A Very Unparked Domain

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Live from New Mexico

View from historic Route 66, westbound from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque

View from historic Route 66, westbound from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque

We have finally arrived in Albuquerque. We are here a few months and several thousand miles later than we expected and we couldn’t be happier.

Details to follow. (As soon as we catch our breath!)

Picture taken with Neil’s RIM BlackBerry 8330 camera phone, May 17, 2009.

Map of where this picture was taken: Santa Rosa to Albuquerque

May 18, 2009   7 Comments    trackback

Live from Little Rock

We’re going through our morning routine right now (washing, eating, programming) in an Extended Stay America (again) in Little Rock, Arkansas, gearing up for another big driving day.

We had a good visit with our sister-in-law Paige, our nephew Tyler, and Paige’s mom Donna in Seymour, Tennessee on Thursday, but Paige and Tyler both have hacking coughs (or, in Paige’s words, “the crud”), so we got a little room in Knoxville for the night. (It was enough of a dump that we won’t be reviewing it, but we sure got a great price on the room!)

Paige has been trying to take us to take us to The Old Mill restaurant in Pigeon Forge ever since we visited last fall: we tried twice last year, and every time the wait for a table was well over an hour, sometimes as long as two. Thursday was our third try, and maybe because we had Donna along for good luck, we finally got to eat there. You order your own entree and the sides are served family-style, in big bowls for the table to share. Dinner was very reasonably priced and included a bowl of their house corn chowder, green salad, corn fritters, and a choice of three deserts. While this might not be an optimal dining location for vegetarians or people with restricted diets, we managed just fine. (My heart goes out to vegetarians in the South, it truly does.) Take a look at The Old Mill recipe page if you want to try some Tennessee country cooking at home.

(Pigeon Forge sports possibly the highest billboard density of anywhere I’ve ever traveled; after driving along tree-upholstered interstates for several days in a row, the contrast is a little over-stimulating.)

We managed to put in 8 hours of driving yesterday, traversing almost the full width of Tennessee. After a full day of map reading, the Tennessee’s trapezoidal shape really reminds of the Pink Pearl erasors we had when I was in elementary school.

We started the day with breakfast in a Knoxville Cracker Barrel. Not familiar with Cracker Barrel? Just like Piggly Wiggly, you really have to see it first hand to believe it. We’ll write more on Cracker Barrel in a future post. (More on our dietary restrictions in a future post, too.) Suffice to say that trying to eat a gluten-free, corn-free, meat-free breakfast at a restaurant that prides itself on its generous portions of biscuits, cornbread and pork products is a great way to avoid over-eating.

We stopped in Nashville for an Indian vegetarian buffet lunch at Woodlands. I realize that vegetarian Indian food is a far cry from typical local cuisine, but we are rapidly approaching our lifetime quota of Cracker Barrel meals, we were craving vegetables, and accommodating our dietary restrictions on the road can be very challenging. The food was great, and their dosas (rice crepes) were amazing, even if Neil wound up with a very limited number of dishes he could eat.

(Why are there so many Indian buffet restaurants named Woodlands? I’ve eaten at oodles but I’ve never figured out why the name is so common. Does anyone know?)

We drove straight through Memphis, over the Mississippi River, into Arkansas, and on to Little Rock. (We’ve visited Memphis before, years ago, and since we’re trying to make good driving time right now we didn’t feel compelled to stop this time around.)

We enjoyed a light, if late, Turkish dinner in Little Rock at Istanbul Mediterranean–and throughout the meal thought of our friend Sean-Paul Kelly who is in Turkey at the moment. SP, if our menu last night was in any way representative of Turkish food, I am newly and even more deeply jealous of your trip!

There was so much severe rain and thunderstorms predicted for Tenessee yesterday that we thought we might have to put pontoons on the Mini to clear the state. We were delighted to discover that, even in some fairly heavy rains, the humidity felt lower than in Charleston or Richmond. The weather also feels subjectively much cooler without the humidity: yesterday we were stretching our legs in an Arkansas rest stop and felt comfortably cool, even though it was 91 degrees.

Yesterday’s drive represents the early stages of a 5,000 mile odyssey we have planned for the next five weeks. (More on that soon, too.) We are pleased and excited to see how well we are falling back into our heavy-travel routines, and remembering and relearning “how to do travel”.
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May 16, 2009   2 Comments    trackback

Feels like travel already

After a six-month stopover in Charleston, we’ve unchocked our wheels and hit the road again.

And it feels GREAT.

We checked out of the Mt Pleasant Extended Stay America, ate a fantastic brunch at the Glass Onion in West Ashley, snuck in one more visit with Neil’s mom in Summerville, grabbed a bottle of water from the Piggly Wiggly, and headed North on I-95.

  • The Extended Stay America was a great place to stay. Until I tried to cook a duck breast for Neil–what possessed me? No one knows–and the smoke set off the hotel fire alarm. We now refer to the hotel as the House of Burning Duck. We suspect “duck flambĂ©” may not catch on in the aromatherapy world. But we do recommend the hotel.
  • The Glass Onion is one of our favourite places to eat in the Charleston area. They serve healthy, balanced meals of Low Country and Louisiana cuisine prepared with produce from local farms, fresh caught fish, and hormone-free meats. The portions are generous without being obscene and provide great value for the price. They have wonderful, friendly staff (Brian! We’re talking about you!) and they even give you crayons so you can draw on the brown paper table cloths. The menu changes daily and somehow they find the time to update it every day on their website. Every meal we’ve ever eaten was fabulous. They have been completely accommodating in making substitutions for our bizarrely restricted diets: good place for non-dairy, gluten-free, and vegetarian; limited but possible for vegan. The Glass Onion is about everything we could hope for in a restaurant.
  • Canadians’ first and only contact with the Piggly Wiggly in most cases seems to stem from the movie Driving Miss Daisy. I had no idea the store was real, and Neil was amazed at how ecstatic I was to see one the first time I can down to visit his family. When we brought my parents to visit Charleston, we made a special trip to “the Pig” (as its known locally) so they could take pictures of it and get plastic and paper bags to take home. Doesn’t everyone make pilgrimages to grocery stores when they travel? We’ve also taken a grocery bag from a Food Lion as a gift for friends in Montreal…so maybe the grocery store obsession is a Canadian thing. The Pig also offers a range of Piggly Wiggly merchandise. I wonder if my brother registered there for his wedding?

So far today we’ve driven half way from Charleston, South Carolina to Richmond, Virginia. We’re getting reaquainted with our gear, our travel gadgets, and our driving protocols (e.g., parking a car full of heat-sensitive vitamins in the shade).

We pulled over in Lumberton, North Carolina for dinner, and put our navigation and on-the-fly restaurant research skills to the test. We discovered that…we’re a little rusty in that department. We won’t be reviewing the restaurant we ate at (because our mothers taught only to say nice things), but after a few false starts we did manage to discover one of the healthier eating options in the area and a meal that, while perhaps not Michelin-worthy, did fit our diet restrictions.

Right now we’re tucked into the independently-owned Four Oaks Lodging & RV Resort at Exit 90 of Interstate 95 near Smithfield, North Carolina: at $28/night, our super clean, no-smoking, free Wi-fi room is the best deal we’ve ever found on I-95.

We pulled in to Four Oaks just as the rain started coming down. We weren’t suprised: for the past 15 minutes I had been taking pictures of the amazing purple sunset through the Mini’s sunroof. We’ll try to post some of those next time we have a little energy–meaning not tonight!

To sum up, we’ve already hit adventures, bad food, cheap lodgings, bad weather, and at-speed sunroof photography, and we’ve only been on the road for a few hours!

It definitely feels like we’re traveling again.

May 9, 2009   10 Comments    trackback

Reports of our Demise…

This is the story of a short hiatus from the blog.

To fill the time until we come back, we give you a picture of a painted flossie on a Charleston street corner at Christmastime.

We have not fallen from the face of the Earth, nor have we ended our trip. We expect a lot more of the latter (and hopefully less of the former) in the future.
Painted Flossie on a Street Corner at Christmas
Rather, we’re in Charleston.

We’re having a bit of a winter visit, as the Neil-side of the family has had a member in the hospital (things are going astonishingly well with that) and we turned the ability to live anywhere into an opportunity to live nearby for a while. After a brief stopover in Summerville, we are staying in beautiful Historic Charleston, down with all the SOBs (South of Broad Streeters, for the passers-by; the NOBs live on the other side).

We will be taking the opportunity to have a good visit with family and friends (Shaula has never lived in Charleston before, and Neil hasn’t in a decade) and taking lots of pictures. While most of you probably won’t be interested in where Neil went to school, or stopped for a car on fire, we hope to get lots of postable pictures of historic places and changes in the city.

We currently have no plans of riding the Coburg Cow.

March 9, 2009   14 Comments    trackback

Are We There Yet?

This trip started off on July 1 as a leisurely 2 week drive from Virginia to New Mexico.

Or so we thought.

We’ve now been on the road for almost 4 months, driven over 3000 miles, and visited 12 states and 1 province.

Click here to see a map of the approximate route we’ve driven to date.

After all that traveling, we’re in Charlotte, North Carolina: less than 300 miles from where we started, and over 1600 miles away from the capitol of New Mexico.

Our mileage has indeed varied.

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October 27, 2008   8 Comments    trackback

Virginia is for Leavers

Virginia’s state slogan might be “Virginia is for lovers”—which certainly applies in our case—but our motto today is “Virginia is for leavers.”

Today we launch a whole new chapter of the trip: we exit Virginia (for the third time this trip) to head west for Tennessee.

As much as we love Virginia, it’s time to make like a tree and leave.

Maple leaves on the lawn of the Rockridge Virginia Court House, October 5, 2008

October 9, 2008   4 Comments    trackback

Wild Plants of Virginia (updated)

We have seen some beautiful plants on this trip, mostly trees and flowers that neither of us grew up around.

Can you help us identify them?

These vibrant red leaves belong to a some kind of plant that climbs up the trees. When the leaves catch the sunlight their colour is amazing.

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October 6, 2008   7 Comments    trackback

Easy morning yoga for staying fit on the road

pink flowered bathing capGetting healthier is one of our prime motivations for this road trip. We hope to wind up the trip by settling down in a new home with a better climate and walkable neighbourhoods in a sustainable community.

In the short term, we want to get in shape and stay healthy on the road! So far, we’re trying to build healthier choices into the fabric of our travel life such as (even more) plant-based, whole foods eating; more walking; and more exercise in general.

I was really excited when I found this Quick A.M. Yoga Twist video with Rodney Yee from Gaiam because we can do the routine together by lying end-to-end on an average hotel bed. We just point towards the same wall at the same time rather than following the “left” and “right” instructions in the video.

If only we had bathing caps, we’d look like Ester Williams in stereo.

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September 20, 2008   10 Comments    trackback

Time Travel: Dallas 2001

Reading about the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers investment firm last night transported me back to the telecom industry meltdown of 2001, which I watched from my ring-side seat as a recruiter in the Dallas Telecom Corridor.

I have written elsewhere about the human consequences of the bankruptcy in Brace for the Lehman Bankruptcy Trickle Down.

I invite you to click through for the article if you’re interested in some non-travel writing.

Photo credit: Otherland Toys

September 16, 2008   6 Comments    trackback

How to clear your BlackBerry GPS cache

Garmin For Blackberry Running on an 8800We have found a minor caching glitch with the Garmin Mobile GPS navigation software we run on our BlackBerry—along with a workaround.

For Labor Day weekend, we traveled up through Vermont across the Canadian border to Montreal, over to Quebec City, and down into Maine. To do this without risking the loss of thousands of dollars in cell phone charges, we took the battery out of my BlackBerry before we crossed the border. (If you set many cell phones to forward somewhere else, not only do you get charged international phone charges for a long distance call to your phone, but you also get billed international roaming charges from your phone to forward the call back home.)

Returning back to the States, the BlackBerry kept insisting we were in Vermont.

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September 14, 2008   4 Comments    trackback