Go West…Drive tourism in action

When one of the most important people in your life decides to take a job across the country (literally 3,350 miles in the opposite direction of you), it is only logical to volunteer as co-pilot for the journey.

Go West Young Man

The trip went something like this: Day 1: Orlando, FL to Metropolis, IL (we saw Superman); Day 2: IL to Osage City, KS (crossed the Mississippi!); Day 3: KS to Estes Park, CO (Highly recommend the Silver Moon Inn, Claire’s for breakfast, and Estes Park Crossfit – Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing, from what little we saw due to weather); Day 4: CO to Rock Springs, WY (WY has the most impressive visitor center I’ve seen); Day 5: WY to Boise, ID (saw the 1st JC Penny store in Kemmer, WY before a stop at Fossil Butte National Monument to interview park ranger, must go back and hike); Day 6: ID to Seattle, WA (Cowboy Donuts was most excellent and “You have reached your final destination”).

Along the way we ate protein bars, sunflower seeds, a giant bag of Twizzlers (only 150 calories per 4!), drank shitty gas station coffee and listened to Disney, Glee, Hamilton, and lots of This American Life, which if you have never listened to I recommend you do. We also talked about random things, bitched at traffic, and had a general good time. I managed to keep up with my workouts, even if it meant getting up at 5am to do so. I also only logged two nap sessions during the 6 days of driving (this is major since I typically pass out approximately 30min into a journey), and never got us lost (I may or may not have almost missed a turn but I made up for it by reading all the signs as if the pilot couldn’t see them, which he could but it made me feel better about my momentary failures as co-pilot).

Fossil Butte National Monument

For me the biggest standout was watching the country change. It reinforced how much I love traveling and the beauty in the diversity of landscape, wildlife, plant life, people, politics and culture. I get to live in a beautiful country and this trip really helped remind me of that.

Seattle was a fun city to explore. Coffee shops every six stores, the Starbucks of all Starbucks (aka Starbucks Roastery – and even monks visit this location so it has to be good!), great places to eat, dog friendly, and super walkable.

The food scene was fantastic: Cheese, Meats, Bread (not your every day grilled cheese sandwhich); Lunchbox Laboratory (try a boozy shake!); Pho In & Out (the service was FANTASTIC and the pho on point); every coffee house ever (just do them all); Sweet Iron Waffle Bar (have a sweet and savory waffle); Japonessa Sushi Cocina (I recommend going for happy hour – possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had); The Pink Door (an experience that I strongly recommend – check the entertainment schedule – the Pink Door Lasagna and Bolognese were amazing); Elliot’s Oyster House (great location on the Pier – great spot to watch the sunset – again I recommend happy hour).

I also utilized Uber Eats while in Seattle. Let me tell you how utterly overwhelming it was to decide what to order…on one occasion I gave up and just had a protein shake, the decision was more than my little brain could handle.

What we did: When you visit friends in a place you have never been, typically you want to experience all the tourist things that make your friends cringe. The beauty of this trip was that we were really both tourists and as such visited the following:

  • Space Needle (go up, come down, and marvel at the view – if you are into kettle corn, it smelled amazing – I just drooled over the smell b/c I’m allergic and 550 feet up isn’t really the place for an allergy attack).
  • Museum of Pop Culture – super awesome, the exhibits change, but we saw: Star Trek, Jim Henson, Horror Movies, Fantasy, and Sound (where you get to play with instruments!).
  • The Space Needle and MoPOP sit in the complex that once held the World Fair (Aka Century 21 Exposition) – take time to explore the entire area, it is worth it!
  • Pike’s Place Market – and Yes we saw the dude’s throw the fish! The market is three levels and is visited by both tourists and locals alike – and rose kale seems to be the plant of choice in floral arrangements.
  • Walk and explore – the other parts of the stay really was just walking and exploring. I stopped in every coffee shop possible and some random stores that looked interesting.
  • Foundations Crossfit is the place to drop in – for you workout buffs. I did the OLY classes and the coaching was excellent. They are very friendly and welcoming and I highly recommend them for a drop in of OLY, Powerlifting, or Crossfit classes.
  • What we did NOT do: Due to an unusually early snowfall (it snowed in the city – and apparently that is apocalyptic) we did not get to visit Mt Rainier or Olympic National Parks. The road conditions less than ideal and a pass was closed – I may or may not have almost cried…Mother Nature apparently has something against my dissertation (it’s on electric vehicles and sustainability in the national parks, which is totally ‘save the earth’ so I’m confused – but such is life!) We also didn’t take a water taxi across to Alki Beach or go to the Aquarium (mainly b/c I overslept that day and decided to do school work instead).

As a whole on this trip, I found the people to be polite and friendly. Sure there were some places that had a grouch but really most people were helpful and happy to be of service.

Would I do the trip again? Absolutely! I don’t regret sitting in a car for 6 days at all (my legs and hips may argue that point but getting old is rough!) – I can honestly say that I never once was ‘bored’. There were some moments of ‘road weary’ but that comes with the territory. Overall, the time that I got to spend with my friend is really what I treasure. Life is what you make of it…your journey is all in your perspective on life. See the beautiful around you, make your own laughter, treasure the memories and the times you get to spend with those you love.

Selfies!

Selfies were taken throughout the journey #earthpartner

Advertisements

NOLA – Where life is buzzing all around

I do enjoy when academic conferences are held in exciting locations (all part of getting attendance numbers up). The conference this year was in New Orleans! Two of my wonderful girlfriends joined me for a couple days of exploration, food, music, and shenanigans.

Food ReCap

Galliano: By far the best meal/service combination I had the entire trip and in the top 5 of all time. The service from start to finish was impeccable, with everyone from management to waitstaff making sure that the meal was good, dishes were cleared, and drinks were refilled. I had the Crawfish Pasta Monica, a good portion with chunks of crawfish tails – the toasted cheese bread was a bit too toasted otherwise a dish to make the tastebuds tingle. The blackened drum is a must try and the southern fried chicken was most excellent. Dessert changes each night so ask your server for their recommendation.

Cafe du Monde: You can’t go to New Orleans and not dine at this classic establishment. However, if you don’t NEED to wait in line at the main shop then I recommend the location in the Riverwalk mall – shorter lines same great taste. The coffee was excellent but the beignets were a bit more dough-y than I recalled. Still heaven in a bite!

Drago’s: All you need to order is 1 dozen charbroiled oysters – that is all. Use the bread to soak up the buttery, parmesan goodness and enjoy every bite. As my sister said “It’s a religion”. I did have a shrimp po boy – but I really wasn’t all that impressed – the bread was far too crusty.

Mulate’s: Nightly Cajun music – but don’t get there too late because the band will wrap up  on schedule. Good location for a drink and some dessert while indulging in music. Right across the street from Galliano.

Morning Call Coffee Stand: This 24-hour joint serves coffee and beignets with a throwback flare. The beignets were probably my favorite of those tasted on the trip. This joint is located in New Orleans City Park – so make a day out of visiting botanical gardens, museum of art and sculpture garden, boating, biking, and much more.

IMG_6371

Spitfire Coffee: Pay attention or you will walk right past it. I had the cortado and it was lovely.

Adolfo’s: Located on Frenchman street this was the perfect place to have an end of trip dinner. Cash only and limited seating, it is well worth it to get there early. Have some drinks downstairs while you wait, or walk around the Art Market and check out local wares (I did some shopping for myself and for Christmas!).

Other Happenings 

Aside from eating our way to a food coma – which by walking 14 miles over 2.5-3 days we subsequently nulled out the caloric intake – there was also time to discover what the city had to offer. French quarter fest was in full swing for the weekend, so there was plenty of music and festivities to partake in. I’d been to Bourbon Street before, so I skipped that and instead enjoyed the music offerings of Frenchman Street. Club after club with each one having better music than the last – pop in and out and dance yourself to a good time.

We opted for a tour of the city and really learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the layout of the city, its people, and life outside of tourist-land.

To commemorate the trip…well we all may have stopped into Electric Ladyland...I can only speak for myself when I say that Chris is a great artist and I’m very happy with fresh pineapple inked onto my wrist.

FullSizeR1

Overall, I have to say that I left NOLA with a great impression and would absolutely go back. The city has experienced a rebirth since Katrina. The people were friendly and, as a city, I experienced some of the best hospitality overall that I have ever experienced. There is a zest for life that can be tasted in the food and felt in the music…as they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”