Sunday, October 16, 2011

Down South - Long drives and good eats

Pulling into Denver in early October, we had generally left the mountains and wilderness behind and moved on to the major cities of the southwest, Texas, and now the swampy bayou of the gulf coast.

We spent our final day in Denver sampling some of Colorado's finest brews and then feasted on chili-lime acorn squash, baked brie, and white chocolate dipped strawberries made by our hostess with the mostess, Denali Johnson. YUMMMM. Ben missed out on this delicious meal, but apparently had a grand ol' time with his camp buddy, Ryan Schillinberg, in Fort Collins. We met up later with CC homie Laura Turner and a William's alum, Trey "treybombs" Pendeary.

Four to five hours of sleep later... we headed west *for possibly the last time* for our last hurrah in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Several hours and three thousand feet later we had summited our first 14ers of the trip (and Tommy's 1st ever!) Grays and Torreys Peaks. For those tuning in from outside of Colorado... fourteener is the term used for a mountain exceeding 14,000 feet above sea level. Major thanks to the enthusiastic man who gave us a lift up the road to the trailhead and snapped these photos of us. Somehow in our 6am delirium we forgot to bring the camera, but thankfully he posted them on!

Grays Peak - 14,278 ft.

On our way south to Colorado Springs, we stopped at the CC ski bum favorite, Dorothys, for buffalo tamales with red chili in true southwest fashion. Arriving at the CC campus, Paul's fabulous former boss and best friend, Lynnette, treated us to yummy sandwiches - Thanks! Fully wiped from our busy day, we ventured to the dollar theater for a good laugh at Horrible Bosses and then met some friends at Front Range Barbecue for bluegrass and local brews.

The next few days at Colorado College were spent making scrumptious tortilla soup at Lily McCoy's humble abode, thrifting at the ARC, visiting with old friends, and frequenting our favorite spots in Colorado Springs. Luckily Ben made it down to the Springs in time to join Kate and Annie for the Manitou Springs Incline - the strenuous 3/4 of a mile hike that extends 2000 ft. up the base of Pike's Peak.

Be weary of the false summit...

But alas, the college fun had to end as the road trip continued south down I-25. As it was Yom Kippur, Ben found a temple in New Mexico to observe Yom Kippur and the rest of the gang flocked to the Jemez Hot Springs outside Santa Fe for a good soak.

Cold Beers, Hot Springs

That night we met up with Silver Spring's finest - Tina Termini - who's getting her PhD in Albuquerque. Exhausted, we all kicked it at home and reminisced of the "good 'ol days." Trying to pack everything in, we woke up at five to find a sweet perch on top of the town to get a view of the Balloon Festival at dawn. As you can imagine, it was magical.

Just a few of the 1400 balloons...

Intimidated by our 11 hour drive to Dallas, the gang hit the road. We stopped at eccentric America's Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Tx and finally made use of the spray-paint can we had been lugging around the country. For the night we crashed at Copper Breaks State Park and cooked steak pad thai for dinner! The next day we finished our drive to Dallas and arrived to a delicious Tex-Mex dinner with Paul's cousin, Amy Goins, her husband Nate, and awesome kids Baylor, Rinner, and Parke. We were all pumped for what tomorrow had to bring - The Texas State Fair. We can't even begin to convey how many amazing things come together at the Cotton Bowl.

Fried Snickers

Deep-fried EVERYTHING (snickers, pumpkin pie, frito pies, bread pudding, etc...), friends, family, rides (yes Rinner, rides!), smiles, laughs, and cheap beers made this day a highlight of our trip.


Thanks for showing us around Amy!

We hit the road after the fair to see more of the Goins family in Austin, Tx. Paul's aunt Sandy and uncle Jon welcomed us in and even grilled us burgers at 10:30 (way past our bed-time). The next morning, we woke up ready to tour Austin. With stomachs full of Austin's customary breakfast tacos, we hit the town with lots of recommendations. We caught Mr. Cam Savage on his lunch break from work, who sent us down to Barton Springs. Its three bucks and an awesome place to spend an afternoon. They've dammed up a natural spring into a huge swimming pool equipped with a diving board and hidden underwater caves!

After soaking up some sun, we hit the Whole Foods headquarters for about 3.5 laps of free samples. We walked the hip strip of South Congress Street before heading over to Lake Austin to spend the night with Cam, on his 23rd birthday (don't worry, he's still accepting belated gifts). Ben, Paul, and Tommy all got wakeboarding lessons before Cam got up and literally did laps, circles, flips, and spins around us. We finally (after being in Texas a few days now) got some kick-ass BARBECUE at the County Line restaurant. Being Cam's birthday and all, we had a couple drinks, fraternized and all participated in some mischief before a late night crash landing into the pillow.

We all woke feeling just dandy (especially Tommy)! While we saw Texas in all its glory at the fair, this day was a pretty close second. We were headed to the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Tx (Yes, thats where they make the Box of Bocks). Paul and Ben did the tasting for the group, as a few of us (Tommy) weren't up for anymore Shiner. After Paul and Ben's share of malted water with hops, we hit the road for Blue Bell Creameries (because we all scream for ice cream).

Graeters > Blue Bell?

Heiress Graeter came out swingin' with some stumper questions, but for the most part, we crushed their delicious ice cream and enjoyed the scene. Upon entering Houston, Tommy demanded we pay a visit to his part-time lover, Boris the school bus. (If you haven't heard him talk about Boris, you're probably the only one. Feel free to ask Mr. Hester yourself.)

Boris - in all her camouflage glory

After consuming only beer and ice cream all day, we gladly arrived for dinner at the third Goins stop in Houston. Paul's cousin Eric, his wife Becca, and kids Cooper and Zoe dined us out by their pool and Cooper gave us a high-octane tour of their beautiful house. That night we went out to a bar, AvantGarden, to meet up with Patrick Moreno-Covington, a 2011 CC Grad, and Ben's friend from Tulane and Houston native, Zoe.

We woke up the next morning to Sesame street and got a great idea for Tommy's Halloween costume. But, with some more driving ahead of us, we hit the road to New Orleans. Upon arrival, Annie met up with her boo, heart-throb Rob Glassman for dinner. The three of us headed to Tulane underage favorite, The Boot for 3 for 1 Happy hour drinks. We were met by CC alums Lauren Sinnott and Jimmy Singer before making it to Paul's favorite spot in New Orleans, Frenchman St for those who love live music. Big New Orleans shout out to Hank "Henry the" Mann for driving us around town and hooking us up at his pizza joint with a house pie and a couple comp. beers. New Orleans has been good to us. The Spotted Cat, BMC, the Palms, the Boot, Saturn Bar, FandM's, La Nuit, Snake and Jakes, Kingpin. We've hit some bars.

If you're ever in Nola, take a break from drinking, grab a po-boy, and head to Audubon ("the fly", specifically) for a scenic view of the Mississippi.

Also, don't miss the tree of many names - tree of life, dylan tree, giving tree, etc - right around the corner.

Oh yeah, we couldn't rob you guys of this one......

Ben Sleeps

Last but not least.......

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Returning to the Mile High

While we continue to promise “more posts,” we’re realizing that we really can’t live up to that. Our internet access is truly few and far between and (as you may have read about) we do awesome shit all day long and don’t want to slow down to sit on the internet. But alas, we’ve arrived at Ben’s Aunt Laurie and Uncle Gar’s wonderful abode in Littleton, Colorado (and you guessed it, they got them interwebs). So I get to catch all you loyal (and demanding) readers up on the events of weeks past.

First off, we must apologize for foolishly leaving out one of our most dedicated readers - Mr. Arnold Wihtol of Palo Alto, CA. On our drive back to the Bay Area from Big Sur, Kate's grandpa welcomed us into his home with open arms, fresh cherries, cold beverages, Latvian vocab lessons, and a grizzly beard rivaling Ben and Tommy's. We only wish we could have stayed longer. Thanks for everything!

After leaving San Diego, we arrived in Joshua Tree with Sir Daniel "Sneezebird" of Cohen and set out for a one night out-and-back trip to MARS! Joshua Tree is truly specatcular and if you haven't been, I highly recommend it. We did an awesome loop hike called the Panorama Loop, so as you can imagine, the views were simply divine. The silhouettes of the wacky Joshua Trees (not actually trees mind you, they're closely related to the yucca cactus) at sunrise and sunset were a personal favorite. But the weekend ended (a little too quickly) and Danny had to head back to LA to get his grown man on.

Fortunately, we're all still unemployed and got to head out to VEGAS on Monday instead of to a desk job (I'm takin shots at you Danny mostly cause your job sounds sweet). But Vegas, now that's a town, man. We paid, I repeat, paid for a room on the strip at the Imperial Palace. It was momentous for us, as that was our first, only, and last time paying for lodging on the trip. So we showered and proceded to acquaint ourselves with 1.75L of Black Velvet whiskey. Unfortunately, Kate hit it off with Mr. Velvet and he snatched her away from Paul for the evening. Kate decided to stay in for the night, but the Bros were set on the free drinks at the blackjack tables. We all took out too much money from the ATM and hit the tables.

Ben was off to a quick start and got to ride out his fuzzy night with stacks of chips in front of him. That is, until he started picking up his cards (I think because he had trouble reading them, this is a serious faux pas) and spilled a drink on the table. If you're wondering, that's a quick way to get red flagged. Ben quietly took his chips and cashed out, up about 100 dollars, and on top of the world. Tommy also had some good luck, by way of hitting Black Jack two or three successive times and came out with about 40 dollars he had never seen before! But, we can't all win. Towards the end of the evening Paul was down nearly $80 until Mr. Velvet and his friend Free Drink convinced Paul to put down $25 dollars on the last hand. With a King-Four (terrible) the dealer gave Paul advice to Stay. And with tears of fear (and momentarily joy), the dealer busted and Paul scraped back up to a manageable loss on the evening.

The next day was our slowest of the trip. But, slow is relative for us. We headed back west, ("But I thought you guys were headed east now?") to check out DEATH VALLEY. Now, we headed west because we did really want to see this crazy geological valley and hit the lowest spot in the United States, but we also had a piece of great news that we're about to share with you readers. A fifth person had agreed to fly into Las Vegas the following day to join our road trip and D.E.A.R.T. (drop everything and road trip). As much fun as we had in Vegas, we couldn't spend another full day there. We kicked it in the scalding-hot Death Valley before the arrival of our new roommate, companion, chef extraordinaire, fellow CC grad, and best friend, Miss Andrea Christine Graeter!! You heard it here first ladies and gentlemen.

We left Death Valley, picked up Annie in Vegas, and promptly left the scene before Paul could lose any more money. We spent the night in Dixie National Forest and began a backpacking trip into Zion Canyon National Park. If you're ever there, forget the crowded Angel's Landing, and hit up Cable Mountain. This place had the best view of the canyon and some great history to it. After getting nice and dirty on our trip, we got lucky and realized that it was the Zion Canyon Music Festival that night, catered by Zion Canyon Brewing and some sweet bluegrass music. Ben killed it with the grassy Zion ladies, and with a little more time would have no doubt, sealed. the. deal. But alas, we had to find a place to lay our tarp and spend the night.

The next day we drove over to another canyon, (the theme of the week) Bryce Canyon National Park. We hiked around the rim of the canyon before descending into the ridiculous hoodoos and seeing Thor's Hammer. That place is truly another planet. If you're an aspiring astronaut, go there. We drove late that evening to let Paul play tour guide of Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. (Paul spent last spring break in Escalante with Sneezebird, Lyle, and Kraus).

The goal was to complete the elusive slot canyon EGYPT 3, a four mile winding 127 Hours-esque slot. With no rain in the forecast, we twisted, turned, squeezed, slid around and got really, really dirty. But I'm pretty sure we'd all agree it was worth it, even though Kate, Annie, and Ben all took some silly spills into some pretty stagnant mud/water pools.

The next day, we trekked to the grandest of all canyons. You guessed it, (and I kinda gave it away) The Grand Canyon. We were determined not to leave without making it all the way down to the Colorado River and seeing the floor of the Grand Canyon. But, I guess a lot of people are interested in doing so. We had to wait around a few days, (I know, it was just terrible) to get the backcountry permit to camp down in the canyon. But 14 miles and about 6,000 feet later, we made it to the bottom, celebrated Rosh Hashanah, and climbed out.

In the same day, we attempted the 8+ hour drive to Moab, but clearly didn't make it. Fortunately we found some National Forest to spend the night. As fate would have it, we realized we were about 5 miles from Natural Bridges National Monument. And so we check out the Bridges before hitting Moab to see Arches National Park. We saw the window arches, hiked to Delicate Arch at sunset, grabbed some beers at Moab Brewing Co and camped at Gold Bar, the "CC entrance to Utah".

After a wild, wonderful, and Police Free (a feat for travelers with out-of-state liscence plates) time in Utah we headed to Colorful Colorado. After a quick pitstop for burritos at Los Jilbertos in Grand Junction, we made it to Aspen to see the changing colors at the Maroon Bells.

We had planned on doing arguably the best hike in Colorado, the Four Pass Loop, but with rain in the forecast for the next five days, we reluctantly moved on. We stopped in Leadville, the highest town in the U.S. at 10,152 ft and went to some awesome thrift stores and the one of a kind Melanzana outdoor store where Paul and Kate each bought highly coveted hoodies. After another brief stop in Idaho Springs to get some hot-sauce at Two Brothers Deli, we made it to Littleton where Aunt Laurie greeted us with open arms (not really, she hosed us off outside).

We were pointed towards the showers and laundry before delicious appetizers, beers, and upon request, a wonderful chicken recipe that had left our mouths watering from months before when we met up with Aunt Laurie for the first time at the lake house in Minnesota. We have a special award given to Laurie, as she is the first person on the road trip that we have seen twice, about a month in and with about a month to go.

After dinner we headed uptown Denver to meet with a gaggle of CC graduates. Shout out Denali Johnson, (who got 36 freaking points from the Baltimore defense to beat Paulito in fantasy football this week to put him at a gentleman's 0-12 on the year), Britt Landis, Joe Wood (CFAB), Aaron Bandler, and Lizzy Stephan (who comes in at a close second to Aunt Laurie, seeing us in both Brooklyn and Denver.) It was weird seeing two different people, for the second time, both on the same day! The jazz club we hit up was sweet, equipped with buck fity PBRs.

Today we're headed up to Longmont, Boulder, and Fort Collins to hit an assortment of Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Boulder, and Odell's Breweries. We'll let ya know.