Olympia, Washington

August 14, 2008

I am in Olympia, the state capital.  Unsure why, but I was thinking Olympia would be a dumpy town of 43,000.  But I really like it here.  It is a very offbeat and an incredibly hippie town.  A chain store wouldn’t dream of opening downtown [except sbux – which is empty].

There is water here [southern end of Puget Sound] with marinas and lots of boats. Walking/bike trails.  Fountains.  Murals/public art work.

Their parking here is “back in only” with signs stating: it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 … signal, stop, back in.

Yesterday I checked out the Capitol.  Very grandeur with marble stairs leading up to a big open area/dome.  They had no security here.  The governor’s office is in this building, and one can just walk up to her assistant.  The area around the capitol – Capitol Campus – is impressive.  The governor’s home is on the Campus – she can just walk 100’ to work!  The Legislative Building is Roman, they have a Greek Temple of Justice …   HUGE old trees, pretty grounds with flowers and a replica of Tivoli fountain, lots of war memorials and what I’ll call the “winged victory” statue/memorial…

I had read in a letter to the editor that someone was referring to the people of Olympia as the “leftist bastion of Olympia”.  I didn’t know this…until now.

At lunch, I heard a table on one side of me talking about the suffering in the world comes back to the treatment of animals.  And another table talking team building and other biz speak “as cliché as it sounds…” and he would say something that would make me gag.

I really enjoy cycling around town and the water/marina.

I have decided to temporarily “bypass” the state of Washington, and drive 3 hours to Astoria, OR [the most northwestern point of OR] and just “be” for 2 weeks.  I am “driven out”.  That will also give me time to figure out what I want to explore in WA.  I have been to Astoria and liked it.  I have booked the top floor [2 rooms] of a Victorian house there for 2 weeks.

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Drive to Vancouver, British Columbia

July 30, 2008

This should be short.

I forgot to mention that in Peachland, they have a bunch of docks for people to play on and jump off of [either from the dock, or ropes to swing out].  Between a couple of the docks they have a zip line.

 

I didn’t make it to Summerland yesterday.  I had heard that there was road construction going on, which was true.  Longgg traffic jam.  So, I thought it best to turn around and drive to Vancouver.  Per mapquest, it would be around 4.5 hours from Peachland. 

 

Which really means around 7 hours for me.

I don’t know where the disconnect on mapquest was, but it took me 4 hours, and I drove leisurely and took my stops.

There weren’t too many rest stops along the way, but at this one, this guy has a kiosk and he is selling homemade Indian food + sausages.  I had the veggie samosas [sp?], and they were really good – his wife made them.  The sausages looked good too.

 

The 1 hour drive from Peachland to Merritt was just ok. Hilly, still half arid and half green.  South of Merritt it starts getting green again.  About halfway to Vancouver, right after the $10 toll, it starts getting impressive again.  Very green and lush, and great looking tree covered mountains, as I drove thru light rain.  Hmmm…light rain = lush, green mountains.

 

1 hour from Vancouver, and we are back to farmland [with mountains nearby in the distance].

 

You know when you enter a city, on the welcome sign they state the name of the city and some slogan or something: a drug free zone…

 

Here in Vancouver, they state it is a “nuclear weapons free zone”.

 

Have only seen 1 cop car on the highway this entire time.

 

I have driven 5,000 miles since leaving Baltimore.  When I lived in Houston I put 3,000 miles on a year.  Less when I lived in Baltimore.

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Peachland, British Columbia

July 29, 2008

i had to stop in the visitor center to send out an email re how much i love Peachland. incredibly beautiful. everything is along the lake. they have a trail, but the road is very wide and easy to cycle along. there are 2 great coffee shops. one is very cinnamon rolls smelly!

lots of rose bushes [my B&B had these too]. lots of picnic tables along the water, and people in their own chairs enjoying the view. the beach/shoreline is just rocks/stone…no sand.

i saw a sign for U-pick apricots a block over. i thougth i’d go and pick 5. come to find out, they are FREE. as i pulled up, the family was pulling out in their car. they turned off the engine to talk.

they said i could take all i wanted – and they had small boxes set out for people to put hte apricots in – but they were all taken, so best that i come back in a few

hours. i said all i wanted was around 5…oh, then there are that many “ripe”. a ripe apricot is one that has fallen from the tree – you don’t actually pick them. they have a tarp set up under the tree for them to fall onto. as i was there talking to this family, a couple fell and almost hit me.

they asked if i lived here or a tourist.

tourist – i came in last nite and fell in love, so spent the nite.

did you fall in love with the town or with someone?

ha. the town. BUT if you know someone…

we have someone in the backseat!

i only see 2 pretty women back there [i could tell there were 3 people in the back seat, but i could only see 2] to my amazement [and from the look on his face, his too], dad automatically rolled the back seat window down so i could see him!

he was good looking…but probably 25.

they asked where i was from…the states and being a nomad for awhile.

a free spirit? we love free spirits. this is the place for you to be.

i agree.

i am loving it here…and just had to send this off.

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Vernon and Drive to Peachland, British Columbia

July 28, 2008 

 

I’m in Peachland. I was going to spend the nite in Kelowna, which is a city of around 100,000 people.  As I mentioned last week, the highways here go right thru towns…they don’t bypass around them…and I drove mile upon mile of businesses, and just a quick look towards the city center didn’t inspire me.

 

The woman at bfast in Golden suggested I travel to Peachland, which is about 30 minutes out of my way, and also to Summerland, which is around 30 minutes further out of my way.

 

Going thru Kelowna, I was hoping I would like either Peachland or Summerland…and be able to find a play to stay.

 

Got to Peachland and fell in love.  I was going to cycle along Okanagan Lake last nite, but just enjoyed the view and breeze.  I also started doing research on Vancouver…which I will spend the nite tonite.

 

If anyone has any suggestions at all…even obvious ones…please pass them my way.  I plan to be there for at least 5 days…and will leisurely explore the town, mountains and various neighborhoods.

 

After Vancouver and Victoria, I will check out the state of Washington [then Oregon], so again, if anyone has any suggestions…pass them on.

 

On to yesterday…

 

Yesterday was relatively low key. Hung out at the cool coffee shop.  Went back to Okanagan Lake [yes…same lake…it’s huge].  The water temp wasn’t COLD, but wasn’t warm either.  I could see that people would swim in it [not me..too cold], and there were lots of people in the water.  I had no idea that blow up rafts/toys/things little ones can ride on were so popular at the beach.

 

I then went to hike up to Juniper Bay [Rattlesnake Point]. On my way I was planning…bring bear spray, where hiking shoes and thick socks…  when I got there, the parking lot was full of families and lots of teenagers.  Very popular spot.  And lots of people walking the 20 minutes paved path/trail to the point/beach.  I figured I didn’t need any of my safety gear.  There was a sign “We Live Here Too” re rattlesnakes.  This lake is called Kalamalka Lake [lake of many colors].  This lake was prettier than Okanagan, and it did have various colors of blue.  Really pretty.

There was a shirtless hippie guy carrying around a tray selling pina colada’s and strawberry daiquiris.

 

On my way back to my car, I walked by 3 boys around 10 years old.  2 had no shoes on, and one did.  One of the no shoes boys says to shoe boy: you need to take your shoes off and walk on the pavement…it will burn your feet up!!  [Somehow, this must be fun to a 10 yo.]  Shoe boy replies: no way…there are rattlesnakes here!

 

I thought Kalamalka’s water was cold, but there were tons of people in the water.

 

I had another wow scenery moment just south of Vernon.  Tree covered mountains to the lake in the valley.  The entire 1 hours drive to Kelowna was really pretty. 

 

Lots of wineries here.  Lots of fruit stands – mostly cherries, peaches, apricots.

Interesting landscape – the mountains on one side of the lake are baby mountains covered with green trees, the lake, and the baby mountains on the other side of the lake are brown/arid.  The great divide!

 

As you drive into a town, there are signs that tell you the local radio station.

 

Today I plan to hang out and cycle around the lake here.  Then check out Summerland.  Then, I head to Vancouver, which is a 4.5 hour drive.  I plan on taking my time and getting in later tonite.

 

The innkeepers are Russian.  I know 2 Russian words, besides the ones we all know. 

 

One I can get into conversation, the other one is difficult.

 

Spa see ba = thank you.  Except, I think she was telling me it means I wish you good luck.

 

I always ask how to say hello, but it is just too many syllables.

 

Ma trush ka = as in matrushka dolls – those nesting dolls.

 

Oh…and I think I wrote this a while back, I also know:
EEdee!!   EEdee!!   EEdee!!   When the little gypsy kids have you swarmed and they are trying to snake their little hands into your pockets and purse.  You say this with gusto while doing that “move away” motion with your hands.  I have no idea what it means, but it seems to work.

 

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B&B in Peachland, British Columbia

July 28, 2008

You would not believe the B&B I just scored in Peachland, BC, from a Russian couple. Contact info: Yelena Volkova  at okanaganbreeze@hotmail.com.

It is a brand new home that faces the lake, and mountains on the other side.  The entire “basement” area is mine…2 BR, 2 bath, full kitchen AND a patio with the view.  Per the photo, it looks like those fruit trees block a view, but that’s not true.

AND I have wireless with more than 1 or 2 bars of strength!!

The weather is 82′, dry [not humid] and they have no mosquitoes here.  Imagine that.

I am in bliss.  I was going to cycle around/near the lake, but now I’m not so sure I’m moving from this patio.  And if I did…the drive is just a 5 minute drive to the lake/village.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Day 2

July 1, 2008

 

There are 3 rivers in Pittsburgh…which reminds me of Trois Rivieres, the little town I discovered and loved in Quebec.

They have bike/walking/jogging paths all along the rivers.  On Sunday, I cycled all over these paths, and all around downtown too.  I really like the architecture here.

They were having their first annual Tour de Pennsylvania – cycling race from Philly to Pittsburgh.  Ends Sunday downtown.  However, I had no idea what time the cyclists would be in town, OR if they were already in town [I headed out around 1 pm after the rain had stopped]. 

As I was cycling around town, I discovered there were all these festivals going on…fest for the cycling race, a Berry Festival, and the re-dedication of the Avenue of the Allies.  The berry festival is taking place in the Market Square, which they are renovating.  There is a stage with bands playing.  There is a chess club tent [and as I cycled around the trails along the river, there were areas with permanent tables for people to play chess or checkers].  And ONE booth selling berries – fruit and pie.

I asked locals where I should have lunch, and they said I had to eat at Primanti Brothers.  They are known for their sandwiches, which they add fries, coleslaw and a tomato on top.  They are literally 4” thick [top piece of bread is 1” thick].  I asked the waitress how in the world am I supposed to eat this?  She said just squeeze it together and open wide.  Ahem…doesn’t she know I cut everything up AND take small bites?

The cycling trails along the rivers were not as picturesque as I had hoped they would be, but they were OK.  It was nice to be on a path dedicated to walkers, joggers, cyclists…and not have to worry about cars and traffic.  And it was nice to be around water and nature.  I can tell that they are trying to upgrade the area and make it nicer.

There were activities all day long, including fireworks at 9.30.  After cycling for several hours along the rivers, I decided to go back to my room for a quickie shower, and then come back downtown.  As I cycled back into town, it started to rain.

As I entered town, it seemed as though a ballgame suddenly let out.  Major traffic jam and people everywhere.  Now…when I was in the city center before this, hardly anyone was there.  Maybe 100 people walking around, barely a car on the street.

Come to find out, the final stage of the Tour de PA was about to start.  I decided I was OK in missing this, but then realized that not only is there a traffic jam, not only is the street that my car is on is blocked off, but my parking garage has yellow tape across it cuz right in front of it is the finish line!  My… what they can do in 4 or 5 hours!

And it’s pouring down rain.

Then I decided to make lemonade.  I put my bicycle away. Donned full rain gear.  Grabbed my umbrella and went out to watch the end of the race. 

They halted the race due to a tornado warning.  Then I watched the 25 laps around the city to finish the race.  They rode down Grant Street, which is a cobblestone street.  Cobblestone + rain = people falling.  Not good.

They had a car in the front as the lead car, and then a car behind the lead pack.  And people on motorcycles along smaller groups of riders.  All with cameras…it was being shown on TV. 

As the racers are coming, the people working will whistle to let the people ahead know there is a racer coming.  So, there is constant whistling going on.

After the race, I meandered over to the berry festival, and everything was taken down.  No pie.  No music.

I headed back to my room to shower and go out and catch the fireworks at 9.30.  Got out of the shower…and it was raining again.  I decided to go check out South Side, which is the area along the Monongahela River, just south of downtown.  I had cycled along the river earlier, but didn’t cut in and check out their “downtown” area. 

LOVED it.  Block upon block of really cool shops, restaurants, arty people.

Loved it so much, I went back for several hours on Monday.  If I lived here, this is where I would want to stay.  Great look to it.

I can easily see myself coming back to Pittsburgh to stay for a bit.  I hardly scratched the surface.

 

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Day 1

June 30, 2008

 

I am headed to the NW states. 

I left Baltimore on Saturday.  After a whopping 30 minutes of driving, I just had to stop and walk around.  So, am unsure how long it will take me to get to the NW.

I am in Pittsburgh.  I really like it here.  The few times these last 2 years that I have driven from Baltimore to Michigan, I have gone by Pittsburgh, but never stopped in.  When I was in Houston, I re-connected with a guy who travels around the states with his boys to go to baseball games and to check out all the stadiums.  By far, his favorite stadium is in Pittsburgh.  He said the team colors are black and yellow [maybe gold], and they used materials and paint that are those colors.  So, it is really nice how the stadium matches the uniforms.  Also nice is the layout/setting where you can lookout and see downtown in the outfield.

So, I had planned on coming to Pittsburgh and spending at least Saturday nite…and seeing a game.  I had my mind set on this.  So of course for the entire 5 hour drive, it is raining and then not.

Once in Pittsburgh, as I’m driving downtown, it’s not raining, but it sure looks like it’s brewing up a big one.

Pittsburgh was settled on 3 rivers.  I’m not sure if one would call them big hills or baby mountains, but that is all around.  So, you have tunnels, lots of bridges [over the rivers, and also “regular” streets], and houses built on the side of the mountains/hills.  Looks really pretty.

I walked over the Roberto Clemente pedestrian bridge [just on game nites] and talked to some guys who were selling souvenirs re buying a ticket on the street.  They told me the guy to buy from…and got my $8 ticket in the bleachers [$9 at the window].

They have several tall bronze statues – probably 12’ high, outside the stadium.  Roberto Clemente. Willie Stargell.  Some Homer or Honer guy… When I talked to people, I asked the statues were life size, but people didn’t get my joke.

Inside they had the very stereotypic ballpark food.  Nothing new or interesting.  They have helpful people working there and a guy told me to go to the Hall of Fame Club, which is open to the public and they have better food up there.  So, I went there and the moment I got inside, the skies opened up and the wind and the rain came pouring down.  I didn’t care, cuz I was inside, and had my greek salad, which was unusually tasty.

After about 45 minutes, the rain stopped and they announced the game would start in 15 minutes.  I went and found a seat under the awning/whatever it’s called.

After the game started, it started to rain again, and rained the entire game.  Unsure when they call it [I’m sure some of my readers know], but thought it interesting that they never called it, and there were all these people sitting out in the open [NOT under an awning].

Several thoughts:
As mentioned above, they have regular food stands, except …they sell pierogies.  They even have a cartoon with pierogie characters that plays between innings and then people dressed as pierogies come onto the field and run around.

Chili pie = bucco pie

People here call the team the bucs, not the pirates.  Lots of bucs or bucco mentioned.

Now, the layout of the stadium is spectacular…you can see downtown and a bridge just above the outfield.  However, contrary to what I was told, the stadium isn’t black and yellow.  The back/outfield area is painted all green.  The stadium seats are midnite blue [per my childhood box of 64 crayola crayons].  Everything else is cement color.  And then the coolest thing happened, at one point,  it was as though someone flipped a switch…at a certain point the sun was setting and the reflection off all the downtown buildings was this yellow/gold color.  AND a rainbow.  Unbelievable.  It seemed surreal.  I have attached a photo. Doesn’t do it justice.

You know how in between innings some stadiums will “shoot” t-shirts out of the gun-like thing?  Well, here they shoot hot dogs.

Minimal signs/adverts along the outfield wall. 

On my way to the game, I went thru a little run down area and then a really nice area – big beautiful older houses.  The whole time everyone I saw had dark skin.  Of course, no big deal…just what I noticed.  Then, around the 5th inning, I looked around me…and the crowd seemed 100% Anglo.  I then searched the stands for people of color.  I found 4 [not together].

The lady at my hotel says NO ONE goes to the games.  I think the stadium was probably 40% full.  Of course, the threat of rain probably kept a lot of people away.

The game tied up in the 8th inning.  Still tied at the bottom of the 9th.  I was cold so I left.   It went for 13 innings, with the pirates/bucs winning.

I like Pittsburgh enough to spend another nite here.

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Fairhope, Montgomery and Auburn Alabama and Peachtree City, GA

June 8, 2008

 

It is Sunday nite and I am south of Atlanta.

 

I REALLY liked Fairhope, AL.  I wish I could have stayed longer.  I will def come back and stay for a bit.  There are some cabins that are across the road from the water, near the pier.  So, hopefully in the future I can come back and stay there for a bit.

 

I have had my day to day trip planned out…in my mind.  I awoke this morning out of a dead sleep to realize that TOMORROW is Monday.  I’m off a day.  So…today I need to make some headway.

 

I spent several hours last nite researching what all I was going to do in Montgomery today…most of which are closed on Sunday.  Apparently they don’t have many tourists who come on the weekend.

 

I did stop in Montgomery, and did everything there was to do, civil rights wise, that one could do.  Which is pretty much drive around and look at places since nothing was open.  The reason that nothing is open is cuz no one is downtown.  Of course, if things were open, I wonder if there would be people around. 

 

I pretty much drove around, could stop in the middle of the street, get out and take photos.  There were a couple other cars of what seemed to be tourists, and a few cop cars.

 

I stopped at the civil rights memorial.  I pulled my car over, and took a photo from my car.  This would have been the perfect setting to get my bike out and cycle around, but it was 101’ outside.  After I took these photos, I was still parked and figuring out what to do next.  The map the tourist office gave me, in my opinion, is a “mirror” of reality.  So, each time I made a turn, I went in the wrong direction.  So, it took me a bit to figure the city out.  It was a good thing it was Sunday with no cars, cuz I could easily make U’s to turn around.

 

Oh…when I was done figuring out where I was going, I looked up, and there was a security guard standing there watching me.  Goodness, no one around and he’s worried about me.  I’m such a threat.

 

It was 102’ at 4.30 pm.

 

I stopped in Auburn.  This too would have been a good opportunity to cycle around.  But again, it was 5.30 pm and 102’.

 

Auburn’s downtown seemed to be all [what I call] campus corner.  Unsure if other people use that term. All cheap bars and restaurants for the students. 

 

I had planned on spending the nite in Peachtree City, which is a suburb just south of Atlanta.  While in a doc office in Houston, I saw a financial/$ mag that had their version of the 10 best places to retire. Peachtree City was one of them.

 

I think I’m in Peachtree City on a 4 lane road that has every imaginable chain store possible.  At a stop light I ask the car next to me if there is a downtown area and where would it be.  They told me “this is it”.

 

One of the benefits of living here is that they have a lot of “lanes” [green paths] where people can cycle, run, walk…but also drive golf carts around.  The community has a very high % of golf cart licenses.  I do have to admit, that driving a golf cart around to run errands or visit friends would be cool.

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Biloxi and Pascagoula, MS and Mobile and Fairhope, Alabama

June 7, 2008

 

Saturday morning I had bfast and hung out all morning with my new best friends.  They were headed to Jefferson Davis’ presidential library [in Biloxi].

 

I stopped at Beau Rivage, with is a fancy casino in Biloxi.  When I lived in Houston, I saw ads for Beau Rivage all the time.  So, I thought I would check it out. 

 

It is really nice.  I was hungry so thought I would check out the buffet. I thought it was $12, which I didn’t think was too bad, so I thought I would stay.  However, there were several lines, and I was trying to figure out which line to stand in, and more importantly, how long to wait.  I usually don’t wait for food.  I tried to ask someone who worked there, but she was busy, so I asked this guy who was in the front of one of the lines.

 

He asked if I was paying for the lunch or was it a comp.  I said paying.  He looked at me like I was crazy and said “you are paying cash for lunch?”  Well, not cash-cash…visa.  “You don’t want to do that” and took out a comp ticket and gave it to the woman working.  Not only did he give me a free lunch, but he also told me to go in front of him [and the line].  So…that worked out nicely!

 

I then decided to give Beau Rivage a buck, since I had a free lunch and all.  So, I found the non smoking penny slots.  And I lost this money faster than thisfast.  Not once did I win any credits. 

 

I stopped in Pascagoula.  The 2 block downtown was deserted, except for an older man with a mic who was preaching.  Now…who’s he preaching to??  I went to the library, where it was cool to read up on what I was going to do in Mobile.  While I was there I decided to use the computer, which there were several available.  However, I needed to show my driver’s license and proof that I lived at that address – utility bill.  Ahem.

 

I stopped at the AL tourist office and this really nice little old lady helped me.  She told me the best way into Mobile since it seems the tunnel is backed up [thus I 10 is backed up].

 

Kevin and Sylvia had told me that I needed to check out Fairhope, which is around Mobile Bay.  So, the tourist woman booked me a room there…on the water.

 

I got into Mobile, and parked in the visitor center lot.  There is a fort right there.  But the one guard who guards the fort didn’t show up for work, so it was closed.  Then I was going to take the trolley around town, but was told that the trolley guy didn’t feel like working that day…he really doesn’t like working the weekends.

 

So, I decided I had had my fill of Mobile and head to Fairhope. 

 

It was 96’.  I must say that driving with the sun beating down on me has already gotten old.  I can’t wait to get up north.

 

Fairhope is nice and quaint.  Nice downtown area, no chains.  Lots of flowers, cycling trails, beaches, duck pond.  There are benches for people to sit all along the water, and they were filled with people enjoying the sunset.  There is a pier that goes out a ¼ mile into Mobile Bay.  LOTS of activity at nite on the pier… people fishing, or just strolling.  Near the pier is a huge fountain, surrounded by a rose garden.  And people all around.  Very nice.

 

Oh…when I was at the laundry mat, I was talking to the woman who was the attendant.  We started talking about how expensive [from her point of view] it is to live in Fairhope.  I commented that isn’t Mobile less expensive?  “Some places yes, some no.  But they will drag you out of your own car while you are stopped at a street light.”  And just shook her head as though no way is she living there.

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Jackson, Mississippi and Laplace, Louisiana

June 5, 2008

 

Thursday was a travel day for me…I needed to make the long drive [for me] from oxford to outside of New Orleans.  Per mapquest it’s 5+ hours, which means all day to me.  The only highlight of the day was that I stopped in Jackson for a late lunch, and I couldn’t get anyone to serve me.  I think I was the wrong color.

 

MS rest stops have a sign on the hiway so you know if there is security at the rest stop or not.

 

I stayed in a dumpy place in Laplace, just outside of New Orleans.  The next morning I could hear the desk person turn away person after person who was calling/coming in to find a room – they were sold out.  I asked her if they were always that busy, or was something going on.  She said that Brad Pitt is shooting a film down the way.

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