Friday, October 1, 2010

The Northwest Passage

The greatest thing about the West coast, and there are many, is that I am currently watching the Ryder Cup, and it‘s only 12:30 AM. Sports happen three hours earlier, which honestly makes my life immeasurably better. It has come to my attention that my numerous readers are becoming antsy at the gaps that have been occurring between posts. I have been doing this intentionally to build suspense, much like JK Rowling literally ruined every June for me as I waited for the next Harry Potter to come out. Actually, I’m just really lazy, but I am flattered that people actually want me to keep posting about my travels; thus, I will attempt to be more punctual.

After spending time with Parag at Berkeley, I began to sort of miss academia for the first time in a long time. I think that this trip has definitely cleared my mind of any resentments I once held against schools for morphing my precious youth into a huge ball of stress. Eleven more months till I get to go back though, I think I’ll survive.

After leaving Berkeley, I headed back up highway 1 toward Oregon. I honestly think that the coast is even more breathtaking north of San Francisco than it is south, and Mendocino is probably the crown jewel of the whole road. It is a really unassuming town that juts out on a promontory in the midst of rocky islands and surfing beaches. I camped out on a state beach near Eureka, and that’s where I met the most interesting person on my trip to this point.

I think his name was Dan. He was hitchhiker, who from my count had been to forty different countries. He had owned at least ten different luxury cars, some at the same time. He had been a roadie for Pearl Jam and Soundgarden in the early ’90’s. He had two kids, one was a 12-year-old who was still at home in Washington. He currently is the sound effects guy for powows in Washington state, and was hitchhiking his way down to San Francisco to retrieve a guitar that he had hocked a couple of months ago. I think that if you only bought 5% of his stories, he was still pretty interesting…

The next day, I arrived in Eugene, Oregon (Tracktown, USA). My friend Beth put me up for a couple of nights. The first night we played trivia where the final questions came down to 1) name all of the metalloids 2) name the most populous commonwealth countries 3) name all of the states that have a six flags. Yes, that’s right all three of my subjects, geography, chemistry, and theme parks. We dominated it and won, two board games, some wrist bands, ten bucks, an orange hacky sack, a dictionary, and Oregon Duck key chains that recorded the date of our triumph.

My last day in Eugene was spent basking in its Pre-ness. For those of you who don’t know, probably the most famous American runner ever was Steve Prefonataine who attended the University of Oregon. He finished fourth in the 1976 Munich Olympics 5000 m, won every single NCAA championship he competed in, never lost a race at the Oregon Track--Hayward Field which he made famous, was the first athlete to wear Nike shoes, and was responsible for the US beginning to allow professional athletes to compete in the Olympics. He died far too young when he crashed his car into a rock in Eugene, and most people think he stood a chance to win the 5000 in Montreal in 1976. I ran on Pre’s trail which goes from the U of O football stadium to the rock where he died, and I also tried unsuccessfully to sneak onto Hayward Field.

Finally, it was time for the drive I had been dreading since day one--Eugene to Boulder. The trip is 1226 miles. To put that in perspective, Athens to Boulder is 1449 miles. It took Lewis and Clark six and a half months to cover what I drove today in longitude (Eugene to Evanston, WY), and I couldn‘t even see the blue turf at Boise State because the stadium is entirely fenced off. I went through three This American Life pod casts, two B.S. Report pod casts, seven Yale med pod casts, and my entire purchased music play list on my iPhone (55 songs). Only six hours left to drive in the morning and at least the Ryder Cup is on.

RIP Frances Wallis, you will be missed.

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