Road Trip Log: Delay in Updates

Hello, readers. I’ve woken up alive and rested in Raleigh, NC, soon to grab some of my favorite maffé sauce, and then I’ll drive north to DC.

I’m sorry this blog hasn’t been updated as I go from place to place on my road trip; it started that way, but over the past several days I haven’t found the time to update in the kind of detail I want to share. I sacrificed valuable writing and reflection time to see six concerts in six separate cities in a row. There’s plenty to share when I find time to sit down and write and actually have the energy to do it.

Know that I am safe and still making all the dates on my tour poster. If I haven’t seen you yet, I’ll see you soon. If I have seen you, you’re great! Let’s do it again sometime!

Lots of updates next week,


Road Trip Log: I-40 and I-30 West

The beginning of a very, very long leg of the trip
The beginning of a very, very long leg of the trip

Tennessee is longer than you think it is. I’d make a corollary for Hofstadter’s law to say this:

Corollary for Hofstadter’s law: Tennessee takes longer to drive than you think it does, even when taking into account the Corollary for Hofstadter’s law.

To be fair, Tennessee was only a little more than half of the distance I needed to cover.

The distance I needed to cover
The distance I needed to cover between “tour stops”
A reasonable amount to travel in one day?

There was rain and construction most the way on I-40 west. Fortunately fog and pink redbuds made the drive scenic even when I was halted to a stop.

Not a good sign when you see red tail lights and one lane of traffic.
Not a good sign when you see red tail lights and one lane of traffic.
Fog and redbuds, both lovely
Fog and redbuds, both lovely

Long after the sun had set and I continued on, not even close to being through Tennessee, Nashville appeared as ghostly lights through the rain. My legs were starting to get antsy and I was happy to stop driving, even in this ghost city.

Ghost Nashville
Ghost Nashville

Sidebar: I have a trick for finding the most interesting spots of any city: search for vegan restaurants nearby. You usually find two categories of vegan restaurants:

  1. Asian restaurants serving mostly vegetables and vegan beef and chicken (sometimes vegan eggs, too; My good friend T had some and didn’t think they were like eggs at all), and
  2. Very hip, ethical vegetarian/vegan places in very hip parts of town.

I’d only driven past Nashville in the past to head west (or east) to (or from) Dallas, TX. I wanted to dip into the city a little bit and get a feel for what it might be like. I tried the vegan restaurant trick by using Yelp near Nashville. I found a place called The Wild Cow. Seemed like a pleasant residential area around that restaurant. I feel like I hit the jackpot every time I see tattoos and blue hair. And not only that, the food and scene were both delectable.

A view from the counter at The Wild Cow in Nashville. Haha, "Hail Seitan".
A view from the counter at The Wild Cow in Nashville. Haha, “Hail Seitan”.
A vegan variant for the Wild Reuben at The Wild Cow. A vegan Reuben?! You betcha.
A vegan variant for the Wild Reuben at The Wild Cow. A vegan Reuben?! You betcha.

I stayed the night in Memphis after getting very, very tired of driving through the car wash that was weather over Tennessee.

Adverse weather conditions and darkness do not make for a pleasant drive.
Adverse weather conditions and darkness do not make for a pleasant drive.

Little Rock was a beacon of hope while driving the next day. I only had a little longer to go before finally making it to Texas. The sky was clearing up. I filled up on gas there and marked another merit badge in the dirt coat my car was wearing.

Sunny and shiny Little Rock, AR
Sunny and shiny Little Rock, AR
Ohio and Tennessee, COMPLETED!
Ohio and Tennessee, COMPLETED!

I traveled along I-30 long enough and sure enough eventually made it to Texas. I put on some Throwing Muses albums, looked out at the silver sky, and felt tingling elation. After two years away, I was back to see my old stomping grounds and friends and coworkers.

Suddenly everything was bigger.
Suddenly everything was bigger.
The last major stretch into Dallas. The surrounding area is called Rockwall. I could see Dallas's skyscrapers in the distance here, but I guess the camera didn't pick them up.
The last major stretch into Dallas. The surrounding area is called Rockwall. I could see Dallas’s skyscrapers in the distance here, but I guess the camera didn’t pick them up.

Up next: an entry on the fun in Dallas, TX and surrounding area.

My back hurts,

Road Trip Log: Appalachia (KY, TN, NC)

A sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, NC
A sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, NC

There’s something about mountains that really magnetizes me to them. When I was little, I had these dreams that mountains magically appeared in my backyard. Having grown up in the Midwest, the greatest changes in elevation I was used to were tires popping into potholes. Mountains beckoned me last summer as I drove east from Seattle through the Cascades, and then again into the Rockies of Montana and Alberta. I knew I wanted to see the Appalachians this time around.

These are the Cascades in Washington. Don't get too excited.
These are the Cascades in Washington. But what if you woke up and saw them in your backyard out of nowhere?!

Heading south from Cincinnati, the other side of the Ohio River is Kentucky, a land of good basketball teams and fried chicken. I didn’t spend much time there, as my next planned stop on the tour poster was Kingsport, TN, and I intended to get there quickly so I could spend more time with my kin there. But there are a couple notables from Kentucky.

Florence, y'all
Florence, y’all
This cloud was impressive.
This cloud was impressive.

I took the route south through Lexington, KY. I got into some rolling hills and forest in southwest Kentucky, part of Daniel Boone National Forest.

The 6 hour alternate route looks boring, but I could be wrong about that.
The 6 hour alternate route looks boring, but I could be wrong about that.
2015-04-11 19.53.36
Wooded, rolling hills

There’s a fascinating part of this trail that goes through three states in a very short distance, called the Cumberland Gap. You’ll be in Kentucky, then Tennessee, then Virginia, all in a matter of minutes.


Welcome to Tennessee!
Welcome to Tennessee!
Haha, just kidding! You're in Virginia now!
Haha, just kidding! You’re in Virginia now!
Sunset over Cumberland Gap
Sunset over Cumberland Gap

The sunset beauty around the Cumberland Gap behind me, US-58 through Virginia felt like a roller coaster in the dark, a Space Mountain. Along US-58, I experienced my first DUI checkpoint, two flashing blue cop cars on each side of the highway. “Uh, Officer,” I said, “What is this?” He flashed a light in my eyes, looked at my clearly-not-Virginia license, and let me through. Apparently I was not drunk.

US-23 south spiraled through some more mountainsides, passing by Food Lion, Food City, and Food Country stores, and then I was in Kingsport, TN. A few wrong turns through town and I finally made it to my kin’s renovated farmhouse on a hill. I was welcomed with sushi and a local IPA. Feeling full in all regards, I fell into pillowy bed and collected four times as many sleeping hours as I had the previous two nights.

Cozy farmhouse living
Cozy farmhouse living
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Neat old bathtub and the second cat on my journey, Gabriella

I started my day nice and slowly in the fairly luxurious “spare” bedroom. The room had a couch where I typed up the previous entry, a coffee nook with several K-cup flavors, a bathroom with all the amenities. I doubt I’ll stay in any room that nice for the remainder of the trip.

This is what you find under "Southern hospitality" in the dictionary.
This is what you find under “Southern hospitality” in the dictionary.
Lazy Sunday southern breakfast
Lazy Sunday southern breakfast

My kin and I went on a hike after breakfast around Bays Mountain. I love hiking through the woods. Plenty of fine vistas around the Kingsport Reservoir, which was historically the fresh water supply for Kingsport, TN.

View from behind a naturally occurring dam at the Kingsport Reservoir atop Bays Mountain
View from behind a naturally occurring dam at the Kingsport Reservoir atop Bays Mountain

I drove south to Asheville after a warm goodbye to my kin. It feels good to know I have such a comforting place to stay in Appalachia.

After I parked near my friend W’s house in Asheville, I ate dinner at Plant on Asheville’s north side. Some of the most delicious food I’ve had, let alone vegan food.

Lemongrass seitan, with a winter squash puree, baby bok choy, fermented black lentils, cashews, and pickled daikon radish
Lemongrass seitan, with a winter squash puree, baby bok choy, fermented black lentils, cashews, and pickled daikon radish

I walked south through Asheville’s downtown to the River Arts District (RAD). I immediately felt at home seeing a high relative density of plaid shirts worn. Asheville is a very pretty city. So many colors!

Modern architecture reflecting sunset
Modern architecture reflecting sunset
2015-04-12 19.52.48
Turquoise and periwinkle buildings
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Blue, olive, and yellow buildings

I decided to get a beer at Wedge Brewing, a beer garden and brewery in the RAD I heard good things about. I thoroughly enjoyed their IPA and their peaty Scotch ale. Both cooled me down from how sweaty I’d been walking that way.

Eventually my friend W made it to Wedge and we caught up. It was nice to sit outside with beer and chat, something I haven’t been able to do in the Midwest since last September. We headed to Wicked Weed Brewing afterward and enjoyed some sour beers produced by their offshoot Funkatorium.

I had fragmented sleep on W’s futon because a cat named Hazel wanted to rub her head on my hands and face at all hours of the night. She was darn cute, so I let it happen. I’ve met three cats along this road trip so far, and I hope to meet more.

Oh, good morning to you too, Hazel.
Oh, good morning to you too, Hazel.

As I write this, I’m sitting at Izzy’s Coffee Den in downtown Asheville, NC. I’m planning out how I want to get to my next “planned” stop, Dallas, TX. Something like 14 hours of driving that I hope to split across a couple days. I hope there will be music blue, green kudzu, and barbecue along the way.

Ain’t no mountain high enough,

Road Trip Log: Ohio

"You must never go there, Simba." —Mufasa
“You must never go there, Simba.”

If you’re driving south into Ohio, do yourself a favor and avoid US-23 south for as long as possible. Yes, Google Maps suggests it is a shorter route by 10 minutes and 23 miles (distance and time may vary). Don’t fall for it.

Or you could fly for only $451!!!

If you go that route, you will be forced to drive through rural Ohio, including the bizarre Fostoria. Here is what you can look forward to on that route.

55 mph with periodic traffic lights THE WHOLE WAY
55 mph with periodic traffic lights THE WHOLE WAY
This establishment is Butt Hut, selling tobacco. "Great Deals on Great Butts." :sigh:
This establishment is Butt Hut, selling tobacco. “Great Deals on Great Butts.” :sigh:
"Truckers welcome."
“Truckers welcome.”

The first “posted” stop on my road trip poster itinerary was Columbus, OH, in the Short North neighborhood. My best friend B and her husband live there with their furbabies. I hadn’t seen them since I officiated their wedding last July. (Search here for “Lauer” under last name. I’m available to perform your marriage ceremonies in Ohio.) It was great catching up.

We ate pizza and drank pitchers of beer at Hounddog’s.

I prefer dim lighting to ghostly green flash on food photos.
I prefer dim lighting to ghostly green flash on food photos.

We watched amusing and disturbing videos like Adult Swim’s Off The Air and captures of a Furby’s last moments.

The next morning we sat around taking in the morning light and chatting, and later ate at a cute Asian deli serving both vegan bagel sandwiches and spicy tuna bowls.

Townes Van Cat taking in the quiet Columbus morning
Townes Van Cat taking in the quiet Columbus morning
2015-04-11 12.16.30

Be sure to visit Cincinnati. Until last summer I thought the city was only pigs and P&G. Turns out I was mistaken. Cincy feels like an independent city state that happens to be in Ohio. My friend B was telling me that they designed it to be like New York City. I agreed that it smelled about the same.

Cincinnati’s architecture is classic and lovely. Some examples below.

2015-04-11 16.01.54
We need more clock towers. Sometimes I intentionally don’t have my watch or phone on me.
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There are two bicyclists in the middle of Main Street, in the shadows. Lots of bikes around, if you’re into that. Many people wear Reds apparel. Ohio is overall a very “red” state in terms of apparel.
2015-04-11 16.07.09
Down on Main Street

Definitely check out Main Street in Over-the-Rhine (OTR). Park + Vine is a general store and vegan cafe in OTR that satisfies me every time I visit. They serve vegan goetta, which is normally absolutely not vegan, a product of Cincy’s meat culture.

Worst State Ever? Nah,

Adventure Map for 2015 Road Trip

I’m following this rough map as I continue south then east then north on this road trip. So far I’m only at the first dot. Something like five days of driving to go, fortunately with things like eating, sleeping, and spending time with others in between.


I find it interesting how the shape of the path looks like a character from my old comic Behold The Cheese. This was not intentional. Also unintentional was how I wasn’t sleeping much the night before I started driving south. I swear.


The question is then, why go to all these places, in that order?

In Columbus, OH (my current location), I’m visiting one of my best friends, her husband, and their two animal children. We’ll eat, drink, and be merry.

In Kingsport, TN, I’m visiting family that I used to see once a year in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for family gatherings. Feels good to visit someone who normally makes the long drive. I’m looking forward to those blueish mountains too. So much so that I changed my phone wallpaper to be blue mountains.

In Asheville, NC, I’ll be mostly exploring around. I have a friend living there that I’ll probably have dinner with. Everyone keeps saying, “Oh man, Asheville’s great.” It’s time for me to find out why.

On the way between Asheville and Dallas, TX, I’m sure I’ll see some kudzu, country music, and hot springs. The days between are a little bit less planned intentionally.

In Dallas, I’ll be catching up with old coworkers and friends, and also seeing a show at the historic Granada Theater.

In Austin, I’ll be pretending to be hip and seeing a show at Stubb’s BBQ.

In Houston, I’ll be getting lost and seeing a show at Warehouse Live.

In New Orleans, I’ll be looking at architecture and musicians, while seeing more musicians at The Civic Theatre.

In Atlanta, I’ll spend time with my cousin whom I also normally only see once a year, and—you guessed it—seeing another show, this time at The Tabernacle.

In Raleigh, I’ll be looking for Maffé sauce. I’ll also be seeing a show at The Ritz, which is rated terribly on Yelp. I like going to places rated terribly and then being pleasantly surprised. Example: Lewis & Clark Motel in Bozeman, MT.

In DC, I’ll stop by 826DC, which is a sister nonprofit to the one I normally volunteer at, 826michigan. I also have family that lives around there.

NYC has so many BuzzFeed and Thrillist articles about what to do. I’m sure I’ll find a way to spend some hours. I better find a way to spend the night. 826NYC is also there, another sister nonprofit.

Finally, the last “planned” stop is Providence, RI to see a show at The Parlour. I love Rhode Island. I can’t wait for coffee milk and looking out at the water.

At some point I’ll drive back home, too.

Reflection on 2014

I recently created a Facebook Year In Review for 2014. I called it Millimeters By Intravenous, or MMXIV as an acronym, which is also 2014 written as roman numerals. Facebook could only create a review based on what I posted to Facebook. There were definitely gaps in the narrative from when I was deliberately offline. My offline times were my most transformative, and it felt strange to get on Facebook and write about what happened while offline. I don’t think the Facebook Year In Review was the right place to share what happened. In fact, quite a bit of hullabaloo came about when terrible life events were framed as celebratory in the Facebook Year In Review for others. I’ll avoid adding to that discussion. Instead, I’ll focus below on details of my own life, especially ones where I think my blog is a better medium.

Note that this entry touches on parts of my life I may not have revealed on this blog thus far. As I continue writing in 2015, I want my blog to be my primary outlet to the world, so expect additional personal entries like this one. It would be difficult for me to write about learning without sharing what went into my own learning, struggles and all.

The format of this entry is going to be a retrospective, or retro, format. As I’ve learned from my new and current employer, Detroit Labs, a retro typically covers three categories:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What needs to change?

I’m going to keep the details fairly short on each item, only elaborating where it affects the scope of the year as a whole. I’m sure I’ll write more entries about specific items, and I’ll hyperlink to those entries with future edits of this entry.

What Went Well?
I read a book called Self-Parenting, where I learned about psychographic profiles that most of us have called the Inner Parent and the Inner Child. I learned that most of my inner conflicts can be acted out as dialogue between the Inner Child and Inner Parent. When I found ways to keep the dialogue civil and constructive, I was better able to work out my inner disputes.

I started regularly running again, and this time all on my own. I hadn’t run seriously since 2012. Back in 2012 I lived around Dallas, TX, and I had trained with my friends for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I ran only some of the recommended training runs (and yes, I did finish the marathon with this inadequate training, but that’s another story), and only with my friends and never on my own. Turns out I love to able to run on my own for my own health and peace of mind and not for a race or any other goal.

I took journaling to the next level. I had been carrying a journal with me to most places since 2012, and I had used the journal to record little thoughts and observations at random intervals. This year I instead used my journal to write three pages of whatever comes to mind in the morning. This is Julia Cameron’s idea of the “morning pages“. Writing this amount has helped me see further into what’s really on my mind. A journal is a cheap therapist.

I went on a major road trip through North America’s northwest. I haven’t typed up my collected experience of this road trip yet, so I’m not sure if it will take multiple entries to explain. Essentially, the trip started in Seattle, WA where I hung out with friends for a few days. I then drove my rental Jeep Compass through the deserts of Washington, past the sapphire Ceour d’Alene over the Continental Divide of the Americas, in a Y shape around Montana that I loved and will visit again, across the green prairie of Alberta to Calgary’s metropolis, through the mountains and lakes of Banff and then British Columbia back down to Seattle. I followed a course similar to the one in the map below.
Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 16.53.44

I wrote out a vision of where I want to be in five years, and I have defined my life’s mission statement. I worked on these while on my road trip. When I type out the final versions of these, I’ll make them pages on this blog.

I saw some of my favorite acts live in concert. Throwing Muses is one of my favorite bands, and I caught their act in Seattle during my road trip. They haven’t played together in a very long time. I saw Tacocat at a block party concert by Calgary’s Luke’s Drug Mart (also a stop on the road trip), and they were kind enough to chat and take a photo with me after their set. I saw Sharon Van Etten at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI, and also chatted with her after the show. There were a few other great acts, but that’s for another post.

I officiated the wedding of one of my best friends and her husband. That’s right, I’m ordained.

I left my job in medical devices for an apprenticeship in mobile application development at Detroit Labs. For three months I learned about Java and Android in downtown Detroit with a handful of other apprentices of all different backgrounds (no computer science majors). It was the most supportive and simultaneously most challenging education experience I’ve been through. There’s plenty more to write about this experience, another time.

I graduated the apprenticeship at Detroit Labs. I’m now working as full-time developer, making Android apps for clients. I never thought I would write that.

I started taking habit tracking seriously. I use an app on my iPhone called Habit List, where I can record how many days a week I kept to a habit I want to build. Among the habits tracked: getting more sleep, meditating, running, journaling, and eating well. My final project of my Detroit Labs apprenticeship was an Android app I made called HabiTrack that helps the user keep up chains of good habits following Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

What Didn’t Go So Well?
My visit to Canada this summer as a whole. I enjoyed seeing Tacocat live in Calgary, and it was gorgeous to drive through Banff, but I did not do the right amount of planning for the rest of my stay. I’ll spare the details for now, but I’ll just advise against not having a data plan in Canada and driving through British Columbia in one sitting.

Sleeping in a Jeep Compass without good blankets or coats. There’s nothing wrong with a Jeep Compass—I actually really liked driving it. I just don’t recommend sleeping in one. On cold nights, without my coat or blankets, I wrapped myself in trash bags, to wake up to dew coating my legs. Sleeping in the back of the Compass is worse than sleeping in the seat. I would wake up with a sharp pain from my neck to my feat, almost wishing I hadn’t slept at all.

Finances. I won’t divulge numbers here, but I have not been staying within my budget this year. I leave this year in the black, but there’s a lot to do to improve saving.

I lost my grandfather. He was very important to me throughout my entire life. He’s the reason I ever started liking math, wordplay, and comics. He believed in my creativity and nourished it. I miss him. When he died, I vowed I would live a life as great as his.

What Needs To Change?
I can call Discover and Verizon before I do any international travel to enjoy my stay more.

I can save up more for travel and stay in more hotels or motels on future road trips. A bed is worth it.

I can get serious about systems for saving money. One trick I learned this year is to save $5 bills instead of spending them. It stacks up faster than I thought it would. To take this further, I plan on working out an envelope system of saving, where every dollar is allocated to something, even flex room. I can also create a habit to spend time on finances on a consistent basis.

There’s plenty more to work on in 2015, but I’m glad I made it through 2014. Discomfort and loss were major emotional tones this year, but I think I was in a better place to work through them. I have a job I really like and I’ve got the momentum of the habit changes and hard work I’ve done this year.

2015, let’s do this.

To the future,
Arthur Hovinc