Lancaster, PA to Florham Park, NJ

Our car broke down in Amish country so we were forced to ride a buggy to the nearest car repair shop, which was over a hundred miles away.  We couldn’t find afford a horse though, so we had to take turns pulling the buggy.

Haha just kidding.  We took this picture at a little Amish tourist trap.  We took a tour through an old Amish home.  I learned that Amish people live a simple lifestyle because of a verse in the bible which they interpret as meaning they should be separate from the world.  They are not allowed to have electricity or municipal water because those require lines that are connected from house to house, which would violate that separation from the world.  They are allowed to have modern conveniences as long as they find a different way to power them, they have Amish craftsmen whose soul job is to modify modern appliances to run on compressed air, which they use a gas compressor to create.

While in Amish country I learned a lot about Intercourse, which I studied up on during our drive to Philadelphia.

We made a quick stop in Philadelphia to eat at Geno’s, the famous cheesesteak place.  It was pretty good, but I guess it was not as good as it was hyped up to be.  I was surprised that it didn’t have any peppers.  Every other cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten has had peppers on it.  Plus it was super expensive, $8 bucks.  The margins for that place must be so fat, they must be swimming in dough.

Afterwards we made a quick stop at the Liberty Bell, but the line was too long for us to go inside and see it up close.  Sam needed to get to Florham Park by 5pm to get the keys to his dorm.

So Lancaster ended up being more developed that I thought it would be, New Jersey ended up being the opposite.  Being so close to New York City, I was expecting New Jersey to be a humongous mega-metropolis, but all of New Jersey that we drove through had a very small town rural feel to it.  We finally got to our destination, Farleigh-Dickinson University at around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Farleigh-Dickinson….. haha that name still cracks me up.  The university’s as small and backwards as it sounds… No offense to any Farleigh-Dickinson graduates out there…..

Dayton, OH to Lancaster, PA

Dayton’s reason for existence is a humongous US air force base.  The air force base is home to the USAF museum.  Here they have several humongous hangers that house some of the world’s most famous aircraft including the F-117, SR-71, and even a F-22 raptor.  It was pretty cool taking pictures with all these exotic planes.

Kunia said that a jumbo jet flew low early in the morning and landed at the air force base, which was rumored to be Air Force One or a decoy.  At the USAF museum it definitely looked like they were going to have some sort of important speech, but I didn’t see anything in the news about it.

After Dayton we decided to make a straight shot for the eastern side of Pennsylvania, which would put us a short shot away from our destination of Florham Park in New Jersey. We decided to spend the night in Lancaster, PA in the heart of Amish country.  Lancaster’s nothing like I expected. I thought it was going to be super rural, being an Amish town, but it’s developed, indistinguishable from any other town out here.

Kansas City, MO to Dayton, OH

Another long drive on the interstate, but this one wasn’t too bad.  Probably because we drove from one famous BBQ city to another.  Again we yelped the best BBQ place in town and found a joint called Pappy’s.  It was in an inconspicuous building, and we actually walked right by the door and would’ve missed it if an employee didn’t see us and point us in the right direction.  I wanted to try a little bit of anything and saw that they had something called the “Adam Bomb,” named after Adam Richman from the TV show Man vs Food.

I’m a pretty big eater, so I thought that I would be able to finish the entire thing, so I was a little pissed when Sam suggested that we split it.  In the end though I was glad we did.  That was a monstrous amount of food, and even though we split everything in half we couldn’t finish.

The barbecue at Pappy’s was amazing.  None of the meat comes with any sauce, but it doesn’t need any sauce.  The meat was incredibly juicy and flavorful, the mix of spices on the dry rub was perfect.  They did have sauce that you could add on top, they were all pretty amazing as well.  If the Adam Bomb had killed me, I would’ve died satisfied.  Oh yeah and FAT.  I think I gained 5 lbs in Missouri alone.  That’s pretty crazy for less than 24 hours.

After all that gluttony we walked around a bit and explored the gateway arch.  I had seen pictures of it, but it’s even more amazing to see in person.  We took the elevator up to the top.  It feels like a freaking space ship, both the ride up and when you’re at the top.  The ride up is in this little spherical elevator that’s like a tiny space capsule.  You feel like you’re in a spaceship at the top because the space is pretty small, and because the windows are like little spaceship viewing ports.


Afterwards we had another long drive through the heartland to reach Dayton, Ohio.  Sam had an old labmate who works on the airforce base in Dayton, so we crashed at his place for the night.  For some reason the midwest is really humid, ridiculously uncomfortably hot and sticky and humid.  I don’t understand why.  There’s no freaking water out there.  Sam’s friend Kunia had lived in Dayton for a year, but had no furniture in his house.  Literally no furniture.  He had a futon, and that was it.   He used boxes for his computer desk.  I slept on the carpet in the hot, humid apartment, tossing and turning and sweating like a pig all night.

Sioux Falls, SD to Kansas City, MO

Sioux Falls is a pretty cool town. It’s named after a waterfall that runs in the heart of downtown.  We made a quick stop there before heading out of town.

Now we were heading into the heartland of America.  There wasn’t much to see and the long stretches of interstate highway were straightforward and monotonous.  That’s bad. We were heading into the most gluttonous part of our trip, but all we were doing was sitting in the car driving.  Well one person was driving.  The other was most likely napping.

The only thing cool we did was stop at the world’s biggest fireworks warehouse.  We were like 2 kids in a candy store, except 10000 times better since it was fireworks.  I ended up buying a “missile battery,” which is a couple hundred little rockets embedded into a box decorated with the American flag.

After what seemed like endless driving, we finally made it to Kansas City, which actually mostly lies in Missouri.  I was looking forward to trying some good KC barbecue, so we yelped the best place in KC, which was actually in a gas station.  Something about mixing gasoline, wood fires and smoke seemed kind of wrong to me.  The barbecue was good.  It was really good, just not OMG AMAZING like I thought it would be.  It was pretty cheap though, $20 including beer and tips is not a bad deal.

We spent the night in Independence, MO.  All the hotels in KC seemed to be sold out.  The Backstreet Boys were in town… maybe that’s why the hotels were sold out… eh… probably not.  Anyways, after dropping off our bags and chilling in the spa for a bit, we drove around town for a bit looking for a safe place to shoot off our fireworks.  We found a park in a secluded part of town.

One thing I learned is that fireworks out here are legit.  They’re definitely not like those little sparkly things or those little popper things we have in California.  The missile battery thing I bought had a couple of hundred rockets, but they were all pretty small, probably an inch and half in length, so I thought they would shoot up maybe a few feet at most…. I lit the box and stepped back.  When I set up the box, I didn’t realize that I set it underneath a tree. Much to my surprise 100s of little rockets were shooting up into the tree.  I was so afraid that the tree was going to burn down…. It was pretty awesome.  Best 20 bucks I ever spent.

Worland, WY to Sioux Falls, SD

Mount Rushmore was one of the most anticipated sights of this trip, and it didn’t disappoint.  But even before Mount Rushmore we got to do some cool things.  The drive out of Worland was pretty cool.  We passed through a canyon that had some of the oldest rocks in the planet visible, some over 3 billion years old.  I bet if we had more time to wander we would’ve seen some dinosaur bones.  In the morning we made a short detour to Devil’s tower monument.  We were too cheap to pay the entrance fee.  I was regretting not buying the Interagency Federal Pass earlier this year.  If we had that, we could’ve explored Devil’s tower for free.  Instead we just took a few pictures and went to the gift shop.  I bought a bottle of sarsaparilla, which I’ve always wanted to try, but was kind of disappointed.  It tasted just like regular root beer.  We bought a 6 pack of Devil’s tower beer too.  That ended up being the worst beer I ever had.  Tasted like spoiled root beer. So in short we got pwned by the tourist traps here.

Next we stopped at a biker town called Sturgis.  Apparently it’s famous for its yearly biker convention where thousands of people come every year and bring their motorcycles.  We bought souvenir bandannas and took a picture at the famous Knuckle Saloon.  We thought we were going to get our butts kicked by this guy that was standing outside the saloon, but he turned out to be cool and offered to take our picture.

My time in Wyoming changed my thoughts on bikers.  I thought before that most were rowdy gangs.  Now I realize that most are pretty harmless guys, out just exploring the country.  The biggest trouble they get into is fighting with their wives at the gift shops over what souvenirs to buy and what ice cream flavors to get.

Mount Rushmore was pretty amazing but a lot smaller than I expected.  I thought that the heads would take up the entire mountain.  In fact they only carved out the upper third of the mountain.  It was still cool to see in person though.

We spent the night on the eastern border of South Dakota in a town called Sioux Falls.  We drove pretty late into the night.  There was a thunderstorm, and during the entire drive there we could see flashes of lightning arcing across the horizon.  It was pretty amazing.

Salt Lake City, UT to Worland, WY

Wow today we drove in four different states.  We passed north out of Salt Lake City out of Utah and into Idaho.  Idaho, at least the part we drove through, is pretty much like you’d expect, lots of farmland and grassland.  After Idaho we drove through Montana for a grand total of 30 minutes.  Montana has this peninsula that sticks out between Idaho and Wyoming, it seems like it’s only existence is for Montana to claim that it has a part of Yellowstone in its boundary.  It looks big on the map below, but that stretch of highway 20 in Montana is only 10 miles.  After we crossed over the border into Wyoming we were in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is an amazing National Park.  Although in my opinion Yosemite has more amazing scenery, Yellowstone has a lot of cool unique features that makes it a must visit.  First off there are the many geothermal features– the geysers, the fumaroles, the mud pots, and the crazy looking mammoth hot springs.  Then there’s the wildlife.  I came within a couple hundred feet of a bald eagles’ nest.  Luckily I had my telephoto lens so I was able to get a decent shot of a bald eagle chilling in a tree.

On our way out of Yellowstone we saw a bison crossing the road, he was literally a few feet away from my window, lumbering across the road.  Finally Yellowstone has an amazing variety of scenery.  Like I said, the scenery may be more amazing in Yosemite, the mountains and waterfalls have a bigger “wow factor” there, but Yellowstone has amazing variety and almost everything you can ask for.  There are canyons, mountains, huge forests, beautiful streams and rivers, wide open meadows, waterfalls, lakes, basically all sorts of scenery packed into one area.  The eastward drive out of Yellowstone was pretty amazing, the beauty of Yellowstone Lake rivals Lake Tahoe in my opinion.  Probably the best memory of the day for me was mammoth hot springs.  When you go there you feel like you’re on another planet.  It’s a landscape different from anything else in this world.

The amazing thing about Wyoming is it feels so empty.  We didn’t pass any really major cities, and we actually had no cell phone reception for most of our time in Wyoming.  If you want to get back to nature, Wyoming is probably one of the best places in America. We spent the night in a tiny town called Worland in the middle of the state.  Amazingly our room had free wi-fi and it was pretty fast.  That was pretty unexpected considering we couldn’t even get a cellphone signal for most of the day.

Davis, CA to Salt Lake City, UT

It’s day one of a cross country road trip.  A friend of mine found a summer internship in New Jersey, so he’s making the journey across country in his car.  I’m along for the ride.  Driving across country is something I’ve always wanted to do, so of course I jumped on the chance to cross something off my bucket list.

Our plan for today was to drive across California and Nevada and try to make it to Salt Lake City.  Mission accomplished.  The drive through Nevada was pretty boring as expected, a long drive through an arid wasteland, interrupted here and there by a casino oasis.  The only really memorable parts of Nevada were the cheap and good meals at local casinos.  A $2.22 breakfast at Terrible’s casino, and a $7.77 prime rib dinner at some random casino in Elko.

It wasn’t until we crossed the border into Utah that things got interesting.  Immediately after the border we hit the Bonneville salt flats.  It’s basically a humongous flat expanse of salt, and it almost looks like a light dusting of snow.  Apparently in ancient times there was an ocean here, which has since dried up.   The first thing we did when we got outta the car was to make the whole area slightly saltier, or maybe slightly less saltier, I’m not sure of urine’s salt concentration….

Curiosity got the best of me so I had to take a lick of the ground.  It tastes just like ordinary table salt.  Of course I did this away from the area that we had contaminated.

The Great Salt Lake was the next major landmark on our way to Salt Lake City.  By the time we passed the lake it was already getting dark, so we didn’t stop there.  I don’t think we missed much.  Besides it smelled like my toilet a morning after my housemates and I hit a buffet.

We arrived at our hotel just in time to hit the happy hour at the bar.  After a couple of bud lights we decided to walk around town and explore a bit.  Overall Salt Lake City seemed like a pleasant city, but because of its proximity to the lake, all of Salt Lake City had the faint smell of ass.  It wasn’t overpowering, but it was pretty apparent at first, but I forgot about it pretty quickly.  It makes me wonder if people when they visit Sacramento or San Francisco for the first time notice a smell that the locals are accustomed to.

Our hotel was pretty close to the mormon temple, so I wanted to take a few night shots of it.  Luckily I packed my tripod so we were able to get some decent shots.  The temple was closed, so we couldn’t enter the courtyard.  Some day I will return and infiltrate a Mormon service, but I have a feeling that they would give me the hardest sell trying to convert me.  Maybe I shouldn’t return….

another fishing fail

On paper our plan looked perfect.  Dave and I would finally catch a fish.  Since we would be on a boat and the boat would basically be parked on top of the fish, there would be no way for us to fail.  Since we would be using the boat’s equipment, we wouldn’t be able to blame our equipment either.  They would have bait for us too.  Basically there was no way that we would go home empty handed this time.  Or so we thought.

We arrived at Fort Bragg harbor on Saturday afternoon.  As we walked to the shop, I can hear the sea lions barking.  It sounded really close.  It was.  I was literally standing 10 feet away from a sea lion.  Awesome.  Unfortunately it swam into the water before I could get a good shot of him.

I got excited as I approached the boat.  I kept thinking there’s no way we could fail this time.  I mean we’re on a freaking boat.  Anyways we checked in with the captain and made sure we would be able to go out in the morning.  Then we asked if there were any places where we could fish from shore.  We ended up going to a place called MacKerricher state park, right outside of town.  It was absolutely gorgeous out there, with beautiful tide pools to explore and an incredible beach.  I’ll definitely need to go back there again.  We fished from the rocks in a protected shoreline area.  Within about 10 minutes Jim caught a fish. Dave and I caught lots of seaweed.  But no fish.  But we weren’t worried, we definitely would catch fish on the boat.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed out to the boat.  When we got there we found out that the trip was cancelled.  They needed 6 people for the boat to go out.  Jim, Dave and I were 3, and apparently there was another group of 3 that cancelled at the last minute.  So no go for the boat.  Bummer.  So Dave and I went home without a fish again.  But all in all it was worth it.  Mackerricher state park was definitely worth it.  We will return and definitely catch a fish next time.

Pictures from the trip are here.  I didn’t bring a camera, so these pics were all taken on my cellphone.
http://picasaweb.google.com/mikehong81/2010061212FortBragg#

flying into the sunset

I rode a motorcycle today for the first time in a while…. I’m borrowing a buddy’s bike for the week while he’s outta town… I had forgotten how amazing it feels… the amazing acceleration… the wind whipping against my chest and helmet…. the feeling where you lean and the bike moves in that direction, almost as if you’re flying above the payment…. that feeling of freedom, with no metal cage surrounding you…

I need to fix my bike.   Hopefully it’s something easy to fix like spark plugs and emptying the gas from the carbs.