Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Hair

It's funny...when I started my transition I became pre-occupied with hair.  That involved killing it in most places (face), shaving it in others, and growing it (or at least stopping the loss of it) on the top of my head.

I remember those early days, as the smooth spot on my face that had been cleared got bigger and bigger.  The wonder of feeling that is still one of those simple things I'll never forger.  I suppose now I largely take it for granted but at the time it was a big big deal.

The one area that ended up being problematic was at the very top of my head.  It was thinning, and it stayed thin.  Most of the hairstyles I've worn over the years have been designed to hide that spot, and as recently as 18 months ago it was still very noticeable.

I've heard a variety of various methods to re-grow it over the years.  I have even tried some of them.  But over the course of time none has proven worth continuing for me.  Until recently.

I'm not trying to sell anything, or to claim that what has worked for me will work for everyone.  But last night I went to visit Dr. Meltzer who asked if I had had hair transplants - it was that noticeable.  No...no transplants.  Two ingredients:  (1) Avodart and (2) Prenatal Vitamins.

If you're going to use Avodart you'll need an Rx.  It's too expensive to buy in this country and most insurance plans don't cover it, so  my doctor recommended ordering thru a Canadian pharmacy.  They ship it to me from somewhere in Europe and it's a third of the price of buying here.

Anyway - it's not the secret of youth or of turning lead into gold.  But for me, the ability to grow hair on the top of my head and not anywhere else on my body is a small miracle.  So, that's that.

I spent yesterday at my storage unit.  Letting go of some things.  The top that I wore when I introduced Jessica Lang at the HRC National Dinner several years ago - I'll never fit into it again.  My Klipsch speakers - too big to move.  My grill - gone.  Half of my shoes - came to peace with the fact I'll never wear them.  I'm headed back over again in a few minutes as the process continues...

I can only stay until noon or so.  After 5 hrs it just gets too hot.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Letting Go

It's a little after 4:30am.  I should be sleeping, because it's still dark outside.  But I'm awake enough to have decided that I may not be able to get back to sleep.  So, here I am.

I do need to leave here by 7 or so to be at my storage unit by 8.  That's the real reason for the trip.  The message that the universe has been sending lately has been "Simplify" and I have been getting that loud and clear.  A second message is also equally as obvious to me -  "Let Go".  Obvious - yes.  Simple - no.

I am mentally girding myself to let go of a number of things.  I've done it before and find it's not one of those thing that you do, and over time it gets easier.  I can go through a list of crushing "Let Go" processes including my marriage, my early relationship with my son, my sense of self, friends....and I can say without hesitation that molting of things over a lifetime, even things we think we need or want, happens.  The only question is how long we try to hold on, and how we come to peace with letting go.

I've got people in my life - people I truly love - who will never be able to be there for me when I need them to.  I'm not saying I need to let go of the people necessarily.  But I do need to let go of some of my hopes when it comes to them.  This includes my mom.

I've got "stuff".  Things.  Tangible belongings that I've kept but haven't used in a long tine.  I have always expected to bring them all to wherever I move to as part of nesting to build a home.  I'm not so sure about that anymore, and I need to let go of much of it.

I've got a career.  Where I'm living now doesn't serve it well.  I've known that for a while, but for the past year I've been able to delay what I had hoped wasn't the inevitable.  So I strongly suspect I'll need to let go of something there - either where I'm happily living right now, or the main way I've learned to earn a living over the years.

And I've got baggage.  Things I've held on to over the years just because.  But the more we continue to hold onto old things the less our capacity to embrace new things.  So that difficult mental work of truly putting some things down and walking away is important.  Ironically, it seems that when all is going smoothly we rarely find the time to do all this stuff - it's when we're forced to consider life direction that the weight of it all becomes so apparent.  And, that's where we are.

I am enjoying my time here.  I went to church yesterday which was very pleasant.  My friend Laura had her boyfriend over and we had a nice dinner.  I went to the gym to work off some of my energy.  And my mind is working on overdrive while it chews on all of this stuff.  Thus - here I am writing instead of sleeping.

I suppose all of this falls under a larger heading of "change".  I have become relatively accustomed to change over the years.  But I wish it weren't so and I'm hoping to steady things out for a while.  The real questions is what I'm ready to let go of to do that.  Not things I think I can let got of, but things I'm truly ready to move on without.

The very first time I saw a therapist about my gender "stuff" in 1986 the outcome was validation of my situation, a well as a very important talk about what I need to be ready to risk to truly embrace it.  In a word, I needed to be ready to lose everything.  Over the next few weeks I realized that I wasn't at that point and, in fact, held on for another dozen years or so.  But I see a difference in making decisions that then cause other people to do things resembling "Letting Go", and making the decisions yourself to let go.

That's all probably way too deep for 5 something in the morning, but there you have it.  That's the reason for my week here.  Time and space to think and make some plans.  Space to begin letting go of "stuff".  And, in some ways, closure.

The trailer for the next movie from the siblings that brought us the Matrix was recently released.  The movie is titled Cloud Atlas, and from the looks of the clips and the discussions it's going to be quite the event.

As with the Matrix, I can already tell that some of the themes and the lines resonate fairly deeply with me.  One in particular from this trailer is relevant to the discussion on Letting Go:

"Our lives and our choices, each encounter, suggests a new potential direction."

With that - I'll turn the light off and try to get a little ore sleep.  I have a feeling I'm going to need it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I'm in Arizona. I flew here Friday, and expect to be here for a week. I've come for a few reasons - some of which are pretty significant.

My friend Rachel picked me up on Friday and we had a very pleasant evening. We spent a little time at the Hyatt near where I used to live where we listened to a very good band, caught up on things, and generally had a nice time. It still feels "good" here. It just does....although many of the things that were mainstays of my life here in the past have changed, or are gone.  Now it's different, but not in a necessarily "bad" kind of way.

I'm here to take care of some things, to do some thinking, and to get ready for "next".  Not sure what "next" is quite yet which is one of the things that makes life a little interesting right now.  Some of it is pretty deep, but I'm in a place where I can detach myself from some of it and see where it leads.

I've always believed that life is some combination of timing, luck, events outside your control (often controlled by others), and your own doing.  Depending on the circumstances people often want to diminish or emphasize one over the others, but the things that happen in our lives (especially the big things) is some combination of these forces.

I suppose if you really want you could add God, or Fate, or any number of other elements in it but I really don't think that making it complicated changes things significantly.  They key is to recognize that some of it is you and things you can change/decide, and some of it isn't.

I've put a number of things out into the universe lately and am curious to see which of them will land and take root.  Maybe none, which will send a message.  Or maybe several.  That will require that some significant decisions get made.  Either way, this week I'll be preparing for that.

I have no problems making decisions.  I've also learned that I'm as likely to make bad decisions as good ones, but you don't really know that until later.  I suppose any decision where nobody gets killed or seriously injured is a decision from which you can both recover and learn.  When things are going smoothly it seems like we take a break from making big decisions...it's only when things get choppy when we face them although I'm still not sure which one is cause and which is effect.

Part of the problem sometimes is waiting for others to make decisions.  If they're not making the decisions we think we want we often wait hoping that they'll eventually make the right one.  If we're afraid to make decisions it's easier to put the blame on someone else's delay than our own.  Regardless, sometimes it's just time to make them and the rest will all just fall into place.  That's where I am right now.  Those are the kinds of things I'm putting together this week.  Again...or still.  It's just one of those cyclical things that seems to happen in my world every 9 months or so.

I'm staying with my friend Laura.  She and I went out and played tennis yesterday.  I had a blast.  I haven't played tennis in several years but recently got my racket strung in hopes of finding someone to play with.  Yesterday also had the significance of being the first time I've ever worn a tennis dress.  It's shorter than most dresses I usually wear, but it was cool to recognize another "first" as it came and went.  Trivial?  Perhaps.  But still notable as far as I'm concerned.

We went to see the movie "People Like Us" yesterday.  I really liked it.  We tried to go and see it in Charleston ove the last couple of weeks but it left before we could get to it.  Still thinking about some of the themes...as I say I really liked it.  It came along at just the right time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Familiar and Comfortable

One thing I enjoy - burgers.  Good burgers.  By "good" I mean Five Guys kinda good.  It doesn't need to be fancy...it just needs to be good.

Another thing I enjoy - half-priced food.  And, cool people.

So, it's no surprise that most weeks when I'm in town I try to go to a place nearby that has half-priced burgers on Tuesdays.  It's one of those simple things that has become familiar and comfortable.  I've been closely watching my diet so tonight's splurge was especially pleasant.

On another topic - but related - I still get quite a bit of email from people dealing with gender "stuff".  Most are in the early stages and remind me of me.  Scared.  Confused.  Not wanting to accept, or believe.  Afraid of losing everything in their lives.  I've been there.

The fact that I've crossed that chasm continues to amaze me.  But I'll tell anyone who asks that being trans is inherently a tough life.  It just is.

I read the story today of a Toronto transman who recently took his own life (story here).  I can't tell you how sad I find those things, and how scary too.  One paragraph in this story hits particularly close to home:
...Depression, hopelessness and suicide are very real issues for trans people and Kyle’s death has and will continue to hit the community very hard; take care of yourself and each other at this time and if you are feeling distraught please call a friend, go to your emergency department, or call a distress line." Author S. Bear Bergman reminded the Torontoist that community leaders like Scanlan sometimes face special challenges in seeking help: “I worry that Kyle, a guy who was such a helper-of-all, may ultimately have found himself, in a brutal moment, feeling like there was no one he could turn to because in all his relationships, the current of help moved from him to others.
I never really thought of it like that.  But I can see how that can happen.

So, on evenings like tonight when I enjoy a burger because it's familiar and comfortable, I can't help but appreciate it.

I don't know if it's somehow related, but one friend who I typically only see at conferences wrote to me last week and we had a fairly deep "chat".

To me:  You are someone I respect a great deal and always have.  I don't have  many heroes but you are one of them.  Your toughness has always been, to  protect not only yourself, but those who cannot protect themselves.  I've  always thought this toughness is just a cover for the pain you feel and the tears you  hide.

My response:  I think you're probably correct with regards to "toughness".  It's a double edged sword.  I don't know that it's a cover so much as a defense mechanism.  Be that as it may, it also comes in handy when I deal with my own vulnerabilities and pains, and the pains of others.  The guard does come down from time to time, but that's something that thankfully usually only happens when I'm alone....

Fairly profound stuff, but all true.

Here's the trailer from a movie featuring a number of people I know and have worked with over the years (website here):

As a community we've come a long way.  But still a long way to go...

I've been reminiscing quite a bit lately.  I'm not sure if it has anything to do with my upcoming HS Reunion or not, but it's pretty intense.  A couple of days ago I passed the 13th anniversary of my FFS with Dr. O in San Francisco (my FFS page).  Crazy.  I found the girl I asked to my Sr. Prom on FB this morning and with a mild level of trepidation I wrote to her - wondering if she'll write back,

I'm not sure exactly what the threat through all of this means.  But it's evidence that my life sure isn't boring these days..


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Order out of Chaos

I did my usual Sunday bike route from downtown to Sullivan's Island and back this morning.  The thing I'll remember most about this particular trip isn't that I haven't done it in a while so it was especially rewarding (although that's true).  It's not how nice the weather was (it's usually like that).  The thing that will stand out is that I fell down - attached to my bike - not once but twice.

The first time was no big deal.  It was on sand.  The problem is that one of my bike shoes seems to be difficult to get out of the clip and I couldn't get it out in time.  It didn't hurt, and it wasn't a big deal.

The second one, though.  Ouch.  It was on my street.  Same problem...couldn't get my darn foot out of the clip so there was nothing to put down onto the ground.  This time I fell in the street, on the concrete.  It didn't hurt as much as it probably should have, but most of the impact came on my hand and wrist as I put it out to break the fall.  I put ice on it when I got into the house - think there will be a bruise there tomorrow.

It's actually kind of embarrassing to admit it here, since I doubt anyone actually saw either mishap.  Last week I was climbing to the top of the world in the Rockies....now I'm falling off bikes.  Technically, I didn't fall OFF it...it fell over with me attached to it which didn't make it any better.  Oy.  I suppose there's some kind of life story to make of this but all I can say is it's just one of those things.  I'm just glad I didn't break anything.

Sitting on Sentinel Pass

My life is about to change.  Again.  Or still...I can't tell which.  My lease here runs out soon so I'm in the process of packing.  Again.  Or still.....

As I've explained in the past I do IT contract work which is, by nature, time constrained.  My previous contract ended (providing me with the time to do the things I've done over the last few weeks).  But now it's time to buckle down to arrange what comes next.  I'm already deep into that, as well.  The hard part is the not knowing.

I'm feeling that there are more unknowns than knowns right now when it comes to the big things, which can be unnerving.  I'm generally ok with it, but I suppose there's a natural tendency to bring some sort of order out of chaos.  Whether the order is there or not is secondary - it's all in the head.  So, I'm wondering which of the things that are currently simmering will pop first and what changes that will bring.  

The thing I'm trying to find, or make, or envision, is settling down.  I want a home.  I don't want to move anymore.  More than anything....that's the thing that bothers me.  I suppose having the flexibility to go wherever the opportunities are is a good thing in my business but I'm just tired.  I've made some decisions, and I hope they stick.  It'd be nice if there was a special someone in that home, but the more important ingredient of the two is the home.  At least, right now it is.  But that's not to say I don't think about the latter as well, but that's a whole other topic.

Other news...

I got a large box in the mail yesterday.  It was the trophy for a beach wrestling tournament I won last year.  They made a mistake on the weight classes so they told us they'd fix them and mail them out.  Well here it is a year later, and the largest plaque I've ever won - is here.  That's pretty cool.

My 35 year high school reunion is coming up in 3 weeks.  I'll be there.  I expect that'll be pretty cool, too.

And, my oldest niece is getting married the next weekend.  It's the first family wedding since my brother got married 20 something years ago.  Yeesh.  Anyway, I'm not sure if that'll be cool or not.  It'll at least be interesting.  And I'm already looking forward to going "home" for a few days.

In bigger news, the long road of updating the DSM is finally coming to pass.  It's been ongoing for a long time (link here).  I've long been an advocate of removing the current pathologies from the books - that they do more harm than good and, in fact, that they don't accurately reflect "reality".  I'd argue that more people try to bend reality around whatever labels they can find then can separate reality from having to define it, or explain it, or categorize it as something good or bad.  

If my unique "circumstance" was ever a problem - it was in the months before I finally addressed it.  Problem?  Yes.  Pathology - no.  Illness?  No way.  In-born?  You bet.  But the biggest problem it causes today is people messing in various aspects of my life because the label is still so friggin' problematic.  Jobs, relationships, just general life "stuff".  The only way that gets better , both for me and or for future generations, is for the perception to change, NOT to get better at hiding.  Changing the DSM is important in that change.

I see that Chick-Fil-A came out big against same-sex marriage.  That's no surprise.  I don't go there anyway.  I was glad to see the Muppets end their relationship with them (story here) and I suspect there will be other significant commercial impacts.  

And I see that the Boy Scouts re-affirmed their anti-Gay stance (story here).  That's disappointing, but not all that surprising either.  Within 6 months the Girl Scouts publicly acknowledge an accepting policy on trans kids (statement here), and the Boy Scouts comes out with this?  As far as I'm concerned it's another indication of the outdated, misguided nature of masculinity that continues to ooze throughout this culture.  What a mess.

Order out of Chaos.  That's what I'm trying to make right now.  But as I think about it, I've been trying to do it for a long, long time.  And somehow, some way, whatever order I can find or make seems to be enough.  I've got faith that it will this time, too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's Friday!

So, I'm back into the groove.  Or, more accurately, my escapades of the last several weeks have started to fade into memory and I'm focused on what needs to happen now.  I've got some significant decisions to make.

One decision I've made, that's actually not all that big but I've already decided, is that I won't see the new Batman movie.  I didn't see the previous one, either.  Too dark for me.  I've seen lots of movies in recent weeks so I've seen the trailers for quite a while now, and all the hoopla over it just reinforces my decision to leave it be.  I seem to be getting more into non-mainstream movies anyway....

One movie I will see:  Brave.  I'm thinking of going sometime this weekend.  And I'll see Finding Nemo 3D when that comes out.  Pixar generally hooks me.

I don't have much more to say right now.  Several balls in the air.  The lease on the place I'm living runs out inside of a month so I'm planning around that.  I'm actively working through my next contract options.  I'm working with all the photos from my trip, and investigating how to make my photo work a more commercial endeavor.  All things considered...lots going on.

My wedding anniversary date passed earlier this week.  It would have been 31 years.  My ex and I noted it by exchanging text messages.  Funny how the world has changed.  :)

Onwards!  It's Friday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I haven't posted in a while.  I've been crazy busy.  Again.  Or still.  Either way, I'm having a few

I suppose I'm pretty much always busy, but in this case I was in Canada for a week so I was truly out of touch (purposefully so), and as I write this I'm in a hotel near Charlotte, NC.  I've enjoyed my summer vacation, or at least what I've turned into my summer "Holiday", but now it's time to get back to the realities that pass for life these days.

I'll get to the Canada trip in a second.  Over the past couple of days I saw two sort of indie movies.  Yesterday I saw "Moonrise Kingdom".  Today I saw "Safety Not Guaranteed".  Both were different.  But I enjoyed both of them.

The common thread that binds them is the concept of a cultural outsider and how they react to being forced to the fringes.  Both are quirky, are sort of like Love Stories, and perhaps most importantly both make me think beyond the time I leave the theater.

Anyway - I digress.  Back to the week in Canada.  I wrote this last week - on July 11:

I am back from my Canadian Rockies wilderness adventure.  I’m tired, my legs are sore, but as usual with these trips it becomes overload in every sense of the word – physically, spiritually, mentally, and sensually.  It’s not without at least a small bit of irony that I realize that I need a vacation.

If you go back far enough in my Blog archives you’ll find several of these kinds of early July trips with my friend Molly.  She and I have known each other for a number of years and although we’ve got a number of things in common several in particular bring us together on these adventures.  One is that she is an accomplished hiker and camper – both are things I enjoy but have rarely had someone to do them with.

She’s very knowledgeable about outdoor “things”.  We both share an appreciation for beauty, and she’s one of the only people I know who’s as crazy as I am when it comes to making whatever sacrifices are necessary to get to it.

And, perhaps most significantly, is our connection through photography.  We both love it.  We soak it up, and we’ll get up at 4am and drive a 100 miles to get early morning light shots.

But we’re different as well.  She’s driven by different motivators than I am.  More than once on this trip she pushes on to get to a higher point while I find a perfect spot to stop and enjoy the moment.  I’ve also come to realize on this trip that many of these “moments” involve water.

Two days ago I stopped and sat by a small lake that probably doesn’t even have a name and had some of those soul-sipping moments that make the journey worth the effort.  And yesterday I stopped by an amazing glacier fed river tumbling deep into a valley while Molly pushed further upwards.  We both have our motivators, and I’m confident that we both achieve our goals on these adventures, which is why we keep doing them.

One of the best parts is that all I need to do is show up with my camera and my outdoor gear.  Molly does the rest.  She knows where she wants to visit, she makes the arrangements, she plans the days….I’ve grown to trust her in that regard and she hits a home run every day, every time.  Whether it’s a 15 mile hike that leads us across snow fields, up steep inclines, across rivers, and ends at an amazing pass that has incredible views on both sides or a day of scrambling across glacier debris to get to some geological formation that she has known about but wants to see for herself – the theme of these individual trips is the same.  It’s all about the journey.  The destination is simply the gravy.

I flew into Vancouver last Thursday and she picked me up.  We drove to Lake Louise in Banff National Park, where campsite J13 would be home for the next several days.  We set our tents, and once we were settled we were ready for action.

The weather was incredible for the entire week.  I’ve seen more mosquitoes over the last several days than I’ve seen in my entire life and it’s just now that I’m letting down my guard that I’m realizing just how many of the little suckers decided that a good suck of blood was worth overcoming whatever component of Deep Woods Off is supposed to keep them away.  The days in Banff are amazingly long, with the sun rising before 5 and significant sunlight until between 10:30 and 11 at night.

The perimeter of the camping area is surrounded by an electrified fence.  It’s there to protect those inside from the grizzly bears outside.  It’s a good thing, too, since a momma grizzly and her two mid-sized cubs caused a commotion more than once by grazing in a field near the fence.  People on the trails wear bells like cowbells but which Molly explained to me are “bear bells” to scare off any bears on the trails.  I found them to be more humorous then anything but I suppose if they work that’s the important thing.

Water is a theme that ran thru the weekend.  Amazing lakes.  Powerful rivers fed from the still snow-covered peaks melting during the warm afternoon sun.  If I found one theme in the hundreds of photographs that I took over these last few days, it’s water.  And mountains.  You can’t get away from the grandeur of the mountains in the Canadian Rockies.  And where the two of them come together?  Well, that’s magic.

It rained on us once….a 45 minute thunderstorm at dinnertime that gave way to a rainbow.  Otherwise, days were sunny and warm (upper 70’s) and nights were chilly (lower to mid 40’s).  We emerged from our tents each day at 6am, we finished breakfast shortly after 7, and we were well on the way to wherever we planned to spend the day by 8.  We’d get back to camp at dinnertime – tired, sweaty, and generally ready to sleep.  We’d cook some form of pasta for dinner, Molly would play her guitar, and we’d aim to be in bed by 10 to regenerate enough energy to do it all again the next day.

I had several “conversations” with my dad, or at least with the spirit that I consider to be my dad.  He would have loved this, and more than once I wished I had brought some of his ashes to spread there.


I posted a number of photos I took with my iPhone to my Snaplog.  It was photography heaven....

I had a business meeting here in Charlotte today.  It's the first time I dressed up and put on make-up since the cross-country drive a month ago.   It felt good to get back to it....not sure exactly why but I've missed it.

I went to the doctor earlier this week.  Blood pressure is good (114/78) which is amazing considering all that's going on in my world.

That's it for tonight.  It's time for bed.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More than that

I've been gone for a while.  But I'm back. 

I've got a little time on my hands at the moment, and I'm putting it to good use.

It'd be easy to define the 14-day, cross-country drive that concluded yesterday as simply a "road trip".  It would also be easy to explain why someone would drive 7,000 miles over two weeks simply because they chose to as temporary insanity.  However, simple descriptions or explanations for complicated things inherently fail to explain them, and in this case that would be very true.

In it's original inception the trip was simply a drive from here to Texas to see my son and my mom.  It grew from there as an opportunity to go to Phoenix to retrieve some of my things from my storage unit.  And it took full bloom when my dearest friend started discussing possibilities of bringing her two oldest teenage sons to Los Angeles.

Over the past two weeks we crossed 19 state lines, and covered two countries.  We visited a family namesake in Alabama.  We drove through Biloxi MS and New Orleans.  We stopped at the Alamo, and visited with my son in Austin.  We retrieved some of my things in Phoenix.  We spent a couple of days in LA/Hollywood with side visits to San Diego and Tiajuana, Mexico.  On the way home we visited Death Valley, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.  To think back over it now that it's over it amazes me that we covered so much ground and did so many things....my simplistic explanation of places doesn't begin to cover the breadth of what filled our days.

Most importantly, the trip provided unique "bonding" time that money just can't buy.  Honestly, I don't know many people with whom I'd want to be stuck in a truck for two weeks straight.  I can think of many scenarios where trips like that actually end friendships - of not even talking anymore by the time you got home.  But there was none of that, and by the time we got back to Charleston yesterday the group of us had developed a sense of "team" the translated into everything from waking to packing to driving to meals....we had things down to a science.  The truck was roomy and accomodating for everyone, and the kids had fans, power for their laptops, and other creature comforts for making long hours in a vehicle tolerable. 

My enduring memories will be simple ones.  Of stopping at the beginning and having the auto parts guy change a fuse.  Of listening to the Comedy channel on Pandora and the entire car laughing until we had tears in our eyes.  Of crossing the Mississippi River...twice.  Of stopping for dinner at Maggiano's in Beverly Hills.  Of planning the trip at the beginning of each day, and then watching it unfold.  Of seeing two young men experiencing a little of Las Vegas for the first time.  Of hotels, road food, friends who stepped up and helped, and of people in my life who ended up disappointing for one reason or another. 

One special memory will be of the night we spent just outside of Death Valley.  We had left LA in mid-afternoon, and by sunset we were working through the logistics of where to stay.  Part of the reason that we all traveled so well together is that we're all flexible about driving until we got tired, and making sleeping arrangements on the fly.  As we worked through the options on our iPhones we found we only had a few to pick from, especially for a room with two beds that would accomodate all of us.  We ended up making a reservation at the Best Western in Lone Pine, CA.

By the time we arrived it was almost 11pm, and we had relatively low expectations.  The reviews for this particular hotel were positive, but when you're traveling and stop in small towns I've learned the hard way that you just never know.  When we arrived we found that hotel was nice, the room was spacious and comfortable, and other than our night at the Mirage in Las Vegas I can't think of a better room for our entire trip.  But the thing that made it wonderful was the next morning.

Since it was dark when we arrived we had no idea what was around us.  But when we stepped outside in the morning we realized that we were at the base of Mt. Whitney, and watched sunrise change the color of the mountain from red to orange to white.  It was one of those times when outcome far outdid expectations, and something I won't soon forget.  It was the perfect way to start a day that included the beauty of Death Valley, and ended on the Strip in Las Vegas.

This trip was about the kids as much of more than it was about adults.  When the boys got added to the equation is significantly changed the tone, and it impacted every aspect of everything we did.  But as the trip fades from recent memory to nostalgia my memories will be of the kids - of helping them develop memories, see things and do things, and experience the breadth of this country, in ways that they'll never forget.  You don't get many chances in life to do those kinds of things, and it was an honor to be part of it.

The weather was awesome for the entire trip....one brief shower but otherwise beautiful.  It reached 113 while we were in Phoenix....it was 109 in Death Valley.  The heat in Las Vegas surprised the kids, I think.  I got into a pool as often as I could to shake off some of the driving.

The drive also provided an opportunity to bond with my new truck.  As a new truck driver, covering that kind of mileage together helps to get to "know" one another.  The truck did great...it was comfortable for all 4 of us, it handled well....I couldn't imagine it being any better.  And I never noticed how many people own pickup trucks before....now that I have one I see them everywhere.  I'm still learning how to park it - that's a work in progress.  And I still don't know how to gauge where the back of it is so having somone help me back into parking spots is still helpful.  As I type this I'm at the Toyota dealer getting an oil change and a thorough washing.....it needs some serious loving to clean all the bugs off.

I also learned a few "deeper" things.  The trip reinforced for me the feeling of "home" that I've developed here in Charleston. We stopped at two places that have been home for me in the past and although there was a feeling of familiarity and of comfort - neither felt like "home".  So as we crossed into South Carolina yesterday afternoon the comfort of actually being "home" was a real one.  And the first place we headed when we got back?  The beach.  We wanted to touch the water to officially complete our coast to coast to coast trip. 

I'll share some photos when I've had a chance to download them and I'm not on this public computer. 

My "down-time" will be short lived.  I'm scheduled to fly to Vancouver on Thursday to meet up with a friend for a week of hiking/camping/photography in the Canadian Rockies.  It will help to offset the effects of sitting in a car, getting no exersize, and eating "road" food for a couple of weeks.  I can't even remember the last time I was at the gym, and I feel bloated and out of shape.  A week in Banff National Park should be just what the doctor ordered.

This particular friend and I get together every year for a week of wilderness, hiking, camping, photography, and just....getting away from it all.  It started in 2007 when we visited Glacier National Park together (photos).  In 2009 we did Arches National Park and Canyonlands together in Utah.  In 2010 we went to the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon.  I'm very much looking forward to our upcoming adventure.

So....with all that going on, today is all about catching up.  I'm running errands, returning email, making phone calls, and generally re-engaging with the day-to-day "stuff" in my life after disconnecting for a little while.  And as wonderful as these past couple of weeks have been it was actually wonderful to sip a glass of red wine and relax at "home" last night.  And, to wake up in my own bed this morning. 

Ah....the simple pleasures.