Sunday, December 11, 2011

HOLY COW, This is going to be awesome!

My desire to go somewhere new and exciting has been building for a while. Karen and I are planning on returning to Wales, and have discussed going in March during her spring break. I'd have enough vacation time, she would be off for a week, and a college friend of her's was interested in going with us. Seemed like a plan, if we saved up enough money and got into the mindset now.

My birthday was this week. For the week before my birthday, Karen had begun telling me that my Christmas gift was going to be incredible, fanciful stories meant to make me think it was a kangaroo, a Zeppelin, or a dual sidecar rocket powered motorcycle. The teasing got so bad, she told me that I was going to like it better than any sidecar motorcycle (drool.... Ural Patrol T) and we made a bet that if it wasn't as cool as a Ural, I could by one after Christmas. If I lost the bet, she gets a wine of the month club subscription. This continued all the way till my birthday. Karen gave me my birthday gift the night before my birthday, a nook e-reader, so that I could charge it and use it on my birthday. Very cool gift, already digging it immensely.

On the night of my birthday, she couldn't contain herself about Christmas any longer. When I picked her up, she told me that she was giving it to me that night, on my birthday, and that was final. I argued with her the entire way home that it was a bad idea, and this continue once we got home all the way up to the point that she actually handed me a bag. I really wanted to wait, but she lamented that it was physically painful for her to keep it a secret.

I grudgingly looked into the bag, and realized that there was a book inside. Really, a book? Cooler than a Ural?!?!?! HA! That bike was practically mine! I pushed the book back to get a grip on it and spied the cover. Peru? Wait, What? Why did she get me a travel guide to Peru? What is this paperwork inside of the book? I slid the book out of the bag, and it was indeed a Lonely Planet travel guide to Peru. Karen had a massive grin on her face, and she said "Read the paperwork!" I pulled the papers out of the book and opened them up. On the top of the first sheet was the Delta Airlines logo. Huh?!?!?!?

1 Ticket for me to Lima Peru on March 24th, 2012? I asked Karen what this was, and she said "You are going to Lima in March! I visited (a popular motorcycle travel forum I'm on) and got suggestions for motorcycle rentals and hostels already. It's going to be cheap, you can rent a dual sport bike, and visit Machu Picchu!" It took a few minutes for it to register as to what was going on, and it took about 24 hours for me to really get a grasp on it all. I didn't even really start planning stuff correctly right away.

Now, I'm entering full blown planning mode. I am going to be using my motorcycle luggage as my luggage for the trip, so I'll be going super lightweight for the week. I am planning on getting new boots and a new helmet before the trip, and if I can get a decent price on my old car, I may buy a new riding suit before then as well. I've got a short list of things I want to borrow or buy before then (Spot Connect personal tracker or a Delorme inTouch personal tracker, point and shoot camera, dry bag, some sports clothing that will wash easily and keep me dry, etc) and I already have a rough itinerary as well. I've been reading ride reports on ADV, researching the best places to rent bikes, planning packing lists, and looking at travel sites. So much to do, but with Christmas coming, it's only a half-assed effort at best right now. Once January 1st hits, I have a feeling that I will know everything I need to do in short order.

I can't wait, a little over 100 days till I visit Peru, my first foray into South America! Thank you Karen, you are awesome! I love that you know me so well, and love what I want to do!

Obligatory Machu Picchu shot from someone else:


Friday, October 21, 2011

I haven't posted much of nothing up here lately, so I decided to simply grab this off of a Yamaha forum that I am on and repost it here:

I always mean to post more in this area, but lately I just have not been very good at taking pictures as I ride, nor about writing about it when I'm done. I read so many cool ride reports on various forums that most of the time I think it's sort of pointless to write up. This one is not much of an exception except that it was in an area I've wanted to ride for a while and a nice change after not riding for over a month (due to parts coming in).

Last week, my wife and I, and some good friends of ours loaded his and my bikes onto his trailer and headed for the mountains of Western North Carolina. We live in North Middle Tennessee and were only about 3.5-4 hours from home. Took the dogs, rented a couple of cabins and planned to ride, relax, and eat all weekend.

My wife and I got out of town a bit earlier than they did, and arrived in time to cook dinner and chill for the night. Matt (both of us share a name) and Leslie arrived around 3:00am on Friday morning. They were towing the bikes, and Leslie was teaching a Chemistry lab that night that ran late. They got in, texted us, and crashed out. I got up nice and early and lounged about until Matt texted me around 10:30. We definitely had a lazy morning and I arrived at their place (about 10 miles down the road) at around 11:15. By the time we got the bikes unloaded, geared up and ready to hit the road, it was nearly 1! Matt and Leslie were riding together the first day, so the three of us rode into Murphy, NC for a quick lunch at a dinner, and then hit the road. We had no definitive plan today, but Matt and I were planning on hitting the Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway on Saturday.

We ended up taking 74 East for a couple of hours, stopping every so often to take in the views and watch the boats play. This area is very well known for it's Whitewater, and actually held a large number of events during the 1996 Olympics that were hosted in Atlanta.

We ended up tooling around for a bit, and found ourselves in Franklin, NC. Matt had mentioned that he wouldn't mind checking out Bridal Veil Falls and realized that we we only about 15 miles from it. So, we took off in that direction.

Bridal Veil Falls is unique, as a small side road has been cut to go underneath the falls, and you can ride/drive under it. The falls only hit the right side of the road, so we rode underneath them and grabbed a picture. The falls are fairly light, but the picture barely shows them. We had actually cleared most of the fall range, and the lighting looks bad from my cell phone picture.

Route 64 had this sign near the exit from Franklin that warning trucks of tight turns for the next 40 miles. Unfortunately, we only got to see about 10 miles of that as it was getting late in the day. We had to beat feet back to the cabin, and still got there slightly after dark. We do plan on going back next year and exploring some more though, lots of potential. We passed Dry Falls on the way back:

We got back and headed back to our place. My wife had smoked an AWESOME chicken in the Big Green Egg smoker that was at our rental house. I will very likely be investing in one of these soon! Had a fun night of overeating, great desert, and some fun board games. Matt and I planned to be up and out by around 10-11 the next morning.

After a good sleep that night, I was up around 7am. I very seriously considered going to go get my bike and exploring this 25-30 mile loop on the North side of Murphy that was all/mostly dirt and gravel, but it was a little chilly and I was really lazy that morning. Finally at around 10:30, I left the cabin and got ready to ride for the day. Met up with Matt again, and it was nearly 12 before we got on the road!

We rode toward the Tail of the Dragon today, and realized it was cooler than it looked. In the sun it was okay, but as soon as you got in the shadow of trees or a mountain, it was a little bit cool. I was actually wearing a tshirt and my mesh summer jacket, and had stupidly left my liner at the cabin. Yesterday, I didn't need the liner, and only put it in as the sun went down. I thought we would be back earlier tonight, and it seemed slightly warmer. Wrong choice!

We turned onto US129 North from Topton and found a road side BBQ truck. I again had smoked chicken and Matt had a pulled pork sandwich. I love pulled pork but I'm trying to limit my red meat intake and knew that we were going to have a smoked brisket that night for dinner. The chicken was excellent, and Matt said his pork was very tasty. The beans were really good too, in my opinion.

After a quick lunch and briefly talking with a guy on an older Moto Guzzi about the Dragon, we headed North to hit it up. Matt had ridden it last year, and I have driven it six years ago, but this was my attempt on a bike. I was not to be disappointed:

Pictures thanks to

We rode the Dragon North and stopped at the Harley "dealership" on the North side. Not sure what makes them a dealership, all they sell is HD Accessories that have the dragon printed on them. We were planning on riding around the lakes to Tellico Plains and then riding the Cherohala East back to Robbinsville, but it was getting later in the day. After briefly studying a map, we decided to turn around and and ride the dragon in the other direction, and then ride the Cherohala East to West. This would put us closer to the cabins, and probably save us 50-60 miles. Good call!

After a last glimpse of the rivers, we took off:

I have no more pictures from the Cherohala, unfortunately. It was very pretty, and I can't wait to ride it again, but I will do so in a warmer month. The Cherohala tops out at about 5400 feet, and while I know that's not very high for many people, my hometown is only at about 700 feet. It was markedly colder on this road that anywhere else we'd ridden all day. Fortunately, I had picked up a long sleeve tshirts from Deals Gap featuring the map of the Dragon, but it was still cold. We created the highest peak and began our descent into Tennessee, were it started to warm up.... for a while. The sun was headed over the horizon, and it was cooling off even more now.

We reached Tellico Plains about 6:45. I was sort of bummed as I had hoped to get there early enough to check out Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters, but realized that all of the missed opportunities were a good excuse to begin planning a return trip. US68 South was a great ride, but it was a bit dark to really seem a ton of stuff, plus 64 East of Franklin and the Cherohala are all going to be return trips, to be sure.

The only thing I really wish I had done was ride at least a little bit of dirt or gravel, but I did have a great ride, and a relaxing time when not on the bike. I got to ride with a good friend, some days I just wish I could talk him into getting a dual sport for his next bike. His wife rides with him a lot, so I think a BMW F800GS or even a Vstrom would be a good longer distance bike, but he is leaning more toward a sport touring. He recently told me that he was avoiding riding anything off pavement as he was afraid that he'd like it and want another bike!

Hope you enjoy this, and thought it would be cool to show of a semi-local area during prime fall riding season.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Got an itch......

And it's getting worse. Karen and I have been discussing and researching our New Year's travel plan options. We were planning on doing Brazil to visit our friend Mau, but tickets to Brazil would have very likely tapped out our entire travel budget. Karen has decided that she only wants to go for one week this year, wherever we end up, and that she wants to go overseas. I'm not sure where we are going to end up going, but all of this reading about places and not doing is making me itch, bad. My bike has been broken for three weeks, and it's likely to be two more weeks before I get parts for it. The weather is getting nicer and nicer (cooler) and I guess I just need to get out of the house on the weekends. I've been using my weekends to just do work around the house. Bleh.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Arizona - Day 7

Today was my short day, the day that I flew home.

I woke up around 7:00am and it was already quite warm. I finally decided to get in some geocaching, even if it was just one cache. I took off and headed toward the large sundial in Cave Creek.


After poking around and finding the cache I was looking for, I worked my way South and stopped at The Good Egg for breakfast. I had the Huevos Rancheros, and they were quite good. Different than the ones I'd had earlier in the week at the hotel, but the addition of potatoes was nice. I left there and took surface streets all the way to the airport. I got to the airport a bit early, but better than late! With no problems returning the car, getting to the terminal, or getting through security, I found myself on the way home.

I still feel like there is something just beneath the surface out in the Phoenix area, but I hope I get to explore it further in the future. The area is a huge change for me, and I really liked it a lot. Phoenix has this bizarre feel as if a million people decided to move to the desert 20 years ago, it's very clean, very modern, and it was so hot while I was there that it seemed as if no one was around. North of Phoenix, as the desert faded out, more people were out and about, and the scenery change was nice.

I can't wait to revisit this area! There are a few more pictures online from this day.

Arizona - Day 6

Saturday, after a refreshing sleep the night before, was slated to be my day to discover Northern Arizona and the Sedona area. I had mapped out a route that I intended to follow using Forest Service roads the entire way between Williams and Sedona, so I set out early. I checked out, scarfed down some bread and fruit, and then took off.

Less than 2 miles from the hotel, the road turned to gravel. It was a very weird gravel, dark red in color, not at all like the grey limestone that is used in our neck of the woods. It seemed to track very well, not liking the normal ball bearing feel I'm used to. I REALLY wish I had my motorcycle today! I made it about 18 miles down the road before started to get very rutted and rocky. I was forced to turn around before I ripped the oil pan out from under the rental car. I'm not sure if I was on Forest Service land or BLM land, but it was a different setup than I am used to. Near where we live, the FS lands (the BLM has no/little East Coast presence) are all seperate lands that were gathered up with old roads, usually on a geologically segregated piece of land. Here, there were actually houses, pastures, farm land, tree farms, etc, that used the FS roads as driveway connectors. There were houses that I passed that were probably 10 miles from pavement. To my eastern seaboard mind, that is a LOT. It's really quite neat, I think it would be great to own some property like that, off the grid.


So, after I turned back, I wound my back North toward Flagstaff and ended up jumping on the interstate. I was a bit bumped by this, but I was not in an area I knew, still don't quite trust my GPS software on my phone, and didn't want to run into any problems. I jumped off the interstate just South of Flagstaff, heading down AZ-89 toward Sedona. This was an AWESOME road, reminding me of the twisty mountain roads in the Smokies, but with more elevation change. It was here that I began to spy the Red Rocks.


I stopped a few times on the way into Sedona to snap some more pictures, and then parked to check out the "strip" in town. The touristy area reminded me very much of a smaller, hotter Gatlinburg. It was all the usual touristy stuff. I think I went into one shop that was selling minerals, left unimpressed, and then walked back up the street. Not much for me here. I had been advised that taking a tour around Sedona was the best way to experience all that it had to offer. I was interested in an ATV tour, but they were a little more pricey than I hoped. There were also several Jeep tours available, but then I saw it. Helicopter tours! It took some deciding before I settled on it for sure, but I've owned a Jeep in the past, never a helicopter. I drove up to the airport and signed up.


It was GREAT! So many very cool pictures, a really great experience, I can't wait to take another helicopter ride. I loved it! The company also does bi-plane tours, I would love to do that with Karen some day. Very cool stuff! The pilot was quite knowledgeable about the area, pointing out tons of cool rock formations, telling stories, etc. Completely worth every dime.


After my helicopter flight, I wound my way down from the Mesa and found myself at ChocolaTree Organic Eatery for lunch. The place had my kind of vibe to it, and it was nice and relaxing inside. I had the soft tacos, they were quite tasty and very filling! I got an order of vegan banana bread to go, and ate it on my drive south later.


I took an indirect route back to the Interstate, but eventually was forced to decide between getting on the interstate, or driving 70 miles further to avoid it. I wanted to avoid it, but I didn't want to drive for nearly 2 more hours to do so. I jumped onto I-17 and worked my way toward Carefree for the night. I was staying at the Carefree Resort after booking a great rate on I got there in the late afternoon and decided to take a nap before heading out for the night. I watched some TV (finally watching enough of a James Bond movie to think that I might like it), and then feel asleep.

For dinner, I drove back South to Scottsdale, and found myself at Fresh Mint. I had the WONDERFUL vegetable citrus spare rib. It was great, one of the best meals I've had for a while. So good, makes me drool thinking about it! After dinner, I started back toward my hotel. It seemed a little lame to be going back at 8:00pm on a Saturday night, but in a quick search for something fun to do, I did not turn up much that looked great to me. In the desert, it almost seems like everyone just crawls home as the sun goes down. I often felt like no one was out, even during the busy part of the day. So strange.

When I got back to the hotel, a pool party was in full swing, but I didn't bring swim trunks, so I went up to my room. The music from the party was quite loud, but at around 9, they turned it down finally. I was able to get a great sleep in the huge comfortable bed.

More pictures from today can be found here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Arizona - Day 5

Since Thursday marked the end of my training and testing, I had Friday and Saturday to do with as I pleased. I was flying back to Nashville on Sunday morning, but I planned to make the best of my two days here.

I got out a little later than I planned initially, but I was well rested and good to go. I was now on my own dime, so I hit up a Fry's Signature grocery store. It was sort of surreal. Fry's was apparently bought out by Kroger a while back, so it was like a very upscale Kroger in many ways. The layout was similar, they carried Kroger brand products and it just had this feel like a nicer Kroger. It had a ton of fruit and vegetables that we don't get back home, partially due to the fact that it was an upscale place, partially due to the local natives fruits. Very cool stuff!

I bought a few pieces of fruit (apple, peach, donut peach, avocado, etc), some bread, a tomato, and a mozzarella cheese ball. This was to be my breakfast for the next two days and lunch for today. If I had a way of keeping it cool, I could have made it two days lunch, but the cheese got really hot that day, so I opted to not make my tomato sandwich the next day. I ate some bread, a pluot and an apple and hit the road.

I made much faster time than I expected to on the way to the Grand Canyon. The drive up was very neat, passing signs that indicated the elevation every 1000 feet in upward movement was very cool. I started the morning off at just about 1000 feet and crossed 7000 feet a few times throughout the day. Driving north, out of the desert, was very revealing as the brown slowly shrunk away, taking cactii and sand with it, slowly replacing rocky open expanses with scrub brush and then small trees, ultimately seeing large tall pines as I reached Flagstaff. The brownness of Arizona landscapes was still there, but much more muted, showing through in the ground cover beneath the trees instead of being the dominant trait of the land. It was all very neat to witness the change from lowland Northern Sedona desert to mountainous Ponderosa Pine forest.

Flagstaff seemed like an interesting area, but I didn't slow as I passed through here, my goal being the Eastern entrance to the Grand Canyon. I made my way North on AZ-89 toward Cameron. I passed the Sunset Crater National Monument on the way, a place recommend to me by two friends. I intended to visit, but decided to go the next day. I didn't. I guess I have something to look forward to on my return! I passed through Cameron, and then into the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has a cool park at Little Colorado River that was only a few dollars to visit, so I swung in. It was a great primer to the Grand Canyon. There were artisans selling their wares here, and some very nice views of this smaller canyon that is still very impressive.


I then made my way to the GC National Park itself. After paying my $25 for a 7 day pass (the minimum) I stopped at the Desert View overlook, the "first look of the Grand Canyon" in the park. It was really quite busy, and apparently it's much busier on Weekends. I made my way down the vantage point, snapped a few pictures, and then attempted to take it all in. The Grand Canyon.... hum... it's HUGE. It's so big, and there is so much going on, it's just difficult to even process everything there. I looked at a ton of the rock structures, ideas from my geology classes coming to life in the field, noticed the large groups of people filtering in and out at a fast clip, and debated whether I wanted to brave the long lines to get an even better view from the tower on site. I passed on the tower.


I continued West on Desert View Drive, stopping 4-5 times at various overlooks to try to soak in some more of the canyon, take some photos, and try to catch glimpses of the Colorado River. I made it to the Tusayan Ruin and Museum and jumped up to experience this glimpse into the lives of the people that once inhabited the canyon lands. A brief, but very neat, look into a structure built over a thousand years ago, and a quick overview of the different people that called this area home.


I eventually reached the town of Grand Canyon, where the large visitor's center, camping, resort, train station, etc, are all located. I quickly got out of that area, after attempting to find the Geology museum which apparently does not exist (?!?! I found the parking lot and a cool vista, but no building other than a bathroom). a quick look at one of the maps I had indicated a Forest Service dirt road went 15 miles out of this area and back to the main connector between Williams (my destination for the night) and the park. I found the dirt road and cruised out, taking my time and not passing another soul for the 30 minutes or so I was on the road. I considered trying to find more roads, but my GPS was not cooperating completely, and I didn't want to chance tearing up the rental car. It was about this time that I really wished I had my motorcycle.


When I reached blacktop again in Tusayan, I stopped at a gift shop and got some shirts, and then made my way to Williams for the night. I found my hotel, the Grand Canyon Hotel, and discovered that it was the older hotel in Arizona. I had booked through and secured a single room with shared bath for less than $40 for the night. Nice, basic room, no TV (a good thing by this point in the trip) and close to several food options. I was also pleased to notice that Williams was significantly cooler than much of the rest of Arizona. My room had no A/C, but it was not needed. The ceiling and window fans were more than adequate. I checked in, and crashed for an hour long nap; it was nice!


When I woke up a while later and was catching up on email and talking to Karen, I heard a lot of noise outside my window and took a peek out. There was some sort of show involving cowboys, so I ran down to check it out. There was a group of four actors doing a play about cowboys, shooting blanks, and having a good time, apparently. It was a pretty funny show, and I was glad to place a few bucks in their collection chest.


After the street cleared, I set out to find somewhere to eat. I walked around for a while, noticing that Williams is apparently obsessed with steak. This town of less than 3,000 has at least six steak houses. Not what I was in the mood for. I settled on DaraThai which has some affiliation with the hotel I was in, and it was the best choice. I had the Dara Tofu, which is spinach, potatoes and tofu in a red curry and peanut sauce. I didn't think I wanted Thai initially, but it definitely hit the spot. I love Southeast Asian food!

After dinner, I walked around the town some, checking out the Route 66 memorabilia, various gift shops, dinners, etc. I perused a few stores, nothing jumping out at me as a must have, but I did like the little town. It's obvious that tourism is a big force here, the place was hopping well into the night, lots of people on the street, live music at several bars. I ended up walking the length of the strip of the town (maybe a mile walking from end to end and back) and stopping to get a strawberry malt at Twisters 50's Soda Fountain. It was pretty good, and a nice treat on the walk back to the hotel.

Once the music quieted down across the street from the hotel, I fell out for the night. It was a long, hot, and bright day, but totally worth it!

Here are some more photos from today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Arizona - Day 4

Today was mostly uneventful at training. We wrapped up both of the classes today and took our final test. The last test has me worried, but I think I passed it (Update - I passed with a 95%).

After we completed our work for the day, I dropped my boss off at the airport and then texted Mitch to let him know I was free for the night. I went back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit, and he got in touch later, saying that MikeyB, another member of was available to hang out. Sounds good!

Mikey recommended a good Mexican restaurant, so I made my way to Garcia's in Tempe. It's a regional "chain" based out of Arizona with about 10 restaurants, but it was really good. It's not street food quality (I still think that's a positive trait) but it was damn delicious. I had the Pork Tacos, tasty! The three of us sat around talking technology, cars, people, etc, etc, etc for nearly 3 hours that night. It was great to hang with both of the guys, I hope I get to meet them again in the future.

Headed back to the hotel, and tried to get to sleep early. The next day, my real adventure started!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arizona - Day 3

No pictures from today, when I'm in training, it's not worth it to lug the camera around.

So, had training all morning, and went to Elephant Bar for lunch with him today. Sort of weird place, but pretty good food. They have a weird mix of foods from around the world, but seem to focus on South-East Asian foods. I had the Crispy Honey Orange Shrimp and it was pretty tasty.

After wrapping up training for the day, I got in touch with my online friend Mitch, the owner of Mitch and I first talked to each other when I discovered his website about Mitsubishi Mirages (I've owned 2 and a 3 other Mitsubishis) in 1999. We've communicated on and off since then, and finally got a chance to meet in person. It was very cool. I swung by his place to meet him, meet his girlfriend and check out all of his projects (He bought a house a year or two ago and has been doing tons of work, and he has 4 project car; two Mirages; a Hyundai Sonata 2.4 Turbo, and a IH Scout II). From the start it was really cool, sort of bizarre meeting someone face to face that I felt like I knew fairly well already.

Mitch had talked about a good German restaurant that he had had a few times, so we made our way to Bavarian Point. Holt cow, the food was good. I had the Jagerschnitzel, a good old German standby, and it was, hands-down, the best schnitzel I've ever had. Normally, around here, it's simply a flat-pounded pork cutlet that is breaded and fried, and then it is served with a brown gravy that has onions and peppers in it. It's really good, but the stuff at Bavarian Point was amazing. It was a non-breaded sauteed pork cutlet, and the sauce was much more complex than usual. The sauce had onions, peppers, mushrooms, tons of other stuff, and was marvelous. I hope to experience more good schnitzel in the future.

So, Mitch and I continued to hang out, the restaurant was empty, and the bar area (where we were) only had a small group of guys hanging out with the owner. We realized that they were just hanging out, not waiting for us to leave, but that they were definitely closed. It was sort of cool. Eventually, we got up, everyone else still hanging out and talking, and I dropped Mitch back off at home. We discussed possibly hanging out the next night and I headed back to the hotel to crash out early.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Clarification on my last post

I was going to edit my last post, but I'm not going to, as I think it's mostly correct. I did want to reiterate that I am not at all disappointed by my trip thus far, everyone I've talked to has been very nice (as most people everywhere are), it's VERY pretty out here, and quite different to what I'm used to. I am very excited about getting out and seeing more things. The desert is really weird for me, with the combination of the mud walls (very pretty), low buildings and small scraggly brush, I felt as if I'm missing something just below the surface of everything. Hopefully I will discover it this week!

Arizona - Day 2

Training started today. I am not going to delve into it heavily, but I like the program and today tied up a lot of loose ends on how things work. Can't wait to move onto the next program tomorrow.

Lunch was brought in by the vendor today, we had Jason's Deli, apparently regarded as a pretty good place to eat lunch around here. I had a club sandwich, it was pretty decent, but the meat was all stacked in the middle and it had FAR too much mayo and mustard. My boss had a salad and only ate like half of it, saying that it wasn't very good.

After training, I dropped my boss off at the hotel, and then headed out to the desert. I drove the loop below, just scoping things out and taking some pictures:

View Larger Map

I drove around this mountain in Troon, it was really neat. I noticed several things on the way out there, some of it very neat (lots of dirt roads! Wish I had my bike!) and some very weird, unusual and even sort of disappointing. The election for mayor of Phoenix is apparently soon, and I don't think I've ever seen such politically aligned signs for an office on that level before. Things like "THE conservative choice" or "The Republican candidate". Found it sort of weird. I saw a plot of land that had a ton of signs that said "No Dumping" "No Trespassing" "I love my Country" "Keep off my land" and some large signs that I couldn't make out but something like "I've fought for the last 6 years." Not sure what they were about, but I just got this vibe. It's just weird, because there is definitely an air here that reinforces some of the political decisions that have been made in Arizona in the last few years, but everyone I've met is so kind, so it's hard to balance it all in my head. It's just bizarre to see so many gated roads (that have public road signs on them 20 feet before the gate), so much political tension, so much of this feeling that many people are afraid that they are fighting against everyone to keep what they have. It's even weirder to think that the people doing so much to keep so many people out have had roots in this area for significantly less than the people that they've been trying to keep out. There seems to be this "We won the war" mentality. Just weird. Lots of walls everywhere too.


I ran into this one bizarre gate. I first passed a sign that pointed out where a town was at in two miles, but then maybe .5 miles later, the road enjoyed at a gated community. The road definitely went on, and according to Google Maps had at least three connectors back out to major roads, just seemed so strange. It feels like people are gating public roads. Maybe it's just the area I'm in???


Anyway, enough ranting. Out in the desert, there are a bunch of communities around the Scottsdale area. It was really neat to see this seemingly thriving artists communities out in what appeared to be not much of anything. Lots of real estate North of Scottsdale is for sale, so I hard a hard time determining what was manmade and what was natural, but I think that's good, makes the man made stuff seem more natural than the heavily groomed areas I'm used to from the East.


I got back to the hotel, and my boss texted me saying she was hungry. We'd heard that this Mexican place, Los Olivos, was quite good, so we headed there. I had the Combo #1, which was a Taco, Enchilada and Tamale with rice and beans. It was pretty tasty, but to be honest, I expected something different than what we have at home. It was different, but not a ton different. I liked it fine enough.

Click HERE to see the photo album from today.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Arizona - Day 1

No pictures from today, but here is a quick writeup of my trip to Arizona, and some initial thoughts.

I am in Arizona this week, attending a 3 day training class with my boss. We left Nashville at 1:15pm, and arrived in Arizona about 2:30pm. We actually made pretty good time on the way out and knocked about 30 minutes off of the flight. The flight was mostly uneventful, just some small turbulence as we came across this mountain range into the Phoenix valley. There was a cloud head hovering over the west side of the mountains, as we flew through it, there was some cool lightning just a little bit outside of the window I was sitting at. Pretty neat.

As we descended into the valley, I began to see a bunch of desert roads and trails running back and forth. I am going to seriously wish I had my bike with me out here, I can tell already. Desert riding never really jumped out at me before (seemed like it'd just be gritty and hot), but after checking there area out, I think I'm going to have to come out here and ride some time in the future, spring or fall.

We got off the plane, and walking down the jetway revealed how hot it was in Arizona. I mean, the walls of the jetway were HOT. And that was in the jetway that was connected to the air conditioned airport. Made it to the rental counter, got checked out quickly, and then went down to find that I got to choose the car I wanted and then just drive off. Pretty cool idea. They even had some SUVs, but I didn't feel like they offered any advantage of a car being only 2wd, so paying for gas on one didn't make any since. I ended up choosing a Honda Accord. Nice car so far, sort of plain looking, but decent.

Besides the noticeable heat (don't worry, it's a dry heat, whatever that means! 112 degrees is hot, dry or not!) it was really cool checking things out. We drove from the airport to the hotel in Scottsdale, checking out the building and outdoors along the way. There are a bunch of VERY cool rock formations in the Phoenix area, some really cool fracture boulder piles on the mountains and hills, things like that. They hide water tanks that are painted brown among the hills, making it very neat looking. The architecture here is very neat as well. All of the buildings are low, like they are sinking to the ground to avoid the sun as much as possible. I don't think I've seen a building (outside of the "scrapers" downtown) that has been taller than about 5-6 stories. Many of the houses and strip mall buildings seem to be short; maybe they are dug into the ground some? The stone walls, adobe work, and tile roofs are all very different to me, but I REALLY like the look of it all. Some of the buildings are quite square, and others do not have a straight wall on them. Very cool.

We got checked in at the Scottsdale North Hilton Garden Inn and I chilled out for a while in my room. We decided to head out to dinner and ended up driving down Scottsdale Avenue (the main drag) looking for somewhere to eat. Scottsdale is ENORMOUS. It's really weird to see a suburb of a city that seems to be like twice as big as the city. Anyway, we ended up going to Fogo de Chão for a Brazilian Gaucho meal. It was quite good, and a nice change for me. They have a really large and tasty salad bar (the mozzarella balls were not very good though) and then the grilled meats started flowing. I sampled a lot of the meats, probably 4 different grilled beef cuts, sausage, bacon wrapped chicken, and Parmesan crusted pork loin. It was all pretty tasty, but the garlic beef was probably my favorite.

As we left the restaurant, I noticed it looked really dark and like it might rain. Instead, it was a dust storm. Some of the locals were calling it a Haboob the next day, but it just seemed sort of dusky and dark, went back to the hotel and sort of forgot about it. Later, I was watching the news and realized it was apparently a quite large dust storm. A week or two ago an even larger one hit this area, but this one was a weird one as it was the third large one in about a month, and they don't usually happen this frequently here. Kind of cool to see it, even cooler to see the pictures on the news the next morning.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Washington DC - Day 8

Surprisingly, I woke up at about 6:30, 3 hours before the alarm was slated to go off. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't. I also didn't want to get up, so I chilled for about an hour watching TV before I finally jumped in the shower. Packed up, checked out, and headed down the street to Manhattan Bagel ( for what became "my usual" this week. A "Whole Wheat Everything bagel with bacon, egg and cheese." It's really tasty. I had this all but three days this week. The first two days I ate the crappy continental breakfast at the hotel, and one day when the line was out the door at Manhattan, I had a steak and egg breakfast burrito at Anita's ( The burrito was pretty good, the tortilla seemed homemade and was very tasty, and the eggs were cooked well (I'm picky about eggs and hate fake eggs) but the steak was a bit greasy and the burrito was a bit much in the end.


So, anyway, I decided last night that I would visit the zoo and see whatever else I might have missed near downtown, maybe the National Geographic museum or the Old Post Office Pavilion. I drove to the Huntington Avenue MetroRail station to drop off the car, and then jumped on the train. Headed right up to the zoo, and got there just after they opened everything up. Many of the animals were just being released into the exhibits, and others that were in their exhibits all the time were still asleep, or barely awake. It was neat. It's not the greatest zoo that I've been to, but it's pretty decent for being in the heart of a big city and completely free. They have one animal exhibit I've never seen before, Giant Pandas! Soo cool! I got to within about 15 feet of one of them, and got some cool pictures of him grubbing on some shoots. Very cool! I spent about 2 hours in the zoo, finally becoming quite fazed by the crowds, sun, and lack of water. I ended up splurging on a $3 bottle of Dasani (don't even get me started on Dasani, I hate it), and gulped it down. It was nearing lunch time, and while I was not hungry yet, I knew that the Post Office Pavilion would likely be crowded with dinners, and I also decided not to spend any money on exhibits today, so I ruled out the NatGeo Museum. I decided to simply head back and grab the car, and spend some time south of DC for the remainder of the day. I drove for a little while, and debated about getting something to eat.


Spending time in zoos always makes me feel bad about eating meat, and while I enjoy the taste of meat, especially experiencing the variety of meats across different cultures, I was not at all in the mood to eat any at the moment. I finally saw a Chipotle, and since we have none in Nashville (or none that I know of) and hearing Cartman rave about it, I decided to give them a shot. It's a basic burrito place, but I always like those. On top of that, they are, at least somewhat, eco-logically friendly with in store recycling, organically sourced meats and veggies, etc. I got a basic veggie burrito, and it was pretty taste. The white corn, and the lemon-cilantro rice really made it nice. Coupled with an Izze Blackberry drink, it totally hit the spot.


I had several hours to kill before needing to get to the airport, so I decided to drive to the end of the Mason Neck peninsula on the Potomac. It is a very nice area. There are a few state parks and a large wildlife management area, as well as some very quiet, and surely expensive, residences. It's an interesting contrast to the hustle and bustle located just a few minutes away. I drove down to the end of the peninsula, but it's all on private property, so I couldn't get out and take pictures. The Potomac is WIDE in this area though, although partially due to flooding at the moment. I turned around and decided to drive back up to the two parks and check them out. As an out of state visitor, I was required to pay $7 to get into them. I turned around at the first one, but then drove up to the entrance at the second one due to them not having prices posted. The girl at the gate let me in to take a quick tour. It was a pretty area, but it was absolutely packed with people. Every single parking space was full, the boat loading area (probably the largest I've ever seen) could not have gotten one more trailer in there, and the camping area was PACKED. I've never seen people camping so close to one another before. Obviously popular, but not my idea of fun.


I headed back toward DC at this point, thinking I could find a nice park to stop and work on my blog for a while. I ended up driving past a sign for a plantation home and a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I couldn't pass that up, but of course, it was $15 to get in, and it was closing in about 25 minutes. I just wanted some pictures of the outside of the Wright house, but I couldn't see it from where I was at. So close, but too far away. Dern. Less than a mill from that was George Washington's former grist mill, so I decided to check it out. I got some pictures of it, but it also was a pay attraction. I ended up heading back toward DC and the Airport, cutting through Alexandria on the way. I had been through it before, but was a little closer to "the olde town." It's a very pretty neighborhood, I can't imagine what it costs to live there. Just north of Alexandria, south of Ronald Reagan Airport, is a very cool public sailing marina. There were TONS of sailboats here, most of them in the 24-38 foot range, but some 18 foot cabin boats, and several 16 foot Hobie Cats. Very neat area, and literally on the south end of the runways. I stopped here briefly, and then decided to head for the park just north of the airport. It too was right on the Potomac, and looked very neat, but everyone was out taking advantage of the nice weather, so there was no where to park. I ended up looping around to try to find a 7-11 (I hadn't had a Slurpee yet!) and ended up driving very close to the Pentagon. It is absolutely enormous. It is so much larger than I expected it to be, and I am very bummed I couldn't take any pictures of it. Very neat to see it. I grabbed my Slurpee (meh, sugar drink, I should have passed) and cruised through a few more neighborhoods looking for something to do. I saw a barbershop, and decided I'd get a haircut. Even better, when I pulled in front, I realized it was an Arab barber. I read lots of travel memoirs, and one common trend among travelers to the Arab world is the quality of the barbers there. I was not at all disappointed. $16 for a cut (and I had a lot of hair) and a very nice trim with a straight razor on my neck, completely worth it. Took the guy less than 15 minutes, and the entire thing was a scissor cut. I've GOT to find me an Arabic barber back home!


By this time, it was time to start thinking about getting to the airport. I still had about an 2.5 hours before I was to board, so I figured what the heck. Get the car checked in, get through security, etc. DCA is dead on Saturday nights. I got to the airport, returned the car, took the shuttle to the airport, checked in, went through security and found my gate in about 30 minutes. Love it when it's easy. I had some free time, so I've typed this up, and texted with Karen for a while.... Here is my view currently:


More pictures from today:

Washington DC - Day 7

Today I wrapped up my class, took my examination (scored a 92%) and had the rest of the day free. I decided to head to the Udvar-Hazy center, the Smithsonian Air and Space museum that is located outside of DC, near Dulles airport. It is an absolutely striking facility, very, very nice. They are still in the process of acquiring, restoring, and displaying a lot of the displays, and they have lots of room for more in the future, but it is an excellent start. The engine display was really neat, I love seeing so many rotary engines.


There are a lot more military aircraft in this display than in the main facility on the mall, so parts of it I sort of rushed through. I am much more into Golden Age flight displays (1930s-1940s) so the Vietnam and later displays, while I can appreciate them, are not a large focus for me. The early helicopter area was pretty intriguing, and the fabric winged planes from WWI and before were simply awesome. The early WWII and before planes were definitely my favorites though, hands down. I think that there are more of those planes downtown, but it was still very much worth the trip. Seeing the rocketry displays and the USS Enterprise (a test shuttle that was used for descent testing in the 70s) was pretty cool. I think that they will be moving this shuttle and replacing it with the true orbiter that they will be receiving in a few years. Very cool setup.


I realized I was starving, and heading to the food area of the museum. Lucky me, the ONLY food vendor on site was McDonalds. The museum is free, but the parking cost $15, and I was ready to leave, so I was essentially forced to eat McDonalds. Not very good... bleh! I finished checking out the displays, and then headed up to the observation tower that overlooks the Dulles runways. Very neat to see the planes almost level with you a ways before they touch down. I made my way back down, and finally located the restoration hangar. There was a boatplane, a Japanese WWII plane, and an American WWII plane being restored. The guys that work down there are both very talented and very lucky to have such cool jobs.


After spending about 3 hours in the museum, I headed back to my hotel to relax, take a nap, and see if I could find a show in the DC area. The music scene here is either VERY underground (I could find no more than 15 shows listed for the night on any website) or very dead. Nothing seemed cool to me, so after talking to Karen, I took her suggestion and found a local theatre. I found the Cinema Arts ( in Fairfax, which is an independent theatre. After watching a few trailers, I decided to see "Everything Must Go," a Will Ferrel movie that was in limited release (apparently the idea of a somewhat serious movie with Will Ferrel playing a alcoholic is not very popular). Happy with my decision, and deciding to go to the 9:40 showing, I crashed out for a few hours and woke up about 45 seconds before my alarm went off. Took a shower, etc, etc, and jumped in the car (Kia Soul, still digging it!).


I knew that I wanted to check out the Fairfax area, and I knew that there was a lot of food choices in that area as well. I popped into the West side of town, knowing that the theatre was on the East end of town. I decided to follow "the strip" until something caught my eye. I drove past several things that looked delicious, but nothing jumped out until just before I got to the theatre. There was a small strip mall that had a Vietnamese noodle shop, Guatemalan and Mexican restaurant, a Russian grocery, and an Indian restaurant. I thought that the Russian place might have meals also, but they did not. I debated between the Pho and Indian joints, and ended up going with Indian. It was a very pretty restaurant called Curry Mantra ( I decided to go with the daily special, which was Kashmiri Kofta. Kofta is a meat mixture formed into balls (meatballs) and served in a sauce. Kashmiri Kofta is a hard boiled egg that has been packed inside of ground and spiced meat, and then is cooked in a sauce. The sauce was a brown sauce that I didn't think I was going to like, but it had nuts (cashews and possibly something else as well) and was really tasty when mixed with the rice or egg. The kofta themselves were very good, a bizarre balance that worked. The eggs were pretty strong, and the meat was pretty mild and balanced it out well. The meat was interesting as it was very mild, but had a hot undertone on it that was very welcome. I had samosas, and while they were far from the best I've ever had, they were Samosas, so of course they went down great!


By the time I was finished with my meal, I realized that I was almost an hour early for the movie. I decided to go buy my ticket, in the event that the movie was sold out. That was not a problem, as only 10 people saw the show, but better safe than sorry. I walked around the half indoors, half outdoors mall, and window shopped at the hobby shop. They had a lot of cool things, RC cars, RC go-carts, RC flight toys, trains, rockets, and more. I went back to the car to listen to music for a little while longer, and then headed back in. The snack bar had a large selection of goodies, and they also had an GOOD deal on a snack pack. $3.25 gets you a 12 ounce drink, a candy bar, and a small popcorn. It's all served in this tray that makes me think it's designed for kids, but, eh, whatever. The next "deal" was like $9.00. The movie itself was pretty good, but I don't want to give much away. It was an interesting role for Will Ferrel, and I'm glad he was in it. Saw a completely different side of him, and I liked it.


Headed back to the hotel and ended up watching Dual Survival on Discovery until about 1:00am.

Pictures from today:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Washington DC - Day 6

Again, nothing new today, but two pretty good meals!

For lunch, one of my classmates treated a bunch of us to Ledo Pizza, a local pizza joint. ( I had a stromboli, it was quite tasty!

For dinner, I decided I wanted something a little more.... traditional. A steak and potato sounded good, so I headed to the MapleWood Grill ( I ordered the Steak Frites, and decided to splurge on a side cucumber salad as well. I didn't realize that the steak was going to be as big as it was, and that I would also get a bitter green salad and two monster stalks of aspargus. Obviously, I couldn't finish everything, but the steak was cooked perfectly medium, nice pink center and delicious. Completely hit the spot!

Off to do some studying now, I have an exam tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Washington DC - Day 5

I guess I've been lying, I'm not actually in DC during the week, I'm actually in Virginia... I don't know why this is important, but I feel the need to clear that up. Anyway......

Not much for today. I ate at a pretty decent Iranian restaurant with some of my classmates for lunch today. They don't have their own domain, but they appear to have a facebook page at We all had the same dish, it was a kebab of filet migon (butterlied flat) and a kebab of kubideh, a ground meat kebab. The kubideh was not as good as the one I had at Afghan on Saturday, but the steak was really good. We received personal instruction from our waiter and learned to slather the rice with butter, and then sprinkle this cool herb on everything. The herb was a dried berry called a Zereshk that is related to barberries ( This tastes really good with a grilled tomato cut up and mixed into the rice, butter, sliced onion and spices. Tasty!

Nothing special this evening. The class all (mostly) went to On The Border to have a few drinks. No drinking on my part, but I took advantage of the free chicken wings. Meh.... Might run across the street to Red Mango for frozen yogurt later this evening, but I've got 2 tests to work on now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Washington DC - Day 4

Nothing new today, just good food. I ate at Ega Korean restaurant ( and I am sooooo glad I did. It was excellent. They have a lunch buffet with a decent selection of choices, and a large amount of sushi. The sushi was good, not great, but REALLY good for buffet sushi. I had several pieces and the sashimi was fresh and firm. A great starter.

I also had bulgogi (on par with really good stuff I've had previously) and a spiced beef dish very similar to bulgogi but hotter. It was really nice. I had a marinated and BBQed chicken that was tasty with nicely cooked broccoli. There was also a spicy seafood dish that was really good. It had octopi/squid and some other unknown stuff in it. I got gutsy, glad I did.The kimchi was okay, but I'd had better. It was still exponentially better than any Chinese buffet I've ever had. Fantastic food!



By the time I realized I needed to fill up for dinner, I was a bit tired and not up for going far. There is a Mexican restaurant next to my hotel that gets good reviews online. I decided to check out Tequila Grande ( It was pretty good. The chips were not very tasty, tasting like warmed up bagged chips, and the salsa was different, more like Indian sweet Papadam relish than salsa, but not unlikable. I ordered the Burrito Gorda, and a tamale on the side. The tamale was good, they always are, but it was covered with green salsa and cheese... I would have preferred it without those, but I love tamales and this didn't disappoint. The burrito, well... I should have seen it coming. Gordo means fat, or big... right? This thing was HUGE. It was served on one of those large oval plates/small platters. It was filled with ground beef, shredded chicken, refried beans, rice, black beans and more. Holy Cow.... After the tamale, I was only able to eat about 1/3 of the burrito, and with no refrigerator in my hotel room, I couldn't take it with me. It was very tasty, even with the variety of fillings, and I now feel like I am going to burst.

Off to finish my last exam for the night, and maybe to die of food overload.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Washington DC - Day 3

Not much but training happening this week, so daily entries will be short unless something crazy happens. They will basically cover what I had for meals. For lunch today, I had a really tasty Indian buffet at Haandi ( I had a little bit of nearly everything on the buffet, but the best was the tandoor chicken, a minced lamb dish, and a cream-based sauce with chunks of grilled chicken in it. The nan was on par with the best of ever had, and the rice pudding was probably the best I've ever had. The rice had been processed into small round balls, and the pudding itself had a nice, low bitterness to it, but not overwhelming. I suck at describing tastes, let's just say it was great.

For dinner, I wasn't sure what I wanted. I knew I wanted something sort of light, and I was thinking something like a grill with a small cut of meat and some vegetable sides would be good. I had passed a restaurant called Skorpios Maggio's Grill in Vienna, VA. I thought it might be Greek, but I wasn't sure. I hoped they had something light, and I think I found exactly what I wanted. I had green beans (meh, but a lot), roasted potatoes (okay, seasoned okay, the "grease" was great with the pita I got) and 3 AMAZING lamb chops. They were EXCELLENT. Perfectly seasoned, tender, succulent, just perfect. So tasty. It was a bit heavier than I initially wanted, I probably should have had a side salad instead of potatoes. Loved it though.

So, back in the hotel room, going to be catching up on things and studying the rest of the night... yeah.

Washington DC - Day 2

Today was overwhelming in so many aspects. It was pretty fricking cool though! I slept in until about 9:15 and then finally got up and moving. Showered, had a quick breakfast and then drove to where my class is being held in order to ensure I could find it. No problem. I made a beeline for the local MetroRail stop and found free parking again (it's not a coincidence, google verified it is free. Duh!).


So, I jumped on the train, and headed to the Smithsonian stop. Much less eventful ride today, that's for sure. My first stop was the Air and Space museum. Holy cow! This place rocks. There are so many amazing sights in this building! The Spirit of Saint Louis, the original Wright Flyer, Apollo modules, satellites, space suits, planes from all the wars that the US has been involved in since 1918, etc, etc, etc. I spent about 4 hours in here and saw all of the exhibits, lots of it I'm not even 100% sure what I saw. My favorite halls were the Early Days of Flight (lots of cool models of early balloons), the WWI exhibit, and the Golden Age of Flight. The Hughes H1 Racer was probably my favorite plane in the building, but I really liked all of the 1930s era flyers. I love big, low slung wing planes with massive rotaries out front. These are amazing! I also flew in the flight simulator with some random stranger as my gunner, it was pretty fun. We rolled a few times, the kid said he was okay with them, but not excited about doing rolls, but by the end he was telling me to keep rolling. That was funny.




After seeing much of this museum, buying a T-Shirt, and getting excited about going to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles airport this weekend, I hit up the street vendors. I bought my friends some DC swag, got Karen's gifts, and wolfed down a polish sausage. Pretty decent. I walked over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This place was simply very hard to process. I mostly focused on the fossil and mineral exhibits. It is so hard to even take in the number of fossils and mineral specimens in this building. I wandered through the fossil area and found the fossil prep lab. I spoke with one of the volunteers for several minutes about prep-work, collecting locales, and general geology; it was nice. I then went upstairs and started wandering the mineral hall. WOW! Tons of awesome specimens, huge slabs of minerals worth gobs of money, just plain mindblowing. I sort of regretted going up there, it made me want to start collecting (both buying and personally collecting) and that's not good. I don't need ANOTHER hobby. It was really cool though. I blew through the gemstone hall (oddly enough, it was packed with females) and made my way to the Hope Diamond... It was neat, I guess. Just a big blue diamond. Glad I saw it though.




After wrapping up in this museum and hitting up the gift shop, I made my way back to the hotel to relax for a bit, and decide what to do for dinner. At the last moment, I decided to go to Maryland, if for nothing else but to say I had been there. I ended up driving to Bethesda and tracked down a French restaurant. It was closed, and I passed a number of cool looking restaurants before I ended up back immediately next door to the French place. I ate at Lilit Cafe (; after walking in, I wasn't sure if I made the right choice.... fortunately, I did! I had crab cakes, man, meals like this made me wish I lived by the ocean. GREAT! For desert, I got a pint of hazelnut gelato to go. It was still very firm when I got back to the hotel, but I could only eat like half of the gelato. It was very tasty, very similar to real Italian gelato, and honestly, I would be hard pressed to choose the Italian gelato.

Shot back to the hotel and watched some TV before crashing out.

More pictures here:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Washington DC - Day 1

So, I was supposed to leave for DC on a 5:50am flight on Saturday morning. I checked the status of the flight before I left the house at the ridiculous time of 3:45am. As I rolled into Nashville at about 4:30am, I got a phone call letting me know my flight was cancelled. LAME! So, I went to work, changed my pickup time for the car rental, and then actually did some work for a few hours. I took a 20 minute nap, and headed to the airport for my rescheduled (and significantly longer due to a layover in Chicago) flight at 8:55am. Apparently, low cloud cover all over the eastern half of the US was leading to delays on a large chunk of flights. As I waited for my late flight to Chicago, the gate next to mine departed directly for DC. It wasn't even booked completely. Thanks American Airlines... That's LAME! So, my flight to Chicago was 30 minutes late, and then the flight out of O'Hare was also late. I arrived in DC at 3:30 and finally got into my rental car at about 4:30. I made a beeline to the south end of the Yellow Line of the MetroRail system. I parked the car (for free, apparently most/all of the outlying parking lots are free on weekends. The Train ride to downtown DC was.... Interesting. A homeless guy called my a lying MFer after I said I had nothing to give him. A young group of African Muslim guys were all shaking hangs (one of them looked like Weezy... high and everything) and the very tall guy he was with started saying "Alhamdulillah" (Praise to Allah) when the train arrived at the capital stop where many were getting off of the train. He also said "F white people, F You" several times. Pretty crazy!


I got off of the train at the Capital South stop, and headed toward the Capital Building. Unfortunately, by the time I was there, many of the tourist areas were closing. I had an 11:20am tour of the capital, but obviously had missed that. Since many/most of the things I was interested in were closing, I decided to walk the mall and check everything out. I checked out the Capital, Supreme Court, and started to walk the Mall. What an amazing place! I walked by all of the Smithsonian museums, as well as the area that George Washington University was holding commencement ceremonies all weekend. I was great to see everyone walking around in there gowns and mortarboards. After walking the mall, I made my way to the various memorials on the western end of the mall. The first is the towering Washington Memorial. I've been to the similar Jefferson Davis memorial in Kentucky, but this thing is MASSIVE! Very, very impressive! I next came upon the fairly new World War II memorial. This was a neat memorial. It recognized the efforts of each state and territory that contributed to the war effort. The wall of stars also puts into perspective of the number of deaths from the war. Each star is equal to more than 100 deaths. Very impactful. After seeing this memorial, I headed for the Korean War memorial. This memorial was the most emotional to me. The memorial is a reflective wall that has been etched with faces and scenes from the war, plane missions, Korean villagers, and soldiers in there free time. Parallel to the wall is a statue group (platoon?) of soldiers in rain gear. The ground is planted to resemble what I believe is supposed to be swampy ground. The soldiers are wearing ponchos and their faces all heavy weary, tired expressions on them. It was very sobering, I can't quite explain why.



After seeing this memorial, I passed the Lincoln memorial. I didn't get very close, but took some pictures from the base. There were a ton of people at this memorial, loads more than at the Washington memorial. Apparently this is the last stop for many of the guided tours and there were a ton of buses here as I went by. After seeing Lincoln, I made my way to the Vietnam War Memorial. This is the extremely well known wall that lists all of the dead and MIA from Vietnam. There was a large group of people going through this memorial, so it was hard to stop and appreciate it. seeing the letters and pictures (and beer) left for the dead was touching.



I headed back east for a few blocks, and then made my way north toward the White House. WAY COOL! Nearly every block holds something really cool, so just walking around revealed tons of huge buildings that I had no idea I would see (Treasury Building, IRS, EPA). It was starting to get dark, and it looked like it might rain. I had walked a bit more than 5 miles already, and I hadn't eaten much all day, just a crappy chicken biscuit at 4:00am and a half back of trail mix throughout the day. I jumped back on the Metro train and went back to the car. I headed back North and ended up passing Afghan Restaurant in Alexandria. There appears to be a quite sizable Afghan population in DC, and this place has the most generic name. I had not looked into the reviews before going, but there was a hugely reprinted newspaper review from 1994 on the wall. The critic raved about the nan bread, and the prices, but said much that the made was better from other restaurants but that the fact that it was so cheap made up for it. Prices have obviously gone up since 1994, but I really enjoyed my meal. I had Chicken Kubideh which I believe is ground chicken mixed with potatoes, vegetables and spices and then is grilled. It was served with a chopped tomato salad, a HUGE piece of whole wheat nan and an oddly spiced rice blend that I really liked. Everything was extremely tasty, but the kabob was amazing. Darkened in spots, crispy too, and tender were not charred. Wonderful! The kitchen was only taking to go orders and while I was waiting on my food all of the serving staff was changing into dresses. The banquet hall apparently hosts Afghan dancing on Saturday nights. A DJ quickly began placing music, and within a few minutes you could hear a bunch of people clapping and hollering, obviously having a bunch of fun. Check them out at


I stopped and grabbed a cherry coke and a huge bottle of water and then returned to the hotel. It had begun raining just before I got to the restaurant, and it was absolutely pouring on the way to the hotel. The weather coupled with the road construction (everywhere in DC and Northern Virginia, from what I've seen) made for an exciting trip to Vienna. By the time I got to Vienna, my mouth was watering immensely due to the smell of the food. I checked into my hotel ( and heading straight up to eat. I unloaded the rental car (A Kia Soul, DIG IT!), called Karen, and then chilled out. I didn't go to sleep until about midnight, but slept extremely well.

See more pictures here: