Monday, August 30, 2010

The One that Got Away

Background info for blog post number two. My mom’s side of the family decided for some strange reason to call Valdosta, GA, home. For those of you who have never been here, think of the most picturesque spot on Earth…got it? Now think of the opposite--in essence, that’s Valdosta.

Valdosta is a five hour ride from Athens, the perfect amount of time to listen to six fantasy football draft pod casts. They didn’t help--my draft was tonight--I bombed it. Once in Valdosta, I went to my grandparents house. My grandpa is 91 years old. My grandmother is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. They still live in a house. Incredible. Pray to whomever you pray to every night that you don’t get Alzheimer’s. Terrible doesn‘t even begin to describe this disease. My grandmother asked me ten times in three minutes where I was from. She doesn’t have the slightest idea as to who I am; she knows that she should know, however, and as a result she never asks or says my name or anyone else‘s for that matter. Since I began writing this ten minutes ago, she has been to the front door five times, sat down on the couch three times, asked me where her father was (she thinks that her father was named Cullen--I was only slightly confused), asked about thirty entirely non-sensical, non-sequiters, and put three different sweaters on and took them off (it’s ninety degrees outside). While she seems happy, I think it’s killing my grandfather though he doesn‘t show it. They’ve been married for 65 years, and often times, she has no idea who he is--the long good bye indeed His patience is beginning to wear, as is his body; I can’t but help think that this may be the last time I will see him.

Switching gears, also in Valdosta is much of my extended family, including my uncle Patrick, whom I haven‘t seen in probably 12 years. He might very well be the greatest trophy bass fisherman in the US today. He has caught more than 1100 10 lb. bass in his life (ESPN recently followed him for five days and witnessed him catch four). He also one time caught three >15 lb. bass in a night. Both of these are undoubtedly world records. He only fishes in South Georgia and North Florida (where 8 of the 10 largest largemouth bass ever have been caught). During the summer, he fishes at night with special lures he created. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me cast his special fishing poles, so we decided to fish via his second preferred method.

His second preferred summer method of fishing involves waking up at 4:15 AM and being in the water by five (of course, that’s when I normally wake up). The “lake” that we went to was a 50 acre pond that my uncle Pat says he has been fishing for 40 years. He claims that he caught an 18 lb bass in this very pond a few years ago; he releases all of his fish though.

At 5 AM, we arrive at this pond. The stars are still out. Who knew that the stars were still out at 5 AM? We fished for bait fish first. Apparently, big fish do in fact eat smaller fish, which apparently is a fact that good anglers take advantage of. We used bread and a hook to catch about a dozen 4-5 inch fish which my uncle called “roaches,” then we began to hunt the bass. I say hunt, because that is really more like what it was. No beer. No noise. Methodical and calculated. My uncle thinks like a fish, or at least claims to (he reminds me a lot of Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite).

The first catch of the day was made by yours truly. It was a 40 lb. snapping turtle hooked through a fin (leg?). I thought about sending it to Beth Anne to rehabilitate, but then it bit the boat. It actually bit the boat. We cut the line and let the crazed prehistoric creature live to tell its grandkids why he has a hook in his right fin.

The second catch of the day was a half pound bass. It was barely bigger than the bait fish. Apparently small fish can also eat small fish…Dr. Seuss lied to me. On the last bait fish, after I was sufficiently sunburned, and it was hot--my uncle cast the bait out one last time for me. I played the line for about ten minutes then the bobber went down--it reminded me of the scene from Jaws when the six or however many air canisters go under the water only to reappear half a mile behind the boat. The bobber never came back up. I cut the slack in the line, felt a tug and set the hook. I then set the hook again and began to reel. The fish came to the boat easily enough. I tried to keep it in the middle of the boast, because apparently according to my uncle, the bass are smart enough to wrap the line around the anchor line if you give them the chance. The fish began to surface after bending my pole literally in half for about thirty seconds. My uncle went silent. The fish was about 4 feet from the boat when all of the sudden my line went loose. I lost him. The largest bass I have ever caught was three pounds. I assumed this one was larger then that. My uncle was almost in tears. He said, “you just had a 12 lb bass.” I said no way, he said “11-13, no doubt--I saw the mouth and the gills.” Then, I was almost in tears. That was the last bait fish in the barrel and it was about 2 PM. We decided to go home, well my uncle did, I was still in shock.

The rest of the night was rather normal. My grandparents best friends came over. We went to dinner, my grandma wore a warm-up jacket and talked about, well, I really have no idea. Then my grandpa and I took down the legendary Beaversteins in an epic game of bridge, and we watched Heyward dominate the Mets. All in all, it was a good first stop for Road Trip 2K10.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Calm before the Storm

So this is my first blog. I'm not exactly sure what this is going to become other than an account on my travelings this year. To be honest, I think I'm using this as much as a journal as I am anything else, but you are more than free to read my musings (I just used 'as' three times in six words). In any case, if you don't know by now, I was pretty fortuitous in my medical school selection because the University of Virginia accepted too many people last year. In order to shrink the size of the '14 class, they incentivized taking a year off--something I had always thought about doing--and so here I am, about to embark on a roadtrip of the United States to discover this amazing country, the people that inhabit it, and myself.

Alright, now that that introduction is done, onto my trip and how it relates to the blog. In order to build suspense for my readers (if there are any), I'm not going to tell you where I am headed. For a few weeks, I probably won't have internet access, so you might get several posts in a day and silence for a week--you'll live. Basically, I only have two concrete deadlines on my trip, and like any good alumnus of the University of Georgia, they both revolve around the Dawgs. October 2nd, I hope to be in Boulder, Colorado, and Thanksgiving Day, I hope to be back in Athens.

So, if you've done the math, you now know that my trip will be more than two and a half months long. What should one pack for a two and a half month journey? I wish I knew; here is what I am packing:

1) Car (1989 Nissan 240SX ~166,000 miles: I'm too lazy to check the exact number right now, but I'll let you know. The car will be known as 'Forest' from now on because at one point in its life, one of the headlights would not open. This corresponded in time with the release of the movie Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker who has a lazy eye).

2) iPhone 3G (google maps, 1170 songs, 14 podcasts, my itenerary, and of course the boggle ap)

3) Dell Inspiron (no idea what the model number is--is that bad?)

4) Clothes (5 pairs of shorts, boxers not briefs, 10 t-shirts hopefully that number grows on the trip, 6 other shirts, socks, 5 pairs of shoes)

5) Food (24 granola bars, 100 slim jims, 36 chicken raman noodles, 6 canned chickens, 8 cases of spam, 16 vienna sausages, 1 peanut butter)

6) 25 lb. dumbells (to guilt myslef into staying in shape)

7) Somewhat broken inflatable air mattress

8) Camping gear (fly reel and flies, gps, pots and pans, water purifier, knife, camelback, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, matches, butane stove)

9) Camera (2 actually--though neither one really works, so iPhone might do this job as well)

10) 1000 Places to See before You Die: US Edition

11) Other books (I'll update you on these as I go)

12) Car battery jumper (1989 Nissan 240 SX)

13) Jumper cables (1989 Nissan 240 SX)

14) 16 AAA maps

15) Moneys (~$3000)

I suppose those are all the essentials for a three month roadtrip--stay tuned to see if that's true.