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Down Under trip Preparation

a travel blog by exumenius

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Last Night in Navarino - Night 0

Bonduel, United States

My last night at home. Bags are packed, sort of. To-do list has been minimized. Tickets, insurance, etc have been purchased. Though I don't leave the country for two weeks, tomorrow is the beginning of my two week domestic trip. I shall not sleep in my own bed until April 2008.

As a send off, I cook Jambalaya for the parents.

What I learned today:

Good byes do not get easier with age nor with practice.

permalink written by  exumenius on September 20, 2007 from Bonduel, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
tagged Home and Jambalaya

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Cottage Grove - Night 1

Cottage Grove, United States

My six months of sleeping on strange sofas began with a drive to the greater Madison area to visit an old friend from undergrad. Stopped for beer and gas in Sun Prairie, WI, a city that has embraced New Urbanism warmly as shown by the new townhouses with front porches and wide sidewalks being built downtown. The marginally cute gas station attendant had never before seen a Washington ID. I jokingly told her it was a fake, but it didn't phase her. Glad I could expand her horizons. The larger victory, however, was grabbing the last 6-pack of Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest from the "Beer Cave."

After Chessa's delicious baked Manicotti, Jeremy and I spent the evening listening to the Brewers blow a huge game and fixing broken tail lights. Amidst the falling leaves and brisk Autumn night, the Leinenkugel's didn't stand a chance of seeing morning. Subdivision drama was high this evening. Neighbor to the southwest is fighting with neigbor to the south over their shared well. Neighbor to the west is being frauded by a Craigslist purchaser who sent him a bad check, but is threatening to come pick up the goods (a camper trailer) tomorrow regardless. Thus, I am tapped to be the lookout for suspicious activity tomorrow while the good people of Independent Circle are busy at work....8 hours in the neighborhood and they've already given me important security detail. (I secretly wonder if this position alots me any liberties with the neighbor's 21-year old daughter.) Let's hope I am showered with such trust and respect on the remainder of my trip.

What I Learned Today:

Having a urinal installed in your home is one of the manliest things a guy can do. Manlier than installing a stripper pole, but not quite as Manly as building a batting cage or full length bowling lane.

permalink written by  exumenius on September 26, 2007 from Cottage Grove, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
tagged Madison and Leinenkugels

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Day on the Isthmus - Night 2

Madison, United States

Today I jumped on the Beltline and headed to downtown Madison and the University of Wisconsin campus. My stated goal was a meeting with my potential advisor at the UW (if I decide to return next fall for my doctorate), but in all actuality the prime motivating factor, after three years in the beige mundaneity of the "real world," was to let the captivating physical and aesthetic environs of acadamia blow some wind into my sails. That and State Street is the one place in Wisconsin that offers any sort of a true pedestrian experience. As the placard informed me, State Street is also home to the sole act of domestic terrorism ever commited in the state in which lives where lost. In the late 1960s radical Vietnam protestors bombed a Dow Chemical facility - manufacturer of napalm - located on campus killing a graduate lab student.

Thus, at State Street I began. Being a bit early, i took the liberty of walking the entire length of it down to the majestic state capitol (on the outside at least, the inside as we all know is rife with lawyers and politicians) and from there out to Monona Terrace, which, for those of you architects and hippies, is the first fully certified LEED conference center in the country. It also offers amazing views of the city and the lakes from all angles. To complete my State Street experience I grabbed a copy of The Onion and enjoyed a gyro on Parthenon's upper deck.

My meeting with Dr. Paulson reminded me of why I ever considered pursuing a doctoral degree in the first place; i am truly interested in the field of planning and its affect on people and the environment. But it also the lifestyle that comes with being a grad student that is so alluring. Some would say that being a student is a life of leisure; two, maybe three hours of class a day, a couple more of studying, and the rest spent recreating or relaxing. Sure it is no 10 hour day at the office or on the jobsite, but I can say with absolute certainty that in the last few years at my office job there were very few days (the hectic push of Spelter excluded) in which I spent a grand total of 5 hours or more completely concentrated on my work. The few hours of class and studying, however, are just that, times of focused concentration, broken up by periods of relaxing and contemplating. As Csikszenthmihalyi's research has shown, such alternations of intense concentration and complete relaxation are the most efficient and productive manner in which to spend our daily quota of psychic energy. Not to mention the health and intellectual benefits of both....but enough of my tangential rant.

After the meeting I took a stroll along the John Muir waterfront trail, back up through Observatory Drive (during the let out of classes - oh the fine scenery on this warm fall day) and back to Bascom Hill, where after unsuccessfully trying to pilfer some free wireless I promptly fell asleep on the soft grass until I was awoken by thunder from an approaching storm. On my way back to my truck I took a small detour past the hallowed grounds of Camp Randall Stadium, because, after all, what is a trip to Madison without a visit to the home of the Badgers? Strangely, with the wind out of the right direction one can almost hear the faint echo of the announcer's famous "Roooooon Daaayyyyne" call everytime the behemouth ran over some punk DB for another first down.

What I learned (or rather relearned) today:

People in the midwest are much more friendly than those on the coasts. Passing students in elevators and stairs, and random joggers on the trail, many said hi or at least gave a smile, a gesture almost completely unknown in other parts of the country. While it may be true many of them were not the tanned, lithe, beautiful (and completely superficial) chicks and dudes of Arizona or the pale, intellectually-dressed yuppies of Seattle, but rather a little bit of both, combined with some strange accents, Badgers hats and a few extra pounds....but in the end, entirely geniune and completely friendly.

Disclosure: My apologies for the rampant stereotypes, which are not entirely true or untrue. Their use and abuse has helped explain my point.

permalink written by  exumenius on September 27, 2007 from Madison, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
tagged Madison, UW and StateStreet

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Oktoberfest in Milwaukee - Night 3

Milwaukee, United States

After two days in the 'burbs, I packed up my truck and headed to Milwaukee. Jesse lives next to the MSOE campus, a school i nearly went to. Visions of what could have been. Upon arrival I realized that I hadn't brought enough underwear for the trip. I walked down to the Grand Avenue Mall, a cavernous mall occupying a number of older building on the West Bank of the Milwaukee River.

Jesse skipped out of work early and we were drinking at Moe's Irish Pub by 3:30. In hindsight, not such a good idea (as Maya had warned us). Stopped at Good Life for dinner. Threw some caution to the wind and had the curried goat, which was surprisingly good. Next we headed down to the Oktoberfest celebration on Third Street. Attendance was abysmal. At the Old World Bar, we got into a serious game of 'pound the nail into the log'....loser buys. Sometime later we headed to another bar. After this, everything is pretty blurry. In the end, I left the bar alone and ended up sleeping in the back of my truck.

What I learned today:

Always keep your car keys in your pocket

permalink written by  exumenius on September 28, 2007 from Milwaukee, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Chi-Town Birthday Bash - Night 4

Chicago, United States

Had a weak breakfast at the critically acclaimed Mykonos restaurant. Katina's in Seattle is twice the Greek Restaurant. Spent the morning down on the water reading and enjoying a beautiful fall morning. Milwaukee has been redeveloping, but still remains an odd combination of condos, grass lots and burned out industrial buildings. Tragically they've turned the old Schitz Brewery into an office park, the Blatz Brewery into an apartment building and the Pabst Brewery into a theater. So much alcoholic history in one neighborhood.

The drive to Chicago was terrible; two and a half hours for what should take an hour or so at the most. Showed up in time to watch the Badgers sqeek one out over the Spartans. Played moosehead until we left for the Mix at 11. $30 all you could drink at the bar, which degenerated into us crashing a class Reunion. It was a good collection of old Pointers and random people from my Wisconsin past. Managed to sleep inside, a small victory.

What I relearned today:

Boyfriend = details


permalink written by  exumenius on September 29, 2007 from Chicago, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Miles of Asphalt - Night 5

Menomonie, United States

Spent all day on the road. 3.5 hours to home, 3 more hours to Menomonie. 434 miles, six different highways, two toll booths and one huge hangover.

Packed up my stuff and it all fit. Heavy, but my pack wears pretty well on my back. I'm sure the bag will become the bane of my existance, but for now it holds all I need for six months.

What I learned today:

4 am bar close is completely unnecessary.

permalink written by  exumenius on September 30, 2007 from Menomonie, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Coach Potato - Night 6

Menomonie, United States

Were we really this lazy during our senior year of college? Likely so. I spent the great majority of the day on my brother's couch finishing up some work projects and watching ESPNews reruns. Left the house for a walk around campus and then headed down to watch Matt's intraquad baseball scrimmage. I was the sole fan for what was a boring 2-1 game.

We spent the evening watching the Padres-Rockies Marathon one game playoff. A boring, yet productive day (in work terms), though I feel like a fixture on his couch.

What I learned today:

Man needs his space, even if only a few square feet. I find where ever I stay that the first thing I do is locate the small cubby or corner that I can claim as mine. Somewhere to set my bag and plug in my phone. Property and possession are human nature, plain and simple...its the increase in the scale of it that has left Western civilization in so much trouble.

permalink written by  exumenius on October 1, 2007 from Menomonie, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Squatting in Uptown - Night 7

Minneapolis, United States

After another morning spent on my brother’s couch, I caught the Airport Passenger shuttle to the Minneapolis Airport. Joanna picked me up from the airport and allowed me to stay in her massive uptown apartment for the night as she headed to NYC for business. Going to the airport and not boarding a plane is serious let down.

A short nap under my belt, I joined fellow traveler and aspiring writer Rick for a late night happy hour. We were stalled while enroute at his house by Burns’ “The War” documentary. Listening to the stories of the WWII veterans was truly moving. How old men of the same generation could have agreed to send more young men to their deaths in Vietnam and now Iraq is completely beyond me. How soon, it seems, that we forget the pain and suffering that remains well after the last bomb has fell and the last wounded soldier has been sown up.

Our happy hour at Maximillian’s was fantastic and cheap. Half off appetizers, $2 microbrews, and good, deep conversation. Discussing my upcoming travels, the reasons for it and my expectations of it did wonders to increase my excitement for the trip. I feel I am nearly ready to grab my bag and head off into the great unknown.

What I Learned Today: All art is an expression of ideas and all expressions of ideas are art. Thus, let our expressions always be of the highest form for nothing but the highest forms of art move men’s souls and ignite their minds.

permalink written by  exumenius on October 2, 2007 from Minneapolis, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Going back to AZ - Night 8

Tucson, United States

Awoke from a wonderful sleep on a comfortable couch, a great change from the past two nights on the floor. I suspect over the next six months, most of my sleeps will lean more toward the latter than the former. It was a clear, calm morning, a bit of a oddity in the Midwest Fall, so I ventured out for breakfast and stroll around Lake of the Isles, a calming 2.6 mile walk.

Much of the remainder of the morning was spent

working on an automated appraisal product and finishing up my less than spectacular David Baldacci book, The Collectors. A lunch of organic lentil soup in my belly, I took a walk down Hennepin Avenue in search of a local book store. A short meander found me in Booksmart, an adequate two story structure with a decent selection of titles. It was no Elliott Bay, but then again, what is?

Nothing quite excites me as a local used book store. So much knowledge and potential excitement in one building. Before last night, I feel I haven't been adequately excited for my trip, which is a shame as the excitement of travel is one of its key components. Why have I been so reserved? To many to-dos? Too many small trips prior to the large one? Too much time off before the trip? Who knows, probably a little bit of all three. My trip to the bookstore today changed this. Surrounded by literature, I began to consider the time reading and experiencing that I will spend in the next six months and my spirits were lifted enormously. (That and I am finally living out of my pack, so the ways of travel are finally starting to sink in. – you know, wrinkled clothes, packing and repacking, eating on the run, etc.)

A long bus ride and short light rail ride to airport had me ready to go. Something about an airport puts me in my travel mode. At check-in my backpack weighed 31 pounds. Adding on the daypack (with computer) and the sleeping bag brings it close to 40.

The flight to Tucson, through Denver was quite non-descript. Both flights on time, and I got a whole row to myself from Denver to Tucson. While we were landing in Denver, I awoke, blinked a few times and promptly lost my left contact onto the floor. It was a brand new one, but, if that is the only thing that I lose, break or throw away this trip I’ll be very surprised.

What I Learned Today: I will never forget the smell of the Sonoran Desert. The minute I exit the plane it hits me, that sweet aroma of cactus flowers and sand.

permalink written by  exumenius on October 3, 2007 from Tucson, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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Bachelor Party - Night 9

Tucson, United States

My gracious hostess Chrissy agreed to drive me to the University of Arizona campus today for a little walk down memory lane. The University was on a building binge when I was here and it appears that little has changed in the past three years. My first stop was to be “The Vicarage”, an old house that had been transformed into our Planning Department auxiliary office and classroom, but now in its place stands a large modern administration building of some sorts. Once again the small Planning Department looks to have been pushed around again. After hitting up the Mall (which could be the greatest place in the City of Tucson proper) I went to the Oriental Express, my old favorite place, for lunch. I spent the afternoon stealing wireless in the UA library trying desperately to finish up some work for Greenfield Advisors. This project just won’t go away….well, no worries, it only has until Tuesday.

At 3 pm I checked into our suite at the

University Marriot for the night and headed to down to Fourth Avenue to check out my old house and get some of the world’s best Gelato at Brooklyn Pizza. It was good to see that little to nothing had changed on Fourth – it was still Tucson’s hip, quirky little avenue.

Chad and Eric arrived around 5 and we headed downstairs to Gentle Ben’s Brewery for drinks. Justin showed up shortly thereafter and about an hour later Chris (the bachelor), Mark, Danny and Jonathan arrived. After a good meal and microbrews we returned to the room to enjoy the cheaper booze. Around 9, we cabbed it to Curves, Tucson’s finest topless establishment. Five dollars to get in and drinks were about the same, not all that expensive by strip club standards. Our post-strip club activity brought us back to Gentle Ben’s, which at this point had turned into a happening bar atmosphere rather than the restaurant it pretends to be during the daylight hours. The after-bar lasted until about 5 am, when I finally gave it up and hit the sheets.

What I Learned Today: There are two types of guys at a strip clubs. Most of us (at least when mildly sober) understand the dynamics of the place and realize that girls in strip clubs will say and do almost anything for money. It is their job, after all. We are not moved by the touching or the whispers in the ear. And when a stripper says she loves you, we know it is bald-faced lie. But there is another type of man, who though often very intelligent in the real world, seems to lose about 80 IQ points solely by walking in the door. This is the guy who truly believes he might take a stripper home and spends the time and money to prove his beliefs. I’ll be the first to admit that it does happen (and perhaps one such success has forever ruined these men for life) , but in the end it would have been cheaper to simply head to Miracle Mile and pay up front for your desired services

permalink written by  exumenius on October 4, 2007 from Tucson, United States
from the travel blog: Down Under trip Preparation
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