On Monday, July 7, 2008, after enjoying a “one-day vacation” with my family in Big Bear Lake, CA I embarked on a 3 hour and 21 minute, 205.5 mile journey to Bakersfield. There I was scheduled to start teaching another session at DeVry University that evening.

view-of-big-bear-lake

I am only just now able to share the photos from this trip because the past two months were exceptionally challenging, but rewarding. Adjunct teaching is similar to walking a tight-rope without a net: high risk, but high reward. There is no paid leave, sick leave or traditional benefits.

I taught three classes at DeVry:

  • BUSN-115, Introduction to Business and Technology
  • COMP-100, Computer Applications for Business with Lab
  • ENGL-135, Advanced Composition

I also facilitated four to six concurrent online sessions for Axia College of University of Phoenix of:

  • COM-140, Contemporary Business Communication
  • COM-220, Research Writing

Amidst all that I was juggling some consulting projects and myriad responsibilities as the father of two amazing young boys. Despite the limited amount of free time I have, it was important to have some kind of a vacation with my family, even if doing so involved driving 350 miles in 6.5 hours during a 24 hour period.

Had I been able to spend more time on vacation I would have done so. However, my circumstance did not permit it — so I appreciated the time I did have, not the time I didn’t. Although my time in Big Bear was short, it was priceless.

We rented a pontoon boat and spent several hours driving around on the lake just relaxing and taking in the fresh air. I don’t step back and take a break much, especially these days, but it was a wonderful chance to partially recharge my batteries.

After spending the morning of July 7 on the water once more I loaded up my car, filled up the tank (at $4.73 a gallon!) and got what I thought would be a cheap automated car wash (it was $10!). I got on the road at almost exactly noon and was off on my big adventure.

My route included California Highway 18 north (through Apple Valley) to Interstate 15 North (briefly) to Highway 58 West (the starting point is near Hinkley, CA — made famous/infamous in the movie “Erin Brokovich”) and ending on Highway 99.  My stopping point was the Vagabond Inn (North Bakersfield).

The photos below document this pleasant and, thankfully, uneventful road trip.

Fueling up in Big Bear Lake ($4.73 a Gallon!)

Leaving Big Bear Lake on Highway 18

Some kind of processing plant at the base of the mountain

Decisions, Decisions…

Apple Valley (where are the apples?)

Getting onto Interstate 15 (it is the overpass in the distance)

Interstate 15 North

Highway 58 to Bakersfield

Highway 58 Near Hinkley, CA (made famous/infamous in “Erin Brokovich”)

Mojave (home of SpaceShipOne)

Leaving Mojave and heading up the mountain on Highway 58 West

Nearing Tehachapi

Nearing Bakersfield

Smoky skies from various wildfires (see YouTube video below)

The video below was shot during the last leg of my journey. The overcast/discolored sky that was the result of soot and smoke in the air from the Piute Fire (near Lake Isabella, CA) and, possibly, the Gap Fire that was burning in Goleta, CA (near Santa Barbara).

The music in the background is the theme from the movie “Napoleon Dynamite.”  For the music buffs out there it is called “Music For A Found Harmonium” and can be found on the album “Irish Times” by Patrick Street.

It seems to fit the video quite well. Don’t you agree, Napoleon? Gosh!

The “Bond” in all its glory – actually for $40 it is a great value

Scenic view of Highway 99 South from my luxury suite at the Vagabond Inn

All things considered it was a (thankfully) uneventful, yet interesting adventure. There was something unique and invigorating about seeing parts of California many people overlook.

The following day I filmed this video as I drove to the DeVry University Center at 3000 Ming Avenue.

The video below is of me approaching the DeVry campus. The music that accompanies this clip is called “Say Hello” off of the “Centuries Before Love and War” album of the group “Stars of Track and Field.” Notably, I went to elementary school and grew up with one of the members of the band: Dan Orvik.

Despite the often odd adventures I have driving to and from DeVry, one thing is for certain: my commute is never boring!

Have soaring gas prices pushed online course enrollment past the tipping point? This is a question addressed in a July 8, 2008 Chronicle of Higher Education article titled, “Rising Gas Prices Fuel Increse In Online Learning.” Author Jeffrey R. Young presented some compelling data, including the following:

  • The Tennessee Board of Regents reports that summer enrollment in online courses is up 29 percent this summer over last year.
  • At Brevard Community College, in Cocoa, Fla., summer enrollment in online courses is up nearly 25 percent.
  • Harrisburg Area Community College, in Pennsylvania, saw its summer online enrollment rise 15 percent to 20 percent.
  • At Northampton Community College, summer online enrollment is up 18 percent.

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Noting this increased interest, the article further highlights how certain online schools and traditional schools with online programs are now endeavoring to capitalize on the trend, as explained below:

  • The SUNY Learning Network, the online incarnation of the State University of New York, offers prospective students access to an online calculator that helps them determine how much they will save in gas costs by taking classes online.
  • Colorado State University, which is launching a new online program this fall, has decided to waive the program’s $50 application fee to attract more students concerned about gas prices.

Despite the reported increase in online enrollments, administrators at the University of Phoenix, the largest provider of online education, repot that there has not been a spike in online enrollments this summer nor have representatives heard much about gas prices affecting students’ choice of formats.

This might be due in part to Phoenix’s ground classes being designed to minimize drive time by meeting just once a week for four-hour sessions, with textbooks and library services delivered online.

The evening courses I teach for DeVry are designed similarly: classes meet once a week for four hours with an online component designed to provide two to four additional hours of educational experience. That being said, I still have students who admirably drive upwards of 30 miles to the campus from places like Delano, Wasco and Shafter. I also have one student that drives more than 40 miles from Lake Isabella!

I suspect that as gas prices continue to climb there will be increased demand for online classes. Anecdotally speaking I have seen an ongoing increase in the advertisement and availability of online courses — both individual classes, certificate programs and degrees.

While I can’t verify this, I feel as if I have seen more schools offering additional programs during the past few months. Likely, if it is true, it is merely a coincidence, because developing and launching an online learning experience is not something you can do in just a few months.

Nevertheless, as an online adjunct instructor and as someone who feels technology can both increase the availability of education and enhance a student’s ability to learn (in classrooms or online), I am pleased to see the increase in online education — whatever the reason might be. Personally, I welcome additional opportunities to teach online because I would appreciate a chance to save a few (hundred) dollars in gas!

On Saturday, June 14, 2008 my family and I decided to visit the incredible Travel Town Museumin Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. We headed out at approximately 10:00 a.m., but once we left the house realized we needed to get gas. So, we stopped at a Shell station on The Old Road, near Rye Canyon and a stone’s throw away from the Southbound 5 Freeway.

When I got out of the car to gas it up, I nearly fell over when I saw that the cost per gallon of 87 octane fuel (the “cheap stuff”) was an astonishing $4.65! I could barely believe my eyes and had to check again to make sure I had read the numbers correctly. Yep, $4.65 a gallon!

 I was in shock and quickly cycled through the five stages of grief:

  • Denial: There is no way gas costs this much!
  • Anger: This is outrageous, I am being robbed!
  • Bargaining: Well, maybe if I just get $10 worth the prices will drop and I can fill up the rest of the tank later at a lower price?
  • Depression: I can’t believe this, I will never be able to afford to drive anywhere again….the world is conspiring against me!
  • Acceptance:It will be ok, gas prices will eventually even out – I have no control over the prices so why get riled up by them?

I filled up the tank with 9.123 gallons, resulting in a grand total of $42.50!

A few days earlier, on May 31 through June 3 (the last two days I filled up) the per gallon cost of 87 octane fuel was $4.23 at a Mobile and 7-11 down the street from my house — which was bad enough, but crossing $4.50 a gallon seemed like an entirely different level of extortion.

I’ve often heard the argument made that in some European countries gas can cost $8 to $10 a gallon, so we should be grateful that our prices are so much less. However, this argument is a fallacy, because these same European countries that have gas prices double our currently ridiculous rates are socialist — meaning that the additional cost of the fuel is intended to cover any number of social programs designed to benefit citizens of that country.

Therefore, in those cases, it makes sense that gas would cost so much more. But America, being a capitalist economy, the additional cost we are now paying for fuel does not result in any equivalent increase in services made available to the citizens of the country.

So, until I get free healthcare — that I would likely not want anyway, given the propencity of anything run by a government agency to foul things up — I will fail to feel “grateful” that we don’t have it any worse.

Although, there is a chance I qualify for dual Italian/American citizenship — so I might just ride out this “oil storm” living with my family in a Tuscan villa zipping around on a Vespa and exclaiming “Ciao!” to everyone (props to Eddie Izzard!)! I think I am liking the sound of this!