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Current Music:Theme from "X-Files"
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Subject:White House calling. No, not that one!
Time:04:06 pm
Current Mood:medicated
Well, my luck proceeds apace. I woke up in Granada Mississippi, with a fever and a sinus infection. Yet more confirmation that at least one thing
in my life has to be broken at all times. I scarfed Advil, drove as best I could up the road, thru Memphis (missing the turn to I-240, and, thinking
that I would run across the real I-40, drove on into Arkansas, but eventually getting the right road), and on into Tennessee. I managed to make it to my brother's house, in White House TN, before collapsing. I managed to roust myself due to the magical effects of the smells of home
cooking (soup beans, cornbread, pickle beets), but such was only temporary. I barely made it into the spare bedroom before I imploded.

Today, I got up and was able to go to a local doctor, who basically said, once I had laid out the symptoms and he had poked, prodded, and
peered to his satisfaction, "looks like you have a sinus infection." He gave me some new kind of antibiotics (new to me, anyway) that claimed
it only needed to be taken for 5 days. We shall see.

Wait a minute, is it really a sinus infection? Was it really coincidence that my car loses electrical power, so suddenly and at the edge of
nowhere, that I have to spend the night at a hotel that just happens to be where my car dies? And was that really a bunch of high-schoolers,
partying in the next room, and was it really an accident that one of them knocked on my door, thinking it was the party? Were they trying to
make sure that I was there, when they called down the mothership? [CENSORED] aliens and their nasally-inserted tracking devices...

At any rate, I missed Graceland, missed taking a picture of the pyramid in Memphis (kind of neat, seeing it in real life), and missed some other
things. I did get to sit in traffic jams twice, once due to construction, and once due to rush hour.

Tonight (rain permitting): watching my brother's youngest grandson play pee-wee baseball.
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Subject:"On the Road Again" or, "Going to Graceland"
Time:01:33 am
Current Mood:relievedrelieved
Whew! The problem with my car last night was indeed a broken alternator. After a sleep-deprived night, I called one of the local Vidor
repair shops, and asked if they could take an emergency repair job. The nice lady on the phone said they could but that it might take
until the afternoon to fix. I told her that I could wait as long as it took, and she said to bring it in. She gave me directions, and I told her
that I might not be able to make it, and if the car stopped I'd call so they could send a towtruck. Fortunately, I got the car started after
checking out of the hotel, and I limped down the service road as far as I could before getting back on the Interstate. The car had enough
power to start, but as I drove down the road, the needle started falling towards the redline. It was only a mile or so from where I got back
on the Interstate, but that was about the longest piece of highway I've been on. I took the exit she had told me to take, pulled up to the
light just as it turned green (yes!) and made my way into the parking lot of the garage. I got it parked just as it gave up the ghost. When I
went in, I told them they'd have to push it into the garage.

The guy in charge, who I figured was the owner, took my info and my cell phone number, and welcomed me to sit in the lobby while they
worked. Fortunately, the garage was next to a Burger King, so I told him I'd be there getting some breakfast. I hadn't finished my C'rsandwich
when my cell phone rang. It was the garage guy, who told me it was definitely the alternator, and that they had one in stock, so it'd be fixed
by 11:00 AM. Greatly relieved, I hung up and leisurely finished my breakfast while reading one of my books ("Mortal Prey", by John Sandford).
I walked back across the parking lot to the garage, exchanged some pleasantries with the other folks there, and promptly took a nap in one
of their comfy chairs (wasn't planned, but they were so comfortable, and I was so sleep-deprived)

Once I put the $280 charge on my card for the repair, I got back on I-10 headed east. The trip was completely without incident, and I made
it all the way to Granada, Mississippi, where I'm writing this. And contrary to some comments, this is the first time I've had broadband Internet
access the whole trip! It's so refreshing, being able to actually load web pages again, and download my email, and do all the other net things
a true geek needs broadband to do! Comfort Inn here provides free DSL to each room. Interestingly enough, I saw a couple of truck stops in
Texas that offered wireless Internet access, but I never stopped to try them out. Wireless Internet access at a truck stop. Who would have
thought?

Anyway, Granada MS is about 90 miles south of Memphis, and just for the heck of it, I'm going to stop by Graceland, if it's easy to do. Then, on
to Nashville to visit my brother and his family!
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Subject:"Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again..."
Time:11:11 pm
Current Mood:gratefulgrateful
Well, today has been a real up and down day. The day started up, went to tour the Alamo, spent the
morning there, had a small lunch while the local western wear store cleaned and blocked my felt
cowboy hat. Left in time to get to Houston right at rush hour, so I wandered into a mall for a couple
of hours, to eat supper and wait out the mess. Hit the road headed east to Beaumont, when my battery
light came on, and found that the battery was draining as I drove. I coaxed it, and thought once or twice
that it was recovering, but as I got a little ways past Beaumont, the power practically went dead. Almost
no headlights, other lights started coming on as the onboard computers stopped getting enough power.
Worst of all, I drove into a storm in this condition, and had almost no power to run the windshield wipers.
Finally, as the car was dying, I made it to a town called Vidor, near the Texas-Louisiana border, and
pulled into a little roadside hotel. Almost didn't make it, but thankfully Texas has these service roads
that run parallel to the Interstate, and I could limp along with no worries about hitting or being hit, but
I had a moment of panic when I found that the hotel was on the other side of I-10, and there was no
bridge visible! I kept on the service road, finally seeing a sign showing a way to turn and go under
the Interstate, so I could go back to the hotel. That's where I am as I write this, and I am anxiously
waiting until morning, to contact a local garage to see if they can fix my car. I'm hoping it's just the
battery, but if it's something else, I may be here for a while.

Well, I wanted an adventure! Thank God I don't have to spend the night in my car somewhere along
the Interstate. At least I have cable TV and Internet access!
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Subject:Dallas was...
Time:12:33 am
Current Mood:tiredtired
Ft. Worth, actually. I went to the DalWorthIngton metroplex to see my nephew and his fiance. Had a really nice time, I took them to an incredible
steak restaurant a friend recommended, "Pappas Brothers", in Dallas. Hefty price tag, but man, was it worth it! The New York strip was fantastic,
and the desserts were indescribable! We split a Key Lime pie and some kind of chocolate mousse-based concoction. Woof! And to think I was
losing weight for a while!

We went to a church-group picnic down by one of the lakes Saturday, which was nice, but for some reason the National Weather Service decided
to turn the "summer" switch on, full! Went from 70s -80s in Denver, to over 100 each day in Ft. Worth! Fortunately there was a slight breeze near
the lake. Afterwards, we were going to see a movie that night, but "Finding Nemo" was sold out, and we were all worn out. So we went back to my
nephew's place to watch videos and play with his and his fiance's kittens. And soon everyone was fast asleep, except the kittens!

Sunday we went to the Ft. Worth Botanic Gardens, which was nice, so they could scout out where they wanted to have their wedding. Ft. Worth
has a nice cultural center, with the gardens, a nearby zoo, and some pretty good parks. Of the towns in the metroplex, I'd say Ft. Worth was the
nicest. Dallas is a bit more run-down, and the other towns are just names on a map, for all I could see. Decent enough, just nothing very distinctive.
Oh, and one thing made it worse. The drivers in the metroplex are among the worst I've found, much worse than St. Louis, and worse than DC! It's
indescribable, the things that the "drivers" did. I guess it's not too surprising, since I only saw a couple of state troopers the whole weekend, and
they might have only been looking for seatbelt scofflaws.

Monday, I left Dallas and headed to San Antonio, but not before stopping at Nerdvana, Geek Central. I'm talking about "Fry's Electronics". For
anyone not in the know, Fry's has been famous for many years in the Silicon Valley area as a place to get anything electronic or even remotely
related to computers. It is to electronics what Wal-Mart is to everything else. I was stunned when I was driving through Irving TX and saw they had
just opened a branch in Texas. So, no matter what, I had to stop. I raided as much of their Anime DVD section as I could afford, and found a bunch
of add-ons for my cell phone. It was hard to do, but I left without buying one of everything they had, just on general principles!

The drive to San Antonio was uneventful, other than the huge supercell thunderstorms and random tornadoes that touched down in some towns
some distance from my route. "Out of sight, out of mind," that's my motto. If I can't see it coming, it can't hurt me! Once I got into town, I ran into
traffic as bad as rush-hour DC metro traffic. Stop-and-go for miles. And why not post a few more signs to tell you how to get to the [CENSORED]
Alamo? I drove around trying to find some sign to tell me which exit to take to go to the Alamo area, but until I stumbled across I-37, I never saw
anything saying "Alamo this way." I guess everyone is just supposed to know which roads to take. I must have missed that class in school. At any
rate, I found it, and took some pictures of the outside, which was nice, the front was lit by the setting sun.

Most shocking thing: having lightning strike so close to the car that there was no delay between the flash and the boom.

Tomorrow: The inside of the Alamo, and then on to Houston and parts east!
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Subject:High plains drifting...
Time:01:41 am
Current Mood:happyhappy
Well, my journey resumed Wednesday afternoon, when I left Denver and drove south on I-25 to Pueblo (yeah, the place to get all the free government publications!) Drove past Colorado Springs on my way down, with the Rockies towering to my right. At Pueblo, I left the Interstate Highway system, and proceeded east down Highway 50, the same one that's called "Arlington Boulevard" in Northern Virginia. My final stop: Dodge City, Kansas! Before I got there, I drove through miles and miles of high plains, first in Colorado, then in Kansas. Each place I stopped along the way was a slightly lower elevation, and it may have just been my imagination, but it seemed to get easier to breath the further I went!

Not much to note along that leg of the trip, except a general observation: There's no way in even Al Gore's most fevered nightmares that this country could ever conceivably become overpopulated! The phrase "wide open spaces" is a pale cliche in comparison to the reality that is Kansas.

Pulled into Dodge City after dark (there's an evocative phrase!). Proceeded to get lost, and ended up going back around once before getting straightened out and finding my hotel. There's a difference between "50" and "Business 50", the latter being the one you go on if you want to actually see Dodge City! At any rate, followed the neon and other lights of civilization, and saw that Historic Dodge City is cheek by jowl with Commercial Dodge City. The McDonald's advertises itself as being "Across from Boot Hill." And along Rte 50, AKA "Wyatt Earp Avenue", there is a "Doc Holliday's Liquors", with a sign proudly saying "Doc Says 10% off" some brand of beer. With that percolating through my now oxygenated brain, I drifted off to sleep!

My friend John bemoans such commercialization, but Thursday, when I took a short tour through the Boot Hill Museum and Dodge City recreation, it struck me that in reality, there is no real distinction between Historic and Commercial Dodge City, and in fact, that commercial drive is a basic part of American character. From the early traders who traveled the Santa Fe trail, to the railroad men who laid the tracks across Front Street from Atchison to Topeka, to Santa Fe, to the cowboys, gamblers, saloonkeepers, and the "soiled dove" saloon girls of the Old West, right down through to today, Dodge City was created and sustained by commerce. When the Old West of their early days faded, it was recreated by publicity, made new in the imaginations of people around the world who read of the exploits of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, of the stories of fortunes made and lost. Dodge City traded on the image, and still does. The spirit of the men and women who first settled the American West is still there in the neon-lit fast-food restaurants, the drive to "make a living" out of anything and everything they see around them, and to create what they need if it's not there. That's the American Spirit! Far from being something alien to be denigrated, it's a thing to be celebrated, and lived!

Funniest sight: Giant statue of a brontosaurus on top of a Texas hill, looking out over the plains.

Most unexpectedly beautiful sight: driving through the middle of a field of giant electricity-generating windmills in the middle of Kansas farm country, while listening to classical music on the radio. It was such a juxtaposition, listening to 18th Century music in an area mostly unchanged through the 19th and 20th centuries, right in the middle of a touch of 21st Century technology.

Most unexpected emotion: On east-bound highway 287, feeling a bit down as the sun set to my back, feeling like I needed to keep going west.

Nicest experience: Meeting a distant cousin, someone with the same rare last name, and making a personal connection between long-separated branches of the Diseker family tree.

Coming up: Dallas!
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Subject:Happy Memorial Day!
Time:10:45 pm
Current Mood:contentcontent
Whoa, what a weekend!

First off, thanks to all veterans and their families for their sacrifices. Where would we be without what you all did for us?

Okay, now for an unvarnished opinion: Denver is a great place! The climate is typical desert, it gets warm in the day but cools down
nicely at night. Had dinner outside Friday night, and there were no bugs! For someone who grew up in the South, this was truly
wonderful, eating without gnat-sauce. My niece and I went to Boulder, which is just to the north of Denver, and saw the Pearl Street
shopping district. Felt like a 70's flashback! A counterculture colony surviving in the 21st Century! Saturday was a day off, in preparation
for Sunday.

On Sunday, my niece, her boyfriend and his son and I drove up into the Rockies, where we enjoyed the breathtaking sight of: clouds.
Rain clouds. Fog. Mist. Water droplets suspended in air. And the occasional glimpse of rocks. Supposedly there were mountains within
the clouds, and we definitely climbed up very high, but most of the mountains were hidden. We went up over the continental divide,
up Trail Ridge road, and found it only recently opened. Huge drifts of snow on either side of the road, and when we got to the top, we
were higher than trees grow. Of course, since we're human beings, we had to go to places where most life intelligently refuses to go!

It was interesting, especially when my flatlander breathing instincts started to fail me at 12,500 feet. At sea level, it's okay to breath
only every so often. When the air is half as thin, you have to breath more often! At the visitor's center near the top, I started getting
dizzy and short of breath, just standing still! This was just plain wierd, and I never got used to it. We came down the other side, and
had an excellent lunch/dinner at a small restaurant in Grand Lake. Excellently prepared food, which was delicious until the downpour
started! We got to experience rain until we got nearly to my niece's home, when the sun came out and it became warm.

This is apparently typical for this time of year, so it wasn't too disappointing. I got to see parts of the world I've only flown over, before,
so it was a net gain for me. Plus spending time with my niece, who I've promised for years to visit. We were all completely exhausted
when we got back home, and we spent today just hanging out at the pool and relaxing.

Soon, Nerd Tour 2003 continues, on to Kansas and Texas!
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Subject:Day 3: Arrival!
Time:12:19 pm
Man, that was a long day! Left Columbia Missouri at 10 AM (EDT, still haven't changed my car's clock!), and got all the way to Denver at 11 PM EDT! 760 miles in one day, about the farthest I've driven by myself, and if it hadn't been for the 70 and 75 MPH speed limits, I'd probably
still be on the road!

So, everyone who said Kansas is flat, is mostly right! Eastern Kansas has some nice rolling hills, but the thing that makes it look flatter is
the dearth of trees. And western Kansas is just flat. Did get a chance to do the "touristy" thing, and spent a few minutes in Abilene KS.
Saw Dwight Eisenhower's home and museum, and got a couple of nice pictures of old Abilene, especially the train station. Most of the
trip was just driving, driving and more driving.

Most interesting city to take photos in: Kansas City.

Only city where my camera was not charged and ready to take photos: Kansas City.

Well, my niece has all kinds of things lined up to do while I'm here in the Denver area, and none of them involve me driving! Huzzah!
More later, and I think I may have pictures uploaded tonight!
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Current Music:Stan Ridgway "The Big Heat"
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Subject:Day 2: Columbia Missouri, mile 973
Time:11:32 pm
Current Mood:tiredtired
Well, this part was much more eventful than day 1. I made better distance
today, although not as far as I would have liked. After 11 hours, it started
to catch up to me, just couldn't stay awake for the 120 miles to Kansas City.
Yeah, I'm a wimp, so what? :-)

Funniest billboard:
XM Radio ad, about 60 miles east of Indianapolis:
"How do we get 100 stations all the way out here?
Satellites. Big freaking satellites."

Next funniest:
Billboard company just west of St. Louis:
Billboard 1 Some kind of ad for a store, but all blurred
Billboard 2 "MADE"
Billboard 3 "YOU"
Billboard 4 "LOOK"

Best damn food on the whole trip so far: Blue Springs Restaurant, Exit 30,
Interstate 70, western Illinois. Home of the "Foot High Pie," which is really
a foot high. Mostly merengue, but easily 12 inches deep. Unfortunately, I
didn't get to try any, because the meal was huge, and incredibly delicious.
A deep-fried 1 lb. catfish, which was so tender the only thing keeping the
meat on the bones was the fried batter. Green beans cooked with ham,
applesauce, something that looked like sweet potatoes but turned out to
be pumpkin, homemade coleslaw with no mayonnaise, mashed potatoes,
pickled beets, and biscuits made from whole wheat flour. Served "family style,"
which means it will feed a family of four with leftovers. In all fairness I made
quite a dent, but came nowhere near finishing. Nearest thing to an old-
fashioned road trip I've experienced so far.

Most like home: Rush hour traffic, I-70 downtown St. Louis
Being tailgated at 80 MPH in an 50 MPH zone, dodging cars making lane
changes with inches to spare, without signaling (at 80 MPH). Dodging
cars crossing 3 right lanes to take an exit at the last minute. It felt just like
being back in NoVa, brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.
Actually, the smile was more like a grimace caused by my facial muscles
frozen in a rictus of shear terror. But I was able to put on my DC Metro
driving instincts like a comfortable, bloodstained leather glove.

Don't get me wrong, St. Louis was a lovely place to see in my rear-view
mirror, and the drivers I encountered obviously started out as cute, cherubic
babies whose mothers loved them very much, but once they got their alleged
drivers licenses, it all changed. I'm pretty sure they didn't get licenses by
taking driver's tests, they were probably given them by some kind of scratch-
off gambling game. "If you match three road hazards, congratulations!
You're a driver!" I mean, gambling is big, really big in the St. Louis area.
There's a huge sign trying to "guilt" people into gambling by telling drivers
that gambling paid 1 billion dollars toward Missouri education. The sign was
near a former multi-story hotel converted into a casino, called "Noah's Ark."
I don't even want to contemplate the theological implications of that name.
They almost installed a slot machine in my car when it was stopped for a
traffic jam, until they saw my Virginia tags.

Weirdest animal encounter: Day 1, running into a swarm of bees, and having
about a dozen splats of bee guts on my windshield.

Saddest animal encounter: So far, I've seen 8 deer carcasses along the side
of the Interstate, starting in Maryland, and in each state except Indiana. Some
kind of predation needs to be restored, so that the deer don't jump out in front
of semis and cars. Either resume hunting, or reintroduce some natural predators
that used to thin the deer herds. Just my opinion.

Next saddest animal encounter: Being behind a pickup truck 60 miles west of
St. Louis when the truck hit a bird in flight, and driving into the cloud of feathers.
Although the sadness is tinted with a bit of humor.

Well, that's all for tonight, I hope I can get to Denver tomorrow night, but I'm not
going to kill myself trying. Still have over 600 miles to go.
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Subject:On the road at last!
Time:09:52 pm
Well, I made it to Columbus Ohio before calling it a night. Made it about 440 miles on day 1. Not bad, but not as far as I would have liked. Ran into rain, rain and more rain, all through Ohio.

Worst roads so far: Pennsylvania. Second worst: western Ohio.
Bumpy, potholed, decayed.

Best scenery so far: Western Maryland. Cumberland MD is about the nicest looking old town I've seen in a long time. I wish I had known before I got there, so I could have stopped and taken pictures. May have to make a day trip one day, just to take pictures!

I wanted to update my web page with pictures, but AOL here is being a [CENSORED] about not allowing my packets to route to my server. [CENSORED] corporate [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED].

At least after a couple of tries (using the AOL browser only!) they let me log in here, so I could update my journal. Oh, well, at least there'll be something to look forward to, some day!
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Subject:I feel like NASA - trip delayed 1 day
Time:05:51 pm
Current Mood:irritatedirritated
Well, talk about underestimating. It took longer to pack up today, and to
take care of some last-minute business, so I didn't make it on the road
until 3:30. Plus, thanks to some traffic disruptions due to a bomb hoax,
the traffic heading north (the way I wanted to go) had already clogged
Interstate 270. Anyone who's been on it knows it would have taken hours
just to go 20 miles, so I turned around and came back home. Fortunately
getting on the road tomorrow won't be as hard, since I've only unpacked
as much as if I was at a hotel.

Launch delayed due to pilot stupidity!

*sigh*
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[icon] Nerdwatch Journal
View:Recent Entries.
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