Archive for the ‘ travel ’ Category

back from visiting the fruit company

Well I got back from San Francisco last night having spent three days out there. It was a really good trip, all in all.

Wednesday I flew out, and we had an all day EMI showcase at a venue just outside of downtown. Got to see Tristan Prettyman perform which was fun – have always liked her. Thursday was spent all day in meetings, which all went well.

Can I just say… the drive from Cupertino, CA to Pleasanton is one of the prettiest I have ever been on… 40 miles of rolling hills and green meadows and red roofed houses. It looks like Tuscany, or what I imagine Tuscany would look like, having never been there.

I got to take some time to stroll around downtown San Francisco on Thursday night… walked all around the port area, saw some really cool architecture. Met a couple seagulls.

San Franciscan’s are officially the gutsiest drivers on earth. First of all, it’s an old city, so the streets are really narrow. Second, the whole thing is build on the side of a cliff, so it’s 60 degree hills everywhere you go. Third, 80% of the roads are one way streets, so you really have to know what you’re doing to get where you’re going. I finally came to the conclusion that in order to accomplish anything in terms of driving in the city, you basically just have to forget every rule and law you’ve ever learned about driving, and just commit yourself to a giant free-for-all. Otherwise, you just get stuck trapped between a trolley car, 5 taxi cabs, and 700 pedestrians. It’s definitely winner take all out there.

So, a good trip – glad to be home though.

bud and vern

Here is the final post regarding our adventures over Christmas this year recounting truly Minnesotan experiences:

This one tops them all… Grandpa Fjordbak’s birthday falls during Christmas week, so while we were visiting him at the nursing home where he stays, they had a birthday party en masse for all the birthdays that occur during the month of December. It was celebrated with your typical fruit punch and cake in the dining hall, but the best part of the event was the entertainment they hired out for the afternoon… “Bud And Vern”, the local polka band.

It was a truly Norwegian afternoon….

some things you should know about minnesota

Well we are back from our 13 day whirlwind tour of the great North. This was a truly Minnesota Christmas with plenty of snow and cold to go around for everyone.

Spending a couple weeks in Minnesota during the dead of winter always makes me realize that southerns truly have no concept of what four seasons really is. So, to offer a deeper sense of reality, I thought I would dedicate this first post of 2008 to giving a little picture tour of Minnesota in winter:

To set the scene, here is a picture of my parent’s house all snowy-ish. For some reason, the past two years the snow has come late to Minnesota (January), which meant no white Christmas… very sad. We had a very white Christmas this year… in fact, I think this was taken on Christmas Day.

It always humors me listening to people in the South talk about snow. If wintry-precipitation is ‘predicted’ sometime within the next week in Nashville, all out chaos breaks loose. There’s a rush on the local grocery store to stock up on all necessary items like milk, eggs, and canned goods that would get anyone through a nuclear disaster. After that, the roads all but shut down out of sheer fear – no one dares to venture out. The News programs go into 24-hour coverage updating you on every degree change in temperature, interrupting your television show and generally annoying the heck out of you.

In Minnesota it is quite different – we don’t get all amped up about a little driving in snow. Note the picture above – this is New Years Day at about 2PM. Note the mounds of snow in the road, the ice on the windshield, and the numerous cars on the road. Getting from Point A to Point B is just something that has to be done, and so it is. If we were to sit around inside every time it snowed we wouldn’t get anything done for four months out of the year.

Here we have the Official Pace Car of Minnesota roads, our friendly orange snowplow. The plows in Minnesota are really quite impressive… they’re out immediately when a storm moves through and clear the major roads quite quickly, and work through the night to keep them clean. Frankly, we laugh a little inside everytime a Southerner complains about driving in the snow because we think you’re a pansy.

This picture is for Steph… she works with horse-people in Nashville who baby their animals every time the temperature dips below 55 degrees, giving them blankets, barns, and heat lamps. Animals can adapt to their surroundings… look how these cows get all fuzzy in the winter to keep them warm.

For the benefit of Wachs, I want to establish the difference between a ‘snowdrift’ and a ‘snowbank’. Snowdrifts are naturally formed by the wind and generally look very soft and clean [note image to left]. Snowbanks on the other hand are formed by snowplows or some other man-made device and are essentially piles of cleared snow [see right].

Minnesota has a lot of limestone, which is a rock very susceptible to cracking due to various acidic elements in the ground. As a result, this picture to the left is a common sight around our hometown… giant icefalls where water has been seeping through the cracks of limestone, and freezing on it’s way to the ground.

So when all is said and done, this is generally what your car looks like after traveling through the wintryness of Minnesota… lots of road-salt and gunk all over it. I washed the car on Wednesday which took care of most of it. As it sat drying in the driveway, streams of saltwater started oozing onto the pavement leaving these giant white streaks beneath our car… nice.

So there you go. Winter in Minnesota.

anniversary weekend recap

So we made it two years! Celebrated our annivesary this weekend in Charleston / Savannah. It was good times and we had a lot fun. This is a week late, and this is probably much too long for a blog, but here’s a recap:

To start, somehow Steph and I have this uncanny ability to enter every city we visit via the ghetto. I’m not sure how this happens, or how we continue to put ourselves in danger like this… we’re gonna get mugged someday for sure. St. Louis, New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Pensacola, Columbus, St. Louis, Atlanta – Steph and I can give you narrated tours of the ghetto in each of these fine American cities. This trip was no exception – add Charleston, Savannah, and the ‘burbs of Atlanta to the list.

We drove to Conyers, GA, just outside of Atlanta, simply to spend the night and get us halfway to Charleston. Let me tell you – Conyers, GA, yeah, ghetto. Hotel in Conyers, GA? Ghetto. But we’re really cheap and we shouldn’t have expected anything else when paying $36 for a night.

Drove to Charleston. Checked into hotel in North Charleston. North Charleston = ghetto. North Charleston is definitely the armpit of South Carolina – the stench emanating from the area around our hotel was both incredible and mind boggling. We pinpointed 3 distinct smells, each of which ranked near the top of the list of “worst smells ever in the world”. So we didn’t spend too much time at the hotel and got ourselves down to Charleston.

Wow. Charleston, amazing city. Vintage and beautiful. Really cool downtown, and very active even at night. I loved the fact that the main streets of town were essentially like a shopping mall turned inside out… you entered all of your typical “mall” stores (Bananna, J-Crew, Pottery Barn, etc.) from the street, so you didn’t have to spend half your day walking around stale mall halls with flourescent lights… rather, you spend it walking around the streets of beautiful Charleston.

The Battery was really cool, and the houses just amazing. Really neat park at the end of the penninsula with the old Civil War cannons.

Spent it wandering around Charleston, just relaxing. Went over to
Fort Moultrie in the afternoon, a fort used in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Saw the ocean there, and then drove a little bit farther to an actual beach and watched the ocean for a bit.

Supper was at Joe’s Pasta back in Charleston… relatively unmemorable, except for the fact that we had the most forgetful waitress ever… how ironic. Then we spent a relaxing evening at a Starbucks that was converted from an old bank building (large vault included).

Started things off with a very enjoyable breakfast with our good friends Brad and Joy Pitner at the Charleston Cafe (best stuffed french toast ever). Brad and Joy used to work at Gotee and moved to Charleston to start a kitchen store called
The Coastal Cupboard, which is definitely the funnest kitchen store we have ever been to. They’ve got a great (and unique) thing going – I’ve never seen so many choices for spatulas – and we’re very proud of how well they are doing. They were kind enough to provide us with a few tasty treats for the road – they were great, thanks guys!

Post Coastal Cupboard we headed on down to Savannah and spent the afternoon downtown hanging out under some really cool (what I think are) Cypress Trees, walking amongst really old moss covered buildings. Another fascinating, historic city. Did you know John Wesley, founder of the Methodist denomination, got his start in America in Savannah? Niether did I. Do you care? Unlikely.

We spent the afternoon at Tybee Island, on the coast again and saw a cool lighthouse and took some pictures on the beach. Apparently the Air Force lost a nuclear bomb off the coast of Tybee in 1958 and never found it. Oops. We ended the evening with a fantastic dinner at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille back in Savannah, which included a marvelous tuna steak for me and the BEST hushpuppies I have ever had in my entire life. Before we left I had the waiter fill up a to-go box with all the hushpuppies he could find and I’ve been eating them for the last week.

So that’s the trip. We drove back Monday, narrowly escaped rush hour in Atlanta, and got home just in time to go to bed. Don’t stay in Conyers, GA. Happy Anniversary to us!

driving me insane

Thank you Tim for your recent comment on my last post. You know I can’t do another post until you comment… appreciate that.

So we’re doing it again, beginning tonight… the mad crazy drive home to Minnesota to take part in a family event all of which will total more hours on the road than we actually spend with our family.

My brother’s graduating. We’re going home. It was a last minute decision. I don’t want to make the drive, but it will be good to be there with him… unconcious as we may be tomorrow morning at 9:30AM.

Insanity coupled with foolishness, compounded by caffiene.

Today you should listen to:
Arcade Fire “Keep The Car Running

colorado in seven easy steps

A week after returning from the fantastic state of Colorado, it’s time for a quick blog update. There’s no way to sum up even a short trip to Colorado concisely and effectively… here are some highlights:

It’s impossible to quickly find a place to eat in Denver from the interstate, especially if you’re starving. It took us 30 minutes, but we happened upon this little joint called Rico’s Pizzeria… little hole-in-the-wall shop, family owned by Italians, seating for 12, best calzone I’ve ever eaten. I don’t even know how we got there. But I’m going back next time I’m in the area.

If you intend to spend any time in the mountains, spend the extra dollars and get the upgrade to a Jeep (or similar 4WD vehicle). Originally we planned on getting a mid-size car, but then they ran out of mid-size cars and were about to stick us with a minivan… (I don’t know, don’t ask). We weren’t about to be caught dead in a minivan. Get the Jeep, it was an amazingly wise choice.

We love the mountains, so immediately upon arriving (and consuming a calzone), we headed straight into the mountains. Random advice nugget #2 – get the backroads atlas, and use it diligently. Never take the interstates up into the mountains, because that is for boring old people and families in minivans. If you’ve done like I’ve recommended and gotten the Jeep it will be no problem. We went up Jarre Canyon Road, west out of Denver into the front range of mountains between Colorado Springs and Denver. It was snowing. It was exciting. Minivans had to turn back.

Wives appreciate sentimental things, so we stayed in the mountain lodge where we spent our honeymoon. It was very nice, and made us think, “wow, we should run a lodge up in the mountains someday”. Wives also appreciate bathrooms with big huge whirlpool bathtubs.

When looking for something to do, grab your trusty backroad atlas, randomly pick a spot somewhere off the beaten path, and try to find it. You’ll need the 4WD you rented.

Pikes Peak… I’m not very happy with you Pikes Peak. I understand that it snowed 8 inches on top of your mountain and that for safety reasons you had to close down your road for those who unwisely chose to visit you from the comfort of their suburban housewife approved minivans. But come on – we have a Jeep!! Sadness. We went halfway up but were forced by rangers with guns to turn around.

The reason we went to Colorado in the first place was because we went to Sara’s wedding. It was a very nice wedding Sara – thank you for inviting us! We’re very happy for you.

Colorado weekend a success. Points to remember: Rent a Jeep. Buy a road atlas. Stop at Rico’s Pizzeria.

end of a glorious era

In 2001 I aquired a well-worn, much-loved light blue 1987 Toyota Celica. Quintessential 80’s car. I got it as a generous gift from our good family friends Neal & Lisa Blackwood who knew I was a broke college student in need of transportation. Prior to getting the car from the Blackwoods, the aptly named Neal-Mobile travelled some 100,000-ish miles, spent 10 hot years in Texas, and endured several sub-arctic Minnesota winters. But I was grateful to have her when she finally arrived in my care.

The Neal-Mobile was a fine piece of machinery – Japanese made, reliable, quick, had to hold the handles up as you shut the doors in order to lock it. In the six years I had the Neal-Mobile I only had one engine related malfunction, which required the replacement of the distributor… all in all, not that big of deal. Like any car it had it’s share of wear-and-tear, bumps, and rust, but was quite the trustworthy little thing.

I took that car everywhere. Made the trip from Nashville to Minneapolis at least 25 times. Drove it to Nebraska and back another 8 times. Drove to Coloroado twice. Took it to Ohio, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Kansas and probably a dozen other states. I drove it up and down every mountain road outside of Colorado Springs. Drove it as far as cars can go down the Mississippi River delta south of New Orleans, and I’ve got the picture to prove it. One time on one of my trips out west an Interstate bridge got washed out, so I had to go on this 80 mile off-the-beaten path detour. The traffic on the detour was so bad that I hauled out the old road atlas and forged my own road over cow fields, farm roads, and dirt paths all the way down to Colorado. The front struts going out was probably a result of that trip; my fault, not the car.

But all good things must come to end, so they say. One day the uber-reliable Toyota just kind of gave out. It wasn’t one of those big dramatic things with the smoke and fire and all that… rather, after 20 years of faithful service, the Neal-Mobile conveniently rolled to a stop, in it’s parking space in front of our house, and didn’t start up again.

After such a career, and in honor of the Blackwoods fulfilling my need, thought I would carry on the gesture with my little car. Called up a place that does car-donations and uses the parts sales to give to children’s charities. Filled out the form, the tow truck came, and she was gone.

Final Odometer Reading: 195,461.8

…yes, that was 95,000 miles in six years….


3,491: This is the number of miles driven in the last 12 days.

58: This is the number of hours driven in the last 12 days.

We do this to ourselves every year. I don’t know why we have chosen to live so far away from every stinking member of our family. From Nashville to Minnesota, to northern Minnesota, to Nebraska, to Kansas, to Nebraska, to Minnesota, and back to Nashville. The holidays become this strange caffeine-induced blur of dotted white road lines interspersed with segments of the traditional family griping about politics, religion, and why the kid working at the grocery store can’t keep his hair cut a decent length… the gall.

So, another Christmas season in the books. It was good to see all of our family and friends, and it was worth the 3,491 miles. We got my parents an iPod nano… spent several days instructing them on the intricacies of digital music. My grandparents got a couple DVDs, so we spent some time instructing them on how to use their DVD player (again). Many family board games enjoyed, much chocolate and cookies consumed, some good gifts received. And I love the Midwest – I get claustrophobic with all of these hills around me all the time. It finally snowed New Years Eve… would have enjoyed the snow a week earlier, but it will have to work for this year.

I just put new tires on the car two weeks ago. It’s time for a rotation and another oil change.

Today you should listen to…
U2 “New Year’s Day