Saturday, June 28, 2014

#81. See Devils Tower

Take me to your leader

In 1977 Steven Spielberg produced an epic movie called Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It's based on a character named Roy who is played by the ubber talented Richard Dreyfus and its based on how this guys life changes (more likes melts the hell down) after an encounter with a UFO. Throughout the movie Roy becomes unknowingly obsessed with this crazy rock formation (Devils Tower) after his encounter. To make things more complicated for Roy he isn't entirely sure why he's drawn to the rock. In the process he does some rather crazy things throughout the movie like ripping out the landscaping in his and his neighbors yard and builds a mini Devils Tower in his living room. Let's just say his wife was less than pleased with his actions. He also can't make it through dinner without making mashed potatoes into the shape of Devils Tower. 

Hang in there Roy

Since I was in elementary school I don't think I've ever eaten mashed potatoes without carving them into a mini butter filled Devils Tower. For the love of god I'm 32 and I'm pretty sure I still do this. Don't get all judgey on me you probably do weird shit too. ANYWAY my point is as a child of the 80's this was my introduction to this South Dakota natural monument. It planted this magical vision of the rock formation in my head and I have always wanted to see it in the worst way. On June 25th, of 2014 I finally got to get blessed by its presence while on a cross country trip with my Dad. 

When we first came around a corner and saw it. It was pretty hazey...hence the blue. 

One of the best parts about visiting Devils Tower was I had no idea that I would be seeing it the day I did. My father and I had rolled into the Badlands and we stopped to grab a map and use the restroom. On the back of the map I saw that our route was about 40 miles from Devils Tower. I ran back to to the truck over come with excitement and when I told the old man how close we would be his eyes glazed over. Pretty sure it was our destiny. We replotted our course and off we went cracking jokes about gas masks and dead cows. 

Roy and Jillian make it to Devils Tower

Bobby K (My Dad) makes it to Devils Tower

I kept saying to my Dad the closer we got, "I always knew I'd see it someday....I just didn't know today was the day!!" We ran up the trail like two kids and got to exploring the area. It was actually beautiful. We learned that the Native Americans in the area told the story of its creation in that there were some young girls walking in the area when several bears came across them. The girls ran from the bears in fear of their lives and climbed a rock, dropping to their knees praying to the great spirit to save them. The Great Spirit hearing them raised the rock towards the heavens saving the girls from the bears. The bears clawed the sides leaving the marks visitors see today. 

The view from the base of Devils Tower

It was an awesome side trip on our way to move me out west. Read more about that experience here: 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

#23 Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Sunrise departure!

Several years ago my mother purchased my father a gift certificate for Christmas for the two of them to take a hot air balloon ride together. Romantic huh? It was a thoughtful gift with good intentions although in reality there is a better chance of Paris Hilton winning an Oscar than my mom ever climbing into to a big wicker basket to sail hundreds of feet above the earth. For this exact reason years went by without anyone using the gift certificate. Although on one occasion a few years ago my dad somehow convinced my mom to call and set up the ride but lucky for her and everyone involved bad weather cancelled the flight. I'm still not sure how anyone would have actually gotten her into the gondola. But I digress.

My dad Bobby K giving a hand to the crew getting our balloon full

Almost ready

This is when I get screamed at to stop taking pictures and make a run for the basket

So one night this past summer my dad and I decided while throwing down some wine that we would finally put that gift certificate to good use. We booked our flight for my 31st birthday at the end of September and kept our fingers crossed we would have nice weather. My boyfriend Jimmy also ponied up some dough purchasing a ticket to join us on our maiden voyage. We were scheduled to take flight at sunrise at the Pottstown Airport on the edge of Montgomery and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania in the Fall

My first impression after watching them fire up the propane burners to inflate what seemed like a flimsy thin nylon balloon was that this was a prime example of legit poor choices. With that said it still didn't stop me from enthusiastically climbing into the basket and preparing for take off. Once inside the basket I was shocked at how small the basket was and it felt like the four of us were packed in like sausages. I shimmied to the side making room, found my spot and held on tight and pretty much did not move until we landed safely about 45 minutes later.

We coasted along flirting with the clouds viewing the vivid autumn colors below us. Jim and my father were intrigued by the mechanics of the burner and peppered our pilot Russ Lucas with questions. In the rare few moments when we were all quiet it was amazing how powerful the silence of the sky was and then again how quickly the burners clicking on engulfed the serenity. We crept along at a slow and steady pace. Russ brought us down over a river and we cruised along it at a low altitude until we reached the next shore were we skated right above the trees. Shortly there after he set us down in a parking lot where employees from an insurance company spilled outside to photograph our landing.

Our reflection in the river

Safe landing!

The trip was pretty cool. Shorter than I had anticipated and I found it rather curious that once I was in the basket I couldn't look up. For whatever reason it gave me anxiety and made my legs feel like jello. But looking down or out into the horizon was fine. The group consensus once on the ground was that we will definitely take another hot air balloon ride but would wait and do it in a more scenic area than in our hometown of Pennsylvania. Napa or Colorado seem like legit choices. Anyway it was a perfect day to seal #23 Ride in a Hot Air Balloon into the books! Now on to the next!

Friday, July 19, 2013

#75 Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston

I LOVE history. It has a way of captivating me and holding me in it's grip almost like a moth is held prisoner to light. Since middle school I have always wanted to visit Boston and see it's historical sites. Part of that is driven from where I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Being located in a northern suburbs of Philadelphia I have grown up with visits to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross house, Washington's Crossing, Valley Forge and although from another period in our history Gettysburg. Getting to go to Boston and walk the Freedom Trail seems like the appropriate way of filling in the gaps to the experiences of my home city besides Boston is an awesome town. So this past week Jim and I found ourselves with some time on our hands so we made the 5 hour trip north to pound the cobblestones and drink our way through the Freedom Trail.

Map of the Boston Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a two and half mile walk highlighted by red bricks and red paint that snakes through the north end of Boston. It officially leads to 16 historically significant sites from the United States Revolution. Unofficially it also winds by other famous Boston landmarks, markets and bars making this an even more fun adventure. Jim and I chose to start our day by booking a two hour walking tour from the visitors center in Boston Common. The tour was given by a witty historical reenactor and took us from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall.

Freelove our awesome tour guide

Heading out of Boston Common to the Park Street Church

We spent a good portion of the beginning of our tour in the Granary Burying Ground. While there we learned about the life and death of James Otis Jr., Paul Revere's life including his two wives and his famous ride to Concord, learned about "King" John Hancock including his relationship to George Washington and his famous large signature, we also learned about the life and contributions of American patriot Sam Adams and in addition to viewing his headstone learned about the victims of the Boston Massacre whom he had interned in his family grave. Our tour guide also spoke about Phillis Wheatley who was a  slave that in addition to being a poet became the first African American woman to publish a book. We also learned about Mary "Mother" Goose. Our tour guide was informative and entertaining and made us constantly laugh out loud. She did a great job keeping everyone's attention and making the time fly by.

Paul Revere's headstone is actually that little one to the right but as our tour guide pointing 
out when you become famous you get a bigger headstone!

Sam Adams headstone with our tour in background

Instead of Where's Waldo...Where's Jimbo?  

Our tour also stopped by the King's Chapel where we learned more about puritans, the governor who had the church built on a puritan cemetery and Jim's favorite part the cat game. Then we headed to the Old State House and the location of the infamous Boston Massacre which is memorialized on the ground by a ring of grey cobblestones. I found it hilarious to hear that the "site" has been moved several times over the years and the actual location of the massacre was across the street of the Old State House in what is now a Bank of America.

Old State House

The so called site of the Boston Massacre

The other side of the Old State House with the Massacre location

And the Bank of America across the street

We continued a bit further up the street to Faneuil Hall where we said goodbye to our tour guide Freelove and set out to explore Quincy Market and have some lunch. I was completely blown away with the amount of food and the selection at Quincy. I hate to say it but I'm pretty sure it blows away the Reading Market in Philadelphia. Jim I took a break here and stuffed our faces with food and booze before continuing on our journey to Paul Revere's House, Old North Church and Copp's Hill Burying Ground. We did make a pit stop on the way at Mike's Pastry and got some gigantic canoli's. 

Paul Revere's house

Old North Church

Copp's Hill Burying Ground

We saved the north part of the Freedom Trail for the following afternoon as we already had evening dinner and theatre plans. So the next day which happened to be the hottest day of the year thus far in 2013 with temperatures over a hundred degrees we did the smartest thing any people could do....we went to the Sam Adams Brewery and drank a shit load of beer before catching a cab back to our hotel and then setting out and walking over the river and up to the monument at Bunker Hill. I pretty much thought we were gonna die so after a quick exploration of the area we set out towards the harbor and to the USS Constitution AKA Old Iron Sides.  I was a little bummed they wouldn't let you get in front of the vessel to take pictures but I did the best I could with the limitations. 

Pitcher per table....but there is just two of us!? No worries! We got this. 

Bunker Hill

USS Constitution

Loved the rigging

I've never seen so many cannons in my life. Not even at Gettysburg! No wonder
 Old Iron Sides never lost a battle! 

We had an amazing time exploring the Freedom Trail and both Jim and I agreed the highlight of our entire Boston trip was the tour with Freelove. It was a blast knocking this off the list at number #75! 

I also knocked off an other item on this same trip. Click the link to read about that adventure: #132 Eating Lobster in Maine

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#132 Eat Lobster in Maine


Until this past week I had never had the opportunity to travel to Maine but with a little bit of unexpected time on our hands Jim and I commandoed up the coast 6 1/2 hours and spent sometime drinking our way around Portland, Maine. It's quite an impressive little seafaring town. The sites are beautiful, the food scene is excellent, the shopping is fantastic and the lobster is more than plentiful. Jim and I agreed that we didn't want to half ass our Maine lobster experience by simply ordering a pre-made lobster roll or by getting some lobster poutine at a local pub. What we wanted was to catch them ourselves and then eat our bounty so we booked ourselves on a 90 minute tour on a Lucky Catch Cruise lobster boat.

Heading out of Portland into Casco Bay to catch us some lobsters!

Jim all geared up and ready to do some lobstering....chicken wing and all. (He had surgery 
two weeks ago for a torn rotator cuff with bicep stuff people).

We stopped at 6 traps that Captain Tom had put out in Casco Bay prior to our departure. After we hauled the traps up we were taught how to measure the lobsters to see if they were keepers, learned how to band their claws, we were shown how to determine the sex, and how to bait traps. Capt Tom and his lovely crew showered us in additional information during the hands on experience including their breeding, molting, life cycle and how they enter the traps. They did a great job of making sure everyone was included and got to participate. 

Lobstey in a trap

Jim baiting the traps with herring with the help of Capt Tom

Measuring our catch (Doesn't it make you want to stick your finger in 
that open claw said no one ever)

Banding the claws which is super important as it keeps the lobsters 
from going all ninja on each other 

Jim's turn banding

We also brought up some crabs in our traps. We didn't get to keep those but it was fun learning about them and the kids on the trip had a blast sending them flying back to the sea. I was a little bummed we didn't pull up any gigantic starfish but watching seals swim around the boat totally made up for that. In addition, one of the other added benefits of taking the Lucky Catch Cruise is it gets you some of the best views of the bay. 

Crab with roe

Back to the sea!

View of Portland Headlight from the boat

Spring Point Ledge Light

You may be thinking going to Maine and eating lobster is like being that guy who goes to a concert and wears the t-shirt of the band he's going to see. Not true....because lobsters aren't t-shirts and they taste amazing. And like most foods the fresher they are the better. Which is why when we finished our cruise we bought two lobsters and then literally walked with them in our hands to The Portland Lobster Company next door and had them cook them for us.

Jim handing his lobster over to the Portland Lobster Company

My amazing lunch. 

Before and after

These lobsters were hands down the most amazing and delicious lobster I have ever feasted on. Let's be honest, lobsters that have spent hours or days in tanks will never compare to fresh caught and prepared lobsters. Not to mention we sat outside on the deck on a beautiful day jamming to music and downing a chilled bottle of wine while tearing apart our lunch. Jim and I both agreed it was the best four hours we spent in Portland and was an awesome way to put #132: Eat Lobster in Maine officially in the books. So if you ever find yourself in Portland, Maine and want to have an awesome time look up Lucky Catch Cruises and book yourself a lobstering experience. I highly doubt you will be disappointed.