Boise, ID – The State Capitol

The state capitol has just been renovated and is back open to the public.  And open it is…just walk right in… NO security!

LOTS of white [with gray] marble.  Very lit and bright.  Clean.  NO signs, paintings, murals, photo…anything on its walls.  Very stark, except for a bench here and there.

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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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Victoria, British Columbia

August 11, 2008

Last nite I explored some areas not near the harbor, which I think is too touristy except for the Parliament Building [with pretty white lights on the edges], the marina, and the block long, ivy covered, fancy Empress Hotel [lit up with changing colored lights at nite].

Victoria has grown on me.  I really like the totem poles they have here.

Today I’m going to check out the Legislative Building, Butchart Gardens, and if I can pass US Customs/Border Patrol…will be on a ferry later today to Port Angeles, which is on a San Juan Island off Washington [and next to Olympic National Park].

MUST do’s re Vancouver Island:
* must drive to Long Beach/Tofino
* must book your accommodations [camping/room] in advance [in August].  Do NOT wing it…it is either impossible, or nearly impossible to get a room/camping spot…anywhere.

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Change of Plans – in Victoria, British Columbia

August 5, 2008

As I was leaving Vancouver yesterday to drive to Seattle, I found out my Austin music was cancelled.  So, instead of driving south, I drove east and took the ferry over to Vancouver Island and went to Victoria.

This weekend, and especially yesterday, BC is celebrating their 150 yr anniversary, and Victoria is the provincial capital of BC.  Needless to say, it was a madhouse!  I had heard there was a music festival going on…which is always good, but oh goodness.  You know what it’s like when a stadium event lets out?  Well, that is what it was like there.  It’s a town of approx 75,000 people, and they claim over 100,000 were there, packed into the city center.  Good thing I had my bike, cuz I had to park wayyy aways and then cycle into town.

Burton Cummings played – from The Guess Who [No Sugar Tonight,  These Eyes, American Woman…].  Sarah McLachlan played for a whopping 30 minutes.  Others I can’t remember…the last act was Fiest.  I hadn’t heard of her but apparently [in Canada] there is an ipod advert on tv where someone is singing “one, two, three, four…”.  If you know what I’m talking about, this is her.  Bubblegum pop to me.

I am unsure 100% re what my plans are.  I need to go back to the Victoria city center too see how it is without the crowds, but yesterday my thoughts were that it was just ok…I little too touristy for me.  A female cop laughed at me when I asked her for a non-touristy, “character” place to have lunch.  In the city center???  Ha ha ha.  She was right.  I had such a hard time finding a place to eat [besides $4 scoops of gelato], that I actually went to the downtown mall’s food court.  Imagine that.

I have been invited to dinner Thursday nite by a woman [Meredith] I met last nite.  So, I most likely will travel around Vancouver Island for the next couple days, have dinner with her and her friends Thursday nite…then head/ferry it to Washington.

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Regina, Saskatchewan

July 22, 2008

I went way out of my way to get to the Dieppe Memorial in Regina.  I drove and drove, winding thru a neighborhood.  Per the map – and it’s just a dot, with no address, it is on a river.  In my mind, I was anticipating this really cool memorial where the soldiers are getting out of their boats and running ashore or something…that they could have done, since it’s near the river.  But alas, no.  It’s in a neighborhood, next to the Dieppe Grade School.  And it is just a cement block with some words, and the flags.  What a disappointment. [I suppose they also didn’t want to somehow showcase their “retreat” by having more there.]

I drove around downtown.  It is a dumpy downtown…nothing of interest to me.  I wanted to see the Legislative Building, but couldn’t see/find it downtown.  And it’s not on my map.  I asked a local, and she gave me directions and said it is wayyyy across the bridge.  I was gearing up for the long haul.  Come to find out…it is less than ½ mile away.  But there are NO signs…nothing.  No signs saying turn here, no signs saying what it is.  I saw a building, and thought it is either the Legislative Building or it is an art museum.  Later, I found out that Walter Scott [first premier of Saskatchewan] had the building designed to be similar to the Lovre in Paris.  So…thinking it was an art museum was not so far off!

I parked and went into the building to look around.  You walk in, and there is a kindly older gentlemen sitting there.  Just him.  No security guard, no security screening device, no nothing…just him sitting there.  He said that I can’t just walk around, BUT there is a tour every 30 minutes.  I had 20 minutes to wait.

I decided to scam the system and asked him if I could go to their café.  Sure.  He asked my name, and wrote it down in a log book and gave me a visitor’s badge.  That’s it.

Went to the café…annnddddd…I’m back to eating poutine!  Poutine = French fries + gravy + cheese curds.  Gotta love it!

Went back to take the tour.  They give them in French and English.  The gentleman told me that there is a couple waiting for each tour, and the guides s/b out any moment.  I walked up to one of the men waiting, and said “English?”
He responded “Why, yes I am” with a British accent.  He’s probably thinking…how in the world did she know?  Ha.

During the tour I became a 14 yr old boy:
In my mind, when I think of Regina, I pronounce the “I” as eee.  However, the locals pronounce the “I” as eye.  Every time the guide said Regina, I lost concentration to what she was saying and thought back to that Seinfeld episode, where Seinfeld has forgotten the name of his gfriend, but knows that it rhymes with a female body part.  I giggled to myself. 

They call the native people Aboriginals.  Lots of them living in Regina.

Per the guide, most of Saskatchewan is river/lakes and trees. Only the south is prairie and flat.

They have a public library inside.  Anyone can come in and use it.  Can you imagine the White House having a library that anyone can come in and use?

In the legislative chamber, the gov’t party sits on one side, and the opposition party on the other – facing each other.  In the gallery above, people sit so they can see their “side”.  Thus, above the gov’t party sits the opposition party’s people.

The Legislative Building sits near the river.  There is a trail by the river, and lots of flowers and ducks. It seems that a lot of people use the trail, but no one/vessel was in the water.

After the tour, I took off for the 7.25 hour drive to Calgary.

Little did I know that yesterday was the prettier part of the drive to Calgary.  Unsure what the definition of prairie is, but this is probably it.  Reminded me of west Texas.  Towns were smaller [1 or 2 buildings] and further apart.  Most little towns didn’t have a gas station.  It was a really boring drive.  So boring…that I started listening to my learn to speak French cds, which I rarely put in…cuz I’m looking around me taking things in.

When I looked at the route a few weeks ago, it did look like there was nothing between Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.  But I just assumed that I was an ignorant American and just don’t know better.  There isn’t.  I would NOT recommend this route to anyone. 

There are lots of trains going by – both yesterday and today.

No mile markers.

Before a little town, there are what looks like homemade signs advertising places…and they are ?? probably 3’ high and 5’ long, and close to the ground [not high up].

Remember when a highway went thru a town?   Or I should say, the town grew/expanded around the highway.  Then in the states they built the interstate and bypassed the towns.  You drive on the interstate and think…oh…there’s a town somewhere over there, I wonder what it looks like?  That is why I like to drive the old highways and not the interstates…so I can see the towns.

Here [at least the Trans Canadian Highway 1] they still go thru the towns.  I like that.  There is a sign stating “Important Intersection” and a speed limit change…so you can pull off/on.

It was 95’ at 6 pm with no clouds in the sky today!!  This must be some sort of a record.

Immediately once I entered into Alberta, the landscape changed – baby mountains/hills, short grass and sand.  But this didn’t last too long, and I was back at boring.

Near Medicine Hat were some really pretty scenery but that came and went…and I was back to flat.

There are oil and gas equipment/facilities [pump jacks] everywhere.  There are cows/farmland/pump jacks.  And did I mention flat?

About 1 hour from Calgary the baby mountains/lumpy hills/pretty green pasture land started up.   Pump jacks still all around.

20 km [12 miles] from Calgary there is zero sign that a city is anywhere nearby – just farmland.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

July 2, 2008

 

I am at a rest stop about an hour north of Indianapolis.  In the shade with a nice breeze.

Just when I thought I was getting “soft” on what I thought of towns…

I drove into Indianapolis.

Oh my.

I lasted an hour there.

Took the downtown exit and am greeted with the ugliest underpass one can imagine…dirty, trash everywhere and street people. 

However, the very next view is this 284’ Monument to Soldiers and Sailors that is further down the street.  Situated very impressively.

There is a roundabout around the monument, and water falls.  Really beautiful, except all the street people hanging out around it.

I read that street parking would be tough to find, but I found a spot where there were actually 2 spots available [so one long spot].  However, there was tattoo’d up young man who was standing in one of the spots and really didn’t want to move.  He had his phone open and just holding onto it.  He wasn’t using it, wasn’t looking at me, wasn’t doing anything, except standing in the spot.  I parked my car maneuvering around him, and he still didn’t move.  I decided that I am the one who needs to move.

Indiana is the only state that I have been to that does NOT have a visitor center soon after you cross its border [when driving on an interstate].  Indianapolis apparently does NOT have a visitor center either.  I did find a number in my travel book, but the person answering must be in need of a holiday.

So…that was nearly that.

I did get out and check out the state capitol [impressive – and it has windows that you can look into the house and senate, which I’m not sure if I’ve seen anywhere else before].  I also walked around the monument.

I went into this old restored church, with beautiful stained glass windows – Christ Church Cathedral, and there was a man playing the organ!  Nice.

Also – the street smelled like urine…and I was walking down a major downtown street…not some side alley.

Per my book, Purdue is here.  I called them up to ask for directions. The woman was really nice, but forewarned me that the campus isn’t very pretty.  She’s right.

I decided to get back on the road and make some headway towards Naperville.  I see that Lafayette is on the way.  Hmmm…isn’t that the home of Purdue?  Per my AAA book, it’s not. But per people at the rest stop, it is.

So, I’m thinking what is in Indianapolis is the medical center branch, and the home campus is in Lafayette.

It looks like it’s going to blow up a storm, so I’m off.

 

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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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Clarksdale, Jackson, Greenwood and Yazoo City, Mississippi

June 3, 2008

It is Tuesday nite and I am in Clarksdale, which is in the NW part of the state – home of the blues.  This is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the mastery of the guitar, in the crossroads.

 

Today I was going to leave Jackson and head to Oxford, which is the home of ole’ miss, and William Faulkner, and about 3 hours from Jackson.  I think John Grisham grew up there also.  I’ve heard good things about Oxford…small university town.  Where I slept tonite would depend upon how much I liked Oxford.  If I wasn’t keen on it, then I would drive another hour and spend the nite in Tupelo.

 

I started the day going to the state capitol…which was highly recommended to me.  This was correct.  The capitol is really pretty, quite impressive.  The people there were really nice and let me wander wherever I wanted, even though there were all these signs stating that only people with proper ID could go beyond a certain point.  Some people even wanted to join me.  At first I thought it was the ol’ “yes you can go there, but I’ll just go with you to keep an eye on you”, but the people who accompanied me seemed to want to answer any questions I had.  They were unusually nice and helpful.

 

I went into the area of the old library and Supreme Court…another area that was off limits per the signage.  I got to talking to a woman who is from the delta area.  Now, showing my ignorance, I thought the delta blues came from down south….near New Orleans.  But apparently the delta part of MS is up NW.  So, she was telling me places to explore.  Then this really attractive, friendly man with a VERY strong southern accent came up, and he’s from the delta also, and they both educated me.  He’s a state rep.

 

So….my plans changed.  I was now headed northwest and going to go to Greenwood and then to Clarksdale [and possibly some other cities].

 

I didn’t make it to Greenwood because they didn’t have a sign telling me to get off the 2 lane highway to go downtown.  I figure if a town isn’t smart enough to inform me where their downtown is, I’ll take my money elsewhere.

 

I did stop in Yazoo City, which was smart enough to have a sign.  It has a lot of really nice houses, but also a lot of poverty.  They have a pretty big downtown area [for a small town], which had several blocks of these really cool 2 story buildings.  From a distance [of a block or 2] it looks really neat.  However, like most of these downtowns, half the buildings were vacant/abandoned.  For some reason, it seemed like the outside of the buildings were taken care of, but nothing inside.  I see great potential for this little town.

 

I arrived in Clarksdale.  I had asked 5 different people where I should eat [including the state rep], and everyone said Abe’s BBQ…which is located at the crossroads [intersection of 61 and 49]. So…I went to Abe’s.  I was hoping they had a bunch of “sides”, including a baked potato, but no.  So, I had baked beans and fries.  The only veggie items on the menu.  It was good.

 

At dusk I got my bike out to ride around town to check it out in better detail, and figure out where I want to go to eat dinner and listen to the blues.  A couple years ago I had read [or maybe it was on “60 Minutes”] that Morgan Freeman opened a music venue here and had quite the draw, but it is closed [except for lunch] early in the week.

 

The town is 100% dead.  It’s a bigger downtown area for a town of this size, and nothing is open.  Nothing that I could tell.  There would be 5 – 7 cars/trucks clustered together, but I couldn’t tell what establishment was open.  And, they were either all trucks, or “beater” trucks/cars.  So, even if I could figure out what was open, there was no way that I was going in. 

 

About half the buildings in town are empty.  Of the other half, there are about 8 – 10 music/restaurants, and the rest sell “junk”.  Thrift stores, or stores called “hidden treasures” and have a whole bunch of pillows in the window.

 

So, between nothing open, and getting a lot of “hey baby” cat calls from guys in cars just driving around, I decided that it’s best if I grab some fruit at the grocery store [Fred’s] and hang out in my room.

 

Fred’s is closed [at 8].  Ahem.

 

I am staying at a very eclectic place.  The state rep highly recommended it.  It’s called the Shack Up Inn, and they are stand alone log sharecropper’s shacks.  There are about 6 of them.  And they are decorated…well, with lots of junk from a downtown store. 

 

Oh, and the 2 guys who run the place have never heard of the state rep.  hmmmm.

 

Tomorrow I head for Oxford.

 

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