Get Out More

Danny Macaskill : The Ridge

Sometimes, people amaze me.

Born December 23, 1985, Danny MacAskill is a Scottish trials cyclist, from Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. He works professionally as a street trials pro rider for Inspired Bicycles Ltd and is one helluva crazy dude. 

You can read more about Danny on his website and watch his new video, Wee Day Out where he explores the rural landscape around Edinburgh. The film "sets out to capture the simple fun of a ride in the country with moments of incredible riding and a touch of humor. Danny pulls off never-seen-before tricks, most of which would normally be assumed impossible on a mountain bike, like leaping onto a single train track, turning a hay bale into a giant unicycle, riding over a cottage, and disappearing into a 6ft puddle."


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :   Other Guys who will make your palms sweat  :  Great Wall Adventures



The Best Road Trip, according to Science

A while ago, Tracy Staedter from Discovery News proposed an interesting idea to Randy Olson, a Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Biomedical Informatics: use the same algorithm from his Where’s Waldo article to compute the optimal road trip across every state in the U.S.

 So he did.

"One of the hardest parts of planning a road trip," Olson writes, "is deciding where to stop along the way. Given how large and diverse the U.S. is, it’s especially difficult to make a road trip that will appeal to everyone. To stand a chance at making an interesting road trip, Tracy and I laid out a few rules from the beginning:

  1. The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.
  2. The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.
  3. The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.

With those objectives in mind, Tracy compiled a list of 50 major U.S. landmarks — one in each state excluding Alaska/Hawaii and including D.C., and two in California" (via)

The result is an epic itinerary "with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes."

"All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks."

Click  here  for the interactive version

Click here for the interactive version

Assuming no traffic, this road trip will take about 224 hours (9.33 days) of driving in total, so it’s truly an epic undertaking that will take at least 2-3 months to complete. The best part is that this road trip is designed so that you can start anywhere on the route as long as you follow it from then on. You’ll hit every major area in the U.S. on this trip, and as an added bonus, you won’t spend too long driving through the endless corn fields of Nebraska.

Here’s the Google Maps of the route: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

(Note that Google maps itself only allows 10 waypoints to be routed at a time, hence why there’s multiple Maps links.)

Here’s the full list of landmarks in order:

  1. Grand Canyon, AZ
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
  4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
  5. Pikes Peak, CO
  6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
  7. The Alamo, TX
  8. The Platt Historic District, OK
  9. Toltec Mounds, AR
  10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
  11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
  12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
  13. USS Alabama, AL
  14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
  15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
  16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
  17. Lost World Caverns, WV
  18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
  19. Mount Vernon, VA
  20. White House, Washington, DC
  21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
  22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
  23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
  24. Liberty Bell, PA
  25. Statue of Liberty, NY
  26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
  27. The Breakers, RI
  28. USS Constitution, MA
  29. Acadia National Park, ME
  30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
  31. Shelburne Farms, VT
  32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
  33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
  34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
  35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
  36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
  37. Gateway Arch, MO
  38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
  39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
  40. Taliesin, WI
  41. Fort Snelling, MN
  42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
  43. Mount Rushmore, SD
  44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
  45. Glacier National Park, MT
  46. Hanford Site, WA
  47. Columbia River Highway, OR
  48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
  49. San Andreas Fault, CA
  50. Hoover Dam, NV

(For some entertainment candy, read through the comments on his blog post . . . people are pretty opinionated on what was chosen and what was not. Especially people from WA. It's a waste of time, but fully worth it.)


Bonus: Road trip stopping at popular U.S. cities

"If you’re more of a city slicker, the road trip above may not look very appealing to you because it involves spending a lot of time outdoors. But worry not, for I created a second road trip just for you! The road trip below stops at the TripAdvisor-rated Best City to Visit in every contiguous U.S. state.

Note: Again, there’s an extra stop in Cleveland to force the route between New Hampshire and Michigan to stay in the U.S. rather than go through Canada. If you’re able to drive through Canada without issue, then take the direct route through Canada instead. But really, Cleveland is a nice city to stop in (ranked #53 on TripAdvisor)."

Click  here  for the interactive version

Click here for the interactive version

"This road trip will more-or-less follow the same path as the major U.S. landmarks trip, covering a slightly shorter 12,290 mile (19,780 km) route around the U.S. Some larger states — like California and Texas — may have multiple cities you’d like to visit, so it’s probably worthwhile to stop at other larger cities along the route.

You may note that cities from North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia are missing. Out of the top 400 recommended cities to visit on TripAdvisor, none were from North Dakota, Vermont, nor West Virginia. This is especially interesting because TripAdvisor reviewers recommend cities like Flint, MI — the 7th most crime-ridden city in the U.S. — over any city in North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. I’ll leave the interpretation of that fact to the reader."

Here’s the Google Maps of the route: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Here’s the full list of cities in order:

  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Wichita, Kansas
  3. Denver, Colorado
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  5. Phoenix, Arizona
  6. Las Vegas, Nevada
  7. San Francisco, California
  8. Portland, Oregon
  9. Seattle, Washington
  10. Boise, Idaho
  11. Park City, Utah
  12. Jackson, Wyoming
  13. Billings, Montana
  14. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  15. Omaha, Nebraska
  16. Des Moines, Iowa
  17. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  19. Chicago, Illinois
  20. Indianapolis, Indiana
  21. Louisville, Kentucky
  22. Columbus, Ohio
  23. Detroit, Michigan
  24. Cleveland, Ohio
  25. Manchester, New Hampshire
  26. Portland, Maine
  27. Boston, Massachusetts
  28. Providence, Rhode Island
  29. New Haven, Connecticut
  30. New York City, New York
  31. Ocean City, New Jersey
  32. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  33. Wilmington, Delaware
  34. Baltimore, Maryland
  35. Washington, D.C.
  36. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  37. Charlotte, North Carolina
  38. Charleston, South Carolina
  39. Orlando, Florida
  40. Atlanta, Georgia
  41. Nashville, Tennessee
  42. Birmingham, Alabama
  43. Jackson, Mississippi
  44. New Orleans, Louisiana
  45. Houston, Texas
  46. Little Rock, Arkansas
  47. Branson, Missouri


Happy Traveling!


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :   Getting Out More  :  Old Road Signs  :  Cycling to the tip of South America



The Mountains have a way

Get Out More

Four weeks today, Judah and I arrived in the states.

Four weeks today, we began our process of transition.

It hasn't been terrible, but it for sure has not been smooth. For any of us. Our kids want to know where they will be going to school and when they'll see their friends again. I want to know where I'll be working and if I will see China again. Josey wants to stop living out of suitcases and random boxes and wonders when life will ever have routine again.

We all want a little bit of clarity but seem to be getting none. Each answer only muddles the future; each day adds more questions, more doubts.

So, we went camping. And, as expected, the getting out helped.

One morning, while sipping coffee and listening to the kids play, I asked Josey what she was thinking. "About the mountains," she said.

"What about them?" I asked.

"I don't know exactly," she looked around, at the kids, the trees, and the snow-covered peaks, "They just have a way about them." She thought for a moment more, "A way of clarifying, ya know?" 

I did, and I didn't. So I grabbed my journal, because I didn't want to forget her words. "The mountains have a way," I wrote, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

The mountains have a way . . .


Of Simplifying:

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A simple fire, the smell of pine, and the birds' morning songs. The sky roles from black to deep blue, to sky, and the fire cracks and pops and spits. Coffee brews. 

Kids knuckle sleep from their eyes, the tent-flaps skip and dance to the morning breeze, and slowly, the day begins. More coffee is brewed.

There is little care for the rest of the day, just play, in the land where fallen trees become giant dragons. Where knotted sticks turn to swords or guns or simple things that only a wooded magical dragon could need. Because, in the maze of trees and grass and twigs and dirt, opportunity of imagination is endless.

So scrape your knees and get dirty and yes of course you can climb that tree or turn that patch of dirt into a Nature Town because that's why we're here, to simplify. To rid ourselves of the things that bind us, that hinder us, and that distract us from what matters. 

Because the mountains have a way. 


Of Stripping Away:

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For the past four weeks, we've been reuniting with family, applying for jobs, waiting to be called by hopeful employers, rearranging boxes and suitcases, and trying to move forward but unable to do so because we don't know where we're going to live, because I have not been able to land a job. 

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But in the mountains, with my family, these concerns slip away - if only for a short while - because instead of checking the inbox or checking missed calls, we're on a hike, sliding down glaciers and watching fish feed on the bugs of the mountain lakes. We read in hammocks and write in journals. I teach my son how to swing an ax and smile when he cuts his first log all the way through - something he never had the chance to do in urban China. The girls laugh and play and cry and talk because the land of dragons is big and dangerous but Mom and Dad are just there, sitting by the fire, so what is there to be afraid of?

We eat simple dinners and sit around the fire, talking, and watch for shooting stars. 

Josey and I, for the first time in months, talk about our move from China, because it's quiet, and there is little else that needs to happen. Because the mountains have a way of doing that.


Of Reminding:

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I wear a vest that is not my own. It's an old JC Penny vest that is too small, even though the tag says, "XL" - being washed and dried for almost twenty years will probably do that to any vest. I also have two massive green Coleman sleeping bags that have mallard duck print on the inside. They're 100% cotton and each weigh around fifteen pounds. They're terrible for hiking, but perfect for camping. Especially family camping, and they have been for as long as I can remember, because they were my dads.

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On one of our many fishing trips, I remember telling my dad that he was different there than at home because he was "more fun. More relaxed." And he was. Some of my favorite memories of my dad came with camping or fishing or splitting wood or racking leaves, and in most all of those memories, he's wearing this vest. 

This past weekend, it held my son's pocket knife and carried Zion' rocks. 

I haven't camped or fished with my dad in over twelve years, and I miss those times, almost daily. Sometimes, the memories attached to this vest are more than I can bear, because they're some of the best a boy could have. 

Which is why I wear the vest and carry the sleeping bags, because even though they are fully imperfect, they're perfect for camping and chopping wood, for cold nights and searching for constellations (which I can never find, minus the Big Dipper).

This vest and these sleeping bags are made for mountains, for camping and making memories, and for family.  Because that's what my Dad used them for, so it's what I'm going to use them for. Because the memories they carry are more than I can bear. And I hope, someday, my kids will struggle beneath its beautiful weight. 


Of Giving:

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Five weeks ago, Judah and I hiked and slept on the Great Wall of China, and the lessons we learned were foundational. This short trip reminded and encouraged us of a few of those lessons. Judah dealt once more with fear, this time of bears, and I wrestled again with feeling expendable. The bears never came, but I needed the voice of my wife and son to get over my pride. Both of them, on separate occasions, considered how we as a family might bless someone outside ourselves. Both of them mentioned our camping neighbors. The day before, they had wondered into our camp. He was from Colorado and she was from Montana and they, along with their little three year-old daughter, Ellie, were planning on staying for several more nights.

"Can we leave a pile of firewood for them?" Judah asked. I looked to Josey and smiled because she had mentioned the same thing a few minutes earlier. 

"Of course," I said, "that's a great idea!" So while Josey and I packed up the van, Judah and the girls piled a large stack of wood next to the neighbors fire pit - Eden making sure it was stacked with care and purpose.

Because after a few nights in the beauty of the mountains, the perfect "thank you" blesses others, not ourselves. A lesson I'd have forgotten, if not for the mountains.

My wife was right, the mountains do have a way about them . . . a way larger than any word I can write. Which is probably why we go back. Because, like Whitman wrote about the stars, " . . . When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them . . . How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and . . . Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars."

The mountains have a way. And all I can do is stand and look up at them, in perfect silence. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Simple Living