Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Ode to Ohio

I’d like to offer you a few small words of caution concerning the dissing of states other than your own, especially those which may be close- say bordering your state, for example. The reason being that there is always a likelihood of someone actually from that state being within hearing range.

Today at work we were discussing our travel plans for the holidays and somehow the conversation got around to how much we hate having to drive through Ohio: It’s boring, ugly, the speed limit is ridiculous, the cops there suck.  On and on we went listing the state’s many and varied flaws before I ultimately summed it up by declaring “Those boring Ohioans!!”

I then asked a heretofore silent co-worker, a recent new hire, “Where are you going for the holiday?”

“Back to Ohio.”

Yikes, foot in mouth! 

Ohio, I officially absolve all of your residents of any responsiblity for your boring and ghastly western percentage. It’s really not their fault. I also acknowledge your attempt to rectify the situation by having a fascinating and comely eastern smidge and (provided you stop comparing Cleveland to Detroit) promise to only hang my head in silent shame over our shared border.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Car, Cities/Regions, Detroit, Travel, United States | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking Carob Cake and Granola in Michigan

Well, friends, after arriving in Michigan and giving myself about a month to settle in, I am again turning my attention to blogging. I must say that the trip here (more on that later) and the initial adjustment period have been surprisingly smooth and, dare I say, easy? The sky will probably fall now that I’ve said that, but really I doubt it. Life (no, God) seems to have touched everything around me and turned it to gold. I’ve never been happier!

Yesterday was The Boyfriend’s birthday. I’m a traditional, occasion-observing sort of girl, so I wanted to give him something. Easier said than done for a guy who readily admits he already has everything he wants and wears a large corresponding smile at all times. Nevertheless, I had a few ideas and set about making them happen. Being the penniless, jobless loser that I am, I thought it would be perhaps a bit more economical to give a gift of homemade food (and, let’s face it, even the man who has everything still needs to eat). Granola (which he’s obsessed with) and carob cake (he loves carob so much it’s almost disturbing) were on the menu. And here’s where the link to travel comes in (you were wondering, weren’t you?): when you uproot yourself and move across country, sometimes you really miss the places you used to buy food!

Back in Walla Walla, Washington, we had a store called Andy’s Market. If I could be back there at this very moment, I’d kneel down and kiss the ground it stands on. Andy’s Market had all the fresh local produce, all the inexpensive bulk everything, all the vege and vegan alternatives that I could ever ask for. It’s not a chain and it’s not to be surpassed, apparently. I needed all these nuts and dried fruit and carob and I had no idea where to get them! Everyone here shops for food at Meijer, which is the Michigan version of Wal-Mart (not considered “The Devil” because it’s not nationwide?….). Besides that, there are a few other familiar and not-familiar stores. I finally found carob at both Hillers Market and Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods also has a very small bulk section where I was thankfully able to find the nuts I needed. They also had a bit of cheaper price on the carob goods. That, coupled with the fact that they carry Vegenaise and liquid aminos, means that I’ll cross Hillers off the list and rely on Whole Foods as my substitute (albeit a poor one) for Andy’s. Whole Foods in no way measures up to the variety or price of the bulk foods section in Andy’s Market. Sigh.

All in all, I’m not sure that making homemade granola and carob cake are the most economical ways to go, but they are definitely the most fun! I found the cake recipe in the April 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Dorothy Olsen of Provo, Utah won the $25,000 grand prize for her Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake. Being all at the same time a fan of chocolate, dessert, and healthy eating (hypocritical maybe?), I had to try it out. The only change I made was to substitute unsweetened carob powder for unsweetened cocoa powder and vegan carob pieces for semisweet chocolate pieces.

This cake is rich and decadent.  The Boyfriend and I love the way the whole wheat flour tastes in it!  Very wholesome.

Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob powder)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (or carob pieces)
  • fresh blueberries or Blueberry Sauce (see recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Add to flour mixture.  Whisk until well combine.  Pour into greased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.
  2. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Invert onto serving platter.
  3. In small microwave-safe bowl combine dessert topping and chocolate pieces.  Micro-cook, covered, on 50% power (medium) 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Pour onto cooled cake, spreading evenly.
  4. Cut cake into squares to serve.  Top with fresh blueberries.  Serve with Blueberry Sauce.  Makes 9 servings.

Blueberry Sauce: In blender combine 1/2 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed, and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries.  Cover and blend until smooth.

I found the granola recipe, Easy Homemade Granola, on this website.  I slightly modified it by also adding 1/3 cup walnuts (LOVE walnuts!) and cutting the brown sugar to 1/8 cup.  The granola turned out REALLY SALTY! so I’d recommend cutting down on the salt as well.  Maybe 1/2 tsp. in instead of 1?  Otherwise, it was delicious.  The Boyfriend adds some plains oats to his granola anyway, so that probably helps with the salt factor.

Easy Homemade Granola  (from “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.
  4. Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.
  6. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  7. Bake for 5 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  8. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola.
  9. Transfer it to an airtight container, where it will keep for one week.

I noticed on the Andy’s Market website that you can order things online…. Hmmmm…. I may try that.  Until then, I’ll be crying on the inside every time I walk out of Whole Foods.

© Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Countdown

WELL, everyone! After countless months, weeks, and endless excruciating days, I have finally finished a task that at one point literally felt insurmountable. I have defended my thesis, merited my committee’s approval, and after minor revisions will have my thesis paper ready to print. AAAAAAH! The relief is palpable, the peace is thick. My blog has been silent for the past few days (weeks? I have no idea how long I’ve been holed up) because I have lived and breathed my thesis! But now, it is DONE!!! I won’t try to describe my jubilee because the description would never be adequate. Suffice it to say that I feel I am a beginning a new life with the burden of a huge unfinished project behind me FINALLY!

On to the next thing. And that is moving. In six days. Aaaaaaaaaah! Ok, not really. There is no panic here. Not tonight, anyway, because I’ve been carefully preparing for this for awhile. I have a lot to do this week, but the tasks are, for the most part, relished. They mostly include preparing the car, whittling down my belongings one final time, eating up my food, bidding farewell to friends, stuff like that. My boyfriend arrives late Friday, we pack the car Saturday night, and we head out early early Sunday morning. I can’t wait to chronicle our mega road trip: 3 days, 2200 miles, 1 cat, 1 bird….. Oh, and all my earthly possessions.

6 days….

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Car, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moving Sale Nightmare

As some of you might know, I had my big moving sale on Sunday! The one thing about almost any kind of travel is that you must. pack. light. I know some people don’t follow this rule when moving, but when moving consists of a major road trip in a mid-sized car, it’s a must!

all the things piled up ready for the sale

So I had a moving sale. I planned it very carefully, too, as I knew it was my big opportunity to not only reduce my belongings but to make a little cash in the process (I really needed to see money in my hand before I forgot what it looked like). I advertised well, even paying to put an ad in the newspaper, went through all my stuff ahead of time, made a giant pile in the living room of boxes labeled “sell” and “free”. I cleaned up the bigger items, made some beautiful signs, bought hot chocolate to serve, and set up all the tables the night before. I’d been scared to death that it might rain that day, but my heart rate returned to normal as the weather forecast retracted its threats just hours before the big day. Everything was perfect and it was going to be the best sale ever. I was excited. I was even proud of myself. The frenzy was set to start at seven, and before I went to bed late Saturday night I set my alarm for five to give myself plenty of time to have everything set up before the customers began to arrive…..

a couple of the makeshift tables I constructed

Bzzz….Bzzzz- WHA?! I jerked awake at a buzzing sound from my phone on the desk. My eyes swiveled to take in the gleaming red numbers on my clock and as they did, my mouth let out a screech- Aaaaaah! OH NO!!!! It was 7:40!!! I was a full FORTY MINUTES late, not from getting up to set up my sale but from being at the START of my sale!! I. Was. Mortified. 😦 Jumping out of bed and throwing on clothes faster than I ever have in my life, I ran outside with a box of merchandise and started throwing stuff on the tables. During most of the worst tragedies of my life I’ve been able to imagine how funny the situation really is or at least what a wonderful story it will make, but this is one situation in which i honestly had a VERY difficult time finding the bright spot. I felt so irresponsible and ridiculous.

I traded my friend that plant for a really cool lamp!

Not a soul was lurking around the vicinity of the yard and for a moment I thought that perhaps every yard-saler had lost faith in me and it was all a total flub. Perhaps the yard-sale community had already put me on their black list for what must have seemed like the cruelest moving sale joke in history. 😮 I winced as I tapped on the door of my roommate, whom I knew had only had a few hours of sleep, begging her to come help me. I needed someone to (wo)man my sale while I tried to haul my junk out the door. Thankfully, I have some of the best friends/roommates in the world and she willingly pulled herself from a deep sleep to go stand in the bitter cold guessing at what my prices might be for various items.

things! people!

Long story short, because my roommate handled the customers (which DID come, by the way, and fast), within about an hour I had everything out and set up in a rather chaotic fashion and felt ready to begin. I had also sold about half of my larger items by then. I realized pretty quickly that there were still plenty of customers whom I hadn’t offended and that people really just wanted to buy stuff before I’d had a chance to take it out of the box or think of a price. One woman arrived about 2 minutes after I woke up and immediately bought my couch and 2 table-lamp deals. I realized that I really didn’t even need my street signs in order for people to find me. The only real embarrassment occurred during that painful window of time when I had large numbers of customers but only about 5 items for sale…..

My landlords joined my sale, adding a few of their items. Apparently, as they recounted to me later, there had been a HUGE crowd of people outside my house at 7am. They even knocked on my door and everything but…. we were SLEEPING!

The sale turned out to be so much fun, I sold most of my big items, gave the rest of the little stuff away, and felt happy but tired at the end of the day. One of my favorite parts was trading with my friend who brought a few things to my sale: she got a giant plant and I got a lamp that I love. My neighbors really pitched in and helped after it was all over with hauling away leftover things and cleaning up, and it really gave me a good feeling, like I had precipitated and participated in a community effort. 🙂

Get rid of all my crap…. CHECK! That’s one job down!

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tentative Moving Dates and Moving Sale

So. The groundwork is being laid, the plans are being spun, and things are taking place! I now have a couple of tentative moving dates, everything being dependent upon when I get my thesis finished and ready to defend. The first, and preferred date is February 28. The latter, second-rate choice is March 14. I’m praying for the 28th, so we shall see! I’ve begun packing and downsizing in earnest. I actually have 3 large boxes of books stacked in my room, ready to transport. They were recently ousted from my bookcases, which are now sold, as is my bicycle, a picture, a CD tower, a set of plastic drawers, and 3 chairs… I’m preparing to sell everything else in my big moving sale, coming up a week from today on the 7th. It’s going to be HUGE! …Unless everyone buys my furniture beforehand. I listed everything big and bulky on the school’s classifieds and didn’t expect much to happen, but I’ve had so many responses that I actually had to make a list and schedule for showing everyone the goods or, as one enterprising customer stated, my wares.

I’m feeling equal parts sadness and excitement as I watch my belongings trickle out the door (the excitement is aided by the cash that appears in my hand upon their absence) and I’m working hard to balance the two emotions. On one extreme, it feels great to rid my life of all the excess stuff that tends to accumulate when you stay in one place for awhile and self-medicate through hard times with surplus material goods. I sometimes dream of carrying my possessions on my back and walking through the world without the worry that things tend to breed. On the other hand, sometimes it’s those very things that can negate worry. It’s nice to have plenty of blankets when it gets really cold or to realize that you do, in fact, have that weird item that you need for your random hobby project. Nothing that I have is really worth much in a monetary sense, but some of it is nevertheless very special to me. After awhile, though, the stuff of life just builds and builds until I long to see the other side of the spectrum.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cure Writer’s Block by Traveling

I went to Michigan last week with the idea that I might be less distracted there and better able to focus on writing my thesis…. and it totally worked! I believe I got more done there in a week than I had gotten done in the last month at home (which wasn’t much, sadly). I also began to understand and see things more clearly; I began to grasp the big picture of what I am writing about. I keep thinking of famous American expatriates who relocated for the purpose of accomplishing something that seemed much less likely from their home soil- especially writers who were portrayed during significant periods of literature as sort of “breaking free” of the confines of home and finding new inspiration, openness, and acceptance in more exotic places such as Paris (Indeed, I took an entire class in college called “American Writers in Paris” in which we studied the work of the Lost Generation e.g. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound).

Ernest Hemingway

Thus romanticizing my lowly trek from state to state, I was lucky to have my hopes fulfilled. During each day while my boyfriend was detained at work, I was able to crank out more actual study time than had even seemed feasible while here at home. Perhaps it is deceit to call my problem “writer’s block” since it seemed to be more kin to a case of complete lack of motivation and focus. In any case, however, the new location, lack of chores, errands, and interruptions all came together like a fresh breath of air to clear a few of the cobwebs from my head and the glaze from my eyes. My only regret is that I could not stay longer. If a week-long vacation could do such wonders…

I’m attempting to continue the trend here at home: getting up earlier, maintaining a narrower focus, actually beginning the work (as my roommate pointed out yesterday, it is really the lag time before the task is begun that is the true reckoning force). It is not the same, however, when there are bills to pay, cleaning to be done, pets to be cared for, and packing to be planned, but if I try very hard I can still recapture a bit of the serenity and focus that I achieved during my little vacation and insert it into today.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2010 Detroit Auto Show

Last night my dashing man and I made our way through the suburbs to downtown Detroit (my first actual look at the city). Our destination was the 2010 North American International Auto Show, more commonly known as the Detroit Auto Show. For the 21st year, Detroit is hosting the week-long auto show (it’s dates coinciding exactly with the dates of my visit here), the largest in North America and featuring over 700 automobiles. It’s held in the Cobo Center in the middle of downtown Detroit. Adults pay $12 each to see the new inventions of auto designers from around the world up close and personal, including 2011 models and concept cars (they may or may not work, but they look really cool).

You can sit in the cars and play with all the knobs and dials, check out the trunk, adjust the seats- everything but open the hood. That last part made us sad because my boyfriend actually designs some of the parts under there and didn’t get to show them to me, but we had a lot of fun looking at all the cars in their fancy displays under the bright lights.

my precious Claretta in her last days

I’ve been more interested in cars than usual lately since I’m looking for a replacement for my dear Claretta (may she rest in peace), so it was an excellent opportunity for me to compare car sizes, shapes, colors, interiors, cargo space, leg room, you name it.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Mini (maybe it’s their cute diminutive size and maybe it’s the way they kick butt in the Italian Job…) but had never gotten to sit in one until last night. The boyfriend and I had a friendly debate regarding the merits of their retro-looking interiors (it could also be interpreted as futuristic, if you ask me).

Thankfully, we weren’t there today for the fire incident that took place in the Audi display area, causing the show to be shut down for a few hours this afternoon.

One of my favorite things had to be the tiny commuter cars that can fit only 2 people and are just one seat wide! Just the craziest thing ever!

Even for someone who doesn’t work with cars, know a lot about cars, or even currently own a car, the Detroit Auto Show was a lot of fun, very educational and interesting, not to mention the fact that it’s a highly appropriate activity for someone to who is about to be a resident of The Motor City! I’d definitely recommending stopping in to check it out. It goes on until the 24th of January this year and will, I’m sure, be back next year in all it’s auto glory.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling With Cat in Car: not recommended at any time

Feline, kitty, purr-box, mouser, tabby, tiger, tomcat…. Call it what you like but a cat by any other name is still a bad travel companion! Oh, yes I know there may be some of you out there whose cats are perfectly docile when in an enclosed space hurtling down the highway at seventy miles per hour. I unfortunately am still waiting for the pleasure of that experience and there’s a story to tell. But let me start at the beginning.

This summer I spent two months at a marine station on the Puget Sound taking the very last class of my graduate school experience. While there, my cabin mate and I adopted a gaunt-looking stray. He was a large black and white hunter with a loud and pleading call (the meowing did, incidentally, nearly cease once we started feeding him!). We named him Pleoh.

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

He immediately began to bring us almost daily gifts. I presumed that it was in thanks for the rescue, but I had to sit him down and tell him that there were other, more effective, ways to reach me. Unfortunately I don’t speak Cat-ese… Barring the rodent gifts, Pleoh turned out to be a more-than-wonderful feline companion and we both became quite fond of him.

Toward the end of the summer we began to discuss the fate of Pleoh since we both had rather territorial cats at home and didn’t feel we could add another kitty to the litter. I put up an add for a free and adorable cat and waited. And waited. No one wanted our poor little guy! My cabin mate was flying to Michigan and so it fell to me to transport the cat six hours to Walla Walla, via Lester. I was not excited and my previous experience traveling with cats did nothing to pique my enthusiasm. As a test, I introduced Pleoh to my car and drove a few feet through camp. He went berserk! Yowling and clawing, he attempted to force his gangly body through the small opening in my back window.

I did a Google search on making travel with cats more bearable to find some (hopefully) lifesaving tips. Advice was to accustom the cat beforehand to its leash, harness, and travel carrier. I had only a few days to work with, but I got a harness and put it on him in the cabin. He walked in a funny stilted manner for awhile but finally got used to it. Then I attached the leash and let him drag it around. “What’s that blasted thing following me everywhere I go?!” his face seemed to say, but he dealt with it. I looked at pet taxis, but his size cost $25 and jobless me could only think of the meals I could eat with that money. I ended up purchasing an $11 fold-up cat carrier. It was like a cat tent and really cute! Pleased with myself, I introduced it to Pleoh who, to my surprise, sat contentedly in it for more than a few seconds. It was enough to lift my spirits considerably. Perhaps this trip would not be so bad after all! Trips to the vet with my beloved Ami were always noisy, panting affairs that left us both shaken, and the cross-country trip I had once taken with my friend’s cat, make that my friend’s sedated cat, was anything but peaceful, quiet, or free of cage-soiling. Nevertheless, I foolishly told myself that this time it would be different.

The great day arrived. My cabin mate kissed Pleoh goodbye and I stuffed him into his tent with his harness on. He immediately sensed that this wasn’t a test run. We started to drive and the yowling began. And the panting. And the clawing. “He’s going to tear that tent to shreds,” I warned myself, but miraculously it held up. With each pull of his claws, it yielded to the pressure. Kudos tent for being resilient! But Pleoh didn’t care; rolling, yowling, tossing, and crying, he made himself a miserable mess of panic. Always one for good eye contact, Pleoh pleaded with me with wide terrified eyes to stop the torture. After a few close calls on the road, I apologized for ignoring him, but maintained that I must focus on driving lest we both die. “You,” I reminded him, “are actually NOT going to die in there.”

But I wondered if I might. How much of this could I take? Six hours much? Heading toward Seattle, we hit traffic almost immediately, and I found the distraught cat beside me to be quite a distraction. A few times he wrenched the stiff supports out of place, turning his tent into a sack. There wasn’t much I could do to help him. Then I looked up and saw that the sunscreen in front of my sunroof on my stupid car was coming off! One end of it was gyrating freely in the breeze, a heartbeat away from flying off and hitting the truck behind me! So there I am, holding the sun thing on with my right hand, driving with my left, trying to ignore the flailing cat beside me, and attempting to pull off the road in thick traffic! That was the first stop. I took the stupid sun thing off- what is it for, anyway?

Back on the road, Pleoh got more and more frantic. A couple of times he even catapulted himself and his tent over directly into my lap. That’s when I noticed that he had peed in his tent. I guess terror negates bladder control in cats. Great. 5 1/2 more hours with a urine-soaked cat. I was just glad I had protected my car seat with an old blanket. (BTW a tent in ones lap does not bode well for steering control)

Just as I was wondering aloud how much worse it could get, Pleoh popped out of his tent! Apparently the tent’s weak point was it’s zipper. He literally broke it! In the stunned moment in which he sat in disbelief to comprehend his freedom, I was luckily able to grab his harness. This also does not assist steering ability in anyway. Make that the sixth time I almost broadsided someone. Another stop, a stowed tent (it was urine-soaked anyway), and Pleoh was firmly leashed to the passenger side door (uh… on the inside, mind you), keeping him in the other seat, I hoped.

On the road again. Traffic is really bad. Pleoh is still terrified but mostly quiet. He looks wild-eyed out the window and then tries to claw his way up the back of the seat or over onto me- ouch! But not else bad could happen now, right? I just need to keep my eyes on the road and trying to ignore the acrobatics unfolding on my right? Not exactly. With one strange twisting flipping crunching maneuver, Pleoh (aka Houdini) slips right out of his harness, collar, and leash!!! Aaaaah! Maneuvering in Seattle traffic and holding a yowling, scratching, clawing, biting, urine-soaked monster by the scruff on the neck, I wanted to cry. Moreover, I couldn’t seem to get over to a place I could stop. Road rage took over, “MOVE IT, PEOPLE! Can’t you see I need to get over??!”

But then, like a soft fog descending into a valley at dusk, Pleoh crawled into my lap, hid his face in the crack by the seat, and lulled himself into a sleep (or trance or coma, but who cares!). I held my breath. Barring the occasional wiggle, he stayed calm. And that was my strategy for the rest of the trip. Every time I started the car up again, he panicked briefly, but as long as I could keep him down in my lap, he seemed to be able to shut out the horrors. It took him hours, though, to relax long enough to drink any water or stop hyperventilating.

Traveling with cats. Just don’t do it. I won’t do it again unless I have a cat in a pet taxi with heavy sedation and a catheter. I can’t describe to you how many times I almost died on that highway and I probably scared countless other drivers to death. Just so you know, Pleoh has made himself quite at home here, waiting for my cabin mate to pick him up in a few weeks. He also hates my Ami and tries to attack her, but that’s another story…

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Car, Cats, Cities/Regions, Pets, Puget Sound, Transportation, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Friday Harbor on a Thursday

Today I visited Friday Harbor with my Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory Phycology class. We left from the ferry port in Anacortes, WA. Leaving our cars in the paid parking by the docks, we all walked on the ferry. It was nice to have the school footing the bill for walk-on passengers ($11 round trip).

Ferry Parking

Ferry Parking

The ferry left a bit late and arrived at Friday Harbor in just over an hour. I spent the entire ride playing Dutch Blitz with my fellow classmates. I didn’t win. 😦

Dutch Blitz winnner

Dutch Blitz winnner

Friday Harbor is the port town on San Juan Island, the second largest and most populated of the group of San Juan islands. It’s a popular tourist destination and a great place to go for an afternoon of restaurants, souvenir shopping, ice cream, and some supreme boat-viewing. It’s also, if you know where to look, a great place to discover hard-to-find algae.

Our group boarded a research vessel from Friday Harbor Laboratories (a world renowned marine biology research station of the University of Washington) waiting for us at the marina and we took off. The boat was fairly large and I sat on a upper deck with a great view of the islands we passed. It was also fun to poke around inside the boat. I liked the beds that they crammed into one tiny room and the stools that swung out from beneath the table.

Your bunk at sea

Your bunk at sea

We passed another island called Canoe Island where the Canoe Island French Camp is located. Apparently there’s an immersion French experience there where nothing but French is spoken. There’s also a really cool clock. It made me miss France.

Our purpose for being on the research vessel was to do a dredge for algae that we maybe hadn’t seen before. A dredge is basically a bucket with a rope bottom at the end of a cable that we drag behind the boat as we pass Canoe Island. It scrapes everything off the rocks and out of the mud about fifty feet under the sea. After this has been going on for 10 minutes or so, we bring it back up and dump it out into a metal table on the boat to see what we’ve found.

Spoils of the dredge

Spoils of the dredge

Sorting through the mud, decorator crabs, and giant red urchins, we find algae that we haven’t seen in the intertidal zone or in other places and put it in some saltwater so we can bring it back to our classroom and press it for our collections. We love algae. We’re a bunch of algae nerds. You’d be amazed to see the exquisite algae we pulled out of that mud.

When we left the boat after the dredge, a few of us poked around on one of the docks. Stretching ourselves out on our stomachs and looking over the side into the water beneath (that really hurts after awhile), we found some types of algae that are usually difficult to find because they can’t live in the intertidal zone. These algae, however, are always submerged because they rise and fall in the water with the dock. I guess I just told you where to find the “hard-to-find” algae.

The next item on the agenda was a walk around town. Some of my classmates went to Friday’s Crabhouse for some burgers and fries.

One of my classmates takes a GIANT bite from a Friday's Crabhouse burger

One of my classmates takes a GIANT bite from a Friday's Crabhouse burger

I, on the other hand, went for some ice cream at the place I traditionally always get it when I go to this town. It’s the place right by the ferry. You walk through in the line that perpetually fills the small shop, picking your flavors as you go. $4.00 later I was holding a cup with a scoop of black cherry and a scoop of huckleberry. They were delicious, but not as delicious as I’d hoped. That was probably due to the fact that I didn’t have chocolate ice cream. I’m testing a theory that I’m allergic to chocolate and the testing period is not over yet… Still, I would recommend that you try some ice cream from this place. It is delicious. Another option would be a shop on 1st street which advertises homemade ice cream containing zero hormones. If you’re going to eat ice cream at all, that would probably be the better choice.

One of my classmates posited this question to me: “Does Friday Harbor have its own kind of character or does it lose its life when the last ferry leaves and all the tourists have disappeared?” I’d like to stay a night and find out.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Puget Sound, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hike up Sauk Mountain, Northwestern Washington

Twenty-seven switchbacks, a 1040 ft. elevation gain, and 2.1 miles and… I was on top of Sauk Mountain taking in one of the most breathtaking 360 degree view I have ever been privileged enough to see!
mt. sauk 2
Hold on a minute. Back right up. Before we get to the good stuff, we have to talk about the getting-there part, which was excruciating! It was hot, for one thing. The never-ending switchbacks had me facing the sun first on the right side of my face… then on the left side of my face… then on the right… then on the left, right, left, right, left… I could feel my skin scorching (sorry, mom, I forgot my sunscreen). The only thing that kept me going was the counting the switchbacks to twenty-seven… that and the line of people backed up behind me as far as the eye could see! The “green meadow” I was told we would be hiking up is-firstly-more like a green vertical wall and-secondly-almost as tall as me in some places, which makes it scratchy and liable to hit you in the head. It’s actually full of wildflowers, though, in all colors imaginable, which makes the scratchy, hitting part completely manageable. mt sauk flowersUnfortunately I didn’t take as much time as I’d have liked to actually look at the flowers- partly because if I stopped I’d, well, I’d probably never get going again and secondly because every time I glanced toward the downward side of the mountain a wave of dizziness would come over me and I would nearly lose my footing, toppling into the abyss of “green meadow”. I just kept going. There are some, er, shortcuts up the mountain (the operative word being up- straight up). I tried a couple of these and, yes, it did put me ahead of that aforementioned never-ending line of hikers, but it also wore me out considerably. I didn’t try many of those. Besides, shortcuts cause erosion.

Ok, so the good news is that once you get through with those grueling twenty-seven switchbacks, the worst is behind you! In my case, I was then on the eastern side of the mountain and able to find a little protection from the sun, for which my face thanked me. There are also likely to be some wonderful patches of snow! These are great for both cooling off and ambushing unsuspecting hikers, preferably in that order. Three hikers cross a snowfield on Sauk Mountain in view of GlaciIf you pay attention, you may see a few marmots out sunning themselves. mt sauk marmotLooking to your right, you will see Sauk Lake 1000 feet down below. It is a 1.5 mile hike from here (a trail veers off to the right, apparently). Now the hike is easy except for one very short steep part which takes you back around the other side and up to the summit where you can see a few remains of the fire tower that used to perch there. Workers used to live in the tower until about 1981. I’ll admit that I kind of wish for a job like that! The view here is breathtaking. Stand on the highest point and turn in a circle. Facing north you can see Mt. Baker and Shuksan, and facing south you may behold Glacier Peak, Pugh, Whitehorse and White Chuck mountains. If the day is clear enough, you may spot Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains in the distance. There was some fog lingering when I was there, but the view only looked more mystical because of it.

Downsides to this majestic view? The bugs. There were a lot of flies and mosquitoes. Just keep moving, though, and they might not be so bad. It might be fun to hike this in the cool of the day or try it in the fall. It’s a great place to bring your dog or out-of-town friends you’d like to impress.

Where is Sauk Mountain?
From I-5 north of Mt. Vernon, WA, at exit 230 go 40 miles east on Hwy 20 (North Cascades Highway). 10 miles after Concrete and just before Rockport State Park, turn left onto Forest Road 1030 (also known as the Sauk Mountain Rd.). Follow this gravel road 8 (dusty, bumpy) miles to the trailhead parking lot. Once you reach the trailhead, you’ve already done a lot of the climbing thanks to your vehicle. There is a cute, A-frame style outhouse stocked with toilet paper. There’s no trash service, though, so plan to take your trash back down the mountain with you.

mt sauk
mt. sauk outhouse

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Puget Sound, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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