Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Westward Expansion

Loyal Readers -

We apologize again for the long wait. We know you’re all sitting by your computers for the next post, or (for the lucky few) sitting by your phone for a brief call. We’ve been on the road again after our residency at the Lake House in Nisswa, MN. Its been over a week since we left the lake house and traveled into the beautiful Twin Cities to meet up with Kate’s friend from studying abroad in Bolivia, Tressa. We had a wonderful afternoon swim, a delicious outdoor barbeque, and an evening bike ride complete with our own Tommy and Ben sharing a tandem bike! The next day we went to The Tap to watch the Women’s World Cup heart breaking loss. But, our day was salvaged as Paul unexpectedly ran into another study abroad friend, Leah, from Costa Rica. After the penalty kicks and reconnecting chats, we hit the road to Badlands National Park in South Dakota (emphasis on the bad).

We had an 21 mile backpacking loop planned in the Badlands, but struggled to find the appropriate backcountry map (with no help from the Park Service. boo). Fortunately, Paul had printed two miserable, yet passable copies of our loop. The five of us geared up and headed out into Badlands with close to 90lbs of water to brave the 110 degree heat.

Despite good planning, the heat, lack of a good map, and shrinking water supplies forced us to turn back after just one night in the back country. Fortunately, we all lived to tell the tale of those bad, bad lands (even after our run-in with a baby rattler).

After leaving the Badlands, we desperately needed to clean ourselves, so, of course, we stopped by the Wall, South Dakota fire department for a little hose down.

Oh yeah, and we hit Rushmore (without paying the $11 to park for the 11 minutes that we were there, shhh don't tell).

Our next stop was to cross the beautiful state of Wyoming on our way to see a Williams alum, Will aka An aka Gill Pettingill. Halfway through Wyoming, we stopped in the dead of night to sleep off of an old Forest Service road in the Big Horn Mountains. When we awoke, we were greeted with the most gorgeous view of a few snow-capped peaks.

Despite the amazing view, we had a date with this “An” fellow, and made our way to Victor, ID. In Victor, we checked out the Grand Teton Brewing Company, and the best small town event in the U.S., Music on the Main! The town of Victor throws down every Thursday night, and everyone comes out for some good funky music, sweet vendors, and craft beers. Unfortunately, we had to leave Victor the following day to get all up in those Grand Tetons. The loop we had planned was too snowy and required ice picks, so we decided to take some friendly advice and check out Phelps Lake and hike into Death Canyon.

Despite how trecherous Death Canyon sounds, the hike into our campsite was very enjoyable. We hiked all day along a raging river of snow melt and arrived exhausted at our home for the night. After an awesome dinner of veggies and cous cous (the food so nice they named it twice), we hit the tent for some sweet card playing and bed. While we slept we were visited by some mysterious intruders. I could type you this story, but I would rather have Tommy sing it to you. Take it away.

We spent another night in Death Canyon, now more aware of the salt hungry wildlife. However, the next morning we had some welcome visitors in our campsite, a Momma Moose and its child. On the way out we also saw a red fox and a coyote bear its teeth at Ben. Road Trip Wildlife Day continued as we drove north through Yellowstone and saw many more moose, elk, and bison. Old Faithful was a BLAST (zing), and we even got some ice cream and a bumpersticker.

We drove just out of the park to enjoy some camping for the price of free.99 rather than paying an arm and a leg to be corralled in with the riff raff. The next day we took the plunge 328 steps down to check out the glorious Yellowstone Falls, which beat out our buddy Niagra by a mile to be crowned the best waterfall of the trip.

We left gysertown, USA to head towards Bozeman and prepare for the big day of the 26th of July, a day that will go down in history. Our very own Thomas Channing Hester was invited by John Harwood to be on the NPR show On Point to talk about the loss of our dear friend Brendan Ogg. The show went swimmingly with help from our friends Deb and Gil at the world class Peak Recording studio (we even got freshly baked cookies, hot coffee, and a sweet bluegrass CD for the road. best. studio. ever). Check the audio at http://bit.ly/o2Jnzm. We are currently in the Bozeman library basking in Tommy’s newfound fame and glory and planning to hit up Costco for some free samples. Wish us luck. Until next time (which might be a little while because we are off to Glacier, Banff, and Jasper), take it easy America (and all of our international friends).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brats For Days

Hello again everybody,

We are reporting to you live from the Porter/Davidson/Van Fossen Lake House in Nisswa, MN. But first, we should regale you our adventures in the beautiful state of Wisconsin. After leaving Chicago, we drove a few hours north to see Carol and Ken Jaeck (Paul's aunt and uncle). They live on a gorgeous nine acres with a bountiful garden with more fruits and vegetables than you can imagine. We also spent a few hours playing in the barn with Squeaks the cat and her four six-week old kittens.

We had a few delicious Wisconsin microbrews before a feast of Wisconsin Brats and sauerkraut, greek salad, coleslaw, and more. Tommy was nice enough to give Ben a ride to Madison after dinner to meet up with a (lady) friend, Keavy McFadden. We woke up late the next day to an awesome breakfast with homemade jams and sausage links, and hung out in the garden before heading to a traditional Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry.

After lunch, we hit the road again, luckily we were only headed about a half an hour down the road to the humble abode of another CC friend, Lily McKoy. Being the lovely host that she is, Lily took us straight down to Oconomowoc (Oh-kahn-a-ma-walk) Lake for an afternoon of waterskiing. Sadly Sarah wasn't feeling up for the adventure, but the rest of us had a grand old time -- with plenty of hysterical wipe outs to go around.

After a quick dinner stop at the Kiltie drive-in diner for burgers and custard, we headed to Miller Park for our first professional sports event of the trip. The Milwaukee Brewers faced the Cincinnati Reds and we root root rooted for the home team. An in-the-park home run, stolen first base, come-from-behind win in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the famous sausage race kept us more than entertained. The Brewers won it 8-7.

We left Oconomowoc early next morning and stopped in Green Lake, WI to see Brian Borah, Tommy's buddy from Williams who was kind enough to pull away from his MCAT studies to chat with us. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, visited with the whole Borah clan (the place is crawling with them), and hit the road again for the North Woods.

We arrived to Nisswa in time to see Ben's mom and brother (Sam) before they took off the following morning. Immediately upon our arrival, we were instructed to hop directly into the lake for a glorious welcome dip. Our dinner that evening was a traditional North Woods fried Walleye with wild rice, aspagus, and scalloped tomoatoes. The best meal we had had in quite some time. The next day we all spent working on our water skiing and trying not to embarass ourselves in front of (all while trying to assimilate into) the family. Fortunately, we passed the West Twin Lake Ski School exam with flying colors thanks to the help from our fabulous instructors.

During our stay here, we have been helping out as much as possible by clearing the jungle of a picnic area, cleaning dishes, and tidying up whenever possible in exchange for the best food you could ever imagine (Tommy says "180 lbs here I come!"). Unfortunately, Sarah was the next victim of our ongoing illness and had to be taken to the urgent care facility only to find that she has a sinus infection. Despite this setback, we believe that laughter is the best medicine, so morale is still sky high. In fact, today, the rest of the gang went to bean hole day, during which the town of Pequot Lakes cooks enormous amounts of baked beans in the town square and gives them out for free. Yum.

After bean hole day, the three boys used their bean-fueled energy to swim across the West Twin Lake (a half mile). In the next few days, we're also planning on trying to make our very own Gut Bucket so we can form a true North Woods country bumpkin band. We'll keep you posted on how it goes. Personally, I smell a Billboard hit.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Quad (Life on the Road without T$)

Since Tommy left, everything has gone smoother, been more enjoyable, and we've even started making money. I just hope he never comes back from Bermuda. Really, four people in the car instead of five....well, don't get me started.

After dropping Tommy in Manchester, the Quad drove to Burlington, VT to meet up with our good friend from Albert Einstein High School, Colin Riggs. This spot was an awesome commune with maybe 25 people living in an enormous house with an abundance of bikes, vegetable gardens, chickens and fun to go around. We spent two nights exploring Burlington, checking out the Tim-Burton-Style Magic Hat Brewery, touring the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory, seeing parks, and boogying to live soul music.

Colin was a fantastic host, as we all crashed on the floor of his wonderful abode. Burlington and the rest of Vermont are really spectacular -- the billboard free highways and rolling wooded hills made it one of the most beautiful states to drive through.

After leaving Burlington, the Quad ventured north, sailing smoothly through the Canadian border to Montreal, Quebec to visit Ms. Emily Doyle. We spent time biking all around the city, checking out the Montreal Jazz Festival (even though, unfortunately, The Roots tickets were sold out...), exploring some sweet neighborhoods, and reaching the summit of Mont-Royal. It was our first time in Canada, both individually and collectively, and for some the first time being in a place dominated by the French language. We had an amazing dinner of tagine made by Sarah's Moroccan homestay sister, Ranya, one of the most friendly and beautiful people you will ever meet.

After our fill of delicious cheese, wine, baguettes, and a few cigarettes, we headed west, through Toronto, before reaching the glorious (and tourist infested) Niagara Falls. We only spent a few hours here because of the crowds, and because we were all anxious to meet our good buddy Adam Yalowitz in Chicago for America's birthday, July 4th!

The drive from Montreal to Niagara to Chicago was our longest yet (950 miles in one day) but we were blessed with a glorious sunset, endless fireflies and a sky dazzling with July 3rd fireworks at every exit as we drove across Michigan. We were pretty thankful for the extra room in the backseat without Thomas' long legs.

While some of the Quad celebrated the fourth in the emergency room dealing with prolonged illness, the rest of us had a wonderfully beer, burger, and dog filled fourth before reuniting downtown in Millenium Park to witness some high quality Chicago fireworks. We spent the next day checking out the (free)Lincoln Park Zoo, cruising by the beach, and hanging out with old friends (my dude Collin Davis and Mary Clarke in the house!). I think the group has come to the conclusion that the Chicago skyline has to be the best we've seen thus far (Sorry NYC).

Next the group (including Sir. Thomas Channing Hester) will head up to Wisconsin to stay with Paul's family, before an extended stay Ben's family's cabin near Nisswa, MN. Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen, and keep in classy.

(keep scrolling down to see the last post now with photos!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Hello Loyal Blog Readers,

As you all know, about two and a half weeks ago, we set off on our adventure to see all of the sights of the United States of America. With twinkles in our respective eyes and nothing but a few dollars and a few dreams, we set off, thinking that we would meticulously write down our adventures in this blog so our friends and family could vicariously live through us while they worked real person jobs. Unfortunately, things have not gone exactly according to plan, something that has become a bit of a theme for our blog. We're not going to name names, but someone whose name starts with a B and ends with an enjamin Zucker left his computer in Boston, rendering us unable to record all of the events of this past week or so. We are so sorry about this predicament, and we hope it is not too late to apologize. So here it is, the events of a week and some change of road tripping condensed into a few epic paragraphs (unfortunately these are mostly picture-less paragraphs at the moment because they're on Ben's computer, but we will rectify the blandness of this post as soon as possible):

When we left you last, we were perusing around Brooklyn for one last day with our friends from Ravenous. In our last day in New York, Paul, Kate and Tommy had a wonderful day at Prospect Park slanging around the frisbee and watching mediocre Little League baseball while Ben went to a Mets game with his dad (a Mets' win) and Sarah went on a bike ride with her friend Leo Walker.

The next day, we decided we had had enough of boring small town living in the so called Big Apple and booked it up to the bright lights of Williamstown. Our first stop in the Purple Valley was to meet up with Kate's grandpa Red Gordon for a wonderful dinner, after which our very own guide Tommy gave the group a tour of the Williams College grounds. That night, we decided it was probably for the best to not indulge in the bustling nightlife of Willytown on a Sunday night, and, instead, we had a quiet night of engaging conversation with the large but lovable Chance Rueger.

The next day, we waved goodbye to Williams College and said hello to Cape Cod, where we stayed two nights with Nick Reynolds from CC. We spent the large majority of this time on the beach, straying only to see Eph Harry Marino pitch a gem of an inning for the Chatham A's. Whenever we were off the beach and back at Nick's house, we were met with hospitality from Nick's mom Kathy, shown below cheesing with Kate.

Whenever we were hungry or needed some motherly attention, Kathy, or Mothra as she is lovingly called, was always there, and we are extremely grateful for her kindness, even though she hustled us in every card or board game we played. Also, if we were every bored at the house, we played with one of their two hilarious dogs Max and Molly, the second of which loved water more than any dog has ever loved anything ever. If you don't believe me, just watch for yourself: Molly Loves Water.

After two wonderful sunny days in the Cape, we headed off to Boston. It was here that we ran into our first and so far only bought of inclement weather (knock on wood), as it rained for pretty much two days straight. Despite the weather outside, we had a wonderful first night staying with Carl Larue, Max Dudley, and Maxwell Crocker and cooking a feast of epic proportions at their house (it could have fed a small army). The next night, we switched venues to stay with our very own Tyler Paul Ferris, not before seeing the man in action cooking up a storm as the best damn pizza chef the city of Boston has ever seen.

It was bittersweet when we packed up our things and left our good friends in Boston the next day, but we had plans. We had to go conquer Acadia, our first national park of the trip. Unfortunately, in many ways, Acadia bested us, with about half of the squad falling ill with a mystery sickness and overcast weather masking what we can only assume are normally beautiful views from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Nonetheless, we made the best of our situation and had a great time checking out the island and walking around the rocky coast. On our second night camping out, we even cooked up our own Maine lobster. Larry, as he was affectionately known before his untimely passing, was absolutely delicious, making even our resident shellfish hater Ben exclaim "Oy vey!" as he broke kosher for the second time on the trip.

After two soggy nights of camping at Acadia, the group traveled back down to stay at Kate's roommate Sarah Delaney's house in Falmouth. Even though Sarah was actually gone working in Seattle, her parents Anne and Geoff showed us a great time. Between boat rides around Casco Bay, a tour of Portland, a wonderful seafood dinner, and a stay on our own private beach, it is an understatement to say that the entirety of the fearsome fivesome had a phenomenal time with Anne and Geoff, and we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to them for everything they did for us.

After our stay in Falmouth, we made the long drive over to Cape Elizabeth to the house of another CC alum, Rusty Leonard. Following that 30 minute haul, we really needed to relax, and Rusty obliged by taking us out for a great afternoon of kayaking, which was followed by a delicious dinner prepared by the whole Leonard clan.

The next day, we took to the road again and headed out to Camp Netop. We got to camp in the afternoon, just in time to perform a rousing acoustic rendition of the Backstreet Boys' classic "I Want It That Way" during dinner. For the next 24 hours, we all ran around participating in activities like we were campers and having a ton of fun with all of the sports equipment available at our fingertips. All in all, we had an awesome time at camp thanks to all of the campers and staff, especially Steve "Hollywood" Hallowell, who really let us have free reign over the place.

Following Netop, Tommy was dropped off at the Manchester Airport so he could fly out to a family reunion. Without their fearless leader for a week, the now not-as-fantastic foursome continued on to Vermont. Unfortunately, the writer of this post is said fearless leader at said family reunion, so this is where the post ends.

In conclusion, here is the song of the day and a promise that this blog will not stop, no matter how many times we lose our computer: Queen- Don't Stop Me Know