Transportation

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Working my way across the ocean

Written by Emmy on 19 May 2013

When I took a job out of college that involved a lot of travel, I was not exactly expecting glamour. I had been braced for a few years of toodling around America’s best office parks in my stylish rental car. Still, I was excited about the idea and I reaped benefits even in the most unexpected places.

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But mixed in with innumerable journeys up and down the Jersey Turnpike, I’ve also seen my fair share of excitement, spending a fair amount of time in my own city of New York and jetting off to fun destinations like San Francisco. The particular relevance of my work experiences to this blog are the culinary experiences I’ve been able to have as a byproduct of my work at places like Slanted Door and Gary Danko on the West Coast and notable hotspots like PDT and Spice Market on the East Coast.

photo (33)photo (37)photo (35)Scallops, as interpreted by Slanted Door (left) and Gary Danko (right), and the delightfully colorful tomato salad at Gary Danko

Of note to my co-blogger would also be the two months I spent eating Wawa hoagies. I convinced my team to forgo the cafeteria in favor of the Philly-area favorite because of all that we could learn from their superior business acumen. (The significantly superior sandwiches helped.)

2013 brought the most exotic work destination as of yet, sending me over the Atlantic to Basel, Switzerland. Before I set foot in the country, I knew nothing of Basel other than the legislation that bears its name. (The first time I got there, I joked there should have been a “Basel: Home of Financial Regulation” sign, the way many U.S. towns welcome you with their sports team accolades, but no one else thought I was that funny.)

On my way to Basel, I traveled through Zurich, a city for which I think the best adjective is “sturdy.” The city runs like clockwork — and is punctuated by clocks at every turn — and is incredibly easy to navigate. It sits on the edge of a beautiful lake, and though I didn’t have much time in the city (and was advised there wasn’t much to see), at least walking by the water provided for a pretty view.

By day…

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…and by night.

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Basel, just an hour north from Zurich by train, has aspects of both a quaint European village and an industrial powerhouse. Walking its adorable cobblestone streets, you pass the beautiful old city hall and centuries-old buildings, made even more picturesque when covered in snow.

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On the other hand, a number of companies have corporate headquarters on the border city — Basel deals with the Swiss, Germans and French — and the city is lined with factories and office buildings. Despite its international surroundings, the city is Swiss through and through (or so I’m told). There’s a sense of formality and punctuality to all operations that is hard to find elsewhere, and the cheese selection is phenomenal.

Basel at sunrise

When I first got to Switzerland, we partook in local tradition and ate our fair share of fondue and raclette. Both dishes feature copious amounts of melted cheese, though in slightly different forms. Fondue is the more internationally known, and its incarnations outside of Switzerland are pretty true to original form. Essentially, you get a vat of cheese and a bowl of bread, and you dip.

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Raclette is less of an activity-based meal. At least in the restaurant where we had it, the cheese came to us melted and we ate chunks of the rich goodness with potatoes and pickles.

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After a week, I needed a break from the Swiss cuisine. To the Swiss, “light” eating does not exist. I tried to order a salad as-is one day and discovered my dressing applied more like pasta sauce — a very generous and creamy coating. So my colleagues and I quickly banned fondue from our dining repertoire and set out in search of Basel’s other offerings.

It took some digging, but we found them, in the form of Asica, an African-Asian fusion restaurant with pretty decent curries, and Aroma, a tiny Italian trattoria, and my favorite, Eo Ipso, a trendy ambiguously European restaurant built inside of an old warehouse.

photo (34)Dinner at Eo Ipso for the girl who can’t decide: fish on top of a ravioli on top of vegetables on top of meat

I also probably consumed my weight in chocolate, but that’s neither here nor there…

One of my favorite things about Basel was its airport. It’s one of the only truly international airports in the world; the structure sits firmly on the border of France and Switzerland (and just a 20-minute drive from Germany, too). When you land at the Basel airport, you have to very carefully choose your exit. Go out the wrong door and you’ll be in another country. The border is much more fluid than it once was, but there are still checkpoints; after all, Switzerland is not in the EU. The two sides of the airport take different currency and pick up different cell signals, and the cab lines are separated by a 15-foot-tall partition. The first time I landed in Basel, I was quite tickled.

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My love for the tiny airport dissipated quickly when I faced a flight cancellation one Saturday morning that stranded me in Basel on my way to Washington, D.C., for the presidential inauguration. I had planned to fly to the capital via Paris and found myself stuck when my flight to France was delayed, delayed, delayed and then finally cancelled. That late in the day, there was no way I could make it to the U.S., and I was nervous to try the whole proceeding again the next day. Fortunately, nothing is really that far away in Europe. So after spending a day in the Basel airport, I formally migrated from Switzerland to France by exiting out a different door from the one I had entered in, took a taxi to Mulhouse and boarded an express train to Paris.

Three hours later, I was looking at the Seine and found myself with a dinner invitation; one of my colleagues had family in France who graciously made us risotto and served us a traditional king cake. I did not find the prize, but was still permitted to wear the crown.

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I woke up on Sunday morning to a Paris blanketed in snow and a notification that my flight was, again, delayed. With an unplanned day in Paris, I decided to head to the one neighborhood I knew would be open (and that I knew I knew how to get to), the Marais. I trudged my way there as the snow continued to fall, pausing to have a café au lait and pain au chocolate to warm up. I easily could have taken the Metro, but it was a beautiful walk despite the cold. One thing I will say about Paris: nowhere else looks as pretty covered in snow.

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With just enough time to have lunch before heading to the airport, I stopped at L’Aus du Falafel, which I would reason has among the best falafel I have ever had. OK, you could argue there are many other culinary delights I could have taken in while in Paris. But this is the one I know, and the one I knew I would enjoy, and enjoy I did.

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Nearly 48 hours after I first arrived at the Basel airport, I finally touched down in Washington. I had sadly missed much of the gathering to which I was headed, though in the grand scheme of things, Paris is not too bad a place to be trapped.

However, I chose not to visit my formerly favorite little airport ever again.

The ancient wonder of Machu Picchu

Written by Emmy on 8 February 2013

Just as we were growing accustomed to the Sacred Valley, we woke up early on Wednesday morning, packed our things together and (with very little time to spare) boarded a Peru Rail train. The colorful railroad company has a 90% hold on the market of trains bound for Machu Picchu; we were very much among tourists as we climbed aboard in a small town along Rio Urubamba.

The train chugged along with nice thematic music in the background and we were each served a morning snack in an equally thematic basket.

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When people say they are climbing Machu Picchu, what that means is that they are walking the Inca Trail — an approximately 100 km path that winds through the Andes and follows a route that the Incas are are said to have taken themselves. There are a couple entry points to the path — doing the full hundred isn’t mandatory — but regardless of where you start, you are required to take a guide and two porters with you. For even the most experienced of hikers, there is a worry about the 10,000+-foot altitude. Also, requiring you to hire guides and porters is a great source of revenue for Peru.

For those who opt to take the train (us), you take a winding path from the town of Ollantayltambo along the river and up the hills until you get to the town of Machu Picchu, which is still several hundred feet below the site.

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We pulled into the station at Machu Picchu, dropped our stuff and boarded a bus, taking a narrow and winding path up the mountains for about another 30 minutes. I can confidently say my eyes were closed the entire time.

We got up to the top and filed through the line alongside many, many other tourists. Over 3,500 people visit Machu Picchu every day — the government caps it at 4,000 for safety reasons — and they have their system down to a science. Passports are required to enter because so many people try to reuse tickets or manufacture their own. There was something lost in translation in the issuing of my ticket, which said I was 13 years old, but that somehow didn’t seem to bother border patrol.

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Once through the gates, we walked along a narrow path surrounded by rocks. And then suddenly, Machu Picchu appeared.

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It looked like a page out of my high school Spanish textbook. The shockingly tall peaks against the blue sky, alternating between clear and cloudy, with the perfectly constructed villages below was truly a sight.

Machu Picchu was accidentally discovered by Hiram Bingham in the early 1900s and has remained somewhat of a mystery ever since. There are a handful of competing theories as to its purpose — last hideaway from the Spanish, religious retreat, summer vacation home of the king — but none have been validated thanks to the lack of written record. We have many clues and there’s a pretty clear understanding of what purpose each individual structure served, but we’re left to imagine the broader purpose.

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We spent several hours touring around, climbing in and out of little houses. The wealthiest families had multi-room abodes, complete with what look like toilets. The lowest of the three classes had about five people sharing a space the size of my bedroom. (And my bedroom is not very big.)

Around the site, there are countless examples of the Incas’ scientific prowess — running aqueducts, sundials that could tell the time of day and time of year, original structures that have withstood many earthquakes, and complex systems for growing and storing resources.

The ingenuity of the place just seemed endless.

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When we completed our tour and came back through the gates, we noted a long line of people near the exit. Intrigued, we got up close and to my grand surprise, found a passport stamping pad. I felt immediate pangs of regret for not packing my NPS passport. But, I did have my real passport and so we followed the example of other tourists and all put Machu Picchu’s ink on our pages. There is a chance we may have all invalidated our passports as a result.

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We took the bus back down the mountain after having a touristy buffet lunch, and took a quick look at the town of Machu Picchu. There wasn’t much to see, so we retired to the hotel for a bit of rest and relaxation. We took in afternoon tea — the common coca tea, which is said to relieve altitude sickness, but may just have been getting us all slightly high. Either way, it seemed to have some soothing principles and kept any of our headaches from getting too bad.

At dinnertime, we migrated into the hotel’s dining room, where we were greeted with a number of delightful Peruvian specialties. To start, I enjoyed a creative take on a classic local dish. Called causa, the dish is traditionally a potato stuffed with anything from crab to vegetables to meat to fish. The hotel decided to put the potato on the side and stuff avocado instead. Yum. This rendition had veggies inside, though it tasted almost like cole slaw thanks to the mayo-like dressing.

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Other members of my family enjoyed quinoa soup and quinoa with local cheese and peppers.

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My main course was probably one of the better things I ate while we were in Peru: simply grilled tilapa over a fava bean puree with pomegranates. It was simple in preparation, but the combination of flavors was very well thought out and the result was excellent.

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IMG_2931Normally, I have a take-it-or-leave-it approach to dessert — I generally would rather just eat more food — but cheesecake happens to be a personal weakness and here it was offered with muña, the same local mint we had encountered in other dishes. It was not overly sweet, and quite enjoyable.

Many people do just a day trip to Machu Picchu, but given the distance and the sheer awesomeness of the site, we had opted to do a day-and-a-half. Our visit coincided with the start of rainy season and in Machu Picchu it rains 80+ inches a year, so we knew we were taking chances. Generally the weather rolls in and out though, so a messy morning is not necessarily a sign of a calamitous day.

But Thursday morning was indeed messy and so we slept a bit later than planned to try and wait out some of the dense fog. We didn’t want to waste our time at the site though, so we did board the bus in the drizzle and made our way back to the top, where we found ourselves essentially in the clouds.

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The day before, our guide had joked about it being Machu Poncho this time of year; we joined the ranks when we bought plastic ponchos in five different colors and put them on over our raincoats to better guard ourselves (and of course, the cameras).

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We had been deliberating over one of the area’s more intense hikes, but decided to skip it because of warnings of slippery, steep steps. Instead, we took a calmer route to an old Inca bridge, which supposedly boasted good views of the full area.

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Because of the altitude, it was actually amazing to watch the weather. The clouds were rapidly rolling in and out — but all below the point where we were standing. This only enhanced our usual intensity around photography as we all waited for the clouds to move to the perfect spot to enable the perfect picture.

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It wasn’t happening from our spot on the bridge, so we headed in the opposite direction on a different hike, toward the Sun Gate. This is the spot that marks the end of the Inca Trail, or the Intipunku, and it provides the first glimpse of Machu Picchu to those who do endure the three- or four-day adventure.

It also enables those doing just a day trip to envision what it would be like to have that moment; there were many posed photos to reenact that victorious ascent from the other tour groups around us. Okay, and us.

After taking one last foggy, wet look at Machu Picchu, we boarded the bus yet again and made our way to the bottom. We had time for a luxurious lunch before boarding our Peru Rail train, and so returned to the hotel for more fresh fish. This time I enjoyed a piece of trout cooked with local vegetables.

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IMG_2998We boarded the train and each plugged into our headphones and other devices, but quickly put them away once we realized there would be on-board entertainment.

First, we were introduced to an elaborately dressed (and somewhat disturbing) clown, who began dancing down the aisles to the tune of the festive music now blaring over the train’s announcement system.  He pulled people out of their seats to dance with him (including the Lissisters) and gave a sort of lap dance to those unwilling to get up and join him. The whole thing was a bit hard to comprehend, and no one in the car could keep a straight face.

After the clown went away, one of the train attendants announced that the crew would be coming around with the company’s line of alpaca goods. On the way to Machu Picchu, the crew had pushed a cart down the aisles with sweaters and scarves, much like duty-free sales on an airline. But today, the crew would be taking advantage of our rapt attention and began parading down the aisles in a fashion show.

This was also a bit odd and unexpected, but made even more extreme by the contrast of our surroundings. The train had stopped between two towns and so we sat on the rails near rundown homes and farmland. A group of young kids, who clearly knew the train would be there, had scampered down the rocks and were politely rapping at our windows, making mimes for money. And meanwhile, the train crew was strutting to the tune of very loud music inside our fairly luxurious train and trying to entice us into buying expensive woolen goods. The contrast of the two scenes — inside and outside the car — was a perfect encapsulation of the split between haves and have-nots in Peru.

Machu Picchu is the area’s pride and joy, and economic engine — entry to the site costs $45 per person (and multiply that by nearly 4,000 every day, 365 days of the year). But less than 12% of the money goes to the maintenance of the site and to the surrounding towns. The rest flows to Lima, creating somewhat of a bitter relationship. And so every day, countless train cars of tourists with money run through the riverfront towns, but none of that money ever really touches those towns. The windows on our train car were sealed, but there was a little crack at the top. Many of us with window seats pushed our Peru Rail snacks out the opening, where they were caught by the kids below. They waved goodbye to us when the train finally started moving again, but no doubt they returned to the same place when the next train came rolling through a few hours later.

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Crossing a checkpoint and ending an adventure

Written by Emmy on 23 October 2012

We woke up with the sun on Sunday morning and discovered why we were the only people staying in the woods of Fundy: fall comes early. We snuggled into our sleeping bags for a bit longer before emerging into the morning fog. Originally we had planned to hang around, make some coffee and have breakfast straight from the backpacks, but the chill overtook us, and so we quickly packed up and made our way back to the parking lot and to Adrienne.

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We started driving south, back past Saint John and then through long passes of rural New Brunswick with spectacularly well-paved stretches of highway. We came to a southern tip of Canada and boarded a ferry, the first of the day. We were planning to take the boat to Deer Island, where we would take another ferry, this one from Deer Island to Campobello Island. Campobello, the summer home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is home to an international park, co-managed by the U.S. and Canadian parks services. The island is actually part of Canada, but during the months when the ferry is not running, is only accessible by a U.S.-controlled bridge. It’s a bit of a brainteaser.

But given the season of our trip, we boarded the first of our two ferries for the day and hit the open seas.

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While on board the ship, I aimed to recreated what Chaz now claims was his favorite snack of America Part 1: Trader Joe’s multigrain crackers, sliced asiago and a spicy dip; in this case, it was the leftover spicy chicken salad. In keeping with tradition, I pulled out a cutting board and knife while the vehicle was moving. I like a little adventure.

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IMG_1865We arrived on Deer Island, which, as part of New Brunswick, has all its signage displayed in English and French. Because of the prevailing religious traditions and the fact that it was Sunday, we found very little to see or do on the sleepy island. We hadn’t planned to do much, truthfully, but were at the whims of the dual ferry schedules. So we meandered our way from one end of the island to the other, pausing to check out what is rumored to be the largest lobster pound in the world, and ending up at the largest whirlpool in the northern hemisphere.

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The lobster pound was uninspiring, but the whirlpool was very cool. The somewhat mesmerizing rush of the currents was captivating enough that we nearly missed our ferry, ending up last in line of the cars waiting to board a boat that looked like it hadn’t been replaced in about three decades, give or take.

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Seriously, the boat was really old. So old that the steering part detached from the car part. The ocean was looking awfully cold, but despite its creaky parts, the ferry ferried us across safely.

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We docked at Campobello and drove to the interior of the park, where we were directed to photo opportunities and to the house that FDR spent his summers in. We walked through an interesting exhibit about the history of friendship between the U.S. and Canada. I was most excited to see that friendship manifest in an international stamp for my parks passport.

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We weren’t interested in waiting for someone to come show us around, so we took the self-guided version of the FDR house tour, pausing of course, in the kitchen.

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We drove around the island a bit, but without planning to take a hike or bike ride, there wasn’t much to tour; we stopped at a few rocky overlooks to gaze out on the water and identify distant land masses. I was more amused by the traffic signs that pointed to “U.S.A.”

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After cruising around for a bit, we selected the only completely empty picnic spot and overlooking the water, emptied the contents of our cooler onto a table – of course using a Delta blanket as the picnic cloth. Using a couple different containers of already-ready ingredients, I whipped up sandwiches of turkey, grilled eggplant, and red pepper and feta spread.

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Once we had finished our sandwiches and packed back in all the cooking implements, we loaded the car and made haste toward the tip of Campobello. We made the requisite lighthouse visit before approaching the bridge to the other side.

We were briefly reprimanded at customs. Evidently, limes cannot cross the border between Maine and Canada because of some weird soil disease; we think the border attendant just needed a spritz for his drink. (This was not my first time being stopped at a border crossing for a citrus infraction, but this stop was a little less alarming.) We entered the U.S. into Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the country. The town itself didn’t have much going on, but we made a pit stop at West Quoddy Head lighthouse, noted for being the easternmost point in the country.

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IMG_1998Now able to say we’d dangled out feet over the eastern edge of the modern world (or, you know, something dramatic like that), we headed a bit south to the entrance to Cutler Coast. Cutler is an area of land preserved and maintained by the state of Maine, but in a much more rugged way than the national parks. Cutler’s waterfront campsites are first come, first serve, and you claim them by logging your name into a guestbook at the trailhead. But when we found a completely packed parking lot and a fairly empty guestbook, we were a bit confused. If we chanced it and found the campsites totally full, we would have to turn back – a challenging feat given threatening rainclouds, vanishing daylight (ok, it was 3 p.m.) and a relatively lengthy hike (almost 10 miles to do the full loop past the campsite and back to the lot). But if we gave up and found the campsites empty, it would have been hugely disappointing. So we decided to hedge our bets, assume most of the parked cars belonged to day hikers and charge forward. The only people who had signed the guestbook were a pair from New York, Adam and Jake, who we kept calling for as we hiked through the brush, assuming that they would take us in under their wing if all else failed.

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IMG_2015The hike took us almost immediately down to the water, where we could see several bits of Canada off in the distance. But mostly, we were just surrounded by the very vast ocean – a truly beautiful site. We could feel bits of rain beginning to fall from the sky, but luckily had brought layers and the majority of the trail weaved through trees, providing cover. The only catch was that the state of Maine seemed content to let the wild run wild and so maintains their trails a bit less than the NPS, leading to overgrown brush. I think that might explain the mosquito bites I later discovered in somewhat inexplicable places.

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As we hiked, we could hear a dim noise in the distance, growing louder and louder. Chaz was convinced it was an owl, but I was determined to prove it was mechanical. We had to round several craggy corners and summit many slippery rocks, but eventually, a lighthouse came into distant view. To keep myself entertained, I yelled back to it every time it yelled hi to us.

After the yelling, beeping and raining went on for a while, we found ourselves at the first campsite, where a woman was standing guard. We kept walking until we came to the second site, where we found Adam and Jake, setting up fancy hammocks in the trees. Excited as we had been to make friends, we abandoned the cause, and like Goldilocks, tried out the third campsite, which was just right. We set up shop and I began to prepare our gourmet dinner, beginning with a cocktail hour of G+Ts (yes, we had managed to import them), cheese, crackers, sliced veggies, and Annie’s bunnies.

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Dinner was going to be a fancy home-cooked affair, which required a series of spices. In lieu of bringing spice jars with us, we had mixed Thai spices in a ziplock bag, to which we added peppers, celery, scallions, cashews and spiced chicken sausage.

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As we dined, we enjoyed the bright, glowing sunset over the water. We could still see our lighthouse friend blinking and beeping in the distance.

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IMG_2146We awoke the next morning, rolled up our sort-of soggy tent and hiked the five or so miles back to the parking lot, which was significantly less full than it had been the prior afternoon. We started the drive back south, where we encountered a rather strange site – several towers looming in the near distance. Ever the journalists, we got closer to investigate, stopping just short of the “Property of the federal government” and “No trespassing” signs. We later uncovered that we had happened upon the VLF Transmitter Cutler, which provides one-way low-transmission communications with U.S. submarines. Having completed our journalistic mission of the morning, we picked up the scenic Route 1 and a bit of speed, making our way back down past the turnoff for MDI and toward new pastures. As soon as we regained cell service, I was hot on the pursuit of little-known and well-regarded lobster rolls, figuring I should get one more in before leaving the state. Our other major planned stop was to be Freeport, Maine, birthplace of L.L. Bean. Our attempt to stop at the famous Red’s in Wiscasset, Maine proved a bit fruitless when we encountered its 30 minute line. The food did look good from a distance. Just after Freeport we stopped at Cindy’s Lobster Rolls, which had been hyped on the internet for its lobster roll (what I was most excited about) and its fried clams (which Chaz had requested as a final item).

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IMG_2165We had a little fun at the kitschy roadside stand while we waited, but at 2 p.m. or so, we were among the stand’s only patrons and so our lobster roll, clams and mix of french fries arrived quite quickly. We dug into our seafood, hob-nobbed with Cindy’s eclectic owner and after not too long, hopped back into the car for the less scenic portion of our day’s drive.

From Cindy’s, we left behind the scenic highways of Maine and merged onto 95, making our way south through traffic-filled New Hampshire. But with shocking expediency, we found ourselves back in Boston. We undertook the great feat of unloading the car, making quite a mess of Chaz’s sidewalk in the process. We hadn’t been back in the urban world for long before Chaz walked me to the train, where I boarded my New York-bound Amtrak, and he walked back across alone. It had been nearly a year since we had bid each other farewell from our last road trip adventure, as we ran to our separate gates in the Detroit airport. We were older (definitely), wiser (debatable), and heading home to our grown-up lives and real person jobs. But really, we’re still the same people as when the checkpoint began. We’ve still got backpacks full of unnecessary electronics, eyes bigger than our stomachs, and a sense of adventure tuned to the open road ahead.

Beginning with the outer islands

Written by Chaz on 18 September 2012

We began this blog over a year ago, fresh out of our graduation robes. We set out immediately on a grand journey through southeast Asia, writing our first real post from the Detroit airport, where we later ended our second journey of the summer after climbing the highest peaks and exploring a canyon’s depths. We then started our jobs, and while this greatly restricted how much time we could spend gallivanting all over the world, we still managed to visit quite a few wonderful places.

But we needed more. And so, in late August, we embarked on our most ambitious adventure since the halcyon days of last summer. Since I was born, I have visited Acadia National Park in Maine almost every summer, and not infrequently, in the winter as well. I invited the members of the 120th Editorial Board to join me and my mother in Maine, and Emmy, Ben, Joanna and Seth all planned to make the trek (really, the short flight) up to experience my favorite place in the world. Though Ben, Joanna and Seth could only stay for part of the week, Emmy took the whole week off, and we planned a side adventure up into New Brunswick and far downeast Maine for Labor Day weekend.

But before anyone else arrived, I drove up from Boston a day early, on a Thursday evening. My mother and her friend Maureen had been staying across Blue Hill Bay from Mount Desert Island for the week, and we had figured that this would make a good starting point for a trip out to Isle au Haut, one of the so-called outer islands of Maine that contains the national park’s most remote, rugged and untouched section. Isle au Haut can only be reached by an hour-long passenger ferry from Stonington, a town that is itself far out on the island of Deer Isle. So we began our day with breakfast in Stonington and were before long cruising out into the Gulf of Maine, with ideal conditions for our day. Our voyage took us past lobster boats, wooded islands and a rock covered with seals, out to the adorable village of Isle au Haut. It was an extremely clear day, and the ferry driver pointed out that we could see all the way out to Matinicus, one of the farthest outer islands.

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We stayed on past the village and got off the boat in Duck Harbor, which is tucked into the park section of the island. A short but strenuous hike took us to the summit of Duck Harbor Mountain, one of Isle au Haut’s only mountains that offers a view, and what a view it was. We could see down to the harbor and across Penobscot Bay to the Camden Hills.

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Our hike then took us down to the water on Isle au Haut’s southern end, where my mother extracted a gourmet operation out of my backpack and created sandwiches of crab cakes and tomato on freshly cut bread.

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The rest of our hike took us around the island’s Western Ear, where the trail alternates between the top of rocky cliffs and smooth, tranquil stone beaches. The best part about visiting Isle au Haut is how utterly abandoned it is. For much of our day, we didn’t see a single other soul on the trails.

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Though we ended up having to make good time on the last section of the trail to make it back to Duck Harbor in time for the ferry, we still had time to put our aching feet in the cold ocean water before the boat pulled up to the dock for the trip back to Stonington.

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We stopped for dinner on the way back from Stonington, and I dropped my mother and Maureen off at the house they had been staying in. I continued on to Bangor, where I had gotten a hotel room at the airport in anticipation of the near-midnight arrival of the flights that my friends were on — Emmy and Ben from New York, and Joanna and Seth from Washington. Though the D.C. flight arrived with no issue, the New York flight was not quite as lucky — their flight never made it off the ground. Luckily, they were able to rebook onto a flight the next morning, so Joanna, Seth and I had a fun night catching up, awaiting the rest of our crew the following morning.

Happy 2012 from the other end of the globe

Written by Emmy on 21 March 2012

We fled the big city on the morning of New Year’s Eve in an attempt to escape the urban heat and anticipated insanity. We started toward the coast and toward the famous Chilean city of Valparaiso, or “Valpo” as the locals call it.

Valpo is one of the most lauded Pacific coast beach cities, but it is also the major shipping port of the region, adding to our collection of epic container ship sightings.

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IMG_8198The hillside beach town is renowned for its elevators, bringing you from street level up to the top of the mountains. The elevators are a bit rickety and don’t look like they’ve been updated since they were built in the early 1900s.

We took a jaunt up the hill for the cost of mere pennies in order to check out the scenery. The streets were oddly quiet — everyone was inside resting for the New Year’s celebrations of the evening ahead — and so we walked the quiet, empty streets and observed all the graffiti.

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The weather was cold and dreary, and the hills were all fogged over. The mist in the air was throwing a chill into our summer day. We were all starting to get hungry, and what better item to cure the foggy blues than a grilled cheese with tomato. We ordered five of them.

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IMG_8218We took the elevators up and down in a few other spots along the cliffs, but the crowds were getting pretty heavy. Valpo is renowned for its New Year’s fireworks and people begin lining the hills with beach chairs and coolers hours before the fireworks are set to begin in order to claim good viewing spots. Said coolers and lawn chairs all come in the elevators, holding up the line to get to the top.

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We forewent the elevators because the wait was too long, plus we had left the rented SUV in a situation that seemed less than guaranteed. So we picked up the car and started up one of the big hills. Though the hill roads are all marked as being two-way streets, that’s more funny than true. So as we started up a narrow, narrow hill, another car — directly facing us — was starting down. Uh oh.

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My father masterfully guided the car down backward. I hopped out to help — and to document — but we also had another guide on hand. The looks of fear on all passengers’ faces really speak to the terrifying nature of the straight backward drop.

We made it off the hill and back onto the main road, thankfully in one piece. We continued onward along the coast. Though Valpo is THE New Year’s destination, we were looking for something a bit less scene-y. So we continued driving along on a road that looked not too dissimilar from the Pacific coast many hundreds of miles north.

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The drive was shorter and a little less harrowing than the version Chaz and I undertook on the northern Pacific. The Liss family arrived in the charming town of Zapallar, a far cry from the developed and bustling Valpo. We arrived just before dinnertime and so dropped our stuff quickly in order to make a quick trip down to the waterfront.

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The coastline was raggedy and the path curved up and down the hill, snaking past some of the more spectacular houses I have ever seen.

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We came back to our hotel and sat down for the New Year’s Eve banquet dinner, which began with pisco sours. Pisco is the national liquor of Chile and we had yet to sample it. I can’t say it was my favorite drink I’ve ever had, but how can you not entertain local customs?

Our fancy New Year’s dinner gave us a chance to get out of our beach hiking outfits and into the one fancy dress each of us brought on the trip.

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Dinner had a seafood focus, appropriately. We began with a platter of various customary appetizers, including shrimp on toast, bruschetta, spherical crab cakes and another form of shrimp.

The first course was a choice of two items: salmon with avocado or a seafood and potato cake. We ordered some of each in order to get the full sampling.

After appetizers it became far too dark to take photos — perils of outdoor eating by candlelight. I had a lobster tail, served in its natural form straight from the ocean, more or less.

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After we finished dinner, we headed down to the beach along with every other dinner guest and neighborhood resident. The town of Zapellar was said to put on an epic fireworks show, and that they did. The fireworks were alarmingly close to the shore where we were standing, making for both a beautiful show and a mildly terrifying one at that. It was quite the way to ring in 2012.

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The next morning, we headed back down to the beach where an aggressive clean-up effort was already underway. We took a long and rambling walk around the shore, winding back up through the “town.” The only open establishments were a handful of small grocery stores. All the activity was down on the beach itself.

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No food is allowed on the public beaches in Zapellar, a clear drive toward the one or two restaurants lining the beach. We paid a visit to the one busting with people (which also happened to be the one closest to us). We enjoyed another round of crab “cake” with a side of fresh avocado and tomatoes. Sitting beachside, feet in the sand, with our fresh crab soufflé was quite a way to begin the new year.

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Full from lunch, we piled back into the SUV to head to the Santiago airport. We had more than enough time to get there; in fact, we were poised to get back there much, much earlier than necessary. But the seemingly simple drive became a bit more complicated than initially assumed as the highways started to change names and then failed to mark the turn-off for the airport. We pulled off the highway a few times to ask directions, pulled back on, and repeated.

Finally, we got ourselves on the path to the airport and had only one stop left: filling the car with gas before returning it. We pulled into a gas station and the attendant filled the car. Once the SUV was again raring to go, we handed over a credit card to pay. It was rejected. We tried another. Rejected. Clearly the issue was with the machine, given that at least some of these cards had been used earlier that day. Also an issue: we were down to about 20 Chilean pesos. We offered dollars, but that was not kosher. (Mind you, this whole debate was taking place in Spanish.) Finally, we settled on a solution: she would follow me to an ATM across the street, I would extract the cash and then we would move on about our day. By the end of the debacle, we’d become close friends and avoided what could have been a disaster of sorts.

And so with one more cultural transgression under our belts, we boarded the plane and returned to New York, another successful foreign adventure well-spent.

Final destination

Written by Emmy on 7 October 2011

After our picnic, we bid farewell to the Grand Canyon and hit the open road.

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Although the Grand Canyon was our last real destination, the remote North Rim is a bit far from all commercial airports. Since we planned to fly out of Phoenix in the early afternoon the next day, we had decided that we would get a bit closer to reduce pre-flight rush. So we drove the deserted highways of Arizona and made our way to the first real city beyond the canyon, Flagstaff.

Along the way, we passed mesa after mesa, cactus after cactus, and very few other cars. These are the roads that 75 miles per hour speed limits and cruise control were made for.

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The only real landmarks along the way were two national monuments, neither of which I had ever heard of before picking up the area map. Contained within the same 35-mile loop detour off the highway, the Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument are definitely removed. Wupatki, where we stopped for an emergency bathroom visit and a NPS passport stamp, is considered a sacred place among many Native American tribes. Sunset Crater, where we arrived after the visitor center had already closed, was formed by several volcanos back when Arizona was a more fiery place.

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We pulled into Flagstaff with storm clouds looming overhead. I had read all about a hotel in historic downtown Flagstaff and so reserved us a room. The Weatherford Hotel was definitely unconventional. I think there were more barstools than rooms in the establishment. Flagstaff lived its heyday in the 1800s during westward expansion. The town was christened on the country’s centennial — how it came to be named after the pole hoisting the stars and stripes. The Weatherford was a relic from that era, which meant that it lacked some more modern amenities. But upon arrival, all we really needed was a long shower to wash the canyon off of ourselves.

After washing up, we headed to Beaver Street Brewery, a restaurant highly recommended by all of our usual sources. We ordered a couple of the local brewery’s wares and tried to stick to local fare as well. We started with the thus appropriately named Arizona quesadillas, which were filled with chicken and served with sides of fresh guacamole and salsa.

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We asked our waiter what he liked best and he recommended any of the flatbread pizzas and one of the house platters. We had already decided he was pretty awesome, so we followed his directions to a tee. We split a southwestern chicken pizza, which was topped with a chicken, tons of veggies and a cilantro pesto (take that, cilantro haters — even if you might not be able to help yourselves). We also had the shrimp taco platter, which we both thought was phenomenal.

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After dinner, we strolled past the Flagstaff train station and decided to check it out. Amtrak was my primary mode of transit between home and Brown, so I became quite accustomed to delays on the Northeast Regional line. But we’re talking 15 to 30 minute delays. Apparently on the western lines, like the one that runs through Flagstaff, delays of one, two, ten hours are basically par for the course. Without an agenda for the rest of the night, we decided to sit on a bench and wait with the angsty passengers of the evening Southwest Chief.

IMG_6345While we were waiting, we must have seen ten giant freight trains roll through. Flagstaff sits on the highly trafficked Los Angeles to Chicago route of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, more commonly known by its acronym, BNSF. I’m not sure I have ever seen so many large aggressive freight trains before. We discussed the politics of transcontinental trains until the Chief finally arrived about an hour after schedule. We waited till the train had departed the station and then we retired for the evening. However, the freight didn’t stop just because we did. The trains ran all night, which was a bit more disruptive than our prior few nights under the stars had been. Price of capitalism?

We woke up in the morning and undertook our largest challenge to date. More strenuous than Half Dome, more tiring than the Grand Canyon, completed on less coffee than Angels Landing: unpacking, cleaning and repacking Dorothy. We managed to do quite a number on her in two weeks. If you happen to rent a black Dodge Grand Caravan in Phoenix anytime soon, just don’t open the stow ’n go compartments.

Before leaving Flagstaff, we managed to sneak in a quick and authentic breakfast at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace. Chaz ordered based upon the restaurant’s name and had a breakfast burrito.

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I followed their tagline — “the house that chilaquiles built” — and went with the traditional Mexican dish of scrambled eggs, tortillas, cheese and green salsa. Both portions were enormous and came with beans, rice, potatoes, lettuce and tomato, and tortillas. Breakfast was delicious, and I’m not sure I ate another full meal for the rest of the day.

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After finishing breakfast, we powered south to Phoenix. Over the course of the drive, we dropped almost 7,000 feet in elevation, a shocking accomplishment considering it never looked like we left the desert. We stopped briefly for gas and then pulled up in front of the Delta terminal at Sky Harbor International Airport. We couldn’t both bring Dorothy back, much as we would have liked to bid her a teary farewell together, because of the sheer amount of luggage we had. So Chaz took our girl home while I babysat what can only be dubbed a mountain of baggage.

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The final count on Dorothy’s odometer was 2,417.3 miles — a fairly awesome feat for two weeks. (Never mind that we flew more miles than that just to get to our starting point.) From the windows of our minivan we had seen deserts and the ocean, packed freeways and empty country roads, mountains and vast flat expanses. We had eaten (and spilled) countless meals in her confines, possibly broken a GPS system we never asked for in the first place, and listened to the same classic songs on infinite repeat. (And happily, we managed all this without damaging the car or earning a single traffic or parking ticket.) But now it was time to board our plane back east.

We flew together to Detroit, where another journey once began and others are likely still to come. “You don’t get to be silver without going to a hub a few times,” Chaz said, when I pointed out this symmetry. And so we hugged goodbye and ran to our separate planes, ending yet another fantastic voyage for the checkpoint.

The grandest of all special temples of Nature

Written by Chaz on 28 September 2011

We woke up early on our second day in Yosemite, around 6:30, marking the beginning of a long, productive and somewhat unpleasant trend of our beginning our days between 4 and 7 a.m. We hopped in Dorothy and headed down to the Wawona Hotel to “borrow” their wireless Internet for a pressing need: securing permits for the trail up Yosemite’s famous Half Dome. Though most are reserved months in advance, the Park Service releases a few each morning at seven for use the next day, and so by 7:02, we were back in Dorothy, permits successfully reserved.

After two attempts, I was able to make us coffee using our camping stove and percolator (both worked flawlessly for the rest of the trip). We stopped by the campground’s amphitheater to ask some questions a park ranger about our plan for the day. Her coffee setup put ours to shame.

At the ranger’s advice, we hurried into Yosemite Valley to leave Dorothy and catch a bus back to Glacier Point, where we would begin hiking back down into the valley via the Panorama Trail and the Mist Trail. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Yosemite Lodge, the bus was completely full. We pled our case to the very friendly bus driver and before long, we were on our way to Glacier Point in the most comfortable seats on the bus: two white towels in the center aisle.

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The bus driver, Charles, kept us entertained on the drive with a very interesting narration of the park’s history, botany and geology. By the time we arrived, we were already hungry again, so we fueled up with some Clif bars before heading down the trail to begin our nearly nine-mile hike.

The hike took us around the edge of Yosemite Valley to Illilouette Fall, the first of three huge waterfalls we saw on our hike, with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the other two waterfalls along the way.

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John Muir, who fought to preserve and protect Yosemite as a national park, called Yosemite Valley “the grandest of all special temples of Nature.” As we began to explore, I started to see what impressed him so much.

We stopped at a beautiful overlook just past the waterfall for our packed lunch: turkey, muenster and avocado sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

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After a couple more miles across the valley ridge, we stopped at the top at Nevada Fall, where just a few hundred feet before the fall’s precipitous drop is a calm pool, ideal for a quick foot bath in the middle of a long hike. We stopped and had a snack and relaxed our feet. At this point, we were nearly directly in Half Dome’s shadow, though the trail to the summit winds around through the forest to ascend one of its hidden sides.

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From Nevada Fall, we began descending back into the valley, passing Vernal Fall on our way. Vernal Fall is a very popular destination if you’re going to do just one hike out of the valley, so the trail began to get significantly more crowded. The views remained spectacular.

We wound down the Mist Trail’s thousands of stone steps back into the valley, through the mist from the fall that gives the trail its name.

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We made it back to the valley in one tired piece, and after picking up a couple things at the general store in the valley, we headed to the visitor center to get advice about our hike up Half Dome. The ranger in the campground had told us to start the 18-mile hike at sunrise or earlier, and we were hoping to get a few more tips. As we walked up to the counter, we saw that the weather board indicated a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms for the next day. I pointed this out to the volunteer on duty and told her we had Half Dome permits.

“Well, if there is lightning, do not go on Half Dome,” she deadpanned. “You will die.”

Scared but not deterred, we decided to get as early a start as possible the next day to maximize our chances of a death-free experience. As we left the valley, we stopped at Tunnel View, a scenic overlook named for the long highway tunnel to which it is adjacent and owes its construction. A fellow tourist took a wonderful picture of us in front of the valley’s splendor.

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We hopped back in Dorothy and hightailed it to the Mariposa Grove, a grove of enormous giant sequoia trees. We were only able to spend a few minutes there because we were quickly losing daylight, but we got a good glimpse, included one fallen sequoia that has been there for centuries, preserved by the trees’ natural composition.

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We drove back to Wawona and kicked off dinner with an appetizer of hummus and carrots, before Emmy whipped up some chicken sausage and vegetables on our trusty stove. After our long hike, it tasted just about heavenly. I made a fire, and we roasted marshmallows for s’mores.

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After dinner, we began preparing our extensive supplies for the next day’s voyage, and we went to bed under the stars before long.

In which we meet Dorothy and our adventures begin

Written by Emmy on 25 September 2011

On Wednesday (September 7th — it’s been a while), we began our west coast adventure road trip. The day began early in each of our hometowns, as Chaz boarded a plane before 7 a.m. and I boarded one just afterward. Several hours and plane rides later, we reunited in the Salt Lake City airport. We nearly missed our last flight and had to be paged to the gate, though we’re not really sure how that happened because we were waiting at the gate. Mishap was avoided and we took the short flight to Fresno, Calif.

We touched down in the small airport just after noon and made our way to baggage claim. In celebration of what the region is most known for, the airport was filled with giant redwood trees (truly — they were poking out of the ceiling). We simultaneously addressed two hurdles: the baggage and the rental car. We had reserved a car as part of a great Hertz deal: rent in California and return in Arizona in exchange for a great rate. (They need more cars down south for winter vacation.) This deal guaranteed us a small car and we were prepared to take what we could get. When we reached the counter, the woman explained that due to a series of regulations, there were only two cars available to us: a Chevy Aveo, which would barely have fit the two of us, let alone our luggage, and a Dodge Grand Caravan. We weren’t thrilled about the minivan, but said we’d take it, especially since we didn’t have to pay extra since it was their mistake. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we had basically won the rental car lottery.

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Our baggage made up the vast majority of what had been on our little plane and we loaded it into the minivan, which we formally named Dorothy. For the record, we’re really not sure how we would have fit into a smaller car; we left the airport with three suitcases, a cooler, a huge box of camping supplies, two backpacks and two additional carry on bags. We then went to Trader Joe’s and loaded the car up even further with food. After making our way toward Yosemite, we bought more supplies at a second supermarket stop. Less than two hours in and Dorothy was reaching capacity.

After about 90 minutes on Highway 41, we reached the outer perimeter of Yosemite. Yosemite is a large park — larger than little old Rhode Island — and there are campgrounds throughout. We headed toward Wawona Campground for our first night, which is conveniently close to the entrance nearest to Fresno.

We set up camp and began preparing dinner after a quick appetizer of guacamole, chips and mango salsa. Camping really challenged my culinary abilities, but we persevered in an effort to eat and create beautiful food. The first night’s menu featured turkey burgers and so we tried to use charcoal, but those coals took a while longer to heat up than we might have hoped. We were aiming to eat in enough time to be able to watch sunset from Glacier Point, about a 30-minute drive from Wawona, but the burgers just weren’t cooking. So in a moment of desperation, we put them in a pan, popped them on top of the propane stove, aggressively cooked them and then ate them while en route with muenster and avocado atop honeywheat buns. Though we faced some technical difficulties, dinner could at least be classified as gourmet to go.

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Chaz navigated the winding roads of the park while I handled the car-based cuisine, a common theme throughout our trip. We got to Glacier Point, one of the best (and most accessible) overlooks in the car just as the sun was setting.

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From Glacier Point, we could see all of Yosemite Valley stretched out in front of us, waiting to be explored.

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After watching the sun dip below the mountains (and taking the obligatory 20+ sunset photos) we headed back to our tent and quickly fell asleep, tired from our day of travel and ready to wake up bright and early for adventures in the park!

Another city of angels

Written by Chaz on 6 September 2011

My visits to Sweden and Long Island were followed by another long flight over to our friend Joanna in Los Angeles. I was there for four days, and we packed a lot in.

We relaxed on the beach after a long bike ride.

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We witnessed Carmageddon. In fact, I arrived in the middle of it.

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Actually, that picture is totally misleading. Media reports that Carmageddon was a total non-issue were completely right. People really did stay off the roads, and there wasn’t any traffic at all.

We went for a beautiful hike in Temescal Canyon, overlooking central Los Angeles, the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean.

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We visited the amazing Getty Museum. Joanna and I took an art history class together in the spring, so we’re sort of experts in the field, and the museum was really neat. Our visit to the “free” museum began with a $15 parking fee and a tram ride up a steep hill to the beautiful campus.

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The museum is spread through a few buildings, and the setting and architecture are as notable as the collections. The museum is wrapped around a large garden that is itself an art installation.

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Of course, the food tour continued, too. We sampled the local cuisine at one of Joanna’s favorite Mexican restaurants.

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And the other, equally important local cuisine, too.

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Most notably, though, I made my triumphant return to eating Asian food in the U.S., with visits to a great Thai place and a Korean barbecue. Los Angeles was a great place to restart my ethnic eating. The city actually has the largest Thai population outside of Thailand in its Thai Town neighborhood. We ventured in past signs written in a familiar but incomprehensible language to Sanamluang Cafe, whose namesake I guess I visited, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

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We started with a papaya salad, which was one of my favorites in Thailand but only thanks to Emmy’s affinity for it. In fact, I’m not sure I had ever had it in the States. And while this papaya salad was delicious, retaining the tangy spice of the original, it definitely wasn’t quite as good as the real thing. We also had crab rangoons, which were very good, though I’m always skeptical of how amazing something deep-friend can be.

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My yellow curry, though, definitely matched the best curries we had in Thailand, and its spice had me sweating. Joanna’s pad see ew was also state of the art. I guess both dishes are relatively easy to export, since they’re not too complicated.

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We left Sanamluang very satisfied, and I was particular reassured about my culinary future in America. Even after being in Southeast Asia, I’m still perfectly happy to eat what’s available right here.

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The Korean barbecue was not only also a great eating experience but also a new adventure of sorts. I had never had Korean barbecue before, and the restaurant we went to — Hae Jang Chon, in the heart of Koreatown — was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

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Hae Jang Chon serves all-you-can-eat barbecue that you cook at your table on a little stove. We chose four meats to start from the list of nineteen choices, and though that was more than enough food for the two of us, a larger group could easily have kept ordering.

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They started us off with a couple little appetizers and a whole host of sauces and other accompaniments for our meats. Of course, we immediately had to ask for a tutorial, and our main course — the one we were supposed to cook ourselves — hadn’t even arrived. The young Korean couple seated nearby looked on with glee.

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Once our meats arrived, we got to it. We ordered beef brisket, short rib, barbecue beef, and chicken. At first, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we figured it out before too long. It didn’t hurt that really all you had to do was keep checking the meat to see if it was done.

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The meats were delicious, and the only thing I regretted was that we were only two people. The entertainment aspect of the experience would have lasted much longer if we had had a larger group and thus, the stomach capacity required for more courses. But the meats we did have were very interesting, and very different from anything I had had before. Like steaks in the U.S., everything about these meats was designed for them to be eaten alone, and yet the flavor was as full as anything you would find in a more composed food. The flavors themselves were very different than I’ve tasted in other Asian food, too.

After our meats, and after our waiter teased us for not ordering a second course at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, he prepared fried rice for us right on our little personal stove. It was delicious, though at this point, I really couldn’t eat much more.

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Los Angeles was a great reintroduction into ethnic eating in America after my time abroad, and a wonderful place to visit too. Thanks, Joanna!

A short time on Long Island

Written by Emmy on 5 September 2011

After only a few weeks apart, it was about time for Team Absurdity Checkpoint to reunite.

When Chaz was finally able to board a plane headed for the U.S., don’t be fooled into thinking he was going home. Due to the restrictions that come with flying using frequent flyer miles, Chaz had to fly into New York — which gave us the perfect excuse for a weekend of fun and sun on Long Island.

Because of Chaz’s delayed take-off from Stockholm, he arrived into JFK a bit later than planned. While this would normally have been no issue at all, his arrival happened to coincide with the release of the final Harry Potter movie. As this was an event I had been preparing myself for for years, it could not be missed. So with my friend Ian in tow, we picked Chaz up at the airport and made off like bandits for the movie theater, where my friend Danielle was waiting for us with tickets. (Appropriately, we saw the movie at the Roosevelt Raceway movie theater, completing the trifecta of Roosevelt sites in the area. On previous visits, Chaz and I have seen Teddy’s birthplace in Lower Manhattan and his country estate in my hometown of Oyster Bay.)

The theater was sheer mayhem and filled with costumed viewers. I wore my Brown sweatshirt in support of Emma Watson, while Ian joked that in his black hoodie, he was dressed as Voldemort. After three action-packed hours (plus the hour we spent saving our seats), we headed home and put Chaz to bed.

The next morning, we began a day of adventure. Chaz had requested a full-out triathlon following his week-long eatathon in Sweden. The weather was beautiful, and so we kayaked in Oyster Bay (the body of water for which the town is named) and swam in my backyard.

IMG_3787The view, several hours later

We had lunch on the water, and though the restaurant served mostly local seafood, we obviously both gravitated toward the most Asian item on the menu, seared sesame tuna over salad.

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After lunch we went on a tour of Oyster Bay’s finest supermarkets in preparation for the evening’s event. I got to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of hosting what was effectively our own mini frat party. Ian came back (sans the Voldemort costume), our friend Ben took the train out from his new digs in Brooklyn and our friend Max joined us fresh from Teach For America’s training institute in Queens.

It was great to have so many people we like in one place and to catch up on everyone’s action-packed summers. We relaxed in the backyard over a lovely spread of chips, salsa and a long-perfected guacamole recipe and watched the sun set over the bay. For dinner, we dug in to homemade burgers and turkey burgers, salad and coleslaw. The men handled the grilling, while I took on the token girl role of salad making.

For dessert, my parents brought home ices from the famous Long Island institution, Ralph’s, but we were all almost too full to partake. Almost.

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We took the next day a little easier, luxuriating over morning coffee and then moving onto a picnic lunch gathered together by my parents. Once everyone was totally full with all of the Island’s best offerings, we dropped Max and Ben at the train. (Fun fact: the Long Island Rail Road stop we took them to, Syosset, has the largest gap between the platform and the train in the whole system.) After a short time back at my house, it was time for Chaz to jet back off again. I dropped him at LaGuardia Airport, where he set off on the next of his summer adventures.

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