Here Kitty Kitty…

For the majority of our adventure, I haven’t bothered to blog about our lodging. With the exception of the nights we spent in our awesome teepee, we were mostly in serviceable hotels and motels not in need of mention. We also mostly had an easy time of finding places to stay. This night (9/14/14 – the halfway mark of our trip) it was a little trickier.

We checked out some of the B&B’s in Abilene, but unfortunately they were all sold out for the night. There were a few other places nearby, but looking for something more interesting, Sriram decided to check Airbnb and see if we could find anything. He found a place in Chapman, KS – about a 35 minute drive away – the Windmill Inn B&B.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Stepping up onto the porch we rang the bell and waited. While we waited to be greeted by a human, a cute kitten wandered up onto the porch. It cozied up to my leg (as cats always seem wont to do) and I took a picture, while silently cursing the fact that we didn’t think to ask about cats (I also never remember to request no tomatoes on my salads, but I digress).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As we rang the bell again another kitten joined the first. And then another, and another. Suddenly I was surrounded by kittens, or balls of death as I like to think of them (due to my severe allergies). As they circled around me, I began to feel a bit like the little girl on the island at the beginning of Jurassic Park: The Lost World. You know, the one who stumbles across the little dinosaur and is suddenly overrun as they try to get her snack?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I stood on the porch hoping the owners would understand when I had to cancel our reservation; except after four or five rings, they still hadn’t answered the door. Sriram finally gave them a call to see what was up. Turned out they were in Oklahoma on vacation and due to a glitch, the dates weren’t blocked out on their website. It might have been annoying if I hadn’t been so relieved. We observed a few minutes of kitty hijinks (because despite my allergies, they sure were cute!) before we drove back to Abilene and found a room at the Holiday Inn Express. A shame, we were too late for the family style chicken fry at the nearby Brookville Hotel that a friend recommended. Maybe next time.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

****************************************************************************************
From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome and appreciated.

Advertisements

Twin One

We arrived in Minneapolis to the lovely Hotel Ivy. It marks our first view of skyscrapers since we left Niagara. The area of the city that we are in is pretty deserted upon our arrival and it’s on the late side, so we opt to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, Porter and Frye rather than going out for the evening. We’ll be here for a few days so we have plenty of time. And we plan to make the most of our time here – culture, spa visits, good food, and perhaps even a ballgame await.

In the morning we touch base with the front desk about a few items – particularly laundry (the dreaded road trip must), a running route for Sriram, and some activities in the area. We speak with Manager Tee Phan. She asks us to give her a few minutes to pull some information together with the concierge and tells us she will get back to us. In the meantime, we head up to the spa to book some appointments – a massage for Sriram and a (long-overdue) pedicure for me.

We return downstairs and meet with Joseph, concierge-extraordinaire. Truthfully, in all of my travels it is not often that I have found a concierge helpful. Most don’t (or won’t) do anything more than what you could have googled yourself. But Joseph was super helpful. At the direction of Tee, he had a lot of information already pulled together for us, including running routes for Sriram, a variety of laundry options, and lots of things to keep us busy in the city. With an outline of our plans at hand, we head out.

It’s a nice walk over to the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center. We decide to skip the museum itself, but enjoy the grounds and the variety of different sculptures, including the famous Cherry on a Spoon (which we were very disappointed did not come in sticker form for our roof box).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Some of the sculptures were interesting, others left us scratching our heads. But the fun really began when we happened upon the artist-designed mini-golf course at the museum. Each hole was more unique than the last, with the designs ranging from a tilting maze to garden gnome foosball to a pool table where you use the back of your club to try to pocket the ball pool style (around obstacles, of course).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I think my favorite hole was the one that encouraged players to stand on foot pads on the course to block their opponent’s shots. We played 18 holes (two 9-hole courses), and had a lot of fun. It was actually the first time we’d ever played mini-golf together. Somehow we’d made it through 2 years of dating and 4 years of marriage without ever partaking in this quintessential date-night activity.

When we got back to our room (with the intent to nap), housekeeping had just arrived and did not seem to want to take the hint that we didn’t need them, so we left and headed for a late afternoon lunch instead. I was a little annoyed at a essentially being booted from my room, but was amused when we returned to find a note from the staff as well as a welcome package that included a flip-flop magnet, some fun Minneapolis postcards, and comfy hotel slippers.

The note read: Thank you for choosing Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis as your hotel choice as you are doing your cross country! Thought you could use these MN souvenirs. ~ Tee Phan, Joseph, and All Hotel Staff.

It was very sweet. A very nice welcome indeed.

Twins Time

Checking out the weather, we decide it was our best night during our stay for a ballgame, so we head over to Target Field and select some seats right over home plate.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Twins are playing the Angels, so we don’t have much riding on the game, but we’re both baseball fans, and I love checking out different parks. We spend a bit of time exploring the park. There’s not a ton of interesting stuff to see, but a few player statues and such, but it’s nice park, still pretty new and shiny. We find our seats and settle in for some baseball. It’s not looking good for the Twins pretty early on. We end up leaving in the 6th inning or so. It’s cold and since we’re not much interested in the outcome, we can’t be bothered staying. We walk back to the hotel and another day is over.

The Spa

Our second morning we head to the spa for our varying services. I’m excited about my pedicure. I’ve booked the “Peaceful Pedicure” (Lay back, relax and unwind in our zero gravity chair while you experience a luxurious pedicure in a quiet treatment room. Begin with a soothing eye pillow followed by a calming neck wrap and be transported into a state of bliss while your toes are beautified. Each pedicure begins with a foot bath containing essential oils to protect and hydrate the feet, followed by an indulgent foot mask, leg and foot massage and polish), and it truly lives up.

It is quite different than any pedicure I’ve ever had. The first noteworthy difference is that it is in a private room. No loud salon with chatting and music. I begin seated in a lounge chair that is upright. A basin of warm water is placed at my feet (no typical spa chair here) for soaking. Once the soaking is done and my color has been selected (a fun raspberry called Between the Sheets), the basin is moved away, my chair is reclined, and the relaxation begins. Soothing music plays in the background (think new-agey massage music), a warm compress is placed over my eyes. A blanket is tucked over me, and I could very easily fall asleep. The usual prep work happens (I apologize for my road-trip feet), and then lotions, and warm towel wraps before my toes get painted. It’s all heavenly.

Once completed I return to the spa lounge area and with a glass of water and a magazine, sit by the fire in my comfy robe while letting my nails dry. Sriram returns from his massage (routine by comparison to my treatment) and his trip to the sauna and after freshening up, we head out for the afternoon.

Minnesota’s biggest attraction awaits.

The Mall of America

Curiosity is the driving force here, more than any need for what the Mall offers. We arrive and enter through one wing of the mall. I look around. I’m not seeing what all the fuss is about. It looks like a mall to me, big, sure, but nothing special. I note the Verizon Store and plan to stop in to up my data limit on my gadgets (I’m using far more data on this trip than I do in “real life”). As I’m about to call the mall a wasted trip, we round a corner and I get my first glimpse of the real Mall of America – the part that makes it unique, makes it stand out, makes it a vacation spot in its own right.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Three different roller coasters wind their way through the center of the mall in a section known as the Nickelodeon Universe. Other rides (carousel, swings, Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, among others) are spread throughout. An Aquarium and stores like Lego Land and the Barbie Dream House Experience are nearby. Restaurant choices are aplenty. It’s teaming with kids and families. I’m tempted to try out the log flume ride until I see a few of its previous riders. They’re pretty soaked and I’m not particularly thrilled with the idea of walking through the mall with wet clothes, so I pass. I feel compelled to ride something but I’m an amusement park wimp and most of the rides aren’t my style. We end up just taking it all in and enjoying the people watching. It’s definitely a unique place and well worth the visit. And I can see why families from more rural areas might consider it a one stop trip for shopping and amusements.

Mary Tyler Moore

On our final morning we are in search of some souvenirs – a Christmas Ornament, a bumper sticker and a few more postcards. In our travels we came across this fun Mary Tyler Moore statue.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Dedicated in 2002, the statue commemorates the ground-breaking character and television series which ran from 1970 – 1977. A fun final stop before we heading back to our hotel to check out and leave town. For our final walk back we used the famous 8-mile long Minneapolis Skyway. The weather is pleasant enough to walk outdoors, but we can’t resist the opportunity to use the linking pedestrian bridges between buildings. I’m sure the system comes in real handy during those cold Minneapolis winters.

Two Harbors Light

Connecting our journey between National Parks (Apostle Islands and the upcoming Voyageurs) was a quick stop-over at the Two Harbors Lighthouse B&B in Minnesota.

The Two Harbors Light Station is the oldest operating lighthouse in the state of Minnesota, dating back to 1892. The B&B opened in 1999 to help fund the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and grounds. They also run a small gift shop on the grounds to help funding as well.

In addition to the light tower, which has exhibits chronicling the history of the lighthouse, there are also exhibits in the Assistant Lightkeeper’s house, which has been restored to look as it would have in the late 1800’s, and in the Steamship Frontenac’s pilot house, which sits on the lawn, overlooking the lake. The Frontenac ran aground in 1979 on Pellet Island after encountering a sudden snow squall in Lake Superior, ending its career after 56 years in operation.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We arrived shortly before 5pm and were greeted by our hostess, Rose. We were given a tour of the house, including our cozy room.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Rose then gave us all the information we needed for our stay, and was on her way until morning. We explored the house a bit more on our own. In the main parlor New Kids on the Block crooned “Please Don’t Go Girl,” out of an old fashioned radio playing the American Top 40 from the late 1980’s. A mystery.

After settling in, we walked around the grounds for a bit, checking out the information in the lighthouse itself as well as the pilot house. The gift shop was closed, and it was getting late, so we headed down the road for dinner. By the end of our meal a lightning storm was starting in the distance. No rain or thunder yet, but large bolts of lightning. We decided it was time to head back.

Upon our return to the property 7 deer greeted us. They observed us as we passed, but otherwise paid us no mind. With the storm still raging on the horizon, we slipped down to the pilot house overlooking the lake. Though it never did rain, and we never heard a single boom of thunder, the storm put on quite the light show. We came back in and sat in the main parlor where we enjoyed cheese (from Benoit Cheese Company) and wine (from Trius Winery) before retiring for the evening.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Breakfast the next morning was wonderful. It consisted of wild rice quiche (wild rice is apparently a local specialty), a frosted raspberry muffin, sausage, sugared grapes, and fruit salad (plus juice and coffee).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Two other couples joined us. A couple we’d spoken to briefly the night before and another couple we were just meeting for the first time. The second couple (Stephanie and Ron, I think) were such fans of the B&B that they usually came each year on each of their birthdays, and sometimes on Valentine’s Day as well. High praise.

We all chatted over breakfast about our travels and Rose told some ghost tales about the B&B (there’s a journal in the living room where people have apparently written about various “incidents” – I opted not to read it).

At the end of the meal there were plenty of leftovers. Rose said we were welcome to take anything we wanted, and as we were heading to 3 days on a traveling houseboat, we opted to take her up on it. Loaded up with a bunch of muffins and some quiche, we checked out of the B&B to make our way to Voyageurs National Park. What a fun place to stay.

The Best Laid Plans

Welcome to our official adventure – our first post from the road.

As our road trip is destined to take us all the way to the Pacific Ocean we thought it fitting to begin our trip at the Atlantic. Living in the Boston area left us many choices for where we could “start.” We contemplated heading to Maine and beginning our journey at Acadia National Park (or ARcadia as Bostonians like to call it – we love to put those R’s where they don’t belong after dropping them from everywhere they DO belong). While we love Acadia, it seemed a bit silly to drive 5 hours out of our way just to “start” our trip. We also contemplated Plymouth, MA for historical reasons, and a handful of other locations.

In the end, it came down to what was relatively close to us, with a good view of the ocean. Wollaston Beach in Quincy ended up the winner, due to the addition of a nice view of the Boston Skyline (a great suggestion from my friend Sharon). In the morning we loaded up the last items for the car and headed to the beach. After a quick “starter” photo, we filled the gas tank, zeroed out our trip meter and set out on the highway, with Born to be Wild playing on the old iPod.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We made a few pit stops on our way out of town (including a trip to Dunkin Donuts for a Boston Crème Donut for the road), and therefore didn’t truly get going until around noon. Our destination? Glimmerglass State Park in upstate New York, where we had a reservation for the night.

We arrived at camp around 4pm. We’d lucked out with the traffic and it was mostly smooth sailing to the site. Still, it had been a long day of travel. We were hungry and a little tired, but we decided to set up camp before heading out for the night. Our well-thought-out packing system was already in shambles (many things had already spilled over into the back seat), so we’ll definitely need to make strategic changes as we go, but for the time being we’d have to leave well enough alone.

The campsite we were assigned was good – big enough, close to the bathrooms without being too close, and a good space away from other campers. My only complaint was that the campsite was all gravel. A glance at some of the other sites indicated the same. I have no idea who thought of that, but if there’s one thing I have proven over time it’s that if there is a sharp piece of gravel standing straight up, my foot is 100% sure to find it. This campsite would prove to be no exception. Didn’t matter what shoes I had on, it still wasn’t fun.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Setting up our tent went pretty smoothly. We were glad to have traded out the wooden stakes that came with our tent for metal spikes from REI. We passed on buying the mallet to pound them in with, but might grab that yet (maybe two so we can both work at the same time). Since we were only planning to spend the night we inflated the air mattress, put the pillows, sleeping bags and blankets into the tent and considered camp done. Here’s a shot of our “tent.” Instead of a traditional tent we went with a canvas tee pee from the Sheridan Tent and Awning Company.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

With camp finalized, we headed out to the Glimmerglass Opera Festival a few miles down the road. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. We thought the grounds were more expansive and that we’d be able to explore for a bit, so we arrived early. That mostly wasn’t the case. The grounds were lovely, but small, and the dining options amounted to a concession stand (albeit it one with some of the best concession sandwiches I’ve ever had – I had turkey with avocado, cranberries, walnuts and sprouts).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

After eating, there wasn’t much to do until show time. A chill had set in, but we were warned that it would get really hot inside the theater. I was looking forward to it. That also turned out to not be the case. Despite the promise of the theater being hot, it was extremely cold inside (unusually so, I was told by regulars). We retreated to the car at intermission to add some extra layers to try to warm up and were much more comfortable for Act 2.

The evening’s performance was that of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Despite being a big fan of theater, I had very limited knowledge of the show going into it. I assumed I’d know some of the music, but was actually surprised at just how little I did know. June is Busting out All Over almost doesn’t count, as I’ve typically heard it in parody form; which left only You’ll Never Walk Alone. The show was wonderfully acted and beautifully sung (and the ballet in Act 2 was fantastic). But, I’ll admit it, I didn’t like it. I typically like Rodgers and Hammerstein productions. I love Oklahoma, and think Cinderella is magnificent. The Sound of Music practically goes without saying (though for those most familiar with the movie, the stage production can seem a bit disjointed). I was fully expecting to love the show. I just didn’t. It wasn’t the dark content that turned me off, I was just…bored. I found it slow, and the plot not nearly deep enough. Despite the content, I found it superficial (the show, not the performance). Still, as mentioned the singing was beautiful, and despite not really loving the show, the finale moved me to tears. So, well done to the cast of Carousel.

We returned to the camp site to retire after a long day. It was a cold night. We started with just blankets, then spread out sleeping bags, and then finally relented to full sleeping bag use for comfort. I was still a little chilly so it didn’t make for the easiest night. However, it rained quite heavily through the night and we stayed dry. It was nice to get the waterproof test out of the way so early.

We’re off to Cooperstown next to take in the Baseball Hall of Fame – stay tuned.

We welcome comments and questions.