Saturday, May 30, 2009

More to come later, but I'm here. Wow. Weird.

But there's beer to drink and a Cup Final to watch ... so, again, more to come later.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

4,148 miles

That's how far the odometer tells me I've driven since I left Palisade, Colo., on May 6, just 19 days ago. The final 400 or so of that (I lost count) were completed today, with my darling sister by my side. I probably owe her an apology for being cranky the last 100 miles or so, but if she hadn't kept tormenting me with that damn toy spider!

I mean, uh, sorry, sis!

Despite her advocacy for the Georgia-New Jersey in one day school of thought, we split it into two, mostly because it offered the chance to visit not one, but two members of the Rich Lovie Past. We stayed with a college friend named Cassie (a seemingly less-than-common name in most corners of the world, with the exception of the corner I live in), who is well on her way to medical fame and fortune ... or at least fortune.

We also visited another friend of mine, Angeline, whom I met on a high-school exchange trip to France a dozen years ago. And, yes, that makes both of us feel very old.

But not as old as THIS makes me feel.

Although, apparently, looking this dorky wasn't ALL bad.

It's a shame in some ways that it took moving to England to visit so many old friends, but it seems like life works that way sometimes. It's definitely been an added bonus.

Still doesn't seem like I'm leaving on Friday. I feel like I oughta be more nervous. But I'm not. That's gotta be a good thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The last of Rich's epic driving adventure begins tomorrow morning (I really should be packing, but, ooh, look, shiny!). My sister and I will drive (OK, I'll drive, she'll ride, non-stick-shifter that she is) from Georgia to New Jersey, with a stop in Virginia to see a couple of my old friends. Surely nothing bad can come of trying to drive up the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day, right?

Accomplished the trip's main goal, which was to see my little sisters graduate high school. Hard to believe the little bitty babies I held not so long ago are all grown up. They're off to Georgia in August, because they're good, smart young ladies. :)

Against all odds, all three of these people are related to me. By blood, at that.

Also got some quality time with the little charmer on the left there, who's related to me, but not by blood, lucky little devil. If I find a better picture somewhere, I'll totally post it.

I leave for England on Friday night. Yeah, I know. That's pretty soon, but yet if I'm gonna get all nervous about it, I haven't yet. I'm gonna go with that being a good thing. Really, I'm just excited to find out what exactly is going to happen. Whether this works or ... well, just HOW WELL it's going to work. How's that?

Yeah, I like that much better.

Monday, May 18, 2009

O, Florida!

I always liked O, Canada. Seemed much more like a fight song than the Star-Spangled Banner.

But yes, Florida: Because I needed even more humidity.

I spent nearly three years living in Florida, before I moved out to Colorado. I worked at The Daily Commercial, a daily paper in the scenic town of Leesburg (where scenic means "festering" and town means "wasteland.) The paper was the town's equal in every way but one: it employed a series of good, honest people, many of whom I still like a lot.

Most of them, fortunately, have left. A few remain, and we encourage them often to GET. OUT. NOW.

So my trip to Florida was centered around visiting a few of those with whom I worked. I started in Daytona Beach, which was one of my favorite haunts when I lived in Leesburg, mostly because it had (a) a beach and (b) a minor-league baseball team. It also has (c) my good friend Sherry, as well as (d) my former boss Jim, his lovely wife Jaime and their new little one, Cameron.

Drove down on Monday (because I hadn't had enough driving!) and got there in the evening. Met Sherry's boyfriend, Amir, a pilot, and went out for a few drinks. (A Daily Commercial tradition if ever there was one.)

Tuesday we visited Jaime and Cameron and Jim, though Cameron, as 1-month-olds do, spent the visit sleeping and eating. It was OK. It gave the cat a chance to get some attention.

We also visited the lighthouse on Ponce Inlet and, most importantly, the beach. There's something about the ocean, and in particular the Atlantic, for me. Something about the vastness and connectedness, the knowledge that the same ocean that hits the shores of Daytona Beach also hits the shores of England, gives me a sense of peace. It'll be nice to be near the water again; Colorado is lovely, but it doesn't even border a state that borders the ocean.

Tuesday night was the big Leesburg reunion, complete with Mexican food and beer. (Again, Daily Commercial traditions/coping mechanisms.) Got to see Paul and Keri, who still, tragically, work there, as well as former photographer Matt, random coffeehouse guy Daniel and, of course, Kat. Sweet, sweet Kat.

I've moved around a lot, so I don't have many super-close friends, but Kat is as super-close as it gets, especially for someone I don't see much anymore. We spent many a Leesburg night angsting over our sad Daily Commercial fates, as well as any number of other things.

And though Kat points out below that in the two days I spent in Sarasota, where she now lives, we didn't DO much, we also didn't need to. We fell right back into our normal rhythm, with the addition of Scrabble (2 games each, but I totally won by more) and bar Jenga (2 games to 1 for yours truly).

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

In all, a trip well worth the driving, which took my total mileage over 3,000 since I left Palisade. I'll be in Atlanta for another week, then take myself and my sister up to New Jersey, from where I'll leave for England on, most likely, Friday the 29th. (Cue scary music.)

More pictures possibly to come. I didn't take them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bad blogger! No biscuit!

Updates coming soon, I promise. Been in Florida for a few days, enjoying even more humidity and also good company.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I should learn to complain less

And to think I thought I was bored.

Nothing like an "inland hurricane" -- the National Weather Service's words, not mine -- to spice things up.

When I left Mount Vernon, Ill., this morning, it was cloudy and there had been storms the night before, but nothing too bad. Maybe I should have checked the weather, because it got bad quickly.

ST. LOUIS - Wicked thunderstorms packing winds gusting to 120 mph pounded parts of the Midwest on Friday, leaving four people dead, collapsing a church and knocking out power to thousands, authorities said.

It was some kind of nasty, although I didn't hit much in the way of wind. Or if I did, I didn't notice it for the sheets of rain. Three different times, I had to slow down to 40 mph or less. And I guess I got lucky.

Still, that definitely made the final day of the trip more interesting. And I gotta say, I'm a little disappointed that all that rain didn't do a more effective job getting the bugs off the front of my car.

Safely arrived home, though. Got to hug the Georgia branch of the family for the first time in over a year, which is always nice. Now for a quiet weekend followed by, get ready for it, MORE DRIVING! Woooooo!!!!

No, it's OK. I volunteered. I'm heading down to Florida on Monday to visit friends and break a promise I made two years ago never to return to Leesburg. Even now I shudder a little bit.

No pictures today. I was too busy dodging death.

(Sounds pretty bad-a, doesn't it?)

Day 3

Left: Mount Vernon, Ill.

Arrived: Lawrenceville, Ga.

Miles: 512.

Stops: Yeah...I can't remember. I'll work on it. I had Chick-fil-A in Nashville, and I stopped at a gas station in Ringgold, Ga.

Diet Cokes: 3, including a 24-ounce bottle. Apparently they're dumping the 20-ounce and replacing it with 16- and 24-ounce options. At least in ... wherever it was I got that one.

Yeah, I'm a little fried.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I guess HTLRROX was taken

The photo fail, it is strong in this one.

There was supposed to be a picture to illustrate my story, but I guess I wasn't paying attention and took one of the ground instead.

But I was thinking to myself earlier that I needed some way to immediately engender hatred toward me, a way to make sure people flipped me off in traffic, maybe even fired shots at my wheels.

But apparently, the best idea is already taken. By the guy with the SPAMMER vanity plate.

From the file of other good ideas, I give you attending a baseball game on "Education Day," the educational value of which is dubious, but the noise value of which is indisputable. When it makes the AP's game story, you know it was insane.

The Royals turned four double plays in front of 32,714 screeching fans—it was School Day at The K—

So yeah, School Day. But actually, it wasn't that bad. Nice day, good game, in and out quick. And a really nice ballpark, especially for a team that hasn't been worth a flip in 25 years. They're pretty good this year though.

Though they have to give away a lot of school day tickets to draw this many people.

Hey Atlanta folks, remember when they put that new videoboard in at Turner Field? I'm pretty sure they claimed it was the biggest in baseball/the country/the world. Well, it isn't anymore.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Other observations from two days on the road:

How long do you think it'll be before the Americinn hotel in red-state Russell, Kansas, renames its meeting room, which is currently known as the Dole-Specter Conference Center? (Yes, remarkably, both those men are from Russell, Kansas, as in billionaire Phil Anschutz.)

I understand that one can't control the last name one is given. I get that. But there are choices one can make, given the cards one is dealt. And so, if your last name is McQuitty, maybe you name your trucking business "Jim's Trucking Service," rather than "McQuitty's Trucking Service."

Do you think "pet live pigs" is a less effective method of advertising a roadside petting zoo than it was, say, three weeks ago?

Day 2

Left: Salina, Kansas

Arrived: Mount Vernon, Illinois

Stops: Kansas City, Mo., (baseball game and Arthur Bryant's Barbeque), somewhere outside Kansas City, somewhere near Danville, Mo., rest stop outside O'Fallon, Ill.

Miles: 510

Diet Cokes: 3 (I know, that doesn't seem right)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leaving what now?

So that was gonna be all dramatic and neat and melancholy ... and then it snuck up on me more quickly than I expected. I thought Kanorado (no, really) was in Colorado; it's in Kansas.

But that's OK. Because that sign? Is a filthy, rotten lie. I left "colorful" Colorado hours before I ever saw that sign.

OK, to be fair, brown is a color.

But yeah, all the tourism brochures and Web sites and such, showing Colorado as the outdoor paradise, skiing capital of the world, blah blah blah? That's the middle of Colorado. Denver, for example. And west of Denver.

East of Denver? Might as well belong to Kansas. So basically I had a good, oh, five or six hours of straight, flat farmland to look at.

To that end, a game! We're gonna play "Colorado or Kansas?" There's no cinch way of knowing, at least not as far as I know. See how you do.

Day 1

Left: Palisade, Colo.

Arrived: Salina, Kan.

Stops: Edwards, Colo., Denver, Arriba, Colo., Goodland, Kan., Hays, Kan.

Miles: 685 (including a few miles of wandering looking for places to eat)

Diet Cokes: 5

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Well, I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob

I've had a few people ask me what I think I'll miss while living abroad. My usual response -- and my main one here -- is that I'm not sure yet, because I don't know what I won't be able to get. American culture, especially the food, has established a strong foothold in Britain, evidenced perhaps no more strongly than by the fact it now has 700 KFCs.

No, I haven't eaten at one.

No, I don't plan to.

But I figure there's bound to be a few things that leave a little hole that can't quite be filled by anything else.

1. Baseball.

For all the American sports that have captured British attention -- football chief among those -- baseball simply hasn't. It is, after all, a quintessentially American game, and in any event, why watch baseball when you can watch cricket? But I'll miss simply sitting at a ballpark taking in a game, spending a few hours with no particular place to go and often with no particular rooting interest.

Not that there's baseball in Grand Junction, mind you, with the exception of the Junior College World Series. (No, really, it exists. Look it up.)

Replacement: Cricket, I'd imagine. Though I'll have to learn the rules. And positions. And general reason for being.

2. Mexican food.

I'm told this is something that a lot of people miss when traveling to places like Europe and Australia. It's available over there, of course, but from what I gather, it pales in comparison. There is something uniquely satisfying about a big, fat burrito, and I'm not sure there's anything that will quite take its place.

Replacement: At least as far as spiciness is concerned, Indian food, the universal (well, the British universe, anyway) cap to a night of ... um ... going to the theatre.

3. The Obama presidency.

In retrospect, it's a little strange. I hung around for all eight Bush years, and four months after Obama took the oath, I'm leaving. And to a country that's about a year from voting in a Conservative government, at that. Of course, Conservative doesn't mean in Britain, or much of Europe, what it means here. Even the Tories would fall somewhere to the left of center in the American system.

Replacement: The unique joy of Prime Minister's Questions, though it's perhaps romanticized over here more than over there. There, it's seen as more farce than anything. Oh, and the inclusion of more than two political parties in the government, even if Labour and the Conservatives pretty much dominate the conversation.

4. Wide open spaces.

The Premier League soccer team I follow recently took its longest road trip of the year, and indeed the longest road trip by any team in the league (well, other than its opponent in the reverse fixture, of course), playing at Newcastle, a city in the Northeast of England. That trip covered 341 miles.

When I leave Grand Junction tomorrow, I will drive pretty much due east, and I will travel more than 400 miles before I reach the Kansas state line. In three days, I'll cover a little less than 1,700 miles.

There's simply no way to compare the vastness of the U.S. with the compact nature of what is, essentially, a fairly small island. And while England's lack of size doesn't translate to a deficit in cultural broadness, I'll miss the notion of being able to drive for three days and still be in the same country -- same, of course, being a relative term.

Replacement: The notion that there's nowhere in England that can't be reached in about a day's drive. Romanticizing notwithstanding, the size of this country is a bit inconvenient, isn't it?

5. My family.

Everyone all at once: Awwww. Well, I had to include them if I was gonna let them read it, didn't I? But this one comes with a caveat: For the past two years, I really haven't been that much farther from my parents than I will be in Britain.

That 1,700-mile drive will take me to my mother's house. If I were to fly, it would involve either an hour-long starter flight or a four-hour drive, followed by a flight of somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours. It would be about the same to get to my dad's house. In Britain, I'll be about a seven-hour flight away, so the only real difference is the five time zones that make the trip back an overnight flight.

Replacement: Well, nothing can replace parental love, of course (I'm good, aren't I?), but I will be much closer to a number of family members who've long been separated by that same seven-hour flight. I've got aunts and uncles and cousins to visit, including some I haven't seen in some 20 years. I'm excited about that.

Right, so tomorrow's the big day. Well, as big as a day that includes several hours of driving through Kansas can be, I guess.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Look! It's a blog!

This is my new blog. Welcome. Feel free to look around. It won't take long, at least not at first.

You probably already know me, but just in case, my name is Rich and I'm moving to England.

I've spent my post-college years bouncing around four newspapers in three states, working first as a sports reporter and later as a news copy editor/page designer/Web updater/de-frightener of technology. Recognizing that perhaps newspapers aren't the panacea they once seemed and not wanting my admiration of the Titanic's many ballrooms to result in my going for a swim, I've decided to up and move to England to see what I can find over there.

Question time. Because I have to practice if I'm ever going to be Prime Minister.

Why are you moving to England?

Because it's there. OK, it's slightly more complex than that, but not really. Quite simply, a series of opportunities has lined itself up in such a way that I feel like this really is the best option for me, at least right now.

What will you do for money?

Well, that's a fine question. But that's not the point, at least at first. The point is more to explore the country and take advantage of an opportunity a lot of people don't get.

No, really, idiot. What will you do for money?

I'm willing to do pretty much anything, at least at first, whether it's finding a "real" job or serving coffee to people with "real" jobs. This really isn't about my resume. That said, if you happen to know of anything, I'm taking tips.

Where will you live?

In the house left to my father by my late grandparents, who lived there for many decades. It's in the village of Portchester, which is next to the much larger city of Portsmouth, which is on the South Coast, pretty much right smack in the middle. Portsmouth has a lot of naval history and a Premier League soccer* club of dubious quality. One is more of an appeal than the other. I'll let you guess which one.

Does this mean you'll have an English accent?

Probably, but only enough of one to make Americans think I'm English and the English that I'm American.

Can I come visit?

Sure. Bring an umbrella.

Why should I come back?

Because before you can come visit, I'll check to make sure you've been reading.

Oh alright. Because it'll be interesting. I plan to chronicle my overseas journey and what I discover about being a pseudo-American Englishman living in his native land, at least as much as a land can be native when you've never lived in it.

And in addition to that, there'll be all sorts of interesting things to keep you coming back. Well, they'll be interesting to me anyway. And possibly my mother**. The rest of you I expect to read out of sympathy.

Well, no. Sympathy only gets you so far. I just don't want to make promises I don't end up keeping. But it'll be exciting, I promise.

I'll start with some travel-logging of my journey back East, then spin off into whatever awaits me overseas. And, really, that's why I'm not making any promises: Because I have no idea what awaits.

*Soccer will be referred to as football upon my arrival in England. Keep coming back and you'll learn all sorts of British English.

**My mother will be encouraged to read this blog. Whether she actually will is debatable, and I somehow get the feeling that "I blogged about that" will not suffice as an excuse for not telling her about something. We'll see.