Category Archives: Travel

On the Road to Roadside America

Before we get to the March 2012 Resolution, we have to get through the Lewisburg to Los Angeles Road Trip, don’t we?.  I mean, I’ve never been too strick about the beginning of the month anyway, right?

So, for the six days of cross-country travel, here are my resolutions rules.

1.  No eating at chain restaurants.
This has not been difficult philosophically, since it is my normal behavior.  Logistically, however, it’s been a bit challenging.  When one is traveling on major interstates, a bit of work is required to find something other than Cracker Barrel, McDonalds, or a Love’s Truck Stop.   

2.  We will listen to a whole album each day.
We made a mutually agreed upon list of top rock albums.  So far we’ve listened to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, by Elton John and Rumors, by Fleetwood Mac.  I also got gifts of road trip CDs from friends so we have seven California themed playlists to choose from.  So far, the most popular song on these playlists is, not surprisingly, “California Dreamin'” by the Mama’s and the Papa’s.  

3.  We will stop at one road side attraction each day.
No high-brow elitist cultural institutions for us, NO.  It’s Grandpa’s Cheese Barn all the way. 

Delicious, Delicious Cheese!

All of these rules are serving us well.  With a small amount of effort (thank you iPhone) we have eaten at some great local diners, a delicious Thai restaurant, and a Columbus, OH purveyor of local foods and the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had.

I like me some deviled eggs.

My favorite rule, by far, has been Rule 3.

My friend Lindsay recommended an iPhone app called Roadside America.  Forget those every day apps like Facebook and Youtube.  Roadside America is THE COOLEST APP EVER.  Seriously.

This app figures out your location and then lists all of the awesome, strange, and wonderful things you can see nearby.  Precious Moments Chapel anyone?  Largest Rocking Chair in the WORLD?  Giant Solo Cup?  City of Murals?  Can you say AWESOME?

No, we are not stopping at everything.  In spite of the fact that almost all of them sound fun, we have agreed that we still need to arrive in Los Angeles on March 7th.  So we limit ourselves to one (or two) a day.  Unless a third one is really close by.

Where else but in Cuba, Missouri?

And sometimes, even when you’re not looking for it, when you’re just having a lovely lunch at Hick’s Barbecue in Cuba, Missouri, you get an added bonus.  I really couldn’t make this stuff up.

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Filed under Cheese, Resolutions, Transitions, Travel

What Route ARE You Taking?

I know that many people perceive me as this uber-organized person who likes to have everything planned out well in advance.  My fairly recent discovery that I am actually a P on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) came as a shock, even to me.  For the uninitiated, the key words used to describe the “Perceiving” preference are flexible , open, adaptable, and SPONTANEOUS.  P’s prefer to travel with fewer plans and like to experience new things.  This whole moving to California thing is definitely a nod to this part of my personality – the adventure of the new job and the very new home is a large part of the excitement for me.

Anyway, since most people see me as a J on the MBTI (key words structured, decided, organized, and scheduled), they are shocked – SHOCKED I SAY – when they learn that I don’t know what route I am taking across the country.  Here’s how it’s been going:

THEM: So, what route are you taking?

ME: I have no idea.  My friend is planning the trip.

THEM: Are you taking Route 80?

ME: I don’t know.

THEM: Well then you must be taking Route 70.  Are you taking a southern route?

ME: I really don’t know.  I decided to let my friend plan this because I had so much else to do.

THEM: Are you stopping in Indianapolis/St. Louis/Denver/Albuquerque?  If you are, I know this great place to eat.

ME:  I don’t know.  But you could e-mail me about it.

THEM: Maybe you’re taking Route 70.

ME: Maybe

THEM: Which route are you taking?

SERIOUSLY FOLKS, I don’t know.

I’ll let you know when I’m on it.

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Wisdom from Walden

The view from Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were
anybody else whom I knew as well.”

From Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

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Dear Kitty

I vividly remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember that shortly after finishing I started to keep my own diary. I was a rather uncreative child, and so I called my diary “Kitty” too. While I understood that her situation was bad, and the her story had a sad ending, I was more taken by the idea of the diary itself than anything else.

At the time, I am certain that I had a limited understanding of World War II, and even less of the Nazis and their idea of an ideal race. It wasn’t until the tenth grade, probably five or six years later, that I saw my first film footage of the Auschwiz liberation. The gas chambers, the emaciated survivors, the mass graves. I had to change my understanding of the world that day. I had to include the idea that someone, anyone, could want to exterminate a whole religion. A whole people.

In my early adulthood I went to the (then) brand new Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I saw the shoes lined up on the floor, heard the voices of survivors telling their stories, and stood in a train car. I was old enough then to imagine letting go of my own child in hopes that her destination might have a less final fate.

This week, I went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, an excellent and powerful tribute to the many people who took small and large, and even enormous risks to fight the war, the Nazis, and the hatred. I learned about the stories, present in almost every European country, of outrage and solidarity in the face of overwhelming power and strength. I had to think hard about how different it is to be an American learning about this war, or living through it, than a Frenchman, a Dutchman, a German. If you live in Europe, how does your personal story ever recover? How does your country?

Also this week, I stood in the room where Anne Frank wrote her diary. I walked through the bookcase that hid the door, climbed up the very steep stairs, and stepped into the secret annex. It was hard to breathe. I cried when I saw her diary pages, her writing, and especially the photograph of her father, Otto, when he returned to the annex after learning that his wife, his children, indeed all of the people he had hidden with in that annex, were dead.

In preparation for this trip I read Anne’s diary again. As a grown up I now realize that part of what makes it so remarkable is how much like a normal girl’s diary it reads in spite of the fact that Anne and her family were hiding from the Nazis.

My older sister is the favorite.
My mother yells at me too much.
I want to be a famous writer some day.
Gosh that boy is cute.

Of course, then there are the passages where she longs to walk outside, to touch the earth, to dance and sing loudly and not care if anyone will hear. Those are the passages that break your heart. And then the ending which isn’t an ending at all, but just silence. Death.

Even today, no one knows who betrayed Anne and her family. The people who helped her were arrested too. So many of the resistance fighters lost their lives. When you are faced with such hatred and power, do you stand up and risk your own life or do you just try to survive? What would I have done, if faced with such horrible choices? What would I do now?

I like to think that I would have been a resistance fighter. That I would have stolen money to help Jews in hiding, or carried messages to Allied forces. But the truth is, I don’t know what I would have done. I can only wonder. And hope.

As I left the Anne Frank Huis Museum, there was a quote on the wall from Otto Frank:

“To build a future, you have to know the past.”

Perhaps that is the best I can do. That, and, in my own small way, speak and act against discrimination, injustice, and hate whenever I have the chance. In honor of Anne.

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Indulgence in Amsterdam

Ah, Amsterdam.  For many, this city is a place to indulge in things not normally allowed – not normally legal, in fact – in their own countries.  It’s true that I’ve smelled my fair share of pot in the past two days, and last night I was encouraged to purchase the services of a prostitute.  That was a first for me.

In my Amsterdam, however, the great temptation  so far has been –  and there are no surprises here – CHEESE.

Gouda – pronounced HHOW-da – is everywhere here.   Young (jong)  is more mellow and old (oude)  is stronger and saltier.  Both are DELICIOUS.  At almost every turn there are shops selling colorful wax-covered wheels of this miraculous cheese.  And where there are wax-covered wheels of cheese, there are samples.

I have resisted the urge to just go from one cheese shop to another.  I limit myself to those I wander past as I am exploring parts of the city for other reasons altogether.  But I have not let an opportunity to sample cheese go by, nor do I intend to.  I have not, interestingly, ordered much food with cheese in it – these small bits of perfection seem to be enough for me, so perhaps I am not indulging after all?

When I told people I was coming to Amsterdam, without exception everyone told me I would love it and that I could “do Amsterdam” in about two days.  I’ve been here for two days and I can tell you, I haven’t gotten anywhere near finishing with all of the wonderful cheese sights the city has to offer.  The buildings are just miraculous  with charming canals and boat houses, parks and courtyards at every turn.  The people are, well, TALL, exceptionally blond, but most noticeably very friendly and almost entirely bi-lingual.  (Seriously, I have never seen so many adults with natural blond hair in my life).  The vibe is that everyone is on vacation, even the locals.  How could you ‘do’ this in two days?  I want to stay forever.

Or at least until they run out of cheese.

Which won’t happen too quickly.

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Filed under Cheese, Travel