Category Archives: Roadtrips

Chasing Zen in the Desert

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Sunday, 25-Sept-2022


As I finished my walk out from Elk Meadows, I pondered what to do next with my weekend. I could drive back, relax at my apartment, maybe play some video games… but I didn’t quite want to go home just yet.

“You don’t have to go home,
but you can’t
stay
here”

I tossed my pack into the trunk, put the top down, and drove South.

There aren’t braided backroads in Oregon like there are in New England. I can’t quite drive country roads to get back to the city… but I could drive slightly different highways through completely different biomes. Which is exactly what I did.

The alpine country gave way to temperate forests, which in turn gave way to scrubland, which finally ceded its place to the high desert.

I kept the top down as the day got colder, embracing the chill and appreciating the changing seasons. I felt the warm desert wind, then felt the cold desert air.

I stopped for dinner at a spot I’d been to a few times, while exploring around the Bend area, and gorged on some delicious enchiladas while rehydrating myself from the dry air.

I can’t say that I found zen, out in that slightly longer drive home through the desert… but I can absolutely say that I chased it for a ways. And sometimes the pursuit of a goal is the worthier part.



Ben’s Odyssey – the journey home

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Monday and Tuesday, 22-Aug-2022 & 23-Aug-2022

Getting home from Massachusetts was… challenging.

See, as I alluded to in the earlier posts, I was lucky enough to get some last minute plane tickets to Massachusetts for my friend’s wedding. The tickets weren’t direct, and weren’t with an airline I tend to trust, but… you know what, it was good enough and for the right price, so sure. I clicked buy and went with it.

Sitting in the hotel room, that I had to reserve and buy myself, after sitting in line for almost seven hours to be told that United wouldn’t reimburse me for a cancelled flight, I had to question whether the price was worth the hassle.

Let’s begin in the middle:

I’d gotten dropped off at Logan, checked into the flight, and winged my way safely to Houston International Airport. No issue, no hassle. Came in a little early, we’re good to go. The stewardess made an announcement as we landed that I couldn’t understand (why, exactly, are airline intercoms all still from the 60s?), but… whatever. I’ll be fine, right?

Not quite so right. I got off the plane, checked the board… and every departing flight was cancelled “due to weather”. Looking outside… not really so much weather, but sure. I’ll trust United that, if they say it’s going to rain, then it’s probably going to rain. I went looking for the line for customer service.

I found the customer service desk… a bit busy, at the moment. Looking for the back of the line, I walked through one terminal, into another, through a third, and finally found the end of the line in the middle of a fourth terminal. I stayed in that line for the next 7 hours. I called customer service, tried to log into their website, and… nothing. Customer service rebooked me to a two-stop flight leaving the following evening… but I wasn’t confident that’d hold true. And even then, I’d be missing a day of work… joyous.

I stood in line.

I made friends with the people around me, we traded stories, and we ate snacks. Took turns holding out spots in line so people could use the restroom, buy food, all that fun.

People behind me were escorted to newly opened customer service counters. Soon enough, I was the end of the line. They stopped opening new customer service counters.

I got to the original counter, one of the last 10 people remaining in line. I’d landed around 4pm, it was 11:45. They told me I had to book my own hotel, and that there wasn’t anything they could do to help me… but that I could show up at 6am the next day to get on standby for other flights.

I booked a hotel, hired a Lyft, and finally got to lay down.

It still hadn’t rained.


The next day, I groggily got out of bed and rushed to the airport… only to learn that standby tickets don’t need to arrive until after boarding has been completed, since all ticketed passengers get first dibs… and every flight for the day was booked. I’d arrived at 6:30, and learned this at 11:30.

I went back to the hotel… and the driver dropped me off at the front door… to a different hotel. I tried to get them to bring me to the other… but they’d already booked a new ride. As I started to call a new lyft, I got a call from United. They’d rebooked me on a new flight leaving at 12:45, so I needed to get back to the airport immediately. It was 12:00.

I got to the airport, got on the flight with 10min to spare, and left the cursed Houston airport. My connecting flight went smoothly… though the layover was, of course, over four hours long. Thankfully it was in SFO, so a bit more comfortable and less chaotic, which was a nice change of pace. I finally boarded a flight to Oregon, landing nearly 28 hours later than planned.

It hadn’t rained once throughout the whole odyssey. Two weeks later, after submitting all my receipts to the airline customer complaint line, totaling ~$750, I got a temporary credit for $200 off a plane ticket with the airline who left me stranded for the possibility of some drizzle.

Thanks, United.

A Washington Adventure – The drive home (and visiting Kurt Cobain’s memorial!)

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Tuesday, 21-June-2022

It’s been a while since I’ve had an adventure like this, hasn’t it? One big adventure with a few different blog posts dedicated to it? Well… Here we go! Adventure to Seattle, solo-style!

A while back, I was granted citizenship to Austria, through an update to the Austrian Constitution allowing repatriation for descendants of those displaced by war. I compiled paperwork over six months, sent it all in, and then waited almost nine months. Then, out of the blue, I get a package in the mail – a very official package with my “Bescheid” included – my new citizenship!

Now that I have it, though, I need a passport… and the closest consulate is in Seattle. I haven’t been for a few years, and I’ve never had an opportunity to either explore the city on my own or to go backpacking in the Olympic National Forest… which happens to be right across Puget Sound from Seattle…


After backpacking Flapjack Lakes, I was planning on hiking the Quinalt Trail as a short dayhike. Just a quick mile or two, getting to see a different side of the Olympics.

But… I never actually checked distances, or driving times.

When I tossed it into my GPS… Well, the drive was quite a bit long. And Tuesday morning had gone beautifully slowly… Not a bad thing, by any means, but also not great for 7 hours of driving.

Instead, I drove to Aberdeen.

Why Aberdeen, you may ask? Well… I don’t know. I’ve been to Aberdeen in Scotland, it showed up on a map, and… you know what? I didn’t have a reason. It felt right, okay? This trip was about being flexible and doing fun things! Aberdeen seemed fun at the time!

And you know what? It absolutely was!

When I arrived, I did a quick loop through the town looking for anything interesting. When nothing caught my eye, I pulled up a map and tried to find a place to step my toes into the Pacific. Why? More important to ask – why not?

Well, I couldn’t find anywhere to dip my well-walked toes. But I did find a small park, named “Kurt Cobain Memorial Park”. Interesting… after a quick google search, I realized that I was in the hometown of none other than the original grunge artist. The birthplace of Nirvana!

Now, I’m not a huge Nirvana fan… but I do love me some good music, and I adore me some good sculpture gardens! So off I went, and onward did I explore.

It was tiny, but interesting. A small memorial with a few sculptures of note, and a shrine-like-object under the bridge where Kurt camped out before he got his break.

It was… interesting. Poignant, in some ways, thinking that someone who would make such a massive impact on the music of the world had camped out under the bridge I stood under… Definitely made me think about the role of adversity in creation.

Anyways I also ate an amazing hotdog in Aberdeen!

Yeah… bad segue, I know, but I didn’t really know how to move on from there. The rest of the drive went as quickly and smoothly as I could have asked for. The miles ground away under my wheels, and the gasoline burnt (expensively) under the hood as the Mustang carried me back to my lovely little apartment in my lovely little town.

Links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Street_Bridge_(Aberdeen,_Washington)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Cobain_Memorial_Park