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 café 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!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our new home.

Our first night in Des Moines and there were thunderstorms continuously throughout the night.  We decided to camp at a State Park just 7 miles out of the city to save money.  So there we were hunkered down in our tent hoping that nothing would happen.  We are pretty experienced with camping in the rain, somehow every time we decide to camp, it pours on us.  So, we knew that the storms were coming when we arrived.  We worked efficiently to set up camp, make dinner, start the fire (Jarrett had quite the time starting it in a puddle but was successful), and organize the car.  Just in case, we put all boxes and items into the front seat of the car.  This cleared out the back in case we needed to sleep in the car.  Maybe we should have, but we stayed in our tent that night.
Empty!  This may not seem like much,
 but the Prius is normally packed tight.
(We are, after all, living out of it for
 2 months).
Our second night was almost more exciting, we had dinner and went to a movie in town.  Found a great gluten free restaurant, Tally’s.  They used the best pasta we have ever had.  It is an Italian brand, Schar gluten free penne pasta.  Jarrett had the mushroom pasta, rivaling our GF pasta place in Portland, and I had chicken and mashed potatoes.  Both were super yummy!  Then we saw a late showing of Super 8, a cheesy movie in the theatre, to ride out yet another thunderstorm.  At this point our evening almost got more exciting than night #1.  We drove back to our campground at 12:30AM only to discover that the gates closed at 10:30PM.  As we pulled into the drive to think about what we were going to do next, a cop drove up.  He asked if we were lost, we told him our predicament, and he moved on.  Looked like we were going to walk (only about ¼ of a mile) but in the dark and with no flashlights.  The flashlights were all in the tent!  So, Jarrett decided to try the gate, and it wasn’t locked even though a padlock was hanging from it.  Whew.  We opened the gate and drove in!  Crazy adventure adverted.
Jarrett's successful fire
(a puddle of water was at
 the bottom of the fire pit).
The focus of our time in Des Moines was apartment hunting.  We set up as many appointments a day as we could, and if we got stood up we checked out one of the complexes that allowed pets.  Our 3rd day of appointments turned out to be the productive one.  Both places we looked at were super cute, decent price range and had different sets of perks.  We chose the less expensive place that was farther out of town.  Ironically, this place is just up the street from where we camped the first two nights.  I am looking forward to getting our things moved and setting up.  Of course, I have to wait until the last week of July for that… but that is coming very quickly.  We welcome anyone passing through Des Moines to visit us, we will have a 2nd bedroom and would love to see friends during the school year!

Me in a sculpture at a Des Moines park.
 Des Moines is smaller than we thought; it has lots of hills and lots of trees making it very pretty.  Many buildings are made of brick which adds to the charm.   The rivers were at capacity or slightly overflowing so some roads were closed.  Even with the closed roads we figured out the main ones to use to get around the city.  I have to say that the West side of Des Moines is much simpler than Portland to drive in J  The East side, where our hotel was the third and fourth nights, is composed of knots of freeways.  Each one connects large cities, Chicago, Kansas City, etc. and for some reason they all meet in Des Moines.  That is okay, we will be spending all of our time on the West Side between school and home.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Really Big Rocks.

Our first evening in Denver, we went to Red Rocks Amphitheater for music and a movie.   We saw 2 local bands including Matt Morris and the original Footloose.  Matt Morris has an amazing voice and he has been making a national name for himself lately by singing on talk shows.  Footloose was more fun than expected because the crowd really got into the movie.  They boo’ed the bad guys, cheered when something went right, and made jokes at the cheesey parts.  The star of the show, however, was the amphitheater itself.  There are red rocks jutting out of the earth hundreds of feet into the air.  Somehow they jutted up in just the right spots to make an amphitheater in the middle.  If you sit high enough, you can see the lights of Denver and amazing views of the entire valley.

We had a lot of fun playing and walking Kelley and Tim’s poodle mixes, Patton and Monte.  Another set of pets that we fell in love with!  The second day Kelley took us downtown to explore.  The light rail in Denver is widely used and the best way to skip the constant Denver traffic and parking issues.  We grabbed a quick, lunch at a café downtown.  Then we checked out the pianos on the street mall, the capitol building and the federal minting building.  Of course the mint had no tours available until the following week, but we tried to get on one.  My favorite place was the independent 'Tattered Cover' Bookstore. (By the way, the blog background is a close up of a strange statue we saw in Denver.  I think it is supposed to depict water balloons stacked into a tower, but I'm not sure.)
Kelley and Tim, our great hosts in Denver.
We spent lots of time relaxing on Kelley and Tim’s great patio.  They are in the process of landscaping their backyard, and it will be a masterpiece when it is done.  Their yard is completed by a beautiful garden that makes us miss our community garden in Portland. 
The last night in Denver, Jarrett and I took the light rail to Lo Do (lower downtown) to have a drink with some more friends who live in town.  We met Jarrett’s longtime friends Kelly and Trevor at Blake Street Tavern, a sports bar, for some wine and great conversation.  Then we headed to another bar to play flip cup with Jarrett’s friend Clint and his kickball team.  Playing flip cup in a bar felt the same as buying hard liquor from a grocery store, quite odd but convenient.  After we left the bars, we did get a bit lost trying to find the light rail again.  Eventually we did find a stop for the rail and made it home safe. 

Kelley and Trevor suggested that we hit up Boulder before we leave the area.  They said it sounded a little like Portland, had a different flavor than Denver, and was worth checking out.  So, on our way out of Denver, we drove up.  Driving into the city was magnificent; it was laid out with brick buildings, and set just below the grand Rocky Mountains.  We (of course) stopped at REI to gather our senses and a couple items we were running low on.  Then we went to Pearl St., the touristy street in Boulder.  (Not to be confused with “the Pearl district” in Portland. This is upscale, but not to that degree.)  The first restaurant we came to served gluten free pasta and pizzas, (AWESOME!).  So we did a little walking around and ate a quick lunch at that restaurant, the Goldolier.  There was a lot to explore, but we decided to head out since it was nearly 3PM and we still had a lot of driving to do.  Our next destination was Des Moines and we hoped to get about half way there that day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Not out of the mountains yet....

Before we made our descent to the lowlands of Denver, CO, we had more mountains to climb. We made our way east to the resort city of Winter Park, CO. My friend Ryan is up there cooking for his daily bread (but probably doing more snowboarding, longboarding, biking and other great stuff). He's living it up in a natural paradise with his girl Valerie.

Kristina and Ryan before we hit the trail.

We did some walking to the resort, on the way we saw this little guy. He didn't seem to mind us at all.


After exploring the resort and town, we mostly hung out and drank some beer. Ryan and Valerie then hooked it up with a three meat trio: elk, halibut, and pork. Put some veggies on the side and it rivaled any trio put on this earth (sorry Larry, Moe, and Curly). We crashed maybe earlier than usual, maybe our brains went on vacation, maybe out stomachs weighed us like anchors to the mattress so soft. I don't know, but what I do know is call us satisfied and then some.

Either the water goes East or the water goes West, but it can't stay here.
(except for that snow, that will be there for a bit)

Thanks again Ryan and Valerie, you proved to be wonderfully entertaining hosts for our stop over in Winter Park. We loved the fresh mountain air!

Ryan and I.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding a Marble in the mountains

After the plural mountains of Utah, we had a revelation to return to Marble, CO for the 2nd time within a year. We visited our friends Hawkins & Chrissy. It was of course as glorious as we remembered. I had a testimony that this is a prophets' paradise.

View from the front deck

This time we met our new friend, Ellamae, only 7 weeks old. I got to hold her and everything, she is a bundle of joy!

Ellamae and me.

The first night we jammed out on guitars and got into an impromptu free-styling session (thanks Spencer for awakening old demons). We also caught up with chit-chat and tipped back a few drinks.

Marble's own -- Deja Blue

The next day we explored the bustling village of Marble, CO. We went up the road to the quarry, the only place that mines pure white marble. This marble was used to make the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (both located in D.C. which is tomorrow's destination). We tried a couple of hikes to waterfalls but we were blocked by flooded paths. We did see this guy:

Hawkins and Chrissy made us feel more than welcome, we stayed in the loft bedroom. We awoke to huge windows with views on all sides. They made us some great dinners, and we had ourselves a nice campfire the last night.

Speaking of the last night, Tom and Marilyn flew out from Wisco and hung out too. The lot of us went down to the river, where yours truly mined for gold. Kristina showed me how to do it, showing me the Idaho method. I'm not filthy rich yet, but this blog is short. Check back for more of my millionaire scheme updates.

Dar's goald in dees mountins!

Check out this great bluegrass band at the local BBQ joint.

The "C" Band, or Carly's mom's band

Thanks again Hawkins & Chrissy, Ellamae, Sasha, Deja, Lucky, Clovis, and Jasper! Had another great time and we hope to make it to the Marble Symposium!

Hawkins & Chrissy

Hey everyone! Check out how good I look!