Kentucky

Louisville was our main destination in Kentucky, where we booked a two-night stay at the Galt House Hotel in the heart of the city. It was a nice 2-3 hour drive from Indianapolis, Indiana. We parked in the self-parking garage and walked up to the lobby area of the Suite Tower. It was packed with people! We had to wait about a half hour to check into the hotel because the lines were so long. The hotel staff had to create a separate check-in desk to meet the quota of people checking in. Michael and I had never encountered that at any previous hotels. We thought there must have been some sort of event going on in Louisville that weekend. As we were waiting in line, I took advantage of the tourist information section in the lobby, which included a map of the city with tourist highlights. We came across a few attractions we were interested in, and kept them in mind. There was also a neat bird cage located right in the lobby area that included a variety of finches. They were all so cute! So I ended up bird-watching for a few minutes while we waited in line.

 

After we checked in, we were told our room was located in the other tower, the Rivue Tower where the hotel has its own revolving tower restaurant located on the 25th floor overlooking the Ohio River and downtown Louisville. We decided to walk across the building using the connecting bridge on the 3rd floor. There was a very long line to get on an elevator up to our room, so we took the elevator down to the 1st floor to get back up the elevator. Our room was situated on the 10th floor with a beautiful view of the river as well! We were pleased with the room, as it had a nice feel to it. There were, of course, pictures of horses in the room, and also everywhere around the city, as the state has been known for its Kentucky Derby.

As soon as we got to the room, we dropped off our belongings, freshened up in the bathroom and called the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to see if they had any available slots for a tour. The lady on the phone simply told us to come on by, so we made our walk down 4th street (where the hotel is located) and made a right down the road. It was about a 10 minute walk, if that, and we arrived. Michael really wanted to check out a bourbon distillery while we were in the state of Kentucky due to the large presence of bourbon in the state. It just so happened that Evan Williams was the first distiller in the state! The tour included a multimedia experience on some of the history behind this particular family-owned company. And a walking tour of the bourbon-making process. There was a lot of information given to us by our tour guide about what makes bourbon bourbon as opposed to simply whiskey. In the U.S., in order for whiskey to be in the category of bourbon, it has to be at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels. The tour of the distillery lasted for about 40 minutes or so, and at the end of the tour we had the chance to see, smell, and taste some of the bourbon, which included three different kinds: Evan Williams Premium Black Label (their best-seller), Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, and finally their newest bourbon: Larceny. As soon as I got a whiff of that, I had enough, but I ended up tasting it a bit and realized that it might have been the first and last time I would try it. It has such an acquired taste to it, and for bourbon enthusiasts they must find it to be such a treat, but for an average low-tolerance traveler, I was not too fond of the taste-appeal of bourbon in general, although I did end up really enjoying the bourbon chocolates that were given to us after the bourbon tasting! I also really enjoyed taking lots of pictures on our tour. There was a small gift shop at the end of the tour, and they had different kinds of BBQ sauces, candles, and even soap that were in the shape of barrels. We were traveling in the heat so we did not feel it was in our best interest to purchase the chocolates as they needed to get refrigerated, and we just did not have enough room in our cooler for that. We did not purchase anything, but we sampled some different sauces.

 

After the tour, we decided to work out. We had selected this hotel because it has a fitness center. Michael decided to go for a run and I opted to explore the exercise room. I headed over to the other building where the fitness center was located on the 18th floor
come to find out the fitness center closes at 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It just happened to strike 7pm when I got up there, so I ended up calling Michael so we could go for a run around the city together. I was very happy I called him to go for a jog together because on our run along the Ohio River bike/run trail we encountered several homeless people as well a police car along the way. It was actually very hot and humid, but it was nice to go for a run that day after sitting in the car for our commute.

For dinner we relied on Yelp to find Doc Crow’s Restaurant, which features a raw bar and smokehouse style cuisine. We were very interested in getting that full Louisville experience, especially when it came to food. It took about 10-15 minutes for us to be seated, and I got the Heap n’ Chips appetizer as my meal and Michael selected the Smokehouse Sampler. I absolutely loved my chips as they were very seasoned kettle cooked chips with a variety of toppings: pickled jalapeños, sour cream, cheese sauce, melted cheddar cheese, and a choice of pulled pork or beef brisket (we selected pulled pork). Michael’s supper included the beef brisket, pulled pork, Texas toast (which was like regular white toast), and a choice of a chicken or half a rack of ribs (we selected the ribs). We pretty much shared our meals and were quite successful in devouring the majority of the items on our plates. Michael found the food, particularly the ribs, to be of a higher heat index than his palate could handle, and he drank about five to six glasses of water throughout the evening. I was very fond of the food and the intensity of flavor!

We were very satisfied after our meals and decided to skip dessert. This was a great decision because, little did we know, as soon as we finished our meals and walked out of the restaurant, it was pouring outside: yes, thunder and lightning style! We were pretty surprised as the weather reports only indicted about a 40% chance of rain that evening. We did recall, however, it was extremely humid and hot outside on our walk down to the restaurant that night. We stepped outside the restaurant, and the rain was hitting us in all directions. So we decided to go into Los Aztecas to get a drink and wait for the rain to simmer down a bit before we made our trek back to the hotel.

Before we entered the restaurant, one of the servers saw us waiting outside and overheard my conversation to Michael about trying to locate a store nearby to purchase an umbrella. To our wonderful surprise, he walked inside then back outside to give us a spare umbrella he had. It was so nice of him! We still made the decision to sit down for some drinks. I had a strawberry piña colada, and Michael had a Blue Moon. We began watching TV, but since there was a big storm outside, there was no signal because they had satellite television (main reason why we would probably never get it in the future). About 20 minutes later, the signal became stronger and we conversed about an ongoing rugby match. Good times. Soon enough, the rain dissipated a bit, and we walked back to our hotel. The people at the hotel and in the city are always looking to enjoy life and have a good time!

It was Sunday, July 27th the next morning, and we had plans to check out the Visitor’s Center on 4th street. It was 11:45am, and we realized the center opens at 12pm on Sundays. So we explored the area a bit and went to A Taste of Kentucky, a small little souvenir shop across the street from the Convention Center. I love window shopping, and also looking at different state-specific trinkets and items, so we ended up doing that for a while. We got our KY state magnet there too, which of course, has a horse on it.

It seems like 4th street is the happening area in Louisville. 4th Street Live! was blocked off for cars to drive on because there was a concert on Friday evening. This city’s tourism staff really puts a high value on entertainment, and I noticed the advertising on the street corners and signs remain fairly consistent across the board. They really do a good job in maintaining the city and making it a cohesive environment for everyone who lives, works and visits the city.

 

Because we were getting hungry, we came across a place called Dish on Market, which featured a Sunday Brunch Buffet until 1pm. At that point it was about 12:30pm, so we decided to check the place out. The food was actually really good! We noticed that all the food we have gotten here in Louisville has been packed with flavor. I love the fact that we do not have to request for hot sauce from the servers, because they offer the condiment to you directly
definitely my kind of place! Typically in the New England area I need to use salt and pepper because a lot of the cuisine is quite bland and tasteless
NOPE, not here in Louisville. Even the mashed potatoes here have so much flavor, and oh boy the birthplace of FRIED CHICKEN
oh yeah! Definitely, my kind of place.  You cannot come to Louisville and not try a hot brown! It is basically an open-faced hot turkey sandwich (even though we didn’t make it out to the Brown Hotel, which is famous for serving them), they were delicious at the brunch, regardless. We had so much food, and I must have had 4 cups of black coffee!

After our lunch break, we headed back to the Visitor’s Center to explore the Colonel Sanders exhibit, where we saw a trivia game and also a history timeline of the history of how KFC came about. Did you know that Colonel Sanders sold KFC for $2 million back in 1964 to a group of investors? Check us out with the Colonel and his fried chicken himself.

Michael and I decided to walk back to Los Aztecas to return the umbrella the server had given to us. We were happy to find him behind the bar area and had the chance to thank him again for giving one to us the night before while it was raining very heavily. At that point, we were pretty tired and the sun came out behind the storm clouds so it was definitely heating up. We made our way back to the hotel to relax for a bit because we had to track our expenses for the trip and also upload some of our pictures. After a few hours, we were ready to go for our run around the city. We brought our frisbee in case we came across a cache we could stash it in. There was a cache located ten minutes away from the hotel, but we decided against that location and headed the opposite way along the river along the Louisville Loop Trail.

To the right, there was a small park we came across with a nice green field, overlooking the river. There was supposed to be a cache in that location, but to our dismay it appeared someone had removed it. Therefore, we kept jogging and moving forward to another location which was about 1 mile away. We jogged there and passed a few demonstrators (I guess times are pretty rough in the Middle East region, and these people all gathered together to speak their minds) in the local parks. We finally got to the cache, and at that point I was pretty tired because it was muggy outside. It was placed at the Heigold Facade, which was very beautiful. Then, we were ready for our jog back to the hotel. Along the way, we passed the Louisville Slugger Stadium where some minor league teams were playing. The gates were wide open, so we asked the guard sitting on the steps what was going on and if we needed tickets to enter. He told us and another family that he didn’t see anything. So we all just went up the stairs and watched the bottom of the fifth inning.

 

After the random pit stop to watch part of an inning at the ball game, we continued along to find the KFC Yum! Center which was very close to the Galt House Hotel. We were very happy to get back upstairs into the air conditioned room. We showered and went on our search for dinner, which was Thelma’s Deli on the 3rd floor of the hotel. It was open 24 hours. Food included some large and fresh salads, soups (served until 9pm), pizza and sandwiches.

 

After dinner we went back to our rooms to search for our destination of choice. The next morning (Monday, July 28th) we were off to hit up the next state on our list: West Virginia!  Oh, and be sure to go to “Our Plan” page to get updated on where we are off to next in our journey and to see which states we have already visited!

Indiana – “The Crossroads of America”

We left Hoffmaster State Park in Michigan and headed to Indianapolis. It was about a four hour drive. I drove half way then Christina drove the rest. It’s a very flat drive drive through the states in this area. There were no hill, no mountains, but there was a lot of corn and hay. Our only stop in Indiana was going to be Indianapolis so we were hoping that it was going to be good. We were staying one night right in downtown then the next night at the airport. We stayed at La Quinta Hotel that was about 2 blocks from the heart of down town Indianapolis. We ended up picking this location through Hotwire. If you are not familiar with Hotwire it is a website that will tell you the location of a hotel, the star rating, and how much it will cost but it won’t tell you the specific name of the hotel. We have scored some really good deals using this and the hotels have been what we expected.

Indianapolis here we come!
Indianapolis here we come!
Cleaning bugs off windshield
Cleaning bugs off windshield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got to Indianapolis we checked in at our hotel and wanted to go to the local City Market where there are supposed to be a bunch of food vendors. We got there and it was about 5pm. By that time almost all of the vendors had already closed. The City Market is open until 9pm, but we found out most vendors close by 3pm. We decided to check out the city and look for somewhere for dinner. We stumbled upon Punch Burger and boy were we happy we did. It was definitely one of the best burgers either of us had ever had. I had the Burnt Cheese Burger, a burger with slices of burnt cheese on top, and Christina had the BYOB, she added all sorts of stuff to her burger and it was much too spicy for me to eat.

After dinner we walked around the city a bit more and found our way to the Circle Centre Mall. Christina wanted to find a gift for her friend and look for a couple of other items for herself. She ended up finding what she was looking for and we were off in search of a gift for her friend about 10 minutes before the mall closed. We ended up finding the perfect gift just in the nick of time. The shop workers seemed to just want us to get out of there so they weren’t very helpful when if came to wrapping the gift. In the end we got what we were looking for and decided to call it a night. We headed back to the hotel to call it a night and try to get some sleep for the next day. On the way back we found a geocache location and hid our next frisbee. So if you are in Indianapolis keep and eye out for it.

When we woke up we decided to give the City Market another try. The market is only about 3 blocks from our hotel so we figured it would be worth another shot. When we got there all of the vendors were open and people were hustling and bustling about. We made a walk around the market to see what our options were for lunch. We decided to start with one of the vendors who had baked potatoes. The chicken, bacon, ranch spud stuck out to me so we sent with that and decided to split it since these were the biggest potatoes we had ever seen. After the potato Christina wanted to get some soup and we grabbed a couple of cookies. All of the food that we tried in the market was really good and we would both definitely recommend going there if you ever are in the area.

We walked around the city the rest of the day and went into a few shops and took some pictures of the landmarks in the area. We had to head over to a different hotel that night ,but it was still in Indianapolis so we didn’t have too far to drive. We headed over to the airport hotel where we had dinner, Christina actually used the burner we had to make dinner in the hotel room and it turned out really good. The burner worked out pretty well until later that night Christina tried to use the burner again to heat up a sandwich she got the other day and she ended up setting off the fire alarm in the hotel we were in. We had the hotel staff come to the room to make sure everything was ok. I blamed it on Christina when they came to the room.

Since our hotel was located at the airport we started thinking that we should hop on a plane and go somewhere. We figured we should see if we could get a flight to Puerto Rico. We started to look into that and then Florida. Both of the options ended up being more than we wanted to stay for the amount of time we would have gone for. So instead of hopping on a plane we booked where would be staying the next few days.

Indianapolis ended up being my favorite city so far. It looked like a big city and had the features of one, but it still felt like a small town. There were bike paths and walk-ways on all of the major roads and a lot of historical buildings scattered throughout the city that gave it a nice feeling. Christina also liked the city but I don’t know if it was her favorite location so far. So if you are ever in Indianapolis make sure you go to Punch Burger and the City Market.

 

Michigan: Lakes, Dunes, and More!

After our departure from Cleveland, we were on our merry way to the next state on the list: Michigan! We were very excited to check out the coastline area of the state as it is supposed to be gorgeous! It was Monday, July 21st. We decided to make a stop to Ann Arbor for night. Michael was in charge of reserving our hotel, and he decided to select Weber’s Inn, which was about 6 minutes away (driving) from the downtown area. I was so surprised when we checked in because since I drove, I did not get to see any photos of the hotel. It was a boutique hotel, and it was so sleek and modern with a very rustic/wooden flair. It had a spiral stair case that overlooked the indoor pool, hot tub and sauna area with two entrances/exits from our hotel room…very cool! They also had a small pool table, ping pong table and a game room. We decided to just stay in for the evening and have dinner at the restaurant. It was so good! We appreciated the fact that they brought an assortment of breads with butter and a salmon spread for our enjoyment after we placed our drink orders. I also particularly enjoyed the peach tart.

The following morning, we took advantage of the fitness room where they laid out some fresh oranges too! We had lunch and took an afternoon stroll downtown.  We parked our truck along South Main Street, and paid $1.50 an hour for the public parking. Upon arrival we came across a Mongolian Grill Restaurant, which essentially reminded us of Fire & Ice Restaurant back in Providence. We had the lunch bowl, which gave us the freedom to select our own raw vegetables and meats for the chef to cook right in front of us. It was a really good and filling lunch and prepared us for our walk. We roamed the town and ended up meandering across a shoe store specifically for runners. Michael’s previously purchased pair of sneakers from Kohl’s was falling apart already, after his morning jog. So he ended up getting properly fitted for a shoe. And we discovered he also has wide feet, just like me! He enjoyed the feeling of the soft socks as they were made available for customers to try on, so he got three additional pairs of socks too!

Ann Arbor was all about University of Michigan (blue and yellow). It was everywhere! And, apparently is a strong rival between Michigan and Ohio. We learned that Michigan is known for its cherries, when we discovered a store called Cherry Republic, located right on South Main Street. Products included all sorts of cherry foods and products, from cherry wood bowls and cutting boards to cherry sour candies, jams and wines. I convinced Michael to get us some of the Hikers Mix, which has dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate pieces. The cool thing about the bag it came it was it had an attached compass to it, just in case we got lost in the future when hiking.

After Cherry Republic, we walked into a random local artsy store, where all of the items in the store contained some sort of magnet. The first item we noticed was a 4×6 magnetic picture frame, which we thought was quite appropriate because it contained “road trip” embellishments. Next Michael pointed out to me a huge magnetic board of the U.S.A. We thought “wow!” that would work out so well because our trinket or souvenir of choice in each state we hit is the good ole magnet!  After much debate we decided against purchasing it. One of my concerns was that it only included the mainland states. We made an inquiry about whether or not Alaska and Hawaii were included in the map, but they informed us that the artist has yet to create those states. Although a request could be made to create those additional states through a special order, we decided against that at that point. Another concern was storage of the large board after it was purchased, so we also asked if shipping was an option and sure enough it was possible to ship within the U.S. At that point, I was torn on the decision to purchase this, but Michael really did not want to.

The reasoning you may ask? He had been trying to convince me that he could make it on his own
yes, his thinking was that he could buy a large sheet of wood, print out a large map of the states in sections and then use a jigsaw to cut the wood. Then spray the large object with magnetic spray. I have never seen him use a jigsaw in my life, but if he wants to take on the project after we come back, I’m all for it! Just in case, I did happen to grab the business card of the local shop as a backup.

 

A few days before our drive up to Michigan, I got in touch with my roommate from college, Jessica, who lives in Grand Rapids. She hooked us up with a parking spot in downtown Grand Rapids at her old job. We arrived there from Ann Arbor around 7pm, and we walked into town for some dinner and drinks! It was so nice to see a familiar face, for Michael to meet her, and to catch up about life in general post-Bryant.

Grand Rapids has been called Beer City U.S.A. so it was a must that we try some local craft beer during dinner time, as Jess had encouraged us to do so. We took a nice leisurely stroll into the downtown Grand Rapids area, and we passed the Grand Rapids Art Museum where there was a crowd of youngsters hanging out on a Tuesday night across the way. The city had a small town feeling where everyone was out and about having a good time and enjoying the evening.

For dinner we decided on tasting the so-called crack fries with burgers at HopCat. It just so happened that Michael came across a burger that was literally calling his name on the menu. So he had to get it! It was called the Cowboy. The crack fries were pretty good, seasoned with a bunch of different things. Afterwards we followed Jess to the duplex she was kind enough to let us stay the night. As we were moving the stuff into the place, it started pouring outside! It was a nice cool evening.

The following morning we had a late start. We decided on checking out the dunes in Michigan, and we selected to camp the night at Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon, MI. First we stopped at the local flea market downtown and got some fresh sweet black cherries and some small potatoes for dinner. After exploring the downtown area a bit, we were on a search for a grocery store for some meat and vegetables for dinner. On our way to the park, we found a Meijer, which stated it was open 24 hours. Across the street there was a Walmart too! We decided we would check out what Meijer had to offer. So, we ended up getting some chicken, hot dogs, turkey bacon, and some veggies.

We headed to the campsite around 3pm, and got settled in. We used our truck tent for the first time that evening, and used our air mattress. We were really excited to check out the lake area as we got a campsite with walking distance to the beach area. After we got settled we put on our flip flops and headed down to the beach. This particular campground had a bunch of modern bathrooms, and we noticed there were so many little kids riding their bicycles. There were also an overabundance of RVs and other campers and people with all sorts of different types of tents with screening. We selected a campsite that had a creek that ran right behind it with the bathroom and shower area right across from the site, which was very convenient for us.

That afternoon we walked along the beach area, and it was quite windy and cool in the mid-70s. We took some pictures along the shore, and then headed back to make dinner together. I was in charge of the French fries, cooking the extra chicken, and Michael was got the task of grilling the barbeque and buffalo chicken and the corn on the cob. I made the extra chicken tenderloins two different ways: one with cubed chicken with a southwestern flair and one with lime and soy sauce.

We had a nice dinner on the picnic table that was on our site and I was tasked with starting the fire from the firewood we purchased at the park ($4.50/bundle). S’mores were next on the agenda! Yum. Yay, then we were ready for showers and for bed in the truck tent. We woke up early the next morning and packed together our belongings. Frisbee #3 was placed at the state park in the morning, and we took a nice little hike into the park which led us straight to the beach. It was a quiet and calm morning for a nice promenade along the shore. It was so beautiful and serene at about 9am.

Overall, we found Michigan to be really proud of their college sports teams. The people here seem to be really nice and welcoming. They also really value the arts and are keen on their local craft beer in Grand Rapids. The Great Lakes are very “Great” to say the least. Lake Michigan is beautiful! It definitely reminded us of the ocean because we could not see the end of the lake from shore on a clear day. Ann Arbor was a neat little town with lots of things to do.

We were finally ready for our departure to the next state: Indiana!

Ohio here we come!

We woke up early in Pittsburgh and headed out to “The Wilds“. The Wilds is one of the largest research and conservation centers in the world. They study all sorts of animals in an expansive environment where animals have wide open ranges to roam. The animals that you see here act more like they would in the wild than those at a zoo. We were really excited to take an open-air safari around the 10,000 acre preserve. The only down side is that it was raining pretty hard in Pittsburg and was supposed to be raining all day in Cumberland, Ohio (The Wilds) as well. We called the park to see how this would work in the rain. The gentleman I spoke to let me know they go out on safaris rain or shine and that some animals really like the rain because it cools them down. Well, it made sense to us so we were on our way. It was a two hour drive to The Wilds and Christina drove the way there. As we were going through Ohio we were noticing that most of the main roads were 1 lane roads twisting through the countryside and the speed limit was 55mph. Surprisingly, Christina actually had a difficult time maintaining a good pace through here. I don’t know if anyone could drive on these roads at 55mph the whole way; it was dangerous.

After a two hour drive we were at the wilds and it had stopped raining. It need up not raining the rest of our day and our safari was nice and dry. Our safari was about 2-2.5 hours long and went through some of the different areas of the park. We were able to see some really neat animals behaving as they naturally would, and some not so. Some of the animals there were native to the United States and are protected while others have come from all over the world and now roam the plains of Ohio. Our safari ride was on an open-aired bus, with no glass windows just a canvas roof above us. Right off the bat we got to see a few animals as soon as our bus got through the gate. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. They had double gates where the bus had to drive through one gate and wait for it to close and then drive through the next gate. (SPOILER) I guess they don’t want and Rhinoceros  getting out and running through Ohio.

We were able to see all sorts of animals in The Wilds. There were a few different type of herd animals, most of which I don’t remember the exact names of them. Just a few minutes into our drive we did get to some a couple rhinoceros. They were just walking around hanging out like nothing was going on. If they wanted to they could have run right up to our bus. The Wilds tries to have a hands off approach with their animals and tries to study them as if they we actually in the wild. The Bus driver, Rosie, kept reminding us as animals got close to keep our hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. You never know what may happen when in the wild.  As we drove through the grounds we came across some pretty neat animals. There were zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, and more. You’ll see all of the different animals in our photos.

We were at The Wilds only for the afternoon then headed off to Wellington, OH at Findley State Park. This is where we were camping for the next two nights. This was Christina’s first real camping experience! We got to our campsite pretty late at night it was about 8pm and we had yet to eat dinner so we were both starving and had to set up all of our camping equipment. We ended up getting our tent set up and got the grill going to make burgers for dinner. I also tried to get a camp fire going for the night, but it did not end up going so well. Since I didn’t have time to prepare we only have bigger logs that we bought and they just wouldn’t light very well. We ended up heading to bed because we needed to start the next day early.

When we woke up we got our things together and headed to Cleveland. We were meeting a friend of Christina’s, Ali, who she worked with in 2010 in China.  We met her at the West Side Market in Ohio City, Cleveland, where they have a farmers market that runs a few days a week. It was closed there on the Sunday we were in town so there was free parking for us just behind the market. It seems like Cleveland was all about local grown and organic items. We ended up going for brunch at Town Hall, a really nice little restaurant that offered a nice hipster sort of atmosphere.

After lunch we headed to the heart of the city where Ali showed us 4th street. This is where there are a bunch of shops and smaller restaurants and cafés, including the first ever House of Blues! We checked out a few shops as Christina and I were looking for a souvenir to get from each state. After 4th street we headed to Terminal Tower to go up to the observation deck and get some aerial views of the city.

After Terminal Tower Ali showed us the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We decided against going through the tour. Christina and I needed to find a spot with free WiFi so we could book where we would be staying the next day. Ali had to head back so Christina and I headed back to 4th street where I saw a cafe we could sit at. We ended up grabbing our coffees and decided to see what we could find for the next day.

Overall Ohio was really fun and we got to see some really neat things and learn some good info. Did you know Life Savers were created by a chocolate shop owner looking to sell something during the hot summer months? If you are ever considering going over this way I would definitely recommend going to the Wilds. It is much better than any zoo I had been to before.

Now are off to our next state!

Pennsylvania

Yes, Pennsylvania, not Philadelphia, BUT Lancaster and Pittsburgh! Boy have I had some trouble distinguishing the different cities in Pennsylvania. I honestly have no idea why, but I keep thinking we are going to Philadelphia, but we are going to Pittsburgh, which a completely different city! Michael keeps making fun of me, because I keep saying we should try an authentic Philly Cheesesteak when we get to the city tonight, but I keep forgetting we are not going there tonight. We are going to Pittsburgh.

Throwback:
This whole scenario rekindles a memory of mine from freshman year during the 4MILE Program at Bryant University, when I went on a Newport cruise with Mahah, Pratik, and Sathia. I really kept referring to India as Mahah’s country of origin, but it is in actuality, Bangladesh! I could not, for the life of me, say Bangladesh because every time I went to say it, I was under the assumption it was India or a part of it. This really taught me how much I have changed since 2006, as I feel as though I have learned a lot more, but not nearly enough, about the world. Now I feel as though I know less about the country I was born in.

My hope is that both Michael and I will gain a greater understanding about the different states and have the chance to experience the subtle differences in state culture within the country throughout the time we have with each other. As Martin Yan once said, People who don’t travel cannot have a global view, all they see is what’s in front of them. Those people cannot accept new things because all they know is where they live.” I am so grateful for having the opportunities I have had over the years to have explored several countries and been able to experience all that I have.  There is much more to learn, and I love soaking it all up!

The Trek:
We woke up at 7am on the morning of July 17th, well-rested, and ready to start our day. After our typical morning routine, we went upstairs where my dad was already making breakfast for us, freshly made spring rolls
.soooo tasty! I had three and Michael ate two, with some green tea. I’m salivating just thinking about them now. We packed up the remaining items for the truck, and we were off! Our first destination in Pennsylvania was Miller’s Smorgasbord in Ronks for lunch! It took us just over three hours to reach our destination and by then we were famished. Surely enough we had selected the dinner buffet which included items such as eight different types of soups, breads, an assortment of salads and desserts and their famous hot entrees including chicken and waffles, which had originally put them on the map. There was also a carving station with beef, ham and turkey with freshly grilled vegetables. Overall, we were very satisfied with the food. We thought it was a good spot for us to get the full tourist experience in Amish Country and visited the gift shops next door.

We saw a few horse and buggies on our way to downtown Lancaster and it was really starting to look like Amish Country. We also encountered various residents blasting their rap music with their windows rolled down in their SUVs and trucks. We parked our truck on the side of the road (public parking cost us $3 for 2 hours) and walked around the town for an hour or so checking out the stores. To our dismay, the Visitors Center was closed when we got there at 4:45pm as they closed at 4pm. The Central Market was also closed, as they were only open a few days during the week until 4pm. But, it was interesting because the people in downtown Lancaster were quite different than what we had anticipated to see to say the least. At around 6pm we departed Lancaster.

We were on our way to Pittsburgh for two nights. The ride over to the city was very serene as we passed numerous farms and mountains. Figures we hit traffic at 9:40pm, as we are driving down I-376. There is only one lane open because they were doing evening construction. We finally made it to our hotel, the Wydham Garden at Pittsburgh Airport. It was definitely a long day of traveling and Michael drove the entire day. I offered to drive certain portions, but his spirits were high. We capped off the evening with a nice workout at the fitness center, which was open 24 hours. And, by then we were exhausted.

Friday, July 18th:
We slept in and planned the next few states of our trip in the morning by the outdoor pool, while eating our breakfast (eggs, yogurt and fruit from our cooler). We had a very frustrating experience with Orbitz, so we are not using them in the future. Expedia all the way!

Duquesne Incline & Mt. Washington Emerald View Park
It was pleasantly warm outside this afternoon when we packed up our new Picnic Time Malibu bag for a lunch in the park. We had some sandwiches, fruits, and some pretzels. Station Square was where we decided to park and it was $2 for the first hour and $1 per hour after that with a maximum charge of $10. The incline cable car cost us $2.50 one way per person, so it cost us $10 in total. The views were quite nice when we reached the observation deck at the tiny tourist destination. However, I was a bit disappointed because the guardrails were too high for me to enjoy the gorgeous views! Upon realizing this, we decided to take the short hike to the right of the upper portion of the incline to Emerald View Park in Mt. Washington, which consisted of about a 2.7 mile trail down the mountain. We got to the park and it was a small area at the top with a statue, “Point of View,” created in 2006, depicting George Washington’s meeting with Native American Seneca leader Guyasuta. We found a rock and decided to eat our lunch and take some pictures!

Point State Park
After that, we took a nice stroll across the Liberty Bridge to Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. The pathway for pedestrians and cyclists was narrow but fairly sturdy. I am always astonished when I see bridges spanning across large bodies of waters and being able to withstand all the weight of the cars traveling across them daily. And, this walk across this piece of architecture really made me appreciate all of the planning and work that went behind the construction of bridges in general.

Upon arrival to the park, we stumbled across a small fort, Fort Pitt Block House, which was open to the public and closing at 4:30pm. It was 4:20pm so we decided to check it out. It was pretty cool, and it just so happens they were celebrating its 250th year anniversary since its construction in 1764. We walked to the point and just hung out by the large fountain for about an hour or so, and decided to head back to the truck for dinner. Going back across the bridge, I am carrying my hiking bag with the bear bell and picnic throw, and I was trying to test out my compass, but then it kept pointing SW for some reason where ever I would turn. I knew something fishy was going on.

Lesson of the day: I am not allowed to use a compass when it is near a magnet. I guess the bear bell has a magnet on it, so it would confuse the compass. Great lesson! Thanks Michael. We placed our second Frisbee in one of the caches near these areas! 🙂 Michael had never gone to Bahama Breeze before, which we later found out were a part of the Darden Restaurants (you know when you buy certain gift cards that say Darden Restaurants which includes Olive Garden?). We had some time to take it easy and relax a bit. I then reached out to my friend from Expo who is from and currently resides in Cleveland, so I cannot wait to go meet up with her on Sunday! Our next stops are all listed on this link here. Check out some pictures from our Pittsburgh visit!

Ready…Set…Go!

Following our Chicago trip, we had an anticipated move-out date of July 15th to shoot towards. Throughout the week of July 7th, our tiny one-bedroom apartment was such a mess! We came to the realization that we had accumulated a lot of “stuff” over the years. It was definitely a challenge figuring out what items we needed to get rid of, and of course, me being the sentimental person I am, I tend to place a higher value on items I had obtained during my travels. We ended up donating about 10-12 bags of clothes and shoes in addition to one futon, a wooden dining room table with four matching chairs (which I had purchased from a local Salvation Army a few years ago), a TV stand, two end tables, and a coffee table.

Tennis:
On Wednesday, July 9th, it was USTA Appreciation Day at the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame Annual Tournament. So, we got tickets to attend the grass court event, where we had the chance to see a few top-ranked players who included: John Isner and Nikolas Mahut, and Lleyton Hewitt, who ended up taking the championship! It was a gorgeous day to go for a stroll in Newport.

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On the afternoon of Saturday, July 12th we had additional helping hands, as Michael’s parents and our good friend Becca ended up offering to move some of the larger items, such as furniture we wanted to keep (our bed, couch, bookcase, and dresser) to his parents’ house. After that, our apartment felt very empty and it even echoed as we chatted. This was it. We really felt like we were doing this. We just needed to tidy up a bit before we left, and pack up the truck to our liking.

Truck Packing:
Michael is very particular about certain things, so he took the lead in organizing how his truck was to be packed. We decided it would be best to have our own sides with our clothing and items, such as shoes and a portable gas stove. We ended up purchasing a cargo carrier for the bed of his truck to put mostly our camping and outdoorsy items into, and used the trunk to store our toiletries and other camping supplies, such as our lantern, citronella candles, bug spray, sun screen, matches, pots, pans, ropes, grill, two different sized air mattresses, duct tape, hiking shoes, compass, bear bell, and more! Within the truck, we packed a cooler with everything we would need along the way.

We stayed overnight at Michaels’ parents’ house for one evening where they had been kind enough to let us set up our bed, couch, and store some of our luggage. Michael’s grandmother, Jacki, invited all the girls out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays at the Boat House Restaurant in Tiverton, Rhode Island. It was a Monday evening, and the restaurant was completely full with customers! I was so surprised, but it was such an enjoyable time to spend it with everyone, as we shared stories about our lives and caught up. Following the dinner, Aunt Pat had scheduled an appointment for a private gong meditation session. Unfortunately, I had to leave after the dinner as it was already approaching 8pm, and it takes about 3.5 hours for us to get to my parents’ in New York. We had to drive both our cars, and that evening it was tough because it was raining pretty hard: thunder and lightning and trucks everywhere! Truck drivers, especially FedEx ones, really like to drive really fast at night, and they kept splashing me! But, we finally made it there just after midnight, and my dad was waiting up for us. He helped us bring some of our belongings inside.

wpid-img_20140715_164525.jpgThe following morning (July 15th) we left the house at 7:30am because we wanted to get to the China Consulate around 9am to submit our visa applications for the first portion of our honeymoon in early December. We decided to drop off our passports in mid-July so we could pick them up in August, when we came back for the U.S. Open (tennis) towards the end of the month. This way, we could avoid having to wait until Friday for them to be ready for pick up. My parents took us to Flushing, NY for a traditional Chinese breakfast at a dim sum restaurant
ooh la la is right! I hadn’t had Chinese breakfast in the longest time
boy, was it yummy. On our way back from the city, we received flash flood warnings, and apparently the weathermen were spot on this time around. It literally took us three hours to get from the city to our house, which typically takes one hour


It was time to seriously start planning the first leg of our trip. Since my parents do not have internet at their house, we took a trip to the local library. We secured a “quiet study room” where we had a few hours to do some planning. Michael and I discovered this website called Roadtrippers where we were able to plan out a route. It has some neat features including being able to customize the trip and keep track of miles and gas prices in the area.

So where are we now, you might ask? Check out this link to our trip.

Now that everything was set, we felt more relieved! So because we had some time, we made it a point to meet up with one of my best friends from high school, Nicole and her daughter Ally at a local diner for a late lunch before they had to go to gymnastics. It was great for us to catch up since we rarely get to see each other nowadays.

Then, Michael and I went on a 5 mile jog/run around my parents’ house. I led the way and brought him down 9W, to two parks: Peck’s Pond and Haverstraw Bay Park, and then back around back to the house. We really needed it! It was about 7pm when we arrived back. By that time, my dad was starting to prepare dinner for us, and my parents wanted a mini MINI lesson from me as I was leaving my car at their house while we were away on our trip for their enjoyment. My dad made moo shu pork, steak, crab legs, vegetables, shrimp, and rice for our so-called “last supper” prior to our departure the next morning. And, they gave us a bunch of small things, such as soy sauce, vegetable oil and some comfort foods, such as congee in a jar, some tea eggs, blocks of ice and bottles of waters for our trip!

We wanted to thank everyone who has been supportive of our trip and who have been our mentors and role models. We cannot wait to embark on this journey of a lifetime!

First Stop: Chicago

Michael and I took an early flight on the morning of Friday, July 5th from TF Green Airport in Warwick, RI to get to Chicago O’Hare International Airport to attend my friend’s engagement party! We landed at 7:30am and took a shuttle to get to our rental car site. Upon arrival, we made an executive decision to attempt to check into our hotel, which is the Holiday Inn in Skokie. We got to the hotel at 8:30am and made our inquiry. To our surprise, we were able to secure a room (non-smoking king bed), AND the gentleman at the front desk also upgraded us to a V.I.P. room at the hotel, since it was not too busy.

We grabbed our belongings and headed up to the room, which overlooks the indoor pool area. Michael selected our breakfast destination, which was Annie’s Old Fashioned Pancake House, about five minutes away from our hotel. This was definitely one of the best decisions of the day! Check out these red, white and blue pancakes we got.

They were so warm, fluffy, and absolutely delicious! The server also gave us complimentary coffees because the pancakes came out about five or ten minutes after we got the omelette we ordered. We only ate about half our meals and packed them up for breakfast tomorrow (since there is a micro fridge in our room).

After we ate breakfast, we were ready to head back to the room for some R&R before the engagement party. We had about 2 hours or so, then we were off! The church was very nicely decorated with purple, white and green balloons and candies. And, the event kicked off about 1pm in the afternoon with a nice introduction and a mime performance by the bride-to-be’s mother. We left around 3pm and took a nice walk around the neighborhood (we visited a few artsy stores), and then went back to the hotel.

I ended up making reservations to this restaurant for brunch, which I had thought was at the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), but it turned out to be at a totally different location (when we got to the Willis Tower)…I blame “Bing!” because I typically use Google, but my phone directed me to Bing’s search engine. It was so funny because we got to the Willis Tower, and saw the “Skydeck” and walked into the building through the Franklin Street entrance and the two security guards informed us the restaurant we were referring to was at a completely different building!

We ended up going through the “Skydeck” entrance, and it would have been a two-hour wait to get to the top! So, we decided to head to Millennium Park after we checked out Garrett’s Popcorn, where I got to indulge on a medium “Chicago Mix”. Michael ordered the Caramel with Pecans popcorn!

The first Falcon Travel Frisbee was placed at one of the sites near Millennium Park, and we ended up trying a Chicago Dog at Park Avenue Cafe:) sooo good!!!

Check out some of our pictures from the trip: