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Life

Foto Friday – May 13, 2011

Foto Friday is a feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Today’s photo came from a recent business trip to the Washington D.C. area.  My client flew me in the day before, so I made my way from the airport down to the national mall to catch the last weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I had been to D.C. a few times prior, but always missed the cherry blossoms, so I definitely wanted to take advantage of this trip.

I parked over by the western side of the Smithsonian buildings and walked for the next 4-5 hours to photograph the cherry blossoms and all of the national monuments.  I got some great photos of the Franklin memorial framed by cherry blossom trees, however, this one is one of my favorites from the trip. The tree line I am standing under frame out the Washington Monument very nicely, and the sky even cooperated too.

Washington D.C. is truly one of the most magnificent areas of this country, with all of the history, architecture and stories to tell, I have spent a few days here, but definitely could spend a few weeks and not see all of it!

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/200 – F/11

Any D.C stories or photos to share?  Share them below in the comments!

Life

A Smack in the Face Reminder

When I posted up my first blog as the re-launch of this site, I stressed how this site would be an online home for sharing stories about living life to its fullest, seeing the world and generally making the most out of life.  I have plans for future posts, from concepts such as travel hacking to guest posts by other writers, telling their stories of their travels.  My hope for the site really is to show the various ways that you can take your life and make the most of it, from the independent location worker, to the world backpacker, to the cubicle dweller, the stay at home mom and everyone in between.

One thing I have learned in my life is that, sometimes, you need to make a decision for yourself, you need to choose to change your life, change your direction, change yourself.  You need to take make the decision to take your own life in your hands and make the most of it. For better or worse.  The only person you have to hold accountable for your happiness and your life is yourself.

To transition this blog to the main point that I want to convey here, in the past, I have chosen to live my life the way I wanted to.  I was never forced into making a decision.  I never had any life altering events force my hand one way or another.  To the same point, I never lost anyone close to me as I was growing up.  I had not lost any aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents or anyone else close to me.  Sure, great aunts, great uncles, my great grandma, my grandparents on my dad’s side, have passed away, but I was never close enough with any of them for it to really affect me.

That all changed on Monday, May 8th.

Cancer is a Heartless Bitch

Many years ago, when I was in my teens, my grandpa was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.  I remember seeing how much it scared and affected my family, but I think that the time, being as young as I was, I did not understand the gravity of the situation.  With all of our prayers and God willing, my grandpa made it through and is still cancer free to this day.  I didn’t realize until much later in life that we almost lost him that year.

In the past 5 years, 2 of my colleagues/friends have been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Robert and John were both healthy, hard-working, family guys when they were diagnosed with NHL.  I am very happy to say that have both beaten it, however, John still continues his recovery today.

As the years go by, as the awareness of cancer grows, both personally and in the media, it is hitting closer and closer to home for me.

Live Strong

I now wear this daily.  At first it was to support John and his battle with cancer and its various ailments over the past 2 years.  Then just last November, 2010, my family suffered a crushing blow, and I started wearing it to support 2 people.

My uncle had been diagnosed with Cancer throughout his body.

A seemingly healthy, active man in his late 50’s.  He had yearly check-ups and aside from the stress of a job that he loved, he was healthy.  Then one day in November, he had a pain in his side that lasted a little longer than it should have.  A few doctors and tests later, my aunt received the news that her husband had cancer. Throughout his body.  From his tailbone to his brain.

It enveloped him, but it never defined him. Even after every single doctor’s visit came with worse and worse news, he always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell, a hug to give.  He always told everyone not to worry.  He bore that burden.  He was the provider, he was the worrier.  In that respect, he reminds me very much of my grandpa.

He was a huge sports fan, a huge Yankees fan.  The featured image at the top is in honor of his team. He was a father, an uncle, a husband and a son.  He was one of the most giving and caring men I have ever met in my life, and it was a privilege and an honor to know him.

 

Alan Zwickler lost his battle with Cancer on May 8th, 2011.

 

Hitting Home

This was the closest death I have ever experienced.  I grew up very close to my cousins, my aunt and my uncle.  We played basketball on easter and thanksgiving at their house.  We played stickball in the street, volleyball and basketball in the pool and football wherever we could.  We watched every major sporting event as a family.  I will always remember the March madness parties, the NBA finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the World Cup.  Until I was 16 or 17, we spent every one of these as a family and those will always be my fondest memories of him.

He was initially diagnosed 6 months ago and went downhill fast.  I was there with him the weekend that he found out and I am still in shock to this day.  I don’t even think his death has really registered in my brain just yet.

I know I can learn something from the type of person he was, but I also believe that this hits even closer to home with my belief in living in the now and making the most out of every day.

Your days are numbered, the problem is, you don’t know what that number is.

Is is 18,250? 7300? 1825? 365? 30? 7? 1?

I have read stories about how medical scares really force people to re-evaluate their lives, make drastic changes, live life to the fullest.  I could give you hundreds of examples right here if I wanted, but to me this is more important to learn and acknowledge how precious life is and how short it can be.

Are you saving money for retirement?  What is your plan if you don’t make it that far?

Do you have a 5 year plan? What about a 5 day plan?

Are you living a memorable life, or are you just getting by?

Are you making a difference in someone else’s life?

 

Have you ever lost someone close to you?  How has it affected your life, your plans for life and your goals in life?  Let me know in the comments below.

Life

Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Usually in this space I like to share a story behind the photo, the trip I was on, the composition of the shot or something to make the photo relatable.  This update will be a little different in light of the recent events of the past week.

Today’s photo comes from New York’s Grand Central Terminal from a trip I took a few years back.

The events of this past Sunday, the location and killing of Osama Bin Laden, have had a profound effect on this country, and even more so on this state.  New York has been in the spotlight again, 10 years after the attacks on 9/11/01 and the World Trade Centers.  President Obama was at Ground Zero yesterday for a ceremony and chatting with local firefighters and policemen, thanking them for their service and dedication.

For today’s photo, I wanted to post one of the ones I had taken at Ground Zero, however none were to my standards to publish, so my focus then changed to something uniquely New York.  I had a few great photos of the Statue of Liberty, the fire station at Ground Zero, Times Square, but this photo spoke to me with the American flag hanging high overhead, our symbol of freedom.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/50 – F/4.5

Life

Project 333: Lessons from an Experiment

Remembering the Beginning

Where it started

About 4 months ago I posted a blog about my participation in a personal experiment known as Project 333.  I asked my readers, and myself, could you live for 3 months with only 33 articles of clothing?

I was all for it. I had quit my corporate job in July and put away all of my slacks, suits and dress shirts in favor of shorts, jeans and t-shirts for my new job.  I had been in that new job for 4 months when I made the decision to pack away the majority of my clothes and settle on just 33 items.

“That’s EASY” you might say, especially considering I could pretty much wear to work what I would wear on the weekends, so not much variety or creativity was really necessary when it came to picking out 33 items, or so it would seem.

December 31st, New Years Eve is when I sat down, went through all of my clothes and filled up around 8 large storage boxes full of clothes, shoes, jackets, hats, etc.  It was liberating, but at the same time a little scary.  Not only was I planning out the clothes I would wear for the next 3 months, I was also planning out the clothes I would wear in California for work, where at the worst it was 50* and raining.  I also had to plan for a trip to upstate New York, as Juliet and I were leaving on January 4th for Rochester and 20* (and below) and snowing.

All in all, the decisions were not hard, but I wanted to be dedicated to this and prove to myself that I could do it.  Little did I know how my life would change and how much this would help me through it.

Changes in Latitudes

We're not in California anymore, Toto

Not 7 days after packing up all of my excess clothes, Juliet accepted a job that would move us back to upstate New York, a little faster than we anticipated.  When she accepted the job, we were thinking March 1st or even March 15th.  Perfect, 2 more months in Southern California, 2 more months of shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

Then the news came.  Juliet starts her new job February 7th, which means we are on a one way plane to New York on February 3rd.

So I quit my job and started realizing that I wouldn’t really miss it.

When it came to moving, we were moving into temporary housing, so we didn’t have to move everything, just our essentials to live in a hotel for 4-6 months.  The last few weeks leading up to moving were quite stressful, packing, planning, booking airfare, renting cars, figuring out just what in the world I was going to do.

“But what does this have to do with Project 333??”

Thanks to Project 333, while my wife packed all of her clothes for work, casual, gym, etc, and filled 5-6 boxes, my clothes fit in 1. This was somewhat due to the fact that Juliet was packing for work, casual and everything else, where I did not have to pack for work, however, the only thing I altered in my Project 333 clothing list when we moved was the addition of 2 pairs of shoes and a few sweatshirts.

Lessons Learned

After reading more from Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, the originator of this challenge, as well as reading more from others who were participating, this “challenge” is not so much of a challenge to force yourself into “living like a poor person” as some people like to put it, rather, it is a challenge to the mindset of what is really needed in life.

The major takeaway I have from this is a shift in the mindset of choosing clothes on a daily basis.  I cannot honestly recall one time, from January until now, where I have uttered the words “I don’t know what I want to wear today?”  I can pick out matching clothes with absolutely no effort, whether that is going out for the night, running errands or hanging out with friends.  I can worry about getting busy living my life and not worry about what clothes I am going to wear.

Current Numbers

Jumping into the 2nd round of Project 333, we are encouraged to update our wardrobe and switch out any items we want for the next 3 months and put away others we wont need.  While I applaud those who do it, I have taken more of a permanent approach to the lifestyle.  While I might not live with 33 items, I keep the number low and have limited my spending on new clothes.

Here is my current tally of all the clothing items I have with me in NY:

  • 38 T-Shirts (16 I consider “outer-wear”, 7 undershirts, 15 shirts for around the house)
  • 5 Collared Shirts
  • 8 Sweatshirts/Jackets
  • 14 Workout shirts
  • 2 Workout shorts
  • 4 Jeans
  • 3 Shorts (1 I consider “outer-wear”)
  • 1 Sweats (loungewear)
  • 2 Slacks
  • 4 Collared Work Shirts (will only wear to work)
  • 6 Baseball Hats
  • 3 Beanies (loungewear)
  • 4 belts
  • 7 Pairs of shoes (1 pair snow boots, 2 pairs running shoes, 4 pairs causal shoes)

Quite the far cry from 33 items, isn’t it?  By my count, for Project 333 numbers, I am at 45 items, as although I have “work clothes” I have not had the need to wear them, nor do I see the need in the foreseeable future.

I have gotten more comfortable wearing my workout shirts instead of t-shirts when heading out, as they handle the dry and wet a little better.  Out of the 14 I have, there are 6 that I will wear out.  I could (and probably will) put about 20-25 items into a storage box, as I am not wearing them, so don’t really need them right now.

Conclusion

The more options you have in your life, the more opportunity you have to be indecisive and waste your time hemming and hawing over the correct decision. I have chosen the path of reducing my wardrobe to quality, versatile pieces that take away the “what do I want to wear today” question out of the mix.  I can now worry about more important things, such as where I am going, who am I spending time with and how I am going to make the most out of my life. I can concentrate on living my life and spend less time worrying about things completely within my control.

 

Have you ever done anything like this? Consolidated all of your clothes into a backpack to see the world? Just downsized to simplify your life?  I would love to hear your insights on what paring down your wardrobe taught you about yourself. Let me know in the comments below!

 

Photography

Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a new feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Today’s photo is of Atlanta’s Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team.  The photo comes from one of our many visits to Atlanta, this time in September of 2007 when the Braves faced off against the Washington Nationals for a day game.

Having grown up watching, playing, following, loving baseball, it is a past time of mine that I enjoy to this day.  Juliet and I have been lucky enough to see baseball games at MLB stadiums all over the U.S., including, Atlanta.  This time was special as I have always been a fan of daytime baseball, so much so that whenever the Angels (my team, our home team when we lived in CA) would have a day game, Juliet, myself, friends and coworkers would ditch work to catch the game.  We got to see a day game with two of our best friends, enjoy the late summer/early fall weather, and spend some time in the south.

We had been to Atlanta in 2006 and got to watch a night game from the conference rooms out in left field.  In this picture, you can see them underneath the Delta scoreboard on the left.  This second time, we were seated 1 section back from the field on the first base line.  I walked around behind home plate to get a group of photos, and the weather was definitely cooperating, the shots came out great.

By the time this is posted on Friday, April 29, 2011, Juliet and I will be back in Atlanta and catching a Saturday day game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/320 – F/14

Life

Epic Road Trip 2011: Every Mile a Memory

The last 2 pieces of the Epic Road Trip 2011 story will be personal reflections from Justin and Mike.  The following is Justin’s entry, thoughts from the road, memories and more.

We are now 46 days past the conclusion of our Epic Road Trip 2011 and along with all of the image processing, blog writing, creation, keyword tagging, geo-tagging, uploading and everything else that went into the post-production recap of the trip, really how much fun I did have.

Sure, this update will make 6 total posts regarding the road trip and just how epic it was.  We covered 3600+ miles, took 9 days and 70+ hours of driving to do it.  But what was most important was the fact that we built in time to have fun along the way.  Looking back on that, I don’t regret any decision we made or wish we would have done anything different.

I look at all of the things that we got to do along the way.  This was not as much about as just driving a car back as it was seeing a part of the country we had never seen before and spending time with friends we had not seen in a while.  As much as I tried to detail everything I could in the previous posts, those recaps were more documentation and telling the whole story of our trip.  Documentation aside, here were some of the highlights for me, personally:

  • Got to hang out and spend time with Sean before leaving on the road trip
  • Coffee with Robert
  • Got to spend time taking photos around Disneyland before leaving
  • Spent time with my grandparents in Arizona
  • Passed by Angels Training Camp in Tempe, Arizona (wish we could have stopped for a game)
  • Had time to reflect on the level and severity of the situation in Mexico, just 2 miles from us when we were in El Paso, TX.
  • Went to breakfast with Dave in Houston
  • Got to wander along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana
  • Experienced some of the absolute craziness that is Mardis Gras in NOLA (2012 anyone?)
  • Saw parts of the south that I had only read about
  • Seeing Mardis Gras celebrations in 3 different southern cities
  • Narrowly avoiding a few tornados
  • Spending a day and a half in the Atlanta area with Trey and Katy
  • Seeing the beauty of South Carolina
  • Spending quality time and catching up with Bryan and Alisa
  • Having lunch with Morgan
  • Covering another 3600 miles with my best friend
  • After 12 days of being gone, getting home to see Juliet

I know, quite the list, but so many things stuck out to me, so many stories surrounding all of those events.  The events leading up to leaving on the trip were also very important to me, as from the looks of things in life right now, I will probably only be back in California a few more times in the foreseeable future, so spending time with Sean, visiting Disneyland, catching up with Robert over coffee was invaluable.

The road trip offered so many memories, memories that I have tried to get down in the previous recaps with a combination of tweets and photos, but I know those will never do the entire memory justice.  Let’s just say, “you had to be there.”

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Epic Road Trip 2011:

The nerves, the anticipation, the anxiety to get on the road

Ready to roll

Spending time with my grandparents

Saying goodbye

Have to love a Texas-sized sunset

Scenic photos outside a gas station

Lived next to the Pacific, been to the Atlantic, now I can add the Gulf of Mexico to that list.

Gulf Coast

Now I can say I have been to Mardis Gras

Mardis Gras staple

Airborne, sunroof splitting, head smacking beads!

MONEY!

Dinner and drinks with some great friends

Dinner

The serene beach on Hartwell Lake

Lake Hartwell

Dinner with the Watkin clan.

Dinner with the Watkin clan

Knowing I was less than 45 minutes away from being home.

Empire State of Mind

As much as we were not prepared for it, the trip had to come to an end.  Like it or not, just a fact of life for the majority of us.  But, with another great trip in the books, our road trip total is somewhere around the 11,000 mile mark since 2006, and as one trip gets committed to memory, another trip moves into the planning stages.

Having conquered all but a few US states, I think next on the list is a road trip across Canada.

Epic Road Trip 2012 anyone?

Life

Epic Road Trip 2011: The Victory Lap

This is part 4 in a series about my Epic Road Trip 2011.  If you have not yet seen the teaser, or read the background behind my love for the open road, then it would be a good idea to start reading Part 3: The Long Haul and Part 4: Uncharted Waters.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done? Up to speed?  Good.  Let’s do this.

Friday, March 11

After a much needed rest, our time to hit the road has come.  2700 miles of road behind us, just around 900 in front of us, and 700+ of those miles are ones we have covered in previous trips.  With that in mind, this segment is dubbed, “The Victory Lap”.  One more time through some familiar territory, some time ahead with some good friends and the completion to this Epic Road Trip on the horizon line.

It is with hesitation that we bid goodbye to the Atlanta area and our good friends, for we have some highway to tackle.

Some gas for the beast and it is on the road, north on I-85 towards North Carolina.

80 miles into today, we cross into our 9th state of the trip.

State number 9

With 100 miles in the drivers seat today and the previous 2 days of driving, it is time to turn over the driving duties to Mike.  A quick pit stop and driver change just outside of Anderson, SC proved to offer a little more than just a rest stop.

I have heard in the past how beautiful South Carolina is, however, if this is what their rest stops look like, I am sold.

Not a bad view for a rest stop

A little more exploration, and 100 yards or so away is one of the fingers off of Hartwell Lake.

Even Rusty enjoyed the scenery
Lake Hartwell
Could have sat here for hours
Pictures do not do it justice

The lake and surrounding areas are so quiet and peaceful, we decide to linger for a bit to take some photos and enjoy the peace, quiet and serenity of the area.  With I-85 not 200 yards behind us, we cannot even hear the noise of the road.

Tall Tall Trees...
Yeah, I could live here. Just outside Anderson, SC. #epicroadie2011 - http://t.co/8wpznCB
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Back to the road we head, less than 100 miles to Charlotte and Virginia just a few miles past that.  Our destination for tonight is Charlottesville, VA.

Old stomping grounds

Back into old stomping grounds for Mike, we are a few hundred miles from Virginia, basically a straight shot around Charlotte and Greensboro, then into VA, but not without a quick stop for some food.  Hush puppies and shakes to go!

Apparently their shakes are pretty well renowned around these parts #epicroadie2011 (@ Cook-Out w/ @) http://4sq.com/e47hSU
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
Rusty enjoying the scenery
State number 11

160 miles to go until we get to Bryan and Alisa’s, this might be the most grueling drive of the trip, as we are in the mindset of pushing through to our destination, off the interstate and onto rural state routes, we will be averaging around 45-50mph as we go in and out of small, rural towns.

Rt 29 towards Ruckersville, VA

Dinner time with some great friends at a small restaurant in Ruckersville, VA before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner with the Watkin clan

Back to the hotel we head.  Tomorrow is another 400 miles. 8 days down, 1 to go.

Hockey game online and then some sleep. Tomorrow is home! #epicroadie2011 (@ DoubleTree Hotel) http://4sq.com/ggNYIh
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Saturday, March 12

The end of the road is near.  At this point, the trip is no longer about having fun, enjoying the open road, it is about covering ground and getting back to New York.  Sad to say, but that is how every road trip ends.

Today is 400 miles, playing cross-country courier and getting home.

Another one off the list

Skirting around the outside of DC, we cross into our 12th state of the trip.

Not long after that, chalk up number 13.

Light speed to Endor!
State number 13

Making quick work of these states on I-85, the interstate does not provide for a lot of photographic opportunities other than ones like this of the Wilmington skyline.

Wilmington, Deleware

Around noon, we have already covered over half of our distance for the day.  Lunch with Morgan is planned for 1:30pm in North Trenton, NJ.  Plenty of time to cover 65 miles.

Through MD and onto DE, #epicroadie2011 marches on, knocking out states left and right. Only PA, NJ and NY left to go!
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

I feel so welcomed

Just need to run through Philadelphia and we will be in New Jersey in no time.

Until this

Yes, we have driven 3200+ miles without hitting traffic since leaving California.  That is, until now.  Construction on the Delaware Expressway (I-95) on the bridge between the Philadelphia Airport and the Naval yard is causing this.

Finally around the traffic, we hit New Jersey and headed for lunch.

The Dirty Jersey

Lunch at Panera Bread in Northwest Trenton, we meet up with Morgan to deliver some mail (long story) and catch up over some food.  Nothing like being a 3450 mile courier service. (and to think, I didn’t even charge him)

After a much-too-short lunch, the road is calling us again.

Buh bye PA! Good to catch up with @, now into NJ and shortly, NY! 120 miles to home for #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Only approximately 130 miles to go and the driving portion of EPIC Road Trip 2011 will be officially done! #EpiicRoadie2011 #VictoryLap

A few short miles down the road, we click off the last state line crossing of the trip.

Empire State of Mind

A turn up I-87 Thruway and we meet up with Juliet in Newburgh, NY at 5:15pm.  Just 8 miles home to unload the beast and off to a victory dinner at The Depot in Cold Spring, NY.

And finally a victory dinner with @ and @ in our final state of New York. #EpicRoadie2011 http://4sq.com/i1G8Av

A well earned victory dinner

Until Next time my brother

Peace out brother, safe travels @ #epicroadie2011 (@ Stewart International Airport (SWF) ✈) http://4sq.com/h9bXM6
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

 

 

9 days

3600 miles

72 hours of driving


EPIC ROAD TRIP 2011

Photography

Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a new feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

After my last update squeaking in sometime well after midnight a few weeks ago, I completely missed my entry last week.  Things have been crazy busy lately and we had friends in to visit last weekend, so I was nowhere near a computer on Friday.

Today’s entry into Foto Friday is a photo that I can gladly say required no post-edit.  What you see is how the camera took it.  The photo comes from a trip to Northern California wine country where my aunt and uncle live.  The trip was in August, 2008, about 2 months before harvest, so all of the vines were full and healthy with beautiful leaf colors and plenty of different varietals of grapes.  A small group of us were enjoying a picnic out at a table that was set up just a few yards away from the vines.  Amazing setting and a great trip.

The vineyard is that of Lava Cap Winery in Placerville, CA whose wines are as amazing as their vineyard is photogenic.  As you can tell by my 2nd Foto Friday update with a wine theme, Juliet, myself and all of our friends are definite wine lovers and have had the luxury of visiting every wine region in California and are now expanding our tastes to the New York wineries.

Camera – Canon Powershot SD750 | Exposure –  1/100 – F/8

Life

Epic Road Trip 2011: Uncharted Waters

This is part 4 in a series about my Epic Road Trip 2011.  If you have not yet seen the teaser, or read the background behind my love for the open road, or even Part 3: The Long Haul, then now would be a good time to get caught up.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done? Up to speed?  Good.  Let’s do this.

Monday, March 7th

Just got the mayorship at the Homewood Suites in Houston, TX. That's mayorships in 3 states! Woooooo #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Not a bad way to start the day.  Another state off the list today, and another Foursquare mayorship under my belt.  But today brings more than just a Foursquare mayorship, it brings new, uncharted waters.  Today we will cross into Louisiana, the first state on this trip that neither Mike nor I have ever been through.

The other benefit of the day, only 350 miles to cover to New Orleans, a paltry 6 hours of driving.  That is, if we take the most direct route.  But what fun would that be?

Houston skyline

On the way out of the area, we had some great views of the Houston skyline, which in turn convinces us to take a quick detour through downtown to check out the city.

Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros

Minute Maid Park is the highlight of the detour, as we only explore 20-30 blocks of downtown, which turns out to be mostly office buildings and one shopping mall.

Eastward we push, still no real idea of where we were headed except for to our first stop in Beaumont, Texas, 85 miles east of Houston, where we stop for gas and to plot out our entry into Louisiana.

Gas in Beaumont, TX, 20 miles to Louisiana. I can taste the crawdads, bignets and shrimp already! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
One last fuel stop before leaving the great state of Texas. 1733 miles into our trip. #EpicRoadie2011
Gassing up the beast

As we get back on the road, we decide to take the southern-most entry point into Louisiana as we can, and our sights are set on Port Arthur, Texas.

Not far down the road, we catch up with some fellow Californians!!

FELLOW CALIFORNIANS!!
That is some odd looking luggage you have

Unfortunately, our powers of persuasion did not pay off, and Google did not want to use their Street View cameras to document the rest of Epic Road Trip 2011. BUMMER!  Guess we will just have to take care of it ourselves!

A quick turn down Rt-87 has us in Bridge City, TX, a city that definitely lived up to its name.  But aside from the bridges, the city offers one of the most interesting sights of the trip… Something Mike nor I have seen before…

Street Lights?

This is by far the oddest street lights we have seen, and we cannot really figure out what benefit this design has over more conventional and common designs seen throughout the rest of the country.   I guess Texas would be the right place for these though, as these things are HUGE at 30-35′ tall.

Back to the bridges, Bridge City and its neighbor, Port Arthur, TX.

Plenty of these

With dramatic bridges over every inlet from the Gulf of Mexico, we are able to get a nice, semi-arial view of southeastern Texas and the oil refineries that provide so much economic support to this area of the country.

Southeastern Texas
Oil Refineries in SE TX
Even Rusty was intrigued
More insane bridges
Almost 30* incline on this bridge
And even more oil refineries
All over the gulf

Literally have passed 15-20 miles of nothing but oil refineries and storage.  Some of these have even been built on man-made peninsulas that extend out into the bays in Texas on the Gulf.

Few quick turns and some, you guessed it, more bridges, we find our entrance to Louisiana.  I already feel more french.

Hellllooooooo Louisiana! Rt 82 on the very southern tip where TX and LA meet. Down in the marsh. #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/F7VZJLE
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
4 States down, bring on the bayou!

More than 1800 miles into the trip, this is only our 4th state we have crossed into and both of our first time down on the Gulf.

Down into Johnson’s Bayou, we continue on the Gulf coast, enjoying the colorful houses that are all raised on stilts or raised ground to protect from the rising sea.

Houses on the bayou

Quick stop for a few pictures in the sand on the Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast

Slowly winding our way towards New Orleans, LA along the Gulf Coast, the scenery is absolutely beautiful and unlike anything we have ever seen before.

Just took a ferry to cross an inlet.of the Gulf of Mexico. Saaawwweet! #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/uTYjHbs
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
First and only ferry ride on the trip
This was common on the Gulf Coast
Life on the Bayou
If we had more time, we would stop and pick up some fresh shrimp, sold right off the deck of the boats they were caught on in Cameron, LA.
Had to do a Forrest Gump voice
It is getting on towards dusk, so we decide to make the turn, head back north in order to catch I-10 towards NOLA.

Few more bridges to cross as we head away from the Gulf.

More bridges

Time to switch drivers just outside of Lafayette, LA.

Turned over the driving duties for the day to @. About another 120 miles into New Orleans from here. #EpicRoadie2011
Our drive through LA

Once back on I-10, we switch drivers and head towards Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which on I-10 includes the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, an 18.2 mile bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya Swamp.  The bridge comes in at the 10th longest in the world and 3rd longest in the United States.  Louisiana is home to 4 of the 5 longest bridges in the United States.

Atchafalaya Swamp
Driving into Baton Rouge, while listening to Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge". The irony might be too much to handle. #EpicRoadie2011

After a quick drive to New Orleans, getting checked into our hotel, we headed down towards the French Quarter to see the festivities and fight for some food.

Made it to N'awlins after some sightseeing today. Now off to Bourbon St for dinner and people watching. #EpicRoadie2011

What we quickly find is that the 6 mile journey to Bourbon street is nothing more than 3.5 miles of a parking lot of cars, $35 parking and 20k people downtown.  After 2000+ miles on our journey, we are in need of food, not chaos.  Back towards the hotel we head, with some great examples of Social Media in business.

Here is an exchange of tweets that is how Social Media should be used.  Props to Harrah’s NOLA

I'm at Mardi Gras 2011 (555 Canal St, Chartres St, New Orleans) w/ 66 others http://4sq.com/eA9tF5
@ Have a great time tonight Mike! Let us know if we can help you have a great time. Happy Mardi Gras!
@HarrahsNOLA
Harrah's New Orleans
@ Our parking garage likely has a spot or two open at the moment. For dinner, we have Gordon Biersch & Bambu here on the resort.
@HarrahsNOLA
Harrah's New Orleans
@ that's awesome that you guys responded. Will definitely be stopping in later. Well done, harrah's!
Huge compliments to @ for reaching out and using social media in the way that it was meant to be used. #EpicRoadie2011

In amongst the party that keeps New Orleans going throughout the year, this is a shining example of how Social Media needs to be leveraged to make an impact on people’s lives.

And with that, back to the hotel we head.

Mardis Gras was beyond nuts for 2 weary road warriors. Gonna grab a bite, grab some sleep & attack Bourbon St in the morn! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Tuesday, March 8th

With any road trip (or any trip, for that matter) it is always important to keep an eye on the weather, as we had been doing for the past few days.  A large storm was approaching the southeast of the United States, looking to make landfall sometime Tuesday night.

The original plan was to stay in New Orleans Monday  and Tuesday night.  With the storm fast approaching, it is a quick decision to shorten our stay and head out of NOLA Tuesday afternoon, as staying in a city that is build below sea-level and has a history of broken levees while a very large storm threatens to drop 6-12″ of rain in 24 hours is not our idea of fun.

Raining, so it will alter our plans a little. Less time in NOLA than expctd. Headed towards Biloxi 2day #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/ZwmhTiq
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

All checked out and Rusty in the back seat, we head for the French Quarter again to get a little taste of a more subdued Mardis Gras on Fat Tuesday morning.

Let's try this again... (@ Mardi Gras 2011 w/ @) http://4sq.com/h82hdb
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

We wind our way through a very sparsely populated downtown New Orleans, scouting for somewhere to park the beast.

Getting into the French Quarter
Very vibrant part of town
Ominous clouds over Jackson Square
No real rain so far
Parking with a view

This morning is quite quiet down in the French Quarter, as we found parking with no real problems.  With some parades scheduled to start at  8am and run pretty much all day, there are small groups of people downtown, but not enough to where it is all assholes and elbows.

History of the French Quarter
Mardis Gras staple
Early morning parade
No parade complete without a Penske truck full of beads
Costumes in full effect

And what would a party like Mardis Gras be without a few of these guys.

Repent, PERVERT!!

And the tweet gem of the Mardis Gras visit comes with one of the biggest issues at Mardis Gras, the parents who just cannot seem to grow up, or find a babysitter.

I have no problem if you go to Mardi Gras, get drunk, and end up face first in the gutter. But don't bring your kids. #Epicroadie2011 #

Cannot count how many parents brought their kids out, many of them in strollers that are primarily used for holding up the drunken parents.

With a quick tour of Bourbon St, St. Chartres and Royale St, it is time to get on the road and make haste getting away from the eye of this impending storm.

Mardis Gras is a trip! Headed out to beat the rain a bit. Adding MG 2012 to next years list! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

As we begin to head out of the French Quarter, we realize what an effort in futility this will be.  2 hours of weaving through residential areas of town, all 1 way streets, none of them heading the direction we need to go.  Once we finally are able to make some headway towards an interstate, we run into a float prep area for the next few parades.

Floats the size of semi-trucks
Over 30 of these line the streets

We are FINALLY able to make it out of downtown NOLA and head towards Lake Pontchartrain and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, essentially a 24-mile bridge over the center of the lake and the 7th longest bridge in the world while maintaining the record as the longest bridge in the United States.

It's a bridge...a really, really long bridge. #EpicRoadie2011 (@ Lake Ponchartrain Causeway Northbound) http://4sq.com/hFS1qA
Looking back at NOLA from the causeway

A quick stop for food and next up, Mississippi!

Welcome to Mississippi

A quick turn off Interstate 10 and we head towards Gulfport and Biloxi.  Both quaint little towns on the Gulf Coast, we were a little surprised as we enter Biloxi and the amount of traffic on Rt-90 along the coast.  After a mile of traffic or so, we figure out why.

Mardis Gras #2, this time in Biloxi! #epicroadie2011 (@ Biloxi Mardi Gras Parade w/ 10 others) [pic]: http://4sq.com/hoGA6V
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Yup, Mardis Gras number 2.  A little more family oriented and only a parade through Biloxi, but a Mardis Gras none the less.

As we slowly inch down the road, next to the parade route, I open up the windows and sunroof to see if anyone will toss some beads over my way, since the car is only 15-20 feet from the parade route.

The first beads land a few feet too short.

The next ones smack the back bumper.

The next batch bounce off the hood.

Finally, paydirt.

MONEY!

The last batch comes flying in from somewhere in the back, straight through the sunroof and off of Mike’s dome.  Someone sign the guy up.  I know a few teams that could use an outfielder with that arm.

With Biloxi being packed with people, most of the roads are closed, making parking here a nightmare.  While we would love to stick around for lunch, we decide to get on down the road towards Mobile, Alabama, our tentative destination for the evening.

Alabama the beautiful

After a quick tour through downtown Mobile, Alabama brings up our 3rd Mardis Gras celebration of the day, our typical plan of finding a hotel room by exploring the city quickly turns into a frantic internet search from the smartphones and tablet we had on us.

Three cities, three Mardi Gras. Now to begin the ever frustrating task of finding a hotel room. #EpicRoadie2011

The search yields no available hotel rooms in Mobile or surrounding suburbs.  With 170 miles between us, we set our sights on Montgomery, Alabama as our next destination for the night.

Up I-65 we head, searching for a pet-friendly hotel room in Montgomery, or somewhere in between.  Not far into the drive, Mike comes upon a listing for a Holiday Inn Express in Atmore, AL.  With a reasonable price and vacancy, we decide to explore the city to see if we can find somewhere worthwhile to eat dinner, as it is around 4pm.

The town center of Atmore is set a few miles off of I-65, about halfway between I-65 and the Florida/Alabama border.  As we drove into town and found it to be nothing more than a very desolate, backwoods town with Burger King being the height of culinary mastery in town, we quickly headed back out.  Along the way in, Mike makes the comment that it looks like some of the barns and other structures have been blown away by tornados.   We laugh and continue on our way, semi-joking and reassuring ourselves that with a huge storm coming in, we don’t want to stay anywhere close to a town that looks like it has seen its fair share of tornados.

3 hours later, we find ourselves in Montgomery, complete with hotel room and a great recommendation for dinner.

All I needed was a cigar
I think that I may have fallen in love... ...with a pub in Montgomery, AL. #EpicRoadie2011

Charles Anthony’s at the Pub restaurant in Montgomery, AL is just what the doctor ordered.  Steak and seafood restaurant with healthy servings of both, complete with a pretty decent wine selection, good beers on tap, big, comfy leather chairs and great service.  I half expect to see a poker game in the corner, but alas, not tonight.  The only thing that would make this place fit the vision in my head would have been a slight haze through the darkness of cigar smoke.  I just need my suit and a cigar.

Oh how I love (and miss) southern hospitality. #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Some light rain begins to fall as we make our way back to the hotel, a foreshadowing of things to come.

Made it to Montgomery, AL for the night. Third time at a Homewood Suites during this trip. Short jaunt to ATL tomorrow. #EpicRoadie2011

Wednesday, March 9th

Thankfully, we made it a lot further northeast last night than we had originally planned.  Reports on the early morning news out of New Orleans we that of flooding and some water spouts over Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf Coast, however, the storm was moving very quickly towards us.

As I get back inside from taking Rusty for his morning walk, the thunderstorms hit. Lighting and thunder fill the sky and the reports of even more violent weather on the way.  Tornados had just been spotted touching down in Mobile, AL and also in Atmore, AL.  Time to thank God we relied on our instincts last night.

We decide to pack up and hit the road in the middle of the storm, following the worst section of weather as it progressed northeast towards Atlanta, just like we were.  Our logic was that if we were right behind it, we would not be in the worst of it anymore, but we would also beat the hours of rain to come which surely would cause more flooding.

Leaving from Montgomery, AL to ATL. Not a difficult day, only some flooding and tornadoes ahead of us. #EpicRoadie2011 #StormChaserDivision

On the road we go, 185 miles to our destination of Cumming, GA.

State number 8 of Epic Road Trip 2011

The rain never relented as we finally made our way into Cumming, GA to spend a day and a half with some very close friends of ours.

Home for the next day and a half
Love catching up, enjoying a beer with great friends. EPIC #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

The rain let up that afternoon and we headed out and grabbed some lunch at a local Mexican food joint, followed later by a basketball game for our friend’s son.

Austin at the line

The team, heavily the underdog, took their opponent to the last few minutes of the game before they ultimately fell to the much higher seeded team.  Great game to watch, especially with the youthful exuberance of the kids on the team, as well as the fact that at that age, they are running scripted plays.

An uneventful day, but a great time with friends, a non-hotel bed and best yet, going to bed without the thought of having to get up and get on the road tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 10th

Sleeping in? On a road trip? OMG!

Okay, well, I didn’t really sleep in, but I slept until 8am, which has not really been happening on this trip thus far, due to wanting to get up and get on the road.

Today is a slow day.  A down day. Something we definitely need on our trip.  We have been going for 6 days straight.  Day 7, we rest.

After a sushi buffet for lunch, we hit up the Dekalb County Farmers Market to do some shopping for dinner tonight, as well as to make Juliet jealous.

Sushi and farmers market in Atlanta...gonna put on 10lbs while I'm in this city for a day and a half. #EpicRoadie2011
Farmers market the size of Costco

In true fashion of tweetable quotes from the road, this gem comes on the drive back towards Cumming, GA from the farmer’s market.

Oh, the random conversations we have.

Dinner is smashed potatoes, shrimp, good beer and great company.  It is days like this that make me miss the south more than normal.

Dinner
Drink
The chef and his craft

And with that, we close out a very fun filled adventure through Uncharted Waters in days 4-7 of Epic Road Trip 2011.

 

7 days

2700 miles

53 hours of driving

2 days to go

Nothing but a victory lap in front of us

Photography

Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a new feature on Get Busy Livin and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

First things first on a *now* Saturday morning. This has been a very hectic week as I have started back doing some IT consulting and have been overwhelmed with work.  I am currently down in Washington D.C. area at a customer for a weekend full of work. So my apologies on the lack of updates, Twitter presence and missed Posterous updates lately.

Today’s photo is a church in Boston, MA.  Taken on one of my epic road trips, this time, in 2009 on our tour of New England.  Mike and I met up with Bryan and took a 9 day excursion from Washington D.C to Portland, ME, with plenty of time to explore everywhere in between.

The story today though is not that of the road trip, rather, one small piece of it.  That piece we affectionately call (#$!*@ Boston, MA.  We arrived into Boston area 3/4 of the way through our trip, with our main goal to visit the Boston Beer Co. Brewery where Samuel Adams beer is made.  After our tour of the brewery, little did we know that it was the drive TO the brewery that would offer the foreshadowing for the remainder of our time in Boston.

After leaving the brewery, our next goal was to locate Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, who just the day earlier had been eliminated from the playoffs by our Anaheim Angels. We set out with a general direction to find the baseball stadium located in the center of the city, approximately 3 miles away.  Little did we know the clusterfuck that is Boston streets.  Even with a map, it was almost 90 minutes before we found our destination of Fenway Park.  We must have driven in circles around the park about 5 times before realizing where it was.

This photo comes from the journey that was the drive between the Boston Beer Co. brewery and Fenway Park.  So much history in Boston, almost all of it evident in the architecture that makes up this town.  This church is just one example of the beauty of the well preserved architecture from a different era.

 

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/400 – F/14