Monday, September 9, 2013

What'd you do this summer?

I've not done any long rides this summer, and honestly, I've not even ridden as much as I would have liked to, but when I did ride, I had fun. Highlights from this summer:

1. Overnighter with Happy around Tennessee. We meandered around and ended up in Manchester, the day after Bonnarroo ended. Suprisingly, we found Old Stone Fort state park open and available. It rained... a lot that night. Just after dinner, rolling back to the campground, a deer jumped out of a ditch and smashed into the side of me at ~40mph. serious.

2. LBL200! I've been talking about doing this for a few years now, and this year I did it. I had some great riding buddies (Wallachian Spikes and BigWrench), all of us on KLRs. I learned a lot, broke my bike, got beat up, and had a blast. I can't wait to do it again, but hopefully on a smaller bike next time!

Hopefully, a nice fall trip will come together!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

NYC - Day 7

Really, not much to say here.... we did nearly nothing today, and all went smoothly. We returned to Foodswings for lunch. I had the chik'n bacon ranch sandwich and disco fries (YES!) and Karen had 1 piece of southern-style fried chik'n, mac n' cheese, and mashed potatoes. All was great!

We made it to the airport about an hour before our flight boarded, and were glad to get home, even thought it was raining when we got to Nashville. The dogs and cats were super glad to see us, and we got to spend some time with my parents for dinner, which was really nice.

Basically, that's it! All-in-all, it was a great trip, but we were ready to be home.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NYC - Day 6

The picture heavy edition!

We actually set an alarm clock this morning, the first time since we got here. I actually woke up about 45 minutes before it was to go off, so I checked email and stuff, and jumped into the shower. When I got out, I woke Karen up. We got ready, and took off for the day.

We stopped by Ms. Dahlia's again for breakfast, and I had to get the biscuit again. It's so tasty. Karen had another bagel and liked it as well. The cream cheese was really thick again, but not as much as our previous one. We were headed to Central Park, so we jumped on the A train, and blew right past the 72nd Street stop. Uh-oh, I thought the A stopped there, but we had to get off at 125th Street, and get onto the local C in order to get to our stop.

A few minutes later, we popped out right next the Central Park and The Dakota. The Dakota is the building that John Lennon lived in, and he was shot and killed right in front of it. The portion of the park in front of The Dakota was renamed to Strawberry Fields and there is a large "Imagine" tribute to John in Strawberry Fields.

We continued walking around the park, looking at the rocks and one of the lakes, and strolling through The Mall. We stopped briefly and looked through some prints for sale, and I saw a cool silk-screen of the Brooklyn Bridge for sale. Karen and I have a tradition of getting locally produced art when we travel, so we purchased it. It will look good in our house.

We continued NorthEast, watching the squirrels and kids playing. Most of the squirrels were grey, and occasionally one would be more brown. We saw two weird ones though. One was so blond looking that we thought it might be albino at first. A little while later we saw a dark black one. CRAZY!

We eventually found ourselves on the East side of the park at 5th and 70th. We stopped to see what restaurants might be around, and I realized that we were fairly close to Candle 79. I had hoped to eat here, but wasn't pressing it much and had sort of written off getting to it. I was delighted to see we could go now. I felt a little under-dressed, especially once we got there, but I was very excited to eat there. Karen ordered the grilled kale salad. It was very refreshing and extremely tasty. I think she was a little disappointed with it initially, but later said it was very filling and it was nice to eat a veggie dominant meal. I ordered the seitan picatta and was simply blown away. It was so tasty, and made up of the most amazing seitan I've ever had. The texture was amazing, it cooked up differently than I've ever seen, and absorbed so much yumminess from the sauce and capers. IN-CRED-IBLE. I could eat this every day.

We wrapped up lunch with a perfectly sized and richly delicious Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss. We joked around with out waiter for a while, a weirdly hilarious guy that I can't describe more than that. I liked him a lot.

After lunch, we walked toward the subway, and eventually made it over to Times Square again. We walked away from Times Square as quickly as possible, heading toward the West side piers for our 4:00 cruise. We got to the pier at 2:15pm, but didn't really need to be there until 3:15. We had to exchange vouchers for tickets, and I asked if we could upgrade to the full-circle tour that goes completely around Manhattan. It was $4 more each, and was an hour longer, but left an hour earlier, so it worked out really well. The cruise was great, in my opinion, and freaked Karen out at first. We got to see so much from the boat, including a relatively up-close look at the Statue of Liberty, all of the bridges, and eventually the little red-lighthouse. I had a blast!

We saw so much cool stuff that I'm sure I've already forgotten what much of it was. One of the neat things, to me, was how much of the far Northern part of the island was forested. Not super-heavily, but still very surprising to me.

As we pulled in to the pier, we passed the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum. The museum is an air craft carrier, holding a number of aircraft on it's deck. Out front is the test Space Shuttle Enterprise. I saw this in Washington D.C. 2 summer's ago at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, where it used to reside until it was replaced with one of the recently retired full-on Space Shuttles. Pretty neat to think that I saw it in two different cities.

We jumped off board, and walked back toward Times Square to catch the train back to the apartment. We needed to clean up, see the guy we rented from in order to get our deposit back, and get some rest before heading out for dinner.

After chilling out for a bit, we were both getting quite hungry, so we set off for Foodswings. After a slight detour (wrong stop) we easily food the place in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Seems like a really cool place, but we were here for the food. The chica working the counter was really cool straight off, and quickly got us set up. We ordered punk fries (they were out of gravy for disco fries, their version of poutine :-<), chipotle fries, the Zapata burger (chili cheese burger), bbq chicken legs, and mac and cheese..... observations: 1. The fries were fantastic. Nothing fancy, but the cheese on both was crazy good. 2. The burger was quite possibly the best burger I've ever had. great. 3. Karen's chicken legs was awesome. Basically shaped and breaded fried seitan. Holly's is just as good, but these were good and had "bones" in them (wooden sticks) 4. Karen and I both thought that the mac and cheese might have been the best we've ever had, vegan or not. If this place was easily accessible on a regular basis, I'd weigh like 4200 pounds. INCREDIBLY tasty junk food. Amazing. See all of my pictures from today HERE.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NYC - Day 5

The Less-Painful Foot Edition!

This morning we were in no rush at all, and apparently really tired. I woke up at 5, but went back to sleep around 6:30, and then we both slept until 10! After getting ready, we stopped at Le Paris Dakar bakery in the neighborhood. It's a crepes and French bakery, a French bakery run by a Senegalese woman. Karen had a chocolate croissant, and I had an apple turnover. Both were very tasty and extremely flaky. VERY good. Karen had a coffee and enjoyed it. I had a pineapple-ginger juice. It was really heavy on the ginger and burned the crap out of the back of my throat on the first sip. Unfortunately, the second sip didn't get any better.

We wrapped up, stopped at a bodega and grabbed some water to rinse the ginger out of my mouth, and headed toward the Theatre District. Our show was at 2:00pm, so we located the theatre which already had a small line nearly two hours before show time, and then we walked around checking out the rest of the Theatre District and Hell's Kitchen.

We spied a really good looking burger place, and made a note to come back.

After killing a bit of time, we made our way to the Al Hirschfield Theatre. I won't go into much about the show, other than to say we both absolutely loved Kinky Boots. It was HILARIOUS, touching, and just an all-around great show. Harvey Fierstein, Cindy Lauper, and Jerry Mitchell did an incredible show and I'm very glad that we got to see this show (Thanks for the tip-off Deb)!

After we got out of the theatre, we made our way toward Times Square to see about getting some food. We popped out right into the midst of things, and were surprised by how small it seemed. Camera angles are apparently everthing. Or maybe not, as we later learned. We were walking around when we recalled the burgers place, so we made our way back West to 5 Napkin Burger in Hell's Kitchen.

Karen had the classic and sweet potato fries and was very pleased with both. She said she was having a "Marshall moment" and had found her red door with a green burger sign (if you've seen it, you'll get it). I had the veggie and regular fries. I love thick cut fries, so I was a little surprised by how much I loved the shoestring fries. GREAT! The burger itself was not exactly that great, in my opinion. The patty itself was amazing textured and firm. It contained beets, however, and the flavor was fairly dominant. I'm not a beet fan. It also came with bread and butter pickles (they don't serve dills at all! thank toby I asked for them on the side), and a sauce that I didn't think was that great. I ate much of the burger, and later my stomach was upset.

Karen got a slice of cheesecake, and while I wasn't planning on having any of it, it was a massive piece. It was the lightest, smoothest, fluffiest cheesecake we've ever seen. If this is what New York Style Cheesecake is supposed to be like, NO ONE in the south has ever come close in my experience.

We pointed ourselves back toward Rockefeller Center to use our Top of the Rock passes. We stood in a few long lines to exchange our vouchers for actual tickets for 8:40pm, and then had a little over two hours to kill. We found ourselves walking around the area, popping into the big Sephora, H&M, Sak's (GOOD NIGHT! expensive!) and one or two other places for a while. Eventually, it was our turn to go to the top.

It was cool and windy up top, but totally worth all of the waiting to see the awesome view. not much to say here, the pictures hopefully convey the idea.

After our Top of the Rock viewing, we made our way back to Times Square. What a difference! At night, when it's all light up, it is a much different, and much larger place. Very cool, and I'm really glad we came back after dark. I grabbed some veggie empanadas from gourmet food truck, Nuchas, and scarfed them down. They were just closing as I got them, and literally got all three of the veggie ones that they had left. I expected to like the shiitake curry more than the portobello, but I was mistaken. They were all good, but the portobello was my favorite.

We looked around for a little longer, and finally jumped on the subway. We got back to Brooklyn at about 11.

Tomorrow we are planning on hitting up part of Central Park, and then we have a Harbor Cruise around Manhattan. Tomorrow night, we WILL be eating at foodswings in Brooklyn. I CANNOT WAIT!

HERE ARE the rest of my pictures from today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NYC - Day 4

The Limited Pictures Edition!

I took four pictures today.... woah.

Today was relatively relaxed compared to yesterday. We slept in really late this morning. I took a shower and finally woke Karen up a little before 11. She was zonked out pretty good still and feeling really run-down after yesterdays adventure, and said I should head out on my own. I had been looking into good NYC bagels, and one was relatively close to us in Brooklyn. I decided to go grab some bagels for us both.

Along the way to the Bagel Hole, the G train exits underground, and as it did, I spied the Statue of Liberty briefly. I have only seen her from the air before, and this was far closer. It was pretty exciting, and I can't wait to get a closer look. Unfortunately, it and Liberty Island are currently closed due to flooding damage.

I popped into the Bagel Hole (a real hole in the wall, in the good way) and grabbed two everything bagels with scallion spreads. They put a massive amount of cream cheese on the bagels, but they were very tasty. High quality cream cheese, fresh spicy scallions and perfect bagels with a great blend of crisp and chewy. YUM!

After eating and waking up, Karen said she felt like going out, so she showered, and we decided to hit the MoMA. MoMA was surprisingly not as overwhelming as I expected it to be. It's big, but the displays are spaced out generously. We made out way through the top two floors, seeing some really impressive art, including Starry Night by Van Gogh and The Scream by Edvard Munch. There was a room of a number of Munch's pieces, and his work was hands down my favorites in the museum. His work was really dark, even when I don't think he intended it to be. Karen and I both liked his wood prints, but I think I most likely his lithograph self portrait with his arm portrayed as a skeleton arm.

The lower we went in the museum, the less interested we were in the art, and the crazier shit got. There is some truly crazy "art" on the lower levels. We were both getting pretty worn out by this point, but trudged through the different galleries, except the photography ones, and I did enjoy the architecture section, particularly the planned out communities. There was one print of a planned community on a floating platform in the ocean; was particularly communist propaganda looking, and very neat overall.

Eventually, we made our way out of the MoMA and I had spied a Thai restaurant while still in the building. We popped out on 54th street, practically directly across from New York Thai Grill-Sushi Bar. Sounds like a weird name for a good restaurant, but I was very happy with our food. I had a veggie (non-fish sauce!) pad thai, and it was quite possibly the best I've ever had, veggie or not. We also had steamed vegetable dumplings that were great! Karen had some chicken fried rice dish and she said it was really good.

It was about this time that Karen finally admitted that she (again) made a mistake in not bringing real shoes on this trip. Her feet were absolutely killing her, which was not surprising after wearing All-Star style shoes that were went to not be worn with shoelaces for 4 days. She finally wanted to go grab some tennis shoes, and since we knew that there was a KMart at Penn Station, we decided to head there. Karen bought some new shoes, and we decided to come home and regroup. We got home at 7, and at about 8, I went out and grabbed a cheese pizza for us. It's pretty crazy, a half-way decent cheese pizza is like $8 right around the corner. Sure, I've had better, but not for $8!

Just relaxing here tonight. Tomorrow afternoon we've got tickets to see Kinky Boots and a cruise later that evening. I think we will hit up Times Square (FINALLY!) afterward, and hopefully make it over to foodswings finally. Can't wait to get some vegan poutine.

See all four (4!!!!) of my pictures from today HERE.

Monday, March 25, 2013

NYC - Day 3

What a long and wonderful day!

Knowing that we were going to be out late tonight due to the concert, I let Karen sleep late, and I relaxed for a couple of hours after I woke up. We got up around 10, and slowly made out way over to the East Village a little before noon, popping into Caravan of Dreams for brunch.

Caravan of Dreams is an organic vegan restaurant that has been around for a long time (especially when compared to other veg restaurants) and it's easy to see why. We got great service, the place has a wonderful atmosphere and the food is incredibly tasty. Karen order the country breakfast platter that came with fruit on top of pancakes and some great tempeh, and I had the polenta platter that was served with kale, cauliflower, cabbage, raw tomato and black bean soup. The soup was great, but the polenta was the best I've ever had. The vegetables were all cooked perfectly, and I think must have been cooked individually in order to achieve that. SO GOOD!

After wrapping up breakfast, we strolled north on 1st Avenue, admiring the little fruit markets and various stores, popping into The Bean to get Karen a coffee and me a hot chocolate and vegan chocolate chip cookie. The cookie was great and it lasted me all day. We continued through the East Village, making a note that we may want to come back and see more later. Seems like a very cool area.

We jumped on the L-Train to Union Square (and later realized we probably should have just walked there). After a quick glance around Union Square, we pointed south for a block and popped into Strand Book Store for a look around. Nothing particularly notable, just a nice big used bookstore. I'm sure some people would find it more notable, but after Karen worked at Half-Price Books for a few years, it's hard to get excited about used book stores unless something remarkable jumps out. Still cool to hang around in them though. Karen bought a book and a tote bag for us to cram jackets into.

When we left the apartment, it was lightly snowing, and it continued to on and off throughout the day, but by now, it had warmed up and was raining occasionally. We had both gotten quite warm, and shed a layer each.

After completing our purchases at Strand, we quickly popped into Forbidden Planet for a look around. It's a comic book/graphic novel/nerd accessory store. For some reason, I thought it was a chain, I think I was thinking of Great Escape which is either a chain, or has a couple of locations in Nashville. Apparently, it's a one-off store that does a bunch of online shipping. Anyway, nothing really jumped out at me, and I wasn't really looking to buy anything (I'm not into many comics), so we took off.

A quick jump back into the subway station, this time onto the 6 train. We shot up to Grand Central, and popped out into the Chrysler building. The Chrysler is really amazing, an icon of New York, and I really wanted to get a picture of it. I didn't realize we would actually end up underneath it, and when we did, I soon realized how tricky it was going to be to get a picture from the ground level immediately outside of the building. It was really cool to see all of the black marble on the inside of the building, but I had to reserve my picture taking for a later time, after we got further away from it.

Our immediate destination was actually Grand Central Terminal, and we eventually found an entrance to it. The spot we entered was actually through the Grand Central Terminal Market, which oddly reminded me a LOT of Harrod's in London. It was a bunch of little specialty gourmet shops smooshed in side-by-side. There was fruits, cheeses, veggies, breads, meats, fish, chocolates, desserts and more. A wonderful zone of great smells and sites. I love places like that.

We eventually made it out into the center of the terminal, and man is it huge! You've probably seen Grand Central in movies before (I always think of the opening scene of K-PAX), and it is just as impressive in real life, if not more so. It's beautiful with all of it's marble and lights that look like Fabergé eggs. We snapped some pictures, attempted to avoid all of the people "test-driving" iPads at the biggest and most inconveniently placed Apple Store I've ever seen, and just admired the view for about 30 minutes.

After getting our fill of the main concourse, we set off again, stumbling through a weird art installation of big straw horses with South American looking costumes on them. It was by Nick Cave, but apparently not "that" Nick Cave. Whatever that means. Very cool looking, but not quite sure what was happening.

After consulting a map, I decided we should head toward Rockefeller center. We made it about 2 blocks, when Karen spied the NY Public Library building. She really wanted to see that before we left, so we popped across to it and went inside. It's an enormous building, shaped much like the British Museum on the outside. Inside is 4 levels of collections, reading rooms, art galleries and giant staircases. We didn't see very many books at all, with the exception of 1 or 2 rooms, so we decided that this must be a public display building and not an actual library anymore. We spent about an hour wandering around, looking at prints, and checking out the map room that boasts over half a million maps. It was really impressive.

It was getting close to 3 o'clock and we both decided it'd be nice to sit down for a bit, and try to warm up some and get dry. We continued on toward Rockefeller, keeping our eyes peeled for a cafe or something that would look nice to sit in for a bit. Karen eventually pulled me toward P.J. Moran's, an Irish pub. Nothing remarkable here, but nice and dry. I had potato and leek soup that was a perfect portion as I wasn't very hungry, and warm, but I think it must have been inspired by the great potato famine as it had the tiniest slivers of leek and little bitty chunks of potato. Karen had a corned beef sandwich and said it was okay.

We headed back out, stopped in at Aldo for Karen to look at shoes, and then quickly ducked into this giant American Girl store so that Karen could get pictures for her mom who is obsessed with American Girl stuff.

We eventually did make it over to Rockefeller Plaza. It was pretty weird and funny. Cameras are great at playing trick on people. On TV, Rockefeller Plaza looks ENORMOUS. In real life, it's decently sized, but hard to understand how they get the shots that they do on TV. The Rock is shorter and smaller looking in person, and the courtyard area out front with the flags and ice rink is also much smaller looking. It's really cool looking, just smaller than I thought it would be. We got pictures of the building, ice rink, statues, and cool old neon signs for the Rainbow Room and Radio City before heading into Nintendo World for a glance around.

After killing 10-15 minutes looking at demos and clothing at Nintendo World, we looped the block and found Magnolia Bakery (credited with starting the cupcake craze of recent years). Karen got a pistachio cupcake and we walked across the street to Variety Cafe to grab drinks and spot to sit for a bit. I sampled Karen's cupcake, and it was really damned good. The cake was moist and tasty, and the frosting was super light and really creamy. I don't normally like frosting very much, but this stuff seemed to be like 70% air, and it was so tasty. I finished my cookie here, and we talked about all of the things we had seen today before finally getting up and heading toward Madison Square Garden to see Sigur Ros.

We got to MSG a few minutes before 7, when the doors opened. Stopped by the merch table and bought a shirt, and then stood in line to get into the arena. After a few minutes, the doors opened, and we made our way to our seats. I don't think many reading this will be familiar with Sigur Ros, so I spare details, but the show started an hour after the posted time. Due to the late start, it took me a couple of songs to really get into the feel of things, but once I did, it was incredible. They played all of my favorite songs, and ended with an incredible climatic rendition of Glósóli. It was mind-blowing.

We quickly made our way out of the building with the throngs of people. It was quite remarkable how quickly the place emptied out and a testament to the design of the building. Once out on the street, we decided to look for some food. We found a halal truck and I got a falafel and Karen a mixed gyro. Mine was really tasty and nice and spicy. Karen liked hers a lot also. Hit the spot. We jumped on the A train, and headed home. We got home at around 12:30, but for some reason, neither of us feel asleep until about 2. It's now 10:15 and Karen is still asleep as I type this up.

I THINK today is going to be our MoMA day, and we may swing by Central Park as we decided to skip it yesterday. Who knows???? We'll see where we end up.

Click here to see all of my pictures from today.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

NYC - Day 2

What a great start to New York!

The first day is always a warm-up day, and we saw a lot of really great things.

I woke up early this morning, but Karen has had a cold for a few days, so I let her sleep until almost 9:00am. When I did wake her up and we got ready to leave, we made our way of to ms. Dahlia's for breakfast. It's a southern-style cafe with a New York flair. I wasn't sure if they would have many vegetarian options, but I was wrong. I ended up getting a bsicuit and scrambled eggs with gouda. Not normally the sort of thing I go for (I don't trust other peoples eggs, and I don't eat them that often), but it was VERY good. A wonderful, big biscuit, just enough cheese, and perfect eggs. Karen had an almond croissant that was very good.

We jumped on the A-Train and headed toward World Trade Center. The stop we needed to cross-over to the C-Train was being worked on, and I didn't realize it until we were 3 or 4 stops past it. Whoops! Fortunately, the C runs in tandem for quite a few stops, so a quick cut-over has us going the right way again..... Oh yeah, figured out why we weren't able to buy an unlimited subway card yesterday. The cards we initially bought were AirTrain cards, which can be used on subways, but not for unlimited fares. Bought need cards, and all is well.

As we stepped out at the WTC stop, the very first thing we saw was the new One World Trade Center building that is nearing completion. It is a very incredible looking building, to me at least. Karen didn't seem to be as struck by it as I was. I was simply blown away by it. It's a very remarkable building and just looks darn cool.

After quickly getting our bearings and taking a look around, we realized we were immediately next to the massive construction site. It immediately felt weird to me. It had an air about it, clear something very awful had happened here. It may simply have been the realization of where we were. Karen later said that she was more impacted by all of the construction that was going on, even more so than by the memorials, and I think she is right.

We walked around looking for a way to get into the memorial area, getting stuck on sidewalks closed by construction, wandering around climbing up onto a pedestrian bridge and then ended up right were we started. Karen asked for help at in information kiosk, and we headed over to get tickets. The line to get tickets was long, but moving pretty quickly. It was weird to see the women handing out tickets tell the lady in front of us that it was recommended that she give a $5 donation, three times, before finally giving her a ticket. I don't think that the recommended donation is at all ridiculous, but it doesn't feel like a donation when people are being pushed to give one.

We walked the 4-5 blocks down to the entrance of the memorial, and then made our way through the fairly long (but again, relatively quick moving) line, through the security area, and into the memorial. It's quite an experience. I didn't know if I really wanted to go to the memorial, and in some ways I still felt like it was an exploitation of a horrible event, but I am glad we did go. The actual memorial felt right. It was not politically motivated or had an agenda, it was a somber remembrance of the lives of those that perished in the collapse of the towers, on the planes and at the Pentagon. It was very appropriate and constructed perfectly.

We started walking North again, to check out Little Italy and Chinatown. What an experience! Lots of cool little Chinese shops everywhere; dried sea cucumbers, seahorses, deer tails, cheap viagra, fresh fish (for aquariums) and tons of other weird stuff.... sure, not things I would buy, but still neat to see. We also saw a handful of Italian cheese shops, but mostly Italian restaurants defined Little Italy. Chinatown has grown and taken over a lot of Little Italy, but it was still great to hear people speaking in Italian and dressed like gangsters from the 1970s... okay, that was just one guy.

We ducked into an Italian restaurant, Lunella, for a simply but authentic lunch. Nothing terribly remarkable, simply pasta, but damn tasty! Afterward, Karen and I quickly popped into Caffe Roma for a canolli and some strawberry gelato. It was the best gelato I've had since Italy! Well, except for the ones I've made! They are always too sweet in the US, but these were perfect today!

We wandered a round, took some pictures, and decided to come back to the room to relax before going out later in the day.

We got back to the room, relaxed, took brief naps, and did a little bit of research into where we wanted to eat dinner. After debating between foodswings (can't wait!) and Do or Dine, we settled on Do or Dine. Do or Dine doesn't have a web presence beyond facebook, and while they list vegan/veg as an available food, I wasn't sure what they might have. Was I in for a surprise! They only currently had one vegan option on the menu, but it was DAMN good. It was a garbanzo chimichanga with onion, tomatoes and spinach. It was topped with blackberries and a thin blackberry sauce. MAN OH MAN, it was GREAT. Not your everyday chimi, and I loved every bit of it. Karen had a flank steak that was served with avocado and sweet potatoes. I was hoping to try her veggies, but the steak was mixed up with all of it, so I didn't. It looked really good though.

We initially planned to head toward Times Square as we didn't really have anything else planned, but Karen wasn't feeling super great and had gotten pretty stuffy again. We stopped and got some cold medicine and ended up watching Glenn propose to Maggie on The Walking Dead.

Click Here for my album of pictures from today.

Tomorrow is relatively open still. We've got out eyes on a couple of restaurants, and tomorrow night is Sigur Ros! Can't wait!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NYC - Day 1


Rather uneventful day that, overall, went pretty smoothly. We got up early, got packed, and had a leisurely breakfast @ G's Pancake House. We got on the road and we at the Airport by 1:00pm for our 3:00 flight. TSA security lines were the longest I've ever seen in Nashville, maybe the longest at any airport. It took a good while to make it through security, but no issues. Grabbed an afternoon snack at the La Hacienda; had some veggie nachos. Pretty decent if spendy.

Our flight was a little late leaving Nashville, but still got to JFK on time and without any notable events. It was quiet and quick.

When we got to JFK, we made our way to Baggage Claim and had our bag within 5 minutes. Stepped out side, crossed a street and was on the AirTrain within a few more minutes. Almost too easy.

The ride from the AirTrain to Howard Beach was also quick and easy, but when we got to Howard Beach we ran into the only problem we've had thus far. I knew that we had to pay $5 for the AirTrain ride, and that the week-long unlimited subway passes are about $30. I got us new MetroPass cards with enough credits to pay to exit the AirTrain area, but I could not figure out how to pay for the unlimited subway pass afterward. Someone working at the exit told us which machine to go use to get the unlimited pass, but it didn't have the option. We ended up just getting $10 on our cards to get to Brooklyn. We'll deal with the passes tomorrow.

We ran down to catch the subway. As we were standing waiting on the train, I could hear this woman making her way down the stairs loudly talking on her phone. Before she rounded the corner, I could hear her yelling that she was "going to go down there and beat his ass. He's hitting my niece! I don't even give a fuck!" It was pretty crazy... Welcome to New York!

I knew that the A-Train ended somewhere near the stop we were on, and I was pretty sure our boarding place was the last stop. When the train pulled up, though, it seemed like it was going the wrong way. I got very confused. Things got a little heated as we thought we might miss the train and I told Karen I didn't think it was the right train. I asked a passing women, and she insured us it was going toward Manhattan. Jumped on, and promptly waited like 8 minutes for it to start moving. haha!

We got to our stop in Bed-Stuy and hopped off the train. Emerging from underground was a great experience. I always love climbing from beneath the earth into a strange new place. This was a great assualt on the senses. It was loud, bright and had a smell of a big city. We popped out, and I immediately knew which way we needed to go, thanks to one-way streets. Our walk to the apartment was a nice exposure to the neighborhood. Lots of bodegas, pizza joints, Caribbean grocers, as well as a book store, wine cellar, bar, etc. Bed-Stuy is an Afro-Caribbean neighborhood that has gone through a revitalization in the last several years. It's traditionally a Jamaican and Senegalese neighborhood, and there is still a lot of this influence in the area, including a bunch of old dread-locked Rastafarian dudes walking around. Really, really cool vibe!

Our apartment is really great. It's in an old brownstone and has 12 foot ceilings, these wonderful hardwood floors and incredible wood shutters and cabinetry that looks like it is really old. After being shown the room by the owner, Ray(really friendly guy), we unloaded our stuff and decided to head out for some food.

We wandered around, but by now it was 9:00pm. We popped into a Jamaican Bakery/Restaurant, but it looked like it was closing. They had a cool looking menu with veggie and soy patties (empenadas, LOVE THEM!) but the cases were all empty. We decided to head across the street and grab some pizza instead. I had a veggie slice and a white pizza slice. Karen had cheese and buffalo chicken. Karen loved the buffalo chicken, and I was very impressed with the veggie pizza. It cost us $10 for four slices and 2 cokes. And everyone says food in NYC is expensive! Whatever! (I know that it's going to be different elsewhere, but still)

We popped into a grocery on the way home. It's pretty crazy how much stuff can be shoved into these little stores. We grabbed some snacks and water, and decided to head back to the apartment. Nothing terribly exciting today, but a long day none-the-less.

Tomorrow, we are planning on having brunch at the cool little cafe, Ms. Dahlias, around the corner, and then head in to Manhattan. I think we are going to hit up the Southern end of the island tomorrow, see the 9/11 Memorial, Brooklyn Bridge, Little China....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, another awesome year has passed, and while I don't think that I will reach a "I've traveled too much" point anytime soon, it has been a wonderful year of travel for me. 2013 has been set up to be even more of the same!

At my companies Fall Festival, Karen won a pair of roundtrip flight tickets to a number of places in North America, and we've decided to Fly to Vancouver in June and and visit the region. We are hoping to visit Seattle, go whale watching, and maybe visit Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula. We only have 1 week, and while we are likely to rent a car while we are there, we are both being very stringent on not simply driving everyday we are there.

For my birthday this year, Karen purchased me a round trip flight to Honduras in March. We both got very excited about this, paid for the flight, and then began the serious investigation of things I could do while there. There are some incredible Mayan ruins in the country, a good diving scene on Roatan Island, and even a motorcycle rental outfit. Unfortunately, a number of factors led to me cancelling my plans to visit.

First and foremost, the motorcycle rental company, the only one on the mainland, does not guarantee rentals outside of tour groups. I don't travel with a budget allowing me to spend $3500+ a week while travelling, and since my trip could be bumped by a paying group at any minute, it was a bit of gamble on that front. The company has a history of people showing up expecting a bike and not getting one.

I considered going down and simply flying to Roatan and taking diving lessons for a week and getting SCUBA certified. I'd love to do this some day, but I don't need yet another expensive hobby right now. There is also a scooter and motorcycle rental place on the island that has XT225s (an older version of my XT250) that looked promising, but there are only about 50 miles of roads on the island from what I could find. I'd run out of places to ride in a few hours! The expense and hassle of flying to Roatan, and a number of  other issues made this less appealing to me.

And finally, Honduras is a dangerous place right now. It took me a while to finally acknowledge the information on this out there, but when the Peace Corps pulls out of a country due to the number of crimes commited against Americans, that's a bad sign. Honduras was ranked as the highest per capita violent crimes in the world in 2010, and the murder capital of the world, by a very healthy margin. There has been a nearly 20% increase in homicides in the last 5 years alone.

So, with all of these facts on the table, I decided it was best that I not go to Honduras at this time. This bummed my out a bunch, but several ideas on alternatives quickly came and went as I weighed through my options. Other locales in Central America are currently quite a bit more expensive, bike rental is not quite in season in Colorado for my travel dates, and there are only so many places in the US I want to go by myself. SOOOOOO, I decided to change my trip to NYC, over Karen's spring break, and we will both be going! Woohoo! It's not going to be cheap, but we won't have to drive at all. Should be a lot of fun!