then move back to the Twin Cities.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

In other news, I'm heading up to the twin cities this weekend to watch one of Ian's soccer games. My youngest sister Leah is also at Mac starting this fall, also playing soccer, but she's probably not going to suit up for varsity games until a bit later. I think that I have unwittingly started a dynasty of Ritzes at the school. Leah's in Turck, and to her delight is next door to a "Hottie German skydiver".
I'll be in St. Paul probably just for Saturday night and Sunday morning, since the game is at 3pm at Gustavus. I don't know how many people I'll be able to catch up with, but rest assured I'll be travelling back up to the 'Cities sometime in the near future.

IF anyone wants to hang out, just email me or comment on this post.
Being back is good, but I have a couple of thoughts about it.
First off, Americans are fat. Not just a little fat, really damn fat. Why is this? Are we just a lazy bunch of slackers? No, not really, Americans are about as lazy as the inhabitants of any other country I've been to. The real problem is that our food is ridiculiciously tasty! I've been in nothing short of food heaven since returning home; Chicago style stuffed pizza, burritos the size of my face, Totino's party pizzas, French silk pie, home made hamburgers, fries, brownies, ice cream, delicous beer, strawberry daquaris, the list continues!

This leads me to contemplate; how can I prevent myself from porking-out with all the delicious food available? I've been cycling a bit, I'd love to go rock climbing but there are no rocks in Iowa and I've even thought of running again. I'm always hesitant to start running again however, because I'm rather injury prone and I tend not to last too long once my feet start to implode. THis led me to search the internet for injury prevention stuff and i found this interesting idea, POSE Technique running. I hadn't heard of it before but it kind of makes sense. During my convalascense from my achilles tendinitis I had contemplated a similar idea, our high tech shoes are really killing our feet. The idea with this kind of running is to use the natural cushioning properties of our foot musculature and not depend so much on the cushy sweetness of 100 dollar shoes. It makes sense, humans have been running for millions of years, and surely we would have all been eaten by lions and carnivorous mammoths and sloths by this time if we'd been suffering from such injuries all along. I think I might give this new technique a try, see if I can't regain my former glory a bit.