Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Drowsy Driving

Posted from Grand Junction, Colorado at 10:25 pm, September 13th, 2009

After a morning in Canyonlands we hit the road and followed the Colorado River until we eventually got to Grand Junction, Colorado. After two days without cell service I was bombarded with text messages about the latest futility of the Browns, and after absorbing this year’s opening season loss I grabbed a shower, washed off a few pounds of desert dust, and then joined Audrey for dinner. After a week of hiking and driving the plan for tomorrow is excessive lounging, and then Tuesday we’ll make the long slog up into Wyoming to visit some friends from last March’s whale trip

The Day of Too Many Photos

Posted from Canyonlands National Park, Utah at 9:25 pm, September 12th, 2009

It is 9:30 at night and I am too tired to write coherently, but luckily lack of coherence has never yet stopped me from putting together a journal entry. Today we hit Arches National Park, and judging by the level of exhaustion it hit back. The morning saw visits to Double Arch, the Windows, and Turret Arch, and at each we ran into a pair of woman travelers who scrambled on the rocks while offering strangely valuable photo tips. After a stop in Moab for lunch we headed to Devil’s Garden for some hiking during the hottest part of the day (solid planning on my part) and sweltered along to the massive Landscape Arch (300+ feet) and then up to the very scenic Partition Arch.

The day ended with a climb up to Delicate Arch (the Utah license plate arch for those not up-to-speed on their arch identification). I’ve visited this arch at sunrise when only a handful of hardy souls were present, but never before at sunset when it is a MUCH different experience – perhaps seventy-five people were arrayed around the arch waiting to take photos, with the souvenir-seekers lined up in front of the arch waiting to get their photo taken. One-by-one they stood under the arch, got their picture, and then traded places with the next person in line, all while the nature photographers fretted that they would miss out on an amazing photo while waiting for the Johnson family to get their Christmas card photo. As frustration mounted loud shouts of “Boo!” erupted anytime someone lingered a bit too long. While this may not have been the most serene natural setting it was fairly amusing, particularly when one especially clueless girl stood for a minute under the arch admiring the view while everyone yelled and whistled; when finally she got the hint a rousing cheer erupted from the assembled gallery. Lightning flashed on the horizons during the journey back to our campsite making for an awesome display, and we’re now heading to bed under slightly cloudy skies with hopes of staying dry until morning.

Audrey at Turret Arch

Audrey at Turret Arch.

Courthouse Tower

Courthouse Tower.

Audrey at Turret Arch

Delicate Arch at sunset. This is clearly a prime example of the creativity a photographer can exercise in composing a scene – my thought process: “point at the arch, click the shutter button”. Ansel would be proud.

The Best Stars in the History of Stars

Posted from Canyonlands National Park, Utah at 9:25 pm, September 11th, 2009

I’m currently sitting in my tent under the most amazing night sky I’ve ever seen – with no moon, at least a 6,000 foot elevation, and a location that is the most remote area in the lower-48 states the Milky Way is lighting up the evening and the stars are shining so brightly that it’s possible to differentiate sizes and colors; Audrey even pointed out what we’re guessing is the space station flying overhead. Being the reliable outdoorsman I left the star guide sitting on my bookshelf, so we’ve been forced to come up with our own names (“Blinky” is popular) but it’s no less incredible without knowing exactly what it is we’re seeing.

The route that brought us to this astronomy laboratory started in Bryce Canyon with an early wake-up to see sunrise followed by too many pictures and a visit along the way from a group of pronghorn antelope. This adventure inevitably led to coffee and bacon at the lodge, and then off for more canyon adulation at Bryce Point. After checking out of our hotel the route took us 275 miles across the state and along some absolutely ridiculous roads – apparently the Great Depression led to the ultimate in make-work programs in Utah, and portions of Highway 12 are literally blasted out of solid rock only because someone decided that a good way to create jobs was to build roads through impossible places. In addition to Highway 12, portions of Interstate 70 (“No Service Next 123 Miles”) traverse canyons and cliffs that made it one of the few parts of the interstate highway system to be two lanes up until the mid-eighties when it was finally expanded to match the rest of the system.

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise.

The Daily Hoodoo

Posted from Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah at 9:20 pm, September 10th, 2009

We got out of bed at 7:00 this morning and were on the road by 8:00, ’cause that’s how we roll. The weather alternated between sun and rain, but luckily when we arrived at Bryce it was sunny so we set off on the Navajo Loop trail towards Sunrise Point. The route led straight down through the hoodoos, and while hugely impressive it nonetheless instilled a fair amount of dread for the return trip – I’m in decent shape, but being at nearly 9,000 foot elevation has a way of making the lungs forget how to properly inflate; luckily the route up was more gradual, and with a rainstorm approaching we had added motivation to keep moving and thus avoid becoming human lightning rods.

Given the weather, sunset didn’t provide the expected fireworks, and with my limited photography skills anything less than absolute natural brilliance generally fails to translate well in photos. It was still nice to see, however, and our plan for tomorrow is to be up by 6:30 to catch sunrise. Audrey is surprisingly tolerant of me wanting to take advantage of the light and spend the days hiking, but I suspect some lounging time will be in our future lest we both collapse in a heap in the Utah desert. On a more random note, for reasons that are a mystery to everyone Zion is full of German speaking tourists, but Bryce is the destination of choice for the French speakers; Arches may be full to the gills with Italians…

The Angels Landed

Posted from Hurricane, Utah at 9:25 pm, September 9th, 2009

Audrey has mostly let me set the agenda for this trip, although after setting out for the Angel’s Landing trail in Zion National Park she let me know that she had done some reading about the trail I was taking her on. Despite her misgivings we both made it back alive and she worked the chains and tight ledges like a pro. For anyone who hasn’t done this hike, you spend two miles going up switchbacks including “Walter’s Wiggles” (look at the trail map and you’ll get it) and then a half mile pulling yourself up and across ledges with sheer drops of 1000 feet on either side; it’s fairly memorable.

After the morning’s entertainment and a side-trip for ice cream we headed up the Narrows and sloshed through the Virgin River for a bit with massive sandstone walls rocketing up on either side of us. Audrey and I clearly possess the grace and balance of ballerinas since neither of us took a header into the river; our most unsteady moment came while wading through waist-deep freezing water with a large family behind us yelling what I can only assume were very colorful Spanish phrases as the water rose past their waists. The entire experience was best summed up when Audrey remarked “this is exactly as weird as I pictured it would be”. Tomorrow we’re off towards Bryce Canyon National Park (me likee the canyons), followed by a trip to Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands. Roadtrips are truly wonderful things.

Driving and Driving

Posted from Hurricane, Utah at 9:05 pm, September 8th, 2009

Today was one of a handful of days on this trip that required a lot of driving, so after setting off we covered over 450 miles through the deserts, going from Indian Wells up to the borders of Zion National Park. The obligatory stop in Las Vegas yielded a tasty lunch at PF Chang’s and $7 in winnings at Haywire Deluxe (that’s right, I’m the big winner), then it was off on Interstate 15 and through the Virgin River Gorge to our destination for the evening. I’ve got Audrey suitably frightened about the hike up to Angel’s Landing tomorrow, followed (hopefully) by a trip through the Narrows. All is well in the land of Holliday.

On the Road

Posted from Indian Wells, California at 9:50 pm, September 7th, 2009

The great roadtrip of 2009 is underway. Audrey and I left Culver City yesterday morning while I was suffering from a fever and a wicked headache, but after several hours of driving and a vast amount of Advil both the headache and fever had miraculously subsided and we were off to Balboa Park for a friend’s wedding. Despite some mix-ups with the wedding start time, seating arrangements, and one curious vow (“ear cleaning” ???) it was a really fun wedding for two friends who really love each other.

Audrey and I decided to enjoy the comfy hotel and slept in this morning before heading off to the gym, and then finally making a visit along the San Diego waterfront. Having never been on an aircraft carrier (my patriotism is clearly suspect) we made a quick trip up to the decks of the USS Midway. In addition to taking in the coolness of a 972 foot, 60 year old carrier I also had the fun experience of discovering I’m somewhat uncomfortable standing on a sloping steel platform where i could potentially plummet a hundred feet into… well, water; Audrey was unsympathetic and laughed prodigiously.

When we finally left San Diego around mid-afternoon the route led through the mountains, past some impressive non-desert scenery in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and eventually to the Salton Sea which I had last visited in March 2005. During that time it has gotten no less hot, stinky and strange, and we were met with 105°F heat, massive numbers of dead and rotting fish on the shoreline, and the vast vacant lots of Salton City where once a booming vacation town was expected. While in the 1960’s the Salton Sea attracted similar numbers of tourists as Yosemite, today it is a stinking, putrid mess with the majority of the few homes in the Stephen King-esque town showing a “for sale” sign and prices starting around $30,000. After leaving the stench of the lake behind us we headed to Indian Wells for the evening, and due to the fact that there are less than a dozen rooms occupied in the masive Indian Wells Resort Hotel we were upgraded to the largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in for the low room rate of just $51; so far the trip is off to a pretty good start.


Posted from Culver City, California at 9:30 pm, August 31st, 2009

Totally random list of stuff that I’ve found interesting lately:

  • The Museum of Animal Perspective (MAP) Videos created by putting a camera on an animal’s head. This cost me a good 45 minutes of productivity. Click on the map links to see a video.
  • Tesla Article A very cool article about JB and his awesome-ness; I didn’t know he swapped out old lightbulbs for CFLs when he stayed at hotels.
  • Time-lapse video of the fires This is what I’ve been seeing from my office window for the past week.

Last of all…

What I assume are very drunk people running down a hill. I want to do this.

End of the Month Round-up

Posted from Culver City, California at 4:15 pm, August 29th, 2009

Before Audrey and I head off for a three week roadtrip next weekend I’m working some fairly ridiculous hours to try and get everything finished at work – leaving the house at 7AM and staying at the office until after 7PM sort of blows. Add in a trip to the gym and days have literally been sleep – work – gym – one hour of lounging – repeat; vacation will be a very good thing.

Despite the crazy hours there were two adventures this month. Early in the month I went to Phoenix to visit Aaron. The plan had been naps & chicken, but after getting chicken burritos naps were tossed aside and we went to Dave and Buster’s to play games and then spent the following evening lounging at the bar at the Desert Ridge Resort. The following weekend Audrey and I hopped on the Marina del Rey Flyer and spent two nights with her mom and step-dad in Two Harbours on Catalina Island. The amount of napping on this trip went above and beyond what could be considered reasonably by any normal person.

The plan for the coming week is to work to the point of collapse, rest on Saturday, and then head to San Diego Sunday for a friend’s wedding before traversing the desert, making a pass by the Grand Canyon, and then heading through Utah and up into Wyoming towards Yellowstone and the Tetons. Audrey has never been to Yellowstone and I haven’t been in nearly ten years, so we’re both pretty excited to visiting the Cowboy State.

Late Again

Posted from Culver City, California at 3:00 pm, July 31st, 2009

I’m late again… clearly my prediction of at least two journal entries a month failed miserably… anyhow, here’s the update for July:

The month’s big event was a trip up the coast with Audrey over four days. We started out with a visit to Piedra Blancas to see the elephant seals, but also managed a few detours to see harbour seals, vultures, kelp birds, and the occasional sea otter. For the evening I’d gotten a room at the Carmel Valley Ranch, which was ridiculous – after dinner at their fancy restaurant we went back to the giant room and threw a couple of logs on our awesome fireplace. The following day we lounged for a bit before heading to the Talbott Winery for some imbibing, followed by the town of Monterey for some crab.

The next day we moseyed up through Gilroy and eventually to Chow’s in Lafayette where we met Ma & Pa Holliday for lunch. For reasons no one really understands Pa showed up all dressed up and then sweltered in the heat, but all was well in the end. After departing the family we moved south again to the Mountain Winery. Only in California can you see a concert at a winery, and we had a three-course meal prior to a show by the Indigo Girls while surrounded by old winery buildings and with a view of most of the Bay Area. And lest anyone feel the need to comment on the fact that I was at an Indigo Girls concert, they rock and the audience was tilted heavily towards the better-looking gender; it was a great night.

The drive home the following day started with a trip to meet Ted & Renee for breakfast, followed by a stop to see the seals and otters at Elkhorn Slough. Many hours later we returned to Culver City, and since then work has been taking up a disturbing number of hours each day. We’re off for another trip (three weeks this time!) in September, and hopefully I’ll be a bit more diligent about keeping the journal up to date on that outing.

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas



Posted from Culver City, California at 4:00 pm, June 28th, 2009

In the second of a series of “grandmother ninetieth birthday bashes” the family gathered on Holliday Shores along Holliday Road in North Springfield, Pennsylvania for Grandmother Holliday’s big day. Aaron flew into Cleveland the night before me, and when I headed to the hotel to pick him up Friday morning my clearly hungover brother met me next to a van with a giant picture of the rapper Ace Hood on its side. His words were something to the effect of “I can’t remember last night, but some dude with massive dreadlocks just fist-bumped me in the lobby and said ‘Yo! You was crazy last night!'” With the aid of his digital camera, several cups of coffee, and a bit of time the story of the evening slowly emerged, and it turns out he had partied hard with a bunch of gangsta rappers; such is the life of Aaron.

The drive to North Springfield was relatively uneventful with the exception of a stop to pick up sunglasses – Aaron chose the Magnum PI look, while I went in another direction and was sporting some Dog the Bounty Hunter glasses when we finally arrived. Uncle Jon provided ample entertainment, telling everyone that Aaron had spent the night “with some really famous rapper than no one has ever heard of” and then supplying us with chocolate fish while traipsing around in bright orange shoes. Aunt Melinda managed to keep things in order, Grandmother Holliday enjoyed the festivities, Aunt Pat and Uncle Denny mostly laughed at the characters surrounding them, and my parents (surprisingly) chose not to claim that their two bizarre children were adopted. There were numerous other relatives present that we hadn’t seen in years, and all in all it was a memorable party.

In addition to visiting Camp Fitch and other childhood haunts, Aaron felt it necessary to shoot fireworks, so after bumming M-80s and bottle rockets off of Blake we lit a bonfire, grabbed cigars, and launched fireworks into Lake Erie as the sun went down. The following day we returned to Cleveland, re-awakened a few more childhood memories, and finally flew home Sunday evening.

Aaron and Me

Aaron and me. Note the most excellent Dog the Bounty Hunter glasses.

Aaron, Grandmother Holliday and Me

Grandmother Holliday in the midst of chaos.


Nish-tastic in Cleveland.


Posted from Culver City, California at 8:15 pm, May 31st, 2009

May blew past without any journal updates, so here’s a summary of the month:

Aaron somehow managed to be the only person in America to get a job in new home sales during this market, and moved to Phoenix to work in Pulte’s internet sales group. I made it over there to visit him a couple of weeks ago, and we managed to have our usual retarded fun. After a lackluster dinner on Friday we got up early Saturday, but hiking was thwarted first by killer bees and then by ravenous eye-lickers. We ended up eating eggs and going clothes shopping, which worked out well for me as I’m not supposed to buy any apparel not approved by the younger Holliday, and my current wardrobe was getting a bit threadbare. Saturday night was spent at the world’s worst mini golf course (every hole was flat and shaped like a navy bean) before we embarked on the Scramble iphone world championships.

Two weeks after the Arizona adventure with Aaron, Audrey let me tag along for a singing gig she had at Mission San Juan Capistrano. She had OK’d my visit with the choir director, but apparently it was considerably more crowded than he expected so he set me up in a chair next to the organ for the invitation-only event, and I got to watch a sixteen person choir sing from onstage while the Bishop presented Papal honors to members of the Parish. The amazing music was followed up by a wine reception on the mission grounds (including the oldest building in California), and all-in-all it was a fairly decent way to spend a Friday.

Aside from these outings the rest of the month has been fairly tame. I’m running about thirty miles a week again, Audrey has been barbecuing up a storm (the girl is a samurai warrior on the grill), Caitlin made a brief visit to LA for a conerence and some sushi, and in two weeks I’m off to Pennsylvania for Grandma Holliday’s ninetieth birthday. JAMWiki version 0.7.2 was released yesterday, work at DIRECTV continues as usual, and the living room is now home to a monstrously large flat screen TV that makes the baby ducks jumping out of trees in Planet Earth even more spectacular. Oh, and Audrey has taken to spreading walnuts in the hallway, so we now have squirrels that visit our living room regularly. Life isn’t bad.

Squirrel in the House

Squirrel in the House. Photo by Audrey.

Whirlwind Journey

Posted from 30,000 over the Southern US at 8:00 am, April 27th, 2009

Grandma Snyder had her ninetieth birthday party yesterday, so we got to visit with her for the first time in several years. She’s managed to knock out two of her top teeth in a fall and refuses to have them fixed, so her laugh has become even more jolly. Three of our cousins were there as well, and it was cool to see three adults that looked a lot like the kids we’d last seen almost twenty years ago.

After the party (and a ridiculous amout of picture taking) everyone said goodbye, we joined mom and dad for dinner and on an (unsuccessful) search for manatees, attempted to spin a few donuts in the parking lot, then headed back to Orlando. After a five o’clock wakeup I managed a bit of sleep on the plane, and following a scheduled 9:30 landing it’s off to what may be a very long day of work.

Aaaron, Skip and Ryan

Aaron, the Skipper, and Yours Truly.

Have a Magical Day

Posted from Walt Disney World, Florida at 7:50 pm, April 26th, 2009

Last night was the first time in three weeks that I slept at least seven hours without the assistance of drugs; Aaron says I was thrashing around all night, but thrashing is way better than lying in bed awake. We got up at 7:30 this morning and headed off to the Magic Kingdom. Typically on these trips I handle logistics, so having booked all arrangements and picked Aaron up at the airport my only remaining job was to get him to the park entrance with his park pass. Despite repeated reminders, I failed in this respect and we stared blankly at each other after the bus ride over upon realizing he didn’t have his entry ticket. Luckily customer service was able to look him up and put matters straight, and a short time later we were in the park.

Neither of us is huge Disney fanatics, but since we were in Orlando anyhow it made sense to pay a visit. Lines were short early in the day, and we managed to get soaked on Splash Mountain and make a visit to Thunder Mountain and the Haunted House in a short time. We later caught the Tower of Terror and a few other rides before enduring a fifty minute wait for the Aerosmith roller coaster. Surprisingly, this one turned out to be worth the wait, and after getting rocketed up the first hill and through several dark corkscrews Aarron actually asked “are we upside down right now”; I honestly couldn’t answer him.

Tomorrow it’s off to see several family members we haven’t seen in years. Additionally, the good state of Florida saw fit to install automated toll booths that accept only quarters. Since I had no change I now have the fun task of dealing with beauracracy to try to avoid two $100 fines; that one should be really fun.