Vacation

Adventure Time

Posted on May 29, 2016 in Vacation | 0 comments

Every year I head to DC to run in the Race for Hope to benefit brain cancer. This was our second year running in memory rather than celebration. It was a rainy day and a lot of folks had conflicts, but we were still out in force and will continue to be so. On the running front, I’d injured myself on my bike a month or so prior and was walking with a limp – no sub-19 (the usual goal) this year – was a nice walk, though.

Prior to the race, Dad informed me that he’d like to get rid of Mom’s car. He was no longer using it, but couldn’t bring himself to sell it. As my first cross-country trip was a bit abbreviated due to weather and park closures (NPS strike), I was eager to cross the country again. We only had a single car and I sometimes disappear for weekends for biking things. While I drive maybe once a week, it couldn’t hurt to have a second vehicle so I committed to taking it.

The nature of my work allows me to be just about anywhere in the world as long as I have a laptop, a handful of devices, and internet. The original goal was to camp the whole way to save a few bucks and work in coffee shops. Due to the work and traveling necessary, and camping rates, that didn’t really work out too well. I’d get to campsites by dark, which is no fun – part of the camping experience is to enjoy the place. Setting up in the dark, eating in the dark, etc., and then waking up to work and figure out your day… It was less than ideal. Besides, campsites in the western half of the country are mostly still closed for the season. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, with hotels.com I was able to find enclosed spaces with internet everywhere I wanted to be for roughly $55/night. Versus the $20-$40 to tent camp? It was a no-brainer.

Before leaving, I made a rough plan of where I wanted to go. That gave me a route, which I built on roadtrippers.com. I followed that for the most part, but the real planning was done day by day as I figured out how tired I was, how much work I had, when that work had to be completed by, what there was to see, and what I could realistically drive without killing myself. The site was super awesome, works on computers and mobile, and integrates with Waze. I couldn’t have asked for much more from a free service.

I won’t bore you with the details of each stop, but you’re welcome to browse the daily schedules.

Day 1 – DC to Baltimore – Race for Hope, spending night w/ Dad and Sis on business trip.
Day 2 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh – Breakfast w/ Dad and Sis, Washington Monument (MD), Giant Quarter, Log Church, Fort Ligonier, Keystone State Park.
Day 3 – Pittsburgh to Cleveland – Primanti Brothers and Heinz History Museum.
Day 4 – Cleveland to Detroit – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, A Christmas Story House, Lake View Cemetery, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 5 – Detroit to “Chicago” – Heidelberg Project, Belle Isle, Elmwood Cemetery, Eastern Market, Shinola, Indiana Dunes.
Day 6 – “Chicago” to Minneapolis – Michael Jackson Home, Robie House, Cloud Gate, Lakefront Trail, The Old Fashioned, WI Capitol, Babcock Hall Dairy, Pink Elephant, Orange Moose.
Day 7 – Minneapolis (rest day) – Grand Rounds Trail, Minnehaha Falls.
Day 8 – Minneapolis to Badlands – Jolly Green Giant, Sioux Falls, Corn Palace, Al’s Oasis.
Day 9 – Badlands to Custer – Minuteman Visitor Center, Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile Silo, Wall Drug, Chapel in the Hills, Mount Rushmore.
Day 10 – Custer to Greybull – Black Hills National Forest, Devil’s Tower, Bighorn National Forest.
Day 11 – Greybull to West Yellowstone – Buffalo Bill Dam, Yellowstone National Park.
Day 12 – West Yellowstone to Portland – USS Hawkbill, Craters of the Moon, Mural of Pennies.

The car itself was a trooper. It didn’t drink any fluids, did pop on O2 sensor around 1/3 of the way (can be ignored, but since fixed), the oil looks perfectly clean, and I got about 22mpg. I was expecting better, but I did have luggage, a bike on the roof (I did bike a lot of places), the O2 sensor could have hurt efficiency a bit, and let’s face it, the car had 135k miles.

It was an awesome trip, I’m so thankful that I was able to do it, and I can’t wait to do more.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Maryland is the worst. East coast mentality is so east coast. Seems to altogether disappear once you hit Western PA.
  • Pittsburgh is a pretty cool place. Lots of history, a tough demeanor, but everyone was really pleasant. Was surprised to see how much was invented there and how responsible the city was for the growth of our nation.
  • Cleveland had nothing going for it. It was cheap so that was cool. Had lunch and a pretty serious bike repair done for a combined $8.50.
  • Detroit is a very cool town. I know we all joked about buying blocks back when they were for sale for nothing, but we really should have. It’s still mostly a ghost town, but the infrastructure is there, those blocks are now all gone, the people were super friendly (folks in “the hood” would say hello to me from their stoops as I passed, clad in spandex). Young people are flocking. I’m not sure the jobs are there yet, but for someone who telecommutes it’s got a lot of draw if they could do something about those winters.
  • Indiana could go away. My second time passing through it and it’s really got nothing going on.
  • Chicago is always a nice stop. I think I’ve seen the Cloud Gate a half dozen times now. Never gets old. And that lake shore… So nice.
  • There might not be a more friendly place than Wisconsin. It’s almost painful. Mmm cheese and ice cream.
  • I’d been to Minneapolis before, but this was my first time actually seeing it. It’s got a lot going for it. No wonder it ranks really high on all those internet lists, but similar to Detroit – that winter.
  • Not much to say about South Dakota. The woman were all oddly attractive. Young and old.
  • Wyoming is cold. Unexpected. Apparently it’s the second highest state so that makes sense. I’m talking 20 degrees at night. I stayed in a super cool historic hotel in Greybull. Basically had a full apartment for like $50.
  • Idaho is amazingly beautiful no matter where you cross it, but so darned empty. I didn’t know they had volcanic fields there and didn’t expect to see the backside of the Tetons.
  • Oregon is home so I blasted through it in the dark. I’ve got plenty of time to see all it offers.
  • You can make it from Yellowstone to Portland in a day.
  • REI is the bomb. Apparently they used a faulty glue on my 10 year old tent for a totally unimportant piece. I took it in to see if they could reglue it, but instead they gave me a brand new tent. Not what I was looking for, but that’s their policy and why they deserve all your camping business.
  • This country is large. There’s so damned much to see. I’ve now crossed it twice. One of the more difficult things in planning is making those choices that eliminate other possibilities. You simply can’t hit it all. I could easily see needing maybe another six crossings to see all I’d want to see. Time to get planning!
  • I’ve now seen where Trump supporters live.

Adventure Time Planning

Posted on Apr 26, 2016 in Vacation | 7 comments

This time next week I’ll be heading home from DC. I’m inheriting my mother’s car (early 2000s Toyota RAV4) and rather than pay to ship it, why not use it as a chance to see the US again?  Heck, it’s been almost three years since I made the 3000 mile trek; I’m totally due.

My father will be delivering the car to the annual 5k we run (I’ll be walking this year – injuries… bummer) in my mom’s honor/in support of brain cancer. He’ll be bringing it packed with the road bike I had purchased for his place following my mother’s passing (I need to sell it and the Portland Craigslist will do a much better job). I’ll combine the car and bike with a bunch of stuff that I’m bringing and be ready to spend a week or two on the road – camping, working, riding, driving.

Camping

This bit worries me the most. Will I find camping along the way? Will it be warm enough if I take the route I had originally planned (northern through the Yellowstone)? Is camping a dumb idea I should bail on and instead stick to cheap motels? Should I go for a more southern route?

Working

Free wifi has got to be pretty abundant across America. If I plan my days appropriately this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Mobile hotspot + libraries are always a good fallback. I’ve scheduled some vacation anyway just in case I need it, but I’m hopeful I won’t. I have pretty regular meetings three days a week so those days my schedule will be pretty fixed to traditional hours and I’ll need a reliable connection so motels are looking good there. Other than that, anything goes – my work can be done pretty much at any time of the day.

Riding

Thanks to the internet I should be able to find some pretty solid rides everywhere I go. If nothing is published for wherever I may find myself, a quick look at a map should give me an idea of what’s possible. I picked up a Garmin Varia for a little added safety since I’m sure to be on roads that are less cycling friendly than I’m used to (hopefully lower traffic though).

Driving

I’m not sure how I’ll combine the above with managing to drive across the country, but that’ll be part of the fun. Every day will be an adventure. Ride now? Drive now? Work now? Drive to where? Where will I sleep? Where can I get a shower? Do I need a shower? Where will I work? Laundry day? I theoretically have until June 1st to get home, but I certainly don’t want to live on the road that long and if it proves to not be as fun as expected I can always hightail it back. My estimate is 10ish days.

Tips? Advice? Comments? Things I must see? Things I must avoid?

Catching our breath

Posted on Sep 8, 2015 in General, Vacation | 1 comment

Fin.

With our arrival home at 11pm last night, Heather and I completed an absolutely insane final three months of summer. We still have another visitor spending a week with us at the end of the month, but for all intents and purposes, we’re finally able to kick back and relax.

June – Tour de June. Enough said.

July 4 – Annual block party in front of our house. People came from blocks around us, Voodoo parked out front, and the Huangs dropped by from Beaverton.

July 6-7 – Friend from VA spends a couple of nights with us en route to hiking Mt. Rainier.

July 17-19 – Whirlwind tour of Disneyland. We saw absolutely everything. In such a short amount of time, it was absolutely grueling. I’d need the entire week to recover. Pics.

July 25 – Warren came to town for breakfast and shopping.

July 27 – Won my first bicycle race. Mountain biking no less.

August 4-12 – Dad came to town. Many a donut were consumed and we paid a visit to the northern side of Mt. St. Helens.

August 15-24 – Vacation in Hawaii (Big Island). Lots of fun, lots of sun. Volcanos and beaches. Pics.

August 25 – After 11 years, I left QA behind. I’m now a product manager for the software I’ve been testing the past few years. I’m busy as hell, but it’s fun and refreshing.

August 28-30 – Hood to Coast. 198 mile running relay. Ran 17 miles in sub-7 pace. For my non-running self, that was tough. We placed 9th in the Open Mens division despite nearly being Coed (one female away). Heather volunteered and got stuck standing in gale force winds and rain for five hours. She’s amazing. Made a bunch of new friends. Pics.

September 3 – Tuna fishing! Awesome day. Came home with ~50lbs of tuna. Pic. Review.

September 4-7 – Quick trip to VA Beach for Morgan and Kelly’s wedding. Was able to see Linden and crew as well.

We’re both sick now, our cats barely know us, and we’re way behind on all our home projects. It’ll be really good to finally get some rest and get back in our routines. We’re both very much looking forward to it.

Cycling side note: To top it all off, I’ve an additional pounds to twelve show for two months of not really riding. With cyclocross having started this past weekend, the timing is pretty bad. I think I’m going to forego the first race series in an attempt to get my legs back and my belly under control. Can I shock myself back into shape in a month? We’ll find out October 10.

 

Montreal on my mind

Posted on Jul 29, 2013 in Vacation | 0 comments

Notre Dame

A prompt trip recap? Unheard of! Yes, my Japanese recap is still in note form… I went there in 2005.

I went to Montreal this past weekend for what was the final bachelor party in my group for the foreseeable future. There’s still one to go, but, well, Jakedog. To recount the trips over the years: Vegas (twice, I think? They tend to blur together), New Orleans (twice, including mine), Louisville, Miami… I have to be missing some because there are more than six of us. Oh well. Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of travel and debauchery from these over the past few years, and while I’m sad to see it end, I’ll also welcome the extra few $k in my bank account each year. Someone did the math on the total cost of them all over the years and it was fairly sickening. We’ll just say I’d have been close to that mid-90s 911 I’ve been wanting.

Anyway, Montreal. Not a place I’d visit otherwise (saying that after visiting… before visiting, I would have probably planned a trip at some point). I think the most accurate description we came up for it was “Pittsburgh with better looking women.” It was dirty, there was only about an hour’s worth of charm, meth-heads down every alley… Not to say I didn’t have a good time, but it wasn’t the pretty little slice of Europe that I had expected.

We stayed at an absolutely horrible hotel, ate some great food (it does have that going for it) at Kantapia (Korean quick lunch), Place Milton (cafe/brunch), Les Deux Gamins (French dinner), and Gibby’s (steakhouse). There were a few other spots sprinkled in, but they’re not worth mentioning. I would recommend all that I listed.

Hanging with Seth Meyers

The morning after the first night, which was a quiet one since only a handful of the full crew were in town at that time, I went for a run. Made my way over to Old Montreal to see Notre Dame, the port, some old buildings, and was able to add a few flowers to my collection [1 & 2]. I love running in new cities. A lot. Later that day, we hiked up Mont Royal, which was very cool. A pretty steep hike, but it offered a panoramic view of the city just a couple blocks from downtown. [Gallery]

The rest of the trip was partying and laying in bed to recover. Good times, as always.

Some parting thoughts on Montreal:

  • The fact that they speak French and English is very weird. Often times, folks will greet you in both languages (“Bonjour good morning” [no comma]). I didn’t know if they’d rather me butcher my way through a conversation in French [like they would in Paris] or just get it done in English. I opted for English most of the time unless I knew the conversation would be a simple one (cashiers, ticket checkers at the airport, etc.). I wish they didn’t speak English at all because French is so beautiful and would add an air of sexiness to the place. Note: They do protect the French language, but I approve of protecting it more.
  • Aside from the few downtown spots mentioned, I didn’t see anything of the city. That said, a quick bit of research said there wasn’t much. I feel safe in telling you that Montreal is not a place to schedule a vacation around and it’s too expensive (see my Facebook post regarding the countless surcharges and taxes on my airfare) for a quick weekend.
  • I did have an Alexander Keith’s IPA per Chris‘ recommendation. It was good, but reminded me more of a higher quality American pilsner than anything else.
  • The women are beautiful, and not only the strippers (they were too). The ordinary woman has some European sexy flair to her that’s difficult to describe.

Happy marriage, Craig! It was a blast to see you off.

… it will also be a blast to see off this 10+ pounds I’ve added since breaking my wrist. Race to lose 15 STARTING NOW!

Vacation: Bahamian Cruise and Weekend in Charleston

Posted on Jan 26, 2013 in Vacation | 5 comments

Better late than never.

Way back before the holidays, Heather and I met up with my family in Charleston to embark on a 5-night cruise of the Bahamas. It was a well-needed getaway as she had burnt all her vacation for the year back in April for our honeymoon; it was a long year for her.

Our Boat (the little one)

When folks ask how the cruise went, my first reply seemed to put it best “It was good to see the family.” I’ve been on a number of cruises before and knew what to expect with a Carnival cruise, but was not prepared for the clientele who boarded in Charleston, the age of the ship, or the state of the Bahamas.

On the clientele, well, there were more than your average number of folks who were merely going away on a 5-day buffet. Boarding the ship, several families had to stop, sweating, in order to catch their breath for the walk up the next meager incline of the gangway. Everyone was pleasant, but I’d be lying if I said cruising from Charleston won’t depress you a bit.

Onto the ship, the Carnival Fantasy. While I did know it was Carnival’s oldest ship, the fact that it received a full renovation in 2008 had me hopeful. Aside from the flat-screen TVs they put in the rooms, I’m not sure what the renovation consisted of as the entire boat was clearly 1990-esque. Poor appointments, tacky decor, ungh…

And then the Bahamas. Or The Bahamas? No matter. While I’m sure there are a number of great islands amongst this small nation, Nassau and Freeport are not them. As usual, I tend to trot off the touristy path and really get to know a place.

Katie in Nassau

In Nassau, we discovered absolute poverty just blocks from the diamonds and other overpriced “deals” that come with a cruise port. We did find a beach where we had a few beers, enjoyed a Cuban, and had some jerk chicken straight from a BBQ/barrel, and that was truly awesome, but then we began to walk. Slums. Shortly after being offered drugs by a pair of guys on a scooter, we were invited to a family BBQ. I’m sure it would have been a great time, but we were exploring and kept walking. Worth noting because people of the islands are damned friendly with the exception being those who are trying to scam tourists (here it was a set of guys saying we NEEDED to get round-trip tickets on our boat taxi).

The Old and the Restless

In Freeport, we boarded a “bus” (completely beat ancient minivan) to the tourist-trap called Port Lucaya.  Grabbed some decent food and then made our way to the beach to catch some rays. Freeport is a rather sad state of affairs with very clear poverty being the result of years of being taking advantage of [presumably] the white man. Massive amounts of industry have gobbled up and polluted the land. Hilariously, I think the largest property owner was the United States, which had a massive port for shipping and ship repair. The scammers here were again the cab drivers who insisted that we pay them the full return fare when we arrived and they’d pick us up at a special spot and at a special time (they were trying to beat waiting in line with other cabs). Knowing their schemes, I declined, which clearly he wasn’t expecting. In the end, we received a free ride back to the boats because they never asked us for money. Clearly a broken system, clearly a lot of scamming going on, but I wasn’t about to correct their mistake when they were trying to pull one over on us.

So… the Bahamas left a very bad taste in our mouths. If you’re okay with laying on a bright, beautiful beach, while what basically appeared to be slavery is occurring all around you, it’s a great place for you. We’re not and will likely never be going back as there are far too many other bright and sunny places out there.

Heather and beer

Heather and a Kalik on Junkanoo Beach, Nassau
[Click for full gallery]

And then Charleston. After the family hopped back into their car for their short trip home, we found ourselves alone in this cool little town. In our pair of days before boarding the plane for home, we basically checked out the whole of downtown and ate some amazing food. Pro tip: Go to Pearlz and get some Happy Hour specials. It was a great time and a nice change of pace from the cruise.

Overall, the trip was a good one. Again, it was great to see the family, and it allowed us to not travel for the holidays and instead spend it with her family. Two birds, two stones, but smaller stones than they could have been.