[Character by Dialecticdreamer]
Mark Hastings -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair buzzed short. He lives in Mercedes, California and attends the same high school where Drew went. At the time of "The Gossamer Threads of Truth," he is just short of 18. Fast on his feet, he enjoys sports that involve running. Mark and Anthony are often found together. They're troublemakers, but popular in certain circles due to their social connections. They also have a knack for sneaking beer and cigarettes into a teen party. However, Mark is not as smart as he likes to think he is.
Qualities: Good (+2) Best Friends with Anthony Dice, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Nephew of Mercedes Mayor, Good (+2) Party Animal
Poor (-2) Not the Sharpest Marble in the Stack
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Mercedes Rail is a historic path and strip park made from an old railroad line. A shared-use path provides access for walking, jogging, skating, skateboarding, bicycling, and horseback riding. It is wheelchair-accessible. The path varies from 8-12 feet wide, narrower through residential areas and wider where it passes through or alongside other parks. The width of the original railroad territory was 400, 200, or 100 feet depending on age, but in some places more of that has been sold off, narrowing the width. Amenities such as bus stops, park benches, Little Free Libraries, and water fountains are scattered along the length of the path. Public bathrooms are available at both ends and in the middle. The trailheads are anchored by the Happy Trails Park and the Trains Diner. The Railway Station Museum is near the middle.
A shared use path typically runs 8-12 feet wide, although they can be wider. Since a driveway typically measures 9-12 feet wide, this gives access to emergency vehicles if they need to get into a large park where motor vehicles usually can't go. Terramagne-America makes widespread use of such paths for safety and social reasons. Guidelines encourage people to share the space mindfully. A notable difference is that T-America encourages all manner of human-powered travel including skateboards and roller skates in addition to bicycles. This pervasive support of physical fitness and social mingling has many health benefits.
Happy Trails Park has a stretch of old railroad tracks running through it, along with pavilions, picnic tables, bathrooms, and other amenities. Several train cars in the park provide extra play space. This train car has a smooth wooden floor where toddlers and infants can play safely. This one has been converted to a family playroom. The teen lounge occupies another car. It has games, couches, tables and chairs. The park also has a train-themed playground.
The Mercedes Rail Station Museum includes a building and three train cars, which house various types of railroad artifacts and memorabilia. This display focuses on a conductor. The hobo room showcases art and artifacts about wanderers traveling by train.
Both ends and the middle offer some kind of car and bicycle parking. This is one of the Little Free Libraries along the trail. Parts of the trail feature plantings of native species for Merced, California including wildflowers and shrubs.
The Trains Diner consists of four linked cars, beginning with the bar. Guests enter through this car. The bar serves hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks and short-order food. Its kitchen serves both the bar and the lounge cars. The lounge features full-size tables and a conversation area with couches. Its food comes from the bar kitchen and includes more complete entrees. It is suitable for family dining. The fine dining car offers a more sophisticated environment and cuisine. It is served out of its own kitchen car. It also costs considerably more. A complete, private kitchen serves the fine dining car. Staff enter through this car.
Home & Away is a business alongside the Mercedes Rail. The left side of the building is a travel agency, and the right side is a home decorating office, run by a husband and wife team. In between, they share a spacious lobby-lounge area.
PinAnt is a T-American app for mobile devices that lets you mark points of interest. The logo has an ant carrying a pennant. It is similar to L-American PinBox but has more features. You can mark points from afar or by visiting, track or cloak your location, and network with other users through a secured friends list. The free version has a limited number of pins and maps. For a few bucks you can upgrade and get more at various levels, or buy the premium monthly subscription for unlimited ones.
An average shopping trip takes 41 minutes. For larger families, it takes longer, especially with kids in tow. Joshua spends about $4264 per month on groceries. That's double the high-end estimate for a family of 7, accounting for the superpowers and other factors driving up expenses. At two shopping trips per week, each would cost over $500.
Food cooperatives, food box programs, and buying clubs are effective ways to save money. All are more popular in Terramagne than here. Joshua and Pips are just starting to realize how challenging their situation is and what they could do to address these issues. Consider best practices and resources for starting a food buying club.
Angel Food Ministries was a fantastic supplier of cheap, healthy food boxes until they went out of business in L-America. They're still going in T-America due to more responsible management. Their standard boxes cost about $30 each and contained about $60 worth of food -- enough to last about a week for a family of four, or up to a month for one person. For some examples see the Angel Food Menu August 2010, Angel Food Signature Box Menu, Angel Food Signature Box Contents, Angel Food Premium Fruit and Veggie Box Menu, Angel Food Premium Fruit and Veggie Box Contents, Angel Food Just 4 Me After School Box Menu, Angel Food Just 4 Me After School Box Contents, Angel Food Allergen-Free Box Menu, and Angel Food Convenience Meals Menu.
A seatbelt clip prevents the belt from pulling constantly.
(Messy medical details ahead.)
Migraines range from occasionally miserable to downright crippling. Pips has headaches due to his superpowers, which resemble migraines. They are related to, but not identical to, the overstrain headaches that most soups can get from pushing their ability too far. Notably, Pips doesn't suffer from the gastric effects that migraines often cause. His symptoms typically include:
• Sensitivity to light, particularly bright lights ”photophobia”
• Sensitivity to sound, particularly loud sounds ”phonophobia”
• Vision changes
• Pain on one side of the head
• Throbbing Pain
• Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
• Difficulty concentrating
Many things can cause migraines. For Pips, the triggers are primarily visual, and mostly controlled by his sunglasses. Occasionally other environmental changes can trigger a headache.
• Weather changes including: temperature changes, extreme heat or extremely cold weather, humidity, barometric pressure changes and storms
• Lights, such as: bright lights or glaring lights, fluorescent lights, flashing lights or screens
• High altitude
There are many treatments for migraines, but this problem is notoriously difficult to solve. None of them work for everyone. Most of them reduce rather than remove the symptoms. Pips uses a combination of methods that minimize the frequency of headaches and provide pretty thorough relief during flareups. As long as he follows his protocols and avoids major triggers, his condition is very well controlled -- maybe one or two bad headaches a year and a handful of lesser ones. He can usually catch those early and damp them down so they're inconvenient instead of agonizing. That puts his effective level of headache just above average, so it actually has very little impact on his life now. His methods include:
* The gizmotronic sunglasses prevent a majority of headaches by controlling light and other factors related to his superpowers.
* The gizmotronic blindfold can stop a headache from developing fully if used when preliminary symptoms begin. It also soothes headaches in progress. It works by influencing brain waves.
* Blue chamomile treats the superpowered aspects, although it's also used as a remedy for headaches in general. For many soups, it has a moderate to strong sedative effect.
* Peppermint is among the natural remedies for migraines. Although pure menthol is toxic, clinical-grade peppermint oil is skin-safe and edible if diluted with a carrier oil. It is soothing in general, and also kills the taste of blue chamomile.
* Various prescription drugs can reduce the frequency of migraines or relieve a headache in progress. The injectable ones are typically used for acute pain, especially severe enough that it won't respond to anything less. These target the biochemistry of migraines.
* Essential oil blends for headaches are usually rubbed on the skin. Pips has a blend of lavender, peppermint, and just a little blue chamomile for milder headaches or the hangover period after a migraine.
* Various blends of migraine tea are available. Pips has a daytime blend of green tea, ginkgo, and ginger. The nighttime blend is chamomile, feverfew, and valerian.
* Marijuana in many forms can help ward off developing headaches, ease pain, promote relaxation, and soothe post-migraine hangovers.
* Chocolate can reduce the impact of a headache or ease post-migraine hangovers.
* For maintenance purposes, Pips likes a T-American dietary supplement for migraine prevention called Migr8 that includes Coenzyme Q10, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.
Learn how to make a bandana blindfold. For extra protection, scrunch another bandana over your eyes to block all the light. The same folding technique works to make a bandage. Lots of people in T-America carry bandanas because they're useful for so many things.
In T-America, first responders commonly carry a generic handicap sign to post in their car when they are assisting someone with a permanent or temporary disability. Often it's a case like this, where they're helping an injured or ill person into a building and it's helpful to park close to the door. Places like hospitals offer a training course where you get the generic tag along with your certificate. And yes, Joshua will go move the car when he has enough energy.
There are various ways to carry someone. The bridal carry is comfortable for the rider, but often challenging for the carrier. The fireman's carry is efficient for the carrier, but uncomfortable for the rider. In a classic princess carry or bridal carry, the recipient may be lying across the carrier's arms almost horizontally. In a one-man chair carry, the recipient is sitting almost upright on the carrier's stronger forearm.
This heavy leather bag has four small pockets on each side, one medium pocket on each end, and one large compartment in the middle. The silver zipper fobs have gizmotronic locks that only open for Pips. A red cross zipper pull marks the pocket holding the emergency supplies. The green pouch is the World Travel Adventure Medical Kit, a reasonably lightweight model designed for situations where medical care may not be available for several hours.
The blue pouch is the essential oils and tinctures first aid kit. Cobalt vials are available here, but T-America has smaller ones too. The lightning brain icon indicates migraines.
The red pouch has the maximum-strength migraine medication.
The Tulls are stocking their fridge with sandwiches that keep well. These can be made in large batches and eaten as needed. Know how to keep your sandwiches from getting soggy.