Road Trip Rule #10 – Know when to…

Road Trip Rule 10

As you may have guessed, the ‘road’ part of the road trip is done.  However in the week or so that I’ve been “home,” and seeing how where I’m at still doesn’t feel like a home, I think the mental and spiritual part of the trip is not done.  At least not done like toast is done, where it can’t be put back in.  So I’m not closing the books just yet.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I’ve enjoyed have some structure in which to record these thoughts.  I’ll remain vigilant and with open eyes and ears will continue to record and share.  I’ve learned enough to know it’s one thing I’m here for.


Alden (old-friend) John (from my father) Olmsted
November 2016

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10,000 miles, 4 months, 22 states… yes wow is in order

Ok but did I

Bookends.  Even before I learned about screenplays from the master Blake Snyder himself, I recognized as well as many have, how many movies ended in the same spot where they began, with one basic question.  So what?  Did this guy or girl change?  What did we get on that roller coaster for?  Was it really just for the ride?

Bonneville Salt Flats 2016
Beginnings just look different.. Bonneville in June


My time in Chicago was aptly placed.  At the end of an amazing, exhausting, emotional, soul-searching, at times lonesome, at times crowded trip, I ended up in the city of cool buildings, surrounded by fans of a certain team that had over 100 years of pent up frustration and tragic curses to power through.

Sheesh.  Try not to glean any similarities from THAT.

LIAH Lion cubs hat

I saw Chicago as I have before, with very good friends from California K and B, through eyes old and young.

LIAH Becca looks up

LIAH Willis T up

LIAH K and B fam

LIAH Go cubs go

The night before the big game I managed to connect with some good Cubs fans who invited me to brave the wilds of Wrigleyville for the first World Series game played there in 108 years – if I was up for it.

LIAH Roadhouse grill


Yes I was.

I won’t go into all the details but after a three hour wait to get in to the bar, a great game but one-run loss for the cubs, a long conversation with a cute Chicago DA (Samantha if you’re reading this look me up when you’re in SF), a dead phone and a late night memory exercise on Chicago’s transit system that resulted in a police ride home, my head hit the pillow, knowing I too left it all on the field.


See what I mean with these darn metaphors.


My insightful friends in Chicago had mentioned, “are you alright?” a few days before, as I sometimes have too much boiling up to hide, and on this particular day I was failing big.  Why?  Because I wasn’t ok. Because the road home was clear, and reality was settling in – after all these miles, all the great places I’d been, all the new and old people I’d met and visited, I knew what I knew at the beginning: the problems back home were waiting for me and didn’t give a rat’s a** how much fun I’d had.  And I knew it.  I knew it.

But money was running out, weather was changing, and I had to make the call.


So I did what I know how to do.  I drove.  I drove all through the night.  I stopped when I wanted to see something I hadn’t seen before.  Like a forest in Iowa.

LIAH Iowa tree stump busted
I played my ukulele on the banks of the Mississippi River.  I stopped at rest areas.  I slapped my face until I heard the tires hitting the bumps on the side of the freeway then I stopped again. I woke up at 4am and kept driving.  I ate pancakes and hash browns in North Platte.  I watched football in Wyoming in an old saloon where the bartenders still smoke.  I stopped once the landscape began to change and just stood there.

LIAH Nevada pan chrysler

Taking it all in.


Then I thought about the statement at the top.  If this is it, if this is the end of the ‘road’ part of the trip, what did I learn?  What was I reminded of?

Well fortunately I had many miles to think it over:

I was reminded how big this country is (duh).
I was reminded how many chain stores we have.
I was reminded how cheap lawn chairs are at Walmart.
I was reminded that might be the only thing I will buy at Walmart.
I was reminded how beautiful the west is.
I was reminded how different the heat feels in Arizona than it does in Austin.  And Charlotte.


I learned how good it is to just go.  To just take off and not know every stop.
I learned how good the food is in Nashville, the roads in Louisiana, the corn fields in Virginia, and how cheap the beer is – pretty much everywhere outside of California.

I learned I like the South.
I learned that though it’s a cliche you really can’t take the California out of the boy.
I learned that the Chrysler ran faster than it had in years, though I never learned why.
I was reminded how many people love to talk to someone who is on a journey.
Whether or not that person is in the mood to talk is irrelevant.

I was reminded how many friends I have, strewn all about, and what kind of people they are.

hint – The really good kind.

I was reminded how much I love the smell of gas, and of the land as you breathe it in.
I was reminded that my choice to fly to Indiana 17 years ago and buy a certain gold convertible was a really,
good one.

I learned that the one thing rich or poor, old or young, that we all fall under, is time.
I was reminded of how important it is to spend it well.  And I still don’t know what to do about that girl.

Walking on water - harder than it looks

Appropriately enough a full-blown snow storm was my test to re-enter California:

LIAH I 80 snow

The Chrysler stayed the course.  Sandwiched between semi trucks on three sides this 50-year old car that few think might make it to LA let alone around the U.S. was as solid as the day I bought it almost 17 years ago.  Before Obama, before 9/11, before y2k.  When Britney was still queen.
And I made it.

And man that Welcome to California sign still looks good.


It really does.

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Road Trip Rule #9:

Oh the stars
Oh the stars

I did it in California, I did it in Arizona, same for Utah and New Mexico.  Texas?  Nope I tried but the threat of an agitated gator kept me inside my (I’m sure) impervious nylon tent.  No matter – I had my fill.  If you want a good road trip, gotta brave the elements at least once and let your mind wander up to the constellations.  Are aliens out there?  What about satellites?  What are the people on the space station doing right now?  Probably watching Law and Order.  What about the cute girls two tents over?  You’ll drift off around 12 or 1 but maybe you’ll wake up around 4 to pee and be so glad you did.  Enjoy it while you can.

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On the road since June.. and the weirdest part? It doesn’t feel weird

EXT. Mid-morning – A random street in middle America 

A huge boat of a car, gold, floats over patched streets in the town of Kent, Ohio.
The driver remarks to himself that despite the signs he really doesn’t know where
he is, or it could be said, there’s nothing on a per street basis that makes Kent
all that different from New Jersey, upstate New York, from parts of Virginia,
or Maryland, or even Sacramento.  What’s interesting to the driver is how
little unease he feels, that this “out-of-city” transcendental experience is
beginning to feel… well,


Anytown, USA
Anytown, USA


I first noticed this phenomenon I think in Louisiana, but it could have been Mississippi.. heck who even knows anymore.  I was at a diner where the locals were piling in for just another midday lunch.  Their conversations gave it away, if their clothes hadn’t already.  Construction guys, office workers, a few nurses.. they lined up at the first of many “meat and three’s” I would visit throughout the southern U.S.  I realized that unless I broke the fourth wall and spoke to someone, which I did about 1/3 of the time, that I was, for the most part.. invisible.  I was a fly. A passerby, a sojourner, whatever other descriptive label might cause a romantic view of “life on the road.”

LIAH Brocatos 2
LIAH Brocato's


This I think is something very strange, something that only happens when certain circumstances are present, or missing.  A deadline. A schedule. A partner with an opinion. If you want to disappear, hit the road – with no firm destination.. You’ll find it actually not that difficult to disappear.

Even to yourself.

Floating on White Lake, NC

*       *       *

But it wasn’t just that the towns looked or felt similar, it was that the strangeness of being on the road for this long of a period faded away – possibly somewhere around North Carolina.  Maybe it was leaving a friends’ house work-project in Charlotte that had me excited and actually aching for the road.  On the road things made sense.  On the road I could stop or go, fast or slow, sleep or not as the mood struck me.  But it’s more than just some kind of bachelor – freedom thing, I think it happened when the adventure outweighed the fear.

It wasn’t that I was nervous, so much as I was hoping against hope that everything would be fine.  That this thing I so needed and had thought about and planned for so long was actually going to happen, and not just barely happen but happen well.    And it did.  It really did.

The Narrows in Zion - All images ©2016 Alden Olmsted
The Narrows in Zion – All images ©2016 Alden Olmsted

Maybe getting over the hump of driving a 50 year old car from coast to coast and ending up in one piece gave me the confidence I needed.  Not the just the confidence to travel in an old car, but the confidence to do what I was there to do, talk to people, enjoy the land, discover things and share them.

Tony and A zion narrows


Anything but blend in.

Of course my car doesn’t really allow the blending in part, and that’s probably a good thing.

LIAH Monument and Indians

After all even flies need friends.

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The Search for Identity… My final companion

Tom petty was well into his amazing 40+ year career when he hit his first big identity crisis.  As Warren Zanes documents in his book Petty: The Biography, though the first two albums had solidified Tom and Co.’s byrds-brit-southern sound as solid radio staple, and the singles and touring had brought a modicum of success to both Petty and the members of the Heartbreakers, Petty was faced with one of the harsher realities of success.

He had become a brand.

And as a brand he had to clear up some blurred financial lines, cut a few ties, and draw up a new contract that would both give him more control, as well as reward him for the large part he’d built in creating this engine – an engine that now employed many people and had gotten more than a little… messy.  

He had to break with the heartbreakers.



What he had to grapple with personally though was losing his identity – or at least seeing it change dramatically. The determinedly independent kid from north Florida who wanted to be Elvis – and stick a big middle finger to anyone who said he couldn’t – especially his dad, now had to be wary of becoming one of the things rock musicians, and artists in general, all agree to despise: just another big, bloated company cranking out singles, leaving friends and relationships in their wake. Who would this new person be?  Could he be all things to all people, his fans, the band, his family?


Answer: a little bit yes a little bit no. Though forced to adapt and learn to handle the business side of rock, a person like Tom Petty at his core will never change.

*        *        *

I was reading this particular chapter on a bus from Nashville to Atlanta, on the way to get my car in Maryland and get on with my soul-searching trip.  I’d just written a post on how I was finally happy.  I was flying high, or at least as high as a jobless artist and rambling purpose – seeker can.  I was finally able to let go – like I wanted – of the last four years’ frustrations and stuttered starts, financial dry heaves that though they appeared to be working only really resulted in.. exhaustion.


I was thinking of all this when the bus pulled off in Chattanooga.  Calling it a bus stop would be a stretch, it was really just a patch of sidewalk where the weeds were winning and no businesses dared enter.  It was a quick stop, just enough time for a few people to jump on board.  I’d gone down the stairs to stand up a bit and use the restroom, when a desperate passenger caught my ear. Apparently he hadn’t purchased a ticket in time and the way this bus works they don’t accept cash – you can’t just hop on.  Maybe it keeps the riff raff off, though it’s probably just how they vary pricing and availability.  With just a few minutes to spare before the bus would leave, he pleaded with someone, anyone, to help, offering cash if someone would buy his ticket online and get him on board.

You can probably guess what happened.   Eric said thanks, handed me the cash and sat down.

“C’mon!” I thought,
“I’m reading, I’m into my book,
I’m exploring tom petty’s career and thinking about identity,
I’m feeling close to a breakthrough, I had my own bench seat,
blah blah blah…”

*        *        *

Eric is a nice enough dude, was just trying to get to a concert in Atlanta.  A French metal band.  I thought they were all Norse or Gaelic but it’s been a while.  He works at a bar in Chattanooga and dreams of starting his own someday. He rides bikes, doesn’t own a car, has a hipster beard but clearly had it before it was cool, and yep, you guessed it, has a big, ugly past involving a dad who left the whole family in the lurch.  Not just left but  stopped wanting to be a dad.  A real low life.

highvelocity-bar Atlanta GA

So it was that I found myself inside the JW Marriott in Atlanta Georgia, having dinner with Eric the bicyclist in a packed sports bar on a typical nfl Sunday, surrounded by business travelers and wedding parties, with lots of coors light and shiner bock flowing from the bar.  I wasn’t even one day into leg II, heck I hadn’t even got to my car yet, and there we were, two guys raised on bikes, skateboards, and rebellion, talking about fathers.  When I left him I could tell the tears were coming.

The funny part obviously,
is this isn’t exactly news to any of my long term friends.

*        *        *

So if this is who I am then, why don’t I just embrace it?  Why don’t I seek out these conversations and connections, head out on the road for good, become a modern day Paul or Barnabas, spreading my own gospel of fathers, forgiveness, sunshine, and California?

Alden at Sutter Buttes - Heres to ya
Probably because I’m human.  Because I still need to be reminded of why I’m here, even when it’s staring me in the face, surrounding me on all sides, a penchant for connecting with those in the margins as well as those who just like to hear stories, and are willing to share their own.

Red Cross friends in Jasper, TX 2005
Red Cross friends in Jasper, TX 2005


*        *        *

I arrived in DC the next morning.  An overnight bus ride with a packed population doesn’t exactly result in a wide awake and joyous attitude going into the new day. Nevertheless and not surprisingly, I got talking to a Doctor from Massachusetts who was in town visiting his son, one son is doing well and one son he’s a little concerned about.  We talked for hours over coffee at Ebenezer’s near union station, a place that now feels like home, though I’ve never spent more than a couple days in DC.  

We left the same way as Eric and I did, exchanging e-mails and me promising to send links to watch the film about dad, and both Eric and the doctor responding almost identically: 

“great talking to you, good luck and safe travels,
sounds like you’re on an amazing journey.”

Yes, I guess I am.

From Eric in Chattanooga, to Dr. Dobrow in DC, to Len and his wife on the airplane at the halfway point,  to many, many folks along the way, I keep being asked to share my story at unsuspecting times when I think I’m just here for this experience, for me.

Obviously it’s clear I’m not here for just me.. not even close.


*        *        *



As a kid my identity was simple, it was my bike. All day, everyday, my bike was my life. Fixing it, jumping it, customizing it. It was who I was, a troubled kid who had found an outlet.  Ok and channeling the karate kid on the schoolyard was a close second, just to be honest.

*        *        *

As an adult my identity has been a hodgepodge of long term friendships, road trips and adventures, film and photography, endless attempts at stability.  In fact way too many to count.

South Yuba River Waterfall 1999

But I know it’s also connecting people – to each other and to all of our stories and common ties.

Annadel donates
Saving Annadel in 2011
Giving directions in Vicksburg, MS
Dill California shot one
Shooting my first film! Dill, California (2007)


*        *        *

Maybe that’s why questions about my Olmsted family emerged as I planned this trip.  Finding out who dad, grandfather, great grandfather and others were in the past, I’m hoping can offer great insight to the present.


So I continue.  Visiting Cornell University today to research Great Grandfather Faye Deveaux Olmsted, Chief engineer at the Olmsted power plant that I visited way back in June  – at the beginning of this amazing trip – for those following along.

Parking at Cornell University

Cornell Library Rare Books and Research

What will I find?

I don’t know, but I said I needed this, and I think I was onto something..  so forward I go.

Following – what exactly?  An instinct?  A calling?  My heart?

“And isn’t it lonely?”
– said a man in upstate NY

Yes it can get lonely, but not as lonely as I’ve been before.  Something I’m supposed to do is my companion.  Someone I have yet to meet – maybe purpose?  I honestly don’t have a word for it just yet.

Maybe next week.




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So now you’re happy huh? Get ready for the Smackdown

It’s an old rule of storytelling, or at least it’s evident in the storytelling of modern motion pictures: when everything seems to going great…

*         *         *

So I should have known.  I should’ve been aware when I exclaimed from the rooftops “I’m happy again!”  Someone was listening.

“Oh really.. You’re happy?  You’re content?
What’s your name again – It starts with a ‘J’ right?”

Only two days from leaving California, ready and eager to begin chapter two of my trip, to dive in and meet people and keep seeing and keep discovering, I get one of those phone calls.  My car is gone.  Not towed, gone.  Not the car, not the road tripper, but the commuter car, the old but durable and very useful Honda back in California.  In the car were card samples and products, receipts and personal info, but mainly, my guitar.  My Taylor guitar.. yes worth more than the car.  Man.


The next day the company I’d signed a long sought-after licensing deal with sends me a cold email terminating the whole deal – before any products have been made, any royalties have been earned.  Just like that I went from bursting with fruit flavor on the mountain to slipping and sliding through east bay mud at sea level.


My maybe place to stay in NY turned into a no, the campsite I was excited about closed for the season two days early, and though I couldn’t believe it was happening again, some of my retailers were actually asking for more cards – after I’d just spent a month restocking them!

And I had a bus ride from Atlanta to DC to think about it.


*         *         *

And then – and since we’re on a movie track – I remembered Luke.   

We were all so excited – Luke had found his mentor! He’d found yoda. Rigorous training began, new outlooks were presented, new challenges, and of course, new solutions, ones he’d never thought of. 

Like belief. Belief that things aren’t always what they seem, that the impossible doesn’t have to be.

And then, just like that, he must go.  his friends are in trouble.  

The real world wasn’t waiting for his training like some snooty general on a civilized battlefield.

[in a British accent circa 1600]

“Shoot your arrows sir, then I’ll shoot mine!” What’s that – you’re reloading?  We’ll wait.”

No.  Time waits for no man, and all that relief we felt as he’d found his teacher was gone, and though Luke promised to return, Yoda’s face and our own instincts assured us he wouldn’t.  He was desperately needed, and whatever formal training he’d gotten, would be enough. It would have to.

*         *         *

So what do you do?

Me ? I took inventory.  Like it or not I still had to either continue the trip or drive home, and my car was waiting for me in Maryland – and with a nice new top after all these years.  I had at least three friends I wanted to see and who were waiting to see me.  I had a business meeting in Brooklyn that I had to try and make.  My business now had clear challenges, and if I wanted to make it this might be as good a crossroad scenario as any.

But most importantly, was I done?  Was I done seeing.  Was I done being on a trip before the 2nd half even got underway?  I didn’t know.  At the bus stop in Chattanooga there was a guy who only had cash and the driver didn’t take cash, so I paid for his spot online and he gladly reimbursed me.  We got talking and since there was a 3 hour break in Atlanta we went to a sports bar at the Marriott and watched football surrounded by an odd but hilarious mix of business travelers, a wedding party, and lots of people drinking too much.  At the end he was in tears hearing about dad’s story, and he shared his own struggles with a dad who was present and then left in his teenage years who he definitely wasn’t planning on forgiving.  I left him with links to watch the film and was encouraged to at least keep paying attention – these types of connections have become more common.


I picked up my car in Maryland.  Income from the work I’d done in August started to come in.  I saw old friend Joe Sell and his wife and newborn in PA.  I made it to an Olmsted legacy event in NJ and found a place to stay for a couple nights, and even tried Airbnb for the first time – on Staten Island no less.  Yes it was rainy.  Yes NY is 1000% different when you’re not being shown around by a local as I had in the past, but still.  The trip had changed, and very quickly, but so does life.

*         *         *

I’m not sure when the trip will end, or when I’ll feel *done,* possibly a little sooner than I’d hoped, but I’m here.  I’m going to show up and be ready.   There’s still more to see.  The car has a nice new snug top, the heater still kicks a**, there’s still a place waiting for me upstate, and the business has challenges but they’re the good kind, the kind that involve how to handle growing demand.

Rahway River Parkfort-wadsworthStaten Island Ferry

Staten Island was a little strange, Fort Wadsworth was really cool, and I’ve never been upstate.  This is what I came for – the unexpected.   And that’s not a bad thing.


YESSS!!! Tight new top in time for part II of the trip! Boo yah!! #1966chrysler #lifeisahighway #mopar #roadtrippin

A video posted by Alden Olmsted (@aldenolms) on

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Road Trip Rule #6:

Road Trip Rule #6
Camping goes suburban in Austin, TX

It sounds simple enough: a friend (on a social media site) says “Wait, you’re in Austin? ____ [old friend] lives there now – You should totally call her!”

Awesome – thanks I will!

Cut to:
A rushed response (old friend’s phone’s about to die)
“Hi Alden yes I know _____ – you can absolutely stay at our place – let me call you in a bit..”

Text received:
‘Hi Alden! Here’s the address
[5** Emily Dr.
Austin, TX]
– I might be a little late’

Two hours later – You have *one* unheard message:
(cutting in and out)
“Hey Alden – So.. do you have a tent? There’s a roommate that I’m trying to kick out – I don’t really live at my place right now – it’s a long story – but she’s really nice – you can stay it’s no problem – sorry my phone’s about to die – good luck on your trip it sounds like an adventure!”

An adventure?  It sure is honey and now you’re part of it.

*author’s note: This post in no way reflects said friend, said old friend, or the city of Austin, TX.  All risks and judgement are the responsibility of the author and the generosity of each friend, esp. the one on whose home lawn I crashed on, is still appreciated and was never in question.

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Ok I’ll just say it – I’m HAPPY (again) !

Or, “how Tim Ferriss and AC/DC may have just saved my life.”

        *       *       *


Why should it feel so strange to say?  It’s not like I’m announcing an affair, or a coming out, or that I’m marrying that one girl that annoys everyone but I don’t care cause we’re in love and…  No.  None of those things.  Just happy.  Optimistic.  Excited.  Hopeful.  Engaged.  Focused.  Ready.

Still, writing those words “I’m happy,” and meaning it, feels somehow superior, like I should be sensitive to those who aren’t.

“But I was one of those who couldn’t say I was truly happy – and very recently I might add..!”


It’s similar to how I felt the first time I drove my 1966 Chrysler convertible after I got it home from Indiana. I felt the stares, I heard the calls, I saw the looks.  I felt like the grand marshall of a parade honoring.. me.

“Look at him driving that thing Harold, he can’t even park, it’s taking up two spots, he’s in our lane, and..”

It’s a happy birthday in the new ride.. The Russian River and Penny Island in the background

And yet why shouldn’t I have felt good about that moment?  I earned it after all.  I took the bus to a crappy job every day and saved pennies and moved back in with mom and took on a second job at night and found my dream car and put my money towards something I thought was exactly what I needed and it was.

If the road fits...
If the road fits… Polaroid Emulsion peel 1999

What a sorry state of affairs and lies that we’ve bought into.. feeling strange about just saying I’m happy.  Finally happy.  Yes really.  Happy.



*       *       *

Since I like beginnings and roots and talking about beginnings and roots let’s start at the beginning.



Even just reading the word you’re probably doing it right now.  

“But it’s just muscles and cheeks and.. “ 

No, smiling is more, a real smile comes from inside, something that your heart tells your mind to tell your face to do and your mind says – “what do you think – I haven’t been paying attention?? I know he’s happy!”

A smile might mean the date was really really good, or you’re riding a motorcycle for the first time, or you’re beginning a project or journey that’s long dreamt of.  Or something simple like hearing the voice of an old friend on the phone.  

*       *       *

I haven’t been this happy, or at least on the verge of real happiness, for maybe 5 years. Wait – no it would be been before taking care of my dad- wait, maybe before I left for Hollywood – was it – yes, it was – day one of shooting my first film ten years ago.  TEN years??


Am I saying I haven’t been happy for ten years?

I guess not truly happy, no.. 

Dill California shot one
Day one shooting Dill, California

Hold on I need to let this sink in a bit.


This might be more than one post can contain.

Ten years really? 

I know I’ve had good moments in there, good days, even good weeks.. a few successes and a few triumphs I’m sure.  I’ve met some great friends, took care of my dad, made a few films, started a small business, dated a couple girls that were.. well to be honest a little bit of trouble, but as a friend once said, “you’re the guy who walks into a party, sees the hottest girl there who’s and she’s wearing a shirt that says ‘trouble,’ that’s who you go for.”  

That’s not true!


Fine maybe it’s a little true.  Stupid friends.


But ten years?  Sheesh that’s a lot of work for not much payoff, and –

!! Ding-ding-ding-ding!! That’s it!  Lots of work and effort that just didn’t pay off.  That’s it!  At least not as much as the effort required.  It’s been like working 40 hours and getting a check for 20. Things just weren’t adding up.  Did I let my ambitions slide a little, set my goals and dreams to low, trying for “just enough,” rather than shooting for more than I needed?  I don’t know.  And right now, I actually don’t care.

See what I mean – probably too much for one post.


*       *       *

So what about Tim Ferriss and AC/DC?

First Tim.  My back and forth life of the last four years has had many “sand pit” moments ala Winnie – the – Pooh.  Moments that had happened before but I knew one of these times had to lead to a breakthrough.  This past January, though I’d seen the title and flipped through it a bit (and though I actually like working more than 4 hours), I finally picked up Tim Ferriss’s seminal lifestyle and entrepreneurs’ bible “The Four-Hour Work Week.”


I think it was a timing thing.  I’d read articles and parts of books for years that are supposed to alter one’s patterns or bad business habits to lead to a new life, but Mr. Ferris does a good job of not letting you off the hook with just words.  He forces you to think about every single thing that you’ve let get in the way, and lays out a very clear path that will use your talents to build an income that can lead to an entirely different life.  I finally got real about my postcards and photography business.  So what if a postcard only wholesales for $.50, and a notecard at $2.  If I were selling a few thousand of them each month, and if I could automate the packaging and order fulfillment, multiplied by however many new designs I can crank out, well.. that could be real income.  More importantly, it’s a model that only needs me to continue to create – something I love and want to do anyway.

Setting out specific goals and therefore a specific path, finally had me focused on the right thing – and focusing on only that one thing – for the first time in many years.


I will readily admit I’ve had a less than great opinion of Australian rockers AC/DC for years.  Not that I didn’t think them talented or legitimate rockers, they were just never ‘my thing.’  Three chords, choruses repeated endlessly, 40 years of simple songs about booze and girls, blah blah blah…  Not my thing.

Around the time I was just diving into Tim’s book, I was listening to a lot of music through song shuffling apps.. you’ve heard of them, one of them is kind of iffy but usually hits the spot, and anyway I was listening to things like John Mayer, Jack Johnson, even a little country like Maren Morris.  All talented.  All good.

Then one day a John Mayer song – one of the lighter, fluffier songs like maybe Heartbreak Warfare, got repeated on shuffle, and I guess I’d had it.  The LA sun was shining in the room might has well have been shining through a plexiglass biosphere in a dystopian future..  I found an 80’s rock playlist and turned it up.  Just as with Tim’s book it must have been timing, it’s not like I haven’t been listening to 80’s rock since.. well since the 80’s – but somehow this time was different.  The guitars, the drums, the screaming vocals, the energy – these songs were cutting straight through to my soul like life-giving rain cutting through some classic San Fernando Valley smog.  Not a nice ray of light mind you but a real jolt – a jolt like an old mechanical ride at the fair that you think is probably safe but let’s face it who really knows.   It was like, well like this:

!!!  Are you kidding?!  Who can hear a song like Thunderstruck and not get fired up?!  I don’t mean fired up to work out for an extra ten minutes or to order an extra espresso shot at your local hipster coffee joint – I mean fired up enough to get rid of the bull sh*t in your life and focus on only what matters.

“Wait are you saying this loud rock and roll is responsible for real change in your life?  More than just a passing energy boost – like actual life re-focusing?  C’mon isn’t that stretching things a bit?”


Listen to it again.  Turn it up.  Yes – that’s what I got and that’s what I needed.  After all that’s what I got when it first came out – I guess I just forgot.  Or I got a little soft.   Doesn’t matter.  I needed that jolt and I needed it bad.

Music can do that.  Electric guitars can do that.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” – Proverbs 25:11


*      *       *

In other news, some amazing things have been happening these last few weeks.  The Interpretive display in Mendocino is finally in the ground, telling of how my dad and his inspired followers saved Jug Handle from development in the early 1970’s –

A long-overdue interpretive display for dad
A long-overdue interpretive display for dad

.. A new sign and real brochures from California State Parks were finally created…

Jug Handle State Reserve is now a National Natural Landmark - wow!
Jug Handle State Reserve is now a National Natural Landmark – wow!

…the Pygmy Forest received formal recognition by Congress –

The Pygmy Forest finally getting some National love
The Pygmy Forest finally getting some National love

And the children’s book I illustrated FINALLY is for sale IN Yosemite Valley!

Elmer in Yosemite - finally for sale IN Yosemite!
Elmer in Yosemite – finally for sale IN Yosemite!

A great couple of weeks indeed.

*       *       *

I know what you’re thinking…

“Sure you’re happy dude, the card business is finally growing, your children’s book is selling in Yosemite, your dad’s memorial kiosk got installed in Mendocino, you’re happy because of circumstances again…”

I don’t blame you for thinking that, after all I’ve thought it too but here’s the best part –

I wrote the title to this post before any of those things had happened.  Before I touched down in California almost five weeks ago.


“Hope that is seen is not hope.
For how can one hope for what one already sees?”
– Romans 8:24

“I find I’m so excited I barely sit still or hold a thought in my head…”

My personal Shawshank moment

Looks like I needed to remember to step out of the boat, to remember that though it’s risky it’s what life is all about.  It’s about trusting my instincts, trusting my creator, trusting my heart.  Sure following my heart has gotten me hurt on occasion, but it’s also made me take chances, made me climb mountains, made me grow beyond my current skills, it’s made me shoot for the moon and sleep under the stars, made me start a bmx bike company at 19, made me fly to Indiana for an old convertible, made me return to college to finish what I started, made me talk to an attractive girl cold, made me leave a note and a flower on her car, and made me fall in love.   Not bad choices in hindsight.

And it’s my birthday!  I’m usually not the happiest on my birthday, but let’s keep this new ‘tude going – it’s wasted time to think of what could be or should have been, it’s time to make the most of today.  Big dreams, big cars, good friends, honesty, sincerity, laughter, love.

Lovin’ life, lovin’ you ~ Chuck and Cindy


Happy.  About time.

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