Sunshine and Storm Clouds: Part I

“It feels good to not set an alarm,” I told Samantha Friday night.  She smiled a knowing smile and said, “Doesn’t matter.  You have road trip brain; you’re gonna get up early anyway.”  She was right.  Since I was planning a day trip through Kansas on Saturday, I woke without aid before 7:00 AM.  By 7:30 I was gassed up, cup of coffee in hand, & headed north on Highway 75.


Though I hadn’t driven 75 north past the Oklahoma border much in the last ten years or so, that highway holds a lot of memories for me.  I lived in Topeka Kansas in 1999-2001 and drove back to Tulsa frequently to visit friends.  Since my family stayed in Topeka for a time after I moved back to Oklahoma, I continued to drive up there to visit them through at least 2005.  Forgotten memories came to the surface as I turned miles: places where my ’88 Merkur Scorpio broke down, the spot in New Strawn where I ran out of gas in the middle of the night with my first girlfriend, stretches of road where I frantically passed lines of cars in a race north to convince my father he had a lot to live for.  In all those years, I never ventured off the highway to explore; this time, I weaved through a few small towns and was delighted at what I found.  I’ve changed a lot since those days of destination driving.

Neosho River Bridge-3

North of Burlington, I turned off of Highway 75 and headed west.  I took gravel roads through the Flint Hills Wildlife Refuge to my first stop, a marsh arch bridge over the Neosho River.  I’d never seen one of these bridges so covered in graffiti.  Most of it was tied to graduating students, undoubtedly from the nearby town of Hartford.  The oldest tag I could find was from 1980; spray-painting the old bridge has been a Write of Passage for some time.

Neosho Rapids Bridge-8

Not far away, my second destination was one I was really looking forward to.  The bridge that spans the same river in Neosho Rapids is a rare cantilever design, meaning the bridge is anchored only on the ends; support comes from continuous structural steel construction. The bridges often have a differentiating shape, too; as you can see in the photo, it definitely looks different than the normal truss bridges I post.  It’s the last of its kind in the Sunflower State.  I waved at the occasional pickup truck that passed while I buzzed around.  In the distance, a train horn sounded.

eclipse highway

Once I was finished, I continued northwest.  When I merged onto I-35 N, I was surprised to find myself sandwiched between no less than a dozen RVs.  License plates were from all over the place:  Florida, California, Louisiana, Texas.  When I saw a KDOT billboard, I realized why.  Eclipse Traffic!  Nebraska was in the totality zone for the solar eclipse, just two days away.  All these folks were motoring north to camp out for it.  Traffic was heavier than normal all the way to Salina, where I exited.  Good luck to them!  I’d hate to travel that far to be thwarted by overcast skies.

Salina KS

Salina KS is home to the Cozy Inn, which has been serving hamburgers for nearly a century.  The owner was inspired by the brand-new White Castle and started serving his own slider-style burgers in 1922.  They still have a walk-up window and lots of outdoor seating, but I went inside and sat at the end of the counter. I took the last of six stools.  The owner greeted me warmly and asked, “First time?”  I said yes, which promted him to give me the run down:

Burgers are slider-style and served with onions cooked-in; no exceptions.  No cheese, so don’t ask.  They come with pickle, which can be left off.  Ketchup and Mustard on the counter.  People normally eat four to six.  You can order a batch to go or just order them a few at a time until you cry uncle and we’ll settle up.  Chips are over there, soda is also available.  Now, how many do ya want?

Salina KS-2

I ordered a Pepsi & pair of burgers, which were served to me within a minute.  They were, indeed, small but super tasty; I can see why they’ve been rated as one of the best burgers in Kansas.  I ended up eating four total, though I could’ve eaten more.  While I sat and enjoyed my lunch, folks came up to the walk-up window and they also took a few phone-in orders.  Most of the call-ins were for huge numbers, I’m talking 36 burgers in a single order.  When you factor in the small size, though, that makes sense for a family.  Heck, my brother would probably eat a dozen all on his own.  I thanked them for an excellent meal and set out to explore a bit more of the town.

The temperature had settled somewhere in the mid-nineties; the sunshine beat down on me as I walked, but I could see a few clouds forming on the horizon.  Those would come into play as I headed back south, which I’ll talk about in my next post…

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Coasting to a Close

After Lucy the Elephant last Wednesday, the family met up at the boardwalk in Ocean City.  I figured it would be more of the same since I’d seen the boardwalk in Wildwood…and it was, really, but the shops and attractions in Ocean City gave off a different vibe.

Sea Isle 17-116

Ocean City was better designed for children, that’s for sure.  There were more candy/ice cream shops, miniature golf courses, and a couple of clearly kid-friendly ride areas.  They had a ton of t-shirt vendors, just like Wildwood, but they were scattered between a greater variety of other shops.  After a dinner of great local pizza, we spent most of our time in Wonderland, the biggest concentration of kiddie rides on the boardwalk.  It dates back to 1929 and boasts one of the largest Ferris wheels on the east coast!

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The last time I rode any kind of fair rides, I got super dizzy and sick.  (I blame the blood pressure meds I take for my migraines.)  I was happy to buzz around and take photos as everyone else split their time riding with the kids.  The girls loved every minute, dragging the nearest adult onto the kiddie coaster, the carousel, and the Dumbo knock-off ride.  The adults laughed and screamed aboard the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Himalaya.  Tyler and Mom even braved the Drop Ride on their own.  Everyone had a spectacular time; we didn’t make it back to the house until after dark.

Sea Isle 17-150

Our last two days at the Shore were filled with time at the beach and in Sea Isle City.  Samantha made apple pie, we got ice cream at the family’s traditional place in town, played dominoes, went to the Arcade, and went for walks along the water’s edge.  When Friday evening descended, it was hard to believe that a whole week had gone by.  Saying goodbye to family when you know it’ll be a while before you see each other again is always tough.  We took solace in the many new memories we’d made together.

Sea Isle 17-171

Saturday morning, everyone parted ways.  Our group (me, Sam, Mom, and Tyler) drove to Philadelphia and returned the rental car, leaving us more-or-less stranded at an airport hotel all day.  It did allow us to make it to the airport early on Sunday, though, as our flight left at 7:00 AM.  After another mad dash through DFW, we were once again home.  I was able to see some of the tornado damage for myself and was shocked that our home escaped the storm.

My next big trip is only a few weeks ago, when I return to DragonCon for my eighth year!  I’m excited to see my friends again and take photos of all the awesome cosplayers.  Though I don’t have any local trips planned between now and then, you never know where weekend restlessness will lead me…

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Lucy the Elephant

Wednesday was another beautiful day at the Jersey Shore.  After breakfast, our group went back to the beach.  We spent all morning enjoying the sun & sand.  Samantha and the kids made a ‘drip castle’ while others took long strolls along the water’s edge.

Sam pointed something out to me I found fascinating.  I noticed that the water brought a lot of tiny shells in with it, but I hadn’t realized that these were actual living creatures.  She showed me that they were burrowing back down under the sand as soon as the water receded.  Check it out!

Shortly after lunch, a few of us separated and left Sea Isle City.  The whole group planned to meet in Ocean City later in the evening, but not everyone was interested in going to Margate, a town situated on the southern edge of Atlantic City.  I had the opposite reaction:  I was more excited to visit Margate than just about anywhere else on the entire trip! This was due to its most famous resident, Lucy the Elephant.


Lucy is America’s oldest roadside attraction, having been constructed in 1881.  It’s a 65-foot-tall wooden pachyderm covered in tin sheeting.  She was originally built to bring in visitors and property buyers to the growing beach community.  The belly of the beast is a series of rooms, accessible via staircase in the back legs.  In addition to being a tourist attraction, it served for a time as a real estate office and a speakeasy.  In the summer of 1902, a family even rented Lucy as living quarters; an antique miniature bathtub still sits in a side room over the front-right leg.


The original owner sold her after only six years, but the Gertzen family bought her and owned her until 1970.  At that time, it was transferred to a ‘Save Lucy’ Committee due to threat of demolition.  It had severely deteriorated and the land it sat on was sold to a condominium developer.  The city donated a nearby parcel of land (about 100 yards away) and the committee was tasked with moving the 90 ton structure with only a 30 day window.  It must’ve been quite a sight to see the mammoth beast being towed down the street; to everyone’s delight, it made the journey in one piece.  After an extensive renovation, it re-opened to the public and was designated a National Historic Landmark during the nation’s bi-centennial celebrations.


Lucy before relocation and renovation

When we arrived at Lucy, I immediately started buzzing around her with my camera.  The rest of the crew (Mom, Samantha, her mom, & niece) sat in front of the gift shop and waited for the next tour.  Lucy’s toenails were painted beautiful pastel colors; I later learned that she gets a ‘manicure’ every summer for her birthday.


When the tour started, we ascended a narrow spiral staircase in the back-left leg.  The main room in her belly was beautifully restored, with wood paneling and ornate banisters.  A television played a short documentary on Lucy’s history and I peeked into a few of the side rooms.  I could even see the shoreline through her right eye.  It was easy to see how she survived multiple hurricanes and her relocation; her wooden husk was built like the hull of a great ship.


There was another staircase that led to the howdah, or the riding canopy on Lucy’s back.  The view was amazing.  I could see how valuable this perch was to the original builder, who used it to showcase his properties along the shore to potential buyers.  I am so thankful for the tireless efforts by so many to restore this wondrous attraction.  If you’re ever near Atlantic City, take the short drive down to Margate to see her!


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Rainy Days and Wild Nights

The weekend weather was as beautiful as a picture postcard.  High near 80, low in the upper sixties…puffy white clouds, if any at all.  A light breeze came from the ocean and gave everything a slightly salty tang.  Monday morning, though, a storm system came to the coast & lasted all day.

The top floor of the beach house is where everyone congregates.  The large common room serves as living room, dining room, and kitchen with two balconies outside.  It has a beautiful view:  marshland and an inlet to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  One of the four bedrooms is upstairs, too; that’s where Samantha and I slept.  Sleep itself, though, is a valuable commodity in a house with two small children that like to get up before 7:00.  I’m not used to that…but at least there’s coffee.

Since it rained all day, everyone stayed in for the most part.  I took a drive by myself in the morning to see a bridge (as I am wont to do).  It rained off-and-on as I weaved down the tree-lined two-way roads of southern Jersey.  Signs told me I was passing in and out of townships, but I didn’t see any evidence of centralized local government…just tall trees, lone houses, and an occasional Wawa.  After about half an hour, I arrived at my destination in Mauricetown.  The village is little more than a collection of historic homes dating back to the late 1700s; even the bridge I’d driven out to see barely existed anymore.


The span was built in 1888 and crossed the Maurice River.  For its entire life, the old steel truss bridge was a hand-cranked swing bridge!  It opened in the middle to allow boat traffic through.  Although it was demolished around 1971 when the new taller bridge was built, the town kept part of a single span on the west bank of the river.  I was able to take a few photos before the real downpour started. A man in a slicker, who was tending a pair of fishing rods, waved as I left the riverbank.


The rest of the day was family time.  Eight of us sat around the table and played dominoes.  My brother, in particular, enjoyed the vibrant give-and-take antagonism that comes with the game.  The rest of the family watched movies or took a walk during the brief periods when the rain reduced to drizzle.  At dinner time, a vibrant rainbow appeared over the Atlantic.  The girls squealed with delight as a second rainbow appeared.  A few of us walked over to the beach to see the tumultuous waves crash against the shore as the sun broke free from the clouds.


Tuesday was much more active.  Most of the family took a drive down to Cape May at the southern tip of the state.  The Cape May County Zoo is another place that holds a wealth of Crawford/Extance memories.  The habitats are much better designed than the ones in Tulsa; it really felt like I was out in the wilderness.  My favorite exhibit was the red panda; they were sleeping, but still adorable.  After the zoo, we walked around the shops in downtown Cape May.  They have a great outdoor mall right next to the ocean with a host of various shops to see.  Samantha’s favorite is called Whale’s Tale, which is themed as you’d expect.  I wonder if they’d be interested in anything about Route 66’s Blue Whale?

Everyone was exhausted by the time we made it back to Sea Isle City, but the day wasn’t over yet.  Five of us (my brother and me, Sam, her brother, and their cousin) all piled in a car and drove down to Wildwood, where we walked the boardwalk.  It was very touristy with thrill rides and more t-shirts than you can imagine, but I enjoyed it as a first-time visitor.  The boardwalk is known for their battery-powered tram car system, which dates back to the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  In 1971, they recorded a simple vocal warning for pedestrians: “Watch the tram car, please.”  It is engaged on a loop by the driver any time pedestrians cross into the tram lane, which is often.  Thus, the entire boardwalk is strongly associated with that decades-old voice looping into infinity.

I’d actually heard about Wildwood for years thanks to their strong concentration of 50s and 60s motels, complete with a high number of vintage neon signs.  There was no way for me to see them all in one go, but we saw quite a few as night descended.  Our gang rode the streets, giving each other a hard time while I snapped photos (some from the car, others from the sidewalk).  It felt a bit like I was back in high school (in a good way!)  It was the best way to cap off a day of sightseeing and togetherness.


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Shore Bound

I don’t really like to fly.  I’d much rather travel by car, but, that’s not always practical.  For example, the drive from Oklahoma to New Jersey takes 21 hours straight through.  Flying gets you across the country in half-a-day.  Since we were heading to the east coast to spend time with family, it was only logical to wake up at 4:00 AM to get to the Tulsa International Airport last Saturday for an early flight.

The traveling party consisted of me, Samantha, my Mom, and my brother.  Our flight from Tulsa to Dallas was a quick hop; we only spent 45 minutes in the air.  At DFW, though, we had to rush to our connecting terminal.  We hopped on the airport tram with confidence that we’d make it in time, but to our surprise it completely bypassed our terminal.  By the time we were able to get off the train, our flight had started boarding in a completely different part of the airport.  After some explanation, an airport worker flagged down a cart and we were ushered through the concourse at great speed.  Our names were called over the airport loudspeaker as we scrambled up an escalator to our gate.  We made it just as they were closing the jet bridge.

The flight itself was thankfully uneventful.  Getting our luggage and rental car in Philadelphia couldn’t have been easier; soon, we were continuing east.  Tyler snapped photos of Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Eagles, a nemesis of his beloved Dallas Cowboys) as we left the city.  There were no signs to welcome us to New Jersey, but the information boards for the Shore were enough.  Samantha excitedly pointed out childhood landmarks as we got closer to the beach:  the grocer they always use to stock up for the week, the campground they frequented, the pizzeria with the best slices.  It was energizing to see her so happy.

We crossed the bridge that leads from the mainland to the small island that held our home for the next week:  Sea Isle City.  The beach community is home to around 2,000 citizens, though the summer season brings the town population up to 40,000.  It’s clear that most of the housing is designed for rental accommodation:  the quaint Victorian homes we’d noticed in other towns were mostly replaced with three-story modern monstrosities designed to house as many tourists as possible.  I pulled into the driveway of one of those houses and immediately heard enthusiastic shouting from the top balcony.  We had arrived!


The hugs were quick and fierce.  I hadn’t seen most of Sam’s family since the wedding nearly two years ago.  Samantha made a bee-line for her niece and I knew that pair would be together for most of the week.  Our group was 13 strong in total, comprised of four generations of Sam’s family.  Saturday afternoon and evening was spent at the house, catching up and making plans together.  Tyler had never seen the ocean up close so we walked over to see it together; it was only a block from the house.  He was awestruck.  The two of us, along with Mom, held one another as we watched the waves crash against the beach.  We hadn’t been on a family vacation together since 1997.  We were due for some relaxation.


Sunday was a beach day.  Sam’s family had been coming to the same section of Jersey Shore for generations…seeing it change from sleepy community to bustling tourist town.  Samantha hadn’t been in a decade and she pointed out the things that had changed.  Some things never change, thankfully.  She was as excited to play Skee Ball as anything else, at the little arcade a short distance down the boardwalk.


Among the excitement, I was nervously checking the news back home for most of the day.  I had awoken at 5:30 Sunday morning to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and learned an EF-2 tornado descended on our neighborhood back home just three hours prior.  Businesses only a block away from our house had been leveled.  It took until the afternoon before I received confirmation that our house had survived the storm.  The only damage had been from falling limbs taking out a mirror on my brother’s car.  It could have been SO much worse.

By the time the weekend came to a close, I was happily exhausted.  Our hearts were full and things were only expected to improve.  We had plans to visit Cape May, Ocean City, and several other places through the week in addition to spending copious time on the beach itself.

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Around the World in 311 Days

I was talking to a friend the other day and realized a great many folks that I know today don’t know about the international trip that kick-started my love of writing and passion for photography.  After another friend shared a recent Tulsa World article about a couple that did something similar, I thought it might be a good idea to write a summary post (though it did end up rather long) about that experience.  It’s why the blog exists in the first place!


Mom, my brother, and me at our farewell party

On April 18th, 2009 I waved goodbye to my friends and family and hit the road, heading west.  On February 23rd, 2010 I returned to Tulsa and received the best hug of my life from my waiting mother.  The ten months between those two dates were filled with amazing sights, invaluable experiences, and new friendships.  For nearly a year, I lived out of a backpack and traveled around the world through a dozen countries.

In 2008, my first wife Indi and I reached a tipping point.  Neither of us were particularly happy with life as it was.   I was having what I now call a ‘quarter-life crisis’ and I needed perspective to understand what really made me happy.  She had always wanted to travel, so we decided to sell everything we owned and leave the country.  One estate sale and nearly a year later, we set out with a 55 liter backpack apiece and a plan to travel for two years.  We had a few changes of clothes, two Moleskine notebooks, a Netbook, an iPod, and a few other small items.  After a two week road trip through Texas and the American West, I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  Our new friend Doug took us to Baja Mexico and we had a few days of complete relaxation on the beach before boarding the Hansa Flensburg container ship; next stop, New Zealand.

Hansa 080

Two weeks later, we arrived in the port of Tauranga.  One notable event that happened during the voyage:  Here’s a snippet of the blog post from Saturday, May 9th 2009:

Oh, right, one other thing…I got a haircut yesterday. The 2nd mate (Alex) has some hair trimmers and I asked him to give me a trim. He did very well, cut my hair evenly at an 8 (longest trimmer setting) all the way ’round. His English is better than the Chief Officer. Turns out Alex was in the Navy in the USSR just before the fall and has been on cargo ships for thirteen years. Really nice guy. Anyway, he sees a final bit of hair at the front to trim and goes for it. BZZT. Everything stops. Indi, who is watching ahead of me, clasps her hand to her mouth and her eyes widen significantly. Alex, who has been talking joyfully, is silent except for a, “Hmm…” It seems he had somehow accidentally moved the clippers from an 8 to a 1. “We fix it, ya? No problem,” he says as I am further shaved.

Hansa 052

So, I arrived in the Land of Middle Earth with a totally shaved head.  Over the next few weeks I saw many points of interest across the north island of the country:  the geothermal sites of Rotorua, Lake Taupo and Mt Ngauruhoe (from a helicopter!), the capital city Wellington (where we had our first Couchsurfing experience & visited Weta Studios), the Art Deco of Napier, and an amazing closing few days at Piha Beach.  Winter was coming, and we didn’t want to buy a ton of cold weather gear right before flying to Southeast Asia, so the south island was saved for another trip.

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Lion Rock at Piha Beach

Onward to Indonesia, where the culture shock of Bali knocked me for a loop.  I wrote more about that here, but suffice to say I had a bit of an adjustment period.  Had we not Couchsurfed with someone right out of the gate (allowing me to learn customs and the pace of life from an understanding local) I would’ve had an even tougher time adjusting.  The dirt roads and rice paddies were stunning; I took a day trip with a few other travelers into the Indonesian countryside and experienced the first non-Christian religious sites I’d ever seen with my own eyes.

Bali Road Trip 192

Floating Temple in Bali

After eleven days in the towns of Kuta and Ubud, Indi and I separated.  Not permanently (that would happen in late 2010) but so we could experience the country as solo travelers and better find ourselves.  It was an idea that Indi had brought up even before we had our estate sale.  I agreed and spent time on the beaches of Lovina while she traveled on to the next island, Java.  Though we planned our solo journeys to take more than a month, the split only lasted about two weeks due to harassment Indi received in Cirebon as a solo female traveler.  By the time we both reached Jakarta in mid-July, we were happy to leave Indonesia in our rear-view mirror.  We didn’t travel separately again for the entire trip.

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Chinese Tea Ceremony in Melaka

Malaysia remains at the top of my list when it comes to favorite travel experiences.  Over the month-and-a-half I traveled through the country, I was able to:

  • Experience a Chinese tea ceremony from a tea master in Melaka
  • Sleep in a chalet on the white-sand beaches of Tioman Island
  • Hike through Taman Negara, one of the oldest rainforests in the world
  • Celebrate the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival in Georgetown
  • See a Rafflesia flower and tea planations in the Cameron Highlands
  • Enjoy Indian, Chinese, and native Malay culture in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia just had a lot to offer.  That’s also where I upgraded my camera to a Canon G10.  The next destination was Thailand, which was the only country where our travels were largely dictated by a tourism company we booked travel through.  Though I often recount my time in the country as my least favorite, I have a wealth of memories.  I spent a great week with a group of Irish travelers on the island of Ko Samui while Indi went to a detox retreat in an attempt to quit smoking.  I toured Phang Nga Bay, which included the island where parts of the James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed.  I broke several toes in a slip-and-fall while trying to kill a millipede the size of a garden hose in our chalet on Ko Phi Phi Island.  The sound of the ocean was never far away in the places we stayed.

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Phang Nga Bay in Thailand

Cambodia was full of the friendliest people.  Most of the folks I met were very poor, but they were rich in spirit.  We spent days touring the Angkor Wat temple complex in the north part of the country and then a week volunteering at an orphanage in the Takeo district, where we met many other backpackers from all over the world doing the same.  We toured the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng high-school-turned-prison used by the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh.

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Angkor Wat

After Cambodia, we flew to Japan. It was around this time that we made the decision to sacrifice the quantity of days traveling with the quality of the time we were spending abroad.  This decision is what lead to the trip ending at the ten month mark rather than our original two year estimate.  It was the right decision.  The six weeks spent in Japan was a real highlight of the trip for me.  We stayed at a dorm-like building in Osaka and took the trains to Obama, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Tokyo.  I very much want to re-visit the Land of the Rising Sun to see more of their beautiful landscape and experience more of their culture.

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Kyoto, Japan

After celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving in Japan, we flew to Italy.  Our time there lasted little more than a week and we rushed through Rome, Florence, and Venice before heading to Paris.  We met up with Indi’s uncles and spent a few days touring the city (and the nearby palace at Versailles) before a long stay in Prague, Czech Republic.  Christmas was spent in a flat with another ex-pat couple, just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square.  I celebrated New Year’s by standing near the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River, marveling at the fireworks I could see in all directions.

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Doolin, Ireland

It was about time to start planning for home.  The last month of the trip took us to Ireland, England, and Wales.  I can still feel the air on my skin as I walked the country lane from the Irish town of Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher.  I can taste the steak-and-ale pie in Camden and hear the laughter of Roo, the nice man that we couch surfed with in Cardiff.  I could write so much more, but, this post is already quite long!  Maybe I’ll feature specific throwback posts on here from time to time.

Another look at Chicago

Chicago, IL

I arrived back in the US in Chicago, where the same friends that had accompanied us to California met us and ferried us home.  I’d lost 60 lbs and gained so much.  As I mentioned earlier, that hug Mom gave me when I walked in the door is like none I’ve ever received.  Although my first wife and I split some months after, I’ll always be thankful for her urging to leave; it made a huge difference in my life, as you can imagine.

Thanks for taking this look back with me!  I hope even those that have followed me ever since the day I left the States enjoyed this retrospective.  This travel blog was originally created to catalog that international trip; if you’re interested in more details, all of the blog posts that were written during those travels are archived on this site.  Simply use the date selector on the side of the page to go back into 2009-2010 and read more about my journey.

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Three Sisters

As I’ve traveled around the country (and the world) I’ve noticed a few recurring themes.  Some of them are easy to spot, such as cafe wall decor with the same “down home” phrases or t-shirts with the same broken English phrase throughout Southeast Asia.  Others take some time to recognize and appreciate, like The Three Sisters.

The Three Gossips and Co

The first time I heard that name I was in Arches National Park (four years ago, almost to the day.)  The sandstone tower rises about 350 ft into the sky, topped by three summits which are weathered in such a way that they look like heads.  Because of that, they’re also known as the Three Gossips.  I wonder what they’ve been conspiring about for all these years?  Arches as a whole is a really stunning display of natural wonder; if you’re ever in southeast Utah, make time for it.  You won’t be sorry!

Three stacks, Three Sisters

On that same road trip, I experienced Monument Valley for the first time.  I was so excited, as I’d grown up watching classic John Wayne films with my father.  The landscape was even more impressive in person.  As I toured the valley, I learned that they, too, had Three Sisters.  Someone that had been there before me stacked a trio of stone pillars in tribute.  The valley is my favorite place on Earth and I want to go back.  Even though I’m not big on camping, I’d spend the night outdoors in this magnificent place.

There are many more landmarks I haven’t seen.  The most famous is in the Blue Mountains of Australia, but there are other identically named formations in the Bahamas, New Zealand, California, Colorado, and Arizona. ‘Three Brothers’ are around, too, such as in Yosemite or Bulgaria, but that name isn’t nearly as popular.  Maybe someday I will be able to say I’ve seen ’em all!

A few weeks ago, someone asked me if I had a picture of the Three Sisters.  I went into my collection and produced several stunning Utah landscape photos, only to be told that they were looking for the Three Sisters in Tulsa.  I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know of any rock formations like that in Oklahoma at all.  It turns out that downtown T-Town has a set of buildings with the same nickname!


The tallest building, the Bank of America Center, was built in 1967 and tops out at 32 floors.  The Petroleum Club Building and the Holiday Inn aren’t quite as tall, but they have a similar design and, thus, are seen as architectural siblings.  I’m going to have to keep my eyes open in other cities and seek out similar groupings.

Are there any other instances of Three Siblings that you’ve seen or heard about?

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