Category Archives: Vacation

Diatribes about a vacation of any kind.

Cross-Country Tour: Memphis and Beyond

Cumulative Mileage: 3909mi

Ever since I left Memphis, I’ve not really had a lot of downtime in the evenings to update the Ethernet about my adventures. Needless to say, I’ve made it to New York. The last leg of my journey begins today when I head up to Boston to drop off my car with my mom. It’s going to be quite sad to part with her after this incredible bonding experience, but I know she’ll be in good hands.

Anyway, I left the hotel in Memphis on Thursday morning and headed to Graceland. Prior to starting my trip I had no desire to see Graceland, but after several people had highly recommended it (including the woman at Cadillac Ranch who said that Graceland was the highlight of her trip), I figured I should probably stop by.

I’m very glad I did. I have so much more respect for Elvis Presley after learning about his life and seeing his home. He’s one stylish m*therf*cker. His house was out of control. I only snapped one picture on my phone, so you’ll have to wait until I upload the rest from my camera to see what I’m talking about, but this place was amazing.

This was the “Jungle Room.” Complete with a working waterfall that comes down the brick wall and the entire floor, ceiling, and walls covered in this green plush carpet. I realized that Elvis really was a Rock God — and he knew it. He was damn cool.

I left Memphis and took the three hour drive across the state over to Nashville to visit my sister and my nephew. I hadn’t seen them since he was a week or two old, so it was incredible to see how much he’s grown and what he’s able to do now. I can’t wait to see how he grows up. I’m glad that I’ll be closer to both of them, being in New York, and get to see them more frequently.

Friday, I drove 7.5 hours over to Waynesboro/Charlottesville, Virginia to spend the night with Hillary. This was the first time that I found myself too exhausted to drive during the middle of my cruise. I had to stop at a gas station somewhere in Tennessee and take a quick cat nap because my eyes were wanting to close just too badly.

Hillary lives two hours north, but we met down in this area because she was going to participate in a Yard Sale that her storage unit company was hosting to help clear out some of those unwanted items that she’s had laying around. It was so great to see Hillary and meet all her old friends that live down in that area. I felt as though she was somewhat of the prize at the end of my journey.

It was wonderful to have people to talk to in the evenings. My entire trip has been spent talking to strangers in 5-10 minute increments and then being on my way. So, to have my sister and hillary to talk to for an entire night was awesome. Thus the reason for the lack of posting.

On Saturday, we had the storage unit yard sale. It wasn’t as successful as we had planned, but this is namely because the storage company failed to properly advertise the event so there weren’t enough shoppers coming through the fenced-in area. They plan on doing this same thing the first Saturday of every month, so it’ll be better next time — we hope.

I left Hillary bound for New York City around 3:30. Two hours later, I had just crossed the West Virginia state line and I was exhausted and couldn’t drive any further. I pulled over at the welcome center and napped again. I used to feel that napping was cheating, but you really only need 30-60 minutes of sleep to feel rejuvenated and ready to hit the road again.

By 11pm, I was entering Manhattan. The sight of the New York skyline was SO surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was actually here. I had been in Arizona and the Grand Canyon just days earlier — and here I was in New York City. Wow. Navigating through northern New Jersey, Manhattan and Brooklyn to get to my place was a nightmare. I never thought I was going to make it. I got to my new apartment around midnight and began to unload my car and drag everything up the four flights of stairs. Painful.

I forgot how awesome my new apartment is, though. I had a hard time sleeping because I was too excited to start taking things apart and putting stuff away. I don’t think sleeping on an air mattress in a room without window shades helped, but whatever.

So, here I am. I’m getting ready to start the last leg of this cross-country trip and head up to Boston. It’s been the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had and I’m sad to have it all come to an end. The fact that I have to go to work on Monday just doesn’t make sense to me. But, I’ll get used to it. Now.. if only I can get the movers to drop off my stuff — I can start to get settled.

Cross-Country Tour Day 6: Dallas to Memphis

Cumulative Mileage: 2675mi ~~ Total Travel Time: ~7 hours.

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling tonight. I’m a block away from Beale Street, the nightlife center of Memphis and I’m back in my hotel. Texas is draining. The drive today was very difficult and tiring. I think I went through 2 cups of coffee, a five hour energy, and two redbulls all before noon.

Before I left Dallas, I wanted to find a good place to get a real “Texan Breakfast.” After asking three different people, all of them recommended IHOP. Really? IHOP? Texas. So, I go to IHOP and the waitress asks me “Smoking or Non?” Really? That’s gross. Texas. I order some ridiculous meat-laden omelette and have to specify that I want my omelete made with real eggs rather than buttermilk pancake batter. Really? IHOP. Texas. I don’t even know.

As soon as I get back to my car, it starts pouring. Thunder. Lightning. Hail. You name it.. I got my storm. As I was leaving Dallas, I kept looking along side the highway for signs of Tornados, but fortunately I saw none. I made it just about to the Arkansas border when it cleared up. Texas.

My original plan was to stop in Little Rock for lunch, but it was too far and I was too tired and hungry to make it there. I ended up stopping at the birthplace of William Jefferson Clinton, Hope Arkansas. It was very unexciting and I ended up having lunch at Wendy’s. I broke my streak of non-chain restaurants. Sigh.

I make it through Little Rock and get back onto Highway I-40. I was very relieved to make it back onto 40. I had been on 40 from Bakersfield to Amarillo and will be on it pretty much all the way to Virginia. I feel as though the driving got very challenging when I was off of highway 40, so it was comforting to be back on my main route. That was until I hit the Wattansaw State Game Area. There was a sign that said “Construction ahead, expect delays.” I had seen this multiple times in the past and didn’t expect any issue. I was wrong.

I was at a dead stop for over 30 minutes and didn’t get out of traffic for over an hour. It was unbearable. This was really the first traffic I had hit since my first day on the road, so I’m considering myself lucky. I’m also very fortunate that I wasn’t going westbound, because as I was stopped I had noticed that there was NO traffic going west. Not a single car the entire time I was stopped. Strange. I realized that both East and Westbound of 40 had construction down to one lane, but still, why wasn’t there cars?

After a while, when we started moving I noticed there was a Red PT Cruiser on the other side of the highway parked with all four doors open. The family that owned the car was sitting outside of it, eating and talking to some policemen. Behind them sat 20 miles of traffic at a dead stop. Everyone was out of their cars hanging out. Nobody had a clue as to what was going on — not even me. I felt bad for all these people. 40 West was a parking lot. It still is, according to Google Maps. I wonder if those people are all still there.

I was expecting to get to Memphis by 5:30. I ended up getting to my hotel just before 8pm. I blame Texas.

If you’ve never been to Memphis, I highly recommend it. Beale Street is a very happenin’ place. I wish I had more energy to go and enjoy it. I’ve never seen so many tricked-out motorcycles. I guess it’s what you’re supposed to do if you live here — get on your hog and drive it down to Beale Street.

The street smells like Barbecue and has music coming out of every store/bar/restaurant/club. It reminds me a lot of New Orleans, actually.

Of course, I had to have some Memphis BBQ while I was here and I ended up going to an amazing place called Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous. Unbelieveable. Some of the best ribs and brisket I’ve ever eaten.

After dinner, I walk down the street and notice some sort of stadium-type place. At first, I thought it was a horse track because there were no turnstiles to get in and there were people cheering. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a baseball stadium for the Memphis Redbirds. Apparently, they take down the turnstiles after the 7th inning and let anyone into the park. Lucky for me!

I walk in and it’s 2-2 in the top of the 8th, the Redbirds (AAA St. Louis) are playing the Round Rock Express (AAA Texas!).  Ryan Spilboughs was the only player I recognized. He played in Colorado for 7 seasons including the 2007 World Series against the Red Sox (0-10, 2BB, 2 SO). The Express went up 3-2 in the top of the 8th and the Redbirds answered right back in the bottom. Bottom of the 9th, two on, two out, a ground ball single to the right fielder scores the run from second. It was almost a close play at the plate, but the Redbirds rallied to win the game. All things considered it was a pretty exciting two innings. I even got to see some guy by the name of Hamburger pitch.

After the game I walked around Beale street for a little bit to see if there was something that caught my ear. Unfortunately, I was just too tired to deal with it. So, here I am. I hadn’t planned to write much this evening — I thought it was a pretty uneventful day. But, turns out I had plenty to say.

Tomorrow, I am planning on checking out Graceland while I’m here.  I’m not an Elvis fan, but why not, right? After that, I head to Nashville to see my sister, her husband,  and my nephew Henry. It’s only a 3.5 hour drive it’s going to be a much-needed day of rest. Good night, Etherwebs.

Cross-Country Tour Day 5: Amarillo to Dallas

Cumulative Distance: 2132mi. ~~ Total Travel Time: ~8 hours.

Whew. That was a long day. Driving through Texas has been the least exciting day thus far — I had to stop for coffee several times and even busted out two five-hour energies along the way because Texas is just so damn boring.

My first stop of the morning, though, was at a “Texas Landmark” known as Cadillac Ranch. There are essentially ten cadillacs that are buried, nose first, into the ground in the middle of a field. Visitors are encouraged to spray paint and decorate them. You can imagine how much paint there are on these vehicles at this point. On one spot, the paint was starting to chip and it was about 1/4″ thick — and there was still spray paint showing. So, who knows how thick the stuff is.

There are no signs or explanations of the exhibit. It’s just there in the middle of a field with a sign that says “It’s against Texas law to spray paint anything on this side of the barbed wire fence.” Other than that, you just need to park on the side of the highway and walk up to it.

I met a woman with two kids that was driving from Georgia to Utah and she had stopped at Walmart that morning to pick up some spray paint for her and her kids to use on the cars. She was kind enough to lend me some and I put my own little mark on one of the cars:

After a while here, I hit the road towards Dallas — and it was rough. Nothing but very boring farm land, much worse than Eastern New Mexico. If this is any hint of what’s in store for me tomorrow, I’m very worried.

One thing I noticed about Texas, though, is that there is an insane number of white trucks. Everyone has a white pickup or white SUV. Everyone. I couldn’t believe it, so for a ten mile stretch I started to count all of the ones I could find excluding Semis, Vans, and Car Dealerships (I saw two truck dealerships and they had a lot full of hundreds of them! I SWEAR!) After ten miles, on the highway I counted 128. That’s 12.8 white trucks per linear mile.. How is that even possible?  If you own a white truck and go to a baseball or football game, how do you find your car?!?

There’s also a ton of churches and Jesus signs across the entire state. I think my favorite that I saw was “Jesus Doesn’t Tapout” with the MMA Tapout Logo on it. Classy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped for some Texas Barbeque somewhere in Wichita Falls. It was the highest rated BBQ place in the city and it was pretty damn good. One thing I found very peculiar, however, was some “memorabilia” they had hanging on the wall. It was a piece of wood with almost 100 different types of barbed wire attached to it, each with a name and the date on which it was created (?). Who knew there were so many different kinds?! Only in Texas.

I got into Dallas/Arlington/Fort Worth around 5pm and planned on going to a Ranger’s game. Turns out my hotel shares the parking lot with the Rangers Stadium at Arlington, so it was a quick walk over to the ballpark. I scored some great seats behind home plate and got to watch the Mariners thump the Rangers 10-3. Andrus had two errors at Short Stop which directly led to 3 Seattle runs. Oddly enough, too, Ichiro had 1/3rd of the putouts for the entire game. He caught 9 flyball outs in Right, three of which in the 4th inning. Strange.

I sat 12 rows behind Nolan Ryan — who is named after EVERYTHING in the ballpark. If George W. had been there, I would’ve been peanut-throwing distance from him. I guess he heard I’d be in attendance.

Tomorrow, I’m headed to Memphis by way of Arkansas. Hopefully it’s more exciting than today — I can’t do another 8 hours of boring landscape. I’ve heard there’s supposed to be some thunderstorms tonight. I’ve got the shades open to try to catch some of these exciting storms. I’d rather watch them from the safety of my hotel room rather than from my car — especially as I drive through Arkansas.

Cross-Country Day 4: Flagstaff to Amarillo

Cumulative Distance: 1,828 mi ~~ Total Travel Time: ~12 hours.

I made it on the road by 8am — knowing that I had a full travel day ahead of me. It’s about 9 hours from Flagstaff to Amarillo and I planned on making a few stops along the way. I also realized that I’d have a time change when I left Arizona, losing an hour in the process.

My first stop was Meteor Crater, about 50 miles east of Flagstaff in Arizona. The crater was pretty impressive. A meteor the size of about 50 yards across made a crater 570 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide. I took a tour of the museum and went to a few of the observation decks. I would’ve liked to have taken the tour, however it was an hour long and I didn’t feel like sticking around for an hour.

Click to see panoramic view

I got back on the road with my next stop being the dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or the Petrified Forest, whichever came first. Turned out the petrified forest came first and I was disappointed to find out that this was not going to be a quick stop. Located about 50 miles off highway 40, the national park had a small museum area and “forest” that you could walk through and take pictures — followed by a 28 mile drive that catches back up to highway 40. The disappointment being that my route through the forest short-circuit my trip to the dinosaurs. Sigh.

But, the petrified forest was pretty neat. It was for the museum and first “forest” that you walk through. There were several other walkable areas that the park rangers were way too excited about but I felt it unnecesary to stop at them. If you’ve seen one petrified forest, you’ve seen them all.

The trees were pretty remarkable. Many of them glistened in the sunlight — the photo above doesn’t nearly do it justice. Each piece of wood fossilized and turned into a gem-like stone. Some of the trees were huge: 30-40 feet long.

I got back in the car and managed to listen to the last half of the Red Sox game. I’ve been able to listen to a lot of baseball on my trip — MLB.tv has come in quite handy and you’d be surprised how much 3G service you can get along major highways. After another hour or two I entered New Mexico and I had to adjust my clock an hour forward. It was about 1pm by the time I got to New Mexico and in order to try to make up some time, I didn’t plan on stopping again until Albuquerque around 4pm.

I stopped for a very late lunch in historic old town Albuquerque, which was a very cute part of town. I had lunch at an amazing Mexican restaurant that had a tree in the middle of the dining area. I had an exceptional pork dish and a great dessert pastry type thing that you dip in honey. Delicious. I ended up spending an hour in Albuquerque, which meant that I’d be getting into Amarillo around 9pm, instead of my planned 8pm.

Leaving Albuquerque, you could see the landscape start to change from desert/mountain area to grassland. There is nothing in Eastern New Mexico. Amarillo is about an hour inside the Texas border and to my surprise, when I crossed the Texas border, I saw a sign that read “You are now entering the Central Time Zone.” Argh! This meant that I’d actually get into Amarillo at 10pm! Ugh. There goes my dinner plans.

Everyone recommended that I go to this restaurant called “The Big Texan,” home of the free 72 ounce steak. I hadn’t planned on ordering it, but it would’ve been nice to get a good steak dinner. I kept thinking of The Great Outdoors every time I saw the signs for the free 72 ounce steak, but alas, I never made it.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a 6.5 hour drive down to Dallas, where I plan on catching a Ranger’s game in the process. I also plan on going to see Cadillac Ranch on my way out of Amarillo, which should be interesting.  That’s all for tonight, folks. It’s time for me to get some rest — it’s been another long day.

Cross-Country Day 3: Grand Canyon

Cumulative Distance: 1267.2mi ~~ Total Travel Time: ~5 hours.

Click for a panoramic view

In order to get to all of the sights I wanted to see today, I had to get up early and hit the road before 8am — and I’d say I was successful. I took the scenic route up to the Grand Canyon and still managed to make it there shortly after 9:30. I spent about an hour and a half there — which is pretty much the most I could handle unless I opted to hike down into the canyon itself (which I didn’t have  time to do this time around).

The canyon was inspiring. Walking around the rim of the canyon was breath-taking and I was quite surprised at the fact at how few guard rails there were. At one point, I noticed a guy that had climbed way out on a jetty and I thought he was insane.

It was kind of like this, but narrower.

 

As I approached, I saw a father and son (about 8 years old) coming back off the ledge and I thought to myself “If he can do it, so can I..” so I climbed out there too.It was something I had to do to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t dangerous, per se. There was no wind today and the ledge was about 6 feet wide — so I felt pretty safe. Even if I did fall, I wouldn’t tumble thousands of feet into the canyon — so I thought it was OK.

My second stop was about 3 hours north at Antelope Canyon. A quarter-mile hike through a canyon about 30 feet deep that was absolutely gorgeous. I snapped a bazillion photos with my DSLR, but only managed to grab a few with my phone, so you’ll have to wait until I get all my pictures uploaded to see the full set. But here’s one so you can get an idea:

My last stop was at a place called “Horseshoe Bend” which is where the Colorado River takes a U-Turn and has formed an amazing Horseshoe Rock formation. Again, my camera phone didn’t quite get that great of a shot due to the sun, but here’s the best I got:

Today was incredible. It was also my only real day to be a tourist — every other day I’ve got a pretty significant drive ahead of me. Not that I didn’t put miles on my car today — I still managed to drive about 5 hours in total. Tomorrow is my longest drive of the trip: 9.5 hours plus a one-hour time change. I’m hoping to hit Meteor Creator, The Dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and maybe even the Petrified Forest, if I have enough time. I’ve gotta get on the road before 8am again tomorrow if I want to make all these stops. That means it’s just about bed time. Good night!

Cross-Country Day 2: Bakersfield – Flagstaff

Cumulative Distance: 771 miles ~~ Travel Time: ~9 hours

I slept like a baby. As soon as my alarm went off, I was ready to go and take on my day. I departed Bakersfield around 9:30 and started to make my way to Flagstaff, AZ. Knowing that I only needed to drive about 7 hours, I liked that I could stop and take pictures or see sights whenever I wanted. It took a little while for me to realize that I wasn’t “rushing” to get somewhere, but rather the journey was the adventure itself.

After passing the wind farms of Southern California, I entered the Mojave desert. About an hour into the desert, I stopped at a rest area and was promptly reminded what the desert brings: snakes. There was another sign just posted next to this one that listed all of the snakes that can be found in North America. Thanks.

Driving through the desert was beautiful. After a ways, I ended up on my main interstate: highway 40. For those that don’t know, Highway 40 follows the path of the Historic Route 66 that runs from LA to Chicago. Every time I got off the highway to get gas or grab a bite to eat, I was reminded that I was on Historic 66.

I stopped for gas at a place called “Hi Sahara Oasis” — which has to be the most obscure gas station you’ve ever seen. Check out the link and you’ll see what I mean. It’s this oasis in the middle of nowhere. In order to pay for gas, you have to leave your credit card inside. When I did this, I saw a sign that read:

 We have no choice. We have invested too much time and money into this place to leave now. To run a gas station like this in the middle of nowhere costs a lot of money. We will not tolerate any complaining whatsoever. 

I didn’t know what this meant. That was until I went to go fill up my car with gas and noticed that the price of gas was $5.49 a gallon. Nearly $2 more than most of the other gas stations in the area. I had no choice, though. I was just glad I didn’t stop there for lunch. A club sandwich probably would’ve run me $25.

Late in the afternoon, I stopped for a coffee at a small town called Seligman. There was a  cute motel, a place called “The Roadkill Cafe” and a general store.

I was talking to the guy behind the counter at the General Store and telling him how tired I was and needed the coffee. It was at this point that I had noticed that they had envelopes of rattlesnake eggs for sale.

 I asked the guy if they were real and he said “100%. Arizona has more varieties of rattlesnakes than any other state. We have one open, if you want to see them.” Upon opening the envelope, a spring-powered device makes a rattle-like noise and I must’ve jumped a foot. The guy says “Well, I think you’re awake now.”

The highlight of my day, though had to be the Lowell Observatory. After checking into my hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, I went up to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. The staff was pointing out things you could see with the naked eye, namely meteors and satellites. I had heard that you could see satellites with the naked eye, but I’d never seen one before. I ended up seeing three of them! So cool.

They had a bunch of telescopes set up outside for people to look at various things. I saw a really cool close-up of the moon and the Ring Nebula. They also pointed out the M13 Star Cluster, which is a group of about 300,000 stars that is approximately 25,000 light years away from earth — situated at the edge of the milky way galaxy. Crazy!

But, the Observatory telescope itself was aimed at Saturn tonight. They were explaining that the telescope was built in 1894 and has never been taken apart or cleaned. Through the telescope, you could clearly see Saturn, it’s rings and three moons (which looked like small stars) around the planet. It looked just like a picture in a book. Really cool!

Tomorrow, I’m headed up to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. I’m really excited. A couple that I was talking to in line was telling me all about Antelope Canyon and it sounds amazing.

It was a great day on the road and I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Cross-Country Day 1: SF – Bakersfield

Distance: 285.1 miles    ~~~  Travel Time: ~6 hours 

Filled with plants and boxes, I packed up my car (aka. Penelope) and headed off for my last day of work on the west coast. I ended up hitting the road shortly after 3pm to run a few last minute errands in the bay area. By 4:30, I was officially on the road headed towards Bakersfield, CA.

Originally, I was planning on driving directly from San Francisco to Flagstaff, AZ — but after realizing that 12+ hours was probably a bit much for my first day, I opted to split up my drive by heading to Bakersfield, CA on Friday evening. I didn’t really want to end up going back to an empty apartment for another night anyway, so hitting the road seemed like a mighty fine idea.

My trip is expected to take about 9 days, ending in Boston next Sunday.
Here’s my itinerary:


View Cross-Country Drive (SF > Boston) in a larger map

Friday: SF > Bakersfield
Saturday: Bakersfield > Flagstaff, AZ
Sunday: Grand Canyon & Antelope Canyon
Monday: Flagstaff, AZ > Amarillo, TX
Tuesday: Amarillo, TX > Dallas, TX
Wednesday: Dallas, TX > Memphis, TN
Thursday: Memphis, TN > Nashville, TN
Friday: Nashville, TN > Waynesboro, VA
Saturday: Waynesboro, VA > Brooklyn, NY
Sunday: Brooklyn, NY > Boston, MA

This trip is unique for me, in that — with the exception of my visit to the Grand Canyon, my  journey is the vacation itself. I’ve got plenty of music, audiobooks, podcasts, and baseball games to keep me entertained throughout my journey.

Today’s photo comes from the Pacheco Pass Highway. There was a light rain that started to fall while in traffic and the sun was still peaking out from behind the clouds. I grabbed this shot as I was driving, but I ended up pulling over to take some pics with my DSLR that will be posted after the trip.

Tomorrow, the plan is to head out on the road by 9:00 and head to Arizona. Did you know that Arizona does not use Daylight Savings Time, so during the summer there is no time difference between CA and AZ — however in the winter there is a 2 hour time difference. Go figure.

A festival of the Jazz Variety

I’ve recently returned from the soulful city of New Orleans, where Jazzfest was in full swing. From the moment I left the house in San Francisco,I knew it’d be an adventure — flying to Baton Rouge by way of Houston and then taking a bus ride to New Orleans. Upon arrival, I had plans to stay with some friends from Jam Cruise, known as A Touch of Class in town about 15 minutes from downton New Orleans known as Metarie, LA.

The moment I arrived, I felt at home with my classy friends. Blake, the owner of the house, was the most gracious host I’ve ever had the pleasure to stay with  and everyone else was so welcoming into their group of friends. Early in the night we headed over to the Howlin’ Wolf for the megalomaniac’s ball featuring a 2AM set by Garage a Trois.

Thursday night, we had a minor detour known as “Project OPP’ — but ended up seeing about half of the Galactic Show, snuck in the back door of an art gallery to meet up with my friends The Joker, Rhonda & Leslie and saw a bit of the Dirty Dozen. Late night, featured Big Galactic and DJ Ruscoe at Republic. Dub isn’t exactly my thing, but somehow I ended up having an absolute blast! The crowd (and venue) was a lot of fun. Plus — this was my first opportunity to party TOC’er Lauren from Philly, a Professional Party Princess! Would’ve been nice to see Marc, too, but that’ll have to wait for the boat!

We managed to scrape together a badass crawfish boil on Friday — but soon learned that not nearly enough people came over to pre-party which left many many pounds of boiled crawfish to be savored at a later date. Friday night, I went back to the Howlin’ Wolf the Bayou Rendezvous. I managed to check out George Porter’s Runnin’ Pardners and Col. Bruce’s band before the craziness began. And by craziness, I mean running to the Dragon’s Den to see Gravity-A from 12-2 followed by a trip to Tipitina’s in the Quarter to check out Some Cat from Japan and get a shout-out by Nigel Hall!) then to head back at 4am to see the second Gravity-A Set.

Saturday evening was the only night that was a little questionable. We were disappointed by the Greyboy set on the riverboat — they just couldn’t keep up the energy of the show, I felt. I later headed over to One Eye’d Jack’s to see BreakScience considering how much I enjoyed the dubstep from earlier in the week. I was sadly disappointed to learn that I really dislike BreakScience. Oh well, so it goes. I partied late night with the crew at Snake & Jake’s and all was right with the world again… or was it?

Sunday night was the night I had been most looking forward to of the trip. An evening at the Howlin’ Wolf  for the Royal Family Ball and JamCruise reunion. Soulive was awesome — I don’t think I’ve seen them since Bonnaroo 2004 and Lettuce simply blew my mind. I am pretty sure that they tried to kill me with the Funk.

The trip home was relatively uneventful, except for the police action that took place on my bus at the station in New Orleans that involved one drunk homeless guy claiming to another drunk homeless guy stole his cell phone. The end of the trip was fairly entertaining as well, when I realized that my car keys were in my checked luggage — which arrived 4 hours later than I did because I finagled myself an earlier flight. Nice.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering.. yes, I did make it to the actual festival, too. The food and music were amazing, but the late night club sets were so much more impressive!

Home Sweet Home, Part 2

I’ve been back in Boston for nearly two weeks now and I’m finding myself missing Lithuania more than I did when I first returned home.  Gone are the unsavory memories about rude people and the lack of ice cubes, and what remains are the experiences and the family.  But what I wanted to enlighten you about are some more rapid-fire points about the differences between there and here.

* Malls in Lithuania are way, way better, hands down.  Akropolis is the largest mall and is found in the three largest cities.  I went to two of them.  There are three floors of shopping and eating wonderment.  And each has several currency exchange centers.  But what makes Akropolis so cool is that it is organized according to store type.  All shoe stores are clustered together, as are men’s clothing stores, ladies’ clothing stores, etc.  What a concept.  Also, Akropolis has a bowling alley and an ice skating rink.

* The grocery stores are also better than what we typically have here in the States.  Similar to Akropolis, this is due to a new mega-chain called Maxima.  They are everywhere (not just the biggest cities) and the selection of foods and beverages is exhaustive.  And I went to a Maxima in an Akropolis that sells men’s suits, scooters, canoes, and on and on.  I’m not saying I want to buy a suit at the supermarket, but still.  It’s a nice option if your really under the gun.

* Of all the things you can find at Akropolis or Maxima, you won’t find light beer.  Of all the countless restaurants and cafes I visited, none offered light beer.  And the only light beer I found at Maxima was a brand with several fruity flavors.  I passed. 

* Since I’m on a supermarket roll, I also have to mention that the cashiers there are allowed to sit on stools.  I’ve never seen that here.  In the U.S., you have to stand for your 8-hour shift and you have to like it.  Also, at all stores, the employees don’t hand you the money like they do here.  There are money trays where the customer has to place the money and that’s where the cashier places your change.  I’m still not sure why.

* Lithuania is also kicking our asses on the recycling front.  You cannot drive more than a minute without seeing these ubiquitous yellow, blue, and green conical pods.  These pods are for glass, paper, and plastic recyclable items.  Great idea and something that should have been in place in the U.S. years and years ago, especially considering we’ve been celebrating Earth Day since 1970.

Home Sweet Home

Just returned from Lithunia late last night.  Swedish Girl is still vacationing there until nearly Labor Day.  I enjoyed my time there, but I am glad to be back in Boston.  Before I left, my mother joked that I’d return with an accent.  It sounded silly, but I was away from English speakers for so long, and I tried my hand at some Lithuanian phrases whenever I could, so a few times, I actually did find myself speaking in an off-kilter, quasi-Eastern European accent.  I learned a great deal about this nation that will celebrate its 1,000th anniversary next year, and there were many more unexpected positives than negatives. 

I had a great time and a highlight for sure was my nephew’s baptism where Swedish Girl and I became godparents.  The ceremony was in two parts, the first of which was more of an introduction of what life in Lithuania was like in the 18th century.  It was conducted in a village similar to Plimoth Plantation (for those of you who have headed down to Plymouth, Mass.) where actual ancient structures that had been painstakingly dismantled across the country were carefully reconstructed.  After 2 godfatherly morning vodka shots, some cheese, sausage, and black bread, we walked over to an equally ancient church for the official baptism.  It was a very cool experience, even though the only things I understood (aside from 1 out of every 13 Lithuanian words) were Swedish Girl’s once-in-a-while translations and then when the priest said, “congratulations” to me at the conclusion. 

There are so many things I could say about the visit, but I’ll handle it in rapid-fire format for now (with a possible forthcoming sequel)…

* Lithuanian drivers are absolutely insane.  The worst I’ve ever experienced.  I thought Massachusetts drivers were pretty bad, but they are saintly compared to Lithuanians.  They drive fast and recklessly, which is a truly frightening double-whammy. 

* Lithuanian women are breathtaking.  I know I’m married, but I’m also married to an example of a breathtaking Lithuanian.  If you’re a single man with upcoming vacation time, I suggest you head over to Lithuania.  Did I mention the ratio of women to men is 53.4% to 46.6%?

* Lithuanians are crazy about cold fish.  They have it for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner.  Hot fish seemed somewhat rare.

* The people there are rude.  I’m free and clear in saying this, because even Swedish Girl was taken aback by it.  She’s been in the U.S. for so long now that she had forgotten just how rude her countrymen are.  I held the door open a few times and they didn’t say a word.  And no one holds the door open for you.  At a museum, I was pushing my nephew’s empty stroller while he was walking with his mom.  Granted, it was empty, but I was trying to get upstrairs and downstairs and people were astonishingly rude.  It got to the point that I was seriously using the stroller as a tank, purposely hitting people.  The country was starting to turn me rude.

* Lithuanian men are crazy about man purses.  Over 90% of the men under the age of 55 were wearing man purses. 

* The women seem to dress like they’re going to a nightclub all the time.  It’s like they are in constant competition.

* This one is, I think, consistent with most of Europe – ice cubes are harder to find than Osama bin Laden and that beer you expected to be frosty cold is almost room temperature. 

* Many apartment and office buildings were built by the Soviet Union back in USSR times and, therefore, have a very austere, cold, stern, Soviet feel to them.  They’re just ugly, gray, concrete and granite blocks.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s apartment building was built in 1977; before they mentioned the year, I would have guessed 1950.  Ugly exterior, but their newly remodeled condo was gorgeous.

I’ll leave you for now with this anecdote.  My savior during the trip was a handy Lithuanian-English dictionary and phrasebook.  In several places in that book, the author (a native Lithuanian) suggests that travellers wait to watch Lithuanians eat certain dishes in order to avoid possible embarrassment.  I pointed that out to Swedish Girl and made cracks about how stupid that was.  Well, one day, Swedish Girl’s sister put an oval platter on the table; it was filled with sunflower seeds.  Even though my first thought was, “Wow!  That is a ton of sunflower seeds!  I never knew they were so wild about sunflower seeds here,” I dug in and helped myself. 

Fast forward a few minutes and Swedish Girl sat down and asked my why I wasn’t eating any of the fish.  Before I could defend myself that there was no fish anywhere, she cut into the platter, which had layer of cold fish, a layer of cream cheese, and then a healthy layer of sunflower seeds.   I just hope that my in-laws can chalk up my gaffe to IFS (Innocent Foreigner Syndrome).