Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vanishing America -- Hello from Anaheim

Delays and Opportunities

Many of you have been itching to find out where I am on my journey. Well, let me tell you...

...I'm stuck in Anaheim.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that Anaheim is a bad place to be stuck in. Quite the contrary. What I mean is that I should be in Alaska by now, but I'm not, and it's frustrating.

I've had several delays that have postponed my progression through the states. In May and June, I passed my time between the Freightliner service center and La Mesa RV while they fixed problems on the motor coach. And, the entire month of July has been spent in the parking lot of while we prepare the coach for its image wrap.

(Here's a shot of what is should look like when completed.)

Once the wrap is finished, I'll head up to Redding for the vegetable oil conversion on the coach.

During this time while I've been working out snags in SoCal, Shane at Rover Hybrids has been working on the conversion of my Land Rover Defender. He's swapped out the stock V8 gasoline engine for a Cummins diesel, and he's replaced the stock Land Rover transmission with a New Ventures 4500 5-speed that mates up perfectly with the Cummins.

These delays have not only allowed Shane the time he needs to complete the Defender's conversion, but they have allowed me some fantastic opportunities as well...

Certainly these delays have caused me to miss some seasonal windows in certain parts of the country, and as a result I've had to modify my route and itinerary, but some fantastic doors have opened up for me because I was in the right place at the right time, because I was "stuck" somewhere I hadn't intended.

Perfect example:
I had been in Anaheim, CA for two weeks trying to put together the images necessary for the wrap on the RV. I had driven a few miles away in the rental car to go get one of my favorite sandwiches -- Chick-Fil-A -- and decided it was time to stop for a haircut. I wandered into the nearest salon, and that's where I met Lilly. Not only did Lilly do a great job on my hair, but she set me up with a gentleman named Tom Tice, who is in charge of the restoration of the Historic Fox Theatre in Fullerton, CA. And, Tom has allowed me full access to photograph the restoration of the theatre while I am in town. It's a project that fits perfectly into my Una Nuova Vita series that began on Christmas of 2005 with San Diego's North Park Theatre.

Call it Fate, call it coincidence, but had I not been delayed, I wouldn't have met Lilly, and I might never have known of the theatre's restoration.

It's events like this that have changed my outlook on my circumstances. I truly believe that old adage, "when one door closes, another one opens."

I'll keep updating these pages as my journey progresses. And, remember, if you want to subscribe to this blog, just click on the orange "feed" link in the right-hand column. And, if you want to email it to a friend, just click on the little envelope icon at the bottom of the post.

High School Reunions

It's Reunion Time!

For high school graduates everywhere, the end of summer brings not only cooler weather, but the grand event of the High School Reunion. Some schools have them every ten years, some have them more frequently. My high school has had both a 5 year and a 10 year reunion so far, and this August is celebrating our 20th.

Twenty years! I look and feel young for being almost 40, but I still have a hard time believing that high school was twenty years ago. It's cliche to say, but it really does feel like only yesterday. The friends I see on occasion still look the same (for the most part), and we pick up conversations that were going on when we were still in school... as if we'd never left.

But the reunion itself is different. Although most people hang out in the same cliques (which is to be expected -- you go to see old friends, right?), there is an odd sense of wonder. Not the wonder of a child walking into a toy store, but rather a wonder of "what did we all do with our lives?", and "did we do the best we could?"

Everyone is an adult now, many with children, and those crazy kids you hung out with in the halls are now proper adults with adult responsibilities and adult reservations.

Even though your usual time with your friends is "just like old times", at the reunion, it can also be like a convention where you recognize the faces and the names, but you have no idea who these people really are. You remember who they were, but you don't have a clue as to who they grew up to be. Many times there is an uncomfortable space between you and people you knew back then. You wind up silently analyzing each other -- for happiness, success, looks...

Old rivalries spring up, and old romances crash and burn. It can be a blast for some, but it can be awkward as hell for others. And, heaven help your partner. If you bring your husband or wife, unless they went to the same school, they likely won't know a soul, but they completely understand that they are going to be under scrutiny all night... "why'd he marry her?", "where did she find him?". You think you have it rough getting back together with old memories? Put yourself in your spouse's shoes for a moment. They're a stranger in a strange land.

But don't get me wrong. Reunions do have their pressures, but they also have their fun! You're drinking, dancing, catching up, teasing each other, and goofing off all night. It's the one chance to go back in time and be in high school again. You get to learn new stories about your old friends, and re-visit old stories as new friends. That guy you hung out with in shop class may be a totally different person today, and you never know, you might like him a whole lot better.

It's a great opportunity, for those who can make it. And that's one of the hardest parts of the reunion, getting everyone there. Some folks can't afford the travel or the time off, and some folks just flat-out can't be found at all. The reunion team usually does a good job of locating everyone, and those they can't find often get word passed to them by friends along the way.

That's how I found out about our Milton High School 20 year Reunion. Friends have been contacting me through my website, my MySpace site, my blog, my parents, by phone, and by email to see if I was going to make it to the reunion.

And, in all honesty, I'd love to make the reunion, but I might not be able to. I'll be in Oregon working on my Vanishing America Project and might not be able to get away. Maybe I'll send them a picture of myself and they can save a seat for me at dinner.

To all my friends from Milton High School:

I wish I could be there. I'll miss you then, and I miss you now. Raise a toast to "good times" for me. And have a blast!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Alternative Agriculture for Renewable Fuels

Vertical Farm Project
(image from

It's true! It CAN be done!

I know I don't get more than a handful of readers, but for those of you who have read June 11th's post about bio-fuels, let me tell you... my prayers have been answered! In that post, I asked why so many people are complaining about the hardships that bio-fuels will put on agriculture, when all we have to do is build vertical greenhouses. Well, that's just what someone is doing...

The vertical greenhouse, designed by Dickson Despommier may just be the answer to all our agricultural problems (at the least it will shut up those people complaining about wasting agricultural resources on bio-fuels).

Mr. Despommier, as I just learned through an article in July 2007's issue of Popular Science (page 45), is in the process of designing and building hydroponic greenhouses that use vertical tiers of cropland with a small footprint instead of the traditional method of abusing acre upon acre of wilderness for farming.

It uses solar power, recycled water, hydroponics... Well, rather than try to describe his project myself, maybe you should take a look at his website:

It is a good looking, well designed, and very informative website on this wonderful idea. Just the thought that someone truly is working on this problem made my heart soar!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Charley Horse and Calf Cramps part deux

Charley Horse Rides Again...

News flash!
I've unexpectedly made some progress on my calf cramps.

I was jumping rope the other day, desperately trying to get some kind of exercise, fighting through the pain in my left calf, when I noticed that the sore spot (the cramped area) moved. Yes, moved! As I continued to exercise it, the soreness moved in a vague circle around my calf. It was still painful, and still felt like a bruised cramp, but now it was in a different place. And it kept going. As long as I was exercising, it kept moving.

Now, this makes me wonder... is it actually a cramp? Maybe it's a knotted muscle. Or, is it a clot? Or, maybe a mineral deposit of some kind. After my workout, I spent about 10 minutes massaging it, and I could actually feel the knot loosening up. This gave me the idea of having some deep tissue massage done solely on my calves, looking for these "knots" and trying to work them free. What worries me about that, though, is the possibility of (if it is a clot), forcing that clot into my bloodstream, risking a stroke. Not good.

But, for the moment, it's a moot point. I can't get my legs massaged until the poison oak goes away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Charley Horse and Calf Cramps


Muscle Cramps
Charley Horses
Leg Cramps

Okay, so this entry is a bit "off-topic", but it's driving me CRAZY!

Have you ever had a Charley Horse? You know, a muscle cramp (usually in the legs) that seizes up so tight that you end up with a minor muscle pull that stays with you for a week or more? No. Okay. Nevermind.

But, if you said "YES, I've had those! They suck!", then read on...

Since 1998, when I ran my first , and, unfortunately, only triathlon, I've had calf cramps. They might be attributed to my training or to my sprained ankle shortly thereafter, or something totally unrelated... I may never know. I've seen doctors, physical trainers, I've had acupuncture, massage, lymph drainage, I stretch, I drink plenty of water, eat at least one banana a day, take vitamins and mineral supplements, and I've even tried shoe inserts. No dice. I still have the cramps. And I need help treating them.

Let me tell you what they're like...
They can occur in two ways: 1) The can come on suddenly, like a sneak attack, or 2) They can begin as a muscle twitch in the calf or Achilles tendon. They can occur anywhere in the lower leg, and are seemingly random in their location. The twitch then becomes a tight muscle with intense soreness. Then that part of the muscle seizes up into a full-on cramp. And, unlike normal cramps, these "charley horses" stick around for a while. Though the worst of the cramp dies down within a few minutes, the soreness and "pulled muscle" feeling remains for up to two weeks.

These charley horse cramps can come on at any time during the day or night. They can attack when I'm walking, running, jumping rope, or just sitting still. However, exercise does seem to aggravate them more than sitting still.

It sounds inconvenient, and it is, but for a person as active as I am (I LOVE to run, bike, jump rope, hike, etc.), it's damn near debilitating. I can't run anymore. I can't jump rope. I can bike and hike, but I have to take it easy. It's very difficult for me, now that I'm on my road trip, to stay in top physical condition aerobically without being able to run.

I guess the reason I'm writing this is in hopes of coming across someone who has had a similar problem, or knows how to treat the problem. Remember, I've tried doctors, PT, acupuncture, Quinine, salt tabs, potassium supplements, mineral supplements, bananas, water, stretching, etc., and nothing helps. Well, one thing seems to be helping a tiny bit: a supplement called Spaz-Out. It's just a collection of minerals to help prevent muscle spasms. I do better on Spaz-Out than I do without it, but I still get the charley horses (just not as often).

As I said in the beginning of this entry, I'm going crazy! I know there is a reason for my condition (if it can be called a "condition"), but I don't know what that reason is. Nobody does.

Do you?