Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Our Nile Cruise

Starting in Cairo, we sailed to Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan.

Trouble at Sea: Our Red Sea Dive Trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is a very restrictive country to get into. That alone would have made the trip memorable...but then things went south and the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital got involved.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Discovering Turkey

We emersed ourselves in Istanbul, explored the white travertines of Pamukkale, and traced history through Laodikeia, Hierolopolis, and Cleopatra's Baths.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 8: New Orleans, LA (Day 3)

Date: 31 Jul 2002 Day #: 8 City: New Orleans, LA (Day 3)
Points of Interest:


Watching the morning news, Louisiana has 32 West Nile cases. A co-worker picked Sarah up, so I used her car to find a UPS shipping location and picked up some boxes for her, all while doing my laundry. I called the VW dealer, and they’re working on the car right now. It should be ready by 1 pm or so. I watched “Texas Justice” and “Blind Date” while packing up my gear. I filled up Sarah’s car with gas on my way to lunch, then found a great metered spot. Karma! I “Boston bumped” one of the cars while I was parallel parking (sorry Sarah!). There were some good ole’ boys (more like old guys) hanging out of the van I bumped who were quite good humored about it.

I got lunch at Popeye’s, because it's hard to pass up spicy chicken and their mashed potatoes. The cashier had a thick Cajun accent, with all the flourishes, “Cajun man” style. After lunch, I drove up to the dealer at 1 pm. They told me that it would be another 5 hours. So, the earliest I can get my car is late today, but more likely tomorrow. Which is okay, just another night in the Crescent City.

I drove back to the apt and watched TV. It's more accurate to describe the streets as a big pothole with bits of asphalt sprinkled around for good measure. The stop signs are intermittent. For dinner, an excursion into the edge of the French quarter for a burger at Port of Call. As I was reviewing my schedule, I couldn’t remember how many days I’ve been in NOLA, which is kind of scary. After Port of Call, I hopped back into the car, drove home, watched TV until Sarah stopped by with a co-worker, then they both went back out to work some more. I went to sleep.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 7: New Orleans, LA (Day 2)

Date: 30 Jul 2002 Day #: 7 City: New Orleans, LA (Day 2)
Points of Interest: D-Day Museum
Statue's shadow in New Orleans


Woke at 6:40 am and got ready to drive Sarah to work so that I can use her car. We left around 8 and I was soon back at the apartment planning my day. Breakfast first.
The "loaner" car while my car is in the shop.
So I drove down to Tulane and back on St. Charles, where I found a McDonald’s to fulfill my order of three hashbrowns, a sausage biscuit, and OJ.
Street Car on St. Charles

With a full belly, it was on to the D-Day museum. Pretty nicely done, though I did have to run out to car to put more change in the meter.
I like the graphic on the ticket.

What D-Day looked like.
Old School Propaganda
Nice use of angles to break up the roofline
Now I’m trying to decide on where to park near the internet café in the French quarter, since it’s the only one listed. Logged on for 45 minutes to check email and tell people that  I won’t be where I planned to be and then went out looking for a shrimp po boy just as the rain really began to pour down. I panicked for a second when I thought I’d lost my sunglasses, but then remembered that I’d left them in the car because it was rainy. Drove back to the apartment to wait for Sarah’s call to pick her up and take her to dinner with her law firm.

Sarah called around 6 and said she didn’t need a driver, so I went to Sharon’s where we met up with Sharon's friend Brett and the three of us went to Frankie & Johnny’s for dinner. I followed that up with pecan pie at Camellia Grill, then hanging out at Sharon’s apartment until Sarah called asking me to return to her place in order to let her in (she gave me her only set of keys).

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Monday, July 29, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 6: New Orleans, LA

Date: 29 Jul 2002 Day #: 6 City: New Orleans, LA
Points of Interest:

Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA


On way to VW dealer for a clutch repair (I learned to drive stick in this car, and had a bad hill experience in New Hampshire), I took picture of the Real World New Orleans house. I dropped my car off at 10am, they’ll call later today.

The Real World New Orleans House:
Honestly, I'm surprised that I even cared enough to take a picture.
At 11:00am, I got Cemetery tour tickets for the 12:20 tour. I called Victoria’s friend Sharon, for lunch at 11:30 only to realize that I'm in the central time zone.  So, it's around 11 am CST (my watch still said noon) and I've just wasted 30 minutes waiting to be early. There's a calliope playing on the riverboat as thunder rolls in. Big, Fat raindrops pull the humidity from the air. I hope it makes the place a little less sticky. While I was waiting for Sharon, a drunk guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to hear a joke. ‘Sure’. Thru stuttering and slurred speech, he got out “What do you call an abortion in Czechoslovakia?” “A cancelled Czech!” So, I was hiding under a tree and then I saw Sharon, so I bid adieu to the drunkard.

Sharon and I got Muffalettas at the Central Market deli and then walked around the French Quarter until I stopped in for the cemetery tours. Sharon told me I have to get a Hurricane (at Pat O’Brien’s) and a ‘sno-ball’, dessert.
Muffalettas at New Orleans' Central Market

Over in the Vieux Carre for the cemetery history tour, Tom Duran was a British guy who did Jack the Ripper tours in London and is now doing cemetery tours in NOLA. The Morgue (our starting point) was in Paul Newman’s ‘Blaze’, we saw the auction house from Double Jeopardy (Ashley Judd) and Lenny Kravitz’s house. Marie Laveau’s tomb (voodoo priestess) who was 1) all knowing/seeing, 2) in multiple places at once and 3) eternally young and beautiful. She was all this because she had many (15+) kids, about 5 of whom were named Marie and looked just like her. Easy Rider got movies kicked out of Catholic Cemeteries. McG called while I was in the tour, by the Protestant (unadorned) area. I just wanted to see how my car was.
Above ground cemetery
Gotta be crowded in there
When the tour ended, I walked back to river and got a frozen margarita along the way. It cuts the heat, ya know. Tried to call VW dealer, but I had a bad connection. So I walked over to the garage, stopping to get a Blue Hawaiian ‘Sno-ball’, like a sno-cone but finer ice shavings.
Sno-ball on a summer day.
You can spend eternity waiting for the bus to the place where the blessed spend eternity.
Turns out my clutch is shot. The mechanic was surprised that I made it here. Much as I’d like, they don’t think I can make it to Houston to get it fixed there. The estimate is around $1,200 including overnight shipping. If I’m lucky, they’ll get it Wednesday and I’ll be on my way then. I pulled some clothes out of my trunk and walked back to Sarah’s office, arriving around 5:30pm. We went for drinks around the French market, then some trinket shopping followed by appetizers on Bourbon St (kitty corner to where saw the grenade guy yesterday on Orleans).
We got on the Ghost Tour, which involved a fair amount of walking around. We saw the saw house where Dr. LaLaurie did vivisection on slaves and inspired Josef Mengele. At one point during the excruciatingly graphic description, I felt like throwing up. When I closed my eyes, I could feel something weird happen to my hearing, like listening thru a tunnel. I was having trouble standing and crouched until my dizziness stopped. I tuned back in later in the story where the LaLaurie got away squeaky clean. Rather intense.

After the tour, we went to Sarah’s office so I could take pictures of her for her folks. Didn't get into bed until midnight.

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Sunday, July 28, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 5: Knoxville,TN to New Orleans, LA

Date: 28 Jul 2002 Day #: 5 Miles Today: 642
Start: Knoxville, TN End: New Orleans, LA
States Today: Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
Total Mileage: 1,682 Total # States Visited: 13
Points of Interest:
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Saturday, July 27, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 4: Knoxville, TN

Date: 27 Jul 2002 Day #: 4 City: Knoxville, TN
Points of Interest: Knoxville Sunsphere? Not really a point of interest.

The Sunsphere of Knoxville, TN


I slept in until 9 am or so. Mom made pancakes. Last night, I connected her computer to my old monitor so now she has more than an 800 x 600 desktop. Today, I helped--or rather I did the work, she watched--to install an 8-foot fluorescent lamp unit in her garage.
Official Sponsor: Mom
There were planes flying past and when I looked out the window, I saw a P-51 Mustang skimming over the tress. There’s a warbirds museum down the road that they fly out of.  I stopped at Walmart to pick up a thermometer for my car interior: I can’t wait to see how hot it gets later in this trip. Bonus: it also has humidity. Kinda cool. At home, I had pork chops for dinner after going over my trip route. Again. I watched “Blackhawk Down” and went to sleep around 11:30.

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Friday, July 26, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 3: Washington, D.C. to Knoxville, TN

Date: 26 Jul 2002 Day #: 3 Miles Today: 598
Start: Washington, DC End: Knoxville, TN
States Today: Virginia, Tennessee
Total Mileage: 1,044 Total # States Visited: 9
Points of Interest:
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Thursday, July 25, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 2: Washington, D.C.

Date: 25 Jul 2002 Day #: 2 City: Washington, DC
Points of Interest: White House, US Capitol, US Supreme Court, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial 

The US Capitol Building


Today's all about exploring the District of Columbia. I woke around 7:30, got on the Metro at Dunn Loring-Merrifield station around 8am, and off again at Smithsonian/National Mall stop at 8:50.
I walked down to the Lincoln Memorial via the White House, which had a huge yellow crane in front of it.
The National Crane rests on the White House lawn. 
Lincoln Memorial

Saw the Vietnam and Korean memorials, then walked along the Potomac to the Jefferson monument.
Statue beside the Vietnam Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Jefferson Memorial viewed from across the Tidal Basin
Washington Monument viewed from the Jefferson Memorial
Walked up the mall to Capitol Hill, then over to the Supreme Court.
US Capitol Building
US Supreme Court
Started looking for a metro, ultimately found the one at Union Station. Got lunch at Uno’s. From Union Station, I walked down Massachusetts Avenue until I saw Chinatown, where I diverted to see the “town”: It seemed oddly real, like an EPCOT version of a Chinatown. I carried on until I hit George Washington University. Crossfire on CNN has free tickets, but I’m told they’re ‘sold out’ until august 2. Doors open at 6 for standby, and it’s like 3:30 now.
Ribbon Donkey
Grecian Elephant
Elephant Presley
So I trotted down to Georgetown University, where I started to feel a swelling in my ankle. It got so bad that I had to stop walking and let the pain subside. Chuck Taylor All-stars aren’t known for their support. I made it to the Crossfire studio around 5pm, where I could sit for a while in A/C and not seem out of place. #2 in standby line. In my seat at 6:35. I had to pass through a metal detector, so I left my camera and bag in coat check.
Paul Begala from Crossfire
Crossfire Topics:
1) Political fallout from corporate scandal, w/ John Conyers (D Mich) vs Davis (R VA),
2) Bush and vacation plans,
3) Best of Senate bloopers (Jim Traficant R OH), which were clips from old shows.
Hosts: Paul Begala and Bob Novak. Also, Connie Chung said “it’s the best” about junk food.

Overall, kind of fun, but the majority of the audience was a group of interns who knew much more about political people than I did. I called Justin around 8:05pm, when the live show ended and he’ll pick me up at the metro by him. Hopped on the “Orange line to Vienna” and I was on my way. I get a kick out of that because there is no way this is going to Austria. The metro is much, much darker than I think it should be. Almost cave-like. The DC Metro stations look like someone folded concrete waffles around the rails. Got Panda Express for dinner, fortune said “Be prepared for a sudden, needed, and happy change in plans”

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Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Road Trip USA - Day 1: Boston, MA to Washington, D.C.

Date: 24 Jul 2002 Day #: 1 Miles Today: 446
Start: Boston, MA End: Washington, DC
States Today: MA, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, DC
Total Mileage: 446 Total # States Visited: 8
Points of Interest: Wall Street & Statue of Liberty (NYC)
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The Great American Road Trip: 7,700 Miles, 26 States, and 24 Days


The Summer of 2002 was a pretty big transition year for me. I quit my job in Boston (on the 4th of July) and will join the U.S. Air Force in August. Given that I might never get this much time off every again (not to mention that gas is about $1.40 per gallon and is only predicted to go up), I decided that it was now or never to take my All-American Road Trip.
This was the original plan
This is where I actually went. The phallic shape was not intentional, honest.
The grand plan is to depart on 24 July in my VW Jetta from Boston to New Orleans to San Francisco to Chicago and down to Alabama to start military training in late August. To keep costs low, I planed to crash at friends' places as much as possible or camp when I needed to. I even printed off some commemorative T-shirts with the above logo for the "official sponsors" who provided me lodging. Maybe I should have made custom license plates?



All-American Roadtrip 2002 Itinerary
Day
Start & Stop
Daily Mileage
1
Boston, MA to Washington, D.C.
446
2
Washington, D.C.
-
3
Washington, D.C. to Knoxville, TN
598
4
Knoxville, TN
-
5
Knoxville, TN to New Orleans, LA
642
6
New Orleans, LA
-
7
New Orleans, LA
-
8
New Orleans, LA
-
9
New Orleans, LA to Houston, TX
349
10
Houston, TX to Copper Breaks, TX
487
11
Copper Breaks, TX to Albuquerque, NM
439
12
Albuquerque, NM
-
13
Albuquerque, NM to Grand Canyon
459
14
Grand Canyon to Death Valley, CA
436
15
Death Valley, CA to San Francisco, CA
572
16
San Francisco, CA
-
17
Napa Valley, CA
101
18
San Francisco, CA to Salt Lake City, UT
810
19
Salt Lake City, UT to Denver, CO
621
20
Denver, CO
-
21
Denver, CO to Topeka, KS
568
22
Topeka, KS to Chicago, IL
613
23
Chicago, IL
-
24
Chicago, IL to Knoxville, TN
577

So that's the plan. 24+ days and 7,700+ miles. I hope you enjoy the trip as much as I did. Here are just a few of the pictures from the trip:
Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana
Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, Texas
Grand Canyon (South Rim), Arizona 
Death Valley in California
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
Arches National Park in Utah
Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois

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Saudi Arabia: So Far, So Good?

We're over two years in to our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's hard...

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