Monday, June 7, 2010

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens: Vol I





Brooklyn!



Pennsylvania to NYC on Memorial Day - What were we thinking?

So after we had a good night's sleep in the one hotel we splurged on (a whole $46.87), we were off to Erie, Pennsylvania to see Rich's old-time friend Chuck, a former Marine and current firefighter. The trip there was rather short, only about two hours, so it really flew by after our five or six hour stretches. What's even better is that because it was such a short trip to our next destination, we were able to sleep in at the hotel until ten in the morning!


So we arrived in Erie and headed to Chuck's In-Law's house where they were having a barbeque for Memorial Day. The food was delicious, the burgers were fresh, and the beer was crisp and cold. It was a fantastic little stop for us. This also meant it was another meal we didn't have to buy on the road, which helped us save some money and put some more towards gas. Chuck's family was extremely welcoming to us and told us all about the area, and even gave us some local wine when we left.


Little known fact: Welch's grapes are grown in Pennsylvania, and apparently some residents are even able to grow their own in their backyards!


After Erie, we left for Rich's sister's house in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, about the furthest point in Pennsylvania compared to where we were. Most of the drive was actually in Upstate New York, which is hands-down the most beautiful part of our drive. It was hilly and green and sunny; it was absolutely perfect driving weather.


Around nine we made it to her house and they were having their own Memorial Day celebration. Win for us, barbeque two meals in a row! They made ribs, grilled corn-on-the-cob, potatoes, and salad… absolutely delicious. Afterwards, we relaxed and played some games before we completely passed out from exhaustion on their sofa bed. What a great day…


When we woke up, breakfast was already in the works, and the menu? Crepes with apples and bananas, turkey bacon, and scrambled eggs. The food was out-of-this-world, one of the many reasons I love to hang out with fellow foodies. So we relaxed a little, drank some coffee, and played with their dog Shadow before we hit the road for the last stretch before we arrived in Brooklyn.


It was slow going all the way there, that's for sure. All the roads were backed up, even in Pennsylvania. I don't think we went over 55 mph all the way to New Jersey. Speaking of NJ, it’s really as ugly as I expected it to be, at least the places I saw. And to add further insult, the toll to leave New Jersey and enter NYC was $12!!!


But, we finally made it to Brooklyn and I was able to meet Rich's parents and some of his friends in the neighborhood. It was so hot when we got there though that we had to immediately leave to get an air conditioning unit for his bedroom. It's helped so far…

Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana - Oh My!

So we made it through Madison to visit Rich's friend and we were well on our way to the next stop on our journey, Little Town in the Middle of Michigan, Michigan. After hours in the car and then driving around in circles around the same four cow farms, we finally found the environmental study magnet site that Kali works and studies at. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so we spent a few hours lying in the sun next to a lake in the grass, talking, drinking cold cider, and playing with the neighbor's dogs. (My favorite part of the day, since I'm really missing Tobes and Kip these days.)


After we hung out for a few hours, we decided to grab some food and then head on our way; we still had almost six hours to go to reach our final destination for the night outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She brought us to the cutest little restaurant in 'town' and according to her, the best. I had a cob salad with grilled chicken and Rich had an angus burger with garlic mashed red potatoes. Kali had the same salad as me with shrimp. As an appetizer, the server brought deeeelicious homemade potato chips and a creamy garlic sauce. Oh man, it really hit the spot before we were back on the road.

So we were on the road again, and it was my turn to drive - oh goodie. I don't even know how many states we went through, but they were all boring, flat, and the tolls were insane. The only radio stations we could find were country (again) or Christian rock. Seriously, there were three different Christian rock radio stations. I guess we hit the edge of the bible belt. So we went through Michigan, around the Lake, Indiana, Ohio… and God knows what else.


At one point, Rich and I were so bored with the radio stations, we instead decided to entertain ourselves with howling at the moon. Yes you heard that right, we howled at the moon.


Let's see here, some more interesting things we saw:

-What I like to call the Repentmobile: an RV that was painted with Bible excerpts and the words

"Judgment Day - May 21, 2011".

-An absolutely breathtaking blood red moon on the Ohio Turnpike just after dusk

-Gary, Indiana

-Traffic, traffic, traffic

-Cleveland!!!

Dear Chicago, I HATE Your Traffic

Driving through Chicago is a nightmare - plain and simple. I wish I would have really understood how bad it would be before we decided to go right through it. I'm not sure we could have really avoided it, but we could have tried at least. Traffic stopped, I mean to a halt, about 20 miles outside of the city and then continued all the way through Chicago and another 30 miles out of the city. Yuck.


The positive: we found the best hip-hop station that did some cool mixes and had the greatest DJ. He talked non-stop about bikini car washes and how 'bumpin' he was going to make his mixes. Really, I mean it was pretty cool.

I also got to see the Sears tower. Not up close, but from the highway. I can't remember seeing it the last time I went through Chicago, so it was a treat for me to be able to finally see it.


Not much else was interesting about Chicago and the surrounding area, except Chicago Public Radio. We were able to catch Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me before it was too fuzzy. It wasn't long enough, but it was still great. Then, we entered no radio land again, for the next 300 miles. Eew.

Why Does Midwest Radio Suck?!

Miles logged so far: 478

Hours in the car: 8 hours 12 minutes

Bathroom breaks: 4

Gas stops: 2


So Rich and I have left Bemidji, Minnesota and are well on our way to Brooklyn. Yesterday we had plans to leave BY 8:00am, but we all know those types of things never work out. Instead, we mosied our way around, had a leisurely breakfast with my parents, which was delish by the way, if you're reading this. We got caffeinated, showered, and then began the struggle to get all our luggage in the car. It's not like we brought a U-Haul with us or anything, just a Nissan Maxima… With a little bit of wiggling we were able to pack it all into the car and we can even see out the back window right now!


I'm also proud at how little we've spent our first day. We ate breakfast at home, so we didn't have to spend anything there, nor on coffee. A few days before we had bought mucho snackos so that we would be able to limit the amount we spent on gas station snacks as well as having control and prior choice over the things we would eat on the road. Thanks to this great little idea of our's, we didn't have to buy lunch or snacks and were instead able to munch on the granola bars, bagels, and fruit we had on hand. We did splurge on dinner last night with Rich's friend Amelia, but we figured we deserved it after all our time in the car.


Yesterday we went from Bemidji to Duluth and then stopped to stretch our legs in my favorite little port town. Duluth is a cute little town to me, but I didn't even realize that Rich had never seen any of the great lakes, so he was veeery excited. Both of us were still amazed at just how BIG Lake Superior is, I mean, you can't see the other side. It's like an ocean it's so big! So we checked out some of the sights on the pier, walked by the water, and then headed back to the car to get back on the road to… MADISON!!


The drive there was beautiful, but there really wasn't much to look at so we entertained ourselves with the radio and playing twenty questions. Why are there only country or top 40 stations in the Midwest? I mean, what's up with that?!? W scrolled through all the stations at least twice and the best we could come up with was a "Current Hip-Hop" station. Yuck. I can only take so much auto tune and Jay-Z remixes…


So we finally made it to our destination around 7:30 and proceeded to wander for another 30 minutes trying to find Amelia's place, which was tucked away in this little cul de sac. Ugh. So we arrived, unpacked our bags and then headed for some dinner. We were starving and tired and worn out from driving so Amelia packed us in her car and took us to a little place called Sala Thai. It was the cutest, most interesting little place I've ever been. Amelia said it was pretty new, but they'd clearly already put lots of energy into their d├ęcor. There were paper umbrellas, paintings, statues, flags… you could barely see the wall beneath all of it. They even had a little fountain tucked away inside this place! We got our food and chatted with Amelia and then headed back to her house to relax and get a good night's sleep.


This morning we actually DID wake up in time to leave by 8:15, which is much closer to our goal, so we're getting better….

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