Sunday, January 28, 2007

Snapshots from Paradise

If you're in the Northeast and getting tired of the Arctic-like surroundings, here are some photos to warm you up. We've taken these at various nearby beaches the past couple weeks. Click here and enjoy!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Salute to Mission Control

This post is long overdue. Team Nicholson wouldn't have made their 3 day cross-country trek without the expert assistance and guidance of Mission Control. This elite unit is comprised of Derek (aka DK, aka Captain Cambodia) and Christine (aka C-tine, aka The Black Widow). We were in contact with these two virtually the entire trip. Jessica sent a text at 4:10AM Friday morning to say that we had departed and she received a text wishing us the best by 4:12AM.

If it were not for DK, we might not have known about the severe ice storm that was hitting the Great Plains on Saturday. We received urgent text messages and calls warning us of our impending doom. We were offered alternate routes as well as words of encouragement including "Way to go!" and "We're so proud of you!". We had some dark moments while we were slipping all over the road in Texas and Mission Control was sending us constant updates about the improving weather conditions 100 miles ahead.

The Black Widow was kind enough to look up information on hotels in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and let us know that if we needed anything, we could all anytime. When I was driving, Jessica and C-tine were trading text messages every 25.4 seconds.

Captain Cambodia's finest moment came when Conor was having technical difficulties while watching the Bears game on his portable TV that he bought for the sole purpose of watching the Bears game. He got the entire first half and none of the second. Conor started spazzing out and searching every frequency on both the FM and AM dial. He felt the beginnings of a panic attack and immediately called DK. Captain Cambodia used his MacGyver like mind to come up with a quick solution.

He said that he would put the phone next to the TV so I could hear the play by play by Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. Once again, Captain Cambodia had saved the day. For his heroic efforts, he was awarded the Shiny Medal of Honor for Helping Conor Catch the Bears Game While on a Cross Country Trek, or as it is more commonly known, the SMHHCCBGWCCT.

When we finally arrived to smoggy LA, C-tine remarked that she felt like she was in the car with us the entire time. Jessica remarked that we couldn't have done it without her so she is being given the annual Medal of Valor for Providing Emotional Support via Text Message and Cell Phone Conversation to Team Nicholson, also known as the MVPSTMCPCTN.

Mission Control, we salute you and can't wait till you stay with us in March!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Is this a joke? Am I really popping champagne into Hanalei Bay after watching one of the most important wins in my lifetime? Honestly, I don't know what to say. As most of you know, I am a die-hard, maniacal and at certain times annoying, Chicago Bears fan. I have been following them since I was a skinny, dorky first grader in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I fell in love with Walter Payton the second I saw him play and have been an addict ever since.

I watched the first half at our house because the 3PM game started at 10AM our time and the bars don't open until 11AM. I was jumping around like a caged wildebeest and the second the half came, we jumped into my boy Tony's convertible and raced our way to a bar in Hanalei called Calypso Cafe. You can see the pure joy in my face and the pure agony in Jessica's for being pulled on such an absurd road-trip.

The Bears were up 16-0 at one point and then the Saints did what they do best; to score and score quickly. At one point it was 16-14 and I was growing weary. By the grace of God (or potentially, the Bears players), my team had an amazing second half and won by 25 points. I was on cloud nine and immediately announced that we had to go to the store and buy champagne. I hope this isn't the last time that I pop champagne for the Bears, but if it is, this was our view.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Our New Home

We're finally getting settled into our new home in Kilauea. We're staying in a two-bedroom home with an attached one bedroom apartment. We stayed in the apartment on our first night, and then moved into the house yesterday.

The beach is about a 10 minute walk, faster if you run. On the way, you pass by estates perched on top of a luscious green cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. Did we mention Ben Stiller lives on our street?? We haven't met him yet but we're sure we'll become fast friends soon enough.

To see lots of photos of the house, property, and nearby beaches, click here.

Wanted: Dead or Severely Maimed

I have come face to face with my mortal enemy, and his name is Mr. Pecker. This ravenous beast is threatening the very livelihood of Team Nicholson. His disdain for our mere existence is immense and I have pledged to eradicate our estate of Mr. Pecker and his fellow evil-doers.

For some reason, this maniacal beast thinks that it's perfectly acceptable to begin cackling and cawing at 4:30 in the morning, a full 3 hours before the sun rises. Where on earth did this rooster learn this avant-garde method? Has he seen the movies? Doesn’t he know that roosters aren't supposed to start cawing until sunrise? I forgot my alarm clock but I thought it was cool since I saw a number of Mother Nature's version walking over the property. Boy was I wrong.

At the current time, I am weighing my options as far as how to rid this mutant rooster from my life. Given the fact that I am in Hawaii, I immediately contacted Dog the Bounty Hunter. Unfortunately, he was too busy organizing a full SWAT team in an attempt to take down a teenage Taco Bell employee who missed a DUI court appearance. Dog sure is a hero.

I hired a software imagery programmer and he is working on a groundbreaking technology called Anti-Rooster Positioning Technology (ARPT) that is able to track the creature's every move. What makes this technology innovative is that it is interactive and friends at home can join in on the fun. We plan to install laser guns around the perimeter and friends will be able to aim and shoot at the roosters while Jessica and I are fast asleep. My dream is to wake up, look outside, and see four dead roosters with huge, gaping laser gun wounds.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day Three: Victory is Ours

With 505 miles to go, Day Three was like a gift from above. We woke up to sunny skies in Tucson, and even sat down for breakfast before we got on the road. The big drama of the day was the Bears playoff game against the Seahawks. Conor, a huge Bears fan, was so intent on not missing the game that we bought a 9’’ portable TV on Craigslist the day before we left.

The TV worked for the first half of the game, but once we pulled away from Phoenix, the signal was lost as we rode through the desert. Eventually, we couldn’t get the game on TV or radio. In times of crisis, our first line of defense is a call into headquarters – our friends Derek and Christine are on call round-the-clock, ready with a text message of vital info or internet research at the push of a button. So we called it in, and they immediately put their phone next to the TV. So Conor listened to the third quarter through the cell phone, and relayed the highlights to Jessica, at the wheel.

The game is a close one. At some point, while driving through the mountains, we drop the call. We’re now approaching the Arizona/California border, and Conor wants to stop and watch the game. But there really is nothing for miles. Finally, we see a truck stop with a Best Western hotel. We pull off the road, and head to the lobby.

The game went into overtime, and stress ran high. Jessica knew if the Bears lost, the rest of the trip would not be a fun one. Things were not going well, but our luck came through once again. At third and ten, the Bears threw an amazing 35 yard pass. They kick a 50 yard field goal to win the game in overtime. Hotel patrons seem confused at the strange couple cheering and jumping up and down in the lobby. After the victory, we ran to the car and hit the road yet again. The hour we lost on the game is immediately made up a mile down the road, as we cross over to Pacific time.

The rest of the evening was uneventful and relaxing. We checked into our hotel in LA around 6pm, and relaxed a bit before going for dinner in Santa Monica. The next morning, we were able to sleep in before heading 20 miles south to Long Beach to drop of the old Civic and head to LAX to catch our flight.

To view all of our photos from the road, click here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Need for Speed

People drive fast in the south. They drive fast in the southwest. And they drive fast AND maniacal in LA. The freeways in LA are reminiscent of the German Autobahn. Even Mr. N, whose driving normally has his passengers clinging to the door handles in fear of their lives, felt like a senior citizen in Florida while on the 405. Basically, the rest of this country makes the east coast look like wimpy little pansies when it comes to driving. When you’re driving 90 and you still being passed by every car on the road, you know you’re not in Virginia anymore.

The Civic was not built for high speeds. It takes physical effort to drive her fast. As you move over 80 MPH, she starts to tremble. Those 102 horses will get you there, but you’ll have to cling to the wheel for your life as she violently shakes and rattles along. We think the suspension was omitted with the clock and the tachometer. And no, the above photo was not PhotoShopped - it happened.

Day Two makes us yearn for Arkansas

Saturday was supposed to be easy. 950 miles from Fort Worth, TX to Tucson, AZ. Considering we had driven 1400 miles the day before, it seemed like nothing. But we didn’t anticipate the weather we would have to battle before the day was over.

We drove the first 100 miles at a decent speed, when things started getting bad. While 18 wheelers and large SUVs were still able to handle the roads, the Little Civic that Could had to slow to about 30 MPH to avoid slipping all over the road. After a half hour or so, things worsened and we thought it may not be safe to drive. But in Texas, there is a whole lot of NOTHING. You can drive for 100 miles until you hit the next town. We pulled off the road to assess the situation, into an abandoned church parking lot. There were no cars, buildings, or people for miles in any direction. As the ice continued to fall, I anticipated our impending death. After a week of discussing possible disaster scenarios with friends, I couldn’t quite believe it would end this way. I was born in Texas, and had now come full circle and would die here in Texas.

We couldn’t be sure when or if the weather would improve. Midland, the next closest city, was 100 miles away. Team Nic usually eats 100 miles for breakfast, but at 15 MPH, it seems daunting even to us. The fear was elevated as we passed accident after accident. We passed not one, not two, but eight 18-wheeler trucks that had slid off the road and overturned. As we chugged along at a snail’s pace, the stress was palpable.

The original plan to drive 900 miles to Tucson was out of reach now. Perhaps we could make it 600 miles to El Paso. At one point, we weren’t sure we’d make it 300 miles to Midland. But we pushed onward. In Texas, there is a bridge or overpass every 1000 feet or so. Bridges freeze first. Like her owner, the Civic thrives in warm weather. She does not like snow. We had to slow to almost a complete stop to make it over these bridges without slipping.

But then, we were handed a miracle. The weather improved. The roads got better, and eventually we could drive at highway speeds again. At this point, El Paso was in reach!! The speed limit was 80 MPH! Deep into western Texas, something amazing happened. On the horizon, over the mountains, the clouds parted and we saw the first glint of sun since we left Maryland. It was like a religious experience. We had done it! Not only were we going to live, but we were going to make it after all! Forget El Paso…..we vowed to make it to Tucson, even if it took all night.

New Mexico came and went. And after one of the longest days of our lives, we were finally rewarded for our perseverance. We arrived safely in Tucson around midnight, Mountain Time. Arizona has never tasted so sweet.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Hate Arkansas

Arkansas is without question, the worst state in the union. Unless I am lead there by way of gun point, I vow never to return to that wretched place. We were only supposed to drive through the northern part via Route 40 but because of the ice storm, we headed south on 30 for what seems to have been the longest trip of our lives.

Everyone in Arkansas drives at least 90 miles per hour and I have two theories as to why. Number one is that everyone in the state is running moonshine. Number two is that everyone is trying to get the hell out. I have never been to a place that has so much space and so little to offer. The second we get in the state, a disgusting horse manure smell permeates within the cabin. We look around and all we see is trash and rickety houses. Other than Little Rock, I don't think we saw a two story building. I'm thinking about commissioning REM to redo their classic and name it "Don't Go Back to Arkansas".

For some odd reason, every white male in Arkansas has an affinity for unkempt mustaches and walking around in full hunting gear. I walked into Wendy's and appeared to be the only man not affiliated with a militia that was preparing for the revolution. To make matters worse, I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and saw an employee walk out of the stall, right past the sink and through the door. My jaw dropped and I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore (actually, I've never even been to Kansas). I walk to the line and to my shock and horror, that same employee was handling the beef patties. I immediately yelled "I can't do this!!" and grabbed Jessica, racing for the door.

There is a town in Arkansas called Arkadelphia. I'm not kidding. It's motto is "Arkadelphia; a great place to live". It should be "Arkadelphia; why haven't you killed me?"

I will be submitting the following motto's to the Arkansas Travel Commission:

1) Arkansas: Lord, Why have you forsaken me?
2) Arkansas: Hey, someone has to be in last place
3) Arkansas: At least it's not Baghdad
4) Arkansas: Yes, we are still a state
5) Arkansas: World Renowned for Absolutely Nothing

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Little Civic That Could

This is a tribute to Jessica's car from college, The Little Civic That Could. What it lacks in options (power doors, power locks, center console, tachometer - it's a manual, clock, etc), it makes up with heart. We took it’s 102 horses to the limit and back and it kept asking for more. In the last 3 days, we have it driven up and down hills through the Shenandoah mountains, an ice storm in Dallas and the desert in Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. We didn't have a single issue and the Car Trip Gods were nice enough to spare us from getting a flat along the way.

Prior to the trip, it had 139,000 miles so we took it in to get a new timing belt as well as some other minor repairs. The mechanic said that it was in great shape and should last to at least 300,000 miles. If this was my car from college (97 Dodge Stratus), the transmission would of fallen out after the first thousand miles and the engine would have exploded into a ball of flames at the two thousand mile mark. We would have arrived in Hawaii with only the steering wheel.

This was the perfect car for our first cross-country trip (we'll do it again sometime in the future) because it has no frills and gets great gas mileage (39.5 on the highway). We are still in our twenties (for just a tad longer . . . ) so it would have seemed out of place to drive in a nice car. We needed a beater to really capture the essence of the road. I was a little apprehensive before we got the car but once I started to drive it, I gained a lot of respect for it. You don't see too many American cars from the mid-90's but you see a ton of Civics. This is the perfect car for us and I think it's so cool that Jessica gets to say goodbye to her car in proper fashion.

She got the car in college but sold it to her dad when she get a company car back in 2002. Lucky for us, her father has an incredibly hard time letting go of cars (4 BMW's sitting at his house) so we didn't have to risk buying a clunker in Hawaii, only to have it break down 3 days later. This is a known entity and it won't give us any problems. And how cool is it to get your car back from college, drive it cross country and then ship it to a tropical island? Pretty damn cool.

To Hell and Back: Day One of Our Trip to Paradise

They said it couldn't be done. Katie Couric said it. Dick Cheney said it. In a televised interview with Larry King, seven time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong said "I don't think it's humanly possible for Conor and Jessica Nicholson to drive 1,000 miles in a single day".

We did it. And then some. In one of the most tremendous feats in modern-day history, Team Nicholson covered an astounding 1,45o miles in a single day. When we arrived to our destination, the slightly ghetto Best Western outside of Fort Worth Texas, reporters from as far as Siberia were there to greet us. I told them that Team Nicholson was extremely tired and that they needed to talk to our publicist in order to get an official comment.

In all seriousness, we did in fact cover 1,45o miles on Friday. The trek started on Friday morning at 4AM after a luxurious night of sleep that lasted all of 4 hours. We took some pics before we started and you can see the misery adorning our tired and puffy faces.

Two of our tenants have already moved in so we spent the last week at Christine's luxury condo in North Bethesda. She was the most gracious and hospitable host ever (she gave us her bed and parking spot) and I told her that it was like living at the Four Seasons Residences. Her condo is about 3 miles from the beltway and within 2 minutes of us getting on the road for our trip across the country, Jessica says "Well, I better get some sleep before I take over". I didn't even get a single mile out of her. So much for company.

The trip was going very well for most of the day and we were both in good spirits. We took 81 down to 40 and the plan was to take 40 west for 2000 miles, all the way to Los Angeles. Jessica and I were listening to our mix CD's and taking pictures of the various cities that we passed through (Nashville, Memphis). Life was good.

Then the news came. We were around 100 miles east of Memphis and had already completed more than two thirds of the days trip. We get a call from Derek and then my sister Kate. There is an ice storm brewing and it's going to hit Interstate 40. It's the cover story on and meteorologist’s are saying that this type of storm occurs once every 15 to 20 years. What are the odds that our trip coincides with the worst weather Oklahoma has seen in eons? If your name is Conor Nicholson or you are married to Conor Nicholson, 100%. A hassle-free trip is never in the cards for us so we took it like a champ and decided to head south.

We took 40 to 30 West, through Little Rock, Arkansas (more on that gem of a state later). 30 run's into Dallas and from the weather guys were saying, we should miss most of the bad stuff. So instead of driving the planned 860 miles in great time and getting a good nights sleep, we decided to go as far west as humanly possible. We had to cancel our reservations for both Memphis and Albuquerque but the good news is that we got full refunds on both.

We loaded up on Red Bull and made a pact to drive until it was no longer safe to do so. One person would try to take a power nap while the other drove and we were moving at a good clip until the rain hit just before Dallas. Here is a pic of our trip odometer right before it hit 1ooo miles for the day.

All in all, we drove for 22 hours out of a 24 hour period. By the time we got to the hotel, we could barely keep our eyes open. We checked the weather channel and it didn't look good. It's 2AM and I have to get to bed so I'll post on Day 2 tomorrow.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Is this worth it??

Sigh.... my carefree days of daydreaming of Hawaii and blogging away are gone. The past week has been a non-stop frenzy of activity. With our tenants moving in tomorrow, we've been preparing to vacate our house by tonight. Which means this week has been spent cleaning, packing, organizing, lifting, moving, cursing, and pulling back muscles. We've realized that we have a lot more stuff than we previously thought. Our original plans for a 5x5 storage unit seem laughable now - we've filled to capacity a space twice that size. I must admit, there have been times during this week when I've wondered to myself whether this will all be worth it in the end. Upon hearing the news of our move, some people have reacted as if we were crazy - and now I'm starting to see their point.

The good news is that we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We're down to the wire now, with not much left to do except a little bit of laundry and final packing and a quick vacuum job. Tonight we'll move to our temporary digs in Rockville, our gracious friend Christine's apartment. From there, it'll just be a matter of counting down the six short days until we hit the road.