Thursday, December 31, 2015

Further Adventures in Air Travel - Rebooting the Airplane

Due to some difficulties at work I did not buy airline tickets much in advance of the Christmas season (as I was not sure I would have a job at that point). I originally had in mind making two separate visits to my parents in Tennessee and Indiana but the delay in buying tickets resulted in me having to plan for a single, very lengthy stay away from Flagstaff. The logistics of such an endeavor are enough to bring down even the most optimistic person to a very low place, and I am not known for optimism (except in the sense of overcommitting to project timelines, but that is subject for another blog post).

The Phoenix skyline from Sky Harbor International Airport.

My cats had to be kenneled. Therefore the cats required a feline leukemia vaccine, which required an unscheduled visit to the veterinarian, which I did not have a vet in Flagstaff yet, etc. I also had to figure out a way to get gifts shipped across country without checking extra bags into the airline. At least we now have the world of online shopping. Before the advent of the online store this problem was three times worse and required more advanced planning. I also had to arrange for somehow getting from Tennessee to Indiana and back to Nashville to catch my flight home, and so on and so forth. Travel, in general, is usually not that bad, but the logistics and planning of Christmas family visits will kill you.

This led up to the morning of my flight. Due to acquiring the airline tickets rather closer to Christmas than was a good idea, I was not able to get a flight from Flagstaffs very small, convenient airport, which has free parking, and had to drive to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport down in the Valley of the Sun (a.k.a. the Salt River Valley, a.k.a. the Sonoran Desert). I arrived 3 hours early at the airport, as planned, checked in and made it through security in roughly less than 1 hour. This gave me plenty of time to stop into the Four Peaks Brewing Company restaurant and bar next to my gate. They have an excellent Oatmeal Stout and I had a Spinach Salad with added grilled chicken. It was good but I followed up with a White Ale, which was overwhelmingly orange tasting. It was not very good in my opinion.

I boarded fairly normally and assumed my seat near the back of the plane, which was an American Airlines Airbus A321. The seats were wide and comfortable for economy class and I had no trouble fitting my light backpack and winter coat under the seat in front of me. I also got lucky in that there was a no-show for the middle seat (the A321 has two rows of three seats each). This was truly fortuitous considering the delays that were to follow.

After everyone had boarded, things seemed to be proceeding normally until the pilot announced that there was a problem with the fuel indicator. He then said that they would follow the recommended procedure of rebooting the computer to see if that resolved the issue. That’s right, they rebooted the airplane! I found this hilarious even as my mind wandered to worst case scenarios, like, what if they have to reboot mid-flight? Better to not even think about that.

The reboot was predicted to take “several minutes.” This quickly ballooned to about 30 or more minutes before the pilot announced that the reboot was successful but they now had to complete the mandatory FAA paperwork. This led to approximately another 30 or more minutes delay before the aircraft finally showed signs of departure. At the last possible second I got a voice mail from American Airlines that was a little confusing but seemed to provide an alternate flight number and new and later departure and arrival times from Dallas. There was also a confusing email from Orbitz that indicated the same except erroneously showed arrival at Phoenix rather than Nashville. I decided that the voice mail from American made more sense so I ignored the email from Orbitz. I’m not super impressed with that mistake on the part of Orbitz.

The White Mountains? They look a little too rugged so perhaps are the southernmost spurs of the rockies.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of shutting off my iPhone upon departure rather than just putting it in airplane mode, which would have allowed me to take photographs of the fairly spectacular desert mountains around Phoenix that were visible in the afternoon light. At least I got the phone going to take some very nice photos from cruising altitude before sunset.

This is almost certainly a portion of New Mexico.

Below I saw a labyrinth of mountains and occasional volcano fields while the aircraft was, I assume, over New Mexico. One of the facts about the American west that I have become aware of since I moved to Arizona if that it is dotted and pocked with volcanic craters all over the place. There are many, many more volcanoes in the United States than I original was aware of. Many of these are not huge and have not erupted recently, but they are a testament to widespread volcanic activity in the U.S. Many of these locations have erupted within the last few thousand years and therefore we can conclude that there will be more eruptions around the west in the future. If we are lucky, we may see such eruptions within our lifetime, without being turned into lava toast.

Agriculture in West Texas.

Moon over my wingy.
The passenger cabin of the A321 in evening lighting. My seat was near the back of the plane, my preferred location, except for the smell from the lavatories.

As the A321 crossed over into Texas I got nice views of the circular patterns of irrigated fields juxtaposed with oil operations, and finally, as the sunlight faded, the glowing cities of mega-populated central Texas. I’m sure I could see much of their 27 million people out the left window alone. My flight landed smoothly at Dallas - Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) and I concluded that the A321 is not bad to fly on as long as the computer is rebooted regularly. I realized in the air that I would definitely miss my connection and wondered what should occur next but I found my new flight number on one of the boards and started looking for my gate.

In the airport I realized with consternation that I had to go from one terminal building to another. It quickly became clear that the best solution was to ride the “train.” This is an elevated contraption that runs on a hot monorail but also on a concrete paved surface with conventional wheels. The trains are two car pilotless automata that basically feel like a subway, only they are elevated to a ridiculous height. I failed to take a picture but the ride is very bumpy and you get the feeling the train is simply going to tumble over the retaining wall of its concrete slot and you will plunge a hundred feet or more onto the highway below. Fortunately that did not happen, even though it felt like it might.

I arrived at my gate with 17 minutes to spare, checked in and got my new boarding pass. I still had 14 minutes or so to get food. Fortunately there was a snack bar near the gate. Unfortunately it was about to close so I grabbed a sandwich and Mountain Dew from the grab-and-go shelf and ate the sandwich so fast it hurt my esophagus. I made the boarding onto my 737 for the ride from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Nashville and we departed on time.

The Boeing 737 at this point is an old design, although it continues to be produced in variants  [strangely enough, I couldn’t find a good manufacturer website for this aircraft. They only have promotional pages for the next generation 737]. It was immediately noticeable to me that there was much less seat width. Fortunately the man seated next to me was thin and I was on the aisle so it was not much of an issue, except when people were walking past, which is to say shoving their way through the aircraft. I usually prefer window seats but none were available due to my relatively late booking.

Passenger cabin of a 737. The walls ahead separate first class from us proletarians in economy class. Due to darkness, and seating assignment, this is the only photo I took from the 737.

The 737 is a proven, reliable aircraft, but I thought it was apparent this particular aircraft was pretty old. The ride was predictable though, and we avoided some thunderstorms that could be seen outside the window and we experienced some minor turbulence before the ride smoothed out and we landed in Nashville safely. I believe the pilot came in too fast because he seemed to brake unusually hard and locked up the wheel brakes and throttled the thrust-reversed engines to maximum trying to make his assigned ramp. It was the cause of some humor among the passengers. I was watching and he landed so close to the beginning of the runway that I thought he was going to clip the light posts so I’m pretty sure his airspeed was unusually high for some reason.

These two “short haul” airliners, the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A321 represent two different eras of the aircraft design. The 737 is a 1960s era design and is noticeably narrower than the A320 series, which emerged in the late 1980s. The A321 was introduced in 1994 as a stretch version of the A320. Both the 737 and the A321 are still in production. The progress of the A321 seems obvious but there still was the issue of the computer needing to be rebooted. Either way I arrived at my destination safely, if a little late, and I would say I was satisfied with the service from American Airlines.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mountain Biking the Zuni Mountains

From October 3, 2015

Although there are a lot of things to do and see around Flagstaff, I make a point of doing road trips from time to time to hit up some points more distant around the region. It's the type of thing I have always done but I think the variety available is probably even greater in northern Arizona than where I was living before in Chattanooga. New Mexico is not that far away and one of the differences between driving in the east and driving in the west is that there are fewer exits on the interstate, fewer towns to drive through, and higher speed limits, so New Mexico seems relatively near. Generally it is fairly easy to travel by car in the wide open landscapes of the American West (when the weather is good).1 I waited for a weekend when I was not on call and executed a plan to visit the Zuni Mountains, just outside Gallup, New Mexico, for mountain biking.

Typical terrain atop the Zuni Mountains. These hills are nearly the largest peaks available.

The drive was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip, crossing over a broad swath of the Colorado Plateau.2 Combined with a recent trip to the Kingman, Arizona area, I have crossed over most of the plateau in the last month on the east to west axis. The directions were practically as simple as possible, involving only four roads, since the mountain bike trail head was on the same road as the exit. This was a good thing since I wasted quite a bit of time in the morning and got a late start, leaving me only just enough time to ride a decent distance. If you follow this blog then you may noticed that getting a late start on the weekend is one of my habits (faults?). As it was I got a little nervous after I got deep into the forest and the signage was not clear, and daylight was getting short. I hate it when I put pressure on myself like that, but I still managed to enjoy the ride and had some remaining time to drive around looking at the scenery before nightfall.

Lonely, quiet trail in New Mexico. The Zunis feel truly remote.

The Zunis are not a dramatic mountain range with high, prominent peaks, although they rise to well over 9,000 feet above sea level. It is an old range and is highly eroded so that it resembles more of a rolling plateau. The Zunis are part of the ancestral Rocky Mountains although I do not think they are considered to be part of the current Rockies, nor do they have the character or feel of the Rockies. The Continental Divide runs through part of the range although I did not get particularly close to it. My GPS track indicates that I was riding roughly between 7,200 and 8,000 feet above sea level but unfortunately I did not enjoy any wide open views on the ride. What scenery exists is lovely though, with pine forest interspersed with unusually tall oaks for the southwest, a few aspens, and the occasional grassy meadow with views of low hills relative to your perspective.

A view near the beginning of the trail system.

I chose to ride from the Hilso Trailhead near the McGaffey Recreation Area, directly off New Mexico 400. It was extremely easy to find as there is an exit for 400 off I-40 and you just head south for 8 miles. The trail system is quite nice although it seems to be relatively lightly traveled compared to what I'm used to, which made riding solo a nervous business. I usually ride alone and one of these days it may not end well. I really can't allow myself to crash hard and I don't even like thinking about the mountain lions. I usually like to hike armed but it isn't convenient to do that on a mountain bike and anyway the lions are ambush predators and likely would just pounce me from concealment. Mountain bikers have been taken out that way in the past. I try to be wary but not let it stop me from getting out and enjoying the world.

A lot of the trail is closed in with oak underbrush and even some tall oaks as well as the usual pines that are found around the mountain west at 7000+ feet. It made me nervous of bears and mountain lions. It was an eerily quiet trail system.

I chose to ride the Quaking Aspen Trail, but due to daylight and fitness issues I ended up choosing a shorter loop that involved relatively few aspens. If I had arrived earlier I might have pushed harder to get to the high point of the trail system, where I'm sure there were more aspens. In the past it would have irritated me to not be able to tour the entire trail but I guess I'm getting old and complacent so mountain biking has become a much more casual endeavor for me. I checked my distance on Strava and noted that I'm probably behind for the year compared to 2014, although I certainly did not run for most of last year and this year I have 40 runs. To a certain extent running has replaced some of the bicycle time from 2014 to 2015. The problem was that I just didn't ride often enough and ended up gaining a lot of weight last year so I took up running again. Frequent running sometimes causes me injury but it really is the easiest and most convenient calorie burning exercise available. Contrary to intuition, being in shape for running does not mean you are in shape for bicycling.

The trail crosses over a dry stream bed several times, featuring long stretches of slick rock as seen here. It's not as smooth as Sedona sandstone but still adds a welcome change from dirt.

Anyway, back on topic, the Zunis were nice to visit and some of the scenery on the drive is spectacular and features classic western landscapes. The trail system was for the most part extremely smooth riding and I would probably ride it again but only if I had another reason to be in the area because I like trails with bigger views. All in all it was a nice diversion and I also checked off another state that I have mountain biked in. The count is currently at 8 (Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico).

Photo Dump

Smooth trial almost all afternoon.

New Mexico 400 looking northwards.

Classic New Mexico landscape in the country just east of Gallup.

The American West. Barbed wire, sagebrush, and the Zuni Mountains on the horizon.

Strava GPS Track and Statistics


1. Flagstaff got 15 inches of snow the day I arrived in town. The weather wasn't actually that bad crossing the eastern parts of the Colorado Plateau until I started to get close to Flagstaff, where I encountered freezing precipitation and eventually outright snow.

2. I enjoy driving, mostly for the landscape rather than the act of steering the auto. One of these days I'm going to publish a long running draft that I have of why I think this is justifiable for my environmentalist friends. Although I consider myself to be environmentally aware, I pretty much detest the slogan "Think globally, act locally." I think we should do the exact opposite. The problem isn't that I'm driving, the problem is that I can't buy a truly low emission vehicle for a reasonable price. Local action is useless if it is not implemented across the entire planet (and other states will take advantage of that). Leaders of environmentalism have thought themselves into a box on issues like this and at this point are mostly making enemies rather than progress.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hiking the Hualapai Mountains

Sometimes when I feel down I have trouble getting motivated to get out of the house. I had a free day and could not get myself moving. Finally an idea popped into my head that piqued my interest enough. A couple of years ago I had a phone interview for a job in Kingman, Arizona. At the time I had barely heard of Kingman but did some research on it and found that it was in the Mojave Desert but also had a nice mountain range just outside town that was high enough to have pine and fir forest. I decided that the job was not the right job, a decision I still question sometimes, but had I lived there then it would not have been a terrible place to live as there were enough outdoor opportunities in the area to keep me busy for a while. Anyway, the mountain range, the Hualapai Mountains, had stuck in my head for 2 or 3 years so I decided to finally get out of the house and hustle over to Kingman in time to hike at least 4 or 5 miles if I could manage it.

This is a nice wide view of the Hualapai Mountains from late winter, showing the isolated character of the range, a "sky island" with forested slopes, taken from the Mojave Desert around 3,000 feet above sea level. The higher peaks are over 8000 feet. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by user Darkest tree.

The drive westward was spectacular of course, this is Arizona after all. I-40 from Flagstaff to Kingman dropped off the Colorado Plateau and into a rolling area of grassland and scrub desert before finally turning to true desert shortly before I arrived at my exit. One of the first things I noticed was that Kingman has palm trees, always a good sign for climate, although in Arizona they normally have to be watered. I'm sure winters are mild in Kingman compared to Flagstaff so it might be a good place to escape this winter if I get sick of the snow.
This is Hualapai Mountain Park Road on the approach to the park in the transition zone from the Mojave Desert to the pine forests of the mountains. I hiked around the peak that is directly ahead on the road.

The park I was headed to was extremely easy to find via GPS. I had hopes that it would not be difficult because I had left so late in the day that I was arriving around 2:30 with the sun probably setting shortly after 6:00. Not much time for wandering around looking for signs if I wanted to get in a hike. The drive up was interesting as I went from a very dry desert with only low cactus and some various other prickly plants like manzanita to pinyon-juniper, to ponderosa pine forest. There was a $7 fee to enter the Hualapai Mountain Park, property of Mohave County, Arizona, and they provided a decent map.
A view from the park near the trailhead.

I found the trailhead and started hiking uphill. The trails are obviously heavily traveled. There was a full campground there with numerous cabins and I would say it is probably a regular pastime during the hot summer months for the local residents. I could tell from a few conversations on the trail that most of the hikers were locals, although I did encounter one family that was on their first hike ever. One strongly suspects they were in town from Southern California, which is extremely close to Kingman. I was amused at their interest in my "ski poles." I explained that I was using trekking poles, which are made of titanium and are much stronger than ski poles. They were pretty enthusiastic about hiking so I hope they get out again soon. I believe everyone should appreciate the outdoors as a matter of ethical living so hopefully they are future allies in the fight for land preservation.

The Mojave Desert from somewhere on the trail. Kingman, Arizona is barely visible over a ridge line out on the desert. I suspect there are bits of California visible here on the extreme left on the horizon. Bits of Nevada are somewhere near the middle.

At some point on the trail, probably around 7200 feet, I was warned by a father hiking with his child that there was a cow elk around the corner ahead. No sooner did he get out the words though and there was the elk, headed downhill. The other guy moved on and the elk approached a little closer than I would normally like so I moved around to keep a tree between me and it. I got some photos although they do not reflect the extremely close approach of the elk. I'm sure it was within 30 feet at one point. I normally do not like to be that close to large wildlife of that type. As someone once said, wild animals can be unpredictable. Anyway the elk eventually moved on downhill and so did I.

I took the Aspen Peak Trail, although I never saw any aspens despite hiking all the way to the end of the trail at the Stonestep Overlook. However the trail did ascend a LOT more than I expected and my Strava tracker indicated that I climbed to around 7800 feet above sea level. I ascended around the edge of the peak and actually began descending so I'm a little surprised I did not see any aspens, at least further up the mountain. Perhaps the conditions were not quite right on that mountain, or perhaps there were very small aspens nearer the top (the trail did not ascend all the way). The higher peaks of the Hualapais are quite beautiful with a buff to brown color of rock that is weathered to rounded forms. I really enjoyed the scenery and the character of the forest on the hike.

The Hualapai Mountains are considered to be a Madrean Sky Island. This is a term used by ecologists to refer to the isolated mountain ranges of the southern Basin and Range region. They are "islands in the sky" because the forest ecosystems are surrounded by a sea of desert that isolates them. They are "Madrean" because they flora and fauna are similar to that of the higher elevations of the Sierra Madre ranges in Mexico. The height of such ranges allows them to squeeze more moisture from the clouds than the surrounding desert. It's a fascinating concept to me and I have dreamed of visiting a mountain range isolated by desert like the Hualapais since I was about 10 or 11 years old. The views from the high elevations were not disappointing and it was incredibly interesting to be in a cool ravine with pools of water in a stream bed and to be able to look out upon the hot, dry desert in every direction. It's amazing that there can be water flowing off those peaks regularly when there is a particularly dry desert just a few miles away.

A view from the overlook at the end of my hike. One of those peaks should be Aspen Peak but not sure which. I startled a gigantic bird here and I suspect it may have been a California condor. The markings were consistent although I saw no tag which would mean it had to be a wild bred bird. Going by the book, there are no condors in the Hualapais, but that means little for a bird that large, as it can easily fly very long ranges. They have been released in both California and in the Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. Unfortunately I'm not likely to know the truth since I didn't get a photo.

Anyway this is another one of those places I had curiosity about for a while and now I can check it off the list. If you ever happen to be in the Kingman area, the mountains are very easy to access and quite scenic.

Photo Dump
I probably got carried away here but it was a beautiful hike.

Aspen Peak. Not pictured: aspen trees.

Left: Hayden Peak. Center: Hualapai Peak. Both are 8,250 feet above sea level.

A wider view of the high canyon with Hayden and Hualapai Peaks. There is an intermittent stream in the valley below, with numerous pools of water even on this dry day. The stream just flows out of the mountains into the desert and disappears.

The large scavenger bird that was a possible condor flew out of the scrub on the left of this photo.

Water supply for fighting fires. I wouldn't want to be up here in a fire. This type of forest tends to go up like a torch in dry weather.

Looking upslope on Aspen Peak.

I haven't bothered to figure out exactly what this clumpy rock is but most of it seemed to be igneous or mete-igneous. It's just a little surprising to see such large crystals in igneous rock.

I believe those mountains in the distance are the Black Mountains. The nearer mountains are likely the Cerbat Mountains.

Strava GPS Track

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Old Stomping Grounds

All of the United States have rural areas, but some states are more rural in character than others. Indiana is such a place. I was born and raised in Grant County, Indiana, mostly living in the countryside and  a couple of very small towns. My father's family has been in Indiana for many generations, since the early 19th century. There is a long tradition of Pogues residing in rural Indiana. My mother's family only arrived in the area from the South due to a crash in the textile industry in the 1950s. As such, I am half Southern by upbringing, and at this point I lived most of my life in the South. That said, having grown up in the north (lower case 'n' as northerners believe they are Americans first), my world view was more shaped by this rural Indiana origin than any other factor.

A modern "family" farm in Indiana. This is pretty much the Indiana I grew up with. One of the sons got a degree in Agronomy and took the farm corporate. Nowadays farming is really only viable if you scale up to huge acreage, especially if you are planting grain for cash rather than raising livestock.

Indiana is a place of farms, plains, and slow, muddy rivers. It is a place with cold, snowy winters, and small, run-down towns that lost industrial employment when the United States began to trade extensively with developing nations. The beginning of the end was the recovery of Japan after World War II, a further blow came from the opening of trade with China by the Nixon Administration in the 1970s, and was completely finished off by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Indiana economy slugged onward with the wavering strength of agriculture on the fertile, extensively glaciated plains between the Ohio River and Lake Michigan, before finally recovering on the strength of growth in service industries in and around Indianapolis, accompanied by rapid urbanization of that area. Nonetheless, at heart, Indiana is fundamentally a farming society. There have always been the farms, and I assume, so there will always be. The farms plant their mark upon the landscape and the people as they plant the soil.

The contemporary face of Indiana agriculture - an ethanol plant between the county seat of Marion and outlying village Sweetser. It smells wonderful, with the scent of cooking corn (maize), like a whiskey distillery.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a safe, if bleak, place to grow up. I learned to love the outdoors in Indiana, and that love has shaped the way I have lived the rest of my life and the decisions I have made about where and how I live. Dad was an avid angler, and I grew up fishing in the rivers and lakes of Indiana. Mostly we fished the muddy Mississinewa River and it's reservoir, but sometimes we went to the nearby Salamonie or even drove up many times to the deep, clear, spring fed glacial lakes of northern Indiana. They were good times and I think Dad is responsible for interesting me in the outdoors. It's like an infection and once you catch it, when you are indoors the only thing you can think of is going outdoors.

Dad and I went to walk a 1 mile section of the Sweetser Switch section of the local "Rails to Trails" path. I had a distant view of the house I spent most of my formative years in as well as Pipe Creek, the major drainage for the area. I spent a few crucial years roaming along Pipe Creek, learning to love the natural world. I believe all children should have such an upbringing. Crime and contention come from the city. It is the inevitable result of too many people compressed into too small an area. Peace comes from nature and solitude. I do not believe that socialization and culture trump an appreciation of nature. "Freedom" means freedom from the constraints of other people or it means nothing. You get freedom in the country, in both the intellectual and in the physical sense, and it is there simply for the effort of living, with no planning or contriving required. As for culture, it exists where you bring it. Culture is not found in a particular place, it exists in the mind. You can get plenty of culture in the country as long as you have plenty of education.

Pipe Creek. I lived about a half mile downstream from here and fell in a few times, but mostly waded in on purpose. The water inflow on the right bank is from the ethanol plant pictured above - a couple of miles away.
The world's largest silver nugget, because, um, yeah, I don't know really, but as the sign says, it was too heavy to move. They painted it silver by the way. Silver nuggets are not actually silver. They usually look like dull, blotchy rocks. The paint was not a good idea. I guess the nugget must have been transported by glaciation from Michigan or Canada because the bedrock in Indiana is almost uniformly limestone or other sediment.
Yeah, massive grain silos right in  the middle of Sweetser. Hilarious.
Near the crux of the Sweetser Switch Rails-to-Trails path, in "downtown" Sweetser, Indiana. Downtown has a whole 2 stories. By they way, the old switch was where the trains could be switched from one rail line to another. In this case it was probably to facilitate the offloading of grain from the local elevator to the trains.
Old rail cars and a statue of Garfield the cat, donated by illustrator Jim Davis, born and raised in Grant County.
The Mississinewa River near one of the battles of the War of 1812, but more importantly, near the first place I ever went fishing.
The Hogback recreation area on the Mississinewa Reservoir. The mud flats are a result of the lake being lowered to winter pool. The primary purpose of the reservoir is flood control, so the water level is lowered in winter to accommodate heavy rains in late in the season and in early spring.

I left Indiana in 1989 when my mother and stepfather moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was a huge change for me, but I welcomed it. Rural Indiana is a nice safe place to grow up but I think I was born with a drive to always seek something more than what I have, and I knew I could grow more if I left, so I welcomed the change.

After high school, I initially attended Texas A&M University in 1992. Unfortunately I made the decision to leave there under outside pressure and went back to Indiana to attend Purdue University. It was not my first choice, and it was not really a choice I wanted, but it was a choice I felt I had to make at the time. I walked away from nearly complete academic scholarships to be closer to my family in Indiana. I worked in a factory for 7 months and then transferred to Purdue from Texas A&M in January of 1993. I ended up changing my major a couple of times. It was a sad, directionless time in my life. I say this with apologies to my family, whom I love, but the main lesson I took from this period is that once you have moved out of the house, do not take unsolicited advice from family. It is Ok to ask for advice, but advice you did not ask for is likely to not be in your best interest. The advice may be right for your family but wrong for you. At some point you must become an adult and make your own decisions.

Anyway, I did appreciated my time at Purdue, even though I did not take full advantage of it as I should have. I now realize that the mistake I made in returning to Indiana should have already been apparent, but it took a few more years before I realized it. I'm quick in many ways but slow about things like that.

Purdue is a fun place to go to school, and my horizons were broadened by attending for 4 years. I met people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs and I was exposed to minds with the highest level of education. At Purdue I had the great experience of being instructed by professors with degrees from institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Oxford, and Yale, as well as many other private and public colleges of good reputation. I met informally and spoke with on two separate occasions Herbert C. Brown, then Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Nobel Prize winner (Chemistry 1979). Few people can say they've met a Nobel Prize winner, and I might never have met one if I had not been there, struggling through 2 years of chemistry.

I goofed off too much at Purdue, not partying and drinking as a lot of students do, but generally wasting time and pursuing my own personal interests, hobbies, and obsessions. I'm definitely compulsive at times, and probably I could be placed somewhere on the autism spectrum. At Purdue, I indulged this to the extreme, and many days were lost to the indulgence. This epic time wasting became possible somewhat because of the great resources of the university: the vast libraries (this was before the expansion of the internet), and the various opportunities to pursue everything from the outdoors, to computer diversions, to the sporting events that are so much a part of the life of large universities in the United States.

Speaking of sporting events, while back visiting this year, I went with my Dad to a Purdue men's basketball game. Indiana is a basketball state and the sport is deeply ingrained in the culture, or at least it was through the 1990s. Although I had little ability myself, aside from the ability to shoot free throws pretty well and the ability to move fast in a straight line, I spent some time in junior high school and my freshman year of high school as a manager and statistician for the basketball teams. During this time I learned a thing or two about basketball and got indoctrinated to the tradition. The traditional importance of the sport of basketball in Indiana is difficult to describe to someone not from Indiana but suffice it to say that I did not intend to miss any more basketball games than I had to when I was at Purdue, and Purdue was a major basketball power at the time. Purdue home games are some of my best memories from an era with few good memories for me.
We got great seats in the third row next to the tunnel where the team enters. I negotiated hard with the scalper but I still think we paid too much since it was Christmas break, the opponent was insignificant, and few students were present.

Mackey Arena. I think it holds over 13,000. This crowd was at least 9,000, if not more. I attended many sold-out games there when Purdue was ranked in the top 10 and the bleachers rumbled with the sound of stomping feet. Unfortunately Purdue lost a close game, despite the opponent being a cupcake. Purdue men's basketball has fallen on hard times.

Strava: 2 miles, 0 feet, lol.
Visiting my old stomping grounds in Indiana usually brings back a flood of memories and much sentimentality, but also re-affirms the decision I made to move on. There is a bleak beauty to the flat land and open skies of rural Indiana, and I experience the comfort of the familiar from my childhood when I visit. I sometimes miss Indiana . . . but I never miss it enough to move back again. When I graduated, I knew without a doubt that I intended to take the opportunity to go back to Tennesseee and would never move back to Indiana. I went on to more schooling in the South, a complete change of future career direction, and in many ways a complete repudiation of my college days in Indiana. I often think I should have stayed at Texas A&M.