Archive for the ‘ travel ’ Category

mumford and all his sons

I love music, but I don’t go to very many concerts. It’s just not that enjoyable of an experience for me. Dark club, toxic smoke fumes, drunk college kids all over the place, 105 degree heatbox. I sound like an old man.

But then there are bands that come along and I’ll do whatever it takes to see them perform live because the music is just that good. Along comes Mumford & Sons with their debut album “Sigh No More” early this year. This album blew me away within the first 20 seconds of listening to it, and it’s pretty much been on my playlist nonstop this year.

They are rightly categorized under the “British Folk” genre, but that might leave you with the impression of a sleepy singer-songwriter style full of dragging slow songs. Hardly. This band has energy and passion that doesn’t stop with the first few tracks, full of fiery imperfection that gives you an honest glimpse into who these guys really are.  They draw a lot of comparisons to The Avett Brothers, except with British accents. The Avett Brothers with British accents would basically be The Swell Season (and I love The Swell Season). Give The Swell Season banjos and we might be getting closer.

Anyways, we were kindly invited to tag along with our friends Dave & Meg to see Mumford & Sons in Bloomington, Indiana earlier this week. We immediately said yes.

So on Monday morning we left unwordly-hot Nashville for an equally unwordly-hot Bloomington. It’s possible that we were pulled over for reckless driving on the way to the gig. It’s also possible that tornado sirens were going off as we stood in line for the concert.  I was responsible for neither of these things. The band played at the Bluebird, which was a fantastic club minus the fact that it was 100 degrees outside and 200 degrees inside. That paired with the wood floors and soaking wet people (post-tornadoes) essentially turned the place into a giant sauna. But after suffering through two opening acts we were finally given the chance to hear what we came for.

I’m terrible at describing concerts, but suffice to say, it was one of the most fantastic shows I’ve ever seen. These guys are incredibly proficient musicians, multi-instrumentalists, and extremely talented at what they do. They were able to recreate every ounce of passion on stage that you hear on the album, and probably more. I’m incredibly excited to hear what’s next from this young band in the years to come.

For just a glimpse of what we got to experience, check out this live video of “The Cave“.

so one day we went to greece

So we went to Greece! Steph and I decided in January that we were going to go on an international mission trip this year, and it happened! You’re thinking, “Right, Greece… some mission trip.” To which we say, Paul’s mission trips were to Greece, so if it was good for Paul it’s good for us.

Every year the international missionaries of the Southern Baptist church attend an annual conference in their region called an Annual General Meeting. This is a chance for them to get away from their local ministry with their families and take part in training, interact with other missionaries, and relax. The week is full with worship services, classes, VBS for the kids, and all sort of other activities. Steph and I were part of a team from our church in Nashville that led the worship music at the conference for the week. It was an incredible experience, and we met so many great people who have dedicated their lives to serving overseas.

Leading worship for the missionaries was an incredibly unique experience. In America we take for granted our opportunity to go to church without fear, and worship in peace and freedom. We’ve all been told that we take this for granted countless times. But this freedom was cast in a different light when we witnessed 900 missionaries worshiping who DO NOT have this freedom in the countries they serve in. We met a number of individuals who serve in high security countries where the political or military environment prevents them from being open about their faith, and demands that their work as missionaries be kept a secret (some of them couldn’t even tell us exactly what city they served in and what their job function is). As you might imagine, song lyrics that talk about “trials” and “burdens” that may seem intangible to us take on an entirely personal meeting for these folks. We have never seen a group of people worship and sing with such passion, and the wall of sound of singing voices that greeted us every morning when we began to play was inspiring.

We were grateful to have the opportunity to spend a day in Athens on our return trip. Among the highlights from touring the ancient city was the ability to visit the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, walk on top of Mars Hill (where Paul gave his famous speech to the Athenians), and eat some really fantastic Greek food.

For us, a band of 8 traveling from Tennessee, playing music at a conference center was not what we would consider a great personal sacrifice. After all this is something we love to do, and whether we do it at home in Nashville or halfway around the world, we try to bring the same spirit and energy to prompt people to worship God wherever we are.

But to 900 missionaries who live in a culture that is not their own, who struggle daily with a language that is not their own, and are presented with daily challenges that would make many of us throw up our hands in defeat… being able to worship in English was a rare treasure. I think we all left Greece, not with a feeling of personal pride at having “performed” well, but with the confidence that God had used us to meet a specific and important need. It was a fantastic trip, and we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to go.

To see some photos from our trip, check out this album on Facebook.

new york, new york: this space is NOT for rent

This week Jeremy and I went up to New York for a digital music conference, as well as meetings with accounts and the guys we work with at Warner, our parent company. I’ve been to New York before, but only once, and only for a brief period of time. I never really had the chance to experience the city before, but this week I did!

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One of the things that stuck out to me about New York is that they have PERFECTED the art of not wasting space. They are space “efficientists”. Vacancy is a scare resource, and they use every square inch of it. Buildings are squeezed together impressively tight. If a road curves or angles, the building architecture curves and angles with it to make the most of all the real estate. Sidewalks are a good 15 inches narrower in New York than any other city to grant more internal square footage.

They say the only place to build is up, and New Yorkers do this well. Of course they have the skyscrapers, but anything and everything can be put on top of another building. Watertowers, and playgrounds, and basketball courts are launched upwards, and the buildings themselves are additions to the decades-old foundations, creating a continuous inseparable concrete / metal mass running the length Long Island.

There are 305 million people living in the United States. 150 million of those people live in New York City, and 100 million of them are cab drivers.

As we were heading out of town in our taxi we drove by a house in Queens that had a short little wrought iron fence outlining a tiny yard the size of a Fiat. In it were piled a trampoline, a bicycle, a push lawn-mower, a swing set, a toy tractor, and a jungle-gym.

There was a little seven year old boy playing in the backyard… actually he was just looking out the living room window smiling, imagining what it would be like if he had room to play in the backyard.

Sometimes there is an architectural oversight and a property owner is left with the smallest piece of vacant land after his building is erected. In this case the city immediately claims eminent domain, paves it, and lays down a set of solid yellow lines to convert it into a parking space.

Actually, this rarely happens as there are only 7 parking spaces in New York City. 2 are in lower Manhattan, 3 on the Upper West Side, 1 in Greenwich Village, and 1 is a park-and-ride up in the Bronx.

If by some act of the Almighty you are blessed with finding one of these spots, it will take an equally supernatural force to lift and place your car into a space the size of a twin-bed.

It’s impossible to park under your own power, though some have tried, resulting in over 700 million deserted cars strung up and down the streets of the city. Their owners just got up and walked away. The cost of the car was less than the cost of time spent trying to maneuver into a spot.

That’s actually how Hertz Car Rental got it’s start. A couple guys from Jersey moved in, threw up some big yellow signs on street corners and started renting out deserted cars to travelers for 70 bucks a pop.

And that’s why everyone started taking taxis in the first place… they couldn’t find a spot to park their rental, so they just gave up and hailed a ride into the city.

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: 2008 Backpacking Trip

As promised, a few posts on our recent backpacking trip are forthcoming, including pictures from the great wide open.

Our destination was the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of Colorado, which is directly West of Colorado Springs about 2 hours. This area is located in the San Isabel National Forest and part of the Sawatch Mountain range; named Collegiate Peaks because a handful of the key mountains are named for universities (e.g. – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, etc.)

My best estimation is that we hiked a total of 20 miles, including a non-pack ascent of Mt. Yale. In backpacking terms, it wasn’t really a long trip distance-wise, but in my opinion it was quite difficult. Maybe I’m just getting old, and sitting in a cubicle 50 hours a week is catching up with me, but several stretches of our trip took lot of effort. But the effort was worth it and the views incredible at multiple points.

So over the next few posts as I write about each of our days on the trip I’ll include some pictures, and I’ll refer to my new best friend, the Google Map. Of course, I couldn’t help myself – I had to plot out our route on the map, and I’ll refer to it as I write. If you want to check out our route, you can see it here (and be sure to change the view to ‘Terrain’, it’s more interesting that way).


10 states in 10 days

Well, we’re back, and wow, what a trip. I look forward to spending a few posts to ‘unpack’ the trip, especially the backpacking portion. But to kick things off I thought it would be fun to start simply with a cartographic representation of our trip. This will go to great lengths to demonstrate just how nerdy I am.

10 states in 10 days was accomplished by leaving Nashville and heading north towards Kentucky, then Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. We changed things up a bit for the return trip and visited some new states, starting with New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and finally back home to Tennessee.

Anyways, check out this handy dandy Google map I made of our trip. You can see our route, and you can also click on the place-markers to see some comments and pictures.

into the woods

Today we start in on backpacking, which naturally means this will be my last post for a week. We drive up into the mountains from Pueblo this morning towards Buena Vista. We’ll camp at the trail head tonight and then start hiking Monday morning.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the past few weeks regarding such things as: Are you really going to sleep in a tent for a week? Are you going to have to carry all of your food on your back? You mean you’re not going to have running water out there?

Yes, all this is true. I consider this true camping – back-country backpacking, carrying all your needed items on your back in a pack, and far, far removed from civilization. We sleep in a tent, not a cabin. We cook our own food. We do not have bathrooms. We do not care if we smell bad this week.

This in my opinion is the purest form of a vacation, and I absolutely cannot wait.

Our trip this morning will take us up one the prettiest drives in Colorado, that being the Arkansas River canyon from Canon City westward. It features 100-300 foot sheer cliffs on either side of a narrow canyon which twists and turns upward over the course of 30 miles. The road is right at the bottom of the canyon, bordering the Arkansas River which at this point will be quite narrow, though moving quickly and appears extremely pure with a blueish green tint. Very beautiful.

Buena Vista is the closest town to where we will be hiking, though even that will be about 20 miles away from us once we get up into the back-country. But to give some sense of placement, we’ll be about 100 miles directly west of Colorado Springs up in an area called the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. It’s called this because the primary mountains of the region – reaching upwards of 14,000 ft tall – are named after a handful of the Ivy League schools such as Mt. Harvard, and Mt. Yale, etc.

So that’s the plan folks. Five days from now (Friday) we’ll be exiting the wilderness – hopefully much refreshed, and inspired by some of the most beautiful country in the world. Priority #1 will be finding a steak restaurant to partake of a medium-rare prime rib, after a week of eating dehydrated meals in ziplock bags. But after that I’ll post an update or two here to bring you up to speed on how the week went.

I will say this, if you don’t hear from me for say, I don’t know, two weeks from now, you may want to call the ranger station in Buena Vista, CO. But I don’t anticipate any issues… let’s just pray for good weather, and safe hiking. Talk to you soon!

oil fields and corn wells

Today was Kansas. All of it, in all of it’s hot, flat, windy, dusty glory.

We hooked up with my parents, brother, and sister this morning in Olathe, KS – stocked up on required caffeinated beverages and took off down the road. We stayed on the Interstate for all of about 40 miles, and then hit the ol’ US Highway. My dad had it in mind to take the scenic route today, which is fine – we have no real time barriers, so sure, let’s experience the American Midwest.

My Grandma Burns lives in Ellinwood, KS, which is this tiny little hiccup in the middle of the country. We figured this was a good opportunity to see her, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousin (along with her new baby boy). But first, we had to visit our oil well. Well, not our oil well… my Grandma on my mom’s side inherited a share of an oil well that was drilled back in the 1930’s, and by a share I mean .000009%, which is not a lot at all. I think she may get a check once a month amounting to about $25, so what the heck right? Now if you do the math on .00009% per quarter, it equals out to be $2,700, so the thing is pumping some oil. I don’t expect to become a millionaire via an inheritance on this thing though.

So we visited the oil well, and well, you know it was an oil well. Doing it’s drilling – pumping it’s oil. I mean, what do you say about an oil well? Next we were off to Grandma Burns’ house, and it was great to see my family again. I especially love my Uncle Rob – funny, funny guy. Uncle Rob taught me when I was little how to eat my mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, by making a ‘lake’ with my potatoes, and filling it with gravy, the ‘water’, and then putting little kernels of sweet corn, which naturally were my ‘ducks’ swimming in their lake. Fun times huh? Anyways, the family was doing good, and we ate ice cream together, and then were on our way.

But dang, we got one of those true honest to goodness thunderstorms on our way out from Grandma’s. Huge clouds, big wind, heavy rain and lots of lightning. Drove through that for about an hour, then it cleared up and on the back side of the storm some of the most beautiful cloud formations I’ve ever see. The Midwest has the best clouds.

The rest of Kansas was pretty predictable. Lots of corn, lots of oil rigs. Cow pastures all over the place. And now it’s late at night and we’re heading out the west side of Kansas toward Pueblo, CO. We’ll sleep there for the night, and then take off for the beginning of our backpacking trip Sunday morning.

the great american roadtrip

Today, after staying up until 3:00 AM for the most epic night of bag-packing ever, we left Nashville for the American West. Destination: Colorado. Mission: Backpacking the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area.

We’re taking 3 days to get out to our starting point, which will be a trailhead near Cottonwood Pass west of Buena Vista, CO. But the short term goal for today is Kansas City, MO where we visted with Steph’s dad, and will meet up with my family to caravan the rest of the way out to CO.

We left Nashville in a rainstorm, which was fine – the car needed to be washed and we didn’t have time to do it before we left. I’m certain my backpack is much too heavy. I pride myself on loading a light pack. During highschool packing trips I would load up a 24 lb. pack pre-food (which is pretty dang light). But on past trips I’ve always been a little light on food, and as a result have been left feeling a little too hungry some days. Never a good combination when you’re exerting yourself physically.

So I’ve got food for this trip. Lots of food, and it weighs a lot. I’m afraid I’m going to have to thin things out a bit before we hit the trail.

Another thing adding the weight is my camera gear, which I’ve resigned myself to accept. I’ve never taken a really good camera up into the mountains before, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve got my Canon 35mm SLR, which is a great camera, and 9 rolls of black & white film (I’m fascinated by really good black & white film landscape photography). I’ve also got two lenses – a standard zoom and a wide angle zoom (which I just bought off Ebay last week). And finally the tripod. Got to have the tripod for good landscape photography, and here’s why:

Good landscapes show incredible detail as a result of a great depth of field. This means that things really close as well as really far away are all in focus, which means you need to set your aperture very small, which means that only a tiny amount of light is allowed to hit the film. This automatically means that your exposure time has to be set relatively long. And you know what happens when you have a long exposure time and you’re holding your camera by hand – blurry pictures. Unacceptable, and this is fixed with a tripod.

So here we are in Kanasas City, ready to meet up with the rest of the family tomorrow morning. We’ll drive through the entire breadth of Kansas, stopping off to see my Grandma Burns and aunt, uncle, and cousin. We’ll get into Pueblo, CO late Saturday night and stay in a motel, and then it’s off for the mountains Sunday morning.

gedney: the minnesota pickle

We went home to Minnesota this weekend for the wedding of our good friend James. Great wedding, great to see old friends.

I imagine everyone has those things that make home, home. And hence the ridonkulously large jar of dill pickles. We grew up eating Gedney Pickles. They’re Minnesota grown and jarred in Chaska, MN, and their slogan is “the Minnesota pickle”, so we’re loyal to them. They taste great too!

Steph has an obsession with dill pickles – no she’s not pregnant – so my family was nice enough to take us to Sam’s Club and buy us this goofishly big bottle. I don’t know if you can tell or not from the picture, but that’s a full gallon there – a nearly 12 inch tall bottle! I’m sure it seems odd, but having a bottle of dill pickles grown in your home state on hand is one of those nice things that gives a sense of home when you live miles away.

Of course, now that I’m looking at the bottle, I see it says “Refrigerate After Opening”. We may need to buy an additional mini-fridge to accommodate.

two hundred thousand point two

Dear Tim,

Saturday was a monumental day in the life of your purple car. Amidst a cow pasture on the right and a really big hill on the left, your 1997 Chevy Cavalier surpassed 200,000 miles, officially making it the farthest operating car I have ever owned [including my Ford Contour from highschool which went through three engine blocks in three years, as well as the legendary Neal Mobile which gave out at 195,461 miles].

I would personally like to take this moment to thank you for changing the oil so regularly, as well as replacing the clutch after teaching Karen to drive a stick. Your diligence in the care and maintenance of this fine car have surely lent to it’s many long miles.

As of 200,000.2 miles, as evidenced by the odometer picture above, the purple Cavlier has made it’s presence known in 15 States, including among others Minnesota, Kansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It has also suffered 3 batteries, 2 alternators, 2 transmission cables, 46 oil changes, and 1 male white-tailed deer.

As the purple car was originally purchased as transportation for Steph, I let her drive the last few miles towards the goal of 200k, with ice cream from Sonic in hand to celebrate the event.

Thank you to everyone for your support and to all who have provided rides on days the purple car has spent hospitalized at the local Firestone shop.