Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best and Worst of Road Tripping

Photo of me at the Grand Canyon : Taken by Maya Lucchitta

I give you the best and worst of road-tripping. I've had two of those this year. The first one was in March and involved driving a good stretch of I-90 in the north. The second is the one I ended on May 15 and involved driving through the U.S. South and then up through California and on into Oregon and Washington. Both were great! I highly recommend a good, hearty road trip.

Best Natural Wonder: It's a toss up between the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Both are spectacular!
Best Humanmade Wonder: The Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Worst Natural Wonder: Is there such a thing?
Worst Humanmade Wonder: The Houston Expressway. 16 lanes. Really? Is that necessary? Come on Texas, get green already!
Best Breakfast: A toss up between The Eggshead Restaurant in Fort Bragg, CA, and Cafe Pasquales in Santa Fe, NM.
Worst Breakfast: The diner off of the interstate in Georgia. Hands down horrible. Puke worthy. Wish I could remember the name to ward you all off, but alas.
Best Hotel: Any of the Best Westerns we stayed in were good.
Worst Hotel: The Motel 6 20 minutes north of San Antonio, TX.
Best Accommodations with Friends: They were all good! Thanks Lisa, Cal and Ann, Senga and Joni, Virginia, Ivo and Barbara, Heidi and Joe, Gram Kincaid, Sid and Toz, and Cele.
Worst Accommodations with Friends: None of the above.
Best Roads: Is there such a thing?!
Worst Roads: All of them.
Funnest Backroad: Old Route 66. The Burma Shave ads alone made it a blast!
Coolest Sight: Everything. The San Francisco Peaks at sunset, Carlsbad Caverns, the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, El Morro, the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Nauvoo Temple. It was all cool!
Most Disappointing Sight: All the traffic in Yosemite.
Most Surprising Discovery: The beauty of Texas' Hill Country. Wasn't expecting that. And the use of styrofoam containers in the South. And Sedona, Arizona. That blew me absolutely out of the water!
Least Surprising Discovery: New Orleans. I expected it to be a little sleazy and seedy. It more than lived up to that expectation, which was kind of disappointing in its own right.
Cheapest Gas: Somewhere in Alabama, I think.
Most Expensive Gas: Southern California, of course.
State with the Stupidest Law: Oregon, where it's illegal to pump your own gas.
Number of Tickets: 1 for doing 74 in a 60 mph zone on the last day of the trip in Washington State. There's a story all it's own, too.

Photo copyright: Maya Lucchitta, 05/09

Monday, May 18, 2009

Europe Confidential?!?!

Hiking the paths at the base of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park last Wednesday, my cell phone rang. On the other end, a contact of mine at a client I have at a multi-national, intergovernmental agency. Would I be interested, she asked, in coming to Geneva, Switzerland, ASAP for at least a month or more to be an on-site editor and writer for them?

Um. YES!

Problem, though. I was still nearly 1,000 miles from my final destination and my passport was expired. The result: we spent Monday in San Francisco having my passport expedited, then finished driving up to Langley, Washington. I arrived Friday night (May 15) and am trying to get some of my boxes unpacked while also trying to pack for a six week stay in Geneva.

I'm bummed not to be starting my Whidbey Island Confidential blog and I still have five or six posts to put up on my D.C. Confidential blog finishing up our road trip across America. On the other hand, I'M GOING TO GENEVA, SWITZERLAND! Yoda-lay-hee-hoo!

So, I'll be blogging from Geneva and photographing life in Switzerland, France (where I'll be living), and any other countries I happen to visit during my days off. Stay tuned...

U.S.A. Confidential, Part II

Sea Foam and Kelp : Fort Bragg, CA

Traveling the United States for the next few weeks. Come along and see what I see. I'll post updates to this entry as I travel and will include a photo at the top as a teaser for those of you coming to this blog from City Daily Photo.

04.19.09: Charlottesville Confidential
04.20.09: Biltmore Confidential
04.21.09: Georgia Confidential and Birmingham Confidential04.23.09: Meridian Confidential and New Orleans Confidential: The Twilight Edition
04.24.09: New Orleans Confidential: The Daylight Edition and Oak Alley Confidential
04.25.09: Missions Confidential
04.26.09: San Antonio Confidential, Hill Country Confidential, and LBJ Confidential
04.27.09: Coleman Confidential: Family Edition and West Texas Confidential
04.28.09: Carlsbad Confidential
04.29.09: Northern New Mexico Confidential
04.30.09: Acoma Pueblo Confidential and El Morro Confidential
05.01.09: No photos today! But I did get a haircut. And it only cost $30. I think I'm moving to Flagstaff, Arizona! :-)
05.02.09: Sunset Crater Confidential and Wupatki Confidential
05.03.09: Sedona Confidential and Two Things Challenge: Open / Road
05.04.09: Grand Canyon Confidential
05.05.09: Flagstaff Confidential
05.06.09: Route 66 Confidential
05.07.09: Bakersfield Confidential
05.08.09: Yosemite Confidential
05.09.09: Cordelia Confidential: Family Edition
05.10.09: San Francisco Confidential
05.11.09: San Francisco Confidential, Part II
05.12.09: Fort Bragg Confidential
05.13.09: Humboldt County Confidential
05.14.09: Oregon Coast Confidential
05.15.09: Whidbey Island Confidential

Friday, May 15, 2009

Whidbey Island Confidential

Welcome to Whidbey Island

As I'm now living in a new place, I'm pleased to present Whidbey Island Confidential. Be sure to check out my new digs and see what island life is like. Of course, I'll be leaving in a few days for Geneva, so there won't be a lot to see. I'll be posting photos from Geneva here. Be sure to visit and see what I'm seeing.

P.S. Yes, you've probably seen the above photo before. I won't have time to get out and take new pictures before I leave, so this is a rerun from last winter.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oregon Coast Confidential

Smokestacks a la Debi Cates : Oregon Coast
(Click image to enlarge)

The last day of the trip, we traveled up the Oregon Coast. We stayed in Florence with new friend and fellow blogger Cele. Check out her blog here. Cele was a lovely hostess and it was fun to meet her husband, Ducky, and their Bassett hound sidekick, Arlo. We also stopped in Otter Rock, where we met a friend of Maya's for lunch. She works at a charming little winery her family owns called The Flying Dutchman. This is also where you can meet the world's friendliest squirrel--a little guy they've named Jared after the spokesperson for Subway. You can see pictures of Jared in the Critter Cam slideshow below. (P.S. One note about the Critter Cam: some of the photos were actually taken in California, right before we crossed over into Washington. I didn't want to do a separate entry.)

The Critter Cam

We ended up staying in Long Beach, Washington, near the ocean. I didn't take any pictures there unfortunately and the next morning we left Long Beach and drove to Seattle. After I dropped Maya off at her place, I hit the road again for the final leg--34.5 miles and a ferry ride to Whidbey Island--where I arrived in Langley at my new abode at around 4:00 p.m. It was nice to finally sleep in my own bed and not drag my suitcase in and out of the car for the night!

Alas, the next three days featured unpacking boxes and getting things organized in my cottage, then packing a couple of suitcases for my new gig in Geneva, Switzerland. I enjoyed a couple of days of peace and quiet and then it was back to Seattle for Maya's birthday and a stay over until my flight on Wednesday afternoon.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Humboldt County Confidential

Trinidad Lighthouse and California Poppies : Humboldt County, CA
(Click image to enlarge)

Continuing northward, we stopped in the town of Trinidad, CA. Along the way, we saw some beautiful coastline. At one point, you have to turn inland because the coast road ends, but you end up driving through some beautiful redwood forests. We stopped briefly at Richardson Grove State Park, because I remembered camping there as a little kid, and took a few pictures of the giant redwoods. They're awesome!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fort Bragg Confidential

Iris at sunrise : Fort Bragg, CA

We stopped for the night in Fort Bragg, California. If you haven't traveled north of San Francisco, Mendocino and Fort Bragg are the places to go. The latter is especially down-to-earth and accessible to all kinds of people. (Mendocino is picturesque and lovely, but tends to be a little snootier than blue-collar Fort Bragg.) It use to be a logging town and Georgia-Pacific still has a presence there, but most of the town's commerce seems to be tourism.

Sea foam and kelp : Fort Bragg, CA
(Click image to enlarge)

There are good places to eat and some fun shopping. The town also boasts a former garbage dump on the ocean (no, they no longer dump trash into the sea, but they once did) where you can find sea glass in abundance. We skipped that, but did enjoy good eats at the Egghead Restaurant. I highly recommend Dorothy's Revenge--Eggs Benedict with dungeness crab layered between the Canadian bacon and the poached eggs. Yummy.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Monday, May 11, 2009

San Francisco Confidential: Part II

Close-up of a Keith Haring sculpture
Corner of Howard and 3rd Streets

I had to expedite my passport application today, which required staying in San Francisco to process and pick up the same at the passport agency. Between the time I dropped off said documents and picked them up, we had hoped to go to Alcatraz, but because of time constraints we ended up instead seeing some of my former work colleagues and having lunch with one of them. Then we hung out in Yerba Buena Gardens for an hour or so.

After finding out that passport wouldn't be ready until the next morning (bad news) but could be mailed to me (good news), we headed up the road and toward the coast. I love San Francisco and it was great to see Drew, Greg, Will, Jim, and Teresa and have burritos at Si Senor and cookies at Specialty's. Guaranteed I'll be making trips back down to the Bay Area to visit friends and family!

And now, to the coast!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

San Francisco Confidential

Ti Couz--which means The Old House--is one of San Francisco's
best restaurants in terms of food. The main fare: crepes made by chef Sylvia Le Mer
in the style of her hometown of Brittany in northwest France.

Today, we spent a few hours in Berzerkeley and Stan and Fran's Disco (that's Berkeley and San Francisco to the rest of you.) My long-time friend Thea Hillman lives in the former and is about to have a baby, so we popped in for a quick visit. After that, we braved traffic, crossed the Bay Bridge, and drove into San Francisco. The goal: Ti Couz. This is, hands down, the best restaurant in the universe. Seriously. One word: crepes. Yum.

We enjoyed smoked salmon with scallions and creme fraiche and shrimp and scallops with seafood sauce. To top it off, we split a dessert crepe with bananas, nutella, and vanilla ice cream. We each washed it down with a made-to-your-taste Citron Presse. That's just a fancy word for make-it-yourself lemonade!

Mission Dolores, named for a nearby creek,
the Arroyo de los Dolores--or the Creek of Sorrows.

Having filled our bellies, we then went for a walk in the Mission District and took photos of the Mission Dolores and the basilica. The mission is the oldest intact building in San Francisco and the only remaining chapel out of 21 mission chapels establish by Father Junipero Serra along the El Camino Real. Finishing up the evening, we drove out to Treasure Island and watched the last of the sunset behind Baghdad on the Bay (again, that's San Francisco. Sometimes, it's also called the Barbary Coast.)

A quick note of thanks to my friend Sid and his partner Toz for letting us stay with them at the last minute after our accommodation arrangements fell through elsewhere.

And now, it's time to head up the coast!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cordelia Confidential: Family Edition

My 95-year old grandmother, Mrs. Chloris May Kincaid

After enjoying a jaunt through Yosemite, we hit the road again and made it to Cordelia, CA, by 7:30 or so. My 95-year old paternal grandmother lives in Cordelia in a little two bedroom house that she and my grandfather moved into in the 1970s. You may recall that a week or so ago, we were in Coleman and Glen Cove, TX. My grandmother was born and raised in Glen Cove and I featured pictures here of the farmland she grew up on. The painting below shows that land and the farmhouse. Go here to compare it to how the land looks now.

Painting of Peanut Ridge in Glen Cove, TX
(Click image to enlarge)

It was nice seeing my last living grandparent and hearing some more of her stories. For 95-years old, Gram's doing pretty damn good!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yosemite Confidential

El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls across the Merced River
(Click image to enlarge)

I was born in California and, as an adult, I lived in the Bay Area for nearly eight years. In all that time, though, I never traveled to Yosemite. Rather than head straight for the coast when we left Bakersfield, we headed inland and up the Central Valley through the heart of California's agricultural center and into Yosemite. If you haven't been to this national park, it's a must! It was almost as awesome as the Grand Canyon. My recommendation: go in the spring before Tioga Pass opens and before the place is overcrowded with tourists and campers. There were a lot of people while we were there, but not nearly as many as there will be in a few weeks. I definitely plan to go back here.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bakersfield Confidential

20 years later, Heidi Chartrand and Janet Kincaid still looking... okay

After meandering along Route 66, we got on I-40 and headed through Bakersfield where we were staying with a friend of mine. Heidi and I met 20 years ago when we were both missionaries in Austria. She and I were companions (roommates) for our first two months at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Then, about seven months later, we were companions together in Vienna.

We enjoyed swapping stories and catching up on each other and our lives. We also enjoyed a lot of laughs about things we saw and did when we lived in Austria. It was great seeing her and her family and I'm glad we were able to stay with them for a night!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Route 66 Confidential

Kitsch hallmarks Old Route 66
(Click to enlarge)

After leaving Flagstaff, we decided to travel on some of the old, historic Route 66. We stopped in Seligman, AZ, where we bought a few postcards, saw a few old cars, ran into a bunch of Finnish bikers (annoying!), and had pie at Westside Lilo's. We drove through some interesting old towns and along some nerve racking stretches of road. We also enjoyed some modern variations on an old roadside classic: Burma Shave signs! We definitely had some "kicks on Route 66!"

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Flagstaff Confidential

Flagstaff's Monticello

We stayed in Flagstaff at the home of Maya's parents. Her mom and dad are lovely people who live in a home they designed and built on 13 acres of forestland within view of the San Francisco Peaks. Both of her parents are geologists. Ivo specializes in the Grand Canyon and Bärbel is an astrogeologist who studies Mars and other planets. We had good meals and good conversation every evening on topics ranging from religion to geopolitics to women's rights to cooking. One of the fun things about their house in the forest is all the little critters that come to the watering pan and bird feeder on the back patio. Here are just a few photos.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Monday, May 4, 2009

Grand Canyon Confidential

Grand Canyon View

Despite growing up in Utah, I've never been to the Grand Canyon. Until today. One word to describe this natural wonder: Wow! The skies were hazy, which meant the canyon wasn't at its most spectacular, according to Maya, but I was still pretty happy to see this amazing place. Here are just a few photos.

Lipan Point : The Grand Canyon

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sedona Confidential

Steamboat Rock : Sedona, AZ

Maya's parents had to go down to their house in Sedona to do some maintenance work, so we went along and played tourist with her mom while her dad worked on a few things. I've never been to Sedona, but I've always heard people rave about this place and now I know why. It's beautiful! In addition to the stunning natural formations all around us, we also went and visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross. To see pictures of that, view the slideshow.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Two Things Challenge: Open / Road

On the open road in Sedona, AZ
(Click image to enlarge)

This week's Two Things Challenge (or last's, depending on who's keeping track) is Open / Road. The photo above is of one of the many sandstone formations surrounding the beautiful Arizona city of Sedona. I took this from the back seat of the car.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sunset Crater Confidential

Sunset Crater National Monument in the
Coconino National Forest just outside of Flagstaff, AZ
(Click image to enlarge)

As we're in the area where Maya grew up, today we went to Sunset Crater National Monument and the Wupatki Pueblos. Sunset Crater is a cinder cone and lava fields created by volcanic eruptions over the last 6 million years. The crater is part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field in the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests. This area is riddled with hundreds of volcanoes and makes for some interesting geologic viewing. Here are just a few pictures.

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09

Wupatki Confidential

Wupatki Pueblo National Monument--
a fine example of a 12th century pueblo in Arizona

(Click image to enlarge)

After Sunset Crater, we drove through the park another 18 miles and visited the Wupatki Pueblo National Monument. What makes Wupatki unique among pueblos in this area is the fact that this pueblo has many rooms remaining in the ruins rather than just a single room or one main building.

Pueblo detail and sky
(Click image to enlarge)

This pueblo includes living quarters, grain storage rooms, ceremonial courts, a kiva (prayer room), burial site, and trash room, among others. The Wupatki Pueblo dates back to the 12th century and showcases native life that flourished in an otherwise harsh climate. Enjoy the photos!

Photo copyright: Janet Kincaid, 05/09