It's Kind of Pretty Good to Be Back. Really.
So, we finally made it back alive! And, in fact, I think we're just better human beings in general. For instance, I think this picture of me in a cowboy hat and sunglasses is quite compelling evidence for the "Better Humans" camp.
Arriving back at campus was a mixed bag of emotions, especially considering the trials Gladys endured during the rest of the drive back to school. I was very worried for her and her left rear tire (she doesn't handle putting on weight very well). The triumph in getting back to campus was severely lessened by the first day of classes (today) and the reintroduction of domestic activities (my room was a mess this afternoon). Now, there's a load in the wash, all of my mid-terms and papers were handed back today (Lord, have mercy), and I'm ready for some quality sleeping-in until five-minutes before class and still managing to get a bagel and coffee tomorrow morning. But I'd rather not think about that any more. Back to the trip.
So, there is a boatload of never-seen-before photos from the last half of the trip! It's exhilarating for me to be able to present them to you here today. They span from the almost impressively disappointing experience in Britt, Iowa to my pitiful attempts to comfort my Dear Gladys somewhere around Connecticut. We begin in Britt. This is what we found there. A sign. Well, there was a building across the street--the old movie theater--that was the temporary museum, or something. When we rolled into Britt I had been asleep for quite some time, feeling the full effects of some flu-like illness. When I awoke, I felt the strong onset of another illness: the deep depression of discovering that the dreams of three hobos that had converged in the small town of Britt were more like three ships passing in the night. Some would say that we should've known.
After leaving Britt, though it was only around 4 p.m., I began the hotel search from the passenger seat. Nothing sounded more appealing than a nice, clean bed at that point. And if there is one place that provides that service, it's Super 8. So, we made reservations at the Super 8 Motel in Coralville and I set down to the bed with a pack of ice on my forehead to alleviate the onset of fever. I did this, of course, while watching the local news. The unhappiness about not being able to blog was alleviated in the five short minutes it took me to fall asleep.
When I awoke in the morning, I was surprisingly well-rested. I think that my body was telling me that staying up to ridiculous hours to complete blog entries was not healthy for me in general. We were quick out of Iowa and managed to make St. Louis by that afternoon to meet Haliday Douglas, Bowdoin '05, for a trip to a local diner that had deliciously thick malts and egregiously fattening chili-related products. It was a great introduction to the city and the food.
Now, the bathroom at the restaurant presented its own problems, and I believe that Dustin almost had a walk-in, but that's another story for another day.
After lunch, it was off to meet one of Haliday's co-workers at Aim High, a non-profit organization that works to help at-risk middle school students in the inner-city area of St. Louis, to play a riveting game of Lord of the Rings Risk. This friend's name was Hobie. Pretty close to Hobo, you see. Anyway, the game went over splendidly and Haliday and I ended up winning (thanks to my highly concentrated and poorly positioned army and Haliday's foresight). Following that it was onward to a percussion performance at the Anheuser-Busch Auditorium (or Performing Arts Center or something) that students from Haliday's most likely future employer, College Bound, would be attending. The performance had its highs and lows, but the most interesting part of the performance took place right next to us. There was a young upper-crust white couple sitting in front of a row of African-American students just to my left. And, as any performing arts field trip is bound to bore the life out of middle school students, the kids began to chat and text message and laugh. Perhaps it was just an overall feeling of racial tension that I'd carried with me from hearing about the city and driving through the city, but the aggressiveness of the boyfriend's shushing startled me. When I reflect on the anecdote by itself, there doesn't really seem to be anything too shocking about it: Kids making noise, couple on date wants to listen to the percussionists, and boyfriend wants to look important and protective. But something there spoke to the divisions that I had felt throughout the city, and Dustin also received a strange feeling. St. Louis was very strange in that way.
After the performance we headed to the market to pick up items for tea and sandwiches. The selection process for all of the supplies was impressive and overwhelming, but the resulting meal was excellent. I was surprised at the number of times during the evening that literacy was mentioned as a large problem for schools in St. Louis. There were stories of students who had graduated high school with high marks who were unable to read or write. The district is quite close to be overtaken by the state, similar to the case of the LA school district.
That evening, I was provided with my own bed and bathroom, which was quite nice when I rolled out of bed in the morning. Haliday went on a mission to find his wallet before we went for breakfast and a trip to Burroughs--Haliday's high school. We had breakfast at a very nice restuarant in town but had to stay on schedule for our arrival in Cleveland, Ohio (for which we were horribly late).
The drive on I-70 was filled with construction and detours on top of the fact that Dustin and I had forgotten to take into account the time change that we would pass through. That presented its own problems. We were to meet Clark at a Starbucks nearby which we did about two hours behind the time we were originally scheduled to arrive (that means we were an hour late anyway).
Well, the entry must end for the evening, though there is plenty more to recap. And it has taken so long to get this together itself. But, before this post ends, I should reveal the long overdue and greatly hyped things named for our dear Prince of Naples, Clark Gascoigne.
The Clark Gascoigne Barn
The Gascoigne Woodland
Here are the rest of the photos, Finally And there's more to come.
###Friday, March 23, 2007
Long Rest Precedes Big Jump
Last night we arrived here at Dingle Dell to find that Kristen Gunther, Bowdoin '09, had arranged a delicious Maryland meal for us. It included Crab Soup, Angry Looking Crabs and Corn on the Cob. She also made a truly perfect Lady Baltimore Cake (which, I am told, has no historical affiliation with the city of Baltimore).
Following this delightful meal, we settled in for some rest so as to get started on exploring Baltimore early the next day. We got there at 9:15.
Our first stop was breakfast with a nun. Yes, that's right - a Roman Catholic nun. We met her in a diner that I think is named Jimmy's. She told us fascinating stories about the many charitable projects she has worked on and protests she has been arrested for. She also directed me to what I must say is a truly original chunk of Baltimore cuisine. I think it was called Scrappel. I asked what it is and the nun told me I didn't want to know. Apparently it is a meat of even more questionable origins than hot dogs. It was good, although I don't know that I would eat it often...
After that we explored Fells Point, one of the older parts of the city with great cobblestones and things. From there we took a water taxi up the harbor to another region that seems to not have a name. Regardless, one of the streets there is named after Kristen's godfather. His name is Sir Frank Gunther II because he was knighted by the pope. Regardless, it's a very nice street.
Attached that street was the aquarium that he was involved in the construction of. We had a great time roaming around looking at sharks and fish, but overall, it made me quite tired. Lots of dim lights and serene waters. After exploring a bit more, we headed off to a place called Lexington Market on the Light Rail. This was where I had my first legitimate crab cake.
I don't remember the name of the place, I leave that to Darren, but regardless, it was amazing. Easily one of the top meals of this trip and a strong contender for the top slot. It was a huge pile of grab served with french fries and it was delicious. A lot less work than the army of angry looking beasts we tackled last night, although not quite as enjoyable messy...
After a late lunch, we visited Kristen's old school, which has a castle with secret passages. A tour for prospective students walked in to one room to find Darren and I banging on wood panels and twisting candelabras in an attempt to find the alleged "secret passage ways". The one secret passage way that Kristen showed us looked more like a drainage ditch than it did a passage...Someday we'll be back there and really bang on the walls, for today, after the tour, we had to desist.
Since then, we've been back here at Dingle Dell (that's its real name, I promise). The house was built in 1772 and it's really beautiful and comfortable. The only mild concern is that every one who lives in it believes it is also inhabited by ghosts. Darren and I are alone here now and have both heard a pronounced chewing news. The dog is with us and he doesn't seem to be producing said noise...I'm sure we'll be fine.
We initially planned to head north after visiting Baltimore this morning, but concerns about weather, traffic and weariness held us off. Those things, and the strong argument that Kristen's mom presented against. Having gotten some good naps and food in since then, we are both heartily thankful that she is convincing.
So, early tomorrow we depart for Bowdoin. And Kristen's coming with us. She was flying up tomorrow and opted to join us instead. Perhaps we'll allow her a guest blog post.
One more drive left.
###Thursday, March 22, 2007
I Left My Wits on the Streets of Britt
I want to, first, apologize to all of our readers for not updating the blog in three days. I, too, am itching to read what I have to say.
Right now, unfortunately, I do not have the time and resources to post an adequate summary of the past three days, so I will recount, briefly, the places to which we have traveled over that time.
Monday, March 19, 2007:
We arose in Oacoma, South Dakota, which started, slowly, as a day of hope for finally exiting the state. South Dakota really was all that bad. When we started the car it was with great antsiness, but as we began to plot the course for the day, we realized that it would most logically include a brief pass through Minnesota. We decided that this would require a diner photo and considered dropping straight down into Iowa, but it's a good thing that we decided to make the brief detour because it would be the most adventurous section of the trip until we arrived in St. Louis. There was a wonderful tourist stop just after the Minnesota border that provided us the name of a small diner nearby. After that, we headed south towards Iowa where our first destination was Britt, the Hobo capital of the United States. The disappointment that we encountered there cannot be detailed here. It would, also, sour my current mood. Proceeding on to Coralville, Iowa, we searched for the most reasonably-priced hotel and came upon the Super 8. I had become ill sometime near the beginning of the trip and really felt the onset of fever and gastro-intestinal difficulties when we arrived at the hotel. Dustin headed out to the KFC in town to get dinner and I searched for ice to put on my forehead. Then I laid in the bed. For a while.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007:
I felt much better in the morning but was disappointed that I had not blogged the previous night and, instead, fell asleep at a reasonable hour. I felt much better, however. After the delightful continental breakfast, we plotted our longest journey yet to St. Louis. Sacagawea gave us much trouble getting into the city, leading us to the city of Berkeley, rather than the section of St. Louis we desired to end up in. We finally navigated to the home of Haliday Douglas, Bowdoin class of '05, who took us to a diner famous for their malts, and apparently, their chili, according to Haliday. I ordered a chili dog and it was delicous. Luckily, my stomach was in much better shape than the previous day. We proceeded to a percussion concert, a grocery store, and back to one of Haliday's godparents' houses for tea and sandwiches. It was a remarkably relaxing break from the usual hotel-hopping.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007:
We awoke early and prepared ourselves or, rather, Dustin awoke early and told me to prepare myself while Haliday ran around St. Louis in a search for his wallet. Haliday eventually found the wallet and I eventually showered and dressed and packed. We left breakfast to find that my car had been blocked in by two cars, so we decided that we would go to Borroughs (Haliday's high school) while the people behind me moved. When we returned, there had been no movement. When Gladys was finally freed, we said our goodbyes and headed for Cleveland. Not realizing that there was a time change in Ohio, we thought that we would be just on schedule to meet Clark Gascoigne (Dustin's roommate) at the airport. Not only did we encounter the time change, but there were also mass amounts of construction taking place on the 70 east. It was awful. Luckily, Clark's brother had a friend arriving around the same time and he was able to get a ride home with them. He then met us at a Starbucks, confident that we wouldn't get home on our own. And we probably wouldn't have, with the directions that Sacagawea was giving us. Oh well.
When we arrived at Clark's house, we were given a tour and then prepared for dinner at the country club. The dinner was extraordinary and we met Clark's good friend, Alecks. Clark's home and neighborhood are absolutely beautiful and this was, also, another great respite (in a series of great respites). Following the dinner, we went out to Clark's high school to see a hydro-electric power plant that he and Alecks constructed for their senior project. It, ambitiously, aims at powering the fish hatchery to which it is attached. The whole structure was impressive and looked like a sizable deal of work for just two students.
After this, we spent the rest of the evening at Clark's house with his brother, brother's friend, and Alecks. It was a lovely evening.
Thursday, March 22, 2007:
Clark showed us to a great breakfast in Chagrin Falls, Ohio before we returned to the house to gather our things and journey farther. We left Cleveland and ended up, miraculously, in Baltimore within 15 minutes of when we said we would arrive (I think). It was a long drive, but we are safe and well-fed at Kristen Gunther's house, Bowdoin '09, in Hydes, Maryland. Much more to follow (with pictures!).
(I promise to make it up to you all very soon. With pictures!)
We've made it to Clarks after an eventful time in St. Louis. I know we owe you tons of pictures and lengthy backposts. We're unfortunately so busy jumping from place to place that we aren't getting time to settle down and figure this out. We've also been struggling with some light exhaustion and technology issues.
Regardless, I'm hoping that we'll be able to put up a couple of good posts tomorrow from Baltimore. By way of brief explanation, we arrived at St. Louis yesterday for a late lunch and a series of activities. This morning we breakfasted there with our host, Haliday Douglas, Bowdoin '05, and then made our way to Cleveland. Because it's in a different time zone and there was construction, we were two hours late. We've had a great evening and will be going into the city tomorrow morning. Tomorrow at noon - off to Baltimore.
###Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Anyway, things seem to be running smoothly here. Thank you for all the wonderful comments. I hope you continue to enjoy this blog as the trip enters its second half. Look for a couple updates in the next day particularly in photo formatting. I know the spacing is a little weird.
Darren gets 10 points for layout design on his blogs (good job alternating the photos!).
###Monday, March 19, 2007
Today ended up being a travelling day. I don't have any pictures because I don't handle the technological side of things and don't know how to get them off the camera. Regardless, we didn't see much today. We did visit Britt, Iowa, the Hobo capital of the United States. I'll hold off on a full telling of this story until we get the pictures up.
We travelled from South Dakota through extreme southern Minnesota and then crossed into Iowa to hit Britt. From there we have made our way here, just on the outskirts of Iowa City. Tomorrow we go to St. Louis.
This is probably all you'll hear from us tonight. Darren fell asleep as soon as we got here (hence, no pictures) and I'm pretty tired too. Fear not, though. We'll thoroughly update you all tomorrow with stories from Iowa and from St. Louis.
###We're Getting Pretty Advanced
We have a little catching up to do. Thankfully, we decided to take a little more time to rest this evening and turned into a hotel at around 8:45. First, Wyoming was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I mean, here are the rest of the photos from Wyoming.
I also forgot to post a shot from the Donahoe Dam in Oregon. Here are the fishermen along the Dam. Wonderful shot, if I do say so myself.
Here is a sequence of me sliding down a hill on the side of the road in Oregon. Just click on the picture to proceed to the next one. This is part of a theme.
Now, we have a new, snazzy feature for you: Video! That's right. We've caved and decided that there was some video all to precious for us to just let it pass you by. Enjoy.
This is me sledding a little way down the road from the Tetons. It was fun, but very tiring to climb up that hill. Plus, the snow was egregiously deep.
More to come soon.
###Where's the Ferris Wheel?
There is something strange about South Dakota. I feel like I should like it more, but I don’t. Perhaps the trip is finally wearing on me. Our first stop this morning was Mt. Rushmore, which, although stunning to see up close, was hidden behind a wall of billboards and other gimmicky tourist attractions. I have since thought about why this irked me, or rather at what point these tourist traps become too much. I understand that South Dakota has a lot of pride stored in Rushmore, and I don’t mind that everything with in a 25-mile radius is named after the monument, or even that the monument has a light show at nighttime (though, that is pretty close to the line). It is nice to see children at the monument, and it is nice to see that it is crowded, but I don’t appreciate the various attractions that are just outside of Keystone, in Rapid City. They vary from minigolf to paintballing and they are heavily advertised. It seems that most of the roads in the area are covered with billboards pointing this way and that way. It felt like the beginning of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as we entered Rapid City, with a 20 x 50 ft. sign directing us opposite Mt. Rushmore to the Presidential Wax Museum and a variety of novelty shops. Before I go on ranting about Rapid City, I will go forward in saying that Rushmore was outstanding. Here is a lovely panorama shot, then I'll continue on the tirade:
Now, I can understand attractions that are borne from a fervent pride in Rushmore and the beauty of the landscape, but the other almost carnival-like attractions I found very distasteful. In addition, they detract from Mt. Rushmore by transferring their sentiment to the signs for the monument. I realize, now, that there is a distinct separation between these tourist attractions, but it is very disconcerting upon approaching the monument and I still feel that it is inappropriate. The pleading advertisements, however, are peppered across most of South Dakota. The Wall Drug advertisements are the most notable example of this kind, though that I feel Wall Drug to be more of a South Dakota institution than the minigolf establishments (of which there are many). Of all of the states that we have seen, South Dakota is the most worrisome and the most depressed. After seeing Rushmore and feeling like real tourists—which, as you can see, did not really jive well with Dustin and I after taking back roads through most of Idaho and Wyoming—we headed to the Crazy Horse Monument, which, sadly, compounded the feeling from the cornucopia of billboards we encountered in Rapid City. I was first turned off by the cost of entering the monument, before realizing that the visitor center contains a good number of exhibits and other acquisitions. My worries about the cost to see an incomplete mountain sculpture were assuaged somewhat, until I heard Dustin read from the brochure that the attendant handed us: “A strong believer in the free enterprise system, [Korczak/the sculptor] felt Crazy Horse should be a nonprofit educational and cultural humanitarian project built by the interested public and not the taxpayer. So, he twice turned down ten million dollars in potential federal funding.” At this point, even if the federal subsidy came with the stipulation that there must be a charge to enter the park, I’m pretty sure that the fee after federal aid would be less than $20. This is, of course, assuming that the original ideal of a non-profit monument is not at all feasible. Alternatively, I’m pretty sure that abolishing the entry fee and posting a suggested donation of, say, $5 would deliver better results than a flat $20 fee. Regardless, the view from the highway was very impressive, contrary to what the brochure tells you.
Aside from the disastrous advertising, Custer County was beautiful. We didn’t go into the park, which is, easily, my biggest regret of the trip so far, and makes me convinced that South Dakota deserves another chance before I condemn it. The picture of South Dakota broadened a bit when we entered the city of Wall, home to the famous emporium/gift shop/indoor city of Wall Drug. The entryway provided a few porcelain figures from straight out of the Old West: the prospector, the hunter, the comfort woman. We had a good time enough with those. The rest of the emporium was very tempting for a sucker like me, but Dustin kept me moving along. He, concerned both for the quality of the food and the opportunity to get a photo with the staff, wisely voted against eating in the Wall Drug cafeteria thing. Instead, we walked across the street to the Cactus Café and Lounge. We were happy to encounter a local family and a group of three older men. The men were embroiled in a very endearing exchange about which of them was to pick up the check. You could tell that they had been friends for ages. There was also a family sitting near the front of the restaurant that painted an interesting portrait of the town. The father was wearing a yellow Wall athletics shirt that bordered on being too small tucked into his jeans. The older boy was wearing a grey basketball jersey and spoke thickly. The younger boy had, accidentally, stumbled into the women’s restroom as the family was preparing to leave the restaurant. The grandmother wheeled with her an oxygen tank.
Overall, however, the meal was delicious and the picture came out wonderfully, though you might be able to see that Dustin and I were flagging a bit by this time. I decided to order the buffalo burger and it was, so far, the only buffalo that we have seen. After receiving the check and asking to take the photo, the waitress explained her situation in Wall. She was stranded there, essentially. It was a very tragic story. Dustin details the event more thoroughly in his entry for South Dakota. After that, it was off to the Badlands.
The Badlands were stunning. The landscape itself was remarkable, though I found the sheer expansiveness to be their most impressive quality. The drive through the Badlands loop was peaceful and we enjoyed exploring some of the lower lands. Alongside the road we saw a herd of deer, which was our first closeup wildlife experience. They seemed quite used to cars driving through, however, and most of them returned to grazing after their initial alertness. We decided to turn in earlier than usual and found a hotel in Chamberlain. Little did we know (and little did Sacagawea or the AAA Tour Book know), the hotel is actually in Oacoma, South Dakota, and there were many more hotels than we originally thought. We happened to get lucky, however, and the Oasis Inn is one of the nicest hotels we have stayed in.
You can find many more photos of Rushmore, the Badlands, and other more random moments of our trip through South Dakota right here.
Altitude: Up there.
Gas Price: $2.49.
###Sunday, March 18, 2007
South Dakota - Land of Tourism
I don't want you all to think that Darren and I ever compare ourselves to Lewis and Clark, but let me tell you that if we did, today would be the day the canoes sank, a couple of horses died and we lost our barrel of salt pork in a river.
This is not to say that we encountered particular disaster of any kind, we just didn't have an overwhelmingly successful day of adventure. It was probably partially a matter of our expectations and preferences rather than the state itself, but there are some things that are broadly distasteful about South Dakota. I'll give a brief rundown of a few of the main points of our day, Darren will follow up with more.
We left Wyoming and headed for Rapid City, the gateway to all of the notable places in South Dakota. It was in this city that the Billboard Barrage started. I should, at this point, explain the Billboard Barrage. South Dakota is a not unpretty state, but one could hardly tell because of the sheer number of billboards. Billboards on either side of the road, billboards perched on hills, billboards very nearly blocking the sun. They advertised a whole series of tourist traps ranging from the Mount Rushmore Reptile Zoo to the Mount Rushmore Shooting Gallery. Thoroughly unpleasant. Regardless, we found this statue in the city and have officially declared that it is Franklin Pierce, US President and Bowdoin Class of 1824.
From Rapid City we went to Mount Rushmore. To get to the mountain, we had to go through the crescendo of the Billboard Barrage (an example of one of the tourist traps is the bust of Reagan to the left). Now, the pictures that we have don't indicate this, but Mount Rushmore isn't as impressive as one expects it to be from all the hype it gets. It is amazing artwork, but it isn't nearly as enormous as it seems in pictures. I have to admit that, to some degree, the tourist-sodden element of the trip made me negative about the whole Rushmore experience. I did like the walkway with flags for all of the states and territories. I'm not going to include any pictures, because Darren did a deceptively good job with the photography on this one. We also went to see Crazy Horse, but it cost $20 so we didn't go inside. If they ever complete it, it will be really impressive.
Travelling through South Dakota to get away from Rushmore, the Billboard Barrage continued. Wall Drug was the worst proliferator of billboards. There must have been more than one hundred advertising it. Positioned in the town of Wall, South Dakota at the entrance to the Badlands National Park, Wall Drug is tourist central command. A one-time pharmacy converted to a tourist festival, it is the most exciting thing on South Dakota's I-90. Across from Wall Drugs, we got out diner picture for South Dakota at the Cactus Cafe. Darren's going to cover this in more depth, but I was most struck by the waitress' story. Bear in mind that we were already pretty down on the whole idea of South Dakota.
Apparently, her father was a park ranger who was transferred to the Badlands. They had previously lived in the San Francisco Bay area, so the transition must have been particularly hard. Her style of dress and her nose piercing should have immediately made us guess that she was not from Wall. Regardless, we spoke with her afterward and eventually asked if she ever planned to move back to the Bay area. Her response was that she would as soon as she earned enough money. This struck me as being very sad as Wall would be a truly dismal place to be stranded. The only thing in it is Wall Drug, with a full third of the town employed there.
From here, things did improve. We went to the Badlands and they were absolutely stunning. No billboards in sight. We roamed all around the rock structures and got some beautiful pictures. While South Dakota was not my favorite state by any stretch of the imagination, the Badlands definitely rank as one of my favorite areas of the whole trip.
After the Badlands, we only traveled a couple more hours and decided to call it a day. We were both exhausted and wanted to take a break from the travelling. Which brings us here, to The Oasis.
I think that's all for now...
###Wyoming Takes "Most Photogenic"
The Virginian Lodge in Jackson, Wyoming turned out to be quite something. By quite something, I mean that all of my hopes and prayers were directed towards the little chain on the door. We opted, this morning, for a quick breakfast at the Virginian restaurant just across the parking lot from our motel room. The food was great and prepared us well for the long drive ahead. We were lucky enough to have the photo taken there. Looking back, I can't say that there were many appealing diners or saloons through central Wyoming, but I'm sure we would have found something if not in Jackson. Regardless of the diner legitimacy, I think the photo is pretty fantastic on-face.
We filled up the gas tank and headed out towards the Tetons, only to arrive back in Jackson about an hour later because of a road closure through the park. After making our way back through Jackson, we headed up highway 191, which runs along the eastern side of Grand Teton National Park. The mountains were absolutely beautiful. We have been blessed with good weather, which made the Tetons all the more pleasant. Dustin and I had some difficulties trekking across the snow to get to the vista in front of the range, but we made it eventually and I was able to take this panorama shot:
I only wish that I could provide more panorama shots of Wyoming. Almost every inch of the land that we passed through was astoundingly beautiful, and the landscape as a whole is so diverse. And, trust me, we passed through a lot more of Wyoming than was necessary for us to arrive in South Dakota tomorrow.
After getting through the Tetons and a little bit of ranch land, we encountered some prime sledding area, which also happened to be prime snowmobiling area, but I said, "It's fine," and took the lid from a container in the trunk off into the hills. The first attempt was down an slope that was too shallow to allow any degree of swiftness on the container top. So, I made my way across the valley to a steeper incline where the sledding was far more successful. It was so successful, in fact, that I ran back up the slope for another go. Afterwards, however, I was fairly exhausted.
The rest of the drive was gorgeous. I don't even know how to continue about Wyoming, so I will just present this series of photos (some of them we have named after people!):
The Jeremy Bernfeld Mountain Pass.
The Leslie Mercado Sharp Curve.
The Jeffrey Mercado Geological Survey Area.
The Montgomery Placid Pool.
The Erica Perlman-Hensen Ravine.
Tomorrow we will be naming something for the Prince of Naples, Clark Gascoigne. Be on alert.
After the Tetons, we took Highway 20 to Highway 16. Most everything above was along that route and it was absolutely gorgeous. We have had quite good luck with our road choice, even when Sacagawea isn't at her best. I can't really say enough about Wyoming. It was, by far, the most naturally stunning state we have been through, and, I think, the most naturally stunning state we will go through. Tomorrow, we will be taking photos of us on Crazy Horse's pinky finger. Onward.
(Full photo album will be up tomorrow. Hang tight.)
###Wyoming is Huge.
We spent today crossing Wyoming and are now a few miles from the South Dakota border. Today was a full day of stunning vistas, remarkable landscapes and scenic roads. This was a different day than our previous two as we did not stop to explore very often because we didn't have to. Wyoming presents its most valuable experiences in huge, sweeping displays. From the Grand Tetons to the Two Sleep Creek, we saw amazing landscapes today.
I'm going to be brief in this entry as it was a long day of driving and we both need to post tonight. Two quick stories and then I'll post a few of my favorite pictures.
I'm not sure how engaging stories about our GPS system are, but I have another one anyway. Sacagawea is remarkably good at finding the shortest route to places. Unfortunately, she refuses to take into account road closures and doesn't differentiate between highways and mule trails. If the shortest route involved a log flume, a lava pit and a wooden plank bridge, she would send us through it. Regardless, today she tried to get us to go through the center of Grand Teton National Park, which as closed. Then, she sent us on a series of roads that left us on a dead end road in the middle of a new housing development. Later in the day, we found ourselves on a dirt road running parallel to a well-paved road because Sacagawea told us to. All in all, she has made this trip much more interesting.
Secondly, I would like to lodge a formal complaint against the city of Thermopolis, Wyoming. In the materials that they sent to whoever puts together the AAA Guide Book, they claim to have two valuable attractions in their town. First, they have hot springs (which we saw). Second, they have the state's bison herd. Yes, that's right, Thermopolis claims to have the official herd of Wyoming bison. All we found was a series of empty fields surrounded by fences. I was deeply disappointed.
I'll use a series of pictures for the rest:
And finally, my favorite picture of the day.
That's Darren being made to look tiny.
Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Badlands tomorrow. Good night, everyone.
STATE BORDERS CROSSED: 5
DARREN NAP COUNTER: 5
MILES TO BOWDOIN: N/A
###Saturday, March 17, 2007
If One Potato Can Power a Lightbulb...
Idaho, overall, is a particularly delightful state. When the scenery fails to be magnificent, Idaho compensates immediately by turning up the weird. For instance, this giant carven Native American was definitely weird. Another thing, the gas prices are astoundingly low.
The small breakfast provided at the Comfort Inn was hearty and surprisingly good. There was a stocky evangelical man in the room who was discussing his multiple trips to deliver aid and salvation to the Gulf Coast. He was the spitting image of the folks from Samaritan’s Purse that I worked with in Arabi, Louisiana. The man he was addressing did not seem particularly interested in the proselytizing, but he listened politely while sipping his coffee. After the listener left, the man looked a little disoriented. I thought about starting up a conversation with him, but I knew that the conversation would be like igniting one of those brown safety lighters that come in packages of sparklers: Far too long, just what you expect, and disappointing overall. We packed our things and headed towards the state capitol.
There were some lovely little businesses on the way to the capitol, like the Torchfire Inn with a marquee that read, “Dancers wanted. Will train.” We were allowed to roam pretty liberally around the capitol building. In fact, we were able to take this picture of me standing on the base of the statue of George Washington that was promised us in our AAA tour book. It was, pretty much, in the center of the capitol building. The rest of the interior was absolutely magnificent. Dustin and I were both pleasantly surprised by the openness of the state capitol and the chance to sit in the gallery for a riveting debate on abortion rights for unemancipated minors. Very serious matters.
After leaving the state house, we realized that Our Dear Gladys hit a lifetime 50,000 miles about 41 miles ago. Oh well. We will count this sentence as the commemoration of that event and pay her back duly for our inconsiderateness.
The drive out of Boise was greatly complicated by Sacagawea's misdirection. Dustin gives details in his blog. It's just too sensitive of an issue for me to go on. And, as my grandmother says, it never does any good to write about something when you're mad; it just comes back to bite you. Well, in this case, I think that holding my tongue is the best policy.
Sacagawea made it up to us, however, when we finally got back on I-84 in the wonderful little town of Wendell. She insisted that we continue on I-84, but we had decided earlier to take route 20. In order to redirect her, we pointed to a random location along 20 and made what Sacagawea calls a "waypoint." This turned out to be a small bridge about half a mile from the highway on a dirt road. It turned out to be quite scenic. I only give Sacagawea partial credit on this one, however.
After that wonderful little detour, we came upon the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was quite bizarre. The hardened lava expands for quite a way before actually reaching the monument. Dustin and I were so excited about the strange craggy pit that we stopped at the side of the road to explore. In order to get decent pictures of the landscape, we had to trek down a slope of gravel and soft soil, which was interesting. I am convinced that, in this case, it was the journey and not the destination that was important. I cite this photograph as evidence.
Now, if you've seen one pit of hardened lava, you've pretty much seen them all. That's all I'll say for the Craters of the Moon.
The EBR-1 wasn't the only thing that we saw around Arco. It was, indeed, this friendly little town that would provide us the diner-shot for the great state of Idaho. As it was Dustin's responsibility to ask for the photo in Oregon, it was my turn to ask in Idaho. The restaurant was called the "Sandwich Shop" and had a wide selection of some great sandwiches. The pastrami on rye was delicious. At first, we had strong apprehensions about being able to get the photo here, but I think it was just because the restaurant was more crowded than others we have been to in the past. An essentially empty diner is almost a sure-fire guarantee that the owner or cook or whomever is not going to decline taking a photo with us. We managed, but not without trials. There were four women working at the restaurant, two older and two younger. The younger women looked about 17, so calculating the chance to get a photo with them was overshadowed by the overall sketchiness of an attempt. Plus, we must keep in mind that the goal is to get a picture with the owner or cook. In this case, the owner was the most prominent. Just as we sat down after ordering our meals, we overheard the owner and the other older woman saying that they were clocking out and would be back later. This was our chance. Rather, as Dustin reminded me, this was my chance. I explained our road-trip situation and the women were very understanding. The result of our understanding is this photograph.
The town of Arco had another interesting feature that was extremely confusing to Dustin and I as we approached. On the hillside just to the east of the town, there was cacography of numbers. Knowing only about the nuclear history of the town, attempts to piece together the meaning of this feature were to no avail. It was finally explained to us at the Sandwich Shop that these numbers were from each graduating high school class in Arco. Students developed some contraption or system or something (large machinery seems to have an appeal in Arco) for hanging these numbers from the side of the cliff. I have to say, it puts my high school to shame.
The rest of Idaho was beautiful as we entered an area of fertile soil and apparent prosperity. Dustin informed me that the large, motorized watering mechanisms are signs of a rich farmer. There were quite a few going through Idaho Falls. It was the first prolonged sighting of potato farms, which interested Dustin to a degree that I could not understand. The drive into Swan Valley was breathtaking and it was here that we saw occasional log cabins and a transition from farm land to ranch land. After the town of Idaho Falls, Sacagawea did her most impressive work by guiding us to the scenic route 34 through the Teton Pass. The drive was gorgeous at sunset. I managed to get a few photos through the pass but the camera battery was fading fast. The Tetons were far too beautiful to go on describing, so here are some photos of the area:
Settling into Jackson was very nice after the day of travel, though we did make our way across Idaho very lackadaisically. I have a feeling that the scenery in Wyoming is going to be a significant impediment to our progress through to the eastern side of the state tomorrow morning. I suppose we will just have to wait and see. For more photos of the trip, click here.
Altitude: 6143 ft.
Gas Price: $2.37 (I know!)
###I love Idaho.
Idaho is absolutely wonderful. There is nothing at all bad about it and it is filled with wonderful things. Although I might wonder for a moment if I would find it so grand had we not been through the Middle East of Oregon yesterday, I am confident that I am not too inaccurate. We had a really great day traveling across the width of the lower portion of the state and have arrived in Jackson, Wyoming.
First, let me outline our trip. I’ve mentioned our adventures in Boise and in Wendell. The Wendell Debacle was part of our attempt to again take secondary roads. Instead of using I-84 to get to Wyoming, we used US Route 20. It was a really amazing trip, filled with great sights and experiences. We finally managed to get on to Route 20 in the small town of Shoshone. We followed it through Craters of the Moon National Monument to the city of Arco and then on to Idaho Falls before crossing through Swan Valley and a National Forest into Wyoming.
Shortly after catching Route 20, we saw a sign indicating that a bridge was at the end of a long dirt road. This seemed interesting, so we parked the car at the end of the road and took a walk until we found the place. The bridge itself was thoroughly unexciting with the exception of the bullet holes, but the stream that flowed under it was gorgeous. It was placid and peaceful, and it ran through a wonderful landscape. It has been named the Gunther Placid Stream and you can find pictures of it near the end of this post.
Later down the road, we went through Craters of the Moon National Monument. I know the name sounds a little silly. It brings to mind other tourist sites like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or the National Clothes Pin Museum, but this place was amazing. It really looks like a place not of this world. Huge rock formations caused by lava flows centuries ago are all over the region. Black, cracked rock covers everything in sight, and a small amount of remaining snow made it stand out clearly. We wandered around the area for some time and took lots of great pictures. For now, I’ll include one of the overall space to give you a sense of it and another of me exploring.
We moved on to Arco where I had a really great salami and swiss sandwich and some cold clam chowder.
From there, we traveled through Butte County to visit the Experimental Breeder Reactor, the nations first nuclear energy plant (fear not, it’s been decommissioned…thoroughly, we’re told…). On the way we saw a series of buttes. First of all, I have to note how hard it is to resist the urge to mispronounce the name of them, because the word is everywhere in Idaho. For those of you unfamiliar, the proper pronunciation is like the b-e-a-u-t from beauty. The second point for consideration is what is a butte. Well, we don’t really know, but our guess is it is a small mountain that rises up out of a field.
The nuclear facility was fairly interesting. It was closed for the season, so we couldn’t go inside, but we did wander around. I won’t spend much time on this, because it creeped Darren out more than it did me, so he should share the story. I will say that the area of Idaho that the reactor is in is strange indeed. It’s part of something called the Idaho National Laboratory. This laboratory is a huge chunk of largely abandoned land where driving through, one can see various government facilities scattered on the horizon. Several roads lead off the main road, but they all have signs denying the public entrance. The only site open is the old reactor, the rest are closed. It’s a strange place to drive through as there are lots of signs pointing to places with acronyms as names. White pickup trucks zip all over the place. The most intriguing was a road sign that pointed to "Atomic City" where we could see a large white complex off in the distance. It was all very strange. If we had had more time, we would have looked around a bit more vigorously. If Darren wakes up from his nap, I think we’re going to use Google Earth to look at the area later on tonight.
Some distance from there (thankfully, for the farmers), we came upon a potato farming region that looked very much like some of the places in northern Maine where potatoes are farmed. Lots of nice fields and little farm houses. The Snake River runs through this region and it is extremely beautiful. By now, you must be realizing why Idaho is so great.
Lastly, we began the crossing into Wyoming. Sacagawea really outdid herself on this one. Apparently after punishing us this morning, she decided to make a good faith gesture toward us. As I was driving through Swan Valley, Idaho, we realized she was trying to get us to turn left on these small country roads rather than following Route 20 across the border. Given our experiences earlier in the day, we were not going to refuse her request. At the end of this country road, we merged into Scenic Route 34 and into what is probably the most amazing drive of my life. We drove over hills that gave us a beautiful look at the surrounding region, then into a National Forest that was so green and lush that it put Oregon (poor Oregon) to shame. We got out of the car at one stop here and were immediately hit with an amazing pine smell.
But the best part was going through the Teton Pass to actually cross the border. We don’t have any pictures because the camera battery died, and the road wouldn’t have let us take good ones anyway. It was more than I can describe. We began to summit the pass after receiving warnings that we would encounter a 10% grade and would need good brakes. We slowly curved our way up around the mountain, able to see little because of the structure of the roadway. Then, all of a sudden we crowned the top and got our first look at the Rocky Mountains. It was sunset, and that first glimpse was more than I can describe. From there we descended slowly through long, carefully guided curves. On straighter stretches, I was able to spare glimpses of the range and won’t forget them.
Upon the end of our descent we were in Jackson Hole (an extremely pleasant hole) and made our way to our current location. We saw the sunset as we drove, a great way to experience Jackson Hole. Now we are at the Virginian Lodge. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll post some pictures of it. For now, let me tell you that, while clean and comfortable, from the outside it is marked by a gaudy neon sign and is decorated in a style that can only be titled Wild Wild West. It’s quite something.
And now to finish up the night’s business. We named the following two locations:
Gunther Placid Stream
Bond Lava Obelisk
That’s all for now. The posts seem to get more extensive every day, but it’s because they have to be. Today was a great day.
STATE BORDERS CROSSED: 5
DARREN NAP COUNTER: 5
MILES TO BOWDOIN: ~3300
###Friday, March 16, 2007
Sacagawea Showed Us
This morning we got up and had a delicious Continental Breakfast at the Comfort Inn in Boise. My biscuits and gravy were quite good (nothing compared to those we had in California, but still tasty) and the food was actually hot.
From there we departed in the direction of the Idaho State Capitol Building. It’s really beautiful and, I will admit, its interior is much prettier than the Maine State House. Lots of granite columns and things. On a whim, I led us up to the viewing gallery to see if either house was in session. I’m not sure about the Senate, but the House was, so we entered. I was expecting it to be the normal morning business of a small state legislature (Congratulations to Bertie for turning 100, Hooray for the Grimes Little League Team, etc.), but we were surprised to find that they were actually debating something.
The characters included a man wearing a violet suit with a trophy on his desk, another wearing a plastic St. Patrick’s Day hat and a guy who sat at his seat and talked on his phone the entire time we were there. We watched for quite some time as they debated whether or not minors should need to inform their parents before having an abortion. Based on the fact that it was Idaho (there were approximately 12 Democrats and about 30 Republicans in the House) and the fact that they had apparently been working on it for a week, I thought it would be a quick passage. We eventually left, as the Democrats were putting up a fight and we could see that it would take a while. Regardless, I have to give a gold star to the Idaho House of Representatives for actually engaging in debate with each other. Legislatures don’t do that much in the U.S. anymore.
After a brief experience at the Washington statue’s platform, we left Boise.
We recently escaped the fine city of Wendell. Sacagawea has really been putting us through our paces today. She apparently found out about all of the cruel things we said about her last night and decided to respond in kind. It seemed, on the highway that she was trying to trick us into missing our exit – and she succeeded! Then, she made us pull off in Wendell and, still being confusing, led us through an enormous eight mile sweep of the local farms that took us back to…the same highway we had just exited.
In the midst of this, we asked a wandering native for assistance. She was wearing a Penn t-shirt and shorts with the acronym OSM. She also had an iPod. Upon reflection, this attire seems unusual for a native of Wendell. Regardless, we asked her if we were on Highway 45 (which Sacagawea had led us to believe would take us where we wanted to go but would not lead us to). She said, “Sorry, I can’t help you. I don’t know.” Or something to that effect. Mind you, there are literally three roads in Wendell and one of them is Highway 45…
We are now on that highway and headed for further adventure in places with tantalizing names like the Shoshone Ice Caverns and the Arco Nuclear Reactor.
It feels like we covered the most ground yet, though that feeling is partly the result of much dawdling. We opted for the smaller highway, which turned out better than we could have imagined. Sacagawea had some trouble navigating our route along Highway 20, but between her schizophrenia and our keen sense of direction, we were able to land safely in Boise.
We got some good rest last night at Oregon State University and had time for bathing and a full breakfast this morning thanks to Zac's hospitality and diligence. After breakfast, we headed back to Zac's room to collect our things. Zac was off to receive the "final criticism" of his self-portrait project, which sounded like a very Puritan undertaking, after pulling an all-nighter. Dustin and I took our things out to the car when I discovered that I had forgotten to unplug the charger and battery for my camera. Of course. There were, then, two options: (1) wait and (2) find Zac's RA. After three robust and evenly-spaced periods of knocking, we gave up. So, we turned to Plan C: the housekeepers. Since the whole fiasco was my fault, the task of approaching the housekeepers was my responsibility. My request was met with a little skepticism, which was expected, but the housekeeper retrieved a man who was able to help us into the room with little to no explanation. I have mixed feelings about his leniency. After that debacle, we set out for Boise.
Before really getting on the road, I felt it would be prudent to get gas first. Much to my confusion, I found out that it is Oregon state law to have a certified gas station attendant pump all gas. The awkwardness of a full-service pump was only exacerbated by the fact that I was held outside of the car by a most peculiar conversation with the serviceman. He handed me a small white slip with the pump information and told me that it was state law that he give me it and that "they" could hang him if he didn't. He continued with a stump speech about the oppressiveness of the Oregon government while he grabbed the squeegee and proceeded to clean my windows. By this point, I realized, this man was definitely gunning for a tip. I have to be more careful with those California plates and tinted windows. People probably think I'm Burt Reynolds or something.
The road just outside of Corvallis was not particularly scenic, but it was nice to see the area in the daytime. After driving a short while on Highway 20, we struck pure gold. The hills were verdant and the mighty river, which we have named the Rio de Sean Smith, was spectacular in the mid-morning sun. We first pulled over to take pictures of the river itself, then realizing that there was a road ahead leading to the dam a short distance ahead. We encountered an enormous Ford F-350 on the way down, but we made it out alive and with pictures. Little did we know, there was a far superior dam down the road. This we have named the Donahoe Dam after this blog's fearless creator, who is currently building homes in Mississippi. The dam was Oregon at its finest. We encountered some delightful fishermen there who imparted a bit of most sage advice: "the fishing is great but the catching is terrible." In a way, they are waiting for May, when the rivers will be open, though they seem quite content at the dam. We asked them what river the dam was in, to which they replied: "This is the dam." Not quite sage-worthy and slightly portentous.
The rest of the Middle East was interminable. I, very conscious of the counter, took another nap and missed the fabulous town of Burns and, apparently, Dustin and I both missed Riley. From here, the trip was truly a series of random pit stops. The first of these was a lovely little stream and gulch now named after Kristen Young. By this point, I was full of nervous energy and decided to lay down in the middle of the road. It was very peaceful. The walk down to the gulch was highly congested with gnats, which I did not see upon outside inspection. They attacked my face and neck.
Just after the gulch, we encountered the Shoe Tree of Juntura, Oregon. Who knows when this thing began, but there are currently more shoes on this tree than one could count in a day. Dustin and I passed right by it only to double-take and turn around. I had a good deal of fun inspecting the tree. There was every kind of shoe you could imagine, even a pair of ski boots. We helped a few pairs that had lost their spots in the tree, possibly from winds or some other intrusion. Though the scenery was growing more interesting as we approached this part of the state, the shoe tree really did save the day. In retrospect, the Saloon in Brothers and the Shoe Tree were really the Middle and Far East's saving graces.
Farther along still, we encountered a set of absurdly large cement platforms. We have no idea what they were used for, but there is a sequence of Dustin jumping down them that is a must-see. This was, actually, one of the most beautiful spots from the Far East through to the Very End of Oregon. In my mind, the regions of Oregon that we passed through were either forest or desert, beautiful or ugly. There wasn't much in the way of moderation.
For now, I am quite happy to be in Boise, though that happiness may just be a result of no longer being in Oregon. I hope I can say that in the morning with full knowledge that my car was not broken into.
There were far too many pictures to include in even two blog entries. You can view the rest Right Here.
Altitude: 2824 ft.
Gas Price: $2.88
###Oregon is not Maine
We’re finally out of Oregon.
I should explain, first of all, that in spite of Sacagawea’s insistence on using the highway, we decided to take the scenic route. Therefore, instead of I-84 we used US Route 20. This gave us the opportunity to actually see things, and took us through the middle of the state. This also made us experience Oregon in all of its glory. I will explain the various phases of Oregon’s glory in a moment.
Initially, I would like to thank my friend from high school, Zac Montgomery, for hosting us at Oregon State University. He managed to provide beds for both of us (we benefited from the fact that he is missing a roommate and needed to pull an all-nighter for finals week). OSU has a tremendously beautiful campus. I don’t think we have any pictures, but it has great architecture and lots of big green spaces.
Also, it has both huge trees and huge buildings. As you saw in the earlier post with Zac in it, they are enormous. He’s developed a theory that the university built their buildings ridiculously large to make them look normal next to the monster trees. They also, as I mentioned earlier, are located in a city that satellites can’t find.
From Corvallis, after having to con our way back into Zac’s room via housekeeping for a forgotten power cord, we headed off into Oregon. This seems to be an appropriate time to explain Oregon for everyone. There are five phases:
Oregon Proper: My only example of this is OSU. It lies near the coast, is very pretty and has large buildings and trees. (No pictures available…sorry)
Near East Oregon: Stunningly beautiful. Here we found rolling green hills, a beautiful river, waterfalls and a huge dam with fishermen on it. This was the best part of Oregon.
Middle East Oregon: This place is troubling. This is the place where I wrote from in the earlier entry. There are miles and miles and miles of nothing. Ranches go on and on. Towns are dozens of miles long and still have tiny populations. And everything looks the same. Flat, brown and with little drab green bushes.
Far East Oregon: Quite beautiful, although all too brief. It has lots of red hills and some shining, glassy rivers. After the Middle East, this restored my faith in Oregon.
Very End of Oregon: This part appears to be an overflow from Idaho as it is only a few miles and looks nothing like the other four phases. This part reminds me a lot of home, although even more sparsely populated and with more neon signs. (Again, picture not available.)
Now that you have a firm grasp of Oregon like we have (24 hours is enough time to be experts in a state, right?), I should note a couple of specifics from the day. All of these take place in the Middle East of Oregon because that is the hole into which most of our day sank.
The bright shining star of the Middle East is Brothers Saloon. A brightly-painted little building in the seemingly nonexistent town of Brothers, it is, funnily enough, run by two sisters. Together the two of them manage the general store and the gas station while also serving as waitress and cook at the lunch counter. They also co-manage the Post Office, which is a closet in the general store under lock and key. It is open to the public through what looks to be an oven door built into the wall. It’s a no nonsense kind of place, but the food they prepared for us was delicious and cheap.
They told us that the ranch behind the saloon was 19,000 acres. Undeterred, I proudly informed them that my grandparents farm was a whopping 100 acres and that it grew potatoes rather than cattle. I think they were impressed. We also discussed the one-room schoolhouse across the street (the only other building in sight). Apparently it had been exclusively serving one “little guy” for several years but someone (the state, the county, a wandering mystic) had closed the school and forced the poor fellow to trek off to some far off town.
(Informational Note: The “little guy” is 13 or 14. The town they named where he now attends school was not anywhere on Route 20. Route 20 appeared to be the only road in Brothers and nothing connected to it. The “little guy” must travel a long way indeed.)
Another informative incident took place while I was driving and Darren was, you guessed it, napping. After miles of nothingness, I noticed two buildings in the distance, one on either side of the road. Sacagawea told me we were in Riley. It turned out that the one on the left was the Post Office and the one on the right was the General Store. A few hundred feet down the road past these two lonely buildings was a colossal billboard that said “Whoa, you missed Riley!” I decided not to wake Darren, because by the time he was conscious, he most certainly would have.
I think that’s enough for now. Boise looks delightful (although we’ve only seen it by dark). Our room is nicer than I expected and Idaho awaits for tomorrow.
I will close with a listing of the geographical figures we named today. I give you:
The Rio de Sean Smith
The Donahoe Dam
The Kristen Young Gulch
*Some of you may not know these people. If you don’t, you’re missing out. If you’d like to, you can ask us about them anytime.
So, tomorrow we head for the Rockies. More pictures and experiences to follow.
STATE BORDERS CROSSED: 4
DARREN NAP COUNTER: 4
MILES TO BOWDOIN: 3733.6
###Thursday, March 15, 2007
Sacagawea has consumption.
As I write this, Darren is currently driving us through one of the emptiest places I have ever seen. The surface of the moon looks lush and alive compared to this particular part of central Oregon. Oregon has been quite a surprise, not only for us, but for our GPS machine, Sacagawea. She couldn’t even find Corvallis. According to her, when we were there we were just driving around in a void. Furthermore, throughout today’s travels she has been getting occasionally confused about where she is. This was particularly trying in Bend, Oregon.
The reason that Oregon has been surprising for me is that the images of it I have had in my mind have looked largely like Maine. Lots of trees, lots of rivers and lots of sea coast. Oh no, not Oregon. We’ve been driving in what I can only describe as half-desert/half prairie for hours. Ah, but wait, Darren has decided that he is in fact tired and I need to start driving.
We made it through California! The pass into Oregon was exciting. After that, the terrain bored me into a great nap. Oregon wasn’t very exciting until we reached OSU, but I think I should take a little step back just to capture a great moment in Redding, California.
Dustin and I have decided that we would commemorate each state by having a photo taken of ourselves with the cook from a diner in each state. We were able to locate a small diner called Lulu’s Eating & Drinking Establishment on the outskirts of Redding that was perfect for the task. I ordered a Reuben sandwich that was absolutely horrid, but we did manage to get the picture. The restaurant was apparently founded by some comfort woman from San Francisco named Lulu who grew tired of the city life and decided to open a small diner where people could relax and eat, etc. Real rags to riches. Though, I have a sneaking suspicion that it was just another brothel and still is.
The rest of the trip up through Shasta and all of truly Northern California was gorgeous. Also, we have hereby renamed Mt. Shasta as “Farzad’s Peak.” Congrats, Farzy. The trip into Dunsmuir was a little bit of a different world and great conversations were overheard at the gas station. It’s unfortunate that Overheard in Dunsmuir has not yet been established. OSU is absolutely beautiful and I had the distinguished honor of meeting Kristen Gunther’s future husband and Dustin’s long-time friend, Zac. Here is a picture of him near a giant tree. Think Freud.
For now, this is all I can write and post. Pictures are absolutely atrocious.
Gas Price in Corvallis, OR: $2.98 (Hell yes! And Jambalaya was only $5.00!)
Dustin has taken the wheel and has grown fond of Gladys’ cruise control feature. The drive up I-5 is more desolate than I remember, though it seems to be ever more desolate. Dustin has some interesting tidbits about Northern California agriculture—in contrast, of course, with the County. All is going well and we are currently headed for the Wienerschnitzel in Gilroy, at the junction of the 152-N and the 101-N. Quite exciting. All else has been quite pleasant, minus Gladys bearing a little to much weight, a brief desert pit stop, and great confusion at the gas station that does not accept credit cards. Much more to follow.
Altitude: 530 ft.
Gas Price in Huron, CA: $3.19
The hills along the Pacheco Pass Highway are now known as the Suitter Hills. Cheers, Paul!
###Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Sweet, Sweet Gypsy's
I am quite upset that we have, until now, been unable to post pictures on the blog. There is quite a quantity to write as well, since I was very tired last night after hours of travel and general confusion.
It seems impossible, having visited so many fast-food chains in Southern California, that we would have missed any; but, unfortunately, we did. So, in the great town of Gilroy, California, which, apparently, promotes peace, prosperity, and good will towards all, we stopped at the Wienerschnitzel. The stop was brief and, of course, served a dual purpose of which we will not speak further. Then, we continued the drive up to Stanford. The GPS gave us a little trouble, insisting that we turn around after about four attempts to re-route us from the 101-N, but we got there safe and sound. We got into Stanford a little behind schedule (an hour), but things were okay and we met my friend from high school, Leslie Mercado, for coffee at the CoHo, which was quite snazzy.
We roamed around Stanford a bit and were able to see the Cathedral, the main quad, and the psychology building. The Cathedral was absolutely amazing at night and we were lucky that it was open that late. Dustin was quite taken by a quotation on the wall expressing the need for supplication to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. It was quite a spiritual moment. Then we saw a really huge raccoon.
We left Stanford just after finding Bowdoin St. and trying to take photos with it, but the sign’s reflection insisted on taking the foreground:
The trip to Berkeley was peaceful and we managed to navigate the city with no problems, I having visited the city three times now. We met my high school friend Hazel Moreno and took our stuff to her room before heading out to a part of Berkeley that is affectionately named “The Asian Ghetto.” We decided to get Italian food at Gypsy’s rather than indulging in the ever-classic Top Dog. The food was wonderful and it was great to see Hazel again. I still can’t imagine her living in Texas. That is an entirely strange matter. I was pretty tired by the time that we finished dinner, which was unfortunate because there was a definite possibility to play Settlers of Cataan. However, Hazel’s roommate proved to be quite the dud by going to sleep at about 10 p.m., then waking up sometime after we did this morning. Grade: C-.
After Dustin blogged and I tried to get the GPS unit to work in the dorm, we commandeered the couch and lounge chair cushions for sleep. There was a bar at the back of the cushions holding them in place that were a bit adversarial, but we eventually made it to sleep. In the morning, we had a delightful breakfast at the dining hall and toured the campus a bit. Dustin was quite happy to be asked directions by some man after he put on his official “Cal” t-shirt. The visit was short, but we had to be moving on to Corvallis if we wanted to make the trip by any reasonable hour.
Altitude: 170 ft.
Gas Price in Williams, CA: $3.29
###On Our Way
I am distinctly tired.
We traveled approximately six hours today, from Diamond Bar to Berkeley via Gilroy and Stanford. Darren will be following up this posting if he’s still got the gumption. We’re both pretty tired after a full day of adventure and…more eating.
We got a gradual start, enjoying Bagels with Darren’s friend Jeff for breakfast and packed up our supplies for the trip. After a series of goodbyes, we were off. Off in the sense that we had to run errands around Diamond Bar for fuel, maps etc.
Our first leg took us through amazing golden hills in central California, going past several places that I actually had been to before. We then went through a pass in the mountains to get out of the San Joaquin Valley and over to San Francisco. As the beginning of a planned program of naming landmarks (“If the pioneers could do it, so can we.”), we have commissioned them the Suitter Hills. Enjoy them, Paul. They’re really amazing.
In Gilroy we had Wienerschnitzel and it was as wonderful as I remembered. Delicious compacted beef smothered in cheese and chili. It provided a nice capstone to my four day experience of California chain restaurants. It also allowed us to put the GPS system through its paces.
From there we went to Stanford, where I met one of the most interesting characters so far on this trip. Leslie, another one of Darren and Erica’s high school friends attends there. She treated us to hot beverages and showed us their truly stunning campus. Their chapel (cathedral maybe?), was one of the most impressive churches I have seen. While it was nothing like a New Englander’s vision of a college campus, but it was amazingly beautiful.
But a brief moment more about Leslie. She, interestingly, hasn’t spoken to her roommate in two months and has actually foregone eating in the dining hall to avoid her. The original reason for this grudge remains somewhat unclear to me, but the endurance they’re showing is strangely impressive. I mean, they share a room. Regardless, it was great to spend some time there and get a (ever so brief) feel for what things are like at a larger school.
After Stanford, we came here to Berkeley. We met Darren’s friend Hazel and she took us to a remarkably cheap and remarkably tasty Italian place. Tomorrow we’re going to go get a look at the campus of UC Berkeley before heading off to Corvallis.
I apologize for the notable absence of wit and vigor in this particular entry – very tired indeed.
###Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I've Got Yo, Babe
He's a bit of a looming figure. Last night, for instance, when I was washing my hands at the sink, I turned back towards the kitchen to find Yo in tow. The way he "skulks" (a la Roberta Perlman-Hensen) can be quite striking. He has told us that he is from the southernmost island of Japan, but I believe that is code for Uranus. Roberta tells us that his English is quite good compared to some of the students they have had in the past, but there are some barriers larger than language. For instance, last night, when Roberta retired to her room for a moment, Yo proceeded to follow her and make strange sqwaks and guffaws outside of the room. I would venture to say it is all on the verge of dementia.
As Dustin mentioned, he apparently has a fondness for Full House, but, as with anything else, this fondness lasts for about five minutes. Yesterday, following breakfast, he fell asleep during the conversation. Roberta had felt badly about his exclusion, but realized later that the same thing occurred in a group of his peer exchange students. Dustin and I thought that Yo had been a member of the Perlman-Hensen household for at least a week by the time we met him, but we're now counting day four. It's going to be a long three weeks.
Yo has a strange propensity to accumulate boogers in his right nostril, according to credible sources. One evening, in fact, Roberta entered the house to find Ron and Yo eating quietly in the dark because, as Ron said, the "booger thing was too much." And, apparently, the surveys determining the appropriateness of a given host family are not particularly helpful. Yo had marked that he enjoyed dogs only to find a 130-pound white Labrador Retriever named Buck and was fairly terrified. Also, when asked if he would like to hold Momo, a sedate lap dog weighing not more than 25 pounds, he quickly declined. Oh well.
It's truly difficult to provide a comprehensive description of this character, as most of the actions are wholly unpredictable and that laugh is incommunicable in writing. The best I can capture is a rocking, undulating guffaw. Just take all of the moments in a conversation when laughter would interject with most harsh contrast and you will understand this arrangement. It's quite unique. But the closest our readers will get to understanding this character is just through this link: http://www.fat-pie.com/salad.htm.
This morning, I awoke and decided to lie in bed for a while, contemplating the possibility of actually getting up. Darren woke up moments later and sprang from bed. He pointed energetically at a lighting fixture to direct my attention to it and then turned it on, blinding me. Then he decided that we needed to go soon so, get this, he stood next to my mattress and clapped once, firmly to inspire me to go shower. As if I was a Labrador retriever.
Thus, it begins.
###Oh Diamond Bar
As I lay here on the air matress and struggle with the temptation to ignore the blogging and just get some sleep, it seems justifiable to not rehash the general outline of the two previous days that Darren has provided. I'll attempt to fill in gaps and add some critical details.
Let me begin by saying that the allusion to having done a fair amount of eating is nowhere near reflective of the realities of the situation. We have eaten more in the past 48 hours than I had eaten, I think, this entire semester at Bowdoin. We've had everything from a styrofoam cup full of gravy for french fry dipping to Donut Man donuts. Not only that, but we have been all over the suburbs of Los Angeles and met armies of people from Darren's life.
Some people attempt to introduce guests to a sampling of their life. It seems Darren is good and determined to show me every last bit of his. That being said, I can now confidently tell you that Darren exists purely for food. This whirlwind tour has actually left me feeling a bit worn out. As I said to someone earlier this evening, I hit the ground running but ran into a wall of gravy. I'm also catching a bit of a cold.
But please, do not take away the message that this has been unpleasant. Overwhelming, maybe, but unpleasant, not at all. Darren's family is delightful and have been extremely welcoming. His friends are great and I hope to spend more time with them some day. The weather has been beautiful and the food, bountiful as it has been, has been delicious (except for one unfortunate sandwich shop in Fullerton...not my favorite). I've also gotten to spend a fair amount of time with the Perlman-Hensen clan which has been absolutely tremendous. They like tea and took us to an amazing breakfast place.
(Informational Note: The Perlman-Hensen clan is the family of Erica Perlman-Hensen, Bates '09, Darren's girfriend. They include Ron and Roberta, her mom and dad, Ally, her sister, Yo, a young and inexplicable Japanese man, Buck, a large dog, and Mo Mo, a fabulous dog. Yo likes to watch Full House and took no end of pleasure from my walking into a screen door.)
My time here in Diamond Bar and the vicinity has been really great. I hope to get back more extendedly at some point.
As to the rest of the trip - I'm looking forward to the challenge of it all. It's going to be a great experience and we're going to see so many out of the way things (the state of Wyoming for instance). I'm also looking forward to seeing so many of our friends in their natural elements.
I think that's all from me until we get on the road.
Oh yes, about the Camry. It was quite a surprise. I had expected something much less impressive when he told me that we were travelling in a white 1994 Toyota Camry. Imagine someone telling you that you're going to meet their "little old grandma" and finding that she has a purple mohawk and several nose piercings.
That's all for now.
MILES TO BOWDOIN: Countless. (We'll get an accurate number soon...)
DARREN NAP COUNTER: 2
STATE BORDERS CROSSED: 2
###Rollin' on Dubs
The weather, I have to say, has been wonderful, though a bit hot. Today was just around 90 degrees and sea-level became about two feet higher. There was, however, a bit of wind, which made the whole heat ordeal much more bearable.
The past days have been a virtually non-stop feast. To recount a brief list of the wonderful dining establishments visited in the past 48 hours: In-n-Out, the Donut Man, Tea House, Molly's Souper, Roudabaegorz (I think), Café Veronese, The Hat, and the Whole Enchilada. I think that was all of them. Plus, we got to see Nathan James and Ben Hernandez in concert, go to a family party (which was also a primarily food-related endeavor), and putz around the Pomona College campus. Just about every one of the aforementioned eateries serve food that would make Richard Simmons roll over in his grave--I mean, you know what I mean.
Now, having encountered an innumerable amount of relatives and other acquaintences, I can't tell how many times I've had to fudge the details for the route that we are taking. I mean, essentially, it is a very by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation. But, now that I have a sleek GPS system, it's quite all right. I suppose that I have forgotten to detail the changes which Gladys has undergone; boy, are they some wonderful changes. My father decided that Gladys needed a little sprucing before making the trip out to Maine, so we are currently what one would call, if one were so inclined, "riding in style."
The windows have been tinted, the car has new rims, a GPS system was installed, along with a new stereo. It is quite impressive. However, I felt like a bit of fraud having told Dustin how quaint the car was. It no longer has that real 1994 Camry feel (I know. It's Will's typo on the site, not mine). The additions have, thus far, been quite helpful and enjoyable. Dustin will be getting a full crash-course--or, as much of a crash course as I can give--on jazz and blues. We tried to go through a genealogy this afternoon, but it was quite a bit to go through. That, and I couldn't remember Scott Joplin's name. How dare I.
Currently, my Aunt Gayle and Uncle John are staying at our house and have given us great information about South Dakota and the need to visit Wall Drug. It sounds as though is quite an oasis. And to solidify that fact, we heard the same recommendation from the Perlman-Hensens. It has worked itself into the plans list. That and visiting Crazy Horse. I am quite overjoyed about the matter. Tomorrow morning, we are planning to gather whomoever from the Casa De Fishell and head out to the Jolly Bagel (which my father tells me has been closed) for breakfast. In the event that it is closed, we will go to Contintental Burger, the old throwback. Then, we are to depart for Stanford at around 11-12, meet Leslie for dinner around 6, then head out to arrive at Berkeley around 10. It should be an overall pleasant drive. The trip will have begun, but it will not really begin until we reach the Rockies. That, my friends, will be the true test of our spirits, our endurance, and our Dear Gladys. The pass is at, roughly, Nine Million Feet. Quite tremendous.
###Saturday, March 10, 2007
The First Entry - Darren
In a majestic squat, in front of the Hudson News stand, sat, on her lower back, a pair of painted, over-lashed eyes. I feel this to be portentous; I’m not quite sure of what, but someone is watching us.
I suppose I should begin with my physical presence, to give things a little more heft—more atmospheric detail: I’m tired, a bit hungry, a tad spacey, and quite wholly alarmed by the flight attendant making toad eyes at her cell phone. I’m quite curious what sorts of correspondences she is exchanging. Probably something tawdry.
A woman just said, “The baby’s still screaming. He was going for the father’s face. He was trying to tear his face apart.” (How dearly I do love the airport.)
The bus ride here was as pleasant as could be. Bowdoin was very well-represented. Dustin and I have decided to name or, at least, characterize all forms of transportation that we use. Thus, said bus shall be known as the Mule Team, and the driver as Bazooka Joe. I spent most time on the bus staring at the cup holder and napping, but, between these things, I attempted to catalogue current playlists for my radio show on Microsoft Excel, that infernal program. Then, some C.S. Lewis. I began to think that spiritual guidance and fortification might be in order at the outset of this grand journey.
So far, however, we have overcome all possible obstacles: Our personal effects are still with us and Dustin made it through the metal-detector with flying colors. If I were to express the sentiment in two words: Go Team! The sense of optimism is strong and our Dear Gladys awaits in California.
As I write this, I sit outside our gate at Logan Airport. Darren has already taken a nap, an expected occurrence which will no doubt provide a theme to our overall voyage. As to my current, precise location, I am positioned (much to my irritation) vaguely between two herds of girls who are definably twittering. One of the groups is eating popcorn, which has a most profound smell. Darren sits across from me, oblivious to most things as he scribbles into a moleskin journal. I am not a fan of moleskin.
Our voyage has been pleasant thus far. Mounting our mule team (a Concord Trailways Motorcoach) behind the Dayton Arena, we made our way here to board our clipper ship (a Jet Blue flight). In the mule team, there was a man with a notable twitch and much muttering. I made eye contact with him for a matter of seconds – a truly terrifying experience. Regardless, we made it unharmed and, save a small amount of hunger, things are looking pleasant.
Darren has scheduled seemingly innumerable experiences for us this evening once we have arrived on the West Coast. They include such exotic locales as In-and-Out Burger, Donut Man, Tea House and Tom’s. I am also meeting his friend Jeff. Or Geoff. I would guess Jeff. We have an intense schedule ahead of us, but fear not, Darren will in all likelihood pass out before we even reach Donut Man.
For some context: In this delightful game of The Bowdoin Trail, we are at the stage where one selects the role one will take for the journey. If I remember correctly, Oregon Trail allows you the Banker (lots of money), Doctor (helpful skills) or the Farmer (no money, no helpful skills). We, in our journey, have chosen the College Student option which means that we get a crumpled $20 bill and bountiful youthful enthusiasm. Wish us luck.
I believe I saw a purveyor of hamburgers on our route to the gate…
MILES TO BOWDOIN: Thousands…
STATE BORDERS CROSSED: 2
DARREN NAP COUNTER: 1
###Friday, March 09, 2007