A Bump in the Road… Michigan & Chicago

So for anyone who was following for awhile there, I would like to seriously apologize for seemingly falling off the face of the Earth. A slight and unexpected twist occurred, and it most definitely threw a wrench in the six month road trip agenda, and by extension, this little travel blog….

To pick up somewhat where I left off, I had spent a really wonderful few days catching up with my family in Michigan. I had not been able to get up to see everyone in three years because of a stint working in Little Cayman, followed by two years slaving as a restaurant manager for Hilton and Wyndham luxury hotels. Needless to say it was a long overdo visit. I may have been tempted to stay even longer if it wasn’t for the fact that Essexville has to be one of the most laid back and unexcited places I have ever spent any length of time in. I apologize if that is offensive to anyone, but it just is not for me, mostly because I have one of the most obnoxious travel bugs imaginable.

After Toronto, Nichole had dropped me off at my grandparent’s house to visit my relatives as planned. On the way there however, she bluntly explained  that she made a last minute decision to skip Michigan to visit her friend Amanda in Ohio. She had waited until just a couple of hours before dropping me off to inform me of her new plan, and even proceeded to ask me if anyone in my family could later drive me to Ohio so that she wouldn’t have to come back to get me in Michigan… even though we were supposed to head to Chicago before Ohio. Don’t worry if you got lost there; I was quite lost and confused myself. It was all very fishy, but I went with it and told her she unfortunately would have to pick me up due to her last minute notice.

After her stint in Sandusky, she scooped me back up, and I must say I was feeling pretty damn refreshed from the quality family time. We had a six hour cruise through the most uninteresting parts of Michigan, but at least we weren’t passing through the old factory towns of the once prosperous state, or cowering through an area like Saginaw township. I will be including one story from my time in Saginaw, that was absolutely nuts, later…

When Nichole and I eventually reached Chicago, we took the scenic route through the ghetto to avoid paying the “Welcome to Chicago” stiff of a bridge toll. It started out as a pretty sketchy endeavor, but ended quite grand. In the many times I had been to Chicago with my mom, I had never gotten to take in the beautiful spring scenery that was the waterfront parks and views of Lake Michigan.

Growing up, my mother had a sister, Karen, who lived in South Bend, Indiana with my uncle and cousins. Because South Bend was about as exciting as Essexville, we somehow managed to convince the crew to take a trip to Chicago a couple times. Other than that mom and I would fly there to really get down on our cravings for deep dish pizza and the big city life, as we were living in beach town, USA my entire childhood (Definitely not a bad thing). Some of my fondest vacation memories were the Taste of Chicago food festival, scaring the crap out of my mom by playing in the glass box that hangs off of Willis Tower, and walking around with my head cranked back, trying to see high up along the endlessly towering skyscrapers. I always thought of Chicago as the cleaner, friendlier, tolerably paced version of New York, and I was beyond stoked to be back.

We would be crashing with my friend Devin, who had moved to Chicago a couple years prior for a new job opportunity. She and I met when we opened and worked front desk for an enormous Hilton hotel, attached to the Orange County Convention Center, during my time attending UCF. We had an absolute blast at work, consistently making fun of the various groups and their oddball conventions. It was easy to develop a great bond as a couple of fun loving non-sensical individuals in this sort of environment. Whether it was checking in (or checking out) all the surfers coming to the DEMA dive conference, or attempting a one thousand person check in of Japanese folk who didn’t speak a lick of English, we always made the best of it and shared some laughable, good times.

On the way to Devin’s, I was instantly reminded of the coziness and friendliness of this gem of a town as we passed by the beaches and parks along the beautiful Lake Michigan. It in no way, shape, or form has the feel of being the third largest city in the U.S. We sat in traffic for a bit, eventually driving past Soldier Field, the art and science museums, the aquarium, and bunches of schooners and sail boats parked along the beaches of the lake. Eventually we came across an overlook of Navy Pier, and took in the stunning scene of the Ferris wheel spinning amongst a bustling crowd, against a settling sky. Devin lived right in the gayborhood of Chicago. While this delighted Nichole for other reasons. I enjoyed that the gayborhood always meant a well kept area with nummy hole-in-the-wall restaurants, fantastic people watching, and an overall sense of safety.

After searching for a small eternity for unpermitted parking, we finally planted the Corolla, and headed up to Devin’s adorable studio apartment. As it was getting to be dinner time, the three of us headed down to the oddly named grocery store, “Jewel Osco,” to pick up the makings of a yummy chicken dinner, as well as some accompanying vino and Jameson. There was girl bonding and lots of laughs, and later that night we headed out to a couple local bars.

We began our adventure at a tropically themed karaoke bar, where Nichole would immediately be taken on stage by a stranger to sing “Summer Lovin” by Grease. I was tickled pink at discovering a bumper sticker behind the bar that read “I ❤ the Caymans.” From there we went to an obnoxiously loud dance club ,where we befriended a group of seriously goofy dancers, and celebrated our first night in Chicago quite properly. It looked like the makings of another great visit to the windy city.

The next morning, Nichole woke up early to move the car, and came back tickled by a Baptist church sign that you would only find in Chicago. It read “If you can’t live you dyin’. You can’t rewind. Keep it movin’. Keep grindin’.” Nothing like trying to combine Kanye West analogies about ambition, gambling, and drugs with the word of God; Hallelujah.

After getting ourselves together, we began the touristy day by picking up a Subway pass and heading to Wrigley Field. After a failed attempt to scalp tickets for the New York v. Cubs game, we took to meandering around the stadium to take in the sights. Every scalper we had talked to was trying to sell us tickets for more than what they were charging at the box office; Apparently they did not understand the concept of competitive pricing whatsoever. As we strolled past the swarm of drunkards in blue, we came across a tent where National Geo promoters were advertising for their new nature show, and Nichole and I ended up taking a green screen shot, involving running from a herd of Buffalo; Who knows where that ended up.

After working up a sweat, and an appetite, the three of decided that it was the perfect time for Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza and mimosas. I am not really sure how mimosas came to be relevant, but it turned out to be a damn good idea. It seemed since my last visit that Lou’s had created a personal sized pizza, which would have saved me from a serious tummy ache a few years prior, after I single handedly tried to take down a normal size one. After some great people watching on the patio, and our fair fill of deliciousness, we made our way to Lincoln Park Zoo, only to discover it was closed for a private event.

Feeling sleepy, Devin went back to her house to rest, and Nichole and I hopped a bus down the “Magnificent Mile” shopping district. As we passed the American Girl store, I pondered fondly over how my cousin Alyssa used to obsess over the ridiculously expensive collection of beautiful figures, and their darling dresses and accessories. After sympathizing with the poor bus driver as he dealt with crazy and obnoxious tourists jumping on and off his place of work, we hit Millennium Park to check out the displays of multicolored tulips and the “Bean.” Looking at, and taking pictures of, the skyline through the historically insignificant, but altogether funky and entertaining silver sore thumb was as fun as I thought it would be.

After trying to understand the point of an array of multicolored life size bear sculptures in the park, we passed the Chicago Theatre, and jumped the metro back to Devin’s house to get ready for a night of bar hopping… after playing dress up of course. Devin’s collection of fun clothing was  blast to go through. My favorite piece was a white jean bedazzled half vest that she most definitely was able to pull off. I flashed back to the five year old version of myself running around in my mother’s high heels, floppy hat, and boa scarf, and laughed out loud without explanation.

Earlier in the day, Devin and I had declared that we simply wanted to have some nice looking, pleasant guys to hang out with for the evening. I was tired of the club scene, gay bars, and over the top hipster hot spots, and just wanted to walk into a down-to-earth bar with some attractive eye candy, less expensive drinks, and music playing at a volume where I could actually hear what the person two feet from my face was saying to me. We started the evening at one of Devin’s hipster bars, and although the craft cocktails were enjoyable (and overpriced), I couldn’t help but notice and dislike the air of snootiness present.

Nichole and Devin gave me the opportunity to pick the next spot. This is a pleasure that had rarely come my way on the trip, and I quickly peeked into a series of bars, until I finally spotted one with the atmosphere, and pleasant company I was looking for. We made our way to the bar and squeezed in between a group of pleasant looking guys enjoying each other’s conversation. Devin immediately was lured in by a nice guy she insisted looked like Blake Shelton, and I am became intrigued by a seemingly shy gent, Matt. Nichole on the other hand, decided to circle the bar searching for some female company. There was respectable dancing, pleasant conversation, and lots of laughs for everyone… or so I thought. For some reason, Nichole was choosing to be stand offish, and I didn’t quite get it.

The party continued back at their friend’s place where about ten of us mingled and continued drinking. After losing track of time chatting on the balcony, I realized Devin had passed out on an air mattress next to Blake Shelton. Nichole was unhappy and wanted to leave, but seeing that it was four a.m., and not willing to leave Devin at the house solo, I insisted we stick with her, offered Nichole the couch spot, and agreed we would catch a cab first thing in the morning; I was not going to leave Devin there alone.

A few hours later, I woke up at about six to the sound of my phone ringing. In a tipsy and completely sleep deprived state, I located and answered my  phone, only to hear Nichole saying that her and Devin were in a taxi downstairs waiting for me. Not quite sure where my shoes or clutch had disappeared to, I was beyond frustrated and told them I would meet them at the house in a bit. Why they didn’t wake me up before managing a taxi, so that I could gather everything as they did, I was not sure, but it agitated me royaly.

Pissed off, I slept an hour longer before going downstairs to hail a taxi myself. Upon arriving to Devin’s, I found Devin crashed in bed and Nichole sleeping on the floor. Wanting to decompress before talking to them, I assumed a position next to Devin and we all slept for several hours. Upon awaking and packing our belongings to prepare for our next venture to Cedar Point, I decided it was not worth fighting about and put myself back in a joyous and excited mood by thinking about how we would be riding the best roller coasters in the country, by that precise time the following day.

As we loaded up the car, I gave a huge hug to Devin. I loved that she was the same person she had been a few years prior and I was so pleased to have spent time with her. I was very much looking forward to our next stop at Cedar Point.  I had been dreaming of going to since I was a kid, but for some reason my Midwestern family never made the trip while I was there. After we assumed our positions in the car, I turned to Nichole to see if she was amped, only to find her looking at me with a welling, pathetic look in her eyes.

She simply said “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Not knowing if she was joking or serious, and in a slight shock, I asked her if she could explain and elaborate. She responded with “I don’t know how to put it into words, but I am done; Can I drive you somewhere?” Feeling a well of emotion and taking all the strength of my inner being not to explode at my lack of understanding, and even more so at her inability to communicate, I asked her to take me back to Michigan to my family. For the next six hours I was consumed by peaks and valleys of emotions and thoughts, but on the outside I was simply listening to music on my IPAD, absolutely disgusted with the person I was locked in a car with.

We arrived to my grandparents at nine o’clock at night, and still having my manners, I invited Nichole to spend the night in their spare room, as I retreated to the basemen to drink and make some venting phone calls to several very wonderful friends. In the morning I would unpack the car, with barely a word, and would simply say “Bye Nichole” as she embarked on her journey back to Amanda’s house is Ohio. Quite the unexpected twist.

How Very Ironic to be Reading About Kerouac’s Moriarty,

– S

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Family Time in Michigan

Family can be crazy, can be fun, can be trying, and can be quirky as all heck, but at the end of the day I love my family from the bottom of my heart. My post about Michigan was perceived by some members as being out of sorts, but it in no way was intended to offend or hurt anyone. To my family, I love you all and it was such a blessing to be in Michigan the past couple weeks. We all have our moments, and we all go through phases, say and do goofy things, forget manners, etc. but the drama can cease and we can move on with our lives. Everyone in Michigan has an enormous place in my heart, and being there really reinforced in my mind that there is no place like with your family to reset and feel whole again. 

-S

What the Puck? Toronto Days 59-61

Niagara Falls and Toronto Days 59-61

On our way back into Canada, it was hailing quite a bit as we sat in line for customs once again. The woman at the booth was quite the brat, and seemed to try to screw questions around to make us second guess ourselves, but eventually we got through without a search.

We swung by Niagara Falls on the Canada side, just a bit before sunset, and Nichole was not as thrilled by the view as she had hoped to be. There were two striking rainbows emerging from the mist, and I personally was really happy to see the falls again for the first time in years. We snapped a couple shots, enjoyed the moment, and then were on our merry way once again.

When we arrived to our next couch surf home in Toronto, it was freezing cold and getting pretty late. After finally finding some park and locating Brent’s place, we found ourselves locked out. After a quick run to McDonalds, I was able to get in touch with him, he let us into his cute one bedroom apartment, and we were able to feel our toes once again. Brent was a recent business grad and was thoroughly enjoying his newfound free time. We didn’t stay up chatting for too long, but he seemed sweet. Making ourselves cozy, I immediately located the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” and jotted down some ideas for our ventures yet to come, before passing out.

In the morning, Brent printed us a convenient ghetto map of downtown Toronto, and highlighted a few points of interest. We started with a long still down Queen Street towards Kensington Market The few square blocks was basically a unique collection of outdoor stores and grocers. We passed by quite a few kitschy run down Victorian homes before stopping in a video game store to ask the girls behind the counter what else they suggested we should do; They told us to head down to the water and we could probably find something there. After leaving Kensington, we took a break from the cold at A neat espresso shop and looked up some potential ideas; I definitely ruled out the good ole CN tower after seeing that it cost over twenty bucks to get in; What a rip off.

We left and continued down towards the water, past the Blue Jays baseball stadium, and ended up down at the pier area, where we stumbled into York Place Gallery. Because it was a Monday, it was partially closed, but we did get to walk into giant studios where we could watch artists at work, including a particularly noisy glass blower.

Next stop was the distillery district of Toronto. It was quite the hike, but the old Gooderham and Worts Distillery buildings had been left mostly untouched since the 1830s. Ten years ago a small group of developers had decided to channel some money into revamping the whole area, and since then they managed to successfully incorporate a number of art galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops in all of the old buildings; It was a bit like walking through a mini version of SoHo in New York. The whole district was a neat fusion of old and new and I was glad that we got to see it.

Seeing the time, we walked to the metro, and navigated ourselves to a comedy club that we had read about, appropriately named the “Comedy Club.” We picked up tickets for five bucks, to see a show that would be playing in a couple hours. In the meantime, we just so happened to have epic timing again, and were in Toronto as the Maple Leaves were playing game seven of the quarter finals of the Stanley Cup, against the Boston Bruins. As Canadians love their hockey, we knew to avoid the downtown area where the masses were gathered, and where there would inevitably be a riot if they lost.

As a back up plan, we headed into a wings bar down the road, called “Hurricanes,” to watch the final show down on TV, jam packed on a patio with thirty other cheering Canadian hockey fanatics. Nichole and I were ideally situated in the front row in front of the TV, and we made friends with a couple of gay guys in a lovers tat right next to us. For a moment we had a serious debate of whether or not we wanted to stay there to watch the whole game, but came to the conclusion that we should check out the show, especially since we secretly wanted Boston to win.

We shuffled back into the comedy club and assumed that we would be the only ones in the theatre with the game currently taking place. We took spots at the front of the theatre, anticipating some ridicule, and were surprised that more than ten people actually showed up in the audience. The first act was actually the hostess of the show and she talked mostly about her go-both-ways sexuality, new short hair cut, and why her vagina taste better than women with thigh gaps; Ew. She did however turn out to be one of the funniest of all of the acts, which doesn’t say much for what we ended up listening to. One horrible lottery winner was solicited to come up, and after he spit out some pathetic material while picking on Nichole, he was ushered off. There was another really awkward guy, two girls who did impersonations, the funniest of which were R.L. Stein and a wine cellar troll (Don’t ask), and the final act was a guy and girl impersonating team that was actually pretty decent. Overall I can’t say I laughed out loud a single time though. Apparently comedy is not Toronto’s strong point.

When we exited the show room, the Bruins had just scored a third shot in a row to tie the Maple Leaves in the final two minutes of the game, and everyone looked oober depressed. The game went into overtime and they eventually got their butts kicked by Boston (Woohoo). Anticipating a long cold journey back to Brent’s, we left the comedy bar and started the long trip back down the bar filled Ossington Street, passing the series of trendy hipster bars. At one point Nichole stopped in one of them for a whiskey shot. We jumped the street car train on Queen Street, and safely got back to Brent’s for another pathetic night of slumber.

Why is a puck called a puck? Because “Dirty Little Bastard” was taken,

-S

57-59 Syracuse and Finger Lakes

57-59 Syracuse and Finger Lakes

When we arrived in Syracuse, I had the pleasure of meeting Nichole’s older cousin Jenn and her husband Justin. Their house was adorable and cozy, and I was stoked at having my very own bed. Sleep in for the next couple of nights. We made fun of Jenn because we noticed that she had three ginger cats and a pet ferret, Max. We spent sometime on their porch, drinking wine and munching on mango and cherries; Man do I love mango and cherries. Justin threw in some dough that he made into the bread machine so that we could make our very own pizzas for dinner later. They had received the bread maker as a wedding present, and everything turned out delicious. After dinner, the three of them went to a keg party across the street, but I stayed in to continue recovering, did some stretching, and watched a terrible Neil Patrick Harris movie as I passed out.

The next day I was feeling way better and we went hiking around the beautiful Green Lakes State Park. The water was the most odd color and it was very relaxing to stroll around and admire. Apparently the blue-green color, which was impossible to capture on camera, was caused by the annual “whitings” that leave behind mineral solids in the water. Basically small crystallites of calcite and other minerals precipitate and make the lake immensely green. It was also meromictic, which I learned means that the layers of the water don’t actually mix. The lakes and the nearby gorge were both remnants of the ice ages; Pretty nifty stuff to learn about.

Afterwards, we met up with Jenn and ventured into town to the infamous “Dinosaur BBQ.” There was an hour wait because it was graduation day in town, and everyone and their literal mother was there with their family. We had a couple drinks at the bar as we waited, and eventually sat down and enjoyed some truly delicious BBQ. We scuffled our full bellies around downtown Syracuse, and as we walked past a particularly grotesque looking Erie Canal creek, Nichole asked if any of us thought there was a dead guy in there at some point, and a stranger passed by and burst out laughing, as he overheard.

Getting a laugh ourselves from that, we continued into Jenn’s favorite Irish pub, where she and friends participate in trivia every Monday night. Earlier that day I was able to get ahold of an old family friend, Josh Vermeesch, and I was super happy when he drove out to meet up with us. We played catch up, and he talked about his mirror maze management job at the enormous nearby mall; I really wish it would have been open to see and play in, but they had a few issues that had set back the opening a bit; Major bummer. After our fair share of drinks, we all headed back to the house, drank more wine, and after a good hug from Josh, I headed in and passed out.

In the morning I woke up, feeling like I had taken a step back in the getting bette process. Jenn and Justin had picked up a dozen delicious donuts, and as we indulged, we packed up once again, and then started off to the highly anticipated wine country. Jenn gave us some clothes that she was about to toss out, and I was super excited to receive a shirt with the Syracuse mascot, Otto the orange on it.

As we drove through the countryside to the Finger Lakes wine region, my energy was pretty low and I regretted the fact that I would not be able to really take in the nuances of all the wine we were about to drink. We drove alongside the striking views of Seneca Lake, sitting up pretty high on the hillsides, looking den on the farms and vineyards.

I had done some research and we started our touring at Weimer Winery and Vineyard. It was the second most notable for their Rieslings, only following Dr. Konstantin Frank’s, who was the originator of wine country in the area. We were lead into the tasting room by an older gentleman host, and soon met Max behind the counter, who would navigate us through the experience. We stood next to a pleasant older couple, who were from the Finger Lakes area, and raved about the local restaurants, and how often they did tastings at Weimer, especially commenting on how mind blowing their spicy Gewurtztraminer was. Nichole and I were not disappointed with the whites by any means, but, as suspected, the reds fell flat and boring and were not worthwhile; All light bodied and cherry and pepper.

Next on the agenda was a sort of Disney land like winery called Glenora, which served as an inn, grocer, vineyard and winery. The woman behind the counter whom we tasted with reminded me so very much of my grandmother, and was quite the hoot of a hostess. She told us a particularly quirky story about her great uncle, who was a train conductor on the “Black Pony Express,” a train that ran to Lehigh valley in Pennsylvania. Her favorite wine, a Glenora cabernet blend, was named after it, and was her favorite because of the story she could relate to it. Genova had a wide variety of fruit wine concoctions that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. I tried mostly Rieslings once again, since that really is what the area is known for, and was not disappointed with their special reserve. The ice wine was respectable too, for being ice wine; Definitely strongly hinted of flour.

The last stop before we continued to Toronto, was one lake over from Seneca, Keuke lake. This is where we would find the original wineo of the area. In the fifties, Dr. Konstantin Frank brought grapes over from Germany, and stubbornly made sure to be the first to successfully keep Riesling grapes from dying there. It was our tasting girl’s third day working there, and was super stoked on life. As she poured us all the wine we wanted, for free, with had a striking view of Keuka Lake as it was snowing; Not a bad way to end our New York tasting tour.

Driving through the rest of New York was gorgeous. It was very lush and green, with lots of farm land and cow pens; Yeehaw.

It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine… It’s summertime!

-S

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Making a Special Connection with a Couch in Montreal.. Days 55-57

Montreal Days 55-57

Nichole’s blog will be inserted here if she feels like writing it. This is her opportunity to do a guest excerpt if she feels like it, as I spent most of my time glued to the couch, sick with whatever she had just gotten over.

We arrived to our couch surf host Darren’s solo pad, in a really cute suburb just outside of downtown Montreal. He was a computer programmer originally from England, and spent a large portion of our time there hacking away at little projects of his. We met his friend as well on the first day, and he was just getting started with programming, and was quite the character. He made quite the entrance with an open unbuttoned shirt and hairy chest exposed for the world. Darren made some yummy tofu curry for us all to enjoy as we got to know each other.

On the first day, Nichole and I walked down to the mountain in the middle of the city. Everyone around was smoking pot, dealing drugs, and enjoying he beautiful weather. Darren was saying that, on Sundays, enormous groups of people gather to witness a DJ who plays electric dance music, playing in a gazebo there; Quite the party. Not feeling so hot, I had to take a break on a bench to lay down next to a giant statue. We eventually walked back down Mont-Royal Street, and once we were back at the house I went straight to the couch, and would hardly leave for the rest of our stay there.

That night Nichole and Darren went out to enjoy some soca music at a local club as I slept, and the next day Nichole eventually meandered down to the old port and took photo documentation for me. Darren described the only really truly Canadian staple food was a dish called poutin. As good as Nichole and I had been at making sure to sample the local pride and joy, fries topped with gravy and cheese curds just wasn’t going to make the cut. That night, the three of us watched “The Bucket List” together. Montreal was quite the mellow stop, but I am oh so thankful to Darren for letting me recover on his couch for a couple days.

Nothing like being sick on the road and wanting nothing more than your bed, a back scratch, and some soup in a bread bowl from Panera.

“May your potatoes always be crisp and may the cheese sing in it’s freshness. For what is a poutine but a glorious ode to the perfect melange of spuds, curds, and brown roux!”… Oh Canadian poetry.

-S

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Quebec City… Lululululu eh?

So I would like to begin this excerpt by stating that our couch surf host in Quebec City was pretty keen on making sure that Quebec City was the blog post of all blog posts. As an appropriate solution to this, I thought it might be a great idea for Fred to go ahead and write the post from his own point of view… Enjoy 🙂

A guest blog by Fred…

The first night I decided to blow the conch and assemble a fellowship of fine gentlemen to help me greet two American surfettes. We visited a local hot spot that commonly hosts to some of the best affaires in the city, Le Maurice. The gathered party did not hesitate to hold positions by the bar to maintain a steady stream of liquids flowing their way. After a little more confidence the boys were ready to hit the Dfloor. Limbered up and forgetting that we were in public we pulled all the faut-pas of the dancing world. I could only imagine the comedic scene we were causing for our southern neighbor. After a night of drinks, flashing lights, hits from the turn of the century, and some laughter, we made our way back to the HQ to rest for the next adventure.

It was day 2, unfortunately for my two guests they have a new check in the box; getting a cold in Canada. As they nursed a hangover (courtesy of the kind gentlemen at the bar) and slight illness, I went for a run to clear the cobwebs and sweat out the toxins from the body. As I returned they were still in bed and I unfortunately did not get the chance to see Nichole until the next day. Shauna though showed her resilience and was able to come grab a drink at a Boston Pizza as I was wishing farewell to a friend departing on a demanding military course. I now realize, after a discussion with my guest, that Boston and Pizza have no great correlation but nonetheless it remains a profitable food chain, thanks Shauna for ruining my sole purpose to visiting Boston. In general a write off day for my chance to truly show what Quebec City was all about. Lucky for me I was able to give the takeover to andre and he escorted them on a long walk along the grand-allee, all the way down to Le Chateau Frontenac where I assume they saw spectacular scenery, architecture, and surely some street performances. After I returned from a graduation Ball, that I was attending the evening before, I surprisingly found my guests awake, rested, and ready to go for a visit on Les Plaines d’Abraham and La Citadels. We strutted around, Shauna was proving tough with her debilitating ankle injury, and made our way to a nice picnic location with some room for Nichole Payton Manning to toss the football. I threw bits and pieces of history, fun facts, and many anecdotes throughout the afternoon to keep things entertaining. Nichole seemed to enjoy my psychoanalyses’ and my life advice. As I recount them in my head I find myself pleasantly surprised at my ability to succeed today. We left the historic battle grounds of the plain and made our way into the “Vieux” onto the historical Rue St-jean to find a pub or a cold beverage to save us from our hot day. Although busy we were able to grab a booth in a nice intersection at D’Orsay. After we finished and parted ways with Valerie we made our next move towards home but got detoured by my promise for fine Indian cuisine. I could see my guests were not too impressed with the quality/quantity of the portions, exception Andre who was well prepared and ordered for two; we made the bests of it by recounting personal tales of travelling exploits and simply enjoying each other’s company. We returned home and I felt rather disappointed with their stay so far. I had not been able to truly bring out the nature of Quebec City and I had only been given one week-end night to show the vibrant nightlife of the place. I had to think on my feet and I knew just the place to bring them to. We went to “Les Voutes de Napoleon”, a boites a chanson, to see a chansonnier. With a rather small crowd it became a personal experience. If it wasn’t for the embarrassing twin hicks, or the French equivalent, celebrating their 18th birthday along with their family I would have never had to tell my guests that Quebec had an inbreeding problem…just kidding that’s just the Saguenay area. The performer adapted to the crowd, with some insider information from the bartender, and played both French and popular English hits. Luckily for Nichole she had birthday balloons hiding the over the top facial expressions of the chansonnier, unfortunately for Shauna she wasn’t so lucky. I unfortunately omit many details as I cannot see the uniqueness of some of the events in my everyday life but I think that Shauna will be able to add some detail to my host perspective. The following days were quite relaxed as we were all affected by the cold going around in the house. We were able to go on a short hike to the cascading rivers just east of the house. Being a local resident, I never took the time to visit this slice of heaven and much like my guests it was a first. As I write this I have already gone back twice. There is always something refreshing about finding peace in nature all the while never truly escaping the holds of the city. The hike was followed by a welcomed treat from the girls. They cooked dinner for Andre and I, it was a success! Nichole took MVP for meal prep… along with my heart Shauna is alright too. We followed up dinner with a movie; Leon Le Professionelle, a cult classic for the ones that haven’t seen it. (Nichole’s first time) I found myself rather disappointed that evening because I had found some new friends but just as I realized this, they were leaving again. The next morning we had a pancake breakfast with some Canadian maple syrup and we parted ways.

Shauna’s Notes:

When we arrived at la casa de Fred, we were so very excited by the scene, There was a group of more than fifteen royal forces men awaiting our arrival. Everyone was so sweet, and we instantly felt at ease walking into the group. We laughed as Lukas, a friend of Fred’s picked up their friend’s yellow lab puppy Layla, to try and give himself a draw; We would come to find that he was quite the ladies man. The boys instantly handed us drinks and cooked us burgers. I hadn’t had a burger in three years but felt obliged to give it a shot; It would be a regret but the thought was very sweet.

At the club we had a blast with the boys and they didn’t fail to keep the drinks coming. At one point Lukas had promised to do a stripper pole trick if I could get the French, black twenty something male off of the pole. As I ascended the bench and stage, I failed, and instead was sucked into dancing instead of actually persuading him down. There were pictures and videos by others, and I am quite happy that none of them have surfaced. Lukas never did do his trick. As we left I was sad to say goodbye to Lukas and Darren, and gave them both huge hugs. Lucky for me they would randomly reappear at Fred’s house later for one last goodbye; Such a great group of guys.

The next day Andre was a great tour guide, regardless of being new to the city himself. He showed us both old and new city, and the highlight was a walk along the St. Lawrence River boardwalk. We saw the old fort fortifications and witnessed some amazing street performers. One particular duet was situated next to an enormous statue of Champlain, and loved bicycle tricks, juggling fire, and stripping; It was wondrous.

On the day that we picnicked I was so happy to have the company of Val. Everyone enjoyed some pig skin, which I did not think I would find in Quebec City, but being that my ankle was healing, I would not partake. Val was a sweetheart and we had great Frenglish conversation. It was truly spectacular to enjoy a day of picnicking around the Citadelle, which is an incredibly old fortification that is still in use to this day. There is nothing to better summarize this city than they phrase “I will remember,” which is on everything. Learning the difference between Quebec City thinking and Canadian thinking was quite the honor.

The performer that Fred, Nichole, and I saw in the evening was epic. His facial expressions were even more fantastic than those of Jack Black in Tenascious D. I wanted to stay forever to continually watch his eye brows hit the ceiling as he sang a respectable montage of both French and English songs. He sang power ballads better than Bon Jovi; Nuff said.

On a relaxing night, we were exposed to the movie Goon. If you have not seen Sean William Scott’s best movie, please so yourself a favor and watch it. It is all about fighting and hockey in Canada… Just do yourself a favor.

It was very sad to say goodbye to Fred, as it felt like he was an old friend right from the start. I hope to see him again someday and hope you all enjoyed his blog. 🙂

je me souviens Quebec,

-S

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Happy as a Moose in Bar Harbor. Days 50-51

Day 50-51 Harraseeket, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park

On our way out to Bar Harbor, we made a stop in Freeport, to frequent one of the few authentic lobster shacks already open for the season, Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster. Having to do 100% right, I ordered the “lobster delight,” which was a one pound lobster, a dozen steamers, and corn on the cob… I was set on earning myself a place as an honorary Mainer. At the order window, the woman I spoke with fished out my lobster from a giant tank behind her and weighed him out on a scale directly in front of my face. As she put her fishing tools away and typed on the 1980s cash register, the poor little guy tried to make an escape off the scale, but she mercilessly caught him mid fall, and held him as he squirmed and looked me in the eye; Talk about meeting the eye of his maker.

After paying my bill, I escaped from the scene, found a picnic table inside, and laid out my busted out my “How to eat a lobster” paper that I had stolen from J’s in Portland, and after receiving my tray of deliciousness from the pick up window, went to town on my feast. I love Maine lobsters, because unlike Florida and Caribbean lobsters, you get to enjoy claw meat as well. These were hands down the best clams I had ever had and I did myself proud taking apart the whole lobster on my own.

We arrived to Bar Harbor after taking the scenic route, we met up with our next Couch Surfer hosts, Mike and Blake, who lived right next to some of the great trails of Acadia National Park. Mike was a marine biologist and Blake was a reporter, and right after we arrived, they took us on a hike overlooking the ocean. After rock hopping like a bunch of billy goats, we came across a giant blue piece of foam and carried it back to use as a potential flotation device for Mike’s boat, a skiff called the Ritz Cracker. It was a breathtaking view during the entire hike, and the boys were big sweethearts.

After Mike and Blake told us about a dinner party they would be throwing with friends that evening, we went into town to pick up two bottles of wine.

We met a few of their friends when we returned. There was Mike’s sweet girlfriend, a couple our age who farmed locally, and an adorable eight week old pet billy goat, Marcilene. The boys made pizzas from scratch and there was crab dip and radishes and butter on bread as appetizers. It was a scene that was opposite of the old days, with all the girls chatting in the living room and the men cooking in the kitchen. They made pizzas, and joked that that since there was no TV, sitting in front of the oven watching the pizza cook was equally amusing. The guy from the farm was a bit of an eccentric story teller, but what can you expect from someone one who has lived rather isolated for a bit. Mike and Blake called him and his girlfriend the Doolittle couple, but he was probably just mad that their goat kept peeing on their sofa; Can you potty train a goat?

At one point the group suggested that we find ourselves a moose shirt like all the tourists. “You will be as happy as a moose. We actually don’t even have moose here though.”

After several drinks I had a scandalous conversation with Nichole and Blake about eating children, after talking to Mike’s vegetarian girlfriend about how scallops only have twenty thousand brain cells, and how she really shouldn’t feel bad about eating them, about the same as a baby (joking). I picked up my children by the swing set because those ones seem leaner, not the ones on the monkey bars though. The three of us are going to hell.

After dinner, the gang took us to a recently opened bar, McKays, where their friend played live jazz that night. Her voice had a southern drawl with a northeastern air combined, and she had a singer joining in for various duets, who sounded a bit like Sinatra. She kind of reminded me of Zooey Deschanel. I was absolutely tuckered and eventually transcended to the bar downstairs for my favorite gin martini, until the crew had finished and joined us to head out.

The next day Blake directed us to a great hike in Acadia. We started down Canon Brook Trail, but it wasn’t too long before Nichole had to turn around. Unfortunately, her knee was hurting because of the hike we did the evening before. I decided to truck on solo, as I may never have the opportunity to hike Acadia again. I scaled up giant stone slabs, pulled myself up a couple of rusty ladders, and wedged my way through some rock passages.

The trail was to continue up across the North Dorr Mountain Trail, up the Schiff Path, up to the summit, down the South Ridge Trail, across the gorge, and then back down the canon brook trail. As I ascended up Schiff Path, I had to follow a series of easy to miss rock piles, left as trail markers by other hikers.

As I paused to take pictures of the breathtaking view around me, I encountered a small pup named Sadie, who was shortly followed by an older couple, Gale and David. Met them close to the summit. The couple were from New Hampshire, and they hiked the trails in Acadia every year, and said that this particular one was their favorite. Gale and David were traveling folk singers. She played the Autoharp and a long time prior had actually built him a dulcimer for his birthday. Upon receiving he immediately got on one knee and proposed; Flipping adorable.

We finished the rest of Schiff path together, and when we victoriously reached the top, they lingered at one rock in particular for a bit. After I snapped several photos, I ran back to check on them, only to witness something truly touching. They had come to this rock, on this day, to spread the ashes of a recently lost dog. They had done this twice before in the last twenty years, and I was honored to be included as part of this moment. Sadie was the new chapter for them, as it was her first time doing the hike, but they had always brought their dogs hiking with them,. As I stepped away to give them their moment, I gazed along the horizon and couldn’t tell where the sky began and ocean ended.

The trek back down was rather extreme, and I felt like a rock hopper leaping from stone ledge to stone ledge, once again following rock formations from other hikers. At the bottom, I met back up with Nichole, who had done some reading at he ocean view spot we had went to with the boys the day prior. On the way out of town we stopped at a cute market, A&B Naturals, for some lunch and then said our goodbyes to Bar Harbor.

Driving through northwest Maine that day was a hoot. After seeing a beat up truck speed by us with a license plate that read “Frappie,” we decided to call all Mainers that don’t live “down east” Frappies. They are a funny bunch really. We have perfect timing because we arriving as they are getting their first bit of sunshine… and we saw a moose!

Crossing customs was a cinch. We declared our one tiny pink pepper spray as we didn’t want to get arrested, and then pulled in for our loaded car to get searched. They went through the front and back seats pretty thoroughly, opening two of my bags in the process. Once they opened the trunk they looked at each other, basically saying screw it, and let us go.

The whole drive into Quebec City smelled like cow poop. For an hour and a half the air wreaked, and we noticed that they definitely love their ice cream and pizza parlors here. For some reason they are also fond of giant animal statues in their front yards; I’m talking dinosaurs, giraffes, etc; Weird.

Happy as a Moose,

-S

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Punch Him in the Jugular Portland! Days 48-50

Day 48-50 Kennebunkport & Portland, Maine

“It is May, may you may be a-may-zing!”

We stopped in Kennebunkport, Maine so Nichole could take a nap since she had a long night. I stopped in a cute shop called “Cheri’s” on Main Street, after discovering the seafood joint that I was very much looking forward to, wasn’t open yet. Kennebunk can be described as seafood shacks, “Moose crossing” signs, beautiful cemeteries, and out-of-place enormous homes.

We arrived to Portland, and our next couch surf host, Mike, was at work and then had to rush to an ultimate frisbee game right after. We had a few hours to kill, so we decided to check out the downtown area of the city. On Commercial Street, we stopped at a Starbucks for coffee and a bathroom break. To get to the restroom you had to walk down a back hallway to an office building and exit through one of several identical doors. Being quite out of it, I got myself quite lost and confused, because, surprise, I had paid zero attention to which door I came from; It was like a dang labyrinth.

Up the road was “Leroux” kitchen wares and wine shop. The ladies working there, like the staff at Starbucks, were so incredibly nice. They gave us their restaurant and bar recommendations, and told us where all the locals hung out. Messing around, I put on a silly kids pig apron and posed, laughed at useless kitchen utensils, and discovered Maine, as a summary, is good for blueberries, potatoes, lobster, and fruit wines.

The first suggestion had been a long running bar called “J’s,” and we quickly made friends with a few locals. Our favorite was a gentleman in his late fifties, who had raised his three kids on a boat after a tough divorce. He was super excited to tell everyone that passed by our story after hearing about it. One friend of his, who was about the same age as he, was about to do a two month road trip with his dog, and write a blog from the perspective of the pup, instead of his own. I had a half dozen blue point oysters, and felt quite at ease.

Next was a walk to Sunny’s for sangria and a bowl of chicken, chorizo, wild rice gumbo. Then we hit the “Corner Room,” which was a friendly Italian bar, for montepulciano, and a veggie plate with roasted red peppers, coriander, pistachio, and white balsamic marinated beets, olives marinated with citrus and herbs, and the corner room caponata (eggplant stewed with onions, pine nuts, and spices).

Still having time to kill, we decided to scoop up a bottle of Pinot noir from Leroux, and snuck onto a bunch of floating docks to watch the sunset and the boats cruise by on the water. As we were about to leave, a bunch of kids set off fireworks from a roof on the next pier and we could see them hauling ass as they ran from the scene of the crime; Talk about a great welcome to Portland

We skipped back down the floating docks and headed to the couch surf house. We met mike and his girlfriend Beth, whose thirtieth birthday happened to be the next day. We all chatted and bonded for a bit, immediately feeling like old roommates.

It was our first night of great sleep in a long while, and we woke up refreshed after a solid ten hours of sleep. That morning we met their roommate, who decided to spend the day with us. We went to the grocer to get cake mix to makes birthday cake for Beth. It was going to be funfetti cake, with chocolate funfetti icing, and all sorts of candies on top. We also picked up balloons to blow up and a happy birthday banner, since she was nice enough to let us join in on their festivities. At Hannaford Market, the lines to check out we’re all at least eight people long. After making it to a position two people from the front, the female senior citizen in front of me, decided to candidly let one rip, with zero remorse. It was the stickiest fart I had smelled in ages, but being fully committed to that line, I stood there and took it like a champ; So gross.

For lunch we went to Portland Lobster House for lobster rolls, and they were everything I had hoped for. It was their opening day and the staff was super sweet.

I am starting to think that Sunday Fundays are a universal thing across the states. Mike’s roommate told us about Portland’s “Reggae Sundays,” that take place on the sand bars over on Peak’s Island in the summer; Definitely something I would have loved to experience.

Back at the house, we finished decorating the cake with Swedish fish, Mike and Ike’s, Dots, multicolored candles, green and cherry candies, and more, even spelling out “Happy Bday” in candies; It was awesome and we were sure Beth would love it.

We venture to “Cream” coffee shop,which was really cute, and after a roundabout trip to Hannaford’s for a quick dinner, we made it back to the house right after Beth and Mike had gotten back. Nichole and I felt proud when their roommate told us how stoked Beth had been about her cake. Ultimately, we were more happy that the cat hadn’t gotten into it and ingested a bunch of chocolate, since we left it sitting out. The five of us headed out to the bar “Rivalries” for some birthday drinks, and to meet up with Beth’s two girl friends before the Portland Pirates hockey game.

Nichole had never been to a hockey game before, and I was so amped for her, especially since we were front row to the glass. During the game we discovered that unlike Baltimore, Portland even stuck to maintaining proper sportsmanship in Portland. At a particularly questionable call by the red, the ten year old behind us shouted a mild “Punch him in the jugular!” It became our favorite quote of the night, and it didn’t even involve cursing. My second favorite highlight of the game was when Nichole had a full body freak out as someone got checked into the glass right in front of her. Pirates lost in first overtime, but they played terribly so I wasn’t too upset.

Next on the birthday agenda, was a 90s cover band party at an Irish pub, Bullfeeneys, right downtown. The band was awesome and I couldn’t help but dance like a mad woman, despite my twisted ankle… It was worth paying for it later. The best song of the night by far, was Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The band invited a fiddle player on stage to join them, and he totally rocked it. The crowd was comprised of a bunch of college kids, blowing off steam after exam week, and it made for some great people watching. Towards the end of the evening, I met a local named Doug, who had lived there in Portland his whole life. He was a huge sweetheart and after chatting for awhile, I was entertained when he gave me a big smooch on the cheek; What a cutie. Doug bought Nichole and I “Maine breathe mints” aka shots of rumple mints. The purpose for having this before leaving the bar is so you’re breath doesn’t smell like alcohol, and instead tasted and smelled like the breath savers mints.

On our last morning in Portland, we woke up and went to breakfast at “Hot Suppa,” an adorable New Orleans inspired spot, with Beth and Mike. Odd to say, but it was the most delicious granola of my life. Nichole enjoyed her fried chicken with fried green tomato sandwich. It was sad saying goodbye to Beth and Mike; They were a pleasure to meet and spend time with.

On our way out of town we made a pit stop at Portland headlight; Picturesque. Nichole and I split ways for a bit, and I hobbled a hike down to the bottom of the cliffs to take a different perspective. I saw everything I wanted of Maine by this point; Lobster, marinas, sunsets, gorgeous lighthouses, and fantastic, friendly people.

I loved everything about Portland except for the idea that they have frigid winters. Maybe I can live there seasonally one day.

Punch him in the jugular!

-S

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Boston Strong, Days 45-48

Day 45-48 Boston

There was another exciting, lengthy tunnel on the way into Boston, and we arrived at 9:30, stopped at the “Stop and Shop” for groceries and redbox movie, and eventually made it to Lindsay’s place in Cambridge. Lindsey, her boyfriend Ian, and their friend JK, all greeted us warmly. Jk was quite the character and had some crazy stories mainly focused on a mild dislike for his current. We discovered that he was slightly gullible and somehow managed to convince that Nichole was 19 and married. It was a good chatter for all, and they drank their share of beers before breaking up the group. We put on “This is 40,” made ourselves at home, and got our slumber on.

Woke up and caught the train into town to head to Boston Common, for some 130 year old swan boats. We were disappointed to discover that they were not paddle boats, but instead were more like ferries with giant swans on the front of them. After narrating a rather informative video about our riveting ride, we disembarked and wandered through the tulip gardens, made casual conversation with a pretty eyed police officer, and then frolicked to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Nichole bought herself a giant double chocolate cookie in Quincy, but with a hundred different vendors to chose from, I couldn’t settle on anything to buy.

I would like to make a special point that it was Nichole’s very lucky day. She got pooped on by birds not once, but twice within a couple hours. After getting it the first time at Boston Common, we found a public restroom at Quincy Market, and as she exited and sat down on a bench next to me, it happened again within a couple minutes; So funny.

I enjoyed that, in Boston, the train and bus system is both above and below ground, and that the people watching is mostly Boston University kids; It is a pretty young city overall.

That night, after Nichole did some laundry and Lindsay gardened on her adorable porch, we got ourselves together and jumped in Lindsay’s car, to head to Ian’s casa. The two of the had recently met on “ok Cupid,” and they were pretty adorable together. Ian had just finished brewing his first batch of his own Dunkel beer, and it actually turned out to be pretty decent. Next we headed to the Burren Irish pub, where we synced our ears to a band of violinists and other folk musicians of all ages, most of whom had been classically trained. They played authentic Irish jigs, whole we sipped Jameson on the rocks, and eventually JK showed up to join the fun.

The next spot was right next door, and was called “The Saloon,” which was a prohibition-era set up, whose entrance was solely marked by a well lit, round globe light. I had a cucumber, rosemary syrup, ginger beer, lemon and lime juice concoction. As we all analyzed the bar and drinks, I found an opportunity to call JK out on hitting on my 19 year old married friend (Nichole) and every our busted out in laughter.

Feelings excerpt: I think most people substitute out various feelings and details so as to be relatable to others, and to cater to whomever the audience is, and their particular attention spans, but it sucks to hear that someone doesn’t trust you because of story telling to strangers. I could easily completely change up my entire persona from city to city, but I would never chose to be dishonest and not myself. I am sure that I probably do tell different details and feelings to different people; It doesn’t make them any less true to something actually felt or thought at some point in a given event. It is pleasant to be compared to a parrot; That will put up a wall pretty quickly. Lucky, lucky, there was an enchanting, vivid yellow half moon that night to soothe.

The next day we went down to Harvard Square and strolled around Cambridge, just to see the grounds for so many intellects before us.

Lindsay got out of work early, and we met her to head to the “Bleacher Bar” at the infamous Fenway Park. While we sat overlooking the field of dreams, Lindsay explained the events of the Boston Marathon tragedy from her perspective. She had been working at the Prudential Center, and Ian had actually been at a bar downtown, just a few blocks from where it happened. The whole situation sounded beyond confusing, with information received ranging from a case of celebratory fireworks to an actual shooter running around in the streets. It was nice to finally hear what really happened from Linds, and even better was the attitude the city took on after the incident; “Boston Strong.”

For my southerners: Have you ever heard of candle pin bowling? Apparently it’s a big deal.

JK had advised we check out the Boston Aquarium, not to actually go in, but to view the giant seals in a swimming tank, on the outside of the aquarium, behind the ticket booth. He said he took all of his girls there, and I have to agree that it’s brilliant, as the three of us were mesmerized for twenty minutes.

Depressing Fact: Bars in Boston are not allowed to have happy hour drink specials. Talk about some bologna Puritan laws; I feel bad for all of the college kids.

We gazed into the shops and restaurants of Boston’s Little Italy as the three if us perused down Hanover street.

The Harpoon Brewery tour was up next, and Ian met up with us. Having a bit of knowledge, and finding the tour pretty impersonal and made for the masses, the only knowledge I really gained was that the locals enjoy riding the “Turkish Twist” is our “Gravitron” inside a Boston Turkish building; Yup. Nichole and I got lost at the end, harassed some of the big wigs who were mid business meeting, and eventually scampered back to the main bar area.

Jk met all of us at Ranchers, and after some terrible wine and bad 80s trivia, we went to another bar/restaurant, “The Globe,” for a hot toddy and some food, before proceeding to the main Boston Marathon Memorial site. Initially I had been skeptical to go see it, but it turned out to be quite the moving experience. There was one crying old man in particular that really moved me; The whole scene was indescribably beautiful.

The final bar was the “Pour House” where Nichole, JK, and I took Jameson shots. After listening to JK talk about his feelings toward the female population thus far, I sincerely told him that “All I could wish for him was that he would find a girl whose hand he actually wanted to hold some day,” and he actually genuinely appreciated that notion, which made me happy.

Walking around, the weather was nippy… Nichole asked how I was and I told her I was great… Because I was on a Caribbean island (At least in my head).

I decided I like the look of men in Boston as well as how they carry themselves haha

We headed back and I flipped on Beauty and the Beast to pass out to; A Disney movie every now and then is good for the soul.

Next Stop beautiful Maine! A sincere thanks to Lindsay for having us.

Boston Strong,

-S

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Wish You Were Here in Martha’s Vineyard

Day 44-45 – Martha’s Vineyard

We made it just in time to catch the 7:30 ferry departure, and timed it perfectly for watching the sunset. The crew for the ferry were not the nicest bunch, but talk about some very striking scenery of the Massachusetts coast.

We disembarked and met our next couch surf host, Katrina, who took us straight from the dock, to a random rock concert at “A” art gallery, which was to be demolished that week, in order to build a new grocery store. At the moment they had to go to three different stores, based on the items needed, so this was a positive change. It was a very unique scene that immediately reminded me of a few high school art grunge parties from back in the day. We walked into a scene of randomly painted walls and junk sculptures. The owner had given the gang permission to wreck the inside and have one last hoorah since everything was to be torn down anyways. The most popular local band, DCLA, who a had been playing together for over twenty year and have released more than fifteen albums, was there to put on a proper show, and blast out the ears of everyone in the room.

I felt bad when one crazy dancing guy asked if I would partner with him, and I had to decline; If I hadn’t twisted my ankle in New York I may have been up for goofy dancing for sure. Another twenty something looked like she was straight out of seventies, with a white fur coat and purple and pink pattern printed bell bottoms. We met Anthony who was Katrina’s boyfriend and a back up drummer for DCLA; He seemed pretty stoked on life too. Everyone seemed to know everyone and Nichole and I were sure that we were experiencing something that no tourists generally get to experience.

After several overly loud, upbeat punk rock songs, we went to Katrina’s house, met her ridiculously kind and quirky parents, cooked some food, and aimed to pass out; We had already gathered that, like every other island, it was quite the special town. We would find out later that the group got pretty riled after we left, and actually tore up and demolished the building. One kid even slid down a board with a nail sticking out and gashed open his hand; Glad to have missed that one.

We stayed in the basement of their home, which was like it’s own mini apartment that they rent out to tourists in summer; Felt pretty blessed to be getting that experience for free. We had once again timed it out perfectly in catching the beginning of warm weather before tourist season started.

In the morning we made breakfast, and then Katrina drove us through Edgartown. She took us past the old gorgeous, white, two story whale captain houses, complete with terraces on the roof for the best possible ocean views. Katrina’s great grandpa had been a whale captain, but when he was just a scrub, he had a serious issue with bed bugs. The other mates on the ship had given him no help until finally one chef told him that he should put cockroaches into his bed because they would eat the bed bugs, and cockroaches are easier to sleep with; Ew.

We drove through Oak Bluffs, down Circuit Street, and up to Vineyard Haven. As she dropped us at “The Net Result” so that I could get my fill of seafood, we were getting ready to step out of the car, and this sixty something year old woman backed her car directly into Katrina’s brand new SUV. Initially the woman was trying to make excuses, but it turned out that she was more freaked out than actually trying to get out of anything. We felt horrible about the whole thing happening, but everything was fine once the police office strolled over and got everything sorted.

While they were figuring everything out, I ordered a lunch consisting of my first ever stuffed quahog, and half pound steamed clams and mussels; Bring it. After giving Nichole a taste of each, we came to the conclusion that she likes clams, not mussels, which is always a good thing to find out. Next we hitched a ride back up to Oak Bluff to ride America’s oldest carousel, “The Brass Ring,” with a bunch of people about our age. The best part was that the whole thing was a competition. On the inside and outside of the carousel, there was a machine that dispensed little metal rings. You had to grab them as you passed the,, while hanging onto your horse. Whoever got the brass ring got to ride the carousel again for free. Unfortunately the guy behind Nichole was the winner, but we laughed because as he stubbornly stayed on to enjoy his prize, all of his friends left him behind and went to explore town.

Katrina had told us about “Back Door Donuts,” which during the day was a coffee shop, but at night they opened up their back door and sold donuts to bar hoppers. As we entered, we discovered that they were completely put of donuts, after experiencing a crazy unexpected rush that morning. I don’t think I had seen more than thirty people that whole day, so that was a bit confusing. We grabbed a coffee, and dissected the bus routes to Edgartown since Katrina had gone to Chappaquiddick with some friends for the day.

Once we finally got our bearings, we figured out the best route and hopped onto one of the cleanest, friendliest buses I had ever ridden on. After we arrived we strolled through adorable, quaint Edgartown and stopped at the spot where the ferry departed to Chappaquidick Island; It had to be the shortest ferry distance of all time. Your could see e other island dock about one hundred yards away, and it literally took two minutes to go from one side to the other. They didn’t want to build a bridge because it would interrupt shipping waterway transit; Kind of cooky. I could however see the resort that I almost worked at after Little Cayman, Chappaquiddick Beach Resort, and was officially pretty settled with the fact that I passed on that opportunity. It was super tiny, the water was always freezing, and it was an island off of an island; Talk about isolation.

We traversed down to the little white lighthouse on the coast and soaked in the scenery before heading back to say thanks to her folks, and get back to Vineyard Haven for the 6:15 ferry. On our walk to the bus station, we were lucky to have Katrina and her friend Lee pass us by. Lee was nice enough to ket us hitch a ride with him on his way back to Vineyard Haven. We all crammed into the front seat of his pick up, but I was stoked to not have to gimp on my ankle all the way to the station.

While we waited for the ferry, we found a little coffee shop, Mocha Mott’s, that had fairly respectable coffee, and Odwalla orange juice. As I soaked in the last bit of time in the Vineyard, I remembered several of my Palm Beach friends always talking about coming up here in the summers; What a life.

As a random note, I fell in love with daffodils in Martha’s; Something you don’t get in Florida, but damn are they gorgeous.

Wish you were here,

-S

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