Just pasting something from my past so that I don't lose it:
On June 12, 1995, I set off in my Saturn SL1 to drive around the USA for 5 weeks alone. This is an email log of my trip:
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 1
From: Laurel, Maryland
To : Atlanta, Georgia
trip took me 10 hours. If you plan to visit Atlanta, expect to drive
for at least 11 hours (following normal speed restrictions). :-) And as
Forest Gump would say, "I've seen every type of rain there is." It
rained off and on for the entire 10 hours.
I saw nothing but
asphalt and pine trees until right before the Georgia state line at
which point I saw a 100 foot tall peach. It was a water tower molded
into the shape of a huge peach. Not by coincidence, they were selling
peaches for the next five exits. I found this amusing since Georgia was
the peach state, but it was South Carolina that was marketing the peach
to the extreme.
I stopped by the Georgia visitor center to get
any info on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Conclusion: Don't bother
trying to get tickets to see any of the Olympics; instead, spend your
money on a huge projection TV and watch the Olympics on it (it will be
cheaper and you will see more of the Olympics than if you went to
Atlanta). If you just want paraphenalia, the place to go is Atlanta
Underground located in downtown Atlanta.
I expected to hear
southern accents, but it still surprised me when I stopped by a
convenience store and overheard a 5 year old boy whine for a toy in a
definitive southern twang (I can't describe it better; you have to hear
There are no IHOPs here; they seem to have been replaced by
Waffle Houses. McDonalds must be reaching the saturation point; there
was a McDonalds at almost every exit on the road. I've never seen so
many BP gas stations before in my life. Shoney's is everywhere.
following is what comes out of person whose mind has been numbed by an
entire day of driving: "I am one with my car. No one is faster. No
opening between two cars is too small. I laugh at the elements
BWAHAHAHA. The police can't see me. Cruise control is man's best friend.
Truckers respect me. Why are there remains of shredded tires every 10
feet on the shoulder of the road?"
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 2
From: Atlanta, Georgia
To : New Orleans, Louisiana
Atlanta is basically a multi-level mall with a little touch of American
history stuck under a downtown street in Atlanta. It uses the
underground railroad for historical significance.
I didn't have
time, but the following are places I would visit the next time I'm in
Atlanta: Coca-Cola Museum, and the Jimmy Carter Center.
Atlanta, I visited a former Princeton roommate, Derek, who is now
practicing law. I made the mistake of assuming that he worked downtown
and took the bus downtown (parking was ridiculous downtown). As a
result, I ended up walking two miles through the western part of
Atlanta. Imagine a chubby oriental man wearing a Walt Disney t-shirt
walking through the economically depressed black neighborhood of
Atlanta. I got many stares, and one woman tapped me on the shoulder with
a rolled-up piece of paper as we walked past each other. I wasn't sure
if this was a greeting or a provocation, so I continued walking without
looking back. Derek showed me the Olympic stadium in construction as
well as his real estate investments in the area. He wants me to join him
in buying run-down houses near the Olympic facilities, renovating them,
renting them during the Olympics, and selling them after the Olympics.
The only problem I saw was that the people who would rent the houses
would probably trash the houses, and after the Olympics, Atlanta's
economy and housing market may spiral downwards since they seem to have
no other form of introducing money into the economy besides the
Olympics. Derek's getting married next week, and I only can say that she
must be an understanding woman because he was quite a lady's man in
college (and still was as of last year) and he has come clean with her.
trip to New Orleans was basically more asphalt and pine trees. But when
I reached Southern Alabama and Mississippi, seeing the endless expanses
of trees and marshes took my breath away. This is probably mainly due
to the tedium of seeing only interstates hour after hour, but the look
of nature from a slightly elevated view was dazzling. Crossing the
Mississippi River was long and satisfying as well.
someone's advice and stopped at the visitor center as soon as I hit
Mississippi and got discount information about hotels. I paid only $29,
but I got what I paid for (paper thin walls, noisy air conditioner,
etc.). If any of you come to New Orleans with someone else, it's
probably better to pay the $75/night (or more) for the fancier hotels
directly in the French Quarter.
I arrived in the French Quarter
at 10:30pm EST (9:30pm CST), and promptly went to the first creole
restaurant I found. The one I went to was called Olivier's Creole
Restaurant located on Douvier St. The restaurant was very nicely
decorated with carved wood, chandeliers, ceiling fans, and pictures of
old buildings. Nice jazz music was playing in the background, and the
host (and owner) of the restaurant went around and talked easily with
the customers. They didn't have escargot (snails), and I didn't feel
like eating crawfish. So I started off with Oysters Buenville (sp?)
(oysters baked in their shell with a cream sauce and covered with cheese
and spices), continued with a Creole Gumbo sampler (shrimp, beef, and
creole) dish with rice, and ended with Papa Armand's peach cobbler.
Everything was delicious (but the peach cobbler was a little on the
sweet side). With free fresh, hot buns, I give this restaurant two forks
up. Needless to say, I was not able to stay within my $10/day budget
Right now I am in my hotel room listening to Mystery
Science Theater 3000 (they're bashing a Roger Corman movie called Attack
of the Giant Leech) and noises from the people next door.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 2
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
To : Houston, Texas
Correction: Olivier's Creole Restaurant is located on Decatur St - not Douvier.
I took a look at the French Quarter during the day. It is basically
very much like the Baltimore Inner Harbor: lots of waterfront stores and
restaurants. The main differences are the abundance of wheel-driven
ferry boats, the creole food, and the French Market.
first stop was actually to the east of the French Quarter where
something that looked like an aircraft carrier was docked. I walked up
to it and debated whether or not to cross the barricade that prohibited
pedestrians from getting a solid view of it. It's too small to be a
carrier or a CVL. It lacked a jump ramp, so it probably isn't for
harriers. It proabably was just a helicopter carrier.
stop was the Louisiana State Museum. They had very nice displays on the
US Mint that was located here and the history of Jazz. I learned what
"Storyville" was to my embarrassment.
My third stop was the French Market. It probably should be renamed to the New Orleans Souvenir Market. Got a t-shirt there.
last stop was lunch at the Jackson Square Cafe. I got the "Bayou
Sampler" which consisted of breaded catfish, sausage jambalaya, and
crawfish pie. I definitely give this place two forks up too.
New Orleans is a definite stop for antique fans. There were antique stores everywhere.
should be manageable as long as you park outside of the French Quarter.
All the parking lots in the French Quarter are pretty much for the
The trip to Houston was pretty much uneventful (if
you call racing at a ridiculous speed uneventful; I'm ready to race at
Indianapolis :-)). The bayou was a sight. Midway through the trip, I got
a huge bug stuck in my windshield wiper. I got nauseous as I watched
this inch-long bug being ripped apart by the wind in front of my eyes
(but not nauseous enough to waste time taking it off until I needed
gas). The site of oil tanks and refineries were also a major landscape
It's becoming an effort to try to make my reports
interesting because I'm starting to feel the effects of this trip. I'll
do better in the future.
I'll be staying with a relative of mine.
They have an 8 month son, so I bought a Lion King Simba stuffed toy, a
BIG box of crayons, and a Lion King drawing pad. He seemed more
interested in staring at me than the stuffed toy (I guess I look like a
bigger stuffed toy :-))
Houston seems to lack any major attraction. I'll probably visit the space center and say hi to Vern Hall.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 4
Correction: My last email should have been titled "Day 3" instead of "Day 2".
staying at my cousin's house with her family which seems to revolve
around their eight month old son. He finally paid attention to the Simba
doll I gave him, and by his reaction, I would guess that it tastes
I visited the Johnson Space Center's Visitor Center and the Galveston Moody Gardens today.
Space Center's Visitor Center was built and funded by a nonprofit group
separate from NASA. A hamburger there costs $3, so I'm pretty sure I
know where they are getting their funding for this place. This place
blows NASA Goddard's visitor center out of the water, but it doesn't
have as many displays as the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. However,
it is more interactive; it has legos for the little kids to play with
and space shuttle simulators for the older ones (including me - I did a
picture perfect landing of the shuttle on my first try). It has a tram
tour that goes throughout the center and two theatres. I only saw a show
in one of the theatres which was an upbeat synopsis of the manned
flight missions from Mercury to the Space Shuttle. I was impressed with
the way they fit the Challenger accident into the show. They just
stopped the background music at the point of the accident and continued
the silence as they changed from scene to scene of people's reaction to
the accident. It still hurts everytime I think about it. But don't ask
the employees hard questions like "Where can I find a directory of JSC's
employees?" The people who work the visitor center are totally separate
from the real JSC. There were two different tram tours, and I took the
one of the Mission Control Center (MCC) that has been used since the
Gemini missions and has been declared a national landmark. I would say
that our Network Control Center is much bigger than the JSC MCC. Because
it is a landmark, they can't change any of the appearances; this
includes upgrading the exteriors of the computers and monitors used
(That mainframe terminal may actually hide a pentium motherboard).
However, they are building a new control center across the center. They
also had a display for the upcoming Apollo 13 movie. I called Vern, but
he was busy and I had to go to Galveston. Just for the GSFC people, cost
of a 3 bedroom rancher goes for about $80K here, there is no income tax
but sales tax is 8.25%, gas is about twenty cents cheaper, the city and
suburb is similar to that of Maryland except there are no hills,
weather runs on the hot and humid side, and I was here first so I get
first pick. :-) You wouldn't believe how much NASA's name is taken in
vain around JSC. I've seen all sorts of businesses with names like NASA
Cafe, NASA Vision Center, Challenger Shopping Plaza, etc. Even the local
McDonald's had a mock space shuttle as its playyard tunnel (named the
McShuttle). I didn't know whether to smile in mirth, laugh at the irony,
or cry in shame.
Galveston county is located on the Gulf of
Mexico coast south of Houston. The Moody Gardens is a huge garden and
pyramid shaped greenhouse. The greenhouse is very similar to the one in
the Baltimore Aquarium. In addition, they have a 3-D Imax theatre that
makes you duck for cover. The show I saw was called "Into the Deep." It
was about the critters that live in the seaweed forests of the sea, and
seeing all that kelp made me hungry. In fact, I had seaweed soup and
rice for dinner (with kimchee of course).
Tomorrow, I'm off to Oklahoma City to find my roots.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 5
From: Houston, Texas
To : Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
in Houston seems to be excited about winning some basketball game two
nights ago. :-) Not being a basketball fan, I don't think a threepeat is
likely. The Chicago Bulls will be the team to beat when Michael Jordan
regains his shooting percentage.
I got a speeding ticket coming
into Dallas. I made no excuse. I have learned my lesson, and I am
driving the limit now. I am the ONLY car driving the limit. The only
vehicle I passed was a house trailer, and even that was a close race.
got lost when the congested traffic in Dallas forced me onto route 75
instead of I35. I ended up taking a 30 mile detour west on a farm road
north of Dallas. The scenery was fantastic. I was the only car on the
road most of the time. I saw ranches of all types, rivers with dead
trees sticking out like spines on a porcupine, and towns that had
populations of less than a thousand with a Baptist church in the middle.
Many of the ranches had entryways decorated with symbols like two M's
on top of each other, a name on an arch above the entryway, or small
models of plows, wagon wheels, etc. were attached to the gates of the
entryway. There were bales of hay to the horizon. The strange thing was
that the bales were cylindrical instead of being block shaped like I
normally imagine them. I stopped by a small post office for directions
(and a money order for the ticket). Imagine a chubby oriental man
dressed in city clothes walking into a white country neighborhood where
Japanese cars are an endangered species. I got nonswerving stares from
an elderly woman in a luxury car and two burly guys in a huge GMC truck
blasting country music out of its windows.
The trip to Oklahoma was otherwise uneventful except for the 30 foot tall statue of Sam Houston 60 miles north of Houston.
the help of an old college friend of my father, I found the site of my
old home which is now a parking lot. Nothing was familiar except little
bits and pieces of buildings and the street. I can't describe the
feeling I had, but I started tracing the path I used to take to the
Villa Teresa, the nursery and kindergarten run by nuns that I used to
attend 20 years ago. The raspberry bush was no longer where it used to
be on the way to the school. By the time I reached the school five
blocks away, I was running. The playground was the first thing I saw. It
was the same shape, but instead of grass, it was paved. Instead of
trees, buildings and roads surrounded the place where I first learned
how to speak American, took naps, and ate graham crackers with milk. I
met the sisters, but none of them remembered me. However, we talked
about many things including the bomb blast. It turns out that the school
was only 7 blocks away from the blast. They had 7 windows shatter, but
noone was hurt. Even so, the school received letters from around the
country basically wishing the children well. The children are still
responding to them.
My father's friend drove past the bomb site,
but it was out of sight. And this wasn't the real reason I came here. I
also passed Waco, Texas, on the way, but for reasons of not being
ghoulish, I didn't stop to just to stare at a place where people died.
Tomorrow, I start my 16 hour drive to the Grand Canyon.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 6
From: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
To : Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
a real short synopsis of my trip to Arizona: flat, wind, cows, wind,
armadillo, wind, tumbleweed, wind, mesas, wind, mountains, wind, rain,
I can see how a single drought could turn Oklahoma into
a dust bowl. If the soil dried up and was not held down by live roots,
the constant northerly wind (unhindered by any mountains) would whip it
up. The wind is so regular that all the trees have been tilted or have
grown with their trunks bending towards the north like the way Bonsai
trees are shaped. Driving through the wind can put you on the edge
especially when there's a big semi in the adjacent lane being affected
by the winds.
Cows were everywhere, and in one place there were a
few square miles packed with cows. Unfortunately, the interstate was
downwind. The smell is enough to make me a vegetarian. I now believe the
statistic saying that cows produce significant amounts of greenhouse
gases in the world. :-(
Road kill report: saw a flattened armadillo, and I flattened a tumbleweed.
to the radio to pass the time became nonviable after entering New
Mexico and the mountains. I was only able to get one FM station, and the
song was definitely not english (I think it was spanish). Maybe the
joke that more people in America speak Spanish than English isn't really
The gradual change of the landscape from flat farmlands
to mesas and then to mountainous scrub was meditative. Running into a
rainstorm was hair-raising. Chasing the sunset in the mountains was in
vain, but the aura that outlines the mountains after the sun sets was a
spiritual experience. Seeing the universe outside my car windows when no
city lights are there to obscure the stars was very scary; I felt as if
I was going to fall into the sky forever.
A rainstorm on the
plains is like falling off a cliff - you know something bad is going to
happen to you, but you can't stop it. As I was driving, I first noticed
the rainstorm when it was a patch of dark clouds that I could cover with
my palm if I held my hand out at arm's length. It was about 15 degrees
to the left, and it looked as if it was sitting on the ground. I thought
it would just skirt the interstate. As I drew closer, I could see
multiple lightning bolts, and dread set in as the interstate slowly and
steadily curved towards the center of the storm. Having lived in
Oklahoma, my main concern was for tornadoes which usually are preceded
by a protrusion on the bottom of the cloud. As I reached the edge of the
storm, I realized that distance had made this storm look small; it
actually was large enough to cover the Washington D.C. area. And I said
the following modified version of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" as
the rain started coming down hard enough to obscure vision totally:
the valley of death charged me and my Saturn. Lightning to the left of
me! Lightning to the right of me! Lightning in front of me! Tornado
signs above me! Into the valley of death charged me and my Saturn. We
who are about to die salute thee!
It sounds corny now, but I took it very seriously in the midst of the storm.
Tomorrow, I'll see some petrified trees and the Grand Canyon.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 7
From : Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Stopover: Meteor Crater, Arizona
To : Grand Canyon, Arizona
does not recognize daylight savings time, so it's actually 3 hours
behind instead of 2 hours (Mountain Standard Time). This can play havoc
in making sure I check out of the hotel in time before they charge me
for another day. Radios are no help either because they declare time by
saying "it's n minutes after the hour" leaving me yelling crazedly at
the radio "WHAT HOUR?" :-)
The Painted Desert and the Petrified
Forest are actually the same park. If you go into the Painted Desert,
you will find petrified trees, and if you go into the petrified forest,
you will find multicolored cliff faces. If you are caught attempting to
take any rock from this park, the park will fine you $275 (however, the
way they check is by asking you at the exit gate if you had taken
anything). The best striation and coloration of cliff faces are actually
found in between the petrified forest and the painted desert in a spot
called the Blue Mesas. The park basically consists of a 30 mile strip of
road with tourist stops along its length. I actually took the
wilderness entrance to the painted desert and walked an hour into floor
of the desert and came back (no one went much further than 5 minutes out
into the desert - wimps). I saw a handful of lizards, a jackrabbit, 50
foot wide dried-out river beds, impressive cliff faces up close,
petrified trees, and tons of scrub brush. Unfortunately, I didn't have
any sunscreen (and I didn't have time to buy it), so I decided to go out
anyway (I am suffering now). I was wary of rattlesnakes, so I gave any
crevices a wide berth. But the most dangerous thing about the desert
were these patches of plants that look like crab grass; in fact, these
"blades of grass" were as stiff as knitting needles and as sharp as
darts. The river beds could also be treacherous because stepping on a
seemingly dry and firm patch of river bed resulted in being shin-deep in
mud. The plant-covered dry ground was no better; stepping on seemingly
solid ground resulted in dropping up to a foot into a sinkhole. I
couldn't stand still either because if I did, flies would swarm around
me in an instant. The desert seems to smother any small sounds too
("Noone can hear you scream in the desert or the sea"). When I got back
to my car (all I took with me was my camera), I drank half a gallon of
bottled water in three swigs. If anyone attempts this, wear a pure-white
jean and a loose fitting white t-shirt to avoid absorbing heat (it
worked for me). By the time I got to the end of the park, I wouldn't
have cared about a petrified rock even if it fell on me. There's only so
much tree-like rock a human can be interested in. :-(
On the way
to the Grand Canyon, I visited Meteor Crater (hard to miss it with the
multiple billboards and having the exit road named Meteor Crater Road). I
could tell you stuff like that it's 570 feet deep, but you have to see
it for yourself to be impressed by its size. They created a mini museum
about the crater, and brought little tidbits to light like that Apollo
astronauts trained for their moon landings here. They seem to emphasize
NASA a lot in their displays; in fact, they had an entire wall covered
with picture plaques of every astronaut involved in the Mercury, Gemini,
and Apollo missions. I have to warn you that this is a definite tourist
trap designed to suck your money into the crater ($7 admission! The
petrified forest only cost $5! Well-stocked gift shop, and even an
overpriced ($3 for a bowl of soup!) restaurant). My major disappointment
was that they didn't allow tourists to hike down to the bottom of the
I arrived at the hotels at the entrance of the Grand
Canyon as the day ended. Looking at the canyon in the dark was not my
plan, so I saw the Imax presentation ($7 for a ticket!) of the Grand
Canyon after I checked in ($90 for a night in a medium-quality room!). I
paid the extra bucks for the hotel room because I didn't have the
energy to drive two hours back to Fallstaff, it would save me time, and
all the other hotels in or near the Grand Canyon were booked. If anybody
is planning to visit the Grand Canyon for just a day, it probably is
best to just rent a room in Fallstaff for a much cheaper price and then
drive two hours to the south entrance of the Grand Canyon.
Tomorrow, the Canyon Grande!
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 8
This message is late because the HoJo I stayed at did not have a normal phone system that was compatible with my modem.
Correction: The large town south of the Grand Canyon is called Flagstaff - not Fallstaff.
I am suffering major physical ills now, but I'll get to that later...
Carphone alert: My Cellular One carphone could not connect to anything in the Grand Canyon area.
could write endless paragraphs, and I still wouldn't be able to
transfer the feeling of hugeness that the Grand Canyon gives through
firsthand observation. The Meteor Crater was impressive, but the Grand
Canyon is frightening. It's enough to give the bravest person
acrophobia. I first got a good look at the Canyon behind the main
visitor center on the South Rim Trail, and I was struck with the same
feeling I had when I stared at the endless stars unfettered by
background lights - you could fall almost forever. The floor of the
canyon I initially saw turned out to be just halfway to the bottom of
the Canyon as I followed the trail to the east.
Here's my itinerary:
- See the introductory slide show in the main visitor center (unfortunately the projector was broken)
- Hike to the Yucatai (sp?) Observation Station via the South Rim Trail
- Drive the East Rim Driveway all the way to the east entrance to the park
- Come back west and drop by almost every major attraction site
- Hike down the Angel Trail on the East Rim Drive towards the bottom of the Canyon and come back
didn't want to go all the way to bottom since I had started the hike at
2pm (Arizona time), so I decided to go down exactly 2 hours and set
aside 4 hours (worst case) to get back up so I would be finished before
8pm. Unfortunately, I made two critical errors: I didn't bring enough
water, and I didn't realize how much my trek through the Painted Desert
took out of my body. Angel trail has two bathrooms on its 7 mile route
but absolutely no water. I had gone down with no problem and reached the
second bathroom site exactly 2 hours after I started (5.5 of the 7
miles of this hiking trail). I debated whether to take the extra 40
minutes to go down or to return. Since I had no camping gear and the
hotel at the bottom was most likely full, I turned to go back up. My
water ran out when I was 1/3 of the way up. This should not have been a
problem, but my body started to wear out very quickly (from the desert
hike) requiring me to take breaks every 10 feet and walk at a crawl when
I managed to get myself up. The trek back up took 4 1/2 hours (I was
alone most of the time). The sun set around 8pm. Although it wasn't
pitch black, I couldn't tell the difference between the regular ground
and the mule manure that spotted the trail (in fact, the dirt on the
trail is composed of dried mule manure of the past decades). Luckily,
two guys caught up with me and after seeing my plight, gave me 1/3 of
their water. The water was metallic, but at that moment it tasted better
than anything else I could think of. After this ordeal, I went to eat
even though I didn't feel hungry; I could tell my glycogen equilibrium
was out of wack because I could feel my muscles being burned for energy
during the last part of the hike. Right now I'm in a hotel room (far
away from the Grand Canyon to avoid the $90/night bill), and I hurt
everywhere. I'm thristy constantly, and I'm experiencing hot and cold
flashes. I think I'll survive, but take this as an example of what not
to do when hiking down the Grand Canyon. I'm going to leave the west rim
and the north rim (reserved in advance of course) for future visits.
After all, even the Grand Canyon loses its luster after taking the 50th
The trip down route 64 south of the Grand Canyon at 9pm
was an impressive show of the universe that you couldn't buy tickets to
see. I was the only car on the road, and the stars were all visible
through my front windshield even though I had my highbeams on. I saw my
first shooting star whip through the sky, and trees of the forest south
of the Canyon materialized on both sides of the road like shadows in a
I'm ahead of schedule, so I'm debating whether to take a
detour to Las Vegas (Nevada!). Why? I don't know why? Call it morbid
fascination. I'll probably stop by some of the Colorado River dams if I
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 9
From : Grand Canyon, Arizona
Stopovers: Route 66, Grand Canyon Caverns, Hoover Dam
To : Las Vegas, Nevada
took the historic route 66 to get to and from the Grand Canyon Caverns.
Route 66 seemed like any other western minor highway except for this
overwelming urge to put the pedal to the metal and play "Born to be
If you've seen other caverns like Luray Caverns, then
the Grand Canyon Caverns isn't worth the $7.50 admission price. It
doesn't have the glitz that other caverns have. It does have a sloth
though (ooh ahh). :-)
The Hoover Dam was very impressive. It was
like a manmade Meteor Crater with wires. They have a 45 minute tour, but
it would have taken an hour standing in line for the tickets. So I just
walked around the dam and took death-defying pictures (ooh ahh). :-)
Did everybody know that Hoover was our 31st president?
staying at the Sahara which is pretty much in the center of Las Vegas
(what irks me is that I get a high quality room in the heart of Las
Vegas for $35 while I get a mediocre room at the entrance of the Grand
Canyon for $90). I got the room by stopping at the Nevada Visitor Center
and calling the reservations line for a cheap room. After I arrived, I
took the $8.51 dinner buffet which had everything and then proceeded to
walk on the Los Vegas strip from the Sahara down to the Excalibur and
back. I still haven't recovered from my hikes, so this was an effort for
me (I didn't walk the northern portion of the strip).
to my preconceptions, anybody could have good clean fun at Las Vegas (as
long as you walk on Los Vegas Blvd. as little as possible - especially
if you bring children). If you bring children, the best places for them
are the Excalibur, the Mirage, the Treasure Island, and the MGM.
Excalibur is the renaissance festival on high-tech steroids. It has all
the games you expect at a fair and several theatres (as well as the
casino). I won a big teddybear, but I gave it to a mother who had three
chidren around her. The Mirage displays the white tigers that Sigfreid
and Roy use in their act. Planet Hollywood (a cornocopia of television
and movie paraphenalia as well as the food) also resides at the Mirage.
Treasure Island has a full ship and island set on which they do free
shows. The MGM has a full theme park.
Separate from the casinos,
there is also Wet 'n Wild water park and Virtual World. Wet 'n Wild is
your average waterslide park. Virtual World is a realtime game of
Battletech or Red Planet. Battletech is a game of kill or be killed in
huge robots armed with lasers and missles. Red Planet is a racing game
in high speed spacecrafts through futuristic terrain. I played a game of
Battletech (my callsign was Lunaris) for the first time with 4 other
"newbies" and two 10-game veterans. I came in second with 6 kills, and I
was only beaten by one of the veterans (callsign: Benihana) who had 9
kills. Everybody else was cannon-fodder.
[ROLL-PLAYING MODE ON]
Only the evil Benihana survived my wrath! But I, Lunaris the Blue, with
my three brothers (Eclipse the Red, Nightshade the Black, and
Moonknight the White) and the Woman of Gold shall form the Grey! The
Grey shall destroy the filth and corruption of this universe and lead
the good people to a brand new future! BWAHAHAHAHA!
[ROLL-PLAYING MODE OFF]
course, gambling is the main trade in Las Vegas, and it is everywhere.
However, the casinos in the major hotels like Caesar's Palace must be
seen just to be gawked at. These places are huge and glitzy! "Good
grief!" comes to mind as an appropriate exclamation when seeing these
I am attempting to keep down my spending at the slot machines, but it is hard. :-(
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 10
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
To : Los Angeles, California
really interesting happened on the trip to Los Angeles. Remember to get
rid of all your fruits and vegetables before entering California. It
will save you time at the inspection station. I saw an interesting
billboard that said that I am entering Bun Boy country. I also met what
seemed to be hippies. A girl about my age approached me at a gas station
with gas can in hand and asked me for some gas to spare. I had just
about finished pumping, so I gave her $4 instead. As I was driving away,
I saw her approach a flowermobile (beat-up van painted with flowers)
with a guy leaning against it in a pose that screamed, "I am handsome, I
know it, and I have this girl wrapped around my pinky." My sister's
husband says that they are deadheads going from one Grateful Dead
concert to another. :-)
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I parked
next to the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., and I proceeded to walk
from there to the La Brea Tar Pits then to Koreatown to the east and
then back to the theatre. It looked small on the map, but my sister says
I probably walked about 12 miles. They were showing Batman Forever at
the Chinese Theatre, and there were lots of people there. To tell you
the truth, I was doing a lot of double-takes because I didn't think real
girls wear something as tight and skimpy as some of the movie-goers
were wearing. I also saw Richard Simmons pull up in a limousine (with
his toupee). I also walked along some of the star plaques on the street.
Did you know that Pee Wee Herman's star is still there? Did you know
that Thomas Edison has a star dedicated to him? At the tar pit, I got to
see methane gases bubble up on the tar lake (ooh ahh). :-) At
Koreatown, I showed my inability to speak Korean and promptly had an
inferiority complex. But I got to eat good food (duk-mondoo gook -
Korean dumplings and rice cakes cooked in a vegetable and egg broth -
with a side order of kimchee of course).
The residential areas
south of Hollywood are fortresses. The houses and apartment complexes
all have one or more of the following: spiked fence, guard dog, iron
bars on windows and doors, caged garage, and private security guards.
What this told me is that maybe I shouldn't be walking through this
neighborhood alone. But I just put on my "Don't touch me or I'll break
your arm" look, and walked straight through. :-)
Tomorrow, I going to let my sister lead me around Los Angeles.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 11
visited the following sites in Los Angeles today: Santa Monica beach,
Los Angeles Flying Museum, and various roads in Los Angeles. Is there
clean, clear water on any beach of the USA? Good grief! If I was an
alien from space, I wouldn't want to contact earth just because of the
degredation of the beaches. The human race would seem to be more of a
malignant fungus growing on the surface of the earth instead of a
sentient form of life. Saying that air quality is bad in Los Angeles is
like saying that the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground. Good
grief! I pity the birds (except the pigeons - they can live anywhere).
The Los Angeles skyline is just a ghost in the distance, and the
mountains look as if they are constantly enshrouded in fog. Besides the
abnormally high amount of air pollution, I wouldn't mind living here.
Having mountains visible right outside your window is a treat, and there
is no end of places and events to fill up your leisure time.
Los Angeles Flying Museum is very similar to the aircraft displays in
the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Is a definite must-see for any
World War II airplane buff.
My sister drove me down the main
boulevards: Hollywood, Santa Monica, Melrose, Wilshire, and Sunset. All
contained the glitzy stores and restaurant typical of the Hollywood
stereotype of glamour and excess except for Santa Monica Boulevard. West
Santa Monica Boulevard contains many restaurants like the Rage that
contain only male customers (I'll give you one guess why) and some
specialized stores like Spartacus (metal and leather clothing shop) and a
clothes store for transvestites. My sister pointed out all the men she
believed to be gay or the women she believed to be actually men in drag.
I couldn't tell the difference, and all I wanted to do was to get out
of there as fast as possible! I felt extremely uncomfortable thinking
that some guy may be sizing me up. :-(
We also went to Universal
City, a glitzy outdoor shopping mall and movie theatre, to see Batman
Forever. Universal City is the glitziest mall I've ever seen. Imagine
taking the neon lights of Las Vegas and sticking them in a shopping
mall. There was a giant neon sign of King Kong hanging halfway over the
thoroughfare. The comic book and scifi store has a spaceship embedded
above its entrance as if it had crashed into the building. There was
hiphop dancing on the center stage (sponsored by L.A. Gear) and much
If you liked the first two Batman movies, then you will
like Batman Forever. It includes the dark mood, violence, and action of
its predecessor. However, I'm an old Batman comic book collector, and
Batman never killed and his villains were never so easy to kill in the
comic books. I thought these characteristics were essential to the
Batman lore and was disappointed see these points dropped from the
movies. I like beautiful women as much as the next guy, but I thought
that the main (and only) female character was just a sex object and love
interest to Batman. I wish that they had expanded her character more
fully; the comic books also did female characters as more rounded
characters than the movies did. Oh well. Sex sells in Hollywood.
Tomorrow, I head for the Redwood National Park in Northern California.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 12
From: Los Angeles, California
To : San Francisco, California
This message is late because the Best Western I was staying at had their phones directly connected to the wall.
the way to San Francisco, I stopped by the citrus valley around
Filmore. The prices were so great that I bought about 50 lbs. of oranges
for $10 and 8 lbs. of grapefruits for $3.20. I figure if I eat all of
this in a day or two, my cold (that I picked up after my hikes) would go
away faster (or I'll get sicker with indigestion).
On the way to
San Francisco, I took part of the scenic coastal route (route 1). I
stopped by the beach, lugged my citrus fruit out, and munched on some of
it while viewing the waves crash on the rocks below me. It was nice.
stopped by San Francisco, but I just stopped by Pier 39 because I had
to be in Seattle by Sunday. Pier 39 is just like Harborplace in Inner
Harbor, Maryland. Pier 39 has the following extras: sea lions, a
fantastic view of the other side of the bay, stores in the open, and
authentic warships as museums. San Francisco also still had the trolley
power lines stewn above the streets, but instead of trolleys, they have
buses that use the power lines. This is a great idea because they didn't
have to waste money tearing down the power lines, and the air is kept
cleaner by having the buses run on electricity instead of gas. I ate at a
place called Little Swiss, and in order to make sure I tasted the fair
from all the seas that border America, I ordered Red Snapper Saute. The
price was high, but the portions were large and delicious. I would give
this restaurant one and a half forks up. Definitely not for the weak of
Interesting point: no toll is charged if you go north on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 13
From: San Francisco, California
To : Somewhere in southern Oregon (it's all woods anyway)
This message is late because something didn't connect with the phone system at the hotel I was in.
Sticker on hot air hand dryer in rest stop: "Push button to receive a message from your congressman."
Here's my reaction as I approached the Redwood National Park starting from about 100 miles south of the park:
"Gee, there's a lot of trees"
"Gee, there's a lot of big trees"
"Gee, there are lots and lots of big trees"
"Gee, there are lots and lots of big, humongous trees"
"Gee, I hope one doesn't fall on my car"
the Redwood National Park has no trees that you can drive under. There
are three trees just to the north and south of the park that you can
drive under for a fee. But I couldn't find them, and I didn't feel like
lining the pockets of people who are not part of the park.
distinguishes Redwood National Park from other national parks are:
extremely tall trees, large number of beaches, and proportionally large
mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are so big that when you bat them away, you
actually feel significant resistance from their large bodies. I know
that somebody has created small robots and programmed them to behave and
react like real crickets; here's how I would program a robot mosquito:
REM Redwood National Park mosquito program to annoy Sang
DO UNTIL dead
CALL SUBROUTINE Find_Sang_Eating_Fried_Chicken_In_Park
DO UNTIL swatted_away
CALL SUBROUTINE Swarm_Around_His_Face
ON RANDOM_INTEGER(1,3) DO
1: CALL SUBROUTINE Land_On_His_Food
2: CALL SUBROUTINE Land_On_His_Nose
3: CALL SUBROUTINE Crawl_In_His_Hair
park is very nice to drive and walk through. You have to turn on your
headlights even in full daylight because the trees block most of the
sunlight. The dead redwoods look like huge white skeletons.
does not prevent you from taking fruit out of the state. I've traveled
about 100 miles into Oregon, and all I've seen are trees. I couldn't see
the forest because of the trees in my way. :-)
Tomorrow, I make it to Seattle.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 14
From: Somewhere in southern Oregon (it's all woods anyway)
To : Seattle, Washington
really interesting happened during this trip. I somehow passed from
Oregon to Washington without even knowing it. However, it was impressive
seeing Mt. Rainier break over the wood covered mountains when cresting a
rise. When I reached Seattle, I could barely hear out of my right ear,
and that was only due to intensive and constant swallowing. The roads
from the Redwood National Park to Seattle dip and rise so many times
that I was practically deaf. I could forget about using my cellular
phone while driving because the roads curved so much that I needed both
hands on the wheel to keep from going off a cliff.
Tomorrow, I am having my friend, Ingrid, show me and her father the islands of Washington state.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 15
San Juan Islands in Washington state are just magnificent. We took a
ferry from Anacostes to Orcas Island. This ferry was big enough to carry
about 60 cars and trucks, and it was so stable that we couldn't tell
when it was docked and when it was moving unless we looked out the side.
In addition to the wood-covered islands, we could see the Cascade
Mountains on one side and the Olympic Mountains on the other. Key points
of interest were the snow covered peaks of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker.
One other aspect which was both annoying and yet nostalgic was the six
busloads of inner city elementary to middle school students who
accompanied us on the ferry. When the announcer warned people not to
spit over the railing, guess what some of the kids did? Eventually, they
were penned up away from the railings by the chaperones (only death row
inmates deserve this job).
We dropped off at Orcas Island and
went to Crescent Beach where we rented kayaks to row around the sound
(the niche of the horseshoe shaped island). I can't say enough about the
natural beauty of the San Juan Islands. There were multicolored
starfishes galore, tiny crabs, small fishes, logs of driftwood, and much
more. It sounds boring in print, but it seemed so brand new in person.
There were other islands we could have gone to, but it took all day just
to enjoy Orcas Island.
Interesting point: the sun sets around
10pm in Seattle at this time of the year causing us easterners to
exclaim "I can't it's still daylight!" frequently.
Tomorrow, I continue my cold therapy here at Seattle (one could easily get used to this place).
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 16
Mr. Kohlstadt and I visited the sites of downtown Seattle. We visited
Pike Place Market first. This is the home of the "low flying fish" (the
fish salespeople throw fish all over the place). Salmon (huge) is the
specialty of this market, and the local specialty is Copper River salmon
shipped down fresh from Alaska and jumbo JUMBO dungenous crab. I tried
one crab (delicious! I give it two claws up!); they boil the crab with
just a hint of garlic and salt.
We also dropped by Pioneer Square
to take the "Underground Seattle" tour. There seems to be another city
buried under the current Seattle. However, we did not have enough time
for the tour. Watch out when you come to Pioneer Square; this is
panhandler central (one panhandler just stuck out his hand to us without
saying anything, one approached the standard way, and one yelled
something unintelligible behind our backs).
Instead of the tour,
we went to the Seattle Museum of Flight. This is better than the Los
Angeles Flying Museum, and it contains planes that even the Smithsonian
Air and Space museum doesn't have. It had the SR-71 Blackbird with the
drone attachment used to take pictures when it was dangerous to send the
manned spy planes across the former Soviet Union, an F-18 Hornet, the
only CAA (FAA) sanctioned automobile airplane, a MIG-21, a F4 Phantom, a
F4U Corsair, and many more.
At the end of the day, a barbecue
party was held at the edge of Washington Lake in honor of Dr.
Kohlstadt's departure from Seattle. It was just plain beautiful talking
with various people (including Microsoft employees!) while the sun set
across the lake and behind the city outline (at 10pm!). It seems Bill
Gates lives here, and I was looking for his legendary yacht with a
helicopter and smaller yacht in tow (no luck).
Tomorrow I head for Salt Lake City.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 17
From: Seattle, Washington
To : Salt Lake City, Utah
it took 16 straight hours to get from Seattle to Salt Lake City. The
scenery isn't anything new, but it was very nice (mountains, sky,
clouds, farms, etc.). I wish I could put the car on autopilot and just
watch the scenery go by while lying on a lounge chair attached to the
roof of the car. Of course, I saw some things I would have preferred not
seeing (for example, I have seen cows do EVERYTHING).
Tomorrow, I'll actually visit the salt plains.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 18
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
To : Bryce Canyon, Utah
Salt Lake of Utah is ... a salt lake. It is a recreation spot pretty
much like any other beach. The Salt Lake State Park, located at Saltair,
is one of the biggest beach sites. I decided not to swim because I get
this huge inferiority complex in front of women everytime some great
looking guy appears. I decided to skip the salt plains because I wanted
to spend time at Bryce Canyon instead. Salt Lake City seemed to have
several things to offer like Temple Square and other things, but again, I
wanted to spend time at Bryce Canyon instead.
I decided to drop
down to Bryce Canyon now instead of earlier when I was in the Grand
Canyons because several people have said that it was better than the
Grand Canyons and I now have some slack time for this. Bryce Canyon is
north of the Grand Canyons, and it is a "young" canyon. The lime
deposits have not all been washed away. This leaves fantastic formations
consisting of spires, arches, and other shapes that defy short
descriptions. There are also many trees with their roots exposed in
twisted shapes. Admission is $5 for 7 days. I came in around 7pm (MST). I
watched the introductory slide show which explained how rain and snow
are continuallu shaping Bryce Canyon, and then I went to all the sites
for viewing the canyon, and then I hiked through the canyon.
was determined to hike through Bryce Canyon even with my flu and
impending thunderstorm. I went into the canyon alone at 8pm and came out
at 10pm (sunset is at 9pm). Very few people probably experienced hiking
through Bryce Canyon in the middle of a thunderstorm at night (I was
the only one today). One thing that happens is that the differring
striations of the formations become more distinct and colorful when they
become wet, and the twilight and dusk accents every crevice and cave.
The canyon takes on an entirely eerier personality, and walking through
it alone can terrify you and/or make you braver. I was prepared this
time with clothing, water, umbrella, and flashlight. However, I was
still worried about the lightning, wind, and mud. Scarred and blackened
remains of trees litter the canyon, and I was wondering if my
wire-framed umbrella was going to make me lightning bait. The wind at
the corners and tunnels of the path threatened to tear my umbrella out
of my hand. The slippery mud (made of dried horse manure instead of mule
manure) made the steep parts of the path a practice in skiing (or
skydiving a long way down without a parachute). I went down the West
Sunset Trail, the Navajo Trail, the Peek-Aboo Loop, and back up the West
Sunset Trail - about 5 miles total. By the time I was climbimg back up
to the rim, it was pitch black dark, and the only the flashes of
lightning provided any form of light besides my flashlight. This was an
extremely exhilerating (but kinda stupid) experience. I'm going to leave
the scenic route 12 drive (east of Bryce Canyon) for a future trip.
problem with leaving Bryce Canyon at such a late time is that there are
no hotel rooms available within 100 miles. I am actually in east Utah
right now. Tomorrow: Pikes Peak, Colorado.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 19
From: Bryce Canyon, Utah
To : Pikes Peak, Colorado
report: I barely missed a mouse and a rabbit last night. I also saw a
deer by the road, but I couldn't avoid a second mouse that is nothing
more than a stain on the road now. Actually, anything that is stupid
enough to run in front of a car instead of away from the car should
probably be removed from the gene pool anyway.
Route 70 from Utah
to Colorado is one of the most fantastic stretches of scenery. In Utah,
huge mesas and canyons butt againt the north side of the interstate. In
Colorado, rocky mountains, glaciers, and rivers crowd the road. It
pretty much rained all day, and driving was gut-gripping at times.
Hydroplaning your car on the edge of the roaring Colorado River is
matched only by hydroplaning your car on the steep road leading to Pikes
Peak. It was cold in Colorado; I don't know if this is the norm in the
rockies. It was pretty much useless to try to go up Pikes Peak in the
clouds and rain; I'll wait until tomorrow morning to go up.
Tomorrow, I head for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 20
From: Pikes Peak, Colorado
To : Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
my 28th birthday, I drove up Pikes Peak. It seems fitting: cross a life
milestone - climb a mountain. The trip up the peak was made doubly
interesting because there was a practice run of the Pikes Peak Auto Hill
Climb race. There were racing cars of all classes (including a racing
semi truck!) and racing crews from everywhere including Japan. There was
even a head-on accident that delayed tourist access to the peak.
However, I could only get up to 13,000 ft instead of the full 14,110
because snow and ice blocked the last three miles of the road. This was
fine since the storm clouds blocked view from 12,500 feet and above, and
I was getting lightheaded from the thin air anyway. Having silver-gold
as the color of my car was handy because the mud that splattered my car
on the way up blended right in. :-)
On the way up to Yellowstone,
I was amazed to find the exact same mountainous and river view that was
available on route 70 east into Colorado. I wanted to stop by the Rocky
Mountain National Park in Colorado, but I didn't have time and the
Rockies were covered in rain clouds anyway. This will have to for a
future trip. Even so, I arrived in Cody (the first town east of
Yellowstone) at 9:30pm. Luckily, I was able to get one of the last two
rooms available in town at a reasonable price (during 4th of July
I will hit the park tomorrow and then head for Mount
Rushmore. Tonight, I am enjoying the rest of my birthday by watching a
letterbox version of Logan's Run (one of my favorite sci-fi movies).
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 21
From: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
To : Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
is late because I slept in my car. I was hoping that my luck in finding
rooms late at night would hold up, but coming into Rapid City, South
Dakota, at 2am in the morning was asking too much. After futilely
driving around for a while, I settled on parking in the Rapid City
Tourist Information Center and conking out for a few hours.
National Park is essentially your typical park where you can picnic,
camp, swim, fish, etc. The two things that distinguish this park from
others are the active thermal activity and the size. The thermal
activity consisted of hot springs and geysers mainly concentrated in the
southwest portion of the park. I stayed (1 1/2 hours!) for Old Faithful
to blow; I must say that I was impressed. I was a little dubious at
first because a small town grew right beside the geyser solely as a
tourist trap, and even the prairie dogs that reside next to the geysers
have come to rely on the tourists for food. However, nature has proven
that even human greed and inconsideration cannot dim the magnificence of
Old Faithful. I spent 7 hours at Yellowstone, and 5 of those hours were
spent just driving (I only stopped at a few of the many sites!). It
takes 3 hours just to drive from one end of the park to the other. There
are two main loops within the park with circumferences of about 80
miles and 100 miles respectively! I thought about hiking them, but it
would take 2 to 3 days just to hike one loop! In addition, I was able to
see the scenic landscape like the many waterfalls, snowcapped mountains
reflecting in mirror-like lakes, and buffalos.
Question: What do
you call a buffalo grazing on the side of the road in Yellowstone?
Answer: A 20 car backup. The roads are only two lane (one lane in each
direction), and when one car stops, everybody stops! I was disgruntled,
but I couldn't blame them. The buffalo was impressive (size of a cow and
a half), but the park rangers virtually tattooed warnings of possible
gorings by buffalos on everybody's foreheads. I was disappointed to find
out that the bears were removed from Yellowstone on purpose because of
problems with tourists.
Yellowstone is still recovering from the
forest fire it suffered 4 to 5 years ago. Some parts of the forest still
looks like the blast site around Mount St. Helens. When the forests are
viewed from a high point, it looks as if someone took a large
paintbrush and painted half of the forest the color grey in splotches
and spots. Even the trees that are recovering still have no bark and
leaves only grow on the top third of the trunks. Smaller trees are
starting to grow, but only on the edges of the dead areas. The forest
will recover - but not in my lifetime. :-(
Tomorrow, I head for Mount Rushmore.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 22
From: Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
Stopover: Crazy Horse Monument, Badlands National Park
To : Somewhere in Minesota
This message is late because the hotel's phone system didn't work for some unknown reason.
only could get 3 hours of sleep in the car because the morning sunlight
was too bright, and it was getting embarassing seeing tourists stare at
me as they headed for the tourist information center.
Rushmore was impressive, but it seemed smaller than all the pictures and
television made it look. Fact: Mount Rushmore was carved from 1923 to
1940. The builder (forgot his name) died before the last president was
completed. I was disappointed to hear that they will not have fireworks
during the fourth of July, but they have a standing rule not to allow
fireworks in the Black Hills.
I went to the Crazy Horse Monument
next. They have completed the face, made a tunnel when the gap between
the arm and the horse would be, and outlined the face of the horse on
the uncarved granite. Unfortunately, it costs $6 to see it. Unlike Mount
Rushmore, Crazy Horse is a nongovernment funded project. The area will
eventually be a complete American Indian research and learning center.
Walking through the visitor center, I get a sense of a feeling of
betrayal as if someone has been cheated of their home by a con artist. I
can understand how the Indians feel because the Koreans went through
something similar during the Japanese occupation. In situations like
this, you hold onto your cultural identity in a death grip. You demonize
the foreigners, and emphasize the nostalgia of your race to your
progeny. The anger and resentment is passed down through the
generations, but the reasons for the anger gets blurred or distorted. I
feel that, like the Koreans, the Indians are just waiting for us
foreigners to leave, and then they will reclaim the land. If you ever
visit Korea, you must see the monument created in celebration of freedom
from Japanese occupation. It is as huge as several football fields, and
its displays of Japanese atrocity can do nothing but make you angry at
the Japanese. Koreans will never forgive or forget the Japanese for
their occupation, and I feel the same will be for the American Indians
with the rest of us "Americans." :-(
On the way to the Badlands
National Park, it was hard to avoid noticing the many, many, many
billboards advertising "Wall Drug" for miles before hitting the town of
Wall, South Dakota. This huge tourist trap originally was a pharmacy,
but it grew from its origins of offering free ice water to travellers
into virtual department store with a western accent. I bought a new pair
of hiking boots here (I totally wore holes through the sole of my old
pair). Even though it is an obvious tourist trap, it is very engaging
and cute. Funny and informative reading material about the history of
Wall Drug is everywhere, and the staff is very friendly. Of course, you
can still get all the free ice water you want, and you definitely have
to see the automated cowboy bands (I believe one of the moving dummies
is actually a mockup of former president Reagan).
National Park is a strech of shallow conyonland in the middle of endless
fields of undulating grass. The cliffs are basically sand colored and
very little grows because of the salt content of the soil. In the
pioneering days, robbers would move trail markers (piles of rocks or
stakes of wood) so that settlers heading west would be redirected into
the Badlands. After the settlers have been thoroughly weakened after
running out of water in the middle of this desert, the robbers would
steal everything (and preseumably leave the settlers to die). I just
mostly drove through it and stopped in two places; after the Grand
Canyons and Bryce Canyons, the Badlands pales in comparison
I am now heading towards Mineapolis, Minesota, for
the 4th of July because that is where the largest shopping mall (even
has an indoor roller coaster) in the USA is located, and they probably
will have fireworks. Slumming in the mall will take on a different
perspective tomorrow. :-)
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 23
From: Somewhere in Minnesota
To : Mall of America, Minnesota
decided to go to the Mall of America in Minnesota because I guessed
that they would have fireworks for the 4th of July. On the way, I
stopped by the town of Albert Lea for gas and lunch, and I saw part of
their 4th of July parade. The parade was very interesting because it
consisted of things you would expect in a small modern western town:
lots of horses, large construction vehicles, a few organizations, and a
flatbed with 30 people performing a country line dance (really).
Mall of America is located just south of Minneapolis, and it is the
biggest shopping mall in the USA. It has over 400 stores and an indoor
amusement park complete with a ferris wheel and roller coaster. It is
definitely worth a look if you're in town. I certainly got my exercise
today by walking through the entire mall.
For the 4th of July,
they had a rock and roll concert (to support the programs to feed the
hungry) called "Jam Against Hunger" in addition to the fireworks. For
$10, I saw 7 hours of rock and roll music by 3 bands: Ipso Facto (a
local Minnesota reggae band), REO Speedwagon, and Ringo Starr and his
All Starr Band. The place was packed, and the music was very good. REO
Speedwagon played a few of their new songs in addition to their
classics. However, it rained throughout the concert until Ringo and his
band came out. Ringo and his band played a selection of classic rock and
roll from the 70s. His singing isn't best I've heard, but he does
successful entertain everybody with his humor. The age of the concert
attendees was very diverse consisting of babies up to people in their
50s and 60s. The fireworks was definitely the best I've ever seen. They
played 4 songs to the fireworks (the last one being an extended version
of the Star Spangled Banner). The 30 minutes of fireworks probably does
not compare in size with others like in Washington DC, but it had more
variety than I ever seen in another fireworks display (I guess they have
to be better since fireworks are legal in Minnesota). In the last
minute alone, they must have exploded several hundred blockbusters in
rapid succession. This was definitely the best $10 I've spent. If I came
a day earlier, I would have seen the Flying Elvises parachute into the
concert area. :-)
Ever since Seattle, I've been pretty much
selecting destinations by the seat of my pants. I can't think of
anything that I would really want to see between Minneapolis and the
Adirondack National Park in New York State, so I'm going to see if I can
drive all the way there tomorrow.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 24
From: Mall of America, Minnesota
Stopover: Chicago, Illinois
To : Somewhere in Indiana
was a travel day. I didn't make good time because speed limit was
pretty much 55 MPH instead of 65 MPH most of the time, and it probably
would have taken the same amount of time if I detoured a hundred miles
around Chicago instead of going through it. :-(
I have finished
about 75% of my trip without paying a toll, but starting with Chicago,
toll booths appeared with a vengence. I don't mind pay $1.75 to get into
Chicago, but interstate 90 west of Chicago does it in the most annoying
way: 4 booths charging 40 cents each (each 10 miles apart) and a 15
cent toll on the off ramp! Leaving Chicago to the east cost $2. Entering
Indiana costs 50 cents and interstate 90 through Indiana is a ticketed
toll road like the New Jersey Turnpike! Good grief! There must be a
moral to this; I know I paid enough for one!
If you are in
Chicago, you should visit the Navy Pier and North Dock. Chicago has
performed a renovation of this shorefront area the same way that
Baltimore renovated the Inner Harbor. Starting July 14, the Navy Pier
will be a Convention Center/Boardwalk/Restaurant/Store/Recreation area.
They even have a McDonalds ferris wheel! I stopped by for lunch, but I
didn't have time to look at the other Chicago attractions. Someone
mentioned that Chicago was a mess because of rundown factories and
residential areas, but I couldn't really see any of that. I guess
Chicago has gone through a renewal similar to Baltimore. The skyline was
great to look at from the cafe I was eating lunch in.
Tomorrow, I'll definitely reach the Adirondacks (hopefully).
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 25
From: Somewhere in Indiana
Stopover: Cleveland, Ohio
To : Somewhere in New York
was another travel day. Speed limit was still pretty much 55 MPH most
of the time. It looks like I'll only have time to drive through the
Adirondacks instead fo camping overnight.
I stopped by Cleveland
for dinner. It doesn't have a lakeside recreational area like Chicago.
Instead, it has an area around the river called the Flats. The Flats
consist of over 100 bars, nightclubs, and restaurants (Hooters,
Shooters, etc.) lining both sides of the river near Chicago and the
mouth of Lake Erie. If I had a clue what to do in a nightclub or bar,
I'm sure I would have had fun. Instead I went to a restaurant and had
what Cleveland considers as a way to cook soft-shell crabs. I went to a
riverside restaurant called the Watermark, and I got two of the smallest
soft-shell crabs I ever seen sauteed in a dark sauce placed on top of a
mound of spinach pasta. Being a Marylander, I did what I thought was
obvious: cut one of the hot rolls in half and make a soft-shell crab
sandwich. I think I made a faux pas. :-) The Flats are a mess because of
a lot of contruction going on. It looks as if it is following Baltimore
and Chicago in rennovating its waterfront area, but it looks like
Cleveland has at least a year to go before they're finished. The
cityscape from the Flats consists mainly of huge steel and concrete
bridges; watching some of them raise or turn for passing boats is a nice
thing to do while eating at one of the riverside hot spots.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 26
From: Somewhere in New York
Stopover: Adirondack National Park, New York
To : New York City
been spoiled by driving through the west. I could drive through three
states in the west in the same time it took me to drive through New
York! Toll booths are everywhere! Speed limit is at most 55 MPH
everyewhere in New York! Police cars are everywhere in New York!
drove through the Adirondacks from west to east (route 3 to route 30 to
route 28), and it was very nice cruising down the road with good music
(Elton John, Hootie & the Blowfish, Sheryl Crow, etc.) playing and
good scenery passing by. The Adirondack forest was what Yellowstone's
forest should have been - trees so congested that you couldn't even walk
between the trunks. The main thing about the Adirondacks that sets it
apart from other parks is its large number of large lakes. I passed at
least three large lakes and when I took a closer look at the map, I
realized that the Adirondacks were spotted with these lakes. If I had
more time, I would have liked to hike one of the trails that existed in
the mountains on route 28.
I did a silly thing and picked up two
scruffy looking guys on Interstate 87 north of New York City. It was
10pm, pitch dark, and about to rain, so I felt sorry for them. They had
no money and said that their driver deserted them. They turned out to be
decent guys, and they showed me a faster way to get into New York City.
I dropped them off at the Grand Central Terminal on 42nd street and
headed west on 43rd street to meet my college friend, Jeff, in Battery
Park. I don't have the proper adjective to describe the women (assuming
that they are women) on 43rd street west of the Grand Central Station.
Suffice it to say that they made the women at Mann's Chinese Theatre in
Los Angeles look like girl scouts. I locked my doors.
Tomorrow, Jeff and I head for Acadia National Park in Maine.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 27
From: New York City
Stopover: L.L. Beans, Maine
To : Acadia National Park, Maine
was another travel day. Jeff is accompanying for the last stretch of my
trip. You would have been proud of my New York City driving. I drove
crazily enough to impress native New Yorkers. :-) With my nondentable
Saturn sides, I had no fear.
We dropped by Freeport, Maine, to
check out L. L. Beans. Freeport has to be the outdoor fashion capital of
the USA. In addition to L. L. Beans, there were other stores like
Bananna Republic, Gap, Levis, etc. Since we were in Maine, we ate
lobster since it seems to be the state's mascot.
We are currently
in the town of Bar Harbor right outside of the Acadia National Park.
Hopefully, we'll get in some hiking, kayaking, and whale watching in
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 28
From: Acadia National Park, Maine
To : Somewhere in New Hampshire
too tired to be funny today, so I'll just describe the day. If you come
to Bar Harbor on a Sunday, I strongly suggest eating breakfast and/or
brunch at the Bar Harbor Inn. In addition to having a large selection of
food, the view over the harbor itself was wonderful. We kayaked 4 hours
around the Porcupine islands off of Bar Harbor, and our arms are
killing us right now. The Porcupine islands are very similar to the San
Juan islands off of Washington state. We drove up Cadillac mountain
(tallest mountain on the east coast), visited Thunder Hole (a formation
of rocks on the shore that causes big waves to make a very loud sound),
and generally drove around the park. The main characteristic that
separates Acadia National Park from other parks is that it is an island;
otherwise, you pretty much do the same things that you do in any other
park. We also attended an open Dulcimer (sort of a cross between a harp
and a xylophone) Festival in Bar Harbor too.
Tomorrow, we head to Boston, Massachusetts, to check out the town and some possible PhD sites.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 29
From: Somewhere in New Hampshire
Stopovers: Boston, Massachusetts
To : New York City
picked up an application for the PhD Computer Science program at MIT.
It doesn't look good: they receive over 1800 applications for graduate
studies, and they only accept about 45. Some years they don't even
accept any. :-( I couldn't find the computer science department in
Harvard University at all. It's possible that they use technobabble to
hide its identity (e.g., Department of People with No Life, Department
of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Research, etc.). The campuses are typical of
prestigeous universities: lots of gothic architecture, lots of
construction (gotta do something with all those alumni donations), and
lots of young people wearing clothes that my month's salary would barely
Harvard Square, west of Harvard University, is an
especially interesting place to visit. There are chess games going on in
front of the mall all the time, there are beautiful people everywhere,
there are more orientals than there are any other minority (or maybe
orientals are the majority), and there are many interesting cafes,
restaurants, and stores to visit. I would say that Cambridge and Boston
is the Los Angeles of the East Coast. We ate lunch at a cafe called
Cybersmith Cafe. Every table in this cafe had a computer on it, and you
would get a special credit card that you would insert into the computer
to charge time spent (20 cents a minute). This cafe even had a two
player virtual reality game where you would put on a headset and chase
another person in a 3-dimensional maze studded with obstacles. We mainly
ended up beating each other senseless in a 3-dimensional video game
similar to Street Fighter. For dinner, we went to a high class
restaurant in the downtown Boston Marriott hotel for the best clam
chowder in Boston (seemed appropriate).
Tomorrow, I will see some more of New York City.
Subject: Sang's Trip: Day 30
and I pursued our interest in Japanese animation (anime for short) in
New York City today. We went from Battery Park to the World Trade Center
to Greenwich Village to Time Square. I went overboard, as usual, in
acquiring anime. In the process, I saw that Time Square was being
cleaned up. As the leases on the more sleazy businesses are up, the city
refuses to renew the leases. Eventually, they plan to put more
respectable businesses like Walt Disney in Time Square. We found a black
market on anime in Time Square (this kind of stuff thrives because
anime prices are inflated at least 100% in the USA). The people involved
were a little scary, but the prices were right.
travel to Philadelphia for the annual wargaming convention, Origins.
From now on, I will be attending the wargaming convention, and I'm
pretty sure that most, if not all, of you would be bored to tears if I
detailed what happens at this convention. So, I'll just synopsize my
- One factor of why Clinton beat
Bush probably was because there are many more towns, counties, and
cities named Clinton than Bush (in fact I haven't seen a single thing
named Bush). People like to have a president named after a place they
know. Additionally, I did not see a single place named Dole. :-)
person can drive across the country in five days today reliably. It took
the pioneers of our country half a year to perform the same trek with a
much less chance of survival. I feel sad that I have it much better
than the original founders, but it is wonderful how much we've come.
Our country is too small. There is no frontier anymore in our country.
Every square foot belongs to somebody. This was opposite of what I
- Don't speed, but if you do, don't exceed 5 mph over the speed limit.
- Don't use the air conditioning for long drives (even if it's over 100 degrees); it's a good way to get a chest cold.
- Always have a water bottle next to you on long trips.
- Bring your own shampoo, laundry detergent, and alarm clock - most hotels don't give it to you.
- Bring lots of tall kitchen garbage bags - dirty laundry, trash, etc.
- Get a hotel room before 10pm.
- Reserve vacations ahead of time for popular spots (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, etc.) through a travel agency.
When visiting multiple national parks, get the Gold Eagle Passport for
$25 instead of paying the full entrance fee at each park.
- Bring AND use SP45 suntan lotion.
UV rays don't penetrate car windows, so if you want to open the car
window and you don't want to use suntan lotion, close the car window
that would allow the sun to directly shine on your skin.
- Relax (but
be alert) when you drive. If someone cuts you off or is tailgating you,
ignore them. If someone is slow in front of you, just wait. If a
policeman pulls you over, shut up.
- For currency in the USA, all you
need is Discover and Visa credit cards and knowledge of how to withdraw
cash from your savings account at an electronic teller. Make sure that
you paycheck is directly deposited into your bank account.
along music that usually keeps you awake. I brought Billy Joel, Elton
John, Eric Clapton, Harry Chapin, soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar,
soundtrack of A Chorus Line, Simon and Garfunkel, and Fleetwood Mac.
Eric Clapton was definitely not one to play if I wanted to stay awake.
Billy Joel was most effective for me ("Pressure" definitely had me
bellowing at the top of my lungs).
- Jiffy Lubes are usually in the
suburbs of the large cities, but you have to find a phone book somewhere
to find out where they exactly are.
- Visiting the first visitor center when you enter a state will provide you with valuable hotel information most of the time.
- Bring clothes for all weather and hiking shoes.
- Rice Chex makes good munching food when driving.
- Allocate about $15/person a day for food.
- Allocate about $50/person a day for hotel.
Expect to drive about 6 to 10 hours a day with an average fuel
consumption of 30 miles/gallon and speed of 60 mph which equates to
about 400 - 500 miles/day and assuming an average price of $1.25 for 87
octane gas, $13 - $25/day for gas.
- higher altitude require less octane - you will see this at pumps because they will offer 85 octane instead of 87 octane gas.
- Bring a glass cleaner for the bugs on the windshield.
- Put some sort of antifog coating or spray on the inside of the windshields.
- Buy peaches from South Carolina and oranges from Filmore, California.
- Get a calling card and use it instead of charging long distance calls to your room bill.
- Hotels never give you enough blankets; bring a sweat suit to sleep in or extra blankets.
- Buy your postcard stamps at a post office in bulk before going on you trip.
- Find out how to use Contact 24 for doing your banking over the phone.
- Get a car phone whose battery can be charged while plugged into the car as well as into an electrical outlet.
- Some hotels give you an extra $10 off if you say that you would like to check out prices at one more hotel.
I had a few profound questions that I thought a lot about during this trip, and here are the results:
QUESTION: Why don't I have a girlfriend?
I simply don't try hard enough. I don't have the confidence, and I fear
rejection too much. I may also be hung up over one special girl from my
past. I could also lose 50 lbs. :-)
QUESTION: Is there a God?
I did not find God or speak to him or find any evidence of direct
activities of God. I found no evidence to support the existence or
nonexistence of God in my travels, but if there is a God, he is playing a
hands-off attitude with the human race. The human race is allowed to be
as glorious or decadent as it wants to be. We can build monuments and
cities beyond imagination, but we can also pollute the land and seas. We
can build a society like none before, but we can also worship vice and
continue hating and killing. The human race may have an effect on every
square foot of this world, but it is not the center of the world.
Driving through an intense rainstorm on the plains should convince
anyone of this. I always had a subconscious problem with accepting the
Bible or any other holy book as the word of God, and the basic reason
became clear to me on this trip. The problem with the Bible is that it
is too limited in scope. It is written from the viewpoint of human
beings as if they are the center of history of the world. Comparing the
Bible to the history of the Earth is like comparing my kindergarten
Charlie Brown dictionary to the unabridged Webster's dictionary. Both
the Bible and the Charlie Brown dictionary only contain a small part of
the history of the Earth or the Webster's unabridged dictionary, and the
Bible and the Charlie Brown dictionary are simplistic compared to the
Earth or the Webster's unabridged dictionary. The Bible and the Charlie
Brown dictionary both talk to us as if we were children who need things
explained limited to a human's or child's understanding and experience.
Human beings are only one chapter in the holy book we call the Earth,
and the Earth is only one book in the vast library we call the universe.
If we don't watch out, the chapter of the human race could be turned as
easily as the chapter of the dinosaurs was turned. He must be waiting
for us to do something. I don't believe that action consists simply of
worshipping Him. He doesn't need us or our worship; being omnicient and
omnipotent means this. So what is He waiting for? What can we do that
God cannot? Since God is perfect and we are imperfect, it must be
something that only can result from imperfection. He probably is waiting
for something relatively simple in concept but huge in scope: expanding
out into the universe, create world peace, find what to do when the
energy of our sun runs out, etc. If there is a God, then the main
question I need answered directly from God is WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE
HUMAN RACE? More specifically - WHAT IS MY PURPOSE? If there is no God,
then the human race is basically like a fungus on the face of the Earth
whose main purpose is to survive. If this is true, then we need to
expand into the stars so that we don't have a single point of failure
(the Earth). We also need to figure out what we're going to do for
energy when our sun and all the other stars turn into inert matter.
Maybe we could cause the matter of the universe to collapse into a
single mass causing a big bang (again?). You're probably thinking
"Sang's been alone too long; he's gone stir crazy!" :-)
QUESTION: What is my destiny?
I don't know. Is my destiny to raise a family and live happily ever
after, or is it something bigger? I always felt that my life was
building up to something: I graduate from public school to get into
college, I graduate from college to get a masters, I get a masters to
get a PhD, I get a PhD to qualify for higher management, I get higher
management and military experience to qualify to possibly lead the
country or even the world! (I don't think small). I feel that I have to
leave some lasting legacy, and if it's not going to be through my
progeny (no luck in the wife situation) then I will impact this world in
such a way that will not be forgotten in human history (gotta do
something with all that pent up nervous energy)! :-)
reading my attempts at describing my journey in an entertaining manner.
Your interest is part of the reason why I never felt lonely during this
trip (having a ridiculously packed schedule helps stem off loneliness
too). See some of you back at work on Monday, July 17! I'll keep in
touch with the rest of you!