Saturday, May 31, 2008

San Diego, Day Two

Today we woke up a little later and it was overcast out. I took a morning swim in the outdoor pool – a little cold, but the water was warm and it felt good to get some exercise. Then we got breakfast at [drum roll]… Jamba Juice! Yes, we finally found one that was open at the same time that we wanted to eat breakfast. It was great, especially since we ate outside and the weather was improving. So it was simply a perfect morning.

Then we toured the San Diego Zoo, which was pretty amazing. The thing that makes it different from other zoos is the fact that it’s almost entirely outside. The animals seem to have a lot of room to live, and the zoo obviously makes a huge effort to put the animals in with their natural environment, with the trees, flowers and other vegetation that they would be used to. We had lunch at an outdoor cafĂ©, and walked a lot.

I found out the name of the tree I keep seeing everywhere with the purple flowers. It is called the Jacaranda tree. They line the streets here and were all over the zoo. They are amazing. I wish I could grow them in the northern climate, but they don’t like winter very much.

After the zoo, we drove around the city a little and saw the waterfront. There are several aircraft carriers in the harbor. One of them, the Midway, is a museum. I think the other ones are still in service. We also saw a Carnival cruise ship.

Then we came back to the hotel and took a nap. We’ll get some dinner soon. Tomorrow we fly back to Boston. Our flight leaves around 11 and we get into Boston around midnight Eastern time. Long trip, but not quite as long as it took to get out here, I guess. ☺

We’ve had a really nice trip. At the beginning of the trip, I thought that two weeks was a long time, but it went by quickly and we’ve seen a lot. I love being on vacation and I love seeing new things. But I’ll be glad to be home too.

I’m going to try to keep this blog going after I get back, although I don’t think I’ll have a lot of interesting things to say. ☺

I have some photos to post, but the internet connection is not so good so I'll post them later.

Friday, May 30, 2008

San Diego, CA

We have made it to our destination: San Diego. It was another day of driving, although there was a lot more traffic than anywhere we've been on this trip.

We left Ventura after breakfast and drove into Los Angeles. We drove up the coast, past Malibu Beach. There were a lot of fancy houses there, including the "Getty Villa," which looks like a castle. Unfortunately, we mostly saw the backs of the houses, since they're right on the water. There were some in the hills though. Most of the houses are white stucco with red tile roofs. They are very restful-looking, like a vacation retreat.

We stopped in Santa Monica to walk along the beach. This is me, experiencing the COLD water!

(A horrible photo, but it shows the experience anyway ...)

When we got into L.A., Jim somehow found Santa Monica Blvd., and we took that into Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is very rich and glitzy. There are a lot of ritzy stores and malls. Actually, the whole town feels like a big mall and an amusement park wrapped together. Here's a photo of one of the streets we drove down.

You can see how high the trees are. Many of the streets are also lined with these trees with bright purple blossoms. I can't figure out what kind of tree it is. I have never seen them before. We have seen a lot of these trees in L.A., and also in San Diego. I will try to get a photo of one tonight or tomorrow to post so that you can see.

We had lunch at Baja Fresh, which is a chain that serves Mexican food with a Californian twist. We have one near our house in Massachusetts and like to go there. Although I know it sounds stupid that we'd go to a chain restaurant while on vacation, it is somewhat hard to find a restaurant that has vegetarian food, yet is still palatable to Jim. Plus, we wanted to eat something quick so we could move on. Baja Fresh was pretty good, and we got to eat outside.

After that, Jim found Hollywood Blvd and we stopped at Grauman's Chinese Theater to look at the celebrity signatures in the cement. Honestly, this is the only thing in L.A. that I have always wanted to see. My parents went to L.A. when I was in middle school, and I remember my mom showing us photos of them with Marilyn Monroe's block in the cement. Since then, I've always wanted to go there. Here are two photos from that:

Shirley Temple:

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell ("Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"):

It was remarkable how these cement signatures dating all the way from the 1920's and 1930's are still really clear in the cement. Laurie and I put our initials in the cement driveway at our house in Buffalo in 1989 and they're fading fast.

After that, we went into a nearby mall to see the Hollywood sign:

Then we headed out of town. I didn't really like L.A. too much. It is the exact opposite of Boston.

L.A.: White, new buildings; well-marked streets; wide boulevards; sunshine all the time; always warm; nuovo-rich houses that show off wealth.
Boston: Brick, old buildings; unmarked, twisty streets; 4 seasons; the wealthy live in the oldest brick buildings.

Both L.A. and Boston are near the ocean and have bad traffic. I think those are the only 2 similarities. :)

Now we're in San Diego and Jim is imploring me to get some dinner. We're both hungry. So I'm going to end this blog. I will write later about San Diego.


Good morning! We are getting ready for our trip to L.A. and San Diego. The weather is fabulous. About 60 degrees and sunny. Jim tells me that it's like this almost every day in Southern California.

After we checked in last night, we discovered that our window is about 50 yards from train tracks. 4 trains went by last night, including 1 at 1am and another at 3am. The whole room shook when they went by. This morning, when we got breakfast, we learned that the Amtrak station is just down the street.

Even Jim wasn't that happy, and he LOVES trains.

But it's OK, because the weather is great and we're still on vacation!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ventura, CA

Today was our Rt. 1 drive down the coast of California and it was amazing. We knew it was going to take us a lot longer to get to Los Angeles, but the view was spectacular.

The road was on the edge of a cliff that dropped straight into the ocean. I was actually a little scared during the whole drive because with one false turn, we would be fish food.

We drove through areas like Big Sur, and had lunch at a restaurant built right into the cliff. It had an amazing view of the ocean. The water is a crystal blue-green, with big black rocks jutting out of it. Very dramatic.

Then we came upon a beach with hundreds of elephant seals on it.

Apparently, it is breeding time for them, and they do their thing on the beach. We just saw them all sunbathing and arguing with each other. They were really funny, making all sorts of noises like burps and farts and barks. Some of the seals threw sand on themselves to stay cool. They are extremely fat animals, and while I'm sure they're very good swimmers and graceful in the water, they are quite clumsy on the beach.

And by the way, did you notice from the photos that we have sun and blue sky today? As soon as we left San Francisco, it was all blue skies. Thank goodness. I was getting tired of looking out at the ocean and only seeing gray, gray, gray.

Tonight we are staying in Ventura, which is about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. We went into the town center to get dinner, and it seems like every other store sells antiques. We window-shopped a little. I'm always haunted by the old photos of unknown people. Who are they? Why did their photos end up in a store? Is their family out there looking for them? There's a website called Dead Fred that tries to connect mystery photos with their long-lost family. I love it. I posted a few of my photos on there (I have a few mystery photos in my collection, like anyone). There are some people who will actually go around and buy all these orphan photos and post them on the web. And I must say that sometimes I've felt the urge to do that. I guess sometimes people actually find photos of their relatives.

Tomorrow we're driving into L.A. to look around. We thought about trying to see a show, but of course, we needed to have foresight to get tickets, and we didn't know when exactly we'd be in L.A. Plus, I think Jim would rather not spend a whole lot of time in L.A. because he doesn't like it. I want to see the Chinese Theater with the handprints and signatures in the cement out front, and I want to see the Hollywood sign. And it might be interesting to drive around some of the rich neighborhoods. But I don't think we're going to spend a whole lot of time there. When we're done sightseeing, we're driving to San Diego. San Diego will be our last stop before we fly back on Sunday.

So is anyone out there going to see the Sex & the City movie tomorrow?? I'm dying to see it, but I don't think it'll happen until we get back to Boston. There seems to be a lot of hype for it, much more than for most movies.

See you back here tomorrow!

San Francisco, CA

Yesterday we saw San Francisco. It’s really a great city. The architecture reminds me a little of South America or Puerto Rico. The atmosphere is similar to Chicago. It is extremely hilly – driving the hills is like riding a roller coaster.

We left our hotel yesterday morning around 9:00 and drove south, through Sonoma County. It was beautiful. There were vineyards everywhere, and hills. I could see myself living there. It became more urban as we entered Marin County, and then we saw signs for the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow. We drove over it and it was amazing. It is such an icon.

We got to our hotel around 11:00 and checked in. We decided to stay right in the city so that we could spend a lot of time walking around and exploring. We stayed at a hotel called Parc 55, which Priceline found for us. Despite its claims that it’s a luxury hotel, its Internet access was down all night (that’s why I didn’t blog last night). Also, there was no included breakfast, and no pool. But its location was good.

By the time we got settled in, it was time for lunch. Our hotel was near Chinatown so we went there. We ate at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called “A-1 Chinese Restaurant.” It was excellent. Then we took a cab to Fisherman’s Wharf and lined up a 3-hour bus tour. We figured that since we have such little time here, we might as well get the overview. The tour guide seemed mostly interested in telling us how expensive it was to live in San Francisco. Coming from Boston, it’s old news. We were more interested in some history of the city. But we got the overview we were looking for.

After the tour, it was dinner time, so we had sandwiches at the Boudin, the place that invented sour dough bread. So of course, we had to try the bread, and it was delicious. After that, we took the street car, which is actually a cable car, back to our hotel. Jim got to ride on the outside. He was very, very happy. He was trying to figure out how they operated the whole time.

After that, we walked around the area of San Francisco where our hotel is located, and then we returned to the hotel.

Today we head to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ukiah, CA

Today we saw the redwoods and they were amazing. You can see from this photo how huge they are. The tree in the photo is probably about 1000 years old, and still going strong.

We started out in Crescent City and drove south. We first passed a state park with redwoods in it. We also saw some elk! No kidding! They were right by the side of the road, eating the leaves of a tree.

Then we got to the National Redwoods Park. The visitor center was right on the beach. Here's a sign we saw:

I find the phrase "sneaker wave" funny. It sounds like it's a wave that takes your sneakers away. Jim said that no, actually what it does is it takes you away, and your sneakers stay safe on the shoreline. :)

Taking care to avoid sneaker waves, or anything else that would separate us from our sneakers, we took a short, easy hike at the "Lady Bird Johnson Grove." Apparently, Lady Bird Johnson walked into the redwood forest in the 1960's as a way to encourage the federal government to protect them by purchasing the land and turning it into a federal park. I saw the photo of her. She was wearing a nice, beige-colored 1960's suit, with matching hat. She was not exactly a hard-core hiker. :) So it was a pretty easy hike. There was another hike, in which you went down 800 feet over 1 mile into a grove. I was thinking I wanted to do that, since that's where the tallest trees are, but then Jim explained that 800 feet is the equivalent of an 80-story building, and doing it in a mile is pretty strenuous. Plus, all Jim had were his boat shoes. I'm very glad we did the LBJ hike instead.

We saw some pretty amazing trees. Here is Jim between two of them. The trunks were so thick, I couldn't even get both of them in the photo:

In addition to these amazing trees everywhere, there were also wild pink rhododendrons, and other beautiful trees and flowers. The air was fresh and cool. We spent about 2 hours in the park and then kept driving south.

So far, we have been on Route 101 through California. But we finally got to the start of Rt. 1, which hugs the coast of California. Jim thinks it's listed in that book as one of the 1000 things to do before you die. I don't remember if it is. Anyway, we have always wanted to drive it, so we decided to get on it and see what it was like. But in order to get to the coast, we have to cross some mountains first. They were crazy. Before the fun started, we saw a sign that said that the road was going to be twisty for the next 22 miles. Well, they weren't kidding. Both of us were getting car sick due to the number of twists and turns our car had to take over the course of about an hour to get to the coast. (Jim said, "Just tell me if you have to biff and I'll pull over" ... he's got such a way with words). And all the way along, we saw redwoods everywhere. Not quite as big as the ones we saw on our hike, but impressive nonetheless.

We finally made it to the coast, which was pretty twisty too. It was on a cliff which in parts dropped straight into the sea, and there were few guard rails. Pretty crazy. Unfortunately, the view was about similar to yesterday - it was all fogged over.

We drove on Rt. 1 for about an hour, but started getting worried about finding a gas station, ATM or hotel for the night, all of which we needed. We stopped off in the town of Fort Bragg, which had all of the above, along with a great ice cream parlor called Cowlicks. :) (We needed some ice cream to settle our stomachs after that nutso drive!). Jim thought Fort Bragg was a big army base, but it wasn't. There must be another Ft. Bragg somewhere out there.

At this point, we decided to turn back inland and get back onto Rt. 101. We had another twisty-turny ride back over the mountains (not as bad as last time). Then we stopped at the first town, which is Ukiah, where we're at tonight. It is just north of Santa Rosa, Napa Valley, etc. We were shocked to see that the sun was out and it was 70 degrees! Wow. So I think we're going to stay on Rt. 101 for a while. We had dinner at the Ukiah Brewing Company, which had all sorts of vegetarian food. After going through the midwest, it's nice to find a brewery that doesn't put bacon bits in its salads!

We have decided to head straight down the coast now. We were going to see Sequoia Park and Yosemite and Death Valley. They're quite far away, and we've had such bad luck with the weather that we decided that we'd do better with the coast and the cities. Tomorrow we will see San Francisco, which is supposedly two hours from here. The next day, we'll drive to Los Angeles, and then we'll drive to San Diego, where we'll spend the last two nights.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crescent City, CA

Today we continued driving south through Oregon. When we woke up, we saw that it was raining. But we're kind of used to precipitation by now. I did my morning swim to loosen up the muscles, and then away we went. We stopped first at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, which was incredible. In fact, I think it was even a little better in the rain. There were ducks taking baths and everything was fresh. The rhododendrons and azaleas were beyond peak, but still beautiful.

We then drove south to Eugene, where we had lunch at a food court, at a Middle Eastern place. Jim got some sort of meat pocket sandwich. He asked for it to be spicy, and then topped it with some of the hot sauce that came with my food. I took a little taste of the sauce and noticed jalapeno seeds in it. Well it nearly knocked my socks off. Jim was almost crying by the time he finished his sandwich. He ate half of the yogurt that came with my dish, and then got ice cream too. :) He claims it was the hottest dish he's ever had in the U.S.

As we continued driving, I saw thousands of purple lupines along the road, just growing in the ditches.

No kidding. There were a few yellow ones too. I tried growing a lupine once. It died very quickly. But here they grow like weeds.

After Eugene, we drove to the coast. Except we couldn't really see the coast for a while. There were these huge, beautiful dunes, but all the beaches charged a fee to enter, and all we wanted to do was stop for 5 minutes and look at them. So we drove and drove, and finally we started driving along the ocean. This is mostly what we saw:

But we finally stopped and walked out on the beach:

We met this couple, Dan and El, who were from California but had moved to Oregon. They had two dogs. The one in the photo (above) is 17 years old and still likes to go swimming in the ocean. They had a younger dog, a black lab, who didn't like the water! It was funny watching him fetch a tennis ball, but he would stop if it went into the water. It was El's 50th birthday and they were having a drink of wine on the beach. Dan took our photo.

We kept driving along the coast, and saw these rock formations in the water. They were beautiful. Then we crossed into California and stopped in Crescent City, which is where we're staying tonight.

Tomorrow it's the redwoods!

(The Other) Vancouver

Tonight we are outside of Portland, Oregon, in a town in southern Washington called Vancouver. It's not quite as exciting as the Canadian Vancouver, but it's an OK place to stay for the night.

Today we headed south after a week of driving west! I guess we're making progress. We picked up the rental car at the Wenatchee airport. Laurie and Rob drove with us so that they could take the Accord back to Twisp with them. We got lunch at a very good Mexican restaurant that was down the street from the airport. I was sad to leave Laurie. We waved good-bye to each other like we used to do with Dad. It is hard to live so far apart.

I was also sad to see the Accord go ... it was Dad's last car. The license plate goes all the way back to our 1988 Astro van ... the letters coincidentally matched the initials of my great-grandfather. My grandpa, who was still alive then, thought that was great. Dad held onto that license plate code for the next twenty years. The Accord was the car that Mom and I took to Boston for the first time to find me an apartment after I got my first job. It was a good car to take across the country.

Our rental car is a Kia Rio. It is the equivalent of the "Ford Festiva" that Dad always warned about ("Be sure you get a mid-sized car because otherwise you'll be sitting with your knees up to your chin in a Ford Festiva"). Yeah, quite a different experience from the Honda.

After waving good-bye to Laurie, we headed south. We were hoping to see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. But instead, we saw a lot of fog. (See above photo). The view wasn't that bad though. Here's the part of the scenery that wasn't shrouded in fog:

We also saw some petrified ginkgo tree wood at a state park on the Columbia River. That was kind of interesting, although we didn't have time to drive through the whole park.

We got here to "Vancouver" around 7pm. Unlike a lot of parts of Washington that we've seen, it is lush and green here, much like Seattle. Tomorrow we drive through Oregon. Hopefully we'll find a Jamba Juice somewhere around here. :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Recap of Twisp

I finally have my photos on this computer, so I thought I would recap our visit to Twisp.

Here is the view going into Twisp:

Here's Laurie, showing off the sushi and her Elvis glasses:

Balsam flowers that we saw everywhere:

Laurie the cat herder:

American Gothic, Twisp-style (this photo was taken in front of Laurie and Rob's house, so you get an idea of the view):

Laurie and Rob's house:

We had a really nice time. Twisp is amazingly beautiful. We were surrounded by wonderful cats named Witten, Otis, Clyde, Stella, Smudgearooni, Fluffer Nutter, Stripy Jack Flywheel, Little Beetle Girl, and Adam Cat. And it was great to see Laurie and Rob.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Twisp Day Three

Today was a pretty active day. Jim and I went for a bike ride through the mountains in the morning, and I discovered how out of shape I really am! It was a beautiful ride, though. After that, we went to the Twisp farmers' market and met Laurie for lunch. There were also in-between times when Jim would sit out on the porch and read his book. I would go for walks with Laurie's adorable cats. Lunch was good, except for the fact that they slipped ham into the potato salad! So the only one who ate any was Jim, and we brought some home for Rob.

After lunch, we came back to the house and relaxed. Laurie got home around 4 and she and I went to "Wild Hearts" nursery to pick up some plantlets. We also did a side trip to Winthrop, a town with a cowboy/western theme. They have a city ordinance that requires all businesses to style the fronts of their buildings like an old western town, with wooden signs, special calligraphy on the signs, etc. There is also a board walk instead of a sidewalk. It's a little silly, but it's still a nice town. Laurie and I got ice cream. I got licorice-flavored ice cream, and it was black. Really. It made my whole mouth black!

When we got back, we made dinner and then planted some of the tomato plantlets. We also did an "American Gothic" portrait of Laurie and Rob. It's really funny and I'll post it here later.

So that's about all for today. Tomorrow we head south, probably for Portland, Oregon. Then I'll have better Internet access and more new things to post.

Twisp Day Two

There's still not a lot of Internet here, but I thought I'd write a short post tonight. We had a full day here in Twisp. Laurie was working at the Confluence Gallery. We got up and ate freshly-laid eggs for breakfast. Pretty amazing. Then we took the car in to get the oil changed and get it looked over. It turned out that the garage was right down the street from the Gallery, so we visited Laurie and had lunch with her at a small cafe next to the Gallery. It was called the Glover Street Cafe. We also walked around that neighborhood and saw lots of lilac bushes! That has been a big theme of this trip - although I'm going to miss my own lilac bush's blooms, I've gotten to see lilac bushes blooming throughout the U.S. That's been very cool.

After lunch we came back to Laurie and Rob's house. We hung out with Rob and the cats. Jim has been reading the Count of Montecristo and is totally addicted. Laurie came home from work around 4 and then she and Jim decided to chop wood. A lot of wood. And it was raining.

It's amazingly peaceful here. We walked around the property and saw a bunch of balsam flowers, which are everywhere in Twisp. They look a little like miniature sunflowers. They're very cheerful. When I'm able to post photos again, I'll post a photo of them.

Around 6:30, we went out to dinner at the Twisp River Pub. It was a nice atmosphere. We were a little too early for the band, though, which I think started at nine. Then we came back to the house and Laurie showed me her talents as a cat herder. No kidding. The cats follow her in the fields. I have a photo of that too.

It's almost time for bed and tomorrow will be another restful day. I think we're going to shop for plantlets tomorrow. If it's not raining, we'll do some outdoorsy activities, like maybe a short hike.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Twisp, WA

We made it to Twisp after a day of driving. It was raining in Butte when we left this morning. We stopped in Wallace, ID for lunch and then made it to Twisp around 5:30pm. Laurie met me at the car with limeade. Nice.

The scenery here is amazing, as always. You can't really get a feel for it without actually being here. Photos just don't do it justice.

Laurie made a gourmet dinner: veggie maki, stir fry with tofu, broccoli, mushrooms and rice noodles, tabohleh, caprese salad. Mmmmm...

The internet is not great here so I'll write more tomorrow. We're going to go into town then and see if Jim can pick up an internet signal there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Butte, Montana

Today's drive involved snow. A lot of it. We drove to Yellowstone Park this morning. It was raining when we left Cody, and by the time we arrived at the park entrance, the rain had turned to snow. On the way to Yellowstone, we saw these amazing rock formations, some gray, and some an interesting shade of orange-red. They looked like buildings or giant people. It was crazy.

Once inside Yellowstone, we headed for Old Faithful, the big geyser that supposedly erupts every hour or so. The snow was getting heavier. On our way, we saw several bison, including this one, who was walking down the middle of the road!

Some of the bison we saw were in groups, and we even saw a group with a few baby bison.

Also on the way, we saw a bear. There were a lot of other people trying to photograph him (including several people with big telephoto lenses and tripods). We pulled the car over and walked towards where the other people were, but the ranger told us to go back to our car. I think he was worried that the bear was getting too close.

We finally arrived at Old Faithful, and a really cozy log-cabin lodge. The clock there seemed to say that it would erupt in 15 minutes. We started waiting, looking out the window of the door. It was snowing very hard and it was cold.

Then Jim realized that I had read the clock wrong and that it wasn't going to erupt for another hour. :) I don't think he's going to let me live that down. But we walked around the lodge, bought some tourist stuff (like t-shirts and postcards), and then began waiting again.

Here's me, waiting outside for Old "Faithful":

We waited. And waited. And went inside and waited some more. And it was getting foggier and foggier. And it was snowing harder and harder. And finally, we could not see the geyser at all. It was completely fogged over. It really wasn't far away. Perhaps 100 yards. But we couldn't even see the steam coming out of it. (The geyser always has steam coming out of it, and then scalding hot water shoots out of it every so often). At that point, we gave up and got lunch. We're not sure if it ever did erupt, except that after we finished lunch, no one was waiting out there for it any more. And the lodge clock said that the next eruption would be in 6 hours. So much for eruptions every hour.

We brushed off all the snow - thank goodness Mom thought to leave the snow brush in the trunk. And then off we went. We were going to see the rest of the park, but we couldn't see anything due to the fog and snow. Just a few pine trees along the road. Everything else was covered in fog. We did see one more herd of bisons before we left the park and headed north to Montana (where there was no snow).

We are now in Butte, which is pronounced "Byoot." :) It is an old mining town in the mountains that looks like it has had its booms and busts. There are a lot of beautiful old brick buildings and Victorian architecture, but it seems very deserted. We drove around downtown around 6:30pm and it felt like a ghost town. What do people do here for a living? There's no farming. I don't know if the mines are still operating. I guess there are positions for school teachers and factory workers. But that doesn't make for a good economy.

We had pizza for dinner and we're doing laundry tonight at the hotel. Tomorrow we head to Twisp! We think it's about 7 hours from here, plus we pick up an hour as we go into Pacific time. We should be in Twisp by dinner time tomorrow.

I don't know if we'll have Internet in Twisp. I believe Laurie can access it in one room of her house. So if we can, I'll blog while I'm there. If not, then you'll see me next on Sunday, when we head south.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cody, Wyoming

Here we are, about 60 miles from Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. It has been a day of interesting landscapes, as well as one of my reasons for wanting to do this trip: Mt. Rushmore.

We started out early. I wanted to get in a swim in the pool at the hotel, but was informed that it didn't open til 9!! Ugh. So we got some breakfast and left. It was about 7:30am.

We drove straight to Mt. Rushmore, which was great. It looks just like it does in all the photos and postcards, except that you don't realize how high up it is.

After Mt. Rushmore, we crossed over into Wyoming. We drove through grasslands and mountains:

The mountains were incredible. The earth was a red color and the road twisted and turned up through the mountains and then back down.

Wyoming is a very desolate place. There are very few people around. We passed through the OTHER Buffalo (it had snow-capped mountains in the distance, so we didn't get confused and think we were in Western New York). Apparently, Buffalo, WY also has an airport because when I search for flights to my Buffalo, the website asks me which Buffalo I want to fly to. Now I know where I'll end up if I pick the wrong Buffalo!

We are both pretty tired. Jim has done all the driving and we're both tired of being in the car so much. I hope tomorrow we'll get some time outside at Yellowstone. We need to stretch our legs.

One more completely unrelated note. I was pretty upset when I heard today that Senator Kennedy has been diagnosed with a malignant glioma brain tumor. My dad also had a glioma, although there are several kinds of them. My dad had the worst kind. I hope Kennedy's tumor is less aggressive. For all of his seedy history and reputation, he has done a lot for Massachusetts and a lot for immigrants. He has been a true advocate, and someone who is accessible to his Massachusetts constituents. I saw him a few months ago at Logan Airport, waiting for his luggage from a flight from D.C. I wish I had gone up and shook his hand. I was too shy. He is a legend, and rightly so. I hope that he will come out of this OK.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rapid City, South Dakota

Today we drove through half of Minnesota and all of South Dakota. We were driving for about 9 hours and we're tired! We're staying in Rapid City tonight. It's sort of an industrial, tourist-trap of a town that exists because of its proximity to Mt. Rushmore.

This morning we started out in Minnesota and the land was very flat with a lot of farm land. We then crossed into SD and followed the corny signs to the World's Only Corn Palace, in Mitchell, SD. By corny signs, I mean that there were billboards for the Corn Palace at least 200 miles away, with slogans like "Ears to You!" In fact, I think SD takes the prize for Most Random Billboards. Here are some billboards we saw today: Corn Palace, Wall Drug (every mile for at least 400 miles before Wall Drug), Reptile Gardens, at least 2 different 1880 Cowboy Towns, Firehouse Brewpub (complete with real fire engines parked by the sign), Oasis rest stop (cows would sleep under this billboard). It really was remarkable.

So we finally got to the Corn Palace and it was ... [drum roll] ... a basketball auditorium covered on 2 sides with corn products.

Anti-climatic. But we got lunch at a nearby Perkins (which still exist out here). Then we drove on. The landscape had turned from flat into grasslands and prairie. I tried to take a photo of the omni-present herd of cows, but when they saw me coming, they ran. This photo shows the 2 look-out cows, who stared me down until their comrades had made it over the other side of the hill. They eventually fled too.

Then we got to the Badlands, which are basically these crazy rock formations in the prairie. It actually felt like we were walking on the moon or on that planet from Star Wars where Luke Skywalker lived with his aunt and uncle.

We also saw prairie dogs. They were really cute.

After the Badlands, we had to make a stop at Wall Drug, given the number of billboards we had seen. It was basically a small outdoor shopping mall with a cowboy theme to it. And it's not a drug store, by the way. It's mostly a tourist junk mall. Jim bought a t-shirt and I bought postcards (suckers!).

After that, we were pretty tired so we drove here to Rapid City and got a hotel room. Our hotel is a former motor inn, whose front was built out and a pool was added. It's OK. Our window looks out over the front desk. :)

We ate dinner at a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant. I wasn't expecting these sort of restaurants out here in the middle of nowhere, but there it was, and the food was really good.

We have benefited from the time zones. Just when we are worried that we're going to run out of time, we see a sign about passing into the next time zone, which gives us an extra hour.

Tomorrow we see Mt. Rushmore and plan on driving through Wyoming. Our hope is to get close to Yellowstone by tomorrow night, but that depends on what the roads are like in Wyoming, since we will be venturing off I-90.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blue Earth, Minnesota

Tonight we are in Blue Earth, Minnesota. You might ask, where is Blue Earth? It is about an hour west of Rochester, MN. The only tourist attraction it has is a 60 foot Jolly Green Giant:

Today was another long day in the car. We started out in Chicago, getting breakfast at a cafe near Alex and Rob's apartment. The owner of said cafe was unexpectedly rude. But the food was good, and after breakfast, we got on the road. We passed through Wisconsin, stopping for lunch in Madison. The University of Wisconsin was having graduation, so there were a lot of students around, and it was a nice town. Unfortunately, Jim got a speeding ticket!! The officer, who was on a motorcycle, also told him that he had the option of arresting him and making us pay a bond. But he decided not to. That would've been a disaster.

After getting the speeding ticket, we continued driving through Wisconsin. We tried to find some cheese, but when we stopped a cheese stop, it had just closed for the day! We did get some quality time with a large mouse though:

We then crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota. We made a quick stop in Rochester, MN (because that's where Justice Harry Blackmun's from). Then we decided to stop in Blue Earth because we were worried we weren't going to find a hotel. It is really desolate out here. There are mostly fields and cows and once in a while you'll see a farm. We were trying to imagine what it was like here in the winter, and thought it would be pretty harsh.

Tomorrow we're going to see the Corn Palace and maybe the Badlands. We plan on stopping in Rapid City, SD but we'll see how far we get.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


We are in Chicago tonight, after a long ride. Today was the day of amazing food. We started out in Buffalo with a really amazing breakfast at my Mom's - omelet, fresh fruit, and blueberry tea. We got on the road at around 8:40. Once on the Thruway, we saw a caravan of PT Cruisers, including a very stylish convertible one! It started raining and they all pulled over so that the convertible car could put up its roof.

We stopped in Parma, OH for lunch with my grandparents. My Grandma made us a Lebanese feast, including fatoyah, tabouleh, mjadra, lubya, and apple pie for dessert! (I guess they probably eat apple pie in Lebanon occasionally, right?). We visited with them for 2 hours, and were back on the road at 2pm.

Then we had a looooooong drive through the rest of Ohio, Indiana and then Illinois. We saw a lot of green fields, silos, farms, and water towers. We passed through Gary, Indiana and could actually smell it. Yuck.

We got into Chicago at about 6:30 after a bunch of traffic, not unlike Boston. Here is Chicago from Rt. 90:

We got to A.Fuss' apartment. Here's me and A.Fuss in front of her apartment:

Then we went out and got awesome pizza!! We got buffalo mozzarella as an appetizer. JK^2 thinks it's dangerous to eat buffalo mozzarella because it comes from Milan and he had a bad experience with cleanliness in Italy last summer. And apparently there have been news reports that the buffalos who make this cheese live where they dump garbage. But I've gone swimming in Lake Erie, so I think I'll live. :) And anyway, it was really delicious. We also got pizza, of course.

We are probably going to drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota tomorrow. Unless we decide to do Iowa and Nebraska instead. But it'll probably be Wisconsin and Minnesota.

By the way, does anyone out there know why the Corn Palace is such a big thing and why everyone but us has heard of it?

Friday, May 16, 2008


We left Boston at noon, and started our journey on Interstate 90. It was a pretty easy trip. There was no traffic, not even in Boston. We got into Buffalo around 7pm, in time for dinner. We have driven the NY State Thruway so many times that it's really not that exciting. But I think that it's a beautiful ride if you haven't done it before. Green and rolling hills and picturesque farms and silos.

Buffalo is filled with lilacs. I never remember there being so many lilacs around here, but they are everywhere. Here is one of my mom's lilac bushes:
And here is Mr. Buddy, being silly in the lilac bush:

We had a nice dinner with my mom, including lettuce fresh-picked from her garden! My favorite! Then my mom's best friend Gretchen came over for a little while to chat. It was a nice evening. I wish we could stay longer.

Tomorrow it's on to Cleveland and Chicago. We plan to leave here at 9, meet my grandparents for lunch at around noon, and then be in Chicago for a late dinner. I think we're being a little optimistic with the timing, but that's part of the fun of a road trip.