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Category Archives: Quirky Attractions

St. Louis – Back to the South

Apparently there is a debate across our country on whether St. Louis is really Southern. From my experiences it is – though my thoughts on whether a place is Southern or not is largely culinary based. Do they brew the sugar in the tea or do they stir it in after the fact when you order? I can taste a difference! Do they traditionally have their own distinct style of BBQ (Pulled Pork Carolina Mustard Style, Texas Cut Brisket, ect.) I grew up sticking my head out the school bus window to smell that savory smoke billowing out the front screen of BC’s BBQ – the pride and joy of all the Yalaha, Florida locals. I’d smell it down the road on Saturdays and hear the vroom of  biker groups speeding by on their pilgrimage. We had to stop by grab the meat, a coke from the long wall cooler and a mini sweet potato pie at the cash register. I later worked at Sonny’s serving up the good stuff – smelling of sweet sauce. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some authentic St. Louis style ribs!

I was directed to this place called Pappy’s by my Couchsurfing host Mark. I was fortunate to have a spare bedroom in the apartment of my freshly college graduated and surprisingly platonic roommates Mark and Laura. I was told to go to Pappy’s at an odd time of the day, because it is always packed. I headed over at around 2:30. There was a line out the door, but the BBQ was worth the wait! Ohh… it was some good stuff!

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Boise and The Oregon Trail

I have always wanted to head west. In elementary school I had a guinea pig named Fievel and I loved playing Oregon Trail. I always knew that the real Oregon Trail was going to be a highlight of my trip and I planned to stop at as many landmarks as I could. One of these landmarks that was featured in the game was the Whitman Mission. There wasn’t really any of the mission left to see, but they had a nice museum and it had a park atmosphere great for leg stretching.

I was happy to get out and stretch my legs. The scenery changes drastically from eastern Washington to Idaho. The desert makes way to vast green hills. I had underestimated the size of the hills in my mind. I was driving along some elevation, but you would look over large amounts of flat land too. I’m so grateful for interstate highways and motor vehicles. Seeing those tracks winding over the sides of hills looked precarious enough without a wagon on them.

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Seeing Seattle

I booked a bed at the local American Hotel HI in the Asian side of Seattle. Being the friendly hostel veteran that I am, I quickly made friends with another solo traveler – a really sweet girl from Uruguay who was traversing the U.S. after her study abroad. We checked out a local noodle shop and then walked to the harbor. Next door to the hostel was also a dessert shop. It was so colorful that you just had to walk in. The shelves were lined with beautifully decorated cake slices of every flavor. The menu also included every kind of Boba Tea you could imagine.

 

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Tillamook, Sauvie Island and Portland

I left Gold Beach on another overcast and drizzling day and made for Tillamook State Forest. I knew I wanted to visit Portland, but also that I would need to stop somewhere in-between according to the distance I am willing to drive and the money I had. I knew free camping and a coffee shop would see me through. I was also buying time wondering if I should contact my second cousin who I thought might still live in Oregon. Five years my junior, she had always been to me a spoiled princess that required babysitting. When I last saw her she had grown from an attention-needy child into a boy-crazy teenager and I was debating whether I really wanted to visit with someone who I plainly took as annoying.

I stopped at a farmer’s market in Coos Bay to stretch my legs and then in the late afternoon pulled into the state forest. Finding a secluded camping spot turned out to be quite a challenge, as the free camping available was mostly for ATV enthusiasts who were out in full force. I unfortunately damaged my car backing into what I thought was a campsite and into a rock.


The next day, I brushed my teeth and cleaned up in the coffee shop bathroom before going to work. The coffee shop did lack one thing though… outlets. I decided to go find a more suitable work location and stumbled upon the generous and spacious Tillamook Public Library. I also decided to connect with my cousin, after all she is older now and it’s not right to judge someone by their youth.

I grabbed some cheese curds from the Tillamook Cheese factory on my way out-of-town and headed off to meet my cousin Olivia when she got off work. She was very excited that I was in the area and was beyond welcoming. I have several first cousins close to my age and I never really thought about how lonely it must be for her. After all my dad is her first cousin and he’s close to the same age as her dad. Also, all of our family lives in the South and she’s all the way on the opposite end of the country! Read the rest of this entry

Viva Las Vegas

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I planned to camp at Mead Lake before entering Las Vegas. Along the road I was distracted by the little Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona. I had to stop for a float and to walk the streets filled with antique cars and vintage storefronts.

Seligman put me about an hour off of my estimated arrival time and I pulled into the Lake Mead area to witness a sunset over that strange landscape and the locked doors of the visitor’s center. After determining that it would be impossible to find a camping spot in the dark, I headed to the little town of Boulder City, NV. While the town looked quite cozy and cute, even after dark it was ridiculously expensive. My jaw dropped at the price of the absolute seediest cheap motel in town.

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I decided to call a hostel in Las Vegas and head into the city a little early. They asked if I was a student. I told them I was. They asked if I had a student ID. I said I did. Las Vegas isn’t really known for being the sort of place where people are very honest anyway. I’m not a very good liar. The guy behind the front desk asked me about my trip and I went on and on. Lies tend to lead to more lies – “So, how are you doing all this traveling while in school?””Online classes.””Oh, Cool. What are you planning on doing when you finish this trip?””Well, other than school, I have this little side graphic design/website business… it would be great to do it full-time.”

Obviously a converted old hotel, I checked into my room at the USA Hostel. I opened the door on three college girls from the U.K. spraying perfume and dry shampoo. They were trying on their fancy dresses and heels about to go out for some “posh” nightlife at one of those “posh” casinos. I asked if I could go along and I tried not to look like the hipster road bum I had become. We waited for forever for a cab, so long that we about gave up on going out. It finally showed up around 12:30 a.m.

Time doesn’t matter in Vegas. Read the rest of this entry

Way out West Texas

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My car parked by the Marfa Lights viewing area.

In the morning I left Manor with a cooler my Couchsurfing host, Bill filled with left-over pizza we made from scratch the night before, a bottle of salad dressing, and lettuce. I prepared the best I could for this drive by filling up two water bottles and my Platypus with that wonderful Texas rain water. Bill let me know, “You’ll be happy to have that rain water when you get to west Texas, all their water is so hard and filled with sulfur.” I packed the car, Bill gave me a c.d. for the trip and I said my goodbyes.

I must admit, I really didn’t know what I was going to experience over the next six and a half hours. I didn’t expect much. When you look at the map west Texas just looks like this long stretch of NOTHING and it looks hot and flat. Even from the map, I could imagine hours of heat reflecting off concrete and driving cowboy riding into the sunset style.

Once you get on the road, you realize that while the world (and even those who live in the east side of the state) imagine this to be true, it is the furthest thing from the truth.

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San Antonio Day

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2013-03-19_13-23-29_450I woke up to a flat tire the day after SXSW had ended. I was relieved that I made it back to Manor the night before and didn’t end up on the side of the road at a ridiculous hour. I decided it was best to rest for the weekend anyway. The only place I went for a few days was with Bill to the park. Rural Texas was starting to look festive with wild flowers starting to span the grass. Every other picnic pavilion had kids out hitting a piñata and there were several games of competitive soccer. We walked for a while and took in the scenery of the Colorado River.

Tuesday after my restful weekend, I pumped up my tire and went to the repair shop to patch my wheel before heading to San Antonio. Over the weekend I had also discovered Roadtrippers.com and had found some suggestions of things to see – the first of which was Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Read the rest of this entry