from the road

Day 28: Hitting all the South Dakota Sights

We traversed the great state of South Dakota today on our trek to the West Coast.

Our first stop? The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I imagined that this would be a structure built entirely of corn, so suffice to say, I was disappointed when I realized that the palace is only decorated with murals made of corn. Impressive, still, I guess….

Unlike, um, everyone else, the Corn Palace is quick to advertise how awesome it is that tons of non-edible household products are made of corn. Bottles and shampoo made out of corn? That’s just a modern marvel of technology, says the Corn Palace.

“Hi!” says this giant anthropomorphic ear of corn.

Corn Palace, South Dakota

 

From there, we drove to and photographed the SD State Capitol in Pierre (the second smallest state capital in the US!).

I’m not sure how/when we’re going to photography the North Dakota State Capitol because I don’t see us coming back to the plains any time soon.

SD State Capitol

SD State Capitol

All along the state’s highways, there are signs for Wall Drug, a huge roadside attraction. By the time we arrived, I had lost count of the number of signs we’d passed for it.

Wall Drug started as a drug store in the 1930’s and became famous because its proprietor offered free water to any passersby. Today, it is a gigantic tourist attraction with enough gimmicky shit to make your head spin. We got free water, but we passed on the plaster eagle busts and Native American statuettes.

Wall Drug pictures Note to newlyweds: Wall Drug Café gives you two free doughnuts if you’re on your honeymoon!

Free doughnuts at Wall DrugHoneymooners also get free coffee, but as a cup normally costs $0.05, that’s not a huge deal. In fact, we both paid for our two cups of coffee; I guess we donated $0.10 to Wall Drug. So generous, I know…

5 cent coffee at Wall Drug

Then it was time to enter Badlands National Park, which was free to enter with the annual parks pass that we purchased in Maine. Here’s what I knew about Badlands before entering: Absolutely nothing.

Badlands collage

The carved out rocks were amazing to look at, and we had some excellent vistas from the many lookout points around the park loop. I kept thinking about what a miserable and inhospitable place this must have seemed like for the settlers who crossed this area.

If I were just trying to get to Oregon, I’d see this and think “Shit.” (But let’s be honest, I probably would have died of dysentery by this point anyway.)

Badlands National ParkI was ready to write off Badlands as a hot (sweat in my bra strap, ewwww!) and rough-hewn place, but I followed the park pamphlet’s instructions to let “the Badlands reveal themselves.” In the <60 minutes that we sped through the park, several prairie dogs revealed themselves to us, and I was very excited. (No pictures though.)

Rocks in BadlandsThe final stop was, of course, Mt. Rushmore. (I say “of course,” but I had no idea it was in South Dakota. My knowledge of US geography is the absolute worst.)

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I was pleasantly surprised by how cleanliness and nice layout of the viewing area. It’s “free,” but you have to pay $11 for an annual pass to park in the lot. I mean, what the frick?!? The man who sold us the pass smiled when he said that we could use it for the rest of 2013, but I don’t think we’re coming back to Mt. Rushmore this year.

But anyway, I made us practice our “serious” faces in case they one day want to add our likenesses next to Washington’s.
IMG_0599And now, we’re in Custer, SD, where we had an infuriating dinner involving a bait-and-switch “stout” beer and a clueless waitress. (I’m talking to you, Buglin’ Bull Sports Bar!)

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Driver's Log

Round Lake, IL to Sioux Falls, SD: Driver’s Log

When planning this road trip, I was excited to see friends, family, and the sites along the way, but I was also excited to see what the country looks like between those things.  The destinations are awesome, but getting there is half the fun (my lovely wife may think otherwise)!  For those readers who also wish to know what can be found in the wilds of Wisconsin and Minnesota, read on!

The answer: Apparently not much can be found on I-90 in Wisconsin and even less can be found on I-90 through Minnesota.

I will elaborate, lest you feel you have been given short shrift.  Wisconsin is actually a very pleasant state.  It has green, rolling hills and dairy farms dotting the countryside.  As we drove north and west of Madison, the hills became more jagged, and as you saw in Mica’s post, some interesting rock formations popped up.  I should also mention the area surrounding Wisconsin Dells, which appeared to be some bizarre water park resort destination.  Please comment if you know what is up with that.

Upon crossing the Mississippi at La Crosse, Wisconsin, we were greeted by the relentless plains of southern Minnesota.  There is so little in southern Minnesota that the road signs saw it fit to tell me that we were approaching the burg of Albert Lea, MN (pop: 18k) from 100 miles out.  There was just nothing else in between.  Plains gave way to sad little hills, which gave way to more plains.  The interstate was, by and large, straight as a pin, and there were typically about 5 or 10 cars per mile of highway.  I think I saw more wind turbines than on any other day of my life, even after living in Illinois for five years.  I don’t mean to imply that the state of Minnesota is boring; we were just in a boring part of it (less “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” more “I Can Tell We’re Not Far From Iowa” (no offense Kim, and other Iowa natives!) (sorry for double parentheses!)).  Someday we’ll see the prettier and more interesting parts, but today was not that day.

Tomorrow we spend a solid day driving across South Dakota, but I am confident it will be more interesting.  Faces on mountains and stuff.

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from the road

Day 27: Driving to Sioux Falls, SD

Today’s post is relatively uneventful because we spent most of it in the car. (Highlight of my day? Probably the deliciously foamy chai “tea” latte that Kim made me this morning. Om nom nom!)

In Wisconsin, we saw some cool rock formations, but now that I’m looking at this picture, I have no idea where I took it. Sorry. Wisconsin residents, any ideas?

rocks in WisconsinAnd right at the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, I saw this restaurant. Suffice to say, we did not stop here for lunch, but I did get a giggle from the name.

"Beef & Etc."

 

We crossed the Mississippi, but it mostly looked like this:

bridge over the MississippiToday’s drive was boring; there’s no real way to get around that fact. Once we got into Minnesota, it was flat, flat land and uninteresting out-the-window sights. I have discovered that I can read in the car under these conditions, so I’ve been plowing through A Clash of Kings (kindly lent to me by Jean back in Medina!). This also gives Harrison a much-needed break from my constant changing of the satellite radio.

Cassandra asked what we talk about in the car and if we run out of things to say. I usually play around on my phone, read, knit, play with the radio, or fall asleep. Sometimes, I pull out the conversation starter cards that Kim and Steven gave me for my birthday. Each one has an interesting question that makes good discussion over several miles.

Here’s a good question that sparked an interesting discussion: Who, in your opinion, are the top five greatest Americans and why? (Answer in the comments below!) 

Though I don’t remember who we chose, we had completely different definitions of “greatest,” so our lists did not overlap at all.

In unrelated news, here’s an email we got from Matt on Friday:

Email from Matt

(Apparently, auto-correct does not work when you are writing in all caps.)

Congratulations, Matt and Emily! We are so excited to see you in the Bay Area.

I’m really tickled that they were inspired by WVT to have a wedding that works for them. I really hope that this trip encourages other couples to plan something that makes them happy. So far, I have enjoyed WVT immensely–far more than I would have enjoyed buying a dress that I could only wear once and dealing with all the trappings of a traditional wedding. And I’m pretty sure Harrison is having a good time too.

Hooray for doin’ what you want!

And now, Ima’ lie on the comfy hotel bed in Sioux Falls, SD, and read some more Game of Thrones.

 

 

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Days 25-26: “IN” Round Lake, IL

Staying with Kim and Steven is so much fun! As I’m writing this, Steven is trying to convince us to stay later than planned tomorrow before we head out into the “unknown” portion of our trip (the drive between Round Lake and Seattle). Kim, meanwhile, is trying to convince Harrison to visit a tunnel somewhere…

Yesterday, we had a picnic! Harrison and Steven were very good at building a fire:

Harrison & Steven building a fire

Kim and I were very supportive of their efforts, obviously.

Mica & Kim in picnic shelter

Steven is a vegetarian, and Kim is a vegan. I love visiting them because we have so much fun and also because I get to eat awesome vegan/vegetarian food. This was a our picnic spread yesterday: “chicken” salad, chickpea-bulgur “salad,” “chips,” and “fruit.”

vegan picnic spreadAnd also baked beans and foil-packet potatoes which were reluctant to cook. Every time we checked them, they kept saying “I’m raw potatoes,” oddly enough.

foil potato packets on grill

 

We each had our own flavor of Jarritos!

Mica & Kim, Jarritos

After lunch, we played some spastic (on my part) frisbee and took a walk around Volo Yolo bog.

Bog walk

It was hot in the bog, but we made it look pretty good.
Bog pose

Steven made stuffed “burgers” for dinner on Saturday. Tonight, we had homemade pizza, each with our own unique combination of toppings.

pizza & burgersDon’t worry, though. We’ve been workin’ on our fitness. Kim and I ran this morning. It was hot!

Kim & Mica, post run

 

Kim is studying to become a personal trainer. This morning, she also coached me and Harrison on some couples yoga poses today.

stacked yoga pose

Meanwhile, Steven practiced riding the motorcycle of his dreams. [Kim may have just expired from over-laughing at the picture.]

Steven's air motorcycle

Data is highly judgmental of our antics. Seeing us goof around probably makes him feel, as Kim and Steven say, “stabby.”

Stabby Data

 

After a delicious brunch at Wildberry, we went to see World War Z. It was really tense (evidenced by my sharp intakes of breath), but I think we all enjoyed it. (Some friends have told me that it isn’t as good as the book, but none of us had read it.) In case you don’t want to see the film though, it’s basically like this:

Mica & Kim reenact "World War Z"

While they made dinner, I decided that Kim’s collection of cans makes her really unique…just like liking Christmas! 😉

Kim with cans

 

Liking pizza? It also makes you unique.
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Thanks for the fun weekend, Kim and Steven and my cat-boyfriend Data! Next time we get together, Kim and I will wear our maxi dresses for the photo.

WVT at Round Lake

It’s all downhill from here “metaphorically.”

 

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from the road

Day 24: Champaign to Round Lake, IL

We caught lunch with our friends Brian & Kya and Dan & Alejandro at Golden Harbor. I’m really intimidated by their giant menu (in Chinese), but Dan and Alejandro go frequently enough that they could order for us.

Group at Golden Harbor

All four of them had just gotten back from France, and they had some hilarious (and infuriating) stories to tell. It almost made us want to go back…but not really.

Kya and I had the same fortune. Twice the success!

Same fortune cookie messages

We’ll come back to CU to get our stuff–hopefully in August–so I hope we can catch up with them again!

Then it was on the road again, heading up 57N to Round Lake, IL. It used to seem like a really long drive to go from Champaign to a northern Chicago ‘burb, but after so many weeks on the road, it was no big deal!

Plus, Sirius (the satellite radio) was particularly kind to me on this trip:

Screenshot of Satellite Radio

“Another Day,” “Defying Gravity,” “My Heart Will Go On”

We’re staying in Round Lake for the weekend with our friends, Kim and Steven and their cat Data. I first met Kim through her blog, but we’ve hung out so many times now (and keep in touch, like, every day) that I consider her one of my good friends!

Last night, we went to El Famous Burrito for Mexican. The burritos were baby-sized, so here, Harrison is demonstrating how to give infant CPR. (He wants to point out that it looks like he’s taking it’s pulse, but take note. Infant CPR requires two finger compressions!)

Harrison giving infant CPR to burrito

 

Kim and I were delighted to share a plate of vegetarian fajitas. I wish we lived closer so we could always share restaurant meals! (Friends & Family note: A good way to get us to move to your city would be to offer to split restaurant meals with me, ahahahaha.)

Kim & Mica with plate

As I type this, we’re getting ready to go on a (vegetarian!) picnic, so I’m going to go help cut up some fruit!

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from the road

Day 23: A Chambana Fourth of July

Kayla loves the Fourth of July, especially the fireworks, so staying at her house ensured that we would have a memorable holiday.

After we went on a morning walk together, Kayla and I visited my most favorite place on earth: Meijer. No journey to the Midwest would be complete without a trip to this delightful box store. (I kid, I kid! Though I am legitimately sad that we might end up somewhere that doesn’t have an Aldi.)

Kayla @ Meijer

The afternoon was spent making macaroni and cheese and pound cake. Darby helped us clean up.

Darby licking batterAnd we dried our eyes out while engaging in an intense Dr. Mario battle.

playing Dr. MarioDo you like butter and sugar? Yes? Good, then make this pound cake.

Amanda's cheese poundcake

Then cut it up and turn it into a patriotic trifle!

red white and blue trifle

I haven’t been in a kitchen much since we left on WVT, so I really enjoyed cooking with Kayla today!

Kayla & Mica with trifle

She showed me how to grill corn (rub it with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap in foil, grill). This is my new favorite way to eat corn!

goofing off with corn

 

Meanwhile, Harrison and Darby were sent on an important errand. We said “Get some ice.” And, boy, did they deliver or what? As Darby says, it’s like “a human torso of ice.”

Husbands with iceAll this preparation was for a good reason. Jin, Joey, and Jenna came over for an Independence day cookout!

Cookout collage

The guys were verrrrry excited to launch bottle rockets in the street.

Joey launching rocket.

Eventually, we were able to tear them away from their toys in time (Actually, with plenty to spare) to go watch the fireworks.

Fireworks watching collage

 

I’ve been reflecting some on our experience here.

I don’t think we’ll rush back to visit Champaign-Urbana anytime soon because most of our friends are the only thing anchoring us here. So many of them are moving on to new and exciting things right now: Jenna is going to grad school in D.C. Kayla and Darby are moving to Texas and becoming parents. Amy is starting a professor position in Florida, and Ryan is headed to William & Mary. And those that are staying in the area? They’re only here for a little while longer before they go off on a new adventure.

We’re excited for all of you–those moving and those staying! We’ll come visit wherever you end up and hope that we will move somewhere that you want to visit us, too!

Happy Fourth of July from Wedding Victory Tour!

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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!!!!!

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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