My Tour of the Capitols

In 2005, after lamenting that I had not traveled any place new in many years, and that most of my traveling was work-related, I decided to give myself an assignment. I would venture to visit every state capitol building in this country. No deadline was given for completion, and photo essays were to be made for each visit. This February, I saw my 10th state capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. I am a fifth of the way to my goal!

When I visit a capitol, I take what I hope to be interesting photos that capture the essence of each building.  So far, I’ve witnessed a couple trends, and now I take note of these things at each subsequent visit. Namely, capitols tend to be made from marble, and there is often an inset drinking fountain that looks very much like a urinal. Because I ate enchiladas during my first capital visit – Salem, Oregon – I also try to eat enchiladas in each capital city.

I keep a log of my journey online. The pages for each city are linked together, so that one can scroll through the cities in alphabetical order by state – my own little web ring! As I visit a capital, a page is inserted into the ring. On the main page is a list of all the capital cities, along with a graphic guide to my familiarity with each.  This is measured by the time I’ve spent there – was I passing through on a train? did I have a layover at the airport? did I spend the night?

I’ve found that my reports are a nice way to keep in touch with distant friends and family, as well as a way to let non-travelers experience places they’ve never been. My capitol tour has been interesting and quite rewarding thus far, and I look forward to continuing and someday completing it.

Top 10 of 2007

It’s the end of the year, and everyone is thinking back to all the good stuff and bad stuff from the last 12 months. All the DJs are putting out their Top Ten songs and albums of the year. There are probably Top Ten news stories in various places. Top Ten This, Top Ten That. I thought I might make my own list. So I thought and I thought, for at least five or ten minutes, but nothing came to mind. Well, one thing did come to mind – the Top Ten Indescribable Things That Happened in 2007 That Made it Unique From All the Other Years I’ve Been Alive.

For instance, I started this blog in 2007. I got the Tassajara Bread Book this year after seeing the film How to Cook Your Life. I played Quake again after like 10 years. I used Flexcar. My buddy Alex finally came to visit me after years of my badgering. I bought a new DVD player. The QFC opened two blocks from my apartment. The Tower Records two blocks away closed then became a Silver Platters which I never go to. (I rarely went to Tower, either.) The only marriage for which I’ve been a member of the wedding party (since my sister’s when I was 18) ended in divorce. I finally bought rain boots after living in Seattle for nine years.

I think that’s 10 things. I don’t know if that’s Top or Bottom, and I’m not sure what the long term effects of those things are – hence the “indescribable”. But they happened. And who cares?

So here’s my real Top Ten.

The Top Ten Wasabi Peas of 2007:

Top Ten Wasabi Peas

And then there were none.

Mini Dreams Fulfilled, Sort Of

On 18 November 2007, I took a Flexcar Mini Cooper out for a spin.

Out of the starting gate, I felt somewhat like a Luddite. The Mini has a push button start accessed by a key fob. What the heck? After fumbling around for a minute or two, my buddy looked up “How to Start the Car” in the manual. Ah ha!

Up and running, we darted off to pick up a couple friends. Somehow, we managed to get a six-foot stocky fellow in the back seat, along with his tiny girlfriend. OK, so she’s not Thumbelina, but considering there’s almost no legroom back there, I had no doubt she’d be comfortable sitting cross-legged behind my six-foot-one buddy in the passenger seat.

We took it out on I-5 up past Northgate Mall and back down to Fremont, where we visited a friend before grabbing some nosh.

Photo by Alex

I think I will take it for a solo outing one of these days. I feel I should experience it with the seat back as far as I can take it and without trying to have a conversation with people in the back seat over some pretty serious road noise.

This Flexcar thing is a pretty good way to test out different vehicles. Maybe on Xmas Day, I’ll take a convertible on my traditional drive up to Snoqualmie Pass. That would be interesting.

Flexcar Kudos

Today I used my Flexcar membership for the first time. Started in Seattle in 2000, Flexcar is a vehicle-sharing company that can now be found in many major cities in the U.S. The idea is simple – there are cars, trucks, minivans of various types owned by Flexcar parked throughout the city. Members pay for the use of any of the vehicles in the network only for the time they use it. Fuel and insurance are included in the hourly rate.

The idea of enrolling in Flexcar came to me since I’ve been living 5 blocks from work. I can walk to most of my favorite eating places, watering holes, and grocery stores. I use my car maybe once a week, usually less, and the only thing I pay for is insurance (between 45 and 50 bucks a month) and gas (I might buy 13 gallons of gas every 4-6 weeks). I began to wonder if I really needed a car. Then they parked a few Flexcars near my path to/from work, and I began to wonder even more. One of the cars I pass twice every day is a silver Mini Cooper with a black top – my current dream car (I have a model, even). After picking up a brochure one morning and doing a bit more research online, I decided to enroll. I had two goals in mind. One, drive the Mini Cooper. Two, figure out if using Flexcar how I would use my own car would cost more, less, or the same. If it cost the same or less, I would try very hard to convince myself to get rid of my car.

The problem is, I really like my car. It’s old and the paint’s peeling, and I don’t keep it clean. But I’m from Texas, and I like driving. I love the feel of getting behind the wheel and putting the pedal to the metal. It’s a rush. And while I absolutely detest traffic, and while most of my driving these days is inner-city, I still have daydreams of flying down the highway to a far-off destination. It’s not like I can’t take a Flexcar out for a joyride. They have sports cars available, presumably for that very reason. But I know what my car feels like when it’s going 85 miles an hour. I also know that I own my car outright, and if I drive it into a tree, the only things I’m hurting are the tree and myself. I don’t think I could feel as free in a car owned by a corporation as I can in my own automobile. Perhaps that’s for the best.

I have been a member of Flexcar for several months. Up until now, I’ve been unable to justify using my membership. I’ve been a little intimidated by the process of estimating the time usage, checking into the car, checking out of it. Today, however, a buddy of mine needed a new bed frame but had no way of transporting it. So I reserved a Toyota Tacoma pick up truck a few blocks from where I live and we drove to Ikea. The bed frame in its boxes fit perfectly, and we returned the truck to its spot with almost a half hour to spare. That’s the only pitfall I see in the whole Flexcar scheme. If you reserve a vehicle for 3-1/2 hours and use it for 3, you still have to pay for 3-1/2. (unless someone takes it before your time is up) That’s been part of my hesitance of using the service. However, my trepidations about the process appear to be unfounded. The whole thing was really easy, and I’m pretty excited about finally driving that Mini.

I think Flexcar is a great idea. It’s difficult to get people to stop using cars altogether, but if more people shared a few cars the world would be a lot different place. A nicer place. Like kindergarten. Ok, so maybe that’s going too far, but you get my drift.