Mark

10 Things I’ve Learned – October 2011

1. National Parks stamps are addictive.

Stamps are awesome.

At the beginning of 2011, Jackie and I took a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, as well as Grand Canyon National Park. Joshua Tree was our first visit to a National Park, and we were inspired by the landscape as well as perturbed that we had seen so little of the United States. This trip laid the foundation somewhat for us to decide to travel the country and see what the US has to offer its citizens, both in sports and in beauty. We’re also suckers for gift shops, and after dedicating ourselves to seeing more of the US, we decided to purchase a National Parks Passport book so we can keep track of everywhere we go. By the time we got home, we were already planning our next trip to our nearest stamp-giving spot, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

And this trip has been no different for us. Zion National Park, Petroglyphs NM, Craters of the Moon NM, and Scottsbluff NM just to name a few. If there’s a stamp within striking distance of our route, you can bet we’ll be going there. We just hope that stamps of your country’s National Parks isn’t some kind of fad like pogs or Toms shoes.

2. There are more foreign tourists in America than American tourists.

German bikers invading the Hoover Dam

During our stamp-getting visits to America’s National Parks, we’ve been stunned by the amount of foreign tourists at these sites. German biker gangs at the Hoover Dam, Australian vacationers at Zion, and buses full of Japanese photographers at each stop. Foreign tourists outnumbered American by 2 to 1 easily. Now, this isn’t going to be a xenophobic rant about foreigners as much as it’s a calling out of Americans. You know when you go to Europe or Asia, and you do all of that touristy crap like visit leaning towers or circuses that aren’t really circuses (still mad about that one)? Why can’t Americans do that in their own country? It used to be cool to visit American historical sites. Now places like the Hoover Dam are laughed at and tossed aside. When did it become uncool to be a tourist in your own country?

3. Historical tours in Utah are kind of like time share presentations.

Jackie with her new BFF.


This should go out as a warning to you all. Not only should you never go on a time share presentation at any point in your life, but you should also avoid any seemingly historical tours on the state of Utah. Brigham Young’s winter home in St. George, Utah looked like a perfect place to waste a little bit of time while educating ourselves on the history of the city that we would be spending the next few days in. As the door shut,  our “tour guide” locked it and we instantly knew that we had made the wrong decision. We had just entered into a Mormon conversion chamber, with a side or historical “facts”.

Now, we’re all for people having the right to their own religions, and also understand that sometimes religion is a huge part of an area, like say, Utah. But much like those terrible time share presentations, don’t make me feel like a trapped prisoner. No, I do not want a condo on the Keys for 1 week every year, and I certainly don’t want to sit on this Mormon couch and hear about  Brigham Young’s 3rd wife and your spiritual connection to her.

4. Girls are nasty.

Confirming what I have suspected ever since kindergarten, girls have cooties, and they are trying to spread them. Being writers (don’t laugh), we spend way too much time on the internet looking up things to try to help whatever is it that we’re trying to write about. So when I stumbled upon this gem, I just had to bring it to everyone’s attention, and hope that the offenders can change their ways.

To sum the study up, researchers found that women’s bathrooms have a higher rate of fecal matter present than that in men’s bathrooms. While this may come as a shock to most, due to the liberal media’s agenda, it’s fact. My hypothesis centers around an act I’ve termed “hovering”, but I feel that it might be a bit much to delve into on this family friendly blog. But ladies, please, let’s clean it up in there.

5. Sticking with the bathroom theme, bathrooms in Montana are shitty, literally.

It was almost as if the people of Montana came together at some point, at a bathroom summit I would imagine, and made a pact to not clean any of the bathrooms in the entire state. Gas station, restaurant, bar, RV park, sports arena, it didn’t matter. In addition, there was a weird smell that pervaded each of them. But not your typical “bathroom” smell, it was just…funky. And just so you know that it wasn’t our own nasal buds that were out of whack, we overheard one waitress at a bar say (when it was her turn to clean it apparently), “I don’t like going in there, it smells”.

Snow in October is categorically uncool.

6. Winter for Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming starts in October.

While in Zion, we made friends on the buses and started asking people about Yellowstone National Park, which we were planning on visiting in late October. “Oh, they won’t have any campgrounds open, and only one road will be open. It’s been snowing there for the past few weeks,” one lady told us. Snow in October should be against the law, but ruining our Yellowstone plans was even more of a crime. A week later, we were met in Montana by a 15 degree night with a not-yet-winterized RV.

7. The I-15 in Utah is the American Autobahn.

While technically having a speed limit, unlike German autobahns, it was shocking to see the number “80″ posted on signs while heading from St. George to Salt Lake City. Not to mention the fact that The Highland Flinger topped it’s 85 mph speedometer with ease, and was getting passed on a regular basis. Why hasn’t the rest of the country gone this route? We have no idea, but can only hope that other states highways will be as free flowing during some of our future long driving stretches.

8. Everyone needs to get on the same “spice scale”.

You know what I’m talking about here. Something on the menu has a little chile pepper character next to it, noting to customers that it’s “muy espicy”. Then you taste it and realize that Beefaroni has more kick to it. Or on the more rare occasion when a friend says, “oh it’s not that spicy”, and you’re left chugging milk after having your taste buds seared. Can’t we figure out something less subjective than “mild”, “medium”, and “hot”, and less scientific than the Scoville scale? Great, a habanero is 10 times hotter than a jalapeno, but that gets me nowhere with this sauce in front of me.

This helps no one.

And obviously, different parts of the country have different tolerance levels for spice. In New Mexico, our “mild” stuffed pepper had my nose watering for hours. In Utah, the “spicy” fry sauce tasted like mayonnaise. Let’s figure this thing out before someone gets hurt.

9. Getting interviewed doesn’t get any easier.

Jackie and I have been fortunate enough to be interviewed by various news outlets across the country, and each one of them has been very different. We have tried to go in with a game plan of who-talks-when, but that usually gets thrown out of the window once we both start talking. You’d think that answering questions would get easier, but as Chuck Klostermanhas noted, it’s much harder to be on this side of the microphone than one might imagine.

During our most recent interview with Fox 42 Omaha, our off-the-cuff question answering finally bit us on the buttcheeks. Jackie used the term “submerse”, which brings together real words “submerge” and “immerse”. I on the other hand failed at simple mathematics, claiming that 40,000 hits in a month comes out to something like 400 a day. Not only did I fail at 3rd grade math skills, but I completely undersold our gaining readership (5,ooo hits a day and counting!). Maybe it’s back to the drawing board for our interview gameplan. In the meantime, check out one of our better interviews:

10. Gas is ridiculously cheap in Albuquerque.

This one holds a special place in my heart, and I hope that writing about it can only bring us similar results in the future. While the rest of the country is mired in the $3.50-$3.90 per gallon range, the price of gas in Albuquerque was a whopping $3.03 per gallon! That’s a savings of about $20 each time we filled up, which as you know by now, is very, very often. Why is gas so cheap in Albuquerque you may ask? Well, apparently Albuquerque has a very high percentage of oil company owned gas stations, which allows for lower prices. So you see, it’s those damn small business owners that are ruining the country with their high gas prices! Ok that’s a little tongue-in-cheek (where did this statement come from? But I digress…), but we’re hoping to hit up a few more of those oil company owned gas stations in the very near future. Like, say, the rest of our trip.

 

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