Monday, October 26, 2009

Redwoods Pt. 2

At the bottom of the valley, we stopped by this stream to eat some trail mix and relax a bit.  A while later as we hiked back through this area on our way out of the valley, a herd of elk had just emerged from the woods

Some crazy moss growing on this tree.  Crazy.

Driving through a forest of giant trees kind of makes you feel like you were riding on a speeder bike on Endor.  Kinda.  Sorta.

At the end of the day, we took one last hike down to overlook where this river meets the ocean.  Where we camped that night was just on the other side of the river, up on the cliffs above the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean and me.

Redwood National Park

On Wednesday, my brother and I traveled up to Redwood National Park and the surrounding state parks, just about as far north as you can go in California before you get to Oregon.  We camped that night up on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.  It was a free walk-in campsite, which we were especially grateful for as for some reason all California state parks charge an outrageous $35 just to pitch a tent for the night.  Below is the first round of pictures from the park(s), and I intend to post more.

Just after entering the national park, we pulled over in the morning fog to walk on the beach a bit.  Both of us dared the waves to wash far enough ashore to get us wet.  I won, Cody lost.  He waited a bit too long when one was coming right at us and got his feet and pant bottoms wet.  I ran, and got away.

We drove down into this valley and hiked a few more miles into the bottom of it to walk amongst some of the most ancient and largest trees the park has to offer.  Some are as old as 1,500 years!  To put that into perspective, the oldest would have been saplings when the Franks and Visigoths were fighting for the control of France after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

You could live in this tree.  Something big and mean (like a bear or mountain lion) probably does.

Looking up.

Thats me standing in the middle of the "Tall Trees Grove".  Perspective.

The California Coast (Stuck In LAX)

So today ends my California vacation.  I've been out here for the last week or so visiting my brother (who lives in Los Angeles) and taking in the sights of southern and northern Cali.  I've had a great time, and am bracing for the cold of Wisconsin that awaits me back home.  

Unfortunately, my arrival back in Madison is being delayed until tomorrow morning due to flight complications.  I was supposed to fly out of LAX at 2:20 today, connect in Denver, and then arrive back in Madison at 10:30 tonight.  When I arrived at the airport I learned that the flight to Denver had been delayed long enough so that I would miss my connecting flight to Madison.  The best that United Airlines could do was put me on a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, which wont leave until 11 tonight, will arrive in Chicago around 5:30 tomorrow morning, and I will then take a flight to Madison, arriving home tomorrow morning around 8:30.  While my flight plans do not necessarily make for interesting reading, let me just take this moment to publicly whine.  I will be in this airport for the next seven hours, and I've already been here for a couple.  

The one good thing about this situation is that it gives me plenty of Internet time to post pictures from the vacation.  I had to pay $8 for the Internet at LAX, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it go to waste.  I actually tried to get United to get me a free password for the wireless system here since they inconvenienced me, but no dice.  I wish this airport had free wireless like Denver, where you just have to watch a short ad from a sponsor before logging on.  I wish I were going through Denver.  Ok, enough whining, here are some pictures from the California coast, north of San Francisco.

When we first made it to the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy. 1) after leaving San Francisco early that morning, it was pretty damn foggy.  This was a vista point right where we entered the highway, eager to see the coast.

The day soon began to brighten up, and here you can see Cody standing above the mighty Pacific Ocean, just a little further on up the coast.

We stopped for lunch in some little coastal town.  The restaurant was up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and they were nice enough to let us take our food down to their garden on trays so that we could dine with a view.  Oh, and their clam chowder was pretty spot on as well.

A little further north, just south of Fort Bragg, we stopped at Russian Gulch State Park and went on a hike.  This was our first (of many) sighting of the gigantic banana slug.  Huge, cool slugs, pretty rad.

Russian Gulch also provided our first encounter with the gigantic Redwood trees.  Here is Cody standing next to an old Redwood stump, with a newer tree growing on top of it.  I believe the forests here were logged fairly heavily, but we got to see some ancient, humongous trees the next day in Redwood National Park...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

San Francisco

My brother Cody and I left Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon (after watching the Packers beat the pulp out of the Lions) and headed north to San Francisco.  The plan was to spend two nights and a day exploring that city before heading further north in California to do some camping and hiking along the coast.  We also had a gig at the Bazaar Cafe with my old college friend Branden Kolarik.  Below are some pictures from our San Francisco adventures.

Cody at the southern (San Francisco) end of the Golden Gate Bridge, before we walked across it and back.  Construction started on the bridge back in 1933 and it was finished in 1937.  Imagine how many people the construction employed during the Great Depression?  Maybe we should be building more bridges?  I'm sure the bay could use another bridge.  Lets build a bridge across Lake Mendota back in Madison while we're at it.  Bridges for jobs!

Looking back at the bridge from the north end after walking across it.  Someone told me that the bridge is three quarters of a mile long, and so walking it both ways is a mile and a half.

The Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco's signature skyscraper.  It was built in 1972 and used to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi before one in Los Angeles surpassed it in 1974.

A view of downtown San Fran while walking up to the Coit Tower.

This house is where the Grateful Dead lived in the 60's, on a block or so from the corner of Haight and Ashbury.  While the area was a hippy haven slum during that time, it is now a trendy shopping area.  

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Santa Monica, in the winter time...

...the coldest place is on the Promenade. Yes, for those of you that know your bad 90's music, those are lyrics from a Savage Garden song. I had their album when I was in middle school, and couldn't get that awful song out of my head while bumming around Santa Monica with my brother, Cody. Naturally, I had to share the song with him every time he said "Santa Monica." And now I had to share it with you.

Though it is not quite winter time, it was beginning to feel like it back in Wisconsin, getting far too cold far too early. So it was a nice change of pace to arrive into sunny, 80-something Los Angeles in mid-October. My brother picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to Santa Monica to enjoy the seaside weather.

I have it on good authority (Cody) that palm trees are not native, but were brought to California from Hawaii. In exchange, Hawaii got sand for its' beaches from California. Apparently Hawaii does not have naturally sandy beaches, rather rocky, sharp, volcanic ones.

Beach. With a background of smog.

Sunset. Cody. Santa Monica Pier.

Cody's new pad in Van Nuys. It looks nice on the outside, but its kind of a dump. The living room is my favorite part, and Cody says it best, "its meant for nobody to use." His new roommates seriously have it set up with two couches, neither of which have the cushions on them and so are unusable, and there are random arcade games around, as its somebody's hobby to fix them. Weird. Either way, its a place to rest your head.

*Maybe you were confused about this post and didn't even know I was in California or headed that way as I didn't mention it in an earlier post? Just to fill you in, I am spending 9 days or so visiting my brother, who lives in Los Angeles. We are spending a couple days in San Francisco (where I am currently) and playing a gig there, and then heading further north to do some camping, play a gig in Fort Bragg, and then head back down to Los Angeles next weekend for a gig in Hollywood and a visit from our friend Tony, who lives in Vegas. Thats the intinerary, don't stalk us, we are armed with instruments. And in case you didn't realize that I also have a songwriter-inclined brother, check out his rad tunes right here: Cody Statz

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama wins the Nobel, I win the Fabulous award. Coincidence?

I have been awarded a very prestigious blogging award by my friend Alex over at You Think its EASY Being This Awesome?, the Simply Fabulous Award.  While I at first was humbled, shocked, honored, and thankful, I then realized that I have to follow through on certain responsibilities upon receiving this award.  Not cool.  So now I may be forced to declare war on Norway, I mean Alex.  Anyways, the aforementioned responsibilities include listing my 5 favorite obsessions and passing it along to 5 other bloggers that I enjoy and would like to bestow this honor upon.  

John's 5 obsessions:

1.  Travel.  I have always loved traveling, and was lucky to be raised in a family that traveled a lot when I was a kid.  There isn't a better thing to spend on money on, in my humble opinion, than seeing as much of the world as you can.  I am extra lucky to have found a way to make money while traveling: tricking unsuspecting locals into listening to mid-western folk music.

2.  Alt.-country/southern rock.  I am absolutely obsessed with bands like the Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Uncle Tupelo, etc.  Something about that roots driven rock'n'roll resonates with my soul and makes me want to drink bourbon  and drive fast (not at the same time).  I like my rock'n'roll with a side of southern ass-whuppin', and I like my folk and country with some real grit.

3.  Snow.  Most people hate it, I wait all spring, summer and fall for it.  I love snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  Bring it.

4.  Beer.  I love the taste of it.  If beer had no alcohol and tasted just as great, I would still drink it.  Its too bad all non-alcoholic brands taste like soapy water.

5.  Wisconsin.  I love traveling, and I love leaving Wisconsin, but I always love coming home.  I love mountains and I love oceans, but I love fall Wisconsin colors, corn fields at dusk, northwoods campfires, progressive politics, and the driftless hills of southwestern WI more.  

Now to pass the award on to some other unsuspecting victims...

1. Dane101: Madison, Wisconsin's all-covering blog, keeping Madisonians up to date with whats going on locally, from music to food to politics to Adam Schabow posing naked with his new guitar.

2. Pharyngula: My favorite nerdy blog on all things evolution, freethinking, and secular.  PZ Meyers rocks, and I met him once on State St.!

3. this is how i will get famous: My old upstairs neigbor, Reem.  She is pretty goddamn hilarious.  Read her blog.  Live better.

4. Steve, Don't Eat It!: Steve eats nasty things for your enjoyment.  Its disgusting, awesome, and enlightening.  Pretty sure its long defunct, but the old posts are pure magic.

5. So Close and Yet Safari: And I pass the buck back to Alex with her other blog, a wonderful account of her Africa trip that I have pimped on here before.  Thanks, Alex!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sugar Loaf hike - Winona, MN

I'm currently up in Winona, MN, as I played a gig in town last night at Ed's.  I'm playing tonight in LaCrosse, WI, but before heading that way I took a hike up the Sugar Loaf with my buddy Jeff.  I took some pictures with my cell phone of the view from the top and of the Sugar Loaf itself.

Looking down the Mississippi River Valley at Winona and beyond.


Jeff at the base of Sugar Loaf.

The Sugar Loaf.  You can climb to the top, but I happened to be wearing dress shoes and Jeff just got done puking up his breakfast, so we passed on that option.

The view down the other side, looking at the beautiful Mississippi bluffs.

The show last night was great, thanks so much to everyone who came out!  My buddy Nick Shattuck opened the show and played a great set.  We'll both be playing again tonight in LaCrosse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cell Phone Pictures - Vol. 1

My Motorola phone broke last week and wouldn't charge, leaving me in a bit of a predicament.  Luckily, it was still under warranty and AT&T mailed me a new one today, same model, but I have to send my old one to them.  This meant that I had to get everything off of my old phone that I wanted to save.  I don't know about you guys, but I end up taking a lot of pictures with my cell phone that I never do anything with.  So, after I used Bluetooth to extract the hundred or so photos on the old phone, I decided I might as well go through them and see if there were any keepers, or at least funny ones to post.  Here they are for your amusement.

A kitten in Sarah Donner's bathroom sink in Princeton, NJ.

Justin Jahnke of Flame Shark gives props to his Lil' Buddy before rocking the World's Largest Brat Fest.

It was a cold night at the Jade Monkey Lounge in Madison, and the dare was simple: Ryan had to press his bare cheeks against the frozen entry door.  It was definitely hovering around 0 degrees that night, yowza!

We call this here an Icequake.  This picture is from Lake Mendota in Madison.  Sometimes these are strong enough to actually shake the ground and cause a loud popping sound heard all over the city.

Park City, UT.  Best day of snowboarding I ever had.  Rolled into town the morning after they got hit with over 30 inches of fresh powder.  I was playing that night in town, and my couchsurfing host was an employee at the hill, and was able to hook me up with a half-priced ticket.

I hope you have enjoyed this random installment of pictures found on my old cellphone.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Transatlantic Telegraph Cable

So this morning while I was taking a shower an odd question came to me.  I found myself thinking about how easily we today communicate all over the world, and wondered when we were first able to communicate continent to continent, specifically across the Atlantic Ocean, without news having to be relayed person to person.  In other words, since the telegraph was the first step towards our modern communication era, when was the first Transatlantic telegraph cable laid, and must that not have been a serious undertaking?  So after watching the Packers lose against the dreaded Vikings, I came home and decided to do some light research, just enough to quell my curiosity.

As this is not a paper for school, I hope that you will accept Wikipedia as my main source.  My apologies, my college history professors would be appalled.

Now if you had to take a guess, what year would you guess the continents of North America and Europe were connected by telegraph?  I would've put my guess at around 1900.  I was positive that there was connection by World War I at the latest, as the famed Zimmerman Telegram from Germany to Mexico is often cited as a major reason that the U.S. entered that war.  So I knew that the cable had been laid before World War I, but had no idea how early before.

The correct year?  1866.  Well, that is the year that it was finally achieved for lasting use.  Attempts began in 1857 and the first telegraph (a message between Queen Victoria and President James Buchanan) was sent between the continents in 1858, though that wire broke less than a month later.  I find it fascinating that at that early of a date, when the world had yet to move past the steam engine, humans were able to lay a cable down the entire width of the Atlantic Ocean, connecting Newfoundland and Ireland.  Apparently ships started on either end with their part of the cable, and then met in the middle of the Atlantic, fusing the cable together before letting it drop to the ocean floor.  It seems that they had a few mistrials, as the cable broke multiple times.  The whole process is described on wikipedia quite well. 

The first transatlantic telegraph communication was followed in 1901 by the first transatlantic radio transmission, done by Mr. Guglielmo Marconi.  The first transatlantic telephone cable was laid in 1955, the first transatlantic communications satellite was launched in 1962, and the first fiber-optic cable in 1988.

Just take a moment to think about that, as you use the Internet to access websites from Asia, Skype to talk to friends overseas, or switch out SIM cards effortlessly on cell phones while traveling in other countries to maintain contact with friends and family around the world.  Communication has come a long way, and we take our connected world for granted.  The next time you pick up a phone, think about the first transatlantic cable, laid in the middle of the 19th-century.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spies, Slacking, and Rec Reading

My songwriting notebook was stolen from me.  Or I just left it somewhere.  Maybe.  But I'm pretty sure Nashville sent a thief up to Wisconsin to sneak into my apartment and steal it, those were grammy-winning lyrics for sure.  Its a serious tragedy, though, as I had about 20 unfinished songs in there, all in various levels of completion.  Yea, three fourths of them were probably no good, but apparently they were good enough for the music row spies.  Yea, I'm pretty sure thats the guy right there in the picture, he just looks like a slick espionage-r.    

I am a total slacker.  This blog does not get updated nearly enough.  

But here is a blog you should definitely read.  Its a travel journal based on adventures in Kenya, written by my new friend Alex.  A great example of a well-kept travel blog, something I would definitely like to work towards.  Here it is: So Close and Yet Safari