5.29.2010

Yellowstone Teaser

FINALLY, I cannot tell all of you how many times R and I tried to upload this video but spotty hotel wireless was not up to the task. Now that we're at home though, here is a video we made at Yellowstone, hope you like it!
video

5.27.2010

Wyoming Drive

The drive through Wyoming and into Yellowstone was gorgeous and since I'm pooped I thought I'd give you a lot of pictures and less writing. We ended up camping in Cody, Wyoming as I mentioned earlier. While I was very impressed with R's camping skills (that tent was set up in minutes) 35 degrees was a little chilly for an enjoyable night outside, but we survived and I can now say I camped. More on Yellowstone later, for now you just get pictures of the Wyoming countryside



5.25.2010

Road Trip- Day "I Don't Know"

Our road trip should be sponsored by Reese's Pieces, I've had at least a bag of these a day!

We are now in Kansas, we made it through Wyoming and Colorado yesterday. There was a high wind advisory and there were at least seven tractor trailers that had been blown over. The first was in front of our car and we had to wait 25 minutes for it to get pulled over so one lane was clear.

We have only three plates left for the license plate game (West Virginia, Delaware, and District of Colombia) having run across Alaska and South Carolina yesterday, and happening across Hawaii in Yellowstone (I shrieked so loudly when we found it). As for our other progress, we are now near the end of the fifth Harry Potter book on audio. We are off to St. Louis to see the gateway arch, but first we'll have to stop in Kansas City for some barbecue. If we have internet at the next hotel we'll try to catch up on posts and show all of you Yellowstone and the Teton's.

Devil's Tower

After visiting Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse we decided to also see Devil's Tower in Wyoming. It was a little side trip from the highway to see this amazing site.
Apparently this formation was created when the much softer surrounding rocks and minerals eventually eroded and washed away, this slightly sinister tower was left.

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

The drive up to Mount Rushmore was beautiful, although we almost didn't make it- I saw a petting zoo with baby bears running around and almost made Rick stop there. In addition to Mt. Rushmore we saw the Crazy Horse memorial which was spectacular.
It's not completed yet, and probably won't be finished within my lifetime. The original artist began in the '50's and has since passed away and now his family has continued the work. The progress is slow because the family is committed to the idea of free enterprise and refuses to take any government or state money for the monument.
To put the size of Crazy Horse in perspective, when it is finished it will be the world's largest monument and the four heads of Mt. Rushmore could fit within just the head section of Crazy Horse. Only the head and the arm are completed as of now, but next they will be working on the head of the horse that Crazy Horse is riding.
Here's Mt. Rushmore (we didn't want to pay $20 just to park so we took pictures from the car and didn't get up closer). Next up is Wyoming and Yellowstone!

5.23.2010

Wyoming

It's currently 7am here in Wyoming, and we are awake and packed and ready to go. Why are we up so early on our vacation? Well we spent last night camping in the shadow of the Rockies, in Shoshone National Forest, and the temperature this morning was 37 degrees, so that provided me plenty of motivation to get up early and pack up the tent. The drive to Yellowstone yesterday was beautiful, and I will post pictures soon, but right now I'm picking up a campground's wireless and writing this in the car so I'll keep it brief.

Off to find coffee and then on to Yellowstone! We're at the half-way point for our road trip and today marks our turnaround point.

5.22.2010

Badlands

As I mentioned in my last post about South Dakota, the drive was full of flat but slightly rolling plains, lots of cows, and even more billboards, until we saw the Badlands opening up on the left.
We took the separate route through the Badlands National Park, Route 240, and paid $15 to take the drive. It was the best $15 we've ever spent, it was absolutely amazing. It's hard to put into words the way it looks, so I took a million pictures and posted a couple so you can get a sense of it.
We easily could have taken an entire day driving through the park and stopping at every scenic overlook, but it was starting to get dark, and it was 8pm Mountain Time so we were getting hungry for dinner. The best part of the drive however was near the end when we were startled by several large mountain goats (I'm guessing that's what they were, if you are a zoologist please feel free to examine the image and offer your opinion) grazing on the side of the road. We stopped to take pictures and one moved in front of the car and started staring us down, looking like he was about to charge the Subaru!
He moved eventually though and we were able to continue on and out of the park. We went to Wall Drug but since their cafe was closed we crossed the street to the Cactus Cafe where R enjoyed a delicious Buffalo Barbecue sandwich and I had chicken fingers. We got back on the road and wanted to make it to Rapid City for the night. We had delusions of camping however a huge storm soon opened up and the car might as well have been swimming. The lightening was different from any I'd seen before, rather than seeing the clear strikes it lit up the sky in patches of lavender and was practically unceasing for over an hour.
When we finally made it to the campgrounds at 9pm (very much feeling that it was 11pm eastern time) we realized it would be $29 plus tax for just an empty spot to park the car which we were then going to sleep in the back of. R raised the point that we should just spend $20 more to get a hotel where we would have a real bed and a bathroom and save the camping for someplace cheaper (and dryer). That's how we ended up at the super posh Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City. Apparently we can live like kings in South Dakota because this room is amazing but it's as cheap as any others we stayed at. Looks like I'm moving to South Dakota, but only if I can have a Jackalope for a pet!

South Dakota

We have entered South Dakota! We started off with a drive along the Mississippi out of Minnesota, and then got on Route 90. First stop was the ultra-kitsch Corn Palace in Mitchell (see picture at bottom) and we just stayed long enough to get some necessary photos and postcards before getting back on the road.
We were just awestruck with the scenery, so flat that at one point we could see it pouring rain in another county. Billboards were a fun source of entertainment on the drive, with many pointing out the attractions in the area that we absolutely couldn't miss (according to them). We did stop at one, the 1800 town, it was a whopping $19 for R and I to tour the town and see all the props from the movie Dances with Wolves. But it was a nice break from driving and made for some great pictures.
The town it was in doesn't seem to have a name, it's just "22 miles west of Murdo, South Dakota." The 1880 town began in the 1970's and is now furnished with a number of old movie sets and props. It seems like the town has suffered from a downturn in traffic because it was quite the ghost town.
It was definitely a good dose of the travel-kitsch we were looking for on our trip, and I'm glad we got it when we did because Wall Drug was a gigantic disappointment.
Our travels yesterday did not consist solely of faded relics, we also visited the amazing Badlands, more on that later.

5.21.2010

A Side Adventure to Galena, Il!

So yesterday Lauren and I decided to take a side trip to Galena, Il since our guidebook had written so eloquently about the town. Back in the 1840's the town was a boom town for lead mining and unlike the famous gold rushes of California everyone found lead and got rich digging it up. The result was a town full of the interesting homes and shops that the people built with their money. When the lead mines dried up though most of the town moved on (to those same California gold mines) leaving a ghost town of lavish homes. Since then the town has been restored to how it was in 1840 with great food and interesting places to explore.


After Galena we headed up to Minneapolis and I crossed the Mississippi Rover for the first time and now we are going to head out to South Dakota!

Chicago

For our time in Chicago we were lucky enough to be able to stay with family who live in Oak Park. This meant it was a short walk to the L (or maybe it's "El" I'm not sure) which we took into the city. Compared to Boston public transportation it seemed really fast. The fact that Chicago is laid out on a grid rather than using archaic cow paths for city planning (Boston is really cutting edge for these things) made it so easy to find our way.

We started off walking to the former Sears tower, now the Willis tower, to do the Skydeck tower. It was great to get to see Chicago from the top, and we went out on the glass viewing ledges where there's just some glass separating you and a 110-story drop, eek!
Next we worked our way on to Grant Park where we enjoyed the beautiful fountain, then on to Millennium Park. I loved the Lurie Garden there, shown above, which is this great wild looking prarie garden, in the middle of the city. There was just such great use of space there and interesting contrasts between the natural and the constructed. Millennium park also has "the bean" (shown below) which is a great piece of sculpture, an outdoor auditorium, some fantastic modern sculpture and fountains, and a wonderful curving footbridge.
We made it all the way to Navy Pier, walking along the river at some points, before taking the train back out to Oak Park and ending the day with a wonderful family dinner. I had thought before that I'd experienced Chicago but R and I covered so much on foot and I was able to see so many new things. I love the architecture, the sculpture, the public gardens, and the great green space. It was such a treat to walk around, especially on a beautiful day!

Catching Up

I am currently sitting in my Aunt and Uncle's home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. R and I are pretty pooped but we both enjoyed a delicious meal, have showered, and are even doing a load of laundry (we will not be the stinky people in South Dakota, go us!). Obviously I have some catching up to do and have to fill in the blanks between Southbend Indiana were I last left off, and Minnesota.

We started our time visiting Notre Dame so we could see the "legendary" Touchdown Jesus. So named because he is on the wall of the library behind the uprights on the football field and his arms held aloft mirror the lines of the football uprights.
I'll be frank with y'all. Southbend, Indiana is not worth you going out of your way for. However if you're going across the country anyways it's not a bad stopping point and there's enough to amuse you for an hour or two. The above squirrel is proof that I have regained my dominance over the rodent world after that brief incident in Niagara. Just to make sure though I have been approaching squirrels at each of our destinations to make sure they're afraid of me.
In addition to Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame, we found out there was a Southbend Chocolate Factory with free tours. We got there a little early and waited till the tour started by sipping some pretty amazing hot chocolate. We got not only the history of chocolate but a nifty little tour of the factory.
It was definitely the day of serendipitous travel finds, since we next ran across the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and did a brief detour to hike Mt. Baldy, one of the many sand dunes on Lake Michigan. The view was fun and it was nice to stretch our legs. Plus you have to love free entertainment on a trip.
The last part before we hit Oak Park, Illinois was what I thought would be a scenic tour of Gary, Indiana. Ever watch The Music Man? Remember that part where he sings a song about Gary Indiana and how awesome it is? I'm a musical nerd and thought it would be fun but the image above shows about all Gary has to offer. This is one of the better parts of town, in the worse part of town Rick and I were stuck waiting for a train to move off the tracks for about 20 minutes and I got the scenic view of a drug deal or two although we managed to avoid the adventure of being car-jacked. The moral is- musicals lie.















5.17.2010

Niagara Falls

We started the morning off at Niagara Falls. We were able to get free parking and then walk onto Goat Island. From there we walked over to the falls and were able to see the main falls from Luna Island along with the Bridal Veil Falls. We were still in awe with the speed of the water and got our first view of the massive Horseshoe Falls from Terrapin Point.
At first we were thinking about just viewing the falls from the top but finally decided that we had to do the Cave of the Winds Tour to see the falls from below. For $11 each we got ponchos and shoes, and got to take an elevator down to the base of the falls. I'm so glad we did it and got our "falls experience," not only were the views amazing but we got to actually be in the falls (without taking a barrel ride of course). The water was so cold it gave me an "ice cream" headache, and as the Indian man next to us said "my fingers are numbing."
My poncho managed to keep me and my bag dry, however R was pretty soaked by the end of it and I tried not to laugh at him too much since I had insisted on the tour. He got a chance to laugh at me soon enough though since on our way out of the park I spotted one of the black squirrels of Ottawa. I started to walk towards it with evil schemes of giving chase, however this was one tough squirrel, instead of being scared of me it was soon chasing me up the sidewalk while I yelled to Rick "it's not afraid, why is it not afraid" while onlooking Japanese tourists recorded the whole scene and laughed hysterically.
The rest of the day was spent driving to Southbend Indiana via Cleveland Ohio. We had been thinking of stopping to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (just the outside, we're not big enough music fans to warrant paying the $20-something each) but it started pouring rain outside the city and we decided to instead pay tribute by singing "Cleveland Rocks" while we drove through. I owe the Drew Carey show for the fact that I know any of the words to that song.

Tomorrow is Notre Dame, then perhaps a tour of a chocolate factory and if I get my way we'll stop at Gary, Indiana for a brief photo-op (I'm a big Music Man fan) before we continue on to visit family in Chicago.

5.16.2010

Road Trip- Day 1

We got on the road this morning, starting with a trip to Dunkin Donuts, because in my family every road trip has to start there. The car is loaded with snacks and water. We have hours and hours of audio books and we started with the first Harry Potter, maybe we'll make it to the last one by the time we hit Wyoming. Plus we wrote out all the states in alphabetical order and have already scored 16 states on the license plate game.
We started off going on the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) through the Berkshires. The drive was beautiful, we got to go up and down the hills through scenic little towns and even saw two deer just hanging out in a creek at one point. Lunch was leftover pasta which we enjoyed sitting on the tailgate of the Subaru while sitting in the parking lot of the Brunswick Community Library. R has done most of the planning for this trip so I got to sip my coffee and start flipping through the guide book, planning some of our adventures and booking our hotel for the night. Once we got to Grand Island NY we checked into the room (and were upgraded which is always a good start to a trip) and enjoyed relaxing a little.
R had to pull me up off the bed and out the door so that we could see the falls at night but as soon as we got out of the car I forgot about being sleepy. We got there right as the sun was setting and the lights started to come on, quite the view, even with all the development in the background.
Anyone for a barrel ride? Tomorrow morning we'll get an early start and start off with a trip to Goat Island to see the falls in the daylight. Then we'll be off to Cleveland for a quick stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then on to Southbend, IN where R is very excited to see the "Touch Down Jesus" on the Notre Dame campus.

5.15.2010

American Road Trip

Tomorrow morning my fiancee and I leave on our cross-country road trip. The car is packed and all I have to do tomorrow is roll out of bed and into my travel clothes and we're ready.

This trip is a celebration of our recent engagement and my graduation from grad school and just because we love road trips!

We have a lot of fun adventures planned, like Niagra Falls, Touchdown Jesus, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and so much more! Stay tuned for regular updates!

4.07.2010

Dispatches from the field

As part of my course I had to write for the school's blog "Dispatches From the Field." In the first post I really wanted to be reflective and think about the trip comprehensively. It's a lot more wordy than my average post here but for anyone who's interested you can find it here: http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/dispatches/

4.05.2010

Nicaragua- People

The children of Nicaragua are some of the most precious I've ever seen. I think what keeps me going back is how amazing the people there are and how much I love working with the children. Here are some of my favorites from the recent trip...


3.18.2010

Nicaragua

After a long time of being stranded in Miami I am finally back and can share some pictures from my recent trip to Nicaragua. I figured I'd start with some of the best pictures of the landscape for you. Above is the island of Ometepe which has two volcanoes on it and is in the middle of lake Nicaragua (the second largest lake in North America and the only lake to have fresh water sharks).
It was my first time on Ometepe and the beauty of the island certainly made up for the very rough ferry ride out there.
One of the volcanoes on the island, Concepcion, erupted on the day we arrived, sending up an ash plume to an estimated 7,000 feet!

3.06.2010

New Trip

Hello! I am leaving for Nicaragua in less than 24 hours, which means there will soon be new pictures and stories to share on this blog which makes me happy! Also, my wonderful loving partner has just suggested we take a road trip this summer. He has quite spontaneously got the idea into his head to undertake a great American road trip. The plan is to leave two days after I graduate with my masters degree (eeek!) and go from coast-t0-coast... and then back.

More plans to follow, I must now triple check the packing I have done for Nicaragua since we leave tomorrow morning at 2:45 am (GROSS!).

2.18.2010

Weee!!

This is not at all travel related...
But I am now engaged!! My boyfriend of over three years totally surprised me last night and proposed. We are both very excited and have had a lot of fun calling all the family and just looking at each other and giggling. I really love his family and feel so lucky to be welcomed into it and am really looking forward to starting a family of our own in the future.

On a travel note, I will be going to Nicaragua in a couple of weeks, and my fiancee (first time I got to use that) and I have a road trip planned for this summer.