Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Morning Routines, at long last.

I promised to post my commute video a while ago, but then life happened and I never got around to editing it.

So here is some of the really shaky footage. I think the handlebars on Big Purple were way easier to use with a camera in hand than the ones on Seventies Puffer Vest. I take several different routes to work, but this is one of my favorite variations, especially when the leaves were all different colors.

Merry almost Christmas everyone! I think I may go to Austria next week, in which case I may be blogging again sooner than planned.


Friday, November 26, 2010

In which Lauren attempts becoming an adult

It's been a while since my last post, and a lot has changed. I haven't written because I typically use this blog to tell people about my travels and for the moment I'm no longer nomading about. Which is sad, and good, all at the same time. In the past few months I've moved to DC, found an apartment, a job, a new bike and a cell phone. I'm practically a real person.

Kyla, I'm sorry that I never posted about the Portland/Seattle portion of the road trip. Honestly, it's because I was so excited to see you that I didn't take the time to write in my diary, and then had no notes when I returned.

Anyway, the Northwest was fabulous as always, due in very large part to my wonderful hostess(es - thanks Rosie!!).

Here is a quick photographic journey of life from September 16th to the present (as always, click to enlarge):

Amy and I stayed at a ridiculawesome motel in Bend. We had the romantic Lavender Room.

We also drove through some beautiful scenery, stumbled upon a lava pit, and parted with Blue Betty (tear), trading her for a bus in Eugene.

We had a few lovely days in Portland, lost Amy to Chicago (tear) and went to Octoberfest. In Seattle I met some wonderful people and didn't see a single raindrop.

Eventually I got my act together and moved to DC. I slept on a lot of couches, for which I owe a lot of lovely people a significant amount of love and beer. I moved into Yellow House, started refurbishing my awesome ride, and then immediately left for Erin's wedding.

Now I'm working at the National Board and traipsing about DC.

Luckily I've moved to Chinatown. A girl just can't let go.

Clearly this past year has given me a lot to be thankful for. Perfect to culminate in a wonderful roommate Thanksgiving last night.
(We left the volcano up for the obvious Thanksgiving ambiance it adds)

I'm thankful for every single one of the friends, family and strangers that have made this past year what it was, and me who I am.


P.S. I filmed my commute the other day in an attempt at reliving past glories. Just a teaser for an upcoming post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

EoB: Bamboozlery and Boise

I'm continuing to repost (post-dated) diary entries from my trip. I'm in DC now, but if you scroll down you can relive my Oregon Trail odyssey in real time. As always, pictures are click to enlarge.

Before getting to Boise, we figured we had enough time to stop off and see Shoshone Falls. but, we didn't have enough milage to take the scenic route along highway 30, so we were just going to pop off, look at the falls, and pop back on gain. We followed the brown signs to "waterfalls" but were BAMBOOZLED! Bamboozled onto the scenic route and we didn't even see the falls! To be fair, the scenic route was quite pretty during the second half, but the first half was all strip malls and no Shoshone falls. Incredibly disappointing to be hoodwinked in such a way.

The scenic route did redeem itself with multiple crossings of the Snake River:

And it did get pretty:

But this is not Shoshone Falls:

We got to Boise, had dinner and bounced around while we waited for Kristen, our couchsurfing host, to get off her shift at work. She took us home where Amy went to bed and I went out with her and her friends to a goodbye party. Our first stop was at her friend Angel's house, which is so cool. It's a converted grocery/corner store, so the whole first floor is big open space. She even turned the deli counter into a mini bar.

Idaho State House:

We took a (five dollar!) cab downtown to Mulligan's, a silly bar that reminded me of McFadden's, for (two dollar!) drinks. Once the goodbyes to the kid who was moving had been said, and we picked up a friend named Eric, we headed to other, more legitimate, places.

Woke up at 9 the next morning and hung out around Kristen's amazing apartment and wandered neighborhood until lunch. A few of her neighbors grow corn (!) in the little space between their sidewalks and curbs, which is SO COOL. We went to lunch at Donnie Macs Trailer Park Cuisine, as awesome as it sounds. We met Angel and Eric there, and sat on couches in the parking lot surrounded by old toilets used as planters. Inside the garage, they had a car on risers that had been converted into a table. Some little kids were eating there when we arrived (and we wanted to take advantage of the amazing weather), but Amy and I made sure to get a photo op.

Across the Street from Donnie Mac's was the Spearmint Rhino! When Amy was prepping for our trip, she Googled "Boise Night Life." The first thing to pop up was The Spearmint Rhino, a sleezy strip club with a website to match. Anyway, we joked about it the whole trip, and were absolutely thrilled to just stumble upon the Best Chest in the West!

After lunch, Kristen took us on a walking tour of Boise and the Boise State campus. We saw the blue turf, as promised. Boise is definitely a city, but it's super friendly and Kristen kept seeking people on and off campus that she knew. The city is also relatively small - the perfect size for biking.

After lolling about by the river a bit, we went to a few different happy hours, and then to Live after Five. Every Wednesday afternoon, there's live music and a beer garden in the center of town. It was really nice and had some pretty epic people watching.

Back at Kristen's, we hung out for a bit and collected her boyfriend to go to dinner at a brewery just out of town where I had amazing polenta. A lot of people know that polenta is something I feel passionately about, and I was very glad to see this incredibly underrated item on a restaurant menu.

We were all too tired to go out agin so we played with the kitty, chatted a bit and went to bed. This morning we ran a few errands downtown before heading out again. We stopped at a little coffee shop that happened to be near Kinkos for some coffee before hitting the road, and Eric was the barista! It was all very serendipitous and exciting and a really nice ending to an absolutely amazing stop in Boise.

There hasn't been much on our drive so far today. (Literally, ranches in Eastern Oregon are 100 miles apart, not to mention small towns or gas stations). It's beautiful but desolate. We listed to a really awful right wing advice show on AM radio, and the first Britney Spears CD, and stopped for lunch in the bustling hamlet of Burns. We've decided to stop in Bend for the night to make the car rop off and catching a bus easier tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a sketch motel.

I can't believe our trip is almost over! It's so spacious and free here that I get a littler claustrophobic and scared thinking about flying back East. But that's in a week or so, and for now, we have the Oregon badlands!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

EoB: Wedding Cakes and Potatoes

I'm continuing to repost (post-dated) diary entries from my trip. I'm in DC now, but if you scroll down you can relive my Oregon Trail odyssey in real time. As always, pictures are click to enlarge.

Shortly after passing Arches National Park, we turned north on highway 191. We were quickly into the absolute middle of the desert, when the gas light came on. Excellent. About 20 minutes (and an unknown amount of gas) later, we came to an abandoned gas station, which, judging by gas prices, hasn't been open since the late 80's. But, we were momentarily fooled, since they had a decoy car parked at one of the pumps! I was pretty excited, not only about getting gas, but also about getting gas for $1.10!

Eventually in about 50 miles we were literally bale to roll off the highway and through some more desert into the picturesque town of East Carbon. In Carbon County, Utah, there are 6 towns and 11 ghost towns. We found gas, and were saved! Unfortunately, the city museum was closed on Mondays.

Civilization came pretty quick after that. The desert gave way to red rock canyons and the area got more fertile and green and populated the closer we got to Provo and then Salt Lake.

After checking into our adorable hostel in Salt Lake, we headed out to explore a bit and find some dinner. Amost immediately we stumbled upon the Salt Lake Temple. Screw that building in Rome, this one ought to be nicknamed the Wedding Cake. I really want to see one of those cake shoes make it. anyway, it was really stunning all lit up at night. It always surprises me how "stumble" can actually very accurately be used to describe the way I seem to find really large buildings.

This morning we did another walk around downtown, this time in the daylight, and bought some postcards. Salt Lake has a great vibe. People were really friendly and there wer tons of bike and eco-friendly measures all over. Contrary to some expectations, I wasn't proselytized once.

After saying out goodbyes to Chrissy and Alison, we hi 15 North again heading for Blackfoot, Idaho. I've got to say, Southeastern Idaho is beautiful! It was all gorgeous mountains and farm filled alleys. Anyway, I'm marrying a potato farmer and moving there.

We went to Blackfoot to visit the World potato Expo, totally worth the trip. With admission ($1.50) we got free hash browns!

Also, I learned an ungodly amount about potatoes. For example, one potato is 36 french fries (on average). Also, Idaho produces 1/3 of America's potatoes, and 40% of that comes from beautiful Southeastern Idaho!

On the way back to the highway, I experienced my first live tumbleweed! It tumbled across the highway, and then literally got all up in Blue Betty's grill! So exciting!

Next up: Twin Falls.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

EoB: From the Mile High City to the Moab

I'm continuing to repost diary entries from my trip..I'm in DC now, but if you scroll down you can relive my Oregon Trail odyssey in real time. As always, pictures are click to enlarge.

We made it to Mallory's without getting lost, great success. Her townhouse is super cute. Saturday night we met up with Hilary and some of her friends, and went out for Mexican and margaritas overlooking the Rockies game.

Sunday we slept in a bit and then went to wander downtown Denver. The city is really quiet, it was odd. It's clearly a big city, and I know it was Sunday, but we couldn't even hear the crowds from outside the baseball stadium while the game was on.

Lila came to meet us for lunch, which was really fantastic. She's been doing AmeriCorps in Denver for the past year. I haven't seen her for a while, so it was good to chat and catch up. It's always exciting to hear from old friends, and to hear about the amazing things they've been doing with their lives.

After lunch we walked over to the convention center to see the Big Blue Bear statue. As our trip theme is World's Biggest, we're just going to go ahead and assume that this is the World's Biggest Blue Bear. Lawrence Argent, the sculptor, intended it to represent the native fauna - I just see curiosity. Tomatoe tomahto.

While everyone else went to the botanical gardens, I met up with Lisa and went hiking for a few hours. We went up Lookout Mountain for some cooler temperatures and great views of Denver. It was a beautiful hike and it was good to see and talk to Lisa, especially at this particular drifting stage in my life.

Back at Mal's we made dinner and ate on the roof. Played some boardgames and watched bits of the VMAs. Did some laundry and went to bed early in anticipation of today's long drive.

We left just after 7 this morning. We decided to skip Wyoming in favor of taking route 70 across teh Rocky Mountains. Totally worth the extra hour of driving. The mountains are absolutely stunning. It's really been just amazing the change in scenery we've seen today. This morning we were in a 12,000 foot coniferous forest, and four hours later we're in the heard of the Moab desert (4,000ish feet I think)

We went up to Loveland Pass rather than take the Eisenhower tunnel. The pass is at 11,900 feet and marks the continental divide, which is pretty cool. Alison and I opted to climb up the ridge so we could say we'd made it to 12,000 feet. (Which reminds me that we picked up Chrissy and Alison in Denver and are giving them a lift to Salt Lake).

After the pass we dropped down through the mountains past Vail and entered into red rock canyons. The canyons leveled out and the mountains are not red sandy buttes and mesas. We're definitely in the desert now. We just dropve by the exit to Arches National park. We don't have the time or mileage to stop, but I could almost see the arch from the road. So cool.

Anyway, we're halfway to Salt Lake now. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

Friday, September 10, 2010

EoB: Children of the Corn and Oregon Trail in Real Life

The Mississippi was pretty cool. It was small because we were so far North, and my pictures are pretty lame, but it was my first time seeing it. How American!

Shortly after passing through Iowa City, we decided to stop in West Amana to sit in the World's Largest Rocking Chair. We got a bit lost trying to find West Amana, but we flagged down a friendly farmer who directed us to Regular Amana. Once there, we found out that the Amana Colonies (Regular, East, West, South and High Amana) are a Quaker resort! We had lunch at the Amana bakery and bought postcards at the Amana bookstore and learned about the history of the town, and marveled at all the couples wandering about. Then we headed to the furniture shop to see the chair.

This is what Iowa looks like:

The chair was not a joke - it was pretty big and carved out of solid walnut. However, the sign behind it informed us that the chair had been downgraded from World's Largest to Iowa's largest! I would like to know what other state had the nerve to build a bigger chair. (**addendum: it's Oklahoma. Figures. The chair is no where near as awesome looking as the Iowa one**).

Anyway, back to route 80 and on to Omaha. We drove for about 4 hours through various levels of corn. No children in sight!! (Contrary to popular knowledge, Children of the Corn was filmed in Iowa, not Nebraska. We were a bit scared of the drive/running out of gas). Look how safe we were from being abducted:

It also down-poured, the kind you cant really drive in. But it cleared up for Omaha.

Our couchsurfing host, Marissa, lives right downtown in a really cool modified loft above a bank. After getting settled, we went to a brewery down the street for dinner and had Nebraskan beer. After dinner, we went to another apartment building to meet up and hang out with Marissa's friends before going out.

They all worked as food scientists for Con-Agra, which was a crazy weird concept that Amy and I had never really heard of. Marissa conducts test to see if people like the food. She has a masters degree in food tasting! Her friends did product development and stuff. It was pretty niche and interesting. Also interesting was that they were all transplants. I can't imagine moving to Omaha for work right now. Omaha!

But, Omaha nightlife was pretty exciting. We went to a country western dance club that was actually called the Whiskey Tango. There were two party busses parked out front (school busses painted purple and red). The first was filled with bachelorettes, and the second filled with actual cowboys! They were wearing hats and plaid shirts tucked into Levis and big belt buckles and some even had boots!

And the best part: frequent line dancing kept occurring! Anyway, we went home at 2 am; totally successful evening.

We were up bright and early this morning to try an be on the road by 8. On the way out of Omaha, we stumbled upon the Omaha farmers market which was pretty awesome, and huge. We got coffee, breakfast burritos, and Omaha farmer's market t-shirts.

Back on good ol' I-80 we encountered a ton of traffic all the way to Lincoln. It didn't take long to notice that every other car was filled with people wearing red and yellow - there was a Nebraska State Huskers game at 11. We even saw people tailgating in the median! The highway median!

Our next stop was a brief on and off the highway for a photo-op with the world's largest covered wagon (which is now a golf shop). Then on to Gothenburg, Nebraska, home to the Pony Express Museum, the World's Largest Plow and the Sod House Museum.

The Pony Express Museum was inside of an original Pony Express Stop. It was small, but informative. Across the street was a museum on the history of Goethenburg, a town of 3,000 which has been around since it was settled by a bunch of Swedes in the Pony Express days.

The Sod House Museum was the best. It had a sod house (like the pioneers used to live in) a bunch of Old West artifacts, a buffalo made out of barbed wire, a covered wagon, and a fun little old lady who regaled us with tales of Gothenburg's wild west past. We actually learned quite a bit. We also saw the World's Largest Plow there.

This is me dying of dysentery. ie, we played Oregon Trail in Real life the entire way through Nebraska.

We grabbed lunch at a diner called Lisa's Kitchen, and then cruised downtown Gothenburg (the number one economic sector is alfalfa farming).

Ever since, we've been watching the corn roll away into the great plains. We just crossed the Colorado border, turned back our clocks, and should be in Denver by dinner.