Playing in the Sand

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Sand Dunes National Park is a surprising place. First of all, many people don’t even know it exists. It’s a very small park and was given national park status in the early 2000s. Most people don’t think of Colorado when they think of sand dunes, but tucked just south of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are towering waves of sand that shift with the wind and left me in awe. I had been to the park once before several years ago, so I had an idea what to expect. Even so, this park deserves more than one visit. You get a great view of the dunes on the drive in, but to truly experience them you have to get out there and feel the sand.

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Just beyond the visitor center is the turnoff to a parking lot that leads directly to the dunes. As you pass Medano Creek the great expanse of sand lies before you. It is flat for some time as you approach the imposing formations ahead, and the wind has probably already shown you it means business. If I can offer one piece of advice before you visit this park: be prepared for the wind. Wear long sleeves and pants, bring a hat, sunglasses or safety glasses, and a buff or bandana to put over your face. You will thank me. I learned the hard way with a grain of sand in my eye for several days worrying it would never come out. Plus you’ll look cool like I did.

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You will soon realize that there are no proper trails here as the shifting sands cover up footprints almost as quickly as they are made. It is tempting to follow the herd to the closer dune peak, but I say it’s better to wander off on your own. Follow the lines in the sand that call to you. There is so much to explore. Just take a look behind you at the hills to find a nice landmark to follow back. I found the highest point I could and set my sights on that. Consequently I was led away from any other people which was just fine with me!

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Climbing sand is exactly what it sounds like. It’s not easy, but you will figure out the best methods quickly. First, you should follow the crests of the dunes as these areas are somewhat flatter and hold your weight better. Look for the flatter areas in general to keep from sinking in too much. Place your feet flat on the ground as your walk instead of digging your heels or toes in. More surface area means less sinking. When you have to climb steeper sections, don’t be afraid to use your hands and walk like an animal! It helps! Sometimes stepping quickly really makes a difference too. As you step on steep areas you sink in and start to slide back. Moving quickly can slightly mitigate that issue. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take a break! Don’t wear yourself out too quickly. Stop and enjoy the incredible scenery!

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Once cresting one of the bigger hills the wind was whipping like nothing I’d ever experienced. It felt like I could lean in and not fall down. Here I was happy I brought a windbreaker because it got chilly fast. The views from the top of the ridge were unbelievable. The sunlight danced on the blowing sand as it blew forcefully off the tip of the ridge, floating over the shadow on the opposite side. I followed the crest of this massive dune to the highest point and let the wind hold me while I marveled at the Sangre de Cristo mountains rising out of the rolling landscape. I watched another man taking in the majesty as well as he lay and rolled shirtless in the sand, enjoying every moment to the fullest.

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Coming down the dunes is much easier as you can let gravity do the work for you. If you fall down it will be soft! Just follow that landmark back to the parking lot and dump the sand out of your shoes! There are other trails to explore leading into the mountains where you can get totally different views of the dunes. I’m already excited about visiting again to experience sunrise and sunset as well as seeing how the landscape has changed. National parks always preserve unique places, but I think this one will surprise you more than most!

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dm.rt

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Carsick – A Book Review/Love Note to the Library

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I don’t typically do book reviews, but the book I just read is relevant to travel, so why not? My reading habits ebb and flow, but when I get excited about a book it makes me want to read all the time. I just tend to have trouble finding my next book after reading something I love. It seems like something there should be an untranslatable Japanese word for. When I travel I really enjoy taking time off by stringing up the hammock and relaxing to read in a beautiful place.
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Before I get into my book review I want to talk about where I got the book itself. The Salt Lake City Library has become one of my favorite places in the city. It’s a beautiful 4-story glass-facade building with with curving walls, a large fountain in the courtyard, and a spiraling stairway jutting out from the main stacks over the atrium. Every detail seems to be well-considered. From the arching benches whose shadows looks like open books in the morning sunlight to the clever bike racks that spell out READ and BIKE. Each visit makes me smile just looking around.
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Aside from the architecture the library is fully stocked with tons of great book and resources to boot. The Creative Lab has a 3D Printer, sewing machines, and a soundproof recording booth! I actually recorded my first podcast there (stay tuned for more details on that.) They provide classes and access to all of these wonderful amenities for anyone with or without a library card. They even have an art gallery downstairs featuring local artists, a movie theater with free educational and topical films, and when it’s warm they host sunrise yoga on the roof!
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The list certainly goes on, but I will end my gushing there except to comment on the wonderful and helpful staff. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them, and that leads me to this book. When asking for suggestions on “dark humor” books I picked the right person to ask. While I was directed to several books I had read or at least knew about, the one I knew nothing of was Carsick by John Waters. My bibliophile guide was so excited about her recommendation I felt like I had to give it a shot.
Like many of the fictional and non-fictional characters in his book, I am unfamiliar with the work of John Waters. I have heard of several of the movies he’s made, but otherwise I come in with no prior knowledge of his style. The basis of the book is John Waters, film director and writer, will hitchhike across the US from Baltimore to San Francisco, but first he will write two short stories imagining the best- and worst-case scenarios for this trip.
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It took me some time to get into this book, starting with the “Good Ride” novella. I enjoyed his storytelling and sense of humor immediately. His idea of an ideal trip was catching the first car that passed him each time he stuck his thumb out, meeting fans of his work that promise to finance future films for him, and at least a few sexual encounters with men he meets along the way. His bad version of the trip is quite the opposite, finding no help from his fan base but instead finding people who think he is making fun of them with his films. There are terrible drivers, serial killers, and yet he rarely waits for a ride.
Once getting through the fictional rides we finally arrive at the real thing. Much as you’d expect, reality is rarely as good or as bad as the things one might conjure in their mind. To quote the book, “Reality is never as exciting as fiction.” Waters’ real ride is slightly less entertaining than meeting movie stars or killers on the interstate, but it’s not without its surprises. He deals with good and bad fortune along the way, but overall his real trip trends to the very good side. His worst complaints are long waits in the rain or sun (long being several hours) and bad motel breakfasts. This section is where he lost me.
While he never stated explicitly that he wouldn’t exploit his fame for help on this trip I felt it was somewhat implied that to write a book about hitchhiking he might at least try not to flaunt it. What I found in the “Real Ride” section was that he was often pulling out his “fame kit,” which includes his photo and film credits to prove he’s not a vagrant all the time. He used this at least twice to get out of trouble with the police, and more than a few of his rides pass him before turning around because “Is that John Waters?!” This whole thing feels a bit false to me. I guess it’s really my fault for having this expectation going in. It wasn’t billed as a portrait of true hitchhiking but an experiment for John Waters to try hitchhiking across the country. His fictional sections relied heavily on his celebrity for one reason or another so no reason to expect this section not to, I suppose. Even his assistant, Susan, mused in the last lines of the book, “If it was my unknown ass I’d still be hitching in West Virginia.”
My critiques aside, I did really enjoy the book. It was a fun and interesting read from beginning to end. It made me think back to my few experiences with hitchhiking. I’ve been on both sides of it. While section hiking the Appalachian Trail I had to catch a few rides to trailheads and into towns. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and helpful to stinky hikers getting in their car. The area in Virginia around the AT is famous with hikers for trail towns and locals picking them up. The mutual benefits are without question. On the other side of the coin I have picked up several hitchhikers while traveling, mostly in the northwest around the Pacific Crest Trail. Again, I only had good experiences and met some great people.
This has been my overall finding with so many things people consider potentially dangerous or sketchy; couch surfing, traveling alone, talking with strangers. This book made me long for the road and the excitement of not knowing where the next day might take you or who you might meet. I’m not so sure I want to hitchhike across the country, but I do want to pick some people up again. I especially enjoy talking to hikers in the middle of long treks. I’ll be taking several trips over the next few months, and I plan to pick up some hitchers if I see them! I’ll choose wisely, of course.
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So go find some adventure, or at least go to the library!
dm.rt

Empty Chains – Winter Weekend in Zion

Utah’s National Parks were the first thing I experienced in this state, and they remain one of my favorite things about living here. Last weekend we made the short drive from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park to take advantage of the unusually warm winter we are having. It was so warm that we camped on our first night there. In February. It was chilly but nothing we couldn’t handle.

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The next morning I was up for sunrise in shorts next to the Virgin River along the Pa’Rus trail shooting reflections and waiting for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds. The clouds weren’t cooperating so I got what I could before heading out. Driving up the park road was a new experience for me since I’ve only been in this park during the warmer months when the road is only open for shuttle traffic. We got to the Weeping Rock trailhead for Observation Point early enough to snag one of the dozen parking spots.

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The trail was quiet and empty as we quickly ascended the switchbacks out of the valley. The four-mile hike is challenging but offers amazing vistas as you walk along the exposed edges dropping off sharply into the canyon. Just when you think you’ve made progress you pass a sign saying there’s two miles to go. There is some reprieve after hiking another mile of steep trail when you reach a plateau with gently rolling, rocky sections until you arrive at the official overlook.

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Observation Point offers a view that rivals that of Angels Landing. You are looking straight down on that more famous overlook and on through the canyon. There are almost always people up here as well, but it never gets as crowded or as congested as the single-file climb that dominates the last half-mile of Angels Landing. There are plenty of places to sit and rest and even get some shade if you desire. We met some great people from Zion Resort on their daily exercise hike. After their workout one of the instructors, Eddie, played soothing music on glass bowls he carried to the top. They were all very friendly, excited, and open to letting us join in.

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Before descending all the way there is another trail that takes you over a small ridge and through some narrow rock walls to Hidden Canyon. Yes, there’s a sign for it, so it’s hidden only to those who choose to ignore it. This short hike is well worth it as you climb up rock steps and along a steep edge with chains to help calm your nerves and steady your footfalls. After you get into the canyon proper the trail is what you make it. There are several sections where you need to scramble over rockfalls and large boulders to continue on. The light reflects beautifully off the walls and enhances the rich colors of the rock. There is even an exposed arch formation shortly before the end of the “official” trail. The hike ends unceremoniously with a sign next to a boulder. You can continue on, but there really isn’t much more to see from what I could tell.

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After the 10+ miles of hiking on those trails it’s hard to muster up much energy for more hiking. We also found that we were no longer alone in the parking lot as we saw cars lining the main road. The parking situation at The Grotto was even worse, so we decided to see ourselves out of the park for the day. We drove through Springdale and stopped at the Grafton Ghost Town just for something to do. It was an interesting little piece of history with some well-preserved building, a schoolhouse, and a cemetery. There isn’t much to do aside from walk around and look in some windows, but it was fun. The wind was picking up considerably and getting cold so we decided to call it an early day and got a hotel in Hurricane just down the road for the night.

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After a great night of rest with the wind whipping outside all night we made our way back to Zion and set up my tripod along the river just in time to catch the morning sun hitting the tops of the rocks. It helped that I scouted it out yesterday and knew exactly how I wanted to frame my shot. I’m pretty happy with what I got. Sunrise can be tricky, but you have to keep coming back until you get what you want. As I learn repeatedly, you also need to work with what you get. It’s so much more rewarding to get something you didn’t expect than to go in with specific expectations and leave disappointed.

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Once I got my shots we headed right for The Grotto and hit the trail for Angels Landing. By the time we had ascended just a bit above the river we could see groups of people lining the trail below. Getting an early start here is a must, especially on a weekend. This trail is much shorter than Observation Point, but the views along the way are equally captivating. Along with canyon overlooks it offers views of winding slots filled with water, huge overhanging red rock, and a wonderfully winding section of 21 switchbacks called Walters Wiggles. Once you get past that you get a little break at Scout Lookout before starting the best section.

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The last half-mile of this trail is what everyone comes for. Climbing up the “hog’s back” and over the saddle is either exhilarating or terrifying depending on your desire for sheer drop-offs and small footholds. There are chains guiding you for most of the more dangerous places, and I highly recommend using them. Less than a week earlier a teenage girl fell to her death from this section. Always be aware of your skill level, and never take unnecessary risks in places like this. The chains were uncharacteristically empty for almost our whole hike up–rewards of starting early. The hike is tough and rewarding as you crest the last section and emerge atop the formation named by some of the first to see it because “only an angel could land there.” Looking up the canyon is breathtaking to say the least, watching the Virgin river continue to carve into the landscape and looking down on tiny cars coming up the road you started at. You can carefully explore the top before descending, but be prepared to wait and move aside for people making their way up those chains.

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Before leaving, we did the short hike to the mouth of the famous Narrows, watching more people than we expected step into the water with waterproof waders and big sticks they rented from an outfitter. We also checked out the Canyon Overlook trail outside the west tunnel entrance since I had never done it before. It was a nice little hike, but after seeing some of the crown jewels up close it was hard to enjoy it quite as much. There’s no shortage of things to do in this area, and as soon as it gets a little warmer we have plans to come back and keep exploring.

dm.rt

A Winter Day in Arches

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Looking towards Double Arch

In November of 2008 my friend Nathan and I drove across the country from New Jersey to Los Angeles. We made very few stops along the way, but one of those stops was at Arches National Park. Arches was my first introduction to what I think of as National Parks in the U.S. Sure, I had been to a few places on the east coast like Shenandoah and Valley Forge, but they didn’t resonate with me the same way. At that point my travel plans were usually focused on cities and historical sites–being from Philly will do that to you. But once I saw Arches my mind was blown wide open to the natural wonders that existed in my proverbial back yard.

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Navajo Arch

Since that fateful trip I have been back to Arches at least a dozen times. While I’ve explored the rest of the country and discovered so many amazing National Parks, mountains, and natural areas this one will always hold a special place for me. It’s a relatively small park (120 square miles compared to nearby Canyonlands’ 849 square miles,) but it packs a lot into that space. Most of the trails can be hiked in a day or at least in  a weekend. There’s no need to rush, and the best part about some of the trails is the solitude you get on even a busy weekend. Now that I’m spending my first full year in Utah I’ve found that the best time to go is winter.

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Sunrise from The Windows

This past weekend Becca and I decided we wanted to go to Moab to get away from the city and enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s late January and the temperatures were forecasted to be in the 50s. We drove down Friday and got a motel so we could be up bright and early for the sunrise Saturday–dark and early actually. We drove into the park and quickly “hiked” the short trail to the Windows, two large arches carved in the same sandstone fin. We climbed out through the north Window to a perch where we could see the formation just beyond that holds Turret Arch.

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Turret Arch through North Window Arch

As we stood in the chillier-than-expected morning hue, the sun began to rise beautifully behind the distant La Sal Mountains and over towering, snow-covered hoodoos. The first sunlight on red rock is an amazing thing to witness. The dull sandstone explodes with deep red and orange color as the light slowly washes over it. Turret Arch and its surrounding spires are perfectly framed through North Window Arch as the sun rises and begins painting the Windows with morning light as well. We were joined by another photographer here, but other than a handful of people we were remarkably alone on a Saturday at one of the most popular sections of the park for sunrise. It was incredible. And we only had to ask nicely one time for those people to step out of our frame.

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Double Arch

After warming up a bit we walked across the parking area to Double Arch, a magnificent formation of intertwining arches which captures the imagination. Standing beneath the overhanging rock is humbling and awe-inspiring. The landscape in this small area is enough to satisfy anyone’s desire for natural wonder, but it is merely a taste of what this park has to offer.

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Landscape Arch

Devil’s Garden marks the end of the 18-mile park road and one of the busiest sections of the park. While there is ample parking, this area often fills up completely in warmer months. When we arrived there were 5 other cars there. I could hardly believe it. The trail through Devil’s Garden is about 7 miles if you go take all of the side trails and the primitive loop. This area has the highest concentration of arches, and if you only have time for one trail this is the one.

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Hiking rock fins

After just a short walk you can take a side trail to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, which both give you a little taste of what’s to come. Less than a mile in you arrive at the appropriately-named Landscape Arch, stretching precariously across the sky. After climbing over tall rock fins that drop off steeply on either side you can take a side trail to Partition Arch, a smaller arch with a great view of the desert behind it, and Navajo Arch, a ground arch with deep reds and blacks saturating its underside. Continuing on you climb over a tall fin that allows you a sweeping view of the park below. Red rock fins rise out of the desert like battle submarines in a crimson sea. This is my favorite view on the trail.

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Double O Arch approach

After climbing down off this fin you will arrive at Double O Arch. I have been enamored with this arch since this first time I saw it. The trick is to walk right up to the lower portion and climb through to view it from the back side. I am never happier than when sitting here looking through this massive monument to the cascading rock formations behind it. Not only is this a great view, but it seems like few people find their way back there so it is often serene. It’s a great midpoint for a snack and a little rest. You can carry on from here to Dark Angel, a dramatic sandstone monolith rising out of the desert, on an out-and-back trail before continuing the loop.

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Double O Arch from behind

The primitive trail begins beyond Double O Arch. This sandy wash will take you beneath, over, and beyond the fins you saw from the trail high above. There is only one side trail to Private Arch, and we were truly the only ones there for the hour we spent in that area. It’s not a standout arch like some of the others, but the solitude makes up for the lack of spectacle. You can also climb out to gorgeous views of the landscape and watch hikers high above on the fin approaching Double O. The rest of the primitive trail will take you over some of the most challenging hiking in the park, but it’s nothing most people can’t handle–a few steep drops and skirting the edge of pooled water. After some exposed desert walking with views of the La Sals you will return to the main trail back to the parking area.

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Overlooking rock fins

There are multiple viewpoints and short walking trails to other arches along the park road to explore along the way, but everyone is turning down the road to Delicate Arch. It’s probably the most famous arch in the world but definitely in the state of Utah. It’s on our license plates. It is well known that sunset is the best time to see Delicate Arch in all its glory. The late-day light brings out the rich red-orange in an amazing way. The 1.5 mile hike allows most people to access it easily, though beyond the steep climb there were a few sections of precarious snow and ice this time.

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Delicate Arch at sunset

The typically crowded viewing area was quite bare even for a winter day. We arrived early and expected to see the usual line of people queuing for photos underneath the famous arch, but we found none of that. Several people took their photos and then moved along. It was the calmest I have ever seen it, to the joy of all of the photographers present. As the sun dropped I found a different vantage point than I usually get and shot the arch from the side with the sun behind it, creating a lovely beam of light. The clouds lit up at sunset for a gorgeous backdrop to the scene and our hike back down.

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Park Avenue stars

On the way out of the park you will pass the Park Avenue overlook. Even if you’ve seen it in the day, the night sky through this section is especially magical. It’s easy to spend a full day in this park, and it’s hard to leave. I think what stands out about this park over others for me is the ability to interact with the rocks. You can stand beneath them, on top of them, and touch them. It feels like they are communicating with you in a manner that I haven’t experienced any other place. Whether you spend an hour, a day, or a week here you will leave feeling different every time. And you will be planning your next visit as soon as you can.

dm.rt

Exploring Home

After traveling and being away from Utah for some time it has been very nice to be back home. The idea of home for me has always been transient and hard to define, but for right now Salt Lake City is it. I have gotten to really appreciate the view of the Capitol Building and the mountains from our living room window, and being able to walk or bike most anywhere I want to go is something that will be hard to move away from. So, for now I’m trying to take it all in and enjoy it while I’m here, which is really what this whole project was about from the start.

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When I got back to SLC last week it was in the 50s in January, so I took that opportunity to run and feel the altitude burn my lungs. I went out and made some friends on the disc golf course and took my time walking around the city from place to place. I did all of that specifically because I knew a snow storm was coming, and I wanted just a little more fall weather before it hit. And when it started snowing, it didn’t stop for 2 days.

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I was lucky enough to get a job working at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City as the snow began to fall. While the drive was slow, it was beautiful and different than I had seen it before. I walked with crowds of people going to see independent films through giant snowflakes, and everyone was smiling, enjoying the ephemeral beauty of it all. When I got back into Salt Lake thin tree branches supported more snow than I thought possible, and the streetlights held flakes in their triangular yellow beams as they fell softly to the ground. I couldn’t wait to see the city the next day.

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The snowfall continued, but there was no way I was staying in. Becca and I headed out early, walking up along City Creek to incredible white scenes. We had been up these paths dozens of times before, but it all felt new! Snow has the ability to completely reinvent a scene and highlight the beauty you may have missed or forgotten. The winding creek cut through the starkness of the landscape and tiny bridges reached across as we made our way up the mouth of the canyon. The falling snow limited distant visibility, but that only forced us to focus on the wonderful sights in front of us.

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After some time we wrapped around to the Capitol area. It’s one of my favorite places in the city to just sit and admire the scene. The large domed building dominates the hilltop and the white lawn falls off to either side with mountains and the city skyline just below. There is no bad vantage point, which is precisely why this location was chosen for the State Capitol. Under snow, it just seems fantastical. Each of the days after the storm began I found it slightly different, yet always holding my attention. Whether it was grey skies or bright blue I can’t seem to get enough of it.

 

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I feel genuinely privileged to be living here so close to something I can stand in awe of every day. I look forward very much to watching the seasons change around here and experiencing it first-hand in all the ways I can. There’s always something new to uncover wherever you may be, so don’t wait to go find it; explore!

dm.rt

9 Podcasts to Drive Your Road Trip

When I go on road trips I start off beaming with excitement for all the things I’ve planned to do. All those big plans will come, but there’s a lot of open road between here and there. The excitement can quickly fade if you’re not keeping your mind occupied while you’re on a long stretch of highway with nothing to look at.

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I listen to podcasts in the car more often than I listen to music these days. Traffic jams are my least favorite thing on the road, but even heavy traffic doesn’t annoy me when I’m listening to something that engages me. There’s just so much content out there and even if you have a 20-minute drive you can learn something. Long drives are the perfect opportunity to put on some long-form interviews or listen to a series of one-hour shows. From fictional content to video game reviews to political discourse, there’s honestly something for everyone. I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

This American Life

This might be one of the most well-known and popular podcasts and for good reason. Ira Glass has been doing this show for over 20 years for radio and the content has been quality the whole time. The themes can range from a very personal story of one person’s life to an embedded reporter talking to a career senator about why she is leaving government work. Even the most unlikely topic is made relatable and crafted beautifully by skilled reporters. The most recent 4 episodes are always available to download for free, but the full 600+ episode archive is available on the This American Life app for only $2.99. It’s definitely worth it for all the great content, and it supports the show continuing on. I’d suggest a favorite episode, but honestly just pick one that sounds interesting. I promise you it will be.

www.thisamericanlife.org

Radiolab

Another NPR podcast, this one often investigates scientific ideas and makes them easy to understand. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich talk to experts on myriad topics to dissect grand ideas like the structure of language or how the Supreme Court was formed. If you’re interested in things like this I would suggest starting with the episodes “Time” and “Numbers.” Two things that seem so simple will blow your mind.

www.radiolab.org

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The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is known for his book, The 4-Hour Workweek as well as other books, and his podcast is just as inspiring. He talks to people in business, tech, entertainment, and really any other area who are at the top of their game, and he dissects their methods to find out how they became successful and how they stay that way. As a big fan of stand-up comedy I really enjoyed the Mike Birbiglia episode. The techniques he discussed really have changed the way I work on writing. There’s something for everyone on this podcast, and I can assure you you’ll learn from it.

www.fourhourworkweek.com

Reply All

This show began as two guys talking about internet ephemera and has turned into one of my favorite shows with deep stories. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman joke around a lot. They have a segment where their boss brings them a tweet he doesn’t understand, and they proceed to explain it to him while laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. On the flip side they recently did a story where Alex travels to India to track down a call center who contacted him in an attempt to scam him for money. It’s a great balance of good reporting and fun antics.

gimletmedia.com/show/reply-all/all/

Up First

Staying informed about world events isn’t always easy on the road, so I like listening to this NPR podcast that is released every weekday. It gives a succinct report of the most important news stories you should be aware of without going too in-depth.

www.npr.org/podcasts/510318/up-first

Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage has his Savage Love advice column in newspapers around the country, and this podcast is an extension of that. People call in, ask questions about love, sex, and relationships, and Dan answers them in his singular decisive voice. It’s more fun than anything else. Maybe you can learn something or you can take solace in knowing other people have worse relationship issues than you.

www.savagelovecast.com

Women of the Hour

Lena Dunham talks with women who have inspired her as well as some of her friends and co-workers who also fit that description. The topics range from abuse to creative techniques for writing. It’s very much just a chat show most of the time, but the topics are engaging and keep you interested.

art19.com/shows/women-of-the-hour

Invisibilia

This show makes you think. Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller, and Hanna Rosin explore invisible forces that shape our lives; emotions, beliefs, assumptions, and a slew of brain science that they cut through to make everyone understand. It’s a light show for such heavy topics, and I always finish an episode wanting to sit with the information and think about it a while longer. Check out the episode “Emotions” for a very… emotional story of a court case that takes a turn you won’t expect.

www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

Stuff You Should Know

This is the podcast that got me into listening to podcasts. Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant tackle anything and everything that they find interesting. That’s anything from LSD to impeachment to Jim Henson. They talk about everything, and they make it fun. The best part of the show is the relationship between Josh and Chuck. It feels like you’re hanging out with your friends who just happen to know everything about bat feces and want to tell you about it. They digress often, but it’s endearing, and that has become my favorite part of the show. I would pick one episode to suggest, but they’re almost all fantastic. Check it out!

www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts

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Honorable Mentions:

WTF with Marc Maron – Comedian Marc Maron chats with other comedians, actors, and even President Obama.
The Nerdist – Long form interviews with people all over the entertainment industry.
TED Radio Hour – Expanded TED talks and interviews.
Blabbermouth – Dan Savage and friends discuss/yell about politics.
Under the Skin w/ Russell Brand – Brand discusses deep topics like slavery and identity with experts in those fields.
More Perfect – Jad Abumrad of Radiolab examines Supreme Court cases in depth.

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I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Besides helping to pass the time on the road and feeling like I learn things from podcasts they also often recommend documentaries, books, or other podcasts that further delve into topics I want to continue learning about. It sometimes turns into an endless list of things I’ll never get to, but it’s a great resource to start on a topic. These are just my favorites, but if you search I guarantee you can find a podcast suited to whatever niche topic you might want to hear about!

dm.rt

 

Success is Not Final; Failure is Not Fatal

While watching a movie tonight I heard a quote that caught my attention. That led me to another quote. Both are attributed to, but most certainly not actually said by, Winston Churchill. Regardless of who said them, the words hold meaning:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

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Philadelphia Water Works 1.7.18

Welcome to 2018. People make resolutions and break resolutions because they are, in my opinion, fleeting optimistic traditions, fundamental miscalculations of time, and overestimations of willpower. That might be a bit reductionist, but that’s how I see it. I could say “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year!” but this can of root beer and half a vegan reuben sandwich next to my laptop would beg to differ. I think there is something to be said for optimism, but I also believe in a heavy dose of self-awareness.

I’m not anti-resolution. In fact, I really enjoy making lofty goals for myself that I almost always fall short of. Falling short isn’t the part I enjoy; I believe that making plans alone is enough motivation to actually follow through on a lot of things. In my experience the key to staying motivated and excited about something is to always have something to be working towards. Something to look forward to. Having something on the horizon towards which you can steer your ship is crucial to making even a little headway. Otherwise you’re just drifting out to sea, and that makes it very easy to lose interest and forget your initial goals.

I do prefer to use the word goals instead of resolution, just to keep myself from feeling like I’m doing this for someone else. Thus, my GOALS for this year are:

  1. To be honest with myself. This is something of a general goal that bleeds into my other goals. It seems prudent to be genuine, but also to take stock about the real reasons for my motivations. Why do I choose to eat or drink the things I do? Why am I choosing a TV show over exercise or reading? What do I really want out of life? That got a bit existential at the end, but you see the point.
  2. To commit to making better art. At the end of the day, I really enjoy creating. Whether that means taking photos, making videos, writing poetry, or playing music, it all comes down to making something from nothing. I love the process as much as the finished product, but I find my enthusiasm waning at times. This goes back to taking stock and being honest, but I know that once I get started on something the desire is there, and I am committing to remember that and start things!
  3. To travel to a new country! This is cliché, but what would a New Years Resolution Goal be without one? Even though I find myself traveling often for one reason or another, I also make vague plans each year to finally get to Switzerland or Iceland or Thailand. All the while I take no steps toward actually doing it, thereby putting it off for another year. Not this time. I fully intend to step foot in (at least) one new country in 2018. I need some content for this blog after all..

I’m leaving it at 3 because anything further seems like asking to fail. I will, however, add a 3b: finally get to Alaska. I want to travel more of Canada this year and also cross the 50th state off my list once and for all. I’ve had conversations debating the legitimacy of crossing things off lists in this manner, but, as I argued, this is not at all arbitrary, and I have no intention of sitting in the Anchorage airport and glibly checking the last box off the list on some Facebook quiz. I want to experience Alaska just like I want to experience so many other places. I have lists of hikes and sights I’d like to see, and I also have a couple of friends there, so I have high hopes that it will be a memorable visit!

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Union Lake, Millville, NJ 1.6.18

So far this year I have been skiing in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, seen more snow in New Jersey than anytime I can remember even when I lived here, and had my camera out most days trying to capture a unique shot of the day. I hope to continue this trend of being present, while also continuing to travel to new places, meet new people, and learn new things on a regular basis. It sounds like I’m making a whole new list, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead! Happy New Year and may you achieve all of your Goals this year! Even if you don’t, just remember:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

dm.rt

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