Monday, February 8, 2010
"It was just a fucking shitshow...we couldn't see more than 3 inches in front of the car and were going 15 mph on the turnpike...we had to stop in Bedford fucking Pennsylvania and in the morning we had to dig our car out...I was livid..." - That would be Nicole describing the last two days of the trip to her friend Julia over the phone, and it sounds pretty accurate.
We definitely were going 15 mph down the highway at 8 pm, sliding back and forth in the dark and hoping not to hit a snow bank (not too bad), a guardrail (bad), one of the 18-wheelers flying by at 50 mph (worse), or the bottom of a gulch (worst). We managed to avoid all these options.
Actually, Nicole managed to maneuver the car past these obstacles. I relieved myself of driving duties after it became exceedingly apparent I am not cut out for snow driving. Especially at night. I never had any close calls, but my high level of stress almost gave Nicole a heart attack. I also squeezed the life out of the steering wheel like it was Bart's neck and I was Homer Simpson (now that I mention it, Mr. Plow would have been nice to have around at that moment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWxF1Q022L4&feature=related).
We decided to stop driving to be safe and pulled off the turnpike/toll road. Nicole gave Tollbooth Wilma a small earful about the lack of snow plows (Plow King drunk much?) on the road we paid to drive on, and we slid our way to a motel parking lot. They had a comedian at 9 in the lounge but we were a bit tired and seriously...how good of a comic would be performing in Bedford, PA in the middle of a snowstorm? So we watched Look Who's Talking Too and Groundhog Day and then got some sleep.
The next morning we had a free hot breakfast, dug our car out from beneath 20 inches of snow, and finished the last section of road to Gap, PA. Ten miles from Lancaster, the epicenter of the bustling Amish community in the United States, Gap is a lovely town that has been covered in a beautiful layer of snow since we've been here (we're expecting at least a foot more of snow tomorrow and Wednesday).
We're going to continue blogging, albeit less often, as we move to New York City and find jobs and an apartment. We actually will be in NYC on Thursday and Friday, as I have an interview on Friday afternoon and we're going to see Kate Luckinbill perform a one (wo)man rendition of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (actually it's a show called "I Forgive You Ronald Reagan" - I'm just assuming it's a 1980's take on the Shakespeare classic). I plan on providing more analysis of the different places and people we encountered, with more of a focus on how America functions differently in different places, for different reasons, and at different paces, in the weeks ahead.
We also will take more pictures going forward, and will post all of the pictures on another site that allows us to post them all, but we haven't decided yet where that will be. We'll let you know when we figure it out. Don't worry your sweet little hearts one bit.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
1. I am not a huge fan of Elvis. Mike likes him more than I do, but still is nowhere close to being a fanatic. We both have a healthy respect. That's as far as it goes.
2. We did not actually pay to tour Graceland, but we did swing by the gates and see it from the street on our way out.
3. Susie, don't worry, we didn't actually see Elvis. He's dead.
Moving along to the rest of our Memphis experience. Memphis proved to be cold and rainy, and unfortunately, it also lived up to its status as a poor and dirty city. Most of the short time we spent there was taken up by homeless people asking us for money. Now, I'm happy to help the homeless, I tend towards giving them food as opposed to money, but on certain occasions, I'll shoot them some change or maybe if they're super lucky and I'm feeling super rich, a dollar. Mike on the other hand, will just open his wallet up and give them everything he's got in there. OK, I'm exaggerating; however, we very well may become homeless (me for the first time, Mike for the second - this time without camera crews following him and for more than a week) in NYC if Mike continues to give to the bums as he's done so far on this trip. haha
Our day started off with a trip to Cotton Museum Lobby. Eight bucks each is a bit much, plus they had a lot on display in the lobby. We then ventured to the Peabody Hotel to see the infamous Peabody Ducks. What started as a drunken practical joke has been going on now for 77 years. We fell for it. Every day at 11 am the Duck Master (yup, that's an actual job) walks the ducks from their rooms on the roof, into the elevators, and out onto the red carpet that leads them through the lobby into the duck fountain. They spend the day there mesmerizing guests (because ducks are VERY rare creatures) and then are walked back to their rooms at 5 pm. It was cute, interesting, and most importantly, free.
From there, we stopped for some Seafood Gumbo to warm up, drove by the Victorian Village, and then swung by Graceland on our way to Nashville in the rain.
*We will be posting pictures of the last few days later this evening!*
After a long day of driving, we arrived in Memphis in time to enjoy a good, hearty meal accompanied by some Blues on Beale Street. It was a rainy night and we were both exhausted, so it was nice to sit down and eat some warm soul food. Mike and I split an appetizer of green fried tomatoes (which are almost as good as fried pickles) and a sample platter of Memphis BBQ food that consisted of ribs, pulled pork shoulder, and baked beans. It was very spicy, but very delicious. Garland, we did some research on the difference between Texas and Memphis BBQ, here is what we found out (plus a little more):
"The Differences Between Different Styles of BBQ Food by Region http://www.articlesbase.com/food-and-beverage-articles/the-differences-between-different-styles-of-bbq-food-by-region-1478176.html)
Every region of the United States has its barbecue specialty: pulled pork sandwiches in North Carolina, racks of ribs in Memphis, "burnt ends" in Kansas City and chopped brisket in Texas. The roots of American barbecue run deep in the South, where even neighboring counties can have different approaches to barbecue, not to mention different states.
BBQ in North Carolina: Consider North Carolina, a state with a long barbecue tradition. In eastern North Carolina, you would probably find shredded meat from an entire pig, doused with a peppery vinegar sauce, and if you chose to drive West a few hours from the coast, and you will most likely be served meat from just the shoulder of the hog, with a tomato based sauce. Throughout Carolina, there is a clear preference for barbecue pork and thin vinegary sauces, which is a distinguishing style echoed throughout the state.
BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis, Tennessee is another superb barbecue location, home to "Memphis in May," which is the largest barbecue competition and festival in the world. The city boasts over 100 barbecue restaurants and several different barbecue styles. Like North Carolina and much of the South, pork is the barbecue meat of choice in Tennessee and pork ribs are the most common cut, but the city is divided between "dry-rubbed" and "wet rib" versions. Dry-rubbed ribs are generously rubbed with a mixture of spices, smoked and then served with sauce on the side. Wet ribs are lacquered with tangy barbecue sauce before, during and after cooking. Another Memphis favorite is the pulled-pork sandwich - smoked pork shoulder stuffed inside a hamburger bun and topped with coleslaw.
BBQ in Kansas City: Kansas City is the barbecue capital of the Midwest. Like Memphis, it's also home to over 100 barbecue restaurants and hosts an annual barbecue competition an an event called American Royal. In Kansas City, both pork and beef are barbecued and it is best known for its BBQ sauce, which is traditionally heavy on tomato and uses molasses as a distinctive sweetener. The traditional thick barbecue sauce you buy in supermarkets is based on Kansas City style sauce. The bottled varieties are much different from the small batches of sweet zesty sauce cooked up by Kansas City pitmasters. For those that aren't familiar with the term, "Burnt ends," are the crunchy, charred ends of brisket slabs, are a Kansas City specialty not to be missed.
BBQ in Texas: Texas is famous for its cattle, and beef brisket is the barbecue meat of choice. But chopped beef and beef ribs are also state favorites. Texas barbecue isn't only about the beef, it is also about spicy pork sausages, called "hot links," and pork ribs are also common barbecue fare. Almost all Texas barbecue is cooked without sauce. The meat is rubbed with spices, known as BBQ rub, smoked and, sometimes, a sauce is served on the side. Barbecue in other states is most often smoked over hickory, oak or a handful of other similar hardwoods. But Texas barbecue usually uses mesquite, which gives the meat a distinct and unique flavor."
Mike's personal take is that Memphis BBQ sauce is browner and spicier than the more red, sweet Texas BBQ sauce. Keep in mind the source though. Mike believes in a "mind over matter" food consumption policy. What it looks/tastes/feels like doesn't really matter to him. Sustenance is king. I have never had Texas BBQ, so I really can't say. I personally enjoy the Carolina BBQ in comparison to the Memphis kind. So, I will personally take it upon myself to eat a lot of each kind and report back.
We ended up calling it an early night. We were exhausted from all of the visiting and driving in Texas.
We left Katy and headed into Houston to meet my college/camp friend Garland and eat some Schlotzky's sandwiches ("silly name, serious sandwich"). Delish. We unpacked and relaxed at Garland's for a while, met his friend Joe who had just NASCARly evaded a multiple car crash on the freeway, and got ready to go out and paint the town red. We met up with Wilson and K-Dal and Kevin's wife Katie (lovely house Dalrymples, and GO SPURS!) for some Tex-Mex and then some drinks (a lot of drinks, for some of us ;) ...) Will Cobb showed up to dish some wisdom and wit, shoot the shit, and there was even a guest appearance by Weiss. Thanks for coming out everyone, Nicole and I both had a great time and I think left Houston with a better appreciation for it than we entered with. I sometimes badmouth Houston. deal with that
We left Houston the next morning and went through Cleveland and then Atlanta (the towns in Texas) and then up to Memphis, TN.
Just like Paul Simon did... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXgQtL3aEmQ
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
On Friday night we got in late and relaxed and exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts that were left over. My Aunt Jackie got me some sweet Phillies gear and memorabilia and my parents got me the books I asked for. Aunt Jackie gave Nicole a Longaberger basket and a book and we also got Target gift cards to help us furnish and decorate our new apartment. My sister-in-law Liza knitted me a warm hat that fits much better than the one I've been using for the past 8 years, so I'll make sure to thank her for that personally when I see her in 5 hours. :) Nicole and I gave my mom her birthday present, a Pandora charm she had asked for. We also ate delicious salmon leftovers.
On Saturday we went to San Antonio, met up with my sister Kelly and her boyfriend Sam, and saw Mission San Jose and the Alamo, two remnants of early Texas history. Then we took a step into present day Texas by going up to the top of the Tower of the Americas, a circular disc 750 feet in the air . That was accompanied by a 15 minute "4-D ride" that was actually much cooler than we expected as it re-created the feeling of both a snake attack and a bull sneezing on your face, among other things. We topped off the San Antonio evening with a Mexican food dinner on the Riverwalk enhanced by a live mariachi band.
Kelly, Nicole, and I stopped off at the Ole Ingram Social Club and shared a cold pitcher before we headed back to the McCalla household. Sunday was a nice relaxing day highlighted by a delicious lasagna dinner and an evening watching the Grammy Awards. Taylor Swift cleaned up - I'm not too sure how I feel about that, but you can bet Kanye West was throwing things around his mansion ranting like a madman. He isn't allowed to go to these things any more, ya know.
Now it's off to Austin, and then Houston. Back on the road again!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Our brief list stemming from a brainstorm session:
Great Salt Lake
Any other suggestions?
This list may be skewed, but we've seen three of these so far and have one more to go (Huck and Jim's River). Carlsbad Caverns National Park is amazing. We descended over 800 feet underground (where it was actually warmer - 56 degrees - than it was outside) and we walked down, rather than take the elevator (most of the fellow travelers we've encountered have been retirees, and those old folks all took the elevator - some have been cranky, some have been pleasant - I guess that's just how things are). One of the 'rooms' underground is as long as 14 football fields!!! That's almost three times as far as Andy Dufresne crawled through shit smelling foulness Red couldn't even imagine when he left Shawshank Prison (we were actually fairly close to Fort Hancock, Texas yesterday - from where Andy sent Red a postcard).
Let me get back to the subject, caves. The stalactites, stalagmites, and other phenomena underground were simply indescribable. So I won't try - just go there someday. They have a bottomless pit!! For some reason they then note on the sign it is 140 feet deep. Thanks for ruining that one for me park rangers.
Before we hit the caverns we stopped off at the International UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. Not the Smithsonian folks, but it was interesting. I feel they basically collected as much evidence of alien encounters, abductions, government coverups, and crop circles as they could find and threw them all into a big room. Then they give you a Walkman (complete with detailed instructions on how to use it) with an audio tour to accompany you. And starting at 10 am they run movies like Roswell and X-files. Also, most every local in town would have been on the watch list from Men in Black, as they all appeared to be slightly....alien. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
We are now in Kerrville, TX for the weekend, staying with my parents. It feels good to be home for a bit, and it's also good to know we are more or less halfway through our trip. We're about to head off to San Antonio, so more stuff to come!
You'll soon be hearing all about our travels yesterday, but in the meantime, I'm going to post some pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Pic One: Mike in the UFO Museum
Pic Two: Me in a random Tipi we saw alongside the road
Pic Three: Entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns
Pic Four: Inside the Caverns
Pic Five: Inside the Caverns
Fore more pictures, visit: http://www.nps.gov/cave/photosmultimedia/index.htm
Also, for those of you asking, we do have more pictures and yes, we will post all of them on facebook...eventually.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
1. Both the weather and road conditions today SUCKED! New Mexico apparently does not believe in plowing major interstates...
2. Mike did a great job driving in the snow, especially since it was his first time (another V-card taken). We did not die, thankfully.
3. We are enjoying our trip and are about to take NYC by storm.
In other news, although we didn't get to see a ton of Albuquerque, we made sure to spend some time window shopping in Historic Old Town and driving on Route 66. Fun times.
that folks goin' 50 you deemed 'em bold
slippin and slidin white knuckle ridin'
actin' tough, dyin' inside and
hopin' like hell we reach roswell
before we slam in-to a dell
ah well - twill be twill be
twasn't our time you'll see
we've yet to shine - like a key
buffed to bling like a diamond ring
and sing like a bird what kind? mocking
Nicole by my side
poles flying by
the aliens nigh
just one deep sigh
tabasco is spicy
jerky is pricey
12 bucks for a bag no thanks that's a drag
i'll dehydrate and kill the meat myself
even if it's bison
we made it
please note: there is a post-rock band called Holy Fu-- ...I suggest checking them out just for the creative and audacious band name (the music is pretty good too) - http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/song/The+Pulse/4660608
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Thank you Hampton Inn of Kayenta, AZ. You had a somewhat appetizing free breakfast complete with biscuits and gravy. This almost made up for the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack the bed bugs in Room 116 made out of Nicole's body while we slept. On second thought, this was not a fair trade whatsoever. My girlfriend/trip planner/blog cohort is in agony with 15-20 large welts on her back and arms that itch and hurt and are swollen like I beat her with a cane (this did not happen, no matter what she insists is the truth).
She soldiered on through the day, which should be expected for those who know her at all. Nicole = Trooper (or a SOLJAH from the U?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X60mrYO1UU). If you're wondering, I haven't noticed any bites on myself. Mike = Not delicious. This will serve me well if I get stranded on an island of cannibals or in a crashed airplane in the snow like the movie "Alive" ("don't eat me I don't taste good"). I do have a bruised foot and one extremely bloodshot red eye, so it's not like I'm making it unscathed thus far.
This morning we made it to Monument Valley in southern Utah, bumps, bruises, and all. This was worth it. Geologically almost the polar opposite of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley is the area near the Utah/Arizona border where huge rock formations burst from the earth to heights that dwarf everything around them. A 17-mile round trip drive through the park gave us amazing views of all sorts of buttes, mesas, and other variously named formations. Everything had a virgin coating of snow to intensify the majesty of the landscape.
Like yesterday, we planned on hitting two parks in one day (prior to the Grand Canyon, we visited Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument outside of Flagstaff). Like yesterday, park rangers scoffed at our plans and openly questioned our intelligence. Like yesterday, we made it to both parks with time to spare, and then called back to the doubtful park rangers and destroyed their thoughts about this Earth and made them question their life's work. Everything except for the vengeful phone call part is true.
Today we left Monument Valley and drove 4 hours to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert near Holbrooke, AZ. We drove the 28 mile route, stopping to check out some petrified wood and colorful rocks, and made it out 3 minutes before closing time and just ahead of a wicked hailstorm.
Now we're in Albuquerque, but we're not sure for how long. A storm will be coming in tonight and tomorrow (there are some nasty wind gusts outside right now that may keep me awake) and may be dumping snow all over us. Hopefully, I get some sleep because I have a phone interview tomorrow morning with a potential future employer in New York. Hopefully, we're able to get out of Albuquerque as scheduled. I'll post some pictures here and probably some more earlier tomorrow for your chewing pleasure.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
after seeing mediocre canyon and decent canyon and semi-good canyon if you're on peyote (and three wild horses!) we made it up to the GRAND canyon - and it was snow-capped and brilliant albeit a bit slippery. This was Nicole's first trip to the GC, but it was my third, and I believe the colorado river may be the greatest american artist - the carving skills displayed throughout northern arizona are unmatched by the likes of warhol, o'keeffe, and pollock - i suggest anyone with the opportunity to see this wonder do so, and quickly (and thorough)
i could go on, but the pictures will do a better job, and a visit would do an even better one - also, i'm exhausted and we have a king-sized bed looking me right in the face and whispering my name seductively
i'll leave you with some info gathered from www.answerbag.com concerning a question Nicole and I had as we made our way from uber-urbia to no man's land...
this was the question - What percentage of land in the United States is developed (both including and excluding Alaska)?
this was one of the answers...
by chez nation on January 15th, 2008
"I have been researching this question for 30 years
The answer depends on how the word developed is defined
For Alaska, the 600,000 persons are mostly located in urban areas, and consume only a few hundred square miles of land. Most of the 591,000 square miles of Alaska are wilderness area, owned by the federal and state governments and native tribes.
For the other 49 states which have about 300 million persons on about 3 million square miles of land, I offer two sets of statistics:
pasture and range 36%
managed forest 12%
natural forest, desert, wetlands, etc. 27%
so we can say that about 27 percent of the 49 states are wildlands, with about a quarter of this protected as official designated wilderness areas
pasture and range can have wildland attributes depending on the intensity of domesticated animal grazing relative to wild animal use
we can say that 93 percent of the 49 states are open space
developed area of 7 percent or 210,000 square miles (the world's highest amount, or about 21 percent of the world's developed area of about 1 million square miles)
urbanized and urban, 100,000 square miles
exurban and rural settlement, 60,000 square miles
transportation, utility corridors, waste disposal and mining sites, 50,000 square miles
80 percent of Americans are urban, or 240 million on 100,000 square miles, at a relatively low average urban density of 2,400 per square mile
20 percent of Americans are rural, either in scattered exurban patches, or more remote rural settlement, and this 60 million people on 60,000 square miles have a settlement pattern of 1,000 per square mile; lower due to the larger residential lot sizes
another measure is pavement, about 50,000 square miles of the USA are paved over, with 40,000 in roads and parking, and 10,000 in houses and buildings, or about 75 percent of the developed area of 210,000 square miles is vegetation, largely lawns but also wooded streams and scattered patches of open space within urban areas"
Monday, January 25, 2010
Today was our first day on the road. It was much sadder than I had anticipated; however, the sun was shining, the roads were clear, and we still managed to have some fun. We took a slight detour and enjoyed lunch (one final trip to In & Out) and a bit of gambling in
Missing everyone lots already, so please send me frequent and juicy updates on everything that's going on in your lives!