JoshuasTravels — Junior Year

Posts categorized “Junior Year”.

March 13th 2006

Army Weekend

The Mil Ball – ROTC’s formal dinner & dance – started off around 6.30pm Friday. It was a lot of fun, but there’s not a whole lot of fun things to say about it. I was in charge of the cake cutting ceremony, which was fun. I can’t really explain it in less than million years, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was purdee cool.

But it finished up around 8pm – that’s when the cadre (Officers and Sargent’s) left so the cadets could drink/get a little wild. We stuck around ’til about ten, then bugalooed out of there. You see, I had to be at Baldwin Hall at 1:45am. So I wound up getting a little less than three hours of sleep before I was at it again. From Baldwin we loaded up into two vans. There were 12 of us, not including a Major and two Master Sargent’s. That makes for 6 teams of two cadets each, which is good because we were driving to the up-tenth annual Kansas University Ranger Challenge Buddy Competition. But don’t let my flippant tone fool you, we’d been training for it since we got back from Winter Break.

The Buddy Comp, or the 2man, or whatever you want to call it, is a lot like the Ranger Challenge I do in the fall. The eponymous difference being that, rather than squad-sized teams, it’s 2man teams. There are other differences, but the other big one is the events. Here’s the break-down:

I competed with BJ Monson. He’s a year younger than me, tall, laid-back, not half as loud as me (who is?), and a real amiable guy. I’m not about to get all sappy here, but I couldn’t have asked for a better Battle Buddy, ‘cuz there’s not one in the whole Cadet Corp.

We stepped off for a 5+ mile ruck run (in all our going-to-war-gear: boots and rucks and mock M16s and all) at 7am. The route was tough as nails, but pretty cool. We ran on the hardball (MilSpeak for “a paved surface”) for a bit, then cut into the campus forest, then ran through a big ‘ol patch of mud, stuff like that.

Then we split into groups, and everybody round-robined to the separate events. Since there were 40-ish teams, this helped speed things up a bit. Me and Monson, team 27, rocked the Litter Carry first. It’s pretty simple: there’s a stretcher, with two sandbags on it, that you have to navigate around various obstacles really, really quickly. Things like sliding it under wire while you low-crawl, “jumping” it over a chin-high wall, and fishtailing it around a bunch of poles.

The next event is called the crucible, a term which serves well as both a describer and a identifier. It’s a 200 meter sprint that includes two wire pits (where you’ve got to low-crawl in the mud), a rope climb, a quick Land Nav bit, radioing in a medievac request, carrying four (two for each buddy) forty pound water jugs from this line to that line and back again, “stepping” planks across a grass square (there are two planks and you both have to balance on them while passing them back and forth – tough enough when you’re muddier than a pig, and you get DQed if you touch the ground-“lava”), and a sprint to the finish.

After that, a quick Land Nav course, then a grenade assault course. After all that, we had about twenty minutes to scarf some food, pound a Gatorade, and change our socks before the baddest event there is or ever will be: the buddy run.

On the surface, the only difference between the ruck run and the buddy run is that the buddy run is slightly longer, and you don’t wear rucks. But there’s a world of difference between that first run and that last one. Everybody starts out the day like Rambo, but not everybody finishes like Rambo. And the buddy run route was even crazier than before – about a mile and a half of it was through knee high grass and across three creeks. And they worked it out so that the last half mile was one big ‘ol hill. Believe me, it was tougher than I’d like to remember.

Did it suck? Yes, three or four times over. But it’s the kind of suck that you can love, you know? And for as much as totally sucked, they were selling BBQed hamburgers for a $1 about 20 yards from the finish line. It’s funny how it works, but the hamburger wasn’t too special at all. But it easily makes the Top Five List Of Hamburgers I’ve Ever Had. And that’s a list I take seriously.

About thirty minutes after I finished my burger, they had the briefest&best awards&closing ceremony I’ve ever been to. I’ll preface this by saying that there were originally around 100 teams signed up to compete. Tornadoes in Kansas pushed the competition back a week, and I think that cut out a lot of the “fluff” that were just there to “have fun.” I mean, team 27 had a blast, but we were also there to knock the dust off everybody else.

Around 40 teams competed, we finished up in 7th place. Another Truman team beat us by 9 points to take 6th place, and another Truman team beat everybody to take 1st place. And having three teams in the top ten is, by all accounts, pretty stinking impressive. Not to slight the other three teams from Truman, they all did very well. I chalk it up to a lot of hard work, a little luck, a ton of effort, and coming from one of the best ROTC programs in the region, if not the country. I knew there was a reason I choose Truman.

In other, more drastic news, I have not been re-hired as a columnist next year. I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but the new opinions editor is a bit strange and very politically correct (which, I think, explains a thing or two). Still, writing for the Index was something I enjoyed doing and I’m enough of an egoist to believe that at least few other people enjoyed – and I few more enjoyed to hate – the reading of my words. I’m not about to let it ruin my summer, but I do admit I’m saddened. Frankly, I plan on dedicating the second re-printing of my first best-seller to that crappy no-good editor.

One last little thing: at the house I lived in in Australia, there were two showers separated by a wall that didn’t quite reach the celling. It was a bit creepy at first, but you could talk to the person in the other shower and it sounded no different that if you were talking across the table over a bowl of Weet-Bix. It was through this that we invented the Beer Shower. Seeing it takes a roughly equal amount of time to a) consume a beer and b) take a shower, it was only a matter of time before we combined the two and added the singing of classic rock songs.

So, needless to say, my pallies were all pretty impressed with the concept when I imported it to Kirksville, Missouri. And it just so happened to inspire my roomie David Mannell – who is getting to be a really, really good on the guitar (check his myspace) – to write a song. This, in turn, inspired the music video available below.

most sincerely,
J. Kirk Fenton

the Music Video
the pics and my last column

March 9th 2006

my cup runneth over

I live with two guys, David and Tim. They’re both History majors – that’s not an important part of this story. What is important is that David hails from Kansas City, Missouri (There is a KC, Kansas but it’s across the river and sort of a ghetto).

Dave, being the stellar guy he is, said he’d show me around a bit. And two weekends ago I took him up on it. I know, I know, the two weekends ago turnaround seems a bit long. In my defense, I spent last weekend having fun (“fun”) with the Army and all the weekdays in between aceing mid-term after mid-term (“aceing”).

It was pretty quick trip, but I’ve always been told that it’s not how long your trip is, it’s how you use what you’ve got (“told”). Besides, any trip that you don’t have to spend the nights sleeping in your truck is a good trip.

The Nelson Atkins museum – one of America’s premier art institutes – was pretty neat-o. I’ve always had a thing for realism, so I checked out some of what I’m told are the greatest realism exhibits ever. I don’t say that to try win any Mr. Culture award, though – after the art, we went straight outside and jumped over the hedge-rows.

Of course, we were pretty hungry after all that, so we dropped in on a Steak and Shake, one of America’s premier dinning establishments. It’s a 50’s style dinner, and it’s delicious. After that, it was off to Union Station (made famous by the Kansas City Massacre of 1933) and the Liberty Memorial, KC’s two biggest touristy attractions.

Dave’s got a sister, though, and she’s a pretty good dancer, so we headed across town to see the State dance competition. I hate to be so brief, but her team took state. The next morning was a blur – I remember church, eating some great homemade lasagna, and then making our way back to Kirksville.

I’m still amazed at how much we fit in with what little time we had. And that was with all the best stuff off-limits, anyway. Kay Sea’s supposed to be the epicenter of real blues (to get any more authentic you’d have to go trouncing around the swamps and backwoods). And all that blues stuff is in bars and I’m not 21 (until next Thursday and I’m not even joking).

Which is ironic. As it is now, I only really drink, on average, around five weekends a month. Ha, ha. The follow-up joke being, of course, that the weekend starts on Wednesday. You’ve got to see the irony, though – I still get a kick out driving my mother up the wall, even though I’m days away from being legally recognized as a full-fledged adult. I guess I’ll never grow quite that far up.

the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico)

KC pics and
a column on profanity
and another column on manliness
and another on the University Baker
also, pics from the Saturday that I dressed up as the school mascot for the Admissions Office: SpikePics

January 30th 2006

The bear necessities of life will come to you

I promised myself that I’d travel one weekend a month before I ever got back to Missouri. I’ve got a lot of places to see – Kansas City, Chicago, Des Moines (Des   Moines!) – and not a lot of time to see them before I graduate and mosey my way out of flyover country.

So I took a daytrip to Hannibal, Missouri. Hannibal is most known for being the boyhood home of Mark Twain providing the settings of all Tom Sawyer’s adventures. Okay, Hannibal is really only known for Mark Twain. It’s a one-horse town. I mean really really a one-horse town.

But it was only 95 miles from Kirksville, which made for a pleasant drive. I got up around 7, hit the road around 9 and was wandering around Hannibal by 11. Not too bad, really. Except that I’d seen just about everything there was to see by 12:30.

Seriously. I got a picture by the big MT sign, I saw Becky Thatcher’s house and Tom’s fence, I stood next to the Tom & Huck statue and I gazed out across the mighty Mississip. After that there really wasn’t much else to do. I could’ve spent a Hamilton and a half to see some museum filled with stuff I already know (I was a Twain-ophile for a while back in middle school), but I couldn’t bring myself to. I was tempted to see the Mark Twain dioramas, but it was Sunday and they were closed.

Still, I wanted to contributed to the local economy in my own special way, so I got a BLT and some (of the best) onion rings (I’ve ever tasted) at the Mark Twain dinner and headed home. Of course, I wound up taking the long way home (not on purpose) and there was the additional fun that comes from realizing that you’re out of radiator coolant on one of the only stretches of mid-American highway that doesn’t have gas stations every ten minutes. But I’m safe and my truck’s alright and now I’ve got one less city to see before I die.

they’ll come to you,
and a brand new column on the brand new dorm

January 22nd 2006

And such a fine winter break it was

There was, of course, the more or less standard basics: spending plenty of q-time with family and friends, fitting a trip up to see the folks in Eastern Washington and all the other general mucking around. About the most noteworthy event of the first few weeks of break was the big ‘ol ice storm that hit my home suburb, Troutdale.

If you every find yourself in the rosy heart of Portland, turn East and follow the Mighty Columbia upstream, stopping at the last ‘burb on your way out of Portland. That’s my turf, ‘cuz I’m from the south-central area of the T-dale Projects (as I like to call it).

I wouldn’t get out of the car, though – we Troutdalians have got a nasty rep as being the uneducated hicks of Portland, and we’re not above harassing anyone with even semi-conservative leanings. Slap a Kerry sticker on the back of your car and you’ll be fine. Slap a Nader one on and you’ll probably be offered a free lattes at every stoplight.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – the Columbia river is at the bottom of this big Gorge that basically acts like a wind funnel for the Cascade Mountains. T-dale is the first suburb on the way into Portland, making it prone to winds that would make a sailor cry tears of joy (admittedly not my best metaphor). Every six years or so we get real nasty ice storms, and this was one of the those years. Luckily I had my new camera to document it. My brand spanking new Canon Powershot sd400 cost me 52 hours of labor and is worth every bit – just wait ’til you get a load of all 400+ pics I took this break.

But asides from swooning over my new camera, I also got up to some non-regular mischief, too. Downhill skiing, mostly. My Ma’s Grandparent’s were straight-up, off-the-boat Norwegian immigrants and she meet my Pa (who grew up in Colorado) at Utah‘s Snowbasin ski resort. Being borne of such a formula, I oughta be a world-class Olympic downhill skier. I ain’t, but I can get down about any mountain with something that might be mistaken for style.

So I found myself in Ogden, Utah for the last week of my break. My Ma grew up there, I was born there, and my sister now goes to college in Ogden.There oughta be a word in the English language that describes friends who are so close that the might as well be family. If there is one, I don’t know it. So for now I’ll refer to Carl and Trish as my Uncle Carl and my Aunt Trish. They both call Ogden home, and good ‘ol Carl (plugity plug ) was kind enough to let me crash at his place for the week. This left me free to worry about getting my sister to skip class for the next day of skiing (turns out she doesn’t need much convincing).

And the skiing! Ogden is thirty minutes away from a handful of resorts. Thirty minutes! Back in Oregon it takes us an hour fifteen from garage-door-to-first-lift. And the snow! Dry and soft, like powdered sugar. They say it’s the Greatest Snow On Earth, and I believe it (for now, at least – it’s a life goal of mine to ski the Austrian Alps and really compare the two). But the snow is top-notch and there’s enough of it to go around. There are big open trails, threefold bigger than anything you’d see on Oregon‘s Mount Hood. And the Ogdenites can Ski with a capitol “S”. My Ma has the most beautiful ski style I’d ever seen until I skied with her childhood friend, Trish, who just baaarely edges Ma out. They both make me look like a chump, and I ain’t a chump. Let me reiterate that: I’ve got my share of character flaws but being a chump-on-the-slopes ain’t one. Not that I have to be the best skier on the Mountain to enjoy myself. I don’t, but these Utahians are better than great. They float down the slopes.

I also ventured down to Ogden High School, which you might recognize from such movies as Drive Me Crazy. It’s a beautiful school with big marble halls. The Sandlot was also filmed in Ogden and I sorta wanted to get a picture of the community pool, but it was too far to walk and I didn’t want to sacrifice a day’s worth of skiing to see it.

I’ve got two cousins, Shane and Cody, that go to school just outside Salt Lake. It’s a long story but, try as we might, everything aligned against us and I didn’t get the chance to go sloping with them. A complete bummer, but what can you do? I did get the chance to ski with my Pa’s cousin Ross (which makes him my super-cousin I think – 50% more cousiny than my other cousins). Before leaving Oregon, me and Pa and Ma skied in the New Years with Ross’ brother Ray (another super-cousin of mine). Ross himself lives in Salt Lake City (about 25 minutes south of Ogden) and we (with his daughter and her friend) skied my 2nd-to-last-day at Solitude, one of the Salt Lake resorts. Like always, we had a great time. On the way back we stopped by their house long enough for Ross to change and me to snap a few choice pics.

And so I type this up, waiting for my flight out of SLC to board, mentally unprepared for another semester in the flatlands of America. My knees are shot, my quads burn with enough lactic acid to jump start a car battery, and my little heart is singing. I spent seven of my ten Utah-days whizzing down deliciously deep snow on brand-new planks of fiberglass (I got new ones for Christmas and immediately named them Mary Kate and Ashley – they’re good-looking, skinny, and I walk all over them). If I close my eyes, I can feel the cold slap of the wind on my face as my skis go from groomed corduroy snow to powder. That’s when it feels like your skis lose contact with the ground and you just sort of float a few inches above the world. An incredible feeling and one I just won’t be able to duplicate in Missouri.

the Ketchup Lover
PS – I’m trying a new thing with the pictures: click here to see ’em and be sure to email me with any problems

December 8th 2005

Traveling by myself these days… (I’m into Jazz and felt berets)

I apologize for this being a trifle late; my picture-posting skills are a little rusty. Nonetheless, there are still a few things I’d like to share. But before I go any further you can – if you choose – read this over at and that goes double for all the rest of my mass-emails.

The first semi-big deal: I am now gainfully employed by the Truman Admission’s department. I call up Prospectives and answer questions; spit game for TSU, stuff like that. My time is only worth five-an-hour, but I only work 8hr/wk and it’s a pretty fun job. I’ve talked to some cool people and had some interesting conversations, too. The coolest? Someone with the first name: Zed.

So I’ve always considered it an extreme irony that I spent five months seeing just about everything there is to see in Oz, but now I’m stuck in rural Missouri. And between ROTC, volunteering and all my other extra-cirruluar commitments, I can’t even get away for weekend jaunts. Every Saturday there’s something. It’s irony to the X-treme. Partially because of this I declined my annual Thanksgiving trek back to Oregon in favor of a whirlwind tour of Tennessee. And because my job pays the lowest minimum wage in the country, I tried to spend just about all my money on gas. This led to me quite literally living off my truck for the entire weeklong journey: I slept in the cab, I ate PB&Js from my lock-box and I cooked Road Dogs (a Fentonian invention: hot dogs wrapped in tinfoil and placed on the heat manifold of the engine) in Stormbringer (what I like to call my truck).

The trip:
My good buddy Paul Strauss grew up on a farm. And that’s exactly how I introduced my sister to him when she came out to visit me last year. While my cousin’s grew up on a Colorado sod farm (braggable), Paul grew up on the proverbial 200-odd acre Midwest farm. The kind that feds a nation and makes Mellencamp so proud. With chickens and pigs and stories about hay bales and a rustic house and a reuse-resuse-reuse mentality.

Paul, being the swell guy he is, offered me a place to stay for a night. So I took him up on it and spent my first night in Casa de Strauss. As soon as we walked in the door, Mama&Papa Paul greeted us warmly with open arms and the smell of rich home-cooking. We sat down to potatoes (grown in the garden), lima beans (grown in the garden), home-baked bread, jam made with strawberries (from the garden), applesauce (from trees I saw as I walked in), etc. It was tenfold tastier and no doubt healthier than any McMeal I could’ve had. Probably cheaper, too.

But the company was even better than the food. It brought back old feeling of Fenton dinners. Throughout high school, no matter our individual schedules, we four Fentons made concentrated attempts at sit-down eating and sharing and telling and caring. I’ve no doubt it was a very important element of my development. And the Strauss’s were kind enough to invite me into their fold and share with me. I would’ve been quite satisfied with spending the whole break there. Alas, I was up the next morning and on the road before I knew it. I bid a hardly-adequate thank you and took off.

While there are no pictures of my visit, I did stop here for a few hours time. I really liked L-ville and just about everything I saw reminded me of Leave It To Beaver. The city has good atmosphere.

The Smokys:
What can I say about the Smokys? The Rockys are bigger but the way the vegetation creeps up around the Smokys, they’re just as beautiful – maybe even more so. Yet the skiing is better in Colorado, so it’s a trade-off.

Driving and hiking around the Smokys, completely awed by nature, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this is the sort of environment Davy Crockett grew up in.

An interesting side note: I was wandering aimlessly around the visitor’s center when I overheard the accents of two New Zealanders. One thing led to another and I wound up giving them a lift 3 miles up the road, so they could do the hike they wanted to. I was going that way anyway and I wouldn’t really mention it except the absolute quirkiness of it all. Natives from what might-as-well-be-Australia, I was able to return one of the favors I was given so often in the Lucky Country.

I was also able to take some pictures in some interestingly-named cities: Fenton (a retail suburb of St. Louis) and Paris, TN and London, TN and the Chattahoochee National Forest (I like Alan Jackson and I’m not afraid to admit it). I also paid my $11 to see the Hermitage, home of the best President this country ever had. While I was there I took a few tours, watched a short biography-film and read most of the little signs posted. They didn’t mention Andrew Jackson’s involvement in the Trail Of Tears at all. Which I found amusing but unmoving: AJ’s the Best Prez Ever because he had more bravado in his left hand than Carter had in his entire body. This is important: pretty much every ranking lists AJ in the top ten and Carter somewhere waaaay past eleven.

I also made it to Rock City, which has a little precipice from which you can see 7 states at once (I must admit S. Carolina looked a whole awful lot like W. Virginia). I saw Nashville and the Grand Ol Opry (a big money pit) and I visited Lynchburg, TN. What’s in Lynchburg, TN you ask? Enough Jack Daniels to drown a herd of elephants, that’s what. I got a tour of the factory and you can think of me the next time you see a bottle of JD. I have repeat: have been in the same room that every drop of the stuff must pass through before they separate out the mash from the whiskey. The tour guide was real clichéd ‘ol Tennessean with the great backwoods, deadpan sense of humor that that implies. He pronounced Government guh-mut and made all sorts of really
subtle, really funny wisecracks.


let's lose charley