TBT: Walkin’

The big “hit” piece (that is, the successful, well-liked post, not a piece attacking some famous personality) this week seems to have been my post about driving to and from Athens, Georgia.  In the spirit of forward motion and scenic trips, I thought I’d dust off this chestnut from 5 August 2020, right before the previous academic year began.

I’d just gotten into walking right before school resumed, and was hoping to get in a couple of miles every day.  That goal sure fell part quickly, and I realized I did not walk nearly as much as I thought I would at work.  It turns out that 10,000 steps a day is actually a lot of steps.

That said, I did manage to get in over 30,000 steps in a single day once in the past year:  when I spent an eighteen-hour day at Universal Studios.  Needless to say, I slept until nearly noon the next day.

But that outlier aside, I did not come close to achieving that dream.  When I dog-sat my girlfriend’s German Shepherd, we took some lengthy, sweaty walks.  I was hoping that Murphy and I would do the same, but the old girl doesn’t go much beyond the yard before she is ready to turn back for another round of water, snacks, and naps, so my dreams of long, energetic dog walks have been smashed on the arthritic knees of my ancient dog.

Or I’m just making a bunch of excuses for myself.  With that, here is 5 August 2020’s “Walkin’“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The High Life at Universal Studios

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Last weekend I embarked on my latest Universal Studios trip, and it was truly unlike any other park-going experience of the last year.  It was one of those brief moments where I glimpsed, however briefly, how the other half lives.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of my girlfriend’s mother (and the various discounts and perks she receives with her two-park Premier level Annual Pass to Universal Studios), we stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a hotel that starts at $300 a night, and that offers water taxi service to Universal City Walk.

We didn’t spend much time at the room—which, given the nature of it, was a bit like ordering a hamburger at a seafood restaurant—but that’s because our room keys also doubled as Express Passes for rides.  Right now, during the peak operating season, Express Passes go for north of $300 per person, per day.  That means one night at the hotel essentially paid for Express Passes for our entire party of four for the duration of our stay—one of the most compelling perks of shelling big money for the hotel (not to mention riding a boat into the parks is super fun and convenient, and hotel guests get early park admission to Universal Studios).

To add to the decadence—which, admittedly, was a bit of overkill—we had access to both nights of the June Orlando Informer meetup, which grants after-hour admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, as well as unlimited food in the parks.

From an optimization standpoint, as my younger brother pointed out, it was not ideal.  If it was one of us footing the bill, and assuming we wanted certain perks, we’d go for either the hotel, with its built-in Express Pass perk, or the Orlando Informer event, which eliminates the need for Express Pass as attendance at the park is limited to meetup attendees.

From a standpoint of going all out, though, it was truly amazing.  I doubt I’ll ever have such a decadent and wide-open Universal Studios experience again, but I am grateful for the opportunity.  So for this edition of SubscribeStar Saturday, I’d like to dive into the eighteen-hour day my girlfriend and I put into the parks, followed by a far more reasonable twelve-hour day last Saturday.

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The Interstate

I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday.  I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.

With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate.  On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times.  The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours.  In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.

As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made.  It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto).  But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.

Granted, there were downsides:  the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads.  Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them.  Of course, the converse is true:  many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.

So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities.  So, where is the hate?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Adventures in Athens

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Last weekend, whilst pitching a fit about work, my girlfriend and I were exploring Athens, Georgia.  I’ve already detailed one part of that adventure, our trip to the Bizarro-Wuxtrey, a downtown comic book store with a great collection (and where I picked up Dracula: Vlad the Impaler, which I devoured liked the Count descending upon one of his victims).

The trip was a fun adventure through the famous college town and its environs.  It has been many years since I’ve been to Athens, and even then it was just to the University of Georgia campus to play in the University of South Carolina marching band, The Mighty Sound of the Southeast.  I don’t remember anything about it other than some vague memories of the buildings on campus, so this trip to Athens was really like going for the first time.

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Comic Review: Dracula: Vlad the Impaler (2021)

This past weekend I went to Athens, Georgia, with my girlfriend to see the sights.  We spent a good bit of time in downtown Athens, near the University of Georgia campus, which was overrun with graduates and their families in town for a weekend of graduation ceremonies.  Amid our sightseeing, we stumbled upon Bizarro-Wuxtrey, a comic book and record store that truly lives up to its name.

The first floor of the shop is Wuxtrey Records, a record shop that, due to Virus-related capacity restrictions, we were not able to browse.  The second floor is—like Bizarro Superman—the comic book section.  It was the classic comic book store, complete with an overweight, older gentleman with long hair and a beard manning the shabby little counter.  The store features several rooms of comics and old magazines, including back issues of old niche magazines dedicated to sci-fi flicks and movie monsters.

Amid the stacks of new arrivals I found the subject of this post:  the black-and-white reissue of the 1990s graphic novel Dracula: Vlad the Impaler.

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Lazy Sunday CVI: Adventures

One irony of The Age of The Virus is that while every event and institution found itself shuttered, I got out and did way more than I would have in The Before Times.  The constant demands of The Before Times—the sheer tempo at which I forced myself to operate—also prevented me from getting out and doing the sorts of things that make life worth living.

Indeed, I was bitter about it for a time.  I spent most of my twenties working and hustling, sacrificing many of the social opportunities of those salad days in order to store up my acorns for the future.  Now in my mid-thirties, I’m beginning to enjoy some of the fruits of those sacrifices, though most of the acorns are locked up tightly in my HSA, 403(b) and IRAs.

That’s all to say that The Age of The Virus forced me to slow down a bit, and granted me the time to do some exploring.  I will hasten to add that the misery and death of The Virus was not a cost worth paying just to grant me some more free time; rather, I’m acknowledging the silver lining, and stating the reality of the situation.  It’s not an endorsement of The Virus to take advantage of some it’s few, more positive consequences.

All disclaimers aside, here are three posts for this Lazy Sunday, detailing some of my adventures over the past year:

  • Road Trip!” – I filed this post while heading to my second of five Universal Studio trips (which consumed a lot of acorns) since February 2020.  The primary focus of the post, however, was to detail a trip through the backroads of South Carolina, an off-the-beaten-path excursion from Columbia to Aiken that took me through Pelion and New Holland.  It was a beautiful drive; New Holland’s vast swaths of cattle pasture were particularly beautiful to see on a summer’s day.
  • Midweek SubscribeStar Exclusive: Sloshing through Lee State Park” – This post—a midweek exclusive for $5 and up SubscribeStar subscribers—detailed an adventure to Lee State Park, a 1935 Civilian Conservation Corps project that is still open to the public to this day, and just seven miles from my house.  My girl and I ended up sloshing through a flooded-out equestrian trail—on foot!—along with her two-year old German Shepherd.  It was great fun, and a memorable adventure.
  • Backroads Exploration: Una Adventure” – I own an aging, dented, dirty minivan—a vehicle I love dearly, even if I don’t always give it the TLC it deserves.  To keep its battery charged, I like to take it for short excursions, little jaunts around the backroads.  One recent Thursday evening I took a longer-than-planned trip to the tiny community of Una, South Carolina, just to see what’s there.  Turns out it’s not much, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination—right?

The weather is getting warmer and the days are longer.  It’s a great time to go out and enjoy some adventuring.  Let me know about yours in the comments!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Backroads Exploration: Una Adventure

As I recently detailed in the post “Routine Maintenance,” I managed to get my old 2006 Dodge Caravan running again thanks to an $80 battery.  I finally hooked up the battery maintainer, too, so hopefully the old girl won’t drain down due to neglect.

After installing that battery, it reminded me of how fun driving a busted up minivan can be.  Readers might scoff at that notion, but that van and I share an intimate connection (well, at least I do with it—it can’t really think about who is driving it).  After fifteen years, I’ve learned that machine inside and out.  Sure, after driving my tiny Nissan it takes some adjustment (I still reach for the gear shifter in the wrong place occasionally, and briefly forget where the lights are), but it’s surprisingly nimble.

Aside from the maintainer, I’ve been taking the van for weekly drives to keep the battery up.  My girlfriend and I took it to Lee State Park a few weekends ago, loading our small bit of supplies and her faithful German Shepherd into the cavernous interior.  Since then, I’ve only done a few small jaunts with it, with the exception of last Thursday night.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Myrtle Beach

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This weekend I’m down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with my family.  With the exception of last year, we visit Myrtle Beach every March because it coincides with the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which my older brother flies down to run (after running the full marathon one year and starving while we waited for lunch at Sea Captain’s House, he has since decided that the half-marathon is a more reasonable distance).

Even before my brother’s career as an amateur long-distance masochist, we have been visiting Myrtle Beach as a family.  We used to come every summer for a big South Carolina Public Works convention, so Myrtle Beach’s tacky neon charm holds a certain nostalgia for me. These annual visits are not just a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family, but to relive the glow of childhood nostalgia.

The rest of this post may be delayed, as I am—as the preview noted—in Myrtle Beach with family.  Don’t worry, subscribers, I should have it finished soon.  —TPP

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Midweek SubscribeStar Exclusive: Sloshing through Lee State Park

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar exclusive for $5 and up subscribers.  $5 and up subs periodically enjoy bonus content, in addition to Sunday Doodles every Sunday.  They also gain access to SubscribeStar Saturday posts like $1 subscribers.

With the warm weather and sunshine this past weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to check out Lee State Park.  Lee State Park is just ten miles up the road from Lamar, and while I’ve driven on Lee State Park Road numerous times heading to the Interstate, I’d never visited the park.

Lee State Park was constructed in 1935 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project during the Great Depression.  It is bounded on the west by the Lynches River, and features a number of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, as well as several equestrian trails.  Most of the park’s 2839 acres is hardwood forest wetlands, and the park features four artesian wells that flow continually.

To get to the park, we loaded into my ancient, busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan—now with a fresh battery!—and buzzed up there with the windows down.  My girlfriend’s German shepherd seemed to enjoy the ride, and turned out to be a real trooper on what turned into an unexpectedly arduous adventure.

When we got to the park, we grabbed a trail map, and merrily headed into the forest, attempting to follow the white-labeled Floodplain Trail, a five-mile, moderate hike.  Unfortunately, the Floodplain Trail does not make a neat loop, and we headed towards the shorter end, which overlaps with the orange equestrian trail.

That decision would ultimately result in soggy, sloshing bit of amateur trailblazing through some of the muddiest terrain in Lee State Park.

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