Cornfield Meet

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Road Trip photos: June 22 – Sea World San Diego

Click to see the whole set.

We spent most of Tuesday, June 22 at Sea World San Diego for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 YMCA Gymnastics Nationals.

I’ll admit that I’m conflicted sometimes about zoos and aquarium parks: On the one hand, they really are fascinating and educational and offer a chance to see and touch amazing creatures up close that most people never would. On the other, yes, there’s often something sad that sneaks up on me when I stay too long at one habitat or another and watch the animals in their enclosure.

Sea World also strikes childhood happychords because we used to have one within an hour of my house. (Yes, here in OHIO. I was always amazed, living in Florida, at people who said, “Really? But that’s so WEIRD – there’s no SEA in Ohio!” To which I responded, “No kidding – that’s why we needed SEA WORLD.” Having a Sea World within a day’s drive of the ocean itself is what I thought was bizarre.)

So Jenn and Kelsey and Mom and Jeff and I had a good day hanging out and watching a couple shows and just enjoying being in southern California together, and then sharing the later parts of the afternoon with Kelsey’s teammates and their parents after the opening ceremonies.

It was the kind of day where the important moments didn’t necessarily lend themselves to photography – our fun family ride on Atlantis; Kels and her friends gathered poolside to pet stingrays; watching my mom and daughter and a bunch of other North Canton visitors take on the whitewater attraction.

Still, it was a gorgeous, sunny day, and there were some photogenic penguins and polar bears – and you can visit them all here.

Not a ton of photos, but you can click and see 'em all!

November 1, 2010 Posted by | geek, Ohio, photos, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip photos: June 19-21

Somehow, I let almost three months pass since I last uploaded and organized a batch of my cross-country road trip photos, so this weekend I went through and processed some more.

There are three days’ worth of pictures here, although Saturday and Sunday June 19 and 20 are underrepresented photo-wise: It was a weekend just packed with greatness, hanging out with friends and just enjoying the west coast and the experience of being someplace totally new to me, but so much of that joy was just in the company and the moments, and not the sort of thing that gets captured through a camera lens. So the few images from those days almost serve as memory-triggers more than anything else.

Take this one, for instance:

The Donut Man

You see The Donut Man on Rt. 66 in Glendora, California.

I get thrown back to a day that began with a gorgeous drive up the coast from San Diego; several hours group-geeking at Frank and Son, where I found a flashback-inducing Imperious Leader action figure; a late lunch at Q Noodle House and a drive to The Donut Man for some fresh-strawberry-filled donuts. (Our original plans had called for introducing me to shaved snow at Class 302, but of course the day’s first batch was gone when we got there.)  A spontaneous trip to a nearby comic shop, and then an evening of more hanging out and visiting new friends and nerding out.

I left for the drive back to San Diego late the next morning, and after a brief nap, I spent the afternoon and evening swimming with my host friends and having an absolutely fantastic dinner and some wine out on their front patio as night fell. Again, it was just a terrific, warm-the-soul sort of day, and yet the only pictures you’ll find are the ones I snapped just after supper – the last sunset of spring:

Last sunset of spring 2010.

On Monday, June 21, Jenn and Kelsey made their own (much quicker) trip across the U.S.A., and after they caught up on a bit of sleep, the three of us spent several hours in the afternoon at Balboa Park and a few that evening at Seaport Village. The whole day’s worth of photos is here.

Here’s the moon over the Coronado Bridge:

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Food and Drink, geek, photos, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heading back home

San Diego and the gymnastics meet – which was only yesterday – already seem a long way behind me, and not just in that 400-road-miles way. It’s strange knowing that Jenn and Kelsey are already back home asleep in Ohio, but at the same time, I like that I’ve got this drive ahead and the time it will give me to mentally revisit and unpack my memories and thoughts from the trip.

So I left San Diego this morning around 8 a.m. after dropping mom & Jeff & Jenn & Kels at the airport, and over the next couple hours, I realized that I really love the Interstate 8 drive between San Diego and El Centro. I mean, there’s about 5 different kinds of mountains and vistas in there, and it would be awesome to spend a week just driving and shooting photos of the region at all different times of the day.

I mean, you go from scenes like that one up into these towering, rocky piles, and then there’s this absolutely breathtaking drop on the eastern edge, and you come twisting out of the hills to find the desert seemingly miles below (it’s less than 4,000 feet, though), and spreading to the horizon. This doesn’t do it justice, since I was almost all the way down when I took it:

I took a different route back after El Centro, though, and did most of today’s driving off the Interstates and on two-lanes that took me through some neat places like the Imperial Dunes recreation area –

– and a long stretch of single-intersection “towns” in southwest Arizona often consisting of sparsely-populated RV parks and maybe a restaurant and convenience store. Abandoned places, too: Clusters of homes and buildings just left vacant that made me wonder at what point someone last lived there or when it was that a person finally walked out those doors for the last time.

This afternoon, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting another fellow GeekDad writer, Jenny Williams, and her husband and family, who very generously and graciously arranged for tonight’s accommodations here near Prescott. Games – there was Super Circles, and Go Fish and TransAmerica and Chronology – and a marvelous dinner of lasagna and some brownies to die for, I tellya, and the whole evening flew by in a flash of nonstop talking and playing and fun, and once more I marvel that I have had the good fortune to come to know such excellent and kind and generous people who truly made me feel welcome.

We looked at the stars outside for a few minutes, and though they stretched from horizon to horizon, I could also imagine them over the smaller patch of sky in my backyard, bordered by familiar trees and rooftops. Home seems far away and still close in many ways.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Games, geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

San Diego afternoon

After Jenn & Kelsey re-energized a bit Monday afternoon, we decided to drive downtoan and check out Balboa Park, which turned out to be a really nice way to spend a couple hours. Having never been here before – and Jenn realized that this visit actually marks the first time that the three of us are vacationing somewhere that’s entirely new to all of us, which is cool – we were just blown away by the place.

It was sunny and pleasant and perfect for exploring the garden area.

First, we descended into the Palm Canyon, marked at its upper end by this extraordinary tree:

Next up was a pass through the 95-year-old Alcazar Garden –

And then, at Kelsey’s request, a stroll past the Lily Pond.

(Lots of colorful koi in there, too, along with at least one red-eared slider.)

For dinner, we went over to the touristy and overpriced Seaport Village – a resort staffer where we’re staying recommended it when we asked about a waterfront restaurant, and we didn’t know better – but the food was very tasty, and Kelsey tried coconut-fried shrimp for the first time, and I tried mussels, and we did enjoy a nice view of the bay and the naval base, and the three of us had a good time just walking around together after supper while the sun went down.

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Food and Drink, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Road Trip Level 1 – complete!

…and my princesses are no longer in another castle: I picked up Jenn & Kelsey this morning at the San Diego International Airport, and we’re all together again for the YMCA Gymnastics Nationals, which kick off tomorrow.

My 25 hours in the Los Angeles area (Saturday to Sunday morning) were insanely fun, and I wish I could have stayed a little longer amidst such excellent and generous friends, soaking up their humor and creativity and kindness and inspiration and all the other things that make them just generally wonderful people to be around. (And yes, this even applies to those I just met for the first time. All of you rock, and you made my brief stay in L.A. Just Freaking Awesome.)

I mean, really, can you say enough nice things about the kind of people who treat you to, among other things, a visit to The Donut Man for fresh strawberry gut-busting goodness?

But back south I had to go, and a sunny drive and an afternoon nap and some backyard pool time and a scrumptious dinner and wine with some more great people made for the perfect end to a week on the road.

Here’s the view from our hotel, where my wife and daughter are currently enjoying a post-lunch doze, having left Ohio at oh-dark-thirty this morning:

I can hardly believe a week’s worth of this road trip has gone by, and Phase II is under way. We’ll spend the next four days here – my mom and her husband arrive tonight – enjoying San Diego and the gymnastics competition together – and then begin our separate journeys back home on Friday morning.

Life is good.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Tatooine and the western terminus

Knowing I was facing a relatively short drive of between six and seven hours yesterday, I had a nice breakfast with my kind friends and hosts near Phoenix and didn’t start logging highway time until just after 9 a.m.

Just before reaching Yuma via Interstate 8, I passed a cluster of what looked like distant fires – I don’t know if they were brushfires or controlled burns or something else entirely, but for a minute or so, the dark smoke at the core of one of them was caught in a swirl that took on that creepy life-of-its-own serpentine movement like the Wizard of Oz tornado.

Naturally, as soon as I’d roughed out my journey’s map and saw that it would take me through Yuma, I decided that if it was at all possible, I’d visit the area where the Sarlacc pit scenes were filmed for Return of the Jedi. I was thrilled to find that the place – a recreational area for off-road enthusiasts in particular – had its own dedicated exit right off the highway just inside the California border, so it became a must-see stop.

Before I got there, I stopped in Yuma to make a sandwich. And knowing that the Star Wars saga has sometimes drawn names and words from real-world inspirations, I couldn’t help but have my lunch here:

(Yes, I know that “fortuna” is a word that exists in several languages and had a long history well before it became Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo’s surname. Still.)

After about 15 more minutes of freeway driving, I got off at the Grays Well Road exit and parked myself on Tatooine.

There are, of course, fences and power lines and restrooms dotting the base of the dunes, and the highway’s right there, and parking lots and maintenance equipment, but even with all those real-world intrusions, it’s ridiculously easy to look at this stretch of sand and sky and feel like you’re on that made-up planet and imagine a Krayt dragon skeleton just over the horizon, or a jawa sandcrawler cresting the next dune.

Wait? Did I really bring an old Star Wars toy all the way across the country for a five-minute stop? Why yes. YES. I. DID. And I love the way this picture turned out, first try. (And yes, I am well aware that the dewback is a Star Wars toy and didn’t make a Jedi desert appearance. I chose it anyway.)

The trip finished up with a surprisingly fun drive 4000-plus feet up into the mountains –

and then down into the greater San Diego area, where i pulled into my friends’ driveway midafternoon, some 2,500 miles after leaving my own.

June 19, 2010 Posted by | Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Road reading

imageThis is the stack of books for the road trip , and if my copy of Geek Dad arrives before next Monday, I’ll add it to the pile. And I’ll probably throw my D&D Player’s Handbook on there, too.

I’ve already started Daemons Are Forever, which is my introduction to the Eddie Drood/Shaman Bond series, even though it’s the second book. Back in May, the guys at JABberwocky Literary Agency Tweeted that they had some Simon R. Green books to give away, so I offered to take a couple off their hands. Since a) two of my favorite recently-discovered authors work with this agency and b) I went through a serious James Bond phase when I was in high school, and c) um, free books, I figured these would be something I’d enjoy.

Goblin Quest is an overdue read, and Margaret Peterson Haddix’ Found comes at the recommendation of my daughter, who’s got a short but good track record in that department.

Yes, I’m deliberately keeping the reading light. I once made the mistake of deciding that a 30-hour bus trip from Orlando to Cleveland was a fine opportunity to read my first John Steinbeck novel, and I picked The Grapes of Wrath. And did I mention that this was a trip to visit my seriously ill Dad, during the dark times of the early 1990s? I mean, not that reading something like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would have improved my actual situation, but it probably wouldn’t have made the already-depressing bus ride even worse.

It’s also entirely possible that this stack will grow a bit during the trip, since a visit to Mysterious Galaxy is most definitely in order when we’re in San Diego. Speaking of which: They’ve sold some copies of Collect All 21, and there are still some signed editions available, and while it would be cool to go out there and see my book on their shelves, it would be even cooler not to see them there and perhaps even drop off a few more copies if, say, they’ve sold out. (San Diego Star Wars fans? A little help? You’re awesome.)

So: The books are set. Now, there’s this matter of clothes, food, Coca-Cola, Oreos, Lemonheads…

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010: My Geek Odyssey

Over the course of this YMCA gymnastics season, Kelsey qualified for this month’s Nationals in San Diego. (In fantastic fashion, I might add: She came so close to making the cut last year, but missed it by thatmuch a couple times. Then, even though they lowered the necessary qualification score this year, she surpassed last year’s threshold at all but the first two meets of the year. By this year’s standards, she achieved qualifying scores in all 10 meets. \m/ )

So we’re headed to San Diego, and it will be the first visit to California – in fact, the first trip west of Denver – for all of us, and we’ve been excited for months.

As soon as Kelsey qualified, I knew I was going to want to take advantage of the West Coast trip to visit some friends out there, but Jenn’s vacation limitations meant she only had room to take in the four-day Nationals.

And so the Road Trip was born. While my wife and daughter and my parents will (most sanely) fly to and from San Diego for the competition, I’ll be crossing the country by highway, stopping and staying with generous friends there and back and spending the extra Southern California nights in similar company.

It’s easily the longest drive I’ve ever planned, far outreaching the Ohio-to-Breckenridge, Colorado overland trek the three of us made in August 2000, but I’ve broken it up so none of the stretches come remotely close to the 16-to-19-hour Canton-to-Orlando nonstops that I’ve gotten used to over the past 17 years.

I’ve always wanted to do the cross-country drive, and you know, the chance may not come again: I’m in a place right now where work is flexible and I’ve still got the desire to make it happen, and I’m still so unhappy with so many things about air travel that if I can avoid it with any degree of practicality – and clearly, this trip indicates that I do mean just about any degree – I will.

This week is utterly packed with deadline work in addition to the trip prep, and various corners of my desk and my office are starting to gather piles of notes and supplies and just, you know stuff that I’m going to want and need.

Geekery will play a significant role in the trip, too, from the two GeekDad families I’ll be visiting to at least three other like-minded friends I’ll get a chance to hang out with, to a brief Star Wars sidetrek to the books I’m packing and the audio entertainment to my plans to try and document as much of the trip as possible thanks to my trusty Droid and possibly a tethered laptop if the silicon gods are in a good mood.

Now, anybody got a Mr. Fusion?

June 6, 2010 Posted by | geek, Travel, Web/Tech, writing | , , , | 4 Comments

I’ve landed in a Mysterious Galaxy.

Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego

Photo: Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, CA.

I only know Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego by reputation, but when I started planning for a trip out west this summer, I got in touch with them about maybe arranging a Collect All 21! reading while I was there. Although we couldn’t make that happen, co-owner Maryelizabeth Hart said the book did seem like a great fit for the store, so I’m extremely excited to say that they’re carrying signed copies on their shelves – For real – look here!

So, if you’re in San Diego and you’re a Star Wars fan, consider stopping in and checking it out: Even just picking it up and giving it a look would be great, because then, you know, other cool people like you will say, “Hey, what’s that incredibly interesting person reading? And what an amazing cover!”

(Yes, I’m being goofy. It doesn’t change the fact that I really am kind of bowled over by this, and I can’t wait to visit the store this summer and thank them in person.)

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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