Category Archives: Adventures

America, The Roadtrip: Odessa

The drive from Marfa to Lubbock is about five or so hours.  There’s really only one route back and that drives you straight through Midland and Odessa.  There are miles of hill country (we drove on a ranch road for the first hour of the drive) and that gives way to miles of oil wells.

If you want to see something bizarre, drive through an oil town during a boom (and on the edge of a crash) on a weekend.  It looks no different than an ordinary weekday.

Friday Night Lights was released as a movie in the fall of 2004.  I know everyone has watched the TV show, but once upon a time it was a real story in an actual book about real things that happened in Odessa, Texas.  That is the Friday Night Lights I know.  In that fall of 2004, my senior year of high school, I was captain of the cheerleading squad and Billy played on the football team.  Our football team took second place in the AAAAA state championship.  I graduated, Billy kept playing.  The next year they would win their first state championship.

I wanted to stop in Odessa because I wanted to see Ratliff Stadium.

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I wanted to stop in Odessa because the best stories in life are true.

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America, The Roadtrip: The Carol of Lights

Last December, I went to Lubbock to visit Billy.  Like a good 50% of the vacations I go on, I completely forgot to write about this one until way after the fact.  Anyway, while we’re off cavorting around Italy, this will give us the time to work through this, no?

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The real reason for my trip was to go and see the Carol of Lights, which is Texas Tech’s annual Christmas tradition.  The entire campus is darkened, they have a torchlight parade, and after a number of carols are sung and speeches are given, the campus is lit up in Christmas lights.  It’s pretty cool to see.

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Billy was one of the organizers, so for him this event was a REALLY big deal.  It also meant that I got to experience the Carol of Lights in a way that 99% of attendees never will!  First things first, we headed off to the pre-Carol banquet.  It was a great chance to meet some of his co-workers and the students he works with.  I planned a black and red outfit in order to work the Red Raider theme appropriately.

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And then we rode in a stretch hummer to the main event.  How Fancy, I Know!

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20,000 people from the Lubbock community come to participate.  But because of Billy, I was in the middle of the action.

To get an idea of just how in the middle of the action we were, take a look at 50:59 – 54:32.  Billy and I are to the right of the soloist.  It was a pretty exciting way to experience the evening!

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Of course after a long day of travel, a nearly-lost bag and a late night run to the Lubbock Walmart for the odd grocery (and some Blue Bell Christmas Cookie Ice Cream!) I was totally wiped out, but what a way to kick off our trip!

Minneapolis, in a weekend.

A few months ago, Beka mentioned that she might want to come visit Mads and I in Minneapolis and we said Absolutely Yes.

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Also, thank you Mads for letting me use this snap!

Our city is beautiful.  Admittedly it is easier to show off without snow because our outdoor life is second to none.  It’s hard to argue with the Land of 10,000 Lakes or the fact that we have more coastline than the state of California.  But we made do with the wintery  hand we were dealt.  While I think that our restaurant/activity choices were absolutely ideal for the amount of time we had (and the amount of time we wanted to spend driving!), I know that we could have planned our time together a thousand different ways.  I think that is the hardest part about showing off a city that you love: there is never enough time.

Friday

I picked Beka up from MSP and we started making our way toward dinner at the Blue Door Pub.  Because we had some time to kill before we needed to meet up with Mads and Priscilla, I drove her down Shepard Road (and along the Mississippi River), through downtown Saint Paul so we could view the Capital building and St. Paul Cathedral, up past the beautiful homes along Summit Avenue and then again down Grand Avenue.  St. Paul: Our Splendid Capital City.

We chose the Blue Door Pub for several reasons.  As Minnesota is the birthplace of the Jucy Lucy we felt very strongly that Beka needed to sample one.  While it would have been more authentic to visit Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, both of which both lay claim to the creation of The First Jucy Lucy, we were also seeking a venue that would allow Beka to sample cheese curds.  Non-Minnesotan/Wisconsinite/Texans live largely ignorant of this fact but true cheese curds as we know them (not those nonsense mozzarella stick bits that pass for “cheese curds” in the rest of the country) do not exist outside of these states.  So it was very important to us that Beka try these.  We feasted on jucy lucys, cheese curds, totchos and it was good.

Saturday

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To start our day, Mads brought an assortment of donuts from YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka.  They were absolutely delightful.  I know there are many arguments to be made for other bakeries in the area (I’m 100% sure I have tried all of them), but this was what was closest to us, end of story.

For lunch/brunch, we visited World Street Kitchen.  I have been very vocal about my love of their caramelized lamb belly since our very first visit.  It is absolutely delightful, there is no other food on earth like it, and once we were done feasting Mads and Beka understood why as well.  I had my first experience with the WSK brunch menu (Southside with Eggs for the win) and my heart was filled with joy.

After lunch, we drove over to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to look at their large Asian collection (it covers over half of the second floor) and…everything else.  Weekend Snaps 003

The permanent exhibits are free and they are just top-notch.   If you live here and you have not been you must go.  I’ve already made notes in my calendar about two exhibitions I want to visit in 2015 (the DaVinci Codex and another about Ferran Adria).

We played around with a few (translation: 10) ideas for dinner.  The sad reality?  We could only eat dinner once.  What we finally ended up settling on was a trip to Pig Ate My Pizza in Robbinsdale.  We ordered a few tasting menus ($50 per couple for three small plates, a pizza of your choice and dessert) and got to work.Weekend Snaps 004

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After dinner, we headed over to The Rookery for another drink.  Since they work with molecular gastronomy and run an open kitchen, it was a pretty great show to watch.

Sunday

We planned for this day to be a lazy one since we spent Friday and Saturday out and about.  However, we did have one action item on the agenda.  While mildly authentic, the cheese curds at the Blue Door Pub had Italian Seasoning in the batter and we felt betrayed because Cheese Curds Are Not Mozzarella Stick Bites.  So we ran over to The Sunshine Factory in Plymouth.  This is not  fancy sports bar, but their cheese curds are an excellent rival to those served up at The Mouse Trap during State Fair season.  If you are a cheese curd fan, you must get here immediately.  During happy hour, it’s $6 for a dinner plate full.  These people mean business.

Minnesotans, how would you fill a weekend for out-of-town visitors?

Walleye Catchin’

Girl CousinsA few months back, we discussed the idea of a girl cousin fishing trip with Marcus’ grandfather.  I don’t know who brought up the idea or how it really came about, but since the men go every year, we finally got to go!  I know that I was really excited to go because 1) I really felt like it was time to catch my first walleye, and 2) I have incredibly fond memories of fishing with my grandfather and all of my cousins.

So the six of us piled into the car in our sweet matching outfits and headed toward Lake Mille Lacs.  Don’t worry, I packed my camo thermos, camo koozie and a stash of LaCroix.  I was not about to be caught unprepared!

Mille Lacs is really only about two hours north of the city, which makes it perfect for a day trip.  We built-in some time for lunch (Happy’s, obviously) and then we stopped by the giant walleye and enjoyed the shoreline.Big Walleye

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I will be honest, even though it was a clear day (I think we would have died if it was raining), the wind+50 degree weather combination was just a touch bit chilly.

My first catch was this perch.

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It (actually) became seagull food.  Circle of life, people.

When we pulled the boat up to the second hole, no sooner had I thrown my line into the water than I had gotten The Bite.

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I was so so so pleased!  First Walleye ever!  State Fish Of Minnesota!  Mine!  It was only 17.5″ long, so we threw it back.  The guides seemed sort of sympathetic but again, since we’re all about the catch and release I was happy to do it.

And at the third hole, after a lot of casting about, I caught this little fish stick.

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Another Walleye!  So special!  I don’t think I will ever stop laughing about it.

Just as we were reaching the point of total hypothermia, the boat pulled back up to the dock and our adventure was no more.

The actual boating portion of the trip was four hours, which left us with just enough time to grab dinner (the base of our collective food pyramid was hot tea and soup) and to drive home.  By the time I pulled into the garage at 10:00 PM, I was ready to pour myself into bed.

So You Want To Run With The Bulls In Pamplona

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No, we’re not going again (don’t worry Mom and Dad!), but this weekend I am apparently all about the How I/We Did This.  And Fiesta de San Fermin begins in about two weeks (the first Encierro is on July 7) so time is off the essence.

The thing we struggled with prior to our trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls was finding a source (man or internet) that would give us a solid game plan.  So.  Here is what I would want to know if I was running with the bulls/participating in the Encierro in Pamplona.  Please remember as you read this that these are my observations, based on my experiences in Pamplona and with the Encierro.   I have only been there once, and I am not at all an expert.

If you are looking for the play-by-play of our run, it is here.

Uno. Fiesta De San Fermin.

It runs from 6 July – 14 July.  I want to say that the city is about 200,000 people during the year and is 1,000,000 people during the fiesta.  During the remainder of the year, Pamplona is actually a pilgrimage stop on the road to Santiago.   With that in mind, if you have ever been to Vegas or down Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, this is still bigger and more insane.
Drink all day and party all night applies.  You will also be astonished by the number of people pushing strollers or wearing Baby Bjorns.  The fiesta is for All People.

Dos.  The Outfit. 

You should probably know this by now, but in case you do not, EVERYONE (runner or reveler) wears the all-white ensemble with the red scarf and sash.  You can bring your own or you can buy the whole thing literally anywhere in the city for between €16 – €26.  A few people may wear red bottoms or a red shirt, but that’s really where the variety ends.  For our run, I pre-made tear away sashes with snaps so that if for some reason we did meet the bulls’ horns, it wouldn’t like, constrict and chop us in half.  Also, newspapers are €1.30.  You can split one and make two batons.

Tres.  The Start. 

Our biggest fear was not so much that we would get hurt, but that we would be in the wrong part of the street at the wrong time when they closed and cleared the course.  They sweep the course at 7:00 AM and all the while these carpentiero dudes in brown vests are setting up those giant wooden fence-style barricades.  The street sweeping squad is busy hosing/sweeping/leaf blowing the course.  Truly I have never seen such a thorough bunch.  When they are done, there is nothing but cobblestones for man and beast to set foot upon.

There are two places that you are able to corral for the run.  The government center and the inicio (start).  We stuck around at the inicio until just after they placed San Fermin and his flowery accessories into the grotto.  At about 7:45 AM, we started to move down the course.  Once the streets are clear, you are able to move around the course and choose a starting point.  We all knew that we wanted to begin past Dead Man’s Curve down Calle de Estafeta.  Two of our group were heartset on making it into Plaza de Toros so they started farther down while Marcus and I stayed up the road.

Quatro.  The Run.

At approximately 8:00 AM you will hear one rocket announcing the release of the first bull and another very shortly thereafter announcing the departure of the last.  People will begin running at this point even though your area of the course may not see bulls for another minute and a half.

Really important stuff to know:

  1. If you fall down (TONS of people trip, tackle one another, etc.), STAY DOWN in the fetal position until the bulls have passed.  This is really the most important thing to know.  The bulls will try to run around you or jump over your body rather than run over you because you are an obstacle.  It’s instinct.  If you try to stand up and the bulls are coming, you will be directly at horn height.  Do not do it.
  2. If you cannot remember Rule #1 or think that you will be the exception to falling down, seriously do not bother running.
  3. The bulls are incredibly fast.  You are not going to keep up with them.
  4. The bulls are more likely to run in the center of the street than the outside edges.  They are more likely to turn wide and slip/fall at those corners and turns than they are to make a tight turn.
  5. Bulls running with the herd are much less dangerous than those that have been separated.
  6. The steers.  They run the course every day.  Some run with the bulls and the pastores chase a few more down the course 30-60 seconds behind the herd to sweep the bulls that have been separated from the group.
  7. If you enter the Plaza de Toros more than 30 seconds in advance of the bulls, do expect to be showered with trash.  The crowd knows that there is no way in hell you ever saw the bulls.
  8. The pastores and the Spanish runners in particular are very concerned with safety and maintaining the tradition and dignity of the Encierro.  We saw people get slapped/whacked by these groups for doing the following: Taking photos and videos on the course during the run (this is incredibly and idiotically dangerous), trying to wrestle and/or ride one of the bulls with capped horns that are released into the arena post-run.
  9. Know that people will essentially carry you down the course with their momentum.  You do not want to start too soon, but you do want to start running early enough that you are up to crowd speed when the bulls pass.  You will know that the bulls are coming because the speed and pattern of the runners becomes outright frantic and you will hear the bells on the steers and the clattering hooves.

Cinco. It is unforgettable.

The Encierro is not something I would describe as “fun,” per se.  What I will say is that the moment the rockets go off and you are on that course, you become a part of what is a very special and sacred tradition to the people of Pamplona.  Enjoy those two minutes, because they will leave a mark.

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Travels Past: Giverny

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve really run the clock on this story since it has now been an entire year since we went to Paris.  But, who is keeping track?

Giverny is Monet’s home in the countryside outside of Paris.  If you want to see extraordinary examples of his work, go to Musee d’Orsay or L’Orangerie.  But it is here where you can see his Japanese-inspired Water Garden: the water lilies, the willow trees and the bridges that he so famously painted.

To get to Giverny, you have to take a car, because it is about an hour’s drive outside of the city.  Once you get to the true countryside, to the world of small villages and hay fields, tiny creeks and winding roads, you are there.

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It’s all very transporting.

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Mom accused me of taking photos of her butt as we wandered the town and gardens.  I would dispute that as being not entirely accurate.  For whatever reason, on this particular day in France, the only thing I actually wanted to take photos of was my mother.  To me, she was the most beautiful thing.  And yes, Mom, if you are reading this, of all of the things in Monet’s gardens you were my favorite.

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I’m sure that when spring isn’t MIA and everything is in bloom, it is quite lovely.  But instead, I did my best to take snaps of the few flowers blooming on the entirety of the grounds.

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Some people say the light is different.  When Marcus got the chance to look over some of the snaps I took of the willows and the water, he could not believe that the water and the sky were not switched.

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It truly was just like that.  I have never been of the particular belief that seeing an artist’s subject matter will bring any sort of great clarity to viewing their work.  That being said, seeing the light on the water was  not something I could have possibly even imagined.

It was a different piece of art entirely.

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Au revoir, Giverny.

BERLIN

As we were charting out our trip towards Pamplona, Berlin just sort of…happened.  Because we knew we wanted to spend more than just a few days in Germany and I knew that while it was really important to me that we visit Munich again, I wanted to see something new.

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If you are someone who is all about antiquities and museums and Cultural Things, then you will just adore Berlin. By the time we left we were exhausted and our heads were full.

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Since I had already done my morning runs through Brandenburger Tor and into the Tiergarten, we did not schedule separate time for that (though I did bring Marcus down to the tor so that he could see it).  If you’re not going to do that (which I am guessing is probably most travelers), then you should definitely make the time.

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Also, we did buy a Berlin Pass and came out just about…even.  Depending on what you are planning on doing, it’s likely cheaper to just buy a museum pass and DB day passes, but for us it was fine from a functional standpoint.

The Things.

Places we visited that I did not take snaps of and do not feel the need to editorialize on: The Neue Synagogue, the Bahaus Archive, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (migraine inducing), Alte Nationalgalerie.

Schloss Charlottenburg

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You have to pay to take cameras in, which I was not about to do.  We did not get the chance to wander the grounds because there were other places to be, but it was a beautiful palace to visit, and a wonderful way to understand more of the history of Germany’s ruling families.  They have an absolutely phenomenal collection of china and silver table wares that were just…I have never seen anything quite like it in my life.

Neues Museum

It is no secret that I absolutely adore antiquities and especially if they are Egyptian.  Always if they are Egyptian.  If you are a lover of Egyptian things, this is pretty wild because they have a few full Books of the Dead hanging from the walls.  Even if you don’t love Egyptian things, this is where Nefertiti’s bust is housed.

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If you are into rooms upon rooms upon rooms of Rembrandts, the odd Van Gogh and a few Vermeers, then yes to all of it.

Pergamon Museum

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Since we were already visiting the Neues Museum, this one was not initially on my list.  But as Marcus and I road along the River Spree on an evening boat tour, we were informed that they had reconstructed the Ishtar Gate of Ancient Babylon inside the museum and I was all ROLL OUT.

This may have actually been the best surprise of the trip.

And weren’t we surprised when we found that they had also re-built other elaborate antiquities such as…the Temple of Pergamon.  I don’t know that we have anything like it in the states or…anywhere, really.

The Food.

Lunches were doner kebab and sausages and currywursts eaten on the fly.  Apparently Berlin is really the place to do these things, so if you’re on a multi-city tour of Germany, make hay while the sun shines, people.

But probably with more emphasis on the doner kebab than the currywurst.  And I mean with 100% more emphasis on the doner kebab.

Tucholsky

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This restaurant came as a recommendation from the owner of the hotel we were staying at.  I feel like those sorts of things can be so hit-or-miss, but this was a great first meal for us in Berlin!

Prater Garten

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I knew that we would really get to see the biergartens in all of their glory in Munich, but I also wanted for Marcus to be able to have that experience ASAP.  This place is like the oldest one in Berlin or something on that order, so it seemed like the right place to trek to.  Nevermind the fact that we had to walk approximately three miles from the train station to get there.  Details people.  Details.

Schneeweiβ

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The friends we were meeting up with in Munich suggested that we visit the Friedrichshain neighborhood because it’s…the hip place to be.  Related: I got offered pot by some guys on the street.

Anyway, Yelp directed us here and it was just AMAZING.  The menu was not long, but we had just an incredible meal.  I may or may not have fought Marcus down for my fair share of the schnitzel.

re: That Dessert.  I was originally heartset on ordering some Apple Strudel, but then ordered this one for no other reason than the fact that I didn’t actually know what it was.  What it was: Fried chunks of a dutch pancake with poached plums.  It was truly phenomenal.