Friday, July 29, 2011

America, the trip. Part 2.

Days nine through seventeen are greener, and continue here:


My main task in Minneapolis before getting Anzie is a general favorite: buying camping survival food. I was feeling really good and thrifty at the Wedge Co-Op's fill your own water jug station until the man next to me practically choked on my lack of knowledge over the container's BPA levels. We probably won't talk again. I finished just in time to pick up Anzie from her flight. We jumped and hugged and jumped- it had been just over a year since we saw each other last- and then started on our way to Walker's Point, South Dakota. Our original Minnesota camping plans had been foiled since the state essentially shut down. The Trucker's Lounge above provided a celebratory meal of corn nuts, cheese curds, Twin Bing and machine fresh cappuccino. Good thing there were leftovers, since when we arrived at our campsite it was too dark and damp to make dinner. The park ranger that soon visited us felt the oncoming lightning/hailstorm might dampen our spirits and destroy our tent, but Anzie and I agreed to ride it out. We were brave girls sitting with our books, eating popcorn, drinking boxed wine, and pretending not to fear. A little tent slapping was unsettling, but it wasn't until the front of the tent hit down and almost suffocated us, the sides began to collapse, and the stakes were lifted out of the ground that we scrambled to grab what was most important (me: sleeping bag, Anzie: sleeping bag, library book, wine), as I fumbled for the zipper. We leaped out, running for the minivan while the tent flew away behind us. While the rest of our night seemed rough, hanging out in the shower stall and trying to sleep in the car while the 3 hour storm pressed on, our neighbors had it worse. They got electrocuted.


The park rangers came over after the storm to help us retrieve our tent, which survived with only a little rip in the rainfly! After some time spent painstakingly removing all the popcorn bits from the inside of the soaked tent, repacking the car and making a fire to cook breakfast, we found refuge in the great walls of the world's only Corn Palace. From there, South Dakota only became more striking. Spotting the Badlands was exciting, but nothing compared to entering the Star Wars world they encompass. The extreme displays of the power of erosion are beautiful and unreal. After climbing some of the ridges, we made our first real camping meal , and then visited the amphitheater to learn more about the universe. The guide and his enviable laser pointer taught about the history of constellations, seen through the eyes of Greeks, Native Americans, and displaced Floridians such as himself. There were telescopes to view the contours of the moon. If you don't mind fighting a boy scout for a seat, I recommend sneaking a drink in and spending your night this way as well.


Today's winding drive through the grasslands was perfect for visiting prairie dogs, spotting bighorn sheep, and seeing some green again. When a buffalo emerged he was serious and massive and solitary and owned the landscape. We are very puny. Right outside the Badlands is a little town with a posted population of 67, named Interior. Interior houses the county jail seen above, a convenience store selling Indian Fry Bread, and a saloon with a bartender who will make you pizza just like you made for after school friends when you were 11. There will be one other customer. In other words, you'll have a great time.


Since Anzie is even more crazy about park rangers than I am, she learned about wildlife while I walked some of the ridge. From there we pressed on, amazed how the Badlands seem to suddenly disappear and bright wildflowers take over. We were also on our way to experience what schoolchildren all over the country dream of while they try to remember why it's important- Mount Rushmore. First though, another childhood dream had to be chased down- that of a whole dozen donuts to yourself. Wall Drug advertisements can be spotted for hundreds of miles through the state, luring poor, tired souls with promises of 5 cent coffee. Souls such as myself. I couldn't wait to get to Wall Drug. We stopped the day before just as they were closing, but returned the next morning for the coffee and day old donuts bag. This was one of our smartest purchases. Leaving Wall Drug the misty day seemed pretty sad for seeing National Monuments, but Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse are visible regardless of the weather. Or so I thought! Despite the view, I am going to tell people's kids I've been there. We ended the night in a cabin in Thermopolis, a town built around their sulphur hot springs. It was the only night not in a tent and the last time we would shower, so that felt great. Since nothing was open by the time we were hungry, we ended up at a typically avoided establishment where we did the obscene act of asking if "Um, could we get that supersized?". For the record, they don't do that anymore.


The Thermopolis State Bath House is free, and uncrowded. There are warnings not to spend more than half an hour soaking, but you probably will not want to since that bath is very hot. As we were leaving, two people came in who were crossing the country horseback, and needed the soak even more than we did. Thermopolis is also home to a swinging bridge, seen above. I wanted a much better picture for today, but got too excited over the scenery that next ensued. The drive from Thermopolis to the Grand Tetons was windy and mountainous and green and much more alive than the drive of the previous few days. We took our car over dusty Mormon Row and I wanted to roll out of the car and be left behind in one of the log cabins, forever and ever. As my life is not taking that turn just yet, comfort was found in our campsite.


Today was spent hiking around Jenny Lake. We walked past the lake, through swarming mosquitos, and past the rushing river where hikers were coming from the other direction. The conversation went like this: "Girls, here's the deal. There's a bear and her cub up ahead, so we're leaving. It's up to you what you want to do." We turned around. After walking more and then laying by the river eating seitan jerky we headed back, spotting this moose and her calf. Afterwards Jackson beckoned, because how can you be in Wyoming and not hang out in Jackson? We did what tourists do and tried different beers at Snake River Brewery, which you can get in taste-test size, just like an ice cream shop! Inspired, we next went to the ice cream shop, which sold all organic ice cream and guns.


This morning began with herds of buffalo grazing and crossing the meadow. It was more than we deserved for waking up early. After being thus humbled, it was time to have tea with the Cunninghams. This was a disappointing encounter since they died in the early part of the last century, but we did admire what they had accomplished. It was the scene of our only picture together this trip. Since the Cunninghams eventually left their harsh, isolated life as ranchers to move to Idaho, we followed them. On the drive from Wyoming to Idaho on Route 26, there's a town called Atomic City, old home of the Experimental Breeder Reactor, and a nearby restaurant called Pickles Place where I had mashed potatoes. For those of you who imagine Idaho to be flat and boring, it's worth going there to see both how right and how wrong you really are. We ended the day in Bonneville Hot Springs, Idaho, where it was comforting to be surrounded by trees again. Driving through the park there were signs of a jamboree pointing down a dusty little path. The jamboree was hosted by IBS...International Bible Students? Hmm....nope. Idaho Bow Hunters. This jamboree replaces string instruments with bows and arrows, and people stare real slow while you bounce by on a one way road with your out of town license plates. There was no time to make friends since we had a camp to set up. They let us out and we spent the night by a blazing fire listening to Orson Welles on Old Time Radio.


Remember we were at Bonneville Hot Springs, so after grilling the rest of the donuts for breakfast we went to soak. It's better to look at the pictures than hear my description, and it's worth accidentally burning a couple of toes for the experience of going there. From the springs we finally drove to and entered Oregon! Anzie's husband Nathaniel, his friend Jesse, and their two dogs were already at Smith Rock, above, so it was a reunion.


Even though there was plenty of whiskey going around the night before, everyone was up early to rock climb. Everyone except for Anzie, Nathaniel and myself. In the meantime, I fooled around with a slack rope set over sharp rocks, but only because a girl was holding my hand. By the time the rockclimbers came back I was ready to give it a try, so they were generous and helped out. We went to Smith Rock's version of a bunny slope, which in reality was the biggest mountain any of you have ever seen in your whole lives, and I was happy to clean the route since it gave me an excuse to stop and hang onto metal. Anzie had climbed before and reached the top quick. In the meantime, people were climbing the 400 foot spire Monkey Face and walking the high line there, so hats off to them. If you are ever in the Smith Rock area, go to Tumalo Feed Company because whether you care about steak or not you will be truly happy there. We left that part of Oregon behind for the last stretch home to Portland, where you can find us now, above! There's a little more to say and a lot more to do, so come visit sometime.


Thanks Anz for coming along so I could stop talking to myself, and for all the pictures a little phone can't capture!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

America, the Trip. Part 1.

Here you find a little overview of my trip from Brooklyn, NY to Portland, OR. Since I was driving, walking, fake jogging, laughing, getting lost and throwing my hands into the air solo, this first half of the journey went through cities. Yes, that is everything I'm trying to leave behind, but the thought of camping alone without a friend or dog made me feel a coward. Are you worrying over who would capture me in the changing landscape since there was no one around? No? Well, if you had been, there was no need. Katie and Micah took care of things so that if I ever felt alone, all I had to do was peer over to the passenger's seat and see...myself. It was comforting. Here are the results of this trip and that gift combined, with summaries and links that you can choose to follow or not. I won't judge you for just looking at the pictures.


This day started with an emergency 2 AM phone call to Corrie to help me finish packing up my little (rented) HHR before I collapsed into the fetal position. She expertly and politely undid my damage and repacked it safe and sound before taking me to the Spooner home to rest my head. I woke up a few hours later, picked up my last NY coffee for awhile, and turned on Amanda's expert soundtrack while watching the city disappear. I headed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of Andy Warhol. It so turns out that The Andy Warhol Museum is half priced on Friday and open until 10, so if you too want to go on a date with yourself (or someone else), I recommend it.


Detroit stirs up two important words in my head: VALUE WORLD. Thanks to Katie and Lenaya's stories of 85 cent dresses, I could barely get myself there fast enough. It was a nothing less than a musty dreamland. Just visit my closet and I'll explain more. After tiring myself out and making friends with the local Value World shoppers, I decided to take a drive around to house hunt. The home above was a gem among many. While having fun snapping myself in front of my new place, I noticed that the shiny new phone that doesn't suit my general technological tastes of old and slow, and the fancy car I wouldn't really own were looking....flashy. As the slow moving bikers and pedestrians observed my fun, I decided to run back through the overgrown grass and move on without getting a better shot. Sorry about the flash.


After eating breakfast at Beezy's in Ypsilanti, home of Jereme and Alex's oversized loft!, and loading up at their Value World, we went to Detroit. Jereme used to live here and led us to abandoned everything- Michigan Central Station, elementary schools, factories and homes. It was 28 Days Later. The stunner of it all was Heidelberg Project, which in itself is worth driving 13 hours for. We hung out at Magic Stick, saw Canada, ate at Slows, and then headed to Ann Arbor. The rich aunt of Detroit has lots of beauty to offer, and an alley bar that feels like the dirty nephew. If you find yourself there, visit 8 Ball.


Heading from Ypsilanti back to Detroit I stopped at Dearborn to get Arabic food for the day. Cedarland was great and gave me extra everything, including tons of pita and pickled turnips. From there Katie's recommendation took me to the meticulous, intact and eerie grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Point. 87 acres of money give a glimpse of Detroit's old wealth, now moved safely to the suburbs. After getting a private tour (nobody else wanted to skip barbeque's to do this on July 4th?), I went straight to Avalon Bakery in Detroit for the the best date granola bar that could possibly exist. I hung around town, picked out more houses, and since a lot was closed for the holiday went to Lawndale Market/People's Polaroids. They don't take Polaroids anymore but don't worry. You can still be famous. Just send them your picture, large or small, and they'll feature your face on their walls. To see the above picture, give them a visit. Thanks Amanda, for the tip.


The night before I made it to Chicago. Already dreading being in a city for the day, it seemed like a better idea to explore Oak Park and follow Frank Lloyd Wright's footsteps around. After stopping at Twisted Scissors for a haircut and free PBR, it was time for the burbs. Above you can find my new home and the neighborhood dog walker. It's great to walk around for a couple of hours hands on cheeks and heart doing jumps, and then visit Barack Obama and Mohammad Ali in Kenwood. Well, what you'll really see is Mohammad Ali's old home and the large Secret Service car doing anything to prevent you from seeing either the President or his house. Still, you sure do feel close and very, very important. Too many hours spent among the rich did make me crave home, so I went to Wicker Park. There's a lot of things worth seeing there, and lots of it I didn't, but this is what I know: Myopic Books, Reckless Records and Sultan's Market (dirt cheap falafel, Harem/Disney Aladdin Nintendo decor and garage blaring) are perfect. Visit them all and you can have the best night too.


I knew upon waking that I wouldn't be able to walk this way. I mean this day. Alternating shoes had left blisters on just about every surface that a shoe could touch. It was a great excuse for a boat tour, still my favorite way to see a city. The top deck was about 75 percent sandal over sock wearing tourists, so I settled in and got ready for an interesting hour and a half. Chicago does have an amazing collection of art deco buildings, and even though the skyline isn't as impressive as New York's (sorry to compare), the facades of many of the buildings really are beautiful close up. A friend's friend met me for lunch and I then returned to the car to see this. SAD. Mostly because it meant the end of the Sirius Elvis Station, and also because there wasn't going to be time now to go to Racine and eat Danish Kringle on the way to Milwaukee. How dare this person strip away music and food from me with the sweep of their elbow or bat or whatever it was! It took a couple of hours to fill out police reports and such, but Hertz was so easy and replaced it with a red Mazda minivan. Me and the kids piled in and went straight to Summerfest. Summerfest is basically a big carnival with music instead of rides. Corn on the cob and watermelon were substitutin for hotdogs that day, but in the midst of the day's activity no picture had been taken. So the guys above helped me out. The man on the right's mother was from Brooklyn, and apparently had a much, much cooler accent than I do.


The drive through Wisconsin to Minnesota was gorgeous. I took a lot of side roads, some dustier than others. The minivan is really quite a beast and up for anything. I didn't take many pictures on this trip. But if you would like to be in the passengers seat for a bit, getting a glimpse of what is an endless stretch of road, get in. The video is as long as the song playing at the time. Just pretend it's not on YouTube. The drive ended in St. Paul, at the Covington Inn- a floating bed and breakfast. Liz, the inn keeper, had started off as a waitress there years ago when it doubled as a restaurant, and ended up buying and running the place herself. On a boat. Amazing. Since there were two empty rooms, she upgraded my room for no charge to the Master's Quarters, which includes the whole deck! I spent the night with a Bombay Sapphire Gin Martini (that one's for you, Dan!), and books and paper and was probably smiling like a fool. But in the darkness of the night on the Mississippi River, who cares?


The first stop after leaving the Inn was Ax Man. I was once told to go there without much information, and now pass on the same advice to you. That's the scene of today's picture. Before going to Minneapolis it was worth visiting some of the vintage and resale shops around Selby and Snelling. St. Paul may not have as much going on, but there's some treasures. That being said, once I got to Minneapolis and went a bit through it's neighborhoods, I started falling in love with it. I won't bother with a city tour since I don't have enough knowledge of it anyway, but go! Walk through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, even if it's a hundred degree day. I read the stones to get some wisdom and walked the bridge to get some exercise. There was so much I couldn't do because the car was overpacked and overflowing, and there was no room for Anzie. Since we were meeting the next day, this was a problem for her. Even though the plan for that night was wearing my brand new elastic band shorts and ordering a whole pizza to rest on my belly (the pure joy), Ecopolitan stopped me and instead I had an incredible raw taco pizza. Check out their menu for inspiration.

Part 2 of the post has 2 people, (plus the 5 kids, puppies, and kittens in the back of the soccer van, between the bags) so please do continue above.