Sunday, August 7, 2011

Update: soybeans and corn fields

I realize that I'm going out of order here, but I wanted to update everyone on things.

We are settling into our place in Des Moines.  Finally acquiring some furniture.  It is weird how useful things like tables are.  We get our couch (from Craigslist shopping) tomorrow and we should be mostly set.  I love the area, yesterday we took a bike ride through a state park which is only a couple miles away. We also went to a winery in the country.  We drove through soybean and corn fields to the city of Winterset Iowa.  On our way out we stopped to check out a covered bridge.  By the way, these are THE covered bridges of Madison County.  Apparently the basis of a book and movie. The winery, Covered Bridges Winery, they had a live jazz/blues band and wine tasting.  It was a nice afternoon.

School officially starts tomorrow.  Last week was orientation, I met a few people out of my class of 224 students + more from other programs.  I'm ready to get into the swing of things.  I'm a bit nervous about the studying thing since I have been out of school for 5 years. 

We are still planning to finish blogging the end of the road trip.  We saw some great friends and had a wonderful time, but we just haven't had time to write about it. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lambeau to London (New)

I feel like a cartoon character; always the same shirt.

Once we got back to the great state of Wisconsin (from the north this time), we didn't stop until we got to that shrine of football known as Lambeau Field. Home of the Green Bay Packers. A fortune teller told me to look in the basement, this is what I found:

The one on the far right is new.

After gawking at memorabilia of Packer past, eating a couple of brats and being dragged out by Kristina we hit the road again. To the place of my upbringing, New London. I didn't take many pictures so here is another pick from Green Bay.

Yes we do.

New London was fun, I got to hang out with my other two brothers. My dad and I shared a few drinks and pizzas. Most of all we mellowed out sleeping in late and reading often. We stayed for a week and were treated to many good meals, home-cooked and otherwise. Of course I played fetch with the black labs K.C. and Mariah (named after my cousin in the previous post). We even made it out to see a small-town Wisconsin parade:

A chicken on a horse... very parade worthy.

Later, we went west to the Waupaca area
to visit relatives I haven't seen in a long time and Kristina got to meet them for the first time. We walked around on land owned by my brothers and I, taking some scratches and bug bites back with us. We got to see friends I haven't seen in years (too many to name), and they all loved Kristina too.

Jared and Nurys in NL.

Thank you New London for always being there (and not changing too fast) to call home. I've got friends and family there that are priceless in my life, and I wouldn't change them for anybody, except maybe those people on "That 70's Show" it just seems like they have a lot of fun.

My two favorite girls.

Monday, July 4, 2011

North from Canada

The Michigan Sky

Michigan is a green state with lots of trees and rolling hills. It is snuggled in between 4 great lakes, and there are more smaller lakes all over. The cities are in financial trouble and some are trying to rebuild entire neighborhoods to block out crime and improve the areas. The worst roads we have experienced (outside of Des Moines) were in Michigan. What most people don't realize is Michigan is a great state to visit. We had a wonderful time! We visited Jarrett's cousin, Mariah and her family, as well as Jarrett's Uncle Russ and his girlfriend Dianna in the Northwest part of the state.

Ervin, Mariah, Jarrett, Kristina, Dianna, and Russ

Mariah lives in a cute house in the country by Traverse City.  We stayed a couple of nights, taking over her kitchen, reading, and watching too much Netflix (mostly "30 Rock"). We enjoyed the couple lazy days and catching up with Mariah and her family.

On Saturday, we went with Mariah and Ervin to canoe the Jordan River. We met up with Uncle Russ and Dianna who also canoed. With each couple to a canoe, the men sat in the rear to steer around the curves and fallen trees. The water was going faster than normal since the river was very high. The first two curves were the most difficult and we went about 10 miles down the river to our pick up spot.We ran into trees and the riverbank several times. I was a bit frustrated, thinking that the entire 10 miles would be tough. Happilly, the river evened out a bit and Jarrett and I got our sealegs back. By the end, we were skillfully maneuvering around some narrow and tough deadfall.

We had fun floating, being social with the family, and hanging out with Charlevoix's party crowd. Everyone would stop at a couple of pull off sites to have a beer and socialize. Someone would try to kayak upstream or swim in the cold water, which resulted in entertainment for everyone else. After we made it down the river, we headed up to Uncle Russ and Dianna's place for a yummy steak and potato dinner. Then we met up with the party crowd at a bar in Charlevoix. The bar had a one man band that got the crowd into dancing and singing with the music. It was a very good day!
Kristina by a lighthouse on Lake Michigan

The next two days we stayed with Uncle Russ and Dianna. We explored the town of Charlevoix, which had lots of amazing multimillion dollar yachts and even fancier boathouses. We checked out the beaches, a lighthouse, the mushroom houses built out of boulders, and watched the yachts go in and out of the channel.  Jarrett found two more dogs to fall in love with, Sandy and Katie. Two labs that were more than eager to play fetch then jump into the lake. 
Jarrett on Lake Michigan with his yacht in the background.

After the good time we had staying with family, we drove North over the Mackinac Bridge and through the UP (Upper Peninsula). The Mackinac Bridge is 5 miles long, an amazing sight on its own, that connects the state over Lake Michigan. Originally, we planned to camp in the UP, but another thunderstorm was on the way, and we didn't want to deal with another night of rain and lightening in a tent, so we continued on.
The Mackinac Bridge

Can You Turn Right on Red?

My dream of the East Coast was this romantic get-away.  It would be summer, warm and beautiful (I was dreaming of this during the rainy Portland winter).  We would see lots of greenery around, deciduous tress, grasses, bushes and flowers all in bloom.  Niagra Falls would be as beautiful and romantic as the picture I had on my computer backdrop for months and months.

Well, some of that was true... except that people on the East Coast are CRAZY drivers, Californians are mild compared to the Atlantic states (especially New York and New Jersey drivers).  Leaving Atlantic City, we were passed by a black SUV going at least 100mph, weaving in and out of cars, even passing on the shoulder.  We encountered lots of greenery on the drive through many rolling hills and the views of some cities were great. Niagra Falls is a total tourist trap - made less beautiful by all the man made money makers around it. 

We stayed in Buffalo on our way through NY State, then crossed the border into Canada the next morning.  We had a bit of confusion with the parking meters and exchanging some currency - but after an hour and a half (thing seemed a bit against us in Canada) we made our way to the Falls. There were quite a few tourists walking around the area, it was a warm muggy day with some sprinkles here and there, but not worth wearing a sweater for.  We could see the falls along the road, and stopped at the first sidewalk to take pictures.  The Falls themselves are beautiful and amazing!  The roads, walkways, and boats put there to make money from the tourists aren't.  From the Canada side, we did not have to pay, I'm not sure if the same is true of the US side.  The US side had a walkway/trail built down the side of one of the falls that looked like an interesting adventures, but ruined the pristine view of the Falls.  We walked around a little, looked at the gift shop, and tried to find something... anything gluten free for lunch.  Apparently Hard Rock Cafe can NOT cook or serve  ANYTHING gluten-free and several other casinos were not open during lunch.  We did find a little restaurant, The Secret Garden Restaurant, that could make a safe chicken salad for me.  Then we moved on, were were quite ready to get out of the area as soon as we filled our bellies.

The far side of the falls.
Note: the boats full of tourists.

Me at the falls :)

The Secret Garden behind the Secret Garden Restaurant. 
It was a really neat place.

After visiting the Falls, we drove through Ontario heading for Michigan.  Driving through Canada was a little different from driving through the US.  The speed limit is in kilometers, on the highway it was 100km/hr.  It seemed a bit strange to be going 120km/hr and have a police car pass us.  I felt like we had gone back in time 10 years.  I can't pinpoint why, maybe the Niagra experiences and problems started it, but the country seemed a bit run down.  When we got within 10km of the border, the traffic on the highway came to a complete stop. We ended up sitting in the car for an hour in completely stopped traffic waiting to pay the toll.  Jarrett and I enjoyed the break with some Trivial Pursuit and yet another East Coast thunderstorm.  It was really odd, but once the traffic started moving again, we made it to the toll both fairly quickly.  After the toll both, we crossed through the border crossing into the Michigan without incident.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Saratoga Springs Super Summer Sensation. Sup!?

Kristina, Jesse, and Jen getting ready to laugh.

The Comet, an oldie but a fastie.

We were stuck on the top for about 10 minutes.

Me and Sasquatch have something in common.

Kristina makes a new friend.

A little different, but still brothers.

One of our main destinations we had to hit up was Saratoga Springs, NY. My brother is living/working there, and I haven't seen him in 4+ years. He is still in the Navy and living with his girlfriend Jen, his dog Barron, and 4 cats Jasper, James, Pantera, and Rocky.

We drove in late, but found a good sushi restaurant "Duo" that pleased us (especially Kristina). Try the basil mashed potatoes, apparently the Japanese have bested us on yet another front.

We spent most of our time laying around and reading on the porch. I took some special interest playing fetch with Barron. He loved to chase the kong, but didn't like to give it back. Jesse and Jen took us out to see the horses and the horses were happy to see us too.

The next day, Father's Day, we hit up Six Flags Great Escape for some roller coaster action. Where we saw this guy:

What I found out that day is I can't take a roller coaster like I used too (dizzy, not worse). They really only had 5 coasters and they were pretty short and lacked thrill. It was still worth a lot of fun. We went out for some ice cream after which soothed the tummy.

A day or two after that (days seem to flow together now) we hit up a drive in movie for a double-header. It was "Green Lantern" and "the Hangover Part 2". Green Lantern was alright, but "the Hangover Part 2" had some side-splitting comedy that I'm laughing at still as I type this over a week later. I know it was especially good by the number of times I looked at Kristina and she was shaking her head (for the record Kristina also thought it was hilarious).

That was mostly it, had a great time catching up with Jesse and Jen and we know next time we see them again will be too long.

Oh yeah, this blog program is not being nice, I'll reformat this post later...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From State Capitols to the National Capitol

We drove into DC just before the DC all afternoon rush hour.  We parked at my Rochelle’s house in Bethesda, but didn’t have much direction of what to do after that.  Rochelle was still at work, and we were going to meet her downtown for a drink later, but not for a few hours.  So, we wondered around a little, found the Metro station, got a map of the city from the Concierge desk at the Hyatt, and headed to the Capitol Building, naturally.  What else are you to do with a free afternoon in Washington DC?  The subway was fairly simple to navigate, and once we got off, metro information people were stationed to answer questions. 
The Capitol grounds looked a bit beat up, maybe is was the heat, maybe the recession; but the area looked dirty, there were quite a few dirt walkways leading to the capitol and the building looked tired.  We did go up to the front and hang out for a bit.  Found a random building that housed some drinking fountains that gave us a little relief from the heat and humidity.  We watched a hippie in an Uncle Sam hat protesting circumcision laws.  Then we met Rochelle and Jonathan at another metro station and walked to Church Key DC, a popular beer and cheese bar.  We got to catch up with Rochelle and Jonathan and hear their stories of the big city.  Then we went to another bar for a Vassar reunion.  (Rochelle and Jonathan are Vassar alumni).  This was an interesting event, free booze and food for the alumnus who had just returned from a formal alumni reunion at the school the previous weekend.  It was fun for us to meet people and hear their stories.  Lots of conversations were sadly about the (very tight) job market in DC.

Later, we met up with another of Rochelle’s friends, Charlene, who was interviewing for some overseas jobs that week for a quick dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery.  (This is the same chain as the Rock Bottom in Portland).   The day turned out to be much more of an awesome adventure than I had expected when we drove in.
Armed with our map from the Hyatt, we headed to the other side of the capitol mall the next day.  We walked up to the Washington monument.  Went up the stairs to the Lincoln monument (and reveled about the beautiful white marble that originated in Marble, Colorado).  Spent some time at the war memorials, the Vietnam memorial, in its simplicity, was the most powerful to Jarrett and me.  We were hungry and hot, so we aimed to find a Smithsonian that would fulfill both of those needs.  We found the Art Museum of the Americas, a small, and interesting museum just across from the mall.  It didn’t have any food, so our search continued.  We stumbled upon the Metro cafĂ© to fulfill our hunger, which was more popular among the locals than the tourists.  We decided to spend our afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Art Museum, a combined building.  We made it through most of the first floor before we were completely exhausted.  There are 3 floors plus of exhibitions and collections.  We waited out a thunderstorm at the metro station back in Bethesda, where we met back up with Rochelle, Jonathan, and Charlene for a yummy dinner at Sweet Basil, a wonderful Thai place. (Congrats to Charlene for getting the position she wanted!).
The Vietnam War Memorial with a crowds reflection.

Even though there is so much of DC to explore and hundreds more museums, Jarrett and I decided that we would leave the next day.  We had a great time seeing what we did, and a wonderful time spent with friends.  So, we headed up the road towards upstate New York the next day. Thank you Rochelle and Jonathan for being such great hosts in DC!
Our favorite quote from the Korean War Memorial.

One Night in Madtown

After finding our new home in Des Moines we felt it best to visit my old home... state. Of course the famous New Glarus Brewery just happened to be on the way to our destination.
Good stuff made here.

After some delicious nectar of the gods, I stocked up on some for the road (of course all was gone by the time we left D.C.). I recommend the Wisconsin Belgian Red. Kristina was less enthused, but she got through it.

From there we rocked straight north to Mad Town, USA. School was out, but driving through the beltway you wouldn't have noticed (Kristina took that one on too). We had another brand new friend to meet. Elijah "Louie" is a quiet wide-eyed little guy and he's already got good balance. Of course our old friends were there too, Gerald, Lindsay, and Juna welcomed us for the night.

Lindsay and Louie

They treated us right for a night. Caught up over some catfish, quinoa and drinks (we've been eating a lot of fish lately). What a wonderful family! And dinner was splendid! One of the best parts had to be playing with Juna, she got a hold of our camera and went to town on the shoot button. Here is one of her best pieces:

A series I call: "Reverse Birth"

We were on the road by 10am next morning! Wisconsin we will be back soon!