Saturday, August 31, 2019

Road Trip!

I'm going to put forward what seems to be an unpopular sentiment:  Going on a vacation, I'd rather road trip across country for two days than fly for one.

Most people I mention this to scoff.  'Matt, you're really saying you'd rather be in a car for two days instead of taking a four hour flight someplace?'  Let me stop you there.  Your flight might be in the air for a few hours, but taking a flight in America today is a day long, exhausting affair.

To compare these two things, I'll embrace two rules.  First, I'm going to consider the comparison from the point you pull out of your driveway to the point where you get to your destination.  Second, I'm not going to compare driving to a first class travel experience.  Most people can't afford that anyway.  This is comparing how most of us fly, standard.

When you're taking a flight, you either have to A) drive to the airport, pay for a parking spot, and hope your car is safe, B) beg a friend to drop you off and pick up up when you return, or C) pay for a ride. You have to be there at least two hours before your flight, but it's best to be there three hours early.  You get your ticket and check you bag (most of the time regardless if you wanted to check your bag or not), usually with additional costs.  You have to go through the security checkpoint, which at MSP is a nightmare (did you pack everything in tiny little bottles?  Don't have to do that in a car!). Then you get to wait for your flight in crowded, loud and uncomfortable concourses, generally dealing with some of the angriest employees of any industry.  Bonus, you get to pay 3 times more for water, coffee and food than you did before you got into the airport.

You're then crammed onto an airplane, if you don't get bumped.  If you're lucky you're not next to the stinky guy, or the coughing guy, or the loud drooling sleeper, or the guy eating an onion sandwich.  Hopefully the person next to you has the good social graces to keep their shoes on.  Hopefully no turbulence.  Hopefully you're not in the tiny bladder aisle.  If the nearest airport to your destination doesn't have a direct flight, then you get the magic of flying to an unfamiliar airport, trying to patiently get yourself and your carry on off the plane, finding your connecting flights terminal, navigating a huge complicated building, and hoping you don't have to make a mad frantic run for it.  And then you get the added bonus of wondering if your bags will actually make it to your destination.

When you get to your final destination airport, you have to get your bags (if they shows up) and then figure out how you're going to get to where you're sleeping that night.  If you're staying in a local hotel, you might be lucky enough to have a shuttle, or cheap cab ride.  Then you get the magic of checking in, and then get to 'relax' in  a not-home hotel room.  Arrived!

If your final destination is a drive away from the nearest major airport, then you'll either need to beg someone to come pick you up, or rent a car.  Then it's into the rental, navigating unfamiliar streets while you try to figure out how to turn the window wipers on, hoping you don't have to deal with local traffic until you get to your final destination. Arrived!

It's a full day, sometimes even longer.  You're exhausted, bone-tired.  Airline travels SUCKSSSSSS...

I'll concede the first point right away. Yes, the drive is two days, with a quick, and likely expensive hotel stay, but most of the travel hassles you deal with in a plane are not an issue with a car.  I don't have packing restrictions, security checkpoints, shoeless seat mates, and rude customer service reps.

The cost difference is not even close. Using be's drive or fly calculator, the cost of driving on the vacation I just took was about $780 total (for five people).  That includes gas, hotel, and food.  The same trip cost for a flight with rental car (which I needed to have) was almost $3500.  It's almost five times more expensive to fly than drive and THAT should mean something.

When you fly, the country streams beneath you.  You really don't see it.  When driving, you get to witness the country changing before your eyes.  My experience from the last trip; from Minnesota's Northwoods and lakes, to Wisconsin's forests, to Chicago's urban glitter, to flat and weirdly far right, demented Indiana.  Kentucky is gorgeous with horse farms merging into larger rolling hills, eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina are brilliant with mountains, and then you get to the southern pine forests of South Carolina, before changing dramatically in the end as you get onto the coast, a completely different culture and vibe.  You really see America unfold, in all it's glory.

It's also a lot easier to dive into to local culture with food and entertainment when you're on the road.  Airport to airport is the same chain stores/restaurants you can find anywhere.  I discovered Forsyth Country Kitchen on one road trip going through Georgia, a little off the interstate.  That might've been the best food I ever ate.

This comparison does have its limits.  Of course you can't drive overseas, but my experience when I've flown to foreign countries is the customer service is FAR better than on domestic flights.  Also, the West Coast is tough.  That's either two VERY long days of driving with multiple drivers, or it's three days.  Round trip, that would be an additional six days of car travel.  Most of us today can't afford to take more than a few days off, maybe a week.  Anything west of the Rockies has to be on a plane if you have limited time off.

The real test for me is this.  When I fly somewhere, I always need a day to recover.  When I drive, I might nap a little, or sleep in the first day, but I'm off and ready to go.  I always feel far more exhausted after flying.

Do what you like, and enjoy what limited time we have as American workers today.  If I can at all justify the time commitment, I'll be driving.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Friday Link for 8/30/19

Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone!

Here are a few cuts which relate to things I listened to on my road-trip. First off, Patton Oswalt.

***WARNING - Naughty language!***

Patton Oswalt's best comedy bits are like this one, where he conveys a personal story.  If you hear the story just for what it's worth, it's a good story, but it's more a family gathering/few guys around the table kind of story, not the MUST hear story everyone talks about. Patton Oswalt elevates a good story into an all timer.  He effortlessly conveys the 'behind the scenes' portion of the story, and he turns the narrative from a 'that really happened' to a 'that's one of the funniest things I've ever heard!'

All praise quality comedians!

Also this road trip, we listened to the audio book version of 'Ready Player One.'  Will Wheaton read the unabridged version of the book.  He wasn't bad, but he at times sounded like Chandler from Friends with his snarky sarcastic tone, and I'm presuming he was told to read the scoreboard in it's entirety every time it was printed.  That was unnecessary.

The book itself is VERY nerdy, and frankly not the best written.  At times you could tell there was potentially a much better book which could've been written, but instead it wallowed in predictable characters and lazy creativity.

The rest of my family didn't like the constant pop culture references, but I was amazed at how researched the book was.  It was really nerd centric. And the Canadian band Rush playing a major part kept me interested.  Still, I found it impossible to believe people in 25 years would be fascinated and 'living' in a world 55-65 years old.  It'd be like us in 2019 being crazy in love with everything from 1954.  Some things from that time are still popular, but come on.

The movie which was released last year was a bit of a failure.  Now I know why.  The movie hardly followed the book at all, instead it focused on the relentless pop culture references and dumb plot points to get it to the big screen.  In fairness, to make a movie like the book would at least require a two parter, but they could've done a lot better.  If Marvel movies have taught the world anything it's that you don't have to convey the book word for word, but if you're somewhat loyal to to the source material you'll generally end up with a movie which succeeds.

How bad was the movie?  Cinema Sins, in their 'Everything Wrong With' feature kept saying "I guess the book just doesn't matter."  In the case of the movie, it sure didn't.

Then again, Spielberg did take a horrifically bad book in Jaws and turned it into a top movie of all time, so...

Drive safe everyone and have a great Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Friday Link for 8/23/19

Let's get smart!

This week, a trio of educational videos for the Friday Link, starting with great educational series, CrashCourse.  Head to the official CrashCourse page and you will find all sorts of smarts.  No matter what interests you, you can find series which will enlighten you.  I like history and John Green is their history guy!  We're off to explore European History, and namely why the heck Europe and the US started going Witchcraft crazy a few centuries back.

A drier history lesson comes from the British Museum, although I find the item they explain fascinating.  Was it a cup to stop over celebrating, or was it simply the whoopie cushion of its day?  Behold, the Tantalus Cup.

And finally, no educational value at all for Drunk History, but Hader is a riot. Behold, the history of Coca-Cola!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Summer Art

I wanted to make a post this summer of all the art I captured around the Twin Cities.  Minnesota's art scene is incredibly vibrant, and I would say better than most other states in America.  I'm not saying there aren't good artists in Arkansas, Oregon and Ohio.  Of course there are, but the art in this state amazes me.

Most of these photos come from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Weisman Art Museum, and Big Stone. There are a few random shots too. Get out and explore Minnesota Art.  It kicks caboose.

I'll start with my favorite piece of the summer.

This magnificence was part of the Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  It's The Wisdom of the Universe, by Christi Belcourt.

And of course...

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Summer Flowers

One hobby I've enjoyed is photographing flowers.  I try to take a photo whenever I pass by a nice one.  I usually only take one photo.  I make it a challenge to capture it as I saw it, and go, not spend ten minutes hovering over a flower trying to get it perfect.  I take a photo from the angle as it appeared to me initially, and see if it works.  Sometimes it does, sometimes no.

This year, I've not had as many flower photos turn out as I've had in past years, but I did get a few.  Enjoy!

For the record, the lilacs were actually taken this summer, in mid-June in northern Minnesota.  The Spring was so late this year.