Mike and Nicole

Monday, February 8, 2010

Link to All Trip Photos on Photobucket

Here is a link to our newly created account on photobucket that has all the pictures we took - the site isn't especially user-friendly, and you may have to use your brain a bit to follow them in order, but Flickr was sucking and Blogger will only allow 5 pictures per post...enjoy and if you have questions, hit us up!


Home Is Where the Heart Is Where the Home Is

Having reached our temporary destination at Nicole's parents' home in Gap, PA, we felt this would be a good time to gather our thoughts (and our stones) together. There will be a time to cast away stones at a later date yet to be specified. First, however, the specifics from the last 2 days of or trip.

"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

Clearance at the Gap

The Corolla (and its inhabitants) reached Gap, PA safely without incident. Then we unloaded all our belongings and reduced the pressure on the shocks by about 1000%. We made it! There will be more blogging to come tomorrow before the "Big Game" (TM). We're both tired and had a delicious home-cooked meal. Pictures of our trek through "Snowmageddon" will also be forthcoming, and they should be wild and woolly (I just took them, I haven't looked yet).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Storm Escapers

There has been a change of plans. Unfortunately, Mother Nature finally managed to divert us from our planned route. Seeing as there is supposed to be a major winter storm (as the Weather Channel likes to call it) in DC, we will be headed straight to PA. The plan is to drive north through Kentucky and then east from there. Wish us luck and stay tuned!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Memphian Visuals

Visual Accompaniment


First and foremost, for all of you Elvis lovers out there:

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!*

Blues on Beale Street

We said goodbye to Houston by mid-morning, but it wasn't until much later that we said goodbye to Texas and finally got on our way heading north and east (two important directions considering we're on our way to NYC). It took us just shy of ten hours thanks to Wilson encouraging us to take 59N, which definitely saved us some time.

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.

Houston 'Round the World

On Tuesday morning we left Austin for Houston (thanks again to Dave and Bethany for letting us crash) on a fairly familiar route for me, HWY 71 to I-10 (yes, the same one). Before we hit Houston we stopped off at the Clements household in Katy to see one of my high school buddies, Scott Clements. He and his wife Jessica have an adorable 1-year old son, Harrison, and live in a lovely, spacious home. Scott and I had a chance to catch up, discuss Big 12 football and the Mike Leach affair/"concussiongate" (Scott went to Texas Tech), and look at some very old and hilarious pictures he had.

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

Keep Austin Weird

Some more memories from Kerrville -

Austin was a whirlwind.

Our first task in Austin was to drop the car off to get the oil/fluids changed, tires checked, and windshield wipers replaced. With all of that we got a free car wash. BOO-YAH! While we waited for our brand new, shiny car, we ate Thundercloud, which, for those of you who don't know (I just learned yesterday), is one of Austin's famous sandwhich shops. It was delicious and made the time waiting for the car much more enjoyable. From there we walked on Guadalupe (pronounced ...Gwad uh loop... but the river, spelled the same way, is pronounced correctly in its native tongue - odd) to find Mike a new travel mug with a Longhorn on it. We failed but we found a Seattle's Best Coffee mug for a dollar. Only in Austin! We then met up with Mike's brother Kevin and his wife Liza to enjoy some sushi and good conversation. From there we rushed to meet up with Mike's sister Kelly and her boyfriend Sam. We ate a yummy Longhorn, grassfed beef burger and fried pickle chips. Yummy. There wasn't much time as we had to rush off to see Dave, a friend of mine from high school, but it was a blast. We stopped by Dave's for a quick beer and hello, and just enough time to warm up by the fire. But, within thirty minutes, we had to rush off (again), but this time to meet a good friend of Mike's on his "lunch break" at 9:15 pm. I say they just call it "break" as lunch at 9:15 doesn't really work. I'm just saying. It was great to see Phil, but he was also on a time schedule and within thirty minutes we were on our way. Although we originally thought we'd stay at Kelly's place, we decided to go back to Dave's to play some music and shoot the shit. We ended up crashing there and are headed for Houston!

Thanks to everyone in Austin! It was great seeing y'all! We'll see you in NYC soon (c:

PS: There are no pictures for our Austin visit, sorry folks!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Great Weekend with the McCalla Family

Nicole and I are about to leave Kerrville for Austin to see some friends and my brother, sister, and sister-in-law. I'm sad to say goodbye to my parents but I take comfort in the fact that I will see them in July at our family vacation in North Carolina. Plus, we had a great weekend which I'm thankful for.

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!