Day 9: Drive ’til you’re done

We drove for 10 hours today! Not much else to report! Just kidding, today was great.

Not kidding about the 10 hours part, though. We woke up at Amber’s place at 7:30 and hit the road. Skipped lunch on account of last night’s ridiculous dinner.

Pennsylvania was dang pretty! All was well until we hit the PA/NY border on I-87 and were stuck in traffic for an hour. Why, Waze?! Why!?!

Finally, we arrived in North Salem at my uncle Rob’s house and greeted a good chunk of my family who had come up to enjoy a day of barbeque and swimmin’! I took a dip with my future nephew and we threw pool toys at each other for a bit. An excellent payoff for an otherwise monotonous (but beautiful) day.

Hours driven: 10

Audio:

  • Anna’s road trip playlist on Rdio
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

Day 7: Walk, don’t drive

We were all over Chicago on Day 7! We might not have been on the road, but we possibly spent as much time traveling in one form or another.

We started off taking a bus to the Chicago River, where we took the Chicago Architecture boat tour, learning quite a bit about the buildings that line the river. It made us realize we’re possibly learning more about a city we’re visiting than the city we live in (suggestions for San Francisco tours welcome).

Architectural boat tour

Afterward, Lou Malnati’s, a Chicago deep-dish staple, was just up the street. We beat the lunch rush and had some killer personal pies.

Deep dish pizza

The next point of order was a walk to the John Hancock building, where we elevated to the 96th floor and had ourselves some drinks at the Signature Lounge, against a ridiculous view. It helped that it was a beautiful day and we were high enough to make out the curvature of the earth.

Drinks at the Signature Loungs

View from Signature Lounge

A walk along Lake Michigan seemed to suggest that half the city was out on the beach in their swimwear, playing some beach volleyball or throwing a barbeque. It was safe to assume that this would be an all-day affair for most beach-goers, as it would provide a front-row seat for the evening fireworks.

Beach at Lake Michigan

We continued onward into the entirely free Lincoln Park Zoo. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and other smaller assorted monkeys were out and about, as well as a helping of reptilian creatures, and cats of all sizes. Ever seen a sand cat? Ever seen one finish dead mice in two large bites? We can cross that off our list.

Lincoln Park

Gorilla lounging in a hammock at the Lincoln Park Zoo

View from Lincoln Park Zoo

Our next stop was Molly’s Cupcakes. Anna had a strawberry one and I got a peanut butter Nutella. We enjoyed them immensely as we enjoyed a game or two of Connect 4.

Molly's Cupcakes

After a short break in the hotel room (catching up on some of these blog posts), we boarded another bus to Blackbird, where another excellent meal (asparagus and burrata, corned beef tongue, strip loin, roast chicken breast) awaited us.

Had we finished dinner a bit earlier, we probably could have walked even further back to Navy Pier to watch the fireworks, but we grabbed a taxi instead to watch the tail end of the show, and walked back to the hostel, continuously being taken by surprise as a bunch of smaller fireworks shows erupted around us.

Distance traveled: 25,000 steps (according to Anna’s Fitbit)

Day 6: Don’t wear a skirt to the City Museum

We checked out of our St. Louis room, said our goodbyes to the Macs and the hosts and the dog, and then attempted to squeeze in as much more St. Louis as was possible.

We were dressed pretty nice that day for our dinner reservations, but that didn’t stop us from climbing up stairs and barreling down slides at the City Museum, which is more of a 10-story play place than a museum. An amazing location, nevertheless, and we were lucky enough to have the run of the place until buses full of appropriately aged kids showed up and ruined a perfectly good thing. For kids. But that’s not the point.

St. Louis City Museum

Turtles at St. Louis City Museum

Jeffrey climbing at the St. Louis City Museum

We took another risk on our fancy clothes and got ourselves some barbeque at Bogart’s Smokehouse right when it opened, scoring some excellent brisket, pulled ribs, pork skins and beans.

Bogart's Smokehouse

Soulard neighborhood in St. Louis

Off we went toward Chicago. Waze happily rerouted us a few times due to oncoming rush-hour traffic until we found ourselves back on Interstate 80, the freeway that starts around the corner from our house in San Francisco.

Highway 80

It was then that Waze – for our first time ever, mind you – got us into some pretty ridiculous traffic while passing by Grant Park. It couldn’t have known, though, as every opportunity for a right turn was being blocked off exactly before we crossed each intersection, due to the upcoming July 4th festivities.

We finally arrived at the Chicago Getaway Hostel and checked into our private room (shared bathrooms – we don’t need to be THAT fancy).

To get the most out of the city, we decided that we’d try to walk as much as possible. Our first stop was an early dinner at Balena, a wonderful Italian place that served up delicious pasta and seafood.

Our next stop was the Second City, where we saw the Depraved New World revue. It was a series of short pieces, constructed as humorous commentary on modern society/relationships, featuring an ensemble of six performers. The revue was super funny, and was capped off by a set of improv. It was great to visit Second City regardless, as the walls are covered with old photos of famous alumni performing at the program/venue (Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachael Dratch, etc.), and the fact that the show was also really entertaining was just icing on the cake.

Hours driven: 5

Spotted along the way: Lots and lots of corn.

Music:

  • Fez soundtrack
  • Disasterpeace – ‘Level’
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

Day 5: One Springfield down, two to go

We got an early start with the usual continental breakfast at our Oklahoma City hotel, and hit the road.

When lunch rolled around, we found ourselves in Springfield, Missouri, a humble town that just so happened to have some excellent cajun food at the Big Easy Grill. Anna had jambalaya, I had a fried shrimp po’boy. What followed was a spirited discussion about fountain drinks and how much Missourians seem to love them.

The Big Easy Grill

Finding that we had some time to kill on the road to St. Louis, we decided to go for a little detour along a route that promised some river views, but the route was too far from the river to view it. Harumph. At least we know that Missouri’s countryside is gorgeous.

We arrived at our first Airbnb room in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis, and, in addition to the hosts, were greeted by a substantial collection of Macs, and an adorable shih tzu who seemed to be a seasoned champion at staring contests.

Audrey the dog

With some guidance from our hosts, we walked the Delmar Loop and marveled at its walk of fame, had some unique Mexican-inspired food (like a cheeseburger burrito) at Atomic Cowboy, and had a few drinks along with the best pretzel bites ever down the street at Sanctuaria.

We topped off the night with a bit too much frozen custard at Ted Drewes (so creamy!), and hit the hay.

Frozen custard

Hours driven: 8

Audio:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalk with Me
  • The usual 3-5 Star stuff

Preparing to drive.

Thanks to perks from my company, we got a crazy good deal on our rental car – $600 to drive a shmancy 2014 Ford Focus (31 MPG) across the country. And we will be doing just that, starting tomorrow morning!

Our first stop will be the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I know! And we only have to drive through the Mojave Desert to get there! Fortunately, every car made within the last few decades has air conditioning, so I think we’ll survive. And we’ll survive in style with some mad stylings from David Sedaris. We probably have enough audiobooks to last us three trips across the country (fortunately (?), we’re flying back).

Tonight, we’re saying our goodbyes to the cat, celebrating with some homemade pizza and Biere de Chocolat, and probably getting one or two more rounds of Mario Kart 8 in before we’re cut off. Until next time!

ROAD TRIP!

My cousin Carol is getting married this July! To get out there for the event, Anna and I are taking a cross-country road trip from San Francisco to New York. Here’s our plan so far:

  1. Leave San Francisco on Saturday, June 28 in the AM and arrive in Las Vegas in the afternoon. Spend that evening and the next day seeing the sights and eating well.
  2. Leave Las Vegas on Sunday, June 29 in the PM and arrive at Grand Canyon Village.
  3. Check the canyon out the next morning, then head for Santa Fe — a slight detour from Interstate 40, but supposedly nicer to visit than Albuquerque.
  4. Leave Santa Fe on Tuesday, July 1 in the AM for Oklahoma City.
  5. Leave Oklahoma City on Wednesday, July 2 in the AM for St. Louis.
  6. Leave St. Louis on Thursday, July 3 in the AM for Chicago. Spend a little more time there. Eat well.
  7. Leave Chicago on Friday, July 4 in the afternoon and arrive in time for fireworks in Pittsburgh.
  8. Leave Pittsburgh on Saturday, July 5 in the AM for New York.
  9. Spend the week visiting friends and family, and enjoy the wedding on Saturday, the 12th!

A few things worth note, which factored into our planning:

  • This itinerary has us driving for about 7 hours on average each day. Not too overwhelming. But we hope the extra number of days on the road doesn’t grate on us.
  • This will be a one-way road trip as we’ll be flying back, so we’ll be renting a car (which is a good idea anyway — not sure if our existing car is up for a week of long drives).
  • We considered taking Interstate 80 as it begins literally around the corner from us. The concept of staying on a single road from start to finish sounded exciting. We chose the Interstate 40 route, though, because it passes through the most cities. We’re city people and are interested in seeing other ones, and eating well as we go. A trip through Route 66 checking out all the kitsch doesn’t sound too bad, either.
  • Cities we were considering but passed up: Flagstaff instead of Grand Canyon Village (might as well spend a bit extra to stay at the attraction), and Albuquerque instead of Santa Fe (less direct, but supposedly more charming).

With that, we have questions for all of you, our friends and family:

  • Are there any can’t-miss destinations that we might be, well, missing out on? We’re still open to changing our route around if you convince us.
  • We’re not dead-set on staying in Pittsburgh. While an all-in-one sandwich at Primanti Bros. sounds enticing, we’re considering Cleveland instead. Insight on the pros and cons of each is highly encouraged!
  • We need suggestions about food! Food to bring along, food off the beaten path, and restaurants to visit at the aforementioned cities.
  • On that note, we need suggestions about everything else! Entertainment on and off the road (what to listen to, what to see, what to stop off for), how to prepare for and sustain a trip of this length, and places to stay (specifically in Las Vegas — we’re still weighing whether to stay on the strip or not).

Regardless of what we choose, we plan on using this blog to chronicle our journey! We’ll be sharing our posts, but feel free to subscribe via traditional RSS instead. For our past writings, check our our posts from our 2010 Europe Trip, and about our wedding last year.

Karaoke tips!

Anna and I consider ourselves seasoned, unabashed karaoke professionals. We’re having DJ Purple, the Bay Area’s best karaoke DJ (or “KJ”), host our wedding — so to make the most of it, we’d like to pass some helpful karaoke tips along!

  • Don’t be shy! You’ll be surrounded by friends and relatives, and they’re not here to judge you. Take the chance and have a blast.
  • Choose a song that fits the occasion! DJ Purple’s selection is full of fun, danceable hits, so that shouldn’t be too big of an issue. Just don’t choose any rap-rock and you should be fine.
  • Speak up! Put the mic right up to your mouth. It’s probably not possible to sing too loud.
  • Be energetic! People are going to want to dance, and they’ll be looking to you to take the lead.
  • One song at a time! Don’t flood the KJ’s box with a bunch of your song request slips. He will call people up in a reasonable order. If you’ve got a lot to sing, grab a few slips, fill them out ahead of time, and drop another into the box after you’ve gone up.
  • Have fun! This kind of goes without saying.

In case you want a head start, DJ Purple’s full songbook is available online.

Check out our Visitor’s Guide!

Wedding planning is chugging along! The to-do items are simply falling off our list. Everything from what kind of desserts to what kind of rings to what kind of songs are being analyzed, considered, and analyzed again.

For those of you coming into town, we’ve consolidated the sections talking about our home and accommodations into a big, hopefully helpful read — our new Visitor’s Guide! Check it out and tell us what you think!

Welcome!

Welcome to our new joint website! We hope you’re having a fun time hopping through the different sections. Follow this section in the coming months (or subscribe if you’re savvy) to keep up to date with us and our upcoming wedding, currently planned for late 2013.

If you’d like to learn more about this site from a technical standpoint, head over to Jeffrey’s blog. Otherwise, we encourage you to read through the About Us section, which we just finished writing today. Have a good one!

Vancouver

We went to Vancouver for no reason! We stayed at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre which provided a fabulous view, and got around using only public transit. Internet-wise, not having phone data reception, we pretty much got by with what we did in Europe. Here’s the day play-by-play:

Thursday

We bought the 5-line ticket for Grouse Mountain, which included 5 zipline runs, a scenic ride up the mountain, a trip up to the hub of a wind turbine with a 360° view of the surrounding area, and various shows like lumberjack contests and bird demonstrations and bears. Very much worth it.

Getting there was as simple as taking the free shuttle from Canada Place… getting back meant taking a bus then transferring to the SeaBus, which brought us across the Burrard Inlet.

We had dinner at an Italian place, Campagnolo, where we ordered far too much pizza. Was delicious, though, and provided leftovers for the morning.

Friday

After an early lunch of savory waffle sandwiches and a wasabi vanilla shake (delish) at Miura, we walked up West End toward the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. Saw sea mammals, parrots, sloths, marmosets, and a really crappy “4D” nature show, which was just a shortened episode of BBC’s Life with David Attenborough with elements unrealistically popping out (like a shark and its surrounding splashes hovering 5 feet above the water) and water being sprayed in our faces at random moments. Pretty fun!

On the way back we had even more waffles at Nero, a new place along Robson Street. We then traveled to Gastown, the original Vancouver neighborhood, had some nice drinks and chow at Pourhouse, and finished the night off with a viewing of Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson perpetuates the twee culture which I find hideous, but he’s also an amazing filmmaker so I’ll let it slide.

Saturday

Granville Island was our first stop. It’s got a pretty awesome public market with some serious goodies (Nanaimo bars, elk paté, cake pops and maple candies among some of the highlights). We headed back to Chinatown for Phnom Penh, a Cambodian/Vietnamese joint. Anna had noodles and beef in a tomato broth; I had a big plate of fried frog legs.

We rented cruiser bikes and rode around the perimeter of Stanley Park, taking in some amazing views. We then proceeded to bike around the downtown perimeter and back through the park, riding along some fun forest trails.

Headed back, got some bubble tea along the way, and after taking a break at the pool back at our hotel, we went out to Kaide, a casual sushi place.

Sunday

We beat the lines at Deacon’s Corner with a quick breakfast (I had pulled pork on a gigantic pancake), and it was back to the airport via SkyTrain.