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Miss NOLA TX: Day 3

Miss NOLA TX: Day 3

Thurs. Aug. 29, 2019:
Houston to Dallas, Texas:

Brent jumped on the bed to wake me up, apparently, I had slept until 10am. The two Benadryl’s I took knocked me out. I missed out on breakfast but they were still serving coffee in the lobby. My nose was a bit swollen and I had a painful lump beside my ear, my allergies were really bad now. I also broke my retainer. Not exactly the best start to the day.

As we drove to Dallas, we listened to SYSK Short Stuff, except this episode on “dead body codes on airplanes” was really more of a no-stuff. It was hilarious and perked me right up. The rice krispies cookie I had brought from home was quite stale by this point, the triple chocolate Twix would have to do for breakfast. It was no better than a regular Twix. We finally passed a Buc-Ees and stopped in to see what all the hype was about. It was a giant gas station/grocery store/rest stop/souvenir shop. One section of the store smelled incredible because they were sugar-roasting pecans and almonds. The selection at Buc-Ees was surprisingly good, I found a 6-pack of a blood orange cider from an Austin brewery. We also got salsa verde Doritos (which the cashier assured us are really good), cane sugar Dr Pepper and I got a Buc-Ees brand dry rub as a souvenir. The Dr Pepper was so good, it had a slightly different flavour that I couldn’t explain (the closest I got to explaining was that it was more clear?). The Doritos were spicier than we had expected but so good.

We stopped for lunch at Vitek’s Market in Waco. They were known for their “gut packs” which was Fritos, homemade sausage, brisket, cheese and beans. Brent had that, I went for the standard meal at a BBQ place: two kinds of meats, beans and coleslaw. I opted for the smoked turkey and pulled pork. We also got a slice of pecan cobbler on the side. My dish was a complete let-down. No wonder this place was known for their “gut packs”, it was like night & day between the two meals. The Fritos had managed to stay crispy amidst all that grease and juice. It was really quite impressive. The pecan cobbler came in second place in our rankings. I had a small can of rose from Essentially Geared Wine Co. Verdict? Wine should not be served in a can. It was awful. I wish I had known there was an In N Out burger in Waco, I would’ve said we go there instead but I didn’t know they had locations this far east.

I was finally going to cross “see Dr Pepper museum” off my bucket list. I was really excited but going in I had no idea what to expect. There wasn’t much to the collection, mostly old bottles, ads, delivery trucks and vending machines. The Free Enterprise portion of the museum was even smaller. I failed epically at the sniff-n-guess exhibit, getting only the really obvious ones like cinnamon right. Our admission ticket included a free drink from the soda fountain in the gift shop. It was just Dr Pepper syrup and seltzer but it really hit the spot. The lady was kind of surprised that we didn’t go all out and get a float or something fancier. The rest of the gift shop was a let-down. I at the very least expected some postcards and had hoped for some wacky or rare Dr Pepper flavours.

We stopped at CVS so I could get some decongestant, my allergies were really starting to get to me and I needed to take more drastic measures. I also secretly thought that maybe the CVS would have postcards, being just down the street from the Dr Pepper museum? Nope. They didn’t sell US stamps either. The lady had asked me what we were up to and it completely threw me off, I told her we had just been to the museum.

It was an hour and a half drive to Dallas. We were staying at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. I had been expecting a fancy house somewhere in the suburbs near a creek. It was neither. It was more a boutique hotel that was hard to explore because of the renovations. We wandered around, gawking at the new pool but it was way too hot to be outside. It was easily above 35C and all I could think of was my blood orange ciders back in the room. We had a tiny balcony overlooking the pool and the demolition of a parking garage next door. I had two days left on my ebook so I hunkered down while Brent flipped channels wondering if Arthur was on. I said no way, Arthur is always on at 4:30, it wouldn’t be on at 5:30. I was wrong. Except the new episodes just aren’t as good.

At first, having two ciders in the hotel room before the game seemed like a genius idea. I did not anticipate just how far out of the city the stadium was. nor how much traffic there would be due to the football game in the neighbouring stadium. Our Uber ride lasted a solid 40-minutes, most of which time we spent ranking all of the ballparks we had been to thus far. The commute did not shine favourable light on the Dallas ballpark.

The stadium ranked pretty low. It had poor sightlines, early on during our concourse walk Dallas hit a homerun and we had to run to see the celebration. Which was also kind of lame, a bunch of women ran across a mini field above the outfield while carrying flags with fireworks overhead. We missed the first half. At least half the vendors weren’t even open. Half the things on my food list weren’t even available. We grabbed drinks and headed to our seats. The “crackberry” cider from Bishop cider hit the spot in the heat, the sign said it was 99F which when converted made me yelp slightly, it was 37C! In the evening! We went for food during the 4th inning. At this point I was sad to report that the outfield ladies periodically ran across, without the fireworks which I gather were reserved for home runs.

We both had street tacos on our food lists. The taco stand was across the aisle from Backstop Fries so we split. The beef brisket tacos were so unbelievably bad. The meat was bland, you had to assemble the toppings yourself, there was no sauce, just regular white onions, a few bits of cilantro and inexplicably feta cheese. The fries were the clear winner: waffle fries drenched in garlic butter with parmesan cheese. Except for the sad fries at the bottom that were missing the seasonings and cheese and had just butter. Earlier we had seen ads for a drink called BuzzBalls and I made it my mission to get one, except as we walked the concourse, I saw that people had jello shots in pouches (stupidly called o-shots). I ended up getting two drinks. Both were reasonably priced given the alcohol content and the ballpark setting. Between the two double-digit drinks I was in need of food. Early on in the game a lady walked by and gave everyone coupons in one of three different colours. If your coupon matched the colour of the mascot who won the race you would get a “buy one get one free” combo on a chicken meal. It was kids in the mascot costumes so that was great to watch. It wasn’t even a great deal! They did not play Deep In The Heart of Texas at half-time as we had suspected they might. At the end of the night the Rangers lost.

It was so confusing afterwards trying to find the parking lot dedicated to Uber. It was not clearly marked and we walked right past it. There were so many parking lots and so many people because the football game had also let out. There was one guy was very drunk and so psyched to be getting into his Uber ride and cheering at everyone who walked by.

I was so tired by the time we got back. The staff had put water bottles by our beds and it was just what I needed.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2019 in Life's Goals, Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Sat. July 20, 2019:

San Francisco to Oakland to Yountville, California:

I was rudely awoken due to poor design. The bathroom door was all frosted glass. So, when Brent went in there and turned on the light, it lit up the room. Who designs something like that?! I thought surely it was the middle of the night, nope, it was almost time to wake up. I was so comfy in my cocoon in bed though. Thankfully I still had an iced coffee left so I didn’t have to wrestle with the capsule coffee machine. In my tiredness i had forgotten to shave my legs the night before and there was no way I was going out like that. Not in my fancy clothes. We looked like we were going to a wedding. When we exited the BART station near Cait & John’s house a lady remarked that we were going to church. As we were walking, John pulled up and gave us a ride halfway through the short walk (he had gone out for supplies).  We had mimosas before heading out to Napa Valley. Lunch was at The French Laundry in Yountville. Our Uber driver was clearly a first-timer, she was very unsure of herself. It didn’t help that her minivan was kind of on the crappy side. It was stressful when we hit traffic.

Walking past the parking lot of The French Laundry I noticed some people standing around. One was in chef’s whites and I immediately was like OMG that is Thomas Keller. Brent and John took to searching Google Images to confirm. But by that point the man had turned and we couldn’t see his face. The restaurant was in a beautiful house on the corner of the main street. It was surrounded by beautiful greenery.

We were seated in a small alcove, with a window behind us into the wine cellar and an exposed stone wall. There were only two other smaller tables there so it was a nice intimate setting. Before getting started we asked about the bathrooms. Instead of napkin rings, they used clothes pins with The French Laundry branding (we all kept them at the end). The server led John and I, they were actually outside through the courtyard in a smaller building. On the way, Thomas Keller passed us by, smiled and asked how we were doing. My heart was racing and I mouthed OMG to John and the server, she smiled and confirmed that yes, that was Keller. I couldn’t believe it.

The wine list was on an iPad and it was extensive (over 100 pages). We looked at the list by glasses and when I tried to go back to the main menu, I saw that they had a beer list. What luck! They had Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Brent and I were both keenly aware that a sour raspberry beer would not pair well at all, we did not care. It was Cantillon! John also ordered a half bottle of Frog’s Leap chardonnay for the table and Cait had a glass of riesling. We all shared sips. The table looked hilarious, we had so many glasses spread out before us.  When Brent tried to order the beer, the server took a second, like what? Beer? And then they brought us Cantillon Gueze- the wrong one-  and for the first time ever, we actually had to send it back. It was a Cantillnon but still, the rose one is just so damn good.

Cait had the vegetarian menu, which worked out well for Brent and I as we got to steal bites and sample more options.  Looking at the chef’s tasting menu I was worried, I didn’t see the salmon cone. It was the thing I was most excited for! No sooner had I started worrying, the server came by with a tray with the salmon cornetts. It was easily one of the best things I have ever eaten. Salmon and cream cheese and everything bagel spice. Every bite was heaven. We were off to a very good start. None of us ordered any of the supplementary menu items. The Wagyu beef was from somewhere in America- not worth it. The starter had caviar in it, so it was not worth it to upgrade to a different caviar (especially given I doubt I would notice the difference). The oysters and caviar dish was so good, plus it was fun to eat with the mother-of-pearl spoon. The server later told us it is a material that doesn’t react with the caviar (otherwise the taste would get tainted). The pot roast was unbelievable, it had the consistency of steak but tasted like cured ham. It was amazing and we relished every bite. I was not a fan of the beets on the side. Beets always taste like dirt to me. I did eat a carrot earlier in the meal and enjoy it, so the problem with the beets owed to them just being a terrible excuse for a food. The cheese dish was a bit too heavy and no matter how you slice it, I am not a fan of goat cheese.

Our server said that the dessert was like a second mini-tasting menu. We laughed. She said, no seriously. John ordered tea and when the server started telling him about his options and how everything is grown in the garden, I jumped on board and also got tea. He had the lemon verbena, I had the ginger geranium. She was such a fan of the chocolate mint that she brought that one as well. It looked really pretty, the full leaves floating in the clear glass teapots. The mint was better than the ginger but the best one was by far the lemon verbena. She wasn’t kidding about dessert. It was a massive spread: jelly roll cake, mini doughnuts with accompanying cappuccino mousse for dunking, salted caramel macarons, matcha chews, whoopie pies (which were really more like chocolate covered s’mores), sorbet with a cookie and honey from the garden apiary, and a chocolate covered macadamia nut. Just when we thought we were done: they brought out a wooden box and we each got to select a truffle. When they brought the bill (printed on a large laundry tag) they also brought us each a tin of shortbread cookies. The bill had been brought back while I was in the bathroom and apparently in that time they had offered us a kitchen tour. I knew this was a possibility but i thought you had to request it, I didn’t expect it to be offered. Maybe it was because of my excitement earlier at having seen Keller? Who can say? It was a definite highlight of the day, getting to see the working kitchen. The chef was busy with paperwork. Just as busy was the kitchen at Per Se in New York City, there was a live feed via cameras between the two restaurants. We snapped a quick group photo in the kitchen and then headed out. Back in the front of the restaurant we were given copies of the menu and a booklet about the restaurant. She said we could tour the garden across the street- and pick and eat anything we wanted!! I was over the moon at this point. We took a few pictures outside with the sign and headed over. It was really cool to see where the ingredients for our meal had been sourced from. The strawberries were delicious. The apiaries were very busy. It was easily the best dining experience of my life and it was perfectly timed. It lasted four hours but not once did it feel like it dragged on. They timed the courses so well, with a long break before the main and another short break before dessert. There was never a moment of it dragging on, i had lost all concept of time. I remember the first time I looked at my phone, actually being shocked at the time.

We walked the main stretch of Yountville. Passing by Keller’s bakery, the line was out the door and so long. His bistro restaurant was also packed. We had a 4pm reservation at the Stewart tasting room. The way the street was set up was that all the nearby wineries had storefronts where you could enjoy wine tastings without having to trek the distances between the farms. Alas, it meant I only got to see one set of vines that were probably just for show. Brent had the more varied flight and I stole sips. I ordered a glass of Russian River Pinot Noir because it reminded me of Pliny the Elder (the brewery is called Russian River). I was getting tired and my feet were starting to ache. A whole day in heels is tough and I had blisters. We were all tired, John fell asleep on the car ride back.

We decided to hang out a bit more and open the bottle of wine we had gotten from the hotel. We took the drinks outside to the front lawn outside of their building, overlooking the water. We had a blanket and camp chairs and it was nice and relaxing. We didn’t plan it, but we happened to be out there during the dog walking hour. It was a lot of fun calling the dogs over and playing with them.

On the transit ride back, I realized I was actually getting hungry again. I did not think it was possible but there we were. We had just emerged from the BART station in San Francisco and I saw the McDonald’s sign. We split a quarter pounder with bacon and a buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich. It really hit the spot. That had to have been one of the crappiest McDonald’s we’d ever been to. No ordering kiosks, no promo banners. The menu was TV screens that kept changing over, so we couldn’t see what the promotional burgers were. I would have totally ordered the Taste of the World Spanish burger with bacon and some kind of cheese if I had known about it. I cracked open the ice cider and was disappointed to find out it was more of an apple juice wine. Not good. I also still had to pack and it was already 10:30pm.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Fooding, Life's Goals, Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 2

Baseball and Trees: Day 2

Wed. July 17, 2019:
Oakland, California:

I woke up around 5am because there was just so much noise outside, blaring in through the window. It sounded like a construction demolition crossed with a garbage truck. At first, I thought it might be a truck, but no way could it be going for that long. It seemed endless. Also: who does that at 5am?! Common decency says start at 6am!! They were lucky I had not adjusted to the time difference and as far as my body knew, it was actually 8am. Which, come to think of it, is still an ungodly hour. Hence, the grumpiness. Not helping matters, my allergies were in full swing and my face was puffy. Eventually I gave up and woke up at 6:40am, which was about when the noise stopped.

We walked to Arizmendi bakery for breakfast. I held off on getting coffee because the only placed we passed on our walk was a Peet’s Coffee that was inside of an office building and hence too much of a detour for my tired self. It was only a 40min walk, I could wait for coffee. On the way we walked around Lake Merritt and saw more Canada geese than I have seen back home. A guy sitting in his car shouted “nice skirt” at me, except I was too enthralled in conversation to notice until Brent told me later. My original plan was to get a cheese bun but when I laid eyes on the cinnamon bun all bets were off. I could not resist. In the end I kind of regretted it, there was too much icing and I was left wondering what the cheese bun was like. Brent had a bun with chocolate chunks, it was alright. We also got a brioche braid and a sourdough baguette for later. By later, I mean the walk back. We needed something to distract us from the grogginess and dehydration from last night. The brioche bun was a fail, it had raisins and was dense. The real winner was the baguette, it was poking out of my elephant bag and we just kept ripping pieces off. The walk back was more pleasant: we saw so many dogs by the lake and some pelicans just hanging out.

Back in the hotel we desperately chugged water in an attempt to rehydrate before heading out to the A’s game to meet John. After catching up in my notebook, I caved and took a nap. I was full-on napping, complete with drool and hand-twitching. I woke up but apparently, I could have kept sleeping because we did not need to leave as early as Brent had originally planned. By that point though I was awake and I did not want to risk another round of grogginess. I watched Friends and South Park because I could not stand the new The Price is Right, it was just too modern for my tastes. And the Pioneer Woman show was insufferable. Why is she telling me about a salad she is going to make while she drives her car?!

It was a short train ride to the Coliseum. I was actually really excited to see it, one of the last concrete donut stadiums still standing (I had listened to an episode of 99 Percent Invisible on the topic). It was easy enough to find our way there, we just followed the crowds from the train. I was kind of surprised at how many people were there given it was an early afternoon game on a Wednesday. We met up with John and got a tour of the stadium. We were also given credentials so we could go down to the field. In my head I imagined myself being able to run to the pitcher’s plate and goof off. I did not expect the strict rules about not being allowed onto the grass. It should be called being allowed “beside the field” not on. It is misleading. Groups of day-camp kids were going around the perimeter of the field and one kid shouted at us that we were awesome. It made my day and that kid is totally going to be a future politician, he one-upped baby-kissing.

John had given us seat upgrades, now we sat 8 rows from the field. On the way to our seats we got drinks. I tried to order a margarita and the lady tried to convince me to get a paloma instead (same price). I have no idea what that was all about. It was an eventful game, there were a lot of home runs. I was not impressed with their home run celebration, it was just a sign in the outfield that lit up and said “Holy Toledo.” Pretty weak if you ask me. There was a desperate lady a few rows ahead of us to the left, she wanted to get on camera so bad with her birthday sign. Clearly, she does this every year, she had many crossed-out numbers on the sign. It did make me wonder if every year she was this desperate and ignored? Adding to the desperation, children kept running down to our section to try and get a free baseball and then walking back really disappointed and empty-handed.

We lasted about two innings before we had to get up. We were roasting in the sun. We retreated to the shade of the concourse in search of food. We were on the lookout for a few things at the ballpark. I had my eye on alcoholic popsicles. I found the vendor: a tricycle, but it was unmanned. At the Launch Test Kitchen my fears were confirmed: they were still serving the spam-sushi dish, hard pass. We could not find the Texas toast grilled cheese place. In the end we got garlic fries (a must), Roundtable pizza (a mini, we are not crazy) and chicken tenders. The chicken had been on my list as a backup but it worked out great. They had little plastic cups and six different dipping sauces at a self-serve station. We ate the chicken tenders while we waited in line for the garlic fries. While we ate, we guffawed at the people who waited in line, were one away from the front and left. Or the people who didn’t get garlic fries. Why were they even there?! You can get a hotdog anywhere! The honey sriracha sauce was the clear winner, followed by the buffalo and hickory BBQ. The boom-boom sauce was just weird, kind of like mayo with but with something else in it. Genius that I am, I went back to get more sauces for our fries. The honey sriracha was so damn good. And the ranch would pair well. The pizza was alright, but the base crust was way too thick for my liking, I couldn’t even dip it properly. Plus, by that point I was quite full so it did not get my full attention. It was still hot out in the sun but I felt a little better, being distracted by fries and pizza helped. The Stella Artois cider also helped. The fizziness just felt that much more refreshing. The A’s won and once again we got swept up in the crowd, trusting that they would lead us in the right direction.

We followed the crowd a little too closely and got on the wrong train. As we were getting on a guy was yelling at another guy and was all up in his face, screaming “get off this f*cking train.” Looking back, we should have taken his advice. Thankfully we noticed and were able to get off a few stops later and catch the correct train.

I needed a shower so bad. I was covered in sunscreen and so sweaty. Apparently though I did not have on enough sunscreen. Back in our hotel room I noticed I was starting to get a bit red in spots. I had just enough time to get dressed and ready for dinner. We had a 5:30 reservation at Chez Panisse and I was so excited! Finally! I would get to eat at Chez Panisse! I was a bit nervous but mostly excited- even if it didn’t show, it was a bit tamped down by tiredness.

It was a short 20-minute train ride to Berkeley and then a nice walk down the main stretch of town. Unfortunately, we did not get out of the right BART exit to see the Papa John’s where i got dinner last time we tried to eat at Chez Panisse. It was kind of odd doing the same walk and trying to remember what was different and what was the same. For sure that McDonald’s was not there last time, otherwise there was no way I would have suffered through Papa John’s.

Even with the leisurely walking pace and stopping in at a store (they had a chalkboard advertising craft soda, I wanted to see if it was true- it was) we were still early. We tried to walk in but were told to wait in the foyer. Looking at the passersby on the sidewalk, you could tell who was coming to Chez Panisse for dinner. The restaurant itself was very beautiful, even though we didn’t get to see much of it. We were seated near the entrance. I had kind of been hoping for a table in the sun room. At least we had a view of the kitchen.

No sooner had we sat down, we were offered an aperitif: a glass of prosecco with elderflowers. It was so refreshing and sweet and just what I needed. The server asked us if we were here for a special occasion and Brent mentioned we had tried to eat here a few years ago, five or so?– but alas, the kitchen fire. He was like yeah no, that was six years ago. The amuse bouche consisted of an olive, pickled carrots, onions and leeks. In my notebook, regarding the olive it just says: how was it so good?! I don’t like carrots either and it was delicious. The bar was set. Every dish was delicious and across the board it was consistent and high quality. This was the most consistent dinner from start to finish of all time. There were no lows. Everything was delicious, especially the duck breast. It was a wow dish for me, borderline for Brent (who doesn’t even like duck). Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the dessert course was rolled out. The apricot sorbet was incredible, the almond cake amazing. Even the berries, a simple garnish, were so much better than any berries I’ve previously had. How is this possible?! After dinner we were given mint and lemongrass tea (fresh from the garden) and candied orange peels. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal. I took the paper menu as a souvenir. Brent had ordered the wine pairing and we split it. This worked out nicely, neither of us got smashed but we got to enjoy some fine wine.

It was a slow and tired walk back to the BART station. We stopped in at Safeway to try and save some time the next day. But the selection was so crappy that really it did nothing. There were no wacky Oreos and no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. We got Gatorade, iced coffee and Pop Tarts which was only half my list. On the train we got an invite from John if we wanted to come over. Brent said no, we are tired and should go to bed early. And then 5 minutes later texted back saying we’d changed our minds. Realistically, how often do we get to see them? Getting a bit of extra sleep was not worth missing out. We dropped by the hotel so I could leave my purse and grab my Lulu sweater and the (very nice) wedding card that Brent had made for them. It was nice to hang out and talk. On the walk back we discovered we could have had a much nicer walk along the waterfront through Jack London Square. But we had no way of knowing that previously.

Back in the hotel I was getting deliriously tired, trying to write in my notebook when my body thought it was 2am and my sunburn was still developing.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2019 in Fooding, Life's Goals, Travel

 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 22, 2016:
Bayfield, WI to Minneapolis, MN

I was awoken early by the loud construction noise outside, well the workers listening to the radio. Oh and by Brent jumping on the bed and air guitaring to the music, which at first had meshed with my dream and seemed totally normal, much to Brent’s bewilderment. I managed to catch some more Pokemon before breakfast. The breakfast was amazing. We started off with a chocolate chip muffin, resulting in me getting chocolate on my face. Brent noticed and told me, I went to wipe it off only to wipe the wrong side and instead I smeared more chocolate on my face. The standout was the warm blueberry cobbler. The pancake of the day had previously been chocolate chip and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was now caramel pecan. This time around I had bacon on the side. It was a delicious combination alas it was a little bit too much food and I wound up unable to finish it all.

We drove back to Minneapolis for the final leg of our trip. Again I was getting so sleepy in the car. I opened up a can of Sprite in the hopes of keeping myself awake. I managed to stay awake long enough to cheer Minnesota and see that the first town we entered was Duluth, which I only knew about from Fargo. I had fallen asleep twice at this point. I gave up and turned on one of Brent’s podcasts and nodded off for a short nap. Eventually I awoke because I had to pee, and so we stopped at a McDonald’s. Partly also because I figured this would be a great time to grab a coffee, as I was clearly in need of one. Or two, maybe.

I was starting to get hungry and it was well timed. We were stopping for lunch at the Surly Brewing Company just outside of Minneapolis. They did not have a bottle shop only a souvenir shop. I ordered the Pentagram beer both because it was a sour and it came in a tiny little 4oz size. It was delicious and we ended up ordering the porchetta sausage dish because it came with the option to get a 4oz Pentagram beer, it was perfect! We also split the Hog Frites. I was expecting fries piled high with pork and cheese, not a pile of veggies and something spicy. It was like someone had dumped a salad on a perfectly good plate of fries. The food was only ok, but the beer was the true winner of the meal. It was nice to see the vats of beer being brewed next door through the big glass windows in the dining hall.

We drove to Gold Medal Park and left the car. The plan was to walk through the park and find a path down to the Mississippi River to see the old stone arch bridge. I did not expect to see so many cool abandoned and repurposed old factories along the river’s edge (in retrospect it is quite obvious why). From the bridge we could see St. Anthony’s Falls and the churning water below. It was very hot outside and the sun was super bright. Not helping matters was the fact that yet again, I had to pee. We stopped in at the Visitor’s Centre at the dam by the bridge. We pretended to go looking for information and acted as if we did not have enough time for a tour. All this just so I could use their bathroom.

Even though the Walker Art Centre sculpture garden was closed for renovation we still drove over to see if there was anything to be seen. I had not planned this trip out very well. The main reason for choosing Minneapolis was to see the (famous to me) cherry on a spoon sculpture in the middle of a pond. Unbeknownst to me, this statue was in the aforementioned sculpture garden, not a public park as I had envisioned. The drive was tense, all the moreso because of all the construction. The GPS managed to navigate us instead to the basilica I had also wanted to see. We parked in a nearby garage and headed out on foot. Driving around the Walker Art Centre was impossible. They basilica was gorgeous from the exterior but there was no indication that you could wander in and gawk at it from inside. Plus I was so distracted, would I see the cherry or wouldn’t I???

I thought I recognized a park across the street from the art centre, it had a pond and seemed like the spot where the cherry should be. My heart sank a little, it wasn’t there. But almost immediately Brent exclaimed because he saw the stem!! It was across the street in the middle of the sculpture garden construction behind fencing!!! There was a bridge that normally allowed access to the garden and it was not closed off! Just the access to the garden was. From the bridge I was able to see the cherry on a spoon sculpture in all its tacky glory. The only thing missing was the water spraying from the stem. You see, when it was installed properly in the pond it was a fountain, making it that much cooler. I was so happy to finally see the sculpture. And now I had no reason to ever return to Minneapolis ever again. I was very glad to have seen it. As we passed the park initially I kept seeing flashes of red raising my hopes, which were then quickly dashed when I saw it was just a bench.

Our hotel was near downtown, if you can call it a downtown, which it barely was. As soon as we got to the room I filled up the ice bucket. It felt so good to down a glass of ice cold Sprite while my cider chilled in the ice bucket in the fridge. I did not want to risk a mini-nap, so rather than writing in bed, I chose to sit in the chair instead. With a foot stool and a side table it was perfect for writing and drinking ice cold cider. Once I had cooled down and rehydrated we headed back out. Brent had found a nearby liquor store and we headed out to stock up one last time. I had one and a half ciders left and ended up grabbing a Vermont farmhouse cider. This was mostly because I had grown to dislike the Seattle cider. It was better on ice, but still not that great.

We had an hour and a half before we had to leave for dinner at Smack Shack. I was all caught up in my notebook but too brain-dead to read. Instead I opted for watching Teen Mom OG on MTV, just like the old days, except with cider instead of Ben & Jerry’s. I was fully in vacation mode.

We had been told that there was a nice outdoor shopping arcade downtown so we left early to walk by and see it. We had been grossly lied to. It was just a regular street with a Macy’s, a Marshalls and a Saks Off Fifth. I was expecting something along the lines of Newbury St. in Boston or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. It was made all the worse by all the construction. We now had extra time. We happened to walk by the Minneapolis Central Library, which I immediately recognized from a best-of-in-each-state library list. It was a very nice modern looking and inviting building. We tried to see the Audobon bird exhibit but we were way too late and the exhibit room was closed. We took the scary glass elevator back to the main floor.

Dinner at Smack Shack was way better than I had expected. I was anticipating greasy, gimmicky food. Lobster meat stuffed into a burger, named a Juicy Lucy? It sounded like a gargantuan mess of enormous size. I feared that when I would steal a bite from Brent I would not be able to even get all the components in one bite. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was just a little bit of lobster meat stuffed into a regular sized burger of great quality.  The crab cakes I ordered were amazing and it was just the right amount of food given I was not feeling too well. Even the kettle chips on the side of the burger were delicious. Brent wanted a second beer therefore it only made sense to order dessert. I had only ordered an appetizer for dinner anyways. Apparently the key lime pie went really well with Brent’s grapefruit beer.

On the way home I had wanted to stop at Walgreen’s to buy some more Pepto-Bismol but it was closed, and it was not even 9pm yet! I knew this because I had wanted to get back to the hotel around 9pm because that was when the new episodes of Teen Mom OG were airing, 2 hours of uninterrupted trashy TV. Alas, because of the time zone switch we missed the new episode and they were airing one I had watched earlier in the day during the marathon, so we watched Bob’s Burgers instead.

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 8

Fri. Mar. 22, 2013:

Apparently my horrible nightmare, from which I sprang up in bed horrified, did not wake Brent seeing as the next morning he had no idea what I was talking about. Thankfully there was coffee in the lobby, but more importantly: they actually had milk!! For once I did not have to settle for whitener or fake creamers.

As we drove north I noticed that the trees had changed, they were no longer all palm trees, and they sort of looked like redwoods, but not as big, at least not big enough for the hawks, as I saw one sitting on a wire instead. We passed the cutest road sign I had ever seen, it showed a pig and a piglet crossing the road. Another sign informed us that we were passing over an old bridge from the 1930s, we drove over a few. It was really odd to see a sign that said Monterey was 25 feet above sea level, it seemed so incredibly low.

We got to Monterey early, and rather than waiting in line at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a million screaming school children, we opted for walking around Cannery Row. From the pier you could see (through a free telescope, a true rarity) sea lions basking on rocks near the shore, far off in the distance. There wasn’t much else to do, despite how tempting the wax museum dedicated to the book Cannery Row was. Apparently everyone else thought so too, because when we got to the aquarium there was a huge crowd of people waiting to get in.

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (2)

We had half an hour before the penguin feeding (for once we were actually doing something from the aquarium schedule, another rarity). We watched a hilarious situation unfold before us in a giant exhibit. There was a hammerhead shark that would circle the tank and then cut through a school of fish, you could watch as the school reformed into a different shape to accommodate the shark. And he kept doing it over and over, almost like a dog herding sheep. And of course I got my fill of jellyfish, I could watch them all day- and I almost did were it not for the penguin feeding.

The penguins were adorable, they saw the crowd and knew that it was feeding time. A few of them even lined up by the door, they knew the drill. They don’t so much eat, as pig out, swallowing the fish whole. Eventually the feeding became unbearable when the school children started asking questions. We headed outside to the viewing deck in an attempt to get a break from them. We were wrong; you cannot escape school children, ever. There was a log book that said dolphins had been spotted the previous day. I looked out over the vast ocean while sneakily eating my Pop Tart. I saw no dolphins, no whales, and no sharks. Just blue: blue ocean, blue sky.

Back inside there was a sting ray trying to escape from his enclosure- except on the other side of the glass was a petting tank. He kept flopping up against the glass; I guess a petting tank is better than bratty school children? There were some baby seahorses and baby jellyfish on display as well, if you can call it that. They were impossible to see, a magnifying glass should have been provided. In one of the seahorse tanks there was a giant shrimp swimming in circles in the middle of the tank, he was followed along the bottom by a horseshoe crab. In another tank I was entranced by a crab eating a piece of kelp, it was so cute how he held it up to his mouth and nibbled it.

jelly collage

In the middle of the aquarium there was a tank that was supposed to be a kelp forest. At every window we would see different creatures, more interesting than the ones in the previous window- yet all in the same tank. It all culminated with a giant sea bass and a shark that looked like a sting ray. We ended our trip to the aquarium with the jellyfish exhibit. The jellyfish mentioned earlier were part of a general exhibit; this one was specific to them. I can never get enough of watching jellyfish floating about and this was no exception. It really made me want a pet jellyfish, they are just so cute but also calming, floating so peacefully with those fake bright coloured lights. There was one exhibit were you push a button and see what they really look like- I do not recommend pushing that button, it might ruin your day. But you can always just backtrack to the brighter of the tanks.

A couple hours in an aquarium can leave one rather hungry; thankfully we walked by a Pinkberry. However a few doors down we passed a Nestle Tollhouse Café, I could not resist going in. I must have looked like such a glutton, contemplating cookie choices while eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt. The choice was easy: you can never go wrong with white chocolate macadamia. It was one of the best I have ever had, the cookie had hints of cinnamon (I had been debating the snickerdoodle cookie, but I got my cinnamon fix anyways). Brent’s triple chocolate cookie had a hint of peanut butter in it. Walking back to the car we were accosted by a sneaky fundraiser. He threw me off guard when he said something about my smile, the Blue Jays and then he handed me a sticker. He was too friendly and I ended up listening to him talk about homeless women. The only reason I gave him money was to make him go away- it was so awkward and I was terribly uncomfortable.

I was so happy to be back in the car and away from that too-sneaky fundraiser. Besides we were now on our way to the Mission San Juan Bautista, the actual mission from Vertigo. The night after we went to the Santa Barbara Mission, I Googled it out of curiosity, and lo and behold: it was not that far away. A cop tried to pull a guy over on the highway, but the guy kept going, ignoring the sirens. The cop even had to call it in, but then we saw that the driver was motioning for them to both pull off the highway, not nearly as interesting as a get-away chase. I did see a shotgun house though, that was sort of interesting?

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (66)

We got to the Mission right at high noon, when all the school children were on the lawn playing. There was a giant lawn between the stables and the Mission. As it turns out they are two separate properties. When we tried to enter the barn, so I could fake a flashback by the carriage, a park ranger came by and told us we had to pay a $5 admission fee if we wanted to enter. We cut across the grass over to the Mission instead. There was no bell tower, but the rest was real. Well the exterior anyways, I did not feel like paying admission to go inside, given I had already seen inside of one, and you could see most of this one anyways. Curiously there was no mention of the movie anywhere.

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (67)

We stopped at a gas station before getting back on the Pacific Coast Highway. The bathroom there was the third worst one I had ever encountered. The first was the one in Massachusetts where the floor had been freshly bleached, and the second was in Shipshewana, Indiana that did not have door stalls, just shower curtains. As we drove we passed by many farms. One drew my attention; I had to stare at the animals for a bit to figure out what they were. They were goats it turned out. The beautiful scenery was interrupted by an out-of-place power plant. We also passed by Bonita Drive, which made me slightly giddy.

Given that we were driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, we stopped at the first McDonald’s we saw: we had no way of knowing if there would be food up the road and nothing is worse than being hangry (hungry and angry) on vacation. There was an insufferably annoying girl seated near us. She was telling a fake tale of a “boyfriend” and she kept flip-flopping, “yes he is real, no he is not” and at some point she explained why she brings a pillow to school. I ate as fast as I could just so we could get out of there. You may ask why I did not just eat in the car. It is because I wanted a sundae for the car ride and it would have melted before I got to it, or I would have to eat it first which is never fun. While at McDonald’s I found out that the quarter pounder comes with two slices of cheese to the one burger patty- and it goes great with a 10 piece chicken nuggets. I was ready for In N Out burger, for the 4×4.

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (78)

We drove by a sign for Rockaway Beach, so at least the Ramones did not lie about that. As we drove further north, I saw an antenna atop a hill. It was a dead giveaway that San Francisco was up ahead. And just like that we were stuck in traffic, no more scenic highway, and just bumper to bumper cars. We drove through Golden Gate Park on our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We were paranoid that the GPS might try and take us on a faster route, but thankfully it complied with our wishes. The drive over the bridge was quick. Not so for the other side, they had fewer lanes and were just crawling across the bridge. Just over the bridge there was a sign saying Redwood High. That might seem like a boring sign, unless you have played Cruis’n USA where there is one race through a redwood forest (arguably the hardest track in the game). I was beyond myself with giddy joy. I had always wanted to see the redwood forests (it was even on my list of Life’s Goals).

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (83)

The anticipation was growing as we drove over a mountain and down into a valley along narrow winding roads, the signs pointed to Muir Woods National Monument. It is a cleverly constructed park. You cannot really see the redwoods from the parking lot. You have to pay admission to get in, and then you can see them. It was well worth the fee, it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. You hear about these trees being enormous, but it is nothing until you see them for yourself, when you have to tilt your head all the way back- hurting your neck in the process. And even then you can’t always see the tops of the trees, just the sun breaking through the top. For some reason I had it in my head (not sure from where) that there is a tree that is hollowed out, with a tunnel so you could walk through it. There is no such thing, as far as I could tell anyways. So it turns out, there is such a thing, but it is in Yosemite National Park, the Wawona Tree.

Throughout the forest there were downed trees and burnt trees, which only showed how giant they were. Some were leaning precariously, threatening to topple over. As we walked back I remembered a sign showing the different types of wild life found in the forest, one of which was the banana slug. We had just listened to a podcast (Stuff to Blow Your Mind) about slugs on the drive up. I was now determined to see a banana slug and photograph it so I could email the podcast host. There were no banana slugs. In fact, we saw no wildlife whatsoever.

Mar. 22, 2013- PCH (93)

We stopped at a 7-Eleven for some snacks and soda to hold us over as we drove to Berkeley. As it turns out grapefruit is not all that bad when it is in Squirt soda, I guess it is drowned out by all the other citrus flavours. And coconut makes for a nice addition to Three Musketeers chocolate bar. We passed over a double-decker bridge over San Francisco Bay.

Given that our evening plans were cancelled, we walked over to Chez Panisse just to see it (as we had done in Chicago, when we walked by Charlie Trotters). We were not the only ones surveying the fire damage, there was a small group of people who appeared from all sides, almost like a pilgrimage to mourn. I was still sort of hungry, alas it was a Friday night so everywhere was packed full of people. I settled for a pepperoni slice from Papa John’s by the hotel. Settled is the wrong word, it was disgusting. They did not even heat it up and it was rubbery and half-cold and just outright gross. Hungry, tired and disappointed by a lack of Chez Panisse I could not sleep. Also there was a guy on the street outside yelling at passersby. I thought about digging the pizza slice out of the garbage and throwing it at him, or at the very least yelling back.

 
 

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NYC 2012- Day 1

Wed. Sept. 5, 2012:

Our flight was delayed, it was just awful. I was beside myself with joy about finally getting to go New York City; I mean I had only wanted to go there for about ten years now? And there I sat, stuck in the airport, no explanation of why our flight was delayed, with the threat or it being cancelled looming over us. Two and a half hours later we were finally up in the air! And for once I was not absolutely terrified: I do not fly often, which is to say hardly ever, so it is nerve-wracking when the plane takes off. I just sat there and focused on reading my book but out of the corner of my eye though I could see Brent looking over to see if I was starting to freak out, more so for his own entertainment really. From the plane, leaning over Brent, I could see the Brooklyn Bridge and a ton of lights down below. We were so close!!

We took a cab from the LaGuardia airport to the hotel, and already I got to cross one thing off my list: cab ride. All the exhaustion and stress from before just melted away as we drove through the city, I was so excited. Everything was big and bright and I was entranced. We drove through the tunnel to get to Manhattan, it was fine and then suddenly it was not. Halfway through the tunnel started smelling like fish, and it is a long tunnel, there is nowhere for the smell to dissipate to, it was choking and not pleasant.  No sooner were we out of the tunnel, then we found ourselves smack in the midst of New York City Traffic. It was 11 o’clock at night and there was traffic, trash pick-up and construction all causing a giant mess! And just like in the movies, everyone was laying on the horn. And just to top it off, we nearly ran over a biker- who did not even notice, he was weaving between cars and cutting them off.

We arrived at the hotel around midnight, too late for my Garrett’s Popcorn and pizza dinner plans, so we swapped them out with the next day’s meatballs-for-dinner plans because The Meatball Shop was open until 2am. As we walked we passed by hot dog vendors and fruit stands that were still open, it was after midnight! We passed a homeless man whom at first I might be dead, but this is because his face looked waxy, like a rubber Halloween mask (passing by on the way back, he had moved a bit). As soon as we left the hotel, we had gone the wrong way and I saw Penn Station (which was planned for day 3 in NYC).

We eventually found The Meatball Shop- it was surprisingly packed pull of people, even though it was almost 1 in the morning, the City really does not sleep.  The meatballs were good. We made sure to cover the spread and order all three different formats (slider, bowl and hero), different meats (chicken, pork, and beef) and different sauces. It was fun to order as well, because you mark on the laminated menu what you want. The bowl was just that: a bowl of meatballs, and I had the buffalo chicken ones but the parmesan got to be too much towards the end. The slider was just the right size and fun to eat. The hero came in third place, it was too big and the sauce was kind of boring. The bowl was the best, no bread! Just meat! That is how it should be.

We left just enough room for dessert: customized ice cream sandwiches! We had the good sense to split one though, Snickerdoodle cookie with chocolate ice cream. It was enormous, about half the size of my head (I give up, it is an official form of measure now: my head). It came with spoons on the side for good reason: there was no picking it up and eating it like a sandwich.

Back in the hotel I was exhausted, all I wanted was sleep. Alas, the City was not having it. All night long there were sirens blaring, horns honking, so much noise- and it was past 2am!! It sounded like the NYC you hear on TV shows, but it was real and keeping me awake.

(I split Manhattan into sections to plan my days in NYC)

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Life's Goals, Travel

 

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11.) See NYC

This is just a teaser, full story to come soon. Or in a month, I am severely backlogged here from back-to-back vacations.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Life's Goals

 

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41.) Eat at least one food featured on the show Man Vs. Food

When I first concocted this idea, namely while watching him chow-down (not a good idea when you are hungry and feeling arrogant) I was think in the far off future, months away at least. Now it is coming up. In two days actually. Two days from now, soon after crossing the border we will be sitting down for a nice brunch at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que… for giant sandwich and some sides, aptly called the Pork-Sket Platter. Initially I was all “I am going to eat the whole thing!” but after the foot long hot dog, I am not so sure. Technically I just want to eat food featured on the show, not complete the (insane) challenges. The other reason is that after our post-pig-out pit-stop at Rochester House (I can finally get my photo-geek fix) we are heading to an early dinner of what I think is a double hot dog, as in two hot dogs in one bun. So if you are keeping track here: late lunch + early dinner with a quick run through a museum between the two. Should be interesting…

If you don’t hear from me regarding this, then I have either died or gone into a food-coma.

You know what. I’m going to get just the Pork-sket sandwich (Texas Beef Brisket topped with melted cheese & pickled Jalapenos, layered with pulled pork & finished with coleslaw) sans sides. Sides are lame. It will look something like this (when I took on the foot long pulled pork hot dog):

(Note: My eyes are closed because I am laughing at how absurd the situation must look to my dining companions, I am not cringing in pain. It was delicious)

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Life's Goals

 

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Real Hungry

I am not a big sports fan, that is why it has taken us this long to go to Toronto’s best sports bar. And also we had to actually make a reservation it is so popular there. But with EuroCup on I could not resist the idea of getting to watch Poland play. I gathered some people, got some yeses and we made a reservation for 8. In the end there were 4 of us. But it worked out really well because we got a booth with the perfect view of the movie-screen sized TV, and we got double lucky because they were showing the Poland vs. Czech match! This also happened to the be the final match determining who was going through to the next round, so it was a nail-biter.

The only true real screaming that happened was when Greece scored against Russia (it was playing on smaller screens). The bar erupted in screams of joy and some said whimpering yelps from the Russians in the corner. The bar itself however was packed with Poles. Everywhere you looked you saw bottles of Zywiec. So much so that when my sister tried to order one the waitress wasn’t even sure if there was any left. At one point a waitress walked by with a pot of tea and a cup with a lemon wedge, we giggled because that was clearly for some Polish patrons.

In the end Poland lost. But I won in my showdown with a foot long hot dog. In addition to which there was also some pulled pork on top of it. I couldn’t settle for just a regular old run-of-the-mill foot long when Real Sports bar is known for their fancy hot dogs. The game was distracting enough that I just kept eating and before I knew it, the whole thing had vanished. This was all well and good until later in the day. Meat hangover. But well worth it, it was delicious.

Oh and a Greek player got really mad. I am talking 10 minutes of dramatic arm flailing and yelling and nearly crying. It was amazing. And they kept replaying the initial moment of anger. And then they would show him in real time, off to the sidelines… still angry.

Life’s Goal 73.) eat a foot long hotdog is now done. It nearly killed me. If the soccer game was not on to distract me it would have been an epic fail, instead I overate and almost got sick.

 

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Spring Break- Day 3

Wed. Feb. 22, 2012- Grand Canyon & Driving to Lake Havasu City

Waking up at 6:30 in the morning when you clambered into bed late the previous night is no picnic. It took a lot of energy to drag myself out of bed, put on all those layers (yes, layers, as in winter coat etc…) grab my tripod and head out. Mike seemed to have no trouble with it. I blame the tripod. Why all the winter clothes you ask? Was I not in Arizona? As in down south where it is warm? Yes I was, but we were at such a high elevation (at least 7000ft, I stopped checking at some point) that it was in fact cold. Not unbearably cold, just cold enough to make my hands turn all red and for the tiny bits of snow to not melt. The view was astounding and amazing and too much for words. I may have been exhausted, cold and hungry (moving a cold tripod around did not help) but it was well worth it and I would do it again. Mike climbed up on the wall to pose for photos, resulting in me shouting “You’d better not fall into the canyon” which is how we met some cool people, also there to see the sunrise. I think we made their day with our antics, they were laughing at us. The sunrise did not last very long; it was maybe half an hour before the sun was up and it was daylight. And the daylight would still be there when we went on the tour later… back to bed I went!

We had our tour switched from the noon hour one to the 9am so we would have more time for a surprise that Mike’s mom had planned for us, but more on that later. the way the tour worked was that we drove to a point and stayed there for 20 minutes, then back on the bus and off to the next. The last one we had more time because there was more to see. The first stop on our tour was Yaki Point, the driver made a terrible joke that it is called that because the person who discovered it had stepped in donkey poo, looked down at his shoe and said “yucky”, just terrible. There was a bluebird sitting in a bush and as I was photographing it, a second one flew out! I had no idea it was even in there. I know I will probably say this about a million times still, but the views were unbelievable, you could see for miles out to the horizon and down into the canyon.

En route to the next stop I saw a woodpecker flying in the forest. I am pretty sure the second stop was at Moran Point (I am unsure as I had left my book back at the lodge because I did not feel like carrying it and I assumed I would remember everything). From this viewpoint you could see bits of the Colorado River down below and well as some Class 5 rapids. The rapids looked frozen; they did not look like they were moving at all. Apparently I was not the only one who thought so, but we were assured by the driver that they were in fact moving, very fast; they just appeared frozen because we were so high up.  While driving to what I think was Lipan Point an elk crossed in front of our bus, resulting in lots of excited shouting. As we got off the bus I spotted a giant black bird sitting in a tree, the photographer in me insisted on getting as close as possible to get a good photo. The movie fan in me was terrified. I have watched Hitchcock’s The Birds a few too many times to be comfortable getting that close to a giant black bird that keeps making scary noises. I asked the tour guide what kind of bird it was, given it was not on the info board about other birds. He said it was a raven. That raven and another one work the area looking for food from the tourists.

At this point in the trip I was starting to really feel like a stalker. I had been photographing people for my project. And I think some of them were starting to catch on. As soon as I saw a family posing for a photograph, I was there off to the side, zoomed in on them.

Stop four was at the Watch Tower. Here we were given an hour. There was a tower you could climb up to get an even higher view of the canyon, or you know, buy crap from the gift shop downstairs. The view from this lookout included the Painted Desert across the canyon. Here was where I filled my memory card and had to awkwardly put in the new one while Mike made jokes about me dropping the full one into the canyon. One of the lookouts here was shaped like the front of a ship and Mike wanted to do the Titanic pose. His question combined with terrified yelp that kind of sounded like “no” garnered a lot of laughs. The view from the Watch Tower was well worth the stair-climbing it necessitated.

Lunch consisted of a bowl of soup and some coffee, so fancy. I ended up sitting outside and watching a raven scrounge for food (it could have been the same one from earlier, or his buddy), unafraid of all the people passing by. All that walking and stalking tired me out, I fell asleep on the bus. As had most of the other passengers.  On the way back to the car I spotted a giant bird flying overhead, but because of the glean of the sun off the bird’s feathers I could not be sure if it was black or brown. I like to think it was something other than a raven.

Driving to Lake Havasu City I could see Mt. Humphrey’s off in the distance in Flagstaff, AZ with its snowy mountain top. It was kind of unreal given how much desert landscape I had seen so far. It also meant I got to add another mountain range to add to my list of mountains I’ve seen (Appalachians, Adirondacks and now Sierra-Nevada). As we drove the excitement mounted, Mike’s mom had a surprise in store for us! And then I saw some white sheep with black ears and hooves! Oh the excitement! I saw a swarm of 10-20 birds circling around, something dead over there I assumed. When I tried to tell them about it the confusion of my pointing and saying “there” ensued yet again. And then it hit me. I saw another swarm, twice as big this time, just kind of floating about like bubbles in a tank, and instead said that there was a swarm at 10 o’clock. New system for pointing stuff out! Staring out the window at the landscape passing by it was forest, forest, forest… weird dead-looking shrugging tree, more forest, and some more forest. It was so weird.

The descent from the “top of the world” began. We watched as the elevation went down and the temperature went up. I fell asleep and woke up to being back in the desert. We stopped for gas and I ran inside because there was a Dunkin’ Donuts. The guy there was weird. First of all, he was maybe 70 years old? He also said “be careful out there” to us as he handed me my coffee. Across the street there were some pigeons hanging out with ravens. Then I saw the greatest sight my eyes had ever beholden: Plaza Bonita! We could not believe it, there was a place called that! It was Bonita! We turned off the I-40 and what did my eyes behold? Why it was a sign stating Historic Route 66! I was so excited!! And this was not even the surprise; it was just an added bonus. What was the surprise? We were headed to an abandoned mining town turned into a tourist attraction! I have had some great days in my life, but oh man, this was awesome.  The road started out fine, slow gentle curves. As we climbed in elevation they became a bit tighter. We passed by a very sketchy looking gas station where there were some scary bikers hanging out. Then we almost got rammed off the road by a UPS truck. Who are they delivering to?! Hardly a soul lives out here! We passed by maybe two homesteads? And they did not seem very welcoming. They were surrounded by barbed wire and NO TRESPASSING signs. As the elevation increased, the turns got tighter, giving way to switchbacks. It was so scary, on one side it was a cliff edge, on the other you could fall down into the valley. As if it was not nerve-wracking (and cool) enough, not being able to see the road in front, dangerous curves, driving almost in the other lane to avoid being on the precipice of the cliff: there was an old wrecked car above us in the cliff-side! The car was at least 20 years old in terms of the model. And it had been there for a long time, it was rusty and pale. And just destroyed, like a crushed tin can. It was the epitome of what I think of Route 66. At one point the curves were so narrow and sharp that there was a bit of extra shoulder for people who could not make the tight turn. We stopped there for a breather and stared down into the valley.  As we headed back to the car, a FedEx car sped up the hill and we just laughed. Where could they be going?! As we drove we passed by a guy who was driving with one hand and taking pictures out the window with the other. The guy was nuts. There were also some people who pulled over to the shoulder (blocking part of our lane) to take photographs.

And then I saw it, a sign saying Oatman, Arizona! And just as quickly my attention was taken away… by a burro (donkey) crossing the street. I followed it to see where it was going, it disappeared behind the post office (why a tourist attraction has a post office, I will never know).  The burro emerged on the other side of the post office, trying to eat from a bowl of food left out for a car. Only his neck was too short to reach through the fence. Oatman is amazing. It is overrun by burros that were abandoned by the miners when the mines dried up. Now they just roam freely, walking up to people and cars, looking for food. And the shops sell food, so you can feed them! They will slobber all over your hand. As Mike fed one of the burros it would pick up the food and place it on the hood of fancy Camaro parked outside a shop and eat off the shiny hood. I tried to take pictures without it looking like I had put the food there. The burros kept following Mike around so we took to calling him “burro whisperer”. We also got to climb into an old mining shaft that had been closed off, so you can’t climb too far into it. The shops all sold really tacky Route 66 souvenirs from ash trays to shirts. We met a couple from Ontario and shared our food with her. We told her to feed with a flat hand. Her husband told her to feed with a flat hand. She did not, and then complained that she got nibbled. Mike had wanted to buy a shirt and when he asked how much it was the guy tried to rip him off, but his mom called the keeper on it and we got free burro food out of it.

As we drove to Lake Havasu City we passed by some really weird bushes that were covered in ribbons. Then there were some funny looking palm trees that looked like they were wearing hula skirts. There was a sign on the highway warning of burro crossings; alas we did not see any. We did get to see the Colorado River again. For dinner we had In N Out Burger. It was so good; I had forgotten just how good In N Out is. I had the double burger and fries. What I had forgotten to do was to look up the secret menu. We passed another Plaza Bonita, I guess it is a southern thing? We drove over the original London Bridge which had been bought by a wealthy chainsaw guy. They brought it over brick by brick and rebuilt it to bring tourists to Lake Havasu City. I guess they wanted more than scantily clad girls on Spring Break and Canadian snowbirds? The rest of the evening was spent catching up, finally having access to the internet.

 

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