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December 12, 2012

It wasn't too long ago that I decided to take a road trip. I wasn't really sure where I was going, but I had mapped out a tentative route within the southeastern United States. That plan ended up changing after I left home, and I've ended up a lot farther west than I'd originally planned.

Day one was a lot of driving, really. Most of the areas where I was driving I'd seen plenty of times, so I took the route through Nashville (with a quick stop over at what I thought was Scott's old house but ended up being an identical house one house over; his had been painted a dark color) and kept on going until I reached Memphis where I stayed the night. The next morning is what began the actual trip which included seeing things, so I got up early and made a quick run up to Missouri to grab some GeoCaches before heading back to Memphis for a trip to the National Civil Rights Museum.

The museum itself is located at the site of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination - the Lorraine Motel. While a lot of the museum focuses on Dr. King's life and legacy, it has a lot of information regarding human civil rights in general. It's worth a visit. I was actually given special access to the balcony where Dr. King was shot, as the museum is undergoing renovations.

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I then left Memphis and headed over to Little Rock. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library is a really interesting place to visit, chronicling President Clinton's life pretty much from beginning to end with an obvious focus on his presidency. There's also few touches of Mrs. Clinton's life and role as First Lady, and a lot of information on government workings. In addition, there is a replica of both the West Wing's Cabinet Room as well as my future office, the Oval Office. Here I pose with Vice President Pleepleus:

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After grabbing a few GeoCaches in Arkansas, I started heading west once again. After debating on whether to stop in Oklahoma City or push through to Amarillo Texas, I decided to stay in OKC for the night. I got up early the next morning and grabbed a few more GeoCaches to cap off Oklahoma while visiting some small towns. Clinton Oklahoma is one of those ridiculously small and cute towns you see every so often.

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Not long thereafter found myself in the Lone Star State. Amarillo is a very flat and very grid-like city, but with some lines of the grid that really make no sense and with others not even being paved. It was a bumpy ride while exploring some areas of the town, but I didn't stay long and continued my westward journey until I hit Albuquerque and then finally Flagstaff Arizona, which is where I'd initially written this entry from a Starbucks at six in the morning.

(12:00)

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July 21, 2012

Riding in cars that have right-hand drive is not as strange as it should be. Every so often I'll get a split-second strangeness about sitting on the "wrong" side of the car, but it goes away rather quickly - faster than I'd expected it would. The first (and last) time I'd ridden in a right-hand drive car was in Dublin, but that was only for around five or ten minutes or so. This trip is seeing this happen daily, and experiencing a mirror image of traffic almost seems normal.

Driving, on the other hand... I can't even imagine what that's like. I really do want to give driving a right-hand drive car a shot and a colleague here offered to let me try it in his car, but the thought of having the pedals in the right place on the wrong side of the car and shifting a manual transmission with my left hand just blows my mind. I haven't decided if I'm actually going to do it yet, and I'm thinking that if I do, I'll rent a car for a day and blanket it with every insurance coverage available.

A week in Chennai was good to see the sights, and I saw quite a lot. At the aforementioned St. Thomas cathedral, I saw many interesting things in its museum - religious artifacts from long ago, latin bibles, stone carvings, and randomly placed among all of these relics was this guy:

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...which pretty much meant it was time to get going. And get going I did, off to see some pretty impressive (and colorful) temples. There are a few examples of these peppering Chennai, and they're quite a sight once you get there. The camera has a hard time capturing the extent of the detail and colors.

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With my Chennai visit coming to a close, it was time to move on to Hyderabad.

(02:45)

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July 10, 2012

I arrived in India yesterday morning. I've placed the main reason for my trip mostly on hold (business-related stuff) and I took yesterday to get out a bit and explore the city of Chennai.

The first glimpse I got of the country was across an airplane aisle and out a window. I arrived at 3:30am local time so there wasn't a whole lot to see from my poor vantage point. My initial impression was that Chennai looked like every other major city from an airplane at night. A correct and superficial view, and I immediately recognized it as much. I waited until getting out and about to begin my cultural experience.

A colleague of mine who is also here on business summed up India very succinctly. When he's asked, "What's India like?" he replies with "It's a country of contrasts", and that's the most accurate description I've been able to apply thus far. Granted I've only been in the country for a day or so, but cruising around Chennai really gives you appreciation for that description. On one block you can be amidst some really modest upper-class housing, then you drive a few more blocks and encounter slums. The people themselves are equally varied; while walking around you're likely to see women wearing the traditional Sari, then you turn the corner and there's another woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Walk another block and you may see a woman in a hijab and burqa.

Yesterday was interesting. I'd ridden in a right-hand drive car once before (in Dublin), but that ride was brief. Yesterday I got to experience a far more extreme version of right-hand driving. Sure the cars are the same, but the rules of the road are quite different. Chennai (and likely India as a whole) reminds me a lot of Cairo in both appearance and road activity. Like in Egypt and to a slightly lesser extent in Italy, Indians drive with their hands constantly on the horn. Sounding the horn is used to say "hey I'm here" rather than the more recognized "HEY GET OUT OF THE WAY" we know back in the states. Lanes are only a suggestion, and most people just drive through any open area. Drivers don't give a second thought to cutting anyone off, be it a bus or a bicycle. It's your responsibility to get out of the way of other cars. Offensive driving at its best! Oh, and Autorickshaws are everywhere.

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Yesterday was a very light sightseeing day around Chennai, but I got in some interesting sights. Out of the three churches in the world built over the tomb of one of Jesus's apostles, I made a trip to the second of three that I have visited. St. Thomas Basilica was built by the British in 1893, superseding the previous construction built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Not too far away, I also visited a "home" of St. Thomas himself ("home" being in quotation marks since it's actually just a cave) with its nearby bleeding cross and holy water well, as well as a few museums and shops. A good first day to get a feel for the city.

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The food is as delicious as I'd expected it to be. The food at my hotel is absolutely top-notch and I've been enjoying a breakfast of random Indian foods for two days in a row. I am now addicted to idli.

(11:50)

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