Cross-Country Day 3: Grand Canyon

Cumulative Distance: 1267.2mi ~~ Total Travel Time: ~5 hours.

Click for a panoramic view

In order to get to all of the sights I wanted to see today, I had to get up early and hit the road before 8am — and I’d say I was successful. I took the scenic route up to the Grand Canyon and still managed to make it there shortly after 9:30. I spent about an hour and a half there — which is pretty much the most I could handle unless I opted to hike down into the canyon itself (which I didn’t have  time to do this time around).

The canyon was inspiring. Walking around the rim of the canyon was breath-taking and I was quite surprised at the fact at how few guard rails there were. At one point, I noticed a guy that had climbed way out on a jetty and I thought he was insane.

It was kind of like this, but narrower.

 

As I approached, I saw a father and son (about 8 years old) coming back off the ledge and I thought to myself “If he can do it, so can I..” so I climbed out there too.It was something I had to do to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t dangerous, per se. There was no wind today and the ledge was about 6 feet wide — so I felt pretty safe. Even if I did fall, I wouldn’t tumble thousands of feet into the canyon — so I thought it was OK.

My second stop was about 3 hours north at Antelope Canyon. A quarter-mile hike through a canyon about 30 feet deep that was absolutely gorgeous. I snapped a bazillion photos with my DSLR, but only managed to grab a few with my phone, so you’ll have to wait until I get all my pictures uploaded to see the full set. But here’s one so you can get an idea:

My last stop was at a place called “Horseshoe Bend” which is where the Colorado River takes a U-Turn and has formed an amazing Horseshoe Rock formation. Again, my camera phone didn’t quite get that great of a shot due to the sun, but here’s the best I got:

Today was incredible. It was also my only real day to be a tourist — every other day I’ve got a pretty significant drive ahead of me. Not that I didn’t put miles on my car today — I still managed to drive about 5 hours in total. Tomorrow is my longest drive of the trip: 9.5 hours plus a one-hour time change. I’m hoping to hit Meteor Creator, The Dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and maybe even the Petrified Forest, if I have enough time. I’ve gotta get on the road before 8am again tomorrow if I want to make all these stops. That means it’s just about bed time. Good night!

Cross-Country Day 2: Bakersfield – Flagstaff

Cumulative Distance: 771 miles ~~ Travel Time: ~9 hours

I slept like a baby. As soon as my alarm went off, I was ready to go and take on my day. I departed Bakersfield around 9:30 and started to make my way to Flagstaff, AZ. Knowing that I only needed to drive about 7 hours, I liked that I could stop and take pictures or see sights whenever I wanted. It took a little while for me to realize that I wasn’t “rushing” to get somewhere, but rather the journey was the adventure itself.

After passing the wind farms of Southern California, I entered the Mojave desert. About an hour into the desert, I stopped at a rest area and was promptly reminded what the desert brings: snakes. There was another sign just posted next to this one that listed all of the snakes that can be found in North America. Thanks.

Driving through the desert was beautiful. After a ways, I ended up on my main interstate: highway 40. For those that don’t know, Highway 40 follows the path of the Historic Route 66 that runs from LA to Chicago. Every time I got off the highway to get gas or grab a bite to eat, I was reminded that I was on Historic 66.

I stopped for gas at a place called “Hi Sahara Oasis” — which has to be the most obscure gas station you’ve ever seen. Check out the link and you’ll see what I mean. It’s this oasis in the middle of nowhere. In order to pay for gas, you have to leave your credit card inside. When I did this, I saw a sign that read:

 We have no choice. We have invested too much time and money into this place to leave now. To run a gas station like this in the middle of nowhere costs a lot of money. We will not tolerate any complaining whatsoever. 

I didn’t know what this meant. That was until I went to go fill up my car with gas and noticed that the price of gas was $5.49 a gallon. Nearly $2 more than most of the other gas stations in the area. I had no choice, though. I was just glad I didn’t stop there for lunch. A club sandwich probably would’ve run me $25.

Late in the afternoon, I stopped for a coffee at a small town called Seligman. There was a  cute motel, a place called “The Roadkill Cafe” and a general store.

I was talking to the guy behind the counter at the General Store and telling him how tired I was and needed the coffee. It was at this point that I had noticed that they had envelopes of rattlesnake eggs for sale.

 I asked the guy if they were real and he said “100%. Arizona has more varieties of rattlesnakes than any other state. We have one open, if you want to see them.” Upon opening the envelope, a spring-powered device makes a rattle-like noise and I must’ve jumped a foot. The guy says “Well, I think you’re awake now.”

The highlight of my day, though had to be the Lowell Observatory. After checking into my hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, I went up to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. The staff was pointing out things you could see with the naked eye, namely meteors and satellites. I had heard that you could see satellites with the naked eye, but I’d never seen one before. I ended up seeing three of them! So cool.

They had a bunch of telescopes set up outside for people to look at various things. I saw a really cool close-up of the moon and the Ring Nebula. They also pointed out the M13 Star Cluster, which is a group of about 300,000 stars that is approximately 25,000 light years away from earth — situated at the edge of the milky way galaxy. Crazy!

But, the Observatory telescope itself was aimed at Saturn tonight. They were explaining that the telescope was built in 1894 and has never been taken apart or cleaned. Through the telescope, you could clearly see Saturn, it’s rings and three moons (which looked like small stars) around the planet. It looked just like a picture in a book. Really cool!

Tomorrow, I’m headed up to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. I’m really excited. A couple that I was talking to in line was telling me all about Antelope Canyon and it sounds amazing.

It was a great day on the road and I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Cross-Country Day 1: SF – Bakersfield

Distance: 285.1 miles    ~~~  Travel Time: ~6 hours 

Filled with plants and boxes, I packed up my car (aka. Penelope) and headed off for my last day of work on the west coast. I ended up hitting the road shortly after 3pm to run a few last minute errands in the bay area. By 4:30, I was officially on the road headed towards Bakersfield, CA.

Originally, I was planning on driving directly from San Francisco to Flagstaff, AZ — but after realizing that 12+ hours was probably a bit much for my first day, I opted to split up my drive by heading to Bakersfield, CA on Friday evening. I didn’t really want to end up going back to an empty apartment for another night anyway, so hitting the road seemed like a mighty fine idea.

My trip is expected to take about 9 days, ending in Boston next Sunday.
Here’s my itinerary:


View Cross-Country Drive (SF > Boston) in a larger map

Friday: SF > Bakersfield
Saturday: Bakersfield > Flagstaff, AZ
Sunday: Grand Canyon & Antelope Canyon
Monday: Flagstaff, AZ > Amarillo, TX
Tuesday: Amarillo, TX > Dallas, TX
Wednesday: Dallas, TX > Memphis, TN
Thursday: Memphis, TN > Nashville, TN
Friday: Nashville, TN > Waynesboro, VA
Saturday: Waynesboro, VA > Brooklyn, NY
Sunday: Brooklyn, NY > Boston, MA

This trip is unique for me, in that — with the exception of my visit to the Grand Canyon, my  journey is the vacation itself. I’ve got plenty of music, audiobooks, podcasts, and baseball games to keep me entertained throughout my journey.

Today’s photo comes from the Pacheco Pass Highway. There was a light rain that started to fall while in traffic and the sun was still peaking out from behind the clouds. I grabbed this shot as I was driving, but I ended up pulling over to take some pics with my DSLR that will be posted after the trip.

Tomorrow, the plan is to head out on the road by 9:00 and head to Arizona. Did you know that Arizona does not use Daylight Savings Time, so during the summer there is no time difference between CA and AZ — however in the winter there is a 2 hour time difference. Go figure.

So long, and thanks for all the friends

In less than twenty four hours, I’ll be on the road headed back to the East Coast.  I’ve spent the last week or so wrapping up things here in San Francisco: Crossing things off my bucket list, Saying goodbye to friends, and preparing for my cross-country drive back to the East Coast. This is going to be my fourth long distance move and it’s by far the hardest (and for good reason).

To me, San Francisco has become synonymous with transformation. When I moved up to San Francisco from the South Bay area, my life was in complete disarray. I was going through a separation, I was on short-term disability with Pancreatitis, and I knew only a handful of people. For the first two months after moving to the city, I sick and confined to my apartment — leaving only to make quick trips to Walgreens or Target to pick up more “Boost” — my beverage of choice for the feeding tube.

When I was finally cleared to return to work,  I felt as though I had a new lease on life and was ready to take San Francisco head-on.

One of my closest friends, Sceeter, has been here in the city with me during this time. He’s gone through just as much transformation as I have — and it’s been great to watch eachother grow and change over the past few years. When I returned to society in November 0f 2009, I remember him telling me: “We meet so many people all the time! At the rate we’re going, we’re going to know the whole city in no time at all.” And it’s true. I’ve met so many great people through Sceeter and am so blessed to have gotten to spend so much quality time with him and his friends over the past few years in San Francisco. Sceeter introduced me to the NY Ex-Pat group, also known as White Leather Boots, and I’ve enjoyed hanging out and getting to know all of you. You guys are fantastic! I think I am going to have to create a NY-Ex-Ex-Pat group when I get there.

In April of 2010, I joined a kickball team known as the High Rollers (IMHO, San Francisco’s longest-running kickball franchise) through some great friends that I met on JamCruise earlier that year. The Rollers are a great group of people and I will miss them dearly. I play my last game this evening and am hoping to start an east coast chapter upon my arrival in Brooklyn.

Ah, Thanksgiving. Nick, Carmen, Joe, Camille, Chris, Tanya, and everyone else that participated in the annual harvest festival — you’ve been my family the past few years. It’s been a blast and I highly doubt that I’ll find YouTube Karaoke at a Thanksgiving event any time soon. Thanks for making the holiday feel like home.

How could I forget my adventure that I embarked on last Feburary, that I will candidly call the most amazing journey of my life — the Yoga Tree Teacher Training program. Through that program I learned so much about myself as well as met so many people that are part of the Yoga community in San Francisco. It’s been amazing practicing, teaching and assisting with all of you.

For the past few years, I’ve been camping with the greatest group of party animals in Big Meadow at the High Sierra Music festival. Sadly I have to miss High Sierra this year, but I’ll miss camp Cock Awe even more.  I know where to find you guys at every show and it just won’t be the same in New York. I’ll be back next year for sure, so please keep those wickets crispy for me.

I’ll miss the entire music community here in San Francisco. There’s so many people that I’ve come to expect to see at every show, be at at the Boom Boom Room, Fillmore or Independent — the music scene here is amazing. I know that New York will be fun, too, but it’s the California culture that makes music here so much more fun. The shows in NY won’t be nearly as much fun without you guys — and I’m sure I’ll be hard-pressed to find a music venue in New York that gives out Red Delicious apples at every show.

My work friends — you guys rock. From the people I met back in my Mountain View days to the SBO Folk — you guys are awesome and I’ll definitely see you around in New York, MTV, SBO or somewhere in between.

There’s so many amazing people that I’ve come to know and love over the past 3 years, it really blows my mind. I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and now I have such an amazing group of friends, it’s really hard to say goodbye. I can’t believe how much has changed since I moved here in 2009. My life is completely different.

So here I am, sitting on an air mattress in my vacant apartment in Noe Valley. On the precipice of my cross-country road trip out to New York — ready to start a new chapter of my life. I know that Brooklyn is going to be awesome. I have such great friends there already —  I can’t wait to hang out with all of them again. I’ve also got so many new people to meet — New York is a big place. But, most importantly, I can’t wait to be closer to the woman I love.

So, here’s to San Francisco and to everyone that has made this place so great. Thank you.

Eastbound (and not down)

I cannot believe I am doing this. I thought I would live in California forever. When I moved up to San Francisco from the Silicon Valley in 2009, I told myself that I’d never move back to the East Coast… but I am. And when I cut through all of the sadness of leaving my friends, I’m excited about it.

In September of last year, I started dating an amazing girl that lives in Northern Virginia by the name of Hillary. We met on Jam Cruise in January of 2011 and kept in touch throughout the year. In September, we both met up in New York City for a weekend of music and adventure, and I think we both knew that we were on the verge of something very exciting.

This past January, we decided that this East Coast-West Coast relationship was just too difficult and we needed to do something if we wanted to try to make this work… Enter New York City.

I’ve spent the last week in New York finalizing one of the most critical components of my upcoming relocation, the apartment. I’ve found an amazing 1++ bedroom in Park Slope, Brooklyn and just need to coordinate the physical move. Work has been incredibly flexible about the entire thing, especially considering that half of the team that I manage is based in the NY office.

I’ve done three long-distance moves in my life and this move is very different. This is the first time where I actually have a lot of feelings for the city I’m leaving and will be very sad to say Goodbye to the West Coast and the incredible people and city of San Francisco. Since re-starting my life in SF in 2009, I’ve met so many awesome people through work, kickball, the music scene, yoga and life. The transition is going to be tough, but I know I’m making the right decision. I love Hillary and I know this is right. It’s just the adaptation back to the east coast lifestyle is going to take a lot of getting used to.

So here I am.. on an airplane back to San Francisco for the very last time as a California resident.  My plan is to leave San Francisco after Memorial Day and drive out to New York. Fortunately, there’s enough going on the next few weeks to keep my mind off of the sadness of leaving California… but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

I’ll definitely miss this place.. I’m just happy to know that I have someone as wonderful and loving as Hillary to be there on the other end to help make this whole thing worth it.

How things work out

It’s funny the way things work out. After participating in a fun Twitter Meme started by a former co-worker celebrating 13 years at Boston.com, it got me thinking about my favorite events working at the company.

One thing that came up whilst on my trip down memory lane was the summer afternoon where a few folks from the Washington Post came to visit and meet with us and share best practices and discuss our CMS. It must’ve been sometime around 2002 or 2003. The meeting took place between our marketing and design departments and I was asked to come along to talk to this guy Mark about potential CMS projects. I was a marketing web developer at the time and our CMS was non-existent. I wasn’t even involved with the project, either, so it was a bit strange that I was the one that was invited to the meetings.

Mark and I ended up running into each other a year or two later at an online advertising conference known as AdMonsters. We kept in touch and would often reach out to ask about advertising implementation strategies or discuss some new ad product that launched on one of our two sites, to share some insight into how it was done behind the scenes.

Mark ends up leaving the Post to go out to California, eventually finding himself at Google and I end up leaving Boston.com shortly thereafter to move to New York. A year or so goes by, and Mark reaches out to me asking me if I’m interested in applying for a job at Google. I thought it was a totally ridiculous idea, but figured it was worth a shot.

After 6 months of stress and interviews, I end up getting the job and we move out to California. Five and a half years later, Mark and I are still with Google; we even worked on the same team at one point. So, thanks Mark! Who knew what a last-minute meeting with some folks Washington Post would end up having such a profound impact on my life.

One day, I hope that I’ll look back and smile when I think of how a yellow button with black lettering that read “Obscene Things!” also changed my life.

Twenty dot Twelve

I started 2012 by writing a mission statement. I’ve memorized my mission statement and will say that 20 days into the month of January, I’ve been doing a pretty good job living up to it.

Despite only being 20 days into the new year, the year has already taken a very interesting turn.

I am very excited to see what this new year will bring.

 

Goodbye 2011

I’ve spent the last hour preparing myself for this coming year, what I’ve been calling 20.12, by writing a personal mission statement to help guide my way on this next journey around the sun. So, as we say goodbye to 2011, I thought it’d be fitting to take a moment to reflect on the past year. Here are some of my highlights, in no particular order.

  • I completed my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification and teach a weekly yoga class at YouTube.
  • I sailed the high seas with 2,000 of my closes friends on Jam Cruise.
  • I held my newly-born nephew.
  • I let go of the last remnants of things I’d been holding onto from my marriage.
  • I spent a week in Black Rock City, NV for the 20th annual Burning Man Festival
  • I traveled to Brazil, Argentina, New Orleans, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Honduras, Mexico and New York.
  • I met Hillary.
  • I went to my second Jazz Fest in New Orleans. It was a touch classy.
  • I have identified myself as a Pantheist.
  • The High Rollers won the WAKA SF Kickball Championship.

Thank you for a wonderful year, 2011. I look forward to enjoying everything that 20.12 has to offer. Happy New Year, Ethernet!

Facebook and Google

I’ve bitched a lot about Facebook the past year, primarily because I disagree with the way that Facebook assumes that everything you do wants to be public information.

You’re opted by default into Facebook Places, allowing people to broadcast to anyone where you are.
Photos, people can tag you doing stupid things, all without your permission unless your carefull modify your settings.
Facebook started using your name and photo in ads, unless you opted out.
Facebook has been found to be publicly sharing user data with advertisers and other developers.

You post everything on Facebook. You tell it what you like. What you’re doing. Where you’re doing it and who with. This is your life. It is your timeline (I love the design, for the record).  Now, don’t you think you should be able to choose which information you share and with whom (including developers, partners, advertisers,etc.)

Let me explain why this gets me so worked up…

I work at Google. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the advertisers running on our AdSense partner sites (the Google Display Network) are respecting your right to Internet privacy. The team I manage ensures that  our advertisers are not storing any data about you and that they fully declare how they use it by way of the advertiser’s privacy policy. We ensure that advertisers are not stealing your online identity, allowing them to thus target you without your express knowledge and agreement.

We review every ad that is served on our network to ensure that it is not dropping any tracking cookies from shady advertisers, ad networks or other online entities. For the select vendor tracking cookies we allow, we carefully screen them for data collection practices, malware protection and require that they each include a method in their privacy policy to allow you to opt out from being tracked.

Google collects behavioral data about which sites you visit, to put them into categories for advertisers to target. We tell you this information up front and allow you to delete or change what we know about you. Hmmm.. Google thinks I’m 35-44 years old. I’m kind of offended.

We tell you exactly what we know about you and how we use it.

Now let’s talk about Facebook. You tell Facebook everything. Facebook is your online identity. If an someone could take a snapshot of your life (your books, conversations, interests) and put it in one massive database, it’d be Facebook. All this information is then shared with advertisers, research companies its partners.  For example, the marketing research company Nielsen has a new product known as OCR, which will report back to advertisers which ads you’ve seen, on which pages of the internet, how you responded to the ad and compare that with your Facebook profile. You can’t choose what information is shared with Nielsen and what’s not. But that’s ok, right?

They’ve now allowing applications and partners to post directly to your stream and share everything you do, with or without your permission. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I’d rather not tell everyone what movies I’m watching, reading, or listening to without me saying so. Do I want people to know that I a closet Real Housewives fan (I’m not)? Or that I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Vitamin String Orchestra? I’d rather choose tell that to people, not assume that what I do in my private life is up for public consumption.

Spotify! I love it. Greatest app ever. I am a paying user for $9.99 a month. I get an email from them last week, with the subject line “Ron Bailer is listening to ____.” I open it up and it’s a promotional email from Spotify, who has a list of all my friends and is allowing the use of their names in promotional emails. I don’t want my name showing up in anyone else’s promotional email. Even if I love a product, I don’t want them to assume they can use my name in their advertisements. What is Ron hates Spotify?  I asked Spotify about this, and they told me:

The email you are referring too comes from Spotify Social and occurs when you link your Spotify account to Facebook. It will send out these emails occasionally to other users within your social network, so it is possible that from time to time your Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts to Spotify will receive similar emails with your information in.

There is no “opt in” or “opt out” option for this as it is part of the social experience. If you do not wish for information to be shared in this way you will need to disconnect your Facebook account from Spotify.

I like using Spotify and I want to share my playlists with other people. Why must I give up my right to privacy in order to get the convenience of sharing a song or a playlist with someone else. I know what you’re going to say.. this is Spotify’s problem (not Facebook’s). I disagree.

Google would never allow a partner or advertiser to do this to you, without your permission (or at least a way to opt out).

Advertisers on Facebook can target any demographic or profile term they want and hit you with a display ad. These ads can then drop cookies (and flash cookies) on you that can tag you as having specific qualities. You can’t opt out of it. You don’t even know it’s happening or when. The Facebook Privacy policy doesn’t offer any opt-outs for these sorts of things.

The information you share online is information about you. Think about it this way. If you have a secret or a personal story that you want to tell someone in real life. Who would you rather trust? The person that will keep your secret and allow you to say with whom they can and cannot share it? Or someone who thinks that “the age of privacy is over” and is willing to tell it to anyone that’s willing to listen?

Cat Massage

Ever since I started The Diatribe, I’ve been getting all sorts of spam. Spam from comments. Spam requests to advertise. Spam requests to be my friend. All sorts of stuff, but my latest email … well, I don’t think I can even classify it as spam, because it seems legit. I figured I’d post the entire email on my blog as well as the link that she shared, because I think it’s hilarious.

If she really did stumble upon The Diatribe and read the last 25 or so posts, she probably saw they were all about yoga.. I have no idea why she thought this would be interesting to my readers, but that’s besides the point. Either way, here’s the email I received:

Dear Brandon,

My name is Candice and I promote content across the web. While searching for some resources, posts and pictures around cats and cat lovers, I came across your site and thought your readers would enjoy this cat infographic.

Many would consider cat paws to be nature’s masseuses, given the natural tendency of paw kneading. This infographic humorously illustrates some techniques you could teach your kitty cat to relieve some of those stress created knots.

The Guide to a Cat Massage [Infographic]

The link also provides the embed of the graphic, which ensures creative commons.

I hope your readers enjoy this graphic! If you have any questions regarding this infographic or any others, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks,
Candice P.

One large, collaborative diatribe.