Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sayonara, 2011

2011 definitely had some great highlights, but I don't know if I have ever been more excited to see a new year begin than I am right now.

In May, I hopped on a plane and headed overseas again with Doug again, and this time Marek got to join us. We all had so much fun: Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla and Segovia.

Definitely one of the bigger shifts this year was my job change - going from Account Executive at Jones Public Relations - to now being the Director of Social Media at VI Marketing and Branding. While I still work in communications and in downtown Oklahoma City, it is definitely more of a change than it sounds. I now strictly work in social media (which has been a love of mine for years).

The NBA also had a big scare of locking out for the entire season until an agreement was made late - starting opening day 2 months later (on Christmas Day). In the end, the NBA will only miss 16 games in what will be a very quick and condensed 66 games. This works out well for the Thunder as they are young with plenty of energy to play that many games in a short span. Also, this just happened last night ( Durant buzzer beater )

Each year I look forward to going to the Flaming Lips concert for New Year's Eve but it looks like that will no longer happen. I waited a little long on getting tickets and with the higher rate this year ($100 and up), I doubt I will get to ring in the new year with giant balloons, lasers, confetti and thousands of Lips fans that are more likely hugging because they are high and not because of the New Year festivities. That has been, however, one of my favorite night's all year and a tradition I am sad to see end, but I have never been able to not enjoy myself when I want to, this New Year's Eve will be no different.

This year, Mike and I bought a storage unit (just like the show Storage Wars) and had a garage sale to get rid of all the crap that was in it. It was a great experience and something I wouldn't mind doing again, as long as we buy a unit that is smaller and less expensive. We ended up paying bout $790 for the unit and brought in around $1500 at our garage sale. Not bad at all but moving the wall to wall unit and having a two-day garage sale might not have been worth it.

Also this year, Marek decided she was going to start making everything possible including pillows, scarves, gloves, maps, etc. and sold so much of it to local people which really worked out great for her and made a lot of people really happy (and gave lots of them great Christmas gift ideas as well). She also entered a craft show and sold items all day long. I hope this is something that she continues to do as she is great at it and loves to do it as well. She also got her Masters in December, what can't she do??

In Oklahoma City, Project 180 is taking over downtown in all areas regarding streets, sidewalks and intersections but the good news in downtown is that the Myriad Gardens have been completely renovated, the Devon Tower was topped off, Sandridge leveled about 2 blocks of buildings, the Aloft Hotel broke ground and the LEVEL Apartments are just about completed in Deep Deuce and the Skydance pedestrian bridge was just completed over the soon-to-be-open new I-40.

Looking back on worldly historical events in 2011: the ones that stad out to me the most would be th Occupy Wall Street protests, Congresswoman Giffords involved in a failed assassination attempt, Fidel Castro resigned, Prince William got married in the most ridiculously media frenzied event I've ever seen, Oprah Winfrey retired, Osama Bin Laden was murdered, Muammar Gadaffi was murdered, Kim Jong Il died, and a wild ride of rise and falls of GOP candidates including Romney, Cain, Perry and now Newt head into the Iowa Caucus.

Just thinking about this past year is exhausting.

2012, you better dominate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seeing Google for more than just search: Google+ Business Page Launch

(Find VI Marketing and Branding on Google+: +VI Marketing and Branding)

The highly anticipated Google+ business pages launched yesterday and the world wants to know How is Google+ different than Facebook?
I’ve gotten this question many times as I have championed Google+ since it’s launch back in June. Mostly I’d say something along the lines of ‘Google is finally adding a connection from all of its services and bringing all of its customers together.’ That answer doesn’t exactly narrow it down exactly because unless you are an avid Google fan you won’t know what the “Google Services” are, exactly. Let’s take a closer look at it..First off, Google is not just a search engine.

Google is also YouTube.
Google is also Gmail.
Google is also Chrome (my favorite internet browser).
Google is Android.
Google is also Blogger.
Google is also Reader.
Google is also Google Earth.
Google is also Google Maps.
Google is also Images.
Google is also News.
Want to create a free website, yes Google is Sites, too.
Google is Product search.
Want free cloud-sharing Microsoft Office-type programs..?.. Yes, Google is Google Docs, too.
Want to be updated on current events world-wide? Then use Google Alerts.
Google is Translator.
Google is Books.
Google is a Toolbar.
Google is an Image Editor (Picasa and Picnik).
How about calling your friends on through the computer, yes Google is Google Voice and Google Talk.
Like PayPal? …then you’ll like Google Checkout.
Google is SketchUp.
Want to “Skype” your friends? How about video chatting with MULTIPLE people at once? Yes, Google is Google+ with Hangout.

Don’t even get me started on the cool features of the “+1” button. (It will revolutionize searching Google)
As long as people continually only see Google as a search engine, they will never actually completely see Google.
I will continually use Facebook. I really like Facebook. I really like Google+. there is definite room for both. They are different. They are separate. You don’t have to like one or the other. Both offer great services. Yesterday’s launch of business pages feels a lot like Facebook, with a Google feel. I’m not saying the business pages are as good/better than Facebook’s business pages…just yet another Google service. At least neither are Myspace.

From a Bloomberg interview:
“When you think about Google today, you of course think about the Google search engine, but in total we have YouTube, Android, Chrome and Gmail…we have a variety of services that users love and back to all the time. Today they (Google users) come back to us in a largely unidentified state; we know very little about them and remember very little about them. The way that we think about Google+ is changing this mode of interaction so that we actually get to know our users deeply. We understand who they are, what they love, who they know and then reflect that back as value to them so that all of our services get better when users use their own data in their own service. So, the way that we think about it, is really transforming the “Google experience.” If that is all we did and we maintained levels of use and usage, then we would have a fantastic success on our hands. I think a lot of the pitting the companies against each other (Facebook vs. Google+) certainly sells advertising and clicks and it’s an intriguing story. But, what we think we’re doing we think about in the terms of ‘how can we make Google services better?’ and I think we have a really compelling value proposition for those that already love Google today.”

- Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product at Google+
Next Post: Google+ and Direct Connect.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Social Media doesn’t have to be a “venting” venue


Not the best way I would describe how a company should setup its social media strategy.

I’m sure that Linkedin has social media strategies that go way beyond just being reactive but recently, that was my experience in my communication efforts with this primarily online company.

I had a couple questions/issues that I needed resolved with the previously mentioned company (I actually could have easily handled the issues myself if their restrictions weren’t so restricted). I decided to use whatever form of communication they directed me to use to contact them (I was open to calling them, emailing them, etc.), their preferred form of communication was for me to fill out a customer service form on their website and that someone would get back to me.

I submitted a form on a Monday. I waited and submitted another form on Thursday. On the next Monday, I had reached the point where I found their preferred method useless. I decided to send another form and only wait a couple hours…by noon on that Monday, I decided to communicate my way, via social media.

I jumped on Linkedin’s highly trafficked Facebook page (89,000 “likes”) and did a couple different things. First, I wrote on their wall at the very top of the page stating I was still waiting for a representative to get back to me regarding ANY of my three emails needing attention to resolve a very simple issue. I copied my submitted paragraph and then proceeded to go to their postings and left that same paragraph on three different posts in the comments sections.

I had an email response within 5 minutes helping me with my account.

I did not like having to do that. I tried their private recommended form of communication to handle an issue. When it started out, I didn’t even have a complaint. Their was nothing wrong with their service, it was just an issue that only they could fix.

Throughout this process, I came to a conclusion. Companies are starting to put more effort and energy into reacting to complaints on social media (public forum) when if that effort and energy would just be focused on the private lines of communication, the customers would be happier and social media wouldn’t have to act like a public complaint box.

When you have an issue needing assistance, what do you do?

What is an acceptable amount of time to just sit and wait for a response?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Google Buzz-kill

(photo courtesy of

The Google Buzz “kill”

This past weekend, we bid a grand farewell to the let down that was Google Buzz. If you are unfamiliar with Google Buzz, just imagine any successful and engaging social media platform like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ but take away the “successful and engaging” part and presto…

When Google Buzz was first released back on February 9, 2010, I was so excited - finally, the best online company was getting into the social media game. I was excited for an entire hour. After that hour, confusion set in…what is this? Google, the company made famous for its clean and easy-to-adventure platform was suddenly confusing and left everyone embarrassed for saying they were fans of Google.

Immediately Google Buzz became annoying. From the constant random updates flooding my inbox (so that I wouldn’t “miss” anything) to the confusing “What-am-I-even-looking-at?” question everything was a big mess. I immediately jumped off the Google bandwagon and began to doubt any future announcement of a Google product.

Google did a great job of knowing Google Buzz was a terrible platform and immediately began working on a “version 2” of a social media platform which launched in June 2011 (Google+). My hesitant praise for Google+ became immediately extinguished and this platform (in my opinion) spurred most of Facebook’s recent changes which I actually applaud Facebook for doing.

While I would love to begin using Google+ more than Facebook, this “social media thing” is meant to be “social” - meaning I will have to wait until more people see some of the advantages of Google+ (and wait on Google+ to launch its business pages).

Anywho, Google Buzz, it was a good try. Now, Google+, don’t become a buzz kill like your older brother.

For a video all about Google Buzz:

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Social Media Explosion

These past few months the technological capabilities offered to enhance social media have exploded.

Three to four years ago, we were blown away by the smooth customizable options offered on MySpace (you mean we get to add music to our page?!?!) Now, MySpace is considered “the ghetto” of social media and what once ruled social media floundered into selling for a measly $30 million while Facebook continues to increase its revenue to be worth in the $80 billion range.

All of this has got me thinking; there are so many different options now, there are so many upgrades, so many new launches and businesses jumping into this “wild west” industry called social media that I feel that Back to the Future II is just around the corner (especially now that that Nike is now making the laceless shoes).

Now, we even have Siri (which will be added to Apple’s new iPhone 4s) which will start to have conversations with the phone user; when will we finally get our hover boards?

We saw Google jump into the game with Google+ in June which I thought was so impressive that even Facebook was in trouble. Immediately after Google+ launched and gained enough momentum to hit 10,000,000 accounts faster than any other social media company ever had - Facebook made a round of “improvements” that had lots of loyal followers upset, “Enough with the changes!” most would exclaim - not me. Facebook’s changes were right on the money. With more/better privacy features and a much smarter use of their very valuable homepage space (by separating “updates” and “top news”), Facebook is poised to be number one for a little bit longer.

Just a couple weeks ago, Facebook announced they will be taking their tremendously successful platform (currently in beta) into a “timeline” platform - yet another step in the right direction. Google+, it is time for you to roll out your “business page” options which, in my opinion, was the catalyst in taking Facebook from a big business into the biggest business on the block.

- Casey Cornett

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 9: June 6, 2006 From Chapel Hill to Washington D.C.

(Yesterday, Day 8, or start from Day 1)

It is day 9 of our two-month(ish) road trip around the U.S. This trip has been everything I hoped it would be...random.

Everyday is different. Everyday we hop in the car and drive to a new city and hope that when we arrive we will be met with friendly people and a new story; so far that has been the case.

Right now we are in North Carolina. I have never been to North Carolina before this trip but after my stay there is no doubt that I will be back.

When we woke up this morning, we made some eggs and then headed out to meet up with our buddy Rob. Rob is a golf professional out at Chapel Ridge Golf Course and he invited us out to play. This was great for us to get outside and walk around and actually get some sort of exercise in considering we are in the car so much. I played pretty good and ended up shooting 8 over (doubled the last hole!!).

One unexpected thing happened on the 14th hole. My dad called my cell phone to let me know that he will be staying in Washington D.C. for the next couple of days and wanted to know if we wanted to join him. Considering we had no plans for the next couple of days and we knew that when we got to D.C. that we wouldn't know of anyone there to stay with...we of course said, "Yes!"

After we finished playing golf, we headed back over to Rob's, grabbed our stuff and hopped in the van to head to D.C. When we got there, we headed out for a late night snack and I got to meet my Dad's new Chief of Staff, David Holt. I got to have my own bed in my dad's room and Ford got his own in David's room. Far different than the back of the van, air mattresses and sleeping bags we'd been grateful to have thus far.

Ford has never been to D.C. so tomorrow we expect yet another adventure.

(Day 10)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


As a follow-up to my previous post:

The Passat promotion was one of the coolest things I've ever been asked to do.

Once I had the Passat, I quickly forgot about my Civic and planned on running away and never going back to the Fowler lot to return it. "Thank you for the new car Fowler, I'll go test drive it for the next few years and let you know how it went."

We (Dad and older brother, Mike) took the car up to Chicago for the National Sports Card Convention and without this car, I would have complained the whole way. If we took any other car I would have tried to sleep the whole way...but that didn't happen. Thanks to the built-in satellite radio, we were able to listen to every one of the ESPN Radio stations (awesome) and occasionally flip it over to the comedy station and catch Mitch Hedberg spurt out his one-liners:
"I love blackjack. But I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to sitting in a semicircle."
"I'm an ice sculptor. Last night I made a cube."
"I find that a duck's opinion of me is very much influenced over whether or not I have bread."

Other favorite stations: "80's on 8" and "90's on 9" (If we listened to "90's on 9" my dad had veto power).

I did, surprisingly enough, find out that on long car rides seat-heaters are awesome. I had the seat-heater on and my own temp gauge on my side of the car...very cool.

Also, I began (with Marek's help) begin to remake the 2011 Super Bowl commercial with the kid dressed up as Darth Vadar...that video is still in production.

Thanks again to Fowler VW for the opportunity to drive the 2012 VW Passat around for a week and take it to Chicago. The 700+ miles a tank was another road-trip delight.

I will gladly take 2013 Passat when it is ready...Just let me know. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My 'thank you' letter to Google+

Dear Google+,

Thank you for finally bringing a cohesiveness to all that Google offers. My mind was starting to spin out of control with all the products that Google has offered over the years and now that everything fits together so nicely on my profile page, a sigh of relief has come over me.

Google brought me YouTube, Google search, Gmail, Picasa, Google Docs, reader, Picnik, Google Earth, Google Maps, Blogspot and so much more. Before, I would go to all of those websites individually because I never really had a need to have a Google profile without a social media platform. Now, you have provided me Google+ and all has changed.

You offer all that Facebook does but without the mess. No more random "Top News". No more events from people you don't know. So many more privacy settings and so much more CONTROL over who can view what you post and which friends' post you want to view.

Applications allow me to have my photo automatically upload to a private folder so that I will never have to upload multiple photos at once or worry about losing my photos if my phone breaks/lost.

Facebook has business pages and this is something you promise will be delivered soon and we are all a little giddy to see the full product in use.

The platform is clean and easy to use, and for that, we say, "Thank you."

From one of your biggest fans,


P.S. How about putting some more work into that app of yours?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Will I what? Yes, that sounds good with me...

Last week I received an email that drove right on up to one of coolest emails I've received on record.

Fowler Volkswagen wanted to know if I'd be interested in test driving one of their not-yet-released 2012 Passats (for a week) and write about my experience online (yes, this is the car used in the famous Super Bowl commercial containing the 5-yr-old dressed as Darth Vader). I thought about the question for a few seconds...(would I rather drive this brand new car, fully equipped with the new-car-smell or just continue driving my eight-year-old Honda Civic Hybrid?) My conclusion: yes, I can do that.

When I picked up the car last Friday I talked with Jonathan Fowler about all the features this car has...
GPS touchscreen dash? yes.
40 MPGs? yes.
Keyless entry? yes.
Push-button start? yes.
Satellite radio? yes.
Hands-free bluetooth for my iPhone? yes.
Will that hands-free bluetooth play my music through my speakers wirelessly? yes.

I was also encouraged to take a road trip and test out the gas tank that is said to get up to 800 miles in one tank. 800 miles !! one tank!!

Well, Thursday we shall test that 800 mile-in-one-tank theory...I am heading to Chicago for the National Sports Collectors Card Show with my Dad and brother.

So, when you see my tweets that might have #FowlerVW, #Passat or just #VW, you will know what I mean.

Also, i think it is important to state that Fowler Volkswagon is NOT a client and I am not being paid. I will be giving honest assessments of my week with the car. Stick around. Should be fun.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 5: Granada

Day 5: Granada

Today was another pretty exhausting day even though it doesn't feel like we did much besides eat and go to the Alhambra.

For lunch we all went down the street to a place called Bodega, and I ordered some Paella as my first plate of El Menu del Dia. As the waitress brought it out to us, the waitress misjudged the length of the table and put only 49% of the plate on the table leaving the other %51 to tip the plate over into my lap. Shorts, RIP.

With two handfuls of Paella and rice finding ways into my socks, I am informed that paella is no longer available and that my plate was the last one (not that I believe that for a second) so I ordered something else. Not nearly as good as what my paella was going to be but it was still great.

We have tickets today to go to the Alhambra. The Alhambra is absolutely amazing, but for my tastes, it is about all I am here for in Granada. Granada is a great and unique city but is a little too much "hippie" for me...and that is saying a lot coming from someone who loves Spain.

As we made our long trek up to the Alhambra and showed our pre-bought tickets, we entered into the most majestic place I've ever been in. Majestic is a strange word and if I have ever used that word before, whatever I was describing probably didn't encompass the word as much as the Alhambra does. Beautiful and amazing. Flower after flower and tree after tree. Bush after bush and palace after palace. At the peak of the Alhambra is the lookout (Video) and it towers of the city as the Acropolis does to Athens. So pretty!

After wandering around for 3 hours we decided it was time to go. Marek and I headed headed out to find a teteria and Doug went back to the Hostel to hop on Skype.

I would say that Granada was our "catching up" city. A place that we came to having one mission: see the Alhambra. We saw, experienced and enamored in everything the Alhambra could throw our way, everything else about Granada was just icing on the cake. The shops. The Arab feel. The enormous was all great. From Granada, we will head to my beloved Madrid. Madrid, oh how I love thee..

Hasta manana, amigos.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 4: Sevilla to Granada

We caught our first train of the trip this morning. It was the first time I had ever used a Eurail pass because usually I just buy individual tickets. I was a little skeptical of how the process would all work out. Usually, trains in Europe are extremely efficient; you just show up and you hop on.

Using the Eurail was a little bit different but overall very easy to use. We still had to pay 4 euros for some reason that none of us know, of course it was explained to us in a hurried Spanish but we've learned when to ask someone to repeat something if it's going to be useful to hear it a second time or not...this time, it wouldn't have been useful. (I still don't understand why people don't speak slower to people they know are not native to their language. People back in OKC do it all the time and it bothers me. If you are communicating with someone, try to make sure they understand you, that's a pretty important part of communication, if you can't be polite enough to slow down just don't talk to them.)

After catching our 11 a.m. train to Granada, we arrived 3 hours later and flagged a cab to take us to our hostel. Those not familiar with the rich history of Granada, click here. Those wanting the Cliff Notes version: imagine an Arab town with hookah and insense shops imagine everyone speaking Spanish...that was pretty much our first observation.

Obviously, not all parts of Granada resemble an Arab feel to it. In fact, our hostel was in the Albaicin (The famous historical Moorish neighborhood of Granada) which is a good reason that this city had a MUCH different than feel than Barcelona and Sevilla. That is why I love Spain so much, so many different cities with millenia-long histories and very proud cultures.

After we checked into our hostel, we grabbed some much needed lunch at a local tapas bar. Granada does not mess around when it comes to tapas. Like Madrid and many other cities in Spain, the tapas are free with any drink order. Granada prouds itself in being the most generous and over the top when it comes to dishing out tapas. Marek and I ordered a beer tonight and with the 1.50 Euro (roughly $2.25) cerveza came a ham and cheese sandwich on ciabata bread with french fries for each of us. Most places give you some jamon iberco or chips or patatas bravas, but not Granada, they come equipped to bring repeat customers.

After lunch, we walked around the Albaicin area looking in a couple of the numerous stalls of gifts and knock-offs/black market items (nothing too appealing unless you like realy cheap leather bags and scarves).

My friend, Jason Opheim, lived in Granada so I had him shoot me an e-mail with some "must see" things in Granada. Something he mentioned was a tetoria (tea shop) called Alboca Tetoria. the directions he gave us were probably spot on, but when the streets change names every 30 feet and are so curvy that it appears a 3-yr old drew the streets on a map, it makes it very difficult to find anything specific. At one point in his directions we were to "hop a wall"...needless to say, we didn't even find that wall.

None of that mattered because the main goal was to find the best spot possible to see what Bill Clinton once said was, "The most beautiful sunset I've ever seen," and we saw it. It was gorgeous. Nestled at the the top of a hill as if trying to compete with the Acropolis in Athens, is the Alhambra. The Alhambra was a Moorish castle-sustaining city built 1300-1400 years ago when the Moors took control of Spain (as did the Romans and many others at different points in history). It is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is absolutely incredible to view for the sunset.

For the sunset (VIDEO), you must climb one of the hundreds of small streets to a random plaza and look out over a canyon of crammed residential buildings and over a moat/stream. As you do so, the Alhambra stands tall shining in the sunset that falls on the otherside of the city. but it is not just the Alhambra that pulls the colors in, it is what is behind the Alhambra that makes this scene truly spectacular.

Off in the distance behind the Alhambra are snow-capped mountains which turn a shade of purple just before nightfall kicks in and the lights from below the hill are placed on the Alhambra. All of this together, along with hundreds of other spectators and locals (some playing guitars and drums and singing a language you don't understand) is what made today special.

Granada - Day 4, complete.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 3 Sevilla - May 23

Day 3: May 23 - Sevilla

We woke up at 10:45 a.m. and boy that was wonderful.

Having only one other person in the room instead of 7 like we did in Barcelona was great as it was much quieter. Our other room mate did come in at 4 a.m. but it didn't wake me up but it did wake up Doug.

Anyways, after getting up at 10:45 and showering up we set out into the streets of Sevilla for our second day. Yesterday, we visited all of the main tourist attractions and took the photos that all tourists take, but today we had a completely new agenda: get lost in a park and all windy roads.

We tried to rent bikes again from our hostel but they apparently already rented out the bikes that we were supposed to have so we asked where the nearest bike rental area (Sevici) was and headed that way. About 10 minutes later we found it and after a very confusing rental process (done completely by machine) we had unlocked three bikes and were on our way down Avenida Menendez Pelayo towards the beautiful Plaza Espana and Parque Maria Louisa.

Traveling on bikes is incredible. Forget using a subway/metro or bus. You'll pay about two euros for a one-way trip and not get there any faster. Hop on a bike, weave in and out of the people on the street. Let the older people yell at you because they don't like tourists but smile back and say "gracias" but in their native dialect which calls for the "c" to be pronounced like "th". Put on some headphones and play U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" and realize its rhetic has the same meaning to you in a foreign community where the streets might as well be called "A" "B" and "C".

Ride until you come to place so regal that you have to pull over, take off the headsets, put the kickstand down and run through a fountain (like Marek did) completely ignoring all social norms and realize that your clothes will just dry in a few hours and the memory won't.

We found such a place, kind of by accident, kind of by design, but nontheless we found something worth stopping for. This park, Parque de Maria Louisa, was built along the Southern border of the "center city" for the 1929 World Exhibition along with the Plaza Espana. This massive piece of show-off-manship is quite a site to see. We took lots of photos of both the park and the plaza but this one of those "photos just don't do it justice" type of places.

After meandering around and taking down a couple bottles of water, we headed over to a recommended bakery near Plaza Amadeo Jannone. This bakery, Las Palomas, was recommended to us by our friend Lindsay Houts who used to live in Sevilla. It was good to get over to that area, an area we would not have seen had decided to walk at the beginning of the day because it was too far for our legs/feet to endure and still have some energy for the rest of trip. This bakery was great. Small little shop on the corner of a strictly residential area. Lots of housing and cars but you could tell that this area was not used to having tourists visit. It was a great little break. After a chocolate triangle and a Cruz Campo, we set out back across the river into the "city center" to take a couple photos of the famous Torre del was at this point the knock-off sunglasses I boutht two years ago in Prague decided to snap right down the middle while I was wearing them. Right down the middle. While I had them on my face. Great time.

After that, we rode around the Universidad de Sevilla and circled the walls of the Alcazar (Fortress) and found a bike rental place to return our bikes and headed back to the hostel for some rest. Even though we had bikes, riding around for about 6 hours and on our third day of 10, we don't want to over do it and not have energy to go out for the night.

We signed up for a tapas tour hosted by our hostel in which we would join three other hostel's participants in a bar-hoping atmosphere of tapas and sangria/cerveza/tinto verano. Considering the large amount of people we had (16), we had tons of tapas to sample at each of the three places we went tonight. We met lots of travelers from all over including a few from the States, Canada and across Europe. This tapas tour ended around 11 p.m. and we grabbed a few beverages to-go and headed to the terrace of our hostel and laid out on the beach-style lounge chairs, shared a couple laughs and then headed to bed. Our 9:30 a.m. wake-up schedule might sound like sleeping in, but on this kind of trip, you can't sleep/rest enough. First day: Barcelona. Day two and three: Sevilla. Tomorrow: Granada.

Buenos Noches.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 2: Barcelona to Sevilla - May 22

It was the best no-sleep any of us had ever had.

After two straight nights combining of 6 hours of sleep total; we were all in bed no later than 8:30 p.m. last night.

We stayed in a hostel room that has 10 beds (bunk beds) and the three of us fell asleep well before any of them, meaning people were constantly coming in and leaving which made a lot of noise but in all seriousness, I don't think one of us cared a bit. We just wanted to be horizontal for awhile.

Around midnight, I decided to get up and walk around outside for about 30 minutes and then when I got back, it was MUCH quieter and most had come to bed for the rest of the night. We would sleep/lie in bed until about 6:45 a.m. when we woke up and checked on the Thunder game's Game 3 playoff game against Mavericks (lost) then we got ready to take off for the airport to head to Sevilla (Seville) in South Spain.

We caught our flight on Vueling with no problem. We all felt very well rested for the first time in a couple days and were anxious to get out and see "The Old City".

Sevilla, the place where the origination of Flamenco dancing is commonly placed. (In the movie "Meet the Fockers" Dustin Hoffman's character is in Sevilla learning flamenco dancing in a few scenes.) Sevilla is also commonly known for some of the oldest origins of bullfighting and the bullring here (Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de CaballerĂ­a de Sevilla) very famous worldwide and took 100 years to complete.

Sevilla is also home to the Giralda Cathedral, the world's largest Gothic cathedral and the world's third-largest cathedral of any affiliation (behind St. Peter's in Vatican City and St. Paul's in London). This cathedral is the main attraction.

When we arrived in Sevilla, we hopped in cab and headed to our hostel where we were to have room with only 4 beds and since there were three of us, having only one other roommate was a great advantage to getting lots more sleep in the upcoming couple of nights.

First let me introduce the other two people traveling with me and if any of you know me at all, these two probably won't be new. I am traveling with the wonderful Marek Freguson, my girlfriend of over a year and this is her first time overseas and hopefully not her last. Also, with me, Doug Vrooman. Doug has traveled with me in previous trips: Madrid, Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns.

After we checked in, we decided to join a walking tour of leaving the hostel with other travelers. It seemed like it had lots of potential, but after 20 min, we decided to head back to the hostel to change and find something to eat.

After showers, we headed downstairs and rented bikes for the day and headed out in direction of some great local neighborhood restaurants. Mission accomplished. It is so easy to find a place to eat/drink in Spain. Tons of local Mom/Pop places on every corner of every small and skinny street.

After we ate we hopped on our bikes and headed to the river front to ride around to the bullring and other attractions. I was really shocked at all the kayaking going on there. There were rowing lanes that went on for about 200 yards and even a small boat house where there were plenty of kayaks. Riding bikes along the river lasted about 10 min until my bike got a flat. Ok, so it's time to lock all three bikes up on a nearby bike rack and go on foot from here.

We got to the bullring and found out there was a bullfight going on at 7 p.m. but that was something Marek definitely did not want to do, Doug and I considered going to it but decided not to later on. We headed on up to the Cathedral and took the tour. This cathedral is not only famous for the size or is also the resting place of Christopher Columbus. His casket is enshrined up on high of the shoulders of four statues in the cathedral:
Pretty cool to see.

After the cathedral, we headed back to the hostel and stopped at the Spain-wide protests happening in Plaza Mayor. Hundreds of youths are gathered with tons of signs, I'm not going to go in to all that they are protesting but I'm sure you can Google it. (I have videos of this that I will upload and link to later).

After the protests we headed back to the hostel for a bit of resting and then joined joined a group of people from our hostel heading out to a small/intimate Flamenco exhibition. It was incredible. There were about 30 of us in a small room and the three parts of Flamenco were all represented: Voice, Guitar and Dance. The guitarist on Classic guitar, the singer was roughly a 25-yr old native that could belt with the best of them and the dancer was as intense as a performer as I had seen. It was a great thing to be a part of and I have some video of this as well and will upload it at a later point.

Right now, it is time for sleep. Good night!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spain Day 1; Barcelona - May 21, 2011

Holy cow. I am so tired. I forgot what it feels like to really travel a long ways to begin an even longer travel ahead.

It started by getting to sleep at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday night to wake up on Friday morning at 5:00 a.m. to catch a flight to St. Louis to then catch a flight to Newark (which we would have missed due to a delayed takeoff in OKC from lightning). Since Marek used to work for Southwest a few years ago, she had a few free flights built up so we decided to get free flights to NYC and then buy a flight overseas from NYC which was a lot cheaper than starting from OKC.

The problem we ran into was almost missing our flight in St. Louis to Newark. The only reason we caught it was because there were about 25-30 people on our flight that needed that connection, if we would have missed it, we wouldn't have been able to get to Newark in time to catch our flight to Barcelona and since they were separate bookings, it wouldn't have been a free rescheduling on the next flight. We almost saw complete disaster in those first few hours.

Disaster averted and we were able to fly into Newark on time. Our next flight was scheduled 5 hours later so we figured we'd try to get in Manhatten for an hour or so and then get to JFK for our over night flight to Barcelona. It (of course) took us longer to get into the city than expected and we only had time to grab a slice of pizza near Penn Station and then hop back on the A Train and head on out to the airport. We were hoping to see my dad for 30-45 minutes (he was in NYC this weekend) but our schedule was too restricting and we didn't want to chance anything.

So, after getting to JFK and getting on our flight to takeoff at 6 p.m. we sat there on the runway until 7:05 and then takeoff to the 30 impending minutes of a one-yr-old screaming. Not the easiest day...but when you plan a trip like this, it's all about taking baby steps one step at a time. Trying to make the most of it, I bust out the video camera and shoot some footage of us about to chow down on our pasta and chicken dinner on the plane, shortly after, I realize that the camera won't turn on anymore... :( Oh, well...on to plan B, use the iphone (I called AT&T and had international roaming added and had all incoming text messages and phone calls taken off so I wouldn't get charged for all the random text messages/phone calls that could cost tons in the end...the moment we arrived, two text messages come through...which told me that it wasn't turned off and if I turn my iPhone on during this trip then I will receive the data from all text messages and missed phone calls. $$$ I guess the iPhone is now out for the trip.

On to plan C, use my digital camera's video selection for videos. So far, it hasn't failed me.

After the 4.5 hours of sleep the first night and 1.5 hours of sleep on the plane's overnight flight, and all the technical difficulties...I still have to smile. After all, it is Marek and I's one-year-anniversary of meeting each other, and I couldn't be happier.

Time for an afternoon nap so that I have the energy to go see Gaudi Park and tour the Segrada Familia later this evening.

Hasta Luego.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 8: June 5, 2006 Charleston to Raleigh/Durham

(Day 7, or start from Day 1)

Day 8: June 5, 2006

We slept in the van last night. Not bad at all considering we have a full-size futon with a down comforter in the back of the van. We put all of our luggage in the front seats and were able to surprisingly be quite comfortable.

We woke up in an unusual way, though. At about 7:45 a.m. Tom Reed decided he would wake us up and scare us out of our minds by knocking loudly on the van window and yelling our names, as "on guard" as you have to be while sleeping in a car in a strange place...this scared the bejebus out of us. Tom just wanted to tell us that his wife left and that if we wanted to come inside and take a shower, we could.

Ford accepted the invite inside and has some good stories about the weirdness of Tom's house...I went down to the beach and sat watching the waves for awhile until it was time to go.

(I know I posted this photo of Ford, Tom and I yesterday but I thought it was so good I needed to do it again)

After we left Tom's house, we found a small diner to eat breakfast in Charleston's and then went to the Charleston Library to use the computers to E-mail, MySpace, all the essentials.

Back on the road we went. Driving up through South Carolina and into North Carolina was so gorgeous.

We headed to a friend of ours that we knew that used to live in Oklahoma City, Rob Yanovitch, or just "Yano".
(Us with Yano)
It had been a year or so since I had seen him so it was great to catch up again. He lives really close to the UNC campus and he took us there and we walked around for a bit and then ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Yano bought dinner. You're the man, Yano.

Afterwards we headed back to his house to begin Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. We are not big NHL fans but the hometown Carolina Hurricanes were playing for the championships so that actually made it quite exciting. They were playing the storied Edmonton Oilers. After being down 3-0, the 'Canes came back and won 5-4! It was a great game to watch.

After that, we turned on some Seinfeld and fell asleep in a bed...not a van. Great day. Day 8, over.

(Day 9)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 7, June 4, 2006 Jacksonville to Charleston, SC

(Day 6, or start from Day 1)

Day 7, June 4, 2006

All I have heard about Charleston, South Carolina is how pretty it is this time of year...the rumor is true. Flowers are everywhere. Weather is beautiful, and there's a festival going on in downtown, life is good in Charleston.

Sleeping in the van tonight became a reality, but let's back up so you'll know exactly why we parked the van at a beach we had never heard of in front of an eccentric old man's house we didn't know...

As we arrived into Charleston, we found that the Spoleto Festival was going on which brought LOTS of people to the city center. Ford is actually wearing a shirt of Charleston that he picked up at a thrift store in OKC....after asking people to look at his shirt and point us to where the photo was taken, we finally found it and took some video (The photo I inserted of the church, St. Michael's is the one used on his shirt).

After we went through the church and checked out the centuries-old cemetery next to it, we headed back to the festival.

For those that don't know Ford, I'm going to try and describe him...he's very unique. He has the kind of personality that draws people in. When he just starts randomly talking to people, other people join in and start conversations. Having someone like him on a trip of this magnitude is great because if we're walking around looking for something to do or wanting to talk to locals, Ford just strikes up conversations and people are captivated...this was very evident in South Carolina.

Because of Ford's willingness to strike up big conversations with any random person, we got the opportunity to meet Tom Reed. Tom is man in his 70's with long grey hair. He graduated from Juliard and lives out on Folly Beach. He jogs an hour every day before heading to his family-run business tailoring clothes.

When Tom heard that we were traveling around the country he told us which restaurant/bar we should eat dinner at and then told us to head out to his house on Folly Beach which was across one of the inlets near Charleston.

At the restaurant, we experienced what it was like to actually talk to complete strangers about our impending trip. We discovered that when we started talking about the trip, more people joined the conversation and we all had a good time...and we left that restaurant with bellies full and not a dime spent. "Good people" is hard to come by.

Heading over the bridge and looking for Tom's house was a fun 15-min trip. The entire island is about two street wide and a half mile long with a gorgeous picturesque lighthouse about 100 yards out from land.

We walked around the beach for awhile and then headed over to Tom's. When we got there it was already dark. Tom said his wife didn't want us sleeping at the house but we could sleep in their driveway. :) Well, since we were already there, he brought us out a beer and we sat in his porch swings and talked...for about 2.5 hours. Thank you, Tom. It was a great day.

(Day 8)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 6, June 3, 2006: St. Augustine to Jacksonville

(Day 5, or start from Day 1)

Day 6, June 3, 2006

This morning we woke up to the smell of pancakes and bacon....oh, thank you thank you thank you Betty Jo.

After breakfast, Betty Jo said she would wash our clothes for us while we went into downtown St. Augustine which was quite amazing timing because we only brought clothes for about 5 days worth of travel and this was day 6. We had planned on washing everything at some point and so it was great that she offered because I doubt anything would have been washed for a couple days. We have decided to just hit local thrift stores and buy some local clothing when we need t-shirts, sounds like a good idea to me.

After leaving the house, we headed to downtown St. Augustine, it rained all day. :( We bought panchos at a local "tourist" shop and wore our sandals and just splashed around, we even saw a random peacock just hanging out in a tree...

St. Augustine (as I wrote yesterday) is the oldest city established in the U.S. So, there are lots of historic sites to visit and look at. The "Fountain of Youth" is here in St. Augustine and after waiting in line for a bit, Ford and I got to try a bit of the water from the Fountain of Youth...tasted like rotten eggs. yuck.

After we sipped on water that will make us remain young forever, we walked around to the nation's oldest masonry fort (1672), Castillo de San called Fort Marion.

We walked all around Fort Marion and we started to walk into the Fort to look around, we saw that it cost $5 to thanks. Hey, we have a long trip ahead of us, can't blow all our money on day 6!

We left Fort Marion and took a stroll down the famous St. George Street and wound up stumbling upon Flagler College... I want to go here. :)

After walking around the college and walking into the main foyer area to snap a couple photos we left and toured a nearby winery, my first winery tour. After that, we headed back to the house, said our goodbyes and headed up to Jacksonville to stay with Ford's cousin, Rebecca. - 2011 edit: Because we are both Colts fans, I decided this was the best photo to use, stole it from Facebook, :)

Since we were getting there pretty late, there wasn't a whole lot of "hang out" time. We met up at a restaurant with lots of her friends and hung out for a few hours before heading over here to her apartment for the night. It was a great feeling to be able to sit back and relax with a bunch of people our age in a city we were unfamiliar with. Jacksonville seemed like a great city, but, we've been in Florida for a few days now and have so much more to see.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Charleston, South Carolina. We made a last minute decision to not head over to Georgia for Atlanta/Stone Mountain and just stick to the coast for now. A choice we hope not to regret.

(Day 7)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 5, June 2, 2006: Vero Beach to St. Augustine"

(Day 4, or start from Day 1)

Day 5, June 2, 2006

We slept in late today (10ish) and sat around and watched the movie "Goodnight and Good Luck" and ate lunch. Around 1 p.m. we all hopped in Rivers's car and headed down to a river to go kayaking...I had never been kayaking so it sounded like fun to me.

Kayaking is a blast, yet a little bit of the enthusiasm was taken away once the 100 degree heat started to kick-in and I realized that I forgot to put on sunscreen or wear a hat (I'm an idiot).

The kayaking was six miles long and lasted about a little longer than an hour and it actually was really fun. Rivers also paid for the cost of us renting kayaks...on a two-month road trip we'll take all the free stuff we can get. :)

Once we showered up and left Rivers's house later on we started heading up north to St. Augustine, Fl. to stay with my relatives, Skip, Betty Jo, Chad and Gavin. Betty Jo is my mom's cousin and I haven't seen them in awhile so it was great to stop by for the night. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the nation...that's my trivia fact of the day.

When we got here, we all watched Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals (Heat vs. Detroit) and the Heat won the game and series (4-2) putting them into the NBA Finals.

After the game, Ford and I went with Chad to go play some basketball ourselves at a local goal/parking lot. It felt really good to be doing something that reminded me home just a bit...hanging out with family and playing basketball, I love both of these things.

When we got back to the house after numerous games of "H.O.R.S.E" Ford went to sleep and I stayed up to watch the movie "Super Size Me". I had heard so much about it and was glad I saw it...I now don't think I want to eat fast food at all on this entire trip and that sounds great to Ford as he eats healthy anyway...I think there might be numerous tuna sandwiches in my future non this trip.

(Day 6)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 4, June 1, 2006: Vero Beach to Miami/Key Largo and back to Vero Beach

(Day 3, or start from Day 1)

Day 4, June 1, 2006 -

During this trip, it is quite understood that we do not want to spend money on hotels. We want to be with the people that we encounter every day. So when we woke up today and tried to plan out the day's activities we came to a "blank" when we thought about where we were going to sleep tonight.

We got up around 9 a.m. and had breakfast with Rivers and his wife, Katy, and said our goodbyes then took off for Key West. The drive was gorgeous and we had the windows down for most of the day.

As we passed through Miami, we decided to stop and look around considering neither of us had ever been to Miami. We saw a sign for South Beach and decided that since we had heard of the South Beach Diet that it had to be a place to see. While in the city streets we saw a sign for "A-1-A Beachfront Avenue" and instantly started singing Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."

We got out of the van at South Beach and I was surprised at how few people were there. We jumped into Pacific again and swam in much warmer waters than we were used to. After drying off, I made some comparison comments of Lake Hefner and South Beach and we hopped in the van heading south.

Going over the bridge we noticed a large arena and then saw a sign about the Miami Heat and we got excited. Last year Miami got Shaq and now the Heat are pretty dominate. Last night they lost in the conference finals to defending champs Detroit; Series is tied at 2-3 and they play in Miami tomorrow.

Going through Miami, we reach the beginning of the Keys and quickly figure how long it is going to take to get all the way down to Key West with such a slower speed limit so we decide that Key Largo is a good place to stop.

We stopped to fill up the tank and ask some of the locals about what there is to do and they suggested snorkeling and told us where to go...sounded good to us. So, we went snorkeling. While snorkeling I came across a 5' barracuda that I swear growled at me. Pretty scary. We also saw some lobsters, stingrays and some tropical fish...this trip is already incredible and it's just Day 4!

After snorkeling we went to a local eatery named "Hobo's" and got some seafood and ordered a couple of beers from Key West. We both ordered a Mahi-Mahi sandwich...Yum! We watched the first part of the Yankees game and when we left they were up 5-0 but I saw that they lost 7-6 to the Tigers.
Well, as it was almost dark and we were exhausted, we called up Rivers and asked if we could drive back up to Vero Beach and stay with him again...he said yes. So, goodnight from Vero Beach.

(Day 5)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 3, May 31 2006: Orlando to Vero Beach, Fl

(Day 2, or start from Day 1)

When we woke up today, I found out that the first bummer of the trip has video camera doesn't work. Yes, the video camera I just bought one week ago was no longer working. So, I headed up to the Best Buy nearest Megan's house and explained to the manager my dilemma, he basically told me that there was nothing that could be done except leave it with them and they will fix and ship to my house in a few weeks...that falls into the "absolutely unacceptable" category because that would mean that I do not have a camera for the rest of the trip. RIDICULOUS.
While all this back and forth banter is going on between me and the manager a stock-boy comes over to me when the manager leaves and tells me he has an idea of what I can do...he said that I should hand the camera over to be fixed and sent back to my house, then I should buy a used camera because they can be returned within 14-days for a full refund. New plan, buy a new used camera from Best Buy every two weeks and keep the video tapes from the camera...sounds like pretty plan but it's at least better than buying a whole new camera. So, with new (used) camera in hand, I am ready to get the heck out of Best Buy.

Now, we all hopped in the car and headed over to Cocoa Beach, about an hour drive to the Pacific Ocean.

After driving for the past couple days and talking/thinking about getting to actually do something fun, it was nice to just sit back and follow someone who knew where they were going and didn't need a map. The beach was great, and as always, I got sunburned...not too bad though.

After swimming (or laying out, if you're Megan) we went to a couple of the surf shops just to look around and be out in the sun. Before we went in, I decided to change out of my wet bathing suit and let it dry...I decided the best place to put it out to dry was on top of the guessed it, I forgot about it.

After all the goodbyes and hugs, we hopped in the car and headed south to Vero Beach to stay with another friend of ours, David Rivers. Rivers was one of our church leaders while we were in high school. He moved out to Vero Beach and became a youth pastor about two years ago. We called and told him we were on the road headed his way and he gave us directions to his student ministry's picnic out at the beach...Vero Beach is gorgeous. White sand was everywhere and after our "hellos" and introductions to various people, we joined a couple high schoolers in playing "catch" with polo sticks/balls. It was a blast.

After the picnic, we followed Rivers on over to his house and stayed up late catching up on how he was doing and of course he had lots of questions about our trip and I think this is about the first time I've realized...we have no clue what we are doing.

(Day 4)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 2, May 30, 2006: New Orleans to Orlando

(Day 1)

Day 2, May 30, 2006

We woke up at 8 a.m. with lots of excitement and headed in into downtown NOLA and saw the Super Dome and New Orleans arena. The dome looked in really bad shape still...Hurricane Katrina happened about 9 months ago and there are signs of it everywhere.

Heading over to see the "Ninth Ward" we noticed hundreds of abandoned cars still underneath the interstate overpasses. The Ninth Ward was the location in New Orleans said to have been hit with the most damage. It is just a mile or so from where we were staying.

We drove through the "neighborhood" for about 15 minutes...I write "neighborhood" because there are technically houses but I'm not sure if any of them have occupants. Roofs are torn up on most of them and some cars are still overturned.

When we decided to come to New Orleans, I knew we would still see some of the visible effects of the hurricane, but I did not expect all this...I feel like this hurricane just came through last week.

All of these house will need to be bulldozed to the ground as there is very little to save.

As we left New Orleans, still in a little shock, we hopped on I-10 for most of the way. Driving through Gulf Shores Alabama made it a little tempting to just pull over, stop and hop in the Gulf but we knew that we had a long way to drive today. We were going to stay with my friend, Megan, while in Orlando. She used to live across the street from me in high school but now lives in Orlando with her friends Ashley and Emma.

We finally arrived in Orlando around 8 p.m. and followed Megan up to a local restaurant called "The Fill-Up Station" where everything was 1/2 off...our kind of place.

Now that we are finally over to the east coast and won't have a 10-hr driving day for awhile, we can actually kick back and relax...and we can tell, it's going to be a great road trip from here.

(Day 3)

Monday, January 17, 2011

May 29, 2006, Day 1: Oklahoma City to New Orleans

(The writing of this journal is a little erratic. Some is written in past tense and some in future tense depending when I found time to write. Some posts will be in future AND past tense from when I went back and wrote more to that day...just, try to keep up)

May 29, 2006, Day 1 -

Today is the day that we start our journey around the United States. When I say "we" I mean Dave Ford and I. We really don't have much of a plan except to make it back safely a couple months from now. The only dates that we have on the calendar to make sure we hit just right is July 8 and July 24. On July 8, Ford has to fly home for a wedding from Chicago...By looking at a map, we figured we'd be in Chicago on July 8 so he went ahead and bought a ticket that day (I hope we actually make it to Chicago then). On July 24, I have to fly home for Dad's election, he just announced that he is running for the 5th district in the US Congress. With those two dates in mind, it's time to leave.

For our trip, we are borrowing Mom's Pontiac Montana. It's a 2004 and she just got it a little over a year ago, when we return in a couple of months we will have put more miles on it than she has. :) Anywho, we took out all the seats in the back out of the van and put them in the garage to give us more room. We put down a futon in the back and put a down comforter on top of the futon. After that we put a fitted queen-sized sheet over. It is so comfortable!

With the entire back of the van open for luggage, we each brought one big duffel bag and a pillow. We are putting all of this on one side of the van and the person who isn't driving will be able to lie down on the other half of the futon (at least that's the plan for now).

I just bought a video camera a week ago for this trip. So pumped!

Armed with little more than a Rand McNally map, some Raman noodles and a couple cans of tuna, we hopped in the car headed to a gas station to fill-up the tank, set the odometer to "0" and air up the tires. We got an oil change yesterday so we should be good for another week or so.

Some problems...tire gauge is not working, gas pump declined Ford's credit card and we just found out that the cigarette lighter for ipod and a/c "plug-ins" in the front isn't working either...ugh.

We filled-up paying in cash, put air in the tires without a gauge and ended up buying an extension cord and converters to reach to the cigarette lighter in the back of the van.

Our first stop - New Orleans!
We decided our trip should head out to the east coast first and a first day stop in New Orleans sounds perfect. Neither one of us have been there and we found a place to stay through Ford's Dad's friend (whom neither of us have met).

After 10.5 hours of driving (stopping at a Dallas Walmart for van supplies) we arrived in New Orleans. We are so excited to be doing this we can hardly stand it. After meeting up with "our contact" we found out that the house we'll be in is normally a rent house just a few blocks from the French Quarter. It's a two story house with a pool and hot tub. We walked around Bourbon Street with eyes wide open...I'll just say it...we were pretty scared and a little naive about what we were getting ourselves into on this trip. We didn't stay on Bourbon Street too long and quickly decided to find something to eat a couple streets over.

After that, back to the house, hop in the pool and much needed sleep for the next day's long drive to Orlando.

(Day 2)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My idea for the next 68 days:

Last night, I had and idea.

Back in 2006, I didn't have a blog. I didn't really want one for many reasons.

One, seemingly the only option was Xanga.
Two, I didn't like Xanga.
Three, I didn't think blogs would last...back then everyone wanted to write blogs and have everyone read them but almost the only way anyone knew how to get the word out about their blog was by word of mouth or e-mailing the link to everyone they knew everytime there was a new blog update...While Twitter, Facebook and MySpace were starting to gain ground, they were still fairly new and to me, the blogosphere was dying.

Now, when I decided to take the most ridiculous trip of all-time (my 68-day roadtrip around the U.S.) I decided I would actually try to take notes and write everything down day by day...and I did.

Since we averaged about 2.5 hours in the van each day, I had plenty of time to write down my daily events. I wrote most of my daily activities down on college-rule notebook paper only filling out about 2/3 of a page per day, some longer and some shorter. I've had all this in a notebook along with many other notes (gas prices at every stop, daily expenses, mileage markers) and lots of photos to share. Since this is all just in paper form I have always worried that something might happen to it, i.e. lose it, it gets wet, a fire...something like that.

I have decided to start on Monday, Jan. 17 with Day 1 on this blog. For 68 days, I will transcribe all my notes and writings day by day with interactive links and photos just as I did in 2009 in Europe. Just because I didn't have wireless capabilities in 2006 or ways to communicate my crazy trip totaling over 14,000 miles doesn't mean I can't start now.

This Monday, Day 1, will be our start to the trip, details of what we hope to do and our destination spot #1, New Orleans.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What a tiring NYE weekend

Well, THAT was a busy weekend.

It all started on Thursday (because we had off work on Friday). I headed home and changed out of my suit as quick as possible and threw on some jeans, t-shirt and grabbed my new Thunder jacket (thank you, Marek - X-mas) and headed downtown for a night out with my friends from OKC LOYAL Class V.

We all met at Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse for some yummy appetizers and happy hour drinks and then headed across the street for Downtown OKC Inc.'s "Downtown in December" Chesapeake snow-tubing at the Brick. This event has been going on for years and I had never been (which almost makes me an anti-Oklahoma Citian but I'm not).

Despite the long line of eager tubers of all ages, it was a blast. When you are with a group like that where anyone can learn how to have a good time no matter the circumstances, every get-together is a good time. After our tube-a-palooza ended we all went over to JJ's Alley because we had some time to kill. Marek, Jordan Satarawala and I went to grab a Peach Wave Yogurt first and then joined everyone for about 30 min at JJ's before we all hopped in our cars and headed over to the Speakeasy for some live music and dancing. Good good times.

The next day (New Year's Eve), was not anyone slower-paced. After waking up (I slept in so late that I embarrassed to tell you when I actually got dressed) I met some family and friends at Quail Springs to see the movie "Little Fockers". I really didn't have high expectations due to the pathetic "Fockers" sequel but this movie brought me back to the original movie, "Meet the Parents". It was great and I found myself laughing out loud at numerous scenes (the old guy behind me that continued to laugh all by himself even when jokes weren't being said made the movie even more enjoyable).

After the movie, I headed home to change into my Thunder gear and headed to the Hawks/Thunder game. While the game was close for practically all 48 minutes, Thunder pulled off the victory. Like lighting, I rushed over to interview the interim coach for the Hawks and then jogged (literally) back to the media room to transcribe and head across the street to the NYE Freakout Show being performed by the Flaming Lips!!

The show was incredible. It's definitely one of those "you just have to be there" moments...

When the first-part of the show ended, I stuck around for a little while longer to hear a few songs from their 1999 album "Soft Bulletin" and ended up getting home at 2 a.m.

The 2 a.m. bedtime might sound early on a New Year's Eve to some of you (and entirely too late for the rest of you) but I HAD to go to that I could wake up 4.5 hrs later and enjoy a 12hr.

Dad picked me up at 6:50 a.m. and after a Sonic pitstop and a bacon, egg and cheese toaster, we hit the road, destination = unknown. We had a 16hr drive to Green Bay but we knew we were going to have to stop somewhere before that to watch the Sooners dominate the Fiesta Bowl, that place ended up being Dubuque, Iowa 12 hrs away...about six hours into the trip I realized that the only footwear I brought happened to be the slippers I was wearing in the car...#CaseyFail (Dad had an extra pair...#DadWin) When we asked the hotel attendant where to watch the game, she suggested "The Ground Round"
which ended up being something of a mix between Pioneer Pies and Applebees...the place had popcorn on every table as you sat down. OU won. night over. sleep.

Waking up 7:30 a.m. and out the door at 8 a.m. meant we reached Green Bay around noon. Green Bay = no no...Green Bay = frigid...that's about right.

Whie we were pregame tailgating we met up with Mayor Schmidt and he gave us some pregame field passes to walk around during warm-ups...SWEET

Packers needed the win in order to clinch the playoffs and win they did, against the arch rival Chicago Bears. 10-3. Having the Packers win made the trip definitely worth it.

We jumped back in the car and started back towards home and decided to drive for four hours and make it back to the Dubuque hotel we stayed at the first time through Dubuque, Fairfield Inn. Hotel, bed, sleep.

Waking up the next morning we hopped in the car at an early 7:45 a.m. knowing we had at least a 12hr ride back. When were driving through Dyersville, Iowa we made the last-second decision to go to the Field of Dreams house/baseball field (backstory - in 2005, my dad and I visited the field in the summer and played catch in the outfield all by ourselves. The people who owned the property were locking up the souvenir shop and just told us to lock the gate when we left). We arrived at the house yet it looked nothing like it did 5 years was covered in snow and no corn field (already harvested). Since we were there alone, again, we got out and ran the bases, I went up onto the porch and took some photos and more videos...very, very cool. I recommend every fan of the movie do this at least once.

Long weekend. over.