On the other side of Stevens Pass Summit, the roads narrowed into a one lane WTF-drive-faster-you-slow-sh!t highway of sadness and pain, BUT on this particular day, it was okay to crawl: yellow, red, and orange hues caressed our eyes and sang us a lullaby, “Rock-a-bye Hungy on the treetop, when the wind blows, eat a cheeseburger.” Mmm… cheeseburgers.

The morning fog has yet to dissipate completely into the ether, lingering on mountainsides so grand. Parked cars littered the highway with turnouts available seemingly every half a mile. Silly photographers with their tripods formed an ad-hoc brotherhood with a mission to frame and capture the perfect fall foliage shot.

We joined them now and then, fully embracing the insanity that is landscape photography. At one stop, I sprinted across the highway, traversed the dewy high grass, and bounced around like a stag in search of colors. Why am I doing this? Have I lost my mind? A few snaps later and the answer was clear: I’ve lost my mind.

fall foliage on highway 2 to leavenworth

fall foliage on highway 2 to leavenworth

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Reading time: 9 min

We landed in the Windy City just before the rush early Friday morning. The landing was smooth. No wind? I thought this was the Windy City. Fun fact: Chicago’s nickname refers to the political hot air farting from politicians’ mouths – the term was coined in an editorial piece written by Charles Dana sometime in the late 1800s to early 1900s, though no official record can be found of such an editorial. And while Chicago does get wind gusts coming from Lake Michigan, its nickname isn’t a reference to that.

It was gloomy. We escaped Seattle’s unbearable sunshine to enjoy light rain and gray skies. Oh, the irony!!!

Two weekends before Chicago, we visited New York for the first time and were blown away by the “everythingness” of the place. So, I had no expectations of Chicago, to be honest. This was a spur-of-the-moment kinda trip. Not a single plan was made. Well, we did arrange to meet co-authors for The Trip that Changed my Life book, but that was really all we had in store for us.

On reaching our hotel at the Hyatt Place on the Magnificent Mile stretch, we dropped our bags off at the counter and explored a little bit of the city. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be around. We crossed the highway via the tunnel and made it to Navy Pier and the beautifully menacing (with the dark skies and all) viewpoint of the Chicago skyline from the beach.

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Reading time: 3 min

“Controlled chaos,” my friend succinctly provided his summary of the Big Apple. I nodded in agreement. But, after reflecting a bit in my hotel room later that night, I thought his assessment painted only a single stroke in the otherwise endless strokes of New York City’s portrait. “Controlled chaos” implied an environment that was somehow inorganically managed and inherently chaotic.

It didn’t seem right to me. Chaotic, yes, but not always and not everywhere.

I wracked my brains for days trying to decipher the secret writing on the proverbial wall that would unlock the meaning of this puzzling city.

I gave up.

Then, while sitting on the steps overlooking the beautifully orchestrated chaos that is Times Square, a strange sense of peace washed over me. And as I looked around at everything around me, it became clear: New York City isn’t a selection of words or emotions; it is a compilation of everything, of all emotions, feelings, and thoughts rolled into one.

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Reading time: 3 min
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