Fall 2010 USA Trip

Entry #1705, Mon, November 29, 2010, 15:08 CET (Travel)
(posted when I was 32 years old.)

For once, I took good notes during a trip. However, they were handwritten, and it's taken me a while to get them all typed up. But here they are:

My big vacation for 2010 was a three week trip to the US in October. The dates of the trip were based in part on the ND football schedule. So other than the week I drove around Europe with Mamie, I haven't had any vacation this year. And by the time this trip started, I was definitely feeling burnt out.

My first vacation day was Thursday, September 30. My flight to Boston was not until 15:55, so I thought I had a pretty relaxed day ahead of me. But by the time I had done laundry, picked up my bike at work, stocked up on supplies for Gandhi and packed, it was already 14:00 when I finally left home. Tony was kind enough to offer me a drive to the airport, but on the Autobahn we found ourselves stuck in a pretty nasty traffic jam. It took over an hour to get to the airport.

Luckily, I had checked in online, so at this point I was considering just leaving my bags with Tony and going straight to the gate. But my boarding pass said I could check bags in up until 30 minutes before departure. So we arrive at the airport at 15:20, 35 minutes prior to departure. Tony comes in with me and the bags, offering to take them back out if I can't get them checked. We enter the terminal and there are open automatic bag check stations. So I check my first bag. OK. Second bag it won't check because I'm over my limit.

But because I'm a frequent flyer, I should actually be allowed to check two. Machine tells me to go talk to someone at a counter. Given my time constraints, I instead move as much as possible from the suitcase to my backpack (which was actually fairly empty) and have Tony take my other bag.

Rush through security and passport control and make it to the gate by 15:35. Get on plane. Make it to Boston. Life is good.

Dan gave me instructions on how to get to South Station from the airport and I meet him there. We head to his place, Dan cooks a quick dinner, and then we head to Café Deluxe, one of four dive bars on Dan's list of places to take me. We drink a few pints of Long Trail, which compared to what I get in Bavaria was delightfully hoppy. That's about all my jetlagged self can handle, so we retire early.

Friday, Dan gets up early to go to work, and I don't manage to sleep past 7:00 (13:00 Munich time). So I get up and explore the neighborhood. I can't resist buying myself Poptarts and a Monster energy drink for breakfast. While wandering I find both an AT&T and a T-Mobile store (the two carriers I know do prepaid SIMs) but neither opens until 10:00.

But I figure out that the Boston Public Library near Dan's place has free wifi, so I find a spot to sit in the courtyard and check email and such on my "smart" phone. I also wander around some more and finally 10:00 rolls around. After checking plans at both, I opt for T-Mobile and soon I have a US number.

Next I stop by CVS to stock up on supplies left behind when I ditched my second suitcase: contact solution, toothpaste, etc. Next a quick stop at Border's to pick up a notebook to keep trip notes in. I am writing in it now. :)

After dropping most of this off at Dan's place, I return to BPL to write down notes. Here I get a call from Laura K., who had lived down the street from us in Steinbach for a few years. She had seen my facebook post that I was in Boston. She was able to meet me at the library, where we had a coffee.

I had chosen to hang out in the courtyard at BPL because it had started raining and it was nice in there and I could be outside and yet sheltered from the rain. When Laura left it was 14:30 and still raining. So I decided to head back to Dan's place. There, Dan's brother Kevin cooked me some lunch before he headed to work. I then read a little while until Dan got home at 16:30. He made a pizza for dinner and we played a couple games of chess.

The first game, he destroyed me. I don't think I'd played chess since before moving to Germany, so I can blame it on that. The second game I hid his queen while he was gone. It was early in the game and I was sure he would notice. But we kept on playing. Finally when he tried to castle across where his queen should have been, I put it back on the board. So I probably messed up his strategy. In the end, I took all his pieces but his king, but then accidentally put him in stalemate. Doh!

We then went out to T.C.'s lounge, the next dive bar on the list. It's been rated best dive bar in Boston several years in a row. It was alright, but only one of the guns on Terminator Salvation worked, the boxer game cost a dollar per hit, and the song I picked on the jukebox (Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia) never came on, I think because everyone kept paying extra to move their song selection to the front of the queue.

We return to Dan's place where we play a game of speed chess. I kick his ass. We also manage to eat nearly a whole bag of Reese's Pieces during the game.

Saturday -

Dan's been taking sailing lessons and has a membership at the Boston Sailing Center that lets him take out boats whenever. He had reserved a boat for 11:00 on Saturday, but they called to say it was too windy, so our reservation was postponed until 13:00.

So for breakfast we went to Mike & Patty's, a tiny sandwich shop that is supposed to make the best sandwiches in Boston. I had a bacon & egg fancy. It was good.

Dan had an extra bike for me, so we then biked to the harbor and wandered around there some until it was time for sailing. We got a ride out to our assigned boat, "Thunder," and set up the sails. Shortly later, Kevin met us on the boat and we took off.

At first, Dan steered and worked the main sail while Kevin worked the jib sail. I sat and watched. After a while I got to try the jib sail. Kevin also got to steer some. We sailed almost three hours. During this time we also did a couple man-overboard drills in which we threw a life vest overboard and then executed a turn to take us right back to it. Dan's sailing impressed me. But sadly it eventually had to end.

After sailing, Kevin had to work. Dan and I wanted to stop by the Harpoon brewery to pick up a growler, but when we got there, we discovered that they were celebrating their Oktoberfest. It involved a bunch of people packed into their little outdoor area and a line to get in. So we cancelled the growler idea. Instead, we headed to the South Street Diner. This is supposedly the only proper diner left in Boston.

We had a quesadilla starter and I had the chli burger. The waitress said she was proud of me for finishing it. I ate way too much, but it was so good. I miss diner food terribly. Dessert was a milkshake. Yum.

Next we biked to a park along the Charles River and found a tree to sit in. It was a pretty good tree. Not quite as comfy as the one in Olympiapark, but with a lot of character and a great view.

After a quick stop home, we headed to the Beacon Hill Pub, the final dive bar on Dan's list that we made it to. Here we watched the ND-BC game. Initially I had wanted to get tickets to the game, but they were pricier than I wanted to pay. But getting to see the game in HD was already an improvement over crappy internet streams. And being surrounded by BC fans made winning especially fun.

Here we also requested music on the jukebox. We put in our picks before half time and it was at least an hour after the game ended that we heard Dan's songs get played. Then came my Dead Kennedys selections. Both got cut off about 10-20 seconds in. Censorship!

When we left, there was a line to get in. I informed Dan that music censorship and a line to get in were both attributes that make a place not a dive bar in my opinion. We stopped off for one last beer at the "original" Cheers. All in all an excellent day. Dan set the bar high for the rest of the trip.

Sunday - Vermont

I had told Rebecca I was going to take the 9:30 Dartmouth coach to Lebanon. That turned out to be somewhat optimistic for the morning after a night out in Boston. So after a breakfast burrito with Dan, I got on the 11:30 bus to Lebanon. It was a two hour bus ride through scenic New Hampshire. The leaves were changing color and very pretty. I was later informed by Rebecca that the people who come to New England to look at leaves are called Leaf peepers. So Rebecca picked me up in Lebanon and after a brief stop at the airport (since it had a scenic view) took me to her condo. It is cute and decorated very much in a Rebecca style. Here I had a PB&J sandwich, the first in a long time. It was so good. I had to ask Rebecca for a glass of milk in order to make the snack perfect.

We then headed to VINS, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. Here they rehabilitate birds (especially raptors) and keep ones that are too injured to fend for themselves in the wild. Here we saw Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, various varieties of hawks and owls and more. It was awesome. While we were there they had a raptor show. We got to see various raptors in action up close. One even did a hunting demonstration. Raptors are badass.

We then stopped by Queechee Gorge and walked along the river a bit. I also bought pure maple sugar candy. Sugary goodness! We had dinner at the Norwich Inn, where they brew their own beer. I had the Whistling Pig red ale, which was tasty. After dinner we crashed pretty early. I slept great. It was probably good to mix in a low-alcohol night.

Monday I headed to the Dartmouth campus where I got to see Rebecca's office in the math building. She had to finish grading before her class, so I wandered around campus and the town of Hanover until her class got out at 13:30. I also spent a while in the bookstore, which turned out to be a Barnes & Noble in disguise. Also, while in front of the Carson library on Main Street, I saw a Google street view bike. So perhaps I'll be on street view.

I met Rebecca after her class was over and after a quick lunch we drove to the Montshire Museum of Science. It was awesome. We only had about 2.5 hours before it closed, and I could easily have spent another couple hours there. They had a ton of fun things to play with, including soap bubbles, water games, honey bees and carpenter ants, two Fred Crusade rolling ball sculptures, and a ton more. Excellent fun.

Dinner was at the Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon. I had a bacon & brie burger which was interesting and good. Plus tasty beer.

We then stopped by K-Mart to buy a bicycle patch kit for her Ankylosaur Moshe, who had sprung a leak and lost many of his beads. At the K-Mart we also found "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" on DVD for $5. Back at Rebecca's place, I got to work on fixing Moshe while Rebecca made brownies. I stuffed Moshe with craft beads until he was properly plump again, then patched him up with the bike patch kit. Rebecca then suggested we write "Punk" on his patch so that he matches me.

We finished out the evening with brownie sundaes and "Return of the Killer Tomatoes," which was remarkably silly. Almost too silly, really.

The next day Rebecca didn't have to be on campus until 14:00, so we had a chill morning. I did some laundry. We played some Scrabble and Set. At 13:30 Sara arrived to pick me up. She was kind enough to come 150 miles to get me. After a quick lunch we drove to Lee, MA where Sara lives. There we stopped by the store and then headed to Sara's house. We (mostly Sara) made cupcakes and then Sara cooked dinner. Afterwards we played around with a pulley construction set I bought her at the Montshire Science Museum. I read her some of her German books, we drank some Jägermeister and were generally silly.

The next day was more silliness and laziness, followed by dinner at her parents. After dinner we went to Moe's, a local diver bar with a good selection of beer. They had a classic Pacman machine, so we played a few videogames. We were not very good.

Thursday Branden picked me up at 16:00. He took me straight to Mahar's. Randy and Steve showed up as well. I drank only four pints, but found myself surprisingly drunk. Randy, Branden and I then hit up Taco Bell. Branden and I finished up the night with Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier at his place and watched Office Space.

Friday began with one hell of a hangover. This made no sense to me until Branden and I looked up the beers I drank at Mahar's:

Cask Middle Ages Impaled Ale: 6.5%
Flying Dog Raging Bitch: 8.1%
Dogfish Head 90 Minute: 9%
Cask Middle Ages 10: 10%

Hangover explained. Friday I wrote some javascript for WBS so I can pay my bills more easily from Europe. We then played some Wii Mario Kart.

At 17:00 Susie, Branden's girlfriend arrived. We proceeded to Taco Bell, then Mahar's. That night I had only two pints, both of them of a milder variety than the night before. But I got my Mahar's beer count to double digits. Randy joined us after a while. We then returned to Branden's house where we watched Army of Darkness before playing a couple games of Settler's of Catan.

Saturday, Branden and Susie made us a yummy breakfast and then I made Belgian waffles. Branden bought a waffle maker for this occasion. We then headed to Steve & Ginger's house for the ND-Pitt game. Kelly & her boyfriend also showed up. ND beat Pitt, so they improved to 2-0 when I'm in the country this season.

After the game Randy took me by his place where I got my first chance to play Starcraft 2. It's pretty nifty. We also drank some Scotch and watched some SC vids online.

Sunday I finalized my travel plans to DC. Branden and I also watched some NFL and had some Taco Bell for lunch. Finally my time in Albany came to an end. Branden drove me to the Albany airport where I rented a car.

I took off about 17:00 and got to Laura and Glenn's house about 20:00. They had been at their house on an island in Long Island Sound all weekend and had gotten home only shortly before me. We chatted for a while before they headed to sleep. Laura had left for work by the time I got up, but I got to chat with Glenn a while longer.

I took off for DC about noon. Traffic was heavy around New Haven, New York City, and Wilmington, so the trip took longer than expected. I got into Gaithersburg about 21:00. I decided to stay at a hotel while in MD, in part because I'd been sleeping at people's places for a week and a half by this point and because I had so many different people I wanted to see that this seemed more practical.

Tuesday I met Jason for lunch. I drove to his place in Silver Spring. I had looked up directions, but I could have found it. He took me to El Mexicano, a favorite lunchtime destination back in our netViz days. After lunch I hung out in Jason's garage, a.k.a. man cave for a while. We listened to Suicidal Tendencies on Vinyl.

After lunch I drove by my old house on Parkwood Drive in Kensington. There was a big MSU flag hanging out front. I stopped by Cedar Lane UU church, then drove my old commute from Kensington back to Gaithersburg. Autopilot took over, I knew to change lanes before any signs told me to. It was odd to relive how car-dependent I used to be. I also enjoyed listening to NPR on WAMU. I listened to the Kojo Namdi show (Kojo!) and noticed that the local news announcer was still the same as when I lived here.

For dinner I met up with a number of former netViz colleagues at the Dogfish Head Alehouse. Brad, Dave, Jan, Fred, Joey and Faith all made it out. An entertaining evening was had.

Wednesday I got Rod to entertain me for the afternoon. I met him in Landover Hills where he works at a diocesan center for the deaf. His boss bought us lunch. We then headed to College Park, where he is currently living in the rectory of a parish. I got a tour of the church and we played some with Cocao, the priest's dog, who is awesome. We then went to Best Buy, drove around the MD campus and visited the College Park Aviation Museum. We also had some good gelato. An entertaining afternoon of random activities.

For dinner we met up at Michelle's place with Michelle, Steve, Annika, and Patrick. We grabbed dinner at a nice little place in Bethesda, then returned to Michelle's place for games. We played some Robot Ricochet. Steve and Annika then had to leave. Rod, Michelle, Patrick and I played some more Robot Ricochet followed by Bananagrams. Good times.

Thursday I met up with a different Jason for lunch and got to reminisce about BJJ and Vampire card games as well as hear about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. I then headed to Dulles for my flight to Chicago.

Annie picked me up at Midway. We headed to her place to drop off my stuff, then to Bob and Lisa's. Lisa had picked up Mom and Dad at O'hare (our flights landed at about the same time) and they were staying at her place. We had a dinner of delivery pizza and chatted a while.

Friday was mostly a chill out with the fam sort of day. Also: Dunkin Donuts! Friday evening, Bob and Lisa drove us out to Naperville. We grabbed dinner at a Mexican place. Annie had told Bob & Lisa that one of the things I miss when I'm in Germany is good Mexican food, which was interpreted to mean that I want Mexican for every meal. After dinner we went to the comedy shrine where Annie was in two shows. We stuck around for both. They were basically the same format, but the later one was the "naughty" one where they could swear and such. It was still fun to see how different the two shows turned out. I guess that's the point of improv, though.

Saturday I had to get up early. George and his cousin Mike picked Dad and me up and drove us to South Bend. We made pretty good time and were on campus by noon for a 14:30 game against Western Michigan. Mike had brought beer so we tailgated at our parking spot on the golf course for a while. We then headed to the parking lot just South of the stadium. Here we joined a tailgate where George and Mike knew some people. Tony H. and his parents were at this tailgate as well, so it was great to get to see them. We then headed towards the main building to see the band step off. We were a bit late, but we got to see them march by. We then went by the architecture building because Mike studied arch and wanted to see ND's arch building.

We then headed to the stadium for the game. The weather was perfect. We left in the third quarter just after ND scored to go up 41-17. It seemed a safe time to go and we needed to get back to Chicago. So it was a brief visit to campus and I didn't get to see much, but there were still quite a few new buildings just in the area we wandered.

We caught the rest of the game on the radio during the drive back to Chicago. ND won 44-20. So we got to see all the touchdowns. And ND is now 3-0 when I'm in the country this year. This was the first ND game I went to since leaing South Bend that we won. So that was nice. It was also Dad's first ND game. So it was nice that he got to see a win.

In Chicago we met up with everyone else at a restaurant near ComedySportz, where Annie had her next gig. Emily met us there too. At the theater Meg and Stacy, George's girlfriend, also joined us. So Annie had a crowd of 13 in the audience. The show was hilarious. Afterwards George, Stacy, Mike, Emily, Meg, Annie & I went out for a couple drinks. George insisted on ordering for me and got me a few good beers, one of them 10%.

During the evening I got Morgan's number off Meg and found out she'd be holding the service at the UU church in Rockford, where she is the intern minister. So I talked Meg into driving me out there. So that meant waking up early again on Sunday. Meg picked me up at about 9:00 and we made it to Rockford in about 90 minutes. Morgan was thrilled to see us. Her service was about music and singing. It was neat. There were percussion instruments on the seats for people to play. After the service we got to see her office and then grabbed lunch with her. After driving back to Chicago, Meg dropped me off at Bob and Lisa's place.

Sunday night Bob & Lisa drove us out to a place any knew where there was an international food store that had a large selection of German foods. This was mainly for Mom & Dad, since I generally don't lack in access to German food. Afterwards we ate (surprise!) Mexican food.

Monday Bob drove Mom, Dad, Annie and I to where Lisa works and we grabbed lunch with her. Along the way we also checked out an antique place where Mom and Dad were selling things. For dinner we had steaks at Bob & Lisa's, followed by card games.

Mom flew back to Colorado on Tuesday morning. So Annie and I entertained Dad for the day. We returned to the European Deli place and picked out some salads and sausages and beer and took them back to Annie's place. There we grilled up the sausages and hung out. Tuesday evening I headed downtown and met up with George, Stacy, Mike, Perk and other friends of theirs for NFT. The concept is basically grabbing Mexican food and taking it next door to this bar that lets you bring in outside food. This bar has a touchscreen game system, and in one of the games you try to pick out the differences between versions of a picture of a naked woman. I again let George pick beers for me. It was an incredibly fun evening.

Wednesday was my final day in Chicago. Dad had flown home early that morning. Annie took me downtown for some shopping. We also met up with Emily for lunch and then with David. I finished out the afternoon with some packing, then Annie took me to the bus stop and I headed to O'Hare. Trip over.

It was a great trip. I didn't want to leave Chicago. Perhaps someday I will end up there. Who knows.


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