Madison, WI with Wyatt and Steph

This may be my most nerve-racking entry yet. One of my best friends from college, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, graduated with me from WSU and went on to graduate school at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Of the other people that we graduated with many stayed close by, one went to California and everyone gave Wyatt all sorts of shit for going to Wisconsin. “Whats in Wisconsin?” they’d say, “It’s all farms out there,” and “You know its freezing in Wisconsin,” were some of the responses he got. Well, needless to say Wyatt loves Madison, and after being out there for a year and a half I finally made the trip out to see him and his girlfriend Steph and he wanted to make absolutely sure that I represented Madison positively, if not accurately in this blog. So here is my best attempt.

I arrived in Madison Thursday night and stayed until Monday noon during which time I was full the entire time. We would eat a meal, usually accompanied by beer and it kept us full for hours. When we ate our next meal we were always still full, but it was time for a meal so we would eat anyway. After we had eaten three full meals a day we would just continue drinking into the night, which would make us more full, we would go to bed full, wake up full, and eat and drink more. It was excellent.

What I also learned about Wisconsin is they’re a very self-sufficient state, food and drink-wise anyway. Most of the state is actually farms, with Madison being this wonderful Metropolis tucked away amongst them. Because of this almost all of the meat and cheese sold in grocery stores and restaurants is local. The same thing goes for the beer. There are literally hundreds of breweries in Wisconsin, that do not export out of the state, and another group that only exports to the midwest or surrounding states. There are a couple big breweries in Wisconsin that do export all over the place, like Miller and Leinenkugel, but those are on the lower end of Wisconsin beers, as most of the local beer is delicious. I couldn’t even tell you how many different kinds of beer I drank, but I especially remember New Glarus Brewery, I had several of their beers like Spotted Cow, Moon Man, and Two Women, all of which were phenomenal. Anyone who knows me knows that my diet basically consists of meat, cheese and beer, so I loved Madison already.

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Beer aisle at the grocery store

Madison is also a very well designed city, which a monstrous capitol building at the center and streets leading to and away from it. One of the most prominent streets is State Street, which doesn’t allow cars to drive on it, but is more a pedestrian way covered in bars, restaurants, shops, and stores. I wandered around there one day and found some really cool stuff. The university is also huge, taking up a big chunk of the city. I met Wyatt for lunch on Friday and walked around some of the 12-story chemistry building, which is full of very cool research labs and puts our one-floor chemistry department at WSU to shame.

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Capitol Building

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State Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be impossible to go into detail about all the meals we ate and restaurants we went to, well, not impossible, but it would make for a very lengthy blog entry so I’m going to focus on my favorites. The second night I was there we went to Essen Haus, a german style restaurant known for its delicious beer which is served in two liter boots, which are passed around the table until they are finished, complete with a whole set of rules and regulations about passing the boot, drinking from the boot, and chugging the boot. The servers are dressed in lederhosen and almost everyone in the place after 9pm is chugging boots to their face. It was excellent. While there we met many of Wyatt and Steph’s friends from Madison, as well as Wyatt’s cousin Grace and her girlfriend Lucy. After 12 boots, needless to say, it was a very drunken walk home that night, but very, very enjoyable. Also, I got a free tee-shirt after our 3rd boot, and free souvenirs fit right into my travel budget.

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Das Boot

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The following night we went to The Old Fashioned, which is on ‘the capitol’, or the area surrounding the capitol building, which is considered the nicest part of town. For an appetizer we had fried cheese curds, which are like mozerella sticks, but about a million times better. The cheese inside of them is so fresh, and the batter is so light. They were wonderful. For my main course I ate a spicy burger which was covered in pepper-jack cheese, jalapeño, bacon, onion strings and ketchup. It was excellent. I also got my first Hendrick’s martini in longer than I can remember, ie about 3 weeks, but it really hit the spot.

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The final night I was there was Sunday night so Wyatt and Steph took me to their local hangouts, where they usually watch football and Sunday and where everybody knows you name, first we did Players bar, which had PBR tall boys for $2.50, which fits perfectly with my shrinking budget. After drinking most of the afternoon away we went to Alchemy for dinner where I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life: pulled pork, bacon, cheddar cheese, onions, and jalapeño relish on a sourdough bun with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. I mean, even if I wasn’t drunk, it would still be in the top 5 best things I’ve ever eaten. After dinner we waddled over to another local dive bar where we took over the jukebox and sucked at pool. It was a very excellent Sunday afternoon.

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All in all, Madison is awesome. As everyone I encountered told me, it’s even better in the summer, and I can believe that. It’s definitely a city focused on local food and culture, it’s very student and pedestrian friendly, because about half of the city has some ties to Madison University. Being that Wyatt will be there for the next 3-4 years working on his doctorate, hopefully I’ll make it back some summer.

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Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls

IMG_0660I left Syracuse Tuesday midday and drove to Buffalo, NY where I couch surfed for a couple of nights so I could be close enough to go see Niagara Falls. My first night in Buffalo I didn’t do too much except drink with my host and go out for Buffalo wings, obviously. It was freezing in Buffalo, less than 10F the whole time I was there. After sucking down several rum and cokes I ventured out alone to the local bar, which was mostly empty and ordered buffalo wings and played Ruzzle, which is a Boggle-type word game on my phone which I am now whole-heartedly addicted to. Because the bar was so empty I chatted up the bartender and he poured me several free beers and shots of Jameson, which was awesome.

I woke up early Wednesday morning and headed out to Niagara Falls. It was still about 10F so I was one of very few people out to see the falls that day. I parked my car in a Denny’s parking lot on the American side of the falls and walked across Rainbow Bridge into Canada so I could see all of the falls. They were incredible! I really understand all the hype about them, there is so much water and so much power and the whole thing is just enormous! They also produce an amazing amount of mist from the water crashing down and everything anywhere near them at this time of year is covered in a layer of ice. You can walk along the cliff-line for about a mile looking at the falls until you really get up close and can be right next to the edge where the water pours over the side of the cliff and the whole way there is a fence about three feet high with signs picturing that you should not climb over the fence, which is quite obvious because if you did you would fall over the cliff to your death. Very humorous.

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I did walk up away from the falls into Canada where they have all sorts of rides, and museums, and shows. However, because of the sub-zero temperatures the place was a ghost town so I quickly returned to America and went and warmed up with some Starbucks.

I went out to eat again that night, and again had Buffalo wings but this time I went to Anchor Bar where they claim to be the original buffalo wings.

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They were good, but nothing special. Made it an early night, after planning my driving route and such because Thursday I spent the entire day, and way too much money on tolls driving to Madison, WI to see my friend Wyatt! More to come on that in the future!

Syracuse, NY with Nickola McCloy

Unfortunately, the time came for me to leave Ottawa, but it’s definitely on my list of places to return to in my life. The sites, the food, the city. I will definitely be going back. Fortunately, my next stop was Syracuse, NY where my friend Nickola is a college senior at Syracuse University. The drive was only two and a half hours, but it sure was eventful, drove through 2 snow storms and got stuck behind a couple of plows for about 30 miles as well.

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Leaving Ottawa

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Half way to Syracuse

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Going into Syracuse

I got into Syracuse on Sunday and the temperature was beginning to drop, so Syracuse was cold and windy. I can’t say that I explored Syracuse. I was there for two nights and spent most of the time drinking, relaxing and eating. It was just what I needed. Traveling, especially at the pace I’m going can be exhausting, so I was very happy to have some down time. To anyone who knows Nickola McCloy it will come as no surprise to you that we didn’t spend a whole lot of time sober, but drank lots of beer, and wine, and whiskey instead.

I did get to catch up on my this blog, which takes more time to write than one might think. I also got to see Shameless, which is the hilarious show that I’m addicted to. We ordered out almost every meal, and I did have some delicious pizza and a few delicious sandwiches. Nick also lives with 4 other girls, all of whom were hilarious, and all of whom had sorority events and parties all weekend so I got to see them stumble in various states of oblivion.

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How Nickola pours a glass of wine

All in all, not a very adventurous stop, but very fun and relaxing. Next stop is Buffalo, NY to go see Niagara Falls!

Ottawa, Canada

I arrived in Canada Thursday, after driving through the snow from Mount Tremblant. I showed up at my host Vince’s house and he immediately gave me a house key, a map of the city complete with explanation and some great beer. We went to an awesome Irish pub where I had bacon wrapped meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. Vince’s friend Matt joined us, along with a couple of his couch surfers and his sister Stephanie. I cannot even say how many pitchers came and went from our table but I think it’s safe to say that we all had a blast. At the end of the night, my host Vince picked up the entire tab for the 6 of us, which, needless to say was awesome and seemed to be a very genuine act from a very genuine guy.

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Bacon wrapped meatloaf. Mmmm

The next day I spent wandering around Ottawa after some guidance from Vince. First stop was to buy a scarf because though the weather was warm, by Canada standards, it never got much above 30F while I was there. There is a central area called Byward Market, which is a large walking area full of restaurants, shops, bakeries, and specialty food shops. I found a French pastry shop that was huge and had every type of pastry you can imagine.

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Naturally, I had raspberry danish or chocolate croissants every day for breakfast. The city of Ottawa also assists in maintaining the ice on the Rideau Canal, which they close off for ice skating when its cold enough. Though only part of the canal was open to skating while I was there, I did rent a pair of skates and spent a couple of hours skating up and down the canal, during which I stopped and got a beaver tail on the ice, which is a very Canadian dessert type pastry. The city is very convenient for walking, and you can walk from one side to the other in about 30 minutes. Also, because it’s the national capital of Canada it is very clean, very beautiful, and very diverse.

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That night we went to Matt’s for a pasta dinner before going out and seeing there friend Jenn Morin at The Black Bear Pub, she sings and plays guitar. As it was described to me, “we don’t go see her because she’s our friend, we see her because she’s good.” And she was really good! I’ve been listening to her on her youtube channel since then, here it is- http://www.youtube.com/user/jennimo26 The pitchers of beer flowed pretty freely that night as well. After the show we opted to take a cab through the blizzard back to Vince’s, where we continued to drink beer until about 4am, at which point I decided to spend another night in Ottawa.

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My host Vince and our wonderful waitress!

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The next day I didn’t get up until afternoon and spent most of the afternoon wandering around the market looking at the shops and at the art in the foot of snow that had fallen the night before. Mathieu put on a dinner party that night for his couch surfers who were leaving the following day, after being with him for 2 weeks. The dinner he put on in his house was one of the best I’ve had in my life, a five course feast for 10 people. At the table were myself, and three other couch-curfers from Italy, Poland, and Holland, along with Vince, Matt, and a couple of their friends. The first course was butternut squash and sweet potato soup, followed up with lemon risotto and seared scallops. The main course was filet mignon, roasted potatoes, and steamed veggies. After that we passed a cheese and fruit plate around the table, then finished up the evening with homemade creme brûlée. To compliment the meal, the wine switched from white to red after the second course, and there was fresh bread passed around the table from beginning to end.

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Dinner Party at Mathieu’s

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Bread and Filet!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We headed back to Vince’s at a decent hour, for the first time in my stay in Ottawa and even got to bed early. The next day I packed up early afternoon and left Ottawa, but only after a final chocolatine from my favorite bakery. I cannot even say enough good things about Ottawa! Its beautiful, the people are so friendly, and the food is excellent. If you’ve never been, its worth the trip- go to Ottawa!!

Montreal and Mont-Tremblant

Canada is friggen cold. It’s not the kind of cold that s bearable and you just bundle up, it’s the kind of cold that if you don’t cover every inch of exposed skin you risk frostbite, the kind of cold where you wear 2 pairs of pants and 4 shirts every time you go outside… its ridiculous. Other than that however, its pretty cool.

I drove six hours from Maine to Montreal on Wednesday and met up with Alain, a fellow couch-surfer who hosted me for a couple of nights. The first night we went out for Poutine, which was a requirement for me being allowed to stay with Alain, because I’d never had it, and its the Montreal treat! It was delicious, it is basically french fries covered in cheese and gravy, and anything else you want to put on it. Mine had tomatoes, onions, and ground beef, not healthy at all, but very tasty. Al’s friend Jasmine joined us and we walked to a local pub that had 30+ beers on tap, and a type of jam-sesh with mostly accordions and violins, with a few other string instruments thrown in, it was very cool. Somewhere around our 4th or 5th pint there were about as many musicians in this place as there were customers. It’s also noteworthy to mention that a pint in Canada is about 20oz, larger than the American pint, plus one point for Canada.

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Poutine!

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Jam Sesh!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say getting up the next morning was not easy, but I managed, and spent the day wandering around Montreal alone. It’s a great walking city and they have a great metro system. I hit all of the favorite spots like Old Port, Chinatown, etc. as well as wandered around the not so nice parts and the rich parts as well. In the middle of Montreal there is a mountain called Mont Royal and as the mountain ascends the houses get nicer and larger. The view from the top is breathtaking, you can see all of Montreal and beyond. Montreal also has more restaurants than any other city I’ve ever been in. You can’t walk a block without seeing at least 2 restaurants in every part of the city I explored. Also worth mentioning, that even though French is the official language in Quebec, everyone I encountered spoke at least enough English to communicate, and most spoke very good English, which was very fortunate, because my French is very limited and very bad. I didn’t have to opportunity to use some of my key phrases like, “Le singe est sur la branche,” (the monkey is in the branch) or, “Ou est ma chaise,” (where is my chair?) which are 2 of the only phrases I know…

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View from Mont Royal

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Thursday night we opted to cook dinner, which was the economical decision. We did however venture out after dinner, meet up with Jasmine and go to an excellent pub that had awesome beer and great live music that played everything from AC/DC to Rod Stewart, and The Darkness to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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My host and tour-guides Alain and Jasmine

This morning I woke up early and made the trek to Mount-Tremblant, which I regret to report was disappointing. The ride up was beautiful, and the views from the lifts and the top of the mountain were excellent, but the snow was not great. For being so far north I would expect some powder, there was none to be found, the whole mountain was covered with ice, and some was badly groomed. There were sections in trails that were just lots of small, hard chunks of ice, which I’ve never seen before. And although it is not the mountains fault, it was far too cold to even enjoy. The temperature at the summit was -20F without the wind chill. I have never experienced anything so cold, I would literally get a brain freeze on my way down the mountain every time I went down. Unfortunately, this made the event very unenjoyable and I only rode for a few hours.

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After my failed snowboarding adventure I drove to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, where I’ll be spending the next few days. More to come on that!

Winthrop, Maine

I’ve spent the last couple days in Winthrop, ME with my grandparents and their dog Ozzy. I didn’t do almost anything the whole time I was there except let my grandparents retired life-style rub off on me, which was wonderful, and very relaxing too! The last two days I slept late every day, ate a large breakfast, sat around, showered, sat around some more, and by that time it was time to open a bottle of wine, so we’d sit around working on that until one of my grandparents cooked that day’s delicious  dinner, once that was done, we’d keep at that wine until it was time for bed, or until it was time for cognac, whichever came first. It was a great rest to help my body recover from the hardcore snowboarding I’ve been doing, and to help me recharge for the trip into the frozen north and the snowboarding to come. We also had some excellent conversations about life, and travel etc. My grandparents had some great stories and helpful tips, as they are seasoned travelers themselves.

I did realize while in Maine that I left my camera battery and charger in Massachusetts, which is a major fail, but no fear, its been put in the mail and pictures will resume shortly. I wish I had more pictures from Winthrop, but this pretty much sums it up.

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Heading north into the great frozen Tundra known as Canada. More to come eh.

Lincoln, NH with Henna Foley

First stop on the trip this time was Lincoln, NH home of both Loon Mountain and my long-lost friend Henna Foley. My friend Sean, who recently fell back in love with skiing, and two of his friends drove up with me in a separate car so we could all ride Loon together. We left Charlton at 6:30am on Thursday January 10th and drove the 3 hours to Lincoln, NH where we spent an excellent day riding loon. One of Sean’s friends spent a winter living in Lincoln and knew all of the best spots to hit on the mountain. Needless to say, we also did a lot of poaching, i.e. riding under those orange ropes, because any good snowboarder knows the best riding is the snow no one else has touched while you’re breaking all the rules.

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Ewok’s Village. Loon Mountain

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Glad Sean Sullivan remembered how much he likes to ski…

 

 

 

 

 

After a full 8 hour day of riding we retired to the Bunyon Room, one of Loon’s bars, where we drank over priced beers and met up with Henna, after she got out of work. From there Sean and his friends headed back to Mass and Henna and I continued to drink, then we went out for Thai and sushi, and continued to drink, then we went back to Henna’s monstrous house, and drank, that was all before we went to Truants Tavern, and drank some more.

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After riding activities

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Reunited with Henna Foley

 

 

 

 

 

It was an awesome time. Henna lives in a huge house with 8 roommates, at least I think its 8, and there are always extras hanging out and sleeping over, but all very chill people who know how to snowboard. Friday, I spent the day lounging, harassing Henna at work and napping. She had the irish flu Friday, so we stayed pretty low-key. Then Saturday Eric and his brother Chris were supposed to come up and ride for the day, but the weather did not cooperate, and in fact its been pretty gross since then.

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Henna before…

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…Henna after

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was so glad to be back on the snow, and on a mountain bigger than Wachusett. I also had an awesome time hanging out with Sean Sullivan, who is an old camp friend, actually, a former camper of mine from my Camp Marshall days. We haven’t seen each other in 3 years, and it was great to see him and catch up, even if he is a skier. And although I was bummed I didn’t actually get to ride with Henna, because that’s all we did together in high school, it was also great to reconnect with her, because that’s been too long as well. You know, even though she drinks Jim Beam, can’t handle her liquor and goes by ‘Foley’ now, still a great time and a great friend.

Next stop is Maine to see my grandparents! More to come then!

2013. New Year. New Look. New Adventures.

Hello Everyone!

Its been a while! After my 5 week adventure across the country at the end of 2012, I returned to Massachusetts to celebrate Christmas and New Years with my friends and family, as well as to recharge physically and mentally. It was wonderful to see everyone but it was time to get back on the road.

Here is a map of the first route of the trip. In 5 weeks I stayed in 14 different cities, drove through 19 states, and visited several other cities along the way. It was quite the adventure.

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At the beginning of 2013 I received a review of my blog for the year 2012 and although I cannot see who is looking at this blog unless you comment and could see that it got thousands of views since I began writing in September and that I also had people viewing it in 4 countries! So thanks to everyone who is following and who has been following. Additionally, I saw so many people while I was in Massachusetts for the holidays who told me they have been reading my blog which makes me both thrilled and a little terrified, but I’m glad you’re all reading nonetheless, please feel free to comment, and I will try my best to respond to everyone!

The plan for this route is head north and then west exploring the western half of the US and parts of Canada. Stayed tuned for all of the new adventures that 2013 will hold!