Roadtrip: Houston, TX > Princeton, NJ > Denver, CO > Houston, TX

Roadtrip began on June 3, 2017, and ended on June 18, 2017, covering a distance of 4,581.4 miles (7762.24 km)

Ba and I picked up the rental car, a Dodge Caravan, on June 2 with 8,307 miles on the odometer.

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We left home just before 8AM on June 3rd.

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After dropping Paul off at Justin & Hope’s home, we commenced our journey in earnest. The first leg had us driving to Princeton, NJ, to attend Alice’s commencement ceremony.

I woke up on the wrong side of my bed that morning, and rested most of the way to our first rest stop in Lake Charles, LA. I found a dollar bill on the floor of the gas station that we’d stopped at, which I placed onto the countertop before stepping into the men’s room. It was still there when I came out, so I pocketed it before poking my head into Cash Magic. I learned that smoking is allowed inside all of Louisiana’s casinos. I stepped out, realized that Ma and Ba were aleady at the car, and hopped aboard so that we could move on.

Ma and Ba had planned to make a stop at Sam’s Club in Covington, where we’d get an opportunity to fill up the car and eat some pizza, but I suggested to Ma that we check out some more regional fare. We stopped at Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins at my suggestion and tried their pistolettes (boudin, crawfish), along with their smoked boudin. We also ordered the cracklins, both seasoned and unseasoned. I contributed my dollar from the gas station to the tip jar, and we moved on.

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Big Mamou offers beef jerky in boiled crawfish flavor!

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We like our elbow room here in the south

We stopped at Sam’s Club in Covington, LA amidst rainfall. I had forgotten how exciting Sam’s Club is in a different market!

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Hannah’s Ready to Eat Pickled Eggs

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Heavy rain continued to hamper visibility as we forged on (video taken along I-59N, Purvis, MS), and led to traffic delays (18-wheeler)

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Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama

We overnighted at Hyatt Place in Birmingham, Alabama. High humidity, the carpet felt moist.

The next day, we set out after breakfasting at the hotel, stopping for a late lunch at Arby’s in Bristol, VA, where we managed to catch the tail end of happy hour: $1 sliders and $1 small Jamocha shakes! I didn’t even know that Arby’s served sliders…

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“PORK BELLY IS BACK”

Stopped at Radford Rest Area North.

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KFC signage

The three of us enjoyed dinner at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (200 Front Royal Pike, Winchester, VA 22602). I had a chicken-fried steak.

We made it to Princeton, NJ on the afternoon of June 5, in time to catch Alice’s Class Day reception.

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Ba checks out a Princeton class mug

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Ba and I attended the event, finding it quite disorganized, owing perhaps to the explosion of Computer Science students within the ranks of Princeton University’s engineering department.

Alice took us into the engineering library. I observed that most of the task seating was Herman Miller.

I was especially taken with the material library.

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In preparation for Alice’s small celebration that night, Ba and I took Alice to McCaffrey’s to pick up some last-minute items, including chips.

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Ba gravitated towards the Lays chips

We met some of Alice’s friends from Princeton, and I was glad to see Uncle Charles, Stephen, and Auntie Sun once again.

Princeton University’s 217th commencement ceremony took place on June 6th under overcast skies.

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We lingered on Princeton’s campus a while to take some pictures

Afterwards, we helped Alice pack and load her things into the back of the minivan.

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Dodge Caravan saddled down during loading

We had dinner together at Shanghai Park (not Alice’s first choice) and spent the night at the hotel.

On June 7th, Ba and Alice flew together to Denver, CO, to scout ahead, while Ma and I began the drive from Princeton, NJ to Denver, CO, stopping over in Columbus, OH and Kansas City, MO.

Pennsylvania toll road – Ma remarked that the toll was especially high (~$30), and posited that there must be limited revenue from other sources for roadway maintenance.

Heeded roadside banner ads for Blue Springs Café’s famous foot-high pie. Seeing traffic slowed down along the interstate made my decision to turn off that much easier.

We made a fuel stop at QuikTrip in Columbia, MO. The building had changed completely since I last saw it.

Overnighted in Independence, MO, where Ma and I ate at Smokehouse Barbecue, I took some photos of the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum, and we enjoyed the best hotel breakfast that we had along the entire trip, during which I learned about “Brie” in America.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/entertaining/2013/09/12/_slate_s_rules_for_entertaining_never_bring_brie_cheese_to_a_party_it_s.html

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This was my first time driving this far west along I-70 – I saw road signs for Manhattan, McPherson, and Wichita, and smiled a bit as I remembered Joseph J and his brother, Jesse.

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Wind turbines have become a common sight, dotting the landscape around I-70. I first encountered them when visiting the Netherlands, and didn’t see them stateside until we visited Big Bend National Park in December 2015.

We arrived in Denver on the afternoon of June 9th. Ba had rented a pickup truck, which turned out to be a handsomely-equipped Ford F-150 4×4 crew cab.

Alice had settled on an apartment that she liked: a modern loft located near her workplace. I was very fond of the exposed HVAC ducting – I would love to have sheet metal ducting in my own home.

Ba flew back to Houston, TX on June 11th, while Ma and I stayed and helped Alice get settled in to her new digs.

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We slept on air mattresses that we picked up at Wal-Mart (the area Sam’s Club didn’t stock any).

On June 12 I finally responded to the voicemails left by area Mazda dealers, went for a test drive in a 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring hatchback followed by a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring, visited an area Honda dealer for comparison’s sake, and brought back a sleeper sofa from IKEA.

The Colorado DMV stopped taking walk-ins for learner’s permits and new driver’s licenses on June 1st, and the first available appointment in the Denver metropolitan area wasn’t until July, so we made the drive to Pueblo, CO on June 13th. Alice successfully passed the written test, and with her new learner’s permit, we immediately sat her behind the wheel. She drove on the highway for the first time in her life, taking us to Colorado Smokehouse, where we had lunch.

I took over from that point onward. We stopped by the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) on the way back where we watched the short film showing the life of a cadet, visited the cadet chapel, and stopped to take pictures by the B-52 on display.

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This visit started me on a bit of a history tear. I found this particular article very interesting: http://www.historynet.com/mig-madness-the-air-war-over-korea.htm

I made a long-overdue pilgrimage with Alice to the Apple Store to see if they would help her out with her compromised Apple Watch. I walked away very impressed by Devialet Gold Phantom (Amazon.com) and DJI OSMO Mobile (Amazon.com). I also tapped away briefly on the recently-updated 12″ MacBook with second-generation butterfly mechanism. Really dug what Apple have done with their Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad.

On June 15, Alice received shipment of the Ghostbed that she ordered and picked out her first car, a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring with Preferred Equipment Package in Soul Red Crystal. I met up with Forrest “WrinkledCabals” O., a friend that I met through streaming, and we enjoyed Wagyu burgers together at Metropolitan Bar & Grill.

I briefly considered not sharing my goofy grin, but decided that I may as well.

By the time that Forrest dropped me off back at the dealership, Ma and Alice were on their way out of the box.

On June 16, Ma and I took the day off from helping Alice and engaged in some sightseeing of our own. We visited downtown Denver. Unfortunately, the Mint is closed on Friday for inventory, so all our talk of buying gold coins was for naught, but we did enjoy touring the (very stately!) Colorado capitol building and walking the 16th Street Mall.

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We had lunch at Rialto Café, where you can get a beer on the house on Fridays.

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I requisitioned Alice’s Apple Watch that evening wore it on the way back, setting aside my Seiko Arctura SNG045 for the time being.

We started our journey home on June 17, overnighted in Wichita Falls, TX where we had dinner at Cotton Patch Café, and reached Houston in the afternoon of June 18.

Trip total: 4851.4 miles

There were times during our roadtrip where having lane keep assist would have been very helpful: long stretches of straight highway as far as the eye could see

Winter Break in Hawaii

I flew out of IAH on December 21 – I had a connecting flight out of DEN. Prior to packing my bags, I decided that I would not bring my DSLR for this trip, so all my pictures were captured on my iPhone 7 Plus. I flew aboard a Boeing 787 for my first time, and chose to sit in the window seat so that I could experience the shade-less windows firsthand.

Aboard UA1126, IAH -> DEN, Boeing 787-800 #latergram

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They’re really neat!

From the air, I gazed down upon a familiar scene. I wondered to myself: do we think that this is beautiful?

View from the wing #latergram

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Of course it is economics that dictates much of how we develop the land.

Closer to Denver, I took another photo, this time with snow-covered fields.

View from the wing, over Colorado #latergram

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Exiting the gate at Denver, I saw some ladies and dogs beside a moving walkway. I hung around a bit, and was approached by a young woman who offered me a couple packets of gum, a card explaining the #UnitedPawsDonation campaign, and the opportunity to have my photo taken with some furry friends. I had some time to kill, so I took her up on the offer.

Met some dogs in Denver #UnitedPawsDonation #UnitedPaws @united

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Afterwards, I moved over to the Aviator’s Club (apparently, this establishment used to allow smoking, but this is no longer the case), where I enjoyed an adult root beer float.

Ready to take to the skies once more, I headed over to the gate to catch my flight out to Honolulu.

Next stop: HNL

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Upon arrival, I was met by uncle Tom, who drove me over to the condo. Alice, Justin, and Hope had taken off for the beach by the time that I made it up to the condo. My father, uncle Tom, and I had some comfort food before I drove my father over to 奶奶’s home, where he stayed for the duration of our trip. We drove the 17-1/2 miles to Mililani in the last of rush hour traffic. I said hello to 奶奶 and 姑姑, and chatted a while with Kelu before driving back to town. I neglected to take any photos, thinking that I would have another opportunity to visit.

December 22, Justin, Hope, and I went to Sam’s Club to procure provisions. Alice visited 24-Hour Fitness. I decided that Hawaii was a wonderful place while perusing the wares at Sam’s Club, which spoke volumes about its differences from the mainland. Justin, Hope, and I brought our haul back to the condo.

We met up with uncle Tom, Kevin, Evan, 爸, 姑姑, and 姑父 for lunch at Won Kee Seafood Restaurant. I recalled going there on my first trip to Hawaii. I dropped Alice, Justin, and Hope off at the restaurant, and 姑父 accompanied me to park the car. He loaded some snacks and refreshments into the trunk of the car.

Lunch was excellent.

I hung around the complex with Alice, Justin, and Hope for a while following lunch. We poked our heads into the museum at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, where I snapped a photo of a vase that featured 丝瓜, which I sent to my mother.

丝瓜花瓶

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We went to the beach following our return to the condo.

Justin and Hope at sunset #latergram

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Alice, Justin, Hope, and I had dinner at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Mall. Prior to that, I chatted with a local, who told me about the ongoing influx of Micronesians into Hawaii, as well as offered some suggestions on places to eat.

December 23, we visited Diamond Head.

Diamond Head Crater #latergram

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A man at the top was stamping certificates and selling them for $5 apiece. I listened to him handling tourists for a while and struck up conversation, learning that he’d come to Hawaii when he was 18 years old with his family, and opted to stay behind! He’d worked with another man, and they sold bottled water to visitors before the visitor’s center was built.

US Coast & Geodetic Survey Reference Mark, Diamond Head 2 #latergram

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Afterwards, we returned to the beach. While there, I spotted some men grilling and hanging out at one of the beach park’s many picnic tables. Uncle Tom had called for a pizza picnic where we could catch a view of the weekly fireworks. Spotting one of them having a smoke, I approached the men and struck up conversation. I joined them at their picnic table, and learned that they were from the atoll of Kapingamarangi. Most of them worked on commercial shipping vessels, catching big fish, and spending weeks out at sea on each excursion. They were having a party, and offered me a box of grilled meats. One of their elders came by in his pickup truck.

My father and uncle Tom found me and Alice hanging out with them. We walked back to the condo with Justin and Hope. There was some rain as we entered the condo, so it was decided that we would eat indoors instead. We caught the fireworks display from the condo, with the exception of Kevin, who was picking up the pizza for our party.

December 24, Justin, Hope, and I braved Koko Head, after dropping Alice at Kakaako Fitness. Justin and I ascended to the top. I set my own pace ahead of him, but I was passed multiple times by locals, some of which made a regular thing of taking the trail multiple times in a single outing. A collection of Christmas ornaments, including two Christmas trees, had been placed there by seasoned adventurers.

#kokoheadxmas #kokoheadtree #latergram

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I shot some video on the way down, which I haven’t gotten around to editing yet…

The Descent #latergram

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We picked up Alice from Kakaako Fitness. I went around the corner to find the lifters there. Alice made a deal of me being able to whip out muscle-ups, so I busted a couple out. She seemed to have enjoyed her time there, and hugs were exchanged as we left. She’d obtained a post-workout meal recommendation (poke crunch bowl, white rice, extra teri, extra crunch at Paina Café). I took us over to Paina Café at Koko Marina.

I stopped at McDonald’s, where we picked up a couple of coconut pies and an iced coffee. From there, we headed to Sandy Beach. I really dug the vibe of Sandy Beach – many trucks in the parking lot backed up to the ocean, people drinking and having a good time.

Sandman 2 #latergram

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I spotted a parrot perched atop the open tailgate of an SUV, and complimented the party on their choice of companion animal before driving us back to town.

We had dinner that night with uncle Tom and his family, out on the recreation deck.

December 25, I visited the Big Island with Ba, Alice, uncle Tom, and 姑父. We caught an early-morning flight on Hawaiian Airlines, and took a guided tour. Before deplaning, I caught a glimpse of what could only have been Air Force One.

I neglected to bring my jacket, and it was a rainy day. Fortunately, uncle Tom had the foresight to bring along some ponchos.

We had a small snack of musubi from a Chevron gas station, which our guide assured us was quite good.

Musubi chez Chevron #latergram

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We visited Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park after making a couple of stops along the way, including a farmer’s market and Punaluʻu Beach. Huge, worth the visit. The weather was still dreary when we arrived, limiting visibility, but I could still make out lava flowing within Halema’uma’u Crater from the lookout deck at Jaggar Museum.

We were able to catch an earlier flight back to Honolulu, such that we were able to time our arrival with Stephen’s.

While waiting for the flight, I decided to get a closer view of the VC-25.

CV-25 #latergram

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Our tour-guide had mentioned there being three identical aircraft, but I only found reference to two.

Back in Honolulu, we went out for dinner at Ichiriki, a Japanese hotpot place that I imagine would be quite nice for dates.

Alice and I went out on the town that night with Stephen, whom I haven’t had a proper opportunity to catch up with since 2007 🙂

December 26, I drove us to Manoa Chinese Cemetery to visit 爷爷’s burial site. 爷爷 was the first member of my family to be laid to rest in the United States.

Afterwards, we had a meal to celebrate 奶奶’s 80th birthday.

We were relatively close to the North Shore. Following lunch, I took Alice, Justin, Hope, and Stephen to the Dole Plantation for a brief stop. Parking was terrible, so I dropped them off, and joined them after finding a spot at the nearby Helemano Plantation.

While at the Dole Plantation, I read that Hawaii was the only state with commercial coffee bean production. Lo and behold, Kona coffee was being grown right up the street. I drove us to Island Vintage Coffee to see about a fresh cup.

Afterwards, I drove us to Haleiwa Alii Beach Park.

December 27, Justin and Hope left for the beach. I stayed around to let Ba into the building. Ba and uncle Tom worked together to make a large meal for us. We took some photos afterwards, when uncle Tom stated that this is the first time everyone in my generation on this side of the family has gotten together in one place. Where more appropriate than Oahu, the gathering place? Shame it takes such massive effort! I can’t thank everyone enough for their part in making this get-together possible.

Aside from the fun times, this trip offered a multitude of opportunities for further reflection. I won’t go into those in detail now – I took some notes as we went along, and only hope that I can revisit the moments that stand out in my mind before they are lost.

in which I lose Paul, or he loses me

I took Paul out for a walk late last night. I know that it took place after playing Overwatch with Alice and Neil, but I’m not sure if it was before or after I finished watching the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher.

In any event, I decided that I would take out the old scooter so that we could cover ground more quickly. My intention was to take us along a similar route to the long walk from the night before. I brought us all the way down until we hit Little York, observed that there were still cars speeding along it, and brought us back into the relative safety and quiet of the neighborhood.

I took the first right coming north, and went to the cul-de-sac at the end. There’s a gravel trail that runs tangential to the cul-de-sac and perpendicular to the street. I circled the cul-de-sac a couple of times, and then noticed that I had lost track of Paul. Across the way, I saw a figure standing by the doorstep who retreated indoors after retrieving a couple of items from the porch.

I whistled for Paul a couple of times, and listened for the familiar sound of his dogtag jingling against the buckle of his collar. I looked from the gravel trail towards Little York, using the headlights of passing cars to see if he might have wound up becoming roadkill in the short time since I last saw him. Beginning to despair, I scootered my way back to the intersection, and whistled once more. I looked back towards the cul-de-sac, hoping to catch a glimpse of Paul running my way. Nothing.

For a moment, I seriously considered the possibility that he might have decided to go snooping about Little York. I made one more futile trip down the street, stared at Little York a while longer, and decided that I had better return home.

I had now become a man who’d most certainly lost his dog.

At this thought, my mind went back to the time in Columbia, MO, when I thought I’d lost Paul for good. I reminded myself that all good dogs come back home, and double-timed it back.

Sure enough, I caught sight of his small form near the front door of my home. What a sense of relief, knowing that he was safely accounted for! He came down the driveway to greet me, and all was good.

I recall the one time that I brought Paul as a puppy to church, back in the spring of 2011. One of the older men commented that owning dogs was good training for having kids: incidents like this provide me with a small window into how my parents must have felt on those many occasions that I gave them cause for concern.

The truest sign of love can be found in the little nervousness that you feel upon realizing that you might have lost the object of your affections for good.

brief recap of the day.

Woken by doorbell: a man offering to mow my lawn.

Exhausted my supply of coffee beans.

Called Logitech customer service, and spoke with two different people on my previously-lodged case for 55 minutes. Received no favorable resolution, told that I could call a corporate number (510-795-8500) to escalate my case.

Called the number mentioned above. Spent fifteen minutes talking with some guy who told me that he couldn’t do anything for me. Got miffed, swore that I wouldn’t buy Logitech again, fumed about it a bit more.

Took out Paul and visited a nearby ecig store, where I tried some juices. I bought three small bottles, which should last me for a while.

Got a message from zachvice about doing the King’s Fall raid.

Had a burger, sitting outdoors with Paul.

Came back home and played Destiny until fairly late. Completed the King’s Fall raid with some guys that we picked up off of DestinyLFG.net with a pretty average time of 2 hours, 17 minutes, and 43 seconds. Stuck around with zachvice after Neil hopped off. Wound up in a party with gstad, where I made mention of the million dollar point before turning off my console.

Decided later that this wasn’t really important for him to be messing around with – more important to gain experience, and have fun, without sweating it. Sent a message to him advising as such.

Began composing a long-form article about my experience with Logitech peripherals with the intention of sharing it so that it catches the eyes of some Logitech peeps, and doesn’t wind up getting lost in small bits and pieces.