Connecticut and NYC….

Hi!

It’s almost been a year now since Donny and I headed out on the uh…vehicle operated…part of our adventure.  It’s been hanging over my head that we never quite finished out the last little piece, which was all so much fun!

When we left you last we were headed from Massachusetts to Connecticut to visit the birthplace of American pizza, Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. It was super fun to check it out. It’s in a little neighborhood right by the Yale campus, which is darling.  We happened to be there the same weekend Yale was playing Harvard….definitely the dumbest kids in the joint.

From Frank Pepe’s we wanted to walk up a block and try the pizza of his nemesis….Sally’s.  Sally was Frank’s nephew and the little punk decided he knew best.  Pizza, tearing families apart…so sad…

Sally’s was closed. I thought Donny might cry. He didn’t.  Lets face it, us fat kids had already had too much pizza at Frank Pepe’s.  It was time to hit the road to NEW YORK BABY!   Well, New Jersey, to see my brother and his girlfriend to spend Thanksgiving and check out the city.

After tons of traffic and uber confusing toll booths/tunnels/bridges we finally made it.  I swear there were parts where we were driving on the wrong side of the road.  Matt and Meg live in a darling apartment right above a bakery in Bayonne New Jersey.  Both of them work in NYC, so it is nice and close to the train.

I could write 7 blog posts about New York and the truth is we only saw a tiny part of the city.  It is overwhelming and huge and I wish we had a million dollars to see and do everything. Every block is crammed with curiosities and delicious things and people and it is exhausting and amazing all at once.  Here is the highlight reel…

My brother Matt and I ballin’ at his workplace…Wall Street baby…

This Ramen at Momofuku almost made Donny weep with joy.  I have never seen him so happy.

Watching the Pack with Bro and Meg!

 Matt loving on some corn at Diablo.  Lime mayo and cotija cheese on it…amazing…

New. York. Pizza.

Carlo’s Bakery! Okay, technically Jersey, but I was SO EXCITED. I love the way he says “cereal treats.”  The stuff we bought was yummy, but we learned we do not like cannolis.

Central Park. I was so happy to see trees.  So. Happy.

Times Square!

The Ball!!

Times Square photo booth

MACYS PARADE!  It’s not overrated….do it people. DO IT.

These people saved their kitty litter buckets all year for the parade!

Woodson, Matt and Meg’s cat, in his Thanksgiving best

Post Thanksgiving dinner beer pong!!!  We were so full and tired…this didn’t last long!

Grimaldi’s pizza…. YUMMMMMMM

Donny got to see his Peace Corps homies too!!!

And of course…

THANK YOU Matt and Meg for letting us crash for a week and check out your crazy NYC world :) LOVE YOU! Next stop, party with the Greenlee’s in Maryland!

Cheers to 1 year since we hit the road on our big adventure!!!!!

Catching up….

Hi. Remember us?

Since we last spoke Donny and I have been back here in Portland working on getting back into the swing of things.  Christmas, job searching, moving, etc…left us with little time to complete our journey on Spoke’n’.  Finally, I’m ready to pick up where we left off.

Our last stop on the blog was Boston….hangin’ with my awesome cousin Sandy, checking out the history of the town and the fun food it had to offer.

We headed out from Sandy’s (THANK YOU AGAIN) and I decided I couldn’t live with myself without actually trying Wahlburgers. It was just too funny!

We took an order to go and found the burger and tots to be really nothing special.  

What I really enjoyed were all of the giant pics of Wahlburgs everywhere. Nice gimmick.

And then we were on the road north to Maine!  We had planned on hitting Maine before heading down to Boston, but we ran into the tractor sooooo….had to adjust our plans.

We couldn’t in good faith be on the east coast and not have the lobster experience.  Donny and our friend Phil had done some food network research on the best lobster rolls in Maine.  Both locations were in Kennebunkport, so we decided to have a little food wars of our own.

Upon our arrival we discovered that one of the lobster roll shops was seasonal and all boarded up for the pending winter.  Donny was not excited about this, but thankfully the opposition was open.

The place is called Allison’s  

It’s really darling as is all of Kennebunkport and Kennebunk.  I bet it is a hopping place in the summer!  We had a super great waiter with a super great accent and the place was warm and friendly.  We decided to get the lobster roll, actual lobster, and clam chowdah.

Hmmmm soooooo…… we hate to say it but, we weren’t in love with any of it.  The lobster roll was super mayonaisse-y although the roll it came on was good.

 The lobster itself I really didn’t enjoy.  We both decided it was just how it was prepared.  Boiled, so it was lukewarm inside and when we cracked it open a bunch of water came out.  

Wet, lukewarm lobster. Shudder.  We will stick to slathering it with butter and throwing it on the grill.

But we loved our waiter and he had some good tips on camping spots, and the place was darling…so we don’t want to hate on Allisons too much.

After dinner we headed north to Portland, Maine.  The evening turned out to be a series of failed missions.  We got lost and frustrated and by the time we made it into downtown Portland (which seemed lovely by the way) we were really not happy campers.

And then…we finally got out of the car to explore…and realized Donny had dropped his wallet when we stopped to ask for directions.

Doh.

By the time we retrieved his wallet (thank goodness it was there in the parking lot!) we decided to call it a night.  We headed back to Massachusetts to campground near the water and called it a day.

 As we snuggled in to sleep we heard the craziest sounding animal outside the tent.  I really can’t describe it, but that it sounded like a small animal trying to sound really ferocious. The sound moved closer and closer, then finally turned away from us.

 A much needed laugh after a really long night!

Everything looks better in the morning.  The sun was out and the shower house was open!  Fresh and rested we continued south to check out Plymouth Mass.  Seemed appropriate as Thanksgiving was just a few days away.  Also, Donny likes to talk about how he had ancestors on the Mayflower….so he was pretty sure there would be a monument in his honor.

Plymouth was a nice little town.  We hit the visitor center for some advice.  Did you know the Thanksgiving Day Parade in plymouth is second only to the Macy’s parade?  

We headed to the waterfront and checked out the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.  I always thought Plymouth Rock would be huge….not so much!

The rock has a big house though…

Honestly the Mayflower was much smaller than I expected too!

Apart from this gift shop….that Donny swears is owned by his family…

the only other thing I wanted to check out was a cupcake shop that had been on cupcake wars.

WHY do cupcake bakers feel the need to put tons of icing on cupcakes? The cupcake itself was good, but I literally ended up throwing away pretty much all of the icing.  I love me some lemony goodness though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

On the road and headed to the birthplace of american pizza…. stay tuned!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and cheers to an adventurous New Year!   

Much love and many hugs, Sarah and Donny

Pahk the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd

The next couple of days in Boston were pretty darn swell.  After Donny took the car to the shop and determined that it was drivable and would hopefully carry us all the way back to Portland (sans headlight) we decided to drive out to Cape Cod.  Donny’s sister and fam were in town so we were going to try to catch them and say hello.

I’m thinking Cape Cod is a lot more fun in the summer. I mean it’s cute and all, lots of homes and properties that look like Martha Stewart’s best dreams, but apart from that there was not a lot going on.  I was a starvin’ Marvin so we stopped at a little restaurant appropriately named “Grumpy’s”  They were gruffly friendly and had a pretty darn overwhelming breakfast menu.  Donny had some chowdah and I had a scramble and it was all pretty okay.

After eating we headed a little further out the Cape and eventually caught up with Becky and Dan and the fam. Crazy we all ended up out there at the same time!

The next day we headed into Boston to check out the Freedom Trail. Hostess with the mostess, Sandy, had laid out all kinds of train and boat tickets for us to use, but we just couldn’t take advantage! We love you for it though Sandy!  After fighting with the ticketing machine

the train finally took us right down to the information center at the start of the trail AND this guy

Boston is a really interesting city.  It’s busy without being bustling and of course has a ton of history.  We bought a little map and followed the red bricks all over town to the different historical sites.  Pretty cool stuff!

Mother Goose? Okay not for real, but Bostonians like to pretend.

When we reached Faneuil Hall we decided it was time for a little lunch. Across from the hall is the old market which is now full of a bunch of little restaurants. Kind of like a step or two up from a mall food court.

 I had a ridiculously good seafood mac and cheese. Full of lobster and crab and that good sharp cheese that hurts your jaw…

Also in that building was the replica of the set of Cheers.

Total crap man.  It really doesn’t look like the bar! Disappointing.

As we worked our way toward Little Italy (near Paul Revere’s house!)

we got more and more excited.  Sandy had told us about a pastry called a Lobster Tail, and gave us a specific bakery to check out to get her favorite one, Bova’s.  Finally we arrived…

Oh. My. Gosh.  Lobster tails are AMAZING.

Here’s the deal.  I’m not big on custard filling in stuff. I can’t even make my way through a whole filled doughnut without wanting to yak.  A lobster tail is heavenly.  The pastry is a little flaky and a little chewy with a hint of lemon.  The filling is whipped cream mixed with bavarian cream….so it’s actually lighter and not as rich. You need one of these in your life.  Trust me.  Man. It was unreal.  We of course grabbed a half dozen for Sandy too!

Back on the ol’ Freedom Trail where we finally crossed a bridge to head to the Bunker Hill monument.  It had started to rain on us earlier on the trail, and now it was really starting to come down.  We took refuge for a minute or two in the Bunker Hill museum, then decided to climb the monument.

295 stairs.

You would never know I had just ridden a bike from freaking Alaska to California.  My thighs were hating me!  I was also feeling a little claustrophobic as the stairs wound up and up. Donny beat me by a long shot.  Maybe the wool pea coat was a bad idea.  Lets just say I was um …glowing …by the top.

From the monument we headed over to see Old Ironsides (this is backwards from what the tour map tells you, but whatever. Living on the edge over here…)

Unfortunately Ironsides was closed.  Now it was pouring. Instead of walking back we decided to pay the $1.70 each for the water taxi.  We found the shelter to wait for the taxi and inside met up with another couple who we had been seeing throughout the day.  They were from Puerto Rico, also drenched, and didn’t have cash for the water taxi. We of course helped them out. I love me some do gooding.

It was easy access from the water taxi to the train and soon we were rolling along damp and happy back to Hingham.  Donny was having a  Pho craving so after saying hi to Sandy and Jack and maybe scarfing another Lobster tail…

we headed out to grab some for dinner. 

We also picked Sandy up a nice order of Bun so she can love it as much as I do.

At bedtime we were pretty sad knowing we were saying goodbye to Sandy because she had to head to work before we would be up the next day, but we hoped to see her when we came back through Plymouth to check out the Mayflower.

The next morning we packed up the car, read Sandy’s cute notes to us, and headed out.  I was determined to try Wahlburgers in the name of all of my shameless New Kid loving friends. This vid is the result!

THE RIGHT STUFF

Tractor Fight. Doh.

We woke up from our peaceful sleep in the woods to find that our camp spot was really quite pretty. 

 

Setting up in the dark always feels to be like the big bad woods.  The bathroom that felt far away the night before was super close, and although it sounded like cars were driving right by our tent they were actually a good distance away.  We packed up, snapped a few shots of the lake and headed for Maine.

The drive was pretty, but we couldn’t help picturing how it would be at the peak of fall colors.  Definitely need to be there for that someday.  The mountains are just carpeted with deciduous trees.

It wasn’t long before we crossed into Vermont.  We were on a quiet back country road when up ahead of us we saw a tractor pulling a manure spreader.  It was huge.  Tires taller than I am.

Donny moved out of the lane to pass the tractor and just as he accelerated the tractor began to turn.

Evidently I don’t scream when I’m under duress. I just do this…

Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh.

It happened so slowly and so fast at the same time.  The trailer part of the tractor loomed in front of us like a wall.  Finally, CRUNCH as we were pushed over to the side of the road.

Donny and I were both shaking when we got out of the car to survey the damage.  We were fine, but the impact was strong enough to bounce us out of our seats a little. My hair was over my face and my glasses askew.  He hugged me and apologized, then headed over to talk with the guy driving the tractor.

Tractor guy had called his boss who was at the dairy up the road.  After chatting and exchanging info we figured out that the tractor was totally fine…..thanks giant rubber tires…and that our car was drivable enough to head to the town a few miles away to get it checked out.

The wheel well was bent enough to rub on our right tire so Donny bent it back a bit and we headed on our way.  We made it to town and stopped in at the shop, but the guy there didn’t do any body work.  He and Donny talked and we determined that the car was okay to drive, just minus a headlight.

Donny decided it would be best if we skipped Maine and headed right for Boston so he could really get the car looked at.  I called my Dad’s cousin Sandy and asked if it would be okay if we were a little early. She was wonderful and said of course.

Back on the road and we were pretty tense listening to every little sound the car made.  At one point a turkey flew up out of the ditch on the side of the road and almost right into the front of the car.  Scared the crap out of us.  There were also a lot of great signs that said “Moose Crossing”  we saw how that battle ends with we were in Alaska! No. Thankyou.

The highway we had wanted to take ended up being closed, and as we took an alternate route we realized why.  HOLY cow did they have flooding in Vermont. I remember hearing about it, I think it was the result of Hurricane Irene.  Anyway, we drove through small town after small town, all of them trying to get put back together again.  We saw all kinds of covered bridges in various stages of disrepair, or even just washed up on a hill.  Lots of houses pushed off their foundations, driveways that were washed away by a creek leaving a 5 foot gap between the house and the road.  Crazy! Seemed that the clean up crews were working hard though. Lots of cardboard signs everywhere thanking road crews for all of their time.

Finally the lights of Boston were in sight.  We drove on through the tunnel and out to Hingham where my Dad’s cousin lived. SUCH a darling area! Beautiful old homes, totally historic looking and warm.  Funny signs too that said “Thickly Settled”

Now, I hadn’t actually met my (2nd) cousin Sandy.  My Dad passed away in February, and just after that she sent me a really sweet message on Facebook.  Since then we have checked in with each other to say hello every now and then.  When she learned Donny and I were headed out East she immediately offered to let us crash at her place.

We parked in front of her gorgeous house and rang the bell. 

When she opened the door she was just so darn cute and excited to see us I loved her immediately.  Her sweet son, Jack was doing his homework in the kitchen. We headed in there, started chatting and busted out some red wine.  We met the house kitty, Winnie, who was discovered to be a boy a little later in life.  Winnie is a cool kitty too because he has very special front paws.  When he was declawed it cut off circulation to his paws so they had to amputate them.  He just has tufts of fur where paws used to be, and it’s as if he doesn’t notice. 

He is a loverman and I love him.  Awww Winnie Pants….I mean seriously…

Sandy had a spot in mind for dinner so we headed on out.  We went to a really nice restaurant called Alma Nove

owned by Paul Wahlberg….the brother of Donnie and Marky Mark! HEYYYO!  She insisted on treating us to dinner (WAY TOO NICE OF YOU)

and we had a great time chatting and unwinding from the crazy day.

Across the street from Alma Nove “Wahlburgers” had just opened.  A low key burger joint where Donnie and Marky Mark are partners with their bro.  Can’t get enough of the concept! More on this spot later!

After a long day with a happy ending we snuggled down into our comfy bed.  Resting up to check out Boston!

When In Rome

So, let me plan your next vacation for you.  Go to Toronto, hang, enjoy, and on that vacation take a day to drive out to Niagara Falls.  It’s only an hour from Toronto, and there are a bunch of wineries on the way out there!  I might recommend going to the falls first and hitting the winery on the way back.  Logic here is A) you may not make it to the falls if you do it the other way and B) It wouldn’t be as much fun if you got hammered and took a header off the falls. Safety Sarah in the house.

Donny and I hugged it out with Chris and Rebecca and headed on out to check out Niagara.  We did not stop at any wineries, so you should and let me know how they were!  The falls were of course crawling with tourists.  We didn’t really want to do anything there but look at the falls so we blew by all of the crazy expensive parking lots and found a much cheaper one just past the falls.  We parked and hustled over to make sure we only had to pay for an hour of parking.

Niagara Falls didn’t strike me the way I expected it to.  I was thinking it would be a MAN THAT IS HUGE! kind of a thing, but is was more of a ….THAT IS A LOT OF WATER kind of thing.  I think the falls would look more massive if you could really see the height of them, but about half way down the falls are so misty you can’t really feel the drop.  Still cool though.  Lots of people from all over taking pictures.  Pretty rainbows.

We took in the sight then started busting back to the car. On our way we saw a car with stopping in the middle of traffic….seriously the middle of the road….to drop its passengers off. Now, if you want to do a quick corner drop, fine.  Respectfully hustle and get the heck out of the way.  These 6 or 7 people slooowly climbed out, stretched, moved at a snails pace, right in the middle of the busy road.  #Shameless.

Back at the car and on the road we started making our way to Buffalo.  20 miles later we had crossed the border and were headed to THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE BUFFALO WING, Anchor Bar.

Donny was most excited about this.  I don’t do Buffalo Wings.  Not so much a flavor thing, but I really don’t like gnawing meat off of a bone.  Too up close and personal with tendons and all that mess.  I really waste a lot when I try to eat them.  In comparison, you have never ever seen someone pick a chicken clean like Donny.  A skill learned in Azerbaijan I guess. It’s an art.  I saw him do it back in Whitehorse when someone gave us a rotisserie chicken they couldn’t finish. Crazy, man.

Anchor Bar was hoppin’ and felt a little tourist trap-esque.  Cute, friendly service, typical decor with license plates and articles and famous people pics all over the place.

Unfortunately, Donny was not impressed with the wings.  They were not juicy and meaty, but small and fried in oil that tasted burnt. 

He suffered through them and washed it all down with some cole slaw.  I ended up having spaghetti and meatballs.   Hard to screw up! It was fine and the portions were super huge.

When we left we had a little dilemma.  We had to find a place to watch the Oregon Duck football game AND that place had to be close to a campground. Unfortunately campgrounds were pretty darn scarce in that area.  Finally I said we should just get a cheap hotel.  We would spend at least $30 hanging at a bar, and for an additional $20 we could have a hotel room. AND we had a 30 pack of PBR in the back of the Subaru.

Done and Done.  We found a cheap cheap spot in the middle of nowhere and settled in.  Donny was a pretty happy kid! Ducks Win!

The next morning we headed out and decided to take a scenic route up and along Lake Ontario.  We decided to use our Wiki Offline to see if Rochester New York was known for anything special. Turned out they had a White Hot  It’s a hot dog that hasn’t been cured or smoked, so it doesn’t have the red/brown color.  It’s white.  We decided we had to try it and found a little spot in a tourist town that I’m betting is HOPPING in the summer. Nothing but frozen custard and hot dog stands everywhere!

White Hot review:

Well, we had a White Hot. Check it off the list.  Tasted like a wiener.

We drove the scenic route until we decided it all looked the same and decided to hop off onto the main highway.

Wrong turn?

A few hours later we found ourselves in Rome, New York.

Donny was craving Vietnamese food. Pho to be exact.  Shockingly Rome New York is all Italian. Finally Donny have up on the dream and said "When in Rome."

We decided on a place called Luigi’s, which looked newly opened.  The service was friendly in a my cousin Vinnie kind of way. Nice people, but I wouldn’t want to piss any of them off.

Donny and I both decided on subs. I went for meatball, Donny did Italian sausage.  Marisa Tomei’s older chain smoking sister said

"Have you had these before?"

"No"

"Wait ‘til you see ‘em." She chuckled.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus.  These sandwiches were HUMONGOUS.

Other people in the dining room stared and started laughing when they were set on the table. They were yummy too!  Donny somehow crushed his, and much to my chagrin I powered through most of mine as well.

Borderline comatose we hit the road headed for the Adirondacks and hopefully one of many campgrounds Donny had scouted out along the way.  Campgrounds are a lot easier to find in season, and when it isn’t dark out. After driving in circles a bit and pirating wifi from a small town library we finally happened by the campground.  Closed for the season of course, but it had a porta potty.  It was empty and right on a lake. It was also almost eerily quiet.  No animal sounds, no breeze in the trees.  When we finally snuggled down into the tent we did hear a few cars drive through the site, but we were tucked away enough that it wasn’t really a concern. 

Tomorrow we head for Maine!

Man, you have got to see Toronto!

Ummm…soooo….Toronto is AWESOME. Who knew?  

For starters, Chris and Rebecca live there.  We met these two crazy kids on the bike tour while we were on Vancouver Island.  We all stopped to check out a dude bungee jumping off of a bridge.  The rest is friendship history.

And they feel this way about bacon….

We were clearly meant to be.  I would recommend that you go to Toronto and call them up, but that could be awkward, so let me tell you more about groovy Toronto.

Toronto is a big city with a clean, relaxed feel.  It’s bustling, but friendly and has just about anything you could ever be interested in. It’s extremely culturally diverse.

Donny and I packed up camp and headed to Mickey D’s to hop online to see what was up with Chris and Rebecca.  We figured out that we could all meet up in the evening, so Donny and I headed in to check out the city.

When I went to the website for tourism in Toronto I found that they had this super cool Snowman thing going on.  Basically a bunch of artists created cool snowmen and if you found them, took a picture, and e mailed it in they would donate $2 per pic to a kiddo charity. Pretty cool!  I decided I wanted to stalk all of them down, which would also give us a good little path for checking out different neighborhoods in the city.

We were in Toronto on Veterans Day, which they call Remembrance Day.  After circumnavigating some Remembrance activities we finally found a spot to park and headed out to find snowman #1.

He was supposed to be chillin’ in the Gay Village which is a super cute, eclectic part of town.  We were at the right intersection, but no snowman to be found!  We headed up to where the next snowman we supposed to be, and again no luck!

I was very disappointed.

We decided to walk over to the Parliament Building.  On the way over a little military parade passed us.  When we got there we saw another Remembrance ceremony going on.

After checking that out we decided it was lunch time.  Lots of good little spots nestled all over town, but we got sucked into a Shawarma place called Tummy Time.

Ohhh my gosh ….so delish! We opted for the Shawarma plate with rice and meat and hummus and tahini and veggies.  So freaking good.

After lunch we headed down to St Lawrence Market.

 It’s awesome!  Kind of like a more open Pike Market.  That part of town is a bit older too and has a great feel.

 The Market was full of cheese and meat shops and really just about anything you could want.

From there we decided to cut over to the CN tower which is FREAKING HUGE.  On the way we passed….A SNOWMAN!  Sneaky little guys creeping up when you least expect it….

We also passed the Hockey Hall of Fame.

AND

These guys….

Look familiar?  It’s the Scarecrow and Lion from The Wizard of Oz!  Turns out the show was coming up in town and these guys were filming a commercial for it.  Just when you think Toronto couldn’t get any cooler….

Finally we reached the CN tower.  Honestly, this sucker is so big.  It’s considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world (along with Itaipu Dam on the Brazil/Paraguay border, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Panama Canal, the Chunnel under the English Channel, the North Sea Protection Works off the European coast, and the Empire State Building)


It is 1,815.4 feet tall.  To compare, the Space Needle is only 605 feet high.  We really wanted to go to the top, but it was $35 each so we skipped it.  Amazing from the outside too though!  And guess what else was there?  Another snowman.  BAM!


We wandered back to the car through the Entertainment District, Chinatown, and foofy town (not the technical term, but you know, fancy shops….etc..) we passed the museum which looked awesome and then decided to stop into Canadian Tire to get a bulb for our headlight. This would not be worth mentioning, except that they had an escalator for shopping carts…..and we thought that was way cool.

Okay, you’re clearly not supposed to, but I laugh a little at the thought of someone sending their kid down this thing….

Back to the car and over to Chris and Rebecca’s.  We were so stoked to see them! Rebecca’s dad and brother were in town, so Donny and I had scoped out a campground to stay at.  They laid the smack down and insisted that we stay with them because they are amazing like that.  After a quick glass of wine we all headed out to dinner in Little Ethiopia.

 My first experience with Ethiopian food and it was freaking delish.  I had no idea what I was eating, all veggies of some sort.  All of our food came out on one gigundo platter.

 You don’t use silverware, you eat with this killer spongy sour bread…kind of like a stretchy pancake.

Man. LOVED IT.

We made our way back home and had a lovely evening drinking tea and chatting.  The next morning was beautiful.  We got up and walked through the Polish neighborhood to Chris and Bec’s favorite coffee shop.

 On the way down we passed a sweet Polish woman setting up her grill and sausages on the sidewalk. You KNOW we grabbed one of those on the way back and it was amazing.  The bun specifically was a great touch.  Almost a hard roll, but not quite.  Nice and doughy in the middle. So. Good.

Bec’s Dad had run out and picked up some breakfast goodies so she and Chris set to work in the kitchen and cooked up some fabulous grub.  I’m gonna post the bacon pic here again because it was just that good….

THANK YOU Chris and Becca for being such amazing hosts!  Love you and your city. Can’t wait for Urban Iditarod Toronto. Make the magic happen!

PS….Another super cool thing! You can rent a bike to ride around Toronto for $5 ALL DAY!  BAM!   

Detroit. Sigh.

Up at at ‘em early the next morning.  We were super ready to complete our next food wars challenge, Lafayette Coney Island VS American Coney Island.

I really wanted everything I had heard about downtown Detroit to be grossly overstated. Sadly, it wasn’t.  Driving into the city had such an eerie feeling. SO many empty brick buildings in various stages of disrepair. Once beautiful buildings standing silent.  I was uncomfortable at every red light, and there wasn’t even anyone on the streets.  It was just a weird feeling to sense that a place used to be full of life and was now so vacant.

Very strange.

We found the hot dog places with ease.  They are immediately next door to one another. We parked in a garage and headed out to the empty street.  EMPTY, with the exception of a few. This was around 10 a.m. on a work day.  Made for an uneasy feeling.

We decided to try Lafayette Coney Island first.

As we entered Lafayette Donny and I looked at each other.  It was an old, old diner. Small with nondescript decor except for a wall full of photos of celebrities who had come to try their hot dogs.  The workers who greeted us were unsmilingly friendly.  I mean, I really felt that they wanted us to enjoy ourselves, that they were genuine in wanting to provide us a service, but they were stone faced.  Our food came quickly and when we finished our plates were cleared away in a flash.  It was apparent these people were kind, but seemed absent of joy.  Detroit was quickly bumming me out.

As for the dog, it was good. I mean, it was a chili dog. Donny liked the way the dog snapped.  

Time to head next door to American Coney Island.

If the coney dog challenge were judged completely on ambiance it would be no contest between Lafayette and American.  We were greeted by cheery, ponytailed girls.  The restaurant itself was sparklingly red, white and blue.

 I secretly wanted Lafayette to have a better dog….you know, like hey we don’t have to have cute girls and fancy walls to put out a good hot dog kind of thing….but I have to say, American’s coney dog was better.  The Chili just had a better flavor, and the dog still had the snap that Donny enjoyed.

So, chili dog. Check.

After leaving American Coney Island I really just wanted to get back on the road and out of Detroit. I did, however, want to see the big black fist at  Joe Louis.

Way smaller than I thought. Darn it.

To be fair folks, I know Detroit is trying, and we didn’t get over to where the new stadiums are or anything, so hopefully that area is developing and growing.  I don’t know what it is going to take, but I’m certainly praying for that city to get back on its feet.  

On the road again and mere hours from Toronto.

OH my gosh. WE LOVE TORONTO.

Honestly, going to Toronto from Detroit was like Dorothy stepping out of her sepia toned existence and into OZ.

BUT, you will have to wait until the next blog for our fabulous Toronto stories.  We actually only made it to the burbs just outside of Toronto.  On the drive up we passed through the birthplace of Wayne Gretzky, which is also there place where Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance phone call….(oooh…we LOVE Wiki offline.)

We also got pretty lost trying to find the campground Donny had looked up online. While we were lost we drove through neighborhoods full of some of the biggest houses I have ever seen. It was insane!  We also couldn’t believe the size of the burbs just outside Toronto.  Half a million in one, 700,000 in the other.  Crazy!

Finally FINALLY we found the campground. It was of course closed, but the bathrooms were open.  We went and grabbed dinner at a little strip mall teriyaki place then headed back to set up the tent.

WHOOO nelly it got cold! Definitely the coldest night we had spent camping, bike trip included!  When we woke up in the morning the car and tent were all covered with frost. Thankfully our sleeping bags rock and we did lots of snuggling!

Can’t wait to tell you all about Toronto!  Next time!

Last Day in Chicago, then on to Michigan!

We spent the last of our time in Chicago just chillin’ at the Yeagley house. Donny was still fighting a cold, so while he relaxed Aunt Jeanne and I had some fun whipping up homemade deliciousness.

The first project was a batch of peanut butter chocolate cookies for some neighborhood kiddos with a sick mommy.  Aunt Jeanne puts her engineer brain to work in the kitchen for sure!  She studied hard and found the most divine recipe and then executed to perfection.

MMMMMM…..

Uncle Bob had indicated that he was jonesing for some good homemade pasta, so Aunt Jeanne went through her recipe arsenal and came up with a plan. We would make noodles, a delish light tomato sauce, and some shrimp scampi.  We also attempted the amazing blue cheese bread we had at Pizano’s.

After a quick trip to the grocery store we got crackin’!  Aunt Jeanne was clearly still traumatized from Food Inc.  She waited to buy her meat at Whole Foods where she discovered they actual have color coding for different levels of responsible meat.  Pretty awesome!

I was most excited to learn how to make noodles.  Um. It’s so freaking easy.  Eggs, flour, DONE. AND you get to use a fun pasta crank thingy…. which I must own someday…

Said pasta crank thingy is a bit tricky if the dough isn’t quite right.  After some fail stamp noodles we finally got it right.  Notice the fail stamp noodles on top of this noodle pile…

AND….this was the final smorgasbord! (smorgasbord is a REAL word. Wow. Seems fake.)

Thank you again to the amazing Yeagley fam!  It was the bestest getting to hang with you guys!

And special thanks to Skeeter for being so darn lovable….

The next morning we loaded up the car (with an awesome bag of road trip snacks provided by Aunt Jeanne) and headed off to Michigan.

Our first stop was FAZOLI’S!  

For those of you who don’t know, Fazoli’s is a fast Italian restaurant.  When I lived back in Wisconsin I was in love with their breadsticks and Strawberry Italian Ice.  I felt like a kid on Christmas pulling into the drive thru!  Fazoli’s did not disappoint.  The breadsticks were just as salty and garlicky as ever and I was One. Happy. Wesley.  Fazoli’s…..open a Portland location. I beg of you.

We were trying to connect with some family in Michigan, but timing didn’t quite work out, so we went straight to Ann Arbor where Donny had some Peace Corps pals. It was about a 5 hour drive, but we rolled in just in time to snap some pictures of “The Big House” before dark.

Donny was not impressed. You see, Autzen Stadium sits up on a hill in all of it’s glory like some sort of mecca.  The Big House is dug in, so from the outside it doesn’t have quite the same impact.  It holds over 100,000 people compared to Autzen at around 60,000….but it is pretty clear which venue Donny prefers!

After the Big House we figured out a spot to meet up with Donny’s pals and settled in there for a little happy hour pizza.  After a bit they called and asked if we could meet them at their house near this intersection…

Ahem.  

We headed over and had a great time just hanging out and chatting. Donny and Jenny had a lot to catch up on!  We had scoped out a camp spot in Chelsea, (home of Jiffy muffin mix!)

but Jenny and her hubby Adam offered to let us crash on their futon. Thanks guys!

We also got to meet their cat, “Stacks” so named because he was found at a library.  He looks harmless, but is a kitty ninja.

 As we were getting ready for bed he came trotting into the family room.

"What does he have in his mouth?" I asked.

"Uhhh…that’s a mouse!" laughed Donny.

It was a super tiny mouse, and was not dead!  Stacks was making a game of releasing it, letting it run around, then catching it again! We were all laughing and trying to find a way to get the mouse out of the house.  Finally Donny trapped it under a file box and threw it out the front door.  Poor Stacks continued to sniff around. He couldn’t figure out how the mouse had disappeared!

Finally we hit the sheets….resting up for hot dog warfare tomorrow!

AND big thank you to Jenny and Adam for letting us crash!  We realized we didn’t get a pic with you, so this will have to do :)