Category: Travel

An Open Letter to L.J. Williamson

Dear L.J. (or Linda),

Since your website‘s contact info is incorrect, I thought I’d air my views in public. I enjoyed your article “Let Kids Outdoors” that was published in the L.A. Times on March 29. I agree that society as a whole seems to be suffocating children with safety, and that withholding all independence seems to do more harm than good.

However, I was curious about one argument you made in your article. You stated that “In 1972, 87% of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13% of children get to school under their own power” and that “rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s.” You argue that society is fearing child abduction more while the actual danger is decreasing.

Is it possible that child abductions are decreasing as a result of less children traveling, playing, or being outdoors on their own? I have not researched these statistics, nor am I a statistician, but the irony of society’s increasing fear reducing that which it fears to a statistical improbability amused me.


PS: You should hire me to build a website for you that is not broken.

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Sepia Tone Topiary Elephant

On Sunday, Annie and I went to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Since we both had the day off and the weather was absolutely amazing, we had to do something outdoors. The zoo wasn’t too crowded—unlike when Annie and Veronica went for Dollar Days—so I was able to take photos relatively unobstructed. In the spirit of the Maryland Zoo’s 130th anniversary, I retouched a photo I took to accompany this post. Just because.

Loverly Weather

A snow-covered Baltimore street

I used sarcasm in the post title; the picture may have let you in on the secret. I could also have titled this entry “Please Reconsider Using Public Transportation When It Snows.” Today Baltimore received its third helping of wintry weather so far this season. Since Charm City is snuggled mid-Atlanticly, Mother Nature likes to give the city a little snow and a little rain. Because icy slush equals VEHICULAR EXCITEMENT! For proof, take this little bit from the Baltimore Sun:

In Baltimore, a man in his late 50s was killed after he lost control about 3:45 p.m. of his Chevrolet pickup truck while entering the southbound lanes of the Jones Falls Expressway from North Avenue, police said. A sport utility vehicle hit the truck as it spun across three lanes, and the man was ejected and run over by his truck.

Run over by his own truck! I’d capitalize that phrase for emphasis if I didn’t already fill that quota today. I mean, you have to feel for his family if only for the fact that nobody would see that end coming. Things like this don’t happen in Pennsylvania.

Seriously, you would think a city of reasonably intelligent citizens would learn that freezing rain plus motorized vehicles means don’t speed, tailgate, or brake ferociously on curves. A positive tip? Turn on your headlights when the sun has set and moisture descends from the clouds. In bad weather, it seems a third of Baltimore’s drivers drop their speed to pedestrian levels while another third fails to grasp what’s meant by “safe braking distance” or what I like to call “intelligence.” That last third? Well, they’re the people who don’t need to strap on their “special” helmets when they get behind the wheel. They’re also the only ones keeping me from trading my Honda for an armored Humvee.

The Big Move

I live in Baltimore, Maryland! That sentence has been in the works a long time. Last Friday, my parents helped transport most of my stuff to a Canton apartment that I will be sharing with Kevin, one of Annie’s coworkers. We arrived a little later than planned, but the move went off without any major complications.

As a housewarming gift, some woman backed her SUV into my car and scratched the hood and bumper and broke one of my fog lights. I then met one of Baltimore’s finest, who was able to locate the SUV owner’s boyfriend who told us this woman “didn’t know she hit anything.” That probably explains why she left her vehicle parked in front of my car where my white paint on her gray SUV was clearly visible. Did I mention that parking by my new place is not one of the selling points for the area? It’s not.

I’m not completely settled in my new apartment so it doesn’t feel like home just yet, but I will post photos next week once everything is the way I’d like it. I’m going to my house in Pennsylvania this weekend, so it’s strange that when I leave for Baltimore again on Sunday, I’ll actually be going home—to my new home in Baltimore.

The Dial-up Battle

Over the past five years, I suffered with the painfully slow dial-up connection at my house whenever I returned home for summer and winter breaks. I never hesitated to explain to my parents how DSL wasn’t much more expensive than dial-up. I offered to help pay part of the cost difference. Explaining how much extra time it took me to FTP hundreds of files or download program updates was fruitless. I watched the prices of broadband creep lower as everyone—it seemed—realized that their time wasn’t worth the wait. I begged, I pleaded, I argued, I reasoned, and finally gave up hope.

In two weeks, I’ll be moving to Baltimore and changing my permanent address. This morning, my parents signed up for Verizon DSL.

Life’s a Gas

I received a phone call from Annie that she heard that gas stations in Baltimore would be closing this afternoon because of a fuel shortage. The rumor came from a friend of a friend who works downtown; they were let off early so that they could fill up their vehicles before the stations closed.

It sounded a little crazy—we both thought so—that all of the gas stations were running out of fuel, but if management is letting employees out early, it can’t be completely false. So, I figured I would put a few gallons in just-in-case. The gas station closest to Annie’s apartment closed(!) because the tanks were empty; the station’s mini-mart was still open, in case you like visiting fuel-free gas stations for convenience.

So I stopped at the Exxon at the corner of Charles and Stevenson for their $3.24 regular unleaded and their exciting one-way only traffic flow to reduce gridlock around the pumps. I still had a quarter tank, but I don’t want to be on Empty all weekend. Besides, my four cylinder Honda only holds 13 gallons; it’s not like I’m driving a Ford Explorer and filling two portable gas containers (true story!).

My guess is that it’s an artificial fuel shortage brought about by the soaring prices and a nasty rumor. I’m just shocked that some stations are out of fuel; it’s something new for anyone under 25 years-old.

Sacrifice at the Pump

The price of gas is killing me. In Baltimore, the price ranges from $2.56 to $2.70 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is two dollars more than I can really afford. It’s a good thing that Bush & Co. gave the oil companies what they so desperately needed: multi-billion dollar supplements and tax breaks.

Last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, they did a segment about corporations called First Drafts in which they showed the company’s current slogan and its less-refined predecessor. Most of them were funny, but the ExxonMobil one was the best. Their real tagline is “ExxonMobil: Taking on the World’s Toughest Energy Challenges.” Leno thought the first draft was more realistic: “Exxon Mobil: Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles.” I couldn’t agree more.

Myrtle Beach

Umbrellas on the Beach

My family and I arrived home from vacation late on Friday night and I’ve recovered enough to actually accomplish something. The drive to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—about 630 miles, one way—turned out to be more interesting than planned: the transmission on the minivan decided that second gear was a good place to stop shifting, whether or not higher gears were preferred. It turned out to be a relatively inexpensive fix, but added several hours to the already 12-hour trip.

The weather cooperated for most of the week that we were there, with the exception that the temperature was nearly 100 degrees the whole time; air conditioning and sunscreen were my very close companions during the sunniest, hottest, humidest (or most humid for the sticklers) times of day. A word of advice: golf isn’t much fun when the sun wants you to die.

We ate dinner at Planet Hollywood on the day we went to Broadway at the Beach—it’s like a very large outdoor mall—and were served by a very sarcastic/odd waiter. I could never tell if he was joking or being serious or just rude. At Crocodile Rock’s Dueling Pianos bar, I had a drink with my parents (a first); later in the evening we watched a fireworks display from a bridge over the lake.

The next day, we went to the Waccatee Zoo, an usual hybrid of modern animal preserve, petting zoo, and old-fashioned caged animals zoo. Parts of the Waccatee Zoo, like the alligator or deer enclosures seemed well-planned, but other areas like the tiger, lion, and baboon cages seemed inhumane for 2005 and more like relics from 1955.

We went to the beach for the second time during the week on Thursday (our last full day there) and Jason and I had a great time riding the waves on our boogie boards. What’s surprising about the ocean in Myrtle Beach is how warm the water feels; unlike Cape May or Ocean City, the water is probably in the mid-80s. It was a nice cap to what was a really fun week.

Update: I forgot to mention—and failed to photograph—a tie-dyed billboard along SC 17 in Surfside that featured a huge Jesus with his arms open and his head rising above the top edge of the billboard. The text on the sign read: “Who’s your Daddy? I am that I am.” It was the best highway sign ever and I didn’t take a picture of it.

Vacation Time!

I will be leaving for vacation with my family tomorrow morning, so posts will be infrequent for the next week. We’re going to be staying at our timeshare in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; it should be fun as I haven’t been there in five years. I’ll be Interweb-less for most of the week, but if we have some rainy days I’m sure I’ll find an Internet connection somewhere. Expect a bunch of pictures when I get back, because I finally purchased a memory card for my camera! Woohoo!

The Way to Cape May

Annie and Stephen in Ocean City, New Jersey

Annie and I drove to the New Jersey shore on Saturday to do something different for our five-year Anniversary! It’s hard to believe that we started dating five years ago, but at the same time I can remember so many things from the earliest days, weeks, months, years that made the five years seem short. This trip was the first time that we went to the beach together and it turned out to be a great day. As it was such a momentous occasion, I felt the urge to bring the camera and take more pictures than has been the case of late.

A pier in Ocean City, New Jersey

We took a short scenic detour through Camden on the way to Ocean City where we started our day on the boardwalk. It was overcast and cold (for the beach), but that didn’t stop us from taking our shoes off and walking by the water. After about two hours there and getting lost in Ocean City, we picked up a Cape May County map and drove to the Cape May Courthouse Diner for a delicious lunch. By this time, the temperature was in the 70s and the sky was a bright blue.

Cape May, New Jersey

After walking around the city and beaches of Cape May for a few hours, we drove to Cape May Point to end the day at Sunset Beach. We sat on some rocks near the water and shifted through the pebbles that make up the beach to find Cape May Diamonds and other interesting rocks to remember the trip. It was a wonderful trip—without an itinerary to constrain or stress us at any point—and the most relaxing day I’ve had in a very long time.