July 2014 Archives

in being healthy |


5.11km 39.54min 7.48min/km (12.33min/mi)

I hate this stupid weather, so hot and humid that I’m sweating buckets even though I have the air-con on and even the curtains closed so the sun doesn’t get in. Went over to sis’ place to use the gym. They keep the room pretty cold but I was completely soaked after a while.

Task #39 of 101 in 1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 miles. Task #40 is to walk 1779 miles to mordor. I’ve been tracking progress and so far I’ve done 413 miles in 8 months. The average of 51.6 miles sounds good, except that most were earlier this year. June was 39.5 miles and July was a horrible 31 miles that caused me to fall behind the 1779 target.


In order to keep up I need to average 25 miles per month to meet the 1001 target and 57 to meet the 1779 target. At the back of my mind, I know that once I start training for Chicago marathon 2015 the miles will pile on, but I shouldn’t be complacent.

I just need the weather to cooperate and be less hot. Hate it here. Hate hate hate.

in objects of desire |


My old wallet was falling apart, so badly that it was embarrassing to use it. I thought I had a new one in my drawer but it wasn’t suitable. I went to the department store yesterday and couldn’t find a good one. I told mm and she suggested that I look at brands online and ask her brother to get one for me as he is currently in Paris. Ack, I don’t want a designer wallet, I just want a vertical one with enough slots and a clear compartment for ID and licences.

I had to go out today to get my small camera fixed (more about that in a future post). On the way home I walked through the touristy market and got a fake boss wallet for £10 equivalent. Perfect.

in how the day went |

Normally the night I land I can sleep okay, but that didn’t work. I woke up at 5am after fitfully sleeping for about 4hrs. Knowing better than to toss and turn and getting frustrated, I got up to watch tv and read the book series I’d been reading for the past week.

Met mm for hh. Sometimes we’d have cocktail at this penthouse bar, but we opted instead for the simplicity of red wine. Caught up on gossip and gave her souvenirs — tote bags, magnets and a shot glass from Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. Most souvenirs I got are from the more well known places we visited on our road trip.

Other than that, not much achieved. Finished the entire Kate Delafield series. It’s so good.

in going places |

By the time I got home it was almost 10pm, so most of the day disappeared. Unpacked, showered and went to bed. Can’t really report on a day that felt like it only had 2hrs in it.

in going places |


A partial day today. Left around 12.30pm, Carleen dropped me at O’Hare. No queue at checkin, the lady told me I was the first person to check in on Friday. I’ve been 0004 before, but this is the first time I was 0001. I don’t know if I was distracting her, or she did it on purpose, but she gave me priority luggage tags. Yay! I won’t complain.

Security was quick too. Terminal 5 only has a tiny duty free so I wasn’t tempted. Since I didn’t bother going out to town during the week, I bought a Chicago magnet for mum at the airport.

Plenty of time till boarding so I found myself at the mexican bar. Had a michelada cocktail — lime, hot sauce, corona. Would have preferred more hot sauce and may be some worcester sauce but in general a good drink.

The fligtht was about 80% full, the middle seat was empty and I shared with a frequent flyer businessman — one of the better types of fellow passengers. Lunch was chicken cacciatore, mashed potato and vanilla ice cream. Watched Captain America, which was pretty good, a nice loud action film perfect for a long flight. Then watched a horrendous train wreck called Grand Piano. Not even Elijah Wood or John Cusack could save this, with an unbelievable and frankly stupid storyline and poor performances. Watched part of Walking Dead season 4 and Divergence until we needed to land.

Pork chop and pearl cous cous for the next meal. Instant noodles during the flight too. Don’t like the new practice of serving the second meal in the middle of the flight instead of 2hrs before landing. Difficult to sleep. Didn’t sleep very well, may be 2-3hrs overall. Crossed the international date line, so most of today and tomorrow are lost.

in eating and drinking |


Two meals in two days. First was pork roasted on the bone, rice and broccoli that Carleen’s aunt made as dinner yesterday. Simple, delicious and nutritious home cooking. The meat on the bones in particular was done to perfection, just a smidgen of pink.

The second was chinese takeaway we got today. Unlike in the UK, this was actually a busy, large restaurant that had on its menu chinese, thai and japanese food. We got egg rolls (american for spring rolls), crab rangoon (because I refuse to acknowledge it as food), wonton noodle, fried rice, beef & broccoli, roast pork and pad thai noodles. There was a lot of food, so no worries about going hungry. In terms of authenticity, it’s authentic american food. In terms of taste, it was better than fast food but I think my tastebuds have changed. It helped my hunger but I’m not in any hurry to go for seconds until I’m hungry again.

in in the news |


Saw this sign in the middle of Montana of all places. Had to smile when I saw it, and immediately snapped a pic.

A recent guardian article about the perils of air travel devolved in the comments into small amounts of mud-slinging because the columnist talked about the

9/11 tragedy
and in an earlier version of the article said
simple math
The article, in the comments (ie not news) section, was serious enough. There had been 3 fatal incidents involving airplanes in the past week which may make people regularly travelling, or just about to travel, by air nervous. Basically the message was, it’s still safer to fly than drive and passengers are more likely to choke on one of the peanuts served on planes.

The ruckus from guardian commenters weren’t about the content of the article, the protest was against the americanisation of a British paper. One comment, perhaps in bad taste, asked
what’s the significance of the 9th of November?
to which another commenter answered
Remember, remember the 9th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

No wait… that’s not right.

Another commenter put their point across simply


I’ve been in the US about 1 month now, and it did take me a few days to get used to the, um, uniqueness that is America. The illogical way dates are written, the use of non-metric measurements in daily life, use of other words to describe the same thing (cart vs trolley, cookie vs biscuit etc). I still have to think after someone speaks and before I speak, which sometimes makes me seem like I’m not listening or slow.

At least I’m less petrified of tipping now, because I’ve adopted the practice of stop overthinking tipping and just put down 20 percent.

Anyway, apropos of nothing, via kottke is actor Siobhan Thompson demonstrating 17 different British and Irish accents.

in being healthy |

sundowner02start sundowner03firedept

Sundowner 5k at Joliet. Carleen kindly drove me there and waited till I finished. I was early, so I picked up my packet, pinned my number and checked the rest of the gear. There was time to wander around and queue up for the massage table. Only about 5mins of massage, but it was very good, the therapist found my problem spot on the left right away. A little hungry but there was no food so I drank a couple of small cups of gatorade.

There was a kids’ race before the adult race. 200 yard dash in groups of 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds. So cute.

The adult race started at 7.15pm and by then it was getting dark (hence, sundowner). The course was through a park, the path was uneven and narrow. The majority of people were courteous and aware of others, just one or two runners pushing through the field unnecessarily rudely, we always get those at the start of the race: young men (almost always young men) who were late and trying to sprint up.

Markers were in miles. I got to mile 1 around 12-something and mile 2 around 24-something. I was a little slower in mile 3 and crossed the line when the clock as at 37-something.

sundowner04bug sundowner05loot

This is the first race I’ve participated in that had mosquito repellent, may be because it was through a trail-like course in a park. Queued up for food and drink afterwards: water, beer, doritos, banana, sandwich and cookies. The sandwich was soggy so I threw it away, and I only had about 1/3 cup of beer. They even gave us a small medal.

in outside interests |


Whatsapp with sis:

me: I’ve just been reading for 2 days
sis: you are ok?
me: oh yes quite relaxing
sis: [talk about new noodle shop near her place]

She has a family and household to run but she has never been a big reader anyway. She reads more literary fiction when she does, and the rest of time she reads cook books and books on health & beauty. I don’t think she’s ever spent a whole day doing nothing but reading. Whereas I’ve been reading since Sunday night and don’t have any intention of venturing out unless necessary.

For me, just like having no plans is the perfect plan, doing nothing but reading is the perfect activity.

in evidence of my insanity , outside interests |

Now that we’re back from the road trip and I have a week in chicago I’m catching up on reading. Some random odds and ends on my feedly over the past fortnight.


For most of the trip I was the navigator and had a grand old time looking at the thick pile of AAA maps. Yes, I’d rather play with one of those impossible to refold maps than play with GPS. Since my mind is still on maps, here are 19 US maps that will blow your mind. They are a combination of interesting trivia (19 state names end with a and none end with z) and random animation.


We had trouble a couple of nights finding a hotel because they were all booked with other tourists or for some event. Perhaps next time we’d tow this bike camper with sleeping compartment behind the car. Made by Dutch artist artist Bas Srakel the tricycle is meant for homeless people and urban nomads but could work for roadtrippers without hotel rooms.

We ate far too much fast food but had a few nice meals. Sometimes we’d get bread, cheese and cold meats from the supermarket and make sandwiches. Two people in an SUV meant there was room to pack lots of stuff, including suitcases, soft drinks, food, snacks, stuff for the conference, souvenirs and a cooler. By bbmm travelling standards, Carleen and I packed a lot, but we did not reach the levels required for Victorian camping:

Axe (in cover). Axle-grease. Bacon. Barometer (pocket). Bean-pot. Beans (in bag). Beef (dried). Beeswax. Bible. Blacking and brush. Blankets. Boxes. Bread for lunch. Brogans (oiled). Broom. Butter-dish and cover. Canned goods. Chalk. Cheese. Clothes-brush. Cod-line. Coffee and pot. Comb. Compass. Condensed milk. Cups. Currycomb. Dates. Dippers. Dishes. Dish-towels. Drawers. Dried fruits. Dutch oven. Envelopes. Figs. Firkin. Fishing-tackle. Flour (prepared). Frying-pan. Guide-book. Half-barrel. Halter. Hammer. Hard-bread. Harness (examine!). Hatchet. Haversack. Ink (portable bottle). Knives (sheath, table, pocket and butcher). Lemons. Liniment. Lunch for day or two. Maps. Matches and safe. Marline. Meal (in bag). Meal-bag. Medicines. Milk-can. Molasses. Money (“change”). Monkey-wrench. Mosquito-bar. Mustard and pot. Nails. Neat’s-foot oil. Night-shirt. Oatmeal. Oil-can. Opera-glass. Overcoat. Padlock and key. Pails. Paper. Paper collars. Pens. Pepper. Pickles. Pins. Portfolio. Postage stamps. Postal cards. Rope. Rubber blanket. Rubber coat. Rubber boots. Sail-needle. Salt. Salt fish. Salt pork. Salve. Saw. Shingles (for plates). Shirts. Shoes and strings. Slippers. Soap. Song-book. Spade. Spoons. Stove (utensils in bags). Sugar. Tea. Tents. Tent poles. Tent pins. Tooth-brush. Towels. Twine. Vinegar. Watch and key.


Every year when I leave the conference I get motivated to write and I tell myself to finish LL. This year, I did finish it and I sent it to people for comments. So may be one of these days I don’t have to admonish myself for procrastinating. The whole publishing process is quite daunting and unknown to me. One of the things I want to explore doing myself is the book cover. Here’s something different, vintage book posters that feature books in books. My favourite I also find a little creepy.

iphonepenguin holmeswatson

Book posters don’t appeal? How about 18 quirky literary items available on etsy. I like the Penguin iphone covers and wish they would make the Holmes & Watson earrings into cufflinks.

bowtieperiodic bowtietardis

Speaking of etsy, I also came across speicher bow ties. Several friends like to wear bow ties at the conference, during social events and at the awards ceremony. My favourite is the periodic table one, they also have physics, tardis and star trek bow ties amongst others.

And finally, a SMH funny-but-not-really incident, of appalling tactics by comcast when an ex-customer tried to cancel. Talk about persistent, annoying and condescending. The actual recording is cringe-inducing so for the faint of heart there is also a transcript.

in going places |


google maps mileage: 4510 miles (7258km)
trip meter mileage: 5097 miles (8203km)

states visited: 9 — iowa, nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, washington, montana, south dakota
of which new: 7 — nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, montana, south dakota
days travelled: 19, including 5 days at conference
actual stops: 11

  • lincoln NE: motel 6
  • rock springs WY: best western
  • twin falls ID: days inn
  • pendleton OR: red lion
  • portland OR: red lion (8 nights)
  • spokane WA: quality inn
  • bozeman MT: mountain view inn
  • sheridan WY best western
  • deadwood SD: best western
  • custer SD: americas best value dakota cowboy inn
  • mitchell SD: ramada inn

national parks visited: 5 — antelope island, yellowstone, devils tower, mount rushmore, badlands (crazy horse is private non-profit)
waterfalls seen: 5 — twin falls, shoshone falls, horsetail falls, firehole falls, lower falls yellowstone canyon
animals seen: 18 — elk, moose, bison, bear, prairie dog, mountain lion, arctic wolf, timber wolf, reindeer, big horn sheep, mountain goat, antelope, pronghorn, badger, otter, lynx, coyote, fox (plus birds and farm animals: cow, horse, sheep)
animals walking close to car: 5 — bison (x2), arctic wolf, bear, cow, deer

wineries, distilleries, breweries visited: 5 — hood river wine, eastside distillery whiskey, stone barn brandyworks whiskey & rum, bridgeport beer, prairie berry wine

conference sessions attended: 11
weddings attended: 2

pictures taken: 1846
videos taken: 11
magnets purchased: 16

in going places |


Driving day. I had breakfast at the hotel, mostly since I needed my cup of tea. On the road at 11am. This was the only pic I took, lunch at IHOP. I had berry brioche french toast, hash brown, sausages and scrambled eggs.

We drove from South Dakota through Iowa. I took over driving midway through Iowa. At 8.25pm we finally reached Illinois and back in Blue Island just before 11pm. Overall trip over 5,000 miles.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states. Tasks #31 and 31 ware Wasthington and Alaska respectively, when Mum and I went on the Alaskan cruise. I had to decide which state to use as task #33; on the roadtrip from Chicago to Portland and back I visited 7 new states: nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, montana, south dakota. Nebraska was a drive through, wyoming had yellowstone, utah had salt lake, idaho had twin falls, oregon had portland, montana had part of yellowstone and an interesting prison museum. I decided on south dakota, the last new state, because of: a) it’s a state I’d never expected to have the opportunity to visit and b) there were so many things to see.

Trip posts: deadwood and crazy horse, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands | flickr sets: deadwood, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands

We stayed in a motel straight out of the 1950s called dakota cowboy inn:


ate buffalo steak:


visited Deadwood, a wild west gold rush town with a dubious history, which it tries to maintain today:


got a rock from the crazy horse mountain, knowing that the monument won’t be completed in our lifetime:


suitably awed by the mount rushmore national monument:


drove amongst bears at bear country:


and entered an alien landscape at badlands national park:


in going places |


Quick breakfast at hotel: half a waffle and a little eggs. Short drive to Mount Rushmore. At the crazy horse monument yesterday, they superimposed all 4 presidents onto the head of crazy horse, to show how large it is. I’d also read that people found mount rushmore to be smaller than expected. Wrong. I found the sculptures of the presidents very impressive. They were visible already from the car park and there was the grand viewing terrace which brought us very close to the sculpture. They also had one of the best gift shops of this trip, souvenirs weren’t as tacky as some places, there were lots of varieties (over 10 types of magnets) and quite reasonably priced too. I bought a baseball for gis, shot glasses, magnets and 10 tote bags ($2.99 each) for gifts.


On the way to the highway we passed by bear country usa, a small safari park. They had deers, goats, reindeers, an arctic fox, mountain lions and lots of bears. The drive around the park was slow as they were busy, this gave us lots of photo opportunities. At the end of the drive they had a small enclosure area with baby bears and other small animals like fox, otter. Most were asleep in the hot midday sun.


A short ways along the highway was badlands national park. Terrific landscape. We’d be driving along flat farmland and then in the park there were cliffs and ravines and canyons formed from clay and mineral deposits. It was extremely hot, desert weather and the haziness made the entire place seem like an alien landscape. We stopped at almost all the viewpoints along the 24-mile loop around the park, I jumped out and took pictures with our cameras.

And then my s110 developed lens error. Argh!!! Luckily I had the big camera with me, and it was towards the end of our trip.

We drove on until around 9pm and stopped at Mitchell. Most hotels were full, probably due to a rodeo or event in town. We managed to get the last room at the ramada inn. Dinner was takeaway pizza. There was no internet and we had problems with the front desk guy so I gave up and went to bed.

in going places |

trip06boothill trip07boothill

We checked out of our western style hotel early and drove a short distance to mount moriah cemetery. $1 admission. The cemetery dated back to the days of the wild west and was where characters like WIld Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Preacher Smith were buried. There was also a spot where the US flag flew day and night and a good view of the town of Deadwood.

trip08museum76 trip09museum76

Drove to the other end of the town to the days of 76 museum. There were exhibits of early wild west days, parade, rodeo, native american artefacts, a trading post replica and a room full of stagecoaches. Outside the museum marked the spot where supposedly the first gold was found. We drove around the historic main street to take pictures of the buildings, then we were off.

trip10winery trip11winery

Next stop was prairie berry winery. Free tasting of 5 wines, I tried their fruity whites and reds. Bought their signature red ass rhubarb, made from 90% rhubarb and 10% raspberry to temper the acidity. Really great, smooth fruity red.

trip12crazyhorse trip13crazyhorse

The destination today was the crazy horse memorial. I’d vaguely heard of it before and didn’t realise how significant the site is. The sculpture of chief crazy horse was begun in the 1940s and even today there is a long way to go to completion. The fact that it’s a work in progress adds to the atmosphere. Lots of useful educational information and a show too.

We found our hotel at Custer, more a motel straight from the 1950s that was quite charming in an old fashioned way. Hadn’t eaten all day so we headed to the nearby cattleman steakhouse where we had buffalo sirloin. We thought it was a fitting revenge on the buffalo encounters at yellowstone.

We relaxed for a bit back at the hotel, then headed out at 8pm back to crazy horse monument to see the light show. With our ticket earlier we got a return ticket so it was free. The guide at the information booth also advised us to park at the upper car park and he was right. We got a perfect head-on view of the monument from the car. We set up cameras and camcorders and tripods inside the car and waited till the show started. It lasted about half an hour of laser show with sound effect. Very cool.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , eating and drinking , going places |

sd121winery sd127winery

Task #63 of 101 in 1001 is to go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting. This was at prairie berry winery located between deadwood and custer in south dakota.

The first sign for the winery was a large poster of a red donkey, words that said “red ass rhubarb wine” and encouragements to turn here. The large main room served as a combination of shop, caf&233; and two long bars facilitated tasting. By no means a sit down tasting, each visitor could taste 5 small samples free of charge.


I was given a form to indicate my choice of 5. There were three main types and the prices were also helpfully included:

  • crab apple — semi-dry white with a tart aftertaste, good clean finish
  • gold digger — made from 100% pear, quite sweet like riesling or gewurtztraminer I bought one as a gift and was lucky enough to taste it when she opened it
  • buffaloberry fusion — dry white, like chenin blanc, my least favourite
  • chokeberry medley — red, from chokeberry with some elderflower to combat the bitterness, but I could still taste the fruit’s skin
  • red ass rhubarb — 90% rhubarb with 10% raspberry, the winery’s most popular wine and it isn’t just because of the catchy name, it really is very good, I bought a bottle to try with mm

in going places |


An easy day. Woke up after 9am, had breakfast and left the hotel at 11am. Still had a headache throughout the day due to late night, but it’s okay.

The target today was Devils Tower National Monument. The 856 ft high tower is made of magnum and the columns of rock are very distinctive. The tower is also recognisable from close encounters of the third kind. No aliens or mothership were seen though. There are several trails around the tower area, I scrambled up to the bottom of the rock pile, up to the point that climbing wasn’t allowed without permission. It is possible to climb the tower, with permission from the park rangers.


Within the national park was a small area where prairie dogs roamed. People could get really close to them, they were probably so used to people and cars. Quite cute.

We visited the gift shop and headed to nearby Sundance for a looksee. Nothing much to see there so we headed to our overnight stop of Deadwood. After last night’s experience we made reservations this morning. Good thing, the hotel was fully booked. Dinner at the hotel diner-restaurant. I had steak tips — deep fried tips of tenderloin. First time I tried deep fried steak, quite juicy but I don’t think it’s too healthy. Finished with apple pie and ice cream that was very good.

We reached the hotel by 5pm and by 8pm we’d finished dinner. There was time for laundry and to sort through some of the trip pics.

in going places |

Since we decided to go to Yellowstone National Park, we set off early from Bozeman. Ran a few errands first — oil change for car, staples, shopping for sandwiches, mcdonalds breakfast. The drive to the west entrance of YNP was through trees and valleys. We passed by Big Sky where I got a map and some helpful hints from the staff at the information center.


Fee for YNP was $25 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. What a bargain. We followed an anti-clockwise loop, first stop was Madison (9 o’clock) and photo op at Madison river, then a small detour to Firehole Falls. That set the tone for the rest of our visit.


Next on the loop was the geyser area. The first few geysers were too crowded, no parking available. We were able to find parking at biscuit basin. The colours were spectacular there, with 3 small blue pools of the clearest blue colour, the water flowed to yellow and orange and brown caused by sulphur.


One of the highlights in YNP was Old Faithful geyser. By the time we reached there it was 2.30pm. The car park was completely full. I jumped out and joined the hundreds of people sitting around the area waiting. Within 5-10mins someone shouted “it’s starting” and true enough, the geyser blew a high pillar of steam into the sky. Everyone scrambled for their cameras. After the show, which lasted about 5mins, we went into the shop. At the back of the cashier was a notice that said they predicted the geyser will blow +/- 10mins of 2.50pm, so we were just in time.


It was around 4pm when we stopped a picnic table at pumice point along the shore of the yellowstone river for a late lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. It was so quiet and peaceful there, just watching the lake and then a lone fisherman came by casting his line.


After the lake we headed to fishing bridge but didn’t stop. The next stop was at mud volcano and the oddly mesmerising dragon mouth. A huge mass of steam blew out from a cave as a result of volcanic activity inside. The combination of water waves and steam made a roaring sound that was like the roar of a dragon.


The destination was canyon village and a short ways along the south rim drive were views of the canyon and the lower falls. The red colours of the canyon walls were also quite spectacular.


By that time we knew we had to head out of the park. We drove through some treacherous narrow steep roads and descended into the lamar valley. Pretty sunset views of the valley and wildflowers.


We saw wild animals in the park. An elk, a bear and several herds of bison. We had a bison cross the road in front of the car and another bison walking along the middle yellow line towards our car. They were so close we could have reached out and touched them.

We left the park at almost 9pm. Drove through some difficult roads to reach Cody. The bad news was there there were absolutely no hotel rooms at Cody. Desperate times called for desperate means. We continued driving another 130 miles and made it to Sheridan at 3am. Thankfully the Best Western had vacancies. I showered, downloaded pictures and was in bed around 3.45am. Thank you to Carleen for driving all day in the park, and then driving the long dark route to Sheridan.

in going places |


Left fairly early and was at Staples to print out flat versions of our friends to take with us on the road trip.

Only about 1hr to the state line at Idaho. Stopped at Coeur d’Alene to: a) wash car and b) visit the very beautiful Coeur d’Alene lake. Stunning scenery, a marina, water sports including parasailing and float planes. Quite touristy and I can see why.

Continued on the I-90 and entered a new state, Montana, around mid-morning. The clock changed back to Mountain time so by the time we stopped for lunch it was past 1.30pm. Stopped at a small travelcenter complex at St Regis and had lunch at a small diner type restaurant. I had deep fried prawns, peas and rice. At the shop next door I got huckleberry ice cream, yummydelicious.


The scenery changed from desert like in Norhern Washington to more mountaneous with thick forest in Idaho to flat with rolling hills in Montana. Not many big towns, mostly small villages and communities. Farming for the most part. A very pleasant drive indeed. Even the weather was ever changing. We started the day with hot weather around 30°C, then it cooled to warm 20s. At times there were isolated heavy rain and I saw lightning at another patch of rain some ways away. Sunset was late, almost 9pm.

Dinner at IHOP, I had chicken and spinach crepe. After studying our stack of maps we decided that it was feasible to detour to Yellowstone national park tomorrow. So very excited about this opportunity. Have to get our cameras ready.

By the time we finished dinner it was getting later than usual. We were at Bozeman MT, which had a lot of shops and hotels. As usual we went to the hotel to get a room but for some reason everything was fully booked! Finally the nice receptionist at a Residence Inn called another place nearby and got us the last room available. Relieved.

in going places |


Loaded the car and had a late breakfast with friends who were still at the conferene hotel. It was around noon when we started out on our return trip. This time we will take a more northerly route. The instructions from AAA took us to a scenic route in the mountain roads north of the columbia river. We crossed back to the I-84 via the bridge of the gods ($1 toll). We went through Oregon and to Washington state, from forests to desert.

Around mid-afternoon we started looking at the map to see where we might stop for the night and Spokane was at the right spot. Found a Quality Inn by the highway and checked in quickly. They had an in-house restaurant so we just ordered a pizza from them.

in going places , how the day went |


The last day of the conference is pretty much wrap up by the exec director, brunch (bacon, eggs, muffin) and lots of hugging. Sad that I won’t see my friends for another year, but happy to have the opportunity to see them at all.

I did do something I’ve never done before, and likely never have the opportunitty to again. I was invited to two weddings!

The first one was at the hotel deck. The couple were both in white and the ceremony officiated by a great, great friend of everyone. It was lovely and warm and I could see the emotions clearly on the face of the couple. People cried good tears and I felt honoured to have attended. I don’t know the couple very well, a friend of theirs asked if I could help take pictures at the last minute.

The second wedding I had been invited to earlier, also to help take pictures. It was again, full of love, emotion, warmth and happiness. It was indoors, at a chapel across the way at Vancouver WA. Many family and friends attended, as did a group of us from the writing community.

A beautiful and very thoughtful ceremony. The couple (and their son) poured coloured sand, exchanged lighted candles and were bonded by a series of rainbow ribbons. So symbolic. We stayed for the reception, the dance and even got to try the wedding cake. Great day.

in going places |


Lots of running around getting the award presentation done. First thing in the morning checking projection connection, then with the team to go through the presentation one last time.

Attended 2 sessions: one with food with writing and the second one the annual panel with new writers and their journey towards publication.

More awards meeting and by the time we broke off we had just over 30mins to get something to eat, have a shower and changed. A little bit disappointed at the lack of time and everyone else (including those in charge) seemed to have just gone off for their own happy dinner whilst abandoning the awards team. I mean, we also needed to eat and we had no time. I only had time to pop into taco bell across the road to get a burrito which I had to literally shove down my mouth.

The tech desk was at the back of the ballroom where the awards were to be held. I was nervous and stressed because the slide order had to be spot on. 237 slides total. I also had to be careful I didn’t hit the arrow button too early especially when the winners were announced. By the time the ceremony was finished I was knackered. I stayed to congratulate people and to watch a couple of dances. Needed quiet time.

in going places |

Attended two two-part master classes today. One on historical fiction research and one on what to include in a good manuscript. The historical fiction one included a hands-on exercise where we were split into small groups, given a scenario and told to research and write a passage. It was fun and I think my group did really well. Then again we had 3 editors who write, and a writer…and me.

Today was also special speaker day and our special speaker was Ann Bannon, a true pioneer and an icon.

port14wedge port15scallop

Lunch was chicken sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. Dinner was at bj’s brewpub. Had a red jeremiah (quite dark but not hoppy), wedge salad and for mains seared scallop with rice and asparagus.

Evening activity was karaoke. Mainly sat around chatting and drinking the wine I got from Mt Hood winery out of a coffee paper cup. Took part in the annual “I feel pretty” group sing in honour of a lost sister. Stayed quite late.

in going places |

The conference proper started today. A welcome from the exec director then it was to sessions. I went to one called “I wish I’d written that” followed by one about different mystery genres. I learned the difference between cozy (American spelling) and hard-boiled mysteries and which one contains knitting. Lunch was roast beef sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. After lunch it was the members’ meeting followed by a well attended panel with several illustrious editors.


At the members’ meeting they were giving out awards and certificates for volunteers and I was honoured to be one of the recipients of an award.

Didn’t go to the next session. My friend, editor P, gave me some great advice about LL. I did manage to catch the board meeting and by then it was past 6pm.


A and I went to dinner at the nearby boomers barbeque restaurant. Between the two of us, we ordered ribs, beef brisket, pulled chicken, pork loin and hot links. I had a beer and sides of corn and coleslaw. I liked the ribs and brisket best. $45 total with tips.

in going places |

Couldn’t sleep last night until 5am, so didn’t wake up till 9.30am. Finished some work then hung around the vendor area helping a little with set up. Lots of volunteers completed the task quickly.


Spent the afternoon watching Holland vs Argentina world cup semi-finals. Disappointing result for us, as Argentina won on penalties. Ah well.

My stomach wasn’t feeling well, A and I went to Safeway and got some soup. Then it was time for the Meet and Greet at the vendor room. Not much to do, said hello to more people. Early escape back to the room to watch tv.

in going places |

port09street port10max
port11bridge port12museum

My friend A and I went into Portland today. The hotel shuttle took us to the light rail station and it was straightforward to Pioneer Square. We walked around, went to Powell’s for a little while then walked to the waterfront park. Pretty park and good view of the bridges.

Opposite the waterfront park we rented bikes for the remainder of the afternoon so we could take in more of the city. I was a little nervous as I’m not used to cycling around city streets but by and large it was okay and drivers in Portland tended to respect cyclists more than in other parts of the world (ahem, London).

We explored a few food cart areas and ended up at the same pod I was at yesterday. I thought about Ethiopian but I was hungry so I had a grilled cheese sandwich with 4 cheeses. Very rich, very stodgy, way too fattening. Plus I had it with a vietnamese condensed milk iced tea.

With all the calories I needed to cycling exercise. Went south all the way to Portland State University, stopped at a frozen yogurt place then headed back to the waterfront.

The hotel shuttle came back to pick us up, then I was at meetings. Didn’t get to eat dinner which made me cranky. One of my friends gave me cheese, whiskey and wine and I felt a bit better.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

port077foodcart port073foodcart

Tasks #69-73 are to visit 5 new restaurants in 5 cities. This is 3 of 5, and instead of the traditional concept of a restaurant, I’m stretching the definition to include food carts in Portland because eating at food carts is a very Portland thing to do, with over 600 operating in the city.

The dictionary definition of restaurant is an:

establishment where refreshments or meals are served to paying guests

or quite simply:

a place where you can buy and eat a meal

Honestly, if Mcdonald’s is a restaurant, the far superior quality of food served at any of the portland food carts qualifies them as a restaurant. A group of food carts is called a pod and I visited a couple of them during my visit.

Visiting the food carts was definitely a too-many-choices situation. I was tempted by hawaiian, ethiopian, vegetarian, middle eastern, mexican, american barbeque and many others. Not tempted by the korean, chinese and japanese carts though.

port085lunch port187lunch

Visited on 2 consecutive days. The first day I had dumplings, stuffed flatbread and salad from a georgian cart, the second day I was really hungry and went for a 4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich washed down with a vietnamese iced tea.

in going places |

My friends M and C picked me up from the hotel in the morning; they moved to Vancouver WA, just across the river from Portland and I hadn’t seen them in years and years. We hung out at their house for a while, catching up.

port01foodcart port02suprameal

They took me to lunch at the food carts, street food is distinctively Portland—there are over 500 food carts all over the city. At this spot, carts are lined up along 4 sides of a square and there was a great selection to choose from: japanese, thai, vietnamese, indian, mexican, mediterranean, kebab, hawaiian, sausages, waffles. Originally I wanted to try the ethiopian truck but at the end I decided on the one offering georgian food. I’d never tried food from georgia, and it turned out to be typically eastern european. I had the combo plate — eggplant roll, mushroom dumplings, cheese flatbread, bean-stuffed bread, tomato salad. Very nice, the meatless option felt healthy.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks to Powell’s, one of the largest bookstores in the country. It was big. Bookshelves filled with all sorts of books in different sections they called rooms. I took a quick tour around most of the rooms, then settled at the cookery and food section. Lots of selection.

port03disteastside port04diststone

After Powell’s we did some tastings around distillery row. First stop at eastside distilling where we tried potato vodka, spiced rum, marionberry bourbon, cherry bourbon and their premium double barrel bourbon. I really liked their double barrel bourbon but at $55 was too expensive for a bourbon.

The second tasting was at stone barn brandyworks, the smallest distillery in Portland and located at a small warehouse unit in a commercial block. The very friendly and knowledgable person there generously let us sample straight rye (clear, very strong), oaked rye, spelt whiskey, grappa and various fruit liqueurs including rhubarb, quince, apricot. I did buy a bottle of the quince liqueur, it was very special and I couldn’t resist.

port05rose port06rose

Took a break from the alcohol and visited the rose garden. It is a test garden where different species of roses are cultivated. Very pretty, and we were just in time to catch the blooms.

port07bridgebeer port08bridgesalad

Early dinner at bridgeport brew pub. I had a strong (9.2%) but delicious old knucklehead ale, a much needed spinach & salad and hummous. Everything was yummy. My friends were telling me about their adventures, in particularly going hiking and travelling around this part of the country. So wish I could live here. I already know I love Seattle, and now I can add Portland to the list.

Back at the hotel, I was just in time to help out with unloading conference materials. Joined a couple of people for dinner, only had salad. Without intending it, I ended up with an all vegetarian day. Well, vegetarian plus lots of whisky and beer day. Went running on the treadmill for 5k to compensate for the beer.

in going places |


Early morning set off, breakfast on the way. The landscape started as dry and rolling hills but once we hit the columbia river gorge it turned totally gorgeous. Stopped at the first viewpoint next to the highway to take pictures. It was hot and sunny but with a nice breeze.

Made a stop at the columbia river gorge discovery center to get information about where to go in the local area. The girls there suggested that we took a drive along the fruit loop, a 35-mile circuit that takes in farms, pyo fruit farms and wineries. An awesome experience, if I were with mm, we would have spent the entire day there wine tasting and going to pyo farms. It’s cherry season and the cherry trees were bursting with fruit, both the regular dark kind and the delicious rainier cherries. I bought a bag, I couldn’t resist.


I was able to go to one winery, the aptly named mt hood winery which was indeed at the foot of mt hood. Tried 5 wines for $5, ranging from a sharp pinot noir, an even more sharp zinfindel, a nice blend, a granache and a pretty decent syrah.

Next stop was the waterfalls area, one of the biggest attractions of the gorge. Unfortunately we only saw one waterfall, the horsetail falls. Too much traffic in narrow roads prevented further exploration. A bit disappointing.


Drove onto Portland and reached the hotel just after 2pm. Rooms were ready so we unloaded. I unpacked a little, then took a break. Dinner was at joe’s crab shack. I had a mixed pot of snow, queen and king crabs. Plus a beer.

The end of the first part of our road trip. Something like 2,500 miles.

in going places |

Breakfast included at the hotel. I had half a waffle, half a slice of toast and half pot of yogurt. Tried their tea but had to give up and switch to PG.

It was a good decision to stay overnight at Twin Falls, because there are several things to see around the town. Just off the main road was a scenic viewpoint overlooking the snake river canyon. Awesome gorge, right there by the road.


It got better. A few miles beyond town was the Twin Falls Hydroelectric project. The grounds near the plant was open to the public; the view of the gorge, the lake, the dam and small waterfall was breathtaking.


And we weren’t finished. Within the same Snake River canyon area was the Shoshone Falls. Its brochure describes it as the Niagara of the West and at 212 feet high, it’s actually 45 feet taller than Niagara. Not as wide though. The viewing platforms were close to the carpark and gave spectacular views of the falls and also back towards the gorge. There was also a double rainbow when we were there. When we exited the state park, there was a queue of cars waiting to get in, so our timing was perfect.


After a quick lunch at IHOP back at Twin Falls, it was time to continue on our way. The landscape was still flat, mainly farmland or grazing land. We could see mountains in the distance. As we drove closer to Oregon, the landscape changed and it became more desert-like. The flatness gave way to hills and valleys.


The elevation increased and we found ourselves driving close to 9,000 feet mountains on both sides. Beyond the mountains was a national forest, the landscape changed yet again to trees.

Overnight stop at the Red Lion at Pendleton. Dinner at the hotel restaurant, watched the replay of Holland vs Costa Rica quarter-finals, had nachos, prime rib and a beer. Stomach wasn’t feeling too wall, a bit bloated. Food was good but service was extremely slow. Relieved to be finally in our room and showered.

After 4 days of travelling, we are just over 200 miles from Portland.

in going places |

Leisurely wake up, had breakfast in the hotel: cheerios, pancake, sausage and tea that tasted okay at first but wasn’t very good after a bit. Asked for directions to car wash, the automatic one was closed so had to use the manual one.


Continued on our way acoss Wyoming. The landscape was pretty, the flat farmlands gave way to cliff-like rock formations. The weather was gorgeous, blue skies almost all the way.


Since we were ahead of schedule, we decided to detour to Salt Lake City. The main attraction was Temple Square, and we were able to find a parking space close to the entrance. The visitors centers and the Tabernacle were open, but none of the other buildings were. Took pictures of the main temple and other buildings on the grounds. Grand buildings and a very neat site.


Stopped long enough at the state capitol to take a picture, then drove out of town to look for the Great Salt Lake. Got directions at a petrol station for antelope island. $10 entrance fee per vehicle to the state park was totally worth it. The island is the largest island on the lake and accessible via a narrow causeway. It was hot and the effect of the heat and may be salt made the road seem like it was shimmering. Apparently there are bisons, pronghorn antelopes, bighorn sheep and many other animals but we didn’t see any. Stopped at various points to take pictures, some of the pictures turned out to be like paintings, the scenery was so pretty.

Continued on our way and entered Idaho late afternoon. The landscape changed again, from small mountains to wide expense of land that could only be described as vast. There were few buildings and built up areas. We had a little adventure when we almost ran out of petrol before finding a station. All was well though.

Overnight stop at Twin Falls. Had a nice steak and seafood dinner, saw some fireworks on TV.

in going places |

Leisurely start today, I was a bit bummed that they didn’t have hot water for me to make tea but it’s not a big deal. We were on our way around 9am. Drove for a bit then stopped for petrol and Wendy’s. I had a bacon burger and a few fries. The big cup of coke zero lasted me the rest of the day.


We took a quick stop at the great platte river road archway near kearney, still in nebraska. It’s a big arch that spans across the road, may be there’s a museum inside, not sure as we didn’t go in, just took a few pictures in the vicinity.

More than 300 miles of Nebraska. Not a lot to see along the highway, just farmland and more farmland. Very flat. Pretty though. At one point we drove past a cattle facility and the smell was quite overwhelming. All the “fun” of travelling.


Sometime in the afternoon we entered Wyoming. Yay, another new state. The landscape was similar to Nebraska with lot of flat farmland. Gradually it became more brown as crops and grass gave way to rock and clay. The elevation was higher and there were hills and rock formations as we travelled west.


Another quick stop when we came across the lincoln memorial along the highway. Very impressive bust of Lincoln sitting on a pedestal looking out to the road. It was also quite nice to sit out in the open for a few minutes, it was hot but not muggy, with a comfortable breeze. A few people asked me to take their pictures on their smartphones, I tend to get asked that a lot, hmm.

We stopped for the night at 7.30pm when we reached Rock Springs. Got our room, got settled and was very happy to see that the hotel restaurant had a take-away menu. Prime rib with salad, potatoes and vegetables. Took it back to enjoy in our room, and a beer too. Very nice.

Total driven over 9hrs and 700+ miles.

in going places |


Woke up around 7am. Took it easy, I was pretty much packed except for last minute stuff. Made sandwiches, took out the rubbish and loaded the car. Set off around 10.20am.

I spent the day being a grateful passenger, Carleen did all the hard work. I just sat there occasionally getting drinks or sandwiches. We stopped at an outlet, I bought a pair of socks because the pair I was wearing was worn out. Stopped for petrol twice as we drove all the way across Iowa. Entered Nebraska in the evening, stopped at a motel 6 at Lincoln after driving around 500 miles in 9 hrs. Good driving. I can add another state to my US states visited map.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel, I had a nice rainbow trout with 3 sides. Then back to our room to battle the slow internet, watch tv, relax.

in going places |


Mostly stayed inside today, apart from going out to lunch. The bad storm (and tornado warning) last night appeared to have taken down power in several places, an entire strip mall was without power, including the place we wanted to go for lunch. The petrol stations and supermarkets were open, may be they have their own back up generators.

Finished making the last of the pound cakes. Final count 47 small, 11 medium and 2 large, 8 flavours.

Final packing tomorrow morning. Make sandwiches, pack toiletries and the like. It’s hard sometimes for me to fully realise how large America is, our trip is 2/3 across the country and is 2,100 miles. Two thousand miles. To put things in terms that I recognise, Land’s End to John O’Groats is 874 miles. From London to Rome is 1,200 miles and from Edinburgh to Istanbul is 2,300 miles. We’re going to drive the same distance across Europe. Gulp.


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