Good Friends

Traveling solo can get lonely. Even if I am* keeping busy with viewing cathedrals, finding geocaches, eating the local cuisine, etc., there are hours of downtime to pass. When waiting for the bus, winding down time in the hotel/hostel*, or even strolling through some historic something or another, I have only my own thoughts. On the one hand, this can be a good thing: I am in charge of my own schedule, I don't have to take the minor criticisms that even the best friends can offer, and I have time to work out thoughts, unhampered by interruptions. On the other, it can get lonely. With no one to distract me from my own thoughts, I can sometimes get overly drawn in. Plus, who is going to offer those little criticisms that are good, like that I've got lettuce in my teeth. All this is to say that traveling solo can get old.

Enter friends. Sometimes I meet folk along my travels that allow a respite from the solo traveling thing. Maybe it is just someone to sit next to on the train or maybe I will pass many days together. Other times, I have friends along the way where part of the goal of the trip is to visit them. I've been lucky in having both.

Passing time here at the Richards' household has been great. They've taken me into their home, fed me, and entertained me*. I couldn't be more thankful to have had this time to catch up with old friends and be openly welcomed into their life. Good friends are good things. Anyway, keep your eye towards IHJ for pictures of the time*. (I often neglected to bring a camera or slacked on taking shots, but luckily Jenn had my back.) The pictures (and maybe even video) of the slide are not to be missed.
Wednesday April 2 2008File under: travel, USA

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De Plane Boss. De Plane.

I'm here in Dayton, Ohio visiting the IHJ crew (getting in some much enjoyable baby time). But outside of just chilling around the house (I'm sure you would be ever so interested in hearing about Mario Kart battles and board games), I wanted to get the full Dayton experience.

People here love their* aviation roots. They promote it everwhere. To put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, they've got the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum. I thought I might swing by to see what it was all about*. Planes, planes, and more planes – three hangers worth. It was all very interesting, esp. the historical stuff about Orville Redenbacher* (I could have done without the exultation of the war stuff). Being able to be so close to so many full sized planes gave good perspective on this thing that we are all so familiar with, but in a distant sort of way.

Anyway, I could visit all sorts of other aviation related tourist stops here in Dayton, but I think I might just hunker down for a good old game of Guitar Hero.
Tuesday April 1 2008File under: travel, pics

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Indianapolis Layover

Due to unforeseen complications from traffic, weather, and time zones, I found myself with the need to pass a night and then some in Indianapolis*. Although the complications made for a change in schedule, it wasn't unpleasant; adventurous, even. Plus it gave me time to get to know some lovely people with whom I got a ride from Chicago. And now I can say I've "done" Indianapolis. It also made me realize that I have a very formulaic way of approaching a new city. I seek out the same things. Kind of interesting to note. I hope that doesn't make me a boring traveler.

Anyway, in Indianapolis*, after passing the night at the Indy Hostel (hostels vs. hotels and how much awesomer hostels, including the Indy Hostel, are is a topic for another post) I had until 2:00pm to see what I could see. In that time, I found 2 geocahes (so I can now add Indiana to states successfully cached in), found a great walking path (with some more of that random, inspirational art that I love so much), checked out the hip neighborhood of Broad Ripple (I'm sorry I wasn't around to check it out some Saturday evening, as I'm sure it is even more hip then), and rode the public transportation. Gorsh, geocaches and alternative transportation...those aren't topics done to death on BdW.

Anyway, when I travel, it is sometimes nice to stay in a place long enough to really get a feel for it and other times, it is nice to just get a sneak peek. I can now say that I've peakied Indianapolis. Next time I pass through, I'll surely peek it again.
Saturday March 29 2008File under: travel, USA

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Naperville Riverwalk

Every place has its thing, the park/mountain/bridge/building/museum/plaza/viewpoint/historic marker/etc.* that, when people come to visit the town, the residents all say "Have you seen ______?". (Many places, like Anacortes*, have multiple things.)

For Naperville, the 'burb of Chicago where I am currently hanging out, that ______ has got to be the Riverwalk*. I've mostly been exploring solo while my gracious host has been at work, so I don't have a guide to point this and that out, but the place is so cool, everywhere you turn is something neat. It is what you might expect from its name, a path along the river. At places, it is heavily landscaped with concrete and stone banks on the river, and gazebos, benches, parks, and more. Further along, it is a simple path that winds right along the banks of the river. Both parts are beautiful, tranquil, and oh so great.

This evening, in search of a geocache, I went all the way to the east end of the park (the river, of course, continues). I was so inspired by the magic of it all that I had to come back and post about it. Tomorrow, I plan to cruise all the way to the west end of the park. Yep, this Riverwalk is quite a thing!
Tuesday March 25 2008File under: travel, USA

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Giant Metallic Jelly Bean

(Since I kind of dropped the ball on the whole Easter thing this year*, I'm going to give this otherwise non-holiday post an pseudo-Easter theme.)

Yesterday I made my way into Chicago proper from my temporary base in the 'burbs. (The trip was made via commuter rail, which only served to increase my love of rail travel.) The goal of the jaunt was the Chicago Art Institute and all the culture it could spare. It oozed with culture in the form of Hopper, Van Gogh, [only one] Mondrian, etc. etc. Now that I've got my culture quota filled, I can go back to my routine of Simpsons and crosswords for at least a week.

As an added bonus, on the way back to Union Station, we side-tripped through Millenium Park. The prize discovered there was a gigantic metallic jelly bean. I have no idea how the Easter Bunny go that moved in. He must have had help from union labor. Anyway, the bean was fun to take pictures of. See? Me and bean; Sara, Me, and bean; disorder; and just the bean.
Monday March 24 2008File under: travel

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View From the Train

Being a coastal dweller, I sometimes finding myself dismissing that huge mass of land between the ocean as "flat and boring". Yet every time I am exposed to said countryside, I am always reminded that it has bushels of beauty. Traveling through the true countryside, away from interstates, truck stops, and billboards, I gained an even greater appreciation of this particular chunk of our fair country.

Cruising over the mountain pass in the Cascades was great. The pass over the Montanan Rockies was even better. We encountered a bit of a snow storm round about Glacier National Park*. I liked taking pictures of the snow. The rest of Montana impressed me as well, with its rolling hills and vast plains(/grazing land, I assume). I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening knitting while watching the lazy scenery roll on by. Unfortunately, our passage through North Dakota was in the night, so I didn't see much. I'm told, however, that it is very similar to Eastern Montana.

Besides the great landscape, it was neat to see the little towns. I got to get off and walk around in a few. Others we saw fly by at 50 miles an hour. There was a certain charm to the towns that was noticeable even at 50 mph*. Most of these places aren't experiencing the population expansion like so much of the NW, so the stores along main street are the same ones that have been there for years. (Or perhaps I am assuming too much. A brief glimpse and a lot of time to ponder can lead a person to do that.*).

Anyway, I just wanted to add this outside-the-train evidence to my previous post regarding internal evidence of why train travel kicks ass. I'm just sorry I don't have more photographic evidence.
Saturday March 22 2008File under: travel, USA

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Empire Builder

I *heart* train travel.

Before, most of my railway experiences were either in places where train travel was the norm* (Asia and Europe) or only for short distances here in the U.S. (Seattle to Portland, Northeastern Corridor, etc.). I had heard mixed reviews of Amtrak's cross-country service so was a little anxious about the trip*. After the fact, thought, I am glad to say that Amtrak's cross-country service on the Empire Builder couldn't have impressed me more.

Without going too much into detail, let me just highlight what has turned me into such trainophile, at least regarding this trip. For one, I was blown away by how much leg room each seat has. We are talking quite a bit more than first class on an airplane. You can keep your luggage at your feet, if you so desire, and still have space to comfortably sprawl. The seats themselves are on the upside of comfortable. There are foot rests and leg rests that fold out from under the seat*. One could wish for the ability to recline slightly more* but was still more comfortable than a plane*. The convenience of the boarding (/layover) process is also worthy of note. You don't have to take off your shoes, check your luggage 3 times, or empty your bags of all liquid and gel substances. You show up and then you get on the train. And at the station stops, you could hop off, have a quick stroll to stretch your legs, snap a few pictures, then hop back on without anyone hassling you for a ticket or anything. Speaking of stretching your legs, while in transit, there is plenty of space to get up and walk around. Plus, there are destinations to walk to: the diner car*, the lounge car, and the observation car (which was really the hip place to be). Lastly, the views couldn't be beat. (More about that later*.)

Can you tell I enjoyed myself? While there were certain unpleasantnesses associated with passing 48 hours in a relatively enclosed space, I couldn't help constantly comparing the experience to that of the alternative. The train came out on top 9 out of 10 times. If I was to do it again, the only possible changes I would make would be 1) try to convince someone to ride with me (it's so much friendlier with two) or 2) look closer at the possibility of getting a sleeper car (in my initial investigations, I didn't pick up on the fact that meals are included in the price of your roomette.)

While I concede that the train isn't approriate for all situations*, I encourage people to not discount it when they are considering their next trip.
Friday March 21 2008File under: travel, USA

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Eastbound Train

Spring is in the air; trees blooming, baseballers spring training, me only needing 3 wool blankets on my bed in the garage, and, as is kind of becoming a pattern, me feeling the need to go out on an adventure. This itchiness for adventure that has been popping up in my life over the past couple years (and my increasing willingness to give in to it) interests me greatly. I could try to dissect it ("seeking answers to life's persistent questions"*, yada yada yada), but I'm hardly qualified.

This incarnation of adventure isn't going to be nearly as bold as some of the others–no circuses, scooters, or international travel, although anything could happen. Maybe even calling it an "adventure" is a stretch. Perhaps I should downgrade it grammatically to merely a "trip". Oh those pesky semantics.

Here's the plan so far: go east. My hopeful itinerary includes Chicago, Boston, NYC, Portland (Maine), Phillie, Baltimore, Ohio, North Carolina, and points in between. I leave on the first leg this afternoon: Seattle to Chicago by train. The ride is slated to take 48 hours and I've got my books, crosswords, and knitting all ready. I chose the train for a number of reasons; comfort, convenience*, purty views of North Dakota, and environmental concerns (more on that later, hopefully). Anyway, the hope is to see friends along the way so if you live in an aforementioned place and might have time for lunch, dinner, or an insider's tour of your town, drop me an e-mail and we'll work something out.
Tuesday March 18 2008File under: travel, USA

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Olympic National Park

File under "Beauty within a half day's drive from home".

This past weekend, I went for a little jaunt out to Olympic National Park to visit a friend. (Ma was generous enough to leave me her car when she went out of town.) While ONP is beautiful anytime, it is even more beautiful in the rare chance there is sun. We totally lucked out with two days of semi-sun and only rain at the appropriate times when it helped set the mood.

In addition to enjoying Lake Crescent and tromping on the Olympic Discovery Adventure Trail, we headed out to Dungeness Spit in an [successful] attempt to follow the sun. Oh, and it should go without saying that geocaches were involved all around.

Overall, even though the seemingly ubiquitous sickness of late hindered out plans a little, it was a great chance to catch up with a friend, bask in nature's glory, and get away from the routine* of my life.
Sunday March 2 2008File under: travel

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Little Reminders

One of the many reasons I travel* is to remind myself of the freedom we all have. I know it sounds kind of silly, but for me it works. Too often, I get caught up in my routines at home and forget that on any given day, I can do anything*: go out to eat without a reason, call a friend I haven't talked to in years, or leave town on a whim to some exotic place. Because they aren't part of my routine, I often miss the opportunity. Travel has a way of getting me out of my routines, out of my comfort zone and forces me to think about my decisions. That fresh perspective on decisions reminds me of all the freedoms that were there to begin with.

While traveling, however, I also get into routines (granted they are different from the ones at home*). So sometimes, even when traveling, I find it necessary to shake things up and act on an impulse. Two days ago, I did just that and bought a plane ticket back to Seattle. Not to worry: the bus is still functioning and everything is still going to plan. No knock-down drag-out scuffles that led to the decision; just a whim. Now I am back in Anacortes, wading through the waiting mail*, catching up on computer stuff, trying to remember my little lesson on freedom, and contemplating my next adventure.

To those of you who have been reading my blog to follow your friends on the circus bus, I will have a post of pictures from the trip up soon. And if I hear anything more of their adventures, I will pass that along as well.
Thursday January 24 2008File under: travel, Mexico

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