Saturday, December 31, 2011

National Parks: Part I

This last month I watched Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea and loved it. I'd seen some of it a few years ago but this was the first time I've watched it beginning to end. It is a hearty 12 hour endeavor and I did over a few weeks, but it was worth it.

A few years ago I decided to make some lifetime goals. One of these goals was to visit every National Park (NP) in the US. I already had a good start, being from Utah and having a parents who must have loved NP --or were just cheap-- because it seemed we visited a NP every family vacation whether we wanted to or not.

Even though I may have complained on a few of those trips, I love National Parks, in idea and actuality. They may be the only form of federal government involvement some members of my family and I will ever agree on. It is easy to get caught up in owning very tangible and proximal items like electronics, cars, clothes and real estate, these things usually belong to one person or a family, we don't have many opportunities to experience what it is like to have ownership and responsibility for communal goods.

I recently visited two NP in Florida, the Everglades and Biscayne.  Each park has it's own beauty. The Everglades are like the where's Waldo of National parks, keeping one ever alert i hopes of glimpsing a Heron, Anhinga, Alligator or some other wildlife. Whereas the Western parks of my youth demanded great hikes and quiet contemplation as one looks upon God's natural temples.

National parks are filled with people from all over the US, the world and from every walk of life. I have met people both from the US and other countries with whom I have very little in common but can talk about the grandeur of delicate arch in Arches NP or the acrophobia inducing Angel's Landing of Zion NP. Talk to Europeans who once they know you are from Utah want to re-live their trips of Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion's to you. A national park is a place where I and a Latina teenager from Florida can stand side by side and watch in wonder an alligator on a log staring at a turtle. It is a communitarian experience that people from the entire political spectrum can appreciate. 

Everglades: If you look real close you can see an alligator



Glacier: Brother Mike and I on a sibling bonding hike. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Without a car no more

I made it a whole week without a car. I've felt real blessed--I have to use that word is it such a Southern word, do you know how many times I've heard "bless her heart" and this time of the year "have a blessed Christmas," What wrong with the word merry people?-- to have so many great friends who were happy to give me rides. In all, I got 10 rides from 7 people in 5 days. When I finally picked up my car Friday afternoon I was glad to be back in the drivers seat.

I was surprised at how well I did without my car, a blog post by by Dan Ariely about Flying Frustrations reminded me of this. He shares a story about how a two-hour flight to Chicago ended up taking 6 hours due to weather. Knowing myself, I was surprised that I didn't have more frustrating moments like this. The only one I can recount was upon learning how much it would cost to fix dear Regina. So while I definitely had to adjust to others schedules and had some of the idle moments Ariely talks about, my trick was to always carry a book with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A week without a three.

Think about what you do when you are in a car by yourself... do you listen to the radio, talk on the phone (I don't recommend this but understand if it happens), make mental lists? I mainly listen to NPR and if I'm driving during the classical music hours then I listen to my ipod. Not that I have anything against classical music but the voice of the DJ sounds like she also works for a 1-900 number--sometimes it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Well this week everywhere I went was with someone and usually when I in a car with someone we chat, and I had some great chats. I decided to count up how many different people have given me a ride this week, it adds up to 6 so far. That means at least 6 conversations. It's been nice to have a little more informal human contact in my life. I have enjoyed learning more about the people giving me a ride.

Here's a few things I've chatted with people about:

  • The absence of official dietary guidelines for children 0-2 years old.
  • Birth control.
  • Musical talents, or lack thereof. 
  • The fact that one of my coworkers husbands stayed home and cooked Thanksgiving for his neighbor who has cancer while his family went to New York.
  • More than I ever needed to know about Sons of Anarchy. 
  • Someone who got married on 11/11/11.
  • HBCUs

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A week without a two.

If you ever need a ride just ask me. It's only day two and feel like I owe the whole world a ride to somewhere. 

My perception of time has changed over the past 2 days. Having a car means I decide when I come and go. Even to the extent that I can get very stressed if I am not out the door or at the office at certain, almost arbitrary deadlines I set for myself. 

Depending on someone else for transportation has lessened this stress and anxiety. For example, today my ride was supposed to pick me up at 8 am. She called and said she had to talk to her son's teacher and get gas. So after 45 minutes of waiting and another 15-minute stop at Star Bucks we arrived at work. Usually this would be a very stressful experience, but I took it in stride and used the time to practice my banjo. 

Being so dependent also means I feel like a pre-driving teen, bumming rides all the time. This feeling was not lessened by the fact that had to ask no fewer than 5 people for a ride home. It wasn't that they couldn't give me a ride but that I wanted to find a someone leaving as close to my normally-scheduled-departure time as possible. As I trudged out to my rides car laden with books and work so I can telework the next few days and explained how to get to my house, I was glad my coworker didn't ask if I had any homework or my adolescent feelings would have been complete. 

Here is a random stats from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics:
  • From 2004 to 2008, the median age of automobiles in operation increased by 0.5 years and reached 9.4 years.
This stat only means something to me because after I found out about my car I had to decide whether I wanted to pay for repairs or get a new car. My car has relatively low mileage but is coming up on it's tenth birthday, putting us right at the median. I just hope Regina (that's my car's name) will make it through this to have a many more years and become an outlier. Here's picture of what she looks like in case you forgot (however, my car has a ski rack making it look all the cooler). 

Monday, December 5, 2011

A week without a one.

I was informed today that I blew a head gasket in my engine. I really have no idea what that means but it makes your car overheat, is expensive and takes a long time to fix. Hence this week I am without a car and this situation seems like a good writing gimmick. 

One thing I am already learning from this experience is people are great. Within a few hours of finding out I would be without a car for a week I had found rides for the next few days to and from work, to a party and my banjo lesson thanks to coworkers, a visiting teacher and friends. Oh, I almost forgot to mention my great home teacher who picked me up from the mechanic. It's not often that I have to ask people for help--I try to avoid it as I hate to bother people-- but it was really nice to have so many people come to my rescue. They are great examples to me.