Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Philly

After Cape Cod, we continued on down the east coast. Being the conspiracy lover that I am, I insisted that we drive by the Skull and Bones Tomb at Yale. Much to my dismay, I didn't capture any past, present or future politician entering the edifice.


Disheartened, we kept on to Philadelphia. The first order of business was to locate a proper cheese steak. According to Wikipedia, Pat's was the originator of said sandwich. While not as flashy as Geno's next door, we decided to go straight to the source.





We opted for a half-provolone, half-cheeze whiz steak and we were not disappointed. In fact, the sandwich was so delicious that we nearly devoured the entire thing before I remembered to take a picture. And the peppers that were offered at the condiment stand were juicy, hot, fire bombs of flavor. We certainly did NOT make a "misteak" in our selection.



After dinner, we hunkered down at our very first waterfront Wal-Mart. We had a lovely view of New Jersey across the Delaware River as we enjoyed a nip of wine and watched Alice in Wonderland procured from the redbox.

Although Philadelphia Cream Cheese has almost nothing to do with the city of Philadelphia, we used it as an excuse anyway to locate some bagels for breakfast the next morning.


We cruised around town a bit admiring the quaint streets with homes that still had coal delivery doors popping out of the sidewalk.


And then we considered visiting Independence Hall but it was swarmed by masses of school children on field trips. We opted to just drive around the block instead.




Onward a bit further to Baltimore and an all to brief visit with cousin Beth and her adorable daughters at the pool. Thanks for the lemonade!

And finally rolling into southern Maryland in the evening to be greeted at the end of the driveway by excitedly jumping and waving neices.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What you got in that van? What in the world's in that van?

I admit that at least 70% of the motivation for this post was, indeed, the title. Eat your heart out, Luda.

As you know, we recently removed everything out of  the van and separated the stuff that will stay from the stuff that will go away.

Here is the pile of stuff that we actually used during the trip:

VanLoad: Used

Here is the pile of stuff that we did not use, but that we are still going to keep because of utility, sentimentality, or some other reason:

A_VanLoad: Keepers

And here is the pile that will be going off to Goodwill*:

VanLoad: Junk

For some unknown reason, I decided that it might be fun to take a picture of every... single... item... in the van. Near the end of this exercise I questioned my sanity, but I persisted in my efforts and here are the results (10 random items chosen by flickr):



www.flickr.com



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* May or may not have been used during the trip.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cape Cod

Well, we didn't win the lottery, so we're guessing that the whole "fortune" bit was referring to life experiences and such.  Boooooooooooooring....

CC Sunset

I guess we'll take it.  :)

Let's catch up where we last left off on our journey down the east coast. After Boston, we drove on over to the Cape Cod area.

We stayed at Nickerson State Park, which had some pretty nasty creepy-crawlies in the shower. But to make up for it, there were also beautiful wildflowers all over the place.

Fox Glove Wildflowers 1 Wildflowers 2

Wildflowers 3 Wildflowers 4 Wildflowers 5

We headed up to Provincetown the next day and roamed around looking at boats and shops and the Pilgrim Monument.

Boats 2 Street

Boats 1 Pilgrim

Fish and chips seemed like an obvious choice for dinner. Delicious! (And the curried french fries were pretty tasty, too.)

IMG_0394

Perhaps the most astounding part of the visit was the fact that we found a store that we both loved!  Marine Specialties had just the right mix of vintage clothing and random international military surplus items to keep us both satisfied for hours.

Sunset 2

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Eagle Has Landed

Friends, the Curious Souls turtles are officially shell-less! We parked our van and will be relying on our wits and the vagaries of public transportation and kindness of others to get about from now on. How un-American of us!

Here are the final moments...



Video

Friday, June 25, 2010

Big Money, No Whammies!

We went to dinner last night with Jon's parents and two of his nephews. After dinner we opened our fortune cookies and mine said this:


Woohoo!! The first part of that is right so the second must be as well, right??

Right!

To help fate out a little bit, we bought a North Carolina Powerball ticket using the numbers on the back of my fortune...and all the other fortunes from our table as well just in case.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Won't You Take Me To... Funky Van?

We only have 13 days left until we hop on a big ol' jet airliner for Europe and so we decided to start the process of mothballing the van for storage tonight.

My nephews are here in North Carolina visiting Grandma and Grandpa and they decided to have a little fun while Aunt Ellen and Uncle Jon were out sorting through the van stuff in the garage.

Van Party!!!



Video

We're just a little bit jealous that they are both able to completely stand up inside the van.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where Have We Been?

While spending some time in North Carolina with my parents, I've been working on a little project that I've been meaning to complete for a while.

You'll now find a link on the bottom of the Curious Souls website named Where Have We Been?

The link will take you to a map that gives dates, times and mileage for every stop that we remembered to record along the way.

Key
  • Red = Arrival
  • Yellow = Visit
  • Green = Departure
  • Hikers = Hike
  • Auto = Auto Maintenance
  • Knife and Fork = Lunch or Dinner

Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boston: Part II

Boston was not all torrential rain. Let me tell you about some of our drier moments.

Wow is this city difficult to navigate! Even with GPS helping us, there are so many tunnels and bridges and odd intersections throughout.



Video

It took us twice as long as expected to get to brunch at Scup's, but the delicious food was worth it. And even more interesting were the quirky art installations all around the Boston Harbor Shipyard where the restaurant was located.









The public transportation in Boston was much easier to navigate than the roads, and so we opted to keep the car parked for the rest of the weekend.



Video

While roaming around the city, we traveled through the gas-lit neighborhood of Charleston. We had already been walking past many quaint historic homes when we spotted an open house. We explained to the agent that we weren't really in the market for his half-million, late 1800's home, but that we just wanted to look inside. He happily obliged and even guided us up to the roof top terraces for a better view of the city. Thanks, Duncan!



Video

We continued on our way to the Bunker Hill Monument and braved the 294 steps to the top.



Vee-dee-oh

Continuing down the Freedom Trail, we made a brief stop at the U.S.S. Constitution.





At that point, we needed to head back to the waterfront for our previously scheduled boat tour. And you know what happens next.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Perfect Storm

After Maine, we went to Boston. We really liked Boston and had a lot of fun with Simone while happily sharing her room at the Westin. Thanks again, Simone!


I'll get to all the details later, but for now, I'm going to jump directly to the most exciting part of our Boston experience. On our second day, we were going to take a RIB boat tour of the islands. We reserved on-line, but when we finally got to the pier, we were told that the captain had canceled our trip due to the potential for bad weather. We walked away in disappointment and decided to go back to the hotel room instead - and grab a bottle of duty-free gin out of the van on the way.

And then this happened...



Video Link

...horizontal rain. Rain that moved in like a swarm of bees. Rain so hard that Ellen thought it was hail. Rain that drenched us in seconds. Rain that blew letters off of building signs. Rain that destroyed the camera in my pocket and made this video the last one I took1. Rain that filled the entire parking lot with 4 inches of water in minutes. Really. Impressive. Rain.

So, tell me, Bostonians. How often does this kind of thing happen?

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1. In retrospect, operating the camera while it was dripping wet was likely a bad decision. But, after a recent disassembly, some minor corrosion scraping and reassembly, the camera appears to be working again. All except the "play button" that lets me review the pictures and videos on camera. I guess it will just have to be like an old school film camera now and I'll have to wait to see the results until I "develop" my SD card on the computer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mainely Maine

It's true.  There were a lot of punny store names like the one above in Maine. Truth be told, this phenomenon was not unique to Maine. Vancouver even had a furniture store called "Sofa, So Good."

But, I digress. On with the show...

After crossing our last Canada-US border we headed to Acadia NP. We spent some time canoeing on Long Pond...



Video Link

...and went on a hike before a big thunderstorm rolled in.

White Wet Flower

Pine Drops

Acadia Boekes

Acadia Boats

We left Acadia in the pouring rain and headed to the capital city, Portland. Neither of us had ever eaten a whole lobster before, so we figured that this was the place to try.  Yelp led us to J's Oyster, right on the pier. While waiting for a table, we met lots of extremely nice and gregarious Maineians and even more after we were finally seated at the bar. We learned how to properly dismantle and disect one from the nice men next to us who also offered us some lobster trivia.

Maine Lobster

You might have noticed that this lobster has no claws. We had already dug in before I remembered to take this picture so you are looking at a reassembled lobster sans delicious claws.

And this post is sans good ending. You may recall that we're still enjoying ourselves with my sister and family in southern Maryland. And tonight, that means Random.org + The Bartenders Black Book. A fun game for sure, but one that takes away all motivation for quality writing. We'll try to do better tomorrow. Good night!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Relaxing on The Eastern Seaboard

While we've been comfortably relaxing here in Southern Maryland, we've been neglecting the blog a bit. (Translation: Jonathan is way behind in his recap posts.) So, we'll try to make sure you all get back up to speed with our travels over the next few days.

After Montreal, we headed east to Quebec City.  QC looked even more European than Montreal, but felt a bit more touristy. And, none of those fantastic rental bikes to be had. And, we failed to use personal recommendations or Yelp to locate a restaurant for dinner. You'd think that it would be difficult to make bad nachos and pizza, but Le Cafe Buade succeeded. Lesson learned.

One interesting bit of history about QC is that the old part of town is a walled city.



Link

After departing QC, we took the Route du President Kennedy on back to Maine. Other than the agent having a fantastic northeastern accent and him actually looking around inside the van, there was nothing too spectacular about our last (for the near future) North American border crossing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's All About Perspective: Time Perspective

Before I left on this trip, I was a fast walker. By fast, I mean Driven-Has a Place to Go-Leave People Behind fast walker. I didn't walk like that all of time but certainly at least 80-90% of the time. Even in my free time. I didn't really notice this, it was just part of who I was. It certainly wasn't something I expected to change.

But now?  Now I walk slow. Not all of the time - I mean I can walk fast when we are in a hurry, it's not like I physically can't walk fast now - but most of the time I just prefer to walk slowly. I didn't notice when this started to change, it just kind of happened at some point in this trip and now I'm a stroller instead of a speed walker.

Last night, I watched this fantastic YouTube video last night about how we deal with time. And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.



I am moving away from being Future Oriented towards being Present Hedonistic! It reminds me of the old saying "Stop and Smell the Roses". That kind of thing was difficult for me in my old life. I may have physically sniffed those roses, but I was too wound up and caught up in a belief system that came with a bunch of "responsibilities" to actually smell those roses.

The whole point of this trip for me has been personal transformation, to move away from habits and perspectives that I didn't like and didn't fit me. I believed that I couldn't do this without changing my environment and this is the first real evidence I have that I was right. I walk slower. I am smelling the roses!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game

Have you ever believed something, believed it in that moral highground, privilege-showing kind of way? I have; that was me and Walmart.

Walmart, at least among white, educated, high earning professionals is a favorite company to hate. They treat their employees poorly, don't you know? They run small businesses out of town, don't you know? They pollute the earth, don't you know?

This is what I believed for most of my adult, high income earning life. My parents repeatedly told me that their prices really were cheaper and that Walmart provided an affordable shopping option for those on fixed or low incomes, including the very employees we felt we were defending and the elderly. I was unmoved. Didn't they realize that Walmart was part of the degradation of the social fabric of our country and a scourge to be eliminated?

And then we quit our jobs and proceeded to drive across the country in a van. There's nothing like perspective to knock someone off of their moral sandhill.

Here's what we now know:
  • Prices ARE cheaper at Walmart. This is important for those on fixed incomes; i.e. Us. Mom and Dad, please take this as a formal apology for my hard headedness and insensitivity.
  • Walmart is the one of the only places to safely and legally park our van for the night.
For those of you not traveling cross-country in a vehicle that you sleep in, that second point is a BIG deal. Staying in a hotel every night would cost us between $1500-$3000/month; staying in a KOA every night would cost us around $900/month; staying in campgrounds every night would cost us between $450-$900/month. It doesn't take a genius to realize that staying in Walmart parking lots saves us tons of money.

And you know what else? It isn't that Walmart just tolerates people in their parking lot; they actually welcome travelers. From their website:

"While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able."

And I believe they welcome us because they are smart. This is a value added service to offer their customers which is exactly what we have become because of their policy. We generally always need some sort of supply, even if it is just ice, and many of these purchases are made at Walmart the morning after our stay.

Walmart is not without it's very legitimate faults. But they are also not the devil. They are a company who is thriving in an environment where the norm is externalized cost and where rises in the cost of living have outpaced rises in minimum wage. They are responding to a system that puts profits above people and efficiency above social responsibility.

So we're coming out of the closet. The "We Don't Hate Walmart Anymore" closet. In the wise words of our generation: don't hate the player, hate the game.

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Photo courtesy of Brave New Films

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mo-Re-Al


Our final border crossing into Canada really set the mood for the next few days in the Great White North. How nice was this border agent? She seemed genuinely interested in our trip and made us feel welcome.



Video

We stayed just south of Montreal in a KOA that included WiFi, showers and laundry. Perfect.

That evening, we drove the van into town with some recommendations in hand from a friend. We were immediately impressed by the number of people out and about on the streets and even more so by the number of people on bikes. And it's no coincidence that there were so many. Montreal really encourages biking by providing bike lanes that are physically separated from automobile traffic on many streets.

As we drove around taking in the scene, we realized that we were not going to easily find a parking spot on the street. We were warned about this but sometimes we don't listen very well. Instead, we found a pay lot that was a couple miles from our first stop of the night. No matter. It was a nice night for a walk.

But wait...  What's this?!


Montreal has a bike sharing program!! For only $5 per day, we were able to bike from location to location, checking our bikes back in at kiosks near our stops. We were thrilled to be able to take advantage of the bike-friendly roads.



Video

Our first stop was Verres Stérilisés‎, a French-separatist bar on Rue Rachel. It was time for us to try out our French.


We bellied up to the bar and rolled out one of the new (and vital) phrases I had learned earlier in the day from Ellen's French Phrasebook.

"Je voudrais une biere, s'il vous plait."

My accent must have given me away, however, because the barkeep answered us in English. C'est la vie. A beer by any other name is still as sweet.


Next stop. Poutine. Don't judge us. La Banquise offered about 25 different options for us to try. We opted for the Matty (with bacon, sautéed onions and bell peppers). The Michigan Hot Dog, however, will remain a culinary mystery to us.


On our second day in Montreal, we learned our lesson about parking and opted for public transit instead.


The day involved a nice walk around the city in search of Montreal Smoked Meat. We knew we found the right place when we approached Schwartz's and found a line down the block.


Opting for take out shortened our wait and also allowed us to pick up a bit of wine and head over to the Parc du Mont-Royal.

After our meal, we jammed a bit with the spontaneous drum and dance circle that we're told magically appears every Sunday.



Video

On our last morning in Montreal, we headed to Old Downtown and were greeted with narrow, cobblestone streets and old cathedrals that felt quite European.




The combination of architecture, culture and foreign language really got us thinking about and excited for the overseas part of our journey. Thanks, Montreal, for the delicious taste of things to come!