Where Were We Wednesdays (#10)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a souvenir from either the great state of Wisconsin or Minnesota.

Here’s this week’s picture. It’s kind of a toughie!

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

This photo was taken at Bryce Canyon. We had four correct guesses, and Random.org picked the winner…congrats to Gus! Thanks everyone for playing.

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Indiana Dunes State Park

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Indiana Dunes

Nothing Gold Can Stay  

by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes

Trip Statistics: Nine Month Update

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It was still foggy in Sonoma on July 12th when the big PODS truck picked up our storage container. We stood in our empty living room with our landlord and watched as the truck hoisted up our possessions and hauled them off to a distant warehouse. That was nine months ago today. Nine months! Long enough to have forgotten most of what we put into that POD. Barring any major change of events, we’ll be back to the Bay Area in late June to unpack the contents of our old life and settle down again.

Propane Kitchen, RV Road trip

General Trip Statistics

  • 16,000 – miles driven
  • 37 – states (CA, OR, ID, MT, WA, NV, AZ, UT, CO, NM, NE, KS, MO, KY, TN, IN, IL, AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, NC, VA, MD, DE, NJ, PA, CT, NY, MA, NH, ME, VT, OH, MI)
  • 1 – state intentionally avoided (TX, for moral and political reasons)
  • 2 – countries besides the US (Canada, Costa Rica)
  • 9 – number of nights camped in Wal Mart parking lots (Not the prettiest spot, but free and legal.)
  • 2 – number of times we been caught (and soaked) in unexpected thunderstorms while hiking
  • 1/ea – pairs of hiking shoes we’ve worn out and had to replace
  • 3 – average number of times we drive around a campground before choosing a spot
  • 1 – time we got pulled over on suspicion of drug trafficking (I44 in Missouri is apparently a big drug route; an RV with CA plates looked curious in December!)
  • 1 – celebrity who spilled a drink on Patrick’s shoe (Woody Harrelson, at the Spotted Cat in New Orleans. He was hanging out with Tim Robbins and Jesse Eisenberg. We played it cool.)

People Always Ask Us If We’re Visiting…

  1. Mt. Rushmore (maybe?)
  2. Giant Ball of Twine (missed it)
  3. Niagara Falls (yes)

Top Picks to Date

  • Best State Overall for Sights/Hiking – Utah
  • Best Burger – Diablo Burger, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Best Game to Play in the Minnie – Mexican Train Dominos
  • Best Road Trip Book – Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
  • Best State Park Amenities – Lake Fausse Pointe, Louisiana (electric, water, WiFi, canoe rentals, showers, laundry, camp store, PLUS nesting Red Shoulder Hawks, armadillos and alligators.)
  • Best Brewery – Schlafly(besides the Russian River, of course)
  • Best Sunrise – Montezuma, CR
  • Most Adorable Bacon – Polyface Farm

Mexican Train, RV games

Where Were We Wednesdays (#9)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a souvenir from Chicago, IL, our big destination this week.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

This photo was taken at Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans. We had three correct guesses, and Random.org picked the winner…congrats to Beth! Thanks everyone for playing.

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

It had been windy all day; Patrick had to struggle to keep the Minnie centered in our lane. By evening the air had stilled. We stopped to watch the sun melt into Lake Erie. A young girl, searching for beach glass and pretty stones, gave me two shells she’d found. So far, Ohio is beautiful.

Lake Erie, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Ohio seems to inspire beautiful music, too. In honor of crossing into the Buckeye State, here’s an all-Ohio playlist.

1. Blind Pilot – Miss Ohio (a cover of a Gillian Welch song)

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2. Damien Jurado – Ohio

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3. The Low Anthem – To Ohio

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4. Modest Mouse – Ohio

5. Sun Kil Moon – Carry Me Ohio

Niagara Falls

We visited Niagara Falls on Saturday. By volume one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the falling water sounds like thunder. Swirling winds pick up the spray and drench the overlooks, where rainbows appear and fade in the mist. Like the Grand Canyon, it was almost too big to comprehend – undeniably powerful and impressive. I have to say, it was also fairly awful. Monetized. Built up. Teeming with tourists who apparently never developed a sense of appropriate public behavior – elbowing their way through the crowd only to stop suddenly to take cell-phone photo in the middle of the sidewalk, letting small children and dogs jump on strangers, sticking their heads into photos.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Rainbow Bridge

The RV safely parked in a gigantic lot, we walked across the famed Rainbow Bridge and crossed the border to Canada.  Surprisingly, the U.S. side of the falls felt remarkably restrained; a state park graces the edges of the Niagara Gorge. The Canadian side, with its better views, was a tawdry maze of theme restaurants and mini golf and neon-lit mega hotel casinos. It’s like Disney Land and Las Vegas mated and produced Niagara Falls, Ontario. Trying to get into the spirit of things, I thought we should go up to a revolving restaurant and grab a drink at the bar. But there was no bar; there was only a $34.95 per person (plus tax, gratuity and drinks) all you can eat buffet where food quality was certainly not the draw. We slunk into the Hard Rock Café instead. I mean, we’d just walked to Canada. Didn’t we deserve a drink?

I began to think unkind things about all the people around me. And then, quietly, I began voicing these things so only Patrick could hear. Our nerves were shot, but we couldn’t leave. Oh no, not yet. Each evening giant spotlights shoot over from Canada to illuminate the falls. Not just any spotlights, but 5.25 billion candlepower worth of color-changing spotlights. So you may enjoy the falls glowing bright orange or red or blue. Am I jaded because I prefer the falls plain? I know I talked about glowing waves, but those were natural and unaccompanied by a group of teenagers whose only means of communication was yowling.

Niagara Falls at Night

Visiting dozens of National Parks and countless National Forests on this trip has my deepened my respect for these institutions, which preserve dramatic natural sights and protect them from the kind of commercialization so evident at Niagara. Are National Parks, monuments and historic sites crowded? Certainly. Together they receive more than 275 million visitors every year. But the focus is on the natural scenery and education about its 84 million acres of protected land. The Canadian parks we visited, too, helped maintain a distance between commercial areas and major natural features. I don’t wish to begrudge anyone a souvenir photograph or fun night out at a casino, but my lasting impression is that Niagara has been exploited. Support conservation! While I’m at it, Choose Organic! Say No to GMOs! Buckle Up, Save the Whales and KONY 2012. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Oh Niagara Falls, if I had worn blinders so that I saw only your rushing waters, I would have been so awed. But I was distracted by the glitz, the spectacle, the tour buses. Though I love traveling this country and marveling at its sights, I am not a tourist at heart. Give me a quiet stream in the mountains. Let me be the only there.

Niagara Falls

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

The houses here are hunched down in gullies or stand weather-beaten in brown fields, all with steeply pitched roofs that speak of long, harsh winters. We drove through our second snowstorm of the week – the spring I gushed about has not made it to New England. Icicles still adorn the roadways. State parks and campgrounds are closed, and finding campsites will be a challenge the next few days as we pass through the Adirondack Mountains. Last night we parked just off Vermont Hwy 125, with a view of the bridge that will take us across the southern end of Lake Champlain into New York State.

White Mountains, NH

Kale and walnuts are a new favorite combination. I recently made an easy side dish of steamed kale quickly sautéed with chopped walnuts, olive oil and garlic. This is another take on that idea. And, yes, adding more nuts and cheese to a pesto dish may sound like too much of a good thing…but it works.

Toasting Walnuts

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

½ lb dry penne pasta

1 large bunch kale, stemmed, chopped

½ C walnuts, chopped

1 Tbs olive oil

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 C chicken broth

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 big spoonfuls prepared pesto, to taste

½ C Parmesan or manchego, shredded

Cook pasta according to package directions. Stir in kale and let cook for the last 5 minutes. (Use more kale than you think you need! A big bunch cooks down to nothing.) Drain.

Meanwhile, heat walnuts, olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes until fragrant.  Set aside. Add chicken breasts, broth, lemon juice and garlic to pan. Cover and steam until cooked through. Shred chicken.

Toss together pasta, chicken and pesto. Top with walnuts and cheese.

Penne Kale Walnuts Chicken Pesto

Where Were We Wednesdays (#8)

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Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a souvenir lobster-shaped lollypop from Maine, our latest stop. I believe the lolly is cherry-flavored, not lobster-flavored, though the winner shall be the judge of that.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

This photo was taken at Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV. We had three correct guesses, and Random.org picked the winner…congrats to Daniel! Thanks everyone for playing.

Warming our Cockles

I hardly know what to say about the past two weeks except that they have been rich and busy and wonderful. In the past 14 days we’ve driven through 10 states plus the District of Columbia and visited 10 different groups of family and friends. It’s the most familiar faces we’ve seen in the rest of the trip combined!

Now that Patrick and I are getting married, the rare opportunity to spend time with East Coast family and friends is even more meaningful. Over leisurely meals and cups of coffee family tales were trotted out and told from various points of view. Photos were pulled from albums and folders. My Aunt Alice even had a letter to Santa from 1957, in which my father requested a hunting rifle, and all the siblings together begged for a puppy. I don’t know the status of the rifle, but I know a blonde Cocker Spaniel was beneath the tree that year, decked with a red bow and wriggling. Taffy, as the pup was called, later went on to eat a couch.

Thank you to everyone for being so generous with stories and laughter; for packing our cupboards with homemade goodies; for filling our RV tanks with water and our bellies with delicious meals. Alice, Ryan, Johany, Nicole, Henry, Dave, Sarah, Emily, Kathleen, Mike, Carla, Katie, Raymond, Connie, Andrew, Docky, Dick, Bob, Anne, Annie, Rob, Molly, Phoebe, Donna….We love you.

Where Were We Wednesdays (#7)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a souvenir from the place where the photo was taken.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

This photo was taken at Pensacola Beach, FL. Yet again Random.org picked the winner…congrats to my mom, Elaine!