Sunday, February 18, 2018

Day 409: Sell A Car

     Hey guys, guess who has two thumbs and has already fulfilled one of his three New Year's resolutions? Thats right. This guy!
     But Kyle, which one of your resolutions did you accomplish? I assume you ask. Unfortunately I haven't spent the last two months "traveling more" or "trying new things" so by process of elimination, I must have sold my car.
     Yes, you read that correctly. I sold my car. If you know anything about me, then you probably know that I hate -I'm sorry, hated- my car. I've no doubt relayed the horrors that vehicle brought on me every opportunity I got. I wear my bitterness on my sleeve, like a stain of black ink. Whenever car stories are being swapped, you can be sure that I'll be there to cut through the lighthearted conversation with an over-the-top recount of the time my ride tried to kill me. You'll know it's me telling the story too because I still turn red whenever I think about it...Not that I'm holding a grudge or anything. Surely I wouldn't stay sour over a lemon (that's a car pun). All I can say is don't hold your breath, I can be pretty petty if I put my mind to it.
     It's a long story, one that no one ever asks to hear. So instead of offering to tell you, I'm just gonna start...
This car was the best
     I loved my 1996 Subaru Outback. It was a small manual transmission wagon painted an obnoxious shade of red. It was the first car I ever bought, I even wrote about it here. That car was the best. I affectionately named her "Earl the girl" -I have no idea why- but she plowed through snowy winters, mountain passes and a sporadic oil change schedule like a champ.
     Back in August of 2014, Earl the girl was the target of a hit and run. Stef got a case of whiplash and I (and this is true) ended up getting shingles from the cumulative stress of working full time, dealing with uncooperative insurance companies, being broke, and taking too many classes during the summer semester. But other than that, no real injuries.
    Being without Earl, I took what little money I was given from the accident and put it all towards the first car I saw at the first dealership I visited. This I learned, was a bad idea. This new car was much more expensive than Earl was, surely it would be just as good if not better than my dear Earl. This was a bad assumption to make.
     I buy the car, and it has it's quirks but nothing too crazy. The window tint is heavily scratched from what I assume was a dog, many of the lights (dome lights, mirror lights) don't work even after fuses and bulbs are replaced. Whatever.
     Our story begins on December 31st, 2014, which was about three months after purchasing the car. A last minute plan to spend the new year in a cabin tucked between the Colorado Wyoming border is made and we cram five people and a dog into the car and hit the highway. It was about 85 miles to the cabin, and the sun had set hours prior. It was a miserable 2 degrees outside by the time we hit the dirt roads. Trying to navigate to the cabin proved to be a bit of a guessing game. I've been there countless times growing up, but I've rarely been the driver, and had never driven without someone to follow behind. Plus we were far outside of any cell phone reception.

I bet you're sensing some foreshadowing right about now.

     The temperature dropped down to -2 degrees as we slowly climbed up a particularly steep hill along the pitch black dirt road. I remember the temperature, because it's the last thing I saw on the console before the car blew up. We were inching up the hill when a violent jolt erupted from the engine. The car recoiled and began making a grotesque mechanical gargling sound. The engine hacked up a constant stream of dirty smoke that enveloped the car and any power felt from the gas pedal was cut.
     Kevin, Mouse, and myself took it upon ourselves to assess the damage. I lifted the hood, which only added to the comical amount of smoke that was pouring from it.
     "Well, it's definitely blown." Mouse said, using the flashlight on his phone to cut through the smoke.
     "What the car? The car's blown?" I asked panicked. I know nothing about these machines.
     "The turbo." Mouse said.
     "I have a turbo?" I asked.
     "Had a turbo." Kevin clarified.
     "I stood in the bitter cold, watching my frozen breath, trying very hard not to freak out. It had been about 40 minutes since we had seen another car, and even longer since we had any cell reception. Other than the five of us, nobody knew that we were going to the cabin that night and there was no way the car would make it the rest of the way. The roads got progressively more demanding the further into the mountains one drove. I struggled to digest these odds all with the realization that it was currently minus 2 degrees outside. By then it was around 8:00 at night, the temperature would surely dip much more the longer we waited. That realization, that we were stranded in such cold weather, without shelter or communication to anyone, was my first taste of legitimate fear. It was a thick primal sort of panic, the first time I really thought "could this kill me?"
     You're probably thinking five kids and a dog are stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken car on a freezing winter night? Is this the premise for a low-budget slasher film? And I'd have to agree with you on that. I'm sure it's in pre-production already.
     After somewhat gaining my composure, as well as pondering which Freddie Kruger-esque monster would fulfill our crappy slasher flick, I got back in the driver's seat a tried to imitate a demeanor of confidence towards the situation.
     "We need cell service. We need to head back" I tried to say with authority.
     I don't think anyone bought it, not even Kevin's dog. Regardless, I start the car and attempt to backtrack down the hill. The engine sounded like a blender eating up Hot-Wheels. I could feel the zeros being added to the repair bill with every foot we drove. There was no doubt that every hill was doing monumental damage to the vehicle. It was painful to listen to. My whitening knuckles tightened on the steering wheel more and more with every unnerving clunking sound that came sputtering from under the hood.
     This went on for quite some time.
     Each hill was a roll of the dice. The vehicle had absolutely no power, any part of the road with even a slight incline could easily stop us. I tried to gain as much momentum as possible from hills and coast up what I could. Some small bumps (we're talking, less steep than your driveway) took several attempts to climb over.
     A car that cannot go over small hills is not conducive to driving in the mountains. I knew it would only be a matter of time until we found ourselves stuck between a valley of two hills that we could not get out of. This worried me, along with pretty much every other aspect of the situation.
     Thankfully, after what seemed like hours, I spotted a pair of headlights on the horizon. It was a car heading towards us. Moral was suddenly at an all time high in the car as I flashed my brights and honked my horn in excitement. The car didn't seem to respond to my cries for help as it didn't slow down, just kept driving. I started to worry that the car wasn't going to stop as it approached us. At the last moment desperation kicked in and I jumped out of my seat and leapt in front of the car's headlights waiving my arms frantically. Thankfully, the car chose to stop before hitting me.
     The people driving ending up being Godsends. They lived part time on one of the properties around, so not only did they have extra gallons of drinkable water, but they also had phones with special coverage for the mountains. So I grabbed the phone and dialed the one number I could remember, my mom. I explained everything as well as I could, apologized for ruining whatever New Year's Eve plans she may of had, and promptly asked her to pick us up at the Forks (the only landmark I could think of. It was a cowpoke bar that located where the dirt road forked. Get it? Clever name right?)
     Not to drag an already longwinded story out further, but we somehow ended up making it to the Forks, causing immeasurable damage to the car along the way. But it didn't matter, never have I been so happy to see such an unsuspecting bar. We celebrated our new leases on survival with some beers and nachos while we waited for my mom to pick us up.

thanks again mom 
     We made it back to our apartment before the midnight Ball Drop but by then, I was so over everything that I went straight to bed, hoping that the next year would be better. The repair bill was extensive. Just about everything under the hood was damaged and would need to be replaced, which basically doubled the cost of the already expensive car that I was leasing.
     So call me bitter, but I never could look past that experience even after the car was repaired. For instance, I still say the car instead of my car. I just want to distance myself ya know? I know that it's not the car's fault either, but still. Oh and if you think I was being dramatic about the danger posed when the engine blew, I read an article in the newspaper the next very next day about a man in the same area who also had car trouble that night. He earned a spot in the newspaper because he wasn't as lucky as us. He was unable to get picked up by his mother at the Forks and had to spend the entire night huddled up in his car. He ended up with frost bite on his feet and nose.
     So yeah, I sold my car, and for good reason. The car drove fine afterwards, but I think we can all agree that I could use to lose some of that damn baggage. Whew, anyone know of any good cars for sale?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Day 408: Smoke a Cuban Cigar

     I'm not gonna make a big deal or anything, but seeing how it's the start of a new year, I thought I'd come up with some resolutions for 2018:

  • Travel more
  • Document my travels
  • Get rid of my pile-of-garbage of a car (that one doesn't really apply to the blog though)
     Pretty simple, the goal is to do a lot more of the same with this blog; travel and try new things. Should be a good year.

     I was lucky enough to be invited along to spend a week in Cabo San Lucas with Stef and my grandparents. I hadn't been on anything close to a vacation in like three years, but as I found out, I had no trouble dusting off my beer goggles and tacky Hawaiian shirt for a week of leisure and overeating south of the boarder. Overall the trip was a huge success, we didn't even get kicked off the plane this time, which was a nice change of pace. 

      Just as the title promised, this entry is about the greatly revered and equally contested Cuban cigar I tried while in Mexico. Full disclaimer- I don't smoke and think it's totally repulsive, so I knew going into this that I wasn't going to like it, but that sort of thinking hasn't seemed to stop me yet. And those of you long time readers (just kidding, I know nobody reads this stuff) might remember an entry similar to this when I attempted to smoke a normal cigar for the first time and was not a fan.
     Nevertheless, I went against every piece of advice my grandfather gave me (mainly "If you decide to smoke one of those things, I hope you're ready to sleep outside until the stench wears off") and sought out to find an authentic Cuban cigar on the streets of Mexico. This, I found to be an easier task than I originally thought. I mean seriously, walk out on the beach and throw a stone, odds are you'll hit a vendor willing you to sell you some. 
I'd seen other douches smoke in the ocean and wanted to try
     I chose to buy a single cigar from a man in the town of Todos Santos (which is home to the Hotel California! Unfortunately, after closer inspection, we found out that it wasn't the Hotel California and was was even involved in some sort of legal tussle with The Eagles over the naming of the building. Oh well.) The man in the shop gave me the whole spiel, had me smell and touch several cigars from behind a display case in an attempt to persuade me of their quality. And negotiating the price wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, because whether we're talking dollars or pesos, I'm pretty much broke. If he wanted to make a sale, he was gonna have to drop down to my level. Anyways, I splurged a bit and bought one and to celebrate, the salesman poured two rounds of his homemade tequila for everyone in the store. The tequila was swarming with floating herbs and spices in it, which only served to deepen my suspicions about him.
Hotel California! Just not The Hotel California...

     This brings me to the actual act of smoking the cigar, which was much less exciting than what pop culture had led me to believe. I pictured flowing showers of golden light to rain down as I puffed like the suitcase from Pulp Fiction, but all I got was a soggy stogie that smelt vaguely like trees and old men. Completely underwhelming, and certainly not worth 20 bucks. But as a 20-something male in Mexico, I cant find it in myself to regret that terrible tasting cigar. I think smoking a Cuban is sort of a right of passage of dudes my age; like pretending to like straight whiskey or finally getting into Fleetwood Mac. It just seems to be something dudes my age start to do. Anyways, here's to looking like an absolute kook on the beach, banana shorts and all. Thanks Cabo!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Day 407: Grow a Beard

All thanks to YouTube Videos...
     I've had a "beard" for years now. A thin, patchy sad excuse of a beard. One that didn't demand much attention or authority from anyone (see previous post for proof). But I've never had a capital B-Beard. I think it's inherent in all men to want to grow a beard at least once in our lives. It's primal, it's masculine, and since I'm neither of those, I figure all the more reason to give it a try!
     On the surface, the act of growing a beard feels a little unfulfilled. Even sitting here now, I feel like I have to make the case to even write about it. Because after all, growing a beard has more to do with the absence of shaving than any actual growing. If you don't have a beard yet, wait a few days. I have to admit that I was apart of this camp for many years, many baby-faced years. But as much as it makes me cringe, and as stupid as it sounds, I think there's a case to be made for beards.
Baby-faced this summer

     Let's just clear real quick -in the past three months, I've routinely watched beard tutorials and vlogs on YouTube. The videos provide almost no valuable information, but I keep watching because I'm amazed by the ever-growing subculture of loyal facial hair enthusiasts. Every interest, hobby and fetish has it's own click, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that -thanks to the internet- beards do too.

     One more confession -although I hated pretty much every Jabroni in the beard videos I watched, I still bought all the crap they were slinging in their vlogs.

"Beard brush?"
"Matching comb?"
"Beard oil?"
     "Don't know what it does, don't have too."
"Beard balm."
     "Take my money."

I'd actually recommend it
     Its all pretty silly, but that didn't stop me from splurging on a beard kit to manicure my peach fuzz in the mirror religiously. And you know what? I actually think I see some results. I had only ever grown out my beard once before and it looked terrible. It was a scraggly untamed mess. But no that I'm armed with an assortment of overpriced products, I can comb/sculpt my beard into submission.

     Now that my beard is past the scruffy stages and entering wilderness territory, I think I'm gonna see how big I can go with it until I either cant take it, or even my bounty of beard care products cant handle it. I figure I can keep it through at least the winter. We'll see.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Day 406: Total Eclipse

     First things first, apologies for not posting sooner. I've done loads of fun new things since I last posted in March, but completely forgot to write about most of them. But I don't feel too bad, because I doubt anyone reads these posts anyways. So you know what? Apology revoked! Yeah that's right, I'm posting sporadically and I'm not even sorry.

     Maybe just a tiny bit sorry.

     A total eclipse is something so strange, so seemingly fictitious, so Old Testament-esque that I didn't fully understand what I was getting myself into until well into our fourth hour of sitting in a collapsable lawn chair along a once deserted stretch of highway in the middle of Wyoming. I realize now why I didn't fully understand what the eclipse was about even after the 7 hour drive. I realize, not due to a lack of interest, or preparation in the days leading up to the eclipse, but because (and this is going to sound very corny) the experience of seeing a total eclipse is one that escapes any sort of description. Words don't do it justice, photos and videos won't either. And that leaves me here, someone who witnessed something so utterly surreal and only my words, pictures, and a video to try and share a piece of what I felt. I know full well that explaining the experience is a futile attempt, but I'm going to try anyways.
Front Row Seat
     The journey started the day before, when my mom and step dad (step dad? When did that happen -oh yeah, earlier in May. Congrats you two!) drove up to the family cabin with a friend of my step dad (man that still sounds weird to say) and his wife. Anyways, we had a great time in the mountains doing outdoorsy things, but that's not what this story is about. It's about the arguably great lengths five consenting adults went to in order to witness the shadow of the moon.
     At 2:45 in the morning my alarm went off (thats the first 2:45. There's a second one, one at a completely acceptable time too. That's not the 2:45 we chose) and by 3:00 we were packed up and on the road. The theory behind this early start, was that the tiny city of Casper Wyoming is too small for the impending flood of eclipse enthusiasts and scientists that would be on their way to clog the highways by the crack of dawn. We still had a considerable drive ahead of us, so we figured that we would rather beat the crowds and wait rather than catch the event while stuck in traffic.
     According to the selfie I took upon arriving at the local Starbucks, it was exactly 6:09 when we made it into town. The town was just starting to wake up, but our crew had been burning at both ends for hours by then. So we get some coffee, we pick up some supplies at the Walmart-
     A quick thing about Walmart: I have never seen so many questionable people all congregate in the same area before. And I mean weird, strange people, and that's even after visiting Trinidad. Half the parking lot had been taken over by some sort of pseudo-tailgating community of busses, trucks, and telescope waiving tourists. The line for the Walmart bathroom was overflowing with barefoot children brushing their teeth and the line was over ten people long. It was terrible.

     Here's where the story really begins. We get our supplies and head back out of town to get "The Perfect Spot" to view the eclipse at. Notice that "The Perfect Spot" is both capitalized and in quotations. There's so much importance placed on the spot we were to view the event because -as I found out- to witness an eclipse at even just 99% totality is like not witnessing it at all. It's true! If you're not within the line of totality, then you might as well have closed your eyes completely during the entire thing.
     By now it's like 7:00, which means we have literally almost 4 more hours until anything remotely cool happens. I'll spare you the details, but it was a a lot of sitting and waiting (and throwing rocks into empty Starbucks cups in a ski-ball style carnival game I made up).
Our Devo cover band album
     The actual event takes about an hour, which is another thing I was clueless of. With the help of solar glasses, we took turns looking into my telescope and gasping at the small chunks of sun that were slowly being devoured by the moon. Without the aid of the telescope however, there seemed to be no difference in the daylight around us. As the event approached, the dirt lot we camped out in had become completely saturated with enthusiasts. In fact, I heard that over that weekend, the population of Wyoming doubled.
     The sun slowly sizzled into a thinning crescent shape. When it was nothing but a bright yellow toenail in the sky the atmosphere started to change rather drastically. The lighting in our campsite was dramatic, I remember looking at the other people's faces and thinking that they looked off. It was like our skin was so pale that it seemed to be fake or synthetic. The air chilled so quickly that I had to layer up with a hoodie and jacket. It honestly felt like a 35 (F.) degree temperature change. The light and temp worked to make the entire scene feel erie. It also helped that the collective group of well over 100 observers fell deafly quiet. Traffic along the highway seised, except for the occasional unfazed trucker.
     I think it's the contrast that makes the experience such a memorable one. Of course the sight was amazing, but it's the blistering heat followed by the sudden chill and the use of both sunglasses and eclipse glasses before it getting too dark for either that I think back to. These changes happened within minutes, which is truly something amazing when you're talking about appreciating nature. As humans, we don't have the context to truly appreciate all the time that went into things like mountains and oceans. They're massive natural monuments that take eons to shift at all. But an eclipse is like watching nature be it infinitely unbelievable self in a frame that we can fathom. It's probably what observing the cosmos would feel like if we only had the patience to watch them churn.
     And as the moment approached, I knew that it was important. I knew that I would never forget what I was about to see. Piece by piece, the rest of the sun was swallowed and finally saw what all the fuss was about.

     And for the record, I totally agree. Words and pictures do not do it justice. So I wont even try.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 405: Meditation

     I know, I know. I can tell what you're going to say (just kidding, nobody reads this). You're gonna say "But Kyle, haven't you already tried meditation before?" Well first off, good job, you're very attentive. I did in fact try meditation way back on day 105. I probably looked up a YouTube video or something and closed my eyes and pretended to follow along. This, is not that.
     As part of this year's resolution, I have taken time out of each day to practice meditating. Some days for 10 minutes, while others for up to an hour. Sometimes guided (usually guided) and sometimes not. I've picked up some books on the subject and have reached past the yogi threshold, past the point of no return.
     By far, the hardest part of beginning this practice, has been getting over my own perceptions and assumptions. Sitting quietly, looking inward, these are not easy habits to instill, but they're even harder habits to explain to others. Or at least I feared they might be. In all honesty, whenever the subject of mindfulness came up I was met with nothing but curiosity and remarks like "I've always wanted to try". So once I got out of my own way, the actual act of meditating was surprisingly easy. I sat, and watched my breath. And each time my thoughts pulled me away from my focus of my breath, I'd gently (not always gently in the beginning) return back to the breath. That's it.
     The process is simple, but that's not to say it is easy. For the first month, I couldn't go more than two breaths without getting caught up in some sort of train of thought. I'd spend the entire time returning to my breath and leave feeling like I had wasted my morning. But with some more practice, and a lot of really solid advice from some books, I've (very slowly) started to make some progress.
     I'm still nowhere near mastering my inner mind (and from what I can tell, that's not going to happen), but I do have to admit that there is a noticeable difference I can feel since starting 93 days ago. Not to say I'm cured of anxiety, or self-doubt, or any of the other human emotions we're all plagued to feel, just that now, I have and awareness of them. They're nothing more than thoughts and feelings.
     Even the difference I notice after taking time to focus on the breath is worth the time. I feel calm and grounded, and I find myself looking forward to the next time I can slow down.

If you would like to learn more, here are some great places to start:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Day 404: Stick And Poke Tattoo (a rebuttle)

I'm not kidding, we went to Panda Express and everything.

     I was offered the chance to revisit a challenge that I felt was in need of a rebuttal. If you remember, I was eager to prove how serious my intentions were early on. In fact, just seven days into the resolution, I decided it was time to test my commitment in a very permanent way; perform a Stick and Poke Tattoo on myself.
"The work station"

     Stick and Poke Tattoo- A form of body modification that answers the question "how can I further compromise the gamble of my tattoo?"  By trading the sterile environment and the trustworthy experience of a professional tattoo shop for a sewing needle duct taped to a spare chopstick of course!
     The tattoo was supposed to serve as a self inflicted "re-birthmark" of my new philosophy towards life. Trying new things and such. But unfortunately, virtually no ink stayed in my skin. After an hour of repeatedly stabbing my thigh, I had nothing to show for it. Blame it on my timidness to puncture myself I suppose.
     Ever since that attempt, I never felt comfortable calling it a success. I mean sure I bled a bit, and some ink stayed in. But was it really a tattoo? It certainly was not a proper symbol of my new outlook. Kevin and myself didn't think so. So we gathered all the materials and beer and started stabbing away. This time, it was personal. 
Kevin going ham on his leg

     Just like the time before, my tattoo wasn't shapping up like I had imagined. Kevin had bold, dark lines that seemed to pop from his leg, while mine only looked red and irritated. It was discouraging, so I did what I needed to; I drank more beer, and pushed the needle further.
     I soon found that ink was finally starting to set in my skin. Success! I was well on my way to completing the long standing challenge. Unfortunately, my goal was to get ink in the skin, not to end up with anything good. By the end of my session, my tattoo was bold, and dark. But it was also the kind of image that required you to squint and cock your head slightly to fully process what you're looking at.

I think this speaks for itself...
     So I did another one just to be sure. This time I was going for bold lines and a recognizable picture. I still cant say that I have a good stick and poke, but you're damn sure that now I can say I have one.
All in moderation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Day 403: Solo Hiking

     It had been a while since I had deliberately tried something new. Like, over an entire year. So today I decided to give it a go. To dig myself out of a routine rut, and try something new. And as I looked outside -in search of possibilities- the choice was obvious. It was a beautifully mild autumn day, and the mountains of Boulder looked too good to pass up.
This aint no phone camera
     The hike was peaceful. At times eerily quiet, except for the crew of workers who were repairing the trail. I tried my best to enjoy the hike and not just look forward to getting to the top (which I guess is a metaphor for life too). Stepping and breathing cautiously.
     I was under the impression that I had summited Chautauqua before during the initial resolution. But today I discovered that wasn't totally true. In fact the trail we had taken just five years before, zigzags much further up the face of the mountain. So I chose to see just how far it went. The view was incredible. I even ran into a fellow solo-hiker named David at the peak who offered to take my picture. Thanks David!

 A solid way to spend a Monday afternoon. Enjoy some pictures from the endeavor.
Woah Momma.