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N’Sync travels The Oregon Trail

If you grew up in the 90’s, chances are you’ve played the Oregon Trail PC game. I remember wasting many a days in school begging to use the classroom computer to wipe out massive quantities of buffalo. Recently, the game has been uploaded to archive.org for all of us who want to relive this masterpiece of a game. I recently took some time to travel the trail. This is my story.

IMG_1691I decided to send the best boy band from the 90’s on the trail. I realize these five individuals would never survive the actual Oregon Trail, but let’s see how they did in virtual reality.

My last name is Carpenter, so I was a carpenter from Ohio. You get more money as a banker, and I think this all has to do with point tallies in the end, but I didn’t care about points and I didn’t want to make it too easy on the boys. We left March 1st.

IMG_1692But not before buying supplies. I went heavy on oxen and clothing. Matt, the general store owner, suggested I buy 1000 pounds of food. Fuck you, Matt. JTimba will provide with his exceptional hunting skills / falsetto. I decided on a strenuous pace to start.

IMG_1694The only hiccup in the first leg of the journey was one lost day due to blizzard. Not too bad. I arrived at the Kansas River crossing and had a decision to make. If you’ve played the game, you know these river crossings make you or break you. Do I ford the river, caulk the wagon and float it, or pay $5 and take a ferry. I immediately decide against the ferry. N’Sync does not play it safe!

Considering the depth, my only option is floating across the river. Here we go…

IMG_1695IMG_1696The next 5-7 seconds are filled with nervous anticipation. I have my entire life in that little piece of wood and canvas, including 12 oxen, 5 band members, 12 sets of clothing, 300+ pounds of food, 300 bullets, and spare wagon parts. It doesn’t seem possible, but I make it. HUGE sigh of relief. We trek on…

A few more days of unexciting travel and OH GOD ANOTHER RIVER. 5.4 feet deep. Caulk that bitch and float it. It worked once it’ll work again.

IMG_1697No…not…Chris…the one member I had to look up on Google…has drowned in a tragic accident. AND APPARENTLY CLUNG TO 6 SETS OF CLOTHING ON HIS WAY DOWN THE RIVER. We’re down to four. I continue through the next stop (Fort something) and then get this message:

IMG_1698It’s only been 20 days Lance, get it together. I assume this would slow us down considering the main symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting. At this point I think JT, JC, and Joey want to get rid of Lance.

IMG_1699Five days later, it becomes an epidemic. I slow down the pace to help recovery. I have no idea if that’s how the game works, but it makes sense to me. A little while later I notice I’m under 100 pounds of food, so it’s time to play the only fun part of the game. I HUNT. One buffalo later, I’m up another 100 pounds of meat. Side note: it always made me angry that you couldn’t bring more than 100 pounds back to the wagon. The one buffalo was 950 pounds, but apparently making two trips is not an option.

IMG_1700I blow through my next few checkpoints (Chimney Rock, Fort Laramie, Independence Rock, South Pass), hunting as I go. Lance gets cholera again, but I still make it to the Green River crossing on May 4th, 1848 with a somewhat healthy four singers. The river is 20.1 feet deep and I don’t want to risk another death (at this point we’re a glorified barbershop quartet). So, I decide to take a ferry. We make it safely across and continue.

IMG_1702A few miles outside of Soda Springs, Lance gets dysentery. At this point, I’m ready for Lance to die. I know the guys might miss him for his clothing advice or the way he prepares bear or buffalo confit, but he is a health risk to the rest of the group.

If you’re still reading, I get to the Snake River crossing after losing the trail and finding some wild fruit (not to be confused with Lance). Our group is in poor health now, so I decide to rest a couple days before crossing the river. Against Lance’s wishes, we give a Shoshone Indian three sets of ‘fabulous’ clothing in exchange for his help crossing the river.

I’m getting pretty bored from the repetitiveness of the game, and it costs me. I allow our group to go a few days without food. Lance gets fucking cholera again and one of the oxen gets injured. Whoops. Joey then gets cholera and Lance catches typhoid. I need to finish this game soon.

IMG_1704On July 5th, 1848 Lance succumbs to whatever disease he has and dies. Timberlake gives an eloquent eulogy that energizes the remaining ensemble. We press on, through the Blue Mountains and towards the Dalles. The end is in sight, I think.

IMG_1705On the way to the Dalles JC gets dysentery and one of our wagon wheels break. Then out of nowhere Joey dies. WE WERE SO CLOSE JOEY!

At the Dalles, you have the choice to float down the river to your final destination and avoid rocks using the arrow keys, or just spend another 100 miles traveling on the trail. To break the monotony, I decide to take my chances on the river.

IMG_1708During the float down the river, I got boxed in by a collection of rocks and crashed the raft. It killed JC and wiped out a ton of my supplies. I managed to finish the rest of the river-run crash free. Justin Timberlake, my lone survivor of the trail, was in poor health.

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Ah, how this game has mirrored real life. Justin Timberlake, the only survivor of the Oregon Trail, also happens to be the only survivor of N’Sync.

Happy Friday.

 

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The Portraiture of George Washington

By: Andy Crawford

Until the days of photography, the only way to depict a subject for posterity was to either paint or sculpt him or her. For this reason, I always considered paintings to be somewhat obsolete. Why spend days painting a portrait when we have digital pictures and Kodak instant film?

Photography, although an art form in its own right, depicts a realist perspective. A camera depicts its subjects under the one-dimensional, sterile gaze of its lens, leaving almost nothing up to the interpretation of the photographer.

Painted portraits attempt to depict the reality of its subject, but with an added layer of interpretation by the artist himself. When we observe the Mona Lisa, we are not observing how a 16th century woman actually looked, but instead how she appeared to Leonardo da Vinci. A portrait artist talks with his subject, spends hours alone in a room with him or her, and then spends months deliberately making each brush stroke. Every detail is agonized over, all to convey the artist’s interpretation of the subject. We are left with a one of a kind work of art that gives a more complete depiction than a simple photograph.

Consider the example of George Washington. Having achieved the status of a living legend by the mid-1770s, he spent the last 25 years of his life sitting for numerous portraits. Congress, state legislatures, civic organizations, foreign governments, and even his own family hired artists to paint him, and, although often tired of the process, Washington always obliged.

Over the course of his life, Washington was painted by some of the greatest artists of the time: Trumbull, Peale, Stuart, etc.

It is through these portraits that we can meet the real George Washington, and determine the kind of man he was. Through these portraits some of the most talented hands of the era can tell us what it was like to be in the same room and speak with the father of the country.

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Charles Wilson Peale; 1772

This is the first known portrait of George Washington. Although painted in 1772, it attempts to capture the heroic frontier warrior of the French and Indian War from over a decade before. This portrait was painted at a time when colonists, including Washington, were becoming disgruntled over the Townshend Acts. As one of the most experienced military officers in the colonies, Washington saw himself as a possible military leader. With his gaze intent on some event happening outside of the frame, military orders in his pocket, and a musket draped over his uniformed shoulder, this portrait is more about where Washington’s life was headed in 1772 rather than what he looked like in the 1760s.

 

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Charles Wilson Peale; 1779

Washington had swagger, as this portrait makes clear. To commemorate Washington’s victorious efforts to drive the British away from Philadelphia in 1776, the Supreme Executive Council of Philadelphia commissioned a portrait by Charles Peale, a Pennsylvania militiaman. This battlefield scene came at a time in the war when the tide was shifting, as Washington had finally scored a victory against the superior British forces. As Washington biographer Ron Chernow notes, “The portrait breathes a manly swagger, an air of high flown accomplishment. All traces of provincial tentativeness and uncertainty have disappeared from Washington’s personality. This was the magnetic Washington that so enthralled his contemporaries.” It’s not hard to see why many of Washington’s contemporaries thought he would make an excellent American king.

 

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Johnathan Trumbull; 1780

This portrait by Jonathan Trumbull is remarkable for two reasons. First, it shows Washington toward the end of the Revolutionary War. He is grayer, and more slender than in Peale’s portrait following the Battle of Princeton. The smirk from his earlier portraits is gone. Secondly, Trumbull included a fixture of Washington for most of his life, his personal slave Billy Lee. Lee was with Washington almost every moment of the day from the time he woke up until he went to sleep at night. Whether it was during the war or later when Washington served as President, Lee was an extension of Washington’s dominating presence for thirty years. Here, as in life, he was in the periphery, serving his master by holding his horse.

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Christian Gullager; 1789

After a few years of respite as a private citizen and farmer at Mt. Vernon, Washington was called back into service and elected as President. In his first year in office in 1789, he made an official visit to tour New England. While there, he met a young and ambitious artist, Christian Gullager, and was impressed enough to sit for a portrait. What resulted was one of the most unusual and candid portraits of Washington ever completed. Here, Washington looks across his nose to meet the artist. His face is more haggard and his hair completely gray, but his broad neck and intense gaze leave an impression of his commanding presence. Many of Washington’s contemporaries spoke of an overwhelming passion that boiled right below Washington’s cool surface. Thomas Jefferson, who witnessed Washington lose his temper on more than one occasion, said “he was most tremendous in his wrath.” This portrait gives a glimpse of what Jefferson was talking about.

 

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William Joseph Williams; 1795

If you compare pictures of Presidents in their early years in office with their later years, you will notice they age considerably. This was also true with our first President. By 1795, when Washington sat for William Joseph Williams, he had been in office for seven years. During that time he had dealt with establishing the federal government, a threat of war with Britain and France, an armed rebellion, and the division of America’s first political parties occurring during his own cabinet meetings. In short, he was weary by the burdens of power, and ready to retire to his farm.

In the portrait above, Washington noticeably lacks the charisma of his earlier portraits, and his eyes lack the fire he once had. He comes across more as a common curmudgeon than the American hero we usually envision. Also of note, Williams did not edit out Washington’s pockmarked cheeks, the bags under his eyes, or the awkward set of his jaw (from numerous dental issues). During the contentious 1790s, Washington lost some of his impenetrable aura, and was attacked like any other politician. Just as people were more willing to point out his failures, artists were less willing to edit out his blemishes. This is a portrait of a vulnerable, tired, battle-hardened geriatric who had given thirty years of indispensable and sacrificial service to his country. The indispensable man was spent.

Andy never cared for art until recently, so his knowledge is limited to historic portraits. His only “B” in middle school was in Art.

Nuventures

Escaping 9-5: How One Couple is Living the Dream

[Editor’s note: Adam and Lindsey quit/modified their day jobs and have traveled around the continental U.S., Canada, Hawaii, and now New Zealand for the last six months. I had to hear more about how they were able to pull this off! You can follow their ongoing traverse around the world on Instagram @nuventuretravels and on their blog www.nuventuretravels.wordpress.com.]

First, a little introduction of myself. I was raised in Statesboro, GA graduated from UGA in 2009 with an Accounting degree and moved out to Colorado Springs to start my career. I’ve always had a passion for travel. I reckon it began when I had to visit my Dad during the summers while growing up. My grand folks would pack me up in the truck, and we would drive up through the Appalachians as my Dad lived in a bunch of places throughout Virginia when I was growing up. Things escalated from there. My first two summers in college, I sold books door-to-door in Michigan and Oklahoma, respectively. In the spring of 2008 I circumnavigated the world while studying abroad. In looking back at life, I see a slow escalation of my love for travel.

How did you start planning for all of your travels? How has it changed as you began?

As I prepared to move out to Colorado, family and friends would always ask how long I would be out there. I always answered five years. God kept leading my thoughts to five years in Colorado, and then some sort of overseas experience. Step one of the planning process was establishing sound financial principles. As a Certified Public Accountant, I’m naturally pretty frugal. I would take frugality to another level at some times. My family likes to pick on me for being cheap. I lived below my means. For example, my first vehicle purchase after my new job wasn’t a brand new 20k Subaru; it was a 6k, eleven year old Ford Ranger. I paid with cash as opposed to financing. I sought out Dave Ramsey’s advice when making decisions about life insurance, health care and retirement planning.

During those five years in Colorado the savings process constantly evolved as new chapters of life opened and closed. I bought a house in March of 2010, because I felt it was a smarter investing decision than doing five years of rent. I got married to an amazing woman in November of 2012. We lived off of my salary and saved all of hers. In June of 2013, I started credit card churning to supplement the travel transportation and lodging costs. As you can see, the planning process was a constant evolution. I was open to new ideas, and I had fun with it.

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How have you been able to finance your trips? Are you doing anything to earn money on the side while traveling?

Over the five years in Colorado, we saved as much as we could. We have an emergency fund of savings as well to utilize when we get back home to find new jobs and such. Heck yea, we are trying to earn money while traveling. Lindsey is trying to get sponsorships through our blog and social media. I have started a remote CPA business. We rent out our home back in Colorado Springs.

What’d you do with all your stuff back home?

We sold our car, packed our attic full of stuff and thankfully have great friends and family that are housing other odds and ends.

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How’d you get your wife to go along with this adventure? Was this something both of you agreed upon from the get-go?

Shoot…”go along”, na, Lindsey was gung ho about having this adventure. Thankfully, the Lord has given us both desires to travel. Lindsey has been to Jamaica on a mission trip and Nepal on a Global Village trip building houses. Lindsey loves meeting new people and discovering new places. As a husband, it is one of the best feelings in the world seeing your adventure partner for life see and discover new places.

Safety was a hot topic as we were planning for this adventure. Admittedly, I am a bit more lax and naive when it comes to safety. We agreed that we would never question one another if either gets a gut feeling about safety. That was a big, positive decision that we have made.

Where are you staying each night (i.e. camping, hotel, etc.)? Where/how are you eating…have you had money to eat out or are PBJs your new best friend?

We have been traveling for six months now, so we have had many different types of traveling experiences. While on a 3.5 month road trip in the States, we camped everywhere. There are numerous free places to camp from Bureau of Land Management land to National Forest land. We stayed a month in Kauai and spent most of it with our amazing friend, Jacqueline and her boyfriend, Evan. They were great hosts. Now we are in New Zealand. We have bought a van that has the seats taken out and a double bed built in the back with storage space. We will sleep in our van down by the river most of the time while in New Zealand. We treat ourselves to hotels every now and then, but we utilize the points that we have accumulated credit card churning to pay for those hotel stays.

We don’t eat out often at all, but we love to eat well. On our road trip of the US, we were serving up bacon, eggs and grits daily in our cast iron skillet. We dished up some tasty coffee in our french press. It was luxurious! In New Zealand we’re doing basic lunches with a meat, cheese, crackers, cadbury chocolates and some fruit. For dinners we typically do rice noodles with stir fried veggies. Back on our road trip in America, I kept some frozen deer meat available for our dinners. That was pretty nice to pull up to campsite, crack open a local microbrew and chill in the hammock while a butterfly venison steak was getting ready on the Lodge.

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Where are you now? How long do you plan to stay there? Any other places still on your list?

We are currently in Hamilton, New Zealand. One way that we have supplemented our travel funds has been to housesit. We are looking after a pug for a South African couple as they are away on Holiday. Not only does housesitting stretch our dollars by not having to pay for lodging, it offers a great way to get plugged into the community. Everyone travels differently. Lindsey and I like to get to know local folks and travel slowly. We value being invited for a dinner and chatting over a tea rather than fitting all of the destination spots into a short period of time. Housesitting allows you to plugged in right away. For example, we walked to the nearest church this past Sunday and met a lot of great folks. From that encounter, we have went blueberry picking, packed Christmas boxes and have gone to a couple of dinners. None of that would have happened so fast had we not traveled more slowly.

What’s been the most unexpected or surprising aspect of your time on the road?

In keeping with the finance theme, our budget has been the most surprising. After five months of traveling, we had the same amount of funds that we had when we started our travels on June 26th. This was accomplished by Lindsey staying part time on the road with her previous job, me starting a remote CPA gig and then renting out our home. When I ran the numbers after five months, I was awestruck. It was a huge life learning moment. I once felt that we are raised for that 9-5 lifestyle, and unless we have a crazy Uncle, you don’t really get the chance to realize that you can work less and play more. You can work in whatever facet you like in order to achieve the goals that you have set. We desire to travel right now. Through creativity and a little risk taking, we can truly work and play.

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What’s been the hardest thing about your travels? What’s been the most rewarding?

The hardest has been being flexible when things don’t work as planned. When you’re traveling full time, so much effort goes into logistics, so when they fail you get frustrated easier. But, the unexpected is also one of the greatest things about traveling. So many special moments have happened when we didn’t plan on them. Still, it’s tough having to constantly put your self in the mindset that the unexpected is what you really desire. We aren’t raised to embrace the unexpected. We are raised to have a plan and make each day exactly what you want it to be. We are creatures of habit, and when “change” rears its head we tend to freak out!

The most rewarding is the friendships, memories and growth that we are undergoing in our marriage. We have learned so much in six, short months that is going to make our lifetime of marriage all the more amazing.

Any recommended reading? I’m sensing a lot of 4-hour Workweek in some of your responses!

Ha! I did attempt to read 4-hour Workweek. I got bogged down in he digital assistant chapters and put it to the side. That really didn’t hold my interest at my current stage in life. I read a lot of blogs that hold be accountable and motivate me.

Million Mile Secrets: I read this one to help me stay on top of the miles and points game. It is ever changing and this fella does a great job of reporting those changes.

Never Ending Voyage: A digital nomad couple that I read for inspiration.

Making It Anywhere: A digital nomad couple that has it all. Their posts come every Sunday, and they have all kinds of life, news, and factoids. It’s like opening presents every Sunday!

Further reading: Nomadic Matt and Wandering Earl.

Anything else? Final thoughts?

I hope this article inspires readers to achieve that lifestyle that they have been longing for. Risk is scary. Change is difficult. But, daggum, when we risk it all in seeking that change your heart is longing for, you make yourself available to the Lord’s supernatural and miraculous ways. There are too many of us going through life planning everything out to a tee; so much so that we don’t allow things to just happen!