Archive for February, 2010
Our first full day in DC turned mostly into a day of relaxation and work catch up. Josh and I got a chance to work a bit on SPINALpedia stuff without being relegated to the phone for the first time in a while. It was nice to have a day to lounge though and be entertained by Josh’s cute 3 year old niece Briana.
By the end of the day though, we were ready to meet up with some of our friends and get out in DC. Katelyn and I met up with my friend Scott (from studying abroad in Beijing in 2005) in his apartment and hung out for a bit.
We ended up driving around downtown for a while and taking some cool night photos of the tourist hot spots, and the absolute bitter cold (the wind has been relentless) forced us to actually run back to the car after not too long because we couldn’t bear it.
We then dropped off Katelyn to hang out with another friend of hers, and I went back with Scott for an early night because he had to work and I actually had an early job interview the next morning. It was another great night for catching up with an old friend though, I’ve felt very lucky for the people that I’ve gotten to reconnect with on this trip.
On Friday morning, I got up earlier than I had in a LONG time to get out to a meeting outside DC in regards to a permanent substitute position for a Chinese teacher in a private middle school for boys. I have been interviewing over the phone for this job intermittently throughout the course of the trip, but was waiting for my arrival to DC to meet all the necessary people and attempt to “seal the deal”. After all the formalities, I found out that I actually got the job and am starting March 11th! I’ll be teaching 4 different sections of 3 levels of beginner Chinese between 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I had an awesome day at the school and really loved the atmosphere and the people, and got to observe and interact with some of the Chinese classes. I introduced myself in Chinese to two of the 6th grade sections and it was so cute to see their enthusiasm to learn and their impressions of seeing that their new Chinese replacement is not in fact Chinese. Even watching the class, I felt compelled to want to start teaching. I have had different types of teaching experiences in the last few years, and I love the dynamic of sharing knowledge and getting to see someone else absorb it. I’ll be teaching until the end of the school year and after my day today I feel really excited for it!
After my day at the school, I picked up Katelyn downtown (only getting slightly lost on the way), hung out with her and her friend for a bit before getting back on the road to get back to Pennsylvania and my mom’s house. The last leg of our PA drive stunned both of us with easily over 10 ft high snow drifts along the side of the road— I couldn’t have been happier I missed out on these series of blizzards and hope that they’re all done! We arrived with Nick’s family to celebrate his birthday and had a nice dinner with delicious food. It was great to be reunited with family too, and of course Rylee was excited for a new friend.
Exciting note of the evening: I EMPTIED OUT MY CAR!! Once we got back to mom’s house, I was able to feel the relief of clearing out and organizing the horrendous mess that has become my car. I wasn’t kidding about losing my motivation for keeping any kind of order in my car after the Kansas tire incident (See Day 13- Bad “Car-ma” for the dramatic details), and emptying my car only made that more obvious. This is what my bedroom looked like after bringing in most of everything out of the car:
Mom’s only reaction was shock at how on earth we had fit so much into my little Civic. Now that the car’s nearly empty, I can actually replace my spare tire to its proper location and only pack the essentials for the northeast segment of our trip. I feel like a new woman. Although we’re now treading in familiar territory, Katelyn and I refuse to lose our road trip vibe. It’s not over yet ladies and gentlemen!
We spent the day Tuesday exploring Chicago with recommendations from Helena for the best tourist spots. Despite being cold and windy, the weather actually held out pretty well and so long as we warmed up in stores every once in a while. We took the metro from Helena’s house straight downtown to check out the sites around there.
We checked out Millennium Park, which was awesome, especially the gigantic reflective “bean” (I don’t know if there’s a real name for it). It was an awesome site and great for interesting pictures, as you can see below.
We loved walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago. The architecture is awesome and the people that we interacted with were really pleasant. One of the most important things on our list of things to do in Chicago was eating real deep dish pizza. We were recommended to Giordano’s and found one in the heart of downtown. We ordered one of the small deep dish pizzas, and it was absolutely delicious. I have never had anything like it.
On Wednesday morning, we started our last long haul from Chicago to DC and it marked our official re-entry to Eastern Standard time and everything east coast. The drive was relatively uneventful, but actually pretty pleasant. Our longer drives are always fun despite being in the car for hours simply because we get the most time to talk about anything we feel like, sing, and usually by the end we get a little slap happy from cabin fever and end up laughing over nothing. Unfortunately, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and eastern Maryland really don’t have much to offer in terms of winter scenery.
We arrived at Josh (my partner working on SPINALpedia)’s house in Maryland later in the evening. I had been staying here for a bit before I moved out west to work with Josh on the website. In some ways arriving here last night made me feel for a moment like I never left, unless I stop for a minute and think about the last 3 months of my life and how much has changed. I know it hasn’t been an incredibly long time since I’ve been on the east coast, but I still feel like it’s another world since I was last here. We’ll be in DC Thursday and Friday before heading north Friday afternoon.
We’ve been covering some serious ground in the last few days. Well into the Central Time Zone, we’ve covered about 2400 miles since we started our journey in San Francisco. We had a few hours on Sunday morning to get a little of a feel for Kansas City despite the horrendously freezing weather complete with ice and snow. Katelyn’s friend, Pierce took us to the historic City Market, which was conveniently located right near his house.
It was an awesome area, complete with shops from all sorts of cultures from Middle Eastern to Korean to Italian. We walked around a bit, and also explored the Chinese market before sitting down for some Ethiopian food for lunch (it was delicious!)
Both Katelyn and I were pretty surprised by the diversity and culture of Kansas City, and definitely wish we had more time to explore and better weather to make that actually possible. We only had a few hours though because we had to make to to St. Louis, Missouri (Katelyn’s original hometown) to have dinner with her aunt and uncle. We dug out my car and snapped a picture before hitting the road.
Interestingly enough, Kansas City has already expended its plowing budget for the year, so we had to take our time getting out of the city, but once we hit the open road, it was smooth sailing (but pouring the entire time) until St. Louis. Once we arrived, we had a really nice dinner with Katelyn’s aunt and uncle, and had a nice relaxing evening.
The next morning we got to sleep in, visited Katelyn’s grandma, and hit the road again bound for Chicago, where we are now. On the way, we stopped at a midwest hot-spot, Steak ‘n Shake for some of their famous burgers and milkshakes.
Here in Chicago we are staying with my friend Helena from Madrid who is a friend of my friend Alicia who’s older sister was a foreign exchange student with my family when I was 6 or 7 (confused yet?). I know Helena from my last two trips to Spain in 2004 and 2007, so it was great to see her again.
Once we chatted and caught up a bit, the three of us plus Helena’s boyfriend and his roommate decided to hit up a kareoke bar and spice up our Monday night. It wasn’t too busy, and all of us were pretty hesitant to take the stage. That was until a man named Nester approached our table wondering if anyone would duet “Love Shack” from the B-52′s with him. Unable to resist this random but almost too perfect opportunity to break the ice and get on stage, I accepted. It was my first attempt at kareoke outside of China (the style of kareoke there is a lot different), but I had a blast. After that, Katelyn and I shared a duet of All Saints “Never Ever” (circa Spice Girls era) and I sang Kesha’s “Tik Tok” (a pretty annoying, but undeniably catchy pop song that I’ve learned by default by driving so much and listening to FM radio) and it got some people dancing and singing along. Tonight felt great because I was getting over being nervous singing in public and just reconnecting with my inner Britt– a few things out of many that I’ve wanted to get out of this road trip.
We are excited to explore Chicago tomorrow! Even just driving in, the city seems awesome. There’s great architecture and diversity, so we’re going to try to brave the freezing cold and do our best to be good tourists. We’re going to check out the sites and definitely get some Chicago deep dish pizza!
On the journey from Boulder, CO to Kansas City, MO Kately coined the new term “Car-ma” to describe the challenges we encountered on the road on what became an over 13 hour affair. We left Boulder at 7:30am, planning to make it to Kansas City by the evening to meet up with Katelyn’s friend named Pierce. Exhausted, we hit the road and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, we couldn’t escape our bad Car-ma. It was snowing in eastern Colorado and we had to take it slow (no more cruising at 75 mph), and knowing we had at least a 10 hour drive ahead of us it was far from encouraging. Slippery roads and spinning out on the highway kept us going at a good 35mph. We finally broke out of the snow and made some good time crossing into Kansas, but then our bad Car-ma kicked in again and Katelyn and I heard what we thought was a helicopter. After searching relentlessly for this elusive helicopter, I finally smelled burning and pulled over. Still hoping to find a helicopter, we only discovered that my rear right tire was entirely flat.
I do have AAA, so we made the call and waited on the highway already late and about to be even later for our dinner plans. Thankfully, Katelyn and I have been getting really good at healthily diffusing frustration. What started off as us screaming to relieve stress as we waited for our AAA man transformed into hysterical laughter when we considered the ridiculousness of our situation. Our repairman arrived very quickly and was incredibly pleasant, which made things a lot easier, except for the fact that to retrieve my spare tire, I had to excavate the contents of my trunk. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but I had my trunk packing down to a science– everything fit perfectly without an inch to spare. I purposefully packed my trunk before I left Seattle with all of my things that I wasn’t going to need on the trip with every intention of not touching them again until Pennsylvania, but I never considered having to access my spare tire. We created quite a site on the side of I-70, with me hauling the necessary bags and boxes onto the roadside to let our buddy dig out the spare tire.
Needless to say, I did not methodically repack my trunk, but only haphazardly threw things where they fit and threw the rest in the backseat, adding to the chaos of our day’s adventures. Once we had the spare on, we had to follow our repairman to Wal-Mart in Hays, Kansas to buy a new tire. Frustrated and annoyed, but trying to rally a positive outlook, we parked at the auto shop and went shopping in the store. Like a gift from the heavens, we stumbled upon two racks of discount clothing, $3 zipper sweatshirts and $1 (yes, really only $1) leopard print tights! Katelyn and I felt like we struck gold and jumped at the opportunity to garner some happiness out of our otherwise dismal day. Once my car was done, we eagerly got back on the road, and began planning our leopard tight debut (we’re still trying to figure that one out).
Katelyn knew just what I needed to brighten my day and offered to buy me a Dairy Queen blizzard if there was one the next time we stopped to get gas. My tank was too low to bypass the next rest area, so as we approached the road sign that tells you what food/gas/lodging options you have, I strained my eyes to see if there was that recognizable DQ logo. Katelyn didn’t see one at first, but I wasn’t about to lose hope. As we got closer, I made out the DQ sign and immediately screamed an excited, drawn-out “YES!” (It was an incredibly exciting moment for me).
Once I had my large Reese’s cup blizzard, things were pretty smooth for the next few hours, but about an hour or so outside of Kansas City, we hit more snow. Almost completely without wind in our sails, we begrudgingly pushed forward, already cautious after our morning snow driving issues and getting more and more exhausted. We were so close, yet so far away. Cue more stress-relieving screaming and making up song lyrics about not liking Kansas, its luck or its long stretch of I-70. As you can imagine by what I’ve told you thus far, this also often sparked laughing fits that motivated us even more to make it to Kansas City and make the best of the rest of our evening. Our persistence paid off and we finally crossed the border out of Kansas and into Missouri, taking a moment for high fives and applause before arriving to Pierce’s house a little after 9pm. Our cabin fever was almost oppressive by that point, so after a delicious meal and chatting, we decided that we’d all go out dancing (surprise surprise). Pierce really came through, taking us to an awesome bar in downtown Kansas City that played only music from the 80′s and 90′s. Katelyn and I once again owned the dance floor, and successfully redeemed our long, exhausting day.
This trip has been incredibly interesting in learning how to take everything in stride. Our compatibility as road trip companions definitely makes this easier, but it’s been a good lesson in not letting the little things get you down and to find the hilarity in otherwise unpleasant circumstances.
Arriving in Boulder meant reuniting with Geoff, one of our close friends from studying abroad in China in 2006 (where Katelyn and I met, for those of you who didn’t know). We arrived late Wednesday night after a grueling drive, but despite our exhaustion, it was still wonderful to be reunited.
Thursday was one of those days where you feel like nothing is quite going your way, but thankfully we had some redeeming moments that kept us sane. We planned lunch with Katelyn’s cousin who works in downtown Denver, but since we are GPS-less, we had to google map the directions beforehand. It wasn’t until we had “arrived at our destination” in Aurora, CO did we realize that Katelyn had mistyped the address and we were lost. As we neared the supposed destination, we couldn’t help but laugh as we realized that the nearly deserted area with scattered buildings was far from what Katelyn remembered of downtown Denver. Thankfully, we didn’t end up too far from our actual destination, made it downtown, and despite minor parking frustrations, had a nice meal with her cousin. We even tried to invigorate downtown Denver with some street dancing…
Disenchanted with navigating deep in a city, we decided to head back out towards Boulder after lunch in search of a cafe and shopping while we waited for Geoff to get off of work. The skills I’ve developed for finding WiFi proved useful because we had a hard time finding what we were looking for. Once we made it to a Starbucks, we realized that they don’t have free WiFi! Plus, it started snowing. Feeling a little defeated (and really cold), we did finally find a store and pick up some of the essentials we were looking for. We redeemed the frustrating afternoon by meeting up with Geoff and his girlfriend and their friends for a delicious fondue dinner and called it an early night and came back home to reminisce about our days in China and look at old pictures.
Reminiscing about our days in China (which was over 3 years ago now!) has been an awesome experience. Collaborative memories come out with much more detail than when you are left remembering all on your own. Despite the passage of time, it’s still so nice to see that some things (and people’s personalities) never change. Katelyn and I have both seen a LOT of friends on this trip and it’s been a similar experience, realizing how much we value the people who have impacted our lives at different points along the way.
On Friday, Katelyn and I took some time to regroup (and do laundry) and explore a bit of downtown Boulder. We wanted to minimize our chances of getting lost so we parked ourselves in an awesome cafe, had some wonderful coffee and caught up on various things. Once the evening came, we met back up with Geoff and his girlfriend and cooked a delicious dinner of fajitas as we danced around the kitchen and had a great time.
After dinner, we wanted to relive some of our fondest memories from China and went out in downtown Boulder to go dancing. We had an awesome night, dancing until we were completely exhausted.
We left Boulder this morning en route to our next destination: Kansas City, MO, but we had a great time in Colorado despite the bad weather
We woke up Tuesday morning and toured a bit of Flagstaff, AZ. It was a great looking town, but provided some interesting surprises including Katelyn being scammed into buying some “local” earrings. See her side of the story here:
We otherwise just walked around and snapped some shots before moving on.
We were anxious to get moving and see some of the scenery so we drove to Sedona, AZ to check out the sites. Here’s a video of some of the drive:
Getting to Sedona was our first non-GPS frustration, but we managed with a combination of gas station directions and good luck. Thankfully, Katelyn and I have done pretty well at seeing the bright side of frustrations and keep ourselves laughing. Here’s an example of how we do this:
Once we enjoyed some time in Sedona, we decided to try to make it to the Grand Canyon before dark and get some good pictures. We weren’t quite sure what to expect because neither of us had been there, but we prepared to be amazed. We got a little lost and confused actually getting to the canyon (we didn’t think it’d be so hard to find something so incredibly huge), but we made it! (For any Radcliffe players reading this– check out my sweatshirt!!)
The Grand Canyon is in fact, very grand, and was really breathtaking.
This photo below is especially for you, Mom!
We drove around to some other vistas around sunset and took in more sites before we ran out of daylight.
After we were done, we drove to Page, AZ, a small town right near the border of Utah and spent the night in a motel. This little town was pretty quiet, hampering our plans to be social and meet some locals, but thankfully Katelyn and I are still creative and always able to find fun in the most unexpected circumstances.
The next morning we woke up and decided to just see where the day took us. We headed towards Lake Powell, which ended up being only a few miles from Page. We stumbled upon a deserted park area with an awesome view of the lake and the surrounding landscapes.
We found these amazing rock/sandstone formations and had some room to hike around and explore. We were less than prepared for intense hiking, but still managed to climb around.
I managed to make it to the top of the tallest formation around us, and got an awesome 360 view of the area.
The solitude and peace of the area were amazing (one of the benefits of touring areas on the off-season). The sun was shining and warm, and we spent some time just relaxing on the rocks.
We’ve been taking a lot of pictures obviously, so I wanted to get creative. You gotta spice it up right?
After getting our fill of Lake Powell, we decided to get a move on and drive towards Monument Valley to get more of a taste of the southwest. Apparently Monument Valley is where a lot of the western movies were filmed, and it was conveniently en route to our final destination for the day (Boulder, CO), so we could hardly resist stopping for some more photos and scenery.
Monument Valley was also gorgeous. This part of the country was honestly hard for me to wrap my mind around. It was hard not to feel like I had walked into some dream world. These landscapes are so unique and different from everything I’m familiar with, yet they exude this incredibly feeling of nature and its power. It was also interesting to see a bit of the Native American culture. We visited a Navajo market, and I found myself incredibly curious about their culture and also just was hit by the reality of how little I know about their lifestyle, culture and history. I felt the same curiosity that I’ve had for other cultures in Asia and Africa, but realized that these cultures are in our own backyard.
Despite the intellectually intriguing conversation that was sparked between Katelyn and I about the situation of Native Americans, we still saw Monument Valley as the perfect backdrop to our next Roadside Dance Party. Although we got a few less honks than the first time in California, we still had a blast. We’re still hoping that one of these days someone will actually join us. (And we’re still shamelessly trying to get on the Ellen Show!)
We also stopped off at a few more places for photos with the scenic backdrop, but again, we’ve felt compelled to make our pictures more interesting.
Once we lost daylight though, we had to focus on getting to Boulder, which was a good haul.
We spent probably a good 13 or 14 hours in the car, hit some snow going through the Rockies, and kept ourselves entertained with lots of music, Dairy Queen (Reese’s blizzards are lifesavers) and other antics to break up the monotony and keep us laughing. We finally made it to Boulder at about 1am, tired but triumphant after a long but awesome day.
We woke up this morning to another beautiful California day, and after a final hurrah of soaking up the sun, drinking some of our favorite LA coffee, and hitting up Trader Joe’s for some road snacks and cheap California wine, we hit the road and began the actual journey east.
We cruised on I-40 most of the way, rocking out to some old favorites like Ace of Base, Robyn and other classics… yes, classics. Get ready for more videos on the way! (All videos thus far are on YouTube, just search for FeminineAdrenaline)
Before we crossed out of California we stopped at In-N-Out Burger, a California staple that we had been wanting to try for a while.
The place only has 3 options on the menu, but the place was packed. It’s probably comparable to the popularity of Wawa’s in Bucktown, except for fast food.
We got a dose of some “middle of nowhere” culture at some rest stops and gas stations on the road, complete with a pair of cowboys and Route 66 memorabilia. One gas station had a sign up requesting that patrons didn’t complain to the employees about anything “because it costs a fortune to run this place in the middle of nowhere”. Something I never really considered but can totally believe after driving for hours and seeing how sparsely populated this part of the country is. Katelyn and I are looking forward to parts of our drive when we’ll get to explore more of these places (like rural Kansas) where we can get a taste of what life is like and see some local culture. Everything is a huge reminder of how huge and diverse our country really is.
Once we hit Arizona, we were welcomed with a 75 mph speed limit and that, in addition to the good company (Katelyn and I are extremely compatible road trip companions), made the miles fly by and before we knew it we found ourselves in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff immediately struck both of us as a cool area with a lot to explore. The only problem is there are huge piles of snow lining all the streets (I thought the only blizzards were in Philly and DC…?) and I arrived in my flip flops and short sleeves. We both thought we’d get a chance to hold on to warmer weather a little longer, but I guess it’s goodbye palm trees and hello winter because apparently it’s only getting colder from here.
We had to find a place to stay and we heard word of an international hostel and that’s where we are now.
As travelers, Katelyn and I were immediately struck by the hostel vibe like a breath of fresh air and were reminiscent of our previous travels and the overall travel culture that she and I have been so familiar with at different points in our lives. Our plans to mingle were dashed only because we’re too sleepy right now, but we’re hoping to explore a bit of Flagstaff tomorrow before making our way to the Grand Canyon and more adventures.
After a 75 and sunny weekend in the LA sun, I’m sporting a little tan and feeling wonderful, if not somewhat dreading our impending re-entry to cold winter weather. My car has been successfully repaired and is ready for the long trek east. Katelyn and I walked a few miles to pick up my car yesterday morning and just enjoyed the weather and the sun. It was a great way to see more of the city. Once we got my car, we trekked out to Venice Beach, where we met up with my cousin PJ and Katelyn’s friend from home.
We had a nice walk on the boardwalk, complete with freak shows (too bad we didn’t want to pay admission), scantily clad people of all shapes and sizes, and all kinds of vendors lining the walk. It’s an eclectic place to say the least, but definitely worth it for the “culture” and the people watching. We had a nice meal on the boardwalk, and got to watch a beautiful west coast sunset over the Pacific.
We had a low key evening, relaxing and hanging out with Katelyn’s friend and Pooch and his roommates, complete with an acoustic sing-a-long session (a repeat from the night before) and enjoying the night.
This morning, we were again lured outdoors by the beautiful weather and Katelyn and I spent a few hours walking around Hollywood with Pooch for another dose of Los Angeles culture. Hollywood was a world in itself. We saw the Chinese theater where all the films are premiered and an entire smattering of characters and personalities for people to pay to take photos with. It kind of felt like a big kids Halloween celebration, anyone from Dora the Explorer to Jason (that costume will probably give me nightmares tonight)
And although we’ll be leaving LA without successfully getting to be in the Ellen Show audience (this mission is far from over), we still found her face plastered on the side of a bus, and found a wonderful photo op.
We’re heading off for the Grand Canyon next, it’ll be sad to leave California (I’ve been here for almost 3 weeks!), but the rest of the journey awaits!
So. Katelyn came in at 10am this morning to inform me that my car window had been broken. Our first night parked overnight in Hollywood and we wake up to a broken window and a stolen GPS. Katelyn filmed some of the damage:
I guess it’s a part of the journey…? But still, a rather unpleasant start to our day. I filed a police report with the Hollywood branch of the LAPD and called GEICO hoping for insurance reimbursement, only to find that these things happen over a hundred times a day and that insurance only covers damages over $500.. Long story short, this is an expensive lesson to have to learn while on our road trip, but such is life and now my car is getting repaired and we will finish our journey “the old fashioned way” without modern GPS technology.
Thankfully, we redeemed a rather dismal day by doing a wonderful hike near the Hollywood sign that offered a stunning 360 view of the Los Angeles area. Chris “Pooch” (my friend from Bucktown) took us up on the beautiful walk, and it was a wonderful diversion from the day’s frustrations. It was an easy but awesome hike, but sometimes Katelyn still got lazy…
And then we made it to the top:
The Hollywood sign is barely visible in the back, but of course, this is the one time they decide to cover it up with other letters that read “Save the Peak” (some fight for preserving some land somewhere…), so the tourist shots of the Hollywood sign were a no-go, but we still made the most of it.
After spending a few weeks in California, all I can say is that it’s an absolutely beautiful state full of diversity and excitement, and it’s been fun to explore. Only a few days remain before we continue our journey east, so we have to make the most of them!
Our last day Wednesday in San Fran/Bay Area was all about getting ourselves organized and hanging out with people we love who all for one reason or another live in northern California. We met up first with two of Katelyn’s friends who she met in India, followed by dinner with Beth (my friend from Harvard) and her boyfriend Alex (who cooked an immaculate meal that we’ve still been dreaming about ever since).
Once we ate, we played a bit of Rockband (I am HORRIBLE at drums) and had an impromptu dance party before setting out to meet up with Ivan (my friend from Harvard) and Katelyn’s Indian friends. We got delicious frozen yogurt with Ivan before jetting off to an Irish bar where Katelyn and I found ourselves again owning a nearly empty dance floor. It allows us to perfect our outlandish dance moves.
Yesterday, we took the Pacific Coast Highway to make our way to LA (where we are now). The drive is absolutely beautiful. We gave ourselves the day to stop all along the way whenever the view was amazing (which was frequent) to take pictures and soak in the scene.
the picture below is for all of my short cousins who refer to me as “the Redwood” (note the real redwoods in the background)
Although the scenery was absolutely beautiful, it was still a long drive, so we still found it necessary to take some time to dance and entertain ourselves.
We also positioned the camera to capture some of our in the car dancing, one of our favorite hobbies!
There’s a bit about day 3 and 4… it’s been a great ride so far! Now we’re spending the weekend in LA and seeing what kind of awesome things we can experience and explore.