This has been my most commonly used phrase over the past two weeks (and I think it’ll be my most commonly used phrase over the next couple years). Starting two Mondays ago, and ending yesterday, I have been on a road trip around some of the mid-west and north-east USA to visit friends and places I have not been before. Over 15 days I was in two countries and ten states, drove 3,120.5 miles, and spent a lot of money on gas. Eesh… Here are some recollections from the trip, chronologically by location.
Pittsburgh – driving through south-western PA is pretty sweet. Lots of mountains to go over and through, but the views from the tops are gorgeous. Arriving at Pitt, it does seem to have its own entrance way, really. As you come around the corner from the east, the city suddenly appears before you with no real warning besides the increased traffic. While the city is hot and crowded (with a pretty river, yes), it does not take too much to get outside the city to some delightful suburbs.
Cleveland – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Museum were both very fun. Definitely go if you get the opportunity, however, walking around an interactive science museum by yourself feels a little creepy, as all of the activities are clearly designed for children and there will be lots of little children there… 4th street was fun and Noodlecat (on Euclid) had some delicious soba and steambuns, check it out! (Sketchiest night here, spent in my van behind a middle school…)
Ann Arbor – Busy as there was some kind of event going on blocking off the streets, but really lovely MetroParks near it. Way to go Michigan on those. Also, central Michigan is rather flat.
Traverse City – Fun beach town, but clearly set up for the tourist/visitor. Not sure if it used to be more humble and local, though. The problem with beaches these days is that girls make it difficult to tell how old they are, from about 14 to 30 years of age. There should be laws about one can own bikinis and short shorts. Or we can color code by age.
Lake Leelanau – Beautiful country up on this peninsula. The orchards, the forests, the lakes… everything is just gorgeous. Unfortunately, Michigan really likes to charge money for out-of-staters to park and visit their parks. Very disappointing. Rowing bow in a straight four that has unbalanced power is both terrifying and exciting. Thankfully, they were masters who were just out for a good time, and that is what we had! On a related note, I am going to have to row regularly in my future, it is just too awesome to not continue. This also means I will have to afford a house near flat water and either a club membership or a shell, oars, associated parts, and a place to keep it all. I hope it is the latter, and by a shell I really mean at least two, a single for me and a double for me and a rowing buddy. Totally do able on a teacher’s salary, right? Additionally, there is a bakery/cafe in Sutton’s Bay you should check out if you get the chance, it is called Frida, and they make great breads, sandwiches, coffees, and sweet baked goods!
Mackinac Island – Busy and full of preps/bros. Rather pretty. It is unnecessary for ferries to have rooster tails. Expensive.
Sault Ste. Marie – Crossing into Canada was silly difficult. Apparently just going to Canada by yourself for a couple days as an unemployed, recent graduate, without specific locations planned to stay makes me look suspicious or something. I swear I’m not a drug mule.
Sudbury – Despite wanting to row, I’ll never compete on a large scale. Saw an ad for the Canadian team, looking for guys at least 6’4″… sigh… Maybe if I cut my legs off I can be a cox. Also, big furry dogs look really cuddly. Like bears. Long haired, friendly, slobbery bears.
Toronto – Very clean and pretty city. The CN tower is huge and easy to take pictures of. China towns are always fun to walk through. Produce stands on the sidewalk have the coolest fruits and vegetables, who knows what they are. Windows full of roasted ducks and what looks like a squid. Fantastic sculptures. Plus, in Toronto, street art all over the place, really cool graffiti – words, caricatures, all of it. HarbourCentral is a fun and exciting place with boats, ferries, an art studio and gallery, plus open space for fairs and festivals, which is what was happening when I was there. The Hot and Spicy Food Festival. Mostly selling hot sauce, but the Big Green Egg people were there with pulled pork and bar-be-que chicken legs, and people were making mini cayenne and chocolate donuts. There were musical performances and dancing and the WoofJocks, which was the best part for me. Did make me want own a well trained dog, though, the Rhodesian Ridgeback really interests me. Beautiful creatures and you can run with them! Finally, Slim Moore and the Mar-Kays performed, I would call it blues funk. The Mar-Kays were great on their own but I’m not really sure how much Slim Moore added, but it was some good music.
Niagara Falls – First off, if you go to the Canadian side, go find the Dufferin Islands, they are just absolutely delightful and full of water birds, mostly ducks. Lots of families there for picnics and some kids there to fish. The Canadian side is actually way more built up than the American side, which I kind of find surprising. Both sides have big casinos, but Canada has a MarineLand, ferris wheel, rotating dining room tower, etc… YOLO t-shirts are now widely available. Watch out.
Buffalo – This city is all over the place, some really beautiful older buildings, plus the towers down town, and beaten down south and east sides of the city. However, right next to that beaten down area, we find the Tifft Nature Preserve, which is amazing, especially for where it is. Saw frogs, a snake, white-tailed deer (including two fawns!), and lots of birds, all around a few gorgeous ponds. Got beef-on-weck from Charlie the Butcher’s and it was so delicious! That salty Kummelweck roll is so good in contrast to the sweet/savory roast beef. Saw the Anchor bar, but wings are easier to come by around the rest of the world.
Booneville – Central New York is beautiful in the summer, just beautiful. Driving through the mountains, its just fabulous. Found the Oneida county fair with 4H animals and kids, fried food out the wazoo, camel rides, and chariot racing. Plus they said they had a tiger, but I never saw it.
Albany – Family friends are always fun to catch up with, especially those that are friends with your parents and have seen you grown up, because they’re nice to you for no reason you can think of and seem to be interested in what you’re doing with your life, even if you haven’t seen them in eight or so years. They’ll feed you, take you to see things, house you. So wild. Also, Ballin’ in the Graveyard is cool recent documentary you should check out if you get the chance about a pick-up basketball tradition in Washington Park of Albany.
Boston – I forgot there were so many people in the world until I got to Wocester on I-90. Plus, apparently it is time for road work in Massachusetts. Getting into Boston is a challenge, but I would imagine it always is. However, the T works great. Additionally, things are expensive in cities, so I’m more sure now that I don’t want to live in one. Clam chowder is delicious, especially when they add a lot of cream. Mmmmmm cream.
Newport – Wooooaaaahhhhhhh is there some wealth out there. And there is an impressive disparity of wealth in the area. Castles on Oceanview Dr. and three room houses five minutes away.
Narragansett – URI ladies row on a beautiful river! And families of friends that you just met can be just as nice as family friends you have known a long time. There is nothing like a boat ride at sundown, except maybe a boat ride at sunrise. Lobster, even if it is cheap because the populations are apparently huge now, still tastes delicious, especially dipped in butter. Now, I appreciate moving seats and modern oarlocks in rowing shells more than ever, but it is good to know that I can use a good ol’ fashioned rowboat if I need to. It is certainly better than not rowing at all, if I have to make a choice. Also, if you like modern science discoveries, take a look at the URI Inner Space Center, which follows to research vessels across the oceans, including by live streaming video (which anyone can watch!). Got a tour of their home base and learned a lot, found something I can use for fun activities as a teacher in the future.
Providence – Finding your way around a city you don’t know can be tough, especially if you’re not in a mood to do so.
Windham – Usually it is the little things that make all trips worthwhile. Whether it is one activity, one meal, one person, it doesn’t matter. Just like playing golf, there is that one shot, that one hole which brings you back. Like rowing, that one power piece or just that one stroke that feels perfect, you know you can get it again, which is why you keep going back. These little things make every trip worthwhile. The Olympics are awesome. Period. No matter who you are, they’re awesome. Opening ceremony was hilarious, mostly because the Queen was clearly so entertained and the American commentators apparently have no idea what is appropriate to say and what isn’t. But watching athletes from all over the world perform and such a huge stage, while it does present the opportunity to fail, the successes you see are so incredibly bright that it is impossible to not smile at every come from behind medal or any underdog that performs. Most interesting I’ve seen this games so far is the Nigerian Rower who DFL’d hard in the single men’s scull, vows to improve for Rio in 2016, and wants to bring rowing to the 80% desert, landlocked country of Niger. Just beautiful. If you’re into obstacle races, you should look at an up-and-comer called the Fugitive Mud Run which has just started recently. Be aware, you will definitely do some escaping.
Philadelphia – I’m always impressed by how much exercising I see in cities: running, biking, and even rowing in Philly. It makes me confused when I see the obesity statistics for America. Why don’t I see these obese people as much as I see the joggers. Well, I guess the obese people are inside their houses and cars while the not obese people are outside, aren’t they. Fair enough. Boat House Row on the Schulykill brings back a variety of rowing memories, but it is also just so beautiful, showing years of blood, sweat, and tears from decades and decades of rowers, coxswains, and coaches. Building rowing clubs, improving boats, getting faster, stronger, better, initiating novices to the world of rowing. There is so much there. Hand-drawn noodles in Chinatown are a truly amazing and delicious experience. You should eat them.
Overall: Learning to function on your own is important, but knowing when you’re better with others is equally so. People look at you funny when you travel alone, especially going to restaurants. Or maybe I’m overly self-conscious of how others perceive me in public, either way they can suck it – I make a great travel companion for myself.
So… What’s Next?