Monday, May 18, 2009

tales from the road... SD-BC

howdy folks!

i'm back home in my bedroom in west vancouver. not very exotic.. i know...

let me get you all caught up on the end of our journey...

we planned to get up early in rapid city and be on the road by 830. so we did that. for some strange reason my alarm on my cellphone hasn't been working, so braden has to wake me up every morning (his alarm still works). fortunately it only took me two days to train him that yelling "BROOKE! GET UP! ITS MORNING!" is not an acceptable way to be woken up. so now its "brooke, dear, its time to wake up"- much more tolerable. (you may think i'm kidding here. i'm not). so, from rapid city, its about an hour and a bit to mt. rushmore. and on the way we ran into a mini rally. like mini coopers. probably about 25 of them, all lined up, all with cute custom liscence plates. being a mini driver at heart, braden couldn't cut into their line (even though we had the green light), so we turned down a side street and hopped in line behind the last one. in our vw golf. but of course lola rocked it.

mount rushmore is pretty impressive. i mean, as a non-american it doesn't mean a huge lot to me in a patriotic kind of way, but its still really cool what you can carve out of a mountain. most notably it was cold. it feels like the 35+ degrees days in florida disappeared overnight and all of a sudden it was down to 7 or 8 degrees (all celcius obviously). second most notably was the group walking in front of us up to the mountain. it was four youngish guys, all dressed really cool, all with expensive video/photo equipment. braden turned to me and asks (or so i thought..) "how do you think you get invited to the hamster convention?" and looks back at the guys. so i looked at them a couple times and couldn't figure out for the life of me how he knew they were part of a hamster convention. turns out he asked how one gets invited to the HIPSTER convention. it made so much more sense. i probably shouldn't tell this story at parties...

moving on.

from mount rushmore we swung south to the crazy horse memorial- which will be the largest statue in the world, when its finished. which it is not. but its still pretty flippin' cool. then we hopped over into wyoming, where we stopped for brunch. and i had THE most amazing french toast i've ever had (and i've had my fair share of french toast). words cannot describe how wonderful it was. and at a little diner on main street in newcastle, wyoming. with a stuffed jackolope on the wall. amazing.

and then the driving started. we drove and drove. and then we drove some more. and if we're being honest, braden drove. although i did offer every rest stop we passed and ever time we did stop. all in all we drove about 1,313 km that day (which is about 816 miles). needless to say it was a very long day. i was a little cranky. our original plan was to stop in great falls, mt then head up to glacier national park the next morning. we drove through great falls at 830pm and it was decided that we carry on, to get closer to the park (which would have been 2 1/2 hours from great falls), so we ended up an hour and a half northwest of great falls in cut bank, mt- the coldest place in the nation (according to the giant penguin in front of our motel- seriously).

the next morning we were both up before 7 because it was COLD in our room. and sleeping is next to impossible if you're cold. so we were on the road bright and early. it was also braden's 20th birthday. so we had a mini donut with breakfast (as well as the usual cereal/ bagel). we set out for the park (glacier national park) and realized that the road through the park may not actually be open yet, as it was still very wintery and its a mountain pass road. so i called ahead, and turns out it was in fact not open. but it was partly open from the east end (which was the side we were on). so we headed 5 miles into the park before we ran into (no, not literally) the gate at the end of the road. it was cold and windy but absolutely gorgeous. clear skies, snow, mountains and lakes. amazing. we stopped in the visitors centre on the way out of the park, where braden was the first official visitor of 2009. sadly that honour didn't include a prize.

just north of that entrance to the park was another entrance to a shorter road (shorter than the total 50 miles of the closed road). so we took that in and followed it up to another lake. we played in the snow briefly, took some pictures and encountered some bighorn sheep on our way out. my personal favourite, we'll call him peter, was probably 2 feet from the car, and so i introduced him to jon bear (our polar bear mascot), and he proceeded to escort us to the edge of the wildlife corridor. no joke, we got to the sign marking the edge, and peter stepped aside and let us carry on.

we crossed back into canada half an hour north of there, in nowhere, montana/ nowhere, alberta with no problems. we grabbed lunch in cardston, alberta, and met up with maureen (another boat friend) and her former roommate for an ice cream and a tour of cardston- where maureen spent her high school years.

and then it was north to calgary, at 110 km/h which felt like crawling after two days of flying along at 140km/h. from calgary we pointed lola west towards the mountains and were in canmore within an hour. i did laundry and cleaned up while braden and lola drove 15 mins into banff to pick up lucas, braden's friend from oakville, who is in revelstoke, bc this summer. since it was may 2-4 weekend (victoria day for all you non-ontarians) he had both saturday/sunday as well as monday off. that night we went down to the pub/brewery and had dinner, then took the largest taxi-van i've ever seen back home, where we watched bbc's planet earth and fell asleep while learning about caves.

the next morning we were allowed to sleep in (i was still up before 8), and had a leisurely morning of reading/ sitting around and headed down to timmy's for coffee/breakfast then to johnston canyon, about 35 minutes drive from canmore. its a nice little walk along a creek, and has two sets of waterfalls along it. we usually go in the winter when we're there as a family, and crazy people are ice-climbing the larger of the two waterfalls. but its beautiful in the summer as well. i spent most of the walk on my own, as braden and luke went off scampering through the woods. but, being the long weekend i was very much not alone, as it was super busy. i had all kinds of fun eavesdropping on families and couples i walked by.

then it was back into banff for a tour of the banff springs hotel- one of my very favourite buildings in the whole world. its absolutely 110% amazing. it was built in 1888 by the cpr (canadian pacific railroad) and its essentially a castle in the mountains. its got beautiful old ballrooms and spiral staircases and secrety-feeling passages. its SO cool. from there we walked down to the bow river falls for a quick peek. and we saw elk, which is kind of a normal thing in banff, so braden and i weren't all that excited, but luke sure was!

THENNNN we went back to canmore and up the darkside of the valley (we live on the sunny side), past the reservoir, to spray lakes. which still had a layer of ice over 1/3 of the lake. the ice was probably a good 10 inches thick at least. so obviously the boys had to try to break the ice by throwing rocks & ice chunks at it. the ice that had been pushed up on the shore was SO clear, it was incredible. and poor lola got so dusty driving along the gravel roads. but she had fun being up in the mountains.

by the time we got home it was dinner time, so we slammed some pizzas in the oven (one of which may have been left on the cardboard disc.. fortunately it did not catch fire, it just meant the pizza didn't really cook...) and watched some more planet earth. then the real fun began. our place backs onto the first hole of a golf course, so we took a golf ball each from our extensive collection- a whole nother story.. we're not going there now... and played handgolf. (handgolf is essentially what it sounds like.. you throw your golfball instead of hitting it with a club- which we do not have). we played three holes. and played one hole a couple of times- regular, lefties only, and over-your-shoulder style. i lost all three holes, no matter how we were playing.

after retiring from handgolf, we watched some bbc blue planet and again, may have dozed off on the couch.

this morning we were on the road at 8:36am, grabbed timmy's (tim hortons...) for breakfast- if you get the chance, try the whole grain raspberry muffin- DELISH!) and set out past lake louise, into british columbia, to revelstoke. we dropped luke at his home for the summer, grabbed timmy's for lunch (because you just can't go wrong with timmys) and drove home to vancouver. braden and i were either over-rested or else over-tired because EVERYTHING was hilarious. so the 7 hours from revelstoke to home went really quickly, but the jokes were terrible. example: we drove through the town/city (?) of chilliwack, and just as i took a giant gulp of water, braden says "chilliquack, where the ducks are" and it was all i could do not to explode water everywhere. really lame jokes. all day.

we made it home just after 6pm. and so this brings us to the end of the adventure.
until next time....

you're probably asking yourself what kind of music we listened to on this journey... here are some of the most-played tunes...

rockstar- nickleback
mr. bojangles- nitty gritty dirt band
jump on it- sir mix-a-lot
good time- alan jackson
fast cars and freedom- rascal flatts
holes to heaven- jack johnson

and the theme song to the whole trip was.....
beer for my horses by toby keith.
---(which also happens to be a FANTABULOUS movie we caught the end of in st. joseph missouri. download/rent/buy it. like right now.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

tales from the road... TN-SD

ok, this has to be a quickie, we're pushing out of rapid city, south dakota in like half an hour...

from adel, georgia, we drove due north to atlanta and spent some time at the georgia aquarium and saw WHALE SHARKS!! its such an incredible aquarium.. absolutely beautiful. we also wandered over to the coca cola store and did some browsing, but did not end up buying any paraphenalia (i think i spelt that wrong)...

then it was on to chattanooga, tn- the NOO chattanooga. its beautiful. its surrounded by mountainy ridges, so we drove up one and looked out over the city and its all tres belle. we also stopped at AAA to get some more maps/ travel books for the rest of our journey.

from chattanooga we made it to nashville (after entering central time and gaining an hour) where we stayed with my friend william (from the boat)'s fiancee hanna. they took us out and showed us nashville and were generally wonderful to us. it was a fun night.

we said goodbye to nashville and veered north-west towards st. louis, missouri. and we stopped in illinois in metropolis and took pictures with the GIANT superman (actually, he wasn't that giant, but that's what the signs called him...). in st. louis we drove once around the arch, and that was about it.. all the rivers along that drive looked REALLY full, and there seemed to be much flooding in surrounding fields. just so you know what we were seeing on our drive.

we toodle-oo-ed out of st. louis and went west. to kansas city. that felt like a long three..four... three and a halfish hours. BUT we did get to go through a very flashy thunderstorm. the rain was coming down in sheets and the sky was crazy dark. lots of fun.

we spent that night north of kansas city in st. joseph, mo. the town where jesse james was shot and killed.

and now, yesterday... we awoke in st. joseph, also the home of the stetson outlet. so obviously we bought cowboy hats. sigh. they're wonderful.

from there it was on to onawa, iowa, then west to norfolk, nebraska, (johnny carson's hometown) then we spent most of the afternoon going north and west (but not northwest) through small towns in nebraska, because we wanted to not drive the boring old interstate. it toook a long time. but thats ok, parts of it were pretty. when we did reach the interstate in south dakota, the speed limit is 75 mph, which means you drive 85mph which means we were legally going about 140 kmph. good times. lola (the car) may not agree. we pulled through wall, sd at 6:56pm to see the WORLD FAMOUS drugstore. and it closes at 7pm. so we ran in, saw a very small part of it then had to leave. then it was on to rapid city, where i am now, and where we are now leaving from to see mt. rushmore.

peace out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

tales from the road...GA-FL

hi there folks!!

let's talk about georgia, shall we?

we awoke in hardeeville, sc sunday morning and rounded up the troops (jon and lola) and continued south. 20 minutes outside of hardeeville sits the beeeeeeautiful city of savannah, georgia. i dragged braden here too. totally worth it though. it's right on the river (complete with riverboats!!), and is full of historic buildings and homes and cobblestone streets and squares of overhanging trees. its perfect. and very hot. but it was sunday, so parking downtown was free, so we wandered around for 45 minutes and took another half hour trying to find our way back to I-95, our trail south to florida.

it was another driving day, from jacksonville, south to titusville (just south of daytona beach), where we would be spending the night. we checked in and leapt right into the pool- its amazing how a day on the road in 93 degree weather can make you feel pretty darn gross. after soaking up some sunshine state sunshine and recharging our batteries (as well as the batteries to every camera/ electronic device known to man) we set out to locate dinner. we came across kelseys pizzeria (the local's favourite since 1983) and stuffed our faces with pasta. delish. SO much food.

that brings us to today. this morning was a relatively early get up- we were showered/packed/ at breakfast just after 8 and headed downtown titusville/ to the waterfront by 830. yesterday we had done a little bit of scouting to find the perfect spot to watch today's shuttle launch, across the river at kennedy space center. this morning, while scoping out the waterfront we stumbled across donna and bill hamilton's. they were opening they're yard up to shuttle-launch dorks for a donation to the american cancer society. it was PRIME. and it was for a good cause. and it had bathrooms. and shade. we made our donation and bill "reserved" us a spot (he gave us a business card with '#7' in pencil on the back) and we went for a little drive to walgreens to see if we couldn't find some reading material. that mission was very unsuccessful, but it killed time, so it wasn't all bad.

we headed back to bill and donna's and were the third car there (there was no one else there on our first drive-by), so we were parked next to a black jeep, 40ft from the water. alex was running the black jeep next to us, and he was also running a REALLY nice video camera, and feeding live to one of the local news channels. he's sending us a copy of the final edit later this week. we killed the 5 1/2 hours pre-launch playing some cards, reading, sitting and wandering the antiques store in titusville. oh, and eating lunch. the yard filled up steadily, mostly with people who had been to two or three other launches that had been postponed last time, which meant they were full of stories of cancelled launches and missed chances.

fortunately everything came together today and 2:01pm rolled around really quickly. the weather was good in titusville, as well as in spain, where the shuttle would land should anything go wrong. it would take them one minute to get from florida to spain at the speed it travels. un. real. everyone had their cameras ready and were lined up waiting for launch. AND THEN IT LAUNCHED! a pouff of smoke to start with then the brightest flame i've ever seen (pictures do NOT do it justice) behind the shuttle. 5 seconds after launch you could begin to hear the rumble make its way across the river, then in another 5 seconds it was like standing next to a freight train. and then that was it. the shuttle was behind clouds and then made it safely into orbit and everyone headed out.
we said our goodbyes to our new space-geek friends, bill and donna, and titusville and pointed our noble car north. just outside daytona beach we drove through huge smoke clouds.. something was burning to the west of the highway, then a pretty heavy (but brief) rainstorm. we hung a left in jacksonville, then a right on I-75 and here we are now, 39 miles into georgia in the town of adel and going to bed!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

tales from the road...VA-SC

as soon as we crossed from maryland into virginia we hit major congestion. and while that is normally not a lot of fun, congestion combined with 29-30 degree heat + humidity + no AC + no wind (no natural wind, and no fake wind because we weren't moving) made for a FANTASTIC time. we did eventually get rolling again though, and things were fine.

our hunt for relatively inexpenive lodging and our quest to get off the interstate system and onto more local roads/ state routes drove us into mount olive, north carolina, a bustling community of 4500ish people, and home to mount olive college. by the time we'd pulled in the sun had all but set, and we were hot, sticky, tired and hungry, so we didn't do very much sightseeing in mount olive, although the road TO mount olive was lovely; mostly flat farmy lands but still with lots of trees in between, and little one-storey homes, all with long driveways and front porches.

we grabbed dinner at andy's diner- shakes, burgers and fries (because its a diner and that's just what you HAVE to order). i guess our dinner came slowly (although neither of us noticed), so our waitress gave us a discount.

yesterday was mostly a driving day. we let ourselves sleep in until 9, took some time to repack/ reorganize the car and set out for another day of adventure.

and what an adventure it was. we decided to head for the coast, thinking we'd be driving all afternoon along the ocean. which i guess we were, but we were 15 miles inland for most of the drive, so we couldn't actually SEE the ocean. once we hit the outskirts of north myrtle beach, south carolina, we noticed a lot of bikers (we're talking harleys here, not cyclists). like more than usual. we thought, oh, maybe its bike week in daytona beach... grrreeatttt...but no, its bike week in myrtle beach. and north myrtle beach, home of a million mini-golf places. north myrtle beach is something else, i think in the half hour we spent driving through we saw variations of only four things; seafood restaurants (most with giant crabs/ lobsters/ fish in front and on top), beachwear/accessory stores (all with GIANT sharks on the storefront, and the frontdoor is the shark's mouth), mini golf places (with volcanoes, whales, grass huts, crashed airplanes, jungle animals.. you name it, you could golf it) and motels, all welcoming bikers. it was certainly entertainting, if nothing else.

thinking we were being crafty, we ducked down a side road, hoping to find some lunch (this is around 2pm, under 32 degrees + 500% humidity remember- we're now drinking water like its our jobs). alas, all we found at the end of the road were beautiful beachfront homes, all raised up on stilts, and a dead end. we did eventually find a deli and had fantastic sandwiches and kept on truckin towards the south carolina/ georgia state line.

we spent the night 15 miles from the stateline in south carolina in another bustling hub; hardeeville. the hotel had a pool, and the town had food, and that's all that mattered to us. we went down for a swim, and there were three kids already in the pool and three people sitting nearby watching them. i had just come up from jumping in, and the little girl, who was probably about 3 or 4, starts hollering "can you hold my hand??" and looking at me.. so i asked her, "me?" and she said yes. so i swam over and she grabbed my hand, wrapped her legs around me and wouldn't let go. so we played with her brother and cousin for a while and talked to her mom and aunt and splashed around until my legs were tired from jumoing up and down with her. we then hit up the cripple crab restaurant for dinner and packed it in for the night.

tales from the road...NY-DC

greetings from Titusville, Florida!!
we've been on the road for 5 days now, and things are rolling right along.

our first day we left oakville just before 3pm and headed south and crossed the border in niagara falls with no major (or minor) problems. instead of taking the interstate into rochester, we took one of the smaller, state routes which took us through wine country. it was beautiful and farmy, even if it was overcast. we drove south from rochester and ended up in corning, new york under rainy skies. we grabbed some pizza for dinner and tried to track down a place to stay, and ended up at a days in on the riverside. pretty basic, but thats really all we needed.

day two saw us leaving corning, heading south into pennsylvania. we drove pretty much all morning until we reached gettysburg around lunch time. highlight of the drive: passing an amish horse and buggy on the highway. we did have to stop and ask for directions in the state capitol, harrisburg. i got out of the car at the gas station, map in hand and the old man standing out front says "where ya trynna go?". he got us to gettysburg, no problem. gettysburg itself is beautiful! its got just under 7500 people (thank you wikipedia) and the parts that we saw (the college and downtown) are old, brick buildings, most of which are heritage buildings from the late 1800s.

one of our goals this trip was to minimize the number of meals we eat at chain restaurants, and try to eat at local joints. in corning, it was a pizzeria, and in gettysburg we dined on sandwiches at the blue parrot. both were delicious.

on our way out of town, i made braden stop at the national military park. we took a stroll through the cemetery and stood on the spot where lincoln delivered his famous gettysburg address. it's only may, and it was in the high twenties/ low thirties with the humidity, i can't imagine what it would have been like in early july in wool military uniforms in 1863.

from gettysburg we pushed south-east towards washington, dc. we hit rushhour traffic on the beltway surrounding washington, but eventually made it to our hotel in camp springs, maryland around dinner time. taking the girl at the front desk's advice, we drove 5 minutes down the road, left lola and jon (the car and our polar bear mascot) and hopped on the metro for a 25minute ride into central dc (parking is a bit of a nightmare in dc so we opted not to deal with that). by the time we got there it was definitely dinner time, and we spent half an hour wandering around trying to find a place that was relatively cheap/ open to those under 21/ open at all. eventually we ended up at a food court. lame, i know.

BUT THEN.. while we were looking for dinner, we noticed one of the streets was closed off and there were police EVERYWHERE in front of one of the hotels. i had seen on the news that the presidents of pakistan and afghanistan were meeting with obama, so we figured thats what it must be, they must be staying at the hotel on the street. we didn't think too much of it, until we got two blocks away and a couple police motorcycles started stopping traffic in both directions from the hotel. then more motorcycles went speeding by, followed by police cars with flashers on and people on the sidewalks were starting to stop and get excited and take out cameras. following the police cars were black sedans and two or three black suvs with intimidating men at every window with powerful-looking weapons. the people around us were shouting and waving and "THERE HE IS"ing. yep, obama drove right in front of us.

once we got over that cool moment in hanna history, we thought we'd walk the 2 1/2 blocks to the white house. but we couldn't get to it. the sidewalk was closed off by a helpful man:
"how long until you think the sidewalk will reopen?"
- well, i really can't say... it could be 5 minutes, it could be 5 hours...
so we took that as further confirmation that it was in fact obama we saw drive by and that he was on his way home, and decided to head towards the washington monument/ reflecting pool/ lincoln memorial. the monument and the memorial are both pretty cool, especially after dark when they're all lit up. very impressive. the reflecting pool was ..nice.. it looked like a pond. only it is long and rectangular.. its just filled with algae and ducks. i didn't do any serious reflecting, obviously.

we jumped back on the metro, went home and went to bed.

the morning of day three we were up, ate breakfast and were on our way back into dc (again, on the metro) by 930am. this time we were headed for the smithsonian. which is actually made up of 19 different museums, all free. since i knew the second night at the museum movie is coming out soon, and is set in the museum of natural history, that's where we went. it was pretty cool. they've got all kinds of stuffed animals, doing all kinds of fun things, like there's a leopard lounging in a tree above your head with an antelope that he's presumably caught, hanging off the end. there are also dinosaurs and fossils AND diamonds. very sparkly. tres pretty.

we grabbed a quick and delicious lunch downtown and ventured back to lola and jon and headed back out on the open road...