The trip to the east coast

Alas, I have returned.  After ten hour traveling days, I have arrived back at home.  The cat is certainly happy to have me home (she’s sitting in my lap at the moment.)

Really had a good time out in DC.  Spent some time at the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress.   Then on to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Definitely a highlight of the trip, something that I have wanted to see for quite some time.  The next day we went on down to Mt Vernon, Washington’s estate.  That place is pretty damn cool.  Washington, being a self taught architect, designed the house and all of the out buildings.  He was also into “technology”, things like a rope and pulley system that rang bells in the kitchen to inform the workers (they were mostly slaves) that one of the guests required assistance.  There were also 13 fireplaces in the house… can you imagine keeping 13 fireplaces running in the winter time in northern Virginia?

From the house, we drove on down the road the Washington’s distillery and grist miller.  As I mentioned before, Washington was into technology, and his grist mill was cutting edge for the day.  There is a 16 foot water wheel, that was fed by a two mile long ditch fed by a pond at the other end.  From the pond to the mill the land dropped eighteen feet, to make sure that there was constant water pressure to turn the wheel.  His distillery, at it’s peak, produced almost 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey, which in 1799 made Washington the largest producer of whiskey in America.  If you find yourself in northern Virginia, and are interested in history… and spirits, I highly recommend you stop by Washington’s distillery and gristmill, it will be worth the trip.

After leaving Mt Vernon, we drove out to and through Shenandoah National Park.  Plenty of wildlife around for those who look.  We saw several deer and a black bear.  Definitely one of the most beautiful places this country has to offer.  The history of the valley is interesting as well.  ” Employing audacity and rapid, unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles (1,040 km) in 48 days and won several minor battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against Richmond.”  excerpt taken from wikipedia.  Needles to say the place has some history.  Before California was considered the “breadbasket” of the US, the Shenandoah valley held that distinction and to this day, it is one of the most fertile locations.

After Shenandoah, we drove on through to the observatory in Green Bank WV.  NRAO, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  The “GBT” or great big telescope is the main dish at the facility as well as the largest man made moveable structure on the planet.  It stands 485 feet tall and the collection is is 110 meters by 100 meters… the thing is huge.  My girlfriend is working at the observatory for the summer, so we got a tour of the place… pretty cool piece of equipment.  They are scanning the Orion nebula, checking the composition of compounds that are floating in interstellar space, which just so happens to be one of the greatest star making regions in our galaxy.

I have said it already, but I do mean it, if you find yourself out on the central east coast, I highly recommend you check out a couple of the places.  It really helps ground you, knowing a little more of the history of our country, and seeing some of our own “state of the art” equipment in action.



Pushing yourself

While at yoga tonight I was pondering what exactly it is that motivates me to do this.  The room is heated to 105+ and 90 minutes long, I contort, stretch and twist myself into positions that my body doesn’t seem to want to do.  So… why?  Why pay to have someone lead me in an exercise in pain?  In this case, having my back straightened out is one MAJOR advantage… ok… so there is a physical advantage.

It still hurts.

I had attended a class with a special teacher, (sorry Craig, I can’t for the life of me remember your last name) and the class was an extended version of a normal class.  Craig spent extra time talking through specifics of what you are trying to accomplish in each posture… let me step back, he discussed in detail the mindset you should bring into your practice and a couple of “pre-thoughts”.  I would equate a pre-thought to the same sort of thought process you have before you swing at a golf ball or “pre-swing-thoughts”.  The idea is to have a few thoughts or focus points to focus your mind and body.  At one point in the class, he stated that the more you progress and the better you get at the postures, the harder it will become.  I didn’t think to much about it at the time, but it has stuck with me as I have advanced in my practice and have found that I am pushing myself deeper in each posture and the pain of doing so seems to be increasing, or at least I am getting better at putting it out of my mind.  So I ask once again… why?

I guess when you get down to it, I absolutely love the feeling afterwards.  The endorphins are what make it worth it.  And… I guess I am a bit of a masochist, and I enjoy it.

Why do you push yourself?

Taking the road less traveled

As you know I was away on vacation last week.  Took the girlfriend and her father to our secret spot out in the desert.  Hot springs, 50 miles of dirt road to get there, 120 miles from the nearest gas… heaven.  Heading out to our spot puts life and taking chances into perspective for me.  Packing up the truck and driving away from civilization for five days, without the general ability to get in touch with the outside world, can give you pause.

This magical place was introduced to me last spring, when my girlfriend said “I’m going to take you out to this wonderful place, we will probably need chains (last year had record snow fall), and we may get stuck, but it is the most beautiful place on earth”.  I thought, this sounds like it will be fun.  I have been camping, but never this far removed from a town or civilization.  Hey, it will give me the opportunity to get my truck dirty, who doesn’t like to get their truck dirty now and then?

Well, last year was one of those trips that you will remember for the rest of your life.  I got to see places and the beauty of this earth that few will have the chance to see.  Drove on a road that had not seen the tires of a truck since the previous fall.  Two to three feet of snow in one of the most remote places in California, with enough gets to get out on the specific road, but not enough to turn around if something should happen.  Yeah, I was close to producing diamonds from coal…  After having driven through and survived, I have a new perspective on heading out into the “wild blue yonder”.

Back country camping, whether it be 4×4 or hiking is a way for you and me to commune with this wonderful planet we live on.  This, third rock from the sun.  I challenge you.  I challenge you to set up a vacation, where you pack what you will need for a week, and head out with now “official” destination.  Head in a direct, take the road less traveled.  The people you will meet out there, can and probably will change your life.  It is human spirit to explore.  Take a firm grip on life, go out and live it.  You could surprise yourself, or those who share the experience with you.