Monday, September 27, 2010

"Do you have an appointment? ... Do you have a friend up there?"

Wake up San Francisco!  We have finally arrived in the home of Danny Tanner and Rebecca Donaldson = success. 

First of all, a big shout out to Mr. Rohrkemper for hooking us up in the nicest hotel we have stayed in.  The Westin St. Francis in Union Square was AMAZING.  Chandeliers, marble, and bell-hops; not exactly LEED Gold but we’ll gladly take it.  After a long drive after a long day our hotel room was heavenly.  We jumped on our beds for a bit with excitement like eight-year-old girls then hit the hay so we could conquer the city bright and early.

We didn’t exactly have the early start we were hoping for, but with two whole days to explore San Francisco and beds that were too far too comfortable to leave, we easily justified the extra rest.  Finally setting out around eleven, we headed straight for the food (shocking, we know) at Fishermans Wharf and snagged some fresh clam chowder in a home made sourdough bread bowl.  After enjoying our soup with a view of the marina, we headed towards Ghiradelli Square for, you guessed it, more food. 

Ghiradelli Square was delicious.  The chocolate aroma alone fills you up, but we didn’t let that stop us.  By now you have probably noticed we enjoy food, so this portion of SF was AWESOME.  We each got a scoop of ice cream (the one scoop was so big we needed bowls to hold the part that wouldn’t stay on the cone, hoorah).

Next, we put our professional caps on and hit up some local businesses that fit each of our perspective industries, snagging business cards and mingling with the receptionists.  We stumbled upon SB Architects and were very pleasantly surprised with the interior space, but not as much as Gensler – INCREDIBLE!  Although the doorman tried to stop us from heading up, we managed our way into the elevator and chatted up the receptionist, who told us the history of the coffee warehouse that housed the modern-day offices.

C was stoked to learn that her dream firm, Edelman, had a San Francisco office, and that it was just a few blocks away from Gensler on Market Street.  After our hard work, we relaxed with some happy hour treats before heading back to the hotel.   Our legs screaming at us for the miles of (CRAZY) up and downhill walking, J headed inside as C went shopping at some Union Square boutiques.

The next morning, ravenous, we visited Chinatown for some delicious authentic Chinese cuisine as C oogled the beautiful jade jewelry lining all of the store windows.  From there, we set off for the famous Lombard Street, housing eight tight, winding turns in a single block.  I’m not sure how, but we somehow managed to get our out-of-shape asses up the seemingly 75 degree sloped hill and were greeted by an outstanding view of the city.   After being passed by a young, blind woman and an elderly woman (with cane), we realized just out lazy / out of shape we really are... :( Tired and sweaty, we headed back down the hill towards the Wharf, found the nearest Starbucks and plopped down for some iced drinks to cool us off.

Apparently missing the Oktoberfest festivities that had been promised to us by streetlight advertisements, we arrived at Pier 48 to find… nothing.  Agreeing that we did NOT want to do the Lombard Street hike again, we waited for over an hour to catch a cable car, completing C’s first touristy visit around San Francisco.  Four full cable cars later with zero success, we grouchily braved the mountainous terrain back to the hotel.

In an attempt to kick our butts into gear, we wandered Union Square, stopping in almost every shop we saw, but not before we snagged some happy hour delicacies from an Italian bar.  Too many purchases later, we got a sushi recommendation and immediately stopped in for a late dinner. 

We’re SO sad to be leaving San Fran L  See you in SoCal!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"You're from Australia. What does a platypus look like...?!"

One dozen states later, we arrived in sunny California (even though it was dark out by the time we actually entered the state...)  Crossing the border to California apparently is a bigger deal than entering any other state.  Border control (aka the agricultural checkpoint) prohibits bringing any fruits or vegetables with you.  Jess apparently didn’t understand the question when asked if we had any produce and simply replied, “…we have cheese…”  We actually had just bought $90 worth of fresh veggies and fruit in attempt to eat healthier and save some cash.  Whoops... 

The next two days were full of driving.  We stopped in Crescent City, CA first.  Our hotel selection there was, well, not the best.  Our judgment was so poor that C made J check the closet and under the bed for murderers before chugging a bottle of wine in hopes of educing a coma for rest.  Unfortunately only one of us slept well.  Thankfully there was a Starbucks right next door to wake us up for a long drive after a bad nights sleep.  Highway 1 was full of fog.  We were not pleased.  In the morning we drove through Redwood National Forest full of, you guessed it, more fog (oh, and really big trees).  The fog / tree combo was actually pretty cool to look at.

Our second stop on our driving spree was Ft. Bragg, CA.  After a long day of curving around cliffs (amazing, although C seemed a tad uneasy no idea why) we decided to explore the cute historic downtown region.  Getting our excise in we walked the mile to the shops.  Apparently we missed the memo that all the shops close at 5 pm.  So we of course grabbed a beer and onion rings at the local brewery.  Walking home, we were so full and without any entertainment we decided to spend the night bonding over Keeping Up With The Kardashians and introducing Jess to the world of Jersey Shore (J is even more worried about humanity now). 

The next day we arrived in Napa!  Jess (and I’m sure all of you ID girls) had a design-gasm as we walked through the front doors of our AWESOME hotel after realizing that it was certified LEED gold, complete with meters in the building that showed the hotel’s water and electric use. Woo!  After a spectacular dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, we hit the hay, post watching the brand new episode of Law & Order: SVU, resting up for a long day of wine tasting.

Bright and early, the Platypus Tours bus arrived at our hotel, picking us up as we began our journey to the first of four exclusive wineries in the Napa region. Biale Vineyards was our first stop where we sampled the famous Black Chicken zinfandel and learned a lot about different kinds of grapes. 

Our second stop was the Tudal Family Winery, our favorite stop of the day. We enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch set up by our awesome tour guide, John, and heard the rich family history of the vineyard.   Matt, the founders’ grandson, poured us varieties of their tasty red wines as Jess became quick friends with the adorable, 3-legged Cheyenne.

Third stop: Ballentine Vineyards – what a treat!  In addition to a delicious wine tasting, we were also lucky enough to participate in a barrel tasting from our awesome vineyard guide, David.  He also explained to us how expensive barrels can be, and why they acquire the wine-stained color in the center portions.  Then, we got to sample RAW grape juice hot off the press, a first-time experience for both us and John.  Feeling very… content… we hopped back on the tour bus, dug into a platter of cheese and crackers and took off. Napa’s only Kosher winery, Hagafen Cellars, was our last stop on the tour.   

In true dramatic fashion, John raced the wine tasting bus back to Napa so that our New Hampshire friends could catch the last ferry back to San Francisco.  BARELY making it on time, the eleven of us cheered them on as they raced onto the boat in the nick of time.

Being lame, we ate again at our hotel’s restaurant for dinner before setting off into the sunset, but not without our Starbucks, of course.

San Francisco-bound!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Portland, you sexy beast!"

Travel. Travel. Travel.  

After a long day of, you guessed it, traveling, we arrived in Portland ahead of schedule.  Luckily for us, Kelly had gotten out of work early so we didn’t have to improv nap in Casper.  She gave us a tour of her apartment and we set up camp.  Next, we met up with some of the other Oregonian interns and participated in a bedazzling party (yes, really) and watched chick flics while munching on yummy guacamole, beer and cupcakes.  We scoped out downtown Portland and sampled delicious Oregon-made beer at Rogue.

The next day, we headed west and checked out the gorge, Mount Hood and just a few of the beautiful waterfalls along the scenic byway.   The hiking trails made the waterfalls accessible at higher elevations, so, naturally, we climbed them, crossed architecturally astounding bridges and got soaked.  On the way back into Portland, we stopped a family-run produce stand and sampled delicious pears and Naked Winery’s wine tasting.

Upon arriving in Portland, we found a sports bar, and, to our surprise, other Michigan State Fans, where we repped MSU in our green shirts.  Beer and nachos kept us sane during the game, until Dantonio and the Spartans pulled the most amazing, ballsiest play, winning the game in overtime.  Needless to say, celebration was in order, so we headed back to Rogue and sampled more Oregonian beer and appetizers.

Waking up on cloud nine, we headed downtown to watch Kelly and the other Oregonian interns participate in a 5K run through the city as part of a Susan G. Komen event.  Post-race, we frequented the famous Waffle Window, where we sampled some of Portland’s finest gourmet waffles.  Yum!

Next stop: Cannon Beach. Incredible. Incredibly windy.  Our first view of the west coast coastline was AMAZING and we happily frolicked in the Pacific Ocean and sand. Jess was in heaven soaking up the sun and taking pictures despite getting completely drenched.  But hey, at least she got the shot.  Fascinated by a jellyfish that washed shore, Jess embarked on an excursion to find more sea creatures and managed to come across a few crabs (dead and alive) and a sand dollar (definitely dead).  Success.

Totally exhausted and disheveled, we headed into town to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner, where we shoved our faces with delicious Thai food until we couldn’t move.  Back at Kelly’s, we opened a bottle of wine (what’s new?) and Jess carved a pumpkin with a guitar-themed design to add some fall décor to the apartment.

The next morning we set out to conquer our last state of the trip, California. Until then!

Monday, September 20, 2010


On the road, early, again?!  We’re really getting good at this whole driving-across-the-country thing.  This time, we set off to leave of love for nature behind in search of some city living.

We spent the night in Spokane (pronunciation: spo-CAN, for all of us non-native Washingtonians).  The city didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment, so we explored the beautiful Gonzaga campus, which had a very MSU-esque feel, but on a much smaller scale, of course.  Next, we headed to the enormous Spokane Valley Mall, where we both made a few purchases J  (C is determined to turn J into a shopper before the trip is over!)

Turning from irresponsible spenders into responsible adults, we did laundry in the hotel’s “laundry facility,” which consisted of one washer and one dryer for all 87 rooms…  Thankfully, we recycled the “pizza and wine night” idea and were content being reconnected to the world with free WiFi and bad TV.

The next morning, we traveled to Seattle and were greeted with an oh-so-expected constant rain and overcast skies.   We attempted to explore the famous Pike Place Market, but not before grabbing some Starbucks, of course!  Unfortunately, the market was closed, however, the Starbucks barista pointed us in the direction of some AMAZING sushi.  After dinner, we quickly realized that Seattle is BY FAR home to the most attractive men we’ve ever seen in our entire lives as Christine got her bearings around the city.

The next day, we returned to Pike Place and were overwhelmed with the amount of shops and stores the market had to offer.  The bouquets of flowers were amazingly beautiful and such a pleasant surprise.  Then the clouds parted as a choir of angels descended from Heaven to guide us home into the first Starbucks store ever.  Grabbing beverages, gift cards, mugs and whatever else we tourists could get our hands on, we explored Post Alley and more of downtown Seattle.  We had another divine meal – this time some Seattle chowder from a local restaurant right near the market. The constant ca-caw of birds and groups of pigeons scared Christine away, and, post-lunch, we watched the famous fish throwing in Pike Place and explored the Gum Wall in Post Alley.

Leaving downtown, we walked to the Space Needle, while getting completely drenched and crabby, as the locals failed to notice that precipitation was at all present. Seriously.  The view from the Space Needle was gloomy and gray, per usual, but the 360 degree view of Seattle was definitely memorable… as was the horrifying 43-second elevator ride each way…

To ease Christine’s stomach and to get Jess a much-needed pick-me-up, we returned to Starbucks, where, ironically, we found an interior design segment being filmed inside the store.  Once the caffeine was introduced into our bloodstreams, we roamed the city, again, doing some shopping while Christine didn’t complain about the weather (thank you, Jon Ganci.)  C tried to cheer Jess up with some mindless geography trivia… fail.

After roaming the city seemingly forever, we finally found Romy, a cute boutique where we both made purchase (win: Christine).  In the same building just happened to be a P.F. Changs, where we got delicious take-out dinners and were stunned when Christine received a hilariously strange voicemail, providing much of our evening entertainment.  The cliffhanger ending of Covert Affairs left us wanting more… guess we’ll just have to wait until next summer to see if Ben survives being shot.

The next morning, we cleaned our disaster of a hotel room and walked one block to the nearest Starbucks for one last Seattle coffee fix.  While the beverages were delicious, the lovely apples gave Christine an allergic reaction as we proceeded to hit the road. Not. Cool.

We decided to take a quick, uneventful pit stop at Mt. St. Helens on the way, not realizing that the park wasn’t open for tourists to roam.  On a good note, we were impressed by the state’s green efforts.  The public transportation system was easily accessible and almost everywhere we went had separate containers for compost items, recyclables and trash.  Our hotel even eliminated travel-sized amenities and opted for bulk-sized dispensers that could be easily refilled.  Trees and flowers were abundant, giving a suburban charm to the city.

Memorable Quotes:

J: “What do you think that guy is doing?” (pointing to statue)
C: “Hailing a cab.”
J: “He’s Chief Seattle, who the city is named after…”
C: “Oh, I guess no cab then”

C: (gasps)
J: “that guy was so cute”
C: “I was looking at the dog…”
J: “that guy had a dog?!”
C: “that dog had a guy?!”

Little girls from car window: “You’re pretty.”
C&J not caring which of us they were talking to: “THANKS!”
C: “I like this city…”

C: “three o’clock.”
J: “I think he’s gay, Christine…”
C: “no, the one on the laptop…”
J: “there was a laptop? I was too busy staring at Robert Plant’s new CD.”

Starbucks worker (Spokane): “Hey! You girls are in a much better mood than yesterday!”

C: “um…”
J: “...yep.” (moves to line with cute cashier)

C: “yum.”
J: “tattoos?”
C&J: “yep.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"'Odors attract bears.' We should shower in the morning."

Believe it or not, we were on the road early.  Thank goodness for a speed limit of 75mph and no cops because we BOOKED IT to Montana's Glacier National Park, arriving around 5:30 pm (our all time record).  We checked into our motel room and could not believe our luck; it was located right inside the park next to the gift shops, restaurant, and ice cream shop (yay J).  Best of all we had a view of Lake MacDonald and mountains from our window.  That night we celebrated our punctuality and explored our surroundings by checking out the sales, getting ice cream, and ate dinner at a homey restaurant in West Glacier.  Our little motel room had two bedrooms, but no TV, so naturally we shared a bed and watched DVDs Jess brought on Christine’s laptop. 

The next morning we woke up early again (score!) and set out to explore the beautiful Glacier National Park.  In the car we took the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which stretches 50 miles from the west side of the park to the east side.  The drive to the east side of the park through Logan’s Pass took us about two and a half hours, thanks to construction and a mysterious medical emergency that required helicopter assistance (scary).  Upon reaching the east side, we of course checked out those gift shops and grabbed some food (I swear we did look at mother nature at one point during the day).

Going-to-the-Sun path
Up in the clouds!

Let me backtrack for a second to describe this drive.  It is not your normal drive across a national park.  It’s up and down mountains that were carved by glaciers.  This road is a little two-lane road that drops straight off on one side.  But don’t worry, that side has small rocks as a “guardrail” so your car will probably flip over as you fall to your death (this would fulfill Christine’s dream of dying in a dramatic fashion).   Along the way there are areas you can pull over to let other cars pass, explore hikes, read about glaciers, enjoy the amazing view, or properly view a passing grizzly (according the proper bear protocol).   Fortunately, we did not meet any grizzly bears during our stay since we didn’t drop fifty bucks on bear spray.

MacDonald Falls [UNEDITED]

Our first adventure of the park, besides the drive, was MacDonald Falls.  There were stairs that led down to the falls, yet in our opinion, they could have been closer.  So, ignoring the signs about endangering ourselves and others, we hopped the railing and walked around on the falls.  The view was breathtaking, although not as nice as a certain cubicle in Columbus. 

...immediately after J told C she wasn't a good swimmmer...

Next stop was a two-mile hike to St. Mary’s Falls.  While walking to the waterfall we attempted to be as loud as possible, since the bear pamphlet warned us that chatter would usually annoy the bears (and our fellow hikers) enough to keep them away.  Once at the falls we again attempted to stray from the path.  This time, however, NPS happened to beat us to it with a sign that warned us to stay away.  Reluctantly we listened (it was large and bright red so we figured it was more than a suggestion this time).  The hike back to Casper was not so easy.

St. Mary Falls

Our last big exploration was a waterfall located west of the Weeping Wall (this huge stretch of rock along the road that water runs down).  This time we also bent the rules in our favor and climbed all over the rocks.  The difference during this climb, however, was that Jess actually felt daring enough to attempt to climb to rocks in the middle of the falls.  Her trusty camera draped around her neck minus a lens cap and moccasins to ensure a solid grip on slippery rocks, she ventured up the rocks and quickly realized this was a poor choice indeed as her feet slipped.  So attempting to back track she shakily made it onto solid rock after a few scary steps and a much dirtier lens (whoops).

After our many waterfall-seeking-excursions (apparently if there are waterfalls in a state, we will find them), we headed to West Glacier for the fanciest mac and cheese we’ve ever had.  Officially worn out from our many adventures, we hit the hay.

At exactly 7:05 am the next morning, Jess woke up to greet the 7:11 am sunrise.  Unfortunately, I’m not what you would call a morning person and logic tends to be just out of reach for me during this time of day (feel free to insert your rude joke about my scattered behavior here) so I walked to the lake wearing moccasins, sweatpants (of course the Grinch boxers underneath), a tie-dye Mongo shirt and a zip-up hoodie.  Well the view was unbelievable from the end of the dock I sat on.  But the dock was rather wet and it was 35 degrees outside.  I sat there for about an hour with no sun in sight thanks to the picturesque mountains, so having enough I grabbed the largest coffee Glacier National Park sold and attempted to warm up before we packed up the car and hit the road to Spokane, Washington.  Until next time J

Memorable Quotes:


C & J simultaneously: “It’s fun. It’s exciting. IT’S FANTASTIC!”

J: “it’s just insulting to my work!” (as a single bug splatters on windshield immediately after Jess cleans it)

J: “… I’m just going to have them killed.”

C: “if I’m going to die, I want it to at least be in an exciting way.”
J: “ARE YOU GOING NOW?!” (about running across 4 lanes of traffic on the highway)
C: “I’m not trying to die…I’m just saying”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Why did we massacre the Indians for this shit land, anyway?!"

Why, oh why, Wyoming?!

Well, this morning did not start off on a good note.  After prepping for a 5 hour driving day, Google informed us that, instead, we had almost 10 glorious hours of travel time from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park. Kill us.

A few CD’s and many cows later, we entered Wyoming and couldn’t resist a spur-of-the-moment photo shoot on the (wide) open highway.

After mailing a few post cards and small gifts at a local post office, we really managed to piss off Clarice, the GPS, by hopping on the highway where she didn’t want us to.  A solid 15 minutes later, we were right back to where we started and, this time followed her directions.  For the first time EVER, C saw Jess in a bad mood, until we stopped for coffee, naturally.

And then the day went from bad to absolutely horrible.  We thought the road sign in Shoshone National Park was kidding when it warned motorcycles of the mud and snow (yes, snow) on the roads.  Needless to say, the joke was on us, and Casper’s pearly white paint was mud stained as the temperature dropped an impressive 50 degrees from the bottom of the mountain to the peak.  Making the best of the situation, we took some awesome shots of Grand Teton and the rest of the Teton Range as we approached Grand Teton National Park.

Jackson Hole temporarily lifted our spirits, until darkness fell and we were forced to drive through the treacherous Teton Pass in the mountains, crossing from Wyoming to Idaho to get to our … um… hotel.  White-knuckled Christine managed to keep Casper on the road as we maneuvered 90-degree turns on a 10% grade path. 

Finally reaching flat ground, we crossed back from Idaho to Wyoming onto Ski Hill Road… freaking Ski Hill Road.  Clarice informed us that we had reached our destination as we parked, in pitch black, next to a one-way dirt path that drove down into hell (cut to next scene where Jack the Ripper appears and kills us all.)  After we both panicked, C was on the verge of tears and J nearly lost her dinner, we called Lisa, who, thankfully, was able to Google the phone number for our hotel.  We chatted up Christina, the front desk attendant at the lodge, who informed us that the hotel has no signage, there are no road signs to help us identify the path and there are no other buildings near the hotel….

The winding, 90-degree turns continued, until we finally reached what turned out to be a ski lodge at the top of the mountain, where we found a winter wonderland.  Post check-in, we discovered that our frigid room didn’t have the heat on and that we were two hours outside of Yellowstone, our next “day trip” destination.  Here, Christine saw Jess in a bad mood for the second time in her life L  After perfecting our tag-team wine bottle opening skills, we were too tired and depressed to grab cups from the cooler.  Thankfully, we’re not documenting this entire trip.

The next morning, we ate breakfast as our friendly server, Terry, gave us some sightseeing tips for Yellowstone, after informing us that, at 8:30am, we were already “late” for the trip we had planned.  Shortly after, we got on the road and headed toward the West Yellowstone entrance.  First stop: Firehole Falls.

Firehole Falls
We climbed that!

Two words: absolutely. AMAZING.   We hiked (well, more like rock climbed) all the way down until we were eye-level with the waterfall.  After the sight took our breath away (well, I’m sure the hike probably helped with that too…) we snapped a zillion pictures as an audience gathered to see “those crazy girls” who had climbed down.  Back on flat land, we continued to explore the park, seeing bison, a moose, elk and pelicans.  Old Faithful, true to name, went off as expected.

Leaving Yellowstone, we further explored Grand Teton National Park, as we got closer to the mountains on a scenic drive around Yellowstone and Jenny Lakes.  Even more south, we explored the city of Jackson and grabbed dinner at a local tavern. Unfortunately, we forgot our cowboy boots and, thus, didn’t venture into the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.  Tear.

Bracing ourselves, we again conquered the Teton Pass, this time with J at the wheel, back to our temporary home in the mountains.  After some wine to calm our nerves, we proceeded to pass out, but, of course, not before seeing the thrilling end to Wild Wild West.

Tomorrow we’ll pass through state #9 of the trip as we arrive in Glacier National Park in Montana after a long day of driving.  See you soon!

Memorable quotes:

J:  “Why did we massacre the Indians over this shit land, anyway?!”

C: “What are things that are white?”
J: “Paper. Snow. A GHOST!”

C: “How does that happen? What is this doing here?  What is that car waiting for?”
J: “I don’t know. It’s like ‘oh, hey, you forgot your Taurus here.”

J: “…you sound SO ignorant right now…”

J: “it looks a lot better. You even can’t tell there’s grease in there.”

Store clerk: “Can I see your ID?  Can I see your ID? … Did I just ask you that twice?”

J: “it’s a literal roaring fire.”
C: (puts up hands as claws)  “rawr.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

"The gayest planet is BY FAR Uranus."

After a rousing one hour on the road, we were quickly distracted by the “World’s Only Corn Palace” and had to pull off the highway.  Unfortunately, we caught the end of the corn season as workers were stripping the building of its corncob exterior, but were able to get a sneak peek into next year’s design.

Of course, the corn made us hungry, so soon there after, we pulled off at a rest stop to concoct our picnic lunch. The gale force winds of flat, treeless, central South Dakota, however, didn’t cooperate, and neither did the fact that we forgot to pack plates.  Like true explorers, we made do, but ate in the car to avoid accidentally munching on one of the tumbleweeds passing by (yes, really).

Finally, the Badlands gave our eyes a break from the plains.  We took a scenic drive around the park and stopped frequently for hiking and photo breaks, without managing to a) fall to our deaths or b) get bitten by a rattlesnake (although apparently they’re prevalent).  Our favorite part was seeing the pink, yellow and blue area of the park; the colors were so vibrant it looked like they had been painted.  C was excited to spot a single prairie dog and bait him with Rainbow Goldfish, after zillions of signs along the way promised they would be there, only to turn left and see an entire field of them.

239487234823749238 signs later, we finally arrived at the jack-of-all-trades store, Wall Drug.  After scoping out the Native American souvenirs, spotting a T-Rex, catching some jackalope and grabbing some ice cream at the café, we were on the road again.

Once arriving in civilization, AKA Rapid City, we made a mental note to be more prepared with our sleeping situation and actually make hotel reservations in advance after being turned away at the first two hotels we came to with no vacancy.  Once settled into our suite, yes SUITE, we explored the quaint downtown historic area on Main Street.  Thanks to J’s keen eyesight, we found the Firehouse Brewery and had an awesome dinner complete with two varieties of delicious South Dakota beer.

The next morning we grabbed breakfast (yes, we know we eat a lot) and headed out to explore the Black Hills (and by explore, we mean driving around the park in sweats with our Starbucks coffee).  Putting our fat kid tendencies aside, we stopped to take pictures and climb the gorgeous rockscapes (and maybe a park sign or two…) lining the road.  Enter: Casper, the friendly, misunderstood Mercury Mariner that has valiantly chauffeured us from place to place along our journey (we would write out how we came up with the name, but would rather keep our dignity).

Still on the road, we drove past the disappointing Crazy Horse work-in-progress memorial monument.  The “fifth face” of Mt. Rushmore really was just a face. Next, we headed to the small town of Keystone in search of a rumored “7’2”, eyes of blue, size 13 in the shoe” cowboy that Linda had told us about.  Unable to find such a stud, and exercising extreme self-control by not shoving our faces with fudge and candy, we lifted our spirits by purchasing our very own pairs of Minnetonka moccasins.

Stoked for an afternoon of hiking around Mt. Rushmore, we ate a healthy lunch, dressed for the occasion, and packed a  “just in case” bag complete with water, snacks, sunscreen and a first aid kit (I hope you’re proud, mom).  Upon arriving, we quickly found out that our “hike” was .5 miles long on a paved path with railings… but, hey, at least we got to hang with the boys, George, TJ, Teddy and Abe, up-close and personal for a little.  Running to the gift shop for cover, a quick thunderstorm passed overhead, revealing an incredible, full double rainbow over the parking lot.  What a way to cap off our adventures in South Dakota!

We took advantage of Comfort Suites’ WiFi connection to situate our finances, upload pictures, make hotel reservations and, most importantly, order pizza.   Six pieces, a bottle (and a half…) of wine and torrential rains (complete with thunderstorm watch across half of the counties in South Dakota) later, we called it a night, still wondering what will happen to Laurence Fishburn’s character on the next episode of CSI and still wondering if, in fact, “Jackie Kennedy would never have had a camel toe.”

Until Wyoming!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"I thought The Badlands were scary...?"

Next stop: Sioux Falls, South Dakota!  (Jess wasn’t that thrilled at the sound of the town, but C convinced her it was worth it).  First stop – the Sioux Falls (yes, there really are waterfalls in South Dakota) where we found MORE mill ruins!  Who knew?  The Sioux Falls were carved out by the Big Sioux River and glaciers during the time of the last ice age.  The early inhabitants harnessed the power of the Falls, building a turbine house to aid in the milling process.

Post the photo extravaganza, we headed to the Bennett house to meet up with Linda, who took us on a beautiful nature walk on a local bike trail.  After seeing so many people engaging in physical activity in Minneapolis and again in Sioux Falls, we now realize why Michigan ranks as one of the most obese states…

…speaking of obesity, Linda and Vern spoiled us rotten, cooking us an INCREDIBLE dinner of tortilla soup, mozzarella sticks, stuffed mushrooms, taquitos, grilled chicken, steak, baked potatoes, corn, bread and salad, with cheesecake for dessert.  Once we were physically incapable of moving, Brett dragged us out for a beer at a lovely restaurant / bar / casino establishment, where we attempted to come to terms with how old we’re getting, and discussing the size of our respective colleges.  Turns out, yes, size does matter.

Waking up very well rested, and refueling with another smorgasbord meal from the Bennetts, we hit the road again, but not without stopping at C’s beloved Juice Stop, where we each grabbed a smoothie made from the nectar of the Gods.   Off we go to the opposite side of the state - more of SD to come! 

Minneapolis is DOPE!

Upon arrival, parking difficulties caused Rob to take flight in our back seat while we drove around the city in search of parking and food.  At The Newsroom (yes, Kelly, the Newsroom, you would love it) Rob treated us (thank you again and again!) to a delicious dinner with great people watching.  Heading back to Rob’s apartment in the mill district on the twelfth floor (awesome view of the stadium, not so awesome elevator ride), we unfortunately discovered it is in fact a small world, but hey at least MSU outnumbered U of M alum for once. 

Celebrating the blessed holiday, Labor Day, we hit the bars, of course.  Surprisingly, not many other Minnesotans were out on the streets, except at the bars where our dance skills need to be greatly improved before entering.  After a fun night out on the town, we settled down for a night of cuddling on the air mattress. 

Early the next morning we got ready, coincidentally all repping the D wearing Tiger’s shirts, for a day of exploration.  First stop was the ruins of Minneapolis (yes ruins, in America, we were surprised too) that were remnants of old flourmills.  Apparently, back in the day (which was a Wednesday) these mills tended to explode – yikes!  One of the mills was converted into the Mill River Museum.  The architecture for the building was so cool!  Keeping the old walls and base of one of the mills they added a new glass structure to keep the structure safe and house most of the museum.  It was a great example of using modern design to showcase the past. 

Right next door, is the Guthrie Theatre, a very contemporary building with a great view.  After the security guard offered some great advice on touring the building and referred to us as Rob’s dates J but then brought up our recent loss to the Twins, we went up to the ninth floor to see the “Amber Room”.   We stepped off the elevator into a new, trippy world that was, indeed, amber.  The windows were yellow and made the space feel very surreal and the view of both sides of the river was amazing.  Then down to the fourth floor we ventured out onto the Endless Bridge that ends in mid-air towards the river.  Here, a child informed that his eyes were blue, and then launched into an explanation of the rest of his family’s eye colors.   Feeling very informed, we then set off in a new direction.

Laurel Village, across town, was home to the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture.  We were surprised to see that the cherry sprouted water from its stem, which managed to get us wet during one of the few parts of the day it wasn’t raining.   The cherry and spoon was in a large sculpture garden that housed plenty of beautiful pieces. 

Next stop was back downtown as we found the world’s #1 Jameson pub, The Local, right next to a tequila bar (I think we belong in this city).  Unfortunately, the gelato shop was closed and so was Jamba Juice, but we got our exercise in for sure. 

After four hours of walking, we needed a quick power nap in Rob’s comfy man furniture.  Then we were right out to exploring again, this time in the car.   We crossed the bridge to walk around the dam in the river and fell in love with the historic district.  We then drove to the other side of town to see the beautiful homes that are integrated into downtown.  Soon, we were heading back to the apartment to be the three person welcoming committee for Rob’s new roommate, Pat.  By this time, the three of us were all wearing our MSU hoodies and, even though Pat went to U of M, he was wearing green and, therefore, allowed to come with us on “Eat Street” for a dope (bringing it back like parachute pants!) dinner of Vietnamese cuisine at Quang (pronunciation TBD).  The night was wrapped up by watching a couple movies on their new Target TV (“watching” is used loosely since no one made it through either movie).  When we woke up in the morning, we unfortunately missed saying goodbye to Rob, since he’s a grownup and has to go to work.  Time to hit the road again!

Monday, September 6, 2010

We're off!

Shoes off, shades on, we’re off! (Well… other than the fact that driving without shoes is illegal and it was raining when we left, but you know what we mean).

The first stop on our almost month-long Tour de USA was none other than our second home, East Lansing, a whopping 1-hour drive from the Mazur residence.  To entertain ourselves, we paired our friends’ personalities with Friends cast personas (surprisingly similar, minus Monica).  After arriving and reminiscing around campus (and not so much in the Human Ecology building…) we enjoyed a scrumptious free meal of pizza and festive Oktoberfest beer at our nostalgic trivia spot, Old Chicago. 

Post food-coma, we gallivanted to Lou Ha’s, CATA style, to meet up with a few of our favorites, Ganci, Sinny, Mase and Paul H. Upon deciding that we needed to be in tip-top shape for tailgating the next morning, we promptly ordered a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris as the boys purchased the necessities for a night of drinking games.   After realizing that Christine is the best liar and Ganci is the worst dealer, we met up with the lovely Andrea R. and moseyed (how weird does that word look?) over to the always-interesting Richard’s.  After a hazy amount of shots, wicked dance parties and seeing pals Nick, Josh, Shelly and Jenni, we (finally) called it a night without learning how to the Dougie.

After being awoken by Lindsey’s rough 6:00am wake-up call, and a few extra hours of sleep, we headed to the tennis courts for some school-spirited tailgating and caught up with our favorite Columbus transplant, Paul N. while munching on some expertly crafted veggie burgers (thanks, Lindsey & Dave!) and failing to shot gun.

In our home opener the Spartans pulled out a 38 – 14 victory over the WMU Broncos (go green!).  Jess met up with Lisa and, thankfully, the ladies convinced Sinny that his clepto tendencies would not suffice, and that bringing a Route 26 CATA sign onto the bus might not be the best plan. 

Post-nap, the group reunited for a disappointingly un-tearful and unemotional goodbye (we miss you all already!).  Jess presented Paul N. with his very own mini palm tree (cue Tawas memories) that lights up and plays music for his apartment in Columbus (note to self: batteries for reunion in November since he will OBVIOUSLY be playing it all the time).  Five steps out the door, Christine proceeded to leave all stomach contents in East Lansing … and two McDonald’s stops along the way. 

After some rough construction through Chicago, we reached the Stevens’ Bed & Breakfast and hit the hay.  Rise and shine at 9 a.m.  Thankfully, Chef Kate is a wonderful cook and whipped us up some breakfast.   We got ready for the day and headed to McGoniguls (which should be McGonagall’s, hello Platform 9 ¾ ) for lunch, which was full of chatter about Harry Potter (all encouraged by Christine of course…).  Then we set off for Minneapolis!

This portion of the journey has been filled with the …um… unique aroma of Wisconsin.  We also witnessed first-hand the justice system at work as the poster grandma for the law against texting and driving was pulled over right before our eyes (thank you, officer, for taking our obnoxious waving and pointing cues).  Thankfully, she did not manage to hit our vehicle (although it got MUCH too close for our taste near the end).  Falling for a sign promising a scenic outlook, we took a pit stop; after a short hike up a hill we came to the conclusion that the wooded path was more eventful than the outlook itself.  For the first time, queasy Christine was able to take the wheel.   Wanting to avoid another disappointment, we gathered enough will power to avoid stopping at the “adult store and bakery” (does anyone know what that even means?).  Before we knew it we hit the first of the twin cities, St. Paul, and unknowingly crossed the Mississippi River to see Rob in Minneapolis.