Hello, Boulder Mountain Lookout Trail and Moses Falls in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada

To put it simply, visiting Canada has been an amazing experience so far. I will have a dedicated blog post about traveling into Canada and my long-term stay in Calgary, but until then, here’s a hike I did near Boulder Mountain in Revelstoke, British Columbia, one of the stops I made along the way to Cal­ga­ry.

I started the first trail on Westside Road at the base of Boulder Mountain, just before the bridge across the Jordan River where it meets with the Co­lum­bi­a River.

Some areas were still muddy, but because of bridges, tree stumps, and tree trunks that I could walk on, it wasn’t too difficult. After about a fifth of a mile, I arrived at a clearing where I was able to get a nice view of the Jordan River.

From here, I got a bit confused and thought that it was already the end of the trail… which made no sense, because I had looked up this hike on AllTrails prior to arriving, and it was at least a mile and a half. I started wandering around in confusion, going off-trail to find where the path was, until I noticed a long rope coming down from a cliff.

Hikers on AllTrails had marked this as “easy,” so I questioned whether climbing the rope up the cliff was the correct path. Fortunately, as I was looking around for an answer, a family of hikers coincidentally arrived at the same time. They had previously done this hike before, so they confirmed that the correct path forward was to climb the rope, and they demonstrated that the rope was indeed sturdy enough by climbing up themselves.

The rest of the trail up wasn’t too bad—it was steep enough that I would get out of breath if I went too fast, and some areas were pretty muddy, but I made it to the summit without any further issues.

On my way back down, I found a slug (and, considering how bad my eyesight and depth perception is, I’m impressed at myself for noticing it and not step­ping on it).

Because this was a relatively short trail at about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) round trip with about 620 feet (189 meters) of elevation gain, I continued driv­ing northbound on Westside Road to a second short hike.

I eventually made my way to a parking lot near Moses Falls. Part-way to the waterfall, I met a nice older lady who was trying to get to the waterfall be­cause she saw it on Google Maps, but was a bit concerned that she would get lost and not be able to make it back up the relatively steep terrain. My pres­ence there instilled enough confidence in her to follow me to the waterfall, where she asked me to take her picture, then offered to take mine.

She retraced her steps back to the parking lot, while I went deeper down towards the base of the waterfall.

Eventually, I made it to the bottom where the waterfall emptied into a small reservoir that connected into the Columbia River.

To the northeast of the Columbia River, I could see where it passed through the Revelstoke Hydroelectric Dam.

Unfortunately, because I went on this hike after I had already spent the day driving from Kamloops to Revelstoke, it was later on in the evening, and the Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre was already closed.

When I plan out what cities I visit and for how long, I usually go by hotel prices to ensure that my travel is as cost-effective as possible. However, after trav­eling through this area, I’m realizing the major flaw in that strategy. Especially during the summer months, the nicest, mountainous areas in the north attract a lot of tourists, resulting in relatively high hotel prices. However, I think the high lodging prices are worth it for the great experience ex­plor­ing these areas.

 

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Hello, King’s Chair at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham near Birmingham, Alabama

After arriving back to Atlanta upon the conclusion of my one-week trip to the West Coast, I picked up my truck, spent one more night in Atlanta to rest up, then drove to Birmingham, Alabama to continue on my road trip. For my first adventure in Birmingham, I drove to the adjacent neighborhood of Pelham to visit the Oak Mountain State Park.

I didn’t really do the best job in planning interesting activities along this path—I mainly scheduled things out with a plan to get back to Las Vegas via vehicle by early December so I can wrap up some classes for one of my continuing education certifications—so I based the remainder of my road trip on that, rather than looking at what interesting things are along the way. That ended up being unfortunate for Birmingham, because if I had known there was such a nice state park, I would’ve spent more days here.

I wanted to hike an intermediate trail and selected King’s Chair on the eastern side of the state park. The trip to the summit was fairly stereotypical for a moderate hike like this, with nice elevation gain, scattered simple obstacles, and plenty of fresh air.

Oak Mountain State Park

Once you get to the top of the mountain, there is a relatively flatter portion along the ridge with a few pseudo-summits before hitting King’s Chair. The first, which I found out from another hiker, is called Queen’s Chair.

Oak Mountain State Park

A little farther down was another opening, which I originally thought was King’s Chair, but later discovered that it wasn’t. There was a little platform where you could sit down, so maybe we can call it King’s Bench.

Oak Mountain State Park

And finally, all the way at the end of the trail was King’s Chair.

Oak Mountain State Park

Oak Mountain State Park

I’ve touched on this a few times in the past, but people out in the “middle of nowhere” areas (and yes, I know that Birmingham technically isn’t the middle of nowhere, but I’ve historically seen everything outside of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and, to some extent, Las Vegas, as the “middle of nowhere”) are much kinder and more caring. The culture in big cities is to ignore everyone around you and just do your own thing, but as I started vi­sit­ing smaller cities and exploring out into the country, I’ve had much more pleasant interactions.

Oak Mountain State ParkI’m not really that social of a person in general, but after I realized that it is nor­mal to interact with each other in these areas, and that I might actually be mak­ing people feel uncomfortable by having a “city attitude,” I’ve been much more receptive of social interaction and light conversation with random people I meet in public.

I’ve learned a lot about the world by taking this more open approach to others, and I think I’ve also taught a lot to others by sharing my own stories of what busy city life is like. A lot of my most interesting encounters have been the most unexpected, and I think my interaction here at the summit of King’s Chair tops the charts in unexpectedness.

I met a guy named Hunter who was hiking with his friend. Apparently Hunter used to be an aspiring professional gamer, and he was familiar with Tempo Storm and our past esports endeavors. He’s doing photography now, and offered to take a picture of me, which I obviously accepted.

The top of a mountain in the middle of Alabama is probably one of the last places I would’ve anticipated meeting an esports fan, but I’m glad that we talked for long enough to figure that out, because this experience definitely made my visit to the state much more memorable.

After parting ways with my new friends, I walked across the ridge in the opposite direction, then took a different path down to the trailhead.

Oak Mountain State Park

Apart from the novelty of my conversation at the summit, the rest of the hike was fairly routine. Oak Mountain State Park is a decently large recreation area, and if I was staying in Birmingham for longer, I definitely would’ve come back at least a couple more times to hike a few more trails.

Oak Mountain State Park

 

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Hello, Medal of Honor Museum and the Vietnam Experience Exhibit

As a continuation of yesterday’s blog post about the USS Clamagore and Laffey from visiting Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, today’s spot­light is on the Medal of Honor Museum and the Vietnam Experience Exhibit.

The Medal of Honor Museum was inside the USS Yorktown (which I’ll show tomorrow). The Medal of Honor is the United States government’s highest award, and it is given to members of the military who distinguished themselves from others through great valor during combat.

Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point

Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point

Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point

Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point

As I mentioned in my previous blog posts, I don’t really have much background knowledge in history, so I didn’t really know anything going into this museum. My co-worker did, though, and he said that this museum was fairly biased—which is unfortunate, but also expected, seeing as this is an A­mer­i­can award in a museum in the South, and featuring Medal of Honor recipients of ethnicities of past United States war enemies might not yield the best reactions from some people.

For the final exhibit before closing time, we walked through the Vietnam Experience Exhibit. This was a hybrid indoor and outdoor exhibit, with the in­door section resembling a traditional museum with items on display, and the outdoor portion being modeled to try and emulate what it actually looked and felt like during the Vietnam War. They had speakers set up in inconspicuous locations to pump “war sounds” into the area, there were a hand­ful of huts that were designed to look like the ones in Vietnam, and a lot of the aircraft and vehicles were accessible so visitors could see inside.

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

There was a photo opportunity at the top of the watchtower; my co-worker eagerly told me to get in position and man the machine gun.

The Vietnam Experience Exhibit at Patriots Point

 

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Hello, Cold War Memorial in the USS Clamagore (SS-343), and the USS Laffey (DD-724)

For the next tourist activity of Charleston, I was joined again by my co-worker to go to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. The museum is ba­sically four museums in one, with three ships and an experiential exhibit.

We attended a wedding over the weekend; I didn’t join in on the afterparty, but my co-worker did. This meant that he slept in and had a late start, so we only had about four hours to experience everything. The museum(s) is/are massive, and four hours wasn’t enough to see everything, even though we weren’t standing there reading all the information on all the placards. If you also want to go, I’d recommend a 4-6 hour trip at the minimum; if you’re an enthusiast who loves the topic, this is honestly an amazing place to spend the entire day from open to close.

Because the museum was so large, I decided to split it up into a few separate blog posts. The first two museums we went to were the Cold War Memorial inside the USS Clamagore (which is a submarine), as well as the USS Laffey DD-724.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

The submarine exhibit outlined what underwater life was like during the Cold War so we could see it first-hand.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

The main takeaway I got from walking through the entirety of the length of the submarine was how large and small it was at the same time. I had never been on a submarine before, and I’m not sure where I got this impression, but I assumed that a submarine would be more like a smaller boat, but capable of being completely underwater. I imagined the interior would reflect something like a private jet. I’m sure there may be some submarines that exist that are like this, but the USS Clamagore was quite literally an entire house crammed into a watercraft.

As I walked through all the different rooms, I realized that this was built for people to live in here for extended periods at a time—all the essentials were directly in the submarine. However, it was also extremely space-efficient, meaning, there was very little open space that wasn’t already being used for some important purpose. The one long hallway stretching across the length of the submarine required a good amount of flexibility and agility to nav­i­gate because of how narrow and short it was.

My co-worker asked me whether or not I thought I could survive in one of these for a long period of time. I do well with small spaces, so that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the smell and heat. The submarine had a section where it showed the en­gine and had a speaker emitting the sound of one engine… and apparently during normal operation, there are ten of them running at the same time, resulting in ten times the volume. They also produce an insane amount of heat, and it would be normal for it to be ~120°F (~48°C) in that room.

 
Next up was the USS Laffey, nicknamed “The Ship That Would Not Die” due to how resilient it was during the most relentless suicide air attack in his­to­ry during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, better known as D-Day.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

During the tour, I found my locker.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

You might not know this about me, but while I was still in school, I passionately hated history. It was my least favorite subject, I failed my Advanced Place­ment exam in history during high school, I took no history courses as an undergraduate university student while earning my Bachelor’s degree, and I quit my graduate program for my Master’s degree because their breadth of knowledge requirement forced me to take eight history courses to make up for my lack of exposure to history.

My opinion on the topic of history is slowly changing. I started feeling this way when I started going to more historical museums during my road trip, but I think the USS Laffey was the “tipping point” that made me realize that history isn’t actually really that bad, and the thing that’s bad is actually just the American education system.

After watching all the videos on the ship about what happened to it, seeing all the rooms and some of the equipment that the military used to fight to defend the United States, and literally standing in the same watercraft as the veterans with my own two feet, it somehow just occurred to me in a very surreal manner as to how “real” everything was.

This isn’t to say that I was doubting that any of these historical events happened; it was just that, when I learned about it by reading out of a textbook and taking exams, I felt many degrees of separation from the topic. By seeing all this in-person, it hit me as to how important and significant all this was, and how relevant this actually still is to modern-day life.

These museum exhibits were built in a way such that both history enthusiasts (like my co-worker) and history idiots (like I) could learn something new and have a nice experience. What made it even better for me was that, as someone who grew up in the middle of nowhere in the Chicagoland suburbs, and then lived east of the Santa Ana Mountains in California before moving to the middle of the desert in Las Vegas, I didn’t really have much exposure to water. The fact that I was just even on a tremendously large boat to begin with was an exciting experience, so being able to walk through both these watercraft was amazing.

 

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Goodbye Seattle

After a good week visiting friends and sightseeing, my week in Seattle comes to an end. I have dedicated blog posts for the more notable things I did while in Washington, but for everything else, here’s a photo dump.

After my travel incident with a missed lay­o­ver and delayed flights, I decided that the best course of action for this trip would be to put Delta Air Lines on a temporary break take Alaska Airlines non-stop from IND to SEA instead.

An Alaska Airlines plane painted black

The flight went smoothly, I got my usual scenic photos that I always do from the air, and arrived safely and early without needing to worry about lay­o­vers.

Mt. Rainier from a plane

Seattle Metropolitan Area from a plane

During one of the earlier days, I spent a night in a hotel near the airport because it had the cheapest rate and also offered free parking for my rental car, which is very rare for hotels in the Seattle area. I snapped a photo from my window of the view and a nice bridge that connected both halves of the street.

Tukwila, WA

While meeting up with Doug and Allie, we also did some sightseeing at Lake Union and Dyes Inlet. I’ve seen Lake Union before because I went to Gas Works Park last year with our production crew to get some b-roll footage for our documentary, but this was my first time seeing Dyes Inlet.

Lake Union

Dyes Inlet

One of the perks of having my own rental car throughout my trip is that we were able to get from place to place without having to rideshare everywhere or walk excessive distances. However, one of the downsides of having a rental car… is intersections like this.

To be clear, this is taken from the left turn lane of a two-lane road, i.e., there was only one more lane to my right. This traffic light had three lights, a sign that said I can only take sharp left turns, a sign that said I cannot turn left, and a sign that said I can also take a slight left, but make sure you don’t turn on red.

A very confusing intersection

This sounds like a great opportunity to do a rental car review.

If you’re unfamiliar, I usually rent pickup trucks because I like the ride of a body-on-frame vehicle, and I find pickup trucks to be much more man­age­a­ble and navigable because my personal vehicle is a pickup truck and I’m much more used to it. However, sometimes, renting a pickup truck is just too un­realistically expensive, or they don’t have any left available in stock, so I end up with a different vehicle. When I do, I like to review them.

This time around, I ended up with a Mazda CX-5, a compact crossover with a 2.5-liter inline-four engine with 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.

I’m usually not a fan of Asian car manufacturers. I acknowledge that they usually make very reliable ve­hi­cles, but I like a balance of reliability and fun factor, and Asian cars tend to be very boring. However, I’d say that the Mazda CX-5 was the least bad of all the low-trim Japanese cars I’ve driven.

The interior was decently nice, the screen was unexpectedly large, and the materials didn’t feel cheap. The engine was obviously struggling and acceleration was much slower than what I’m used to, but it still got me around town.

One specific thing I noticed with this crossover was that the brakes were unusually sensitive. This tends to be a recurring theme with Asian cars, where the accelerator is slow to respond but even the slightest tap on the brakes will lurch the car. It felt like this Mazda was a particularly severe offender of this, so it made for a bit of an uncomfortable ride if I wasn’t putting extra focus and effort into smooth braking.

Apart from that, it was a fairly average compact crossover—it had the perks of fitting into small street parking spaces and squeezing into narrow parking lot spaces, but it also had the downside of being lower to the ground, having lots of road noise due to the unibody composition, and feeling like all the other bigger vehicles on the road were about to run you over because of how short you felt.

And on that note, here is the continuation of another trend I’ve started on my website—my co-worker Erin, who I visited the second half of my week in Seattle, has a lifted Ford F-150, so I hugged it.

Hugging a Ford F-150

This trip was also the first time I had ever been on a ferry. I took a round-trip to and from either side of Puget Sound, and the motion sickness I felt from the ferry was much more manageable than the motion sickness from whale (fin) watching.

Funny enough, my second time on the ferry, my brain seemed to have adjusted very well to the boat, because I had little-to-no seasickness. But then, strange­ly, the moment we stopped and docked at the destination, I felt an overwhelming wave of motion sickness, almost as if my brain had gotten so used to the boat that it was now very confused and angry that we weren’t moving anymore.

Here is a photo I took of Seattle while departing on the ferry.

Departing Seattle on a ferry

As I mentioned earlier, I thought this was a good trip. My trip to Seattle last time was good as well, and I’m thinking this has more to do with the people I spend time with while I’m in Seattle that has made it pleasant.

A majority of my thoughts and takeaways from my previous “Goodbye Seattle” blog post still stand, but there’s one more thing I noticed from this trip. Seattle isn’t quite as busy as New York City or Los Angeles, but it’s still pretty busy. However, it’s almost as if it’s a different type of busy.

When I’m driving around in Los Angeles or New York City, the traffic and congestion is borderline debilitating. If I’m trying to get from one place to another, I feel like I literally can’t, and if I try, I’m at the mercy of everything around me to sort of nudge me in a random direction, and I just have to hope that it’s the direction I want to go—sort of like being in the middle of a massive mob of people and being pushed the general direction of the mob’s movement.

Seattle, on the other hand, is also congested and has pretty bad traffic, but it’s still manageable. I can still make my own decisions on where I want to turn, and if I need to find someone who just got off the ferry and is wandering around downtown, we are actually able to coordinate and meet up at an intersection in a reasonable amount of time—something that is literally absolutely impossible in Los Angeles without having angry people honking at you and threatening your life.

I’m not quite sure why this is the case with Seattle, but I definitely appreciate it.

And with that, I am back in the eastern side of the country, ready to resume my homeless journey. I have a tentative plan to return to Seattle in mid-November, but until then, my road trip adventure is taking me to Louisville, Kentucky as my next destination. More tourism blog posts coming soon…

 

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Hello, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

My second tourist activity of Indianapolis was visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the race track best known for hosting the Indianapolis 500, or just the “Indy 500.” I wasn’t too interested in seeing a live race (and was too late for it anyway), but I want to see the notable points of interest that each of my road trip cities are known for, so I wanted to at least check out the track and the museum.

My tour started with a guided lap ride around the race track.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The race track used to be made out of brick, but has since been covered with multiple layers of asphalt. However, there is one strip of the original brick still visible near the starting point of the race. Apparently, professional race car drivers kiss this portion of the race track, so the tourists were also al­lowed to swoop down and kiss the brick for photos. I personally thought that concept was repulsive, so instead, I just asked Ed to take a photo of me sit­ting next to the brick.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After the tour, we went back into the museum for the self-guided portion of our trip.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

I usually don’t really have pictures of myself when I go to tourist attractions, but seeing as Ed was here with me, he took a few shots of me sitting inside the race cars designed for photos.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

I’m one of the people who have always thought the Indy 500, and every other professional racing event, was fairly boring, because I didn’t really see the appeal of watching a bunch of people drive their cars in a circle and continue turning left over and over again.

After visiting the Motor Speedway, I still wouldn’t consider myself a racing fan, but I did have two takeaways that changed my view of the sport:

  • Racing is just another outlet for the drivers and their teams to showcase their skill. It takes a lot of top-tier science, engineering, intellect, talent, and control to be able to drive at racecar speeds. It is also a perfectionist’s sport, because a single unnoticeable error could result in catastrophic disaster for the driver.
  • A lot of fans like the Indianapolis 500 as an observer’s sport, but that’s just a portion of it—a lot of the fans love it more for the heritage and tra­di­tion, as well as the strong patriotism that the Indy 500 represents.

 

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