Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2001 7:35 PM
Subject: Where's Waldo?

OK, I realize I have been out of touch for a while, between a lack of telecom access, being busy, and well, being a little cranky, haven't really sent or replied to any emails for over a week.  I'll probably write it up in a few updates so that they aren't too large.  To head off any building anticipation, the lack of contact is not due to any wild adventures, although I have been busy.
First, we'll take care of a little business.  The Trivia winners are as follows:
"Who threw sevens?"  Why "Stagger Lee" of course.  A number one from 1959 by Lloyd Price that is one of my favorites.  The Clash do an interesting cover of this on London Calling called "Wrong em boyo".  And the winner (and only correct answer):  My Mom.
"Who found Gideon's bible?"  A lot of people got this, "Rocky Raccoon", but the first to reply was Micah D. a former co worker from Capital One
"Look out mama  there's a white boat comin' up the river".  Was correctly identified by Rob C.(again, the only correct answer) a volleyball teammate as Neil Young, "Powderfinger" from the fine, fine album Rust Never Sleeps.
As for the common theme, the thread that binds these songs together, the leitmotif?  Well, in each song someone gets shot.  And the only person to correctly identify this was Rob C. again.
So here are the standings to date:
    Rob C.          2000
    George M      1000
    Micah D        1000
    My Mom        1000
As for my location at this moment, I am sitting in the Riverside Coffee shop in Columbia MD (back at my parents) typing this email, and I have been doing work on the van for the last few days.  As for how I got here, well, that is another story.....
Oh yeah, for these sets of messages, no trivia, at least not the way we have been doing it.  The text of these messages will have embedded in them obscure Pop Culture References (a la Dennis Miller).  1000 points for being the first to correctly identify the reference with a 2 correct answer cap, and for anyone getting all of them, well I'll figure that out if it happens.   We now return you now to your regularly scheduled programming...
Meanwhile, back in the Pennsylvania, where our hero was last known to be camping on the outskirts of the Steel City.  Spent that weekend in Pittsburgh hanging out with some old Richmond friends, Chris and A.J. and their almost 1 year old daughter Alora.  Had a great time Saturday, we took the dogs for a walk in a local park Saturday....
What two lovable sweet dogs.  While we were walking, Chris was trying to tell me that the week before these wonderful dogs had killed a groundhog in the park.  As we rounded a turn in the path, we heard a yelp and saw the dogs messing with something in the grass.  As we walked up, we could see what looked suspiciously like fresh blood on Woody's (the tan one) muzzle.  Lo and behold, dead Woodchuck.  Apparently Sherriff (the lab) is the killer, and Woody goes in and cleans up.  Their work done, the dogs ran off looking for more prey.  Adults everywhere were picking up their kids and leaving the park.  Ok, I made that last part up.
That night we cooked out and over many many beers discussed the meaning of Suburban McLife.  Sorry, didn't come up with any easy answers.  Played some pool, and until we switched to 9-ball (a game requiring superior intellect and strategy, "he is intelligent, but inexperienced, his strategy suggests two dimensional thinking") Chris was kicking my ass.
Spent the next morning trying to decide where to go next.  Finally decided to head to the Motor City ("put down your weapon, you have 20 seconds to comply").  Chris and A.J. were headed to a state park North of the Burgh, so I tagged along.  Had a nice walk to get rid of the hangover, and took a roll or two of film along the way.  As I was leaving, Chris and A.J. were asking me all sorts of questions about VW camper vans, I think they may actually buy one!!!
From there it was onto the Interstate (you know whenever traveling, you should always have a towel, perhaps a largish bath towel from Marks and Spencer) and towards Detroit.  For the first time, I was traveling on roads where the trees were cut way back from the roads, allowing for fairly significant crosswinds.  I had been planning all along to upgrade my tires, but was in no hurry, until now.  Crossing Ohio (the most boring state to cross so far), the tire situation became a little more urgent when crossing a bridge, I began to fear that I would get blown over, and the river that burns would be afire yet again.  The entire driver I was getting pushed around by the wind and trucks passing at high speed.
There was a great sunset as I headed into Michigan, took this picture under an overpass.
Stayed for a few days in Detroit, with my old college friends Debbie and Dave, and their son Max, who is advanced for his age (according to Debbie, he started his Terrible Two's six months early! (actually, if that's terrible, I guess kids aren't that bad)).  Unfortunately all the pictures I took were on the real camera, so you can't see what a lady-killer he's gonna be.
My concern about my tires having me worried I was going to become the opening chapter in a new Ralph Nader book, I spent a lot of time researching new tires and wheels.  I learned a few interesting (and scary) things along the way.  First, the current tires, were the narrowest that can be put on the van.  Second, the diameter was actually smaller than stock.  Third (and worst) there were passenger tires rated at 1290 lbs.  It turns out the Vanagon requires Light Truck (LT) tires.  LT means that they have a higher load rating, and stiffer sidewalls capable of supporting the stresses placed by a heavy vehicle upon them. Some more info, IF you use passenger tires for an LT application, you have to de-rate the maximum weight capacity by about 10%.  It turns out that 4 tires rated at 1290 lbs is EXACTLY the EMPTY weight of that vehicle.  So then you load it up with a bunch of junk (including me), and then you reduce the capacity of the tires by 10% and you have a MAJOR problem.
In the middle of all of these unfortunate revelations, I was able to spend some time with Debbie shopping in Royal Oak (for Richmonders, one of several Carytown's in Detroit, and much bigger).
I also spent a day in my favorite old college town Ann Arbor.  If you look at the picture below it is clear that I must be in Ann Arbor....
Had fun wandering around, and having lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant Hinudae.  Here are some more pics from Ann Arbor.
The view across the "Diag" in the middle of campus
My old dorm EastQuad (my room was behind the bush to the left of the door
Mmmmmm, Lethal Enforcer,so many bad guys, so few quarters....
 The brass "M" in the middle of the Diag.  The story goes that if you step on the M before your first test, you will fail the test.  I studiously avoided it my first month, and then after my first test, using some sort of twisted logic, went out and jumped on it with both feet.  Let's just say that all strategies I applied regarding the M and grades failed miserably.
I have no idea what this place is, my friend Ranko said I "had" to take a picture of it.
After my day in Ann Arbor I went up the road and had dinner with some old college volleyball friends Tim and Diane.  Unfortunately, the only volleyball we are playing now is in our memories, but it was great to catch up (and Diane, thanks for dinner it was delicious, I forgot to tell you when I was there).
Now I had to decide where to go next.  I had placed an order for some new 15" wheels and better shocks, but that wouldn't be delivered to my parents for a few days, and I was still trying to figure out exactly what tires to buy.  Feeling a little paranoid about the tires but unwilling to head back after less than a week out, I decided to head across Canada to upstate New York, and spend a week or two driving (carefully) around the Northeast doing a lot hiking and visiting some friends before heading back to Maryland.  This would give me a several week shakedown cruise (even after a week I had learned a lot about what I REALLY needed in the van) and then I could head to MD to take care of the tires and repack the van.
But unbeknownst to me, those plans were bound for Jersey in a cement truck.....