Velander's Epic Vacation 2008 (December 14, 2007 - March 16, 2008):
8000 collective miles on interstates and highways.
1018 miles driven in one stretch (damn, I must be getting old 'cause that's just lazy).
120 mph on I-10E from LA to Phoenix.
29 tanks of gas.
11 couches/beds made up for me.
9 states traversed (IL, MO, AR, OK, TX, NM, AZ, NV, CA).
4 friends permanently jettisoned from my life.
3 incredibly vindictive, purposely ill-timed and completely unnecessary mind-games from ex-girlfriend. (So much for that clean break-up that I had in mind . . .)
2 new cars purchased (one in December for trip out West; one in March due to the fact that December car turned out to be money pit).
2 amazing in-studio band interviews.
2 rude and righteous e-mails from an uncle that essentially accused me of meddling too much with family affairs.
1 uncle -- not the author of the accusatory e-mails, the other one -- discovered in his cabin without power and heat detoxing for three days without food. (I dropped in to say hello and find out what the hell was so important that he couldn't make it to Christmas dinner -- part of my alleged "meddling," if you will.)
1 stressful New Year's Eve spent yelling at my mother over the phone to get to the hospital and find out alcoholic uncle's condition after he had a seizure and then going off to have a ridiculous fight with a romantic interest over the fact that there didn't seem to be much interest at all.
1 unnerving phone call from ex on New Year's Day informing me that she was now dating one of our mutual friends -- something she promised me that she had no interest in and would never do "in order to avoid further awkwardness anyway" -- and that there will likely be pics posted up of their fated New Year's kiss, so "I wanted to tell you before you stumbled upon them on your own" (Mind Game #1: "Operation: Adios, Amigos!"). (To be honest, this was the least bothersome mind game of the three. The next two were pure, premeditated evil. I'm still too incensed to appreciate the craft put into them.)
1 wonderful holiday party with friends before making my way out West. (Thanks, Dramafarie!)
1 immensely enjoyable season finale to Season 16 of BFN Networks.
1 incredible offer for what would've been a mind-blowing threesome that, sadly, got called off at the last minute. ("Argh!" indeed, Charlie Brown. "Argh!" indeed.)
1 unexpected rejection from a new flame.
1 completely unexpected, "one-night-only, get-it-now-before-I-come-to-my-senses" booty text message from an old acquaintance. (Alas, I wouldn't be back in Chicago until the next day, so I missed out! Fuck me! But what an ego boost!)
1 cherished farewell before Africa.
1 lackluster homecoming to Chicago.
1 best friend suffering a girlfriend who seriously considers me to be his baggage and a possible future liability. (Are you fucking kidding me?! At what point have I EVER been a goddamn liability?! Okay, now I'm offended!)
1 close friend considering moving halfway across the country again to be with the boy who already broke her heart twice.
1 close friend dealing with an unwanted pregnancy followed by an equally unwanted miscarriage.
1 fight with another best friend over replacing brake pads that nearly came to blows (seriously, what the fuck!).
1 late-night milkshake with an aspiring doctor in San Francisco.
1 movie night in Costa Mesa with an aspiring acrobat.
1 break from the road to celebrate St. Paddy Day's with three highly entertaining strangers in St. Louis.
1 best friend awaiting my final arrival so I could nurse her back to health (Vitamin C and fresh air do wonders, I tell ya! Squeak!)
1 fortuitous renewal of my contract with my my old job.
1 much-needed romantic fling with an intelligent, well-rounded, witty and absolutely gorgeous (and tall!) redhead with colorful knee-length socks. (Best. Christmas Gift. EVER.)
1 possible love interest on the horizon (not the redhead . . . actually, not sure where this is going just yet so don't get too excited, okay?).
3 countries explored (Senegal, Mali, The Gambia).
1 country denied entrance to due to "security issues" (aka terrorist activities) (Mauritania).
$2000US stolen by guide who then abandoned me on the beach on Day 10.
$1000US loaned by the Bank of Mouse on Day 15.
$850US pulled off credit card for emergency cash on Day 11.
$600US pulled off credit card for special purchase on Day 8.
942 photos taken (and 12 videos recorded).
100+ collective hours trapped in horrendous buses, bush taxis, vans and trucks that all should have been scrapped ten years ago.
35 postcards sent to friends and relatives all over the world.
26 collective hours on three international flights.
21 stamps in passport from twenty border checkpoints and the tourism board of Timbuktu.
11 nights sleeping on a mattress in the elevator maintenance room of a 15-story apartment building in downtown Dakar.
10 new foreign friends I would trust with my life (and possibly my wallet; verdict's still out on that).
8 notable arguments/shouting matches over money/schedule conflicts with guides/drivers.
7 professional paintings acquired from local artists.
6 weeks without sex. (Told you I could do it!)
6 kids likely traumatized by my aggressive responses to their unwarranted begging. (Hey, they asked for it!)
5 books read (Dance of Death, Foucault's Pendulum, Gates of Africa, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Lonely Planet: West Africa).
3 much-appreciated double-feature movie nights at Kadjinol Station (Top picks: Dead Man, Chinatown, Training Day).
3 camel rides in Timbuktu.
3 beaches lounged upon (Cap Skirring, Kafountine, Kartong).
2 expensive paintings transported 208 km across two countries via four buses and one ferry all while suffering from a nasty head cold (now that was a fucking stressful day).
1 pricey but worthwhile day trip to Dogon Country.
1 particularly nightmarish bus ride from Bamako, Mali to Tambacounda, Senegal (trust me, it's a bad omen to see a goat flying off the roof of a speeding bus).
1 awesome car ride from Douentza to Timbuktu (Mali) in which I was able to plug my iPod into the radio and rock out to The Ghost Of You: The Best Songs of 2006 (Free Download!).
1 good to honest rumble in Serekunda, The Gambia. (No bullshit - I nearly incited a riot! Go me!)
1 incredibly sore ass. (Thanks to all those punishing bus/bush taxi rides, I could barely sit down by the end of my travels. The plane ride back home was excruciating!)
Countless amazing meals all throughout my trip!
This year I've gone from Chicago to San Francisco to Timbuktu and back. I've never been so happy to return to the Windy City.