from the road

Days 21 & 22: To Chambana!

It has been a month and a half since we left Champaign-Urbana, and here we are, back again! I feel like we’ve been gone for a much longer time because so many things have happened since we left.

We are staying with our two good friends, Kayla and Darby. I was glad we could arrive in time yesterday to celebrate Darby’s 28th birthday at Crane Alley. Happy birthday (belatedly!), Darby! And good luck on your defense next week!

Darby with birthday glasses

And we got to see Cassandra/”Crosado” before she left town for the weekend. (Not great lighting in this picture, but our natural beauty shines through. Yes?)

Kayla, Cass, Mica



We’re only here for a few days, so we have to pack in the visiting. This morning, I ran with Aileen! I’ve been run-walking on this trip, so this was the first actual run that I’ve done in over a month. I’ve really missed having someone to run with; the miles went by so quickly even though it was raining!

Aileen & Mica


I haven’t seen Jin yet, but I’m trying to get her to come to Kayla’s Fourth of July cookout tomorrow!

Mica & Jin texts

And this evening, it was off for tasty Korean dinner with the Classics department! I’m sure Harrison will look for a new poker group wherever we end up, but they won’t be as cool as this one. And I will, for sure, miss my weekly coffee dates with Dan.

Classics department at B Won


Tomorrow is the fourth, so I’ll be spending it with Kayla prepping for the party and making a patriotic dessert. And also, I’ll be asking her a million and one questions about babies because SHE’S GOING TO HAVE ONE!!!!!


from the road

Day 20: “The Lou”

Rohan is one of our oldest (but really, youngest) hosts on WVT. Harrison has known him since middle school, and I went to college with him at UVA. Even though he moved to St. Louis (“the Lou”) to do his residency in 2012, we never made it out to see him from Champaign. So it should be no surprise that we made visiting him in “The Lou” a priority on WVT!

Rohan & Harrison

Though we visited The Lou a few years ago, we never made it to the ultimate of STL tourist destinations: the top of the arch. Our New York Times guidebook said that it was “a must” for any visit to St. Louis, so we got ready for a long wait on a Monday afternoon.

WVT outside the St. Louis arch

First, you stand outside the arch, waiting to pass through “airport-style” security. Once inside, you buy tickets for a reservation to ride the 40-passenger tram to the top of the arch. While you wait, you can visit the Museum of Westward Expansion.

Museum of Westward ExpansionI didn’t major in Museum Studies, but I’d say that this one kind of sucks. Whoever curated and designed it must have had a vision of how the exhibits would flow, but the layout is very unintuitive to the average waiting-for-the-tram visitor. There are random saddles, stuffed animals, and a conestoga wagon with no explanations, and while there are “Please don’t touch” signs, everything struck me as a relatively un-valued artifact. This is good because children were touching everything.

Rohan excitedly told us about the animatronic displays, but unfortunately, only Red Cloud was feeling well enough to speak to us yesterday. This was a bit unnerving because he only says about a hundred words on a loop. As we walked through the exhibit of peace medals, we just kept hearing him over and over and over.

Animatronic Red Cloud

(If you ever visit Rohan, ask him to do his impression of the animatronic Red Cloud. It’s sort of like C-3PO but with a deeper voice.)

After another long wait (Well, really, three waits…), we got to watch a video about how the shape of the Arch will retain its dignity for a thousand years. Meanwhile, you wait for the tram car.

waiting for tram

Then it arrives, and you’re just like…Da Fuq?? There are five seats, but you get to know your capsule-mates quite well on the four-minute ride to the top. Harrison and I are both below average height, and we had to lean forward to avoid hitting out heads on the curved wall. We were surprised that there were not more warnings for people with claustrophobia. The tram rocks slightly to accomodate the curved track on the inside of the arch, so it feels like being inside a washing machine on spin cycle.

Bottom Line: It’s very small.

St. Louis Arch tram capsule

Once at the top, you get to look through very small windows at Missouri and Illinois. The green-domed building is the old Court House in St. Louis.

view from St. Louis Arch


You can get an idea of how crowded it is at the top from this picture. With the small windows and cramped space, it’s somewhat reminiscent of being in an airplane.

WVT at the top of the STL arch

Each tram ticket was $10, though that includes a $3 entrance fee to the national park facility. (Stupidly, we’d left our annual America the Beautiful pass in the car.) All in all, we’re glad we spent the $20 to go to the top–it was worth the experience of riding in the small tram and looking out the window. It is not, however, something we plan on doing twice.

Once back on solid ground, it was time for a drink. (I say this mostly metaphorically.) We headed to the Annheuser-Busch Brewery for their free tour.

I was interested in the ginormous Clydesdales. Hi, Bruce!

Budweiser Clydesdale


We learned a lot about the brewing process, including that rice is added to the malt.

barley on brewing tour

We also learned about how the brewery survived during Prohibition. Apparently, they made bakers yeast and a “cereal drink” called Bevo. Bevo’s icon was a fox named–surprise!–Bevo!

Bevo packing facility


Annheuser-Busch doesn’t produce Bevo anymore, or, at least, they didn’t talk about it on the tour. It was cool to see the packing facility, though. In fact, I was really impressed with all of the facilities we toured. They were clean and well-lit and in really interesting old buildings with lots of fancy ironwork and decorative carvings.

At the end of the tour, we were taken to the “Hospitality Room” where we could sample two free beers. Unsurprisingly, this is the most hyped portion of the tour. We were expecting beer flight-sized four ounce samples, but no, you get a lot of beer.

Harrison with Budweiser sample


Since I think beer tastes like poison, I offered my two samples to Harrison. After his Budweiser and half of my Stella, we were done though.

Mica with StellaThere were a lot of underage visitors on our brewery tour, so the Hospitality Room also had a free soda fountain and bags of pretzels. Like the children, I was very excited about this. I made a shandy that was about 90% lemonade and 10% Stella. I highly recommend this combination.

Mica with pretzels and Shandy

We really enjoyed the Annheuser-Busch brewery tour. It’s pretty interesting, and for me to say that, it must be good, right? The tour guides are bright-eyed young people, and they really know their stuff and have good presenting skills. Except for the fact that beer tastes like crap, it was an fun and educational experience.

Our day in St. Louis included a run in Forest Park, a trip to the top of the arch, a brewery tour, and pizza dinner with Dr. Rohan. We’re very proud of this solid visit!

Thanks for the hospitality, Rohan! We’ll see you in August for your ENGAGEMENT PAR-TAY! (Rohan and his fiancée Khushbu are getting married in Fall of 2014, and I am already getting excited for the weeklong celebration. I’m not sure if I’ll be more delighted to eat tasty Indian food or to watch Rohan ride in on a white horse!!!)

WVT in St. Louis with Rohan

from the road

Days 17-19: NYC to STL via Medina, OH

First, someone gave us several suggestions for the WVT playlist using the pseudonym “<3” but did not leave any contact information. We don’t know who “<3” is, so drop us a line (leave a comment or send an email!) if that was you! [Or, stay anonymous. A WVT mystery!]

Sorry for the delay in posting! It has been a busy few days during which we left the East Coast and returned to the Midwest (temporarily).

We are just over two and a half weeks into WVT. Here are some stats:

  • We just hit 4,000 miles driven so far on the trip.
  • We’ve seen eight state capitol buildings: Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine, and Connecticut.
  • We’ve seen license plates from 31 states.

On Friday morning, we got up early to say good-bye to Kristen, our very cool Brooklyn host. This picture doesn’t really do her justice, though you can see her pretty sweet platinum hair. I met Kristen when she TA-ed for the media studies class I took my second year of college. She is now working at Al-Jazeera English in Manhattan (one of her many impressive positions–she changes venues at least once a year). She also founded Saucy mag and runs a visually and mentally stimulating tumblr. Though she is not my TA anymore, she continues to be a mentor and an inspiration in the way that she lives life–fully and with joy, pursuing things that she is passionate about. I’m always excited to see what new project she’s working on!Kristen with WVT

Here’s something fascinating we discovered about life in New York City. I grew up in a city, and on street cleaning day, all residents would move their cars for the two designated hours once a week. The same thing happens in Brooklyn, except that there aren’t enough parking spaces. Instead, residents just move their cars to the other side of the street and double-park them, blocking in the legally parked cars for two hours. When you think about it, it’s a very efficient system, as long as people know that they can’t move their car for those hours. (But I mean, who has a car in New York anyway?)

double parking NYCFriday was street cleaning day for the side of the street where we were parked, so we headed out early, just in time to cross over Manhattan island during rush hour. It actually was the easiest part of driving in the New York metro area, but when we crossed Manhattan bridge, I was scared.

crossing Manhattan bridgeOnce we were out of New Jersey, it was a straight drive across desolate Pennsylvania (Seriously, food desert!) to Medina, OH.

Medina (near Akron and Cleveland) may seem like an odd destination, but it is home to one of the coolest families we know! In May, we attended Jessica and Matt’s wedding at the Amangani resort in Jackson, WY, and our trip was made possible by the generosity of Jessica’s parents, Chip & Jean. So, of course, when we were also invited to their reception at Jessica’s home, we were game to attend!

Jessica’s dad designed their home. Isn’t it cool? It even has a spiral staircase that I love going up and down.

On Saturday, several of the former grad student guests (That’s us now, too!) went on a morning run along the towpath in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

And then we did things like shave and put on fancy dresses because it was party time! (We also played several intense rounds of Banana-grams. Jessica’s mom is a whiz. I, meanwhile, get caught up on words like “jut.”)

Matt shaving

It was an honor to be included in this even with so many of Jessica and Matt’s family and friends. Having stayed with Chip and Jean three times (and I’ve stayed with her aunt and uncle twice!), I really feel like a part of the family.

At dinner, I got talking to one of the neighbors who is a retired umpire. Harrison found this rather amusing as I know basically nothing about sports. As he showed me his World Series ring, I nodded knowingly and kept silent about my utter lack of baseball knowledge.

We eventually made it out to the s’mores bar around the fire pit. Matt (the groom), for whatever reason, looks particularly surprised to be caught in the act of roasting four marshmallows at the same time.

Matt  & James around the firepit


Though their wedding was almost two months ago, I still clung to my “MOH” [Maid of Honor] title as if my life depended on it. It’s really my only title right now (other than self-titled “Modern Face of Temperance”), so ain’t nobody taking MOH away from me. Jess, I’m your MOH for life!Jess & Mica, s'mores bar

Roasted strawberries, we discovered, aren’t very good.

Harrison with roasted strawberry

But that’s okay because these cupcakes are delicious!!!

cupcake tray

We also got to spend time with Matt and Nicole, two chemistry PhDs and also “retired grad students.” I didn’t realize that we hadn’t seen them since Jessica’s graduation last year, so it was great to catch up. Matt tried to sell us on jobs in Portland, and Nicole almost (but not really) made Arizona sound like a nice place to live, mostly because I’d like to see a saguaro cactus.

Matt & NicoleUnfortunately, I was too busy meeting people and stuffing my face with food to take many pictures of the party. So you’ll have to believe me that it was a great event, and Harrison and I had a wonderful time.

This morning, I got to spend some quality time with Jessica’s parents. And also, with their goofball lab Scout:

Scout & Mica

Dorothy, on the other hand, is not my biggest fan. It offends her when I do things like…walk up the stairs and try to exit a bedroom. Harrison is endlessly amused by this and likes to point out that she has never been “anything but sweet” to him.

Jean & Dorothy

Here’s to the happy couple, Jessica and Matt! They beat us to the altar by 20 days. I’m pretty sure that being married in the same month and year means that we have to stay friends forevaaaaaar, right?

Two couples

The whiteboard says “Dorothy hates me.”

Love you too, Chip & Jean!

with Chip & Jean

After eight and a half hours of driving, we’re in St. Louis (“the Loo”) with our high school/college friend Rohan. And now it’s very late, so I’m going to bed.

from the road

Days 15-16: Brooklyn & Manhattan

I’m starting this post at 6:52pm because we are meeting Sam and Christin, two high school friends (and my fellow senior class officers, aHA!), for dinner at 8:45pm. I am decidedly too old for this city because at 8:45pm, I usually want to be sitting in my “home clothes”–not sitting down to eat. However, for these winners, it is totally worth it.

We’ve spent the last two days walking around Brooklyn and a little bit of Manhattan, mostly people-watching and just taking in the sights. There are so many things to see and do and eat here; it’s quite overwhelming. It’s cliché to say that we’ve “just scratched the surface” but that is, of course, really true.

Neither of us had been to Brooklyn before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. It definitely has a different feel from Manhattan (the only place that we had ever visited), but it is dangerous to try to sum up an entire borough when I haven’t seen most of it. So here are some brownstones.

Brooklyn brownstones

Bagels in Prospect park.
Bergen bagels with strawberry cream cheese

Yesterday, we took Kristen’s suggestion and walked around DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass–so clever!) and admired the Brooklyn Bridge:

Brooklyn Bridge

Also on Kristen’s suggestion, we took an evening stroll around Prospect Park after dinner last night. Since I suffer mightily from Mean World Syndrome (particularly strong in NYC), I would have never done this on my own, but it was quite pleasant. We even saw a runner having a very loud business conversation as she hauled ass through the park. Busy, busy!


Grand Army Plaza, arch at night

This morning, we had breakfast at Milk Bar, right around the corner from Kristen’s place. I am astounded (not that I should be) by the number of food establishments within a quarter-mile of any given place. Milk Bar, as the reviews would indicate, did not disappoint and was a somewhat calm way to start our day–though the space was so small that I felt like a giant oaf trying to get out from my seat. (Sorry, man next to me, if my bum grazed your coffee at least twice.)

at Milk Bar

Then we walked to DUMBO again for lunch. On the way, we stopped in a Trader Joe’s because I am always curious about where residents of large cities procure their groceries. Why, in reclaimed awesome buildings, of course!

Atlantic Trader Joes, Brooklyn

After a surprisingly short wait at the much-recommended Grimaldi’s, we got to dig into (with moderation on my part) a delightful New York pizza.

Grimaldi's pizza

And we are not amateurs. We know how this is done!

eating folded pizza eating folded pizza

Having consumed four slices of pizza, Harrison was in need of a walk. What better way to let that pizza-bomb digest than by crossing the mile-long Brooklyn Bridge under relentless sunshine into the smog of downtown Manhattan?

I’m smiling here, but on the inside, I have suffocated.

on the Brooklyn Bridge

Okay, let me just say, that one of my circles of hell would be an endless crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge in summer. Today, it was not only hot, but it was particularly crowded because of bridge construction taking up some of the walkway. And as you may know, I have an unbridled hatred for slow-walkers in cities, and the bridge is, like, 1000000% tourist slow walkers trying and failing to capture the grandeur of the bridge on their cellphones or iPads. (Okay, just do everyone a favor and buy a postcard of the bridge. It will look nicer, and you won’t have my sweaty, contemptuous glare in the background.) But rant over, I digress….

Once across the bridge, we walked onto Wall Street (which I always forget is an actual street) and stared at the outside of the New York Stock Exchange building.

NYSE buildingThen because Battery Park was, by this time, rather close, we said, “Why the hell not?” and walked down there too.

view from Battery ParkHaving reached the bottom of Manhattan, there was nowhere to go (Well, there was because this is New York and there are a crap-jillion things to do at any given moment) but back to Brooklyn. Somehow, we crossed the bridge again and made it all the way back to Kristen’s apartment, only to realize that we had walked a total of 10 miles today. Maybe that’s small change for a native New Yorker. I don’t know.

And now, it is time to leave for dinner, so I shall continue this later….

7am, 6/28 – I am resuming writing this post.

Dinner was a delight. Sam made a reservation at Hudson Clearwater, which he and Christin had been wanting to try for awhile. It was rather tasty (cheese plate recommended!), and they had a delicious Pimms, which, of course, is one of the only alcoholic beverages I will drink willingly.

In the world’s largest coincidence, Kristen was also there eating dinner, and so I take that as a sign that it must be good!

in Hudson Clearwater patio

One thing of note–HC has a “hidden” entrance. Though the stated address is on Hudson St., if you try to enter through the “front” door, you will find it to be locked and inaccessible. Instead, you must go around the corner to a completely unmarked green door which enters into the back patio. I learned this ahead of time from reading reviews, but while we were there, at least two people tried to enter through the front door. This hidden entrance must be a New York thing and was the reason for much eye-rolling on my part last night.

Anyway, seeing Christin and Sam was a delight!

Sam and Christin


I had been rather overwhelmed and intimidated by the size and energy of New York, but seeing them helped a lot. Harrison and I remarked that it’s so nice to catch up with Governor’s School (high school) friends because they haven’t changed at all and are just so comfortable with who they are. Sam and Christin seem to be enjoying the city and all that it has to offer, but they haven’t changed into slick city-dwellers or hardened assholes (as I certainly would).

Even Cal, who was busy at a client dinner and then working in his office until 10:30pm, is the same! Bless him, he came out to Lillie’s with us after his normal workday. This is, I’m sure, par for the course, but I know for a fact that this kind of work schedule would kill me. I’m really shocked at how all three of them take their insane hours in stride.

Cal and Sam, Lillie's

So a successful trip to NYC! I was telling Kristen that every time I come to New York, I’m at a different stage in my life and want it to be something different. This was the first time that I had approached it with–honestly–fear and trepidation, but with the right group of friends and fun things to do, we had a good time and saw lots of new and exciting things. Do we want to live here? Absolutely not. Will we visit again? Certainly.

from the road

Day 14: We drive to New York City!

It was with a heavy heart that I left my new favorite beach town and the hospitality of Casa J. We packed up our duffle bags (the content of which we had somehow managed to lay strewn over every square inch of the guest bedroom) and said good-bye to Fannie with promises to return ASAP. (Yes! Ashley and Kyle, this can and must happen!) Then it was time to get on the road again.

About an hour away, we made it to Rhode Island’s very large and impressive State House.

In front of RI State House


But it was quite hot, so we hopped back in the car and sped off to Hartford to see Connecticut’s really beautiful capitol. It really looks like a castle!

CT State Capitol


We loved the big park surrounding the capitol, and perhaps more, we loved that food options were available nearby. Harrison remembered that the show Man v. Food had visited Hartford and featured Woody’s, a local hotdog joint.

Woody's sign, Hartford, CT

He was specifically interested in trying the Deputy Dawg: an all-beef hot dog covered with pulled pork barbecue and cheddar cheese.

Harrison with deputy dawg


His verdict? “As good as I expected, but not better.” (I opted for a veggie wrap from a nearby restaurant that served pizza, wraps, panini, deli sandwiches, frozen yogurt, chicken parmesan, hot bar, cold salad bar, burritos, coffee, and pastries. It was a real life incarnation of Seinfeld’s Dream Café.)

Refueled, we headed down the highway through Connecticut, where, for the first time in his life, Harrison did not get stuck in a snarl of traffic.

However, once outside of New York City, traffic snarls are inevitable. Meanwhile, I choked over what is apparently considered a “cheap” bridge toll:

NYC toll, White Stone BridgeWe’re staying with my friend and former TA Kristen, who has a fabulous apartment in Brooklyn (More on Kristen later!). While she was commuting home, we spent a good 30 minutes driving around her block looking for street parking. We finally managed to nab a prime spot and were so proud of this accomplishment, we did a victory dance (probably to the amusement of the guys hot-boxing down the street).

parking space victory

Parking deserves chocolate cookies!

We also celebrated to the much recommended Ample Hills Creamery just down the street. Seriously. This place closed within four days of opening because it sold out of ice cream. WHAT!

Breakfast trash at Ample Hills CreameryI see a second trip to Ample Hills during our short stay in Brooklyn.

But now, off to explore!



from the road

Days 12-13: Cambridge & Hull

Phew, it has been hot in the Boston area these past few days. Yesterday, we took the ferry and T to Cambridge to visit some of Harrison’s favorite college haunts. On the way, we passed by one of Hull’s two wind turbines.

in front of Hull wind turbine

For lunch, we went to Darwin’s Ltd., where we miraculously found a seat to eat the tasty sandwiches. Harrison likes the Story with prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, lettuce, and vinaigrette.

Eating Darwin's Sandwich, CambridgeI’m a fan of the Hubbard Park: hummus, lettuce, tomato, carrots, apple, sprouts, avocado, and honey mustard.

Hubbard Park at Darwin's

Harvard Yard in the summer is full of people:

summer Harvard Yard

And this girl’s shorts were full of cheek, so much so that it is spilling out the bottom.

short shortsWe snuck into Kirkland to see Harrison’s second-year dorm room…door. Another illustrious former resident of H33? Mark Zuckerberg.

Kirkland H33Harrison’s friend Raj is still in the area, doing a PhD in bioinformatics and enjoying the Boston area. It was great to see him and catch up after five years.

Harrison & RajIt was actually much too hot to walk around much in Cambridge, unfortunately. We poked in a few shops in Harvard Square and spent an hour or so in the Co-op looking at books. For dinner, we made a bee-line to our most favorite Indian restaurant, Tanjore. Mmm, vindaloo, I missed you!

Vindaloo at Tanjore

After a short walk along the Charles at sunset, we headed back to Long Wharf to pick up the ferry back to Quincy where we had parked the car. The company that runs the ferry system will apparently lose their contract with MBTA at the end of the month, so it comes as no surprise that their service is winding down. While the ferry was slated to depart from Long Wharf for Quincy at 9:35pm, it arrived closer to 10:30pm.

The upside of waiting for a very long ferry? We commiserated with the other ferry-hopefuls, including this very brusque man. At one point, he called the company and demanded to know when the ferry would arrive: “Is it going to be five to ten minutes or 20-30? Don’t lie to me! I live up the street from you guys. I know where you work!”

After he hung up, he announced/muttered to himself, “I hope the guy who told me five to ten is on this ferry. Ima’ punch him in his fuckin’ face!”

Can’t make this shit up!

Ferry passenger

Today, we laid low in Hull, keeping cool with Fannie on the porch as the temperatures soared into the 90’s. For dinner, they ordered pizza, and we pulled a wagon to the beach for a picnic!

pulling beach wagon

Okay, Tim helped with wagon-pulling…a little! (Just kidding, a lot once we got to the beach!)

Fannie & Tim with wagon

The tide was way out, and the sun was low. We ate pizza and chips and looked out over a calm ocean. Really! It’s the best! I love Hull!

Our idyllic meal was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a very audacious seagull. He boldly walked right over our picnic blanket, snatched the remaining three slices of meat pizza with his beak, and flapped away (albeit weighed down by the purloined pie), while we yelled, laughed, and stared incredulously.

seagull with pizzaIt wasn’t long until we had attracted a large percentage of Hull’s seagull population:

seagulls fighting over pizzaIt was more funny than distressing. We considered calling the Hull Police department. I’m sure it would make good fodder for the weekly police report.

Harrison with empty pizza box

Don’t worry too much–really. We got ice cream afterwards at this local establishment that is open “7” days a week.

"7" days a week

It has been a great weekend+ in Hull. This is the greatest little town, and Tim and Fannie have been fun and gracious hosts! I will be sad to leave tomorrow morning. I hope we can come see them again soon (with Ashley and Kyle, too!!!!).

On the porch with Tim and FannieBut now, the Blackhawks vs. Bruins game is on. I better go watch fall asleep!

Tomorrow, we head to Brooklyn. No stop ’till Brooklyn!


from the road

Days 10-11: Go to Hull (& also, Boston)!

Hey! Did you enter our photo identification contest? If not, you should!

I’m writing from the most adorable beach cottage/house ever! My friend Ashley’s parents, Tim and Fannie, moved from Midlothian, VA to Hull, MA a few years ago. When they heard we were coming to the Boston area on WVT, they generously offered to host us for a few days.

Hull beach house front

They even put up a message in nautical flags!

Hull is a small town across the harbor from Boston, so I expected it to look something like Baltimore–on the water, but mostly docks and no beach. Instead, it’s an adorable, quaint beach town, but not one of those ritzy, only-boat-shoes-and-madras-print towns; it’s very real, as if people actually live here (which they do). There are small streets, lined with unique New England beach cottages, some of which are summer homes and some of which are year-round homes.

When we arrived Friday evening, we got a tour de Hull courtesy of Tim and Fannie:

Tim driving

It has a view of the Boston skyline. Tim’s commute to downtown Boston is a 20-minute ferry ride. He even has “ferry friends” with the other regular commuters!
Boston skyline from Hull

This is my first time experiencing a New England beach town. The boardwalk on Nantasket beach has several ice cream and fried dough establishments, as well as Fascination, which is like Skee-ball.
Fascination, Hull, MA

This particular arcade has been in operation since 1914, according to Tim.Fascination, Hull, MA


Hull is such a great little town; I love it! There’s a sandy rock beach on one side and the bay on the other. Fannie walks on the beach every day, and their house has tons of cool treasures that washed up on shore.

Bay view, Hull, MA

One of their favorite pastimes is scanning the weekly “Police Report” section of the Hull Times, where all of the weeks major crimes are reported. I was stunned to see that Hull is such a dangerous and crime-ridden area:
Hull police report


On Saturday afternoon, after a leisurely walk on the beach, we took the ferry into Boston.

Quincy Ferry photo op


We walked around Boston Common, where I was very excited to see some ducklings:

Boston common ducks

These kids were having a great time swimming in the fountain, but a park attendant put a damper on their fun.

kids playing in Boston Common fountain

We looked at the very old tombstones in the Granary Burying Ground, which dates back to the 1660’s!

Granary Burying ground, Boston, MA

And for dinner, we walked around the North End and went to one of our favorite restaurants, Rabia’s. There was an awesome narwhal chalk mural behind our table.

Narwhal chalk mural, Rabias, Boston

Harrison realized that though (or perhaps) because he went to school in Cambridge, he has never been to Boston in the summer months. It has a different feel: a lot more tourists and lots of people outside, enjoying the common spaces in the warm weather.

Green space, downtown Boston

Dessert was a lobster claw (or at least, part of it!) at Caffé Vittoria. It really is as big as it looks.

lobster claw & mocha, Caffe Vittoria

After walking around and choking over real estate prices (We found a condo for $5.5 million. Anyone want to go halfsies?), we headed back on the ferry…

evening ferry, Boston

…which is nice because you can see the Boston skyline, all lit-up at night.

Boston skyline at twilight

Having lived in government subsidized housing on grad student salaries for the past five years, I am always shocked to encounter the displays of wealth in a large city. I don’t begrudge these people; I’m just amazed that people can not only afford million dollar yachts, but also moor them in prime harbor real estate right off the North End. Money, man.

Tim gave us another example. Two tandem parking spaces in Beacon Hill just went to auction and were sold for $560,000. Two homeowners apparently got in a bidding war over them. Geeeeez.

Now, we’re off to explore Cambridge for the afternoon! ❤ Boston ❤

from the road

Days 8-9: Camping in Maine + a Contest!

Hello there! Did you miss me? I was in the depths of the wilderness, fighting off predatory bears with my bare hands and rubbing sticks together to make fire.

Actually, I was just away from cellphone service while we camped in Cobscook and Acadia National Parks in Maine.

After leaving St. John, we crossed back into the US and arrived in the tiny town of Lubec, Maine, which is right outside Quoddy Head State Park. Lubec is a tiny town (with five restaurants!), but with tons of charm and the essentials (ice cream). It is hosting its first International Marathon tomorrow–I may have to consider this in the future.

About four miles outside the town, you can visit the adorable candy-striped West Quoddy lighthouse, situated on the easternmost point of the United States.

West Quoddy Lighthouse


Harrison visited Quoddy Head State Park fifteen years ago. My last visit to Lubec was also a long time ago.

Quoddy State Park

There is a rock beach with lots of seaweed and a “violent” surf that thunders in against the rock cliffs. It’s pretty impressive.

Harrison on Quoddy Head State park cliffs


We had fun poking around at low-ish tide:

Harrison with seaweed, Quoddy Head State Park Mica with seaweed, Quoddy Head STate Park


I would not recommend swimming in late June at Quoddy Head State Park. The water in the Bay of Fundy is frickin’ cold!

feet in sea waterI’m a sucker for nostalgia, so visiting Quoddy Head State Park was a real treat. I ran up and down the paths, alternating between saying, “I LOVE THIS! IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” and taking in large lungfuls of sea air mixed with the scent of balsam fir trees.


View from cliffs, Quoddy Head State Park



Quoddy Head State Park I even insisted that we visit the rare Arctic bog in the middle of the park. I was so overcome with feelings of nostalgia (from visiting this with my parents) that I took an ironic bog selfie:

Bog selfieWhen I’d had my fill of nostalgia coastal memories, we headed to Cobscook State Park, where my dad claims to have had the best camping of his life.

We finally got to camp, and I am delighted to report that we survived our first camping adventure with minimal issue. We even made a fire “from scratch” (=We got a pack of free matches at the Lubec IGA.).

Whatever, no judgment. Indulge Harrison in his feelings of manliness.

Harrison with campfire

You can’t see from the picture, but our campsite overlooked Cobscook Bay, which also has a rock beach and seaweed, as well as mudflats where campers can dig for clams. (I enthusiastically proclaimed that I wanted to dig my own peck of clams, only to realize that I have no idea what to do with said claims once they are unearthed.) At least we went to sleep in our extremely cozy two-person tent to the smell of salt air.

I was very proud of our ability to pitch a basically fool-proof tent outside of my mom’s living room. “This is easy,” I thought, “How have I not gone camping more? I did so much camping with my family when I was younger.”

Oh right. Bugs (and also spiders). I hate them. HATE THEM. Mosquitoes think I taste delicious, and I swell up a lot when I get bitten. (Also, like a four-year-old, I cannot stop itching any bites once I get them. I had very scabby legs as a child.)  Fortunately, my dad let us borrow these “mesh covers” (=mesh drawstring bags) to keep out bugs. In addition to keeping out the monstrous mosquitos and no-see-ums, it also did a good job keeping my sandwich out of my mouth…until I got creative.

Mica wearing gnat bagI have to say, Cobscook was a little too “rustic” for my taste–or, at least, a little too “real camping”-like after living a non-nature-filled life for the past ten years. For one thing, on my trip to the toilet (a toilet seat over a hole), I was terrified that a predatory bear was stalking behind me. To ward off any bears, I swung my flashlight around erratically and hummed pop songs loudly until I reached the safety of the bathroom, which is to a say a stall in the middle of the woods. (There I found a very large spider guarding the stall handle.)

After surviving that harrowing experience (I kid!), I was happy to break camp and head off to Acadia National Park. First, we made a stop in Bar Harbor, ME, where we were certainly underdressed. Even this moose statue (not $25,000) was full of judgement:

Moose statue in Bar Harbor, ME


We did a short hike in Acadia to look out over the water [Unfortunately, those pictures are on my DSLR, the cord for which I left at home. If you have a USB cord that connects to a Nikon port, I might need to borrow it.] and then headed to the smaller of the two Acadian peninsulas to set up camp at Seawall Campground.

Seawall Campground is, shockingly, located right off the natural seawall:

Seawall view, MaineI highly recommend this campground. The bathrooms are pristine, and there is a nice, smooth paved road around all the loops. It was great for taking an after-dinner hike to spy on see the other campers, many of whom were taking family vacations with pop-up trailers and kids on bikes (Nostalgia alert!!!). The only downside is that the campground has no working showers. You can pay for hot showers at the nearby camp store.

And, of course, we engaged in the most time-honored of camping traditions: Making s’mores!

S'mores at Seawall Campground[Dad, you will be proud that I remembered our long-standing tradition of foraging for firewood in other people’s abandoned campsites. I had accumulated quite a bit of “reclaimed” wood, only to find that the rangers had already chopped up tons of wood, left out free for the taking. We made a huge-ass fire, that’s fo’ sho’!]

So, okay, maybe we’re not the most daring and rustic of campers, but I think we did an okay job. We didn’t burn the campsite to the ground, and we successfully built and broke camp twice.

Finally, we thought we would spice things up on the blog by adding a small contest. There is something hidden/camouflaged in this picture we took at Quoddy Head State Park. What is it? 

What is hiding?

What is hiding here? [Click to enlarge.]

E-mail your guess to info[at] with the subject line “Quoddy Contest” by Sunday, 6/23, at 10:00pm EST. The person with the most specific and accurate guess will be awarded a cool prize (something yet to be determined–a souvenir from our travels)!

[Sorry, only US residents and non-family members eligible.]

Now, I’m writing from the adorable beach town of Hull, MA, just outside of Boston, where we are staying with my dear friend Ashley’s parents. But this post is getting long already.

from the road

Day 7: Driving to Saint John, NB

I don’t have much exciting news to share today. We spent most of the day in the car, driving along the Ceilidh trail on Cape Breton on our way to Saint John, NB. We’re stopping here for the night before heading back to the US for a camping adventure.

Check out the assortment of proffered condiments at breakfast:

Canadian condiments

Top row: Cheez Whiz, Raspberry & Strawberry Jams
Bottom row: PB, Honey, Orange marmalade

Remember how I said that Chéticamp is Cape Breton’s largest Francophone enclave? Well, that seems to be true. We encountered a lot of Francophones in our 16 hours in Chéticamp, including this charming group of women having a breakfast chat. I tried to be sneaky and take a picture of them.



When I asked them if I could have some sugar, they did not understand my French. Eventually, they figured it out and responded all in English. Lesson of the day: Don’t take foreign languages. Even if you study for a crap-jillion years, no one will understand you. Just give up. [I kid. Sort of. I made myself feel better by saying that I have a different accent, but HAHAHAHAHA.]

from the road

Days 5-6: Along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton

Well, we planned to go camping the past two nights, but the weather conspired against us.

Yesterday, we made a very long trek across Nova Scotia to the northernmost section: Cape Breton Island, full of small Celtic seaside communities. I have to admit that I did almost no planning for WVT; that was Harrison’s job. (I’m in charge of trip documentation.) As such, I had no idea where we were going in Canada, so everything has been a delightful surprise.

Like Canadian money having a transparent panel? Delightful!

Canadian $20 bill

And the amazing views along the Cabot Trail? Delightful surprise!

cabot trail view


This scenic overlook on Cape Smokey? Delightfully surprising!

Cape Smokey view

Once we arrived in Ingonish, we nixed the camping plan. Rain on the forecast and driving around with a very wet tent did not sound wedding victorious, so we opted for a “motel” in Ingonish. Along the Cabot Trail, there are no big hotels. All the accommodations are either small cabins/cottages for rent or “motels”–basically, long-ish trailers with small, no-frills rooms.

Last night, we stayed at Sea Breeze Cottages & Motel. The room was spartan, to be sure, but it was clean and much preferable to huddling in a dripping tent all night. Also, check out the view from our room (for $79/night!!):

Ingonish view

And this was the view from the Sea Gull restaurant where we ate dinner last night. Unlike most waterfront dining and lodging, the businesses in Cape Breton are cheap and small. Last night, we ate at a plastic picnic table, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on a screened-in porch that threatened to slide into the water. It was tasty and thrilling.

Sea Gull restaurant view


Today, we got our park pass to enter Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Unsurprisingly, I made sure to peruse the information about wild animal safety. The brochure [PDF linked–highly recommended as general knowledge] helped you understand the difference between defensive and predatory bear attacks. The former, you play dead, and the latter, you fight back to the best of your abilities, make yourself “large,” and engage other offensive maneuvers. (My plan was to stand on Harrison’s shoulders, while pelting any predatory bears with rocks and sticks, while singing showtunes at the top of my lungs.


(Bears, you best start runnin’!)

Inside the park, we drove along the Cabot Trail, stopping at scenic overlooks or taking short hikes into the forest or along the coastal cliffs. I am sorry to say that the photos don’t do anything justice; it’s hard to capture natural beauty and wide landscapes on camera.

At Green Cove, I was on the lookout for extra large waves:

Looking out for extra large waves

Looking out for extra large waves….

Fortunately, none swept us away:

Green Cove, Cape Breton

Look at how relevant I am! Even in Canada!

Green Cove informational sign

After failing to find an open establishment at midday, we stopped for a picnic lunch by the water. Meanwhile, John Cabot‘s bust judged my consumption of large quantities of hummus.

John Cabot bust

As you can see, it was very cloudy today. In fact, we drove through a lot of clouds. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like driving or walking with 0% visibility, knowing that you are a few yards away from the edge of a cliff.

Skyline trail, Cape Breton

I insisted that we stop at the Bog trail based on feelings of nostalgia for Maine vacations with my parents to peat bogs.  I was delighted to find that the green frogs were in the middle of procreation season. Here I am, trying to get as close to the tadpoles as possible without falling into the pool. (I attempted to scoop one up in my hand for closer inspection, but he pooped on me.)Looking at tadpoles

 We walked the 5.7-mile Skyline Trail loop in the hopes of seeing moose or whales. The fog was too dense to see much of anything except for the 2349802384032 slugs on the trail.

slug, Cape BretonWe did actually see a moose today along the side of the road. We turned a corner…and there he (she? Couldn’t see a beard) was. I tried to get a picture, but it ran away, so you’ll have to believe me.

I did get a picture with this pine tree. It did not run away.

pine tree, Skyline, Cape Breton

I’m currently writing from the Acadian Motelin Chéticamp, the largest Francophone enclave (linguistic words!) on Cape Breton. Our (also cheap!) room looks out over Chéticamp Harbour.Chéticamp, Acadian Motel

We ate dinner at the Co-op Artisanale, which serves tasty traditional Acadian dishes. Our meal came with fresh bread, served with butter and molasses. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this combination before?

Bread with butter and molassesAnd while I did not order it, I was intrigued by “unemployment pudding” (pudding [au] chômeur). Maybe once I get a job, I’ll eat some unemployment pudding and then laugh in its face….

Pudding au chômeur on menu

So yes, our séjour in Cape Breton was not what we expected (Well, it wasn’t what Harrison expected. I didn’t have any expectations.), but it has been awesome nonetheless. I keep saying, “Why don’t more Americans come here?” And the answer is probably (1) they don’t know it exists and (2) it’s freaking far away! We didn’t get to see nearly as much as we wanted, but this is apparently the point of the trip: getting previews of cool places so we know they’re worth returning to.

And I definitely encourage you to come check out Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail for yourself. There’s, like, an 85% chance you’ll see a moose!