We were in the state less than 24 hours. Here’s a brief rundown of what we ran into:
- The “Service Areas”, which consist of a single, overpriced, run-down gas station with typical gas station bathrooms. Putting a plastic plant in for ambience does not make up for the fact that you haven’t mopped since last Christmas and that the purse hook is broken.
- Stop signs at the end of the merge ramps. Seriously, people? Just because car manufacturers advertise how fast a car can go from zero to sixty does not mean I want to test it just because I had a fetus step on my bladder.
- The hotel swimming pool and it’s non-functional filter. When I go swimming in a chlorinated environment, I have certain expectations. Like being able to see my feet in the 3′ depth and not getting choked by the tiny little bugs that have drowned themselves in the filth that is the hotel pool. This isn’t just me being pregnant and finicky — there were two children, at about that eight to eleven gee-I-love-dirt phase, who not only commented on the water being gross, but subsequently got out and decided to sit on the lounge chairs until their mother came back to retrieve them.
- Did I mention there was a dead bug firmly attached to the inside of our shower curtain?
- The complimentary hotel continental breakfast, which consisted of pencil-eraser scrambled “eggs”, soggy cold potato wedges with onion and peppers, and Canadian “bacon” with sugar-free maple flavoring that drooped off the fork. Even the orange juice had an off taste. Figuring even they couldn’t manage to screw up a banana, I went to check out the fruit… And found a grey, spotty mush of a banana peel that theoretically contained fruit. Ben then took me to Brueggers, where I got a lovely bagel sandwich and some real juice.
- Somebody up here just couldn’t resist a sale on “One Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs. We are not unintelligent people, but poor Ben was baffled by how to get into the Bruegger’s parking lot, and then again on I-95 on how to *leave* the “service area”. (Again, I reiterate, a McDonald’s plus a gas station does not make a “service area”.)
I’m sure people who live in Connecticut or love Connecticut or just like to be contrary would like to point out to me that several of these points are specific to the hotel we were in. I would like to make it clear that I am cranky and really don’t care. I had never been to the state before, and this is the first impression it chose to make. Now I can check it off my list and Be Done With It.
Well, perhaps “helped” is too strong of a word. She certainly participated, though.
Ben and I went up to New York for the weekend to visit with some of my family for a cousin’s bar mitzvah (and I managed to fail at taking a single picture the entire weekend). We rented an SUV, and I drove up on Friday with my mom and grandparents. Ben still had rehearsal, so he met us up there by train. The bar mitzvah itself was great: Adam did wonderfully, no surprise there, and Pearl and Owen had put together a wonderful party surrounding it. Ben got his first visit to a very Conservative synagogue; his previous experience with me was with our extremely liberal Reconstructionist synagogue.
We had one really fascinating outcome from being away this weekend. All the people we usually ask to feed the cats were out of town as well this weekend (seriously, everyone. It was crazy!). Ben put out lots of water and dry food and we sort of hoped for the best. Well, it seems Nimitz was convinced she’d been abandoned completely, and Lilit got so tired of growling at Nimitz she’s nearly given up. Nimitz now wakes me up 3-4 times a night so she can curl up on my chest and purr at me. During the day, she can go about two hours, and then she needs to find me and sit in my lap and purr for a while. If I’m at the computer, that can quickly evolve into sitting on the mouse with a paw on the keyboard (thus the row of 4s that began as this post’s title). Lilit is, as in most things, much more reasonable about her reaction. She has settled back in, although she now only growls at Nimitz when it’s clear the kitten is intending to jump on her. I really don’t blame her for that one.
We had food debacles again this weekend. The bar mitzvah itself was kosher non-dairy, which was wonderful since it meant I got a piece of chocolate lava cake for dessert (which, seriously? Damn. I must find a recipe. And Kayla, if you’re reading this, I will totally share when I find it.). The hotel restaurant, on the other hand, was amazingly bad in how it dealt with me. My favorite was the breakfast where I told the chef I would like an omelet with ham and onion, no cheese, no butter, no milk, I have a dairy allergy. He put cheese in it, and when I complained to the manager (because seriously, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen), the manager informed me it was a “miscommunication”, like it was my fault for not being clear enough. And they then charged us the full buffet rate for my stale bagel and cup of coffee that tasted like sawdust. Ben and I went to Dunkin Donuts the next day. (The hotel also had a bunch of other screw-ups in regards to our rooms and the billing, so much so that when it was time to check out, I took my bill and Mom’s, both of which were very wrong, and complained enough we both got the AARP discount that they had denied Mom and Ben and I were never eligible for. Did I mention the part where they tried checking Mom out a day early?)
We’ve done a lot of travel lately. I’m pretty excited to be staying home for a while. I love seeing new places, but the last month has been pretty rough on my stomach. Ben’s got summer camp every day this week and next and we’ve got rehearsals in the evenings, so it’s up to me big time to get our food consumption back on track. I’ve got a big to do list over the next two weeks, and I’m really hoping to knock out as much of it as I can. I have some pretty lofty goals, like getting the back yard into serious shape before the fall, and getting my wardrobe under control. Once the weather cools off and the office is no longer 150° at mid-day, I’ll tackle that, too. Watch out! If I’m not careful, this place will turn into an actual house while nobody’s looking!
So I had the great beginnings of a final post, to make my vacation series into a three-part thing, but then it got eaten. I don’t know if Topaz ate it or if WordPress ate it, but somebody certainly ate it because I definitely wrote it and now I can’t find it anywhere. Oy.
Suffice it to say there was more beach time, some mini golf, and then another long-ass drive to get home. We were very excited to arrive back, although not nearly as excited as the cats. Nimitz promptly punched me in the eye with her fuzzy little paw (no damage done), and Lilith has started making the most distressing noises when she wants attention. Ah, home.
This week has felt like an odd combination of rushing around like a crazy person and sitting around with nothing to do. On Tuesday, I had the longest job interview of my life (I think it went well, but it’s so hard to tell with these things). Wednesday and Thursday, we had rehearsal for InterAct (always full of hilarity, usually full of art and productivity as well). Wednesday night I got to hang out with Kristen, and Thursday night, we had dinner with Mom and my grandparents. And then Friday, back to sitting around doing not a whole lot. Brainstorming art, working on projects, failing at cleaning up the house… I’m still struggling to find myself lately. I feel closer to an answer than I have in a long time, but not an immediate answer. Like I’m on the path to understanding what I’m doing with my life, but I don’t quite have all the information yet.
We’re going to hit the farmer’s market today. It’s taken us most of this week to get back on track meal-wise. Food is such a complicated subject.
Oh, by the way, I’ve updated the Michigan posts with photos. Enjoy!
I’m told thunderstorms out here on the lake are a Thing, that we’re supposed to drop everything and go watch as they roll in across the lake, lighting striking, thunder shaking the house. When tonight’s storm began, I asked if we were under cannon fire, and if there was artillery we ought to prepare in response. The house shook, the sky lit up like daylight, and all activity ground to a halt so we could stand on the porch and watch the rain pour down.
Since when do I just stand and watch?
Ben and I went running headfirst into the rain, racing across the beach, falling in the sand and getting back up again, until I realized we were so far from cover I was certain we’d get hit by lightning. Granted, we were both two glasses of sangria into the evening, but still, I don’t mess around when it comes to electricity. So we returned to the sidewalk, nearer the house and just standing there, experiencing the rain. Open your mouth and drink it in: the sky is falling and the moment is here. No thoughts, just feel. Perfect temperature for it – not too cold. Because if you’re going to watch the storm, shouldn’t you breathe it too?
It’s been a relaxing couple of days. Yesterday, we stopped in at some winery tasting rooms in downtown Saugatuck, where we walked out with three bottles from two wineries. Finally, we found a decent beach hat for me (it’s been a hell of a search), then headed back to the cottage to wait for Chappell and Rosalind to arrive. Ben and I tried to take the canoe out on the lake, but the water was so choppy, we spent most of the time fighting the waves. We got to see the stars, including a shooting star, and we had a night so cloudless you could see the Milky Way.
Today began with heavy rains and a damp trip to the Farmer’s Market in Holland. Their peach season is a month behind ours, so I’m back to first week peaches, but at least there are peaches. Which went into tonight’s sangria, along with a past-its-prime bottle of white from Deep Creek (which has happened twice to us, so I think no more wine from them), and the cheapest bottle of local cherry wine. Three of us drinking and we kicked the pitcher. No joke.
Before dinner, Ben and I headed back to Saugatuck for a theoretically outdoor concert of Zydeco music. It turned out to be moved inside due to rain, and was fabulous, especially when the entire dance floor was taken hostage by three to five year old girls. Adorable. We wandered a bit, getting a feel for the town, then headed back for dinner, since this small town apparently has one menu for all thirty restaurants, and than menu includes a lot of dairy. So instead we made fried rice, which was wonderful. And then the aforementioned sangria, which meant the rice didn’t need to be half so good. Especially since we couldn’t fine wine glasses and drank our sangria in ice cream bowls. Which held a lot of sangria. Which might explain the run through the rain (but I still stand by the decision).
Life is not a dress rehearsal, and clothing launders just fine. Sometimes what a day needs is a splashy wake up call.
Ben and I are on the road to Michigan right now. I’m digging the touchpad (for simplicity, we’ll call her Topaz from here on) since I can easily write this while Ben drives. Perhaps “easily” is a bit disingenuous — I make a lot of typos.
We’re currently on Shift 3, somewhere in Ohio. Ben wants me to note that he thinks we just merged in front of Rainn Wilson, who did not want to let us in. I hope that means something to you, beloved reader, because I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Ben took Maryland, then we switched just before the PA turnpike. Not ten minutes into my shift, it started raining. And raining. Oh how it rained. I missed you too, Pennsey. You didn’t have to go to all that trouble to show how you felt. I wasn’t going to move back anyways. Especially not with the way truckers drive there. Not once, but THREE TIMES I had to slow down because I was hydroplaning at the speed limit, only to have a large truck crowd to less than a car length behind me and flash his headlights for me to move over, usually timing it so that there was another truck in the other lane. Oh how I loathe driving in PA.
Somewhere east of Pittsburgh, we stopped at a rest stop for lunch and switched drivers. Ben pulled back onto the turnpike and the sun broke through the clouds. By the time we hit Ohio, it was nothing but blue sky and cottonball clouds. Figures, right?
Ellipses indicate passage of time, right? That ellipsis indicates roughly twelve hours and three BILLION miles. Ok, slight exaggeration. Pittsburgh to Michigan, which sure feels like three billion.
After Pittsburgh came Ohio. We stopped in a rest stop outside Cleveland, which was lovely (the rest stop, that is. I can’t vouch for Cleveland, having not left the turnpike). A short walk and a chat with a gentleman headed for Minnesota, and we were back on the road. A hundred miles, then Toledo, then another rest stop not nearly as clean as the previous, then the Indiana state line. Our EZpass gave us quite the scare when it decided to stop working mid tollbooth. Fortunately, an employee came over to rescue us, and we decided to go for cash on our final turnpike stretch.
Indiana was pretty uneventful — mostly full of corn. We got to see at least seven types of irrigation machine in action, from orderly misters to “Hey, Pa, I done shot this rusty pipe with buckshot and now it sprays water!” (Was that insensitive? I’m sorry, it was a long day and I’m a little out of my element. I’m sorry if I offend.)
Michigan took us off the turnpikes and onto country “highways” – two lane affairs running through bitty towns. We switched drivers at a gas station, where I got hit on by an eight year old. That would have been disturbing enough, but then I realized, not only am I old enough to be his mother, it wouldn’t even have been scandalous. Young, yes, but not scandalously so.
We stopped for dinner at Bell’s brewery, had fabulous brats and split an Oarsman, which went down way too easily. In addition to all the bugs we splatted on the windshield, I apparently also did in a pixie (I’ll try to snap a pic tomorrow in daylight). We passed a church about the size of Columbia Mall, took the most circuitous route to the cottage, and then finally arrived around 10:30. I’ve been told the property is lovely, with a great view over the lake. From what I can see, the house is surrounded by several trees and a very thick blanket of dark. We’ll see tomorrow about those lovely views.
It’s been a long day and Ben is already asleep, having lay down all of thirty seconds ago, so I’m going to wrap this up. My plan is to journal the whole week. We’ll see how well that holds up…
4:30 am EDT
After going to bed around 1:30 (early for us), we got up at 4:30 to finish packing and clean up before meeting my Dad at his house to go to the airport. We got to BWI by 6, then headed through a surprisingly crowded security to wait for the plane. No issues meeting & boarding our 7:30 flight, and the flight itself was uneventful. Ben slept through most of it, and I even managed a brief half-hour nap.
We landed in Denver around 9:15 local time and ran to the nearest sports bar, two gates away, in time to catch the last 15 minutes of the US vs. Algeria game, the last of group play, and even witness the winning goal! We had a rather unfortunate experience with a waitress having a bad day (many tables were ordering little, and so she had no patience to look through the menu for non-dairy options with me). After speaking with the manager, we headed further along the terminal to find a more pleasant lunch option.
Lunch ended up being a very tasty turkey sandwich for me (and a depressing muffin from the angry sports bar for poor Ben). We played cards in the terminal until we saw they had begun boarding without any announcements, and caught our group’s boarding just in time. This was to be our long flight, with two movies and meals available for purchase. We bought a couple chicken wraps (quite tasty), and I slept for a good 3 to 4 hours. Ben dozed only briefly, having slept through the whole first flight, so we were about even on sleep. The movie, “Ghost Writer”, which had played on our first flight, was the second movie on our second. We hadn’t watched it the first time, so we did the second. The crew played a “Halfway to Hawaii” game, where passengers guessed what would be our halfway point on the trip. We were close, but not close enough, and did not win the CD. We landed at 3:15, and headed off the plane to breathe Hawaiian air.
3:15 Hawaii Time
A shuttle waited to take us from the terminal to baggage claim and ground transport. We found the Waikiki shuttle in time for them to close the doors in our faces and drive off without us. This gave us the first of two early lessons: we always will miss the first bus by mere seconds. We were told the next bus was in 20 minutes, so we decided to wait. And wait. At 4:00, we got onto the shuttle, which finally left ten minutes later, nearly an hour after we’d landed. Lesson #2: Hawaiians have no concept of time.
With traffic, it was 5:00 before we got to the hotel. The Ilikai is pure Art Deco on the outside, and total 1990s luxury in the lobby. The rooms are somewhere in between, but comfy suites, so I’m not complaining. We had a fully equipped kitchen and a balcony overlooking the ocean (with the tennis courts sort of obstructing most of it). As we had little intention of hanging out in the hotel room, this was not a big deal.
The weather, of course, was grey and cloudy. It figures that our first day in Hawaii would be drizzly grey. Still, though, the bad weather there beats a DC summer hands down!
After settling in briefly, we headed out to find dinner. A lovely walk along the beach later, we found the Royal Hawaiian shopping center (outside the hotel of the same name). Ben saw a sign for “Chibo” that leapt out at him, so we checked the directory to find its exact location. The full name: Okinomiyaki Chibo. We had to go.
A couple years back, Meg gave us a recipe for Hiroshima style okinomiyaki, and it’s become a house favorite. Chibo specializes in Osaka style. Plus, they have the added advantage over us that they know how it’s supposed to turn out. We’d never had okinomiyaki cooked by anyone other than ourselves. So, not surprisingly, it was the best okinomiyaki either of us had ever had! We decided at that point that if we had the time, we had to come back to try the yakisoba.
After dinner, we wandered around the touristy shopping area, buying nothing but making mental notes. We headed back to the hotel. We were both exhausted. Local time was 9:00, but after figuring out that we’d been up for more than twenty-two hours with only brief naps, we decided we could live with the shame of an early bedtime.
June 24: Day Two
Ben and I got up “early” to catch the Japan vs Denmark game. After a solid 12 hours of sleep, we both felt much better. We watched the first half of the game, then decided to head out and find breakfast. We ended up back in the touristy area at a place called Moose McGillicuddy’s. The name alone meant Ben had to see what it was about. Turns out, that meant local style food, including fried rice for breakfast and eggs on everything. We left with our bellies full.
Originally, we wanted to start with a visit to the Arizona Memorial, but the concierge said we ought to be there by 6:30am just to wait in line! Instead, we decided to check out the Dole Plantation by way of public transit. We got TheBus schedule from the concierge, and walked over to the Ala Moana shopping center to catch the 52.
Just like the airport shuttle, we saw the bus pulling away as we arrived, so we settled in to catch the next one, twenty minutes later. We had a fantastic conversation with a gentleman sitting across from us. Danny had lived on the island on and off for nearly 40 years, and as a result, had some great tips on things to see and do. The bus ride took us nearly two hours, so we had quite a long time to talk with him, as well as getting to see the parts of Oahu where people actually live.
We finally arrived at the Dole Plantation to take a tour and see this World’s Largest Maze. With our experience with winery and brewery tours, we were expecting this to be similar. See how they make stuff, see where they grow stuff, taste some tasty things. Oh no. Not here.
See, first of all, you should know something about Dole and Hawaii. Dole is a large part of the reason that Hawaii is no longer mostly inhabited by native Hawaiians. Dole did the typical industrial revolution corporate game of importing poor people from all over the world and practicing indentured servitude. Ok, so we got amazing Japanese and Portugese food in Hawaii as a result, but Ben and I unknowingly had taken ourselves to a museum celebrating indentured servitude. It was weird.
The second thing you need to know before heading to the Dole Plantation that we did not know is that Dole no longer grows pineapple in Hawaii. No, seriously. They have a huge plantation museum dedicated to the pineapple and we did not get a single taste of pineapple all day. And when we went to go purchase some candied pineapple or something tasty to bring back as a souvenir, all the stuff said on the back “Grown in Taiwan” or “Made in Thailand”.
Also, going through a gigantic hibiscus maze in the shape of a pineapple sounds like a lot better idea when you’re not lost somewhere in the middle, trying to go by the “just pick a wall and follow it” theory of dungeon-crawling. Contrary to popular belief, gaming skills do not always translate well into the real world. We did get out and we weren’t technically “lost”. I was able to find our path on the little map they gave us later, and we did pretty well. But it was an hour in the sun and we’d run out of water.
The highlight of the trip up there, however, was the little farm stand outside the plantation. There were two locals with a couple tables of actual Hawaiian-grown produce outside. We bought a bag of sugarcane and two lychees to snack on. We’d never had fresh lychee before. The guy selling them instructed us on how to eat them. After our eyes bugged out at the amazing deliciousness of it and we got ourselves composed again, we purchased a one-pound bag and he gave us the recipe for lychee martinis (peel lychee and put in baggie. Add gin or vodka. Place in freezer. Eat. Do not drive.).
We headed back on the bus, which took another two hours, and decided that we needed to rent a car if we wanted to leave Honolulu again. The bus dropped us off at Ala Moana center, which is sort of like a mall only, in true Hawaiian fashion, it has no roof. It was about dinner time, so we wandered around looking for a place to have dinner. We stumbled into a ramen bar, where we were among the only white people present. This spoke well to its authenticity. We sat down and placed our orders. They had two beers on draft, Kona Fire Rock Ale and a Kirin Ichiban. I asked what sort of beer the Kona was (since I’m not fond of IPAs). The waiter said, “It’s a draft.”
“Yes,” I said, “but is it an IPA…?”
He looked at me oddly. “It’s a draft beer.”
“I’ll have the Ichiban, thanks.”
The food was great, as was the beer. We carefully watched the people around us to see how we were supposed to tackle this giant bowl of noodles and broth. After some studying, we were feeling brave enough to try the newly learned techniques on our own and were rewarded with a very tasty meal.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to plan the next day out, and crawl into bed.