Do you know one of your great powers? If I have a thought on something and learn that you possess an opposite thought, I first consider how I’m wrong – getting it right – instead of hunkering down in a defensive position. I strive to be like this with everyone, since I truly can learn from anyone, but it’s harder with some than others. You are in the elite group that makes me being the person I want to be easy. But that’s not the power I came here to discuss. What makes you truly special, the elite of the elite if you will, is that I feel I can learn something about myself when I’m talking with you. I cherish this.

You inspire me. This is true in many ways, with the two principal ones being your quest for knowledge and your striving for excellence. Whatever the job/task/game is, I want you on my team. In other news, “Funeral for a Friend,” is (1) my favorite Elton John song and (2) an outstanding driving song. Give it a try the next time on the road.

Some guy invited me to church today and it reminded me of how open-minded you are. Ha. For as much as you are a legit liberal, you, unlike so many of your peers, actually explore the other side, even when it’s annoying and infuriating (i.e., Shapiro). I think this is both a valuable and respectable trait. But no real surprise that you possess such a trait since you are a great man, and great men often refuse to cave to stupid social norms (in this case the norm being that mere exposure to the other side is straight toxic).

Remember when we agreed that backpacking through Europe is overly romanticized? That much of the time is defined by boredom and loneliness, but that the trekkers feel compelled to tell everyone how great it was anyway? Well, this trip is quite the opposite. The roads, the campsites, the exploration: the best. The highlights are too numerous to list or remember. It almost feels unsustainable, even as my days consist, wonderfully, of such basic, repeatable tasks. There’s so much to see and do that the days feel like work, which I like. And with that, back to work. 

Tonight should not have been possible given everyone’s addiction; there was no cell service in the camp so collective withdrawal was forced upon us. And magically, everyone was okay. More than okay really, as kids were running, biking, throwing, jumping, and screaming joyously. There were Christmas lights and glow-in-the-dark balls, scooters, headbands, wristbands, and necklaces. The smell was perfect: campfire. Laughs were rampant, as were smiles. It was a night that reminds you how much good there is in the world. I’m sure you would have loved it. 

Best has essentially become meaningless; each day brings a new high that feels better in the instant, but is rather just another, different peak in a chain of neverending climaxes. Smart money would have set today as a rare valley. It was cold, gloomy and rainy – top was up for the first hour of driving. But wait, I can go anywhere, do anything. So south, not north as I planned the night prior, I went. And the reward was pure sunshine and rolling, picturesque hills. (Picturesque has also lost meaning as I’m constantly confronted with glorious photo-ops, I would never cover any ground if I seized them all.) These hills were so isolated from “normal” civilization that one feels comfortable driving excessively fast such that air is almost achieved on the tops and minor “stomach losses” do indeed occur on the dips. I hope all is swell as you guys prepare for the greatest of great adventures.

I feel strong as fuck right now. Not more than ten minutes ago, I was eating dinner while shadowboxing. That’s right, I still eat shirtless, but I now eat standing. There’s simply too much to do to entertain sitting. These days are filled with purpose as this life is both glorious and challenging. The largest challenge, by far, is closing this damn top at night. Other than that, though, there is little frustration in these challenges. That may well change. It’s in part the awareness of this potential that keeps me focused on appreciatively absorbing it all. Of course, that awareness religiously adopted can completely remove frustration from everything. Like, there is some alternate version of me where things have gone so poorly I would kill to be back here, closing this top. And with that, I’m going to close this top with a smile. 

(I legit got it on the next try. Ha!)

You better get your running game because I’m coming in hard. Having been isolated in the wilderness for so long, I’ve become one with the universe. That means when I charge into one of the finest trails in this here great state of Missouri, a trail defined by the words “rocky gorge” and “difficult,” records are broken. It means I bounce off rocks, dance on cliff edges, float through streams, eviscerate spiderwebs, and complete the course in 23 minutes and seven seconds. The estimated time, set by the magnum cum laude math and trail engineer double majors from the University of Missouri, was 100 minutes. Get some!

Every man rebels against the idea that this is fucking it. Fights windmills, saves fucking damsels all in search of greater purpose…You have no greater purpose, because it is enough. -Kevin Garvey

I think being able to truly live this truth is a great key to life. We all get there for moments. For some it comes from jumping out of planes, for others it’s washing dishes. The challenge comes in advancing beyond moments into something more regular. Our lives are built with distractions that aid in preventing this progression, but the foundational piece is always there: you can, more or less, do what you want to do. This is abundantly accessible to me now as each day any idea, want, desire, etc. can be fulfilled. If, however, this is manipulated into another version of “I’ll be happy when,” all is lost, including Garvey’s wise point. *I want nothing. This is it. It has always been it.* Will this be true for me today? Hope all is swell.

I enter a town w/ pop. <1000 and a confidence fills me: I have a great chance with any woman. I don’t have a perfect explanation for this phenomenon. My best guesses: (1) feeling like a big fish in a small pond is invigorating, and (2) it is easy to compete against low expectations. (1) is a danger to progress, since one can always reach this state by hanging out with ever “worse” people. (2) it is so nice to surprise people in a positive way. Here I am looking like a total vagrant, but wait, I’m actually from the BIG city on a BIG adventure with my BIG brain. It all seems pretty ugly to me, but I feel it nonetheless. I’ll continue to monitor and file reports as I see fit. 

It goes that one should never shop for food when hungry. I buy this notion. I’ll also add a complimentary tip: shop for things when tired. In a fatigued state all the stuff you were so sure you needed no longer feels nearly as necessary. You’ll suddenly find yourself wonderfully creative in avoidance of walking to the other end of the store since, really, you can probably make do with what you already have. A far less practical complementary rule is to force yourself to pack and unpack all your stuff on a daily basis. Adherence to this rule will leave even the most consumption-crazed person searching for ways to own less stuff.

What I most appreciated about you was your willingness to be vulnerable about your own shortcomings. As you surely know, this is remarkably rare. We are told to be self-confident, to be strong and thus, wrongly, true weaknesses, not ones revealed to elicit pity, remain undisclosed. I believe this is bad both for the person and for society. If only they watched you they would see that true self-awareness makes someone powerful, that self-confidence is false without recognizing real areas for improvement. That really, it’s past and present grapples with personal challenges that give one rightful belief that whatever comes next, it can be resolved. So thanks for that example and I hope all is well.

Standing underneath the playground pull-up bar with my hand blisters about to break into tiny seas of blood, I thought of instant progress. All advancement will bring tradeoffs. Thus is should come as no surprise that phones, the Internet, cancer treatment, etc. have downsides. What is different now more than ever, is that we expect these downsides to be immediately resolved, because so much of what we get today is indeed immediate. While this intention makes sense – minimize harm ASAP- it does partially disrupt the natural cycle that occurs with time and education: we adapt. And so it is that there is no way I’m buying gloves to protect my currently throbbing hands. Instead my hands will experience temporary discomfort and soon evolve, strengthen really, to deal with the rigors of playground pull-up bar life. Or not, and I’ll be permanently scarred. We shall see…

I am The Trail King. I hereby declare that my rule will be defined by grace, mercy, and speed.

My no-plan plan is working out exquisitely. I chase the sun, seek interesting roads, and follow my whims. That’s basically it. I usually wake up not knowing where I’m going or doing (outside of the necessities). Much of the “doing” comes from a simple observation that something looks cool and is worthy of exploration. For instance, today I’m leaving a campsite when I notice a park sign for “Beach.” Who doesn’t like a beach? So, I pivot and take the turn. A totally vacant, totally beautiful beach welcomes me. I guess I’ll go for a swim. I change into my trunks and embark down the long staircase to the water when a sign “Lake Trail 2.1miles” catches my eye. So, I pivot again and decide to hit the water after a trail run. It was all uniquely invigorating, yet similar stuff keeps happening daily. It sums to an existence that is largely free from expectation and, as the simple formula of reality minus expectations = happiness would necessitate, brimming with happiness. Is this merely the product of the abrupt life change? Or am I learning something that is more sustainable? Either way, I’m currently touching present moments in a powerful way, and I shall continue to appreciate them. 

As I travel west, I consider what motivated original pioneers to make the trek in the 19th century. Then I think that you would have made it as a pioneer. Then as now, there are people like pioneers who act boldly in the face of opportunity, and those who derive excuses to rationalize inaction. Your story thus far is one where you say “yes” to the mere chance at a better life. Ohio to Chicago to California to Washington to New York with no guarantees or “trust fund” to fall back on, just self-belief that you will achieve something greater. This is quite admirable and quite rare.

Here I am top-down, shirt off, right hand reaching over the windshield pointing ahead (because it’s fun), screaming as loud as I can while climbing another hill in Badlands to see a downright remarkable sunset from a different angle. It was not more than six hours prior that I didn’t even know the Badlands were in the state of South Dakota. Good thing the trusty old county board decided to educate unsuspecting travelers of nearby wonders with those beautiful brown highway signs. Not only did I get blasted with always desirable desertesque  heat and see some pretty lovely sights (like the sunset described above), but I something about Badlands help me conclude there is no finer driving song than Justice’s “Genesis,” preferably served as part one of the triumvirate that concludes with “Phantom 1.5” off “Across the Universe.” Again, thank you county board.

Is it possible to not look forward to things? If it is, would you want the ability? Stripped of a schedule and of any reason to even know the day of the week, it’s become overwhelmingly clear how much “looking forward” consumes my mind; I keep catching myself reflexively responding to a less than ideal momentary state with thoughts of how everything will be better when…only to remember there is no when. No weekend, activity or anything else that will be any different from this, whatever this is. Because this is IT. Which is kinda scary.

Attachment always leads to conflict. Let’s accept that as true. I think this is easy to understand on some levels, less so on others. The levels:

  1. Attachment to things: pretty obvious. You can do/get whatever you want so long as you want the right things (ideally, that which you already have and not material possessions)
  2. Attachment to people: your fulfillment is inextricably tied to someone you cannot control=conflict
  3. Attachment to ideas: easy to see in our current political climate. Made all the worse when we become our ideas (i.e., you don’t like my position on taxes = you don’t like me = I’m a bad person)
  4. Attachment to ideas about people: all frustration with others comes from them not behaving the way you want them to. We are more attached to ideas of what family members should be, thus family encounters are more likely to be explosive 
  5. Attachment to ideas of who I am: makes it very hard to change when I should + creates blind spots. 
  6. Attachment to ideas of what I want to be: how can one both be fulfilled and present while also striving? Very, very hard to reconcile. 
  7. Attachment to ideas about how I should feel: again, how can I accept the inevitable vicissitudes (within the same freaking day) without always wanting to seek pleasure and avoid pain?

Maybe I should become a truck driver when I return to working. For after grinding through the cooking, camping, cleaning, etc., there is such reward in driving. And you’re telling me that somebody would pay me to do this (at least until the bots take over)? I’m in. I’ll often tell myself the night before that maybe I should stay put for a day, only to overrule when the sun emerges and the open road calls. Part of this joy may indeed come from all the convenience I’m unable/refuse to buy. If I don’t put in legit work, I will not be able to eat/sleep. There is much meaning derived from these daily tasks, and so the car ride feels “earned.” I’ll also add that when one is forced to do everything himself, a level of creativity seeps in to reduce time spent toiling. It all has amounted to a base level of appreciation that supports the whimsical adventures of my current existence.

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. If you peered closely through some high-powered binoculars at PP on the afternoon of September 19th, you would have spotted a beautiful Miata being towed down the mountain by a true gentleman named Matt who plans to fix up an old MG and move to Alaska. If, for some weird reason, you decided to follow the tow truck, you would have ended at Bad Rock Auto. There you would have met the charming owner Mac who meets challenges with smiles and laughs. Mac would only be outdone by the unnamed owner of Cascade Lodge who doesn’t charge tax and who doesn’t smoke because she once saw the lungs of a dead smoker (“rotten cauliflower”), where the Miata’s owner was forced to retire since the car work required another day’s labor. Just another day spent experiencing the treasure that is life in America.

We live in a manufactured state of fear. This is no accident: a scared populous is more likely to buy things and to surrender power. At an academic level we know this. At an academic level we also know that the world has never been better. But really feeling these truths is sometimes quite difficult. A certain type of travel is one way to jumpstart the process. For suddenly the left/right, red/blue, cool/uncool, smart/stupid and black/white structures are seen as the frauds they have always been. Beauty is everywhere; caring, smiling people are in great abundance; and so much daily frustration is trivial. The real hope is this lived knowledge can be transferred back to any “normal” life, for it is all as true there as it is on the road.

I’m trying to be more like you. Back in July I noticed a certain beauty in the way you navigate a day. Rocks: let’s climb. Clue: let’s play. Coffee shop treat: let’s eat. It seemed like there was a sort of whimsical wandering permeating throughout. Namely, something seems interesting, so let’s explore. I find this attitude to be most wonderful. Unfortunately, I’ve also found that adulthood largely abandons it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m driving across the country merely chasing what looks cool (hint: follow brown signs). Additionally, I’m intentionally opting into compelling things that I’m bad at, for adulthood too readily focuses solely only strengths even as much growth and meaning is to be found in weaknesses. So, thanks for the inspiration!

I just had a terrible night sleep. Here I am on a two-month road trip in a ‘92 Mazda Miata camping each night in a state park and the winds of west Oklahoma just rocked me into a mixed state of laughter, annoyance, worry as my tent seemed close to collapse throughout the night. But of course this unfortunate experience was still not nearly as bad as my first night camping with you, when indeed tents did break and we “awoke” to see each other’s faces covered in dirt. This last night aside, my current trip has been largely glorious. My days commence with a check to see where it will be warm and fun to drive, and then I go, chasing anything interesting along the way. It’s a sort of whimsical wandering that uncovers beauty everywhere. It’s also a bit of a grind – cleaning, cooking, camping, packing, etc. – and it’s left me even more impressed with your Appalachian Trail conquest. I now have so many more questions about how you pulled it off given the challenges I face even as I’m armed with a car. I look forward to that conversation.

I’m coming in hot baby! That’s actually what concerns me just a bit: the weather in Oregon is decidedly not hot. And in my current existence, I simply check temperatures in the morning and drive to where lows are >60 (and precipitation probability is close to 0%). But that was then, for it shall be a new existence in OR, an existence that will feature a certain type meaningful human interaction. And I do indeed love meaningful human interaction, which left me wondering before embarking on this trip if I would be lonely. Nope. Furthermore, a truth has been reemphasized to me: if you give your attention, you can have meaningful interactions with anyone, anywhere in as little as a few seconds. After all, the greatest gift you can give someone is your attention; you can count on that gift being delivered when I arrive.

Fuck you NM. Middle-of-nowhere highways perfectly paved and safe and yet the speed limit is 55mph?!?! No other state in the union would have the limit less than 70. NM must be run by elite progressives intent on inflicting a nanny state in all matters, including the beautiful roads.

I heard that you two went on a baby road trip to CT and I couldn’t help but wonder if appropriate effort was put into the music selections. It’s this area, more than snacks or even the destination, which most determines the success or failure of the adventure. With that in mind, I thought I lend some expertise for your next drive. Of course there are many types of experiences I could build, from screaming to music that will compel you to speed, but if I’m forced to pick just one (and the size of the postcard does), I’ll go with goosebumps/crying. Ten tracks in no particular order:

  • Third Eye Blind “motorcycle drive by”
  • Foals “Spanish Sahara”
  • Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah” 
  • Ke$ha “Praying”
  • Arcade Fire “suburban warl
  • Elton John “Ticking”
  • John Murphy “Sunshine (Adagio in D minor)”
  • Cloud Cult “Take Your Medicine”
  • Mike Posner “Perfect”
  • Kanye West “Homecoming”

Happy driving!

Thank Christ for the Mormans. 80mph!! And it’s a pure 80, not the 80-70-55-65-75-80 shenanigans wannabe states pull.

Romney 2024!

Fuck you Utah. I’ve camped in 10 states thus far and not once has a campground been full. Then along you come with five separate campgrounds all full, in the middle of the week no less. I learn that they are booked months in advance. Here’s an idea: raise the fucking prices.

It’s 9:04PM, 80 degrees, so dark that the sky’s beauty can purely shine, and it’s feeling like the end. Tomorrow I will reenter “normal” civilization and stay at a friend’s thus concluding the “isolated tent phase” of my trip. I have no grand revelations. There is pressure to justify doing the non-ordinary with profound takeaways; it doesn’t seem right to, say, backpack across Europe and not have learned something BIG. What I think the non-ordinary best allows one to do is remember how much amusement can be captured, to hit highs that were always available, but were overlooked in the rush of everyday routine. It’s actually not the routine I see as the problem, but the rush. Take away time constraints and almost all petty frustration disappears. You’ll catch yourself annoyed that you can’t find the plastic bags in the store and then remember you have nothing else to do, nowhere else to be, that you could freely circle the store a dozen times and it wouldn’t matter, and so you chuckle and return to tranquillity. There will always be some constraints, like the sun setting, and I wouldn’t want to live completely free from them, but keep them loose so you can ride the randomness of the day. 

You know what I don’t hear from the xxxxxxxxx family? Complaints. You know what I don’t see from the xxxxxxxxx family? Frowns. People may mistakenly view this as a product of great lives. These people err in forgetting that no matter how outwardly great a life, a choice always must be made. Will you give in to the temptation of negativity, for there is always something not perfect, or will you not? Will you derive meaning from condescension and cynicism, or will you not? Will you constantly identify the worst in a situation, or will you not? No amount of success, education, worldliness, or health can guarantee the optimal selection. Wisdom will. And wisdom, fortunately, is within all of us. But like all tools, it must be properly accessed to serve its purpose. One way to get there is to pause and ask yourself, “What would a wise person do?” Better yet, watch the xxxxxxxxx and follow their lead.

There are people who wish for a lottery victory so they could go do “nothing” on some island. These people confound me. Vacation and relaxation serves some purpose, no doubt. But a life’s purpose? No way. The novelty would quickly wear off and the lotto winner would be confronted with an inescapable sensation: did I earn my sleep today? This question can be answered infinite ways, but it cannot be answered with nothing. I’m finding an answer in handling basic things well. Get my body and mind strong. Don’t look forward or procrastinate. Pay attention. It has all culminated in a powerful experience featuring some towering highs and peaceful sleeps.

Fuck Adele. People say her range is incredible and that she’s the most talented vocalist of the 21st century. These people must not have listened to System of a Down’s album “Toxicity.” Adele cannot touch Serj Tankian – nobody can. 

“Somewhere between sacred silence and sleep. Disorder. Disorder. Disorderrrrrrrrrrrr”

Some pretty girl invites you to a party and there’s a compulsion to say “yes.” But wait. Won’t the party really just be an interminable series of attempts to talk with people you don’t really like as you wish you were home reading in bed? Anticipate regret and say “no.” I knew the Pacific Northwest was going to be a change; I just failed to properly compute the magnitude. Traffic and rain: everywhere. Sun and warmth: nowhere. Miata top: closed. Schedules and long, long drives: work. When love is gone, where does it go?

I hope before the self-driving cars take over you get to take a proper road trip. If you do, I think you’ll find there’s something special about the open road and how it tugs at the innate human (American?) desire to explore. Not only is this liberating and empowering, but I think lessons can be learned on the road and applied to “normal” life. Like how to avoid days blending together, or ways to rekindle appreciation, or the cost of alleviating momentary displeasure by looking forward. But really, that’s all an overcomplication of the plain fact that when you get on some road in the middle-of-nowhere with the top down and the music blaring, you won’t want to be anywhere else.

You do realize that I’ve got you ahead of Jesus Christ in “minor miracle birth” category. Jesus claims to have been born from a virgin. A great story, no doubt, but you and I both know that he almost certainly got a little hyperbolic. You, on the other hand, did 100% complete an incredible birth. The years, the tests, the trials, the hopes, and the fears that went into it were nothing short of remarkable when everything culminated with your existence. So, congrats on making it, congrats on being probably way more impressive than Christ, and I look forward to a formal meeting sometime soon.

I’m here among the red rocks of AZ still shook from your wedding. I’ve simply never before been so moved by an event that I’ve witnessed some 20+ times before. Like graduating from college, getting married seems almost inevitable for people of my background. And while couples will talk of circuitous routes to marriage, the sheer quantity of them obscured the miraculousness of the event. This relationship was different. Having been around xxxxxxxxx for so long, I was there for the forgettable dates and lonely nights. And while my exposure was certainly more limited, I still got a similar sense from xxxxxxxxx when she talked of being sooooo grateful for xxxxxxxxx. Unlike school where the formula is simple (study), there is no blueprint, and thus no way to guarantee getting to the place you got to on Saturday. I’m just very appreciative that I was able to be apart of it. Thanks!

As expressed on Saturday, xxxxxxxxx, like you, passes a certain version of the “ultimate test.” You pass a different version as well: the Thanksgiving draft. Let’s say I’m going to a large Thanksgiving where I know some, but not all of the participants. Then let’s say the host says I can bring a friend. As I mentally weigh pros and cons of anyone I could “draft,” it’s patently obvious that you are a first-round pick. The reasons are multiple, but they all culminate in this fact: my reputation will increase thanks to your presence. “OMG your friend xxxxxxxxx is so great.” Translation: xxxxxxxxx, you are also so great by virtue of knowing xxxxxxxxx. Part of people’s adoration will come from your ability to hide deep wisdom behind elite approachability. Before they know it, the Thanksgiving guests will go from thinking, “Damn, this dude is fun and funny,” to, “Damn, this dude knows some shit about the important shit.” And it’s at that point when everyone will be clamoring to have you attend next year’s Thanksgiving. Translation: xxxxxxxxx, you have cooler friends than any of us. 

I’ve still got it! Not that I was all that concerned, but the possibility was real: I would taste normal, luxurious life and not want to return to life in a tent. I do think, though, that too much luxury for too much time would make me weak. And by weakness, I simply mean reduced adaptability, mental resilience, and confidence that one can “figure it out.” One need not go into the woods to grow antiweak, aka strong, but an abrupt departure from comfort is absolutely a way to jumpstart the process. I think I’ll always want to oscillate between being uncomfortable and comfortable in the effort of greater growth. These needs for growth and exploration feel innate to me given the tremendous invigoration that comes from satisfying them. But again, these words don’t have to mean big, bold acts – it can simply be about whimsically following interests in a “comfortable” setting as they appear. This is one lesson of many that I shall take with me when I return to indoor sleeping. Great seeing you at the wedding.

The world is an especially cynical place at the moment. I find this most disappointing for any number of reasons. Here’s one: when in a negative mental state, it is trivially easy to overlook all the beauty which surrounds us. And boy is there beauty all across this great country; I have legitimately hit at least one incredible high per day in appreciation of this fact. The Miata has been as fun as I could have hoped for, and I’ve managed to almost completely avoid cold and rain so that the top can consistently stay down. I still chuckle about the ridiculous adventure that made purchasing that car from you possible. I hope your fall is starting well and that you are getting into some cool adventures of your own.

New favorite sign spotted multieple times along an interstate in Oklahoma: do not drive through smoke.

Two questions:

  1. what smoke incident occurred to render such signs necessary?
  2. How did I actually comply with the sign in a Smokey scenario? Do I stop and wait? Do I reverse? Do I drive the opposite direction? Very unclear.

Your father once told me that if you could possess any single trait, he would wish for confidence. I have no doubt your parents will serve as both models and teachers of this attribute.  But surely there is more to be done in jumpstarting the development, so please allow me to suggest a practice. When driving by yourself, you’ll sometimes find just the right song such that you will sing and move as if nobody is watching. This lovely state of pure being will often shatter as you approach a stoplight and realize that people are, indeed, watching. So you’ll turn down the volume and cut the animated flow. For this confidence practice, I suggest you NEVER do this. Instead, continue as if nothing has changed. As you mature with repetitions, feel free to throw in direct stares at other drivers while singing (this is even better if music is particularly “uncool”). When done to perfection, you may even make other drivers embarrassed that they ever thought they would catch you embarrassed. Have fun with it by smiling and laughing and all-around having a grand time. This pinnacle will show you the power of true confidence: you’ll be equanimous in situations where others are usually anxious.

After my fourth straight play of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” I’m convinced that the guitar opening is the best ever, the guitar riff is the coolest ever, and, well, the whole song is the best rock song of all-time. Maybe recency bias isn’t that bad since all it really does is elevate what’s current. And isn’t that what we all want? I want this to be the best so that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be in this moment. Because if I reach that place, that’s the pinnacle of existence. And so I have this afternoon at 4:43 PM in Oklahoma. Thank you Dire Straits!