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Archive for the ‘Road Trips’ Category

Here I am sitting on a Greyhound bus on my way to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut to visit one of my best gals (not to gamble — I don’t gamble; you know that). It’s been a long while since I’ve taken a bus but having attended college in upstate NY, and subsequently making friends from upstate NY, I’ve logged my fair share of hours on buses. Never before though have they offered me Wi-Fi (working) and electric outlets (not working).

I can’t help but reminisce about some of my previous bus-riding experiences, one in particular that popped into my head when a girl at the last stop boarded holding a stuffed animal.

by lrargerich (flickr)

It was my freshman year of college at Brockport, a good eight-hour drive from my hometown, and for some reason I was taking the bus home for Spring Break — this was in JetBlue’s early days when they were the only plane with personal TVs and still cost only $99 from Buffalo to NYC. It wasn’t a public bus but rather a campus-organized shuttle for those of us who had jumped on the chance to go to Uni as far away from home as we could get.

It was scheduled to stop near Penn Station in Manhattan and then in Long Island.

Eight+ hours into our journey, we pulled over a few blocks before our scheduled stop (although this was my pre-citified days so I had no idea where we were). When they didn’t open the doors for us to get off, and instead welcomed two cops onto the bus, we all began to panic.

They walked down the aisle looking at each of us, one by one. WTF?

Then, one by one, row by row, we were asked to get off the bus. I grabbed my jacket, backpack and the big stuffed dog I had brought with me to serve as a pillow.

“Ahhh, bring your teddy with you?” the cop mocked.

“Ummm, yeah?!” Probably shouldn’t be a wise arse to the cop, Liz!

All but one of us got off the bus and as we stood outside for close to an hour, the story unfolded.

Apparently, the student being questioned had been in an argument with another student during our rest stop. The cop overheard him threaten to ‘shoot the guy’ when he arrived in the city. Actually, maybe it was ‘stab the guy’… the details escape me but it was scary and life threatening. The “threatener” told the “threatnee” that ‘his boys would be there waiting for him,’ or something as equally intimidating, ‘when he got off the bus.’

Mind you, we were all 18-19 years old.

So as this story unfolded, I somehow got the message — this was before I was on mobile comm but vaguely remember borrowing someone else’s mobile — to my boyf who was waiting at our scheduled drop-off location to collect moi.

My fellow riders and I started to get antsy as our friends and family started getting wind of the situation and came to find us. The bus driver, when we asked if we could just get our stuff and go, laughed at us and said, “No, you have to get off at the scheduled place. We can’t just drop you here!

At this point the cops had come off the bus and opened up the luggage compartment in search of said threatener’s luggage. Now, this next observation I kid you not.

I worked my way into the crowd forming to see what they were searching for – the cops pulled off one of those Tupperware-type bucket containers that all college students have piled in their closet, wrapped in chains.

Yes, CHAINS.

With a big padlock on the top — it triggered the image of a trunk secured with chains from a version of A Christmas Carol.

I’m being serious.

My fellow riders and I began to get pushy and started demanding that we be able to get our bags and get the eff out of there. The bus driver laughed again saying, “No way! You’re High School students!”

“WHAT? No we are not, we are in college.”

“Oh,” he looked at us surprised, “Sure, you can go whenever you want then.” Jack arse!

My parents hadn’t been too keen on the fact that I had chosen to have my boyf pick me up in the city instead of taking the bus to the safety of the suburbs. But after hearing about the padlocked Tupperware they were grateful he was there — and therefore grateful for my obnoxious independence and insistent disregard of their wishes.

I grabbed my bag and hopped into my boyf’s supped up Supra with Teddy Dog in tow.

And after finding out that the remainder of the trip to the suburbs took twice as long as it should have because of a traffic jam on the Throg’s Neck Bridge due to an attempted suicide [threat?], we were even more grateful.

Needless to say, that was the last time I took the bus home from university — at least until I transferred.

My subsequent bus adventures, however, were still interesting. It wasn’t until I took one of the Chinatown bus companies to Syracuse and sat in front of a non-English movie that could classify as soft Asian porn for close to 4 hours while sitting in Friday-evening Manhattan traffic — again, I kid you not. Almost 4 hours to get from the east side of Chinatown to the Holland Tunnel — that I swore off buses all together. It was after that trip that I graduated to Amtrak…

a much more reliable and comfortable method of travel sans potentially life-threatening and pornographic entertainment.

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I have a very close half-Irish friend who truly loves the Emerald Isle. Every time he talks about the green land and its drunken inhabitants he gets giddy with passion for the culture and its rolling landscapes — which he also takes fantastic photos of. So when I was planning my quick trip across the country, he jumped in to help me plan. He threw out small villages to stop in and reminisced about the photos he caught of rainbows and misty hills; he insisted I stop at certain pubs and went on about the meals he had eaten and Guinness he had drank.

Since you couldn’t tag along, you-know-who, here’s to you!!

Contrary to the weather report, it is clear and sunny and beautiful outside. I am cruising on the left side of the road with the windows down and traditional Irish music blaring through the radio. I finally had some energy after stopping for a pub lunch — ham and Irish cheddar cheese toasty with chips — and a cuppa tea in Kilkenny. With nowhere to be, and no set schedule, I had gotten back on the road with the intention of cruising until something struck my fancy. Your favorite way to travel!

I slow down as I enter a roundabout and make a split second decision to take a different exit when I catch a glimpse of a rocky ruined castle off to the right. The sign said Cashel — the Rock of Cashel. Thirty minutes later I am walking up a muddy, hill sticking close to the stone wall on my left as I catch a rainbow up ahead, and, with a quick look behind me, climb the fence [keeping out tourists] to chase it down.

The view grew more beautiful as I rounded the back of the castle and saw a ruined Abbey in the field below. Needless to say, I made a beeline for the pile of stones.

The sun is pouring in the windows and small crevices. I mess with my camera a bit and capture dozens of perspectives of the same view — some bright, some dark, some a fuzzy confusing mess, others crisp as the air. The shots above are a few of my favs.

I spend a few more hours walking around — back past the Rock of Cashel, where I follow a grassy ridge up to small segment of a rainbow, brighter than any I’ve ever seen before. (Seriously, I didn’t edit the color in the image below.)

This made the sleepy hours of driving worth it — being in the middle of such a beautiful place. It’s now too late to make it to Cobh village or explore the town of Kinsale before sunset, but there is a warm and cozy hotel waiting for me and tomorrow is a whole new day.


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This past weekend my cousin received a white coat. Not just any white coat, but a very powerful white coat; one that symbolizes knowledge and dedication; one that represents her compassion and concern for others. She received her doctor’s coat.

Grandma and I were excited, and honored, that she invited us to celebrate such an exciting occasion!

I’d never been to Maine so in addition to hanging out with my cousins, I was excited to check out the city of Portland and her new digs.

(Her apartment is the cutest happiest place I’ve ever been inside. Many people may roll their eyes at the concept of a physical location having a sense of energy, but I’m a believer. There are some places that you enter, and you can’t help but feel happy and content. My cuz and her BF’s place, with it’s massive open lounge/dining/kitchen room and peaked ceiling with wood beams, is a little domesticated mountain lodge. I’m seriously considering moving in when (if) she ever has to move out. It’s my “happy place.” OH! And we had lobster rolls… it was my first ever 😮 )

The day after the ceremony Grandma, cuz and I headed to Portland’s waterfront to check out the shops and eat seafood. Literally, that’s all we wanted to do… eat seafood! We perused the most adorable independent shops and boutiques. Jewelry, fresh spices, housewares and souvenirs… everything was lovely — and had lobsters on it!

After walking as far as Grandma could, we sat her down at Portland Lobster Company, a casual waterfront seafood place, to chow down. She was in heaven. We all were, but Grandma has a special appreciation for the waterfront and seafood. (She used to do a lot of fishing, and you can tell it’s her “happy place.”)

Now the best part… our food! We all started with a soup: Lobster Bisque for Grandma, clam chowder for cuz, and Butternut Squash and Apple Cider soup in a bread bowl for me. Yeah, I don’t mess around. Cuz and I then followed it up with some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever tasted, and Grandma had a scallop roll and delicious crunchy sea-salt covered french fries. (Yeah, I ate most of those on her.)

We watched small tour boats come in and out of the port, listened to live music playing on the porch where we sat and I eye-loved a big poofy Akita that I could tell wanted me to take it home. After our Portland rendez-vous, she showed us her campus and the shoreline only a couple of miles from her house. Beautiful!

It was one of the most relaxing days I’d had in a long time. The whole trip was actually — even the interview I completed on Friday was smooth as Breyer’s.

Life has a way of always getting you what you need, when you need it, even if you don’t know you need it. We hit no traffic, spent some fun relaxing time with great family, enjoyed a new city, and ate AMAZINGLY. It was the exact break my body and brain needed from my hectic schedule. And to top it all off, we stopped on the way home in one of my latest favorite spots in New England, Providence, RI, to have brunch with my best friend. We hit up Amy’s Cafe on Wickenden St for omelets, hot apple cider and french toast covered in whipped cream and strawberries. I’ve now had two fantastic brunches in East Providence (the first was at Brickway… one more and I might pack my bags!

It was fantastic.

And the I-95 drive from New York to Maine, and back again, was not only enjoyable, it completed my cross country road trip. I’ve now driven across the entire country — Maine to Seattle — and all within the past month!

I deserve a high-five!

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My brother just put me onto a fantastic product that would have been perfect for our road trip!!

The Car Steering Wheel Tray

Not quite sure how safe it is to use, but there definitely were times we could have used an extra surface. If you are planning a road trip, you may want one of these!!

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Miles 3400+
States WASHINGTON
Highlights Andrew’s excitement for his new home!

I am writing this from the airport lounge waiting to board my flight back to reality. Siiigh. As it always is when a vaca comes to an end, my level of enthusiasm to return to life is as strong as my enjoyment of the trip.
Today we woke up with a renewed sense of energy and headed out early from the Purple Sage Motel (Here are some pics to prove its’ awesomeness!) to follow the clouds home –– Andrew’s home at least.

And when we got close enough, we followed Mount Rainier, all the way to his apt. The lucky guy can see it from his bedroom window! (Second photo is his view!))

As we reentered coastal urban traffic, we slowed to a stop. Ahhhh, just as we had exactly one week earlier on the Cross Bronx in NY. However, this offered much better photo opps. I got my first glimpse of the university (he lives a couple blocks up from where the boats are docked in the first pic), and the stadium that was prepping for a game against Nebraska.

After checking out his apt and moving a small SUV’s worth of his treasured possessions, he kindly took me for a tour of downtown Seattle and the Pike Place Market.

What a fannnntastic PLACE! Stroll down the corridor and you are inundated with a mix of fish and floral smells. Odd combo maybe, but it somehow works here. We passed King Salmon at least 2-feet long, hockey-puck size scallops and crabs and lobsters just waiting to be taken home. Wholesale florists had the most beautiful, full and colorful bouquets of flowers for $10-$15. If a flower bouquet was a feasible souvenir everyone I know would have gotten one.

After a bit of exploration, and some photos of the Seattle Sounders stadium for mom, dad and Eric…

… we went searching for food. I’d have happily cooked up a smorgasbord of seafood but since his dishes and whatnot were in garbage bags on his bedroom floor, we decided to eat out one last time before vaca was officially over and we had to go back to counting our pennies. And I also insisted on some West Coast sushi before I left.

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is search for food off the beaten path, so I suggested we wander away from the city and see what we stumbled upon. Only 6 blocks or so from the bustle of the market, we saw a sign for a Japanese/Polynesian Tiki bar, Ohana. Hmmm. The menu revealed a combination of sushi and seafood entrées. SOLD!

Best. Meal. Ever.

After all the buffalo and burgers over the previous few days, seafood was very fulfilling! We had Mahi Mahi fish tacos as a starter, and split a few sushi rolls for our entrée. The best choice of roll is the Half Baked which is a california roll with spicy cooked salmon on top mixed with a spicy masago mayo sauce. Now, when you think “on top” you think a single piece wrapped around each roll. Not here! On top meant a pile of perfectly-cooked salmon covering the entire plate. (The photos didn’t come out clear, but here’s one of the Firecracker roll we had.) This was the BEST SUSHI MEAL I’VE EVER EATEN!!!! Not to mention possibly one of the best meals I’ve had, period.

This is the Firecracker Roll, which is tuna, salmon, krab, avocado and cream cheese with peanut sauce & spicy mayo on the side.

Stuffed to the brim we navigated the bus system home –– me getting off a stop late, which was actually pretty funny at the time –– and crashed!

My last day, we had originally planned to visit Mount Rainier, but alas, it was too cloudly –– something I think he’s going to get used to very quickly. So instead we visited some unique local shops for supplies –– Target and Trader Joe’s. (I spent the previous couple weeks hyping up TJ’s. So I was very relieved when he loved its’ cheap food and lack of options; apparently he also lacks the decision-making gene!) And following that I requested a campus tour and visit to the bookstore.

I already knew how beautiful the campus was from the photos of his visit, but it’s 100x nicer in person. Living in a rainy climate produces green! Bright green grass, full trees and flowers are everywhere. Parts of it felt like a jungle. Amazing.

We wandered along the canal, which is a few blocks from his apt, took a detour through the emergency services building, and found the undergrad dorms –– you know, just in case he wants to meet some younger people 😉 😉

Doesn’t he look at home here??

And standing in front of the sound downtown:

At the canal:

In front of one of the engineering buildings where his classes will be held… his new home away from home:

The moment we hit the Cascade’s, my brother’s face lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. He’s embarking on a new stage of his life –– one that includes studying something he loves and is passionate about –– in a location that has everything he wants –– city life, mountains, happy people (seriously, every person we met, whether at a restaurant, store, etc, was overly friendly and helpful). He even has a few friends from college living nearby.

I’ll miss him. But I am so proud of him for making such a big move. Not once throughout the whole trip did I have any doubt that he would not only enjoy his new life, but be very successful. I know the decision was hard (LA? Seattle? LA? Seattle?) but it’s clear he made the right one! The entire trip was one big thumbs up and a few high fives!

Congrats Andrew. Show the world what you got!

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Wall, SD

According to dozens of South Dakota highway billboard signs, Wall Drug is one of the first drug stores in America. So of course I wanted to stop at it.

The town has maintained its frontier design, and Wall Drug takes up half the main road.

And it carried a lot more than your typical drug store. It’s turned into a convenience/grocery/souvenir shop/café/leather goods supplier/anything else they can find to sell store.

And I went to town and kicked off my souvenir shopping here. (Not telling you what I got.)

What was more interesting than the store though –– anything else in South Dakota according to Andrew –– was the amount of publicity it got. Everywhere we went people told us to “visit Wall Drug.” Every 3 out of 4 billboards (which are still constructed with logs) on the side of I90 was for Wall Drug Co. It was nuts!  South Dakota sure loves it signs.

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Miles ~2800 plus a few
States Yellowstone National Park
Highlights The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and wild animals

Yellowstone isn’t easy to describe, so I am just going to give you a very very brief photo tour:

We entered through the North entrance (from Gardiner) and headed down to Madison Campground where we made a reservation for that night. The first area is Mammouth Hot Springs. (The way the park is sectioned off reminds me of Disneyworld’s villages; isn’t that sad?) Everywhere you look the ground is steaming, bubbling and spewing water. And all the minerals in the land create bright colors.

Upper Terrace Springs with mountains in the background:

The sulfur in the ground made the whole place stink like rotten eggs. Me and the three-year-old girl in front of us walked around this section holding our noses shut.

Roaring Mountain (Andrew was reminded of the Astrocrag from the show Guts!):

Some of the Fountain Paint Pots just randomly spouted water:

Andrew loved it!

I don’t know what makes the water blue, but it was so vivid.

Mustard Spring. The colors on this one were a bit ewwww! But as we visited the Mustard Museum only a few days earlier, the photo had to go in.

The Mammouth Hot Springs “area” is were the hot springs are most concentrated, but they are everywhere. You drive down the road, pause for a photo, and next to you on the ground is bubbling mud. They were very good about warning you though. These signs were everywhere:

From there we did the ultimate touristy thing and joined the crowds waiting for Old Faithful. Seriously, it was like waiting for a Seal World dolphin show. We actually arrived just after it erupted (erupt? Is that the right word?), so we indulged in the local cafeteria’s fine cuisine. Outside the cafeteria was a long porch with rows of rocking chairs that people had taken up residence to wait. It made me think of my grandma. I could imagine her sitting there with her knitting, stopping every 92 minutes to watch Old Faithful and say “oooo, ahhhhh!”

To kill time we headed towards a path that goes around the perimeter of the geyser. “Sorry, this trail is closed,” a  ranger said standing in our way. “Oh?” “There is a herd of buffalo on the trail; you can’t walk on it. Head over to the other side of the waiting area and you can see some buffalo.” So we did:

And eventually Old Faithful showed all her glory:

My opinion? Over-rated. There are a number of geysers in the park actually, Old Faithful just happens to be the only one that erupts that regularly. The Grand Geyser is actually the tallest one known, but only goes off every eight hours.

From there we got back in the car (story of our life this week) –– after a quick stop at the souvenir shop. Andrew’s caption for this photo: “Ahhh, The American Government sold out!”

We made a few animal-inspired Canon moments. It’ really easy to track animals in the park; you just look out for a lot of other cars on the side of the road and pull over when you see people pointing into the woods.


We also saw a grizzly in the woods… not at our campsite, thank goodness.

At this point it was an hour from getting dark. We decided to pass up cooking on the fire and eat in the lodge so we could get some more sightseeing time in. This turned out to be a fantastic idea: the next, and last stop, was my favorite, EVER! And the bison tacos I had for dinner were pretty sweet too!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

It really was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Until now my favorite place I’ve visited was Lord Stone’s Country Park in the Yorkshire Dales. I camped there once and spent the night lying on the softest coziest grass on this earth staring at the stars. I felt at ease there.

This place brought the same peace. It was perfect!

It was the perfect note to end the day. So we did. We headed back to the campground to cuddle up and freeze our butts off all night!

Been to Yellowstone? What were your favorite sights?

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