Category Archives: AMERICA

Phoenix!


Phoenix was great.  It was our babymoon/sixth anniversary trip and based on the amount of sleeping we did, we really needed to get away.

I just took a walk down (blog) memory lane and sorted out that our last vacation-vacation was in 2011 when we went to the Bahamas on a cruise.  The friends were fun, the weather was terrible.  And before that, we went to Hawaii in 2010.

So sitting by the pool and drinking pina coladas was very overdue.

We stayed at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge because they had one saltwater pool.  When we checked in, after some further discussion with the concierge, we learned that ALL of the pools including the lazy river were saltwater.

I haven’t been in a lazy river in 15 years because of my chlorine allergy, so it was HEAVEN.  We floated, and floated, and floated some more!


We did some very casual hiking on Camelback (with absolutely no intention of making it to the top!) via the Cholla and Echo Valley trails.



I ate my favorite Whataburger breakfast each morning – a Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit on a Jalapeno-Cheddar Biscuit with Hashbrowns, Coffee, and Spicy Ketchup.  It really is a high-quality breakfast for being fast-food and I am deeply sorrowful that we don’t have any here in Minnesota.


We caught up with Allison, and HRH, and Scott over dinner one night at Arizona Wilderness Brewing which was really nice, especially since I cannot make our girls’ trip later this summer.

Even though the weeks leading up to our departure were emotional because I didn’t want to leave Critter (I had terrible separation anxiety from Marcus at this point in my last pregnancy and it manifested itself in many tears as I left him in Las Vegas), it was so good for us to be away. I got to watch two whole movies on our flights (Hidden Figures, Secretariat), I finished one book and started another, we got to do things together without worrying about any sort of schedule.  It was good to have the break. By Saturday night I was more than ready to come back home.

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Welcome To New York


For the third time in our lives now, Marcus and I were invited to attend a wedding in Tarrytown, NY.  For those members of the group who do not know where that is, it is a lovely town on the Hudson River in Westchester County.  It is a pleasant, happy place, but since we are both lifelong Minnesotans, the odds of us getting invited to one wedding out there much less three are…not so high.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are quite low.

We have not planned a specific trip to New York City since 2010 for the very obvious reason that every 12-18 months, we seem to end up there anyway.  This trip was no different.  When we booked our tickets, we had a bit of back and forth about whether or not it would make sense to bring Critter along.  Our verdict was that even though we love him so very much it would probably be a massive pain, we wouldn’t really do anything that even loosely resembled vacationing, and we felt like we deserved a weekend away just the two of us.

So on Friday morning, we flew into Newark, took the train into Manhattan and after leaving our things at Meredith’s, headed out for a nice lunch at Persepolis.


I chose it because it was (1) close to where we were starting out from (2) had good Yelp reviews (3) was not French/Italian food.

We split a bunch of appetizers and then shared a main course of beef kebabs with an herbed rice.





It was fantastic.

With that addressed, we set off in what was (again) unseasonably warm weather for this time of year to walk through Central Park as a part of our route to get to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  Slowly, but surely I have been ticking The Museums Of New York City off of my list.  I think the big two that I have yet to see are The Whitney and The Frick.  Next trip.

What we didn’t realize until we were mapping our route to the MoMA is that we were going to have the opportunity to walk straight past Trump Tower.  So we did.


And then we were at the museum, where we got to enjoy a whole floor full of impressionist paintings (including Starry Night and a Monet Water Lily triptych!) and Picassos and Mondrians and a lovely courtyard-sculpture garden that included an interesting butterfly by Calder and a goat by Picasso and it was all a lot to take in.  


As I was walking through the art, I felt…something.  I don’t know if I was transported for a moment to my old life of lots of travel and many museums or if I was unaware of just how thirsty I was to surround myself with beauty after surviving the 2016 election season but it felt good. Steph took some time off of work to join us for our museum romp so it was just excellent to be able to catch-up with her while we wandered through the exhibit halls.

Marcus then trekked off to Brooklyn to spend the evening with Joe and Foley.  I returned to Meredith’s where Strand arrived with McGee (her pup) and the fixings to make cake batter puppy chow.  Chief accomplishments of our merry band included: drinking two bottles of champagne, learning how to make tiny chairs from the champagne bottle cork-cages, eating quite a bit of puppy chow and takeout, workshopping.

But I was not kidding about the tiny chairs.


I have a new party trick.

The next morning, I ate a bagel with lox and cream cheese from Pick-A-Bagel.  It was probably the height of my culinary goals for the city.


Marcus arrived back in Manhattan with a bag of donuts from Dough and we ventured out to Tarrytown.

We ate lunch at Bibille, which is a Korean-fusion place.  Basically we ate bowls of bibimbap because that was the only thing they had on the menu and it was great.


I got one with purple rice and spicy pork, Marcus got one with purple rice and beef.  We both got all of the fixings.  It was fantastic.

And now we have tried another Tarrytown restaurant.

We dedicated the rest of Saturday afternoon to napping and general laziness. In my past life, I might have thought it a nice idea to go visit Kykuit or something else of the like, but based on our current record I am now feeling fairly confident in the likelihood that I will make it back out to that part of New York again someday.  Unrelated: we both agreed it was important to build some rest into our trip plans.

The wedding of course, was lovely.  If you ever get invited to one at the Tappan Hill Mansion, you should go.

This is Marina. We have been friends for…at least nine years now?  We have not seen one another in AGES so we did the best workshopping. 

We are now home and I am pleased to report that I slept MUCH better on this trip than I did during the Sleeptacocation.  Why?  Who knows, but I am super thankful.  That was rest that is still sorely needed.  We missed Critter to bits – it was so fun to see him when we got back.  He was just tickled to see that we had finally returned to him.  Of course, dear one, we will always return.

Sleeptacocation (Dallas)


Let’s be real friends, if Billy did not live in Texas, my grand total of trips to the great state thus far would be one.

Instead, I have been to Texas a lot!  Or at least, more often than I believe I would have been otherwise.  I will also go so far as to say that after my stint on the balcony at the Carol of Lights in Lubbock, I feel a kinship with the people of Texas.

So.  I can now add Dallas to the list of Cities In Texas That I Have Visited.  Also on this illustrious list: Lubbock, Odessa, Marfa, Houston.

This was a trip of mixed feelings.  Honestly, I missed Critter so much it hurt.  I wasn’t at all worried about how he was being cared for, but the separation was just hard.  It was 100% a healthy and important thing to do, but it was a huge transition to go from being Mama On Call 24/7 to Solo Artist.  In some ways, I slept better.  I got to sleep six hours straight on Wednesday night!  I got to nap unapologetically on Friday afternoon!  In some ways I slept worse.  I was inexplicably awake for two hours straight in the middle of the night on Thursday.  Due to my early Saturday flight time, I only got to sleep for four and a half hours on Friday night.

BUT.  I got to go spend 72 hours alone with my brother and at this point in our lives, I know that the number of opportunities that we have to go on sibling adventures just the two of us will continue to dwindle.  There will be more Critters.  Someday he will have a family as well.  He was a total champ because not only did he do a good job of plotting out adventures  (the only thing I planned ahead of time was lunch with a girlfriend), but he also was patient with the fact that all of our adventures had to function within some sort of pumping schedule.  Being a lady is so cool.

ANYWAY.  What did we do?

The Sixth Floor Museum


Dallas: Place of so much history.  Including the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  After we had been through the museum, I told Billy I found it a bit odd that such a place exists where you can stand only feet away from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots.  I understand how all of this can be important in terms of telling they story of that fateful day.  I can also see how it can be helpful in laying to rest a number of conspiracy theories surrounding the President’s death.  Regardless, it was all still interesting to learn about.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library



The first Presidential Library I ever visited was Truman’s in Missouri.  They really are interesting ways to showcase history as well as how the leaders of the day shaped and were shaped by the events that took place.  FDR came up with the idea, however, Hoover is the oldest President to have a library.  I’d love to be able to visit more of these as we continue to travel across the U.S. in the coming years.

Where did we eat/drink?


Deep Ellum Brewing Company


These people know how to brew beer.  I feel like for every good taproom your visit, you visit how many mediocre ones?  Billy had an IPA, I ordered a sampler.  Every beer was delightful.  I might need him to bring us some cans home at Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or whenever it is that he checks a bag when he is flying home.

This is also where I ate what is quite possibly one of the world’s most majestic foods: Elote Tots.


I have already figured out how I could action these for us at home.

The Truck Yard


They don’t brew their own beer, but they showcase a lot of great Dallas brews, and have a fantastic backyard of sorts for you to enjoy them in.  Lots of lawn furniture and picnic tables.  AND, a rotating set of food trucks!

The food trucks they had when we visited were Italian, French, and Lobster Rolls.  All tasty, but not exactly in-line with my tasting tour of Texas.

Steel City Pops

No snaps, but I would like the record to show that I ate a fancy popsicle.  Butter Pecan dipped in Dark Chocolate, to be specific.

TEN50 Barbeque


Billy said we should eat here, so we ate here.  The brisket was great.  The ribs were great.  The macaroni and cheese was great.  The beans were great.  Do you want to know what was really great?  THE BRISKET STUFFED, BACON-WRAPPED, JALAPENOS.  Now THOSE were great.

Henry’s Majestic

Obviously we had to eat lunch after going to the Bush Library since we did not dine at the cleverly named Cafe 43.  Enter: Henry’s Majestic.  Restaurant with the kind of patio we could only dream of in Minnesota.  $5 glasses of wine and tap craft cocktails.  For lunch, we split the roasted onion dip.



Billy had the prime rib sandwich with jus.  I had the burger spiked with marrow.  I still cannot tell you what, exactly was the marrow part but I can tell you that for the first time since I had the Au Cheval burger, I felt like I could go on in the world.

Filament


Slynnro was kind enough to respond to my query for Cool Places To Eat and this was on her list.  They had available reservations at short notice, and the restaurant was in the Deep Ellum area, which I happened to find cool.

To start, we ordered the ham and pimento cheese plate at the suggestion of the waitress (otherwise we were in a fried green tomatoes sort of mood).

And then I stopped taking darkly lit pictures.  But Billy got the steak.  I got the ribs.  He drank cocktails.  I drank wine.  There was some macaroni and cheese.  Everyone was happy.

Glazed Donut Works


This discovery was also c/o Slynnro.  Apparently this is a place you can go at breakfast time, but it is also place you can visit late night.  After dinner, we hustled over here where I sourced a Samoa donut.  An excellent creation.

Whataburger


I thought about not including this, but y’all, I would not be true to myself if Whataburger didn’t make the list.  Fact: We visited four times in four days.  My flight down to Dallas was basically an Oregon Trail-style adventure and by the time that I finally collected my luggage and made it into Billy’s car, the two tacos and two liters of water that he had brought to the airport were just…not enough.  And so our Whataburger-capades began.  He made me order the large iced tea because he wanted me to see what they believed one person could consume.

In all seriousness, the only food plan I made for my visit was to eat a Egg Sausage Jalapeno Cheddar Breakfast Biscuit each day.  It really is probably one of the finer foods I have ever eaten in my life for a host of reasons and so beginning on Thursday morning, I fully committed myself to this cause.  I will also be so honest as to say that the only “souvenir” I brought back from the trip was a container of Spicy Ketchup from the Central Market.  I am not too proud.

 

Babymoon 3: New York City

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The Babymoon is over!  Last weekend we went out to New York to celebrate Meredith’s wedding and as a part of that we needed to spend some time in the city.  Even though this is my fourth trip to New York, there continue to be things left undone that we will need to see and do on future trips.  Chief among these, the Museum of Modern Art.  But that is for another time!

El Nino continues to be the greatest weather phenomenon that has ever struck the north and we enjoyed temperatures in the 60s and 70s for our visit.  When we originally started planning this trip, I was concerned about what we would need to pack in order to stay warm, but instead it was all I could do to NOT pack my maxi dresses!  Not kidding.

The Stuff We Saw

The 9/11 Memorial

On Thursday evening, Marcus suggested that we stop by the memorial before dinner, as neither of us had ever visited before.  When he suggested this, I was actually quite surprised that we had failed to think of this sooner.  It was extremely powerful to see and I am glad we had the chance to visit.  Because of the way the memorial is lit, it is quite beautiful and peaceful to see at night.

Central Park

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As I said before, the weather was just incredible so we started and ended our day in the park.  The way I presented this to Marcus was, We can go back to the apartment and sit inside, or we can find a bench and sit outside!  Outside was an obvious choice.  We had never walked around the reservoir and while it was no Lake Calhoun, it was beautiful.

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

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The reason we visited this museum is because I read about the Pixar exhibit they are holding on Dinner: A Love Story.  It was So Cool.  They had some interactive boards for us to try our hand at design and also a giant table for us to color our emotions that was just a hoot.  I don’t know how long this is running for, but I would definitely recommend checking this out if you are in the city.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Why it was important to visit The Met: Because Marcus has never been.  Also, because in addition to their giant Egypt collection, they were having ANOTHER special exhibit of Egyptian stuff that I wanted to see.  This makes Marcus a saint because between the massive amounts of Egyptian stuff we looked over as well as the Impressionist halls, we were there for…quite a while.  Usually we hit our limit with museums after 1.5 – 2 hours.  What I truly love about art is that when you see the same pieces or artists repeatedly, sometimes you are struck by the same thing each time.  But sometimes, you are struck by things that are completely new and different and it is such fun (in my opinion) to see those artists and pieces through a new lens.

The Eats

El Original

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Despite mixed reviews, we had to check this one out because it was originally started by The Homesick Texan and I just HAD to see what it was like.  Between this giant platter of food, and the loaded queso we ordered, it was pretty much like eating…all of the things.  More importantly, eating here proved to me that we HAVE been doing it right for the past three years.  And that I need to start making loaded queso at home.

ABC Cocina

ABC Kitchen is apparently a cool place to go right now, but by the time I got around to making any sort of reservations for this trip, they were already booked.  Their website did however, point me to their sister restaurant, ABC Cocina.  Both restaurants are part of the Jean-Georges Vongerichten flock and we were happy to give the cocina a try.  We are so glad we did because the food and the atmosphere were just delightful (and so excellently hip!).  It’s the sort of restaurant that I wish could transport itself back to Minneapolis for our regular enjoyment.

Tal Bagels

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What makes me sad: People who eat thin bagels or mini bagels.

What makes me happy: Eating an everything bagel stuffed with lox for breakfast two days in a row.

Abaleh

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After debating the merits of Shake Shack or Papaya King for lunch, we ended up deciding that what we really wanted was falafel and the falafel platters we were able to source for about $11 were quite spectacular.  I will also take this time to invite all of you to ponder how on earth they expected me to consume that entire container of hummus in the left corner of the photo.  Had they served me half that amount, it still would have been too much (though delicious!).

Budapest Cafe AND Two Little Red Hens

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Me to Marcus: I beat gestational diabetes so I will eat snacks from two bakeries if I want to!

The raspberry jam-filled cookie was from the Budapest Cafe.  We actually walked past the display earlier in the day and I told Marcus that if I was still thinking about it when it was time for a late afternoon snack, we could return for it.  Surprise: I was thinking about it and the cafe was ~2 blocks away from where we were staying.  These people do not play around with the jam by the way.  There was probably a full 1/4 cup of raspberry jam packed into that cookie.

The Two Little Red Hens was an appealing choice because (1) they were across the street from the other bakery and (2) they had an extensive cupcake menu along with corresponding mini-cupcakes.  I chose coconut cream, chocolate peanut butter, and triple chocolate mini-cupcakes and God that was just the greatest choice.  If you live near this place or you are visiting the Upper East Side, you must go here.

Babymoon 2: Chicago

Last weekend we went down to Chicago to celebrate the wedding of John (one of Marcus’ fraternity brothers) and Priscilla (one of my sorority sisters).  Marcus has never been to Chicago as a tourist before, so we were sure to head into town early so that we could do a little bit of sightseeing.  And, as y’all know at this point, any vacation we can take is an adventure worth going on before Critter is here!

The Stuff We Saw

We got to Chicago around 10:00 AM and hopped on a train straightaway to get downtown to begin our day.  After we were done with our lunch, we hiked down Michigan Avenue to See The City.

The Bean

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This was the big thing to do on Marcus’ Chicago list.  Easy enough request, right?

Shedd Aquarium

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Since the big museums close at 5:00 PM, I told Marcus that he could choose between the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Field Museum.  I also (not so subtly) suggested that it would probably be the most fun to visit the aquarium because he has never been to a proper aquarium before.

It was awesome.  I think it is so cool to see the beluga whales and the sea dragons that look like pieces of seaweed.  What excellent creatures.

The Eats

Au Cheval

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Apparently Au Cheval makes the best burger in America!  Since I didn’t make any reservations for our dinner in the city, we were not phased by the fact that it’s a Put Your Name In And Wait Forever-style place.  Thankfully that 1.5 – 2 hour wait only ended up being an hour.

When the waitress came to take our order, we told her that we wanted to order the burger whatever way is most delightful.  She advised that incorporating bacon and the soft fried egg would really be most ideal.  She was right, obviously.

Was the burger The Best In America?  It’s hard to say if this is the best burger I’ve ever had because we have MANY great burgers in Minnesota, but it was absolutely 11/10 and what I will use to compare all burgers to in the future.

Hot Dog Crawl

One of Marcus’ requests while we were in the city was the chance to eat a Chicago-style hot dog.  I took that one step further and created a hot dog crawl so that we could partake in many kinds of hot dogs.  We went to Allium on our own for lunch on Friday, and then we were joined by Madelyn and Jonathan on Saturday morning for a tour of the remaining restaurants.  It was excellent.

This is also the part of the show where we ask ourselves serious questions, like, why did my husband have to take photos of me eating hot dogs?  And why am I even sharing these on the internet?

Allium at the Four Seasons

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What sets this dog apart is that everything (the hot dog, bun, toppings) is homemade.  And that it costs $17.  I suppose the other thing that makes this a unique experience is that you’re chowing down on an excellent hot dog in the middle of the Four Seasons.  As insane as the whole thing sounds, I would totally do this again, and I would tell other people to have this fancy feast as well.

Jimmy’s Red Hots

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This stop was meant to be representative of the most basic Chicago-style hot dog.  For approximately $3 we each got a hot dog and a paper full of french fries.  The owner was most excited to hear about our nitrate-fueled adventure and talked our ears off as we chowed down.  As a sign of friendship, he also forced some of their tamales on us along with three business cards and a free t-shirt.

Fatso’s Last Stand

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Fatso’s hot dog was char grilled.  I don’t know about what that exactly all entails but it had more toppings?  The ends of the hot dog were split into quarters?  And the fries came with cheese sauce.  Good dog, great fries.

Belly Shack

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IMG_1140Belly Shack is a fusion restaurant that just happens to make a hot dog with an Asian twist.  I’m pretty sure they used a milk bun for this and Marcus and Jonathan were in agreement that this was their favorite hot dog of the day, not just because it was delicious but also because they felt like it was a hot dog they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.  It was a pretty great dog.

I also totally cheated and ordered the donut sundae they were advertising because why wouldn’t you do that?

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Babymoon 1: Las Vegas, The Hoover Dam and The Grand Canyon

Some people take one pre-baby vacation, but between last weekend’s adventures and the weddings we have coming up in Chicago and New York, we are having three.

I had never been to Las Vegas before, Marcus had been many, many times.  Knowing how much I despised New Orleans (yet loved their food!) my family was very curious to see how I would do in Sin City.  I will be honest, having only spent 28 hours in Las Vegas itself, I do not know that I am the most qualified to form an opinion.  BUT, from what we all saw in Las Vegas, while I wouldn’t say I “love” the place, I would say I find it all to be hilariously excellent.  Specifically, I find that the hotels feel like cruise ships (which I do actually love).  I was also quite taken by all of the “fakes” around – Michelangelo’s David, Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc d’ Triomphe, the Rialto Bridge…all of it hilarious.  There was a waterfall outside of our hotel that turned into a volcano for crying out loud!  Why even go see the world when you can save money and see it in Vegas instead?  Needless to say, since we did not get to the Luxor (can you even IMAGINE all of the fake Egypt stuff???), we will be going back someday.  This is the sort of stuff that makes America the greatest country in the world.

The Stuff We Saw

The Hoover Dam

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When we arrived at the Hoover Dam, I asked Marcus if the terminators (my name for transformers) still lived in the dam.  He told me he wasn’t sure.

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We did the full dam tour, which was full of craziness because after the power plant portion was done, they brought us up to one of the air vents in the middle of the dam and let us look out of it down the face of the dam.  It was wild.

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Yes, we walked all the way down that tube.

I was especially taken by all of the different art deco touches in the dam.  It was a New Deal project and like so many other New Deal projects, they had to incorporate some artistic and stylistic components.   Hoover Dam 3Hoover Dam 4

The Grand Canyon

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I am under the impression that many people spend years planning trips to the Grand Canyon.  We decided to scuttle our poolside plans and drive to the Grand Canyon two weeks before we left for Las Vegas.  Apparently you’re supposed to reserve rooms/cabins in the National Park 13 months before your trip but by some miracle of God there was one cabin available at the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim.

On Saturday afternoon, we did some hiking on the Bright Angel Trail so between this and Cinque Terre we are basically hikers now.  Were I not pregnant, I am pretty sure I would have done the hike up from the base of the canyon because that is the sort of thing that I think is “fun.”

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We watched the sun set and then on Sunday morning, we rolled out of bed and walked the 100 yards from our cabin to the canyon to watch the sun rise.  All of it was so splendid.

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The Things We Ate

Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace

Bacchanal Buffet

Since I had never been to Vegas before, it was Essential with a capital “E” that we visit a buffet.  Why the Bacchanal?  Because it is full of all of the food that has ever been made on Earth (Marcus ate…10 different kinds of animals while we were there?  11?).  More importantly, they saw these giant crab legs in half and then you can eat them like the laziest person who has ever lived on Earth and it is glorious.

I ate two plates full.  Don’t judge.

Federico’s in Kingsman, AZ

The only reason I think you could ever possibly find to be in Kingsman is if you are driving from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  And if you do that, you may need to stop for lunch.  Which we did on the way to the canyon and it was so good that we stopped on the way back, too.

Look at all of our food.

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Not pictured, the Sonoran Hot Dog they brought out late.  Between the two meals we ate there, we spent $30.  You should really stop by if you’re making the drive.

El Tovar Dining Room

This was the best meal we ate on the trip and possibly one of the happier meals I have ever eaten in my life.  Why?  Very simple.  We watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.  We then proceeded in to the restaurant to get seated for breakfast and they gave us a table right in front of the window overlooking the canyon.  The food was good, the view was excellent, and Marcus and I got to share all of it together.

Bouchon

Bouchon 1 Eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant: Check that off of my life list!

Naturally, we were too busy eating and discussing to do any photo-ing, which I think is really the way that it is supposed to be.  I will also take a moment to say that Bouchon does a killer lemonade that is lemon juice, simple syrup and sprite.  I need to learn how to make this one on my own.

 

 

 

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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Number 65

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