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Photos uploaded!

Well, February of 2011 is coming to a close and we’re mostly settled in our new/old Seattle surroundings. It’s hard to believe that 8 weeks have passed since we returned. It is good to be back in Seattle, we’ve been making the social rounds and it’s been great to reconnect with our beloved Seattle friends and family. (If we haven’t seen you yet, get in touch we need to hang!)

This is the part where I was expecting to reflect on the trip and wax eloquently about my experiences, but quite frankly I haven’t really had the time. Yes indeed, it took some hustling at the end. That exact kind of busy non-stop lifestyle that made me frazzled enough to quit my job and take a 6-month road trip was required to get us back out west from Chicago on December 25th, to Lexington on the 26th, through insane snowstorms, into a previously unseen apartment, and reporting for duty at the new job by January 3rd. I may be daft at times, but not so daft that I didn’t learn a thing or two and life has now slowed down to something I can actually manage and enjoy.

Perhaps we can reflect next to a warm fire and ruse upon the finer points our unique expedition over a snifter of brandy at some future juncture.

Yeah, we are aware that our regular updates basically fell off around October, except for those few occasions when Jenn was good enough to post something. In my defense, I was under the impression that people were following the flickr updates. I might not be writing, I thought, but I’m letting the photo updates speak for us. In the immortal words of Mr Kenneth Richings, “WRONG, MCCOY!!!”, as I learned from various friends who asked when they could see the photos. So apparently not everyone saw them, but most of them have been up there for a while. The rest of mine were updated today. If Jenn is okay with it, I’ll post hers up there as well soon. The blog hasn’t been completely without activity, I get about 10 comment spams a week. We must be well indexed somewhere for the bots to keep finding us.

Just so there’s no missing them, all the sets are listed below.

All of the photos are contained in one large set. Most of them are also contained in one of a dozen or so sub-sets that are labelled by location for convenience. There are some loose pics that aren’t in any sub-sets, only in the main set.

roadstumble.com main set

Badlands

Wild Horse Monument

Going to the Sun Road

Kimball, SD

Cincinnati

Shedd Aquarium

Cleveland Zoo

Art Institute of Chicago

Washington DC

Cozumel Fun

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Cuba

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Random Phone Pics

Oh that’s right, we have a blog.

Sorry that the updates have basically crawled to a halt about, oh… 3 months ago. Fortunately, Jenn has been keeping the cobwebs off this thing.

Some field recordings for your hungry ears. These are not the best recordings, there are some wind artifacts and some yapping people to contend with, but hopefully you get the idea:

Beachside at the Hotel Na Balam in Isla Mujeres. I’m surprised this turned out at all because it was so windy that evening.

An audio installation near the water fountain in the yard of the excellent Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh.

A band called Chocolate Caliente played often in a gorgeous old Havana square called Plaza Catedral. After the second session, it was quickly realized how touristy they were, but it was still nice to sit and listen while drinking a beer.*

The sounds of these shouting men is not a revolution brewing. It’s the Esquina Caliente, a corner of a lovely park in Havana where men gather and argue non-stop about baseball.*

* Or so I am told by my Canadian friend who went there.

foux du fafa



foux du fafa, originally uploaded by squeezbox.

Fabiane’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC is where the Flight of the Conchords’ hilarious ‘foux du fafa’ sketch starts.

It’s all so very apropos because our entire Montreal experience has been a continuous ‘foux de fafa’ moment, running around this amazing town, trying to communicate using only the most basic of French words and phrases.

Montreal is a fantastic blend of English and French, North American with European flair. Lots of very fashionable people riding their European-style bikes along streets with the same kinds of cars you’d find in the US. Shops, bars, restaurants, galleries in every direction for blocks and blocks. Bike lanes everywhere. We rode all over the place. It has become the new high watermark for this journey. We loved it so much, we stayed on for 2 more days.

I’ll go ahead and create a new stereotype. All Canadians are super friendly (unless you’re on the Hockey rink, but that’s different). I guess the culture is becoming more English-friendly than it has been in the past. The French speakers happily switch to English and no one gives you attitude about anything. If you’ve been to Europe during the Bush years, you know what I’m talking about. We’re lucky and grateful for that. A woman at a dress shop called and set up a salon appointment for Jenn. A shoe salesman turned us on to a great coffee shop, a Peruvian sandwich shop, a smoked meat shop and a bagel shop, and gave us the lowdown of the area. We didn’t buy anything from them, they just like tourists and are happy to show people around.

In the meantime:

East Coast Loop, part 1

Okay I am even further behind Jenn on posting. One would think there would be scads of down time on such a long trip but, but really there hasn’t been. There have been so many great little episodes since we left Chicago on September 6th. Another night in Cleveland with the attorney (but not quite the Gonzo-esque night as we had in Chicago), then on to Pittsburgh, as Jenn mentioned, before making our way to Washington, DC.

Washington DC was amazing. I had been there twice before, but I never did any of the touristy/Capitol stuff. The highlight for me was seeing the entire mall area on bicycle. We put the car, heretofore known as The Spectacle, in the driveway of our airbnb.com hosts, and got around via bike and subway. On a bike you can get from one end of the mall to the other in about 10 minutes, walking it would have taken forever. DC is super bike friendly.

DC’s metro system lived up to its reputation – clean and efficient, and they’re pretty adamant about keeping it clean and orderly. Leaving the zoo, we were denied access to the subway due to rush hour restrictions, but we came across Rock Creek Park Trail. The paved trail easily got us back to the mall area and offered views of some very green parts of the city. Jenn rode like a champ.

Bridge over the Rock Creek Park Trail, Washington, DC

In keeping with the reconnection/past roots theme, I saw my Aunt Marian and my cousins, who live in south Jersey. I called Marian more or less out the blue in Pittsburgh and asked if she was up for a visit. The result was a warm house with delicious dinner and a great visit with a huge group of my cousins and their families. Laurie and her husband Dale were gracious enough to put us up for the night as well. I think it may have been 15 years since I saw any of them, and we will make sure to keep in better touch going forward. reconnected with NJ relatives

After the partial Herrero reunion (there are many of them, I think we did good getting so many of them in the same place), we scooted up to North Jersey and dropped the car off in the driveway of none other than Mr. Rob Krautheim, who dubbed our vehicle “A Spectacle”. He’s not wrong. Graciously and enthusiastically, Rob and his wife Michelle let us leave The Spectacle in their driveway, and after getting to meet their daughters Alex and Eva, we took the train into NYC for a few days. We had an excellent night with Rob at the Gingerman in
Manhattan, reminiscing and enjoying quite a bit of quality beer. On the return trip back to Jersey, we got pizza and subs for lunch with the whole family. Eva:
Eva
Alex:
Alex

The Jersey bookends on either side of our NYC trip, made the entire visit of the NYC a delicious double-decker New York sandwich on Krautheim roll. Think about that for a second. And then kick me because I again failed to take enough pictures.

Chicago re-connections

I think I’m finally catching up to the present day with the blog, rather than posting about what happened 3 weeks ago. Before I dive into the relatively recent past, I should mention a few of the social/entertainment highlights of this last Chicago stint. Many reunions.

First, Shawn and Jenny were in town from LA, which was a happy coincidence. We met at Café Iberico, a restaurant that set the bar for me for Tapas and Sangría. Joining us was Timm, Marcy, Tyllie, Carrie, Amy, Gabe and Cynthia, a crew that continues to raise the bar for being awesome. It was good to see everyone, and catch up on life adventures while eating, drinking, and generally being merry. You can see evidence of said merriment via the blurry photo. Iberico Dinner Crew

The next day we met them again for a picnic in Lincoln Park, along with the parents and immediate families of Shawn and Jenny, good people. I got to meet Eli, and spend time with the Carr kids and Zig and his son, Logan. Everyone looked good. I never imagined I’d see that entire group in the same place. Jenn was smart and snapped a few pics, I did not and now regret it. Shawn and Eli: Shawn and Eli

Another huge highlight was reconnecting with Eric and Liz. I visited Eric where he worked, managing band rehearsal spaces at an old Zenith Factory. Years ago he and I shared a space there. He played drums and I played bass and we wrote a song or two and did tons of jamming. These days he runs the place, writes, plays and records lots of songs and plays about 12 different instruments. I was really impressed, yet not surprised. Eric has always excelled at the things he throws himself into. The building looked and felt essentially the same except that the once plain hallways walls were now covered end-to-end with spray can art. Click the image below to see more pics on flickr: Zenith Factory

We went through the old 4-track masters of music we had made together and reminisced about good times and lamented the passing of Jim Bauer, who played guitar with us on many a session. Jimbo was a such a large soul, a man of such amazing energy and humor, loved by so many people in his life. When he left this world, a vacuum was created. Where once the man sometimes known as Groot existed, stood a huge black hole, drawing back together the people whose lives he touched. It was in the wake of his passing that Eric and Liz and I reconnected. Rest in peace, Grolchshlofowitz: suspension bridge over the clearwater river, idaho

The next evening Eric and Liz had us over for dinner, a lovely meal in a lovely home. Jenn and I got to spend some quality time with them and their beautiful daughter Addie. Eric, Addie, Liz

Oddly enough, we ran into Eric and Addie at the Shedd Aquarium two days later, which was like a bonus round of hanging out. They take their aquarium and their safety very seriously: Eric and Addie sailing the Shedd

Between Iberico, Hot Doug’s, Schwa, Blackbird, the lovely and elegant Violet Hour, Tony’s Italian Deli, and 3 different neighborhood pizza places, I definitely met my food and drink agenda. Heather and Mark’s Wedding was the final grand reunion of old friends, but that is going to have to wait for another post. I have to go ride my bike.

2 months and all’s well!

Yesterday marked the 9th week of being on the road. Though, at this point, most of that has been spent in Chicago or Lexington. For me it feels like we left Seattle 4 months ago. I’ll call it a victory in the sense that, while time is always flying by, it seems to have slowed just a little bit for me. But I’m not going to don a flight suit and give my aircraft carrier ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech just yet, because we still have 4 fun-filled months to go!!!

We’re really looking forward to Heather and Mark’s wedding on Sunday. The band Frontier is playing a reunion show Saturday night at the Empty Bottle in their honor. For lack of a more telling description, Frontier is a spacey/droney indie band with a great light show. At least one of their members, Mike, poured many a pint for me as a bartender at the Bottle back in the go-go 90s.

I do feel like I got to do a lot of the Chicago things I never had time to do before, when I would come back for the holidays. It’s always a bit of a social marathon and this time was no exception. Regretfully, I still haven’t figured out how to see everyone I would have liked to see even over a 3 week period. A big part of why so much time was spent here was to get together with my sisters and sort out my mom’s house and get it in shape. The first two weeks in August was spent painting, removing wallpaper, patching walls, removing weeds and bushes, and adding stones along the fence in the yard, cleaning out an extremely cluttered garage, and some light electrical work. Professionals have taken care of the heavier tasks of putting in a sump pump system, tiling and carpeting the basement floor, and putting on a new roof. It’s been good to spend so much time with my sisters, the house has gotten a major refresh, and Jenn has gotten to sample a good amount of the food, culture and architecture this town has to offer. Though it was longer than originally intended, this Chicago time was part of the original plan and to that end I feel really good about what we’ve accomplished. Soon I’ll make some time to talk about the people and places we saw while we were here.

Beyond the wedding, we’re really looking forward to getting back on the road. And in order to make that happen we need to get over to Costco stat, to fix the tire with a nail in it. We’ve been driving around for the last 5 or 6 days with a little “clack-clack-clack” accompaniment sound and luckily that hasn’t translated to an actual flat tire. Recaps of the people and places we’ve seen in Chicago will have to wait.

tiny synthesizers

I knew that I was behind a bit on updates, but I had no idea that a month has passed since I last posted anything. I’ll write some more about my experiences later, but in the meantime here’s some more audio from the field. It’s not for everyone, but if you like ambient sounds and music, you’ll dig this. Behind the house of Jenn’s mom is a little lake and plenty of trees. As I sat in her yard working in the shade, the sound of cicadas buzzed in the space above me. I never noticed how the dynamic the sound is, the volume faded up and down in little pockets moving all around the trees. Someone somewhere needs to set up multiple mics and catch this in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. This is a long one at about 11 minutes. It was great background music for writing code. Recorded July 11th, 2010.

A Cincinnati 5-way is not nearly as dirty as it sounds.

As Jenn mentioned, after a week in Lexington, we drove the hour and half or so up to Cincinnati to visit with her friend Nicole. Nicole and her crew were awesome and showed us a fun time, thanks y’all! (2 weeks in Kentucky and I’m already using words like “y’all.”) The city itself is vibrant and diverse, filled with interesting areas, great old buildings, nice houses and little neighborhood squares. There’s a Cincinnati set on flickr.

We got in late on Friday night, enough time to meet Nicole and have drink on the hot and humid back deck of a neighborhood Irish pub. The next morning brought breakfast at a nice place called the Echo restaurant and a surprise food lesson. I had my first taste of goetta, a hash brown-like patty containing pork and steel cut oats. It wasn’t until a little bit later that I learned about Cincinnati’s strong German heritage. I found out that goetta is a German dish, and the word “goetta” is actually German for “goetta”. Who knew?

Cincinnati
The goetta is at bottom right of the pic above. I liked it.

Findlay market was our next stop and it did not disappoint. It was one of the larger farmer’s markets I’ve seen, a nice mix of the what you’d expect at a market, local organic produce, jams and jellies, seafood counter, crepes and waffles, etc., but Findlay’s trademark was that it has a bit more of a German flair. Pretzels, German deli meats, pickles and the like were thrown in the mix. It’s not as big as Pike Place Market in Seattle, but it does span a couple blocks in size and has permanent buildings and structures to house the shops and shelter the vendors.

Cincinnati

Cincinnati

Cincinnati

In keeping with my curiosity about local heart attack food, I learned about Cincinnati chili and their version of the Coney dog.

I’d venture that Cincinnati’s chili shares roots with Detroit’s Coney Sauce and both can probably be traced back to Coney Island, New York. I’m sure that there’s far more to the history than that, but in all cases, the chili itself is thin and doesn’t have beans in it. But that’s just the starting point, because Cincinnati chili takes off from there and becomes something unique.

For starters, as a dish, the chili is served on spaghetti, and those two ingredients form what is known as 2-way. Each additional ingredient of beans, cheese, onions increases that number by 1.

  • two-way: spaghetti and chili
  • three-way: spaghetti, chili, and shredded cheese
  • four-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, and either diced onions or beans
  • five-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, diced onions, and beans

For all you set theorists out there: {n-way | 2 <= n >= 5}

While we technically were not in Cincinnati at the time, Gold Star Chili is a chain that Jenn said did a good job of capturing the Cincinnati chili experience, so we stopped there on the way back down to Lexington.

Cincinnati 5-way chili and cheese Coneys
Cincinnati 5-way chili and cheese Coneys

I can now say I participated in a Cincinnati 5-way. Jenn said she wanted to take me to Cleveland next to sample what the locals there call a “steamer”. I’m not sure what that is, exactly, but I hope it tastes as good as Cincinnati chili.

Kimball, SD

You may have seen a couple of these pics already in Jenn’s posts, but I uploaded the entire collection to flickr.

We really were looking for a popcorn ball company. As we passed an sign announcing the town of Kimball, South Dakota, Jenn said she had seen signs for a popcorn ball from the town of Kimball, SD, so we took the exit in hopes of finding the place where they were made. We didn’t get more than a half mile when we drove past a house so amazing that we had to pull over and take a look. The home itself was hard to see, a tiny house behind a small front yard filled with row after row of amazing antiques and ‘junk’. Next to the house was a larger garage filled with even more stuff. A wooden fence connected the two buildings, and a small gate in that fence led to a back area with tools and table saws and construction horses and other things strewn about. It took a while to even get a sense of the property layout because of the rows and rows of stuff.

Kimball, SD

We walked through the rows, taking turns with the camera for at least 15 minutes with no sign of anyone around. Busy curtains covering halfway opened wooden windows of the house flapped in the breeze. I stared into the windows for a few seconds listening for any sound or sign of life inside, but I heard and saw nothing.

Things were arranged in a semi-categorical fashion. Rusted out tongs and hand-tools lay together on a rolling table, looking like something out of a scene from Hostel. Hub-cabs from long extinct cars shared a table. Two shelves carried those little glass covers that go on electric wires of telephone poles. Much of the stuff was rusty. Giant wagon wheels lined the front fence of along the entire span of the property.

Kimball, SD

Walking a little deeper into the maze, through a wooden arch adorned with a cow skull was a pile of bones on a circular pedestal. Next to that sat what looked like a sculpture made out of auto parts, a mechanical skeletal counterpart to the bone pile – a gas tank and other rusted metal forming a spine.

Kimball, SD

This arranger, whoever it was, had an artistic eye. Things were painstakingly organized and often times arranged to resemble other things. Cogs and rusty saw blades adorned the garage walls like tribal murals. Someone had been collecting, sorting and designing for a long time. This was a collector, an artist and an archivist of Americana. No one could accuse this person of being a hoarder.

Kimball, SD

Finally the owner came out of the house. He had a white hair and beard and wore a faded denim shirt and blue jeans. He would not have looked out of place prospecting for Gold in Californy or waving a shotgun at us and screaming ‘Get off my land!’. But his sweet disposition was instantaneously apparent. He apologized for taking so long to come outside, he had been on the phone. We talked for a while about his ‘collection’, when we found out we were looking at the remaining 10%. He claimed that he sold the rest of it off, truck loads at a time, at less than ideal prices because of the economy and because he was getting tired of taking care of it after so many years (30,40,600, I forget). We talked about travelling the country and the places in the south and west where he found much of his stuff.

Bars, restaurants, antique shops in cities, homeowners looking for interesting pieces all paid him well for the rusty stuff. He said he discovered his house and his stuff had been blogged about quite a bit and he was hoping one of his relatives would show him how to use the Internet to buy and sell stuff. He was super nice, if not a bit disappointed that we had no room in our own junk collection to store anything we might have bought. My biggest mistake after this whole interaction was that I failed to get his name or take his picture.

Kimball, SD

Mr Collector Guy, if you ever find this blog, thanks for the inspiration. Best of luck in getting online. I hope your place stays the same for as long as possible. It was a beautiful thing to find by mistake.

We never found the factory but we did find the Kimball, SD popcorn ball at a gas station. It taste like ass.