Archive for the ‘USA’ Category:

USA 2006 part 3

November 2nd, 2006

Day 11, Thursday 2006-11-02 Minnesota

Got to Minneapolis late wed night and crashed at shayna’s friends house. They have a nice 2 story just southeast of downtown, in an interesting area with old brick apt buildings scattered among the houses. They live a couple blocks from MCAD (which is nice) but also near a suspected crack house (not so nice). Thursday morning we got to sleep in – it was sooo nice. I got to catch up on some laundry, email, and picture uploading. Then i went for a run, and then shayna and i went sightseeing, driving downtown and hitting a couple interesting stores – design collective and robot love. After that we met up with Shayna’s friend Becky for a beer at her local bar, CC something. Becky was cool – she used to go to wash u. with shayna. Once Becky’s boy David showed up, we decided to eat at NYE, a polish spot which was supposed to have a polka band. No luck, but they did have awesome 50s decor and a piano with 5 drunk middle age peeps singing songs. Classic.

Day 12, Friday 2006-11-03 Minnesota

Friday was also pretty chill. Carrie wasn’t working till 5, so the 3 of us had a leisurely morning, eating breakfast at Egg and I. Then Shayna and I went downtown along the river to St. Anthony’s Falls and Stone Arch Bridge, walking along the missippi and across the xxxx bridge. Minneapolis seemed very new and clean overall, but this section definitely was reminiscent of its industrial past. When we got back to the house, Anthony joined us and the 4 of us had some tasty homemade pizza. Next on the agenda was the Walker Museum, which everybody raves about. My favorite exhibit there was Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman exhibit. He actually made a cave with brown package tape, boards and boxes, with coke cans strewn across the floor, mannekins wrapped in foil and all wired together, posters of pop music culture, papers about moral and economic philosophy – basically questioning what society is and where we’re going. The rest of the night included some bar hopping, some food, and then a big fat nap. Hurray.

Day 13, Saturday 2006-11-04 Minnesota, Illinois

Got up and drove to chicago, thru wisconsin, stopping only for cheese. Of course you need to get cheese in wisconsin. Arrived in chicago around 9pm, and we went out to diner at this amazing vegie place called veggie dinner. We also checked out smart bar, a club where Mstrkrft was playing. It was fun, good sound (bass for da house), but we were kinda tired so weren’t there very long.

Day 14, Sunday 2006-11-05 Illinois

Our first full day in chicago started off slowly just north of downtown with breakfast, then off to see the Art Institute. We hung out downtown most of the day, walking around, making it up to sears tower right after sunset, yielding some cool pictures of endless chicago at night. For dinner, we went for some traditional chicago deep dish pizza. Both lonely planet and the concierge at the W recommended malrutti’s pizza. It was good, but not mind-blowing great. Both patxis and little star pizza in SF are better. After dinner we had a drink at this cool bar called the map room. As you may guess, they have maps all over the walls and a few map books, with tons of national geographics and tons of beers from all over to pick from.

Day 15, Monday 2006-11-06 Illinois, Iowa

Monday morning Lisa and Spiral joined us on a walk around the newly built Millenium Park with this really cool giant reflective jelly bean. Yes, this silver bean was super cool. After that shayna went to tour columbia university and i ended up just walking around. I really love all the cool architecture in chicago. And the river and lake augment the natural beauty that may otherwise seem a bit bleek from the flatness of the region. I met up with shayna at cosi, then we decided to get some tasty sushi at Oysy Sushi before driving to iowa. Yes, we drove to iowa, leaving chicago around 9, getting to iowa city around 1am. That was fun.

Day 16, Tuesday 2006-11-07 Iowa

Woke up and drove shayna to her appointments with University of Iowa in Iowa City. I just went to a coffeeshop and sorted thru pics for a couple hours, then went on a nice run along the river thru town. The university is quite lovely, but the section of the river by city park was really beautiful. Once shayna finished her iowa stuff, we headed for st. louis. Once again, we rolled in at 1am, exhausted, but this time we were staying in a hotel for 3 nights, so we could sleep in and not worry about anything. Hurray.

Day 17, Wednesday 2006-11-08 Missouri

Our first full day in St. Louis started off with lunch at a great vietnamese place (name?), followed by a tour of the budweiser factory. It is the largest beer factory in the country, one of five that budweiser opens for tours. The tour was about an hour, we saw a few of the famous clydesdale horses, the original beer factory building from 1870s, now part of whole factory complex. But the best was the ending, where we got to sample budweiser beer. They had about 8 varieties on tap, including a seasonal, a porter, and the original budweiser. I must say, even though i thoroughly enjoyed my bud, it wasn’t that much better than what you get in a bottle. I’ve been to many breweries, and usually the beer on tap at the brewery is much more delicious than the bottled vesion.. We also tried a wine cooler like drink called peels, as well as little beer augmentor called spykes. Not bad, but not great.

After budweiser we checked out the St. Louis Arch, aka the Gateway Arch, aka Jefferson National Expasion Memorial. The arch was built in the 60s, and the little pod we sat in to get to the top felt like something out of a 60s james bond movie. I’m 6 feet even, and i had to hunch my head over when sitting inside of it. The top was a bit claustrophobic as well, but the view was worth it. We were lucky enough to actually watch the sun set before our eyes. Beautiful. We went down and checked out the museum part, got a picture of me with Tatanka (native american for buffalo). For dinner we went to a spot on “the loop” where shayna worked during wash u. days – Brandts. It was tasteeeeee.

Day 18, Thursday 2006-11-09 Missouri

Our last day in da Lou started with breakfast at tiffany’s. Tiffany’s is a hole in the wall diner that shayna used to goto all the time in college. It had more character than your avg diner, but the food was about the same. I can still taste all the butter and grease used in my eggs in hashbrowns.

But maybe the coolest thing we did on our trip was the City Museum. It’s not so much a museum as a jungle gym times a million. The primary reason you go there is to go crawling and walking thru tunnels and passagesways spread over 4 floors and different themes – giant whale and water to caves and dinosaurs to planes and cranes on the outside. It was exciting for me, an adult (yes, technically i am) to go into some hole and not know where it will lead. But the way they created everything is amazing – its all art – iron creatively welded in cool patterns, creatures molded in the concrete in the caves, colors and patterns painted most everywhere. And because st. louis still has not fully bounced back from its industrial past, there are lots of abandoned buildings that provide interesting materials for this museum. Like, in one of the bigger rooms they just had a giant safe – a huge metal door and a wall made of security boxes. I could go on and on about this place, and prolly should, but you really need to go there for yourself.

After the the “museum”, i packed for my vegas trip back at the hotel, then we went back to the loop for dinner and a couple beers. This time we ate at a middle eastern spot enjoying hummus, lamb, and a veggie dish that reminded me of something i would eat in morocco. Once we finished eating, we went to the famous blueberry hill for a beer. Nobody famous was playing that night, but chuck berry plays there on a regular basis (still!) and most bands that do a medium size venue would hit that place. We also checked out a hip hop spot called 609 – it was packed, and shayna and i were the only white people there – i felt like i was in atlanta. Music was provide by DJ Needles – he played old school and nu skool hip hop, some with a reggae flare. His mixing was spot on, i was quite impressed.

Day 19, Friday 2006-11-10

Taking a break from the road trip and flying to vegas for bachelor weekend.

To be continued in part 4 .. Washington DC back to California

USA 2006 part 2

November 2nd, 2006

Day 6, Saturday 2006-10-28 Colorado

Woke up in our cheap motel in Durango and got some tasty breakfast at carver’s. Before heading out to Mesa Verde, i bought a nice new travel camera bag, Lowepro Nova 2 AW, and i love it. I’ve been to Mesa Verde before, but this time it was much colder and half the stuff was closed. We still got some good pics of trees, the rockies, and the ever-cool cliff palace. I also learned about the population – the current thinking is that there were more people in the four corners region a few hundred years ago than there are today. Lots of native americans. After Mesa Verde we headed towards boulder, making it as far as buena vista, colorado.

Day 7, Sunday 2006-10-29 Colorado

We got up early and hit the road. Our drive to boulder took us thru our highest elevation point on the trip – Fremont pass at 11,318 feet. The view of the rockies was amazing for hours – snow capped mountains, passed ski resorts like copper mountain, brekenridge, keystone, than took a narrow hwy thru the canyon down to boulder. We got there in time for a run before lunch, which i totally needed. Then more delicious food and beer at the walnut brewery. After lunch we walked around the city, up the creek by the library, around the red rocks area, and up around chautauqua park. We decided to stay in boulder sunday night so we could check out Lyrics Born and Cut Chemist at the fox – i’m glad we did. Their performance was great, altho most of the crowd stood around while me and shayna had to shake it. Before the show we had some pizza and beers at the sink, and after the show we had a sub before going to bed at the Boulder hostel around the corner.

Day 8, Monday 2006-10-30 Colorado, Wyoming

We left boulder and headed north. Pretty uneventful day, just driving thru rolling hills, lots of roadkill and tumbleweeds. We decided to check out Devil’s tower before mt. rushmore, so we headed in that direction. Didn’t get there before sundown, so we spent the night in nearby moorcroft, wyoming, at a small hotel. Like most hotels this trip, it had wifi internet, but that night we got there early enough to spend time catching up on emails and posting pictures. Nothing else to do in a town of 300 peeps when its 18 degrees outside.

Day 9, Tuesday 2006-10-31 Wyoming, South Dakota

This was a big day – we hit Devils Tower in Wyoming, then Deadwood and Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. Devils Tower was featured in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Ahh yes, we all remember that one. We drove around it and got out to look at it but it was like 19 degrees outside, so that lasted only 5 mins. The huge rocks launching out of the ground at monument valley seem to fit – devils tower didn’t. I like what shayna said – “I’m glad they had this in an alien movie, seems fitting”.

After Devils Tower we went to Deadwood in the Black Hills. Yes, this is the same one in the HBO series Deadwood. And HBO maintains some truth – Gold was discovered there in 1870s and brought the town some fame and fortune, including the famous Wild Bill Hickcock. However, the coolest thing in Deadwood was the Adams Museum, which covered gold rush, chinese influence, native americans, cloths, tools, guns and many other things relating to the old west. But Deadwood is also part of the injustice the whites did to the native americans. The Black Hills were sacred to the Lakota, which were driven west of Minnesota by whites in the 1700s. They drove out other native americans in the region back then, but conflicts with the ever westward moving whites forced them to sign the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie (src), which made them give up most of the area in the dakotas but promised 60 million acres of the black hills (screwed again). Then they redid Ft. Laramie treaty in 1868, reducing to only 20 million acres (screwed again). Then gold was discovered, and whites basically ignored the treaty and haven’t left since. To this day, the indians technically still own the land, as the 1868 treaty has not been nullified, but they really don’t have control over it.

After Deadwood we drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is close to mt. rushmore. This was also one of the best things i saw on the trip – mainly because of the inspirational nature of the project. In the 1940s native american elders asked a famous sculptor, Korczak, to build them a memorial. And he did. All by himself, in the beginning. His plan was grand – when complete, the crazy horse carving will be the largest in the world, taller than the national monument in washington DC. But they got a long way to go. Korczak died about 20 years ago, but his wife and 7 of his 10 children keep his dream alive. The facilities there were new, with lots of information and art relating to native americans. However, as shayna pointed out, they need a curator to organize it a bit better. But it was still the largest collection in the most square feet of any building i’ve ever been to.

Day 10, Wednesday 2006-11-01 South Dakota

We woke up in keystone, a tourist town right by mt. rushmore. The town was huge, but this was the last day of the season and almost everything was closed. A bit eerie, especially in the cold (still in the 220s). We drove up to Mt. Rushmore, but didn’t go in the park, since it appeared to be just a big parking lot. You could see mt. rushmore fine from where we were on the road. That was good enough for me and shayna, so we took our pics and left – it was going to be a long day of driving – needed to go 600+ miles to minneapolis.

Just east of rapid city we stopped at Wall Drug before going into Badlands. Wall Drug was prolly the best tourist spot on the planet – 2 out of every 3 signs along the hwy in south dakota were for wall drug. It’s one store, but the inside was like a mini-mall, with lots of fun statues and old west motifs. Shayna got a cowboy hat and shirt, i got a few trinket items and a buffalo burger. It wasn’t that good. Then we hopped in the car again and drove through the Badlands – which also kicked ass. We took a few pics, and spent time at the Visitor Center, which clearly had lots of money spent on it recently. After going to crazy horse, where they had great info but it was poorly organized, and then at a well done national park visitor center, you realize how important information delivery is. After that we put the petal to the metal and made it to shayna’s friends place in minneapolis by midnight.

And that ends the western half of the USA. In part 3, we’ll cover the midwest cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis.

USA 2006 part 1

October 30th, 2006

This blog will contain daily log entries of our Road Trip USA – see original itinerary and/or actual itinerary. I found it hard to decide on how i wanted to talk about the road trip, and decided on a daily just-the-facts-ma’am approach since my memory aint the worlds best. Colorful commentary will likely be sparse – road trippin’ wears you out, you don’t have much brain power left for the laptop.

Day 1, Monday 2006-10-23 – California

The journey began 1pm. I had just gotten back from Tahoe the night before, was still tired, so getting out the door was understandably stressful. But it felt great to start this trip, my biggest trip of 2006. We basically drove to Yosemite, stopped for a few pics, then busted on thru to the east side of the sierra nevada mountains. We made it to Lone Pine, Cali, near Mt. Whitney, where we slept solid our first night. Pretty uneventful.

Day 2, Tuesday 2006-10-24 – California, Nevada

We awoke with grand mountains at our doorstep. Beautiful. We hopped in the Jetta and zoomed our way towards Death Valley. Along the way we saw 3 jet fighters flying through the canyons – badass. and loud. We winded our way from valleys thru mountains and thru more valleys till we got to the entrance of Death Valley. This was my second time here, first time was in july 1995, and it was much, much hotter, like 110 or 120. This time it was only like 80 degrees. Our first stop was gas and a beer, second stop was the monument to the Borax mine from the 1880s. Then we hit up the visitor center then Badwater, the lowest point in the western hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level. Lowest point in the world is by the dead sea, at 1312 feet below sea level. After badwater we headed out of death valley, driving thru Artist Palette and Zabriskie point. After death valley we zoomed towards zion,going right thru vegas (except to stop for some sushi – it was decent)to end up crasing in at virigin casino hotel in Mesquite, Nevada near arizona border.

Day 3, Wednesday 2006-10-25 Arizona, Utah

Woke up in Nevada, briefly crossed into Arizona before getting into Utah towards Zion. Right before, we passed a great tourist store in Virgin, Utah. The store was built like a fort, and they had 8 miniature old west buildings, along with sheep, llamas, chickens and a donkey. And yes, i got a picture of me petting the ass. That was a fun hour.

When we got to Zion National Park we hit up the visitor center, picked out a camping spot, then went on a hike to Angel’s landing. I was really jonesing for a nice big hike, and this 5 mile 1500 ft climb hit the spot. It was beautiful climb, fist slowly up, then through narrow passages in a small canyon to a beautiful view of the valley at scott’s landing, then along a narrow and treacherous path to the top of angel’s landing. After that hike we just headed back to our camping spot, grabbed some firewood and beers (polygamy porters), started up a fire and kicked it the rest of the night.

Day 4, Thursday 2006-10-26 Utah, Arizona

We woke up in our tent to freezing temperatures, shade, and strong winds. Fun. We broke camp and headed up the canyon for some more hiking.  We started with the Temple of Sinawava, which was just a short flat walk upstream, then we did weeping rock, where the water seeps out of the canyon walls. After those 2 short ones we ventured into hidden canyon, a little longer and more stenuous hike, but still pretty easy. Like angel’s landing, this one also had sections of walking along dangerously narrow paths on slippery sandstone so they had installed chains for hikers to hold onto. The hidden canyon was a sandy canyon that went on forever – eventually we just turned around and headed out. We left zion before sunset at the east entrance and made it into arizona into a small town called Kayenta.

Day 5, Friday 2006-10-27 Arizona, Colorado

It was nice to wake up in the Best Western after the cold camping experience. They had a nice continental breakfast where all 20 of the people in the room seem to be from france or germany. Also, when i was checking out, a old navajo woman came into the lobby with a basket and spoke to the navajo women working there in what i’m guessing to be the navajo language. It appeared that they were negotiating a price on the basket, with the old navajo woman walking out with $60 for her basket. The womenadded it to an already huge collection of baskets, jewelry, blankets, and other stuff.

Then we hit my favorite part of the trip so far – Monument Valley Navajo National Park. I really loved seeing the mesa’s proudly launching up out of the ground. In the park, we did this 2 hour driving tour in our car where we got to see like 10-20 monuments. My favorite was the mittens, which is the picture used by most when referring to monument valley. After the tour we had an Indian taco at the visitor center – the fry bread was a bit bigger and better than the indian tacos near burningman, but otherwise was just as delicious. The visitor center also had a nice display on the WWII Navajo Code Talkers.

After Monument Valley we drove to Four Corners, where you can be in four states at once – Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. After spending our 2 minutes there, we headed to Durango, Colorado to spend the night. Durango is part old west town, part high-end ski town, part college/beer town. We enjoyed tastey beers first at Diamond Belle Saloon, where everything – the bartender, waitress, and interior (except for the piano dude) – made you feel like you were still in 1880s. Then we hit Lady Falconburgh – which had 38 beers on tap. Mmmm…

Continued in part 2

Road Trip USA

October 11th, 2006

Wassup, kids. Shayna and i got a rough plan together, and here it be. If you know any cool peeps in these cities, hook me up.

10/23 Mon – Leave SF, Arrive in Upper Yosemite (230 miles, 6hrs)
10/24 Tue – Death Valley, vegas? (35oish miles, 7hrs)
10/25 Wed – Arrive Zion (200ish miles, 4hr)
10/27 Fri – Arrive Denver (6ooish miles, 9hrs)
10/29 Sun – Arrive Mt. Rushmore (4ooish miles, 8hrs)
10/31 Tue – Arrive in Minneapolis (6ooish miles, 8hrs)
11/03 Fri – Arrive in Chicago (4ooish miles, 7hrs)
11/06 Mon – Shayna tours Columbia College of Art, then to Iowa City (220 miles, 4hrs)
11/07 Tue – Shayna tours University of Iowa (paper, book) in Iowa City
11/08 Wed – Arrive in St. Louis (320 miles, 5hrs)
11/10 Fri – Chad fly from St. Louis to Vegas, Shayna drive to DC
11/11 Sat – Shayna in DC
11/12 Sun – Chad fly to DC, arrives 6AM Monday, tour DC
11/13 Mon – Arrive Athens (jillian? 600miles, 10hrs), atlanta (chads family?)
11/14 Tue – Arrive Atlanta (70 miles, 1.5hrs), Nashville (greg, kiki? 250miles, 4 hrs)
11/16 Wed – Arrive Tulsa Oklahoma (thurs AM doctor) (613 miles, 10 hrs)
11/17 Thu – Arrive Santa fe, New Mexico (650miles, 10hrs)
11/18 Fri – Arrive Grand Canyon (480 miles, 8 hrs)
11/19 Sat – Arrive SF (800 miles, 13 hrs)

Read how it went in part 1. Also check out the actual itinerary.

2006 Fall/Winter Plans

September 29th, 2006

It’s time to bust out my travel gear again. This time i’m going big. Here’s the plan

10/18 Wed – 10/22 Sun — Tahoe for Dusty and Laura’s wedding
10/23 Mon – 11/19 Sun — Driving Cross-Country with Shayna
11/10 Fri – 11/12 Sun — Vegas for rick (flying from chicago, back to DC)
11/19 Sun – 11/20 Mon — San Francisco !! my one pause in 2 months.
11/21 Tues – 12/13 Wed — Costa Rica (wedding 12/9)

2007 – Jan – April — Buenos Aires, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, India etc.

Updates pending …

Burningman, SF, and Yosemite

September 29th, 2006

It’s been a couple months since i updated my huge readership on what i’ve been up to and what i have planned, mainly cuz i’m not anything close to a real writer, but here it is. Basically i spent August in SF preparing for burningman, went to bman for 8 days, and been kickin’ it in SF since, except for a 3 day trip to Yosemite, which OWN3D!!

So yeah, burningman was delicious. I mean that in a rock-out with your art-out kinda way. It was my eighth year, and my best. 2003 is a close second, i prolly had more fun then, but i never really left our boombox camp. This year was well rounded: we had a nice, small camp, met new people and got closer to existing friends, had many nomad adventures where we saw lots of art installations, participated in many camps, found lots of old friends, enjoyed a beverage or twelve, and danced my ass off. Yes, my favorite moment and when i decided it was my best year was on thursday night, dancing to lorin at the root society dome (10:00/esplanade). Other highlights include the belgian waffle, serpent mother, Neverwas Haul – the jules verne steam engine car from 100 years ago, a swimming pool, the pendulum tower ride, war of the worlds, and much more ..

About a week after burningman, shayna and i decided to get some yosemite. Git sum. We came back from bman and decided this real world stuff wasn’t that great. And since shayna had never been to one of the most beautiful and most visited national parks in the country, we had to go. We drove up saturday, stayed in a tent at Curry village for $100, hiked around taft point and sentinel dome on sunday, camped in a tent at lower pines sunday night, and monday embarked on the best day hike i’ve ever done – half dome. It took us almost 12 hours, and it was teh bomb.

So thats where i’ve been. I’ll post where i’m going soon – plans are finally being ironed out this week.

The Carolinas

July 26th, 2006

I grew up in the south, but last week i learned to apreciate the carolinas a bit more. I spent 10 days with my older sister, her husband, and their 2 kids, Addy and Sam. The 5 of us drove around north and south carolina in their big red truck (chevy suburban) towing their Outback trailer. Thats right, an RV. But the best part was spending quality time with family, doing nothing but enjoying ourselves – hiking, swimming, eating, and drinking.

I met up with them in Boonville, NC, on Tuesday, July 11, after they’ve been on the road for over a week. They were staying in a private campground, with a pool, putt-putt, general store, and an amazing hiking trail down to a river. Of course we did that river hike, and had fun with the whole family (including rigby, their boston terrier) playing in the water. We also spent some time at the Rag Apple Winery, which had decent wines. The man pouring was very knowledgable about NC wine – many tobacco farmers are switching to grapes. Lara and bryan hope to switch to grapes from their jobs, too.

On Wednesday we drove to Boone, NC, a bit more in the mountains. We stayed at the Boone KOA tent/RV campground, the nicest spot we’d stay. It had a pool, putt-putt, playground, pond, goats, chickens, cows, green grass and blue skies. We got some serious chill on there. The weather was great – we were almost at 4,000 feet, much cooler than the rest of the hot humid south this time of year. On thursday we drove to blowing rock, a not-so-great tourist attraction, but a nice trip. On the way back we stopped in town for a tastee dinner near ASU. Friday we stayed at camp, enjoyed the pool and nature.

Saturday we packed up and headed to Asheville, NC. This was my favorite city – small mtn town that attracts people from all over the country, including artists and hippie types (gotta like a splash of san francisco in the south). On the way we stopped at another tourist spot, Grandfather mountain. This was much better than blowing rock, they actually had a zoo with cougars, bears, eagles, and more. And of course, they are famous for their swinging mile-high bridge. Later that night my parents met up with us in asheville, driving about 4 hours up from atlanta. The first night they actually slept with us in the trailer – and lara and bryan took the tent. But the next night they opted for a bit nicer bed at the Grove Park Inn.

On Monday we drove to Greenville, SC, and stayed at Paris Mountain State Park, the first non-private spot we stayed. This was right outside of greenville, and my grandfather used to take my mom there to swim when she was a kid. It was beautiful – the lake and the nature trails around it. We were also lucky enough to have my mom’s mom, edith, join us for lunch on monday and tuesday. Tuesday was especially nice, we got to celebrate Sam’s 3rd birthday (his actual birthday was wed, july 19). Larry and Evelyn treated us to lunch from whole foods, Sam got presents and a cake, and mama was very happy to spend time with her great-grandchildren. It was good to see her out and laughing.

Tuesday afternoon we headed to the beach, arriving at Hunting Island just after dark. The next morning i got up early and walked along the beach. It was perfect. Tide was almost all the way out, revealing the coolest patterns in the sand i’ve ever seen. And the lighting was amazing – the sun still coming up over the ocean – the waves were carefully crashing around me, birds flying above, a few people strolling about, not too hot yet, quiet, calm, peaceful. Later we came back out with full family, swam in the ocean, built sand castles, and walked an hour down to the lighthouse. An amazing view up there.

Thursday, July 20, was my last day. We stopped at the hunting island nature center on the way out, then headed for the airport. I got the pleasure of eating waffle house for my last meal – can’t beat their waffles! All in all an amazing and relaxing trip. Thank you lara and bryan for letting me into your mobile home!

New Orleans, June 2006

June 23rd, 2006

I just got back from a week long trip in New Orleans, or as locals say it, Nawlins, Louisiana. It’s been almost 9 months since Hurricane Katrina hit this town, and its slowly but surely coming back. The spirit of the people there is great, but i would guess half the population are back to their pre-katrina lives (some say even less than half, could not find any real data), the rest are rebuilding or relocated. The popular areas like French Quarter and Downtown avoided most of the flooding, and its possible a tourist could visit and not even know katrina happened. I stayed with my friend Shayna Cohen and enjoyed my time there seeing the sights, eating delicious southern food, riding bikes around in the hot and humid afternoons, and grooving to bands at various little bars at night. I purposely went during a time when there were no festivals, to absorb the normal way of life in the big easy. I took a ton of pictures, and spend the last day uploading them to flickr. It’s best to view those while reading this, i’m writing this blog to complement the 5 sets i created there (click on the picture below to view them).

I left SF Tuesday night, and arrived in New orleans Wednesday morning, June 14th. My friend Shayna was working at Praline Connection, so i dropped off my stuff, ate some of their tasty fried chicken, cornbread, and bread pudding, then walked around the French Quarter (or just the Quarter). I took a bunch of pics, including a jackson square, 516 doorway with tons of cool doorbells, and a store with tons of hot sauces (mmmm.. hot sauce). Later that night we hung out on frenchman street, hitting some of the best joints in new orleans – dba, ??, and spotted cat (my favorite). Thursday shayna showed me where she worked with the kids in the afterschool program. We took the ferry to algiers for that, and biked around that area till we melted in the sun. Then we ferried back to downtown, and spent some time in the Audubon aquarium, which only just opened a few weeks earlier (they lost animals and suffered damage from katrina). We were lucky enough to catch the feeding in the big tank where we saw sharks, manta rays, giant turtles, and tons of fish gettin’ their snack on. But my favorite was the hawk feeding – got a few pics of that bad bird eating a white mouse. After that we biked over to Plan B – a free, community do-it-yourself bike repair center. Then we ate at Bywater BBQ .. prolly my favorite meal. Thursday night we were too tired to make it to zydeco night at the bowling alley, as planned. That heat sure does take its toll.

Friday we biked to the cemetery – St Louis No. 3 – and then to the city park. On the way back we stopped at a nice local whole-foods-like grocery store to get supplies for dinner. We made ourselves some tortellini with pesto, apps with tomato-basil-mozz, and salami and asparagus sandwhiches. Who would have known that salami and asparagus were soo good together?

Saturday shayna worked during the day and i hit the Audubon Zoo. They say to get there early while the animals have some life in them, before the heat makes everybody too tired to move. Luckily i did, and got to see elephants, tigers, lions, spider monkeys, tons of birds, and even a giant white aligator. I especially liked the gator cuz it was inside an air conditioned building, and taking a 15min AC break is like breathing life into me after walking around in that humid southern heat. Given that alot of the city was still recouperating from katrina, I was impressed that every section had animals aparently doing well. Only the sea lion exhibit had a sign saying “gone to texas”. There was also a free concert in the zoo that day – i was hoping to see Kermit Ruffins, but he was not on till 4:15pm and the heat was too much to wait for that. So i hopped on my bike and headed back to shayna’s pad, about 6 miles away. Along the way i stopped at Mother’s (on Poydras and Tchoupitoulas) for supposedly the best po boy in new orleans. It was my first and only po boy, and it was delicious. I got the one with ham, roast beef, and swiss. I ordered a side of greens, and .. get this .. there was more meat in my thing of greens then there was greens. AND, they through in a side of savory roast pork – not sure if it was on purpose or an accident. Gotta love the south. I met shayna at her place and we sat on her porch eatin the po boy in the heat. Thas the way to soak up the culture. Saturday night we went out drinking, hitting bars, bourbon street, Donna’s, the Oz, amoung others. More on this later if i remember.

Sunday i chilled most of the day, did some reading online about new orleans and readin’ of my book. Sunday night we ate at Orielles’ creole restaraunt. It was good, but not great, but the service was excellent and affordable ($10-20 entres). Monday we rented a car and drove around to see the post-katrina new orleans. First we went to Lakeview, then saw East New Orleans, and then the Lower Ninth Ward As everybody says, lower ninth ward, right across the bridge by the canal, was by far the most destroyed. You really must see the flickr pictures to understand the devastation.

Katrina really did a number on new orleans. Even though it was all over the news, and people still talk about it, it’s hard to paint an accurate picture. I was there a week, and i still couldn’t understand it as well as my friend shayna, who’s been there a few months. And even she can’t understand it as well as the ones who experienced it. Can you imagine losing everything you know? your house, your friends, your neighborhood? Businesses were looted, people lost those closest to them, kids would see dead bodies floating in the flood waters, and there was just too many people for all to be helped. Even now. Check out rebuild status from this june 2006 article from gambit weekly, local newspaper. But as i said before, the spirit is surprisingly strong. I met many that still love new orleans, wave their rebirth flags proudly, and are there to stay.

Monday night, after that sobering afternoon we treated ourselves to a tasty meal at Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. Jacques himself was there, and bought me a shot of tequila while i was waiting for the bathroom. Thats my kind of guy.

Tuesday I hit the st. louis cemetary no 1, and then magazine street. Did some shopping, and found Juan’s flying burrito. Yes, and i had to get my friend juan a shirt – the back says “We are all Juan – New Orleans”. Classic. After that, i noticed there was a joint called “Chad’s Bistro“, so we had to hit that. Then back to jacques-imo’s for another snack. Then we got our groove on at Maple Leaf Bar, listening to the Rebirth Brass Band. Those guys were great, the crowd was totally into them, and it felt very new orleans. That and spotted cat were my favorite two spots in nawlins.

I left, but my soul is still there. I see why many want to rebuild the city – the “rebirth” flags are everywhere, and slowly but surely it will rise again. As you may know, I quit my job, and I could easily move to nawlins and become a bartender. I could use some Big Easy in my life.

My Travel Plans

June 12th, 2006

As mentioned before, i quit my job at yahoo and plan to do some traveling. This blog entry is meant to be an overview of my travels, and i’ll update it as my plans change.

Dates — Locations
5/24 – 6/1 — NYC, Philadelphia, Atlanta
6/13 – 6/21 — New Orleans
6/30 – 7/6* — Buenos Aires- POSTPONED
7/11 – 7/18 — North Carolina

10/24 – Tahoe, California (Dusty/Laura wedding)
12/4 – Costa Rica (Rick Zetta Wedding)

* Date not definite

Buenos Aires was postponed because my cheap delta ticket lets me fly standby on any flight, but due to july 4th weekend traveling, all flights
are overbooked.

Bali, Thailand are postponed till i spend some time fixing my back in SF. More deets on My Back.