Sunday, October 26, 2008

New England's Halloween

This is the time of year that I miss New England the most. Mostly because of the events that occur in the month of October.

Every year, Life is Good hosts this HUGE pumpkin festival in the Boston Common. All day long, people bring or buy pumpkins and carve them in the Common, attempting to break the World's Record for the most carved pumpkins. They line the sidewalks throughout the park for blocks. And then they have this huge scaffolding tower several stories high with levels of jackolanterns. By night time, walking through the Common, looking at all the different kinds of carvings is so much fun. Its gorgeous.

My other favorite part of New England fall's is the annual trip to Salem, MA. For those of you that learned nothing in late elementary, Salem is the home of all of the Witch Trials several centuries ago. Hangings, burnings, all that jazz. So naturally, come Halloween time, the cuckoos come out to play. Every year we took the commuter rail out to this home of darkness. Street vendors line the side walks with crazy Salem paraphanelia, yummy warm food to keep out the cold, and just generally crazy people who think Salem will be the center of the next big religious movement. There is a carnival of haunted houses and magical stuff, and tons of museums dedicated to the historic era of Salem. Most of the museums are actually quite fascinating, and worth hitting up once a year. Tim's favorite was that the Pirate Museum was also located in Salem, and therefore, for the 45 minute tour, its ok to say "ARG!" every thirty seconds.

But the BEST part of Salem was that we always timed it that we would go on the day of the Pet Costume Contest in the Salem Park. Its always held late October, early in the morning, and its the cutest thing ever. I wish Cedar Falls could pull one off. Mostly dogs, a few cats, come out, decorated from head to paw in a costume. Some were weak with bandannas or just a doggy coat. But the Mastiff pulling a red wagon with fuzzy feet like he was Budweiser Clydesdale was always classic. Pirate doggies, little pups dressed like Wizard of Oz characters, Hoover vacuum dogs. The list was never ending what these people came up to dress their pets as. So for that hour, sitting on the frozen ground of Salem, with maybe 50 other psycho pet lovers, I got my animal love in for the year.

I miss it. Fall sea air is just different. *sigh*

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm a Georgia Peach!

It's been over a week since I got back from Atlanta, but having come down with the sickness of hell, I am just now coming back to life. I don't know how much I can actually talk about Atlanta in this. I didn't get the chance to see much of it.

We landed in the airport, I miss big city airports. When a single location has its own transportation system with more than five stops, its officially awesome. Being addicted to my U.S. National parks stamp book, I convinced my mother to take a detour to MLK Jrs site, in downtown Atlanta. Let's just say, it was NOT an easy place to find. Once you get within a five block radius of the site, its one ways and back roads and parking lots. But it was also POURING rain. Once we found a sidewalk that led to the building, I hopped out of the car and ran about a block to the building. I was drenched by the time I got there. But I got my stamp!

Then we drove through rush hour traffic for at least an hour. Atlanta is definitely not a place to drive. All weekend, even if we were going only 10 miles, it took us at least half an hour to get there. It was crazy. The roads were strange, traffic was always heavy, and lights seemed to ALWAYS be red.

We ended up staying in Duluth, GA, about 45 minutes outside of the city. There I experienced my first Chik-a-filet. Or whatever. My mom rants and raves about them. I must admit is was quite tasty.

The next three days wasn't very touristy. We were there for the Catalyst conference and Night for Africa fundraiser (more the fundraiser than the conference). The conference was less than appealing, I actually attended only two sessions and spent the rest of the time in the hotel or in the car. I had started getting sick by this point, so, it was at least ok. The best part of the fundraiser was Jeff Foxworthy. I cant say Im a huge redneck fan, but his standup at the fundraiser wasn't based around it at all and was actually rather amusing.

We did venture out and do some shopping at a huge mall down there. It was an experience, there was an American Girl store. HUGE. American Girls sure aren't what I remember growing up with. But it was a good time. Plus we ate a lot in Georgia. I just can't say no to dessert! But who can blame me? You just HAVE to have Peach Cobbler when in the peach state!

One random note, we stayed at a Marriott while we were there. One that had three restaurants, a Starbucks, and a fitness room the size of the CF rec center. This was not the amazing part though. Somehow, we managed to get on the concierge floor, which is the top (17th) floor. The rooms were normal (with turndown service, complete with chocolates on the pillow, and an area rug in the bathroom). But there was an entire room on the floor that had free sodas and waters at all times. Plus an open honor bar with all sorts of liquor, fruits, appetizers, desserts, tvs and games. It was ridiculous. And awesome. Free food = always awesome.

I can't say that I would love to live in Georgia, at least until they get apparating/teleporting down to an actual science so I don't have to drive anywhere, but it was a good trip all in all.

Monday, October 6, 2008


People. Alaska, really? It is a destination that people seem to be talking about a lot in the past few years. They talk of beauty and nature. Here's the thing, Alaska sucks. Yes, it has some scenic views, but here's the thing, you can go to Colorado and see the exact same views with much less boredom.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, oh so long ago, the Nordyke clan headed up north to the land of nothing. We were being joined by another family with two girls, one was three or four years younger than I, and the other a year younger than my brother. I think the killer of the trip was not this family, although it certainly didnt add to the fun factor, but that we were traveling with a tour group. Besides the two younger girls, the people closest to my own age, were my parents. The average age of the tour was mid 60s or so. Not so fun for a 15 year old girl. Anyways.

The first two weeks of the trip were on land. In a charter bus. As HUGE as Alaska is, the vast majority of the time was spent traveling the lone highways in the bus. And the tour director was on older man who thought he was God's gift to touring. He made us play bus games, like drawing on paper towels and playing Alaska trivia. But the worst really, was the fact that we had to rotate seats so that we sat next to different people. Anyone who knew me as a fifteen year old, knows that I didnt have much in common with a 65 year old man from Florida. That experience was tied with having to listen to this book on tape over the bus loudspeaker about these two old eskimo ladies trying to survive a winter in Alaska.

While on land, we went to several popular tourist places. But the two that stand out in my mind the most are Tok and Chicken. Tok, was literally a motel, a liquor store, gas station, and run down diner that refused to serve milk shakes to "bus people." Not exactly how I planned on spending summer vacation. But Chicken, Alaska wasn't as bad. Just as small, it consisted of three buildings, and was home to a total of six people in the winter months. But it had the best blueberry pie I have ever eaten. Yum. It also had a mascot of a three legged dog that had gotten in a fight with a Toyota truck.

The last week of the trip was spent on a cruise ship. Where it got a little better. That's where the real beauty came in. And a few better day trips. One involved getting to be on a land dog sled around a block circle in the forrest.
Not exactly the ideal dog sledding time, but way better than nothing. The glaciers were insane. Really. They look like several stories of sheer ice. From the ship deck, looking straight down was just chunks of floating ice.
We also got to take an excursion to go whale watching. Seeing eagles and whales and seals and puffins. That, I cannot complain about. On a cruise ship, its also a ton easier to escape from the rest of the tour group and actually try to enjoy the trip.

As stated before, the views are indeed beautiful, but you can get the same views in Colorado, theres no need to travel to the middle of nowhere to see them. And I am sure that being an angsty teenager at the time didn't help the situation. All it seemed to be was trees and rocks and sticks and rocks and more trees. But it was definitely an experience. Cant eat reindeer sausage anywhere this side of the Canadian border, thats for sure...

PS. There was a side trip to some town in Canada that once had a red light district. My mom and I wandered into a preserved brothel. Pretty much everything in the place was made of condoms. Lamp shades, window coverings, and shower curtains included. It was rather amusing.