I have experienced the good fortune to visit all fifty of our states. Some were great, some not, some in between. But here is something memorable from each one, just off the top of my head.
Alaska-the Aurora borealis, of course!
Arizona-Antelope Canyon, Sedona, Spring Training, Los Sombreros, Elote Café’, and the Grand Canyon
California-Napa Valley, Carmel, San Diego, Tahoe, Pebble Beach, Disneyland, the beach, the wine, Yosemite, home
Colorado-Aspen, Red Rocks, Continental Divide, Boulder, ski trips, Coors Field
DC-Newseum, Ten Penh, cherry blossoms, National Gallery, Capitol Fourth, National Symphony
Florida-Everglades, Key West, Little Havana, stone crabs, cigars
Georgia-the Masters, Merri Macs Tea Room, the Varsity
Hawaii-Loco moco, dear friends, golf, Sam Sato’s, Kintaro, Hamura Saimin, Kapalua, shave ice, Aloha Stadium Flea Market, KC Drive In, Libby’s,
Illinois-the Cubs, Mag Mile, Eataly, museums, Wicker Park, Marshall Fields, Ravinia
Indiana-the Indy 500, Izzy’s, Lucas Oil Stadium
Kansas-barbecue, Negro Baseball Museum, Arthur Bryant’s
Kentucky-The Derby, Marker’s Mark Bourbon, Ali, Louisville Slugger, big hats
Louisiana-Nawlins, beignets, Hurricanes, Bananas Foster, Super Bowl 47, Acme Oyster House, Johnny’s.
Maine-lobster, LL Bean, Acadia, Bar Harbor, Bush 41,
Maryland-Naval Academy, Dirty Pat, crab cakes, Camden Yard
Massachusetts-JFK, the parquet floor, Salem, Boston Pops, lobster roll, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Union Oyster House
Michigan-Cheerios, Henry Ford, The Big House, Motown
Minnesota-Andrew Zimmern, Mayo Clinic
Mississippi-the river, Elvis, Delta blues,
Missouri-Forest Park, The Hill, The Arch, canoeing
Montana-Big Fork, Glacier, buffalo steak, dear friends, huckleberries,
Nebraska-Warren Buffett, College World Series,
Nevada-golf, dear friends, factory outlets, Fremont Street, TPC Summerlin,
New Hampshire-Dartmouth, J.D. Salinger, granite
New Jersey-ESPN, The Boss
New Mexico-Santa Fe, Goler Shoes, Café Pasqual, Georgia O’Keefe, Ghost Ranch, hot air balloons
New York-Yankee Stadium, Times Square, Carnegie Hall, Broadway, Empire State Building, Century 21, Madison Square Garden, US Open
North Carolina-Pinehurst, UNC, barbecue, Research Triangle, golf, post grad studies
North Dakota-oil, Dokies
Ohio-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Shawshank, the Wilkins, Pro Football HOF, cousin Walt
Oklahoma-the song, Okies
Oregon-Bandon Dunes, Lexi, Willamette Valley wines, Crater Lake, Sunriver, golf, Powell’s Books
Pennsylvania-cheese steaks, American Bandstand, Miss Pennsylvania
Rhode Island-Newport, gaggers, johnnycakes
South Carolina-Charleston, Hilton Head, Gershwin, golf
South Dakota-Sturgis, Crazy Horse, Custer, Deadwood, Rushmore
Tennessee-Beale Street, Graceland, Stax Records, Jack Daniels, Grand Ole Opry, Peabody Hotel
Texas-Salt Lick, San Antonio, Final Four,
Utah-Arches, Canyonlands, St. George, Moab, fresh powder, Bonneville Salt Flats
Vermont-maple syrup, Ben and Jerry’s, Bennington chair
Virginia-dear friends, Smithfield ham, Santa
Washington-Seattle, Prosser Farms, Experience Music Project, Uwajimaya, Triple Door, Pike Market, dear friends
West Virginia-Harper’s Ferry, The Greenbrier, Hokies
Wisconsin-Whistling Straits, Friday night fish fry, Kohler faucets, cheese curds, Cheeseheads, Allen-Edmonds Shoes
Wyoming-Grand Teton, Jackson Hole, Frontier Days, really wide neckties
Feel free to give me your version!
Though we have been to Seattle many times, actually over fifty, it remains one of our favorite cities in the entire world. We have been visiting this fine city since our honeymoon in 1995. We now visit just once a year, at our Anniversary, though for many years, we visited three times a year, adding our birthdays in October and February.
So, we are always on the search for places, events, people, and things to explore or visit. Most of the time, we find some a concert, museum exhibit, farm dinner, or party to attend. Other times, we get together with old friends or relatives for a meal or party. This time, we are going back to Jazz Alley for a concert by four time Grammy nominee, Jeffrey Osborne on Sunday eve. In the past, we have seen performers like Paul Simon, the Seattle Symphony, Chicago, Average White Band, Tower of Power, the Kingsmen (Louie, Louie), Janis Ian, Sting, Hall and Oats, Judy Collins, Motown (the musical), and several plays.
But during the day, what else could we do. For one, I may head out to see the Mariners at Safeco Field. They actually have a decent team this year! But the crazy Toronto Blue Jays fàhave taken over this city. I have been out there a few times, including the old Kingdome that was blown up a few years ago. Who knows, we may be back when our Fresno State Bulldogs play the U Dub Huskies this Fall.
And please do not mention the famous Gum Wall at Pike Market. Gross! They have actually cleaned it several times, and have now declared it a Superfund Site!!!
But burlesque is alive and well in this city. Many nice restaurants and bars have events suitable for both sexes! The Triple Door, where we often go for concerts, got its start as a vaudeville show, later a house of prostitution, then a parking lot, before returning to its musical roots.
We heard former POTUS Obama loved Fran’s Chocolates, especially the salted caramels. But a 20 piece box runs $28, a little pricey for retirees. You nostalgia fans might consider visiting the gravesites of two famous people, either Jimi Hendrix, a Seattle native at Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, and Bruce Lee in Lakeview Cemetery.
Famous Dick’s Drive In is THE place for a burger in Seattle. Only $2 for a cheese filled, non-organic, gluten filled burger. If that doesn’t get your attention, maybe a SLUT will. When I say slut, we are actually referring to the South Lake Union Trolley, but it is a fun ride nonetheless.
Needless to say, we have lots of options, including shopping at some of our favorite venues, meals with friends, and walking the city. What a great place to spend our Anniversary!
I did not write much about the famous Moscow Metro. I rode it several times when I visited Moscow in 2014. Here is more information about it, if you are interested. One thing for sure, Russian engineering is outstanding, as you will read.
Moscow’s metro is one of the busiest and most visually stunning underground systems in the world. Created as a showcase for the Soviet Union, its elaborate, spacious stations are adorned with mosaics, marble statues and stained glass that tell the story of the communist state. When it opened in 1935, the metro had just 11 stations and attracted 285,000 curious riders on the first day. Today there are 206 stations and up to nine million passengers a day.
The stations were designed by various architects, reflecting different styles, going from art deco to faux Italian. They used tons of marble, mosaics, sculptures, and even chandeliers. They were meant to give workers a meaningful cultural experience, normally available only for the wealthy or government officials.
A few things I noticed, most obvious, no advertising. It feels like a time warp travel back in time. But what I liked most, aside from the long, deep stations that required a little fortitude on my part, was the natural air conditioning of each station, engineered into the design of each station. Coming from a warm and muggy outdoor, it is a most refreshing respite from the rigors of sightseeing and touristing. Imagine how the factory workers feel?
And I did not know this: A station manager controls trains coming and leaving the platform as she sits in a booth at Zhulebino metro station. Another visible change is the controversial replacement of many of the elderly women who used to sit in a booth at the bottom of the seemingly endless escalators, who were famous for telling passengers off if they sat down on the escalator steps. One attendant known by locals as Auntie Lyuda was famous for telling jokes on Mondays, reading poems and telling passengers to imagine they were in England – if passengers want to walk up and down the steps of the escalator, they should do so on the left. Now the attendants are mainly young men, and have yet to show any skill in bantering with passengers.
The Moscow metro’s immaculate stations are a mix of old and new. Get off at Ploshchad Revolutsii (Revolution Square) and you will see passengers going up to a statue of a border guard and rubbing his dog’s nose for luck. There are four such statues in the station, and all the dogs have shiny noses from the constant rubbing. Yes, I rubbed his nose, hoping for a safe and uneventful exit from Russia in the coming week!
A mosaic depicting Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin is located at Kievskaya metro station. The metro was originally named after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and the Bolshevik leader’s image was and still is found in stations throughout the metro: in statues, mosaics and a giant bust of Lenin on the wall in Ploshchad Ilyich (Ilyich Square) metro station. One station, Komsomolskaya is quite extravagant, and designed by the same architect as Lenin’s tomb. It has eight large ceiling mosaics made of semiprecious stones, including lapis lazuli and jasper. Other stations have opulent designs with gold, semiprecious stones, mosaics, and up to fourteen different varieties of marble!
One of my favorite stations is Novoslobodskaya, with 32 stained glass panels with political themes, quite common as you can imagine. They were meant to provide a message, to bring residents up to speed ideologically, as they rode through the metro. Needless to say, we are fortunate that dreary old BART, the “L”, and the New York subway tend to leave us alone in our thoughts.
Speaking of Vlad, Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin is also seen at Dobryninskaya metro station. The image of his successor Josef Stalin was also seen on the metro until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced him in 1956, prompting the dismantling of statues of him all over the Soviet Union (and throughout Siberia). At Dobryninskaya metro station, a mosaic shows a happy crowd holding up a photo of a cosmonaut. The photo previously depicted Stalin and the cosmonaut was parachuted in to hide the disgraced leader. Interestingly, Stalin wanted to “jump start” his new Russia with the metro.
And for you millennials: The metro now has free Wi-Fi and announcements in English are gradually being introduced across the numerous lines. In the more tourist-friendly stations, “selfie spots” have been designated on the floor to help passengers get the best photo with a metro architectural highlight in view. But there are great photo ops at almost every station, compared to our sterile stations in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco (BART).
For a bit of history about the Moscow Metro:
A station manager controls trains coming and leaving the platform as she sits in a booth at each metro station. Another visible change is the controversial replacement of many of the elderly women who used to sit in a booth at the bottom of the seemingly endless escalators, who were famous for telling passengers off if they sat down on the escalator steps. One attendant known by locals as Auntie Lyuda was famous for telling jokes on Mondays, reading poems and telling passengers to imagine they were in England – if passengers want to walk up and down the steps of the escalator, they should do so on the left. Now the attendants are mainly young men, and have yet to show any skill in bantering with passengers. Sadly, I was not able to meet Lyuda, or any of her platform performers.
How about a souvenir? The metro finally seems to have realized how iconic it is, and has introduced tourist stands with metro-related gifts. The souvenirs include an 8-cm model of the guard and the dog (rub the nose at home to your heart’s content for 2,900 rubles or $51.54) or coasters with famous metro mosaics on them, including one of Lenin. I thought $50 was a little pricey for a dust collector.
I know the Nifty Fifty Club has only a few members among my readers. The Barnes couple have done all fifty, and many of you have achieved well into the forties, like Denise, Susie, Sandy, Denny, Maria, and others. I saw this story today, and thought it would be interesting to get someone else’s take on the idea.
From reporter, Trevor Hughes: “The rules of my visits were pretty simple: I couldn’t count a simple drive through or airport stop. Instead, I had to either sleep there, visit some sort of monument or point or interest, and, if possible, eat and drink something local. From cheese curds to Navajo tacos and lobster rolls to reindeer sausages, loco mocos (Google them!), pierogis and lots and lots of pizza, I’ve eaten my way around our great country. I’ve camped out under the stars, crashed on friend’s couches and slept in the back of my car more times than I can count. I’ve drunk chili beer and locally made wine and fresh-pressed cider and eaten an awful lot of baked goods.”
Enjoy the open road?
Jack Kerouac might have said it best in his famous novel On the Road: “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” His words serve as a testament to the power of a road trip; how the process of packing a car and driving long distances has the ability to transform us. Yet, what about the roads themselves? What makes this form of transportation more life-changing than, say, flying in an airplane? Or taking a cruise? The answer could be in the old chestnut: It’s not the destination but the journey that matters
I always think of the old Willie Nelson song, “On the Road, Again” when I am ready to hit the road. The longest “road” trip I have ever taken was driving from the northern desert of Chile, down to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina (Cape Horn, and the Beagle Channel). But truth be told, we did it with a patchwork of autos, a 12.5 hour bus ride, bus, and boats. It is 2,653 miles, and cannot be done by auto, unless you venture into Argentina, as we did, or take a boat, which was not available at the time of year we went.
Thoughts of “Thelma and Louise” also enter my mind, though they were infinitely more trouble than me and Mr. Mike. We never broke the law (OK, Mike drives FAST!), stole anything (cork from trees), or killed anyone (road kill?), that we know of. Driving from Spain’s Costa del Sol to the Algarve in Portugal was another long drive, punctuated by a stop in Seville, Spain.
But the iconic drive for Americans is that most American road, Route 66. Sadly, I have only been on small parts of it, here in California mostly, a little in Arizona (Flagstaff). and even less in New Mexico (Santa Fe), Oklahoma (OKC), Missouri (St. Louis), and Illinois (Chicago). Believe me, it is not on my “Water Pail” list!
Other loooong or beautiful drives you may want to take:
1. U.S. 1 that ends in Key West, Florida, a total distance of 2369 miles. And we ended up about 90 miles form Cuba!
2. Built in 1930, the Mount Carmel Highway cuts through a part of Arizona’s Zion National Park. When the route was completed, it shortened the distance from Zion, Arizona to Bryce, Utah, by 70 miles. This might be one of America’s best, in my opinion.
3. Interstate H3 is situated on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. Completed in 1997, H3 is among the most expensive interstate routes ever built. The final cost of the 16-mile highway was $1.3 billion, or approximately $80 million per mile. It is a spectacular drive, somewhat windy, and often wet, but worth an afternoon in Kailua and Koolau.
4. Chapman’s Peak Drive, situated in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the most spectacular drives in Africa. Convict labor was used during the seven-year construction process, which was completed in 1922. We rented the car, but were chauffeured by the famous Cape Town barrister, comedian, and author, Barry the V.
5. Closer to home, the drive to Lake Tahoe on either Highway 50, or US 80 is spectacular in the Fall. Winters can be harsh due to snow, wind, and ice.
6. We drove up to Portland, mostly on Interstate 5 to pick up Lexi last September. It is both interesting, and long. We took two days to get there, then drove home in 12.5 hours with our new puppy. I strongly suggest the two day!
7. Up the Atlantic Coast to Maine in the Fall. Why? The colors, and the Maine lobster of course. But don’t miss Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, the famous L.L. Bean flagship store, and Bush 41.
8. We drove from Christchurch to Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand, on the wrong side of the road (for us), and saw more sheep than people!
Minimal requirements for a road trip: a good driver (Mike), water, GPS, food and snacks, lots of good CDs, slippers or sandals, sunglasses, gum and mints. And a car in great condition!!
There is a good reason to read a “sushi thriller” out of Cape Town, South Africa, written by a distinguished South African barrister. The book is “Nigiri Law” by famous criminal, property, family law, sushi connoisseur, and world traveler, Barry Varkel, aka Barry the V.
Not often does a white guy from Cape Town capture the essence of sushi man culture. He also plays the transvestite card as his trump card in many chapters. Mostly, he portrays the poor sushi chef owner as a man hooked on sex with his Bangkok girlie girl, former boy, now wife.
Varkel-san, as he has earned the title in my opinion, captures the culture of sushi chefs, and the underlying Japanese traditions, broken in so many ways by Arata. He actually has me laughing out loud, as I read this book while at work.
The ending is as unexpected as Varkel-san’s ability to combine pop culture, tradition, sushi, and total sickness in one big kamikaze roll.
PS: Just don’t let your teenage boys or elderly ojiisan read this, as he might have a coronary episode!!!!