Where We’ve Gone So Far

Rock stars in Cleveland. Corn fields in Iowa. Badlands in South Dakota. Redwoods in California. Since we left Durham a month ago, our journey has taken us to lots of places. We’ve creatimageed a map to help you (and us) keep track; just click on this link:


We’re now wrapping up a final day in Berkeley before embarking tomorrow (Sunday) morning on the second half of our U.S. journey. We’ll be stopping in San Luis Obispo, Pasadena and San Diego, then turning east across the southern part of the country,

Once again: off we go.


A Vacation Becomes a Journey

IMG_1788Our vacation is becoming a journey.

A vacation is a break from a job, school or other routine. You pack your bags for a week or two, recharge your batteries and return. Until recently, our trip felt like a vacation, even though we knew we weren’t returning to our old lives.

But now, one month since we left Durham, things feel different. We have settled into the rhythms of the road. Every day we are absorbed with how far we will drive, what we will see, what we will eat. I’ve barely looked at a newspaper. With every mile, Duke and Durham recede.IMG_1914

IMG_1979Our days have been so full. Since we left Portland four days ago, for example, we’ve hiked several times in redwood forests, explored a marsh and bird sanctuary and watched the sun set over the Pacific. We’ve seen young people smoking grass on the streets of Arcata, dodged wildfires and sipped wine in Napa. We’ve lived every moment.

FullSizeRender 252Of course, we miss our family and friends — deeply. But as we near the halfway turn of our trip, we no longer feel like we are “on vacation.” We know now, emotionally as well as intellectually, that we are on an amazing journey, with at least another month to go — and that’s only for our U.S. travels. Nepal still awaits beyond that.

We hope you are enjoying the trip with us. Please do let us know.

Pick Your Favorite Porn

That title got your attention, didn’t it?

I’m expanding the popular phrase “food porn” to challenge you with a contest that includes not only food porn but also garden porn, nature porn and art porn. Here are two examples of each, all culled from our travels in Portland over the past few days, while visiting with our friends Chiyoko and Mitch. (She is a fabulous cook and gardener. The art is from their beautiful house.)

Share your comments about which kind of photo porn you prefer: food, garden, nature or art. Post them on our Facebook site or via this WordPress blog. Ready? Vote!

Food Photo Porn:

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Garden Photo Porn:

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Nature Photo Porn:

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Art Photo Porn:

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Cast your porn vote today!

My New Travel App: Brochures

Travel brochures sound so retro in a world of travel apps and websites. But they’ve brought us a bagful of happiness.

IMG_1533IMG_1537Before we left on our extended cross-country journey, I visited the tourism websites for many of the states we planned to visit. Most of them offered free printed brochures, which I ordered online. Over the next several weeks, as the brochures arrived at our Durham home, I placed them in a plastic bag in chronological order of when we would need them.

As I discussed in a previous post, we don’t have a detailed itinerary, wanting to remain open to serendipity. Instead, whenever we’re about to enter a new state, I reach into the bag, pull out the next brochure and get ideas about where to go. Most of the brochures — a word I use here to include larger booklets and magazines — are professionally produced and filled with helpful information. Many cities offer them, too.

I still use TripAdvisor and other online resources, but the brochures have been a great starting point, especially when I have a bad Internet connection or don’t want to stare at my laptop after a long drive. When we finish with them, I just toss them in a recycling bin. Travel books are helpful, too, but generally more than we need for places we’re typically visiting for just a few days.

As someone who spent 14 years helping to steer a university away from print and into the digital age, and who is enthusiastic about social media, I am surprised to find myself using a plastic bag stuffed with brochures. But many of our country’s state and city tourism offices are producing nice work, and it’s free, so I’m using it. For me, travel brochures are the new app.

Washington State of Mind

Spokane riverfront
Spokane riverfront

Washington State is so much more than Seattle.

We’ve discovered that over the past couple of days as we drove west from Spokane to the Pacific.

Rose Garden at Manito Park, Spokane

I’d visited Seattle several times but had never ventured beyond the city to sample the state’s many other attractions.

In Spokane, we visited Riverfront Park, traversing several bridges across waterfalls that ripple through the heart of the city. We viewed the historic Looff Carousel and took a trip on the SkyRide cable car. Then we visited Manito Park, a magnificent botanical center with a Japanese garden, a rose garden and other attractions.

Grand Coulee DamNext we visited the Grand Coulee Dam, which lived up to its reputation as an engineering wonder. The visitor center did a nice job of explaining how the dam was built and of addressing the competing pressures it faces to provide irrigation, flood control, fisheries, electricity, recreation and other needs.

Pybus Public Market, WenatcheeThen it was on to Wenatchee, where we stopped at the Pybus Public Market, and to nearby Leavenworth, whose main street and shopping area are modeled on a Bavarian village.

Leavenworth, WashingtonLeavenworth was like a piece of Germany inserted into the Pacific Northwest — weird, to be sure, but nonetheless colorful and engaging. From there, we traversed Stevens Pass and braved the evening rush hour traffic to Seattle, where we are staying with friends in their wonderful condominium near the Space Needle, overlooking the city.

imageThroughout our journey, we passed wheat fields, canyons, cobalt blue lakes and other sites that reminded us anew how diverse our country is — and how beautiful.

Back in Cleveland, when we were at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Champa and I watched a video of Billy Joel singing “New York State of Mind” along with Bruce Springsteen. It’s his love song to New York State, which is often overshadowed by its famous city. As we drove towards Seattle, I found myself thinking of that song, which perhaps applies here as well. In my own case, at least, I had never looked beyond Seattle to consider the state it’s in, even though the state shares its name with the city where I worked for more than two decades.

As Billy Joel might put it, I now know what I’m needing and I don’t want to waste more time. I’m in a Washington state of mind

Moose Drool in Montana

IMG_1226Moose Drool? Exactly. It’s a brown ale produced by Big Sky Brewing in Montana. Matt Benjamin, the owner of Sports Club, a restaurant in Shelby, served it to us when we dined there a few days ago. It had no hint of actual moose and was quite tasty.

IMG_1230We’ve been exploring local beers throughout our trip, such as at the Buffalo Cafe in Whitehead on Thursday night. It features beers from several local breweries, including Great Northern Brewing, located just three blocks away, and Bonsai Brewing Project, located a mile away. “The Buffalo is proud to serve as an outpost for our area’s best breweries,” the menu proclaims. It goes on to note that Montana ranks third in the nation for breweries per capita. Here’s their chalkboard sign listing the brews available the night we visited. Note the root beer option at the bottom.

IMG_1231Coming from Durham, with its vibrant and ever-growing beer scene, we’ve enjoyed checking out the competition in the cities we’ve visited. We love what we’re seeing and tasting, but our heart still lies with Fullsteam back home.

We’ll do more exploring as our journey continues west to Seattle, then down to San Diego, and back home via Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and other southern states. If you have suggestions, please post them on our Facebook site or send us an email (djarmul@gmail.com). We’re drooling already.

Join us on the journey.

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