Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Occupy Minivan - Mountain Time (The Second Peak)

We had had enough of the cold so we left Durango and headed south towards Arizona. Originally this blog was supposed to be part of the Pacific Time blog because we thought Arizona was on Pacific Time. So we went to the Four Corners (New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah) and ran around in circles. We thought we were time traveling but it turns out Arizona is a wasteful state and doesn’t celebrate Daylight Savings time. Daylight doesn't grow on trees you know. I guess all the old retirees in Arizona didn’t like the idea of giving up an hour of the rest of their lives. So we just looked like weirdos running around in circles instead of awesome time travelers because we were in the Mountain Time Zone the whole time.

Four Corners

NOT time travel. Even though it looks a lot like it.

Running between four states was pretty awesome though, time traveling or not. In fact it was so overwhelming for Justin that he went into shock and was just sitting in the van saying “There’s no place like home.” We weren’t sure what to do with him but we were close to the Navajo Reservation so we headed in to search for a spiritual healer to fix Justin. We found our spiritual healer in the Pygmy Conifer Forest near the ancient Anasazi cliff-dwellings. His name was Pumping Horse. He told us that we had bad spirits in the van and that we needed to smoke some healing tobacco from his peace pipe. I’m pretty sure he just meant that the van smelled like farts and lighting a match would help with the smell but you know how those Native Americans like to talk. So we smoked his peace pipe. The events that occurred during the next three days are unknown. All I know is that I came to three days later to find Andrew dancing with a tree and Justin trying to scalp Cameron with an ear of corn. But Justin felt better after that. We went to look for Pumping Horse to ask him what had happened. We found him at a gas station down the road. It turns out Pumping Horse’s real name is Phil Earp and he works at the Conoco gas station and we had just been on a three day Peyote trip. So that happened.

The Journey Begins

Discovering our Spirit Animals

They call him Dances with Trees

We decided to get out of Navajo country. We drove to Flagstaff, AZ. It was snowing in Flagstaff. A lot. Did you know that it snows in Arizona? Me neither. Luckily we had Cameron driving who had never driven in snow before. In Flagstaff we stayed with a friend of Cameron’s sister, Mikaela. Mikaela is Cameron’s sister’s name and her friend’s name. She lives in a typical grimy college house with three roommates. When Andrew walked in the sight and smell of empty pizza boxes and beer cans triggered a frat flashback and he took off his shirt and jumped on the table and yelled, “Woooo!!! Colleeeege!!!!!” I asked them for some tea and scrumpets because I’m much more refined.

One of the guys in the house said he liked our Occupy movement because it didn’t prevent people from getting to work on time. Shit. He was right. Until the following morning when we found this sign on the minivan:

We’re really getting the hang of this Occupy thing.

Flagstaff was our jumping off point for a family trip to the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately it was snowing a lot. When we got there the canyon was filled with clouds and we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of ourselves. I guess the clouds were pretty grand though. And the gift shops were nice. When we were about to leave we saw a blue spot in the sky and we ran to a lookout point where we caught a glimpse of a little section of the canyon. It was just enough to make us want to see more without really letting us see anything. The Grand Canyon must have a really good marketing team.

I think it's over there.

We found it. It's really not very Grand at all.

Andrew and Duncan give up.

Kenny refuses to admit defeat.

The Park Ranger told us that there are only 1 or 2 days a year with zero visibility. So we got to see something/nothing that not many people get to see/not see. Sometimes less is more.

But not in Las Vegas…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Occupy Minivan - Mountain Time

In Denver we spent two days with my sister, Anna, and her boyfriend John. They lent us their living room for a couple nights while we explored the sights in Denver and its surroundings. Anna and John’s apartment has a pool downstairs where the old ladies do water aerobics. We tried to join them but we didn’t know the code and the ladies wouldn’t get out to let us in. It was pretty rude. We finally figured out how to get in but by then water aerobics had ended and we had to make up our own workout. For Cameron and Justin that meant doing push-ups and sit-ups in the snow and then jumping in the hot tub to “shock their systems.” Whatever that means. Andrew and I invented our own water aerobics-esque workout. Kenny took a shower.

In the afternoon we headed into Boulder, CO to do a tour of the Boulder Beer factory. In the tasting room afterwards we met three people who were on a road trip that started in Toronto and dipped all the way down to New Mexico before heading back up to Vancouver where they were moving. They were stopping and staying with people from all the different Occupy movements along the way and documenting the trip. So they’re moving to the west coast and decided to turn it into a road trip with an Occupy theme. Somebody obviously read my blog and stole all of my brilliant ideas. Leave it to the Canadians.

One of the guys on the Canadian version of our road trip was from Colombia. He had been living in Toronto painting fire hydrants for the past year. We all spoke Spanish for a while to try to distract him from asking us questions about the validity of our Occupy Minivan movement. After we had “sampled” several beers we exchanged information, vowing to meet up again but being sure not to make any specific plans that we would actually have to follow through with.

Meeting the Canadians forced us to think about what we stood for. Occupy movements are known for their unambiguous objectives. Since we’re driving through Colorado for the next few days we decided that miners’ rights would be our next cause. I went on the internet and searched for mines and found one called Copper Mountain. We set out for Copper Mountain eager to make a difference in the lives of those poor copper miners. But we were too late. The miners had already been exploited and the mines exhausted and all that remained was a ski resort. So we went skiing instead. But we made sure not to enjoy ourselves.

A sit in at Copper Mountain.

Kenny Hood shredding the gnar pow.

After skiing we headed to Carbondale, CO to regroup. Our Peace Corps friends Dan and Phoebe arranged for us to stay with their friend Kylie. We went out for some food and beer and live music and had a great time. Carbondale is a small town but it has a lot to offer. So small in fact that the lead singer of the band we were watching also turned out to be the owner of the burrito joint that we ate lunch at the next day. After the live music we went back to Kylie’s house and tried to stay up to see the lunar eclipse that was supposed to happen that night at 4am. We played board games and Kylie and Justin entertained us with their Irish Flute/Ukulele duo. Around 5 am the moon was still there so we gave up and went to bed. We had some mines to find the next day and we needed our rest. We’re still not sure if the eclipse actually happened.

Rocking out with Carbondale Kylie.

We proceeded south from Carbondale towards Durango, CO. We stopped in a small coal mining town called Somerset. We drove up into the coal mine where a conveyor belt emerged from the mountains and dropped loads of coal into train cars that went on for miles. We drove the painted minivan through the mine hoping to make our presence known. Nobody seemed to notice. Then it occurred to us that those train cars were heading south, just as we were, and that that coal would probably be used to provide the electricity that would heat the house we would be sleeping in that night. So we left and went sledding instead. This was a decision I would come to regret.

1% of stockings will be filled with coal this Christmas.

We decided to drive/occupy the Million Dollar Highway which is named so because it cost one million dollars per mile to construct. That makes it a 1%er highway. And we weren’t about to let that slide. We were admiring the beautiful mountain scenery and staring down into the 300 foot deep ravines immediately to our right when we got the urge to go sledding.

$121,342 worth of asphalt.

Luckily we had picked up some sleds at Target the day before. We found a spot that upon first sight appeared to be the perfect sledding hill. So I began to climb with the sled, noticing all of the rocks below the surface of the snow. I should have turned around there. Then I got to the top and looked down and realized that hills always look steeper from the top than from the bottom. This hill was more of a cliff. As I sat on my sled contemplating the drop, I looked at Andrew and said, “But what if I get hurt?” Andrew shrugged, “Oh well.” I nodded. “Good point.” It’s not that I was too proud to back down. I back down from all kinds of challenges. But as a “scientist” if I ask a question and don’t know the answer I am obligated to find it out by any means necessary. So I mounted the sled and dropped in. I accelerated at about 9.65 m/s2, just below the acceleration rate of gravity. About halfway down the hill I had reached terminal sledding velocity (126 mph) when my sled hit a rock that was hidden under the snow and the sled shattered. Having taken care of the sled, the rock then proceeded to bash my butt bone with approximately 16.3 tons of force leaving me writhing in the pain at the bottom of the hill. So my findings are as follows: If I get hurt Kenny will be there to laugh uncontrollably and take pictures. The other guys waiting at the top of the hill with their sleds decided that my experiment was proof enough and slowly walked back down. Needless to say the mountains seemed much less majestic during the second half of the drive. I should have known a 1% highway would do that to me.

Oh mannn, I broke my sled. And my butt.

I got attacked by a snow shark.

The only good to come of this is that I am now sitting in the ski lodge and have time to update the blog. The bad is that everybody else is skiing on a beautiful, sunny day in the Rockies while I’m waddling around the base like a penguin. Evil triumphs once again.

Sad Penguin

I bet Shaun White can't do this.

We are staying in Durango with Cameron’s Uncle Mike and Aunt Monie. They have been very gracious in feeding us and putting up with my crippled body. We went out for a night on the town in Durango. Durango was the first place where we confronted resistance to our movement. We walked out of dinner to find four drunk college kids trying to wipe the paint off the minivan. Then from behind us another drunk kid yelled, “Get out of the way douchebags!” and pushed his way through to meet up with his friends. Finally! Affirmation that we are doing something right. We met up with another of Phoebe and Dan’s friends, Cortney. She took us to a pool hall and we celebrated our first confirmed angering of the public.

Mike, Monie, Dan (dog) and the crew.

Cortney knows how to live in the present.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Occupy Minivan - Central Time

The route.

After the radiator sabotage incident the Occupy Minivan Cross-Country Movement got off to a smooth start. Until I got to my first stop in Chicago. There I found out that I can’t party like I used to in college. But I survived the weekend and caught up with some old friends. My friends were not very impressed with the Occupy Minivan idea. But we had fun anyway.

The real Occupy Minivan movement began in West Liberty, Iowa where I picked up Occupier/Public Relations Director/Party Master Andrew Hanson. Unlike the hipster kids and homeless guys in Zucotti Park we take our movement to the real people. And/or (mostly or) the places where we know people who will house us. West Liberty is the first majority minority town in Iowa (52% Latino). The turkey plant (as in processing plant, not a turkey that grows in the ground) employs most of the people of West Liberty. The story of Andrew Hanson is the typical small town Iowa farmer boy story; born to a high school principal father and Polish/British mother in Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved to Iowa at the age of 9. Put on a leotard and started wrestling kids. We didn’t actually speak to any of the “real people” but I think that our presence there really made a difference.

From West Liberty we continued west to Des Moines where we picked up Occupiers Kenny Hood and Cameron Jones. Then we headed 2 hours north to the Hood residence into the middle of nowhere Clare, Iowa. If you’ve never seen small town Iowa then go to Clare. Actually don’t. I’ll just tell you about it. In Clare’s sprawling 100-foot-long downtown metropolis there is a soon to be closed down Post Office and a bar called Antlers. Antlers prides itself on having “more dead animals on the wall than clients at the bar.” They do not disappoint. If you continue down the cornfield, gravel road that must be home to several serial killers you might arrive at the Hood residence if they happen to have their lights on. Otherwise you’ll freeze to death. But once inside the Hood residence you’ll experience the only warmth found in frozen Clare, Iowa. The Hood family fed us a hearty Midwestern dinner (actually I think pasta came here from Greenland or Tokyo or something) and took us out to Antlers where the only thing more numerous then deer antlers were cans of Bud Light provided by the ever generous Phil Hood, proprietor of Hood Excavation. If you need work done on your septic tank in Iowa this is the man to call. “A royal flush always beats a full house.” Truer words have never been spoken. We also picked up a camera in Clare, IA which will provide the photos for the rest of this trip. Nothing photogenic happened before there anyway.

Left to right: Mr. Hood, Andrew, Kenny, Katie, Mrs. Hood, Cameron, Duncan, Kelsey (absent).

Hood house.

The road to Kenny's house. Caution: Serial Killer Crossing

We left Clare, IA in the morning and headed to the steak capital of the world, Omaha. We didn’t see any steaks or steak cows but we did score a free lunch form Andrew’s Jesuit priest friends at Creighton University. Peace Corps volunteers will mooch a free lunch off of anybody who so much as hints at an offer.

Welcome to Omaha!

Andrew's old frat house. It was frat-tastic!

I can do it!

How 'bout them apples.

From Creighton we headed to the rendezvous point for the final occupier/minivan lounge singer (yet to provide us any on flight entertainment) Justin Hitchcock. With our requisite fifth occupier needed to officially occupy a minivan we were finally ready to paint the minivan in true Iowa high school girls volleyball fashion. Anybody who questioned the seriousness of the Occupy Minivan movement previously now had no choice but to recognize our fortitude and teenage girl organization tactics.

The crew is complete. And we mean biz-nass.

Introducing the Occupy Minivan minivan.

The final leg of the Midwest leg took us through the exhilarating I- 80 section of Nebraska. (Tumbleweed rolls across the screen). Then we arrived in Denver, a mile high. The city, not the occupiers. We were high on social justice. We never would have made it were it not for the steadfast navigation of Mrs. Tom Tom (GPS). Not once did she complain of the perversion and flatulence circulating through the minivan.

Navigator Mrs. Tom-Tom

Friday, December 2, 2011


I left sunny, warm Los Angeles to spend Thanksgiving in the sunny,warm Northeast. Was it always 65 degrees and sunny in November? I know I’ve been gone for a while but I remember it differently. Freezing October snow storms were not followed by warm, sunny November days.

Spring (girlfriend) came too. I was going to make a pun about the warm weather and her name is Spring and so Pun: Spring (weather and/or girlfriend) at Thanksgiving in the Northeast. But I decided not to. It was her first visit to the New York area. And her first time meeting my family and friends. My friends kept saying, “Duncan, don’t f#@k this up.” So I think that means that they like her. And that they have no faith in me. These friends have requested that I mention them by name: Evan Conley (recently engaged), Peter DeLaFlor (the cop from the new Batman movie), Robert Shearman (you probably wanted him at some point), and David Monahan (If you stole his iPhone, give it back).

We walked through Zuccotti Park to see Occupy Wall Street but nobody was there really because they had all been kicked out and went home for Thanksgiving. Occupy LA just got kicked out of their tent city as well. So in an effort to support these Occupy movements I have decided to embark on a new Occupy movement called Occupy Minivan. But this movement will be different in that we will be moving. These other Occupy movements are not making progress because they are sitting in one place in tents. We are going to Occupy a Minivan and move our movement from New Jersey across the Northern United States and down to Los Angeles. Accompanying me on the Occupy Minivan cross-country movement is:

Kenny Hood: Occupy Minivan Director/Sporcle Master

Andrew Hanson: Public Relations Director/Party Master

Cameron Jones: Legal Counsel (Head Arguer)/Hygiene Counsel

Justin Hitchcock: Entertainment Director/Minivan Lounge Singer

Gitana Gotay: Motivation Director/Broddha

Duncan Peabody: Resident Blogger/Herbivore

We are all from Peace Corps Dominican Republic so we are experts in grassroots advocacy.

The minivan we are occupying is my mom’s (now my) silver 2003 Honda Odyssey. I want to name it Minnie Van Go(gh) but my sister, Lily, was driving it previously and she named it Old Bess. Lily used the minivan for her Dog walking job in Montreal so it smells like French-Canadian dogs; and that’s way I imagine Vincent Van Gogh smelled. Also Minnie Van Go (Old Bess) is moving to Los Angeles and she needs a hip new name if she’s going to make any friends out there. Life’s not easy for a minivan in Los Angeles. They eat way more gas than a Hybrid and they don’t have the beautiful bodywork of a Ferrari. Anyway you can call it what you like.
The Occupy Minivan Cross-Country Movement itinerary is as follows:

December 2011
2-4 – Chicago, IL
5-Iowa City, IA (
6- Des Moines, IA
7- Omaha,NE and Lincoln, NE
8-9 Denver, CO
10- Crested Butte, CO
11- Durango, CO
12- Navajo County and Flagstaff, AZ
13- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
14- Hoover Dam, NV
15- Las Vegas, NV
16 -19 Los Angeles, CA

If you happen to live in one of these cities/towns then come say “HI!” and sign our petition to support collective bargaining rights for soccer moms.

I had intended to embark this morning but some Wall Street Fat Cats caught wind of my plan and must have poured some sort of corrosive acid on the Minivan’s radiator causing the transmission fluid lines to corrode. But if they think they can put the brakes on this movement so easily then they have seriously underestimated Occupy Minivan. This isn’t just a revolution. This is 3000 revolutions per minute.