I felt a nostalgic feeling typing the URL to this blog into firefox – bringing back fond and exciting memories from my time on the road, my adventures with “the Red Lady” (which now resides in my office kitchen, at Namaste Solar and is named “In Flagrante Delicto”), and my one-way journey to Colorado in May 2009.  Well, it’s now April 2011, nearly two years after I arrived in the Rocky Mountain state and a lot has happened to/for me in that time.

1. I have traveled extensively through and around Colorado, sharing my life and backyard with many new and old friends;

2. I adopted dear Siena T. Pup from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. I adopted her as an 8-week old pup, and she’s now a nearly 2-year old adolescent Lab/Pointer mix.

3. I met, dated, courted and am now engaged to a wonderful, loving, platinum-hearted, beautiful, smart girl, Meghan.  I’ll save the story of our meeting and courtship for later posts. This will be the teaser;

4.  Meghan, Dharma (her dog), Siena and I all moved in together in May 2010 to a rental house with 2 nice sized yards near a lake;

5.  I have settled into my new job as a fancy lawyer of a solar company;

6. I earned my stripes as a bona fide, licensed Colorado attorney;

7. And I convinced my younger brother to move out from NYC to Boulder to pursue the promise of cleaner and more balanced living.

I’m reviving this blog as a way of re-connecting.  Re-c0nnecting with the people this blog has entertained, with my self-identity, my passions, my story and with the threads that have woven a life I’m proud and fortunate to live.

If you don’t believe me…check the maps, because maps don’t lie.

I was up and on the road by 5.30.  The drive was pleasantly uneventful. I did, however, have to combat a steady 35 mph cross wind that I thought was going to sail my car south to the gulf of mexico. I had to drive with the wheel turned to the right, just so I could head straight.  To give you perspective on this, you had to exert 3x as much force to open a car door, bugs were splattering against the passenger windows (in addition to the obligatory bug extermination that took place on my windshield), and if you pee’d away from the wind, it would carry about 15′.

Kansas is actually scenic, with its rolling prairies and large wind farms.  I now know why early scientists believed the earth was flat.  I don’t believe this because driving out to CO has converted me into a creationist…no, it is because visually, it felt like I was driving uphill for 1,800 miles, when in fact, I was driving on mostly flat terrain, just arced around the curvature of the earth.  Thus, I was driving around the curvature of the earth towards the precipice that lay at each horizon.  Ok, I also learned that since I didn’t drive off of the face of the earth that the earth must be oblong because after each horizon was another horizon, and so on and so forth, until I arrived in Denver.  As I have said before, drinking alcohol should be done with caution when one first arrives in the mile high city.  My first micro-brew as a resident of CO packed a punch and hit me like rum and coke.  I have officially hooked myself up to intravenous fluids to stave off the immediate onset of dehydration – another welcoming condition of the dry air at high altitude.

I am heading up to Boulder later today to meet the rest of the company and get started on paperwork.  Get started on planning your visit already!

Hasta luego,

Jason, CO

Cracker Barrel serves fat-laden and bad food.  This branch is located off of I-70, about 12 miles east of Indianapolis, in a state I previously noted was simply depressing.  Lured by a roadside advertisement for a $29.99 room in a Days Inn, naturally…I paid $45.  This branch was run by a polite if hard-charging Indian man. What brought him from his home country – which I’m sure is lovely- to this particular hell-hole in Indiana, I will never understand.  Needless to say, after checking in and setting down my things in a room politely marked as non-smoking (clearly more a request than an order given the overwhelming stench of stale discount cigarettes), I was ready for some eats.  The only thing around was a CVS, the sour patch kids of which I refused to dine on, and a Cracker Barrel.  “Table for 1 please.”  The hostess sat me at the exterior-facing position at a 4-person table – evincing indignation for my status as a solo traveler – a jab to the arm of a lonesome eater.  After a 3 month long solo sojourn last summer, I was unaffected by the gesture and so I looked forward to what I thought would be a pleasant quasi-fast food franchise meal.  Although the restaurant was nearly empty, save for a sparse population of unanimously obese people (another sad reflection on the state of the American diet, and our sorry public health), my waiter was in a hurry.  He wanted my drink and food order all at once, and STAT!  “I’ll have the bbq pork with mac and cheese and green beans.”

Just about as soon as I could close my menu, it seemed the food arrived.  Just enough time for a 2 minute stint in the microwave, my food was served, all in separate plates, which wouldn’t have been weird except the dabble of bbq pork looked about as lonely and out of place as a dignified Indian man running a Days Inn near Indianapolis, IN.  AND, the food tasted micro-waved. I decided to wash down this horrendous meal with sugar-free apple pie, with full-sugared vanilla ice cream.  The waiter had been in such a hurry he cleared all the plates except the one mini bowl of mac/cheese, or more aptly, noodles in imitation velveeta/non-dairy creamer.  When asked why I didn’t like the M&C, I politely responded “YOU CALL THIS EDIBLE?!?” No, seriously, just too dang runny and cheesy, or non-dairy creamer-y.

The flea bag motel had to be good for something, because it came with free wifi and HBO. I watched an episode of “Poetry Jams,” which seems to be about overly dramatic urban youth recounting poems that make audiences sob in tears – sounds uplifting. No really, it was a good show and I’ll probably watch further episodes.

So at some point during the night my phone died without so much as a dying utterance and so my wake up call never came.  My intended 5am waking time was pushed off until 7.30 – way too much time to stay asleep when I’m breathing what smells like I imagine asbestos smells like.  As soon as I washed down some tepid, weak coffee, I hit the road.  The drive was uneventful and the weather was perfect for driving – cool, clear, blue sky.  I cut the driving short to spend the day with family friends in the Ladue part of St. Louis – which is lovely.

To document my travel from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, I have resumed posting to travelographer. Check back often for photos of the journey and journal text. Day 1 consisted of driving 770 miles from Putnam Valley, NY to outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. I hope to make it to Kansas City tomorrow.
Pictures can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/jrwiener

I must apologize to Pavoni-philes who are wondering what has become of the esteemed unidentified Pavoni machine that has found itself in my grips.  I’m here, finally, to update the story…this will be a work in progress.

Shortly after the overhaul, I ran into electrical issues with the Pavoni’s automatic water refill solenoid – it just didn’t work.  I deduced several theories:

a) The  balance of the water in Putnam Valley is outside the range of operability and therefore the water valve will not trigger; or

b) I had made mistakes when I re-connected the copper plumbing and mistakenly by-passed a valve that would give the solenoid a proper water level reading; or

c) the water refill level sensor was not making proper contact with the water (testing this hypothesis produced a low-voltage shock that discouraged me from meddling with the Red Lady while electrified); or

d) the water refill solenoid was clogged; or

e) the only on-board electrical circuit board was fried (a common problem according to Home Barrista); or

f) the water refill solenoid was just…simply…broken.

Turns out, based on my amateur sleuthing and diagnostic skills, the issue was a hybrid between (e) and (f).  I replaced the water refill solenoid and spent considerable time researching the proper wiring match-up for the GIAC ECU control module (which does not exist for my configuration).  I utilized some simple deductive reasoning and the fact that I am not color blind to properly power the water solenoid and when I clicked on the machine, the solenoid made its productive clicking noise, opening the valve to allow water into the boiler.  These machines were way ahead of their time, and the water refill solenoid, when active, cuts off power to the heating element, so that the heatingelement does not generate steam that will combat the incoming cold water and cause interference.

I spent the next several weeks perfecting the proper balance of grind coarseness, dosing quantity, and brew group pre-heating to obtain the zeldaof espresso shots.  I promise a video of the Red Lady in action, producing an awesome stream of caffeinated greatness from the bottomless (aka naked) portafilter.

Fast forward 2 months and the interference of other of life’s obligations and I find myself in the process of moving out of the parents’ house to my own apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Of course, when inspecting the apartment for the basics- working faucets, sturdy wood floors and ceiling, and basic aesthetics, I also investigated the potential for installing a 220-volt outlet and plumbing for the Red Lady.  This machine has become an appendage much like a pet.  The apartment has a washer and dryer in the unit, so I knew I could split the water line for the washer into two lines; one for the washer machine and one for the Red Lady. 

I will spare readers the tedium of hearing about the moving process and the details of the remainder of my life…frankly, I realize the Pavoni is the only interesting thing going for me.

The Pavoni needed a station, and so I researched commercial stainless steel work tables, which provide a superior spill-proof surface and a sturdy platform for barrista-ing.  I settled on a good deal; an Aero table measuring 30″x48″.  The table features a lower deck, for the wine cooler (courtesy of woot.com) and bar tools.  On top of the table, I placed the Red Lady and the grinder.  This absurdum is the first thing guests and visitors see upon entering my apartment – a testament to my relative insanity or level of commitment to the bean.

Moving day was busy…to say the least.  On top of orchestrating painting, moving, boxes, neighborly welcomes, the cable/internet installer, I also had an electrician provide an estimate for wiring a 220-volt outlet.  He quoted $400 for the job, including all parts and labor.  The electrician, we’ll call him “Enabler,” came a couple of days after the dust settled (literally and proverbially) from moving day.  His work took only 3-4 hours to run 220-volt juice from 2-30 amp breakers to a space on the wall adjacent to the Barrista station.  The plug is a typical 3-prong dryer plug, which will look awfully out of place if I ever move.

To plumb water to the Red Lady, I purchased a brass Y-splitter, which will split the cold water between the washer machine and the Pavoni.  There is a water shut-off on each, as extra protection for when either machine is not in use.  I snaked 1/4″ rubber tubing from the laundry area through the kitchen and around the wall to the Pavoni. 

Red Lady lit right up on the first try…which is not surprising since it requires only the flick of a switch.  But, more importantly, turning the Pavoni on does not dim the lights of the apartment, or interfere with the electrical load of the rest of the building.  The electrician simply cautioned me against using the air conditioners and the espresso machine simultaneously. This may trip a breaker for the whole building. I guess duringthe summer I’ll be sipping espresso while sweating, or cooled by the de minimis cross-breeze.

Again, I promise pictures and further maintenance best practices…check back for updates.

Here is a Happy Holiday edition of Travelosophy. Enjoy.

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.  When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age.  In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job.  Nothing has worked.  Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.  The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage.  In other words, I don’t improve, in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.”

-John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America,” 1971, p. 3.

“It would be pleasant to be able to say of my travels with Charley, “I went out to find the truth about my country and I found it.”  And then it would be such a simpler matter to set down my findings and lean back comfortably with a fine sense of having discovered truths and taught them to my readers. I wish it were that easy. But what I carried in my head and deeper in my perceptions was a barrel of worms. I discovered long ago in collecting and classifying marine animals that what I found was closely intermeshed with how I felt at the moment. External reality has a way of being not so external at all.

This monster of a land, this mightiest of nations, this span of the future, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me.  If an Englishman or a Frenchman or an Italian should travel my route, see what I saw, hear what I heard, their stored pictures would be notonly different from mine but equally different from one another. If other Americans reading this account should feel it true, that agreement would only mean that we are alike in our Americanness.”

-John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America,” 1971, p. 209.

I am moved whenever I read an apt quote about the wild or the outdoors.  Muir, the consummate outdoorsman, captured best the sentiment:

“The tendency nowadays to wander in wilderness is delightful to see.  Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.  Awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their little ongoings with those of nature, and to rid of rust and disease.”

– John Muir, The Atlantic Monthly, August 1897